The Intentional and Strategic Leader

One of the books that shaped me and my philosophy of ministry is The Purpose Driven Church. Another way of identifying or describing a purpose-driven leader is as an intentional or strategic leader. It’s no accident that Jesus instructed us to be “shrewd as serpents” (Matthew 10:16). Purposeful, intentional and strategic should be words in the vocabulary and arsenal of every church leader.

I don’t think what I’m about to say is black and white or cut and dry, but in my experience and travels, the biggest difference I see between small church leaders and mega-church leaders is grasping this concept of equipping others.

I know I’ll take some heat for this, but most small church leaders are doers and that’s why most churches in America never grow beyond 200 people. I mean really – how many people do you think one person can handle? 200 is it. Mega-church leaders know that they have to multiply themselves, understand Ephesians 4 and the equipping style of leadership and lead accordingly.

The reason I say this isn’t cut and dry is because as I’ve blogged about before, another huge difference between small churches and fast-growing churches is fast-growing churches are externally focused – that’s another issue all together, but for the purpose of this blog series, I want to focus on the leadership style of a doer vs an equipper and how that affects one’s capacity for leadership.

Moses is a revered leader in our Bible and seen as one who accomplished much in his time, but even he had to learn this lesson from his father-in-law Jethro.

Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you. Be there for the people before God, but let the matters of concern be presented to God. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.” Moses listened to the counsel of his father-in-law and did everything he said. – Exodus 18:17-24 (MSG)

Thanks to Moses’ father-in-law speaking the truth in love to him and opening his eyes to effective leadership, Moses learned a valuable lesson and because it was recorded in Scripture, it’s there for us to learn as well. Moses became an intentional and strategic leader.

I use these words in the context of our discussion on Equipper vs Doer in order to bring clarity to our calling as pastors and in light of the Ephesians 4 passage we looked at earlier. If we are intentional about what we do and don’t do and strategic about who we delegate to, empower and free up to lead and take risks, we can experience unbelievable fruit in our ministries and the joy that only comes from doing what you were created and called to do. Not only that, we get to watch others get to use their gifts and talents for God’s glory, too.

My prayer for and encouragement to  you is to be intentional and strategic in your leadership. Ask yourself daily, “Is this something I alone can do? OR “Is there someone who is more passionate and gifted to do this that I can hand this off to?” So, with our 3 day look at being an equipper vs a doer, where do you see yourself now? I’ll ask the original question: Are you an equipper or doer? And today’s question: Are you intentional and strategic as a leader?


Why a Hard Worker Is Not Always a Good Leader

I introduced this discussion of Equipper vs Doer yesterday. If you haven’t read that yet, please go back and read that first, as it sets up what we’ll be looking at today.

First let’s talk about what leadership is: “Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. (Wikipedia)

I see leadership as both influence and a process, meaning you have to be intentional and strategic – two words I use often in my consulting and work with churches, organizations and businesses.

“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” - Alan Keith of Genentech

Now on to the title of this blog post: “Why a hard worker is not always a good leader.” Am I against a strong and hard work ethic? Absolutely not. I have a very strong work ethic myself, but I’d rather work smart than hard. I’ve seen way too many leaders that are burned out and frustrated in their life and job and often times they are reaping what they have sewn. Andy Stanley’s book The Principle of the Path is a great read for more on this.

There are many hard workers across the country in churches, organizations and businesses that are working their tail off, but not experiencing health, growth, joy and the unmistakable test of being effective at what they do. If you’re flying solo in your area of ministry and playing the lone ranger, I can guarantee you that you’re not being as effective as you could be. You’re not reaching your full potential and worst yet, your organization will never be all it can be until you make some intentional and strategic changes in how you work and lead. Let’s look at this in more depth: In Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges book Servant Leadership they say:

“One of the quickest ways you can tell the difference between a servant leader and a self-serving leader is how they handle feedback, because one of the biggest fears that self-serving leaders have is to lose their position.”

Insecurity is at the root of many doers. Pride is at the root of other doers. Let’s look at both: First, insecurity is the downfall of many leaders from senior pastors to executive pastors to mid-level leaders and beyond. I’ve told several leaders over the years: In a small church, job security is “I’m the only one that can do this.” Think of that one sound man that runs sound every week, makes no effort to duplicate himself and thinks “They couldn’t make it without me.” Leaders in many small churches, do everything themselves because they think that secures their job. Leaders in large churches lead others to do the work of the ministry and empower those under their authority- that’s their job security.

*Please understand when I say “small churches”, I’m talking about small-minded churches and churches that have stopped growing. I work with many church planters and love churches of all sizes. Church plants won’t be small forever – they’re hungry and highly evangelistic and seek to grow. I’m referring to churches that have been small for decades.*

The other reason for a doer is pride. They think that they can do it better than anyone else and relish in the fantasy that they are the only one qualified to do a particular task or function. In truth, we all have a handful (maybe 3) of things that we alone can do. The majority of what you are in charge of can be given over to a team of volunteers to serve the church in that area of ministry. If you’re a senior pastor, obviously you don’t delegate the weekly preaching and sermon prep; however, you could put together a teaching team and start to share the pulpit with others, as many growing churches are doing.

The key is to not lead from a place of insecurity or pride – both are wrong. If you are to grow as a leader and be effective in your place of service, you must deal with these two issues head on. Emotional Intelligence is another great read that someone asked me to read in my 20’s. There’s no room for insecurity or pride in the church. This is a matter of character and knowing your identity in Christ as a Christ-follower first and leader second. In the beginning of Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus book he says,

“Every leader must answer two critical questions:

  1. Whose am I?
  2. Who am I?

The first question answers “Who am I trying to please?” The second question deals with your purpose in life. My encouragement to you is to wrestle with these two questions and two sins of insecurity and pride and leave them at the foot of the cross. You’ll be a better leader for it and those you lead will be glad you did. We’ll continue down this path tomorrow. For today, how do you handle areas of insecurity and pride as a leader? Do you ever sense them creeping into your life and ministry? Have you answered Blanchard’s two key questions? Where do you find your identity?


Are You an Equipper or a Doer?

My philosophy of ministry can be summed up in one word: EQUIP. I’ve based my entire ministry career on this key principle: We, as shepherds and pastors, are not here to do the work of the ministry. As pastors and leaders, we are called to equip others to do the work of the ministry – thus allowing them to use their God-given spiritual gifts and find pure joy, satisfaction and peace in serving. All to often leaders rob their people of blessing by doing something solo and not allowing the people they lead to use their gifts.

As EACH ONE has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. – 1 Peter 4:10 (NKJV)

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. – 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)

The above passage was given to the Church (people), not just pastors. This theme of using our gifts and as leaders, encouraging others to use their gifts has been a recurring theme on my blog for years and one found in many encouraging Bible verses. I was changed forever 11 years ago when I heard Ray Johnston (Senior Pastor of Bayside Church in Sacrament0) speak at a conference on the Body of Christ. He burned a crystal clear image into my brain and heart of what a healthy church looks like – each person using their individual gifts to benefit and complete the whole organization.

When I’m in the interview process with a potential church that I’m considering, this is something I say up front: “I’m an equipper, not a doer.” When I’m hiring a potential staff or team member, this is something I look for and anyone that’s worked for me can vouch for that. I know that when churches get to a super size, there can be the occasional “specialist” – someone hired to DO something because of their unique skill and giftedness (like a designer or a video editor) – but even then, I expect them to duplicate themselves and grow their ministry area.

When I was a tech pastor, I didn’t just hire a Front of House Sound Engineer, I purposely hired an Audio Coordinator. I made it clear to him that though he was gifted at sound and would be running FOH on most weekends, I expected him to grow the audio team by recruiting, training and empowering other sound engineers to be used at FOH, monitor world and in other venues throughout the campus (children, youth and special events such as weddings, funerals, concerts, etc.).

In the world of video, I always utilized volunteer video editors for various ministry projects, even when I had a paid video editor. I expect all my staff to grow their given areas of responsibility. I’m passionate about this ministry concept and principle based out of Ephesians 4.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdst and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… – Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)

At the last church I served (Bent Tree in Dallas), I developed a Technical Arts Ministry Leadership Team (which I blogged about in the past) that was made up of a mix of volunteers and paid staff. This leadership team ran the Technical Arts Ministry. I gave away the ministry to them and worked myself out of a job. They still run the ministry to this day.

At each meeting, I would preach to them that the Technical Arts Ministry could not and would not be “Greg-centric.” I expressed my vision for each of them taking ownership of the ministry (which I’ve blogged about before) and told them that they were the reason that the ministry was being blessed, growing and healthy.

To me, this is Church Leadership 101 and something that growing, gifted and effective leaders grasp. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about why not all leaders grasp this and why a “doer” is  a “doer.” So, I’ll ask you – Are you an equipper or a doer?


As you know, I love to read and read around 3 books a week. One short book that I’ve had on my “on deck” pile for quite a while is StrengthsFinder2.0 by Tom Rath. When you get the book, they give you an access code in the back of the book for you to take your very own strength/talent assessment called The Clifton StrengthsFinder.

As you may or may not know, the Clifton StrengthsFinder measures the presence of talent in 34 categories called “themes.” These themes were determined by Gallup as those that most consistently predict outstanding performance. The greater the presence of a theme of talent within a person, the more likely that person is to spontaneously exhibit those talents in day-to-day behaviors. Focusing on naturally powerful talents helps people use them as the foundation of strengths and enjoy personal, academic, and career success through consistent, near-perfect performance.

Below are my top five themes of talent, ranked in the order revealed by my responses to the Clifton StrengthsFinder.


People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.


People who are especially talented in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their life.


People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.


People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.


People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

So, that’s how I’m wired and how God made me. Each of you has your own set of top 5 strengths or themes. The key is finding these out, using that knowledge to do work/careers that feed your soul and fit your strengths and letting your employer know your top 5 so that they can know how to best relate to and work with you.

One of my personal frustrations is people that focus too much on their weaknesses – always trying to stretch their 2 to a 4. You’re still a 4! Focus on turning your 7 into a 9. I’ll step off my soap box. So, have you taken the test? If so, share your top 5 in the comment section. If not, check out the book HERE and discover your strengths!


Four Ways Managers Roadblock Productivity

I came across this great management and leadership post and it resonated with me because I’ve experienced each of the four roadblocks personally in my ministry career. Nothing is worse than meaningless tasks and meetings that keep you from getting done the things that you need to get done and also hamper creativity and innovation. The following is a great post from Dan Rockwell:

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” Peter Drucker

Four ways managers roadblock productivity:

  1. Talking – Managers that roadblock work talk too much. Your people want you to leave them alone.
  2. Meetings – Too many meetings that include too many people that share too much detail. Here’s some motivation to abbreviate or cancel meetings. They are expensive. A one hour meeting with 8 people in attendance costs their combined salaries plus lost productivity. Remember, you don’t get anything done in a meeting. Things get done after meetings.
  3. Reporting – Requesting too many reports that include too much irrelevant detail that takes up too much space in file cabinets. One reason you ask for all the detail is to cover your butt. It’s a business culture issue. People expect you to know the details of all the projects you manage. Sadly, if you know all the details of all the projects you manage, you aren’t managing to your highest potential. I realize this is an organizational-culture issue.
  4. Projects rather than people – It’s instinctive to focus on projects and deliverables. However, it’s more effective and efficient to give clear direction, encouragement, and motivation to your people than it is to get directly involved in long-term projects.

Enhancing productivity may not be about doing more and working harder. It may be about doing less.


How do managers make it difficult to get work done? Please leave a comment of something you’ve experienced that decreased your productivity and effectiveness as a leader.