Signs of an Emotionally Healthy Team

Do you ever wonder if you serve on a healthy team?

Here’s a quick quiz. The most emotionally healthy teams are:

Able to fight through a decision…

Able to have conflict respectfully…

Able to challenge ideas…

Able to share disappointments with each other…

Able to make mistakes without receiving judgment…

Able to express wild and crazy dreams…

Able to cry…laugh…celebrate…

Together…

And still love working with each other…

How healthy is your team?

What would you add to this list?

Friday Discussion: Racial Diversity in the Church

I’m curious about something. I’ve been curious a long time.

This is not a new subject for me. Over the years my wife and I have visited dozens of churches. We’ve visited in most of the mainline denominations with varied music and preaching styles. We’ve visited predominantly white churches and predominantly black churches. I’m white (in case you didn’t know…and depending on the season, the whiter I become :) ), but some of my very best friends are black. I’ve even been privileged to speak in predominately black churches. I’ve never really understood the whole racial division thing. I love people. I think our culture is, at least in some ways, getting more accepting of other cultures and colors of skin. I know my boy’s generation doesn’t even seem to think as much about this issue as my generation did or certainly my parent’s generation did. I won’t pretend racial prejudice has ended, because I know it hasn’t, especially in some parts of the country and world, but things appear better today than they once were in my lifetime.

But, that’s where my curiosity begins. I see improvement everywhere except in the church. Why is that? Our churches remain segregated for the most part. Recently at Catalyst Conference I spoke with a couple black friends of mine.  I expressed in honesty that many times I don’t know what to say or how to say it when talking about the issue of racial diversity…so I say nothing. They shared they feel the same way. (One of them even took our frank conversation to ask me why white people where long-sleeve shirts with shorts. He said he doesn’t get it. Ha! Love it!) Another friend Scott Williams wrote a book about the subject, because he too sees this divide in the church. Since I first wrote this post, Church Diversity has become a wide influencer of this discussion.

So, today, for Friday discussions, let’s talk about it. Why do you believe the church is still so divided racially? Is it music style, preaching styles, attitudes, culture…what? What can be done about it? What steps can a church take?

Discuss…comment…engage…it’s Friday discussion time!

(It should be noted that some churches are making a difference. Our church is at least seeing some changes and I know our people are open to change in this area. Still there is much work to be done and we know it. We are at least having the discussions. Another friend of mine, Artie Davis, has a church that’s done this well in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Scott’s book engages a dozen or so churches who are doing a good job bridging the racial divide. If you know of a church he should talk to, leave it in the comments and I’ll make sure he gets their name.)

7 Essentials for Personal Success in Today’s World

In case you haven’t been keeping up, the world has changed. To be successful today in any profession takes new tools and skills. I am asked frequently by young leaders what advice I have for those just starting their career. Obviously, if you are a believer desiring to do ministry (which describes many of my readers) then you first need to work through your relationship with Christ to be obedient to God’s call on your life, but even Christian leaders need to think how best to succeed in a changing world.

Here are some “must haves” I would advise young leaders to seek to possess in order to achieve personal success:

Personal branding – I have always kept my resume up-to-date and encouraged others I work with to do the same, but today requires far more than a resume. Today it is easy and therefore important to develop your own identity…your own brand. (I wrote a post about personal branding HERE.)

Connectedness – Social media is not an option, anymore. The use of Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media sites is the way networks are built these days. People once traded email addresses to build professional relationships. Now they trade social mediums.

Action plan – You will never reach your dreams without a plan. Those who achieve great things develop a system to implement their ideas. This is not new to today’s world, but it is perhaps even more important now. (Read a post about achieving your dreams HERE.)

Self-initiative - No one is going to script life for you. The days when the organization writes the rules for you are over. The ones who achieve success today are those who are willing to take the initiative to do something without anyone forcing them to do so.

Original thought – Uniqueness sets you apart from the crowd and today that’s more important than ever. There are thousands of ideas in the world and yours is just one of them, but you better have some of your own.

Team spirit - Most healthy environments these days frown on lone rangers. Be willing to humbly submit to others and participate in a team environment. Be likable and work well with others. Collaboration is a key function of today’s successful organizations.

Flexibility – Change is the only guarantee in all this. Today’s leader must remain flexible to a changing environment and wiling to adapt quickly as necessary.

What else would you add to my list (or take away)?

Leader, Strategically Keep Thy Mouth Shut

Leadership is influence, so the words a leader says are powerful…

Therefore, leaders must choose their words carefully…

I see leaders get excited, underestimate the power of their influence. fail to realize the heaviness of the moment…forget that what they are saying is being listened to closely…

and is always subject to interpretation…

So they say things they wouldn’t say if they had time to think about it.

(I must admit, I’ve been there…stuck my foot in my mouth…and regretted what I said many times.)

The real problem is that some leaders don’t think beyond the moment…they don’t think about the moments after the moment…

Great leaders train and discipline themselves to strategically think in the moment…

Sometimes that means they learn to not say anything at all until they’ve had time to plan their response.

It’s even okay to say “Let me get back to you on that”…or “I don’t know yet”…

Great leaders, learn to control their tongue in the moments…

Leader, have you had this problem before? Do you need to learn this principle?

7 Steps to Achieve Your Dreams

I love and encourage dreaming, because I think it’s healthy emotionally and the process 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, so 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.  (I written previously about the subject of dreams HERE.)

The reality is 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, 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 attainable to be the next Max Lucado.

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. (Read my encouragement to give your vision away HERE.)

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 now – 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?

7 Questions of Jesus That Will Change Your Life

Years ago I became fascinated with the questions of Jesus. It occurred to me that if Jesus was asking a question it must be an important one. I realize that in the culture in which Jesus lived asking questions was a method of learning, but Jesus always knew the answers. His questions were to cause His listeners to think.

With that in mind, consider some of these 7 questions of Jesus.

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  (Matthew 9:28)

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”  (Matthew 8:26)

What do you think about the Christ?”  (Matthew 22:42)

“Do you love me?”  (John 21:17)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do what I tell you?”  (Luke 6:46)

“What do you want me to do for you?”  (Luke 18:41)

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

To which of these do you most need to consider your answer? Are there other questions of Jesus you would add to this list?

Iron Sharpens Iron – Learn From Your Team

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

This verse has inspired me over the years, but recently I saw it in a different context for my life.  I’ve often seen this verse helpful to remind me to build accountability and mentoring into my life, which I have consistently done.  I am a wisdom seeker, so I am continually looking for nuggets of advice to help me be a better person, leader, father, husband and friend.  I think it may have even another application for me today.

One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is failing to learn from the people on their team.  We tend to think the best ideas are outside our organization, so we learn from many sources, but many times the best ideas for the organization are already with us.  I love to attend conferences, I read tons of books, I follow numerous blogs of great leaders, but the fact is God has surrounded me with great leaders with whom I work. I need to make sure I’m learning from them.

Here’s a gentle reminder.  If your organization hires sharp people, which I hope it does, learn from them. Allow their “iron” to sharpen your iron.

What have you learned from the people on your team?

25 Statements of Jesus That Will Change Your Life

Recently I read one of these statements of Jesus and I couldn’t go any further in my reading.  I realized in that moment, that although I had read it perhaps hundreds of times, I often take the statement for granted.  It made me think about the many other truths Jesus shared which are life-changing.  I decided to put a list together.  Perhaps some of these will be meaningful to you.  Read through the list…memorize a few of them (you probably already have many of them)…let them soak deep into your heart and mind…then allow God to penetrate your life with truth.

Here are 25 statements of Jesus that will change your life:

“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37)

“Go and learn what this means ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’” (Matthew 9:13)

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2)

“Ask and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7)

“If the Son has set you free you are free indeed” (John 8:36)

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“You are the light of the world”  (Matthew 6:14)

“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

“Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  (Matthew 14:27)

“I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7)

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26)

“If you love me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15)

“Your give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37)

“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8)

“This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Mark 7:6)

“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” (Matthew 6:25)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do to them” (Matthew 7:12)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  (John 6:29)

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

I realize some of these can be misunderstood if out of context, but the fact remains these are things Jesus said and He is Truth, so every word has life-changing value.  I wonder, if we really understood the magnitude of these words of Jesus and believed them, would it change the way we lived our life?

Which of these do you most need to apply to your life today?

There are many others…what would you add to my list?

YouVersion Changes Lives

If you have a smart phone or a computer, you never have to leave home again without your Bible!

I love what the team at LifeChurch.tv has done to encourage Bible reading through their work with YouVersion. Our church uses the live version each Sunday (sign up HERE) and it has started to catch on with people. YouVersion continues to improve their offerings for churches. Consider these additions:

Free Bible Pages
http://bit.ly/ajTkjP

Desiring to help people from every walk of life spend time with God’s Word, they are offering “Free Bible pages” that your denomination, organization, or individual church can use to connect people to the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit as they engage in Scripture.

For no cost, they will create two Free Bible pages: one that is optimized for mobile devices and another on YouVersion.com. Both will feature your logo and a personal message from your organization. Then, very simply, anyone can download the free Bible App and start reading the Bible, thanks to you!

Reading Plans
http://www.youversion.com/about/reading-plans

More than 20 Reading Plans are helping people actively engage in Scripture with YouVersion. Countless users have let us know that their lives have changed because they are spending more time reading the Bible with one of these plans. They are customizable, sharable, and free. And YouVersion allows you to share what you are reading and learning through social media connections like Twitter and Facebook.

YouVersion Live
http://www.youversion.com/about/live

YouVersion Live allows people to interact with church services on their phone. Using their mobile device or any computer with an Internet connection, individuals can vote on a poll and see the results live, ask questions anonymously, follow along with message outlines and take notes, see Bible verses from the sermon in context, give a tithe or offering, and request prayer.

Have you downloaded YouVersion to your phone or computer? Is it helping you read the Bible more?

Take Time for Excellence

Often it’s one revision…a second look…one additional opinion…that takes an idea or a project from “Okay” to noteworthy.

It happens for me when writing a sermon. If I take the time to finish, then sit on it 24 hours, then go back for one more critical look the message is always better than it was before.

Don’t rush excellence. There’s a balance between stalling too long and rushing through a decision.

For more thoughts on this subject read THIS POST.

Which do you lean towards…rushing through a project or stalling too long?