5 Practical Ways Church Leaders Can Make a Difference

Church leaders sometimes wonder if they are really making a difference. Elders, ministers, and influencers in a variety of roles may wonder, “Am I really making a kingdom difference in my congregation?”  Others may even feel discouraged wondering if their service, as a part of a congregation, really matters.

Remember that we serve by faith, understanding that we might not necessarily see, or be aware of the difference we are making.  By faith, however, we believe that God uses our lives beyond our awareness and even beyond our time on the earth.

So how can you invest your time and life to make a difference?

Listen well.  Listen to fellow leaders and to the members of the congregation.  Listen for content and for the emotion behind the spoken words.  Let people say what they need to say.  Follow up with questions that reflect your genuine interest.  “How did you reach this conclusion?  Was there a defining moment for you when this became apparent?”  Or you might just respond with “Tell me more.”  Good listeners genuinely want to understand.

Pay attention.  If you are in a conversation with someone in your congregation, pay attention to them.  Use that person’s name.  Don’t know their name?  Ask–again.  Write it down.  Pay attention to the details.  Frances Hesselbein (former president and CEO of the Leader to Leader Institute) in her book, My Life in Leadership, writes concerning her grandmother “Mama Wicks” (p.12):

When I would walk into the room, I was the only person there.  When she talked to me, I still remember, she would look into my eyes intently.  For that moment she made me feel like the most important person in the world.

Follow through.  Did you agree to take care of a situation?  Perhaps you agreed to set up a meeting with a particular person.  Maybe there was a detail you promised to take care of.  Follow through on what you have promised to do.  Much time and energy are wasted as leaders find themselves dealing with fellow leaders who do not follow through on what they promised to do.  If you promised to take care of a situation, do it in a timely way.  We make a difference when others know that we will follow through with our commitments.

Multiply your influence.  Church leaders have some influence.  Some may have more influence than others. Nevertheless, we still have influence which can be invested in such a way so that your capacity for good is multiplied. One of the best ways to do this is through encouragement.  When you encourage another, you help to bring fresh energy to that person.  In far too many congregations, church leaders receive very little encouragement.  Some of these people serve for many years and only rarely hear a “thank you” or a kind word regarding their service.  You can multiply your influence by encouraging these people.

Likewise, look for opportunities to encourage a mom or dad in your congregation.  Encouraging a struggling parent could make a huge difference in what their children experience in that home.  Single parents, in particular, need such encouragement.

Wrestle in prayer for others.   Are there people whom you specifically pray for regularly?  Paul noted that Epaphras was “always wrestling in prayer for you” (Colossians 4:12).  As a church leader, you can make a significant difference by wrestling in prayer for those in your church.  Start with a list of five to ten people.  Be sure to include some of your fellow leaders.


When You Are Worried

Are you worried?

Worry can be terrifying.  We worry about our children, our health, our finances, our marriage, and on and on.  Worry asks the question, “What is going to happen?”

One night I was worrying.  What if this happens?  What am I going to do?  What are we going to do?  Worry is like a frightening play being acted out in your mind.  The cast of characters in the play are terrifying!  Each one comes upon the stage promising doom, failure, and humiliation.  To spend much time worrying can be exhausting and so discouraging.

Maybe you are worried about:

The unfinished.  “Oh my goodness, how will I ever get all of this done?”  You haven’t finished the project or the paper for your class at the university.  You haven’t finished preparing that message, that talk, or that sermon.  You are not ready for that meeting.  You have a special event coming soon at church.  Things are not where they need to be in terms of preparation.  You feel behind.

The unresolved.  “What am I going to do?  You have some dilemmas for which you have no answer. Perhaps you have made a mistake — maybe a big mistake.  Or, you are dealing with the ramifications of someone else’s mistake. You aren’t sure what to do.  These problems can range from annoying situations that keep you, your church, or your company from being effective, to heartbreaking situations that involve people you care about deeply. 

The unpleasant.   “Oh my goodness! Just the thought of doing that is depressing!”  You have an unpleasant conversation to initiate.  You are in conflict with someone and you are to meet with that person later in the day.  You have a task that you need to begin.  The task is something you really have no desire to do.  Maybe you are tired of having to do this one more time.  Many of us feel a sense of dread when we think about the unpleasant.  

What I’m Reading

The following books, articles, represent what I have read recently.  Perhaps something here will interest you:

Blackstone’s Byron Wien Discusses Lessons Learned In His First 80 Years”  This is a good and thoughtful article.  (I read a summary somewhere but can’t remember where this was cited.)

I have been listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  A great book!  I loved reading this book by way of audio books.  This is the first book by Goodwin that I have listened to as an audio book.  It probably won’t be the last.

Every morning I read a few pages from Mark Lanier’s new book Psalms for Daily Living: Daily Prayers, Wisdom, and Guidance.  I really like what he does in this book.  Each reading is short (one page).  Often, however, there are some real gems on these pages.

Recently I read Brian Harris’ The Big Picture. Building Blocks of a Christian World View.  This is a very fine book which made me think.  He is a good writer and is capable of communicating complicate difficult material in a manner that is user-friendly.

I recently began reading Dr. Harold Shanks new book GodWorks.  This is an excellent and encouraging book!

This is a very good piece by Mel Robbins, “Take Control of Your Day.”  Mel advises against starting the day by checking e-mail or looking at texts.  Rather, she encourages the reader to start with one’s own priorities.

This may interest you if your are a sports fan.  David Axelrod interviews Chicago Cubs Director of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein.  A very good interview!

Men and Their Spiritual Battle

The spiritual battle for the hearts and lives of men is very real.  Our struggle as men, is not against flesh and blood (though is all too often where we put our focus) but is against the powers and principalities of the dark world and the spiritual forces of evil.

I have spent much of my life learning how to be the right kind of man, husband, and father.  I am thankful to have had the opportunity to watch other men attempt to live a godly life.  Of course, as I look back, I can see times when I really fell short of what I was called to be as a man, a husband, and a father.

Most men I know would do anything to protect their families against harm.  Most would do anything to protect their families against someone who might be physically threatening to their spouse or their children.

Yet, the greater threat that our families face is the threat initiated by the devil’s schemes.