The Seasons of Leadership

Just a short distance from my house is new neighborhood. House after ginormous house with immaculate landscaping and well-manicured lawns compels you to envy the luxury of these beautiful homes. They are stunning!

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As wonderful as this neighborhood is, I don’t really enjoy it. At first I thought it was a twinge of jealousy.  Maybe my heart was resisting engaging with something I couldn’t have.  Perhaps a smidge of that is true, but what I discovered was that amidst all the abundance, this neighborhood still feels barren.

In typical fashion, a developer came through and leveled the land of all trees to build street after street, home after home in their place.  What’s left is row upon row of newly constructed perfection sprinkled with budding new growth.  All this newness lacks the shade and protection of the maturity of established trees.  The lack of shade creates a feeling of exposure, an intensity that doesn’t have relief, a striving that doesn’t cease.

Beautifully maintained, perfectly appointed and yet harsh and unrelenting.  There is no relief except to be walled up in one of its grand fortresses.

Contrast that neighborhood with the one across the street – an older subdivision of homes built in the late 80′s. More generous with lot sizes and lush with trees, there is something more peaceful about a morning run or Sunday stroll over here. The houses aren’t quite as pristine, however.  Some are a little more worn, some are getting a face lift, others are embracing the character of a bit of age.

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I think these two pictures portray our seasons of leadership.  Many of us are like the first neighborhood.  We’re in a season of tremendous growth, everything looks beautiful and polished from the outside but when you really live in that neighborhood – when you’re living in the intensity of your season of leadership, all you feel is the unrelenting sun and the lack of adequate shade in which to find relief.  The pace you’re moving at allows you very little time to enjoy being in the walled fortress.  After all, it’s a lot of work to keep up with that fancy landscaping.  It requires a great deal of effort to keep up appearances.  Your leadership is young, thriving but exhausting.

In the second scenario, you’re in a more mature season of leadership.  You’ve done your years of toiling in the scorching sun. You’ve learned to let go of the need for constant perfection.  You’re benefiting from the shade. You’ve found a pace that is sustainable for the long haul.

Here’s the deal…

I’m not suggesting that one of these scenarios – these seasons of leadership – are necessarily right or wrong.  In fact, I’m inclined to believe both are necessary.  I think you have to live and work in the barrenness of the first to appreciate the shade of the second.  For those of you in our 20′s & 30′s, you’re likely in the barren season.  It’s tough.  It’s toiling. You are experiencing some success.  You’re building great things but there’s very little relief.  It’s hard work.

For those of you in your 40′s & 50′s I suspect you’re beginning to enjoy the shade.  You’ve learned what’s more valuable so you can find peace and enjoyment even in the imperfect.

What season of leadership are you in?  What are you learning?

Our Exasperated Longing for More

I love these AT&T commercials and I think this one is my favorite.

“We want more”

I can resonate with the exasperated expression of this little girl.  We want more and sometimes we have trouble putting words to that longing.

We just want more.

We want…

more stuff

more power

more influence

more respect

more time

more attention

more affirmation

more accolades

We want a more that never seems to be satisfied.

The irony is that I believe God wants to give us more.  It’s just more redefined.

We want more because we actually need more.  We need more love, more generosity, more hope, more faith, more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, more gentleness…

We need more of Jesus.

It’s what our exasperated hearts are longing for.  We just look for him in the counterfeits.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”  Ephesians 3:20

God wants to more in us and through us than we can imagine!

Think about that.  It’s huge!

Are you willing to embrace his more for you?  It might look different than the more you’ve conceived.  But his more is better than anything we can dream.

Dealing with Adversaries

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Do you ever feel like you’re a magnet for naysayers? It doesn’t matter how well a Sunday service goes or how effective your latest ministry event was, there always seems to be at least one critic who has questions or complaints. In fact, you probably can instantly create a mental list of the people who never seem to be happy with what your church or ministry is doing.

Our ministry philosophy at Cross Point is very simple and straightforward. Outside of Sunday mornings, we do three main things – kids and students, community groups, and missions. We believe this simplified strategy helps us most effectively reach those we’re called to reach and keeps our time, energy, and resources laser focused. But there are a lot of good things that come up from time to time to tempt us to stray from this vision. And there are a lot of well intentioned people who pushback on this ministry philosophy with their passions and wishes.

Continue reading this article at Sunday|Magazine

Caught In the Rain

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On our recent vacation, my husband and I rented a scooter as our mode of transportation.  We’re always up for a good adventure so our little two-wheeler was loads of fun until one evening as we were finishing dinner we looked up to see driving rain pelting the windows of the restaurant.  We were miles from our hotel and only a puny little scooter to get us there.

Why did the rain come when it did?  Couldn’t it have waited just 30 minutes more for us to be safe and sound?

We were frustrated, inconvenienced and irritated.

But there was nothing we could do.  The rain was here and it was falling hard.

The rain falls in our life and leadership too.  It’s often unexpected.  Sometimes it moves in quickly.  Other times we see it rolling in but we’re powerless to stop it.  Sometimes we’re not paying attention to the rain clouds looming and we’re startled when they catch us off guard.

Maybe it’s the initiative that failed.  Maybe it’s an unexpected illness.  Maybe it’s a financial crisis.  Maybe it’s a tough relational issue.  Maybe it’s a problem that you just can’t solve.

The rain comes from time to time and although my immediate reaction is always frustration and discomfort, I’m learning what to value from it.

1) The rain forces us to slow down.  Although we were finished with our dinner and ready to hop back on the scooter, we had to slow down and rethink our options.  The rain broke the stride of our hurried pace (even on vacation!).

2) The rain challenged us to find new solutions.  When it was obvious the rain wasn’t going to completely let up, we remembered the emergency ponchos under the seat.  We had to alter our plans but we found a new way to get back on the road.

3) The rain created community.  Not only did we slow down and talk to each other, but the monsoon sparked conversation with other people who were huddled under the restaurant awning trying to find shelter.  Where everyone would normally keep to themselves, they found support and camaraderie with strangers.

Have you been caught in the rain lately?  What could you learn from slowing down?  Could it help you identify a new solution?  Is there some community that you need to embrace to endure it together? 

My natural reaction is to run from the rain – to seek shelter immediately.  But sometimes I think we need to be willing to get caught in the rain.

Embrace the challenge and see what it might be trying to teach you.

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Cover to Cover

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Have you ever noticed that every good drama or movie has certain ingredients? The stories tend to follow a similar pattern:

Act 1: The Introduction. Gives us the essential background information. It introduces us to the important characters in our story.
Act 2: The Conflict. A significant problem is introduced here.
Act 3: The Climax. This is where the main action of the drama takes place. The initial conflict intensifies and grows more complicated until it can no longer be ignored.
Act 4: The Resolution. The conflict is worked out and stability is restored.

While many of us have read the Bible, maybe even memorized portions of it, we still have a hard time really understanding what it is trying to say. We tend to read and understand it as if it’s merely a collection of separate stories. But seeing the Bible in this fragmented way robs us of a greater understanding.

If your life is going to be shaped by this story, you have to pull back enough to actually see the whole picture. This is a story in which you are found. You’re a part of this unfolding drama.

Yesterday we started a brand new series at Cross Point called Cover to Cover where we explore the entire story of the Bible.  We’ll help you begin to understand how it all fits together in a grand drama and how your life is a part of the greatest story ever told.

Go to covertocover.tv to find the link to weekly messages, a daily reading plan and daily devotion discussions.

I’m looking forward to what we’ll learn together!

Is it Better To Be a Manager or Leader?

As a student of leadership, I’ve been wrestling with a question for some time…

What’s the real difference between management and leadership?

Leadership has become such a glamorized word in our culture.  It feels so much nicer and more inspiring than the often derogatory connotation that comes with the word management.

But the longer I study great leaders, the more I’m convinced that you can’t be a great leader without being a great manager.

Sometimes I feel like today’s leaders want the glory of being known as a great leader without the hard work of management.

Great leaders are great managers.

Let’s take a minute to look at some definitions:

leadership – an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction

to lead:

  • to go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort
  • to conduct by holding and guiding
  • to influence or induce; cause
  • to guide in direction, course, action, opinion, etc.
  • to command or direct (an army or other large organization)
  • to go at the head of or in advance of (a procession, list, body, etc.)
manager:
  • a person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it.
  • a person who controls and manipulates resources and expenditures, as of a household.
to manage:
  • to bring about or succeed in accomplishing, sometimes despite difficulty or hardship
  • to take charge or care of
  • to handle, direct, govern, or control in action or use

Do you see the overlap and the complimentary themes?

Management is the method by which great leadership is executed.  The two go hand in hand.  Management is one of several important dimensions of leadership.

If you are trying to lead without the difficult work of management, you are going to find yourself floundering and frustrated.

Management takes a leader’s instincts and inspiration and puts action to it.

We’ve got to quit being afraid of management.  Management is the stewardship engine that drives leadership.

The eloquent use of management as an element of our leadership is a beautiful picture of influence as an art form.

How does the word management make you feel?

Coaching Group Application Deadline May 30!

I’m currently putting together another group of dynamic women leaders for my next coaching group.  I would love for you to be a part of it!

Some of my best leadership development has occurred in the context of a small group of peers who find themselves wrestling with the challenges of daily life as a high capacity leader. That’s why I believe in the power of coaching groups for intensive leadership development.

Here are the details of the next group that I’m gathering:
What: Coaching Group for Women in Ministry & Non-profit Leadership
When: October 2013-March 2014
Facilitated by: Jenni Catron

Who:

  • Women who serve in a high level leadership role in a church or ministry-related non-profit organization
  • Leaders who are in a season of challenging growth or transition that would benefit from the intensive discussion of a small, focused group
  • Leaders who are committed to the hard work of personal development that will result in growth for yourself and those you lead
  • Leaders who are willing to make the time and financial commitment

What you get:

  • Four days of coaching sessions in Nashville, TN
  • Special guests for relevant topics
  • The opportunity for transparent and honest discussion with other women who think and lead like you
  • Focused attention on your key issues or challenges and a committed group to share that growth journey with you
  • Two one-on-one coaching calls with Jenni
  • Supporting books and curriculum

What you invest:

  • Commit to participate in 2 face-to-face coaching sessions in Nashville, TN
  • $750 per person (includes all materials and books, lunch on training days, special guest costs and more) + travel expenses
  • Time to prepare and participate fully

A few more details:

  • You are responsible for your travel and lodging however we’ll get you info on hotel rates and help carpool as much as possible
  • Dates of coaching sessions in Nashville: Oct 17-18, 2013 & March 6-7, 2014
  • This will require some commitment so I want to challenge you to pray about it and apply as God leads you to
  • You can download the application here.

The application deadline is this Thursday May 30, 2013.  I hope you’ll consider being a part or recommend it to someone else!

Who Are You?

What’s your brand?

In my former job I spent the majority of my time developing brand identities for artists.  I worked hard to determine the unique characteristics of the individual musician/band/singer and then figured out how to market that to set them apart from the rest of their competitors.  It was a fascinating, sometimes frustrating and yet, a very rewarding experience… especially when I felt like I captured the heart of the individual and got to share that with the world.

As much as the word “branding” sounds all-business, cold and impersonal, I really believe in the power of a brandMore importantly I believe in the power of understanding your unique brand.

My personal definition of branding is: authentically being who you are and portraying that consistently.

Each one of us has been uniquely gifted by God with certain strengths, talents, gifts, passions, etc.  And this unique combination makes up your personal brand.

I believe there is great power in understanding who you are and who God has uniquely made you to be.  Some of us have learned this well.  Others of us have allowed life/people/circumstances to shadow our innate interests and desires… sometimes to such a degree that it takes years for us to dig up what’s been buried so deep.

So, who are you?

What makes you uniquely you?

How would others describe you?

Better yet, how would you describe the real you?

What’s your brand and are you living it with passion?

If these questions stump you, frustrate you or paralyze you, I would challenge you to go on a journey to understand who God has created you to be.  Here are a few things I would recommend to get you started:

  1. Take a spiritual gifts assessment. This is a great tool to begin to help you unpack spiritual gifts as they are outlined in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4.  Here is a free online test: Church Growth.org
  2. Understand your strengths. Read Now, Discover Your Strengths or Strengths Finder 2.0 and take the Strengths Finder assessment.
  3. Develop a relationship with a mentor who can provide candid feedback, offer encouragement and coach you in your growth.
  4. Journal your thoughts and feelings… especially the moments where you feel alive and thriving.
  5. Pray for God to give you clarity, insight and passion for the purpose He has for your life.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is in Galatians 6 from The Message:

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Be uniquely you!!

Are you ready to get started?

An Impossible Relationship?

Having a relationship with Jesus presses all of my “Do not want to be vulnerable” buttons. Knowing him requires learning to follow him, depend on him, surrender to him, submit to him, trust that he knows better than I do and believe that he knows what’s best for me even when I can’t see my way.

Amena Brown from her book Breaking Old Rhythms

Follow him

Depend on him

Surrender to him

Submit to him

Trust that he knows better

Believe that he knows what’s best

This level of vulnerability is terrifying for most leaders.  Seems like an impossibility, but that’s what he’s calling us to.

Where do you need to be a bit more vulnerable today to deepen your relationship with Jesus?

Don’t Be a Booer

When was the last time you were booed?  Maybe it was a cutting remark from a co-worker.  Maybe it was the snarky attitude of your teenager.  Maybe it was the anonymous critic who sent a scathing email or posted a derogatory comment about you.

I only saw about 30 minutes of Sunday night’s Billboard Music Awards, but I watched enough to see Justin Beiber receive the Milestone Award.  I’m not a “belieber” as some of his fans describe themselves, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for Justin as the room booed him when he took the stage.

I’m aware that Justin has allegedly done some stupid things lately.  He’s 19.  I’m pretty sure I did some stupid things at that age too and I’m certainly grateful I didn’t have a world’s stage for them to be showcased in front of.

As Beiber tried to find the words to say in that moment, I understood a smidge of his pain.  No one likes to be booed.  I don’t care who you are or how much you’ve accomplished.  There is still a sensitive, fragile heart in there that is screaming to be accepted, loved, forgiven and extended grace. 

We need good feedback in our lives.  We need honest friends who will speak truth when we need it, but we don’t need boos from the crowd. 

Don’t be a booer.

Speak truth, love, hope and grace to the people in your circle of influence!