My panic attack and Simon Biles Olympic dreams.

Simon Biles is an amazing woman. She is powerful, charismatic, but still only human after all. After she pulled out of the event in the Olympics, much digital ink has been spilled. I grieve for her.

Last year, I had a car accident. A driver ran through a stop sign, came across to the far lane, and I couldn’t avoid him. He was convicted of “failure to yield.” His words were that he “looked down.” That’s a story for another day, including back pain for me, lessons learned about neck injuries and other things. It was a horrible accident, but fortunately my daughter and I lived to see another day.

What was unexpected was the panic attack. 2 months later, my family loaded up our van to move from Elk River Minnesota to Montreal, Canada where we would being serving our new ministry assignment. The stress of a move is always significant. This time, we would be pulling a trailer, moving a dog and cat, all during COVID. We were excited but also tired, emotional and overwhelmed.

Our day got a late start. I had documents that needed faxing and the locations weren’t open. Who needs a fax anyway? Heading out, we went through Wisconsin and started heading up towards the Upper Peninsula along the shores of Lake Michigan. We didn’t want to go through Chicago traffics so we decided to take the scenic route. If you’ve traveled with a family, you know trips take longer than expected. Night arrived long before we found our way to the hotel.

And I found myself driving deep in the woods of Wisconsin, pulling a trailer, responsible for my wife, my three wonderful kids, a dog and a cat. And suddenly, every side road became a danger. Every intersection hid an unseen vehicle that might fly out at any moment. My blood pressure is rising while writing this memory down. Trying not to concern the family, I didn’t tell them of my growing panic. I held on to the steering wheel and prayed for it to end. Mercifully it did, some 3 hours later.

I was shaken. I’m a grown man, have driven in some of the wildest cities in the world on both sides of the road. I’ve ridden my bike downtown through a European city (sorry mom, didn’t tell you.) I’ve bungee jumped, been charged by a gorilla and a herd of wild elephants. I have proof of all of these. But I never expected the panic attack. It was horrible, merciless, relentless and completely out of my control.

What is missed in the conversation is 2 things. What these gymnasts do is super dangerous. Who in their right mind does this kind of stuff? For those who say stuff like “if you can’t handle the heat,” well, I would invite you to try one of those flips. Just one. And i’ve been driving for 30 years with no accidents until I had one, an almost died. Ms. Biles gets it wrong and she is permanently injured, maybe dead.

The second is, what does it say about us as a nation that we lampoon someone because they fail our collective expectation. Strangely, we didn’t say that when she met the expectation.

I can understand, though I disagree, with political vitriol. But these kinds of attacks should remind us not of Simon Biles incredibly death defying, crazy skills. Rather, we should remember that there are things we still don’t understand about our minds and our emotions. And we should give grace. Because I sure needed it.

Book review applied to coaching.

Coaching questions drawn from Chris Voss 

Never Split the difference

As a former FBI kidnapping negotiator, Chris Voss’s book “Never Split the Difference” is a great resource for business. But as I listened to it, it dawned on me that many of his ideas are firmly grounded in the best practices of amazing coaches. Here are some quick takeaways.

1 Coaches can apply the Mirror principle.

Simply put, to keep someone talking and opening up, all you have to do is…

Use Voss’s Jedi trick. Repeat the last 2-3 words of what the client says as a question. This simple technique is amazingly effective at getting someone to go deeper into their thought pattern.

2, Coaches hear the client say… you’re right.

Coaches know when a client says “you’re right” that you have moved from coaching to mentoring or directing because the coach has contributed, not drawn out information, 

A good “that’s right” comes from a good summary, without interpretation, of the argument made by the client.

3. Coaches never ask why….

“Why?” is a roadmap to counseling, not coaching. Why is subjective and can be altered with time.

4. Coaches sit with silence…

Silence is the coaches awkward tool. Most people do not enjoy silence and will enter the gap with new information, often self-revelatory.

5. Coaches avoid ego traps… 

“What do you think? You’ve got more experience than me.” Questions like these present ego-traps (my words, not Voss’s) to the coach to be able to assert their knowledge, experience and competency. A good coach recognizes this as a detour from the main issues. 

1.     Bad question: explain to me

a.     Good questions.. explore that idea

2.     Bad question: why did you?

a.     Good question… tell the story about when you… 

Immoral AI, Ultron and the American presidential election.

As I sat and watched my home country turn upon itself in the last few months, my heart and my head have been, like many of you, asking “how could this happen?”

Many pundits have pointed digital fingers. Bad actors, fake news, real news called fake news, foreign influences, the list is long and varied. 

I would like to suggest the Algorithm. AI, or artificial intelligence.

As AI has progressed in computing power, conversations have begun among ethicists about what ethical and moral AI would look like. I would argue the conversation is functionally too late.

My kids are Avengers fans, and Age of Ultron is a disturbing look at when computer reach sentience (or come to life if you will), and then by choice do the math on humanity and decide to annihilate their creators. Perhaps this is in the future, but I would contend its already too late in other areas.

Ultron was the product of his coding.

The one thing our nation and our world can agree on is that we are polarized. We have become binary in our opinions, and we all live in the “echo chamber” of said opinions. Search on google and the results will return the echo chamber of your own opinion. Check your social feed, and find the echo chamber of your own beliefs. How did this happen? The AI, the algorithm, the code is written this way because on a moral assumption. That assumption is that people want to hear their own opionions and those who do hear their own opinions are more likely to purchase what advertisers are selling. Seems like a perverse logic, doesn’t it?

And we become more and more binary, black and white, us vs. them, survivalists. To the winners the spoils. To the losers, reparations and payback. Wait, didn’t they try that until WWI? Weren’t the seeds of WWII sown in the payback model of WW1? But I digress.

Should we be surprised? When building these supposedly all powerful algorithms, we coded for binary. That is how the actual physics of the machines work. On, off, on, off. A billion times a second. However, these are ultimately commercial enterprises, and  engineers put in lines of code that operate out of a system that seeks to maximize profits. Here is where I believe the immoral part came in. Systems that create echo chambers and view users not as consumers but rather the products to be sold, for, as Seth Godin so elaborately expands, we are the product, we are the data that is sold to the companies to whom we are the consumers. These systems are maximized for profit, not for the good of society. 

But a moral AI, a moral algorithm can take into account the need we have for diverse opinion. The need we have for humanizing the other side. A search can be customized not only to show favorite results, but unexpected. Or what if every google search not only revealed adds and search results, but non-profits doing good?

I am a deeply opinionated person. I have a strong worldview and an uncompromising faith in a few things. One of those beliefs is I am deeply convinced in the dignity of each person. You are far more complex than your single opinion on any given issue. Yet our world is being built not by informed opinions of elders who have walked for generations. Our world is not being shaped by considerate voices but rather technical giants who are still developing their moral compass as young people. Their funding? That comes from people who have already decided what they believe.

My kids are awesome but they simply do not have the reasoning skills to deduce the implications of their moral decisions. Does it make sense to have them coding our lives, turning us into lines of data to be sold across platforms to maximize the profits of media/marketing giants?

What then is the solution?

I would like to suggest coding for conscientious culture creation. What does that mean? That those who write the algorithms that run our lives be given mentors, elders, and coaches. They be given lessons on the impact of their coding on the daily lives of the data creators, their moms, their dads, their families.  Young adults have the malleability to learn the code and write the future. Who could have helped them deduce that their decisions 10 years ago about how to answer searches and find friends would get us here?

Because the future is here, and its’ very binary. If our future is going to be more nuanced, we need to code for it. 

Why I turned off comments on my blog

I hadn’t blogged in a few weeks, when I had an idea and opened my WordPress interface to post my new thoughts. Low and behold, a whole slew of new comments were waiting for approval. Excitement surged until I saw that most of them were from one person. They all started fairly amicably enough, the commenter used my first name. But I noticed a pattern after 2 of them. They were all negative. Nit picking. Nuance seeking.

If you read any kind of thought blog or opinion blog, or list blog, you agree with some, hate some, and forget 99% of what you read. The best you can hope for is “interesting thoughts.”

But I when I recently read “ignore all negative comments” I wondered, was that too far? Was I being too thin skinned? But I realized that my feed, my blog, my comments are mine.  I have enough acquaintances and family that can help correct me. Constructive criticism almost never is. Its merely destructive. Criticism takes a piggy back ride on the work and efforts of others. It should only be received in the context of relationship from someone who is alongside in the trenches, trying to make the world a better place.

Not someone who trolls your blog to tell you how wrong you are.

So turn off the comments. Delete them. If the person really wants to give you constructive feedback, they’ll call you or email you personally.

Oh wait, they can’t because they don’t have either of those.

The Myth of Human Potential.

Showtime. Bad Boys. Come Fly with me.

If those phrases connect at all with you, we are perhaps kindred spirits, children of the days when the NBA was made of real men. (Except to my knowledge, there are no fake men, and it’s still a male dominated league. But I digress too quick.)

One of the great mysteries of that era was a giant named Darryl Dawkins. Mr Dawkins was one of the very first to jump from high school to the NBA, long before “One and Done.” Dawkins was known for 2 reasons. First, he broke a few backboards with powerful dunks, bringing in a new era of break away rims.

Secondly, the consensus feeling was that he never reached his potential. When you looked at him and saw this athleticism, his height, and his skills, those around Dawkins felt sure he was destined to dominate the league. He never did.  Almost every conversation around DD would inevitably lead back to this word: potential.

And Dawkins never got there. He had an above average NBA career, where he managed a championship in a minor role before exporting his talents to the European leagues. He is remembered for giving names to his dunks and breaking backboards.

Wait. I want you to pause here. A man with no more than a high school education leveraged a basketball skill to providing very well for himself and I’m sure a considerable number of other people. He managed to travel the world, and become NBA champion.  30 years later, he isn’t one of the myriad of forgotten players from the 80ies.

Darryl Dawkins was not potential, or even wasted potential. He was a man trying to make his way in the world. His choices made him the man he became.

As someone who has had others give me opportunities, I recognize the head start that comes with. Yet every slick salesman who wants you to sign up for their new thing sells us on potential income, not on actual income of the average person who participates. No one is sold on the average weight loss of a program, or the average money earned on Multi-Level marking scheme of the day.  We are sold on potential.

People have gifts and talents, not potential. Occasionally, those are undeveloped and undiscovered. But you my friend, are not potential. You are a person. I see in you gifts and talents.  But whether you develop what I see or not, I’ll still value you for who you are today.

The leadership secret sauce no one talks about.

Leaders have many great qualities but there is one secret sauce that makes few list but is evident in the truly trans-generational, transformative leaders.

Leadership Secret Sauce

Today’s confessional: I hate being laughed at. Or at least I used to. I mean, cringe inside, feel sick about it for days, don’t-sleep-at-night-dislike being laughed at. I’ve talked with a counselor and identified some triggers from my past and dealt with them. But I am still not there.

Maybe because I always felt a little awkward growing up. Awkward around the cute girls, hey, all girls. Awkward around those who had more money than me. I think I covered it well, but I hated to be embarrassed.

Except I have the ability to say the wrong thing,

… at the right time,

… frequently.

I think I cover it well, with self-deprecating humor and jokes at my own expense. No one can laugh at you if they are laughing with you, right? But foot in mouth disease? I have it.

But the Christian scriptures are pretty clear about one thing. Pride leads to all sorts of real evil. And humility is the answer.  Humility. Being laughed at is a problem to my pride.

Why doesn’t leadership teaching revolve around humility? The ancients were frequent commenters on the topic. (Maybe because if we teach on it, we might be accountable to it?)

Ethnic pride or Racial pride is always ugly when we see it in others. The problem is that we can’t see it in the mirror.  The US is going through a rough reckoning at this time because of this issue. And as the pendulum swings, both sides see the other, and the images in the mirror are difficult to discern when they are broken with bricks.

In leadership, our heroes are the go getters, the mountain climbers, the conquerors. Characteristics of leadership rarely lead with humble. The humble are rarely touted, maybe because the humble have figured out how NOT to be in the limelight, how NOT to be recognized, how NOT to get credit.  And in an era of intellectual property rights, of followers, likes and shares, humility is being relegated to invisibility. This would appear to be the worst possible scenario in today’s world.

Yet look at the history of world impact leaders.

Joseph, 22 years between dreams and world leadership. Invisible.

Moses: 40 years in the desert. Forgotten.

David: 13 years between the giant and the crown. Failure.

Paul: those strange years in the desert, the two years in jail at the height of his ministry.

Jesus: 33 years at least from angelic proclamation to Jerusalem welcome. Hidden.

But look beyond the years and you will see

The humbling of slavery

The humbling of banishment

The humbling of hiding

The  humbling of being wrong

The humbling of being human

God opposes the proud but give GRACE to the humble.

Great, I believe you. Now what, or so what? How do we become humble?

I don’t know. I have some ideas for leaders though. How do I humble myself.

  1. Humble Leaders intentionally and consistently place themselves in positions where they are not the most powerful person in the room. Ignorance is humility pill that taken with a swig of grace can be a powerful antidote to pride.
  2. Humble Leaders practice the art of not having the last word.
  3. Humble Leaders practice the art of always giving credit to others.
  4. Humble Leaders listen long and speak little. This is the hardest thing for me.
  5. Humble leaders chose to serve those who can not reward them.
  6. Humble leaders admit when they were wrong, and share where they have changed.
  7. Humble leaders genuinely believe that others are better than them. Yes, you heard that. They genuinely believe it. They are very aware of serendipity and grace and timing.
  8. Humble leaders can handle the spotlight specifically because they are ok without it. Their interior light shines brighter than the spotlight.

In a world that being known and being famous have now become aspirations, truly great leaders will only be famous to a few.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

 

4 Low Cost Gifts Any Father Would Love

Father’s Day. A day to celebrate dad’s. But unlike Mother’s Day, gifts are much more difficult. Favorite foods maybe, but flowers and a card don’t usually work. Dad toys tend to cost a whole lot of money. Go big or go home, right? Well, if a new jet-ski, boat, or truck isn’t in the budget, here are a few ideas that anyone can give their father.

Honor

My daughters current favorite TV binge is a show called “Leverage.” Last night’s  episode featured an old man who passed up on millions of dollars for a chance to get the one thing he wanted. Respect. In the old days, branding a man a coward was to destroy him. I don’t understand the psychology behind the need, And not that the honor and respect need isn’t common to us all, but seems to be particularly strong among men.
“What should be done for the man whom the King delights to honor?” Ahasuerus asks Haman in the book of Esther, chapter 6. The King understands that the highest compliment and the greatest gift to a man isn’t  money or power but honor. Yet culture and media seem to portray the dad as the buffoon, the emotionally unintelligent, mentally slightly inferior, well intentioned but deficient man. This is as far from honor as you can get.
Honor your father and mother is the first commandment with a promise. Jesus takes the Pharisees to task over their maneuvering out of honoring.
How do you honor?
Speak highly of. Recognize contributions and work. Affirm identity.
But we also honor our fathers by stewarding their reputation. We represent our family. We reflect on our fathers well when we do well in life, leading an upright, Godly life.  Our lives honor or dishonor the reputation of those who raised up. For better or worse, a man is judged by his off spring. Yeah, i get the crazy kid thing and all that, we are responsible for our own choices. But there is no greater way to honor your Father than live a life worthy of honor.

Grace

Man do I feel like a strew up. I mess up all the time. And having worked with young adults for a couple decade now, I know there are no deeper wounds that can happen to a child that can be inflicted by a father. A man’s anger can be fierce, his tongue sharp, his physical presence felt.
In every man there is an battle. But even the most arrogant among us approaches fatherhood with trepidation.
Grace is unmerited favor. It’s forgiveness and understanding and gentleness towards. Every father I know needs an extra measure. Our expectation is that Superman never messes up, but Superman occasionally doesn’t get there on time, drops the ball and can’t dodge the bullet. He isn’t from krypton and bullets don’t bounce off his chest. Our fathers carry their own scars but their humanity and frailty is scary to us. So i know what I do. I hide it.
Grace says “I accept that you aren’t perfect and I forgive you in spite of my unmet expectations. “

But even the most arrogant among us approaches fatherhood with trepidation.

Seeing

What is the gift of seeing Your father? Fathers fill many roles. Provider. Protector, driver, coach, disciplinarian.
If you called your father by his first name, how well could you describe him? There is a temptation to see our dads as a role rather than a person. Giving someone the gift of seeing them is recognizing them as an individual, a person uniquely created in the image of God, with all the complexity and beauty that is built into that.

Belief

There is something powerful when you believe in your kids. Something incredible happens when we look our kids in the eyes and let them know we truly believe in them.
Fathers still have dreams. Affirmation and encouragement go a long way in a man’s world. “Out there” it is a “prove it, show me, I’ll believe it when I see it, you gotta believe in yourself (because nobody else will)” world. Many men have locked up dreams, but unlike the kid who dreams of being the fireman or starting a business, the Father’s in our lives often see their dreams at worst maligned, at best ignored by those around them.
The thing with all these gifts is their only cost is thoughtfulness and action. but they are worth more than gold.
I realize that not everyone had the same privilege I had, of growing up in a loving, nurturing environment where it’s easy to honor my father. If that’s you, remember this. Every person is created in the image of God. Without exception. There is something in them you can honor, there is certainly areas you can give grace, and there is alway room someone who sees you as you wish you were and believes with God all things are possible, even seeing dad change.
So to all the dads out there who are mess ups like me, who fail but get back up, who swallow hard and try to be a better man than before, who recognize your failures and brokenness but still keep trying, I honor you today.
And to all you out there, tell me how you are going to implement these ideas today? I’d love to hear practical applications. Please add your thoughts to the comments below.

How to know if you are adulting

I had never heard of “adulting” until recently. The phraseology is interesting, and I was to take it one more step.

As an immature teenager, I drove my sister crazy, annoying her about who was more mature. Proving, in hindsight, that I was less mature than my younger sibling. Maybe. That’s still up for debate.

Having spent the last 25 years “growing up,” becoming a father, and working with young adults, here is how I would answer my 16 year old self.

OK, so you think you are mature. I think if you can answer these questions with a yes, you are on your way to adulting in a healthy way.

  1. Do you Do without being asked?

My kids have chores. It’s a constant uphill battle to get dishes put away, the table cleared and the carpets vacuumed. They will do them. One now does without being asked. The other fights it Every. Single. Day.

I remember once trying to do an exercise with my staff around this idea. I asked them to look around the room and tell me what they sae. Confused, they mentioned the obvious: large furniture items, the lights, simple things. None of them mentioned the little pieces of paper I saw on the floor that needs to be picked up, the carpet that was askew, and a whole list of things I saw that needed to be done to make the room ready to receive guests. Admittedly, I had not prepared them for the task, so the results were not what they might have been.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of immaturity. Having to be told how to help constantly is. The mature see and do without being asked.

  1. Do you act in the face of injustice?

Dar Es Salaam Tanzania used to have this great little ice cream shop at a place called the Slipway. Lines were always long. One day, my wife was calmly standing in line behind a number of African ladies, when a woman from another ethnicity that sometimes looks down on locals, arrogantly cut in line. The African ladies were used to this, but my wife was having none of it. Posting on facebook, wearing a shirt, doing a run, those are great. But faced with injustice, my wife let this lady know in no uncertain terms that her arrogance and superior attitude was not acceptable.  When I heard of it, my conflict avoidance personality cringed. The more I think about it, the more proud I am of her. She didn’t post about it on facebook, she confronted the lady. sadly, the store owner didn’t stand with her. The other women in line though, I hope they maybe felt a little more dignity that day.

The mature don’t make excuses for injustice. They act. Racism doesn’t go away with good wishes. Mysogyny, bigotry, and the other ills of society must be engaged and confronted.

  1. Do you do for rewards or do you do from responsibility?

For a brief time, I did this thing called “Daddy Bucks” with my kids. It was a reward system where I paid them for doing tasks I wanted done. Picking up dog poop, vacuuming the stairs. Soon, nothing got done without a request for “Daddy bucks” or the question of “how much will you pay me?” My wife wisely shut the system down.

The mature don’t do things for rewards. They see their responsibility in the greater picture, either of a family, towards society, or many other different areas. And they respond. Rewards are nice but not necessary. No one would work for no money, so don’t take this the wrong way. (Work without reward is slavery and that’s evil.) But helping with chores around the house is not work, it’s part of being in a family.

Maturity receives generosity without shame

This what what my grandfather received for serving, for being injured in WWII. He did not do it for the reward.

My grandfather fought in WWII. My father has his flag in his office, a reminder of the lifelong cost he paid when he was injured by a landmine. The soldiers who went and died, fought not because they would be rewarded but because they felt a responsibility to their nation and to the future of their children. The mature respond out of responsibility, not rewards.

  1. Do you pay, or look for others to pay?

In 2004, I served under a friend at a University work in Nairobi Kenya. Several years later, I spent a little time in town. One of the young men who worked for the organization, making a starting salary, asked if he could take me to breakfast. We sat at Java house beside the United Nations complex and talked about life. To my surprise, Eric insisted on paying. At that point, I knew Eric was going to do well in life. He valued our time together enough to pay.

I love buying breakfast or lunch for young people and investing in them. That’s not my point. The point is that some things are worth investing your money into. 

maturity engages generosity as well as responsibility. 

I know 40 year olds who try to angle to get their parents to pay for small stuff. Listen, I’m as cheap as the next guy, but when I can, I want to pay. Maybe it’s a pride thing.

I have to say this too. I’ve had many seasons in life where I couldn’t pay and others did for me. Once, a friend paid for my broken transmission. Another time, a friend paid for my fishing trip. I’ve had more than one vehicle given to me over the years by generous friends. Needing help is not a reason to feel shame. Maturity receives generosity without shame. Maturity also engages generosity and responsibility.

That’s my quick list. What are some of the things you see as true signs of Healthy Adulting?

18 things and counting churches can do to love and serve their community during Covid-10.

My friend Tom is a recently approved Global worker. He sold his marketing firm to follow God. He and his wife will be helping all those using Business  around the world. I asked him to put together some thoughts from his marketing/background on what churches could do during this time. Some of these, most are doing. Some are super interesting. Some take money. Some don’t. If you want more, you can contact him me and I’ll put you in touch. 
Like most newly approved people, he is sort of on hold for now.
Here we go.
Ideas for Churches to Engage Their Community & Congregation During COVID-19
  1. Zoom/Conference Call/youtube/facebook live recorded Bible Studies so that people continue to learn (especially while they may have more time and self-quarantining.) Dig deep into the scriptures. Take the time you don’t normally have to do an in depth Bible study.
  2. Call the older people in your church and make sure they understand the HOW TO of connecting with technology. Can they find your live feed? Do they understand how to access the resources you are providing? Connect them with a teenager to be their “technology buddy.”
  3. Individually call everyone in your congregation or has dropped a kid off at your church (assuming they need to register their name, phone, address, etc. to be in childcare). See how they are doing and how you can pray for them. Invite them to join your social media, youtube, zoom calls, etc.
  4. Contact local nursing homes/hospitals/care facilities to see if you may speak to those who are living there. They likely have limited interaction with others there and their family because many of them are locked down due to many of them being high risk. A call, encouragement and prayer may go a long way. See when you can call them again to pray with them.
  5. Offer to pick up groceries or other needs for people who cannot leave their homes. Have those individuals pay you the cost of the groceries/needs. This could be offered to families staying at home, at-risk individuals,
  6. Use your social media channels to share ideas of what those you speak with are using to keep busy, sane, useful while in this season. Maybe have a games/puzzle exchange – drop off and pick up at the church, sidewalk chalk to help keep the kids active,
  7. Utilize facebook ads to reach people who may be in need in your local community. Invite them to request help from your church, join in on zoom calls/conference calls/video/social media/etc. So that they received words of encouragement and don’t feel alone.
  8. Idea sharing of what people are doing to entertain their kids. Simple games, entertainment, shows, arts and crafts, getting outside, etc. Post those ideas on your social media or record videos with those ideas – give credit to those who submitted the ideas. Add the ideas to your website, link from social media to that page. If more advanced, show video or still pictures of those ideas in practice. Additional opportunity, have designs on paper that people can cut out with the words of “thank you” “you rock!” “you are not alone” “in this together” and other encouraging words. You can also include the ability for your church name to be cut-out and chalked.
  9. Hear and share how people are seeing God move, answers to prayers. Give people encouragement that in what may feel overwhelming, how is God moving and showing himself as greater than this (He’s greater than all things).
  10. Let the community and your congregants share with you via social media or text messaging or email their prayer needs. Maybe even offer up corporate prayer time for others that want to join you on a conference call to pray over the requests for the day(s).
  11. Drive by– parking lot prayers– sidewalk visitation (depending on stay at home or social distrancing orders locally)
Visit people (not going inside due to social distancing) to pray with them and ask for prayer/bring things they may need. More people are home and actually home than usual. Might be a good way to get some personal face-to-face time with your congregation.
  1. Use your congregation leadership to help reach out to people. Focus on empowering leaderhsip, not on doing the ministry. BE Ephesians 5. There’s no need to do all of this yourself. Use your team. If you want to build your team, now is a great time to ask people to step up to help with some of these things. Engaged congregations are happier congregations and more impactful. They also tend to give and tithe more.
  2. Are there homeless, single parents or others around town who may need help? Talk to the local police/politicians/fire/ambulance/hospitals to see what you can do or supplies that can be provided. Food delivery services are becoming very busy (think Meals on Wheels). If supplies are needed and your congregation can help, help them out. You could also provide a meal to the fire/nurses/drs/etc. as a way to thank them for their work.
  3. Use facebook ads or door to door flyers to drop on people’s doors asking them if/how they need help or prayer and how to reach you or someone at the church. Maybe park a car with a sign that if someone needs help or prayer to contact you if you don’t want to go door to door.
  4. Encourage and support local businesses so they can continue to have business/revenue. Maybe even have a way for people to put in orders and the church can deliver those meals to people in the congregation or in need.
  5. If there are people who are truly at risk of losing their homes, apartments, etc. because of the job shut down, raising funds to help those people through or decreasing other costs (gift cards, food, electric/gas bills, etc.).
  6. Do you have preferred children’s programming (youtube channels, large church websites, etc.) you like that you can recommend to parents so that they aren’t having their kids watch movies or TV. If someone doesn’t have the internet but has Veggie Tales DVDs/VHS they are willing to let others use, that may be a great way to share.
  7. Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute has prepared an excellent strategic guide: “Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus (COVID-19): A Step-by-Step, Research-Informed and Faith-Based Planning Manual.” It’s a good resource beyond what is written here.
  8. Post your recorded sermons online (facebook, youtube, etc.) online so that people can binge watch your sermons/teachings. If you don’t have them, offer up other sermons you like to help people stay engaged and encouraged. Or record some of your past sermons and post them online.
  9. Send a note/postcard/letter to your congregation. Mail can be very nice to get when you are stuck inside. Encourage them. Thank them for being part of the church. Let them know how they can engage and be more engaged.
  10. Post songs/youtube videos of songs that encourage and strengthen you. Let them watch and respond to the song via social media.
  11. Encourage people to get out for walks and exercise. Share what they saw/heard while out there.
  12. Provide daily, weekly prayer lists for what people can be praying for – i.e. local, state, national leadership, healing for people, to reach the lost, missions efforts, businesses to stay in business, rain and sun for farms, nurses, doctors, police, teachers, kids in schools, etc. If you can name specific people in the community, add those names to the prayer list. Include people in the congregation for prayer time – just that you are praying for them (not specific prayer needs unless they asked for them and want you to share.
  13. Have children of your congregation visit other congregates and write chalk messages on their driveways/sidewalks with encouraging words. This can also be done for many other people in the neighborhoods.
  14. Design a “Thank you!” that people can put in their windows to thank those driving by, their postal carrier, etc. Add your church logo to the design.
  15. Have a “hang out” time, with coffee or tea. Do an open “Zoom” or Google Hangout room, and tell people that the leaders will be there. Have it a “come and go” situation.
  16. Daily competitions: do a daily art challenge, clothing design, short story competition? run all sorts of daily competitions.
  17. Memories of our elders: ask the older people in your church to share their best testimony. They can call it in to the church, or post it on facebook.
  18. Neighborhood “bear hunt” for kids. People can put teddy bears in their windows and as people go for walks with kids they can be doing a bear hunt to keep the kids engaged and wanting to walk/bike further. It’s a reason to get out if people are going for walks/exercise.
  19. Have staff members call not just adult members but talk to the children. Sunday school teachers call their kids, youth workers call young people.

Thanks Tom!

What are other things you are seeing people do?

46 lessons I learned this past year

This blog started with 40 life lessons I learned before the age of 40. Those blogs became the basis for the book.

Yearly, I spend some time reflecting on lessons learned. Some of these are obvious, others may require explanation. A few are derivatives from other leadership lessons.  And because we need graphics, i’ve thrown in some animal pictures to enjoy.

But without further explanation, here they are.

1 Accept people as they are, not as they were.

2 Empathy is not feeling what someone else feels but being with a friend and allowing them to feel deeply while remaining completely present in the moment.

3 The attitudes we pick up accidentally are frequently the most destructive. We took the wrong lesson away from the experience.

4 Memory is a malleable putty, shaped by access and our attitude when accessing it.

Taking a break by Charles Porter on 500px.com

5 “Stuck” is another way of describing trauma.

6 Growth is disjointed. My daughters physical growth has been explosive, her emotional growth- steady. Don’t expect consistent growth in all areas.

7 God answers specific of prayers. I asked for a specific kind of car and I ask for a certain person to come pray for me. Both happened and were clear answers to prayer.

8 People who say “I just can’t do this anymore“ usually figure out a way to.

9 Having multi generational friendships is sweet.

10 I used to not know what I did not know. I’m increasingly realizing I don’t know what I do know that’s useful to others. Investing in others is figuring out what you do know and transferring that knowledge.

11 Self disclosure does not equal trust.

12 Grace is the balm that prevents the infection of unforgiveness.

13 Adults need to ask others to be their friend. If it works in preschool, it works in your 40s.

14 Tell your friends that you love them.

15 Tell your friends you’re proud of them.

16 Codependency only requires one person.

17 Being the dumbest person in the room should be a rich learning experience, not an intimidating one. 

18. Being the smartest person in the room (consistently) is dangerous to the soul and the path the arrogance.

19 Lose weight. Find it again. Lose it again. Important thing is to not give up.

20 Invest in your future, not your fears.

21 The first story is rarely the whole story.

Lion straight on by Charles Porter on 500px.com

22 Don’t see the silver lining in the clouds. Ignore the clouds and see silver in the sky.

23 If you’re losing it might not be you. It might be how you were playing the game.

24 Even a 15-year-old referee has the power to issue a technical foul.

25 If “you fail, try, try and try again” is bad advice. If you fail “train, train, then try again.

26 Anticipating negative dynamics can often diffuse them.

27 Confidence comes from competence, (not false verbal affirmations.)

28 If anonymity your problem, humility is your answer.

29 influence is the new drug of society.

30 Excellence without maintenance fails.

31 Forgiveness only requires one person. Reconciliation requires two people, a process, and evidence of change.

32 If you want people to remember what you say write a song. If you want them remember what you did, kill Giants.

33 Our greatest moments are connections with mystery not solutions. Data is interesting, mystery is enlivening.

34 Crowd source wisdom for simple solutions. Data mine Elders for deep complex problems.

35 To preserve your legacy, insure the future, don’t enshrine the past.

36 Leaders don’t say “yeah I know.”  They say “tell me more.”

37 Ask for help. You might be amazed by those who feel honored to be asked.

38 Memories are not accurate mental records of our experiences. Memories are emotional pictures heavily filtered through interpretations of our experiences.

39 If you can’t figure out what to do, think back to last time you knew with certainty what to do, then start doing that again.

40 No one is too old for encouragement and affirmation.

41 The distance between who you are and what you say is your integrity gap. Closing that gap is the leader’s most important task.

42 Success does not cure insecurity.

43 A failure in one area of life doesn’t mean a teaching in another is wrong.

44 Anxiety is rooted in a lack of trust.

45 Learn what awful-izing is. Then don’t do it.

46 I didn’t think losing my hair would bother me. It does. 🙂

If you enjoyed these, as always the highest compliment to an author is to share with someone else.

Life has a map. Learn to read it.