Great Leaders Develop a Leadership Vocabulary

I’ll never forget in my first church when a very Christlike deacon pulled me aside and offer me some advice in leading a church. I had been a leader in the business world a long time, but this was new for me. He helped me in ways which are being realized even today in how I lead in the church.

The best leaders I know are always learning.

Recently, I sat in on a leadership meeting for another organization. I didn’t feel I had the relationship to do so, but I left sincerely hoping someone would speak into this leader’s life – and he would be willing to learn.

The problem?

This leader had a terrible leadership vocabulary.

Part of maturing as a leader is developing a language which will help the organization and it’s team members achieve greatest success.

Here are some examples of what great leaders learn to say:

“Yes” (to other people’s ideas) more than “No”

“Why not?” more than “I don’t think so”

“Our” more than “My”

“We” more than “I”

“Thank you” more than “You’re welcome”

“Let’s do it” more than “We’ve never done it that way before”

“I believe in you” more than “Prove yourself”

“Here’s something to think about” more than “I command you to”

“What do you think?” more than “Let me think about it”

“How can we?” more than “This is the way”

“I take full responsibility” more than “I’m not responsible”

“They work with me” more than “They work for me”

Great leaders understand the power of their words. The things they say develop the culture of the organization, team member’s perceptions of their individual roles, and the overall health and direction of the organization. Great leaders, therefore, choose their words carefully.

How is your leadership vocabulary? What would you add to my list?

4 Ways to Start Memorizing Scripture

Our oldest son texted me New Year’s Day this year. He wanted to practice memorizing Scripture again this year. He’s been out of college for several years and fell out of the habit. He used to do it regularly when he was in high school. he wanted to know if I have any tips.

Of course, he already knew I’m fairly simple-minded, so my response may be overly simplistic, but I think it may have been what he was seeking.

Here’s what I shared with him.

Four ways to start memorizing Scripture:

Find a verse you like, which speaks to you.

One way to find them might be to look at YouVersion’s verse of the day and pick one of those each week – perhaps for the next week so you’ll have it for the whole week. I usually find them as I’m reading the Bible and something jumps out at me.

For these purposes, especially as you are getting started in memorization, I would tend to pick shorter verses. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 was an early memory verse for me years ago. It simply says, “The God who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” I can remember that. Here’s another, 1 John 5:21 says, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” I understand it, easy to remember, and it’s a huge truth to place in my heart daily.

I think it is important that you really glean something from the verse – it speaks to you. Make sure you know what it is teaching. Scripture may have multiple of applications, but it is only one truth – whether we understand it fully or not.

Try only one a week.

If you’re an expert at memorization you can move faster – and you will get better with practice, but don’t try to impress anyone with your skills. You shouldn’t be doing it for that reason anyway. You want to do something which will help you grow spiritually and you will maintain it as an ongoing spiritual discipline.

Write it down (not type) and place it somewhere I see frequently.

Educators will tell you we are far more likely to remember something if we write it down rather than simply try to remember it – or even if we type it. Something happens between your hand and your brain, which helps lock the words into your memory bank.

You may be like me and hate your handwriting. You may be like me and can’t even read your handwriting at times. But, take your time and practice the best penmanship you have. The more times you write it the better chance you’ll have of remembering the verse.

Remember how the teachers used to make you write out a statement as discipline? I will not choose gum in class. If you write that 100 times, it may seem cruel, but you won’t soon forget those words. Works here too.

Rehearse it over and over again throughout the week.

Place the verse somewhere you will easily see – perhaps in a couple places. You could put them on your mirror where you get ready in the morning. Put one on your dashboard and another on your desk at work. Carry one in your front pocket. The more you see it and recite it the more likely it is to stick long-term.

I hope this helps.

And, I have another suggestion. You could always buy Steve Green’s Hide ‘me In Your Heart CD’s! They are children singing Scripture verses. Our boys learned lots of verses that way. We learned with them.

7 Things To Do in the Spiritually Dry Times of Life

Recently I wrote about what to do during the times God is silent. It seemed there was more to be said. As I read the Scriptures – and consider my own journey with God – those times are frequent for God’s children. Sometimes it is even more than the silence of God. Sometimes I am silent in my own spiritual life. I’m not growing. I’m not as passionate about my walk as I once was. Spiritually speaking, I am stagnated.

We should not be surprised when those times come. In fact, I even believe God works through those times to prepare us for times of great spiritual growth. But, what do in those seasons where we don’t wake up every morning anxious to dive into God’s word or join Him in prayer.

Elijah had been used of God to hold back rain from the people for over three years, because of their sins. Obviously, he was not well liked as a preacher. I have learned my sermon messages people love most are when I cover a sin someone else struggles with (other than the one who loved the message) or when I address a felt need of the person who loved the message. I don’t seem to hear compliments as much from the messages which challenge someone directly about the sin in their life.

I can only imagine the stress Elijah experienced during those years. Something strikes me, however, which seems to further complicate Elijah’s situation.

Consider 1 Kings 18:1 “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”

According to a couple New Testament passages, this “After a long time” was actually three and a half years. The famine was nearly four years long. For over three years, the people apparently continued to sin, but God said nothing. God was apparently inactive, not speaking, even to His great servant Elijah.

Now, I can only speculate here because the Bible doesn’t say anything about Elijah’s own spiritual condition. Obviously, he obeyed when a word from the Lord came, but I also don’t read he was crying out to God for a word either. We certainly read accounts of people of God who did in many of the Psalms.

Was Elijah just as quiet in his crying out to God as God was in speaking to Elijah? Could Elijah been spiritually dry? Again, I don’t know – and, I’m not suggesting I have any special insight here nor trying to make the passage say what I want it to say to make a point. But, I do know how it feels in my life when the fervor of faith isn’t what it used to be.

Have you ever been there? Has the silence of God in your life ever been eerily loud in your life? (You know, sometimes silence is so severe it’s almost loud.) And, maybe the silence isn’t just on God’s side of the communication. Maybe you are quieter than you once were in the relationship also. Have you been there?

Imagine you had been faithfully serving – God is using you – you are in constant communication with Him – and then suddenly everything is quiet.

The separation must have seemed unbearable. Elijah was disliked and unpopular. He was a social outcast from the people and the One he trusted most was seemingly absent. God would soon do a miracle through Elijah, but during this period, all Elijah could do was wait. And, how he waited during these days or how he responded to God – we simply are left to our imagination and personal experience to evaluate.

If you have been believer for very long at all, you have had periods where it seems God is nowhere to be found. And, you’ve had other periods where you weren’t looking very hard to find Him. Be honest. We often call these periods of spiritual dryness. Sometimes I refer to it as being in a spiritual funk.

What should we do during the times of silence, before the miracles of God come through for us?

(Of course, I must remind us, every breath we take is actually a miracle – and the grace – of God.)

If you are like me, you can figure out how to celebrate a miracle. You know how to deal with the spiritual highs. You don’t need much help doing those things. The tough part of our spiritual journey is figuring out what to do during the years of silence – during the years when miracles are nowhere to be found.

What do we do during the spiritual dry periods of life when we don’t hear clearly the voice of God – and maybe we aren’t listening very passionately?

Here are 7 actions I encourage you to consider:

Don’t ignore the silence.

Some of the biggest moves God has made in my life have come after a period of spiritual dryness – when it seemed like God was doing nothing in my life. And, maybe I didn’t even think I was growing. God almost always has a purpose in the quietness. Stay very close to God, even when you don’t feel like it. Go through the motions if you have to in your daily disciplines. Read the Bible – yes, even as a discipline. Attend church and fellowship with other believers. God’s power may be displayed when you least expect it. Look at the story of Elijah again. It doesn’t appear he was expecting God to speak when He did.

Confess any sin in your life.

This wasn’t the problem of silence for Elijah, as far as we know, but the problem for the Israelites was they were chasing after other gods and living lives in total disobedience to God. Sin may not be the reason you don’t sense closeness to God right now. But, just like in every relationship, if there is something you’ve done to injure it there will be a break in closeness. If repetitive and unrepentant sin is in your life it will affect your intimacy with God.

It’s never a bad exercise simply to ask forgiveness. Don’t be a martyr about it. You are saved by grace, not works, so live freely in His favor. Rest in the sufficiency of what Christ has done, but be humble enough to admit you are helpless apart from His grace.

Go back to what you know.

Get back to the basics of the faith which saved you. You’ll do it hundreds of times in your life, but you must remind yourselves of the basis of faith – the promises of God’s word. God is in control. He really is. Even when it doesn’t seem He is anywhere to be found – God is on His throne.

This is where I love to have some favorite verses in my memory to draw from when needed most. In these times I might listen to songs which were important during stronger times in my walk. Music has a way of drawing us back to another time. If I’m especially dry, I’m going to be reading in the Gospels, or some of Paul’s letters such as Ephesians or Galatians, everyday. It’s where my freedom in Christ is most clearly stated.

Choose sides again – if you need to.

You can’t adequately serve God and the world. Something happens in life, often sin, or busyness, or boredom, or a tragedy, but if we are normal, we have periods where we grow away from our close relationship with God due to the circumstances in our life at the time. God hasn’t moved, but if you’ve shifted in your loyalty to God and the place He holds in your heart, get back securely on the His side. (Remember the story of the Prodigal Son? The Father was waiting with open arms and ready to run at the moment of the son’s attempt to return.)

I find sometimes I need to rearrange my schedule to prioritize my time with God. I may need to get up earlier or spend a few lunch breaks fasting with Him. I may need to say no to some seemingly good opportunities because they are distracting me from what is most important in my life.

Trust more – Not less.

Times of silence may be filled with fear, but these times will definitely require more faith. Times come in our spiritual life when our enthusiasm isn’t as real as when we began our walk with God. This is not an indication to quit – it may be God is using this time for something bigger than you could have imagined. But it will require a deeper level of trust.

Again, this is where we need to focus on the foundational issues of our faith. I have a few sermons which ministered to me at the time and periodically I will bring them out and listen again. I want to rekindle and strengthen my faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6)

Listen and watch closely.

Some day God is going to make His plans known to you. And, you don’t want to miss! Do you think Elijah would have wanted to miss what happened to him in 1 Kings 18? Go back and read the story if you need a refresher. When God does break the silence it will be good! You will want to hear what He has to say!

Keep in mind, God may come to your personally, through His Word, circumstances or another person. You’ll need to be in a position to know God is moving.

Prepare your heart and attitude to receive.

If you mope around in your sorrows, you’ll be less prepared to receive the good things to come. I see people (and I’m just as guilty) who view the world so negatively it would take a burning bush for God to get their attention. They’ve already decided in their heart and mind everything hopeless. I’m not sure they are reading the same New Testament I’m reading!

Not because of your circumstances, but because of your faith, clothe yourself in joy as you wait for God to bless you after the period of silence. Know that what you’re experiencing is a normal part of the Christian experience. It’s a normal part of being an emotional being in a fallen world. But, our response to the spiritual dry times may help determine how long they last and how devastating they are on us – and the people around us. Consider to these words of Jesus – and apply as necessary. “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (‭John‬ ‭15:11‭)

Are you in one of those periods of silence today? How do you handle these periods of time?

7 Things To Do While You are Waiting on God

I’ve spent much of my walk with God waiting.

  • Waiting for Him to give direction.
  • Waiting on Him to open doors.
  • Waiting on Him to make things clearer.
  • Waiting on Him to supply the needed resources.

Throughout the stories of the Bible we often find God’s people waiting. Think of Abraham who had to wait years for God to provide the promised son. Think of Noah and the many days he must have worked on the ark, yet he had apparently never seen rain. Think of the anointed David who had to wait to actually assume the position of king. Think of the disciples, taking Jesus at His word by following Him, but having to wait until they were released to do ministry. What about the followers of God who waited 400 years in silence between the Old Testament and the arrival of Jesus?

Waiting is a part of the Christian experience.

The waiting times are difficult to endure, especially if you are like me and generally struggle in the area of patience. Show me someone who has grown in their maturity in Christ and I can almost guarantee you they have had seasons where they were waiting.

I’ve learned, however, there are things I can be doing during the wait, which help me prepare when God chooses to act in my life.

Are you in a time of waiting? Perhaps some of these suggestions may help.

Here are 7 things we can do while we wait on God.:

Prepare my heart.

The ultimate goal of God in my life is to transform me into the image of His Son. He wants my heart and character more than even some of the great activities I could do for Him. The silent times are the some of the best times to be seeking the heart of God. During the waiting period, I find I need to increase my prayer and study time, preparing my heart to receive God’s instructions.

Learn all I can.

I learn more from the struggles of life than I do from the easy times of life. The same can be true through the times of waiting for God to move. God reveals His character to us as we wait. (I find myself reading more of the Psalms during times of waiting. They remind me of God’s presence even during days of silence.)

Watch for His activity.

Just because God is silent does not mean He’s being still. God is always doing something, even when I can’t tell what it is. I’ve learned to be watchful for the hidden activity of God.

Stay active with what I know to be doing.

The Bible is clear on some things I can always be doing – love my neighbor, look out for “the least of these”, make disciples – just to name a few. Waiting times do not mean doing nothing. It may be in the doing something we discover that for which God has been waiting to bless us.

Listen for His voice or the voice of others He sends.

Isaiah 30:20-21 talks about a “voice” saying “this is the way – walk in it” during the “days of adversity“. This is an important reminder. I’ve learned to listen for His voice, knowing the more I know Him personally, the more I’ll hear even His softest whisper. Many times God is trying to speak to us, whether through His written word (which seems to be the dominant way He speaks), or through other people in my life, or through the circumstances of my life. Often there are consistent themes I keep “hearing”, but it takes me a while to actually process them. (Reading 1 Samuel may help here.)

Heal from past hurts – if needed.

Many times the silent periods in my walk with God come after very difficult periods. At times, I’ve learned, I can’t hear God because my emotions are clouded with the pain of my past. In those days, what I most need is to heal my emotions so I can think clearly, discern His voice, and prepare for His next assignment. This may take processing hurts with others, extending forgiveness, or admitting sin to renew my closeness with God.

Pray without ceasing.

Prayer is my personal connection to the God upon whom I am waiting. As long as I’m praying, I’m less likely to worry and more likely to walk by faith. Praying without ceasing doesn’t mean I do nothing except pray, but it means I carry an attitude – a heart of prayer – into everything I do. I remain keenly aware of His presence through the Spirit of God, so when He speaks I have the best possible opportunity to hear.

Are you in a period of waiting? Have you been there before? I’m voicing a prayer now that you would soon hear from God – that God would make Himself known.

5 Ways Leaders Can’t Be “Normal” Today

Leading outside the norm

Leadership is so much different today than when I first started leading almost 35 years ago. To lead today we must learn to think outside some things once considered normal in leadership.

And, hopefully “normal” is a play on words for most leaders now. 

When I was first in leadership as a retail manager, I could set the schedule for people, tell them what to do, hold them accountable for routine tasks with high expectations, and then evaluate them by whether or not they did the job. This was called a job – and, if you wanted a paycheck you worked for it.

It doesn’t work quiet like that anymore. It hasn’t for some time, and, to be honest, I tried to do more with leadership even then, but some of those still in leadership still haven’t caught on that “normal” leadership isn’t normal anymore. 

For example, in today’s leadership, the informal aspects of leadership are as important as the formal aspects of leadership. In addition to systems and structures – for a leader to be successful today – leaders must engage a team on personal levels. 

We must build team spirit. Energize. Motivate. Engage. Even sympathize. Those have always been important, but these days they may trump some of our policies and procedures.

In informal leadership environments, the way a leader leads is often more important than the knowledge or management abilities of the leader. Again, they have always been important, but in today’s leadership it is critical.

Here are 5 examples of how a successful leader must lead in today’s environment:

Adapt leadership to followers individual needs and expectations.

Cookie-cutter leadership doesn’t work as well among today’s workforce. Leaders must be wiling to individualize their leadership based on the current setting, culture and individualism of team members. It makes really getting to know the people you lead even more important. Leaders must ask lots of questions to understand personal values of others. It helps us lead according to a person’s individual strengths and abilities and helps them perform at their greatest effectiveness.

Raise up new leaders.

Those on the team with the propensity or desire to lead, must be given opportunity to help lead the organization. This is no longer an option. Not only is this good for the organization by creating future leaders, it is key to keeping the best people on the team. Those entering the field of leadership today – or desiring to – will want a seat at the table of decision. They want to make a difference. This can be a great things for our churches and organizations if we will welcome it. 

Balance kindness or friendship with authority.

John Maxwell’s axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has never been more true. People follow leaders they can trust. They follow leaders who believe in them and will invest in them. While leaders sometimes must make difficult and unpopular decisions, authoritarian or controlling leadership is not well received by today’s workforce. Following orders from the “boss” has been replaced with a desire for servant leaders.

Give others ownership in the vision.

People want and need to be stakeholders – knowing they are making a difference with their work. To do this means they must have ownership in the creation of vision. Allowing a team to help shape the agenda helps assure their heart buys into completing the mission. Letting people help write their job description gets people in places where they can bring their best contributions to a team.

Create what’s “next” for a community’s greater good.

Great leaders think beyond themselves – even beyond their own team or the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. Today’s leaders must understand they play one part in a more global sense. We are much more connected these days through social media and online instant connections. The world around us is watching – as are the people we have on our team. The way an organization treats it’s employees, supports the community and how it interacts with the people the organization encounters daily is important. We can’t sit back, make a profit or fulfill our individual goals (even as churches) and ignore the myriad of social needs all around us. If it’s not done well the world will know about it quickly.

Finding the right balance between a formal style of leadership – where everything is clearly spelled out for people to follow with a carefully created structure – and an informal style – where a team helps to shape the course of action – is critical to an organization’s success.

With my 35 plus years of leadership experience, I realize I’m from an “old school”, but I’m still learning – and re-learning.

I have learned this: Leaders today must continually strive to find the balance between formal and informal structures.

10 Problems with Doing the Best You Know How To Do

Years ago in a company we owned, there was a young man who worked for me who had tremendous potential. I believed in him so much I personally invested in him and paid special attention to him. I thought his future with our company was worth the extra time. Sadly, he never measured up to my expectations and we ended up having to part ways.

Every time I would meet with him to “encourage” him, he would say the same thing.

I’m doing the best I know how to do.

At the time, I really thought it was a fair answer. I have come to realize, however, that this response was actually his primary problem. He was doing the best he KNEW HOW to do.

But, here’s the reality I know:

The best you know how to do is never the best you can do!

It’s not. I wish it was, because it would make things much easier. But, there’s so much more. In fact, the line is really just an excuse. And excuses never get you where you say you want to go.

Here are 10 problems when you do the best you know how to do:

You leave out a critical thinking.

You quit learning new things.

You fail to be stretched.

You never develop personally.

You stop asking questions.

You resist change.

You dismiss new ideas.

You stop growing in your field of expertise.

You can’t as easily help others grow when you aren’t growing.

You stop walking by faith.

There is a huge difference in doing the best you know how to do and doing the best YOU CAN DO. The best you can do is to continue to get better. The times you are being stretched beyond what you know how to do may prove to be the best times of your personal development.

Never settle for the best you know how to do. It seldom will take you to the places you really want to go!

Here’s a challenge question: What are you currently doing to produce future personal growth? 

7 Suggestions to Motivate the Leaders on Your Team

Have you ever wondered how to motivate a leader?

If you have leaders on your team, no doubt you want the maximum potential out of them. You want their best contributions to your team. How do you motivate them to achieve their best – personally and for the team?

It may not be as difficult as we one may think. Most leader-types share some common traits. They may lead entirely different – they may have different causes and interests, but most leaders are motivated by similar influences.

Here are 7 suggestions to motivate a leader:

Give them a challenge to meet

If there’s a task that would be a huge accomplishment, you’ll likely grab a leader’s interest. Be careful telling a leader it “can’t be done”, unless you want to see some motivation accelerate. (I wrote about this principle in my life HERE.) Leaders love to strive for the impossible. Give them something which seems out of their reach and you are likely to get them on board.

Celebrate results

When a leaders celebrate a win, it fuels their desire for another. Leaders thrive on accomplishment. There may be lots of reasons behind this – and, frankly, some of them could even be pride, which is wrong. But, the point here is that something in the DNA of a leader which loves to win.

Share enthusiasm

Leaders are motivated by those who have a passion and drive to achieve. Make the vision exciting and compelling and you’ve likely got a leaders attention. This is another reason to repeat the vision often. A strong, compelling vision is fuel for a leader’s passion.

Involve some risk

Tell a leader something is “dangerous” – or others may not approve – and he or she may be motivated to attempt it. Leaders love a challenge. In fact, one way to tell the difference in a potential good leader and a good manager is the amount of risk he or she is willing to assume.

Embrace change

Leaders, by definition, are creators of movement. When things get stale, throw a little change in the mix, and a leader has a new incentive to lead. When a leader gets too comfortable they get bored. They’d often rather live with drama than staleness or routine.

Invite chaos

It sounds strange, but even a little controversy or conflict can fuel a leader. When the situation is overwhelming a leader goes to work. One difference in managers and leaders is that managers like (and need) to bring structure. They systematize things. Leaders love to fix things – improve them – make things better. It may even be messy along the way. (Which is also why every good leader needs a good manager.)

Have big dreams

Leaders are visionary. They want to accomplish something bigger than today. The bigger the dream, the bigger the motivation for the leader.

In my opinion, it is useless to have leaders on your team if you don’t lead them lead or use them to their full potential. And, if you want to get the most out of a leader – keep them motivated!

Are you a leader? Which of these motivate you most?

What would you add to my list?

7 Ways to Help a New Staff Member Succeed

I recently received the following message from a pastor friend:

“I have a new full-time associate pastor starting next week. What suggestions would you give for getting such a person off to a great start?”

What a great question! I’m so glad someone is actually asking it.

Through the years I have hired hundreds of people. I don’t do a lot of things right, but finding good people seems to be one of my strengths.

Getting a new person started in a good way is probably equal to finding the right people – especially if we hope to keep them. I can’t say I’m the best at this. I tend to be less hands-on than needed some times.

But, I have learned from some bad experiences too!

Here are 7 ways to help a new staff member succeed:

Lower initial expectations.

Lighten their initial work load. I like to tell new staff members not to attempt too much the first 90 days or so – perhaps even longer depending on the complexity of the job. Give them a chance to acclimate to the church, learn the people and some of the unwritten rules and culture. Also, most likely they also have home responsibilities to get settled and need to feel free to take care of those things also. 

Help the new team member’s family acclimate.

As much as it is important the staff member feel welcomed, it is equally important for the family. This includes spouse and children. Don’t overwhelm them with expectations either. Give them space, but make sure they have support if they need it. In my experience the transition can be harder on the family than the person joining your team. They get a fairly instant support group and know their purpose. This can be harder and take longer for the family to realize. The more you help the family the more you will be helping your new team member. 

Help them understand the current vision, direction and culture.

Where are you hoping to go as a church? What are the current and long-term dreams? What are people getting excited about these days? Where is there momentum? Where are you lacking motivation? What are the key weakness of the church? What are the key strengths? Answering as many questions like this as you can for the person. Information is powerful. They will learn much of it on their own, but the more you can share with them the faster they will feel a part of the team. 

Stay close.

You want to give them space to explore, but don’t ignore them either. Let them ask lots of questions. Give them plenty of access to you and others on the team. This should always be true of a healthy culture, but especially during the initial days. 

Help them understand what a win for their job looks like.

They will likely hit the ground excited about accomplishing something. Make sure they know, in your mind, how they will be considered successful. Don’t make them guess what you are looking for them to accomplish. 

Introduce them to key stakeholders.

Don’t make him or her find out on their own who the influencers are – good or bad. Every church has people who everyone listens to – and many have people everyone has a bit of fear of how they will react. While I’m not a fan of empowering these people or cowering to them, don’t let the new person step on a land mine either. Introduce them to people also who will be their biggest supporters. They will likely need these in the days ahead. 

Extend the honeymoon period.

New people will make mistakes. They want always know the “right” way to do things according to the culture of your team. (And, this can be a good thing. Let them bring something new to the culture.) You went out on a limb to bring this person in now give them ample time and grace to prove themselves. And, give them all the support they need to succeed.

Someone reading this has another great suggestion to help a new staff member succeed. You’ll make this post better by sharing it in the comments.