Vision: Paint the Picture Passionately

Painting a visionBill Hybels defines a leader’s vision as “a picture of the future that produces passion in people”. This week, think about your vision – is it crystal clear and are you passionate about sharing it?

A brand-new country, young and free. The shackles of slavery broken once and for all. People flying across a clear blue sky. Thousands of women, men, and children rising to their feet and flooding the altar at the first strains of “Just as I Am.” Acts 2 churches invading the modern world. Whatever the picture, if it produces powerful amounts of passion in those who hear it, it is already en route to being achieved.

For you it might be the picture of a hungry child being fed, her life being spared. It might be a picture of a homeless person finding shelter. It might be a picture of a dying church being revitalized or a lost person coming to faith or a volunteer finding a ministry that perfectly uses the gifts God has given. It might be a lonely person finding community or an artist finally using his creative gifts to serve God. There are as many life-giving, visionary pictures of the future as there are leaders among us. And when God finally brings clarity and certainty of vision in a leader’s life, everything changes for the better.

In what ways do you paint your vision passionately and inspire those around you?

Thanks to Bill Hybels for sharing his words from the book Axiom. To read more and to find Bill’s other titles check out our resources at willowcreek.com.

The Leader’s Inner World [Defining Moments]


How is your inner world? This month’s Defining Moments was strategically selected to help you prepare for the busy ministry season ahead. Bill Hybels and Jim Mellado revisit Wayne Cordiero’s classic Summit talk “Dead Leader Running” (which we posted in its entirety earlier this week). Following a brief excerpt from the talk, Bill and Jim respond to the topic, identifying the sources of burnout and the questions that leaders must address in creating a replenishment strategy. (WCA Members, click here to watch this month’s Defining Moments.)

During the clip, Wayne draws the picture of a tank, with a drain at the bottom. He then encourages us to identify what fills our tanks and what drains us. For him, he is filled by sports, riding his motorcylcle, paddling in the ocean, reading, doing devotions, and traveling with his wife. He’s drained by too much counseling, unresolved problems at home or with his staff, overtaxed schedule, or an inability to say no. These are different for everybody, but Wayne encourages us all to know what is filling our tanks and make sure it outweighs the time we spend draining them.

We encourage you to spend 40 minutes listening to this month’s episode (or watch Wayne’s Summit talk) on your own and reflect on these questions:

    1. Do you like who you’re becoming? Why?

    2. Identify what fills your tank. As you think about your last couple weeks, when did you most feel alive? What were you doing? Where were you doing it? Who were you with?

    3. What is your replenishment strategy right now? How do you need to innovate your replenishment strategy based on your current season of life?

    4. Do you agree with Bill’s concern that email can put a leader on the defensive too much? Are you spending more time in “move ahead” or defensive mode?

    5. What is your daily replenishment strategy? Are you so depeleted in one day that you can’t start tomorrow at zero? Weekly? Monthly? Annually?

Then, we encourage you to watch the video with your team and discuss:

    1. Describe your best moment you’ve had this week. What were you doing? Where were you doing it? Who were you with?

    2. What drains you and what fills your tank these days?

    3. In what ways does working in your organization support your sustainability?

    4. How does your team culture support your personal sustainability? Do you support each other’s days off or interrupt? Do you know what activities fill/drain each other?

    5. What are your replenishment strategies?

Every year at the Summit, by design, we challenge leaders to tune into their souls. Internally, we call it the heart session. We believe in leadership that is fueled by a sustainable, healthy soul.

How about you? How do you sustain a healthy soul behind your leadership? What does your replenishment strategy look like? What fills and drains you?

By: Andy Cook (@wca_andycook)
WCA Membership Experience Leader
Church Planter

Do You Like Who You’re Becoming?


The holidays are an incredible time to lead in a church. Innovative services get planned, new people join us, volunteers celebrate, and teams get refocused on the simple miracle of God’s choice to be “with us.” Yet, it can also be an exhausting time when families can get stressed, hours get long, and we get busy (er, busier). So, how do you know when you’re burning out?

The team at the WCA is focusing this month’s content, webcasts, blog posts, and defining moments on the issue of sustainability. You know it and we see it when we interact with leaders, avoiding burnout is a huge topic.

During this month’s Defining Moments, Bill Hybels identified three symptoms of when he’s starting to burn out:

    1. Irritability. Are small things causing a disproportionate reaction in you? For instance, does a minor inconvenience at home set you off? If someone is late for a meeting, does it bother you a little too much?

    2. Resentment. When we are under too much stress, we sometimes feel a kind of resentment for others who aren’t under the same pressure. Does it bother you to hear other people talking about a recent vacation or taking a break?

    3. Escapism. Do you find yourself looking for a way out? Bill gave the example of times when he’s thought about not bringing his boat back to shore.

In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzero helped to identify three more:

    4. Hiding behind God talk. Am I using spiritual language to deflect any spotlight on my inner cracks and becoming defensive about my failures? If a friend asked me how I’m doing, how would I react?

    5. Doing for God instead of being with God. Are you substituting times of reflection and personal devotions or skimming on those times to get more done for God?

    6. Mishandling disagreements. Are you talking behind people’s backs, blaming, using sarcasm (or even resent the question)? Are you leaking anger, avoiding, or withdrawing?

It’s never fun to ask ourselves these questions, but they can be early warning signs of bigger things to come as the stress and hours get harder in the coming season. If you’re like me, you need several of the experiences we’ve designed to address the issue of sustainability this month:

Earlier this week, we posted the full version of “Dead Leader Running” a classic Summit talk delivered by Wayne Cordeiro in which he challenged all of us to identify what fills and drains our tanks.

Then, during this month’s Defining Moments, we’ve taken an excerpt from Wayne’s talk and asked Bill Hybels to respond and identify the symptoms of burn out and develop a replenishment strategy.

Next week, we’ve invited Rick Gannon to lead a webcast for your team to view together. Called Guarding Rythms in a Busy Season,it will help us all prepare for the road ahead. Our speaker, Rick Gannon, is one of the leader’s I most respect because he has built a phenomenal church without losing his soul. I’ve had the honor of interacting with his team in several settings and they are each marked by the kind of Christ-centered leadership to which we all aspire.

Whether you watch, tune in, or just spend some time journaling on this topic, we hope you’ll commit to replenishing your soul this season.

What are your symptoms that you’re burning out? How do you know?

By: Andy Cook (@wca_andycook)
WCA Membership Experience Leader
Church Planter

Dead Leader Running

If you’re in ministry, chances are you’re gearing up for a busy season. As you enter into over-scheduled weeks, we hope this video reminds you about the importance of knowing what fills you and what drains you. Below is the video of one of our most popular Summit talks, Dead Leader Running by Wayne Cordeiro.

Once Wayne took notice of his ‘symptoms’ of a dead leader running, he began to look at his life differently. He took time to reevaluate what was important in his life and what wasn’t. Wayne noted that sometimes the only way radical change happens is through radical pain. The scary thing is the road to success and the road to a nervous breakdown are often the same road.

Leaders, we’re praying that you guard your soul in whatever season you’re in.

By: WCA (@wcagls)

Join us for the Guarding Rhythms in a Busy Season Webcast with Pastor Rick Gannon on Wednesday November 16 at 11:30.

Learn more about LIFT, elearning courses designed to train you on soul health and spiritual growth.

Explosive Growth Equals Dramatic Meltdowns

As you are planning new and exciting ministries for the upcoming season, take a minute to reflect on an important lesson Bill Hybels writes about in Axiom. Here, he briefly tells of a season in which Willow wasn’t quite prepared for the dramatic growth God had in store. Have you done your part to prepare for God’s big plans for your ministry?

We were inundated by new people who came to check out the church, and to our horror, we didn’t have enough parking spaces to accommodate them. There were hundreds of cars stacked four-deep along our campus’s roads — both inbound and outbound. Nicely dressed adults trudged through fields of grass and mud to reach the front door. Children were thrust into already-overcrowded classrooms and asked to sit quietly in a stuffy space for a full ninety minutes. Talk about a systemic meltdown of dramatic proportions! To say we were embarrassed would be an understatement. It was awful. God had done his part. We just hadn’t done ours.

Our excitement over all that new growth was quickly tempered by the painful reality that we had dropped the ball. We had dropped a dozen balls. We had been so singularly focused on our plans to get new people into our church that we failed to provide necessary infrastructure in the event that all that planning actually bore fruit.

My hard-won advice? Have a bold plan for explosive growth! Expect God to answer your fervent prayers and to do his part in bringing people your way. Just be sure to tend to the needs that all that growth will bring. And at the very same time, roll up your sleeves and figure out how you are going to assimilate those new folks so that someday, every one of them will become fully yielded to Christ and fully integrated into your church.

Have you been surprised by a season of sudden growth? What did you learn? What do you do differently now?

Thanks to Bill Hybels for sharing his words from the book Axiom. To read more and to find Bill’s other titles check out our resources at willowcreek.com.

Sharpened by the Grind: Part 2

Both sides of a knife must hit the grind to render a sharp blade. In addition to learning what drained me, I also had to learn what fills my emotional and spiritual buckets.

I knew how to fill my tired physical body but did not know how to replenish my soul.

For me there were three principles in the process of renewal—it was personal, it was daily and it was relational. Renewal is a very personal process. For example, what replenished my wife’s soul was the very thing that drained me. She is an extrovert and I am an introvert. She is energized by people. She has to be out the door each morning and greet the world of people. Even though I love people and enjoy the interaction with them, I found it drains me. Time alone in my study each morning filled my tank. As for recreation, I had friends suggest I play golf but that was a disaster. It did nothing for my soul. It caused me to cheat, steal, and lie and that is not good for the soul. Through trial and error I gradually learn what worked to replenish my life.

I often wish I had a gauge on my soul like my truck has on the gas tank. It has a warning light and even talks to me when I get close to empty. That would have protected me from a lot of pain. However, I began monitoring my “inner man” to detect when my soul was beginning to run on empty. Rather than just kick in the adrenalin for energy, I made sure I allowed time to authentically replenish my soul. The Apostle is a great model for renewing the soul. He speaks to the second principle I found for renewal, “ …we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Renewal is a day by day process. Just as we cannot eat enough food at Sunday lunch to last all week (even though some of us try) we cannot fill our soul once a week and be adequately renewed. The daily grind on your soul is the reality of life- but the daily renewal can be just as real. A part of that daily process for me is to have a consistent time with God that is life-giving and not just routine. Yes, I know you already believe this and even teach it to each other. But this is one of my greatest challenges in life. It is not just the discipline of setting aside the time, but to keep it fresh and alive so it feeds my soul. When my dad sharpened his knife, he knew just the angle to hold the blade to put the razor’s edge on it.

For me the time alone with God each day is necessary to get my life at just the right angle (or we might say attitude) for the day. As basic as this is, it is vital to our life being sharpened by the grind rather than dulled. Allowing God to speak to me through the reading of his word and then reflecting and responding to what I have heard from God, sharpens my life. This time with God must focus on listening to him and not just talking to him.

The process of renewal is also relational. For David, Jonathan was a source of energy. There was an immediate bond of love between them, and they became the best of friends (1 Samuel 18:1). Have you noticed how some people drain your energy? You can feel the energy being sucked out of your system when you see them coming. On the other hand there are some individuals who give you energy. It is a delight to see them coming. Even an introvert like me finds close friends a source of great energy. At first I felt guilty about being selective on who I allowed to be close in my life. But then I remembered that Jesus had three of the twelve in his inner circle. I like the way Dan Reiland, executive of 12 Stone Church in Atlanta says it. “We should be close with a few, friendly with everyone, and conflict with none.”

Leading a church can be very lonely but it doesn’t have to be. First, make sure your spouse is your best friend. Then seek out one or two others that can be close enough to sharpen your life. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17). It might be two other pastors or friends outside the church or even someone in your church. Wherever it is, find a Jonathan for your life.

The grind is real! It is a part of life. It can and must become your friend rather than your enemy. It is the very tool that God uses to sharpen your life. Work diligently each day with the wisdom of God to detect what drains and what fills you up. The grind will provide you with the nourishment and exercise for being made whole.

What are things that you do to fill you spiritual and emotional bucket?

By: Vernon Armitage
Pastor

Sharpened by the Grind: Part 1


My dad loved pocket knives. He could put a razor’s edge on the blade of his knife with the precision of a master. I knew the blade was sharp when he would confidently roll up the sleeve of his shirt and shave a patch of hair off his arm. With a pleased look on his face he would say, “That should do it.” Even though I watched him numerous times, I could take the same knife and whit rock and quickly put a dull edge on the blade. No use to roll up my sleeve- no hair would be in danger. How could he place the grind of metal and rock together and always sharpen the blade? But as for me, I would always grind it dull.

This analogy makes me wonder, how do you stay at the grind of ministry day after day and have it sharpen you rather than dull you?

I served as the senior pastor of a church for over forty years and had the opportunity of seeing the ministry grow from slightly over one hundred in attendance to around four thousand on the weekend. That was a long grind! However, there was a time that I did not do any better at the grind of ministry than I did with sharpening a knife. As our church was booming with growth, I was also being stretched too thin. During one of my talks I realized that I could not continue. I walked off the stage in the middle of my message and a friend drove me home because I was a complete basket case. I had allowed the grind to finally bring me to a complete and dull halt. I was not aware of my dull condition until it ended in a deep, debilitating, depression.

I ended up in the counselor’s office trying to find my way out of the darkness. It was extremely scary because I was not sure I would ever be able to continue on as pastor of the church. With months of counseling from my psychologist friend, I gradually began to climb out of the dark abyss of depression.

I learned a lot about what was going on beneath the surface of my life; that unseen part of our life that is hidden from the world and sometime hidden even from ourselves. Paul calls this the “inner man” Even though the “inner man” is unseen, it acts like mission control in our lives. The Proverb writer gives this warning. “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23). Or, put another way, be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.

A major culprit that was draining my soul and taking me into darkness was the way I was thinking. My thought patterns were sapping my energy like leaving the dome light on in the car overnight and being met the next morning with only an ugh from the engine when trying to start. I had to begin practicing what Paul said to the Corinthians, “…we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) I had to change my habit of thinking regarding many issues in my life.

    - Indecision. I would roll a decision over and over in my mind but delay taking action. I want a lot of information before making a decision. It took time for me to form a different thinking pattern but I begin to deal with decision making in a whole differ manner.

    - Perfectionism. My perfectionistic thought patterns were unknowingly draining my emotional energies. I had bought into the idea that anything worth doing was worth doing right. My counsel awakened me to the fallacy of the kind of thinking. Yes, some things are worth doing right but not everything. I had to set clear priorities and do what was really important and do it right but not allow perfectionism to kick in on the rest.

    - Stress. Stress is in your head–the way you think. I had a hard time buying that at first. But actually, stress is a part of life. I learned to allow stress to work for me and not against me. Our muscles are strengthened by stress but without a break we become exhausted. I learn to pace myself. I learned a valuable lesson from Bill Hybels on how to arrange my day around my burst of energy. What a change that made. Today I work long hours and do extremely well, not by managing my time but managing my energy.

    - Conflict—I would avoid it like the plague. But unresolved conflict was killing me. I had to come to grips with the fact that conflict was neither good nor bad; however the way I resolve conflict will determine the course of my life. I began to guard against avoiding conflict or acting as if it did not exist. I began to seek God’s help in facing conflict in a loving and positive manner. I still don’t like conflict but neither do I avoid it. I deal with it as immediately as possible and as complete as I can. I took Paul word to heart. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).

    - Anger. I did not have a clue that I had an anger issue. I would call it frustration or perhaps even hurt but I never called it anger. I was a stuffer! I would stuff anger down inside totally unaware of what it was doing to me. As I learned to identify anger and process it I began to be released from its destructive grip on my life.

Well, that’s enough about my personal life but it gives you an idea of the grind that I dealt with and how I began to allow it to sharpen my life. The grind is a reality of life. Allowing it to sharpen your life rather than dull you does not always come naturally. It takes intentional work and the wisdom of God.

So far we have only looked at one side of the knife blade but the blade has two sides. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the other side of the blade- learning how to fill your emotional and spiritual buckets.

How do you know when you’ve become “dull from the grind”?

By: Vernon Armitage
Pastor

The Church in Kenya


The church is growing in Kenya despite the many challenges that church leaders are up against. Politically, church leaders find themselves in a very volatile scenario where they are torn between remaining partisan or nonpartisan. Socially, there is a great need for salvation, but the new age tendencies within the culture are compromising the Biblical standards and norms. In addition, poverty, corruption, HIV/AIDS, lack of formal training and the fast changing community make building and leading the church one tough calling. One of the major challenges specific to this year is the drought in northern Kenya, causing famine and starvation. The church is in a place where they need to be mobilized to reach out into those communities and be the hands and feet of Jesus in such a dire situation.

Church leaders like Steven, Kennedy, and Morris from Kenya are excited about the Global Leadership Summit this year as they are thirsty to be filled up and rejuvenated to continue to lead and reach out into their communities for the glory of God. Though experiences like the GLS, many leaders are having their hearts rekindled to continue their ministry.

    “It is one of those annual events that brings leaders together across the board and enhances unity. The GLS is very deliberate about equipping leaders who, much of the time, are always giving out to their congregations.” – Kennedy

Kennedy went into ministry because of a specific, unique call from God to be a part of transforming people so that they can in turn transform their communities. He is a leader leading leaders, and the GLS has helped him to develop his skills as he interacts with church leaders at the same level. The GLS is thought provoking and inspiring them. Morris has been a part of several different ministries, but has a burden especially for youth and equipping leaders to lead. Like Kennedy and Morris, many leaders and potential leaders are being stirred up to pursue God’s vision for their ministries:

    “Because of the GLS in Nairobi; a pastor’s fellowship has been established where pastors meet regularly and are able to interact with one another on some of the issues that we deal with as leaders in our respective churches.”- Kennedy

    “We have a lady from the southern part of Kenya who, after attending GLS, opted not to renew her contract with her employer in Nairobi, but decided to start an environment conservation ministry in her local community” – Morris

Join us as we pray for the GLS in Kenya this week:
- Pray that God would allow them to be able to open more sites and reach more leaders.
- Pray for leaders to be empowered and able to mobilize to reach out into their communities.
- Pray for unity among leaders as they join together at the GLS.

    “The GLS helps us to be more effective in reaching church leaders to be more effective in our communities. It is the one time that every leader that comes can be rejuvenated. You need somewhere to come and be rejuvenated to lead into the next year. I’m excited about the GLS in Kenya this year.” –Steven, GLS Leader, Kenya

A Church for All Generations: Building Legacy, Empowering Destiny

How can churches attract the next generation? What are the common misconceptions that more seasoned leaders have about the emerging generation? According to Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson, during this week’s Willow Creek Association webcast, inter-generational ministry is essential to building a thriving church.

The culture and faith experience of this generation differs substantially from that of previous ones. Many of those in the emerging generation want to connect with churches that are defined by what they are “for” rather than what they are “against”. Rather than asking the same questions of the generation before them, the next generation is asking “how should I live now” (rather than “what do I want to leave behind when I die”).

In order to move toward ministry that is truly inter-generational, wise leaders will purposefully blend and collaborate with leaders of different ages. Beyond hiring young leaders, here are a few ways to collaborate:

  • Prayer: Older and younger leaders need to pray together and build relationships.
  • Build Trust: They need to socialize together outside of the office and build trust.
  • Make Decisions Together: Most importantly, seasoned leaders need to empower younger leaders to speak into important church decisions – as those decisions will directly impact a younger leader’s future ministry.

The younger generation wants destiny while the older generation wants legacy. As church leaders, what are some ways that you’re working to build inter-generational collaboration?

Questions for team discussion:

  • Think about the formative cultural, technological and societal events from your early years. How have those shaped your world view?
  • Do you see differences in the ways that different generations in your church relate to ministry? Name those. Why do you think that is?
  • How is your church doing in hiring, building relationship and empowering younger leaders? In what specific ways can your church take a “next step” to move toward building inter-generational leadership?
  • What decisions is your church making right now that could impact the ministry of next generation leaders? Have younger leaders been consulted? What can you do to draw younger leaders into these decisions?

What is Your Tech Strategy?

“How am I going to add another thing to my schedule? What’s the point of social media anyway?” Often, this is the thought that tumbles through the minds of overworked pastors when they look at their overworked Outlook. I mean, who’s got time to tweet when there’s a wedding to plan, a baby to baptize, and a sermon to write?


On the surface, this struggle makes sense. Pastors hear folks on their staff and in the congregation talking about social media and think, “Can’t do it. No time. Ignore, ignore, ignore.” Social media, and technology in general, gets shoved to the back burner like a screaming tea kettle.

But the digital frontier doesn’t need to be a scary one. Nor all-consuming. Social technology can make the life of a pastor better. As author Clay Shirky famously stated, “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” You feel overwhelmed because you haven’t been able to set your “rules of engagement.”

That stated, here are five simple ways you can use technology to create space in your life:
  1. Set online office hours. This is an experiment I’ve been conducted off-and-on for the better part of four years. I have set hours where I’ll be in my “office” (a website I’ve setup where people can ask questions and video chat with me), ready to interact with anyone and everyone. You’ll most likely want to pair this with regular office hours, but this is a way to be accessible and still maintain your sanity. For more on office hours, read this post I wrote on my initial findings.
  2. Set a time-limit on social media. Give yourself five minutes a day to answer as many tweets as you can. Take 15 minutes at the start of each day to update your Facebook status and wish everyone in your congregation a happy birthday. You may not get everyone, but you can get to some. And that counts. All without having to sacrifice your schedule at the social media altar.
  3. Create an email policy. That’s right, tell people when you’ll be responding to emails. I know folks who have a permanent out-of-office reminder on that says, “I’m answering emails today at 11a and 4p. Please allow 24-48 hours for a response.” The terms can be yours, but be proactive in setting the expectation when you’ll be getting back to people.
  4. Adopt the “three sentences” rule. Speaking of email, one of my favorite websites is three.sentenc.es. The basic premise? Make your emails short. Like, three-sentences-or-less short. If you need to write a longer email than that, pick up the phone. Brevity is beautiful.
  5. Observe a “tech Sabbath”. In my house, I stay off social mediums from sun-down on Saturday to 5p on Sunday. It gives me a chance to breath a bit and take in the natural surroundings (i.e. my family, nature, football, etc.) around me. It’s refreshing, to say the least.
  6. Bonus: Create your own!

As you can see, all of these rules are about proactively setting the terms for which you will interact with technology. Not the other way around. Your life as a pastor is already hectic enough. Don’t let the digital tidal wave crash on your life without a fight. (And wear a poncho, for Pete’s sake!)


Got questions? Feedback? Be sure to join me every Wednesday from 2-4p CST in my online office!

By: Justin Wise (@justinwise)
Social Media Director for Monk Development
Co-direct the Center for Church Communication