10 Questions with Leader/Teacher Patricia Zell


Patricia Zell is a frequent commenter on my blog. I especially appreciate those who take the time not only to read the posts I write, but participate in the discussion of them. Patricia and I have commented back and forth before about her role as a teacher. She has left comments such as, “I’m not necessarily a leader, but as a teacher…”, to which I always reply something such as, “That sounds like a leader to me.” If we believe that leadership is about influence, then teachers are some of the most influential leaders we have. They certainly impact our society in a powerful way. In my life, some of my biggest influencers have been teachers. You can follow Patricia on Twitter HERE.

Here are 10 questions with a great LEADER, Patricia Ezell:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

I’m pretty much doing what I thought I would do–I’m Mom to seven children and I’m teaching school. I have always loved children.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

Back in 1969, I began working in a bank and I helped set their Master Card system–I worked summer and Christmas breaks there during college. I learned early on what a bad credit report can do to a person.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I would say my earthly father has helped me most because he made education the top priority for my life and he challenged me in debates which helped me to think quickly on my feet and to use reason.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

The biography of Smith Wigglesworth taught me a huge lesson. As Smith became successful as a plumber, he started walking away from God while his wife Polly continued to faithfully attend church. One evening Smith was so upset, he locked the front door. Polly didn’t get flustered–she just walked to the back door, came in, and laughed at her husband. That action broke the ice and Smith came back to the Lord and went on to have a tremendous world-wide ministry. The moral of this life experience has stuck with me: when I can’t get in through the front door, I walk to the back door and go in.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Slightly scattered, compassionate, diligent

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

I listen to what people say and have been known to change course.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

I tend to be quite disorganized with physical stuff. My mind tends to be organized, though.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Deal with students who don’t value education and don’t see much value in doing academic work.

What is one misconception about your position you think people in your church may have?

That I am too nice–I keep hearing that. I do not agree with that assessment–I let students be frank with me because what I am doing directly impacts their futures. They should have some say in what is happening. Besides, encouraging them to think and reason is a good thing.

If you could give one piece of advise to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Actually, I would give them two pieces of advice that go hand in hand. Don’t be afraid to listen and don’t be afraid of change.

To honor Patricia and other teachers in this post, who is one teacher that influenced your life? If possible, share what difference their influence made in your life?

The Quickest Way to Grow Your Church

I remember not long ago getting an email from a woman in my former church. She had moved into a new neighborhood and instantly began to make new friends. She found out one particular family didn’t have a church, so she invited them to Easter services. The invitation seemed to fall on deaf ears. She was persistent though and invited the family several more times, but each time got no response. The Saturday before Easter the family sent her a text asking what time the services were for Easter. Long story short, they came, they loved it, and they will continue to attend.

Grace Community Church, continues to grow because people got excited about what happening in the church and brought their friends. That’s the short and the long answer. We continually thought through ways to improve upon what we were doing, but the bottom line remained that it was the people attending the church that were growing the church. (Obviously, God grows the church…I get that…but He uses people!) As people get excited about what God is doing, they bring people with them.

With that in mind, here’s a great question to ask if you want your church to grow:

Who are the catalyst type people in your church that if they ever get excited about your vision will bring others along with them to help implement it?

That’s how we planted a church. We looked for people who had influence within a circle of people; whether in business, in their social life, or in the community, to find a core of people to start our church. Then we invested in them and released them to lead in the church. Years later, even today after I’m gone from leadership, the church continues to invest in people with influence in a circle of friends.

Look for and invest in people who others follow and the natural system of multiplication will work for your benefit and the benefit of your church.

Aren’t you amazed…and grateful…that God chooses to use you in His work?

Developing an Anonymous Criticism Policy

I’m curious what you do with anonymous criticism.  I don’t really have an official policy of how I handle it and I feel I should establish one. I realize that growth in any organization and just being in a position of leadership welcomes critics.  The larger we get, the more criticism I receive.  The debate I’ve always heard, however, is over what to do with anonymous criticism. 

I don’t appreciate critics who won’t sign their name, but since it’s part of leadership, here’s how I currently react:

  • I listen to it (read the letter, email or comment) and if there is a forum to respond, such as with a blog post, I sometimes do.  I try to still respond in love…even though I don’t feel like doing so at times.
  • I try not to figure out who the anonymous commenter is – It’s never helpful when I do.
  • I don’t give it as much weight to the criticism as when I can attach a real person to the criticism.  If you want my full attention, sign your name.
  • I try to figure out if there’s a reason someone felt the need to be anonymous.  Have I controlled the situation too much?  Have I become unapproachable?  Do I stink?  (It’s never bad to consider hard questions about myself.)
  • I dismiss it quicker if I don’t feel it’s valid…sorry Mr. Anonymous, but it’s true.  (I’m less likely to dismiss quickly if there’s a real person attached to the criticism.)
  • I try not to be the anonymous critic.  If I don’t like to receive it, why dish it out to others?

I don’t think I have the right answer.  It’s just the one that works for me right now.

How do you respond?

  • Do you read it?
  • Do you ignore it?
  • Do you respond to it?
  • Do you take it personal?

If I’m getting a policy on handling anonymous criticism, what should I do differently than what I currently do?

5 Ways to Lead Creative People without Stifling Them

I love creativity. When we planted Grace Community Church, we surrounded ourselves with highly creative minds and allowed them to dream big dreams. One thing I realized early in the life of the church, however, is that creative people can be more difficult to lead. Maybe you’ve seen that. :) They don’t always fit within the established systems of the organization.

I’ve learned a few things along the way about leading creative types. Perhaps some of these tips will help you. 

If you want to lead creative people without stifling their creativity:

Give clear communication of your expectations and the vision you are trying to attain – Creative people need to know your expectations and where you want to go, but they don’t like to be held to standards they didn’t know existed or put into a boxed set of rules or a script of how to attain the vision…

Help them find the structure that works for them – Creative types need and want appropriate boundaries that are not too constricting, but they are often not good at developing those boundaries for themselves…

Forgive them easily – Creative types often are messy people when trying to explore new ideas and they make mistakes along the way…recognize that this is part of what makes them successful at what they do…

Exhibit lots of patience – Creative types don’t always fall within the established system, but remember that’s one reason you want them…

Reward and praise often – Everyone needs to feel appreciated, but in my experience, highly creative people tend to thrive on it. It stirs their creative energies even more…

Do you lead creative types? Are you a highly creative? What tips do you have?

10 Questions with Leader James Castellano ( @jalc6927 )


James Castellano is leader number two today in my interview series with readers of this blog.  James can be found on Twitter HERE.  James writes a great blog HERE.

Here are 10 questions with leader James Castellano:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally?  If not, what did you want to do?

An athlete, most likely a baseball player

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

Owning a lawn care business… It taught me how to utilize my time and read financial statements.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I was mostly self-taught through books. Some of the leaders I have worked with showed me what not to do. Ronald Reagan was probably the first leader I followed

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

As A Man Thinketh

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Detailed, Calm, Open

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Being able to instill confidence in others.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Expecting too much out of others

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Being first in line and setting the example even when I do not really want too.

What is one misconception about your position you think people in your church may have?

Being quiet and calm at times give the perception of lacking in confidence, which is entirely not the case.

If you could give one piece of advise to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Change is inevitable, but self-improvement is optional. If you want to rise above the crowd, you must grow as a person and a leader.

Who is another great leader I may not know about yet?

10 Questions with Leader Eldon Kelley ( @EldonKelley )


A couple of weeks ago I invited my readers to share their own answers to the leadership questions I had been asking other leaders. I have some great leaders reading my blog…some of whom I have never met. This has been a great experiment. I’m learning from some leaders who weren’t on my radar previously.

Today we hear from Eldon Kelley. Based on my Google search, Eldon can be found on Twitter HERE and on Facebook HERE. He writes a great blog HERE. I love to learn from other pastors.

Here are 10 questions with leader Eldon Kelley:

When you were growing up, are you doing what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

Growing up I always wanted to be a missionary in Brazil. I always loved hearing the stories that these men and women had from the field. Then I changed my focus and wanted to be a cop. I went to school, trained, tested but I never passed the tests. The problem was, those were things I wanted to do, not exactly what God wanted. So no, I never dreamed of being a pastor.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

Every job I have ever had was way different than pastoring. Each job was one that you could see the work being done…stocking shelves in a store, restaurant work, working FedEx…everyone of them I could see the work being accomplished through out the day. Although I don’t see the “work” being accomplished as quickly now, these past jobs have taught me that the work is still being done and that I must stick to it. Don’t give up.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

Hands down, George Beers. He was a my pastor many years ago and has now continued to be a mentor to me now that I’m a pastor. He has taught me so much. Without him I would have been sunk in the mire of my self-absorbed life. George has shown me that the perspective of scripture is the only source of perspective that I need to be concerned about. Not what others think and certainly not even what I think.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

“If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat” by John Ortberg. This one book continues to challenge me. If I want to encounter Jesus face to face like Peter did, I have to move. It challenges me to encourage others to do the same. As I see those around me wanting more, but not willing to move more, I can share the simple truths from this book. I don’t want to be one of the 11 still sitting in the boat. I want to see what would happen if all of us got out of the boat and started walking. Wow, a revolution that would start.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Oh My Goodness!
No, just kidding….Relaxed, Real, Willing.

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Humor. It may sound strange, but being people to feel relaxed and comfortable, you can speak so much more into their lives. Whether it’s from the stage or from across the coffee cup. Being able to do this with any age group is something God has blessed me with. I’m not a stand-up comic, but just able to make people relax. God can use anything about us if we are willing to let Him.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Self-doubt by far. I second guess myself at every turn. Am I truly called to do this or that? Am I really the one who should be leading? Shouldn’t someone else be doing this? Maybe I should second guess God on this vision He has given me.

This doubt can not only destroy the leader, but will eventually destroy those he leads…including your family.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Leading those who are older and wiser than me! Some of these people have been following Christ longer than I’ve been alive. Leading them through scripture and through life can be a real challenge. Pointing out areas that may need to change in their well established lives is rough at times. The key is, remembering that I am the one God has called to lead (not in arrogance), and that I will be doing those saints a disservice if I don’t.

What is one misconception about your leadership position you think people may have?

That the money is good! Nah, just kidding.
I think the biggest misconception, if you will, is that I do things differently than other leaders they have been used too. The misconception comes when I am expected to do things in a way that has been the norm of the past. How I do things still works, still has a positive outcome, and is still Biblical…it’s just different.

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Hold tight to the word that God speaks to you. Write it down, never forget it, make it who you are and how you do things. Don’t let anyone steal it from you. 10 years ago God called me to be His torch bearer…every part of who I am has been to become that.

Who is a leader I may not know that I should be talking to these days?

Grace Community Church Responds to Flood 2010


I’m so proud of the Grace Community Church volunteers. The Clarksville, Nashville, and Middle Tennessee areas experienced a devastating flood last weekend. Since the water took longer to recede here, recovery in Clarksville is really just beginning. Grace people have been actively involved in the relief efforts. Grace is a church that truly loves our community. Here are a few pictures from the week. If you’ll notice, Jason Roy, our worship leader is in one of them. He’s a hard worker. (I interviewed him HERE.)

Our sister ministries (Grace people help run them), Africa for Jesus and Manna Cafe Ministries, have also been involved in the flood relief. Soles4Souls, who we support and collect shoes for, is participating in the relief efforts also. In addition, we have worked with the Red Cross, the mayor’s office, and other churches and non-profits. There has been total cooperation in our community to respond to this emergency.

There’s more work to be done. Register HERE and we will keep you posted on the greatest needs.

What will be your memory of the flood of 2010?

Please keep praying for the people impacted by this devastation in Clarksville, Nashville, and around our state.

God Is the Master Delegator


God is the master delegator. He was not afraid to give His vision away.

Consider Adam’s story. God created everything; the land and water, plants and animals, and then God permitted Adam to name things. (Genesis 2:19-20) God delegated the responsibility of naming the animals He had created. Surely if God can design and create the intricacies of the human body He could come up with a more creative name than black bear, yet God gave that job to Adam. Something else I find amazing is that it seems that it was while working through the process of naming the animals that the discovery was made of Adam’s deficiency without Eve. (Vs. 20)

I see a few leadership-shaping moments taking place, because of God’s delegation to Adam:

  • Adam was responsible for leading the garden (Gen 2:15) so this process helped to shape him for leadership.
  • Adam personally learned what he was missing, therefore; Adam gained ownership in the vision God had for him. (Eve)
  • Adam’s ownership of the process ensured that Adam would assume responsibility for the job he had been given.

We know that Adam had been given a free spirit, because we later see him choose to disobey God, but God still took a risk on his leadership. Adam was probably more willing to accept change when it was introduced by God, because he had been a part of the process from the beginning.

Leaders, what principles can we draw from this?

I think as leaders we need to create big visions…we should live the vision….breathe it…

…But great leaders allow others to carry their vision to even greater heights as they add their own creativity and energy to achieving it…

For more thoughts on giving your vision away, read THIS.

How comfortable are you with delegating?

10 Questions with Leader Susan Bordewyk


If you are following this series, I’m interviewing some of the leaders who follow this blog.

As a “District Technology Director”, Susan Bordewyk has a great online presence. I easily found her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Read another great interview from Susan:

When you were growing up, are you doing what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

Not at all – I am currently in IT. I wanted to be a classical musician: conducting, performing, and teaching.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

The most ‘different’ job I had was cleaning post-construction mobile homes after being transported and setup on lots. Lots of sawdust, metal shavings, screws and other things that break vacuum cleaners if not picked up beforehand. Getting those nasty stickers off windows and bathtubs was my least favorite part, and I can’t stand that lemony scent of GooGone to this day. This also was the most BORING work I’ve ever done. I did this job by myself and there was no one to talk to but the radio – we didn’t have cell phones back then. I think what it taught me the most was how to distract myself away from the actual work and find other ways to stay motivated in order to meet the expectation of getting the work done and being meticulous about it. It always felt great once I completed the job well and in a timely manner. The way this transfers into my current work as an IT Director is that it has taught me to develop clear goals up front, so that I always know what it is I’m shooting for in the end, because sometimes the work it takes to get there is no fun at all.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I had a couple of Christian Professors over the past years that really challenged me to incorporate my Christian Worldview in practical ways – more than just asking WWJD but really integrating those principles as part of the everyday planning process.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership by James Hunter. This book simplified for me the servant leadership philosophy and importance of building relationships.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Big picture person, positive attitude, problem solver

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Growing and supporting my staff. I fully recognize that I do not have all the answers or even most of them, and am still learning my limits (the hard way, unfortunately). I’ve found that by growing others and equipping them, not only is the ‘mission’ supported but individuals are stretching themselves.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Delegating and asking for help.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Put myself last and often times leave the emotions at the door.

What is one misconception about your leadership position you think people may have?

That my position has the power to change the overall business model, when actually it is completely backwards… I can’t operate without a solid business model and vision in place to support.

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Find other leaders and mentors with outstanding character and follow them. Fine-tune the skills you need to become decisive and practice them.

How would you have answered these questions?

10 Questions with Leader Chris Walker – Church Punk


I opened my weekly interview series up to my readers last week.  What an awesome idea!  I got some great comment responses.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll share two each Tuesday.  Look for another one later today.

You have to love the blog title of the first leader.  Who doesn’t love a good “church punk”?   You can find out more about Chris Walker HERE and follow him on Twitter HERE.

When you were growing up, are you doing what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

When I was a kid, it seemed I always wanted to be something different. For a while I wanted to be an artist, then a basketball player, an architect, and then something with computers. I do work in Information Technology, but I feel that my vocation will be changing again very soon into a role with the local church somehow.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

I am different from most IT people in that I really enjoy talking to people and getting to know them. I waited tables in high school and had fun interacting with all of the different customers.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I had several mentor type people who had big influences on my leadership right out of high school and through college. Now I rely a lot on blogs such as this to learn from others.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

It is so tough to choose. If I had to pick one, I would say that “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson had a profound affect on me. That book really got me started on the path to chasing after my lion. I am still in the chase I think as I persue changing careers from corporate world to church world, and I often think of this book and how it inspired me. It has taught me to take risks again where I have become so much more conservative over the years.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Relaxed, flexible, and purposeful

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

I just connect well with most people. I am extroverted and love to tell and listen to stories.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Procrastination – It is easy for me to drop doing something in order to do something that seems more urgent or important. Often those things seem to be non-work related and distract me from the tasks that are already on my plate. So I find myself playing catch up a lot. Often I choose to be more like Mary than like Martha. Jesus says this is a good choice, but it often affects the things that need to get done, but are not the end of the world.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

The hardest part of leadership for me is finding ways to refill myself. I have a hard time finding mentors who have something to invest in me. That is why I love blogs because there are people who can teach me something and challenge me who don’t have time to sit down and have lunch with me from time to time. I can comment and ask questions and often get responses. It is unfortunately less personal than a real life discipleship relationship and therefore not tailored to my specific personality. I also can choose not to listen if I don’t like what I am reading. So after pouring myself into others, sometimes it is tough for me to recover so that I can jump back in the game.

What is one misconception about your leadership position you think people may have?

I think that some people only see what is good about me, but do not see my flaws. I try to be as authentic as I can be, but often people only see me as bullet proof.

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders, from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Plan to fail a lot, but don’t stop trying things. The more you fail, the more you learn and great things will come from it.

How would you have answered these questions?