The Halfway Point of the Year & the Top 10 Posts of July

It’s the middle of summer.

In Tucson, where I live, the monsoon’s are in full swing and school is back in session.

The year is more than halfway over.

Hopefully you are closer to the goals you set at the start of the year.

If not, don’t fear.

The year isn’t over and it isn’t too late to hit restart and try again.

In case you missed them, here are the top 10 posts of the month of July. Hopefully, they are encouraging to you but also help you reach the goals you have as a leader and a person. Thanks for reading!

  1. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  2. How to Share your Faith
  3. 7 Ideas to Help Your Kids Grow Spiritually
  4. 8 Questions to Ask Before You Preach a Sermon
  5. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  6. 18 Things Every Husband Should Know about His Wife
  7. How Many Times a Year Should a Pastor Preach
  8. 5 Books Every Pastor & Church Staff Should Read
  9. What Role a Pastor’s Wife Plays in the Church?
  10. When You Manipulate Your Husband, You Lose Him

Successful Mentoring Relationships

Since Revolution Church is filled with people in college and their 20’s, and because we’re part of Acts 29, I and the other leaders at Revolution will often get requests to mentor someone, either in our church or a church planter or worship leader.

There is also a big desire that many people have to be discipled and mentored. The New Testament, particularly Titus 2:1 – 8, shows how to do this.

The amazing thing in Titus is that the relationships it describes have a few realities:

  1. They are intentional, but organic.
  2. They are relational.
  3. Growth happens through conversations, not necessarily a curriculum.

Paul tells Titus that in mentor relationships, in inter-generational relationships, they happen through proximity. The older are to teach the younger, but the only way for that to happen is for them to be together, not in life stage groups where they never mingle. In this environment, a younger person can find an older person they want to learn from.

Paul tells Timothy what they are to teach, but that teaching means ordinary conversations, not simply standing on a stage, teaching a class. Everyday, ordinary conversations.

What do they teach? What is amazing to me is that Paul says they’ll need to learn the following things. The things they’ll learn are things that won’t come naturally, or else we’d already know them.

This has caused me to think through what makes an effective mentor. They are important, but I think we often set ourselves and the person we are seeking help from up for disaster.

A mentor is someone further ahead of you in an area you want to grow in.

No one person can mentor you in every part of your life.

This is the problem we run into. We look for someone to be the end all, be all for us.

When someone asks for a mentor, I explain this to them and then ask a series of questions:

What are one or two areas you want to grow in as you think about your life in the next 3, 6, 12 months? This could be finances, prayer, marriage, boundaries, health, etc.

Why do you think I can help you? I want to know why they think I can help them. Not because I want to pump up my ego, but I want to know they’ve done their homework on me and didn’t just throw a dart at the wall and pick the closest person.

What are you doing, or have you tried to grow in this area? Often, not always, but often people seek a mentor because they are lazy. I want to know what books or blogs this person has looked at in this area. Are they actively seeking to grow in this area or just hoping to rub off success from someone? Which leads to the last part.

How much time are you willing to put into this? Anything worth doing will take time. You won’t grow in your handling of finances, health, marriage, career, preaching, etc., without putting in time and effort. This is a commitment you as the person getting mentored are making. The mentor is coming along for the ride, and if I as the mentor am not convinced you are into the ride, I’m getting off.

If you are worth your salt as a leader, person or pastor, you will be asked often to mentor people. You must be selective about who you mentor, because you are giving up one of your most precious commodities, your time. If you are asking to be mentored, to succeed and have it be worthwhile for you, you need to do your homework and be willing to put in the work. There is nothing more exciting than working with a person who wants to grow in an area and helping them do that.

We can’t become the person we are to become without relationships with older, more mature people in our lives.

Links for Leaders 5/26/17

It’s the weekend (a long weekend at that!). The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Here are 6 articles I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

If you’re a leader, part of your job is motivating your team. Whether that is an elder team, staff team, or volunteer team. This can ebb and flow depending on the season and a number of other factors. Michael Hyatt had a great post on 6 ways to motivate your team that I think are worth remembering and reminding yourself of as a leader.

Many people and leaders get to the summer rundown and tired. I know I feel like I’ve been sprinting for the last several months with church, life, the end of school for my kids and everything else. I shared recently how to maximize a day off and how to enjoy vacation. Carey Nieuwhof, always a fountain of wisdom on this topic, recently shared 12 ways to recover from burnout, but I think this list has some great applications for leaders as they head into the summer.

As Revolution, the church I lead has grown, I feel like every week is a new adventure. New challenges, new insights, new problems to tackle, but the reality is, it is new. I’ve never been there before. Others have (which is helpful for support), but I haven’t. That’s why I really appreciated this post from Brian Dodd on 8 things pastors of growing churches face. If you’re part of a growing church, you can pray for your pastor about these things because he is facing them, everyday.

We are on the verge of the teen years in our house, so I’m reading more and more articles and books on parenting teens. It is overwhelming but also exciting. Tim Elmore who speaks a lot on parenting and leadership has a great article about the 1 ingredient that moves a teen from mediocre to excellent.

Like many of you, I’m heading out on vacation this summer. We’ve traveled all over the place with kids, whether we’ve had 1 or 5. It takes planning and preparation for it to be relaxing. Here are 7 tips Katie and I have about vacations with kids. Sarah Anderson over at Parent Cue has some great tips and reality checks for parents as you head out on vacation this year.

Leadership is about discipline. Following Jesus is also filled with disciplines. Disciplines help you stay on track, moving towards a goal or an objective. Disciplines help you grow as a disciple. The problem for many leaders is we teach disciplines, but then don’t practice what we preach. Here are 4 (surprising) disciplines that Charles Stone thinks leaders neglect. He’s spot on.

How to Not be Productive on Vacation

Recently I heard an older pastor say that the most important thing to do on vacation and sabbath is to not be productive. As a leader, this is not only hard, but also one of the most important things to keep in mind.

It isn’t decisions, meetings, counseling or preaching that tires me out (although that can do it sometimes), but it is the production of things. The pressure (real or imagined) that I feel to produce something, to prepare something.

To be productive.

How do you stop producing and rest? How can you take a weekend off? How do you turn your mind off from it? From the pressure, the deadlines?

I’ll be honest. On a weekly basis (when I’m trying to take my sabbath day), this is my biggest struggle. I can survive without social media and email, but it is stopping myself from thinking about work. Being willing to not read a book for a sermon or for leadership and just stop producing.

I feel guilty about it.

But it is necessary and important to your health as a leader, to your family and to your church.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned that might be helpful for you this weekend and on your next vacation:

1. Decide ahead of time what unproductive will mean and entail. This might sound counterintuitive, but the first step to being unproductive is to be productive. Set yourself up to succeed.

If you are married, sit down with your spouse and ask them, “If I was unproductive for a weekend, a week, two weeks, a month, what would that mean? What would we do?” One reason leaders struggle to rest is the constant movement of ministry and leadership. It is addicting. As much as my heart, mind and body need a break from preaching, when I do take a break I get antsy and have a hard time functioning. That is not only a sign that I need it, but it’s also a sign that I have some heart work to do around that.

For me, here are some things that being unproductive means: no blogging or writing, no leadership or theology books (I read spy novels or historical books on vacation), sleeping in (or letting Katie sleep in), taking naps, extended game time with my kids, extended time with friends.

Answer this simple question: What would refresh me and recharge me? Are there certain people who will do that? Spend time with them.

Too many pastors work on vacation and prepare for upcoming things (you need to plan that for a different time). Your weekend or vacation is for refreshment, recharging and reconnecting with your family in a different way.

2. Set yourself up for success. If you don’t decide ahead of time, you’ll end up coming back for the fall exhausted.

One of the things we’ve done in years past is for me to take a one or two night retreat at a monastery before we go away. Leaders have a way of crashing at the start of vacation. I’d rather do this alone than crash on my family. It starts your time off on the right foot.

If you are tired of church or have a hard time going to church without thinking about your church (which happens more than you think), take a Sunday off and sleep in. Watch a podcast (but not for ministry purposes).

The bottom line is, if you know and have decided how to be unproductive, it makes it easier to reach it. It increases the likelihood of resting and recharging.

One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to take social media and email off your phone. In fact, on vacation Katie changes my passwords so I can’t even get on them in a moment of weakness (which never happens).

At the end of your week, finish things up. Set up some kind of ritual at the end of the day or week that says, “I’m done. I’ve done all that I can, the rest is in God’s hands”, so that you can be done mentally and emotionally.

3. Give yourself grace. Because you are a leader and are trained to be productive and critical, you will struggle to not be productive and critical. When you think about work, a person, a situation, give yourself grace and then move on.

On your weekend, when you start to think about work, write it down and let it go. Give yourself a moment to reconnect to being off and be okay with that. Your weekend or vacation isn’t ruined in that moment. It can be if you let it, but it isn’t yet.

4. Get out of town. This isn’t always possible, but get out of town. There are so many retreat centers and housing for pastors and their families that you can do this inexpensively. In fact, we have stayed at the same place in San Diego four different years, and each time it was free. Just plan ahead (and Google pastor’s retreat) and start making calls. Our kids look forward every year to vacation because we’ve planned it. This also means we don’t do things during the year for this time to happen, but we got out of town when I was making less than $500 a week (and working four jobs) planting our church. So you can do it!

On your weekend, find fun things to do if that will recharge you. Go swimming, take a hike, go to a fair or a market. Get moving. You may stay in your town, but get out of your house. Changing the scenery is crucial to resting and recharging.

5. Your church will be fine. Many pastors fear leaving their church as if they are the glue that holds their church together. Now if you are a church planter, you are the glue for much of your church but not all of it. You can get away for a long weekend or a week and everything will be fine.

Too many pastors live with the pressure that if they take a week off, someone will be mad. They might, but you’ll live. They get vacation time, too.

Often pastors will ask me, “What do I do if I don’t have someone to preach?” Simple, show a video sermon of someone. Go download a Tim Keller, Matt Chandler or Craig Groeschel sermon and show that. Better yet, download four and take four Sundays off from preaching.

This Matters (A Lot)

Let me tell you why this matters. I’ve led my church since 2008, and being unproductive for a little bit of time is not only good for me and my family, but also for my church. A refreshed pastor leads a refreshed church.

A tired pastor leads a tired church.

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.

 

What to do When Someone Close to You is Hurting

Let’s face it, when someone hurts us, we can brush it off and often move on. We can be tough, ignore it, deal with it or get even (although that rarely helps), but something changes when it is our spouse, kids, a close friend or a family member who is hurt.

We feel powerless in that moment.

Especially if our spouse is hurt because of someone else’s sin or mistreatment. When our spouse is wrongly accused or betrayed by someone, those wounds cut deep. They often cut deep into our heart because of our inability to protect our spouse and to help them.

We can’t jump into a conversation, we can’t go to our spouse’s work place and defend their honor, it is difficult for us to jump into a relationship we aren’t a part of and defend them or shout about how they’ve been mistreated.

This is especially true in ministry.

I took one counseling class in seminary. I don’t remember anything from it but one thing. The professor said, “When people are hurt in their life or have been hurt by an authority figure (a boss, spouse, parent, coach, teacher) and they can’t do anything about it, they will take it out on the closest authority figure to them. Often that person will be a pastor, a boss or a coach. If they can’t find an authority figure, they will simply take it out on the person closest to them that they are jealous of.”

At first I brushed it off. I was 24 and hadn’t really experienced much of leadership or counseling at that point.

Now that is one of the truest and most applicable statements I have heard in my entire life. I have watched that play out so many times in our church and in relationships.

For example, when I meet with someone who is leaving our church, almost 50% of the conversation has to do with their spouse, a past hurt our church had nothing to do with (usually a father wound) or something else in their life out of their control that has nothing to do with me or our church. But they are mad and it gets directed at me and our church.

Back to your spouse or kids that are hurting and you feel powerless. What do you do?

  • Pray for them.
  • Listen to them.
  • Give godly advice, not advice that makes you feel justified for them. That is a crucial piece.
  • Ask good questions when it is appropriate. This comes after listening to them.
  • Help them see through the fog of their hurt to what God is doing and how He is trying to use this. I’m often amazed at how God brings about new possibilities through what seems like an impossible situation.

How to Lose Weight as a Leader

Every month I hear from a reader of this blog, a fellow pastor or talk to someone who wants to lose weight. I get asked about my weight loss journey on a weekly basis. For most Americans and leaders, weight and health are a struggle. And it gets harder the older you get.

I get two common questions from people, especially leaders, about weight loss. One is from pastors themselves asking me about how I lost weight and how they can, too. The second is from their wives asking me how they can make their husbands lose weight.

The first question I can answer. The second one is ground I don’t walk onto.

For me, I got miserable enough to lose weight. I weighed 300 pounds when I got married, had a 42 inch waist and finally at the ripe old age of 29, got fed up with it.

If you are a leader, being healthy and losing weight becomes incredibly difficult. You have a lot of stress, a lot of things to do, a lot of meetings to sit in and a lot of meetings at restaurants. Throw in traveling to conferences and you are looking at a life filled with minimal activity and a lot of temptation when it comes to food.

The journey of losing weight and keeping the weight off is similar.

If you work for a living (or if you don’t), these are some ideas that will help you to lose weight and keep it off:

Know what you’ll eat wherever you go. One of the easiest ways to lose weight when eating out is to not get sucked into the menu. When you go somewhere, you should always know what you are going to eat. This will help to keep you from remorse about your food purchase.

Plan for exercise. Before you travel somewhere, know where you will exercise. I have chosen hotels on trips based off of the gyms they have. Find a gym you can walk to and get a guest pass. Once Katie and I were in LA for four days, and we got 3-day guest passes to a gym.

In your workday, know when you are going to exercise. If you don’t attach a minute to it, it won’t happen. Your day will get away from you, and you will find yourself not exercising.

Order first everywhere. At a meal out, always be the first to order. This is an idea from Tom Rath at Gallup that talks about how the first person to order sets the tone for the table. If the first person orders an appetizer, everyone looks at the appetizer and your meal just added at least 1,000 calories to it.

Drink lots of water. Everyone knows soda is bad for us, and yet we keep drinking it in ridiculous amounts. When you travel and when you sit in meetings, drink lots of water. Especially when you are flying somewhere, this will help you to avoid dehydration and help to keep you more alert.

Go to bed first. Sleep is the secret weapon for every leader. It is the secret weapon to every athlete, and yet we treat this poorly. I watch a lot of pastors when they travel somewhere stay up until 1am hanging out with friends and then running ragged because of it. Turn off Netflix and go to bed.

Stand and walk as much as possible. If a lunch meeting is less than a mile from your office or a meeting, try to walk. Just move. Get up out of your seat at least every hour and move around.

Don’t eat dessert. No one ever eats dessert and is glad they did. In fact, if you eat an entire dessert at a restaurant there’s a good chance you will hate yourself after the fact. Share one if you are going to get one, but I’d encourage you to fill up on some real food.

While this isn’t a complete list, these are just a few ideas that might help you get started on your weight loss journey or keep moving.

Links for Leaders 4/28/17

It’s the weekend. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Here are 6 articles & podcasts I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Ever wonder what is holding you back in your life or leadership? Here are 7 things that if eliminated, will raise the lid of your life and leadership.

I always tell leaders and couples they need to find someone older, further down the road than they are and learn from them. Here’s a list of 22 things one pastor learned after 42 years in ministry. This is gold. Thanks for sharing Ron.

It is easy as a leader to keep running faster and faster and not deal with the things in your heart and soul. Chuck Lawless has 10 questions every leader should ask each week, that I found to be incredibly helpful.

As kids get older, they need certain adults in their life to help them grow and mature, not only as people, but as followers of Jesus. A parent plays a crucial role in this. Kara Powell shares some great insights on this podcast about who these adults are.

We all know that the best work is accomplished when we are able to focus and concentrate. We don’t have our best ideas when we are multi-tasking and running from one thing to the next, but we rarely make time or schedule time to focus. Here are 3 ideas from a great book called Deep Work that will help you with that. 

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that I love books and think reading is the key to growth and success in life and leadership. But how important is reading? Does it really move the needle that much? Here’s the answer.

Links for Leaders 4/14/17

It’s the weekend. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Here are 5 articles I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Is missing church a big deal? Is it a sin? Does it matter if you and your family miss church on a Sunday morning? Sarah Piercy, has some great insight into that question and what you do miss when you miss church.

My kids are about to become teenagers so we are talking through what parenting teenagers looks like. What does social media look like for our family, what our their privileges, rights, things that are off limits, etc. This article from Jon Acuff on 5 rules for Instagram was particularly helpful.

What is the most important leadership trait? If you asked a room full of leaders this question, you would get a host of different answers. While situations matter as to what trait is needed, some of them rise to the top and cover all situations. Scott Cochrane points out one of those traits.

Do you work with any difficult people? Are you related to any difficult people? All of us do at some point and dealing with them can be difficult, but also an incredibly defining point in our relationships and leadership. Travis Bradberry shares some tips on handling difficult people.

Everyone is talking about work and life balance. We all feel overwhelmed, busy and rundown. What if, as the Harvard Business Review recently shared, that device free time is just as important as work/life balance?

Links for Leaders 4/7/17

It’s the weekend. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Here are 4 articles I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

John Maxwell has noted, “There is a difference between problem solving and problem spotting.” While we need people around us to point out problems, we benefit for them being on the solution side of the problem and not merely ones who make it their mission to uncover problems for other people to solve. How though? Eric Geiger shares 3 problems leaders face and how to handle them.

Easter is coming. Most churches have planned well and are ready for the surge of guests that will come, but many churches are not. Brandon Kelley has 3 vital pieces for planning your Easter services well.

Many leaders are tired, worn out, their head is spinning with all the ideas they have and the things they need to do. They pour themselves out in sermons, classes, counseling sessions and meetings. They are constantly producing and trying to keep up with what is next. The solution? According to Charles Stone (and I’d agree) it is silence and solitude.

Pastors face enormous pressures. Some of them are from their family of origin, from their churches, their spouse, their own heads and some are even imagined pressures. The reality is, if you don’t learn to deal with those pressures, they will destroy you and your ministry. This is a powerful reminder from Brian Dodd and has one of the most powerful quotes I’ve ever read: “Fatigue is from claiming promises that weren’t yours to claim.”