After the Leadership Conference – Now What?

After the Leadership Conference ... Now What?

I develop leaders.

I speak at conferences.

I attend conferences.


This week, I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. Lot’s of enthusiasm and inspiration, great talks and encouraging moments. I took my family and 5 of my honors students. We found the experience exciting and energizing. Like many others, that is why we go. It is an emotional thrill, and leaders need a leadership lift whenever we can get one.

Many of the speakers acknowledged this kind of event is a REMINDER event. We need to hear what we already know, and be inspired again to plug away, stay the course, and lead well. And often we gain a new insight or have an “aha!” moment. These are truly valuable.

But what happens after the thrill is gone? It is the age-old conference dilemma. In a few days the buzz is gone, the notebook goes on the shelf, the twitter frenzy dies down and people return to the same challenges, problems, lousy bosses, fundraising shortfalls and HR headaches.

Am I being pessimistic? Should we stop going to conferences? NO! Let me be clear. I love conferences! I love speaking at them and going to them! I love hanging with other leaders and getting to know their stories, successes and challenges. This is essential for every leader!

Leadership Convictions – Vision & Values

The Starting Point Visions ValuesThe Starting Point for Discovering Vision & Values



Personal convictions are the seedbed for forging a compelling vision and shaping core values. These convictions must never be generated out of thin air or influenced simply by the latest leadership fad or trend. Somewhere deep down in the gut you will discover some things you believe in – some things that are non-negotiable about life, work, love, faith, relationships, leadership and the world. That is where you will find your Vision & Values.


So here are a series of questions first for Vision discovery and clarification.


1)     What does the future look like when things are working extremely well? Not perfectly…that’s idealism. You need a vision that can be rooted in reality. So describe the future when the vision is now a fact. What has changed? What problem have you solved?


2)     What does it feel like to be there? You probably have some sense of what it feels like as you imagine your dream coming true. Yes, what are your emotions? What wells up inside you as you see the vision becoming reality – joy, satisfaction, relief, hope, exhilaration, power, or freedom?


3)     Who benefits most from the vision becoming reality? Imagine the people your team is serving or helping or providing a quality service to. Will it be children in poverty, adults without meaningful work, people with disabilities, a company without quality management, a non-profit that lacks solid leadership? What is happening in these people and among them? What new world opens up for them because of the vision becoming reality?


4)     What change is taking place inside you? How are YOU different because the vision is a reality? What character changes are happening? How are you approaching your work? Have your priorities changed?


KEY VISION RESOURCE: Chapters 5 & 6 of The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner are worth the price of the book – and more – on the process of creating a shared vision.




Now for questions to help shape your core Values


1)     What is true for you? This means, deep down inside you, there are things that do not waver – core beliefs that define how you see the world. These may be the result of experiences, values handed down by parents or mentors, religious convictions, or simply things you just know to be true (treating others with respect is the right thing to do.)


2)     What makes you sad? This is a way of discovering values by looking through a different lens. When you view the world or work or you organization, what makes you sad? What do you wish would change? This is probably related to a value or belief you hold dear. For example, in a team meeting you see a weaker person get belittled by another member of the team. The strong personality of the culprit crushes the weak spirit of the team member, who does not respond in the moment but feels shame or intimidation. The anger you feel is tied to something you believe about justice, fairness, or perhaps kindness.


3)    What brings you joy? Now we flip the coin and look at those events or activities that make you smile. You see a need met, a new product developed, a person helped, an obstacle overcome, a friendship grow or a goal achieved. You smile because something feels good at your core.


4)    What gives you energy? Though similar to “what brings you joy?” above, this is a bit different. Yes, energy can be derived from people or events that bring me joy. But energy comes from other sources – adverse circumstances, a challenge, a loss, a unique opportunity, a new friendship, a family event, a kind of work, a new mission. What gives you a “rush” and makes you productive, excited about your work in the world, and givers purpose to your life?


KEY VALUES RESOURCE: Here is a short Forbes article on values-focused leadership by Jansen Kraemer that highlights four core principles leaders can use to lead from a values standpoint.



Answer these questions and record them in your journal. It will help you identify what’s in your gut, what makes you tick. Your personal Vision & Values will get clearer which will also allow you to sharpen the focus of your work and leadership.


So tell me – what are some of the answers to these questions for you? I’d love to hear what makes you tick and what you are giving yourself to!

Leadership Friction

I want to talk about leadership friction.

Leadership Friction

















I want to talk about leadership friction. Transcribed

You know friction like when we rub our hands together on a cold day gives us warmth, but when you rub those same hands against sandpaper … goes beyond warmth to something destructive. So too much friction, too much banging up against each other as leaders trying to get something done causes some problems wherever we work. I see three areas in which leadership friction develops and I’d like to address those.


  1. The first is conflicting personalities and we all know we have different personalities and those tend to bump up against one another, the proverbial abrasive personality the person that just seems to “rob us the wrong way” a kind of interesting expression. They kinda get too much into our space or they just seem to push too hard or their words are more toxic than supportive and instead of just challenging us they kinda get abusive with language or demeaning with language. These can be abrasive personalities and that certainly can rub up against other leaders saying, “Whoa, you know, where you coming off here?”
  2. Sometimes it’s the direct person, the person who’s eager to simply communicate faxed and data or to tell you what to do with their supervisor. “Bob make three sales calls by three o’clock and report back to me.” “Susan, can you put that over there?” “Steve, I need to set up two meetings.” They never smile, they never crack a joke, they are just always direct and they don’t see this as abrasive but constant just pure direct can feel like a little bit of a poke over and over and over and begin to clash with other maybe warmer personalities in the leadership circle.
  3. Then there’s the condescending or elitist type person, again may not recognize it fully. They tend to look down on us so they tend to feel superior because of the performance or socioeconomic background, maybe there’s racial stuff going on. The point is they kind of look down there nose a little bit and that kind of personality robs up against those of us to don’t like that and we may perceive that that’s some sort of a one-upsmanship going on.


I also see some things that cause friction around contrasting styles of leadership. Bill Hybels did some good work in Courageous Leadership, a book he wrote about a decade ago to focus on ten kinds of leadership styles that he observes. And it’s important to look at those, matter of fact we’ve posted as you can see them on the site.

You have people for example with visionary styles or entrepreneurial or re-engineering styles go-getter start-up take the hill those kinds of styles, bumping up against people that are bridge-building, team building, collaborative, encouraging, motivational styles. So different styles of leaders can bump up against one another by virtue of we just lead differently. Now, we might get the same result done but we go about different ways but our styles can cause a little friction.

A third area is just competing visions in other words we see things differently. Get a group of leaders together in a circle and some may report to others or whatever but when you get those leaders in a circle they all have a sense of vision, there are all leaders, and they see a future that can happen and it may not be the same. One way to help with that a little bit I say is being together is seeing together. There is something about working on vision collaboratively that really helps that process and create more unity around the vision verses we each individually come with our own separate view of reality and then compete with one another to see whose vision wins.

So these are areas I see of friction or tension developing. How you address it, it’s pretty simple but it takes work and it’s simply saying let’s look at the strengths of each of these. What are the strengths that my vision brings? What are the strengths I bring in my style of leadership? What are the strengths I bring in my personality? And what do each of you bring? Focus on strengths, not the differences that kind of rub us a bit but let’s say okay the driver what’s good about that personality? The leadership style that’s team building what’s a strength we can leverage to get the job done from your leadership because your that kind of leader?

So work on your strengths, leverage those together, name the realities of the tension that you see and the friction that may be there and then get on the strengths side and see if that helps you lead better as a group of leaders.


We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.

Leadership Styles and Leveraging Yours

Bill Hybels in Courageous Leadership lists 10 Leadership Styles he has observed in leaders.

Many possess more than one style, but often there is a primary style or a cluster of 2-3 that stand out. As you look at each of these, ask yourself, “What style(s) most describes my approach to leadership?”  If you truly are courageous, pass this along to teammates and fellow leaders (or a mentor) and ask them to choose the style(s) that best describes you. These are defined with Christian leadership in mind (especially Pastoral Leadership), most apply to any leadership context in which you might find yourself.


The 10 Leadership Styles:

Visionary Leader 

Has a crystal clear picture of the vision, is enthusiastic about the vision, casts the vision continually, is future oriented and believes the vision will occur if you discuss it enough. Not easily discouraged by set-backs, defections, etc. Gifts of faith, evangelism, prophecy.


Directional Leader 

Has the innate ability to choose the right path at critical moments. These moments can paralyze an organization, but these figures can do the right thing at the right time. This type of leader may or may not be a public figure. Sorts through the complexity of mission, resources, personnel, timing, external forces, etc. to make the right decision. Gifts of discernment, word of wisdom.


Strategic Leader 

Has the ability to breakdown the vision to a series of sequential, achievable steps. Followers respond when they see progress toward the vision by achieving these steps. Develops a game plan that all the players can understand and find their place in. Keeps the organization on cadence and aligned. Fights off fads and vision drift by highlighting the “fundamentals.” Gifts of teaching, discernment.


Managing Leader 

Able to organize the people, process, systems, and resources to achieve the vision. Monitors the whole system and measures progress according to appropriate mile-markers. Manages and analyzes details, sees critical resource shortages, etc. The natural complement to (and sometimes adversary of) the visionary. Gifts of administration, helps.


Motivational/Inspirational Leader 

Has the gift of inspiration and can transfer that to followers. Has the ability to know who needs training, encouragement, cheering on, refocusing and, when morale sinks, they think of new ways to inspire their followers. Sees lack of morale as a challenge to inspire rather than a defeat. Into “hanging”, training, helping people review and reflect. Gifts of exhortation, pastoring.


Shepherding Leader 

Has the ability to build a team (usually slowly), and the leader cares so deeply for the team and builds a strong sense of community. The vision gets accomplished because the team wants to respond to the leader’s love. Gifts of pastoring, exhortation, mercy, healing.


Team Building Leader (Talent Scout) 

Knows the vision and has a plan to achieve it, but understands that it takes a team of leaders to achieve it. Has the ability to put the right people in the right positions to achieve the right objective. This leader is driven by their insight into people. Values the precise placement of gifts/people for the achievement of the mission. Maximizes each

individuals greatest gifts and recruits others to fill the holes. Gifts of discernment, exhortation.


Entrepreneurial Leader 

Possesses some of the all of the listed styles, but functions optimally in a start-up mode. Once the organization gets too complex, this leader loses energy, focus and confidence and starts to look toward the next thing to start. Gifts of faith.


Re-Engineering Leader 

Possesses some of the above listed styles , but their challenge is to turn around an organization. Loves to find a situation that had bad leadership and revitalize it. Once an organization is fixed, they may or may not want to continue to lead. Keeps what is best of historic values, structures, etc. and is able to bring the fresh direction that the organization needs. Adept at change dynamics, refocusing and healing individuals, bringing in new players, etc. Gifts of pastoring, healing, discernment.


Bridge Building Leader 

Ability to bring a wide variety of people together. This leader is diplomatic and negotiates well. Has the ability to persuade each group to feel like they are getting their individual needs met while the entire entity achieves its vision. Works to bring a wide variety of constituents together so a complex organization can achieve its mission. This leader loves to work with a very wide variety of people and be the advocate for all of them.


How does your style interact with other leaders on your team? What kind of leadership is required now, and who are the right people to bring that leadership to the issues you face?


NOTE: For the full explanation of each style, here is the extended 6-page article by Bill Hybels



We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.

The School of Adversity

It’s compulsory education for every person on the planet. You simply must attend the School of Adversity.

School of Adversity Quote - There is no education like adversity

You need only meet 1 of 2 entrance requirements and you are automatically enrolled. No need to go online or show up at registration. If you 1) have a pulse or, 2) you can fog a mirror, you’re enrolled. Mandatory. There are no vouchers and no “school choice” options available. Once enrolled, classes begin immediately and might be held any day of the week, 365 days a year. There are no vacation days and no holidays (but there are LOTS of sick days).

It is likely each of us will take different classes in the School (Stomach Flu 101, My Teenager Hates Me 407, Chronic Unemployment 511- a graduate level course) and probably we’ll have different majors. NOTE: majors are assigned, rarely chosen. Some students will find themselves in the popular Financial Ruin Program or taking several courses in the Perpetual Pain Department. And almost everyone does a minor in Annoying Facebook Friends.

But no one gets a pass. Ever.

There are no strings you can pull. No Congressman or Senator can get you out or provide an appointment to a less rigorous program (like enrolling in the popular School of Rock – sorry, Jack Black).  There is no AP credit or credit transfers from other highly acclaimed, elite programs like the School of Hard Knocks (I spent a couple semesters there – it was hard…very, very hard).

Like it or not, you must enroll in the School of Adversity.

But don’t worry; no one can make you graduate. Actually, no one graduates. Ever. It’s like continuing education for CPA’s or required HR training classes on wellness management. Classes start and continue all the way to infinity… and beyond. Well, I suppose this is a graduation day. But you really do not want to hear about it.

Also, there are no online or virtual courses. Every class is live, has no official professor, and always takes place in the Experiential Learning Lab. All classes are on campus, but it is easy to get there. The campus address is: 5 Your Location, Anywhere, Earth.

Another bummer is cost. The School can be quite expensive. Actual costs may vary from student to student, and there are no scholarships or financial aid. Everyone pays full price regardless of how many classes you are taking, so you might as well load up early. Heck, I knew a guy who was carrying 42 hours one semester, and he almost died. Really, it almost killed him. He said he learned more that semester than in any other. But it was brutal. Made Med School and MIT look like kindergarten classes.

One thing you want to avoid at all costs – taking classes alone. As a matter of fact, going through the School of Adversity is a lot better if someone takes the classes with you. It is not only allowed, it is encouraged! (You can share answers, ask for help and solve the same problems using the same solutions others have already discovered! They are all cataloged in the Wisdom Library if you take the time to find them. That part is very cool.)

Actually, large families, small groups, neighborhood communities, and sometimes – this is hard to imagine – entire countries have gone through a class together! It makes the School of Hard Knocks look easy by comparison.

There is something about doing it together that not only makes it better, but each class seems to get a little easier to handle; the surprise quizzes are not so surprising, the tests require less preparation and study, and you tend to get higher grades. Did I mention that grades matter?

How you perform prepares you for the next class, though it might be in a different department. For example, I did well some years ago in the introductory Facing Your Fears 101 class because I had already taken Working in a High-Crime Area 201. Facing Your Fears is usually a pre-requisite for all 200-level classes, but for some reason I was forced to take WHCA 201 first. That happens quite often. Classes are rarely offered in logical order. (Very annoying. But there is an elective to help with that now: Annoyances and Petty Frustrations 001 is available whenever you plan a vacation or prepare for Christmas.)

And, surprisingly at first, many students report a sense of joy and gratitude after completing a particularly difficult class! Kind of counter-intuitive  to say the least, though I confess I understand.

Well, I am off to class. Right now I am just beginning Character Growth 204 with a group of friends. There is no syllabus so we do not know what will happen. But we are told by the Administration that we will have the choice to “become bitter or better” as a result of what we experience. Not sure I am looking forward to all of it, but I hear they do have recess and a snack!

Since Christmas I have been enrolled in several courses of moderate but annoying difficulty: Your Wife Broke Her Leg at Christmas 305, Daughter Badly Sprained Ankle in Championship Game 208, I Threw My Back Out Sunday 401 (an intensive 3-day seminar), Son’s Car Needs 3rd Repair in Two Weeks 510, and The Water Pump for Your Home Broke 211.

I am discovering that the School of Adversity while not always a fun place to visit is a great place to learn.

I am getting better at responding with joy in the struggle of pain, listening more carefully to God and others when trials come crashing down, and building up some tolerance to the dozens of small annoyances that pester me like sand flies on the beach of life.

And I continue to gain empathy and respect for the awful circumstances and challenges others face worldwide (in doctoral-level courses I dare not even name and, thankfully, will hopefully never have to take.)

Like you, I am a full-time student in the School of Adversity. So off to class I go. Oh no, my car won’t start…That’s just great…I’ll be late for class.

Oh, wait a minute. This IS my class. Here we go. Hope I pass. Wanna join me?


What Courses are you taking in the School of Adversity? What are you learning? How can you and others get through it together?


We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.

Living an Integrated Life

Balance is a myth. Living an integrated life instead creates focus, authenticity and self confidence.


Living an Integrated Life - Image of Man Balancing on a Rope












Living an Integrated Life – Transcribed

Let’s talk about living an integrated life. It’s a concept Bill George brings out in his book True North. I use this tool among others when I work with the LeaderSync Group, my organization as we coach and help develop leaders, leadership teams and groups. One of the sections in there is this idea of bringing all the components of your life together and holistic functioning way. George says, “Don’t get this confused with balance that’s this is not a code word for balance, balance I believe is a myth that a misnomer.” But it is about focus an integration of the key areas like relationships, work-life, personal growth as a leader, leadership challenges, skill development etc. So George focuses on that, we do as we work with and coach leaders. He quotes John Donahoe who is the CEO of Ebay seceded May, Meg Whitman. Donahoe says, “The struggle is constant as the trade-offs and choices don’t get any easier as you get older. George says living an integrated life is a challenging thing to do and allows you to live a life that when the highs are high you don’t get cocky and when you hit the low moments now you don’t get depressed and go into despair because your integrating a number of components together so you have more of a whole life as a leader.

I focus on three areas when I do my leadership development work; story, soul and strategy. Story is mining things like you’re defining moments as a leader; you’re driving values, and some of the primary strengths that you have that got you where you are. Let’s mine those, let’s find out where they came from, you know, how they work, how they contribute to your leadership growth so we work a bit in story.

Then we look at soul which is code for inner life. It’s not necessarily a religious word though, people of faith that I work with like to delve into that a little more. But it’s the idea of, what is my emotional health like? What’s my relational capacity right now? What are the core practices I can engage in to help me create and a solid core inner life? So the character formation takes place in the present, in the now.

Story of course about past. Soul is sort of like where am I now internally and how am I addressing my world? And then the third area of strategy is more like helping people create a vision framework and look at what I call a focus map. Where do I put my energy and resources as I go forward? What are the potential resources I can mine? What can I do to take next steps in person personal growth and development and in my own leadership effectiveness?

So I look at story, soul and strategy as I … my organization LeaderSync work with leaders and teams.

So you might want to reflect on that today.


What about those three areas of your life do you need to invest more time and energy in to create this sense of integration so you can meet the leadership challenges that you need to meet in your world today?


We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.

The Power of Gathering

The Power of Gathering is really showing its effectiveness as we gather for a university discussion on economics, we are talking about the culture at large mostly in North America but certainly globally as well.


Well I’m sitting here in a hotel, actually up in Lake Geneva and we are here gathered together as a university to tackle some pretty big issues both internally and externally. We’re talking about economics, we are talking about the culture at large mostly in North America but certainly globally, and we are bringing some experts in to challenge us on how to think about economic realities in light of the new reality of our culture and just the systems of our world. But what I find really powerful here is the power of gathering itself so irrespective of where the content might take us and what we need to talk about related to this, and what some of our scholars are going to be doing to really delve into some of the challenging global economic issues of our world, there’s a power in just gathering. I’m headed off to breakfast in a few minutes with some people and I’m looking forward to that because something happens when a team or a group or an organization gathers. I just want to highlight a few of those to remind us that this is strategic, it’s important, it’s life giving. Now here are a few things to think about first of all clarity I find that when we come together we’re not asking as many how and when questions as we do when we’re sort of in the office, or in the organization. We tend to ask bigger questions sort of the why questions and at a gathering of your core people you get that clarity. Why do we exist? Why are we here? What are some of the big questions we really need to be facing and why should we be facing the now? So the big why questions I think are important for your organization or your group. Another question that you tend to ask when you gather is, “Who are we? What kind of group are we?” And because of the informality that takes place in a setting like this I think it’s, it’s a better opportunity to understand who we are. I think there’s an informality that helps us achieve some relational unity. In our particular case there are three schools in the university represented here the graduate school, the theology school, and the college. The law school is not here it’s in another part of the country. But the those three schools have come together to say let’s get to know each other  better, let’s understand how we work better together, let’s see what skills and resources we bring to one another so there is a relational unity, a getting to know each other and that’s really lifted up by the informality. So not only in the formal sessions, the small groups, the strategic sessions, but in the having coffee afterward, the one-off conversations, the meeting after the meeting, the kind of thing we experience around the office sometimes is really lifted to a new level here. And so there’s that informality, that relational piece, that helps us answer that who question. But I think there is also the identity organizationally of; who are we, what kind of place do we want to become, what kind of people do we want to be as we carry forward our mission? So we had the why questions, the who question, and I think alternately we will make that strategic turn, we do that tomorrow morning. But that’s the strategy question of; where do we want to go from here, what do we want to focus on specifically, are there some next steps we need to take? So we will be in groups in teams talking about that as well. So the power of gathering allows us to answer those big questions; why, why are we here, why do we exist, why do we do things the way we do, who are we and who are we becoming and then we really want to go? Hopefully you’ll think about those things as you put some gatherings together and get “off-campus” and do something together in a setting that allows you to really engage these things both in formal an informal ways.


We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.

Bi-vocational Pastors

Christianity Today is a great resource for leadership articles, you can sign up for their Leadership Journal articles here.  I highly recommend it as a valuable resource.


Here is the full article I was  using when referencing bi-vocational pastors in its entirety  for those who do not wish to sign up yet.


Originally posted on Christianity Today’s “Leadership Journal”


Two young pastors are finding fresh ways to combine pastoral ministry and entrepreneurial ventures.

Chris Kopka


In the mid 20th century, most seminary discussions about the apostle Paul’s tent-making were likely theoretical. Yes, there were part-time pastors—but most of them would never have gone to seminary.

How times have changed! Today, seminarians from even well-known schools are starting to talk openly about the “stark realities” of bivocationalism. Some of the conversation around bivocationalism is driven by the weak job market. Seminary students aren’t exactly bombarded with well-paying jobs upon graduation. On the other hand, some see bivocationalism as a ministry plus, a way to keep one foot planted in the secular world.

Recent research from The Barna Group reveals that over 50 percent of Millennials (those born after 1980) and younger Gen X-ers believe some form of entrepreneurship will be part of their career path. I’m guessing young seminarians are no exception.

Because I help start faith-based businesses, I have regular conversations with many young pastors. I have come to see bivocationalism as a gift. My relationships with members of the next generation of bivocational pastors have shown me that even their tent-making efforts are part of their calling.

According to data from the Annual Church Profile, some 8,000 pastors report being bivocational. But what are the most common “second jobs” for these pastors? How many bivocational pastors start businesses versus hold a “job”? Are bivocational pastors thriving or just surviving? We know little about this phenomenon. Yet we can start to answer some of these questions by seeing how two younger pastors in Minneapolis, Tim Schuster and Scott Woller, have embraced an entrepreneurial version of bivocationalism.

Moving in Circles

Tim Schuster graduated from Bethel Seminary in the spring of 2012. During his time there, he worked part-time as a youth pastor. He also planted a church. What started out as the “Midtown Church Project” became a fast-growing community that recently decided to drop the word “Project.” Why? Because they started seeing themselves as a bona fide church, just a few months after Tim’s graduation.

“When people say `plant a church,’ what they actually mean is `start a worship?service.'”

Midtown is an unconventional kind of church. According to Tim, “When people say ‘plant a church,’ what they actually mean is ‘start a worship service.’ Our contemporary notion of church is a group of people, facing in the same direction, where a stage becomes an altar. Then we look at programs, ministry, and service projects as ‘extra credit.'”

Midtown wanted something different. Within 10 minutes of the start of a Midtown “service,” chairs (and attendees) move from facing forward and are arranged into circles of 5 to 10 people in order to facilitate conversation.

Midtown Church is, in essence, a series of conversational circles. Brandon Schulz, a social media entrepreneur, describes Midtown as “the closest church to embodying how social media works, except it’s live, in person.” The relational emphasis doesn’t mean skimping on theology. Midtown is unapologetically orthodox in its teaching and Tim talks boldly about Jesus, sin, grace, faith, and work.


What you won’t see, though, is a sermon or traditional service structure. Tim sees the primary role of the pastor as a facilitator. This stems from the Midtown founders’ shared fascination with self-organizing models. Tim even researched Tupperware parties and “Open Space” business conferences as part of the design for Midtown.

One key benefit Tim sees to bivocationalism is how it’s enabled the church to take a different approach to money. Tim and his Midtown cofounders decided that the pastor would not draw a substantial income from the church (and perhaps none at all). Why? They feared that money might get in the way of forming and deepening relationships, especially in the early days of planting the church.

Tim didn’t arrive at this decision lightly. He was considered for a planting grant from another church, but, because he’d only recently been married, was told he was “not ready.” (A good caution against being too quick to tell young, innovative pastors they’re “not ready.”) In hindsight he’s grateful for having been turned down. Through the grant evaluation process Tim realized he was in a classic struggle between “passion” (for Midtown’s strategy of not forcing economic ties between pastor and congregants) and “paycheck” (the reality that life would be a bit easier with seed funding).

Because of my work in faith-based business development, a friend introduced me to Tim to help him and Midtown’s other three original founders, Eric, Kelsey, and Jenna, find strategic options for the church, including income streams. Most of the business development I do is at the intersection of faith and financial services. This work connects me with many churches and ministries. Still, I found Midtown’s model remarkable.

Tim and I began a months-long series of conversations, thinking through bivocational options. For Tim, bivocationalism is one piece of an overall strategy. As he left his job as youth pastor, he actively sought an income-generating role to support his family that would also leave enough time for him and co-founder, Eric, to devote sufficient time to Midtown. Jenna, the fourth cofounder of Midtown, is now in seminary herself.

I asked Tim if seminary professors had introduced him to any role models, mentors or even examples of bivocational pastors. In short, the answer was “no.”

“If you don’t have a fulltime, paying role as a pastor, it’s somehow treated as a failure,” he said.

On reflection, though, he recalled that I had introduced him to a potential model for bivocationalism in Scott Woller, of Corner Coffee/Corner Church, as well as another entrepreneurial pastor in the Twin Cities. Ultimately, Tim decided to pursue an entrepreneurial path himself.

“Well Tim,” I said “I’m about to feature you and Scott in my writing. Perhaps you can become one of the role models.” Maybe future seminarians (as well as seminaries of the future) will realize that bivocationalism should not be seen as a failure, but in fact can be a successful strategy and a legitimate way of pursuing one’s calling.


Coffee Church

Scott Woller leads a church in the North Loop area of Minneapolis. Corner Coffee/Corner Church is actually two distinct legal entities sharing a single location—and the same vision. Monday through Saturday, Corner Coffee is, you guessed it, a coffee shop. Their product is coffee, although creating a sense of community is the underlying goal.

Given that a fair amount of this article was written in the coffee shop, I’m able to attest to the fact that Scott and his team are accomplishing this goal. Corner Coffee is a for-profit LLC that creates neighborhood jobs. While the coffee shop has never paid a salary for Scott or other church staff, 100 percent of the profits of the coffee shop go toward the church’s operating budget. The church, as a legal entity, is the sole shareholder of the coffee shop. Scott is, in effect, the coffee shop’s volunteer CEO.

Corner Coffee was conceived as a way to plant Corner Church in an urban setting. Being an Assemblies of God plant, members of that denomination would feel theologically quite at home at Corner Church, just so long as they don’t mind the espresso machine hissing in the background. By having a fully-functioning, profitable business six days per week, the separately incorporated church has very low overhead for Sundays, and is able to meet in a comfortable, casual setting. (By the way, it took two years for Corner Church to be profitable. Scott hastens to add that a coffee shop is not a way to make “easy money.”)

Being in a non-traditional environment is crucial for the work of Corner Church. The vast majority of the church’s Sunday attendees are formerly churched individuals, many of whom have been scarred by past church experiences. Some of these negative experiences involve issues with the offering plate. So to grow and reach new attendees, Corner Church must keep a low overhead and strive to keep pressure around giving low, especially for newer attendees. In addition, Scott explains that being held in a coffee shop allows Corner Church to be an important part of the neighborhood. Scott feels meeting in a coffee shop “as church” sends that signal quite naturally.

Scott never wants to have a conversation about why the church doesn’t pay taxes: Corner Coffee does! And he never wants the neighborhood to have a sense that the doors are closed or the parking lots are gated Monday through Saturday. And most of all, Scott doesn’t want the “church community to let their faith become dormant during the week. We want the church facility to encourage people to live out their faith every single day.”

Unlike Tim, Scott did not remain bivocational, nor did he intend to. Indeed, Scott doesn’t think of himself as a classic bivocational pastor. From the beginning his income has come from the church, even though initially it was a very modest income. Scott encourages people to view Corner Church (via the coffee shop) as an “investment,” not just a donation, one that creates jobs in the community and revenue for church replication.

Those investments are paying off. After several years, Scott draws a full income from Corner Church. Meanwhile the revenue from Corner Coffee is strong enough that Corner Church planted a second coffee shop/church this year in another urban neighborhood in Minneapolis, a neighborhood so secular local pastors call it the place church plants go to die. So Scott now has a pastor colleague embarking on an entrepreneurial journey similar to his, with a model that has been proven to work in an urban, secular setting.

Pastoring in a coffee shop presents unique opportunities. Scott can’t hide in an office and he certainly doesn’t face the common tendency for pastors to get stuck in a church bubble. He’s expected to be active in the neighborhood, to live in the community, and to be visible in the coffee shop while doing his work. It’s a different role for the pastor than what Scott was used to. “Growing up, the pastor was this lofty ‘Man of God’ in the town,” he says. “But this role of the pastor as being down-to-earth, a real person, has really become who I am.”

It’s not just him who has benefitted. The church has attracted members seeking greater authenticity and community. The whole vibe of the church fosters dialogue and allows people to be real.

“Instead of sitting inside a church building, wondering how we can get our community to come here, we’ve flipped things around,” Scott says. “We’re putting our church in the middle of the community.” Members of the community can come and enjoy the coffee shop, even if they don’t worship or identify as Christians. To Scott, “that’s the difference between putting a church inside a coffee shop and putting a coffee shop inside a church.”

Recently, a neighbor-customer who has been coming in for many years and had never attended church approached Scott. His mom was in the hospital, and though he was obviously nervous and awkward, asked if Scott would pray for his mom. “This is a non-churchgoer, during coffee shop time, engaging me as a pastor,” Scott said. “I know I would have missed that moment, and many more like it, if I were in a traditional church setting.”

Such stories should make us rethink bivocationalism. Is it solely something to adapt to out of necessity? Or, like Tim and Scott, can we also come to see it as a path to greater ministry success? Many still regard bivocationalism as a second-class calling. But given the current economic woes and the challenges of reaching an increasingly secular culture, perhaps it’s time to rediscover “tent-making” models of ministry.

Chris Kopka is helping launch an integrated business/ministry model around faith & finances with Brightpeak financial.


The Corner Church/Coffee Economic Model

The economic model for Corner Church/Corner Coffee has many moving pieces. The coffee shop is designed to become profitable within 2 years, church expenses start and remain incredibly low (approximately 20 percent of the expenses of most plants), and modest church planting funds are stretched as long as possible because of the low overhead. In time, we begin to take offerings as church members start to embrace principles of generosity. Stressing the church’s active involvement in the community is essential. I’ve found people are ready to give to something they feel really makes a difference. They see our coffee shop/church as being transparent and making a difference where they live and work. That makes it easy for them to give.—Scott Woller

Looking in the Leadership Mirror

Looking in the Leadership Mirror ImageGood leadership coaches utilize a 360-degree feedback tool to provide input from peers, subordinates and supervisors. But self-leadership is also necessary and that requires self-evaluation “Looking in the Leadership Mirror.”  If you are coaching or leading other leaders, how do you evaluate your growth and performance?

Leaders of Christian groups and organizations tend to shy away from evaluation and feedback – it is not “spiritual” enough. Or we harbor fears that negative feedback will create mistrust or relational breakdown.

But we must do it and be honest with ourselves especially as we are called to evaluate others. Here is a chart Greg Bowman and I put together in our newest addition of Coaching Life-changing Leaders, page 38. How might you rate yourself as a leadership coach, developing the leaders in your area of responsibility?

This is essential. I met with a leader recently who said he was concerned about a top staff member who excelled in personal performance, but was not developing their team. Leading others – particularly leading other leaders – is serious business. Are we coaching our leaders (staff, volunteers, etc.) well?


Take a moment to Look in the Leadership Mirror.

Rate yourself as you reflect on these questions below.

Up Arrow

If you feel your growth has been positive.


Down ArrowIf you feel your growth has been negative.


Minus signIf you feel you have not changed.


  Live with personal integrityAm I living acting according to the values, beliefs and principles I claim to hold?
  Passionate about developing leaders Am I consistently investing in existing and emerging leaders?
  Spiritually attunedAm I leaning into the wisdom of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit as I Coach?
  Self-starterAm I coaching with initiative, adaptability, and trustworthiness?
  Intellectually curiousAm I consistently searching for the core idea or issue to achieve the best outcome?
  Others-focusedAm I working to discern what God may be doing in each leader’s life?
  Relationally awareAm I aware of when to challenge and when to encourage my leaders?
  Effective communicatorsAm I listening well and communicating clearly with my leaders?
  Truth-tellerAm I conveying what needs to be said without being hurtful?
  InspiringAm I helping leaders make a direct connection between the leadership tasks and the broader vision for community?


Now, if you really want some engagement, hand this same chart to some people you lead and compare their responses with yours.

I confess self-evaluation is sometimes painful, or even brutal. But we can be shaped by the process of looking in the leadership mirror. As I write this I can tell you I have “down arrows” in the areas of personal integrity, effective communication, and inspiring others. I am not feeling good about it – but that is the truth.

I do a lot of teaching and too often am not practicing what I preach – leading to an integrity crisis. Also I find myself making assumptions and drawing fast conclusions, which is no substitute for clear two-way communication. And keeping leaders motivated and inspired has been too far down my coaching list.

I met with a great senior leader today who has navigated difficult changes in the organization. He said, “Every year I realize I know less than the year before.” We talked about what that meant, the hard realities of leadership, and the loss of idealism from his younger leadership days 30 years ago.

It was a great conversation. We talked about how this reality sets in, what his team is feeling, the strength of his core staff, and so on. But I missed the opportunity to inspire him. I affirmed him – but I did not motivate him.  Big difference.

So I am aware of at least three areas of focus and growth.


This is a powerful evaluation “Looking in the Leadership Mirror” …. how many of you took the time to do it??


Care to share what you learned?




The Shaping of Leaders to Come

I just spent the weekend with about 30 emerging leaders in my program at TIU which focuses on the shaping of leaders. Ranging in age from 18-29 these young leaders engaged in discussion and debate on topics ranging from work to vocation, theology, ministry and what it means to lead with integrity and skill.

What struck me was how alive they were, how engaged with the material, and how willing they were to graciously but directly challenge our speaker at the event. As I watched them I came away with a few leadership development nuggets, most of them reminders…but needed nonetheless.

Put rising leaders in catalytic environments

Whether it is a think tank, high-impact serving project or a team-building challenge, young leaders rise to the level of expectations and environment. Don’t pat young leaders on the head – push them into the tension where truth meets life. They can handle it, or they will soon learn how.

Create a format that challenges current perceptions of truth

One of the things I always loved in my days at the Willow Creek Association was getting around thought leaders and practitioners who took a different slant on reality. And some of them were redefining reality altogether. We put these young people in a very provocative conversation with a speaker whose points of view created tension, angst and mild frustration. It forced them to really think, challenging their assumptions and dismantling their biases.

Allow leaders some time to debrief, disconnect and re-engage

Content immersion and idea generation can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Conversations, debate and intense interaction are stimulating but can be mind-boggling.  It is essential to withdraw, shuffle the deck, reflect, and then return to the fray with some new insights and challenges to the status quo. Lot’s of gold to mine here.

Trust the process but don’t be afraid to press for results

Strong leaders will do the hard work. And they create their own culture of engagement and growth as they tear an idea apart and put it back together again. But don’t stop there. You have to push leaders and ask, “So what? What difference does this make? Now that you have done some rethinking about your leadership, where are you going to put it to the test?”

I love these leaders – and they are making a great impact in our world with truth, courage, clear thinking and cultural engagement. I cannot wait to see the results!


Who’s on your young leaders list? How are you shaping their minds and challenging their thinking?