7 Signs It’s Not Really A Team

power meeting from above

In my world the word team is used almost on a daily basis. Most of us want to be in a team environment. However, in my experience working with churches – and it was true when I was in business also – more people claim to have it than actually do. 

I still see more control than empowerment. I see more internal silos than I see true cooperation. I see rules and policies being used to restrict actions – or so-called “protect” the organization – than I see freedom to explore as individuals within the healthy structure of a defined team objective. 

I’ve learned to look for a few signs when someone tells me they have a team environment. 

Here are 7 signs it’s really not a team:

One person makes all the decisions. Most who think they have a true team culture will skip this one, because many times they don’t even see it happening. But, if everyone has to wait for the team “leader” to make a decision – or if things continually stall because one person hasn’t yet voiced their opinion – it’s probably less of a team than proposed.  On a team, at some point, everyone sits in a seat of authority. There is a mutual trust and empowerment of others. 

Everyone doesn’t have a key role. On a real team – all players are needed. They may not all play the same amount of time and they fill different positions, because everyone is valued. 

There are multiple agendas. One thing which makes it a team is everyone is playing for the same objective. Without this there is more competition than there is cooperation. 

Communication is controlled. Teams share information. They continually update one another on what they are individually contributing to the team and weigh in on decisions. Team dynamics are damaged with only a few people know everything for when the most important conversations are held — or decisions are made for the team — outside the team.  

Conflict is seen as a threat. Healthy teams work through conflict and remain cooperative and supportive of one another.  Everyone is allowed to challenge ideas and offer opposition, but in a way which can make the team stronger and learn how to work better together. 

Every person is for themselves. The greatest value of a team is in the collective wisdom and shared workload. Healthy teams cross-train so they can pick up slack for others when needed. When teams function more as individuals than as a team members can become overwhelmed, frustrated and eventually burnout.  

Celebration is received individually over collectively. It will always be moments where one member is getting more recognition than another. But, on healthy teams, wins are celebrated together. No one claims personal credit for the victories. 

Those are a few clues which tell me it’s really not a team. There are certainly others. (Be a part of my team and add your own in the comments.)

You can call it what you want – could be a group, or an association, or even an organization. 

But it’s not a team. 

And, I’d probably call it a crowd.

One way to process this post is to discuss it with your “team”. Perhaps even let them respond to it anonymously. 

It should be noted. There are times when we don’t need a team. We need a leader who will stand even if alone and lead people to places they can’t yet see but where they need to go. I have found those times to be rare when I have a healthy team. This post addresses teams – and we need them more often. 

5 Shared Characteristics Needed to do Church Planting or Church Revitalization

Typical Rural Icelandic Church under a blue summer sky

Church planting is a difficult, but rewarding assignment in ministry. So is church revitalization. I’ve been trying to make the case we need both — planting and revitalization. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for those who want to start a church or transition it to grow again.

I’ve been blessed with both experiences. In fact, having only been in ministry about 15 years, my only experience is in one of the two. I’ve been in two churches needing to revitalize and two church plants.

And, from this experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be an effective in both worlds:

An entrepreneurial spirit

There is an element of enjoying risk — certainly of being willing to assume risk — in most church planters and church revitalization pastors I have met. You have to love things which are new and growing. There needs to be an entrepreneurial spirit about them, embrace change readily and becoming bored with status-quo. This characteristic can bring it’s own problems, which leads to number two.

Willingness to be patient

Effective planters or revitalization pastors are willing to be patient for God to do His work. The balance between these first two is a constant challenge, because church planters and revitalization pastors are wired to want continual growth, but to be effective they must develop a good plan, surround themselves with the right people, and then wait as God does His work among them.

Have people who believe in you

Church planting or church revitalization is not to be a lone ranger activity. Without the structure of an established church, church planters must depend on people to help develop ministries and systems. Effective church planters learn to rely on volunteers for success and are willing to share leadership and responsibility with others to plant the church. Revitalization pastors are changing an establishment. This can be brutal. There must be some key leaders in the church who will back them in their work – and be there through the hard decisions where it will sometimes seem they have more enemies than friends.

Healthy family life

Church planting and revitalization is a family activity. In both worlds, to be effective, he or she must have a healthy family life. Ministry is tough — this is true for all ministries, but church planting and revitalization, because of the unique uncertainties and risks involved, places additional stress on a marriage and family. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must begin with and maintain a healthy families.

Close, intimate walk with God

Church planting and revitalization will test a person’s faith many times. Church planting is not always popular in some church communities and can make a planter feel like an outcast in the church community. Revitalization brings challenge to leadership from within. The risks involved and the waiting process challenge both. Like all ministries, these are acts of faith and require constant communication with God. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must continue to build and draw upon a strong relationship with Christ throughout the process. When I speak to pastors these days, I close with one word of encouragement: YOU MUST PROTECT YOUR SOUL. No one will do this for you. There will always be more demands on your time than you have time. You’ll have to discipline yourself to regularly sit with the Creator of your soul.

Again, many of these are not unique to church planters or revitalization pastors and are shared by others in ministry — even in many secular settings — but my experience as a planter and revitalization pastor leads me to believe these are critical needs for these ministries.

7 Steps to Thinking Strategically in the Moment

man thinking

Have you ever said something you wished later you hadn’t?

It was a quick response, they needed a decision now — or thought they did — so you fired off an answer. Looking back now — you might have answered differently with more information or time to process.

Happens all the time.

What the leader says can negatively impact other people or the organization. Good leaders have to learn to think strategically — even when making quick decisions.

Most leaders make hundreds of decisions a day and many of those require very little thought. If a leader is asked a question or has to make a decision where an answer has already been clearly defined, then the leader can move quickly. When the issue, however, has an undetermined solution, especially if the decision could alter the direction of the organization, impact other people or require a change in the organization’s finances, then the leader needs to learn to think strategically in the moment.

How do we make strategic decisions quickly? How can we make the best decisions in the shortest amount of time?

Here are 7 tips for a leader to think strategically in the moment:

Pray

I think we have devalued the short, urgent, sudden prayer. (I love to pray Psalm 69:1.) I don’t think God does. I think He responds to the prayers of His people. “If any of you lacks wisdom…”, James reminds us. Getting into the practice of sentence prayers invites God’s gentleman Spirit to join you in the decision-making process. And, I’m not devaluing the human mind or experience. I think God wants us to think. But, remember, this post is addressing making quick, important decisions strategically — decisions I’ve possibly never made before. I don’t want to make those on my own.

Take notes

I always take notes while listening. This allows me to see the situation in writing while I think through a response. If I’m not certain I understand the situation, seeing my notes allows me to ask for further clarification. If I’m in my office, I have a huge painted dry-erase wall. I may diagram different scenarios of the answer. If taking notes is not an option and the answer is not definite — I always postpone the answer. This helps me avoid making major decisions on the run.

Listen intently

This is a problem for some leaders — especially busy, highly creative leaders. It’s one I struggle with personally. Many leaders (this one included) have problems with details. Accustomed to making quick and many decisions, leaders often try to solve an issue on the spot rather than have to deal with it later. This is a great approach for the issues that have a defined solution already, but if it’s committing to something that hasn’t been decided yet, it could be dangerous. I try to listen for enough details to make a wise decision, but if I know I can’t make a quick decision based on the information I have time to hear, then I delay making one.

Think “NEXT”

This is really formed by habit, but it involves training yourself to always ask the question,”How will this decision impact other people and the organization?” If I am uncertain, I know it is be best to delay deciding on the issue until I can give it adequate time for consideration. Many leaders make decisions that others have to live with because they didn’t take time to think through the best answer. Thinking “NEXT” means I am thinking of the repercussions, which will come “next” after the decision is made.

Discipline Mouth

“Keeping a tight reign” on your tongue is actually a Biblical concept. Part of spiritual and personal growth is to mature in the area of what a leader says. The more responsibility a leader receives the more critical it becomes that he or she practice discipline with their words. This is a continuous work in progress for me, but over the years I have learned to hold my tongue until I have thought through a response.

Invite input

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22) One of my favorite questions is, “What would you do?” I ask the person asking for a decision from me. I ask others on our team. I’m not afraid to pause and phone a friend. I ask my wife. I ask the people who have to live with the answer. The more time we have for an answer the more people I’m likely to ask.

Value Waiting

Waiting is never a bad idea if it leads to a better decision. I realize time is of the essence in most decisions these days – especially in an organizational sense, but equally important is protecting the vision, the morale of the team or the organization’s future. Plus, I have learned by experience there is a value in caged momentum — making people wait for the best time to give the best answer. Obviously there is an opportunity cost of waiting too long. The leader should not be a bottleneck as people wait for an answer. And, the leader should empower people to make the majority of decisions. But, when the answer has huge implications the leader should not be afraid to say, “give me a few minutes (or some reasonable amount of time) to process.”

There are a few of my thoughts on thinking strategically in the moment. Leaders, the better decisions we make the better our organizations will be. Let’s be strategic.

Could this be a discipline you need to practice?

Playing it Safe — Not My Style — And, Often Not God’s Plan

parachute

A few years ago, I observed a characteristic in me I hope is not permanent.

After our boys moved out of the house, we moved to a downtown condo. The condo sat on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We loved the view, but it presented a problem on windy days. We had to weatherize our front porch every time we suspected a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything was secure.

One night Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. What she really meant was I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used this phrase a few years ago.

“Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me.

I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I lived my life running to things others say can’t be done or they aren’t willing to try. 

Even more, I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith — but this is more than a spiritual decision. It’s a personal wiring. It’s in my DNA.

In fact, I’m scared of “better safe than sorry“.

What happened to me? Am I that old? :)

So, I came up with an immediate plan.

Shortly after this, my oldest son and I have went skydiving!

We jumped out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I had to! I couldn’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post? You’re wondering, right?

Well, if you’re like me, the older you get, the more likely you are to play it “better safe than sorry”. You want to be comfortable. You want to pay your bills and keep your children in the right schools and plan for retirement and live in a safe neighborhood. I get it. And, all of those are okay. There’s nothing wrong with living a so-called “normal” life.

Unless God calls you to something else.

And, if God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand — I have some strong advice. It’s wisdom! It’s strongly Biblical.

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

I’m not suggesting you don’t weatherize your house. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump out of a plane. 

But, I am suggesting you be willing to do everything God asks you to do — even when it’s scary, the future is uncertain, and you don’t have a clue how in the world you are going to do it.

Regardless of your age – or your fears. 

And, maybe you do need some disciplined risk-taking to stretch your ability to make the big moves again.

God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

Why I Don’t Always Give People an Answer – Even When They Come to Me for Answers

multicultural mentor

I have a theory I practice often.

I’ve been using it for many years — as a leader, father, a friend, and a pastor. It’s not always what people come looking to me for, but I think it’s the best practice.

I don’t always give people answers.

  • As a pastor, people come to me for answers.
  • As a dad, my boys come to me for answers.
  • As a friend, people come to me for answers.
  • As a leader of a team, people come to me for answers.

In either case, I don’t always give people answers.

I don’t try to solve their problems for them.

I know that seems hard to understand – maybe even cruel of me. 

Now, if there is a clear Biblical answer for their problem or issue, I give it to them – as I understand it. I’m talking about the issues more difficult to discern. Things such as career choice decisions, the calling in life decisions, who to marry, how to respond to a marriage conflict, etc. — the unwritten answer type decisions.

For those type issues, I probably have an opinion, but I almost never “have” the answer.

Instead…

I help people discover a paradigm through which to make the decision.

  • I become an objective listener.
  • I help them see all sides of the issue.
  • I share Scriptures whigh may speak to both sides of the decision.
  • I serve as an outside voice.
  • I connect them with people who have experienced similar issues.
  • I may diagram the problem, as I hear it, so they can see the issue on paper.
  • I help them learn to pray and listen to God.

And then I release them to make a decision.

Here is my reasoning…

If I solve the problem:

  • I’m just another opinion — and I may be wrong.
  • They’ll resent me if it proves to be a wrong decision.
  • They may never take ownership of the issue.
  • They’ll likely do what they want anyway.
  • They won’t learn the valuable skills of listening to the voice of God.
  • They won’t learn from experience.
  • They will only need someone to give them the answer next time.

My advice:

Don’t always have an answer.

Help people form a paradigm through which to to solve their problems or make decisions.

Leaders, parents, friends – ideally you want people to develop healthy decision-making skills. You want them to gain independence and be able to stand on their own. If you’re always making the decisions for them they will never they will never become all they can be individually.

Are you too quick to have an answer sometimes?

Olive Tree Parenting – Growing Children of Character

Smiling little boy digging in vegetables garden

Every time I write about parenting, people email me asking for more. I understand.

Parenting is hard work.

Most people who follow my ministry closely know this is one area of my life I have taken very serious. One specific desire Cheryl and I had in raising our boys was encouraging them to love Christ and display His character. It’s great to teach our children how to play sports or to do well in school, and I think we should, but our greatest goal should be to help them be people who aspire to have good character – specifically the character of Christ.

Recognizing the Bible is a great guide to do this, I once developed a model for parenting called Olive Tree Parenting.

This model is based upon a couple verses of Scripture.

Psalm 128:3 says, “Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.”
Psalm 144:12 says, “Our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants.”

Here are a few facts I’ve read about olive trees:

  • They were a symbol of peace and happiness to Hebrews.
  • It takes some varieties 8-10 years to even bear fruit.
  • It takes 20-50 years for an olive tree to be mature and really productive.
  • No one knows for sure how long they grow, but estimate is at least 300-600 years, with some estimates up to 2000 years.
  • When the tree trunk of an olive tree dies new sprouts come out keeping the tree alive.
  • Olive trees are evergreens.

Do you see any parallels there in raising children – or your desires for them in life?

I firmly believe we are more likely to get out of life what we actually aim for, so our goal became to raise children to be adults that bear righteous fruit for generations. We began to think strategically how to develop Biblical characteristics of fruit in our two boys.

The Bible also gives us some clear indication of what righteous fruit looks like.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Here are some suggestions to encourage each of these fruits to grow:

LOVE
Love is the first fruit mentioned and perhaps the most important. Jesus said “love” was the greatest command for us all. I don’t believe we can teach our child to love. We must model it for them.

Here are some actions you can take, however, to instill this fruit in their heart.

  • Ask your children questions about their life. Get to know your child and what they are thinking.
  • Do everything in love — even discipline. (They will know when you are not acting in love. You will too.)
  • Discipline. Don’t neglect discipline in “the name of love”. Discipline should actually be an indication you love them enough to train them to do the right thing.
  • Watch how you treat other groups of people — including other races and ethnic groups.
  • Watch your child’s attitude — always recognize attitudes over actions (1 Sam. 16:24) and respond accordingly.
  • Love your children’s friends.
  • Be kind to your neighbors, friends and family. They are watching.
  • Get involved in church and community not out of compulsion, but because you love other people.

JOY
The goal of producing joy is not to make your children happy – even though most parents rightly want that for their children. The Bible makes a distinction between joy and happiness. (Psalm 68:3)

Here are some actions you can take to instill the fruit of joy in your child’s heart:

  • Don’t reward everything. Life should not be a big celebration. Life shouldn’t revolve around the next big event.
  • Have a sense of humor. Have fun parenting. Let them see you enjoying life.
  • Be positive. Children can’t take the pressure and stress of life that an adult has to handle.
  • Allow your children to enjoy life at the age they are – without trying to make them someone they are not.
  • Life is difficult and there will be trials, but let your children see you use trials as something you learn from and have faith during; trusting that God will work all things for good.
  • Remind yourself Scripture says to “be joyful always”. Model it for them.

PEACE
Peace is a foundation for other great character traits you will want your children to have. The Bible says we can have peace that is there regardless of the storms of life. I know many adults who would like this kind of peace themselves. You would certainly want it for your children.

Here are some actions you can take to model peace for your children:

  • Pray for your children daily in their presence. This shows them the importance of prayer and relying on God for daily strength.
  • Teach them to pray. Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Help your children understand they can talk with God anytime. They will catch on quickly. Faith comes much easier when built as a child.
  • Let them see you read your Bible regularly. Truth can ground us when we are afraid or stressed.
  • Talk about your faith. Peace is found in a relationship and they need to see that modeled for them.
  • Remain cool in stressful situations – as best as you can. It’s okay that they see you emotional, but they should quickly see you display a peace that surpasses understanding.

PATIENCE
This is a tough one for me, because it is one of my weak points, but it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit God has encouraged us to have. And, our children need it greatly.

Here are some actions to help your children have this trait:

    • Let them see you waiting patiently. (If my boys or my wife reads this they will be wondering when they will see this in me. Still, I have had to wait for many big picture things in my life many times. I’ve attempted to do so patiently.)
    • Make children wait sometimes. Yes, I said it. Children shouldn’t get everything right away and they certainly shouldn’t be able to demand it with temper-tantrums or tears. One statistic I read says that children today get 90% of everything they want, yet as adults they will get less than 25%. We are setting them up for failure when we give them everything.
    • Don’t be a complainer. Do everything without complaining or arguing.(Phil 2:14)
    • Don’t let your children think they are the center of the universe. They are not – actually God is. Encourage them, but don’t crown them kings.

KINDNESS
Kindness could be defined as “genuine friendliness, helpfulness and generosity”.

Here are some ways to instill kindness in your children:

  • Be a giver and not a taker. Let your children see you giving to others regularly.
  • Never let children see you being unkind to the cashier or waitress.
  • Know your neighbors and actually have concern for them.
  • Never allow degrading comments to be made to other family members.
  • Care for the hurting people of the world.
  • Be a regular giver/servant at church and in the community.

GOODNESS
Jesus said “well done good and faithful servant” and “a good tree produces good fruit”. This is the opposite of bad. (Makes sense, huh?)

Here are some suggestions to instill goodness in your children:

  • Reward good acts towards others.
  • Give extra praise to your children for doing good things. (This can be done verbally and doesn’t always mean buying something.)
  • Never let them see their parents argue and fight.
  • Demand respect always. They don’t always have to agree, but they should always have to respect.
  • Always declare truthfulness. Never let them see you telling lies; even “little white lies”.
  • Teach prompt obedience. Don’t let them “think about” obeying you. This is especially true for younger children.

FAITHFULNESS
Children will be as faithful as you are, so in order to see them grow into faithful individuals you will have to model it for them.

Here are some action steps to help the process:

  • Be faithful early in their life to what you want them committed to later in life. If you want them to go to church as adults then take them faithfully as children.
  • If you commit to doing something then do it. Let your Yes be yes and your No be no.
  • Be an anchor in their life in whom they can always depend upon.
  • Be faithful in all relationships. They are watching.
  • Be consistent. If it is morally wrong today — it is tomorrow.
  • Let them know they can depend on you to do what you said you would do for and with them.
  • Let them find you in your devotion and quiet time on a consistent basis.

GENTLENESS
The word means “not harsh”. It doesn’t mean to be a “mealy mouse” and it doesn’t mean to avoid discipline. It means to be gentle — even in your anger. In John 2, when Jesus went into temple to drive out the money-changers, He first made a whip. It was a definite and determined response, but it was “gently” planned.

Here are some steps you can take to instill this character trait in your children:

  • Grant forgiveness easily. Don’t hold grudges against those who have wronged you.
  • Don’t let your children fear coming to you about anything, because of the way you may react.
  • Get down to the children’s level when trying to explain something or in the way you respond to them.
  • Always be available to talk with your children.
  • Talk gently to your spouse.
  • When there is a disagreement in public, such as in a restaurant, it is okay to protect your interests, but it should always be done with gentleness and respect for the other person. There is never an excuse to be rude or obnoxious.

SELF-CONTROL
The opposite here is being undisciplined. This is an important trait, because it affects all the others.

Here are some action steps to help build self-control into your children:

  • Don’t allow temper tantrums. “Expressing themselves” is not an excuse for unruliness.
  • Learn personal disciplines and model them — things such as daily Bible reading, exercise and tithing.
  • Know sin has consequences and teach this principle to your children. (Unfortunately you may have to model it also.)
  • Use appropriate discipline for each child. All children are different.
  • Determine the motive behind the action before disciplining your children.
  • Provide appropriate tests for them as they mature to see if they can handle a situation. As they get older grant them more and more trust.

There is a final step in the Olive Tree Parenting Model. You must teach your children to abide!

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If our children can learn this skill all these others will become and remain a part of who they are. They will learn this best as they see you doing so.

I’m praying for your parenting.

I need to remind you that this is a “model” – and I wasn’t perfect at doing this. Some I did better than others. The fact is, however, we seldom hit a target we aren’t aiming for – so make this your goal and you will find it easier to achieve than with no plan at all.

A Powerful Lesson from Jesus in Handling Conflict

A braided leather whip

Some lessons you learn the hard way in life and leadership.

Take for example a recent principle I posted about attributes of a maturing leader. I shared that a maturing leader has learned never to respond immediately in anger. Shortly after the post went live I was interviewed about it for a leadership podcast. They questioned me on how I learned that one.

Well, most of the time you learn those things by responding in anger and regretting it later. And, this has happened to me a multiple of times. I once released a good employee in anger, for example. I regretted it ever since.

Many years ago, however, I was convicted by Scripture. (Isn’t this what Scripture is supposed to do?)

I read a passage I had read many times, but I saw something this particular time I’d not previously noticed.

See if you catch it in this  John‬ ‭2:13-16 passage:

“The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace! ””

Did you catch it? Did you see the powerful leadership principle about responding in anger?

Yes? If so then you were convicted too most likely. 

It’s huge. It will change the way you deal with people in tense or confrontational environments.  

If you didn’t catch it, read it one more time. This time the emphasis is mine. 

The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace! ”” 

Make sense now? He made a whip. Before Jesus cleared out the temple – He made a whip. Handcrafted whip. 

Have you ever made a whip out of cords – a whip strong enough to drive out people bent on making money through unrighteous means?

I have to be honest. I never have made a whip in my life. I don’t know how long it took to make whips in Jesus days, but it certainly wasn’t instantaneous. 

There was time for reflection. Time to think. Time to process. Time to make a plan. Time to pray.

Suddenly the scene I had in my head of Jesus seeing the activity in the temple and going wild with anger was not the same.

I can picture Jesus sitting on the steps of the temple, talking to His Father. (The Scripture says He did nothing except what the Father told Him.)

Maybe the dialogue went something like this:

God, how do you want me to respond to this?

They are in the temple, money-changing. I know how You feel about that. It’s Your house. It’s supposed to be a House of Prayer.

What should I do? How serious should I take this?

(Twisting the leather a little tighter.)

You know, God, they are going to be writing about this for a very long time. This scene may even appear in the movies someday. 

Help me know how to respond. 

It wasn’t a rash decision. It wasn’t unrehearsed. He didn’t respond purely out of emotion.

To me it has the appearance of being a very calculated, methodical, strategic move.

Over the years of leadership, since I realized how Jesus actually cleared the temple and facing lots of critics and conflicts of my own, I’ve made a lot of figurative whips. Perhaps someday I’ll even make a real one – and hang it on my wall. I’ve taken time before responding to think, process, develop a plan. And, all this in the spirit of prayer. 

In the process – of being more calculated, methodical, and strategic – it’s made me a better leader. It’s helped me respond better. 

And, here’s the other thing I discovered. Often, once I’ve made the figurative whip – I didn’t need to actually use it. In fact, and here’s the real life lesson, sometimes the process led me to understand I was the one who was wrong. Ouch!

When you’re facing conflict in life and leadership — when you’re angry — take time to make a whip. It changes everything.

4 Ways I Know When to Say No to Seemingly Good Things

no

Age and maturity has helped me better discern what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve equally learned – through many different seasons – there are often more opportunities than time in life – even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. I have recently had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”. They were things I wanted to do. But, as much as they lined with my strengths, passions, and dreams, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing — perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are 4 ways I know when to respond no:

God’s calling on my life says no.

This trumps all the others. This applies to many decisions, but let me use my vocation as an example. I do not believe I’m called to a place as much as I’m called to a Person — the Person of Jesus Christ. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in where we serve. There are seasons of life, however, where I know He has positioned me in a place “for such a time as this”. There are things He has called me to complete “at such a times as this” God always has a right to change my assignment, but when He has made the assignment clear the decisions of yes and no should become easier. 

My heart doesn’t line up with this decision.

If I can get no “peace” about saying “yes” it’s time to wait or say no. This requires consistent prayer and wrestling with the decision, but the more I pray the more confident I become in sensing God’s specific will for my life and in this decision.

When it distracts from what God has called me to do.

I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I can only do what I can do. There is nothing wrong with taking assignments just because I want to do them. If, however, it is going to get in the way of my ultimate calling – the right answer – the often difficult, but brave answer – is to say no.

When my personal strengths and interests don’t match the opportunity and I don’t sense an urgency from God.

I have learned situational or physical limitations aren’t a factor if God is in the mix. He can part waters if they are in the way, so I can do things outside of my strengths, but in my life God seems to usually work within the experiences and gifting He has granted me. Why would He waste the investments He has already made in me? Therefore, apart from a sense God is challenging me in a direction outside my gifting, I can rest within the place where He has been preparing me and say no to those He has not.

Discerning the heart of the decision is critical and requires a consistent, close, seeking the heart of God relationship with the Father. I realize it’s much easier to write this post than to live this post, but hopefully this will help you as you too wrestle with the seemingly good, even sometimes seemingly God opportunities.

I wish I had used this paradigm earlier in life, because it would have saved me some heartache.

What “good thing/s” do you need to say “no” to during this season of your life?

Leadership Advice: Be Careful Making Decisions from an Ivory Tower

tower

I was talking with with a pastor recently. He has made some decisions he feels are best for the church. In listening to him, I think he’s probably making good decisions. They are needed from the perspective of where he sits in the organization of the church. His next step was to present the changes to the church.

I asked him how the staff felt about the changes. He said he hand’t told them yet. He had handled it with the elders and they supported him. They would find out with the church.

What? What?

Again, I said, “what”?

I watched this happen when I was in manufacturing. When decisions, which affect the assembly line, are made in the boardroom they seldom work and are always resented. The quality of work diminishes and production stalls.

I watched it happen when I was in sales. When sales procedures are handed down as edicts, without including the input of salespeople, morale is damaged, which ultimately has a negative impact on sales.

In this church and several churches I’ve consulted with over the years, I’ve realized it also happens in churches. When the pastor, or a body of senior leaders, make decisions, which impact the children’s ministry, for example, without the input of people who are actually doing children’s ministry, resentment builds, momentum stalls, and people resist the changes.

I have some advice for ministry leaders — really all leaders.

Be careful making decisions from the so-called “Ivory Tower”.

Many leaders lead with a top down approach, passing down decisions without consulting with those who have to live with the decisions made. It’s easy in leadership to forget real people have to implement your decisions. It’s not helpful, inefficient and, frankly, it’s unkind.

Don’t stand in the tower. Get out among the people you lead. Learn from them and let them give input into the decisions made in the organization.

Great leaders build decisions from the ground up, not from the top down.

5 Suggestions of How to Add Good Structure to an Organization

Constructor sujetando un ladrillo construyendo un muro.

I think there is value in unstructured growth. We shouldn’t be afraid of growth we cannot understand. It’s messier, harder to contain, even uncomfortable at times, but it also keeps leaders energized, maintains momentum, and helps spur exponential growth.

As the organization grows – as strategy changes – additions in structure have to be added. Adding structure, however, can be a painful and disruptive process if not handled carefully. We must add structure strategically.

Too many churches are stalled because when things got messy they simply added a new rule.

The fact is structure should never be too inflexible. It should change with the organization. It should even change at times with the people who are in the organization.

How do you add good, helpful structure?

Here are 5 suggestions to add good structure to an organization:

The change should make sense with the organizational DNA.

We have to be careful altering something in a way which could disrupt the fiber, core, or root foundation of the organization. DNA is formed fast, but changed slowly – and sometimes never. It’s who an organization is and who people have come to expect it to be. It’s hard to disrupt this without disrupting future potential for growth. The structure we will add or change in church revitalization will likely look different from the structure we had in church planting. And every church and organization is unique. 

The structure added should not impede progress.

This seems common sense to me, but I’ve learned this is not always the case. Structure should further enable the completion of the vision, not detract from it. Notice I said progress not grow with this suggestion. It could be you need some temporary structure which slows growth for a season. When I was in city leadership there was a time we needed to slow the pace of growth so we could catch up with infrastructure in the city. I can. We saw that as progress. If it slowed growth forever it would no longer be progress. An organization which never grows will eventually die – hence the following suggestion. The key is structure should consider the future potential for long-term sustainability of the organization. 

It should accommodate or encourage continued future growth.

Again, this should make sense. The problem is we don’t always ask those questions. Structure’s purpose should be to help the organization continue to grow over time. Structure should make things more efficient — not less. Enable not control. 

It should hit the center of acceptance.

Not everyone will agree with any change, but if the structure is universally opposed then it may need to be considered more closely before being implemented. This goes back to the suggestion about DNA. You shouldn’t make change based solely upon popularity – it needs a better thought process than simply what people like. Leadership is never about making people happy. But, at the same time, if you want the structure to be sustainable and helpful it must meet general acceptance – which leads to the last suggestion.  

People should understand the why.

This may be the most important. People are more likely to accept structure when they can identify the value to them and their area of responsibility — but at least the value to the overall organization. I once interviewed Zig Ziglar. He continually said, “If people understand the why they will be less opposed to the what.” I’ve learned how true this principle is over the years. We took a year to make one structural change so people could clearly understood why we were making it. Some still didn’t. Most did. And, it was a widely accepted change in our structure. 

What would you add to my list?