Category Archives: Leadership

General thoughts about Christian leadership.

Organizational Insights from Numbers 2

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

This morning, I was reading the first few chapters of Numbers. I have to be honest with you, and I am somewhat ashamed to admit, I wasn’t expecting much. Aside from a few interesting (and confusing) stories, the book of Numbers is filled with, you guessed it, numbers!

The first few chapters are all about counting the people of Israel. This tribe has 60,000 people. That tribe has 40,000 people. With twelve tribes to go through, the lists of numbers and names of people can get tedious. Continue reading

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Helping People Resolve Conflict

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When two people are in conflict with each other, bringing about resolution can be difficult. However, when two Christians are in conflict, the process of reconciliation should not be as hard as it is.

In conflict situations, I like to ask a few questions:

  • Describe all the sin in this conflict. Who has committed sin and what is the exact nature of each sin? (the goal is to seek reconciliation with God and forgiveness from each other over sins committed)

  • Describe all the pain in this conflict NOT CAUSED BY SIN. What actions caused your pain and why were they so painful? (the goal is to get people to explore their own inner life not blame others or air dirty laundry. The WHY is powerful.)

  • Describe the goals and desired outcomes on both sides. What is the bigger picture, the vision, and how do we get there now? (the goal is to establish a plan of action and guidelines for future relationship through listening to each other’s joys, hopes, needs, and dreams)

After all, as believers in Christ, we know the power of forgiveness, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit, and we have a purpose that goes far beyond our petty differences.

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I will write a novel in 30 days

Front Page Leadership

Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo? I hadn’t heard of it until last year during the middle of November and by then it was too late for me to get into it, but the basic idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in the span of 30 days.

Now, if you are like I was, you probably are initially thinking that such an effort would be simultaneously grueling and pointless.

However, as a public communicator, I have become fascinated in recent years at how powerful fiction is, and I want to learn it for myself.

So, I have been thinking for a while now that I should try to write some fiction, and now this opportunity comes along for me to pull on my naturally competitive bent to accomplish something I’ve wanted to do for a long time…

So, I’m going to give it a shot.

I’ll have to average 1,667 words per day for the next 30 days, and I have no idea if I will be able to make it all the way through. I rarely finish big projects that I start.

I’m going to need some encouragement, so if you want to read what I write, let me know and hold me accountable!

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Postcard ideas for Choose Well

Front Page Leadership

I’m working on some postcard ideas for my October series… Your comments are welcome!

CHOOSE WELL – Series Concept

  • Title: Choose Well
  • Subtitle: { four questions to guarantee good choices }
  • Felt need: Whether it’s during the time of an election or not, people feel a sense of anxiety when it comes to making decisions. The larger the decisions, the more anxiety is felt. Everyone needs a framework for decision-making that gives confidence in the eventual choice that’s made.
  • Topic Structure:
    • What is God’s Will (and how can I know it)? — The Most Important Question of All
    • What do wise people say (and who should I ask)? — Who can I trust for advice?
    • What does my heart say (and can I trust it)? — When can I do what I want?
    • Am I choosing on my own (and is that okay)? — When should I go out on a limb?
  • Postcard:

Give me some feedback!

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Barack Obama and John McCain Get Real

Front Page Leadership Stuff I Find

Rick Warren hosted a “civil forum” where he took roughly 50 minutes with each candidate asking questions from all over the political map. Two very insightful questions were:

  1. What is your greatest moral failure, and what is the greatest moral failure of the USA?
  2. What current Supreme Court justice(s) would you not have appointed?

Watch it for yourself and then watch the commentary afterwards by the CNN reporters and see a new kind of political debate take shape prompted by the creativity and courage of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church.

PS. If the video below doesn’t work, try visiting the link below it.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/08/16/warren.forum/index.html

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Professional Sunday Morning Video Presentations

Church Planting Front Page Geekery Lafayette Lafayette Community Church Leadership

In our new church effort in Lafayette, I set as a goal from very early on that we would attempt to do everything we could with excellence, and though we have had some hiccups with our children’s programming and with our music, we have been consistently high quality with our printed materials and with our video presentations thanks to some really great software.

On the printed front, we have been using Apple’s Pages for basic word processing and simple page design and Serif PagePlus 11 which is exponentially greater than anything else in its price range ($50 for features that easily surpass Microsoft Publisher and even rival PageMaker or Quark). However, that’s for another blog entry. On to what we do for video now and what our next steps are.

Video Presentation Hardware

  • 15″ MacBook Pro 2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo / 1GB RAM
  • Draper Traveller portable projection screen with High Contrast Gray screen material.
  • DLP Projector (I don’t remember the specs right now).

Software

Description

ProPresenter is the best program we have found to display lyrics on the screen. It’s very easy to learn with only a few quirks that take getting used to. Together with the Mac, it is unbeatable in terms of visual quality of the text even with full motion high resolution video images in the background. On top of that, the programmers are very responsive to requests for improvements, and the software was designed from the ground up to meet the needs of touring worship bands like Chris Tomlin and David Crowder.

Keynote is the hands down winner in presentation software that understands the line between attention-getting and cheesy. Transitions, fades, and slide builds are unmatched in PowerPoint because Keynote does what it does with subtlety. It’s also much easier to work with once you learn a couple of its quirks.

Our current setup has us running ProPresenter and Keynote simultaneously on the MacBook Pro. ProPresenter takes over the projector screen and turns it black while waiting for us to begin. Navigation is done on the laptop screen, but lyrics and backgrounds are sent to the secondary display.

Just before my message, we hit F1 in ProPresenter to black out the projection screen, switch to Keynote without closing ProPresenter (the projection screen stays black during and after the switch), and hit “Play” on my sermon Keynote file. Keynote takes over the projection screen with my slides and also displays a “Presenter View” on the laptop screen. We turn the laptop to face me, so I can see my current slide and my next slide without ever needing to look over my shoulder.

Next Steps

Now that we are meeting in the Long Center (a larger venue), we want to make some changes to our setup so we stay on the excellent side of things.

  1. Replace our screen with a larger rear projection screen. We’re looking at the Draper Cinefold and Draper Ultimate series of screens for this.
  2. Consider upgrading our projector depending on its performance with the new screen. Most likely, we will just need to buy a new bulb.
  3. Purchase a new Mac to put in the sound booth. It needs to have dual external monitor capability, and the only Macs to have that now are Mac Pro computers or Psystar Open Computer Macintosh clones.
  4. Split the monitor signal from each monitor out to drive four displays (1). The monitor in the sound booth, (2). the projector on stage, (3) One monitor in front row pointing to stage duplicating what’s on the projector screen. (4) One monitor in front row pointing to the stage duplicating what’s on the screen in the sound booth. That way, the stage-facing monitors will show what’s on the screen and also show the “Presenter View” that Keynote can display.
  5. Use VGA cables or a VGA over CAT5e system to get video signal to the stage from the booth.

Final thoughts

If anyone is reading this post thinking that technology will save your bad presentations, think again. Websites like http://presentationzen.com are a great resource to help you rethink the how and the why of your presentations. Technology can make your presentations more effective, but it isn’t guaranteed to do so.

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2008 State of the Union Address

Front Page Leadership

I just read the transcript for President Bush’s State of the Union Address before Congress and I must say that I was rather impressed.

I have never known the man to deliver a riveting speech, but the text of this address is profound nonetheless. He of course reports on the various successes that his programs and policies have brought about over the past 7 years and he encourages Congress to simply continue all they have been doing. He proposes one or two new concepts, but by and large, it’s all about continuing to do what has already been done.

However, there was an obviously strong theme running through the entire speech: Trust.

Here’s the key paragraph:

In the work ahead, we must be guided by the philosophy that made our nation great. As Americans, we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history. We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens. So in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives and their futures.

The beginning of every following theme was a statement on what we should trust.

  • …trust the people with their own money…
  • …earn their trust by spending tax dollars wisely… (with a clear challenge to congressional earmarks)
  • …trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions…
  • …trust students to learn if given the chance…

One of my favorite parts was in his discussion of making the tax relief permanent.

We have other work to do on taxes. Unless the Congress acts, most of the tax relief we have delivered over the past 7 years will be taken away. Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm, and I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.

He had a pretty good “I told you so” moment when talking about scientific research over stem cells.

On matters of science and life, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries. In November, we witnessed a landmark achievement when scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life. So we are expanding funding for this type of ethical medical research. And as we explore promising avenues of research, we must also ensure that all life is treated with the dignity it deserves. So I call on the Congress to pass legislation that bans unethical practices such as the buying, selling, patenting, or cloning of human life.

Whom should we trust?

Of course, as a pastor, I am always thinking of the deeper implications of our culture and our words, and I’m thinking especially about the philosophy quoted at the beginning of the speech.

We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens.

There is no doubt that this philosophy has been the most powerfully successful governmental philosophy of the last 1000 years, economically speaking. But the question I have is whether this has been the best philosophy morally and spiritually. Don’t get me wrong! I’m glad this is the philosophy of our country. This very thought gives me the freedom to follow God fully with my life, and I would not change it for the world.

Nevertheless, this philosophy is based upon the notion that collective humanity is inherently good and wise, and we should remember that humans are still deeply scarred with sin. I am grateful to God that He has given us his grace enough so that despite the ravaging effects of sin, our reason and our conscience remain relatively able to deal with issues of governance.

But what about the moral issues? I find it interesting that were it not for a single individual at the top level of our government, the concept of using human embryos for stem cells would have been considered a “no-brainer” “done-deal” issue. However, the moral fiber of a single man put a ban on that kind of research which forced new kinds of research and the discovery of new ways to develop stem cells. That’s just an example.

So here’s the $64,000 question. Concerning which issues can the collective wisdom of the people be trusted? As a sideline question, who gets to determine which issues are “collective” issues and which issues are “moral leader” issues?

If you have 20 minutes, I encourage you to read through it all and leave your comments here on what you think.

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Productivity Experiment #2

Front Page Leadership

I wasn’t really satisfied with my first productivity week, so I’m going to do it again this week. And I’m feeling more intense about it. There’s one major thing coming up in the life of our church that is prompting me to get more productive and it is our WHY campaign. To hear what I have to say about that, click on the link.

Anyway, because I have such high dreams for the WHY campaign, I’m really motivated to get a lot accomplished this week. Here are the big things I want to accomplish:

Church Goals

  • Get my sermon outlines for the next two weeks done by Wednesday
  • Get my sermon for this week completed by Friday.
  • Create a script for the entire morning.
  • Recruit some people for a small group at my house
  • Recruit some people for a small group at the Skylight
  • Make phone calls to 50 households
  • Mail promotional post cards
  • Get an ad in Saturday’s paper.
  • Meet with Greg, Kyle and Josh to continue our triad discipleship group.
  • Pray, pray, pray.

Personal Goals

  • Apply for server job at 4 restaurants.
  • Spend fun time each day with family.
  • Have Saturday 100% off!!
  • Post a blog entry of some kind every day
  • Have my neighbors over for dinner.
  • Get all the family financial records up to date.
  • Re-Install Windows on the kids’ computer. (Is that really necessary?)
  • Set up a home asterisk server to save us on phone charges (all true geeks will know what asterisk is).

What do you think?

So how much of this do you think I can accomplish in one week? Am I shooting too high? Do you think it’s even possible to get this much done? I don’t think I’ve ever done EVERYTHING on my to do list in one week, but it will be interesting to see if I can.

Let me hear what you think. What do you accomplish on your most productive weeks?

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Productivity: Week 1 Results (and self analysis)

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

I spent last week doing a productivity experiment that was really just a project of tracking of what I wanted to accomplish and what I actually did accomplish. Though the experiment didn’t turn out the way I had wanted it to, I learned some things about myself, and in this post, I share what I’m hoping to do about it to become more productive in the future.

Here’s my productivity list for last Wednesday (July 24):

  • Read about internet marketing — 60 mins.
  • Blogged my Monday productivity — 15 mins.
  • Devotion and Prayer — 10 mins.
  • fix look of blog and add comments — 10 mins.
  • Completed survey for research project on church planters — 40 mins.
  • Lunch and playing with Charlie — 1.25 hrs.
  • Processing voicemail and cleaning out email Inbox (finally) — 3 hrs.
  • Phone calls throughout the afternoon — 30 mins.
  • Evening phone calls — 60 mins.

(I didn’t even get a list done for Thursday.)

Analysis of the week

At the end of last week and throughout the week, I determined that productivity for me isn’t something I can just willpower my way into. I’m generally a very active person mentally, and my tendency to be distracted means that I’m regularly failing to finish projects all the way. I didn’t even get all my daily blog entries written last week (and it’s already Wednesday of this week!)

All in all, I think it was a good experiment, and I hope that some of the more obvious things I’ve learned will help me be more productive.

Things I Learned

As a result, here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Productivity for me will not happen without a list of daily goals. More specifically, as I looked at the list of things I actually did each day, I realized that though many of them were beneficial to my overall ministry, not many of them were essential or high priority items.

  2. Productivity for me will not happen in a “distractable” environment. My tendencies toward ADD make it very easy for me to follow mental rabbit trails. For example, reading my email through Gmail leads to me seeing news clips that interest me. Thinking that I can read the story in only a few seconds, I click on the link, but that story will have other links to more information, and before I know it, I’m deeply embedded in open Firefox tabs with a sense that I have to read them all before I can get back to answering that email.

  3. The mundane, mindless, routine tasks of ministry are the most dangerous for time-wasting because during those tasks, my brain is allowed to work overtime on discovering rabbit trails. For example, while my weekly sermon is being encoded and uploaded to the Internet Archive, I can do other things with the computer and that usually means frittering.

  4. The biggest thing I learned is that the most important tasks on my todo list create a kind of paralyzing guilt that hampers my productivity.

Let me explain that last point. I need to write a sermon every week for church on Sunday. I know that the process of writing a really good sermon takes me about 20 hours, but that I can create a pretty good sermon in only 8 hours. As a result, something very strange happens in my mind as the week moves on.

If I don’t get an early start on my message, I face a daily increasing level of stress as the week moves on. Because I feel so much pressure to get my message done, I feel guilty doing any other ministry. I don’t want to meet with people, I don’t want to make phone calls, and I don’t want to have any meetings because to do any of those things feels like I’m stealing from sermon prep time. If I do some ministry that isn’t sermon prep, I actually feel guilty and unproductive. However, if I put in a 4 hour block of time on my sermon, I feel the logistical pressure of needing to make phone calls, meet with people, and call meetings. So working on my sermon feels like stealing from other ministry.

My problem is that I have no internal sense of process. For me, everything is right now and nothing that should be done should wait to be done. As a result, I simply can never determine emotionally which ministry I should do right now. Make phone calls or work on sermon. Whichever I choose, I end up feeling guilty that I didn’t do the other one. I’ve been this way for long enough that I’ve grown to expect it and anticipate the guilty feeling even before I’ve made the choice and quite often the end result is that I do neither. I escape into family time, reading time, web browsing, email or mindless routine items.

I just spent about 15 minutes browsing the ‘Net to see if there were any blogs that addressed procrastination, but I’m back now!

Strategy for Going Forward

To answer my four learning points above, I’m suggesting this to myself and to you as a possible strategy:

  1. Set aside 4 hours each Monday for sermon prep without Internet access with a primary goal of getting draft sermon outlines done 2 weeks before the Sunday they are needed (I want to move this to 4 weeks before it’s needed).
  2. Use Sunday afternoon to do sermon podcast stuff until I can recruit someone else to do that for me.
  3. While the podcast is encoding/uploading on Sundays, I’ll make calls based on communication cards thus keeping me off the computer.
  4. Each day, I’ll make a list of things to accomplish and identify which ones can happen on the computer and how long those will take.
  5. BONUS: I don’t think I can make this happen because of the distractability thing, but I’d like to publish my daily todo list to the Internet so that I’ll be more accountable for how I spend my time.
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Productivity: July 23, 2007

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

Here is my activity/productivity list for the day:

  • Devotional study of Psalm 116 (BI: Those who know God’s salvation respond with love.) — 30 minutes
  • Prayer bike ride through a new neighborhood — 60 minutes
  • Blog about my productivity experiment — 40 minutes
  • Work on processing audio for Sunday’s sermon — 25 minutes
  • Make lunch for kids and watch AFV with them — 60 minutes
  • Finishing sermon audio process and upload — 30 minutes
  • Reloaded home Email Server — 20 minutes
  • Converted a Simpsons video for my Palm Pilot — 10 minutes
  • Blogged my sermon — 10 minutes
  • Made dinner for the kids and watched a movie with them — 2.5 hours
  • Hanging out with Jen, working on miscellaneous household things for the rest of the evening.

Analysis

According to my productivity experiment, here’s how my day broke down.

Personal

  • Prayer: 60 minutes
  • Bible: 30 minutes
  • Other Books: 0 minutes
  • Total: 1.5 hours

Family

  • Time with kids: 3.5 hours
  • Time with Jen: 2 hours
  • Total 5.5 hours

Mission

  • Direct contact: 1 person (15 minutes)
  • Spiritual conversation: 0
  • Strategic planning : 0
  • Total 15 minutes

Routine

  • Managing home: 20 minutes (fixed email server)
  • Managing church: 65 minutes (blogged Sunday’s sermon)
  • Total 1.5 hours

Wow! As I look at this list, I’m thinking “That’s how I’m starting my week long productivity experiment?” It doesn’t look very productive to me. I’m going to have to do better.

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How Productive Can I Be?

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

I’m entering into a week of experimentation. I’m experimenting with myself to see how productive I can be.

Just yesterday, I preached a message on how we can actually find fulfillment in our pains and struggles, and I was thinking that something uncomfortable for me is the bearing down into a routine of productivity. Along those lines, I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how much I’m really capable of and whether or not I’m really capable of more than I usually accomplish in a week.

Therefore, I’m embarking on a contest with myself to see just how productive I can be for only one week. (I like short sprints better than long races, so I’m telling myself that it will just be for this one week.)

My plan is simple. I intend to write one blog post every day detailing what I did that day according to a few key productivity markers. I’ve chosen these “markers” to be the measurables by which I can attempt to see daily improvement. However, these are in rough form right now, so I’m sure they will change over the course of this week or any other week I do this experiment.

Productivity Markers:

Personal

  • How much time have I spent in prayer?
  • How much time have I spent reading the Bible?
  • How much time have I spent reading other books?

Family

  • How much time have I spent with my kids?
  • How much time have I spent with my wife?

Mission

  • How many people have I had direct, personal contact with?
  • How many people have I had a spiritual conversation with?
  • How much time have I invested in strategic planning for the church?

Routine

  • How much time have I invested in managing home details — and what did I accomplish?
  • How much time have I invested in managing church details — and what do I have to show for it?

Suggestions? What are some of your suggestions for how I should be measuring my productivity?

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10 Ways Pastors can Use Blogs

Front Page Leadership Stuff I Find

I thought this article at Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox was interesting. For my own reference, here are the first 5 suggestions and the ones most relevant to me personally:

1. Blog your city — Talk about upcoming city-wide events, upcoming service projects of your church, share photos of the city, neighborhoods. Use your blog to love on your city and her people. Click here for an example. 


2. Blog the news, pop culture, issues — Weigh in on these things with a biblical perspective (and, a loving one). Click here for an example. 

3. Blog on money and personal finance — That’s what this “anonymous” guy does on his blogs. He blogs on something dear to his heart — money — and his company — Moose Tracks Ice Cream — gets great publicity.


4. Blog on marriage, family, and parenting — Give tips, offer links to relevant news and reports, and, of course, your sermon series on those topics.


5. Blog devotional comments throughout week — Invariably you will come across golden nuggets of truth in your sermon preparation time that will not make it to the pulpit on Sunday. Use these chips of gold to take your people deeper into the Word.

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A Whole New Mind

Books Front Page Leadership

A Whole New Mind Cover
A Whole New Mind
by Daniel Pink http://www.danpink.com.

Daniel Pink has written a very interesting book about the coming shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. He makes an interesting claim that the Information Age is already over and a new way of doing business has begun. The book is mostly about business principles, but it has a lot to say to churches and church leaders (something I’ll tackle in an upcoming post). Continue reading

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