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5 Ways to Lead When You Have No Money or Team

I recently surveyed over 1,400 pastors of small to mid-sized churches to find out what they struggled with. I ran the survey to collect input for a new online course I’m releasing this fall called Breaking 200 Without Breaking You, all about breaking the 200 attendance barrier, something 85 percent of churches never do. (You can sign up to get on the inside track for the course release here.)

Man, I learned a ton from that survey. One of the common refrains leaders voiced was uncertainty about how to lead when they didn’t have much money or the right team. After all, most of us visit megachurches and think if I only had a tenth of their money and their people, it would instantly solve my problems. And then we go back to our own context and get almost instantly depressed.

So when you have almost no money for ministry and you clearly haven’t got the right kind of people in the room, where do you start? Believe it or not, neither condition is fatal to your cause. In fact, almost every great movement, church or organization you admire started with no money and no people. So how can you lead when resources are scarce to nonexistent?

There are at least five things you can do to help you find traction.

1. Cast a Big Vision

Of course you know that one of the principal roles of the leader is to cast vision.

But what do you do when you have almost nothing other than vision? Well, you cast a big vision.

Vision creates something out of nothing. It turns impossibility into reality.

It startles people out of their complacency, stops them from settling for less and moves them to action they wouldn’t otherwise take except for the vision of what could be. Too many leaders forget that vision precedes money and people. Why? Because vision always precedes resources. Sometimes all you have is a vision…and that’s enough to get started.

And remember, resources follow vision. They never precede it. If you want to attract a team and resources, cast a big, clear and compelling vision.

2. Raise Your Passion Level

Does passion really matter? You bet it does. More than you think. Passion is different than hype. Hype attempts to manufacture something that doesn’t quite ring true. Passion runs deep. It’s authentic. It resonates. And it’s contagious.

No amount of money can ever substitute for a lack of passion. Your team will never be more passionate about the mission than you are. If you’re disturbed by the lack of passion in your team, look in the mirror. If you’re not fogging mirrors, they never will.

3. Start With Who You Have

Sure, you don’t have your dream team. Dream teams don’t randomly assemble. They’re built.

But leaders who wait forever for a dream team to appear eventually have nightmares.

So what do you do instead? You start with who you have.

Yes, I know you don’t have the team you want. And yes, everyone else seems to have a better team.

You need to realize, however, that’s where most leaders begin. When I started ministry at three tiny, stagnant churches over 20 years ago, the buildings weren’t exactly teeming with high capacity leaders.

So, start with the best leaders you can find. If you begin by working with the best people you have in the room, eventually higher capacity leaders will fill the room.

Want more on building a high performing team from scratch? Listen to Episode 39 of my leadership podcast with Chris Lema. You can subscribe to my podcast for free here or listen below.

4. Focus on What You CAN Do

It’s so easy to be negative. In fact, it takes zero work. It’s the default of the human condition.

As a result, it’s easy to complain about everything you lack and what seems impossible.

Leaders who focus on what they can’t do always miss what they can do.

Plus, you end up setting a negative tone for the organization when you always talk about what’s not possible. What CAN you do? Answer that and go do it. Keep doing it, and eventually you’ll be accomplishing far more than you ever thought.

5. Believe This Is Only the Beginning

Often as a leader you can grow so discouraged that you think of your current lack of whatever as the end.

Your attitude leaks. When a leader loses confidence, so does the team. When a leader is bored, the team grows bored.

And when a leader is passionless, well it doesn’t take long for a group to lose any sense of enthusiasm.

We leaders are dealers in hope. And hope in the mission of the local church is never misplaced. After all, the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours.

So don’t look at your current lack of resources as the end, look at it as the beginning.

Want More?

If you want more ideas on how to generate the kind of momentum you need to reach your community, I wrote about it in detail in my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow. In that book, I tackle seven critical issues every church needs to address if it wants to make an impact in today’s culture.

I also created a team edition companion video series so you can work through the ideas with your elder board, key volunteers or staff. You can get that here. In the meantime, what helps you make progress when you feel like you don’t have the money or the people you’d love to have?

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