Let’s Write a Story Together

This story is closed, but you can read our finished story HERE.

My family used to play this game on long car rides. I’ve tried it on my Facebook page. I thought I’d try it here on my blog. Let’s write a masterpiece story together for this week’s Friday discussion.

Here’s how this works:

1. I’m giving you the first sentence.
2. You can add one sentence at a time to the story…one sentence per comment…no more…
Is that clear enough?…one sentence
3. Each new person can add one sentence to the story. You can take the story any direction, but try to write a sentence that doesn’t close out the story…that invites someone to come behind you and continue the story.
4. Please don’t try to write one long sentence that really is a paragraph. The fun is getting the different inputs and imagination to work together.
5. After someone else adds a sentence, or if it has been a while since someone has commented, you can keep the story going by adding another sentence. IIf you haven’t figured out by now, you’ll need to read through the existing comments to understand where the story has gone.)
6. PLEASE, leave the sentence here on the blog as a comment, not on Facebook or as a Tweet. Not everyone gets to read it that way and I will not use those sentences in the final story.
7. I will not be able to use crude or vulgar comments. (I realize that will limit some of you from participating, but…)
8. I’m giving up to a week to keep the process going. When it appears the story is concluding, I’ll wrap it up and post all the comments/the story in a single blog post. (If it got really long I may make it two posts.)
9. If you want me to add a link to you/and or your name in the credits of the post, make sure I have that at the end of your sentence. I will share all names I can decipher, so if you don’t want your name in the credits let me know.
10. Have fun and be creative.

Here’s the first sentence:

“Carolyn knew not to question the timing, but she had never experienced anything like this before now.”

Now go! Add a comment with the next line.

Help spread the fun by Tweeting this post.

When I Say I and When I Say We

I was talking with someone the other day about my early experience with church planting before anyone was on our team.  As I told my personal story, I kept using words such as “our” and “we”.  Towards the middle of the conversation the person stopped me and asked, “Who’s ‘we’?”  I was talking about me the whole time, (although I usually just answer my wife and I) but I confused him with my verbiage.  I wasn’t trying to be confusing.  It’s just a habit I’ve formed.  I have come to realize over the years that a team vocabulary is a large part of encouraging healthy teams.  I love teams and team-building so much that I’ve disciplined myself to always talk in a collective sense.

I cringe when I hear leaders use the words “I”, “me, and “my” when referring to their team, their church or organization.  To me it always sounds so controlling, prideful, and even arrogant.  As an example, Ben Reed is our small groups pastor at Grace Community Church.  He’s an amazing leader.  I would give anything to have been where he is at his age when I was that same age.  When I refer to him, I don’t say “He’s my small groups guy”.  He’s not!  He’s our small groups guy.  I don’t want to portray to him or others that I control him. I want the perception to be that “we” together are part of a team effort.  I would be limiting his potential if I refer to him in a possessive sense.

I understand it may seem to just be semantics, but to me it’s an important issue for leaders to think through, perhaps bigger than to whom some give credence.  If we truly want to create a team environment, then we must develop team vocabularies.

There are a few times when I use the personal words, such as:

  • When offering a pointed direction… “I am asking you to do this for the team…”
  • When offering an opinion that may not be shared by others…  “I think we should…”
  • When asking a question or stirring discussion… “I wonder if we could…”

When I am speaking on behalf of the team or referring to team members, I try to use a collective term…My advice is to default to words like “we” and “our” whenever possible…even if people have to ask you who the “we” is to whom you are referring. The more we talk like a team the more our environments will feel like a team.

What do you think?  Have you had a leader who abused team vocabulary as described?  Do you need to change the way you say things?

Two Negative Extremes of Leadership

The two extremes of leadership I see that drive me crazy are the controlling leader and the hands off leader.

Have you noticed these extremes of leadership?

Most leaders tend to lean towards one or the other extreme. I’ve even seen some leaders who live in one of the two extremes, sometimes alternating between the two. They never learn the healthy balance between the two.

Effective leadership requires a little of each extreme.  It requires a careful selection of elements of control and elements of release.  Good leaders are willing to wrestle through the difficulties and continually practice to achieve the right amount of each.

Have you seen these two extremes in leaders?

Which of these extremes do you lean towards to the most?

How do you strike a healthy balance?

Every Organization Needs Some Good Bad Ideas

I love a good bad idea…don’t you?

The truth is…in a healthy organization…there really are no bad ideas…at least not in the organizational sense.

Here’s what I mean…

If you have someone on your team who is coming up with ideas…who is trying to do their best for the organization…who understands and buys into your vision…then every idea he or she has holds the potential to be a good idea.

Even the so-called bad idea usually triggers another better idea, which often leads to the best idea…

It launches discussion…it generates momentum…it spurs dialogue…

Sometimes the best ideas start because someone offered what others at first thought was a bad idea.

Effective brainstorming often involves a lot of bad ideas that help shape the best ideas.

Part of healthy team building is creating a culture where all ideas can come to the table, no idea is dismissed, and there is a freedom to critique, scrap and improve ideas.

If you start labeling bad ideas you shut down team member’s willingness to share more ideas…

Great leaders learn to welcome all ideas…bad ones and good ones…knowing that it encourages idea generation…and that ideas are a lifeline of a growing, healthy organization…

Perhaps the bad idea you’ve been tempted to dismiss is an open door to your next masterpiece idea.

What do you think? Does your organization welcome bad ideas?  Have you seen one bad idea stir a discussion that led to a good idea?

Was I Thinking Of You This Morning?

I was thinking about you this morning. Maybe not you specifically, but I was thinking of someone like you…that is if you are someone who is sitting on the sidelines afraid to pursue your God-given dreams, watching the world pass you by.  Was I thinking of you?

Maybe it’s because I encounter many people at their point of desperation…when they are tempted to give up…

It could be because I’m wired to dream big dreams…or because I’ve been sidelined for a time…watching everyone else pursuing their dreams except me…

But, for whatever the reason, I continually sense the need to encourage people to move forward with their dreams and aspirations.

Have you thought lately about the legacy you are leaving? Will you leave a legacy of having followed the dreams you had for your life?

If that’s your desire for a legacy…you may have to:

  • Take a risk…
  • Face the fear of the unknown…
  • Resist the temptations to give up…
  • Ignore the negative voices in your life…
  • Say yes again to God’s call on your life…
  • Release the guilt of the past by receiving God’s forgiveness…

What is your dream?
What is holding you back?
What legacy are you aiming to leave behind?

What will you allow to be the greatest pull on your heart?

Go for your dream…get started today!

The Summit, by Eric Alexander: A Book To Challenge and Inspire

What are you afraid of?

Do you have a dream you haven’t tackled out of fear?

Have you allowed your weaknesses, even your disabilities to hold you back from all God would have for you?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you MUST read this book.  Buy it HERE now.

The Summit, by Eric Alexander, retells the story of Eric’s powerful story and his unique life journey of guiding people with disabilities to the most perilous places of the world, including Mount Everest’s first blind ascent. In The Summit: Faith Beyond Everest’s Death Zone you will follow in their historic footsteps, and learn about faith, trust, prayer, depending on God, as well as the perseverance needed during these climbs and in your own life. Be inspired and motivated by Eric’s insight, not simply to survive but to thrive every day in God’s grace.

You can even read the first two chapters free HERE. Can’t pass that up!

Be inspired, be challenged, be moved…Read this book! There is also a Kindle edition at Amazon, which is what I purchased.

Watch this video:

What is the one fear you want to conquer? Share it here!

Don’t Shy Away from the Word Balance

Over the years, I’ve heard differing opinions on the use of the word balance. I’ve learned there are many who actually hate the use of the word. For example, some say the life of a Christian is never balanced because God wants all of our lives. I couldn’t agree more. Others say it’s impossible to balance between work and home because one of them deserves our greatest energy (our home), and yet the two extremes will always compete for our best time and energy. I completely agree. In those contexts, I agree balance should not be our goal. We should prioritize our life around the extremes of life, ensuring that those things we value most receive our greatest attention.

Balance, however, doesn’t always mean things are equal. I prefer to use the term balance to describe how a person responds to the extremes of life. Balance to me means a person learns to stand up…keep their equilibrium, even when things in life are not equal…out of balance. When life is crazy, which it often is, the person of balance learns to juggle each area where over time none of them has to suffer. A balanced person prioritizes his or her life around what is most important, for me, that means first my relationship with God, then my family, then my work and my service to others, and then organizes life in a way where each area receives adequate attention for success.

I realize much of this discussion is semantics, but i believe it has importance in principle also. People who want to achieve success in all areas of their life must find ways to give adequate attention to each area, without neglecting those things/people of greatest importance in life. That requires balance. (The Proverbs 31 woman had balance.) I met with a new father recently and he’s having to learn how to balance marriage, parenting, and his work life, while attempting to be successful in each part of his life. He’s learning balance.

The leaders and people I respect most in life are those I see learning to balance success in all areas of their life…at home…at work…and in the world.

Don’t shy away from the word balance. Just learn to use it well. Gaining a sense of balance is a process that often takes years and even a few stumbling moments to accomplish, but it’s worth the challenge.

What does the term balance mean to you? In what area of your life are you most out of balance?

Preparing to Recover in the Moment

Yesterday morning I was scheduled to do the welcome at Grace Community Church. After the first song, I was scheduled to come on stage, welcome people to the service, and we would continue worship. It was that simple. Before the second service, I was in a meeting in another part of the building. All of a sudden I thought to look at the time. The service had started and I was late. I jumped up and started running for the auditorium. I arrived just in time to hear one of our worship leaders covering for my absence. I was mortified. Thankfully, Dustin covered for me.

The incident, however, served a purpose, because I was reminded of an important principle. No one on our team should be irreplaceable.

Is your staff prepared to recover in the event of a no-show? Do you cross train for every position?

Things can happen. People get sick. People leave the team…sometimes quickly. Scattered brained pastors get distracted.

Take a minute to review your organization. Where are the positions that would still be empty if key people aren’t in their place? What changes need to be made in your organization, so you can continue in spite of any absences?

Friday Discussion: The Christian’s Role in Politics

Thanks for being a part of Friday discussion. You can now check out the past Friday discussions in a newly created category HERE. Continue to add your thoughts on those subjects.

For today, let’s discuss politics. You aren’t afraid of that, are you?

So let me jump in quick: I grew up in a church environment where to be a “good Christian” you had to belong to the “right” party. It was an easy decision who to vote for, because most everyone around me, or at least the vocal crowd, were Republicans. And, you weren’t just any Republican, you were a very conservative, James Dobson Republican. I’m not trying to be offensive, but that was the environment in which I lived.

In my church today, and among many of the younger generation with whom I minister, that seems to have changed. They seem far less concerned about parties (much as they are far less concerned about denominations), than they are about causes and issues.

Do you see a change? Let’s discuss politics today. Consider these specific questions. You can answer all, certain ones, or give a general answer regarding politics today and the role of the believer in the process.

Do Christians have a party of choice today? Does it matter as much to you whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican?

Can or should a Christian run for office…be involved in the political process….vote?

What about a pastor? Could a pastor serve in an elected office in your opinion?

Would you be more inclined, less inclined, or neutral on voting for a person if you heard he or she was also a Christian?

Where are we today in this culture and where is a Christian’s involvement going?

Share your thoughts…discuss…(But be kind)

Let’s talk politics…

4 Times a Leader Should Strategize on Making a Decision

This post continues the thought of strategic thinking in the moment. To completely understand this post, make sure you read the first two posts in this series HERE and HERE.

Strategic thinking comes naturally for me. I have tons of weaknesses, but thinking in a strategic sense is not one of them. If anything, I’m so strategic that it becomes a weakness. I’m not sure, however, that all leaders naturally think strategically. For defining purposes, I’m using the word strategy to involve thinking through the how, when, where, who and what questions when making a decision.  

As a leader, I am very familiar with the “gut call” of leadership; where a leader must make quick, decisive decisions.  (I even wrote about that concept HERE.)  All leaders, however, if they want to be successful, must use strategy when making decisions.  Developing loyal followers and protecting the organization’s future demands strategic thinking, so all leaders must learn to think strategically. Often that comes through discipline, if not through personal wiring. Thankfully, not all decisions a leader makes requires using strategy, but when it does…

Here are four times the leader must think strategically:

The answer is uncertain – I love risk, but the leader must weigh the risk with the future of the organization. Ultimately the leader has responsibility for the success of the organization, so a leader has to make final calls as to whether or not a risk is worth the risk. That requires strategic thinking.

The issue affects more than the leader – One flaw in leadership is when the leader thinks only about how he or she views the decision and not how the decision affects other people. The wise leader thinks strategically to determine the people aspect of a decision.

The issue is subject to resistance – Most change is subject to resistance, but if a decision is automatically going to involve a battle for acceptance, then a leader must strategically plan the way the decision is introduced and implemented.

The issue changes an agreed upon direction – When people get excited about a direction the organization is going and they invest their heart and energy into heading in that direction, they are naturally more resistant to a change in the direction. Good leaders think strategically how this change will be received and how it should be communicated so people transfer enthusiasm for the new direction.

Leaders, what do you think? Are you strategically thinking through important decisions?

Followers, have you seen these areas backfire against a leader who fails to think strategically?

What would you add to my list?