7 Crucial Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way

I’m thankful for a solid education at a Christian college and seminary. Really I am. But I have some crucial things that I’ve had to learn the hard way that they don’t teach you in school. Some of you may think: Only seven! I’m sure there are a ton of other principles and lessons that I could list or you could (and I encourage you to list them in the comments), but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to go with the first seven that came to me. Here we go…

Sleep On It

It’s inevitable. Sooner or later you are going to have conflict, problems, issues and disunity in your team. Somebody is going to do something rude, wrong, sinful, careless, hurtful, mean, off-mission, off-vision or all of the above. It’s bound to happen.

If you’re like me, you want to call the person into your office immediately when the issue is brought to your attention and let them have it. I have played potential conversations over and over in my head and thought about exactly what I want to tell the person that rubbed me the wrong way.

The best thing I’ve learned over my 18 plus years of ministry is to sleep on it. Take some time away to allow God to speak to your heart. Often we are so angry and self-centered that we crowd out the still small voice of the Spirit. My instincts and emotions take over and I don’t stop to listen and be still.

When I take time away to process, chew on it, reflect, and pray about what God wants me to hear, take away, learn and grow through the criticism, struggle or pain, I always end up not coming up quite so angry a day or two later. Please know I’m not advocating to procrastinate or dodge a conflict or situation that needs to be resolved. I’m not saying to sit on it indefinitely or brush it aside and pretend it didn’t happen – that usually leads to a bad outcome down the road when you’ve finally had enough and you blow up on someone and all your emotions come to a head in one ugly scene.

No, I’m talking about a few days. There have been a couple of serious situations where I’ve taken a week to seek counsel, process the problem with peers and pray, but for most things, I think just delaying judgement and resolution for a day to sleep on it and pray is wisdom well worth the time.

Vent to Your Spouse

The second thing I do when I have a problem with a team member or volunteer at my church (as long as it’s not a confidential matter) is to vent to my wife. There have been countless times where her cool head, demeanor and perspective have helped me to see things in a different light. Often times when someone has a disagreement with us, we tend to vilify them and think of them as the enemy. Trust me – they are not the enemy. We have a very real enemy and it’s not someone you work and serve with.

In sharing my heart with my spouse, I find that it is therapeutic and helps me to process out loud as I’m discussing the situation with her. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has saved one of my peers or team members from my wrath by talking me down and telling me to holster my weapon. Am I the only one that wrestles with this?

Get Over Yourself

This leads me to my next point: Get over yourself. Many pastors like myself have the gift of leadership and think we know exactly how things should go. The truth is we need to have a true desperation and dependance upon God and the Holy Spirit to guide us and be our vision.

Often times our pride and ego gets in the way of making decisions. We can think that a staff member’s idea isn’t the way to go because it wasn’t our idea. When we get upset over something someone said or a disagreement, we ought to step back and do an ego-check.

I just had this happen recently. I got furious over one of my peers who didn’t seem to appreciate my gifting, background and experience. I thought that the person didn’t appreciate what I bring to our team, but the truth is I was full of pride and was intent on bragging about what I had done instead of boasting in my weakness and giving God glory for how He’s used me over the years.

Respect What Each Person Brings to Your Team

When we put our pride aside and truly value those around us and who we work with, we are able to then respect what each person brings to our team. This truth is also fresh with me as we are in the midst of a building project and I co-lead a small build team that is meeting with the architect and planning our new building.

Because I had been a part of previous building campaigns and projects, I thought I always knew what was best. In some cases, honestly, I do. But in many cases, I have seen a layperson speak up with an idea that was priceless and truly not something that I would have thought of.

I have learned to appreciate each team member’s perspective, background, gifting and life experience. I do this with my staff as well. I like to throw a question out at my staff meeting and ask what the team thinks about it. I believe I can really learn something from others on the team (older, younger, male or female) and that they can help guide our ministry.

Recently, I suggested the idea of starting a new LifeGroup (small group) for young marrieds in our church to our Leadership Team. I even had someone in mind to lead the group – a young couple that is in their late 20’s/early 30’s. One of my Leadership Team members (a layman in his 60’s) spoke up and said we ought to have someone a little older lead the group – someone that had been there, done that and was in a different season of life. He suggested that the couple to lead this LifeGroup of newly weds be a couple that had kids that age and could be a parent-figure to them. It was a great idea and something I had totally overlooked.

Form a Leadership Team

Let me stop and point out that that idea would not have been heard if I hadn’t formed a Leadership Team at my campus. I meet with my staff weekly, but I invite some key lay leaders to join us monthly. The lay leaders mixed with my paid staff make up my Leadership Team.

In every church I’ve served, I’ve formed a Leadership Team. It is invaluable to your leadership and is key to working yourself out of a job or at the very least, duplicating yourself. It takes selfless leadership, but is something that all of you can do in your situation.

Children’s Pastors should have their own Leadership Team. Student Pastors should have a Student Leadership Team (we recently formed this at my campus). Even worship pastors can have their own Leadership Team. When I was a tech pastor, I formed a Leadership Team and literally worked myself out of a job. That Leadership Team at that mega-church still leads the tech ministry to this day.

Don’t Hit Send

The last two lessons I’ve learned come from my former boss and friend. He had much grace and patience with me and coached me on how to best respond to angry emails, comments and complaints. Sooner or later, someone is going to send you a mean or harsh email. Your (and mine) first reaction might be to immediately respond and fire off a passionate email.

I did that once at another church and got in trouble because my tone was seen as too harsh and argumentative. I had to apologize to the person and ask their forgiveness. My boss, as I said, was full of grace, but he made me do something for the next few months. If I wanted to respond to a tough email, he had me write up my response in a draft email and then had me not hit send. He would ask me to read it to him or some of my peers and get feedback. Was it too blunt? Could what I said be seen as mean, arrogant or rude? Do I come across as argumentative or prideful? Is there a better way that I can ask a question or make a point?

After discussing this with my boss and/or peers, we would decide if it was okay to send as is, needed to be edited or even if I should respond at all. And not to get all old school on you, but sometimes the best way to respond to an angry email is to pick up the phone and call someone so you can hear their voice and they can hear your tone. I’ve also found that a face-to-face meeting can work wonders. People are hardly ever as mean or bold to me in-person as they can be behind their computers. Maybe it’s because I’m 6’5. Just kidding! Seriously, in person they can hear my heart and begin to understand why I made the decision I did or why I’m leading in a certain direction.

Always Assume the Best 

The last lesson I also learned from my old boss and mentor. He had this as a rule for our entire staff. We had to always assume the best of people. This simple truth has totally changed my outlook and the way I handle people and problems.

When something seems disrespectful, off-base or out of character for one of my team members or peers, I immediately think of this lesson I learned and I assume the best of them. Until I have hard proof that they are purposely doing something with ill intent or sinful, I will believe in them as a person and man or woman of God and with a strong character.

Several months ago I had a strong leader in my congregation question my leadership and the decisions I was making. I sat down with him (face-to-face) and I shared my heart and this simple philosophy. I told him of my love for God and for people and told him that my passion to reach the lost drives everything I do. I said, If you ever question why I’m doing something, I want you to assume the best in me and know that I’m trying to reach people for Christ. This went over well and has improved our relationship.

These are just seven lessons that I’ve learned over two decades of ministry. I share them with a sincere and humble heart. I hope you will try them out and pass them on to your team. May God bless you as you serve His Church.

Should You Be More than a Servant Leader?

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:

Leaders often struggle with how they can be most effective in their position of authority. I know I do.

But I’ve learned that leadership is least about being the one in authority. It is a lot about fulfilling the needs and demands of the organization.

Sometimes the demands are obvious:

  • Refresh the vision
  • Enrich the culture
  • Add new staff
  • Improve key metrics (like sales)
  • Solve a crisis

Other times the demands are more subtle, sort of like swelling waves that everyone senses, but no one worries about.

As a leader, you are the one everyone trusts to recognize whether such waves will eventually gather enough energy to topple the ship. Often these rising swells present symptoms like conflict, turnover, cynicism, or stymied growth.

Behind the symptoms, of course, can be real needs the company is trying to communicate:

  • Additional training
  • A new strategy
  • New organizational structure
  • New products
  • Fewer meetings
  • Personnel shifts
  • Revised processes

For example, if we have too many meetings, people may be struggling to get their work done. Rather than figure out ways to be more efficient, you could solve the problem by reducing the frequency and/or length of meetings.

Suddenly people will start getting more work done, which would reduce their stress, and result in more creativity, leading to revenue growth.

And the culture could suddenly turn positive, too. All because you changed up the meetings.

Let me slightly refine the definition of servant leadership:

Servant leaders ultimately serve the needs of the organization.

I say ultimately because they don’t ignore the needs of individuals. Instead, these leaders expand their scope to the greater needs in the organization.

What organizational waves are you sensing right now? Do you see people’s feet shifting to maintain their balance?

Whether it’s a storm surge or the perfect surfing wave gathering steam for a new opportunity, it’s up to the leader to discern and react accordingly.

When you serve the organization, you’re ultimately serving its people.

What are the most pressing needs in your organization right now?

Watch This Before Your Next Creative Team Meeting

This video is like school in a box. The ideas, the strategies, the principles and processes contained within this short piece are essential to leading a creative meeting or brainstorming session. Watch this as a team before your next meeting.

Do You Know Your Audience?

Each place I’m asked to speak, the first question I ask is, “Who’s my audience?” Each week when I plan worship with our worship pastor, we talk about the people we’re expecting to show up and we ALWAYS think of lost people. We are super aware that lost people attend our services. We base a lot of our philosophy and practice off of books and resources like Andy Stanley’s Deep and Wide. We are ever-mindful of people far from God and try to always keep them in mind when we plan, preach, announce and create. Do you?

This guy obviously doesn’t! When I first saw this video clip I was speechless. How could anyone talk like that to people in church? Do you think lost people would return to this church after this outburst? Do you think they ever want to return to any church again? What does this make people think of pastors and Christians? This is really in the Westboro Baptist category. I’m not going to bash this preacher or say anything negative about him. I’ll simply say I’m praying for him to get help and live out GRACE. What are your thoughts?

Remembering on Memorial Day

Today I remember my dad (who died 15 years ago yesterday) and my grandfather (who served on the front line of WW2). I also remember and honor those who served or are serving in our military. Seen below is a picture of me in 1997 (one month before my dad died) on the night of my Ordination into the ministry. My dad is on the left and my grandfather is on the right. I miss them both. This is a picture I keep in my favorite bible .

Interview with Steve Lacy of StreamingChurch.TV

We’re chatting with Steve Lacy, founder and president of StreamingChurch.TV.

Q- Steve, what exactly is StreamingChurch.TV and how did it get started?

StreamingChurch.tv provides the ability for churches to broadcast their services live on the internet.  StreamingChurch.tv actually grew out of our original ministry product, MyFlock.com.  MyFlock.com began as a social networking tool within a church body created to connect church members with each other.  MyFlock.com was introduced 5 years before Facebook or MySpace, although with a slightly different purpose.  While Facebook was designed to keep you connected with friends you already have, MyFlock’s purpose is to foster new relationships within the church body by providing profile matching tools and other tools designed to connect you with other members within your church.  To accomplish this goal, we created several interactivity tools designed to get members interacting with each other.  When we launched StreamingChurch.tv, we leveraged some of these interactivity tools (chat room, private messaging, interactive maps, etc.) into the StreamingChurch.tv platform.

Q- What makes you guys different from other companies providing streaming services to churches?

Interactivity.  Rather than providing just a live video feed online, we try to replicate the interactive experience a guest would have when attending the service at your physical facility.  For example when visiting a new church in person, you’ll most likely be greeted by someone as you approach the service.  You’ll find a similar experience with an online greeter when attending a StreamingChurch.tv service online.

You’ll be logged into the chat room as you arrive and the system will automatically announce your arrival and there’s a good chance an online greeter from the church will give you a virtual handshake and welcome you to the service.  The system is designed to provide both the guest and the church volunteers/members the ability to connect while attending the service.  My church’s web pastor likes to point out that the online church service is a safe place where you can actually talk in church and have it add to the experience and ministry opportunities.  Obviously guests can interact as much or as little as they wish online.  Some arrive to the online service and just say hi and then retreat to just watch the service, while others actively engage.

We also provide tools that allow attenders to bring their identity and social network to the service.  For example, they can login using the Facebook Connect option and their Facebook profile pic appears in the chat and who’s attending area.  The online invitation tools also automatically provide the opportunity to invite their Facebook friends as well as tweet the service to their followers via an automated Twitter integration.

Another key distinction of our service is the ability for ministries and churches to seamlessly integrate their StreamingChurch.tv’s online campus into their existing church website so that it appears as a natural part (or extension) of their existing church web site.

Q- How long have you been helping churches?

We got started with MyFlock.com in 2001 and have been serving thousands of ministries for almost 10 years now.  In the summer of 2008, my home church (AliveChurch.com) launched a multi-site campus where we began broadcasting our services live to a remote facility.  As my church leadership looked at it, we saw that they could create an online web campus that everyone could attend with very little additional effort.  That was the beginning of StreamingChurch.tv.  Our developers were able to quickly leverage several of the interactivity tools into StreamingChurch.tv and we began offering the service to other ministries in late 2008.

Q- Do you believe every church should stream their services live?

Absolutely!  Many churches don’t realize how little additional effort is required to broadcast their services.  Most ministries already video tape or record their services now for viewing at a later time.  That means most ministries already have the infrastructure in place necessary to broadcast; cameras, computers and an internet connection.  To broadcast live, you just need to connect these parts together, connect with a streaming provider and you’re broadcasting online.

Another key reason to broadcast live is that it’s an integral ingredient to your church growth.  Attending services online is the easiest, lowest barrier way for new people to experience your church and determine if it’s a fit for them.  Also once you start broadcasting, you’ve now equipped your members with a great low intimidation tool to invite their friends to church.  Members can say yeah, check out my church this weekend.  We broadcast our services online at mychurchwebsite.com.

My home church has quadrupled our regular attendance (to over 1000 attenders a weekend) in less than 2 years since we began broadcasting live.

Q – What’s the biggest challenge for churches desiring to stream?

There really aren’t any big challenges to streaming your services live.  Although I believe there are challenges to effectively creating a vibrant online ministry that leads to church growth (both online and in-person).  Pastors and church leaders need to treat their online broadcast as another campus (rather than just a video presence online).  This means investing their vision, thoughts and energy into some of the same things they invest in their physical campus.  Do I have a skilled greeter at the front doors?  What about my online campus?  Does my church look inviting to a first time visitor?  What about my online campus?  Are there lay leaders in place to minister to attenders?  Who’s in place for those needing private prayer in the online campus?

Getting your members and lay leadership involved online with your web campus is essential for the care and feeding of those first time visitors checking out your church online.  If the experience isn’t good online, chances are they will not bother giving your ministry a chance in person.  We’ve found at my home church that the majority of those that become new members at our church (AliveChurch.com), first attended a service online.

Q- What the future look like for the streaming age and technology in general for churches?

Wow.  I believe that the future is really bright for streaming and technology in general for ministries.  The church has been leveraging technology in ministry dating back to the time when the Romans first built roads to connect their cities.  This equipped those of that day a technology that led to an explosion of spreading the gospel.  As time has progressed, so has the technology of the day.

Think of some of the technology over the ages and it’s incredible affect on evangelism; the Gutenberg press, television, the internet… Wow!  What’s next?  As you know, technology is accelerating and its capability for ministry is growing exponentially.  I believe the internet and broadcasting your services live is still in the early phases of it’s maturity.  As television viewing continues to wane and consuming your media via the internet continues to increase, I believe the church is in a unique position to reach the world for Christ using streaming technology.

More of Jesus – Less of Me

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30 (NASB) Warren Wiersbe in his commentary on John 3 tells the story of a Presbyterian pastor in Melbourne, Australia who introduced J. Hudson Taylor by using many superlatives, especially the word great. Taylor stepped to the pulpit and quietly said, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.” If John the Baptist in heaven heard that statement, he must have shouted “Hallelujah!”

Wiersbe points out that the word must is used in three significant ways in this chapter. There is the “must” of the sinner (John 3:7), the “must” of the Savior (John 3:14), and the “must” of the servant (John 3:30). We, as servants, have our “must” – it’s the profound and passionate statement of John 3:30 – “He must increase. I must decrease.”

How do these words hit you? I struggle with them frequently. This is the cry of my heart. I want more of Jesus and less of me. When I serve, minister, share, write, speak, consult – I have nothing of myself to offer. What I can do is point people to Jesus and encourage them to be led by the Holy Spirit. This is my calling and my ministry and something I live to do. I hope you sense that I point you to Jesus and not man’s wisdom or answers. What Scripture verse rings your bell?

10 Web Trends To Watch In 2010

story.cashmoreThe following is from CNN’s Tech Blog and written by Pete Cashmore. Pete is founder and CEO of Mashable, a popular blog about social media. He is writing a weekly column about social networking and tech for CNN.com.

(CNN) — As 2009 draws to a close, the Web’s attention turns to the year ahead. What can we expect of the online realm in 2010?

While Web innovation is unpredictable, some clear trends are becoming apparent. Expect the following 10 themes to define the Web next year:

Real-time ramps up

Sparked by Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed, the real-time trend has been to the latter part of 2009 what “Web 2.0” was to 2007. The term represents the growing demand for immediacy in our interactions. Immediacy is compelling, engaging, highly addictive … it’s a sense of living in the now.

But real-time is more than just a horde of new Twitter-like services hitting the Web in 2010 (although that’s inevitable — cargo cults abound). It’s a combination of factors, from the always-connected nature of modern smartphones to the instant gratification provided by a Google search.

Why wait until you get home to post a restaurant review, asks consumer trends tracker Trendwatching, when scores of iPhone apps let you post feedback as soon as you finish dessert? Why wonder about the name of that song, when humming into your phone handset will garner an instant answer from Midomi?

Look out, too, for real-time collaboration: Google Wave launched earlier this year, resulting in both excitement and confusion. A crossover between instant messaging, e-mail and a wiki, Wave is a platform for getting things done together. Web users, however, remain baffled. In 2010, Wave’s utility will become more apparent.

Location, location, location

Fueled by the ubiquity of GPS in modern smartphones, location-sharing services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and Google Latitude are suddenly in vogue.

As I ruminated in this column two weeks ago, Foursquare and its ilk may become the breakout services of the year … provided they’re not crushed by the addition of location-based features to Twitter and Facebook.

What’s clear is that location is not about any singular service; rather, it’s a new layer of the Web. Soon, our whereabouts may optionally be appended to every Tweet, blog comment, photo or video we post.

Augmented reality

It’s yet to become part of the consumer consciousness, but augmented reality has attracted early-adopter buzz in the latter part of 2009.

Enabled by GPS, mapping data from the likes of Google and the accelerometer technology in modern phones, AR involves overlaying data on your environment; imagine walking around a city and seeing it come to life with reviews of the restaurants you walk past and Wikipedia entries about the sights you see.

When using Layar, for instance, the picture from your phone’s video camera is overlaid with bubbles of information from Yelp, Wikipedia, Google Search and Twitter. The challenge for such services is to prove their utility: They have the “cool factor,” but can they be truly useful?

Content ‘curation’

The Web’s biggest challenge of recent years is that content creation is outpacing our ability to consume it: “Information overload” has become an increasingly common complaint.

In the attention economy, with its millions of daily status updates and billions of Web pages vying for our time, how do we best allocate that scarce resource? One solution has been algorithmic: Sites like Google News source the best stuff by technical means, but fall short when it comes to personalization.

In 2008, the answer revealed itself: Your friends are your filter. With the launch of its Facebook Connect program, Facebook allowed sites to offer content personalization based on the preferences of your network.

Meanwhile, Google’s Social Search experiment is investigating whether Web searching is improved by using information gleaned from your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Digg and the rest. Increasingly, your friends are becoming the curators of your consumption, from Web links to movies, books and TV shows.

Professional “curation” has its place, too: Who better to direct our scarce attention than experts in their fields? I explored this possibility in a CNN article last month titled “Twitter lists and real-time journalism” .

Cloud computing

Cloud computing was very much a buzzword of 2009, but there’s no doubt this transition will continue. The trend, in which data and applications cease to reside on our desktops and instead exist on servers elsewhere (“the cloud”), makes our data accessible from anywhere and enables collaboration with distributed teams.

The cloud movement will see a major leap forward in the first half of 2010 with the launch of “Office Web Apps,” free online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote released in tandem with Microsoft Office 2010.

Next year will also see the launch of Google’s Chrome OS, a free, Web-centric operating system that forces us to ask: How many desktop applications do we really need?

Internet TV and movies

Is 2010 the year the majority of our television starts coming to us via the Internet? There’s certainly more activity here than at any other time: Among the early-adopter set, Hulu, Boxee, Apple TV and Netflix’s Roku box lead the field.

Hulu in particular has sustained remarkable growth this year, while the movie studios are getting on board with the launch of Epix, a Hulu for films.

Convergence conundrum

The outlook for devices in 2010 appears somewhat contradictory: While the convergence trend continues apace and many of our gadgets are folded into the smartphones we carry around every day, we’re seeing a converse trend in which task-specific devices gain popularity.

GPS device maker TomTom recently introduced a $100 iPhone app that removes the need to buy a TomTom hardware device. Google then one-upped the company by releasing free turn-by-turn directions on devices running its Android operating system. Garmin and TomTom beware: Standalone GPS devices may meet their demise in 2010.

Also on the endangered gadgets list: Flip video cameras, which PC World declared dead upon the launch of the iPhone 3G S. Meanwhile, Apple executives say the iPhone is cannibalizing the iPod: Why carry two devices when you only need one?

Paradoxically, the e-book reader is seeing traction as a single-use device. With hard-to-read, power-hungry laptop screens proving impractical for reading, and smartphone screens proving too small, the Kindle and its competitors are gaining buzz.

However, I’d argue that the e-book reader is a fad: Carrying an extra device is never desirable, and the major factor preventing convergence is the lack of superior screen technology. Flexible, expanding low-power screens on cell phones might tip the balance.

The real power of Amazon’s Kindle is its ease of use: a virtual bookstore so simple that it does for books what Apple’s iTunes did for music. The devices will converge, but the “app store” model for books will persist across all devices. The technology won’t be with us in 2010, however.

Social gaming

There’s little risk of social gaming proving a bad bet in 2010 — Zynga’s FarmVille game on Facebook now counts more active users than Twitter, claims a Facebook executive. Meanwhile, rival Playfish was recently acquired by Electronic Arts in a deal valued at up to $400 million.

Of growing interest in 2010, however, will be the virtual currencies these games have spawned: In the allegedly unmonetizable world of social media, virtual buying and selling may be the route to riches for some social media sites — a concept I outlined in this column under the title “Is Facebook the future of micropayments?”

Mobile payments

I’d wager that 2010 will be the breakthrough year of the much-anticipated mobile payments market. While much of Asia has embraced the technology, the U.S., in particular, has lagged. There’s reason for optimism in 2010, however: From PayPalX to Amazon’s mobile payments platform for developers, the big players are seizing the mobile payments opportunity.

Meanwhile, newcomer Square, founded by the creator of Twitter, began its rollout this week to much early-adopter excitement: The company enables merchants to accept payments via Apple’s iPhone.

Fame abundance, privacy scarcity

Warhol was right: Fame is now abundant. Social media has birthed a galaxy of stars in thousands of niches: We’re all reality stars now, on Facebook, Twitter and all the myriad online outlets where we hone our personal brands.

We’re seeing the ongoing voluntary erosion of privacy through public sharing on Facebook and Twitter, the rise of location-based services and the inclusion of video cameras in a growing array of devices.

The incredible efficiency of Web-based communication and our Google-fueled appetite to know everything about everything (or everyone) right now are combining to make Tiger Woods the canary in the privacy coal mine. Expect personal privacy — or rather its continued erosion — to be a hot media topic of 2010.