Why You Need a Summer Break

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I’m my summer preaching break and as always, it has been incredibly helpful. If you are a pastor, this is something you need to put into your yearly rhythm.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that personal health and leadership health is incredibly important to me. It seems every month I hear about another pastor burning out or running out of steam because they didn’t take care of themselves. If you burnout, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Over the last 3 weeks, I have played longer with my kids, walked on the beach and picked up seashells, took long walks with Katie, took some naps, watched the world cup, worked ahead on sermons, read some great books and spent time with friends.

Who benefits from a summer break. Literally everyone. The pastor taking it does as he is able to recharge physically and spiritually. His family does as they get some much needed down time. What many people fail to realize is that ministry can become an all encompassing endeavor. The church benefits as well from having a pastor come back more passionate and energized than when he left and they benefit from hearing sermons from other voices. It is a win-win for everyone.

Most pastors want to take a summer break, but don’t know how. If that’s you, here are some ideas on how to make your summer break successful:

  • Plan ahead. We think resting should just happen, but it doesn’t. This is especially true for your summer break. If you are taking vacation, you need to plan ahead so you can disconnect from social media, email and your job. Work out the details so everything is covered and you are not needed.
  • Disconnect early and connect early. My recommendation during your break is that you disconnect from email, social media, blogging, etc. For me, I can find myself getting angry at posts or distracted and that keeps me from recharging or doing what I should be doing on my break. Put an auto responder on your email a few days before you actually leave so you can begin disconnecting and then turn it back on a few days before you come back so you can ease in.
  • Leave town. You don’t need to be gone for your whole preaching break, but the more the better. This helps you to truly disconnect and recharge. This doesn’t have to be expensive as you can drive and visit friends or family or stay somewhere cheap. This is why planning ahead is such a benefit.
  • Don’t feel guilty. It’s summer, so don’t feel bad. Everyone is taking vacation, time off and slowing down. People go to the beach, lake, mountains, the park. Once summer hits, our mindset changes and our schedules change. This is why it is the ideal time for a pastor to take several weeks in a row from regular church activities.
  • Be purposeful. This isn’t simply about time off. Take a sabbatical for that. This is to recharge and have time off, but also to work ahead, evaluate the ministry and do things you need to do but often neglect because of the time ministry takes. By planning ahead purposefully, you make sure you accomplish what you need to. This summer I spent a lot of time talking to pastors of churches who have broken the 500 mark trying to discern what I need to know as we approach that in our next season of ministry, the kinds of leaders we need on board to break through that barrier.

In the end, a preaching break is really about the longevity of ministry for a pastor and his church. This keeps it fresh and moving in the direction God wants him to. Don’t minimize how important this is. The ones who do, end up burning out or losing passion very quickly.

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Making Decisions for with Your Target in Mind

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been exploring the ideas of vision for a church and if a church should have a target, what having or not having a target does for a church and how to determine that target.

One of the struggles for churches is to continue making decisions with their those they are best suited to reach in mind.

Here’s why: the church gets older.

All of a sudden, a church plant that started out reaching college students and single adults now are married, with kids. Families start attending. The crazy ideas they once had now seem ludicrous when you consider the businessmen, nurses, dentists and teachers that attend.

If a church isn’t careful, the leadership of the church will not have any decision makers who are the age of who they say their target is.

What do you do then? Make sure you have some decision makers that are in your target. 

For Revolution, if we are hoping to reach 20-40 year old men, we need to make sure are decision makers have some of those on the team. We need to run ideas by those in that age bracket. The older you get, no matter how hip you think you are, you are out of touch. I’m 35 and I feel out of touch with 21 year olds. This is why I spend time developing leaders who are in college, have students and singles in my MC. I’ve even run some ideas by 20-25 year olds to see what they think of sermon or video or song ideas.

What I’ve discovered is they have drastically different opinions than a 45 or 55 year old. This is not right or wrong, it just is. And, if your target is clearly defined, you know which way to go.

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You Are What You Read

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I’m an avid reader (you can see what I’m reading right now here) and believe it is one of the keys to being a great leader and pastor. I came across this quote in  Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly Mike Myatt:

Did you know that the average American reads only one book a year? Worse than this is the fact that 60 percent of average Americans only get through the first chapter. Contrast this with the fact that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read an average of four to five books a month. Even more impressive is that some of the most successful leaders throughout history were known to read one book every single day. Bottom line: If you’re a leader and not an avid reader, you’re wrong.

If the statistics in the opening paragraph didn’t convince you of the power of reading, here are a few more telling observations for your consideration—according to our surveys at N2growth, a very large common denominator shared by executives who feel that they are not achieving the level of success they feel capable of, is that many of them are “too busy to keep up with their reading.” Hmmm. . . . Furthermore, studies show that active readers are likely to have annual incomes more than five times greater than those who spend little or no time reading. Do I have your attention yet?

Up until a few years ago, Rick Warren read a book every single day. Abraham Lincoln, who only had one year of formal education, credited his appetite for reading with his success. Teddy Roosevelt was rumored to actually read two books a day. Thomas Jefferson had one of the most exhaustive personal libraries of his time prior to donating it to the Library of Congress (which many joked Roosevelt had read). If not clear yet, the theme here is that in order to be a great leader, you absolutely must be a great reader.

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How to be Capable to Accomplish Your Dreams

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I interact with a lot of younger or newer leaders. Still being in my 30’s, I still feel like there is more for me to do or accomplish. Yet, that thing always seems to be out of reach for many leaders.

In his book The Catalyst LeaderBrad Lomenick lists how to be a leader who is capable of accomplishing things:

  1. Capable leaders constantly push forward. Surround yourself with people who spend more time dreaming about tomorrow’s possibilities than dwelling on yesterday’s failures. It’s easy to lament bad decisions, but a leader who can push ahead of them is invaluable.
  2. Capable leaders are team players. At Catalyst, we argue on principles, but we always have each other’s backs. In order to succeed, you need confidence. And you can’t have confidence without trust.
  3. Capable leaders own their mistakes. A leader who blames others for his mistakes cannot grow in his role. Look for team members who can admit missteps without growing discouraged.
  4. Capable leaders are willing to take risks. If an organization is going to thrive, the leaders must be willing to pioneer new territory. Surrounding yourself with people who will boldly step out even when it doesn’t make sense is important.
  5. Capable leaders are constant learners. Capable leaders never stop growing and getting better. Learners are committed and coachable, always students and desperate to learn. They nurture a professional curiosity. What kinds of books are they reading, if any? Do they subscribe to any podcasts? How are they attempting to become better at what they do? Do they listen more or talk more? As your organization grows, you need team members who are constantly learning.
  6. Capable leaders aren’t entitled. I believe that experience creates expertise. So the best leaders develop in the midst of action—doing, not just thinking or dreaming or talking. I need to know that my team is willing to break a sweat alongside me.
  7. Capable leaders are anticipators. You must stay a step ahead of the people you serve. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending all your time reacting to problems and concerns and mishaps. It’s imperative for leaders to figure out what the organization needs before anyone else ever realizes it.
  8. Capable leaders are persistent. They see things through and don’t give up. They don’t ask just once and read Facebook until they get a response. They follow up again and again until they get the answer or solution they need.
  9. Capable leaders are trustworthy. Because they can be trusted, capable team members are among the most valuable employees in any organization. When they make a promise, you don’t have to worry about follow-up.
  10. Capable leaders deliver. Capable leaders get things done. I look for people who do what they say they will do. This allows me to delegate more and manage less. Team members need to make it happen no matter how insignificant the task or assignment.

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Questions to Ask to Review 2013

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I’m reading The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick and he has some great questions in it to review your year. As we are getting closer to the end of the year, I thought I’d share them with you.

Year End Review Questions:

1. What are the 2-3 themes that personally defined 2012 for me?

2. What people, books, accomplishments, or special moments created highlights in 2012?

3. Give yourself a grade from 1-10 in the following areas of focus for 2012: vocationally, spiritually, family, relationally, emotionally, financially, physically, recreationally.

4. What am i working on that is BIG for 2013 and beyond?

5. As I move into 2013, is a majority of my energy being spent on things that drain me or things that energize me?

6. How am I preparing for 10 years from now? 20 years from now?

7. What 2-3 things have I been putting off that I need to execute on before the end of the year?

8. Is my family closer at the end of this year? Am I a better friend at the end of this year? If not, what needs to change immediately?

If this is something that is a struggle for you, this book: The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months is a great place to start. 

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Thom Rainer on 11 things churches can learn from a church that died.

There was no attempt to reach the community. More and more emphasis was placed on the past. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.

Aubrey Malphurs on Surviving the busiest season of the year.

Psychologist Dr. Richard Blackmon finds pastors to be “the single most occupationally frustrated group in America” resulting in 30 to 40% of them dropping out of ministry altogether.

14 hints on how to add new service times at your church.

Is your church thinking about adding new service times in the future? We recently interviewed a number of church leaders within the unSeminary community who have led their churches through this change to help extract some helpful hints for you.

Kevin DeYoung on 7 thoughts for pastors writing books.

Rewind my life six years and I would tell you that one of my biggest dreams in life is to get a book published. I hoped that someday, somehow, somewhere, for somebody I would be able to write a book. I never dreamt I would have that opportunity so soon and so often. It’s much more than I deserve.

Thomas Kidd on Why homeschool.

Homeschooling is all too often treated as a monolith: Homeschoolers are either fundamentalists or anarchists, religious extremists or hippies. Rarely, if ever, is it explored as a potential educational setting for so-called “gifted” children–those looking for an academic challenge beyond that which their local educational facilities can provide.

Jesus, Art & Worship This Morning

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Here’s a great reminder about appreciating art that can easily be applied to worshiping Jesus this morning in your church:

No passing and hurried glance at a great painting as we stroll down the corridors of an art gallery will ever suffice to reveal to us its richness and significance. If we sit down in a quiet gallery and limit our attention to a single picture, then it will act upon us. For a great painting is an active agent and can affect us. We need there to sit receptive, open-minded, alert, quiet, before it. Furthermore, no single introspection is sufficient. Many repeated visits to the same painting are required before we begin to grasp its significance. We know that we must wait patiently until, in its own way and time, it discloses its meanings. The truth in the painting must find and fit the need that is in us. -Charles Whiston, found in The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing

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Able to Teach

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One of the qualifications of being an elder is “able to teach.” Often this gets interpreted as “able to preach.” Which is not the case. Here is a great definition from Thabiti Anyabwile in Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons on what this qualification means:

This ability is not limited to public teaching from the pulpit. Men with this ability might be gifted public teachers, or they might simply be gifted for one-on-one or small-group settings. Some men are not exceptional public speakers, but they are teaching and counseling the people around them from the Scriptures all the times. Such men should not be disqualified from the office of elder.

Does Homeschooling Deny the Missional Life?

Last week, Scot McKnight reposted some of Tony Jones’s thoughts on homeschooling and being missional on his blog. Tony believes homeschooling denies the missional life. Here’s what he had to say:

But it seems to me that if I am truly committed to living a missional life, then I must enroll my kids in the public school. That is, I am committed to living a life fully invested in what I might call the “Jesus Ethic” or the “Kingdom of God Ethic,” and also fully invested in the society — in fact, you might say that I live according to the Kingdom of God for the sake of society….

Similarly, formal education was formerly for the societal elite. But in a democracy, education is for all, with the understanding that the more educated we all become, the more humane we will be toward one another (this, of course, is open to debate).

So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society — like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect themfrom polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

So I can’t think, “I’ll just pull my kids out of the public schools — what difference will one less follower of Jesus make in a school full of hundreds of kids?” I don’t, as a Christian, have the option to “opt out” of the societal contractInstead, I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.

Let me start off by saying, whatever you choose to do for schooling for your kids is completely your decision. I personally don’t think a family should put their kids in a Christian school, a charter school, a public school or homeschool them. I think each parent needs to make that choice, and it may even be different for different kids in your family. I knew a family that had 3 kids, one was home schooled, one was in a public school and the other was in a private school as it was the best for each child.

Here’s why I’m posting about this and why I took offense to it. We homeschool our kids. We made that choice after having our oldest in school for a quarter and saw what it did to our schedule, especially since I work on the weekend. We lost too much of our family time because of my work schedule. We’ve made the decision to evaluate each year what is best for our kids and our family and right now this is what is best for us.

Tony is right on one hand because many families homeschool their children to protect them from the world. I don’t think this is a good idea. At some point they will encounter the world around them. But to say that it denies the missional life it to say that every Christian who has their child in a public school is living on mission. If that were the case, our schools would be drastically different.

Living on mission and homeschooling simply means you have to be more intentional about how you life on mission, how you bring the culture into the life of your kids. You have to think through it.

Here are some things we do:

  • Our kids go to school 3 days a week for specials: gym, art and music. This helps them to meet other kids, be in a school, it allows us to meet the teachers and build a relationship with them.
  • Be outside. People walk around neighborhoods, they work in their yards, on their cars. Play out front instead of in the back. People walk around our neighborhood around 6pm, so we try to play out front then.
  • Invite your neighbors over, get to know them. Football started this week and that is an easy invite to a neighbor.
  • Get involved in the school. You can volunteer at the school, be a part of fairs or carnivals the school puts on that are open to the public.
  • Ask the principal how you could serve at the school and then follow through.

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Leadership Summit Session 7 | Geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada continued session 7 of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit with a talk titled “Changing the Odds.”

He is the President and CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone.

Here are some highlights I grabbed from his interview with Nancy Beach:

  • We have allowed areas in our nation to become areas of hopelessness.
  • When despair rules, young people grow up without God.
  • They can’t imagine how to get from here to there without sex, drugs or violence.

What does the Harlem children’s zone do?

  • It is more than a school.
  • You have to change the neighborhoods, block by block to change a neighborhood.
  • We started with one block, then two blocks.
  • To change a child, you must start at birth.

The Tipping Point

  • A culture begins to take place that works against any efforts to change a neighborhood or change a child.
  • A child needs constant reinforcement of the same positive message: hard work, study, integrity, etc.
  • They need peers, adults who give them the same message.
  • A tipping point in a culture is when you reach 60 – 65% of the population.

The early years

  • Failure when nobody knows who you are, you can deal with that quietly and anonymously, failure is much harder to admit when you are known.
  • There were people who were rooting against the Harlem children’s zone, looking for ways to point out that it couldn’t be done.
  • When you fail, your first inclination is to scale down the vision.
  • Instead, admit you failed, try twice as hard to be successful.
  • It is easy to forget who you are working for because you are rooting for the staff.
  • You don’t work for your staff that is not your mission.
  • The way you build a more powerful organization is you demand excellence from staff and hold people accountable.

How do you handle donor pressure?

  • The donor is like the customer who is always right.
  • There is a line when the gift can detract from your work.
  • If you need the money, it is hard to see how getting the money can hurt you, but it can hurt your vision if they aren’t on board.
  • Sometimes not taking the money from a donor is the smartest thing you can do.

How has your leadership style changed over the years?

  • Compassion has grown, as you understand how difficult and huge your dream is.
  • You feel a stronger sense of urgency the longer you lead and the bigger you see the need getting.
  • When we say “you can’t do that” is crazy. When we as Americans decide we are going to do something, we get it done.
  • You can’t get great and talented people who can run the institution if you don’t know as the senior leader when you are stepping down.
  • Too many leaders leave the organization when the organization is on the way down not when it is going up. Leave when it is growing and going up.

What do you do when you are disappointed? When you want to quit?

  • You are a moment away from a breakthrough, greatness. You just don’t know how close you are, so keep going.
  • There is something about fighting for the right cause.

What would you say to leaders?

  • As a leader you always have to be on top your game.
  • Get your moral compass right.

What was your biggest takeaway from this session?