Four Ways to Build Trust on Your Team

Posted by Brady Boyd

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:6-7

For the past few weeks, I’ve undergone two separate heart procedures to correct some issues which are common for congenital heart patients like myself. The procedures have gone well and my prognosis is great, but I’ve been absent for many of my normal responsibilities as pastor at New Life.  When I realized I would be absent from leading and preaching, I had two choices – worry about the church or trust the team God has sent us.

This is not the first time I’ve taken a leave of absence. Two years ago, I took a much needed sabbatical and in 2011, I was gone for several weeks after major heart surgery. Each time, I had the same two choices and each time, the team proved trustworthy. How did that happen? It seems more teams implode than trust and grow. How does a team build this kind of trust? How does a group of independent people coalesce into family?

1. Surround yourself with really good people.

Obviously, no one intentionally builds a team of renegades. However, no one haphazardly builds a stellar team, either. We believe character, chemistry and competency are all equally important at New Life. If you fail to evaluate the first two because there is a pressing need for talent or expertise, you may well end up with a team you do not like or who cannot play nice together when you are away. Really good people have high character, robust emotional health and are constantly improving their skills and craft. Trust is earned in drops which means the calendar is your friend. Over time, character is revealed, chemistry is forged and competency is developed.

2. Allow for some messes

Even when there’s an all-star team, there will be some fumbles. If your team is afraid of failing, they will stop experimenting. When they stop being experimental, they stop innovating. The light bulb was not perfected on the first try. The Wright brothers crashed a lot before they flew and Columbus was probably lost when he discovered America. Create a culture of learning where mistakes are evaluated, lessons are learned and your team is encouraged to continue their discoveries.

3. Let them drive the car

There is only one way to really prove trust – leave it to the team and go away. Trust them in your absence. Right now, both of my teenagers are learning to drive. So far, all the lessons have been with me in the car. My prayer life has never been better. One day soon, I will have to give them the keys and allow them to drive solo. I am terrified at the thought, but I know I must let them grow up. Each time I have left New Life, I tell my team to have fun driving the car, keep the scratches to a minimum and keep it out of the ditch. Then I go away and trust them.

4. Give them the credit when it goes well.

Shared responsibilities should equal shared rewards. The surest way to keep good people around you is to constantly shine the spotlight on them when they succeed. Praise them in public, brag on them to your friends, and celebrate their ingenious ideas, especially when those concepts are better than yours. Take the lid off your team and they will rise. Secure leaders have discovered the greatest reward for leading well is having others soar past you.

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A Prayer to Know Jesus is Near

Posted by Brady Boyd

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:14

For 49 years, I have been a heart patient and it seems as normal to me as walking or sleeping. I’ve learned to live with a heart that needs special meds to work well and sometimes needs medical maintenance. Three times I’ve had major heart surgery – first, when I was only months old, while the latest was in 2011 when my pulmonary valve was replaced. There have been countless miracle stories along the way – from my poor, rural family being introduced to the world’s best pediatric cardiologist in 1967, to having my life saved by a tiny device that was only implanted because a surgeon felt the whim to test me for a condition that no other doctor had diagnosed.

It’s a miracle that I’ve survived a heart disease that took nearly every young child’s life in the 1960′s. It’s a miracle that I have played sports, traveled the world, climbed and hiked through the mountains, and have had more than enough energy for a wife and two teenagers. I’m blessed to have lived a full life despite the constant reminders of a heart that is not always perfect or cooperative. There have been some scary days, but I’m not afraid. I’ve always known my life is in the hands of the One who made me.

I’m writing this to everyone who has ever heard troubling news from a doctor and felt alone or fearful. I understand because I’ve heard the same reports and felt the same dread. I’ve also been a witness of the faithful presence of Jesus and have found indescribable comfort from knowing Christ is, indeed, with me. He is with you, too and that’s more than enough. That’s not just some syrupy, sentimental cliche designed to numb you into some fantasy. Jesus, instead, gives us a new reality to proclaim over our sickness.  He is Lord and He is faithful. He is good and He is near.

Do not give up hope and do not be afraid. Both were constant reminders from Jesus, because, I suspect, he knew we would need to be constantly reminded. My prayer is for healing, wholeness and Divine repair for all that has been lost or broken. I pray that all of us would be a witness of the faithful presence of Jesus and would not spend a second of our lives feeling forgotten or lost.

 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:20

 

 

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Some Thoughts on Politicians and How to Pray for Them

Posted by Brady Boyd

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

1 Timothy 2:1-2

This is a big election year in our country and politics will be the center of most discussions for the next 11 months, like it or not. I appreciate the sincere people who feel called to the political arena, whether it is a local school board election, representing their neighborhood on the city council or finding the courage to run for a statewide or national election. Politics are important and so are the politicians who inevitably win these contests.

Politicians are not leaders by the purest of definitions. They are representative voices, elected because they best reflect the opinions of the majority. Once elected, they can lead through skillful collaboration and consensus, but personal convictions often have to be compromised to line up with the plurality of voters. That is the very essence of democracy.

The most successful politicians seem to be marketing geniuses, able to harness public opinions into empowered coalitions who keep them in political power. Again, I am not disparaging this call into the public arena, but I suspect many of us have over-estimated the abilities of our political leaders to lead, when they are more prone to react.

That is why we should pray for those who choose to run, and more importantly, for those who are elected. We should ask God to give them wise counselors who will keep them centered on sacred truths. We should pray for politicians to have private, personal convictions that are anchored in our scriptural history and that these beliefs would not be be compromised when they are faced with the inevitable pressures of their office.

We should pray for these men and women to not forget they are called to serve the common good and not their personal ambitions. We should pray for all politicians to know when it is time to graciously exit the public arena. We should pray for their hearts to remain at peace even when they are falsely accused or being lured into contentious and factious arguments that lead to partisan divides instead of wise solutions.

We should be prophetic voices to all leaders in all parties. The church has always defended the weak in the face of tyranny and stood up for those who deserve justice but have been silenced by racism or discrimination. Our prayers should lead us to action, but action without prayer will lead us to nowhere.

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Some Truths about Sermons, Preaching and Preachers

Posted by Brady Boyd

You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. Acts 20:20

Since Christianity started, there have been men and women commissioned with the responsibility to preach the Scriptures to their congregations. Some have rode horseback through dangerous frontiers and others have left the comfort and familiarity of their hometowns to take the good news to distant lands. Many of us studied long years and practiced our craft wherever and whenever the opportunity to preach was presented. No matter how we arrived in the pulpits we now steward, preaching is energizing, frustrating, and exhilarating, sometimes all at once.

What does your pastor want you to know about them? How can we build up those called to speak? What should a congregation know about the sermon that takes up a portion of our weekend?

 

1. Pastors are really invested in the message.

Preaching is a serious matter to most pastors. Hours have been spent studying the texts, praying for the meetings, and thinking about innovative ways to engage people in a story that started thousands of years ago. When the weekend arrives, we are invested emotionally and spiritually in a 30-minute message that has the potential to change the destinies of those listening.

Or, it can be awful. Even then, the Holy Spirit can take the scraps of human effort and make something beautiful. This is a pastor’s work –  to teach truths that will probably offend, to encourage the discouraged saints, to compel the cynic to reconsider and to awaken the spiritual sleepers. Because we have poured ourselves into this moment of speaking and exhorting, we may need some space after the service to just be with people in prayer and conversation. Preachers feel really emptied after a sermon, which leads me to the second truth.

 

2. Preaching is exhausting work.

If you are not tired after preaching, you are not doing it right. When a sermon has ended, our adrenaline glands are depleted and the emotional energy that has been expended is not easily replenished. It’s when we feel the most vulnerable, even if everything went great. For many, we have to regroup and deliver the same message again in less than an hour to another weekend gathering.  Afterwards, we just need a good nap, a long walk and some sunshine to begin feeling human again. That usually happens by Tuesday morning. Seriously.

 

3. Preaching should be more substance than style

In the Western world, our culture is saturated by entertainment and celebrities. Our personal time is entertainment time, therefore the culture shouts to pastors,”If I give my personal time to church, you need to entertain me!” That is a dangerous trap for many pastors. Sermons certainly need to be engaging, which means it is ok to have some fun and to laugh, but our messages are not a spiritual stand-up act. The moment style is prioritized over the weighty substance of Scripture, we and our churches are in trouble.

 

4. Preaching only starts the conversation.

People have huge expectations from pastors and their sermons. Almost everyone has pet ministry projects, social issues, the latest headline outrage or spiritual gift they wish the pastor would spend more time on each week. Neither preachers nor their sermons were  designed to answer all our questions. In fact, the best sermons teach us to ask better questions and then point us along the path for truthful answers. The most powerful sermons jump start our disciple-shaping journey, compelling us to study more, to lean into mature relationships and jar us free from apathy or deception.

 

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The Batteries of Our Lives

Posted by Brady Boyd

All of us have internal batteries that determine how much energy or effort we have to expend on the matters of life. When these batteries are charged, we can take on multiple tasks and still have strength left. When these batteries are low, even everyday jobs can overwhelm us.  I have four batteries that need constant evaluation and re-charging and I’ve learned that if any of them run low, I am less than my best.

I have a personal spiritual battery that is only charged when I spend time with God in prayer, worship and scripture.  I talk to God every day, but at least five days a week, I need extended time alone with Him.  My goal is seven days, but in reality, that’s not always possible.  When I am in a good rhythm of schedule, my spiritual battery is charged and I feel nothing can keep me from taking ground.

I also have a work battery. This is the energy supply for doing my job as pastor such as meeting with people, leading meetings, teaching, and studying. I keep this battery charged by saying yes to things that I should be doing and saying no to things someone else should be doing. When I’m operating in my strengths and my calling, I feel fully alive and able to give my best to the assignment God has given me.

I also have a dad battery. This is the energy supply I need to be a good dad to Abram and Callie. Because they are 16 and 14, the short drive from New Life to my house is my time to switch off the work battery and plug in the dad battery.  My goal is not to take work home at night and not be talking on the phone when I walk in the house.

I also have a husband battery.  I’m not listing this last because it’s the lowest of my priorities, but because it’s the easiest for most of us to neglect. The difference between a good marriage and a great marriage is often a matter of time invested. But time alone does not a splendid marriage make. We have to be present when we are together, ready to engage and ready to listen. We need to give energy to the relationship, not the spare change after spending ourselves all day on others. For the two of us, this means we need to get away, to separate from ordinary life and take long drives or go on short trips.

Take an honest look at the batteries in your life. Are they all charged for optimum output or do you need to make some lifestyle or schedule changes today? God has enough strength for all of us. We just have to sit and get re-charged.  Your batteries will be grateful.

If want to read and learn more about healthy rhythms, my newest book, Addicted to Busy, may be helpful.

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Celebrate, Tolerate or Obliterate

Posted by Brady Boyd

Everyone on our team is up to something. They are either celebrating, tolerating or obliterating the values that are meant to direct our steps.  These are the same values that were discussed and debated in meetings, talked about over meals, and edited in emails. There was this moment of supposed unanimity when all seemed to be perfect. Then the living began.

Many leaders and the teams serving alongside them struggle with honesty. It’s not that people intend to mislead, but most dear souls are not comfortable with candid conversations that lead to helpful disagreements and consensus. Most people have never been in environs where leaders really listen to learn, so the bad habit of passive agreement creeps into the culture. Leaders speak and they see people nodding “yes” with their heads, but inside there is still a subversive “no”. They want to protest, but the risk of rejection mutes them.

Most on our team celebrate the shared values. They will strive for unity and are not content with mediocre. They cheer for others who hit the mark and there is a sense of shared responsibility for the group’s wellbeing. They are honest with their struggles, true with their friendship and gracious when sincere efforts fail.

Some on our team are just tolerating the values. They are not rebels, but they are certainly not disciples. They seem like devotees in meetings, but when given the opportunity, they take shortcuts. They are indifferent when goals are not met and are not that concerned about budgets and such. They tend to get by with “average” and are working for a paycheck, to maintain status quo and nothing more.  They are generally peaceful but seldom passionate.

The third group is the nosiest, because they obliterate the values. They are either immature or just riding on the wrong bus and the ride needs to be a short one.  They always seem to be in the center of some drama and strife. They are like Pigpen, the Peanuts character who was always traveling in his own private dust storm.

My advice is to slow down and to ask more questions. The buy-in always happens after the weigh-in. Allow the introverts to process and the extroverts to argue out loud.  Create a cultural norm of honest debate and allow everyone to participate. Deal with rotten apples and coach those who want to grow, so everyone can have a chance to succeed. If we will not leave the valley until we have picked the right trail and the right cadre, more people are likely to finish the journey with us.

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Making Extraordinary Use of Ordinary Time

Posted by Brady Boyd

For those who lead the local church, summer has finally arrived, bringing with it some challenges and opportunities. The traditional church calendar calls this Ordinary Time, the period between Easter and Christmas when the church is breathing in after an intense season of observing the birth and celebrating the resurrection of Christ. This is the time when churches normally experience waning attendance and marginal enthusiasm. It can be a discouraging time for pastors who fear losing all the momentum gained during the holier seasons of church life.

These warm months don’t have to be dispiriting, though. Summer can actually give us an opportunity to do three critical things we tend to ignore during the frenetic moments of Lent or Advent.

1. Go on a real vacation.

Pastors are notorious for not taking all their vacation days or taking just a few days between Sundays that really do not allow for rest. I think every pastor needs to take consecutive Sundays off to restore themselves. Even if you have a small church with mostly volunteer staff, you can trust them to speak for you on Sundays in July. Unplug yourself and get out of town. Do not look at your emails and assign a trusted person to let you know if there are “real” emergencies that require your attention. Do something fun. Go on long walks. Sleep late on some mornings. Go see a brainless summer movie with your family or just come to Colorado. We know how to do summer here.

 

2. Read for fun.

Pastors who want to lead well must read well. That means we need to read for fun and not just for sermon prep. Pick up a great novel or some poetry for the summer. Do not read theology texts, unless you read that for fun, which means no one but Dr. Phil can help you at this point. The main thing is to infuse some new life into our cerebrums, restoring our prophetic imaginations and triggering some holy creativity along the way.

 

3. Plan ahead

The biggest mistake we make as pastors during the sleepy months of summer is not planning for the forthcoming acceleration of the fall. School will start in August, followed by fall retreats, Thanksgiving outreaches, and Christmas Eve services. The crazy spin-cycle of church activity can feel like a tsunami if we do no spend time now planning how we’ll use our time and resources. Pray, plan, discuss, write down goals, create budgets now, during ordinary time, so the busy times can be extraordinary.

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The Price We Pay for Exciting

Posted by Brady Boyd

Have you ever sat and watched an entire baseball game on TV? I mean, from the first pitch to the last out?

Really?

Baseball on TV is boring. There, I said it. I mean it, too. I will not apologize.

I love baseball. I played baseball. I was the third baseman for my high school team that won the state championship.

The Grand Old Game limps along when viewed through lenses because it was meant to be watched in a stadium or park while eating hot dogs, sitting on bleachers in the middle of the summer. Baseball is rhythmic and filled with strategic moves by managers and players. Each pitch can be scrutinized and every at-bat has subtle nuances. There is a plenitude of secret signs and pregnant pauses. But, it’s still boring to watch on TV.

That’s why I wait for the highlights on TV each night. The miracle of sport’s television allows a three-hour pastime to be condensed into 30-seconds of the best parts. I see all the home runs, the key strikeouts, the controversial plays at the plate without having to watch the entire game. If all we studied were the highlights, we would think baseball is the wonder of all sports, certainly made for live TV. It was not.

Church was not created for TV, either. The activity of discipling people from spiritual infancy to maturity is rarely exciting. In fact, it can be quite mundane. Somehow, we’ve come to believe that church should be exciting, made for TV, full of buzz and emotional fervor. There are certainly zenith moments like baptisms, weddings, baby dedications and encountering the Holy Spirit through prayer and worship. Stirring stuff, for sure. Other things like fasting, lingering intercession, hospital visits, unhurried conversations with grieving widows, and bringing food to a sick family are not as electric.

Jesus called us sheep, not lions, bears or race horses.  Have you ever watched a shepherd with his flock in a field? It does not qualify as thrilling cinema. Sure, there may be predators that sometimes need to be thwarted and occasionally, the shepherd will have to hurry his flock into a shelter when a storm surprises them.  Most days, though, the sheep eat grass, drink water, and nap while the shepherd stands in the shade nearby.

In my vocation as pastor, most of my work would miss the cut for the 30-seconds of late-night highlights. I doubt most shepherds see their work as scintillating, but it is indeed proficient. In fact, skilled shepherds tend to avoid rushing their sheep to distant pastures or exciting the flock with loud noises. Sheep do best in stable, secure environs. There is a steep price to pay for constant excitement.

Recently, I was speaking at a leader’s conference in the Los Angeles area. My message was about sustainable rhythms for healthy ministry, taken from lessons I have learned the hard way. As soon as I finished, a young woman approached me with tears in her eyes. Her pastor had told her and the team that he was going to have an exciting, growing church, which meant everyone had to give 110%. He told them if they could not keep up with him, they could all be easily replaced.

She wanted to be a part of the weekly highlight reels, so she tried to maintain the insane pace. Predictably, she failed and was left in the ditch of ministry with many others. She was hurt because church life was not about the sheep flourishing anymore, it was about creating a false sense of excitement that simply was not sustainable. Her ambitious Senior Pastor is now out of ministry altogether, burned out for trying to run too fast for too long.

I prayed for the young leader, then reminded her that what we do is a sacred calling that should be taken seriously. We do get to be a part of some incredible highlights as God transforms people in front of us. That’s exciting stuff and should be celebrated. I also reminded her that when Jesus called his disciples, he did not tell them, “Come follow me, and keep up if you can.” He promised them hard work, sleepless nights, criticism and persecution. He also said he would be with them always, like a faithful shepherd on a long, obedient journey that would sometimes be exciting, but would always be leading people home.

 

 

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Leaders Who are Easy to Follow

Posted by Brady Boyd

I want to be a leader who is easy to follow, so I’ve been paying attention lately to those who seem to model this really well.  We should not have an unhealthy desire to please everyone, but we should make it as easy as possible for others to follow us.  There are some outstanding leaders I’ve recently bumped into who are doing just that.  I’m certain there’s more at play in their lives than the five things on my list, but these traits seem to be consistent and common.

1. They are fun

Honestly, fun people are more fun to be around. Leaders who laugh have better meetings, tend to build camaraderie and vanquish the inevitable relational stresses that come from any organization that involves two or more people. All of us love laughter and it is good medicine.

2. They are predictable

Impulsive, unpredictable leaders may seem edgy and cool at first glance, but they are not easy to follow. I heard the story once of a leader bursting into the office one morning announcing to his team that they were all going to the beach for a day of fun. Of course, that sounds like the hero leader, but the team still had to meet their deadlines and get their work done. The day at the beach actually caused more stress to the team because it happened during a really busy time for them. Leaders who are easy to follow are not prone to whims or fancied by fads. They are not boring (See #1) but they are steady.

3. They are fair

Not everyone can be treated the same, but everyone can be treated fairly. Leaders who are easy to follow have established clear boundaries and are consistent when measuring results and performance. Really good leaders can overlook bias and make unprejudiced decisions based on the merits of their team members. If you do good work for this leader, you will get noticed and rewarded.

4. They are active listeners

Most people have to “weigh in” before they will “buy in”, and most of us feel respected when we’ve been heard. Leaders who are easy to follow know how to ask good questions that get the best answers. They are genuinely interested in you and know how to make eye contact during conversations. They tend to linger with their team in unhurried conversations and seldom make people feel rushed or pushed aside.

5. They are kind

Leaders who are easy to follow manage their emotions and control their words. They are not easily angered and are much quicker with compliments than complaints. They praise in public and correct in private. Leaders who are easy to follow inspire and never embarrass. All of us know the sting of being motivated by shame, guilt or fear, but the leaders who are easy to follow have chosen a better way.

 

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The times, they are a-changin’ …

Posted by Brady Boyd

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan

I just spent the week with some great pastors and leaders in the UK and somehow the trip across the pond helped me see more clearly what is happening here in my own backyard. We live in times of great change in the local church, but every generation has said the same about its places of worship. The church was built on the witness of a resurrected Christ, the trustworthy scriptures and the sacraments we gather around to celebrate in community. This has always been sacred space for Christ followers, but everything else is a-changin’.

Like the UK and most of Europe, our country has also moved toward a more secular view of life, distancing itself from traditional churches and the established religious orders. The trends are troubling and challenging for us leading congregations outside the Bible Belt, where churches still seem to hold some traditional influences. If we pay attention, though, we can see the waves of change coming to all of our shores in several key areas.

1. There is a low trust of church leaders

The local church will always be led by imperfect people who have been given delegated authority from God. This authority is maintained only by humble, servant leaders who put the needs of others first.  When this is absent, the office of pastor becomes abhorrent to a cynical culture that is curious about Jesus, but distrustful of authoritarian church polity that resembles the world’s system of corruption. Now, more than ever, ecclesiastical leaders have to be above reproof, completely transparent and accountable or we risk losing the one thing we cannot easily regain – the trust of others.

2. Personal morality has replaced biblical morality

For generations, people seemed to know they needed help to find their way home. Now, we have a generation who have embraced moral relativism, the idea that no one really knows right and wrong, therefore we should tolerate and validate the individual’s moral choices. Today, the teachings of Jesus are sometimes respected but seldom revered. What Jesus gave us is still powerful and life-changing, but we cannot assume the culture will immediately believe the Way is immediately better than their own. We must show them the beauty of a life surrendered to Jesus and not just argue with them about moral conventions. In the beginning and until the end, we must pray the Holy Spirit get involved because that is how we found the narrow path home.

3. We are becoming the minority

The men and women I met this week were mostly encouraged, despite the trends I just described. They spoke of baptisms, helping the poor in their villages and cities, the hope that new churches were soon to be planted and the pure worship that was emerging from their congregations. Leaders were encouraged that new partnerships are emerging promising new strength through cooperation. They did not despise being the minority working the margins of their culture, spending their time with those who had been tossed aside and forgotten.  They found Jesus there, just as their fathers and mothers had found him in generations past.  He was among them, being a faithful God to his faithful community, the maker of heaven and earth, building his kingdom that has no end in a land that was a-changin’.

 

 

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