The Dad Challenge: The Nurturing Father

iStock_000004677667XSmall

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Fathers are not usually seen as the nurturing ones in a family. When my boy’s got sick, they didn’t want me, they wanted Cheryl.

The Bible, however, tends to also place the father in a nurturing position. We are told not to “exasperate” our children, which means not to wear them out with correction, but to “bring them up”. The phrase literally means we spend time with them on a regular basis and encourage them in the development of their character.  

Sounds like nurturing to me.

The Bible tends to lay a huge responsibility on the father to help set the tone or the climate of the home. A father, who is consistently harsh or is never satisfied with his children, will tend to produce children who lack the confidence to face tough situations in life.

On the other hand, a father too quiet and passive to be intimately involved in the lives of children will likely lead to adults who cannot connect well with others, either in the workplace or in their own marriages and homes.

Fathers are often one of the best determinates of a child’s future success in life.

Wow, this is a sobering statement, but it’s true!

If a boy never feels he meets his father’s approval, he may become either an underachiever or an overachiever, but he will likely never feel that he “measures up” in life. A girl whose father fails to affirm her will often seek that approval from others – often in seeking inappropriate or less than ideal relationships. She may enter marriage unrealistically expecting something from a husband he may or may not be able to give.

I haven’t even mentioned the impact of an absentee or abusive father. Some reading this know this impact well – including the writer of this post (me).

The biggest impact in the life of a child whose father never nurtures is they often have a harder time realizing the nurturing aspect found in a loving relationship with a Heavenly Father. Without the model of an earthly father, they may see God more in the role of Judge than of “Abba” – which is the Hebrew term for our modern “Daddy”.

I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of God, which allows so many second chances for fathers who have missed the mark – but if we desire to be Godly fathers, we will strive to nurture our children in love.

How’s this for a Dad Challenge? I love investing in other men. We are in this together! I want to encourage you today! But, we have great work to do, men. Let’s do it to the glory of God!

For more thoughts on parenting, click HERE.

Ask yourself – what changes do I need to make to be a more nurturing dad?

3 Suggestions for When God Tries to Speak to You

Here Are My Prayers

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9

Has God been trying to get your attention lately? Is God trying to tell you something? Are you having a hard time hearing?

Samuel was in training to be a prophet. He was set apart from birth to be God’s anointed one. God had something to tell Samuel, but Samuel couldn’t recognize the voice of God.

Eli told Samuel to lie down and simply say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

You and I live in an often crowded and busy world. There are lots of “voices”. I can’t remember the last time I had a day with nothing to do. My home is quieter than it once was when two boys kept the hallway filled with the sounds of football, basketball, and any other sport Mom would let them get away with in the house, but there’s still plenty of noise and activity. My calendar is fuller than ever.

Often, I find myself surrounded by the “stuff” of life. The idea of hearing from God in the midst of all this clutter seems nearly impossible. Yet, I know my very existence hangs on my God relationship. I need a word from my Father!

How about you?

Perhaps you too would love to hear from God, but your life is too thick for His word to filter through.

I love the advice of Samuel’s mentor – Eli. I believe his instructions could be helpful for us.

Here are 3 ways Eli encouraged Samuel to hear from God:

He told Samuel to be still.

Samuel laid down, in the stillness of the night, and waited for God to speak. Many times we can’t hear from God because we are – frankly – too busy. God tends to speak with a quiet whisper to listening, trusting ears. “Let them who have ears hear” – Jesus might say.

Consider your past week – when would you have had time to hear from God had He tries to speak in a whisper?

He encouraged Samuel to listen expectantly.

Samuel left Eli knowing he was waiting – and he knew Whom he was waiting for. He wasn’t surprised when God spoke, because he was anxiously awaiting His voice. I think many times we would be surprised should God choose to speak. We almost don’t expect Him to anymore.

Ask yourself – have you given up your belief God can, should He choose, answer your request? Are you praying in faith?

Perhaps most important, Eli mentored Samuel to obey God’s word.

It is one thing to hear from God, and quite another to do something about it. When God speaks to you – this is a monumental event! It is important to obey. I often wonder if God speaks most to those He knows will do as He asks.

Be honest, are you living in obedience to God today – as much as you know how? Should God ask you to do something contrary to what you want to do – are you in a season where you would obey?

God may be trying to speak to you at this point in your life. In fact, if you are a believer, I’d be surprised if He’s not. My question for you – are you in a position to hear?

Stop, wait, listen – and obey the word of God today!

7 Suggestions When the Team is Stalled and Struggling for a Win

A man calling for help to repair a stalled car

I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. It could be a pastor, a ministry or non-profit leader, or a businessperson.

I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like this many times. Every team experiences times of decline. They are often seasons.

What you do next – when these seasons come – almost always determines how long they last and how well you recover.

First, I should say, every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Don’t take principles or suggestions – even these I’m sharing here – and think they are like a magic pill.

Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone from a paid consultant to trading a friend a favor who leads another team. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.

With those disclaimers in mind, I can offer a few suggestions to shape your current thoughts.

What do you do when your team is stalled or struggling for a win?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Admit it

Pretending there isn’t a problem will only make things worse and delay making things better. Most likely everyone on the team and in the organization knows there is a problem. Again, this is where the leader must be humble enough and wise enough to recognize and admit the problem.

(I realize the next question is “What do I do when the leader isn’t this wise or humble?” This would be the focus of another post, but hopefully this post will help. Perhaps you should email it to them.)

Recast vision

People need reminding why they are doing what they are doing. You would think they know – and they might – but, all of us need reminding periodically. You should have a vision big enough to fuel people’s energy towards achieving it. If you don’t have one, spend time there first.

If you already do – and most teams do – now is the time to tell it. Again. Frequently. (For my pastor friends, you have a vision given to you – we know it – we just sometimes get distracted by other things. Tradition. Programs. Systems. Stuff.) The why behind what you’re doing should always be the fuel for what we do.

Evaluate

Times we’ve stalled are also good opportunities to ask hard questions? What is going wrong? Who is not working out on the team? Where have we lost our way? Where are we stuck? How did we lose our way? What are we missing? This is a great place to bring in some outside perspective if needed. But, I have learned often the answers are in the room if we ask the right questions. The less you try to protect personal agendas here the greater chance you’ll have of recovery.

Introduce change

You need to try something new. Growth never happens without change. Perhaps you need several somethings new. We tend to hold on even more to our traditions and what has worked in the past in times of stalling, but now is not the time to resist doing something different. Obviously, what you’ve been doing isn’t working – which is the point of the post.

Take another risk – as scary as it is. Explore again. Be intentional and make sure the changes line with the vision, but encourage movement. Movement often spurs momentum. Especially new movement.

Fuel potential

There are usually areas which are working and areas which are not. If no areas are working, you may be looking for different answers than this post can provide. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is working when you are clouded by what isn’t working, but you must try.

Again, outside perspectives can sometimes work here too. You don’t even always have to pay for this. We’ve often asked people to come in and evaluate our Sunday services, for example. They attend other churches. They are friends. They don’t charge us.

Often these are things the team is known for or things which are fairly new but are working. Wherever there is a spark of any kind, you must fuel it. This is usually the best place to spur more momentum quickly. Maybe you need to build upon something you’ve taken for granted. In church revitalization I use the term “rediscover – don’t reinvent”. Therefore, build upon the things which are working currently.

Celebrate small wins

When you have something to celebrate, make a big deal out of it. A really big deal. Put your party hat on now! Seriously, don’t go overboard over something people will quickly dismiss as nothing, but if you are seeing any signs of hope, share it. People need the energy of something going well to keep pushing forward for even more success.

Encourage one another

As a final thought, remember, the hard times as a team can actually help build your team for long-term success. Consequently, allow this to be a time you grow together as a team, figure out this together, and help the team to grow and succeed again. Pray for and with each other. Cheer each other on daily! You can do it!

Have you been a part of a turnaround team? What helped?

7 Simple Leadership Tips Which Could Help Every Pastor and Leader

abc cubes

I have a heart for leaders. Especially church leaders. I’d love to help others learn from my mistakes. In fact, this is a huge motivation for this blog and a lot of my ministry.

With this in mind, I want to share a few things I’ve learned over the years. I hope it proves helpful.

Here are 7 simple leadership tips:

Fight fewer battles where the win doesn’t matter as much

Okay, honestly, this is hard, because usually people are bringing the battle to you. The petty complaints. The constant grumbling. But, it’s nothing new. Read the Old Testament. The key is to remember the over all vision. What’s the end goal. Go for that and don’t be distracted by the things that won’t matter in eternity.

Don’t try to duplicate as much as you emulate 

The connotation of duplicate is to be just like. With emulate, you’re trying to match the level of success, in your individual context – but not necessarily achieve it in the same way. This is so important. You are not someone else. You’ll stress less about your progress if you drop the comparison game. Trust me.

Lead with leaders

The more you surround yourself with people capable of leading others, the greater the impact your leadership can have. It means you’ll have to delegate. You can’t control everything. You must empower – but you’ll be so blessed when you see the church and its leadership capacity grow.

Your downtime is gold

More than you ever imagined. Wow, I wish pastors would learn this one. Don’t neglect your Sabbath. It’s not simply Biblical – it’s highly practical. Discipline yourself to build sufficient rest into your schedule. When you’re tired you will never lead at your best level.

Think marathon not sprint

You will have bad days. There will be critics. You will send a dumb email. You will say the wrong thing. You will plan a project which bombs. On those days, remind yourself of the bigger vision. Regroup. Rest. Recharge. Go at it again tomorrow.

Stop trying to control every outcome

You’ll seldom be able to anyway. When you do, people will either rebel or never live up to their potential. Control the vision, but almost everything else, you can release to the people around you.

Be authentic

Not partially authentic. Be totally authentic. People will trust you more if you are who you claim to be – always. Don’t try to make yourself bigger than you are. People can easily spot the margin between the portrayed you and the real you. And, the greater the margin the less you’ll build trust in those you hope will follow.

Any simple tips you would add?

5 Reasons This Pastor Attends Church While on Vacation

destin beach

Pastor and ministry leader, as you consider your vacation this year, I want to encourage you to find a church wherever you are and visit.

I understand why you may not. Church is your “job”. You’re on vacation. It’s a break from “work” by definition.

One of the first things Cheryl and I do when we go out of town is look for a place to attend church on Sunday. We’ve had some incredible experiences attending other churches and its one of our favorite parts about vacation.

I know many pastors who look forward to some weeks they don’t have to attend church. I have often been asked if we are legalistic because we don’t take a vacation from church while on vacation. Do we feel we “must” attend church in vacation? Is it because I’m a pastor?

Absolutely not. We feel no obligation. It’s what we want to do.

Here are 5 reasons this pastor attends church on vacation:

We love church.

Church is the best part of our week. We don’t view church as an obligation. It is a privilege. We believe the church is God’s plan to make disciples. It’s our community. It’s where we find our best friends in life. It is a large part of what fuels us for the week ahead. Why would we take a vacation from this important part of our life?

We get to worship without distraction.

Honestly, Sunday can be a very distracting day for Cheryl and me. We are both busy with ministry obligations. On vacation we are freed to worship.

We get to sit together.

Cheryl is beside me during the worship portion of the service, but she has never stood beside me while I preach – even as many times as I’ve asked her to. 🙂 Actually, we did dance together on stage in one service. (Another story) On vacation we enjoy being together for an entire service.

We learn from others.

I love sitting under the teaching of other pastors. Cheryl never admits to anyone preaching better than me, but she seems to take plenty of notes when we are out of town. 🙂 We also always go home with new ideas and renewed energy from attending other churches.

We get to encourage another pastor.

We know how much we love visitors. On vacation, we get to attend another church, pray for the pastor, and many times meet and pray for the pastor and pastor’s spouse. Those have been awesome experiences over the years.

Please understand. I’m not saying you have to attend church when you’re on vacation. I am far from being legalistic. I’ve often been referred to as more of a rebel, but don’t dismiss this advice too quickly. It could be one of the greater parts of your vacation. (And if you’re ever in Lexington for vacation, come see us. Did you read my post about vacationing here?)

7 Things Pastor Tell Me Kept Them from Leading Well

Around a barrier business concept as a red dart solving an obstacle problem by averting a wall and hitting the target as a success metaphor for agility and dexterity in achieving your goal.

In my talks with pastors and ministry leaders, I hear some repeated themes. One common theme is they have a story of a failed leadership experience. Their first church. The church experience that went bad. Or, many times their current ministry and the reason for our conversation.

When they have recovered from the experience, looking back, they wish they had known then what they know now. You’ve probably got some of those learning experiences too. It may have been an incident or the entire time in a particular ministry, but there were critical errors which kept you and the church from accomplishing all God had for you. There were errors in their leadership.

Here’s my question. Why don’t we do a better job as pastors and leaders at learning from each other?

I’ve reflected back on some of those conversations and there are literal words I have heard consistently over time. I want to share them in hopes we can learn from others.

Here are 7 things I’ve repeatedly heard, which kept a pastor from leading well:

“I failed to delegate”

Many pastors try to be a solo leader. They know the expectation placed upon them and they know what they want to achieve, and they begin to think if it is going to be done right they must do it. They begin to try to control every outcome. Sadly, it can even limit the leader’s willingness to walk by faith. It doesn’t take long until a pastor burns out, potential leaders disappear and people are never developed and discipled. It’s a recipe for eventual disaster in leadership.

“We couldn’t see beyond today”

Many pastors get a tunnel vision in leading people. They only see what they see. They don’t consider the unseen – the yet to be imagined – the hidden gems of opportunity. Again, often this is a matter of faith, or laziness, sometimes a personality wiring, or maybe just falling into a rut of routine. In the sameness of today, things become stale and eventually people become bored…and someday they disappear.

“I ignored the real problems”

The real problems aren’t always the spoken problems. They aren’t the obvious problems. The real problems are the underlying reasons behind a problem. They usually deal with heart problems. What people are really thinking, but aren’t saying. The real problems always involve people and often involve perceptions, which may or may not be reality.

“We resisted change too long”

Change is coming. One way or another. Better to be on the side of change where you are the change agent – helping to craft the direction of change – rather than being the agent when change is no longer an option. Over time, if change is ignored, change will be thrust upon you. And, this is never welcomed change.

“I tried to please everyone”

When you do this you really please no one. Your time management isn’t under control. You are pulled in so many directions you do nothing effectively. Instead of leadership there is chaos. The loudest voices win and the silent ones you actually have a chance of leading somewhere disappear. And, you end up one very tired, skittish, ineffective pastor.

“The momentum was allowed to die.”

Momentum is extremely difficult to get back if you ever lose it. It’s easier to shift momentum to something new through change than it is to rebirth it when momentum is completely absent.

“I neglected my family”

Many pastors tell me they started to have problems at home when the ministry received more focus than the family. Three times in the past month, I’ve talked with a pastor who walked away from ministry – for how long I don’t know – because they realized they were going to lose their family if they didn’t. Sadly, too many pastors stay until it’s too late to repair the damage. Very sad.

Obviously, the main – and most damaging – reasons a pastor doesn’t lead well are spiritual more than practical. We are to listen and obey the voice of God – first and foremost. But, we must not ignore the practical aspects of good leadership. Again, let’s learn from each other.

Are any of these keeping you from leading well?

The Best Routes in Life Find You Dodging Geese Poop

older couple enjoying life

Some of my favorite trips or vacations are where I get to take a long run. Through parks, subdivisions, and back roads. But, my favorite runs always involve water – along a river, lake or ocean. I have run in some incredible places.

Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington, DC., Madison, Wisconsin, Dallas. Just a few which come to mind.

On those runs one word can usually capture the time.

Glorious.

I worship. I talk to God. I dream.

Long runs along a body of water are awesome. Love it.

I have come to this realization though:

The best places to run all have some common characteristics.

The best cities in which to run, in my opinion, have these attributes in common:

A body of water.

A path beside the body of water.

The peace and tranquility of running on the path beside the body of water.

The chance to connect with nature and God along the body of water.

But, here’s the other thing I learned – and the point of this post.

The best places to run require dodging geese poop.

(Sorry if you don’t think a nice blog like this, written by a mostly nice pastor like me, about leadership and life, should use an analogy – or a word = like “poop” in a post. I guess I could call them geese droppings, but that doesn’t seem to capture what they drop.)

But, it is true. If you want to run in the best places –

You’ve got to dodge the geese poop.

And, right about now, you’re wondering why you’re even still reading this post. I understand.

Well, it’s because – once as I was dodging the geese poop – it occurred to me.

The same principle is true in life and leadership.

You can settle for mediocre.

You can choose to go for second best.

You can compromise before the right decision is made.

You can refuse the risk you might get dirty.

But, if you want to experience the best life has to offer.

If you want to settle for nothing but the right decision.

You have to dodge the geese poop of life.

The path to the best places in life are often lined with difficulties along the way.

(By the way, for my pastor friends, this principle has been true for me in church planting and church revitalization. We’ve dodged a lot of geese droppings.)

Following your dream – achieving God’s plan for your life – maximizing your goals and ambitions – those aren’t easy. They never are. They require a lot of faith, a lot of hard work, and a lot of prayer and patience.

It’s messy, filled with setbacks, conflict and obstacles. There will be times we are tempted to give up, choose an easier route, or quit before the end is in sight.

It’s a choice. You can choose where you want to run. You can stay on the boring and safe treadmill of life if you want, but, as for me, no doubt about it, whenever I get the chance, I’m choosing to run by the body of water.

I’ll just watch out for and endure the geese poop, because I know it’s a part of the path.

Are you on one of those body of water paths of life right now?

Are there a lot of “droppings” in your way?

Don’t give up – the Glorious part comes to those who endure!

10 Strong Opinions I Have About Meetings

Office life: business team during a meeting

I have lots of meetings in my world. Over the years of business, non-profit leadership, elected office, and ministry, I’ve probably attended several thousand meetings. Along the way, I’ve developed some strong opinions.

I thought I’d share a few.

Here are 10 strong opinions I have about meetings:

If all the decisions are already determined – don’t call a meeting – send me an email. Don’t waste my time.

If you’re meeting at a time when people are naturally hungry – feed us. And, pay for it.

If we don’t have an agenda – if it’s simply on the calenda, but there is really nothing to discuss – well, I don’t mean to seem rude, but what are we doing here?

If every new idea is going to be shot down – would skeet-shooting be a better use of our time?

If we keep doing this the same way every time, won’t someone  – someone like me – eventually get bored.

If we are only going to talk about it – but never really do anything about it – isn’t this really just a social event?

If one person dominates all the conversation – let’s skip the meeting and schedule a speech.

If everyone is invited – nothing is getting accomplished today – let’s have a party.

If it’s past time for most people to go home – let’s postpone – you’ve lost our full attention.

If no one is taking notes – will we even remember any of this tomorrow?

Just a few of my thoughts about meetings. I’m not opposed to them at all. I think they are vital to healthy  organizations. Let’s just keep getting better at them. 

Do you have yours?