Thursday, January 11, 2018

How to Stay Healthy in Ministry

I love serving in our church with my wife, Kellie Pilot
If you have a passion for people, if you are drawn to help the hurting and to bless the broken, you likely have a calling on your life for ministry.  The word “minister” means “to serve.” The heart of God is to give and to serve, particularly to those who are poor, who are struggling, who are helpless.   We see God’s heart in the Bible:

Proverbs 19:2  Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Isaiah 1:17    Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

Matthew 25:35-40  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

When you and I serve those in need, we touch the heart of God; we literally become the expression of God’s love.  

The challenge comes for us when we see the immense needs of people, and then realize that so many people have needs.  When you are built for ministry, the Holy Spirit of God gives you the divine ability to see opportunities to serve and to love.

I have this ability.  I see the need, and I love looking for ways to meet that need.  What I have had to learn, however, is how to manage caring for all of the people God shows me, with at the same time keeping healthy and balanced.  

I have some passionate people in our church who come tell me “I feel that God is calling me to be Pastor.” I have others who come and share with me a need with someone and then ask me “what should I do?”  The need is rarely just “they could use a few dollars” or “just say a quick prayer for them.” Usually it is intense issues with a broken marriage, drugs, homeless, no job, behind on their rent, abuse, or a combination of them all!

As I look in to the eyes of these passionate people who desire to serve others, I sense they are overwhelmed and lost.  “Pastor, what should I do?”

Let me share some thoughts that I have learned on how to effectively meet the needs of of people, yet stay healthy and balanced:

Sympathize, Don’t Empathize
Sympathy means you can relate with a person.  Empathy means you personally take on the pain of the person.  They are similar, but sympathy infers there is a separation between you and the person.  If you are built like me, you tend to feel the emotion and pain of others.  This is what draws you in to the situation, to reach farther than others, to stop everything in your life to do everything you can to help.  However, this idea of SYMPATHIZING has helped me to keep a healthy distance from the situation.  Why is this important? Because people like us who want to serve can easily get off balance with our lives.  We can get overwhelmed with many people, many needs.  To stay healthy and balanced in your own life, you need to have some boundaries in your emotions, boundaries in your life.  You can’t go deep with everyone.  I remind myself that I am not a Counselor.  One friend of mine who is a Counselor gave me great advice as to how she keeps herself separated emotionally from all of the hurts and problems of those she looks after.  She said “after I have met with the person, prayed with them and they walk out the door of my office, I imagine that their problems have walked out with them.  Otherwise, I take home the tension and weight of their problems with me, and my home can become toxic.” That is good advice! Sympathize, don’t Empathize.

Lead Them to Jesus
Say this to yourself: God is God.  I am not.  Remember that you cannot solve all of their problems.  When you hear their story and listen to their requests for money, for you time, for you to solve their problems, remember that the source of these problems is bigger than money, problems with marriage, nowhere to stay.  What they really need is a relationship with Jesus.  And they need to start doing what Jesus says to do, to get in to a church family and be a part.  That will get them in to the healthy place where their life will begin taking shape.  Remember that you are not the hero.  Jesus is.  As Christians, remember that we do not have to solve everyone’s problems and carry everyone’s burdens.  We are not good enough or strong enough.  If we try, we will find that we will be crushed by the weight of people’s needs.  

Our job is to lead them to Jesus

Our job is to show them the love and message of Jesus.  Yes, we can do things that will show His love through giving and serving.  But remember, we are partners with God to help people find Jesus! Take the pressure off of your shoulders to meet every need.  Do your part (which should be limited and appropriate), and let God do His part.

Serve Them Strategically
People will reach out to you at the most inconvenient times.  That is the nature of ministry. If we love people, we don’t see them as an interruption, but as an opportunity given by God to respond with love.  As a Pastor, my heart is that for every person that reaches out at Christ Fellowship, I aim to be the first responder.  As a Pastor, I wear many hats as I look after the church.  But I feel that my primary role is always to love and shepherd people.  Therefore, I am willing to stop anything I am doing in the moment and respond immediately to people.  I was taught the importance of responding to people immediately when they are in crisis.  50% of ministry is just showing up.

While I aim to be the first responder, I follow up with them by delegating to other capable leaders in my church.  I have worked hard to build a team around me who I have trained and who I entrust to minister to people.  I have found this formula has worked well for me, of being the first call, and then to direct the team to do follow up care.  This gives a beautiful expression to our church family that “my Pastor cares”, while also empowering other leaders to “be the Pastor.” 

Another way to serve people strategically is to leverage your weekend church service by re-directing your people with needs to attend.  Many people want time with you for counseling, for care.  I will re-direct their request by telling them that I can help them best if they will come to church services on Sunday.  That is where I have leaders and support systems to help them.  It’s amazing to me that people will sometimes make excuses as to why they can’t make it to church.  They can’t get a ride, they work, etc.  Some people expect to be helped on their terms and in their time.  As a ministry leader, you need to constrict the times you serve people for your safety and health.  You will learn the true nature of people’s needs and motives based on their response to your direction.  If they truly want your help, they will follow your direction.  If they make excuses or complain about the steps you are asking them to take, they really don’t want help.  Unfortunately, people must first experience pain and desperation in their situation before they are in a place to receive the help they need.

I stay healthy by having fun with friends and family

Never lose your passion for people.  Keep loving people the way Jesus would love people.  However, to stay healthy in ministry, you must use wisdom.  You want to be able to help many people over many years.  That only comes as you become more intentional in your approach with people that you see in need.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Lead, Don't Pull

I love serving with great Pastors and Leaders at Christ Fellowship!
If you have a big goal that you begin working toward, if you have some set objectives and numbers you want to hit in your job, your ministry, or with your team, you soon realize that you need to enlist the help of others to get there.

Rebecca Vardian (right) is one of the best leaders I have ever worked with.  People love serving along with her! #ServantLeader
I work in church ministry for my career.  I love it and feel called to it.  Working and serving in a high impact church like requires that I build a team of great people around me who can help me accomplish all of the needs of people and the ministries that we offer.  In fact, it takes me getting high impact leaders who can lead teams of people to manage all of the demands of building our church!

Philip works at Christ Fellowship, but serves along with our teams  #ServantLeader
In your job, in your ministry or in your team, I imagine you must also depend on other people to help you manage.  If you don’t, you will never hit your goals, and you will never survive the pressure of responsibility!

The challenge comes in getting your team to follow your direction, to get them all moving together in harmony and working effectively toward reaching the goal.  Easier said than done, right?

Tim Leads a team at our Stuart Campus, yet is always serving  #ServantLeader
THIS is why I write so much on leadership.  THIS is why I am so intrigued with leadership, learning it myself.  I talk with so many great high impact people who struggle with getting team to come along with them.  They feel like they are herding cats! Or….horses.

I love the movie THE HORSE WHISPERER with Robert Redford.  I own it, and watch it every once in a while when I am in the mood for a heart-warming story.  The story is about a girl and her horse who are in an accident with a car hitting the horse, throwing the girl out of the way to protect her.  The horse is badly injured and the doctor advises that the horse is beyond repair and should be put down.  The girl can’t stand the thought of “punishing” her horse after saving her life, and demands that they find some way or some one to restore the horse.  The family find this man living in Montana who is affectionately called The Horse Whisperer.  He has an unconventional, untested practice working with horses, having almost magical powers of getting unruly horses to follow his lead.

Robert Redford, the Horse Whisperer agrees to work with this girl’s horse, inviting the family to his Montana ranch.  In the first encounters with the horse, Robert Redford does no training, no talking, no rehabilitating.  He simply watches the horse, sitting a far distance away from the damaged horse.  The family grows anxious and frustrated with him after a while of “nothing happening.” The are expecting some type of conventional training to happen.  However, the Horse Whisperer is taking plenty of time to establish some deeper things to happen between him and this horse.  He does not use a whip or tools.  He does not pull or tug at the horse.  He almost “whispers” to the horse, slowly wooing the animal to his voice and his presence.  Redford continues building repoire with this damaged animal, eventually begins testing the horse, and ultimately invites the girl to ride the horse - something that is highly risky and dangerous.  Miraculously, the girl rides the horse with ease and the once damaged horse is now healed and restored, along with the girl! Beautiful story.

I see great leadership principles in this:

Don’t Pull the Horse,
Lead the Horse

Our Church got to serve Paul and Dunbar Childrens Center!
When you are working with High Impact People, you cannot pull them along.  As a leader, you want to get your team to get in line and follow you, follow the plan.  But High Impact people many times are slow to follow your direction, hesitant to adhere to your system.  Sometimes out of impatience to get our team to perform, we treat them like horses trying to pull them along.  Or, like a Horse trainer, we may even pull out the whip and start beating them with intimidation.  This may work with weaker people or followers, who will comply out of a sense of fear; but High Impact people are like high-performing horses that will not budge, no matter how hard you pull, no matter how much you whip.  

You Must Lead Them

Leading is different then pulling.  Leading, by definition means that others are following you, not because they HAVE TO but because THEY WANT TO.  Leading takes a lot longer, but it is so much easier on your back 😃 You do less pulling, less cracking the whip, and more interacting with your High Impact People.  

I once heard John Maxwell, a great teacher of Leadership say:

Before people follow a leader, they first ask themselves three questions about the leader:

  1. Do They Love Me?
Is this leader using me? Or do they truly care about me? 

  1. Can I Trust Them?
Is this leader trustworthy? Do they have credibility? Have they demonstrated wisdom in their life? Have they achieved prior success?

  1. Can They Help Me?
Can they help me accomplish what I feel I am called to do? Before I am willing to help you achieve your goals, I need to see that you are helping me achieve my goals.  

If High Impact People can answer YES to all three of those questions, they will follow you to the ends of the earth.  On the front end, you must proof your love, your trust, and your desire to help them.  This takes time.  This takes investment.  This takes sacrifice.  

I want to give you one action step in how to accomplish your goals:  STOP

Stop trying to achieve your goals and your tasks.
Start Investing much time and energy in being with your people, in serving them, in listening to them.

Stop trying to pull them along with your plan, cracking the whip when they question or hesitate.
Start learning what their passions are, what their questions are, and help them get where they are going.

Stop demanding they they follow you, stop asking them to trust you.
Start loving them, start modeling servant leadership.

Proud of my daughter, Madison Pilot!

If you shift your focus to people, you will discover you will achieve your goals.  If you slow your pace in the front end, you will accelerate your progress on the back end.

Leading people is easier than pulling people; but it takes more time

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rules Are Meant to Break

Ouch! That sounds dangerous.  That is not allowed.  I mean, you have been taught to mind the rules, to color within the lines.  

I know some of you who enjoy crossing your t’s and dotting your lowercase j’s are already breaking in to a cold sweat right now.

        I’m even starting a new tab in my blog, just to break the composition rules I learned in high school 😃

Seriously, I want to discuss with you how I think about rules.  I want to show you a bigger perspective of how I see rules.  

Rules are meant to break

I see a difference between a rule and a principle.  A rule is a regulation that has been defined by people, from past experience.  A principle is a fundamental truth that gives basis for a belief in conduct in life.  So, I am not advocating against breaking principles that guide our life. Principles are beliefs in God, in how we treat people, how we treat ourselves and conduct ourselves.  

I am landing more on challenging the status quo.  I am asking that you don’t be confined to what the set directions have always been.  

This philosophy comes from my personality naturally.  I have always been a “what if” person, a “why not” person.  When I see a goal I want to reach or a dream I have that I am passionate about, and I am told by people that we are limited to the rules, my natural response is to ask “but what if?”, or “why can’t we?”  For some reason, I get pleasure out of thinking how I can find a work-around, so that I can reach beyond what has been done before and chart a new path.  I see a particular rule as a barrier that others could not get over, so they stopped there.  I see it as my job to get over the barrier, to reach higher and farther.

This reminds me of the man who re-invented the technique for the high jump in the Olympics.  Dick Fosbury in 1968 brought a very different, unconventional technique to the sport.  He jumped backwards and arched his back in a way that he could clear the bar higher than others.  It became so successful, they named the technique the Fosbury Flop.  It is still the new “rule” of high jumping practiced to this day.

When I studied music, I mainly studied classical music.  I loved classical music, and studied the great composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy and Bach.  This helped me form a construct of how music worked, how music was built through chords, time signatures, and key signatures.  But I remember being introduced to jazz music in high school.  I remember hearing one “rule-breaking" teacher say to me…

You learn all of the rules in music so that you can break them

What? Learn all of the rules so you can break them? What did that mean? Does that mean I can play notes that are outside the key of the song? Does that mean I can use a different scale in a passage? Wow - that means I can create new voicings, new harmonies.  That means I don’t have to compare my musical arrangement with someone else’s.  I can not just study composers, I can BE a composer.

Let’s re-visit rules.  Rules are not bad.  They are very good.  They were created by someone in the past who learned something and then did us the favor of drawing a road map for the rest of us to follow.  That is helpful - very helpful.  Thank goodness for people who learned something and took the time to help the rest of us.  But most of us “worship” the rules.  We bind ourselves to the rules, like we are hanging on to them for dear life! In order to adhere to the defined rules, we stop reaching for greater effectiveness.  A win for us becomes abiding by the rules, not having greater impact.

Let’s get practical in how breaking the rules will help us:


At the Movies sets and designs are off the charts this year at Stuart Campus!
Budgets are meant to bust.  At work, if you are doing a project and given a budget, don’t just figure out how you can stay under budget; think of how you can make the project the best you ever have! Think competition - “our project will be the best one of all!” If your focus is to make your work high quality, highly creative, highly effective, and you happen to go over budget, guess what? They will likely raise your budget!  You might think you will be punished, but the CEO is actually looking for rule-breakers, for out-of-the-box thinkers.  They won’t tell you that, but that is how they think! Do such a great job that they want to give you more resources.

I took a chance inviting Congressman Mast to church to help celebrate our country - was so delighted he came!

In most businesses, there are defined rules for how things are done.  The bigger an organization gets, the more institutionalized it becomes.  The natural life cycle is that ideas become fewer, creative thinking diminishes, and automation ensues.  What is desperately needed (but rarely is stated publicly) is experimentation.  When you and your team block out thinking time to ask good questions like “what if?” or “why not?”, fresh creativity begins to flow.  When the team takes time to ask themselves “how do we take this to another level?”, they begin priming the pump of their creative minds.  It’s risky, it’s messy, it’s unmanagable - it’s genius!   Be willing to try just one of the great ideas that come out of these sessions.  Be willing to be criticized by the rule-followers.  Test your idea, give it a try.  Good things always come from trying - you will learn something, and it may just get you out of a rut.

Work Flow
For our men's event, we thought creatively how we could use our beautiful property at Christ Fellowship - guys loved it!
Do you have your staff meeting in the same office room on the same day? Are your meetings with your people predictable? When is the last time you had an outside speaker come invest in your team? Is everyone in the office doing the same work over and over? I would challenge you to assess your work environment with your team around you.  While you may be responsible for getting the work done, maybe there is a way you can spice up HOW it is done and WHERE it is done.  If you are a rule follower and may have difficulty getting outside the rigidness of your current state, you need to invite one or two people in to your office and ask them honest questions. 
What could make this more fun?
What could make this fresh for our people?
What do we need to get a spark in to our work flow?
What will get us thinking differently than we currently think?

Don’t be afraid of the responses.  And don’t think you have to react or change to every thought.  Something good will come from these conversations.  It will test the rules to see if they are guiding life principles, or just a rule that has been instituted in the office and needs to be updated.

The big idea here is to bust through convention, to bend or break rules that may look important, but actually may just be a limit to you and your team reaching a greater level of joy and effectiveness

Rules are meant to break

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pass the Ball

Diana is a great leader who has a growing team at our church!

If you are a leader in some way, in your church, at work, in your neighborhood, good for you! I’m proud of you.  Leadership is hard! Easy to read a blog or book about it.  But when you try to accomplish a project THROUGH PEOPLE, it feels almost impossible!

So when the pressure is on to make something happen, as leaders, we tend to bear down and work hard.  Great people are willing to exert energy and invest their time to make the dream become a reality.  We know that as the leader, we are supposed to get out in front and lead.  That’s what leaders do.  They take charge.

So when we are feeling the pressure to perform, to create momentum and make something happen, our tendency is to get on stage and grab the microphone.  We start “preaching.” We sell.  We make our appeal.  After all, this is the image we know of great leaders.  The leader is the person up on a platform giving a rousing speech.  The locker room talk, the stump speech.  Inspire the troops!

Now...I love a great speech.  I love to hear great leaders and communicators inspire their team.  After a good speech, I am ready to charge the hill!

But here is what I am learning in my season of leading as a Pastor.  Sometimes the right move is to give the speech.  But sometimes the right move is to:

Pass the Ball

OK - basketball analogy coming.  I love the game of basketball.  I love watching great players do amazing things.  A slam dunk, an impossible shot.  But the most exciting thing to watch is a team win.  And how do teams win? By passing the ball.  The team that wins championships know they have to win consistently.  In order to win consistently, they cannot rely on one or two great players to make great plays.  That is not sustainable.  Great teams understand they must involve ALL of their players in the game.  They pass the ball.  

Pastor DJ showing our church family his beautiful new baby, Callie Ray!
I play basketball with some guys once a week, some of them leaders in my church.  One of those leaders is my friend and a Pastor, DJ Cabrera.  DJ is a great basketball player, having played at Martin County High School as a Point Guard years ago.  DJ has a great strategic mind, and it shows not just in his work at the church, but also on the court.  When I am playing on his team, and we are passing the ball, he sometimes shouts “one more pass!” What he is coaching us to do is to not settle for an average shot, but to keep passing the ball until one of us on the team gets an optimal shot.  He is trying to get us to play as a team, not just as a few individuals.  When we pass the ball to the open man and he makes the shot, we cheer! It’s awesome.  (DJ makes fun of me because I shout really loud with excitement - I can’t help it, I get excited!)

I have been attempting to apply this philosophy to my style of leadership.  As a Pastor at Christ Fellowship in South Florida, I have a lot I am responsible for -  a lot of people I care for.  How I endeavor to lead all that I am responsible for is through other leaders, other voices.  I realize that I need older voices, younger voices, female voices, different voices other than mine who are speaking the vision, giving the direction.  This doesn’t mean I abdicate my leadership, or that I cease from speaking vision.  Rather, I share the platform with others.  

I build a platform that others can stand on

Luiz and Jen are new to our church and have immediately started serving, helping others find their place - awesome people!

I have learned that leadership is not best played like golf, where you are a solo act.  Leadership is best played like a basketball game, as a team endeavor.  In basketball, you don’t win unless the team wins.  The leader doesn’t achieve success unless he or she can empower his or her teammates to be effective in their roles.

Here are some practical ways I attempt to pass the ball to our team at our church:

Lead without the microphone
I am challenging myself to find other avenues to earn influence with people so they will follow my lead.  While the platform is a powerful and visible place to speak directly to people, I am learning the power of serving with my teams off platform.  Recently, I have been serving with our Traffic Team by parking cars and welcoming people in to our church services.  

That's me!
This has been one of the BEST things I have EVER DONE as a leader.  People love seeing their Pastor out serving with the team.  I have enjoyed actually DOING ministry, not just LEADING ministry.  It has been good for my heart to serve in this way.  And, I get to spend lots of time interacting with our people - something that fills me up.  I caught this idea from my friend and fellow Campus Pastor, Travis O’Neal who often serves with his teams at the Port Saint Lucie Campus.  I highly recommend you get down from the platform and serve WITH your team!

Share the microphone
Many times, we are afraid that if we share our platform with someone, they will mess it up.  Or, even more scary, they might outshine us because they are more gifted at communication! It takes a very secure and big-minded leader to be willing to allow trusted leaders to share the platform with them.  
Jake is a great Worship Leader and a "Go-To" Team Player in our church
When you take a chance and share part of the platform with gifted and committed people,
it actually elevates your influence.  Here’s why: when others share your vision, it is an indication that you have effectively instilled your vision in them! Remember, the greatest communication does not come from your mouth; it is revealed by how well it is repeated by those around you.  

Hold the microphone for others
Secure Leaders are willing to share their microphone with other gifted Leaders.  Seasoned Leaders will go a step further by identifying potential leaders and helping them develop.  Many leaders can spot a gifted person quickly.  Most people struggle with seeing the potential in a person who is undeveloped or untested.  But because there is always such a great demand for gifted, committed, courageous people, we must look beyond the obvious choice to the risky choice.  As leaders of people, it is our job to help others develop their gifts and realize their dreams.  This means we have to adopt a process mentality with our people, realizing that they are going to need YEARS of development, not just WEEKS.

Many people comment about my beautiful daughter, Madison Pilot, how gifted she is in music and in ministry.  Now that she is seventeen years old, many leaders are seeking after her to sing or to lead.  My wife, Kellie and I love it.  We love seeing her getting many opportunities to use her gifts.  People will ask me “how did she get so good?” I tell them that it took 12 years of teaching her piano and singing.  12 Years of instilling in her healthy habits, learning life values, skills in learning to interact with people well.  What you see Madison doing now is a product of daily, weekly and monthly training, nurturing and challenging.  She did not develop just magically.  There is no secret formula or 30 day training that helped her.  She worked hard, she stayed committed to training and growing.  She paid the price and still pays the price today to develop.
(I am SO PROUD of her.  Can you tell?)

Pastor Ismael has more people serving on his team because he cares for people well!
There are people on your team that, if you evaluate them now, may not show signs of greatness or giftedness.  Let me challenge you: IT’S THERE - YOU JUST HAVE TO DRAW IT OUT OF THEM.  Like a hidden treasure deep within the earth, you must take the time to dig it out and help develop it.  This is like holding the microphone for them as they learn to develop their skill.  Whether it’s organizational, gift of hospitality, strategic gifts, public speaking, motivating people and recruiting, writing, the gift to start or build a business, etc.  Look for the hidden treasure in your people.  Begin to dig - keep digging - encourage, affirm.  Help them see a bigger vision for their life.  Show them what COULD BE and begin to give them small opportunities to develop their gift.  And when they step up to your challenge, hold the microphone for them until they can hold it for themselves.

Here's Asher walking next to his father, John.  Asher makes everyone around him feel valued and included

Pass the ball to others on your team.  Lead through others.  It’s harder, it’s riskier.  But, slowly, your people will begin to win championships.

When your team wins, you win!