Leading During COVID19. Connect with Leaders

Staying on the same page with leaders is VITAL right now. Even a few weeks into the COVID19 Crisis things change literally everyday. One thing that we’ve done as a staff is implement some of Patrick Lencioni’s philosophy that he outlines in Death by Meeting, a book I HIGHLY recommend regardless of where you lead or what type of organization you are a part of.

In the book Lencioni emphasizes 4 different types of meetings that organizations need to have:

  1. Quarterly Offsite: Spend time away thinking about the big picture of the organization. This might be a retreat.
  2. Monthly Strategic: This is where you tackle big strategic issues that have come up in your weekly staff meetings.
  3. Weekly Tactical: This what’s typically the weekly staff meeting. Most people dread it, but there is a way to make it meaningful. I’ll tackle this in a future post.
  4. Daily Standup: This is a SHORT meeting where we share what everyone is working on and how you can resource one another.

Daily Standup (Or Zoom Up)

CityView (the church I lead) has implemented these types of meetings in different ways since reading Lencioni’s book. One meeting that we’ve never done is the daily standup. We’re an almost completely part-time staff with most people working other full time jobs. That makes this meeting typically VERY difficult and essentially totally impractical.

However, during the COVID19 crisis we’ve found it actually easier to make this meeting happen. Actually, we have found extraordinary value in the meeting as things change on a day-to-day basis. We utilize Zoom and have a 10 minute checkin meeting everyday, Monday – Friday, to stay on top of tasks, prayer requests, needs, ideas, and opportunities. This has helped us fix problems, meet needs, and stay nimble as we lead through crisis.

What About You?

How are you staying organized and up-to-date with your leaders and team?

Leading Connection Practically During COVID19. Track your contacts!

COVID19 has proven to be a crisis in many senses: medically, economically, and mentally. This is going to be an event that marks our generation. One issue that we’ve confronted early as an elder team and staff is checking in on all of our people. We felt like it would be imperative for them to hear from more than just the Lead Pastor and their life group leader, but to have multiple connections throughout the week.

Contact Tracker

One thing that we’ve implemented is a simple google sheet with staff or elders at the top and a roster down the left side.

  • If you try to connect you place a “c” next to their name
  • If you bless someone with a meal, special gift, etc you place a “b”
  • If you get to have a longer interaction like a Zoom call, FaceTime, or Phone call then you place a “q”

We want to make sure our people know they are prayed for, loved, and cared for beyond Sunday. Our staff and elders make it a point to make sure each person is hit every week. We pair this spreadsheet with an in house Google Doc where we capture prayer requests.

What About You?

How are you making sure that your people are being contacted and connected with on a regular basis?

Anxiety is an Alarm Clock

Is it just me or does it feel like the news can ONLY report on The COVID-19 Virus. I see some election coverage, the occasional Lebron dunk, and a few other small news stories, but almost everything, and I mean everything is about the Coronavirus or what the panic surrounding the Coronavirus has caused. Frankly, it’s overwhelming to hear it talked about all the time and I imagine that those who tend towards anxiety are pushed to the edge of panic daily, if not over the edge.

I’m a doctor, but not a medical one. My degrees are in Bible and Leadership. So, I’m not going to offer a medical opinion. (If you find yourself with crippling anxiety in life I urge you to seek the common grace of doctors who are there to help). There are enough opinions going around. Instead, maybe I can weigh in on the levels in which I have some experience. One biblical passage comes to mind over and over again as I talk to people who are dealing with anxiety:

Philippians 4:6–9

[6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [8] Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. [9] What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (ESV)

Let’s take these verses and develop a system to face our anxieties when they mount up against us.

  1. Don’t Worry about ANYTHING… PRAY about EVERYTHING
  2. SHIFT your thinking from worry to good
  3. Rest in God

Don’t Worry about ANYTHING… PRAY about EVERYTHING

We’re told to not worry. Not like some people who just tell you to chill out and don’t offer you any help or comfort. Instead, we’re told to not worry, but pray. Our worries and anxieties are supposed to be an ALARM CLOCK that wake us up to the reality that we aren’t in control, but we know the One who is. Whenever you worry, find yourself anxious, find your mind wandering about COVID-19 or anything else. Take it to the Lord. Every day that it happens. Every hour that it happens. Every minute that it happens. Even, every second to second. Don’t worry about anything… pray about everything.

SHIFT your thinking from worry to good

In order to change our output, anxious feelings, Verse 8 says to consciously change our thinking. We should think about:

  • Whatever is true, don’t tell yourself lies or half truths. Think about truth. Remind yourself of truth. Christian, when you’re anxious remember facts, remember scripture, remember that the God of the universe knows your name and loves you.
  • Whatever is honorable, think about things that are honorable. Think about the accomplishments of others, the opportunities that surround you, the ways you can do good to others.
  • Whatever is just, think about justice. Think about how you can help others get it. Think about how you can serve others who need it.
  • Whatever is pure, don’t allow yourself to be sucked into impure thoughts as a way to temporarily fix the anxiety you’re feeling.
  • Whatever is lovely, spend your time thinking about God’s creation, the beautiful things that are in your life.
  • Whatever is commendable, think about ways to commend somebody. What if instead of worrying you complemented somebody else or encouraged them instead? You might find that you’d turn the anxious fervor you find yourself in, into an opportunity to encourage someone else.

Rest in God

Two promises are made for people who practice these verses.

  • The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • The God of peace will be with you

Anxiety is an alarm clock that wakes us up to the reality that we aren’t in control, but we know the one who is. Practice these things over and over again. Don’t stop practicing. Whether it is coronavirus, elections, market volatility, or anything else rest in God.

Leadership in 5 Buckets

Henry Cloud was on the Entre Leadership Podcast on the Ramsey Network. He’s a Christian psychologist and author of many books including Boundaries and Integrity. He was on the podcast talking about the executive functions of the brain and their relationship to leadership. He mentioned 5 categories or buckets.

The categories are:

  • Vision – Where are we going?
  • Resource/Talent Acquisition – What do we need to get there?
  • Strategy/Plan – How do we get there?
  • Measurements for Accountability – How do we know if we’re successful?
  • Adaptation Systems – What do we need to change based on the things we’re measuring?

His point was that all leadership is contained in these 5 buckets and that big picture organizational leaders need to ensure that all of these areas are considered. The brain operates this way and so should organizations.

I’d agree with his basic assessment. I find it valuable to have quick reference metaphors like “the executive functions of the brain” to talk to others about leadership. Leadership is big, messy, and complicated. Without those quick metaphors these ideas get lost.

Do Yourself A Favor: Get OmniFocus 2

My Favorite Task Manager

OmniFocus 2

 

Get OmniFocus 2

Small business owners, pastors, church planters, entrepreneurs, ministry professionals, and anyone who has a lot of freedom in their work needs something to help them stay on task.  OmniFocus 2 is my tool.

If you want to make sure you don’t drop the ball on tasks then please, do yourself a favor… get Omnifocus 2.  I love it.

There are a lot of task managers out there.  This one is highly adaptable to the way that you track your tasks.  I am goal oriented and it helps me track goals through the powerful folders feature.  Within the folder you can setup incremental projects that lead to the accomplishment of the goal.  Inside of those projects you can place your tasks that lead to the accomplishment of the goal.

I don’t recommend products unless I use them.  I literally use this app EVERY DAY.

  • Integrates with Calendars seamlessly.
  • I have it on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
  • Contexts, I use this as a “hats I wear” feature.  It helps me keep things straight as a Husband/Father, Pastor, Network Leader, Business Owner, and Individual.
  • Send tasks directly from email to your task manager.
  • Attach important reference material.
  • The Review Perspective is something I do every Monday as I setup my schedule for the week.
There are lots of people who have done free essential training for OmniFocus 2 online.  Here’s a great resource: https://www.youtube.com/user/learnomnifocus
Let me know if you have questions.  I’d be happy to answer as best I can.

Who Do You Want To Be?

My first step before I start getting specific about my goals

characterized

How are you characterized?

If you ask your spouse  come up with 3-5 non-physical descriptive words to explain who you are what would they be?  If you asked friends or colleagues that same question what do you think the answer would be?  If you’ve never tried it I highly suggest it.  Making people choose a few words causes them to be more careful with the words they choose.  It’s a fun exercise, but not exactly the point of this post.

I ask people that question as it relates to this past year.  How would you characterize me in 2017?

After I process that feedback (sometimes it is harder than other times).  I start to think about how I’d like to be characterized at the end of the next year.

An Example

For instance, at this time last year I decided I wanted to be more clearly characterized as someone who prays.  I know, I’m a pastor, that should come naturally.  I’ll be honest… it doesn’t.  But I want it to be more natural.

So about this time last year that was on my list of things I wanted to be characterized by.  That gave way to a goal of writing in a prayer journal weekly which I’m happy to say I did.  Prayer isn’t a lot easier for me, but it has definitely become a larger part of my life.  My kids know I keep a prayer journal and they know when they come to me with a problem or something they’re worried about the first thing I do is ask if they’ve prayed about it yet.

 

My advice before writing goals is to think about what you want to be known as at the end of this next year.  Think about the type of person you want to BE, before you think about the things you are going to DO.

 

What do you want to be characterized as this next year?

Plan: Control Your Calendar or It Will Control You

A look at a productive week in church planting

Plan

 

You’ve got to plan.  Organizing your week is pretty key to productivity in church planting.  You’ve got to drive your schedule or it will drive you.  I tend to set my week up in terms of blocks of time and the rhythms of my family and my church. At the bottom of this post is what a typical week looks like for me.

Everyday Stuff

I wake up early.  I always have.  I’m not a genius by any means (which is what a few friends have asserted).  I just like getting early.  4 is early even for me, but my boys have inherited my odd sleep schedule.  In order to beat them awake I have to get up at 4 to get some time alone with the Lord ad begin study.

I try to workout or run everyday.  I typically tag it with lunch.  I’ve found my energy level increases significantly when I workout and/or run.  I’m not any kind of a magnificent specimen of the male figure by any means, but I’m healthy, can bench my body weight (usually), and have completed a marathon.  I don’t attribute that to natural athletic acumen, but just some consistency in my regiment.  I HIGHLY recommend pastors exercise regularly.

Sunday

Sunday is devoted to our worship service, counseling and our life group.  I get up early, go to Starbucks and get a 5 shot venti peppermint mocha (nonfat milk, no whip cream) and look over my message, check our volunteer schedule, meet with my executive pastor, and think about what has to happen on Sunday.  In the evening we have our life group at 5pm.

Monday

Monday is typically an administration day where I’m working through weekly planning and message prep.  I know a lot of guys take Mondays off.  I’m not a fan of that, and you can read about that here.  My rhythms make me want to work through what happened the day before so I spend much of Sunday looking at numbers, assessing how Sunday services went, etc.  That’s just how I roll.

Tuesday

Tuesday is meeting day.  Normally, I’ll have anywhere from 5-9 meetings on Tuesday.  They vary in how crucial they are.  Typically, I meet with our administrative assistant and creative arts director.  I have regular lunch meetings and time with a couple people I’m discipling.  At night we have our staff meeting.  Most of our staff is part-time and this is the best day for them.

Wednesday

Wednesday is a message and planning day.  I finish my presentation outline and look ahead to what might need to be worked on for upcoming messages.

Thursday

Thursday is make up day.  It is an odd when everything goes according to plans on Monday – Wednesday.  Thursday is a miscellaneous day where I catchup on the things that weren’t done throughout the week. Thursday is my alternate evening meeting day and I’ll do meetings at night with our finance team or elder team on this night.

Friday

Friday is kind of special meeting day.  I meet with men I’m discipling.  I take interesting meetings (this week we’re meeting with a builder for our future long term home).  Friday’s work typically ends at noon.  I take that time through about 5pm on Saturday off.

Saturday

Saturday is rest and family day.  We’ve had soccer lately, but soccer has finished up for this season.  The important thing for us on this day is to be together, take a nap, and relax.  I’ve found that around 5 or 6 pm I start thinking about Sunday and all that’s coming so typically after dinner I’ll go to the bedroom and start my Sunday prep.

My Routine, What About You?

This is my routine.  I’ve based it on my natural rhythms and what my family, staff, and church needs.  What’s your rhythm

 

GRACE Gets Things Done

5 Steps to Getting Things Done for God's Glory

GRACE

“I don’t need to be productive, I need to be Godly.”  That is a constant refrain I get from church planters that I coach.  They want to read their bible, prepare sermons, and hang out in coffee shops.  There is nothing wrong with those things, but the work of church planting is SOOOO much more than that and requires productivity.  I try to remind them that the grace that saves and sanctifies us also works in us to be productive.

Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

 

God’s grace towards us causes us to be Godly and that includes being productive for God’s glory.

The Origin of My System

I became a Christian when I was 16, a week before my 17th birthday. I started a bible study at my high school. Through that I felt called into ministry.  I told my parents, they told me they disagreed. The next year, my senior year, we started the bible study again and saw 30 people cross the line of faith and connect to a church. I talked to my parents again about going to pursue a bible degree and they relented.  They said I had to go to an extraordinarily conservative Christian college. I didn’t know anything about the school, but was just excited to go.

When I showed up on campus for freshman orientation I was given a student handbook, no big deal. Every place has rules. Then I got the dorm handbook.  I thought sure there are extra rules it’s a Christian school. Then I got a society handbook, then we got a sports handbook then we got a chapel rules sheet then another rule book for student government.

Then I learned that I was accountable for all the rules before classes started. That’s when demerits would start. I asked what demerits were. They explained the what happened.

  • 75 Demerits = Socialed.  Essentially, no contact with the opposite sex on campus.
  • 100 Demerits = Campused.  Students at this level weren’t allowed off campus except for church or approved ministry.
  • 150 Demerits = Expelled.  If you got to 150 demerits in a semester you were out.

Time to Get Serious

That’s when I got serious. I needed to get out, but needed the degree.  I figured my shelf life there may be 4 years but more likely I’d blow up by then. So one Friday night I sold out to the idea: I must graduate in 3 years. I sat down with the course books, an outdated idea today, and started looking and working.  I went through multiple iterations, but by bed time (yes that was a real thing) I’d worked it out.

I started in the fall of 1999 and in June of 2002 I graduated with a BA in Bible and a double minor in Counseling and Computer Science without any debt. How?  I learned the importance of envisioning a goal and attacking it.  Since then I’ve developed a way to attack any problem.

Church planting is one giant cornucopia of problems to solve.  My system has gotten a workout over and over again as we planted our church.  It has been tested and we’ve found it to be a helpful tool as we deal with problem solving inside of CityView.

The Productive GRACE system for problem solving and planning

1) Get serious about the vision

  • Ask: What is the preferred reality?
  • Write out what it looks like. This doesn’t need to be complete, but what would it look like if the problem was solved. Frequently, the biggest issue with dealing with a problem is clearly seeing what it should look like.  We get caught up with 1000 “what if” scenarios and that is counterproductive.  Sit down and write out what the problem would look like if it were solved.

2) Required resources 

  • Ask: What resources do I need to accomplish this vision?
  • Assemble the named resources. Do you need leaders?  Do you need tools?  Do you need advice?  Who do you need advice from?  You want to get the resources together to solve the problem.

3) Author a plan

  • Ask: What does this look like specifically.
  • Write down a specific plan. This is taking the preferred reality and flushing it out. Put it down on paper or your digital note taking software.  If it is a large plan consider using milestones and due dates.  Make a timeline and begin to implement the plan.

4) Consistently execute the plan

  • Ask: What do I need to DO right now to make this plan move forward?
  • Keep asking this question repetitively. In church planting, problems are sometimes quick fixes, but are frequently long term and require consistently asking the question, what do I need to do today to make sure that the plan is being carried out.

5) Effectively adapt to changes

  • Ask: What are the changes that are taking place that could change my plan?
  • Things happen.  Change is going to be necessary along the way. As a church planter it feels like as soon as you have a plan down some dynamic changes.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a plan.  It just means that you figure out how to account for it.

 

I thought it might be helpful to share a problem that we were facing earlier this year and how we worked through it using this GRACE method.

 

The Problem: We were dealing with a lack of communication from our staff.  When we did communicate it would be through a massive group text message with 8 people on it.  This was a huge thread of gifs, emojis, real issues to deal with, and inside jokes. Further, we couldn’t keep track of answers, who was doing what, and when assignments were due.  The thread was entertaining, but painfully inefficient.

The problem was exacerbated because we only had a very small office and mostly volunteer or VERY part-time staff with limited time availability.  I wasn’t sure what our staff was doing day-to-day.  I didn’t want to micromanage, but I did want to make sure they were working and accomplishing their area of ministry.

We weren’t communicating effectively and our conversations weren’t logged in a way that we could go back and find our questions and answers well.

I broke it down like this:

  • The Preferred Reality:

    We needed a way to communicate and collaborate as a staff on a daily basis without having to be physically present with each other. We also needed a way to catalog the conversations we were having so we could find our decisions, assignments, and plans.  I’m a techie and had an inkling that the easiest way to solve this problem was through an app that might enable threaded communication.  The preferred reality was to find an app that solved our communication issues.

  • The Required Resources:

    I talked to our staff and shared the problem and got their input. I also talked to several other church planter friends who were in similar situations and found out what they were doing to overcome the problem.  Additionally, I did a google search to find apps that were collaborative communication tools.  One resource came up over and over again as useful tool, Slack.  I downloaded the app and did some YouTube training on it.

  • Author a Plan:

    The plan was simple. Everyone download the app and move all staff communications to Slack.  This meant setting up multiple channels for our staff communication.  We setup the channels that made sense to us: worship, groups, video production, finance, etc.  This was the only place where we wanted these conversations to take place.   The only people in those channels were those who were necessary to the conversation.

  • Consistently Execute the Plan:

    This was slightly more difficult. We had lived in the text world for 3 years.  That was what we were used to.  We still were texting on the thread.  I had to effectively shut that thread down.  Whenever anyone would text there about a church related issue I’d text back, “SLACK!”  Within about a month all of our church related conversations were moved.  Occasionally, people still revert to texting.  They still get the familiar “SLACK!” comment and I receive a notification in Slack with a tongue in cheek apology.

  • Effectively Adapt to Changes:

    As we used the app we saw a need for multiple conversations and for some to be hidden. Not everyone needed to know what was going on in each thread.  Some of them needed to be locked down.  We developed new channels and discovered the way to make certain channels private.  This change made private and sensitive communication possible for us.

 

Conclusion

This is just one example of a way that we have utilized the GRACE system to solve problems in our ministry.  I use the same system to create annual goals, address confusing situations, and stay focused on what’s next while working towards our vision.  Whether you are trying to wrap up a degree early, deal with a staff issue, or just address become more productive the GRACE system can work for you.

Before Attacking Problems: Pray – 3 Reasons Among Many

Pray First

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I wrote earlier this week on my Productive GRACE system.

  1. Get serious about the vision
  2. Required resources
  3. Author a plan
  4. Consistently execute the plan
  5. Effectively adapt to changes

This is the way that I attack problems in everyday life.  The system is scalable and works for long term goals and short term goals alike.  I’m following it up with a few posts that dive in more specifically.  However, there is a pre-step.  The pre-step is prayer.  Pray First!  Prayer is a great gift that believers in Jesus don’t fall on enough.  It almost seems silly to write a list of reasons why we should pray about problems, but I think sometimes we all need reminders and at the very least I need the reminder (and this is my blog).

3 Reasons to Pray First

 

1) We are commanded to pray

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4.6)

When we are anxious, which is what I am when a problem arises, we are told to pray.  I’ve often heard this verse summarized in this way, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.  Pray about the thing that is on your mind and heart.  A loving father wants to hear from his children and specifically about those things that are making their hearts worry.  Pray.

2) Prayer brings peace

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Talking to my loving Father who also is the Sovereign God of all creation brings peace.  This peace goes beyond our mental capacities to understand, but it is truly there.  The next time you are anxious about some problem or goal, pray about it.

3) Prayer puts things in perspective

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

When we pray about our anxious moments we are reminded that there is something greater than our worries or goals.  There is God’s Kingdom.  Those goals and worries shouldn’t be our first priority.  God’s Kingdom coming is the thing that matters most.  We need to capture perspective.

 

Next we’ll deal with what to do when there are problems.  However, before we talk about attacking problems why don’t you spend some significant time praying about those problems.  Let me point you to Philippians 4:4-7 and Matthew 6:25-34 for some further reading and study.

Productive Grace: 5 Steps To Attack Any Problem

Productive Grace

The grace that saves us also sanctifies us.  That grace also makes us productive.  Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

Over the next several blog posts, I’m going to share my scalable system to frame up and attack any problem.  It is just as applicable to long range, multi-year goals as it is to attacking daily scheduling issues.

 

The Origin of My System

I became a Christian when I was 16, a week before my 17th birthday. I started a bible study at my high school. Through that I felt called into ministry.  I told my parents, they told me they disagreed. The next year, my senior year, we started the bible study again and saw 30 people cross the line of faith and connect to a church. I talked to my parents again about going to pursue a bible degree and they relented.  They said I had to go to Bob Jones University. I didn’t know anything about the school, but was just excited to go.

When I showed up on campus for freshman orientation I was given a student handbook, no big deal. Every place has rules. Then I got the dorm handbook.  I thought sure there are extra rules it’s a Christian school. Then I got a society handbook, then we got a sports handbook then we got a chapel rules sheet then another rule book for student government.

Then I learned that I was accountable for all the rules before classes started. That’s when demerits would start. I asked what demerits were. They explained the what happened.

  • 75 Demerits = Socialed.  Essentially, no contact with the opposite sex on campus.
  • 100 Demerits = Campused.  Students at this level weren’t allowed off campus except for church or approved ministry.
  • 150 Demerits = Expelled.  If you got to 150 demerits in a semester you were out.

 

Time to Get Serious

That’s when I got serious. I needed to get out, but needed the degree.  I figured my shelf life there may be 4 years but more likely I’d blow up by then. So one Friday night I sold out to the idea: I must graduate in 3 years. I sat down with the course books, an outdated idea today, and started looking and working.  I went through multiple iterations, but by bed time (yes that was a real thing) I’d worked it out.

I started in the fall of 1999 and in June of 2002 I graduated with a BA in Bible na double minor in Counseling and Computer Science without any debt. How?  I learned the importance of envisioning a goal and attacking it.  Since then I’ve developed a way to attack any problem.

 

The Productive GRACE system for problem solving and planning

The grace that saves us also sanctifies us.  That grace also makes us productive.  Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

1) Get serious about the vision

  • Ask: What is the preferred reality?
  • Write out what it looks like.

2) Required resources 

  • Ask: What resources do I need to accomplish this vision.
  • Assemble the named resources.

3) Author a plan

  • Ask: What does this look like specifically.
  • Write down a specific plan.

4) Consistently execute the plan

  • Ask: What do I need to DO right now to make this plan move forward?
  • Keep asking this question repetitively.

5) Effectively adapt to changes

  • Ask: What are the changes that are taking place that could change my plan?
  • Things happen.  Change is going to be necessary along the way.

 

Over the next few posts I’m going to break down each of these pieces to look long range and also short term.  Check it out frequently.