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5 Ways to Lead While You’re Limping

5 Ways to Lead While You’re Limping

This is an encouragement to those who are limping in leadership. I entered ministry after a long career in the business world. I had significant life and leadership experience, but honestly, some of it was learned through tremendously painful experiences. Not only did I not have the pedigree of most pastors, it was actually following a sizable business loss—where we were forced to sell our business and basically start over financially—when God called me into ministry.

I entered ministry limping.

The truth is, the best leaders I know have a limp of some nature. It may not be visible, but if you are around them long, they will display remnants of a previous injury.

They may have had a failure which crippled them for a season. They may have messed up. They may have made a mistake. They may have lost their way. They may have been injured by others. And, as a result, they may have even been tempted to quit, but they pushed forward, never to be the same again.

If this is your story – if you have a limp and you’re in leadership – I have a few suggestions. Here are 5 ways to lead well when you have a limp:

1. Don’’t hide your limp

There is most likely a younger leader around you who feels they’’ve lost their way – or will some day. They need your guidance. They need your encouragement. They need to see by example they can get up again and move forward.

You don’’t have to wear a sign around your neck or tell everyone you meet about your limp, but you shouldn’’t pretend it isn’’t true, either. Your story is your story.

2. It may be God’’s way of keeping you humble

Rahab of the Bible never lost her title as a harlot, even in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11). It reminds me the past is my past. —I can’’t change it or hide it, at least for long. A great leader never forgets where they came from.

3. Don’’t be a martyr

No one enjoys a complainer or someone who is always making excuses. You suffered a failure. You had a setback. You made a critical error. You sinned. Others sinned against you. Don’’t wallow in your misery forever.

It’’s not an attractive characteristic in leadership. One of my favorite verses for those of us who limp is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Look it up. Recognize it’’s true— and deal with it. It’’s what you do after you fall, which matters most.

4. Allow it to strengthen you

You have two choices with a limp. You can allow your limp to make you a better person and leader. Or, you can let it keep you from ever being whole again—and never realize your full potential. Grace is available if you will receive it.

There may be forgiveness you need to seek or extend. You may need to do other “right things.” But, let your limp strengthen your leadership abilities, even if it’s simply learning what not to do next time. Most of us learn more in the hard times than the easy times. Most likely, you will also.

5. Be empathetic

There is nothing worse than one with a limp refusing to recognize others who limp. Always remember others have struggles too. If not now, they will. They’’re finding their way, just as you did. Extend grace as grace has been given to you.

Keep limping across the finish line. Don’’t give up. Great leaders proudly limp to victory. They cheer on others who limp. They steadfastly keep going towards the goal. And, in the process, they encourage a lot of people and accomplish great things.

Ron Edmondson is a husband, dad, pastor, church planter and church growth/organizational leadership consultant in Lexington, KY. Check out Ron’s blog for great leadership advice.

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.

7 Things There Will Never Be Enough Time For

7 Things There Will Never Be Enough Time For

There are at least seven things in leadership there will never be enough time for…unless, of course, you make it. And smart leaders do. My guess is that whenever you read this, you’re already feeling pinched for time and a bit overwhelmed. Welcome to leadership. Welcome to life.

If you study the differences between great leaders and poor leaders, many of them center around pro-activity, refusing to make excuses and abundance thinking. Another key difference is that great leaders refuse to let their days get sucked up by meeting after useless meeting, email and being pulled into other people’s urgent priorities.

If you’’ve ever made it Friday and had a hard time answering the question ““What did I accomplish this week?”” it might be because you failed to make time for these seven things. If you really want to edge up your leadership and begin accomplishing something significant, start making time for these 7 things.

1. Investing in Your Best People

Guess who will monopolize your time if you’re not proactive? Your most problematic people. Problem people will occupy your calendar unless you decide they won’’t.

When volunteer X didn’’t show up for the fifth time, most leaders will spend incredible time and effort trying to fix that. Or you’ll get yet another meeting request from person Y, who always seems to have some irresolvable crisis going on in his life. And in the process, your best leaders will be ignored.

Your best people——the ones who show up on time, every time, prepared and ready to do an exceptional job——rarely ask to meet with you. They never call you. They never bother you. A great leadership practice is to spend the majority of your one-on-one time with your best people.

Why? It makes them better. It makes you better. It moves your mission forward faster.

It’’s not like the problem people really get better as a result of your meeting with them anyway. They continue to be problematic. Cut your losses and spend the bulk of your time with your best people.

2. Planning For The Future

If you study top performers, you realize they do something many other leaders don’’t—they spend significant amounts of time working on plans for the future.

Naturally, they execute as well, but having a carefully crafted and shared mission, vision, strategy and even a set of values can guide your organization beautifully into the future.
If you don’t plan for the future, the future will simply happen to you. If you plan for it, you’’ll shape it.

When was the last time you took a full day—or even a full week—to work on the future? No one will ever ask you do it, they’’ll just criticize you if you don’’t. So do it.

3. Your Highest Value Projects

If you broke what you do into categories from ‘lowest value’ to ‘highest value’, you’’d learn something interesting.

You will naturally spend most of your time doing the things that provide the least value: answering email, going to meetings that went too long, didn’’t need to happen or that you shouldn’’t have attended, and answering questions that really didn’’t move your mission forward.

Think about it this way—if you didn’’t engage in any of the above for a week, what would truly be lost (other than having a full inbox to empty?).

But you also do things that provide exceptionally high value. While it will vary from leader to leader, for me, those things would be creating great sermon series, setting objectives for the months and years ahead and ensuring our senior leaders are healthy and on mission. I know when I do those things well, our church does best.

What’’s the greatest value you bring to your organization? Budget significant time for that.

4. Exercise

I avoided this for too long in my leadership. For the first decade in my time in leadership, I hardly exercised. Ironically, I worked more hours and got less done.

While I’’m not perfect in my exercise routine, exercise has been a bigger part of my life in the last five years than at any other point.

Perhaps not coincidentally, in the window in which I’’ve exercised the most and slept the best, our church has grown to the largest it’s ever been. I’’ve also written three books, launched a blog and a leadership podcast. This may not be a coincidence.

You’’ll make time to go to the doctor if you suffer from obesity, diabetes or heart disease. So why not make time for exercise instead?

5. Adequate Sleep

In the 80s and 90s, leaders used to brag about how little sleep they got. I bought that line of thinking—until it almost killed me. Chronic lack of sleep was a major factor in the personal burnout I went through almost a decade ago. Today, I don’’t cheat sleep anymore.

You think more clearly and are simply nicer to be around when you’re rested. Everyone is. And those are two key characteristics of effective leaders. Everyone will ask you to stay up later to get things done. Don’’t.

Go to bed on time. You’ll actually get more done—refreshed and alive in the morning.

6. Family

Everyone wants you to have a great family life as a leader. But then they’’ll ask you to please attend their event next Saturday, which happens to be your family day. What do you do? Too many leaders cave and say yes to the event.

  • Every time you say yes to an event on your day off, you’’re saying no to your family.
  • Every time you say yes to an evening out, you’’re saying no to your family.
  • Every time you say yes to a project you can’’t adequately manage, you’’re saying no to your family.

Pre-determine what your family time will be. Then, when people ask you whether you’re free, you can simply say “”I’’m sorry, I have a commitment”.” If all you have is a blank space in your calendar, you’ll end up saying yes. So write “FAMILY” into your calendar as a commitment.

7. Thinking

Every leader needs time to think. If your life is a series of long meetings, administration, and endless texts and emails, you will never take time to truly think. Innovation never arises from leaders who just want to get it done. Innovation comes from leaders who question what ‘it’ should be.

Again, you can carve white space out on your calendar just to think. Go for a long car ride with the windows down. Find a coffee shop to linger in. Take a walk in the woods. Or lock your office door, shut your laptop and grab and pen and paper. You can actually develop some strategies to become a better thinker (I outline mine here), but first you need to simply create the space and time to think.

I find if I don’’t make time for these 7 things, they won’’t happen. What don’t you have time for?

Reposted with permission. This blog originally appeared here.

3 Keys to Leaving Work at Work

A Brief Confession

I have a short list of confessions to make as I write this article on work/life balance.

  • I believe balance is overrated and rather boring. A perfectly balanced see-saw doesn’t go anywhere. We are incomplete without the ups and downs of circumstances. We learn to lean in, to share strength with others, to trust, to breathe. God reveals Himself fully in the ups and downs. He is our balance.
  • I know there are seasons in every life that are “all-in” moments where extra amounts of grace are extended, extra reserves of energy are discovered, and extra helpings of caffeine are welcomed.
  • I am a workaholic who comes from a long line of workaholics. My grandfather neglected time with his family because “things just needed tending.” My dad found solace in alcohol and prescription drugs to deal with the stress of “never enough time to do it all.” I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder almost two decades ago, in the midst of one of the most successful chapters of my career. For me, every season was an “all-in” out-of-control rodeo ride on that see-saw.
  • I’’m writing this while sitting in a recliner in my flannel pajamas. I no longer work in a traditional office setting. Working from home definitely has its benefits. But leaving work at work becomes even more challenging when it lives with you.

Search Google for “time management tips” and you’ll see 365 million possibilities. No matter the vocation, finding ways of doing good with our lives while we do good with our hands is something we all long for. I’’m still learning, but there are a few things I’’ve discovered along the way— on keeping work at work.

1. Time

Time can be such a threatening word in a world that never seems to have enough of it. One of my favorite ways to make the most of the days I’’ve been given is to use my calendar for more than scheduling meetings and project deadlines.

I make appointments with myself, blocking time for strategizing and goal-setting, reading and research, and tackling administrative tasks. I even block time to simply enjoy time with others—to catch up with colleagues over coffee or to serve someone in need.

I’’ve found that the task list seems to get done when it’s transformed into bite-sized chunks on a calendar. The focus moves from “there’s so much to do” to “this is what I’m going to focus on right now.”

2. Focus

Focus is often thwarted by things like anxiety and stress. The calendar is one way to help with the focus. But there’’s something else I’’ve found that helps me rightly focus the day before that calendar chirps its first appointment.

My day begins with worship. Most mornings, I’’ll read scripture, journal my thoughts, and spend time in honest, gut-level prayer. I’’ll admit, there are some days the prayers are happening in the shower and the scripture is a song on the radio.

Quiet time isn’’t a revolutionary thought at all. But it’s often the first thing that’s pushed to the side when the days are full— and all those around us feel the impact of that sacrifice.

3. Sacrifice

The word sacrifice jarred me to my core as I sat in the doctor’s office and heard the words, ““You are not OK.””

I thought about my husband and son, about my family and friends. I thought about the staff that trusted me to lead them. About people who trusted me to serve them. And I thought about God—, the very One I had said was my Lord and my Guide.

For every “what” I was willing to sacrifice to do everything well while never having enough time to get it all done, there was a “who.” My own unwillingness to leave work at work caused everyone around me to carry the load.

My own all-in, out-of-control rodeo ride revealed my disregard for others. I thought about my heritage, and the history I didn’’t want to repeat.

So I learned— —to invite others to ride on that see-saw with me, to help me lean in and share strength and trust and breathe. I have a trusted group of souls who ask the hard questions about my focus and my time.

I ask permission rather than forgiveness of those who are closest to me in the necessary seasons of all-in. And I’’m embracing the power of confession from James 5:16: “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.”

 

Ronne Rock finds joy in helping people discover their true story. A former church communications director and corporate marketing executive, she now shares her more than 30 years of leadership prowess with churches and other faith-based organizations, and she travels the world to curate story that changes stories. Ronne narrates life with words and imagery, and finds the redemptive threads that inspire others to action. Connect with her on Facebook  and via Twitter or Instagram, and read her stories at http://RonneRock.com.

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.

How to Minister to Couples Struggling with Infertility

How to Minister to Couples Struggling with Infertility

They sit in your services every week. They worship alongside you. They listen to your sermons. They serve Christ with hearts crushed by the weight of an empty cradle. They are infertile.

The heart of God is touched by infertility. Marriages affected by it are found throughout the Bible: Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Marriages touched by infertility are also found throughout our churches. One out of every eight married couples struggles with unwanted childlessness. How do you minister to those who are hurting and sometimes overlooked?

Allow me to share some practical ways to help.

Be Sensitive

Be sensitive on hard days like Mother’s’ Day and Father’s’ Day. Pray for couples who desire to be parents.

If you give gifts to moms and dads, have a gift available to those struggling with infertility and loss—. Perhaps a card sharing how you pray for them: strength on hard days; timely encouragement; healing for diseases that affect conception; healing for grief over losses; strength for marriage.

Understand their Grief

Many infertile couples experience miscarriage. Minister to married couples as if they were grieving a two-year-old. The death of a child at any age is a devastating loss.

Never say: “You can always have another baby.” Even if they are blessed with a home full of other children, they will always grieve this baby.

Host a Memorial

Host a memorial service honoring and remembering miscarried and stillborn babies to the married couples in your community.

Protect Their Hearts

Protect hearts that are already hurting. Don’’t ask women who are infertile—or who have miscarried—to host baby showers or help with Mother’s’ Day events.

Create a Small Group

Launch a small group for couples who are walking through infertility.

Discuss tensions that can grow between husbands and wives and ways to communicate through the process. Discuss grief, doubts, and God’s faithfulness. And consider opening it up as a community-wide group.

Recognize the Cycle

Remember that infertile couples grieve anew every 28 days, when another cycle signals another failed attempt at conception.

As leaders, you’re familiar with Philippians 4:13, yet ministry begins with verse 14: “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction,” (NASB).

Certainly, God gives infertile couples strength to ride that 28-day roller coaster of expensive medications, doctor’s appointments, and anxiety, not knowing until the end of the ride if they will be released or confined for another 28 days.

Nevertheless, when you walk alongside couples struggling with infertility, when you make a difficult season a little less isolating, when you share their affliction, you have done well.

Beth Forbus, founder of Sarah’s Laughter: Christian Support for Infertility & Child Loss, has written three books on infertility and loss, including an Infertility Bible study for groups. If you have questions about launching your own infertility ministry, please email her at beth@sarahs-laughter.com. For more info, including daily devotions, please visit www.sarahs-laughter.com.

7 Ways To Protect Your Sabbath

7 Ways To Protect Your Sabbath

Sabbath is a hard word for some pastors. Many pastors struggle in this area.

In fact, many pastors I know who would teach their church to observe the Sabbath, seldom do so personally. This fact alone is one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout.

Protecting my Sabbath has proven to be crucial in protecting my ministry. I observe my Sabbath day on Saturday most weeks. It’’s my day with Cheryl. It’’s not a day where I do nothing. That’’s not how I rest. It’’s a day where I do what I want to do.

On my Sabbath, I don’’t work. I play. I rest. I recharge. I clear my head and prepare for the week ahead.

Here are seven ways to protect your Sabbath:

1. Recognize the value –

I have to realize there is a reason to observe a Sabbath. It’’s almost like God knew what He was doing. If I value it enough, I’’ll make it a priority. The value of a Sabbath is not only for myself, but it aligns me with God’’s design for mankind. “

On the seventh day, He rested”. Have you read that somewhere? We were created with a need for the Sabbath. That makes it valuable.

2. Make it a priority –

Not only do I value the importance, but I make it a priority in my week. As important as any other day, my Sabbath is a must do part of my week.

A Sabbath is good for the pastor, the pastor’s family and the church. That’’s worth prioritizing.

3. Place it on the calendar –

The Sabbath needs to be planned in advance. If you think it’’s going to happen when you “catch up”, you’’ll never take a Sabbath.

Depending on the size of your staff or the demands of your church, your day may not be the same as mine. Choose a day that works best and calendar it regularly.

4. Trust others –

One of the leading reasons I hear for pastors not taking a day off is that they don’’t have anyone who can handle their responsibilities. This is especially true in churches where the pastor is the only staff member.

Regardless of staff size, pastors need to surround themselves with some healthy people and take a risk on them. I delegate well so that when I’’m gone I know things will continue to operate efficiently.

Ultimately when I honor my Sabbath, I’’m demonstrating that I trust God. After all, the plan was His idea.

5. Discipline myself –

I just do it. I make myself take a day off. (You should consider this discipline!)

Now, here’’s the hard part of that. In addition to saying “Yes” to yourself, you have to discipline yourself to say “No” to others. Without a doubt, if you try to protect a day there will be multiple invitations, seemingly good opportunities, and non-emergency interruptions. It will happen.

You’’ll have to continually help others (and yourself) understand the value in this discipline. It’’s part of being a healthy pastor. And, I assume, most churches want that.

Frankly some will never understand the value in your Sabbath (even if they see the value for themselves). But they will also be the first one to complain if you aren’’t performing at your best in other areas of your ministry.

6. Prepare for it –

I have to work hard prior to a Sabbath so I can comfortably take it without reservation. That means I handle any details I can in advance.

Whether a pastor works five or six days a week, (I personally work six) it is important to work hard and smart enough where there is no guilt in taking your deserved and commanded sabbath.

Not trying to be cruel here, but if you are not finding time to take a Sabbath, it could be a planning and organizational problem as much as it is a demand of your time problem.

7. Learn to enjoy

Some pastors, like me, are not wired for a Sabbath. I realize some people have no problem taking a day off, but I honestly would work seven days straight if no one stopped me. There’’s always plenty to do.

I’’ve learned, however, that I function better the other six days if I have one day that I’’m not working. It’’s been a challenge to maintain it, but I now truly look forward to the rest. It’s proven to be as important for my wife as it is for me. When she’’s happy, I’’m happy.

What Do You Think?

Now, please understand, there are no perfect plans. This works most of the time for me, but not all of the time.

There are, of course, exceptions, interruptions, and Kingdom opportunities, which cause me to not be able to protect every Sabbath day. (Jesus had those too.) As much as is possible, however, I stick with this plan. When it is interrupted, I will make up the time with some extra time away. I try to get my downtime back at some point. It’’s that important to me now.

Are you protecting your Sabbath? Be honest. The strength and success of your ministry may depend on it.

Reposted with permission. This blog originally appeared here.

Why Many Church Leaders Struggle With Their Faith

Why Many Church Leaders Struggle With Their Faith

There’’s a secret many leaders won’’t readily tell you. One of the most difficult aspects of Christian leadership is keeping your relationship with God fresh and alive. It’’s amazing to me that a frequent casualty of Christian leadership is a leader’s personal walk with God.

I have had to regularly engage this battle for two decades now. So have so many leaders I’’ve talked to. I realize if I don’’t engage the battle, I’’ll lose it. How does it happen?

The Struggle Starts Innocently Enough

Drifting away from the God who loves you happens innocently enough:

  • You start out in ministry with enthusiasm and passion.
  • You get ‘burned’ a few times by people and the challenges of leadership. Your heart grows a little hard.
  • You confuse what you do (your work) with who you are (a follower of Jesus). The line between what is personal and what is vocational become blurry.
  • You end up cheating your personal devotions by reading the passage you’’re working on for Sunday. Or not reading much scripture at all.
  • You end up so focused on strategy and execution that the mystery and supernatural aspect of Christian leadership gets lost.
  • The services you lead become technical and clinical rather than life-giving and awe-inspiring because you’’re focused on executing them well.
  • You find yourself singing words that used to mean something and preaching words that once sounded more personal and alive than they currently do.
  • You still believe in your head, but you’’ve lost your heart.

I have drifted into or close to that territory in seasons, and as soon as I do I realize it’s a terrible and unsustainable place to be in, let alone stay in.

A Searing Question

I have tried to keep this issue front and center in my life because I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who gains the world (or even a small slice of it) and loses his soul. A few years ago I landed on a question that forces me to be 100% honest about where I am with God.

The question: If I wasn’’t in ministry tomorrow, what would be left of my faith?

In other words, if ministry came to a dead halt:

  • Would I still passionately love God?
  • Would I have lots left to pray about?
  • Would I want to lead people to Jesus?
  • Would I wake up grateful?
  • Would I still confess my sin?
  • Would I live out of an overflow of my relationship with God?

If the answer to these questions is “I’’m not sure” or “no,” I have a problem.

And so, I try to foster a personal relationship with God that runs independently of anything I do in Christian leadership. I try to remember that God loves me, not what I produce. That in the end who I am matters so much more than what I do.

So What Helps?

There are several components to staying healthy spiritually over the long term. You need a close circle of friends for support and accountability.

  • You need to pray.
  • But here’s what I find. It’s so simple you might dismiss it, but I can’t. It’s just always true:
  • The more I engage the Scriptures, the more I engage God.
  • When I read the Bible personally, I grow closer to God. When I skip or skim, I don’t.
  • And this is also the area in which I find many leaders and so many Christians struggle.

Whatever you do, keeping your relationship with your Saviour fresh and alive is critical. After all, if your relationship with God dies, you lose your authority to lead, not to mention your passion and joy.

What has helped you? What would you add?

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.