4 Essentials for leadership

After 30 years of leadership in one Church, I’ve learned a few important lessons. A number of key principles have guided me throughout my journey. Consider four essentials for effective leadership. Each one is framed as questions for personal evaluation.

1. Do I need others to encourage and affirm me?

I appreciate encouragement and my work would be harder without it. But if a leader depends too much on being appreciated and encouraged, his leadership will suffer. It’s easy to feel like you are taken for granted in pastoral work. This possibility only increases with time because of the old adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

The many hours you pour into individuals are often unseen by most people and frequently invested with little tangible expression of appreciation. Sometimes this is because people feel you are supposed to be there for them. Or, worse, they think you’re being paid to help them. Others are so consumed with their own problems that they fail to show appropriate appreciation toward those who help them. Always remember that only one leper returned to our Lord to give glory to God for healing him (Luke 17:11-17).

Churches need to be taught to respond to their leaders with deep appreciation (see: Galatians 6:6; I Thessalonians 5:12-13), and leaders must determine that the idol of human appreciation will not rule their hearts (see: Luke17:10; Hebrews 6:10).

This also applies to criticisms. Someone suggested that we often need ten ‘Atta boys’ to compensate for one criticism. But leaders who rely too much on approval ratings will be tempted to abrogate their roles when needed most. Stay out of leadership if you need the affirmation of others to feel good about yourself. Grow in your identity and security in Christ before entering the arena of leadership.

As a leader, I have been deeply appreciated and fiercely criticized — even hated. Effective leaders need a tough hide and a tender heart. If your hide is too tough or your heart too tender, you’ll get hurt and possibly compromise your calling (see: Galatians 1:10; Colossians 3:23; I Corinthians 10:31).

2. Is my pace sustainable?

I am type A high D! For those unfamiliar with these categories, it means that I tend to go full throttle and must fight the temptation to take on more than I can handle. My battle is with myself. Maintaining reasonable margin takes forethought and effort.

Case in point: Along with my leadership role in a thriving Church, for the past fifteen years, I’ve done daily and weekend radio features; written monthly columns for two newspapers as well as numerous articles for other sources; volunteered as Chaplain for Millersville University football and basketball for many of those years and traveled to speak regularly for university groups and conferences.

Did I mention raising four energetic children? When I look back on the stuff I’ve packed into life, I get tired thinking about it. Leadership requires taking inventory and making adjustments. Several key phrases help me: Simplify and prioritize. Keep the main thing the main thing. Say “No” more often. Pray before responding. (See: Burn out? Not me!)

3. Do I practice team leadership?

Team leadership is non-negotiable! It’s also the best formula for protection from burnout. Leaders who are called to highly visible public roles must circle themselves with competent co-leaders. My friend good Crawford Loritts recommends that we fly in tight formation with a faithful few. These fellow-leaders should have strengths to compliment the front leader.

Selection of associates must be done with great care and prayer. An associate who resents or becomes jealous of the front leaders’ role is dangerous to the unity of the work. Studied consideration of giftedness, sense of calling and aspirations of associates is essential. Maturity, integrity and a healthy sense of personal identity and security are some of the most important qualities to look for in co-leaders. Immaturity, insecurity or lack of integrity in one leader, threatens unity of a team.

When leaders work together in unity, those under their leadership are blessed. One of my greatest joys is the working relationship I have had with my leadership team for many years. Preserving this requires encouragement of one another supported by regular public acknowledgement from the senior leader concerning the value of those who lead with him (see: Exodus 18:13-26; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3-5).

4. Do I distinguish office from person?

Police officers are reminded as part of training that people don’t resent them as much as the uniforms they wear. Sometimes people express anger toward leaders because they need a target for their frustrations. I become that target because I am (in their eyes) the pastor. Assuming I have power and influence, they attack me because of the office I hold.

In our culture, people like to “go to the top” when they have a complaint. In the Church, they could go one office higher to Jesus himself, the head of the Church, but more often they head for the senior pastor’s office! If I was “Joe normal” in the Church, I wouldn’t be under nearly as much scrutiny. But, as senior pastor, such treatment goes with the territory. If you can’t take the heat—get out of the kitchen!

Don’t take everything personally or you’ll go crazy. Don’t take the bait and escalate! I’ve always regretted it when I’ve violated this principle. A wise mentor once instructed me, “Respond to God – don’t react to man.”

Surviving and thriving as a leader requires tenacious commitment to key principles. Review the four principles above with your leadership team.

Steve Cornell

7 Links worth seeing

Mommy, Somebody Needs You

The sooner I can accept that being Mommy means that I never go off the clock, the sooner I can find peace in this crazy stage of life.   That ‘Mommy’ is my duty, privilege and honor. I am ready to be there when somebody needs me, all day and all night.  Mommy means I just put the baby back down after her 4am feeding when a 3-year-old has a nightmare.

For the Moms stuck inside 

Call it cabin fever, seasonal affective disorder or just feeling cooped up, caring for young children during the winter is no joke when the walls feel like they are closing in around you. On top of feeling stuck inside with your kids, it takes more effort to bundle kids up and do anything or see anyone. That means a lot of moms feel isolated during the winter.

The Heartbreak of Foster Care

I mean, there’s nothing glamorous about it. You voluntarily allow a child into your home whose parents are probably less than stellar. They come with lice (or worse). They don’t know how to eat at the table properly. They probably cry for parents you wish could be locked up for decisions they’ve made. It means child services in your home, scrutinizing you in ways no one does for a biological child.

Profiles of Courage: Jo’s Story, Part 1 (Foster Parenting)

I used to say I wanted to adopt someday. I envisioned a dark hand in my pale one. And maybe a few more little hands as well. A full colour pallet of little hands. It was a pretty picture that I now realize was sustained mostly by a rosy-colored romanticism.

Develop a Thick Skin

I argued that emotional self-control is a critical part of professional maturity, and that emotional outbursts really have no place on a warship—especially in a watch-standing context.

Why Privatizing Marriage Can’t Work

Young Evangelicals are not stupid. They see the writing on the wall, and they don’t want to drown when the approaching cultural tsunami hits land. Their suggested compromise makes an enormous amount of sense to them. Unfortunately, it cannot work.

Faithful Compromise

Daniel and his friends are remembered for their uncompromising witness: they refused to defile themselves with the king’s delicacies; they refused to worship the image of the king. They were willing to bear the costs of such faithfulness, and we rightly celebrate such public witness.

But Daniel was also willing to make compromises, to almost embrace his exile in a way that secured influence. He learned the language and literature of the Chaldeans; he served in an administration that had captured his own people; he provided counsel to an idolater. His faithfulness did not find expression in an enclave of purity, nor did it require him to insulate himself in some holy huddle that protected him from compromise. Instead, he was faithful amidst compromise.

Strong and Honorable leaders needed

After 30 years of pastoral work, one thing I learned about leadership is that leaders must sometimes make tough and unpopular decisions. While leaders should do their best to listen to those under their charge, they cannot be controlled by approval ratings. A helpful proverb warns that, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare” (Proverbs 29:25).

During my training for leadership, I attended a church that had an annual vote of affirmation for its senior pastor. A couple of months before the vote, the pastor had to win as many points with the people as possible to get a high approval rating. But this annual popularity contest finally led the pastor to a state of exhaustion and cynicism. He decided that he no longer cared who liked him because he had a job to do.

By this point, however, the pastor had developed a reactionary attitude that was not good for him or those under his leadership. Ironically, he went from one form of looking out for himself to another, while considering his new outlook noble. Was the pastor’s attitude entirely his fault or was the system set up to hurt everyone? I found myself asking if it was the best way to inspire greatness in leadership.

I feel the same concern today when I see the endless approval ratings of political leaders. How do politicians refuse to allow ratings to control them when faced with unpopular decisions? Does it potentially hurt the people when their leaders are always looking over their shoulders to maintain popularity?

A large majority of Americans do not trust their leaders. Perhaps the leaders brought it upon themselves but, whatever the source, it’s bad for everyone. But have we the people become too cynical to inspire greatness in anyone? What happens to us when we expect our lawmakers to look after the interests of wealthy corporations and individuals who contribute to their election campaigns rather than the best interests of their constituents?

Sometimes I fear that we’ve adopted a system that cannot inspire leaders to courage, integrity and honor. The current tone of bitter partisanship between Democrats and Republicans certainly doesn’t encourage respect for leadership. And it’s hard to see how it serves the good of our nation.

I am not opposed to our system itself, but what many have turned it into. I’ve been guilty myself. If we’re happy to find dirt on a member of an opposing party or even willing to misrepresent a leader to advance our side, we’ve become part of the problem. It seems that we all could benefit from serious conversations about what it means to respect our leaders — particularly when we disagree with them.

At the height of President Bill Clinton’s scandal with intern Monica Lewinsky, one of our children heard a news report about the president’s behavior and said, “He’s a jerk!’’ I quickly corrected the comment by reminding our child that, although we don’t agree with the man’s behavior, he’s still the president of our country and should not be spoken of that way. I admitted how hard it is to convey honor for the office of a leader when the one holding it is dishonorable. Yet if we fail to preserve some sense of respect and dignity, we cannot hope to inspire our leaders to be honorable.

We all could benefit from asking if some of our reactions contribute to and encourage distrust for leaders. Perhaps instead of inspiring honor, our endless criticisms and polls encourage our leaders to look out for themselves above everything else. While it’s tempting to see leadership problems as one-sided, let’s be willing to work harder to create an atmosphere that inspires trust and honor in our leaders and allows them to learn from their mistakes.

The Scripture offers a model when it encourages church members: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Few would doubt that we need strong and wise leaders in these complex and challenging times. And most would agree that it takes a strong person to do what is right when it’s not popular. How, then, can we be part of a solution that encourages our young people to view leadership as an honorable calling for serving fellow human beings?

Steven W. Cornell is senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church. He also is a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc.

7 essential emphases for local Churches

  1. Emphasis on qualified spiritual leadership: 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; Heb. 13:17.
  2. Emphasis on unity: Ephesians 4:3; Philippians 2:14-15; John 17:21.
  3. Emphasis on humility in service: Luke 17:10; Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:3-5.
  4. Emphasis on every-member-ministry: Ephesians 4:16; Hebrews 3:12-13.
  5. Emphasis on grace in debatable matters: Romans 14:3.
  6. Emphasis on loving God by serving others: Hebrews 6:10;10:23-25.
  7. Emphasis on evangelism, discipleship and salt/light influence: Rom.1:16; Matt. 5:13-16;28:19-20.

A Worshipping and Witnessing Community

The Church is a worshipping and witnessing community (I Peter 2:5, 9) responsible to evangelize, establish and enlist people by bringing them to Christ, helping them grow in Christ, and encouraging them to serve Christ by serving one another and loving their neighbors.

  1. Evangelize – Bring people to Christ to know Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord.  “Follow Me!” (Matthew 4:19, Luke 9:23; 14:33; Colossians 2:6)
  2. Establish – Help people come to maturity in Christ – to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18; Ephesians 1:17; 4:1-16; Colossians 1:28-29; 2:6-7; 4:12)  “Abide in Me!”
  3. Enlist  – To encourage each believer to serve Christ in witness and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16; 28:18-20; Galatians 5:13; I Peter 4:10-11) “Make disciples of all nations!”

Each believer must be: Ministry minded, Ministry equipped, and Ministry enlisted.

Steve Cornell

Listen. Learn. Live.

7 short clips from my daily programs on WJTL 90.3 FM

  1. The Market Driven Church
  2. I will build my Church
  3. You need patience
  4. Ask for whatever you want me to give you
  5. The most important thing your children need
  6. Father’s Day is difficult for some people
  7. Forgiveness not enabling (Resources- 717-872-4260)

Steve Cornell

Listen. Learn. Live.

8 short clips from my daily programs on WJTL 90.3 FM

  1. What do you want your Church to be (Or, what does God say the Church is?)
  2. Antagonistic people (Warning about dangerous people)
  3. Loving another (A word from the wedding season)
  4. Leaving Your Church (Some guidelines to help you)
  5. Worldview: Can you explain a Christian worldview to others? Where would you start?
  6. Young Leaders: I am a little nervous for younger leaders going into full-time ministry.
  7. Attitude Check: Words to repeat before entering your Church.
  8. Elders: Counsel for Church leaders.

Steve Cornell

The glory of ordinary lives

il_340x270.505798718_omb6We need more emphasis on the glory of ordinary lives for Christ.

Perhaps it could become the new radical!

The popular emphasis on being radical Christians could lead to a feeling that what is ordinary is boring or some form of compromise. This could end up producing a larger chasm between what the Church says and the way most people must live their daily lives fulfilling ordinary duties.

It also has the potential of threatening the joy of life with a spirit of discontentment.

Listen to the way people tell you what they do.

  • “I am just a mom.”
  • “I am just a mechanic.”
  • “I am just a waitress.”
  • “I am just a (you fill jn the blank)….”

On and on it goes. But maybe there is no “just” with God? Or, more likely, God is found in the “just.” Jesus asked, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

A needed message 

  • “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you     before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12, NLT).
  • “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14, NIV).

I fear that we’ve lost touch with the glory and joy of being called to faithfulness and diligence in the ordinary routines and duties of life. What would life look like if we renewed our zeal to “… be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

I think of Jesus’ emphasis on serving God quietly in secret places. “Be careful” He said, “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6).

We need renewed zeal for the quiet glory of being faithful fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, neighbors, employers, employees, — just common followers of Jesus Christ living ordinary lives for an extraordinary glory.

tumblr_mrwo0aVE5W1qcdaeho1_500“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Have we lost touch with the joy of ordinary, non-glamorous devotion to God and others because we’ve lived with an “If only….” spirit of restlessness? Have we overly radicalized wholehearted love for God and our neighbor by separating it from daily faithfulness in mundane but necessary duties?

Jesus said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10).

Jesus required unconcern for status as a kingdom virtue. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5).

“Stop being un-amazed by the strange glory of ordinary things” (Clyde Kilby).

Steve Cornell