Yawn Like Somebody is Watching

The Response to What You’re Doing

The other day I was driving down the road and passed a car heading in the opposite direction. I glanced over just before the other car passed by to see the driver yawning. In a flash they were gone…and I started to yawn.

Even typing the words, I actually just yawned. I just yawned again. I’m not tired, but I can’t stop yawning. Are you thinking about yawning yet? Have you yawned yet? How about now?

Maybe you are one of those rare people who can refrain from yawning even when you see it happening or hear about it. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I yawned several times while looking at Google Images of people yawning to find a picture for this post.

Yawning is contagious. If you’re ever bored at a restaurant, just find someone at another table and fake a yawn while making eye contact with them. They’ll start yawning. It’s hilarious.

I don’t really want to talk about yawning though. I want to talk about what I learned from my encounter with the yawning driver who passed by.

After she passed me, I imitated her behavior. It wasn’t a premeditated response, but it happened. She had no idea how her action affected me.

Have you ever thought about how your actions are affecting other people? If you have, perhaps you have attempted to alter behavior you didn’t want repeated. However, in the rhythm of everyday life sometimes we forget that people may be watching and we quit acting and just yawn…I mean live our actual lives.

If people mimicked the way you talk to your spouse, would their marriage be healthy?

If someone talked to their kids the way you talk to yours, would you think they were good parents?

If another Christian followed Christ the way you do, would they be growing closer to Him or falling further away?

I recognize that this might seem overwhelming. It may make you sweat. It might scare you, but it doesn’t have to. Their responses could be positive or negative things. Somewhere, someone is probably emulating some of your good behavior too.

The reality is, people are always watching. If you have kids living at home, they are for sure. You are consciously and subconsciously modeling for them what it means to be an adult. Even beyond kids, people on your job, people in your community, your neighbors, your friends, and total strangers. They are just passing by, observing your behavior and it has an affect on them.

What actions are you taking that may be causing a response from someone else?

Live like someone is watching. Because they are!

How to Be Strategic

It’s Not as Hard as You Think

Most Saturdays for our little family are filled running between baseball games, lacrosse games and eating food in the car. We’ve been pretty lucky thus far to juggle practice nights during the week without feeling like we are all running in opposite directions. However, Saturdays are a bit trickier. Everyone plays on Saturday. This usually involves at least two cars, some expert scheduling to get everyone where they need to be on time, and a lot of FaceTime calls so one parent can include the other parent in watching an at bat or goal scored from miles away.

A few weeks ago Tucker had team pictures at 8am, a baseball game at 9am, Cooper had a baseball game 20 miles away at 9am, and Branson had a lacrosse game 10 miles away, but not until 3pm. To complicate things a bit, Corrie’s phone had been dropped that week and her screen was cracked so much she was getting glass on her face whenever she talked on the phone. Knowing that our schedule would not be conducive to getting it fixed the next week I decided to “fit in” a Genius Bar appointment around lunchtime.

So…after the morning games I went and parked my car at the field where Branson would play later that afternoon, Corrie met me and we rode together to the mall to eat lunch and get her phone fixed. Then we drove back to Branson’s game where we had two cars.

I’m a dork, so I have to tell you that I actually sat down the night before to chart out the plan and talk it through with Corrie. I had checked Waze to make sure I knew how far it was between the various locations we needed to be throughout the day. I was pretty pumped about my plan.

That’s really all strategy is…a plan.

A lot of people say, “I’m not strategic” or “I need someone to help me develop a strategy for that.” While I agree that there are people who are more strategic thinkers than others, I think we can all be strategic. It just requires a little planning.

So here’s 4 ways to be more strategic.

1- Define the goal.

For us on that Saturday it was getting everyone where they needed to be as efficiently as possible. At my church, we have a goal to see 15 people get outside the United States this year and serve on the “mission field.” In your home, maybe it is getting all the laundry done before guests come visit next weekend. It doesn’t really matter what your goal is. You just have to know what it is.

2- Decide who will be involved.

Some people wait to add people to the process after the plan is developed. I like to know who and how many before I work out the how. Having a few more or a few less people may dictate what we actually do.

3- Determine the plan.

Work backwards from your goal. We had to get to Branson’s game by 2:30 for warmups. So what time do we need to leave the mall? Okay, is there a Genius Bar appointment between 12 and 1pm? How long will it take us to get to the mall from the field? What time would Tucker’s game need to be over for us to get to the mall on time? There seems to be extra time, would it be beneficial to park a car and meet so we are only driving one car to the mall and back?

Or…The guests arrive on Friday. I have 96 loads of laundry. It takes 2 hours to wash, dry and fold a load. I need at least 6 hours of sleep per night. So I have 18 hours a day of non-stop laundry to get it all done. 😉

You may realize as you work backwards that you have to eliminate some steps, or you don’t have time or the resources to do what needs to be done. So you have to change the plan, move the deadline or change the number of people involved.

4- Don’t be too rigid.

Work your plan, but be willing to adapt if necessary. Strategy is only as good as it’s execution. So don’t give up if it doesn’t work exactly like you hoped it would (more on that later this week).

I promise you can be strategic. You just have spend some time developing a plan.

 

If you are trying to accomplish something and need an outside set of eyes to help you develop or think through your strategy click here. I’d love to help.

How to Make Better Decisions

Knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no”

Recently our family visited the beach for Spring Break. The evenings were filled with All-You-Can-Eat Seafood Buffets, lazer tag, go-kart racing and Aloe Vera. The days were filled with walks on the beach, swimming in the pool, sand castles and riding waves in the ocean.

As I watched my three boys riding waves it was quickly obvious that what could be a leisurely activity was turning into the Wave Riding World Championship. They walked, waded, and maneuvered their way out to deeper waters and then waited…

It was at this point that I realized they were demonstrating something in the ocean that I needed in my leadership.

Not every wave is worth riding. Learning which waves to ride is what makes you successful.

There are literally millions of books, podcasts, magazines, and blog posts to inspire you, teach you and challenge you. The problem comes when you try to implement every (or a lot of) idea(s) you come across.

I once knew a youth pastor who literally changed what he preached (and really what he thought he believed about God) based on the latest book he was reading.

I see leaders who change their mission, vision, strategy, hiring process, staffing structure, and more after every conference they attend.

I know people  who move the furniture or hang a new picture in a room in their house after every episode of “Fixer Upper”.

There are several problems for people like this:

1- They don’t truly know who they are or what they like/believe.

Remember the movie “Runaway Bride”? To really find herself she needed to know how she liked her eggs, and not just how the man she was with at the time liked his eggs.

When you are secure in who you are, you aren’t as easily swayed by the latest fad or most recent podcast you listened to. That doesn’t mean you don’t implement new ideas, but you do so after evaluating the information and filtering it for your context.

2- They don’t make me want to follow their lead.

The only thing worse than a lack of leadership is schizophrenic leadership. If I can’t be sure that who we are when I show up to work today is at least similar to who we were when I left work yesterday, I’m not sure I can stay here.

Some leaders think they are inspiring followers by being open to change, when really they are creating an uneasiness that eventually becomes unsettling.

So how do you decide which waves are worth riding?

Be patient. Recognize that there will be far more waves you don’t ride than those that you do ride. Activity is not success. Effectiveness is success.

Go for it. Just because you can’t ride every waves doesn’t mean you can’t ride some. When you see a wave that you think will carry you where you want to go, start kicking!

I loved watching my boys run to where I was sitting after riding a wave all the way up onto the beach. The excitement was written on their faces.

I want more days like that in leadership. I think it means I just have to let some good waves go by while waiting for the best ones.

 

Spring 2017 Coaching for Lead & Campus Pastors

An Affordable Way to Grow as a Leader

I have previously written about my involvement in coaching for Pastors and church leaders. I have been on the receiving end of some incredible coaching over the years that has made me a better pastor, husband, father and leader.

Last year I began serving as a facilitator for Next Level Solutions, out of Next Level Church in Fort Myers, FL. Pastor Matt Keller has a heart to help Pastors and created an amazing model of online coaching that still facilitates relationships while providing practical content and invaluable access to their team. Next Level was recently named one of the fastest growing churches in America, but what I really love about them is that they have spent a little time at every size while growing from 14 to over 4000 in attendance.

Their level 1 coaching, “Making the Jump”, consists of 7 online sessions meeting every other week where we discuss things like:

  • The S-Curve of church growth
  • The health of the leader
  • Practicals for leading staff and volunteers
  • Tools for evaluating your Sundays
  • and so much more!

I have a new group kicking off on February 15th and I would love for you to be involved! The cost is $350, which comes out to just $50/session. However, if you are a church planter, church revitalizer, or a pastor of a church under 75 I have a discount available for you.

Just fill out this form to let me know you’re interested or to get more information. I’ll follow up to answer any questions you may have or to get you all the necessary info to get registered.

Quit Lying About Your Past

I know a guy, who will remain nameless for the purposes of this post, that always has a story about when he was in high school or college. I’m not talking about one of those funny stories that stirs up a sense of nostalgia. I’m talking about a very specific story about some athletic or academic achievement that he was recognized or remembered for. To hear him reminisce he was the perfect blend of a Rhodes Scholar and 1st Round Draft Pick. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about he can pivot the story with a line like, “that reminds me of that time in high school when I…”

It’s super annoying!

I’m not sure the level of truth in his stories. I only know that he didn’t play sports professionally, and I’m pretty sure I could beat him at a game of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit.

I don’t have a lot of friends like him, but I know a lot of people who do the same kind of thing. Truth be told, I do it too sometimes.

We look back in our past and the size of our accomplishments grow.

It’s like that little phrase on the mirrors in our cars: “Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.”

Well I’m afraid that sometimes we live by the adage: “Accomplishments in our past must be exaggerated by at least 20%.”

 

I realize it may not seem like a big deal, but exaggeration is a character flaw. It’s birthed out of some place of insecurity in your life.

It may seem like stretching the truth about your GPA back in high school isn’t a big deal, except when it masks your insecurities about not getting into the college that you wanted to.

It may seem like exaggerating your role on the state championship team isn’t a big deal, except when it is actually used to make you feel equal to the accomplishments of your co-worker who actually makes you feel inadequate.

It may not seem like a big deal to put on your resume that your last church or youth group ran 75 when you actually averaged 37, but you had 75 at that one event when you gave away free money…except when you realize that you are actually LYING to potential future employers.

Don’t fix the exaggeration without dealing with the heart issue. Why do you do that? Answer that question and deal with that first. The rest will start to take care of itself.

I’m not perfect and I used to struggle with this issue a lot, because of some of my performance-based acceptance issues and personal insecurities. But I’m telling you, it’s not worth it.

Tell the truth. About everything. It really is worth it!

 

You May Be Out of Touch in Leadership

When I was in college I was exposed to a church that ran 4-5,000 people. I heard some of their senior staff say that everything they did was planned with 10,000 people in mind.

In some of the ministry coaching I’ve received in recent years I have been posed this question, “Are your systems ready if your church doubled next Sunday?”

I think there is wisdom in conversations like this, HOWEVER….

If you are anything like me you have seen this idea backfire or be misused to the detriment of the current realities (and people currently involved). My mom used to tell me when I was a teenager that I was “acting too big for my britches.” If you aren’t familiar with this vernacular it is acting bigger/older/smarter/etc that who you really are.

So in leadership and pastoring we must find the healthy balance between dreaming about, planning for and creating systems around our desired future of more people without our current systems and processes being out of touch with the present realities.

It’s like saying, while I believe my 7 year old son will one day wear a men’s size 10 shoe, if I bought them for him now he wouldn’t be able to walk. So how do I manage that tension in leadership:

  1. Make sure your systems work today.

If you have 50 people make sure your systems effectively serve 50 people well. Regardless of your desire for 250 or 500 to attend your church, you will lose those 50 people if your systems don’t serve them well.

2. Paint the picture of tomorrow, today.

Look for creative, consistent ways to communicate, in public, about what could be. I would encourage you not to make this about numbers all the time (or ever). The problem with numbers is anyone that can count can easily tell if you’ve missed the mark, and they rarely give you the benefit of time. You don’t have to talk about having 1000 people next Easter unless you’ve really heard from God and/or you believe that is the best way to expand what’s possible for your people. You can talk more passionately about creating space for people far from God. Tell stories, where possible, of the kinds of recent successes you hope to duplicate more regularly in the future.

3. Be realistic with your expectations.

I talked about my 7 year old son earlier. He weighs about 40 pounds and the doctors want him to gain a little weight to catch up to the “normal” curve for kids his age. He’s healthy, just doesn’t weigh a whole lot. It wouldn’t be realistic for me to think that he could weigh 100 pounds by next week. And yet, that’s what we do in ministry so often. We average 20 students per week in our youth ministry, but we order enough food for 150 for our lock-in because we hope that’s how many will show up. That’s not a realistic expectation unless we have done some major push to get more people there.

Create systems and buy supplies that are connected in some way to your present reality. That’s not a lack of faith, that’s good stewardship.

4. Spend “more time” leading now, and “some time” planning for what’s next.

I try to set aside at least 1 day every other month for what I call “Dream Day”. This day isn’t worried about logistics, details, why things can’t be done, or the budget. I just dream about what could be.

I prayerfully search my future for what God might intend to bless for my family, staff, church and more.

The other 59 days I live in the present, which may actually involve putting details to some dreams. Both are important. If I’m not thinking about the next growth season, when I get there we will be unprepared. If I’m thinking about it too much I become out of touch with my present reality. In some seasons I need more dreaming. In other seasons I need more present leading. Ask the Lord (and your spouse, your coach, or your team if you aren’t sure) for the discernment to know which one needs your attention now.

5. Dream Big!

Don’t limit God. Dream new dreams! Believe for growth! Plan for more people than you have now! Expose yourself to voices that stretch your thinking.

No matter how long you are in leadership this will be a tension to be managed. Lead today, and lean into tomorrow.

I’m pulling for you!

 

Can you Count?

When each of my kids were learning to count they would mess up. I remember Tucker always skipped 15. Every single time it was 12, 13, 14, 16…It was funny to me, and frustrating at times, but it reminds me of a leadership principle.

I was at a conference a few years ago and Pastor Chris Hodges made this statement.

“If you don’t know what you want to do you can’t measure it. If you can’t measure it you don’t know if you’ve done it.”

What are you counting in your life? In your church? In your business?

His quote obviously stretches beyond counting. It’s about goals. It’s about success. It’s about…well…a lot of things.

But for this purpose I want to talk about counting.

In churches we’ve often stuck to counting “nickels and noses.” How many people attended and what was the offering? We even had wooden boards hanging in the front of our sanctuaries in days gone by showing us those totals. Then they were placed in permanent ink in our church bulletins. It told a story, but I’m not sure it told the whole story.

Recently churches have been very intentional to count some other things. At our church, for example, we count things like salvations, baptisms, people in Life Groups, people serving in a ministry, first time guests, and more.

If you aren’t in the church your business may count sales, expenses, ROI, customer acquisition costs, etc.

No matter what you’re counting here are 3 principles that guide me in counting as a leader.

1) Never exaggerate!

Let me be clear…NEVER! I realize that if you have 24 you want to say “nearly 25.” Don’t do that. I used to do that and it had unintended consequences. First, I lost credibility with people who knew what the actual numbers were. They may have started wondering what other areas of my life I exaggerated. Second, it robbed me of the joy in future success. If we have 40 kids in our youth group on a Wednesday night but we we had a lock-in with 80 one time so we tell everyone we are a youth group of 80…guess what?!? When we actually get 80 kids on Wednesday night the feeling isn’t quite as sweet as it could be. Instead of celebrating a huge milestone we have to push the exaggeration further down the road to keep up with the pace of our exaggeration.

Don’t do it. It’s not worth it.

2) Count accurately or get someone who can.

Don’t count the 25 cars and multiply by 4 and say you had 100 people. Count the actual people. Don’t count the pregnant lady as 2 people since she is carrying a human. Just count her as 1 and pray she has surprise triplets to grow your children’s ministry. Don’t double count volunteers in 2 services. If you have someone else who counts make sure to let them off the hook from your expectations. Don’t cause them to fudge the numbers because every time they give you negative information you get angry. Or because you are constantly griping about something. Tell them you want to know the numbers..good, bad, and ugly.

3) Count everything.

No number is too small not to be included. Don’t just count the attendance. Count the guests. Don’t just total the kids up, count the nursery and grade school separately. Don’t just count the total of the offering, count how much was cash, checks and online.

You will have to make leadership decisions in the future that will be much easier if you have a set of records that lets you know the numbers and the trends. If you don’t count, you just have to guess.

 

There are several more things I could include, but this is a great place to start. If you don’t exaggerate, count accurately, and count everything you’ll understand where you really are. Then you can put the rest of Pastor Hodges’ quote into action…but we’ll talk about that another time.

Why I Love Leadership & Ministry Coaching

This past week I spent 2 days in downtown Atlanta with 29 other Pastors from around the country as part of a yearlong journey of growing together. For the last several years I have been a part of this coaching group in various forms through the ministry and efforts of NextLevelCoaching & NextLevelChurch.

You should know in full transparency that I’m pretty high on this church, their ministry and their staff. They are led by Pastor Matt Keller and others like Pastor Kyle Jackson. These men, and others on the Next Level team have sharpened my leadership, cared for my soul, and become my friends in the process.

My philosophy on coaching for Pastors and leaders in business is that

coaching isn’t an admission of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.

In my attempt to be the best Pastor I can be, best leader I can be, best husband I can be, best father I can be, and on, and on, and on, I want to surround myself with people who can make me better in these endeavors.

Even professional athletes at the highest level have a coach. The best golfer in the world has a coach. The best baseball player in the world has a coach. These athletes know what they are supposed to do. They understand the basic fundamentals of the golf swing, baseball swing, etc but having someone on the outside looking in to notice a little change that could make all the difference. You are still ultimately accountable as to whether or not to apply their suggestions, but I don’t think you ever get to the place where you can afford not to have someone coaching you.

The thing I love about Matt, Kyle and the team at NextLevelCoaching is that they don’t teach you HOW they do things at their church. They teach you WHY they do what they do. There’s a big difference.

If they teach me HOW they do things and I try to apply those things in my context I’m going to have to eventually change things or get frustrated because I don’t have their giftedness, personalities, context of ministry and more. But if they teach me WHY they do things I can understand the transferrable principles and adapt them to my place of ministry or choose not to because I realize it doesn’t fit.

As I coach pastors and leaders myself I have tried to apply this same model of WHY instead of HOW.

At various times over the last few years I’ve been inspired by a new thought on leadership. Other times I’ve been challenged by something they share from Scripture that I’ve never noticed before. Still other times I’ve been moved to tears as they pray over me, my family and my church. And still other times I’ve been convicted as they call out things in me that need to change.

An enemy to being coached is pride. To think that I know better, and to refuse to be teachable.

I never want to find myself in that place.

Thanks Matt, Kyle & Next Level Church for investing in guys like me. It makes us better, and it’s a worthy investment of all that God has sown into your ministry in southwest Florida.

We are launching new coaching groups this fall at ForwardLeadership, I will lead one of those and if you are interested in being part of my group you can click HERE. You can also click on the links above for more information on the groups starting this fall through Next Level.