In Junior High I was one of those skinny kids (you’d never believe it if you saw me now) who wasn’t into sports, was self-conscious, and lived in fear of being beaten up by a bully. I was very aware of who the bullies were and where they hung out. My life-preserving strategy was simple, avoid the bullies and you won’t get beaten up. I made many hard-rights and hard-lefts to steer clear of these ruffians (which, by the way, is a word we seldom use any more and I’d like to see us bring it back). Apparently it worked because I made it through Junior High without ever getting pounded.


Pastor Jim (not his real name) had a problem on his hands and he wanted to process it with me during one of our coaching calls. Bubba (not his real name but I thought that was a good name for a bully) had been a church board member, had taken a year off according to the church by-laws, and now was letting everyone know that when his break was over he intended to return to his position on the board pending nomination and approval by the congregation.

“So what’s the problem?” I asked.

“None of my current board members want him back.”


“He’s really difficult to work with. Bubba is a big guy, boisterous, and he uses his size and words to intimidate others. People in the church are uncomfortable around him and some have even shared that they are afraid of him. But he’s been in the church for a long time and he has a lot of influence even if it’s bad.”

“Sounds like you have a bully on your hands.”

“I think you’re right.”


Small church bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They might not look exactly like Bubba but they are just as much a bully.

Small church bullies intimidate and threaten overtly or coverty, consciously or unconsciously. They might use their influence or money or ministry position to pressure you and others to do what they want. Some will actually threaten the pastor.

“We voted you in and we can vote you out. I was here before you came and I will be here after you’re gone.”

The only way to deal with a bully is to walk right up to them and smack them good and hard in the nose.

No…not really, I’m kidding…kind of.

Church bullies won’t stop until someone stops them. You get what you tolerate. Do you have a church bully who needs to hear, “STOP IT”?

Confronting a bully is scary and risky. It can be dangerous…but not as dangerous as letting the bully continue to bully. It’s not uncommon for me to find a pastor who is intimidated by one or two people in their church and those one or two make life miserable for the pastor and can actually put a damper on the over all ministry of the church.

Do you have bully on your hands? If so, might I suggest a few steps, none of which involves slugging them in the nose.

1. Devote some time in prayer to make sure that you really are dealing with a bully and not something else. If timing isn’t everything it’s close enough. Is the Father releasing you to confront the person now or later?

2. Find a couple wise, mature, trusted people in your church who have the same concerns about this person that you have who will accompany you to a meeting with this person.

3. Send a well-crafted letter to this person stating that you and a couple others would like to meet with them to discuss some concerns you have about their behavior. I like the ‘letter first’ approach because it gives the person some time to think about things and because nobody likes being surprised.

4. At the meeting get right to the point. Don’t bother buttering them up and then dropping the bomb. Give specific examples of the behavior that is unacceptable and why it’s unacceptable. Communicate to them that you are for them and would love to meet with them on a regular basis to help them grow in these areas. But be firm and clear that their behavior will no longer be tolerated.

This is scary. This is risky. They might blow out of the church taking their money and their friends with them. They might lead a campaign to get you fired. You might get fired. But there are many churches across this nation of ours that are being influenced by bullies rather than godly, humble leaders. Someone, sometime, has to stand up to them face to face and say, “STOP IT!”








If, somehow in your ministry training you failed to take that class on Meaningful Leadership Team Meetings…you’re probably sunk. Why do I say such a thing? Because as pastors we are always calling meetings. We have board meetings, deacon meetings, leadership team meetings, Elders meeting, meetings to train, meetings to plan…meetings, meetings, meetings. In some churches they have meetings to plan future meetings.

One essential skill for the small church pastor is to know how to have meaningful, productive, “This was really worth my time” meetings. I think the pastor who has a meaningless, unproductive, boring meeting should have to spend the night in the county jail. Here are my 12 ways to insure meaningful and productive meetings.


1. Have an agenda. Don’t trust your memory, don’t wing it.

2. Have a limited agenda. Too many things to cover in one night will reduce the meaningfulness and productivity of the meeting.

3. Have a prioritized agenda. Some things on your agenda are probably not as important as other things. First things first, second things second.

4. Always distribute your agenda ahead of time. Team members need to know what the focus will be and have time to think about the agenda before the meeting.

5. Stick to the agenda.

6. Agree upon a time limit for each person to share. Often the reason why our meetings are not as meaningful and productive as they could be is because someone talked too long. I have found a thee minute egg timer works best for this. I’m serious.

7. Only have a meeting when you really need to have a meeting. One leader I recently spoke to was used to having a once a month leadership team meeting until he discovered that they didn’t really need to meet that often. He cut back to every other month and guess what? Nobody complained.

8. Never allow a meeting to run on late into the night, especially on a week night when people have to get up early for work. The later you go the more tired they are and the more tired they are the less meaningful and productive the meeting is.

9. Individuals who sabotage meetings must be spoken to. Don’t allow someone to dominate or take the group off the agenda.

10. Facilitate don’t dominate. This one is for you pastor. Pastors talk too much at meetings. Being a good facilitator is a whole other skill but one that accompanies the skill of leading meaningful and productive meetings.

11. There should be at least two fun leadership meetings per year. All work and no play make Tom a dull boy. Sorry pastor Tom. All work and no play make for a dulled leadership team. Do something fun together.

12. Teach ‘meeting etiquette’.

In order to have a productive and meaningful leadership team meeting you might need to train your leaders how to have a productive and meaningful leadership team meeting. By meeting etiquette I mean:

I will not dominate.

I will treat others with honor and respect.

I will not interrupt.

I will participate.

I will not lead the group on a rabbit-trail.

Now don’t make me come out there and transport you to the county jail.

I know Paul said that our God is not a God of confusion but just because God is never confused doesn’t mean that I won’t be confused.

Some of you reading this are confused, and if you’re not you have been or will be.

confused |kənˈfyo͞ozd|

adjective (of a person)

- unable to think clearly; bewildered

- showing bewilderment

- not in possession of all one’s mental faculties, esp. because of old age

- lacking order and thus difficult to understand

- lacking clear distinction of elements; jumbled

Pastoring is hard and sometimes the ‘hard’ comes at us from all directions and we’re not quite sure what to do. Because we work with people and because people are complex beings, sorting through ‘people-problems’ can be confusing. Overseeing an organization (the church…and please don’t feel a need to remind me that the church is an organism not an organization) can be challenging at best and often darn right confusing.

How do I handle that influential congregant who is gossiping? What do I do with that board member who seems to constantly resist my ideas? How do I keep things running with too little money and too few volunteers? I’ve tried everything I know. I’m out of ideas. What do I do?

First of all, remember this: just because you don’t know what to do does not mean you don’t know what you’re doing. Even the most gifted of leaders face situations where they don’t know what to do. God is the only one who does not suffer from confusion. You will be confused but your confusion is not evidence that you are a poor leader.

How can we use confusion to our advantage?

1. Let confusion keep you humble before God and man. Admitting that you don’t know what to do might be humiliating but being humiliated is the only way to become humble. God gives grace to the humble.

2. Let confusion draw you to your knees. Sometimes God allows confusion to push us to Him for fellowship and revelation.

3. Let confusion take you back to the drawing board. I know you might think you are out of ideas but there is usually one out there that you have missed. (Usually, not always) One of the things I do as a coach is help pastors get unstuck, help them think more even though they think they’ve run out of thinking.

Did you know that the great Apostle Paul once mentioned being confused?

“…we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed (confused), but not despairing…” (2 Cor. 4:8)

Don’t despair. Confusion comes with the territory of ministry. Learn to use confusion to your advantage. And remember, just because you don’t know what to do does not mean you don’t know what you’re doing.



Arguing doesn’t work. It is pointless. The only thing an argument does is make someone angry or hurt. The same is true with debating. You might win the debate but in so doing you create a loser. No one wants to be a loser. You’ve won but forced someone else to become something they don’t want to be. Arguing and debating draws a line in the sand and eventually sand ends up in someone’s eyes.

Some pastors seem to enjoy arguing and debating and kicking sand in the eyes of those they disagree with. I want none of that. Jesus already pointed out that sand is a poor foundation.

Some pastors are so bold and brave on Facebook and on blogs. This seldom changes their opponent’s mind. All such things do is reveal who is on their side and who is not. Ultimately no one has grown on either side, no one has learned, has changed. Hurt and pain grows, but not much more than that. I don’t want to be that kind of Pastor.

This reminds me of Paul’s advice to Timothy when selecting elders in the church. “Don’t pick anyone who is addicted to wine or pugnacious (loves a good fight, quarrelsome, one who leaves a bruise), but look for one who is gentle and peaceable.” I Tim. 3:3

That’s the type of pastor I want to be.


Let me confess something to you, something that even Ellen might not be aware of. I’m in a bromance with Richard Rohr. I might have to read everything he’s ever written. To be really open and vulnerable to you, I’ve been in such a relationship two times before. The first was with Thomas Merton, and the second with Henri Nouwen. Merton, Nouwen, and now Rohr. All Catholics. Can anything good come from Rome…apparently so.

In chapter two of Falling Upward A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Rohr is tracing the pattern of heroes in classic literature, defines a hero according to classic literature, and then contrasts that definition to how we currently define a hero in our western culture. Interesting stuff. Rohr says,

“This classic tradition of a true “hero” is not our present understanding at all. The classic hero is one who “goes the distance,” whatever that takes, and then has plenty left over for others. To seek one’s own American Idol fame, power, salary, or talent might historically have made one famous, or even infamous, but not a hero or heroine.” p. 20

This made me think of you the pastor, or anyone else for that matter, but mostly you the pastor. You want to go the distance. You are going the distance. Whatever it takes. And it can take a lot.

The great Desmond Tutu once said, “We are just light bulbs and our only job is to stay plugged in.”

As you and I strive to make our personal intimacy with Jesus the main thing in our lives we will not only find ourselves filled, but also have plenty left over for others.

Be a classic hero.


In December 2008, LifeWay Research conducted a survey of 15,000 adults for the North American Mission Board to try to determine which of 13 approaches is the best-received when a church wants to be heard.

The best-received means of “marketing” one’s church is the personal invitation. The survey found that 67 percent of Americans thought a personal invitation from a family member would be at least somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church. Additionally, 63 percent said they would respond favorably to an invitation from a friend or neighbor.

Nearly two-thirds would be willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member, while 56 percent would be willing to receive similar information from a neighbor or friend.

Although the LifeWay study is a bit dated it’s findings still seem to be true. What are you doing to cultivate an atmosphere of ‘inviters’ in your church?


Recently a ‘friend’ of mine on Facebook shared a meme that said, “Liberals and Progressives are the new Communists and Socialists.

I don’t know if he was referring to Liberal and Progressive as a Christian ideology or Liberal and Progressive as a political ideology. I would guess both but I might be wrong. I don’t want to claim to know what this person meant when using the words liberal and progressive.

I wanted to comment and say something like, “Some people might label me a ‘progressive’ (since if you read books by progressives you automatically are a progressive), so are you calling me a Communist and Liberal?” But I didn’t. People who feel so strongly about such things that they are willing to plaster their contempt all over Facebook are unlikely to engage in a meaningful and respectful conversation, so I concluded I would be wasting my time and moved on to something else.

But did you notice that I just did the same thing? I assumed that if someone was against liberals and progressives that they also were incapable of dialoging with those they disagreed with in a meaningful and respectful way. But I was probably right. ;-)

A popular blogger and author just PM’d me and said, “I’m not progressive enough for some progressives and not evangelical enough for some evangelicals.” Believe it or not…I like that.

I commented to my blogger/author friend, not my anti-communist/progressive friend, “You are a man without a country (the title of a short story by American writer Edward Everett Hale, 1863).

I want to be a “man without a country” in the sense that titles really don’t fit me. I want to be allowed by others to be a “man without a country” without being judged or labeled liberal or progressive, or ‘evangelical’ for that matter. And, as hard as it might be, I don’t want to label others or think I know what’s going on in their heads when i don’t.

Labels are seldom a 100% accurate way of describing someone. I know of only one person who was 100% accurate when he labeled people and that was Jesus.

Do what you should do and could do. Don’t worry about what you shouldn’t do and can’t do.

The sermon preparation time is as holy as the sermon delivery time.

It’s hard to say ‘no’ to people in crisis, but sometimes you must.

Many times the things we think are so urgent are not as urgent as we think.

Someone once said, “I’ll have plenty of time to rest when I get to heaven.” That might be true and not resting just might get you there quicker.

Vision and provision go together. If you have vision but no provision wait until the provision comes. Unless, of course, God tells you to do otherwise.

As a pastor don’t ask your leaders to conform to your leadership style. Ask your leaders what style of leadership they will flourish under and you do the conforming.

Feed what you want, starve what you don’t. (I’ll leave the application up to you.)

You get what you tolerate.

There’s very few things wrong with a shorter sermon but there can be very many things wrong with a sermon that is too long.

Passion + skill + need = fruit.

You might be running fast but if you’re headed in the wrong direction you’ll only arrive where you don’t want to be sooner.

It’s amazing how quickly some Christians can get mean and nasty. If you are right, but mean and nasty, you are wrong.

Sometimes you just have to go through the motions until the motions go through you and stick and become genuine change.

Discouragement occurs when you focus more on what God isn’t doing instead of what God is doing.

What do you need to forget? What do you need to remember?

Each time we respond to the still small voice of God our spirituality advances. Be listening.

Don’t let applause go to your head nor criticism go to your heart.


tolerate |ˈtäləˌrāt| verb [ with obj. ] to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.


A basic rule in life and ministry is this: You get what you tolerate.

Sometimes to tolerate something or someone is a sign of wisdom. You have to choose your battles and choose the best time to go to battle. In situations like this to tolerate means to wait. Sometimes we can jump prematurely into the battle.

But sometimes we tolerate not out of wisdom but out of fear, blindness, or laziness.

Fear. As pastors we often tolerate behavior from individuals in our church because we’re afraid of what might happen if we stop tolerating said behavior. We’re afraid of confrontation. We’re afraid that the person might cause a stink in the church (as if the stink wasn’t already there). We’re afraid we might not be liked by the person we’re tolerating. We’re afraid we might lose our jobs if the person/people hold the power and the money in the church.

(Side note: I am more and more convinced that in some situations the pastor will never be able to lead the way God wants him/her to lead, or will not be able to have a good shot at turning his/her church around until the pastor is willing to be disliked and possibly lose his/her job.)

Blindness. Sometimes the pastor just can’t see how serious a situation is. One time a pastor was telling me about a man in his church that was causing disunity. At one point the pastor said, “But Bob is basically a good guy. He really loves the Lord.”

At that point I said, “Really? It doesn’t sound to me like Bob is a good guy. It sounds to me like Bob is rebellious, prideful, and a slanderer.” After a pause the pastor said, “I guess you’re right.” It was only after the pastor was able to see the situation for what it was that we were able to develop a plan to address Bob.

Laziness. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy or drive to address things that need addressing. Maybe it’s not fair to use the word lazy. I don’t personally know any lazy pastors. Perhaps it’s more procrastination. We tend to put off the things we don’t like to do. Is it laziness or procrastination? I’ll let you decide.

Let me ask you, is there something or someone you are tolerating? You get what you tolerate. Don’t let fear, or blindness, or laziness keep you from don’t what you need to do. Put your trust in the Lord. Seek Him out for a wise plan. Be brave. Don’t tolerate what shouldn’t be tolerated.

I can help.


Someone once said, “I’ll have plenty of time to rest when I get to heaven.” That might be true and not resting just might get you there quicker.

When one pastor was challenged about his sixty-hour work week he said, “Well I’d rather burn out than rust out.”

Me? I’d rather do neither.

Let me ask you a few questions.

  • Do you have more than one day off a week?
  • Do you work more than forty hours a week?
  • Are you out of the house at ministry related things more than two nights a week?
  • How many hours of sleep do you get each night?
  • Do you observe a personal Sabbath?
  • How many weeks a year do you take off for vacation?
  • Do you have a consistent and meaningful devotional life?
  • How often do you get away along with your spouse?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = lowest) how stressed do you feel?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 how busy do you feel?
  • Does your spouse feel you are working too little, too much, just right?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 how much margin is there in your week, your month, your life?

I hope you do get to rest once you get to heaven, but your loved ones don’t want you to get there prematurely. It’s better to neither burn out or rust out. What adjustments could you make in your life to move you towards greater rest? What small thing could you start with?

I can help you become a better pastor in less time.


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