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.

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?

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!

10 Characteristics of Good Leadership (Expanded Version)

It’s been a long time since I wrote the post 10 Characteristics of Good Leadership. It remains one of my most read posts, being found by readers through search engines. Shortly after I wrote the post my friend Jesse Phillips at Catalyst asked me to expand on each item. You can thank Jesse for this post.

In an expanded version, here are 10 characteristics of good leadership:

1. Recognizes the value in other people, so continually invests in others – Good leaders see a large part of their role as developing other leaders. Leadership development takes place in an organization as good leaders begin to share their experiences, good and bad, with others.

2. Shares information with those in the organization – There is a tendency of some leaders to hold information, because information is power, but a good leader knows that the more information the team has that collectively the team is better, which directly benefits the leader.

3. Has above average character – There are no perfect people, but for a leader to be considered good, they must have a character that is unquestioned within the organization. Leadership always draws criticism from someone, so a leader may not be able to get everyone to believe in him or her, but the people who know the leader best should trust the leader’s character.

4. Uses their influence for the good of others - Good leaders are as interested in making a positive difference in people’s lives as they are in creating a healthy profit margin. This doesn’t mean that balance sheets and income statements aren’t important, in fact they are vital for the success of an organization (even non-profits), but a good leader doesn’t separating a desire for helping others from the desire for financial success. Good leaders find ways to leverage financial health to strengthen the well-being of others.

5. Is skillful and competent - Good leaders can be depended on for their professionalism and follow through. You don’t question whether a good leader is going to be able to complete a task. If they don’t know how to do something, they will find someone who does, but they will ensure that a job is done the best way it can be done.

6. Not afraid for others to succeed (even greater than their own success) – Good leaders realize that some followers will outgrow the leader’s ability to develop them any further. Good leaders, however, aren’t threatened by another’s success. They are willing to celebrate as those around them succeed.

7. Serves others expecting nothing in return – Good leaders have a heart of service. They truly love and value people and want to help others for the good of the one being helped, not necessarily for personal gain.

8. Continues to learn – Good leaders are always learning and implementing those learnings into the betterment of the organization. That could be through reading, conferences, web-based learnings, or through other leaders, but also through people who report to the leader.

9. Remains accessible, approachable, and accountable to others – Good leaders don’t isolate themselves from people regardless of the amount of responsibility or power he or she attains. Good leaders willingly seek the input of other people into their professional and personal lives.

10. Is visionary: Thinks for the organization beyond today – Good leaders are always thinking beyond today. “What’s next?” is a common question asked by good leaders, knowing that someone must continually encourage change, growth and strategic thinking for an organization to remain healthy.

What do you think of the expanded list? Do you agree with my assessment of good leaders? What would you add to my list?

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?

Public Recognition Makes a Difference

We have an all staff retreat yesterday (Friday) and today (Saturday). A couple times a year we get away to dream, plan, evaluate, critique, and stretch ourselves. A great part of that is the relationship-building that takes place as we are in the same place for hours at a time. Friday night our spouses joined us for a meal and fellowship and Saturday morning we have a session with staff and spouses. It helps us get buy-in from the families of Grace staff.

One of the take-away challenges for us Friday was to encourage another staff member. We drew names of everyone in the room and were asked to email that name with an encouragement, including everyone else to see the email. I picked the name Katrina Watts. Katrina leads our preschool ministry. Here is the email I sent Katrina: (You should know that Katrina’s mom was one of the most godly women I have known and passed away a few years ago.)

Katrina, this week when I was pulling together the Myers Briggs information to use today, I found your mom’s assessment where we did it as a community group. I realized that you and she share the same type. It made me further realize (I’ve been noticing it for a while) that you are your mom. You have your mom’s heart for people. You have your mom’s desire to invest in everyone around you. You have your mom’s passion for worship. You have your mom’s sincerity. You have your mom’s pure heart for God. You are your mom’s daughter.

You are maturing into a woman of God in the way of your mother, and as you know, in my book, that is an incredible compliment. God is going to use you to impact and influence people in ways you’ll never know. Your mother never knew the positive impression she made on so many people and you may never know either, but God knows and others are taking notice. Be challenged to live out your faith boldly. Even when you have no confidence in yourself, God is fully confident in you. Trust the character and heart God is building in you. Allow God to continue to stretch and mold you. Your best days are still to come.

I love you my sister in Christ and I’m thankful to be on your team!

Ron

I share this to ask:

1. Who do you need to encourage today?
2. How does your staff/team retreat together?
3. Do you serve on an encouraging team?

I’d love to hear from you. (It would encourage me!)

5 Characteristics Needed to be a Church Planter

Recently I posted a funny video about what it takes to be a church planter. Want a laugh? Watch it HERE. I decided it might be a good idea to share what I really believe is necessary to be a church planter. Church planting is a difficult, but rewarding assignment in ministry. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for church planters.

From experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be an effective church planter:

Love of risk – There is an entrepreneurial heart in most church planters I have met. Church planters love things that are new, changing and growing. They have an entrepreneurial spirit about them, embrace change readily and get bored with status quo. This characteristic can bring it’s own problems, which leads to number two.

Willingness to be patient – Notice I didn’t use the word patience, even though that’s part of the fruit of the spirit all believers should be developing. Effective church planters are willing to be patient for God to do His work. The balance between these first two is a constant challenge, because church planters are wired for growth, but effective church planters develop a good plan, surround themselves with the right people, and then wait as God works.

People who believe in you – Church planting 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.

Healthy family life – Church planting is a family activity. If a planter wants to be effective, he or she must have a healthy family life. Ministry is tough, so this is true for all ministries, but church planting, because of the unique uncertainties and risks involved, places additional stress on a marriage and family. Effective church planters begin with and maintain a healthy family life.

Close walk with God – Church planting 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. The risks involved and the waiting process challenge a planter. Church planting, like all ministries, is an act of faith and requires constant communication with God. Effective church planters continue to build and draw upon a strong relationship with Christ throughout the process of planting.

Again, many of these may not be unique to church planters and are possibly shared by others in ministry, even in many secular settings, but my experience as a planter of two churches leads me to believe these are critical needs for a church planter.

Are you a church planter? Have you ever considered church planting? What would you add to my list?

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?

What if We Did Church Like This?

I love the partnership I have been able to have with Catalyst Conferences. I enjoyed blogging from there earlier this month.  (You can read my posts HERE.)  One of the things I love most about Catalyst is that I’ve met many of the people behind the scenes.  They are authentic, transparent, and passionate about Christ and helping the church better reach a lost world.

Jesse Phillips is one of those guys.  I’ve had several opportunities to hang out with him and I absolutely love Jesse’s heart.  He has some passionate ideas about the church today. I think one of the thing my generation needs to do a better job with is listening to his generation.  So, recently I asked him to guest post some of his current thoughts on the church here on my blog.  (Help Jesse process by commenting on this post.)

HERE is a guest post from Jesse Phillips of Catalyst:

What if we did church like this:

What if we got a group together on Sunday morning. We’d pool our money – maybe up to half of what we would have tithed that morning. We’d ask around, share needs we knew of, and that morning we would use the money and our time to meet needs around our community.

Maybe we’d buy a new washer for a single mom. Maybe we’d fix a fence. Maybe clean-out gutters for an elderly couple, throw a party for the neighborhood or just go around and pray for people. The more often we did this, the more we’d know people in the community, where to look for needs, and more people would come to us with needs.

Then, that afternoon, what if we got together at someone’s house (or a facility) and had a potluck meal. We could all hang-out, enjoy one another, and encourage one another. Then, after we eat, gather those gifted to teach, preach, prophesy, etc and have a church meeting.

I like this idea for a few reasons:

It engages the community. The unchurched often criticize Christians for not doing much for those around them. Imagine if 10 Million Christians were weekly (or monthly) serving & loving their neighbors in a public fashion. We would be acting as the hands & feet of Jesus in an undeniable way.

It utilizes money to help those in need. Another criticism the unchurched have of Christians is: “they just want my money.” By using our resources to serve them in a significant & regular way, we could fulfill God’s call to take care of those in need while presenting a more Christ-like picture to our neighbors, and removing unnecessary stumbling blocks.

It’s a regular outreach to unchurched people. Not only are you engaging people in need, but you’re also inviting outsiders to join your work party. Many Christians are living in the “Christian Bubble.” This kind of regular engagement with outsiders gives them an opportunity to meet and make friends – creating further opportunities for relationship and eventually, discipleship.

The potluck meal afterward is a natural transition to invite people to “come and see” your community. Also, sharing a meal with other Christians is a great opportunity to share life & fellowship – much like the “love feasts” of the early church. (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_feasts)

Utilizes Pew Sitters. This strategy gets everyone involved. Many Christians are content to sit, hear & pay the tithe. Most ministry work is delegated/entrusted to the paid “professionals.”

Engaging the community as a team teaches Christians how to love their neighbor, empowers them by giving them money to do it, let’s them be creative, possibly let’s them use their gifts to solve problems, protects them from the perils of Matthew 25, and trains them toward a lifestyle of service & generosity.

What do you think? Why is this a good idea? Why is it a bad idea? Grace & Peace to you!