Category Archives: Leadership

leading change


This word can invoke two powerful emotions in people. Change can lead to excitement, positivity, and a renewed passion for what’s coming up. Change can also lead to fear, resistance, and a sense of being out of control. And as leaders, we have the power control which of these reactions the majority of our followers feel.

Leading Change 1

It’s hopefully a leader’s goal to seek a positive reaction to change. The question is, if a leader can control the majority of people’s reactions to change, how do we lead change well?

First, we have to understand why people resist change. Church leaders often joke that if change is coming, people will fight, and that’s just the way it is. No effort is given to figuring out why change is so uncomfortable. But if we are going to lead change well, figuring out the truth behind why change hurts is crucial.

I love the resources that have come out of the partnership between the Fuller Youth Institute and Fuller Seminary leadership professor Scott Cormode, specifically the Fuller Youth Institute’s Sticky Faith Launch Kit. In it, they guide churches through a process of leading change.

From their expertise in the field of leadership and change, they have found that “fear isn’t primarily about change; it’s about loss(Launch Kit, page 33) So often, we try to navigate change out of the felt reality that people’s resistance to and fear of change comes from the change itself. However, people’s resistance to change actually comes from a resistance to loss.

  • CHANGE: When I “canceled” high school Sunday school, parents resisted the change, not because it was simply a change, but because they felt a loss associated with their children’s spiritual development.

So if fear of change is from a sense of loss, it’s important that a leader is able to “anticipate the losses involved and prepare a response” (Launch Kit, page 34). There are two main components to this task: (1) listen to those you lead and anticipate their felt loss, and (2) cast a vision for what is possible.

I believe casting a compelling vision is crucial to leading change, and I love Bill Hybels’ definition of vision in his leadership book, Axiom: Vision is “a picture of the future that produces passion in people.”

Leading Change 2

If leadership can cast a picture of the future that is clear and compelling, followers will gladly weather change to reach that future. It means calling out the losses and sharing why you think the future goal is worth experiencing this loss.

  • VISION: We see students leaving the church and their faith after high school, and we’re not okay with that. One of the biggest factors that develops a faith that sticks after high school is intergenerational experience. So in order to see our students grab onto the hope found in Jesus, we are integrating them into the life and ministry of the church. For this reason, we’re taking our Sunday school model and integrating it with our adult Bible studies. We’re welcoming our high school students to worship, learn, and serve alongside multiple generations each Sunday morning and throughout the week, resulting in a greater chance for our students to develop a faith that sticks.

If the vision is clear enough and communicated properly, passion will keep people on board. This is a daily task of leadership.

I know I haven’t mastered the art of casting vision or leading change, so I’d love your feedback! What do you do to lead change well?  


job vs. calling

Disclaimer: There is no original content here.

I often put pressure on myself to come up with the best “5 steps to something random in ministry” post or a gut-wrenching, tear-jerking post about God.

Tonight was one of those nights.

But as I scoured my brain and the variety of draft posts with ideas that have yet to be fleshed out, I came across a quote. A quote that needs to be shared. It’s not original content, but it’s an important topic/question that any pastor needs to come back to over and over again. Maybe I’ll write a post about this sometime soon, but not tonight.

I enjoy Eugene Peterson’s insight and candor. I hope you do too.

I can be hired to do a job, paid fair wage if I do it, dismissed if I don’t.  But I can’t be hired to be a pastor, for my primary responsibility is not to the people I serve but to the God I serve… In our present culture the sharp distinction between a job and a vocation is considerably blurred.  How do I, as a pastor, prevent myself from thinking of my work as a job that I get paid for, a job that is assigned to me by my denomination, a job that I am expected to do to the satisfaction of my congregation?  How do I stay attentive to and listening to the call that got me started in this way of life–not a call to make the church attractive and useful in the American scene, not a call to help people feel good about themselves and have a good life, not a call to use my considerable gifts and fulfill myself, but a call like Abraham’s “to set out for a place…not knowing where he was going,” a call to deny myself and take up my cross and follow Jesus, a call like Jonah’s to “go at once to Nineveh,” a city he detested, a call like Paul’s to “get up and enter the city and you will be told what to do”?

How do I keep the immediacy and authority of God’s call in my ears when an entire culture, both secular and ecclesial, is giving me a job description?  How do I keep the calling, the vocation, of pastor from being drowned out by job descriptions, gussied up in flossy challenges and visions and strategies, clamoring incessantly for my attention?

Eugene Peterson, The Pastor

i’m tired

Tomorrow is the final day of preparation for our high school mission trip to Seattle. It is the final day to rest before seven days of early mornings, late nights, manual labor, and exceedingly long stints of extroversion.

And I’m already tired.

tired.jpgCaffeine has been one of my closest friends the past few weeks. It’s always been there for me during the long days of preparing for this trip and maintaining other daily tasks. But there is only so much this legal drug can do. Only so much energy it can fake before the inevitable crash. And while caffeine will continue to be there for me through the thick and thin of this next week, it, too, has it’s limits.

So entering into this mission trip, there are two things I know for sure: (1) I’m tired, and (2) whatever success, whatever building of the kingdom, whatever individual growth happens on this trip has to be because of God, not me.

I’m reminded of Mike Erre’s thoughts in Astonished, “This is the paradox of strength and weakness: that I am strongest when I am weakest; I am most usable when I am in over my head; Jesus is most present when I am at the end of my rope.”

I’m thankful that I worship a God who is strong in my weakness. Who uses me in my weakness to be strong. And who will be present always. I’m starting this week with the realization that God is going to show up. God will continue to be present. God will work.

And I wonder if God is chuckling with Himself at my tiredness, knowing that if I was well-rested, it would be too easy to point to me in successes; but because I’m already so tired, it will be much easier to point to Him.

Again, I’m so glad that God is in control.

youth pastor fail

I am flawed. But God is not.

The pastor was calling those who he talked to last week to come forward and be available for prayer during communion. Yes, he emailed me to ask if I was willing to help, but because of the busyness of preparing for a mission trip, I forget to email him back.

So technically, I wasn’t obligated to be present to pray for others. And part of me was glad. I got to bed late the night before, there were so many things on my mind, and the last place I wanted to be was in front of the congregation, standing at attention, ready to pray with people.

Then something in me (let’s just call it the Holy Spirit) told me that I really should go. So after an internal struggle, I handed James over to his mother and reluctantly walked up with the rest of the “prayers.”

I stood there, doubtful that anyone would come to me for prayer.

Youth Pastor FailAnd then I saw him – the student who has been struggling with his faith, unsure of where he stands with God – walking toward me. Let me just say this: I’m so glad that I’m not God because I would fail. Miserably.

This student, who has such an authentic heart for trying to seek God, who has been struggling with what it means to be a Christ-follower, who doesn’t really know where he stands, proceeded to give his life back to God, rededicating himself to following Christ.

Wow. Again, I’m so glad that I’m not God, and that God is God. And I can’t believe that he would let a reluctant, avoiding, sinful person like me partner with Him in His mission. Of course, this student would probably have made the same decision if I was still in my pew, wallowing in my bad attitude. But I’m glad that God was able to use me, imperfect as I am, for His purposes.

What an amazing God!

love those you lead

The pastor stood on the stage, looking out over the congregation, and didn’t recognize a large group of people in the pews.  New believers?  No – These people had been attending the church for years.

The congregation looked up to the stage, not really knowing who the pastor was.  Was he new?  No – He had also been there for years.

The youth pastor sat down in her regular meeting with youth ministry leaders and looked around the circle and realized she didn’t know their likes and dislikes.  She had no clue what they did for fun or their favorite food.  New leaders?  No – Both parties had been working together for months.


This happens all too often in church – those who lead and those who follow don’t know each other.  There is a lack of relationship, a lack of compassion, a lack of love.

Without relationship, it is difficult to cast vision.  Without compassion, it is hard to relate. Without love, it is impossible to lead.  John Maxwell, in his book Developing the Leader Within You, states, “You can love people without leading them, but you cannot lead people without loving them.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV).

Even if I had all the talent and abilities of being a leader, without love, I am nothing.

I’m reminded of the once popular song by Chris Tomlin that declares, “Where you go, I’ll go. Where you stay, I’ll stay.  When you move, I’ll move.  I will follow.”

This song speaks of our willingness to follow God in our lives.  But this act of obedience is not without a prerequisite: we know that God loves us.  We know that God deeply cares for our lives.

As a leader, I must love others.  When love enters in, relationships are built and leadership takes flight.

Love is the key.  It develops relationship.  It shows compassion.  It builds bridges.

Are people not following you when you lead?  Try love.  

(Photo credit: silent shot)

three vital steps for ministry communication

Justin Knowles and I are friends from undergraduate and graduate studies at Azusa Pacific University.  He is the High School Ministry Weekend Coordinator at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA.  I recently wrote a guest post for Justin’s blog about vital communication in ministry.  It covers three vital steps to take in order to communicate effectively.  Here is an excerpt from that post:

We are forgetful people.  We always have been, ever since the Israelites left Egypt and continually fell into enemy hands because they had forgotten what God did for them, and we probably always will be, because with information swirling all around us in the form of the Internet, television, smart phones, etc., there’s no way we can remember it all.

That’s why in ministry, whether you are promoting the next youth ministry event or encouraging parents during the difficult task of raising teens, there are three things to remember in order for your message to be communicated effectively…

Continue reading this post on Justin’s blog.