Book Review: Leadership as an Identity

9781575673073_p0_v1_s260x420I recently finished reading Leadership as an Identity by Crawford Loritts. Out of all the books I have read on leadership, this by far as been my favorite. Loritts approaches leadership in this book very different from most books on leadership. The leadership theme that runs throughout this book is leadership is not necessarily about what you do, but about who you are.

Most books on leadership, even Christian leadership books, tend to talk a lot about how leaders can develop and become better at what they do. Skill and professional development is the focus. Those things aren’t bad and leaders need to focus on those areas, but for Christian leaders they are not the priority. The first priority of a Christian leader is not really about their leadership at all, it’s about who they are. It’s about being a man or woman who is following Christ and growing in their relationship with Him. That is the point of Loritts book. In fact, Christian leaders don’t even have what it takes to get the job done. The assignment God has given them as leaders is too big for them. Loritts says, “It’s good to be reminded that we are most useful to God when we realize that in ourselves we don’t have what it takes to get His assignments done” (page 39). Christian leaders must be walking with Christ in order to do what He has called them to do because they cannot do it apart from Him. In John 15:5, Jesus reminds us, “…apart from me you can do nothing.”

Loritts breaks this book down into four main parts. Each part covers a characteristic that should be true of every Christian leader. The four characteristics that make up the four parts of this book are: brokenness, uncommon communion, servanthood, and radical and immediate obedience. I’d love to share what Loritts says about each of these, but I want you to grab a copy of this book and read it for yourself.

I would recommend anyone who finds themselves in Christian leadership to read this book. It’s challenging and will remind you that who you are as a leader is more important than what you do as a leader. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

Suicide Prevention for Pastors

depressionToo many pastors commit suicide. Most recent is Isaac Hunter who founded the a megachurch called Summit Church in FL. It seems like every few weeks you hear about another pastor taking his own life. Suicide is always shocking, but many people seemed extra shocked when they hear that a pastor committed suicide. Honestly it doesn’t shock me. Being in a pastoral position myself, I understand the frustrations and demands pastors face. However, most people don’t understand what pastors go through on a daily basis. My friend Blake Appleby posted this on Facebook: “Ministry can be brutal. Most people have no clue what ministers battle on a daily basis.” Don’t get me wrong, pastoral ministry is a high calling and it’s an honor to serve Jesus in this way, but the job doesn’t come without many frustrations and struggles. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I believe there are a few practical things pastors can do to protect themselves from every going down the road of suicide. Pastors don’t wake up one day and decide to take their life, it’s a struggle that usually starts with something “small” and goes unchecked.

Take a day off. This is simple. Pastors need take a day off. Many pastors work long hours Monday throughout Friday and then work again on Sundays. There only day off tends to be Saturday, but that usually gets eaten up by sermon prep or finishing up something that didn’t get finished Friday. Pastors must learn to take a day off and really take it off. Don’t answer e-mails, phone calls, or work on ministry stuff. Take a day off and get away from work the best you can. I’m grateful to work for a church that allows me to take a day off. Pastor, if you don’t take a day off each week, start doing it now. It’s worth it.

Have a hobby outside of ministry. Not only do pastors need to take a day off, they need a hobby and something to do that’s not ministry related on those days off. Many pastors take a day off, but they always end up still working because they don’t have a hobby. Pastor, find a hobby and do it on your day off!

Spend time with your wife. Not always, but many suicide stories I read about pastors seem to always include some type of marriage problem. It may be an affair or may be a marriage that is falling apart for some reason. Pastors need to spend time with their spouse. Instead of bringing more work home with you, turn your computer off (or just leave it at the office!), ignore your cell phone, and spend time with your wife. Watch a movie with her, take her on a date, or jump in bed and have some fun (yes, I just said that, but hey it’s true). I’d recommend pastors read two books related to this point: Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard and Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley.

Accountability. Too many pastors don’t have regular accountability. This is why I believe you hear of so many pastors having moral failures or committing suicide. The Christian life and pastoral ministry are too hard to do alone. Pastors need someone to come along side them to keep them accountable. Someone to ask them the tough questions and make sure they are on the right path. Pastor, if you don’t have an accountability partner, make it a priority to get one as soon as possible!

Have people praying for you. Pastors need to be ok with asking people to pray for them. In fact, Paul asked people to pray for him all the time (Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Pastor, find someone or a group of people who will commit to praying for you. Swallow your pride and realize your need for prayer.

These are just a few practical ways I believe pastors can protect themselves from going down any road that may lead to suicide. It’s a serious subject and one we cannot take lightly. What are some ways you think pastors can protect themselves from suicide?

Guest Post: Three Keys to Better Communication with Students

iStock_000005586427XSmall-Mom-Megaphone-TeenOne of the great joys of being a youth pastor is teaching the Bible. I think for most of us, it was the joy we get from teaching the Bible that brought to youth ministry in the first place.  And, if we are honest with ourselves, every one of us thinks that we can improve on the way we communicate with our students.  My “day job” is as a teacher, so I am communicating with people every day, all day. Here are a few of the tips I’ve learned over the past ten years as a communicator, both in a school and in a church.

If possible, use visuals in your talk.  Students will remember what you are teaching on better if they have a visual picture to “hook” that lesson on.  Your visuals don’t need to be huge or elaborate.  They can be as simple as a PowerPoint presentation with the Scripture verses on it.  In all likelihood, you have students who are visual learners and something other than you will grab and hold their interest.

Use humor, but only if it is real.  Everyone loves a humorous communicator.  That is why Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld are so popular and beloved (no matter how crass they may be at times).  Humor breaks down walls and puts the listener at ease.  However, you cannot force it.  There is nothing worse than a person trying to be funny when he isn’t.  You can’t force a joke.  The best thing to do is practice your talk and make sure you are prepared.  The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to insert humor as appropriate.

Be true to who you are.  One of the best, and most infuriating, things about students is their ability to smell a fake.  If you stand up to teach or preach and you are insincere or try to be something you are not, they will know immediately.  It would be like me trying to pull off wearing skinny jeans.  You need to discover who you are as a communicator and stay true to that.  There is a very humorous clip on YouTube of Matt Chandler impersonating Mark Driscoll and demonstrating what happens when someone else tries to be Mark Driscoll.  It always goes wrong.  Spend time praying and ask God to show you who you are as a teacher and communicator.  Know who you are and stay true to that.

While there are many other things you can focus on as a communicator, these three are a good place to start.  I realize only one of them is tangible, but becoming a good communicator is not an overnight activity.  Trust the One who called you and you will do well as a teacher of the Word.

This guest post was written by Jonathan Pearson. Jonathan is a husband, father, and youth pastor.  He is a graduate of Pensacola Christian College and Liberty University. Jonathan and his family live in Charles Town, WV. He is currently a third grade teacher while he searches for a new church in which to serve. Check his blog out and follow him on Twitter.

Guest Post: Programming Vs. Relationships (Part 2)

Last post, I said relationships are the number one thing when it comes to a service. Relationships is what keeps people there, it is where the life changes come from. A church service is just a means to get people within the relationships with leaders or pastors, and ultimately Jesus. While the service can be ran with music, games, a sermon and a funny video, everything within the service should be pointing the students to someone they can talk to and get connected. The lights and music might intrigue them to come in, but after 3 weeks without making a connection with someone that person most likely wont come back.

So does that mean the service should suffer? No way! I love my job. I love creating services in which are fun and engaging and well ran. I wouldnt have it any other way. Give me lights, give me videos, give me great sermon illustrations and fun ways to do announcements all day, but as long as I realize this is not the end all. All these things are to start a conversation or point to someone to have a realtionship with. After all, at Saddleback, our weekend services are to EXPOSE students to the Gospel, to get them introduced to who Jesus is, and the relationships will help guide them to EXPERIENCE Him.

So how do you add relational aspects into the service so people can be guided to start a relationship with someone on your team? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Add a 2 minute greeting within the service. Use it as a transition somewhere in the service to have students get up and meet someone new. This gives leaders a chance to talk and make a connection as well. You can read more about this in a previous post here.
  • Info cards. We have a tear off section on the bottom of their message notes that if a student turns it in to a leader after service for first time visitors, we will then give them a FREE GIFT, from HSM to them. First, we get their info and we can connect them. Second, a connection is made and a relationship is started.
  • We try to focus on those students who are sitting alone. We have our leaders and our student leaders in each section go and sit with those who are by themselves. For the most part, if they are by themselves, they are new and do not know anyone. This wil get them a connection and a face to look for the following weekend.

[Question] What do you do in your group during service to get people connected into a relationship? What would you suggest?

This is part 2 of a series of posts. Click here to check out the first post.

This guest post was written by Justin Knowles. Justin is the High School Ministry Weekend Coordinator at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He is a pastor at heart and oversees four weekend services for students. You can check out more of Justin’s thoughts on his blog as well as follow him on Twitter.

Guest Post: Programming Vs. Relationships (Part 1)

I’m a pastor. I am also in charge of programming our weekend services for our High School Ministry at Saddleback. Something that I want to do the best I possibly can. The pastor in me loves relational ministry: getting coffee, hanging out after services, and eating together. Jesus was all about having relationships with people. But I am also a programmer and need to focus on the program as part of my job. So I want the lights to be just right, I want the smoothest transitions possible, I want the sweet videos, I want a professionally ran service so it looks and feels smooth to create an experience for students to meet Jesus during services.

So which am I? A pastor? A programmer? A programming pastor? The way I like to think of it is…I am a pastor, who happens to programs a service.

I don’t think it is an “either/or” type of situation. The tendency is to think that we have one or the other. We either can focus on the programming side, making sure the service is flawless, with cool elements, and illustrations, but then the relationship side would suffer because all of our focus is on the service, and the ministry would be super shallow. Or there is the other way, where relationships takes completely over, where you will have really deep relationships with students, but the service will suffer and be sloppy and boring, and friends of the students wouldn’t want to come because they think it is “boring”. I feel like this battle is within us and is constant. It may or may not be true for every ministry, but I know there is a balance that we need to be aware of.

One of my favorite times on the weekends is the 5-10 minutes before service starts as students are sitting down and just going around meeting and talking to people. I love it. Being a pastor, it would be obvious that I am relational. I think this is the number one thing when it comes to student ministry. Being relational and being authentic in that relationship is the number one thing students’ want/need. If you do not have the relationship side down, there would be no kids to put on a service for.

The service itself is important yes, but it means nothing if we don’t have relationships to go with it. “Real ministry” happens the 15 minutes before and after the service, and the service is just helping them sit and focus on the area you are speaking about so you can then do the “real ministry” (the prayer, the hanging out, the conversation about what stood out to them, etc.) afterwards.

Without relationships, we are missing the purpose that Jesus came to earth for us…to have a relationship with us.

But what about the service? If we have a boring service, then they wont bring their friends? They will be bored to death and won’t come back! These are real questions that I have thought myself. I fall into this way of thinking, but it also is my job to run a successful service. This is something I want to unpack next post.

[Question] What do you do on the relational side?  Where are some of the best places you hang out and have those “real talks”?

This guest post was written by Justin Knowles. Justin is the High School Ministry Weekend Coordinator at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He is a pastor at heart and oversees four weekend services for students. You can check out more of Justin’s thoughts on his blog as well as follow him on Twitter.