The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

bookBen Horowitz’s new book The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers is quite possibly one of the best church planting books I’ve ever read and it has nothing to do with church planting.

Horowitz shares so many insights from starting businesses, which is very similar to church planting. The hard road of raising funds, building teams, keeping great people and how to handle the high’s and low’s of being a CEO. The insights for lead planters are incredible. I found myself nodding over and over with all the lessons for pastor’s.

The whole book is great. If you are a church planter, thinking about planting or leading a church right now, this is the next book you need to read. It is that good.

Here are a few insights from it:

  • If there is one skill that stands out, it’s the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves.
  • A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news.
  • Build a culture that rewards—not punishes—people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.
  • You don’t make yourself look good by trashing someone who worked for you.
  • Hire for strength rather than lack of weakness.
  • If your company is a good place to work, you too may live long enough to find your glory.
  • Being a good company doesn’t matter when things go well, but it can be the difference between life and death when things go wrong.   Things always go wrong.
  • There are only two ways for a manager to improve the output of an employee: motivation and training.
  • The most important difference between big and small companies is the amount of time running versus creating. A desire to do more creating is the right reason to want to join your company.
  • If you don’t know what you want, the chances that you’ll get it are extremely low.
  • The right kind of ambition is ambition for the company’s success with the executive’s own success only coming as a by-product of the company’s victory. The wrong kind of ambition is ambition for the executive’s personal success regardless of the company’s outcome.
  • While I’ve seen executives improve their performance and skill sets, I’ve never seen one lose the support of the organization and then regain it.
  • A company will be most successful if the senior managers optimize for the company’s success (think of this as a global optimization) as opposed to their own personal success (local optimization).
  • Nothing motivates a great employee more than a mission that’s so important that it supersedes everyone’s personal ambition.
  • The CEO job as knowing what to do and getting the company to do what you want.
  • When an organization grows in size, things that were previously easy become difficult.
  • The further away people are in the organizational chart, the less they will communicate.
  • Evaluating people against the future needs of the company based on a theoretical view of how they will perform is counterproductive.
  • There is no such thing as a great executive. There is only a great executive for a specific company at a specific point in time.
  • Everybody learns to be a CEO by being a CEO.
  • If you don’t like choosing between horrible and cataclysmic, don’t become CEO.
  • When my partners and I meet with entrepreneurs, the two key characteristics that we look for are brilliance and courage.
  • Some employees make products, some make sales; the CEO makes decisions.

To see other book notes, go here.

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How to Survive Monday as a Pastor

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It’s Monday.

Which for most pastors, worship leaders, kids and student pastors, means the hardest and worst day of the week. Pastors even call it bread truck Monday because of a desire to go and drive a break truck or because they feel like they got hit by a bread truck. For a few reasons:

  1. What we do is war. In the spiritual sense. You may have had to deal with a relational battle yesterday. You prayed with people, counseled people and are carrying their burdens and weight. You have shepherded them through difficulties, wept with them, challenged them to walk away from sin and watched people destroy their lives one step at a time.
  2. You problem slept terribly on Saturday night as you thought about the day, got up early and then slept poorly on Sunday night as you were simply too tired to sleep.
  3. Leading worship, preaching, talking with people is incredible, awesome, the highlight of my week and incredibly exhausting all at the same time. You physically have nothing left after a Sunday. You probably have nothing left spiritually, emotionally or relationally to give as well.
  4. There is a good chance you woke up on Monday to a pile of emails from angry people, people leaving your church or thinking about leaving your church. You may have some fires brewing that you are wondering if you can handle. An elder that is a thorn in your side. And you are tired.

So what do you do? This happens almost every Monday. Because of this, many pastors take Monday off. If you do, that’s fine. But I feel like that is making a hard day worse. Your family doesn’t want you around if you are going to be angry, grumpy and have a short temper.

Here are few things that have helped me and my family survive Mondays:

  1. Get out of bed. Some Monday’s are great to sleep in, but I often find that getting out of bed and getting rolling is a better idea. If I stay in bed too long I feel sluggish, no matter what day it is.
  2. Know that Tuesday is coming. Most of the things that seem insurmountable on Monday look easy on Tuesday. I’m amazed at how often I get stressed about things and in 3 weeks time I have forgotten about them.
  3. Get a workout, bike ride, hike or run in. I know, you are tired and can barely move. The adrenaline from preaching is hard to deal with the older I get. I actually do yoga every Sunday morning before preaching just so I can move on Monday because the adrenaline kills me. But get going, do something active. It gets your blood moving and you are in a better mood afterwards.
  4. Take a nap. You should take a nap on Monday. You will probably have very little steam by the end of the day, so lay down.
  5. Work on your soul. Read something that speak to your soul. You preached your heart out, gave everything you had to students and kids, led worship with everything you had, now you need to feed yourself. Monday is a great time to listen to a sermon by someone else to be challenged.
  6. Don’t be around anyone that makes you angry. On Monday, you have a short fuse so do yourself and others a favor and only be around people you like. The fallout from not following this can be bad for everyone involved.
  7. Do administrative stuff. Don’t have a meeting on Monday, don’t counsel anyone. I know lots of leaders like to evaluate on Monday because it is fresh, write it down and talk about it on Tuesday. Return some emails, blog, following up with guests, new believers, those are fun and invigorating for a pastor.
  8. Serve your wife. You were probably a bear to hear at some point on Saturday or Sunday. She was a single mom on Sunday with your kids while you worked and she is just as tired as you are. I know you don’t believe me and think your job is harder, let’s say it is even. Ask how you can serve her.
  9. You have the privilege to do it again in 6 days. That may not seem like a privilege on Monday, but believe me, it is. God has chosen you to preach, lead worship, teach, counsel, shepherd, set up, greet, help kids follow Jesus, talk with students through hard situations. He chose you and uses you. So, when Monday is hard, remember, God could’ve picked someone else. And you could’ve said no. Since God called and you said yes, get back up on the horse and get ready!

And if none of those help, just watch this and remember, your life isn’t this bad. Probably.

What ideas do you use to survive Monday?

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How to Know You’re Too Busy

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I was talking with some pastors the other day and the topic of burnout, being too busy and doing too much came up. This seems to be a common thread among people, no matter what they do.

Here are some of the things they asked:

  • How do you know if you are close?
  • Are there warning signs that you are getting too busy?
  • How do you know that your busyness is not just a season, but becoming a way of life?

I know in my life, there are warning signs when I am doing too much or taking too much on. Sometimes I adhere to them and make changes, other times I bulldoze through and pay the price.

Here are some warning signs to be aware of:

  1. What is normally easy is now hard. This is one of the first things that happens. For me, it centers on preaching, sermon prep, reading leadership books. Whenever I find myself not feeling motivated in one or all of these areas, I know I am past the point of running too fast in life. To combat this, I take periodic breaks from preaching (I try to not preach more than 10 weeks in a row) and I work in books that have nothing to do with sermon prep or church ministry to give my brain a break.
  2. Sleep is hard to come by. For many Americans, sleep is hard as it is. We go to bed too late, we don’t take enough naps, spend too much time on technology and get worked up. I try to get to bed by 10:30, I try to not look at social media or texts after 8pm so that my brain is able to take a break. I’ve read studies about how using a smartphone after 9pm can be harmful to sleep and productivity. If you have to take sleeping pills, watch TV to fall asleep or find yourself going to bed at midnight or staring at the clock at midnight, you need to work on your sleep.
  3. It is hard to get going in the morning. Some people are morning people and can’t wait to get going, others are not. I’m not a morning person. But, when I find myself having a hard time getting going in the morning, needing multiple cups of coffee to stay awake or to focus, that’s a warning sign. Think about this morning, how hard was it to get out of bed? The harder it was, the closer you are to burning out.
  4. Motivation is hard to come by. It is true that you are more motivated and alert at certain parts of the day. For me, it is first thing in the morning, which is why I reserve that for sermon prep and not meetings. It is when I am most creative and I need to give that mental time to the most important part of my job: preaching. When I find that motivation not there, I know I have a problem.
  5. You get angry fast. When you are tired, you tend to get angry fast. Your fuse is shorter with those closest to you: family, friends, coworkers.
  6. You use things to calm down. This might be food, sex, porn, exercise, drugs, smoking, alcohol. While these things calm you down and all of these are not necessarily sins, when used to calm us down or help us relax or sleep or “take the edge off” we have a problem. If you think, “I just need ____ to calm down or feel better” you have a problem.
  7. You don’t laugh as much or have fun. This is connected to what we’ve already said, but if you can’t remember the last time you laughed and had fun, that’s a problem. When you are tired, the last thing you have energy for is fun or community.
  8. You have pulled back from community. When you are tired, especially if you are an introvert, the last thing you want is to be around people. Ironically, one of the things that can be the most helpful to warding off burnout and helping to bring you out of unhealthy patterns is community, being around people who care about you.

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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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Les McKeown on 4 signs you’re a terrible communicator.

Just because you talk a lot doesn’t mean you’re necessarily good at communicating. In fact, many leaders confuse eloquence with clarity, and as a result, often leave the people who work with them bedazzled by their verbal dexterity, and entirely confused about what to do next.

Brian Stowe on 10 things senior pastors must do to keep their jobs.

This may be the most important post I have ever written.  The Barna Group reported in a 2009 study that senior pastors of mainline churches have an average tenure of only four years.  One of the reasons cited for such a brief stay is that while 93% of all pastors claim to be leaders, only 12% claim to have the spiritual gift of leadership.  You can read the full article by clicking here. The epidemic of pastors leaving their churches, regardless of the reason, is an issue that must to be addressed.

Jonathan Dodson on Why “unchurched” is unhelpful.

  • We say “have faith”; they hear “anti-science.”
  • We say “Christ”; they hear “moral example.”
  • We say “cross”; they hear “arcane human sacrifice.”
  • We say “Christianity”; they hear “Republican and anti-gay.”

5 ways to make sure your content gets shared and goes viral.

Every day, a lot of potentially great content disappears into the ether, never to be heard from or seen again. And others gets shared by hundreds, thousands, or even millions. Why? Believe it or not, most content that resonates share 5 characteristics. With an eye for these 5, you might soon find your content resonating more than it does now.

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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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Top Posts of January

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It was a great first month of 2014 on my blog. Tons of traffic and interactions. If you missed anything, not to worry, here are the top 10 posts for the month:

  1. When a Staff Member or Volunteer says, “I’m Done”
  2. The 3 Most Destructive Words a Man Hears Growing up Are: “Be a Man”
  3. Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace
  4. What I Eat
  5. 10 Gospel Truths about Homosexuality
  6. Photoshop, Beauty & Women
  7. 6 Ways to Stay Motivated to be Healthy
  8. Leading Up
  9. The Weight of Pastoring
  10. Why do a Series on Men & Women?
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Leadership as an Identity

bookOver the weekend I read Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence (kindle) by Crawford Loritts. To say I liked this book would be an understatement. I devoured this book. I found myself highlight almost something on every page.

If you are a Christian leader, pastor or business leader, you need to read this book. What set this book apart was that it had very little “here’s what a leader does” advice. This book is all about what influences and shapes a leader. Ultimately, what shapes a leader will eventually come out in their actions.

Here is some of what I highlighted:

  • We tend to ignore character flaws and even sin in the life of a leader because of his more worldly leadership skills.
  • Brokenness is a conscious, core awareness that you need God in all things. A broken person has come to realize that he is nothing and can do nothing apart from God’s presence and enabling power (John 15:5). A broken person has come to the end of himself—at least what he understands at that moment to be the end of himself.
  • The leader who is broken is a leader who can be used by God.
  • God delights in surrender. It is a foundational, fundamental principle of the Christian life. In fact, you can’t truly be a Christian without surrender.
  • Leaders fall when they stop following.
  • Humility is an intentional thing. It is a decision, a choice. When you fail to intentionally humble yourself, pride will overtake you. It’s just a matter of time.
  • A challenge not only for young leaders but for all leaders is that you are one decision away from losing the ability to lead.
  • God does not primarily delight in using what you bring to the table. Instead, He delights in using what you surrender to Him. His assignments will require you to operate outside of your areas of strength, out of your comfort zone. God will put you in situations where you have no choice but to rely on His miraculous power, strength, and intervention.
  • The truly great, effective leaders are not always the “best” leaders.
  • What we value the most will be the foundation upon which we build our leadership.
  • Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.
  • God is using what He has given you to do to not only accomplish His assignments but to make you what He wants you to become.
  • Every person God will trust with influencing others will suffer.
  • It’s a dangerous thing to follow a leader who has never failed.
  • There can be no leadership apart from adversity and hard times. Your credibility to lead is in direct relationship to your ability to endure.
  • The challenges of leadership are meant to make you hungry for God.
  • God’s presence causes you to lead from rest.
  • Despite what is going on all around you, know that He not only has everything that you need, but He is also giving you all that you need to deal with whatever is before you.
  • Christian leadership is all about doing what God wants done.
  • There is a close relationship between your walk with God and the assignment He has given you.
  • We need to be careful that we are not using servant leadership language as a strategy—as a means to manipulate people to do what we want them to do.
  • Vision gives the leader the responsibility to see the big picture and determine where a ministry is going. The leader then mobilizes the people to get the job done.
  • I think one of the greatest challenges for a leader is to move people to places that many times they don’t want to go—but they are never the same once they have gone!
  • Both pride and humility have, for the most part, very little to do with your actions and choices, but they have everything to do with your motives and attitudes.
  • Humility is the intentional recognition that God is everything to you, and that you are nothing without Him. It is the acknowledgment that life is not about you, and that the needs of others are more important than your own.
  • Your approach to leadership can reveal whether it is a passion or just a diversion.
  • Biblical leadership is characterized not only by brokenness, uncommon communion, and servanthood but also by radical, immediate obedience.
  • There is no such thing as leadership apart from action.
  • God is about the business of doing through us what He wants done.
  • When God speaks, obedience is not something to be negotiated. There’s no such thing as partial obedience. We either completely do what God says or we disobey Him. God is to be taken seriously.
  • We tend to project our negative experiences with authority onto God. We either have problems trusting God, or we develop our own theology, making Him a “softer God” who demands very little of us.
  • God never calls you to do anything without also assuring you of His presence.

If you want to see some of the past books I’ve reviewed, go here.

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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  1. David Murray on Dealing with the hate mail you get as a leader.
  2. Brad Lomenick on A challenge to young leaders.
  3. Luke Simmons on How should a ministry leader dress?
  4. Abe Meysenburg on Good news for single men.
  5. Paul Alexander on 5 reasons it might be good when someone leaves your church. This is inevitable, but it isn’t always bad when someone leaves.
  6. Jamie Munson on the 7 most important things you need to know about money.

Links of the Week

  1. Jim Tomberlin on 125 tips for multisite churches and those who want to be. This is a free e-book that is definitely worth picking up if this is something you are thinking about. I know I got a lot out of it.
  2. Mark Driscoll on To hell with hell? Great insights into what Scripture has to say about death, what happens after death and hell.
  3. Don’t advertise your church until it is worth advertising.
  4. Seth Godin on The difference between a manager and a leader.
  5. Kevin DeYoung reviews Rob Bell’s new book. If you are planning to read Rob’s book, then you need to read this review which is spot on theologically.
  6. Tim Keller on Are religions equally right? This 5 minute video is worth watching if you’ve ever asked this question or been asked this question.
  7. 5 ways to grow as a leader.

What Church Hoppers Say

Bob Franquiz in his book Zero to Sixty has a chapter on Church Hoppers. Here is his top 10 list to spot a church hopper and what they mean:

  1. But my old church…” This usually means they want your church to be like their old church.
  2. I just need time to be fed.” This means, “I don’t want to do anything. I’m here just to sit and see what I can get out of this church, so don’t expect me to serve in any way, shape, or form.
  3. “I’m looking for a church that teaches the Word.” This means, “I’m looking for a church that dispenses lots of information without challenging me to do anything.”
  4. “We cam here because we are looking for deep teaching.” This usually means their last church focused too much on actually obeying the Word. They want a church that just talks about the Rapture, the Second Coming, who the Hittites were and the identity of Theophilus.
  5. “I should know my pastor.” This means, “In my last church, I got to know the pastor, but when the church grew, and the pastor couldn’t have dinner with us every Tuesday night, I left and came here.”
  6. “We want a church that’s focused on discipling people.” This means, “I want a church that’s focused on me, not people who are lost.”
  7. “I wish you wouldn’t focus so much on what people need to do.” This means they don’t like commitment, they don’t like to be told the Bible actually tells them how to live and follow Jesus. They want to come to church, live in their sin and have no one tell them this is wrong.
  8. “I wish you wouldn’t talk about money.” This is the best way to tell a pastor “I don’t give.”
  9. “My old church/pastor was…” The way people come to your church is how they will leave. If your first conversation with them is all about their last church and pastor, that is how they will leave your church and how they will go to their next church.
  10. “Pastor, I’ve been talking to a lot of people and they all say…” Translation:  “Me, my spouse and my mother think…” If they start this way, 99.9% of the time they have no one else who thinks this way, it is just the best way to complain. If someone has a complaint and uses this line with me, they need to list all of the names or my best assumption is they talked to the same person 10 times.