What To Do When the Change Tornado Has You Spinning

This is a six post series. I’ll add the links here for convenience.

  1. Change is Unavoidable
  2. Three Ways You Can Prepare for the Coming Change
  3. What To Do When the Change Tornado Has You Spinning

What To Do When the Change Tornado Has You Spinning

Change is a tornado producing, wicked Oklahoma storm. Sometimes you see it coming from a far off. Sometimes the radar lets you know it coming. Sometimes it brews up out of nowhere and rains down hail on you when you least expect it. It can shift on a dime, stop and start, and destroy your crop. Navigating life and ministry is one thing when the skies are clear. It’s another when the wind feels like it’s after you personally.

There are three things I want to accomplish in this email.

  1. Share with you how it feels to be in middle of such a change storm.
  2. Share with you some observations of how to better navigate in a change storm.
  3. Prepare you to move to a new communication platform with me.

I Can’t Walk Straight

The goal of coaching is to get you from where you are to where you want to go. But lately, it is much harder to see where I want to go and even harder to walk straight in that direction. I’ll be honest this experience can make me question my abilities and even the calling of God on my life.

After 15 years of pastoring the church that I started, I have three sermons left to preach. Then my family has to pick up all our churchly belongings and like Abraham and Sarah, head off in a direction we don’t yet know. I won’t have an office. I won’t get a familiar check twice a month. I won’t walk into a church on Sunday and know exactly what my role is, and neither will my family.

I talked to a friend today who went through a similar change, and he talked about how it was important to keep the family together on Sundays and “do church” together. I said, “I’m not even sure what ‘doing church’ together will even look like. Mostly it means we will sit together, and we rarely if ever do that at church.”

The aha for me is that the Point of Change isn’t September 27 when I preach my last sermon and turn in my key. The Point of Change started when I decided to turn in my two month resignation notice and the Point of Change won’t end until maybe a few months after I start working for Coach Approach Ministries full-time.

Do you see that? The Point of Change isn’t really a Point at all. It is a period of change. My confusion the last few weeks has been that I thought I was still in the “Before the Change” period. I was getting some coaching to prepare me for the change. Too late. In the storm analogy, it is too late for me to board up the windows. The rain has already started to fall.

And yet in the Period of Change, you can’t just wait it out in the basement. I have to show up at the church every day and deliver my usual duties, plus make preparations for my exit, plus have the emotional energy to comfort and assure people who are not comforted or assured by my exit!

This simple awareness that I am now in the change and no longer approaching the change has helped me understand what is going on around me. I’m not lacking in ability or calling. I’m lacking in stability due to the power of the change.

Some People Are Upset

Everyone is happy for me at the church but at the same time, some of them are downright irritated with me. Frankly, some feel abandoned. It hurts a pastor to have anyone even consider the idea that the pastor has abandoned his people. How could anyone think this?

Another friend gave me the answer. She said, “You have to realize you’ve had six months to process this change. They’ve had six weeks.” The people affected by my change have to process the change four times faster than I gave myself. That is hardly fair and so you have to expect some friction from the people you are moving away from. Remember, you caused the friction.

As I write, I notice that eighty percent of my energy through this Period of Change is focused behind me rather than in front of me. It is only natural that I want to be thinking about what’s next. But you don’t get that luxury if you want to finish well what you are leaving. It is really important to me to finish well.

I worry that I may not hit the ground running September 28, but it is not worth the loss of not finishing well on September 27. Having this awareness about the people around me has helped me understand people’s emotions and that has given me the ability to navigate through their pain and provide some comfort. They are going through a change too. Their storm brewed up on them without much notice. I at least saw mine coming.

Back to Basics

My best advice for weathering the storm of change is to make life as routine as possible. I work best when I’m able to exercise so I’ve been running three or four times a week. (Except this week. Oops.) I’ve read my daily portion of Scripture every day. I spend a little more time in prayer as I fall out of bed. We have a family huddle every Monday night and plan something fun with the family on at least a monthly basis. We eat together as a family almost every night. I take my wife out to lunch at least once a week. We took a week of vacation away even though finances will be a bit up in the air. This is the “Stuff of Life,” and it is indispensable when you are in the Period of Change.

How This Email Affects You

This is the third of a six email series. This week, I will move your email address to the Coach Approach Ministries platform. Then I will send you three more emails about change and transition from that platform. I hope that me walking you through this change over 6 weeks is a learning experience for how you can help others walk through changes in your situation.

Here is a link to these posts on Coaching Clarity and Coach Approach Ministries.

If you don’t want to move with me, please unsubscribe. No hard feelings.

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Three Ways You Can Prepare for the Coming Change

This is a six post series. I’ll add the links here for convenience.

  1. Change is Unavoidable
  2. Three Ways You Can Prepare for the Coming Change
  3. What To Do When the Change Tornado Has You Spinning

Three Ways You Can Prepare for the Coming Change

Change is coming for you. Many people dread it and spend countless hours worrying about it. Change, like taxes and death, is inevitable. I want to accomplish three goals in this post.

  1. I want to relate to you what led up to this major change in my life.
  2. I want to let you know how you can prepare for change.
  3. I want to prepare you as I hope you will move with me to a new communication platform.

Use “The Mountain” As a Landmark

When my dad was serving in the army during the Korean War, they would often send a country boy ahead to scout. Country boys were less likely to get lost. They would identify a landmark on the mountain ahead of them and then head for that landmark rather than just remembering each twist and turn of the trail. This was important because you often had to change your route due to an enemy patrol or a field of landmines.

My wife has started saying to me, “If you’re not taking a step toward the mountain, then you are headed in the wrong direction.” This really clarifies the picture for me. It hasn’t been the mark of Biblical Saints to stay in a safe and comfortable place. It has been the mark of the Saints (read Hebrews 11) to follow God into a more fruitful place without having visual confidence that this journey will work out to their advantage.

One problem we have from our limited perspective is that it doesn’t always seem obvious where God wants us to work. I could see how I could use coaching skills within my position as a pastor to do a lot of good. Our church leadership improved tenfold when I began to use a coach approach with their development. I could see how I could use coaching skills as a denominational leader to draw out the best from the pastors and churches under my care, but the administrative portion of that role makes me uncomfortable. I wouldn’t be working out of my strengths.

Is God calling you to a position that you have trouble identifying because it isn’t a common, defined position?

God invented a position for Moses. David was only the second person to become King of Israel. People didn’t expect Jesus to come in the position that he did as a servant. Head for the mountain and don’t worry so much about finding a position. God will invent one. He invented one for me.

Take Advantage of the Long Runway

The bigger the plane, the longer the runway. No pilot enjoys driving an airplane down a road. The pilot wants to lift off and leave the ground. You need to build momentum into the coming change.

I have one month left of regular paychecks. My last day pastoring is September 27. I’m not going to lie to you. I have some fear. I think, “I’m not ready for this!” I have to remind myself of the truth. I’ve spent four years training for this — sharpening my coaching skills through experience, communicating about the benefits of coaching, and learning how to market my services. I am ready for this. Feelings don’t always reflect reality.

Negative feelings may be the biggest obstacles a person will face when trying to embrace change in their life. Coaching is largely about action, but a lot of the coaching I received during the “long runway” has been about building confidence in my abilities.

A few years ago, a young man wanted a little coaching. I obliged and asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to be a professional writer. I responded with great enthusiasm. I also love to write. It’s my goal to write every day. To be a good writer, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last four years, writing a lot of articles, blog posts, and sermons. I even hired a writing coach. I asked the young man how much he writes each day. His answer shocked me. He hasn’t written anything. He feels he must find a publisher first.

I hope you’re not waiting for a publisher before you write anything. If you want to be a painter, you need to paint. If you want to be a preacher, you need to preach wherever you have an opportunity. If you want to be ministry coach, hire a coach, train to be a coach, and find clients to coach.

Your change may be four years away. What kind of investment do you need to be making every week to prepare yourself for the change that God longs to lead you into?

Gather Feedback

Every American Idol tryout singer informs us his mom thinks he’s a wonderful singer and should definitely be on the radio. Your mom doesn’t count. Your spouse counts a little. Your kids may count a little more. They are painfully honest.

Over the last four years, I’ve been paid to coach about 45 people over 450 hours. I don’t say this to brag but to look for feedback.

  • I got paid. That is positive feedback. Payment communicates value.
  • Clients signed up for multiple rounds of coaching. To get to an average of 10 hours per client, many clients had to renew their initial contract with me. Renewal is positive feedback.
  • Many clients have been referred to me by someone else.

All the feedback won’t be positive. Over 20 years of pastoring, I’ve received some wonderful feedback and some horrible feedback. It can be brutal. But in four years of coaching, I can only think of one training event where I received some difficult feedback. In that case, I brushed off the pain and shifted gears. I don’t think I wowed them the second day, but the negativity went away. I listened and adjusted.

The overwhelmingly positive feedback about my coaching and training has launched me into this transition despite the fears of possible failure.

If the feedback isn’t consistently positive, figure out way to get better. If you’ve taken the basic training in whatever it is God is calling you to do, and you’re not yet getting consistent positive feedback, you might consider hiring a professional help. The key to me getting better and better was to pay the money and hire the best coaches I could afford.

Do Your Homework

You are heading at a breakneck pace toward change, and God has designed you for an awesome purpose. If I were to give you some homework, here is what I would ask:

  • What is your mountain? Write down where God is leading you. Describe it as thoroughly as possible.
  • How far down the runway have you traveled? Write down the next steps that will give you the experience you need to lift off.
  • What is the best feedback you’ve received? Remember that one thousand positive comments plus one negative comment often equals one negative comment. Write down what others have observed you do well. Then write down areas where the negative feedback would encourage you to change. Enjoy the positive feedback. Let it build your confidence. Make a plan for the areas that you need to improve.

How This Email Affects You

This is the second of a six email series. I plan to send you one more email from this email address next week. Then I plan to move your contact information to the Coach Approach email list and then send you three more emails about change and transition. If you don’t want to move with me, please unsubscribe. No hard feelings.

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Change Is Unavoidable. This Will Affect You.

This is a six post series. I’ll add the links here for convenience.

  1. Change is Unavoidable
  2. Three Ways You Can Prepare for the Coming Change
  3. What To Do When the Change Tornado Has You Spinning

Change Is Unavoidable. This Will Affect You.

Change is unavoidable. Some major changes have happened in my life that are going to affect you. I want to accomplish three goals in this post.

  1. I want to relate to you the story of my change.
  2. I want to introduce the context for my next five weekly emails that talk about how to navigate change.
  3. I want to let you know how my change is going to affect you.

The Day(s) Everything Changed

A month ago, I had one of the most difficult meetings I’ve ever had. It was time to tell the leaders of the church I founded over 15 years ago it was time for me to move on. When we started the church, I had imagined that she would grow healthy, big, and strong, and that someday I’d seamlessly pass the baton to an incredible young leader who had grown up through the award-winning leadership development program that I had personally started. That’s not how it went.

Some of the leaders saw it coming. Some were caught completely off-guard. Some thought it would be tough, but they would rise to the occasion and go on. Some thought life as they knew it was now over. Overall, the response was two-fold. We’re going to miss you. And we really do wish you the best.

The very next Sunday, I told the full congregation. Between those two days, everything changed. Most of my relationships changed. My influence changed. My identity changed. My youngest son asked me, “Will I still be a pastor’s kid?” We told him yes.

Change can occur in the blink of an eye – a car accident, a diagnosis, a tornado, a transfer order, a Dear John letter, a promotion — the list is endless. But most change occurs over a much longer period.

When Does Change Start?

My change really began twenty-six years ago in the summer of 1989 on a beautiful Sunday morning in Austin, TX. I was complaining to God about the state of the church. I was attending what most everyone would judge a wonderful Baptist church, where I had friends and opportunities and the Word of God was preached every Sunday. However, I was terribly discontent.

I was complaining to God on my drive home from church when God spoke to me as clearly as I’ve ever known. He said, “Do something about it or shut up.” To my surprise, out of the blue a few days later, the president of my tribe’s seminary woke me one morning with a phone call. “I think you’re supposed to come to seminary this fall.” It was already late August. I went to work and told my boss I was leaving.

When I went in to talk to my boss and let him know I was leaving in the summer of 1989, he wasn’t surprised. None of my co-workers were surprised. I was the only one who was surprised. The transition had begun well before God spoke so clearly into my life.

The Transition Starts Before the Change

A transition always happens with change. The transition often starts well before the actual change. It did with me. But even if the change is a complete surprise, the transition takes quite a bit of time following the change.

The transition for my current change started in February, 2011. Our tribe invited me to a Coach Training class. I was asked if might take leadership in developing a coaching culture in our tribe. I said I didn’t even know what a coaching culture was. I took the class and lit up like a Christmas tree. Wow! Every circuit of my body loved everything about this class.

In June of the same year, I went back and took a second coaching class called, “Change, Transition, and Transformation.” All my feelings were confirmed. This is what God has called me to do. How did I know this for sure?

  1. I had an unrelenting compulsion to start coaching.
  2. Several tribal leaders affirmed my direction.
  3. My wife affirmed this direction.
  4. Many opportunities opened up to me very easily.

In September of the very same year, two of us were trained to teach these same two courses. This was my introduction to Bill Copper, who is the Executive Director of Coach Approach Ministries. Bill is exactly like Yoda except taller. Bill took my coaching ability from a three out of ten to a seven out of ten. I hired Bill to mentor coach me, and he would often encourage me with “I don’t know anyone thinking more deeply about coaching and ministry than you are.” I still am amazed at such an encouraging comment.

Before the end of 2011, I had taken a class on how to start my own coaching business and began a 10 hour mentor training with Bill Copper and his partner Chad Hall with Coach Approach Ministries.

Honestly, this completely reinvigorated my joy for ministry. But I started to see coaching pulling me away from local ministry. I was being stretched thinner and thinner.

Entering Into The Point of the Change

Fast forward to this year. I knew it was time for a change. I couldn’t take my church any farther. They needed, in fact deserved, somebody new. Even up until May or even June, I wasn’t sure what direction our journey would take. In March, Bill and Chad called me with a proposal. They wanted me to join Coach Approach as a partner. I loved the idea, but I doubted myself, and I doubted that God would give me such a free and beautiful gift.

Over the summer, we waited to see what other opportunities might pan out. It became clearer to Danelle and I that we were supposed to join Coach Approach Ministries. I told Bill and Chad, “Yes,” but even then I moved toward the transition a little slow, testing the waters.

As I began to realize that everything Bill and Chad had promised was absolutely true, Danelle started pushing me to “move toward the mountain.” She told me that the mountain is where I’m supposed to be and any move I’d make that wasn’t toward the mountain was a move in the wrong direction. So together, we made the decision to resign from the church and go after coaching full-time.

Entering into the point of a change like this is one of the most frightening steps a person ever takes in their life.

Changes You Can Expect To See

As I shift from my business, Coaching Clarity, to my partnership with Coach Approach Ministries, there are several things you can expect.

  • You can expect me to continue coaching leaders. Right now I’m coaching about 10 leaders. I’d love to double that. If you’ve been thinking that you should hire a coach, now may be the best time to do it.
  • You can expect me to continue training coaches. CAM (Coach Approach Ministries) had already certified me to teach 3 courses. Now that I’m a partner, I can teach all the courses. I still plan to take all the courses as they are available and watch others teach the course first, but there are several classes I feel comfortable teaching immediately, including 510 – A Coach Approach to Leading and Managing, 507 – Coaching Groups and Teams, and 504 – Coaching as a Brain Based Learning Catalyst. The next class I long to take is 505 – The Language of Coaching.
  • You can expect me to continue working with churches. I believe coaching is a key to discipleship and that with an intentional plan, a church can take on a coaching culture and fuel their discipleship process.
  • You can expect me to take a larger role in developing a coaching culture in my own church tribe and learning how to develop coaching at higher organizational levels. I love my tribe and am glad that I get this opportunity. I also hope to expand my opportunities into other tribes as well. My hope is to mentor growing coaches throughout God’s Kingdom and help the church harness the God-given resources He has so graciously made available to us.
  • You can expect my wife Danelle to take a larger role in coaching, as she continues to develop a list of coaching clients, helps with training, and plays an administrative role with Coach Approach Ministries.

It took months for me to process this change. I’m giving you six weeks. This is a great reminder for me that everyone around me has much less time to process my change than I had myself. So to demonstrate a coach approach to change, I’m going to help you transition with me over the next six weeks.

My goal is to move all my clients from my email list to the Coach Approach email list. I’m going to make this transition slowly to allow time for you to adjust. Through this transition, I will send an email every week talking about change and transition. If this is not a change you want to make with me, feel free to unsubscribe at any time. Change is a good time to reexamine your priorities.

Next week, I’ll write about the transition time before the point of change.

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What’s the Difference Between Time Management and Idea Management

The other day I was coaching a leader who had recently taken a new position. She found that one of her difficult areas was that various members of her board would often bring a new idea to her and expect her to implement it. She deduced, “I have a time management problem.” I gave her a direct message: “You don’t have a time management problem. You have an idea management problem.”

A direct message is best followed by silence. You don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to defend it. You just put it out there and wait and see what the client does with it. Maybe she was fairly certain she had a time management problem.

She wanted to know more, so I followed up with a quick Dave Ramsey story. Dave shares that when someone comes into his office with a problem, it’s like they have a monkey on their shoulder. And when they sit down across from him, that monkey jumps off of their shoulder and onto his desk. His one goal for the meeting is that the monkey leaves with them when the meeting is over.

Pastoral leaders like to collect monkeys. Some are very proud of all the monkeys they have collected over the years. But great leaders encourage their team to take responsibility for their own monkey. If it’s such a great monkey, they will want to keep it.

I have felt this way as a pastor. One day recently, I started a brainstorm session with our volunteer leaders to see how we could better meet our overall goals. In just a few minutes, there were a ton of ideas that felt like everyone expected me to implement. I had no desire to pick up any of the ideas. They were decent ideas, but doubling my work load wasn’t a great strategy. We needed a way to manage these ideas.

The first thing I noticed was that we working toward “overall goals,” and maybe the word “goals” was giving the wrong impression. They weren’t goals but desired outcomes. The leaders on our team all have responsibilities for specific areas of ministry. So we developed team goals for each of them that help us meet our desired outcomes.

Ideas need to be brought to light within a team’s goals.

If the ideas that keep coming up don’t fit under a designated responsibility, then its time to redesign responsibilities.

This was the problem with the ideas we generated toward our preferred outcomes. One of our outcomes does not neatly fit under any of our ministry categories. Either these ideas are distractions, or we need another team that makes these type of ideas a priority.

I’ll be honest, as I write this, I realize there may be a piece missing from our leadership structure that should take the lead in this one unrealized area. The stress of hearing several ideas that would address a specific problem in our church led more to guilt than innovation. If this article hasn’t helped you, I think it has really helped me.

Great questions for Idea Management:

Which goal does this idea build into to?

How does this fit into what we are already doing?

Who would be great to oversee the implementation of this new idea?

What would take this idea from a 7 to a 10?

When would be a good time to implement this idea?

How well are our current divisions of work serving us?

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Your Time is Almost Up

My lanky son plays Varsity chess at his high school. I’ve never seen a match. He says that parents don’t go and that it would be weird to have me standing over his shoulder while he plays. That usually doesn’t stop me, but so far it has this time. I can’t help it. He’s playing Varsity. I remember playing Varsity basketball. Sometimes the cheerleaders would put paper on a big hoop, and we would bust through it as we came out for our warm-ups. I’d like to see the chess team bust through a hoop. It’s the small things that make me happy.

I will say that I am able to compete at chess with my Varsity son although he gets better and better. When we first started playing, my main opponent against was the chess clock. I had never played with a clock. Each player gets a certain amount of minutes, often 30 minutes each. When it is your go, your clock is ticking. When it is not your go, your clock stops. If your clock hits zero, you lose. Period. It doesn’t matter if you were ahead. You lose. I hate this clock.

The worst games are 10 minute games. I always lose these. You have to make decision quick. There is no time to think through the moves.

The clock makes me move too fast, before I’m ready, before I’ve thought through the whole sequence. It’s amazing that you can look over a chess board, decide on a good move, pick up the piece and move it, and as soon as your fingers release, you realize you just gave away your queen. You couldn’t see the mistake till you let go. This is true in life as well.

The dratted clock. I decided on the name for our new church because time ran out. My sermon was finished last week because time ran out. My wife got for Christmas what she got for Christmas because time ran out. One of my kids didn’t brush their teeth this morning because time ran out.

I hate playing chess with a clock, but life is always played with a clock. We need to have an awareness of the clock and be sure that we have moved into the appropriate mode.

Do you need to set some date goals for your sermon preparation? Have an outline done by this date? An opening by this date? A conclusion by this date?

Do you need to set some date goals for your leaders? Have a team training by this date? Have a budget by this date?

Do you need to set some date goals for Christmas? A theme chosen by this date? And so on?

Here’s the coaching question:

  1. Name three events that always pinch you for time.
  2. Pick the one you’d love to have fixed.
  3. Break down the event into three to five parts. (Not too many. Not fifteen.)
  4. Ask who else could help with each part.
  5. Set reasonable dates for the parts to be achieved.
  6. Go watch your kid play chess.
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Avoid the Coaching Clench

In a coaching session, my coach told me, “I don’t really care what you do.” Seriously?! You don’t care? I asked him about his statement. He said, “I try to care as little as possible about what people do.”

My coach isn’t a cold, calculating, unfriendly fellow. In fact, he is warm, engaging, and kind. But he does not have an agenda for my life. In podcast # 22, my wife demonstrates coaching. She coaches me through the question of what I will preach at our church after Easter. In our post-coaching debrief, we talk about the fact that she might have had an agenda for me.

Why would she have an agenda? Is she controlling? Some people are, but I don’t think that was her motivation. She is competitive. She wanted a win for me. She saw some ideas beginning to take shape, and she grabbed hold of them and dragged them along through our coaching conversation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, she is an excellent coach, and I am exaggerating a bit so that you can see the point. I have certainly done this in my own coaching practice as well. I like what I hear so I begin to champion it. Am I being encouraging or am I taking ownership? I’m irritated by the client’s lack of motivation so I try to insert some of my own passion into their life.

Like a liver transplant gone bad, the host rejects the passion you inject with a vengeance.

This is the biggest point. As a coach, you want your client to take complete ownership. In order to do so, you have to really not care what they do or don’t do. I certainly don’t take it that far. I care. I can’t help it. I want my clients to do well. But I must remind myself, at the end of the session, the client walks on into the plan, and I hang up the phone.

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Maximus Larry Surprises Everybody

At the end of one of the vision casting sessions, I asked the leadership team, “What was your biggest ‘aha’ tonight?” My favorite response was:

Larry’s a maximizer.

Larry was the newest person on the team. Larry was also the quietest person on the team.

People strong in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

Larry was an outlier in this group. While most of the team’s strengths could either be categorized as Executing Strengths or Relating Strengths, Larry had a powerful Influencing Strength and a powerful Strategizing Strength.

What will a team do with an outlier? He doesn’t exactly fit.

Tina, who had the ‘aha’ about Larry, had Positivity and Includer. Someone made the remark that Tina is the best recruiter in the bunch. No wonder.

The team needs to maximize their overall strength, which is heavy on Relating themes. They should position themselves as the most caring and friendly church in the neighborhood. They have the Executing themes to back up their promise of care.

But the real trick might be to see what they do with Larry. He may be the key to their success.

 

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Emotions Aren’t Worthless Mr. Spock

When I was a kid, I admired Mr. Spock on Star Trek. He didn’t let emotions cloud his judgment. And yet, he saw that emotion often made people more human.

God in His infinite wisdom gave us both logic and emotion. Logic lives on the left side of the brain. Emotion lives on the right. Most people have a right/left preference. I prefer the left side. I’m not always comfortable with emotions.

There have been a few very private moments where my wife as overwhelmed my left dominated brain with strong emotions. My underdeveloped right brain simply didn’t know how to respond. Rather than walking away, I asked her to help me understand how I could appropriately respond to strong emotion. I needed to learn.

Here are a few suggestions to consider when thinking about the brain and ministry.

1. Create full-brain teams. Be sure your ministry team is fully represented by people comfortable in each of the four quadrants of the brain. This will give your team fuller capabilities.

2. Ask your coach to ask you questions that force you to engage your less developed brain areas. Once in a while, ask logical people to draw a picture. Artistic talent usually lives on the other side.

3. Consider how ministry engagement will impact right brain and left brain dominant people. Right brain will want to experience and feel. Left brain will want to understand and reflect.

Good coaching takes the brain into consideration and helps the client take full advantage of perhaps the best gift God has given us.

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The Celery Test

In a few of my last posts, A Stabilizing Presence in an Ever-changing Landscape and Start With Why, I examined the issue of how our why for Sunday School has slipped.

Yesterday, I was listening to Reggie McNeal, and he was recounting a church that had several people volunteer at a local school to read for 30 minutes each to two different children. The reason this was so important was because these kids simply had not heard a wide variety of words. They had only heard the words, “Don’t, stop, quit, shut up” and so on. This volunteer ministry was changing the lives of these children.

If we determined the why of Sunday School was for us to sacrifice to give children an opportunity that they could never otherwise have, it would change our whole approach.

Right now, when we consider the options for Sunday School, we look at a handful of publishing companies to see which material takes the least preparation to teach. (That’s sad, but it’s largely true.)

We need more options. We need to open up our limits on when we offer, where we offer, to whom we offer. And once we’ve generated a train load of options, we need to apply the celery test.

In Start With Why, Simon Sinek introduces the celery test. The celery test makes choosing options much easier. The more you’ve crafted and defined your why, the easier it is to choose.

He makes the analogy that you go to a conference or ask the experts what you need, and they give you a long list of “must haves” from chocolate cake to celery to a certain type of seasoning. You go to the store and buy everything suggested. It’s expensive. You don’t have enough time to work with all the new items.

But if you began with a why of “being healthy,” then you would immediately know that you should go and buy the celery.

The celery test works for choosing a new pastor, picking a sermon series topic, developing a youth ministry, and deciding what local volunteer service to feature.

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Church Leaders Work Best From Their Strengths

Our church leadership team has some pretty heavy responsibilities. This group of volunteers takes responsibility for much of the ministry of our church. When I consider how I can best help them, I land on developing their leadership skills as much as possible.

The first thing I want to show them is their strengths. We use www.gallupstrengthscenter.com for a $10 assessment of each leader. From that assessment, you get the leader’s top 5 strengths out of a possible 34.

The 34 strengths are categorized into four areas: Execution, Influence, Relationship Building, and Strategic. When you find out that my top 4 strengths are in the Strategic arena, you have a better idea how I come at projects.

After assessing our church leaders and categorizing their 35 top strengths as a group, the first thing that pops out is we are really weak on Influence strengths. We have one person with Woo! This lack of Influence strengths could be a significant problem for us when we try to “sell” vision to the congregation.

As we are looking for a few more leaders to round out our team, we should at least keep our eyes open for someone who has a few Influence strengths in order to make our team stronger.

While I don’t have any Influence strengths in my top 5, I do have Belief, which is an Execution gift, as my fifth best strength. When I whole-hearted believe in something or in someone, look out. I can’t stop talking about it. For example, I believe in coaching! I believe in my wife. I believe in my kids. I believe in Jesus!

This is a fairly inexpensive way to assess your leadership team, show them their strengths, and what areas you might recruit to build a stronger team.

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