Most of us in the “profession” of ministry were not trained to lead.  We were trained to speak.  We were trained to teach, to preach, to visit, to exegete, maybe even to manage.

But few of us were taught to lead.

Leaders place a premium on setting a course, galvanizing a team, and moving the needle.

Managers do the important work of keeping the status quo on schedule—meeting deadlines, running meetings, keeping up with tasks.  Most who stay in ministry, by necessity, develop management skills.

But leaders are more rare.  Leaders take us into unknown places, the places  where we have not yet been.

Managers apply grit and determination to stay the course, to help us do better than what we have been doing.

But without a leader, a ministry will find itself, at best, working efficiently to hit yesterday’s targets.

Management tasks flock to us like hungry pigeons.  Leadership tasks—at least the game-changing ones—must be sought out one by one.

What would it take to raise up a generation of leaders equipped to walk the church into its next chapter and through the uncertainty and disequilibrium that will comes with that walk?


A young man approached me after a seminar recently with a question.  “How can I get into coaching like you’re doing?” he asked.  “…you know, ministry coaching, life coaching, that sort of thing?”

I responded the way I almost always do:

“Tell me about the coaches you have in your life right now.” 


Very long pause.

A very familiar, very long pause.

If you are a consultant or coach (or want to be one), let me be direct.  If you don’t have and use coaches and consultants yourself, you are (dare I say it?)…a hypocrite.  If you want a job as a consultant but don’t believe in the consulting/coaching process to have one yourself, you might as well do something that has more integrity.

If you want to be a consultant or coach, do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Find yourself a coach (or 5) who can help you move in the direction of your dreams.  Once you’ve worked that process for a year or so and you have found it life-changing, then you’re ready to be a coach yourself.

I know.  Having a coach is not something normal people do.  It is not something weak people do to prop themselves up.  In my experience, having a coach is a peculiar practice of champions.

The Light Touch and the High Road

It was a season of incredible turmoil.

It happened almost 15 years ago, but I can remember it like it was yesterday.  The intensity of the anxiousness was overwhelming.  Sleep was a luxury my body was not afforded.  My mind was running like a lost child through the woods, stuck on the endless loop of trying to “solve” my church’s crisis.

I reached out to many wise friends during this season.  With each one, I rehearsed, in painstaking detail, all the drama, the twists and turns, the multiple failures of leadership.

I was hoping for direction, for clarity, and, if I’m honest, for justification that my indignation was justified.  Most of all, I wanted to fix this thing.

A number of my friends shared my outrage, others gave sympathy, others detailed advice.  But after 15 years, I only remember one response.

One of the wisest friends I have ever had now serves as an executive pastor at a 5000-member church and, curiously, is also an absolutely brilliant spiritual director.  I was sure she would give me some clear guidance, and at the very least, that she would at least be empathetically “on my side.”

After receiving my lengthy, detailed email, she responded with one simple phrase—not even a complete sentence:

The light touch and the high road.”

It was disarmingly simple and unnerving at the same time. This was not a way to calm the turbulence (what I wanted) but a way to ride the rapids with integrity, a way to calm my reactivity enough that I could be present, both to the people who were “on my side” of the conflict as well as to those whom I was convinced were dead wrong.

The details of the conflict faded from my rearview mirror over a decade ago, but my friend’s profound counsel have never been far from me.