Wednesday, March 20, 2013

5 Key Websites for the Christian Leader

I've been researching resources over the past week or so and have found, what I believe are, some key web-sites for Christian leaders to bookmark and return to often. With the ready availability of leadership resources today, there is no excuse to go under-resourced. The greatest challenge today is narrowing down that ever-growing list to find those that are the most helpful. I hope this blog post helps with that.

Church Planting
Ed Stetzer - The Lifeway Research Blog. Ed Stetzer is an author, speaker, researcher, pastor, church planter, and Christian missiologist. Stetzer is a contributor to the North American discussion on missional church and church planting.

Ministry/Leadership - This great site has resources for ministry leaders from Lead Pastors, to CM, Youth Ministries, Worship Pastors, etc... It also provides a compilation of blog posts relevant to ministry. There's something for everyone and is worth a daily visit.

Coaching For Pastors - Scott Couchenour provides some great encouragement and coaching for pastors who need some help. If you're stressed out or feeling close to burnout, spend some time with Scott. In his own words: "I’m a recovering burnout and depression sufferer." His blogs are short and sweet and helpful.

Pastor's Perspective - Ron is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. He is also a consultant to church leaders, a church planter and founder of Mustard Seed Ministry, which provides devotionals, family resources and leadership materials. Lots of great material to glean from here.

Church Administration - I stumbled on this site which provides an inside look at how one of the most successful churches in America - Northpoint Community - runs the business side of things. You'll find sections on Budgeting, Facilities, Committees, Church Structures, etc... Lots of stuff to keep the admin minded leader occupied.

These are just a few that I have found to be helpful. What sites are you using to help you in your ministry?

Related Articles:
"Want a Mentor?"
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders - Part II
Prime The Pump


Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Want a Mentor?"

Guest blog by Dan Reiland
My mentor, John Maxwell, has written and spoken about being mentored by the great coach John Wooden among others. I recently received a question by email asking: "How does one go about getting the greatest NCAA coach (John Wooden) as a mentor? Did he (Maxwell) just ask for regular meetings and what does mentorship look like?"

Good questions.

I will admit that getting John Wooden as a coach is an extraordinary circumstance involving an extraordinary leader. But on the other hand, John Maxwell didn't start there. It was only after nearly 30 years of successful leadership that John was able to connect with Coach Wooden. It was John's desire to grow and his great passion to add value to people's lives that made the difference. The fact that John is a tremendous student is also a very significant part of the story.

Over the years I've wondered which is more important -- to have a great mentor or to be a great student? The easy answer is both. But more and more I think the secret is in being a great student. You can have the most brilliant mentor in the world, even a famous one, but if you aren't ready to pay the price, dig in, learn and change, it won't matter.

I love John's early stories about offering to pay $100.00 for an hour of someone's time just to ask questions and learn. Back then $100.00 might as well have been $1,000.00!! But that didn't matter to John. That showed how serious he was, and at age 65 John is still passionate about learning and growing. I think that's one of the reasons his books and talks are so good. They come not only from (now) 40 years of experience, but also from a fresh place of learning and relevancy.

In contrast, I've seen men and women receive an hour or so of someone's time and show up ill-prepared. They had no written questions. They talked more than listened and expressed very little gratitude. It was almost as if they had some time to kill and thought that might be fun. When you do that to a busy person, they will not give you a second meeting.

So, do you want a mentor? Let me offer some good advice.

1. Be good at something first.

This might sound strange, but you need to be good at something before you ask someone to help you be great at something. You can be good at anything! That doesn't matter. You may want to be a great leader and your only claim to fame is that you are really good at golf or giving a talk. Maybe you are brilliant at math or a technological genius type. Here's the point, if you are good at something, you have shown the passion and discipline to create the needed potential to become great at what you really want. I don't want to discourage you, but if you've just been hanging out and you've never worked hard at anything, you're not ready for a mentor. Perhaps you're a young adult and your only claim to fame is that you were an A student in college. Great! That's what I'm talking about. Get good at something first.

2. Seek someone just a little ahead of you.

A common mistake is to think: "If I'm going for a mentor, I'm going right to the top and getting the best." I appreciate the sentiment, but you are likely making a mistake. For example, if a pastor who serves in a church of 500 seeks a mentor who pastors a church of 5,000, the two of them clearly live in two different worlds and they barely speak the same language. Yes, leadership principles are leadership principles. That's true, but trust me on this, and this is the key, you are much better off being mentored by someone who understands where you are because they were there at one time, and maybe even not so long ago! If you lead a church of 500 try to get a mentor who leads a church of 800 to 1,200. This is not a legalistic thing. Don't get hung up on the numbers, just go with the idea. And of course, make the ask.

3. Think intentionally organic.

Don't ask for lots of regularly scheduled meetings. You will likely lose a potential mentor that way. Don't ask for monthly or even quarterly connects. Go for a more intentionally organic approach. Here's what I mean. If you can hang with a couple meetings (phone or in person) a year plus a few short emails, you might be surprised by how quickly you get a yes. Intentional refers to staying strategic and on purpose and the organic simply means to catch the meetings when it works out naturally in both your schedules.

You don't need lots of meetings, not if you really want to change and grow. Information requires lots of meetings -- transformation requires only a few. If you connect with a good mentor two or three times in a year, that is plenty. It will take you at least that much time between conversations to really put to practice what was given to you. Now let's do the math, if you have two or three mentors, you can see that would be six to nine meetings a year – basically way too much.

Note #1: When it's a boss/employee relationship, of course you meet much more often, but much of that is just "doing business." That's natural and normal. It is unrealistic to think that's all mentoring. In fact, if it is, you are likely into something closer to a counseling relationship than coaching and mentoring.

Note #2: When it's a crisis situation, everything changes. If it's a true crisis, your mentor will get that and quickly respond, and that requires more time. Sometimes in those situations I encourage the one I'm coaching to hire a consultant who can devote the needed time, and I remain as chief encourager during that crisis time.

4. Work harder than your mentor.

Don't waste your mentor's time. Show up with well thought through and relevant questions. Take notes. Work hard to practice what was discussed, and the next time you talk, tell him or her what you have done.

A good mentor will always have some questions, a resource or two, and good advice, but the mentoring is more your job than his/hers. You set the agenda and come with it in writing. If your mentor asks you to do something, make the necessary adjustments, but do it. This does not prevent healthy disagreements and intense conversations, but you either want their advice or you don't. If you don't, that's ok, but then stop taking their time and end the mentoring relationship with respect and gratitude.

I've been blessed with five mentors over the course of my life and I'm grateful! I'm sure that's part of the reason I'm eager to coach as many as I can. I trust that you will also pass on what is given to you. 


Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.

Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

As a communicator, Dan has a down-to-earth style that combines humor and strategic thinking. Each year he "coaches" many pastors and speaks to several thousand people, impacting lives and strengthening the local church.

Dan and his wife Patti live in Dacula, Georgia with their two children Mackenzie and John-Peter.

Related Articles:
"Team Morale"
"Evidence of a Vision"
"Young Leaders – Start Smart"
Where's A Good Mentor?
Iron Sharpens Iron


Book Review: "Switch - How to Change Things When Change is Hard"

Chip and Dan Heath's book "Change" was one of the books recommended at a Leadership Summit I attended a couple of years ago. They are a couple of sharp young guys who wrote this book after doing extensive research in psychology, sociology and other fields on how to bring about transformative change.

I found this book appealing as a pastor because a large part of what I do is try to help people bring about positive change in their lives. This book is written to help leaders understand why and how people change, what keeps us from changing, and how to overcome obstacles to change.

For instance, in each of us we find that there tends to be a conflict whenever even a positive change is suggested. As psychologists have discovered, our rational mind (the rider) understands the need to change, but our emotional mind (the elephant) resists change because change involves action and disturbing existing routine. However, if we can find a way to overcome that tension, change can happen quickly.

They begin by highlighting three surprises regarding change which were discovered through studies. The first is that What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. In other words, we ought not to assume that people don't want to change. Often, they are in situations that make it difficult for them to change.

The second surprise is that What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. This is because often people are trying to change through the power of self-control, which can be emotionally exhausting. Self-control is an exhaustible resource. The bigger the change, the harder it is for someone to force themselves to make.

The third surprise is that What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. Sometimes we really don't know how to get to the other side, we just know that we want to change. We can find ourselves spinning our wheels because we just don't know what to do.

In the book, the Heaths provide a three-part framework for helping to facilitate change and to overcome these three problems.
  1. Direct the Rider (Rational Mind) 
  2. Motivate the Elephant (Emotional Mind)
  3. Shape the Path
Using real life examples and case studies, we can see how even entrenched behaviors can be changed when the right information is provided clearly. We may assume that people simply don't want to follow our advice when, in fact, they don't understand the situation in the same way that we do. Ask yourself how you can demonstrate it more clearly.

They also demonstrate why it is important to engage people's emotional side in order to build momentum. If a person doesn't feel that change will have a worthwhile benefit they will resist. It's human nature. But when the emotional side of us is engaged, a great deal can be accomplished.

Finally they talk about one of the greatest ways to facilitate change - shaping the path. This speaks of environmental changes. This may be as simple as hiding the large plates and using only the smaller ones if your goal is to lose weight. Or it may mean using a two-step switch that requires two hands to activate for dangerous equipment in order to keep hands clear.

There are great examples in this book of ordinary people who were able to bring about radical change.
  • Medical interns who defeated an entrenched medical practice that was endangering lives.
  • A home-organizing specialist who developed a simple technique to overcome the dread of housekeeping.
  • The manager who reversed the reputation of a customer-support team from failures into standard-bearers.
This book is well worth the read for anyone who leads people, because leadership is all about facilitating change. If you have some changes that you need to make in your life, this may be helpful to you as well. For those who know me, do you think it's a coincidence that my desk and office are now clean for the first time in recent memory? I think not!

Related Articles:
Creating Positive Change
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"Young Leaders – Start Smart"
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prime The Pump

There's an old story about a traveler who hiked for many miles across the Desert Mountains. His water supply was gone, and he knew that if he didn't find water soon, he would surely die. In the distance, he noticed an abandoned cabin and hoped to find some water there. Once he made it to the cabin, he discovered an old well. Then he noticed a tin can tied to the pump, with a note inside.

The note said:
Dear stranger: This water pump is in working condition, but the pump needs to be primed in order for the water to come out. Under the white rock, I buried a jar of water, out of the sun. There’s enough water in the jar to prime the pump, but not if you drink any first. When you are finished, please fill the jar and put it back as you found it for the next stranger who comes this way.

This parable is really about giving back, or paying it forward, if you like. What kind of a leader are you?

Are you the kind of leader who thinks only in the short term, or does your vision extend beyond perhaps even your lifetime? What can we learn from this parable?
  1. There are risks to take in leadership. It's not easy investing precious resources in something that can potentially give you a return. It's very tempting to look at that water and think about all of the "what ifs." What if I use this water to prime the pump and the pump still doesn't work - then I'm stuck with no water? What if this is just some cruel joke?
  2. Real leadership takes faith. It takes a lot of faith to pour out water that could save your life. Sometimes leadership requires stepping out and doing something that risks our very survival, simply because it's the right thing to do.
  3. Real leadership cares about those who follow after. The easiest thing to do here would be to drink deeply from the bottle, slake your thirst and then go happily on your way. But there will be another weary traveler crossing those mountains someday. Without your conscientious effort, they will more than likely perish. Someone cared enough to make provision for you; will you return the favor?
It's believed that Isaac Newton was the first to popularize the phrase: "If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." It speaks well to the subject of leadership. Each of us in leadership have learned what we know from leaders who have gone before, whether in person, by recording or in written form. And each of us then decide what kind of leader we will become.

Many years ago I attended a conference in which John Maxwell spoke of his desire to add value to everyone he met. That thought has stuck with me through the years. Will you leave people better off than when they first met you, or will you simply take advantage of what they have to offer and move on to the next client (victim)? What difference could you make if you made a commitment to add value to every person with whom you come in contact? It seems to me a better option than leaving a legacy of very thirsty people. Don't neglect to prime the pump!

Related Articles:
The Pareto Principle
Why Don't You Like Me?
Creating Positive Change
The Power of Words