Do You Really Want To Know?

One of the most powerful questions I’ve discovered is: “Do you really want to know?

If someone is registering disapproval about a decision, I ask if they want to know why that particular course of action was chosen. Sometimes the answer is, no, they really don’t want to know. They would rather just complain. In those cases, they often walk away, their motives exposed. Sometimes they actually do want to know, and the conversation shifts from accusation to mutual communication. They are often surprised to find that I have a reasoned rationale for my decision.

“Do you really want to know?” is also a powerful question to delineate between those who really want to learn, and those who would rather hold on to their own version of “reality.” Do you really want to know what the scale says, or how to be a better writer, or what people think of your leadership skills, or how many calories you are consuming, or the rough edges God sees, or how to improve your preaching, or the road to true healing? Often, we pay lip service to wanting to know, to change, to grow, but the reality is that we don’t really want to know. Knowing might challenge our paradigm. It might even require us to change.

How about you: Do you really want to know?

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Stretching Your Conference Dollars

Conferences are great. But what if you are limited by personal or organizational budget restrictions? Here are several creative ways to stretch your continuing education dollars:

  • Look for simulcasts. Many major conferences are now broadcast live via video either at satellite locations near you or on the internet, at much lower cost than a trip to the main conference. Recommendations: Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, The Nines by Leadership Network.
  • Attend a mini-conference. Instead of a 3-4-day experience, attend a one-day conference, seminar or workshop that doesn’t require overnight lodging or significant travel expense, or a two-day conference close to home. Recommendations: Catalyst One Day, YSPalooza, any number of local and regional events unique to your area.
  • Send one member of your team. Rotate opportunity among staff members. Upon their return, have them facilitate a training session with your team where they can share what they learned. Recommendations: Catalyst, Global Leadership Summit, Exponential.
  • Buy the video. Many conferences will make their content available via DVD or online video after the event. Schedule an intense stay-at-home conference experience, watching and interacting around the video at your church or an off-site location. Even a $200 video package is a tremendous savings off a trip to the actual conference, and you’ll be able to keep the materials for future viewing. Recommendations: Catalyst Experience Kit.
  • Partner with other churches. Join with other leaders to take advantage of group discounts. Or pool financial resources to bring speakers and events to your own back yard. Recommendations: varies; brainstorm with leaders from neighboring ministries.
  • Take advantage of colleges and seminaries. Many Christian colleges and seminaries will offer event discounts to clergy. And many also bring in excellent speakers for their regular chapel services, which you can attend for free. Even public universities will host relevant, thought-provoking speakers and conferences through the business, law, education, religion or psychology departments. Recommendations: depends on where you live.
  • Go for broke every few years. The content is only part of the value of a conference experience. The time away, and/or together with your team, along with the live “vibe,” can be life-changing as well. Therefore, don’t eliminate the big-ticket experience entirely. Set aside a little money each year for a major experience every 3-5 years.

Stretch Yourself

I think that as we get older, the tendency is to stick with what is familiar or comfortable. But true growth comes when we stretch ourselves through new experiences and challenges.

Case in point: This fall I am teaching an online class for a well-known Christian college. I have taught many online classes before for different institutions, but this school uses a different online “platform” so I had to learn a completely new learning environment in a very short time period before the class was up and running. In addition, this class required me to generate and post my own audio and video material. (Other classes I’ve taught have utilized video footage from live seminars, or all written content.)

As a result, in the last two months I’ve learned how to create video of myself using iMovie and YouTube; create podcasts using GarageBand; format and post this content to the course web site; create and utilize shared folders in Dropbox; and navigate the school’s online platform so I can effectively teach my students.

I realize that some of you are pros at all of these computer applications, but for me it was a little daunting since I had previously relied on others, including my 11-year-old (!), to do these things for me. I could have easily declined the teaching assignment or become overwhelmed by what I didn’t know. Instead, I embraced the challenge to learn and am proud of my new skills.

When is the last time you made yourself try something completely new and out of your comfort zone? This fall, stretch yourself for growth. 

H.B. Charles Jr: Wisdom for Pastors

From the blog of pastor H.B. Charles Jr., this fantastic list of “Things I’ve Learned Along the Way” in 21 years of pastoral ministry (reprinted with permission):

1. Your primary responsibility as a pastor is prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).

2. Sheep bite.

3. Faithful preaching does not guarantee church growth.

4. Just because there is a crowd does not mean there is a church.

5. Nothing is as good as it seems; nothing is as bad as it seems.

6. Don’t assume anything.

7. All church fights are bad. But some church fights are necessary.

8. It happens after prayer.

9. The most important people in a pastor’s life are those he can have an honest conversation with.

10. Be careful of giving members multiple positions of authority in the church.

11. Ministerial success cannot be determined by the size of a pastor’s congregation.

12. Preaching can get you into trouble. And preaching can get you out of trouble.

13. No one is indispensable.

14. The better the worship is the better my preaching is.

15. Pick your battles carefully. Every hill is not worth dying on.

16. People will remember how you treat them long after they have forgotten your sermons.

17. Prominence and significance are not the same thing. The one who is in front of the line is not necessarily the most important person in the line.

18. If you take care of God’s business, God will take care of your business.

19. The pastor who is always available will be of no use when he is available.

20. Doing pastoral care should be seen as a means of maintaining a pastoral heart.

21. If you can keep from preaching, do it.

22. The pastor is just as responsible for the doctrine being taught from the choir loft as he is for the doctrine being taught from the pulpit.

23. Congregational leaders who view their role as representing the members will be a problem.

24. There are no better minds, only better libraries.

25. Be a friend to other pastors and preachers, even if they are not friends to you.

26. Strive to make it easier for the next guy who comes to pastor that comes to pastor the church than when it was when you arrived.

27. You will only get what you negotiate, not what you deserve.

28. If they don’t trust you, you can’t lead them.

29. View pastoral ministry as a marathon, not a sprint.

30. Never buy the lie that the church will not survive if you are not there.

31. If you guard your character, your reputation will take care of itself.

32. Beware. People who loved you when you first arrived may change their minds. Don’t panic. People who dislike you when you arrive may also change their minds.

33. Don’t be impressed by titles, degrees, and accomplishments. People are people.

34. Make friends with books. They will never leave you nor forsake you.

35. Do not read anonymous mail or unsigned letters.

36. Learn to live with criticism.

37. You cannot lead people and need people at the same time.

38. God’s timing is perfect.

39. Every pastor needs a lover. Just make sure it’s your wife!

40. Never let anyone make you act like you don’t know Jesus.

41. A bow that is always bent will soon break.

42. Never give up on anybody.

43. Pastoral loneliness goes with the territory. If you cannot take it, you won’t last in the ministry.

44. Our goal in preaching should be to light a torch, not fill up a bucket.

45. The shepherd knew that one of his ninety-nine sheep was missing because he counted!

46. Some hurtful people are not intentionally mean. They are just thoughtless.

47. Comparison breeds contentment, damages relationships, and clouds vision.

48. Do not put a price tag on your ministry.

49. The one who is given the responsibility should also be given the authority.

50. Just because that person is talent, gives a lot of money, or has been a member a long time does not mean that person should be a leader in the church.

51. Aaron was more “spiritual” than Moses. And Joshua was a better leader. But the Lord put the rod in Moses’ hand.

52. Disgruntled members will not have an opportunity to get a foothold without linking their cause to weak leaders in the church.

53. Pastors often spend more time in conflict resolution than in prayer and the ministry of the world.

54. Put first what God tells you to put first when he tells you to put it first (Matt. 6:33).

55. Every pastor needs a pastor.

56. Do not make important decisions when you are tired or angry or hurt.

57. It is better to present your wife as your wife rather than “the first lady.”

58. Most of the theories in church growth books are wrong.

59. People do not give to needs. They give to vision.

60. Excellence is in the details.

61. The power is in the pulpit. Change does not happen by your shrewd leadership. It happens by faithfully preaching the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

62. If you do not control your time, someone else will. And they most likely do not share your priorities.

63. Closing the back door may be more important the opening up the front door.

64. The attempt to micromanage a growing congregation will lead to moral failure, burnout, or unnecessary division.

65. Avoid hero worship. Everyone God uses is a jerk and a sinner.

66. Long naps are a key strategy for spiritual warfare.

67. Powerful and important theology is communicated by simply being there with and for your people.

68. The person who has to announce that he is charge, really isn’t.

69. Write everything down. Your memory is not that good.

70. It is better to work smarter than to work harder (Eccl. 10:10).

71. Stingy pastors will never produce generous members.

72. Work hard to get the right players on the team so will not have to work hard to get the wrong players off the team.

73. Many pastors feel overworked. Many church members feel pastors do not really work.

74. Constantly look for ways to make Baptism and the Lord’s Supper special events in the life of the church.

75. Preach to an audience of one.

76. When you leave a church, leave! Do not meddle in the next pastor’s business.

77. You cannot get to second base and keep your foot on first base at the same time. Progress requires taking risks.

78. Do not be afraid to repeat sermon material. Most of your members do not remember what you said. And those who do still need to be reminded.

79. When a member brings you a complaint against another member, ask, “Have you talked to that person about this?” If they have not, refuse to listen to them.

80. When you staff succeeds, give them credit. When they fail, take the blame.

81. The fact that the attendance is increasing does not mean that the giving will increase.

82. Avoid being the hero in your sermon illustrations.

83. You need to worship just as much as the congregation does. Do not miss the opportunity to worship by going over your sermon. Worship!

84. The command to “do the work of an evangelist” was given to a pastor.

85. Your wife and children are your most important church members.

86. The difference between good preachers and average preachers is that good preachers stay in the study until the hard work is done.

87. Fight for your convictions. Do not fight over methodologies.

88. A cynical preacher is an oxymoron.

89. Do not plagiarize the Holy Spirit by taking credit for things the Lord has done.

90. Dig your own wells so you will not have to steal other people’s water.

91. Do not feel that you have to reinvent the wheel. Learn from others. And implement what is helpful and applicable to your situation.

92. Sermons don’t grow in trees.

93. God raises up all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Your church will not fit everyone.

94. People say no to what is confusing.

95. Short-term missions should have long-term goals.

96. Tradition can be good. Traditionalism never is.

97. Constantly try things that are so great that you are doomed to fail without God’s help.

98. People give to the church out of five different “pockets”: general fund, building fund, Missions, designated-giving, [incomplete in original post]

99. Never refuse any resignations. Ever!

100. Don’t take it personal. Even when it’s personal… don’t take it personal.

101. It is your job to fill the pulpit. It is God’s job to fill the pew.

102. Make haste slowly.

103. If you can explain what’s going on, God didn’t do it.

(So many gems here but my favorites are #3, 4, 7, 37, 44, 71 and 103.)

The Ten Faces of Innovation

I just finished reading The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization.

There are some books that I only need to skim to come away with a thorough understanding of the author’s point, bypassing paragraphs of superfluous verbiage. This is definitely not one of those books; I borrowed it from the library and immediately wished I had my own copy to highlight and bookmark. In this rich work, which was recommended to me by a graphic design student, author Tom Kelley presents ten “roles” or personas for innovation. They are:

  1. The Anthropologist: Brings insights by observing human behavior and interactions.
  2. The Experimenter: Constantly prototypes new ideas, learning by trial and error.
  3. The Cross-Pollinator: Translates findings from one industry or culture to another.
  4. The Hurdler: Has a knack for overcoming or outsmarting obstacles.
  5. The Collaborator: Brings diverse groups together to create new combinations and solutions.
  6. The Director: Gathers a talented crew and sparks their creative talents.
  7. The Experience Architect: Knows how to design compelling experiences to meet customers’ needs.
  8. The Set Designer: Focuses on transforming physical environments to enable team members to perform their best work.
  9. The Caregiver: Anticipates customer needs and is ready to look after them.
  10. The Storyteller: Builds morale and awareness by designing narratives that reinforce a cultural trait.

Kelley spends one chapter on each persona, describing what they look like and how they foster innovation within an organization. The examples are fascinating, taken from more than 20 years of his experience with IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm.

In addition to learning more about the ten roles, I highlighted the following ideas and takeaways:

  • An “idea wallet:” a simple card or electronic list to jot down innovative concepts or ideas.
  • “Strive for inspiration but never shy away from perspiration.”
  • “Make it culturally acceptable to show off ideas at their rough, early stages and you’ll see a whole lot more ideas.”
  • When presenting ideas, always present at least two options. That way, the respondent can focus on the pros and cons of each option and is not forced into a charged situation where “no” equals rejection of the person presenting the idea.
  • Hire “T-shaped” individuals who have expertise in one area but breadth of knowledge in many fields.
  • “Regular brainstorming is as critical to an organization as regular exercise is to your health.”
  • Design your work spaces to foster creativity and collaboration. (Down with cubicles farms!)
  • Be aware of the “Doorbell Effect:” the uncomfortable lag between when you push a doorbell button and the door opens, or doesn’t open. Don’t leave customers hanging.
  • “In the long run, flexibility is more important for your organization than size or power.”
As you can tell, I think The Ten Faces of Innovation is well worth your time, a must-read for any organizational leader.