Church Offering Talk

A lot of people land on this blog by searching for “church offering talk.”  If that’s you, then I want to direct you to this resource from Giving Rocket.  Hands down, it’s one of the most practical things you can do in your church.  You’ll learn how to get intentional with the time of giving in your service, and learn how to write “a giving talk.”


When Dreams Lead to Inaction

Turn your dreams into plans
Dreams should push us forward, but sometimes, the magnitude of our dreams leave us still and unable to act.  Perhaps its the size of the dream that incapacitates us, or perhaps is the comfort of the familiar.


But God-given dreams should propel us to action.  After all, dreams that are not acted upon will become regrets given enough time.

Is there a dream embedded in your heart that has been glossed over by life?  Maybe you’ve always wanted to live in the city, start that business, learn another language, take a mission trip, write that book or take that trip?  Don’t let the cost of the experience or the scope of the dream lead you to inaction.  Jump in.
Here are some practical things you can do to get started.

1.  Break it down into chunks. Most dreams are really a sequence of steps.  Focusing on the end, without looking at the steps it will take to get there will be overwhelming.  Break your dream down into smaller chunks.

2.  Start learning. Learning is a key to implementing something.  What can you learn about the country, industry, language, etc?  Get a book, take a course or do something related to your dream.

3.  Tell someone.  Accountability in the context of authentic friendships is a powerful thing.  It’s time to tell someone about your dream.  It doesn’t matter if they think you’re crazy or if they push you forward…the point is that your dream is out there.

God-given dreams get stronger over time….they don’t go away.  They might be buried underneath layers of life and put on hold, but if that dream is still there, don’t let it become a regret.



When Small is Better

Do you run a small business?  Do you pastor a small church?  Do you run a small non-profit? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you will probably answer yes to one of the next ones:
  • Do you feel like you can’t compete with the major players?
  • Do you feel like you’re constantly waiting on the big break?
  • Do you wonder if you’re making a big difference, or any difference at all?
  1. You can make decisions quicker. When you’re small, you don’t have to go through sixteen steps in order to make an important decision.  You, and maybe a small team of advisors, get to make the decision.  Sure, you might get it wrong, but you also might get it right.  When you’re highly responsive and directly responsible for decision making, you can position your organization for success.
  2. You can reach people directly. You don’t need a marketing department, because you ARE the marketing department.  You don’t need to check with legal, because you ARE legal.  While this may scare you, there are major benefits to this reality.  You get to speak right to your customer, without going through layers of red tape.  You get to help those you’re trying to help directly.
  3. You can be more creative. A pastor of a mega-church once told me, “I’m somewhat jealous of you small guys.  You know how to innovate and create better than we do because you don’t have all the resources.”  You might think you’d be more creative with more money or more staff, but it’s just as likely that those resources would turn you into a passionless machine.
  4. You can change  faster. Turning a battleship requires multiple people and a fair amount of ocean in front of you.  Changing directions with a one-man canoe is a little easier, and you can turn on a dime.  If you need to shift the focus or head in a different direction, you can do that quicker than your mega competition.  Of course, there’s the risk that you’ll over-correct all the time and never make headway, but if you’re a good leader, you will know when the change is important.
Being small is not the stepping stone to being big, and not everything that starts out small makes it big.  Business, churches and organizations of all different sizes are needed to make a difference in this world.  Relish your place in the design.  Don’t whine and complain that you’re not bigger.  Being small is a strength, one that you might not always have.
For what it’s worth, I love helping small businesses reach more customers and non-profits make a bigger difference.  Read more about my consulting process and contact me if you’d like to chat.

Guilt by Association

A few weeks ago, I listened to an amazing sermon by Andy Stanley called “The Separation of Church and Hate.”

Neither Jesus nor Paul were concerned with guilt by association.  Jesus wasn’t afraid to eat dinner with a tax collector.  He wasn’t afraid to be seen with the woman at the well.

When Jesus was nicknamed “the friend of sinners” by the religious leaders of the day, that title wasn’t a compliment.  It was meant to attack his character based on his associations.  They tried to bring Jesus down by lumping him in with other down and out people of the day.  But Jesus didn’t shrink back from that.  In fact, he leaned in.
Jesus didn’t show disdain for sinners.  Actually, He seemed to show the most personal disdain for the hyper-religious of the day.  The critical, judgmental leaders hell bent to point out the sins of others.
I confess that I’ve been too concerned with appearances, fearful of associating publicly with some people because of what people would say.  I was wrong to do that.  Now I’m on the other end of this, and this hits much closer to home.  I suppose experience remains a great teacher.

Stuff I Starred

Here’s a short list of stuff I starred in Google reader, favorited on Twitter, or clipped into Evernote this week:

What did you find interesting this week?  Leave a comment with a link.

Yes, But

Earlier this week, Michael Hyatt wrote an excellent post entitled Five Reasons You Need to Get Better at Saying No.  After letting my schedule get out of control, I implemented many of the principles he discussed in the post.  It absolutely made me a more focused leader.  Over time, I became intentionally inaccessible to the people I was trying to lead.

While I agree with Michael’s thoughts, based on my own personal experiences and perhaps only for my benefit, I offer this addition.

Sometimes, I need to lead with a Yes, but…

  • Yes, I would love to meet you so you could pick my brain about church planting, but can you please send me some questions in advance.
  • Yes, I would love to talk to you, but can you make an appointment.
  • Yes, but today is a day that I’ve reserved for my family, so can it wait until Monday?

“Yes, but” might not be the best leadership principle, but it might be good for your soul.  Automatically defaulting to “no” might be the best for your schedule, but it might not be the default position that God wants you to take.  I wonder how many interruptions were really divine appointments that my rigid rules and double-doored office hindered.

I know I want my default answer to be “yes” when God asks.  I know I want my default answer to be “yes” when my kids need something.  I’m not trying to be super-spiritual, and I’m not suggesting that you use God as an excuse. I AM saying that sometimes, other people priorities SHOULD take precedence over your own.

I suppose the million dollar question is, “Is this a divine appointment or a God-opportunity that doesn’t fit into my mold, or is this legitimately a distraction from what God has called me to do?”

Please understand, I am not talking about taking on extra responsibilities or shunning your family. A stressed leader completely managed or overwhelmed with his or her schedule will not be effective over the long haul.

In my leadership, as my default answer became no, I found myself more and more isolated from the very people I was trying to serve.  “Those people over there are really more equipped to handle that need,” really meant that I didn’t want to adjust my schedule to help. For me, leading with a no because a guard door to my soul.  This may not be an issue for you, but it was for me.


The Curious Connection Between Speaking and Thinking

Unfortunately, while thinking and speaking SHOULD be related, often they are not.  But here are two ways you can connect them.

1.  Think before you speak. There’s an old New England proverb that says “Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.”  NFL players using twitter, communicators giving a speech, or friends giving advice need to slow down and think about what they are saying before they say it. As one who makes his living communicating, this is a hard lesson to learn, but it’s usually best to slow down and think before you speak (or tweet).

2.  You don’t have to say everything you think. I don’t always get it right, but I have begun many a tweet, only to delete it.  Just because I thought something, doesn’t mean I needed to say it to the world.  It’s not always wise or helpful to verbalize everything that’s going on in your mind.  I may think the officer pulling me over for not coming to a complete stop is a jerk, but it’s not helpful or wise to say anything at the moment.

Think before you speak, and even then, don’t say everything you think.

Book Notes: Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me

Here are some notes and thoughts from Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me, a great little book by Richard Paul Evans.

1.  The wealthy decide to be wealthy. “The most substantial people are the most frugal and make the least show, and live at the least expense.”  – Frances Moore

Money makes a good servant but a bad master – Proverb

2.  Take responsibility for your money. Know how much money you have.  Know where your money comes from.  Know where your money is going.  Know what your money is doing.

3.  Keep a portion of everything you earn. 10% of your income at 10% return over 40 years is $2.4 million.

4. Win in the margins. An extra 10% saved each year is $2.4 million after 40 years.

Millionaire Mindset #1:  The millionaire mentality carefully considers each expenditure.  Is it really necessary, or is it possible to get the same personal effect without using money or using less of it?  Is this expenditure contributing t my wealth or taking from it?  Is this an impulse purchase or a planned purchase?

Millionaire Mindset #2:  The millionaire mentality believes that freedom and power are better than momentary pleasure.

Millionaire Mindset #3:  The millionaire mentality does not equate spending with happiness.

Millionaire Mindset #4:  The millionaire mentality protects the nest egg.

5.  Give back.


The Sin of Exaggeration

In the June 201 issue of INC, Jason Fried (founder of 37 Signals) discusses the exaggeration phenomenon.  This is what happens when a small business, start up or even a church exaggerates in order to impress clients or co-workers.  He describes the small business owner who refers to headquarters when it’s really just a desk in his bedroom.  Or maybe you need to consult with the executive management team, which in reality is your unpaid best friend working from Starbucks.

“I once met an entrepreneur who told me that Boeing was a client.  It turned out the company helped a Boeing executive set up a personal blog.” writes Fried.

I’ve been guilty of this at times, exaggerating size or scope in order to impress other pastors.  It’s nothing more than pride.  I don’t know why we feel the need to pad the numbers or hype things on Twitter, but we do.   And we never round the numbers down; it’s always up.

Being small is no reason for shame, and transparency is a good way to run a business.

Stop acting.

Stop trying to impress.

Stuff I Starred

Here’s a short list of stuff I clipped into Evernote, favorited (is that a word?) on Twitter or starred on Google Reader:

  • “If a guy were dating my daughter but didn’t want to spend the gas money to come and pick her up or refused to buy her dinner because it cost too much, I would question whether he were really in love with her. In the same way, I question whether many American churchgoers are really in love with God because they are so hesitant to do anything for Him.” – Francis Chan
  • Can’t believe I missed the Toe Wrestling Championships?
  • “The question of questions for mankind – the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other – is the ascertainment of the place which man occupies in nature and of his relations to the universe of things”.  – H. Thomas Henry Huxley from Mans Place in Nature.
  • I going to see the last Harry Potter movie today. I’ve read every book, listened to every audio book, and seen every movie.  The audio books are the best way to experience Harry Potter.
  • @RevRunWisdom: Stop tryin 2 get everything fixed at once! Wise ppl who remove a mountain, begin by carrying away small stones.
  • Matt Redman has a new CD out.  Here’s an iTunes link.
  • I have been disappointed with summer movies and sequels so far.  Too many people are making movies to make money and not to tell a story.
  • Good post from Church Crunch about creating a church twitter team.
  • Every week during the summer, our family chooses a different theme.  This week was Mexico week.  In addition to a couple of taco nights, my 9-year old created PowerPoint presentations and tonight we’re busting a pinata.
  • I’ve spent a total of five minutes on Google plus.  Not sure if I will spend 5 more.

When Stuff Gets In The Way

From Hugh MacLeod’s Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity

There is no correlation between creativity and equipment ownership. Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on a sheet of borrowed stationary. Van Gogh rarely painted with more than six colors on his palette. A fancy tool just gives the second-rater one more pillar to hide behind. This is why there are second-rate art directors with state-of-the-art Macintosh computers and so many crappy photographers with state-of-the-art digital cameras.

Amen to that.

I’ve been a part of a low-dollar organization startup that was forced to bootstrap it’s way to existence. A lack of money didn’t handicap us; it forced us to be creative and find ways to make things happen.

I’ve seen first hand how that same organization can forget those early days, allowing limited resources to be an excuse for not chasing things. It’s easy to lose the hunger when you’ve got a buffet of blessings. Tools and toys are often pursued in business, but ironically, thy can quickly become roadblocks for creativity.

Take away the budgets…can you still dream and execute? If not, then you’ve forgotten the joy of birthing something out of nothing.

The Danger of Systems

I am a huge believer in creating healthy systems in any organization.  Most problems are really systems problems, and if we address the systems, we solve the resulting problems. However, relying on systems is also problematic.  In fact, an organization that has smooth systems could be in just as much danger as the disorganized organization. (Is that an oxymoron?)  Here’s what I mean:

1.  Systems can create a false plug and play mentality. It works like this:  You see one business do something well and you adopt their system.  The problem here is failing to recognize your unique mission and personalities.  You don’t lead the same way as that other guy, and you’ve got different people.  I can show you dozens of companies that fell by the wayside trying to copy their larger competition and implement their systems.  How many churches have tried to copy Elevation, and in the end realized that they didn’t have a Steven Furtick at the helm.  How many churches have tried to copy Northpoint, only to realize that they didn’t have crazy talent on their team. You can’t import vision or passion, and a system created for one culture might not work in yours.

2.  Systems can create an unhealthy reliance on man-made methods, rather than a reliance on God. The bottom line is that systems work!  And as they work and as you see results, you’ll be tempted to rely on methods rather than depend on God.  This is true for businesses that aren’t religious too.  Focusing on methods can cause you to miss the bigger picture – the reason you went into business in the first place.  By all means, create healthy systems, and bring in outsiders who can speak into the process.  But don’t rely on those systems.

3.  Systems can become an excuse for a lack of relational leadership. I’m speaking out of personal experience here.  It’s easy to get caught up in spreadsheets and forget about people.  It’s easy to create flow charts, but never take time to truly get to know those you lead.  I was guilty of that.  Systems lull you into acting like the Wizard of Oz, directing from behind the curtain but never getting to know anyone.  It’s  impossible to lead via email or through a document.  The danger of systems is thinking that they replace relationships.

4.  Systems can keep you from leading and knowing real people with real problems. Once more, I’m speaking from personal experience.  The people under my leadership were not impressed with my 12-week planning process or event planning checklist.  Those systems, no matter how clear and effective, didn’t really help anyone.  Now healthy systems should create a culture that makes helping people simpler, but they cannot replace getting your hands dirty.  Every need doesn’t fit nicely into a category.  People aren’t going to be helped with your flowcharts and manuals.

This is not a push back on organization or a criticism of installing systems.  We need those things.  Most of us need MORE of those things.  But systems are a means to the end, not the end itself.  This is a lesson I’m slowly learning.

Personal Update

A lot has happened over the last few months, and I wanted to take a few minutes to update my friends and family. I know a lot of people are praying for me and my family and we really do feel the effects of your prayers.  I have intentionally kept quiet on the Internet about my personal life, because I’m working on restoring what’s closest to me first, before branching out.  That means working on my relationship with God, my relationship with Jennie, and my family…in that order.

I wanted to start with those close to me and then expand the circle outward – that’s the reason for much of my silence on the issue.  I have written a lot of thoughts that I will share sometime, but only after I’ve had all the face-to-face conversations that I need to have.

With that said, here is a bit of what’s been going on.

  • With the help of my pastor, my church, and the ministry of City of Refuge, I’m working on being a Christian, husband and father.
  • I’m learning a lot about forgiveness, love, repentance friendship and trust.
  • I have had conversations with some people, but there are still many people that I want to talk to face to face.
  • We have moved from Cartersville, but are still living in the Atlanta area.
  • I’m doing some freelance writing and small business consulting.  I’m thankful for the work, and the knowledge that my family is okay during this time.
  • We have been working with a great counselor. Not only do I have a new respect for professional counselors, it’s really been a huge help.  My counselor has helped me be honest about a lot of things – with God, with myself, and with Jennie.  I really wish I had gone to counseling much earlier in life and marriage.
  • Through City of Refuge, I’m a part of a small group of guys and my wife is a part of a small group of ladies.
  • I have intentionally disconnected from Oak Leaf Church, for the good of the church and the health of everyone involved.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not proud of all that happened and don’t pray for the amazing people there.  I will always love Oak Leaf Church and I’m thankful to God for allowing us to be a part of launching the church.  I’m also grateful for the leadership that West Ridge has provided.
  • A lot of people have asked about future church plans or ministry endeavors. God is a God of grace and I believe in restoration, but now isn’t the time for those things.  I’m waiting on God to write the next chapter.  If you know me, you know that waiting is hard.  But it’s the right thing to do right now.
  • I am intentionally working on developing healthy friendships.  Most of the time this means being a friend expecting nothing in return.
  • God has taught me a lot of stuff, but again…I need to understand more  them before writing or talking about them.

Reading 100 Blogs a Day

Are you still trying to keep you with blogs by visiting individual home pages?  That’s a time waster, and it clutters up your bookmarks. You can quickly track all the blogs you want with an RSS reader.  Here’s how.

1.  Use an RSS Reader like Google Reader. If you’ve got a Gmail account, you’ve already got Google Reader.  You could use Bloglines or some other reader, but Google is simple and free.

2.  Look for the RSS icon on a blog or website. If the website has an RSS feed, that means you can use your Reader.  It might look something like this:

3.  Add the subscription to your Google reader. Once you click on the RSS reader, you’ll have the option to subscribe.  Because Google Reader is by default reader, I see this screen:

4.  Add the blog to your reader, and track all the blogs you want to follow in one place. When I go to by reader page, I see all my unread posts on one screen.  That’s how I track about 100 blogs on a daily basis taking very little time.