Practical Stuff for Church Leaders

Friday Finds - Energy, Attitude, & Apologies

As I mentioned last Friday, I led the Executive Pastor Coaching Network this week - a great time with an exceptional group of leaders. This session was three awesome days of nonstop coaching, learning, and community. It brings me such satisfaction and fulfillment--but at the end of the three days I'm pretty wiped out! This weekend will include family and football, and then I'll be heading out to Exponential on the west coast. Perhaps I'll see you there.

Here are some of my favorite articles from this week. What are yours?

How To Lead Change Effectively In Your Church with William Vanderbloemen & Holly Tate via Vanderbloemen Search Group

This is a free webinar my colleagues recorded yesterday, and let me tell you - the content in here is invaluable. Leading change is something we discuss in my coaching network, and it's one of the top challenges all church leaders face. Give this webinar recording a listen while it's still available, and learn some great strategies behind successful change management.

17 Tiny Habits That Drain Your Energy (And Make Life More Difficult) by Nicolas Cole via Inc.

I've been thinking a lot today about what gives me energy and what drains my energy. It's vital for leaders to discern this for themselves and be proactive about it - and every leader is different! This article by Nicolas Cole is a quick read with 17 small, seemingly-innocent things we do that are draining our energy. Stop them, find what refills you, and strive for a healthy pace of life. Your ministry depends on it.

What You Say Before You Say A Word via John Maxwell on Leadership

Do you have people on you staff who are high performers, but their attitude just isn't that great? Maybe sometimes you're that person (let's face it, we all have had bad days). As John Maxwell says, when you have to communicate often, you can easily forget what gets communicated even clearer than your words - is your attitude. But as leaders, it's even more vitally important that our attitudes and interactions are positive. Read on...

3 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Apologizing by William Vanderbloemen via Forbes

There's nothing I dislike more than a lack of authenticity, and nowhere is it more damaging than in an apology. Apologizing is never easy, but it's especially difficult in a work scenario. Leaders, we must master the art of an effective and sincere apology. And as William describes so well, if you can't apologize or take responsibility for your team's mistakes, you probably aren't being a good leader.

What are you reading this week? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

The Fox News Channel Wasn't Good For My Soul

Last night's debate was fascinating, wasn't it? In this most-interesting election season, it seems like an appropriate time to re-post this article I wrote nearly four years ago...

On November 7, 2012, I stopped watching the Fox News Channel (FNC).

That might not seem like a big deal if you didn’t know that I probably averaged 7-10 hours a week for years. I was a news junkie. I LOVED watching the news, hearing different angles on the news, and listening to incredibly smart commentators share their opinion about the news. I watched other channels too, but I was probably 90% watching FNC.

I was especially focused during the election season. I loved watching every debate, and hearing the debates about the debates. For me, politics was a game and I was spectator number one. But that all changed in an instant.

After feeling deceived and misled during the 2012 election by some of my favorite news personalities—I shut it down. I was done. I didn’t know for how long. I just knew my steady diet of Fox News wasn’t good for my soul. So I walked away.

I’ve noticed several things have changed in my heart and mind as a result of no longer watching FNC…

  • I no longer feel hopeless and defeated. I no longer think the world is going to end, or that “America as we know it will cease to exist.” That’s a ridiculous, never-ending chant from those who make their money by us believing the rhetoric and coming back for more. The truth is, America as we know it ceases to exist every day, and I’m okay with that. As we all contribute to solving problems and helping our fellow citizens—we continue to make America a different place.
  • I am less cynical toward politicians. Many of them are hard working Americans who love their country and are trying to do the right thing. They need more of my prayers and less of my high and mighty criticism.
  • I have more of an interest in hearing from people with whom I don’t agree. I am a bit of a hodge-podge as far as my political views, but I’m mostly conservative. When I was getting a steady diet of commentators telling me every night how “liberals” were evil, that they hated America, and they were trying to take my kids and my freedoms and my rights—then I had no interest in sitting down with “those people” to hear what they believed, how they thought, what they valued, or what drove their worldview. I didn’t want to hear it because I already knew. FNC had told me what was true. Now, I’m much more compassionate. I really care what they think. They may not sway my opinion, but I really care about them.
  • I am becoming more interested in what Jesus would do rather than the right political stance and how it will effect the next election. When I think about illegal immigration through the eyes of Jesus and how he would care for human beings who are trying to survive or find a better life—I land in a different place than when I think about it logically or economically or politically. If my filter is first loving God and loving others instead of making a point or winning an election or passing a law—then it makes a big difference in my life and my attitude and my focus.

My list goes on. I am more loving, less tense and more hopeful. I have clearer thinking about real solutions for real problems and I have more compassion for all. I sincerely want to know about other views and have found some of my own long-held beliefs shifting as I’ve been released from the quicksand of group-think. I’ve discovered that Jesus is not a republican nor are “Christian” and “conservative” synonymous terms.

I have some friends who are still deeply embedded in the Fox News Channel sub-culture, and sometimes I feel sorry for them. I see the weight on their shoulders and tension in their face and want to say, “It’s okay. America is not going to end tomorrow. There is much to be hopeful about.” But Sean or Bill or Meghan or Brian or Karl has told them otherwise. And as I know personally, it’s really hard to see the sun if you are being told every day the storm is coming and this is the big one and we may not survive.

For those of you who worry that I might not know what’s happening in the world anymore, fear not. I read a steady supply of online news apps each day to keep up and be aware. But rather than 5% news and 95% slanted commentary—I try to find sources that are 98% news. I don’t need someone telling me what I should think about the news.

I am in a much better place. My soul is healthier and I am more kingdom-minded. I still love America, but am more aware that Jesus died for the world, not just the USA. Although my love for elections will tempt my resolve as we get closer to November 2016, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the way things were. I couldn’t see it at the time (people mired in a sub-culture rarely ever do), but that person is not who I want to be. I want to be who I am and who I am becoming—and to do that, I needed to leave the Fox News Channel in my rearview mirror.

Update September 2016: Most astute readers will understand that this article wasn't about Fox News. It was about what an obsession was doing to my soul. It was about being so deep in a sub-culture, listening to only one source, that you I couldn't see my way out. For these 2016 elections, I am enjoying watching from a safe distance. I'm not worked up thinking "this is the most important election in the history of America." (Uh, they say that every four years). I'll definitely play my part and vote on election day, but I truly believe my greater impact on the world is how well I love and serve those around me.

Friday Finds - Public Prayer, Hiring Secrets, & Interoffice Communication

This week, I've been doing a lot of prep work for the Executive Pastor Coaching Network I lead twice a year. It's one of my favorite times of the year - getting to know a small group of Executive Pastors, sitting down elbow-to-elbow with them, and discussing their specific challenges. In case you can't tell, nothing gets me going like digging into leadership challenges, finding leadership wisdom, and figuring out how to become a better leader on both a personal and professional level.

Here are some of my favorite articles from this week.

When Does Praying In Public Make Other Uncomfortable? by Leah Libresco via FiveThirtyEight

I found this article fascinating. As Christians always struggling to find the balance of "in but not of" the world and how best to be a light to our nonbeliever neighbors, it's easy to assume a few things about what does or does not make others feel awkward about publics demonstration of our beliefs. But Leah Libresco's interesting study points out that we might be wrong in those assumptions.

The Single Biggest Secret To Making Great Hires by William Vanderbloemen via Forbes

William's Forbes column is a must-read for church leaders and Christian business leaders alike. There are a lot of risks and unknowns every time a leader has to make a hire. In this post, he discusses the 4 "C"s to making great hires - ignore one of them at your team's peril!

Marriage Therapists Say These 6 Things Can Slowly Kill A Marriage by Brittany Wong via The Huffington Post

I only have a few soapbox issues, but one of them is encouraging church leaders to pay attention to the health of their marriage. It is foundational to our ability to lead and serve effectively. But this article isn't full of the "typical" marriage challenges like finances, communication, or infidelity. Rather, it lists 6 overlooked, simple things that people could easily ignore. I encourage you to take daily, practical steps to improve the quality of your marriage.

3 Keys To Effective Communication Within Your Church Staff by Sarah Robins via Vanderbloemen Search Group

My colleague Sarah Robins wrote a killer article this week on interoffice communication. So many team leaders neglect to establish clear expectations when it comes to office communication and responsiveness, to the detriment of the team's moral, effectiveness, and productivity. Read this insight and establish your own team communication guidelines.

What are you reading this week? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

For the Days When You Just Want To Get The Band Back Together Again

Due to the generosity of some amazing folks, our leadership team was relaxing in an amazing beach side home on the East Cape of the Cabo peninsula in Mexico. It was January 2011, and we had an entire week to think, sleep, plan, talk and share life with each other without the unrelenting schedule that awaited us back home.

When I close my eyes, I can still picture the long table where we shared our meals. It was inlaid with turquoise ceramic pieces, arranged and colorized to form a beautiful beach sunset. The table was outdoor on the patio overlooking the ocean, under a pergola of sorts that was supported by root-wrapped natural logs. Above us, over the table, hung 15 or 20 lantern-like light fixtures, each with a different bulb casting calm shadows over the intimate gathering below.

Looking to the head of the table, I see Mark telling hilarious stories, and Sheila who sat next to him laughing as though it were the first time she’d heard the story. Rob and Michelle were seated next, commenting on the amazing guacamole that Waltz had just crafted. Across from Laura was Jason, who was the master chef for tonight’s meal and was enjoying eating it as much as he had enjoyed making it.

Kem and her husband sat immediately to my left—Kem, easily bouncing from personal conversations to happiness-grunts as she exclaimed several times how much she was enjoying the food, and her husband, quietly observing the whole event with the eyes of a sage who speaks rarely, but with profundity and wisdom when he does. DC and Brooke, with their newborn baby, were seated on my end of the table, next to my wife Faith—who always gravitates toward babies. I watched the whole thing with a mixture of wonder, awe, emotion, and disbelief that God had brought us together, and that I was lucky enough to sit at this table.

This is my team. 

 A team we had worked years to pull together. 

A team that was clicking like never before.

A team that had just spent the past 18-months pouring over, dreaming about and writing a new, and very different vision for our community of faith.

Our hearts were aligned.

I don’t think any of us expected it to end. In our hearts on that night, and in that season, we were going to stand by each other and with each other many years into the future.

But not too long after that, the team began to unravel. We lost DC & Brooke pretty suddenly. None of us saw it coming, and it sucked the wind out of our sails. We still moved ahead and launched the new initiatives, but soon thereafter our leader began questioning whether he really wanted to go down this new road. The vision was quietly dismantled, painted over on the walls and scrubbed from the website, and soon business as usual took root. That caused Rob to look for a different place to serve, and soon after I made the same decision. A few months later Kem left. And recently Jason has moved on to pursue a new dream.

There are nights in the past two years when I have laid awake remembering the "glory days" and wishing they could return. I have wondered where the train went off the rails and whether there was anything I could have done to keep it motoring along. I have relived the hilarious stories, intimate talks, tears, debates, and struggles that we walked through together.

Honestly, there are days when I just want to get the band back together again.

Maybe you’ve had the same thought. Why can’t things be like they used to be?

Perhaps your “band” is your family, back when the kids were little and life was simpler and everyone ate dinner together. You didn’t have to work so hard to find the one week a year when you could get everyone together. Back then, you ate dinner together every night.

But then the kids grew up and went to college and started getting married and establishing their lives. And some of them moved away. And you just want to get the band back together again.

Can’t we just turn back the clock to those days when we were all together, under one roof, playing games and watching TV and going to church together?

But you know it’s not possible. That ship has sailed. 

Or perhaps your “band” is your college experience. You reflect back to the late night conversations in the dorm, and the walks across campus, and the unbelievably deep and intimate and philosophical discussions with people who were closer to you than anyone ever had been. But now you’ve graduated, and your friends are scattered across the country, and you are still trying to figure out your life. And you just wish you could get the band together again.

Those were the days. That’s when life was simple; let’s go back to those days.

The problem with “let’s get the band back together” thinking? It is impossible. Oh, you can have a reunion and tell stories and laugh. But life isn’t static. People have moved on, and it will never be like it was. Sorry for being Mr. Cold Water. That’s just the way it is.

But in the midst of that realization, here are some things I’m learning…

1. We tend to romanticize the past.

When you are reflecting on a healthy relationship in the past, you tend remember the amazing times together, the moments that make you smile. And conversely, you diminish the insanely difficult parts of the relationship or team dynamics. Have you ever noticed the "glory days" always describe the past, and never the present? Yet, there were likely some things that absolutely drove you crazy from which you prayed earnestly for an escape.

2. Change isn’t bad.

Change is hard. Sometimes it takes years to feel “normal” again after a big life change. Ask someone my age whether moving into the empty nest season is hard. Most will say it was more difficult than they could ever imagine, and that no one prepared them for that significant of a life change. But ask most grandparents if it was worth moving through being an empty nester in order to experience grandkids—and they will say they are having the best time of their lives. Change can be very difficult, but it takes us to a new place.

3. Someday you’ll look at today’s team as the band you want to bring back together.

The vantage point of nearly fifty years of life helps me realize how special today is when I look around the table at my new team: Ben, Holly, Sarah, Bob, and William. I realize that we won’t always be together. There will be a time when I’ll be laying awake at night wishing we could get the band back together again. That knowledge must drive us to celebrate every moment. Squeeze every experience you can out of the trusted relationships that you have.

Today you may be surrounded by crying babies or screaming toddlers (or God forbid, both!). All you can see is green poop and messy faces and scars from the toys you trip over—but I guarantee there will be a day when you will only remember the joyful times and you will wish you could get your little band back together again. Don’t miss today’s moments!

It’s okay to reminisce about the past—as long as it isn’t keeping me from cherishing the present. The band isn’t ever getting back together, and if it does, it won’t be like it used to be (has anyone heard The Who recently?).

Cherish every moment. Create memories. Live in the present. Look for those precious experiences that will never be repeated. They don’t seem like a big deal today, but someday you will be wishing you could have those moments to do over.