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6 Leadership Lessons I've Learned from Millennials

As I'm learning from Millennials, I'm finding hope for the future.

We talk a lot about Millennials. It often involves a lot of eye-rolling.

The stereotype is nicely summed up by the title of a 2013 Time Magazine article: “The Me Me Me Generation.” This thought is not limited to secular circles, either. Earlier this year, Watermark Church created a song (which then went viral online) called “Gotta Love Millennials.” (I’m choosing to believe that they’re not making fun of Millennials but are making fun of how we make fun of Millennials. Either way, it’s a good summary of how Millennials are seen.)

The song makes references to coffee, facial hair, big dreams, unemployment, selfies, yoga pants, Instagram, dreams (again), essential oils, living at home, sensitivity to criticism, and undeserved confidence. Then the cheery ditty, sung to the melody of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" turns somber with the lyrics: “In a couple of years we will have to pass the torch, In a couple of years they will be in charge and one will be our president! Please pray for Millennials!”

Millennials Have Something to Teach Us

At ministry conferences, predominantly attended by leaders in their 40s and 50s, I hear a lot of anxiety, driving us to study Millennials the way we did The New Age Movement in the 80’s or Postmodernity in the 90’s. I’m guessing it’s got something to do with the 2010 Pew study that showed Millennials leaving the church in droves. It found that one-in-four members of the Millennial generation are unaffiliated with any particular faith, which is, undoubtedly, sobering. But the way I see it, Millennials are often leaving church for good reasons and it would serve us well to listen to their concerns. So instead of laughing ...

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Mon, 17 October 2016 11:44:00 CST
Called to Ministry? Start Here.

Five steps to become a healthy minister

When did you know you were called to ministry?

Maybe it was one of those lightning-bolt moments that changed the way you see yourself. Or maybe it came to you through a slow building of conviction you can no longer ignore. Perhaps it was through a life-changing conversation or a quiet nudge in a corner of your mind. Maybe it’s simply that you experience tremendous joy when you serve in the church and you want to find more where that came from. Whatever brought you to this point, you’re convinced you have a calling to serve God and the church in ministry.

So now what?

There is no shortage of resources out there, ready to prepare you for a life of vocational ministry. You can start reading books, apply to seminaries, take a homiletics class, or start looking for open jobs at churches. But before you take any of these steps, please consider starting at a far more important place—with being, not doing.

It’s easy to assume that perceiving a call to ministry automatically means you need to start looking for a job in a church—or acquiring the qualifications to do so. But in ministry, as in every area of life, God is far more concerned with who we are than with what we do. Responding to God’s calling nearly always means first being, then doing.

You can start by engaging in ministry where God has already placed you. Then start preparing for your calling by thinking much bigger than simply filling a specific job (paid or volunteer) in a church. Keep in mind that ministry is far more than a job or a role. You can be in ministry anywhere. Start by being the person you are called to be, and inviting God to transform you into a minister, wherever you are.

1. Honor Your True Self

Vocational ministry does not ...

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Thu, 13 October 2016 10:14:00 CST
Ministry after Becoming a Mom

Is it possible to balance two full-time callings?

I have two major callings on my life: motherhood and ministry. Navigating these callings simultaneously can be challenging to say the least. Most days I feel successful with one and a failure with the other. Then there are days where I feel I have failed miserably at both. So on those rare occasions when I feel like I can maintain that delicate balance, I celebrate.

As a little girl, I dreamt of one day becoming a wife and mom. I used to play “house” for hours each day and named several imaginary children at a ridiculously young age. Then in high school, and even more so in college, I started to sense a second calling on my life to vocational ministry. At the time, I didn’t really think about whether or not those two callings were compatible. I just knew deep in my soul that I wanted to be a mother and I wanted to spend my life serving in ministry.

A New Reality

It wasn’t until a few months before my daughter was born that I began to sense the tension between my two callings. As I began researching childcare options and strategizing the logistics of being away from my daughter for longer trips such as our upcoming summer camp, I started to feel torn—and I recognized this wouldn’t be the last time I felt that way. I have a ton of support from my husband, extended family, and coworkers, yet I was having a hard time imagining what it would look like to be the hands-on involved mother I had always dreamed of being while still fulfilling my responsibilities as a pastor.

The tension became even more palpable while spending the first 10 weeks of my daughter’s life on maternity leave. I loved being home with my baby. I loved rocking her to sleep for her naps and being there to watch her learn ...

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Thu, 6 October 2016 08:00:00 CST
When Calling Causes Conflict

Many women face opposition in their calling—whether overt, covert, or internal.

Few of us will step into our calling without some level of opposition or conflict. Sometimes, the opposition is overt and impossible to overlook. Karen* felt called to study theology. When the opportunity finally came for her to attend seminary, however, she faced intense resistance from her family. They eventually issued her an ultimatum: quit seminary or they’d stop communicating with her.

On other occasions, the opposition is covert. Beth’s* husband was the leading candidate for a full-time pastoral position. Late in the process, the church flew them both down for a final interview. They offered the job to someone else, but not because Beth’s husband blew the interview. In her words, “They ultimately told him no because of me—because I feel called to preach and teach. The hard part is I wasn't even asking for pulpit time.”

Conflict connected to our calling can also be internal. When Deidre transforms a blank canvas with bold brush strokes and vibrant colors, she feels fully alive and connected to God. Guilt sometimes eclipses that powerful connection, however, because the time spent painting does not necessarily translate to income. She has wondered, “What right do I have to go to the studio when my husband works such long hours to provide for us?” The comments made by church leaders hinting that her time would be better spent doing ministerial work have further complicated her ability to be at peace with her calling as an artist.

Three different women. Three different callings. All of them have faced some type of conflict or opposition. If conflict drags on and we fail to resolve it, we may succumb to doubt, or, like Jonah, run from God’s call.

The Internal Swirl

After ...

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Mon, 3 October 2016 08:00:00 CST
Straight to the Source

Seminaries teach a simple method for studying the Bible that we can all use to study the Bible ourselves.

When I came to Christ, I had only been in a church once before at age nine. I begged my mother to take me one Easter because I was curious about God and hoped to find him there. I did, but only a glimpse that left a lingering hunger. So years later when someone explained what Christ had done for me, I found the God I had been desperately seeking. From that moment on, I couldn’t get enough of studying the Bible. I wanted to comprehend every single story, instruction, and poem.

Because I have such a passion for studying the Bible, it consistently surprises me that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. I have attended church regularly now for years and have known countless people—some who have gone to church their entire lives—that have never, ever studied the Bible. In some cases, no one has ever challenged them to. They have been taught about the Bible through sermons, videos, and podcasts, and some may even read a daily devotional—but very few study the Bible in any depth.

This hit home for me even more when my husband joined a mission organization to train pastors in developing countries. He goes to places where formal education is a luxury many pastors cannot afford. Some have as little as a third-grade education, but they love Jesus and their village, so they start a church and become the pastor. Even though their knowledge is limited, they are anxious to teach their people. The trouble is that their model is often American TV preachers, and many simply imitate what they’ve heard there, failing to ever truly read the Bible themselves. Sadly, we often do the same: We get our Bible knowledge from others rather than going straight to the source.

The approach my husband’s mission organization ...

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Thu, 29 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
An Open Letter to Young Women Leaders

The glory of God is man—and woman—fully alive.

My dear friend,

It is nothing short of joyous to see you in action—loving God and loving people. I don’t question that you are right where you’re supposed to be, for you are more than leaning into the calling placed on your life. Do you see what I see in you? Do you believe in what Christ wants to do through you?

Here’s what I know, you have the Three P’s: passion, potential, purpose. The alliteration may feel a little cheesy, but it just might stick with you—in the best and holiest of ways.


Let’s start at the beginning: although you are a young leader, you have passion. You come alive when someone asks you about your faith. You can remember when you first said yes to follow Jesus. You might recall, with tears or with laughter, how that moment changed you. Today, maybe you’re passionate about finance or children’s ministry. Maybe thinking about small groups or dreaming about how the church can engage the surrounding community makes you come alive like nothing else. Maybe you just finished seminary and you’re starting your first job as a clergywoman in the church. Or maybe you’re just begun to let this dream of full-time vocational ministry become a reality. Whatever it is that makes you come alive, the passion you have for God is nothing short of gravitational. It pulls you forward. It gives you life. It reminds you who you truly are in the deepest parts of your soul.

For God, creator of all, calls you his own. Pause for a moment and consider: this calling, passion, and life you possess are not your own. They’re God’s—all that you are is from him. You have passion to serve because he first had this passion for you. You have passion for ...

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Mon, 26 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
Don't Be That Woman

Culture wants to caricaturize women leaders. But God sees us in a different light.

Recently a man told me I should stop interfering.

I didn’t take it well.

Soon after that interaction, I came across a collection of anti-suffragette postcards featured on The Huffington Post. One postcard shows a room full of buck-toothed, bug-eyed women with the text: “At the suffragette meetings you can hear some plain things—and see them too!” The message: If you agree with women’s right to vote, you’re an unattractive woman.

Another postcard features the face of an anguished child, tears streaming down his face with the words: “Mummy’s a Suffragette.” Here the message is: If you’re a woman who wants the right to vote, you’re a bad mother.

A third postcard shows a shapely woman in a red dress and heels, kissing a man who seems thrown off by her passion. Underneath is written: “Suffragette vote-getting the easiest way.” In other words, if you’re a woman who is having any success as a suffragette, it’s because you’re a minx.

These troubling postcards are artifacts of a less enlightened time. I know such messages wouldn’t be tolerated today. And yet, these tactics remain in less obvious ways. Their subtlety today actually makes them more dangerous, and they continue to have real effects on women and men.

Which brings me back to my difficult interaction. When I took time to reflect on why the words “Stop interfering” caused such a strong reaction in me, I realized that I heard: “Stop being the kind of woman who is meddlesome and manipulative.” Regardless of what he was trying to communicate, I felt like I’d been caricatured.

Unfair Caricatures of Women

Our culture has created caricatures of women. And ...

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Thu, 22 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
Preaching Grace Rather Than To-Do Lists

When we share five ways to be a better parent, what are we communicating about the gospel?

I once had a seminary student say to me, “I can’t wait to start preaching so I can tell people what to do!” That’s the popular conception of preaching: someone standing in front telling other people what to do. The assumption of inadequacy is built into that understanding of the word preach: “You are not living the way I (or maybe God) want you to live, so I need to tell you all the ways you are disappointing me (and maybe God) and give you ways to improve.” We can picture the furrowed brow and wagging finger.

Who would want to listen to that?

But so often this is exactly what we do when we preach. We are subtle, most of us. We don’t usually wag our fingers at our congregants and tell them all of the ways they are messing up. But how often do our sermons end with ways our people can improve?

  • If your relationship with God is important to you, you will make a commitment to talk to him every day.
  • If you want to take your discipleship to the next level, you will start incorporating service into your life.
  • Our children deserve the best this church can give them. What can you do to invest in the lives of our children?
  • Isn’t it time for your money to be invested in eternity?

Too often, we make following Jesus sound burdensome.

A student plunked down in the chair next to me. “My boyfriend broke up with me,” she began. “It wasn’t a good relationship, and now that it’s over I realized how far I am from God. I really want to get close to God again.”

I consoled her over the breakup and commended her desire to grow closer to God. “Tell me,” I asked her, “what do people usually do to get close to God?” She was easily able to list the usual ...

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Mon, 19 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
Trusting God When the Future Is Unknown

Will we enter Gods Promised Land for us in full faith?

Editor’s Note: National Hispanic Heritage Month begins today, running through October 15. To kick off the month, we’re featuring a gifted, wise, and talented Hispanic woman leader. To read more from Bianca Juárez Olthoff, click here.

The Israelite spies stood at the edge of their promise. They could see the journey ahead of them. They were chosen to inherit a land that was promised to them. And now 12 men—one from each tribe of Israel—were selected to check out the land and return with a report (Numbers 13). These men had undoubtedly witnessed miracles. The parting of the Red Sea, manna falling from heaven, deliverance from slavery—they had witnessed firsthand the certainty of God’s provision. But instead of feeling excitement that they would finally inherit the promise God had given them, they were filled with terror, paralyzed by what was before them.

The spies came back from their reconnaissance mission with two things: fruit and fear. In their hands were symbols of the goodness of the land that was promised to them. But in their hearts was the impossibility of fortified walls, giants, and intimidating opponents. Waves of doubt covered God’s children and clouded their memory of all the Lord had done for them since they left Egypt.

Although they were double-fisting—fruit in one hand and fear in the other—I couldn’t begin to pass judgment here. I feel you, dear Israelites! Even now, after all I’ve seen, I hate to admit that I sometimes hold the fruit of the faithfulness of God while simultaneously gripping the fear he might not act again.

Only 2 of the 12 spies, Joshua and Caleb, believed they could take the land. They trusted it was theirs to inherit. ...

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Thu, 15 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
I Dont Fit the Senior Pastor Mold

But Im leading in the way God has gifted me.

I felt a lump in my throat as I looked out across the sanctuary of the 1,900 member congregation—the church where I had been senior pastor for nine weeks. It was the same sort of lump I had when my son, Caleb Daniel Leach, was placed into my arms for the very first time.

As I held Caleb, tears streamed down my face and onto his precious cheeks. I was madly in love. He was beautiful. I studied his fingers, his tiny toes, his gigantic eyelashes, and his chubby cheeks. The more I studied him, the more in love I fell, and the more in awe I became. As I held him, I began to pray with that lump in my throat, “Lord, I am in awe that you have made something so beautiful and have now entrusted me to walk with, love, nurture, and lead this child.”

That Sunday morning as I looked across the congregation, similar emotions came over me. As I gave the benediction, I could hold it in no longer:

“May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face smile upon you

And be gracious to you.

May the Lord turn his face toward you

And give you peace.

First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, I love you more than you know.”

After I said it, I thought to myself, Did I really just say that out loud? But I did, and I didn’t care. I was in love, and I needed to tell them. It’s only been a few months since I started serving this wonderful congregation, but as each day passes, I discover something new and beautiful about her. As I study the hands and feet of the Bride, I am in awe that God has entrusted me to walk with her, love her, nurture her, and lead her.

You’re the Senior Pastor?

I have always had a pastor’s heart, but moving from a staff pastor role to a senior pastor role is in so many ways ...

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Mon, 12 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
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