Ann Voscamp: 3 Game Changing Principles for Life – Catalyst

annvoskamp

Ann Voskamp spoke at Catalyst Conference recently. Her Twitter bio says, “Wife to the Farmer: Mama to 6: Author of One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan: NYTimes Besteller) Seeking to follow One alone.”

Her message was one of my favorite talks, possibly because it spoke to me in this season of my life. She kept her audience captive throughout her talk. It was a powerful message.

I also learned Ann is an introvert like me, so even though I saw her at a backstage event, I didn’t bug her. I just processed her message.

Here are my notes from Ann’s talk:

  • “You can’t walk anywhere honestly and authentically apart from His promises”
  • “Nothing can overwhelm you like his grace can overtake you.”
  • “The enemy only has two battle plans. To blind you from who God is and blind to who you are in Him”

Three game-changing principles for absolutely everyone…including pastors…

From Jehoshaphat’s story in 2 Chronicles 20:

1. When overwhelmed. Pause.

  • It’s counter cultural and counter to our natural inclination, but it’s Christlike.
  • Only then we will remember who we are in Christ and live out of our identity.

2. Be present to His presence in the present moment.

  • Enter into His presence with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is always the right response to the presence of God.
  • I know who God is…He is good. In one minute you have your identity.

3. Pour – We can only pour out of the filling of His presence.

  • So many of us spend so much time fighting tomorrow’s battle with worry and yesterday’s battle with regret that they can’t live effectively within the battlefield of the present.
  • Why would we rather strive hard for Jesus than be satisfied with what Jesus has already done for us?
  • If you want your love to change the world, slow down enough to enjoy more of His love.

This was a life-giving message for me. Thanks Ann. Thanks Catalyst.

4 Things For Profits Can Learn From Non-profits

image

I’ve been in vocational ministry…my primary income came from ministry work…non-profits…for over ten years now. My professional career, however, is much longer. I had over 20 years in management and leadership positions in secular (for profit) work prior to ministry.

Recently I heard a great talk from Jeff Henderson (read my notes HERE), on what non-profits can learn from for profits. I agreed with the points Jeff made.

In discussing the talk with one of my sons, he asked a great question. He asked, “What have you learned in the church (non-profit) work that could have helped you in business (for profit)?”

Great question. I love that my boys are old enough to start challenging my thought process and make me better.

Here are 4 things for profits could learn from non-profits:

People matter – In the church or non-profit world…the vision…almost always involves people (or living parts of creation)…above profit. Hence the “non-profit”. Frankly, that can be frustrating for those of us who like our balance sheets and income statements to reflect financial health, but I’ve learned…often the hard way…that why we are doing what we are doing is most important. Improving the overall health or spiritual well being of a child, for example, is more important even than having a positive cash flow at the end of the month. (That said…my business minded friends are thinking…without positive cash flow…in time we will cease to make any difference in the child’s life…but the point is people matter most. The for profit world could many times stand a lesson in that truth.)

It’s the little things – It. Always. Is. In business, we tended to move towards and place our energy on the big. Big projects. Big profit. Big customers. We knew the small things mattered, but the big seemed to overshadow that in our actions. If the numbers were big…we could ignore that someone was a real jerk to work with others…for example. In the ministry and non-profit world, we’ve learned that many times the little things matter most. When the father who has never been to church shows up one Sunday…small deal to some…big deal to us. We see the potential. The smallest moments of time can often be the biggest excitement for us.

Money is not enough – We know this because we seldom seem to have money. And yet the work must continue. So we have to get real creative at times. We’ve learned it’s more about the people involved than the budget. We would rather have the funds, but in lieu of that, we adapt. The best non-profits are real good at utilizing volunteer labor and rallying people to support a cause.

At the end of the day, what you do for others is most important – We love visions. We love progress. We love strategies and systems and structure. We’ve actually gotten pretty good at them. But, if you check our heartbeat…if you measured our pulse…we get most excited when others succeed. We dance at the betterment of people we love. And, we love people. It makes he DNA of who we are as churches and non-profits. A few for profits I know could learn from us in this area.

The bottom line is that both worlds have things we can learn from each other. Often what appears to be opposing mindsets may be complimentary if we allowed them to work for us rather than against us.

So, here’s a thought…what if non-profits got together with for profits? And for profits got together with non-profits? And we learn from each other? Just a thought.

One way I’ve done this is to form leadership circles I meet with regularly, comprised of leaders from both sectors. It is proving valuable for all of us.

What else could for profits learn from non-profits?  

Dr. Henry Cloud – Boundaries for Leaders – Catalyst

boundaries

Dr Henry Cloud is a popular psychologist and author. I have recommended his book “Boundaries” dozens of times. We all need them in our life.

Recently Cloud released the book “Boundaries for Leaders”. It’s a needed book. He spoke to us about it at the Catalyst conference.

His ultimate theme for the presentation:

Proper boundaries for leaders help us to be productive for the long haul.

An outline of that process:

1. Pay attention to what’s most important. (Ultimately our identity in Christ.)

  • Understand and know our identity.
  • What is it that you’re good at doing? What in your life needs attention now?
  • Written visions are more likely to be achieved.
  • Have guard rails of what you need to focus on now. Don’t let 86 other things interfere. And over time your mind will begin to form around your true identity (of what’s important).

2. Positive emotional climate. Built up in your true identity in Christ.

  • A traumatized brain divides…into two parts. The creative side, that can think through decision making.
  • Other side of brain is a defensive mode. If a train is coming at us we don’t have time to think. Just react defensively.
  • But we need the thinking side to realize our true identity.
  • To live in the reality that God is generous with grace and wisdom.
  • James 1:5…He will give wisdom…without finding fault.

3. Relational Connection

  • Someone to walk through the process with us.
  • Someone to hold us accountable. Disciple us.

4. Control

  • Learn to self-control.
  • God designed our brain where it loves to have control.
  • We were designed for self-control. But we try to control everything else out of our control, instead of ourselves.
  • The number one factor in accomplishing a goal is believing that we can.
  • Believing, by faith, that God can make in us who He has designed us to be. Our identity is in Christ.

My notes, of course, are just an outline…perhaps you need to read the book. I intend to soon. While this is not a post with an intent to promote the book, Cloud’s books have been helpful to me in life and leadership. From this talk, I believe this one will be likewise.

Let Hope In – By Pete Wilson

Let Hope In

One of the parts I miss about being gone from the Nashville area is I no longer get to see my friend Pete Wilson. Thankfully, I can keep up with him through his writing. And, I’ll read whatever he writes. Pete has a way of packaging thoughts into an easy to digest and apply way. I love his most recent book “Let Hope In“, because I believe it’s what we need the most these days…hope. The church must be an agent of hope for a dark world. In this guest post, Pete shares some thoughts about hope as it relates to leadership. Enjoy.

Let Hope In – By Pete Wilson

I’ve always heard that hurt people, hurt people. I agree with this sentiment and would take it a step further and say that if hurt people, hurt people then hurt leaders, hurt LOTS of people.

I realize that in my position of leadership, my hurt, my patterns of sin, and my unaddressed issues can bring a tremendous amount of pain to the people entrusted to my leadership.

I think somewhere along the way, we leaders, (especially Christian leaders) have bought into this idea that we should be “beyond” or “above” being hurt. We think, “if I were a stronger Christian, then I wouldn’t hurt so much“.

This misconception has created a lot of habits for us. It’s why we keep secrets. It’s why we can put on facades and pretend we’re someone we’re not. We’ve learned how to say one thing and mean another, and how to hide fear and deceit behind a fake smile.

We learned how to respond to the question, “How are you?” with “I’m fine.” But deep down we know this isn’t true. We’re not fine. We’re not fine at all.

We are…

Hurting,
Lonely,
Confused,
Frightened.

And in the midst of these whirling emotions I’m often tempted to want to exchange friends for fans, relationships for respect, and intimacy for influence.

Can I offer you a bit of advice as you head into the last 3 months of the year? Don’t be seduced by life on the pedestal.

Part of what I write about in my new book Let Hope In is that we are leaders but first we are human. We hurt, bleed, suffer, doubt, and stumble just like anyone else. We must learn to allow Christ to transform our pain or we’ll just transfer it to the people we lead.

I Need Wisdom…You Do Too!

wisdom road sign arrow

I’m at Catalyst conference this week again. It has been a couple years since I have been here and I missed it. I didn’t decide until recently to attend, but was grateful at the opportunity to blog from here. The catalyst for this particular post may have been the reason I came.

I sat in on a session by Dr. Henry Cloud. He’s a popular (and one of my favorite) author of the book “Boundaries”. Recently he wrote the book “Boundaries for Leaders.” I may blog later about his talk, but one line he said prompted my thought process far beyond just what he said. I guess that’s what conferences are supposed to do…aren’t they?

He quoted James 1:5:

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

The part that jumps out at me is the two words “without criticizing”. Powerful. Life altering. Needed.

Maybe this is just for me. Perhaps you need it too.

God wants to share His wisdom with us. Nothing new there. He does it in various way…through His Word…through others…through life experiences. Nothing new there.

But, He does it without criticizing.

He knows you don’t know. He knows you make mistakes. He knows you need help. He knows you mess up. He knows you need more wisdom…which is why He’s willing to share it in the first place. Duh! Of course! So, you aren’t disappointing Him when you don’t know how to do what He’s calling you to do!

Thinking you should have the answer…just because you’ve been doing this pastor/leader thing a while…is dumb! You don’t have all the answers. In fact, when you pretend you do you are evidencing the reality of this post and proving you are very misguided.

God shares wisdom…when we seek it…without criticizing us for needing wisdom.

What wisdom do you need today?

Seek it! Unashamedly!

Five Reasons People aren’t Volunteering at Your Church

Do you need more preschool workers to serve children? Do you need more greeters to greet? Do you need more ushers to…ush?

If so, you’re in familiar territory.

I’ve never met a church that said, “You know…when it comes to volunteers, we’re good. We’ve got plenty. In fact, there’s a waiting list for the nursery.”
Churches everywhere need to mobilize more volunteers to get ministry done. But before you start signing people up and filling slots, it might be helpful to take a look at why people are NOT volunteering.

Here are FIVE REASONS people might not be volunteering at your church

.

You’re not asking correctly. It takes more than blurbs in the bulletin and pleas from the pulpit to move people into volunteer positions in your church. If you want people to serve, you’ve got to learn how to ask correctly.

It’s hard to sign up. Signing up has to be simple and immediate. Hidden tables in the lobby don’t work. Remembering to email so-and-so isn’t a good strategy.

It’s not clear. If you want people to do a job, they need to clearly understand the expectations and requirements. Pull back the veil and show people what’s it like before you ask them to get involved.

You’re not saying thanks. People don’t want to toil away in a thankless role. Just because someone’s reward is in heaven doesn’t mean they don’t need to hear “thank you” on earth.

It’s too hard. The super-committed will do whatever it takes, but if you want to mobilize a bunch of people, you need to make it easier. Take care of their kids, provide food, and make sure they have everything they need to succeed. A little planning on the front end goes a long way.

To learn how to build a larger volunteer base, sign up for the FREE ‘Get More Volunteers’ Event.

10 Sets of Words We Often Confuse in Leadership, Part 1

Words

I’ve noticed we confuse a lot of words in leadership. They seem related, and are often used interchangeably, but they are very different. I decided to break this post into two parts, so I will share 5 more in the next post.

Here are words we often confuse:

Possibility with probability – Just because something has a chance of happen, doesn’t necessarily mean the chances are good. In making changes, for example, I want to know what’s possible…what might happen…but also what is probable…what probably will happen. The leader needs to be clear as to the risk involved…not pretending a possibility is a probability…and vice versa.

Opportunity with obligation – Just because I could do something…doesn’t mean I have to do it or even that I should. This is incredibly important for those of us who struggle to say no at times. We could easily become ineffective if we make every opportunity an obligation.

Challenge with impossibility – Sometimes we dismiss the hard work, because it seems impossible, when really, if we are honest, it’s just a bigger challenge than we are willing to accept. We don’t always like the things that make us walk by faith into the unknown. But, really, what’s impossible if it’s of God? I know numerous pastors, for example, who have made change in the church they pastor seem impossible, when really it’s just harder to implement than they care to tackle, so they live with status quo.

Delegation with assignment – Some leaders I know confuse assigning someone a task with delegating. Delegating is far more than that. Giving an assignment is easy. I tell someone what to do and get to walk away from it. Delegating involves much more. It’s ensuring the person assigned a task has the skills, knowledge and resources to complete the task and then following through with them until the task is complete.

Responsibility with authority – This is a personal pet peeve of mine. Responsibility means I have to do it. Authority means I have the actual ability to get it done in a way that matches my skills and talents. If you want me to be a good follower…give me responsibility. If you want me to develop as a leader, and feel like a valuable part of the team…give me authority.

I will share 5 more next time. I also realize all of these could be blog posts of their own. I have expanded on some of them previously. Which would you like me to expand upon?

Add to this post. Maybe even guess some I will have next time (It’s already written, but can always be improved). Can you think of any other words we confuse in leadership?

5 of the Worst Leadership Traits I’ve Observed

Square guy-Thumbs down

Someone asked me a great question recently. It came from a young pastor. He appears to be doing a great job leading, but he wants to do better. I admire that. I hope he (and I) continue that attitude throughout his career (and mine).

His question was this:

Knowing what you know now about leadership, what would you say are the biggest traps to avoid? What are the worst leadership traits that you’ve seen limit a leader’s potential to lead well?

That’s a hard question, because depending on the circumstances I think there could be many different answers. I wrote the “most dangerous” traits previously, but this question seemed different to me. It wasn’t addressing the dangerous traits, as much as the ones that were just bad. You can have these and perhaps still see some success as a leader, but they are still bad leadership traits….the worst. And they keep one from leading well. Eventually, they may derail a leader if not addressed.

There are many I’ve observed. I’ve seen laziness, for example, cripple a leader. But, with the right team around him or her, even a lazy leader can experience success. I thought of incompetence, but I have seen some dumb leaders (like me at times) smart enough to surround themselves with wise people. But, what about the worst?

So, I’ve narrowed my list to the following 5 of the worst traits I’ve observed personally. Feel free to disagree or add to my list. I certainly don’t have all the answers.

Here are 5 of the worst leadership traits I’ve observed:

Poor character – Nothing can overcome a flawed character. Dishonesty in a leader, for example, will always overshadow even the most worthy vision. You can’t hide a corrupt heart. Immorality always shines brighter than competence or ability. And it can be argued whether it should be called success, but I’ve seen some bad characters leading what appears to be very successful organizations.

Avoidance – The leader who ignores problems invites trouble to the church or organization. Problems never go away on their own. They fester and eventually explode. It may take a long time for them to be exposed but they will eventually catch up with the leader. Yet I have seen some leaders survive a long time while avoiding the real problems.

Indecisiveness – Every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion and there are always at least two. Most of the time many more. But, leaders are called to make decisions when no one else can or will. Indecisiveness stalls progress and frustrates people. Yet I have talked with countless staff members of very large church who say their senior pastor can’t or won’t make decisions.

Control – Inflexibility on the part of a leader limits the church or organization to the level of performance solely of the leader. That’s always bad. Even if the person is a genius, there’s a lid placed upon the organization or church’s future. People feel squashed of their potential and under appreciated, producing half-heartedness and poor morale. Who needs that? But, there are still growing organizations with controlling leaders (I didn’t say healthy…growing).

Pride – Perhaps the worst trait I’ve personally observed is the arrogance of a leader. It turns people away in disgust when they hear a leader brag on all his or her accomplishments. The braggart feels good personally, but is never as popular as he or she perceives. I’ve found if a leader is really good at what they do, they won’t have to tell others about it. And, yet, know any arrogant leaders who apparently lead “successful” organizations…even churches?

That’s my list. Again, these are all bad leadership traits, in my opinion and observation. Some will argue you couldn’t have these and lead successfully. That would depend, I suppose, on your definition of success, but regardless they are still bad traits…I would even say…the worst.

What would you add?

5 Legitimate Fears of a Church Planter

Scared Afraid Man Wrapped in Red Fear Tape

Having participated in two church plants as a planter, and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with planting a church. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.

My theory here is that recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains that for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.

Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:

No one will show up – If we do all this work and it doesn’t work…what will we do? You’ll be thankful you were obedient to what you believe God called you to do and wait patiently for Him to provide. We had to consistently remind our core team that God was in control of numbers. Our job was to be faithful. That doesn’t mean you stop inviting people or investing in the community around you, but you trust that God will stir hearts for His work.

We can’t afford it - You probably can’t. There will seldom be enough money…or so it may seem at times. God calls us to big tasks. Church planting is hard…and not cheap. But, the Lord will provide resources for His vision. Again, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to educate people on the needs or help them understand the command, value and blessing of giving, but it does mean you trust God even when the checkbook balance is low. It also doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait to make major purchases or there won’t be times you have to wait until “Sunday’s offering” to get paid. Our paycheck was delayed several times the first couple years so other bills…and other staff…could be paid…but we were never hungry.

I don’t know what I’m doing – Isn’t it wonderful? It means you’re insufficient without His sufficiency. What a great place to reside! The great news is that many have gone before you. Learn from others and stay on your knees before God.

People will leave – True. Most core teams are cut in half in the first few years. At first I thought we were to be the exception. We weren’t. Other people will come and never return…But, some will stick. And, they will have hearts for the vision. And, in them we rejoice at what God has done. We build our teams around those who God sends to us and who remain steadfast to the journey ahead. That team may change several times the first few years.

We don’t have a building – No, but you probably don’t have a mortgage either. And, you’re raising up an army of volunteers for set up and tear down. You are building service and sacrifice into your DNA as a church. Isn’t it wonderful! Don’t lose that atmosphere and culture of dependency, even when you have a building someday.

Final thought. These fears are legitimate…real fears. Don’t be ashamed that you have them. The key is not to live in them, but to live and walk in the faith that God will complete His plans and enable those He calls.

What other fears have you experienced in church planting?