6 Steps for a Christian Leader’s Best Year – Part One

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All of us want to grow as Christian leaders, especially when a new year launches. Today we’re gonna dive in to six steps to your best year as Christian leaders. Welcome to this discussion where we’re very passionate about building great Christian leaders because we know that when the leader gets better, everyone gets better.



I want to tell you the principles, they do apply any time. What we’re gonna talk today is six steps to your best year of leadership. In this episode, we’re gonna look at the first three. It will take some time to digest and work through. In the next month’s episode, we’ll dive into the second three.

Let’s look at new content for the day. Six steps to your best year as Christian leaders. Now, before we talk about what you want to do in the new year, let’s start with who you want to become.


Before we talk about what, let’s start with who. So many people make what I call do goals. This is what I want to do. I want to encourage you to start with who goals. Who do you want to become? How can you become one of God’s Christian influencers? Hopefully, you’ll go through this exercise and think about it broadly. For example, who do you want to be as a wife, as a dad, as a friend, as an example to others?


But for the purpose of this discussion, we’re gonna talk about it through the lens of a leader.


Who do you want to be as Christian leaders? It may be helpful as we discuss this question from the approach as if it was a new year. By faith, this is who I want to become as a leader. You might say, I will be a leader who cares about people.

I will be a leader that always brings my best. I’ll be a leader that lifts the lid for those in my organization. I’ll be a leader who leads by example. Start with the who and then let the do overflow out of who you want to be. Based on who you want to become, what do you need to do?

Think about the who and then apply the who to the three steps we’re gonna talk about today. Six steps to your best year as Christian leaders. The first three would be these. You’re gonna need a discipline to start, the courage to stop and a person to empower. A discipline to start, the courage to stop and a person to empower.



Let’s start with a discipline to start. If you ask me, Craig, what’s one thing that you do that’s helped you to succeed and grow as a leader? I would answer very honestly, I’ve added one small discipline every year. One very small discipline. I’ll come back and give you some of those disciplines in a little bit.

But this is really important because so many Christian leaders believe that success is a result of a few big steps. I tried this and everything worked. There’s nothing further from the truth. I always say that small disciplines done consistently lead to big results over time. Let me say it again. Small disciplines done consistently lead to big results over time.



Success is not a big step in the future. Success starts with small steps today. I always tell my team, It’s the small things that no one sees that lead to the big results that everyone wants. Now, what does a small discipline do?

Discipline closes the gap between what you want and what you achieve. What does a small discipline do? Discipline is the bridge between who you are and who you want to become. When you ask yourself, what discipline should I start this year, start with who before what, remember? Who do you want to be as a leader?

Based on who you want to be, what discipline do you need to start? What habit do you need to incorporate into your life? Now remember, it doesn’t have to be a big thing. These simple questions will help us become the best Christian leaders we can be.


In fact, I would encourage you to start really small. For example, you might say, Well, I want to be a leader who cares about people. I want to be one of the best Christian influencers, respected by all because of my wisdom and integrity.

So you might say, I’m gonna write one note of appreciation every day I’m in the office. Just one note, start small and watch as it starts to change who you are. You might say, I want to be a leader that’s organized.


Then you might just start by making your bed everyday. Every day the first thing you do is you make your bed.

That trains you to think I’m organized and I’m disciplined. You might want to say, I’m going to be a leader who’s focused. I’m kind of an ADD guy. I’m all over the place. Then you might first thing everyday prioritize three things that you promise to accomplish that day.

Just three, not five, not seven. Three. Before the sun goes down, I will do these three things. Start small. Now, some of you may say, I’m not a very disciplined person.

Craig, you’re disciplined, I’m not. What I want you to know is, I was very very very undisciplined and what I decided years ago is I want to be a disciplined leader.


That’s the who. And so what I did is I started one small new discipline year over year over year and over the years, these small disciplines have compounded and have made a big difference. Let me just say it clearly.

No one discipline changed my life in unbelievable ways. But each year, for close to two decades, adding one small discipline, just one, has made a really really big difference. What do we know? Small, consistent changes over time that will change who we are as a leader. So here’s some examples of disciplines that I’ve added just to kinda get you thinking.



Years ago, I started flossing. You say, Why in the world does flossing matter? The reason is because I hate flossing. By flossing, I was telling my undisciplined self, you actually are disciplined. You’re choosing to do something you don’t want to do and that one small discipline started to change my mindset, changing my identity.


 I am a disciplined person. I’m a pastor and as a pastor, I need to be spiritually strong and just because you’re a pastor, that doesn’t mean that happens naturally. So I added disciplines that helped me to grow spiritually strong. One year I decided to read the Bible daily. Every day, no matter what, I’m gonna read the Bible.

It may be one verse. I’m gonna start there. Later in my process, I decided to read through the whole Bible from the beginning to the end every year. So I have a daily discipline. It takes about 12 or 15 minutes.

I read my little portion everyday and now for probably 15 or 17 years, I’ve read through the Bible every single year. Journaling. I tried for years to start journaling. I’d start, I’d stop. I’d start, I’d stop.

I got a five-year journal. There’s five little lines. I journal where I am spiritually, what I’m thinking as a leader, as a husband, as a dad and now I’m starting my fifth year in journaling because it’s just a little bit every single day. Praying with my wife before I leave home.


Years ago, I realized we didn’t have a consistent prayer life and so it’s a very short, very simple prayer every single day.

Daily confessions. A few years ago I started declaring truth about myself to renew my mind. Five minute meditation, sometimes three minutes. What I’m doing is I’m training my mind to stay focused. I’ll keep going.

As a leader, I want to be healthy, strong and a good example to others. So years ago, I did something very small. I eliminated soft drinks. I drink only water. Years ago, I took on that discipline.

Then one year, I said I’m gonna exercise three times a week, just 20 minutes a day. That discipline has now grown to six or seven days a week for an hour, hour and a half. It started small, it’s grown. Years ago, I said I’m gonna cut out desserts to one a week.


Now I added another discipline on that which is I’ll eat no more than one cheat meal a week and honestly that’s probably about one a month.


Okay, these are very very small changes. One year over another over another over another that started to change my identity. I used to not be disciplined. Now some of these changes help me to see I’m a very disciplined person. This year, here’s what I’m doing.

It may not seem like a discipline to you, but it’s important to me. This year I’m celebrating the wins. I’ll explain this to you. My organization is winning, meaning things are going good but I often don’t feel the wins. They feel distant.

They’re numbers that don’t feel personal to me. So I’ve created little buckets that I’m gonna put a penny in whenever I hit and do something that these buckets represent. For example, one bucket is a meaningful conversation.


I’m rushed, on the go so often that I brush by people. When I stop, slow down and enjoy someone, a penny goes in the bucket to say, Hey, there’s a win.

An act of spontaneity. Again, I’m so focus-driven that I often don’t stop and just do something crazy. Last week Amy and I booked a flight, called some friends of ours, met ’em out of town, just hey, for the heck of it, we’re gonna go do something spontaneous and there’s a win. Unplanned generosity is a bucket. I see someone in need, we meet a need, a penny goes in.


A day of planned rest.


I often feel guilty when I take off. You know what, it’s a win, penny goes in. So I’ve got these little buckets to help me celebrate the wins. I want to recognize, this is a great life and I’m gonna take time to slow down and enjoy it and celebrate it.

You may say, Okay, I’m gonna start some discipline. Start with the who.


Let the who drive the do. Who do you want to become? Do what leads you to become the who you want to be as a leader.

You may say, But being disciplined is hard. I’m gonna tell you, choose your pain. You can choose the pain of discipline or you can choose the pain of regret. What do we need to grow as Christian leaders? A discipline to start.


The second thing you need is the courage to stop.


The courage to stop. As a leader, or as Christian influencers, you want to go up, you want to rise. To go up, you have to let go. To accomplish more, you need to do less.

Let me say it again. To accomplish more, you actually do fewer things. This sounds very counterintuitive, but I teach all the time, you don’t grow with more yeses. You actually grow with more noes. The key is not doing more.

The key is doing more of what actually matters. On a side note, if we can pause for a moment, we’re talking about the courage to stop something, some activity, some initiative, some project, some routine. Don’t just think about this personally as a leader. I would challenge you to think organizationally as well.


You may want to meet with your team, with those that you serve with and ask yourself, Is there something we need to stop organizationally that’s not productive and doesn’t create wins?

For example, you might stop doing a weekly meeting that’s wasting everybody’s time. You might close a department that should have been closed three years ago. You might eliminate a product line or close a struggling church campus or shut down a struggling ministry and move your resources from one place to another, because you only have so much time, so much energy and so many resources. As each leader has a calling to be an example of Christian motivation for all of those who look to them as mentors and Christian influencers in their lives. If you’re putting good resources toward bad projects or even average products, you cannot have great outcomes.


As a leader, here’s a question. What do you need to have the courage to stop? We’re gonna start a discipline, we’re gonna stop something. Every year, I try to eliminate at least one thing from what I do as a leader. I’ll give you some examples of a few things I’ve dropped over the years just to kinda get you thinking.


In the early years of Life. Church, I did everything. One year, I had the courage to stop unlocking and locking the building every week. That was no longer mine. I stopped doing all the hospital visits because eventually I had to.

I stopped taking every meeting when someone called and asked for a meeting with me. I stopped running every staff meeting. I stopped leading the weekend service. In more recent years, I’ve been much more aggressive. What I’m gonna tell you, I don’t recommend for everybody, but this is what I do at this stage in my leadership.

I stopped taking lunch appointments. It’s been years since someone’s called up and I said yes to a lunch appointment.


I don’t recommend that for everybody but for my rhythm and pace, it’s necessary. I stopped attending almost every meeting in the church. I only have two meetings I attend.

One is weekly with my top leaders; one is monthly where we go over the dashboards of everything. Those are the only two fixed meetings that I’m in. I stopped being involved in the interview process for staff members. I’ve interviewed those directly in my office and nobody else in the organization.


I stopped managing my inbox.

I stopped selecting locations for new churches, and the list would go on and on. There are things that I needed to be involved in earlier on, but in order to focus on the areas that had the biggest return, I have to have the discipline to say no to things that I may even enjoy but I’m gonna empower other people to do those. Here’s a question. What do you need to stop? To go up, you have to let go. To be great Christian leaders we need to recognize that we are a part of a team and as we grow our teams must grow and so that, God may empower others to do a better job than we can do. It is so hard sometimes to acknowledge that others are better at doing things than we are and that if we are truly honest God does not need us to achieve what He intends to do.


Every day we must wake up with the mindset of how I can make myself redundant. Now this does not mean you are trying to remove yourself but that you have a daily intention to grow Christian leaders through empowering them to be Christian influencers who are encouraged to be the best they can be. Through this Christian motivation leaders will gain the courage to challenge themselves and to push themselves to be the best they can. This isn’t easy but I want to promise you, if you want to accomplish more, you actually do less. Focus your energy on the things that have the highest return. What do you need to do? You need a discipline to start. You need the courage to stop.


And number three, if you want to grow, you need a person to empower. A person to empower.


If you don’t empower others, here’s a promise, you’ll become the lid in your organization. You must become the influencer to the Christian influencers because as you empower them you effectively duplicate you meaning through encouraging others, they become your hands and feet so where you can only be in one place at a time these empowered ones can be in many different places on your behalf. You aren’t likely to build something great alone. Most likely you build people and together you build something great.

Here’s a fact. Over time, your organization doesn’t become stronger by what you do. Your organization becomes stronger by who you empower. The previous point, we talked about the courage to stop. We talked about you stopping a task.

Just because you don’t do something doesn’t mean the responsibility isn’t important or that somebody else shouldn’t do it.


Maybe you don’t do it, but you empower someone else who does. Ask yourself, what can you give away? What task can you give to, what responsibility can you give to somebody else? And then who can you give it to?

John Maxwell, a leadership expert, said years ago, he said, if someone else can do something 80% as well as you, delegate it to them. I’m gonna take it to another extreme. If you’ve got a team member that can do it 50% as well with upward momentum, with potential for growth, you may trust them with it, develop and train them and one day they may exceed your expectations. What are you gonna do? Take one responsibility, trust someone to oversee it, someone to accomplish it, and here are four things that will happen when you empower the right people.

So, number one, they feel valued.


Number two, they will grow in as Christian leaders. Number three, you’re free to focus elsewhere. And number four, your organization will become stronger. I promise you; the potential of your organization doesn’t rest in your ability.

The potential of your organization rests in your ability to empower others. Now, for more detailed information about empowering, listen to episodes 16 and 17. The title’s called Creating and Empowering Culture. You may say, Oh my gosh, this freaks me out. I want to control the outcome.

Remember, you can have control or you can have growth but you cannot have both. I hope you’ll have your best year of leadership yet. Let’s review and I’m gonna give you questions as we review to apply to your leadership. Before you think about what you should do in the new year, start with who you want to become. Based on who you want to become, what do you need to do? How can you become the best Christian leaders?


Well, number one, you need a discipline to start.


Small disciplines done consistently lead to big results over time. What does a small discipline do? Discipline closes the gap between what you want and what you achieve. Discipline is the bridge between who you are and who you want to become.

Application question number one. Based on who you want to become, what discipline do you need to start? I want you to think about it. Apply it. Bring one new discipline into your leadership.

Based on who you want to become, what discipline do you need to start? Number two, you need the courage to stop. As an influencer, you want to go up, to rise. To go up, you have to let go. To accomplish more, you do less.

You do not grow with more yeses. You grow with your noes. The key is not doing more but doing more of what matters. Question number two is this. Based on who you want to become, what do you need the courage to stop?

What do you need to stop? Don’t just think personally.


Challenge yourself also to think organizationally. Number three, you need a person to empower. Over time, your organization doesn’t become stronger by what you do.

It becomes stronger by who you empower. Why, because the potential of your organization doesn’t rest in your ability but in your ability to empower others. You must be the developer of Christian influencers.  Here’s a promise. If you do not empower others, you become the lid to your organization. Application question number three is this.

Who will you empower to do what? Who will you empower to do what? Answer it, do it. Don’t hold your people back. Don’t hold yourself back.

Don’t hold your organization back.


If you’re listening some other time of the year, happy whatever time of the year it is.

I’m honored to have you with us. A massive thank you to those of you who have taken the time to read and listen to this message and will share it all the time on social media. What are we about? We’re about building great Christian leaders.


***Thanks so much for joining us for this discussion on 6 steps to Christian leaders’ best year. This discussion is notes and transcripts from The Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast and I encourage you to watch the video  . If you want to go even deeper into this episode and receive episode resources like summaries and discussion questions, you can find those online at www.life.church/leadershippodcast.