12 Challenges for the New Year To Make Your Life Better

By | Change, Christians, Encouragement, Family, Life Plan | No Comments

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And, I understand, many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable? Is it sustainable? Do you have accountability in place? But, I wonder if the term itself is a problem for some people. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal, almost intimidating, doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

I do believe strongly, however, we should work towards continual improvement in our life, whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I want to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

How does that word resonate? Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge, but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples, some which may be challenges for you want to consider. I can almost guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them, just the ones most “challenging” to you. But, you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And, the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life improves – that this would happen or that would happen. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” When you begin to find contentment TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell. If grief is holding you back by all means grieve. It’s healthy to mourn a loss. (Get help if needed.) But, at some point you will need to move forward. If it’s regret then reconcile the loss. If it’s guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt. It stinks. You probably wish it hadn’t happened, but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation? Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. And, it’s hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People, even the best people, will never perform to all of your standards. Honestly, is it even fair to expect it of them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And, here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year, admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us, though we have less, to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And, when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life. Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which of these challenges are you willing to accept?

(I posted this in a similar form a few years ago.)

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Innovation, Missions | No Comments

I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.

I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.

Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.

What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?

Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.

And, I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.

Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer.

Learn the culture – Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.

Learn the market – Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons, but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.

To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited – it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.

Support the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community support the sports teams they support.

Develop patience – It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization – really any ministry – takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry – even knowing how difficult it might be at times.

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And, it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.

Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.

7 Indicators That You’re Not Leading Anymore

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership, Team Leadership | 2 Comments

Being in a leadership position is no guarantee we are leading. Holding the title of leader isn’t an indication one actually leads.

I have a whole chapter on this topic in my book The Mythical Leader.

Leading by definition is an active term. It means we are taking people somewhere. And, even the best leaders have periods – even if ever so briefly – even if intentional – when they aren’t necessarily leading anything. Obviously, those periods shouldn’t be too long or progress and momentum eventually stalls, but leadership is an exhaustive process. It can be draining. Sometimes we need a break.

For an obvious example, I try to shut down at the end of every day and most Saturdays. I’m not leading anything, yet I’m still a leader. And, I periodically stop leading for a more extended period. During those times, I’m intentionally not leading anything. There are other times, such as after we’ve accomplished a major project, where I may intentionally “rest” from leading to catch my breath and rely on our current systems and structures to maintain us.

But, again, those times should be intentional and they should be too extended. In my experience, leaders get frustrated when they aren’t leading for too long a period.

For me personally, I like to evaluate my leadership over seasons, rather than days. Typically, just for simplicity of calendar, I look at things on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis. How/what am I going to lead this next quarter – next year? How/what did I lead last quarter – last year?

If the past review or the future planning is basically void of any intentional leadership – if all I’m doing is managing current programs and systems during that time frame – if we are in maintenance mode for too long – I know it’s time to intentionally lead something. That’s good for me personally and for the teams I lead.

How do you evaluate if you are leading or simply maintaining? One way is to look for the results of leading. What happens when you do lead? And, ask if those are occurring.

For example…

Here are 7 indicators you’re not leading anymore:

Nothing is being changed. Leadership is about something new. It’s taking people somewhere they haven’t been. That always involves change. If nothing is changing you can do without a leader.

You’re not asking questions. A leader only knows what he or she knows – and nothing more. And, many times, in my experience, the leader is the last to know. A great part of leadership is about discovery. And, you only get answers to questions you ask.

There are competing visions. Leaders point people to a vision. A VISION. Not many visions. One of the surest ways to derail progress is to have multiple visions. It divides energy and people. It confuses instead of bringing clarity. Competing visions arise and confusion elevates when we fail to lead.

No one is complaining. You can’t lead anything involving worthwhile change where everyone agrees. If no one is complaining someone is almost always settling for less than best.

People aren’t being stretched. Please understand – a leader should strive for clarity. They certainly shouldn’t aim for chaos. But, when things are changing and work becomes challenging there will always be times of confusion. Don’t equate calmness with good leadership. That’s when good leaders get even better at communicating, listening, vision casting, etc.

No paradigms are being challenged. Many times the best change is a change of mindset – a way we think. Leaders are constantly learning so they can challenge the thinking “inside the box”.

People being “happy” has become a goal. Everyone likes to be liked. Might we even say “popular”. In fact, some get into leadership for the notoriety. But, the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing a vision – not making sure everyone loves the leader. Progress hopefully makes most people happy, but when the goal begins with happiness, in my experience, no one is ever really made happy.

Leader, have you been sitting idle for too long? Is it time to lead something again?

4 Risks of Attempting Risk-Free Change

By | Change, Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 10 Comments

As leaders, we all want to limit the risk in the hard decisions we make. Personally, whenever we are about to make a major change or launch some new initiative, I want our team to think through things which could go wrong. I want to know who is going to be upset with the change. We try to figure out some of the worse-case scenarios which could keep us from being successful. And, then we build into our plan some natural reactors to things we know could go wrong. A good portion of time is dedicated to risk management. I think it’s important.

But, I have seen some leaders who want to get to 100% risk elimination before they move forward with any change. And, if that’s your goal, I have a few thoughts to consider.

Here are 4 risks of attempting risk-free change

You’re risking how expensive it will be – It’s not cheap to eliminate every thing which could go wrong. You have to determine how much you’re putting into attempting to eliminate risk is being taken from actually implementing change – especially change which has direct impact on people. And, context matters here. Attempting to eliminate risk in equipment to perform surgery or in building airplanes is different than trying to eliminate risk in organizational planning.

You’re risking precious time while attempting to eliminate risk – Time is incredibly valuable in implementing change. If you do eliminate a genuine risk that may be time well spent. The time, however, spent researching all the scenarios and answering all questions may be time taken from actually making the change. And, again, if you’re change is attempting to make life better for the organization or others, the faster you get started the better.

You’re risking simply being impractical – Getting to zero risk may never actually happen regardless of how hard you try. Risk seems to find its way back into the equation, in my experience. I’ve seen pastors, for example, refuse to move forward with a project because they aren’t sure how groups of people might respond. But, you can ask and answer every question in people’s minds, but when change is actually implemented some people may still complain. All change invokes an emotion. And, sometimes people can’t discern the emotion until they experience the change.

You may risk being unrealistic– Life is a risk. Risk is all around us. If it involves people, time or circumstances, risk seems more probable than having no risk at all. I’m not encouraging any leader to ignore risk. That would he irresponsible. I’m just questioning whether or not it is even leadership if we could get to zero risk. Leadership by application involves risk.

As much as practical, address risk before it occurs. Study. Evaluate. Question. Critique. Make practical plans as much as possible. That certainly sounds like good stewardship. I try to do each of those.

My personal thought, however, is that when eliminating risk is a primary motivation you may risk losing opportunity. While trying to eliminate risk the world and the best ideas it has to offer may pass you by.

In fact, eliminating risk doesn’t mesh with my understanding of faith, nor does it mesh with the passion or adventure God seems to have given to the people He created. We seem to be by nature seekers of adventure, discovery – and risk. I’d much rather be an advocate of taking a risk than attempting to eliminate every risk out there.

Bonus question: What is the biggest risk you are currently attempting?

Leaders Must Grow as the Organization Grows

By | Change, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 8 Comments

Bad leadership is bad leadership. It’s usually easy to recognize.

It’s easier, however, to hide bad leadership in an organization, which isn’t growing. (I wrote recently that it’s easy to keep an organization small. Read that post HERE.)

The larger an organization becomes and the more growth, which occurs, the more bad leadership becomes apparent.

As an organization grows:

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5 Things I Learned In Sending A Son Away To College

By | Change, Children, Family, Parenting | 15 Comments

It has been a couple weeks since I dropped our youngest son Nate off at college. He is attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Our oldest son is a senior at Austin Peay State University and is living at home to save money this last year. Nate is our first to change cities of residence and he is 8 hours from home. In the process of him leaving I have learned a few things:

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4 Examples When Strategy Should Drive a Leader’s Decision

By | Change, Church Planting, Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 8 Comments

Strategic thinking comes naturally for me. I have tons of weaknesses, but thinking in a strategic sense is not one of them. If anything, I’m so strategic that it becomes a weakness. I’m not sure, however, that all leaders naturally think strategically. For defining purposes, I’m using the word strategy to involve thinking through the how, when, where, who and what questions when making a decision. All leaders must use strategy when making decisions, so all leaders must learn to think strategically. Often that comes through discipline if not through personal wiring. Thankfully, not all decisions a leader makes requires strategy.

Here are four times the leader must think strategically:

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4 Ways Leaders Create Capacity

By | Business, Change, Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 10 Comments

Leaders create capacity so others can grow…

That’s what leaders do…

Great leaders:

Paint the void – Allow others to see what could be accomplished…

Empower the team – Give the tools, resources and power to accomplish the task…

Release – Let go of the control so others can lead…

Repeat – As often as possible…

If you are always the doer and never the enabler then you are not a leader. More than likely you are simply an obstacle of all your team could accomplish if you got out of the way.

Any questions?

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