Lesson Learned

When I was active duty, we would get sent emails entitled “Lesson Learned.” They would tell us about how people did their job poorly and the often catastrophic results. Every time there was a failure in leadership oversight. I wonder how often that is the issue in the church as well.

I have been reading a book on leadership called Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. If you are looking for ways to improve your leadership skills, I highly recommend it. While not a “Christian” book, it is one that I believe can be beneficial to everyone in leadership. From reading their book, I started thinking about my time in the Navy, and the best leaders I worked for and came up with 3 characteristics they all had in common.

1)      The best leaders took care of their people

When I made E-6, which is a supervisory rank in the submarine fleet, my supervisor at the time congratulated me. My sleeve insignia went from 2 chevrons (for you lifelong civilians, think stripes, but upside down with an angle to them) to 3, and he used that as a teaching moment. He pointed at my sleeve and said, “those first 2 were for you, that third one is for your guys.” That always stuck with me, because I realized that with the added privilege came more responsibility to use my new-found rank to take care of the guys who worked for me.

As a Pastor I realize that I need to use the platform God has given me to shepherd those that God has sent to me. It is not only my responsibility to lead and hold our staff accountable, but to teach and train them. I have to take care of my people. That of course varies depending on the person, circumstance and context.

2)      The best leaders lead from the front

I worked for a guy on the boat who was the first to roll up his sleeves and get dirty. He would work alongside all of us, no matter how bad the job. I remember we had maintenance on multiple occasions that was job-limiting that had to be done. On both occasions that I can think of, he was the first to sacrifice sleep to make sure the job got done. Sleep in the military is a scarce commodity, and no one likes to give up since we cannot ever get it back. That was a powerful lesson to learn since his attitude was that if he made the most money and was the highest ranking he should be the first to get the bad deal.

I have seen too many church leaders not step up in tangible ways. We should never be above sweeping the floor, doing some painting, picking up trash or any other job. We are servant leaders, not leaders to be served. People are so much quicker to step up when they know they have a pastor who will do the same. Look at Jesus, he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). That should mean to us that we are never above doing anything.

3)      The best leaders take the blame, and give away the credit

I don’t have a real-life story about this, but it is something I have seen Belichick do on multiple occasions. After a rare Patriots loss, he always blames the coaching and after a win says that players win games.  He notoriously holds players accountable, but understands as the guy in charge, whatever happens is ultimately his responsibility.

As leaders we should see this too. When one of your staff members does something well, give them credit. Tell them good job and encourage them. If there is a failure, hold them accountable and understand that as the leader we hold some responsibility in their failure too. Were they trained properly? Were they held accountable for mistakes they made prior? Even as the leader when we succeed, we must understand that we did not do so in a vacuum and that our people and those we lead aided in it as well.


Think about your experiences, both good and bad. What do you wish those who led you did different? What did they do well that you would like to emulate? How can we best leverage our call to lead to point people to Christ and glorify Him?

Do Your Job, Part 2 of 4

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. Ecclesiastes 9:10

I remember growing up, hearing my parents say that if you are going to do something, to do it right. That is something that has stuck with me my entire life. As I think about it, that is something that we can take seriously in the church. Too many times we in the church get bogged down by trying to do to many things, and not doing them very well. I remember when I first came to First Church that there was an entire wing of our second floor that had second hand clothes, books and other items. It turns out that our church had a thrift store at one time. That is something that blows my mind, but seems to be to common in the Church.

Many times, as churches we want to do something that can reach everyone, so we load our calendars with activities that we genuinely hope will help us reach people and grow our church. We see it as working hard, and it usually is. The part of “work hard” that we miss, is to work hard at doing the right things. We need to work hard at what God has called us to do and use that, so we may glorify Him and see his kingdom grow. The other issue is that we can take on too many programs and stretch ourselves and our people thin, which makes us less effective. Business does not always lead to effectiveness. Do what you are called to do, and do it well, or as Ecclesiastes says, do it with all your might.

Do Your Job pt 1 of 4

Almost a year ago, I was watching the documentary on the Patriots most recent Super Bowl win, so it was not this year since they lost to the Eagles, and that still stings. The documentary is called "Do Your Job" because that has been the mantra of the of the Patriots teams for the last several years. Something that struck me was a shot that the cameras took of words etched in the glass of their offices, It said..

When you're here..
Do your job
Work hard
Be attentive
Put the team first

So what can we as pastors and church leaders learn from a football coach, specifically one that is not a believer and known for his grumpy demeanor? I think if we look at these 4 simple rules, we can see a difference in our leadership and how we develop as leaders, and how we develop new leaders. We are going to look at each rule one at a time, so this week let's look at "Do your job." 


Do Your Job
I have a hat with this on it, it really is a big thing here in New England. People know that this is what the Patriots are built on, and often not what our churches are built on. I tell my leadership team that they have 2 jobs, 1) Their stated job and 2) Make sure the job gets done. The idea of "do your job" doesn't mean that I never have to do anything that is outside of my normal job description or even job title. It means that I need to do my job above all else, and make sure that it gets done well. God has called me to a role and position, and I need to honor that and work hard at my job. In both Colossians 3 and in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul instructs believers to work hard at all they do and to do so to the glory of God. 

In our context, we have outlawed the word "can't" from the vocabulary of our staff. That does not mean I don't allow our staff to fail or make mistakes, I do not allow them to quit. Can't implies some idea of getting up, we allow people to not complete a task or a job when they have exhausted every resource possible, and are unable to finish the task / job. There is an expectation that we all will do our job and do it well. That is definitely the part that cannot be left out, when our job gets done it must be done well, and should always be implied and understood. The result is that while we have high expectations of our staff, we also have high production. We all work hard and get our job done, and done well. We collaborate, and work together, but we also hold one another accountable to do our jobs. That is what is important, for the staff to function well, and to follow the idea of doing our job, we hold one another accountable. All staff must be accountable for what gets done, and what does not get done. The temptation is that as leaders we step in and save our other leaders from failing by doing their job for them. The issue with that is that our leaders are never able to learn from their mistakes. I always allow my leaders to fail, as long as the mistake will not have catastrophic results. However if that is the case, we have to make a decision if that person is fit for leadership in the first place.  A great example for doing your job is how we handle the worship service. As a team, we all discuss how the worship service is run, but ultimately the worship leader and I are the ones who lead and run the service, because it is our job. It is not the responsibility of our Children's ministry or Community Group directors. They have input, but it is ultimately not their job to do it. 

How do you handle this concept in your context? What are some ways that you can encourage accountability for your and your leaders? My hope is that you will be able to institute a way to encourage and model for your leaders the importance of doing their job. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below.