For some reason, I made it to the airport without my requisite yellow pad of paper. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just read and write on my iPad.” Oops … not until I get to 10,000 feet. So on the ascent I leafed through the United Airlines Hemispheres magazine and an interview with Daymond John by Reyna Gobel caught my eye (May 2013). Billionaire Daymond John is one of the Shark Tank regulars and for him money is no object. In the article he shared three pieces of business advice that he says his mom offered. That advice may be gold for entrepreneurs, but with just a slight shift, it’s platinum for church pastors as well.

 1. Thou Shalt Not Whine. The old adage that problems are opportunities in disguise may draw elements from a couple of old wives’ tales, but there’s a nugget of truth in it too. When you’re faced with a problem or you encounter an obstacle, deal with it. Too many pastors complain about circumstances in their churches but say too little about what they could do to overcome them. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz expected his naval officers to come to him when they encountered problems, but he demanded that when they did, they offer three solutions and recommend one of them. When you’re faced with an issue, a problem, a problem-person, or any other obstacle, complaining about it is the last thing that’s needed. If you have an issue, deal with it. If you’re not sure what to do, develop possible solutions and bounce them off your coach. And if it’s beyond your scope of expertise, get some help. But if all someone can do is whine about it, it mostly just reveals how weak of a leader they are. 

 2. Thou Shalt Be Responsible. President Truman had a plaque on his desk that proclaimed, “The Buck Stops Here.” Frankly, every pastor should be presented with one at their ordination service. When it comes to the ultimate responsibility for mission achievement, the buck falls squarely on the pastor’s shoulders. Got a congregation that won’t follow your lead? See #1 above. You’re the pastor, the congregational leader. Lead! Now, I’m in no way suggesting that a pastor should be a dictator or a bully, but if they don’t have the leadership skills necessary to inspire, cajole, drag, bribe, convince, or otherwise steer the congregation into mission alignment, then they’re either in the wrong church or the wrong field.

3. Thou Shalt Tackle Only One Thing at a Time. What Daymond John actually said was that leaders need to perfect one idea before moving on to the next. But since perfect comes with so much church baggage…. Let’s face it, there is no shortage of good ideas out there. Some of them are good for someone else’s church, but there are at least a couple of good ones for yours. However, many high-potential turn-arounds and church growth initiatives run aground or run amuck because the pastor keeps changing horses in the middle of the race. They’re like the dog in the movie Up… “Squirrel!” Whatever is new or shiny catches their attention and they lose interest in what they’ve already started, either abandoning it or else making a poor hand-off to an unsuspecting, good-hearted, willing somebody. So, when you take on a project, take it on with the commitment to see it through before you take on something else.

Question: How have you seen these pieces of advice used well? How have they helped you in your leadership? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.