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The Rob Skinner Podcast: Helping You Make This Life Count

Jan 17, 2021

Today on episode _74,  I’m going to talk about how to help your small church, ministry or small group grow.  I’ll share from a lesson I did at the Look Up small church leaders conference.  I’ll be talking about:

  • How to win the mental battle
  • Dealing with negativity, shame and fear
  • Five habits that growing church leaders practice
  • How to break out of a losing mindset

You can reach Rob at


How to Win the Mental Battle


  • Dealing with self-pity, negativity, shame and fear

I’ve quit the ministry at least ten times. 

  • Four people at 7:00 midweek led to “overnight resignation”


  • Three things that keep us trapped spiritually
  • Fear

When your church is in the tank, it’s hard not to think about what “they” are thinking about how bad you are doing.  Who are “they?”  It can be the people you respect, your friends, people in the church or even non-existent people “out there.”  We are conditioned to measure ourselves based on the approval or disapproval of others.  Often the people who most loudly say, “I don’t care what people think,” are the ones most carefully monitoring the body language of those around us.  In spite of the fact that most people aren’t even thinking about us and even the ones who are assigned to look out for us are thinking about their own situation, we still worry about others’ opinions.  This fear keeps us from calling to get help, keeps us isolated and keeps us from pursuing normal relationships.  Ministry offers great independence and freedom of action, the downside is that when your growth is going south, it’s easy to cut off communications and relationships with people that can help us.

I can think of many times I thought I should call for help, advice or fellowship.  I kept putting it off because I “didn’t have anything encouraging to share.” Another reason is that “I knew what ‘they’ would say.” My pride prevented me from staying connected relationally.


  • Self-pity

Self-pity is an insidious growth killer.  Symptoms of self-pity include blaming others for your sorry situation, comparing your lack of funding to larger, better-resourced churches and using phrases like, “my situation or field is unique, harder or not like anyone else’s.”  The result of self-pity is that we excuse ourselves and let ourselves off the hook for our poor performance.  We become the victim, not the victor and stop trying because unconsciously we feel like people, other churches, or our situation is “keeping us down.”


  • Shame

Shame is a toxic vine that grows well in the lonely, isolated private life of the average small church leader.  Few people know what is going on in the life of a church leader.  He seems cheerful, upbeat to all appearances and endorses a healthy, wholesome lifestyle in his sermons and teaching.  This is a perfect cover for pornography and alcohol addiction, marriage and family conflicts and other private battles.  The primary problem is not the particular sin, but the resulting secrecy, shame and eventual damage done on a personal and church-wide level.  The average church leader has few to compare himself to and so thinks, “I’ve got this handled,” or “no one would understand.”  This self-justification keeps the sin and shame growing.  The church leader is sapped of vitality and slowly bleeds out spiritually.  The church stops growing and often explodes when the sin is finally exposed by God. 


  • Five habits that growing church leaders are doing regularly


The common denominator of fear, self-pity, shame and other related growth killers is the isolation and lack of connection in a minister’s life. 

If you want to win the internal battle, it starts with not tolerating isolation in your life any longer. 

Church leaders who are leading growing churches not only cultivate a healthy social environment and structure within their church, they also demand and pursue a healthy personal environment in their mind and relationships.


  1. The phone habit

The best leaders I know are good with the phone.  They use it and rely on it.  If you want to break out of the plateau you are in, you will need to reject the mantra, “I’m not a ‘phone’ person.”

  • Share: Todd Asaad
  • Share: Randy McKean
    • Make the hard call
    • Leave a detailed message


  1. The friendship habit

Strong leaders have friendships that they are building and maintaining.  It’s too easy to have superficial relationships in the fellowship and then only periodic conference relationships with other leaders.

Share:  List of 12 friends

  • Work on adding to your friendship base.
  • Birthday card and gift every year for birthdays
  • “Just because” calls and texts to build the relationship


  1. The accountability habit

Share:  Marriage DVD

The turning point for me was realizing that my sinful nature was rebelling against placing any type of harness or yoke on it.  When I understood that my flesh was driving my reluctance, things changed quickly.

I would ask you, “what is holding you back from absolute purity?”  Do you have a system in place that is keeping you away from sin and holding you accountable?  If you want to grow your church, you will need to remove spiritual roadblocks that are keeping you from being the man you want to be.

  • Internal: Habit Tracker
  • External: Accountable2U



  1. The reading and learning habit

You don’t know what you don’t know. 

When you are in a rut spiritually, one of the best things you can do is get around a high-energy, high-faith environment. 

Strong leaders are constantly scouring for new ideas to improve the church and keep their spiritual “mojo” growing.

  • Conferences
  • Books (See Appendix)
  • Com


  1. The healthy systems and routines habit

A growing leader has systems and routines in place that guide his behavior.

They lead to consistent results. 

He doesn’t wake up wondering what is going on that day. 

He has routines that start his day and regular activities that over time lead to good results.






  • How to break out of a losing mindset


  1. Change your mindset from employee to self-employed

Share about planting Ashland alone and unsupported

Don’t let yourself get trapped by a job or paycheck, keep the fire burning.

God has given you meaningful work

Do it for the joy of the work

“You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you.

“If you don’t have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you’ll stop at the first giant hurdle.”  George Lucas

Small church leaders enjoy the control and autonomy of leading their own church

Are you an entrepreneur or a mid-level manager?

Identify the person you are:  Manager or MacGyver?


  1. Cross The God Gap

Reference Matrix Roof Scene

Experiment and get creative

Keith Avery:  Songleading

Small church leadership is all problem solving

You will never have enough money, talent or resources.

That gap will never go away, get used to it

If you want security, safety and management look at a larger church.


  1. Mentally accept getting fired

Everyone feels like quitting at times.

Small church leadership is the toughest job there is

The skill is to know when to quit and when not to quit

When not to quit:

Setbacks, lack of growth, negative growth, etc.

Don’t blame, don’t explain, don’t give yourself a pass

No one is thinking of you.

Trust God is working on your behalf

Let God do his work on you:

  • Don’t ring the bell
  • David Goggins: 40% rule
  • “Retreat! Hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction.” Chesty Puller


When to consider quitting or moving on:

  • When you’ve lost control of the church
  • When you can’t change the culture
  • When you’ve been discredited or moved aside
  • “Team” leadership situations
  • When you and your wife are at odds about the work you are doing
  • When you aren’t in a position to overcome the challenge

Before relationships have been destroyed