11 Ways Leaders (Accidentally) Destroy the Churches They Lead, by Carey Nieuwhof

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11 Ways Leaders (Accidentally) Destroy the Churches They Lead

The problem with ineffectivess and sin is it’s so much easier to spot in other people than it is to see within ourselves.

Chances are you’ve got some theories on why the leader down the road is struggling in their church.

Or why the latest mega-church icon cheated and fell.

But what about you?

Progress really starts when you and I look in the mirror and ask the hard questions.

So What Might You Be Destroying?

So what might you be doing that’s destroying the ministry you’re leading, the people you’re leading, the cause you believe in?

Okay, destroying is a loaded word.

I realize that for the most part, nobody means to harm or destroy others. And most of us might not fail catastrophically in that sense.

But what if by ignoring common leadership pitfalls, you destroy the potential of your ministry?

In fact, that’s a likely explanation of what is happening in many churches.

Think about it. In most churches, things aren’t collapsing wildly, they’re just not advancing. Or if they are advancing, they’re still not reaching their potential.

How much potential impact is being wasted or destroyed because leaders aren’t leading effectively?

11 Subtle or Not-So-Subtle Ways To Destroy Your Ministry

Here are 11 ways I’ve noticed in which leaders sabotage their ministry. I’m personally working to address each of these daily in my own life and leadership.

Why? Because most of us never intend to destroy anything. But sometimes we do anyway. Here’s how:

1. Caring more about your personal success than the success of others and the mission. The battle against sin is a battle against self. If you don’t check your ego, it will check you. Godly leadership means caring about the mission more than you care about your personal success, and desiring to see others flourish. Leaders who forget that destroy their potential and the potential of their mission.

2. Hogging the spotlight. In our celebrity-driven, social media culture, it’s easier than ever to try to draw attention to yourself. Best anti-dote? Push others into the spotlight. Align and equip people, and then let them lead.

3. An unwillingness to deal with your personal “junk”. I don’t know a single effective leader who hasn’t been to counseling. I’m not making that up. If you don’t deal with your personal junk—your issues and baggage—you will harm not only yourself but the people you love and lead. Deal with your issues. Your kids, spouse and the people you lead will thank you.

4. Micromanagement. I remember an elder’s meeting years ago where one of our elders looked at me and said “I don’t know whether you’ll ever be able to let go”. Never forgotten that. The more I micro-manage the more I interfere with the mission and leadership potential of others. Wrote this post about the journey away from being a control freak.

5. Distraction. Every day there’s a battle for focus. Stay focused on the ministry and mission. Not on the critics. Not on neat shiny diversions. Keep your focus.

6. Not giving others permission to tell you the truth. Many leaders say they want to hear what people think, but really don’t. Here are two questions I’m starting to ask my direct reports every month:

Is there anything I have done or said in the last month that’s robbed you of your passion or energy for our mission?

If you were me, what would you do differently?

Thanks to Clay Scroggins for introducing me to those incredible questions.

7. Caring too much about insiders and not outsiders. Focus on who you want to reach, not who you want to keep. Many leaders spend time with outsiders because their 40+ hours are completely absorbed with insiders. You control your time, so decide carefully how you use it.

8. Letting your personal walk with Christ slide. It’s so sad that many people lose their closeness to Jesus in the name of serving him. Don’t. You know what to do. Do it.

9. Letting your home life unravel. Again, don’t sacrifice your family in the name of ministry. Here are 5 surprisingly easy ways to lead better at home.

10. Failing to care for yourself. This takes out so many leaders. And you’re not just taking yourself down, you’re bringing down everyone with you including your family. This post can help you see whether you are taking appropriate self-care or whether you are self-medicating.

11. Fear of taking actual risks. Yep. At some point, you have to do something. Study and pray for sure. But then act. Stare down fear. My friend Jeff Brodie has an amazing post on fear in leadership I’d recommend you read. I think fear is why most leader’s don’t pull the triggers they need to pull.

Have you seen leaders destroy the potential of ministries or outright destroy ministries? What characteristics have you noticed?

About Carey Nieuwhof: Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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