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Be Mean About The Vision

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The primary job of every leader is to keep the vision front and center in the organization. But that’s easier said than done. The book I just recently read, Be Mean About the Vision, by Shawn Lovejoy, identifies ways churches and organizations can drift from their vision, and identifies ways to either keep that from happening or get back on track. This is a book every leader can benefit from. Here’s a synopsis….

CHAPTER ONE: Being Mean

One definition of the word mean is “to have an intended purpose.” Being “mean” about the vision is being intentional about the vision. If we’re not intentional about the vision, we will lose it. We will drift off course. We will end up going somewhere we don’t want to go and becoming something we don’t want to become. 

CHAPTER TWO: It All Starts with Vision

None of us actually invents the vision for our lives, churches, and organizations. We were created by God for His purposes, so we discover God’s vision for our lives through our relationship with Him. I believe we will make a mess of things if we skip our personal wrestling-with-God process to discover our unique mission. 

CHAPTER THREE: Vision and Success

I truly believe that any organization can be successful if three key points are in place: if the vision is clear, if it is compelling, and if there is consistency over time. We don’t need to have a revolutionary idea that no one has ever thought of to be successful. We don’t have to be the best communicator in the world. We don’t have to do it like someone else is doing it. 

CHAPTER FOUR: A Vision We’re Willing to Die For

If your vision ever has a chance of becoming a reality, it must be such a deep-seated conviction that you’re willing to do anything to see it through. You must believe the vision is even bigger than you. We need to know that at some point in the future, we will be asked to risk everything for the vision. 

CHAPTER FIVE: Keeping the Vision Alive in Me

Because I am a leader, everyone is depending on me to maintain the passion and energy that vision requires. They’re counting on me to regularly run to the source, fill up my vision bucket time and again and then challenge everyone else to keep doing the same. If I grow weary, everyone else will. Before we can cast the vision to others, we have to begin with ourselves. 

CHAPTER SIX: Keeping the Vision Alive in Others

Our next leadership task is to pass it on so that others can make it their own. We believe God has spoken to us—and the way we communicate should demonstrate that. People are more often persuaded by passion than logic. What our listeners need from us is a white-hot passion for the vision. 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Identifying a Vision Hijacker

Every organization begins 100 percent unified around the vision. Over time, new people come on board who don’t understand what the organization really stands for. They certainly have different ideas about where it should go. Vision hitchhikers often become vision hijackers. If we don’t wake up and seize the wheel, we’re going to end up miles away from our destination. 

CHAPTER EIGHT: Keeping the Vision from Being Hijacked

We need to be slow in placing people into positions of power. I evaluate new team members by four equally critical components—character, capacity, chemistry, and calling. A leader’s primary job is to protect the vision. The sooner we confront any perceived vision drift the better. We don’t need to wait until we’re positive that there’s a problem to confront it. 

CHAPTER NINE: When It’s Not Working Out

We know it’s time to release someone when a team member refuses to change problematic behavior, or if they’ve reached their maximum capacity and moving them to another role doesn’t resolve the tension. When personal chemistry is not there, we owe it to the team member to acknowledge it. Once the decision is made to release a team member, act quickly. 

CHAPTER TEN: Getting Back on Track

What do we do when we look up and realize the vision has drifted? We should seek to get key players on board first. Everyone needs to know why change is good for them. Remembering why we do what we do always creates passion. Go public only after your leaders are 100 percent behind the proposed changes. 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Pleasing the Right Audience

Leaders must understand that people usually buy into us before they buy into the vision. But there’s a difference between pleasing people and being a people pleaser. At the end of the day, we must choose to please God first and foremost. He has called us and placed us where we are for a reason. He is ultimately the only audience we must please at all costs. 

CHAPTER TWELVE: Releasing the Vision to a New Leader

Leadership succession is one of the great challenges for churches. Founding and long-tenured pastors have historically not done so well. The most common approach to succession: A wonderful pastor moves to another church or retires, the church takes a long time to find a replacement, and the successor doesn’t last long. 

CONCLUSION: Don’t Be Afraid

We simply cannot lead if we’re making leadership decisions based on what will make everyone happy, or on who might leave or not leave, give or not give. So go out there and be mean about the vision! 

If you’re are interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase is here: http://amzn.to/2fzMmlh

 

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The 5 Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

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Peter Drucker was widely considered to be the world's foremost pioneer of management theory, and had a special focus on nonprofit management. I’ve read and sought to apply much of what he’s taught me over the years through his teachings. I just finished reading again “The 5 Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization” by Peter. In this book he goes through the five essential questions you need to ask in order to improve an organization's performance.

I won’t lie, it’s a challenging read, and you’ll really need to think about the things he says, but if you do, I think you'll find a lot of value. Here’s the synopsis of the book. Enjoy! 

For years, most nonprofits felt that good intentions were by themselves enough. But today, we know that because we don’t have a bottom line, we have to manage better than for-profit businesses. We have to have discipline rooted in our mission. We have to manage our limited resources of people and money for maximum effectiveness; and we have to think through very clearly what the results should be for our organization. 

The self-assessment process is a method for assessing what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you must do to improve an organization’s performance. It asks the very essential questions: What is our mission? Who is our customer? What does the customer value? What are our results? What is our plan? Self-assessment leads to action, which lacks meaning without it. To meet growing needs and succeed in a turbulent and exacting environment, social sector organizations must focus on mission, demonstrate accountability, and achieve results. 

Tomorrow’s society of citizens is getting the help being created through the social sector by your nonprofit organization. In that society, everybody is a leader, everybody is responsible, and everybody acts. Therefore, mission and leadership are essential for nonprofits. Self-assessment can and should convert good intentions and knowledge into effective action as soon as possible. 

Question 1: What is Our Mission? Every good mission statement reflects all your opportunities, competence, and commitment. You look first at the outside environment. The organization that starts from the inside and then tries to find places to put its resources is going to fritter itself away. Above all, it will focus on yesterday. Demographics and needs change. You must search out the accomplished facts or things that have already happened which present challenges and opportunities for the organization. Leadership must anticipate the future and attempt to mold it, bearing in mind that what happens next is where your opportunity lies. 

Question 2: Who is Our Customer? Not long ago, the word customer was rarely heard in the social sector. Nonprofit leaders would say, “We don’t have customers. That’s a marketing term. We have clients, recipients, or patients. We have audience members. We have students.” Rather than debate language, I ask, “Who must be satisfied for the organization to achieve results?” When you answer this question, you define your customer as one who values your service, who wants what you offer, and who feels it’s important to them. 

Often the customer is one step ahead of you. So you must know your customer—or quickly get to know them. Time and again you will have to ask, “Who is our customer?” because customers constantly change. The organization that is devoted to results will adapt and change as they do. 

Question 3: What Does the Customer Value? This may be the most important question, yet it is the one least often asked. Nonprofit leaders tend to answer it for themselves. “It’s the quality of our programs. It’s the way we improve the community.” People are so convinced they are doing the right thing, and so committed to their cause that they come to see the institution as an end in itself. But that’s a bureaucracy. Instead of asking, “Does it deliver value to our customers?” they ask,“Does it fit our rules?” That question not only inhibits performance but also destroys vision and dedication. 

To formulate a successful plan, you will need to understand each of your constituencies’ concerns, especially what they consider results in the long term. Integrating what customers value into the institution’s plan is almost an architectural process. It’s not too difficult to do once it’s understood, but it’s hard work. First, think through what knowledge you need to gain. Then listen to customers and accept what they value as objective fact. Make sure the customer’s voice is part of your discussions and decisions, not just during the self-assessment process, but continually. 

Question 4: What Are Our Results? The results of social sector organizations are always measured outside the organization in changed lives and changed condition. They are measured in people’s behavior, circumstances, health, hopes, and above all, in their competence and capacity. To further the mission, each nonprofit needs to determine what should be appraised and judged, then concentrate resources for these results. 

One of the most important questions for non-profit leadership is, “Do we produce results that are sufficiently outstanding for us to justify putting our resources in this area?” Need, alone, does not justify continuing, nor does tradition. You must match your mission, your concentration, and your results. Like the New Testament parable of the talents, your job is to invest your resources where the returns are manifold which is where you can have success. 

Question 5: What Is Our Plan? The self-assessment process leads to a plan that is a concise summation of the organization’s purpose and future direction. The plan encompasses mission vision, goals, objectives, action steps, a budget, and appraisal. Now comes the point to affirm or change the mission and set long-range goals. 

To further the mission, there must be action today and specific aims for tomorrow. Yet planning is not masterminding the future. Any attempt to do so is foolish as the future is unpredictable. In the face of uncertainties, planning defines the particular place you want to be and how you intend to get there. Planning does not substitute facts for judgment, or science for leadership. It recognizes the importance of analysis, courage, experience, intuition and even hunch. It is responsibility rather than technique. 

True self-assessment is never finished. Leadership requires constant re-sharpening and refocusing, never really being satisfied. I encourage you to keep asking the question, “What do we want to be remembered for?” It is a question that induces you to renew yourself, and the organization, because it pushes you to see what you can become. 

Interested in reading the entire book for yourself? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2xgKoQQ

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Triggers

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Our surroundings, or our environments, influence our behavior much more than we often realize. That’s what led me to read the book “Triggers”, by notable leadership coach and author Marshall Goldsmith.  He looks at how that happens, and even more importantly, how to rise above.

He gives several strategies for how to stop being triggered by our surroundings, and instead begin to rule over ourselves in fresh ways. If you’re interested in personal growth, this is a great book. Here’s a summary taken right from the book. Enjoy! 

What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course. Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behavior. When we experience “road rage” on a crowded freeway, it’s not because we’re sociopathic monsters. It’s because the temporary condition of being behind the wheel in a car, surrounded by rude, impatient drivers, triggers a change in our otherwise placid demeanor. We’ve unwittingly placed ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility—and it alters us. If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us. The result turns us into someone we do not recognize. 

It’s not just environmental intrusions and unpredicted events that upset our plans. It’s also our willful discounting of past experience. We make plans that are wholly contradicted by our previous actions. The planner who intends to make a deadline is also the myopic doer who forgets that he has never made a deadline in his life. The planner believes this time will be different. The doer extends the streak of missed deadlines. The yawning gap between planner and doer persists even when conditions for success are practically ideal. 

It’s a simple equation: to avoid undesirable behavior, avoid the environment where it is most likely to occur. If you don’t want to be lured into a tantrum by a colleague who gets on your nerves, avoid him. If you don’t want to indulge in late-night snacking, don’t wander into the kitchen looking for leftovers in the fridge. Of course, there are many moments in life when avoidance is impossible. We have to engage, even if doing so terrifies us (public speaking), or enrages us (visiting our in- laws), or turns us into jerks (conducting business with people we don’t respect). 

For years I’ve followed a nightly follow-up routine that I call Daily Questions. I have someone call me wherever I am in the world and listen while I answer a specific set of questions that I have written for myself. As an experiment, I tweaked the questions using the “Did I do my best to” formulation. Did I do my best to be happy? Did I do my best to find meaning? Did I do my best to have a healthy diet? Did I do my best to be a good husband? 

Using the words “did I do my best” added the element of trying into the equation. It injected personal ownership and responsibility into my question-and-answer process. After a few weeks using this checklist, I noticed an unintended consequence. Active questions themselves didn’t merely elicit an answer; they created a different level of engagement with my goals. To give an accurate accounting of my effort, I couldn’t simply answer yes or no or “30 minutes.” I had to rethink how I phrased my answers. Then, I had to measure my effort and, to see if I was actually making progress, I had to measure on a relative scale, comparing the most recent day’s effort with previous days. I chose to grade myself on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the best score. If I scored low on trying to be happy, I had only myself to blame. We may not hit our goals every time, but there’s no excuse for not trying. 

This “active” process will help anyone get better at almost anything. It only takes a couple of minutes a day. But be warned: it is tough to face the reality of our own behavior—and our own level of effort—every day. 

My first six questions are the Engaging Questions that I suggest for everyone: 

  • Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  • Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  • Did I do my best to find meaning today? 
  • Did I do my best to be happy today?
  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  • Did I do my best to be fully engaged today? 

There’s no correct number of questions. The number is a personal choice, a function of how many issues you want to work on, but your Daily Questions should reflect your objectives. They’re not meant to be shared in public, meaning they’re not designed to be judged. You’re not constructing your list to impress anyone. It’s your list, your life. I score my “Did I do my best” questions on a simple I to 10 scale. You can use whatever works for you. Your only considerations should be first, are these important in my life? Second, will success on these items help me become the person I want to be? 

Daily Questions, by definition, compel us to take things one day at a time. In doing so they shrink our objectives into manageable twenty-four-hour increments. By focusing on effort, they distract us from our obsession with results (because that’s not what we’re measuring). In turn, we are free to appreciate the process of change and our role in making it happen. We’re no longer frustrated by the languid pace of visible progress because we’re looking in another direction. 

There are no absolutes in behavioral change. We never achieve perfect patience or generosity or empathy or humility. The best we can hope for is a consistency in our effort—a persistence of striving—that makes other people more charitable about our shortcomings. What’s worrisome is when the striving stops, our lapses become more frequent, and we begin to coast on our reputation. That’s the perilous moment when we start to settle for “good enough.” 

The problem begins when this good enough attitude spills beyond our marketplace choices and into the things we say and do. The mustard on a sandwich can be good enough. But in the interpersonal realm—we’re talking about how a husband treats his wife, or a son deals with an aging parent or a trusted friend responds when people are counting on him—good enough is setting the bar too low. 

There is an ultimate blessing of not settling for good enough. When we dive all the way into adult behavioral change with 100 percent focus and energy, we become an irresistible force rather than the proverbial immovable object. We begin to change our environment rather than be changed by it. The people around us sense this. We have become the trigger. 

Interested in reading the entire book? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2vxWW6T

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The Power Of The Other

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With a little bit of time away, I was able to read the “Power Of The Other" by Dr. Henry Cloud. I’m not going to lie, he’s one of my favorites!:) So here you go…..The quality of your life and the level of your success are both highly influenced by the kind of relationships you have and the people you connect with. So says the Dr., who says our success in life isn’t only dependent on how we develop our own skills or abilities, but is highly connected to the kind of people we have in our life. I totally agree, and I recommend anything my friend writes. I was challenged and encouraged by his insights, and I think they are incredibly important for any leader to grab hold of and apply. I encourage you to really dig into the things he says! Enjoy! 

CHAPTER 1: The Neglected Truth 

Your best and worst seasons were also about who was in that season with you. It was not just about you. It was about the others who were playing a big part in whom you were becoming and what you were doing. 

CHAPTER 2: The Science of Connection 

Science confirms that getting to the next level is 100 percent dependent on relationships. Whatever we hope to achieve, our success depends on relationships with others. 

CHAPTER 3: The Four Corners of Connection 

The reality is that you are always in one of four places of connection or four possible corners of relational space, and only one of them will help you thrive. 

Corner One: Disconnected/No Connection 

Corner Two: The Bad Connection

Corner Three: The Pseudo-Good Connection

Corner Four: True Connection 

CHAPTER 4: Go to Corner Four 

In the simplest terms, a real connection is one in which you can be your whole self, the real, authentic you; a relationship to which you can bring your heart, mind, soul, and passion. Corner Four is a place where people have true connection, and where they can be authentic. 

CHAPTER 5: The Fuel for High Performance 

Look at your own life and work right now. Are you surrounding yourself with people who fuel you? Make sure that you have these kinds of Corner Four “fueling stations” in your life, at regular intervals. Similarly, start paying attention to those who drain your energy. 

CHAPTER 6: Freedom and Control 

The degree to which you are going to soar depends, in part, upon finding Corner Four partners who empower your sense of self-control instead of trying to take it away or diminish it. 

CHAPTER 7: Freedom Requires Responsibility 

Corner Four relationships don’t rescue us from hard decisions or responsibility. Corner Four accountability is a commitment to what is best at three levels: (1) both for all the individuals involved (2) the relationship(s) and (3) the outcomes. 

CHAPTER 8: Defanging the Beast 

When we are in a negative critical state, the brain is not doing its best thinking, problem solving, or a host of other capacities that you need to win. Breaking the pattern requires more than a shoulder to cry on. We need to take the fangs out of failure. 

CHAPTER 9: The Right Kind of Push 

Corner Four relationships possess specific ingredients that help people move uphill. One absolutely critical role that others play is helping us achieve challenging, realistic and achievable goals. 

CHAPTER 10: Bringing the Outside In 

Corner Four relationships don’t end even after they end. The lessons we learn and the phrases that motivate us are ours to keep forever. Psychologists refer to this process as internalization. It’s bringing what was on the outside inside. 

CHAPTER 11: The Bermuda Triangle of Relationships 

Divisiveness is one of the most destructive forces in any relational system. It not only prevents resolution, growth, and forward movement, but it also makes problems worse by pitting one person against another and creating further splits throughout the team, family or organization. 

CHAPTER 12: Trust 

There are a handful of universal concepts and principles that apply to every single individual or group performance challenge. Trust is one of those concepts, especially when it comes to tapping into the power of the other. To make an investment in anyone, trust is paramount. 

CONCLUSION: Nice Guys Don’t Finish Last 

As you go through the routines of your life such as meeting with colleagues, catching up with family at holidays, having dinner with friends, or taking walks with your spouse, are you feeling protected, advised, supported, and rewarded in Corner Four? I hope you find your Corner Four, live there as much as possible, and outperform even your wildest dreams. 

Interested in reading the entire book? Get it here: http://amzn.to/2vmAQ29

 

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Go Team!

I just finished reading an oldie but a goodie, “Go Team!”, by Ken Blanchard, Alan Randolph & Peter Grazier. If your desiring to take your team to the next level, this book will help you look at the difference between work groups and highly functioning, effective teams, and outlines a process for developing those teams. As work, ministry, and life get more challenging and more complex, our need for effective teams only increases. “Next Level Teams” is a great resource that answers how you can move forward with your team, and I think you’ll find this book highly applicable if you lead any type of team. Here’s a synopsis taken right from the book. Enjoy! 

Too few people really understand how to build a team that puts into action the knowledge, experience, and motivation of its people. We do not have to look very far to see numerous examples of failed team efforts. It is no surprise that people often give up on the idea of teams and try to go it alone. We do not believe that is an effective solution for today’s workplace. Go Team! is our game plan for building better teams: Next Level Teams.

As business changes, the nature of work needs to change. Relationships, responsibilities, and information-flow between management and the workforce must change to meet the demand for ever-improving performance. The move to Next Level Teams begins with sharing the information necessary for people to carry out their work effectively and efficiently. Information sharing is absolutely essential for solving the problems that plague organizations.

The sharing of information requires us to manage our prior beliefs about what people need to know. If team members are being asked to accept more responsibility and accountability for work performance, then they must be given more resources to affect that performance. Next Level Teams become powerful because information is shared openly in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Team members know that they are protected by the bond of trust that exists among them, so they feel freer to offer information that may be sensitive but important to the team’s success.

When we begin to operate as a Next Level Team, the freedom associated with new responsibilities and authority may seem unclear. This is where boundaries become valuable because they help us define our authority clearly and thus allow us to make good decisions and take independent actions.

Independent actions need boundaries so that people can take them with a sense of direction and autonomy and without fear of reprisal. The intent of boundaries in a Next Level Team environment is not to restrict action but rather to create the responsibility and freedom to act. The old system narrows the boundaries, whereas the Next Level approach is to widen them.

At the outset of the journey to the Next Level, it is better to err in the direction of more restrictive boundaries that create a small playing field for people. It is easier to widen a boundary and allow more freedom than to suddenly close it in because people have not been able to handle the scope of responsibility. It will also be difficult to identify all boundaries at the outset, so everyone should be very aware that the journey to Next Level Teams is, indeed, a journey. The process will need to be adapted as it evolves.

There is a need in today’s global business environment to establish a true partnership between the team and the organization, built around extensive information sharing and wide boundaries of authority that allow more freedom for teams to take action. In a Next Level Team, members take ownership of the responsibility for continually developing themselves and improving their work processes. Team members understand that the organization succeeds or fails depending on how effectively they and their leadership perform the work. Next Level Teams operate as integral parts of the organization, making full use of the knowledge, experience, and motivation of team members to impact team and organizational results in powerful and effective ways.

Research on teams for almost one hundred years has shown that there are four primary elements of highly successful teams. To develop your Next Level Team properly and keep it on track, you need to ask and answer four questions:

1. Do we have a common purpose or mission? Most teams that fail do so because team members lack clarity and alignment about their mission. The mission is what the team does, its purpose for existing. New teams or teams in trouble should clearly define what they do to each member’s satisfaction. The more clearly this mission is defined, the more able team members will be to take the appropriate actions to accomplish it.

2. Do we have agreed-upon operating processes? An operating process gives a team structure as to how it will operate while completing its task or tasks. It tells the team how decisions will be made as they relate to important issues. In actuality, the team may have multiple operating processes to accomplish various tasks. To be effective, a team must have clear and agreed-upon operating processes.

3. Do we have shared operating principles? Operating principles determine how team members will work together, particularly how they will treat each other. Teams frequently struggle with the “people” aspects of running a team because members lack a common view of how they want to work together. Operating principles are guidelines that help team members put into action the values they share in terms of how they work together. 

4.  Do we understand and appreciate our different roles? Team members have both formal and informal roles to play on a team. The formal roles are usually defined by work responsibilities, such as electrician, plumber, apprentice, clerk, accountant, scheduler, coordinator, team leader, and so forth. The informal roles are defined by the natural skills and talents each team member brings to the team process. These abilities should be discussed to identify people’s natural talents and how they might best be used. The team should also attempt to identify missing skills and their implications.

Your team is moving forward during one of the most significant transition periods of the post-industrial business age. Regardless of any bumps in the road you may encounter, understand that you are breaking new ground in how organizations work. You and your leaders are to be commended for your foresight and persistence in moving your organization to a new level of functioning and, ultimately, a new level of performance. Your team is now in a position to contribute to the business in extraordinary ways.

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: http://ow.ly/W3S230el7IV

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Daring Greatly

I just finished reading the book “Daring Greatly”, by Brene Brown. She is a researcher and lecturer in the areas of shame, relationships, and connections. Her TED talks are some of my favorites, and among the most popular talks ever. Her insights in the above topics are a must reading for any pastor or leader. I’ve benefited tremendously from her work, and I’m sure you will as well. Here’s a synopsis taken right from the book. Enjoy! 

When our self-worth isn’t on the line, we are far more willing to be courageous and risk sharing our raw talents and gifts. From my research with families, schools, and organizations, it’s clear that shame-resilient cultures nurture folks who are much more open to soliciting, accepting, and incorporating feedback. These cultures also nurture engaged, tenacious people who expect to have to try and try again to get it right— people who are much more willing to get innovative and creative in their efforts. 

A sense of worthiness inspires us to be vulnerable, share openly, and persevere. Shame keeps us small, resentful, and afraid. In shame-prone cultures, where parents, leaders, and administrators consciously or unconsciously encourage people to connect their self-worth to what they produce, I see disengagement, blame, gossip, stagnation, favoritism, and a total dearth of creativity and innovation. 

Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists— it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name
it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it out at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly for the gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it. 

There are a couple of very helpful ways to think about shame. First, shame is the fear of disconnection. We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection, along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Shame is the fear of disconnection—it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging, or connection. I’m unlovable. I don’t belong. 

How we experience these different emotions comes down to self-talk. How do we talk to ourselves about what’s happening? The best place to start examining self-talk and untangling these four distinct emotions is with shame and guilt. The majority of shame researchers and clinicians agree that the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between “I am bad” and “I did something bad.” 

We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying. Researchers don’t find shame correlated with positive outcomes at all—there are no data to support that shame is a helpful compass for good behavior. In fact, shame is much more likely to be the cause of destructive and hurtful behaviors than it is to be the solution. 

Shame is bad. So what do we do about it? The answer is shame resilience. Note that shame resistance is not possible. As long as we care about connection, the fear of disconnection will always be a powerful force in our lives, and the pain caused by shame will always be real. But here’s the great news. In all my studies, I’ve found that men and women with high levels of shame resilience have four things in common—I call them the elements of shame resilience. Learning to put these elements into action is what I call “Gremlin Ninja Warrior training.” 

Here are the four elements of shame resilience—the steps don’t always happen in this order, but they always ultimately lead us to empathy and healing: 

1. Recognizing Shame and Understanding Its Triggers. Shame is biology and biography. Can you physically recognize when you’re in the grips of shame, feel your way through it, and figure out what messages and expectations triggered it? 

2. Practicing Critical Awareness. Can you reality-check the messages and expectations that are driving your shame? Are they realistic? Attainable? Are they what you want to be or what you think others need/want from you? 

3. Reaching Out. Are you owning and sharing your story? We can’t experience empathy if we’re not connecting. 

4. Speaking Shame. Are you talking about how you feel and asking for what you need when you feel shame? 

Shame breeds fear. It crushes our tolerance for vulnerability, thereby killing engagement, innovation, creativity, productivity, and trust. And worst of all, if we don’t know what we’re looking for, shame can ravage our organizations before we see one outward sign of a problem. Shame works like termites in a house. It’s hidden in the dark behind the walls and constantly eating away at our infrastructure, until one day the stairs suddenly crumble. Only then do we realize that it’s only a matter of time before the walls come tumbling down. 

In an organizational culture where respect and the dignity of individuals are held as the highest values, shame and blame don’t work as management styles. There is no leading by fear. Empathy is a valued asset, accountability is an expectation rather than an exception, and the primal human need for belonging is not used as leverage and social control. We can’t control the behavior of individuals; however, we can cultivate organizational cultures where behaviors are not tolerated and people are held accountable for protecting what matters most: human beings. 

Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen. 

Interested in the reading the book in its entirety? Purchase it here: http://ow.ly/bkDK30dYpYs

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Culture Shift

Years ago I heard the quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The point was the culture is a much stronger force than any strategy or plans we make. So the book I just finished reading, “Culture Shift” by Wayne Cordeiro and Robert Lewis addresses this. The book takes a look at the importance of a healthy church culture and outlines different ways to intentionally develop one. It’s a good read, and I think you’ll enjoy it. Here’s synopsis taken from the book. 

Culture is the most important social reality in your church. Though invisible to the untrained eye, its power is undeniable. Culture gives color and flavor to everything your church is and does. Like a powerful current running through your church, it can move you inland or take you farther out to sea. It can prevent your church’s potential from ever being realized, or—if used by the Holy Spirit—it can draw others in and reproduce healthy spiritual life all along the way. 

Want to change the future of your church for the better? It starts with acknowledging that regardless of how your church looks now, it has billion-dollar potential. The potential is found in your culture—the real and true culture of your church, not the quick- x culture you may so often be tempted to try. When you, along with other church leaders, accept that your key role is to be a steward who releases this deep spiritual potential into the lives of your people, the culture you desire will develop. 

A church’s culture represents the intersection of three values you are to steward: God’s kingdom agenda, who you are, and your unique setting. These are the foundational elements of a church’s culture. When church leaders get in touch with God’s kingdom culture, begin to live it, and figure out how it can be expressed in their locality, then a new, rich, culture inevitably emerges. 

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Sow a thought, you’ll reap a desire. Sow that desire enough, you’ll reap an action. Sow that action enough, you’ll reap a habit. Sow a habit and you’ll reap your destiny.” It all begins with a thought: how you think about your church determines what you see and the culture you create. 

Christian shepherds with leadership gifts should be called upon to identify the primary flywheels of their church’s culture. These main gears are the ones that trigger other gears. Whatever the configuration of the secondary gears, if the main gear stops, hundreds of other gears stop. If the main gear cranks, the machine keeps moving. On the other hand, a small gear can stop or break and the others will keep cranking. Many times pastors and other church leaders put time, energy, and finances into the wrong gears and miss what the main gears are. 

Even if you have not yet identified your church’s culture, others have. Culture announces its identity through everything you do. The values of your culture—stated or unstated, thought out or unintentional—shape the feel, behavior, and attitude of a congregation more than anything else. 

How well have you identified your church’s culture? If you don’t take the time to identify its dominant values, you won’t be able to evaluate whether they are the values you really intend to express. Nor will you be able to check your alignment. For instance, how consistent are these values for yourself, for your congregation, and for all those with whom your church comes in contact? We use the term totem to help you identify your values and make them seen and heard. Silent but powerful, these values remind people in the most positive way of who they are and who they can be. 

By changing your church’s culture, you are releasing your church’s future. The rst step in the transformation is to identify your current culture. Doing so defines your starting point. We have found that four ingredients bring a church’s culture into focus: (1) leadership and values, (2) vision statement, (3) symbols, ceremonies, celebrations, and (4) you as leader. Mixed together, these ingredients produce the culture of a church. If there is commonality, they not only mix well but reinforce one another. The result is an even stronger overall influence of clarity and power. On the other hand, if these elements clash with one another in some way, the result is confusion, conflict, and a repelling influence that undermines clarity and power. 

Your church’s leadership is the personification of your church’s culture. The leaders are the living totems who influence others by demonstrating what the kingdom of God could look like as expressed through a particular church. But the Holy Spirit, who is at work in every believer, wants the rest of the church to become living totems as well. The breadth of your church depends on how many living totems you can develop and release. Great leaders have a unique ability to create many living totems who live out the values that the leaders have perceived and objectified for the congregation. 

The overall progression to lead a congregation through a culture shift looks like this: 

  1. Identify and believe God’s promises about your church’s potential.
  2. Model kingdom culture personally.
  3. Enlist allies to champion the culture shift. 
  4. Focus on “what we’re becoming.”
  5. Compare the vision of the future to present reality. 
  6. Outline a specific, doable pathway.
  7. Help it filter through the Church, and learn from feedback you receive. 
  8. Stay focused on transformed people, and on those receptive to change. 
  9. Make heroes of people who best represent the kingdom values.
  10. Celebrate every success, and give God the glory. 

The culture shift begins by believing in the potential of the people God has already given you, and then releasing the right culture through them. As the culture grows and matures, it transforms your church from the inside out. In the end, people all over town will begin to say, “Is something different about that church? Simply come across a few of its people, and you’ll know.” 

And when that happens, you will say, “Glory to God!” If the culture changes, everything changes including the future. 

Interested in reading the entire book? You can get it here: http://ow.ly/es1N30dOWPL

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Preaching

I just finished reading the book “Preaching” by Tim Keller. He’s one of my most favorite preachers of all time, so this book was an easy read for me. I recommend you read this book if you’re interested in communicating well to our current culture. Tim Keller, in Preaching, looks at the power and importance of biblical preaching and how to do it well in today's world. Keller has a well-earned reputation for reaching modern people with good, solid preaching. Enjoy this synopsis taken right from the book. 

The difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is largely located in the preachers—in their gifts and skills and in their preparation for any particular message. Understanding the biblical text, distilling a clear outline and theme, developing a persuasive argument, enriching it with poignant illustrations, metaphors, and cultural assumptions, making specific application to real life—all of this takes extensive labor. To prepare a sermon like this requires hours of work, and to be able to craft and present it skillfully takes years of practice. 

However, while the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as the preacher. The message in Philippi came from Paul, but the effect of the sermon on hearts came from the Spirit. 

Preaching has two basic objects in view: The Word and the human listener. It is not enough to just harvest the wheat; it must be prepared in some edible form or it can’t nourish and delight. Sound preaching arises out of two loves—love of the Word of God and love of people—and from them both a desire to show people God’s glorious grace. And so, while only God can open hearts, the communicator must give great time and thought both to presenting the truth accurately and to bringing it home to the hearts and lives of the hearers. 

There are two basic forms of preaching: expository and topical. Throughout the centuries both have been widely used, and they must both be used. It is also worth noting that the two types of preaching are not mutually exclusive, and absolutely pure forms of either are rare. Just as throughout church history both kinds of preaching have been necessary, so Christian teachers and preachers today need to see both as legitimate forms they can skillfully use. Nevertheless, I would say that expository preaching should provide the main diet of preaching for a Christian community. 

Expository preaching enables God to set the agenda for your Christian community. Exposition is something of an adventure for the preacher. You set out into a book or a passage intent on submitting to its authority yourself and following where it may lead. Of course, you still have to choose which books and passages of the Bible to preach, and any experienced student of the Bible will know basically what is within particular parts of the Bible. However, expository preaching means you can’t completely predetermine what your people will be hearing over the next few weeks or months. As the texts are opened, questions and answers emerge that no one might have seen coming. We tend to think of the Bible as a book of answers to our questions, and it is that. However, if we really let the text speak, we may find that God will show us that we are not even asking the right questions. 

In order to understand and explain any text of the Bible, you must put it into its context, which includes fitting it into the canonical context: the message of the Bible as a whole. To show how a text fits into its whole canonical context is to show how it points to Christ and gospel salvation, the big idea of the whole Bible. Every time you expound a Bible text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows us that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can. That means we must preach Christ from every text, which is the same as saying we must preach the gospel every time and not just settle for general inspiration or moralizing. 

It is fundamental to preach biblically, and to preach to cultural narratives, but these are not enough. Unless the truth is not only clear but also real to listeners, then people will still fail to obey it. Preaching cannot simply be accurate and sound. It must capture the listeners’ interest and imaginations; it must be compelling and penetrate to their hearts. It is possible to merely assert and confront and feel we have been very “valiant for truth,” but if you are dry or tedious, people will not repent and believe the right doctrine you present. We must preach so that, as in the first sermon on Pentecost, hearers are “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). 

If you want to preach to the heart, you need to preach from the heart. It’s got to be clear that your own heart has been reached by the truth of the text. This takes non-deliberate transparency. Heart-moving preachers (in contrast to heart- manipulating ones) reveal their own affections without really trying to. What is required is that as you speak it becomes evident in all sorts of ways that you yourself have been humbled, wounded, healed, comforted, and exalted by the truths you are presenting, and that they have genuine power in your life. 

How can affectionate preaching come naturally? I think there are basically two things needed. One is to know your material so well that you aren’t absorbed in trying to remember the next point. If your material is not at your fingertips, you will expend energy just to remember it, or else you will be simply reading from your notes. The other necessity for preaching affectionately is a deep, rich, private prayer life. If your heart isn’t regularly engaged in praise and repentance, if you aren’t constantly astonished at God’s grace in your solitude, there’s no way it can happen in public. You won’t touch hearts because your own heart isn’t touched. 

Feel overwhelmed? Me too. However, a key to developing these traits is not to directly try to have them. Instead, glory in your infirmities so his power may be made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is a discipline by which you constantly remind yourself of what you are under your own power. It leads to desperate dependence on the Spirit – but along with this desperation will come the joyful freedom of knowing that in the end nothing in preaching rests on your eloquence, your wisdom, or your ability. Nothing ever has! Every success and blessing and fruit you have ever borne has been from him. 

Tremendous freedom comes when we can laugh at ourselves and whisper to him, “So! It’s been you all along!” In some ways that day will be the true beginning of your career as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word. 

Interested in purchasing the book? You can get it here: http://ow.ly/lU0m30dEJrL

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Thinking For A Change

Change your thinking and you will change your life. So says my friend John Maxwell. I’ve been working with him directly for the last 15 years, and love many of the books he’s written. I just finished re-reading, and lecturing on “Thinking for a Change.” In this book, Maxwell looks at the power and importance of how we think and gives practical steps for developing our thinking skills. It’s filled with wisdom and practical insights, I highly recommend you read the entire book yourself, but here’s a synopsis of it for you. Enjoy!

No matter how complicated life gets or how difficult problems may seem, good thinking can make a difference—if you make it a consistent part of your life. The more you engage in good thinking, the more good thoughts will come to you. Success comes to those who habitually do things that unsuccessful people don’t do. Achievement comes from the habit of good thinking. The more you engage in good thinking, the more good thoughts you will continue to think. It’s like creating a never ending army of ideas capable of achieving almost anything. As playwright Victor Hugo asserted, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an invasion of ideas.”

Skill 1: Acquire the Wisdom of Big-Picture Thinking

Big-picture thinking brings wholeness, maturity and perspective to a person’s thinking. Get in the habit of bringing together diverse concepts, accepting seemingly opposite points of view at the same time, and embracing what authors James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras call the “Genius of the AND”. In business, for example, pursue purpose AND profit, embrace a fixed core ideology AND vigorous change and innovation, be highly visionary AND execute the details well.

Skill 2: Unleash the Potential of Focused Thinking

No one achieves greatness by becoming a generalist. You don’t hone a skill by diluting your attention to its development. The only way to get to the next level is to focus. Whether your goal is to increase your level of play, sharpen your business plan, improve your bottom line, develop your subordinates, or solve personal problems, you need to focus.

Skill 3: Discover the Joy of Creative Thinking

Creative thinking works something like this: Think -> Collect -> Create -> Correct -> Connect. Once you begin to think, you are free to collect. Ask yourself, what material relates to this thought? Once you have the material, ask, what ideas can make the thought better? That question takes an idea to the next level. Then, correct or refine it by asking, what changes can make these ideas better? Finally, connect the ideas by positioning them in the right context to make the thought complete and powerful. The whole process happens more readily when you have a framework or picture of where you want to go. If you go to the ideas, soon the ideas will flow to you.

Skill 4: Recognize the Importance of Realistic Thinking

The essence of realistic thinking is discovering, picturing, and examining the worst-case scenario. If you picture the worst case and examine it honestly, then you’re ready for anything. Take the advice of Charles Hole, who advised, “Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness or oppose with firmness.”

Skill 5: Realize the Power of Strategic Thinking

When using strategic thinking to solve a problem or plan a way to meet an objective, many people make the mistake of jumping the gun by trying immediately to figure out how to accomplish it. Instead of asking how, they should first ask why. Asking why helps them think about all the reasons for decisions. It helps them open their minds to possibilities and opportunities.

Skill 6: Feel the Energy of Possibility Thinking

People who embrace possibility thinking are capable of accomplishing tasks that seem impossible because they believe in solutions. The first step in becoming a possibility thinker is to stop yourself from searching for and dwelling on what’s wrong with any given situation. When you find yourself listing all the things that can go wrong or all the reasons something can’t be done, stop and say, “Don’t go there.” Then ask, “What’s right about this?” That will help to get you started.

Skill 7: Embrace the Lesson of Reflective Thinking

Greek philosopher Socrates observed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” For most people reflection and self examination don’t come naturally because it can be a fairly uncomfortable activity for a variety of reasons. But if you don’t carve out the time for it, you are unlikely to do any reflective thinking. As much as any other kind of thinking, reflection requires solitude. It’s not the kind of thing you can do well near a television, in a cubicle, while the phone is ringing, or with children in the same room.

Skill 8: Question the Acceptance of Popular Thinking

Many individuals follow others almost automatically. Sometimes they do so because they desire to take the path of least resistance. Other times they fear rejection, or they believe there’s wisdom in doing what everyone else does. But if you want to succeed, you need to think about what’s best, not what’s popular.

Skill 9: Encourage the Participation of Shared Thinking

Good thinkers, especially those who are also good leaders, understand the power of shared thinking. They know that when they value the thoughts and ideas of others, they accomplish more than they ever could on their own. We tend to think of great thinkers and innovators as soloists, but the truth is that the greatest innovative thinking doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Innovation results from collaboration.

Skill 10: Experience the Satisfaction of Unselfish Thinking

The spirit of generosity created by unselfish thinking gives people an appreciation for life and an understanding of its higher values. Seeing those in need and giving to meet that need puts a lot of things into perspective. It increases the quality of life for the giver and the receiver.

Skill 11: Enjoy the Return of Bottom-Line Thinking

The process of bottom-line thinking begins with knowing what you’re really going after. It can be as lofty as the big picture vision, mission, or purpose of an organization; or it can be as focused as what you want to accomplish on a particular project. What’s important is that you be as specific as possible. If your goal is for something as vague as “success,” you will have a painfully difficult time trying to harness bottom-line thinking to achieve it.

I hope you have enjoyed our journey together through the kinds of thinking that make people successful and I hope you have learned more about yourself and how you think. Your thinking, more than anything else, shapes the way you live. It’s really true that if you change your thinking, you can change your life.

Interested in purchasing this book? You can get it here: http://ow.ly/Qwvf30ddZW3

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More Than Miracles: Sons! - Guest Post by Michael Brodeur

Someone once said that the true measure of success is succession. Part of the spiritual life cycle is pouring our lives into emerging leaders in such a way that they can carry the message of the kingdom into the future. As I grow older I have an increasing desire to pour into the next generation. We need to raise up powerful sons and daughters.

Recently a friend of mine was preaching and he unintentionally used the phrase “sons and wonders.” What might have been a verbal misstep to me was a profound statement. My friend’s unintentional play on words reminded me that the work of Holy Spirit is not just visible in miracles and divine encounters. He is also visible in the spiritual sons and daughters that we raise up.

Envision No Division

One of the most profound statements of scripture is found in the final verses of the Old Testament. In Malachi 4:6 the prophet declares that in the last days God will send again the spirit of Elijah and turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons and sons to the fathers, lest God come and strike the earth with a curse.

We live in a world cursed with division and conflict. When sin first entered the world the immediate result was a separation between humanity and God. The next was a separation between man and woman, followed by brother and brother, and then finally between the generations. Sin is the source of all division and strife.

Uniting Generations

I believe the most harmful division that afflicts humanity is the division between the generations. This division hinders so much progress. Each generation seems to repeat the mistakes of the previous one. We have a not humbled ourselves to learn the lessons of our fathers and mothers.

Looking deeper into Malachi he says that as the generations are united it removes the curse from the earth. It’s important for us to remember that most of what scripture calls the curse is simply the natural consequence of violating the creative order of God. In other words, a curse is not normally a lightning bolt hurled from heaven, but more along the lines of a broken leg from falling off a ladder.

Gravity is a law. When it is violated there’s a consequence.  Generational unity and integrity is also a law, and its violation also has consequences..

To verify this look at the statistics surrounding people in prison, people who are bound by alcoholism and immoralities, people struggling with life-controlling problems. The majority of these individuals are from broken homes, raised in the absence of a loving two-parent family.

Orphan Spirit

Our world is plagued by teenage rebellion. Sons and daughters are being raised to think their parents are idiots. Every TV show and movie emphasizes the view that the only way to freedom is rejecting your parents and pursuing your own ideas. This mindset has infiltrated church culture. Many pastors and leaders have a difficult time raising their spiritual sons and daughters effectively. Some are too controlling and abusive, others abdicate and neglect. The net result in both cases is the spirit of orphanhood and abandonment. Disapproval fuels generational division.

The Good News

God is at work within biological and spiritual families to restore generational unity. He is moving the hearts of spiritual leaders around the world to pour into the next generation. Fathers and mothers are now equipping and empowering emerging leaders, then getting out of the driver seat. They are releasing emerging leaders to move us forward! They’re trustingthem with the keys and the title deed of the vehicle. Soon we’ll see spiritual sons and daughters coming to the fullness of their purpose in the Lord. Now more than ever spiritual sons and daughters are honoring fathers and mothers. They’re positioning themselves to receive all that they can from those who’ve gone before them.

Who is the number one person God is calling you to pour into right now?

Article written by Michael Brodeur

Dr. Michael Brodeur, served for over three decades as a senior pastor and ministry leader in the city of San Francisco and a ministry consultant to scores of churches around the world. In 2010, Michael turned over the leadership of his church to his associate pastor and relocated permanently to Redding CA, where he devotes himself to writing, teaching, and coaching leaders, churches and ministries.

Want to learn more about Michael? Go here: PastorsCoach.com

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Who Moved My Pulpit

I just finished reading “Who Moved My Pulpit” by Thom Rainer. Wow… it’s filled with insights for anyone who needs to manage change in their church, which is what I’m currently in the trenches doing. It outlines the need for churches to change, the challenges, and the process for bringing change in a healthy way. It’s so full of good stuff! Even if you’re not currently managing change, this one you can put in your back pocket for a later day, and you’ll be glad you did. Here’s a synopsis…..Enjoy! 

You are here because you either want to lead change or be part of leading change. But there is something about people like you and me. We want to see tangible results right away. We want to be as active as possible. Leading change for us means moving forward. That might be the biggest mistake you could make. Before leading change, it is time to stop. It is time to stop and pray. 

Leading change in the church is impossible in your own power. It can be both redundant and exhausting. There will be days where you will wonder if it’s worth it. You will be worn out. You need to pray for God’s strength. 

You might have a special place you can go to be alone with God for a few days. You may not have the opportunity to leave and go somewhere, but you know whereyou can go for an hour or so a day to pray about you, your church, and the need for change. Hear me clearly. I have never seen successful and sustaining change take place in a church without prayer. Never. Not once. 

Your role as a change leader has three major components. First, you have to lead the congregation to face reality. Then you have to communicate that reality and the steps needed to move forward again and again. Finally, you must communicate with a sense of urgency. 

Numbers can be helpful for accountability and for facing reality. If your church has declined in worship attendance from 300 to 175 in ten years, something is going wrong. If your church used to reach thirty people a year with the gospel, but no one has been reached in three years, something is wrong. 

Next, find someone who has never been to your church. That’s usually a pretty easy task. Ask them to assess all of the church’s facilities, from the signage to the parking lot to the exterior to the interior, and the worship service. Ask them to take copious notes. Perhaps you can even pay them a small stipend for the effort. 

After they have looked over all of your facilities, grounds, and service, take the information and assess it yourself. Perhaps you bring in a few key leaders. It’s time to face the reality of what guests see when they come to your church. 

Take time to share the numbers. Tell the stories of those who have looked at the church’s facilities. Share the experiences of the secret guest who came to the church. Share the information clearly and factually. Hold nothing back. Share the good and the bad. 

As you lead change, you confront the realities of your church. You communicate those realities to the congregation. And you communicate them with a sense of urgency. So, what happens next? 

You repeat the process again. And again. And again. As a leader, you are constantly confronting realities, communicating realities, and communicating the urgency of the moment. You may tire of the redundancy. You may think it’s time to be quiet for a season. But it’s not. You communicate. And then communicate. And then communicate again. 

The process of building an eager coalition is vital to the change leadership, but there is no precise roadmap that describes how you move forward. There are, however, some key lessons we’ve learned from many change leaders. 

First, the process is usually informal. There is no formation of a task force or a committee. The leader typically meets with key persons over a meal, in a coffee shop, or in the office. The leader does indeed present the idea, but the process involves as much listening as it does speaking. And, as change leaders listen, they must be willing to pivot and change as they hear better ideas. 

Second, the process is individual. Perhaps there will be times when coalition building involves more than a one-on-one conversation. But they typically work better when the leader gives the person his complete attention. The one-on-one meeting communicates clearly to the church member their importance to the leader. 

Third, the process can be lengthy. It may or may not take as long as ten months, but it can seem painfully slow at times. But this phase is absolutely vital if you really desire to lead change in your church. Once you get the eager coalition gathered, it’s time to formulate and communicate the vision to the rest of the congregation. 

A healthy church has a hopeful and visionary pastor. The essence of this facet of change leadership is simple and clear: become a voice of hope and provide a clear vision for the church to move forward in a strategic fashion. Change leaders who provide hope and vision are the most successful change leaders. It’s just that basic. 

About nine out of ten churches in America have settled into dangerous complacency. Many members have dug in deeply and are headstrong to resist change. Do not enter into change leadership lightly. Do not begin the process without concerted prayer. And realize that change is all about people. If you don’t deal with people issues in leading change, you will fail. It’s just that simple. 

In his seminal work on change leadership in the secular world, Leading Change, John Kotter talks about “generating short- term wins.” He sees this as a crucial step in leading an organization toward major change. 

My thoughts are similar, but I prefer to use the metaphor of “low-hanging fruit.” It seems to paint a vivid picture of potential reality. The idea is to demonstrate from an incremental perspective how the impending change will be a positive outcome for the church. The leader seeks to find and articulate easier victories for the church that will lead to greater, and potentially more challenging, victories. 

You are the pastor. You are the church staff person. You are an elder. You are a deacon. You are a key lay leader in the church. Are you ready to make a difference in this brief life whatever the cost? There are tens of thousands of churches in need of a massive infusion of revitalization. 

God has called you to lead change for such a time as this. Be prepared. Be courageous. Be the leader of change for the glory of God. 

Interested in reading the entire book? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2rH111Y

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The New Gold Standard

I pulled out of the archives an oldie, but a goodie. I re-read “The New Gold Standard”, by Joseph A. Michelli. It’s an in-depth look at how the Ritz-Carlton hotels have developed a corporate culture that consistently delivers world-class customer service throughout the organization. It’s literally a fascinating book to me, and one worth your time if you lead anything that you want to go somewhere. Here’s a synopsis. Enjoy! 

The award-winning hotels and resorts of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company have been consistently recognized for unwavering commitment to service excellence and unmatched quality since the original Ritz Paris Hotel was opened in 1898 by Cesar Ritz. The New Gold Standard reveals the specific leadership principles that produce the Ritz-Carlton’s exemplary corporate culture, exceptional staff empowerment, and extraordinary commitment to its customers.

PRINCIPLE 1: Communicate Core Identity

While many companies have finely worded statements of vision, purpose and values, few business leaders can rival Ritz-Carlton when it comes to keeping those roadmaps and cultural anchors at the top-of-mind of their staff. One of their most basic strategies is a trifold pocket card—identified as part of an employee’s uniform—outlining their “Gold Standard”:

- The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

- We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

- The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpected wishes and needs of our guests.

This pocket card—referred to as the Credo Card—also includes The Motto of RitzCarlton: Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.

Along with the Credo Card, Ritz-Carlton has established guidelines for providing consistent service the Ritz-Carlton way— 12 values that encourage “ways of being” as opposed to “ways of doing.” These “Service Values” enable staff members to focus on desired outcomes for individual guests rather applying a one-size-fits all script to every guest and every situation.

PRINCIPLE 2: Empower Staff through Trust

To truly understand the success of Ritz-Carlton, one must understand their approach to the staff selection process. They believe excellence occurs by starting with the right raw talent instead of attempting to manage employees to overcome talent deficits. They are looking for those with true strengths to consistently deliver luxury service—a strength being something you do well, and a true strength being something you do well and enjoy.

Respectful and genuine treatment of employees engenders a trust for leadership that is essential to move their business forward. Unless employees know that they are truly valued, they often don’t invest the extra effort needed to exceed customer expectations and arrive at innovative service solutions.

PRINCIPLE 3: Build a Business Focused on Others

In order to create a memorable experience, a service provider has to connect with a guest’s individuality and deliver service customized to that guest’s preferences. Many businesses do this using customer relationship management software as a way of tracking guest preferences, but few have used this type of technology more effectively than RitzCarlton.

The role of the senior leader is not to “lead” quality in an organization, but to help influence a “quality culture.” Leadership creates an environment for service excellence by assisting staff members to fully attend to others, to use all their senses, and ultimately to place themselves in the situations of those they serve.

PRINCIPLE 4: Deliver Wow!

Since customer engagement is linked to the customers’ wanting to “feel a rush,” Ritz-Carlton leadership calls this desired memorable and emotional connection a “Wow experience”—and encourages staff to personally affect guests to achieve this level of emotional intensity by delivering service that appeals to both the thinking and the feeling aspects of the consumer.

Ritz-Carlton uses their “Wow stories”—remarkable examples of extraordinary service exhibited by their Ladies and Gentlemen—to reinforce existing service excellence and to propel future extraordinary acts. In fact, Wow stories are one of the most important vehicles for communicating the values they see as critical to the success of the company.

PRINCIPLE 5: Leave a Lasting Footprint

In the competitive world of business today, corporate leaders are looking for opportunities to maintain the relevance of their established brands by broadening product offerings to meet the evolving needs of their customers—products that they would expect them to sell, that fit well with their brand, and are a natural extension of the expertise they already provide.

Increasingly, businesses are judged for the lasting nature of the footprint they leave on individuals, communities, and other businesses. Myopic companies focus on short-term profitability instead of ecological sustainability, or they prioritize advertising over efforts to train and grow their people. Ritz-Carlton, from its inception, wanted to be a truly great company—to be known “as a positive, supportive member of the community” and “sensitive to the environment.”

Conclusion: A Lasting Impression

Service in the Ritz-Carlton culture is little more than delivering a product the customer wants without defects, delivering the product when and how the customer wants it, and providing the product with genuine care and concern for that customer. While these three aspects of service are fairly simple and timeless, the complexity of this seemingly uncomplicated formula requires constant listening to customers and staff as well as disciplined execution.

Interested in reading the entire book? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2ravvxE

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Invisible Influence

I just finished reading “Invisible Influence” by Jonah Berger. A good read, and a book that explores the different things that influence the decisions we make, especially as leaders. We like to think we make decisions purely on our preferences, but that isn't true—we are influenced by a myriad of forces, people, and trends. When we grow to understand that, social influences can enable us to both take advantage of their benefits and avoid their downsides. The reason it’s a book I recommend you read is, I think we need to understand some of the forces affecting not only ourselves, but humanity as a whole. Enjoy this synopsis.

Ninety-nine-point nine percent of all decisions we make are shaped by others. It’s hard to find a decision or behavior that isn’t affected by other people. This book is about the simple, subtle, and often surprising ways that others affect our behavior. 

CHAPTER ONE: Monkey See, Monkey Do

There are thousands of books, movies and songs vying for everyone’s attention, but no one has the time to read every book jacket or listen to every sample clip. Most people don’t have the bandwidth to check out even a small percentage of the options. So we use others as a helpful shortcut. A filter. If a book is on the bestseller list, we’re more likely to skim the description; if a song is already popular, we’re more likely to give it a listen. 

Following others saves us time and effort and (hopefully) leads us to something we’re more likely to enjoy. Social influence is effective because people mimic other people’s choices and actions. 

CHAPTER TWO: A Horse of a Different Color 

Social influence also seems to push us to distinguish ourselves from others. If anything, we would expect people to imitate others, because other people’s choices provide information. The more people who picked something, the better that thing must be, right? But sometimes people don’t want to be the same as everyone else. Sometimes people want to be different. 

People often avoid things when too many other people like them—the so-called “snob effect.” The more other people own or use something, the less interested new people are in buying or using it. Most of us don’t want to be the only one doing something, but if too many people are doing it, we do something else. When kale or quinoa becomes too trendy, there’s a backlash. 

CHAPTER THREE: Not If They’re Doing It

Like an amateur Sherlock Holmes, we try to deduce things about the people around us based on their choices. Cars and clothes serve as a silent communication system, signaling information to others. We use people’s choices as signals of who they are and what they’re like. 

We don’t just make inferences about others, we also choose things based on who they are associated with. People diverge to avoid being misidentified or communicating undesired identities. Students ate less candy when they saw an obese person eating a lot, and professionals stopped calling their children Jr. once the practice was adopted by the working class. Minivan sales tanked when they became associated with soccer moms, and tech CEOs wore hoodies rather than suits to avoid looking like, well, a suit. 

CHAPTER FOUR: Similar but Different

When something is new, we initially feel negative or neutral. Then, after repeated exposure, things become more familiar and we start to feel more positive. Eventually, after too many exposures, boredom kicks in and liking declines. Too novel and it’s unfamiliar. Too familiar and it’s boring. But in between and it’s just right. 

The right blend of familiarity and novelty drives what becomes popular. Hit fashion styles, such as skinny jeans, often take something we all know well (jeans) and add novelty (a new cut). Things that catch on, then, whether in music, fashion, or any other domain, often are similar enough to what is already out there to evoke the warm glow of familiarity, but novel enough to seem new and not just derivative of what came before. Similarity shapes popularity because it makes novel things feel familiar. 

CHAPTER FIVE: Come On Baby, Light My Fire

The mere presence of others changes performance. People tend to do better when others are around. This phenomenon has been described as social facilitation, where the presence of others leads people to perform faster and better than they would otherwise. Even if people aren’t collaborating or competing, the mere fact that others are present changes behavior. 

Interestingly though, other studies have found the opposite. That people do worse when others are present. If the task was easy, or something participants had done many times before, spectators would facilitate performance. But if the task was difficult, or involved learning something new, an audience would inhibit performance. 

Conclusion: Putting Social Influence to Work

Social influence has a huge impact on behavior, and by understanding how it works, we can harness its power. We can avoid its downsides and take advantage of its benefits. We can maintain our individuality and avoid being swept up in the crowd. By understanding when social influence is beneficial, we can decide when to resist influence and when to embrace it. Understanding these often-invisible influences can make us all better off. 

Interested in reading the entire book? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2rNPVfT

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Managing the Millennials

I just finished reading “Managing the Millennials” by Chip Espinoza, Mike Ukleja, & Craig Rusch. In this book the authors identify some of the unique characteristics of this generation, which will soon be the largest in the country, and outline nine specific keys to effectively managing and leading this fascinating generation. I found this book fascinating and I think you will too! Here’s a synopsis taken right from the book, which I found very insightful and very helpful. I highly recommend it. Enjoy! 

Millennials have a different set of attitudes, values, and beliefs than do the men and women who preceded them into the workplace. You have a choice: You can villainize them and say, “They just aren’t the way we used to be.” Or you can tolerate them and say, “We have no choice. We have to let them work here.” Or you can engage them, and benefit from the contribution they will make. The ultimate question is this: How are we going to manage differently? 

We discovered that successful managers practiced a set of core competencies that are essential to effectively managing Millennial employees. The competencies fall within three behavioral categories: (1) adapting, (2) communicating, and (3) envisioning. 

Adapting is the willingness to accept that a Millennial employee does not have the same experiences, values, or frame of reference that you had when you were the same age. We refer to this as suspending the bias of your own experience. Adapting successfully may require adjustments to your management style. In some cases, it may require changes to your organization’s policies and procedures. The adapting competencies are “Flexing with the Autonomous,” “Incenting the Entitled,” and “Cultivating the Imaginative.” 

Communicating refers to the ability to make a connection at a relational level. It is the primary area where tension can escalate into emotional conflict. In the saddest cases, professional relationships deteriorated so much that we observed personal attacks. For the manager who is committed to succeeding despite relational tension, communicating is essential. It is about staying engaged even when both parties are frustrated. The communicating competencies are “Engaging the Self-Absorbed,” “Disarming the Defensive,” and “Self-Differentiating from the Abrasive.” 

Envisioning is about lifting the horizons among the unmotivated and myopic. It incorporates management practices that create both meaning and accountability for the Millennial employee. Without the Adapting and Communicating skills, it is highly unlikely that envisioning can take place. The envisioning competencies are “Broadening the Myopic,”“Directing the Unfocused,” and “Motivating the Indifferent”. 

Flexing with the Autonomous All things being equal, when there is a choice between getting your way and going their way, go their way. The idea that leaders and managers are going to change members of the current generation into what they want them to be is a strategy destined for failure. Only by flexing with the concerns of Millennials will today’s managerial leaders have opportunity to develop the trust and rapport required to lead them. 

Incenting the Entitled It can be energizing, if not fun, to pull Millennials into the design aspect of incentive programs. It is one way to know that you are incenting the right way. The entitlement attitude can be successfully addressed in three ways: (1) creating incentives that Millennials value, (2) clearly and thoroughly stating expected outcomes, and (3) constructively assessing developmental progress on a regular basis. 

Cultivating the Imaginative Millennials may not have a lot of experience, but sometimes that can work better for you when it comes to creativity. Realize that Millennials are going to get bored so be prepared with a new challenge. If you do not seriously want their input, do not ask for it. Let them know what you think about their ideas. Let them have fun. It serves an important function for allowing the imagination to work. 

Engaging the Self-Absorbed The more often that Millennial employees perceived their managers to be interested in them and in their personal development, the harder they worked for their managers. First them, then you! 

Disarming the Defensive Millennial employees’ defensiveness is tied to their desire to achieve. If you correct them in a condescending way, they will not hear you. They respond to managers who care enough to listen to them, attempt to understand them, and assure them of the relationship. Once you have had to confront, be sure to invite them to look forward to their growth by regularly recognizing their progress, providing them with support, giving them constructive feedback, and showing them that you want them to succeed. 

Self-Differentiating from the Abrasive Understanding your presence and its impact is good for managing anybody, but is exponentially important when managing and leading Millennials. A self-differentiated person can distinguish between the anxiety- filled situation and who they are as a person. This allows them to become a “non-anxious” presence in the midst of the storm. Without this awareness, it is easy to take an anxious situation and infuse more anxiety into it, thus making it worse. Self-differentiation—knowing where you end and others begin—is a key tool in managing others, but more importantly, in managing yourself. 

Broadening the Myopic The way to give Millennials the big picture is to engage in a learning process that is involving, presents complexity, and allows the learner to challenge institutional assumptions. By involving, we mean facilitation. The best managers intuitively know this and create orientations, provide training, and teach through learning activities. They see their role as key to their employees’ success. 

Directing the Unfocused Millennials welcome high direction. Clear and repetitive instruction is important. If you sense that your direct report is anxious or distant, it may be because of a lack of clarity or understanding of what is required from her or him. 

Motivating the Indifferent You have to help Millennials find a reason to care. They are the easiest of the workforce to motivate once you have helped them find meaning in what they do. You keep them motivated by letting them see how what they do matters. They thrive in an atmosphere of change—not because of change itself, but because they get to put their mark on the future. 

We hope our book helps managers feel more competent, better equipped, and more relaxed so that they can enjoy their Millennials. We believe the nine competencies will help create environments in which both managers and Millennials will thrive. Just as we wish success to each individual and organization we work with, we wish it for you and your organization. For the Millennial generation we have a special wish—make our organizations better. They are the future. They are our future. 

If you’re interested in reading the entire book? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2pTi1B2

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The Christian Leader

I just finished reading “The Christian Leader” by Bill Hull. It’s really good, and Bill talks about rehabilitating our addiction to secular leadership. He argues that we need to let go of some of our secular leadership models and look again at Jesus for a model of what a Christian leader should be. I found it encouraging and filled with good insights. Here’s a synopsis. Enjoy!

Most leadership literature talks about a “right kind” of leadership personality. You know the type: big-picture visionaries who serve others and get the best out of people. The question that has nagged me is this: Did Jesus fit the successful leadership profile? From everything I know about him, he didn’t, or does he intend or expect any of us to fit the profile. I am writing this book because I believe we need to change how the church views Christian leadership. I am calling for the rehabilitation of the Christian leader.

CHAPTER ONE: The Rehabilitation of Christian Leaders

Rehabilitation for Christian leaders begins with commitment to do more than acknowledge Jesus’ uniqueness; it is when they rearrange their lives around his practices. The challenge for the Christian leader is to find the same balance Jesus found. He had enough ambition to carry out his mission and enough humility to stay in submission to his Father. The determining factor is whether we model Jesus’ style of leadership. When those leaders say, “Follow me,” people will do so because they see leaders they want to follow.

CHAPTER TWO: What Makes a Leader Happy?

Jesus was happy when his followers experienced joy and meaning. Yes, we should do what we are gifted and called to do in the body of Christ, but we find the deepest level of satisfaction in ordinary service to others. The truth is that, while it is great to be well known, it is much better to be loved. A happy leader is based on a happy person. Who we are in the ordinary moments reveals whether Christ is the real thing in us. 

CHAPTER THREE: Making a Dent in the World

Jesus was most effective when he was himself in the ordinary circumstances of life. There seems to be confusion about how hard a leader ought to work, how much a leader should plan, and how thoroughly a leader should strategize. The answer is to learn about yourself and work in a way congruent with how God made you. For Christian leaders, knowing our motivation means seeking God in prayer and hearing from him at a deep level. When we hear God’s voice and do his will, Christlikeness is built in us.

CHAPTER FOUR: The Leader’s Worldview 

Jesus was effective in this world because he was guided by the reality of another world. He valued the Father’s agenda more than a hassle-free life. My favorite way to think of prayer is Jesus and me talking about what we are doing together. In this way I stay connected to the other world, the kingdom not of this world. This enables me to be a leader who is connected to my leader and to see the world the way he does.

CHAPTER FIVE: The Humble Leader

Jesus was able to serve because he had a clear understanding of whom he was dependent on and gladly acknowledged it. Humility does not come naturally to us. What’s natural is treating ourselves in the most generous way possible. Even Jesus’ disciples argued among themselves as to which one of them was the greatest. Despite our aversion to humility, there is no more important character trait for the Christian leader to develop.

CHAPTER SIX: Becoming Something Else

Jesus withheld nothing; he taught us that we must lay aside privilege and that we have great capacity to change. As leaders we must be willing to change in order to learn how to live for others. As I tell my students, if you want to become something you have never been before, you will need to do things you have never done before. Jesus is our model in this. When God became a person, he took the definitive action of emptying himself of rights and privileges in order to serve and live for others.

CHAPTER SEVEN: Leadership in Hard Times

Jesus taught us how to suffer under pressure, thrive in it, and teach others in the middle of it. Of all the leaders in America, the most important are pastors. They are the last group of cultural teachers that remain a force for good. They are not strapped with limitations of government; they still have the freedom to teach and act without restraint. It is time to step up and speak out, to commit their lives and people to a life of discipleship.

CHAPTER EIGHT: The Rewards of Leadership

Jesus was satisfied with the knowledge that he had faithfully completed his Father’s work and that he had not squandered anything his Father entrusted to him. On this side of the heavenly divide we often receive our recognition with pride. In heaven it will be with humility. The rewards God gives will survive the fire of his judgment and discerning eye. When our letters, trophies, and mementos are lost or destroyed, what God has called great and good will remain with us forever.

CHAPTER NINE: Leaders Are A Work in Progress

Jesus modeled for us that leadership is as much following, listening, and submitting as it is leading others. It calls for authentic living. It requires humility, service, vulnerability, sacrificial living, and the willingness to put up with a constant stream of abuse. The Christian leader is called to receive criticism in humility, to learn from it, to admit one’s faults, and to not seek revenge. It will involve pain and pleasure, and it will continue until we are finished with God’s work.

Interested in reading the entire book? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2qmflQM

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The Circle Maker

I just finished reading for the 4th time “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson, so this synopsis is one that comes easy for me, and is very refreshing. The Circle Maker, is a book on prayer. Mark challenges us to persist in praying bigger and more specific prayers. It's a book I think every leader/person should read. It's a practical book, filled with insights from someone who is a practitioner, not just a theorist. Enjoy!

Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don’t require divine intervention. But ask God to part the Red Sea or make the sun stand still or float an iron ax head, and God is moved to omnipotent action. 

Drawing prayer circles starts with identifying your Jericho. You’ve got to define the promises God wants to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for, and the dreams God wants you to pursue. Then you need to keep circling until God gives you what He wants and He wills. That’s the goal. Now here’s the problem: Most of us don’t get what we want simply because we don’t know what we want. We’ve never circled any of God’s promises. We never written down a list of life goals. We’ve never defined success for ourselves. And our dreams are nebulous as cumulus clouds. Instead of circles, we draw blanks. 

Our generation desperately needs to rediscover the difference between praying for and praying through. Praying through is all about consistency. It’s circling Jericho so many times it makes you dizzy. Like the story Jesus told about the persistent widow who drove the judge crazy with her relentless requests, praying through won’t take no for an answer. Circle makers know that it’s always too soon to quit praying because you never know when the wall is about to fall. You are always only one prayer away from a miracle. 

If you’re like me, you tend to use bigger words for bigger requests. You pull out your best vocabulary words for your biggest prayers, as if God’s answer depends on the correct combination of words. Trust me, it doesn’t matter how long or how loud you pray; it comes down to your answer to the question God asks. Is there a limit to my power? With God, it’s never an issue of “Can He?” It’s only a question of “Will He?” And while you don’t always know if He will, you know He can. And because you know He can, you can pray with holy confidence. 

Sometimes when you hear answers to prayer that others have experienced, it can be discouraging instead of encouraging because you wonder why God has answered their prayers but not yours. But let me remind you that these answers have rarely happened as quickly or easily as they sound. There is usually a backstory. So we are quick to celebrate the answer to prayer, but the answer probably didn’t come quickly. I’ve never met a person who didn’t experience some big disappointments on the way to his or her big dream. 

Sometimes the power of prayer is the power to carry on. It doesn’t always change your circumstances, but it gives you the strength to walk through them. When you pray through, the burden is taken off of your shoulders and put on the shoulders of Him who carried the cross to Calvary. 

What I’m about to share has the power to revolutionize the way you pray and the way you read the Bible. We often view prayer and Scripture reading as two distinct spiritual disciplines without much overlap, but what if they were meant to be hyperlinked? What if reading became a form of praying and praying became a form of reading? 

One of the primary reasons we don’t pray through is because we run out of things to say. Our lack of persistence is really a lack of conversation pieces. Like an awkward conversation, we don’t know what to say. Or like a conversation on its last leg, we run out of things to talk about. That’s when our prayers turn into a bunch of overused and misapplied clichés. So instead of praying hard about a big dream, we’re left with small talk. Our prayers are as meaningless as a conversation about the weather. The solution? Pray through the Bible. 

Prayer was never meant to be a monologue; it was meant to be a dialogue. Think of Scripture as God’s part of the script; prayer is our part. Scripture is God’s way of initiating a conversation; prayer is our response. The paradigm shift happens when you realize that the Bible wasn’t meant to be read through; the Bible was meant to be prayed through. And if you pray through it, you’ll never run out of things to talk about. 

The Bible is a promise book and a prayer book. And while reading is reactive, prayer is proactive. Reading is the way you get through the Bible; prayer is the way you get the Bible through you. As you pray, the Holy Spirit will quicken certain promises to your spirit. It’s very difficult to predict what and when and where and how, but over time, the promises of God will become your promises. Then you need to circle those promises, both figuratively and literally. I never read without a pen so that I can underline, asterisk, and circle. I literally circle the promises in my Bible. Then I do it figuratively by circling them in prayer. 

Praying hard is hard because you can’t just pray like it depends on God; you also have to work like it depends on you. You can’t just be willing to pray about it; you also have to be willing to do something about it. And this is where many of us get stuck spiritually. We’re willing to pray right up to the point of discomfort, but no further. We’re willing to pray right up to the point of inconvenience, but no further. Praying hard is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but that is when you know you’re getting close to a miracle! 

Until recently, I wanted God to answer every prayer ASAP. That is no longer my agenda. I don’t want easy answers or quick answers because I have a tendency to mishandle the blessings that come too easily or too quickly. I take the credit or take them for granted. So now I pray that it will take long enough and be hard enough for God to receive all of the glory. I’m not looking for the path of least resistance; I’m looking for the path of greatest glory. And that requires high-degree-of- difficulty prayers and lots of circling. 

Very rarely does our first prayer request hit the bull’s-eye of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. Most prayer requests have to be refined. One of the reasons we get frustrated in prayer is our ASAP approach. When our prayers aren’t answered as quickly or easily as we would like, we get tired of circling. Maybe we need to change our prayer approach from as soon as possible to as long as it takes. Keep circling! 

God collects our prayers. Each one is precious to Him. Each one is sealed by God. And you never know when He’s going to uncork an answer. 

Interested in reading the entire book? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2o6pBs6

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Captivology

I just finished reading “Captivology” by Ben Parr. In Captivology, award-winning journalist, author, entrepreneur and investor Ben Parr (Forbes 30 Under 30) presents a new understanding of attention -- how it works, why it matters, and how we leverage psychological triggers to draw and retain attention for our passions, projects, and ideas. This book is both insightful and practical, and will change how you assign jobs to your kids or staff, craft a multi-million dollar ad campaign, deliver your next presentation, attract users to your product, or convince the world to support your cause. I really enjoyed it. Here’s a synopsis taken right from the book. Enjoy! 

A Bonfire of Attention

Captivology is an exploration of how attention works, focused on the triggers that can attract the attention of whatever audience you are targeting, in any industry or situation. It’s about using science and practical technologies to create a bonfire of attention for your message, cause, product, or idea. 

The Three Stages of Attention

To build a bonfire of attention for your message, you have to capture your audience’s immediate attention, to mesmerize their short attention, and finally to captivate their long attention. 

Automaticity Trigger

The Automaticity Trigger is our unconscious tendency to shift our attention toward the sights, sounds, and other sensory cues important to our safety and survival. We will pay attention to a lion before an antelope. We will pay attention to a gunshot over the chirps of robins. And we will usually look at red before blue, especially if romance or sex is involved. The Automaticity Trigger sparks the first stage of attention—immediate attention. It’s the jolt that forces people to turn their attention to you. 

Framing Trigger

Where we direct our attention is a choice, and our frames of reference help us make these choices based on our experiences and previously acquired knowledge. The framing effect involves the way we perceive a piece of information based on the way it is presented to us. We often make different conclusions about the same information when the explanation is changed even slightly. Is a proposed law restricting gun ownership about “gun control” or “gun safety?” 

Disruption Trigger

Disruption is about changing the status quo. People make unconscious predictions about what they expect to occur in
a specific situation. When something violates these expectations, we are forced to pay greater attention to the violation and to assign a positive or negative connotation to that violation. Skillful use of the Disruption Trigger relies on surprise. 

Reward Trigger

Extrinsic rewards are tangible rewards for accomplishing something—things like money, food, trophies, and a perfect score on a test. Intrinsic rewards are intangible rewards that provide us with feelings of internal satisfaction and accomplishment. And just like rewards, the motivations we have to achieve those rewards can also be extrinsic or intrinsic (for example, reading a book because you will be quizzed in class, or reading a book because you desire to learn). If you’re looking to capture immediate and short attention, extrinsic rewards can be extremely effective. However, if you’re looking to build loyalty and long attention, then intrinsic rewards are far more helpful. 

Reputation Trigger

A reputation is the embodiment of a person, company, or idea’s credibility and worthiness. It is this credibility and worth that determine whether something is worth our time and long-term interest. That’s why reputations are important shortcuts for quickly determining who is worthy of our attention. When simply hearing your name makes people pay attention, you have become a master of attention. 

Mystery Trigger

Mystery simply refers to something that we don’t yet understand. We are especially captivated by a mystery that’s incomplete. The compulsion for completion, driven by our need for closure and our love of puzzle solving, makes us pay attention to a mystery or an enigma until it’s resolved, which makes it a powerful tool of attention. By creating the right amount of mystery, suspense, and uncertainty, you can activate your audience’s compulsion for completion and get them to pay attention to you and your ideas right until the very end. 

Acknowledgement Trigger

The Acknowledgement Trigger is the most powerful at capturing long-lasting attention. The premise is simple: we pay attention to the people and ideas that recognize, validate, and empathize with us in some way. It’s about harnessing our audience’s fundamental desire for acceptance by offering them recognition. When people recognize you for your work, it opens the possibility for you to demonstrate that you recognize them and acknowledge your gratitude that they paid attention to you. This mutual or reciprocal attention leads to capturing people’s sustained, long attention. 

The Influence of Attention

Attention is the conduit through which we experience our world. If you don’t have somebody’s attention, no amount of effort you put into your product, music, art, lesson plan, or project will matter. 

Interested in reading the entire book? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2noE8j0

 

 

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The Ideal Team Player

I just finished reading “The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni. He’s one of my favorites, so this was an easy read for me. In his classic book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni laid out a groundbreaking approach for tackling the perilous group behaviors that destroy teamwork. In this book he turns his focus to the individual, revealing the three indispensable virtues of an ideal team player. Here’s a snap-shot of the book, taken right from the book. Enjoy! 

The Three Virtues of an Ideal Team Player

For organizations seriously committed to making teamwork a cultural reality, I’m convinced that “the right people,” are the ones who have three virtues in common — humility, hunger, and people smarts.

HUMBLE — Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own.They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually.

HUNGRY — Hungry people are always looking for more. More things to do. More to learn. More responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.

SMART — In the context of a team, smart simply refers to a person’s common sense about people. Smart people are interpersonally appropriate and aware. They ask good questions, listen to what others are saying, and stay engaged in conversations intently.

Smart people have good judgment and intuition, and understand the impact of their words and actions. 

The History of the Model

Back in 1977, a group of colleagues and I started our management consulting firm, The Table Group. We asked ourselves the question, Could a person fully practice the five behaviors at the heart of teamwork if he or she didn’t buy into the idea of being humble, hungry, and smart? The answer was a resounding no.

The Ideal Team Player Model

When team members are adequately strong in these three areas, they enable teamwork and overcome the five dysfunctions of a team. That means they’ll be more likely to be vulnerable and build trust, engage in productive but uncomfortable conflict with team members, commit to group decisions even if they initially disagree, hold their peers accountable when they see performance gaps that can be addressed, and put the results of the team ahead of their own needs.

Those who don’t have all three virtues are going to require significantly more time, attention, and patience from their managers.

Application #1: HIRING

The most reliable way to ensure that teamwork takes hold in an organization would be to hire only ideal team players. The most important part of interviewing for team players is simply knowing which answers and behaviors are the best indicators of humility, hunger and people smarts and then making the interviews as revealing as possible.

Application #2: Assessing Current Employees

Another extremely important application of the ideal team player model is the assessment or evaluation of current employees. There are three outcomes—confirm the employee is ideal, help the employee improve, or decide to move the employee out.

Application #3: Developing Employees Who Lack One or More Virtue.

The most important part of the development process, and the part that is so often missing, is the leader’s commitment to constantly “reminding” an employee if she is not yet doing what is needed. Without this, improvement will not occur. Why don’t most managers do it? Because it’s uncomfortable. No one likes telling a person for the fifth week in a row that she still isn’t working hard enough or isn’t dealing with colleagues in a socially appropriate way. It’s unpleasant and it’s awkward, and yet, it’s what a manager must do.

Application#4: Embedding the Model into an Organization’s Culture

I believe that teamwork is not a virtue, but rather a choice. It’s a strategic decision and an intentional one, which means that it’s not for everyone. Leaders who believe teamwork is important and expect their people to be humble, hungry, and smart should come right out and say so. Leaders should be constantly on the lookout for any displays of those virtues and hold them up as examples for everyone to see. Whenever you see a behavior that violates one of the values, take the time to let the violator know that his behavior is out of line.

Connecting the Ideal Team Player Model with Five Dysfunctions of a Team

When team members improve their abilities to be humble, hungry, or smart, they’ll be able to make more progress in overcoming the five dysfunctions on a regular basis.

A Final Thought—Beyond Work Teams

Over the past twenty years, it has become clear to me that a humble, hungry, and smart spouse, parent, friend, or neighbor is going to be a more effective, inspiring, and attractive person—one that draws others to them and serves others better. 

Interested in reading the entire book? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2nHkrGi

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3 Overlooked Leadership Roles In The Church

3 Overlooked Leadership Roles

It was while leading South Melbourne Restoration Community, an inner city church committed to reaching the marginalized people of our city, that I realized something was fundamentally wrong.

We were a ragtag band of ex-druggies with a church situated in a profoundly postmodern and tribalized part of the city. The model of church we had inherited was clearly not cutting it. Scarcely anything in my training for ministry had prepared me to for this.

In this post-Christian context, we needed to be more than ministers running a church. We needed a different type of leadership.

We morphed from an institutional church into a missional one. In the years that followed, we planted five more churches among the homosexuals, prostitutes, street kids, the rave scene, blue-collar workers, Jewish people, and Gen-Xers. It was exciting, but we felt totally inadequate to the task. It forced us to a broader understanding of the church's mission, and a better grasp of what leadership involved.

While at South, I was invited to lead a revitalization movement within my denomination—the fourth largest Protestant denomination in Australia. Seeing things from this higher altitude, I recognized that South was not the only church facing a crisis. My entire denomination needed to shift toward a missional culture if it was to grow and survive. But how?

We needed a new type of leadership, one with the courage to question the status quo, to dream of new possibilities, and to innovate new ways of being the people of God in a post-Christian culture. We needed missionaries to the West, but our seminaries were not producing them. If we take the five categories of church leadership from Ephesians 4:11, they were training leaders to be teachers and pastors for established congregations, but where were the evangelists, the prophets, and the apostles to lead the mission of the gospel into the world?

Missional churches require all Five aspects of ministry Leadership on the team.

Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers—I refer to these together as APEST. But when I looked at my church and most others, I saw congregations dominated by leaders who were shepherds and teachers. What happened to the other leadership types?

Where have all the APEs gone?

During Christendom, the centuries when Christianity dominated the culture, the church acquired a fundamentally non-missional posture. Mission beyond the walls of the institution was downplayed because every citizen was deemed at least a nominal Christian already. What was needed were pastoral and teaching ministries to care for and instruct the congregation, and to draw underdeveloped Christians back into the church on Sunday.

So, these two functions were eventually instituted as the leadership offices in the church, and the other three roles listed in Ephesians 4 (apostles, prophets, and evangelists) faded away as largely unnecessary. The system of church leadership we inherited from Christendom heavily favors maintenance and pastoral care, thus neglecting the church's larger mission and ministry.

Consequently the A, P, and E leadership functions were marginalized from the church's leadership structure.

In my years of ministry, I've seen how many churches sideline people with more APE type gifts. Of course, this is not to say that apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic ministries have totally disappeared. Many within the church have managed to fill these roles without necessarily being tagged "apostles" or "prophets," but, by and large, these lacked formal recognition, and they have tended to be exercised outside the context of the local church.

For example, the work of St. Patrick and the Celtic movement, that of John Wesley, William Booth, and many others is clearly of a different type than that of a shepherd-teacher. And it is not hard to see how the exiling of apostles, prophets, and evangelists gave rise to the development of para-church agencies and missionary orders, each with a somewhat atomized ministry focus.

The Navigators, for instance, arose out of a need to evangelize and disciple people outside of the church structures because the church was neither effective nor interested. Sojourners emerged to represent the social justice concerns that the church was largely ignoring, as did World Vision, the aid and development agency.

This divorce of APE from ST has been disastrous for the local church and has damaged the cause of Christ and his mission. In my opinion, this contraction of fivefold to twofold ministry is one of the main factors in the decline of evangelical Christianity in the West. If we want a vibrant missional church, we simply have to have a missional leadership structure with all five functions engaged. It's that simple!

We need more than a pastor and/or teacher leading a congregation. A missional church requires pioneering, innovative, organizationally adaptive, and externally focused leadership, and this means a five-fold understanding of ministry leadership. Let me describe each of the APEST roles, the core task of each, and the impact when one dominates or works in isolation from the others.

APOSTLES extend the gospel. As the "sent ones," they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally. Yes, if you focus solely on initiating new ideas and rapid expansion, you can leave people and organizations wounded. The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for rather than simply used.

PROPHETS know God's will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They insist that the community obey what God has commanded. They question the status quo. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can become belligerent activists or, paradoxically, disengage from the imperfection of reality and become other-worldly.

EVANGELISTS recruit. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God's redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.

SHEPHERDS nurture and protect. Caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God's flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples. Shepherds can value stability to the detriment of the mission. They may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves.

TEACHERS understand and explain. Communicators of God's truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God's will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ's word, and constructing a transferable doctrine. Without the input of the other functions, teachers can fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism. They may fail to see the personal or missional aspects of the church's ministry.

When all five of these functions are present, the church operates at peak performance. To use Paul's terms, it "grows," "matures," "builds itself up," and "reaches unity in the faith.”

Sometimes it is easier for people to see the wisdom of this fivefold structure when it isn't presented in biblical language. If we apply a sociological approach to the differing ministry styles, we discover that Paul's missional ecclesiology is confirmed by the best current thinking in leadership theory and practice.

In most organizational systems, there is acknowledgement of the importance of these leadership functions:

The entrepreneur: Innovator and cultural architect who initiates a new product, or service, and develops the organization.

The questioner: Provocateur who probes awareness and fosters questioning of current programming leading to organizational learning.

The communicator: Recruiter to the organization who markets the idea or product and gains loyalty to a brand or cause.

The humanizer: People-oriented motivator who fosters a healthy relational environment through the management of meaning.

The philosopher: Systems-thinker who is able to clearly articulate the organizational ideology in a way as to advance corporate learning.

Various leadership experts use different terms for these categories, but they would all recognize the vital contributions these different types of leaders bring to an organization. Leadership theory says that the conflicting agendas and motivations of these five kinds of leaders will tend to pull them in different directions. But if these five could be properly developed, focused, and coordinated, together they would create a very potent leadership team.

Imagine a leadership system in any setting (corporate, governmental, non-profit, educational, etc.) where the entrepreneurial innovator interacts dynamically with the disturber of the status quo. Imagine that both are in active dialogue and relationship with the passionate communicator/recruiter, the infectious person who carries the message beyond organizational borders and sells the idea/s or product/s. And these in turn are in constant engagement with the emotionally intelligent humanizer (HR) and the philosopher-leader who is able to articulate core ideas and pass them on. Clearly the combination of these different leadership styles is greater than the sum of its parts.

Because of our search for a more distinctly missional leadership model at South Melbourne Restoration Community, we decided about eight years ago to implement the APEST model at our church.

The first step was restructuring the leadership so we could ensure that all five ministries were present on the team. Each member of the team would represent one aspect of the fivefold model and be responsible for heading up a team related to that area of ministry.

We appointed an apostolic leader to oversee the team focusing on the translocal, missional, strategic, and experimental issues facing the church.

The prophetic leader initiated a team focused on listening to God, discerning his will for us, being aware of social justice issues we could address, and questioning the status quo of an increasingly middle class church.

The evangelist among us developed a team to oversee and develop outreach.

The shepherd's team strengthened community, cell-groups, worship, counseling, and generally enhanced the relational capacity of the church.

The teaching team's task was to create contexts for learning and develop the love of wisdom and understanding through Bible studies and theological discussion groups.

Our structure went from a traditional Christendom hierarchy with a shepherd/teacher at the top, to a team structure with all five ministry functions playing a vital role.

Yes, we can all just get along!

Admittedly, our working within this APEST structure did create significant debate at times. This is what makes having a traditional hierarchy attractive—one person makes the final decisions. But even the debates on our leadership team were thoroughly invigorating and led directly to the church's adopting a more aggressive missional posture.

The key was learning to manage the dynamic in order to draw upon the increased energy of the team and not be torn apart by opposing opinions. We adopted the approach advocated by Richard Pascale in his book, Managing from the Edge.

Pascale suggests two polarities that, if managed well, create synergy on the leadership team. He calls them "fit—split" and "contend—transcend." The term "fit" refers to that which binds an organization together. It is the group's common ethos and purpose. "Split" happens when we intentionally allow for diversity of expression and thought on the team.

"Contend" is the permission, even encouragement, given by leadership to disagree, debate, and dialogue around core tasks. "Transcend" is the collective agreement everyone makes to overcome disagreement in order to find new solutions.

When facing any ministry issue, we begin by committing ourselves to the common mission of the group. We covenant to do whatever it takes to see our mission fulfilled. But this kind of interpersonal commitment requires a bond that goes beyond the professional relationships that exist on many church staffs.

We lived out our unity in Christ by living together, struggling together, worshiping together, praying together, and facing our problems together. It was the healthy trust developed on the team (fit) that allowed divergent opinions (split) to be expressed without fear of offending one another. It was the strong sense of commitment to one another that gave each member permission to operate out of his or her own ministry biases, and then unapologetically represent their perspectives on the issue at hand.

The apostle would press the need to galvanize the community around mission and extension. The prophet would challenge just about everything and ask probing questions about how God fit into our grand schemes. The evangelist would always emphasize the need to bring people to faith and expand the reach of the gospel. The shepherd inevitably expressed concerns about how the community could remain healthy amid change. And the teacher tried to discern the validity of any new idea from Scripture and history.

The presence of these divergent interests inevitably caused debates and arguments (contend). But we did not try to resolve disagreement too quickly—much to the discomfort of the shepherd on the team. In my experience, the greatest tension usually arose between the apostle (with the missional drive) and the shepherd (with the community health impulse), but we almost always managed to overcome conflict through dialogue and prayer (transcend).

Remember, we were committed to stay with the problem until we had assessed all options and had, through dialogue and debate, arrived at the best solution. As a result, the outcomes we reached were more full-orbed, faithful to God, sensitive to the needs of not-yet-believers, sustainable, mature, and theologically well grounded.

One of the techniques we used to help our team structure function is modeled from an idea developed by creative guru Edward DeBono.

Put on your APEST hats"Thinking Hats" is a game in which participants adopt one another's perspectives in order to solve problems. DeBono's six hats represent six different modes of thinking. Participants agree to switch hats for a period of time in order to assume an approach to a problem other than the one they are naturally inclined toward.

The key is committing to think only in accord with the hat you are wearing. The goal is for each player to achieve a broader perspective.

We adapted DeBono's method to the APEST typology. With the "A" hat on, everyone is forced to think apostolically. When the "P" hat is on, the whole group steps into the prophetic perspective, and so forth. This practice trains everyone to think more holistically on any given subject, and it also teaches the team to value one another's perspective.

I have been in local, national, and "glocal" ministry for over 18 years, and I have had many successful leaders from outside the church tell me about their desire to be in "the ministry." But when they pursued this calling, they were turned away from the church because they didn't possess the right skills or gifts, meaning, they were not shepherds or teachers. Many of these gifted people have gone on to make a significant impact (and in many cases, a lot of money) in other domains, but it's hard to calculate the loss this has meant to the church and its mission.

It is time for the church to recognize the importance of welcoming leaders with all five of the Ephesians 4 functions into the church. Every significant missional movement has in some way incorporated the five functions into its system.When apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers are working together, a wonderful missional ecology is created. Not only is this a more biblically faithful model, it also provides a theologically rich, organically consistent, and organizationally comprehensive framework to help the church become more missionally effective and culturally agile. The time has come for the church in the West to rediscover the lost potential of biblical leadership that has been dormant for too long.

Author - Allen Hirsch

Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.

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Grief And Loss

My wife (Angel Hirsch) recently faced the loss of her mother, and I’m sharing her recent writing on the topic. I pray it will help those who may be facing similar loss, and who may be going the through the grief process. She writes…..

To grieve is to pay ransom to love."  Edwin Shneidman

Grief and grieving are no easy tasks. I understand firsthand, as one acquainted with loss and death. Loss and death visit us all in one form or another. Where the loss is, grief is close by. I have learned the best way to handle grief is to deal with grief.

I have a lot of questions about grief and its process. Here are a few; Is there any value or virtue that can be found in the suffering that accompanies grief? Why is it that the grieving has to feel so bad for so long? What good does it do? Is it necessary to give in to grief and let it take us to the depths of despair?  Does it not make more sense to spend our time in more positive, less disturbing pursuits?”

Though I don't have all my questions answered, in my grief journey, I had a friend well acquainted with pain and grieving say to me, “Grief is not a problem to be solved; it is a process, a natural process.” That piece of wisdom from my friend initially stung. As it sank in, it became like a healing balm; grief is only avoidable if one has no attachments. That thought lead me to the question, ”what kind of a life would an attachment-less life be?” I conclude, though the pain of death and loss may be agonizing, I would not trade the love from and for my loved one or lost dreams for freedom from the pain that proceeds. 

I understand that grief is a reasonable emotional reaction to loss. There are no limits, boundaries, or rules regarding loss or what could be considered a loss. There are various forms of significant losses that can trigger grief responses in addition to death, such as the end of a relationship, a move to a new community, an anticipated opportunity or life goal that is no longer a possibility, or the death of a pet or someone significant to us is diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness.

Grief involves emotional upset that varies by individual and by loss. Grief may be especially burdensome in response to a loss that was traumatic, sudden, or severe. No matter the loss, it is necessary to grieve, even biblical. Experiencing grief is individual; no two people are likely to experience grief in the same way.

Although grief of some sort is inevitable, wearisome, time-consuming, and often unaccommodating, in all truth, it does result in good. Ultimately, one is better off for having walked through the grief, as this is the route toward healing. We all grieve and need guidance, direction, and strategies to help us cope with grief. It may take more time, love, and patience than we ever imagined, however, when we grieve we heal.

“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”  Thomas Merton

Angelia (Angel) Hirsch

MA LPC & LC

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