The Connection Question

“How did I do?”

or

Did I connect?”

Which question do you more commonly ask yourself after you speak, teach, lead a meeting, talk to your staff? 

A good leader is always evaluating… always seeking feedback to improve.

But those two questions above nuance a distinction that is critical in our motives for seeking feedback.

The first question is about you.

The second question is about them.

Just this past Sunday, I was hosting the services at one of our campuses.  This was the first time I hosted at this campus and I was very attentive to my “performance” (I use quotes because I don’t love that word but it’s accurate for the context).  My first reaction was to get feedback on how I “did”.  Did I do okay?  Did I say all the right things?  Did I cover the correct content?

For the first few moments the stream of thought was all about me and how I performed.

And then… conviction.   My questions were all wrong.  Yes, I needed to evaluate my performance but my evaluation needed to be about how I impacted those I was communicating with.  Did I connect with them?  Did they feel heard and understood?  Did they receive good information?  Were they inspired?  Did I help them see a glimpse of Jesus today?

Is the connection question your first thought when evaluating yourself as a communicator? 

 

Do You Know What They Need?

“Leaders appear when awareness meets need.”

“A person who knows what a group actually needs must be more aware than those in need.”

Deepak Chopra

Road

Do you know what your group needs? 

You family, your staff, your congregation, your customer, you small group bible study, your friend going through a crisis… do you know what they need?

Leaders must wake up every day asking, “what does the group of people I’m responsible for need?”  Not, “what do they need from me?”  Rather, “what do they need, period.  And then how can I help lead them there?”

There have been a number of seasons in my leadership where I have lost sight of this question.  I drifted into doing what I’d always done.  I became less engaged with this question and as a result I quit leading.  Afterall, it’s pretty difficult to lead if you don’t know where you need to go.

Great leaders always know what the group needs before the group knows they need it.  Great leaders anticipate.  They see the future and they plan for it.

So today, stop yourself.  Before you make another move, pause and consider the question:

What do they need?

Turning Off the Critic

Another Sunday in the books. Four services, thousands of attendees, hundreds of volunteers, even a dozen commitments for Christ, and yet I couldn’t shake this gnawing sense of dissatisfaction. In fact, this aching feeling was becoming common every Sunday night as I drove home tired and spent. For all the effort and all the good, it still felt not quite good enough. For all of our great planning and preparation there were still problems. For all of our good communication, volunteers still didn’t always show up. For all of our backup measures, systems still failed in the moments they mattered most.

Rather than see the good that was happening in our ministry, all that wasn’t working was exceedingly overwhelming me. A critical eye consumed me.

Continue reading at Sunday Magazine…

Align Your Stars

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Every organization has them.

S T A R S

The employees that shine a little brighter than others.  They’re gifted.  They’re tenacious.  They do whatever it takes.  They believe in the vision.  They are problem-solvers and idea-generators.  They outrun the rest of the pack.  They’re growing.  They’re leading.

As a leader,  it’s your job to align your stars.  You must position them to shine.

Stars only burn brightly when they are in the right seat, empowered to lean into their strengths and develop their gifts.

If a star gets bored and lacks a challenge, or if a star gets frustrated by roadblocks in organizational bureaucracy, they will either burn out or move on.

A star won’t stay where it can’t shine.

What are you doing to align the stars in your organization?

*Original photo source

20′s Church

Long, late night conversations around the kitchen island.

We did this frequently.  Sometimes it was just recapping the day, sometimes it was boys, dating and that whole mess, other times it was our shared passion for the future of the church.

But one of those late night conversations sparked an idea…

Heather was living with Merlyn and I last summer during her internship at Cross Point.  (Btw, it’s the craziest thing to have a 20 year old living in your home and trying to figure out whether to be a parent or a friend.  I suspect I was a little of both.)

If you haven’t met Heather yet, you will soon.  This girl is a dreamer.  She’s not afraid of dreaming audacious dreams but more than that she’s not afraid to actually make them happen.  She has a way… a tenacity about her that is both inspiring and scary in all the right ways.

This summer Heather and Taylor (another intern from Cross Point’s Summer 2013 crop) are embarking on an adventure.

Heather

Hear what Heather has to share about her love for the church, her generation and her Summer 2014 project:

Just like the majority of pastor’s kids, I was raised by the church. I was taught by it, I was hurt by it, I was cared for by it, I was betrayed by it, I was loved by it. Unlike many pastor’s kids, though, my journey doesn’t stop there. I’m not finished with the church. I’ve seen the damage it can do, but I’ve also seen the life it can create, and I see the latter happening far more often than the former, despite what media and society tells us. The church is one of my biggest passions, not only for how much good I see in it, but for how much potential I believe it has. As a church we have done a lot of really great work, but if we are going to bring “up there down here”, we have a lot of work to do and we need to be working harder than ever to do so.

As a 21-year-old college student, I look around at my classmates and those in my generation and see so much potential for change in the church, but a lack of knowledge as to how to take advantage of that potential. According to a study done by the Barna Group, six out of ten 20-somethings who were “spiritually active” in their teens stop going to church in their 20′s. They found that “only one-fifth of 20-somethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences.” As David Kinnamen says, “You’ve lost us”. This generation is driven. We are motivated. We want to be challenged. We are searching for answers that aren’t as black and white as “yes” or “no”. We are a generation of world-changers, and yet there are relatively so few left of us in the church.

My point is not to criticize our churches because that has been done before and, quite frankly, I don’t think it does anything. Rather, I want to share with you a journey I am embarking on with the goal of sharing with the world all the good the church is doing in decreasing those sobering statistics and reaching out to what has been called the “Invisible Generation”.

In a little over a month, I, along with my friend, Taylor, will be touring the country and visiting over 20 different churches to explore how they are effectively reaching out to the 20-something generation. Through research we’ve conducted over the past nine months we’ve discovered several common themes that our generation seems to really be seeking out, and we are excited to see what those churches are doing with them! Throughout the summer we will be posting videos, pictures, and blog posts and we would love for you to join us as we explore how the church is reaching a generation no one seems to be able to figure out how to reach.

Will you join me in praying for them, encouraging them and then listening to them as the help us understand how to reach the 20-something generation?

Ramblings About Lessons in Stewardship

I like to be an owner.  I like control.  I like the responsibility.  Honestly, I like the power.

My current season is becoming a lesson in the greater responsibility of stewardship.

I have prided myself in owning things.  Back in Nashville, I was proud to own my house, the stuff in my house, our cars, the dog.

My new season allows me to own very little.  I’m renting the house we’re living in.  There’s a huge part of me that is uncomfortable about that.  I want to own.  I want control.  In some ways I find myself disconnected from this house.  I’m not as interested… because I don’t own.  I’m not in complete control.  Truth is, this house is far nicer than what I could afford to own here (we won’t even get into the housing market craziness of this place).  But my pride wants to own.  My pride wants to control.

But for this season I’m privileged to rent – to steward – something far nicer than I deserve.  It’s been entrusted to me.  That honor should overwhelm me.  The honor of stewardship.

I realize there are a lot of other things in life that I try to own rather than steward… my gifts and talents, my job, my future.

Most days I treat my responsibilities like an entitled owner rather than a faithful steward.

Seasons like the one I’m in now are a healthy reminder of how little we control and how much we are called to be faithful stewards of all that God has given us.  Ownership is an illusion.  Everything we have is a gift from God.

Our responsibility is to be amazing stewards.

Whatever we have, however we acquired it, we must approach the care of it as faithful stewards of a gift much grander than we deserve. 

Easter’s Over, Now What?

Well, we made it.

Another Easter in the books.

Churches everywhere celebrated big.  My twitter, instagram and facebook feeds were full of pictures of crowded rooms, overflow solutions, stories of salvations and baptisms.  It was a great day.  Love won!

For church staff, Easter is like the Superbowl of Sundays.  So much work and preparation goes into this day in anticipation of God revealing his heart to those who don’t yet know him.

We also know that Easter marks the beginning of Spring… of outdoor activities… Summer just around the corner.  Graduations. Vacations.

All great things but all things that move church-going a little lower on the priority list.

As church staff, whether consciously or not, we can approach Easter as the finale.  We know people will be hyper-engaged on this day and then we also realize that all those great things about Spring and Summer will be the distractions that hinder momentum for ministry.

Time and time again I’ve seen church staff give up after Easter.  We check out until the Fall when the routine of life will make church-going convenient again.

I want to challenge you to think differently this year.

Choose to build upon your Easter momentum rather than let it fizzle.

Here are 3 suggestions for how to maximize your Easter momentum:

1) Make people feel human.  Whomever you connected with this weekend, reach out to them this week.  First time guests, new families, people who accepted Christ or were baptized.  Whatever step they took, find a way to connect with them.  Make them feel like an individual not part of the masses.  Reach out with genuine interest and care for how to help connect them further.  Let there name be more than a line on a card or an entry in the database.

2) Build a plan.  If you don’t already have reasons for people to engage with your church after Easter, make a plan.  Give them a reason to come back.  Make it compelling.  Meet a need.  Serve your city.  What’s the best way you can communicate that you care about the lives of the people you connected with at Easter?

3) Commit to work on it.  Rather than wallow in the frustration of lighter attendance numbers this Spring or Summer, commit to work on it.  What can you and your team do to improve ministry experience for those who will return this fall?  Does your guest experience need an overhaul?  Do you facilities need a spruce up?  Do your staff or volunteers need additional training?  Define what you need to work on and use the summer to make it better.

Don’t let this Easter pass without some thought for how you can maximize it!

 

#LentChallenge Holy Week

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Holy Week.

I feel a weight… an awareness… a conscious awakening to what awaits.

The church I’m now a part of participates in a number of Holy Week services… Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter of course.  Some of these are new to me.  They have not been a part of my past tradition and so I find myself engaged to understand.  To learn the history.  To extract the significance.

I find myself present in a different way.

Perhaps  it helps that my whole world is quite different this year with my recent move.  My husband is still back in Nashville selling our house and finishing our relocation, so I have a great deal of quiet time in a strange city with few friends yet.

My view of sacrifice… of loneliness… of quiet… is different these days.  I’m sure it’s still quite incomplete but nevertheless it’s shaping me… growing me… stretching me differently.

As we enter Holy Week I’m praying for a continued awakening in my soul to Christ’s sacrifice and to God’s redemption in my life.

What are you praying for this week?

Quit Playing Good Cop/Bad Cop

“Go ask your mother.”

“You’re father is not going to like that!”

“You’ll need the boss’ approval.”

“If the leader of that department is okay with it, I’m okay with it.”

We do this all the time.

We pass the buck.  We play good cop/bad cop.

Some of us are wired for mercy.

Some of us are wired for justice.

And because of that wiring we usually become either the good cop or the bad cop for those we lead.

But good cop/bad cop is a bad philosophy for leaders. 

When we perpetuate a good cop/bad cop scenario, we create heroes and villains.

The philosophy doesn’t emerge from dysfunction.  It emerges from that natural wiring and at first it even seems balanced.  We need mercy and justice.  We need grace and truth.  Since both exist there seems to be an equalibrium in the organization.  And for a time there might be the illusion of such, but in reality you’re enabling a dysfunction that will wear down the relational chemistry of your team.

The leader who plays the “good cop” role, while well-liked, will become less respected.  She can never be relied upon to speak truth.  The team eventually catches on and realizes that in her desire to be the “good cop” she’s never coaching you for improvement or constructively giving you feedback.  She leaves that to the “bad cop”.

The leader who plays the “bad cop” wears the organization down.  As the person who is always delivering the bad news, he is avoided.  People dodge when they see him coming.  They know that whatever he has to say, it’s not going to be good.

Good cop/bad cop leadership philosophy divides teams.  It perpetuates unhealthy alliances and ultimately severs relationships.

As leaders, we can not delegate the good or the bad.  We must embrace both as our leadership responsibility.  I must be equally willing to be merciful yet just.  I must be both truthful and gracious.  Every leader must embrace both sides.  That’s healthy leadership.

 

#LentChallenge for a “Case of the Mondays”

Before the alarm nudged me fully awake I was overwhelmed by Monday.  The weight of the week was already bearing down on me.  Today was just one of those Mondays.  The kind where you want to roll over and wake up to a different day.

So when today’s #LentChallenge reading was the book of Ephesians, it was pretty much perfect.  I love how encouraging Paul is in this book.  Most of Paul’s writing throughout the New Testament deals with cleaning up messes and providing clarity (the daily tasks of a great leader).  But in Ephesians he reminds us of what’s good.

If your Monday needs a dose of encouragement like mine did, here are a couple of passages to inspire you today:

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”.  Ephesians 1:16-18

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:16-19

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”  Ephesians 3:20 The Message