leadership,
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29M 05S

Episode 52: 5 Things 20 Years of Leadership Teaches You

April 17, 2018

Episode 52: 5 Things 20 years of Leadership Teaches You

Steve talks through 20 years of lessons learned while being the Small Groups Pastor at Saddleback Church. He addresses the posture by which to care for volunteer leaders, perspective on recruiting for ministry, the kind of people he looks for, and how he sees the local church.

EPISODE RESOURCES

GO DEEP INTO THE DIMES DROPPED, CONNECT WITH THE SPEAKER, AND CHECK OUT THE LINKS & RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  1. www.smallgroupnetwork.com
  2. Twitter: @stevegladen
  3. Instagram: @sgladen

Episode Quotable

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Episode 52 Transcript

Mingo Palacios:

Hello and welcome to the PD Podcast where we dialogue with some of today’s most insightful ministry leaders on topics relevant to the next generation. I’m Mingo Palacios, your host and Pastor of Evangelism in Culture at Saddleback Church. Every episode you’ll meet a future focus leader who’s changing the face of ministry from millennials by simply observing the past. It’s our hope that these conversations challenge you to dream bigger, lead better, and intentionally make time to honor those who let us stand on their shoulders. Thanks for joining us.

Mingo Palacios:

What’s up everybody? Welcome to the Purpose Driven podcast. My name is Mingo your host, and today we’re lucky we’re with the small group network and one of their own gatherings here at the Saddleback Ranch. Pastor Steve Gladen is the pastor of small groups for Purpose Driven Ministries at large, but also Saddleback central and global. So you’ve got a well of wisdom inside of somebody who’s been focusing on small groups for a number of years. Before we started the podcast, we were talking about how much wisdom leadership capital is stored up on the bookshelves of Saddleback because of the lessons learned, the pain points.

Steve Gladen:

First off, it’s great to be with you guys and it is that, every drawing we have, every book we write, everything is written off pain-points.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s great.

Steve Gladen:

And so anytime we can help a fellow church leader learn from us and avoid hitting the wall, that gives us great joy because it was no fun for us to hit the wall.

Mingo Palacios:

Exactly. It’s no fun for anybody to hit the wall and so to have somebody who’s got the mark of the wall on their face right and can lead you in a different direction, that’s always a good thing. Now, just for a little bit of context, how long have you been at Saddleback? What did you come in as the pastor of small groups? Have you been there the whole time? Did you transition around? What’s for our listeners?

Steve Gladen:

Actually this month is 20 years, so we just celebrated the March one was my 20th anniversary and now moving towards twenty one in a couple days.

Mingo Palacios:

That would mean that you were like my age because I’m 36. So when you rolled in, that means you are a super green leader, like ripe pineapple, little kid coming in and twenty years later, you have had the markings of ministry on your hands, on your soul.

Steve Gladen:

Yeah, there’s definitely some learnings before that, but there’s also more learnings after it. So yeah, you’re spot on. But it is one of those things where you learn so much through ministry and through time and you know, that’s why at the, at our gathering, it’s always great to bring in a couple of stages that are, you know, who have been around for 50 years that can, you know, help them do it. But doing ministry since, you know about that 1983-84 mark and I’m been in groups, but I got hired on as a small groups pastor and I’m one of the few that I get to stay in that realm. I get moved around structurally a few times. I was off on my own for a while. Then over in 201 then back over into 101 started in 101.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s awesome. This is so cool. There are few churches that have the track record that Saddleback does approaching 40 years. Well there’s a lot of churches older than 40 years, but you’re talking about people who have been in it, not just chained to the desk, but they’re actively engaging across generations, actively engaging across churches. This isn’t just working on one but serving several. So I know that we’ve got probably a sharp the title because you are the small groups pastor. You’re going to have a ton of small groups people listening, wanting to know some insider track on how you lead well from this position. And we had heard you in a podcast earlier, which I’ll put the show notes too, so you can get the first conversation as I lobby into this one, but you talked about care for leaders period. Now you aimed it at small group leaders, but I loved your posture on relationship. Can you unpack that?

Steve Gladen:

Yeah, sure. I mean, it’s just as with all leaders, you know framework I gave with that was that Lisa and I had been invited into someone’s house for dinner and we were like so impressed. They took the time in our culture and everything they invited us over for dinner and then at dessert they brought a catalog out and wanted us to join their network and you know, it was all framed in love and offering the right way, but we left that dinner a little bit hollow because of that. Oh, I thought they were wanting-

Mingo Palacios:

Extending a depth of friendship.

Steve Gladen:

Exactly, you know, you just deal with it. But so often, Lord showed me in my quiet time as many times the church does the same thing. We just say, “Hey, here’s some people to help you care.” But you know, we don’t meet them where they’re at. We tell them where we want them to go and we give them the trainings and all that. But we don’t find out who they are and what’s important to them. And I think that is a beautiful thing that we’ve seen modeled through the new testament is that more times than none, Jesus met the person’s need and then trained them or then led them to Christ filled need first and just met them where they were. And so it’s that thing where we’d like to train all of our people that work with our small group leaders to get to know the leader first. And who are they? Do you know their spouse’s name? Do you know their birthdays or anniversaries? Do you know their kids names?

Mingo Palacios:

Milestones inside of their world.

Steve Gladen:

Yeah and what’s important to them in a calendar year. And because you know, those are the pivotal things when you get to know them and see who they are. And we call it the soft data. So often the church is focused on hard data, name, address, phone number, you know. Have you done our trainings and have you done all these different things? But the soft data it starts out with the anniversaries and birthdays, but you want to get to that place of where are they at? What does God want to do in their life and what are they praying for? What do they need a breakthrough in? Where are they at? So, and the adage we always tell them is that in order to speak the truth to somebody which the church is trying to give truth, they got to trust you. And the only way they can trust you is if you spend time. So the guy in the corner yelling biblical truths like, “If you don’t know Jesus, you’re going to go to hell” it’s not as effective because truth-

Mingo Palacios:

Yeah, but it’s got no equity, no relational equity.

Steve Gladen:

Exactly. And so that’s why with your kids, you do the same thing whether you know it or not, the way they apply the truth is because they trust you and because you spend time with them. And so we’re always trying to get our leaders to say, hey, the first part of caring is find out where they’re at, what’s their story, you know, what’s all the pieces of that?

Mingo Palacios:

You can frame it by saying, you know, the first part of caring is actually caring for the person, not just the position that you’re hoping they’re going to manage.

Steve Gladen:

That’s great. That’s a great way to frame it up. Because so often I have found that so many of our volunteer leaders, they want to please the church so much because we usually have a pathway or a training or something we want them to do or box to check. They really do want to please you, but you almost got to give them permission to say, Hey, don’t that comes secondary. Get to know the person first.

Mingo Palacios:

Well, certainly I’ve been guilty of wanting to present well to my supervisor. So I’m just trying to manage a position or a spot. And oftentimes I feel like the worst expression of my own leadership was when I was caring more about the position than the person. Yeah. It’s a flaw that I don’t know that anybody is exempt from.

Steve Gladen:

I’ve been going, I’m so glad you said that because it really is. We get into this game because we want changed lives. We know what it needs to do. But sometimes we fast track it a little bit without getting too.

Mingo Palacios:

And there’s no such thing. We’re talking about character development. No great character development goes fast. It’s all process. Always time.

Steve Gladen:

You never microwave it. Unfortunately, it’s on a slow cooker.

Mingo Palacios:

Well, that is, it’s encouraging to hear from somebody invested 20 years in because sometimes I question it myself just being here two years.

Steve Gladen:

Yep.

Mingo Palacios:

I’m one tenth of your time here. And I wonder, “Man, you know what, I wonder if I can make this go a little bit faster so that I can present better results?” But no, you’re right. It’s the character of our maker.

Steve Gladen:

Yeah. And so often on church staffs, it’s the slow and steady wins the race. Actually, Rick would even say that in church growth, I mean, it’s the churches that grow too quick, they outgrow their infrastructure, they collapse under their own weight, but it’s a slow and steady that wins the race and it’s something that we’ve seen through Saddleback through all the growth and consolidation and growth consolidation.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s so good. You also talked about on recruiting, there’s a bad taste I think in a lot of our approaches to recruiting for ministry because, people just see a booth and a piece of paper on a right.

Steve Gladen:

Sign up for my need.

Mingo Palacios:

And often times it can feel very suspect, it can feel hollow. It can feel ingenuine. Talk to us about your personal recommendation on ways that we should be thinking and framing, recruiting. I loved how you put a time table inside of there.

Steve Gladen:

There’s actually two angles there. One of them is that people give to vision, they don’t give to need. But so often we’re always trying to throw the needs on the clipboards, this is what we need, this is what we need and people give to vision. And so, if you’re going to go after anybody’s 168 hours, if you’re going to try and get them to give up any of that time in a week, it’s only going to happen through vision. If people gave to need, every need, the organization would have everything that they needed. But what they need is they need the vision casting and they need the time to process. And so often our recruiting goes south because we’re trying to open and close the deal all on the same thing.

Mingo Palacios:

On the patio between services.

Steve Gladen:

The analogy I usually tell people is like going, “Hey, if you’re out on your first date and somebody asked you to marry you, would you say yes or no? And I’m hoping you’d say no.” But hopefully you’re not that-

Mingo Palacios:

With good judgement you would say no.

Steve Gladen:

Because there’s the courting process. You’ve got to get to know the person. They don’t know what they’re getting into and stuff like that, and that’s why I love collegiate sports because they’re always looking at sophomores in high school, two to three years out. They’re looking at people, they’re getting to know people, they got to network. And that’s why when you go to conferences, it’s so great because you get to bump up against God’s people but also inside your churches a wealth of opportunity. And so when you recruiting, you’ve got to be able to look a couple years down the road and start to vision cast for what you could see in them because it’s got to germinate. You’re planting a seed, you can’t make it grow quick and you can’t, you can’t expedite that. And the other thing is don’t say no for them. So often, we’re so insecure in ourselves we’re giving them every reason to say no before we even asked them to do anything. And so part of the relational thing is doing the Kingdom work is a privilege. It is an honor and you’re saving them because in 2 Corinthians 5:10 the judgment seat of Christ, we’re judged on two things. One, did you accept Christ? Without going into all the eschatology and everything, but you’re at the judgment seat of Christ so you’re already a believer. This is where believers are judged and so it’s like, did you, did you accept Christ as my Lord and Savior? You wouldn’t have been there unless you did that, but the next thing is what did you do with what I gave you? And you’re actually helping your people in the long run, in the long game.

Mingo Palacios:

In the eternal game.

Steve Gladen:

In the eternal game that if you can help them reprioritize their 168 hours for eternal purposes and that doesn’t happen between services on the patio or at a quick coffee, but it happens time and speaking into them and just being able to say, I see you in this role and I would like you to pray about it and it’s allowed to marinate.

Mingo Palacios:

I think of Matthew 4,5,6, Jesus, he tells people in a mixed bag and mixed audience, he says, “You’re the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.” And that’s not an exclusively believing audience. I think it’s a potential statement that he pours over them. Right? So there’s a-

Steve Gladen:

Exactly.

Mingo Palacios:

You think that of me?

Steve Gladen:

Yeah.

Mingo Palacios:

I have that potential. Right? And what that changed in that person in the moment. I like to think that recruiting is a process. It’s not a moment, you know, you can’t see it that way. And so on who to pick, you had some great insight, and again, for people listening all about small groups, oftentimes the charge or the mandate comes from the senior pastor. We’re going to have, put your number on it, right? If you’re a church of 50, you’re going to have five and if you’re a church of 500, you’re going to have 50 and if you’re 5,000 you’re going to have 500. So on who to pick, there has to be a process that starts with leadership understanding who’s at the table. How does Saddleback bring perspective volunteers into a position of leadership in a way, I don’t know if you can even bottle that, but in a way that they might go, “Oh, we need to do this in our church.”

Steve Gladen:

Yeah, I mean I think there’s a couple of things because leadership is developed so you know, there’s some natural abilities that people have. That’s why when we’re starting groups who say, you know, all you need is two friends because if you have friends, you have followers and if you have followers, you’re leader. So on the group side of it, we know that. But if you just exercise, if you play that out across the board, there are many people that are out there and the enemy is trying to get other things to fight and consume and take their 168 hours away. And part of what you got to be able to do is get in there and just help them see the eternal value. When you’re looking for people though, we’re always saying you’ve got to look for capability and you’ve got to look for availability. But just because the availability isn’t there, you want to make sure that your vision casting strong enough and relationally through time, use the example of a buddy of mine that I knew and I just said, just give me a golf game a week. Good Lord. You’re playing three times a week and I just have one of them?

Mingo Palacios:

Bring me. Make me a plus one. Just make me a plus one.

Steve Gladen:

I want to go golfing. I mean, I enjoy it, but I mean that zone. I was just trying to help them see that making an eternal difference. But each one of us, we’re not only looking on the horizon at who are those next leaders, but so often they’re sitting in our church and they’re doing it as a profession. But even for them, sometimes their work has the success, but it doesn’t have the significance. And so what we offer in the church is what people are thriving for and so here’s an opportunity for you to be able to give them significance and it’s making an internal impact. But it’s done relationally and it’s done by looking and getting to know their story and finding leadership. And also, even if you’re talking to people, just find out who ask them, who do you think is a leader, not just in the church but who do you think is a leader and they’ll, they’ll rat out all kinds of people for, you know.

Mingo Palacios:

You shake them down. I need five phone numbers before you leave this patio booth.

Steve Gladen:

So often they know, they know who you need to know. And so it’s one of the first thing is I say when I’m at a conference. I’ll just say, “Hey, who do you think I should know in this place?”

Mingo Palacios:

That’s good.

Steve Gladen:

That’s really saved me a lot of time hunting through the crowds.

Mingo Palacios:

I love that. You said something about, you know, somebody asks a question in the prior recording about how you deal with what would seem like touchy situations. And you spoke a relationship over policy. Can you break that down?

Steve Gladen:

Yeah, the question was framed up on, pick the sin of the day, you know, there’s all kinds of sins that creep in and how do you deal with this? And first off you’ve got to go and just understand that when the church was birthed in Acts chapter two, the rest of the New Testament was about the messiness of the church.

Mingo Palacios:

Yes.

Steve Gladen:

The church is not a hotel. It’s not clean and orderly and everyone looks like they’re in their place and everything is done right. It’s a hospital. And in a hospital it’s a messy environment and sick people come to the hospital. So the first thing you’ve got to do, as a church you’ve got to get comfortable with messiness being in your church. And when you think of the church is a family system, you’re looking at your own family.

Mingo Palacios:

There’s nothing, there’s no better picture of a mess than my own family.

Steve Gladen:

You know, there’s good days and you know, there’s days you wish you could just erase and all that. So it’s just the gospel is messy as you read through all the letters and the epistles and you feel bad about your church, you know, as you’re listening to this podcast, read First Corinthians, it was a bonafide church and it was messed up and so you got to understand that you know, those touchy issues we’ve got to deal with. You do have to deal with them, but you deal with them the way you deal with your family. When you look through scripture, the highest qualification for a pastor is can you run your family? Why?

Mingo Palacios:

Such a good perspective to bring first to the table when dealing with drama.

Steve Gladen:

Yeah, because Jesus set that up because he knew the church was built on a family system and so what you got to do is almost all the issues you deal with, deal with on your family. So sin comes into your family, your kid disappoints you. Something happens. Do you ostracize them out of the church? Do you say you can’t be a part of this family? They’re always a part of your family, so you’ve got to relationally help walk them through and that’s messy. I wish there was something because you have some people that are very repentitive and they comply and it’s like a kids, you have kids that make you look good and you have kids that make you look bad. And so, if you get the co-operative people, they understand sin and they recognize and they do that. There’s some that don’t and it takes more conversation. It takes more messiness. But if you think of how would I deal with this as a parent? That will answer your question more times than none.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s really good. For our non-parents who are leading ministries, how have your parents led you well through-

Steve Gladen:

Good point.

Mingo Palacios:

Maybe it was some of your wanderings and then how have your parents not led you well? Because that can be easily transferrable to the way you’re leading.

Steve Gladen:

Yeah, because like the first 12 years of my ministry, most of it was how not to do church. So sometimes you know the same thing, whether your parents did it or right or wrong, there are learnings that you get and you go, I’d like to-

Mingo Palacios:

Transferable lessons.

Steve Gladen:

I’d like to step this up for my kids. But I’m glad you brought that angle in there too because, you know, not everyone has-

Mingo Palacios:

When you speaking from the perspective of father, I love how you had addressed the next generation because there’s a lot of churches that are paying lots of money to try to figure out how to net and keep and get the attention of the next generation. What’s crazy is, I think that summed up in the Purpose Driven model is a phenomenal framework to engage every generation. It’s every member, a minister. So you’ve got the action involved in that. That strikes the bone and the core of the millennial generation. I love what you said in the other room. You said, “Every generation thinks they’re unique to the table. The funny thing is they’re all built with the same deficits and God fills every single one of those deficits.”

Steve Gladen:

Wherever I’ve been on the planet, you can change the skin color, you can change the language, you can change the culture, the felt needs are all the same. And that’s the beauty about the Bible. It’s timeless and it’s not Rick, it’s not Purpose Driven, it’s not Saddleback. We just took what Jesus did and when he framed out. I mean we look at the gospels and how it is the vision and mission of what Jesus wanted the church to do and it’s summarized in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment and he prayed in John 17, Paul talks about in Ephesians 4, you see it practically exercised in Acts chapter two and it’s themed out. When you look at the five verbs that are in the great commission, great commandment, they are felt, needs that, it doesn’t matter what I mean, I have two kids that are on that back end of the millennial thing, but they have the same needs they still are looking for true biblical community and fellowship. They’re still trying to figure out, you know, the spiritual formation process, the sanctification process. If you want to get real high church, they still want to see, you know, how does God gift them and how can I express that into the world. They still want to reach out to their friends that don’t know Christ and they still understand that there’s a God we worship that we have to connect with in order to survive this broken planet. And that’s the beautiful thing of how God orchestrated his game plan was that when Jesus left this planet, he gave us two things. He gave us the Holy Spirit in John 14. And he gave us the church in Acts two. And so, he gave us the two components to navigate this broken world. And if you don’t exercise both of them, then you’re missing out.

Mingo Palacios:

Then you become lop-sided, right?

Steve Gladen:

Yeah. You really do. And the beautiful thing about the church is that you have the component that is timeless because the hole that is in our hearts because of the fall, it can’t be replaced by anything other than Jesus did through the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Mingo Palacios:

Crushed it. That is so, so, so good for me to hear because I sometimes will try to fill a personal void, but also a ministry void with all the catch, whatever my generation has to offer. I’m thinking more social or you know, let’s get more people engaged in this thread and you forget that the principal, Great Commission, Great Commandment, that there in lies the fulfillment that our creator made for us through us to the people that he’s sent in our spaces, in our spheres.

Steve Gladen:

The funny thing is I’m going to go a little bit of ‘groupsy’ on this. I have been around long enough, sadly to say, you know, in over three decades in the group’s ministry. And you see those expressions that came around new. I mean, when I was first, was all about koinonia and that in the whole thing.

Mingo Palacios:

Yes. I’ve for sure been to a few churches where they had built out this is the koinonia zone.

Steve Gladen:

It’s like this is it, this is the big thing. And then, you know, I remember the serving piece and being a servant and doing these random acts of kindness and you’re making your groups do that. And then, of course missional had to come in there and you’re like, OK, Jesus was always missional.

Mingo Palacios:

Of course.

Steve Gladen:

And you know, then you had these worship type groups where, you know, it just had to be all about that experiential connection with-

Mingo Palacios:

Lights and candles.

Steve Gladen:

And then the Bible study and you know, all these expressions keep bubbling up. But the answer is always in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment and distilling the balance. The expression of each one is incredible. But if you focus too much on one thing, then you’re out of sorts. When you kind of fold into what Jesus says, you know, this, it’s going to fulfill all the needs that people have.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s great. Now I’m going to ask this question as we close down this conversation because if we have a senior pastor on the line listening to this and he’s thinking, man, this is way out of my shape. I just love the evangelism piece to it. You had talked about if you were a CEO, how you would structure around you and we understand our strengths. I think most of the time the lowest EQ wouldn’t know their strengths, but I’m assuming a pastor would at least have a few tools around them to understand what his strengths are. If they’re going to build a ministry where they’re listening and they’re going, “Man, we, we might be out of balance here.” What’s the remedy for it?

Steve Gladen:

Well, first off, the pastor, he’s got to look at what his strength is for Rick is evangelism. He’s an evangelist and that’s why we really, you know, as much as we’ve needed a personal evangelism person, Rick has really fulfilled that little nugget, so wherever you’re strong as a pastor, that almost going to be your weakest higher. Not that you want any weak hires, but they can be your greenest higher, I should say that. And then wherever you’re not, if you’re not the party person, if you’re not the one that can plan huge crowd events and events like that, then you need to hire somebody towards that. If you’re not, the person that likes to, you know, is not that verse by verse you can’t create curriculum or depth or things like that. So I mean, literally you just think through the purposes in whichever one you’re strong in, you got to make sure you build the other ones in and put your staff accordingly, you know, like that because that will help ensure that your church is working on the Great Commission, the Great Commandment.

Mingo Palacios:

So good. Now I know that there are a few different pathways which people can dive way deeper into everything that we just got into. First, your personal network that you’ve developed here, that you had some pastors out here. If somebody wants more information on that, where can they find it?

Steve Gladen:

Yeah, just smallgroupnetwork.com.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s great. And you’ve got a book, a few books, I’m assuming. I saw one.

Steve Gladen:

Yep. I’m sure you’ve got a few others. So I have a book for a church leadership called small groups with purpose. I have a book for small group leaders called leading small groups with purpose and then a May of 2018, I have a new book coming out called Planning Small Groups with Purpose. And what I’ve found with most churches is we don’t like vision, we lack implementation and there’s a, I forget which book it was I read that the guy, CEO, turned his company around, but his classic line was, “Vision without implementation equals hallucination.”

Mingo Palacios:

Yes. That’s awesome.

Steve Gladen:

And so that book Planning Small Groups with Purpose helps you take everything that you want to do with the Great Commission, Great Commandment, and build a 12 to 18 month strategic plan so that-

Mingo Palacios:

That sounds like gold for kids like me because I’ve dreamed the greatest dreams for what I want my local church to do to reach my peers. But to have an inside cover to cover process, it can be a rich resource for folks.

Steve Gladen:

If you read the book and you do what’s in the book you will build a 12 to 18 month strategic plan. And if you actually return to it every year, you will get better and better and better. Something we do with all of our campuses, we run them through it. Just like I would say you need to run through it.

Mingo Palacios:

Well, I appreciate that. You can also find, Steve at this year’s Purpose Driven Conference 2018. He’ll be running an entire track on small group leadership and small group pathways. You can get that information at PD.church. And we actually have this really great promotion running right now for church planters. If you go onto the website PD.church, you’ll see a section called PDX where we are giving you a break rate for you and your spouse comes for free and you can even apply for a grant that will be given out, I think up to $20,000.

Steve Gladen:

$20,000 I saw on the website. I’m not going to be a church planter. It’s been pretty awesome just the backstory, because people were asking, “Wow is this like a PD? Seems kind of like netty-hooky.” And it was awesome. The origins of that event even happening is that, David, my supervisor went back and contacted personally, pastors who had planted 20 years ago with Purpose Driven and said, “Would you be willing to seed the funds from your ministry to the next generation of churches coming up?” And personally, they are from their church and said, “Yes, we want to pay in.” So it’s not like a para church thing. It’s literally pastors investing in pastors. Couldn’t beat it. So Steve, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate your insight. I appreciate the 20 plus years of wisdom you just unpacked on our audience.

Steve Gladen:

Thanks so much for having me.

Mingo Palacios:

We’ll talk to you guys soon.

Mingo Palacios:

We’d like to thank Purpose Driven Church for making this podcast possible. If you’ve been feeling burnt out or plateaued in your ministry, we invite you to join us for Purpose Driven Church conference happening this June right here in Southern California. You can learn more and register by visiting PD.church. We hope today’s insights left you feeling inspired and propelled towards your greatest potential. Thanks again for joining us for another episode of the PD Podcast. Until next time.

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