Relevant Leadership

Helping Leaders To Be More

Relevant Leadership is a site to help equip, train, and empower youth pastors and their volunteer leaders to effect a generation of students for the Glory of God.

A Year In Review

2016 has been a year of change.  Sitting in my office and looking towards Christmas coming in just a few days I am prompted to reflect on everything this past year has brought to my life.  Leaving youth ministry, starting in a new position, leading a new team, my wife and I are expecting our first child–life has been full.  I’m finding it important to reflect and think back to what I have learned and how I have changed over the past 365 days.  Today, I thought I would bring you in on my reflections in three areas.  Something I learned personally, something I learned professionally, and the most influential books that I read in 2016.

 Image by Cesar Lopez Rivadeneira from Unsplash.com

Image by Cesar Lopez Rivadeneira from Unsplash.com

1.     The thing I am learning personally is I don’t always come across like I think I do.  My boldness and direct language may be a positive in some situations but in many places my innate desire to dominate a situation and provide leadership through making a decision is not as welcome as I thought it was.  Previously, I thought my blunt honesty was what made my leadership strong.  Through words of a wise and honest friend, who is also my boss, I realized the way I say things is important.  I always knew that, but because most people saw things my way by the end of our conversation, I thought I was doing things right.  Through the guidance of a mentor I realized my boldness and blunt comments don’t necessarily mean people agree with me. It means no one wants to argue with me.  I have a lot of work to do in this area in 2017.

 

2.     What I learned professionally is I don’t know everything.  Coming from youth ministry, an area where I was relatively comfortable, and transitioning to my new position as discipleship pastor has been a humbling experience.  I learned that just because I found some success in one area does not mean I know how to find success in another.  Each day I am now learning to trust Jesus anew as I step into new areas where I was never “trained”.  My hope is I will have the same trust in Jesus this time next year.  I also hope I have a better idea about what I am doing a year from now.

 

3.     January of 2016 I set out with a goal to read 12 books.  I know to be a leader I have to be a reader, so I decided to set my goal and consume one book a month.  As of today I have finished 24 books this year.  I have two more to finish before the New Year.  These books have had a massive influence on my life and leadership this year.  Here are the top three and the reasons why.

 

a.     Fairness Is Overrated – This was the first book I read this year.  Its brief and impactful chapters give very valuable tips and reminders to anyone in leadership.  Our Youth Pastor Alex used it as a daily leadership devotional and then gave a copy to me.  I read it in a few days.  I think it’s a book you should reread each year.  If you are looking for a leadership devotional to invest in each day this is a great choice.

b.     Mastering Life Before It’s To Late – This was a book given to me by my Sr. Pastor Chris Marshall.  It’s a book about life planning with purpose.  It has helped me to realize how I am wasting time and the true value of those wasted minutes and hours.  I would not have doubled my goal for book reading this year if it wasn’t for this book.  If you need help with discipline, motivation, or personal life organization this is a fantastic place to start.

c.      Leadership And Self Deception – This book changed my life.  At its base it’s a book about self-awareness.  It helps you realize how your subtle manipulation of others forces you into a cycle that defeats them and frustrates you.  It was one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read.  As someone who believes he is fairly self-aware I found myself proven wrong with each page.  I don’t know that I will fully understand the impact of this book on my leadership for years.  I just know it will be on my reread list for 2017.

 

Ultimately, I hope this blog has helped you grow as a leader.  I know reflection and writing has helped me grow.  If one person has read the blog this year then my time has been well spent.  Even if no one reads our thoughts here I know it has helped me grow.  I don’t know what 2017 will bring for Relevant Leadership but I do know this year of helping leaders grow has been a blessing to me.  See you someway in 2017!  Lead well.

 

-Mar 

When a Leader Reproduces the Wrong Thing

If you have been in leadership for any length of time, you know one of the most difficult things a leader faces is removing someone from the organization.  If you are in the business world, it could mean removing someone’s livelihood and ability to support himself and his family.  If you are in the ministry world, you know the trials of removing a volunteer who can take being removed very personally.  Neither situation is easy.  I have been part of both situations and have found a few things that make the process a little less painful for both you and the person you need to remove.

 Image found at Unsplash.com by Felix Russell-Saw

Image found at Unsplash.com by Felix Russell-Saw

1. BE CLEAR AND HONEST.  Few things are worse then a relationship ending abruptly and without good reason.  If you are removing someone from your organization, you are most likely removing him or her from more than just one relationship.  Honesty may not be the easy way, but I have learned it is the most effective way.  Don’t make excuses about it not being your call, or it only has to do with budget, or you feel like it’s just not a good fit, unless those things are true.  If their removal is performance related tell them.  If it is moral failure tell them.  If it is a call you made to preserve the culture of your organization then own it.  Everyone will be better off with honesty than with trying to “let them down easy”.

2. BRING PROOF.  If you are letting someone go or removing someone from your ministry because of performance, show clearly where you had set a standard and she failed to meet it.   Show her the leadership covenant she signed when she joined your team and point out how she has broken it.  Show her the written standards she was given so she would preserve your organizational culture and then outline the behavior she is exhibiting that is hurting that culture.  Be clear and honest once again, and make sure you can show her how she was made aware of the standard and how she didn’t rise to the occasion.

3. EXERCISE EXTREME GRACE.  Even if it’s an employee who doesn’t fit well with your organization, realize it isn’t his fault.  That is on you.  Your hiring process ought to have seen the lack of fit.  Or it’s a failure on your part to properly instill in them your organizational culture and values.  If it is a moral failure, own that your ministry did not work hard enough to care for him spiritually, or you failed to put the accountability in place to at least provide a roadblock to keep him from the decision he made.  No matter how you go about it make sure you err on the side of grace.  Preserve the person’s dignity.  Decide ahead of time what you will tell the other members of your team.  Never gossip.  If you had to fire the person and you can provide a severance, then give them more then is expected.  Always err on the side of grace.

Removing someone from your organization will never be easy.  It will however, need to happen if you want to keep your organization heading in the same direction and if you want to preserve and protect its culture.  While it won’t be easy, it will be worth it in the end. When the decision to remove a person has been made, the sooner you act on the decision the better it will be for everyone involved.

-Mark 

5 Thing Every Ministry Must Have

When I started out in youth ministry I thought leadership was all about relationships.  Although I wasn’t wrong about that assumption I was wrong about several things.  The first thing was that as the ministry grew and as my leadership expanded that I would have enough emotional energy to go around.  Each person we encounter or build a relationship with takes emotional energy from us.  If we don’t deposit more then we are paying out then we eventually become emotionally bankrupt.  I felt that bankruptcy on more then one occasion when I started in the ministry at 22.  It started off easy.  I knew everyone and I had time and emotionally energy enough to go around.  It wasn’t hard to have relationships with a dozen and a half kids and a few adults.  As the ministry grew the demands on my time and emotional account became taxing I couldn’t keep up.  I knew that relationships where important in both leadership and ministry but I didn’t know one central thing.  I really wasn’t all that important.

 Image by Jenny Marvin from Unsplash.com

Image by Jenny Marvin from Unsplash.com

Here are 5 things that I believe every ministry and young leader need to have to avoid the burn out of emotional bankruptcy. 

 

Leadership Development – The first thing every ministry needs is leadership development.  If you view yourself as a leader then you need to be in the business of raising up other leaders.  The age of the expert has passed.  You don’t need to be an expert in an area to lead others in that direction.  You need a system.  People need to know what skills and virtues you want to see in their lives.  Then they need a plan to help them develop them.  Write down the top five qualities that you want to see lived out in your leadership team.  Then write down a plan to help people get there.  A good start is to build it around the following four stages.

1.     I do you watch

2.     We do together

3.     You do I watch

4.     You go teach someone else

 

Reporting Structure – You cannot be the center of the organization forever.  Eventually you need to choose a few people who will report to you.  Then everyone else needs to report to them (or someone else in your organization).  This is particularly difficult to pull off in a ministry setting because most people think that if you work for the church they have a right to your time and energy.  If you want to see your organization or ministry grow then you need to remove yourself from the center of it.  You will not be able to talk to everyone forever and you will not be able to solve every problem. 

 

Vision – I have herd it said that “Culture kicks vision’s ass”.  I believe that’s true.  We will look at culture in a moment.  However, vision serves a vital purpose in your ministry.  It shows clearly what you do.  It also says a lot about what you don’t do.  At New Life our church has a vision statement that says “To share, grow, and live the new life of Jesus with the world one person at a time”.  As a church and organization that means that we celebrate when anyone comes to Jesus.  That means that there are some things we don’t do.  We are all about sharing Jesus with people but our focus will always stay on the one.  As our church grows larger we fight to help it feel smaller and more connected. 

 

Culture – Every decision you make, as a leader, is a cultural decision.  I mean every decision.  Big or small, EVERY decision you make is a cultural decision.  The area you lead has a culture of its own.  You are the creator of that culture and its guardian.  If you are not intentional about the decisions you make then the culture you lead will be dictated for you.  As the leader your primary responsibility, after developing others, is to create and guard culture.

 

Model – If vision and culture create the WHY, and the culture you create defines the WHERE, then the model is the HOW.  Those you lead don’t just want to know what direction you are going but they want to know how you plan to get there.  It is hard to follow a leader that doesn’t have a plan.  After clarifying the vision of your organization do the hard work of writing out how you plan to get there.  The vision may be in stone but the model is in pencil so just know that it will likely change. 

 

These few paragraphs are a glace at five much larger subjects.  If you are building these things in your ministry then I encourage you to go read more about each area.  Ultimately they save you from running out of relational energy.  If you don’t develop them you will spend all your time trying to keep up with relationships you don’t have time for and spinning your organizational wheels without having a good understanding of where you are going and how you plan to get there.  When these things are in place something amazing happens.  You stop being the center of the ministry and things don’t depend on you.  Others rise up to lead and take on the role of ministers.  You have time to do what is most important and stop being the cap on your organizational growth.  Finally, you get a chance to lead a growing ministry and remain emotionally healthy.

-Mark

Twitter: @Markklutz

 

When the Right Hill Kills You

I don’t know what it is like to have the right hills kill you.  I have served at New Life for over six years.  I have never been hired at another church.  I have never been asked to leave a church staff or volunteer situation.  Not because I didn’t deserve it.  Believe me I wouldn’t have allowed myself to serve in ministries at times in my past before I came to New Life.  I have simply never chosen a hill to die upon to the point of being asked to leave.  However, I have almost died on the wrong hills a number of times.  Most recently I almost threw in the towel for a few really bad reasons.  Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.

 Image by Amar Yashlaha from Unsplash.com

Image by Amar Yashlaha from Unsplash.com

1.     STOP MAKING EMOTIONAL DECISIONS.  Easier said then done.  I am emotional by nature.  My college mentor use to say it more politely, he would tell me that I “feel things very deeply”.  I am actually really dramatic.  When I get upset it is not easy for me to calm down.  When I get emotional everything seems more important and way more urgent.  My main issue is that I generally make quick decisions during those turbulent hours that I always end up regretting.  If you are anything like me then do yourself a favor.   Sleep on it.  If you are angry, upset, hurt, or demoralized decide to sleep on it before you make any decisions.  If you have to go home early, shut off your phone, and stay away from email to make it happen then make it happen.  You are better off dealing with the ramifications of going off the grid for a few hours then going off the deep end because you’re emotionally unstable.

2.     GET SOME PRESPECTIVE.  The best way I have found to get perspective is to pray.  When we focus on God our issues seem small and a little stupid.  When we stop praying we get focused on ourselves too easily.  When I stop praying I start to think that all of my “problems” are much bigger then they really are.  Then I start to believe that my problems are more important then they really are.  That inflated sense of importance puts you in awkward situations when you spend time with people who have a healthy perspective.  There are days that prayer doesn’t seem to be enough.  Those days I try to get out of my context.  It’s important to occasionally break free from your bubble and get a view of the world from a fresh angle.  Most of the time you realize that you didn’t have it nearly as bad as you thought.  A fresh perspective on your problems, position, and relationships can reorder your priorities and change your view of the world in a matter of moments.

3.     SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GREAT PEOPLE.  All the best intentions in the world wont get your through every emotional time in your life.  Eventually life will be overwhelming.  In those times we need great people.  Luckily for me those three great people are my wife, my head of staff, and my founding pastor.  Without Jenn, Barry and Chris in my life I wouldn’t be where I am today.  In fact I don’t think I would have made it through the past two weeks.  Chris (our founding pastor) is a great listener.  His wisdom and humility allow him to endure my emotional responses as he directs me to go “sleep on it” until sounder judgment prevails.  Without his steady hand leading me I would have made some really bad decisions in the heat of emotion over the years.  Barry (our head of staff) always asks rational questions and points out the truth.  He doesn’t let me lose perspective.  He also doesn’t pull his punches even when he knows I’m upset.  If he sees me being overly dramatic and blowing things out of proportion, he tells me.  I respect him so that’s really helpful to me.  I need someone who can point out when I am acting like Chicken Little.  Finally, my wife, Jenn, is always honest.  It’s commonly thought that in every relationship the guy wants to fix everything and the girl wants to listen.  In our marriage we are both fixers.  The other night I was complaining as we sat down to eat dinner together.  Jenn told me that she thought I was “listening to the devil.”  She was right, and her comment changed my course dramatically.  I need someone who will cut through the crap and be completely honest with me.  I am glad I have my wife for that.  You need to surround yourself with great people, not people who make you feel good, but people who make you better. 

 

As leaders if we could learn to stop making emotional decisions and live with greater perspective we would be considerably more effective and way more fun to follow.  This week, when you get emotional decide to sleep on it and make a decision in the morning.  When you start to feel like the center of everything then make a point to spend more time in prayer and get out of your bubble.  If you don’t have great people around you then you need to find them.  Leadership doesn’t develop in a vacuum.  You need people who are better then you and are willing to make you better.  I know these simple things have been changing my life and changing my leadership for the past few weeks.  After nearly making some really bad decisions I am glad I had some really amazing people around me to lead me through emotional times and lead me too a greater perspective.

 

-Mark  

Leading Small

I started serving in youth ministry as a volunteer at a rapidly growing church at 18.  Right out of high school I left my home church to try something new and got involved with the youth ministry and children’s ministry in my first few months with my new church family.  Little did I know that I would learn some of the most valuable lessons about leadership as an 18 year old kid from reading my bible, trying to live like Jesus, and loving kids.

 Photo from Unsplash.com by Brian Erickson

Photo from Unsplash.com by Brian Erickson

To me, ministry was about putting others above myself.  That meant dressing up like a cowboy to lead motions on Sunday mornings with the kid's ministry.  It meant dressing up like a princess for trunk or treat.  It meant putting my jr. high guys above myself and getting destroyed during pillow fights at retreats.  I didn’t realize, at the time, that Jesus saw ministry and servitude as the same thing.  I didn’t realize that Jesus taught servitude was the foundation for biblical leadership.  Eating pizza last, never minding when we lost at games, or staying late until a kid got picked up just came with ministry.  As it turns out it also goes hand and hand with powerful and life changing leadership.

 

1.     Be there first and leave last.  I know that this seams simple.  If you are in charge you should be there first.  However, this is easily missed and consistently overlooked.  It is easy to get into the habit of showing up a few minuets late.  Being there first and having everything ready to go shows that you are here to serve those that are following you.  Not to be served.  Leaving last shows that you are wiling to put in whatever hours or energy it takes to get the job done.

2.     Clean.  This really seems stupid.  However, it was one of the few hills that I am willing to die on.  Starting out in ministry I had people tell me consistently that I should leave ten minuets at the end of each youth group and make the kids clean up the house we rented.  I wouldn’t do it.  I would rather be there an extra few hours cleaning then waste the time that I had with the students by making them clean.  There are good arguments either way but there are few better examples of servant leadership in our culture then washing dirty dishes or scrubbing a bathroom.

3.      No matter the job, jump in.  Few things are more off-putting then a young leader who thinks they are too good for something.  There is truth in the fact that you need to equip people to do things so that you can be freed up to do what only you can do.  However, there are few things more humbling and few things that will build your credibility as a leader faster then simply becoming a willing set of hands.

 

I realize these are physical things and there are many emotional and spiritual ways to serve others.  Being a listening ear is one of the most significant ways that you can serve anyone.  The above examples are just three ways that I personally found servant leadership to be really powerful.  I always try to be the first person there and the last person out the door, I hate to clean but I always clean up after my students and especially after my team, and there is no job bellow me when it comes to Kingdom work.  I am sure you can find significant ways to serve your team that I haven’t found or that I don’t practice.  However, what’s important is that you look for them and start serving people.  Even if you’re not the “person in charge” or the leader calling the shots you can learn a tremendous amount about leadership from simple and small acts of service. 

When I left the first church I served at after high school I was only 19.  I didn’t leave in a great way.  I wasn’t in a good place in life and wounded some wonderful people on my way out.  Those are not things I am proud of.  However, even after such a short time spent with the church, and leaving in such a negative way, I was told years later that I was still dearly missed, that my leadership in the group was significant, and that folks were glad that they had bumped into me.  I am convinced that servant leadership is the single most powerful and life-changing model for leadership that exists.  I don’t just believe it just because I experienced it, but because Jesus taught it.

 

-Mark  

Selling the 70/30 Leadership Model

Shortly after I came on staff at New Life, just over six years ago, I attended my first monthly staff meeting.  There we discussed our current all staff initiative.  Replication.  We where all trying to replicate ourselves in the lives of our leaders so that we could move from an organization of addition to multiplication.  New Life hired leaders.  Not doers.  I was expected to replicate and replace myself from day one so the 70/30 model of leadership made perfect sense to me.  The 70/30 model means spending 70% of my time with my team and 30% of my time with the students I was trying to reach. That was the only way I would be able to replicate or replace myself in the life of the ministry I was serving.  However, the 70/30 model is not the model of many organizations.  Even if you are a “director” you may have been hired to DO something rather than LEAD something.  What follows is what I hope are a few good pointers no how to sell this leadership model to your organization and the powers that be.

 Image by Roya Ann Miller from unsplash.com 

Image by Roya Ann Miller from unsplash.com 

1.     I am a Leader not a Doer.  If this model of leadership makes sense to you intuitively, it’s because you’re a leader not a doer.  Leaders don’t want to be caught up with the mundane. We want to rally and lead others.  We may serve our teams passionately in the mundane things but it is never where we find the deepest fulfillment.  The small things are always linked to something bigger.  If your position was filled for someone to “do” something then maybe you’re just not the right fit and you need to begin to look for a new position.  If it was filled for you to LEAD something, but you’re finding yourself bogged down in having to do everything then the expectations need to be changed.  The statement “well that is your job” starts to be taken off the table as you find others to come along side you and build something great with you.  When the leadership of an organization begins to understand that hiring a LEADER will pay much greater dividends than hiring a DOER you are in a great place.  Sometimes organizations just need a humble reminder that leadership is the process of giving away what you have been hired to do to others so you can run off and do something new!

2.     I should be about Multiplication not Addition.  Addition is easy.  Multiplication in an organization is hard.  Addition is the math of a doer.  Multiplication is the math of a leader.  Helping your organization understand that developing other leaders allows you to multiply yourself while doing the work of the organization at best simply adds to yourself is very powerful.  In youth ministry comments like these will start coming in once you start into the area of multiplication.   

a.     “Well YOU didn’t hang out with my kid.”

b.     “My student really only feels comfortable talking to YOU.”

c.      “We need YOU to come pray with us in the hospital.”

d.     “The students really like it when YOU lead the games best.”

These comments puff up your ego but leave you chasing down the urgent and unimportant elements of your leadership.  These are all still elements that need to be covered and covered with excellence but as Andy Stanley says.  “If someone else can do it 80% as well as you they should be the one doing it”.  

 

In conclusion leading from a place of multiplication is no easy task.  It starts with addition.  It starts with replication.  Over time the benefits are watching things grow larger and faster then you could have ever imagined.  The 70/30 leadership model may seem like you are skirting your responsibilities at first but it soon becomes the careful art of delegation and leadership development.  You have to learn to sacrifice doing what you love to impassion others to do it as you lead them.  I hope that this week you will look at your schedule and start investing more of your time with those you are trying to build something with and less time with your target audience.  If you are in youth ministry like me, then I hope you cancel that lunch with a student and schedule that lunch with an adult leader.  Then next week do the same thing.  In time it will become second nature to lead your organization through others. 

Connect with me this week and let me know what your thinking.  I would love to talk with you about making the jump to 70/30 leadership.  You can always leave a comment bellow!

-Mark

Twitter: @MarkKLutz

Instagram: @mark_k_lutz

When Accountability Goes Bad

I am not a great secret keeper.  I wish that I could write to you about a strong accountability relationship I had that didn’t turn out the way I wanted, because my accountability partner broke my trust by telling others what I had shared with him in confidence.  I wish I could tell you how I moved on and what I did to forgive that person and how I reconciled that relationship.  However, I’m usually the other guy.  I’m usually the person who struggles to keep the secret and breaks a confidence that was more important to someone then I realized.  I am usually the one who needs to be forgiven.  When I say that my life is an open book I really mean it.  I have no part of my life that at least one person doesn’t know about, so keeping secrets is difficult for me.  So instead of telling you what to do when someone betrays your trust, I am going to give you three things I try to do when I have betrayed someone else’s trust.

 Photo by Jan Schulz found on Unsplash.com

Photo by Jan Schulz found on Unsplash.com

1.     Go straight to that person.  When I know that I have betrayed someone’s trust I do my best to go straight to that person as fast as possible.  That doesn’t always happen.  I’m sure there are people who are still upset with me about something I told someone, and I’m not even aware of it.  However, when I realize that I made a mistake I try to make myself easy to find.  I don’t want the person who trusted me to have to come looking for me.  I want to go find him.  If there is a chance to salvage the relationship then the only way of doing it will be to come out of hiding and face what I have done. 

2.     Own it.  Once I have pulled myself out of hiding its time to own it.  No excuses.  I did something wrong.  It may be in my personality to share every part of my life with everyone but that’s not a good reason to hurt someone else.  The person I have betrayed deserves to be upset and I need to be mature enough to shoulder his anger and fear and take it.  I used to try to worm my way out of things at this stage in the game.  I would get really slimy and manipulative and point out all the reasons it was really both of our faults.  That never played out as I thought it would in my head.  I felt better in the moment but in the long run the pay off in the relationship was less then ideal.  I just needed to own it. 

3.     Expect the relationship to change.  Last, I need to expect that the relationship won’t be the same.  I can do all the correct things by going to the person right away and owning who I am and what I did but that may not change the fact that I am not trustworthy.  Our relationship may never be the same.  An accountability relationship may just not work out anymore.  I need to be prepared to own that too.  That’s on me, not him.

In conclusion, I’m a lot better today than I was six or eight years ago with keeping secrets and holding things in confidence.  When I’m told not to tell anyone something, 95 times out of 100 you can bank on me not telling another soul.  Being married and having someone who I can talk with about everything has helped a lot over the past several years.  I still get in trouble from time to time, because there are some things about yourself that you can change through training and effort and some things that you can’t.  I ‘ve tried to change this area and despite being a loyal person and a good friend I am still not a great secret keeper.  I don’t know that I will ever grow to become one.  I know that living my life as an open book has been far more of a blessing then living as a closed one.  I get the chance to live life with far less fear then folks with a lot of secrets, and I’m grateful for that. 

I hope you will learn to live with less secrets and to live in more freedom, that you will live in accountability with at least one person who can help you learn to live life as an open book.  God already knows all your crap and His judgment is the only one that matters at the end of the day.  We spend a lot more time hiding our mess from people whose judgment is temporal then repenting to God whose judgment is eternal.  However, that’s a post for another day.

 

-Mar 

Mark@newlifexn.org

@MarkKLutz

Three Steps To Leadership Triage

This past week was not a great week for me (Mark). More then a few things fell through the cracks including a few meetings when I simply didn’t show up. People counted on me at work and I didn’t pull through. Thankfully, my co-worker, Alex, is my closest friend, has my back and covered for me. That being said, I sensed his frustration with me by the end of the week. I also put my leadership to the test in the eyes and minds of those that I follow and those I lead by Friday.  I have some repairs to make.  All that happened because of the chaos that I permitted entry in my personal and professional life last week. This month’s post is abnormally personal because I’m writing it to myself.  Here’s what I’m going to do next week to practice triage in my own work life, and to put some things back together.  I hope that if you are in the same place as me that you can use these same tools to stem the bleeding and stop the leaking in your leadership journey.

 Image by Julien Lavallèe from Unsplash.com

Image by Julien Lavallèe from Unsplash.com

To set yourself up as an expert is to set yourself up for failure, but to set yourself up as a leader is to set yourself on a journey.  Therefore, as I write and talk on Relevant Leadership, I’m inviting you to join me on a journey.  I’m not setting myself up as an expert.  I am not an expert.  I believe experts are myths.  The world moves too fast for anyone to be an expert anymore.  I definitely don’t have any of this figured out completely.  All I know is that what happened last week is not workable for me into the future.  I’m guessing that if you’ve ever missed meetings, lost important documents, or completely forgotten about deadlines, then that’s not working for you either. 

When our leadership leaks, it bleeds out in chaos.  Leadership thrives only within the freedom of some strict boundaries.  They may look different in various situations and settings, but powerful leadership always flows from a place of discipline.  So here are three disciplines that I’m going to implement this week. 

1.  I’m going to write everything down.  Whether you’re a proven genius or not, no one will follow you if you keep forgetting that Friday appointment you made with them on Wednesday afternoon, because you didn’t think you needed to write it down.  They may not say they don’t trust you anymore but they’ll stop asking you to get together on Friday afternoons because they can’t trust you to show up.  If you make a commitment, then write it down where you will see it when it matters.

2.  I’m going to start with something productive.  It’s easy to get pulled into things in life that aren’t important and aren’t urgent.  The easiest time to do that is the moment we wake up.  If the morning isn’t the most productive time of the day for you, that’s fine, just don’t waste it.  Start off strong.  Wastes of time can waste our days and make us feel like a waste.

3.  I’m going to schedule time for myself.  Get “me time” on in your calendar.  If you don’t, one of two things will happen:  1) It will never happen. You’ll work as a leader until there’s no time left to go fishing, ride your bike, spend time with your husband or wife, play with your kids, play your xbox, or whatever you do that renews you.  Leadership takes away your “me time,” when you don’t defend it.  2) You’ll get fed up with having no time for yourself, grab your kayak, and twenty minutes into your water getaway you’ll remember that you forgot about that meeting, that email, that whatever that was really important. Now you have some explaining to do.  Get your “me time” on your schedule and defend it like it’s as important as your office hours–it is!

If you see me this week, I hope you won’t see me without my planner in my hand and a pen in my pocket, so I can write down and remember all those impromptu meetings that I’ll say yes to and need to remember.  I’ll be starting each day with a book or Bible in hand, when I’m not starting off with an early commitment at the office.  Finally, this Friday is already labeled “Adventure Friday.” That way when I’m out on my kayak or bicycle I won’t be getting a call from my boss wondering where I am.  I hope you’ll join me in taking these three small steps toward a more disciplined leadership journey.  Let me know how it’s going.  I would love to join the adventure with you!

-Mark

Twitter: @MarkKLutz

InstaGram: @mark_k_lutz

Three Clear Ways to Get out of Burnout and Start Learning Again

One of the most important truths I ever learned that was not in the Bible is this: It is YOUR job to learn, not your teachers job for you to learn. We live in an information culture where it’s possible to find out anything about just about everything instantaneously. Yet, a lot of us seem to be waiting for someone to fill us up with what we need, rather than going after it. Another danger is that if we went to college for youth ministry, or seminary to be a pastor, we can assume that after we’ve graduated we’re the expert and we don’t need to learn anything else from classes or books. Add to that the often grueling schedule we face and it’s a formula for getting into the rut of not learning AND burnout.

 Image from Unsplash by Mike Wilson

Image from Unsplash by Mike Wilson

One of my early mentors taught me that a rut differs from a grave only in its depth and length. When we stop learning we start dying. That sounds ominous. It sounds extreme. It’s the truth. Having served in ministry since I was nineteen (I’m now a month and a half away from being 59), I’ve seen pretty much everything that has come and gone in both youth ministry and church leadership in general. What I’ve seen a lot of is leaders who have come and gone, because they thought they had already learned everything they needed to know in college or seminary, put their noses to the grindstone and started working. In time, they kept giving, giving and giving of their time, their energy, their knowledge, and sooner or later they ran out of all three. They didn’t get a grip on their schedules. They burned the candle at both ends, and they thought they had a lifetime supply of information, and it turned out only to be a year and half worth. The sad thing is just about all of us start out as youth pastors, volunteers, or church leaders who are enthusiastic about the task before us, and about the time we’ve invested in preparation.

            The best way to avoid burnout and to ensure that we not only survive in the ministry but thrive in it is to take responsibility for our own lives starting with our schedules and our learning plan. “What Schedule? What learning plan?” you ask. That’s the response I’ve heard from most of the people I’ve ever asked, “How do you plan your time and how do you make sure you keep learning? Let me see your schedule and your learning plan?” You’re thinking. This guy’s a bit OCD. Not at all. In fact, if you know anything about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m and ENFP. That means schedules are NOT my friend. I like spontaneity. I like to take life as it comes, but having been in the ministry for nearly forty years as a volunteer or “professional” I have learned, usually the hard way that the less disciplined I am, the more I NEED a schedule. If I don’t plan my life, lots of other people will. The challenge doesn’t go away as we get older, but what does go away as we get older is the illusion that we have a 100 years to get this thing done. When I was 25 it seemed that my whole life was in front of me, that my energy would never run out and that I had enough knowledge to last a lifetime. The truth is it took me about two years in full-time ministry before I realized that even someone who loves Jesus and loves serving Him WILL burnout without a plan to harness time. That plan must include the following: 

1) Time to rest.

Rick Warren has said the person who burns the candle at both ends isn’t as bright as he thinks he is! God commanded that we rest one day a week. It’s also a good idea to sleep on a daily basis.

2) Time to pray. 

We work for God! That means we need to take time to listen to what He has for us. (If you’re wondering, “Does this guy think God talks to him?” The answer is, “No. He doesn’t think it. He knows it.” I’ve also learned that if my prayer time is just me talking, God tends to talk to me less. Make sure your prayer time includes listening time.

3) Time to learn.

A learning plan can be as simple as creating a list of pod casts, seminars/webinars, and books you’re planning to read, and then scheduling time in your calendar to listen, attend and read.  A great book that addresses all of these is Living Forward. It just came out in March, and it’s the best book this ENFP has ever read AND put into practice when it comes to life management, another name for planning your time and learning so you won’t burn out!

If you have a spouse and/or children remember that burnout can also come when you have a bad ratio of time at work and time at home.  God called me to be a husband before he called me to be a youth pastor, then a pastor. I didn’t always remember that early on. I’m grateful for a loving wife, who put up with a lot of crap for the first handful of years, and now 37+ years into our marriage we understand what love really is, and how important it is to invest in each other. I haven’t experience an episode of burnout since I was in my late 20’s. Not surprisingly, it was during a time when I wasn’t resting, wasn’t learning, and thought my work equaled my commitment to Jesus. My work is one, important aspect of my commitment to Jesus, but without a plan for investing time in rest, prayer and learning AND family if you have one, work will end up just being a contributing factor in the train wreck that is sure to come.  Ministry IS sustainable, and enjoyable over the long haul, when you have a plan, and you live it in cooperation with Jesus.

Contributed by Chris Marshall, Lead Pastor, New Life.

Contact: chris@newlifexn.or

 

Three Blazing Red Flags that you DON'T have a Mentor

Most young leaders want a mentor.  They want guidance.  They want help.  When they look for their first “real job” a boss who is also a mentor is a key factor in their decision process. Young leaders typically want someone who will influence and help guide their leadership and lives professionally and personally to help them avoid potential pitfalls.   As a young leader, you can easily be confused and think that just because you are meeting with someone that you are being mentored. However, many young leaders find themselves in weekly meetings with bosses who are more interested in being coaches or just bosses when they promised mentorship up front.  Here are three blazing red flags to watch out for if you are banking on someone to mentor you:

 Image by Rosan Harmens from Unslpash.com

Image by Rosan Harmens from Unslpash.com

1.     Mentors listen.  If you are in the interview process and mentorship is important to you (AND IT SHOULD BE!!!) then ask to meet one on one with the person or people who would be directly responsible for that mentorship.  Offer to take them out to coffee or lunch.  It may not be convenient to them, but if you are in the final rounds of interviewing, and mentorship is on your agenda, it’s important that you get some one on one contact with the person.  When you sit down to meet, you want to know if the person is willing to listen.  Does he engage with what you are talking about?  Does he seem to listen when you are talking or does he use that time to plan out his next line of comments?  I would fail this test personally because I am not a great listener.  So maybe I am not a fantastic mentor.  Great mentors teach but they also listen because every great teacher listens. 

2.     Mentors are someone you want to follow.  Your mentor should be someone who can guide you to where you want to go.  If your future mentor is a person of poor moral character you will find it difficult to value his input in your life.  Look at his social media pages, talk to a few people who already work with him, find out if his personal life matches his public life.  Leadership is 80% character.  If your mentor lacks character you won’t be able to trust his leadership in your life.  You won’t have a mentor.  Instead you will have a pointless meeting on your calendar. 

3.     Mentors are reliable.  Your mentor should be dependable.  If this is a long-term mentorship then you should not have to worry about him canceling on you.  This is important to you, but if legacy is not important to him then you will not get his best.   The currency of priority is reliability.  If you can, ask a new mentor what his schedule looks like and ask how your time with him would fit into it.  If he has a time slot all picked out for you and is prepared to defend it and give it priority that’s awesome.  If he says he is really busy but thinks he can make time for your meetings one morning maybe every other month then he may not be reliable.  He may not be a bad mentor but this may be the wrong season of life for him to meet or talk with you.  You may need to look for a mentor someplace else.

 

In conclusion, don’t let yourself get tricked into believing you have a mentor when you don’t.  Just because you have a meeting on your schedule with someone who said he plans to mentor you doesn’t mean he will.  A great mentor is someone who listens, has character you respect, and is reliable.  I am sure you can tack many other characteristics onto this list, but these three are nonnegotiable.  When looking for your next long or short-term mentor, don’t be afraid to go into it with some basic qualifications.  The mentor will have some for you.  It is only fair that you have some for him.  You are letting him speak into, guide, and influence your life so choose wisely.

 

Do you think there are other essential qualifications of a mentor?  Comment below and let me know what you think!  

 

-Mark

Find us on twitter @NL_RelevantLead or find Mark @MarkKLutz

The Key To Success For Young Leaders

Knowing what makes you tick and what ticks you off is the key to success for young leaders. Reggie McNeal of Leadership Network wrote, “The single most important piece of information a leader possesses is self-awareness.”  Self-awareness means knowing what motivates, moves, and manages you.  It is the quest for self-understanding.  Young leaders who lack self-awareness are in for a rude awakening.  In this article I want to share with you three key areas you must know about yourself in order to be successful and sustain extraordinary leadership.  Most of this material comes directly from Reggie McNeal’s book Practicing Greatness.  It is available here:  Practicing Greatness

 Image by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.com

Image by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.com

1.    The Family of Origin.  Extraordinary leaders know that in order to get where they want to go they must first understand where they’ve been.  They must dig into some deep, dark, and scary areas of the past in order to launch forward.  While normal people avoid this practice like the plague, extraordinary leaders find the biggest shovel they can wield and begin to unearth their hidden addictions and compulsions. One key area that forms our compulsions early in life is our “Family of Origin.” Reggie McNeal says, “We learn our first life lessons in our family of origin, then we spend the rest of our lives either building on these lessons or trying to overcome them.” In order to launch forward we must uncover and uproot bad ideas, addictions, and compulsions they’ve inherited from our parents or guardians. We must build separation from our family of origin by becoming independent and responsible for our own lives.  As leaders, we must know how our family has shaped us and then we must learn how to reshape those areas that bring chaos and destruction.

 

2.    Hidden Addictions and Compulsions.  Hidden addictions and compulsions include problems with drugs or alcohol, sex addictions, a lust for power, compulsive eating, adrenaline addiction, workaholism, approval craving, and many more.   Most people recognize the first few compulsions on the list as being a problem.  But what about thrill seeking or people pleasing?  All of these areas will cause a leader to self-destruct unless they are managed effectively.  We must first understand our hidden addictions and compulsions.  Chances are as you’re reading this there is an issue running through your mind with which you struggle.  Take it on!  Through Jesus, God gives us grace and forgiveness and through the Holy Spirit the power to overcome any flesh-driven issue.  We, however, must do our part to manage our out-of-control desires.  To steal a phrase from Andy Stanley, we must put guardrails in place in order to keep us from plunging off the cliff of addiction and compulsion. 

 

3.    Boundaries.  Reggie McNeal describes boundaries as fences.  He said, “Boundaries let us know where we end and where the rest of the world picks up.” Henry Cloud and Steve Townsend have identified four problematic boundary types:  Compliants, avoidants, controllers, and nonresponsives.  Compliants are people who allove others to violate their personal boundaries mainly because they don’t want to hurt others feelings.  Avoidants shut the gates when they should let others in.  In other words, avoidants withdraw under pressure.  Controllers are those who don’t respect others’ boundaries or don’t even realize boundaries exist.  Lastly nonresponsives are leaders who have learned to deal with boundary issues by not responding to others’ needs or problems.  Learning to set healthy boundaries is relatively easy.  Enforcing them is difficult.  As leaders we must set healthy boundaries and clearly communicate them to those with whom we live, work, and play.   We must be aware of which boundary bent we relate above and how to overcome it in order to maintain healthy boundaries.  Healthy boundaries produce healthy leadership. Get some boundaries today!

 

Together we’ve learned how important it is to surface the deep, dark, ugly parts of life in order to better serve those we lead.  Using our strengths well and managing our weaknesses effectively helps us make a lasting impact.  Don’t be afraid to dig deep into who you are.  God has gifted you for greatness.  Don’t let a lack of self-awareness come between you and God’s best for you.  Know, grow, and go after all God has for you! 

- Brad French

 

When Submission Hurts

One morning four years into full-time ministry as a Youth Pastor I found myself realizing that I was in the wrong organization, working for the wrong leader. Sometimes this can happen because:

1. We did not choose the church we entered into wisely. 

2. Our leaders or supervisors have changed

3. We have possibly stayed too long. 

 Here are three ways you can avoid this pitfall in ministry:

1.    Stay out of bad situations

This is, of course, easier said than done. Coming out of college, I was so excited to become a full-time minister that I jumped right into a situation that spelled disaster from the get go. One thing I could have done was to ask better questions in the interview. It is healthy to view the interview process as going two ways: 1) The Church is trying to locate someone who fits them and their mission, vision, and values and 2) you are also trying to find a church that fits with your mission vision and values.

Not every church works for every person and not every person works for every church. So before you go to an interview think about what you believe, what are your non-negotiables, and the kind of environment in which you thrive.  I’d encourage you to take some time to find out more about yourself by taking personality test.  A great, and free, one can be found at www.16personalities.com.

After you have a good idea of who you are and what you want make sure to craft some good questions for an interview. Here are some examples:

·      Do you have a vision statement?

·      Where would you like to see the church be in 5-10 years?

·      What are your biggest strengths as an organization?

·      What are your biggest weaknesses as an organization?

·      What would my job description be?

·      How do you define success for this position?

If all of that goes well, make sure to do your homework and find out what the church believes. Make sure it matches up with what you believe.  PRAY about your decision.  One more thing: if the church tries to recruit your spouse to run their VBS before you have accepted the job…run the other way.

 

2.    How to survive under bad leadership

Before I came to New Life Christian Ministries, I was working at a small church that was on their third pastor in four years. That meant a group of lay leaders determined all the church’s actions. Needless to say, our boat had sprung a leak. I stayed in this situation longer then I wanted to because of my stubbornness, my hatred of change, and because I believed God had called me to that church four years earlier.  While I was there I wanted to adhere to Colossians 3:23 which says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” This conviction allowed me to learn some ways to survive under bad leadership. When I say bad leadership I mean leadership without direction, vision, humility, strong morality, or a likeness to Jesus.

The following four things helped me survive bad leadership while remaining faithful to my call in ministry, and maintaining my integrity:

·      Submit: The bible is very clear in Ephesians 6:5-8 that if we are slaves we should still obey our earthly masters with respect, fear, and sincerity of heart. As long as our leaders are not demanding that we sin we are called to show them respect, listen to what they have to say, and support them as much as possible.

·      Don’t cause Division: My senior pastor always stresses that having two visions is the definition of division. If you have found yourself in a situation where you disagree with the vision of the organization I would suggest that you:  1) pray for Gods direction; 2) always publically support the vision; and 3) attempt to change the vision only through the correct channels of authority and communication. If none of that changes the direction of the vision to one that is compatible with your vision find a new organization.

·      Be Open and honest about your struggles (with those you are having problems with): If no one hears why you are upset, nothing will ever change. Be respectful in how you speak with your superiors, but let them know what it is that is stopping you from doing the job you have been called to do. Anyone who is a good leader at all, will listen and help you feel more comfortable.

·      Don’t gossip: When my parents were getting a divorce my dad showed me a great example by not gossiping about my mom to me. Be a person of integrity even through your frustrations, and avoid gossip and slander at all costs.  

 

3.    When to move on

I left my first job in full time Youth Ministry after nearly five and a half years.  It was a decision I did not want to make, and at some level felt that I should not make. Ministry is all about building relationships and for me, it was hard to see some of those come to an end. However in the last two years of work at New Life Christian Ministries I have been able to see God work through me in ways that never seemed possible two years ago. Sometimes we are just on the wrong seat (or maybe even the right seat) on the wrong bus, and we need to follow God’s direction.

Some ways to determine that it is time to leave a toxic situation are:

·      Prayer: If you hear God’s voice calling you somewhere else–listen! Be sure to take time to really know if it is God’s voice speaking to you. Seek counsel from mentors outside the church for wisdom and guidance.

·      When you are unable to answer the call God has put in your heart: God had put a distinct call on my life to do youth ministry in such a way that I would be able to reach lost students for His kingdom. I was unable to do that in my old job and felt God was directing me elsewhere.

·      When it is hurting your walk with God: If you are in a situation where your relationship with God is suffering or you are sinning as a direct result of your job, it is time to start looking elsewhere.

Contact me at Alex@newlifexn.org or @PastorArod on Twitter. I’d love to talk with you, pray for you, and help you best answer God’s call on your life!

 

Mark@Newlifexn.org