Category Archives: Communication

An Example of Encouragement

Tony Curtis encouragment

Tony Curtis was a great encourager

As leaders and as human beings I cannot stress enough the importance of encouraging the people in your life. Your words have the power to lift people up in a far greater capacity than you may may have ever imagined. They literally can breathe life. I encourage you to actively seek ways to encourage each person in your life. Your spouse, your kids, parents, friends, business partners,staff, the grocery clerk, the waiter, the guy who changes your tires, the flight attendant, they all crave encouragement. I am not talking about empty flattery, I am talking about true compliments and encouragement. What are you grateful for in that person? What do they do well? What do they do that makes your life better?  It may not always be easy to do with every person, but if you look deep enough you will always find something good to say.  Below is article by Jud Wilhite regarding the amazing lesson of encouragement he relieved from the late Tony Curtis. encourager


Tony Curtis, the legendary actor, passed away in the Las Vegas area this week at 85. I only had a 15 minute snapshot of him, but it still inspires me to this day.

Two Christmases ago after a service, he came backstage to our green room at Central in Vegas. He wanted to see me. I came around the corner, and he grabbed my arm and pulled me down to him in is wheelchair. He told me two or three positive things that he loved about the message. He told me I had a great smile on the platform that put people at ease and helped them open their hearts. He told me I touched him, and he thanked me.

Then the host/MC walked through for that weekend. He grabbed him and told him a couple very specific things that he liked. Then he turned to some volunteer band members and remembered specific things they had done during the service and praised them personally, legitimately, uniquely. THIS IS TONY FREAKING CURTIS. He’s made about a zillion movies like Some Like It Hot and Spartacus.

We only saw him for 15 minutes, and he had poured so much courage into each of us. He gave us life by his words. He never made it about him for one moment. It was all about loving and encouraging others. When he left, I prayed that God would make me more like that.

It is amazing the kind of impact you can have in 15 minutes when you make it about others and pouring into them. Find somebody to encourage today!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”  -Proverbs 16:24
“You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”
-Jim Stovall


Mixing it up…”Electric Guitars and The Apostle’s Creed”

apostle's creed church growth

Sometimes we need to switch things up in our weekend services

When was the last time you and your team stopped to ask, “why do we do what we do in our weekend services? Is what we are doing effective at reaching the community, or is it only appealing those who have been here for ages? Do we have traditions that we preform week after week just because we always have? Is our music relevant? Is it dated, is it too loud (loud does not automatically equal good)?”

Don’t get me wrong, traditions are not automatically a bad thing. Older music, loud music, no music, drama, dance, congregational readings, none of these things are good or bad. My point is this, if what you are doing in your services is truly effective at reaching your community as well as feeding those who already attend… great! If not, maybe it is time to change some things. And sometimes you just need to switch things up in order to let some fresh air in.

Following is a recent blog entry from Mark Batterson, (lead pastor at one of the healthiest, fastest growing churches on the planet) regarding this very thing.

Electric Guitars & The Apostle’s Creed

We continued the Sabotage series this weekend. Talking about heresy. I thought you’d enjoy a study I cited. Churches founded before 1945 are more likely to recite creeds as part of worship. That isn’t surprising. But here is the part of the study I loved. Researchers found an inverse proportion between churches that use creeds and those who have electric guitars in their worship bands. We broke the trend this week by reciting the Apostle’s Creed together.

We’re always trying to mix it up and disrupt the routine. We did that this weekend by going into communion with a contemplative reading that was on the screen and coming out of communion reciting the Apostle’s Creed. Pretty cool to hear people not just recite it from left-brain memory but proclaim it because they believe it.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.

– Gail Sheely

Finding what motivates the people on your team

find what motivates

The people you work with are not copies of each other!

I have two wonderful children whom I adore.  They are fun to be with and make me laugh.  I couldn’t imagine life without them.  I have learned however, that they respond differently to my approaches to them.  They laugh at different things, respond differently to various forms of disciplined, are encouraged in different ways and are motivated by different methods.  I cannot get the same results by doing the same thing to each of them.

The same is true with those you work with – they are motivated by different things.  The way you encourage and motivate one is not the way you may do it to another.  They are different people and they have been made differently by their creator.  So it only seems logical that you would want to find the most effective method for motivating them.  These principles are true no matter the size or type of organization you lead.

Hear are a list of seven ways people are motivated.  I am confident one or more of them will fit everyone on your team.

1)  The need for achievement
Some are motivated by success.  When you give them a task and they complete it, they are ready for the next assignment.  They are primarily self-motivate and the satisfaction of accomplishments motivates them even more.

2)  The need for power
These people love to be in charge.  They are motivated by the opportunity to make decisions and direct projects.  They like to lead and persuade others.  When put in the proper balance, these individuals may become your greatest asset.

3)  The need for affiliation
These individuals derive satisfaction from interacting with others.  They enjoy people and find the social aspects of the workplace rewarding.  You can motivate people like this by giving them opportunities to serve on a team, task force group and so on.

4)  The need for autonomy
These people want freedom and independence.  If you can trust them, then you allow them to set their schedules and make a variety of choices.  They work better independently and will produce more if allow them to operate on their own.

5)  The need for esteem
These individuals simply find motivation from praise and recognition.  Give them ample feedback and public recognition and they will stay motivated and become great producers for you.

6)  The need for safety and security
These people crave dependability.  They want a steady income, health insurance and the security to know that they will be taken care of.  They most likely will not be your risk takers, but if you give them a sense of security they will be loyal and productive.

7)  The need for equity
These people want to be treated fairly.  They are most likely to compare work hours, benefits, pay, offices and privileges.  Treat them fairly and they will treat you with great results.

Until next week,

Chris Sonksen

“The person who knows “how” will always have a job. The person who knows “why” will always be his boss.”
Diane Ravitch

When Dealing with Difficult People

Dealing with difficult people

Don't give them the satisfaction of lowering yourself to their standard.

Regardless of your profession, you will always deal with difficult people. People that rub you the wrong way, get under your skin and stand on your last nerve. People that bring more joy into your life when they exit the room, then when they enter. The question is not whether you will have these people in your life; the question is how you will handle it?

In dealing with these types of people the objective is not about who is winning or losing or who is right or wrong. The objective is about understanding. Stephen Covey once wrote, “Seek first to understand, before trying to be understood.” These words possess the solution to dealing with difficult people. Because even when a person is wrong, they still felt there was a reason for them to get upset.

Here are a few tips that may help you when dealing with difficult people:

1) Don’t join the fight
Difficult people can often yell, be sarcastic, be critical, and say harsh words to you or about you. Do not join in their game. Don’t give them the satisfaction of lowering yourself to their standard. You have to do what’s right even when they do what’s wrong.

2) Let them talk their feelings out

They may need to vent a little and you may need to listen. You may not agree or you may feel they’re in the wrong, but their emotions won’t be satisfied until they’re expressed.

3) Seek to understand
Why is it that they act the way they act? What is it inside of them that creates this problem? Are they insecure? Do they need recognition? Are they hurt from a past relationship? People act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs about themselves. Understand this and it will help you along in the process.

4) Ask them for advice
People love to hear themselves talk and they love it even more if their opinion is being valued. If there is a problem, ask them what they feel the solution is and what steps need to be taken to resolve the problem. Even if their solution makes no logical sense, it will allow them to be involved in the resolving process.

5) Apologize when necessary
You need to take a hard look inside of yourself and discover if there is anything that is creating a problem or causing difficulty for the person. A good leader always looks in the mirror before they look out the window. What part of the problem might you be contributing?  Is there anything that you could own and take responsibility for?

People are your greatest asset and it’s your job as their leader to keep your people moving forward with optimistic energy. People are going to be difficult, personalities are going to clash, because that is a part of life. But, if you will work hard at working with people, then people will work hard for you!

Until next week,

Chris Sonksen

“Instead of giving people a piece of your mind, give them a piece of your positive attitude.”

– Ben Franklin

Some more thoughts on Bringing Clear Vision to the Organization You Lead

Clear vision

Clarify your Organization's Vision

Can you imagine deciding that you want to build a home on a piece of property that you have purchased?  So you begin to search out a builder who you can hire to build you the dream home of your life.  You find that individual  and you hire him on the spot.  A few days later, you are driving by your land and you see your builder beginning the process of building.  He hasn’t shown you any blueprints or architectural design.  You have not made any decisions on what the house will look like, how many rooms, how big the kitchen will be, what the entrance of the home will look like, not one decision has been made, he just starts building.

How crazy would that be?  To start building a home without having any plans.  No one in their right mind would ever do this.  Why would you attempt such an important task without any direction, plan or process?  We wouldn’t allow this in the building of our home, but we allow it in the building of our organization.  Many leaders are guilty of leading their organizations without any true blueprint or any clear plan or process.

A while back, we discussed the two major questions every organization must ask themselves:

a)    What is the purpose of this organization?
b)    What is the process?

Two very simple questions, yet uniquely profound.  What is the purpose of the organization you lead and what is the process.  If your company is a contractor, insurance agency or something in the mortgage industry, what is the purpose and what is the process?  Maybe your organization is a church, then the question is the same, what is the purpose and what is the process.  Is it clear?  Is it precise?  Is it easily understood by those who hear it?  Does your leadership know it?

I was recently consulting a church that was creating a purpose statement and they said “They existed to improve life.”  They wanted the purpose of the church to be about improving.  They wanted those who came to their church to experience improvement in every area of their life including: financial, spiritual, relational and emotional.  It was a clear and precise purpose that could easily be shared with someone.

Then they added to that purpose by creating a process.  They said we want three things to happen.  For people to “Connect, Grow and Serve.”  They wanted people to “Connect with God” during their worship services, to “Grow” by getting involved in what they called small groups and they wanted people to “Serve” in a volunteer role at their church.  They felt that this was a simple process that would accomplish their purpose.  If people would Connect, Grow and Serve then their life would improve.  Simple purpose and a simple process.

Can you do that?  Can you say in just a few words the purpose of your organization and the process by which you accomplish the purpose?  Work on that this week with your key leaders.  Discover your purpose and your process.  The clarity that will come from this could potentially change your organization forever.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“To be simple is to be great.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Marketing Your Church

Get the word Out

Marketing Helps Get the Word Out About your Church

Mark Batterson, one of our Celera group coaches and author of Wild Goose Chase, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, and Primal recently had this post on his blog regarding church marketing.  I feel that the article needs no further introduction other than to say that I fully agree with Mark, and that we at South Hills also use many forms of marketing to reach our community.

The Greatest Marketing

I have a core conviction: the greatest message deserves the greatest marketing. It’s shameful that Madison Avenue and Hollywood are better at marketing their often meaningless messages than the church is at marketing the gospel.

I know “marketing” is a dirty word for some. So if you are offended by that word, insert compel as in “compel them to come in”–Luke 14:23. Let me put it in these terms: I don’t want anybody living near one of our locations to be able to deny our existence. Obviously, word of mouth is the best form of marketing. I think our last survey showed that 86% of NCCers came because a friend invited them. So it’s all about friends inviting friends. But I also think we’ve got to find creative ways to consistently let people know we exist.

Those different devices range from technology (radio) to social media (facebook) to good old fashion methods (mailers). I think we ought to be using any and every means available to us to invite people to church and invite people to Christ.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“The world calls it marketing. The Bible calls it evangelism.”

– Mac Richard of Lake Hills Church, Texas

Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? Part 1

Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader and leadership

How often do we make mistakes that are not much smarter than 5th graders?

The Fox Network has a T.V. game show titled “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”  The game is hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy and the game works like this.  Adult contestants have to answer a series of questions that are found in the text books of elementary age students ranging from 1st- 5th grade.  The more questions they can answer the more money they can win.  There is also a small panel of actual 5th graders that the adult contestant can call upon (only 3 times during the game) for help.  The humor of the show is that the 5th graders have the correct answer more often than the adults.  A matter of fact, the 5th graders rarely miss a question.  When the contestant doesn’t reach the million dollar prize, he or she must look into the camera and say “I am not smarter than a 5th grader.”

While watching the show recently I began to think about the title in the context of leadership.  How often do we make mistakes that are not much smarter than 5th graders?  As I talk to leaders everywhere, I am amazed by some of their stories of foolish decisions and actions made in the corporate world.  These foolish mistakes have been made by all of us, including me.  I have listed some things you can do to help you avoid the most common leadership blunders.

1)  Focus on more than yourself

Often leaders make the mistake (consciously or sub-consciously) of focusing on their personal gain and what is best for them.  A true leader is not only concerned about their well being but also shows great concern about the individuals and organization they lead.  William Rando, who runs the Office of Teaching Fellow Preparation and Development,” at Yale University said that you must always ask, “What are my students going to do today?”  He was simply expressing his intelligent opinion that if you are going to lead you must be concerned about the life of those you are responsible to lead.

2)  Praise publicly and reprimand privately

Sometimes a weak leader will attempt to flex his or her authority muscle by reprimanding publicly rather then privately.  Don’t make this mistake.  You don’t want to degrade the people on your team.  Make it a practice to praise them publicly.  Be generous about your praise.  It doesn’t cost you anything and the pay back is great.  Also, when reprimanding, do it privately.  There is no need to make a spectacle of the person in whom you are dealing with.

3)  Be clear about the process and purpose of your organization

On a recent trip to Disneyland with my family, I was once again, impressed with this incredible company.  The cleanliness is outstanding, the atmosphere is wonderful but above all I am impressed with the clarity of purpose and of process.  The purpose of Disney is for families to come and enjoy a clean, safe environment, but the processes are obviously clear as well.  The entire organization from parking, to trams, to the entering and exiting of the lines is all a process designed to support the purpose.  What a lesson for all of us who hold the position of a leader.  Make your purpose and process clear so that the entire organization can follow.  You want everyone to repeat that purpose and process in a matter of seconds and to keep the leaders and the organization focused on them.  Failing to do this is a mistake that many leaders make.  They make the assumption that because it may be clear in their head that it is clear and simple to everyone else.  Try this out right now.  Take a small napkin and pretend that you are explaining your purpose and process of the organization to someone who has never seen it.  Can it fit on a napkin?  Can you articulate it in a matter of seconds?  If your answer is, “No” to any of these questions then you probably need to re-think your purpose and process through.  It must be clear and simple.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

“You don’t know anything clearly unless you can state it in writing.”
S.I. Hayakawa

Becoming a “Master Communicator” With Your Team


Make sure that you are having enough face time with your team members.

Studies show that one of the top reasons for divorce among couples in America is poor communication.  This problem with communication is that it not only creates problems in marriages, but it creates problems in the workforce as well.  Learning to communicate with your team sounds easy in theory but is much more difficult for leaders to accomplish than most would think.

It is important for you, regardless of the kind of team you lead or the size of team you lead, that you lead that team from a point of strong, clear and healthy communication.  Here are some ways you can become a “Master Communicator” to the team you lead:

1)  Don’t try to sound “managerial”
You may have some preconceived notion of how a manager should talk, but confident leaders don’t adopt jargon to impress staff and team.   Our message can often get lost in our attempts to sound managerial or knowledgeable.  Be yourself, don’t be a carbon copy of someone else’s idea of what a strong leader sounds like.

2)  Talk with – rather than at – people
People in positions of power often make the mistake of talking “at” others in a direct, abrasive manner.  Telling your team members what you know and displaying your experiences, while forgetting to listen to the opinions of others could cost you leadership credibility.  Stay clear of the “I know this and you don’t” tone.  It is an out of date dictatorship style that will never persuade your team member to loyalty or longevity.

3)  Speak without judging
There are times when the hammer needs to drop and you need to drop it, but the majority of the time you must learn to be more persuasive than abrasive.  You can accomplish this by learning to speak to someone without judging them.  This critical approach will move your team closer to you rather than, pushing them farther away from you.

4)  Don’t disguise direct order as suggestions
Don’t say “This is only a suggestion,” when you mean, “Do it this way or else.”  You will only confuse the team member.  They’ll quickly conclude that they receive more credit when they use your ideas than when they rely on their own.  I am not suggesting for you to be a dictator but when you feel that you need to be direct…be direct.

5)  Limit e-mail
Although technology can make us more efficient, it can also make your team feel less connected to you.  Corresponding primarily through email has a tendency to alienate the needed face to face moments that build the relationships among your team.  I am not saying not to use e-mail, it is a great tool, just evaluate yourself and make sure that you are having enough face time with your team members.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths
rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”
John D. Rockefeller

Connecting with Visitors

receptionist on phone

Follow Through is Key in Connecting with Visitors

Statistics show that the majority (91% on average) of the first time visitors to your church will never return. There are many reasons for this…

  • not feeling welcome
  • uninteresting services
  • child care issues

One main reason is simply lack of follow through on our part.  I recently came accross this article at

Does Your Church Use Welcome or Visitor Cards?

September 24, 2009 by Bill · 1 Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized

Does your church use welcome cards or visitor cards for people new to your church? They can be a key tool to help you connect with new people in your church.

I have attended many different churches over the years and have found that not all churches use welcome cards or visitor cards. By welcome and visitor cards I mean the cards that allow a visitor to fill in their details if they want to know more, or if they want to be contacted.

The most basic of these cards, which are also the least imposing, ask for the visitors name, phone number and more recently e-mail address. Some of the more detailed cards can also ask for prayer requests, what information the person is interested in, marital / family status, address and more. My personal preference is a card that sits sort of in the middle, with all the details on the basic card, plus a section for prayer requests and possibly asking what sort of information the person wants to know. The additional information can always be found out later.

I reckon that a lot of the time the person who fills out a card is not a new visitor. They are often a person who has attended the church a few time, and now is ready to learn more and want to engage more with the church. Well, at least that’s how I have always used them.

Follow Up is Key

One of the keys to making the best use of your welcome and visitor cards is to follow up with the people who fill them out. If you don’t follow up on them then the cards are really not even worth the paper they are printed on…

A few months ago I attended a church with some friends. I filled in the visitor sheet because I wanted to learn more and they had the option to join the pastor for a pizza lunch. I had been following the pastor’s blog for a while and thought I would be really interested in learning more about the church and the pastor.

Unfortunately there was never any follow up from that church. I had to wonder if the lack of follow up happened often and how many people were never able to connect at that church and went searching elsewhere.

The visitor card or welcome card can be a key tool that you use to connect with people new to your church. If used incorrectly though it can isolate and actually push people away.

So, ask yourself this, “how well are we following up with visitors?”

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“When you get right down to the root of the meaning of the word “succeed,” you find that it simply means to follow through.”

– F.W. Nichol

Creating a Pleasant Work Environment

happy team

Happy People are Productive People

Disneyland has a slogan “The happiest place on earth.”  Wouldn’t that be a great slogan for your team or company – that your place of work is the “happiest place on earth?”  What do you think your fellow team members or staff feels about the work environment that has been created?  Would they describe the climate of your company as the “happiest place on earth?”

Happy people are productive people.  If you want to your people to be productive, creative, loyal, hard working and full of life and energy, then it is essential to create the healthiest, happiest environment possible.  People work better under the right conditions.  You win, your staff wins, and your customers win…everyone wins!

Here are a few tips to help you create “The happiest place on earth:”

• Be less inclined to give advice and more inclined to take it.
Create an environment that is receptive to advise from others, rather then so quick to give it out.  By doing this you will develop individuals who desire to grow and value the voice of others.

• Identify great qualities in others.
This can be difficult especially with those who are difficult to get along with, but you can do it.  Find the unique qualities with those in your circle.  Applaud those qualities privately and publicly.  Create an environment where people seek the best not the worst.

• Go out of your way to show appreciation.
Be gracious with your words.  Say things like:  “thank you,” “good job,” “I appreciate all you do,” “you make this a great place to work,” and “we couldn’t do it without you.”  Think about it for a moment – words shape lives, add value to people, set the tone and, the greatest thing of all, words are free!

• Promise only what you can deliver
The environment must be one of trust and mutual respect.  This kind of environment is difficult to create if you have people that don’t deliver on their promises.  Be a person of your word… someone that others can count on.

• Have fun
Do something out of the ordinary and have fun.  Shut down the office and take everyone bowling or miniature golfing.  Take everyone out for an afternoon ice cream or to a movie.  Do something fun and out of the ordinary 2-3 times a year and your people will begin to notice the difference.

If you want to create an environment of productivity and creativity, then you will need to make your place of work “the happiest place on earth.”  Enjoy, get creative and think outside of the box.  I promise that if you work hard at making a happy place, your staff will work even harder for you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
– George Bernard Shaw