5 Tips to be a Better Dad This Week

boy and father

Five tips to be a better dad today this week:

Review your calendar for the week now – Make sure your family is getting some of your best time. Plenty of it. Children often spell love T I M E. They want yours. Rework your schedule if needed and possible.

Plan a date night with your wife – Protect your marriage…ultimately your family…by regular investments in it. Model for your kids what a good marriage looks like.

Make a prayer list for each of your kids – Write them on index cards and place the cards where you will see them often. What are their greatest struggles? Their fears? The parts of their character that need the most development? Pray for this list daily. Several times throughout the day if possible.

Plan long term – Take an hour this week to plan an intentional retreat with you and each child sometime in the next six months. It could be a day or a weekend, but make it intentional. Make it fun and character building. Plan questions ahead of time to stir meaningful discussions with them.

Turn off the television – I saved the hardest one for the last suggestion. But, seriously, it is hard, isn’t it? You work hard. You come home tired. You just want to veg in front of the tube. I get it. But, I speak from experience, these moments will pass so quickly. And what if you used that time to play a game with your children? What if that spurred a conversation? What if that changed the way a child looks at life? What if that created a moment the child never forgets? Those memories start…as all memories do…in a moment.

I realize this list is impossible for some. You have work commitments that have you out of town this week. Your children may object at first to a change in schedules that interrupts their schedule. You can’t force it. You may be separated from your child for custody reasons. You may have to build slowly to complete some things on this list.  You may have to be more creative.

The key is to be intentional as a dad. This is a great week to start.

(By the way…this works for moms too…I’ve just never been one :) )

What tips do you have to improve your dadship this week?  

Beyond Leadership Quotes: A Quick Overview of the Well Balanced World Changer

WBWC Covers

My friend Sarah Cunningham recently released her new book, The Well Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide for Staying Sane While Doing Good, a few days back. The book has been getting a lot of attention, partially because it is packed full of leadership quotes–the kind you’ve probably seen shared on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest (here’s the Pinterest site: http://www.pinterest.com/sarahcunning/the-well-balanced-world-changer/).

But rather than pepper you with more leadership material, I thought I’d ask Sarah a few questions that get at the bulk of the content that goes way beyond pithy sayings and memorable illustrations.

Q: I see great quotes shared online all the time, but this book goes way beyond that. Would you tell us how it is set up?

A: Sure thing. The book is a 280 page collection of 2 to 6 page essays that offer sticky insights and wisdom gathered from all different sources. They’re memorable stories; stuff that offers a breath of fresh air and some often much needed recalibration for the leader who is slowly chipping away at a huge vision. On the practical side, the book is broken down into 10 sections–sections like Worth & Success to Desires & Frustrations–that were chosen to address the most common learning curves leaders walk through.

Q: So what about the leadership quotes? There’s a ton of great and rare ones. Obviously you did that intentionally. What’s your vision there?

A: I wanted to begin a collection of online wisdom where other people could add their own advice and wise insights to the hashtag #worldchangerbook. And I thought a good way to get started would be to comb the work of some of the most inspiring leaders from history and the faith and pull out some great quotes that would be worth passing along.

Q: Tell me about the reader who is going to love this book. Who is it perfect for?

A: The book is perfect for any leader who has ambitiously taken on some sort of mammoth goal. Maybe they are trying to start a new faith community or grow a mega-church, maybe they’re trying to start a non-profit or end some sort of world social issue. But whatever they are locked in on is hard and success doesn’t come overnight. And they chip away at their vision day in and day out, pouring everything they have into it, and some days it feels like even though they are pouring everything they have into it, they are barely making a dent.

The book is for that person and for that moment.

It’d be a liferaft especially for young leaders fresh out of college or the Peace Corps or for people in any stage of life who are just undertaking some new cause or ministry. It would also be a lifeline to someone on the verge of quitting.

Q: I know you’ve had the chance to write a few books and also to help produce some pretty notable Christian events. Is that what inspires the content?

A: I have been blessed, no doubt, to be part of some amazing projects and to learn from some incredible people. But honestly, no, most of the content comes from people I’ve known in ordinary life. A few of the insights come from my dad, who has planted a few churches out in rural Michigan. A few come from various local faith leaders who are slaving away at good things without the benefit of a big stage or national applause. This is like…the cream of the most genuine and honorable people of faith I know. It’s like putting everyone’s grandma and grandpa in a room and letting them talk and writing it down.

Q: Is it a book people can implement to become more balanced?

A: Well yes and no. It’s not a how-to and it’s not five-steps-to-becoming-balanced.

It comes out of a vulnerable but beautiful stage in my life when I walked through disillusionment and burnout with leading faith based efforts. During that time, I was embarrassingly under-equipped to walk through disappointments and find my footing. It took me way longer than it should have to get back on track and keep investing in faith and in good. At several points along the way, I came into new awareness (usually by mistake or through the graciousness of a veteran leader who shared advice with me) and I was able to grab onto a new principle that helped add health to my leadership habits and rhythms. Often times, I would think, “Why didn’t someone tell me this before?”

Slowly, I started to realize that even though hardships continued to arise, I was able to face them with more strength and resilience. That I could more quickly re-frame my expectations or more wisely boundary the way I invested my emotion and energy.

Along the way, I decided to start collecting those insights that I wished I had grabbed onto earlier so I could pass them onto other leaders who might be looking for them and not really even know it. Most of us have mentors, but we’re not always able to get together with them regularly and we’re not always even sure what questions to ask them to get the information we need. This book is like a paperback mentor.

I wouldn’t say you’d be fully well balanced after reading it, because if you are, you’re way ahead of me. But I will tell you this: I’m better balanced today than I was five years ago. And I think I’m on track to be more balanced five years from now than I am today. If you want to journey toward ongoing balance, if you want to find balance, and figure out how to readjust and find it again when your circumstances or goals change, I think this book will be like oxygen. That’s how the insights always felt to me.


The Well Balanced World Changer is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. You can also find great shareable content on this book’s Pinterest page or on Sarah’s website at http://www.sarahcunningham.org.

Surviving Your Appetite for Known… @AndyStanley – #Catalyst


The theme of Catalyst Conference was Be Known. Andy Stanley kicked things off with a powerful talk about being known.

Here are my notes on his talk:

We all have an appetite to be known.

Social media proves that. And, it’s an appetite that is never fully satisfied.

You will never have enough friends, followers or fans. The more you get the more you want.

There is no amount of known that will fully satisfy your appetite to be known.

How known is known enough?

The child who says, “Watch this daddy!” over and over again as we watch them jump in the pool.

What if the dad said, “How many “oh that’s great honeys” do you need to be full?”

Then it was the coach, teacher, boy, girl…

Then the boss….

There is no amount of known that will make you fully satisfied.

Applause is intoxicating and intoxicated people don’t make the best decisions.

Yet, to lead you must be known.

You have been called to be known as a leader.

The question is how do we keep that from ruining us?”

Consider the story of John the Baptist:

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” (Mark 1:5)

How did John the Baptist handle the fame?

John the Baptist realized he was known, only to make Him known.

To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from Heaven.” (John 3:27)

So, how to be a known survivor:

Remember Who it’s from and Who it’s for.

“A person can receive only what is given them from Heaven.”

It all comes from and should glorify Him.

Thoughts on Firing People in Ministry


This is a difficult post. About a difficult issue. One we don’t necessarily like to talk about. But sometimes we must.

I came out of a business background, so some things that are done in ministry are different for me. And, frankly, many should be. Ministry isn’t business…it’s ministry. At the same time, we should never use “ministry” as an excuse to waste Kingdom dollars. We need good practices of financial accountability. Just as the business world has to have in place simply to stay in business…we need them in ministry so that we stay in ministry. What we do is too important not to consider every dollar.

And, also frankly speaking, that hasn’t always been my experience in ministry.

One prime example is in the area of staffing…people who are paid by the church. I’ve seen and encountered numerous times where staff people were allowed to continue drawing salaries from a church when their effectiveness is in serious question. Everyone knows something needs to be done, but no one is willing to make the hard decision.

One of the hardest decisions any leader ever makes is to release someone from their employment. It should never be taken lightly. It always hurts. It is never easy. It wasn’t in business and it isn’t in ministry. But, sometimes it’s the right thing to do. And, it seems in ministry we are often much slower…if ever…to get there.

I was talking with a pastor recently who knows he needs to make a hard decision regarding a member of his staff, but he simply hasn’t been able to garner the support or gumption to do it. This person isn’t productive (and isn’t trying to be), has a damaging personality on the team, and continues to work against the pastor’s leadership. The pastor has counseled with the person, has agreement from elders that something needs to be done, but no one has been willing to make the hard decision. And, this has been the case for years…not months…years. In the meantime, Kingdom dollars are admittedly being wasted. (I have had that same conversation numerous times with other pastors.)

Many times, in my experience, churches haven’t made the decision because of fear and they use ministry simply as an excuse. After having this discussion countless times with church leaders, I felt the need to address it. (Please know, I’m talking strictly about poor performance, not about those who lose their jobs because of tightening budgets. That’s a growing issue, but not one I’m addressing here.)

Here are some of the objections I’ve encountered:

We love the person – Of course. We love everyone. It’s what we are called to do. Is that a good reason to empower bad behavior or to waste Kingdom dollars?

We don’t want to hurt their family – Of course not. And we should be gracious and generous in the exit strategy, and be willing to walk with the person through the recovery process as much as is reasonable and welcomed by the released person. But are we not hurting families who sacrifice and give to the church by misusing their resources on an ineffective staff member?

We are afraid we haven’t extended enough grace – I understand. We are to extend grace, but hasn’t there been a lot of grace given to allow the person to stay this long? When does truth come into play?

We are afraid of the ripple effects – That’s understandable. You should always consider how decisions will impact others. Yet the reality is you probably have ripple effects now anyway. You are injuring other ministries and jeopardizing future progress by delaying what you know you need to do. It will only get more difficult with time. At some point you may have to cut your losses.

Leaders have to make hard decisions. We should first do everything within our power to redeem the person’s job. (We did that in business too. It’s much more efficient to retain an existing employee than to hire a new one.) But, protecting the vision for all may involve tough love for others. Many times when we delay decisions like this we delay the healing that needs to occur and the benefits of making the right (and difficult) decision. Also, we send a dangerous message that it’s acceptable to do whatever this person isn’t doing or is doing that merits being let go.

Notice I didn’t say this was easy. But genuine leadership never is easy. Don’t use ministry as an excuse. Pray about the matter diligently. Do everything in your power to redeem the person. Work through due process. Get wise advice from others before you make the decision. But, when the answer is clear what you need to do…do it.

Let me close with a word to those who have lost or may some day lose your job because of poor performance. I am not insensitive to your plight. In fact, I’ve helped numerous people pick up the pieces and begin again. I’ve hired people who were fired from a job and some of them made the best team members.

Sometimes being let go allows God an opportunity to do something new in your life…even something better. If you made mistakes, own them and learn from them. There is grace to begin again. Sometimes it was a matter of fit more than anything else, but whatever the reason, grow from it and let God restore the broken pieces. He specializes in restoration.

Okay, I’ve opened a can of worms. Please know I’m not trying to add insult to injury. These are difficult issues and should be prayerfully considered. They certainly, however, shouldn’t be ignored.

Would a post on some thoughts on how to do this gracefully help?

Ann Voscamp: 3 Game Changing Principles for Life – Catalyst


Ann Voskamp spoke at Catalyst Conference recently. Her Twitter bio says, “Wife to the Farmer: Mama to 6: Author of One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan: NYTimes Besteller) Seeking to follow One alone.”

Her message was one of my favorite talks, possibly because it spoke to me in this season of my life. She kept her audience captive throughout her talk. It was a powerful message.

I also learned Ann is an introvert like me, so even though I saw her at a backstage event, I didn’t bug her. I just processed her message.

Here are my notes from Ann’s talk:

  • “You can’t walk anywhere honestly and authentically apart from His promises”
  • “Nothing can overwhelm you like his grace can overtake you.”
  • “The enemy only has two battle plans. To blind you from who God is and blind to who you are in Him”

Three game-changing principles for absolutely everyone…including pastors…

From Jehoshaphat’s story in 2 Chronicles 20:

1. When overwhelmed. Pause.

  • It’s counter cultural and counter to our natural inclination, but it’s Christlike.
  • Only then we will remember who we are in Christ and live out of our identity.

2. Be present to His presence in the present moment.

  • Enter into His presence with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is always the right response to the presence of God.
  • I know who God is…He is good. In one minute you have your identity.

3. Pour – We can only pour out of the filling of His presence.

  • So many of us spend so much time fighting tomorrow’s battle with worry and yesterday’s battle with regret that they can’t live effectively within the battlefield of the present.
  • Why would we rather strive hard for Jesus than be satisfied with what Jesus has already done for us?
  • If you want your love to change the world, slow down enough to enjoy more of His love.

This was a life-giving message for me. Thanks Ann. Thanks Catalyst.

4 Things For Profits Can Learn From Non-profits


I’ve been in vocational ministry…my primary income came from ministry work…non-profits…for over ten years now. My professional career, however, is much longer. I had over 20 years in management and leadership positions in secular (for profit) work prior to ministry.

Recently I heard a great talk from Jeff Henderson (read my notes HERE), on what non-profits can learn from for profits. I agreed with the points Jeff made.

In discussing the talk with one of my sons, he asked a great question. He asked, “What have you learned in the church (non-profit) work that could have helped you in business (for profit)?”

Great question. I love that my boys are old enough to start challenging my thought process and make me better.

Here are 4 things for profits could learn from non-profits:

People matter – In the church or non-profit world…the vision…almost always involves people (or living parts of creation)…above profit. Hence the “non-profit”. Frankly, that can be frustrating for those of us who like our balance sheets and income statements to reflect financial health, but I’ve learned…often the hard way…that why we are doing what we are doing is most important. Improving the overall health or spiritual well being of a child, for example, is more important even than having a positive cash flow at the end of the month. (That said…my business minded friends are thinking…without positive cash flow…in time we will cease to make any difference in the child’s life…but the point is people matter most. The for profit world could many times stand a lesson in that truth.)

It’s the little things – It. Always. Is. In business, we tended to move towards and place our energy on the big. Big projects. Big profit. Big customers. We knew the small things mattered, but the big seemed to overshadow that in our actions. If the numbers were big…we could ignore that someone was a real jerk to work with others…for example. In the ministry and non-profit world, we’ve learned that many times the little things matter most. When the father who has never been to church shows up one Sunday…small deal to some…big deal to us. We see the potential. The smallest moments of time can often be the biggest excitement for us.

Money is not enough – We know this because we seldom seem to have money. And yet the work must continue. So we have to get real creative at times. We’ve learned it’s more about the people involved than the budget. We would rather have the funds, but in lieu of that, we adapt. The best non-profits are real good at utilizing volunteer labor and rallying people to support a cause.

At the end of the day, what you do for others is most important – We love visions. We love progress. We love strategies and systems and structure. We’ve actually gotten pretty good at them. But, if you check our heartbeat…if you measured our pulse…we get most excited when others succeed. We dance at the betterment of people we love. And, we love people. It makes he DNA of who we are as churches and non-profits. A few for profits I know could learn from us in this area.

The bottom line is that both worlds have things we can learn from each other. Often what appears to be opposing mindsets may be complimentary if we allowed them to work for us rather than against us.

So, here’s a thought…what if non-profits got together with for profits? And for profits got together with non-profits? And we learn from each other? Just a thought.

One way I’ve done this is to form leadership circles I meet with regularly, comprised of leaders from both sectors. It is proving valuable for all of us.

What else could for profits learn from non-profits?  

Dr. Henry Cloud – Boundaries for Leaders – Catalyst


Dr Henry Cloud is a popular psychologist and author. I have recommended his book “Boundaries” dozens of times. We all need them in our life.

Recently Cloud released the book “Boundaries for Leaders”. It’s a needed book. He spoke to us about it at the Catalyst conference.

His ultimate theme for the presentation:

Proper boundaries for leaders help us to be productive for the long haul.

An outline of that process:

1. Pay attention to what’s most important. (Ultimately our identity in Christ.)

  • Understand and know our identity.
  • What is it that you’re good at doing? What in your life needs attention now?
  • Written visions are more likely to be achieved.
  • Have guard rails of what you need to focus on now. Don’t let 86 other things interfere. And over time your mind will begin to form around your true identity (of what’s important).

2. Positive emotional climate. Built up in your true identity in Christ.

  • A traumatized brain divides…into two parts. The creative side, that can think through decision making.
  • Other side of brain is a defensive mode. If a train is coming at us we don’t have time to think. Just react defensively.
  • But we need the thinking side to realize our true identity.
  • To live in the reality that God is generous with grace and wisdom.
  • James 1:5…He will give wisdom…without finding fault.

3. Relational Connection

  • Someone to walk through the process with us.
  • Someone to hold us accountable. Disciple us.

4. Control

  • Learn to self-control.
  • God designed our brain where it loves to have control.
  • We were designed for self-control. But we try to control everything else out of our control, instead of ourselves.
  • The number one factor in accomplishing a goal is believing that we can.
  • Believing, by faith, that God can make in us who He has designed us to be. Our identity is in Christ.

My notes, of course, are just an outline…perhaps you need to read the book. I intend to soon. While this is not a post with an intent to promote the book, Cloud’s books have been helpful to me in life and leadership. From this talk, I believe this one will be likewise.

What Non-profits Can Learn from For Profits…Jeff Henderson

Jeff Henderson was one of my favorite speakers at this year’s Catalyst Conference. His talk was on what non-profits can learn from for profits. One reason I identify with Jeff is because of his background in the business world.

Here are a few thoughts Jeff shared:

  • The solutions non profits are trying to provide aren’t keeping up with the problems they are trying to solve. (For example, there are lots of ministries working with homelessness, doing good work, yet homelessness remains the same percent as it did a decade ago.)
  • Non profits think like non profits.
  • The deeper systemic issues are not being addressed.
  • The rule books are different in non-profits.
  • For profits put the best people on the front lines. They find the very best and put them to work.
  • Non profits sacrifice their best talent and put them on their boards, because they can’t or won’t pay them enough to work on the front lines.
  • Talents, system and strategies matter.
  • We pay a corporate executive that makes sugar water more than someone who is trying to cure the world of AIDS.
  • Charitable giving in US has remained at 2% of GDP since 1970.
  • Finances handcuff non-profits.
  • The number of organizations crossing the $50 million budget. 46,000 for profits. 144 for non-profits.
  • If we increased giving by 1%, it would generate $150 billion for causes.
  • Excellence matters. Excellent people. Visions. Systems. Strategies.
  • The common pushback. “Sounds like you’re taking God out of the equation.” At what point did we begin to think excellence is offensive to God?
  • If we’re not careful we can spiritualize laziness. (As we “wait on God”)

How to be as wise as serpents and gentle as a dove as non-profits:

1. Keep your character several steps ahead of your talent.

Walking with humility and confidence is a beautiful thing.

2. Ask more questions.

Such as:

What’s it like to be on the other side of me?

What would we do if we had no money?

Here’s what we are trying to do…will you help me?

(Told story of getting a near $50,000 bill paid for a church plant simply by asking this question.)

3. Listen more than you talk.

To God and others.

Great talk Jeff. Thanks for the wisdom.

I’ve added a supplement to this post with “4 Things For Profits Can Learn from Non-Profits“.