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I returned home Friday night after my son graduated from his month-long treatment program at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. I packed another bag and headed out early Saturday morning to Amarillo, Texas to consult with a church on Sunday and do a secret shopper visit (I still do those and am booking for the summer. Click here for more details).

I’m home today doing laundry and packing a new suitcase. I leave tomorrow to go to Chicago for the week to speak at the Moody Bible Pastors Conference. This will be my 8th time speaking at Moody! If you’re going to be there, stop by my class and say hello. You can also get my books signed. I look forward to meeting you.

I should return to a semi-normal life next week for the first time in 5 weeks. Thank you for your prayers.

Greg and Tommy Royals 2014

Last night I took my son to see the Kansas City Royals play as a reward for all the hard work he’s doing in his treatment program and to have some special father/son time. I decided to be fully present and fully engaged, so I took two pictures of us with my phone (one before the game and one after) and the rest of the game, my phone was in my pocket.

There were two different Twitter chats going on Tuesday night. I simply scheduled a tweet via Buffer that said, “Sorry I missed tonight. You guys have fun.”

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Why do I mention this? Because it’s hard to be unplugged. I constantly struggle with being present and giving my full attention to my family when they need me. I think we all must be aware of the magnetic pull that mobile phones and social media has and set proper boundaries. So let me just encourage you today, friends. Tonight when you’re home with your family – put that phone down and be present!

Tom-portrait-150x150Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets (including the mega-blog www.ChurchCentral.com). He is the author of Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H). Here’s his post:

So you’re a leader. How are your management skills?

Too many leaders think management is below them, and as a result they fail as leaders. “Visionaries” have been known to have their heads in the clouds and miss the potholes under their feet.

Good leaders manage well, but not all good managers lead well.

Managing little things prevents big leadership crises.

What are the essential little things that must be managed well?

  • Hiring.  Don’t delegate hiring important positions. Hiring well now prevents management issues later.
  • Talent management.  If someone isn’t utilizing their talents in their job, they will feel unsatisfied. They might eventually leave if it goes on long enough. Restructuring takes advantage of underutilized talent.
  • Employee feedback.  Asking what people think tells them you care about them.
  • Communicated focus.  A one-sentence purpose for everyone helps them manage themselves. Disney’s is “Make sure that every Guest has the most fabulous time of his or her life.”
  • Mission minutia.  A mission is accomplished one task at a time. Mission must be accomplished in every process, meeting and project.
  • Clear job descriptions.  When people know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, they can be managed less.

A leader makes sure the right processes are in place, then pushes people to improve or speed up those processes.

A leader uncovers hassles people experience on the job. Ray Cockerell, Disney’s former EVP of Operations, used to ask his managers, “What happens on your job that makes you want to quit?”

If little things aren’t managed well in your organization, they will frustrate your team members. Frustrated people aren’t happy. They don’t produce their best work.

Frustrated employees complain to their coworkers, multiplying frustration like gangrene.

Happy workers create magic.

What do you need to manage more closely?

Recommended resource: Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, by Lee Cockerell

 

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I went to go see the movie ‘Son of God’ on Palm Sunday to prepare myself for the upcoming Easter week. It was a great way to get my heart and mind focused on the coming week. The movie is not perfect and like most Hollywood movies, they take some creative liberties and change the story a few times, but it also has its great moments.

Here are the moments that stood out to me and moved me to tears:

  • The birth of Jesus
  • The calling of Matthew the tax collector (this is one of the most powerful scenes in all of film I’ve ever scene)
  • Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah in the temple and seeing people’s reaction to what he says

These are the most powerful moments to me that stand out. Of course I was moved by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. What about you? Did you see the movie? Did you like it? What moved you? People from all over the world are sharing their experiences with the movie. Take a look:

For more about the movie and to share how it’s impacted you, go to sonofgodstories.com

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I’m so thankful for all the support and love shown the past week for my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Strange Leadership has been a bestseller on Amazon and is doing great in the Church Leadership category. I’m very excited to see how God uses this book to impact leaders.

I asked a good friend of mine (Jay Thompson) to write a Team Discussion Guide for the book that we would give away to leaders (you can get it on the book website for free). Jay is great at writing discussion questions for small groups and I knew he’d be another great set of eyes and ideas to write the questions for the Team Discussion Guide. He did an amazing job and provided a great resource for leaders.

I was talking with Jay on the phone the other day and he said, “Greg this is not the kind of book you read in one sitting. It’s way too comprehensive and has way too many ideas to ponder and think through. You have to take it a chapter at a time and slowly work your way through the book.” I agree. By the way, that’s why I wanted a Team Discussion Guide. I knew leadership teams would need to slowly go through the book a chapter at a time.

I got a message on Twitter the other day from a pastor who said he was going to read a chapter a day and write a review in about 45 days. That’s great. I’m writing this post to encourage you to go at your own pace and allow God to speak to you through the book.

Strange Leadership has been called “an encyclopedia on innovation.” I think that describes the book well. Nobody would sit down and read straight though an encyclopedia. You would take your time and savor each section or chapter. It may seem strange, but that goes with the territory.

Also, please note: You must read the Introduction of the book – it’s essential. Some say it’s the best chapter of the entire book. This is a book that you need to read completely – the Preface, the Introduction, all 40 chapters and then the Conclusion. They all work together to create an environment where God can speak to you. It may take you a while to complete it, but it will be worth it in the end.

If you haven’t got your copy of the book yet, go here to get it. Thanks and I pray God uses this book to lead you into new ways of doing ministry. Be strange!

Here are some Easter highlights shared with Christian Media Magazine from churches around the world:

Easter at The Orchard in Chicago:

Easter at The Orchard in Chicago

Easter Recap Video 2014 from  LifeChurch.tv: 

 

LifeChurch.tv OKC Opening:

Easter 2014 Opening Video “Amazing Grace” from Wes Gillett on Vimeo.

 Freedom Church in Georgia:

Dead In The Water from Freedom Church on Vimeo.

The Meeting House in Toronto, Canada:

This Man Named Jesus — Reverse Poem from The Meeting House on Vimeo.

Life Church in Peterborough, UK:

Celebration Church in Salinas, California (featuring Gabby Martay Williams of CMM): 

Easter 2014 at Willow Creek Community Church:

Saddleback Church Easter 2014: 

C4 Church in Canada:

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A friend asked me what it’s like to be a new author, lead Christian Media Magazine, coach, consult, speak, write and lead during this season in our lives where our son is sick. Actually, he’s been sick for a year and a half. You can read what we’re going through here. I replied that like anything in life, we live by faith – taking one step at a time day by day.

We’ve seen God provide provision in our time of need in amazing ways over the last 6 months. (Actually throughout our entire marriage we can testify to this.) You can’t out-give God. He is faithful and He is our Provider.

Life isn’t all rainbows, cotton candy and cool Instagram pictures with the perfect filter on it. Life has ups and downs, peaks and valleys, highs and lows. I also find that I grow closer to God during the low times and am more desperate for Him. I talk about this a lot in my new book Strange Leadership. God wants us to be desperate for Him and He cares more about the journey than the destination. He’s pruning and refining us and making us more like His Son.

What I’m passionate about and the message of my book that I’m trying to get out to people is that God wants us to be desperate for Him and not just that – He’s looking for a desperation that leads to a dependency upon the Holy Spirit. My heart’s desire is to be reliant on the Holy Spirit and follow where He leads. That’s my prayer for all of you – in good and bad times, hold tight to God and be desperate for Him.

One of the parts of leadership that is often not talked about is leading yourself. If you are not disciplined and sharp and obedient, you can’t lead others well. I encourage you to read my short, free ebook “Leading Yourself.” Go to my new book’s website and scroll down the page to the free resources where you can download it and other free resources, including a Team Discussion Guide to my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization.

I pray that you will draw close to God in the tough times and that you would have a firm grip on His hand even when things seem to be going smoothly. He’s there for you through it all – good and bad. Run to Him.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8 (NKJV)

Tommy at Ronald McDonald House

Unless you follow me on Facebook, you may not be aware that we’ve been battling an illness with my son for the past year and a half. He’s missed a year of school and it took us a full year to get a proper diagnosis. My son, Tommy, has Amplified Pain Syndrome – a type of Fibromyalgia. There are only 3 programs/hospitals in the country that treat his special form of sickness and one happens to be in Kansas City, which is just 2 hours from us.

After meeting with a ton of specialists a while back, my son got accepted into the special program to treat Amplified Pain Syndrome at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. This program is effective and has an 85% success rate of getting kids back to a normal life, though my son is young for the program (11). The average age is 14.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been home with my two daughters and my wife has been staying with my son in Kansas City. We get to stay in The Ronald McDonald House. I left yesterday to return to Kansas City with my son and I’ll finish out the last two to three weeks here in KC with my son and my wife will be back home with our daughters.

This is an extremely tough time for our family and we hate seeing our son in so much pain. He does intense physical therapy from 7:30am to 4:30pm every day. It’s brutal and he can barely walk due his soreness. It’s like going on The Biggest Loser.

Please pray that God would strengthen, sustain and provide for us as a family over the remaining two to three weeks and pray that God would fully heal my son Tommy. Thank you for your prayers.

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[The following is a brief excerpt from one chapter of my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Go to the book’s website for more info: http://strangeleadership.com/.]

My top two spiritual gifts are leadership and administration, so the subject of organization is something I love and gravitate toward. If you have the spiritual gift of administration, you love structure, systems, processes, and org charts. If you don’t, those things probably drive you crazy. Regardless of your primary gifting, it helps to approach leadership with a thirty-thousand foot view and try to see the big picture of what’s going on in your organization. The way the body of Christ works is if this is difficult for you, surround yourself with other leaders who this is natural for.

In my travels, speaking, consulting, and conversations with leaders of all types, I’ve discovered a major reason they are not getting the results they desire is due to a system designed to give them the exact result they’re getting. If your system is designed to fail, you will fail every time. If your organization’s culture is one of creativity, innovation, trust, and you have a healthy system in place, there is no limit to what you as a team can accomplish (through the Holy Spirit). Do you think the Bible cares about organization? I do. Read the story of Moses and his father-in-law in Exodus 18:13-26.

I thank God for including the story of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. In this story, we see Moses was a man with flaws and had made a poor decision on how to best go about judging the people. Maybe he didn’t have the gift of leadership or administration. He did, however, have the wisdom to listen to someone who did, and the Bible tells us this gave Moses new strength to carry out whatever God commanded him. The people also flourished in their settings. It was a win-win.

Greg Atkinson

The book The Externally Focused Quest by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw has some great thoughts on this as well. I could easily quote chapters of it for you, but I’ll just encourage you to read it.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.
Luke 6:43 (NIV)

It’s crucial to recognize your system could be choking the life, health, creativity and innovation out of your organization. My encouragement to you is to have someone with the gift of administration evaluate your systems. This could be someone in your church (maybe a business leader who will volunteer), a gifted staff member, or an outside consultant who can come in and look at the big picture.

One Scripture I’ve found myself quoting to church leaders often is when Jesus told his disciples to be “wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:16). In The Message, verse 16 reads, “be as cunning as a snake.” I am often referring to this verse when I’m engaged in helping an organization with strategic planning and overall strategy.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with strategy when it comes to church leadership. Of course we need to always be sensitive and open to the Spirit’s leading and sudden change, but God can be with us in the strategy and planning of any organization. So as you set up your systems, structure, and processes, I would suggest two thoughts: keep it simple and keep it fluid or flexible.

Neil Cole, director of Church Multiplication Associates said, “Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the transference to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process, the greater the giftedness needed to keep it going. The simpler the process, the more available it is to the broader Christian population” (Cultivating a Life for God, page 10). Albert Einstein said, “Out of complexity, find simplicity.” I agree. You might have seventy-five staff members on your team, but this doesn’t mean you can’t approach your structure and processes in such a way in which they are simple to share, quote, and move people through. Did you know research strongly backs this principle?

The book Simple Church is full of thoroughly researched and proven principles. I want to strongly encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. In Simple Church, the authors, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, tell us that “in general, simple churches are growing and vibrant. Churches with a simple process for reaching and maturing people are expanding the kingdom … Conversely, complex churches are struggling and anemic. Churches without a process or with a complicated process for making disciples are floundering. As a whole, cluttered and complex churches are not alive. Our research shows that these churches are not growing.” (Simple Church, page 14).

*** Also be sure to download the FREE Team Discussion Guide on the book’s website and go through the book with your entire leadership team.

 

Tom-portrait-150x150Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets (including the mega-blog www.ChurchCentral.com). He is the author of Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H). Here’s his post:

“‘Let your hands be strong, you who now hear these words that the prophets spoke when the foundations were laid for the rebuilding of the temple, the house of the LORD of Hosts.’” – Zec 8:8

In the movie “Facing the Giants,” high school football coach Grant Taylor fell into depression. After six years, he didn’t post a single winning season. One night, Taylor sat on his living room floor. He wrote a single question at the top of a notepad: “What is the purpose of our team?”

The purpose, he discovered, was not to win. After all, his players couldn’t even remember who had won the state championship three years ago. Life was a much more important game. The duty of the team, Taylor concluded, was to honor God and train his players to become men of strength, character and valor.

Inspired by this renewed focus, Taylor decided that win or lose, his team would honor God and trust him with the results. The team started winning. The players rallied behind their coach’s new vision and noticed changes in him that led to positive changes in themselves.

The prophet Zechariah refocused his Jewish compatriots, too. While they had obeyed Haggai’s earlier exhortation to start rebuilding the temple, procrastination and defeatism again threatened to return as new opposition heated up.

Zechariah didn’t allow his people’s fear to control them. Though enemies threatened, Zechariah redirected his people’s attention to the long-term promises of God. But before their victory could come to pass, they had to get to work.

I recently met with a colleague in a coffee shop. Relaxing music emanated from the high ceiling. Only a few other people sat around us. We spread out over a double-wide table and got some smooth java. Life suddenly slowed down for both of us.

I realized that I hadn’t really talked to him in months. Of course, we discuss stuff every day, but I couldn’t remember the last time we had connected like this. As we sipped, I resisted jumping into the agenda. I asked how he was doing in life and how the job was going. I was amazed how the intimate conversation naturally transitioned into the issues at hand. We came up with succinct, creative ideas that seemed free of the usual clutter. We even talked about our long-term personal dreams.

As we focused on the bigger vision of our business, I felt a new energy. I thought of Coach Taylor and Zechariah. The distant horizon came into view. We still have our current challenges, but they’re in perspective. I feel more confident about where we’re going, which motivates me to start laying stones right now.