Three Ways I Process Ideas

Perhaps this has happened to you…

You read a Tweet…you hear a message…you read a book, blog post or article…it gives you an idea, encourages you, prompts you to want to take action on the idea…

If you are like me, that thought can soon become lost in a sea of other thoughts and ideas and, as great as it may have seemed at the time, the idea never becomes reality in your life. Weeks, months, or even years later you may even hear the same idea again and remember that you never did anything with it the first time…

I often am asked:  How do you capture great ideas and make them useful in your life?

Here’s a simple system I use…there’s nothing extremely genius about this, but for me it had to become a habit to be successful. Others will have better systems, but this is what I do:

Record it – You are more likely to remember ideas that you write down. I’m always impressed (and slightly nervous) in the restaurants when the waiter doesn’t write down my order, but while this may work for short-term activities, it doesn’t for long-term. Find a system of recording the ideas that come to you. Right now, for me, that’s Evernote. I actually wrote an eBook about how to use it. Find it HERE.  I have used notepads, notes on my iPhone, notebooks, etc. It doesn’t matter what you use as much as that it be a tool you have easy access to throughout the day. Use the napkin method if that’s all you have, but I find having the same tool with me each time an idea comes to me helps me keep up with the ideas better. Ideas hit you randomly, so be prepared to record them as they come.

File it – Part of saving ideas is to have a system to process them effectively. This is an extra step where many people fail, but it is where I take my recorded notes and place them in a file that makes sense to me. One single idea can easily become a blog post, for example, but the sooner I get the idea in a specific file the better chance it has of becoming something useful. For me currently, Evernote allows me to do this seamlessly. If I have a thought for a blog post, I start a file that is for that specific post. New ideas for that same post can be placed straight into that specific file. If the idea is for a future sermon message, I have a file for that message. I have a file for staff meeting notes, lead team meeting notes, etc. The key here is to decide where it needs to go and to use file names that make sense and I will use and remember later. I also have a random file for notes that aren’t yet assigned to a specific use and I periodically go back to this file to attempt to place them in a useable file, but my first attempt is for ideas to immediately be placed in a useable file. (Prior to using Evernote, I took my handwritten notes and typed them into a Word document or Google document filing system. Again, Evernote make this seamless for me right now, but the key is to file them somewhere.)

Use it – The final step for me is to take the files of ideas, notes, and questions and work through the file until it becomes something of use. Again, for me, that could be a blog post, sermon message, meeting I’m attending, or even an email to someone, but I will process that file to make something of it. If I’m looking for a blog post for the next day, for example, the first place I go to is my list of files that I have saved. Normally I have a couple dozen of these waiting for me at any given time. I’m okay having long-term files, but I like to either do something with the file or delete it in a reasonable period of time. This means at some point during my week I discipline myself to look through my list of files and either update them, add thoughts, complete them into something, such as a blog post, or delete them. I have found that with this type of system I tend to gather more notes and ideas than I can use, so it’s okay not to do something tangible with every thought I have, but recording them in this way helps me ensures that I give ample time to process ideas instead of forgetting them.

That’s my system. What works for you? How do you keep ideas from being wasted?

A Week of Thanksgiving – People Who Helped You Professionally

Thanksgiving should be more than a day.

In the United States, we set aside one day a year to ceremonially show our appreciation for all we have been given.  No one would disagree that this practice shouldn’t be limited to just once day.  With that in mind, I thought I’d use part of my blog this week to share a little gratitude.  Throughout this week I’ll be sharing some things and people I’m thankful for in my life.

Today I want to talk about people who have had a huge impact on me professionally.  I’m a pastor now.  I haven’t always been one. I was in the business world for many years before God called me into ministry.  When I think of the process God used to prepare me for ministry, three men immediately come to mind.  There are many people along the way who have helped me, but these three made significant investments in my spiritual maturity and preparation for ministry.

Here are three people who helped me be where I am today professionally:

Dennis Newkirk – Dennis was my pastor during the greatest leap I took in spiritual development.  I once wrote about him in THIS POST.  He challenged me to desire more of Christ and to be like Him.

David Atchison – David was my first official mentor.  David was in ministry after a career in business and met me as a young man while I was in the business world, but wanting to serve Christ.  David’s friendship and counsel prepared me for the days ahead when God would call me out of the business world into ministry.

Larry Riley – Larry was a friend and served on the church staff where I attended as a layperson, before my call to ministry. Larry introduced me to the idea that church could be done differently to reach unchurched people.  I’m in my second church plant now, and it was through Larry’s initial encouragement that the initial seeds were planted in my heart that would eventually become Grace Community Church.

That’s my list (or at least part of the list…there are so many more).  What about you?  Who is someone who, without their investment in your life, you would not be where you are today professionally speaking? You don’t have to share three as I did…but share one person who made the difference.

Pay tribute to them by leaving a comment here. Who knows…they may see this and be encouraged greatly this Thanksgiving season.

Friday Discussion: Are The New TSA Travel Requirements Fair?

What’s your opinion?

Since 9/11 traveling has become much more difficult and time consuming. Our government has assumed new responsibilities as we travel. I am thankful for the diligence of people involved in keeping us safe. Their work should never be taken for granted.

The most active story on my radar this week, however, has been that of the new TSA restrictions on travel. (You can read a Senate hearing transcript about them HERE.) Apparently if you travel airlines in the future you will go through an Xray type machine that shows your body plainly on a screen to ensure you have no hidden weapons or contraband. According to some, you will be basically naked in front of TSA officials. I’ve read that the new body scanners give viewers a pretty good idea of what you look like without your clothes on. If you refuse, in order to fly, you’ll be subject to an extremely thorough pat down by a TSA official of the same sex. My friend Ed Stetzer is advising you to resist these machines, even if you have to face the pat downs. (Read his post HERE.) Another friend Michael Hyatt is addressing the issue with a somewhat different take on his blog. (Read that post HERE.)

I was in Florence, SC recently and a random female passenger was pulled aside and subject to the new style of pat-down search. Honestly, it was very personal…I would have been very intimidated to have the male counterpart.

So here are my questions:

Has the TSA gone too far or is this just being safe? Are we running scared or just being cautious?

Have our rights been violated or is this part of living in a country as large as ours?

Are we overreacting to fear or are we being proactive?

What do you think?

How will you respond to the new regulations?

7 Ways Fraternity Life Shaped Me For Ministry (Guest Post)

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a group of my Sigma Chi fraternity brothers from college.  Some of them I have seen, but not really connected with in twenty years.  It was fun, good to remember old times, and reminded me that they had made positive impacts on my life.  I was a crazy college student sometimes, but the experience has since been used for good many times.

Right after that hang out time, I Tweeted that I should write a post about what I learned in my fraternity days that helped prepare me for ministry. I got lots of reaction, but one in particular appeared to be it’s own post. I decided to make it a guest post by the author.

Ky Bishop is currently Pastor Of Ministries at Woodlands Church in Houston Texas where Kerry Shook is Senior Pastor. He’s been married 25 years to Terri and they have 3 sons ranging from 16 to 20 years of age. Ky lists his fraternity experience as Delta Tau Delta – UTA – 81

Here are 7 ways Ky’s fraternity experience prepared him for ministry:

Don’t make a god out of the organization – It was easy to get caught up in the politics of Fraternity life; organizationally, administratively, etc., and forget that the most significant contribution to your experience were the people you met and built relationships with. The same can happen in church life.

Trust your first impressions and intuition – Listen to that “Still Small Voice” inside when it comes to making friendships and inviting them into your journey. There are a lot of  “Well Intentioned Dragons” out there.

Relational intimacy percolates slowly – Just like good coffee, the best relationships are brewed properly. Instant coffee and instant relationships might be satisfying for a moment, but the heart burn is sure to come.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable – The high level of testosterone in any Frat gathering can lead to disingenuous activity. However, Jesus’ greatest work was done when he humbled himself.

Engage your brain before you engage your tongue – It is easy to get in a spit fight over non-essential matters, however, the one who keeps his cool is the one who wins.

Maintain accountability – Many a lone wolf has gone out on his own only to find himself caught in the trap. The wise Pastor will always share his inner darkness with a trusted confidant.

Intoxication, immaturity and ignorance need to “be controlled” not “in control” – Those three speak for themselves in relationship to Fraternity ways. In relation to the ministry it is easy to become intoxicated with the latest fad, fancy or fetish and allow our immaturity and ignorance to rule. However, when we keep in mind that it is His Kingdom, not ours, that is being built, we will “wait upon Him”.

Thanks Ky.  I couldn’t have said it any better.

What about you?  What would you add to Ky’s list?  Were you in a fraternity or sorority in college? Give your fraternal organization a shout out and share one way it prepared (or didn’t prepare) you for life.

Great Leaders Don’t Take Opportunities Just Because They Can

Part of being a good leader is not taking opportunities even though you can. Sometimes letting your staff do something you could do, maybe even would like to do, is a better for the entire team.

When we launched our church eleven couples took a risk on a dream we felt God was leading us to pursue.  We empowered this core team to do things the way they felt best doing them, as long as they were achieving the vision we knew God was calling us to achieve.  We encouraged them to explore new ideas, become experts in their field of interest, and then released them to dream and build.  It became part of our DNA and we are still allowing people to explore new opportunities.

For example, we had ideas of what we wanted our children’s ministry to look like.  We could have even scripted it for them, but we knew that the best energies would be invested when those doing the ministry actually created the ministry. Almost five years later, there are parts of our children’s ministry I am clueless to how they are done.  Today there are new creative leaders in children’s ministry and they have implemented even more changes, but God has blessed their efforts dramatically, far beyond what we could have commanded them to do.

One of the greatest things a leader can do sometimes is to let go of the right to control.  Good leaders are willing to take a risk on other peoples ideas, knowing that in doing so, others will be more likely to take a risk on their ideas and organizational strength will be enhanced.  If you want to encourage risk-taking, dreaming, creativity and innovation, then you must be willing to empower others with opportunities you can control.

Leader, what opportunity are you currently taking that you need to release the control of to others on your team?

Have you served under a leader who was always taking the best opportunities?

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!