f there is one thing that regularly cripples effective teams, it’s conflict.

We’ve all seen this.

There’s an incredibly talented football team that is a preseason pick to win it all but the team underperforms when it matters because the players can’t get along.

There’s a seasoned and skilled executive team that go nuclear because of relational strife.

There’s a growing church that loses momentum because the executive pastor and the teaching pastor can’t seem to get on the same page.

We’ll all seen it and we’ve all been a part of it. The thing is, we can’t avoid conflict. We live and lead in a fallen world. The question is not, how do we avoid conflict, but rather, how do we navigate conflict in our leadership teams?

I have three strategies that have worked well on my team.

1. Prepare for Conflict with Relationships

Here’s an obvious but important truth: I handle conflict differently with people I love and people I, well… don’t love.

You know what I mean because you do the same thing. With people we love, we tend to be more patient, more understanding, more empathetic and more honest. With people we don’t like or don’t know, we tend to assume the worst.

Because of this, the most important strategy for navigating conflict is to build strong relationships in your team. If your team cares about each other, they will be more honest, more trusting and more understanding. If your team doesn’t care about each other. Well, you are in trouble.

How do you build relationships? I have two ideas:

1. Relational Meetings

Start every team meeting with a relational component. It’s important that your team share about their personal lives and their stories. This will build trust and understanding. Do it regularly and often. Relationships take time.

2. Team Retreats

Start incorporating team retreats into your schedule. Why is this important? First, because we all act more like our authentic selves when our guard is down. Getting away from the regular schedule and responsibilities, finding a different space (like someone’s house or cottage), sharing a meal and hanging out in a disarming environment can do wonders for a team.

On our last retreat, we did little, other than eat together and answer three relational questions:

  1. What was the most important moment of your childhood?
  2. What was the most important moment of your teenage years?
  3. What has been the most important moment of your adult life?

It’s hard to explain the value of your team laughing and crying together. It builds a powerful sense of togetherness.

Secondly, shared experiences is a powerfully binding. Your team needs a few, “Remember when we…?” Shared memories, especially if they are funny or emotional, have the power to bind a team together.

Team retreats can become shared experiences. Go ahead and schedule one. You won’t regret it. If you don’t know what to do, go ahead and use my three questions.

Relationships pave the way for healthy conflict resolution. If I know your story, your passions and your quirks, I am much more likely to respond to you with maturity and grace when we disagree.

Read the rest of this post here.

Do you know what we all hate?

Inefficiency.

Let’s be honest. We do. Traffic backups? We hate them because they are inefficient.

Waiting for WAY too long in line at a restaurant. We hate it. Why? It’s inefficient.

Waiting 5 minutes for our outdated laptop to power up? We hate that! Why? Because, it’s inefficient.

Do you know what we love? Efficiency. It saves us time, money and energy.

There is no place that we should be more intolerant of inefficiency than our churches. Our staff, programs and processes are all being funded by the sacrificial generosity of church attenders who are under the assumption that their gifts are going to the highest possible good. As my boss often says to me when I propose spending money:

“How do I justify this idea to my 80-year-old mother who gives beyond her means to support this church?”

Ok. Extreme example. And yet, I think we all agree that our churches should be leading the way in efficiency.

So, how do we become more efficient? Well, that is a ginormous question so let’s narrow the scope to how we and our employees spend the most valuable of resources: our time. I have 4 ideas that have worked well in improving time efficiency in our church.

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Orange Tour!!!

August 23, 2016 — Leave a comment

I gotta tell you about something I’m excited about.  The Orange Tour is coming!  If you’re involved in student ministry or children’s ministry, this event is fantastic.  I always leave energized. Here’s a link with info and tour dates and stops.

If you’re curious, the theme for this year’s Tour is Monday is Coming.  Here’s a little blurb:

So WHAT IF what you do every Sunday could matter more if you remember what really matters to most people on Monday?
WHAT IF success is less about who comes this Sunday and more about what happens on Monday?
WHAT IF your ministry began to rethink every message, every environment, every program and every relationship through this one idea?

I experienced some of this content at the Orange Conference in Atlanta in April and loved it.  If you still don’t believe me, just check out this video…

One last thing:  If you’re planning to come to Detroit Tour stop…I’ll be there with most of my team.  See ya there!

If you’re like most people, you probably think church staff meetings are the worst. They are boring. They are pointless. They are a waste of time.

I used to think so too…until I ran into some good ones.

Now, I’ve completely changed my opinion of meetings. They don’t have to be a dreaded consumer of time.  They don’t even have to be a “necessary evil”. In fact, they can be incredibly helpful and even engaging.

How do you transform a meeting from “the worst” to something positive?

While I haven’t mastered every aspect of leading great ministry meetings, I have learned a few helpful tips.

Step one is structuring the meeting correctly. Here are 4 ways to help structure a great meeting.

1. What Kind of Meeting is This?

Most meetings suffer from a kind of multiple personalities disorder. In other words, we often try to make a meeting do too many things at once. A great meeting has a specific goal.

The first way to structure a great meeting is to define the purpose of the meeting. Here are some options:

The Check-In Meeting

During the summer months, my team has a check-in meeting every day. It lasts a maximum of 15 minutes and each person is responsible to share 3 things:

  1. This is what I’m working on
  2. This is what I need everyone to know
  3. This is what I need from the team

The purpose of this meeting is simply to get on the same page and run in the same direction.

The Review Meeting

Another meeting that my team often engages is the review meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to evaluate an event, program or trip. We’re providing feedback.

In this meeting, we often utilize a tool called “4 Helpful Lists”:

  1. What was Right?
  2. What was Wrong?
  3. What was Missing?
  4. What was Confusing?

This tool directs our conversation and feedback. Once everyone has provided input we create an “action steps” list to move the conversation forward.

The Strategic Meeting

A third type of meeting is the strategic meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to make a decision.

For my team, this often ends up feeling more like a debate than a meeting. It is often passionate, loud and intense. In my opinion, this is a good thing because it means the team is being honest.

It’s important to note that the strategic meeting doesn’t mean that the decision in question will be made democratically in the meeting because it often lands on the leader to make a tough decision. However, this meeting ensures that everyone on the team is heard.

All of these meetings are necessary and important. My point is simply this: do your best to communicate what type of meeting you are calling because then people will know how to prepare and act.

Combining different meetings is usually counterproductive.

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I bet you’re busy. I know I’m busy. If you’re in church leadership, you’re a busy person. There’s so much to accomplish and seemingly not enough time to do it.

Here’s something else: I bet you are surrounded by talented people. If you’re a good church leader, you’ve recruited great people.

One more thing. I bet you wish you could delegate some of your tasks and responsibilities to the talented people around you. You’d have more time to focus on your strengths or new opportunities and the talented people around you could grow in experience and expertise.

It’s so obviously a win. In fact, in the words of Michael Scott, it might just be a “win, win, win.”

michael_scott_win_win_win

But of course, there’s a problem.  Very few of us effectively delegate.

It just doesn’t seem to work.

In theory it should speed things up, but in real life it seems to slow things down. That was exactly my experience, until I started to follow some of the principles here. Now, I’m more free than ever to focus on my strengths and my team is growing in expertise, experience and fulfillment.

My hope for this post is that you could learn from my years of trial and error in the art of delegation. I’ve learned 6 important lessons over the years that I think are critical for church leaders. Here they are…

You can read the rest of this post here.

Recently I wrote an article for the Breeze blog on how to run a great staff meeting.  Here’s a snippet:

Let’s be honest.

Most of us don’t love staff meetings.

They are often boring, too long and sometimes even irrelevant. And yet, we all know that staff meetings are a must if our teams are going to have any chance of staying on the same page.

Here’s the good news: staff meetings don’t have to be terrible. In fact, they can be constructive, compelling, and even fun.

The key is building your staff meetings around 5 energizing elements. Here they are…

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This week I have the privilege of writing for the Orange Leaders blog, which is one of my favorite blogs in the world.  The post is about maintaining boundaries in ministry.  Here’s a snippet:

Real questions I’ve been asked by students and parents…

  • So, what’s your real job?
  • Umm . . . what do you actually do all day?
  • So, you just take the summer off then?
  • How was your vacation to Mexico? (It was a mission trip, you Jerky McJerkyson.)

For whatever reason, some people think that family ministries staff don’t work very hard or very often. This of course, is utter nonsense. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain appropriate boundaries in ministry. The events, problems, conversations, camps, crises, retreats and everything else happen day and night, on the weekends and always on holidays. I mean, always on holidays.

So, how do we keep ourselves from burning out? How do we maintain healthy boundaries so that our families aren’t negatively affected by our ministry? And, how in the world do we keep ourselves healthy?

You can check out the rest of the post here.

Hey Friends,

Today I’m writing about a new approach for training volunteers.  Check it out:

Raise your hand if you are pumped about your volunteer training strategy.

I’m guessing you didn’t.

Most of us don’t feel terribly confident about our training methods. I think this is because most of us have been following a system of volunteer training that, well, doesn’t really work.

Here’s a snapshot:

  1. Recruit volunteers
  2. Provide some sort of orientation for volunteers
  3. Once a month or a couple times a year, hold a volunteer training meeting
  4. Wonder if what we are doing is effective
  5. Repeat

Based on what I’ve seen and experienced, there is a much more effective way to train volunteers. But, it really doesn’t have that much to do with training. It has a lot more to do with what volunteers actually need. Let me explain…

Click here to read the rest of the post.

 

Today, I’m blogging for Breeze Church Management Software on the topic of volunteer retention.  Here’s a sample…

In church world, we’re often scrambling to recruit enough volunteers.  It seems like there are never enough.   Here’s a thought:  What if our volunteers stuck around?  What if we didn’t have to recruit as many volunteers because the majority of our volunteers stayed engaged? What if our volunteers loved serving so much that they stayed involved?  How much more efficient and effective would or ministries and churches become?

I believe this scenario is possible.  In fact, I’ve seen it happen year after year in our church.

I believe any ministry or church can achieve high levels of volunteer satisfaction and retention by answering 6 questions that all volunteers are asking…

Check out the rest of the post here.

My boss likes to ask me hard questions.  It’s his thing.  And, it’s a good thing because his questions often keep me from doing dumb stuff.  He recently asked me to take a week and identify my stress indicators.  In other words, what are the things in your life that when they pop up, you know you are stressed out.  Why did he ask me this?  Because, stress free people don’t burn out.  We burn out in ministry because we ignore stress and act like we can handle it…until we can’t.  And then, it’s too late.

So, what are my stress indicators?  I’m glad you asked.  Here you go:

WEIRD SLEEP

I’m sort of a ninja at sleeping, which is awesome for me and not so awesome for my wife.  You see, we have 5 kids.  She hasn’t had a full night of sleep in 10 years.  Meanwhile, anytime she goes away the kids sleep all night.  Or at least, I sleep all night.  To be honest, I don’t really know what the kids do.  All I know is that when I wake up at 6:00 am they are all staring at me.  It’s kind of weird really.

Anyway, what I mean to tell you is that I’m a ninja at sleeping unless I’m stressed out. In stressful seasons, I have awful dreams and wake up in the middle of the night and then can’t fall back to sleep. It’s essentially the worst.  Here’s a catalogue of the weird dreams I’ve recently had:

  • I’m at church and someone asks me if I’m ready to preach.  I totally forgot that I’m preaching.  I wake up hyperventilating in a cold sweat.
  • I’m at church and someone asks me if I’m ready to preach.  I totally forgot that I’m preaching.  I wake up hyperventilating in a cold sweat.
  • I’m at church and someone asks me if I’m ready to preach.  I totally forgot that I’m preaching.  I wake up hyperventilating in a cold sweat.

As you can see, my weird dreams are directly related to work stress.  It’s a stress indicator.

CRABBY DADDY

I’m not terribly proud of this stress indicator but it is a very clear sign that I’m running on fumes.  I like to think of myself as a fun dad.  I like to make my kids laugh, play with them and patiently listen to their 45 minute descriptions of what happened at elementary school recess.  But, the truth is that when I am stressed out, I’m a total crab.  I don’t listen well.  I get irritated easily.  I lose motivation to actually play with my kids.  Crabby Daddy is a stress indicator.

FORGETFUL JONES

When I was a kid there was this character on Sesame Street named Forgetful Jones.  His game was pretty simple:  forget everything important.

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/muppet/images/d/d0/Forgetfuljones01.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20140302232539

 

I’ve noticed that when I’m stressed, I drop the ball.  For example, when you get a call asking if you’re still going to show up and speak at the Baccalaureate service in 10 minutes and you totally forgot and don’t even know what you’re going to speak on (obviously, this is a story about someone else), you might be stressed out.

Normally, I have a pretty solid memory, but I’ve found that one of my stress indicators is forgetting important details.

 

STRESS INDICATORS

So, what about you?  What are your stress Indicators?  If you can’t identify them quickly, it might be worth asking people close to you what they are.  You might be surprised by what you learn.

Also, what exactly do we do when it becomes clear that we are stressed out?  My boss simply says, “Don’t keep doing the same thing.  Do something different.”  For him it might be as simple as changing the scenery.  Adding a walk into his daily routine or holding a meeting outside.

Here are a few things that recharge me:

  • Work from a coffee shop (I’m an outgoing introvert so productive alone time is like gold)
  • Go off the grid (For me, a a day or two of not even getting out of my PJs will get me back on the right track)
  • The Cottage (My aunt has a cottage in Northern Michigan.  It’s literally the best.  A weekend on the water cures just about everything for me)

Pay attention to your stress levels.  The only people who burn out are those who attempt to run too long with too much stress.  Pay attention to your indicators and act on them.  Do something different or do something that recharges you.  Your church, your ministry and your family need a healthy you.

 

image credited to Vural G. via Flickr