Tag Archives: team

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

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

Their Way Might be Better

I don’t know about you, but I live with an underlying pressure that I am supposed to have all of the answers and always know the right decisions to make. It doesn’t matter if I am at home, work or on the football field. When I was starting out as a young pastor, I believed that asking for help or admitting that I was unsure of what to do next was a certain sign of being a terrible leader. I can remember at times making up answers just to appear right and hoping that I seemed confident enough to thwart any potential questions. 


While I cannot say that the pressure has lessened at all, I can say that I do a better job lately of looking to others for help and answers. Even when I am in a role as leader, or maybe especially so, I look to my team for thoughts, insights, plans and ideas. It is ludicrous to think for even one moment that I might hold all of the answers. Even something as simple as finding my car can become an exercise in my natural desire to know everything. When my wife and I were dating, we attended a UCLA football game. Part of the parking lot at the Rose Bowl is on a golf course and we spent almost two hours walking in circles around the course searching for the car. On several occasions she pointed a different direction, but I confidently ignored her suggestions. When the tow trucks arrived on scene, I started to become genuinely worried and we eventually found the car…in the exact direction that she had suggested quite some time before. 

Through the pain of many decisions, I have come to this conclusion regarding the people in my life: their way might be better! Now, if only I always remembered this in the moment. The majority of my disagreements with my wife happen when I forgot this truth. Errors at work happen largely because I ignore this basic premise. So, let me share three problems with ignoring the premise and three benefits from heeding it.

Ignoring this premise leads to:

** a bottleneck of ideas and action. A leader who feels that he or she must know everything compels all activity to flow through themselves which causes a shut down of progress. 

** a sense of arrogance and entitlement on the part of the leader. What else could somebody feel if they know everything about everything?

** a level of stress and pressure that no person is designed to handle. The leader who knows everything must work very hard to maintain that illusion and increases stress everytime he or she must provide information that does not exist.

On the contrary, learning that their way might be better leads to:

** an empowerment of team members and a true sense of personal value which will naturally lead to greater collaboration and success for the team as a whole.

** an assortment of ideas, perspectives and actions to choose from that will inspire both creativity and innovation.

** a true releasing of others in their areas of strength…which should be an underlying value of all healthy leaders

This is not an easy task for me, nor do I believe that it is easy for you. It is humbling and challenging to admit that we might not have all of the answers. However, leadership is less about being right and more about encouraging and supporting others to accomplish their dreams. I can honestly say that one of my greatest joys happens when people have an “a-ha” moment…and this is impossible if I have to know all of the answers. 

~ Mike