3 Steps to Get From Here to There

When I was still serving as a children’s pastor, one of the churches I was on staff at had never hosted a summer Vacation Bible School. This is typically a week-long event for elementary age children that is high energy and filled with games, crafts teachings, music, etc. The whole purpose of the week is to help kids know and follow Jesus better. Unfortunately, at that time, the typical week was very focused on the kids already coming to the church. My heart was to create an event that focused more on kids in the community who had never been to church before.


The church staff heard my dream and supported my vision. After six months of planning, the big day hit and I was overwhelmed to see 300 kids attend our first ever night. We did things very differently than a typical church event and it was a huge success. While I acknowledge that it was truly a God-led moment, there were also many things that I needed to do as the leader to see the vision come to pass. Upon reflection, there are three basic steps that will help us as leaders move our vision from here to there…from a dream to a reality.

Vision – throughout the Bible, we see stories of people with amazing vision that God brings to fruition (Daniel, Abraham, and Mary to name a few) and those who lacked vision and ended in defeat (Samson, King Saul and Judas). Without vision, we have no direction, no purpose and nowhere to see our passion manifest. Vision provides the answers to so many questions. Vision keeps us focused on the big picture when the little details seem overwhelming. Vision rallies others when they see our enthusiasm and it matches up with passion of their own. 

My vision was to create an event that would attract kids to attend church and learn about God in a fun and high-energy environment. This was compelling enough to draw support from church staff and volunteers because I was so fired up about it that the excitement became contagious. A vision is not truly compelling until it keeps the leader up at night! What is that dream you have been holding on to that God might be surfacing right now? Write it down and keep it in sight!

Strategy – while it is a blast to dream and reach for the sky, it can quickly become an exercise of frustration if there is not a framework for accomplishment. This is what strategy provides. How many different components does your vision entail? How many people do you need to join the team in order to see success? What are the big rocks you must have in order to make progress towards achievement? Strategy is your game plan, your map, your flow chart. Strategy shows the basic route to get from here to there. Strategy does not require a lot of details, but it definitely requires a sense of direction and needs to get to your vision. And the best strategy is often created within the context of a team instead of one individual attempting to see all of the angles and possibilities. 

My strategy was to split up the Vacation Bible School into as many different areas as possible and give away as much authority as possible to key volunteers. We had snacks and games and teachings and music. Multiple generations of volunteers were serving and one person was even in charge of gathering prizes (for free!!) from local businesses. Meetings were planned, checkpoints of accomplishment were determined and the strategy kept everybody moving the same direction at the same time to the culmination of our vision. What an incredible demonstration of the power of team! Without strategy we would have been a bunch of chickens running around, but with strategy we were a team of cyclists planning to win the Tour de France.

Tactics – here is where the rubber meets the road. All of the dreams and strategies must eventually land in basic, daily tasks. These are the practical steps needed to accomplish the vision. A journey of a thousand miles is completed one step at a time. It might seem counterintuitive, but the dream is actually in the details. Without the details, the dream remains a dream. With the details, the dream becomes a reality that often far exceeds our wildest hopes. 

Checklists might not seem exciting but they prevent us from forgetting key components for our vision. Deadlines are essential and somebody has to be in charge of making copies, right? Practical tactics allowed me to see over 300 kids and almost 100 volunteers come together for a week that truly transformed hundreds of lives. And this event has continued to this day making a difference for hundreds of kids every summer for almost fifteen years.

So, how do we get from here to there? My suggestion is to start backwards. Determine the “there”, otherwise known as your vision. Write it down, let it sink deep into your heart and then, when it’s time to share, your passion will be contagious. Develop a team to help create the framework of strategy and then work out the details that will lead to accomplishment. And write it all down as you go. My greatest blessing is to see something that God had me start years ago continue to this day under the leadership of other people because if the vision is the right one, it will outlast the leader.

~ Mike

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Starting Your Day Off Right

Mornings for me are best if I can sit by the beach, drink a cup of coffee and read a good book. Mornings make me smile when I can hug my pillow just a bit longer, keep the lights off or just watch a good movie. While I think we might have things messed up by demanding so much of our mornings, I have learned that my day changes drastically depending upon how it starts. Family and work rarely afford me the luxuries that I wish my mornings were filled with. I truly hope that I am not alone with this struggle! 


So, if starting the day right is so crucial, why do so many of us approach our mornings in a very haphazard way? I admit that I used to do this, but enough years and enough reading has taught me that I must be intentional about my mornings in order to help the rest of my day go much smoother. For good or bad, here are some of my best tips to starting your day off right. 

** A good morning actually starts the day before. I check my alarm each night and match it with known activities. On a work day, this is the same time every morning. On weekends it varies, but I still typically use an alarm to get up and moving. I set out my clothes when the morning starts with work and I have a general sense when I go to bed of when my first meetings or projects are happening in the morning. I’m already ahead of the game through preparation. 

** My morning alarm is honestly my biggest struggle. Whoever invented the snooze button is an evil person. My plan is a single snooze per morning and the goal is to not sleep through the snooze, but to lay quietly and just breathe in the morning. In this area, my plan is much stronger than my reality but I still need to have the goal and get closer to it on a regular basis.

** Plan time for some downtime. Yes, that might seem odd since the day has just begun, but it is amazing what some quiet alone time does for my mornings. Coffee, devotions, journaling or sometimes just scrolling Twitter is still some much needed “me” time to start my day. 

** Know your morning commute and make the most of it. Except for very rare occasions, we all know what the drive to work looks like. Rather than spending that time stressed and made at all of the other stressed and mad drivers, put it to good use. Podcasts are an amazing tool for the traffic drive. In addition, maybe you just need some good music or you can meditate or pray for people. Whatever works for you, let traffic be your partner, not your adversary. 

** Hit the ground running at work. While it is tempting to stand around the coffee pot for thirty minutes, this actually becomes a drain when the end of the day feels rushed and overwhelmed. Have a plan, work the plan and accomplish the plan. This daily process will compel you to get the next day off to an even better start.

What about you? What gets your day off to a great start? I would love to hear some ideas that I might incorporate into my own routine. 

~ Mike

Trust v. Suspicion

If you have ever spent a significant amount of time around a young child, one of the first things you might notice is their wide-eyed love for life. Everything is new, everything is an experience and everything deserves all of their energy. Your next observation might involve the reality that they are willing to trust virtually anything that you say. This is why it is crucial for adults to manage their tongues around children, but that is for another post.


There is an innate trust built into us that believes our family and friends are for us and that what they say is true and it matters. As we age, this childlike innocence becomes a negative as society begins to ridicule those who are considered gullible or naive or, dare I say it, too trusting! While I am a proponent of wisdom and discernment as a leader, I often recognize that all too often I get pulled into a perspective of suspicion towards others leaders rather than trust.

Trust builds relationship and gains respect; suspicion builds walls and erodes confidence 

Trust sees errors as an opportunity for growth; suspicion sees errors as intentional failing

Trust looks for the good in others; suspicion assume wrongdoing at all times

Trust is the foundation of a healthy and effective leader; suspicion will undermine your leadership and the team you lead

If the contrast between trust and suspicion is so strong and if these two concepts carry such great weight in the effectiveness of our leadership, what can we do to maintain an atmosphere of trust among our teams? May I offer a few ideas, but I would love to hear yours in the comments below.

The first step is to slow down. When I am overwhelmed, overscheduled or overburdened, I find that my ability to see the good in others is greatly diminished because I am focused on myself. I need to slow down, check my rhythms, clear my desk and remember what truly matters.

Next, what would the world look like if I truly treated others as I want to be treated? This gets quoted by so many people as the golden rule of life, yet so few of us actually operate by this principle. If I don’t want to be seen in a negative light, then I must resist the temptation to view others in a similar manner. It takes intentional effort to believe in others and to see their good, especially in the midst of a failed project or broken communication stream. Be the leader who makes this intentionality important!

Another idea is to truly value every opportunity as a place for growth. I don’t need to be suspicious of team members because no matter what they are or are not doing, we have a mutually agreed upon learning moment. And if things get to the point where I need to dismiss somebody from my team, I can still see the good in them and realize that they will have a better fit on a different team.
Finally, it’s not personal! I am amazed at the rash of airplane incidents recently occurring across the country. What happened to our ability to wait patiently, to prefer others, and to realize that when we are treated poorly it is rarely an intentionally personal attack, but is often the result of somebody else’s busyness, distractedness or simple self-absorption? I was recently getting off an airplane and the doors were not even open yet, but the man in the row ahead of me was apparently in a huge hurry and began pushing and pressing people to get out of his way. Thankfully, I was surrounded by people who remembered that it’s not personal. We were able to smile at each other and chuckle at the incredible impatience of this fellow passenger.

I am being challenged lately to recapture my ability to trust others by default and to reserve my suspicion for rare moments. This is not a call to discard wisdom, experience or even my gut instinct of discernment. Rather, it is a challenge to be the type of person, and leader, who believes in and sees the best in others. Not only wil my stress level drop, but I can be an influence for good in the lives of those around me. As a leader, an atmosphere of trust provides the greatest opportunity for accomplishment in the lives of myself and my team.

What about you? Do you wrestle with the tension between trust and suspicion? What tips would you share to help us all remain on the trust side of the aisle?

~ Mike