The Art of Inviting Feedback

feedbackI’m a big fan of feedback. Not the kind you get on Sunday mornings when the microphone goes haywire and everybody goes deaf. The kind you get when people share their thoughts & opinions regarding something you’re trying to do with excellence.

Inviting feedback is a bittersweet activity. But when I swallow my pride and listen closely to other’s thoughts, it increases my effectiveness and impact in ministry.

Yesterday I listened to this two-part podcast from the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast series entitled, “The Art of Inviting Feedback“. One of the big takeaways was learning how to ask your leaders, co-workers and team-mates this one question:

“If you were me, what would you do differently?”

 I strongly urge you to ask your entire team to listen to these two podcasts. They have the potential to, over time, make a big difference in your ministry’s leadership culture.

The Art of Inviting Feedback – Part 1 (Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast)

The Art of Inviting Feedback – Part 2 (Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast)

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Sunday Announcements: Information Overload

Dark microphoneSeveral months ago I and my family visited a small church as a ‘mystery guest’. The goal of my visit was to provide some helpful feedback to the Sunday morning experience, especially as viewed through the eyes of a guest.

I was completely overwhelmed (or maybe the word is underwhelmed) by the morning announcements. They were boring. The person giving them was practically reading them from the bulletin. And perhaps most frustrating, there were way too many. I stopped listening when they got to the special event happening 6 months from now. If it wasn’t my job to listen, I’m not sure I would have ever ‘started’ listening,

I was recently reading a book summary of a book I read a few years ago entitled, “Less Clutter, Less Noise” and ran across this very poignant paragraph.

“A Sunday edition of the New York Times carries more information than the average nineteenth century citizen accessed his entire life. Information used to be a rare and precious as gold; now it is so inexpensive and plentiful that most of it ends up being overlooked, ignored, or tossed like garbage. The barrage of data to which we are constantly exposed carries a cost – physically, mentally, and financially – regardless of the generation. People who live in today’s world respond in one of three ways: they become overwhelmed and shut down; they labor over whether they are making the right decisions; or they just ignore you and move on. More isn’t what people are looking for; relief from the pressure of more is what they’re looking for.”

Well said. My advice is simply this.

  • Keep your announcements to a maximum of 3, preferably 2.
  • Sell what you have to say. Convince people why it’s important to them.
  • Communicate everything else through other means (like a weekly eblast, the Sunday bulletin, the church website & calendar, facebook, word of mouth, etc.)

photo credit: istockphoto

The Decision Tree

decision-treeI think delegation can be a big mistake. There’s a mouthful. Did I just say that? This from the guy who just wrote, “9 Reasons Why People Don’t Delegate“? Something’s wrong.

Here’s the deal. I believe in delegation. Wholeheartedly. But I also believe that IF you’re going to delegate, you better make sure you’re delegating the right tasks to the right people. You need to ensure that you’ve identified just HOW MUCH authority you plan to give to your leaders. Make it obvious and clear to both them and you.

Give them time to prove themselves. This will honor & serve both them and you. Trust me, they may not know this, but they don’t want more authority than they’re equipped to handle.

Here’s the key, make sure both you and they know which decisions they can make and how involved you should be in them.

fierce-conversationsLast year I read a great book called ‘Fierce Conversations‘. It is full of great advice on how to be more self-aware as a leader, how to confront others with care, how to ask the right questions, how to hold performance reviews with staff and a lot more. It’s definitely on my ‘recommended reading‘ list!

That said, I’d like to highlight one of the most valuable pages in the book. The author calls it . . .

The Decision Tree
The decision tree is a tool for delegation and professional development. You know employees {or volunteers} are growing and developing when more and more of their decisions are moved to the leaf level.

  • Leaf Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Do not report the action you took.
  • Branch Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Report the action you took daily, weekly, or monthly.
  • Trunk Decisions: Make the decision. Report your decision before you act take action.
  • Root Decisions: Make the decision jointly, with input from many people.

Let’s create an example, to help illustrate how this might work. I’ll pick on the Children’s Ministry Director in a local church. Following might be what you’ve decided about that individual. Note: it could be different for each person you recruit into the role. For instance, maybe a longstanding elder or the pastor’s wife is the director, many of the decisions in Trunk or Branch might move up into Branch & Leaf.

Children’s Ministry Director:

  • Leaf: Curriculum. Classroom Decor. Check-in Procedures. Parent Communications.
  • Branch: Volunteer Recruitment. Volunteer Scheduling. Volunteer Training. Minor Discipline Issues with Children. Child Injury.
  • Trunk: Special Events. Scope & Sequence for the year. Major Discipline Issues with Children (requiring parent interaction). 
  • Root: Children’s Ministry Policies. Community Focused Large Events. Abuse/Allegations of abuse. 

How can the Decision Tree help you delegate and communicate with your team better this week?

photo credit: Steve Webel via photopin cc

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Exposing the Elephant in the Room

We all know about the elephant in the room. We just won’t admit it or talk about it. Ever. It’s taboo. It’s inappropriate. It’s insensitive. It’s just wrong, right? Nobody talks about it.

  • Brenda has bad breath. You can smell it halfway across the table. Don’t say anything.
  • A zipper is down. Don’t mention it to anyone, maybe you’re the only one who noticed (and who’d want to admit to noticing that?)
  • Tom just suggested something in the meeting that was already discussed ten minutes ago. Umm. Let’s just move on.
  • James just showed up 10 minutes late, again. Pretend it’s normal and expected.
  • Lisa has been systematically shooting down every idea we have had for the past ten minutes. Just stop giving new ideas.
  • The team leader just missed the fact that half the room has no idea what he’s talking about. Nobody wants to say anything.
  • John has been texting for the last 30 minutes . . .
  • Larry has been hiding behind his laptop . . .
  • Katie looks like she’s going to either hit someone or start crying hysterically . . . 
  • We already talked about that three weeks ago . . .
  • None of us are really interested in this new project . . .
  • We are all tired and haven’t taken a break for the last two hours . . .
  • Tina is missing. She probably forgot about the meeting again . . .
  • Bill has missed her deadline for that project three times already.

Elephants overwhelm the room.
 They are big, smelly and noisy. They keep pushing people around. It always seems like the trunk is resting on your shoulder, breathing in your ear. Elephants are extremely effective at creating an unproductive and distracting environment.

There will always be at least one elephant in the room when trust is broken. A team of people who are afraid to talk, speak their mind, or say what most everyone is thinking has a serious problem. They are dysfunctional teams and accomplish almost nothing. Now imagine a meeting with more than one elephant! Maybe you don’t have to. 

Does the shoe fit the elephant on your team? I recommend you get a book, read it, and then ask your team to read it. It’s all about elephants (ironically, the author doesn’t talk about them). You’ve probably heard about the book, but unless you’ve read it, you’ll never know if you’re ready for the elephants or not. 

Check out Patrick Lencioni’s bestselling book: 
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Source of Elephant in the Room image unknown.

Preparing/Delivering Great Messages

The church where I attend has been known for it’s outstanding preaching right from it’s birth in 1988. For more than 20 years the founding pastor, Mike Cavanaugh, fed the body of Christ through a steady diet of timely, relevant, God-inspired messages. A few years ago, he handed the reins over to his successor and the current pastor, Joshua Finley. Pastor Josh has done a fabulous job of picking up where he left off. He is one of the best communicators I’ve ever heard.

In the following workshop, Pastor Josh shares some keys to preparing and delivering great messages. I trust it will help you strengthen your communication skills. Enjoy!
[vimeo 42830604]Can’t see this video? Try clicking this link.

‘Preach Better Sermons’ Cliff Notes

Looking to get some advice on how to improve your sermons? Chris Zeigler from BASIC College Ministries has graciously agreed to share his notes from the recent Preach Better Sermons” online conference. Thanks Chris! For more information on Chris, BASIC, or college ministry check out the links & information at the end of this post.

You might also want to check out my cliff notes from last year’s ‘Preach Better Sermons’ online conference right here!


  • Plan your sermon series about 4 months out.
  • Build a team around you who will brief you on each series you do. Let them ask tough questions! And allow them to meet on their own to brainstorm ideas on how to integrate popular culture, what scriptures are being used, memorable illustrations, etc.
  • Remember – “The game is won or lost in transition” (Urban Meyer). Don’t focus so much on the message that you ignore other important elements in the service.
  • Develop a routine before each service that helps you focus your mind and center your heart on God.
  • Don’t worry about how people will react to your message or what they will Tweet about it – focus on the fact that God has anointed you to speak His Word.

LOUIE GIGLIO – 6 Rules of Preaching

  1. Have something to say – be honest about what God is putting on your heart
  2. Above all things – be faithful to the text
  3. Lead people to Jesus
  4. Don’t be boring!
  5. Prepare
  6. Be led by the Holy Spirit
  • Find and refine ‘you’ – your own voice and style. Don’t waste your God-given talent trying to be a Steven Furtick or Andy Stanley.
  • Remember the menu is just a suggestion – be flexible and let the Holy Spirit lead you.
  • Stay humble – don’t fall into the trap of using your messages to trumpet yourself.


  • Don’t rely solely on inspiration – build on a foundation of discipline in sermon preparation.
  • If you want people to receive what God gave you, walk them through the same process God took you through.
  • Remember that Paul said not to use impressive words – doing this can be manipulative.


  • Don’t forget about humor – if people don’t laugh every 7 minutes, you’ve lost them.
  • Public speakers say that for every hour presenting you should prepare for three. The preparation should take even longer for preaching.
  • Keep culture in mind. If their attention spans have dropped, make your messages and series more focused and shorter.


  • Write out your sermons as you would a manuscript. Many of his sermons become book chapters. *Key – have your manuscript done in time to pray over it.* 
  • Remember to use metaphors. They are important and biblical metaphors are the most powerful.
  • Keep your dependence on God in perspective (example – fast on the day you are supposed to preach).
  • Great Preacher vs. Great Prayer – you can’t be a great preacher unless you are first a great prayer.


  • The best speeches and sermons are when you and the audience go where you are leading them together.
  • Don’t over-practice – it will come off sounding more rehearsed and less genuine.
  • A well used prop can be both simple and powerful.
  • Remember – the greatest way to ruin a sermon is to be the star of your own success story – people want you to be real.


  • Your preaching flows out of your relationship with God.
  • Remember, in the Bible God is far more concerned about leadership development that He is about leadership technique.


  • Draw from other pastor’s series and books that impact you.
  • Don’t let the success or failure of your sermons attach themselves to your identity.


  • Keep it relevant – take a walk in the audience’s shoes and spend time in their minds.
  • You rarely see a film win any awards without it first having had great editing. It is the same for preaching.
  • You only have one hour with your people – make the most of it.


  • The key to keeping an audience’s attention is your approach – approach is what makes content interesting.
  • Let new people know you are happy they are there – don’t call them visitors.
  • Preach with new Christians or unbelievers in mind – acknowledge the odd things in scripture. Then give the unbelievers permission to not believe or obey what they heard. Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t believe until after the resurrection.
  • Stay plugged into a community of unbelievers.
  • Bring energy to your text – not just to your stories.


  • Maximize your studying by minimizing your searching.
  • The Bible is always relevant – people just don’t always realize it. Our job is to show them how it applies to them personally.
  • Keep in mind that pastors are prone to exaggeration because they are prone to motivation.


  • Remember that our mission is to make more people God’s people and that it is God’s truth coming out of your mouth.
  • Give yourself some grace to discover who you are – who has God wired you to be?


Chris Zeigler
Chris Zeigler
Assistant Director
serving the church // to reach the colleges // to change the world

The Formula for United Change

united-changeRecently I was talking to one of my mentors, Mike Cavanaugh, and we were discussing the overwhelmingly successful transition our church experienced when he resigned as the founding and senior pastor for more than 20 years and handed it off to a young eagle, Joshua Finley. During that year of transition, our church of about 800 fully embraced every step of the transition. When we finally got together to vote in Pastor Josh, we were mildly shocked to receive a unanimous vote. Now, if you’ve been around the church world for any length of time, you’ll know that’s a veritable miracle all by itself.

During our discussion, Pastor Mike shared with me a formula that I’ve heard for a few years and which he has consistently used as a guiding principle whenever he has had to initiate change with his congregation. It’s a formula that will help facilitate united change.

Here’s the formula: Communication + Time = United Change

That’s it. Lots of communication, combined with lots of time, maximizes your chances for united change. Check out this excerpt from a book I read recently by Tim Stevens, called Vision: Lost and Found. He outlines how his church implemented a vision for a huge change, note how this formula so perfectly fits their strategy.

I started by identifying four groups that we believed we had to have represented if our vision process was going to be complete and inclusive.

Influencers – This included our entire staff and every volunteer leader in the church….

Participants – Additionally, we wanted to hear from all the volunteers and those in small groups, Bible studies, etc….

Attendees – We then wanted to catch everyone else who attended the weekend service….

Community – And, if possible, we wanted to hear from people in the community who did not attend our church….

I then recommended breaking our process into four distinct phases:

Listening – it would take us a few months, but we wanted to make sure we had enough time to hear from everyone who wanted to participate. This required enough focus so people knew we were serious when we asked the questions.

Drafting – It was going to be daunting, but we wanted to consolidate the dreams and visions of thousands of people and write an initial vision document that capture the heart of the {whole} church.

Finalizing – Then, we would have a few cycles where we would send the written draft back out to gain feedback. This would help us refine the next version so it was more concise and clear.

Communicating – And finally, we would agree on a final vision that would become our guiding document for years to come. We would then begin to communicate that vision to everyone who would listen.

With these four groups and four phases as our guiding template, we began a process that would result in bringing energy and momentum back to the church like we hadn’t felt in years.

How might this formula, and Tim Steven’s strategic plan, serve you in the new initiatives you are working on this year?

The Power of Criticism in Meetings

meetingsHere’s the deal. If all you have are a bunch of head nodding people in your team meetings, you will have a hard time coming up with new and fresh ideas. I know. I’ve been there. There have been times when it’s been really important for my team to find a creative solution to a problem, but when we tried to discuss it, nothing happened. Often, I would end up standing up and pacing around while people talked until I was able to come up with a viable solution myself for us to consider. After watching this video, I’m realizing the problem was probably related to how willing my team was in pushing and prodding one another’s ideas.

The main problem with this comes back to the first dysfunction of teams found in Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” – Lack of Trust. If you haven’t read that yet, put it up high on your list of books to get and read.

So check out this short (2 1/2 minute) RSA video with Journalist & author Jonah Lehrer talking about this problem. 

Application: Why not show this video at your next team meeting and ask the question, “Do we trust one another enough to engage in this kind of constructive criticism when we brainstorm together?”

Image by Caitlin Applegate.

19 Tips on Preaching

I received this email from the team over at yesterday and thought it was so helpful I should share it with you. These people know what they’re talking about. You may recognize them from the webinar they hosted and I wrote about entitled,Preach Better Sermons Online Conference. I recommend their webinars and services to pastors at large! Enjoy.


We wanted to share some tips with you that you could apply to your message this week. Don’t try to use all nineteen this weekend just chose one or two to incorporate into your message this Sunday.

  • Get feedback on your message BEFORE you preach it.
    Feedback after the fact is great, but if you seek input before you preach, you can make your message better. This could be as simple as sending it to another pastor, another staff member, or a volunteer or two in your church. Chances are, there are people in your congregation who would review your message seriously and be a great help to you. Ernest Hemingway said the first draft of anything is #$&*@, so make sure you never preach your first draft.
  • Finish on time.
    Whether you use a countdown clock or a watch, it’s a good idea to stick to the allotted time. The Gettysburg Address has 300 words. Nobody remembers the other guy who spoke that day (who spoke for a couple of hours). Besides, nobody ever got mad at the preacher for finishing a few minutes early.
  • Don’t hide in the greenroom.
    Connecting with real people before your message is one of the most powerful things you can do. Last minute study is a sign of poor preparation and while some last minute prayers are always appropriate, that doesn’t mean you can’t speak a few words to people in the congregation. Leave the green room mentality and shake hands with people.
  • Pick a point.
    Most sermons try to cover too much information, so pick a point and stick to it. One 30-minute message isn’t going to be the final word on any topic. If you want to learn how to make that point memorable and sticky, here’s a free webinar that might help.
  • Be interesting.
    Helpful content that doesn’t engage the audience won’t have the desired effect. In other words, be interesting. Boring presentations, lifeless information, and passionless points will sail right over the head of the congregation. And over the head misses the heart every time. It’s absolutely imperative that you have accurate, Biblical content. But it’s equally important to present it in a way that connects.
  • Stories say it best.
    You’ve listened to speakers too, and, chances are, when the speaker told a personal story, your interest level increased. There’s something about stories that cause people to lean in. So make sure you tell a story every ten minutes or so. “Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form,” writes Nancy Duarte.
  • Know your material.
    Before you preach your message to anyone else, you should preach it to yourself. Be familiar with your content so you can preach from your heart. A reliance on notes could be a sign that you don’t know your material. That’s why we teach members how to finish early in the week so the message can sit in a crockpot.
  • Get better as a preacher, don’t just work on your next message.
    Watching yourself on video is a great way to improve. Joining a community of people committed to improvement might also be right for you. For most churches, the sermon is the most visible thing you do and a key component in the discipleship process. So don’t get stuck in a rut, get better.
  • Speak to everyone.
    Those football stories you tell are awesome, and about 30% of the audience really relates to them. Referencing 2 Peter commandment on the fly is cool, but unchurched people think you’re talking about a race. You’ve got a diverse audience – that calls for diverse application and varied illustrations. Make sure your message is sensitive to your audiences (yep, you have more than one).
  • You’re not preaching in the first century.
    From time to time, I meet people who say, “Jesus didn’t need PowerPoint.” That’s true. (He would have used Keynote or ProPresenter anyway.) But Jesus was preaching in a first century context that didn’t have electricity. You didn’t ride on a donkey to church or ask the congregation to bring grain to the alter. It’s okay to use modern methods to communicate a timeless message.
  • Preach to who is NOT there.
    If you want guests, address guests. If you want to reach men, talk to men. If you want to reach the educated, add a little more intellect. Preach to who is NOT in the room, not just who IS in the room.
  • Summarize your sermon for twitter.
    Your sermon needs a central theme or a big idea. J.H. Howett was right when he wrote, “I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as crystal.” We’ve got a
    free webinar that will help you craft these simple statements.
  • Find common ground.
    People don’t think preachers have real lives, real marriages or real struggles, so the fact that you’re a preacher is NOT instant credibility. Make sure you find common ground with your audience to let them know that you share some of their struggles, doubts and feelings.
  • Talk about your failures, not just your successes.
    John Maxwell said if you want to impress people, talk about your success, but if you want to impact them, talk about your failures. When you appropriately share your struggles, mistakes and failures, and communicate from a place of humble brokenness, you’ll make a far greater impact on your congregation.
  • Make people laugh.
    Everybody wants to laugh, and you don’t need to disrespect God’s Word or be a comedian to make people smile in church. Proverbs 17:22 says a joyful heart is good medicine. So let’s not talk about a boring God with lifeless sermons and give people the impression that God has no personality. God created laughter…it’s okay for it to happen in church.
  • Present Jesus as the hero.
    Not the audience, not you, not even the church. No matter your topic, you can find a way to point to Jesus. By the way, that’s exactly what Jesus did when he opened up the Old Testament scriptures and connected the dots for people.
  • Preach to inspire action, not just to inform.
    What do you want people to DO as the result of hearing this message? When Peter finished preaching in Acts 2, he told the people exactly what they should do (repent and be baptized). Make sure you’re not just presenting information but calling people to action.
  • Add some visuals.
    Whether it’s a graphic, or a slide, a prop or an object lesson, look for ways to make your words visual. Study after study shows this is the key to rememberability. If this doesn’t come natural to you, fight through the hard work…it’s worth it.

One of the most significant things you can do as a communicator is work ON your skill and develop your calling. This is very different from working on your next message. It’s why we created the Core Coaching Program.

Thanks for letting us serve you today!


CEO of The Rocket Company

P.S. Here is a summary of the FREE stuff in this email:

  • Preaching With A Point Webinar: How to craft a memorable bottom line statement each week that your church attenders will be repeating on Wednesday at Starbucks.

Thursday Quote: Axiom – Vision Leaks


axiom-hybelsLast winter I got a frantic phone call from my wife that the heater wasn’t working in our minivan. Not good when you live in Upstate New York! When we took the van to the shop, the mechanic told us that we had a radiator leak. Evidently, not having enough radiator fluid greatly impacts our heater. Who woulda thunk it! We got the leak fixed and thankfully got our heater back.

If you’ve been in leadership for any length of time, you understand that, similarly, vision leaks make a big difference in the overall environment of the church. Today I want to share a quote from Bill Hybels from his book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, entitled ‘Vision Leaks’. What a great reminder to keep the vision fresh!

Some leaders believe that if they fill people’s vision buckets all the way to the top one time, those buckets will stay full forever. But the truth is, people’s buckets have holes of varying sizes in their bottoms. As a result, vision leaks out. You or I could deliver a mind-blowing, God-honoring, pulse-quickening vision talk on Sunday that leaves everyone revved up to go change the world, but by Tuesday, many people have forgotten they were even in church the previous weekend. Unbelievable, huh?

Something I have to remind myself of constantly is that people in our churches have real lives. You heard it here—engagements other than church. They have challenging jobs, children to raise, lawns to mow, and bills to pay. Because of all these daily responsibilities, the vision we poured into them on Sunday begins to drain out of them sooner than we think.

When you can tell it’s time for a vision refill, use every communication means available to you to repaint the picture of the future that fills everybody with passion. And then take it a step further by reporting progress on the vision’s achievement. Trust me, when you wrap a little real-life proof around the accomplishment of your church’s vision and show that the dream really is coming true, the fog will start to clear and people’s heads will start to nod. “Oh yeah!” they’ll suddenly remember. “I get it! I get it! This is what we’re about! This is why we exist as a church.”

Disclosure 0f Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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