Category Archives: Leadership Ideas

Thoughts on leadership.

Honesty, cropped

Honestly Speaking

There are few things that can hurt a team more than deceit.  When I say team here, you can broadly interpret it as family or congregation, class or company.  Anytime two or more people are working toward a common goal, trust is required to make progress.

Here are a few ideas about the importance of honesty.

Honesty Fuels the Relational Health of a Team.

The amount of trust present in a team is directly proportionate to the health of the relationships among team members.  Trust grows as each team member deals honestly and fairly with the team as a whole, and with her individual team members.  Honest interactions build up an emotional bank account the team can draw upon in difficult times.  A robust emotional bank account is a sign of vibrant relational health.  The greater the stress that attacks a team from the outside, the greater the need for a full emotional bank account among team members on the inside.

You can think of is this way, every time you deal honesty and show trustworthiness toward members of your family, your church or your company, you place a unit of trust in everyone’s heart your decision effects.  A long track record of trust deposits will not only give your team greater confidence in you, but will allow them to have sufficient grace for you at times when you don’t pull through.

These trust deposits should never be presumed upon for blatant wrongdoings.  Honesty is a matter of the heart.  When you tread upon someone’s trust, you are treading upon their heart as well.

Honesty Keeps the Lines of Communication Open

Honesty is crucial for effective communication.  Anytime I am skeptical about a speaker’s trustworthiness, I receive their words with skepticism.  Skepticism is a gatekeeper that guards the heart.  If I don’t have sufficient reason to believe you, not only am I not going to receive your words, but I’m not going to offer mine to you.  Dishonesty breaks down communication both coming and going.

Without honesty, communication remains superficial, and in an area where little bonding can take place.  As trust deepens through a history of honesty, team members can feel confident in sharing their dreams and ambitions, as well as their doubts and fears.  It’s at this deep level of communicating that relational bonds are forged.  Honesty chisels out those profound lines of communication that unite team members at a heart level.

Honest Promotes Effectiveness

Whether your team consists of you and your wife, or you are a part of thousand-member congregation, honesty helps your team to be what it needs to be and go where it needs to go.  As we noted above, honesty lends itself to the relational health of any team.  A healthy team is able to focus on the tasks it was created for.  Where there is no health, there is no progress.

Mistrust in a team is like fever in a body.  I know when I have a fever, I don’t feel like doing anything.  My body, internally, is working double time to try to rid itself of the pathogens.  Until my body has done the internal work, I’m not able to apply myself to the external things I want to accomplish.

The same principle is at work in the life of a team.  Until trust is established, progress comes slowly, if at all.  Once trust is in place, a team can take on its goals with greater effectiveness.

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.  NAS  Ephesians 4:25

 Where have you witnessed the damage caused by broken trust?

How important would you say honesty is to a healthy relationship?

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The End is Near

A Good Follow-Through

I’m a better started than a finisher.

It seems like I have a dozen projects around the house that I have started but have not completed.  This is a small source of stress.  I have little reminders all around that there is more work to do.  My garage is evidence of numerous well-intended projects that are in various states of completion.  Fortunately, none of these projects are of “Life or Death” significance (unless you call installing brackets to hang your bicycle upon a matter of “Life or Death” significance).

I realize that I need to be better at following-through.

Good follow-through makes all the difference.

Follow-Through brings vision into reality.

Here are some of the common hindrances to following-through well.

Losing Sight

As silly as it may seem, we tend to forget our goals.  Sometimes we start a project only to become immediately distracted by other problems.  The more distractions we suffer, the more likely we are to lose sight of the task at hand.  Problems lead to procrastination and procrastination leads to forgetfulness.  You are all too familiar with the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind.” When we lose sight of where we are going with our tasks and projects we lose our ability to finish them properly.

The Remedy

Keep the end in mind.  This requires intentional focus.  We need to discipline ourselves to keep the distractions to a minimum.  We don’t always have to have the phone connected to our belt.  Sometimes we need to let our trusty voicemail take the memo for us so we can stay on task.  It’s not just the voice calls.  There was a time that I had my phone set to chime every time I received a text message or an email, and even a Facebook message.  That lasted about 2 days.  My phone was going off constantly.  I was so busy responding to messages that I got nothing done.

There are plenty of other ways we can become distracted than what our smart phones can provide.  The key to overcoming losing our vision for any particular project is to keep the end always in the forefront of our mind.

Losing Resolve

Losing the resolve to finish a project erodes our ability to follow-through.  Most of the projects that I have abandoned at home have been neglected because I’ve not found the resolve to get them done.  Usually I have nights and weekends to work on these home projects.  By the time I get home in the evening, I have already spent all of my resolve completing projects at work.  By the time the weekend rolls around I’m too pooped to apply myself to another task.  Mental resolve and physical energy are very closely related.

The Remedy

Recommit along the way.  Here’s what recommitment looks like for me: Tackling bite sized chunks.  Each small step toward progress is a renewal of my original intention to complete a task.  Each little accomplishment feeds and increases my resolve.  Test this out on some of your unfinished projects as see if doing a little along the way doesn’t increase your resolve to go all the way!

Losing Joy

I find a lot of satisfaction from starting a project.  Somewhere at midpoint though, just about all projects become a drag.  Not only is there no resolve to get them done, there is no joy found from the work.  I tend to look for other things that need to be started rather than finishing what is already halfway complete.

The Remedy

Celebrate the finish.  I learned to do this when I was finishing up my doctoral studies.  There was one point where I found myself having about 20 papers started, but none completed, and with deadlines approaching.  The completion of each paper represented a major finish line for me to cross.  I decided that as I finished 5 papers I would take the family out for steak (it’s always good to have people to celebrate with).  The joy of crossing the finish line made the work that much more enjoyable.

Which hindrance to following-through keeps you from completing projects?

What remedies have you found helpful in your own follow-through?

Luke 14:28-30
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Broken Pencil

Better To Be Flexible Than To Break

I was reminded this week about the need for flexibility. I had my plans for prayer meeting, my notes were laid out, and my heart was ready to lead.

That’s when the lightning struck.

I’m not being metaphorical here.  Lightning literally struck the building and knocked out our power.  Our building started to warm up.  Our phone system and internet were down.  It was difficult to see in the shadowy hallways and impossible to see in the bathrooms.

What were we to do?

A lightning strike caused this distraction, but there is no end to the list of things that can happen to throw our plans into confusion.  It is impossible to have a contingency plan for everything that can happen.  There are, however, some healthy ways of approaching these unforeseen distractions.

The End Is Not Near!

When things like this happen, you have to remember that a change in plans is not the end of the world.  The power came back on later in the evening.  Life goes on even after you hit a bump in the road.  After all, it’s not our plans that ultimately matter but God’s.  I have to tell myself this to calm myself down.

Even when it seems that hours of preparation have gone down the drain, I recognize that those hours were part of God’s growing process.  Just because they were not used for a particular event or lesson does not mean that they will not be used later on.

Do What You Can 

Some disruptions to our schedule serve to remind us how limited we are.  Ideally, if we were not going to have prayer meeting on a Wednesday night, I would publicize it weeks in advance.  I didn’t have weeks to get the word out, I had hours.

On top of not having time, I didn’t have my usual resources.  With the power out here at the church, we did not have access to the phones or to our membership management software.  I had to use the contacts I had on my cell phone and on my home computer to spread the word.

This actually worked pretty well.  I was able to enlist the help of a number of people who made calls, sent texts and wrote emails informing others that we were not meeting.

Total resignation to a distraction is not healthy, but neither is going bonkers because of it.  There is always something we can do to help alleviate the frustrations these disruptions cause.

Don’t Lose Your Religion

People tend to show their true colors when life pulls the rug out from underneath them.  One preacher told me that his golfing buddies would marvel at how well composed he was when his shots would go astray.  His responded to them saying, “I may not curse when I hit a bad shot, but the grass doesn’t grow where I spit.”

When we lose our head, our religion usually follows.  We give a positive witness to the peace of God that guards our hearts when we exhibit grace and understanding during trying times.

Make the Most of the Occasion

Kristi and I had some great conversations with dear friends who we met in the parking lot.  These were the kinds of unstructured conversations that normally don’t happen during business meeting or prayer meeting.  Even though it was too hot to have church in the parking lot, and too dark to visit inside the church, we still experienced sweet fellowship with those we were able to visit with.

After leaving the church, we enjoyed a long quiet evening in each other’s company.  A break in our routine became an unexpected gift of Sabbath.  It’s OK to rest from time to time, to “Be still and know that I am God,” as the Psalmist says.

Learn from what Happened

We can always learn from those things that challenge us.  I heard someone say recently, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”  We gain the victory over these disruptions when we grow from them. A careful examination of what happened might not serve to prevent these things from happening again, but will give insight into how to deal with other distractions in the future.

What are some distractions that you have learned from recently?

How did you grow from them?

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Mountain Sunset

No Summer Slump, pt. 2

Are you willing to make this the best summer ever for your Bible study group?  As leaders, we recognize that it all starts with us! Passion is contagious.  I trust that your students sense your passion for the Word and are inspired to dig deeply into God’s truth with you.  I want to make sure you have all the resources you need to make the most of each and every class you lead.

Here are 4 more items to think through in order to make the most of our summer Bible study season.

Content  

We cannot get away from good teaching.  This is where the rubber hits the road.  Some people will stick around for because of the fellowship.  Some will hang on for the mission projects.  However, if the content is not there, we are raising up hollow disciples.  Fun and adventure can never replace solid Bible teaching.

If you wake up on Sunday morning and begin to study your lesson for the day, it will show.  When you get into your lesson early in the week, refer to it often and pray fervently over it, your students will appreciate it.

Does your curriculum help you to deliver good content consistently?  What resources help you to prepare powerful lessons?

Conversation

Regardless of what teaching format you use, whether you lecture or lead discussion, there needs to be an element of conversation to your class.  How do you allow your group members to contribute to the lessons?  Do you allow time to discuss questions the lesson may have brought up?  Are you available to your students if they need to talk through something outside of class?  If a number of your members are struggling with a common issue, are you flexible enough in your lessons to address their needs?

Let’s remember the goal of our teaching: we are not equipping our students to pass a multiple-choice exam, we are striving to shape their lives, and ours, by applying the Gospel to where they live.

Challenge

When we read the Bible, we are confronted with lofty goals and standards for our lives.  Subsequently, our teaching ought to lay those challenges upon the hearts of our students.  People don’t come to your Bible study in order to stay the same.  They want to grow.  We grow when we are challenged; when we are stretched.

How does your class respond to being challenged?  Do you share with your class the challenges you face?

Creativity

When is the last time anything changed?  We tend to get comfortable with the status quo.  Comfort can lead to complacency.  Summer is a great time for experimentation.  Have a get together outside of class at a new place.  Invite your group to go on an outing.  Start a book discussion.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

If being creative isn’t your strong suit, ask your group members for help.  Together you can come up with some ideas that may help keep your class better connected.  Instead of boldly doing what we’ve always done, let’s look for ways to spark a little interest in what we are going to do by thinking creatively.

These are just a smattering of the possibilities for what you can do this summer to make your Bible study thrive.

What else would you add to this list?

What are your expectations for your group during the summer months?

What are you doing to overcome the summer slump?

Click here if you missed Part 1

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bible study 2

No Summer Slump, pt. 1

Summer is here. Can your Bible study group thrive ?  People are on the go.  Our class members will be taking trips and vacations.  Summer brings with it a world of distractions.  In spite of these distractions, we do not have to settle for so-so Bible study participation.

Here are a few things to check to make sure your group will be running at full speed this summer season.

Connection

How well connected is your class outside of church?  There are many excuses for not staying connected between Sundays.  We can overcome many of these excuses with a little bit of intentionality.  In our digital age, it’s easier than ever to get connected.  Start a Facebook group.  Send out mass texts messages.  Announce Bible study news and prayer requests to your group’s email list.  These do not take the place of real, flesh and blood connections, but they can serve to keep those flesh and blood connections established from Sunday to Sunday.

What does your group use to stay connected?  Would you like to know more about how to connect through Facebook, Twitter, text messages or email?

Concern

“Before they care what you know, they have to know you care.”  You’ve heard that before and I say it again because it’s true.  God will not send us more people than we can care for.  Check your class’s pulse.  A healthy class will exhibit a lot of care for its members.

Are you caring for those who are part of your group?  What tangible efforts are you making to support those who gather with you?

Contacts

Slow times of the year are a good time to make sure we are contacting both the people on our roll and our prospects. Many times people will come back after a personal contact.  This does not have to be the teacher’s job.  There is probably someone in your class who is particularly gifted at making people feel appreciated and welcome. Look for people in your group to share this responsibility with.  I guarantee that if your class increases the amount of calls make, cards sent, and people personally engaged, you will have more people participate in your Bible study.  Test me on this.

How do you keep up with who you need to contact?  Does your class maintain a current prospect list?  Is someone responsible for leading your class to contact members and prospects?

Which of these three does your class do the best?  Which of these three are you working at improving?

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targer zone

Getting in the Zone

Most of the athletes I knew listened to one form of music or another to get themselves psyched up for a big game. Most people call it “getting in the zone.”   I had my special cassette tape ready to go before every game back in the day.  Music helped me to drown out the distractions, focus on the task at hand, and get into the right frame of mind.  When you are able to do this as an athlete, you are much more likely to go out and perform well.  There are some principles here that apply to teaching, as well.

There is part of me that continues something similar to my old pre-game routine when it comes to preaching and teaching today.  Being spiritually prepared is just as important to a good and effective lesson as getting in the zone was to a successful football game.  My pre-lesson time does not involve listening to loud music, but it does require a lot of listening.  I spend part of the time leading up to a sermon, or a classroom discussion, just listening to God.  Call it meditation, refer to it as reflection, to me it’s just prayer.  Prayer is giving ourselves away to God.  Through prayer the Spirit of God brings to our attention the barriers between us and the Father.  Prayer involves allowing God to renew and enliven us in such a way that we can be used as a vessel for communicating his truth. Of course you don’t need headphones or cassettes (or CD’s or MP3 players or iPods). You don’t listen with your ears at all; you listen with your heart.  You listen for what Elijah heard at the mouth of the cave, the sound of sheer silence.

In the football days I knew I was in the zone when I was psyched up enough to have 60 fights, all within a span of 60 minutes.  I know I’m in the zone for teaching and preaching when I am convicted of the truth of God’s word.  I’m in the zone when I am convinced that the scripture and the lesson are going the same direction.  I’m in the zone when I arrive at that place spiritually where I feel comfortable enough to speak what I know, but at the same time be humble enough not to be a know-it-all.

I am getting near the zone when I start to feel the significance of what I’m teaching. Whenever we teach the Bible, we are dealing with weighty subjects and with words of eternal worth.  We are handling the principles of eternity, not transient ideas.  We are communicating information that provides the means for transformation.  When these themes start to sink in, I’m in the zone.

Through prayer that listens to God, we build upon our trust that God is God and we are not.  We are his tools; he is the master craftsman.  We become available to be used by him, and in being used we are blessed.  By prayer we are reminded that our first job is to be faithful to the One who calls us, rather than be moved by the sentiments of the many around us.  In prayer we are grounded in the reality that God has invited us to be participants in the coming of a new Kindgom.

You probably have a similar process of getting yourself in the zone for teaching and leading.  I believe it is beneficial to examine how you are preparing yourself for such an important task.  Here are a few personal evaluation questions:

  • Am I being intentional about my spiritual preparations for teaching?
  • Have I used the quantity of time I have toward quality time with the Father?
  • Do I feel the significance of what I’m teaching?

Pray for me as I pray for you.  May God’s blessing reside on our ministries.  May the words of our mouths, and the meditation of all of our hearts, be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.

What do you do to prepare yourself spiritually for teaching?

Reaching Out, Without Going Out

It’s time to think like a missionary.  We don’t have to travel to Zimbabwe to be a missionary.  We can practice missions right where we live.  Let me show you 6 things that you can do this Sunday that will provide blessings and encouragement to those who will be visiting our church.

1.   …and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Act 1:8  (…or at least the far parking lot.)

Imagine what an impression it will make on our visitors if there are plenty of parking spots close to the building.  We can help make sure our visitors have plenty of close parking spots by getting here early enough to take those spots are the far end of the parking lot.

2.   “…go and recline in the lowest place.” Luke 14:10

I know how coveted those pews along the back are.  I can feel your appreciation for those seats along the aisle.  We all have our familiar spots that we have made our pew-home for years.  But when it comes to having a houseful of visitors, we would be good hosts and hostesses if we gave up the good seats to make sure our guest were well blessed.  I think it would be a valiant missionary gesture to offer our visitors the choice seats instead of making them crawl to the middle of the pew or suffer sitting on the front row.

3.   ‘I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile.’ Job 9:27

We’ve all known Christians who seems to be in a perpetual bad mood.  Don’t be one this Sunday.  A smile conveys warmth and a welcoming spirit.  There’s so much to be happy about on Easter Sunday.  The music will be uplifting, the crowd will be enthusiastic, we get to celebrate baptisms with those who have come to the Lord, and we get to vividly remember how great our salvation is.  Share the joy in your heart through the smile on your face.

4.   “A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

The people who will be coming to worship this Sunday are looking for many things.  One thing we all look for and need is community.  We need friends to travel down this road we call salvation.  We are not going to heaven alone; we are going with other pilgrims who have claimed Christ as savior.  Be eager to reach out to someone new this weekend.  It may be that God puts someone right beside you who needs the encouragement that only you can give.

5.   Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.  Ephesians 4:29

There are going to be people in church this Sunday who do not know their way around the building.  Take the initiative and ask if they need anything.  Some of the more common things people may need help with are: where the bathrooms are, where the nursery is, how to become more involved the church activities.  Visitors may not feel comfortable asking about these things so go ahead, break the ice, let them know you are glad they are here and offer to assist them while they are here.

6.   Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

In this electronic age, we can make an impression on more people, in more places than ever before, without leaving our building.  When you check-in on Facebook before worship, you are letting people around the world know that you are part of a community that has something to celebrate.  Social sites, like Facebook and Twitter, are part of a new mission field that was not present a decade ago.  If Facebook were a nation, it would be the third most populated in the world, with its 800,000,000 subscribers.  Let’s take the time to let the world know what we are doing this Easter Sunday as we gather to worship our resurrected savior.

I’m praying for you as you prepare to lead your classes and your students to a greater understanding of God’s love for them.  Feel free to pass this on to others.