Are you in it to win it?

Everyone likes to win, I sure do. In fact I have such a desire to win that if I can’t win something, I don’t do it. I actually have a hard time playing games of chance because it bothers me that I can’t figure out a way to maximize the chances of winning. It drives me crazy. I probably need to see a counselor about that but I think there’s a point to winning.

Look what Paul said about it…

1 Corinthians 9:24-27New Living Translation (NLT)

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

What does it take to win according to what Paul is saying here?

  1. Run to win
    1. Paul says that not everyone is in it to win it. Some are just in it to finish. He says the prize comes to those who run to win. What are your wins? Are they attainable? Are they quantifiable?
  2. Discipline
    1. He mentions discipline twice in this passage and training once. What that sounds like to me is that its doing to take some work. To win spiritually, you need spiritual disciplines (Bible, prayer, journaling, etc). To win physically, you need physical disciplines (healthy eating, exercise, rest, etc). To win as a leader, you need leadership disciplines (reading, problem solving, strategy, delegation, etc.) Every area of life requires disciplines to succeed in it.
  3. Purpose
    1. Why are you doing what you are doing? What are your motives? Let that fuel your desire to cross the finish line. Christ needs to be the center of our purpose or we are running the wrong race. Make sure your purpose is God-breathed and God-ordained.


How Jim Wideman Helped Me

My story, like so many others, is that I didn’t want to be a children’s pastor, I got drafted. I was young and dumb and the only problem was I didn’t know it. Like most young people, I believed I knew everything. Unlike most young people, it took me a while to grow out of it. I was stubborn and didn’t want to have to depend on anyone outside my small circle of influence.

I was a legend in my own mind, but my ministry was a giant mess. No one could tell me anything. My pastor tried to help me but I wouldn’t listen. My team stayed relatively small and I had to depend a lot on my wife and myself. I was stuck at a level and wasn’t even trying to do anything about it.

That all changed when Jim Wideman came into my life. I remember the first time I met Brother Jim. He was on a tour with his church doing regional training meetings. When they came to our area, I loaded up our team in the church van and drove the thirty minute trip. I met Brother Jim in the men’s bathroom right before a session he was teaching. I had heard him teach before and had some of his Puppet Trax so I knew who he was. I greeted him and wanted to shake his hand. He probably thought “Who is this weird guy trying to shake my hand in the bathroom?”

His session was great and it challenged me in many ways. It was towards the end of a year so I geared myself up for a new year with a renewed commitment to ministry growth. I even went on eBay and bought an used set of his Club lessons. I then bought everyone of his books and got a hold of any audio teaching I could. As I was reading the book Children’s Ministry Leadership: The You-Can-Do-It Guide, a quote jumped off the page:

There’s no success without a successor.

I had done nothing to ensure lasting success at my church. I didn’t get help for five reasons:

  1. I didn’t know how to ask for help.
  2. I thought I could do it better.
  3. I never thought I would leave that church.
  4. I didn’t trust other people do things.
  5. I wanted all the credit.

Since meeting Jim and joining his mentoring program, Infuse, I have changed those old bad habits. Everyone does better with a coach and I would encourage you to take a look at Jim’s program. Its well worth the investment and I say that as someone who paid the fees out of my own pocket for the first year. It was worth every hard earned penny! If you’re a kids pastor, youth pastor, family pastor or work in any of those areas, check it out today.

Three Questions to Ask Leaders

Here’s three things I like to ask leaders I lead and leaders who lead me:

  1. What is your story?
    1. Getting someone to talk about themselves is the best way to tear down any walls. That’s pretty much everyone’s favorite subject to talk about anyway: themselves. If you know where someone comes from and what they’ve been through you have a better understanding of them as a person.
  2. Where do you see yourself in future?
    1. After you know where they’ve been, you can see where they are going. High capacity leaders have a  vision for themselves, their organization and their families.
  3. How can I help you get there?
    1. Lastly you connect yourself to people by asking how you can help them get to where they are going.

I don’t usually ask the questions in this format and definitely not all at once. I try to make it as natural and organic as I can. I certainly ask lots of other questions but this is the basic strategy behind how I approach helping leaders.


What Are Your Priorities?

I was looking through some old Evernote’s and saw one of my first notes when I came to Element Church to start my new position.That was almost two years ago now. It was a kick list of everything I needed to work on with the ministry personally. I started the list with my four “values” priorities:

  1. Love people
    1. This should never change. We are in the people business. God has called us to the people we serve.
  2. Cast vision
    1. As the Family Pastor I take the overall vision of the church and cast specific vision for each of the areas I lead.
  3. Celebrate the past
    1. When you take a new position the temptation is to come in and change everything just for the sake of change. I spent time celebrating what was done in the past rather than tearing anything down. One of the best honor moments we had was celebrating a staff person who was moving out of kids into another area. I bought flowers and had the teachers present them and pray over her in front of all the kids. This brought honor to her, my pastor and the church knew I was for them. I didn’t do everything right with this but that is maybe the one thing I did do right.
  4. Evaluate for the future
    1. Lists are a good way to think through what needs to be changed. One of the best practices is to walk around and see things through the eyes of a new person. Now I wouldn’t suggest carrying a clipboard or iPad to write those down as that can be intimidating (I made that mistake).

I thought that was a good reminder and sent those four to some of my staff. What are thoughts? How about your priorities, what are they?



Who is Your Daddy?

When I was a kid my parents got a divorce. My biological father wasn’t really a big part of my life after than. My mom remarried and my stepdad became more of a father to me. Eventually he even adopted me and I took his last name. I haven’t seen my biological father in decades. I don’t say this to get pity but it makes the words of Jesus come alive to me.

In John 8:44 (NLT) Jesus said to the people:
For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

In this verse and the surrounding passage Jesus calls the people out for being like their father, the devil. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over too well. He was saying that the devil was their father because they acted just like him. Now we know that once we are born-again we should be transformed into the image of our Father, God.

Who is your daddy? Are you becoming like Him?

I remember when I got married, a woman at the wedding came up to me and said I looked like my dad (right in front of him). He was so proud. Although this woman didn’t know I was adopted by my stepfather, he was saying that I resembled him. Nothing makes a dad prouder than a son or daughter favoring Him. So my question to ask you is do you look like your Father? Can people see the resemblance? Are you surrendered to His sanctifying work in you?

Have you ever heard a son whose voice sounded like his father’s? I know  father/son preacher duo and as the son gets older he sounds more and more like his father. As you are seeking after God are you sounding more and more like Him? Are you uplifting people like He does? Do your prayers shake the foundations of heaven and earth as you pray in faith?

My almost 1 year old son loves to mimic me right now. He copies what I am doing. If I clap, he claps along. When I laugh, he laughs. If I try to dance, he dances with me. When I snap, he tries to snap too. I just love it when he does that and it blesses my soul deep within. God is the same way.  Are you following His example? Are your mannerisms like him? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to develop the character of God within you? Do you love the things He loves?

Are you a Daddy’s boy/girl? Understand you position in Christ and submit to the process. We call that process discipleship. A disciple is simply a follower. It comes form the same root word as the word “discipline” does. We become more like God when we submit to a process or a system of spiritual disciplines.

Primarily those are:

  1. The Bible
    1. God’s Word needs to be part of our daily lives. We should read it, study it and apply it. The Bible is God speaking to us.
  2. Prayer
    1. I like to simply define prayer as talking to and listening to God. The more time you spend with Him, the more like Him you become.
  3. Community
    1. No one grows spiritually in a vacuum. Although it has become cliche we were intend to “do life together”.
  4. Living a Spirit Led Life
    1. Not only has God given us His word He said that true sons and daughters of God would be led by His Spirit! That is an amazing comfort knowing that the Creator of heaven and earth never leaves us! That’s why Jesus called Him the Comforter!
  5. Generosity
    1. John 3:16 says: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son…” God’s way to display His love was to give. As we become more like Him, we can’t help but to become more generous. You claim to become more like God and not be generous, it just doesn’t match up.




Heart OVER Hands

My team loves to constantly talk through the idea of growing our leadership ability in three areas: our heart, our head, and our hands. We use that a a matrix for our coaching culture.

Our “heart” pertains to spiritual matters. If our spirit isn’t strong, we run to of gas to minister life to others. “Heart” is our passion, vision, motives, and driving force. This is the unseen behind what is seen. It’s ultimately about the why.

Our “head” pertains to our thinking. Our thinking determines the way we think and act. “Head” includes strategy, tactics, and approach. Leaders think differently than everyone else. Different thinking produces different results when it is partnered with the hands.

Our “hands” pertain to our skills. This is what we do specifically in our role. “Hands” is about the methods we use to get things done. It’s more about the “what” and the “how”.

All three are important for success in ministry. Sometimes however we concentrate on the less important things at the peril of the more important things. Jesus ran into this in Mark 3:1-5 (NLT).

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.
He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 
And again in Mark 7:1-6 (NLT).
One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)
 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.

Jesus’ enemies were more concerned with what Jesus was doing and when He was doing it rather than the heart behind it. They elevated “hands” over “heart”.  They were so concerned with their methods and traditions that they missed a miracle. They didn’t see the people Jesus was reaching.

They missed the “heart” of the law because they were so busy enforcing the “hands” of the law. They couldn’t see the spirit because they only saw the letter of the law.

Although this are quite LITERAL uses of Jesus’s enemies exalting hands over heart we can fall into the same trap today. They really were saying “that’s not the way we do it” or “you’re wrong because you reach people a different way than we do”. Have you ever said that?

How can we avoid having that same “Pharisee Spirit”?

  1. Value the who more than the what.
  2. Make the message more important than the method
  3. Keep the people you are called to serve more important than the plan you have.
  4. Make the creator the center of your creative process.