Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rules Are Meant to Break

Ouch! That sounds dangerous.  That is not allowed.  I mean, you have been taught to mind the rules, to color within the lines.  

I know some of you who enjoy crossing your t’s and dotting your lowercase j’s are already breaking in to a cold sweat right now.

        I’m even starting a new tab in my blog, just to break the composition rules I learned in high school 😃

Seriously, I want to discuss with you how I think about rules.  I want to show you a bigger perspective of how I see rules.  

Rules are meant to break

I see a difference between a rule and a principle.  A rule is a regulation that has been defined by people, from past experience.  A principle is a fundamental truth that gives basis for a belief in conduct in life.  So, I am not advocating against breaking principles that guide our life. Principles are beliefs in God, in how we treat people, how we treat ourselves and conduct ourselves.  

I am landing more on challenging the status quo.  I am asking that you don’t be confined to what the set directions have always been.  

This philosophy comes from my personality naturally.  I have always been a “what if” person, a “why not” person.  When I see a goal I want to reach or a dream I have that I am passionate about, and I am told by people that we are limited to the rules, my natural response is to ask “but what if?”, or “why can’t we?”  For some reason, I get pleasure out of thinking how I can find a work-around, so that I can reach beyond what has been done before and chart a new path.  I see a particular rule as a barrier that others could not get over, so they stopped there.  I see it as my job to get over the barrier, to reach higher and farther.

This reminds me of the man who re-invented the technique for the high jump in the Olympics.  Dick Fosbury in 1968 brought a very different, unconventional technique to the sport.  He jumped backwards and arched his back in a way that he could clear the bar higher than others.  It became so successful, they named the technique the Fosbury Flop.  It is still the new “rule” of high jumping practiced to this day.

When I studied music, I mainly studied classical music.  I loved classical music, and studied the great composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy and Bach.  This helped me form a construct of how music worked, how music was built through chords, time signatures, and key signatures.  But I remember being introduced to jazz music in high school.  I remember hearing one “rule-breaking" teacher say to me…

You learn all of the rules in music so that you can break them

What? Learn all of the rules so you can break them? What did that mean? Does that mean I can play notes that are outside the key of the song? Does that mean I can use a different scale in a passage? Wow - that means I can create new voicings, new harmonies.  That means I don’t have to compare my musical arrangement with someone else’s.  I can not just study composers, I can BE a composer.

Let’s re-visit rules.  Rules are not bad.  They are very good.  They were created by someone in the past who learned something and then did us the favor of drawing a road map for the rest of us to follow.  That is helpful - very helpful.  Thank goodness for people who learned something and took the time to help the rest of us.  But most of us “worship” the rules.  We bind ourselves to the rules, like we are hanging on to them for dear life! In order to adhere to the defined rules, we stop reaching for greater effectiveness.  A win for us becomes abiding by the rules, not having greater impact.

Let’s get practical in how breaking the rules will help us:


At the Movies sets and designs are off the charts this year at Stuart Campus!
Budgets are meant to bust.  At work, if you are doing a project and given a budget, don’t just figure out how you can stay under budget; think of how you can make the project the best you ever have! Think competition - “our project will be the best one of all!” If your focus is to make your work high quality, highly creative, highly effective, and you happen to go over budget, guess what? They will likely raise your budget!  You might think you will be punished, but the CEO is actually looking for rule-breakers, for out-of-the-box thinkers.  They won’t tell you that, but that is how they think! Do such a great job that they want to give you more resources.

I took a chance inviting Congressman Mast to church to help celebrate our country - was so delighted he came!

In most businesses, there are defined rules for how things are done.  The bigger an organization gets, the more institutionalized it becomes.  The natural life cycle is that ideas become fewer, creative thinking diminishes, and automation ensues.  What is desperately needed (but rarely is stated publicly) is experimentation.  When you and your team block out thinking time to ask good questions like “what if?” or “why not?”, fresh creativity begins to flow.  When the team takes time to ask themselves “how do we take this to another level?”, they begin priming the pump of their creative minds.  It’s risky, it’s messy, it’s unmanagable - it’s genius!   Be willing to try just one of the great ideas that come out of these sessions.  Be willing to be criticized by the rule-followers.  Test your idea, give it a try.  Good things always come from trying - you will learn something, and it may just get you out of a rut.

Work Flow
For our men's event, we thought creatively how we could use our beautiful property at Christ Fellowship - guys loved it!
Do you have your staff meeting in the same office room on the same day? Are your meetings with your people predictable? When is the last time you had an outside speaker come invest in your team? Is everyone in the office doing the same work over and over? I would challenge you to assess your work environment with your team around you.  While you may be responsible for getting the work done, maybe there is a way you can spice up HOW it is done and WHERE it is done.  If you are a rule follower and may have difficulty getting outside the rigidness of your current state, you need to invite one or two people in to your office and ask them honest questions. 
What could make this more fun?
What could make this fresh for our people?
What do we need to get a spark in to our work flow?
What will get us thinking differently than we currently think?

Don’t be afraid of the responses.  And don’t think you have to react or change to every thought.  Something good will come from these conversations.  It will test the rules to see if they are guiding life principles, or just a rule that has been instituted in the office and needs to be updated.

The big idea here is to bust through convention, to bend or break rules that may look important, but actually may just be a limit to you and your team reaching a greater level of joy and effectiveness

Rules are meant to break

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pass the Ball

Diana is a great leader who has a growing team at our church!

If you are a leader in some way, in your church, at work, in your neighborhood, good for you! I’m proud of you.  Leadership is hard! Easy to read a blog or book about it.  But when you try to accomplish a project THROUGH PEOPLE, it feels almost impossible!

So when the pressure is on to make something happen, as leaders, we tend to bear down and work hard.  Great people are willing to exert energy and invest their time to make the dream become a reality.  We know that as the leader, we are supposed to get out in front and lead.  That’s what leaders do.  They take charge.

So when we are feeling the pressure to perform, to create momentum and make something happen, our tendency is to get on stage and grab the microphone.  We start “preaching.” We sell.  We make our appeal.  After all, this is the image we know of great leaders.  The leader is the person up on a platform giving a rousing speech.  The locker room talk, the stump speech.  Inspire the troops!

Now...I love a great speech.  I love to hear great leaders and communicators inspire their team.  After a good speech, I am ready to charge the hill!

But here is what I am learning in my season of leading as a Pastor.  Sometimes the right move is to give the speech.  But sometimes the right move is to:

Pass the Ball

OK - basketball analogy coming.  I love the game of basketball.  I love watching great players do amazing things.  A slam dunk, an impossible shot.  But the most exciting thing to watch is a team win.  And how do teams win? By passing the ball.  The team that wins championships know they have to win consistently.  In order to win consistently, they cannot rely on one or two great players to make great plays.  That is not sustainable.  Great teams understand they must involve ALL of their players in the game.  They pass the ball.  

Pastor DJ showing our church family his beautiful new baby, Callie Ray!
I play basketball with some guys once a week, some of them leaders in my church.  One of those leaders is my friend and a Pastor, DJ Cabrera.  DJ is a great basketball player, having played at Martin County High School as a Point Guard years ago.  DJ has a great strategic mind, and it shows not just in his work at the church, but also on the court.  When I am playing on his team, and we are passing the ball, he sometimes shouts “one more pass!” What he is coaching us to do is to not settle for an average shot, but to keep passing the ball until one of us on the team gets an optimal shot.  He is trying to get us to play as a team, not just as a few individuals.  When we pass the ball to the open man and he makes the shot, we cheer! It’s awesome.  (DJ makes fun of me because I shout really loud with excitement - I can’t help it, I get excited!)

I have been attempting to apply this philosophy to my style of leadership.  As a Pastor at Christ Fellowship in South Florida, I have a lot I am responsible for -  a lot of people I care for.  How I endeavor to lead all that I am responsible for is through other leaders, other voices.  I realize that I need older voices, younger voices, female voices, different voices other than mine who are speaking the vision, giving the direction.  This doesn’t mean I abdicate my leadership, or that I cease from speaking vision.  Rather, I share the platform with others.  

I build a platform that others can stand on

Luiz and Jen are new to our church and have immediately started serving, helping others find their place - awesome people!

I have learned that leadership is not best played like golf, where you are a solo act.  Leadership is best played like a basketball game, as a team endeavor.  In basketball, you don’t win unless the team wins.  The leader doesn’t achieve success unless he or she can empower his or her teammates to be effective in their roles.

Here are some practical ways I attempt to pass the ball to our team at our church:

Lead without the microphone
I am challenging myself to find other avenues to earn influence with people so they will follow my lead.  While the platform is a powerful and visible place to speak directly to people, I am learning the power of serving with my teams off platform.  Recently, I have been serving with our Traffic Team by parking cars and welcoming people in to our church services.  

That's me!
This has been one of the BEST things I have EVER DONE as a leader.  People love seeing their Pastor out serving with the team.  I have enjoyed actually DOING ministry, not just LEADING ministry.  It has been good for my heart to serve in this way.  And, I get to spend lots of time interacting with our people - something that fills me up.  I caught this idea from my friend and fellow Campus Pastor, Travis O’Neal who often serves with his teams at the Port Saint Lucie Campus.  I highly recommend you get down from the platform and serve WITH your team!

Share the microphone
Many times, we are afraid that if we share our platform with someone, they will mess it up.  Or, even more scary, they might outshine us because they are more gifted at communication! It takes a very secure and big-minded leader to be willing to allow trusted leaders to share the platform with them.  
Jake is a great Worship Leader and a "Go-To" Team Player in our church
When you take a chance and share part of the platform with gifted and committed people,
it actually elevates your influence.  Here’s why: when others share your vision, it is an indication that you have effectively instilled your vision in them! Remember, the greatest communication does not come from your mouth; it is revealed by how well it is repeated by those around you.  

Hold the microphone for others
Secure Leaders are willing to share their microphone with other gifted Leaders.  Seasoned Leaders will go a step further by identifying potential leaders and helping them develop.  Many leaders can spot a gifted person quickly.  Most people struggle with seeing the potential in a person who is undeveloped or untested.  But because there is always such a great demand for gifted, committed, courageous people, we must look beyond the obvious choice to the risky choice.  As leaders of people, it is our job to help others develop their gifts and realize their dreams.  This means we have to adopt a process mentality with our people, realizing that they are going to need YEARS of development, not just WEEKS.

Many people comment about my beautiful daughter, Madison Pilot, how gifted she is in music and in ministry.  Now that she is seventeen years old, many leaders are seeking after her to sing or to lead.  My wife, Kellie and I love it.  We love seeing her getting many opportunities to use her gifts.  People will ask me “how did she get so good?” I tell them that it took 12 years of teaching her piano and singing.  12 Years of instilling in her healthy habits, learning life values, skills in learning to interact with people well.  What you see Madison doing now is a product of daily, weekly and monthly training, nurturing and challenging.  She did not develop just magically.  There is no secret formula or 30 day training that helped her.  She worked hard, she stayed committed to training and growing.  She paid the price and still pays the price today to develop.
(I am SO PROUD of her.  Can you tell?)

Pastor Ismael has more people serving on his team because he cares for people well!
There are people on your team that, if you evaluate them now, may not show signs of greatness or giftedness.  Let me challenge you: IT’S THERE - YOU JUST HAVE TO DRAW IT OUT OF THEM.  Like a hidden treasure deep within the earth, you must take the time to dig it out and help develop it.  This is like holding the microphone for them as they learn to develop their skill.  Whether it’s organizational, gift of hospitality, strategic gifts, public speaking, motivating people and recruiting, writing, the gift to start or build a business, etc.  Look for the hidden treasure in your people.  Begin to dig - keep digging - encourage, affirm.  Help them see a bigger vision for their life.  Show them what COULD BE and begin to give them small opportunities to develop their gift.  And when they step up to your challenge, hold the microphone for them until they can hold it for themselves.

Here's Asher walking next to his father, John.  Asher makes everyone around him feel valued and included

Pass the ball to others on your team.  Lead through others.  It’s harder, it’s riskier.  But, slowly, your people will begin to win championships.

When your team wins, you win!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Don't Wait in Line

If you aspire to lead in some way, that is awesome! I love people with initiative, with drive to make an impact wherever they are called.  The Bible even says that desiring leadership is a good thing!

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.
1 Timothy 3:1

Tom and Kellie Agulia - two of the best Servant Leaders at Stuart Campus!

However, I want to caution you on how you pursue leadership:

Don’t wait for the position before starting to lead

Most of us see leadership as a high position where we have a team of people under our authority.  We have a picture of a leader who stands on the platform teaching and giving directions that others should follow.  It could be easy to think that we cannot start leading until we have THAT.  So, we wait our turn in line hoping that one day we will be promoted to that high position.  

Here is the problem with that:

People do not follow a leader because they have position and platform.   People follow a leader who they RESPECT, who they LOVE, and who they TRUST.  




Pastor Clint and one of our team leaders, Amanda both have earned Respect, Love and Trust of their teams

These are 3 things that you can gain with people RIGHT NOW, right where you are, before you have ANY position of leadership.  That’s amazing to think that you don’t need to be standing on the platform to gain these things.  You don’t need employees under your direction.  You don’t need the title.  

Maybe you think that gaining the title gains you influence and power that you otherwise do not have with people.  And while it is true that the position does give you power to make decisions and to give directives to people, it gains you little influence.  You see, when you gain the position, you now have a difficult time wondering if people follow you because they WANT TO or because they HAVE TO.  You will have a more difficult time to know if you truly have gained people’s RESPECT, LOVE and TRUST.

Here is a big secret that I want to share with you about leadership:

You don’t need to wait in line for the position
You can lead TODAY with no position

It’s like when you are at the grocery store and you are ready to check out at the cashier station.  You likely are looking for the shortest line so you can get out of the store as quickly as possible.  If you have a big cart full of groceries, you have to stand in the normal line where there likely is a longer wait.

If you are like me, you love it when you just have 10 items or less, because that means you get to go through the Quick Check Out lane! It’s so much faster!

People think the position gains them influence and power. But the position comes with:
  • problems to solve
  • expectations to meet
  • responsibilities to carry
  • people to please

When you have no position, you carry few items:
  • the problems are not your problems
  • no expectations on you
  • the responsibility is not yours to carry
  • people are not looking to you 

Think about this: when you do not carry what the position comes with, you can still solve problems, you can carry some responsibility, you can exceed expectations in your current role, you can serve people.  When you hold the position and do these things, no one is impressed.  They say “well, that’s what they SHOULD be doing.  After all, they are in charge.” When you hold no position and do these things, people say “WOW! Look how they solve problems.  Look how they step in and carry responsibility.  Look how they serve people around them!  They are awesome.  They go the second mile!”

Pastor Ismael and his wife, Margarita lead through loving and serving people

Leading without having the position or platform is like walking through the “Quick Check Out Lane” at the grocery store.  It earns you people’s RESPECT, their LOVE, and their TRUST quicker than having the position gains you.  

Don’t lead with the motive of gaining position or platform.  Remember this:

Position is not given to lift you.

Position is given for you to lift up others around you.

Start leading today where you are at, before the position.  Stop leading through directing what you want others to do, and start leading through modeling what you want them to catch.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hands Off

Have you ever tried teaching a skill to someone? Ever been in charge of a project with a team and tried explaining how to do what needs done? Most people would rather just DO IT THEMSELVES.  They don’t want the aggravation of having to try to teach someone else how to do what they do.  

But teaching others what you have mastered is so valuable.  Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. to accomplish big tasks, you need a big team - you can’t do it alone
  2. you can go farther faster when you empower a team
  3. teaching others leaves your legacy in the world

OK, so if you are still reading this article, you likely are bought in to the value of teaching others what you do, what you know.  Now, I want to teach you HOW I TEACH others.  This is my philosophy of how I equip others, how I have learned is the best way to effectively get my “students” to comprehend what I am attempting to teach them.

Hands off

I have a Hands off approach to how I teach.  I learned this years ago when I first started teaching piano.  I had taken piano lessons myself since I was 5 years old all the way through college where I earned a degree in Piano Performance.  I thought to myself “teaching piano will be a breeze - I have had piano lessons all my life!” 

I remember my first student was an 8 year old boy.  His mom would sit with us as I taught him music.  This boy was excited, respectful, and motivated to learn music.  The first few lessons, I did a lot of talking and explaining about the piano.  The next few lessons, I did a lot of playing the piano, trying to show him how to play.  Then, in the last few minutes of each lesson, I would have him sit at the piano and repeat what I had been showing him.  He struggled to play, but I just chalked it up to him being young and new to the piano.  

After 2 months of lessons, the mom met with me and told me that her son was discouraged as he was not really getting what I was teaching.  She said “Matt, I wonder if you maybe had him do more playing, he may start to embrace the piano more.”   I have to admit, my first emotion inside said “hey, lady - I have my Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance.  I am a professional musician.  Don’t tell me how to teach!”  But, I remained teachable to this comment.   To please the mom and keep the boy as a student, I began taking the mother’s advice and started the lesson with the boy on the piano bench.  When I taught the song, I taught it with him in the seat in front of the keys.  I would lean over him to play the song, then immediately would have him repeat.  I would let him make mistakes.  And when he would make mistakes (wrong fingers, wrong position, wrong rhythm), I would resist the urge to correct.  I found that when the boy would sit and figure it out, he would eventually self-correct.  I would only correct when he got stuck.  The more that I would be quiet and let him get his hands on the keys, the better he would learn the song.  And…when the boy would play it right for the first time, he would look over at me with the biggest smile, looking for my approval.  I would cheer and celebrate him!

A hands off approach to teaching takes longer.  It takes incredible amounts of patience, restraint on your part as the teacher. The key to making this approach work is:

The teacher must take their hands off so the student can have their hands on

As the teacher, think of yourself as a Football Coach.  The Coach is in charge of the team.  The Coach is responsible for the team to win.  However, the Coach does not actually play in the game.  The Coach stands over on the sidelines.  In Football, the Coach does not even call all of the plays.  He lets the Quarterback take that role.  Think how stressful it is to be the Coach in charge of the team and responsible to produce a win, but he can’t go out and make the winning play! But the Coach embraces this concept: for the Coach to win, the Team has to win.  The Coach must trust his players.  He must allow the players to implement the strategy.  He must trust the Quarterback to earn the respect of the team, because it is the Quarterback who must work with the team on the field.

Let’s apply this Hands Off Teaching Approach to how you work with your team, whether it be at school, at work, or at church:

Less Teaching, More Empowering

I think I have been guilty of thinking my leadership training and my Powerpoint presentation was so great that everyone in the room should now be a great team player.  There is a place for teaching, for sure.  But what I have come to realize is that my team members get it best when they have the opportunity to lead something themselves.  Empowering does not mean just throwing them in the pool like a child who has never swam before.  But it does mean letting them swim with you close by.  People develop their “swimming muscles” when they have to swim on their own.  A teacher won’t let them drown, but an empowering teacher won’t “hold them in the water” either.  They take their hands off the child so they can truly experience the feeling of having to swim on their own.  This is empowering teaching.

Less Correcting, More Coaching

Correcting is good and necessary.  But Coaching is better.  What’s the difference? To me, it’s the timing of when you give it.  My friend, Dave Simiele is great at this.  He teaches his team at Christ Fellowship church to minimize correcting conversations on Sunday service times.  When one of his team members comes to him with a problem, he says “that’s a Monday conversation.”

What he is saying is that he would prefer to evaluate processes or correct problems during the week in private where he and team can focus on solutions with margin.  Sunday services for a Pastor is like the NFL Football game.  We need to be focused on people and focused on doing our best to make the service run smoothly.  That’s good coaching!

Less Watching, More Doing
Take your hands off the project or task, and have them put their hands on it.  Back to the piano lesson story, understand that people retain much more of what they learn when they DO, not just listen or watch.  Also, when people do something, there is a dynamic of muscle memory that comes in to play.  Once my piano students would play a musical passage correctly, I would cheer for them and then immediately have them repeat it over and over.  I wanted them to feel what playing it right felt like.  I knew they likely would forget all of the notes and rhythms, but what would help them is seeing it and feeling it several times.  When you teach something, get their hands on it.  

Whether it’s getting your team to recruit volunteers, or share a story publicly, or write out a progress report, have them do it over and over.  Point out specific things they do well, and you will find they will repeat those things.  Your team wants to be successful.  This is how you help them feel successful.  They will improve as they are hands-on in doing the work themselves.  When they get it right - cheer them on!

Teaching takes patience, insight and strategy.  But it is worth taking time to teach others what you do well.  Teaching others skills that you have mastered will turn out to be the most rewarding thing you do.  Empowering others to be successful becomes your legacy that will give greater meaning to your life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pour Out

If you have been serving in some role for a long stretch, you eventually realize the strain it puts on you personally.  Whether you serve in your church in some way, or in your neighborhood or community organization, serving is demanding and draining.  Why? What is it about serving that is demanding and draining? Is it the hours of work? Is it the manual labor? Is it the preparation? 

I have found what contributes most to the demand and drain of serving is having to work with people.  It’s a paradox, because people bring the most joy and the most meaning to why we serve.  People are the REASON WHY we serve.  Yet, interacting with people can be frustrating, hurtful, and draining.  It is not the long hours that discourage people to serve.  It is not the manual labor that frustrates people.  On the contrary, manual labor actually energizes many people and gives them a sense of immediate accomplishment.  It is the process of working with and interacting with people that drains our battery fast.

I have written many blogs on leadership because leadership is all about working with people.  And while there are many great insights in to how to understand people better so you can work better with them, this blog is focused on the sacrifice of serving.

Serving Takes Sacrifice

I have to remind myself that there is a personal sacrifice in me serving where God has called me to.  Serving is not about me.  Serving is not about fulfilling me, although the benefit of serving is that it does bless me and grow me.  Serving, by it’s very definition is about giving yourself to others.  Serving is about accommodating people.  It is about seeking to understand people and then attempting to meet their needs.  Serving is about denying your own needs and preferences for a moment so that you can take a lower position of a servant to attend to the needs and preferences of others.  

The Apostle Paul was one of the first Church Leaders in History who helped establish many churches.  Paul wrote letters to other Church Leaders to give instruction and counsel that were later included in the Bible.  Paul, with all of his proven experience and Church authority understood the serving mindset and the price of serving.  

One of the letters Paul writes is to a young, up and coming Pastor named Timothy.  Timothy was being faithful leading and caring for people in a church Paul established in the city of Ephesus.  The Apostle was in prison at this stage of his life because of sharing the message of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle by this time had traveled throughout the world preaching, starting churches with people who became new believers.  The Apostle had served people all of his life since his conversion to following Jesus.  Knowing that he would likely be executed by the Romans, Paul wanted to give Timothy and other Church Leaders one final letter on the essence of leading people.  The Apostle Paul gave this charge:

2 Timothy 4
But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.  As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.

What a picture of pouring our life out as an offering to God! If you have served faithfully, this will likely resonate with you.  When you truly serve consistently and faithfully, you literally pour out your life - your time, your gifts, your all to people.  You pour your life out at all times, not just when it feels good to you, not just when you understand the plan.  You serve when it becomes difficult, when it feels lonely, when it becomes heavy.  But you stay committed because you know you are called.  Like Paul, you are called to “fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”

Jesus Himself also used this analogy of pouring out in describing His life mission to His inner circle friends.   When Jesus was having a meal together with His Disciples, He knew soon He would be taken and beaten and killed by His enemies.  Jesus had enemies, not because He did anything wrong or selfish.  On the contrary, Jesus lived to serve others.  Jesus came to love the unlovable, to touch the untouchable.  He healed hurting people.  He forgave sinners.  Jesus brought a message of life and love.  But people in powerful positions were intimidated by Him, because He was turning people from traditional thinking.  Jesus was bringing freedom to people, and that endangered their power.  Jesus understood that there would be a sacrifice for his serving.  He would experience suffering for his serving.

Jesus used the bread and the wine at the table to illustrate the meaning of His life, to show the essence of what serving truly should look like:

Luke 22:20
..after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

The pouring concept really describes what serving feels like to me.   It is a complete surrender of self.  It is giving your all until you have nothing left to give.  It is giving yourself liberally, not holding anything back.

To pour out, you must empty yourself

But, here is the great thing about serving God!

You can never out-give God

When you pour out to people that you are called to serve, God re-fills you.  Jesus said:

“I am the Living Water.  whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life
John 4

Proverbs 11:25 makes this promise:

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

What I have learned as I have given myself to serving God and serving people I am called serve is that there is a sacrifice in serving.  There is a pouring out of my life, my emotions.  Sometimes, the people I serve do not always appreciate what I do for them.  And they do not always give back to me.  However, as I approach God with my needs and my emptiness after serving, He ALWAYS fills me up, He ALWAYS satisfies my needs.

If you are serving faithfully, be encouraged.  Keep on serving.  Keep pouring out.  Give generously from your life - do not hold back thinking that you have to reserve some back for yourself.  Whatever you pour out will be poured back in to you.

You can NEVER out-give GOD!

Monday, February 13, 2017

City Limits

I am a Pastor at Christ Fellowship, and I get to look after the Stuart Campus.  I love it!

Now, if you did not know better, you would assume that the Campus is located in Stuart, Florida.  But the truth is, the property lies just outside the city limits of the city of Stuart.  Actually, it is in unincorporated Martin County.  We call the Campus “Stuart Campus” because Stuart is a clear, known city nearby that serves as a great identity marker for all of those who live in the South Florida area.

Stuart is a great little city.  It even has it’s own Police department.  If you go outside the city limits of Stuart, and you ever needed help from Law Enforcement, you would then call upon the Martin County Sheriff’s Department.  The Stuart Police Department serves the people of Stuart and stays within the city limits.

As I was pondering this one day, I thought it served as a great picture of how leadership plays out when it comes to relationships.  

Leadership works only within the boundaries of how well relationships are developed, much like the city limits are for Stuart.

Years ago, as a young Pastor serving as the Worship Leader of my church, I was given leadership and authority over people.  My musical ability catapulted me high up as a leader, yet I did not truly understand the essence of what leadership is, how leadership works, or at least how it works best.

I remember having many conflicts with people on my team, and many challenges with having to lead the people under my care.  It seemed I was always putting out fires.  I think what I did not understand early on is that my leadership could only extend to the level of relationships I had built.

Because I was a young, ambitious leader with great ideas and vision, I tended to move fast - implementing new plans, new systems, new styles that I loved, not always what was best for the church or the people.  When someone “got in my way”, or was not on board with where I was going, I would try to “lead them” to where I thought they needed to go.  I assumed that they would follow me simply because I was their leader.  I assumed that they would not have any questions, that they would understand clearly, having no doubts or concerns.  I was here to lead, to make things great - great for me really, not necessarily for them.

I also remember trying to speak my mind to people - colleagues I was on staff with, and the leaders above me. Not only did I feel like I was not being heard, I felt like I was not connecting.  There is nothing more frustrating than to want to make your point, only to not be accepted or be understood.  It’s like beating your head against a wall, but your not getting through - you’re just hurting your head.

Through the years of being mentored and through much experience of trial and error, I have learned that the key to getting your voice heard, the secret to connecting to people so that they will follow your lead is this:

Know your City Limits

As mentioned earlier, the city of Stuart has clear signs that show where the city limits end and where unincorporated Martin County begins.   Likewise, with each relationship we manage, we need to look for the signs of the city limits.  We can only go as far with people as we have built mutual trust and mutual respect.  

Here are a few practical keys to expand out your “City Limits” with people around you to expand your leadership with them:

  1. Invest Time
The greatest way to begin the process of building a healthy relationship is to spend time with people.  Spend intentional time where you are sharing life together, sharing your hopes and dreams with one another.  
Do fun things with people.  Make memorable events and moments together.  You can do this in groups to maximize moments, but you also need to be intentional with high - capacity people and loyal people by spending one on one time with them.  In a world of automation, Social Media “Friends” lists, and using the art of delegating, a leader CANNOT DELEGATE time investment to someone else.  I would recommend planning meaningful FACE TO FACE time with your key people.  Seek them out.  
Make plans in the coming days and weeks.  For this, get out from behind your desk.  Don’t work with your Assistant to arrange this - YOU arrange this.  And make sure there are times when you are not training, not coaching, not pushing your agenda.  Your agenda can wait so that you build authentic relationship with your people.  You need to do this also with your colleagues,  and certainly with your boss, for those in leadership above you.  YOU initiate this.  It will look different than how you create it for people who serve under you.  But make sure to make time with people you serve and work with.
  1. Invest Trust
To get trustworthy people, you must give them trust.  That seems backwards, doesn’t it?  I mean, you only give trust to people who have earned trust.  Right?  I get that.  But the way to BUILD trustworthy people is to begin by offering them some trust up front.  This is a powerful concept.

Here’s why it works.  When you understand that people want to succeed, they want to please, they want to do their best, you set them up for success.  You LEND THEM TRUST and put high belief in them.  When you do this, you communicate value, respect for who they are, and you encourage them to become the great person that they can be.  This takes seeing the best in people, even before they display it.  Start finding small areas where you can empower people and trust them.  When they see that you are willing to take a risk for them, they usually will rise to the level and become trustworthy.  And they will thank you for it!

  1. Invest in their Talent
The true purpose of leadership is this: help others get where they want to go.  Help people around you be successful in their calling.  That’s it.  Leadership is not meant for you or me to be successful or look successful.  The most celebrated leaders are recognized because they are SERVANT LEADERS, serving people.  

When the people around them are successful, the Leader feels a sense of accomplishment.  Whatever your vision, whatever your mission, it must work through utilizing people’s talents, tapping in to people’s calling.  When people see that you are developing their gifts and helping them live in their calling, they will be on board with your vision.  They will embrace your mission like it is their own.  Secure Leaders are not afraid of letting people under their care shine brighter than they are.  Secure Leaders are thrilled when people rise to higher levels of accomplishment.  That is a sign of a great leader! Find ways and opportunities to feature people’s gifts and successes.  Celebrate them! Get behind them and support them.  They will always turn around and thank you for helping them reach their calling.

Passionate Leaders want to break through barriers to reach higher levels, to realize their great vision.  But wise leaders understand that they can only lead their people and influence their colleagues and those who lead them according to the boundaries of the city limits.  Outside the city limits, they have no jurisdiction, no influence.  They may try to shout orders, but people will not come along on the journey.  When the leader makes demands or threats, the people only do the minimum requirement.  They drag their feet.  They question everything.  

As you endeavor to lead people, work to expand the borders in every relationship you manage by Investing Time, Trust and investing in their Talent.  You will find that people will embrace your vision and your leadership with them!