Tomorrow’s Promise

When the pundits pause
and the polls close,
when the pens stop
and the ques stand empty,
when campaign placards
litter the ground
like obscene peonies,
and the sun rises on red eyes
and rumpled ties,
yesterday’s news
will be today’s refuse
and the new day’s blue sky
will be a president’s prophecy
of tomorrow’s promise.
Advertisements

What Will Your Legacy Be?

On Wednesday about this time I imagine many of us will be glad the election is over.

Not necessarily because we will know who the next president will be (depending on the closeness of the race it could take some time to sort it out), but because we will finally be on the other side of the campaign media blitz.  Even my 7-year-old son mentioned he would be glad when the campaign ads ended.

During the campaign, however, much of the rhetoric from each side has been about what legacy a candidate has left or will leave if elected.

Which got me to thinking . . .

What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind?

I am currently planning a memorial service, and I expect to hear stories about a loved one who impacted their family in various ways before moving on.  Personally, I always enjoy that part of funerals and memorial services because the stories are usually beautiful and inspiring to me.

This morning, however, I was looking through the paper and came across the obituaries.  These statements were matter-of-fact recordings of birth date, date of death, survived by, moved here and there, and was a member of this or that social group.  In contrast to the services these statements were sparse and un-inspiring.

Granted, newspaper statements can be shortened and perfunctory at times, but I do not want my legacy to read like a newspaper obit.  I want to hear several things:

  1. God is pleased with how I lived and used what he gave to me.  Ultimately, his opinion is the only one that matters.
  2. My family is inspired to live more like Christ and to love each other and others well.
  3. Others are impacted in a positive way by the way I lived and used what God gave to me.  And by impacted positively, I mean they grew spiritually and personally, not that they had a good feeling or benefitted monetarily from me.  (Let’s be honest.  I am a professional musician; I doubt anyone is going to benefit monetarily from me!)

I find that defining my desired legacy often helps me put the present into focus.  If you know where you want to go you will be able to figure out how to get there and whether or not you are making progress in the right direction.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Hurricane Sandy Becomes Election Moderator

Election years are times of posturing, promoting, and promising.  Voters spend lots of time sifting through the verbal deluge for the truth, even from the most honest of candidates.  Attention spans and commercials are short, forcing candidates into sound-bite speeches and witty comebacks.  If you disagree, try fitting a clear foreign policy into 2 minutes.

Right.  Now you get it.

And then there’s Sandy, the “Frankenstorm” as some of my friends on Facebook have dubbed it.

Sandy roughly wrenches us back to reality.  Here is a collection of photos that will give you a small sense of the effect of the Frankenstorm as it hit the New York City area in particular.

My friend Rachel Shipp and her husband, Blake, lived through Katrina, and in their experience the American Red Cross was one of the most effective agencies responding to Katrina.  Here is a comment from her Facebook page regarding the Red Cross’ response.  Consider making a donation to Disaster Relief here.

Sandy has forced President Obama and former Governor Romney to step out of the verbal parade to deal with real life and hurting people.  Leadership is about helping people and making hard decisions, not about whether or not you can come up with a quick comeback to your opponent’s latest zinger.

Sandy has pulled presidential and leadership character out of the candidates better than any debate or roundtable could, and for that, I am grateful.

More importantly, however, let’s pray for and support those affected by Sandy and those who have lost loved ones throughout Sandy’s path.  Let’s also pray for God’s will to be done through the election.

The Only Truly Good Debt

I used to believe there is such a thing as good financial debt.

For instance, the argument goes that student loans are good debt because they are an investment on the future and the interest rate is very low.  Mortgages are good debt because you are investing in a long-term payoff and in property.

Credit card debt, on the other hand, is bad debt because the interest rate is high and you are often buying things you do not need with money you do not have.  Car loans are bad debt because the vehicles depreciate in value so incredibly fast.  Drive it off the lot and you have lost $5K or more.

I no longer believe in that kind of good debt.

Debt is debt.  Proverbs 22:7 (ESV) says, “The borrower is the slave of the lender.”  I really do not want to be anyone’s slave.

I have been paying on debt since I was in college 20 years ago, and I am tired of it.  I want to be out of debt, and I am working steadily towards that goal.

That’s why I do not like that America owes $1,000,000,000 to China.  We are slaves to China for more money than entire towns make in a lifetime, and that is only 1/16th of the national debt.  If we are individually responsible for getting out of debt, then the nation should be doubly responsible.

I hate debt.

I do believe, however, that there is a type of debt that is good.  Romans 13:8a (AMP) says, “Keep out of debt and owe no man anything, except to love one another; . .”

The debt to love one another means three things:

  • We are expected to love and act lovingly towards each other.  Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Treat your spouse, your kids, your neighbors, and your co-workers with the kind of deference and love you yourself want to receive.
  • We are expected to always love and act lovingly towards each other.  This is not the type of debt you can pay off.  We do not retire from loving each other.  Loving each other regardless of who “each other” might be is a life-long endeavor.
  • Any other kind of debt needs to be repaid.  If you owe money, you should pay it back.  If you owe someone an apology, you need to make that apology.

I have two take-away questions for you today:

  1. What kinds of debts do you owe, and how are you going to repay those debts?
  2. How can you show love to someone else today?

A Leader’s Two Best Friends

As I mentioned previously I recently began a new position as Interim Director of Worship at Covenant Life Church in Sarasota, FL.  This position is my first step back into senior level leadership since 2009, and while I am excited about what God is going to do, I also know I have challenges ahead of me.

As a result I have been spending a lot of time writing and thinking about what it takes to grow a worship ministry.  So far I have written about

In order to lead well, however, I am finding I need to have close friends.  These friends are not the financial officer of my church, the executive pastor, the senior pastor, or even the chairman of the elder board, although good relationships with these leaders are highly necessary.

I have written several times about my mistakes when I began a new position in 2010.  I plowed ahead with my agenda, pulling everyone with me.  When I finally began to listen to my volunteers I was able to make changes and avoid burning everyone out.  I would have done well to engage the help of two friends right from the start.

These two friends are Questions and Observation.

Questions

Making questions your friend means focusing on asking questions rather than making statements.  Questions do several things:

  • Invite interaction.  A good question fosters communication and collaborative effort.
  • Demonstrate humility.  Asking a question shows people you do not have it all figured out and you are willing to learn.
  • Unearth information.  Obviously, asking a question guarantees you will learn more about those around you.  Refusing to ask questions prevents you from truly understanding your surroundings.
  • Direct discussion.  Sometimes the best way to lead a discussion is to asking a carefully crafted question.
  • Create ownership.  If you engage a volunteer in conversation with a question, that volunteer will own the ensuing decision.

Observation

Observing people and systems reveals critical information you will not discover by reading the employee handbook or studying staff biographies.  Here are just a few benefits of observation:

  • Reveals hidden attitudes.  Body language comprises the majority of our communication.  Watching body language in a conversation gives a much better picture of what the other person is thinking and feeling.
  • Reveals unresolved issues.  Avoidance, for instance, can communicate unresolved tension or a lack of interdependence between separate ministries or departments. Other behaviors such as sarcasm, avoiding eye contact, or abrupt communication can also tell you that something is not right.
  • Reveals broken systems.  If I observe, for instance, that the song lyrics displayed on Sunday are not in the correct order, I discover that either I did not give the proper information to the projectionist, the projectionist was not at rehearsal to fine tune the lyrics, the projectionist messed up during the service, or I made a change from the stage and the projectionist was not able to follow.  That observation can lead to a discussion that will improve the flow of information and guarantee better projection on Sunday.
  • Reveals pain.  If you observe that a co-worker or volunteer is more subdued than usual, a good question can often lead to an encouraging discussion and even prayer.  Worship leaders need to be particularly observant of the people they are leading in worship in order to respond and lead more effectively during the service.  Many people are hurting and need to know they are not alone.
  • Shows that you are listening.  In order to observe you have to stop talking and listen.  I am amazed at what I hear and understand when I shut my mouth and listen.  People love a listener, as I am certain you do, too.
  • Reveals what is going well.  As a teacher I was often reminded to “Catch someone doing something right.”  This rule applies in leadership as well.  Catch your volunteers doing something right and congratulate them.  Smile and cheer when your choir shapes a phrase correctly.  Be a cheerleader for your volunteers, friends and family and they will follow you wherever you go.

What other “friends” have helped you in leadership? 

A Leader’s Most Important Trait

Ambition? Energy? Vision? Critical thinking? Marketing sense?

  • Without ambition you will fail.
  • Without energy you will be uninspiring.
  • Without vision you will have no focus.
  • Without critical thinking you will make bad decisions.
  • Without marketing sense (even for pastors) you will misunderstand what the public really wants.

But none of these is most important.

I believe that a leader’s most important trait is . . .

Patience.

Yep, that’s it. Patience.

  • Without patience your ambition will burn your family, your employees, your volunteers, and every business connection have.
  • Without patience your energy will override your common sense.
  • Without patience your vision will have unrealistic deadlines.
  • Without patience your critical thinking will kill growing talent when they make mistakes.
  • Without patience your vision will blindly follow culture.

1 Corinthians 13:4 says “Love is patient, love is kind . . .” Patience is first on the list. I believe God put it there because he knew that if we are not patient we will miss him every time.

God is never in a hurry. We are. We think that if we do not implement a new strategy now we will fail. We think that if we do not get our presentation skills perfect right now someone will not decide to follow Christ, our presentation will fail, our business will die tomorrow.

These are lies.

And I (like you) have believed them way too often.

Patience helps us remember our priorities in the midst of critical decisions.

Patience helps us to hear God when life is in the balance.

Patience reminds us that people are most important; not our ego, job, action list, bank account, or church attendance numbers.

Love is patient . . .

Where do you need to exhibit patience today?

Project Management for Worship Ministry Leaders

The senior pastor pulls you aside and says, “We need to develop a plan for the future of the worship center of the church.”  Cool.

Except you have absolutely no idea what to do next.  The course in college or the worship conference seminar that prepared you for this task was . . . . none.

Does that mean you go out and hire a sound design consultant?  Should you hire an architect to give you some ideas?  Should you go sit in the auditorium and pray until a vision comes to you?  Is this your opportunity to eradicate the ghastly lavender paint behind the platform?

The answer is possibly “Yes” to all of these, but how you go about the process is super critical to the success of the project, your church’s health, your personal health, and the likelihood of you keeping your job!

Don’t worry.  I have been in the same place before.  Before you go out and stake your reputation on an idea (yes, I have done that – not a good idea), here are some things to consider.

1.  Pray for guidance.  Consult the Divine Project Manager, the Ultimate Creative who designed the entire world with a thought.

2.  Project Management is simply managing a temporary project (auditorium redesign, sound system overhaul, office redesign, etc.).  While this is a specific science, the principles are straightforward.

3.  Ask for help.  When I faced a similar decision God showed me a business individual in my church who actually trained project managers in the area.  He was an immense help.  Don’t be too proud to ask a business person for help.

4.  You need a plan.  Church leaders will want to pull something together and go for it, but your job is to cool their heels and help them to consider every decision carefully.  To do this you will need a clear plan.  Don’t wing it!

5.  Create a team.  On this team you will want to have experts from each key discipline necessary for the completion and success of the task.  In my case I needed creative minds, interior designers, construction experts, technical geeks, and others.

6.  Identify the stakeholders.  There are specific people in your church who have to approve something before it happens.  Some are obvious (the senior pastor, the finance team, the elder board chair), and some are not so obvious (the kitchen lady who has been there for 40 years, the anonymous millionaire who paid for the building you want to blow up/remodel to fit a style of worship he does not like).  Write these people down and don’t guess; know!

7.  Write a contract and make all of the stakeholders and team members sign it.  This may seem like lawyer paranoia, but, trust me, you will be glad you did this later.  The team members and stakeholders will push back on every restraint you put on a project and you need to be able to point to a document that has all of the guidelines in it: a document they signed.

8.  Understand the “Triple Constraint.”  Originally just three areas (Time-Scope-Cost), the “Triple Constraint” has now evolved into six areas:

  • Schedule – how fast the project needs to be completed
  • Resources – what physical materials and people skills you have on hand
  • Budget – how much money you want to spend
  • Quality – how good a job you want to do
  • Scope – how broad the project reaches (just one room or an entire building, etc.)
  • Risk – the balance between likelihood of success and the chance of failure

Every project is defined by answers to these six areas.  For instance, if you suddenly decide to rush the Schedule for the project, the Quality of project is going to drop.  If you want to rush the Schedule AND keep Quality high, you will have to boost the Budget.  If you end up boosting the Budget you stand greater risk of rejection of the plan by stakeholders.

When I was a leader at a previous church and helping to lead a major design discussion, some leaders decided to push the implementation of a particular feature faster than the constraints allowed.  After being warned of the implications of jumping ahead, they went ahead anyways.  Because they rushed the Schedule and did not raise the Budget, Quality dropped dramatically.  The Risk of dissatisfaction among the stakeholders and among the implementors was high, and that Risk became a reality when the project failed to be high quality.

9.  Do not take anything personally!  You have heard me say this more than once, but when you are leading a project every decision will feel like it is personally directed at you.  It isn’t.  Your job is not to be personally involved or even to make any decisions, but to simply hold the leadership and team members accountable for every decision they make.

Project management includes so many more things than these, but these points will give you a running start.

Anyone can lead a project.  You can do this!

Where in your life or job do you need to step back and employ some project management principles?