New Family Picture and Life Change

As I work on other things this Labor Day, I thought I would share one of our new family pictures.  Thanks to Piper Bell in our church for taking these before Nate left for Moody.

Fam 1

On a personal note, because so many have asked, last Thursday night was a weird night for Cheryl and me.  We finished dinner and the dishes by 6:30, no boys were in the house.  Nate is in Chicago and Jeremy was with friends, and we looked at each other and for the first time really felt like empty-nesters.  It’s a new season for us.  It wasn’t a bad feeling, but different.

Yesterday at church we did the song “You’re Gonna Miss This“.  I understand that song a lot better these days.

Anyone else know the feeling?

Wal Mart Goes Paperless “Paychecks”

wal-mart-logoI heard today that Wal Mart is getting rid of paper paychecks.  Instead employees will receive a debit card as payment, if they refuse direct deposit.  You can read more about it HERE.

I see several implications for this change:

  • It puts the burden of the processing expense on those processing the payment, saving Wal Mart thousands of dollars processing checks.  (We shouldn’t be surprised Wal Mart would find a way to increase profits.)
  • Apparently there will be one free withdrawal per month and additional withdrawals are $2 each.  This will force Wal Mart employees to learn a new system, which could be difficult for some employees who are not accustomed to handling plastic.
  • It is more environmentally friendly.  Surely there will be fewer trees cut to provide the paper for checks. (Of course plastic sticks around longer than paper…j/k)
  • This will be trend setting for other industries with mass numbers of employees.  Wal Mart is big enough to force change.  With 2.1 million employees, Wal Mart proves this can be a done with any size workforce.  Look for more companies to follow Wal Mart’s lead.

When we were in Lithuania this summer we saw a similar system.  Having recently converted to a more capitalistic system, they by-passed paper altogether in their economy.  Everything is done electronically.  This looks like one more step to removing paper checks from our system altogether.

What do you think?  Is that where our economy is headed?  Will we be paperless in a few years?  Do you still even write paper checks?

Quit Taking Credit For A God Thing!

A few weeks ago, in preparing a message for Grace Community Church in which I celebrated the victories we have seen in the last year at Grace, God convicted me for my line of thinking.  I was preparing to remind people of the strategy of the church, as we do at the beginning of each new fall season, to encourage them to continue giving their time and resources to further the vision.  I believe God gently reminded me that apart from Him, we would have no vision and we would certainly have no success.

Clearly what has happened at our church in the last four years is bigger than any vision, strategy, staff or volunteers could produce.  If we duplicated everything we are doing today elsewhere, we would have no guarantees of success without God’s intervention.  No doubt about it, what we are experiencing at Grace Community Church is a God-thing!  I also know that we are just a small part of all God is doing in many places around the world.

It was a needed reminder and one I wonder if other leaders, especially some of the big name leaders, need to hear.  The greater the success a person has and the more accolades a leader receives, the easier it becomes to begin to take credit for that success.  So, in simple terms, let me encourage you, if the shoe fits, to…

Quit taking credit for a God thing!

We can share wisdom and strategy from what we have learned.  We can write blogs and books to encourage others.  We can be invited to speak around the world about our successes.  People can look to us as “experts” in our field, but let’s be honest as leaders.  Most of us who are experiencing tremendous growths in our churches are…

  • Not better leaders
  • Not better speakers
  • Don’t have a better strategy

Than some who are doing the same things we are doing, but not experiencing similar results.

I will continue to share my experiences.  Frankly I think I have been called to, but honestly, when you look at what is happening in our church, what looks like a God-thing, quite possibly is…actually, there is no question in my mind that it is.

Have you ever been guilty of taking credit, if only in your own mind, for something that truly God has done?

5 Things I Learned In Sending A Son Away To College

It has been a couple weeks since I dropped our youngest son Nate off at college.  He is attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  Our oldest son is a senior at Austin Peay State University and is living at home to save money this year.  Nate is our first to change cities of residence and he is 8 hours from home.  In the process of him leaving I have learned a few things:

  1. It was much harder than I thought letting go. My counseling background tells me I began a mini-depression about a month before he left and I’m just now beginning to see light again.
  2. I prepared my boy, but not my emotions.  I am a fairly unemotional person.  Not the day I said “Goodbye” or the week following.  I was an emotional wreck. Thankfully, Nate is very mature and is going to do great with his independence.
  3. It will never be the same, but it can be better…at least in some ways.  I miss seeing Nate terribly, but our talks are even more open and honest than when he was here.
  4. I can’t wait for his calls/texts/emails.  There is a charge in my spirit when I look down at my phone and see that it is Nate.
  5. It is a new phase of life for Cheryl and me.  Our parenting is not over, but our role is changing. We are beginning to make some new dreams, just for the two of us.

I posted more about this process in my letter to Nate.  You can read that post HERE.  For some things I have learned in parenting, see this CATEGORY.

Parents, tell me about your experience letting your children go.

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?

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.

10 Random Ideas To Encourage Innovation

For the past several posts I have written on the idea of creating organizational cultures that encourage innovative leaders.  I firmly believe it is a mistake of leaders to feel they can force innovation or even create innovative people.  Innovation, in its purest form, means change, and while change can be forced upon people, the best changes, the kind that make an organization excellent, come from the heart of a person.  Great innovation comes from the gut.  You cannot legislate those kinds of changes.

Even if that is true, however, there are things leaders can do even in a culture of innovation to encourage team members to be more innovative.  Here are a 10 random ideas to help.  Feel free to add some that have worked in your organization.

  • Get away from the office routinely as a team.  There is something about a change in surroundings that encourages a change in thought.
  • Have a brainstorming session with open-ended questions.  (For an example our staff did recently read THIS POST.)
  • Reward new ideas/Recognize new thoughts/Celebrate success – People will want to be a part of it.
  • Encourage thinking time.  (Read a couple posts about that HERE and HERE.)
  • Have times together as a team that are simply fun.
  • Remove obstacles to innovative thought, such as communication barriers between team members and management.
  • Talk about current culture and how changes can impact your organization’s culture.
  • Be accessible.  It encourages team members to share new ideas with you more often.
  • Welcome diversity of thoughts and opinions, even if they are different than yours.
  • Set innovation goals, such as “make changes to the website next year this time.”

    I encourage you to innovate and come up with better ideas than these and share them with us here.

    (For more thoughts on innovation, read that category HERE.)

    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?