Category Archives: leadership

Sometimes twitter finds you some gems

Sometimes when I talk about twitter to people they don’t get it. How do you have time for that? they say. Why would you want to tell people what you’re doing? Why would you want to read what other people are saying, especially if you don’t know them?

I got “followed” on twitter today by Mark Waltz. I have no idea who Mark is, so, like I do with most new “followers”, I clicked on his profile and read a few recent tweets. Usually my next step (when I have no clue who they are is to either:

1) Realize that the “person” following me is really a scam and block them from following me.
2) Do nothing and think – that’s cool someone else is following me and they probably won’t read my tweets at all, because they don’t know me, and my tweets aren’t really that interesting anyway. If I added them, I probably wouldn’t read their tweets, so why bother following them just to be a reciprocal follower?

But, this time, this tweet caught my eye: “Guest Services Best Practice #18: Surprise Your Guests” with a link to Mark’s Blog: Because People Matter I visited the blog and there is some awesome stuff on there.

If you are reading this and you are interested in how to help people feel comfortable and welcome in Church, visit his blog now and start soaking in the ideas. Some of it is common sense, some of it is revolutionary, some of it is simple. I don’t care if you belong to a small church of 40 people that can’t afford a pastor, or if you’re part of a staff team at a large church and your full time job is “pastor of connections” (that’s Mark’s title). I don’t care if you are Southern Baptist or Presbyterian (like me), the stuff he’s putting on there is invaluable to all of us in the Church.

After all that, I followed him on twitter, and probably more importantly, I subscribed to his blog.

Mark, if you’re reading, you’ve got a new reader. Thanks for following me. And thanks for the great ideas!


Lizards and Theological Education

Do you ever complain about things not being part of your job? or about the little things? or about things you don’t like about your job? This is another Gem from “The Life of James Robertson” by Ralph Connor. Robertson is particularly unimpressed with some of the young, student ministers that he has recruited for the mission fields in Western Canada in the 1880’s. He calls a particular student “whiney” because he’s complaining about uncomfortable beds and things crawling on him in the night, and irregular meals that aren’t always tasty.

Robertson tells the student about a night when he slept in a dugout where lizards crawled onto his face and neck to find warmth. He just brushed them off and turned over.

Then we get this great quote:

“The poor student stood horrified. The Superintendent [Robertson] enthused for a few moments on lice and lizards and snakes, as though encounters therewith were as valuable as theology in a true missionary’s education, and the complaining dude subsided. His hardships vanished into thin air. He was rebuked and shamed, but could not reply, and the conversation drifted to other themes.”

Special note: A “dude” here, is a city-slicker. Although, I am tempted to picture Robertson saying “Quit whining, dude. One time, I had to sleep with lizards! Man, I learned a lot that night.”

10 Random Leadership Challenges

Important: I love the congregation where I am a minister. It’s awesome. The people are amazing. I have no desire to go anywhere else. I believe that God has called me to be where I am and I love serving with the people there. AND there are some amazing leaders at Trinity and there are some new leaders emerging.

But this post is about challenges in leadership and yes, there are challenges…

I’m going to a conference in a few weeks and one of the presenters, Dale Woods, contacted the group who is attending and asked if we had particular concerns or questions around leadership.

Here’s the list of 10 random thoughts that came to me in the moment that I sent to Dale…

  1. Not enough people willing to lead.
  2. It seems like more time has to be invested in leaders than in “followers”. But I don’t seem to have the time to do that. It is also easy to get “burnt” by investing in leaders and then have them give up, or they just fizzle out themselves.
  3. When people are willing to lead, they don’t seem to have the time to invest in what they are leading (to do an exceptional job) let alone invest in developing themselves as leaders – how do we train/mentor people with such busy lives?
  4. There seem to be very few people who will strive for excellence – a lot of people will settle for what is easier, or what they know how to do, instead of being creative, or seeking help from others.
  5. Communication is a huge issue – how to get leaders to communicate (primarily with each other)
  6. A lot of leaders seem to like being in control and have real trouble letting go, and trusting. How can I overcome that, and almost as important, how do I help others (a) recognize that in themselves (b) do something about it
  7. How do we train/develop leaders in small church/new church settings without using workshops? What are other models for leadership development? Is there a more natural way?
  8. How do we balance/engage “what the church needs” / “what the neighbourhood needs” / “what everyone wants” / “what gifts are present” / “who is willing to do the work” ?
  9. NCD can feel pretty lonely when it comes to leadership. It often seems that things only happen if I (as the minister) make them happen, even if someone else is in charge of a particular project or area. It requires a ton of energy, and it is so tempting to just be in charge of everything because it’s easier than “working with people.” – I sometimes give in to the temptation. (see control-freak #6 above)
  10. Dealing with anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, despair, lack of faith.
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A pastor should know less Latin (greek?) and more horse (twitter?)

I’ve been working my way through the biography of James Robertson, written in about 1907 or 08 by Ralph Connor. Robertson was the mission superintendent for most of Western Canada for the Presbyterian Church in Canada in the late 1800’s He (and the Holy Spirit!) is responsible for the explosion of Presbyterian Churches across the west during that period. Amazing story!

From page 238:

He [a young minister coming to the west for the first time] thought a minister’s duty was to preach the Gospel, and not be bothered with horses. I [Robertson] had to tell him that if he could not reach the people to whom he preached without a horse, then he must learn to drive and ride – in fact, that if these were his ideas he had no business in the North-West – that I would rather have a man know less Latin and more Horse, and that without some knowledge of horses a man was useless. The man looked amazed, but took all well and is going to work.”

So, today’s horse? We might want to immediately say – “the car” – duh! But maybe it’s social media – twitter, facebook, youtube. Robertson was talking about physically getting around (which was a real challenge that pastors had to pay attention to) – but that is not really an issue anymore. Today,we have a culture of privatism and rampant individualism. That culture is not being broken down by going door to door, but look what social media is doing. It is allowing people to connect in unprecedented ways, and people are actually “talking” to people that they would never have met otherwise, or talking more with people who used to be more peripheral in their lives. Robertson’s point was if you want to “reach the people” you need to get to where they are (on your horse!). Where are people today? More and more are moving into online social networks (Oprah’s on twitter now, so the floodgates are open!)

So, if we want to “reach the people”, our preference should be for pastors who know less greek and more twitter.

Seth Godin’s wrong but you should listen to him anyway

I love reading what Seth Godin writes. Tribes is a great book. His blog is always fun and helpful to read. But there’s been something nagging at me about all of it.

Godin is in the business of telling people what they want to hear – you can make a difference, you can get a following, the world needs leaders, etc, etc. There is a real market for people like me to hear someone say that and believe it. There will always be others who will listen to Godin and others with the same message, and they too will succeed, write books, and say the same thing, and we’ll believe them and find hope for ourselves.

Except that, not everyone who follows Godin’s advise will succeed. And not everyone is meant to follow Godin’s advise. Godin’s advise only works if a minority do it, and he knows only a minority will do it – that’s why it works.

God’s plan (not Godin’s) is broader than that, and includes more than leaders, although it needs leaders. The interesting thing about God’s plan is that its best leaders need to first be followers – followers of Jesus, and listeners of God’s word. This is much tougher than figuring out a niche for yourself, or simply deciding what you want to do. This involves figuring out what God wants you to do – and sometimes God will want you to set your ego aside and support someone else. Sometimes God will want you to decrease so that someone else might increase.

Okay, the title of the post is a little harsh. I don’t think Seth Godin is really wrong, but I’m not sure he’s really “right” either. His writing is inspirational and exceedingly helpful for leaders (including those God has called to lead within the Church). So, read his stuff for sure, but remember he’s just a guy his own message. He’s not the source of hope for all leaders. We believe in a different source of hope.

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