5 Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned Since I’ve Been Working In A Church


For the longest time, I have been passionate about Leadership. I can remember wanting to go traveling around to different places speaking to people about leadership (pretty ambitious for an elementary age student huh?) As I entered middle school, my passion for leadership grew. I began watching leaders (principles, teachers, pastors, politicians, literally anyone I could visually see). In high school I began volunteering at my church, school, and any place I could get into. I learned very quickly that leadership is a part of every aspect of life. I knew God was calling me into student ministry, but I wasn’t exactly sure how that would help with my leadership desire. As I finished high school, and went into college, I decided to focus on leadership training. As a result, I am more passionate about helping leaders than ever before. I have learned several lessons about leadership that I didn’t fully recognize until I became a part of a leadership team at several churches.

1. Character is What Creates Skill

In all of my leadership studies, books I’ve read, blogs and podcasts I’ve listened to regarding leadership, most of them direct their attention to “Leadership Skills.” In fact, most leadership degrees spend 90% of their time building skills, so that they can eventually achieve the goals set forth by the company (or any company the may find themselves working for).

I can remember an internship I had at a church one summer. This was not a mega church, but it was a big enough church that required multiple staff and faculty members. I was focused on building my skills. One of the pastors of the church saw that I was focused on skill, and taught me a lesson I will never forget. The BEST Leadership Skills Only Come From Someone that Has Fully Developed Leadership Character! They followed that up by asking me if I had Leadership Character. What does this mean on a practical level? It really doesn’t matter what process you use for change, what technique you use to motivate others, what type of work environment you create (all things focused on to create ‘Skill’) if you are NOT focused on the people you lead it really doesn’t matter!!! When the focus is on the work we are doing, rather than the people, we are focusing on Skill over Character.

2. Leadership is a Gift

If I were to get all of my opinions from books and “leadership resources” I would view leadership as an achievement. I mean I can remember wanting to be an usher at church. Why? Because by doing so, I would be showing the world I was growing up, aka…….ACHIEVEMENT! This type of thinking causes us to try and prove ourself to others, and therefore create leadership opportunities for ourselves.

Since stepping into ministry, I have spent lots of time looking into the Scriptures to see what God says about leadership. I have come to realize that a leadership opportunity is NOT something we achieve! Rather, it is something that we are given by God. (Read that last sentence again!) Let me say this in a different way: It’s more about HIS (GOD’S) call on our lives, than it is about my desire to be a leader. One passage of Scripture that has changed my thinking on this is Romans 12:3-8. This passage clearly says that leadership is a gift. For me, this changes the way I view Leadership!

I came to realize that a great gift has a higher value than something I could earn on my own. To steward something I wouldn’t otherwise have brings with it a higher level of responsibility and pushes me to serve in humility instead of pride.

3. We Are What We Do!!

We have all been around people who define themselves by what they do. This is common talk among most leaders in our world today. I have changed my view on this since being in ministry.

In ministry, we are what we do. If ministry is a calling (which I am confident that it is), and therefore is NOT a career move, If leadership is truly a gift given to us by God Himself, and my life is defined by my walk with Jesus Christ, then the reality that we are unable to escape, is that I am What I Do!

The reason this perspective is so important for me, is because with this knowledge, it is impossible for me (or anyone for that matter) to compartmentalize my life. If I truly believe these truths, I must see everyday as an opportunity to know Jesus better, and to know the people I am given to lead in a way that not only moves me, but moves them, and US all to a closer walk with Christ. Doing this, in turn, allows us to be more effective in the way that we do ministry.

4. To Increase In Authority, I Must Lose Control

If you read, study, listen, or have first had experience of corporate leadership, you realize that the most “successful” leaders are the ones who control their circumstances to eliminate much, if not all failure. This is the very reason why so many bosses are afraid to ask for help or to delegate work to others. I mean why would I give you a task (that I can do) and then turn around and give the credit to you? I could do it, and I would get the credit for the work.

In ministry, it is crucial that every leader finds passages of Scripture that teach and show them how to be effective in ministry. The passage that does this for me is Exodus 18. Let me break this down for you. In this passage, Moses was trying to lead all by himself. His father-in-law came to him and told him that he was doing it all wrong (WOW! What nerve). He told Moses that if he really wanted to serve those that he led, he would have to lose control of all the decisions that impacted the people. Bottom Line: If he wanted to have more authority, more things would have to get done. He wouldn’t be able to get everything that needed to be done, done all on his own. He needed to get help in order to see it happen.

This principle is extremely apparent when leading in ministry. My goal in ministry is to impact the lives of others. I have realized that as a leader, I have to get more people involved in what I’m responsible for so that more people are impacted for the church and the Kingdom. (I have been told in the past that I am trying to ‘steal’ all of the volunteers away from other ministries before – my response is simple. I don’t care if they are in children’s, students, college, adults, worship, or any ministry area for that matter! I want to get as many people involved in ministry as possible, so that this world will be transformed by Jesus Christ in the lives of the people!) This principle found in Exodus 18 (and many other places in Scripture for that matter) has proven to be the key component to successful leadership for me.

5. Leadership is 360 degrees

Traditional leadership models are from the top down. It is unheard of for an organization to have the ‘team’ model, where everyone regardless of position, has leadership responsibility to everyone else on the team. While any organization would benefit from this ‘team’ model, I know that this model is VITAL to successful ministry.

One of the greatest things about being on a team, is accountability and support that you get from the other team members. I’m totally ok with my team giving me pressure, if it serves to help me. I must give a definition of ‘leadership pressure: ‘ having a conversation with someone because you see something now or something that is coming that no one else can see, even the person you are talking to. This could be in the area of integrity, strategy or work process.’

Working in a church, gives us one benefit that is incomparable, we work with believers! The Bible gives every believer the responsibility (WOW, THAT HAS BIG IMPLICATIONS) to help the people we do life with to be more like Jesus. And they have the same responsibility (There’s that word again) to me. So in church leadership, regardless of position, we all carry the responsibility (Again??) to help others on the team, regardless of position, to improve. As leaders, we have to be ok with a subordinate (I hate that term, but it gets the idea across) putting leadership pressure on me so that I get better at leading. We have to be open to one of our peers (yes, even though they don’t have a clue what you do) doing the same thing. We can’t simply rely on our boss (Senior Pastor) to help me become a better leader.

I have absolutely loved the fact that God has called me into ministry leadership. And to be honest, I have found it to be very challenging at times. But I have learned so much, and I hope that these five lessons will be as helpful for you as they have been for me.

My Life isn’t perfect, but I’m Thankful for everything I Have

Happy Turkey day!

As I sit here this morning, I can’t help but think of the things that I am thankful for this year. Last year around this time I wrote a post 13 Reasons I’m Thankful this Thanksgiving 2013. Keeping up with this tradition, here are 14 Reasons I’m Thankful this Thanksgiving day of 2014.

1) I’m so thankful for the great gift of Salvation given to me through Jesus Christ.

2) I’m thankful for God blessing me with my amazing wife!

3) I’m thankful for the joy that Jennifer brings me. – she always has a way of making my sad days happy, my happy days happier, and my boring day “most enjoyable”

4) I’m thankful for my family – They are always there for Jenn and I, and for that I am very thankful

5) I’m thankful that I live in a country where I don’t have to worry about if I can go to church on Sunday, where my wife can do what she loves (teaching), where we (Jenn and I) can get the opportunity to go to Bible College without a fear of getting killed for it. USA! USA! USA!!

6) I’m thankful for the opportunity to be on an amazing team at CFBC! – they are always finding ways to encourage my ministry, and to partner with each other in advancing the kingdom of God.

7) I’m thankful for my amazing support system! You all know who you are, and I will never be able to thank you enough.

8) I’m thankful for my extended families

9) I’m thankful for the teens at CFBC! – not a week goes by where these amazing children of God don’t challenge me or capture my heart. You guys ROCK!

10) I’m thankful for FOOD! – Pizza, Spaghetti, cookie dough, sushi, CHIPOTLE, Red Robin, Asian, pie, soups, breads, steak, fish, cereal, just about everything you can eat.

11) I’m thankful for Friends – friends are amazing! You have all impacted my life in many ways.

12) I’m thankful for Sports! – I have come to love watching sports. Of course I’m talking about Football and Basketball (primarily)

13) I’m thankful for laughter

14) I’m thankful for Coffee – I’ll let you figure out why.

A Resource You May Find Useful

Being a leader in a church is difficult. So whenever we can learn from what others are doing, it is in our best interest to do so.

I would like to draw your attention to a book that teaches you how to get your entire church (regardless of size) sending one single message each and every week, almost guaranteeing that your congregation will know what your were trying to say.

Found it to be a good resource. I did a book review on this book, check it out here.

The Big Idea

9 Questions to Ask Yourself as a Leader!

In my last post CFBC YOUTH LEADERSHIP TEAM CORE VALUES I talked about listening to God for direction. I know that some are going to ask me how in the world I filter through what is actually from God, and what is actually from my self-centered brain. So this post is dedicated to helping you understand the filters I have and use as I work in leadership.

  1. What does the Bible say?
  2. What do wise and godly people say?
  3. What does my experience say?
  4. What does the SPIRIT say?
  5. Does this negatively impact the vision of our ministry? Our Church?
  6. Am I excited about this?
  7. Is this a temporary solution?
  8. Is this extravagance or excellence?
  9. Will this benefit the ministries vision? The churches vision?

I find that I ask myself these questions often as I am planning a lesson, planning events, going into meetings, or anything I do that pertains to the ministries I am involved in.

I hope this helps you to understand my though process as I lead.


Core Values

I am convinced that leadership takes work. Leading a team of people takes work. Which is why I will take every opportunity I can to read and listen to others on how they lead their teams. One aspect to leading a team, is that you know where you are going, and how you will get there. Which is why developing CORE VALUES is crucial for any team. As I have joined the staff team at CFBC, I have been constantly looking to develop core values for the youth ministry. After lots of prayer, research, thinking, and planning, it is crucial that we as leaders develop core values for our team. These are not core values for those we minister to or provide a service to, rather these are values for those who are on staff or in leadership.

So here are the core values for the Youth Group here at CFBC:

#1: Listen to Jesus, and do what He says!

#2: Commit to C.H.A.N.G.E.

  • C: Care about people! (After all, we do work with people)
  • H: Healthy (Emotional, Family, Financial, Physical, and Spiritual)
  • A: AWE! (We are never going to forget where we come from, and how far God has brought us)
  • N: Numbers (Not correlated with ‘Achievement’, rather ‘STATS’ that point to potential)
  • G: Grit (Doing “Whatever it Takes” to get people to know JESUS)
  • E: Everything Matters (Everything we do affects the church body, and everything the church body does affects our effectiveness. WE ARE JUST ONE PART OF A BIG TEAM)

#3: Always Believe that the Best is Yet to Come!

The Heat of the Situation


Isn’t it amazing when we take a moment to think about what our life consists of? My heart is burdened deeply for the many fires I have been hearing about these past couple weeks. In Estacada, OR there have been some fires that have caused many businesses to close down, and has affected the lives of several people. In Bethel, AK a local church burned down to the ground. Why in the world am I even mentioning this? Why in the world would I (of all people) even be interested in something like this?

Because I don’t just see fire! These aren’t just homes and businesses getting burned down, or shut down while they take care of the fires. The church in Bethel that burned to the ground is more than just a building that is no longer standing. Both of these instances have a deeper connection to our lives than we think. For starters, I have family who is from Estacada. I even have family members who live just outside Estacada (which doesn’t take much since it’s a small town). One of my closest friends lives up in Bethel (rural AK off the bearing sea). No, none of my family is hurt or affected much by the fire/s in Estacada. And no, my good friend did not go to the church that burned down. But I am thinking about them. I am thinking about their families and friends.

Our world is so caught up in the “me, me, me” thinking, that we totally forget about others (unless it’s tragic). As I was thinking, I began to realize that we do that in the church as well. We are so focused on what we are doing, or what that next event is, or our next sermon series, that we totally forget about others. I would even venture to say that for many of us, we didn’t even think about these people’s spiritual destination. You see, I have burdened with this thought lately!

It really doesn’t matter if you are a good person or not. Nor does it really matter if you are rich or poor, or if you are young or old. Non of that really matters if you don’t understand this one thing. YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST is the MOST important aspect of you!

I used to care (like many) how someone looked. So much so that I never wanted to go work with homeless people. But then I met some, and I found that they were more open to talking about Jesus and what he did (or did not do), and how that affected them than many of my Christian friends at church ever would. Isn’t that amazing? So as we think and pray for those who are affected by these fires, let these stories be a reminder to us that we need to focus on the MOST important aspect of someone, and that is……Where will they spend eternity?

What Can a Christian Leader Learn from an Atheist???

I would like to first say that this post is strictly written by Derek, from a leader in a church context. Which means that everything I will say, all my reflections, are all being gauged through this lens. 

Jim & Casper Go To Church: Frank Conversation about faith, churches, and well-meaning Christians by:Jim Henderson & Matt Casper. 


This book is written from a very unique perspective. On one hand you have Jim, a Christian, while on the other you have Casper, an atheist. Their mission? to visit 12 churches across the USA. Some are known nationally, while others aren’t. This book started out as an experiment for Jim (note: Jim has been a long time pastor). He wanted to see how atheist perceive church. So he hired Casper to travel with him to visit 12 churches. This book is essentially the conversations they had as they visited, and discussed their experiences at these churches. 

This is an excellent book. The book is filled with observations (though only observations from one Christian and one Atheist). I have said it before, and I’ll continue to say it “Leaders Read, and Readers Lead”  This is an excellent book to read as a leader. Even if you don’t agree with the observations made, it is still helpful. I have to agree with what Casper (the atheist) said at the end of the book: 

“Jim asked me what I’d say to Christians everywhere, if I could, and I think it’s quite simple. There are two rules we must all abide by to live healthy, happly lives with each other and with everyone on the planet: 

                 1. Be open-minded. Learning is the best thing that can happen to anyone.

                 2. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Did you catch that? Even he thinks learning is beneficial to ones life. Leaders, keep learning. Even if it means learning from an atheist. 

Seven Things I Believe about the Next Generation!!

Generation Next

As many of you know, I am the Youth Director at Chinese Faith Baptist Church in Lake Oswego, OR. One of my many passions is to see our young people grow up to not only be Christians, but to own their faith, and to live out their faith daily. As I was thinking, I came up with 7 things that I believe about the next generation. Here are seven things I believe about the next generation (people who are 20 and younger)……………………………………

#1 – The next generation will see one of the greatest awakenings the world has ever seen…I really do believe the Lord is setting them up for it. (Which is why I believe the greatest investment in “missions” that the church can make today is the one to have a dynamic youth and children’s ministry!)

#2 – The way the next generation will view and do church will be different than the way we do it today. They will fully know and comprehend how to reach out to themselves…and our role as a church should be to fund it and not fight it (that line is borrowed from Andy Stanley)!

#3 – The next generation seems to be way more serious about their walk with Jesus than my generation has ever been.

#4 – I believe those of us who are “more mature” (OLDER) should seek out those who are in their teens and listen to their questions and frustrations about life and church without coming down on them. If we will listen and patiently explain things there could be way less tension between generations in the church. Might does not make right. And…the “mature” people should always be the first to step into a relationship with the next generation!

#5 – I fully believe that the next generation has no earthly idea what God wants to do in them and through them…and if we will teach them to be fully surrendered on a daily basis, our children, grandchildren, and teens in our youth groups will see God do things we didn’t even think were possible.

#6 – I believe the next generation is not content with borrowing the faith of their parents, they are asking questions and seeking to understand WHAT they believe and WHY they believe it…and them doing that is going to equip them to take the church to the next level (I Peter 3:15).

#7 – I believe the next generation is going to refuse to settle for the way things are…and that as their view of WHO God is begins to increase so will their expectation in regards to what He can do.




Last week, I shared with you the idea of a Personal Growth Plan. The most important aspect of leadership, is to help others. It’s not about our skills, abilities, or education. While those things are important, they do NOT create good leaders. This week, I have been trying to figure out what I could possibly provide you that would help mobilize your leadership. What can I possibly say that would help you to be a better leader?

While I may not be as well known as other leadership consultants, advisers, or speakers (which is totally OK with me), I do have experience that some of you can relate with. What I want to share with you this week does not just apply to those who are leaders at their job, or sports team, or even at the place where they volunteer. What I am going to share, can apply to parents, teachers, laborers, janitors, truck drivers, office workers, and even stay at home moms!

There is a lot of hype out there about developing you to be a better leader. While this is important, I strongly believe that we have blurred our vision, and our focus is off. What I am going to share, flows out of who you are. Not who you want to be. NOT who others think you are. NOT how you portray yourself. What I am talking about, goes down to your deepest core. Goes down to how you view life. It has everything to do with your value system/s. I believe that if we don’t have an understanding of these areas in our lives, we are just blindly leading.  It is CRUCIAL that each and every one of us who wants to develop as leaders, to wrestle with these 3 areas:

RELATIONSHIPS: How do you intentionally build a space filled with trust and respect with others?

FUTURE: We all have a vision of where we will be in the future. So what goals are worth spending time on to turn that vision into a reality? (I talked about Goal Setting here if you want some help with that) 

ETHICS: This was one of my least favorite classes in college. The reason was simply because being an ethical person is difficult. What does it mean to do the right thing, for the right reason?

If we can wrestle with these 3 areas, then we will find that leadership begins to flow out of us. I believe, that if we can’t get these three areas nailed down, it is going to be difficult to lead. It’s not leading if we have no relationships with others. If we don’t focus on our future and dreams, we get bored (and don’t really lead). If we have a hard time doing what is right, people won’t be interested in following you. If you are not consistent with what is right and wrong, then again, you’re a difficult person to follow.

I challenge you to wrestle with these three areas of your life.

What is Your Personal Growth Plan?


I have spent much time listening to, and reading lots on leadership. Often times I learn new things, but I often neglect to put different aspects I’m learning together, or to apply them into my daily life. That seems to be a perpetual problem in 21st Century America. We have information at our disposal, simply with the click of a button. For example, I use my IMBd app all of the time to learn about new movies and actors/ress. Or my Twitter app that directs me directly to my Twitter account. There isn’t a day that goes by where we can’t gather information on any given topic of our choosing.

What do we do with this information? Honestly, it depends. If it’s valuable to me at this time or any time in the near future, then I store it in my mind. On the other hand, if I find it interesting, or informative, but not useful now, then I simply have no set of steps I take. That was until I did some reading and ran across this life changing-quote:

                “If a person will spend one hour a day on the same subject for five years,


                 that person will be an expert on that subject.” – Earl Nightingale

Why is this quote life-changing? It puts the possibility of being an expert into our hands.

So what exactly are we to do with this? Well, we must first start by coming up with 1 or 2 areas we would like to become ‘an expert on.’ This is done through goal setting. I wrote about Taking your Dreams and Turning them into Reality. Once we do so, we must begin gathering books, online articles, blogs, vlogs (video blogs), videos, and even people in which we can learn from. Then comes the next step, schedule time daily to become an expert.

How you do this daily, could be difficult to determine. So, I’ve provided a sample weekly routine that could help you move on. This sample is based on the fact that you would spend 1 hour a day to develop your expertise.

  • Monday: Spend 1 hour developing you spiritually! (Read a devotional, study a book of the Bible, etc.).
  • Tuesday: Spend 1 hour reading a book on your desired topic (I read books on leadership).
  • Wednesday: Spend 30minutes filing quotes, and 30minutes reading the book on your desired topic.
  • Thursday: Spend 1 hour listening to a recording on your desired topic (I listen to leadership podcasts).
  • Friday: Spend 1 hour filing quotes and reflecting on the contents of Thursday’s material.


I have been told that most Americans spend about 30 hours a week watching the tv. None of which really helps us out in the future. Why not take 1 hour a day to develop your knowledge and expertise?