Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Seven Mistakes I Made (Make) in Leading Meetings

I've had them and you have too. Those meetings that seem to go nowhere. The one for which you punted important study time, time with family, or watching a great football game.

Sometimes it was a novice leader who was unprepared. Sometimes it was my fault. Early on, I simply didn't understand some dynamics about meetings. No one told me. I had to gradually discover by trial and error, and also by reading books from leaders who were much better at meetings than I am. 

So I'm sharing my mistakes with you in the hope that maybe you won't make these same mistakes. Learn from me. In lieu of writing "Book for Dummies about Meetings," here are seven big ones I've made and still make sometimes.

1. Not having a clear purpose for the meeting, rehearsal. (Is this to brainstorm, update, or debrief? Is it tactical? Is it to learn the choir song for Sunday or to work on heart issues?) 

2. Not being clear on who’s leading the meeting. Who is the facilitator? Who’s driving the bus?

3. Wrong people in the room or at the table. Does the content impact or speak to the people in the room? Keep in mind how “beavers” (task-oriented people) may be frustrated with creative meetings. 

4. Forgetting the impact of environmental factors.
a.    Room temp
b.    Sound level
c.    Too crowded, too empty
d.    Lighting
            e.    Bad time of day 
    5. Poor use of time (start late, longer than expected) 
    6. Not thinking about the first 5 minutes and the last 5 minutes.
a. State the purpose (People don’t know what you’re thinking.)
b. End with vision and clarity. “Start by getting attention. End with a bang.”

7. No personal touch or acknowledging the unique circumstances of people.(Did you encourage anyone? Did you say 'thank you'? Did you say, "I know it was extra sacrifice for you to attend, Joe. I appreciate it!")

    There you have it! Here's to more great meetings!

Monday, November 07, 2016


Most likely, 48 hours from now, America will have chosen a new President, new senators, congressmen, governors and many ballot initiatives. It's been an ugly and embarrassing campaign on virtually every front. This has resulted in many conversations, tweets and posts with threads of futility and despair. And some of you are saying, "I give up. I'm staying home on election day." Before you do, let me offer a few reasons why you should rethink that. 

Here are objections I'm hearing: 

  • "I'm so embarrassed of all the name-calling, the disrespect, and the lies that I just can't bring myself to attach my reputation to any of these candidates."
Imagine for a moment, saying that to a WW2 veteran. Can you honestly look a WW2 veteran in the eye and say, “I know you put your life at risk, but I’m too embarrassed by the ugliness to risk my reputation on any candidate’s promises.” He or she was willing to not only risk their reputation but their life for their nation. Your reputation on the line with a candidate is really a small thing in comparison. Get over yourself.
  •   “They are all deceitful and self-interested.” 
Unless Jesus is on the ballot, you are voting for the lesser of evils. Of course they are sinners. So are you by the way.
  •  “I can’t vote for either candidate for President.” 
It’s not just about who will become President. You are choosing governors, congressmen, and more. Local government impacts you. It is a privilege to vote if nothing more than for choosing the local sheriff. 
  • "No one represents my values." 
Let the words of Jesus guide you here: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Rather than consider your own values as priority, what is the best candidate and position for your neighbors? Even beyond that, how should you vote considering your children's future and your grandchildren's future? 

Join me in prayerful consideration of the candidates and the issues and vote tomorrow. Research the candidates and do your best. (You might consider vote411.org as a resource which claims to be non-partisan.)  

I'm voting tomorrow. I hope you do too.


Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Get Up Tomorrow and Love Again

Love hurts. We wish it didn't. Love is risky. Wish it wasn't. Love will cost you. But it's worth it!

Today we watched a session from the Advance Conference for N.A. I love these guys! They have a passion for planting and strengthening churches. In one session, Pastor Donnie Griggs recounts asking Larry Osborne a question. (Larry is sort of a guru or "Yoda" for leader multiplication and church health.) The question was, "How do you build leaders who will not take what they have learned and abandon you or hurt you?" Larry then talks about the many who have hurt him, blogged about him in negative terms, become divisive and more. He then says something like, "You can count on it. People will hurt you. There are no guarantees when it comes to building leaders. So when they hurt you and they will, you get up the next morning and do it all again. Because we do it for Jesus." 

So good. It reminds me of the famous quote by C.S. Lewis that begins with, "To love at all is to be vulnerable." (I won't quote the rest of it because it's over used. But you can read it here.)

If you love enough to invest in people, you will reap some wonderful benefits. You'll also reap some prickly thorns and thistles that will stick you and make you want to never try again:
  • You invest in a worship leader for years who chooses to sleep around rather than pursue his calling
  • You mentor a guy who is secretly abusing his wife.  You find out too late
  • You mentor a leader who takes what you've taught him and abandons you at one of the darkest times
  • You counsel a lady who agrees her marriage covenant is worth keeping. Months later she's divorced and remarried and in another church saying how bad of a pastor you are.
All of these have happened to me. I've tweaked the story just a bit to protect them. But yes, love hurts. And I've had to decide whether I would get up and do it all again. 

So far, God has been gracious to me and given me the courage and the compassion to love again. Mostly, because I know how fickle I can be and how God continues to never give up on me. He continues to love so how can I quit? If anyone knows how much love hurts, it's God. Yet His mercies are new every morning!

Get up and love again!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Secret to Success?

Katie Ledecky is the 19 yr. old swimmer who blasted through world records and won several gold medals. In an interview during the recent Olympics, a news anchor asked her, “So what is the secret to your success?” She said something phenomenal: “The secret is…there is no secret. Just put in the work.” Is she right?

Reminds me of the movie, Kung Fu Panda. Brilliant animation. PO is a giant Panda, His father wants him to be a chef and make incredible noodle soup but he doesn’t know the secret ingredient. Then PO is chosen to be the Dragon Warrior to bring peace to the valley by defeating the dreaded Tiger. But PO is no Kung Fu fighter. The final step to becoming Dragon Warrior is to obtain the scroll as he's told by his Master: You will never be the Dragon Warrior until you have learned the secret of the Dragon Scroll. The scroll contained the secret to limitless power—but could only be read by the true dragon warrior. He never believes he is the Dragon Warrior but obtains the scroll and finds nothing but his reflection on a glossy page. As he runs to save the village anyway, his father tells him,

Father: I think it’s time I told you something. The secret ingredient in the soup? It’s nothing. 
PO: Nothing? 
Father: Nothing. YOU don’t HAVE TO MAKE SOMETHING special… you just have to believe it’s special.” 

At that moment PO realizes that the secret of the dragon scroll, the secret to limitless power is belief. So he goes and saves the village because he believes in himself. 

Sounds good?  Sounds attractive. And confidence might help when it comes to animated stories of Panda bears saving villages. What’s the secret? What’s the secret sauce to living? What's the secret to success? The message of most self-help books as in Kung Fu Panda is, 'Believe in yourself.' Secret to being salesman of the month? Secret to picking up the woman of your dreams? 'Belief in yourself.' Timothy Keller says that’s the only current moral absolute: “You gotta be yourself.” I think he’s right. Just about everything that is right or wrong in our culture can be traced back to that mantra: “I believe in myself.”

But here's a thought: there are lot of people in prison because they believed in themselves, even though they were wrong. And a lot of hurt in the world is the result of people who believe in themselves—whether it’s the alcoholic or the gambler—who believes they are invincible. 

Jesus comes along and says this is flawed philosophy. In effect, He says the opposite: “Without me, you can do nothing.” In one way He’s saying, “Stop believing in yourself. Instead believe in me.” So Christianity says, “Don’t believe in your own limitless power. Believe in Jesus and He'll give you a new self.” Now that’s something to believe in.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Refresh, Rebuild or Reboot

It's important for a leader to know whether it's time to refresh, rebuild or reboot. 

Before I was a lead pastor, I hadn't noticed the cycles of church life like I did once I was "the guy in charge." The first Memorial Day weekend followed by the summer slump of June freaked me out. Where is everybody? Will they come back? What did I do wrong? I talked with a more seasoned pastor who told me, "This is normal. People need to get refreshed. They will be back. Now relax the tightness in your chest and make sure you get refreshed too."

I'm not a great guitar player but I play a little. One thing the pros told me is that if you have a well-built guitar, it's important to loosen the strings especially when you fly. At 30,000 ft. the altitude changes and pressure changes of a cabin can bow the neck of a guitar if you leave the strings tight the whole time. 

I've found the same thing to be true in life. We need to loosen the strings and get refreshed. When we've been flying high for awhile, the strings of our lives can bow the back, bow the neck and even sometimes, break the heart. 

Every sport has a season when they relax the strings, both literally and figuratively. Why? Because they know you can't keep the hamstrings tight all year long! That first string team needs rest. Those muscles need a break so they can be refreshed. The fans need a break. The coach needs a break. Then when they come back next season they have a refreshed hope and expectation for a new season. 

  • Dad, your son needs a break from competition. Let him relax the strings and be refreshed.
  • Teacher, your students need to loosen the strings in the mind. 
  • Pastor, your church leadership needs to loosen the strings and be refreshed. Give the choir a break. Give the weekly chapels a break. Give the musicians a break. Give the staff a break.
Relax. Loosen the strings a bit so the necks will not be bowed. 

Then when they come back they will be refreshed. Even computer screens need to be refreshed!

Next time, we will look at the second word: rebuild.