Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Category: Book Reviews (page 1 of 7)

Dealing with Pressure in Ministry

How do you learn best?

Reading books and listening to solid podcasts are my top two.

I listen to Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast religiously. Although I subscribe to many great ones, this one seems to literally grab my attention each episode. Recently, Nieuwhof had Terry Linhart as his guest (episode 147). Linhart has written an excellent book. The Self-Aware Leader: Discovering Your Blind Spots to Reach Your Ministry Potential.  Personally, I feel challenged by my pastor and my wife to be a “kinder, gentler, David Lermy.”

So of course, I ordered the book right away. I am sure I will do a fuller book review sometime, but what I want to do here is give the three of the four actions Linhart provides in Chapter 6, Seeing Your Pressures, and add some commentary on how I am using these to help me deal with high pressure situations.

Don’t we all need help here as many situations in ministry and nonprofit work are high-pressure.

1. Own your strengths and weaknesses. 

I am learning to be okay with my weaknesses. But the message in the leadership is a bit mixed here. If you read Marcus Buckingham, he would say – Ignore your weakness and only focus on your strengths. He was reacting to the theory that leaders need to be more well rounded and 360 to achieve greatness. We all know now that is not true, thanks in part to guys like Buckingham. But has the pendulum swung too far to the other side?

Learning about what we are weak at and accepting it is vital to self-awareness.

I can recall sharing some weakness recently to a prospective employer and feeling comfortable with it. After years of ministry work and counseling, I get that I am not perfect and there are areas I thrive in and there are areas I need help and guidance. Some of our weakness are areas we can improve and others may be more lifelong. Knowing the difference can make all the difference in our leading well and leading happy.

What are some of the areas you are weak in and what can you do to either be more comfortable and accepting of that weakness or deal with it so the area becomes a new strength?

2. Developing resilience.

Thinking back, I tended to be the diplomat in most groups I interacted. I was cool and calm and wanted all to get along. Yet, when the waters of resistance became too troubled, I was also the first to flee and let the others deal with the carnage.

Slowly over the years though we all develop more and more resilience.

Linhart says it best,

“Identify two or three things you can now handle with ease that ten years ago would have crushed you. Remember how those used to short-circuit your emotions and life? Now, think about two or three current things in your life that overwhelm you. In what ways can you begin to develop your capacity and resilience regarding them?” (page 121)

Well said indeed. When looking back at my life I can recall the first real congregant fight I had in a church where I was an associate pastor. I felt I was right, and instead of being flexible and purposeful in response, I simply reacted. Wel,, reacted is a nice way to put it. I actually made a fool of myself and of this person in front of a room of about 120 people.

I recall a close mentor helping me realize as ministers we don’t always have the right to be right and relationships matter more than the emotions of the moment. So I went back to this person and made things right and to this day we are still friends. Plus, this was a lesson in resilience. Now, I respond peacefully more than react in emotional anger. We call it spiritual growth!

3. Remember who you follow.

 

Again, allow me to quote Terry Linhart,

“If we’re not careful, self-focus leads to less about Jesus and God’s power and provisions, and more about the clay of our lives.”

Most of may anxiety comes from worrying about my inadequacies of a leader. Oh, and let’s not forget how much we wish to hide those from the public we serve and the other pastors we hope to look better in front of at events.

You can never be a happy leader and live with those kind of anxieties. You have to let all of that go, or as my tribe in Pentecostal circles say, “put it under the blood.” The work of Christ in our lives and the power of the Holy Spirit moves beyond our inadequacies.

  • We are called by God.
  • We are redeemed by Jesus.
  • We are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Remember who you follow!

If you follow man’s approval, you’re in a world of hurt, but I am sure you already feel it.  Let it all go. Set in the presence of God’s grace like Mary and stop running around “serving Jesus” as an excuse to not pause to hear the Savior teach you what grace truly means.

I will end with a personal story.

Maybe you are a bit like me. I recall a time during my graduate work, I had a great thought and preached my heart out and not one person said anything about it. I just knew people would be blown away by my knowledge and theological prowess. I was devastated and sat in my office and hid the resentment and pain I felt.

Then a few weeks later, I preached again and I was more relaxed and really shared no knew insights or knowledge. People came up and told me they loved the humor and really connected with the stories. I wanted to say, where were you all weeks ago when I shared some amazing stuff! I was in a lose-lose cycle of forgetting who I follow.

During prayer after these two situations, I found God challenging me. Whether I was sharing some deep thought or being funny and calm (my personality), I am doing his work for his glory and his approval. For real. I was literally changed in a moment. Now, from time to time, the lose-lose cyle wants to creep in, but I have the one I follow reminding me its about Him and not me, and not even those I serve.

Perhaps this is your story too?

Losing sight of who we are in Christ makes it very hard to lead happy where God has assigned you. Click To Tweet

Taking these three simple, yet hard to do, ideas and getting away from the fast-paced world of ministry today is vital for us to self-identify and provide time for self-awareness. I hope over the final parts of the summer, these ideas can go on a trip with you and help you find the peace over your weaknesses, resilience over your inadequacies, and connect you back to the one who you follow, the only one that truly matters.

Only then can you begin to lead happy.


Order a copy of Terry Linhart’s The Self-Aware Leader through my Amazon Smile link and support a charity that feeds hungry children in Southern Missouri.

The Average Pastor: A Review

To begin, I am a bit biased on this review as Daniel has been a friend for a great many years. Nevertheless, his book stands alone as a solid and needed resource in the area of those who pastor churches under 150 people. While the huge publishing companies focus on publishing the plethora of books pouring out from megachurch pastors (only representing around 2% of all pastors in America), Isgrigg’s book stands out as one writing to the other 98% while being in the same bracket as those he writes.

The Average Pastor is written from a faithful practitioner of a church running  under 150. Although Isgrigg stepped down as a full-time pastor to focus more on his PhD, his invaluable experience shines true in this short, but powerful tomb. Probably the best way to describe the book is like setting at your favorite coffee spot and chatting with a good friend who knows exactly how you feel. It’s more about encouragement and knowing your place than a ten step guide to doing ministry better (since we have enough of those books already). 

Typically, people refer to church running under 150 as small churches, dut Daniel Isgrigg challenges that notion. Yes, he gets the idea of small, but is that the right modifier? Is not the better modifier average, as in the fact most church are in this number range.  This is not to say that those pastoring larger churches have nothing to say. Indeed, they have great leadership qualities we can all learn from and apply to our life and leadership. What needs to be said though, is the need for more materials written by average pastors for average pastors while they are in this season of their ministry (whether for the long-haul or for a time).

So what is an average pastor? The Average Pastor will typically pastor about 76 people, is 38% more likely to be bi-vocational, earn around $31,000 if full time, have no full time staff, and the church income will be under $100,000 annually. In other words, the average pastor is not in this for the pay, the glory, or the prestige. They are in this vocation because of their calling and deep love for Jesus’ bride – the local church.

For those pastoring an Average Church, thus being an Average Pastor, here is some good news on the blessings of having average church financing according to Isgrigg:

  • I am forced to be creative.
  • I am forced to use people.
  • I appreciate what giving means.
  • One family can change everything.

In certain ways, success allows us to throw money at issues, but when their is no money, you are often at your creative best. I once heard Craig Groeschel talk about the early days of Life.Church before it was the phenom we see today. He said, “Lack of Resources + Increasing Passion = Exponential Innovation.” Life.Church didn’t create the video venue style church because they had lots of money, but the lack of it. They needed a way to fill in the pulpit when Craig was out for family reasons and they did not have the money to bring in a speaker and thus, video venue was born, as they played an older sermon of his they recorded.

In section two, Isgrigg focuses on reclaiming the role and office of pastor. The pastor is supposed to be a shepherd to his or her people. As a church grows larger, it is much harder to keep the pastor’s role as one of the shepherd as now they are seen more as a corporate office, as in a CEO. Further, the pastor is supposed to operate in the ideals of the parish priest. A pastor has the clearest knowledge of what the church represents. In the same room one preaches on Sunday, in the past week – a funeral, a wedding, and an event could have all happened. The parish has a rich history in and of itself. Further, you become a more community pastor as your church can be open to the public more, you have time to get out more and pastor your city. These are forgotten perks of the average church pastor.

Another set of valuable advice Isgrigg provides is often the average pastor is the only one in charge of planning. So he learned to do so in large blocks of time. His advice:

  • Month long sermon planning
  • Month long worship planning
  • One creative Sunday a month

This type of planning allowed him to do more with less and to still be creative and a bit less stressed when the minutes after the Sunday service, you as the sole pastor, realize that Sunday is coming yet again! Planning is what offers hope to the average pastor do do fun and creative things with less pressure than trying to do so week after week of guess work.

On a more personal level, I know that one of the major reasons Daniel wrote this book was to encourage other pastors in a way that only he was called to do. Pastor can be lonely and Daniel knew that if he wanted to have friends, he was going to have to go and make them. It was not going to happen automatically. Our best efforts should be put to what gives us the best return. Friendship returns more to us than we could ever fathom.

Plus, Daniel didn’t want other average pastors to feel as he did so he was going to make himself available. He personally tried to keep up with other pastors in the area. Although no one had done that for him, he decided he would do it nonetheless. Finally, he knew he had certain gifts to be a blessing and invest in other average pastors. Being an author already, Daniel knew he could extend his reach to invest in other pastors by writing this book. He also knew he could invest in local pastors and help enrich their lives even though it would mean a bit more work on his part. It wasn’t like he had a lot of spare time to do all this. He just knew it was right. This is why I am writing this review, so i can get more people to be interested in my friends unique and solid resource.

I highly recommend pastors, leaders, board members, and pastor’s spouses to read this resource. If more teams read this together they may understand more of what their average pastor is going through and dealing with on a daily basis. The only way to combat rampant ignorance is through the knowledge, which comes through targeted resources such as these.

Do yourself a favor, buy a copy of this book for yourself. Buy a copy as a gift for your average pastor. Buy a copy for your volunteer team to read together. It will be well worth the investment.

Oh, and remember, we often think of average as a negative team, when average means the most common. We like to celebrate what we have in common. So let’s not forget to celebrate the average church and her average pastor!

You can get a copy here: The Average Pastor on Amazon

Daniel Isgrigg also blogs at www.averagepastor.com

Time Management Magic: A Review

“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a LOT of time dealing with the life you don’t want.” -Kevin Ngo

We all struggle at times to get life’s tasks under control, whether personal, work, or social. Even though we all have the same hours in each day as all other human beings, some seem to thrive and have more control. How can that be?

Well, Lee Cockerell in his book, Time Management Magic lifts the veil that blinds us all and provides advantageous tips to take back our schedules and get needed things done – on time and with little stress.

In case you don’t know, Lee Cockerell is the famed former Executive Vice-President of Operations at Walt Disney World Resort. If anyone has ever had a busy schedule, he takes the cake. Yet, with all the pressures, Lee Cockerell thrived and is remembered by those he lead as not only well planned but also a leader who had an open door policy and was never afraid to get out of the office and walk the park.

If this all sounds too good to be true, it’s not. It all came down to Cockerell’s relentless planning and time management. Finally, in this book, we have access to learn his tricks and skills to gain back control of our schizophrenic schedules.

Because I hope you buy the book, I won’t give away all the secrets, but I will provide some major points to help you start TODAY on your way to being more productive for your organization. Because in reality, that’s what matters – our companies and our lives – thriving!

In the book, Cockerell explains the need for a system. No matter what you use – paper, electronic, apps, or whiteboards – the tools must be systemized and used like clockwork to make your planning a reality and successful.

“Someday, ASAP, and when I get time…is not a system.” – Lee Cockerell

Planning and time management is about prevent fires not running around putting them out. As he comments further, “Most people are not overworked…they are under-organized.” Maybe you feel overworked right now. More than likely, even a small amount of planning will provide needed relief for you. This is vital because our role as leaders is to do what has to be done, when it has to be done, in the way it should be done, whether you like it or not and whether they like it or not. In leadership, results are king. Without results, you never know if you are making progress of getting from here to there.

Cockerell believes time management is the act of controlling the events in your life. Here are his 6 tips to gain a higher level of control.

  1. Surround yourself with great people.
  2. Train and educate your team.
  3. Be crystal clear about your expectations.
  4. Anticipate issues and practice solving them.
  5. Leave some space in your calendar.
  6. Do it now – some issues must be acted upon, ready or not!

Another large problem when dealing with time-management is what to truly consider when planning. Some people separate business and personal, others plan out details under detials, and others just utilize catch words to remind them of what is needed done.

When planning, Lee Cockerell asks himself these things (and he’s very detail oriented):

  • your job responsibilities
  • house and home responsibilities
  • family needs and issues
  • place-of-worship responsibilities
  • community and social commitments
  • financial responsibilities
  • health responsibilities
  • commitments to others
  • communication needs
  • personal development

Although the list above may seem daunting, the deeper level of thought and details you bring to the planning table, the less time it takes to get things done. Detailed planning results in a fast pace of execution and is much more advantageous to those on the team striving for the same goal on certain projects.

“Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” -M. Scott Peck

Do the right things is important. Doing the right things in the right order is vital. So Cockerell uses these categories when he is planning, and doing them in this order:

  1. Urgent Items – must be done TODAY
  2. Vital Items – must be done IN PART today to meet FUTURE deadline
  3. Important Items (after the previous) – what most people consider their TO Do’s
  4. Low value (only if it must be done) – these should be delegated when possible

The idea here is to not only grab and plan your work responsibilities, but to also schedule the priorities in your life right into your calendar.

Although this is not all the wisdom the book provides, this info is a great start to leading a more productive work and home life. You will be able to, “do what has to be done, when it needs to be done, in the way it should be done, whether you like it or not!” teaches Cockerell. It is how you will be BOTH effective AND efficient.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is absolutely ready to be better at planning to achieve control over their time-management. Lee Cockerell has so much more wisdom in his book, but you will need to grab a copy yourself and dive deep. Don’t wait till tomorrow, start today!

“A year from now you will wish you started today!” – Karen Lamb

Cockerell, Lee. Time Management Magic: How to Get More Done Every Day to Move from Surviving to Thriving. Tulsa: Emerge Publishing, 2014. 144pp. $22.95.

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