leadership

What I Learned Off-Grid

On the Summit of Spread Eagle Peak!

I went on summer vacation with my family and, for the first time, stayed off-grid, unplugged from work and social media. Crazy, right?

Here’s what I was reminded of and learned from my online hiatus in the mountains…

Lesson 1: I loved it!

I was present and in the moment with family & the Lord like never before. It was awesome. Plain and simple.

Sure, I snapped a few photos here and there to remember and celebrate at a later date. However, it was so good to be authentically in the moment and not feel like it had to be shared with anyone else, at least not right then and there.

Many times there were no pictures taken at all. The memories are that much more vivid in the hearts and minds of those who experienced it in real time.

Lesson 2: It’s okay.

I stayed off-line and, I’ll admit it, it took some getting used to.

After all, “If it happened and no one posted online about it, did it really happen?”

Some won’t get this. Some may even be a little suspicious of what the deal is with someone who dares to not make just about everything about their vacation public knowledge. My advice? Do it anyway. Those that truly know and love you will get it and be fine with it.

It’s also okay to keep sharing.

This goes without saying. Posting on social media has long been a part of the joy of sharing life with extended family and friends who aren’t there. It’s just how an emerging generation communicates. They simply don’t know life any other way.

Good leaders recognize this reality and choose to meet people where they live, virtually or not. This reality is increasing exponentially over time. For more about this and a little different take on things, check out https://careynieuwhof.com/what-i-learned-from-my-social-media-fast/.

Lesson 3: I am needed, but not necessary.

The world, the church, family and friends all went on without me. This is a healthy, humbling perspective for all of us to have. Call it a reality-check.

Besides, if we have surrounded ourselves with great leaders, everything can and should keep moving forward well in our temporary absence.

I really did miss connecting online & sharing with other family and friends! I also wondered what was going on at church, especially among the lead team. Still, both of these had a way of drawing me to prayer for these same people all the more.

As it turns out, they were all still there, still doing life and work, some were on their own vacations. They were still posting and sharing the latest happenings. All I had to do was jump back into the virtual stream to catch up.

Lesson 4: I’m better for it.

I’m rested. I’m recharged. I’m reset and ready for what the Lord has next. I truly felt like I got away from it all. Isn’t that what the principle of the Sabbath is all about? Isn’t that what “getting away from it all” is for? I’m glad I finally got the memo and chose to experience a little bit of life off-line.

I highly recommending unplugged vacations and even going off-grid for some strategic days, events and moments.

Plan on it and plan for it. Let those that need to know, know, and then trust the Lord and them with everything else.

It may be hard to imagine life without play-by-play commentary as you live it. However, maybe you will discover that it’s worth it every once in a while.

I dare you.

Live life a little more off-grid and a little more in the moment.

What are your thoughts on living and leading off-grid? Share your insights in the comment section below!

Sunset over the Sangre de Cristo Range

The Lonely Leader

Loneliness is a part of the human experience.

This doesn’t change when we become Christians nor does it suddenly go away when we answer the call to serve the Lord in vocational ministry.

No one knows this better than the pastors reading this. You know, and, thankfully, so does the Lord. When we feel lonely as followers of Jesus, regardless of our role within His kingdom, we have the opportunity to identify with Him.

No one knows what it is like to not only feel forsaken, but be forsaken, like our Lord.

The Apostle Paul got this and shared this sense of connection to Christ in his letter to His followers in Philippi. (See Philippians 3:10.) 

When it comes to loneliness, we all go there. None of us should stay there.

Pastor, here’s the BIG POINT: DON’T BE LONELY ALONE.

When we stay lonely alone, too long, we risk the real problem, isolation.

Proverbs 18:1, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”

The root word in this verse is פָּרַד paw-rad’; to break through, spread or separate: disperse, divide, be out of joint, part, scatter, separate, sever self, stretch, sunder. (Strong’s, H6504)

We all face loneliness. However, isolation is a choice.

How do you know if you are choosing isolation as a leader? Isolation is characterized by numerous symptoms. These symptoms come on slowly but very surely.

Join us in The Lonely Leader – Part 2 coming soon as we uncover these symptoms together.

Until then, check out this great post that deals with the subject of loneliness in leadership by Thomas Rainer. https://thomrainer.com/2013/09/the-lonely-pastor-nine-observations/

Pastor, church leader, whoever you are…

You don’t have to lead lonely alone!

Beat the Summer Slump

Is it possible to grow your teams and the overall health of your congregation during what most church leaders call the “summer slump?” YES!

God set the world up so that most healthy things grow during the summer season.

Where do you begin?

You have to talk about, plan for and provide practical solutions.

This starts around the leadership table and doesn’t end until it is promoted from the weekend worship and preaching platform to all of your social media outlets.

How can you strategically lead your ministry teams during the months when most people, including your team members/volunteers, are tempted to “check out?”

Consider leading a 5R Strategy with your staff & lead teams.

Check out the 5R Strategy posts on this site that offer a plan you can tailor for your teams to Rest, Review, Recruit, Retrain and then Relaunch! Start here – https://peakpastors.blog/2019/04/22/take-a-break/

Who do you talk to?

Like most strategic initiatives, you start with your staff, then engage your lead teams and then your congregation.

If it’s important, it should have both input and buy-in at all levels from start to finish.

Who knows how many creative ideas and willing people are just waiting to get on board! Great leaders are great gatherers of great people!

What should you be talking about?

Here are 5 Summer Subjects to address…

Our Need to Get Away! This is all about rest.

Lead the way in encouraging rest for your staff, teams/volunteers and members. Cultivate a culture that values the health of it’s people beginning with seasons of much deserved rest. Find out more in these posts – https://peakpastors.blog/2019/04/22/take-a-break/ and https://peakpastors.blog/2019/05/14/5r-rest/

Our Need to Gather! This is all about fellowship.

Lead the way in encouraging people to keep gathering when they aren’t enjoying their vacation or weekend get-a-way. Be creative in providing opportunities for this not only in your main weekend worship experiences, but at other times for just getting together for fun and fellowship. Cookouts and/or tailgate parties never go out of style and can be done by churches large and small!

Our Need to Grow! This is all about spiritual growth.

Lead the way in encouraging people to continue in personal and family spiritual growth.

You need to come right out and say it, “We don’t need a vacation from growing in Jesus.”

Start at the most basic place. Talk about having a daily time reading God’s Word and praying and how fundamental this is to us as followers of Jesus. Share from your heart what this has meant to you and/or have others share what it has meant in their lives and families.

Don’t “pound the pulpit” about it. Instead, talk in simple terms and transparent ways about our temptation to do this over the summer. Then, provide some practical ways to grow in a personal/family devotional life.

Here are a few reminders you can give and resources you can offer:

  • Download the YouVersion Bible App and follow a personal daily reading plan. Offer plans for groups and/or as a congregation. https://www.youversion.com/
  • Provide a subscription to RightNow Media. This resource provides an amazing amount of video teachings, messages, conferences, and entertaining choices for all ages! https://www.rightnowmedia.org/

Our Need to Give! This is all about stewardship.

Lead the way in encouraging people to stay out of debt personally and as a family over the summer.

Start with caring about their personal finances and debt so they know you truly care about them, not just what they can give! Then, lead the way in encouraging everyone to continue (or start) tithing and giving.

Here are a few suggestions for your staff/lead teams and resources you can offer:

Our Need to GO! This is all about serving.

Lead the way in serving others, starting in your local community. Provide opportunities to serve as a staff, lead teams, small groups or as a congregation.

Here are some great examples!

  • Landscaping: Gather groups to spruce up the landscaping at Foster Care family and group homes.
  • Provide childcare at your church to Foster Parents to have a “date night.”
  • Clean up a local park, recreation area, beach or other public space.
  • Host a block party for those in your immediate neighborhood.
  • Read and/or sing at a local nursing home or extended care facility.
  • Volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
  • Host a “back to school” supply drive to help parents with the expenses of school supplies. (Check out local school supply lists usually provided)
  • Go old-school with a free car wash hosted by your youth and/or young adults!

Summer Break is an annual reality. Going through the “Summer Slump” doesn’t have to be!

Email us at peakpastors@gmail.com and let’s talk about what a coaching partnership could mean for your health and growth as a pastor, lead team and congregation!

Viral Volunteerism Part 3

Unknown-1Viral Volunteerism Part 3 – “Why should I?”

Who wouldn’t love to partner with more great volunteers? Getting and keeping them doesn’t just happen. You have to give great people a great reason to partner with you. Let’s get more specific about this by answering a simple question from the perspective of the volunteer… “Why should I?”

1) Answer the “why?” first. Don’t just show them the need, give them the reason. Paint the picture for them of what their effort means to the the need at hand and, more importantly, the people involved. Show and tell people how their involvement will make a real difference.

2) Crunch the numbers of the need. The more specific, the better. How many people are being affected? How long has the need existed? Where is “ground central?” What will the stats be in 3 or 5 years if nothing is done about it?

3) Set a clear goal. You may not be able to meet all of the need. However, what is your part as a church or organization? Again, be specific with your goal. How much money do you hope to raise? How many homeless care packets do you hope to make?

4) They need to “see it!” in person or at least video (or both). This is all about painting the picture of the “Why?” for those you hope to engage in the effort. Find those gifted at this and enlist their services from your hard-copy literature to your on-line presence, be sure to promote with honesty (don’t oversell it… people will see through this!), excellence and consistency.

 5) Finally, remember that information is inspiration! Consider using some type of graphic that tracks the giving or effort toward the goal and keep it updated. Don’t wait until the end to thank people for their investment of time, resources or money. Thank them for every step achieved towards the clear goal and then… celebrate the win!

Great volunteers will more often respond to a clear call for a worthy cause. Your job as a leader is to give them the reason why they should!

Need help discovering the “Why?” of your next effort or for your overall ministry or organization? Respond below with your contact information and let’s talk about how we can partner to take your volunteerism viral!

Viral Volunteerism Part 2

Unknown-1Viral Volunteerism Part 2 – A Worthy Cause

Non-profit organizations, churches and para-church ministries all require one thing to succeed… great volunteers! One of the common questions I hear in conversations with other leaders across the country is, “Why can’t we get more volunteers?”

Let’s talk about some practical answers to this pressing question…

Ask yourself as a lead team, “Is it a worthy cause?” And, before you insist, “Of course it is!” Think about it from several different angles (besides your own)…

Don’t assume your cause is THE cause. Could the group of volunteers you are trying to engage be otherwise invested in another or even several other causes outside of your ministry at the moment? Have you asked? Would the timing be better when other initiatives have run their course?

How many other causes are being championed within your own organization? In other words, could there be a conflict of causes? Maybe it’s time to apply the “less is more” principle? What would it look like if, instead of doing a little for a whole lot, you did a lot for fewer? I would suggest that making a greater impact less often for fewer is more impactful in the long run!

Does your cause meet a need not already being met? Let’s face it, charity has become big business. Is the organization or need you are seeking to support already well funded? Are there others in your area (another church or organization) already effectively addressing the need?

Who told you it was a worthy cause to begin with? Just because its a worthy cause and making headlines in one part of the country (or world) doesn’t mean it will rally support in your unique area or culture. Are their causes that may hit closer to home for those you hope to partner with?

If you are trying to sell an unfamiliar cause to your volunteer base, you better do your homework… we’ll talk more about what this means in an upcoming post.

There are many worthy causes. Make sure it is a cause worthy for all of the right reasons.

Need some help engaging your volunteer base? Let us help you. Reply below with your best contact information for a free coaching call! Let’s explore how a coaching partnership might help you create a Viral Volunteer culture in your ministry or organization!

Lonely Leadership

UnknownLeadership can be a lonely life. Beyond the online image of big events, conferences, retreats, lunch meetings, speaking engagements and more… leadership can leave you feeling isolated and wondering if anyone “gets it” or the world you live in. It’s easy to find yourself increasingly lonely and longing for something missing in all of it.

My wife and I find ourselves in just such a season as I have “moved” to a new assignment while she finishes teaching at a university in another state. Not fun. So, I came up with 5 Ways to Beat Leadership Loneliness while battling a little loneliness myself…

1) Admit you are lonely. It’s okay. While you may be surrounded by busy people in the course of your work, you can still be starved for meaningful relationships that have nothing to do with meeting your next goal or pulling off that upcoming event.

Admit to yourself, your family and a few trusted friends if you find yourself growing isolated. And, while there is solace in solitude with the Lord, isolation is a different matter. Someone has said, “Isolation is the devil’s home court.” Admit it… you miss people. That doesn’t make you weak, that makes you human.

2) Know your limitations.

You crave relationship.That’s okay. We were created for it! No, you don’t need more work related interaction, you have probably had enough of that. You need people to share the real stuff of life with. You may actually find the extremes of busyness increasing right along with isolation in a bizarre and dangerous irony. How do you know when you are reaching an unhealthy place? Read on…

3) Know your temptations.

Loneliness can lead to lesser things, much less and much worse. Let’s face it, we are all tempted to self-medicate when we are in pain. The enemy knows this and will be right there to “help” with temporary “fixes” that distract from or make the pain of loneliness go away for the moment. Everyone is tempted by some of these… from comfort eating to extreme sports/exercising, pornography to workaholism, binge watching favorite shows to substance abuse, “retail therapy,” and more. How do you keep from falling into these traps?

Know what really tempts you and let a few trusted people in on it (Hint: They may already know!). Draw close to the Lord through worship and the Word. Bring others around who will encourage and hold you accountable. You can live above these temptations! Speaking of accountability…

4) Stay open.

We all need some “alone time.” However, again, it’s easy to become a “hermit” and simply shut out the rest of the world. Resist the temptation to get comfortable with being alone. Stay open to friendships and the accountability they bring. Seek out conversations about things that truly matter. Be willing to ask and, more importantly, be asked questions about your life and leadership. Be there for others as much as you need them to be there for you. Whatever you do, don’t get too used to leading and living as a “party of one.”  We were made for fellowship with God and others!

5) Be active.

Don’t be busy, be active. Find a few things that fuel you spiritually, emotionally, physically and relationally. Find some things you and your spouse, kids or friends also enjoy and get into it! I like to hike, write, work out, read, and a new hobby of kayaking… anything outdoors! Be intentional about carving out regular time to restore, even rest. You will be a better person for your family and leader for your church/organization as you stay active and healthy.

I’ll admit it… I don’t get lonely sometimes, I get just plain pathetic. I need the company of the Lord, my wife, my friends, and a long trail to wander on with them!

What about you? How are you actively beating leadership loneliness? Share your thoughts below…

Some Advice for Pastors – Part 3

IMG_8905I’ve saved the best for last piece of leadership advice for rookie to veteran pastors…

Lead your Family. 

I love to remind pastors to, “Pastor your home church first and best!”  Most in the room assume I’m talking about the congregation they lead. I’m not. This isn’t a plea to shepherd more diligently, to make another call, schedule another meeting or preach a better sermon. I’m not talking about church people at all. I’m talking about the gathering of people that meets daily in the sanctuary of your home… your spouse and kids.

Statistically speaking, close to half of the pastoral leaders reading this won’t finish their careers in full-time vocational ministry. This simply may or may not be God’s will for your life. What is God’s will for your life is to keep cultivating an amazing marriage and invest in your kids at every stage.

Here is something to help put things in perspective. Remember this phrase, “Fried chicken and potato salad.” What?!? That’s right, repeat it like a mantra. “Fried chicken and potato salad.” Face it. If you die today your staff, elders, and congregation will be eating fried chicken and potato salad in the fellowship hall within 30 minutes of your graveside service. Soon after they will have an interim pastor and, in no time, they will call someone else their pastor and move on with God’s greater plan for the church. That’s just how it goes and deep down you wouldn’t want it any other way.

But, what about your family? What legacy are you creating now and what will you be leaving then? What memories are you making? Don’t give me that bit about “quality time.” Quality time is quantity time! Especially for those of you with young kids (ok… or grandkids!) don’t miss the moments for the sake of another meeting. I promise you, I have never sat with a broken pastor who has lamented not spending more time at the church office or making another visit. There will always be another meeting but your kids won’t always be at home. And your marriage will not survive, let alone thrive if “the church” is your mistress and not your ministry. Never stop dating your spouse! Make those memories. Take the time, make the time and invest, invest, invest in your family. This is leading by example. This is leading well.

Yep… I saved the best piece of advice for last. “Pastor your home church first and best!”  

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!” 

7 Ways to Restore It!

imagesWhat do leading change and restoring old furniture have in common? When it comes to reworking a team, process or event, here are 7 practices I have discovered from refurbishing antique pieces (sometimes the wrong way!) to renewed beauty and use…

1) Start with the end. What do you want it to look like when the piece is finished? Will you be painting or staining? Flat or glossy finish? Will it be an everyday piece or only for special occasions? The same holds true for organizations and the programs within them.

Ask these vital questions and more before going to work… Why are we reworking it? Whom will it serve? What will it look like when fully functional? Start with the finish in mind.

2) Know before you go. In the same way it is vital to know the type of wood and grain you are working with, you need to know the people you will be teaming with towards your goal. Where do they come from? How are they wired? What “stains” do they have that go below the surface? Knowing before going will help avoid at least some of the inevitable challenges that are sure to surface along the way. How do you go about this? Keep reading…

3) Remove the layers. Just as there are often layers of finish on older pieces, there are always multiple layers of structure, training, experience, relationships and emotions that have become part of the organization, project or annual event you are reworking. It’s tempting to say, “What’s another layer?” and just add it on. However, over time multiple layers have a tendency to show themselves, and it isn’t pretty. They crack, chip, peal or wear thin due to repeated use. These must be removed with purpose, patience and care or you are only compounding the problem. “Un-learn” some practices and un-do some complicated processes during a season of training as you re-work your plan and, more importantly, patiently restore people to renewed purpose.

4) Look it over… again. Looking a piece over from a variety of angles and in different lights will give you the best idea of your progress at each stage. Don’t be afraid to get different perspective from a fresh pair of eyes. “You missed a spot…” isn’t always what we want to hear. However, these words may mean the difference between a job merely done and one that is done well. The same holds true for a ministry or business project. The more qualified input you have into the process, especially before you begin the restoration, the better the chances of success and the more creative the finished product will be. Consider the value of outside coaches to speak fresh perspective, challenge and inspiration into your team.

5) Test your finish. Know exactly what color and texture you want to use? Do yourself a favor and try it out in a spot other than the most visible surface. Sure, you can always re-sand or re-strip. However, each time you do this you are taking away something from the piece itself. This will be part of the final steps in the process as you avoid the temptation to rush the overall project.

When it comes to a process or event, try a test-run or “dress rehearsal” before the actual “opening day” whenever possible. Talk it through with the team at the very least. While perfection is never the goal, you want to put your best foot forward. Better to reset the launch date than to start poorly. Besides, “You never get a second chance to leave a first impression.”

6) Finish well. Finishing a piece includes the actual staining of a piece. Two thin but ample layers are always preferable to “laying it on thick.” The same holds true for preserving it with anything from a matt or satin to a high-gloss sealant. I liken this to the training needed before you actually implement a new structure or launch a new initiative.

Again, take your time and know that multiple opportunities for training, resourcing, beta testing will only make the actual launch more likely to produce the desired results. Make sure everyone knows their role and is well-equipped to perform with excellence.

7) Celebrate! Celebrate by putting the restored piece to use. The satisfaction of restoring old bookshelves is in seeing books, old and new, find their place on it. Or, in antique chairs filled with the people you love sitting around a table that will now host many a meal and meaningful conversation. This one is often missed.

Plan strategically to put the reformed structure, reworked plan, or a restaffed team to good use sooner than later. Capitalize on the momentum and excitement that restoring something to renewed use brings.

Remember that we all need refurbished, reformed and remade throughout life and the same holds true for the organizations we lead. Isaiah reminds us, Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8, NIV)

How do you restore or refurbish a project or event? Who are the people involved and how can you invest in them throughout the process? Add your own advice on leading renewal in the discussion thread below…

Fit Pastors

images

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.