Quick lessons learned not so quickly

 
Have you ever had those times when you think you have learned a lesson but then later down the road you discover maybe you didn’t realize how important that lesson really was? Ever since moving to the Executive pastor role at my church I keep stumbling across these lessons.
It is my wish to not go into long details but, to mainly make this a bullet list. If you are like me and have heard these lessons already and are implementing them yet, you too will end up having these be a lesson you may have learned but it is not one that you will discover is one you will learn quickly. If you read one of these and wonder what it means then, by all means, ask because there is a chance you can actually turn this into a lesson learned quickly.
Here we go:
  • A written vision is important. The pen (or keyboard!) has power. It isn’t enough to envision your goals in your mind. You must have a blueprint on paper. Every decision you make, ask yourself: does this help me get closer to accomplishing the vision?
  • Learn to listen to the neighborhood that your church is in. You have to listen and then deliver. God really does know where He has placed your church and why.
  • Only hire people who have a fire. Hire people who are driven to do well and see your church succeed.
  • If you must let someone go who is paid or re-position a volunteer, be graceful and professional about it. This is hands down the worst part of being an Executive Pastor. It is tough to let people go, but for the greater good of the ministry and a greater benefit for the person, sometimes it must be done. It doesn’t matter if you are being let go or being repositioned, don’t burn bridges.
  • Learn to forgive. Things happen. People change. You can’t move forward in ministry — or in life — if you can’t forgive and move on.
  • Treat your team well. People will follow a leader who treats them with respect. Learn to value your team’s input, and always reward them for a job well done.
  •  Focus is the most underrated skill that you must master. What is on people’s computer screens is not usually resulting in a positive ROI. Learn to focus on what truly matters in your ministry. Then, do it consistently. Facebook, twitter, snap chat etc., even though you may use it for networking, most likely is not as profitable as you try to sell that it is.
  • Multitasking IS NOT greater productivity. Don’t put “good multitasker” on your resume. Numerous studies have shown that multitasking decreases brain power.
  • Learn to view situations objectively. Just because you would or wouldn’t do something, doesn’t mean others are the same way.
  • Don’t take life for granted. Life is temporary, and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is how you treated those relationships that God has given you for a time. Most importantly, how have you treated the relationship between you and God?
  • A network is crucial. As much as you try, you can’t do it alone. Building a personal and professional support network is imperative.
  • Busy is an ever-changing definition. What was busy last year for you probably is not busy for you today. This is why you should be nervous of any leader who keeps talking about how “Busy” they are. They could be showing you they have reached their lid.
  • Be picky when choosing your friends. My friend list (and I don’t mean Facebook) is short. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. I heard it said once that the top 5 people you spend the most time with represent the lid of who you will be like. What does your lid look like if this is true?

Interviewing High Potential Ministry Candidates

Interviewing

It is exciting times here at my church, First Church. We are seeing a ton of great things happening at the time of writing of this blog this morning. To focus on just one of those items I now have the privilege, being my pastors’ executive pastor, of assisting my lead pastor in interviewing new potential candidates. Yes, we have hired recently a new Harvest Bible Institute Pastor (we have an accredited Bible School starting at our church in the fall of 2017). Then we also hired a new facility building manager and now we are looking for a new worship pastor.

In this process, it has been confirmed some lessons that I have learned over the years about high capacity leaders that you want on your team really do things differently. This applies even when they interview, and you can see this through their questions and their answers to your strategically asked questions. I will take on today sharing some of my questions and what I learn from asking each one.

  • What were the things in your last position that energized you the most and what zapped your energy the most? 

This is kind of easy to see the benefits of asking this question. Some of the obvious takeaways would be seeing what gifts and tools they will be bringing to the table and the areas that they would prefer to stay away from. Areas that people gain energy from they will choose to stay there more often than the areas they don’t gain energy from. How much of the areas that drain them are really parts of the ministry they are applying for? While answering this also keep listening for a humble spirit especially when they are talking about their areas that they gain energy from.

  • What were the problems areas for you in your past position/ministry and do you see any of those potentially being here in this position? 

This is about adaptability. Listen to what problems they identify and how did they adapt to them? Problems will always be in every ministry/position but how does this potential person adapt to the challenges?

  • If you were hired for this position, what would be your game plan for the first 3 months?

Here is a question that will show a couple items about the interviewee. First, it allows the person to showcase some of their creativity. Secondly, it allows you to see how much they have researched your church and the ministry they are applying for. High capacity leaders do their homework. This is an area for the person to show you what specific things they know about your church, the good and the bad. One more thing this can show you is how well have they grasped what success would like in this role.

There are a few more strategic questions I enjoy asking, but, I will leave it at these for now. Some of you may be thinking, you just gave the questions you use in interviewing and people can prepare better now. I would say, you are correct! Bottom line is, High capacity leaders are prepared and do their homework. So if they have found this post and can benefit from it, they should be rewarded for doing their homework.

What questions would you add to this list?

How to accomplish more effective note taking

To be completely honest, this is a new topic and habit for me. Effective note taking that is. I have always taken notes and underlined and all when listening to podcast, sermons, etc.. But, with the ever-increasing amount of data that I need to take in to be an effective Executive Pastor, getting note taking down is even more paramount now.

Habits that do not work. Highlighting. I know, ouch, right? I was a master highlighter. Every book, every Bible that I had looked like it was the result of a rainbow that had thrown up. Highlighting may look product and useful, but actually is the opposite. In fact, highlighting is such a bad study technique it may even harm your recall ability since it highlights particular notes and takes them out of their original context, which makes it harder to form connections in your mind—and thus, harder to remember the material. We need to interact heavily with our notes and the material we’re trying to learn if we’re to remember it. Highlighting and underlining are passive and not interactive.

A habit that does work: Handwritten notes. To be completely honest with you, I am not sure I would have ever tried to go back to handwritten note if it was not for my Rocketbook Wave Notebook. Yes, handwritten and not on a laptop. There is a study titled: To remember a lecture better, Take Notes by hand.

Another habit that works is to draw your notes. An interesting study was done where they even compared handwriting vs drawing and drawing came out on top for memory recall.

Drawing your notes isn’t anything new. In fact, it has a name: sketchnotes. Designer Mike Rhode popularized “sketchnotes” with his books The Sketchnote Handbook and The Sketchnote Workbook. Rhode uses the term sketchnotes to describe the way he draws shapes and pictures among his notes to help him better take the main ideas from conference talks, and not trying to note down every little point.

Rhode advocates using signs and shapes such as boxes and arrows, different sized writing, and doodles to illustrate notes. You don’t need to be an amazing artist to use sketchnotes, he says. You only need to practice using simple shapes and images to illustrate your points.

So, are you willing to give note taking a try again? I know it can feel so yesteryear but again if it wasn’t for my Rocketbook Wave I would not have tried again either. But now, I’m glad I did because I get to enjoy the best of both worlds plus recall more.

Thoughts? Do you write out notes? Do you only use electronics? Feel free to share.

3 Questions for better productivity

Team work is some of the most gratifying time for me. I love working on teams, being on teams, and leading teams. With teams can come a boat load of questions and for every team member you have, they represent a possible different schedule than what you have set up with your ideal schedule. Does this mean productivity can never be accomplished? Absolutely not. It does mean that training will need to take place in order for true productivity to happen.

Here is one quick way that I try to set those I do executive coaching for up for success. Learn these 3 questions and you’re on your way to better productivity.

When you are in your block of time for open/close door type work (maybe I’ll write more this at another time) and your team members start stopping in because they want to get your comments, thoughts, suggestions etc. and they pitch the issue or problem they are having, ask yourself these 3 questions.

1. Is it important?
Remember that just because something is communicated to you in urgent tones doesn’t mean it is actually
important. And just because it registers as important to someone else doesn’t mean it’s automatically important to you.

2. Is it important for you to do it?
Really think about this one. Pausing to decide if it lines up with your passion and skill is a good
move. There may be someone else on the team who is better suited to tackle the problem. If so, delegate.

3. Is it important now?
Even granting that it is important and important for you, that doesn’t mean it’s important now. You may be able to file it under the list of things to be done when you are doing more routine tasks.

Become very familiar with these 3 questions. If you still struggle with this, it might come down to a leadership issue. Do you find an unhealthy amount of significance from solving team problems? Do you have the right people on the team? Have you empowered them to act?

New day in ministry with a virtual assistant

I have entered a new season of ministry here at First Church DSM. I went from being the family pastor to being the executive pastor of family and ministry operations. For the first time since I started in Full-Time ministry back in 1992, I feel a little out of it as I try to figure out what I am doing now and the best way to do it.

In comes, the greatest tool my church could have allowed me to have. What is that tool you ask? Her name is Laura, my virtual assistant from Belay. Take out the part of her not physically being in my office area at the church and not being able to run an errand or two, Laura has been the best ministry gift from my church to me in this new position.

It has only been 2 weeks so far but Laura and I have really started dialing in how we can work the best with one another. I’ll describe some of the tools and ways we are using them that would benefit anyone working with an admin, virtual or physical. Let’s begin.

Slack is where it all starts for us. We use slack instead of texting. Organize your team conversations in open channels. Make a channel for a project, a topic, a team, or anything—everyone has a transparent view of all that’s going on. For sensitive information, create private channels and invite a few team members. We use Direct Messages just like you would a text. Then in slack you can take a conversation from typing to face-to-face by starting a voice or video call in any Channel or Direct Message. Make one-on-one or group calls right from Slack without needing to open another app or share invite links.

Trello is where we put our projects as we work on them. A Trello board is a list of lists, filled with cards, used by Laura and I. It’s a lot more than that, though. Trello has everything you need to organize projects of any size.

Dropbox is where we will put all finished projects. For example, every year we run an Easter outreach. We will communicate with one another through slack, and add team members into that slack so we will have a one stop talk area for all things Easter that year. We will track all that communication over projects and due dates etc that we keep in an Easter Trello board. Once the budgets, ideas, checklist, vendor information, brochures created, and so much more we will take all of that and place it in our Drop Box Easter folder so that next year we will just go to the Easter folder and have a great starting point.

Evernote is more of our personal file cabinet.Big ideas, little details, and everything in between. Anything that matters to you can be captured in a note, ready for when you need it. Surfing the web and find a great article or blog that you enjoy, web clip to Evernote. get an email you want to file that is from an actual mailing list you want to be part of email it to your Evernote account. Take a picture of something you see that you want to remember later for a possible new stage design for your church, add into Evernote. Want the business card from the person you are meeting with but tired of having all these loose business cards or not having them ready to use when you need them, take a picture and add it into Evernote. Then have all of this and so much more available in real-time from any of your devices. That there is the real kicker for this tool. Available and searchable at any time even with pictures.

Lastly, Laura and I are finding that using doing a weekly zoom call to touch base “in person” keeps us in touch with the tone of what is going on for all week through slack, Trello, dropbox, and evernote. Belay has done a fantastic job of matching me with an assistant that works like I do. Even after they give you one they follow-up over the next couple weeks as well to make sure it is all going well. They interviewed me and found out my personality and made sure they gave me an admin that would fit.

Bottom line, it’s a new day in ministry with having a virtual assistant.

The Truth about your capacity

The truth about yours and mine capacity is that we should always be increasing it.

Traveling through a neighborhood recently where when I was a child I use to have a paper route. The homes were always the kind of homes that I dreamed of owning myself someday. Big driveways for many cars, several stories high, well-kept yards and more. I always enjoyed delivering the paper to the neighborhood. The tragic sight that I recently saw during this visit. Those same homes now several years later would not be anyone’s dream homes. Several yards tore up and dead. Driveways have more weeds growing from cracks in the driveways, and so many more changes that it no longer looks the same.

What is the big difference? The capacity of those new homeowners changed.

The homeowners had the capacity to take care of all their yards and homes. They later sold those homes to people who would move in and not have the same high-capacity in taking care of their homes and the result is what is the reality now.

Raise your capacity in whatever you are doing.

Some ways to raise your capacity in today’s world.

1. Read. Reading today can come in many forms. Information in today’s world is not something we have a shortage of.

2. Watch Videos. Plug into Lynda.com, YouTube,  Vimeo etc. Do a search for keywords that you want to raise your capacity in and stand back to be amazed at the number of videos available to grow from.

3. Join social networks. Join Facebook groups or pages, LinkedIn group, and the list goes on.

Bottom line. Today is the day to start raising your capacity. No excuses, there is way too many ways to grow.

 

First day as Executive Pastor and other wonderful firsts

Working in office situation

 

Yesterday was the day. A day that was a day of new beginnings in many ways.

    • I started as my pastors first Executive Pastor. My official title being: Family and Ministry Operations pastor.
    • My first time after 25-ish years of full-time pastoral ministry being a XP.
    • Started with a new VA (virtual assistant) who is from Belay.
    • Started to put in place a communication strategy with tools and reasons for each.
    • Started a new coaching friendship with my new XP coach, Kevin Llyod

How many great starts can a person handle? I say 5 was good for one day. Over the next few days I will continue to unfold these new starts and how they are going. The future is going to be bright.

Here are just a few of the resources, tools and more that I will be writing about due to these great “first”.

 

The Red Book Mark Harper

“The Red Book” by Mark Harper should be on every shelf of every Children’s Ministry leader. It is a great ministry hand/guide-book that is easily digested with practical application steps.

This book covers the important aspects of Children’s Ministry. Mark doesn’t only tell you what those aspects are, He shares his own experiences, insights, and how you can put in place those ideas into your own ministry. Every chapter is short. When it comes to Ministry, there is a ton to unpack even if we’re only considering the most basic elements. Great nuggets of timeless wisdom and knowledge in every chapter. Steps you can follow the next Sunday.

I will admit, I had one part of the book in which I had a struggle with Mark and do not see eye to eye with this comment of his. On page 57 he writes: “In my opinion, too many of us have bought into this philosophy of “teach less for more.” I do agree with the idea of teaching less for more. The way Mark uses this thought is not correct. Mark writes how our kids are starving for the word of God. If you are starving then you feed that hunger. I agree we have people starving for the word of God and that we should feed them as much as possible. The “teach less for more” isn’t people like myself saying we need to teach less of Gods word. Let’s look instead at what we are doing in our services and make sure we have given the word priority over all the extra things. That is “teaching less for more”.

In my ministry, we have made small groups where the word can be shared in a way the kids can flesh it out. The “Word” has such a priority, that it gets more than half our time together each week. This time is what gives us more bang for our investment than anything else we can do.

Outside of this, this was an incredible refreshing book to read. I enjoyed this book so much that I am ordering it for all my leaders and I would urge you to do the same. I am using each short chapter as a stand-alone teaching in my pre-service huddles with my leaders.

Thanks, Mark Harper for such a great book that anyone of any church size can use.

How time management is handled all wrong

I am a task management junkie who continues to strive to be a task management ninja.

One of the many struggles over the years for me has been handling the idea of keeping a separate to-do list apart from my calendar. If the items I would put on a to-do list are to be accomplished, would they not have to be added on the calendar? Yes they would!

This is exactly why I have stopped the madness of trying to keep a separate to-do list. It does mean I don’t get to play with other apps on my phone or in my web browser, but, that has meant more productivity. The simple act of scheduling tasks on your calendar instead of on a to-do list will increase performance. With most calendars., there are places to add notes, reminders etc. to aid in getting said task done, use them.

As this process takes off for you, it may become overwhelming because the first instinct is to fill every time slot with something. Having every time slot filled would look like your being productive, right? Wrong. To a skilled eye looking at someone’s filled calendar, it says they don’t know what they are doing yet. I know, seeing empty places can make you feel like you should be doing more, but resist. It is important to leave buffers in your day.

What’s a buffer? A buffer is a block of time that you schedule to do nothing scheduled. Take a nap, search the web for fun, read a book, take a walk, review notes from a previous meeting, relax. These scheduled buffer times will help you not run from meeting to meeting.

The CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, wrote a blog post describing how he blocks time on his calendar. He wrote:

“If you were to see my calendar, you’d probably notice a host of time slots greyed out but with no sign of what’s going on. There is no problem with my Outlook or printer. The grey sections show ‘buffers,’ or time periods I’ve purposely kept clear of meetings.

In aggregate, I schedule between 90 minutes and two hours of these buffers every day (broken down into 30- to 90-minute blocks). It’s a system I developed over the last several years in response to a schedule that was becoming so jammed with back-to-back meetings that I had little time left to process what was going on around me or just think.

At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have used the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said “no” to. But over time I realized not only were these breaks important, they were absolutely necessary in order for me to do my job.”

Here are a few suggestions for this week as you become more of the Task management Ninja that we all desire to be.

  • Move more to your calendar than on your separate to-do list.
  • Find a couple of times a day to put in place buffers. Try to make the buffers at least 10-15 minutes a piece.

Top Blog Post by the end of 2016

“Sporadic” would be describing my blogging for 2016 in the best terms. There has been so much searching for me personally to figure out why do I blog? Where is my voice in blogging? Where do I want my voice to go through blogging?

The bottom line for me in 2016 was to figure out is blogging hitting my reasons for doing it or has it just become one of those things I do because I have always done it over the last few years? There are way too many changes that have happened in my life and ministry to allow me to do anything for long at all just for the purpose of doing it. To aid in my blogging I have asked a friend by the name of Brandon Cox to help coach me in making the blog even better in 2017.

So as I continue to find my answers I went through my stats of those who read, subscribe and have interacted with my blog through social media channels and have put together the top 16 post (in comparison to views, interactions and how long the post has been active) according to you since I have been blogging.

Enjoy. Feel free to interact with this post as well because I do pay attention.

16. Are you worth following

15. Productive morning routines part 2

14. It is still empty.

13. Kids do see differently

12. Are you hired for your children’s ministry to be a leader or a manager

11. Made 2015 Top 100 Kidmin blogs

10. Unlock a new level of your children’s ministry

9. What success looks like

8. Effective meetings can happen

7. MBWA Management by walking around

6. Happy birthday iPhone. How you have changed the game.

5. One method to create children’s ministry object lessons

4. The habit of scheduling time to think

3. 7 questions to hitting your target

2. What’s your day look like?

1. Difference between front and back of the house.

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