Category Archives: influence

Equipping the Smaller Church for Growth

equip small church

Helping to Equip Small Churches

Here at Celera it is our goal to “Raise the national average of church attendance.” We do this by equipping and resourcing pastors and churches around the country and now extending globally. Dan Reiland is one of our Celera coaches and is also the Executive Pastor at 12 Stone Church in Georgia.  Dan recently wrote the below article regarding equipping churches to grow and more effectively function as a church in reaching people for Christ. He lays out great instructions, that if followed your church will grow.

“Equipping in the Smaller Church”
by Dan Reiland

“Preach and visit.” Does that sound familiar to you? That’s not only the framework of ministry in thousands of smaller churches, it is the expectation. Teaching the Word of God and shepherding the congregation is obviously a good thing. How that gets done is another thing entirely.

In many smaller church settings the pastors come and go every few years and the board and key leaders “run” the church. There is an obvious expectation for the pastor to teach on Sunday morning, visit the sick and provide pastoral care for the members. I’ve actually seen this in job descriptions, including “the board will take care of the direction and business of the church.”

I’m not writing with an edge. My reference to good volunteer leaders who love their pastor(s) and are fully dedicated to their church. They love God and work hard in their church. These are good churches, doing good things, but they remain small. Even that isn’t bad or wrong by itself, but if we are honest about it, God does intend for churches to grow.

One of the primary ways to help a church grow is to equip (train) the people to serve in the church and release the pastor to get other things done, including partnering with the board in the real “running” (leadership) of the church. This process increases the “muscle” of the church, making the church stronger and increasing its capacity to reach more people. The picture is simple. One person can pick up 50 pounds, one hundred people can pick up 5,000 pounds.

Change your thinking

Your church is on the right track if more than just the faithful few begin to serve. But here’s the big test. If you hear people say “I’m helping Pastor with his ministry” (or statements like that), the congregation doesn’t yet have the right idea and equipping will never find it’s true place in your church.

Ephesians 4:11-13 makes it clear that the Pastor is the one to help the people accomplish their work in ministry! “11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

As the pastor, your job is to build up the people and train them for meaningful ministry. It’s not about getting people to “get stuff done”. The big idea is about building up the body of Christ and developing spiritual maturity. When you, the staff, and key leaders believe this biblical principle, it can then be taught to the congregation. And more than taught, it needs to become part of the DNA of your church, meaning literally, part of who you are.

Change your approach

Don’t be the hero, be the coach. As you saw in Ephesians 4, the pastor functions more like the coach who is responsible to train his team to win, rather than being the star of the team. It’s very tempting to listen to the people tell you how good your sermon was, and tell you that they don’t know what they would have done without your presence in the last crisis they experienced. If that sounds like your experience, I’m glad you love your people, but your ministry will grow exponentially if you stop trying to do everything, and train others to serve.

Don’t ask the people to help, instead, invite them to participate in what God has planned for them. If, for example, you print in the bulletin that you are desperate for helpers in the nursery, the congregation will experience that in a negative way. (You don’t have to use the word desperate for the people to feel it that way.) Some churches force people to “work” in the nursery, if they want to use the nursery. I have a better suggestion. Invite people to participate in the big vision that God has in mind through the personal expression He has planned for each person. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it clear. “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

When you invite people to ministry, invite big. If you see people through the eyes of God you will see more potential, believe in them and empower them for greater responsibility. It’s usually wise to give a little responsibility at a time, but don’t hold back if someone is doing well. Make the people the hero’s. Brag on them from the platform on Sundays. Tell stories of how lives are being changed because the people are rising up and serving!

Change your practice

Start with the big picture in mind. Work yourself out of a job. That’s not literal, but almost. Working yourself out of a job doesn’t mean that you surrender overall spiritual leadership, communication on Sunday mornings, responsibility for raising money in the church (stewardship), and responsibility as primary evangelist. But there are dozens of other things you can give away, and should!

You can do some of this by one on one coaching. Take people with you when you do ministry and show them how. From printing the bulletin to visiting people in the hospital, they can do it! Candidly, there is very little the people in your church can’t do. It starts with you seeing them differently. They may not all be “10” leaders. Start with what you have. This is what God has given you. Grow them up and train them! You might be surprised how well the people you have can serve and lead!

You can also do this in groups. (large and small) Help people in your congregation discover their spiritual gifts. There are many spiritual gifts tests available today. I’ve written one that you can get from injoy.com. Pick one that you like and get it in the hands of your people. Let your congregation know the opportunities available. Don’t “beg” for someone to assume the student ministry. Cast vision for someone to make a difference in the next generation! If you need several ushers, let them know how vital this role is to the preparation of a moment that God will speak to the people during a Sunday service. You get the idea!

Let people experiment with different ministries. If they know they are not locked-in for life, they are more apt to try more options and find the one they truly love. Make sure they get the training they need, encourage them much and thank them often for all they do.

This process doesn’t take place overnight, especially if your congregation 20 years old or more. It requires an intentional approach that might take you a good 12-18 months before you begin to see real change in the congregation. So, don’t look for quick and easy results. One sermon won’t do it. Stay in the game. Get the key leaders on board with you and begin the incredible ride of multiplying your leadership by equipping the church to serve.

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.”
– Lyndon B. Johnson

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Coach John Wooden and the Choice of Character

Coach John Wooden - Character

Coach John Wooden was a man of great character

We are getting closer to the release of my new book Handshake. Chapter Six of Handshake is a tribute to the late, great John Wooden. He was an inspiration to thousands during and beyond his several decades of coaching. His character set a precedent to all who knew him. I look forward to your comments.

Coach John Wooden – Character

Coach John Wooden set a standard for a winning tradition.  He has left a legacy of coaching, teaching and motivating others to become everything they possibly could be.  He is a leader and he knows how to rally people to success.

However, there is one characteristic that has set him apart; one fundamental belief that has served as a pillar in his personal and professional life.  Simply put… Coach John Wooden is a person of character.  He was quoted as saying, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are; your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Think about it for a moment.  There are so many attributes that you could consider when speaking of Coach John Wooden.  You could talk about his winning tradition, the need for possessing a positive attitude, or team building.  You could easily talk about the importance of adding value to others, and lifting the lid of potential to those of whom you associate.  The list could go on and on regarding the qualities found in Coach John Wooden and the lessons we could learn about success.  However, the one that stands out above the rest is character.  You see it’s his character that has become the foundation by which all the other successes have been built.

In this Chapter you will learn the benefits of choosing character as a foundation for your life. Benefits such as…

1) Clear conscience
2) Builds trust
3) Higher quality of relationships
4) Greater success


Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, sensitive or assertive, but about a set of attributes. First and foremost is character”
— Warren Bennis

Handshake – Howard Schultz and the Choice of Adding Value to Others

Howard Schultz employee

Howard Schultz makes adding value a priority

Adding Value to others is crucial in every area of your life, business, family, friends and even the stranger you meet today. Adding value to others is always reflected back to you.  This next excerpt from my new book Handshake is on Howard Schultz and the priority he gave to valuing everyone in the Starbucks organization.

Between 1987 and 1992, Starbucks, under Schultz, opened 150 new stores.  By September of 2009 Schultz was operating stores in more than 50 countries, through more than 16,000 stores around the world.

Schultz always said that the main goal was, “to serve a great cup of coffee.”  But attached to this goal was a principle:  Schultz said he wanted “to build a company with soul.”  This led to a series of practices that were unprecedented in retail.  Schultz insisted that all employees working at least 20 hours a week get comprehensive health coverage.  Then he introduced an employee stock-option plan.  These moves boosted loyalty and led to extremely low worker turnover.

… Starbucks has achieved what many thought impossible under the umbrella that if you add value to people, value will be added to you.  In a society that is self-driven, adding value to people may seem like a waste of time. Those who think that way have no clue to the power that comes from this practice.  When you determine to be “others” minded, you have made a decision that will alter your life.

Listed are some of the benefits you will learn in this chapter regarding adding value to those around you:

a)    You deposit success into others

b)    You build your network

c)    You build loyalty

d)    You build longevity

e)    You create a winning atmosphere

f)    You increase your level of influence

g)    You will receive a great return on your investment

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.
— Flora Edwards

Life Lessons for All Higher Ground Seekers

Higher ground statue

Keep climbing to higher ground.

Exerts from: In Search of Higher Ground

Regardless of what mountain you are setting out to climb, you are going to be faced with challenges. Marriage has its challenges, but it’s a great experience. Parenting has its difficulties, but there’s nothing like the love from a child. Standing in front of a crowd and receiving a degree is wonderful, but it is preceded by hard work and a variety of challenges. The freedom that comes from owning your own successful business is terrific, but it does not come without its share of problems. Any Higher Ground goal you have for your life will have its share of problems.

I have been privileged to be a part of wonderful projects in my life. Some have failed, some have succeeded, but all have had their challenges. The climb has never been perfect for me or for anyone I know. The problem is that many individuals start off with good intentions of reachiing their goals, but the give up too quickly. Hershey Walker, the famous NFL runningback, said, “My God given talent is my ability to stick with something longer that anyone else.”  That’s what it takes to achieve your desires. You must be willing to work hard and stick it out. It is not necessarily your talent or ability that gets you to the top, it is your tenacious spirit that never gives up. I have found that people tend to give up early in the climb for one of two reasons:

1. FEAR

I have talked about this before, but it bears repeating that fear keeps us from climbing. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, and/or fear of what others may say or think. Fear of not having enough talent, ability or education. Fear attacks our minds, grips our heart, and chokes potential from our life. Fear is a funny thing. It’s being afraid of something that has not happened and has not been proven. It’s like a child being afraid of the dark. When my little girl was a toddler, she didn’t want me to shut the lights off. I sat down beside her and said, “Close your eyes.” She closed them tightly and then I asked, “What do you see?” “Nothing,” she said. Then I said, “Open your eyes,” she did and then I asked her, “Now how can you be afraid of nothing.” In search of higher ground Now that sounds like a logical point, unfortunately it didn’t work, the light stayed on. As adults, we fear what we cannot see or cannot predict, but we allow this fear to control us like helpless children. Next time you are overcome by fear, remember the words of John L. Mason, “Tell fear to go jump in the lake.”

2. FAILURE

Another reason people give up on the climb to the top is because of failure. Something didn’t go right, a plan fell through, and rather than pick ourselves up and continue climbing, we throw in the towel and let failure get the best
of us. Charles Goodyear purchased an Indian rubber life preserver out of curiosity. He began to experiment with the idea of making a weatherproof type of rubber. It was a known fact that the rubber would become hard as stone in the cold weather or melt in the hot weather.

Mr. Goodyear sank all his money into experimenting with this rubber. For five years he worked at this project. In fact, his family sacrificed their standard of living because of Mr. Goodyear’s obsession with his experiment. Finally, after thousands of dollars and countless hours, his experiment worked. He figured out a way to make a weatherproof rubber. Out of humiliation, hardship and defeat, Charles Goodyear won. He turned failure into success and defeat into victory all because he wouldn’t allow failure to be the final answer in his life.

Your climbing companions may let you down

There is nothing like the joy of having people climb with you on your way to the top. I have dedicated an entire chapter to this concept, and I have dedicated my life to help others succeed and to be climbing companions with me. There is such a joy to journey with others, to experience the ups and downs of life with people who share a common purpose with you. Over the years I have been honored to partner with incredible people. I have brought out the best in them and they have brought out the best in me. I love working with my staff, being their friends, partners in purpose, and being each others’ greatest fans. However, the reality is that along the way people are going to hurt you. There are people that you will pour your life into and they will, in the end, bring pain to your heart.

Realizing that people will let you down, you must determine before you ever journey to the top, that your faith in the human spirit will not be shaken. You cannot allow yourself to ever become isolated, because part of the joy in your journey is partnership, and sharing the experience with others! You cannot determine that because people let you down, that you must do it all yourself. When someone attempts to do it all themselves, they limit their effectiveness. You cannot accomplish more work with less people, and in addition you will rob yourself of the joy that’s found in helping others succeed. Finally, because people will let you down, you will be tempted to doubt others. You will begin to feel that people cannot be trusted. The result will be that your relationships with other climbing companions will always be limited because the shadow of doubt in the human spirit will be lingering in your heart. People will let you down…but never stop believing in others and never determine that your journey will be better if traveled alone.

Enjoy the scenery

My good friend Wes Beavis once said to me, “Chris, remember that the path you are on is a marathon not a sprint, it is a journey not a destination.” He was encouraging me at a time in my life where I was so focused on tomorrow that I was not enjoying today. I must admit that I fall into this trap quite often. I will find myself so focused on the future, and as soon as the future becomes the present, I focus on the future again. It is a trap that robs me of the joy of life. I must constantly be reminded by those closest to me to keep reaching forward in the race, but don’t forget to enjoy it.

Remember, that although we want to obtain our goals to see our dreams become reality and to be known as a Higher Ground climber, we must never become so busy with our futures that we forget the present. There are marriages that need to be nurtured and children who desperately need our attention. There are friendships that need to be cultivated, love that needs to grow, and joy that needs to blossom. Our Creator did not make us to be so over burdened by life that it robs us of the joy of living.

I am thankful for my wife and two children, who have a perfect way of lifting me to Higher Ground while keeping my feet on Solid Ground. My wife wants me to succeed, but never allows me to forget what really matters in life. She helps me remember what I always say to others, “No one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time at the office.” Let me encourage you to keep reaching for Higher Ground, but never forget to water your own ground -the ground you call home, family, and friends. Water them with your love and affection, and your journey to the top will never lack the joy your life was meant to have.

If you keep climbing, eventually you’ll make it

Life has a way of clearing a path for the Higher Ground seeker. For those who want to be more, do more, see more, and become more, life holds a special door open that leads them to the top. Every person who has accomplished something great or has seen their dreams lived out, has faced their challenges, but has found the timeless truth that if you keep climbing, eventually you’ll make it to the top.

Throughout the course of my life I have seen this truth lived out in me. I have watched with my own eyes how a path seems to open up whenever I become determined to reach Higher Ground. The key however is in the phrase “keep climbing.” It’s the ability to move forward and upward and never ever stop reaching. There is an old Christmas cartoon where the characters sing a song that says, “Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out that door.” You can change the words for your own inspiration and say, “If I put one foot in front of the other, eventually I’ll make it to the top.” Cosider this, if you don’t out one foot in frount of the other, it’s a garentee that you won’t get anywhere. If you’re a Higher Ground seeker, your only choice is to march forward and upward…so keep marching!

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

Set your course towards the top of the mountain where your dreams have been waiting for you. Brush away the dust of insecurity and fear and wipe away the filth of a failed past and begin to see clearly all that you once thought impossible. It is only then that you can breathe life into your dreams! Destiny awaits you, so embrace it with all your might! Stay focused, march forward and never settle. Our personal paths may never cross, but if we set our sights at the top I am confident that we will see each other on Higher Ground.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach.”

– John Muir

When it’s scary… don’t look down.

staying on Higher ground

Those on Higher Ground will make courageous decisions

Excerpt from: In search of Higher Ground

There are many lessons to be learned from individuals throughout history who have displayed great Courage. From the forefathers who founded this country as, “One nation under God,” they had Courage. To the many men and women in the armed forces who have given their lives for their country, they have had Courage. For the Firefighters and Police Officers who have given their lives to protect and serve others, they have had Courage. For entrepreneurs, dreamers, and  inventors who have shaped  our country’s free enterprise, they have had Courage. For the great leaders our nation has and have had in the past, they have had Courage.

Courage is a great thing! For anyone who has a personal Higher Ground, courage is not an option, it is a must. Whatever mountain you are climbing, whatever dream you are dreaming, Courage must be something that is placed in your backpack as you journey up to this place we have called Higher Ground. Courage is what causes you to blast through the obstacles and opposition you will face. Courage keeps you going when nothing else will. It is the antidote to your fear and the prescription to your insecurities. Your success in life will be marked by the amount of Courage you have. Without Courage this country does not have freedom. Without Courage this nation does not have peace. Without Courage, electricity would not have been discovered, cars would not be driven, and airplanes would be a word that would only be foreign to you and me. Without Courage television would not have been made, Disneyland would have never existed, companies would have never began, and a man would have never walked on the moon. Courage built our country and it will build your dreams and help you reach Higher Ground.

In my own life, Courage is what has kept me going when facing different obstacles and pressures. Many times fear grips my heart and uncertainty of the future causes me to doubt, but it is Courage that keeps me going. Courage at the very core is always the same. What I mean is that it does not matter who you are or what dream you are attempting to live out, there is a kind of Courage that is necessary for everyone. The kind of Courage I am speaking about is the same kind necessary to be the President of the United States in times of crisis. The same kind of Courage that an owner of a company must have when facing difficulty. The same kind of Courage necessary for you to reach your highest potential or for you to make a dream a reality. Let me break it down for you and show you how Courage is lived out for someone like you who is seeking Higher Ground.

As I have mentioned before, the church where I Pastor is in the middle of a building project. Anyone who has been part of any building project knows that there are several challenges that are faced each day. One of the greatest challenges is finances. A great deal of money is necessary to buy the land and to build. A church is a non-profit organization so raising funds can become very difficult. Finding lenders who will finance your project can become extremely difficult.

There have been many times that we have continued our journey even though we could not see the road in front of us. Hiring architects and engineers before we owned the land, because we knew that for various reasons we needed to move quickly. Moving forward with our permit process without having all the financing in place. The list goes on and on of various times in which the road was unclear, but we needed to move forward. That’s where Courage comes in. Courage to move forward even when things are a little unclear. Most people make the mistake of waiting until there is no risk involved before they proceed. They create the largest safety net possible and wait for all questions to be answered before continuing their journey up the mountain. I agree with President Lincoln when he said, “Good things come to those who wait, but only what’s left over by those who hustle.”

Every great leader, dreamer, inventor, founder or Higher Ground seeker has to have the courage to make the tough decisions. Sometimes we are blessed with the luxury of waiting, contemplating, and seeking advice. Other times the decision must be made immediately and you have to have the courage to make it. That is not an easy thing to do, because no one wants to be wrong. However, the reality in decision making is part of the process for anyone who is on the road to Higher Ground. It has been recorded that former President Eisenhower nearly blew it on D-Day because of his fear to make a tough decision immediately. Before his decision to react he was quoted as saying, “No matter what the weather looks like, we have to go ahead now. Waiting any longer could be even more dangerous. So let’s move it!” He proved himself a great leader when he made the toughest decision in his military career and he made it quickly.

Throughout my life there have been tough decisions that had to be made. Sometimes I was right but often I have been wrong. That’s part of decision making, you gather the information you can, seek the advice that’s available, and you make the decision with courage. I have found that the right decision can become wrong when it is made too late.

Edmund C. Lynch, the founding partner of Merrill Lynch, said, “If I made a decision fast, I was right 60% of the time. If I made a decision carefully, I’d be right 70% of the time, but it was always worth it.” You are not always going to be right. When you are wrong, admit it. Correct it if possible and move forward, but do not be afraid to make the next tough decisions that comes your way. T. Boone Pickens once said, “Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader. Don’t fall victim to what I call the ‘ready, aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome.’ You must be willing to fire.”

Years ago, I was put in one of those situations where I had to make a tough decision. The decision centered around the standards that need to be lived out by my staff and leaders. As I shared these guidelines with my staff and leaders, it was received well by most, however, there were one or two individuals who struggled with the guidelines. They met with me and shared their opinions, but I knew in my heart the decision I made was the right one. Looking back, I would have made the same decision, but I would have approached it differently. Unfortunately, one of the individuals left my leadership and the organization as a whole. I deeply regret this person’s decision because I care for them and enjoyed their contribution to the team. Tough decisions are part of being a leader and part of the journey toward Higher Ground. Bill Marriott Sr. expressed his view of decision making by saying, “Men grow making decisions and assuming the responsibilities for them.” Be willing to admit when you are wrong, but never lack the courage to make the tough decision.

David Mahoney said that the worst mistakes he ever made were because of the decisions he failed to make. In 1966 he was the head of Canada Dry. The stock was selling at a low price of $11 per share and with about 2.5 million shares outstanding, he could have bought the entire company for $30 million. About twenty years later, he would have been worth about $700 million.
The decisions a person seeking Higher Ground has to make will include:
• FINANCIAL,
• PERSONAL,
• STAFFING,
• VISION,
• MISSION,
• HIRING,
• FIRING,
• RISK TAKING,
…and the list goes on.

You gather the information possible, seek advice when available, but don’t be afraid to make the decision necessary. Courage to make the tough call will quickly mark you as a leader or follower, it will separate you from being a dreamer to being a doer, from a mountain observer to a mountain climber.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.”
– Win Borden

Encouraging Leadership

Encourage team

Encouragement provides the emotional fuel that enables people to hold longer, reach farther and dig deeper .

In a recent article Dan Reiland perfectly articulated  important role encouragement plays in the life of any true leader. I have found these principles true of any great leader I have ever been in contact with. It is one of the key qualities of a good leader, and so, I encourage you to be an encourager.

“51% of Leadership”

Encouragement provides the emotional fuel that enables people to hold longer, reach farther and dig deeper than previously believed possible. Encouragement is 51% of leadership. As a leader, your role is to lift people, to build them up and help them believe in themselves in a way greater than they have before. So let me ask you a question. Do others see you as an encourager?

Encouragement imparts courage. My call to ministry came from the highly encouraging leadership of Dr. Orval Butcher, then pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church located in a suburb of San Diego, CA. Pastor Butcher believed in me, perhaps more than I believed in myself at that time. I was a Criminal Justice Administration major in college, but God spoke to Pastor about a different plan for my life. I didn’t have enough faith or courage to hear God for myself in the early stages of my call. I knew I loved the church and invested huge amounts of time serving in the College Ministry but didn’t know if I wanted the “life of a pastor.” Pastor Butcher’s encouraging words made the difference and enabled me to hear God’s voice on my own.

Encouragement isn’t something that you do from a checklist of “things to do today.” It’s a way of life for a leader. Encouragement is not a soft expression from a weak leader. The toughest of leaders understand that it’s something core to sustained success. Essentially, encouragement comes from a deep love and belief in people and a desire to see them experience life in a better way.

• Leaders who are encouragers naturally draw people to them.

Let me raise the bar of definition for encouragement. As a leader in a local church, if you are an encourager, when you are in a public setting, people will naturally migrate to you. This is not about a charismatic personality. It doesn’t matter if five people seek you out or fifty-five people seek you out. The point is that people will physically move to you because you cause their life to be a little brighter. I’m not talking about people who want permission, an extension cord or keys to the offices, but people who just want to be around you!

Let’s be honest, life is wonderful but it’s difficult. Isn’t it? Got bills? How’s your health? Do you have kids? Nough said! Life is good, but it has plenty of challenges. Life will press people down, so anyone who consistently lifts people up (sincerely) gains the ability to influence—meaning to lead!

If you are a leader in a local church and people don’t migrate to you, there is a reason. You need to discover what it is. Ask someone you trust, who loves you, and will tell the truth. For now, start encouraging others. Do it sincerely and often.

• Leaders who are encouragers communicate with a positive bias.

John Maxwell is the most positive person I know. He has high faith in people and sees life for its potential over its problems. He’s not delusional. John does know that life can be difficult. He just refuses to get stuck there. We were in Israel (February 2010) and John’s knee had been bothering him as a result of knee surgery. Climbing all the hills and steps from Masada to Jerusalem was a challenge! But not for one moment did that deter him from great leadership on the trip, serving people, (including Baptizing dozens of people in the Jordan,) and creating fun all along the way. You just never hear John complain. That’s the way it is with an encouraging leader, they communicate with a positive bias.

I’m not talking about a syrupy salesman type who promises the moon and delivers little, but a leader who knows a smile and a “can do” attitude goes a long way in any endeavor. I’m sure you’ve met leaders who seem to want to tell you how much work they have to do, how tired they are and how hot it is outside! They are not encouragers. Perhaps you have a lot of work to do, you may be tired, and it may be scorching hot outside where you live, but people don’t want to hear that. They already experience that themselves! I’m not suggesting lack of authenticity. You need to be real. You need a few close friends who you can blow off some steam with. But in general, if you want to lead, you must communicate with a positive bias. People need hope!

• Leaders who are encouragers are quick to invest generously in others.

I love telling this story about one of my mentors and encouragers – Keith Drury. He’s a professor in the Ministry Department at Indiana Wesleyan University. They call him Coach D! When I was a skinny kid with lots of dark brown hair, (My how things change), Keith demonstrated such generosity that marked my life for good. I was young and clueless in ministry and Keith was pouring leadership into a group of us young guys. I didn’t have any money and he knew there was a cool leadership conference I needed to attend. After our meeting, he handed me a book to read and stuffed it in my briefcase. When I later opened it, I found two one hundred dollar bills stapled inside with a note that said, basically, I believe in you, and see you at the conference!! I was blown away, that’s a lot of money but back then, it was a ton of money! More than the money was Keith’s investment of time and encouragement in me. The investment has dividends even to this day!

• Leaders who are encouragers know the value of spiritual encouragement.

Jump into the book of Acts with me. 19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Acts 11:19-24

Barnabas is a spiritual encourager. He intentionally looked for “evidence” of grace and encouraged the people about their spiritual progress, and to remain committed in their faith. Perhaps it goes without saying, but encouraging people in their faith is at the very epicenter of your role as a spiritual leader. Your main job is not to grow a church, it is to grow people. When this happens your church moves forward and the Kingdom advances!

• Leaders who are encouragers are grateful for what they have.

As a leader, I find that I am often not satisfied with “where we are” but I am consistently content with “what I have.” This is more than semantics for me. I don’t think it’s generally in the nature of a leader to be satisfied. Leaders are progress oriented. Yet, we must be content with what we have in the moment or gratitude is lost in the process. And gratitude is an essential attribute of leaders who are encouragers.

If you, as a leader, focus on what you don’t have, it will be very difficult for you to encourage others toward who they are to become. I call this competing leadership energy. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you can’t pour your energy into what others need because those others become part of the solution to get you what you want. When you are grateful for what you have, you naturally are freer to encourage others. Bottom line, you can’t encourage if you are not an encouraged person yourself.

Take all this in knowing that leaders, even the best of the encouragers, occasionally have a bad day. That’s normal. But a leader will do whatever it takes, to get through it and over it, and get back in the game. That’s my encouragement to you. You will have an occasional difficult day, but it’s all worth it. Get some counsel from a friend, shake it off, remember your calling and keep on going.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


Becoming a Person That Others Want To Follow Part 2

new life umbrella

Leaders nurture those who follow

It has been said that if you are leading but no one is following you are simply taking a walk.  This is a simple but profound statement that every leader must ask themselves, “Is anyone really following me?”   In our previous post we discussed the importance of a leader gaining greater influence and becoming more effective in their leadership.

If you remember we said that leadership is sort of like an “Umbrella.”  The umbrella is in the hand of the leader.  Under the protection of that umbrella are all the departments of the organization.  The success of each department can never, will never, rise any higher than the level at which the leader holds the umbrella.  Leadership sets the standard.  The higher the standard the more effective the leadership.

So how can we “Enlarge our Umbrella?”  How can we gain greater influence and build the kind of characteristics that others would want to follow.  There are some key elements that will help you become the leader that others would want to follow:

1)  Concern – the ability to show you care
Great leaders have the ability to show concern for people’s deepest needs and interests.  This doesn’t mean that you have to be mushy, not everyone is, but you must sense their interest and concerns, show that you care and leave them with the feeling that what they are going through matters to you.  One of the greatest statements I have heard regarding this subject is, “Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are in making them feel good about you.”

2)  Help – the ability to reach out
To put this simply…Great leaders are Great helpers!  They are out to see others profit; to do better.  They are willing to help when and where needed to make the other person successful.  Zig Ziglar says, “Help enough people achieve success and you will never lack success for yourself.”

3)  Action = the ability to make things happen
Something always seems to be happening around a person with charisma.  The charismatic person has an aversion to being boring.  They have an ability to create action…the kind of action that people want to be around.  They are movers, shakers, history makers and that kind of energy is contagious.  If you want to be a great leader that others want to follow, then be a person of action.

4)  Results – the ability to produce
People want to be on the winning team and great leaders that produce will never lack for people to want to join their squad.  Be a person who executes and who gets results.  Develop a winning tradition in your life and career.  If you develop this kind of characteristic in your life, people will do almost anything to partner with you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:

“Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”
– British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery

Becoming a Person that Others Want to Follow – Part 1

under blue umbrella

True leadership is like an umbrella

Michael Korda, the author of the book “Power” was asked to devise a list of the most powerful people in America. His article was titled, “The Gradual Decline and Total Collapse of Nearly Everyone.” He said in his article “Not so long ago teachers ran their classes; generals ran the army, policemen were feared and obeyed; college presidents were respected figures and so on down the line. America was, in effect, ruled by authority figures.” He went on to say that throughout the years power had led to abuse, therefore America felt they could do with out it. He expressed that America is depleting itself of strong and effective leaders.

Whether you subscribe to Michael Korda’s opinion or not, you must agree that strong figures in America that have influence, respect, authority and admiration are becoming less and less in our society. This does not mean that we don’t need leaders; instead this should be an awakening to anyone in leadership that we must become better than we are, if we want to continue to lead our organization with greatness. America needs leaders and your organization needs a strong and effective leader as well.

What is an effective leader? According to a great leader himself, Fred Smith, “Leadership is influence.” That is simple, overused at times, but still profound. A person may have a position of leadership, but if he is not affecting the thoughts and actions of others, he is not a leader.

Leadership is sort of like an umbrella. Imagine an open umbrella held by the hand of a leader. Under the protection of that umbrella are all the departments of the organization. The success of each department will never rise any higher than the level at which the leader holds the umbrella. Leadership sets the standard. The higher the standard the more effective the leadership. This principle will work for business, church, family or any other form of leadership.

The key for strong leadership lies in the ability to discover and increase effectiveness. Unless we tap into the keys for increasing effectiveness our leadership will be weak. So what must we do? How can we become more effective in our leadership? How can we enlarge our umbrella so that we can increase our circle of influence and impact?

In my next post I will give you life changing principles that will help you increase your effective which ultimately will enlarge your Leadership Umbrella.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women
to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”
– Marshall Bernard Montgomery

Valuing Small Groups

church small group

Small groups promote an environment that is created to draw closer to God and others.

At South Hills we have found that it is just as important for the church to grow smaller as it is for the church to grow Larger. Another way of saying this is, as churches grow in attendance they need to grow in connection. Over the past few years South Hills has exploded from just a handful of people meeting in house to nearly 3,000 each weekend. As this has happened we have found the need for creating a church that can connect with people in a smaller setting outside the weekend services. Shaping the church into smaller communities for greater impact has become our focus. I don’t just promote groups as one option among many other activities; I promote small groups as a non-negotiable. I let people know that sharing life together takes priority over fulfilling a weekly calendar item. Small groups promote an environment that is created to draw closer to God and draw closer to others.

I have found that small groups have had a tremendous impact on our church members regardless of what level of spiritual maturity they are in or regardless of the study they’re covering. One of the common statements I hear over and over is how members have realized that they’re “not alone”. Group members realize how others face similar problems to the ones they’re currently facing. Group members find fulfillment in being able to use their experiences, talent, and gifts to lift up and encourage others. I have seen groups rally to care for each other, whether it be bringing meals to someone who is ill or has just had a new baby to helping planning funeral arrangements for a loved one. I have heard the stories of groups making sure one of their member’s bills get paid, or making sure the family who is out of work has enough to eat.Another exciting thing that happens in small groups is being able to see the bigness of God through other people’s eyes. Faith gets stretched, group members become accountable to one another, and everyone encourages each individual to grow.

For us, small groups have become a way of life, not an event. Small groups make a large church feel like a small intimate church. This is certainly true of South Hills. These groups are a place where a journey is shared, joys are shared, struggles are shared, and growth is shared. Romans 12:5b NLT says: “Since we are all of one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” The word body is often used to describe a group of people connected for a purpose. It is innate to desire to be connected as a body or group. God has designed us to be a part of the body of Christ. It is built into our DNA to be devoted to one another and to honor one another. Romans 12:10 NIV says: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

The development of meaningful relationships, where every member carries a significant sense of belonging is the essence of what it means to grow smaller and larger at the same time. Keep in mind that there are many ways to do small groups. Find the method that works for your church. You may even use more than one method. That’s ok too. Remember, the one consistent trait of all successful small groups programs is the support of the lead pastor. I whole heartedly support our small groups and our small groups team. I encourage every person who attends South Hills to be a part of a small group. Yes, the church is meant to grow in attendance, but it should also grow in intimacy. Small groups were the example used in the early church as is still the example today.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  Acts 2:44-47

Inspiring Creativity from Your Team

Throwing Ideas

Get your team together and throw some creative ideas around!

Your team is a lot more creative than you give them credit for.  As a matter of fact, you are probably a lot more creative than you give “yourself” credit for.  Most of the time we do not realize our creative potential because we never take the time to truly be creative.  We rarely set aside a few hours with our staff, key leaders or team and simply “create.”  Stand in an empty room with a white board and say “what could we do that we are not doing now?”

One of the greatest joys I have is when I get to create with my staff.  When we begin to brainstorm and let ideas flow.  The process is thrilling as I watch my team begin to create, think differently and come up with ideas that have never been exercised in our organization.  A free flowing environment is a joy to be in and to lead. One of the greatest things you can do is to begin hosting monthly creative meetings, where you and your team are allowed to create in a non-threatening strategy session.  But if you are going to have these kinds of meetings you will need to have the following “rules of engagement” in order.  These rules are adapted by Craig Wilson from his talk on “Recapturing your creative spirit.”

1)  No blocking
When your team is having a creative strategy session there can be “no blocking.”  This simply means that you cannot continually put up roadblocks for the other person’s idea.  For instance if someone says “Lets do this or that.”  You don’t say “Where will we get the money or we don’t have the personnel.”  That is critical thinking and that is a step you take later.  Let people flow with ideas and don’t block them with reasons “why” it won’t work.

2)  Yes and…
When someone is flowing with ideas help the idea to grow by saying “yes and…”  In other words if you were working on putting together a banquet and someone had an idea, instead of blocking their idea say “yes and…we could also do this.”  When you use the principle of “yes and…”it helps to initiate creative momentum.

3)  More ideas
Take your ideas and have your team write them down on small post-its and put them all over the walls.  This will allow people to see the ideas that are flowing.  But once you have begun working on ideas, don’t stop; come up with even more ideas.  Often people get into a box and they begin to think only in beige.  The people on your team need to think in color.  As I said earlier, “your team is a lot more creative then you think.”

4)  Wild ideas
These are the kind of ideas that are almost embarrassing to speak out loud.  But they may be the ideas that your team needs to hear.  Encourage the people in the meeting that everyone has to be open about every wild idea.  You need the kind of ideas that others have thought before but were too afraid to voice.  Help your team to see the value of these crazy and wild ideas.

5)  Critical thinking
This is where you begin to take all the ideas that have been voiced by the team and begin to work them out into a plan of action.  The thing you will notice is that you don’t need to say “this idea won’t work,” or “that was a dumb idea.”  You won’t need to say this, because the team will just naturally begin to discuss the ideas that resonate in each of their hearts.  The process of elimination will happen without you having to push for it.

Why don’t you schedule a time with your team right now.  Set aside a couple of hours and work on a project together or some goals for the future.  Have a big white board to write on and a pad of post-its for everyone.  Let them begin to write ideas out, place them on the wall and let the creative session get big and wild.  You will have a blast and your team will begin to realize their creative potential.  The end result will be that the floor of beige will open up in your organization and loud, vibrant colors of creativity will come bursting through.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:

“Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility. Effective leaders are able to shake up their thinking as though their brains are kaleidoscopes, permitting an array of different patterns out of the same bits of reality.” –  Rosabeth Moss Kanter