Plateaus, those moments where it feels like progress has stopped and the stagnancy of same has set in. Everyone experiences plateaus, but I’ve yet to meet the person who would admit to enjoying them. Whether in relationships, life, or leadership, getting stuck on a plateau can quickly strip all the joy of the work that came before it away, leaving only frustration and angst in its wake.
Painful as these plateaus may be they’re a reality of life that can’t be escaped, but I’ve found that with the right mindset any plateau can be pushed through. Want to make sure a plateau doesn’t keep you from accomplishing all that God has laid on your heart to do? Here are five ways to push through the next one you face.
Any leader worth their salt is well familiar with criticism. For leaders the question isn’t, “Will I be criticized?” but rather, “How will I respond when criticized?” I’ve certainly faced my fair share of criticism in my leadership journey, of both the constructive and destructive sort. While I wish I could say I’ve always handled it well, the truth is I haven’t. Even after countless hours spent learning about the value of criticism and knowing all sorts of Biblical texts that speak directly to the need to heed wise and godly rebuke by heart, criticism still has a way of getting under my skin in the worst possible way.
Recently, about a week after receiving some helpful criticism from one of our lay leaders, I realized that I’ve settled into a repeated process of dealing with criticism. While this process is by no means perfect, it has been healthy for me to learn to walk through, and I thought it might be helpful to share a bit of my own journey with you on this issue. Perhaps you’ll see some of your own journey reflected as you read. So here goes. I’ve learned that I’m responding best to criticism when I (in order) get angry, get processing, and get better.
I once heard a leader reflect that if you want to be liked by everyone all you’ve got to do is stand for nothing, say nothing, and do nothing. Unfortunately for those of us committed to making a difference in our world that’s just not possible. Leaders by definition are people of intense belief and committed action, otherwise you’re just not leading!
What I’m getting at here is one of the most fundamental truths of leadership there is. Namely, that if you’re a leader not everyone is going to like you. It’s one of the most difficult, yet most important realities of leading to accept, but coming to do so is necessary because a failure to will doom your leadership for these three reasons.
In the winter of 1347 the Catholic Church faced a crisis unlike any other as the Black Plague arrived in Italy. The plague brought with it an unparalleled outpouring of death and destruction and ushered in the “dark ages” for all of Europe.
It was a time of great human suffering when the Church should have been at her best, providing hope for the sick and dying. But instead the opposite was true, and this time is remembered now not as one where the Church was at her best, but her worst.
As a Pastor speaking effectively and winsomely is one of the most important parts of my job. Pastors fill all sorts of roles and wear any number of hats, but the opportunity to weekly stand before the people whom God has entrusted me to lead and present them with God’s Word for their lives is the greatest privilege I can imagine.
One of the most important leadership principles I’ve embraced over the last few years as it relates to preaching is to be continuously developing your greatest gifts. Marcus Buckingham and his team have done some great work that I’ve taken to heart demonstrating how we’re better off focusing on our strengths than our weaknesses. So for me that’s meant continuing to lean into developing as a preacher, an area of my ministry where it would be all too easy to rest on my laurels.
Here I should admit that I’m still just a J.V. preacher who’s only been preaching weekly for the last two years, though I’ve been speaking publicly long before then. But through the time I’ve spent in focused development on this gift over the last few years I’ve uncovered a few simple principles that anyone can embrace to make them a better communicator. So without further ado, here they are.
One of the greatest challenges every leader faces is the temptation of discouragement. Obviously the experience of discouragement is not limited to those in leadership, however leadership with its myriad of responsibilities and life under the microscope of others does have a way of magnifying and multiplying its influence.
If it’s true that leadership multiplies discouragement then I can think of few people who have to deal with it more than the President. Don’t worry, I’m not going political on you. Rather I want to share an amazing story with you about President Theodore Roosevelt’s personal struggle with discouragement, and how it almost kept him from becoming President at all.
We celebrated Christmas at Faith Baptist this past Sunday and it was a major win for us. It was our biggest Worship Service of the year and three adults made a decision to follow Jesus. It doesn’t get any better than that!
But the coolest part about the day for me is that we didn’t stumble into this success. Rather our success on Sunday was the product of a series of decisions made over the last two years Faith. As I thought about those decisions and the push-back they generated in light of Sunday’s success I was struck by a simple leadership principle I won’t soon forget- as leaders we have to let our stories tell themselves. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago I was preparing a sermon on gratefulness for our Thanksgiving service at Faith Baptist Mill Creek and stumbled across some information I knew I just had to share. During that week of preparation I spent some time researching the scientific side of gratitude. I wanted to see if there was any science to back up what both Scripture, and my general life experience has taught me to be true- that consistently practicing gratitude is one of the easiest ways to unlock a better life.
As I continued in my study I was amazed at what I discovered. I found any number of psychological studies that had been conducted to show beyond the shadow of a doubt that an attitude of gratitude really did have a measurable impact on the lives of those who embraced it. One study I read found that people who wrote down what they were grateful for each week exercised more often, had fewer health complaints, and generally felt better about their lives. Another study found that college students who wrote down what they were grateful for before bed slept better that night. Psychology is cool isn’t it?
If there’s one thing I’m continually frustrated by in my own leadership it’s how easily I allow fear to paralyze me from making decisions or taking action. I’m consistently amazed by just how many crazy things I’ll tell myself in the lead-up to having to do something that I’m expecting to be difficult.
Whether it be a conversation that needs to be had, a change in organizational direction that needs to be communicated, or anything in between, I’ve found that the longer I wait to take action the more I’m paralyzed by fear. And you know what the worst part is? 90 percent of the time after I do the hard thing I discover the fear to have been totally unfounded. Fortunately though there’s one simple practice I’m slowly learning to embrace that’s helping me avoid those crazy fears and lead more effectively.
Thom Rainer recently published an article giving five reasons Millennial’s are increasingly disinterested in leading in established churches. Given my personal context as a Millennial who is leading in an established church, I was intrigued. While my time leading at Faith Baptist Mill Creek has been challenging, it’s also been full of great joy, and leading at Faith has presented me with opportunities that never would have been possible in a less-established situation.
When it comes to the topic of church revitalization there are lots of voices sharing the difficulties of embarking on such a journey. And rightfully so because revitalization is tough! Tough though it may be, I believe with all my heart that there are unique opportunities available to advance the Kingdom of God through revitalization that simply aren’t available elsewhere. As someone in the midst of the process with all its ups and downs I continue to believe that revitalization is worth it. So here are five reasons this Millennial is grateful to be able to lead in an established church.