A quick internet search will reveal that there are many styles of leadership. Whether it be authoritarian, strategic, visionary, coaching, transitional, adaptive, or any number of other styles, each style is a method of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people.

Leadership styles are based on a number of factors, including the level of control and power the leader possesses. Different situations call for different approaches. Most leaders use a combination of styles to motivate and equip people to fulfill a purpose or mission. 

What’s Your Story?

Regardless of the style, your inner story will subconsciously guide the way you lead. You do not leave who you are, how you think, or what you feel, at home. Your needs, emotions, and dreams come with you. As much as you want the people with whom you work to trust and respect you, the people who look to you as their leader are looking for the same. 

Over my years I have learned there are two underlying influences in the style of every leader. There are those who lead with fear and there are those who lead with love.

The question is, which is the underlying influence in your leadership?

Fear-based Leadership

Fear-based leadership usually shows up in two ways. You either make decisions based upon what you want, or you are paralyzed because you want people to like you. 

Either you react to challenges based upon assumption and hearsay or you deny and dismiss challenges because of the fear of offending someone. You either make unilateral decisions or make no decisions which lead to “anything goes.” Your cynical attitudes permeate your style, and you pass your pessimism on to others. 

Even when it is not your intention, you create an “us and them” culture based upon mistrust. You either micro-manage out of fear things will not be done the way you want them done or your desire to be liked creates a culture of mistrust where everyone is doing his or her own thing. Lots of activity but little production. Both types of fear-based leadership become the center of all the work.

Fear-based leadership cultivates fear rather than trust and stability. It always seeks an enemy. Its focus is usually on something the leader is against rather than on people and their potential.

There are good people who are motivated by fear. Just remember, who you are is how you lead.

Love-based Leadership

The opposite of leading with fear is leading with love. Loved-based leadership is relational. You are vulnerable and genuine with the people with whom you work. Love-based leaders look for their potential and equip them to live up to their potential. You are generous in your assessments, giving the benefit of the doubt. You are courageous in your decision-making, creating a space for trust and collaboration.

Love-based leaders cultivate trust and compassion. They take pride in the work of the people entrusted to their care. Love-based leaders focus on the well-being of the people entrusted to them. They are grateful for the work of their colleagues and give credit to whom credit is due.

Lead with Love

Love-based leadership is rooted in unconditional love. It is selfless and works for the well-being, not only of the people entrusted to your care but of all people, especially strangers. Love-based leadership is Christian leadership. It is greater than your likes and dislikes. It is greater than your fears. John in his first letter wrote, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:18).

There is one characteristic of love-shaped leadership that sets the foundation for everything else: self-care and self-compassion. Stephen R. Covey, in his writing and speaking, emphasized the significance of love in leadership. According to Covey, love, trust, and managing people with a dedication to helping them reach their full potential were key responsibilities of leaders.

He said having a love for yourself was critical to your performance as a leader. If you want to care for others, you must look after yourself. Love-shaped leadership is built upon a solid basis of self-care and compassion. It is the first step toward leading with love.

You can lead with love once you have established care and compassion for yourself.

Three Characteristics of Love-Shaped Leaders

There are many characteristics of love, but here are three to help you lead with love. 

Vulnerability

One of the most essential characteristics of an effective leader is vulnerability. It is one of the qualities we look for in others but is the last quality we want to show of ourselves. To lead with love means you nurture a culture where people feel safe and where you, when struggling, find support and care. 

It takes courage to be vulnerable. Instead of hiding your failures and covering up your weaknesses, you own them. You ask for feedback and learn from others. Your authenticity helps build trust and your capacity to care. Your experience of trust creates compassion for and acceptance of those around you. 

Although vulnerability is difficult work, it helps you become the leader you are created to be. 

Explore more about the intersection of vulnerability and leadership here.

Listening

One of the most desired characteristics of an effective leader is the ability to listen. It is another quality we look for in others but find it difficult for ourselves. But love-shaped leadership is focused on the well-being of others. Listening builds trust and shows your capacity to care. It means you create a culture where people feel safe to speak up and where you are slow to shut people down. 

It takes courage to listen. You know where you are going. As a leader, you know the path that needs to be taken. You know what needs to be done to navigate the barriers. But unless you give people the opportunity to be heard, they do not feel they are a valuable part of what you are doing. 

A reminder is, God has given you two ears but one mouth. It is difficult to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but it helps you become the leader you are created to be. 

What stops people from listening to you? Explore more here.

Generosity

One of the most needed characteristics of an effective leader is generosity. It means that you make a genuine effort to understand others. You only have to look at your relationships with family and friends to experience how difficult it is to truly understand one another. Being generous means that you assume that your colleagues have good intentions and that they are doing the best they can under the circumstances. 

It is closely related to listening. Generosity requires patience and humility. It requires a sense of wonder and curiosity and a genuine interest in the people you are leading. You listen to what is being said, ask questions for clarity, and explore their perspectives. It is easy to judge and blame when things do not work the way they should but staying open and curious in conversations creates an environment where people feel heard, seen, and truly cared for. 

The best way to think of it is, you are loving others as God in Christ has loved you. It is difficult to be generous when you are depending upon others to do quality work, but your practice of generosity will help you become the leader you are created to be.

Perfect love casts out fear

You know better than anyone what motivates you and your leadership. This week, examine your leadership style. Are you leading with fear? Afraid to be vulnerable? Does fear emerge when you seek to listen and develop relationships? Are you afraid to be generous with colleagues?

As you reflect this week, keep in mind that you were created to lead at this time and place. Accepting God’s love for you is as important as you sharing God’s love for others. In fact, there is no love-shaped leadership, your acceptance of God’s love for you and for the people entrusted to you care.

Who you are is how you lead. I pray that your relationships are shaped by love this week.

The accelerating rate of change means a vision is only helpful for 2-3 years. That means, organizations, including the church, need to be reinventing themselves every 2-3 years to continue to thrive. While those statistics may give us reason to pause, a vision serves an important role. A vision can give us a lens to make decisions, guide our activities, and encourage us to live in new ways.

Our mission, on the other hand, defines who we are and guides us toward living our purpose. It’s not merely the footer on our websites or a poster on our entrance walls. It’s our central guiding purpose.

But there is another organizational lens that I believe sets the church apart from other organizations. Today, I want to invite you to consider what the church values. 

What Makes You Weird?

During a recent continuing education event related to coaching, the presenter asked a simple question that may have caught me off guard. Instead, it intrigued me because it was the title of the session. The question is: What makes you weird? 

Specifically, I’d ask, “What makes the church weird?” As much as it pains me to say, speaking words of hope is weird right now. Unconditional love is weird right now. Loving God and loving our neighbors is weird right now. Degrading others in words and actions has somehow been normalized. It’s not weird. It also doesn’t reflect the greatest commandment.

If you’re saying, “I don’t want to be weird.” I’ll go out on a limb and say, “It’s going to be difficult to be a Jesus follower.” 

What do you worship?

Allow me to ask the above question in a slightly different way, “What makes the local church you lead and/or participate in different from other organizations?”

You might say it’s worshiping Jesus. That certainly should set us apart. But as soon as I made that note on my paper, the presenter asked this question: What do you worship? 

I confess, I laughed, and then my heart sank to my toes for a moment. I recognized how quickly Jesus can be removed from our worship focus. In subtle and overt ways, we worship:

  • money
  • traditions
  • egos
  • church buildings

…just to name a few.

Think about this question in a nuanced way.

What gets all the attention? Again, yes, Jesus should be the focus. But, I’ve experienced far too many congregations where issues, personalities, the building, or money get the focus.  

What is unique about the church? 

As the conversation about values unfolded, I began to consider the most unique and weird thing about the local church. Why? It’s what gives us a unique perspective for advancing our purpose. It is what shapes the church culture and in turn, it shapes us as followers of Jesus.

Our values are codified in the way we do things. When we really probe the question of uniqueness, we’re considering the values we embody. 

Values point to what we believe and how we work together. When we can articulate our values, we know what makes us unique. When we know what makes us unique, we know how we’re animating our mission in specific ways. Those ways may be perplexing to some. But they make the church you lead and call home unique. 

I’ll ask again, what is unique about the church? Compared to other organizations, the church is:

  • Primarily volunteer driven
  • Focus on Jesus
  • Sunday worship (prayer, scripture, message)
  • Bible – ancient text is our guide
  • There are others, but I’ll stop there.

Your Unique Difference

What makes you weird? Or if you prefer, what makes you unique?

Whatever it is, it’s one way people connect with you. For example, I’ve known and been a part of congregations with a deep focus on children. 

What made them unique wasn’t the focus on children, but that everyone invested in children. The women’s groups made their mission focus on kids; the small groups served as Sunday School teachers and Vacation Bible School volunteers. The students had ministries that served children. The adults without kids often were active the entire Sunday morning participating in worship, attending a class, and finally serving in Children’s Church. It was weird because this multi-generational church not only loved kids, but loved families and lived in ways that embodied that value. 

I will always maintain that there is more that unites us as followers of Jesus than divides us. However, our values can differentiate us. Our values are a way people relate to us. Our values help us identify our unique contribution to a community and the kingdom of God. 

What does your unique difference say about what you value?

Questions to Consider

I encourage you to have a conversation with leaders in the church about the following questions:

  1. What makes you weird or unique?
  2. What do you worship? 
  3. What do you have zero tolerance for around here?
  4. When do you risk it all?
  5. What phrases or slogans do you always hear?
  6. What stories get told again and again?

Then, test these values against the life and ministry of Jesus.

Allow me to briefly explore questions 3-6. 

What do we have zero tolerance for around here?

I really want to say we have zero tolerance for injustice in any form. But, it is aspirational, not actual. If it were true, we would not simply be talking about injustices or even advocating for justice, the church would incorporate it in everything we say and do. We do have zero tolerance for child abuse and financial impropriety. Perhaps there are others.

Consider what you have zero tolerance for? What does it say about what you value? Does Jesus embody this value?

When do we risk it all?

Do you risk it all for the love of God we know in Jesus? If that’s too much of a stretch, do you risk sharing the love of Jesus with the people in your community? 

Here’s the reality. Most of us are risk-averse. We play it safe. The challenge is that risk-taking is where we step out in faith and demonstrate our values. It’s also where our values are most visible.

I can think of amazing leaders who put everything on the line seeking to live into God’s vision. When the church culture is aligned with a vision and leadership empowers others to do the work of ministry, they risk it all. 

  • When the vision is compelling, people risk it all.
  • When we know our contributions matter, we risk it all.
  • When movement and momentum are felt, experienced, and employed, we risk it all.

Do we risk it all to glorify Jesus?

You may be one of the leaders who put everything on the line at some point in the last two years. Some of those risks were fruitful, others were not. 

I can think of amazing leaders who put everything on the line amidst tremendous pressure and with deep vision. There are saints who gave their life savings to make a ministry possible. The reality is this: I could probably share at least one story every week about people who are risking everything…as well as those who are risk-averse. 

Consider when you risk it all. What does it say about what you value?

What are the phrases, slogans, or sayings we always hear?

A couple I hear often include: It matters where you start (thanks, Tim) and Love Jesus…and do something about it.

When I worked at Miami University, the motto was on the bottom of the letterhead (Yes, I’m dating myself with letterhead. This was in the late 1990s.) The motto of Miami University is: Excellence is our Tradition. But, the phrase we heard all the time and said all the time was: Tradition is our Excellence. The grounding force of the University’s traditions was evident everywhere. 

Consider how these phrases, slogans, and sayings connect with or animate what you value.

Which story gets told again and again?

Is it the story of moving from one location to the current location? Is it a crisis that happened? A funny story that no one can forget? Is it a story of a merger? Life after a tragedy? You know as well as I do, that most of these stories have an element of truth but can often take on a life of their own throughout the years. Consider how these stories are shaping what you value.

Together, these questions can help us identify and articulate our unique difference. The weird thing about our organization gives us a unique perspective for advancing the purpose. 

One Final Caution

Each of these questions points to what the church values. Our values can either be productive or unproductive. For example, the value of collaboration can generate innovation or the meetings to collaborate can distract from doing the work that needs to be done. Being a high-performance team can mean you have a motivated team or an overworked team. 

In other words, you can do great things and terrible things with what sets you apart. Don’t miss that as you consider your values. Sometimes what makes organizations weird can do harm. There is nothing Christ-centered about that. 

Our differences are an opportunity to bring a unique perspective to our purpose.

Our differences allow us to make a unique contribution to our purpose that no one else could make in the same way. Consider the above questions to help you clarify who you are. And, if you need a way to explore your values with the congregation and your leadership, reach out.

Do you remember a time when you pronounced a blessing upon an individual or upon the people around you? As a leader, who is a follower of Jesus, you pronounce a blessing in every worship experience. Whether it be a baptism, holy communion, or a benediction, blessings are common in worship. But have you ever had the opportunity to bless someone outside of worship? 

Have you ever considered offering a blessing in a greeting, or words of encouragement, or an offer of peace? I know you bless people when they sneeze and I know you have heard people (even those who have no interest in God) use the words, “God Bless You” in their daily lives. Sometimes, even when you get a diet drink at the drive-thru, you hear the words, “Have a blessed day.” 

Most blessings are simple sayings that communicate kindness and goodwill. In the Bible, however, we learn that God’s blessings carry far more significance than just a casual greeting or obligatory saying. 

Let’s look at one of my favorite blessings. I memorized it as a teenager. It was used every Sunday evening at the end of Youth Fellowship. I confess that I was an adult before I realized that I had been quoting scripture every Sunday with the UMYF benediction. 

Read Number 6:22-27 

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: Thus, you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them: 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 

“So, they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” 

Reflect 

This blessing comes at a low and chaotic time for the people. They are in the wilderness, suffering for their separation from what has made them God’s people. Even though they blame others, their suffering has come from their own distrust, disobedience, and disloyalty. 

It is at this low point in their lives that God instructs Moses to speak to Aaron and his family (the priests). God wants to bless the Israelites. In the midst of their disobedience and unfaithfulness, God wants the Israelites to know his heart. Aaron and his family are to be the instruments of the blessing. 

So, what is the meaning of this blessing for you and your leadership? 

The Lord bless you…

You are a beloved child of God. God never abandons you nor breaks covenant with you even when you have turned away and broken covenant with God. God’s blessing is a reminder that you are in a right and loving relationship with God and the people God places in your life. 

And keep you…

God protects you and provides for you. As a leader, God protects you by sending people into your life to love and care for you. God also provides the grace you need to extend the same love to the people entrusted to your care. Just as God kept Israel, Jesus keeps you. 

The Lord make his face shine upon you…

When God turns his face upon you, you are in God’s favor. God’s face represents God’s presence. Because God’s face is shining upon you, you are assured that you are never alone. Being in God’s favor allows you the freedom to love as you have been loved. 

And be gracious unto you…

God never deals with you according to your misunderstanding or you missing the point. God always deals with you according to God’s goodness. God always sees the best of you and the potential in you. It is by God’s grace that you can lead at this time in history. 

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you…

When God looks upon you there is acceptance and reconciliation. What has been in the way is taken away and what has been broken has been healed. When God looks upon you, God is hugging you, drawing you close, and letting you know how special you are. 

And give you peace.

The word for peace is shalom. It means wholeness, completeness, and well-being. God’s peace makes you whole and complete. When you are at peace with God, you are who God created you to be, a beloved child of God in the right relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care. 

It is important to remember that the priests, led by Aaron and the rest of the Levites, were set apart to lead the people in worship and spiritual teaching. The priests were God’s chosen intercessors and a direct mouthpiece to the people. They were trusted by the people and looked to for guidance and instruction. 

God’s Blessing

So, just like the priests, you are the trusted leader for today. You are being called upon to bless God’s people, the people entrusted to you. One thing to always remember, the blessing is not your blessing. The blessing is God’s blessing upon the people. “So, they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” 

You have the distinct responsibility to bless the people of God with God’s blessing. You not only remind them of God’s blessing but name them and claim them for God. What a grand and glorious opportunity. 

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 

Respond

O God, make me a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. Whether family, colleagues, friends, or foes, use me as an instrument of your love and peace, so that each person I meet receives a blessing through me and then becomes a blessing to others. I offer myself to you in the name of the greatest blessing of all, Jesus. Amen. 

Return

From whom did you receive a blessing today? Where were you when you received the blessing? Who did you bless? What opportunities did you have that you missed either receiving or extending God’s blessing? How might you offer a blessing to the people you encounter tomorrow? 

To be a blessing you must acknowledge and receive a blessing. So, read and listen closely: 

May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 

May you be as blessed as you are a blessing. Remember, who you are is how you lead!

We do a lot of talking about mission, especially the mission of the church, “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” My perception is that you, as a leader, keep that mission in mind in most of what you do. My question is, do you feel connected to the mission? Do you feel what you are doing really makes much of a difference? 

You might be doing all the right things. You love the people entrusted to your care. But you just don’t feel the spark any longer. What’s happening? What’s going on? 

Bring Meaning to the Mission

What I am learning is a sense of fulfillment is needed to bring meaning to the mission. The question is, what brings that sense of fulfillment? 

You might think of it this way: goals are good and necessary. You can define and track your goals and you can show how you have reached your goals. Yet, you can feel disconnected from a larger sense of purpose. Chasing goals day after day, week after week does not bring the engagement needed to bring a sense of fulfillment. 

Interrelated Leadership Models

Over the years, I have identified and defined at least three models of leadership. Each model is needed to be an effective and courageous leader, but it is only when the models are intertwined and focused upon the mission that they are effective. Refining your leadership skills in each area will help you become the missional leader needed today. 

Qualities of the Leader

One model of leadership is defined by the qualities of the leader. Are you a person of integrity, transparency, and empathy? Do you inspire loyalty, communicate clearly, and develop relationships? These qualities are necessary and vital to effective leadership. But you can learn all the right qualities and do all the right things and still feel disconnected and unfulfilled. 

Servant Leadership

A second model of leadership is servant leadership. It is best seen in how you care for the needs and interests of those entrusted to your care. Have you developed an environment of support in which people can flourish? Are you providing what followers want from their leader: trust, compassion, stability, and hope? These qualities of servant leadership are necessary and vital to effective leadership. But you can care for the needs and interests of people and still feel less than fulfilled as a leader. 

Missional Leadership

A third model of leadership is missional leadership. When grounded in a mission, people become both leaders and followers. They lead by living into their strengths and by offering their expertise. People follow by learning how to work in partnership with others. They share the values of the group and share a mutual sense of purpose. Missional leadership is an integration of servant leadership and the qualities of the leader. The three together provide what is needed for leading in the times in which we live. 

Many of us do well in leading by the criteria of models one and two. We offer clear direction and guidance, stay connected with people, and care for their needs. Yet, in midst of all the good work, we do not feel fulfilled. We can articulate the mission with little connection to it. 

More to Explore

You will find these blogs to be helpful in becoming a missional leader.

 Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church

Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church-Part 3

Mobilize for Ministry

So, what do we do? Below are seven questions that will assist you and the leaders of your church to brainstorm, reflect, and mobilize for ministry. They will require prayerful reflection, dialogue, and discernment. Some of the questions will require you to move beyond the walls of the church building and to talk with people in the community. Others will require you to explore the areas of overlap between the mission and the responses to the questions. 

These questions are simple and challenging. I can promise that, when you take these questions seriously, you will find meaning and purpose in your leadership. For a more detailed explanation and direction click here.

The 7 Missional Questions 

1.      God’s Presence: Where have you witnessed God’s presence in your community? Neighborhood? 

This is a good question to ask at the beginning of every meeting, with small groups, and at the end of each day. It is one of two foundational questions that contribute to congregational health. People who follow Jesus should be able to articulate God’s movement in their lives and identify God’s presence in their communities. 

2.      The Church’s Mission: What is the mission of the church? 

This question is not about mission projects or service opportunities. The question is about purpose. What is the purpose of the church? Does everyone know the mission? Do they not only repeat it but embody it? 

This is the partner question to naming God’s presence. Recognizing God’s presence and embodying the mission of the church are essential for healthy disciple-making movements. 

3.      The Mission Field: What is your mission field? 

Your mission field is the geographic region in which your church is located. Once you have decided your geographic region, define who lives within the mission field. After you know who lives there, define their habits and interests. Listen to their stories. Pay attention to their symbols. What do you need to learn about the people in your mission field, the people entrusted to your care? 

4.      Assets: What are the assets of your community? 

Make a list of the assets of the people who live in your mission field You are identifying skills, resources, and relationships. Other assets to explore include property, service, businesses, a community focus or physical attributes like a beach, a park, etc., and financial assets. 

To identify assets, take a walk through our community and meet the people in your mission field. Ask people this question: “What do you love about our community?” Neighborhood? City? 

5.      Needs: What are the needs in your community? Neighborhood? 

Make a list of the needs of people in your community. Remember that food, water, and shelter are the most basic needs. These are followed by safety, love, belonging, self-esteem, and respect. Recognizing and realizing your potential, learning, faith, and service round out your list.

To identify needs, when you take your walk through your community and meet the people in your mission field, ask this question, “What do you love about your community?” This question follows the question you asked in #4. 

6.      Relationships: What relationships exist with leaders in your community? 

Who are you and other church leaders in relationship within the following areas of your community: education, business, government, social agencies, first responders, faith/religion, arts and entertainment, health (hospitals, doctors, nurses, clinics)? What relationships need to be nurtured, reconciled, and re-established? 

A good place to start building relationships beyond the walls of the church building is with the principal of your local elementary school. 

7.      Collaboration: What is one way you can collaborate with another church? 

Develop relationships with other church leaders. Listen to their stories and how they express their mission, and what disciple-making loos like in their faith communities. Even though theology and practices might differ, you are on the same team. How do you join together to cover the community with God’s love? 

What Overlap Exists?

Now, here is where your missional leadership is most needed. What is the overlap between the mission and the responses to the other six questions? 

Your overlap might be where you see God at work in the lives of children, or in community leaders of in service organizations. Begin to tell the stories of God being at work in your community and invite people to participate in what God is doing. 

You can also go to the LeaderCast podcast for helpful information. Here are episodes that will help in becoming a missional leader. Purpose and Presence  Set the foundation for missional leadership with these two questions. Needs and Assets Bridge the needs and assets of your community with these questions. Relationships and Partnerships Leverage the people and connections of your community for kingdom impact.

It is time to move from talking about the mission to becoming the missional leader needed to have influence in the world today. I can promise you and the people entrusted to your care that once you are focused on the mission of the church, you will find the meaning and purpose that has been missing in your life and in your church. 

It is my hope that you can and will begin to build a file of resources that assists you in becoming the leader that makes a difference. 

Remember, who is are is how you lead.

We want leaders whom we can trust. In a recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, what surfaced as the top characteristics people needed from their leaders were honesty, integrity, and respect.  These words describe the outcomes of strong relationships built on trust. 

We look for role models whose behavior we feel is worth emulating. Whether it is coaches, professors, co-workers, bosses, or pastors, we look for people we can trust to lead us through ordinary situations as well as times of learning, adventure, and uncertainty. We want leaders who take us seriously and who can adapt when everything is not ideal.

As a leader, you earn trust when you follow through on commitments. Then as trust grows, people feel more at ease in trusting you with bigger commitments and other areas of leadership. As you live out your trustworthiness, people learn to trust you.

Five Ways to Build Trust

Here are five ways you can build the trust people need from you as a leader.

1. Be dependable

Say what you mean and mean what you say. To increase trust within your relationships, it is absolutely necessary to follow through on what you say you can and will do.  Even with what seems small and simple, if people experience a lack of follow through, you are revealing that what you say cannot be trusted. So, follow through with what you say you will do. The truth is you are only as good as your word. 

You already know whether you follow through on your commitments like showing up on time or embellishing the truth. People will have difficulty trusting you if you can’t trust yourself. Trust gives birth to trust.

2. Be vulnerable

Vulnerability is an integral part of the trust-building process. Brené Brown writes, “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Vulnerability is the path to greater clarity in purpose and more meaningful relationships.

To be vulnerable, you need a healthy self-awareness in sharing your feelings and your experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.  It will be in risking vulnerability that you model for those who follow.

3. Be respectful

A basic level of respect is the common denominator in every trust relationship. The deeper and more intimate the relationship the more important your respect. If those who follow you feel you are condescending and not taking them seriously, you are undermining the trust you need to be a good leader.  

You must remember that every time you treat someone in a way that demeans them or violates that basic dignity, you harm your connection and make it more difficult for them to trust you.

4. Be generous

Extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. Assume the best of others. Give them the benefit of the doubt. When you are generous with others, they will be generous with you. When in doubt, seek to understand and be slow to judge.

Remember, people can only act upon what they know. Don’t hold them responsible for what they don’t know. Brene Brown writes, “Our relationship is only trusting if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviors and then check in with me.” Be generous. Assume people are doing the best they can with what they know. 

5. Be receptive

Relationships flourish when people feel relatively equal. Most people understand that relationships involve a balance between giving and taking. They also understand that most of us give more than we take. Trust grows out of the balance of give and take. When you don’t let others give, even with your best intentions, you deny them part of this balance. Be willing to give others the opportunity to live into their strengths and to share their gifts.  

When you develop this balance of giving and receiving, trusting what people have to offer, then you are creating an environment of trust where people feel safe, valued, and appreciated.

Take Action

Do you want to be a leader that people can trust? Do you want to be an honest, dependable, integrated, and respectful leader? Of course, you do. So, below is one way you can check yourself regarding being a trusted leader.

Just know up front, this will not be easy.

  1. Choose five people with whom you live, work, or play. These five people need to be people who will give you honest feedback.
  2. Have them answer these questions for you:
    • Can you depend upon what I say to be true?
    • Do I follow through with what I say I will do?
    • Do I treat people with respect?
    • Do I honor and value the strengths and gifts of others?
    • Knowing what you know about me, are you able to be honest with me?
  1. Make time to have a conversation with each of the five persons using the questions in #2 as your subject.
  2. After your initial feedback conversation, ask each person to give you feedback over the next 6 weeks as you focus upon becoming the leader people can trust.

Because trust is one characteristic followers look for in their leaders and because our world, our communities, and our churches are looking for leaders who can be trusted, now is the time to earn the trust people want from you as their leader. 

You were created for such a time as this. Become the leader people want to follow.  Become the leader you were created to be.   

In times of crisis, there are two things every leader must keep in mind. It doesn’t matter the number of people you’re leading – whether it’s your family, a small congregation, a staff, or a large congregation.

These two things are also essential for self-leadership.

What are these two things?

First, you must face the brutal facts of your current reality. Second, you must maintain hope that you’ll make it in the end. These two things provide a springboard for five considerations for Christian leaders navigating the current crisis.

Stockdale Paradox

Admiral James Stockdale, a prisoner of war for seven years in Vietnam, endured torture and solitary confinement. When asked how he survived, he responded, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”

Popularized as the Stockdale Paradox in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, it reminds us in order to make it through difficult circumstances we have to simultaneously do two things: 

  1. Confront the most brutal facts of our current reality.
  2. Never lose hope that we will prevail in the end. 

Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a video or listen to a conversation Tim and I have about the Stockdale Paradox. Or, keep reading!

“Brutal Facts” and Hope

Consider for a moment these brutal facts:

  • You’re living in a pandemic.
  • You can’t worship in person for at least another month

As of 1:08 p.m., Sunday, April 5…

  • Over 1.2 million people have contracted COVID-19 globally
  • 67, 260 people have died
  • The highest number of confirmed cases in the United States are in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and California.

Those are a few of the “brutal facts.”

How about hope?

Here is the hope I continue to hold onto: We are the body of Christ.

For over 2000 years, faithful people have endured persecution, pandemics, wars, and much more. Still, our faith in Jesus continues. I believe we will get through. I trust our resilience is growing exponentially with each passing day. Finally, while much of our daily life is disrupted, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

With these “brutal facts” and hope anchored in the love of God you know in Jesus, there are at least five areas to consider as a leader. This is not an exhaustive list. Some of these things you’ve likely already cared for. They’re included here as a jumping-off point.

If you don’t have the facts about your current leadership circumstance, the potential to focus on fear, fatalism or unrealistic optimism increases exponentially.

Use these five considerations to gather the information you need, have conversations, and confront your “brutal facts” while maintaining hope.

1) Foundation

First, remind yourself of the foundation of the church. The foundation is the mission, or purpose, of the church. Whether you articulate the purpose as “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” or in another way, remind yourself of the church’s purpose.

With that in mind, ask yourself if you have what you need to lead people to live into the purpose right now. Likely, your immediate answer is “no”. Consider, however, the following. Don’t get bogged down in how it is happening. Simply ask yourself if the following basic functions of the Christian community are happening:

  • Worship
  • Discipleship
  • Missions
  • Pastoral Care 
  • Administration

Are the basic functions of the body of Christ happening? If yes, great. Keep going and stay encouraged as you continue to learn new ways of being the body of Christ. If no, what do you need to make it happen? If you’re stuck, reach out to a colleague and have a conversation about how they’re navigating this time. 

Now, ask yourself: What does this new reality make possible? Talk to God about what this new reality makes possible. 

2) Services and Supplies

There are services you rely on to keep the physical church building functioning, the body of Christ active, and the community connected to Christ and one another. As you consider the basic functions I named above, what services do you rely on every week or every month? Who cares for these items?

One church I served had a meal ministry, where eggs were delivered for Sunday breakfast every Saturday morning. Another had boxes of paper delivered every month. And another had a piano tuning service scheduled each quarter.

As you consider the services and supplies utilized, is there anything you need to pause, pivot, or plan in a different way? This will help you consider cost savings and also identify essential services.

If you can’t quickly identify service providers from accounts payable, it may be time to do an inventory. Consider everything from utilities to computer programs. Here are a few things you might consider:

  • Computer Programs 
    • Worship planning center (or similar program)
    • Quickbooks or a financial software program
    • Zoom, YouTube, Social Media accounts
    • Graphics
  • Physical Services
    • Garbage pickup
    • Mail services
    • Cleaning services 
  • Supplies – Delivery and Standing Orders
    • Paper delivery
    • Cleaning supplies
    • Communion elements
    • Food distribution
    • Nursery supplies
    • Candles
    • Giving/pew envelopes and attendance pads
  • Discipleship and Pastoral Care Supplies
    • Prayer shawls
    • Quilts
    • Children’s bulletins
    • Sunday School and small group curriculum

Once you have the facts, ask yourself, what does this make possible? You may be thinking, “NOTHING – it doesn’t make anything possible. That’s the challenge!” Give it a day. Live with that question and see if your answer changes after talking with God and a close colleague.

3 ) Leadership and Processes

You may be the pastor, a lay leader, member of a ministry team, or faithful participant in the church. To navigate this season, leaders need to have clarity and consistency. Yes, you’re likely doing some things in new ways. That’s why having leaders work together is essential. Together, you can identify new processes, if needed while making sure current processes continue. Something as simple as checking the mail is important.

Further, as you encounter needs, communicate with the congregation clearly and consistently. The congregation can’t read minds. But, they have many skills. You might be surprised who has the skills to help.

As you consider your leadership structure, whether it is staff or chairpersons, a few things to keep in mind include:

  • Is your team (paid and unpaid) working remotely and do they have what they need? Have you asked?
  • Are you cross-training leaders? Is there a backup for everything that needs to happen? Who are you training to do what you do if you should get sick?
  • Do you have a realistic picture of the financials?
    • Do you have a plan for what happens when savings hit certain levels?
    • Have you implemented online giving?
    • Are you providing clarity to the church about basic financial needs?
  • Have you explored the Care Act? 
  • What other aspects of leadership and processes need to be considered?

Again, what does this new reality make possible?

4) Congregation and Community 

As you think about the congregation and your local community, it’s likely you know someone who is serving on the front line of this pandemic. Now more than ever, recognizing the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of people in the congregation and the local community is essential. If you’re already serving the community through a feeding ministry or care program, keep going!

If you’re uncertain how the church can respond, it’s time to ask. Talk to city/community leaders, first responders, and teachers.  One month ago, who would have thought quilting groups would be so needed in our communities? Yes, we love our quilters. But, suddenly, their sewing machines have a new, life-saving purpose. As the need for cloth masks grows, a tangible way churches are helping is through their quilting groups.

Questions to Consider

Once you have identified needs, consider these questions as well:

  • What is the perception of the church right now? 
    • Is the church essential? Optional? Off the radar? Important?
  • How are you serving the congregation and community in their time of need?
    • Again, do you know the needs of your local community?
  • If you’re worshiping online, how are you welcoming new people? Are you?
  • What new communication needs to happen and what needs to stop?
    • Remember to overcommunicate in this time. Attention spans are dwindling and the rapid pace of changing protocols necessitates consistent, clear communication.
  • In every communication piece, including in your Sunday message, have you made sure it’s not “tone deaf”? While everything you do right now does not have to revolve around the pandemic, it does need to acknowledge what people are experiencing and feeling. If your communication is tone-deaf, you’ll be tuned out and turned off. 

Again, consider, what this new reality makes possible. If you haven’t picked up on it by now, asking this question is what will propel you towards a future with hope. Don’t gloss over it.

5) Context 

The first four groups were things you have the ability to lead people to change, adapt, pause, or pivot. There are things happening around you that are also out of your control.

You do not have control of these things, yet often these are places where worry and fear take root. Sometimes, it’s also where worry and fear get out of control. Your role in helping hold the tension between the brutal facts and hope-filled future is this: don’t get consumed with what you can’t control. 

The following items are things out of your control. Being aware is not an invitation to be consumed by fear or worry. As a leader, it is wise to acknowledge the circumstances out of your control.

  • Consider the stock market and interest rates
    • How will fluctuations impact giving and confidence?
  • In Ohio and in many states there is a “Stay At Home” Order in place
    • How does suspending in-person worship, social distancing, limiting the number of people in stores, etc. impact the congregation?
  • Utilities
    • Do you have everything you need? Does your community? Something as simple as an internet connection going down can change a lot right now.
  • Social media
    • What are you communicating, how often, and by whom?
    • Again, communicate clearly so as to not spread misinformation.

Here’s your final opportunity to look forward with hope. Ask yourself, “What does this new reality make possible?”

Your Next Step

While this may be a long list, it’s far from an exhaustive list. What brutal facts are you facing and how are you facing the future with hope? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

God is with you as you navigate these uncharted waters.  Confronting the brutal facts and having the hope that you’ll prevail in the end may feel like a paradox. But, it’s the paradox that will help you stay grounded in current reality while following Jesus every day. 

As you ask questions and uncover whether you need to pause, pivot, plan, or proceed, know that Tim and I are here to assist you in navigating this season of ministry.  

 

Watch a conversation about the Stockdale Paradox

Listen to the conversation about the Stockdale Paradox

Sign Up for the Daily Devotional, “God is With Us”

God is with Us a Daily Devotional for all God's people Navigating COVID-19

How are you doing? Really.

As people of faith, we trust God is present in the midst of our everyday lives. Maybe you spent last week learning new technology, creating new systems, and checking in on people in your community. Maybe you were exhausted and maybe you’re missing people you usually see on a weekly basis.

All of those experiences, and many more, are normal for what we’re experiencing.

Stay at Home

As a leader of a congregation, a family, or a business, you are making decisions regarding the safety of the people entrusted to your care. The “Stay at Home” order in Ohio goes into effect tonight at 11:59 p.m. through April 6. That means you’ll be spending more time with your family.

You are already stepping up and leading well. You’re learning new things at a rapid pace and navigating ever-changing circumstances with grace.

You are equipped to lead people through this. No, you and I weren’t trained for what we’re experiencing in seminary or Local Pastors’ School. But you have the skills to lead others through this time.

What follows are seven reminders as you navigate this season of ministry:

1. Feelings are normal.

Feeling anxious in uncertain times is normal. What’s not ok is to allow your anxiety or the anxiety of others to rule the situation. Your job, as a leader, is to manage your own anxiety as you help relieve the anxiety for others. Help them to find calm. Sometimes that’s as simple as inviting people to breathe. Remember that when feeling processes heat up, thinking processes cool down. We need you to keep your head and heart present. That means keeping calm.

2. Keep the facts in mind.

Allow persons to express their feelings. But at the same time, remember to keep the reality of the situation before them. Some questions you might ask are:

    • What do you know for sure?
    • What are the experts saying?
    • What are you thinking?
    • What are you feeling?
    • What are your options?
    • What are the advantages and disadvantages?

You manage your feelings better when you rely on the facts than you do when you immerse yourself in the emotion of opinions and assumptions.

3. Respond swiftly. Be aware of when to HALT.

Remember, we are living in rapidly changing circumstances. That means you’ll likely need to respond swiftly when something else changes. Be sure to check your response against your normal behavior. If you find your behavior being out of sorts, check if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). Your response can become uncharacteristic reactions when you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Yes, that means now, more than ever, please care for yourself emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

4. Keep a narrow focus as you broaden your action.

Your congregation is a part of a larger system. As a leader, you might feel you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your entire congregation and the local community.

Remember that you and your congregation are connected to a larger system. As you focus on what you need to do, remember that you have other people within the district, conference, and your local community with whom you can partner. In other words, you don’t have to do it all alone.

5. Let go of perfection.

With the stay at home order in place tonight, you and your congregation will not only be practicing social distancing, but contributing to the health of your community, church, family, and to people, you will never know.

Pastoral care is taking on different forms, so is worship. Your meetings are happening in different ways, too. All these new things and new mediums to communicate mean now is not the time to focus on perfection. Offer your best, don’t exhaust yourself. And that leads us to…

6. Keep things simple.

A telephone is still a great tool. Use it. If you have the capacity to use technology, use it, too. And, yes, wash your hands and keep a 6′ distance. (We hope one day we look back on this post and laugh. For now, these are life-saving measures for you and the people you lead and love.)

As you seek to support people and care for one another, keep your systems simple. A phone tree, email distribution list, or common time for Facebook prayer gatherings are simple ways to stay connected.

7. Work the plan you created.

You’ve suspended worship services and meetings or moved things online or to conference calls. Some of you are also cleaning up from floods. Our guess is, you didn’t have any plans in place for this. After all, why would you?

Now is the time to create communication systems and work those plans. How often will you use the phone chain? When will you send emails? What about USPS mail? Where does social media fit into the plan? (That’s not a list of things you have to do. It’s a list of things to consider.)

In the midst of any crisis, it’s always helpful to name what events trigger your plans. Remember, anxiety does not rule the situation. Decide what will objectively trigger your plan and relax in the knowledge that you will know when to act.

You are Leading

You are already thinking of things that we have not mentioned. Good. That means that you are already starting to lead in the midst of anxious times. Remember to manage your own emotions and thoughts as you work to lead the people around you.

With a deep and abiding peace of God’s presence, you will assess the situation, understand what is happening, and make the leadership decisions needed to navigate this season of ministry.

Please know that you are not alone. We (Sara Thomas and Tim Bias) are available to help navigate these uncertain times with you.

God is with Us a Daily Devotional for all God's people Navigating COVID-19

 

I’ve had several conversations/emails from Pastors leading smaller, older congregations asking something like, “How can I lead worship during this time?”

Often, the congregation is not on Facebook, individuals don’t have a computer, and are in the high-risk group for COVID-19. If this is you, keep reading. If it’s not, jump down to the section “Daily Devotional” below.

Leadership Pivot

First, thank you for asking and seeking to find new ways to lead, worship, and care for the community of faith.

This is a leadership pivot. Here’s what I mean. Plant one foot in what is essential at this moment (faith, hope and love; Scripture, prayer, the spiritual disciplines; reminding people they are not alone, God is with them, etc)

Then scan for opportunities. Here are a few opportunities I found that may be helpful. Please comment below to share your resources, too!

Scanning for Opportunities

  1. Sign up at freeconferencecall.com
    • You’ll get a phone number that you can then share.
    • Everyone calls one number and you’re all on the line together. 
    • Do a devotion/prayer request/reflection time.
      • Give people opportunities to talk too. Don’t be the only voice.
      • This is a different medium. You’ll need to pivot to adapt to the medium.
    • UPDATE from FreeConferenceCall.com (3-20-2020 email). To help alleviate the strain on their system, the following steps are suggested:
      • Download The Mobile App. Tap here to Download for iPhone, here to Download for Android. This will give you the ability to call in over WiFi. Our app also has smart call routing so when you dial-in using your phone we’ll route you to carrier networks that have the most bandwidth.
      • Download The Desktop App. This lets you call in using your computer and also lets you stay better connected with screen-sharing and video conferencing. Tap the following link and scroll down to Download the Desktop App. 
      • Schedule meetings to start 15 or 45 minutes past the hour rather than on the hour. Carrier networks are less congested at these times.
  2. Sign up for zoom.com (free version).
    • Zoom uses both telephone and internet/video, so this can be an ideal solution for everyone.
    • Distribute the phone number and link via a church mailing or phone chain.
    • Share a devotion/prayer request/reflection time. Give people opportunities to talk too. Don’t be the only voice. This is a different medium. You’ll need to pivot to adapt to the medium
    • The benefit of zoom is you can break people into groups. And some will be able to see one another, too. There is an app for smartphones and iPads, too.

Pilot

Remind people we’re living in an ever-changing time. You might try a conference call a few times and find it works. You might do the same with zoom. It might be awkward, weird, and different.

And that’s ok.

Remember you can pivot at any time if you find a better solution.

Here’s what I wouldn’t do: don’t try one of the above options once and quit. There’s a learning curve for everyone. Be patient as you pilot.

And, yes, I may have written that as much as a reminder for you as for me.

Launch

Do one of the above at least weekly. Either of the above will be great for worship, a mid-week check-in, and meetings. Try something! That’s all I’m encouraging.

Daily Devotional 

To help with the devotion piece, starting Sunday, Tim and I are facilitating a daily devotional.

I say facilitating because we’re inviting anyone to write a devotional.  My point of bringing this is is to say, feel free to use one (or more as the weeks go on) on your calls outlined above. Here’s all we ask – acknowledge the writer, just like you’d do in a sermon. Give credit where credit is due. 🙂 

If you sign up for “God Is With Us,” we’re also working on a pdf version that won’t be dated so it can be copied and mailed to people without email/tech. 

Again, you can sign up to write or receive the devotional here: https://www.transformingmission.org/god-is-with-us/

For anyone who is tech-savvy, you can share this bit.ly link

bit.ly/GodwithUs (case sensitive)

Your Ideas

Tell us in the comments, what are you doing to stay connected as a faith community and support those who are quarantined?

“If you think it and feel it, act on it.”

Is that reckless or compassionate?

Before you answer, let me ask you a few more questions.

  • Are you now working from home?
  • Are your kids home from school?
  • Have your events been canceled?
  • Has your schedule changed?
  • Are the normal rhythms of life disrupted?
  • Are you worried about someone because of pre-existing health conditions?

It’s likely you said yes to one of those questions.

Maintain & Nurture Relationships

Social distancing is different from relational disconnection. We need one another.

Yes, you need to do your part to flatten the curve. I do too. I hope you already are doing it. So that, together, our healthcare system and workers are not pushed to the brink. Yes, you also need to wash your hands (didn’t your momma teach you that anyway?) ?

You and I are wired for connection. Remember that. Be intentional about nurturing relationships.

Sure, things may look different for a few weeks.

If you think it and feel it, act on it

And that is where “if you think it and feel it, act on it” comes in.

Maintaining relationships with people you won’t see on a weekly or daily basis takes intentionality.

People are now working from home for the first time, many with children also in their midst, and trying to help individuals stay connected, motivated, and not isolated is going to stretch us all – it already has.

At a very basic level “think it and feel it, act on it” is about simply caring for one another.

I’ve already witnessed the kindness and compassion of people and the greed of people. I plan to nurture the compassionate part. Because whatever unfolds in the coming weeks, we can help one another through it.

So “if you think it and feel it, act on it”

Let’s Get Practical

  • When you think about a neighbor, check in on them.
  • If you noticed something off on that zoom call about a co-worker, follow-up.
  • When anxiety starts to show up, reach out to someone you love & talk about it.

You get the idea.

Take a Step Today

So here’s my “thinking it, feeling it, acting on it” for today:

Put down your phone.
Turn off the tv.
None of us need 12-18 hours of news or social media.

  • Forgotten what to do without your phone?
  • Go for a walk.
  • Organize your closets.
  • Bake some cookies.
  • Read a book.
  • Play a game.
  • Create something.
  • Make a pie. (It’s Pi day ?)
  • Do something that refuels your soul.
  • And at some point in the day…check in on someone you care about.

This has been one crazy week! ❤

And, yes, I’m also writing this to remind myself. Already made blueberry muffins this morning. A walk before the rain (make that snow) comes is next (I hope!)

Happy Saturday, y’all!
You are loved ❤

 

Originally published at https://www.sarathomas.net/if-you-think-it-feel-it-act-on-it/

When Tim and I set up TransformingMission.org in 2015, we did so to share resources about disciple-making. From 2015 until now, we’ve experimented, pivoted, and developed resources to serve Christian leaders in changing times.

Why?

Because as Bob Dylan said all the way back in 1964, Times They Are A Changin’

We recognize the challenges Christian leaders face. We see the challenges within our own denomination. And most importantly, we want to serve you.

We are committed to developing and equipping Christ-centered leaders for changing times.

And by leader, we borrow Brené Brown’s definition. A leader is:

Anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.

If that’s you, we need your help.

Will you please take a few minutes and complete this simple feedback form?

Looking Back to Look Ahead

  • This is our 264th post.
  • We released Episode 087 of LeaderCast on October 1, 2019
  • I’ve lost track of the number of Bible Studies and reading plans we’ve produced. But, we’re working on two right now. One is on courage and another is on call.

Neither one of us ever envisioned a weekly podcast as a part of what we’d share with you. Nor did we envision regular Bible Studies. That may sound silly given our focus on disciple-making. But, really, we thought there we enough Bible Study resources available.

But, you guessed it…Times they are a changin’.

And we’ve recognized while the number of resources could never be larger (hello, Google), there are few places that help people follow Jesus every day.

You see, the broad concept of disciple-making is central to our lives and leadership. And, as we regularly take time to pause, reflect, and pivot so we can continue to serve you with excellence we recognize the critical pause has helped us:

  • Launch a podcast
  • Identify topics for Bible Reading plans
  • Curate blog posts that encourage and equip you as leaders

Our focus remains on Jesus, and…

Yes, we’ll refer to Bob Dylan once more: Times They Are a Changin’.

So when we recently took a critical pause to reflect on what we’re offering you here, we realized we never asked YOU what would be helpful.

You’ll have to trust us that we listen closely to the conversations we have with leaders like you and to the emerging needs in local congregations. But, we’d really like to hear from YOU.

If you’d like to help us serve you, please complete this simple feedback form before October 9 at noon.

Integration

If we’re going to live into our commitment to develop and equip Christ-centered leaders for changing times, we know that means helping you live an integrated life.

But, for many, following Jesus is simply showing up to a religious service on Sunday morning.

That means we have a long road ahead.

If following Jesus means your thinking, feeling, and actions are an embodiment of Jesus every day, we also know there is work to do. And we want to help you grow and develop as Christ-centered leaders. At the center of leadership is living on the outside what you know on the inside. We believe that is true for you and for every Jesus follower who seeks to lead.

Will you please take a few minutes and complete this simple feedback form?

Thanks, in advance, for your time. We know it’s one of the most valuable resources you have. Thanks for sharing your feedback with us.

In Christ,

Sara Thomas and Tim Bias

PS – We’ll keep the feedback link active until Wednesday, October 9 at noon.