God WILL Allow More Than You Can Bear (Alone)

Stressed-man

I occasionally like to correct a myth I have heard all my life.

How many times has someone said to you, “God will never put more (trials) on you than you can bear”?

I challenge you to show me that in the Bible.

God WILL allow more than you can bear.

He will.

The problem I have with that lie is that — as innocently as it is given — even offered mostly as encouragement — is that it’s not encouraging at all.

The myth makes so many believers wonder why they can’t handle their problems — falsely believing they should be able to — because someone once told them the lie that God would not put more on them than they could handle.

Than THEY could handle. And, that’s the key problem with that phrase.

Yes, we do have the promise that we will not be “tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we need to understand what that verse is saying. It says that God will not allow Satan to bring temptation, or enticement to sin, into our life where is too much for us to say no to it. When we are tempted to sin, God will make a way for us to resist it — through His Holy Spirit in us. God wants us to live holy — just as Christ who calls us is holy — and so He provided a Helper for us to resist temptation.

But, that verse has nothing to do with the amount of struggles we will face as believers.

Consistently, throughout the Bible, I read where God allowed more trials, more pressure, than His children could bear.

Elijah, the powerful prophet of God who held back the rain had a time when the trial must have been bigger than his ability to handle it. Consider this verse: “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7) 

Once when Paul wrote to the people at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:8), he told them that he and his followers faced trials “far beyond our ability to endure“.

David, the great war hero and man after God’s own heart, told the Lord that “troubles without number surround me” and “and I cannot see“. He couldn’t see clearly, because he was overwhelmed with the storms of life!

Another time David said “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”(Oh how I identify with David there!) 

Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) It sounds like he was facing more than he could handle — on his own.

Are there times when God allows more troubles in your life than you can bear? Absolutely! Positively!

If you can accept my testimony as an example, let me tell you that sometimes life throws more at me than I can handle — at least more than I can handle alone. I can’t do it in my own strength. I can’t.

The reason God allows you and I to experience times when we are consumed by trials — when they are bigger than our own strength can handle — is so that we have no where else to turn except towards Him. We are faced with one solution — and that is to realize Christ is our only hope! He is our solution.

After Paul wrote that his trial was bigger than his ability to endure, he offers an explanation. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

There it is! That’s the ticket! Paul recognized truth — that this overwhelming time of trouble — that he couldn’t handle alone — had caused him to focus more on the power of God and allow God to work His perfect will in Paul’s life.

And, that is God’s desired reality in our life. He wants us to fully rely on Him.

Are you being challenged beyond your ability to endure?

Don’t believe that you can do it alone! You can’t! You must not try!

Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing!” Did you get that point? Nothing!

Don’t try anything today without relying on the power of God! He knows you’re weak. He is available to help — if you will call upon Him! When we are at our weakest — He is strong!

(I wrote this post over 6 years ago. I have now edited it and brought it forward.)

7 Ways To Honor Your Pastor’s Wife

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One of the toughest jobs in the church is that of being a pastor’s wife. 

It has been called the loneliest job in the church.

No doubt I have one of the best. Cheryl has a professional job as an accountant, is an excellent mom and wife, but the demands on her as my wife are some of the most overwhelming.

Still she handles it with grace and a smile.

In this post, I want to help you know how to honor and protect your pastor’s wife. 

Truthfully, I am not talking on behalf of Cheryl. She would never ask for this and frankly we are mostly in a good church environment as far as the way our staff and spouses are treated. Plus, we came out of the business world into ministry. We were older and more seasoned by life, so we’ve always approached things differently — protected our personal time more. Sunday is Cheryl’s favorite day of the week.

I know, however, because of my work with pastors that many pastor’s wives are facing burnout, a sense of loneliness, and some even struggle to come to church. That should not be.

Here are 7 ways to honor your pastor’s wife:

Do not put too many expectations on her. 

Regardless of the church size, she cannot be everywhere, at everything and know everyone’s name and family situation and still carry out her role in the home. She simply can’t. Don’t expect her to be super-human.

Do not expect her to oppose her husband

She will be protective of her spouse. Hopefully you would equally protect your spouse. If you bad mouth her husband she’s likely to respond in a way you don’t want her to — but should expect her to. Don’t complain if she does.

Protect her from gossip.

She does not need to know the “prayer concerns” that are really just a way of spreading rumors. And, you know when that’s the case. Check your motives in what you share. Don’t share what you don’t have permission to share.

Let her have a family. 

The pastor is pulled in many directions. The family understands the nature of the job. Life doesn’t happen on a schedule. But, in reality, there are often unreasonable demands on the pastor. That always impacts the family. If you can — limit your demands to normal working hours for the church and the pastor. Send an email rather than calling at home if it’s not an immediate concern. It will help the pastor have a family life.

Include her without placing demands or expectations on her. 

That’s the delicate balance. The pastor’s wife is often one of the loneliest women in the church. She rarely knows whom to trust and often is excluded from times that are just for fun. Don’t be afraid to treat her as a normal human being. She is. But, if she says no — don’t hold it against her either.

Never repeat what she says. 

Ever. If the pastor’s wife happens to share information with you about the church or her personal life, keep it to yourself. Always. There will be temptation to share her words as “juicy news”, but you will honor her by remaining silent. And, over time, you will build her trust and her friendship.

Pray for your pastor’s family.

Daily would be awesome. And much needed.

Finally, if your church really wants to honor the pastor’s wife, find ways to give her time away with her husband and/or family. That is probably what she needs the most.

Feel free to give a shout-out to your pastor’s wife here and share practical ways you can honor your pastor’s wife. If you are a pastor or pastor’s wife, I would love to hear your thoughts.

(Two closing notes. First, these may work equally well for the husband of a pastor or minister, but I can only speak from my perspective. Second, I’ve been told numerous times that a pastor’s wife IS the problem in the church. That’s the subject of another post, but I do understand and recognize that there are times this is the problem. It is very difficult for a pastor to be effective without a supportive spouse.)

4 Realities to Help Discern a Vocational Call to Ministry

give me strength

Discerning a call to vocational ministry can be a tiring and trying experience.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with numerous young people and couples who are possibly experiencing a call to full-time, vocational missions or ministry. They don’t always know what they are supposed to do — usually not — but they know their vocation is to be a part of the mission of Christ.

Talking with people at this stage of life is one of my favorite things to do. It fuels me in ministry to help others process their call.

Having also wrestled through this issue years ago with two teenage sons makes this something very personal to me. Obviously I have my own experience in this area of wrestling through a call to vocational ministry. My wrestling was a 10 year process.

The counsel I gave my boys came to me suddenly one day. I’m not pretending it was inspired, but it certainly is a product of my personal experience and time spent with God struggling through this issue. I’ve used this teaching many times since then.

Basically I like to help people understand that the “call”, in my understanding, is not a call to a group of people or a geographic location as much as it is to a person; the person of Jesus Christ.

That’s important, because a lot of times someone begins to sense a calling after a mission trip to a certain area and feel as if that is the place they must go to serve God. That may be the place God wants to use them, but it could be that God just wants their availability, right where they are or elsewhere and God used the specific place to stir their heart towards serving vocationally.

I’m not saying He doesn’t send people to specific places or groups of people, but I do believe He reserves the right to change that at any time, because ultimately a person is called into a relationship with God first and a location second. In fact, I’ve several times in my call sensed God was even giving me freedom to choose where I served

After establishing that the ultimate call is to the person of Christ, I share a few principles. These are actually realities — based on my experience — of the vocational call. These won’t make the decision for the person. I can’t do that. They are intended to help someone think through their calling. The person who is sensing a call can often begin to discern that this IS the call based on the way they respond to these four words.

Four realities of call of God on a person’s life is:

Irresistible

You can’t refuse this kind of call and still live at peace with God. He will still love you. You may even be successful in what you are doing, but something will always eat at you until you surrender to this type of call. (Think of Jonah on the boat, attempting to run from God — even before the storm came.) That was the case in my situation. As much as I wanted success in business — and I had some — none of that brought me peace until I surrendered to God’s will for my life.

Irreplaceable

Nothing else will satisfy a person like this call. Nothing will fill that void — that emptiness. If God’s greatest desire for a person’s life on whom He places the “call”. I found no real joy in my work, until I was serving in the career choice God wanted me to serve.

Irrevocable

God doesn’t take this call away from a person once He has placed it on their life. At times, especially when things are stressful in ministry, I have glanced at other opportunities, but I know I cannot go backwards from this call God has placed on my life. I may serve Him in a number of capacities and places over the years — I believe that could even be in business if He chose that. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as a pastor or in a local church — but I know one decision in my vocational career is solved — I work for Him. My end “product” of my life is advancing His mission — not mine.

Immediate

The call of God on a person’s life begins at the moment of the call. Often people want to get the right degree or start drawing a paycheck before they live out the call God has placed on their life. I don’t believe that’s the call. The call is to “Go” and the time is NOW. (Jesus taught this reality in Matthew 8.) That doesn’t mean the person shouldn’t gain education, experience, or even a paycheck, but if a person has received a call from God on their life the time to get started doing something towards that call is now! When I realized a vocational call to ministry was being placed on my life, I started immediately; with no promise of income or position. I simply started serving people. Opportunities and specific assignments quickly followed.

Are you feeling those four words heavy on your heart? Perhaps God is trying to get your attention.

For a Biblical example of this type calling which includes each of these four points, read Jonah’s story again.

Have you wrestled or are you wrestling through a vocational call to ministry? What was your experience?

7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life

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Every believer wants to hear from God.

Why would you attempt to follow God closely if you didn’t want to know His voice or hear what He has to say?

Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.” (John 10:27)

That’s especially true in the circumstances of our life. When life is happening — we want to know: Is this God? Is this what He is telling me to do? Is God trying to get my attention?

And, I believe, sometimes life if just happening. It’s not at all that God isn’t interested or in control. He counts hairs on our head and stores our tears in a bottle — He cares. But, sometimes life is life. Things happen. Doors open. Doors close. Jobs are lost. Health changes. The deal on the house we wanted falls through. We don’t get the scholarship we hoped we would. Life happens.

And, yet, I do believe God will use our circumstances to speak to us. He used a burning bush to speak to Moses.

I wish He’d use one to speak to me sometimes. I think I’d pay attention to that.

And, I think that’s part of the problem.

One thing I’ve observed is that we often expect God to speak in the grandiose voice of God. And, sometimes God speaks that way, but many times — at least in my life — God is more subtle than that. Often God speaks through those quiet moments, through other people, and through ordinary life’s circumstances.

In a crowded world of noise and life distractions sometimes it’s hard to understand what God is saying. Isn’t it?

How do we — in the midst of our circumstances — as mixed up and confusing as they can be — figure out what God could be saying to us?

First, I have to say this — it begins and ends in a relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ — start there. (Read Romans 10:9 and if you have questions, email me.)

But, for those who have a relationship already — which is the majority of my readers — how do we hear God’s voice through our circumstances?

Here are 7 thoughts on hearing God speak through the circumstances of life:

Mirror your circumstances with the truth of God’s Word

God will never contradict Himself. He will never speak to us — even through our circumstances — in a way that will contradict His written word. I hear people at times claim God is telling them to do something that is in violation with what God has already said. That’s never God.

God uses people to confirm His voice

Even in circumstances, in my experience, God often sends people into our path to confirm His will for our life. People who attempt to follow God with their life can help us to hear from God.

Every time God has called me to something there have been others to confirm they are hearing the same calling. I’ve often had to cycle through the naysayers to hear them, but they are there. I seek out wisdom of others.

When we went to plant a church — I thought that’s what God was doing — the doors certainly kept opening, but one loud voice of God were the number of people who kept bringing it to my attention unsolicited — including one prophetic pastor (who claimed to not be a prophet) who spoke directly to a 10 year old vision of the plant exactly as God had originally shared it with me. That was my burning bush, but they don’t come along often. Probably only when you’re as stubborn as I am.

Recognize that God operates from a plan

Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Rick Warren has sold millions of books telling us that we should live our life with a purpose. God’s purpose.

Looking back over my life, I could never have scripted it, but I see how God has used me according to an overall plan. He’s used my life experiences to shape me for where I am today.in church planting He used my business entrepreneurial experience. In church revitalization, He’s used my business transition experience. God knows how to use a past for His good.

Examine your circumstances in light of God’s overall plan

When trying to hear from God through the circumstances of life, we should not try to make a decision on one event or set of circumstances. Circumstances may or may not be God speaking to us. We should look at our life over a span of months or years.

Jeremiah 29:11 indicates that God has a definite plan to proper us and give us hope, but it would take the people 70 years to get there. (We often miss that part when celebrating that verse.)

When we look at our life over time we will be able to see what God has been doing. When the circumstances of life consistently line up over time with God’s overall plan it is possible that God is trying to speak through those circumstances.

How many times do we have to hear the same thing — or experience the same circumstances — before we recognize and obey the voice of God?

Before God called me into ministry the voices speaking into my life were many. I was available at the time — in between business careers, there were tons of confirmations and signs, and I had to view my life in the context of God’s master plan — of what He had been shaping for years.

Don’t allow circumstances to keep you from hearing or obeying God

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NIV) “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” The common sense thing to do when everyone opposes you would be to leave, but Paul knew the circumstances were not indicative of God’s will for his life.

Sometimes our circumstances may look gloomy, but we haven’t heard the truth of our circumstances until we have heard from God. God has typically spoken to me clearest during my darkest days — when He has my closest attention.

Fear is a great tool of the enemy. The devil can use circumstances also to lead us away from God. This is where the Scripture and other people you trust can help you discern.

Ask God to show you His perspective on the circumstances

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)

As followers of God we will spend our whole life trying to discern the will of God for our life; listening for His voice. If we desire to hear from God through our circumstances we must intently listen for the voice of God.

Hearing from God is not always easy. When life is coming at us we cannot seem to understand what is going on, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for clarification. We should feel free to ask, “God what did you mean by that?”

Many times I think I know what God is saying, but it’s in the seasons of questioning that I am more intentional to go back to Him for clarification. I’ve even taken days away to intentionally listen during the confusing times.

Remember: God’s primary desire in speaking is for eternal purposes

We limit God to this finite world when we fail to remember He is an infinite God. When we are trying to discern God’s voice through the circumstances of life we should consider how what is happening around us fits into God’s eternal plan to save a lost world from destruction and to mold His children into the image of His Son.

God’s primary activity will be in these areas of our life. I’ve always been able to see how God’s specific plan for me lined up with His desire to invite a world to know Him. If what I sense He is asking me to do would help people know Him or know Him better it is much easier to recognize and affirm the voice of God in my circumstances.

Hearing from God is critical for the children of God to know God’s will for our life.

Our mission is to learn how to hear His voice. We must listen intently and carefully for His voice through the crowd of noises in the world in which we live. Thankfully God has not given up on us, but is still speaking to His people today.

Are you in a season of trying to hear from God?

7 Ways to Lead People Older — and Often Wiser — than You

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In my first management position, I was a 19 year-old college sophomore working full-time and leading a small staff of four people in the men’s clothing area of a major department store. I was placed in the position almost by default, because the previous manager left unexpectedly and I was already there and eager to lead. Everyone working for me was older than I was, including one man who was in his sixties.

Today, even though I have aged considerably since then and had years more leadership experience, I continue to have positions where people older than me, with more experience than I have in many areas, report to me by position. In fact, in the current church I pastor, I didn’t just “inherit” people with more experience — I recruited them. On purpose. I do not believe we could have had the success in revitalization we’ve had without their input. We needed — and keep needing — younger voices on our team, but these seasoned leaders have helped navigate major change in ways I couldn’t have done on my own.

In our church plant, where I was the founder, most of our staff was younger than me. But, even there, I personally recruited a staff member almost 15 years older than me, which meant there were literally three generations of leadership in our church plant. It was gold for our organizational structure.

It can be one of the more challenging parts of leadership, but I highly recommend it.

I work with many pastors and church planters who, as they begin their ministry career will likely encounter the same experience with either volunteers or paid staff. I can tell you, from experience, that your leadership will be better if you learn how to lead people older — and wiser — than you are today. Don’t be afraid to recruit them.

Here are 7 tips for leading people older than you:

Recognize the difference

When a person is 10, 20, or even 30 years older they likely have different needs and expectations from their leader and the organization. They may need different benefits, different work schedules, and even different leadership styles, depending on their age and stage of life. You should maximize your leadership by adapting your style to the person you are leading anyway, but this will be especially true when you lead someone who doesn’t always “need” your leadership.

Give credit for wisdom earned

This is key. If you don’t recognize and value that age and experience has given them something you may not have you’ll never effectively lead someone older than you. Most likely there will naturally be things the other person has experienced that you haven’t. Don’t let that intimidate you. Allow it to work for you by gleaning from that wisdom.

Stand your ground, but do it respectfully

If you are in the position, then do your job. They were probably raised in a generation where they expect you to lead, but as you should with any person you lead, be respectful. If someone is older, most likely he or she will be more sensitive to a younger leader being disrespectful and react negatively when you are not. They may not say anything — because this may be part of their culture too — but you won’t have their full respect if you aren’t leading.

Learn from them

Be honest when you don’t know how to do something, such as leadership or handling difficult issue or people. If the older person knows how, let them show you. It’s okay that you have some things to learn. We all do. The older a person becomes the more in tune he or she becomes with the fact that no one knows everything. Ask good questions. “Have you ever experienced something like this before in your leadership?” “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” “Am I missing anything in your opinion?”

Be clear on expectations

More than likely a person from another generation is more accustomed to structure than you are. There were days past when expectations were more clearly defined and people knew what was expected. Organizational charts were more linear. Job titles meant more about what a person did on the team. Be aware of this. You don’t have to change your leadership to accommodate them necessarily, but you do need to recognize and understand when they may need a little more clarity on your expectations. They may wait until they know for sure you want them to move forward on a task or project.

Don’t play games — even if you are intimidated

I have seen this many times. The leader is intimidated by the older team member, so he or she dances around an issue or fails to handle conflict. The leader might make excuses for not knowing something or pretend they have more experience than he or she actually has with an issue. People with life experience can usually see through that type behavior. The age and maturity will make them less intimidated by you. Be kind. Be respectful always, but be direct. Shoot straight with them. Stand firm when needed. The fact is that the older team member will probably have handled worse situations. They will welcome your secure leadership — if it’s handled appropriately.

Be patient with them

This is changing rapidly, but sometimes the older team member may not be as culturally, technologically, or trend savvy. They may need a different form of communication or you may need to explain something in a different context. But they will make up for it by adding to the team in other ways. Be prepared to allow extra training for them if needed — even in some things which appear basic for you.

There were many times in business where I would have never made it without someone helping me who had more experience than I had. That’s still true today. I continue to surround myself with mentors in life and church.

Granted, if the person is cranky, rigid, or troublesome — don’t add them to your team. But, that’s true of all ages.

Here’s the deal — When you shy away from someone for your team because they are older or more experienced than you — you ignore some of the most loyal, hard-working, dedicated team members. And, the humility in knowing you are leading people wiser than you will make you a better leader.

Do you lead people older than you? What would you add to this discussion?

7 Ways Extroverts Can Better Engage Introverts

Young woman reading on nature

I write a lot about introversion, because I’m an introvert.

Introversion is a personality preference, based on the way a person has been shaped by experiences and life.

In very broad terms, it means we are fueled more by our inner thoughts and reflections than a by social engagements and interactions with others. Alone time fuels us. Our idea of “fun” might be reading a book in a room — or field — all by ourselves. (Hence the picture with this post.)

It’s not that we don’t like people. You can read some of my other posts about that. It’s that if we had a preference of how to use our free time, many times we would spend it in quieter or more controllable environments.

Chances are you have lots of introverts on your team, in your church, your workplace, as your customers — even in your family. You’ll even find some people who appear very extroverted to be introverts. (Like many pastors I know — it seems especially in larger churches.)

I will often get requests to write about extroversion — specifically how extroverts can better understand introverts. (Extroverted people are seldom shy about asking for what they want!) 

This is generalized. No two introverts are the same just like no two extroverts are the same. Just like no two people — period — are the same. We are all uniquely made by our Creator! And, that’s intentional on His part!

But, this is an attempt to help you understand some of the introverts in your world. And, if you want clarification if it applies to them — simply ask. We can express ourselves — often quite eloquently.

Here are 7 ways that extroverts can better engage introverts:

Give us advance warning – Don’t put us on the spot for an answer or opinion. We have one, but often need time to formulate our thoughts. If you want our best answer, then you’re best not to demand it immediately from an introvert.

Don’t assume we don’t have an opinion – We do — and it may even be the best one — but we are less likely to share it surrounded by people who are always quick to have something to say and tend to control the conversation.

Don’t assume we are unfriendly or anti-social – We may not be talking, but that doesn’t mean we do not love people or that we don’t want to communicate with them. The opposite is probably more true. We just prefer to do it in less extroverted ways. Plus, we talk one at a time, so if there’s someone always talking, we may not get a chance — or take the opportunity.

Give us time to form the relationship – Introverts don’t usually form relationships quickly. We may appear harder to get to know, but when we do connect, we are loyal friends with deep, intimate connections. And we can actually be quite fun — even silly at times — once you get to know us.

Allow us time alone – All of us need personal time, but we require even more time alone than an extrovert usually does. We energize during these times — not just relax — and there’s a huge difference.

Don’t expect us to always love or get excited about extroverted activities – The social activities where you get to meet all the cool people you do not know — yea — that’s not always our idea of fun. It may even be a little scary. It might make us nervous at the thought of it. We’ll find excuses not to go, even if we know we need the experience or will have fun once we do them.(Cheryl helps me so much with this one. She stays by my side until I acclimate to the room. And, that’s usually what it takes for the introvert to really enjoy these type settings.)

Allow us to use written communication when available – We often prefer email or text over phone calls. We are usually more engaging when we can write out our thoughts ahead of time.

Are you an introvert?  What would you add to my list?

7 Reasons You May Not be Achieving Your Dreams

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Recently I posted 7 steps to achieve your dreams. I love helping people attain their God-given visions. 

It occurred to me that there may be an additional post needed.

The fact is that more people will look back on their life and wish they had done more with their life than they did.

I heard someone once say something like, “If you’re not careful, your “hope to do’s” will become your “wish I had’s”. I have many of those areas in my life. I want the next phase of my life to be different.

Here are 7 reasons you may not be achieving your dreams:

You have no dreams – You may have some but you’ve never recorded them. You never set some tangible goals that get you closer to your dreams. Only then can you analyze them and organize them into reachable and attainable dreams.

You have no plan – A dream without a plan is just a dream. A dream with a plan is an avenue to success. You can’t “work the plan” if you never wrote one.

You need accountability – We were designed for relationships. Sometimes knowing someone is going to hold you accountable is enough incentive to follow through. Give a few people the freedom to challenge you to work the plan.

You are afraid to share the load – If you are trying alone for fear of sharing your dream, you’ll also have no one with whom you can really share the victory. Sharing the load builds synergy, makes a stronger effort, and keeps your ego from sidelining your progress.

You’ve given up – You may have had a set back and now you’re afraid to try again. Successful dreamers are willing to get up after a fall, knowing they will be stronger and better equipped the next time.

You aren’t willing to take a risk – Fear can sometimes be a powerful motivator, but most of the time it’s one of our biggest stumbling block. Some of the best moments of your life are hidden in your fears. Risk-taking and dreaming go hand-in-hand. If the dream requires no risk, it isn’t much of a dream.

You never got started – Every road to success begins with one step. If you don’t start, you’ll certainly never finish. What step do you need to take?

Are any of these your reason for not achieving your dreams? What would you add to my list?

Be sure to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Dreams

7 Steps to Achieve Your Dreams

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I love and encourage dreaming.

I think dreaming is healthy for our emotional well-being. It’s a process that helps us accomplish great things personally and for God.

We are told we serve a big, creative God, whose thoughts will always be bigger and better than ours. We are to walk by faith. We are to trust God into the unknown. Dreaming should be natural to believers. Dreaming stretches the vision of churches and organizations, it fuels creativity, and many great opportunities develop first as a dream.

The reality is –‘however — that more people have dreams than attain them.

Perhaps you have dreams you have yet to accomplish. I certainly do. One reason dreams never come true is that we don’t have a system in place to work towards them. I love to be an encourager for people with great dreams, so with that in mind, here are some steps to help you move towards reaching your dreams:

Identify your dream – This is where you list specifically what the dream would look like. Obviously it needs to be attainable. If your dream is to create a new moon you may be disappointed, but don’t be afraid for it to be a stretch either. For example, suppose your dream is to be to be an author. That’s a dream you can accomplish, but it may not be realistic to write the next Purpose Driven Life.

Make an action plan – Write down specific action steps you can take towards attaining your goal. (The writing down part is important.) Sticking with the the idea of being an author, perhaps you could start with a blog for which you write post regularly to build the discipline of writing. Then move to outlining chapters. Then you might set aside a few hours a week to actually write the book. Record realistic dates to begin/complete each step.

Develop accountability – Most of us work harder when we know someone is going to challenge us to do so. Consider the success of programs like Weight Watchers. Accountability works, so share your plan of action with a few people who will continue to challenge you to completion.

Share the load – Even though it is your dream, the best ideas are accomplished when people work together towards a common vision. Don’t be afraid to invite others to help you accomplish your dream as needed.

Take a risk – If you really want to succeed, you must be willing to risk failure. Every great dream has an element of risk involved and the ones who achieve their dreams are the ones wiling to assume the risk.

Stay consistent – If you want to achieve your dreams, you will have to keep at the task, even during the set backs. Push yourself to complete scheduled action steps even on days you may not want to do anything. These is how habits are developed. Many give up too soon, often just before the tipping point towards success occurs. Unless you know it’s time to try another dream, stay consistent with the one in front of you.

Get started – The longer you wait, the more you delay achievement and the less likely you are to begin. If you know the dream is worth achieving, if you are confidant it’s a God-honoring, morally right, and worthy dream, then start today!

What is one dream you have yet to attain? Why not take one meaningful step to get started today?

A 4 Word Script to Evaluate Any Event

Smiling Asian businesswoman doing a presentation

I think evaluation is important. In fact, it may be equally important to the planning that goes into any event. And, for churches, just as we ask God to direct our thoughts and energies in creating and implementing an event in the church, we should ask God to direct us in evaluating what worked and what didn’t work.

We recently evaluated a major day (Easter) with some of our team. It flowed naturally. We got great feedback and learned some things to improve next year.

The evaluation process doesn’t always go that easily.

When evaluation isn’t being productive or your team isn’t in the routine of evaluating, let me share an idea that might help.

You need to script your evaluation process.

(Granted, some will struggle with the word “Event” being used to describe Easter weekend. And, I understand that, so you can call it anything you want. I’m using the word so that this idea can help you evaluate more than just Easter weekend.)

First, make sure the right people are in the room. I’ve done this in large and small settings, but you want voices at the table that can speak to most of what you were evaluating. For example, we since we were evaluating our Easter weekend, it would have made no sense if the only ones evaluating were the worship team and me. We were on the platform most of the time or only in our worship center. We needed people who could observe how guests were treated, what was happening in our parking lots, if children were cared for and whether or not the bathrooms were kept clean. Of this group, I also want positive-minded people who love the church and want to continue to see us improve — even if that means change.

So, after the right people are in the room, here’s something I’ve done when things aren’t progressing. It’s simple, but it works.

I’ve often gone to the board (I have one whole wall in my office painted with whiteboard paint) and written an outline for us to follow — a script if you will — to guide our thoughts to evaluate effectively.

Write down each of the words in bold, ask the questions — and you can think of better questions to add — and let people talk through each one.

Duplicate –

  • What did we do well?
  • What worked best?
  • What do we know we want to do again next time?

The goal here is to talk about and discover those things that need to be repeated next time. They worked. They fully helped you live out your vision and the goals for the event. These are often the “no-brainers” and are usually easily drawn out from the discussion.

Develop –

  • What was good, but could be better?
  • Where did we see the greatest energy, that with a little more effort could be huge?
  • What do we know is a part of our values for the event — or for our church (or organization) — but it didn’t get enough attention?

This is perhaps the most important part of the discussion. Here you want to discover those things that have the potential to really take your event to the next level. Try to keep discussion centered only on the development of existing things you do at this point — not new things — you will get there in a minute. You don’t want to add a ton to an event unless what you did was terribly bad and you need to start completely over with all new. Most of the time developing what you currently do and making it better is easier, more palatable for people’s tolerance to change, and more effective.

Dump –

  • What do we not need to do again?
  • What didn’t work at all?
  • What was the most draining effort, but produced little or no return for the investment?
  • What is tired, worn out, ready to be laid to rest before we do this again?

I tried to word those questions as pleasantly as possible, and if you prefer, use the word “delete”, but the idea here is what do you need to not do next time? You need to discover what needs killing. Don’t be shy here. This could be the hardest one, because this is where turf wars develop and feelings can come to the discussion, but you have to do it. If it didn’t work and it was expensive or labor-intensive — get rid of it next time. And, the reason it’s so important is that you can use that energy to pour into things you listed under the develop heading. And, that’s important too, because you don’t just want to take too much away from people without giving them something back that’s even better.

Dream –

  • What’s the wildest idea we could think of to do next time?
  • What could we add next time that has the potential to be a “signature” aspect?
  • If money was not an option, what would we do to make this better?

I love this one, but don’t put a ton of time into it — and don’t do it at all until you’ve done the others — but give some time to dreaming about the future. Honestly, I prefer the Develop one over this one as far as sustainability and productivity goes, but some really great ideas can originate here. Perhaps time this and stop when the ideas begin to turn really crazy, but allow people an opportunity to stretch the event into something no one has imagined.

Leader, you don’t have to be the moderator of this. Depending on the group someone else may be better at this and let you participate more in the discussion.

Make someone is the recorder in the room. We sometimes write ideas under the words and take a picture of the board — but I always suggest someone record these ideas into a document of some kind. We frequently create a Google Doc that we can share with others and store for later use. The more organize you are with your notes the more useful they will be next time you’re ready to do the event again.

Finally, I’d limit the time on this whole process. Maybe allot time to each one and then come back to them if you have time. It can grow stale if you linger too long in one of these discussions.

Hope this helps — and I’d love to hear from you if it does.

7 Critical Abilities of Senior Leaders

female leader

I have held a senior leadership position for over 20 years and been in leadership over 30 years. In this post, I want to express some things I’ve observed (and experienced) as some of the critical abilities that a senior leader must have to be effective.

The intent of this post is not to appear arrogant as a senior leader, as if I have qualities others may not have, although I’m confidant some will take it that way. (Isn’t being misunderstood part of being a senior leader at times?) I’m not afraid to admit my weaknesses — of which I have many — but there are certain abilities senior leaders need to do their job well.

And, you may not be able to understand that completely until you’ve served as a senior leader. That’s true of many things in life. Take parenting:

  • I remember how many people told me I wouldn’t understand parenting until I was a parent. They were right.
  • I remember how many people told me I should enjoy parenting at every stage of life while my boys were home. It passes fast. They were right.
  • I remember how many told me that I would adjust to being an empty-nester. They were right.

The point is that sometimes we can’t understand something until we experience it firsthand.

That’s the way it is with being the senior leader in an organization.

When I was a mid-level manager in a large corporation, I remember questioning why senior leadership made some of the decisions they did. Looking back — indeed — I would have made some of them differently. But, many times I can see why the view from their position motivated them to the decisions they made.

All leadership is challenging, but the senior position is a pressure unlike any other. Show me a small business owner, a president, a senior pastor or CEO and I’ll show you someone who carries — in an organizational leadership sense — a heavy burden.

I’ve learned — from observation — that some are qualified to lead from that position and some are not. Some want it. Some don’t. Some know it. Some don’t — often until they try.

I’ve also learned that a senior leader will struggle in the position when they lack some of these abilities — until they grow in them. And, one can grow in them — if they are willing to learn. To be most effective they must be aware of where they need to develop and continually be working towards them. These may be important abilities for all leaders — but they are critical for senior leaders.

Here are 7 critical abilities of senior leaders:

Ability to quickly and strategically think big picture

The senior leader doesn’t have a choice but to think big picture for the organization — at all times. There are lots of decisions made in a day and each of them could be huge. The impact of a senior leader’s decision often impacts everyone in the organization. He or she must learn to “think strategically in the moment“, realizing the impact — and the weight — of their decisions.

Ability to remain steadfast during adversity

The senior leader must continue to stand strong when everyone else is running from the problem. Especially in times of crisis or controversy, the organization and community around will look for leadership. A senior leader doesn’t have the choice of burying his or her head in the sand when troubles come to the organization. (By the way, I learned this one the hard way and wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to unquestionably keep a confidence

The senior leader usually knows things that aren’t ready to be released or talked about publicly. He or she must be trusted to keep these confidences. A senior leader must learn how to answer questions and address issues of importance to people without divulging confidential information. They must not say what people want to hear just to be “liked”. One of the quickest ways to lose trust as a senior leader is to develop a reputation as one who “talks too much”. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to fully release control and delegate

The senior leader must wear many hats and oversee all areas of focus within an organization. He or she must be able to trust others and take risks on people to so growth can continue apart from the senior leader’s direct involvement. Delegation is important at all levels of leadership, but for the senior leader it is not an option. In fact, the best leaders I know give the implementation of the vision away freely. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to see all sides to an issue

The senior leader can’t always have things their way — or play favorites for any one way, but must balance all the needs within an organization. This is another part of thinking strategically in the moment. Since an organization is built with many separate but equally important parts, the senior leader must view every scenario as it relates to each part of the organization. In a business, as an example, those who are in charge of sales and marketing are just as important as those who keep track of controlling costs. In a church, the music ministry is just as important as the discipleship ministry. (I wrote about that HERE)

Ability to make unpopular decisions

The senior leader must make the wisest decision possible — for the entire good of the organization — based on all the information he or she can gather — even when that means the decision will not be popular. And, that’s hard. In fact, at times it can produce a loneliness of leadership that keeps many from being able to handle the senior leader position. Leadership involves change and some people can navigate through the reactions people have to change better than others. (I previously wrote about the Emotions of Change. Senior leaders must learn to expect and deal with all of them.)

Ability to embrace healthy conflict for the good of the organization

Wherever there are people there will be conflict. The senior leader can’t shy away from conflict that is critical to maintain the health of the organization. The senior leader must recognize the importance of allowing times of conflict to strengthen the organization. They shouldn’t go looking for conflict, but not run from it either. It’s a delicate balance at times. (I wrote about ways to address healthy conflict HERE.)

If you don’t have these abilities — don’t quit leading. Although, if you would after reading one opinion blog post maybe you should. (Just saying.) I don’t have all of these perfected. I’m very much a continual work in progress. But, I do believe it’s important to recognize areas of improvement and seek ways to grow as a senior leader.

I’m sure there are others. These are from my observations and experiences. What is missing from my list? What would you add?

Make this post better: Share examples of ineffective senior level leaders you’ve known and which of these were lacking from his or her abilities.