5 Ways to Avoid Panic When Asked to Speak at a Moment’s Notice

It freaks everyone out, but at some point or another, you’re going to be called to give an impromptu talk.

Maybe it will be in front of eight people in the boardroom after the boss taps you on the shoulder and says “What do you have to say about that? Get up and tell us!”

Or maybe you’re speaking at an event and you learn the keynote speaker’s flight was canceled, and they call on you at the last minute.

Or maybe you feel like the talk you prepared isn’t the right one, and you need to take things in a whole new direction, and you’re up in five minutes.

As a full time communicator, I’ve been there…in almost every scenario you can think of.

In any scenario, cue most leader’s worst nightmare: giving a talk with zero prep time. How do you not just panic, throw up, freeze like a deer in the headlights or ramble on like someone who had their brain removed?


I was twelve years old when I gave my first impromptu talk. I was supposed to give a five-minute talk to our church family about the camp I’d been to that summer. Someone else was cued up to speak ahead of me,  and she basically said exactly what I was going to say.

So what did that twelve-year-old kid do? According to my dad, I walked on stage, made up a bunch of new points, and no one knew the difference.

What started at 12 has happened more times than I can count since.

Here are three quick examples:

Numerous times at events, I’ve watched the previous speaker cover points I was going to make. At that moment I know I have to pivot, and I’m up next. Apparently, this doesn’t only happen to 12-year-olds.

Earlier this year I was at a conference when I learned the night before that the keynote couldn’t make it. I got asked to step in…in front of 3000 people.

A few years ago at our church, we were in a video series with Andy Stanley and the video playback died. Just died. Right in the middle of the service. I’d heard the message at the previous service, but with literally 30 seconds notice, I got pushed onto the stage. The lights came up. I explained to the congregation that the video had died so I was up with zero prep, having heard the message once before. Then I proceeded to do the best I could to recite what I remembered from Andy’s message and improvised my own take. After the 40-minute message was over, people cheered.

How do you carry yourself in moments like those?

Look, I have a huge preference for writing messages months and weeks ahead of delivery, and highly recommend that.

I outline an entire process for delivering amazing sermons and talks in my new course, The Art of Better Preaching. So 99.9% of the time, go with that.

But at some point, with zero prep, you’re going to be pushed onto a platform to speak.

Then what?

How do you simply not freeze or stumble all over your words, or just meander your way to disaster?

Here are 5 ways to handle that moment when it comes.


The biggest enemy you have when you’re called on at the last moment and you panic is you.

Your emotions will threaten to hijack your brain. You’ll convince yourself that you’re not able to do a good job, that this is unfair, that you haven’t got it in you to rise to the occasion.

Start believing that, and the voices in your head will be 100% accurate.

Except they’re not. You can do a good job. And no, it’s not unfair (people want to hear from you) and you’ve got this.

The best way to deal with your natural fear is to push past it. So push past it.

After all, this is happening, and you’re more ready than you think.


So where do you start?

Left unchecked, you’ll only think about you. (You’ll invent 100 new insecurities on the spot. See #1 above.)

So, shift your view for a moment and think about what your audience needs.

Who’s the room?

What are their issues?

What do you possess that might help them?

How can you empathize with what they’re going through?

Speakers who care about their audience will always have a more engaged audience.


Great…so you’ve thought (even momentarily) about your audience and tried to silence the panic in your head and heart.

Now what?

Your mind might naturally want to focus on what you don’t know. After all, you couldn’t prepare. No research. No carefully crafted phrases. Zero prep.

Your head will go back to this: clearly, I can’t tackle this.

Not true.

You’ve got a few decades of life under your belt, and you know something.

Focus on that.

For professional communicators (preachers, leaders), you’ve likely got a few talks under your belt that you can cherry pick from. Do it.

Pull from that sermon you preached last September or that talk you gave in June. It’s not unfair. And it’s not cheating. It’s called serving your audience well.

And if you go with what you know, you’ll be coherent.

A coherent you is better than a rambling you.

Even if you’re not in the habit of speaking, you know a lot about some things. Draw on that knowledge.

When you panic, you’ll be tempted to focus on what you don’t know. Focus on what you know instead.

You know way more than you think.


In all impromptu talks, here’s a principle that simply works: pretend you’re having a conversation. Because you are.

Why does imagining you’re having a conversation work?

Because you do it every day. Think about it.

How much time do you prepare for the conversations you have every day? For the most part, unless you’re asking for a raise or having a tough intervention, the answer is “Well, I don’t.”


That’s the thing about conversations….you just have them.

So go have one.

Pretend you’re talking to one person and just explaining your thoughts, ideas and feelings.

You’ll be amazed at how easy it is.

A conversation has a natural flow. Go with that flow. Your accumulated lifetime experience of interacting with other people will move you toward forming an introduction, a main point (or points) and an ending.

The pressure of speaking in front of a live audience will help you stay focused, sharp and concise.

So…you have conversations all the time that you never prepare for. And you’re fine in them.

This time, a bunch of people just happened to show up.


Of all the things communicators struggle with, this is one of the worst: we convince ourselves we don’t have enough to say to fill the time.

First, that’s almost never true. Most speakers and preachers go over time, every time. Cue the buzzer for that habit.

Second, the audience is almost always grateful when a speaker finishes on time and extra grateful when the speaker wraps up early.

If you run out of things to stay (and you might), stop. Even if you’re done early.

Worried you’re disappointing your host? Just say “It’s been a joy to share this impromptu moment with you, I think that’s all I have to say. Thank you.”

Cue the thunderous silent applause going on in every audience member’s head.

People are incredibly grateful when communicators realize they’re done.

A communicator who knows they’re done before the audience senses they’re done is a wise communicator.

So that’s it. A five-step strategy to help you nail an impromptu talk, or at least not blow it.

What are some other things you’ve learned that help you give a decent impromptu talk?

> Read more from Carey.



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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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Five Lies of Leadership

How do you know you haven’t fallen for a leadership myth that simply isn’t true?

Answer: sometimes you don’t.

Too many leaders hold a few damaging core beliefs that simply aren’t true.

Myths are everywhere in our culture. It’s not that hard to roll our eyes at people who fall for urban legends.

But there are also leadership myths: things that many leaders believe that really aren’t true.

I think we’ve all fallen for a few.

But how many stubborn leadership myths are you still falling for?

Once you abandon them, you’ll be amazed at the progress you make.


5 Dumb Myths You Should Abandon

Here are 5 that I hate to admit I have fallen for at one time or another in my leadership.

1. Success Will Happen Overnight

Who hasn’t fallen for this? And if you don’t believe it, you’ve secretly wanted it, haven’t you?

Yet there are very few overnight successes. Or as my wife has pointed out, it was a very long night.

Whether it’s bands like PassengerThe Band Perry or even the Beatles, musicians often struggle in obscurity and near defeat for years before they break through.  Same for writers, businesses and many other leaders.

Even North Point Church, launched in 1995, actually declined in attendance from its initial launch over its first few years before rebounding and becoming the story many church leaders know today. Ditto with LifeChurch, the largest church in America with 29 locations and 80,000 people. Their first venture into multisite failed.

Just ask any of the founders: they’ll tell you those first few years were lean and very difficult.

So what do you do?

Set realistic expectations. Work hard. Celebrate progress, even incremental progress.

As Winston Churchill (whose life was characterized mostly by disappointment prior to Word War 2) said, success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

2. Smart Work, Not Hard Work, Will Win The Day

Okay. Working smarter is better than simply working harder. Very true.

Working 100+  hours a week is the answer to very few problems and actually only creates more problems. If you can be more efficient and more effective, by all means do so.

But smart work is no substitute for hard work. Working smarter doesn’t mean you can put in a few hours, hit cruise control and coast to victory.

You will always have to work hard on your leadership. You’ll always have to work hard on leading yourself, your team and your mission.

That might not mean 70 hours a week, but it won’t mean cruising into the sunset. When you stop growing, so do the people around you.

And eventually, the good people will leave. They want a leader to push them and push the mission forward.

3. I Will Get Universal Buy In

This myth is so seductive.

There will be a day when I become a good enough leader that I will announce our next move and everyone will applaud wildly, right?


That day will never come.

You might get most people to buy in, but you will never get everyone to buy in.

This kills most leaders because it causes them to procrastinate. The myth makes them ‘wait’ until all the conditions are right to launch their big move.

Conditions will never be perfect. ‘Everybody’ will never buy in.

Sometimes you just need to lead.

If you want to read more about how to lead change in the midst of opposition, I wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies that Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change While Facing Opposition to help leaders lead without universal buy in.

4. There’s A Silver Bullet

So there’s one thing that will turn everything around right? A silver bullet? A model I can just embrace and press play and everything will magically be wonderful? Right?

If I only:

Was a North Point strategic partner, my church would automatically grow….

Had person X on my staff, all our problems would be gone….

Built a brand new building, it would solve all the issues we’re facing…



As my friend Casey Graham says, systems trump silver bullets.

And they really do. If you have a problem, the system you’re using created it.

To change the outcome, change the system. There is no easy way out.

5. One Day I Will Arrive

No you won’t.

And if you do, you’ll arrive to learn you’ve missed the point.

Effective leaders keep growing. They never stop.

One of the characteristics of great leaders who stay fresh is curiosity.  (I actually write about the connection between curiosity and cynicism in my new book, Didn’t See It Coming.) Top leaders are just relentlessly curious, and the curiosity keeps them growing.

Organization that become complacent, like people who become complacent, inevitably decline.

The more successful you are, the more you will be tempted to think you have arrived.

That’s why the greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

Busting those 5 leadership myths have helped me grow as a leader.

How about you? What myths are you busting through?

> Read more from Carey.


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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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— Russell C
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Clarity Process

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Mind The Gap: Bringing Generations to Lead Together

If you’ve tried to lead employees who are under the age of 40, you’ve probably noticed things aren’t as easy as they used to be. (And they were actually never that easy.)

If you’re under 40 and are working for an over-40 boss, you’re probably restraining your eye-rolls as you notice that people just don’t seem to understand you.

Younger leaders tend to love flexibility, the freedom to work remotely when they want,  the ability to call some shots and the ability to develop a side-hustle, all of which seems to either baffle or frustration older leaders.

Many (not all, but many) older leaders would rather see team members have one job (no side-hustle), do their work from the office, be available after hours just in case, and earn a seat at the table before they give much input. And they don’t get the lack of loyalty that they feel a lot of younger adults display.

All of which frustrates younger leaders.

I run into this tension every time I talk to leaders about how the workplace is changing.

Over-40 leaders are smart to study how things are changing so they stay relevant. After all, the gap between how quickly you change and how quickly things change is called irrelevance.

Younger leaders are smart to understand the tension because it will make for far less frustration on their part, and help them advance in the organizations they’re a part of.

I’m an over-fifty leader who’s worked in offices in business and church, in a hybrid environment where some work is remote and some is done in an office, and now run a 100% virtual company that handles my speaking, writing and podcasting. In addition, almost all of my team members these days are pretty much Millennials or Generation Z.

Here are five things I’ve noticed about a changing workplace, and how older and younger leaders can get along better at work.

1. The Idea Of An Office Gets More Dated Every Year

Every once in awhile you have this moments when you realize how rapidly culture is changing.

A few years ago I was driving through Dallas and saw some office towers going up, and I thought to myself “I’ll bet one day our kids and grandkids drive by office towers and say ‘Did people actually used to have to go to a building to get their work done? Why?’ (Kind of like the Blockbuster days, when you had to go to a store to get a movie on a disk to watch it, and get hit with late fees if you failed to return it on time.)

One of the reasons offices used to make sense for everyone a generation ago is because the means of production were stored at the office. Your company held the typewriters, meeting spaces, computers, paper, pens, phones, copiers, fax machines and all the things private citizens didn’t usually have. There was a clear line between work life and home life.

Now there’s a very good chance you’re holding almost everything you need to do your job in your hand. Plus your phone, tablet and laptop travel with you everywhere. What about meeting spaces, you ask.  Well, between coffee shops, co-working spaces and restaurants, the need for offices has plummeted.

Older leaders still think about ‘going to work’ because that’s how they cut their teeth.

Younger leaders realize you don’t go to work; the work goes to them because they are the work. As a result, they love to work remotely at least some of the time—from home, from a coffee shop.

Older leaders often see this as lazy. Younger leaders see this as normal.

As Bryan Miles has pointed out about virtual culture on my leadership podcast, remote workers aren’t lazy; lazy workers are lazy.

If you have a lazy worker…deal with it. But often remote work can be far more efficient. There are fewer water cooler conversations, fewer random and useless meetings, fewer interruptions and less distraction.

So does that means offices are gone forever?

No. In a hybrid company that allows some remote work, core hours are a great idea where everyone is in the office, say, on a set day or in a set window to improve team interaction or for meetings. But beyond that, an office isn’t nearly as necessary as it used to be.

2. 8-4 Doesn’t Make Sense Anymore

One of the challenges is that office work took its early cues from manufacturing.

It make total sense if you have a car assembly plant (or a coffee shop, or a retail store) to have workers show up exactly on time for a shift. Because offices at one time owned the means of production (see above) it kind of made sense to the same thing.

But where most of the work is relational, informational and flexible (i.e. almost all white collar office jobs), 8-4 no longer makes sense. After all, unless you’re on the reception desk or doing some kind of work tied to fix hours, you can do most things any time.

Yet far too many older leaders are stuck in a mindset that people have to be in the building at set hours.

As a result, too many people show up at 8 (or 8:05 or 8:15) for no particular reason. It can create a clock-watching culture (is it 4:30 yet? Do I get paid for this lunch???) where your team is in a set place for no discernible rationale.

So here’s the question for leaders: are you paying your team to show up or are you paying your team to produce?

If you’re paying your team to show up, that’s one thing.

But if you pay them to produce, outside of fixed meetings and shared team time, why not let them choose how and when to produce?

Here’s what’s changed: The old economy paid people to show up. The new economy pays people to produce.

As I share in my productivity course,  The High Impact Leader, some of your team’s best productivity might happen when no one’s in the office or working. So why stifle that and make them show up because someone decided that’s when they should work?

3. Most Young Workers Work For Themselves

While they may not articulate it, most Millennials approach life as though they are working for themselves, not for you, whether you hire them as employees or on contract.  (We’ll see about Gen Z. I wonder if this trend will accelerate even more.)

Sure, that might sound strange, but hang on and try to get into their head space for a minute.

First, any younger leader realizes they will likely NOT work for the same organization for 40 years and retire. Not only are the pension plans of the 60s and 70s long gone, but the workforce changes so quickly that most younger leaders expect to have multiple careers throughout their life, not just multiple jobs in different organizations.

Second, thanks to technology, the start-up culture is huge. Many leaders realize they can start things far easier than people could a generation a year ago. You can influence the world through your keyboard, your phone or a microphone. It used to cost millions to launch something. Now you can launch something on a Saturday morning for the price of a phone.

Third, we live (rightly or wrongly) in an era of personal branding. Couples have logos and fonts. And almost everyone wants to express their style through fashion, design, photography or lifestyle

What this means is that most Millennials has subconsciously realized they have to create a life plan that’s independent of any employer or organization.

This isn’t fatal to any organization once you understand it.

What it means though, as a leader, manager or boss, is that you need to come alongside them and help them realize their objectives.

If you see those life objectives as competing with your objectives, you’ll lose them. If they see that you want them to win, they’ll hang around a long time.

Here’s the bottom line with young leaders: If you help Millennials win, you’ll both win. If you merely want them to help you win, you’ll lose.

4. The Side-Hustle And Gig Economy Are Here To Stay

So you hire a young worker only to find out he or she has a design business on the side, or that they’re writing a book or launching a podcast or starting a blog.

What do you do?

Are they being disloyal? Do you rope them in and tell them to give you 100% of their time?

Well, a few things.

First, you don’t own 100% of anyone. Any leader who tries to micro-manage the entire lives of their employees won’t have employees for long. You’re really only managing 25% of any full time employee’s life anyway (40ish hours of 168 hours).

Controlling bosses in the future will have less and less to control all the time.

Second, the side-hustle is here to stay because the gig economy (freelancing) is here to stay.

63% of free-lancers today say they started by choice, not by necessity.

By 2027, the gig economy will be over 50% of the economy.

The majority of Millennials are already freelancers. (Source: Forbes.)

So to think you’re going to have a work force that has one job and stays with you forever really puts you back in 1965.

Brian Houston, founder of Hillsong, has some incredible insights on how to keep young and talented leaders over the long haul. Hillsong has done an exceptional job of keeping great talent and giving them freedom to express themselves in their lives and in their leadership.

His advice? If you want eagles, raise the ceiling.

5. The Cause Is More Compelling Than You Are

Older bosses need to realize that most young leaders really do want to work. They just want meaningful work.

You know the stereotype: Millennials want to change the world and believe they can do it.

Again, before you roll your eyes, remember (older leaders), you raised them to have values like these. And some of them are doing it. So cut the cynicism.

What this means though is that your mission is more important than ever.

Leaders who want to preserve the institution, pad the bottom line, or simply grow the organization will always struggle to attract and keep young leaders.

For the church, this should be easy. If you’re truly mission-driven (you want to reach people or impact your community), your ethos has an instant appeal to younger adults. Just keep the mission central.

If you’re in business, profit won’t be nearly the motivator that cause is. If you don’t know what your cause is, figure it out.

Similarly, you might think of yourself as a great leader people want to work with (actually, that’s usually a sign you’re not a great leader), but I promise you Millennials aren’t that impressed with you.

The best way to attract and keep young leaders is to work withthem to accomplish a greater purpose.

Leaders, if the mission isn’t bigger than you, you need a new mission.

So…Older Leaders And Younger Leaders: Some Tips

This sounds like a bit of a show down but I promise you it doesn’t have to be.

For older leaders the most important shift to make is to manage outcomes, not process. Don’t value leaders for showing up. Value them for what they contribute.

Don’t tell them how to get it done, just hold them accountable for getting it done.

Leaders who manage the what and why and flex on the how will have a bright future.

The old paradigm told people to be at their desks and sit up straight. The new paradigm says ‘value me for what I contribute.”

Leaders who manage outcomes and rally people toward a higher mission will always have a steady supply of young leaders lining up to work with them. I share some additional insights about working with Millennials in this post.

What about younger workers?

Well, first of all, flexibility by your boss is not permission to be lazy. Hustle hard, but produce.

Second, gain influence by being ridiculously great at what you do. If you want to know how to gain influence when you’re not in charge, check out this interview with Clay Scroggins.

What Do You See?

What are the frustrations you experience as a younger or older leader?

> Read more from Carey.


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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

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comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
— Okello.moses
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
— Russell C
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
— Thomas TC Gotcher

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Your Attendance is Declining: Here is One Big Idea to Keep in Mind

If you track attendance at your church (and who doesn’t), the vast majority of church leaders are tracking numbers that probably bother them.

That can lead into a death spiral of trying to drive greater attendance, only to discover more disappointment down the road.

The mission of the church is the same in every generation. But the methods we use—our strategy—has to change, as I outlined here.

So what’s one of the biggest changes we’re going to see?

Simple. If you want to see your church grow, stop trying to attract people and start trying to engage people.

In the future church, engagement is the new attendance.

If church leaders put as much effort into trying to engage people in the mission of the church as they used to (or still) put into trying to drive attendance, they would see a huge spike in both engagement and attendance.

Conversely, leaders who focused solely on attendance or misconstrue what engagement is will continue to see declining attendance.

At Connexus Church, where I serve as Founding and Teaching pastor, we’re seeing encouraging spikes in physical and online attendance (the two are not mutually exclusive) at established locations, our online campus and our new location.

The growth in the number of new unchurched people has come for sure by the grace of God, but also after almost five years of focusing on increasing engagement in these 7 ways. I also outlined why we made the shift and many people have made the shift in my book, Lasting Impact.

Church leaders, if you cared as much about engagement as you did about attendance, you’d likely see a spike in attendance as your mission grows and expands.

So why is engagement the new attendance?

Here are 5 reasons.

1. Attendance Was Never The Goal

When did we get the idea that church attendance was the ultimate goal?

Flip back to New Testament days.

Jesus never said ‘Attend me.’ He said ‘Follow me.’

The only reason you would follow Jesus (in Jesus’ day) is because you were either intrigued by who he was and what he did, or because you had come to believe that he was who he said he was.

In other words, you were engaged.

You didn’t attend Jesus. You followed him.

A similar dynamic emerged in the first-century church.

Early Christians didn’t attend church. They were the church.

If you look back at the genesis of the Jesus movement, the idea of attendance as a hallmark would have been completely foreign.

You only attended because you were engaged. Period.

2. Attendance Grows Out Of Engagement Anyway

As the Christian movement grew and it became the official religion of the Roman Empire, mere church ‘attendance’ became an option.

Fast forward to our lifetime, and even in growing, effective churches,  attendance had become an established path to engagement.

The big idea was this: come, and eventually you’ll get engaged.

That worked (quite effectively, actually) when people used to flock to church.

But in an era when the number of unchurched is constantly on the rise and even Christians don’t attend church as often anymore (here are 10 reasons for that), that strategy is becoming less and less effective.

Yet, many churches (even growing churches) are still counting on getting people to attend, hoping it drives engagement.

The shelf life of that strategy is limited because the number of people who want to attend church drops every year.

To say it clearly one more time, in the future church attendance won’t drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance.

The new gooal is to get people engaged faster and to engage people more deeply in the true mission of the church.

In the future, the engaged will attend because, in large measure, only the engaged will remain.

3. Trying To Attract People In A Post-Christian Culture Can Work Against The Mission

I am all for making church as attractive and accessible as possible.

But in the future if that’s your only approach (better lights, cooler vibe, hoping people will come), you will get diminishing results. (I wrote on the death and rebirth of cool church here.)

Why is that?

Well, as outlined above, when attendance was more normative and in some senses ‘automatic’ in our culture, attraction was a decent strategy.

Because people would go to church, creating a better church was a good approach.

But (and here’s the underbelly), it also fed into consumerism.

Consumerism has defined the last century of North American and Western culture.

To some extent, the attractional church has played into consumerism. Build something attractive and people will come.

Again, that strategy was very effective when people instinctively flocked to churches, not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of baptisms and authentic faith-building. And you shouldn’t make your church inaccessible or unattractive on purpose. That’s just…weird.

But in the process, building attractive, relevant churches has had an unintended side-effect: people have come to evaluate church by what they get out of it, not by what they put into it.

That’s a mistake.

Along the way, discipleship has even been redefined in many circles to mean consumption of knowledge. The more you know, the more mature you are. I believe that’s a flawed approach (here’s why).

Authentic discipleship has always been about dying to self.  It’s about giving far more than it is about getting.

Again, I’m not slamming the attractional church. I’m all for building bridges to the culture, not erecting barriers.

Anyone who knows church knows that at the heart of every attractional church is a core of Christians who sacrifice—who give, who serve and who invite.

What’s exciting is that selflessness will move to the forefront in the future church because those who remain will be engaged in the mission.

4. Our Culture Is Ripe For An Alternative To Consuming

One of the frequent criticisms non-Christians levy at Christians is that we’re self-indulgent and hypocritical.

Those critiques are not without warrant.

As a more selfless church emerges (even excellent, selfless churches), that will drive more curiosity and interest from unchurched people.

While you can debate what Millennials really want out of life, there appears to be a growing attraction in our culture to rebel against consumerism,

People are longing for an alternative to life as they know it. The church is that alternative.

In the future church, Christians obsessed with giving away their lives will eclipse Christians obsessed with themselves and their preferences.

5. People Become The Most Passionate About The Things With Which They’re Most Involved

A final reason that engagement will drive future church growth is simply this: people become most passionate about the things with which they’re most involved.

Just talk to a football dad or a baseball mom. Or your foodie friend who just found yet another recipe. Or your triathlete friend who set another personal best.

Engagement fuels involvement. Involvement fuels passion. Passion fuels invitation.

That’s why your friend wants you to try that recipe, to watch the game with them and at least attempt a 5k.

Engagement leads to invitation. Invitation leads to unchurched people following Jesus.

In many ways, this can only be a good thing.

> Read more from Carey.


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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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Clarity Process

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Timestamp. 5 Ways Your Church is Not Retro… Just Outdated

You open the doors to your church every weekend hoping more people will come (or in some cases, hoping somebody comes) only to discover that, with few exceptions, more people rarely do.

It can get discouraging, and many leaders wring their hands over what to do and how to respond.

Even once-growing churches hit plateaus and stumble into decline, and we wonder why it’s so hard to gain traction.

One of the reasons so many churches struggle these days is that the way we do church is badly outdated.

Culture is changing rapidly, which means people are changing rapidly. If you want to reach people, that probably also means you need to change your approach rapidly.

That freaks out a lot of Christians who think that because the message never changes, nothing should change.

There’s a huge difference between changing the message and changing the method.

In the church’s case, the historic message doesn’t change. But the methods have to.

Here’s why: if you don’t change your methods, eventually no one will hear your message.

I have a sinking feeling if we sat down with young adults and asked them why we do things the way we do, we’d hear an earful.

As the pace of change accelerates around us with every passing month, here are 5 ways the way we do church appears ever-more outdated.

1. Making People Go To Church

As I outlined in my 2018 church trends post, the idea of only doing church in a ‘box’ on Sundays is an increasingly stale idea.

In the (very near) future, people won’t go to church. The church will go to people.

Not sure what that means?

Think about how much your life has changed in the last 15 years.

Quick example: Let’s say I want to buy a specific wooden monitor stand for my iMac (which I do). I have two options.

Option 1: Traipse to store after store looking for what feels like a needle in a haystack (I want a walnut one), realizing, in the end, I likely need to go to Toronto or some major city to find one that a) I like, b) fits my particular computer and c) is in my price range. (Not factoring in, of course, a lot of phone calls, a day of lost travel time and tons of gas money).

Option 2: Browse Amazon and Etsy from my phone, order the monitor and have it shipped to my house next day.

Which would you choose?


Despite a welcome and thoughtful backlash against technology and what it’s doing to our minds (and souls), the internet is still not going away anytime soon.

There was a day when going to church was the only option you had if you wanted to be part of a local church.

A century or more ago, you lived in a village or city or on a farm, and you made the trek into town or over a few blocks to hear the local preacher. It was also a chance to connect relationally and socially. Honestly, for many people a century ago it was a highlight of their week.

The car gave people mobility, so we created bigger suburban churches to which people drove.

As a result, our entire model for the last century or more has been built on people going to church as though it was a destination and physical place.

But back up the timeline earlier than that, and you realize that the church going to people is not that innovative. Entire denominations and movements were premised on bringing the church to people (think circuit preachers or even the Apostle Paul).

Now, of course, we have the internet. Which most church leaders still seem to ignore as a serious tool for ministry.

So many churches remain stuck in the idea that the only way you can access the Gospel is to come to our building at a set hour every week.

Want access beyond that? Not sure how to help you.

Too many churches operate an analog model in a digital world.

Churches that want to reach people will bring the church to people, through:

A great social media presence

Messages available anytime, anywhere in multiple formats (web, social, podcast)

In-home gatherings

Practical help/advice/encouragement for everyday life (like the ParentCue strategy and the ParentCue app)

Partnerships in the community with other organizations that are making a difference (which not only does good, but takes you out of your box and into where the people you’re trying to reach gather)

Ironically, when churches begin to go to people, it makes people also want to go to church.

Because you went to them, they will want to come to you.

It creates a reciprocal, daily relationship. Whatever you do during the week builds on what happened on the weekend. And whatever you do on the weekend built on what happened during the week.

But most churches still only want people to come to them. That clock is ticking…fast.

2. Separating The Analogue And Digital Worlds

If 2018 is the year where (finally) the digital becomes real for church leaders, the question becomes what to do with it.

Strangely, most churches still separate what they do digitally and what they do in the real world.

Most of us weave seamlessly between our digital and real lives, texting someone one minute and sitting down for coffee with them the next, emailing someone to follow up on the meeting we just had, and video chatting someone we’re hanging out with Friday night.

Too many church leaders still think of their:

  • Email list as a ‘newsletter’
  • Social media as an announcement and PR venue
  • The physical world as the ‘real thing’

You know what the digital world is? It’s relationship.

It’s a friendship. And like all good friendships, it doesn’t fit in a programmatic box.

Our guest services team at Connexus has noticed a huge shift in the last year where almost everyone who visits us in person has watched online for weeks or months before they set foot in a building.

I go to parties and people who never set foot in a church tell me they watch my messages online.

They don’t see it as separate.

Church leaders who do, lose.

Conversely, leaders who see the analog/digital life as seamless will be in much a better position to reach people who live like it’s seamless, because it is.

3. Ignoring True Community

Is there any irony in the digital explosion around us? Of course there is.

The more connected we become, the more disconnected we feel.

The church should embrace technology as a way to connect, but also realize that as people connect more digitally, they feel increasingly isolated and removed from each other.

What people hunger for most is community. And no one should be better at community than the local church.

The challenge, of course, is that we’re not all that great at community.

Too often our ‘fellowship’ is shallow, or we fight a lot.

What’s missing in far too many churches is love. The very thing for which we should be known.

Churches that become great at cultivating true community will have a long line of people wanting to be part of it.

4. Creating A 100% Downloadable Or Forgettable Experience

I outline the problem with downloadable church services in this post, but let’s drill down a more.

Yes, the church will become more digital, more location independent, more remote. Sermons can be consumed on a run, on a commute and while cooking dinner. I get that. That’s a good thing. You should be able to download snippets of what your church does so you can be present in peoples lives.

But you need to facilitate experiences that go beyond that.

If your entire church experience is 100% downloadable, why would you gather? It’s often in the gathering when people move beyond themselves and experience something transcendent and life-changing.

Ironically, the constant consumption of content leaves people hungering for greater community, greater experience and greater transcendence.

Churches that facilitate those kinds of experiences are seeing momentum. Churches that don’t find it far harder to gain momentum.

I realize this creates a sea of questions for some people.

One of the best questions you can ask as a church leader is “If people show up on a Sunday, have we left enough room for them to encounter God?” That can be done through music, through prayer, through silence and even through the way you preach. It’s a posture as much as it’s programming.

Too often, people show up at church hoping to find God. Instead, they find us.

Don’t let people show up to your church only to find you.

This is one of the highest value points of a church that gathers: you share in something far bigger and far better than any of us and all of us.

5. Being Mediocre

One of the challenges most leaders face is trying to do a great ministry on limited resources.

Since we’re all hyper-connected, it means many churches try to imitate larger churches in what they do, often with limited success.

While you just don’t have the talent, skill or ability to pull off what a church 10 or 100x your size does, that doesn’t stop many from trying.

The result is usually mediocrity.

Years ago Jim Collins asked a great question that should still haunt every leader: what can you be best in the world at?

How would you answer that?

Just because you can’t be great at everything doesn’t mean you can’t be great at anything.

The key is to isolate the principles or points that resonate most.

You may not be the best preacher in the world, but what aspect of your preaching connects best?

Your stories?

The way you make the complex simple?

How you handle scripture?

Your relatability?

The personal connection you create with your audience?

Discover what connects best and develop that. 

Musically, you may not have a great band…but do you have a

Fantastic vocalist?

Great keyboardist?

Solid guitar player?

Good DJ?

Focus on what makes you great.

And no, you don’t have an unlimited budget, but meaningful connection with other people is free. So is kindness. So is hope.

Stop being mediocre at everything.

Pick a lane, and go deep.

You can branch out from there.

In an age where people create amazing art, design, products and services from home-based businesses, mediocrity is no longer an effective strategy.

What Do You See?

What parts of our model of doing church do you see as being outdated?

Anything you’d love to change?

Read more from Carey.


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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
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— Russell C
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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

7 New Approaches to Talking about Generosity

So let me guess, every time you need to talk about money in church, you wince.

And you’re the leader.

I know, because I’ve been there.

If you’re going to be effective in ministry, you have to become comfortable talking about money.

Yet few church leaders I know are.

Here’s why.

When you talk about money, it’s like you’re setting yourself up to be shot at. You almost always take bullets when you talk about money, even when you speak about it as earnestly, biblically and honestly as you know how.

As a result, many pastors avoid the subject and only talk about it if there’s a financial crisis looming for the church.

That’s the biggest mistake you can make. It sets no one up to win: not the church, not your people, and not you as a leader.

But you have to talk about it. Why? Because there’s so much at stake if you don’t.

Pastors who refuse to talk about money can ultimately leave both their churches and their people broke.

The message we continually hear from the culture around us leads people to overextension on things that matter little in the end and can also result in dissolving families (see below).

It’s Not Hopeless…Really

I know what it’s like to lead with very meager resources as well as what it’s like to lead with more.

When I began in ministry, three small churches called me to be their pastor.

The annual budget for one of the churches was $4,000. No, I’m not kidding. No, there are no missing zeros. Added together, the budget of all three churches was less than $50,000 for the year. The doors were almost closing.

But seeing resources freed up for ministry has made a big difference. More than 2,500 people now call our church home, and we see over 1,000 of them every weekend. Today our church is vibrant, healthy and alive (and I’m so thankful for that).

What’s even better is how we’ve seen people who attend our church become financially healthy in their personal life and as that’s happened, millions of dollars have been freed for ministry.

But to get there, you have to get over your fear of talking about money.

7 Fresh Ways To Get Over Your Fear Of Talking About Money In Church

One of the best ways to talk about money is to realize why you need to talk about it. And the why will lead you to the how…giving you content for your messages and for other strategies as you connect with people.

Here are 7 fresh ways to get over your fear of talking about money in church:

1. Realize The People You Lead Talk About Money Every Day

Think about it. Do you know a person who doesn’t talk about money in some way every day?

There’s not a family in your church or community that doesn’t have some kind of daily dialogue about money.

People talk about it, argue about it, and try to make their plans around it.

Almost everyone in your church and community thinks about money daily and talks about it daily. They may even struggle with it daily. It’s just that few people step up to help them with it.

As a result, people talk about money in a theological vacuum because few church leaders will talk about it.

So start talking about it.

2. View Talking About Money As Pastoral Care

Could it be that your reluctance to talk about money is costing people their marriages?

Reports continue to show that money issues are a top reason families break up.

In a culture of plenty burdened by massive personal debt and a lack of fulfilment around money, families are looking for hope and help.

If the church won’t help people figure out how to handle their personal finances, who will?

The scripture is packed with practical advice and missional claim on personal finances that can literally change people’s lives.

Why hold out on people? Who will bring them help or hope if you don’t?

3. Help People Plan Their Financial Future, Not Just Yours

Addressing money in your church shouldn’t just be about yourneeds in ministry.

Too many leaders only think about their church’s need when it comes to money. Wise leaders think about their congregation’s needs when it comes to money.

If you help people plan their personal financial future, you’ll have a better future as a church.

The tagline we came up with a few years ago is that we want people to live with margin and live on mission.

I started telling people I wanted them to pay cash for their next vacation, to save for their children’s education, to save for retirement, to create an emergency fund and to live generously.

I think people were shocked that a preacher a) wanted them to take a vacation, b) wanted them to pay cash for it,  c) offered a program to help them realize their financial goals and d) didn’t expect all their money to go to the church.

One of the best things we’ve done in the last 5 years has been taking hundreds of adults and students through the Financial Learning Experience. It’s a two-hour forum designed to help people master the basics of financial planning and realize their dreams. There are follow up small groups and individual coaching you can also offer.

My joy as a leader is to see hundreds of people paying cash for their vacations, saving for their kids’ education, saving for retirement AND giving generously to the Kingdom.

But that only happens if you want something FOR people, not just something FROM them.

4. Understand You’re Slaying A Giant Idol

If the world (and church) have an idol, money is a prime candidate.

So know up front you’re going to get push back when you address it. But if you help people with their finances as a ministry and steward the money that’s received appropriately, you will help break the power of an idol in our culture and church.

When you attack an idol, prepare for a counter-attack.

It’s easier not to fall victim to the criticism or internal battles that the attack brings when you realize the attack is coming.

5. Tap Into The Desire Most People Have To Be Generous

Most people want to be generous. They just need help with how.

When you can’t make your minimum credit card payments, even a $20 donation to the food bank seems out of reach.

When you help people get their finances in order, generosity can be unleashed. And more people want to be generous than you think. They just need help getting there.

6. Your Vision And Stewardship Must Be Worth The Sacrifice People Make

When people give, you receive a measure of trust from both people and from God.

You need to steward and manage the money well. Things like a third party independent annual audit (which is expensive, but worth it) should be the norm.

And your vision and mission should be compelling and up to the challenge.

People don’t give generously to uninspiring or poorly stewarded visions.

7. Unchurched People Are More Open To Conversations About Money Than You Realize

Because most of our growth comes from unchurched people, I hear this all the time: “But what about unchurched people? Don’t they cringe when churches talk about money?”

Sure, sometimes. But see points 1-3 above. Surprisingly, unchurched people love to talk about money when they realize you’re ready to help them.

In my experience, the people who raise the most fuss when it comes to talking about money in the church are long-time church attenders who don’t give much.

I can’t prove that statistically, but it resonates with my experience and intuition.

Don’t let the people who never give ruin your ministry to people who want to give.

Read more from Carey.

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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
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— Russell C
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
— Thomas TC Gotcher

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Ways to Lead Your Church to Thrive

Need some hope?

It’s easy to get discouraged about the future of the church.

While the world seems to be falling apart, so does the church.

Attendance in many places is shrinking, not growing. Even committed Christians are attending less often (here’s why). And young leaders aren’t exactly flocking into ministry.

And often we shoot ourselves in the foot, with everything from Pharisee-like self-righteousness to downright stupid things Christians do (here are 5).

Yet it’s not all gloom and doom. I’m an optimist.

You can always find the opportunity in every obstacle.

As you think about the future and how you need to change as a church, here are 5 principles that can guide you and your team.

1. Fill The Relational Void

The truth about our culture is this: thanks to an abundance of technology, we have never been more connected as a culture before, and we’ve never felt more disconnected.

As our lives have moved online, and as people have become more mobile and even (in growing numbers) location independent, people have never felt more lonely.

We know our neighbors less than we ever have before. It’s really hard to love someone you don’t know.

Our social media feeds give us the illusion of community. But read between the lines and you’ll see intense loneliness and even the re-emergence of tribalism where we only (virtually) associate with the people who agree with us.

When I talk to people in my community and around the world who are working through life issues, I always ask them “Who are you talking to about this?”

The number one answer? Nobody.

People may have friends, but few have deep friendships, friendships that can carry the weight of life and faith and hope and meaning and existence.

The church hasn’t done a great job of community in the past. We claim to be friendly, but that usually only means we’re friendly to each other.

And catching up on what happened this week and talking about sports or the weather is hardly what Jesus had in mind when he told us to love one another.

But the truth is the real mission of the church is relationship. It defines the vertical nature of our faith (love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength) and the horizontal essences of Christianity (love your neighbor as yourself).

If anyone can get relationship right, it should be the church.

So ask yourself as a church leader: what are you doing to forge the deepest relationships you can forge in this life?

Nobody should be able to out-community the local church.

2. Broker Meaning

In the same way that our lives are awash in hundreds or thousands of half-real relationships thanks to our phones, we are also drowning in a sea of information.

Never in the history of humanity has so much useful and useless information been available to so many so quickly.

And we have no idea what to do with it.

The current and future crisis is not a crisis of information, it’s a crisis of meaning.

You’ve felt this every time you’ve scrolled through your social media feed and thought “there is nothing of value here at all”.

In fact, on some days, the constant rants, drivel, trivial observations, bragging, self-promotion and complaining has made you think about giving up social media altogether.

The challenge for leaders moving forward is not to produce more content. The challenge is to provide meaning. 

I believe the future belongs to leaders who broker meaning in the sea of endless content

It follows, then, that the key to providing meaning isn’t more, it’s better.

More content will simply get lost the constant chatter.

More without meaning will make you less relevant. You become yet another unhelpful voice.

Better is not nearly as easy as moreBetter requires thought, reflection, digestion and ultimately resonance (it’s resonance that tells you your content is connecting).

This provides a huge opportunity for church leaders. Who better to provide meaning than the leaders called to share timeless truth in an era starved for meaning?

And for business leaders, the opportunity to stand out with your customers, your peers and your clients is right in front of you.

Just know that the race to produce more will compete with the need to produce meaning.

The meaning-brokers will win the race.

Leaders who read widely, digest, think, and above all publish content that actually helps people find meaning will become THE leaders in their field.

3. Embrace Selflessness

Narcissism is a rapidly growing problem in our culture.

You feel the pull to make your life all about you. I feel the pull. And we see it all over our culture.

The Gospel offers a powerful counterweight to selfishness; it calls us to die to ourselves.

When Christians do this, amazing things happen.

A life defined by generosity and service to others (especially those in need) is increasingly attractive to a world suffocating on itself.

A life devoted to the Kingdom of God stands out in a world devoted to the Kingdom of Self.

The church is just as guilty as the culture when it comes to narcissism. We can get obsessed with ourselves as easily as anyone.

But the opportunity to live generous lives of service to Christ and to others is a tremendous opportunity. Those disciplines put flesh on love.

The more Christians sacrifice their own wants and needs for the sake of the Kingdom, the stronger the church will be.

There’s even a promise in that. When you die to yourself, something greater rises.

4. Deal Hope

You know what’s missing in the cultural dialogue these days? Hope.

We seem to do a great job focusing on the problem and pointing out the shortcomings and sins of others and very little time pointing toward a preferred future.

We’ve read to the end of the story. We know how this ends. Love wins. Faith wins. Hope wins.

Christian hope isn’t a pie-in-the-sky that floats above reality.

It’s as gritty as the incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection of the dead.

Which means our message and lives need to get into the grit of addictions, conflict, brokenness and the utter fragility of life and fight for hope.

As Bruce Cockburn said decades ago, you need to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.

Hope that’s divorced from reality isn’t hope at all.

But hope that goes into the darkest places and cracks open a thin wedge of light that eventually floods the room is exactly what we need.

So deal hope. Real hope.

It’s what our hope-starved world craves.

5. Make Your Mission THE Mission

So where does that leave you and me?

It probably leaves us changing our churches. Cutting through the junk of who we are. Tearing away the parts that don’t work and replacing them with an authenticity and power than do.

This is true whether your church is 50, 500, or 15,000. It’s true whether it’s growing, flat or declining.

Radical change outside the church demands radical change inside the church.

Just because you shouldn’t change the message or the mission doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change the methods.

If you don’t change, irrelevance is a hairbreadth away.

An unwillingness to change is what’s fueling the decline and stagnation of 90% of all churches in North America.

Here’s some hope for churches that are willing to have the tough conversations and undergo a radical transformation: the future of THE church is secured.

Because the church is Jesus’ idea, not ours, the future of THE church is guaranteed.

The mission belongs to Christ, not to us. And he has more invested in the future of his church than all of us put together.

If you make your mission THE mission you will always have a future as a church.

> Read more from Carey.


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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

See more articles by >


What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
— Okello.moses
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
— Russell C
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
— Thomas TC Gotcher

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Innovation is Not So Innovative

Ever wonder why some leaders hit home runs—or even change the world—and why others don’t?

I wonder about that all the time.

Recently I spent a few days in Silicon Valley, the tech and startup capital of the world—a strip of cities that run between San Francisco and San Jose California.

It was exciting for me. A number of podcasts I listen to are based out of Silicon Valley. For years, I’ve read and listened to stories of entrepreneurs, startups, venture capitalists and bootstrappers who have one thing in common—they live and work in Silicon Valley.

My wife and I roamed through San Francisco, Cupertino and almost everything in between. Our hotel was right on the border of Menlo Park and Palo Alto, literally five minutes from Steve Job’s house. You can’t get further into the heart of Silicon Valley than that.

We ate in restaurants frequented by VCs and entrepreneurs (one turned out to be a place where Tim Ferriss eats) and walked the streets where the founders of Apple, Google, Facebook, Nest, LinkedIn, eBay, Lyft, Uber, Twitter, YouTube, Box, Airbnb and more hang out.

There are lots of theories about why Silicon Valley has been so successful in being a hotbed of innovation (like the ones this HBR article outlines), but what struck me about Silicon Valley was what I didn’t see.

Here are 5 quick and surprising leadership lessons I took away from my weekend in Silicon Valley.

1. Innovation Looks Surprisingly…Normal

I don’t know what I imagined Silicon Valley to look like, but the truth is it looked surprisingly…normal.

I’ve had the privilege of traveling to hundreds of cities and communities across North America and around the world. Silicon Valley didn’t look that different than many other places I’ve visited.

There were relatively normal office buildings that bore unusual names like Nest or Greylock. The buildings weren’t spectacular. What’s happening inside them was.

Ditto for Apple’s current campus. While their new campus looks like a spaceship, their current campus (which they’ll continue to use) is beautiful but not that remarkable.

Palo Alto, Menlo Park or Cupertino are decent places for dinner or hanging out at night, but they’re not that different than many other towns and cities I’ve been in.

Stanford is right next door to many of the startups, as is Berkley. But again, there are hundreds of universities that don’t produce nearly the entrepreneurs that these two schools do in Silicon Valley.

Sometimes as leaders we convince ourselves that we need a better building, a better location, or a better anything to be innovative.

Innovation almost always comes from otherwise normal looking environments.

2. Work Precedes Perk

In a similar way, stories about the perks of working at startups are legendary. Whether it’s gourmet onsite kitchens and chefs, gaming and foosball tables, free gym memberships, stock options or big maternity/paternity benefits, stories abound about how generous Silicon Valley companies are to their employees.

Yet the perks didn’t make any of these companies successful. The work did.

Perks follow work.

In an age of instant entitlement, many of us want the perks without putting in much work.

Apple started in Steve Job’s parents’ garage and Facebook was headquartered out of a dorm room long before anyone got preferred shares or free food. In fact, in the early days of any company or organization, nobody’s thinking about the perks. They’re singularly focused on the work.

Similarly, if you want to make progress, focus on the work, not the perk.

Take it a level further. If you’ve had some success and you’re enjoying a few perks, the best way to kill your future is to focus on the perks and ignore the work ahead.

As soon as you start to love perks more than work, the end is near.

3. Overnight Success Is A Long Night

So what makes startups so successful?

A lot of it is years of hard work before breakthrough. If you look at most leaders and organizations who break through, there’s a relentless pursuit of a goal.

Apple took off in the 70s and 80s, but almost died in the late 90s. Its real breakthrough happened in 2001 and again in 2007 with the introduction of the iPod and iPhone respectively. The iPhone came 31 years after Apple’s founding.

Airbnb went through many incarnations and almost died several times before it reached its tipping point several years after its launch.

It’s easy to dismiss someone as an overnight success. But you’re missing the point.

Most overnight successes are preceded by a very long night.

4. Mindset Matters More Than You Think

I talk to leaders almost every day of my life. One of the things you can spot almost immediately in talking to a leader is their mindset.

One of my favorite quotes of all time on mindset comes from non-Silicon Valley entrepreneur Henry Ford who said: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

What’s prevalent in the Valley is a can-do mindset. It’s populated by people who believe they can make a dent in the universe, that they can disrupt industries, that they can innovate in a way that changes the world.

And as a result, many do.

The mindset goes far beyond initial success.

As we walked around the Apple Campus, I saw a Steve Jobs quote on the wall that demonstrated how he thought about success:

“If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”


So, do you think you can or think you can’t? You’re right. (For more on how mindset makes or breaks churches, read this.)

5. Synergy Is A Life-Line

One of the huge advantages to being in Silicon Valley is it surrounds you with innovative people.

Some of the most advanced thinkers on the planet have gathered there, along with creatives, engineers, designers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors and so many others.

Obviously, this is an incredible incubator for innovation, new ideas and fresh approaches to the problems we face. But it’s deeper than just ideational synergy.

One of the greatest dangers of leadership is isolation.

Innovators tend to be outliers in their denominations, industry or field, and outlier often equals outcast.

It’s critical for innovative thinkers to surround themselves with people who inspire them and challenge them, because normally what happens is your friends and colleagues shoot you down. This is one of the reasons so many denominations and industries are in trouble today: they shoot their innovators.

In many ways, Silicon Valley is the Island of Misfit Toys. Apple’s famous ad makes even more sense when you consider the synergy in the Silicon Valley of people who didn’t fit in elsewhere.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square hole, the ones who see things differently.”

Get enough people around you like that, and not only can you can disrupt the status quo, you probably won’t quit when you’re trying to do it.

Too many leaders quit moments before their critical breakthrough. If you surround yourself with support, you’re far less likely to do that.

What Do You See?

Have you been to Silicon Valley or read up on it?

What do you see?

> Read more from Carey.


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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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Seven Truths About Authentic Discipleship

One of the ways you know you’re making progress is that you stop having the same discussion over and over again.

If you’re discussing the same issues on your team or at home year after year, you’re probably stuck.

When it comes to much of the discussion around discipleship, I believe we’re getting it wrong in the church.

We’re stuck.

What if the popular understanding of discipleship is producing some of the ill health and even stagnation and decline we see all around us in the church?

And what if you could do something about it by rethinking what you mean by discipleship?

Different Day, Same Conversation

From my earliest days in ministry, I’ve had a conversation about discipleship that repeats itself again and again.

It goes like something like this:

Me: People need to reach out more and focus more of their time, energy and resources on evangelism.

Other person(s): That’s a great idea but what we really need to focus on is discipleship. There’s such an immaturity in Christians today that we need to focus on growing the ones we have first. And besides, evangelical churches are known for producing shallow, immature Christians.

Pretty compelling logic.

Unless, of course, it’s wrong.

Flabby Christians

I agree that often Christians in the West are immature. I agree our walk doesn’t always match our talk.

But I also think the average North American Christian is about 3000 bible verses overweight.

The way many leaders approach maturity is to assume that knowledge produces maturity. Since when?

It’s wonderful that people understand what they believe, but knowledge in and of itself is not a hallmark of Christian maturity. As Paul says, knowledge puffs up. Love, by contrast, builds up. And some of the most biblically literate people in Jesus day got by-passed as disciples.

The goal is not to know, but to do something with what you know.  I wrote more on why our definition of Christian maturity needs to change here.

7 Truths About Authentic Discipleship

Here are seven things I believe are true about biblical discipleship church leaders today should reclaim:

1.  Jesus Commanded Us To MakeDisciples, Not Be Disciples.

The way many Christian talk, you’d think Jesus told us to bedisciples. He commanded us to make disciples. The great commission is, at it’s heart, an outward movement.

Could it be that in the act of making disciples, we actually become more of who Christ designed us to be? It was in the act of sharing faith that thousands of early Christians were transformed into new creations.

I know personally I grow most and learn most when I am helping others. It gives me a place to apply what I’m learning and to take the focus off myself and place it on Christ and others, where it belongs.

2. Discipleship Is Simply Linked To Evangelism.

The thrust of all first century discipleship was to share Christ with the world he loves and died for (yes, Jesus really does love the world).

You can’t be a disciple without being an evangelist.

And for sure, the opposite is true. You can’t be an an evangelist without being a disciple. But somehow many many people would rather be disciples without being evangelists.

3. A Mark Of An Authentic Disciple Includes Getting It Wrong.

A common criticism of churches that draw in large numbers of outsiders and newer believers is that these new followers of Christ get it wrong as often as they get it right. They might not realize that reincarnation isn’t biblical or struggle to understand the faith they’re stepping into.

What if that’s a sign that their discipleship is authentic?

After all, Peter didn’t get it right most of the time when he was around Jesus. Many leaders in the early church needed correction. And even Paul would later confront Peter about his unwillingness to eat with Gentiles.  And yet Christ chose to build the early church on Peter and Paul. Imagine that.

4. A Morally Messy Church Is…Inevitable

One stinging criticism of churches that are reaching people is that many of their attenders don’t bear much resemblance to Jesus.

These new, immature Christians can be

  • swayed by powerful personalities
  • still be sexually active outside of marriage
  • have questionable business practices
  • end up in broken families
  • be too swayed by the culture
  • not know how to conduct themselves in worship
  • doubt core doctrines like the resurrection

If these issues remind you of why you so dislike growing churches or megachurches, just realize that I pulled every one of those problems out of 1 Corinthians. The church in Corinth struggled with every problem listed above and (I think) every problem growing churches today struggle with.

And last time I checked the church in Corinth was an authentic church Christ loved.

The fact that you have these problems may actually be a sign you’re making progress with the unchurched. You don’t want to leave them there, but when people really start engaging with Christ, tidy categories are hard to come by.

In fact the most morally ‘pure’ people of the first century (the Pharisees) were the very ones Jesus most often condemned. Go figure.

5. Maturity Takes Time And Is Not Linear

It would be great if there was instant maturity in faith and in life. But it never works that way.

You can’t expect a 3 year old to have the maturity of a 13 year old, or expect a 23 year old to have the maturity of a 43 year old. When you place expectations on people that they are just not able to bear, you crush or confuse them.

And yet we do that in the church all the time. People grow and mature over time. And our progress isn’t always as linear as a 101, 201, 301 progression would make it. In fact, I know some 23 year olds who are more mature than some 43 year olds.

Expose new Christians to the love of God and community, to great teaching, great relationships, and solid accountability and over time, many will grow into very different people than they were when they first came to Christ. They may grow at different rates and in different measures, but I believe Jesus talked about that. Just don’t judge them after a few months or even a few years.

6. Christian Maturity Was Never About You Anyway.

Christian maturity has never been about you anyway. It is certainly not about how awesome you are compared to others, how smart you are, how righteous you are, or how holy you are.

It is about Jesus. And it is about others.

It was never about you anyway.

7.  Love Compels Us

If you love the world, how can you ignore it? Jesus said the authentic mark of his followers is love. He defined the primary relationship between God and humanity as one of love. The truth he ushered in is inseparable from love.

The primary motivation for evangelism and discipleship is the same; it is love. That should characterize both the discussion about evangelism and discipleship and also the way we go about both.

This isn’t an exhaustive treatment of discipleship and evangelism, but in the time it takes to sip a coffee I hope it helps some way advance the conversation about evangelism and discipleship in your church.
And if we advanced our understanding of discipleship in the church, maybe the church and our culture would be transformed.

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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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The Seven Struggles of a Growing Church

Ever think that growth will solve all your problems?

It’s tempting to believe that. I know, because I still fall into that line of thinking unless I stop myself.

I’d be the first to admit that I’d rather be part of something that’s growing than something that’s stuck or dying, but growth doesn’t mean your issues disappear.

In fact, leaders of growing organizations just sign up for a new set of problems. While I’ll take those problems any day, they’re still problems.

Having started ministry in very small churches, I can relate to each of these struggles personally.

As our church has grown from a handful of people to 1,200 people who now attend and 2,500 people who call our church home, we’ve navigated all of these challenges. So has almost every growing church.

What’s true in church is true in any organization or business. We’re even working through rapid growth issues associated with this blog, my writing, and my podcast. You hope and pray people show up, but when they do, you get a whole new set of challenges. As things grow, everything gets more complicated.  It’s the leader’s job to create simplicity in the midst of it all.

Bottom line? Your struggles as a leader or as a church don’t go away when your church or organization starts to grow. They simply change.

Here are 7 things every leader of a growing church or organization struggles with.

1. The Senior Leader Being Less Available

I began ministry in a church of 6 people (and that was a normal Sunday…a bad Sunday was 2 people). When your church is really small, you’re pretty much available to do anything anyone needs. How can you argue you’re not available when you lead a tiny church?

But as your church grows, you need to begin a transition away from being available all the time. If you don’t, you will implode or your church will stop growing.

You can be generally available to 20 people.

You will wear yourself out trying to be consistently available for 200 people.

You’ll die trying to be available to 2000 people. Frankly, you’ll never even serve that many people because it’s humanly impossible, even if you worked 7 days a week, 20 hours a day. People will just walk away, their calls unanswered and their needs unmet.

As my friend Reggie Joiner says, the problem with needs-based ministry is there’s no end to human need.

Your church will struggle with the pastor being less available as it grows.  But it will struggle even more if you don’t restructure to grow bigger.

To reach more people, you need to be available to fewer people.

I wrote more about scaling your ministry through different stages in my new book, Lasting Impact: Seven Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, available here.

2. The Leader Not Doing Everything

A companion of being less available as a church grows is the reality that a pastor can’t do everything.

Many pastors of small churches start out as jacks of all trades: preacher, pastor, chaplain, wedding officiant, funeral officiant, bible study leader, team leader, curriculum designer and even friend who drops by.

When your church is small, it’s natural for the pastor to do almost all the work, because it seems there is no one else available to do it, and no money to outsource it or to hire anyone else.

When I started in ministry, in addition to preaching, teaching and vision casting (my primary gifitings) I also designed and printed the bulletins, created any computer graphics, performed weddings and funerals, visited in hospital, led the church bible study and was actively involved in our kids ministry. I was only mediocre at most things on that list, and terrible at a few.

As our church has grown, my role has become narrower and narrower.

At 200 Pastoral care became a groups and congregational responsibility. So did bible study (which became small groups instead).

At 400, I let go of graphics and design entirely (thankfully).  I also go out of direct involvement in student and children’s ministry as we hired people (I still share the the vision, but no longer own the responsibility).

At 800, I stepped back from leading and attending most meetings and almost everything else to focus on preaching, teaching, vision casting and senior leadership.

The struggle here is dual: you will struggle with letting go, and people will struggle with you letting go.

If you want to grow, you have to let go.

And, of course, as Andy Stanley says, by doing less you’ll accomplish more. Far more.

This sounds like a small thing, but it’s a big thing.

3. Not Knowing Everyone’s Name

People who are part of a small church panic about not knowing everyone’s name as a church grows.

Time to challenge that assumption. Why panic?

Truthfully most people don’t know everyone, even in a church of 50.

Human reality dictates we can only truly know about 5 people deeply and about 20 people well.

Which again leads to small groups and serving teams. You can (and should) organize hundreds and even thousands of people to be known in smaller circles of groups and teams.

The point or church is not for everyone to know everyone. The point is for everyone to be known.

I think I have a personal capacity to know between 1,500 to 2,000 people by name and then my mind fries. Our church (and my life) has grown beyond that. At one point I tried to know all of our volunteers by name, but even now, I get stumped (the volunteer name tags really help me).

If you’re leading a growing church, embrace that. Create a church where everyone who wants to be known…is.

You will reach far more people if you do.

4. Shifting From Leading People To Leading Leaders

If you’re going to lead a growing church effectively, you have to begin leading leaders instead of leading people.

That’s a hard shift for many people, including church staff.

There’s a temptation to want to be known and recognized by everyone you’re leading. The truly great leaders are prepared not to do that.

They realize that their greatest success will be found in leading staff and volunteers who can, in turn, lead others.

Which also means sometimes they get the credit rather than you. Which again, is fine if you’re committed to becoming an effective leader.

If you’re not fine with others receiving the credit, you’ll eventually stunt the church’s growth to the level of your insecurity.

If you struggle with insecurity, by the way, this is an amazing conversation with Josh Gagnon, who leads a top 5 fastest growing church in America and has had to battle his own insecurities in doing so.

But you must shift from leading people to leading leaders if you hope to reach more people.

5. Adding Systems

This is a hard one for any entrepreneurial leader (like myself). I love freedom and even spontaneity.

But for your church to ever sustainably pass 500 in attendance, let alone 1000, you have to have systems.

Many entrepreneurial leaders are afraid of systems and structure because they think it means the creation of a bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy stifles mission. Great systems fuel it.

Like an office tower designed to house thousands of people, great systems and structure support the goals of the organization with lean but solid processes around finances, management, discipleship and even the weekend services a church offers.

Without structure, freedom collapses into chaos and disorganization.

The novice leader values freedom from structure. The mature leader values freedom in structure.

Without great systems that foster care for people, you won’t care for people.

6. Saying No

‘Yes’ gets you to initial growth; ‘No’ gets you to sustained growth.

Many pastoral leaders are people pleasers. As I argue here, that can be deadly.

Most great organizations become effective not just because they decided what they are, but fundamentally because they decided what they are not.

As you grow, more and more people will show up with ideas about how to make things better.

It’s much easier to say no when you have a clearly defined mission, vision, strategy and culture.

The leader who says yes to everything ultimately says yes to nothing.

7. Dealing With Critics

So once you start growing, all the critics will disappear, correct?

Sorry to break the news…but just the opposite. They’ll line up.

You’ll have internal critics who want things to be the way they used to be. After all, the people heading for the Promised Land always want to go back to Egypt.

But the critics are not just internal, growth attracts a growing number of external critics.

Our generation seems to specialize in encouraging leaders and organizations to grow and then criticizing them when they do.

And before you accuse others, there’s a 99% chance you’ve thought or said something negative about a large church pastor you resent.

Growth attracts critics. It just always does.

So how do you process the criticism when you’re the one being criticized?

The best way to process what your critics have to say is to understand why they say it.

First, take whatever good there might in what they said and reflect on it. You’re not perfect. You can learn and develop from it.

But then process why the critics are often so mean-spirited.

What usually fuels a critics’ animosity toward success and growth? Three things:

  • Jealousy
  • A need to justify their own lack of progress
  • Sin

Once you understand that a critic’s arguments are often less about you than they are about them, you’re free to show compassion and even concern for them.

> Read more from Carey.


Talk with an Auxano Navigator about the growth struggles you are encountering right now.

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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

See more articles by >


What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
— Okello.moses
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
— Russell C
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
— Thomas TC Gotcher

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.