Archives For Church leadership

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I became familiar with ExPastors.com and their Founder, Bo Lane, a couple of years ago. I’ve stayed in touch with Bo ever since. Over the past year, I’ve considered being more involved. Over the last month, I’ve now taken over as Executive Director of ExPastors.com.

I encourage you to get to know us. We’re not a place for people to bash the Church. We are a ministry that offers help, healing and hope to ex-pastors (for whatever reason they find themselves there), current pastors and church leaders.

We want to see all pastors be healthy physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

I encourage you to browse the website and its articles. See if there’s something there that might educate or encourage you in the season of life you find yourself.

This week (Tuesday) we have a very special guest post by an ex-pastor that hasn’t spoken out for over 2 years. Be sure to keep an eye on us and our articles.

You can do this by signing up for our newsletter, following us on Twitter, and subscribing to our YouTube channel (we are about to launch a new podcast). When you sign up for our newsletter, you will receive a FREE copy of Why Pastors Quit – a must read.

Read the newest post that is up there now. Maybe it will encourage you and offer you hope.

We get unbelievable emails from pastors and ex-pastors from around the world. Join our community and please know: If you’re tired, hurt/wounded, frustrated, burnt out, thinking about taking your life, depressed, anxious – whatever the enemy is attacking you with – I’m here for you. We’re here for you. You have people that care for you and want to help you.

God’s not finished with you. Neither are we. Don’t give up!

listening-earLet me say up front that this post is longer than usual, but if you read it all and truly wrestle with it, you’ll be a better leader and your family and congregation will thank you for it. Let’s dive in!

Communication is key to being an effective leader and I would argue a genuine human being. After being called out by my wife, previous employers and team members for interrupting, I had to do some deep soul searching and take an introspective look at how I communicate, dialogue and interact with people in general. I realized I didn’t intentionally practice active listening.

Active listening is a communication technique used in counseling, training, and conflict resolution. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.

Honestly, this is an area I’ve dealt with for years and am just now actively working on improving. I think I’ve always known that listening is key; I just haven’t done a good job at it in every area of my life.

I actually wrote about leaders needing to listen in my last book Strange Leadership. In the book, I said, “Leaders are readers. Leaders are learners. Leaders are listeners.” I even pinned a TwitPic to my Twitter wall to share it with others. It’s been retweeted over 1200 times. I think we all know this is true deep down. The question is do we live this out? Do I live this out?

I’ve blogged and posted on social media numerous times that I see a counselor or therapist. I have for years and I highly recommend it, especially for pastors. Lately, this is what I have been working on with my therapist. I asked him to help me be a better active listener. So each week we work on active listening.

Here’s what I’m learning and here are five ways to evaluate yourself and do your own introspection:

  1. Leadership: Employers, are you open to feedback? Do you know and practice bottom-up leadership? Do you learn from your employees? When you lead and interact with your team and staff, do you really listen to them? Do you know their dreams, their passions, their struggles, and frustrations? Do you hear them when they say their hurting, or tired, or burnt out and in need of rest? Employees, do you understand what your employer wants from you? Do you actively listen when he or she gives you instructions and corrections? Do you get defensive and interrupt them when they critique you or give you a performance evaluation?Pastors and church leaders, are you listening to your congregation? When you plan sermon series, do you have a good pulse on what your people are going through? Do you actively listen to their concerns, fears, and frustrations with where the church or leadership is heading? Do you encourage open dialogue?
  2. Counseling: Pastors, when you counsel people in your congregation, do you cut them off and interject your thoughts and opinions? I have in the past. Do you practice active listening in such a way (like a therapist would) that you can repeat back to them what they said? Good counselors and therapists will listen to you vent and share and then respond with, “So what I hear you saying is…” I know you have a Biblical worldview, a strong grasp of Scripture and theology, but there is much to be learned in this area. My wife is a counselor and they go through a grueling two-year grad school program to learn counseling techniques – techniques we would benefit from learning. A book I highly recommend is entitled Toughest People to Love. I’ve read it twice and found it thoroughly helpful and insightful. I also recommend you reach out to a local therapist and pick their brain. Ask them to teach you how to be a better active listener. And, if you’re not already doing it, make an appointment with a counselor. You will benefit greatly from it. Your family and congregation will benefit because of it, and you might learn something.
  3. Social media: Dave Adamson recently said that at North Point Church they strive to use more questions marks than periods.  My friend, Nils Smith said, “Facebook is a social network, which means that conversation is central to the platform and the best way to create a conversation is to ask a question.” The biggest problem I see when I do an online presence evaluation as a church secret shopper is churches using social media as a broadcast tool only. They don’t truly create conversations and safe places for people to react, interact, and dialogue with the church and its leaders. My friend Brandon Cox wrote a helpful and insightful book entitle Rewired. In the book, Brandon writes, “The world around us is having a conversation about life, meaning, culture, and eternity, and we have an amazing opportunity not just to join the conversation but also to lead it. But too many in the church are struggling to keep up with this cultural shift and failing to use these communication tools to their full advantage. And this shift we are seeing toward a more mobile, social environment is actually a return to the form we were created for: to be in relationships, to have conversations, and to share our stories–and God’s–with each other.” I encourage you to strategically and prayerfully rethink your social media strategy as a church with a focus on listening.
  4. Family: Did you know that if you learn this skill of active listening and utilize it intentionally and regularly, you will have a better relationship with your spouse and children? I can’t tell you how many times I’m watching TV or working on my computer while my wife is talking to me and then she says, “Greg, tell me what I just said.” I usually struggle to repeat her words back to her. Since I’ve been coached on active listening, I’ve gotten better at this. I’ve still got a way to go, but I’m growing and learning. You’ll find that your parenting skills and dynamics change with your kids if you truly pay attention to them, make eye contact with them, and say back to them, “If I heard you right, you’re feeling…” If you accept my advice and heed my own testimony, this skill can improve and for some of you, save your marriage and/or relationship with your kids.
  5. Relationships: One of the things that I’m proud of is that I’m a good friend. I truly care about those that I’m in a relationship with. When I interact with my friends now, I’m trying my best to actively listen. Too many times we’re quick to interrupt and interject our thoughts without allowing them to finish their thought and express how they feel. If you want to go to the next level in your life and relationships, learn to listen and then respond with grace and love.
  • You know who’s really good at active listening? Coaches and counselors. I think we, as church leaders, could learn a lot from them and apply this same technique to our various areas of ministry and service.
  • These are 5 things that I’m working on in my life and if you prayerfully assess and evaluate your own areas, you’ll have no regrets. Remember: Leaders are listeners. Let’s seek to lead and listen exceedingly well.
  • One last thing, friends and you haven’t heard me say this in YEARS: Go to my YouTube channel and subscribe! I am about to start recording regular content for pastors and leaders. I’ll be doing series for areas and subjects such as leadership in general, pastoral ministry, helps and coaching, guest services training and insights, ministry thoughts, mental health issues and awareness, and other things that I get emailed about. Please SUBSCRIBE today!

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This Tuesday, April 15th (Tax Day), some friends of mine are throwing a Pre-Release Party for my new book Strange Leadership. We’ll be doing some fun stuff, giving away cool stuff and I’ll be a guest on a couple of live podcasts talking with church leaders about the book. I don’t want you to miss out on a thing, so go HERE to join the Pre-Release Party. Join in the fun and thanks for your support!

To read more details about the book and look around the book website, go here: StrangeLeadership.com

Monday, be sure to check out my first video podcast about the book on the Pastor Fury Podcast. Go here to check it out: http://armansheffey.com/iTunes 

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” – Joel 2:12 (NIV)

This past Sunday at my church, the message was on worship and people were encouraged to text in questions at the end of the sermon for discussion. Here’s my question I texted in:

If worship is a lifestyle and the Bible encourages us to fast and pray, then why don’t we hear more about fasting in the American Church?

The answer I got didn’t satisfy. It was a “safe” answer and basically said that fasting was only something personal and not something that the church should talk about or do together. This disturbed me as I know some of the greatest churches in the country take fasting very seriously and have times of corporate prayer and fasting.

As a matter of fact, the last 2 churches listed as Outreach magazine’s “Fastest-growing Church in the US” (Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL and New Life in Conway, AR) both have annual times of fasting and prayer as a congregation.

I worked for a season with ARC (Association of Related Churches) and know how important prayer is to the foundation of a church planter. Prayer and fasting are drilled into the ARC church planters in their basic training and ARC (by no coincidence) has some of the fastest-growing churches in the country – including the two I listed above.

Throughout Scripture fasting plays a critical role in many God ordained events:

– Moses fasted for intimate fellowship with God (Exodus 34:28)
– David fasted for his sick child (2 Samuel 12:16)
– Ezra called a fast for humility and to ask for God’s provisions (Ezra 8:21-23)
– Daniel fasted to discern God’s will & seek God’s counsel (Daniel 10:2-3)
– Jesus fasted before beginning his public ministry (Matthew 4:2)
– Church leaders in Antioch fasted for God’s divine help (Acts 13:3)
– Paul fasted as servant of God for those he served (2 Corinthians 6:5)

If you’re interested in fasting, here are some resources I use HERE.

I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world. —Bill Bright

So, if you invited your church to text in questions and I texted in my question you see above, how would you respond? Should the church as a whole fast and pray? Does your church participate in any kid of annual fast? Do you personally fast? Is this as one worship pastor friend of mine called a “lost art” in the Church?

Yesterday I announced the beginning of the Church 2.0 Local Forum. I’m excited about the first 2 of these in May (one in LA and one in Chicago). For now, I’d like to give you more info on the first one in LA. This is for all Church leaders in the Southern California area. If you’re involved in ministry and would like to meet, network and share with others in ministry – this FREE event is for you.

DETAILS: We will gather on Friday, May 2nd from 11:30am to 3:30pm in Grant Hall at Hollywood UMC. I’d appreciate you signing up so we know how much lunch to provide. To RSVP go HERE.

Sponsors that have taken care of the facility rental, free give-aways/swag and free food for all are: eight20eight, iStockphoto, RevoStock and SermonSpice. I’m extremely grateful for their support.

Here’s a special note from sponsor iStockphoto: Enter the coupon code FAITH and you will receive a 20% first purchase discount on any order over 55 credits and you can also choose 20 FREE images out of a group of 50. Go HERE to check it out.

WHAT’S SO COOL ABOUT MEETING AT HOLLYWOOD UMC?

Due to the unique beauty of the buildings and the history emmanating from their individual spaces, the church facilities are often used as a film and television location and have been featured in several major motion pictures.

FILMS SHOT AT HUMC include…

• Jarhead
• Domino
• Anger Management
• Big Mama’s House
• Beautiful
• A Civil Action
• That Thing You Do!
• Super Mario Bros.
• Sister Act
• Back to the Future
• Star 80
• Imitation of Life

TV SHOWS SHOT AT HUMC include…

• CSI
• Days of Our Lives
• General Hospital
• Murder, She Wrote
• The Golden Girls
• Jake and the Fatman
• The A-Team
• Hardcastle and McCormick
• Riptide
• Hotel
• Dr. Phil – Special
• Bette Midler – Special
• The Temptations – Special

SPECIAL FOOTNOTES FOR FILM FANS –

In Back to the Future, the church gymnasium was the location for the high school prom/dance scene where Michael J. Fox reunites his parents and takes the stage to perform a wicked guitar version of “Johnny Be Good.”

In Sister Act, virtually the entire church served as an on-location set for the story of Whoopi Goldberg posing as a nun. The scenes where the nuns ate at a long table and where Whoopi was scrubbing floors were filmed in Grant Hall. The scene where the nuns were gossiping in the kitchen over ice cream was in the Main Kitchen. The choir room in the movie was shot in the church’s actual choir room at the time.

In Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do!, the gym stage was the setting for a college talent show where the movie’s fictitious pop-rock group, “The Wonders,” first sang their hit song “That Thing You Do!” in public. In the scene, the group’s drummer surprises them by speeding up the tempo of the song, with very positive results.