Winning in Your New Leadership Role (Part 4)
Ministry can be a grind when “Sunday is always coming.” There’s no finish line. Every week brings another weekend. Yet, we believe God has placed us where we are for a reason.
In the last three weeks of this series, we’ve been discussing the transition into a new leadership role. In Part 1, Amy and I discussed how you can lead with a fresh sense of vision in a new role. In Part 2, I sat down with Jeff Brodie to unpack his transition from XP to SP within the same church. Then in Part 3, I talked to Chris Surratt about defining success for your first 90 days in a new position.
As we approach the end of this series, I wanted to provide a bit of a different perspective: you don’t need a new role to get a fresh start.
GETTING A FRESH START IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE
This week, Amy and I are exploring how rather than seeking out a new opportunity, you can start fresh with a renewed passion and vision for where God has you now. We’ll discuss how you can make the most of your current opportunity and reframe your thinking by:
- Adopting a “new job” mindset
- Clarifying the win for your role
- Taking control of your calendar
- AND one next step to take before quitting your job
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- Series Episode 1: Leading with a Fresh Sense of Vision
- Series Episode 2: From XP to SP: Leveling Up Your Leadership
- Series Episode 3: Defining Success for the First 90 Days
- Discover the Unstuck Process
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You know, when we’ve been in a role for a long time, I think it’s easy to feel like we’re just climbing into a boat each day, picking up the oars, rowing and rowing. And rowing is boring. It’s methodical; it’s predictable. You know, there’s an occasional rapids maybe to navigate through, but I think mostly it feels boring. So I think a fresh start comes with a fresh mindset.
Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. After a year and a half of challenges and transitions, many leaders are sensing it’s time for a fresh start in a familiar place. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy discuss how to create a new sense of energy and focus while continuing in your current role. Before you listen today, I want to invite you to join us on November 9th at 1:00 p.m. EST for a free webinar on how to lead a divided church. We know that the church is called to unity, but it feels like we’re more divided than ever. Pastors and church leaders are caught in the middle as political and cultural issues fracture congregations. Some are even considering leaving ministry altogether. So how can we lead boldly from a place of unity and peace? In this one-time event, Tony will be joined by Andy Stanley, lead pastor of North Point Community Church, for a conversation on how churches can reach and minister to diverse mission fields, what to do when our people choose politics over the mission and how pastors can shift their teaching to encourage unity. To learn more and sign up for this free webinar, click over to theunstuckgroup.com/webinar. Now, let’s join Tony and Amy for today’s conversation.
Amy, I’m excited about today’s conversation. For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about how leaders can win in their new leadership roles. In that first conversation that you and I had, we talked about how pastors can lead their church with a fresh sense of direction and how important that is especially in this season of ministry. The second episode, we talked with Jeff Brodie, the lead pastor of Connexus Church, about delegating things he used to own in his previous leadership roles that he had to give up to go up to his lead pastor position. And then last week, we had a great conversation with Chris Surratt about defining success in the first 90 days of a new leadership role. Today, though, we get to conclude. This is going to be a fun twist because we’re going to be talking about how people can get a fresh start in their current leadership role. In other words, we don’t need to change jobs to get a fresh start.
Yeah. I love this topic. Tony, if you think about it, there is a lot of transition going on, but a lot of people have their same role, right? That’s the majority here. And I remember what feeling burnt out or just having a little numbness in my leadership role when I was the executive director of weekend services. I can remember thinking it’s Christmas again, or it’s Easter again, or fall kickoff or a campaign. And sometimes it’s just Sunday again or the weekend again. And sometimes I just wanted to quit and go work at a lawn-mowing service because at least then I could look over my shoulder and go, “look what I did today.” Have you ever felt that way?
Absolutely. My wife laughs at me because I have this long list of other jobs some days when I’m talking about. I mean, haven’t we all dreamed about being the UPS guy, as an example, and just making people happy by delivering boxes to the front door. Or being an usher at the ball game, I’ve always dreamed about how fun it would be.
Oh, you’d be great at that.
New Speaker (03:31):
Just walking people through the ballpark. I know. I think I’m going to do that someday. And then, I mean up until recently, this sounds crazy, but used car salesman was one of the ideas. Yes. Yeah. And I just, I love the idea of kind of rethinking how used car sales could change and, you know, get past. And everybody hates shopping for cars, especially used cars. And then I recently bought another used car, and I realized, no, I don’t want to do that.
Yeah, I can’t see that.
New Speaker (03:59):
So, Amy, I’ve definitely hit those moments, especially when you just sense in ministry, and we’ve all felt this way, that there’s really no finish line because ministry never stops. Every week, there’s another weekend. Most of us get absorbed and working in the ministry instead of on it. And eventually, we start to think the grass is greener somewhere else. Remember when I may be very poorly made that point?
I do. I’m trying to forget.
In our very first episode? But today, instead of talking about starting fresh in a new role at a new church or organization, I want us to talk about how we all can get a fresh start in our current roles. And, Amy, I’d like to throw you some questions your way. Are you good with that?
That sounds good. Fire away.
Well, let’s start here. What’s the first thing you think of when making a fresh start in your current leadership role?
My first reaction is I think it all starts with a mindset change. You know, when we’ve been in a role for a long time, I think it’s easy to feel like we’re just climbing into a boat each day, picking up the oars, rowing and rowing. And rowing is boring. It’s methodical; it’s predictable. You know, there’s an occasional rapids maybe to navigate through, but I think mostly it feels boring. So I think a fresh start comes with a fresh mindset. And I often talk about it in this form of reframing my role in, you know, to define reframing. It means to look at, present or think of something in a new or different way. So for instance, you know, if you’re the discipleship pastor, the next steps pastor at your church, I mean, what if you just sat for a moment and said, “what if I was the leader, the owner over helping people at our church look more like Jesus?” And then you go, “I am, that’s my job. I am the owner. I am the person who is supposed to strategically think about how people can look more like Jesus.” Or if you’re the executive pastor, right? What if God wants me to be part of his plan to transform an entire community, even though there might be some hard people to work with? When you get out of just the desk and the monitor and think about this calling that God’s placed on your life. Or, as an executive pastor, what if God called me to come alongside an imperfect leader to lead the staff at a local church to transform our community? And then you, some of you can go, “well, he did.” But it’s a calling. It’s not just this job. Or any leadership role, what if God gave me a leadership gift and sent me to a challenging team in order to help them become better leaders? And you know what, for a lot of people, he did. We often talk, Tony, when I do Staffing & Structures, we go through 1 Corinthians, where we look at, you know, the body of Christ that he pulls together for his church. And there’s a phrase in there that says, “and God places each part just where he wants it.” I think we have to remember that sometimes, just to reframe this from a job to a calling that he’s given us. And I look at it from a fresh way. And I think in some ways we need to go back to that first-day-of-a-job optimism. Do you remember the first day of a new job, Tony? Do you remember what that was like?
Yeah. I mean, I’ve had several of those. It’s been a while, but I’ve had several of those in my past. I mean, it’s, you know, the night before you’re thinking about, “what am I going to wear? Who am I going to meet?” I, of course, was always thinking about how am I going to set up my office and make sure everything was just in the perfect place for all of the great work that I was going to be doing in my new job. Yeah, I remember that optimism, Amy.
Yeah, exactly. How many of us come to work each day with a mindset like that? And so I just kind of get in this reframing thing. What if we did tomorrow? What if we approach next Monday with a new-job mindset? Instead of coming to work as a “have to,” shifting to “I get to.” Some ways maybe to think about that, you know, around your colleagues, what would we do? How would we approach our colleagues if it was the first day of a new job? Well, we’d be on our best behavior, right? We’d ask them questions. We’d be upbeat and positive and relating well with others. We can all do that. We can all bring that next Monday. You said it around your workspace, you know, first day of a job, it’d be clean. We’d bring in a picture, a plant. We’d design it to look like this premiere workspace. I don’t know. I came in here this morning after being on the road the last few days. I could use this one next Monday because it does not look like a premiere workspace right now. How about bringing a curious mindset, right? What, we’d all be students at work, students of the culture, like you said, and students of the mission. And, you know, first day, we would just be full of some wonder and optimism around this organization that God’s called us to. So my first reaction is really to adopt that new-job mindset, reframe our calling.
I can just picture, maybe this Friday, we have thousands of people and churches around the world that bring a box to their office and put everything in their current office in that box and walk out. And people are wondering what’s happening. And then they bring a new box in on Monday morning to start their new job. Wouldn’t that be fascinating?
I think that is fun. I bet it would be really fun for an entire team to do that. Wouldn’t that be fun to lead that? And say, “Hey guys, we’re all going to have our first day at the job next Monday and do a fresh start.” I mean, there’s a lot of residual through this COVID time and just the year we’ve had. So that’s just an idea.
I love that. Alright, Amy, what’s the next thing you think of when making a fresh start and one’s current role?
You mentioned this a podcast or two ago, but I think a fresh start comes when you have clarity on what the win is for your role. Again, I think we get into this doldrum of sitting at our computer. We know our title, and we kind of know what we’re doing. But to get a renewed clarity on the win for your role. And now maybe a lot of our listeners already have a handle on this, but I actually remember the day I got renewed energy around my ministry role. It was still in kind of the formative first year. But again, as my role as the executive director of weekend services, no doubt, I was busy. I spent a lot of time in creative planning meetings, debrief meetings, executive team meetings. My days did not go slow. They flew by, but I remember the day I was talking with my colleague Dale, he was over our ministry area, and he’d been on staff longer than me. He’s someone I kind of leaned on, especially early on in my time at my church, and he was actually the one who championed adding my role on the staff. So he had thought about it for a long time. And anyways, we were talking, and he said something like, “well, Amy, the main strategy we have to reach new people with the gospels are weekend service.” And then he continued on. I remember what we were talking about, but it was that phrase, “our main strategy to reach new people with the gospel is the weekend.” And it just struck me. And I thought, “and I get to lead that for our church.” And I found such clarity out of all my busyness, out of all the emails and all the nasty grams I had to respond to from people who didn’t enjoy what we put together. My role had a huge purpose, and I was the leader of it. And that actually became my one-sentence job description. I knew the win for my job. And so I think we all need to create a picturesque, inspiring one-sentence job description that reminds us of all the why behind all the leading and doing. You know, for example, lead pastors, right, maybe a one-sentence job description. Man, my job is to inspire our staff and congregation to fully engage in our mission. Tiffany, our marketing director, she would say this, “My job is to help stuck pastors find us, decipher their needs and then help them choose us as their guide to get them unstuck.” And I think that’s a great thing. Digital directors, you said it in our masterclass, you know, “take training, inspiration and our church to people anytime, anywhere with 24/7 online content.” I think when we get back to that win, it should create some spring in our steps to go, “God’s chosen me to lead this.” And it helps us bring some energy to our days.
That’s good, Amy. Alright, so first, you said we need to adopt a new job mindset and then bring clarity to your job. What’s the win for your position? What’s next?
Yup. Then I think the fresh start comes from just giving yourself a new start with your calendar. Again, you alluded to this, I think at the end of our last podcast, but there are no finish lines in ministry. So if everyone does pile everything into their box, by the way, and take it home and then come in fresh, I would say, do the same thing with your calendar. Create an end line, a finish line, and create a starting line to go back. So, and I say this because, Tony, no one will ever do this for you. This is something we have to do on our own. You know, one of the people I worked with, he complained all the time about how many nights he was at church, how many meetings he had, all these things that were on his plate and how burnt out he was. And you know, we always thought he was going to have a heart attack. And I just kept saying to this colleague like, “this is something only you can solve; only you can create the space that you need.” He’s super smart, right? And, but for whatever reason, this time thing got him. So, I would say, schedule your work, block out time to work on the ministry. If we don’t schedule think time and creative time, we’ll end up in what The 4 Disciplines of Execution calls a whirlwind and spend all of our time working in the ministry. It’s never satisfied—the work that’s out there. They called that the whirlwind; you should contain it to the 80% and reserve 20% to work on, in our case, work on the ministry. And, Tony, if you do the math, that means eight hours of every week should be set aside to work on the ministry, to do the work on part. And hopefully, that just got real for some leaders. Because can you imagine, Tony, if every church leader set aside eight hours a week to actually work on the work? You do this. You model this great for our team. You’re sort of our lead pastor. In fact, I think it was a couple years ago, which probably means it’s four years ago now. I have to double everything when I think backwards, but you actually brought it to our annual planning meeting. Your calendar was something that you asked for help with so that you didn’t get consumed by the work of The Unstuck Group. Is that right? Was that about four years ago? How you manage your schedule?
Yeah, it could have been. And it’s not revolutionary, but in that season, I was working so hard, kind of running the business, actually still engaging in the consulting as I do today and creating content and all of that. And it just, my schedule was scattered, and I was doing multiple different kind of responsibilities every day. And so just actually moving to more of a block schedule, where certain days are focused on still kind of the business responsibilities that I have, certain days on consulting, coaching pastors and church leaders, and certain days for content creation. And then there’s a day; we do Fridays because many times pastors and church leaders are off on Fridays. So Fridays are our day as a team to have our team meetings. So just making sure that you’re kind of looking at your key responsibilities in your role and blocking out days during the week for those responsibilities and especially making sure we’re carving out this time to actually work on our ministry and work on our leadership responsibilities, Amy, as you’ve highlighted.
As you’re sharing that, it makes me think, Tony, I think senior pastors, just like you, are good at doing those blocked-out times. You know, most of the pastors I work with, they kind of understand what their Monday looks like, their Tuesday, etc. And that’s probably because of this final exam called a sermon every weekend, but it’s amazing how it breaks down from there. It’s amazing how people beyond that lead pastor don’t take the time to block it out. And so, you know, if you’re on a team that struggles with this, I would say, just have a conversation. How can we block out some time so that we can actually think and move it forward?
Yeah. And on that note, Amy, I’ve alluded to this, I think on previous podcast and I haven’t had a team take me up on this challenge yet, but what would it look like if you had a Sabbath for meetings once a week? And maybe you start with a half a day and then eventually that becomes one day a week, where you’re not allowed to have a meeting scheduled because we’re going to dedicate at least one day a week doing kind of this future forward work, where we’re investing in our leadership and the leadership of others and some of those key ministry priorities and actually putting time in our schedule behind the things we’ve identified our priorities for our ministry.
And since this podcast is about fresh starts, like in your current role, I think we also need to think through what needs to be scheduled so that you have things on your calendar to look forward to, you know, things that bring life and energy. And by the way, that would include for me finish lines along the way, where am I going to take a break, but we don’t need to get into that kind of time management. But here’s a couple ideas. For instance, when I was in leadership, I actually created my own conference with three other churches. And I do some of that work on the ministry time to plan this. But I got together with, I think it was North Point, New Spring and Church on the Move, my colleagues in those roles. And we brought nine of our staff to a central location and all got together for three days. You know, how much fun that was and how much we learned by getting around other leaders and finding out what they’re learning. It never would have happened if I didn’t just look ahead and actually plug it into my calendar. Or sometimes, what we would do is hop in a car, and we would visit other local churches to hear what they’re learning and build relationships with other churches. I think sometimes we can get so isolated in our own experience, but blocking out things that bring some fresh energy to the work you do is also something I would really recommend.
Very good. Amy, anything else come to mind when you’re thinking about a fresh start in your current role?
I guess the last thing I would say is make an advanced decision about your attitude at work, especially you’ve been on a long run. You’re tired. You know, a lot of pastors had an opportunity this summer to take some time off, but I have to imagine it’s even harder to come back sometimes after you’ve let down for a while. But maybe a story would be a good example. Making the advanced decision that you’re going to be a certain way at work. Like who do you want? What’s your best self to bring? When my husband and I took an anniversary trip at the 15-year mark, we actually went to Hawaii. And I had never been there, and I had wanted to go there my whole life. And I actually said out loud to my husband. I said, “Nothing is going to make this a bad trip. It is going to be a great trip. Nothing’s going to bring me down.” So the plane lands, you know, we’re a little jet-lagged, and it’s a beautiful sunny day. And we kind of get there, you know, towards the end of the day, go to bed and wake up. It rained for the next 14 days until we went home. I’m not lying. Record rainfall since 1952. You know, it was even in my Twin Cities paper that week, but had I not made an advanced decision about my mindset in that moment, it would have been probably one of our worst vacations, but we still had a ball. Like when we drove the road to Hana, I was telling Chris Surratt because he was recently there. I said, “It was like Jurassic park, you know, driving the road to Hana on the muddy thing, but we just made the most of it.” And I think sometimes if we just let our day hit us every day, we’re going to end up the same way that we feel may be right now. And making an advanced decision about bringing your best self to work, I think, is maybe the last little tip or trick today. Tony, I’ve done a lot of talking. Any final thoughts you have on this before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Yeah, I think the thread in all that you’ve shared today is really about changing our mindset. And maybe you’re sensing this as well that you don’t need a new place to work but rather a mindset shift in how you approach the job that God has called you to do. And maybe I would add one more idea here. Maybe you need a new challenge at your current church. So instead of waiting for your exit interview to share all the ideas that were going through your mind, take today or the next couple of days to talk to your leader and discuss that new role or that new challenge that you need to get a fresh start in your current role. And speak up about what would make your role at the church something that you could love again. Talk about that dream role and have those conversations first instead of assuming your only option is to leave and find another position. Well, this has been a great series; I’ve really enjoyed it, Amy. It’s all about getting a fresh start as some of us in new roles, some of us in our current leadership roles, and as always, these seasons of transition not only create new opportunities for our personal leadership, but with all of this transition, it’s creating new opportunities for our churches, as well, and our ministry strategies around the mission that God’s called us to. And so, if want help in that journey, we would love to engage with you and your team. And you can find out more about our Unstuck Process at theunstuckgroup.com.
Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Don’t forget to sign up for our free webinar on November 9th at 1:00 p.m. on how to lead a divided church. You can learn more and sign up today at theunstuckgroup.com/webinar. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Until then, have a great week.