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Dream Again

Dream again

Your Never Too Young or Too Old

Recently, I have had the opportunity to speak frequently on the topic of  “Dream Again.” In these talks I remind people that no dream is too big or too small. I also tell people that, “you are never too young or too old to pursue your dreams.” I have sighted such people as Joan of Arc, Bill Gates and Mark  Zuckerberg on the “too young” side of the spectrum and Harlan (Colonel) Sanders, Mary Kay and Julia Child on the “too old” side of the spectrum.

A couple weeks ago this concept was brought to life in a very real way. I was a guest speaker a great church, that is about two hours from my home church. After speaking on “Dream Again” many people approached me after each service to tell me about their dreams (either unfulfilled or fulfilled). One particular gentlemen really stood out to me.  This gentleman was in his 60’s and spoke with a profuse stutter.  It took him at least three times as long to tell his story as a non-stuttering person would have. His story was this… He had always wanted to sing in the choir because when he sings he doesn’t stutter. He had, had this dream his whole life. he had hung on to it and not let anyone take it from him.  Well last year he was invited to join the church choir, and recently he had the privilege of singing a solo.

As he told his story his face told the story of profound joy. The joy of a passion realized, and a dream fulfilled. What dreams are laying dormant in you? What dreams are you still chasing?  I encourage you to keep going; keep chasing that thing that God has placed in your heart. I encourage you to DREAM AGAIN!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“For of All Sad Words of Tongue and Pen, the Saddest are These, It Might Have Been…..” – John Greenleaf Whittier


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,


“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

Oprah Winfrey and Thinking Big

Oprah - think big

Oprah Winfrey Thinks Big

There is a quote by Daniel H Burnham that states, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.” There is such amazing truth in that statement. The next chapter of Handshake highlights a woman who did just that. She made and continues to make big plans, and she stirs the souls of men and women around the world. In this except, we will take a look at the life of Oprah Winfrey and her choice to think big.

Oprah Winfrey and the Choice of Thinking Big

Oprah’s path that led from her grandmother’s farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi to becoming the first African-American woman billionaire is a story of unwavering focus and the ability to think beyond her circumstances. Oprah Winfrey serves as our hero in this chapter as someone who learned to think big.  When education may have not happened without the hard work of earning a scholarship, she thought big.  When others may have been limited by a painful past, she chose to think big.  Seeing the needs of children and families, she established programs that would make a difference because she decided to think big.

William Arthur Ward claims, “Nothing limits achievements like small thinking; Nothing expands possibilities like unleashed thinking.”  We are limited by our thinking. In the case of Oprah Winfrey, she was faced with multiple issues that could have limited her thinking.  She once said, “Nobody had any clue that my life could be anything but working in some factory or a cotton field in Mississippi.”  Others may have thought that about her, but she refused to accept that way of thinking.

That’s what thinking big will do for you; it will shape your future into an image of success.  It will bring you to a place that you were meant to be.

In this chapter you will learn the rewards of Thinking Big. The benefits include…

1)  Makes dreams possible

2)  Opens opportunities

3)  Gathers the great

4)  Forces teamwork

5)  Gives you influence

6)  Turns circumstances into stepping stones

7)  Unleashes potential

8)  Promotes growth

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“As long as your going to be thinking anyway, think big.”
– Donald Trump

Things I learned in Ghana

Churches in Ghana

Inspiration from Ghana

Last week I returned from a week long whirlwind trip to Africa. I had the opportunity to go to Ghana, Africa with a group called Meaningful Life International. A few months back the group approached me to speak at a conference for Pastors and Missionaries from across Africa. So on August 25th I left the comforts of America to journey to Ghana and joined Pastor Godwin Ahlijah where I spoke sixteen times over 7 days. I even had the chance to give a 30 minute message on a radio station that has over 5 million listeners. The trip was an exhausting, exciting privilege.

At the conference I was surrounded by courageous, intelligent men and women passionately serving Christ. They were eager to soak up any information I could give them. No matter the topic from leadership to time management, and from church growth to personal growth, they listened intently to everything I had to offer. It was humbling to have been given this opportunity, and I was reminded of how blessed I am to live where I do with such tremendous resources at my finger tips.

Also while in Ghana I had the opportunity to visit Cape Coast Castle, one of the Slave Castles along Ghana’s coast.  Ghana was a primary source used by the English to capture slaves. After trading for the slaves from the local chiefs the Europeans used the castles as a holding place before shipping them around the world.  As I went through the castle it was a somber awakening of how bad the African slave trade really was.  I encourage you to visit the website.  Being there reminded me of the scripture in Jeremiah 17:9 that says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Although we likely can’t see ourselves doing something as bad as torturing, raping, murdering, and enslaving another human being, we still do things or think things that are “desperately wicked.”  I encourage you to take a moment and examine your heart. I know I have these past few days.

Another interesting and unexpected thing that occurred while I was in Ghana was the potential expansion of Celera Group into Ghana. I shared with the leaders there that Celera was created to “raise the national average of church attendance” in America. They were very interested in the program and would like to start a network group in Ghana. (I guess now we will need to change the Celera creed to “raising the international average of church attendance!”) I believe that God is opening an amazing door for us to be a greater assistance to the pastors in Ghana, and to help them to grow personally and to reach their country for Christ.

One final thought… It was a big challenge to me how the Ghanaians wanted to grow and how so often we in America take the opportunity to grow for granted. They really challenged me and I want to challenge you to become even a stronger student of leadership.  Read, Listen, attend events…take every opportunity to grow.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Risking to outreach

community outreach

South Hills Church 2nd Annual Food Drive

This past Saturday we hosted our second annual food drive/day of outreach. Don’t let the name fool you. Community outreach is something we feel very passionately about here at South Hills. This is just one special day where we stretch ourselves to further reach out to our community.

On that one day the South Hills family fed 409 families that represented 2,300 people.  On that day we also provided clothing, haircuts and connected people to free job skills classes from Smooth Transition. Many families said “thank you so much, we have no food in our home.”  And “Thank you so much, this is a months’ worth of food for our family.”

Also the staff and volunteers had blast!  Here is what one volunteer said:

“My time spent serving the community was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.  Several times throughout the day I felt the Lords presence and Him overwhelming me with total joy.  I caught myself having to stop several times so that I could gather my emotions.  God is awesome!”

It was a fantastic day!

So why did we do this?  Because we have made a commitment to “Raise Your Risk for the Disadvantaged” We want to be the flesh of Christ to literally touch people with His love.

Why am I telling you this? To toot our own horn? Well maybe a little. I am very proud of all of our staff, volunteers, and contributors who made this day happen. They worked well and gave big. But equal to that, I want to encourage you to reach out to those in your community who need a loving hand up.

I want to encourage you to be a church that demonstrates a gigantic, God-sized faith. Jesus said, if you love me, you’ll do what I ask. So what did he ask us to do? Seek & save the lost. Serve “the least of these.” Go and make disciples, baptize them. Go farther than your church, farther than your own town, help the church in the next county or another state or even on the other side of the world. These are the radical ideas of our RISK Project.

We raise our risk level when we’re willing to get our hands dirty to meet the needs of the needy. We raise our risk level when we decide to cross the line to have a conversation with a friend to bring them to Christ. We raise our risk level when we say I’ll sacrifice to give more dollars to help other churches grow, to leverage our resources for maximum impact. When you demonstrate a radical risk of faith, incredible things will happen.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Wiling is not enough, we must do.”
– TJohann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”     – 1 Peter 4: 10-11

Staying Motivated on the Mountain

Don't fall off

Maintain motivation so that you don't fall off your mountain

Exerpts from In Search of Higher Ground

As you search for Higher Ground in your life, there will be times when you feel like giving up. Times when you feel like it’s pointless and you just don’t want to try anymore. You’ll feel like it’s too hard to keep climbing and you’ll simply want to quit. The question is not whether you are going to feel like this at various times in your life, the real question is, “What will be your response to these feelings?” Will you stay motivated enough to climb the mountain and finish the journey or will you find yourself lacking the motivation to continue upward?

I’m reminded of a story my friend told me about a young boy whom the schoolyard bully was picking on everyday. Each day this bully would steal this young boy’s lunch money and the little boy was tired of being picked on. One day on his way home from school he noticed a sign advertising free karate lessons. He inquired within and began taking his lessons immediately. After about a week of taking lessons, the instructor informed him that the free lessons were only good for a week and that each lesson would now cost $5 per session. The little boy didn’t have the money and he figured it would be harder to come up with the money for the lessons than it would be to pay the schoolyard bully so, he quit.

The moral of the story is obvious. This little boy lacked the motivation and found it easier to take the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, many people do that. They start off with great intentions, but lose their motivation. “I’m going to start a new business, change careers, improve my relationships, establish a stronger faith, develop a non-profit organization, or make a dream become reality.” Maybe you’ve said this or something like this, maybe you have even started taking some steps toward these objectives. But in the case of thousands of people, their good intentions weren’t good enough.

Everyone has some type of motivation. They have something that drives them and serves as a passion in their heart… Find your motivation, find the thing that thrills your heart more than anything else. You will find that it will be easier to stay motivated with something you like rather than something you dislike. You will notice that you do not tend to burn out on your strength, but you burn out on your weaknesses.

Stanford University did a study and concluded that only 5% of people that set out to implement something into their lives ever do it.2 The reason 95% of people never finish the task is that they simply lack the resources to stay motivated long enough to accomplish their goals. That is why I am a firm believer in consistently feeding yourself for personal growth. Many people have said to me, “Chris you are going to teach another motivational topic, don’t you know that after awhile the people will go back to normal?” My response to that is, “Of course I know that people will eventually go back to the way they were, but that is why they need constant motivation. You don’t take a shower once and say, ‘That’s it.’ You make an effort to stay physically clean, as you do to stay highly motivated.”

Here’s a list of things I recommend to you to stay on a path of personal growth:

• READ BOOKS – Find books that motivate you and keep you growing and read them.
• LISTEN TO TAPES – Purchase tapes from your favorite speakers and listen to them over and over until they get down into your spirit.
• ATTEND SEMINARS – Make it a habit to attend at least 3-4 seminars per year. These events will help to charge you up and keep you going.
• ASSOCIATE WITH MOTIVATED PEOPLE – I’ve mentioned this before, but it bares repeating. You become like those you associate with. If you want to stay
motivated, associate with motivated people.
• SPIRITUAL RENEWAL – For me personally, one of the greatest forms of motivation comes from my deep faith in God, who is my #1 source for motivation. If God isn’t part of your life, you should deeply consider it…He can do far more in your life than you ever imagined.

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen


“Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turn about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow.
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit.
It’s when things seem worse,
That you must not quit.”


How well am I leading the church? – Part 2

Have a commitment to Personal Growth and Adding Value to Your Team

Have a commitment to Personal Growth and Adding Value to Your Team

Last time, I pointed out that the first step to being an effective leader in your church is having a consuming passion to build a thriving church. If a passion to have a thriving, growing church is your motivation, then a dedication to learning and to growing the various qualities of a good leader is a must. John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”Let’s take a closer look at two of these areas of leadership.

 I have observed that leaders are usually in one of the two places…A place of continual challenge or a place of continual comfort. You, and therefore your church, cannot move forward if you are continually comfortable.  In order to grow as a leader, you must challenge yourself; you must have a commitment to personal growth. Here are some basic steps…
 1.  To challenge yourself you have to invest in yourself.
   How to invest:
a)  Read great books, blogs, newsletters, daily
b)  Listen to motivational and/or teaching cd’s, or other audio sources daily
c) Take thinking moments -Set aside time each week where you step away and think about leadership and your personal growth.  This is where you learn to journal.
d)  Visit great places
e)  Talk to great leaders
f)   Be committed to life long coaching/mentoring
2. Create a plan and stick with it. I have heard it said, “The greatest obstacle to personal growth isn’t ignorance or lack of intelligence.  It is a lack of a plan to get you there.”
               Two main keys to creating a personal growth plan are:
                                • Identify what you need to do
                                • Place it in your calendar and live by it
Another area we need to focus on as leaders is  having a Commitment to add value to others. In the setting of your church team, this includes church staff and volunteer leaders. Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways To Reward Employees did a survey on managers and employees.  He had each group list on a scale from 1-10 what is most important to them.

The Managers Top 3 were…
1. Good wages
2. Job Security
3. Promotion/Growth opportunities
The Employees Top 3 were…
1. Appreciation
2. Sympathetic to personal problems
3. Feeling “IN” on things
NOTE:  Managers only ranked Appreciation as #8

“How can you add value to those around you,
if you don’t know what they value?”

Here are some tips to help you better value your team.
 1. Know their love language.
 – What makes each team member feel valuable?  (Gifts, Words, Notes, Public Affirmation, see The Five Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman)
 2. Put a “10” on each team members head and treat them that way.
3. Be genuinely interested in their lives.
4. Regularly invest in them as a leader.
a)  Go through monthly leadership books with them.
b)  Create leadership growth groups.
c)  Send them to conferences.
d)  Get them in front of great leaders.
e) When you have a great speaker in, have them spend time with the leaders before or after the services.

I will address the last two areas of effective church leadership (Character that builds influence and Clarity of heart and mission) in part 3 of “How well am I leading the church?

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Every great man is always being helped by everybody; for his gift is to get good out of all things and all persons.”

— John Ruskin

How well am I leading the church? – Part 1

The"size" of the leader is more important than the size of the project

The"size" of the leader is more important than the size of the project

It has been said, “It’s not the size of the project that determines its acceptance, support and success. It’s the size of the Leader.” My question to you is how are you doing as a leader of your church?  Are you contributing to excitement, outreach  and growth, or are you stuck and contributing to stagnancy and decline? I encourage you to take the following quiz to help you have a clear vision of how you are performing as a leader.

Use the rating system 1  2  3  4  5

1 – Haven’t done it
2 – Just in the early stages
3 – Solidly in progress
4 – Nearly accomplished
5 – Fully accomplished

Please read the statement below and circle the number that best describes you:
I have communicated in such a way that our key leaders understand our purpose and process.
1        2        3        4        5

I have taken the steps necessary so that our church understands the purpose and process.
1        2        3        4        5

I have led the church to a place where our purpose and process is working.
1        2        3        4        5

I have put together the right team that will lead us to success.
1        2        3        4        5

I actively add value to my team by resourcing them for personal growth.
1        2        3        4        5

I have developed a team that “fits”.
1        2        3        4        5

I have helped each player on the team reach their potential.
1        2        3        4        5

I know the level of all my players on the team.
1        2        3        4        5

I model personal growth through reading leadership books, attending conferences, speaking to other great leaders and doing what is necessary to grow.

1        2        3        4        5

I am living with integrity before my team.

1        2        3        4        5

I have developed a deep bench of leaders.

1        2        3        4        5

I have helped to build a winning tradition at our church.

1        2        3        4        5

I have displayed a willingness to change.

1        2        3        4        5

I have developed clear expectations for each leader.
1        2        3        4        5

I have learned to give away authority.
1        2        3        4        5

I do only the tasks that cannot be delegated.
1        2        3        4        5

I have encouraged my team in such a way that they would say they are better leaders because I am in their life.
1        2        3        4        5

I have discovered and implemented ways to continually keep the purpose and process before they church.
1        2        3        4        5

I model living a balanced life to my team.
1        2        3        4        5

I have shown that I am willing to make the tough decisions without dragging my feet.
1        2        3        4        5

Please add the total from all statements:  Total __________________________

The above quiz covers many areas of leadership, and it reveals these areas about ourselves…

1. Commitment to personal growth        2. Commitment to add value to others

5. Consuming passion to build a
thriving church

3.  Character that builds influence            4.  Clarity of heart and mission

Notice that “consuming passion to build a thriving church” is in the middle of the other categories. Do you have a consuming passion for your church?  Do you want to see your church growing through evangelism and community outreach?  Do you want to see those who are in your church drawing closer to God and growing stronger in their faith?  If you do not yet have a burning desire to have a thriving church, discovering that passion is the first place to start.  If you do have that passion, fantastic! Out of that passion will stem a desire to work on these other elements…personal growth, adding value to others, character, and clarity. I will take a closer look at some of these areas next time.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”

John Maxwell

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing – Part 1

Creativity is needed for a successful weekend service

Creativity is needed for a successful weekend service

In order for any church to be a healthy, thriving body, especially if your focus is church growth, you must keep “the main thing the main thing.” What is the main thing? In any church, the main “thing” is Weekend Services! Your weekend services are where your vision comes to life, team efforts are seen, and they are catalysts to life change. And in terms of evangelism a weekend service is usually a visitor’s first impression of the church. It has been said, “In the NFL there is one Super Bowl per year…in the church life there are 52 per year.” The problem is that we often treat the major thing as the minor thing. We think of the weekend services as business as usual. Therefore, there is often very little sermon prep. The planning is frequently last minute.  The services often lack creativity, and are predictable.  Following are some of the excuses I have been given for not having more creative and interesting services.
• I’m not very creative
• No one in our church is creative 
• I don’t have a staff to work with
• Can’t afford to be creative
• Creative services inhibit the moving of the Holy Spirit
 Now consider this… God made you as a creative being. God invented creativity. Jesus modeled creativity, and the Spirit empowers creativity.  If this is true, what is the real reason why we don’t have creative services? Some of the reasons and/or excuses I have encountered are…
a)   The planning takes too long
b)  Brings us out of our comfort zone
c)   Failure to see the value
d)  Too much work
Now that you are beginning to embrace your creative side, here are a few general suggestions regarding how to increase your creativeness in various areas of your services.
1. Creative Worship
• Life Change video
• Baptism
• Reading of a life change story
• Video images
• Utilize special music with creativity
• Dance

FACT:  Worship can be more than 3-5 songs week after week

2. Creative Communication  – the sermon
• Always ask: “What does the listener need to know and what do they need to do?”
• Less is more (try to find one driving theme)
• Use creative illustrations
• Stay fresh
• Give a good balance (spiritual depth, Bible, relevancy)
“If better is possible then good is not enough”
 3. Creative Elements

• Videos
• Special Song
• Interaction moments
• Drama
Before you start to feel overwhelmed, keep in mind that this is not and should not be all up to you.  You will need a team to help you in this process.  In part 2 we will discuss how to create that team and how to work with the team effectively.


Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.”
 Maya Angelou

Reaching Your Peak Performance

Parents encourage their children to reach their full potential

Parents encourage their children to reach their full potential

If you are a parent you know what it is like to want your child to succeed.   When they come home from school with a bad grade, you let them know “you can do better, just apply yourself, you are full of potential.”  We believe this for our children and we desire the best for their lives…but what about us?  What about the potential that lies deep in our lives?  What about the idea that if you just apply yourself you can do anything you want?

It is easy to believe this for someone else, but not for ourselves.  The fact is that you are a person of potential and you have a level that can and needs to be reached.  What a tragedy it would be to get the end of your life and know that there was potential that was left untapped.  In a response to the question ‘What would you come back as after you die?’ Ralph Waldo Emerson said “I would come back as the man Ralph Waldo Emerson could have been but never was.”

Here are some steps to help you assure yourself of reaching your peak performance:

1)  Stop thinking small and start thinking big
Years ago Roget Bannister was the first man in history to run a four minute mile.  For years the experts said that it could not be done.  But one summer day he proved them wrong.  He did it…he ran the mile in 3:59.  In the following years over 400 people ran the mile in under four minutes. What was once thought as impossible became possible because one person showed the world it could be done.  What happened?  Did people all of the sudden become faster?  NO!  They simply began to think differently.

When you begin to think differently, bigger things start to happen.  You begin to see the possibilities and opportunities around you.  START THINKING BIG.  Why not?  It doesn’t cost anything.  Think big about your life, career, organization or whatever it is that you are involved in. Like Donald Trump says “You have to think, so why not think big.”

2)  Stop doubting and start believing
One of the greatest obstacles of reaching your peak performance is doubting yourself.  Doubting your abilities, talent and potential.  It is great to have someone believe in you, but you must first believe in yourself.  Believe that greatness is awaiting you.  Your life and career can be more then you have ever imagined.  Stop being crippled by the disease of doubt.

My son desires to be a baseball player (as I am sure millions of children do).  But I want to believe in him and I want him to learn to believe in himself.  So he and I play this game.  I ask him, “are you going to be a professional baseball player?”  He says “Yep!”  I say “no doubt about it.”  Then he says “no doubt about it.”  We do this little exercise a couple of times a week.  Funny as it may seem I believe that I am teaching him a valuable lesson in life.  He must believe in himself and not doubt.  Doubt is a self-imposed roadblock that only you and I can remove.

3)  Stop thinking negative and start thinking positive
We have all heard it a million times…be positive!  But no matter how many times you’ve heard it, you need to hear it again…be positive.  There is something powerful that happens when you begin to see life in a more positive way.  I am not saying to be unrealistic about problems or situations that you face…but I am saying to learn to keep a positive perspective about you, your future, your family, your career and your personal life.  Nothing good will come from being negative and the potential for great things will come from being positive.

You are someone of destiny…someone who has greatness in them.  Decide today that you will begin to reach your peak performance by thinking big, believing in yourself and begin positive every step of the way.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

“We are not held back or pushed forward by our abilities;
but by our thoughts about our abilities.