coaching

Some Advice for Pastors – Part 2

UnknownHere is my second piece of advice for pastors at any stage of your leadership journey…

Lead Your Team.

By leading your team, I’m not talking about visioning, strategizing, planning, resourcing, training, etc. There is no shortage of books, conferences, coaching, and more to help you lead well on these fronts. I’m talking about something far better… and far riskier.

I was a young, eager pastor, attending one of my first national general assembly sessions. I was a little in awe of seeing some of the leaders I had heard about and was determined to glean from their insights. I saw one such leader, Dr. Carl Flewellen, across the crowded lobby and walked up and said, “Hi, I’m Tom and I’m a new pastor. What advice would you give to a young pastor just starting out?” Without hesitation he put his hand on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eye and said, “Love’em. Just love’em!” This wasn’t the advice I expected, but just what I needed.

Anyone can attend a leadership simulcast and implement the latest in leadership principles with their teams… and I’m a big fan of stuff like this! However, if you aren’t wise enough and brave enough to truly get to know your lead team, their hurts and hopes for themselves and their families… you aren’t really leading to potential and your team is far less than they can be. You may be managing well, but you aren’t leading like Jesus. Dare to develop a relationship with them.

Know your team and care for them personally with the love and compassion of Christ. No, you can’t do this with an entire congregation (although you can die trying!). What you can do with your lead team (staff or lay-leaders) is to partner in far more than your organizational vision and values. Share their lives and they will be far more likely to share your vision.

Piece of advice #2 is simple… “Just love’em!” 

Leading Culture On It’s Own Terms

fullsizerender“Trails are managed as part of the natural environment. Visitors must be prepared to meet and accept nature on it’s own terms.” 

I passed this sign countless times along an all too familiar trail, but never really read it. For some reason it stopped me in my tracks this time and it’s message was as clear as it was challenging. Here are four simple takeaways for us as leaders of any organization, especially churches.

1 – “Trails are managed…” Things aren’t just going to get better because you show up. You and your team will have to pray, process, plan, and get it done with perseverance for there to be lasting change and preferred outcomes along the way. Own it. It’s your trail… for the moment.

2 – “…as part of the natural environment.” How you find the environment of the organization you are leading is only natural. No one said it was optimal, just a natural part of the life in a broken world (i.e. purposed to chaotic, visionary to stagnate, etc). Quit taking things so personal and simply take personal responsibility for what your organization is and will become.

3 –  “Visitors must be prepared…” In other words, we are stewards, not owners. Even if you planted the church or started the business, someone else will replace you. Let this humble you and challenge you to be prepared day in and day out, and do your best as you invest in people with every interaction. The very trail this sign is on was once native american tribal land, then a regional center of colonial life, then a thriving resort, now a national landmark known as Fort Boonesboro.

4 – “…to meet and accept nature on it’s own terms.” It’s time to do this in your organization and to keep doing this daily as it evolves and grows through the natural cycles of all organizations. You will vision, work, grow, plateau, decline and eventually die unless you continually and creatively (stubbornly) face the realities, embrace change, and reinvent all while holding fast to the bedrock principles that guide you.

How is your church or business really doing? Don’t just pass the signs that are right in front of you. Stop. Read them and realize that how you apply their guiding words and where this trail leads you and your organization will be up to you.

 

 

Fit Pastors

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Pastors are known for many things. Unfortunately, physical fitness may not crack the Top 10. If you are a pastor (or busy leader) that needs to get in shape, this post is for you. Ask yourself, “How much more effective could I be if I lived with increased energy, mental sharpness and emotional lift?” It’s time to find out.

Here are some tips you can start applying today…

Drink water. Drink a lot of water all day, every day. Make a goal of at least 80-100 ounces a day. Stop drinking sodas and/or other sugary drinks. You drink diet? It’s worse. Sodas of any kind are akin to embalming fluid. Our adult bodies average between 57-60% water content and the world we live in is around 71%. Get into the stuff you’re made of and stay hydrated.

Eat clean. Alright, eat cleaner. Here’s the tough part… cut way down on carbs and increase lean proteins. NO late night feeding frenzies. Don’t eat bread with every meal and, c’mon pastor, put down that doughnut! Did we mention “fast food?” When and if you must, choose grilled options and salads over fried foods and keep your portions sensible.

Here’s the fun part… eat more! Eat 5-6 smaller meals instead of 3 pig-outs and a midnight “4th meal.” Eat fruits and vegetables with every meal. Here’s a secret, your tastebuds will change. Believe it or not, you will eventually prefer grilled chicken, fish and lean beef over deep fried anything. When you start feeling hungry, don’t reach for food first. Drink 12 oz of water and then see if you still feel hungry. Still need a snack? Reach for that banana or natural granola, almonds, etc. Keep some peanut butter or almond butter handy and try a spoonful to quiet the growling stomach.

Get and stay active. Get up. Get moving. You can do this. Take the stairs, not the elevator. Walk at lunch. Walk when you get a phone call. They’re called mobile phones for a reason. Take up hiking, cycling, cross training, even yoga, get a gym membership and work out on a regular basis. Now… stop, drop and do some push-ups or lunges before the next tip!

Try a standing work station. Don’t just sit there while you work, study and sermonize. Take a stand! I use an adjustable cafe style table so I can stand without leaning over. I use it about 80% of my office time and it makes a daily difference. No more dozing off in the late morning or afternoon. Work on your feet and find your energy and creativity increase overall.

Sleep more. That’s right, take that power nap whenever possible. Go to bed a 1/2 hour early. Go for 7-8 hours per night. Take time to recharge by catching some much needed zzz’s. You won’t get any medals for waking up earlier, staying up later or working yourself into an early grave. Model proper life management and remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

No excuses. Going on the road for that conference, retreat or revival? Get in 15 minutes of exercise in early morning or late night. Here is a link to a great workout. 7 Minute Workout Can’t do it all at first? Do what you can when you can. No excuses.

Be accountable. The best athletes have great coaches and training partners. Find some friends who will call you up and call you out when it comes to the new lifestyle you have chosen. Set some reasonable goals together and encourage one another along the way.

Start small and get fit over the long haul. This is a lifestyle change, not just some new diet. You may not be anywhere close to running a marathon. Don’t overdo it in your zeal. Do check with your local doctor to assure you are getting in shape with a pace that is right for you. Start small and grow into greater health and physical well-being.

We set the example in soul, mind and body as leaders. Start today. You can do this!

Need some encouragement? Let me know how I can help. It would be a privilege to come alongside you and/or your team for a conference, retreat or ongoing coaching relationship.

5 Ways to Encourage Educators

Unknown-1We all have that teacher, coach, bus-driver, librarian, administrator or other educator who played a vital role in us becoming who we are today (Thanks “Coach P” & Mr. Pyle!). As a new school year begins, let’s pay this forward by practicing…

5 Ways to Encourage Educators in Your Life

1) Pray for them daily. Who couldn’t use more prayer? Remember, they face the same real world stuff of life as us. Pray the Lord blesses and strengthens them for their task.

2) Encourage them often. Don’t assume they know how important they are and how much they are appreciated as they mold the minds of our kids! Let them know… often.

3) Be kind in your critique. Take the tone and choose the words you would prefer they use when evaluating your kids or, better yet, your parenting skills. Think honesty and encouragement as a good combo.

4) Be generous at holidays (or anytime “just because.”) Educators aren’t in it for the money. Give them a restaurant gift card, gas card, movie card, coffee shop card… or get together with other parents to buy them a new iPad, send them on a paid weekend away at the destination of their choice. Why not? When they are at their best, so will our kids!

5) Be grateful for their influence on our kids. “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” (Henry Adams) They are investing in life changing moments with our kids. Think of even more ways you can help them do the job and fulfill the call they have assumed.

THANK YOU EDUCATORS!

How do you honor the educators in your life? Share your suggestions in the Reply section below…

Living & Leading “off the grid”

IMG_7325Social media is here to stay. Call it the “new normal,” it’s really not been “new” for quite some time. What matters today is how we as leaders incorporate it into our lives and leadership. Notice… we incorporate it into our lives, not the other way around. With the ease of access and the lure of having the world at our fingertips, how do we manage our use of social media? Here are 3 suggestions…

1) Plan for it. Like anything else of priority, plan on some strategic time slots for writing posts, reading up (blogs, articles, news, etc) and even for your more social side of social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc).  Be sure to include a specific time limit (10-11pm or 6-7am, etc). Otherwise, you may end up caught in the “surf” of the cyber world and realize you have wasted 2+ hours that could and should have been spent living and leading with real people in the real world.

2) Go for it. If you are going to be in the social media stream, then do it right. Write that blog article, share that inspirational post, send that picture that captures just the right family moment. Congratulate, well-wish, emoji to your heart’s content. Please, stay above the fray of all the personal “TMI” and worse, the vicious name-calling, side-taking, and the drama of it all… personal, political or otherwise. Invest your social media time in constructive, thoughtful and productive ways, especially when using your platform to address relevant issues of the day. Michael Hyatt has a wealth of instruction on how to create and manage your social media platform.

I think the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Christ followers in Ephesus applies well here… “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV) 

3) Turn it off. You don’t have to socially document every waking moment. One professional platform guru I follow ( Jon Acuff) just unplugged for a week and probably only ended up increasing his following for it. People were just waiting for him to get back in the stream and even share a little about what he and his family did while on vacation. Other social media giants never seem to do this when, in reality, they have people they pay to keep up their presence 24/7. You probably don’t have “people” for this and you shouldn’t hold yourself as a leader to their standard. That’s a trap and only creates unrealistic expectations. Find your social media pace and stick to it… posting 1-2 times a week, checking social media 1-2 times a day, etc.

Whatever you do, unplug from the social media world and just take a walk with your spouse, play with your kids, or spend some time in God’s Word and prayer. Resist the temptation to narrate your life and the organization you lead and just live and lead in the reality of the moment. Trust that you have planned for your social media “fix” and just relax and enjoy life in the here-and-now.

You can live and lead in increasingly productive ways and have a strong and consistent social media presence. Manage it well and never let it take over your life and leadership. Live, lead, love, and laugh in the real world with real people. Speaking of the real world…

31 Tips for 2016!

Unknown-1Here is Tip #24 for leaders (especially my pastor friends out there!)… Finish What You Started. Which is why I’m including #25-31 practical tips in this post as well…

It’s so easy to get sidetracked, especially for most visionary type leaders. While we may have done a good job planning, prepping, promoting, praying, and more… we are often too quick to move on to what’s next and forget to follow-through and follow-up on what’s already going. Take a deep breath, gather your team and do your due diligence to see that what gets going, gets done.

#25 – Put down that sticky bun and pick up some clean eating habits. Every day (or meal!) can’t be a “cheat day.” Check out the lifestyle options Advocare has to offer. Yes, I use it. No, I’m not a distributor. I am much healthier than I was last year before I started being a steward of this aging body God has loaned me. Cut way down on the carbs (bread, potatoes and “country fried” anything) and load up on the lean meats, fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.

#26 – Create a standing work station. I use a cafe table that is adjusted high enough to do the trick. You might check out some actual standing desks such as those at Ready Desk. However you do it, don’t just sit there. Stand up, walk around, stay as mobile as possible throughout the day.

#27 – Pray about it. We miss this one constantly. Stop worrying, waiting, planning and plotting and pray for them, it or whatever you are facing. Find some trusted partners to step up, kneel down and pray with and for you. Worry is a waste. Don’t. Do pray vocally, specifically, passionately and constantly.

#28 – Drink half your weight (in ounces) of water every day… or give it a shot, anyway! AND STOP DRINKING THE EMBALMING FLUID KNOWN AS SODA. Take it from a recovering Diet Mountain Dew addict… it’s not doing you any favors. H2O is a large part of the stuff God made us of. Fill your body with it morning, noon and night.

#29 – Stop focusing (obsessing) on those who are against you and your vision. It’s pride masquerading as “concerned” leadership. Pray for them, whoever “they” are, (“Lord, move them up or move them out.”), deal with them in a redemptive but firm way if needed, and then focus on Jesus. Invest in those who are with you and if you must obsess, obsess on getting it done for God’s glory and the good of others.

#30 – Lighten up. Some of the very best advice my dad has given me is this… “Tommy, the world was doing just fine before the two Tom Pelts came along and will do just fine when we are gone.” Ouch… thanks, dad. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Live, laugh, love and lead light.

#31 – Invest in your family! Date your spouse. Put in overtime with your kids. Make family memories and make no apologies for it. In all of the deathbed conversations I have been privileged to take part in, not one person has lamented not making more money, gaining more position and power, or spending more hours at work. I have, however, heard many wish they could have done more for Christ and with their families.

Take nothing for granted and lead with a grounded sense of gratitude to the Lord for the privilege to learn from and lead with others! There you have it… 31 Tips for Leaders in 2016. Got your own tips? Add them to the discussion thread below!

 

 

Do you preach like Ted?

images-4Hey, pastors! Who do you preach like? Whether you are stylistically from the “big pulpit, suit-wearing, finger-pointing, fire & brimstone” or the “real, relaxed and relevant” schools of preaching (or somewhere in between), I hope you enjoy the parody found at the link below. This one pokes fun at the modern “Ted Talk” style communicator that has clearly influenced many pastors today. And, here are a few simple thoughts on communicating while you’re at it…

Preach like YOU. While all should be grounded in His content, I doubt seriously that even Jesus wants you to preach like Jesus. We don’t even know what that sounded like. Over the years I secretly wanted to communicate just like my dad (the teacher), then my father-in-law (the evangelist) in my 20’s, and then others like Andy Stanley in my 30’s. The problem is, people can always see through this more times than not. Thankfully, sounding like me and being OK with it has been a big relief for the last 10 years. Hopefully it has made me a better, if not more authentic, communicator. It only took 20 years to figure this one out!

We all have influencers and this is not only normal, but often good. However, find your voice, your style, your rhythm and be comfortable with it. Ask others who know you (and a few that don’t) to help you with this and keep you honest.

Know your audience. While you don’t want to change your voice (accent) or even language in an obvious over-attempt to be relevant (like some modern politicians), you do want to understand a little bit about the demographic you are communicating with. How do they learn? What are their likes and dislikes? What is happening in their part of the world? What is important to them?

Add a little “shortening.” This was my father-in-law’s kind way of telling me to cut down on the content early in my ministry. I’m still working on this one. The wisdom of Shakespeare still proves true today, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” This is one of many positive takeaways from the “Ted Talk” style of communication.

In simple terms, be true to God’s Word and true to who He has created you to be as a communicator of His Gospel.

Ted Talk Parody  by “This is That”

Looking for something even better than TED? Check out “Q” at qideas

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Leading at Elevation Part 3

IMG_7330You’ve reached your goal, pulled off that event, launched that initiative and otherwise climbed that mountain as a team. Congratulations! Enjoy the view. Take in the moment. Give God glory and thank those who helped you get there. Now, how do you get down? What do you do with the fact that more than 2/3 of all injuries and deaths on peaks such as Mt. Everest happen on the descent?

Here are 4 suggestions for leading well on the way down…

Plan and prepare for coming down well before going up. Talk as a team about what it will look like after the goal is reached or event is over. What will it mean to the overall organization and the leadership team? What do you hope to accomplish and learn? What about the more practical matters… do we come down the same way we went up? Who will clean-up, tear-down, pack-up and otherwise “leave no trace” in order for the next expedition to launch? Don’t be caught off-guard by over-looking the age-old axiom… “What goes up, must come down.”

Take your time. Gravity has a way of encouraging a rapid descent. Resist the temptation to rush down and move on to the next “big thing.” You went up as a team, now come down as one. Watch your step. Be sure to monitor the descent… how is everyone doing along the way? What was their view from the “top?” How are they feeling as they come off the “high?” Divers know this reality in reverse as they explore the depths of the ocean… you can surface too quickly and become very ill, even die if you don’t take your time, giving your body time to adjust at every change in depth.

Leave no trace. If you packed it in, pack it out. Consider how your success will impact other teams, goals, events or initiatives. Talk about this with your team and other teams. Don’t clutter the route that others will be traveling and spaces others will be using. Do your part to clear the way, leave it as you found it or improve it when possible by cleaning up any other messes that may have been made by you or anyone else.

Unpack (and repack) together. Finally, debrief intentionally. Gather shortly after everyone has made it off the mountain. Ask questions, a lot of questions. Then, gain perspectives. Did we accomplish what we set out to accomplish? What went well? What didn’t? What surprises were there? What caught us off-guard or unprepared? How do we improve? How do all of these lessons help us pack for the next trip together?

Reaching great heights as a team is only half the journey. Come down off that mountain as well or better as you gained it’s summit and enjoyed it’s views.

When the “Big Deal” is done…

Unknown-4What do you and your teams do when that “Big Deal” event or ministry initiative is over? Whether it’s the craziness of Christmas or the rush of the Resurrection, a lot goes into the praying, planning, preparing and promoting of times like these. Now what? What’s next for you and your teams?

Here are 3 suggestions for when the latest “Big Deal” in your ministry or organization is done…

Follow-up. The reality is, it’s not over… yet. Whatever it was, it was about moving and motivating people. In my world, it’s about moving them towards and motivating them in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ… kind of a big deal! Ask yourself and your teams… “Who is it that we need to follow-up on and touch base with?” Follow-up on those guests that came for the first time or those extended family members that came because a relative wouldn’t take “No!” for an answer. Send that text, email, letter… maybe a “pop-by” visit to make sure they know how valuable they are to you and how much you appreciate them being with you. Face it, as a good leader, you won’t really be able to relax until you do.

Oh… and who needs an extra “Atta boy!” or show of appreciation? A lot of people had to go the extra mile with you to pull it all off. They came early, stayed late and were fine with being “behind the scenes.” Thank them! Gratitude is pure momentum and just plain nice.

Follow-through. How did it go? What went great that you can celebrate and use as an example for the future? What went good that you can improve on so that next time, it goes great? What was cringe-worthy? Where did you “drop the ball” or otherwise “swing and miss?” Gather your teams and don’t miss out on moving forward in an informed way.

“Fall-out!” Paid or volunteer, you and your recruits need a break. If you don’t, something’s gonna give and someone may just fall apart. You may not be able to take a week off, but you can be strategic about slowing things down. Jesus employs this strategy time and again throughout the Gospels after teaching the masses, working miracles or dealing with critics. He got away to the garden or mountain to get re-centered with the Heavenly Father and/or follow-up up with His team of disciples. A strategic retreat in pace and programming is just what your team needs for everyone to recharge and regain drive and creativity towards your greater vision and in preparation for the next “Big Deal!”

Finally, plan in advance for all the above. See it as part of the process, the bigger picture. The “Big Deal” was never really the point. It was a means to a greater end of making disciples and growing influence for Jesus Christ and the expanse of His kingdom. That was and will always be the “Big Deal.”

When They Just Don’t Get It

imagesWhat do you do when people don’t get it? You’ve prayed, visioned, planned, packaged and promoted it as a team, but still people aren’t getting the message, let alone getting on board. What’s your next move?

Here are 7 Questions to ask when they don’t get it…

1 – Did we say it simply enough? We may have gathered next-level leaders and detailed a strategic plan for whatever our next big thing is. However, if we can’t communicate it in simple terms, people won’t get behind it. How can they? Complicated is not what people need more of. Less is more when it comes to most visions, messages, and the best-laid plans. Don’t dumb it down. Just keep it simple.

2 – Did we say it long enough? Just because we said it once, doesn’t mean everyone heard it, won’t make it go viral, and won’t automatically spark mass revival. It takes time for most visions and messages to sink in. They may not have gotten the message… yet!

3 – Did we say it often enough? Sometimes even when we know where the fish are, we still have to cast and recast to get them to bite. People are busy and, believe it or not, aren’t focused solely on your agenda. Shocking, I know. Communicate what’s important to your organization through multiple platforms on a consistent basis for greater impact.

4 – Did we say it creative enough? Keep your bait fresh, maybe change the color of your lure or depth of your line? Let others join you in saying it with you or even say it for you. Gather creative people and draw from the successful strategies of others as you seek to motivate people to get the same message, at the same time and move towards a shared goal.

5 – Our we leading by example? Sometimes people can’t hear our message because our actions (or inactions) are speaking too loud. If we aren’t living it, we can forget it. No one can join us in something we are merely talking about. Actions speak louder than words. Lead it by living it.

6 – Is it the right thing? Could we have gotten to this point and, yet, overlooked this little detail? Yes. We simply don’t always get it right. Perhaps we put on blinders and we are the ones not getting the message? Sometimes we “swing and miss” when it comes to everything from a point in a message or speech, a principle for leadership practice, an event or initiative, maybe our methodology or even target audience? Consider that, from time to time, we need to be the one to change not merely what is said and how we say it, but what we are doing or where we are going with it. Maybe it was the right thing at one time, but here and now, it isn’t? Be as willing to change as you challenge others to be.

7 – Maybe they simply don’t want it? We should never jump to this conclusion quickly. Still, after patiently and passionately attempting all of the above, only to find that the fish just aren’t biting and your fellow anglers aren’t really into fishing with you… it may be time to change locations. Please, whatever you do, don’t stop fishing! Perhaps you may need to find another spot, fish a different way and/or go after a different kind of fish? You won’t know until you try. However, make sure you have “fished out” the hole you are in first and that the One who called you to be “fishers of men” is leading the way.

The most important message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More than “getting it,” people need to give up and be gotten by it, by Him. Above all, let’s make sure we live and lead this message as Christian leaders.