7 Indications You’re Delegating in a Healthy Way

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Empowering other people on the team to be leaders – delegation – is critical to a successful church or organization. Every leader talks about delegation, but few truly empower others to be leaders. It’s a frustration I hear frequently from staff members of churches.

Frankly, as one with a strength (StrengthFinders) of command, I can easily take over if no one else takes the lead. It takes discipline as a leader, but I want to create an environment of healthy empowerment. I want to lead a church which produces leaders – disciples who actually make disciples.

But how do you know whether healthy empowerment is occurring?

I don’t know if we can follow a script, but perhaps there are some principles which need to be in place to know we are creating cultures conducive to empowerment.

Here are 7 signs I look for in healthy empowerment:

(This is written from the perspective of those being empowered – “you” being the one empowering.)

Confidence is conveyed

People know you believe they can do the job. They aren’t questioning your belief in or support of them. People are less likely to take risks if they feel you will always second-guess them.

Expectations are clearly communicated

Everyone is clear on what a win looks like in your eyes and what is required of them to complete the task. You’ve not left them guessing. And you stay available to them through the process if questions arise.

Authority has been granted

People have been given the full authority to script the path to accomplishment. They don’t need to “check-in” for approval on every decision they make.

Permission to fail is assured

People know if what they attempt doesn’t work that they will be encouraged to try again. You won’t hold it against them and together everyone learns what to improve the next time.

Resources are adequate

People have the training, tools and people to accomplish the delegated task.

Their back is protected

People know their decisions will be backed by senior leadership. If the complainers rise, which they will, you will be there to defend their efforts.

Recognition is shared

They know they won’t do all the work for you to get the all credit. People believe they will be adequately appreciated for their work.

Consider your process of delegation. Consider my list.

How are you doing?

5 Ways To Deal With Insecurity as a Pastor

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | No Comments

This post developed after talking with a young pastor overwhelmed with the responsibility he’s been given. It was his first church out of seminary. His church expects a lot from him – leading the church, preaching great messages, visiting the sick (and the well), managing a budget, and seeing the baptistry consistently in use – just to name a few things.

He realizes the weight of his position, but much of it he doesn’t feel qualified to deliver. Seminary didn’t give him the training he needed. He accepted the position knowing there would be challenges and knew he would have to walk by faith, which he wanted to do – but now he’s wondering if he’s in over his head.

I realized he was dealing with a huge dose of insecurity. I previously wrote “7 Traits of an Insecure Leader“.

It caused me to ask myself, so I could coach him:

What’s the best way to deal with insecurity in leadership?

Here are 5 ways to deal with insecurity as a pastor or leader:

Avoid comparisons

Insecurity often develops when a person compares his or herself to another. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself. Realize who God designed you to be is not a mistake. Obviously, someone believed in your abilities as a leader. You need to stop comparing and start living in your own skin.

And that goes for the church also. All the things that are working in another church may not work in yours. They might. And there might be principles that will work. Be open to learning from others. Of course you should want the church to grow. But your church is a unique body of believers.

Concentrate on your abilities

What are you good at doing? Make a list of your good qualities. You probably have more than you think you do. This is where people who know you well can probably help. They see things in you that you can’t see or haven’t realized.

In times of feeling insecure we often forget who we are and how God has shaped us through experiences of life. We would never tell a church member they aren’t gifted – why would we believe this about ourself? Keep your list handy. It will help you to feel more confident if you focus more on your positives than your negatives.

Surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses

Part of having a healthy church or organization is the strength, which comes from different people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are probably people who can do things you don’t feel comfortable doing. It’s not a sign of weakness to get others involved. It’s actually a sign of strength as a leader. (And it’s the more Biblical model of the church.)

By the way, I’ve learned over the years that some of the best leaders in the church aren’t volunteering. They have to be recruited. And sometimes you have to recruit them from outside the church. If you need someone to help with marketing, for example, don’t be afraid to find someone in the community and ask them if they are looking for a place to volunteer.

Keep learning

Seek wisdom from other leaders. Read books. Take additional classes. Attend conferences. Knowledge is power. The more you grow in information the more competent you will feel in your role. (By the way, when I feel overwhelmed or insecure, I read the stories like those of Gideon, Moses, Joseph, David, or Joshua repeatedly. Great encouragement.)

And I realize money is likely tight for these kind of things. Here’s a principle of leadership it might take you a while to learn. Investing in what’s next is hard when you’re small, but always a worthy investment. It fuels you and the church. The reward will come in time. Plus, there are inexpensive ways to develop yourself and your team. I wrote about that HERE and HERE.

Ultimately, find your identity in what’s really secure

You have a relationship with Christ. Read that sentence one more time. You can do all God calls you to do, because He will equip you for His call. God will strengthen you when you need strength most. His power is made perfect in your weakness.

This is a hard word, because it isn’t quickly implemented. This takes years of walking with God as a pastor and leader. But, if you are facing insecurity in leadership, you may have to simply get better at walking by faith. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Insecurity will weigh you down and hold you back as a pastor or leader. It will keep you from doing all you were called to do. Don’t let it!

4 Types Of People Who Give Anonymous Criticism

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As a leader for over 30 years, I’ve received my share of criticism. It comes with leadership. If you aren’t receiving criticism — you probably aren’t leading. I’ve also received my share of anonymous criticism. I’ve been a small business owner, elected official, church planter and church revitalizer. So perhaps I’ve received more than my share.

You can read a previous post HERE on how I process anonymous criticism.

I’m one of those rare leaders who doesn’t automatically dismiss criticism because someone doesn’t sign their name. I try to consider if something in my leadership caused this person to feel the need to remain anonymous. (My StrengthFinder indicates I can tend to be controlling — something I have to continually guard against.) I have had people go to the trouble of making up a name and an email address. This was obvious because details are often accurate, but none of the information matches anyone in our database.

I also try to discern if this criticism is from someone who feels the need to remain anonymous. Perhaps something in their past (or present) keeps them from sharing their name. While I would always prefer to talk with the person, I try to reconcile his or her reasoning for withholding a name.

The reality is I believe there are at least four different motivations for a person offering anonymous criticism. I don’t believe this is the right option to take in giving criticism. It doesn’t fit well with my straight-foward personality. But I realize everyone is not like me.

Here are 4 types of anonymous critics:

Fearful – This is the anonymous critic who is simply afraid of conflict; perhaps because they’ve been injured by it previously. It may not be that the person doesn’t like you or the organization or that he or she doesn’t have good suggestions for improvement. This anonymous critic simply can’t bring him or herself to reveal his or her identity, because of fear. (Controlling leadership often develops this type of anonymous criticism.)

Pleaser – This is the anonymous critic who wants everyone to get along, and doesn’t want to create any problems or tension. He or she thinks you need to know something, but would rather not be the one to tell you. They are afraid you won’t like them if they tell you what’s on their heart or mind.

Trouble-maker – This is the anonymous critic who is trying to stir up trouble and knows that throwing the anonymous criticism in the loop causes confusion and concern. These people are disrupters and critics I’d rather avoid reading if I could always discern this was the critic’s intent. (They are my least favorite kind of critics.)

Passive – This is the anonymous critic who has low interest in the organization and would prefer not to be bothered any further. It could be the one who feels intimidated by you or the position. This anonymous critic doesn’t want to be in the middle of the conflict, but thinks you need to know what he or she has to share.

Obviously, as leaders, we would prefer to know who is throwing the punches our way. It’s hard to defend ourselves against an unknown “enemy”. And sometimes that’s how anonymous critics make us feel – like we have an enemy. The fact is, however, you can’t always know which of these types you’re dealing with, but it does help me think through my approach to anonymous criticism when I can discern their motivation.

What’s Your Anonymous Criticism Policy?

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 10 Comments

I’m curious what you do with anonymous criticism as a leader.

I never really had an official policy of how I handle anonymous criticism, but I often felt I should establish one.

I realize that growth in any organization and just being in a position of leadership welcomes critics.  The larger the organizations I led grew, the more criticism I received. That’s natural.  A lot of it were unsigned critiques.

Throughout my career I’ve heard people debate what they do when they receive unsigned criticism.

Let me be honest, I don’t appreciate critics who won’t sign their name, but since it’s part of leadership, here’s how I usually react:

  • I listen to it (read the letter, email or comment) and if there is a forum to respond, such as with a blog post, I sometimes do. I try to still respond in love – even though I don’t feel like doing so at times.
  • I try not to figure out who the anonymous commenter is. I have found it is never helpful when I do and often causes me to hold unnecessary grudges.
  • I don’t give it as much weight to the criticism as when I can attach a real person to the criticism. If you want my full attention, sign your name.
  • I try to figure out if there’s a reason someone felt the need to be anonymous. Have I controlled the situation too much?  Have I become unapproachable? Do I stink?  (It’s never bad to consider hard questions about myself.)
  • I dismiss it quicker if I don’t feel it’s valid. Sorry, but Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous, it’s true. (I’m less likely to dismiss criticism quickly if there’s a real person attached.)
  • I try not to be the anonymous critic. If I don’t like to receive it, why dish it out to others?

I don’t think I have all the right answers. This is the just what has worked for me in leadership.

So, I’m curious, how do you respond to anonymous criticism as a leader?

  • Do you read it?
  • Do you ignore it?
  • Do you respond to it?
  • Do you take it personal?

And what should I do differently than what I currently do?

7 Tips to Prepare for Your Best Easter Ever

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Most of us have taken down our Christmas decorations. I heard a survey that said 14% of people leave them up through Valentine’s. Go for it. But most of us, at least in the church world, are beginning to think about our next big season – Easter. 

It’s been said the early bird gets the worm. I’ve never been able to prove that saying, but certainly without a plan you will accomplish less than with one. It’s now time to start planning for Easter. 

Here are some thoughts on how to get your church ready for Easter. 

Strategically consider service times. 

Decide now when you are having services so you can prepare your staff and volunteers for the added demands of Easter weekend. In my observation, offering more service options is the norm these days. When I lived next door to a Catholic Church I was amazed at the number of services they had. They truly made it “convenient” for their parishioners. I’m not suggesting that. The priests at this church had lots of help delivering messages from deacons and other priests. I am suggesting you consider stretching your current offerings, if appropriate. 

What if you added one opportunity this year to your Easter services? For example, at my previous church where I last served, we had success with a noon Friday service. We attracted lots of business people during their lunch break. Sometimes we had an accompanying meal and sometimes not. Frankly, either seemed to work.

Plan communications.

Certainly, there should be an update to your church’s website. Most newcomers will check out your church’s website before they walk through your doors. Post and highlight your Easter service times online as early as possible and use all forms of social media. I always liked for Easter to have its own “branding” for marketing purposes. 

You can also energize and equip the church to share your Easter services with their own social media platforms. That’s often more effective than what the church does. 

We used to do a “Vision Casting/Launch Celebration” for Easter. Sometime a couple of months before Easter we fed people, gathered all our leaders, and cast vision around Easter. This may have been overkill, but I don’t think so. It seemed to get people motivated.

(If you are a smaller church without staff to do this or simply don’t know how, find a volunteer in the church who can help with this.) 

Recruit and prepare volunteers.

Easter is a time you can onboard new volunteers unlike any other time of year. I always wanted more greeters, more parking lot volunteers, etc. on Easter weekend. Equally important is that you provide training for all those who will encounter guests – from the parking lot, to the worship center doors, and to the children’s areas. The impression you make could even have eternal rewards. Strive to make it a good one for every visitor. 

Plan your services.

I personally like for our services to resemble our weekly services as much as possible. This way people know what to expect if they choose to come back. Save the Easter musicals or specials for another weekend. Try to plan songs and service elements with which people may be more likely to be familiar. If it is something that may be different to people – especially those unfamiliar with the church, take a minute to explain what you are about to do. This will make visitors feel less uncomfortable. 

I also want to preach a simple sermon. Don’t try to impress people with an Easter message. Tell the story of a risen Christ. It’s timeless and it’s the Gospel.

Make the church presentable.

Between now and Easter is a good time to make sure your church building is ready. Clean up the place! Paint if necessary. Make sure the bathrooms and children’s areas are spotless (and secure). Imagine someone is coming to your house for the first time. What impression would you be trying to make? This is the way to think in preparing for Easter services. 

Share adequate information.

I think it is helpful to give guests additional information about the church. This may be your one chance to share with them some of the things the church does besides Sunday services. You may even print a packet specifically for Easter. Give guests a chance to know a little more about who you are and what happens outside of Easter weekend. This may include missions’ opportunities (especially local ones), unique programming to meet needs (such as divorce care, etc.), and regular Bible study opportunities. 

Also, tell your guests what is next in terms of sermon series, upcoming messages or special programs. 

Follow up thoroughly and appropriately. 

This may be the most important step. Depending on the number of visitors you expect, this may require a special team with even more focus than your church’s usual guest follow up. But have a plan to follow up with Easter guests. I have shared recently that, in my new ministry season ahead, I want to help churches with their Impressions Ministry. 

After 18 months of visiting lots of different churches, I realize how poorly many churches do in this critical area – at a time when church visitors are harder to come by than ever before. We have visited large churches, filled out cards, and no one contacted us – period. Crazy. If you are blessed with visitors Easter weekend, and they bless you even more with their contact information, appreciate them enough to let them know you recognized their attendance. 

Easter is one of the most important times of the year for your church. But you already know that. Let’s give it our all. All our communities need what (and Whom) we share with them at Easter. 

Special Opportunity

If you haven’t heard, I have recently transitioned to my ministry consulting and helping pastors and churches. (You can read about my transition HERE.) One way I can help is to be what I’m calling an “adjunct staff member” for your church. If you want to strategically plan for your “best Easter ever” I have a few dates available. I can come to your church and help you plan. We will consider everything mentioned here and so much more. Let me know if you want more details. 

The “Secret” and Hardest Part for Pastors Attempting Church Revitalization

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization | 10 Comments

There is a part of church revitalization we don’t talk about much – if ever. Yet, pastors think about it a lot. 

I know this from personal experience and from talking to literally dozens of pastors attempting church revitalization. 

Although it is a secret, I’m convinced it’s the hardest thing any pastor will face who wants to see a declining established church ever thrive again. 

I hate to pull the cover back on my pastor friends on this one, but often it is not until we admit a problem that we can really focus on some solutions. 

So, here’s the secret, hardest part I’ve observed about church revitalization:

Deciding if you will stay long enough to see a turn. 

That’s it. 

And this can honestly be said about many other changes we make as leaders. You have to decide if you are going to outlast the tension change naturally creates. 

To test my assertion, if you are in the first couple years of leading church revitalization, see if any of these apply: 

  • You wake up some days and don’t know if you can do it anymore. 
  • You and your spouse dream about where you could work – maybe another church; perhaps even in the marketplace.
  • Secretly you search job site boards looking for other positions for which you might qualify or be interested.
  • You wonder if you are alone and if anyone else struggles this way.
  • There are times you wonder if the problem is you – if you’re doing something wrong, if maybe it is a sin to even be thinking as you do some days. 

Any of those sound like your story? 

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with any of these. Those are raw human emotions. Change is not only hard for the congregation – it’s hard for the one leading it. And some of it may simply be a way to cope and survive. You get little “mini-mind breaks” that keep you going. 

But here’s what I know to be true: Until you decide if you’re going to outlast the critics and weather the storms of change you will likely never realize the success you really came to achieve. 

Of course, there is never an excuse to be arrogant, tyrannical or controlling. I always tried to be humble, but purposeful. God had sent me and the church had called me to do a job. Helping a church revive again requires change. And leading change is hard and the reactions to it are not always pretty. 

The question in church revitalization is not if it is going to be difficult. Someone told me that the longer the church has been in decline the longer it will take to revitalize. I know for sure it takes longer than we often hope it will. The question is if you are going to last through the difficult to get to the potential wonderful. 

And I’m not even suggesting you have to or should. That’s a much more personal matter with many different parameters that depend on your unique circumstances and the church. Some churches can’t be revived. There are no guarantees and no perfect formulas to follow.

I’m simply pointing out something I have learned the hard way. 

In an upcoming post I’ll offer a few suggestions for staying through the hard seasons. In the meantime, I’m saying a prayer for all of you who will read this post and are in the middle of discerning whether to stay or go. 

5 Ways You Can Help In My Ministry Transition

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Life Plan | No Comments

Today I officially begin working for myself. It’s not the first time I’ve stepped into an unknown (I actually think we are supposed to throughout our life), but it seems a bit more daunting in my mid-fifties. (And I realize I’ve got nothing on Abraham or Moses.) Still, I’m totally excited about the days ahead. 

Follow THIS LINK if you’re just now reading about this season of transition and want to read more of our story. Basically, we felt we had finished our work and were ready for something new. Plus we really want to be closer to family and community again. 

I have to be transparent, this is totally a self-serving post. I’m not sure I’ve ever done a post quite like this one, but I sat on it for several weeks. The fact is I’ve been asked frequently over the last couple months how people can assist me in this new transition Cheryl and I are entering. I love that I have a network of people through this blog, my ministry and our friends who want to support us and don’t take that lightly. 

I greatly appreciate the question, so I thought I’d share a few ideas. 

Here are 5 ways you can help: 

Pray. Timing is critical in all this, especially for the first quarter of 2020. December wasn’t the best time to enter something new. Most of my future “clients” were busy with Christmas preparations during the month and it was not the best time to sell a house. But this is the way the Lord worked in our life and His timing is always perfect. 

We need to sell our house in Dallas, find a place to live in the Nashville area, and I need to book enough work to pay the bills. It’s that simple.

Again, we have done this before and know God will provide. We have already seen incredible evidence of how He is already working. I have a long list of prospective opportunities, but need discernment in processing them. God’s timing is perfect, but we know He responds to the prayers of His people. Thanks in advance for your prayers. 

Engage with me on social media. As I always told our church, the power of social media is huge. It might seem like a little thing, but it’s actually not. In this new season it is going to be even more important that I have an active online presence. You could help me greatly if you would connect with me on LinkedIn, “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Signing up to receive this blog post by email will also help. 

Order my book The Mythical Leader. I have been amazed at the positive feedback I have received from this work. I was so engaged in my job as a pastor when it was released that I didn’t promote it as well as I should have. It would be great to get new traction on it now. And, if you’re so inclined, leave a nice (5 Star) review on Amazon.

I think I have more books in me and selling more of this one would be an encouragement. You can actually find my Amazon page here with a few other resources. I plan to add more soon. 

Hire or refer me. If you are leading in a church or organization and think I can help you, I would love to talk. I have experience in business, government, nonprofits and church – including church revitalization and planting.

I’m best when we are strategic-thinking, brainstorming, and creatively generating new ideas together. That could be helping to develop you and/or your team. I could even add capacity to your team as an “adjunct staff member”. 

You can also refer me to your church or organization. Someone asked, “If you could do anything, what would you do.” I think I would spend more time helping leaders, churches and organizations succeed. I prefer to be onsite when possible so we can use a whiteboard and dream and plan together.

If you know of somewhere I might be able to help, please pass my name along. (You can email me through this blog or contact me through any social media site.)

Send me your ideas. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who have taken the time to send a note of encouragement or offer some idea of a way I can help the Kingdom. That’s huge for me. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. I shared some ways in the announcement post, and I have a number of others, but I’m confident there are things I’ve simply not considered. 

I told you this was a self-serving post. Thanks for reading and, even more, thanks for being a friend to Cheryl and me during this season of transition. We couldn’t be more excited about the days ahead. God is faithful and we look forward to what He has for us in the days ahead. 

Blessings and Happy New Year,

Ron 

10 Resolutions That Can Improve Ministry Leadership

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Leadership | 2 Comments

The best leadership, in my opinion, comes out of the resolve a leader has made in his or her heart.

The resolve of a leader is a pre-determined approach to way a leader will lead. These are personal convictions, values, and personally held beliefs, which shape the decisions a leader makes and the way he or she responds to others.

Ultimately a leader’s personal resolves – about anything – determine the way they respond and their actions towards it. (I once preached on how this principle impacts our spiritual life. You can listen to this message HERE.)

Most often these resolutions are made even prior to being in a leadership position.

The resolve of a leader is powerful. In fact, if  leader wants to improve his or her leadership, he or she must often improve first their personal resolve.

So, do you want to improve your leadership?

10 resolutions guaranteed to improve ministry leadership:

I resolve to:

Never compromise my character in search of progress.

Consistently walk by faith in some area of my life – personally or professionally.

Pray earnestly before I make major decisions and solicit others to join me in discerning God’s direction.

Extend grace generously, never hold a grudge, and realize mistakes are a part of healthy leadership (and discipleship).

Protect my family time – never compromising it in the name of ministry.

Make my personal health a priority. As much as it depends on me, discipline myself to stay as healthy mentally and physically.

Allow trials and challenges to draw me closer to Christ and shape my character.

Love others unconditionally – even those with whom I do not agree.

Empower and invest in others, giving them opportunities to grow as individuals.

Surround myself with wise and moral influencers, allowing at least a few people access to know and speak into the most private parts of my life.

Which of these resolves do you need to make at this point in your ministry leadership?

7 Personal Disciplines: A 90 Day Challenge

By | Culture, Devotional, Encouragement, Life Plan, Prayer | 27 Comments

I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today.

In especially busy or stressful times of life, however, I do not always feel as disciplined in each area of my life. I may excel in one area, but not in another.

The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit – part of the DNA of my daily life. This process has worked for me before. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. I’ve done this before and it forms healthy habits I carry on throughout the year.

For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.

For the next 90 days, I plan to add these 7 personal disciplines:

Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat.

Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to be, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.

Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.

Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.

Exercise – I know this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to do cardio 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 days per week.

Sleep – Through my life I haven’t usually needed a ton of sleep, but that has changed as I have gotten older. My goal here is lights out by 10:15 and to take short power naps as needed – and not feel guilty about them.

Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)

I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.

Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days?

You can change the details of each discipline, you may need more calories or less, you may choose a different exercise, etc. (For example, the graphic I used is from when I did this several years ago. I no longer run like I did then. I’ll likely do this time on the elliptical or with fast walking.)

The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.

And don’t be legalistic about it either. This is not meant to bring another burden to your life. It is meant to help you be relieved from some – eventually. If you mess up one day just begin again the next.

Who is with me?

Which of this will be hardest for you to do?

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Ever Give

By | Christians | No Comments

What’s the best Christmas present you can ever give?

Give words. Share the gift of words.

Words can harm. They can bruise a spirit and injure a soul. Some people spend years trying to recover from crushing words. Of course, I’m not talking about these kind of words. I’m talking about encouraging, affirming, life-giving words.

My Story

Years ago, when I was almost 18, and just about to graduate from high school, my grandmother gave me a Bible for Christmas.

It’s a great Bible. In fact, it was my first study Bible – a New American Standard, Ryrie Study Bible. I still have it and occasionally use it today. It was a quite expensive gift for her at the time.

But the greater part of the gift was a supplement to the book inside the Bible.

Inside she included these handwritten notes. Please understand, I know the words of the Bible are eternally more important than the words of my grandmother, but I have lots of Bibles. The words she wrote cannot be duplicated by anyone else.

She shared her heart, wrote Scripture which was important to her and encouraged me to live a life of value. In her note, she expressed her joy in being my grandmother.

It was the greatest part of the gift. The most valuable.

It was true then and it is true now. I’m 55 years old – almost 56 – and this is still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. 

I still have the Bible. The Bible could be replaced. I can’t replace the notes my grandmother wrote.

My grandmother died in 2013, a few months after my grandfather. She was my last remaining grandparent. As soon as I heard of her death, I went to that Bible – to read the notes she had written. I have read these notes 100’s of times since she first wrote them. I’m positive, Lord willing, I’ll read them 100 more.

The best Christmas gift ever- at least that a human can give – is to give the gift of words.

Who needs a letter from you this Christmas?

Maybe a child, a grandchild, a parent, a spouse, a friend. Write! Give. Bless.