Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture

A few weeks ago I had a plane ride coming up, so I looked through my stack of books trying to figure out what to read. Nothing jumped out at me until I got to Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray. I’m not sure why it jumped out at me. I don’t feel burned out. Katie and I live at a sane pace and do our best to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things.

But one of the things I’m learning about reading as I get older is that I am reading less and less to find out something new or learn something I didn’t already know. I’m reading more and more to remind myself of truths I already know and stay on track with the decisions I’ve made.

That’s what I found most helpful about Reset.

Also very helpful was the layout of the book, how he moved from one topic to the next and built on them in a cohesive way. It really feels like a course you are walking through with a counselor, which it is. The reality check portion on pages 24 – 31 is worth the price of the book. He lays out a dashboard for your life, how to know if you are burning out, past burnout, how tired you are and where your tiredness and burnout are coming from.

This was incredibly helpful and something I’m going to use as a dashboard in my life, leadership, family and heart.

What Murray does that sets this book apart is, before getting to any practical tips, he lays out the theology of why what he is talking about matters. This is crucial, especially on the chapter about medication and the chapter about food and your body. Very few Christians have a theological way of looking at these topics, and I think it is hurting many of them.

Here are a few other things that jumped out to me:

  • Every problem I see in every person I know is a problem of moving too fast for too long in too many aspects of life. -Brady Boyd
  • Few things are as theological as sleep. Show me your sleep pattern and I’ll show you your theology, because we all preach a sermon in and by our sleep.
  • Contentment is a wonderful cure for insomnia.
  • Whatever we focus our hearts on first thing in the morning will shape our entire day. -Tony Reinke

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially if you are a leader and/or over 30.


Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There

Predictable success is something every pastor or leader wants. Is it possible? Sustainable? Can anyone or any church do it? According to Les McKeown in Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There, the answer is yes.

But first, what is it?

Any organization (or church) that is in Predictable Success exhibits five main characteristics that, taken together, distinguish it from organizations at other stages in the growth cycle:

  1. Decision making. The ability to readily make and consistently implement decisions.
  2. Goal setting. The ability to readily set and consistently achieve goals.
  3. Alignment. Structure, process and people are in harmony.
  4. Accountability. Employees become self-accountable, in addition to being externally accountable to others.
  5. Ownership. Employees take personal responsibility for their actions and outcomes.

Reading through this book, I saw so many things from the church I lead, but I also found a roadmap to move it into a healthier growth cycle.

Here are a few other things I highlighted that might be helpful for you and your church:

  • Making the right decisions seems easy, but implementing decisions and making them stick is incredibly difficult.
  • In Predictable Success you know why you are successful, and you can use that information to sustain growth in the long term.
  • In Predictable Success the greater focus is on the execution of that decision once it is made.
  • The single most powerful characteristic of the Predictable Success organization is the existence of a culture of self-accountability.
  • A key identifier of an organization in Predictable Success: Management refuses to be distracted unnecessarily, crisis mode is rarely invoked and the organization restabilizes after problem solving, with minimal drama.
  • There are two stages to achieving results in business: First, making the right decisions to begin with, and second, implementing those decisions effectively.
  • Too many systems and processes in an organization cause it to slow down and lose its flexibility and lead it to look inward rather than outward.
  • The concept of ownership and self-accountability is the single most important factor contributing to Predictable Success.
  • In Predictable Success, employees take responsibility for outcomes.

The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it

This one is a book I will re-read. The ideas in this book are so powerful. We often underestimate the power others can have on us and the power we can have on other people.

Cloud walks through what healthy relationships and healthy attachment looks like, what prevents you from it, and how some relationships you have you need to end or put boundaries around.

He also helps you to see if you are creating unhealthy relationships in your world. Bill Hybels said at this year’s leadership summit that this was the best book he read all year.

Generational IQ: Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future is Bright

If you listen to experts and statisticians, you will hear someone say, “The church is dying. Millenials aren’t going to church.” Are churches dying? Some are. Are millenials going to church? Some are.

This book was helpful on two levels. One, as a pastor, this is a great book to understand how different people in your church relate to each other and to God. Depending on when someone was born has an enormous influence on how they relate to God, how they worship, and how they view the Bible and community.

Two, as a parent it is easy to think my child will connect to God the way that I do. Shaw walks through multiple ways for parents to understand why their child is so different from them when it comes to spirituality.

If you have a millenial child or want to reach millenials, this is an incredibly helpful book.

How to Simplify Your Life

I just finished reading Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels, and it is a really helpful book.

What’s it about?

When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do.

Key Takeaway

The chapter on friendships was incredibly helpful to me personally. As our world becomes more transient, it seems like people are moving in and out of my family on a regular basis. Whether they finish school, get a job in a new city, move back to where their family lives or get deployed, people move and relationships change. This is hard and painful. I really appreciated the way he talked about seasonal friends (those who will be in our lives for a season) and lifelong friends. We want lifelong friends but will have more seasonal friends, and that’s okay, but we need to know how to walk through it.

Some things that stood out

  • Simplified living is about more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lesser opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created. It’s a lifestyle that allows us, when our heads hit the pillow at night, to reflect with gratitude that our day was well invested and the varied responsibilities of our lives are in order.
  • What sorts of things fill your bucket? What refuels you? What activities or engagements restore your energy levels? What do you need to do to start pouring new streams of replenishment into your badly depleted life? What relationships inspire you? What do you read that elevates your perspective? What in your life is actually a bucket-filler for you?
  • Read any study on the topic of what adds energy and vitality to your life, and you’ll find that most experts agree: Exercise and proper rest patterns give about a 20 percent energy increase in an average day, average week, average month.
  • You are the boss of your schedule. It’s your responsibility to keep command of your calendar—and you must in order to simplify your life.
  • Your calendar is more than merely an organizer for what needs to get done; it’s the primary tool for helping you become who you want to become.
  • My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.

9 Lessons from “Teams that Thrive”

Our staff at Revolution Church recently worked through Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership, and it completely changed how we operate as a church. Granted it wasn’t just this one book, but a combination of the timing in our church and this book.

Here are 9 lessons leaders can learn from Teams That Thrive:

1. Andy Stanley said, “If you don’t know why it’s working, when it’s working, you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.” While not a learning from the authors, it is still crucial for churches and their teams. Many churches don’t know what is and isn’t working. They have ideas, feelings, thoughts, premonitions, gut feelings. But what is actually working? Do you have data for that? Do you know why something did or did not I aII work?

2. The best teams make decisions as a group. The best teams both make decisions and “own” the implementation. Many teams operate as a place for the lead pastor to share ideas and get “buy in” because no one wants to contradict him and then move forward. Or decisions are made that are passed down by some hidden board, and then no one owns it. A team should be a place of robust discussion that covers every possible scenario, and then everyone owns the final product.

3. For good or bad, leadership teams shape the culture, direct the mission, establish the vision and model the values of your church. Put another way: Great leadership teams lead great churches, and mediocre leadership teams lead mediocre churches. This is just a simple truth. The healthier the church, the greater the teams. There is no shortcut to this and no way around it.

4. When we asked team members what made their team great, the responses almost always pointed to their communication practices. Churches are notoriously bad at communication. Silos exist, people do their own thing. The reason is simple: a lot has to get done, and communicating takes time. It can slow things down, or you might be told not to do something.

5. Many successful lead pastors make poor team leaders. They are gifted to preach, cast vision and think strategically, but they are poorly equipped to lead teams. For our church, I lead the elder team and oversee the whole staff team, but I don’t lead our lead team meetings. Our executive pastor leads most of the meetings that I am in. Why? He’s better at it.

6. Focus on purpose, the invisible leader of your team. This was easily one of the biggest a-ha moments in the book. What is the purpose of the team? Why is this team meeting? If you can’t answer these questions, you are wasting time.

7. Top teams were smaller than underperforming teams. The lead team I’m on right now is the smallest team I’ve ever been on. I think back to the other teams I was on, and they had 7 – 10 people on them. Not everyone got heard, stuff was missed and we wasted a lot of time. Smaller simply is better.

8. Top teams do more decision making and leadership coordinating. While this is the purpose of the team at the top, it determines who should be on it. Most churches draw a circle at the top of the org chart and put the people in that circle on the leadership team. To lead a church, you need to be able to see the whole field, not just your area. You need to be able to make strong decisions, and not everyone is good at that. You need to be able to handle details, and again, not everyone is good at that. This goes along with #5 and who should lead which teams, which meetings, etc. It isn’t always the lead pastor.

9. Your leadership team is the primary determinant of the health, effectiveness and impact of your church. This is a leadership truth that every leader knows but does not want to admit when faced with an unhealthy church or a church that is not meeting its fullest potential.

Our church has gone through quite the transition in the last year because of this book and others. While at times it has been slow, it has been hard and painful for our team (and me as I’ve had to let go of quite a bit), it has made a stronger, healthier team and allowed leaders to lead.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you are a pastor or lead something. This is the best book on teams in a church setting.

The Entrepreneur (Church Planter) Roller Coaster

Recently, I’ve been reading some great books written by entrepreneur’s. Mostly because the application to church planters is uncanny. A few of my favorites are The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Chess not Checkers, The Everything Store, Creativity Inc.and How Google WorksIf you are a pastor or a church planter, you are an entrepreneur and the wisdom in these books are incredibly helpful to those tasks.

Even though most pastors don’t believe that.

Enter Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine and his latest book The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the RideDarren share some of his best insights, but also many from his interviews with the world’s top CEO’s and leaders for his magazine. Simply fascinating. The insights were incredible. I felt like I kept highlighting parts of the book!

Here are a few that jumped out (if you are a pastor or planter, simply insert church/church planter when it says business and you’ll see the wisdom):

  • The first and most important factor in building a successful business is that you have to love it.
  • The mistake people make is that they judge one person’s “front of stage” persona with their “back of stage” reality.
  • Work is gonna suck 95% of the time. But that other 5% is freaking awesome!
  • After years of studying the success of the world’s leading achievers across a spectrum of disparate fields, my conclusion time and time again has been that those who are at the top of their game are really just people who have found something to love.
  • When you step outside the status quo, you become a giant mirror for those who stay, reflecting back their cowardice.
  • The higher you climb on the ladder of success, the more people will dislike you. Climb high enough, and people might even hate you.
  • We spend most of our lives pursuing success, but I’m not sure we stop often enough and ask ourselves: What does success mean to me?
  • The person who knows how to get, keep, and cultivate a customer gets paid the most. Period.
  • One of the fastest (and most common) ways to derail your roller coaster car and send it to a fiery death is to hire and keep the wrong people.
  • Your people are your most important recruiting tool.
  • Great leaders know that businesses are nothing but a group of people brought together to accomplish a mission.
  • You cannot shape or create the culture. The culture of an organization is not a whiteboard exercise done with executives sitting around a conference table spit-balling ideas. The culture of an organization evolves around the people who make up the company. The culture is the personality and character expression of the people in it. The only way to shape that culture is to focus on hiring people with the attributes you want your culture to have.
  • Great people want to work with great people. It’s self-perpetuating. It’s the number one thing people are looking for.
  • Great people want to be a part of something great.
  • People don’t go as fast as they can. They don’t work as hard as they can either. They aren’t as disciplined as possible. They aren’t as positive-minded or enthusiastic as they can be. They’re only as fast and disciplined and positive as you are.
  • The leader’s responsibility is to draw out the talent, drive, and capability of the people on your team. Your job as a leader is to grow your people.
  • Activity is not productivity.
  • The greatest threat to your productivity is keeping yourself from getting awash in low-value activities.
  • Any time you feel overwhelmed, there’s a good chance the culprit is a lack of clear priorities.

As I said, if you are a leader, this is a great book to have on your summer reading list.

Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game

Mark Miller’s new book Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game is easily the best book to read if you are a pastor that is facing a growth plateau, can’t break through the next growth barrier or find yourself breaking through say, 500 people but always drop back down.

I read this book and so many things about my leadership and the church I lead became so obvious to me I was annoyed I didn’t see it.

For instance, it helped me see that as Revolution is on its way to becoming a church of 500, I and our team act like and lead like we are still a church of 200.

Many churches do this without knowing it and the reason as Miller points out is, the game has changed.

I love the picture of this book. Chess and checkers use the same board, but have different pieces and different rules. The game board flips but no one seems to notice.

Here’s how Miller describes it:

Most small businesses can be successful with a checkers mindset. That’s actually the game you play when an organization is in start-up mode. The leader does virtually everything in the beginning. That’s checkers. Then, if you grow, you begin to add staff. Many leaders see these additional people as interchangeable pieces, nothing more than hired hands, no need for specialists. Each piece is capable of the same limited moves. That’s checkers. In the beginning the game is simple. That’s checkers. You react, you make decisions, the pace is frenetic—you’re playing checkers. And, it works … for a while. “You can win in business by playing checkers until someone sneaks in one night after you’ve closed for the day and flips the board. The game changes, and you don’t even know it.

So how do you know if the game has switched? Here are a few:

  1. You always find yourself responding to something. Your leadership and job become reactive instead of proactive.
  2. You don’t feel like you have time to do your job.
  3. Here’s another question to help reveal which game you’re playing: Have you asked your employees to think deeply about the business? Have you asked them to prevent problems and solve the ones that do surface?
  4. If you, and the others on your leadership team, probably like coming to the rescue. You think that is your job. You like checkers. The pace and the excitement can be exhilarating. Your employees are following your lead. They are playing checkers because you are.
  5. Problems that reoccur; problems that should have been anticipated and avoided, problems that catch us totally by surprise and we should have seen coming, and problems that are created by lack of focus or a failure to execute.

This is a book that every time we get close to a growth barrier, I am returning too. Get it today.

7 Leadership Lessons from Extreme Adventurers

What can leaders learn from athletes and adventurers that push themselves to the limit and beyond? Who climb the highest peaks on the planet and ski to the furthest reaches of the globe?

A lot.

Enter Alison Levine and her book On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership.

Here are a few things I think pastors can learn from extreme adventurers:

1. Waiting on the fixed lines for too long can be dangerous and can jeopardize a summit bid. While climbing, you can run into traffic jams of other climbers and get stuck. Frostbite, loss of oxygen, tiredness, running out of food and water while you wait. All of these things can be a disaster while waiting. Churches often find themselves waiting to make a decision and miss an opportunity. Too many committees, teams, voices, people who need to say “yes” can all lead to a missed opportunity. While maybe not physical death like on Everest, it can lead to the death of your church.

2. People often forget that the top is only the halfway point. The majority of deaths on big peaks occur after people have reached the summit, because they have used every ounce of energy they have to get to the top and have nothing left to get themselves back down. It is easy for churches and leaders to run hard through a season (say Christmas, Easter or the fall kick-0ff) and then immediately roll into the next season without catching their breath. You need to make sure you either break, slow down or leave something in the tank for the next season. It was mind blowing to me when I read this part of the book, that more people die on the way down because they pour everything into getting there.

3. A great fallacy regarding progress is that it is defined by constant forward motion in the same direction. We assume that any steps in the opposite direction take us further from our goal. Not true, sometimes we have to go backward in order to make progress. Leaders can get impatient and want to push through when their followers, churches or cultures are not ready to move forward. Sometimes, what seems like a waste of time or slowing down can actually be a good thing.

4. On the subject of recruiting talent: “Screen for aptitude, then hire for attitude.” Churches are horrible when it comes to hiring. The turnover of pastors is astounding, volunteers quit and burnout, people serve in the wrong roles. People take jobs at churches they don’t like, working for pastors they can’t stand. Building teams is something many pastors can do better at, because the team determines where the church ends up.

5. Leaders should never expect the people on their teams to take any risks that they would not be willing to take themselves. This is a basic leadership principle, but one that many forget. Leaders set the pace. They set what is okay, what is acceptable and what is not. Leaders should not have different rules. While there are some benefits and things that come with seniority, being the boss as opposed to being an intern, everyone pulls the weight.

6. People are more willing to risk their lives and well-being for people they know. Pastors struggle with friendships and building strong teams, but your effectiveness as a leader will come from how well you do both of these things. As a leader, your best friends don’t have to be the staff you work with, but you should spend time with them. You should know them and they should know you.

7. Landscapes can change in an instant. In extreme adventures like climbing Mt. Everest, this is incredibly true. The same is true for a church. A culture can change, you can get thrown out of the place you meet in, you can lose a number of members, the economy can tank and giving goes down. You can lose a staff member on short notice and in an instant, everything is different. While you don’t need solutions for every worst case scenario, you do need to be prepared for things changing without notice.

For more from her adventures, check out Alison’s Ted Talk below.

How to Set Yourself Apart

Denise Brosseau new book Ready to Be a Thought Leader?: How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success was a book I wasn’t sure I would like or find relevant, but I had a few guys recommend it to me. I’m so glad I read it. This book is for anyone who wants to create a niche, standout in some area of life or business and I found it incredibly helpful as I think about writing and leadership.

  1. True thought leaders have expertise, passion, and a track record of changing the world. They become thought leaders when they rise above themselves by sharing their knowledge so that others can change the world, too. There are experts in every area of life, people that other leaders look to that are set apart by success, knowledge but also being able to make things simpler. They often figure things out others haven’t yet or put things in a way that everyone else says, “that’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that.”
  2. A thought leader is defined by her or his ability to galvanize others to think new thoughts, modify the way they have always done things, and embark on new behaviors, new paths, and new actions to transform the world. Thought leaders then create followings of their ideas. They become the person others talk about and say, “have you read so-and-so’s blog?” “Do you follow so-and-so on twitter?”
  3. Align your time, energy, and resources around one niche and you’ll open far more doors than if you focus in multiple unrelated arenas. This was one of my biggest takeaways as it pertains to my writing and speaking outside of Revolution. I’ve been too unfocused on that and need to narrow my focus. Really eye opening for me. 
  4. Great leaders invent the future they want. I don’t understand those who talk like there is nothing they can do about their future so all they can do is sit back and wait for it to happen, wait for someone to notice them or wait for someone to give them a free ride. That isn’t coming. If you want to do something, start doing it. I remember talking with someone who did not blog, wasn’t leading anything and they wanted to write bible study curriculum but they hoped someone would just sign them up to do that. Start doing what you want to be doing in 5 years. 

  5. Sheryl Sandberg, author of the bestseller Lean In and the COO of Facebook, argues, “Done is better than perfect.” It doesn’t have to be perfect, it needs to stop being put on hold though. 
  6. The best brand reputation for a thought leader is being knowable, likeable, and trustable, being someone who provides value to others. That last line is something I am zeroing in on in my leadership and writing. How can I be more helpful to someone else?

If you are looking to create a personal niche in writing or speaking or as an expert in something, this is a great book to pick up.