One of your most important jobs as a church leader isn't casting vision—it’s creating clarity.
People (even good people) naturally drift away from what’s most important and to whatever feels urgent. That’s why your job as a leader is to constantly bring people back to the main thing.
You can’t accomplish this with sermons, chitchats in passing, or random updates alone.
Great leadership takes consistent conversations.
Let me clarify what I mean.
When I say “conversations,” I’m not only referring to …
What I’m arguing for are actual, face-to-face conversations. The type of talks you have with your staff and volunteer leaders to get everyone on the same page, help your team improve, and broaden own perspective by getting feedback.
Having these types of conversations with your team is critical. But I understand the thought about having them can make you feel uncomfortable or unprepared.
In this post, I want to help you to prepare to have seven critical conversations with your team.
I’m going to cover:
How to prepare for important conversations
7 types of critical conversations
Let’s get started!
How to prepare for important conversations
There’s more to having critical conversations with your team than just sitting down for a fireside chat.
Yourchurch culturewill influence how these conversations are handled and received. For example, if your church culture possesses a negative, accusatory, or performance-oriented vibe, when you have a critical conversation—even if your goal is positive—then the way it’s received by your staff member or volunteermaybe negative.
Think about it.
When your church culture is tumultuous like a stormy sea, then you’re already swimming in choppy waters. Practically speaking, if your church has an unhealthy culture, then you’ll have to remove the toxins in order to optimize the important conversations you need to have.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have critical conversations. It can take weeks, months, or years to restore or build a healthy church culture, and a part of moving in a new direction is preparing to have these conversations well.
Let’s take a look at how you can prepare for critical conversations in your church.
#1 – Clarify your goal
Below we’re going to walk through seven types of important conversations you must have.
The first step you need to take is to clarify your goals.
Do you need to have a conversation about a staff member’s performance?
Are you seeking to develop a team member’s skills?
Do you need to clarify your vision or expectations?
Are you interested in getting feedback on a new initiative?
Regardless of the type of conversation you need to have; you need to clarify what you want to accomplish. Now, for some of these conversations, such as addressing a staff member’s poor performance, what you want to achieve will take more than one meeting and can be a long-term process (e.g., 1–3 months).
To clarify your goals, you’ll need to ask three questions:
Does anything (i.e., roles, responsibilities, expectations) need clarification?
What are the next steps?
When will you meet again?
Does anything need clarification?
Before ending any important conversation, you need to make sure you and whomever you’re meeting with is on the same page. In the end, make sure everything is clarified by asking:
Do they understand your concerns?
Do they have any questions?
Do they have any additional feedback?
This isn’t necessary foreveryconversation you have. So don’t worry about forcing goals or next steps after every meeting if you don’t need to.
What are the next steps?
At the end of your critical conversation, you’ll need to determine the next steps.
After you’ve identified a problem or clarified a goal your staff member needs to accomplish, it’s essential to provide the next steps, which will include specific tasks that are measurable and actionable.
Providing a clear plan will help you and your team know what’s expected.
When will you meet again?
Finally, the next step you’ll need to take before concluding a meeting is to provide a timeline.
When does the work need to be accomplished? When will you meet again?
Go ahead and schedule your next meeting, put it on the calendar, and also plan on following up in the meantime.
#2 – Get your mind right
What comes to mind when you think about having an important conversation?
What about the times you could have challenged someone to accomplish a big goal?
Do you feel stressed? Remorse? Anxiety?
If you’ve avoided or haven’t planned on having critical conversations, you’ll need to figure out why this is the case. Said another way:What has kept you from having important conversations?
To have important conversations, you need to be prepared to handle thememotionallywell. If you know these types of conversations cause you an emotional burden or inhibit you from keeping control, acknowledge this ahead of time, and figure out how you can best prepare yourself emotionally.
Don’t be scared to seek out help during these times. Seek out the advice from a mentor, friend, or Christian counselor to help you work through challenges.
On a different note, there’s a good chance you’ve probably never thought about having one of these conversations, and that’s okay. Everyone—including every church leader—is a work in progress, and there’s always more to learn.
But have you chosen to avoid important conversations?
If so, why?
Answer this question and identify a solution to whatever is stopping you from having important conversations with key members of your team—both among staff and volunteers.
After working with many church leaders, we often find the reason why they haven’t had these conversations is because of concerns about the conversations themselves. Leaders may worry about what someone will think about them personally or may never make a move because they don’t have the right words to say or the timing feels bad; but generally their concern revolves around themselves and what they think.
If this is you, here’s what you need to do:
Focus on the goal of your conversation, don’t worry about what you’ll say, and be prepared to listen, which leads us to the next point.
#3 – Use both ears to listen
In every conversation, you need to be able to talk and listen.
When it comes to important conversations, your ability to listen is even more critical than your normal, everyday chitchats. Think about it.
Are you challenging certain staff members to accomplish a goal or learn a new skill? During your conversation, do they express a willingness to embrace your vision? Do they give you the impression that they’re willing to grow or is this something that’s your idea?
Do you need to talk with a poor performing staff member? After you bring up your concerns, be prepared to allow them to share feedback. Listen to what they have to say. Reflect upon their point of view.
Focusing on listening will accomplish two big goals. First, it’ll help you to take the pressure off of yourself by focusing less on what you say, and more on how the person you’re talking to responds. Second, it allows whomever you’re talking to to express his or her thoughts in a meaningful way.
Is there a project behind schedule?
Let them know you’re aware, ask them what challenges they’re facing, and sit back and listen to what they have to say. Let them know you’re there to remove roadblocks—not create hindrances or unnecessary anxiety.
Can the quality of their work improve?
Ask them if they would like to improve their skills. See how they respond, and let them know you want to empower them to do the work they’ve been called by God to do at your church.
Remember, God gave you one mouth and two ears, so plan on spending twice as much time listening than talking during an important conversation.
#4 – Act now
Benjamin Franklin was full of practical advice, including this gem:
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
Dr. Franklin may not have been talking about critical conversations. But his advice is spot on.
Many church leaders dread having important conversations or they’re too busy to think about putting them on their schedule. In either case, if you’re reading this post, then hear me loud and clear:
Today, schedule the most pressing, important conversation that comes to mind.
Don’t think long and hard about this.
If something comes to mind, great. Take a moment—right now—to schedule this conversation for this week or next. You can work out the details later.
Nothing or no one comes to mind?
That’s okay too.
Just move on.
7 types of critical conversations
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about having an important conversation?
Confronting a staff member or volunteer?
If so, you’re not alone.
As I shared above, many church leaders avoid potentially challenging conversations for different reasons, so it’s natural if this is the first thought you have.
But here’s the deal:
There are seven important conversations you need to have with your team.
Will you need to confront someone on your team?
Yes, at some point. That’s just to be expected when you add one sinner together with another sinner on the same team and in the same space.
But the important conversations you need to have are so much more than this.
Here they are:
Let’s take a look at these in detail.
#1 – The “evaluation” conversation
Alright, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way:
You need to evaluate your staff members and key volunteers.
Before your mind goes negative, hang tight.
These types of conversations are not meant to be like this: “You’re doing wrong; here’s how to do things right.” The evaluation conversation is a regular check-in with your staff or volunteers to see how they’re doing.
By spending time with your team one-on-one, you’ll be better able to gauge how they’re doing personally, professionally, and spiritually. You’ll also be able to discover concerns, fears, and struggles they’re having with their work.
When you spend one-on-one time with your team and ask purposeful questions, you’ll be able to head off any significant problems or avoid potential landmines.
Here’s the deal.
As a church leader, one of your responsibilities is to shepherd your staff and volunteers. To do this well, you’ll need to plan on spending time with them one-on-one in a weekly or monthly meeting and once every three months for an evaluation.
As for the one-on-one meetings, these provide more than a to-do to mark complete or a meeting to reschedule every week. Spending time one-on-one with your team places you in an ideal position to shepherd them, helping them to reach their potential.
Don’t take these regular check-ups for granted. Make them a priority, and the time you spend in these meetings will save you a tremendous amount of time later if someone chooses to quit or something blows up because you were able to spot it weeks or months ahead of time.
When it comes to your 90-day evaluations, treat these conversations as an opportunity to see how well your individual team members are performing in relation to the church’s mission. Are they progressing? Are they falling behind? What roadblocks are inhibiting their performance?
During these conversations, help your team to identify goals to accomplish during the next quarter (90-days).
#2 – The “personal life” conversation
Being created in the image of God, the people in your church are social beings.
They desire a relationship with God, and to varying degrees, they’re interested in having friendships and encouraging interactions. It’s not like people walk around looking for a beat down.
What’s the point?
If your staff and volunteers have relationships at church, there’s a really good chance they’ll stick around. As for you, this doesn’t mean you can or should be BFF’s with everyone on your team. If you’re in a position of authority (i.e., you have you the power to fire someone), you have to balance things a bit.
However, you want to build trust with your team members, and to do this well, you’ll have to have personal life conversations. Said another way, you’ll need to share some personal things from your life, and ask them about what’s going on in their lives.
I’ll admit this can be challenging for conversations with the opposite sex. But this shouldn’t stop you from developing a trusting relationship with your staff or volunteers.
How you handle meeting with someone of the opposite sex in your church should be discussed with your leadership. If you haven’t already, consider putting in place some boundaries, such as meeting with the door open or in public areas, driving in separate cars, and maintaining openness with your leadership team and significant others.
Not sure how to build a trusting relationship?
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Have an open-door policy
Offer to help
Ask about his or her life
Talk with him or her about Jesus
It takes time to build a trusting relationship with people. Don’t rush this process. Spend time with your team, ask questions, and listen well. In time, you’ll build a solid relationship of mutual respect with your team.
#3 – The “goals” conversation
As a church leader, you want to set up your team for success.
One step you’ll need to take is to help your staff and volunteers set goals.
Not just any goal.
But goals that will develop them individually and support the mission of your church.
Think about it.
You don’t want every member of your team going in different directions. This causes confusion, leads to poor performance, and will stunt the forward momentum of your church.
Does this mean that no one will ever be able to explore different interests? Not at all. They may just have to moonlight or do work on the side to develop skills that are not related to their work.
How do you help your team to set goals?
There are five things you should focus on:
Connect their goals to the church’s mission
Lead them to set job-related goals
Break down their goals by quarter
Monitor their progress
Reward them when they accomplish their goals
There are many different tactics you can explore. But if you nail down this 5-part strategy, you’ll be well on your way to setting up your team for success.
#4 – The “clarity” conversation
Have you received a clear vision for your church?
Have you shared this vision with your team?
Great, but your work hasn’t stopped after making one announcement—it has just begun.
Here’s what you need to know:
Your staff, volunteers, and the church will naturally drift away from the church’s vision. They don’t do this on purpose or because they’re bad people. Rather, this is simply natural and to be expected.
To keep yourchurch aligned, you’ll have to champion your vision and work with your team one-on-one to fight for clarity.
With your team, there are five things you’ll need to clarify:
As a church leader, you need to plan on listening to your team.
Like everyone in your church, you have blind spots, you don’t have the complete picture, and God gave you your team to fulfill the mission of your church.
In fact,according to research, one of the key skills you need to master as a leader/manager is valuing the opinions of your team. As you lead, you want to maintain a two-way dialogue.
Whether you meet weekly or monthly, or plan on just asking your team questions, strive to learn how your team feels about their work, how things are going, and if they need clarification or support.
This can feel uncomfortable at first, but, in time, you will reap tremendous rewards in building relationships of mutual trust and respect.
#6 – The “team” conversation
Your church is a church.
In other words, your church is a team. It’s not a loose collection of individuals doing their own thing—which is especially true for your staff and volunteers.
For your church to fulfill its mission, you’ll need to lead your team toward a common goal. The idea is to have everyone working together, serving one another, and moving toward fulfilling the same mission—not pulling for their own agenda.
For this critical conversation, you’ll want to have one-on-one chats, but you’ll also need to have team chats where everyone can share from his or her heart.
To help your staff work together as a team, it’s vital that everyone is working from the same playbook (mission and goals), collaborating on projects and tasks, while helping each other to love one another well.
#7 – The “get better” conversation
This is similar to the goals conversation, but with a twist.
Instead of focusing on what your team members can accomplish, the goal of this conversation is to help people develop skills.
For this conversation, there are three big ideas:
Clarify their role
Identify related skills
Keep an eye on the future
The first thing you need to do is to clarify their responsibilities. Do you all have a clear idea of what’s expected of this position? After you nail this down, then you can move on to the next question.
For your staff or volunteers, what skills or strengths can they further develop to perform their work better? There will be a time when you’ll need to train someone to learn something new. But it’s best to focus on improving their skills and strengths that will provide the greatest return on investment for the work they’ve been called to do.
Finally, keep an eye on the future by identifying people on your team you can prepare to serve in a different position or to take on more leadership. In short, identify any gaps they need to fill from who they are now to where God is leading them to be tomorrow.
Over to you
As intimidating as having important conversations is, you know the value of them. That's why Church Fuel has created the 7 Conversations Guide. With this helpful resource, you and your team will be able to have meaningful conversations that are also effective. This free resource is available for download now. Get your hands on it to start bridging those conversation gaps today.
Not like the (pantheistic) force you find in Star Wars.
But a force like a momentum that leads your church to do what you do and don’t do.
In a spin on Samuel Chand’s popular definition, think of church culture as the why and the what of whatyou do. It's your values, beliefs, attitude, purpose, habits, behavior, norms, tone, and more.
It’s what you do.
It’s why you do what you do.
It’s what you feel and experience in your church.
A healthy culture will create a torrent of positive momentum in your church whereas an unhealthy church culture will eat away at your church body like cancer.
Whether you’ve just planted a church or you need to restore a toxic culture, there’s some good news:
Culture is always evolving—it’s not static or fixed.
Said another way, you can influence your church’s culture for better or worse.
But here’s what you need to know:
The culture in your church will evolve into something regardless of whether you want it to or not.
Do you want to create a healthy church culture?
Need help fixing an unhealthy culture in your church?
In this post, I’m going to share six ways you can build a healthy church culture, and one thing you must do if you need to fix an unhealthy culture.
Let’s get to it!
#1 – Personal
Building a healthy church culture is challenging.
Multiple things are fighting against your efforts:
Sinfulness of people
Constant move toward negativity
Preexisting unhealthiness in your church
Not only is this the case, but one big mistake many church leaders make about church culture is thinking just their church needs to change—not themselves or their church leaders.
In an organization like a church, which is a social institution, it’s challenging—if not impossible—to create a healthy culture apart from good leadership. As a church leader, your beliefs, values, and actions will influence your staff, church leadership, and your entire church. In other words, your presence will set the course for your church’s culture.
Are you a healthy, life-giving leader?
Then expect your church leadership and church to move toward a healthy church culture.
Do you have a personal struggle and a heavy-handed leadership style?
Don’t be surprised when the seeds of your sinful tendencies or poor leadership blossom in the life of your church.
Does this mean individuals or groups of people within your church can’t be healthy?
No—far from it.
Again, when it comes to church culture, I’m talking about the environment of your church. Within this environment, individuals and groups of people can be healthy. But it will be difficult for these folks to live their lives in light of the church culture, which will influence them to value and pursue an action for better or worse.
What’s the moral of the story?
Healthy leaders will build healthy churches.
You can't have one without the other.
Before striving to build a healthy church culture, the first step you must take is to look in the mirror. You have to honestly ask yourself whether you’re a healthy church leader.
Here are three things you need to do:
Take a break
Find a mentor
It’s hard to do an honest self-evaluation in the normal ebbs and flows of life. Often, you’ll need to take a break. From taking off for a long weekend to planning an extended sabbatical, schedule time off for personal reflection.
After you schedule time off, it’s best to plan what you’ll do during that time. Going into a break with the goal of personal reflection won’t happen by accident. Prepare a list of questions you want to reflect upon prayerfully. Write down your thoughts in a journal. Read some books.
Where should you start?
Without knowing you personally, it’s hard to say. I encourage you to invite your spouse, church leaders, and close friends to provide ideas. Be prepared to listen to their advice, and follow through with their suggestions.
Know what else?
Plan on unplugging from everything during this time.
Leave your phone, tablet, and laptop at home. Purchase a disposable phone for emergencies, and only give the number to your family and a few key leaders in your church.
Another key to becoming a healthy church leader is finding a mentor.
We spoke at length about the importance of having a mentor and how to find one, and you can read that article here.
Finally, another idea to consider is counseling.
There’s nothing wrong with having a counselor. This isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s just a good idea to have a trained counselor not affiliated with your church who you can confide in and receive unbiased feedback from.
Taking these three steps won’t make you perfect. But they’re like sitting on a three-legged stool. They’ll provide support for you to be the healthiest church leader you can be.
#2 – Clarify
To create a healthy church culture, the first step you must take is to clarify your values.
This step isn’t only about writing down some pithy statements. This step requires you and your church’s leadership to invest time into prayerfully considering your church values. From how you teach the Bible to sharing the gospel with your community, your values are really your church’s DNA—they inform everything your church believes and does.
Without taking this step, the rest of what I have to offer below won’t matter.
Be prepared to park on this step before you move forward with the other suggestions. Creating a healthy church culture without clarifying your values first would be like trying to build a house without laying a proper foundation.
There are three big benefits to taking this step:
The first benefit of clarifying your values informs the rest of the benefits, which will make sense in a moment. As you clarify your values, you’ll better understand the identity of your church.
At this point, your goal isn’t to clarify your beliefs.
You should already have these ironed out, and the only time you really need to spend extra time on clarifying your beliefs is when your church is wrestling through a significant issue.
As for your identity, clarifying your values will help your church better understand who you are and why you do what you do. In other words, you won’t be concerned with keeping up with the “Joneses.” Instead, your focus will be on living out who you are in light of who God says you are.
When you have a better understanding of your identity, then your church will be able to make better decisions. Think about it.
Do you need to start a [fill-in-the-blank-with-the-latest-trend]?
Regardless of what decision you need to make, after you’ve clarified your values, then you’ll possess a compass for the direction you should take. Not only will this be helpful for big decisions. But maintaining a clear picture of who your church is will guide the decisions you make every day.
The third significant benefit to clarifying your values is your ability to reproduce your values in your church staff and church. Clarifying your values makes effectively reproducing your values within your team and throughout your church (especially for new staff and church members) a whole lot easier.
#3 – Analyze
The second step you need to take toward building a healthy church culture is to analyze your church.
On the surface, this step is easy in theory.
All you “need to do” is to compare your church’s values with your church’s behavior and see how well they align with each other. Like I said, easy, right?
Not so fast.
This process takes time.
Not only will you need to assess your church. But you’ll need to empower a decent portion of your church (say 10%) to provide feedback.
For this step to be effective, you’ll need to make sure a wide variety of people respond—not just your closest friends or the most vocal people within your congregation.
Don’t rush this process.
Take the time you need to hear from the people in your church.
Don’t feel like you need to create this process from scratch. There are plenty of resources available you can use to assess your church culture. Shaped by God’s Heart by Milfred Minatrea is one such resource.
#4 – Communicate
To build a healthy church culture, you’ll need to consistently communicate your values.
This is why:
Church culture isn’t static.
There will never be a time when your church culture “arrives.”
From the presence of sin, people leaving your church, and adding new church members, you’ll need to lead your church to embrace your values consistently.
In large part, what you do throughout the week will reinforce your church values and many people will follow what you’re doing. In other words, church culture is most often caught—not taught.
But here’s the deal:
What you do will only go so far.
Many people are motivated by the why behind what you do—not what you do per se.
What is more, your church culture will naturally drift away toward unraveling. By consistently communicating your values and by casting a vision before your church, you’ll help your church course-correct along the way.
Here are some practical ways you can communicate your church’s values:
Sermons or sermon series
Church membership classes
Small groups and Sunday school
Celebrate people living out your values
This list will get you started.
#5 – Model
Are you the senior pastor of your church?
Do you serve in a key leadership or staff position?
As a leader with a public position in your church, everyone’s eyes are on you, and how you live and lead is a significant influence on your church’s culture.
Talking about your church’s values isn’t enough.
You cannot expect your church to embrace a value if it’s not a part of your life.
Think about it like this.
If you are a platoon commander, then you must lead your platoon in battle from the front. Leading anyone or especially a group from the back is difficult.
Do you want your church members to evangelize, be generous, and be servant leaders? Then you must take the lead in modeling these behaviors.
Remember, values are often caught—not taught.
The actions you take as a leader will influence your staff, volunteers, and ultimately everyone in your church. If your actions do not reflect your church’s values, then what you do will be a more significant influence than what you say.
#6 – Remove toxins
Creating a healthy culture is challenging.
Attempting to repair a broken culture is another story, and it’s extremely difficult.
It takes (a lot of) time, prayer, and participation from many people in your church to move in a new direction. During this process, like a skillful surgeon, you’ll need to understand the harmful toxins in your church’s body, and work through or possibly remove them.
There are three common toxins you need to be aware of:
Sinful patterns of behavior
The first toxin you need to look for is sinful patterns of behavior. In your church, can you observe consistent and ongoing sinful behavior, such as sexual immorality, jealousy, and fits of rage? Be mindful of sinful patterns in your church, and address them as necessary (see Galatians 5:19–21).
There’s no way you can completely avoid toxic people in your church, and how you respond depends upon the context. In general, if you don’t feed into the negativity of a toxic person, then he or she will move on.
However, there may be a time when you’ll need to directly address someone (church member or staff), bring them under church discipline, and move toward reconciliation. Before you go this route, be sure you and your church leaders follow whatever process you have in place.
In the life of your church, there will likely come a time when you’ll need toend anunnecessary ministry. Oftentimes, these ministries aren’t toxic per se, unless they are a petri dish of sinful behavior. But the ongoing existence of a ministry that no longer reflects the values of your church nevertheless will inhibit you from moving forward.
In creating a healthy church culture, this step isn’t easy.
And be humble.
#7 – Celebrate
What you celebrate, you create.
When it comes to building a healthy church culture, the values you celebrate are the values you’ll reinforce throughout your church.
When it comes to highlighting people in your church, there are two groups you want to encourage:
Your church members
As a church leader, it’s easy to forget to celebrate your staff.
I get it.
Life in your church is busy, and there’s hardly enough time to keep things afloat.
But here’s the deal:
To build a healthy church culture, you have to reinforce within your staff the values your church adheres to. Neglecting this important step is one surefire way to maintain the status quo in your church.
Acknowledge your staff (and volunteers).
Regularly sing their praises.
By celebrating the acts you want to encourage, you’ll reinforce the healthy aspects of the culture you want to create.
You also want to highlight your church members.
Observe the behaviors you want to reinforce in the life of your church members, and celebrate them. From mentioning them during your church announcements or sermons to sharing their image on social media with a note about why they’re important, there are many little things you can do to make a big difference in the life of your church.
Building a healthy church culture
The culture of your church isn’t something you can ignore.
Remember, the culture in your church isn’t set.
For better or worse, it’s always evolving.
In order to create a healthy church culture, you have to be purposeful. Start with clarifying your values, taking a long look in the mirror, and actively modeling and communicating what you believe, and, in time, you’ll mold your church’s culture.
I pray you can have the same confidence that the Apostle Paul had when he said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
Not fistfights in your parking lot (even though that’s been known to happen).
I’m talking about conflicts.
The type of conflict with a church member that strains relationships, disrupts peace, and causes division.
These types of fights are bound to happen.
Anytime you put one sinner with another sinner; you’re going to have tension.
Let me ask you this:
If you could minimize conflict in your church, would you?
If there were one thing you could do that would help your church to live in peace, would you do it?
Are you game?
Let’s talk about one way you can infuse peace into your church.
Clarify expectations in your church
In the life of your church, there are expectations and reality.
The difference between the two of these is what tends to cause disappointment.
Let me explain.
As a church leader, let’s say you expect your church members to support the life of your church by volunteering their time. However, let’s pretend a fictitious church member expects you and your staff to do the work of the ministry.
In this scenario, work will not get done, and the church leader and church member will be disappointed.
Neither one’s expectations are being met.
When this type of poor communication occurs, it can lead to disappointment, resentment, and outright conflict. The existence of unclear or unmet expectations is nothing to bat an eye at either.
Unrealistic expectations can be a significant reason why church leaders leave the ministry. And unmet expectations can be reasons why church members will leave your church.
How do you keep things from blowing up?
In this post, I’d like to share why your church should clarify expectations for everyone involved.
We’re going to cover:
4 expectations of a church
2 expectations of church members
4 ways you can clarify expectations
4 expectations of a church
In general, there’s one big thing people expect from your church:
Be a church.
From long-time church members tofirst-time guests, people expect your church to be a church.
What this means from one person to the next can vary widely.
But there are four core ideas this boils down to. People expect your church to:
Be biblically based
Be rooted in tradition
Help them live the Christian life
Provide a Christian community
Most people want to be involved with a biblically based church—one that preaches the Bible and helps its members to know God better. Parents and guardians want their children provided with biblical instruction.
Many people also want to know that their church is rooted in tradition.
I’m not talking about bad traditions, like holding onto something your church has been doing just because you’ve always done it that way.
What I’m talking about are good traditions.
The traditions that are rooted in the Bible and have been passed down throughout church history—in particular, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Don’t believe me?
According toresearch from Barna Group, 67 percent of Millennials prefer “classic” churches. I know church traditions include more than administering the sacraments. But help your church feel connected to the Church by explaining the “why” behind your “what.” In other words, let them know that the good traditions of your church are being practiced around the world and have been a part of the Church for thousands of years.
Finally, people expect a church to help them live the Christian life—to live and love like Jesus.
Based on asurvey conducted by Pew Forum, one of the top reasons adults in the United States chose to attend religious services was for help in becoming a better person. What is more, according to this survey, parents and guardians also want help in laying a moral foundation for their children.
In this post, I don’t want to get into the details of what it does or doesn’t mean to be a better person or provide a moral foundation.
But here’s what I want you to know:
Adults and parents want help in trying to live and love like Jesus.
A big part of the way you do this as a church is by being biblically based. But there’s another equally important thing you need to do—provide a Christian community.
The majority of your church members and visitors are interested in having a Christian community. They want to know people and be known by others. Make it easy for your church to meet people and make new friends by building ahealthy small group ministry.
Does this cover every expectation people may have?
But these are the four big things people expect from your church.
But what about you, church leader?
Can you expect anything from your church members?
There are some healthy things you should expect from your church, which we’ll get into next.
2 expectations of church members
Your church isn’t a country club.
Your members don’t pay dues to participate.
Know what else?
Your church isn’t a movie theater, amusement park, or mall—it’s a church.
Your members shouldn’t expect to be passive consumers.
As a church leader, your primary goal is to make disciples. One way you can do this is by creating high expectations among your members—expectations that let them know you’re a church.
To create high expectations among your members, there are two things churches have found helpful:
The foundation of your ministry is what you believe.
To make sure your church members are on the same page, it’s essential to emphasize your essential and non-essential beliefs.
When it comes to your essential beliefs, these are non-negotiable. These are the beliefs your church does not question or dispute. You hold them with a clenched fist. For many churches, this includes what you believe about Jesus, the Bible, and Salvation.
Your non-essential beliefs are the things you hold with an open hand. In other words, these are beliefs that are open for discussion and are not essential to the livelihood of your church. Common non-essential beliefs among churches include your position on the end times, your view on spiritual gifts, and your style of worship.
To create high expectations for your members, encourage them to belong.
When it comes to belonging, several things come to mind. Members who belong will:
Attend worship services
Financially support the church
Support your pastor and staff
Encourage one another
As you know, this is easier said than done.
Asking someone to commit doesn’t mean he or she will make that decision.
To influence your church culture, you have to talk about expectations more than once and continually reinforce your message. Here are four ways you can do just that.
4 ways you can clarify expectations
Ready to get everyone in your church on the same page?
Here are four things you can do:
Provide membership classes
Preach on church membership
Equip through classes and small groups
Many churches provide membership classes to let new members know more about their church and to share expectations. During this time, it’s best to let people know what they’re getting into. This way new members will become more comfortable with committing to your church.
Another helpful tactic to pursue is to preach on church membership. Whether you share one sermon or preach through an entire sermon series, inform your church about church membership from the Bible. After you’re done, don’t keep this message on the shelf. Make sure your church and visitors can easily access this material.
Reinforce your church’s culture and expectations by sharing stories. Identify people in your church who model your church’s values, and share their example. Letting your church “see” what you’re talking about is a great way to provide a positive example. You can share stories on social media, during your church announcements, or during a special event.
Finally, you can also reinforce expectations through Sunday school classes and small groups. From creating your own curriculum to using resources like I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer, Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman, or Committing to One Another by Bobby Jamieson.
Raising the bar
Don’t let unnecessary fights rule the day.
Strive to minimize conflict, create unity, and ensure peace rules the heart of your church by clarifying expectations with everyone.
As a church leader, you will run up against limits in your life and ministry.
You’ll encounter a new problem.
You’ll come face-to-face with a unique situation.
And at times, you’ll just get stuck.
Over the years, you’ll fall into a routine, and after a while, you'll feel as if you can’t break free from your circumstances.
One proven way you can continue to grow as a Christian, spouse, parent, friend, and church leader is through mentoring. Not in the sense that you have to mentor someone. But in the sense that someone should mentor you.
Mentoring isn’t something reserved for “church members” or “new” pastors, and it’s not something church leaders should avoid. Mentoring can be an ongoing, beneficial activity as long as you’re open to someone speaking into your life.
Even though mentoring isn’t as common as it once was, in this post, I want to encourage you to consider pursuing being mentored.
To help you along, I’m going to cover:
5 common misconceptions about mentoring
4 steps to finding a mentor
Let’s get started!
“Mentoring” isn’t a new concept and it’s not difficult to grasp.
Here’s what you need to know:
A mentor is someone who intentionally helps someone else (mentee) grow personally, spiritually, or professionally in a relational setting.
The idea of mentoring has been around for thousands of years.
You may not be able to find “mentoring” mentioned in the Bible. But you can spot several examples of mentors and mentees, including:
Jethro (mentor) and Moses (mentee)
Moses (mentor) and Joshua (mentee)
Eli (mentor) and Samuel (mentee)
Jesus (mentor) and his disciples (mentees)
Paul (mentor) and Timothy (mentee), Titus (mentee), and Barnabas (mentee)
If you spend time studying just these few examples, there are four essential ingredients you’ll discover about mentoring. A mentor should:
Set an example
The first thing we discover about mentoring is that a mentor should follow Jesus. A mentor’s life should exemplify what it means to live and love like Jesus. His or her life should be marked by a love for the Bible, dependency upon God, and a desire to share his or her experience with you.
A mentor should also be able to teach you. He or she doesn’t necessarily need a Bible degree or even to serve as a pastor, elder, or deacon of a church. What he or she teaches isn’t confined to the Bible alone.
At some point in your life, you’ll need to learn how to overcome a challenge, learn new skills, or expand your leadership abilities. In every one of these scenarios, a good mentor can guide you through whatever you need to learn in that season.
One significant part of being a mentor is setting an example. Regardless of what you want to learn, it’s ideal that the mentor you approach has “been there and done that.” When a mentor has experience with whatever you’re going through, he or she will be able to apply his or her knowledge and experience to your situation.
What is more, mentoring isn’t just about transferring information—it’s about transformation. With this in mind, a mentor is someone who can give you tips and advice. A mentor is someone who’s willing to set an example for you to follow.
Consider how Jesus and Paul mentored people.
In general, Jesus’ call to every one of us is to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him (Matt 16:24). When it came to the twelve disciples, this is literally what they did. They physically followed Jesus, lived with him, and learned from the example he set.
As for Paul, he was super clear about setting an example individuals and the church could follow. Check out these passages:
1 Corinthians 11:1
2 Thessalonians 3:7
I’ll get into this more below. But be sure your mentor is someone who is setting a good example, which leads me to the next point.
Your mentor should be someone who models what a life dedicated to following Jesus looks like, brokenness and all.
A mentor is not a perfect example, they are a living example.
Just like you.
Now that we know what a mentor is, let’s go ahead and talk about some common misconceptions.
5 common misconceptions about mentoring
Before you find a mentor, you first have to know what you’re not looking for.
In other words, there are some common misconceptions about mentors you need to know before you consider who you should pursue.
Here are five common misconceptions:
Anyone will do
I need a paid coach
I have a teacher, so I don’t need a mentor
A mentor has to be perfect
The first common misconception about mentoring is that you can reach out to anyone. On the surface, this sounds okay. For instance, after you watch a video, read a book, or observe someone you admire, you may feel inspired to reach out to him or her for help, which makes perfect sense.
In this situation, you’ve experienced a benefit or were encouraged, and it’s natural to think that he or she will be willing and able to help you further apply the lesson you learned.
But remember, mentoring is more about transformation—not information. To really benefit from a mentor, you have to be in a position to not only hear what they have to say. You have to be able to model what they exemplify.
Instead of reaching out to a stranger, prayerfully consider finding a mentor among the people you know and naturally interact with during the normal ebbs and flows of your life.
If there is someone who may be able to help you, but you don’t know this person, see if you are connected with him or her through someone you know. Getting connected with someone through a personal relationship can make a world of difference in getting started on the right foot.
I just hinted at another common misconception about mentoring, and that’s confusing a mentor with a paid coach.
As a church leader, there are times when you can benefit from paying a coach to help you answer a question or overcome a problem. But a paid coach is not a mentor.
As I mentioned above, a mentor is someone who intentionally helps someone else in a relational setting.
A mentor isn’t someone you pay or someone who will serve as your church consultant.
A mentor is someone who’s invested in you as a person.
A mentor will be able to teach and guide you, and they’ll also be able to provide help in certain situations. But all of this is done through a relationship, and their focus is more wholistic versus helping you with a task or project.
Confusing a mentor with a paid coach is similar to the next misconception: Confusing a mentor with a teacher. Said another way, a mentor is not someone who (necessarily) follows a strict course or curriculum. Basically, there’s not a specific 12-step program for mentees you need to take to graduate.
A mentor will be able to teach you, but not in the way a teacher or professor teaches. The lessons a mentor shares are from his or her experience and aimed toward transforming your life—not just teaching you a lesson. There’s a subtle, yet significant difference between the two.
When it comes to finding a mentor, you should find someone who’s several steps ahead of you. But they don’t necessarily have to be significantly older than you.
As you look for a mentor, your goal is to find someone who’s ahead of you in whatever area you’re trying to improve upon. In this scenario, a mentor may be significantly older than you are, they may be several years older, or they may be your age. A mentor’s age isn’t a prerequisite. You want to have your eyes more on his or her character, experience, and wisdom.
The fifth common misconception about mentors is that they have to be perfect. I’m not talking about someone who lives a perfect life per se. Instead, I’m talking about treating a mentor like a vending machine who provides answers to your questions when you key in what you want.
A mentor isn’t someone whose role is to answer all of your questions and tell you what to do. Instead, a mentor is someone who can ask the right questions, provide guidance, and help you discover the steps you need to take.
This is what Solomon was getting at in the Book of Proverbs:
“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Prov. 20:5).
Now that we’ve cleared up these misconceptions about mentors, let’s take a look at how you can find one.
4 steps to finding a mentor
Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be a Herculean task.
After you walk through the steps below, there’s a good chance you’ll identify several people who may be a mentor.
Before you go on this journey, hang tight.
There’s one point I’d like to stress:
Take your time.
Mentoring takes place in relationships.
Mentoring isn’t something you can force. It’s something that takes time, and you’ll need to exercise a great deal of patience and humility. This entire process is something that will happen organically over time.
Will you have meetings?
There will be times when you meet with your mentor. But more often than not, your meetings will not be structured or occur more than once a month.
Does this have to be formal?
Technically, you don’t have to approach someone and ask, “Hey, will you be my mentor?”
There’s nothing wrong at all with taking this approach, and at times, it’s a good idea. But at times, it can work out well just to ask someone to go to lunch, let them know you’ve observed them for some time, and that you’d like to learn more about how they do whatever it is you’d like to know or learn.
Mentoring is something that will naturally work out well for you and your mentor. So be prepared to let this process simmer on low—not on high like something you’re trying to boil.
Here we go!
Step 1: Figure out who (or what) you’re looking for
What are you looking for in a mentor?
There’s nothing wrong at all with having someone in your life who encourages you, challenges you, and prays for you. Honestly, having many of these people in your life is a good thing.
Now, when it comes to finding a mentor, you’re not necessarily looking for a generalist. You’re in search of someone who can help you do one of two things:
Solve a problem
Grow in a specific area
In life, you will come up against different problems at different times. After reading books or seeking out advice, you may feel stuck and in need of help to overcome whatever you’re facing.
When this happens, don’t take it personally.
Remember, you’ve been created by God to be dependent upon him and in community with other people. One big part of your community is being in a relationship with people (mentors) who can speak into your life and help you to solve problems.
Do you need help in your church with a specific problem?
Having a difficult time breaking through a growth barrier?
Not sure about your next steps?
In any one of these situations, a mentor is someone who can help you figure out what you need to do.
Another common reason why someone pursues a mentor is because they’re interested in growing in a specific area of their life.
Whether it’s growing as a pastor, parent, or marketer (or whatever field you work in), a mentor can help you to grow as an individual. He or she can ask questions, provide suggestions, and even point you in the right direction.
What are you looking for in a mentor?
Answer this question before taking the next step.
Step 2: Be observant
Mentoring takes place in a relationship.
When you take the time to prayerfully consider the people in your life or open your eyes to potential mentors, you’ll be surprised at how many people come to mind.
As you consider the problem you need to solve or the area you need to grow in, does the Lord bring to mind anyone in particular? Write his or her name down to prayerfully consider whether they’re a potential mentor.
Step 3: Look to your denomination or network for support
Is your church affiliated with a denomination or network? If so, then there’s a good chance you’ve met a variety of peers who may be a good mentor during meetings or at other times.
Is your church non-denominational?
Depending upon the location of your church, look into joining a local meet up of pastors or starting one yourself to meet peers in similar situations.
Step 4: Attend conferences
Every year, there are many church conferences you can attend.
At these conferences, you have the opportunity to meet other church leaders, and I’m not talking about the speakers on stage either.
If you haven’t already, plan on attending a conference this year to recharge your batteries and network with peers. During this time, be observant to see if there’s someone you may be able to follow up with later to talk about life and ministry. You’ll be surprised at how many people may just say yes.
It’s time to find a mentor
Are you ready to find a mentor?
I hope so.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you think it should to find the right man or woman.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times:
Mentoring is something that takes place in a relationship.
It’s organic, and it will naturally grow as you follow the steps above.
Relationships are crucial to leading your church well.
It can be easy to get caught up in using your administrative skills while leading your church.
From possessing an ability to teach, to organize worship services, and to manage your money, there’s a lot you need to take care of to make sure everything functions.
But your church is more than a task to complete.
Your church is a group of people you must shepherd.
To lead your church well, you have to do more than preach a killer sermon and organize a breathtaking worship experience. You have to build relationships with the people you lead. To do this, you have to know and be known by the people you serve.
Building relationships with your church members can be challenging. Not only is it difficult as a church leader to create a personal community, but the way you build relationships will have a ripple effect throughout your church.
Think about it.
If you regularly come across as cold and emotionally detached, then this will influence the way your staff, volunteers, and church members will interact with each other.
This is just one example, but I think you get the point.
So, how do you build healthy relationships with your church?
How do you influence the community you serve to live and love like Jesus?
The key to creating life-giving relationships in your church is authentic leadership.
Authentic leadership is more than a contemporary business trend.
Authentic leadership is at the heart of church leadership.
In this post, I’m going to share with you three ways you can be an authentic church leader.
#1 – Always stay humble
The first mark of authentic leadership is humility.
Specifically, I’m talking about knowing who you are in light of who God created you to be. For instance, God didn’t create you—or anyone else for that matter—to be completely self-sufficient. If that were the case, then no one would need to place his or her faith in Jesus Christ or depend upon God’s strength to live the life he’s called us to live.
As an authentic church leader, there are three marks of humility:
Live and love like Jesus
Make room for struggle
As a Christian, your goal is to live and love like Jesus.
Many verses highlight this reality, including:
1 Corinthians 11:1
1 Peter 2:21
1 John 2:6
Practically speaking, when it comes to leadership, every book you read, principle you learn, and conference you attend must be filtered through your goal as a follower of Jesus.
In other words, your goal isn’t to live an authentic life per se. Your goal is to live an authentic life to be more like Jesus. Basically, authenticity is a way to be more like Christ.
To live your life for Jesus and to lead your church well, you have to possess a high level of self-awareness. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, self-awareness is “… knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions.”
For you, this means being aware of who you are in Christ. In particular, to be an authentic leader, you need to know that you—like your church members—face an internal battle between the “flesh” and the “Spirit” (Gal 5:17). While the Holy Spirit leads you to live your life for Jesus, your “flesh” will tempt you to pursue sin instead.
What is more, self-awareness also means you understand that you too will face challenges in life. Whether you experience a natural disaster, suffer a financial setback, or endure a significant illness, you will have trouble in life (John 16:33).
What does self-awareness have to do with authentic leadership?
Well, a lot.
As you strive to live your life for Jesus, you are aware of the internal and external problems you face, which should lead you to make room for struggles in your life.
A big part of authenticity for anyone is being able to relate to someone else.
As a church leader, living a humble life dependent upon God’s strength will help you and the members of your church to empathize with one another, which leads me to my next point.
#2 – Walk in the light
The best definition of honesty is found in 1 John 1:7:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleaned us from all sin.”
Honesty is about being able to walk in the light.
As a church leader, this has two big implications.
First, you’re not hiding something sinful in your life.
I’m not talking about the one time you told a “white lie” or had an angry thought toward someone else. What I’m talking about are ongoing sinful patterns.
If you’re not able to walk in the light, then I encourage you to seek advice from a friend or counselor on how best to move forward.
Second, walking in the light also means that you’re able to talk about your struggles.
Talking about your struggles is one way you can shed light into the darkness of someone else’s life. Being honest about your life can be a tremendous blessing for someone else.
When it comes to being honest, this doesn’t mean you have to share everything with everyone. Whether you share something from the pulpit or with someone one-on-one, ask yourself these two questions:
“Will this help them live and love like Jesus?”
“Can they relate to what I’m going to share?”
In answering these questions, you’ll be able to gauge if you should or should not share something from your life.
There’s one caveat I’d like to include:
As a church leader, you may not be able to share everything with your church. But it’s a good idea to have someone in your life you can be honest with—someone who can help you work through your problems or overcome your struggles with sin.
#3 – Share hope
There’s one last key component to being an authentic leader:
Embracing the hope found in Christ.
It’s easy to get caught up in navel-gazing as we talk about living a humble and honest life by sharing your struggles. But here’s the deal:
God is at work in your life.
Despite the challenges and problems you’re facing, God is at work.
He gives you strength.
He empowers you to overcome sin and Satan.
He will fulfill his promise to give you eternal life.
The hope you have as a Christian is the same hope you need to share with your church. As an authentic church leader, living a humble and honest life, don’t forget to share the hope that is in Christ.
Becoming an authentic church leader
The life of authentic leadership is ongoing.
It’s not a class you can take, a book you can read, or a destination you’ll reach.
As a church leader and follower of Christ, by the grace of God, you’ll always have to stay humble, walk in the light, and share hope with the church you serve.
How you measure the effectiveness of your work in these areas couldn’t be further apart.
Think about it.
One part of your work is administrative.
You have to prepare for your worship service.
You have to organize events, arrange counseling sessions, and manage your volunteers and staff.
You also have to respond to emails, texts, and calls, and make sure everything else is being taken care of.
Your administrative work is something you can measure.
You have projects to manage, deadlines to meet, and tasks to accomplish. For better or worse, with your administrative work, you can experience tangible results—the sense of checking off something from your to-do list.
But this isn’t the case at all for your spiritual work.
You preach the gospel.
You teach the Bible.
You help people to live and love like Jesus.
The spiritual side of your work isn’t like your administrative tasks. Sure, you can check off of your to-do list certain things like, “Preach this Sunday,” “Meet with a church member,” or “Spend one hour praying for my community and church.”
But here’s the deal about your spiritual work:
You can’t control the results.
The more you do doesn’t necessarily result in more “accomplishments.”
You can’t force people to accept the gospel, apply a lesson from the Bible, or instantaneously live more like Jesus. In other words, the results of your spiritual work are in the hands of God—not yours.
Waiting for God to work in the life of your church can be challenging, and it’s easy to be discouraged. As you work, and work, and work with your people, you may not observe any tangible results (fruit) for months, years, or ever.
What do you do in the meantime?
There’s only one thing you can do, and that’s to wait.
Waiting on God isn’t the same thing as not doing anything.
It’s quite the opposite.
There are three core things you should do as you wait on God, and I’d like to share them with you now.
#1 – Trust in God
Do you preach the gospel?
Do you teach or preach the Bible?
Do you help people work through their struggles?
Then lean in to hear these words from the Apostle Paul:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
If you are doing God’s work, then your work is not in vain.
The work you do in your church is important in the kingdom of God.
Without someone sharing the gospel, how can anyone believe?
Without someone giving sacrificially, who will support the local church?
Without someone providing food, clothing, and shelter, how will those in need be cared for?
While you wait on God, trust that he is working through you to accomplish his plans.
#2 – Continue to pray
God didn't call you to serve his church alone.
He called you to participate in his work with him.
Practically speaking, there’s no way you can do your spiritual work without God’s strength. Serving the church without God would be like trying to drive a car without gas—it’s not going to work.
Without God’s help, you’ll experience moments of energy, positive momentum, and seasons of flourishing. But eventually, you’ll get tired, hit a wall, and burn out.
As a church leader, your primary problem won’t be stress—it will be a lack of strength. A lack of fuel to keep doing what you’re doing.
Your lack of strength isn’t physical, and it can’t be replenished by an extra cup of coffee or a four-pack of energy drinks.
The strength you need is spiritual. You can’t buy it online or from a convenience store. The only place—or better yet, Person—you can get spiritual strength from is God.
How do you draw strength from God?
One of the best ways to receive God’s strength is through prayer.
When you pray, you may not experience a booster shot of energy. But that’s not the point.
You’ll receive an inner strength and a renewed commitment to keep pressing on.
Here are several Bible verses about strength you can pray:
2 Corinthians 12:9–10
#3 – Keep doing good work
There’s one thing you can’t stop doing while you’re waiting: Working.
Now isn't the time to stop preaching the gospel, sharing biblical truths, or spending time with your people. Ceasing from your work as a church leader would be like a farmer not doing two things:
Protecting their seeds
Preparing to reap a harvest.
While you wait, you have toprotect the seeds you planted in the life of your people. As a church leader, you don’t labor alone. You’re up against spiritual forces. In the words of the Apostle Paul, you’re fighting “… against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).
The people in your church (members and visitors) are struggling with sin, facing temptations, or simply navigating a difficult season. Neglecting your church at these crucial times can set your people up to be overtaken by whatever their facing.
Instead of sitting on your thumbs and watching the weeds grow, prepare to reap a harvest.
Continue to spend time with your people, know what’s going on in their lives, and most importantly of all, continue to share the gospel and point people to Jesus.
Working while you’re waiting isn’t probably what you want to hear.
So let me leave you with these encouraging words from Galatians 6:9:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Waiting on God
Waiting on God isn’t easy.
If anything, waiting on God is slowly becoming a more significant challenge for people. Whether it’s streaming a video to watch, purchasing a product online, or standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for anything or anyone can be frustrating.
As you wait on God to accomplish his work, take a step back, hit the pause button, and reevaluate your expectations in light of what I just shared.
God is at work in your church.
He’s at work in your community.
And he's working through you.
As you wait on God, remember to do these three things: