Two Words that Bring Complete Clarity

Spiral staircaseIdentity has to be uncovered.  Stephen King, the great writer, says that the story already exists.  He doesn’t have to write it.  He just has to dig it up.  Finding your identity is a recovery job, not a creative job.  God has already written you as a great character in a great story.

I talk to people every week who have no idea how to live in their story.

Vision and Clarity expert Will Mancini ( has a tool that may help.  Mancini encourages people to use the Clarity Spiral to find their God-given identity and purpose.

The path to knowing who you are created to be doesn’t run in a straight line.

  • David didn’t step right in and take his place as king.
  • Paul didn’t step right into writing the New Testament.
  • Moses didn’t step right into leading Israel out of slavery.
  • Joseph didn’t step right into saving two nations from starvation.
  • Abraham didn’t step right into being a father.

They all “spiraled in.”

Only fear, lack of confidence, and lack of clarity stop me from moving toward who God has created me to be.

Here is one exercise Mancini uses to help you “spiral in”:

Fill in the blanks – I exist to honor

God and help people by ____________ing ___________.

Here are some hints:

  • Fill in the blanks for different mile posts in your life – when you were a kid, at your first job, …
  • The verb (first blank) is what you do.  The direct object (second blank) is more open.  It can be what you provide or affect or who you impact.  Ideally the second word is what you provide.
  • Try filling in the blanks for your favorite Biblical character.  Mine is Moses.  I’ll show you in another post.
  • Don’t be surprised if it is harder than you think.  You are trying to define yourself in two words.

If you know “why” you exist, you can begin to make changes in your life that allow you to live more fully out of your identity.

A lot of difficult questions are easily answered if you know who you are.

If you know who you are…

  • It is easier to navigate conflict.
  • It is easier to know your role.
  • It is easier to know when to say ‘No’.
  • You don’t have to worry about pleasing people.
  • You approach everything with more confidence.

Fill in the blanks – I exist to honor God and help people by ____________ing ___________.

Share some of your attempts to fill in the blanks.  Share in the comments the two words that…

  • Describe you as a kid.  It may seem silly.
  • Describe you when you took your first big foolish action.
  • Describe you now.
  • Describe where you see yourself in five years.

Stop Saying, “It must be nice!”

Stop Saying, “It must be nice!”

Wishful ThinkingI had began seeing a counselor because I was depressed.  He gave me a stress assessment, and I was through the roof (or more accurately, “in the cellar”).  It didn’t take medication (though I am not opposed to meds).  It only took some conversation and some adjustment to my life.

At one point, he commented that he takes one week of vacation every three months to keep stress from becoming a problem.  My response may have been the same as yours –

“Must be nice!  Wish I could do that.”

“Must be Nice” is an “Assumed Constraint”.  You assume that there is no way you could take a vacation every three months.  You just can’t imagine this as a possibility.  You might even strangely feel bad if you were so blessed.

Ask yourself:

If this was no problem at all, would you take a week of vacation every three months to keep yourself fresh and effective for your work?

If the answer is no, you may have some issues with being indispensable.  You need to lose your savior complex and/or develop some good people around you.  If your work is that important, you want to do everything you can to make yourself sustainable.

So I asked myself, “How could I take a week of vacation every three months?”

There was less in my way than I expected.

The first hurdle was I didn’t have 4 weeks of vacation.  I had three.  What steps did I need to take to get a fourth week of vacation?  For me it was incredibly simple.  I had to ask.  Our leadership reworks my contract every year, and so I explained my reasons for wanting a fourth week of vacation, and they granted it.

The biggest hurdle was internal (which is usually the case).  I was embarrassed to ask for more time off.  The leaders might think I’m weak or unappreciative of what I have.  But I knew I wasn’t going to ask for five weeks next year.  Four weeks on a three month rotation should be exactly what I need till I retire.

Your employer may not be so easy.

The number one reason I see people not having

what they need is that they don’t ask for it.

They assume their employer won’t give it to them.

Before you say, “It must be nice,” at least get a “No” from your employer first.

Some jobs are higher stress than others.  Everybody works hard and many people work harder than I do, but I have to admit to myself that my job (a pastor) is more stressful than most.  Vacation is also an easy benefit for the church to give me since pastor’s salaries are typically lower than they could make in similar fields.

The second hurdle was scheduling the time off.  You should do this at the beginning of the year.  Schedule a vacation every three months and protect that time like you are protecting your family from invading hordes of evil men.  This is your time to recharge.  Do not give it away.  This is what will make you effective the other 48 weeks of the year.

What is stopping you from creating a sustainable schedule that allows regular time to refresh?  What is the Assumed Constraint?  What step are you going to take to move past it? Take a moment and write your answer in the comments section.


How to Disciple Anyone Without Having All the Answers

How to Disciple Anyone Without Having All the Answers

Young Women TalkingCoaching is a key element to discipleship. I love 3DM’s ( discipleship process because a major portion of their process has been created around coaching models. These various coaching models always focus around two questions:

  1. What is God saying to you?
  2. What are you going to do about it?

Look at how many coaching elements support these two questions:

    • Asking powerful questions
    • Encouragement
    • Call to specific action
    • Led by the Holy Spirit
    • Active listening
    • Client led direction

HourglassA coaching conversation has two parts. (Think about the hour glass if you’ve had the 501 training.)

The first part of a coaching conversation answers questions like:

  • What is God saying to you?

Notice that the disciple answers this question and sets the agenda. Some good questions to help a disciple gain clarity on this first half are:

  • What is God trying to say to you through Scripture reading?
  • What are a few God moments that have recently occurred in your life?
  • What would your spouse/best friend say is your next step with God?
  • What does God want you to be doing in five years?
  • What breaks your heart?

Before you move to the second part of the conversation, the disciple should be able to easily state what it is they would like to take action on. This could be anything but here are some examples.

  • I want to mentor my son-in-law.
  • I want to impact my community by helping the homeless.
  • I want to lose weight.
  • I want to read my Bible every day.
  • I want to get a promotion.
  • I want to go back to school.

Realize that these are all discipleship issues. Discipleship begins by hearing from God. The disciple may need a promotion so he can better provide for his family. This is why the disciple should usually set the agenda.

The second part of the coaching conversation answers the question:

  • How are you going to accomplish it?

Some good questions to help a person figure out their next steps are:

  • What do you need to accomplish this God-given task?
  • What are some options you haven’t considered?
  • How will you know when you’ve completed it?
  • What happens if you don’t do it?
  • What are the first few steps in accomplishing this task?
  • When are you going to take the first step?

Before you finish the second part of the conversation, the disciple should have a specific plan and know exactly when she plans to take each action.

This is discipleship – helping a person hear from God and take action on what they heard. Coaching is essential to this process. You need to try this. Ask God who you should disciple and coach them through these two questions.

If you want to know more about 3DM’s discipleship process, listen to my interview with Brandon Kelly on Episode # 4 of my Podcast.

Who is God telling you to disciple this week?


My Unique Situation

My Unique Situation

Impacting Your Unique Situation

Your situation is unique.  Absolutely nobody has the exact same situation.  But plenty of people have advice for your situation.  They would like you to do “this” or “that”.

Unique Situation But it is never that obvious how you are to make “this” work in your situation.  This has been my experience as a pastor of a church.  I read a book or go to a conference.  I want my church to be as successful as the church I read about or the speaker I heard.

But how do I implement what the author wrote into my unique situation?

A couple of years ago I went to a big church planting conference called Exponential and went to a workshop on leadership development, taught by a successful pastor that had transformed a church in the Chicago area.  I was ready to learn.

He shared exactly how he develops leaders, and immediately I thought, “How is this going to work in my situation?”  During question and answer time, I asked,

How big was your church when you first implemented this leadership development system?”

He answered,

“We were averaging 800 in worship when I started developing leaders with this program.”

It was a good system for developing leaders in a church averaging 800.  But very few churches average 800 or more.  Very few.  My church doesn’t.

I would rather have learned how he developed leaders when they were small.  This would have had much greater application for most of the pastors in that room.

I walked away very discouraged.  Maybe I couldn’t start a leadership development process at my church unless we were 10 times bigger than today.  But I doubted I could get could our church to grow 10 times bigger unless we had a good leadership development process in place.

To beat discouragement, you should ask the question:

“What is the unique next thing that needs to happen at our church?”  Or in our organization?  Or in my life?  Or in my family?”

Conferences are great.  Books are wonderful.  Consultants can be helpful.  But they are really a complete waste of time if you can’t figure out how to translate their teaching into your unique situation.

Coaching can help you understand how to make changes in your unique situation.

It may sound strange at first, but in coaching, you are the expert.  The coach is there to help you think through your situation.  Because nobody knows your situation as well as you do.

  • You know what will work.
  • You know when it will work.
  • You know who needs to be involved.

A coach helps you think it all through and put your plan together.

What makes your situation unique?  What are the issues that must be considered in your particular situation?

  • My church is in a town that is quickly becoming post-industrial.
  • Our town is king of the small towns.  (It is the biggest city in a 50 mile radius and yet isn’t very big — 20,000 people).  This makes it very unique!
  • Our church has a majority of single people and a majority of introverts.

So how can coaching help your church?

  • A good coach can help you and your leadership think through what is uniquely next for your church.
  • Coach training can help you and your leaders begin to ask the right questions to help your church move ahead.
  • A coaching culture in your church will create an environment where everyone is asking the right questions and forward movement becomes standard.

My hope for this blog is to address issues that help you think more deeply, set clear goals, overcome obstacles, and move ahead in your life and ministry.  As your situation is uniquely yours, help me to understand how I can help you.

I’ll ask questions at the end of every post.  This is a great place to begin.  Please engage in the comments.

What makes your situation unique?

What are the issues that must be considered in your particular situation?


Coaching Isn’t Just For Athletes

Coaching Isn’t Just For Athletes

When I think of coaching, I immediately think of sports.  I remember my High School coach telling us there were a lot of kids who couldn’t walk who wished they could do wind sprint after wind sprint.  He coached mainly through criticism, which worked for me on a temporary basis and totally failed to motivate many of my friends.

Sprinter Crossing the Finish Line

Sprinter Crossing the Finish Line

And yet, even with one-dimensional coaching, we were fairly successful.

Almost all athletes have a coach.  Even professional athletes.  They need a coach to fulfill their potential.

I don’t coach athletes.  I coach people who want to get some traction in their lives and move forward.  I coach people who want to be more fruitful, more productive.

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