categories: leadership
Feedburner Digg Technorati

June 4th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

19 comments (+ Add)

Breaking Barriers - 3

One of my friends, Sam Chand, has a series of books affectionately called the “Ladder Series.” One of my favorites is called, “Who’s Holding Your Ladder?” In it, he describes the limitations we put on our own leadership when we have the wrong people around us.

One of the greatest barriers to growth is having the wrong people in leadership (paid or volunteer).

  • The person who leads your kids ministry of 20 may not have the gifts to lead your kids’ ministry of 200.
  • Your worship leader may be effective for your 400-person church, but not if you’re ministering to 1200.
  • Your finance person may be able to manage $100,000 a year but not $1,000,000.

It may be time to make a change.

(This doesn’t mean these people aren’t committed believers. It doesn’t mean they aren’t great. They deserve honor, love, and respect. But if they are a barrier to reaching more people, you may prayerfully have to make a transition.)

I’ve found that the unwillingness to make these hard decisions is one of the most common problems in leadership.

Which do you want more? To break through the barrier and lead many more to Christ? Or to “not rock the boat” and continue like this forever?

Tags: , ,

add a comment

Feedburner Digg Technorati


there are a total of19
  1. Jun 4, 2008 at 7:23 am

    very challenging stuff! have you ever had to do that yourself?

  2. Jun 4, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Oooh this is a low blow Craig! You are hitting at the very sensitive part of this pastor! (I want to be liked by all). The last thing I want to do is hurt someone’s feelings so if it ever came to that choice it would be one that I would pray would take care of itself. :) However I would hope that if that time should ever come I will be enough of a leader to make that tough choice.

  3. Jun 4, 2008 at 7:59 am


  4. Jun 4, 2008 at 8:02 am

    This is tough stuff, but very true, and very difficult to do, that is why so many of our churches are not as effective as they could be at reaching the lost. It takes a lot of courage man up and remove someone.

  5. Jun 4, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Well, this certainly hits close to home as I have already been feeling the need to transition one of my leaders. Like you said, it’s not that they are a bad person. They simply to do not seem to fit (or fill) the role any more.

    Do you have any practical tips on how to let go of someone who has been serving along side my team for a while? I wish it was as simple as saying, “you’re not cut out for this position”, but like in most cases, emotions are involved.

  6. Jun 4, 2008 at 8:43 am

    I whole heartedly agree, i’d just like to add that it is imperative that as leaders we give those in roles the training and support to grow within that role, too many times people are not able to step up to the next level because they’ve never been encouraged to try and reach it until it’s too late.
    A culture of excellence in service and continual improvement can limit the number of hard descisions.
    In my experience people only take the news badly if we’ve not done all to help them achieve the required level.

  7. Jun 4, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Craig is unavailable to comment today. I will be helping out with the blog again.

    Jon, we have had to do this on more than one occasion. In fact, as the ministry grows we come against barriers where we have to ask these questions and make these decisions again and again.

    Bill, I think we all pray that prayer. The challenge is that “if that time should ever come” more aren’t willing to take that step than are.

    Clif, thanks for your thoughts. Let our prayer be that we’d all do what it takes to be more effective at reaching the lost.

    Daniel, we will be praying for God to give you wisdom and grace as you move through your transition.

    Daniel is asking a question about practical tips on how to let someone go who has been serving along side his team for a while. Can any of you offer any tips or words of wisdom for him?

  8. Jun 4, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Paul, great insight! Thanks for sharing it. We’d agree that every opportunity for development and clear and consistent communication throughout the process would need to precede any decision. Craig actually did a series of posts on Tough Conversations that spells out this process.

    This is actually one good step for Daniel. Can anyone else share any others?

  9. Jun 4, 2008 at 9:27 am

    I think regular formal appraisals are crucial in letting people go. Via an appraisal you can highlight deficiencies and suggest training/attitude adjustments required. This sets the ground for the big bad news if improvement is not made, more often than not people resign when they notice they’re not cut out for the job. After support is cruial to.

  10. Jun 4, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I am certainly not the best person to help on this, but I did want to add that it depends on what this person’s perception is of your perception of them. In other words, do they know you may feel this way? Will it come as a complete surprise if you let them go? Fair or unfair, we can create a major problem for ourselves if as leaders we don’t spend time communicating our expectations and what our analysis of our team members is in regards to them meeting or not meeting those expectations. If we internalize all of that or even half of it then we put ourselves in a position of letting someone go in the midst of them thinking everything was just fine. When and if we do this, we unnecessarily put ourselves into a position of being ostracized by others for our percieved unfairness and coldness. Again, that may seem unfair but it is reality. We can save ourselves a whole lot of problems by taking some time to prepare those for what may come if they don’t perform as they should. I agree with Paul. People tend to figure out the obvious when they know what is acceptable and not acceptable. BTW, I know I said a lot about how this keeps us the leader out of trouble, but there is so much to be said for helping someone transition out of one situation into another successfully. We can help them understand what God is doing in their life and where they best fit at this time in their life. It is as much for them as it is for you and the organization. All that to say that you may want to spend some time working with this person transparently on there areas of weakness even if they may end up out in the end. Of course, you may have done this already.

  11. 11Matt
    Jun 4, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I remember the last time this was posted and I made the same comment then as I will now. I think the reverse concept of this is true. I think someone may be qualified to lead a group of 1200, but not a group of 200. What do you all think?

  12. Jun 4, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Matt, I completely agree! I do much better speaking to a large group than small. I am a horrible small group leader.

  13. Jun 4, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    how do we know we’re not the one’s holding the ministry back? Not empowering, encouraging, releasing, delegating, inspiring, challenging our own status quo and allow others to implement dreams and ideas quite different from our own. I agree there are those that our ministry out grows. I have watched many stages of growth: from 26 to 1500 and witnessed teachers, worship leaders, and clerks transition. We retained some and lost some. Many transitioned to other roles in the church while others became ’solid members’ and still others went to smaller churches where there gifts could be used. However, sometimes I have watched other pastors fire or move people around when the true barrier is their perception or leadership style. Those they have let go flourish in another similar spot with different leadership. Just some thoughts.

  14. Jun 4, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Paul, formal appraisals are a great tool. We use them regularly at Thanks for adding that to the conversation.

    Matt and Rusty, that’s a great point. I have a theory that follows that same train of thinking. I haven’t been able to prove it yet, however.

    How about others of you? What are your thoughts on Matt’s idea?

    Also, remember we are still looking for some practical steps for Daniel.

  15. Jun 4, 2008 at 2:26 pm


    You take an extended vacation/sabbatical and assign it to your lead elder. :) Oh man, that is a tough one! I had to do that twice (once when the other leaders were there and let me be the bad guy) and the other when the others wouldn’t. The first was easier because he had blown it big time (deception, undercutting parents, lack of work ethic, and others) but the second was tougher because of “sickness” in his family. I prayed hard and sweated bullets before I talked to him. Whatever you do…make sure you have others supporting you (from your leadership team) in this. my two cents worth.

  16. Jun 5, 2008 at 9:37 am

    [...] info By UberTech Categories: Church Growth More cool stuff from the Swerve blog…the hardest thing to do in leadership is mananging [...]

  17. 17Carrie
    Jun 5, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I whole heartedly agree with Paul and Rusty on this one. A person should be given every opportunity to know the expectations and have the ability to learn and grow before a transition takes place. Sadly, I see this not being done as often as it should be. A leader is a poor communicator and the “bomb” gets dropped on a person in ministry without any notice for discussion for areas of development. And trust me, if this is done poorly the bitterness and hurt the person is left with is something only God can heal. So as leaders we need to lead up before we let go. That way if a transition needs to be made you know as a leader that you did everything to encourage growth before making a the tough transition. Because we will be held accountable for the way we lead those God has entrusted us to lead (in the ministry setting) as well the lives we change through our ministry. Sorry to be so wordy :) I have just seen this handled badly on more than one occasion.

  18. Jun 5, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Great stuff everyone. I needed to hear this one today. Here is a question for everyone…how do you have this type of conversation from the ’second chair’ with your ‘first chair’? When you sense there needs to be a change at the very top, and not someone ‘underneath’ us in ministry? I serve as a fellow-elder, and as the second chair pastor. Such a delicate conversation and situation it seems when it comes from the ‘bottom up.’ You don’t want to be self-serving, but when you really sense a change needs to be made, how do you do that? I’d welcome any thoughts or experiences. :)

  19. Jun 6, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    [...] breaking barriers-3 [...]