The Worst Church Leadership Advice


Written by Justin Heap /
June 21, 2016

The Worst Church Leadership Advice.

A word about bad advice.

Nobody wakes up wanting to give  — or even take —  terrible advice. Yet, everyone has certainly witnessed real conversations where incredibly poor advice is traded for a smile and a nod.

Moreover, a lot of terrible advice is easy to spot. We know when we hear, “Do as I say, not as I do,” that this is awful advice. No. We have that one pegged. We are students of huddles, Wikipedia, and Leadership Podcasts  — gone are the days of naïveté. Or has bad advice just evolved? Where has all the bad advice gone, and what does it look like?

See, advice has undergone a revolution along with the Internet of Things. Most often, it is now passed on as bite-sized, non-verbal cues that we see as being “okay.”

But, perhaps these could be some of the worst pieces of church leadership advice you’re probably already subscribing to. Let’s dive in, holding no punches.

It’s okay to be busy.

This little tip is so massively common you probably want to skip it, already. I have worked with more than a dozen churches on a wide variety of projects, and I believe we justify busyness more than anything.

Being busy is like being thirsty: it’s a sign that you need something. You can’t live without water, it’s not okay.

The leaders of the future will be those who carve out time for spiritual nourishment

Let’s face it, everyone is busy. Our calendars, meetings, and to-do lists are full  — and our auditoriums, streets, and hearts are running empty. We have metrics to manage, funds to raise, and teams to develop  — and busyness has been hailed as the litmus test for achievement. But, being busy is not the same thing as being productive.

The leaders of the future will be those who carve out time for spiritual nourishment, space for rest, and margin as a way of life: these are the habits that speak of freedom, wisdom, and discipleship, and these are the habits that are calling to us all.

It’s okay to be rushed.

Most of the world lives this way. It fits nicely with being busy. Sermon not ready? Video not ready? Music Set not ready? City not ready for a church plant? Answer: rush through it. Another way we justify this is to say, “Things will get done.” Right? And they do! It’s amazing.

And yet, the cost of rushing through something is higher than we realize in the moment. This is because humans are generally bad at considering what could have been: it requires more brain power. The irony is that we would never want to be people who “settle,” but that’s precisely what rushing is.

The thing is, we never see Jesus rushing through life. He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry, and he doesn’t seem to be wringing his hands. I wonder what it would look like if the majority of churches took a hard stand against being rushed? My guess is that our language would be filled with humility, honesty, and vulnerability; and I guess, too, that our cities would pause, and take notice.

It’s okay to be cheap.

Someone, somewhere, is operating under the advice that this is okay and good. Of course, the numbers are relative, and not the point: if you’re asking, “How low can we go,” then you’re inviting compromise right from the start.

This is different than being efficient or smart. We’re talking about being cheap. Believe it or not, this piece of advice has incredibly rich theological underpinnings. This is not so much an issue of cost, but of worth. Every community, every city needs people who see things for what they are worth, and then makes wise decisions to reveal that worth.

It’s easier to be cheap, too. And, it allows us  — we think —  to do more. We see this a lot with church hires. Why hire a full time person when we can hire two part time people? Or, why pay them xK, when we could pay them less and do more?

A local church is, by most standards, the sum of her people. And, when it comes to staff, we are who we hire. If you’ve been in the world of Church Leadership for basically any amount of time, you’ve likely been the recipient of the lowest possible job offer for your role. Let’s not be so consumed with an end goal, that we prioritize cost over worth.

Every community, every city needs people who see things for what they are worth, and then makes wise decisions to reveal that worth.

Rather, let us become wise in seeing what is needed, in seeing the worth.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I do find it to be incredibly enticing to any and all of us at various seasons of our lives. We want to be busy, rushed, and cheap for fear of not looking successful and doing a lot of stuff. Instead, could we become a movement of people who are restful, patient, and wise.

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