Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 10 ?The Criticisms”)

angry parishioner

Thriving leaders expect criticism. They know ways to learn from, cope with, and survive denigration from others. Leaders who fail in this area tend to wilt, get angry, retaliate or quit the job altogether. Here are some examples (chosen from many) in my years of serving the church. Continue reading

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 9 “The Boundaries”)

setting-boundaries

God’s kingdom purposes in the world require thriving church leaders. The work of joining Jesus in God’s kingdom work of evangelism, social justice and cultural renewal can be as challenging as it is exciting. God empowers us with his Spirit to reflect Jesus’ love to others in need, inviting them to know God’s love in Christ and to become followers of Jesus in and through the fellowship, worship and mission of the local church. God calls us to bring to rights the cultures of the world, the people of which will one day bow and praise God in the new heaven and earth. Continue reading

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 8 “The Family”)

Denn skiingThriving leaders pay attention to their families. They put a high priority on speaking of them, spending time with them, honoring them in word and deed and living out a family commitment that surpasses the value and worth of their work and and ministry.

It’s not that thriving leaders don’t know what to do when it comes to family. Continue reading

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 7 “The Temptations”)

1200px-Temptations_of_Christ_(San_Marco)“The more a leader thrives the less the leader is likely to be tempted. A strong leader moving in the Kingdom purposes of God has long passed the point of struggling with any evil desire or distraction that would dog one’s steps and trip up the leader. A thriving leader is shielded with divine Immunity that prevents him or her from Satan’s snares.” Jesus’ example blows that thinking clean out of the water. Continue reading

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt.6 “Conflict”)

Conflict-photo

A speaker disappoints someone by telling a story about the person without permission.

Two people chat about something they dislike about someone else in the church and the word gets back to the person about whom the two had talked.

A member of a Bible study in the group openly and continually criticizes other Christians in other churches in the area.

Two church members no longer speak to each other following a disagreement.

A small group member violates confidentiality and tells someone’s story outside the group.

The pastor’s sermons are seen by some as too long. People feel conflicted. Some say nothing. Some do and nothing changes. Some quietly leave the church.

A church member feels squelched when a leader manipulates the group in a committee or board meeting to achieve the outcome the leader wants.

A group makes a decision but the leader does nothing to make sure that action follows the group’s decision. Hard feelings toward the leader result.

These examples of conflict come from my experience as a pastor. I’m sure you could list your own as well. Conflict in any church, staff, team or committee is inevitable. Sadly, conflict can result in resentment, hostility and even the ending of the relationship and/or members leaving the congregation. Continue reading

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 5 “The Preparation”)


When I played golf, my back swing was the hardest part for me. I had so many things to track: aligning my feet, my back, my legs; raising the club slowly; getting the club high enough over my head; making sure one arm was straight, the other bent over my head; in swinging, not letting my hands take over; keeping my eyes on the ball; making sure my lead shoulder dips while keeping my hips from rotating too much; holding still my body while my arms swing through; holding my head down after I’ve hit the ball.

All I truly wanted to do was to go up to the tee and swing away. Period. Forget the preparation. Not surprisingly, I easily gave the game up. Continue reading

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 4 “The Inner Life”)

Stained-Glass-Windows-Cathedral-Of-Saints-Michel-et-Gudule-Brussels

Today an unsettling number of church leaders, seemingly thriving and successful, have resigned their positions over moral failure, imbalance, exhaustion from overwork, etc.

The dynamics and issues behind these stories are complex. Yet a leader’s falling into ineffectiveness can often be traced to the inconsistency in the leader’s inner life. I believe there is nothing more important to a leader’s outward leadership than one’s care of his or her inner life.

By “inner life” I mean an unwavering commitment to nurturing one’s walk with God through a disciplined, scheduled time of reflection, Bible reading and prayer – all apart from the leader’s public life of ministry. A thriving leader will make time for God apart from and ahead of his or her public ministry.

Time alone

For introverts, time alone can come more easily than for extroverts. Introverts frequently find energy in the solitude of being by themselves.

Extroverts, whose energy comes from interaction with others, often have to work hard to settle down to a time for self-reflection. Prayer and Bible reading, in the quietness of one’s room or study, apart from his or her workaday world require discipline.

Once we are determined to create intentional blocks of time in our schedules for the inner disciplines necessary to be a thriving leader, the question of how we use this “time apart” will vary from leader to leader. My own practices are but an example.

jesus-prayer

To center myself, I have found it helpful to pray the “Jesus Prayer”: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The ancient prayer is also called the “breath prayer” because each of the four sections of the prayer can be quietly prayed while we inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale. Saying this prayer repetitiously can bring calm, focus and peace to our harried deeper selves. I even say it sometimes in bed to quiet my heart in falling asleep.

Next, in the practice of Bible reading, I use two resources: Either the Common Lectionary (daily Scriptures read by Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians all over the world)[i] or reading through the Bible in a year.[ii] I try to listen to how God may be speaking to me through the Word.

Moving into a time of prayer, I have found it helpful to pray daily through the Ten Commandments as well as the Seven Deadly Sins and their counterparts. I often take time to reflect on how I am doing in each area.

The Ten Commandments:

  1. No other gods – “No one but you, God.”
  2. No false god created – “Lord take away my worship of diminutive gods such as achievement, popularity, favor-seeking, etc.”
  3. No misuse of God’s name (character) – “God, may I represent your name and character well today.”
  4. Remember the Sabbath – “Lord, help me balance work and rest today.”
  5. Honor your parents – “Lord, help me love my family and in-laws.”
  6. Don’t murder – “God, help me not to hate anyone or hold onto anger or resentment.”
  7. Don’t commit adultery – “Lord, help me practice chastity, inside and out.”
  8. Do not steal -“God, help me not to take and or use what is not mine today.”
  9. Don’t bear false witness – “God help me not to talk negatively or falsely about others.”
  10. Don’t covet – “Lord, help me be content with what I have.”

St. Ignatius has helped me pray through the Seven Deadly Sins[iii] (and their counterparts[iv]), I pray through them one by one, asking God to empower me not to practice the sin but to implement it’s counterpart in my life.

1. Lord, take away any PRIDE in me and help me practice HUMILITY.  2. Lord, I confess my ANGER; replace it with PATIENCE. 3. Lord, remove my AVARICE or GREED; give me a spirit of GENEROSITY. 4. Lord, take away my GLUTTONY or excess and replace it with MODERATION. 5. Lord, eliminate my LUST and give me CHASTITY. 6. Lord, burn away my ENVY and shower me with NEIGHBORLY LOVE; 7. Finally, Lord, chase out any SLOTH in me and supplant it with DILIGENCE in my work.

These types of prayers help me work on areas that may need attention in my inner life. After these daily prayers I have found it helpful to move into areas to pray for each day. Monday – neighbors; Tuesday – my church; Wednesday – family; Thursday – healing; Friday – salvation; Saturday – pastor friends and their families.

As a leader, you will thrive by developing your own style, content, and ways of nurturing your own inner life. My example is that which works for me at the present time. Bottom line: the inner life of the thriving leader is a must to attend to daily.

[i] https://www.presbyterianmission.org/devotion/daily

[ii] https://www.blueletterbible.org/dailyreading/PDF/1Yr_ChronologicalPlan.pdf

[iii] Proverbs 6:16-19

[iv] Prayed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt.3 “The Wait”)

waiting room

Once God calls us to give our best for God’s purposes in the church and world, thriving leaders face the difficult task of waiting. A prolonged time gap between a call of God and exercising our gifts in thriving leadership and ministry can seem inordinate, excessive and even wasted.

Our forbearers can teach us much here. Continue reading

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 2b “The Call”)

A-Community-of-Faith-470x260

In our last blog we looked at the first two of four parts to God’s Call: The call to be Christ-followers and the inner call of the Spirit. In this blog we celebrate the God who gifts us for leadership and service; and also the community of faith which sends us forth to use our gifts in God’s service. Continue reading

Resources for Thriving Leaders, part 2

This weeks’ post was the first of a 2-part series on the idea of “Call” in ministry. If you missed it, you can click here to read it.

Here are some resources I have found helpful for diving further into this important subject.

  1. Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, by Mark Labberton. I’d suggest looking at page 45 where Mark speaks of the call of every Christian to live as a follower of Christ in every aspect of our lives. This, Mark says, is “our primary calling”. We begin where we are.
  2. Hearing God’s Call, by Ben Campbell Johnson, Beginning on p. 34 Ben examines eight ways God calls us. This is a good checklist we can hold up and compare to our own experience of God’s call.
  3. Finally, this article by Melissa Lauber is helpful in articulating what she calls the “cycle of God’s call” – that is, steps we actually go through in discovering and living out God’s call on our lives.

How about you? How have you heard or wrestled with God’s call on your life?