Six Questions Every Leader Should Ask


There’s a great article from Andy Stanley in this year’s Leadercast conference notebook.  In the article, Andy shares six questions every leader should ask.  Here are those questions with a little of my commentary.

1.  Which gauges should we be watching?  In the church world, it’s pretty easy to measure attendance and giving, but those are trailing indicators.  You need to look at some gauges for leading indicators, too.

2.  Where are we manufacturing energy?  Some things churches do simply drain all types of resources.  Cut those things out, even if there are emotional attachments, and put that energy to things that truly matter.

3.  Who needs to be sitting at the table?  You want strategic people in strategic meetings, regardless of their title and position.

4.  Who is not keeping up?  This is a tough question to ask, but there might be someone who isn’t growing with you as the church grows.  It doesn’t mean you need to get rid of them, but you might need to reassign or refocus them.

5.  Where do I make the greatest contribution to the organization?  You need to do the things only you can do.  If you’re out of your zone, you’re likely acting as a leadership lid.

6.  What should I stop doing?  One of the best questions leaders can ask their team is “where do you need me less?” If you’re involved in everything, you’re making it all about you.

Do any of these questions resonate with you?  Which one do you need to ask yourself?  Which one do you need to ask your leadership team?

Download my full notes from LeaderCast 2014 right here.

Sermon Notes from Andy Stanley: Follow – The Fine Print

Here are my notes from Andy Stanley’s message entitled The Fine Print.  It’s part five of the Follow series, which you can watch at  Mark 8:27 and the verses that follow were the main passage.

  • Following isn’t always fun.
  • Jesus was the Messiah – that’s a Jewish word.  “Christ” is the Greek version of that word, not Jesus’ last name.
  • Peter was concerned about himself.  Many Christians today are using Jesus, not following Him.
  • Jesus said following would require taking up a cross.
  • C.S. Lewis said the cross didn’t become a part of Christian art until everyone who had seen one used had died.
  • Your soul is more important than your stuff.
  • Salvation is free; it costs us nothing.  Following Christ will eventually cost us something.

Watch this and other messages from Andy Stanley at

Seven Things I Learned from Watching Andy Stanley Teach Junior High Students

NorthPoint just started a new series called You’ll Be Glad You Did.  The kickoff message on February 24, 2013 was actually recorded by Andy Stanley on the previous Friday evening.  It was the opening talk of a transit weekend retreat.  Andy taught the message to a room full of middle school students, knowing it would be shown on Sunday morning in church.

Andy was teaching junior high school students, knowing the message would be shown at area churches on Sunday.  As he walked off the stage Friday, a camera followed him as he addressed the adult service. It was like the Inception of sermons.  Communicating to two audiences is a difficult task for any communicator.

I couldn’t help but think how many parents appreciated the look inside the message their kids are hearing at NorthPoint.  But I also couldn’t help but jot down some notes on communication from Andy’s message.  It was masterful.

Here are seven things I learned from Andy Stanley’s sermon to students.

1.  Andy used a ton of  humor.  The message was all about labels, and how we accept labels from other people, and miss out on the fact that only our maker has the right to label us.  Andy told stories from his own time in junior high school.  He talked about getting the nickname “Sabertooth Andy” because his teeth were so messed up.  (I bet a lot of people could relate to that). He talked about being labeled “not smart” after his teacher just wrote “NO” in red ink on a math test.  Andy didn’t talk about all his successes in junior high…he made fun of himself.  And whether you’re teaching junior high kids or senior adults, this is a great way to make a connection.

Andy Stanley

2.  Andy built tension into his talk.  I’ve seen him do this time and time again, but this message was a great illustration.  There was a time when he wanted everyone to think about the question he was going to ask.  Think about it, not answer it out loud.  He spent several minutes baiting the crowd and setting up this moment, so by the time he put the question on the screen, it just hung in the air.  Too many times, we assume people are interested in our message.  Work on the tension early on and they will lean in.

3.  Andy introduced an idea and then brought it back at the end.  I’ve seen comedians do this throughout the course of a set, and it’s a great way to weave a major point through an entire message.  In this case, Andy said that manufacturers, owners and purchasers had the right to label something.  This came in the first few minutes of his talk and then he moved on.  Later, he came back to this idea and said that God – the one who made you, owns you and purchased you – is the only one who has the right to label you.  When you tease and idea or set it up early, you can come back to it later.  Done right, it can be a great a-ha moment.

4.  The message was short.  The message was about 30 minutes.  This might be longer than you think middle school students could handle (it’s not…you just can’t waste their time and you have to be on your game.)  30 minutes seems like the right length for most sermons.  It’s not a hard and fast rule.  In general, I think we need to say what needs to be said and then stop talking.

Andy Stanley

5.  Andy started with them.  I believe that while sermon preparation should start with the scripture, the sermon itself should start with the audience.  The goal is to teach the Bible, but in order to do that effectively, we have to start with where people are.  What are their hopes, dreams, fears, thoughts and desires?  What are they thinking in that moment?  The first minutes of Andy’s talk were not wasted…He was building a connection by starting with where they live and what they deal with on a daily basis.

6.  Andy made the audience the hero.  Here’s a secret….your audience loves to feel smarter than you.  When you talk about the things you mess up, the people can relate to you.  When you make them into the hero, they connect and pay attention.  In this message, Andy referenced the room of adults listening (remember…this was an Inception style sermon!), and said, “Right now, there is a room of adults who are saying – I wish someone had told me these things when I was a kid.”  Andy told the students they could get this right the first time.  Without putting down anyone, Andy made a room full of junior high students feel like they could do something better than their parents.

7.  Andy taught one passage.  Andy got to Romans 12:1-2 and unpacked some meaning from that verse.  It was a bite-sized teaching time – He knew it didn’t have to be the final word on the topic.  He didn’t jump all around the Bible and confuse people with a bunch of verses.  He taught one passage, and he taught it well.   Of course, he used a sticky statement to tie it all together.  The bottom line of this message was “The labels people put on you could cause you to miss God’s plan for you.”

Andy Stanley

Every Senior Pastor should teach students from time to time.  It will keep you on your game and will force you to work on your craft.  Adults will often sit through a boring message because they are supposed to…students usually will not.

As someone who cares so much about helping people communicate God’s Word authentically, passionately and effectively, it was great to see how Andy did so in front of junior high students.  It was refreshing to see a Senior Pastor willing to communicate to junior high students.  And a church willing to give show a message in the adult service on the weekend.

I learned a lot from Andy’s message.  Not just about finding my identity in Christ, but how to connect with students.  I don’t know if I’m an expert in communication, but I do love serving churches by helping the pastor preach better messages.  That’s one reason I devote so much of my time to the Preaching Rocket Core Coaching Program.  I don’t know of a better way to work ON your calling and your craft.

Big Ideas from Be Rich Series by Andy Stanley

home logo

Throughout the month of December, Andy Stanley delivered a series of four messages in a series called How to Be Rich. The teaching was paired with several generosity opportunities. The Scripture behind Be Rich comes from Paul’s advice to Timothy:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. – I Timothy 6:17-19

Here were the four big ideas from Andy’s messages:

  1. Do good for those who cannot and will not do good for you.
  2. Don’t place your hope in riches but in He who richly provides.
  3. Since you have more, you should do more and give more.
  4. Viewing wealth through the lens of eternity lessons our grip on it and it’s grip on us.

The Best Conference Talk I’ve Ever Heard

Last week, I heard one of the best conference talks I’ve ever heard.  I’m not joking or trying to hype something, either.

It was from Andy Stanley at the Preach Better Sermons event in Atlanta.  Andy talks about preaching with unchurched people in the room.  He talked about how he prepares and delivers messages that actually connect with unchurched people.  It was brilliant.   One attender just sent us this:

I want to thank you for providing a place where someone who communicates at a pretty high level to large crowds could be challenged & grow.  It’s honestly been years since I’ve really been challenged with a new way of thinking.  Both Jeff & Andy’s sessions did that for me.  I walked away with several new thoughts & practical ways to work on the craft of communicating.  My ministry, preaching style & our church are better because of Friday.  Hands down the best time & money we have spent all year.

You’ve got six more chances to hear this message because the Preach Better Sermons LIVE event is heading to Chicago, Nashville, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and Orlando.  Plus, there will be three other messages at each event.  Jeff is doing one (and it’s incredible).  The host pastor or a special guest is doing one (great people).  And I’m doing a session.

If you use the code PREACH, you can get the lowest rate. Here is the full schedule with dates, locations and guest speakers.

  • September 27 – Chicago – Soul City Church – Jarrett and Jeannie Stevens
  • October 18 – Nashville – Cross Point Church – Pete Wilson
  • November 16 – Los Angeles – Glenkirk Church – Reggie Joiner
  • December 6 – New York – New Life Fellowship – Pete Scazzero
  • January 23 – Dallas – Concord Church – Bryan L. Carter and Reggie Joiner
  • February 21 – Orlando – TBD – TBD

If you’re a pastor or communicator, I really recommend you attend one of these six one-day events.  When it’s all said and done, we will create a DVD of the full experience, but it won’t have Andy’s talk.  That one is exclusive for the attenders.  We’re not webcasting or broadcasting, so make plans to attend.