The Next Gen Pastor Webcast: show#3

This week I talk about how a Next Gen Pastor can begin to align the Next Gen ministries of their church toward a common goal.


2 Keys to Maintaining Margin as a Leader

Last week I wrote a post here about a big key to sustainable leadership: MARGIN. 

I believe margin is what separates great leaders from good leaders.  Margin is what separates efficient leaders from busy leaders.  And I can usually tell when I am or one of my direct-reports are leading from a place of little-to-no margin.  There are a few “tells”.

Usually people lacking margin…

  • feel hurried or rushed in decision making
  • feel super indecisive in decision making
  • are short with people because they “just don’t have the time”
  • are surrounded by an aura of “unavailability”
  • don’t feel fully present in meetings
  • only get half of the job done/lack attention to details
  • drop the ball on tasks or procrastinate until the last minute
  • become very negative or cynical about their job or other people in the organization
  • have a “superman/hero” complex (“I am the only one who can do it”)

And a lot of these “tells” start small… and then they become out of control and begin to spiral you to a very dark place both personally and in your leadership.


So how do you develop it?  And how do you maintain it?  What are the keys to maintaining margin as a leader?

Well… I don’t know about ALL the keys… but here are two that have become PARAMOUNT in my personal life and leadership:  A CONSISTENT CALENDAR & CLEAR BOUNDARIES.


If you are going to build margin into your life and work week… it isn’t going to “just happen” to you.  You have to plan for it… and you have to militantly plan for it.  Do you know what “just happens” to you?  BUSYNESS.  Most people who complain about being “too busy” are either over-scheduled or under-scheduled.  They either don’t know their limits (we’ll talk about that in #2) or they have allowed others to define their limits for them.  Every time I feel as if I am overloaded or “too busy” it is usually because I have not planned my time well , not prioritized my time, or someone has hijacked my time.  It happens to me.  But margin happens when I own my schedule and I plan it in.  I know my personality.  I know what it is that I need to function well.  If I don’t plan my week accordingly, then I cannot complain about not having any margin.  I have done it to myself.  Other people are NOT going to know that you need margin… they just think that when you are there you are available.  Which brings me to my second key…


In order to have margin and maintain margin, you need to create it in your calendar… and then you need to go CRAZY about protecting it.  You need to know your limits (work load, people, conversations, meetings) because that will drive how much margin you need and how much stuff you can handle.  One of the things that I have found in my own work week, is that if I am in my office, I am fair game for the drop in.  I want to stress… THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM.  I am a leader.  I need to be available for those I lead.  BUT… I also need margin.  I can’t go from meeting to meeting to meeting and then expect to get any of my other work that requires time and thinking to get done.  So I have learned that I need to have a place to go (that is not my home) to get that work done.  I usually head to the local coffee shop/Starbucks, grab a coffee, throw in some headphones, and get my work done.  A closed door to my office just wasn’t enough.  I needed to physically set a distance boundary.  I’ve also had to (actually, still learning to) set a phone/text/email boundary for myself.  My work days are Sunday,  and Tuesday-Friday.  Monday and Saturday are days off.   If I don’t Sabbath…  If I don’t unplug… I’ll be burned out and become that list that I mentioned earlier.  So I have to ignore emails until Tuesday.  I have to defer texts (unless they are emergencies… which they almost NEVER are) until Tuesday.   I have to use my days off for family and home and days spent with my wife.  When I am constantly replying to texts and emails on those days, it tells her and my family “I am not available to you today on the day that I said I would be available to you.”  Create boundaries that protect your margin, and then don’t apologize for keeping them.

Margin is a beautiful thing.  It helps us lead well.  Create it. Defend it. Lead from it.

A Key to Sustainable Leadership

Ya… I know.  With such a clickbait-ish title like that, I better deliver something good, right?  Well, this post isn’t going to give you the “5 secrets to being a great leader” or the “1 thing that you can start doing today to be a better leader,” but it is going to ask a simple question:  “What would make us better leaders over the long-haul?”  I don’t know about you… but I want whatever that is.  I have always valued longevity over flashy.  I’ve seen way too many leaders (both in ministry and business) become a flashy, overnight success… only to burn out way too soon.  And what I’ve noticed about those… and what I’ve noticed about people who have a track record of sustained leadership, is they have one thing in common (or lack thereof):


[wow Sam… revolutionary idea… no one has ever written on margin before 😉 ]

Yes… Margin.  It’s the space between.  It’s the one thing we all need to be better leaders, pastors, parents, spouses & people [in general].  WE ALL KNOW THIS.  But let’s be honest… it’s the first thing we neglect.

I know, to be a better leader, that I need margin.  So if I know that, why do I consistently act like I don’t?  I think it is because, for most of us, margin is a reactive thing.  It’s something we HOPE happens TO US… not something we make happen FOR US.

I have a friend who says as a part of his voicemail greeting: “Make it a great day.”  I used to laugh to myself because I would say “doesn’t he know the saying is “have a great day?”  But my friend is different.  He isn’t reactive.  He isn’t hoping a great day happens to him.  He is planning on making the day great.  No matter what the day throws at him, he wants to go after turning it into something great.

Margin isn’t something that happens TO US.  Margin has to be planned for.  [I’m mostly speaking to myself right now… and those who know me best know that].

If we are going to last in leadership… we have to FIGHT FOR MARGIN.

We have to fight against over-scheduling.

We have to fight against over-working.

We have to fight against over-iPhoning (yup, just made that word up).


It’s a fight… but it’s a WORTH IT kind of fight.

Let’s fight for margin and fight to be better leaders for the long-haul.

New Things Coming!!!

It’s the start of a new year in 3 days!  That means it’s time to restart the writing of my blog (I say that every year… but dog gone… this year I mean it 😉 )  I have been dreaming up some new things content-wise for 2018… and can’t wait to get started on them.  So if your a leader, ministry leader, or just a person who likes to read things… STAY TUNED!!!

10 Steps for Rebuilding [from Nehemiah] (part 1)


This summer our student ministry is in the process of rebranding and rebuilding.  Sometimes you rebuild because things have been blown apart or have come crashing down… and sometimes you rebuild because you want to upgrade what you have.  The latter is our case.  We decided that it was time to dream about new direction, new vision, & new ideas and that led us to bring in the demolition team to clear the area so we can begin to rebuild and renovate.  About 8 years ago, during a study I was doing on the OT book of Nehemiah, I charted how Nehemiah chose to go about rebuilding the city of Jerusalem’s walls.  I discovered in the text 10 STEPS that Nehemiah took in his rebuilding process that I believe can be useful for anyone who wants to begin a rebuilding process.  I’ll highlight 3 today:


One of the first things that Nehemiah did was to inquire what had happened to the city that his family was from.  He asked some survivors of the exile, and their report was not good: everything was destroyed.

The first step in any rebuilding process is an honest evaluation of what is really going on.  If we can’t take an honest look at our current situation, we will never rebuild well.  A lot of times leaders lie to themselves and say “Everything looks fine… there is no need to do anything” but they are only deceiving themselves.  This is why it is so important, as a leader, to not have “yes men” surrounding you.  You need people who can see what you can’t, and will be willing to tell you the brutal, honest truth.  It does us no good, as leaders, to not know.  So inquire about what is really going on, and demand 100% honesty.


The text says that Nehemiah immediately “sat down and wept and fasted for days.”  It destroyed Nehemiah to hear about his home being in complete ruins.

When you hear from those you inquire about what is really going on, does it affect you?  Does it bother you?  Even if things are “OK?”  It does for me.  I sure don’t like to hear that things are not as good as I think they are or think that they should be.  It is this BURDEN that causes me and other leaders to want to take bold action.

Without a BURDEN, there is no BUILDING.


Nehemiah prayed a simple, yet deeply profound prayer: “God we (nation and his own family) screwed this up by going after other gods… and you said that there would be consequences.  BUT you also said that if we returned to you, you would return us.  You promised.  We are ready to return to you and rebuild this FOR YOUR NAME, so please grant me success as I make preparations and go through the hoops to get this going.” (my paraphrase, of course.)

I think Nehemiah’s prayer highlights 2 things for rebuilding:

  1. Am I rebuilding what GOD wants… or what I want?
  2. Am I praying that God would grant us success in our plans?

I believe that if we pray about what GOD wants rebuilt, that is a prayer that He answers big time!  I cannot put the cart before the horse.  Pray first.

A little over a month ago I took our student ministry staff and volunteers through a 40 day prayer campaign called “GREATER” where we were praying Eph. 3:20 and John 1:50 and asking “What GREATER things does God want us to see happen in our ministry?”  On about day 4 there was a very strong urge to start planning… but I had 36 days left to go in the prayer journey.  I decided to do something that I would normally not do… I IGNORED that urge.  I didn’t even write my thoughts down… even though they were flooding in.  And guess what happened… at the end of the 40 days, God affirmed some of those early thoughts… and he changed a lot of other ones.

I can’t begin PLANNING before I begin PRAYING.

Next week I will highlight the next three steps Nehemiah took in rebuilding that we can learn from.