Healthy Leadership Starts Small

Leaders often are the biggest dreamers – they see the horizon and then some. They envision a better future and simply can’t wait to get there. The problem is that for leadership to remain sustainable it needs a solid foundation. This happens when we start small, fail forward and slowly learn what works and what doesn’t work in certain situations. Leadership that has only soared with the eagles and climbed the mountaintop might not be reliable when storms come and people are stuck in the valley.

mountain peak

When I was in Bible college, I must admit that I thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread and that any church would be lucky to have me as a leader. During a time of transition within the children’s ministry, I was allowed to become the leader of a small group of kids who, quite frankly, were unwanted by the key ministry leadership. My “Solid Stones” and I went to the back corner of the building and started a journey that lasts until today. I learned how to lead worship by working with those kids. I learned how to empower kids to lead their own games, teachings and worship and I was taught to be faithful in the little before ever considering the big.

I was so excited to lead this group of children and at the beginning it was truly all about me. However, to this day I still reap the benefits of the many lessons they taught me.

Starting small taught me:

  1. It’s not all about me – no other leaders in the church truly cared what we did, as long as the parents were happy. I had to lay down my agenda and learn how to create an atmosphere where kids could both learn in church and have fun!
  2. I must focus on the details and not get so lost in the dream. No dreams are ever accomplished without taking the baby steps to get there. I learned to take attendance, to pray for kids, to listen to their struggles and to adjust teachings as needed depending upon how they were all doing on a given night.
  3. Leadership is a blast! I still remember starting and ending every Wednesday night class on the playground at the merry-go-round. The goal was to wrap the kids tight around the many poles and then I would spin as fast as possible to their great delight. Having fun together opened the door to many conversations that would not have ever occurred otherwise.
  4. God is not concerned with the glamour, splash, fireworks or show. He is looking for leaders who are faithful with little, who will serve the least of these, and who are willing to work for His Kingdom, regardless of whether or not others notice.

While I would love to say I have lived out this principle of starting small perfectly over the years, I can say at least that it all started in the back room of a church, with a group of unwanted kids, who taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my leadership journey. I am forever grateful to each of them and have even been blessed to see them now as adults on occasion.

Start small, don’t worry about recognition and focus on the next step as you move forward. Your vision won’t change, but I would hate for you to miss the many lessons along the way because you are only looking at the mountaintop.

~ Mike

 

Advertisements

The Necessity of P.E.A.C.E.

I don’t know about you, but it seems far too easy to stress, to worry, to be busy and to finish each day not completely sure what I accomplished but feeling exhausted and worn out. Then, there are the times that my brokenness is revealed and I am angry, irritated, short-tempered or other not so nice emotions.

busy train station

Humanity unchecked seems to embrace the hectic and stressful lifestyle. This can’t be healthy, definitely isn’t ideal, and I couldn’t even describe life like this as fun! So, how in the world should we deal with this propensity to worry?

We all could use a little more peace in our lives – both internally and externally. Maybe less noise, more open calendar space, and even some time to enjoy nature and rediscover who we are.

reading on a couch

So, here are my elements to have PEACE in my life.

PRAY – First, I need to Pray. This involves every aspect of my faith – personal prayer, Bible study, devotions and meditation, engage in church, etc. Without faith, there seems to be a lack of purpose in life. This causes us to join the rat race, battle for every crumb, and lack eternal perspective.

EXPERIENCE GRACE – My life is a wreck, if I am honest. I am mean to people, talk lots of smack on the freeway, have sinful thoughts and in no way am close to perfection. Thankfully, I have a God, family members, and close friends who know all of my flaws but extend grace into my life regardless. I need to experience this grace and I have learned that best happens by extending grace to others. This is typically challenging for me, but I hope I am better at it today than I was yesterday.

ACTIVATE LOVE – So many people talk about love. Love is often minimized to feelings, emotions, or just carnal lust. This completely cheapens the true definition of love. Love activated compels me to look out for others, prefer them, serve them and generally find ways to help others around me get ahead. I need to learn where they want to be and see what I might contribute to their journey. It seems very counterintuitive to advance my own dreams, but that is what true love is all about.

CELEBRATE OTHERS – Jealousy is a complete thief when it comes to peace. If my energy is spent on being envious of others, then I will never be at peace. I will be stressed about the promotion of others, their well-being, and their good fortune. Peace comes as I intentionally choose to celebrate the life of those around me. Whether this is a co-worker, a family member or even somebody I might not know well, everybody knows that a good celebration is a great recipe to experience peace.

EMBRACE LIFE – We all spend far too much time with broken dreams, “what ifs”, and ponderings about what might have been. While I am not a proponent of a lifestyle that has no concern for the future, I do believe more peace will come on the other side of living life to the full. Take a risk, have some fun, laugh more often and live a life that has more adventure than regret. Enjoy family and health and blessing and friends – focus on what you have more than what you might lack and peace will soon enter the scene.

This is not a fool-proof formula and I cannot say that I live each day in perfect peace. However, I have learned that these different components all contribute differently to the daily peace that I so desperately desire.  Hopefully, at least one of them will help you to experience peace on a more regular basis.

~ Mike

Why Family Must Be #1!

It is simply amazing to me how many people choose career, sports, money, popularity, image, you name it over their family! There is an interesting dynamic where we typically bend over backwards to please those outside of our home…and take for granted the very people who are committed to us regardless of where life takes us.

family - easter 2015

For myself, I have to admit that this used to be a struggle. I often placed my family to the side in the name of ministry and busyness. I wanted to feel important to people I worked with, people I led and people I knew within my community. This intense desire to be liked led to unhealthy choices that most often left my family with the sloppy seconds of my life.

Thankfully, God has given me a second chance and I understand now why my family must remain second only to God Himself. I can write all the books I want, influence all the people I want and preach as many sermons as I want, but if I neglect the true ministry of my family, then the rest is wasted. I must lead and pastor my home before I ever consider leading outside of my home.

Why is this so important? Three things I have learned along the way:

First, God commands me to live this way. If I am truly a Christ-follower and my daily intent is to bring glory to God, then it is only reasonable that I must act according to His Word. 1 Timothy 3:1-5 ends with “…If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” This is a profound statement that is ignored by far too many leaders in the Church.

Second, when all the dust settles, family is truly all we have. I have had the privilege to pastor at multiple churches and while I was on staff, many people would call me friend and were interested in my life. However, upon leaving staff, very few remained connected. My family has stayed by my side regardless of where I serve. I do not fault any people, as I have not stayed engaged in their lives either, for the most part. The truth is that blood is thicker than water and we need to live our lives accordingly.

Third, life just makes more sense when my priorities are in line. God, family, everything else. A bad day at work is “fixed” by a kiss from my wife and a game of cards with my daughter. A rough commute with an over-abundance of traffic is forgotten after bouncing around on the trampoline with my kids. Date night with my wife (which should ABSOLUTELY be a priority for every marriage) just keeps the spark alive and provides space for laughter and connectedness. If work or ministry or busyness become the priority, it places great strain at home and absolutely nothing seems right.

I wish that I could say I have this perfectly figured out, but I would not be telling the truth. I do know, however, that what I say is true and is worthy to strive for. Family is important, family is my calling, family is made up of those who love me regardless of my failures and shortcomings. How could I give the priority to anybody else?

~ Mike

 

3 Benefits of a Healthy Team

Working for a ministry provides so many opportunities for teamwork, both internally and externally. I have the honor of leading a team of eleven individuals from across the country in our Church Relations department. Last week we held a leadership summit and spent a day and a half together in collaboration, brainstorming and celebration.

IMG_2766

While I know that much has been said about teamwork, several things struck me last week. The level of productivity we achieved was greater than almost any I have experienced in such a short amount of time. This got me to wondering why and here are the results of my thoughts.

1 – A healthy team provides space to explore, encourage, challenge, confront and succeed. We have been working on a few projects for over a year now and this past week saw the culmination of several of them. The discussion that surrounded the final products was opinionated, fierce, provocative and passionate – and I loved every minute of it. Our team has learned to trust each other and that leads to great success. This does not come easy and it is something I must intentionally cultivate as the leader, but the benefits of a trust culture are truly immeasurable.

2 – A healthy team is able to include others quite seamlessly and not create an “us v. them” mentality. We had several attendees at our summit who have been part of the team for a very short time. One literally was added to the team within weeks of our gathering. However, there was no awkwardness, competitiveness or desire to protect the inner circle. Our team understands the value of collaboration and the idea that many leaders bring even greater success to projects and outcomes. Whereas a lack of health can lead to infighting, divisiveness and a cutthroat mentality, I am blessed to be on a healthy team that constantly seeks to include and learn from others.

3 – A healthy team knows how to celebrate together! I have to admit that I have never attended a baby shower until last week, but the culture of our team led me to not want to miss out. It was a blast and we completely surprised our expectant team member. We laughed and cheered and played odd baby shower games (I actually ended up with 4 clothespins). This was the perfect ending to a time of great accomplishment. Healthy teams celebrate as well as they produce!

IMG_2768

So, how would you describe your team? Healthy or unhealthy? Please notice that I never declared our team to be perfect. We mess up projects, have misunderstandings and often disagree on the direction of our ideas. However, at the end of the day, we are able to see the bigger picture and remember why we work together. This provides the framework for a healthy team and allows us to experience many benefits together.

Leading in His Name,

Mike