Growth Barriers

Blind Spots for the Christian Leader

Back in 1955 a couple of men came up with this great model to help people discuss various aspects of self-awareness. The word ‘JoHari’ is a combination of the two people’s first names (Joseph & Harry). In the Johari Window you see four quadrants expressing personal knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding various character traits, weaknesses, etc. The below chart shows each of these quadrants.


Open Self: Known to self and others.

This is what we usually communicate to others or is obvious to nearly everyone. It may be something physical, like a blemish or your weight; or it could include things like your education, number of children in your family, a hobby or your job.

Hidden Self: Known to self, but unknown to others.

This is what we conceal from others about ourselves. Sometimes there is a good reason for holding something back, ex. computer passwords or confidential information about others. At other times it may include information you know would not be appropriate to share, ex. a special moment with a spouse or with God. The rest of the time this quadrant will include secrets – most of which we are embarrassed or afraid to share with others.

Blind Self: Unknown to self, but known to others.

Also known as ‘Blind Spots’. This is where our ignorance can truly hurt us. Others see a weakness, flaw, or even a strength and assume you already know about it or choose not to tell you. You’re left in the dark and don’t even know it. For example, perhaps you tend to have strong B.O., often seem angry, rarely smile, or just can’t preach (wait, I meant ‘sing’). On the positive side, it’s very possible others see a gift in you that would be great to strengthen and develop, but nobody ever says anything, e.g. hospitality. Blind Spot’s may run much deeper and darker as well. This is where people have bought into lies earlier in life that they are completely unaware of. Lies may include pride, insecurity, an addiction, stubbornness, insensitivity, and more.

Unknown Self: Unknown to either self or others.

This final quadrant is disclosed to God alone. It will include the inner workings of your life, personality, character, history, sin nature, etc. that may never fully be disclosed to anyone else. That doesn’t mean it won’t one day be revealed. It’s possible God is waiting for the opportune time to reveal an Unknown strength or weakness. David’s prayers were often requests for God to reveal the unknown to him, like in Psalm 139: 23-24.

If this is your first time seeing this matrix, I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t wait to teach this on a Sunday morning!” or “I should share this with {fill in the blank} – since they have so many blind spots!”

Let’s hold the phone for a while. I’d like to pose a question to YOU first. Here it is.

What are you doing to shrink the “Blind Spot” quadrant in your life?

It’s folly to assume that we don’t have blind spots. Proverbs regularly reminds us to remain humble before both God and man. For example, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” Pr. 28:26, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Pr. 19:20, and “rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge.” Pr. 19:25.

There’s an age-old way for you to begin shrinking that window in your life; but it takes great courage to do it. Find some trusted people and ask them to share what they know or think about you. I’m not just talking about your best friend. Select several people who see you in different venues and who you trust implicitly to be open, honest, and loving with you. 

You might think the courageous part is sitting them down to ask them self-disclosing questions, but the really brave moment is when they begin telling you what you don’t know. That is the moment of truth. It’s the moment when you choose between foolishness or wisdom. I have one word of advice. Assume they are telling you the truth. To do otherwise is to be presumptuous – and dishonoring to them.

After all, how can you judge if they are right if it’s a blind spot? At the very least, admit that their commentary about you reflects a real perception, if not reality. 

A few questions to get you started:

  • What do you view as my primary strengths?
  • What do you consider to be my primary weaknesses?
  • Do I seem approachable to you?
  • Do you think people are afraid to confront me about anything?
  • Is there anything you notice in my personal life/family that concerns you?
  • Have you ever been aware of an ‘elephant in the room’ when I have been leading meetings or sharing a sermon? 
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate my effectiveness as a communicator?
  • If I hired you as a personal life coach, what would you want us to work on first in my life?
  • Is it possible that I believe I’m good at something that others probably wouldn’t necessarily agree with?

16 Ways To Lead A Bad Meeting

Many years ago I attended what I would call a bad meeting. It was the traditional setting: Long table with 6 people on each side, a meeting facilitator at the head and someone (me as it turns out) at the opposite end. It was, by far, the most boring meeting of my life. The frustration and anxiety I experienced in those two long hours are vividly etched in my memory. I can’t get them out even today when I think of that experience. I remember watching the gentleman sitting next to me pull out documents and a legal pad and evidently begin doing work from his office. He looked to be 100% disengaged from the discussion. I remember watching the seconds tick by on my watch just like I did while in high school. When the meeting was over I was the first one out the door. I have no idea where I went, I just remember thinking, “I need to get out of here.”

I know you are intrigued. You’ve been wondering for weeks now just how you can most effectively lead a meeting as frustrating, ineffective, unproductive, and boring as this one. Today is your day. Following are my top suggestions on how to lead a bad meeting

How To Lead A Bad Meeting

Begin the meeting late. 

Whatever you do, be sure to NOT start the meeting until everyone has arrived. Even better, show up late yourself to the meeting. 

Kill several trees.

Hand out lots of documents and papers. Make sure several of the documents were handed out at the last meeting. To add a layer of confusion to the meeting, include a document or two which you will never explain or refer to. Lots of paper will help you feel important and will require everyone to shuffle things around a lot and look busy.

Take attendance before you begin.

You know, like your teacher’s did in school. This will remind the team that you are in charge and that they should never miss a meeting.

Vote on the previous meeting’s minutes.

This is especially effective when there is no reason to vote on the previous meeting’s minutes (for example: it’s not a meeting that requires a vote based on an article in your organization’s by-laws.) The best way to facilitate this act of boredom is to request that everyone read the minutes from top to bottom; then ask for a motion to accept the minutes, for a second motion, and be sure that all in favor says, “I”. Don’t forget to personally record who made the first motion and who seconded as well. 

Rehash old conversations.

From the minutes, go over all of the previous meeting’s discussions, adding commentary and inviting additional discussion. One of the best ways to frustrate your team is by spending the bulk of your meeting re-hashing conversations and decisions that have already been made.

Recruit a scribe or note-taker on the fly.

In particular, do so after you’ve already led the meeting for 15 minutes and ask the scribe to write down what’s already happened. You can also ensure your scribe loses several hours sleep that night if you ask him about every 4-5 minutes, “Did you get that in the minutes?”

Overload the agenda.

Make sure there are more items on the meeting agenda than you will have time to address. This will provide an amazing tension in the room as the participants wonder if the meeting was meant to be an all-day meeting. It will also create an added layer of discontentment because the meetings will never seem to accomplish the designated goals.

Do most of the talking.

You love the sound of your own voice as well as your own opinions, so you know your team will hang on your every word. Well, not really. If they hung on your every word the meeting wouldn’t be very boring would it? No. Just talk a lot and make sure what you have to say is mostly irrelevant and delivered with the least amount of energy and passion as possible. Think of your History Professor in college.

Lose track of the conversation.

Focus is your enemy. Go on as many rabbit trails as you want, especially if they aren’t on the agenda or if they are discussions you have already hashed over in past meetings. Make sure you never really get back to the agenda item. Just close down one of the rabbit trail discussions, make sure it was recorded in the minutes, and move on to the next agenda item. Bonus idea: skip one agenda item.

Interrupt people.

If people start talking, wait until they are just getting to their point and either finish their sentence for them or thank them for their comments and move on to the next agenda item without inviting other thoughts. Note: never ask your note-taker if they got other people’s comments in the minutes, just yours.

Veto discussions.

An alternate to interrupting people would be to allow the team to discuss the topic at hand without your input for a long time and then veto their ideas with the one you’ve been planning all along.Don’t allow the team to question your decision, just move on to the next agenda item. Another option would be to ask someone else to lead a discussion while you are away on a business trip and then veto the decisions made in the room later in the week via email. These tactics require preparation: you have to have already made up your mind about what you want to do, before you ask for the team’s input. 

Assume everyone is on board.

This is easy to do. Just make sure you NEVER ask people if they understand or agree with the ideas or decisions being made. Don’t encourage questions either. If someone does ask a question, let them know they will understand once the discussion is over. Don’t follow up later to find out if that happened. Also, it’s really good to be slightly condescending when people ask questions. This will help them realize that they are big boys and girls and should be able to figure out what’s going on themselves. This will ensure others don’t ask questions later in the meeting.

Don’t hold anyone accountable.

Make sure nobody gets held accountable for outstanding action items assigned to them. One great method to accomplish this is to simply “forget” to send previous minutes. Also, don’t worry about setting due dates. If there is a due date and something doesn’t get done, just set a new due date. Using these methods, you will be sure to get almost nothing done as a team.

Mix things up.

Detail oriented tactical conversations don’t mix well with big picture strategic conversations. So to lead a bad meeting, mix them into the same meeting. Start talking tactical, like who is going to do that upcoming event, and then move into a strategic discussion about why it’s important; then go back to more tactical. This method will confuse and exhaust your team over the long haul.

Avoid constructive conflict.

You probably have this one figured out. Best case, avoid all conflict. If you can’t prevent conflict, then simply pick which side of the conflict you are on and join in the battle. The key to avoiding constructive conflict is to ensure that everyone involved is defensive and focused on protecting themselves and their ideas. Do that, and you will succeed every time in alienating and destroying team trust.

Go long.

No. That’s not a football reference. I just mean that you should make sure your meetings all go much longer than scheduled. Bonus: start a new discussion 2 minutes before (or after) the meeting is supposed to end.

How To Offer Amazing Ministry With Not So Amazing People

I recently visited a local gym who was offering a week membership for free. I was truly impressed. They had a wide range of workout rooms and exercise equipment and a beautiful facility. When I arrived for the first time, they gave me a tour of the facility and made themselves available to help me get acclimated to any of the equipment I didn’t understand. The offer to help wasn’t really necessary since there were instructional signs and videos available explaining how to use each machine.

They converted an inexperienced and mildly overwhelmed guy (that’d be me) into a confident individual who had the right tools he needed to get great results. At the very minimum, it would be hard to NOT have at least an average workout, though I’d definitely rate my experience above average, if not exceptional. 

Great systems turned the wrong person into the right person and quickly converted average results into maximized results.

The Systems/People Matrix

Let me introduce a revolutionary matrix that, if properly applied, just might change your perspective on how to offer amazing ministry with not so amazing people.


I call this diagram the Systems/People Matrix. It has been adapted from a similar graph I found in Nelson Searcy’s e-book, “Healthy Systems, Healthy Church“). 

The point of this matrix is simple. When you have great systems, you can often recruit people who aren’t necessarily the ‘right ones’ and eventually develop them into the right people over time. Amazing ministry happens not just because we have the best people in place, but because we have great systems that give people time to become the best people.

Let’s look at each quadrant a little closer:

Down and to the Right

When you have poor systems, but great people, your end result is frustration. That is, the people serving are frustrated, and the longer they serve in that role the more frustrated they become. This often eventually leads to volunteer or staff turnover. They love doing what they are doing and are passionate about it, but they don’t feel valued or cared for and don’t feel like they are equipped or empowered to do the job right.

RESULT: Not so amazing ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A Sunday School teacher shows up to teach the class and discovers that the toys are dirty and put away in the wrong boxes from last week. She spends the first ten minutes putting them in order and getting all the toy pieces back where they belong. Those ten minutes were supposed to be spent preparing the craft and quieting herself before everyone arrives. The next time she arrives to teach, she discovers all the crayons are broken and the cereal box was left open so the cereal is stale.

EXAMPLE 2: The drummer shows up for worship team rehearsal 10 minutes early to prepare and make sure the drums are setup the way he likes and so he can warm up. When the worship rehearsal time arrives he discovers only two people have arrived. He waits 15 minutes before everyone else gets there and takes the stage. It then takes another 15 minutes to do the sound check and get the monitors mixed properly. He wonders if he should just show up 30 minutes late from now on and forget about warming up.

Down and to the Left

If you don’t have good people in the designated role, and you don’t have any systems to serve them, you’ll end up with failure. There’s really no way meaningful ministry can happen consistently in that environment.

RESULT: No Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A Sunday School teacher doesn’t really care about doing anything other than making sure the kids don’t hurt themselves. She doesn’t particularly enjoy kids either, but she serves because she knows it’s important. Since there are no systems in place to provide great toys, craft supplies and a lesson plan to the teachers, she literally just comes every week and spends her time trying to keep the kids occupied and prevent them from hurting themselves. Afterwards, kids leave the room crying or bored and the teacher leaves exhausted and ready to quit. As a result, the parents are frustrated that their kids aren’t getting any valuable teaching and don’t want to attend class and it becomes increasingly difficult to find reliable volunteers to run the class.

EXAMPLE 2: A volunteer is recruited to build a website for the church because he has some web experience. Since nobody gave him any instruction, images or content, he just creates a basic and simple site that ends up missing a lot of crucial data. And since all he was recruited to do was build the site, and not manage it, three months after it’s completed most of the information on the site is dated and some of the pages are broken. Guests who visit the site often choose to visit somewhere else simply because the website is so outdated and unprofessional looking.

Up and to the Left

The top left quadrant is the one that fascinates me the most. In this quadrant you have great systems in place, but not the greatest people serving in those roles. Perhaps the people are new, immature, unskilled, or simply not passionate about what they are doing. Despite this, the results will very often be average and sometimes above average. A great example of this in the business world would be your local fast food joint, like McDonalds, Arby’s, or Taco Bell. I’m fairly certain most of those employees don’t dream about making fast food service a career path or have a lot of previous training flipping burgers and taking orders. And yet, it’s highly likely you will receive similar service and products no matter where you make your order in the entire world. Why? Amazing Systems. 

RESULT: Nearly Amazing Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A hesitant single adult has agreed to do a ‘3 month test drive’ as a Sunday School teacher. At first, she is nervous she made a bad decision because she has never worked with kids much. But after attending two sessions as an apprentice, receiving great follow-up training and walking into the classroom each week with everything in it’s place and simple, easy to follow, instructions on the inside door, she has decided it’s not that hard and a lot of fun. At the end of the 3 months, she’s committed to serve another year and has already proven to be the ‘right person for the job.’

EXAMPLE 2: A volunteer that normally comes in on Saturdays to fold and stuff the bulletins calls in sick the last minute. The secretary has a substitute list of potential backups, but they have never actually done the job. She makes the call and as the backup arrives she spends 5 minutes walking her through a checklist and showing her the machinery, which is also well labelled with instructions. As a result, the job gets done as expected and the volunteer felt like she was able to help the church ‘on the fly’.

Up and to the Right

This quadrant represents not average ministry or even above average, but maximized ministry. Staff and volunteers are serving where they believe they are called to serve and they have the training and gifts needed to do it. Since there are great systems in place, they spend a lot of their time and energy actually ministering to people and improving the overall ministry of the church. Often, they move on to become the influencers within that sphere of responsibility. 

Result: Amazing Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: The sound tech loves to do sound ministry, and over time he has learned how to do it well and is good at it. On top of that, the expectations, systems, and tasks necessary to do the job are well defined. As a result, he helps recruit and train new sound techs and is currently working on learning some advanced tech that will eventually help the church know how to best place the speakers in the room to maximize their capacity and actually minimize loud hot-spots in the room.

EXAMPLE 2: A Sunday School teacher serves twice a month in the four year old class and absolutely loves it. He actually looks forward to those Sundays. Since he knows exactly what to expect each Sunday morning there is little stress associated in the job. In fact, the children’s director has created room in the timeline of ministry to kids to allow him to personally pray over each child every week. He recently started a blog for parents of preschoolers at the church and is personally ensuring that each preschool teacher writes on it once a month. His love for the ministry is so contagious that the adults in his small group are thinking about volunteering too. 

I have a challenge for you . . . write out each area of ministry or responsibility you have delegated to other staff or volunteers. Now ask yourself which quadrant that ministry falls in, and what you need to do to improve the systems to better serve those serving within them.

The Sacred Cow

This article was originally posted on Transforming Leader in March, 2011. Enjoy!

medium_2937658955When I was 15 years old my dad bought a newborn calf. He and I drove to the local farm and I sat in the back of the truck holding the calf to my chest to keep him safe until we got home. (Side Note: I was pretty much a city boy – this was my first time being so close to a farm animal.) When we got home I was tasked with the job of feeding and caring for her (bottle feeding a calf is quite the experience). I did so for many months. I fed her, cared for her, cleaned her pen (not fun) and when I was bored or lonely I’d hang out with her. She was my pet (mistake). She was always glad to see me and ran over to me as I entered her pen. She even let me sit on her back once. I suppose there was a decent amount of trust between us.

Then one day my dad called me outside. He was holding a rifle. He announced, “Today, we are going to butcher the cow.” I was in shock. I was completely unprepared. It never really crossed my mind that this was the intended end in mind all those months ago. We walked over to the cow and dad tried to call her over to the fence. She wasn’t interested. He asked me to call her over. I did so and she immediately obeyed. It felt like I was betraying a friend. The final straw was when he told me to gently lift her head so that he could get a clean shot. Then it was over.

Suffice it to say, I’ll never forget that day. We killed the cow. I know some of you are chuckling right now, a few of you may feel sorry for me. I’ve survived just fine. If I ever get in that situation again I can guarantee you I won’t be giving my heart to a cow again!

The Sacred Cow
Maybe you and your church can relate. You have raised and cared for a cow for many, many years. Many in your congregation (perhaps even you) have grown to love her. You’ve cared for her, cleaned out her pen, and hung out with her so long that nobody really ever questions her existence anymore. She belongs.

Here’s the problem. There is no room for a sacred cow in your church. At some point in time, what was originally an idea that would help people grow in God became a calf in the back of the truck. Some few people decided it was important to keep around and it has been ever since.

The mission of your church is to {enter your mission statement here}. I didn’t hear anything about cows there. But if you have a sacred cow then it seems to me that you have two choices:

  • Build your ministry around the cow (easy).
  • Kill the cow (hard).
FYI: I don’t recommend my dad’s method for killing cows either.
Check out my other two posts in this series: The Smelly Cow & Finding Your Sacred Cow.

photo credit: stevoarnold via photopin cc

Healthy Church, Healthy Systems

This article was originally posted on Transforming Leader on April 24, 2011. Enjoy!

Question: How healthy is your current lifestyle?
Do you exercise regularly? Eat healthy? Drink lots of water? Spend time outdoors? Don’t answer those questions. At least, not here. You can answer this one instead.

“How important are systems in creating and maintaining a healthy body?”

Obvious, right? You want good muscle tone? It’s going to include some system of exercise that includes lifting weights in a repetitive manner (whether it’s lifting boxes out of a truck or weights in a weight room). Less visits to the doctor? That will most likely result from a regular & healthy diet. Lots of energy? All of the above and a whole lot more. Systems are a prerequisite for consistent health in our bodies.

The same is true of our church’s. Whether we like it or not, the similarities between how we manage our bodies and how we manage our church’s can be just too close for comfort (guilty pause here to contemplate the systems you have not setup for your body). A healthy church is going to have a ton of systems in place. Most of these systems will serve to maintain the ministry activities, environments and events the church regularly hosts. Systems will play a vital role in building new muscles (facilitating church growth), maintaining appropriate weight gain or loss (setting & keeping ministry goals), keeping stress levels to a minimum (maintaining ministry focus), and assuring all bodily vitals are healthy (unity in the church, engaging ministry culture, growing believers, transformed lives, etc.).

A healthy church must have healthy systems. Please don’t confuse “systems” with “healthy systems”. Big difference. It seems to me that there are four kinds of systems in which we may choose to engage in:

  • No Systems
    OK. That’s not actually a system. But it counts simply because sometimes we just don’t setup systems. As a result, those particular areas of ministry may be effective for a time, but eventually the lack of systems will catch up to the leaders and it (that ministry) will either get behind, overwhelmed, or shut down.

Real example from my church: At one point in time, there were no systems in place to ensure the sanctuary and hallways were actually clean on Sunday morning. They WERE cleaned regularly late in the week, but often they would get dirty between when they were cleaned last and the Sunday morning services.

  • Declining Systems
    These are the systems that used to work, but are irrelevant now. We still do it this way because that’s how we’ve always done it. (check out my sacred cow series) We keep declining systems in place because they DO usually keep things running – to a degree. They have the general appearance of effectiveness, but in the long run they will lead you to ruin.

Real example from my church: A few years ago we held our worship team rehearsals on Saturday nights. It worked great for a season, especially for our young adults. However, over time it became more and more difficult for those with families and children to make practices at this time. We finally read the writing on the wall when some key worship team members let us know they would have to step down from the worship ministry.

  • Maintaining Systems
    These systems keep things running at the status quo. Many church systems will be maintaining systems, are perfect for their role and shouldn’t be changed. They do what they are designed to do. However, over time maintaining systems may eventually turn into declining systems if not evaluated and updated.

Real example from my church: A faithful and consistent volunteer comes into the office every Saturday to fold and stuff the bulletins for Sunday morning. The system is working great and the volunteer loves to do it. A regular evaluation, however, will ensure that the job doesn’t turn bigger than she originally planned (perhaps through numerical growth and an increase in demand for bulletins).

  • Producing Systems
    These systems don’t just maintain, they create momentum and encourage growth. It can be very difficult to create a producing system. You might end up spending three, four, perhaps even ten times more time, energy and resources creating one than you did for a maintaining system before it is operational. However, once it’s up and running your ministry will experience a great boost in it’s overall effectiveness without taxing your key leaders and volunteers.  Like all systems, these should regularly be evaluated to ensure they don’t turn into managing or declining systems.

Real example from my church: At our ‘Discover Class’, a class we encourage guests to attend to learn more about the church, we take about 10 minutes to teach on water baptism. As a result, we will often receive requests by the attendees of that class to become water baptized. This short teaching encourages spiritual growth in the believer, motivates them to make our church their home church and ultimately creates excitement in our Sunday Services as we regularly celebrate water baptisms. Water baptisms can often be a perfect opportunity to share the good news of Christ, which in turn builds momentum as people receive Christ.

How healthy are the systems at your church?

Thursday Quote: What Drives Your Church?

I’m reading a great book by Dave Browning called Deliberate Simplicity. In one section of the book, Dave challenges us to ask the question, ‘What Drives Our Local Church?” Here’s what he says:

You cannot do work that matters until you define what matters. A leaders’s job is to clarify and simplify so everyone understands what’s truly important….

President Calvin Coolidge believed that ‘no enterprise can exist for itself alone. It ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others; or failing therein it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist.’ Perhaps that statement summarizes the reason why many churches are sick and dying….

Some of the organizing principles that churches adopt (maybe unknowingly) include:


  • Tradition. A church driven by tradition finds itself looking to the past for guidance for the future….
  • Personality. A church driven by personality finds itself directed by a key figure or figures….
  • Finances. A church driven by finances finds itself looking at the budget for direction. If it’s in the budget, we can do it. If it’s not, we can’t….
  • Programs. A church driven by programs defines itself by the programs it offers….
  • Buildings. A church driven by buildings finds itself in constant pursuit of bigger and better facilities….
  • Events. A church driven by events finds itself regularly gearing up for its next concert or pageant or bazaar. While events can be an effective part of any church’s strategy, left unchecked, events can grow to be the ministry….
  • Seekers. A church driven by seekers finds itself trying to get into the mind of ‘the customer.’ Surveys are taken. The results are evaluated. The church’s ministry is driven by polling data. The energy of the body goes into being culturally relevant and seeker friendly….
  • Purpose. A church driven by purpose finds itself evaluating what it does in relation to its sense of purpose. It has a philosophy of ministry that begins with the question, what is the church supposed to do? The church’s goals and objectives become the ruler by which efforts are measured.

What is the driving force behind your church?

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.”

A Healthy Tolerance for Failure

Let’s face it, nobody wants to fail. It is contrary to the very point of doing anything. We don’t start a project, ministry, or new initiative with a full expectation of failing. There is always at least a small hope that our efforts will result in success.

Despite our intense desire to NOT fail, leaders also understand that failure is inevitable. Well, that’s not entirely true . Failure is only going to happen when people try something new. This is where our problem kicks in as church leaders. WE FEAR FAILURE. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time, money, or emotional reserve to put up with failure. Or we are afraid that failure will show everyone around us that we aren’t qualified to lead. We might even ‘hear’ the words of our critics echoing in our minds when we think of trying something new and daring.

I ran across this quote a while back while reading The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.

“Tolerance for failure is a very specific part of the excellent company culture – and that lesson comes directly from the top. Champions have to make lots of tries and consequently suffer some failures or the organization won’t learn.” Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr., In Search of Excellence.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not recommending you bet the farm (or church) on a risky idea. I’m suggesting that you may be stuck in fear and have therefore chosen to set risk aside altogether.

So how about it? Do you encourage calculated risks and graciously allow for failure with your team?

Perhaps better questions to ask are, When was the last time someone in your ministry tried something and failed? and, What was the last ‘risky idea’ that you or a team member implemented?
Image from gunnar3000 on

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.”

The Tunnel of Chaos

“When you did that, it really hurt me. I’ve been mad at you ever since.” That sentence is the culmination of a conversation a friend had with me a while back. It was over breakfast – one that he initiated. I was totally floored. I had no idea that I had said something that hurt my friend. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even know he was mad at me.

That conversation marked an important point in our friendship. I could have chosen to make a joke and take the event lightly. I could have gotten defensive and attacked my friend – pointing out that it was really his fault, not mine. I could have gotten mad back at him. OR, I could have spent time understanding what happened, acknowledging my mistake, and working towards building a deeper understanding about how I could ensure I don’t hurt my friend again.

To his credit, my friend took the first, more difficult step. He chose to talk to me about it. I am so thankful for that. I know many would have just pushed it under the rug, leaving a big bulge, and spent weeks, months, or even years walking over it every day.

The Tunnel of Chaos is that tunnel that leads from artificial to authentic relationships. It is a key to building trust with your family, friends, and coworkers. It is a critical component to your leadership team’s success and health. It is a foundational element of fostering and keeping a culture of trust.

You enter the tunnel when you choose to engage in crucial confrontations with a solid commitment to hold steady until you’ve reached a positive resolution and a deeper friendship.

Bill Hybels coined this phrase in his book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs – a book I highly recommend. You can read this very short excerpt from the book from the Willow Creek Global Summit website right here.

When was the last time you entered the tunnel with an individual or your team?

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.”

Four Things the Church Can Learn From Ben Watson

Whether you are a fan of the New England Patriots or not, you’ve got to admire Ben Watson in this outstanding play against the Bronco’s last year. Check out this run and then read on.

Four things the local church can learn from Watson’s great effort:

  • Don’t Look at the Odds
    Everyone was amazed that Ben made that play. I think most were awed that he even tried. He wasn’t interested in finding out if it was wise to go for it, he just did. How many times do we give up before even trying, simply because the odds look too far against us. What would the Bible read like if that’s what the hero’s of our faith did? David & Goliath. Moses & Pharoah. Esther & Haman. Mary. Peter. Paul. Stephen. Dare I say . . . Jesus. Don’t hold back. The ‘odds’ are man made, but we’re living for God.
  • Give Your All
    Watson gave his all in that run. He didn’t hesitate, stumble, or falter. If he had, he wouldn’t have made it. His ‘all’ was everything needed to get the job done. I wonder what would happen if we put that same unrelenting effort towards the ministry? Perhaps our very best effort is exactly the amount needed to fulfill God’s purposes in our church. Is it possible we short-change the work of God simply because it’s easier to run than sprint?
  • Resist the Urge to Compare
    What if Ben Watson saw how fast everyone else was running and used that as a benchmark for what he should expect of himself? Not good. What benchmark do you measure your ministry by? Is it the church you grew up in? The church down the road or one you watch online? None of those should reflect who you are or what you could do in your unique venue.
  • Don’t Give Up
    At some point in that run, Watson had a choice to make. He could keep running or give up. Most of us would have given up. He didn’t. He pressed through the mental wall or ‘dip’ and kept going until the end. The biggest battle we face is inside. We’re regularly faced with people challenges, financial difficulties, and failed attempts to build positive momentum in the church. It’s so tempting to just slow down and go back to the drawing board before the play has even finished. 

Remember Paul’s words today and take heart.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Strategic Quitting

{Note: This entry is a compiled re-post of two older posts on Transforming Leader.}

Seth Godin wrote a very short and easy to read book named, “The Dip” a few years ago that has changed my language forever. In fact, I find myself using the simple illustrations found in this book quite regularly. What I find particularly helpful is the super simple concept surrounding WHEN you should consider ‘quitting’ and when you should persevere and keep going.

Ironically, we often get these things mixed up. We keep doing some things when we should really STOP doing them and we give up on new ideas and ventures too quickly rather than push through ‘the dip’ to the other side.

Seth talks about the three different ‘curves’ that will help you decide when to quit and when not to. A while back I recorded this short teaching about these three curves. Take a moment today and listen in below.

Applying ‘The Dip’ to your ministry & life.

If you can’t see/hear this audio player, try clicking here.
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.”
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