A Simple Exercise that will Infuse Life into your Staff

Recently our church staff held our annual in-house evaluation retreat when we reviewed the prior year’s goals and plans. God had given us a good year and we wanted not only to discuss how we could improve, but rejoice in His blessings. After we prayed, we did a simple exercise that infused life into each of us. Here’s what we did that I guarantee will infuse life into your staff, whether they are paid or volunteer.

Gratitude changes everything - inspirational text on a vintage slate blackboard

This will infuse life into your staff.

We have nine on our ministry staff and eight were present that day. I asked everyone to write down the names of each staff member sitting around the table. I then asked them to write down one quality about each person that they most appreciated. That was the easy part. The uncomfortable, yet life-giving part came next.

I then asked each person to look at one individual and tell him or her what they appreciated most about that person. We went around the table while each of us stayed on the ‘hot seat’ (maybe there is a better term for it). Then, one by one, we each looked directly at that staff person and told him or her what we most appreciated about them.

It was an incredibly life affirming experience.

Tears were shed.

We become vulnerable.

Each of us got blessed.

Our retreat took on an incredibly open and affirming tone.

It was amazing.

Gratefulness expressed to others is not only biblical, but it brings with it many practical personal benefits as well. Science is now telling us what the Bible has for centuries: showing gratitude, saying thanks, and affirming others is really good. Here’s what we’re learning about gratefulness.

  1. Gratefulness stimulates Christ-honoring behavior, called pro-social behavior by psychologists.
  2. Gratefulness can actually make us happier.
  3. Gratefulness can help decrease the power of materialism.
  4. Gratefulness can help us learn to forgive more consistently.
  5. Gratefulness can help us sleep better.
  6. Gratefulness can make us feel better physically because it evokes the production of two neurotransmitters in our brains, dopamine and serotonin, involved in reward and well-being, respectively.

So, when we experience and show gratefulness to others or in our hearts, many benefits result.

Two great Scriptures remind us how important gratefulness is.

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalms 9:1).

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Try this with your staff (or even with your family) and experience how life giving it can be.

What are some other life-giving exercises have you used with your staff?

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6 Insights I learned at the 2016 Willow Creek Leadership Summit

This year our church took over 55 to attend Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit at our local video venue in London, Ontario. As usual, I came away with many great leadership insights. In this post I summarize my top 6 learnings.

summit 2

What I learned at this year’s Willow Creek Leadership Summit:

  1. The lens of leadership.
    • Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow, taught the first session of the day. He’s always super. He used eyeglasses as word pictures to describe these 4 different lens of leadership:
      • passion lens (self explanatory)
      • shattered lens (an unhealthy view of leadership)
      • performance lens (we have to get stuff done)
      • legacy lens (what we will leave behind)
    • The ‘passion’ lens insight stood out to me the most. He said that passion can be fueled by our dreams or even our defeats (lessons we learn about what does not work or lessons learned through failure). He also said that it’s our job to fill our passion bucket.
    • This statement profoundly impacted me: There are no do overs in leadership but there are makeovers.
  2. Culture mapping.
    • Erin Meyer, a professor at a university in France, and author of The Culture Map, gave a fascinating talk about her innovative research on how cultures differ in several ways. She has isolated eight different dimensions that any organization involved in cross-cultural work needs to understand.
    • In her talk she unpacked the communication dimension which was amazing. Since our church has three different language expressions in three different congregations, I will definitely delve more into her insights.
  3. The one thing to get right: add value to people.
    • John Maxwell spoke on this subject. I’ve heard John speak before and read many of his books. But it’s been a while since I’ve heard him. When he started speaking, I felt like a wise uncle was  in my living room sharing sage advice with me. I had heard his theme of ‘add value’ to people before, but it was refreshing to hear it again.
    • Several gems stood out.
  4. The power of vision.
    • In this session Jossy Chacko who leads a ministry that has a goal of planing 100,000 churches (they planted an average of 11 per day in 2015), challenged us about true vision. Here are some of his nuggets.
      • Some people are vision poppers.
      • A passionary leader is a passionate leader with great vision.
      • Risk is a friend to love not an enemy to be feared.
      • Real vision is hinged to the door of risk.
      • View comfort and safety as enemies to vision.
      • Don’t try to work out all the details of your vision before you do anything.
      • See the heavenly possibilities instead of human limitations.
      • Leadership capacity is proportional to your pain threshold.
      • Some of the world’s greatest ideas lie in the grave (because some people were too afraid to pursue their vision).
  5. What to look for in a potential leader.
    • Patrick Lencioni has been a Summit favorite for years, and for good reason. He brings great stuff. At this session he summarized his latest book, The Ideal Team Player, in which he suggests three key character qualities that make, well, the ideal team player: humble, hungry, and smart.
    • I loved this insight about humility. Humility is thinking about yourself less, not thinking less about yourself.

      He then described the person with different combinations of only two of these qualities, really interesting stuff. Definitely a good book to pick up.

  6. Bonus insight.
    • Wilfredo De Jesus (pastor of the largest Assembly of God Church in the U.S.) closed out the Summit with a powerful call for the Church to be the Church. Some of his standout quotes included these:

I’m glad I attended this year’s Summit. I plan to read several of the speakers’ books and our team will meet soon for a debrief/action plan session.

If you attended the Summit, I’d love to hear the insights that stood out to you?

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4 Traits of the World’s Second Greatest Leader

I believe Jesus was the world’s greatest leader. I would call the Apostle Paul the world’s second greatest leader because he wrote much of the New Testament and because he spread Christianity into the the west through his missionary journeys. The book of Acts details much of those early missionary journeys. Acts 16 describes four traits that Christian leaders should emulate.

Leader on his way to success. 3d rendered illustration.

In chapter 16 Paul, Silas, Timothy, and later Luke visited some of the churches they had visited/founded before. Their journey included several roadblocks, a vision, a meeting with a wealthy business woman, an exorcism, flogging, jail (and a miraculous release from jail), and several conversions.

On this amazing journey, four crucial leadership behaviors stand out that a healthy Christian leader should build into his or her leadership.

A healthy Christian leader…

  1. …tries to make every encounter he or she has with others benefit the other person.
    • Everywhere Paul went he made emotional, spiritual, and relational deposits into the lives of others. After people spent time with Paul, they were better people. Acts 15-16 describe Paul as strengthening the brothers, strengthening the churches, and encouraging people.
    • Great leaders make positive deposits into the lives of others. I once heard someone say that there are three kinds of people: VIP’s, VNP’s, and VDP’s. VIP’s are very important people, the kind who make deposits in you. VNP’s are very nice people. They neither hurt not help you. VDP’s are very draining people. They feel like emotional vacuum cleaners that seem to suck the life out of you.
    • Healthy Christian leaders are known as VIP’s. 
  2. …balances his approach to discerning God’s will.
    • As Paul began this missionary journey, we see four inputs that influenced how he discerned God’s will about the direction his journey should take. In much of life God gives us wide latitude with His will. But some weighty decisions require extra effort to discern it. That’s when multiple inputs can increase our confidence that we are making the right choice.
      • Subjective inner witness. This is when we sense God’s leading in our heart, a peace, a pull, a feeling we get after praying. Some scholars believe that when this chapter described how the Holy Spirit kept Paul from going north or south, this refers to a subjective inner witness in Paul’s heart. Paul simply may have sensed in his heart not go north or go south.
      • Circumstances: Another reason God closed these doors may have been Paul’s health. Since Luke, a doctor, joined them part way through, other scholars surmise that Paul’s health was the reason behind the closed doors. He physically could not make those trips. God will use circumstances, both closed doors and open doors to direct us to His will. Sometimes he says No and sometimes He says Go
      • Reflection: Paul certainly thought a lot about the closed and open doors he faced. God expects us to think clearly and use our minds to weigh options before us. God never intends Christians to check their brains at the door.
      • Collaboration: This means that we invite wise people into our lives to help us weigh our options. Sometimes we simply need objectivity from another to help us discern God’s will. In Paul’s case he had Silas, Timothy, and Luke with whom to dialogue about which direction to go.
  3. …looks for opportunities to have spiritual conversations with others.
    • When Paul would enter a city he’d first go to the synagogue to share the gospel. In the city of Philippi, however, none existed. But places of prayer where spiritual minded people gathered did. Paul sought out such a place. When he arrived, he met a woman named Lydia, a successful business woman. Through conversations with Paul, she became a Christian.
    • Paul also lead two other people to faith on that same journey. He was always looking for opportunities to have spiritual conversations with others.
  4. …faces difficulty with grace.
    • In one city Paul and Silas got thrown into jail after being beaten. Instead of whining about their condition, the Scripture says that that in the middle of the night they sang hymns to the Lord. Because they knew that God was still in charge, regardless of the outcome of their jailing, their hearts prompted them to sing, not your normal response to jail time. Paul knew how to respond to difficulty with grace.

So, Paul the leader models for us some behaviors and attitudes we too should build into our leadership lives. We never know who might be looking to us for an example of how to honor Christ in life and leadership.

What other qualities would you add to this list that leaders should build into their lives?

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4 Questions to Ask when you Face Conflict

Everybody faces conflict. It’s nothing new. From the cosmic conflict between Lucifer and God before creation to the conflicts in the early church to the conflicts Jesus often faced with the Jewish legalists, it’s a given in life. Conflict is not sin in itself, but sin can cause it and we can sin in how we respond to it. Wise leaders, however, know how to manage conflict when it comes. 4 good questions arise from Acts 15 in the account of the early church’s conflict with those who believed that non-Jews (Gentiles) could become Christians, but only after they first became Jews.

Choose to Resolve or Continue Conflicts - Conflict Resolution

4 good questions to ask when you face conflict:

If the early church had not resolved the conflict with the Judaizers, the results could have been disastrous. In a similar way, when conflict arises in our churches, unless we wisely resolve them, we can lose momentum, people, and resources.

Question 1: The conviction question. Is the conflict you are facing a matter of deep conviction that you can’t resolve through personal prayer and processing?

In the early church’s case, the issue of salvation (was it Jesus plus works or Jesus plus nothing) was a significant issue. It could not be overlooked. Paul and Barnabas had to deal with it.

Many issues are simply issues of personal preference, hurt feelings, or simple misunderstandings that we can pray through and move on. We don’t need to confront every person over every issue. However, some issues are too significant to overlook.

I suggest these five thresholds that can help you determine if you need to take it further than prayer and personal processing.

  1. The issue is seriously dishonoring Christ. In some sense God’s reputation is being dishonored or damaged. In the Judaizers case it was well within this threshold.
  2. This issue is damaging your relationship with that person. Were you not to try to resolve the issue, it could seriously hurt and undermine your relationship with that person.
  3. The issue is hurting others involved.
  4. The issue is causing hurt to the offender.
  5. You just can’t shake it through prayer.

If the issue meets one of these thresholds, then take it further.

Question 2: The counsel question. Do I need a third party to help?

In Matthew 18.15-18, Jesus says to first go to the person one-on-one if you have a conflict with someone. Usually that’s the proper procedure. But sometimes I believe it’s appropriate to bring in a wise third party even before you do that.

Paul and Barnabas felt it necessary to go to Jerusalem to include the elders and apostles there for them to weigh in on this issue. They needed wisdom.

Sometimes we do need to include the counsel of others even before we escalate a conflict to a one-on-one conversation. What might justify doing that?

  1. You need wisdom from an objective third party to help you discern it you really need to confront the other party.
  2. You need wisdom to know how to confront the other party.
  3. You need to be encouraged to confront the other party and a wise person can give you the confidence to take that step.

If you do bring in a third party, check your motives. Make sure you’re not doing this to make the other party look bad or to win the person you’re seeking counsel from over to your side.

Question 3: The compromise question. Do I need to defer in some way in this conflict?

Often the issue is not so much about what the other person did to you, but about your role in the conflict. Sometimes we should defer, yield, or let go of the issue. Compromise never means watering down truth or your convictions. Neither does not mean you are weak.

In the case facing the early church, the Judaizers had to give up their wrong notion that becoming a follower of Jesus required that a person had to become a Jew first. And the Gentile believers had to yield to some of their Jewish Christian brothers on some dietary issues that could have a caused a rift in their relationships with them.

A sign of a mature follower of Jesus is loving compromise.

Question 4: The clarity issue. Have I clarified the issue?

Often conflicts get so muddied that both parties loose sight of the real issue. The conflict reflects something deeper or even something not related to the ‘presenting’ issue.

The early church clearly clarified their issue by appealing to history, to the facts, and to God’s Word. They dialogued, listened to each other, and even recorded in a letter what they had resolved.

When they clarified the issue they presented a united front, avoided a split, and encouraged each other. When we truly resolve conflict in the church, everybody feels a sense of relief, just like the early church did.

Some when you deal with conflict, make sure you clarify the real issue.

These four questions based on how the early church resolved a conflict can guide leaders toward successful conflict resolution in their churches.

What else has helped you resolve conflict in your church?

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When People Compare Pastors

Many pastors secretly struggle with measuring up to very successful pastors and churches. It’s tough, but it comes with ministry. People compare pastors. In this post I suggest a few ways to deal with this “measure up mentality.” I begin with one pastor’s experience. He received this e-mail from someone in his church. The names are changed to protect the innocent (uh, I mean the guilty).

comparison

Hi Pastor Jim:

Sharon S. here. How are you? I have been meaning to send you a note for quite some time and tell you about a pastor in California that I thought you might be interested in. Yeah, I know. If I were you I’d be rolling my eyes about now. But I must say, this guy is awesome and has challenged me personally in my life over the last year.

He has pastored [God’s Favorite] Church just outside [Utopia] for about three years and has grown it from 150 people to over 3,500. I have never seen a young guy with such a passion and a heart for God, willing to go against the “appropriate” evangelical grain and just teach the scriptures.

He just started a new series a week and a half ago. I am going to attach the first message because I would love for you to listen to him.  I can’t tell you how many people I know listen now. His name is [Gabriel, the archangel]. He has some of the best teaching I have ever heard on leadership in the church, justification, and some other tough subjects. He is a lot like [another famous pastor], who is his friend and a Facebook “fan” of his. Anyway, I have felt led to connect you with [Gabriel] for a long time. I’m not really sure why. Take it for whatever it is worth. 

Sharon

Pastor Jim emailed this response back.

Dear Sharon,

Thanks for reminding me that my preaching is subpar. It’s great to know that people in my church are making sure they get podcasts from somebody who will never know their name or answer their encouraging emails.

You’ve really made my day. I was studying for this week’s message when I got your note (I’ve already spent twenty hours on my sermon). I immediately stopped to download his magnificent sermon. It’s also wonderful to know that his church has exploded in growth; as you know, our attendance declined by 3% last year because people like you stayed home to watch guys like him on TV!

Gotta go finish my shallow sermon.

God’s blessings on you,

Pastor Jim

Pastor Jim didn’t really send this e-mail. He only wished he had.

I admit that at times this ‘measure up mentality’ has sucked my joy out of ministry, especially when I served in the U.S. I serve in Canada now and find this less of an issue here.

I’ve applied some simple ideas below that have helped me keep my joy even when I felt that I didn’t measure up in the eyes of others. Perhaps they will encourage you as well.

  • God made me who I am. I may not be a world-class leader, a ‘blow you a way’ preacher, or as creative as most, but I must appreciate, embrace, and faithfully use the gifts and competencies He has given me.
  • He has placed me where He wants me to be. I must accept that and do my best with the opportunity He’s provided.
  • I must not dismiss or cutoff those with whom I don’t measure up. We will never please everyone and such people will probably stay in our churches.
  • It’s ok to take care of my valid needs. I can’t change what other people think about me, make them like me, or force them to approve of me. I can, however, take care of the body, soul, and spirit God has entrusted to me. In doing so, I then become the best pastor and leader He has created me to be.

This old King James Version verse has encouraged me as I’ve faced the ‘measure up mentality.’

Psa. 62.5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Thee. 

In my third book, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership, I deal extensively with how to manage this ‘measure up mentality’ as it relates to the temptation to people please.

How have you handled this ‘measure up mentality?’

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