8 Gifts to “Pour Into” the Leaders You’re Developing

It’s great to be “pouring into” people. That’s a popular phrase in today’s leadership environment. I’ve used it because I like the word picture of it. Whatever I may have learned about life and leadership, I’m supposd to be passing along to others. But what does the phrase really mean? What, exactly, are we to pour into the people we lead?

We’ve been talking a lot as a church staff lately about leadership development. I really believe it’s the key to our reaching the next level of growth and effectiveness as a church. But I’m becoming aware of a couple of obstacles.

First, I’ve never led a church beyond where we currently are. I joined the staff of a church with well over 20,000 in weekend attendance, but I wasn’t there for the years when Saddleback grew from zero to their present size. I’m facing the reality that what we’ve done so far as a new church plant has been good, but it isn’t sufficient to take us somewhere else. It’s the whole “law of the lid” that John Maxwell speaks about.

I think, on a practical level, that means we’re going to need to do some re-structuring and shifting. We’re going to have to think outside of our already established routines. And we’re going to have to take some risks.

And the second obstacle is that I don’t think we’ve clearly defined what it is we need to be pouring into the leaders we’re developing. Does that mean having coffee and chatting about life? Does it mean walking through a training course or workbook? I think the answer lies somewhere in between those two options.

There are at least eight gifts I hope to pour into the people I’m leading, and I hope they pass these gifts along to others too.

1. Love and concern. That is, living with a genuine interest in the lives of those we lead. And this is more than just the occasional “how are you?” question. It’s staying tuned in and aware of how life is along the way. Loving people is pretty basic, but profoundly powerful.

2. Knowledge and skills. Obviously, if we’re going to raise up and train leaders, we need to pass along the knowledge and skills necessary to get things done. This comes in the form of apprenticing, resources, and modeling.

3. Responsibilities, with clearly articulated expectations. I’ve had to learn a lot the hard way about being very clear in communicating my expectations of those I lead. I can’t assume that someone knows what results I desire to see unless I’ve painted a thorough and accurate picture for them.

4. Golden opportunities. As a leader, you no doubt always have a spot to fill and a task to assign. But do you reserve the very best opportunities – the ones most sure to be rewarding – for yourself? Or do you generously empower others with them to serve up the win to someone else?

Let me stop to note that the opportunities I’ve written about thus far are the easier ones to give. The rest get harder…

5. Theology – a peek into our view of God. You can always sit down with people and walk through some systematic theology, text-book style. But what I’m really referring to is that we speak openly of our faith in God in such a way that the people whom we lead have a bigger perspective of him from having been led by us.

6. Freedom. It’s hard to really let people go and entrust them with the freedom to fail, to make mistakes, to do things differently than we would do them ourselves. But that kind of freedom is necessary to effective leadership. When we fail to grant freedom, the best leaders will leave.

7. Accountability. Pastor Paul Chappell is always saying that “people only respect what you inspect.” My own tendency has been to give away tasks and responsibilities, but rarely to go and follow up on how it’s going. But good leadership requires us to check back in, to hold people accountable in a positive way.

8. Our big “YES!” I’m not arguing that we should say yes to every idea or request that comes along. But those we lead should have the impression that it’s more likely that we’ll say “Yes!” than “No.” Great leaders create “Yes” cultures where people are encouraged to keep being creative. Sometimes leadership means saying “yes” to people even when it’s scary to do so.

I’m still figuring out how to give these gifts well, but I’m committed to doing so in order for our leadership development culture to thrive. You can have growth, or you can have control, but you can’t have all of both. I want to err on the side of having just enough control to keep the train on the tracks.

The Difference Between Mediocrity and Excellence

My favorite quote is from Shelton Smith, Editor of The Sword of the Lord, who said,

The difference between mediocrity and excellence is midnight oil, elbow grease, and the power of God.

When I was still in school, I developed the terrible habit of settling for mediocrity. I was a B- student with a GPA of 2.8. While I usually earned straight A’s in the classes I liked, I slacked off in the classes I didn’t like. Unfortunately, this pattern carried over into my adulthood in certain ways, and I still struggle with it today.

When I’m passionate about something, like getting my awesome bride to marry me or planting a new church, I go at it full steam and strive for excellence. But when something isn’t paying off with an immediate emotional reward, I sometimes let that area of my life slip into autopilot, and mediocrity tends to be our default.

Mediocrity is a Dad tucking his kids into bed. Excellence is intentionally reminding them of our love, reading them a story and praying with them first.

Mediocrity is being committed enough to our spouse that we show them kindness and remain faithful. Excellence is intentionally dating our spouse and discovering more of their heart.

Mediocrity is performing the minimum requirements of our job. Excellence is going above and beyond what is required to serve our supervisors in unexpected ways.

According to Smith, there are three tools that help us achieve excellence instead of settling for mediocrity.

Midnight Oil

A life of excellence can’t be achieved in an 8-to-5 window. This isn’t a call to workaholism, but rather a challenge to realize that dreamers and doers who change the world put in extra hours thinking, planning, and working toward their goals. Our minds and bodies obviously need an appropriate amount of rest, but our spirits need time to cultivate a vision for excellence.

Elbow Grease

Practice makes perfect, right? Maybe close. The point is, people who do things well have usually spent a lot of time doing those things poorly, learning, and improving. This takes time. It takes years. Excellence is only possible when we’re willing to transition from dreaming to doing. We have to be willing to devote time, energy, and resources toward our big goals.

The Power of God

Obviously even nonbelievers, who have no real access to God’s supernatural power, can build nations, businesses, and legacies. But I’m a follower of Jesus, so my aims and pursuits should be oriented around God’s Kingdom. When it comes to seeking the Kingdom first, excellence is only possible with the power of God working within and around us. And that requires humbling ourselves, yielding to his plan, and depending on his enabling.

Every day is a brand new chance to decide to reject passivity and mediocrity and choose intentionality and excellence. What does the future look like when we choose to take the hard road and do the hard work of accomplishing big, hard things?

The Life Plan of a Courageous Man

Men! In western society today, we’ve typecast men as unable to be responsible, intelligent, or relationally healthy. Boys will be boys. Men just can’t control themselves. Girls rule. Boys drool. We aren’t doing our boys any favors by hold up this particular caricature. Equally dangerous is the other extreme, embraced in various generations of history in which men are domineering overlords of the weaker sex. Between and beyond these two models is the model of a godly man.

When David was turning the throne over to his son Solomon, he gave him this charge, “Take courage and be a man. Observe all the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go.” (1 Kings 2:2-3 NLT)

This is the life plan of a godly man. Step up to your responsibilities. Take courage and rise to the occasion. Take ownership, in the sense of taking responsibility, for your life, your family, your workplace, your community, etc. Follow the example God has set. He loves unconditionally and lays down His life for His friends as well as His enemies. And live within the parameters of His Word and His wisdom.

The sure result of this kind of life is success – perhaps not the kind of success you seek, measured in dollars and trophies, but the kind of success that matters for eternity. So men, throw off culture’s assumptions. Take courage and be a man!

2 Criteria for Redefining Success for Sanity’s Sake

The Stars
Photo by jurvetson.

What is success? Most people define it in one of three ways:

  • How many possessions do you own?
  • How much power do you wield over others?
  • How much prestige do you have among peers?

American Christians tend to blend right in. We even apply these standards to churches and church leaders. Which church has the biggest budget, the nicest building, or the largest weekend attendance? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things – money is good, influence is invaluable, and popularity is something God can use in huge ways. And we certainly need churches to grow exponentially in a world as lost as ours. The problem is, none of those factor into God’s viewpoint on success.

Jesus gathered a handful of followers in His lifetime, didn’t have a place of His own, and was despised and rejected by the social elite of his community. But He was most definitely successful. In fact, He was so successful that He could come to the end of His life and confidently proclaim…

I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

– John 17:4 NKJV

Jesus did two things completely that provide the perfect framework for our understanding of success.

  1. He became all that God wanted Him to become.
  2. He did all that God wanted Him to do.

He glorified God in His life perfectly. He grew from the baby in the manger into the perfect, sinless Jesus who changed the world. He was kind, generous, funny (though we usually miss His humor), loving, and strong. He was everything God wanted Him to be. To keep your sanity, start thinking about WHO God wants you to become instead of what options He wants you to choose. In other words, it’s less about where you go to college or which car you buy and more about whether you take the high road and keep your integrity.

He also finished all the tasks which God had assigned to Him, leading right up to the final moment of His life, which He gave as a ransom for mankind. The second way to redefine success for sanity’s sake is to focus only on what God calls YOU to do and not on all the good things that others might be involved in.

Furthermore, He will give us all the time, talent, treasure, and relationships to accomplish exactly His will for our lives. When we are good stewards of these resources, we never run short. Not having enough time, not being able to please everyone, and not being able to escape pressure is usually a sign that we’re trying to do things God hasn’t called or equipped us to do.

So for sanity’s sake, redefine success. Get to the end of your life and be able to say, “I’ve become the person God wanted me to become, and I’ve finished the ‘to do’ list He gave to me.” That’s it.

Praise: Life’s Toughest of Tests

Refiner's FireJesus’ followers are constantly being tested – not in the sense that He’s trying to make us fail, but in the sense that He’s preparing us to pass. He tests us through trials and troubles, just as a craftsman “tries” or purifies metals in intense and melting heat. But the toughest of tests isn’t loneliness or loss. It isn’t suffering. It’s praise.

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” ~ [youversion]Proverbs 27:21 NLT[/youversion]

Success brings its own test, and it’s often much more difficult to pass than the test of suffering. Think about it. How many mistakes have you made in your life as a result of hoping everyone around you continues to like you? We avoid painful truth. We become in authentic. We allow pride to creep in, which “goes before destruction.”

If we’re not careful, we will actually begin to believe all the good things others are saying about us in our moments of success. When this happens, we’re in danger of believing that we’re untouchable or incapable of failure. Great heroes are forged in the fires of suffering and I wouldn’t diminish the role of suffering in the believer’s life. But if death to self is the key to discipleship, then death to criticism and to praise is necessary.

We’re living in an age where too many leaders have too much success too early, and too little character to prepare them for handling the spotlight. If you’re in a spot in life where everyone is singing your praises, guard your heart all the more aggressively against pride. Withstand this test, stay humble, keep a right perspective on self in relation to God and you’ll come forth as gold!

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

7 Business Skills You Need If You’re Blogging for Income

Make Money BloggingBlogging is a business, so in addition to good writing and a basic grasp of technical things, you need a certain set of skills if you’re ever going to earn an income from blogging. Consider what Richard Branson said about his own career in publishing:

I wanted to be an editor or a journalist… but I soon found I had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep my magazine going. ~Richard Branson

Source: Copyblogger

So what exactly are the business and entrepreneurial skills you need to make an income from blogging?


If you’re going to grow anything, including the reach of a blog, you need to be able to visualize the ideal future of it. Where do you see your blogging business going? How do you see it branching out and developing? What’s your ideal readership? Or as Guy Kawasaki might ask, how exactly are you going to change the world?


There is plenty of talk among business bloggers about creating a four hour work week and kicking back on the beach all day. We are psychologically drawn to phrases like “auto-pilot profits” and “instant cash” but the reality is that initiative is necessary for anyone who is going to be successful at anything. In the world of blogging, you have to decide to write, publish, and promote content.


Blogging can get expensive. From hosting and custom theme design to the inherent costs of learning a new skill, you can wind up spending a lot of money. And some tools and products are definitely worth what we spend. But successful business bloggers have the ability to determine if an investment will pay off or not. Whether it’s a new logo or a specialized WordPress plugin, high income bloggers can decide fairly easily if they’re going to see their money back or not. And you also need to be resourceful. I work for a large organization, but I’m still always on the hunt for a free or cheap way to get big things done.


It isn’t just writing that you have to think about. It’s communication, which is more. Great writing is a start, but with blogging, you also need to understand how readers think. You don’t need a content strategy, you need a communications strategy that includes content. G

Great communication means getting the right message through to the right people at the right time, and providing a right response to feedback to stimulate productive conversations… conversations that move needles and make things happen.


This one is more crucial than ever. The ability to connect with people is absolutely essential if you’re going to make an income from blogging. And proper networking means building relationships that are mutually beneficial. Networking requires us to get out of the box, to be pro-active, to listen and respond, and to promote the work of others as often as possible.


Have you noticed how fast things change on the internet? Today’s awesome apps are tomorrow’s techno-scrap, unless they are shaped by creative minds. If you’re still talking about “thinking outside the box” then you’ve just demonstrated a lack of creativity. That particular phrase has been used and abused in the business world for well over a decade now, so it’s not just about thinking outside the box. It’s about imagining things that aren’t quite happening yet, but could be with the right strategy.


Rebounding from failure is an absolute must for business bloggers. You’re going to blow it. You’re going to make some bad calls, write some poor posts, and tick off the wrong people at times. It happens. So learn from it and fail forward. Get up and write again.

There are more skills, but I’d like to let you fill them in. What kind of business skills does it take to successfully earn an income from blogging?

10 Vital Questions for Diagnosing Your Blog's Health

Exam TimeBlogging has been around for a while now – over a decade depending on how you define blogging. But over that decade, blogging has evolved and changed by leaps and bounds. If you monitor the blogging industry, you’ll notice that it’s in a constant state of change as new tools and apps replace old ones and as new methodologies emerge.

In other words, you don’t have it all figured out yet, and neither do I. Reaching success as a blogger requires constant evaluation and experimentation. If you sit still long, you’re toast.

So I want to challenge you to do a periodic evaluation of your blog just as you might have an annual physical or a quarterly oil change. And as you evaluate yourself, here are the questions on the exam.

How Does My Blog’s Design Stack Up?

There are a plethora of great design showcases and galleries around the internet, such as Blog Design Heroes and The CSS Awards. Peruse them. Some designs will stand out to you and they probably represent your own tastes and personality. Having looked at the ones that really appeal to your own sense of beauty, how does your blog’s design compare?

Is My Blog Actually Usable?

It’s okay to get creative with your layout and navigation, but always think of the user first. Decide to impress the user at every possible turn. Know that if you give equal weight to everything, people will probably see nothing. Help them to know what to click and where to go.

Is My Content Helpful?

Real community doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens as people gather together around valuable content. And in today’s culture, “valuable” means meeting needs. That’s why “how to” posts and tutorials are often so effective. One of the goals of content creation is putting ourselves right in the proximity of the questions people are asking with all the right answers.

Can I Be Found?

That is, have I implemented some very basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques so that my blog is well-indexed and high-ranking in the results of searches performed on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines? “Inbound marketing” is the art of having people arrive at what you have to offer without your having to disrupt the flow of their lives to alert them to your presence. Can your blog be found?

Is My Readership Growing?

Search engines provide us with immediate clicks from strangers, but it’s even more valuable to recruit a loyal readership. If you’re using Feedburner, you can already track how many people are reading your site’s content in a feed reader or in email. These people may not visit your blog and register a page view, but they’re highly valuable to your success.

Are People Talking About My Blog?

In other words, is your blog being mentioned on other blogs and social networks? Are people passing along your links? We tend to be quite protective of our influence and are therefore more careful than ever that we pass along to others only what we truly find valuable. So handing people your content on a silver platter is important. Make it shareable.

Am I Selling Anything?

This question rubs people the wrong way at times, but if you’re trying to earn an income by blogging then you certainly must sell something, whether it’s your own product or someone else’s. So at the end of a post, or in your feed, or in your sidebar, or in your in-text links, are there products or services that people are buying because your content presentation has convinced them of its value?

Are New Opportunities Opening For Me?

When you’re doing things effectively, your traffic, readership, and community are bound to grow, which will open new opportunities. Those opportunities might be in the form of interviews, contributions, or collaboration with a team.

Can I Still See Room for Improvement?

If not, as I said before, you’re toast. If you ever “arrive” then you’re on the way to being obsolete. I’ve been designing websites since 1998 and one constant over the years is that I’m never satisfied with a project. Tweaking is always in order. If you can’t make a list of things to work on, look more closely. Or better yet, ask your Mom, your accountant, or your Pastor. Blog health isn’t a state of perfection, it’s a state of growth.

What did I not ask that I should have?

photo credit: William and Mary Law

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