I Don’t Have All The Answers!

As our staff and church has grown, my role is changing.  I spend much more of my day interacting with staff members about their particular area of focus.  Lately it seems I am saying a lot of, “Let me connect you with _________”, as I refer people to another person on our team.

It is a hard reality for me sometimes, but the larger our church grows the more I have to realize…and need others to realize…

I don’t have all the answers.

The good thing is that we have a children’s pastor to know specifics about children’s ministry.  We have a community group pastor who knows specifics about group ministry. Thankfully, in each of our critical areas of ministry we have an expert in that field of ministry who knows details of the ministry.

I frequently get asked very specific questions about certain ministries and my general nature is to provide an answer to people quickly, but the fact is I usually don’t have one anymore. I know generalities, but I don’t know specifics.  I can talk about the vision for a ministry, but not always about the specific elements of the plan to complete the vision.

As our organization grows and changes, so is my individual role within it.  As God stretches me with new responsibilities, I’m attempting to adjust accordingly.

Leaders, are you adapting to the changing environment in your organization?

This Too Shall Pass (The Best Is Yet To Come)

Sometimes all I need is a verse or a phrase of Scripture to get my mind flowing and wrap my arms around all God is teaching me at the moment.  I had one of those moments last week.

Reading in 2 Kings chapter 24, verse 1, the first four words of the verse rocked my world (for a moment).

“In his days, Nebuchadnezzar” 2kings 24:1

In his day Nebuchadnezzar was a king.  He was a well-known King that brought havoc to the Israelites. He was a greatly feared and powerful leader.  At his word nations and people’s could be destroyed (except where God intervened of course).  As greatly as he struck people in fear and awe in his day, I am not too afraid of Nebuchadnezzar today.  The fact is he is dead.  No more. Gone.  Out of sight.  As big and bad as he was then, he is no longer a threat today.

It was a great reminder and one that I needed to read at the time.  Regardless of the circumstances of my life at the time, no matter how desperate the situation may appear, this too shall pass.  Better days are ahead, and in reality, for the believer at least, the best days are yet to come.

I must say that my life is pretty good these days.  God is blessing my immediate family.  Cheryl and I have good health personally. The church is going great, but as a pastor I feel the weight of those around me.  These are hard times for many.

Are you going through a difficult time today?

Read the words of 2 Kings 24 and verse 1 today.  Don’t read too far.  Only four words are needed to remind us that in spite of all our struggles, this too shall pass.

The best is yet to come!

Protect Your Proprioceptors! (Guard Your Heart!)

I damaged my proprioceptors and it has impacted every part of my life. Word of caution, protect your proprioceptors!

Did you even know you had a proprioceptor? Actually you have several within your body. Here is a definition:

Proprioceptor: A sensory receptor, found chiefly in muscles, tendons, joints, and the inner ear, that detects the motion or position of the body or a limb by responding to stimuli arising within the organism. Proprioceptors are important for the coordination of muscular activity and the maintenance of balance and posture.

On July 5th I sprained my ankle. As a result, I have had a harder time running, but perhaps worse it seems it is even more common for me now to twist the ankle again. A doctor told me it was because I had damaged my proprioceptor. In this case, my proprioceptor was located between my ankle and my foot and helped my ankle know when it was twisting too far one direction or another.  Since that particular proprioceptor is now damaged, I have a harder time maintaining balance and posture and I almost have to retrain myself to run. It is causing me to hurt more when I run, not just in my ankle, but in other parts of my body, because my sense of balance is not as keen, which ultimately causes me to run less than I normally would.  In the meantime I miss the exercise I received from running more often, which is affecting my mood, my energy level and my general attitude.  (I realize I probably needs some physical therapy to help me through this healing and re-training.)

This experience provided, however, a great life lesson for me, because I think our greatest proprioceptor may be elsewhere in our bodies than science has indicated. I think our conscience and our sense of morals serve as a proprioceptor to help us keep balance in life and more easily recognize the difference between right and wrong. When this particular proprioceptor is damaged, it is much harder to gain our sense direction again and making the wrong decision becomes easier the second time.

When a person looks at pornography the first time, for example, or carries inappropriate intimacy too far, or tells the first lie, the person is more likely to repeat the offense, because the sense of doing the right thing becomes much harder to discern. I think that is what the writer meant when he wrote, “Above all else guard your heart for it is the well spring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) When the heart crosses the line between right and wrong, wrong becomes a bigger draw than if the line is never crossed.

Bottom line: Protect your proprioceptors! Guard your heart!

Have you seen examples of this principle in your life or in the life of others?

The Encouragement Of Personal Branding

Gold, brandOne trend in organizations today that I am not sure existed even ten years ago is the freedom employees have to promote their personal identity on company time. Companies today seem to allow and actually encourage employees to brand themselves separate from the organization.  Whether it is with a personal blog or through authoring a book, employees can have a larger personal following and name recognition than the top leadership of the organization and at times even greater than the organization.  This is true in the corporate world and the church world.

There are obvious fears or concerns for organizations with this trend.  The more a team member becomes known the more likely it is that he or she will be recruited by another organization.  Also, a concern would be that the increased popularity of the individual could distract from his or her responsibilities to the organization.  Furthermore, though probably not admitted by most senior leaders, there could be a jealousy factor if a subordinate becomes better known and gets more recognition than the leader.

Personally I welcome this change in organizations.  When we started Grace Community Church our worship leader Daniel Doss already had some national recognition and we encouraged his continued growth and success independent of the church.  This sometimes meant we had to adjust schedules to accommodate his outside interests, but I always felt it was for the overall good of the church. Today I am excited about the potential several of our staff members have in creating their own personal brand through their blog and influence and I want to encourage their efforts to market their ministry on a broader scale, even independent of the church.

While I recognize the concerns and know I ultimately have the responsibility to see that the ministry of Grace Community Church is realized, I see several advantages for organizations in allowing personal branding:

It allows great leaders to stay with the organization longer.  If a leader has potential, he or she will naturally look for more opportunities to express his or her leadership skills.  Personal branding allows an avenue for personal growth, while the employee remains with the organization.

It creates a win/win for the organization. As a team member grows personally and he or she receives recognition independent of the organization, the team member’s personal growth means he or she has more to offer the organization and brings more attention, insight, and expertise to the organization.

Allowing personal branding creates a healthier and more rewarding environment within the organization that allows it to occur, which can help the organization attract and retain better leaders to the organization.

Do you see this trend? Can you think of examples of organization where this is happening?  Do you agree or disagree with an organization encouraging personal branding?

My Primary Role As A Pastor

It was a tough day. A couple weeks ago my office seemed to have a revolving door. We have so much activity and excitement in the church right now, but the normal demands of ministry have not slowed to allow margin for the extra work required of me. In the midst of administrative and managerial responsibilities I also encountered a number of hurting people. I was confronted several times with issues where another person had wronged one person and they wanted me to help them change the other person they sense was mistreating them. It has always fascinated me when people expect the pastor to enforce morals on people in order to change them.

One of the principles I have learned in life and ministry is that RULES NEVER CHANGE PEOPLE. It doesn’t matter how many you have, how strictly you enforce them, or even how loyal people are to obey them. Rules alone never change a person. Rules are often necessary to protect people and bring order to chaos, but for people to change a heart has to change. Truth impacting a person’s heart changes people, not rules. I fully realize God uses people in this process, but I believe our role is more about directing people’s attention towards Christ, than it is enforcing their behavior.

The greatest role I have as a pastor, in my opinion, is to introduce people to the life-changing message of Jesus Christ, help them learn the truths of His Word, help them become growing followers of Christ (disciples), but then allow God’s Spirit to change their heart, which will ultimately change their life.

I am praying today for more opportunities to spur hearts towards the life-changing message of Christ.

Leaving a Legacy

beach-footprints2On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the LORD at His sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the LORD.’ Joshua 22:27 NIV

What is your legacy? There is an old song Christian artist Steve Green sang called “Find us Faithful”. A line in the song says, “When your children sift through all you’ve left behind, will the memories they uncover…?” I recall hearing that song when my boys were young and I was always convicted! I was concerned about the memories I would leave behind for my boys.
Nate, our youngest boy, was often morbid with his childhood thoughts. When I travel out of town he would often ask, “Daddy, what will happen if the plane crashes?” To which I would reply, “Well son, I suppose I’ll probably die.” (I didn’t say that, but I was tempted to sometimes.) The funny thing though was that he wasn’t asking about my death as much as he was asking about his future. He was asking what he was to do without me. It was morbid, but it was a fair question.

What are those who come behind you to do when you are gone? What kind of legacy are you leaving them?  Since children are likely to follow in our footsteps, what footsteps are you setting for them? They often repeat the same mistakes we make. They often experience similar success. What kind of life are you living for them to follow?

Let me ask you an even more direct question: Would you want them to live the life you are living right now, or do you want more for them?  If you aren’t pleased with the answer, start living a different life before them today!

Dear Nate (Letter to a Son)

IMG_1743Nate (formerly known as Nathaniel), you have been a soul mate to me since you were very little. We are so much alike that it scares me for you sometimes. Yesterday was the longest ride of my life after dropping you off at college. This past week has been an emotional roller coaster. I am so excited that your dream of being at Moody has come true, but the thought of you being so far away and not seeing you everyday is overwhelming to me. You kept telling me “thanks for everything” the last few days. Son, if only you knew how much value you add to my life in so many ways. No thanks are necessary.

This letter will attempt to communicate to you clearly things I hope I have said to you over the years, but never want you to forget.

  • There will never be anyone in your corner more than me.
  • You are awesome. I am your biggest fan.
  • At such a young age you have so much insight into life, leadership, church-life, and relationships. Use it well for the Kingdom.
  • I will try to let you go, but honestly it is proving to be one of the hardest things I have done in my life.
  • I am always here for you. You cannot interrupt me, because you are a part of me.
  • I look forward to seeing you grow and be the man God wants you to be.
  • Your passion for life and Christ is contagious.
  • I hope you always make better decisions than I have at times.
  • I pray you are determined to take risks, dream big, and trust God even more than I was.
  • I will miss most our random conversations about tackling the world’s problems and our belly laughs at things no one else would understand.
  • You have more potential than you even realize, but thanks for being so humble.
  • Feel free to keep asking me to pray for you, but the request is granted long before it is made.  (You can just give me specifics.)
  • My greatest wish for you, as it always has been, is that you will continue to love Jesus with all your heart.
  • We named you well.  You truly are a “gift of God”.

You have my number. I am just a phone call (or text) away.

I love you buddy!

Dad (Pops)

P.S. Love your blog!  (nateedmondson.com)

What to do if employees don’t respond?

My recent post asking the question, “Does Your Organization Produce Innovative Leaders or Managed Followers?” had automatic, built-in questions I anticipated receiving after the post, so I prepared an answer in advance.  Indeed the most common question is basically:

If you have an environment conducive to produce innovative leaders, but still people do not take initiative on their own, what do you do?

This is a great question.   I would encourage you to survey your employees to make sure you have the environment you think you have.  If this is not realistic, perhaps you could bring in an outside perspective, such as a consultant or a friend who knows your organization well and understands these principles and get his or her perspective.  Make sure you are open to honest feedback.  Once you have done that, ask these questions about the employees who refuse to take initiative:

  • Do they have the skill required for the task you are asking them to do?
  • Do they have the resources required for the task?
  • Do they trust that they are in the environment you claim to have?
  • Do they trust the leadership of the organization?
  • Are your expectations realistic?

If all those answers are yes, then you are forced to ask:

  • Are they are good fit for the organization or their position?
  • Can they do what you want or expect them to do?

It is at this point leaders often have to make difficult decisions regarding a person’s future with the organization, but usually these type decisions end up being best for the organization and the individual.  Many times an employee  already senses their inability to live up to the potential you have placed on the position and is miserable in their current role in the organization.

What do you think? I welcome your feedback.

(For more on the subject of innovation in leadership, I have set up a special category of previous posts in this area of thought.  Click HERE to read some of those posts.)

Stress Results and Not Details

If you want employees to ultimately accomplish the vision of the organization and actually take initiative and ownership in that vision, then leaders need to strive to…

…Stress results and not details…

That is a hard concept for many leaders.  They own their vision. They have in their mind what they want to achieve.  They have pre-determined exactly what a win looks like.  They can almost detail it out in their heads.  Therefore, if a leader is not careful he or she begins to stress the details of that vision as opposed to stressing and rewarding people for results achieved.

Previously I posted on the need for leaders to be willing to “give their vision away”.  If ultimately what you want is the end goal accomplished, allow others to add their personal touch to their work, let them strive for excellence, dream their own dreams, and own their work. Then watch as they soar to accomplish your vision.  It may not look exactly as you thought it would, but chances are it will actually look better than you imagined.

Leaders, do you stress more results or more details?  If you are in a work environment, would you rather your boss stress details or results?

My Strengths Finder, Strength # 5

Today is the last in the series of sharing my five strengths as indicated through the StrengthsFinder indicator.  Of the 34 themes, these are my “top five”.  Hopefully this will give insight into who I am, how I am wired, and why I lead and blog the way I do. I am simply sharing the feedback results the indicator gave to me after I took the assessment, but after that paragraph I will share some additional thoughts on the negative aspect of this strength.

Analytical

Your Analytical theme challenges other people: “Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming is true.” In the face of this kind of questioning some will find that their brilliant theories wither and die. For you, this is precisely the point. You do not necessarily want to destroy other people’s ideas, but you do insist that their theories be sound. You see yourself as objective and dispassionate. You like data because they are value free. They have no agenda. Armed with these data, you search for patterns and connections. You want to understand how certain patterns affect one another. How do they combine? What is their outcome? Does this outcome fit with the theory being offered or the situation being confronted? These are your questions. You peel the layers back until, gradually, the root cause or causes are revealed. Others see you as logical and rigorous. Over time they will come to you in order to expose someone’s “wishful thinking” or “clumsy thinking” to your refining mind. It is hoped that your analysis is never delivered too harshly. Otherwise, others may avoid you when that “wishful thinking” is their own.

I should say that I took the StrengthsFinder assessment again and four of the five remained, but the strength of Maximizer replaced the Analyzer strength.  With most personality-type assessments the first one is more accurate, so I will stick with this one.

The negative aspect of this strength is that I have a hard time accepting things at face value.  I have to “investigate”.   I need to find a bottom line.  This, especially combined with my other strengths, can limit the people on my team from creative thinking if they become fearful that I will destroy any weakness of their ideas.  This is never my intent, because I love to explore new ideas, but perception is many times stronger than reality.

Have you taken this assessment?  What are your strengths?  Have you thought about the negative aspect of those strengths?