11 Characteristics We Need in Leaders Today

The church of today looks different than ten years ago – or it should, if it doesn’t you’ll have a really hard time being effective in today’s culture.
The church ten years from now will look different than today.
It’s the message of the church, the movement of God that is sacred, it is not the methods or institutions that are sacred.
We desperately need leaders, with deep character and faithful competence, to help the church go from where it is today to where it needs to be for tomorrow.
In days gone by church leaders could be trained to give a decent sermon, hold a funeral, visit the faithful and they were good to go. As a professor of mine would say, church leaders need to be ready to “pray, preach or die on a moments notice.”

Things look different today.
Those days are long gone.
So much more is needed and required from our leaders today and into the future.
We need leaders who can bridge cultural divides, bring change to congregations, equip people to BE the church and remind the church of its role to join God on His mission in the world every day.

My colleagues, Garth Williams, Kevin Vincent and I, have been discussing the kind of leaders the church needs today. Here’s our list. Let us know what you think.

The leaders the church needs today and into the future are:

1. Highly relational – value people and are great listeners. They know trust is a key commodity and is only built through solid relationships. They build teams that accomplish a lot, but also know, trust and understand each other. They know when to be vulnerable and can be trusted with others vulnerabilities. These leaders can listen to even criticisms and hear the hurt and confusion that is coming out as judgement or anger.

2. Collaborative – invite others into help shape and accomplish the vision. These leaders are influencers rather than dictators. They have a posture of invitation into God’s way and into their leadership. They display an openness to discussion, while also knowing when to push the team from discussion to action. They are willing to give away power and control.

3. Less linear, more fluid – comfortable living in less defined constructs and living in the grey. They are comfortable ending a discussion with a comma and not a period. They are comfortable with uncertainty and leading into the unknown. They are versatile, agile on the method but married to the mission. They recognize the church cannot stay where it is and continue to reach new people and a new generation.

4. Great questioners – They are able to ask questions that are not judgmental but force assumptions to the top. They ask question that invite people into deeper and more thoughtful discussion. Questions also help these leaders be on-going learners. Leaders need to show this willingness to learn from outsiders, insiders and anyone. (More on great leadership questions here: 7 Questions to ask to be a better leader)

5. Visionaries – Leaders with extreme clarity of God’s mission for them. They know their “white hot why” and are able to communicate the cause clearly to others.

6. Strategist – Leaders that not only dream and vision but know how to lead a team and church to become passionate implementers.

7. Experimenters – Leaders that are passionate about experimentation. They have an entrepreneurial attitude and are not afraid to take risks. There is no failure, there are only lessons along the way.

8. Character – Leaders with depth of character and love. Leaders that have the character to withstand challenges with grace and perseverance. They have clear integrity, inside and out. Leaders that love and serve so fanatically that their deep convictions are respected by even those outside the faith. Other could say “I don’t agree with them in that but WOW they live out their faith in Jesus!”

9. Missionaries – know they are called by God to love and serve missionally where they study, live, work and play. They are desperate to understand their context, the questions people are asking today and the needs around them, so that they can equip the church to be missionaries in their context. They are both modelling being on mission everyday with Jesus in their own lives and are calling and equipping others to live on mission with Jesus everyday.

10. Kingdom minded – they are concerned about the Jesus movement going forward. They are not protecting a particular church, a building, a denomination, nor are they seeking to build their own church or kingdom. They are others’ focused.

11. Gritty – they are not afraid of hard work and pain. They are resilient and persevere through challenges. Their strength comes from being close to Jesus and listening to Jesus. They are not afraid of talk about the tough topics or have difficult conversations. They are willing to do whatever it takes for the sake of Jesus’ mission advancing.

We are so encouraged that we see leaders developing in these areas.
We are so encouraged that we see emerging leaders with these skills and passions.
God is absolutely building His Church.

Let us know – what do you think of our list? Leave your comments below.

You might also be interested in reading this blog asking the question “Who will create the new hoverboards and flying cars for the church?” 

Lead on!
-Renée @r_embree


7 questions to ask to be a better leader

When you are stuck in life – what gets you out?
Questions. Great questions.
I think, more often than not, it is a fresh question that helps me see things from a different perspective.
Questions are powerful. They can invite us into new realities and possibilities.

I’m starting to realize a pattern of questions I’m asking myself again and again as a leader.
These questions are helping me be a better leader.
These questions have especially helped me when I am in difficult situations.
We all have areas of influence, areas where people look to us for direction, support or leadership.
You are a leader somewhere.
You lead in your school, in your home, in your church, in your gym, in your volunteer committee, in your band, in your camp, in your coaching role, in your youth group, with your kids, in your neighbourhood…

May these questions make you a better leader where you are.

1. How do I glorify God in this?
This is a question I ask myself again and again, especially in difficult situations. What does it look like to be faithful to God in this? How do I display God’s heart and character in this? What is God trying to teach me here? I’ve found, especially in difficult situation, this helps me focus on the right things. I may not be able to change the circumstances, but I do have control over my attitude, actions and reactions and I can seek to glorify God in the middle of my situation.

2. What’s the third way?
Often in discussions, disagreements and meetings we only see one or two different points of views. I find just asking this question in my head “What’s the third way?” helps me not be stuck in sides, one way or the other, or stuck in the status quo. Just asking this question helps me be creative in seeing new ways and new possibilities.

3. How can I ask a great question here?
Instead of making a statement, how can I turn it into a great question that invites people further into thoughtful reflection and discussion? Statements can sound definitive or even defensive. Questions sound much more like invitations. Jesus is the master of asking great questions that invite deeper reflection. How can I turn my statement into a question that invites discussion?

4. Where is God already at work here?
Where’s God already working in what is in front of you this day – this person’s life, this leader, this family, this church, this situation, this community… I find asking this questions helps take the pressure off of me to “succeed” and helps me focus on the positive signs I see of God’s work among us. I believe God is at work all around us, all the time. May we have eyes, ears and minds to recognize God’s work around us each day.

5. What am I responsible for and what am I not responsible for? (Or sometimes I put it another way – what can I control and what can I not control?)
This has saved me on many occasions, especially when you end up in situations where it feels like lots of things are out of your control.
I tend to have an over-developed sense of responsibility. I’ve discovered most driven leaders do. However, if I try to be responsible for what is not mine, or I try to control what is not mine, I only end up frustrated and end up annoying others. This question includes the need to recognize fully what is God’s responsibility, and what’s my responsibility entrusted to me by God. There is a big difference between the two. I plant the seed, but God causes the growth. I invest in people, but I cannot change anyone’s heart.
I can’t control others, but I can control my actions and reactions towards others.
I can’t control many circumstances, but I can control my reactions.
I’ve sat down and made charts at times to remind myself “what I am responsible for…” and “what I am not responsible for…” It’s incredibly freeing to set your energies and heart on what you are responsible for and trust God with what is not your responsibility.

6. How can I be helpful?
I’ve often assumed I know exactly what someone else needs to be helped.
I’ve assumed this in team meetings, in counselling others, in mentoring relationships, in friendships…
However, it turns out I rarely know best what someone (or a group of people) truly needs most.
I’ve often been completely off base with my “helpfulness”. It turns out the other person/group tends to know best what is helpful and what help they are ready to receive.
Also, if I assume I know how I can be helpful, it takes all choice, control and leadership away from others. That is actually demeaning to others, even if my intention was to be a helpful servant.
I’m learning to listen well and then ask “How can I be most helpful?”

7. What’s the win?
I think it is so important to ask the why questions behind everything. Why do we do what we do? Where is it leading us? What’s the win it is accomplishing? How is that win helpful to God and the vision God has given us? How’s this meeting/event/partnership contributing to a piece of our long-term goals and values? Clarity is a powerful tool. When we all know the “win” we’re aiming for it is much easier to be a motivated team. When I’m working away at something and I know the “win” I’m a much better worker. Define the win.

What powerful questions do you use to make yourself a better leader?
Are you finding these 7 questions helpful?

-Renée @r_embree

Thriving when life goes from 0 to 100 km/h for a season

September seems to be that season in ministry, in families, in workplaces and in schools when life very quickly ramps up.
I feel it.
Talk to Youth and Children’s Pastors – they feel it, as programs ramp back up, big events start coming at them fast and furious and everyone wants to meet with them again.
Talk to Senior and Solo pastors – they feel it, as everyone is asking about plans for the year, the phone calls and emails increase tenfold, programs ramp up, Sundays come at them with amazing regularity and vacation now seems like a distant memory.
Talk to Parents – they feel it, their kids activities start to fill in all the blank spaces in the calendar, they start feel like a taxi driver again and the kids always seem to need more food and more money.
Talk to Students – they feel it, the syllabi overwhelm them and assignments, tests and exams start to fill their calendar.
When is your 0 to 100 km/h season?

I’ve come to expect it now. I know every September it is going to get a little crazy, a little too full for a while. There are other seasons when this happens too. Seasons when things very quickly seem to go from 0 to 100 km/hr.

Here are the things I remind myself of in a 0 to 100 km/h season, so that I continue to lead well and my life and character continues to display Christ, even in the busy seasons.

1. Write down your top 1 to 3 priorities for the next 3 months – focus on those things. This helps me remember what God, my team and myself really are expecting me to accomplish in the next stretch. When I know my top 3 priorities it is much easier to decide what can wait, what I can say ‘no’ to and what really needs my attention each day. Seriously, write the 1 to 3 things down somewhere where you’ll see them. I’ve found for this short season 5 priorities is too many and can feel overwhelming. This is for a season, 3 priorities or even just 1 is enough.

2. One step at a time – The old saying is true, “how do you climb a mountain? One step at a time.” In a busy season it can seem impossible to get anything done. It can seem your email, phone, meetings or the urgent dictates your schedule/day. In busy seasons especially I remind myself “one step at a time”, “what’s one step?” Break down tasks or projects into steps. Ask, “What is one step I can take today to move the ball further down the field for my top priorities?” I’m famous for making charts and lists. I tell you, there is just something about seeing things broken down in a chart or list, where you can clearly see how things will be tackled and then can start checking things off step by step.

3. Lean into the things that restore your soul – in a busy season it can be tempting to skimp on doing the things that restore your soul, even things like spending time alone with God in His Word. I’ve learned (often the hard way) that during busy season I need to be even more protective of my soul care activities and fight to not let them go. Quite simply, I actually need them more in a busy season. I especially need to be protective of my alone time with God so I’m hearing from Him about priorities and receiving everything I need from Him to bring Him glory in this season. When I skimp on these things a 100 km/h season can easily go off track at high speed. That is a sad sight to see.

4. Rest – This one always seems counter intuitive to me. In a 100 km/h season my reaction always is to work harder, work longer, stay up later and get up earlier. I’m learning I get way further ahead if I quit at a reasonable time and get a good night’s sleep. When I sleep well I am better able to handle the stresses of the day and I’m simply a nicer person in the process. Yup, there are some stretches where sleep just gets shorter (long meetings, new parents etc.), but if I go into the season knowing it is temporary and I will seek to get good sleep when I can, I do much better.

5. Ask for help – Trust others, invite them in to help in this season. Ask yourself, “what can I give away in this season?” Entrust things to volunteer, give your kids more chores, tell the team & family what kind of season it is for you and how they can help, invite others to pitch in.

6. Tell God – Tell God how you are feeling in this season and what you need in this season. Ask God to guide your steps, your lists and your priorities. Ask God to give His perspective on this season. I have found it completely perspective changing when I have balcony time with God and I can walk away with a fresh view on what He’s doing in a season. Receive what God wants to give you to thrive in this season. For some leaders receiving is the hardest part.

7. Tell those closet to you, especially those you live around – Make a plan to get through this busy season and still like each other at the end. Plan short pockets of time together. Plan a vacation together at the end of the busy season. Plan a mini celebration when you get through the season or a priority is accomplished.

8. What’s your cruising altitude? – Know yourself and your seasons. 100 km/h seasons are sustainable for a little while, but not forever. We are not created to maintain them season after season. Make sure this season does not last forever. To keep the analogy going, I’m learning I function best at about 75 km/h, I’m focused, handling the load, leading well and able to have good rhythms of rest and play. I also have some margin, in case something unexpected comes up. If it’s a 50 km/h season I get antsy and want to see things get moving. If it’s 20 km/h season I get bored and start day dreaming and get unfocused. If it’s a 100 km/h season I know I cannot maintain it for longer than a season. What’s your prime speed? What’s your cruising altitude?

Hope this helps.
What helps you come through busy seasons thriving? Please add your thoughts in the comments. It’s great learning from each other.
-Renée @r_embree

Current day heroes

I’ve been pondering my current day heroes in the faith. Who are yours?
In the spirit of Hebrews 11, where it says “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (vs. 1) and then the passage goes on to list all those who have gone before who have lived by faith, I’ve been thinking about current day heroes. Those who are dancing for God now, even though their circumstances tell them to give-up. Those that bring the umbrella to the prayer meeting for rain. Those that speak and share as if those in their audience are just checking out the faith, even though those folks are yet to come to their gathering.
Living by faith, that what they do not yet see, but what they hope for in Christ, will in fact come to be.
Who your heroes are says a lot about the aspirations and direction of your heart.

Here are some of my current day hero’s:

Church planters, who despite I’m sure lots of pressure, are resisting becoming like others churches, so that they may reach new pockets of our society. Thank you for teaching me determination.

Refugees, who give up so much for the hope of a fresh start and come to a foreign land with courage. I think of Syrian refugees coming to Canada today. Thank you for teaching me courage.

Theologians of today that call me again and again towards more faithful, less fragmented living for Jesus in our world. I particularly think of our Canadian theologians who I’m sure get little recognition and would often be consider irrelevant by society. Despite this they faithfully call us to be the body of Christ in the world, inviting us to continually shift our lives and thinking to be in-line with God and His Kingdom. Thank you for teaching me dedication, a long obedience in the same direction.

Women who lead faithfully in ministry, living out of God’s call on their lives even when they are misunderstood. The women that continue to hold firm to the Gospel and God’s calling on their lives. Thank you for teaching me loving resilience.

Those who have intentionally chosen to root themselves in a neighbourhood so Jesus may be become known to those around them. They immerse themselves in a community to be God’s presence there. I think of those who have uprooted their lives to intentional live in forgotten neighbourhoods and those in the new monastic movement. Thank you for teaching me true love.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with LGBT attraction and have chosen to journey towards living faithfully for Jesus, even choosing to live a celibate lifestyle. They have given up more than most of us for the sake of costly obedience to Christ. This takes faith especially when many of our churches have not been the most welcoming. Thank you for teaching me costly obedience.

Parents that faithfully walk with their children of all ages, inviting them to live for Jesus in all areas of their lives, even (especially) when it looks different than the rest of society. Parents that continue to stand by their children even when they make choices that break their hearts. Thank you for teaching me grace.

Youth who are living faithfully and leading their friends to Jesus. I think of those that have started groups and practices in their school that display Jesus to their fellow students in word and deed. They have faith that God is at work among their friends, school and community. Thank you for teaching me joy and relevance in joining God’s work.

My mentors that speak God’s truth into my life even when it’s hard and it cause upheaval in my soul. Thank you for your tough love.

Volunteer youth and children leaders, doing so much with so little for the sake of this generation encountering God and being transformed by God. They have unwavering faith that God is speaking to, loving and transforming this generation. Thank you for teaching me passion.

Leaders and churches (tiny, small, medium and large) that have made the tough choices to say it is not about our holy huddle, but it is about those that have yet to experience God’s grace and Kingdom in their lives. They have taken hits as they’ve called their Christian community to turn outward again. They are my heroes for calling the body of Christ back to our mission. Thank you for teaching me sacrifice.

Who are your heroes in the faith?
As I look over my list it gives me great hope! We have many among us who are living by faith. We have many who are living with a radical openness to God’s possibilities in their life.
These heroes challenge me to more faithful living.
These heroes call me to live by faith.

Here’s the especially important part:
Who are the heroes in your life and ministry today? Tell them! Write them a note to cheer them on and thank them. Spur them on even more!
I’m off to write a note…

Add your comments below, let’s celebrate together, who are your current day heroes in the faith?

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

-Renée @r_embree