You Can Make a Difference

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In group settings, I usually tend to be a listener first.

I remember taking a senior level class in college with about 12 people. Somewhere around 7 weeks into the class I was talking in the hallway with someone else in the class and mentioned a concept we talked about. They paused and said “I forgot you were even in the class with us.”

What I am about to say does not come from an extrovert or someone who owns a room when they walk into it.

You can make a difference in any room you enter. Really, you can.

Not only can you make a difference, you need to develop a mindset that says “I will make a difference.”

I am not suggesting arrogance and conceit. Nor am I advocating being the center of attention. But, if we seriously intend to grow as leaders, if we genuinely want to expand our leadership influence, it starts with believing we can help.

Help. Influence. Impact. Whatever word you choose, the bottom line is the same: you have something to offer. But what is it? What do you bring to the table? What can you do better than anyone else around you?

I have a mentor who has a knack for finding people with leadership potential and giving them a platform to experiment. I know another friend who has an ability to connect with people and in turn connect people with people.

Influence happens not when we decide to have influence, but when we decide to make the most of what we have.

Leadership happens not when we decide to exhibit leadership, but when we decide to make the most of what we have.

I may be a listener first, but I aim to be able to understand a situation and provide new views and new ways to examine what is happening.  So not only do I listen, but I process at the same time.

As I seek to answer the 3 questions, I have to believe that I can help. You can help, too. Find a way to lead today.

Books that Altered My Path

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I have recently experienced a renewed interest in reading. Now, I am not reading through an inordinate number of books, but I am trying to stretch my mind by reading.

But today I thought I would share one of the books that has had the largest and most enduring impact on my ministry. I remember reading this around 2008, and the concepts are still shaping the way I preach today. So, here it is: Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley.

This is a book on preaching. Sounds riveting, right? Actually, it turns into a pretty quick read. The book itself is divided into two parts. The first part is a story that seeks to introduce the concept of the second part, which is the nuts and bolts of the approach.

You can search for in depth reviews of the book, but for the purpose of this post, I am going to share two things that have shaped my ministry as a result of reading it.

First, I don’t have to teach every idea in a passage in one message. Andy tells a story in the book about he and his wife visiting a church and on the way home saying “That was a good series in one sermon.” Sometimes, as communicators, we can overwhelm our audience with too much information. It is okay to take our time and unpack concepts over weeks.

The second lasting impact from this book is to develop a simple, portable, and memorable statement. The statement should be emphasized throughout the message, should be relevant, and should be simple. A few statements I have developed over the years are: God loves you and desires a relationship with you; Worship is the way you live your life; Words reveal intent. Actions reveal heart; and You can’t see the end from the middle.

Bottom line: this book is worth your time, especially if you teach/preach/communicate on a regular basis. I keep extra copies in my office anytime I find it on sale. If you haven’t read it before, click below and buy it today!


Incoherent Ramblings

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I’ve never actually spent any time explaining my categories, so let’s change that.

One of my favorite categories developed last year as I had an intern. As we began the process, I wanted to make sure I was not just assigning her some work to do, but instead was taking time to share with her things I have learned over the years.

So, in order to accomplish that goal, I started making a list of different lessons and tips I have picked up and developed. We carved out time each week to sit down and I would share my “Incoherent Ramblings”.

The topics ranged anywhere from lessons learned in ministry (Don’t let someone’s character surprise you and Don’t hide from hard conversations) to more practical tips (like this one from last week on fundraising). But, there was a nice consistency to the meeting time.

Here on the blog, so much of what I write about falls into the Incoherent Rambling territory. I don’t have to say that I have yet to figure everything out, but I do love learning along the way.

So, today, what would be on your list of incoherent ramblings? What are some tips and tricks you have picked up along the way, the things you think need to be communicated and passed on to the next generation? Have you started a list?

Leave a comment and let me know what you would include!

Changing Environments

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I have a very bad habit of driving somewhere, putting my vehicle in park, and sitting in the vehicle for a while before I get out. Sometimes, I do this because I’m listening to sports radio and want to hear the end of the thought being expressed, or maybe I’m just moving slow that day. But occasionally, I hesitate because I don’t want to trade one climate for the other.

If it is bitterly cold outside, then the warmth of my vehicle is too appealing.

If it is raining, I dread stepping out into the rain. (This one doesn’t happen very often as we rarely get rain.)

If the heat outside is blistering, then the allure of the A/C can be too much.

In leadership, we have to be careful about developing a similar habit.

We may find ourselves waiting outside a meeting where we know the atmosphere will be chilled by attitudes.

Or maybe we hesitate to call an important meeting because we fear what may take place.

Or we put off having a tough conversation out of fear the conversation will go to a dangerous place.

Understand this: if you are in a position of leadership, find the balance between looking for problems to blow up and hiding from situations that scare you. You do not have to become a bulldog that tears into every conflict with glee, but you also cannot afford to be a turtle who hides in your shell at the first sign of unpleasantness.

As a leader, someone has placed trust in you to lead, so make the most of that trust.

Over the years, I have found that when I hesitate to do something, my hesitation is a key indicator the something needs to be done. I seldom worry and put off things that do not matter. Is that true for you? What are your own signs of the need for something to be done?

Teaching Student Leaders

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Last weekend, I had the privilege of hosting a Student Leadership Workshop. We had three churches come together, with a total of 21 students, and we spent a good part of the day equipping students to become better leaders.

To close the workshop, I borrowed a Habitude from Tim Elmore (click here to read about him). I asked students if they were a thermostat or thermometer.

Thermometers take the temperature of the room and reflect it. They do not control how hot or cold something is, but instead passively reveal the current state.

Thermostats set the temperature of the room. They determine how hot or cold a room is at the moment, and what it will be in the future.

My dream for student leaders is that they realize they have the potential to become a thermostat and set the temperature of the room through their actions, their behaviors, and their interactions with other people.

I love watching student leaders step up and lead. Few things compare with watching teenagers begin to realize they’re not too young to make a difference.

In my own life, I personally would like to become more of a thermostat than a thermometer. What about you?