Blog Archives

Reaching out to Bees and Moths

Bee attracted to sweet nectar

Sweet nectar attracts bees, and people too!

Bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light. People are attracted to other people who love them, who are kind to them, who truly accept them for who they are. People who shine the grace filled the light of Christ into their lives.

It is sad to me that I still see an exclusive, sectarian, judgmental, even superior attitude in many Christians and churches. Why is this? Do we as Followers of Christ have it all together? Are we above reproach at all times? I know I’m not, and it seems to me that if we choose to believe that of ourselves, and let others believe that about us, then we are no better than the “Pharisees and Teachers of the Law” of Jesus’ day.

Jesus said, “Come to me.” He didn’t say get it all together, dress a certain way, clean up your language, be a teetotaler, etc., and then come to me. He said come to me and let my love heal you, restore you. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

This whole train of thought came about when I recently read the below article by Jud Wilhite.

Neither Do I Condemn You
By Jud Wilhite

I talked to a guy recently who was really lamenting that fact that more pastors aren’t preaching hellfire, brimstone and condemnation. He felt like the problem with Christianity is that everybody just believes God loves you.
Really? As I talk with people in Las Vegas who are not Christians, as well as many who are, I find lots of people who already believe God hates them or at best tolerates them. Like the guy with the tattoo that said, “God hates us all.” To me this isn’t news, it is assumed.
The good news is that God loved us so much he sent his son to die in our place and take the punishment for sin. This is the greatest picture of love and it implies that yes… God loves us!
It’s like one of my favorite stories in John 8 where we read about a woman whose encounter with Jesus teaches us about guilt, grace, and forgiveness. She was dragged before Jesus by religious leaders who angrily throw her in front of him. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5)
Stone faces and stones in their hands. The woman must have been so terrified and embarrassed. In moments, she was exposed and hurled onto death row. From secret delight to public humiliation. The accusation – guilty of adultery – punishable by death.
This whole scene is fishy to begin with, though. How does one happen to catch someone in the act of adultery? And it takes two to tango – so where is this man? He is equally guilty. Maybe he was paid off to set her up or he could have been friends with these religious leaders. One thing is for sure – the religious leaders were using this question as a trap so they could have a basis for accusing Jesus (John 8:6). Rather than offering the woman help, they set her up. She had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and her guilt was real.
At first, Jesus did not respond to the religious leaders’ accusations. He bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. This is the only record of Jesus writing. People have speculated that he wrote the sins of the religious leaders gathered around. Some say he wrote Scripture. Maybe he just doodled!
As he knelt, the leaders kept questioning him; they planned to snare Jesus in a catch-22. If he sentenced the woman to death, the Roman government would intervene. They alone determined an execution. If Jesus condoned a stoning, he might lose popularity. The crowd had followed him and had been attracted to his compassion. But if he told the leaders to let her go, they would accuse him of violating an Old Testament law.
They thought they had him cornered. But Jesus rose and spoke one of the most profound statements of Scripture: “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Then he knelt down and continued writing.
What followed? Silence. A few awkward moments of anger turning to introspection. The rocks fell to the ground one at a time. By moving the focus off of the woman, Jesus had forced them to see their own guilt. He wasn’t concerned about the woman’s innocence, but rather that she was treated fairly. If she was to be judged, the witnesses were to come forth and be just and impartial (Deuteronomy 19:15-19). And the religious leaders were neither of those things. Jesus was not trying to throw out the process of law and legal procedure, but rather exposing the trial as a sham!
Once everyone had left and Jesus was alone with the woman, he asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replies with, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus declared… “Then neither do I condemn you” (John 8:10-11).
Beautiful words from the lips of a Savior. He came not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17). He showed her pure, unmerited, undeserved grace. We are quick to judge, but what accusations could be leveled at us? This story gives us caution. Too often Christians, and churches, shoot their wounded. When people fail, they need to be restored with a heart of compassion. It’s too easy to judge people who don’t have our particular sin struggle.
It’s time to show grace. The same grace Christ offers us, despite all of our short-comings. The grace he offers everyone.

Looking at the idea of Grace verses Judgement from a church growth point of view, if bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light, is your church, are you, projecting sweetness and light in a way that says, “ I’m still on this journey too; lets walk together”? Because remember, Church growth is not about numbers, but it’s about seeking and saving the lost.

Until next Time:

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 – 30

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Step Back to Move Forward

Step back growth

Step back, Re-focus, Move on

On the Australian coat of arms is a picture of an emu and a kangaroo. These animals were chosen because they share a characteristic that appealed to our forefathers. Both the emu and kangaroo can move only forward, not back. The emu’s three-toed foot causes it to fall if it tries to go backwards, and the kangaroo is prevented from moving in reverse by its large tail.

I love this illustration; I am all about moving forward, keeping your eyes on the goal, never give up, but I have learned that sometimes you have to take a step to move forward. Everyone, whether it be in business, your personal life, church growth, will hit a slump or get a curve ball. When that happens we get the opportunity to pause and reevaluate. The article below is a great illustration of someone stepping back to move forward.

Efrain Escudero Looking back to move forward
By Jordan Newmark April 08, 2012

When a professional athlete rebounds from a slump or a setback, the easiest conclusion to jump to is that they added something “new”. A change in routine, mindset, workout, technique or anything that has been recently tweaked by the world’s latest and greatest ideas.

For many, this is the case, but for others, like UFC lightweight Efrain Escudero, rediscovering what they did in the past is how they progressed in the future. For “Hecho en Mexico”, the journey back to the Octagon was accomplished by fighting for the reason that originally drew Escudero to the sport: because it was fun. … “I went back and saw my old tapes, my old highlight videos, and what I did in them – I had fun,” states Escudero. “Every time I went to the cage I was having fun. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t nervous, I was ready to have fun. Getting called back up to the UFC, I had fun having to bust my butt again to get back where I belong.” 

Recently, we had a couple of key staff members move on for very positive, personal reasons. When this happened we knew we would have to make some major changes, so we took this opportunity to step back, not to dwell in a pity party, but in keeping our eyes on our goals, to pause, redirect and move forward again. We are truly excited about our new structure and direction. We are expecting great things to happen!

So while we may at times pause and step back our constant direction over time is forward.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Plan backwards as well as forward. Set objectives and trace back to see how to achieve them. You may find that no path can get you there. Plan forward to see where your steps will take you, which may not be clear or intuitive. – Donald Rumsfeld

Staffing for Excellence

hire church business staff

The Right Staff Will Create a Great Team

Hiring the right staff is so important to the health and growth of your organization. Whether you you are a church, a small business owner or the CEO of a large company, the right people make all the difference.  I have had and currently have the pleasure of hiring and working with some fabulous people (both at South Hills and in my business life). I have also had the disappointment and headaches associated with hiring people who were not a good fit for my team. Below is an article featuring an interview from Tony Morgan and William Vanderbloemen with some great tips to finding and hiring the right staff for your organization. The article is church specific, but the most of the information is great for the business world as well.

“An Interview with Tony Morgan and William Vanderbloemen”
by Dan Reiland

As an executive pastor I’ve been hiring staff for over twenty years. I’m still learning. My experience is extensive, but I still make mistakes. Let’s be candid, hiring the right people is complicated. There is no formula or textbook that can give you the seven steps to create a “happily ever after” story every time.

Since I like to learn, I asked two friends of mine, Tony Morgan and William Vanderbloemen if they would agree to an interview. They both have considerable pastoral experience and also have special expertise in hiring as part of a professional search firm. VanderbloemenSearch

Both William and Tony have come to 12Stone to teach a leadership lesson to our ministry staff, and they have become trusted advisors and good friends. Let me introduce you to each one, and then share the interview with you.

William is the president of the Vanderbloemen Search Group. He has over 15 years of ministry experience as a senior pastor of three churches ranging in size from 350 to over 5,000. He has also served as a manager of human resources at a Fortune 200 corporation, and learned executive search from a mentor with twenty-five years of top-level search experience. William, his wife Adrienne, their seven children, and two poodles (one small who thinks she’s big, and one big who thinks he is a lap dog) live in Houston, Texas. In his free time, William enjoys running, working out, and caddying for his kids, who are now better golfers than he is. As an avid social networker you can contact him at http://twitter.com/wvanderbloemen.

Tony serves on the leadership team of West Ridge Church near Atlanta. He’s also a strategist, writer and consultant who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. For more than 10 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at NewSpring Church and Granger Community Church. Tony used to be in local government for about ten years before he transitioned into ministry. In his last role, he was a city manager where he was responsible for a staff of 150 employees and a $20 million budget. Tony and his wife, Emily, reside near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children–Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke. You can follow Tony’s writing on a variety of topics including his disdain for country music at tonymorganlive.com.

1. Why is hiring the right people so difficult?

Tony – As pastors, we don’t hire that often and therefore we aren’t highly practiced at it. So, for many, that means not being very good at it. Further, our wiring as pastors tends to cause us to see the best in people and the good in general. That’s good, but we also need a discerning eye in order to assess the right skills for the right job, and be able to quickly spot those who are not the right fit.

William – People are afraid to make a mistake, and fear is a bad ingredient in the hiring process. For those I’ve met who are not afraid, they often rush into it and hire someone they know and feel comfortable with rather than doing a thorough search. In contrast, when you do a comprehensive job interviewing several top candidates your chances of making a good decision increase exponentially.

2. What are the costs and impacts of hiring the wrong person?

Tony – When you choose new staff members poorly you are often choosing to cause good people to leave your team. Maybe not right away, but the good ones will not stay if you begin to hire low-performance players onto your team. Hiring the wrong person causes loss of momentum. It’s destabilizing to the team, and you can easily lose 12-18 months of what could have been a highly productive season.

William – I recently read a study from the corporate world that said you lose a minimum of ten times the salary that you pay the person when you make a bad hire and need to fire them. I think it’s more in the church. The relational, political, and vision loss is so great that the total cost is nearly incalculable, especially the higher the level of responsibility. It’s almost better not to hire than to hire wrong.

3. What are the qualities you look for in sharp ministry leaders?

Tony – Off the top, I want to see a leadership gift, ability to build teams, and shared vision and values of the organization. Let me give you a fuller answer by directing you to a blog post that you might find helpful on this question. tonymorganlive.com

William – First, I believe this is much more art than science, so it really depends on what the church needs more than a set list of characteristics. I consider hiring as important as an organ transplant. Using this metaphor, nearly half of what I do is finding the right donor list, but more than half is making sure I find the right tissue match. If I don’t, the body will reject it. That said, in general, I like to see spiritual agility, loyalty to the mission and leadership, and their past performance really matters to me. That is the best indicator of what they will do in the future.

4. Describe a big hiring mistake you have made as a pastor in the local church.

Tony – I had a situation where I was hiring someone for a director level position in a specialized role. His resume said he was exactly what we needed. But some red flags came up during the interviews. He said he was a detailed and systems guy – which the job required. All other indicators, however, including his profile testing, said he was much more of a people person. The mistake I made was that I did not pay attention to my gut. I didn’t listen to the Holy Spirit promptings, the assessments, and what I was intuitively picking up in the interviews.

William – Well, I’ve made the classic mistakes. I’ve hired too fast and fired too slow. But one that comes to mind is that I hired three guys right out of seminary at the same time. They were my dream team, or that was my dream. They were sharp, but highly inexperienced. They were talented, but I didn’t realize how much training they would require and I didn’t have the margin to give it to them. I wasn’t able to carry out that responsibility and that was a big mistake.

5. Do you recommend talking about salary up front, or deeper into the process?

Tony – For me, the issue is about being called, and the salary factor comes in later. It’s about the right fit and whether or not God wants them on the team. If it’s a fit, I might consider adjusting the compensation, if we can, in order to get the right person. But it raises a red flag if the person is too interested in the financial package too soon.

William – It depends on the situation, but in general, I agree with Tony. I want to know if they are called, rather than in it for the money. On occasion, however, there are circumstances that call for discussing salary up front. For example, if a large gap is anticipated between what we offer and what they expect – we might at least address that in general up front, but then do real details later.

6. You both are pastors, but also serve as part of a search firm. In what ways does your company help us hire the right people?

William and Tony – The first one is time. Most pastors we talk to just don’t have the time to do what it takes to hire well. The second is that we are in touch with a broader base of people to choose from. One more benefit is that we’re good at it. We have much more time at bat. We are practiced, so we have developed some skills that most church leaders haven’t had time to cultivate. We help you avoid costly mistakes.

Thanks to both Tony and William. This is such an important topic! Hiring smart is the first step toward building great church staff teams!!

As a side note; we have used VanderbloemenSearch here at South Hills and have love the results. I highly recommend them!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”  – Larry Bossidy

Being Thankful at Thanksgiving

Gratitude

Gratitdude 365 Days a Year

I recently read a story about Charles Dickens and a lecture tour he did in America. The story goes that he told one audience that we here in this country are a bit mixed up. He said we should not have one Thanksgiving Day, but that we should have 364 Thanksgiving Days. The one day left over would be used just for complaining and griping; the other 364 to thank God. He said we tend to do the opposite. We complain for 364 days, and then, perhaps, on one day count our blessings.

That left me wondering; how many of us actually take the time to be Thankful even on Thanksgiving? Or do we get so caught up in the turkeys, pies, cranberry sauce and football to remember why we have the day off. Yes, the Pilgrims had a great feast with their new friends, but the reason they had the feast was to express gratitude. First, to God for blessing them with a great harvest, and also, to thank the Native People who had shared their knowledge and resources with them.

If your answer is no, or you are not sure if you show gratitude on Thanksgiving (or any other day) here is some incentives to change some habits…

Ten Years of Research Shows the Benefits of Gratitude

A growing body of research has tied an attitude of gratitude with a number of positive emotional and physical health benefits. A November 2010 article in The Wall Street Journal summarized the research:

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy, or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly, and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. [Studies also show that] kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches, and feel more satisfied with their friends, families, and schools than those who don’t.

The researchers concluded, “A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but now we have scientific evidence to prove them …. The key is not to leave it on the Thanksgiving table.”
Melinda Beck, “Thank You. No, Thank You,” The Wall Street Journal (11-23-10)

So this year as you sit down to your feast, remember to be thankful, express gratitude for the blessings in your life, and then continue that gratitude for the remaining 364days of the year.

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,
Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
It is a rare person who, when his cup frequently runs over, can thank God instead of complaining about the limited size of his mug!     —Bob Russell

Handshake is Here

Handshake - What the Great Do that Others Don't

My New book, Handshake – What the Great Do that others Don’t, launches this weekend, April 23rd and 24th. I truly beleive this book will help anyone who is wanting to be successful in their lives.  Handshake is also set up in such a way that it works well for a group study. The book will be available at our Main Street Campus. It will also be available for the order of a hard copy and digitally at the Celera website.  It will soon also be available on Kindle, NOOK, iPad, and Sony Reader.  All proceeds from the book go right back into the Celera ministry.

Here is what others are saying about the book.

“Chris Sonksen’s new book, Handshake, powerfully demonstrates that success is obtainable for anyone who wants it.  Through the real life stories of these inspiring individuals, Chris reveals that success is less about the talent we have and more about the choices we make.  READ IT, LEARN IT, LIVE IT!”

Mark Batterson

Lead Pastor/Founder National Community Church and Best Selling Author

 

“This book can certainly be used as a compass to keep anyone on track to being better.  I never started out to be great or even thinking I could be, but as I read Chris’ book Handshake, I began to realize that doing these same things took me from the cotton fields in Alabama, all the way to a premier in the Rose Bowl.”

Coach Bill Yoast

The man behind the hit movie, “Remember the Titans” 

 

 “This book is for all those who continue to chase after their dreams against-all-odds. Handshake, is the perfect guide for those willing to never lose sight of their quest for greatness.

Rudy Ruettiger, The man behind the TriStar motion picture “RUDY”

 

 “I would encourage everyone to read this inspiring book; especially those who are feeling defeated and hopeless.”

Marlene Owens Rankin, daughter of Jesse Owens,

V.P. and Managing Director

The Jesse Owens Foundation

 

 “These 10 Daily Choices not only separate the good from great, but they are essentials in achieving great things and living life beyond mere good intentions.”

 Stephen Arterburn, founder and chairman of New Life Ministries

 

 “Inspirational stories from an inspirational leader – Chris Sonksen’s Handshake, delivers practical and uplifting insights that can help you increase the quality of your life and productivity of your career.”

Dr. Dan Reiland, Executive Pastor

12 Stone Church

Lawrenceville, GA

 

 “Chris Sonksen re-introduces us to some of the most influential leaders in history, and by dissecting their lives, enables them to mentor us today. You will love the stories and the practical take-aways in each chapter. This book represents your chance to sit down and be coached by the most effective people anywhere. I know you’ll enjoy them as I have.”

 Dr. Tim Elmore, President of GrowingLeaders.com

& former V.P. for John Maxwell’s INJOY

 

“Chris lays out clear principles in this book that can help everyone achieve their full potential.  These are many of the same principles that helped my teammates and I achieve excellence in the Olympic Games as we brought home the Gold.  Chris reminds us that even in everyday life, accomplishing great things is a choice and we can all make it happen.”

Leah O’Brien Amico, 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”

– Ralph Marston

The Choice of Excellence

Walt Disney excellence

Walt Disney Strove for Excelence

We are thrilled that, after a bit of a delay, my new book Handshake has gone to print and will be available in just a couple of short weeks. Here is one more sneak peek from the book…

Walt Disney and the Choice of Excellence:

Disneyland has become an icon in American culture.  People from all over the world visit this place that began as a dream on a wooden bench in the 1940’s.  It is the home of some of the greatest animated characters such as:  Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Snow White, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Nemo, Aladdin and the list continues to grow year after year.  Children that are fascinated by it grow up to be adults that love it.

After all these years, Disneyland has managed to maintain it’s pursuit of excellence, even after the death of Walt Disney on December 15, 1966.  It continues to be the dominating amusement park throughout the world.  Go and visit any other amusement park and you will not find the same performance standards that you will find at Disneyland.  The grounds are cleaner, the landscaping is manicured, the rides are better maintained and the productions are performed at a higher level.  Walt’s pursuit of excellence continues throughout the Disney Empire and as usual, excellence has paid off.

Regarding excellence, the author, James Gardner once said, “Some people have greatness thrust upon them.  Very few have excellence thrust upon them…they achieve it.  They do not achieve it unwittingly by ‘doing what comes naturally’ and they don’t stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves.  All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.”

In this chapter you will learn these 5 steps to pursuing excellence…

1) Create a healthy drive for excellence

2) Choose it everyday, even when the emotions aren’t there

3) Realize that you cannot be the best in everything you do

4) Create processes that enable excellence

5) Think backwards

It is a passion in my own life to strive for excellence, and I challenge you to choose the same.

Until next time,

Chris Sonsken,

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Excellence can be obtained if you:
…care more than others think is wise;
…risk more than others think is safe;
…dream more than others think is practical;
…expect more than others think is possible.” – Unknown

Bill Gates and the power of Vision

Bill Gates Vision

Bill Gates is a man of Vision

Vision is Powerful! This excerpt from my new book, Handshake, highlights the life of Bill Gate and his incredible Vision. He is a man with a highly focused,with a constant vision and an adaptable strategy… What are your thoughts about vision?

Bill Gates and the Choice of Vision

Over the past several years computers have taken the world by storm.  Business people, parents, students and children are using them.  We use them to store information, write letters, keep track of finances, design graphics and send information.  They started out filling entire rooms, but now some can literally fit in the palm of your hand.  And when you think of computers you most likely think of one individual, Bill Gates…

…With a reported fortune of $54 billion, Gates retained the top spot in 2001 Forbes magazine survey of the 400 wealthiest Americans. In 1994, he married Melinda French, a Microsoft employee, and they now reside in a 40,000 square foot home on Lake Washington.  Taking after his mother, Gates claims that he will give away the majority of his fortune through charitable contributions.  His largest contribution came in August of 1999 when he donated $6 billion to his charitable foundation, the largest donation ever made by a living individual.  Recently, it was reported that if Bill Gates wanted to spend his fortune in the next 40 years, he would have to spend $2.74 million every day.  (I sure wish I could help him!)

Bill Gates is a man with vision and the entire world has benefited.  “It is the idea (vision) that unites people in the common effort, not the charisma of the leader,” writes Robert Greenleaf in The Leadership Crisis.  These words could not be truer for Bill Gates.  He is not a charismatic leader but his vision is big and people follow it.

In this chapter you will learn how to create a plan for your vision

Step 1 – Dream without reservation
Step 2 – Put your dreams/vision in writing
Step 3 – Make a plan for your dream/vision
Step 4 – Be committed to do whatever it takes

Your will also learn the step-by step instructions for creating your own personal vision.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“There is something magical about vision.” – Anthony Robbins

My New book…HandShake

Handshake

Let your handshake reflect confidence

I am currently in the finishing stages for a new book titled Handshake: What the Great do that Others Don’t. As I stated, we are in the finishing stages, and plan to have the book completed early in January 2011. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing excerpts with you from the book, and I would love your feedback.

The book highlights different characteristics or choices associated with “the great” by examining the biographies of various highly successful people. Today’s excerpt is a glance into Chapter One and the reason why the book is titled Handshake. I sincerely look forward to your comments.

… After a few months of working with Brown’s Janitorial, my boss asked if I would be willing to work on a Saturday morning.  Needing the extra money, I said yes.  I met my boss at his home, and together we got in his truck and began to drive to a different location.  I had no idea where we were going until we pulled up to this large home and I asked him, “What are we doing here?”  He responded “This is Frank Colapinto’s house, and he hired us to help him move some items out of his garage today.”   Up to this point I hadn’t been thrilled about working on a Saturday, but knowing I was about to meet Frank Colapinto made it all worth it.

We got out of the truck, and Mr. Colapinto greeted us at the front of the garage.  He shook the hand of my boss and then looked to me.  He stuck out his hand, and I quickly responded by putting my hand out to greet him as well.  As we proceeded with the handshake he looked at me and said, “Frank Colapinto.”  I had never had anyone greet me by saying their first and last name, and I also have never heard anyone say their name with such confidence, self assurance and pride.  It was just a “Handshake” but it changed my life forever.

He showed us a few things that he wanted done and then he left to run some errands.  The man I had admired from a distance said only two words to me but I will never forget them.  Not necessarily what he said, but how he said it.  A few hours later, after we were done with the work, I remember driving in the truck and thinking to myself, “could this be it…could this be the reason for his success?”  Could it be that the only thing that separated Frank Colapinto from many others was confidence?  Can something that small make that big of a difference?  It was the only conclusion I could come up with, so I did it.  I decided right then that from now on, when people asked me my name or I was introducing myself to someone I would say with confidence, “Chris Sonksen.”

For some strange reason that handshake made me believe that greatness was possible for anyone who wanted it.  That it wasn’t reserved for the elite or the upper class, but that what separated the great from everyone else wasn’t necessarily talent or skill, but it was choice.  For Frank Colapinto it was the choice of confidence that he displayed and a belief in himself.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”

Peter T. Mcintyre quotes

Higher Ground Becomes Shaky Ground Without the Balance of Solid Ground – Part 1

time in balance

It is important to keep your life in balance

Excerpt from In Search of Higher Ground

I am one who believes in the human spirit, and that everyone is loaded with potential and has the ability to accomplish great things. I believe in people’s abilities so much, that I have dedicated my life to helping individuals discover the possibilities that lie within each person. However, I must admit that over the years I have met many people that have pursued their personal Higher Ground, and have reached a level of success that many others would desire, but they are not happy. They have a business that’s thriving, financial security, and have many personal achievements, but their life still seems to be lacking. Why is that? Why is it that some people seem to have it all, but still seem to have nothing?

Probably because most people connect the word “success” with the word “money.” When you see someone who is financially independent, there is an automatic feeling that the person is successful. There are a lot of enjoyable things that money can buy, but success cannot be limited to these things. Success must include the things money cannot buy.

It has been said that money can:

1. Buy a bed, but not sleep,
2. Buy affection, but not love,
3. Buy company, but not friends,
4. Buy a wedding, but not a marriage, and
5. Buy a house, but not a home.

I was recently having lunch with a friend who shared with me some sad news regarding a mutual friend. We’ll call this friend of mine “Mike.” Mike has had a great level of success in many areas of his life. He was not born into a wealthy family, but decided at a young age that he was going to make something of himself. In his early 20s he began working for someone else on the weekends while running a small retail business. Over a few years, this business began to grow in such a way that he was able to quit his weekend job and devote himself entirely to his business. He worked hard, dedicated his time and efforts, and year after year it continued to pay off in great dividends.He expanded his small shop and began to build his own place. Soon he was operating his business from a 35,000 square foot shop in which he began to see his business hit a new level of success. Over time he diversified into multiple projects including real estate, and each project brought him success. Everything he touched turned to gold. Mike was an entrepreneur and an icon in the city in which he lived. The sad news that was shared with me at lunch was that Mike had been diagnosed with a disease, and his chance for survival slim. After being  told this news from my friend, I drove back to my office and began to think about his life.

Death always causes you to think about life.

I asked myself, “Was Mike a success?” Then I realized, you can’t answer that question until you define success. So first I thought about his finances. Undoubtedly he is a success when it comes to money. He is a multimillionaire and has enjoyed all the things that life has to offer.  Then I began to think about his personal life. He had one failed marriage and his current marriage is on the rocks. Mike seemed to have worked so hard to make a living that he had forgotten to make a life.

I began to also think about his children. Each of them have shared in their own personal struggles. Drug abuse, illegitimate children, a low standard of values and morals are all part of the story behind Mike’s children. I am not saying that Mike was a bad parent or that his children don’t love him. What I am saying is that, to a certain degree, Mike did not fulfill his parenting obligation by raising his children with a deep level of character. Regarding any spiritual awareness, there has been none in his life and nothing passed on to his children.

Then I thought about the disease that is taking over his body and I couldn’t help but wonder what words would be said at his funeral if he should die. I wondered about the legacy and heritage he will leave. Has there been anything done in his life that will outlast him?

Now that you have a clearer picture of Mike, what do you think? Does the word “money” make him successful?

Don’t get me wrong, money is a great thing and can be used for great purposes, but you cannot classify money as the means for success. You see, Mike had a dream. He wanted to create a successful business and make lots of money, and he did. However, one thing Mike forgot to do was to keep his feet on “solid ground” while reaching for Higher Ground. Mike had forgotten the golden rule behind the principle of Higher Ground. The rule is, “Higher Ground becomes Shaky Ground without the balance of Solid Ground.”

Consider the courageous people called tightrope walkers. They stand on a thin rope suspended high in the air, and they walk across from one side to the other. The key to the entire success of that tightrope walker is one word… “balance.” His entire life is dependent on his ability to keep things in balance. The same is true for anyone seeking Higher Ground. Their entire success is depending on this one word:… “balance.”

Imagine if you will a large wagon wheel that has various spokes coming out from the center. The ability to make a wheel roll properly lies in the balance. The strength and success of that wheel relies on the spokes being in balance. Let’s pretend now that your life is that wheel and the spokes in the wheel represents various areas in your life. These areas include personal, financial, relational, physical, emotional,professional, mental, and spiritual. The success of your life depends on your ability to be successful in each of these areas. In this chapter I want to break down the first four elements for you and provide some practical ideas that will help you raise the bar of excellence in each category.

PERSONAL

The first spoke in your wheel is the spoke we call Personal. This is your character, this is who you are when no one is looking. It is the premise of your true success as a person, leader, worker, spouse, parent or friend.

Some people may think character doesn’t matter. If it’s only what you are when no one is looking, then who cares? It won’t affect my business, my family, my finances, nothing will be affected by character because it’s who I am when no one is looking. Nothing could be further from the truth! If character doesn’t matter, then tell it to the person who just found out their spouse is having a secret affair. Or tell it to the person who just discovered their accountant has been skimming from the top, or that their business partner has left the country with all their money. I promise you this, character matters to those people.

Remember, there are many things in life that others can take from you, a family, a fortune or even health, but character is the one thing that cannot be taken from you…only you can give it away.

FINANCIAL

The next spoke on your wagon wheel is Financial. Finances are a big part of our society and are often used as a measuring stick for where you’re at in life. Finances are not everything…but they are something. Your Higher Ground may not include finances. It may be to raise wonderful children, to learn a second language, to develop as a leader, or to be the founder of a non-profit organization. Whatever your personal Higher Ground is, you must include the powerful benefit of properly managing your finances. I strongly encourage you to discuss your Financial future with an expert. Develop a plan for your future, your retirement, college education, to pay off your home, and any other dream that requires finances. You might be saying, “But I don’t make a lot of money.” It doesn’t take as much as you think. Sit down with Financial planner and you will discover the power of budgeting your finances and consistently investing for your future.

RELATIONAL

We now arrive at the third spoke in the wheel that will help keep your life in balance, your relationships. All the personal success in the world doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have someone to share it with. Unfortunately, people pursue their personal Higher Ground at the cost of their relationships. Marriages lose their romance, children lose touch with their parents, and families become fragmented under the guidelines of success at any cost. We are a society who is in desperate need of turning our attention to the family. What good does it do to have all the money in the world if your marriage is failing, or to have a thriving and successful business at the price of becoming more of a guardian than a parent?

In the course of my life I have seen people speak with deep regret. Regret for not nurturing their marriage, regret for not spending enough time with their children and regret for not having enough people in their lives they call “friends.” Although relationships are only one spoke in your wheel of life, it is an important one. Keep your life in balance by keeping in mind what really matters!

PHYSICAL

Let me just say that I am by no means the expert on Physical condition, but I do try my best to stay in shape and eat right. I have got a long way to go, but I am working on it. One thing I will say is that exercising and eating right does affect your approach and perspective on life. It gives you more energy, boosts your self-confidence, and causes you to embrace and enjoy life at a higher level. Oddly enough I seem to get more done with less hours on the days I work out.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

Quote of the Day:

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others,
to leave this world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition. To know even one life has breathed easier because you have  lived, this is to have succeeded.”   – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Make a Difference in the Next Generation!”

children's ministry

Making children a priority is vital to every church

What comes to your mind when you think of growing your church? When you are visualizing reaching your community for Christ, who are you picturing? I think it would be probable to say that no matter what your vision of church growth may be, the people most of you are picturing reaching out to,the people you are envisioning filling the seats of your church are adults.

I recently read this article by Greg Baird (one of our new Celera Kidmin coaches) who was a guest writer for the Pastor’s Coach. In his article, Greg shows us the importance of a strong, impactful children’s ministry both for those who already attend your church and for those you are reaching out to in your community.  I challenge you to read the article, and then take a good, honest look at your children’s ministry.

“Make a Difference in the Next Generation!”


“What do you want to do when you get out of college?” is the question I was often asked. “I want to be in full-time ministry” was my standard response. Of course, that always led to the next question, “What area of ministry?” And my usual response? “I’m not sure, I just know it won’t be with kids!” God has a sense of humor.

I grew up immersed in ministry. My parents led Junior High groups and discipled college students in Japan (Dad was in the Navy). Then, after he retired and graduated with Bible and Counseling degrees, they moved our family to the mission field to plant a church. I saw many aspects of ministry, and decided early on it was for me – I just wasn’t sure in what area. But I knew I wanted to be a leader who made a difference. Just knew I wasn’t interested in working with kids. As a 16 year old I taught a first and second-grade Sunday School class on the field in Australia. Nope, didn’t want anything to do with kids after that!

After college, things changed. A friend invited me to work at a kids’ camp. That’s where I found my calling. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but over the few months I was there God’s voice was clear: “I want you to reach my children, and I want you to do it by equipping others.” That was it. That was how I was going to make a difference in people’s lives.

What God impressed on me during my time at that kids’ camp is the value of children in His eyes. Jesus tangibly modeled this with the familiar story found in Mark 10:13-16. He rebuked the disciples for their lack of value of children and then tells them that the faith of a child is exactly the kind of faith we need to have! With that, Jesus does more than He was asked to do – He not only touches them to bless them, but He takes them up in His arms and fervently prays over them. They were of great value to Him, and He greatly loved them.

Children are no different today. Innocent and vulnerable, yet fully capable of a very real faith, they represent the single greatest mission field in the world. Children are, by far, the most responsive to evangelistic efforts. Some studies indicate that as many as 85% of those who accept Christ as their Savior will do so between the ages of 4 and 14.

Since that time at the kids’ camp, as I have pursued my calling and sought to equip others to reach kids, I have discovered much more about the world of children in the church. Children’s Ministry is a complex and challenging ministry, encompassing the greatest developmental range of any ministry age group. It represents the area of highest risk – be it for physical injury or unlawful conduct by adults. It presents the greatest communication challenges — as adults try to communicate the love of Jesus and Biblical truth in age appropriate and engaging ways. And children’s ministry represents the rewarding but never-ending challenge of recruiting, training, and retaining large numbers of volunteers!

Yet as I work with churches across the country, I too often find that Children’s Ministry is viewed as childcare. The prevailing, yet often unspoken, sentiment is “keep the children busy while the real ministry (to adults) is happening.” The unrecognized attitude is nothing less than that of the disciples. I often wonder what Jesus would think of how churches approach ministry to children.

Recently I was consulting with a Senior Pastor and we engaged in a very candid discussion about the value of Children’s Ministry. He was wrestling with how his church ought to approach it, and shared how very few churches within their denomination, and even within their region, gave children the kind of value that I was urging him to consider. I told him that perhaps he ought to be the one to set the example for not only his own church, but other churches within the denomination and region. With some hesitancy in his eyes, he asked me what that might look like. I think he thought I was suggesting he take his turn teaching in the three year old class!

I assured this Pastor that I was not suggesting he teach the three year old class, nor was I suggesting that Children’s Ministry take over the church. Instead, I recommended three ways that he and the church could give appropriate value to children:

1. Cast vision to match the incredible potential of spiritual formation within Children’s Ministry.

The potential that resides in children as the most spiritually receptive members of the body, mandates reaching them for Christ as early as possible and equipping parents to disciple them at home.

  • Talk about the vision of reaching children for Christ at every opportunity
  • Train parents and volunteers to lead children to Christ
  • Offer training for parents on how to effectively disciple their children (on-going, in-house training, or seminars open to the whole community)
  • Provide materials for parents to use in discipling their children (take-home “talksheets” provided with curriculum, family devotionals, etc.)

2. Invest appropriate time and attention to match the vision.

Ensure the Children’s Ministry staff and volunteer leaders are adequately equipped and trained.

  • Assist core Children’s Ministry leaders (paid or unpaid) in creating and following a leadership development plan and facilitate their participation in leadership training (conferences, coaching, etc.)
  • Design a Children’s Ministry training schedule for volunteers

Provide time in adult venues to cast vision and share ministry opportunities.

  • Have an annual “Kid’s Day” in the main service to cast vision and recruit leaders
  • Create opportunities for kids to serve in the main service, or participate on a regular basis

Encourage volunteers, knowing that encouragement from senior leadership of the church is priceless to the heart of those serving.

  • Put a note of thanks in the bulletin, say something from the pulpit, or write 3 cards to volunteers each week
  • Walk through the children’s area once a month to say thanks to volunteers

3. Resource your Children’s Ministry for success.

By its very nature, Children’s Ministry requires greater resources than most other ministries.

  • A minimum annual budget of $75 per child (avg. weekly attendance) is an acceptable guideline

Understand staffing needs and hire/recruit appropriately.

  • One full-time (or equivalent part-time) paid staff per 150-175 children is a minimum acceptable guideline
  • Maximum adult/child ratios should be: infants = 1 to 3; preschool = 1 to 7; elementary = 1 to 12)

In short, resource Children’s Ministry with equal value to other ministries within the church.

Children did not dominate the ministry of Jesus – most of His time was spent with adults – yet He recognized their value and gave appropriate time and energy to them. How would you evaluate your children’s ministry in light of the thoughts in this article?

As church leaders we balance many priorities. Like Jesus, we have many demands for our time and attention. It’s easy to overlook areas that are not our strength or passion, and too often that area is Children’s Ministry. But like Jesus, a little interest can speak volumes.

I encourage you to value your Children’s Ministry for the spiritually ripe field that it is. Articulate vision, invest appropriate time and attention, and provide resources they need. A little interest will go a long way, and the impact on the lives of children, families, leaders and the church as a whole will be felt for generations to come.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow black, (brown), white. All are precious in His sight. Jesus love the children of the world.

C.Herbert Woolston (1856-1927)