Great Staff Meetings Require these 7 Rules

Leaders can’t lead without meeting with others. Sometimes meetings go well. Sometimes they don’t. Often team dynamics derail productive meetings simply because someone misspoke or misheard. As I began to realize this, several years ago I asked a psychologist to help me create some rules for talking in our staff meetings. I call them conversational ethics. Here are the 7 rules.

Teamwork concept. Isolated on white

CONVERSATIONAL ETHICS FOR MEETINGS

  1. Listen: let others say their piece; as Covey said, “Seek to understand before being understood.”
  2. Suspend judgment: don’t make assumptions about what others say.
  3. Share in the thought pool: everybody gives input; participate truthfully (how you really feel).
  4. Stay detached from your ideas: don’t take things personally; use “I” messages; own your personal view.
  5. Let others be inarticulate: help others articulate what they are trying to say by engaging.
  6. Privacy: if personal issues with you and another person potentially could affect a discussion and/or a decision, first deal with it 1-on-1 in private with the individual.
  7. Accountability: everybody helps hold each other accountable to this set of ethics.

What guidelines have helped you lead good meetings?

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The Original Jesus

My friend Daniel Darling just released his latest book, The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is. Daniel is a great writer and provides an insightful look at the myths we create about Jesus. I highly recommend it. I’ve included an excerpt below.

orig jesus

Who is Jesus? The answer to this question is the foundation of Christianity. His deity is enshrined in all three major Christian creeds and has been held by the church for its two thousand years of history. Tozer says, “For more than sixteen hundred years this has stood as the final test of orthodoxy.” Theologian Michael Bird writes, “All in all, the testimony of the Christian tradition, based on its exegesis and experience, is that Jesus Christ is both fully human and divine.” John Frame says the deity of Christ is a “pervasive doctrine of Scripture,” and he sums up Scripture’s claims with three statements:

  1. Jesus bears divine attributes: holiness, perfect truth, wisdom, almighty power, immutability, glory.
  2. Jesus performs divine acts: creation, providence, miracles, forgiveness of sins, final judgment.
  3. Jesus in Scripture is an object of faith and worship.

Every generation faces new temptations to diminish or doubt Jesus’s deity. As you read this book, Newsweek and Time are likely working on the “Scholars Debunk the Supernatural Jesus” feature they run every Easter. This thin gruel of journalism will once again be answered by the most basic evangelical scholarship.

But red-faced skeptics and timid doctoral students are not the only ones tempted to flinch at Jesus’s unpopular claims. Even those who claim to be true believers have trouble grasping who Jesus is. It’s less hassle for us to just place Jesus where we want to, in a long line of inspirational religious figures. But for the Christian story to work at all, Jesus has to be more than a first-century Gandhi-like figure.

I’m guessing if you’re reading this book you’re a believer like me. Chances are you found this at a Christian bookstore or through an online review at a Christian blog or because millions of your friends posted on Facebook about how awesome it is.

But maybe, just maybe you are not a Christian and chose this book out of curiosity or boredom or because a Christian friend recommended it. If this is you, then for the rest of the chapter I’d like to make the case for why you might consider Jesus.

While more gifted apologists could give you in-depth answers as to who Jesus is, my aim is not only to fill your head with more information but to see God by his grace penetrate your heart with the truth of his Word.

I hope to show why Jesus is less compelling as a mere guru than he is as the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

Excerpted from The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is by Daniel Darling, Baker Books, 2014, by permission.

How Going to Church Benefits Brain and Body

As a committed follower of Jesus, I’ve gone to church literally my whole life. My parents took me when I was a kid. I wanted to go as an adult. And in another sense, I’d better go now. After all, I am a pastor. Most believers understand that church attendance does (or should) help us grow spiritually. But did you know that God wired our bodies and brains to benefit from both attending church and developing a healthy spiritual life? Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg notes that since the year 2000 over 400 papers have been published each year on this topic. Consider these ways science shows us that church attendance benefits both brain and body.

brain working out

How Going to Church Benefits Brain and Body

First, two caveats.

  • I’m assuming your church is a Bible-based, grace-filled place. If your church atmosphere is legalistic, harsh, and overall condemning, it can actually harm your body and brain.
  • These studies don’t necessarily show a causal relationship (attending church causes such benefits). Rather, most of the studies show a correlation. That is, attending church and these benefits are closely related. Nevertheless, science continues to discover more body and brain benefits from walking with Christ and being with His people

1. It decreases stress. The stress hormone cortisol is released by the adrenal glands that lie on top of our kidneys. Good stress (eustress) keeps us keep motivated and alert. So cortisol is not all bad. But prolonged stress that keeps unhealthy high cortisol levels in our body damages both it and our brains. Heart problems, a dampened immune system, and diminished memory result from prolonged stress. However, church attendance can decrease the stress response thus decreasing the amount of cortisol in your body.

2. It increases the trust hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is one of the ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters). If the church you attend is filled with kind and caring people, your brain will release this chemical helping you bond with others. Biblical community is really good for you.

3. It may thicken your brain. One brain study discovered that those who place a high value on spirituality (though not necessarily tied to church attendance) showed thickening in some brain areas. Many other studies now show that reflective and contemplative spiritual practices grow several parts of your brain.

4. It can help lessen depression. A group of Canadian researchers discovered that those who attended church more regularly experienced less depression. They surmised that social support made the difference resulting in people being more resilient. (see number 2 above)

5. It may help you live longer. One study showed that attending church increased the lifespan for whites by an average of 7 years and potentially 14 years for African Americans. The more people go to church, the less likely they are to die sooner than those who don’t go to church.

6. Finally, church attenders commit suicide less often, deal with pain better, have less cardiovascular problems, and recover quicker from surgery.

A final word.

We follow Christ, not because of the pragmatic benefits, like taking aspirin for a headache. We follow Him because he created us with a soul thirst that can only be quenched in Him. However, when we do turn to Jesus and His Body, He gives us some nice brain and body benefits as well.

So the next time you are in church, thank God for these brain and body benefits.

What other practical benefits have you experienced from attending church?

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How to to Give Effective Staff Evaluations

For years I’ve used this form below when I perform my twice-annual staff evaluations. I have every staff person complete the form on themselves and attach their goals for the previous and upcoming year.  These documents provide the talking points for the eval. Afterwards, I compile a one page written evaluation I give to them.

Hand writing Feedback with blue marker on transparent wipe board.

Staff Self-Evaluation/Annual Review

Employee name: _________________________ date:______   review period: ____________

MINISTRY ROLE

  • Do you know what is expected from you in your role?
  • Do you know what is most important in your role?
  • Do you have the materials and resources you need to do your work right?
  • Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best almost every day?
  • In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  • Does your supervisor or someone at work seem to care for you as a person?
  • At work do you feel like your opinions seem to count?
  • Does our mission make you feel like your job is important?
  • Are your fellow staff members committed to doing quality work?
  • Do you have a best friend at work?
  • In the last six months has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  • In the last year have you had the opportunity at work to learn and grow?

STAFF VALUES

How would you evaluate yourself in the following staff value areas (10 being the highest)?

  • Integrity                                       1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Attitude (positive, coachable, servant-like)      1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Volunteer appreciation/development            1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Holistic health (body, soul, spirit)                  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Simplicity                              1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Authenticity                              1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Teamwork (loyal, resolves conflicts)            1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Continual growth/learning                  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Health work ethic (excellence, hard worker, fun)      1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Risk taking (bold steps of faith)                  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Other areas
  • Budget (wisely manages budget)                        1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Evangelism (invests in and shares w/seekers)            1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Creativity                                                             1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
  • Leadership                                                            1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10

Comments about staff values:

 

Describe your overall job performance?

Strengths:

 

Areas in which you’d like to improve:

I believe that my spiritual gifts of____________________________________________are being: __Maximized       __Moderated       __Minimized       __Unused

Comments:

 

GOALS (please attach a current copy of your goals with progress notes included)

For______ ______ through _______ ______

(month)  (year     (month)     (year)

Communication

1. Do you feel your area of ministry has been well identified and/or communicated to the:

Staff?             __Yes     __Somewhat     __No

Church body?             __Yes     __Somewhat     __No

Within your area?            __Yes     __Somewhat     __No

As a staff:

2. Where and how would you like to see communication improve or increase?

 

As a church:

3. Where and how would you like to see communication improve or increase?

 

In your area of ministry:

4. Where and how would you like to see communication improve or increase?

 

Staff Relationships

1. With how many people have you experienced significant frustration this past year?

__Some           __One or Two            __None

2. What attempts have you made to improve these relationships? Are the issues still outstanding?

 

3. Any thoughts or ideas on how we can improve staff relationships?

 

4. Any thoughts on how to improve relationships with church leadership?

5. Are all your relationships consistent with biblical standards of sexual and moral purity?

Comment(s) on any of the above:

Energizers and Stressors

1. In what area of ministry are you most productive, energized, or fulfilled?

 

2. On what do you spend most of your work time?

 

3. Are there areas of work or ministry in which you spend too much time?

 

4. In what area of ministry do you experience the greatest amount of stress and frustration?

 

5. What area of ministry do you find difficult to resolve?

 

Team Development

1. How would you describe the current status of the ministry teams you lead?

 

2. Who are the names of new leaders/volunteers you have brought into ministry during this last year?

 

Personal and Professional Development

1. In what area would you like additional development or skill training?

 

2. How can your supervisor help you in these areas?

 

3. What do you believe you can do to develop in these areas?

 

4. Does someone hold you spiritually accountable?  __Yes     __No

How would you describe the effectiveness of that accountability?

Other areas

Anything else you’d like to discuss with your supervisor:

Any suggestions on how to improve this review process?

What kind of staff eval has worked for you?

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9 Ways Great Leaders Communicate

Great leaders are great communicators. Communication certainly includes making a great speech, or for pastors, delivering a compelling sermon. That kind of communication is important, but it’s less so than communicating well one-on-one. I recently finished reading neuroscientist Andrew Newberg’s book, Words Can Change your Brain. His book suggests 12 key neuroscience based communication practices. I’ve included nine here with some brief comments.

Young brothers talking with tin can telephone on grunge backgrou

Nine ways great leaders communicate:

1. They convey a relaxed demeanor.

They’re not tense or frazzled. People pick up on our emotional tone, whether it’s good or bad. It’s called emotional contagion. So when we’re relaxed, it encourages the other person to relax as well.

2. They stay fully present for the person they’re talking to.

They’re not in a rush to move on to something or someone else. They don’t look over the other person’s shoulder. Rather, they make genuine eye contact. Eye contact stimulates the social networks of our brains, decreases the stress hormone cortisol, and increases the neurotransmitter oxytocin which has been called the trust chemical, all of which enhance communication.

3. They practice inner stillness and quietness.

This reflects the Psalmists words in Psalms 46.10. Be still and know that I am God.

4. They pay attention to non-verbal cues in the face and body of the person with whom they’re talking.

Our words seldom fully convey what we really think and feel. However, our eyes, face, and tone communicate much of what we do think and feel. If we don’t pay attention to the non-verbal, communication will suffer.

5. They express appreciation and gratitude.

People yearn to hear encouragement from their leaders. Authentic praise for a job well done makes huge deposits in the souls of those around us. And, when we give a compliment at the end of a conversation, it’s actually received better than one given at the beginning of a conversation.

6. They speak with a warm tone.

A warm tone can set the stage for effective communication whereas a harsh or negative tone can set up resistance in the other person.

7. They speak slowly.

When we speak slowly, those listening can comprehend us better and it can help calm an anxious person.

8. They speak briefly.

They don’t hog the conversation with their words. Since our brain can only hold so much information at once in our working memory, speaking for shorter lengths of time improves communication by helping the listener retain more of what we say.

9. They listen deeply.

To listen deeply means that we don’t let our minds wander but that we give our full attention to the other person speaking.

Try some of these practices the next time you talk to someone and see what difference it can make.

What would you add to this list?

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