Identifying & Developing Leaders

I’ve worked with Lori for the past 6 months. Lori is a gifted leader and friend. Hundreds of people are impacted by the more than 50 strong, volunteer leaders she pours into regularly. Her ability to recruit, energize, and build leaders is astounding. Recently, I asked her to share at a Small Group Leader’s gathering. Then I asked her to share her process here today. She reluctantly agreed and I’m glad she did.

Bio: Lori Hahn, Director of Communications at ENCOUNTER/Bible Fellowship Church has a background in corporate marketing and advertising. Lori has been involved in developing student, women and mission leaders and teams over the last 26 years. Lori and her husband Daniel (Lead Pastor) also direct Breathe, a conference for weary cross-cultural workers.

Lori what’s your philosophy of identifying and developing leaders?

When I was in college, one of the leaders of our campus ministry shared a book with me that was all about Jesus’ model for developing leaders. Jesus’ approach was intentional to build disciples among a few guys who would bear witness to his life and carry on his ministry to the world.  Jesus’ focus was not on programs to reach the multitudes, but on developing people whom the multitudes would follow.

Would you share your process for identifying and growing new leaders?

1) Look around your circle – Pay attention to those in your sphere of influence.  Who in your small group, team you serve on, or the crowd around you exhibits leadership qualities? Start praying for this person.

2) Initiate coffee  – I spend a lot of time getting to know potential leaders over coffee. Oh, they don’t view themselves as “leaders”, but they have the raw materials that make for a good leader.  As I listen to their story, I look for the parts that others would connect to.  I help them consider how God might use their experience, skills, heart, pain and mistakes for His kingdom purposes.

3) Notice gifting – I love to help people discover their unique gifting! Most people don’t consider the things they do naturally as a “gift”  that God could use in leadership. It helps to have another set of eyes say, “I notice how you naturally make people feel welcome, or how you organize, or listen, or cheer others on etc. Have you ever considered using this gift on our leadership team?” People often respond with  “I could never do that! No way!”  Behind these words, there is a teachable, humble, future leader.  My role is to point out that leadership “spark”, help ignite it and fan it into a flame.

4) Core of four – We ask our leaders to bring three other people alongside of them: a co-leader or apprentice, a host, and an organizer/administrator. Sure, it’s easier to do things yourself – but are you robbing others of the opportunity to discover their potential for leading? Our role is to equip others to help “carry the log”, rather than dragging “the log” alone. Stewardship as leaders means that we train others to lead so that our replacement is a step behind us.

5) Communicate expectations – Recruit a potential leader to a vision, rather than to a task. Help them understand how their role is part of the bigger picture and how what they do will have an impact.  Break tasks down into  “bite-size” pieces with clear, written expectations. Many of us recall being asked to do one thing – and then discovering that the one thing mushroomed into way more than we signed up for. Be clear and reasonable about the task or role you are inviting potential leaders to consider.

6) Appreciate leadership – So much of leading happens behind the curtain and often goes unnoticed.  Remind potential leaders that God sees the little things they do – and that you appreciate these little things, too.  Take time to thank people in person, with a card or email. Tell them how their faithfulness to serving made a difference. We all need to know that what we do really matters.

7) Invite feedback – Ask potentials leaders for their opinions.  “What worked? What didn’t? What could we do different?” Sometimes leaders feel threatened by change, new ideas or letting someone else be in the spotlight. Create a collaborative atmosphere that allows others to contribute their thoughts and ideas.

You can keep up with Lori on twitter or facebook.

Are you leading people to cheer for clothes?

Remember the Seinfeld bit where he suggests that sports fans simply cheer for clothes instead of people? So funny! Click here and enjoy if you haven’t seen it.

Unfortunately, this same mindset is in the church. It is rampant, excessive, and damaging.

In sports, the danger is cheering for jerseys instead of people. In churches, the danger is cheering for churches instead of God. Ouch!

Here are some signs that you may be cheering for your church more than God:

  1. Never cooperate with other local churches on anything. Even if the project is small cooperation reminds everyone that God is supreme not our local body.
  2. Your church’s twitter account doesn’t follow any other local churches or pastors. That is the standard social media rule for businesses in competing industries. We aren’t competing!
  3. Have you ever recommended someone visit another local church that might be a better fit for them? (Not just the people you’re happy to see leave.)

You and I know that God doesn’t look down from Heaven and proportion His love based on the church we attend.

The reality is we naturally gravitate toward competition and personal success. But you and I want God to be supreme. So let’s lead people to cheer for something much bigger than clothes.

Thank you Ginger!

My youngest daughter turned 4 on Saturday. Ginger and I were reflecting on these past 4 years. Here are our last 4 years in 5 sentences:

– 4 years ago I was an Associate Pastor/Worship Pastor at a church I had served for 12 years and our little Madison was born.

– 3 years ago I started a church while my wife & I worked 8 different jobs that year.

– 2 years ago our new church began having public meetings with a children’s ministry focus hosted at a local college.

– 1 year ago our church plant began having weekly services in a local church on Sunday nights.

– This year we joined the team at an incredible church and moved our  family from Texas to Ventura, California.

My wife not only supported my decisions along the way, she pursued them passionately with me. Tomorrow is her birthday. It is impossible for me to give her anything close to what she has given me, especially these last four years. So, I just wanted to stop my regular posts today and say, “Ginger, I’m so grateful that you have chosen to joyfully trust God while He led our family into unchartered adventures.”

How to Prevent a Slump

Major League Baseball’s opening day is two weeks from today. I can hardly wait! As spring training continues, we hear about hitters going through periods with little success referred to as a “slump”. Hitters often talk about watching film to discover what needs to be tweaked in their hitting approach helping them get out of their “slump”.

In ministry, it’s easy to get into a slump. Sometimes you just don’t feel the energy, excitement toward ministry. However, unlike a major-league hitter, there’s no film to watch revealing what needs to be tweaked.

You know you’re in a slump when you begin to ask: “Why am I being short with people?”, “Why are people feeling like an interruption?”, “Why is our staff no longer innovating?”, “Why am I feeling so sluggish lately?”, etc.

Since our craft involves the entire person (heart, soul, mind, and body) slumps always loom dangerously close. So how can you avoid the dreaded ministry slump?

While in seminary I had a professor that shared 4 “buckets” a leader must balance based on Mark 12:30. “Having 3 buckets full and 1 bucket empty is a formula for disaster,” he said. Keeping these 4 buckets full will prevent a slump.

1) Your Heart – Are you protecting your heart? Is there anything/anyone hurting your heart? What are you doing to protect your heart? Weekly expressions of gratitude, removing the influence of unhealthy people, and maintaining margin in my schedule help me.

2) Your Soul – Who are you trying to please? Investing in yourself isn’t selfishness but good stewardship. How will you feed you soul? Reading books, long walks, traveling, family time, and meaningful conversations help me. Here are some replenishing books: Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Seeking the Face of God, Leading on Empty, In the Name of Jesus, Let Your Light Speak, The Rest of God.

3) Your Mind – Are you still curious? What books are you reading? Are there people in your life that stimulate your intellect? Are you sharing what you’re learning? I enjoy following leaders on twitter/blogs, participating in industry coaching sessions, and reading books from different disciplines.

4) Your Body – Diet and exercise. This is my current weakness. My mind is willing but my discipline is weak. My wife, who ran a 5K Run in Malibu a couple of weeks ago, is so consistent. I’m proud of her and inspired by her. So I’m preparing for a 5K run in Santa Barbara in April. This is currently my “low” bucket so I’m determined to focus on filling it again.

For me, balance will never happen easily. I naturally gravitate toward imbalance. Imbalance causes me to enter a ministry slump.

Struggling to Read Your Bible Daily? Embrace it!

I struggle to read my Bible everyday. I know – I’m a pastor and admitting that struggle makes some uncomfortable.

Since I believe it’s the authority for my life and the living words of God . . . well . . . reading it daily makes pretty good sense.

But I struggle.

I’ve taught lessons, led small groups, and preached sermons on “How to have the daily discipline of Scripture/Prayer”. Yet, I struggle.

So I made it “easier” by downloading YouVersion’s app on my iPhone. Each morning when I get up at 5:30am, I click on my personalized Bible reading plan. But you guessed it … struggle. (Now, I have to resist the urge to check my email on the same device.)

With all that I “know” and the technological advances, I am currently 3 days behind on my “through the Bible in one-year” plan. Struggle.

But I’m not discouraged. Here are three reasons I now embrace my struggle:

    1. My “struggle” reveals how important this is. If Scripture is true, we’re in a spiritual war. Why would we expect the war zone to be easy? The struggle reveals the significance. Embrace it.
    2. My “struggle” may reveal that I’m desiring more than just finishing the “day’s reading”. If I’m reading but not changing, my “struggle” may be a longing for more. Embrace it.
    3. God meets us in our struggles. The struggle may be exactly where God is waiting. Embrace it . . . embrace Him.

Ministry Lessons from Michael Scott & Dwight Schrute

Remember The Office episode when Michael ignored Dwight’s caution and drove into the lake because “the machine knows” (referring to his GPS)? Here’s that YouTube.

This happens way too often in ministry. Church leaders ignore opportunities because “the man-made machine” told them to. You ever have a ministry dream but “they” keep you from pursuing it? Here are some examples:

– Ignore your local music culture and talent because you’re trying to sound like “xyz” church across the country. Splash!

– As a speaker, you over-estimate the importance of your delivery and under-estimate the power of God’s Word. Splash!

– Refusing to consider a particular small-group strategy because you’re following the missional, Willowcreek, or Saddleback church model. Splash!

– Not supporting a Kingdom-growing ministry because they view a non-essential doctrine differently. Splash!

Driving into the water because “the machine” told you to makes for a funny picture. Resisting Holy Spirit-driven innovation because you’re restricted by a man-made box must grieve God’s heart.

Are You Being Typecast?

Typecast = to always give the same kind of role; to cause people to think that one should always play the same kind of role.

Are you in ministry and feeling typecast?

Certain people see me as a youth pastor, a worship pastor, an associate pastor, a lead pastor, a chaplain, others as a community life pastor. That’s because I’ve served people in each capacity. I’ve worked hard to serve well in each role.

There is a tendency in which those who saw you lead well in a certain role begin to typecast you into that ministry role. That’s a compliment. It simply means they believe you served well.

I’ve recently talked with others who have served in multiple ministry roles. We agreed that tremendous personal growth happens when you serve in a new role.

It matters little how others view us but how we view ourselves. Am I trying to become a better “groups guy” or a better leader for the Kingdom?

How does God view me? He hasn’t typecast me in a ministry role. He isn’t impressed with titles. He wants my heart. That’s how I want to be known: His.

Don’t limit yourself. He hasn’t.

Struggling to Find Life’s Beauty? Maybe There’s None to See.

Ever been disappointed when something wasn’t quite what you anticipated?

Recently our family drove through the Arizona Desert. In the past, I’ve seen pictures of deserts revealing a unique beauty full of colorful sunsets, undisturbed vistas of sand with postcard-like sprinklings of cacti. However, my ride through the desert was NOTHING like that. It was full-blown ugly!

It was hot. The sand was blowing. The cacti were jagged and mean looking. The sand was full of patches of weeds, brush, occasional fences, yet not deserted enough to be “romantic”. It was 78 miles on I-10 between gas stations and indoor plumbing.

I know there are “prettier” stretches of desert. However, I felt cheated. In my mind, the desert was supposed to display a rugged but unique beauty. Stinkin’ desert.

In the Christian culture we sometimes talk about “desert experiences”. We even romanticize it. It almost becomes a religious trophy when Christians share their desert experience(s). We imply, “I’ve gotten a trophy or two have you?” “Aren’t they special?” Then we share the horrific details of our desert with pride. A newer Christian may think, “I want one of those. They sound nice and helpful.” Then the desert comes and POW! Ugly!

After 40 years in a literal desert, Moses discovered and eventually accomplished God’s ultimate purpose for his life.

In the desert, Moses learned how to lead others through his old “stomping grounds”. He learned how to wait on God and how to hear His voice. It would be easy to romanticize Moses’ desert experience. After all how cool would it have been to see a non-consuming burning bush? Or, how cool would it be to see your shepherd’s staff turn into a snake and then back into a staff? But that’s TWO DAYS. Two days in 40 years. Two days in 14,600. That’s NOT very exciting or romantic. In fact, that sounds horrifically boring to me. Sorta like that desert I saw as we crossed Arizona. Pure ugly.

I don’t want to romanticize something that’s ugly. Maybe we do that with all our desert-talk. We’re quick to say, “It’s okay. God’s gonna use this down the road.” True. But maybe we should first recognize the ugliness and difficulty desert the person is experiencing.

Are you suffering? Hurting? Does your relationship with God feel like you’re stuck on a desert floor?

As you look around it may be ugly. Nothing pretty, encouraging, or even hopeful in sight. It may lack the rugged beauty you anticipated. You may feel cheated. Hang in there. It’s a desert and they’re ugly.

As God walks with you, someday He’ll whisper these amazing words to you:

“You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north.” Duet. 2:3

Is Your God Good? Are You Sure?

Disclaimer: This blog is heavy and will be emotionally unsatisfying today. Sorry.

As a part-time chaplain I witnessed the results of a pre-teen boy committing suicide, the death of children, and many adults clutching the bodies of their deceased spouses. In Southern California this month an 11-year-old girl killed an 10-year-old girl over a boy. As I sit in my comfortable home today, there is a nation-wide genocide happening on the other side of the world in Syria. This month we’ve witnessed tornados destroy families in minutes. This weekend was the one-year anniversary of the tsunami in Japan where more 15,000 people suddenly lost their lives and thousands more are still missing.

Where is God? Or, Is there a God?

If God loves, has He lost control? If He’s in control, does He not love?

How can you watch a newscast and still believe that God loves and is in control?

This may seem like a “pastor’s conversation” until you face your own personal tragedy. In those difficult moments, we all ask these same questions.

Our human story, as you know, began in a garden according to Scripture. Apparently no problem, no tragedies. (Modern-day news agencies would have struggled to produce a newscast in a problem-free environment, huh?) 🙂

When God gave His one rule, our ancestors eventually chose to disobey, distrust, and rebel. As God promised, the result of sin would be death and separation.

Now, I can’t connect the dots to our lives today. But the pattern continues. My sin + your sin + the sin of everyone else continues to cause death and separation. Our world is broken.

Does the punishment always fit the crime? Jesus said, “No”. (See the blind man who was blinded for God’s glory rather than punishment of his sin in John 9.) Our sin contributes to the world’s brokenness resulting in death and separation.

Because of sin, you will die. So will I and everyone I love. If you believe that people actually live after death then focusing on how and when they die is a small perspective.

God’s solution addresses the real problems: death and separation. His solution (Jesus) offers eternal life and a relationship with God. Back to the problem-free environment enjoyed by our ancestors in the garden. We will continue to experience brokenness but God offers the promise of a perfect, eternal future.

In the meantime, tragedies won’t diminish God’s character of power and love. Rather, tragedies reveal the pattern He established with us at the very beginning. Fortunately, He provided an eternal plan of redemption which may not emotionally satisfy today but He will satisfy all of our tomorrows.