5 Practical Steps to Managing a Stressful Period

By | Christians, Church, Faith, Fear, Prayer | No Comments

I realize anxiety is high for all of us. I have a “system” I have used over the years when I’m in an especially stressful season. It is a sort of therapeutic exercise that seems to work for me.

As I type this the current stressor in all our life stems from the COVID-19 Coronavirus. That virus has caused strains on our economies, relationships, calendars and even personal care products. Who knows how long this will last?

God is in control, but you may need some practical ways to navigate these days. Again, this has worked for me.

Here are 5 practical steps to managing a stressful period:

Get a set of index cards. Write what you are most concerned about in life right now on the cards. Put only one concern per card but use as many cards as necessary. Everything you’re concerned or worried about goes on a card.

There is something cleansing about writing out your concerns. Again, it is a therapeutic exercise. (Insider information—you’ll find some of the things don’t merit a card once you must write them.)

Place cards in front of you. After you’ve completed your cards, lay them face up on a table in front of you. This is a bare-your-soul moment. You may feel a bit overwhelmed at this point.

Analyze. How real is this concern? Can you fix it? Are there practical things you can do to address the concern. In this current scene, you may need to limit your exposure to people. You may need to review your budget. Do the best you know how to do. 

After you know what you can and can’t fix, share them with God. He knows them already—better than you—but do it anyway. It is freeing to give your burdens to your Creator.

Pray. Pray something like this: “God, this is what I have before me, which I can’t handle. I’m asking You as my Father, who loves me more than I can imagine, to give me direction, success, wisdom, patience, and understanding in every area of my life. Lead me along the path You would have for me. I’m trusting completely in You. If this season is a success in my life, it will depend on You. I love You Lord. In Jesus name, Amen”.

Rest in God’s hands. Once I’ve left my concerns in God’s hands I must trust Him with them. This may need to be a daily practice. It could even need to be hourly for a while.

This is not a formula. And it won’t necessarily take care of deep or dark emotional issues. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. But if you have the normal stress of life, I’ve tried this for years and have always found it helpful.

By the way, I didn’t invent this system. I got this practice years ago by reading the story of Hezekiah in 1 Kings 19.

How Should Pastors and the Church Respond to the Coronavirus Fears?

By | Church, Fear, Leadership | 2 Comments

It is incredible how fast the Coronavirus outbreak has impacted all of us. The outbreak is continually trending on Twitter. It dominates the news. The stock market has been rattled by concerns of global impact. (Fear is one of the biggest movers of the market.) 

I saw a report that Japan is shutting down schools for a month. In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control issued a statement this week in preparation for what “could” occur. The President has launched a special task force. 

I’ve been asked several times how I would respond as a pastor. How should the church respond?

I have a few thoughts. 

We should remind believers that we are not to live by fear. One recent headline I saw said, “Coronavirus Fear Spreads”. The article was more about the spread of fear than the actual virus. And that’s typical for situations like this. We have rational fear, which is normal, but we also have lots of irrational fears. 

I hope we don’t miss things we enjoy doing, such as ballgames (and dare I say church). All the experts I’m reading say as much as possible we should live as normal lives as possible.

We need to seek truth over rumors. Let’s not believe everything we read. We need to make sure we are checking multiple outlets of news. And just because it’s on Facebook does not make it true. 

Realize that news outlets often highlight the worst case scenarios. Yes, it’s bad. It might get much worse. But I read recently the number of cases in China are going down. That’s some good news. I wish that was making headlines too. Hopefully that trend continues. And I realize it is still spreading places, but the risk in the U.S. at this time is very minimal. Let’s live informed, but not in panic. 

Address obvious fears. Recently I switched a planned message to a message addressing fear. People are naturally afraid. We should be agents of hope, courage, and confidence in God’s care and control. 

Times like these are really opportunities for the church to be the church. We have the Good News!

Do what we know we can do. Stop handshaking and do elbow bumps. I recently had our custodial staff place trash cans by the bathroom doors. (They should have already been there.) Make sure we are sanitizing everything we can. Encourage people to stay home when they are sick. 

Remind people to automate their giving. I realize this sounds self-serving, but if this outbreak worsens (and even if our prayers are answered and it doesn’t), the church is going to be needed. The ministries of the church are vital to our communities and we need to encourage people to keep giving in the event we can’t meet corporately or fears or sickness keep people at home. 

A friend of mine, Henry Kaestner, posted this on LinkedIn:

I can’t help but think and feel (and apparently write) that many more people will be affected by the impact of the coronavirus fears on the economy and market than will be affected by the actual virus itself. I fear a massive drop in philanthropy and impact investing as stock portfolios go down and liquidity dries up. My hope and prayer is that we will resist the temptation to hunker down, but instead actually step up our giving and investing. It will likely matter more and make a bigger impact than ever.

Make sure people know how to view services online. Thanks to Facebook Live that feature is available to most size churches. People in your church will want to keep in touch and hear from you even if they are kept from attending services.

Pray none of this is necessary. Of course, we should pray. Prayer is always the ultimate work. We say that and probably believe it, but have we really prayed for God’s intervention in this situation. He is still the Healer.

Worship. Isn’t that the Biblical example for us in times of uncertainty, fear or crisis? Let’s worship the God who has the answers we need. We worship because He is in control.

What other suggestions do you have? 

5 Questions to Ask When Facing Rejection as a Leader

By | Change, Church, Fear, Innovation, Leadership | 11 Comments

When I started an insurance business from scratch, I made hundreds of cold calls. Lots of people told me no. I’ll be honest, I hated this part of starting the business, but in time I got accustomed to rejection.

It still hurt sometimes, but I learned it was a natural part of successful selling. I couldn’t get to a yes (which paid the bills) without a lot of no’s.

Life is this way also. People aren’t always going to buy-in to what you’re selling or presenting. This is never more true than as a leader. No one is going to love every idea you present.

Leaders lead to somewhere they are hoping will be better than today. But this always involves change – and tension always accompanies change. Always.

And for the leader – part of their success may be their tenacity through rejection.

The fact is no one likes rejection.

Your proposal. Your product. Your presentation.

You love it. You believe in it. You want it to go forward. How could anyone reject what you’ve put your heart into?

It’s difficult not to make rejection personal, but it should be understood rejection isn’t always against you. Many times – maybe even most times – people reject because of their own level of comfort or acceptance of whatever they are rejecting.

When my ideas are being rejected I like to ask myself some questions.

Here are 5 questions to ask when facing rejection:

Is the rejection based on truth?

Many times rejection has no basis of truth. People may reject because of their own misunderstandings or their unwillingness to accept something new. If you are selling a product, they may not want what you have to sell. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have a poor product, it simply doesn’t match their needs.

And, then, there are rejections based on truth. The idea you are proposing is not good – or it has some flaws. You need to hear this rejection – discernment is a huge part of leadership. Be willing to listen and learn. If you will allow it, their rejection may actually make your idea better.

Is the rejection about you or your presentation?

If it is personal rejection then it’s a bigger issue, but if it’s rejection of something you only represent then it should be viewed differently – not taken personally. You’re simply a messenger. This goes for a product you sell or a Gospel you tell. If someone rejects the Gospel they aren’t rejecting you as much as they are God. Let Him deal with rejection.

If rejection is about you may need to ask yourself bigger questions, such as: Am I too pushy? Do I have a caring approach? Do others genuinely think I care for them? How can I communicate the importance of whatever I’m proposing, without devaluing them or their opinions?  (You may need to get coaching and insight from others if your ideas are constantly rejected because of your approach.)

Am I the wrong person to present the idea?

Sometimes rejection comes because you’re not an opinion which matters to them. This may sound harsh, but you weren’t called to minister to or lead everyone. A mentor once told me to find my affirmation among the people God sent me to minister to. Great advice. As a church planter, I would have many ideas (ideas dealing with methods, not theology) which were easily rejected by people in established churches. But, they weren’t to whom God had called me to minister. Why should I be bothered by their rejection?

I’ve learned I’m not always the one to propose something to an audience. I’ve had ideas, for example, which I believe could make our community better. I’ve learned those ideas are often more easily accepted when I can get some seasoned business or community leaders excited about them first. Their opinion often matters more than a pastor who has only been in town a few years. The same is true in the church. Some ideas come better from a volunteer than a paid staff member.

Is the rejection permanent?

Sometimes people say no – even many times – before they say yes. They have to warm up to the idea. They need to process it in a healthy way. I’ve found these people often become the best supporters, because they have wrestled through their objections first.

Persistence often makes the difference with great salespeople – and some of the best leaders. No one likes a pest or someone who can only see their ideas as valuable, but don’t be quick to dismiss an opportunity after initial rejection. It may prove to be the best idea ever if you wait. Timing is often everything.

Is the rejection based on a part or a whole?

This can be huge. Did the rejection have more to do with the overall idea or just some aspect of the idea? This is where you have to learn to ask good questions, know your audience, and be willing to compromise on minor issues and collaborate on major issues. This is where good leadership is necessary. You may have to educate people on what they don’t understand. You may have to allow input to make the idea stronger and more acceptable. If it doesn’t impact your overall goal or mission, be willing to listen, learn and make the final result even better.

Rejection doesn’t have to mean the end. Instead, it could only be an obstacle and be used to improve things in the end. The best destinations are met with many roadblocks. Standing firm through the rejections are a part of good leadership.

5 Hidden Fears of Many Leaders

By | Church, Fear, Leadership | 35 Comments

I’ve learned through working with dozens of pastors and leaders, if we are not careful, leadership can become a game we play rather than a mission we live.

Leader try to impress another leader. All leaders, at one time or another, try to impress the people we are attempting to lead. Part of the key to “winning the game” can become a game of the leader bluffing everyone into thinking he or she has everything within his or her sphere of responsibility under their control.

Leader, be honest – how often has this been true for you?

And all of it is derived out of internal fears every leader carries. We can mask them. Pretend they aren’t real, and yet deep down we know they are very much a part of our reality.

As leaders, part of the charade we can be tempted to play is that we aren’t always honest about how we are feeling. That’s especially true of the fears we have as a leader. It’s almost as if there’s an unwritten rule we have to hide our true emotions because, if people knew what we were really feeling they may not respect us, they may not follow us, and – just being candid – they may not even like us.

Which, being unliked is some leader’s greatest fear.

(Is the honest of this post too much for you?)

No denying, there is high expectation for leaders to be excellent in their roles. I’m not trying to lump more pressure on leaders, but I believe many times, if we are honest about the pressures we face, about our own shortcomings, weaknesses and – even our fears, we would be better grounded to face them. We would also attract loyal followers who would be more willing to help fill in the gaps of our leadership.

And, we would better welcome the strength of God in our lives when we admit our weaknesses. His strength is perfect when our strength is gone.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we dropped the game playing and revealed the true fears we have in leadership?

Call me a Snitch if you want, but I’m breaking the silence. Be honest if you can often identify with this any of these hidden fears.

Here are 5 hidden fears of many leaders:

I don’t know what to do! – Okay, so what’s new? Leadership takes people places they’ve never been, which often includes the leader. If things are staying the same you won’t need a leader. Unchartered waters mean learning on the job at times. Many leaders drown in their own ignorance, refusing to ask for help. Great leaders know they don’t have all the answers and are willing to seek input from others. Seek a mentor. Hire a coach or consultant. Recruit a board of advisers. Get another degree. Keep learning. It’s part of maturing as a leader. (Read 2 Chronicles 20 for this one.)

I can’t keep up! – Duh! You’re leading. This means you’re going somewhere. The pace of good leadership in a rapidly changing world is often mind-boggling. The sense of being overwhelmed should not be a secret. In fact, if one is walking by faith, it should be a necessity. Learning to navigate through untested waters, and growing from the experience, is a part of successful leadership. Find the help you need now. It starts by admitting you need help. The leaders who achieve success long-term are constantly improving – continually refining their leadership style and abilities. (Read Exodus 18 for more on this.)

I’m afraid of the unknown!– Seriously, who wouldn’t be? If things are growing, (or declining) demands are building and there are days with more questions than answers, human emotions are only natural. And, fear seems like the most logical one. Follow King David’s advice. When you’re afraid, trust in God. You may be scared. He’s not. Cast your cares upon Him. He’s got the whole world in His hands. Your situation won’t cause Him to be dismayed. Be bold and admit your fears of what’s next – fears of what could happen – fears of what you don’t even know you’re fearing – to a few trusted advisers. Allow others to speak reality and strength into your life. You can do this! (Check out Judges 6 for more on this one.)

I don’t know if I’m the right person for this job! – It’s common for leaders to question their position at times. It could be they have done all they were called to do. It could be they are bored. It could be God is stirring their hearts for something new. It could simply be a temporary emotion. Don’t suppress the emotion. Press into it and figuring out the source of the emotion. It may lead to something good. Allow others to help you discern and listen for the heart of God on the matter. (Read Exodus 3 for more about this one!)

I don’t feel appreciated or respected.– Every leader needs respect. It’s what fuels us many days. Knowing we have a team of people willing to follow us into the unknown fuels our desire to lead even better. Consider why you feel this way. Is it an insecurity on your part or is it warranted by your actions? Regardless of the reason, this emotion has tremendous power to derail good leadership. Great leaders admit they don’t have all the answers, but, at the same time, they are confident in who they are and what God has called them to do. Most people will follow a humble, but confident leader. My best advice is to lead well, keep improving, show people you genuinely care and give them something worth following. In spite of how you feel, if you’re leading with confidence and humility, they’ll respect you. If not, they wouldn’t respect anyone. (See Matthew 10:3 and then share what you know about Thaddeus.)

The hidden fears of leadership are real. Just admit it, leader. Whether you are leading a family or leading a Fortune 500 company the emotions of fear will sometimes seem stronger even than reality. Don’t lead in isolation. Don’t lead alone.

Who is willing to be honest today?

Which of these is your current, most hidden emotion?

What did I leave out? What are some hidden emotions many leaders face?

7 Traits of an Insecure Leader

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Fear, Leadership | 39 Comments

Christian are called to walk by faith. Of course, this includes Christian leaders. A part of our calling in leadership means we won’t always know what the future holds, but we steadfastly follow God’s leadership.

I must be honest. As I work with Christian leaders – and I observe the culture and leaders within the world – I sometimes see more confident leadership outside the church than within. How can this be?
People of faith have assurance in Whom we are following. We can lead people with confidence, strength and conviction.

Insecurity though always shows up in a person’s life. It can possibly be disguised, but it can’t be hidden. Insecure people – or people who aren’t secure in who they are personally or comfortable with their abilities – display some common characteristics.

I’m not talking about unprepared leaders. We are always to be growing as leaders. We will always face things we don’t know how to do. That’s why we keep learning and growing.

I’m talking about insecurity – specifically lacking God-given confidence in the call of God we’ve been given.

Insecurity is a normal emotion when we are exposed to something new, but as we mature in leadership – and especially in our faith and calling – we should guard against the negative impacts of insecurity.

Here are 7 traits you may see in an insecure leader:

Defensive towards any challenge.

The insecure leader flares his or her insecurity when ideas or decisions they make made are challenged in any way. They remain protective of their position or performance. They are constantly looking over their shoulder expecting someone to question them or their authority.

Protective of personal information.

The insecure leader keeps a safe distance from followers. Their transparency is limited to only what can be discovered by observation. When personal information is revealed, it’s always shared in the most positive light. This is about them and their family. They only want you to believe – and know – the best about their world.

Always positions his or herself out front.

Insecure leaders assume all key assignments or anything which would give attention to the person completing them. They are careful not to give others the spotlight. They use words like “I” and “My” more than “We” or “Our”. They tend to control informtion – everything goes through them first.

Limits other’s opportunities for advancement.

The insecure leader wants to keep people under his or her control, so as to protect their position. They are leery of strong personalities or other leaders. They have “yes” people around them and guard against anyone who displays leadership potential. They hand out titles only to those they believe will never question their authority.

Refuses to handle delicate issues.

Insecure leaders fear not being liked, so they often ignore the most difficult or awkward situations. They talk behind people’s backs rather than to them. They are likely to say one thing to one person and something else to another – depending on what is popular at the time.

Makes everything a joke.

One huge sign of an insecure leader, in my experience,  is they make a joke about everything. Again, they don’t want to handle the hard stuff – and want to be liked – so joking is often a coping mechanism used to divert attention from the issues they don’t want to face. When people laugh it gives a false sense of being liked to the insecure leader.

Overly concerned about personal appearance.

While this is not always the case, some insecure leaders are never far from a mirror. They are overly conscious of their clothing or hair. Afraid of not being in style or wanting to be accepted as hip or cool, they are constantly looking for the latest fashion trends or attempting to be cutting edge with the gadgets they carry. (I’ve observed the opposite here could also be true. The insecure leader is careful not to stand out, so they appear to have no concern for personal appearance at all.)

Please understand, all of us have moments of insecurity. Leaders, especially, if they want to be effective, must learn to recognize signs of insecurity, figure out the root causes of it, and attempt to limit insecurity from affecting their leadership. And, again, Christian leaders, we have reason to be confident – if we are truly following closely to our Leader.

What other traits have you seen that indicate someone is an insecure leader?

4 Ways I Discern Saying No to Good Opportunites

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Faith, Fear, Missions, Vision | 16 Comments

Age and maturity has helped me get better at discerning what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve learned (through many different seasons of life) that there are often more opportunities than time in life…even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. Recently, I have had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things that I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”, but as much as they line with my strengths, passions, and dreams I have for my life, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing…perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are four things I look for in examining my heart before responding. I say no when:

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10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

By | Church, Family, Fear | 19 Comments

For 16 years, part of my work was helping people grieve. And, honestly, it was helping people learn how to grieve. It was not one of my favorite roles, because it always stemmed from the reasons why they needed to grieve. It meant someone was hurt. It represented brokenness. There was pain, disappointment, even anger associated. That never felt good.

Yet the fact remains, part of living in a fallen world is living among the thorns. We must learn to grieve, because there will always be reasons to do so.

As much as we need to know how to grieve, however, I continually meet people who either don’t know how or refuse to allow themselves to grieve. I’ve even met well-meaning believer who believe they shouldn’t. The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.

Here are 10 suggestions for healthy grieving:

Don’t deny the pain. It hurts. Admit it. Be honest with yourself with others and especially with God. If anger is your current emotion, admit it. If it’s profound sadness – be honest about it. You’ve got to grieve at some point to move forward, and you’ll grieve sooner and better if you’re honest about the need.

Learn to pray. Grieving can draw you close to the heart of God. See that as one blessing in the midst of pain. The Scripture is clear. We are to draw close to God and He will draw close to us. He is close to the broken hearted. Use this difficult time to build a bond with God that you’ll never regret having.

Remain active. You may not feel like being around people, but if you’re normally a very social person, discipline yourself in this area. Granted, some people were never very social, even before their grief. We shouldn’t expect much more from them in grief, but even for them, community matters. Don’t shelter yourself from others.

Stay healthy. Eat well and exercise. Sleep as regularly as you can. Stick to a schedule. You’ll need the strength to carry you through this time.

Help others. There is a special blessing that comes from serving others that can help you recover from your own pain. Serve at a soup kitchen. Deliver toys to needy children. Find a way to give back and you’ll invest in the health of your own heart.

Journal your thoughts and feelings. This is huge and many people miss it. One day you’ll be glad you wrote things down, because you’ll see the process God has taken you through and the healing He has allowed you to experience. You’ll need these reminders again some day.

Give it time. Grieving doesn’t complete itself in a day – or a week – or even a year. The depth of the pain always is relative to the time of a sense of recovery. And, some pain never leaves us. We simply learn to adapt to it. We learn to find contentment and even joy in the midst of sorrow and loss.

Share your story. You help others when you allow others to see you share and understand their pain. When you hide your story, you deny others of the privilege of healing through your experience.

Get help when needed. Don’t suffer alone. There are times all of us can use professional help. Don’t be ashamed to seek it.

Remember hope. If you are a follower of God, then the best days of your life are still to come. Even in your darkest days, remember, one day – every tear shall one day be wiped from your eyes, by God himself. Even today, you are in good hands.

You can get up, recover and move forward again even stronger than you were before, but please don’t fail to grieve. It’s necessary, vital, healthy and even Biblical. (1 Thessalonians 4)

Praying for you who need to grieve.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

Pick Up Your Mat and Walk!

By | Devotional, Encouragement, Faith, Fear, Jesus | 14 Comments

Whatever you are holding on to tighter than your faith, I believe Jesus would say, “Pick up your mat and walk!” Trust Him with that in which you currently trust the most. Permit Him to see you through the difficult days of life. Allow Him to carry your burdens, strengthen your walk and brighten your hope for the future. He is still the Miracle Maker, and He can still heal a broken heart.

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