Posts Tagged leaders
We are smack in the middle of baseball season heading to the July All-Star break. Despite this we are in the middle of the ice hockey finals. Still! Normally my interest for this drops by May because the season is too long, baseball is up and running and it is just too warm outside to think about ice hockey.
But my interest this year goes well past May because the Chicago Blackhawks are in the finals. Last night they played the Bruins in one of the longest playoff games in NHL history. At the start of the 3rd overtime period it was still 3-3.
Whether it’s baseball, hockey, or just the local beer softball league, everyone expects to play a normal game. But sometimes it’s tie at the end of regulation and the teams play overtime. In the playoffs you compete until someone wins or everyone dies from exhaustion. (Of course, in the guys-over-40 softball league it’s just as intense– but if you run out of beer, the game is called and everyone heads to the bar.)
Playing extra innings is hard enough. Weariness sets in and sheer intensity of competition takes its toll on the body and the mind. Emotions run thin and a single mistake can cost you the game. Everyone has to take it up a notch at the time when they are least capable of doing so.
But leading in extra innings is even harder.
It is especially difficult for the player-coach, the guy or gal who has to perform at the top of their game while motivating and guiding the rest of the team. Overtime will test your leadership ability in ways that other challenges cannot for the sheer fact that so much more energy, stamina, and focus are required.
Here are a few tips on how to lead when there is more game left on the clock than there is in the players.
1) Acknowledge the reality of the challenge. This is no time for fake, rah-rah cheerleading that basically communicates, “C’mon guys, this isn’t any big deal.” It IS a big deal. Getting the project done, preparing the presentation, or solving the crisis really matters. Let your team know that YOU know this is not just really important – it is also going to be hard.
2) Discern what is “doable hard” versus “destructive hard.” Working harder in overtime does not mean everyone becomes a crazy workaholic and winds up quitting when the project is over. People have to juggle the extra work in a way that considers family commitments and personal health. If every week at work is another overtime crisis it will ultimately crush morale, deplete leadership resources and produce an inferior product or service.
Some organizations use abusive work practices to force “extra innings” for employees. Famously, it is Wall Street financial companies, urban hospitals and top-end law firms who create insane work hours to weed out the “weak” and get more bang for their buck. It is illegal in some cases and demeaning in at best. Organizations that pay “part-time” people for 32 hours (to avoid paying for health benefits) but “allow” them to work well past that are ethically bankrupt.
3) Focus the energy. In sports you have to coach tired players and create a winning game plan. You cannot use all the resources in the first few minutes hoping for the quick kill. If you fail, you are in big trouble because you might have another 30, 60 or even 90 minutes of game time ahead. So get your team members focused on what they do best, and help them draft a long-term approach. Doing what they do best will leverage the energy they have. Don’t ask everyone to help with everything. It gets chaotic, and wastes time you do not have.
4) Deal directly with complainers. When the going gets tough the complainers get grumpy. You and the team cannot tolerate this – it saps energy, wastes time, and damages morale. Pull the offenders aside, look ‘em in the eye and let them know that attitude is everything, especially in overtime.
5) Outwork your team. In OT great captains and managers rise to a new level of commitment, energy, and focus. You cannot push others to stretch while you operate at the normal pace and level. Let the team see that you are willing to do the extra work to get the job done. It is demoralizing to serve on teams and staffs where you outwork the leaders, and get none of the perks, notoriety, vacation time, or income their leaders receive. It is sad.
6) Finally, play to win, not just survive. Yes, look at the potential for a long overtime. You might need 6 pitchers in extra innings, so be strategic in their deployment. But don’t settle for survival. Get the team together and determine what the goal is, what “victory” looks like and then get after it. If it just drags on, then energy wanes, the team gets distracted, and the victory goes to others.
The captains and coaches of the Blackhawks led well in OT. They rotated players on lines, using shorter shifts, called time outs, worked a clear strategy, and led by example. It was a winning combination. A 4-3 victory well into the 3rd overtime.
Imagine how good that must feel today!
Photo Credit: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=673963
Avoid These 5 Big Leadership Mistakes
Not long ago CEO Ron Johnson was fired from JC Penney. Brad Tuttle, who covers business and personal finance for TIME believes there were 5 main reasons.
1) He misread the customer
2) He failed to test ideas in advance before going to market
3) He alienated core customers
4) He did not understand or honor the JC Penney brand
5) He did not respect the JC Penney leadership or culture
If you want to read the online article, click here.
Let’s learn from these leadership mistakes for our teams, groups and organizations.
1) Know your client. Whether you lead a church, auto repair shop, university or grocery store, you had better know who your customer is. A friend of mine is launching a consulting venture. He’s an experienced and successful businessman. But he has worked hard at understanding who his customer is – not hopes to be or can be. But who it is!
What kind of person are you speaking to? What are their struggles and needs? How do they make decisions? How can you serve them (not how do they serve your agenda)?
2) Test big ideas. Untested “big splash” ideas often fail. In the 1968 P&G put “potato chips” in a can – a great idea. Millions tried them, but never bought more. They tasted awful. It was not a potato chip, as expected. It was a snack chip. A simple taste test in key markets would have changed everything. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pringles
A large church asks the congregation to eat only rice, beans and water for a week to understand life in poverty. But many could not participate and felt guilty. These included diabetics, people with illnesses, smaller children, students in rigorous sports, the elderly, and many who labored hours outdoors.
But what if leaders allowed the congregation to come up with ideas, tested them for a few days, and then shared choices – like getting to know a poor person, serving the needy at a shelter, wearing the same clothes all week, eating a limited diet, not brushing your teeth, etc. Pick a way, do it and then tell stories about the experience. They misunderstood the client, and failed to test their idea.
3) Engage your core customer or audience. This is a classic error. The new team of leaders or mid-level managers does not understand the culture, existing staff, key volunteers (in non profits), and the core customer base. Instead of first seeking to understand, they ignore both the customer and key insiders, and basically impose a new vision and strategy on the organization. And it’s a mess. If you have been on the receiving end of this kind of “change” initiative, you know why it failed and why it hurt.
It takes years to recover sometimes. The Penney turnaround will take some time. But if you invest in customers, it will pay off for you and them. Here’s a good HBR article for more info on that.
4) Honor the brand. Customers are more important than your brand. But the brand is important. There is a reason the organization has come this far. Don’t be eager to toss out the past. Even if you have been hired engineer a turnaround, be cautious before dumping a deeply-established brand. Here is how Customer Growth Partners analyst Craig Johnson described what the CEO had done:
“Penney had been run into a ditch when he took it over. But, rather than getting it back on the road, he’s essentially set it on fire.”
Poor management was replaced with mismanagement. The core values behind the brand must be carefully considered before re-branding or initiating great change. “We make children smile” is a brand promise you want to keep if you are a toy manufacturer. But HOW you keep that promise can change. Be wise.
5) Respect the organization. If you have been on the receiving end of a leadership transition, you understand how valuable this is when driving change. The brand, core culture, committed employees and loyal customers must be honored. It does not mean that you pretend it was all good. But you can respect the past as you lead into the future.
Never let your vision sound like, “Ok, I am finally doing something worthwhile here and will fix everything you’ve messed up for 20 years.” You will place yourself in a bigger hole. Celebrate faithful people, recognize previous successes, and tell the stories that highlight core values you want to preserve. It will help you build the relational and strategic capital you’ll need later to introduce real change.
Leadership mistakes are inevitable – but some of them are avoidable. Learn from the mistakes of others. Doing so will limit your own errors and gain you the respect you need to lead well.
What else would you add to the list?
Like all athletes I did weight training while playing football in High School and College. We pushed ourselves to the limit, trying to get bigger faster.Though I never used steroids or drugs I drank protein shakes and ingested protein supplements. Between 11th and 12th grade I gained almost 20 pounds on my 6-2 frame, most of it muscle, reaching a weight of 190. By sophomore year in college I was 215, though my college lifestyle helped add as much fat as protein to the mix.
One day I remember looking in the mirror at my growing body, and there were lines under my arms where the chest muscle met the shoulder. Stretch marks, as I later discovered, were common among people whose muscle growth outpaces the rate of skin growth. So the skin stretches too fast, leaving these marks. Body builders and pregnant women totally understand this.
Stretch marks are STRESS marks. It’s clear evidence that you’ve gone faster and farther than your capacity.
Stress is good. But there is always a price to pay when stress is great. It’s a common symptom in high performance athletes, high profile personalities and high-flying leaders.
If you want tips for reducing stress you can go to any credible website and get some ideas. Here’s 10 from Web MD to help get you started.
But what about life in the middle of the stress? What do you do to engage it and enter the stress battle; I don’t mean prevention or recovery. Total prevention is not possible – life brings unwelcome stress. We can do our part to reduce the frequency and intensity of self-inflicted stress (like not waiting until the last minute to write a 15-page paper, as my students often do). We cannot live stress-free. Recovery strategies include sleep, exercise, saying “NO” for a few days, and if serious enough, getting some professional help. Managing rhythms and building space into the calendar is, of course, essential.
But what about the middle of the battle? What do we do after the phone call saying our son was in a car accident, or when the boss explains sales are down 20% and there will be staffing reductions? What do we do when there is no more money at the end of the month, or your aging parent needs to move to an institution next week – and they live 1500 miles from you?
Stress marks are no respecters of persons. I know over a dozen people who just got a few more stretch marks on their souls because of unforeseen and undesirable circumstances. Stress happens to us, around us and through us. Here is how to fight the stress battle when the bullets are flying, when it’s too late or impossible to prevent or still too soon for recovery.
1) Gain perspective: Stretch marks are like battle scars. Bating suit models despise them and mothers wish they’d go away. But deep down inside life-warriors find a bit of comfort or pride or resolve in battle scars. Every scar has a story – some good, some bad, some awful. But they shout to us, “You are alive and you are fully engaged in the battle!”
2) Hang around the wounded: We avoid pain at every opportunity. The best thing is having pain partners. Watch a group of veterans at the local coffee shop. They don’t talk about war experiences much, but they have all been there and know the issues they must face today as a result of their experiences. Huddle with some other battle-weary souls.
3) Wave the white flag: When you cannot win the battle you must surrender to it. No – don’t yield to the enemy. Instead, surrender to the battle. Surrender to your pride, ego, self-sufficiency and desire for control. Maybe you are fighting a larger battle than you have to. I was trying to fight my way into a certain kind of client. I assumed I needed to grunt it out. But I was taking fire the whole way. Soon I realized I was battling my ego, not my enemy. I surrendered and redirected my attention to other fronts. And it made a big difference.
4) Yield command to others: You don’t have to be the general. And you don’t have to give in. You just need to pass the leadership baton. It could be that your perspective or you operating paradigm or you narrow experience is actually a roadblock to your leadership. There’s a short article in INC. Magazine on this Success Means Learning to Let Go by Geoffrey James.
5) By letting someone else (or a small team) lead the charge, you’ll discover fresh approaches and new “weapons” in the arsenal. You’ll watch people use core skills, insights, operating procedures, training methods and problem-solving techniques that are not in your armory.
You can avoid some stretch marks. And you cover some of them up. But in the end, you will get your fair share…because you’re alive. Learn to live with stretch marks.
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!
Carving out space for refreshment and renewal is essential for lasting leadership. Here is a great way to monitor your life and create space in your schedule.
Creating Margin in your Leadership – Transcribed
I am a proponent of a flatter leadership culture. I believe in teamwork, shared responsibility, very little hierarchy and a more collaborative approach. Not only does it work – it works better. While a number of leadership “gurus” continue to act and teach like the Big Dog Leader model is a given (most then are well over age 50), a rising groundswell of leaders are opting out of the model. They are dropping like flies from organizations that thrive on hierarchy and the Command and Control model espoused at most Leadership Conferences.
So I am thrilled to see the changes that are coming. But here’s the question…
Are we – are YOU — ready for shared leadership?
Here are a few things that shared leadership implies. And you might have a few more so join the conversation.
1) Shared leadership means shared blame. Ok, I know that you intellectually agree, but are you willing to take your share of the heat when things get hot? Or even more than your share? When I coach organizations building a flatter leadership structure, the “underlings” are thrilled to be handed an oar or two, to row with the crew. But I wonder if they are just as willing to grab a bucket when the boat takes on water in the storm? Are you willing to take the criticism, the blame for the loss or the downturn, or be confronted about the misfire?
2) Shared leadership means deeper communication more often. The more people involved in a process the more talking you need to do. That might mean more emails, more updates, more quick “check-in” meetings like Lencioni advocates in Death by Meeting. You ready for that?
3) Shared Leadership means longer decision-making. I think this is generally good, but it takes some getting used to. I would advocate that, in the long run, you get better decisions and have less “clean up” to do when the solo leader goes rogue and makes a lousy hire or a bad decision “from the gut” (which is often code for “Let’s do it my way because I’m always right and I am in control). But decisions by a team take longer than solo leadership decisions.
4) Shared Leadership means giving in and sometimes giving up. Of course, “real leaders” NEVER give up. Mandela is a great one to speak to this. In his book “Mandela’s Way” he has a chapter entitled, “Leading from the Back.” You need to read it. It comes after “Leading from the Front” so he is not opposed to being our front at times. But a willingness to step back and let other leaders have their way is an art that requires patience, trust and humility – a quality lacking in many “Big Dog” leaders. Are you ready to play second fiddle…or no fiddle at all?
5) Share Leadership means shared success. Are you ready to share the glory, the rewards, the perks, the status symbols, and the “corner” office(s)? Many are not. If you have worked in a place where many people work longer and harder than the “point leader” but they get the special trips, income, organizational resources, power, freedom, vacation time, public recognition, and “benefit of the doubt” when stuff goes wrong, you know how that feels. It is a real demoralizing situation, especially when they pretend to be “a leader among equals” which again is code for “let’s share the problems but I get the goodies.” So are you willing to share the goodies equally among the leadership team? Even bonuses, and other rewards? We’ll see.
Shared leadership is more than an ideal. It is a commitment to becoming a real community of leaders with mutual accountability, vision, goals, trust, responsibility, blame and rewards.
It takes work, but it is really worth it. The team is stronger, the cause is more compelling, the results last longer and the process of “leadership succession” is virtually seamless, because there is no “mega-leader” to replace with another one. Instead, the team grows, changes, and new leaders are added as others move on. It is driven by much more than a person.
Are you ready for that?
What kind of leadership destroys community and fractures a team? What role do leaders play in the process of fostering (or inhibiting) a sense of unity among team members, group leaders and staff? Here are some pitfalls to personally avoid and to confront in others when individualism trumps community. I have seen too much of this kind of leadership lately, and so I decided to revisit this topic.
Blinded by Vision
A vision is only as good as the reality it produces. Leaders obsessed with an ideal picture of what could be, fail to embrace what truly is. They live on vision fumes. Teammates and followers become frustrated and soon trust in the leader vaporizes. Activist and Pastor Bonhoeffer famously observed “the one who loves his dream of community more than the community itself destroys the latter.” We could paraphrase: “The who loves his or her personal vision more than the people being envisioned, alienates them.” It is easy to idealize our cause, mission, product launch, set of values or our service to a needy community, while ignoring the impact of our self-centered vision on the very people we are called to help.
Pre-occupied with Structure
When the model becomes the master community building’s a disaster (a cute rhyme but a deep truth). I have witnessed this in too many places—model-driven versus value-led leaders get obsessed with “the way” instead of looking at the values and processes that get you there. The structure serves the people; the people don’t serve the structure. Fluent teams and shared leadership mitigate against this. Top-down, top-dog leadership models tend to reinforce ineffective structure and promote unhealthy leaders.
Any initiative requires strong leadership from the leadership team designated to carry out the venture. Leaders are “the voice” for the initiative and the guide to others seeking to build it. But there’s more. A leader who shuns the input of others and fails to consider their collective wisdom and insights is no longer responsible, leaving followers disconnected and devalued. This lack of response is the result of a failure – or a desire – to listen with empathy, respect and for the purpose of learning. Michael Hoppe’s Active Listening is a big help here. It takes some humility – and that goes a long way.
Focused on “Self”- Improvement
The inclination to use people instead of empowering them kills any team or community. When leaders make decisions from self-interest or self-promotion others lose respect for those leaders and then passion for the shared mission fizzles. Team leaders design meetings to meet personal needs or interests; staff members focus mostly on numbers and the success of big events; senior leaders make decisions to enhance personal agendas, and all this happens at the expense of the people we are called to lead.
Let’s look at our own leadership approach and style – are we killing the very thing we are working so hard to bring life to? If, so it’s time to change.
I had the privilege of being with some great yet humble pastoral leaders last week at a forum in Atlanta. These 22 men and women are responsible for creating a climate where group life and effective teams can flourish in and through the life of the local church. Some world-renown churches were represented (Saddleback, LifeChurch, North Point) and some lesser known communities (Westridge, Sojourn, and Southridge in Canada) rounded out the list.
Church size, personal popularity, resources published, ministry longevity or the level of creativity were not the factors that made these leaders or their churches “great” in my eyes. Rather, they were successful because they maintained a relentless commitment to becoming a church with community at the core of everything they do.
Why? Because they knew and believed there is no discipleship without relationship! There can be no mass disciple-making using events and programs. Yes, you can create more followers with creative events, spectacular services and dynamic speakers. But you cannot make disciples.
As I listened to these friends and fellow leaders, it was clear that communal life and how it can change the world was truly at the center. It was not an afterthought, an add-on to be considered after focusing on fundraising, events, services, classes, programs and activities. I long for that kind of church.
But to be a place where community is at the core you must first believe that it really belongs there, where God put it and where Jesus lived it. And you must build everything around it. The heart of the gospel is community – the message that the God who lives in community came to restore community with his people through the life, death and resurrection of his son. (John 17:21)
How do we Become a Place with Community at the Core?
Here are some of the key insights that these leaders shared or that I took away as we engaged deeply about what it means for community to be central to the core of a church to catalyze spiritual growth and maximize world impact.
Strategy Matters: Organic growth is cool and new experiments are essential, but at the end of the day you need a cohesive, coherent strategy for building community life. It must not be so rigid as to inhibit innovation, nor so loose as to create unmanageable chaos. But you need one – missional groups, meta-church, life transformation groups, mid-sized communities…the models vary but not the need for a unified, cohesive strategy. And be careful not to over-program. The emerging discussion about Missional Communities was very provocative.
Clarity is King: Why do we do groups? What is our desired outcome? How do people get connected? Where do we find emerging leaders and how do we equip them? There are many questions and problems to solve, and most of them are complex or require real effort. But if you are committed to achieving clarity, you have most of the problem solved already. See Stanley on this.
Culture-Transformation is our Mission. Many Christians either attack the culture or run from it. But we are not called to build a community of navel gazers, obsessed with promoting an insulated, fortress mentality. People are lost, hurting, lonely, fear-filled, poor, hungry, homeless, hopeless, friendless, oppressed, unemployed, wounded and sick. We build community to strengthen the body AND enter the culture with a Luke 4 mindset. In God’s power we are setting captives free, bringing sight to the spiritually blind, offering good news and hope to the poor, and shouting out “God’s favor has come!”
Stories Stir the Soul: Listening to the stories of others and telling our story is a powerful way to connect people and build relationships with those outside our circle. Then we can connect our stories to God’s story.
Metrics Motivate the Mind: You get what you measure, but you cannot gauge progress without some markers. Without measurement there is no management. Plan to measure qualitative and quantitative growth, getting feedback so that you can focus your training and development of people.
Leaders Make a Big Difference: We all advocate the vision of shared ministry, mutual use of gifts, empowering one another to serve, and taking ownership of ministry at every level. But we also know that quality, committed leadership matters. We want a flatter kind of church structure, and we know that leaders themselves have a big role in making that happen. We have to give more away, take more risks, allow others to fail, and be the first to work ourselves out of a job. See my post about your leadership.
The Good News is the Best News: We affirmed our commitment to the gospel-story of Jesus, teaching His way of being with people, loving others, living a sacrificial life, redeeming us from sin and shame, and putting us on a new path toward abundant life.
I was so proud to be in the room with such an amazing group of servants whose hearts are tender, minds are sharp, and souls long for real change. And who can laugh at themselves (and one another!) in a way that is simply pure joy.
With whom do you gather for this kind of inspiration?
Where do you get real interaction and thought-provoking conversation?
Where do you discover fresh ideas and see strategies that actually work in real life?
Not just more speakers and content and information – but real engagement about life and ministry issues that produces lasting change?
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.
Photo credit: http://welcome2hope.org
I can imagine asking a small group or team member in a church “Is spiritual growth important?” and hearing them answer, “Absolutely!” Then I would take a risk and follow that with, “Ok, but is it actually possible?” With some trepidation, most would likely say, “Yes, it’s possible.” Ok…now the defining question, the one I really want to ask. “Is spiritual growth possible for you and, if so, how is that happening now?”
Silence. Confusion. Fear. Shame. Doubt.
Welcome to “Awkward Moments in Spiritual Conversations” – the hottest new reality show.
To be clear, I believe growth is possible. And I have seen growth in my life. But not without much pain, sorrow, heartache or effort. And almost never without OTHERS!
Spiritual Growth is Intensely Communal
Church leaders remain convinced that people find hope and strength for their journey when they gather regularly with a small community for mutual support and wisdom. But it is no secret that they are seeking so much more. Inwardly they wonder whether real, lasting change is possible or if a group experience will play a role in their progress toward Christ-centered living.
I’m talking about your group and my group here. Group members are asking, “Is it possible? And if so, how does it happen? How do we know it is happening?” And for many of us in positions of leadership, “What role do group leaders play in this grand communal kingdom adventure of spiritual growth?”
Yes, publicly we are quick to declare that intentional, relational community is essential for life-change. But privately many fearfully wonder, “Can our group actually produce disciples? Can we become radically transformed human beings who are nuts about Jesus, instead of just nuts?”
Let’s be honest. We expect John Ortberg’s group to change. And we’re certain that a few weeks with Dallas Willard will take us just a few feet from the throne-room of heaven. And is there really any doubt that if we invited Richard Foster and the Renovare team to lead our group or team we would experience non-stop spiritual growth, upward and to the right, 24/7, every week of every year?
That’s what most of us believe—really. For THEM it is possible. But not for US. THEY are Transformational Titans and WE are Spiritual Slugs.
Don’t you believe it. Not for one minute. They are not super saints. (Trust me. I have seen Ortberg make a mistake, bumble in the pulpit and sweat in a staff meeting. And once I heard him say a bad word in public.)
BREAKING STORY…Ordinary Person says, “Spiritual Growth is Possible!”
All kidding aside, what attracts us to our spiritual heroes is that they are pursuing a life of devotion, seeking to make themselves available to the transforming grace of God in every part of their lives. But in this they are neither unique nor specially equipped. But they (and many others around the globe) are doing something. And it is something we can all do. It’s normal. And it is normal to need others to pursue lasting change. It is what the church is supposed to do and be.
Todd Hunter puts it this way, regarding the church and the good news it offers the world.
“We are cooperative friends with Jesus, living in creative goodness, for the sake of others, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Christianity Beyond Belief
Thankfully we had guides throughout the ages who have experienced this kind of life. And apart from a few mystics called to a more solitary way of prayer and life, they will all tell you that intentional group life – communal living in the way of Jesus – is a major contributor to lasting progress and permanent change.
Such change is both the opportunity and possibility for every Christ-follower. And it is the potential for every team and group in your church – to become a catalytic, change-oriented community of people in hot pursuit of a new way of life.
But it will take effort, something we “grace-focused” people think is downright heresy when it comes to all things spiritual. I am not talking about works—I am talking about effort. Go ahead…look at the phrase “make every effort” in the Bible. Peter, Paul and Jesus all use it. Why? Because they have given up on grace? No. Just the opposite – because grace makes the effort possible!
The spiritual life takes effort. We do not drift into growth or wander into deep, transforming community. Words like strive, labor and effort are not foreign to the bible, or to spiritual growth. In fact, they are essential. Look for yourself.
Dallas Willard has often remarked, “God is opposed to earning, but not to effort.” The words of the bible and saints through the ages bear this out. Effort is powered by grace. Earning is fueled by pride.
So make every effort – to persist in prayer, to work through conflict, to listen with intensity, to serve despite weakness, and to lead with diligence. In so doing you will not earn God’s favor – you already have that. But you will grow in grace, sharpen your focus and reap the rewards of faithfulness, as the scripture promises.
But whatever you do, do not do this alone. In community you will discover what real transformation looks like, for ordinary people like you and me, meeting in average small groups, led by reluctant leaders, yet fueled by the transforming grace of God and empowered by His Spirit. It is a messy process, this community thing. And it takes effort. But the Church—this ragtag group of spiritual misfits—is called to live in a community of oneness for the sake of others. And I, for one, am eager to learn more about how to enter this community with honesty, humility and skill.
I really need it. And so do you. And so do all the “spiritual giants” who have gone before us and guide us today.
Time to recognize spiritual growth is normal and not… uh … um … what’s that word… um… oh yes, …awkward!
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.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Responding to People in Pain – Transcribed
Want to talk to you today about responding to people in pain. In light of the recent events, the tragedy that has taken place around the Boston Marathon, there a lot of discussions and feelings and thoughts and emotions that people are experiencing. I happen to be attending a funeral later today for a friend’s mother and again in that situation there’s emotion and some suffering and pain and sadness as well as some joy obviously around someone’s life she lived a full life. But it makes us think about important things and I just want to address this today whether you’d lead in the marketplace or in a non-profit organization or in a ministry setting or in a non-profit organization or in a ministry setting, you’ll deal with people who have pain and you yourself will have it. So how do we respond, how do we deal with it and how do we gauge one another when we’re feeling these things?
First, I want to say pain presents an opportunity for personal growth.
Anytime we feel pain we can either medicate it or we can enter into it and process it a bit. Some of that gets processed with others, some just for ourselves, but I want you just sit and reflect on what you’re feeling and thinking about perhaps this national crisis or pain you’re experiencing in your own life. Where does it come from, what causes it, how do you talk about it and engage it? And maybe reflect on who could help you process that whether that’s a professional of some type of just a close friend. But it is an opportunity to look into our own hearts, our own souls and say, “Who is this person?” Why do I respond the way that I do? What do I do with these feelings? What do I do with these reactions? How do I do my work in the marketplace today knowing you have these feelings with me? Again, it may not be about the national tragedy it can be something in your own life that you just have to bring with you because it is with you and you can’t run from it. So we try to enter into those things. Pain gets our attention C S Lewis famously said running again more from the spiritual perspective that, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain, that it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” So it’s kind of an attention getter whether you come from that perspective in life or you don’t, maybe have a different perspective, but a psychologist, sociologist, others would agree pain is an attention getter. So what do you need to pay attention to around that emotional or physical or spiritual or other level of pain that you’re feeling?
Second, when you’re working with people who are experiencing pain and trying to engage with them remember that your presence is more important than your words.
Now wrong words can hurt, superficial words, trite words, trivial things that you say to try to medicate someone’s pain they’re not helpful. But don’t worry about trying to fix someone’s pain with your words. Your presence is what’s important. Take someone a coffee, sit with them, and attend the funeral if it’s that kind of situation. Or just simply reflect back to them say, “Sounds like this is really disturbing you this situation that’s going on right now,” and let people talk. But being present with someone is far more important than trying to know exactly how to respond or to fix or to do a number of things. So again as a leader as someone who deals with others in you’re setting recognize that sometimes it’s just even maybe a minute or two with someone, just pausing, sitting with them, letting them know you care about what’s going on in their life will go a long way.
And finally, shared pain builds teams, builds community.
When you provide an opportunity for everyone to talk about a shared pain, a national crisis, an event in the community, or someone at the workplace who has experienced a loss or a tragedy or is very ill or is maybe diagnosed with cancer, whatever, a chance to just sit and say, “Hey we all recognize this is happening we need to deal with it right now by just being present with each other and naming it and letting one another know we care.” That shared pain forms a deeper bond in any kind of place in which you work or in friendships in marriages and other kinds of relationships.
So look for that, one of those maybe three things, an opportunity for personal growth, who can you be present with and how, and then how can we share tough times together as a community so that we all grow and we face this reality of life and do it with courage as we lead well.
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