4 Documents That Keep You Organized

I am leading a church through a transition period right now. One area of my focus is helping the church become more organized. Some churches are afraid that the more organized they become, the more the church resembles a business. That fear is founded in the idea that if a church becomes businesslike it loses its role as a church. But an organized church will run more efficiently and be more effective. Let me suggest four documents that will help the church become more organized and move you toward your full potential.

  1. Bylaws

Every organization must have a written document that guides their practices. Even when a denomination has a constitution, the local church still needs to have their own bylaws that give clarity to how they will function. This document directs how membership works, who can become a member, and what benefits and responsibilities members have. It clarifies how the leadership board is formed, including who is eligible for board roles and how they will be selected. Church Bylaws should include their Statement of Faith so everyone knows what their key beliefs are.

The bylaws should not include things that may change from time to time. Bylaws need to be reviewed regularly but should not be changed lightly. Instead, practices that may change from time to time can be included in a policy manual.

2. Policies

Every organization needs policies on how to handle things as small as who gets keys to the building and as complicated as how facility rentals work. Policies guide leadership in knowing how to address situations without requiring a unique decision every time when faced with a similar issue. For example, instead of addressing every request for a key separately, policies are established which can guide every distribution of keys without another board vote needed. This creates efficiency for both the leadership and church members in that each person should know what is required of them and the correct process for achieving their desired outcomes.

Further, a policy manual reduces the amount of decisions made at the leadership level because everyone can check the policy for how to handle situations that come up.

3. Job Descriptions

Many churches are lacking in providing good job descriptions. One church I served never even had a job description for their Lead Pastor – me. Good job descriptions give direction and hold people accountable. A good job description outlines the basic responsibilities that a person must meet to fulfill their role. This gives a board criteria to evaluate the individual’s efforts and keep them accountable to.

The latest job descriptions we were working through were for the Welcome Team at church. We established clear job descriptions for the Greeters, the Ushers, and the Coffee Crew. We even had one specific to the Head Usher who would captain the team on Sunday morning and cover a few extra responsibilities. Now, as we recruit people to these roles, each person will know exactly what we are asking of them.

Job descriptions need to include the job title, who the person will be responsible to and who will be responsible to them. It needs to list the qualifications for someone to step into this role as well as a list of responsibilities of the job. It is helpful to also determine a term, so everyone knows when this role is complete.

Job descriptions help identify and organize roles within an organization, which is valuable for ensuring everything that needs to be done.

4. Systems

This is something that many organizations, churches included, never even think of. It is helpful to have systems in place. These are basically a step-by-step instruction how to handle certain situations.

For example, a Welcome Team may have a system that guides them how to get contact information from new guests and how to pass that information on to the right people who will then follow up in some way.

The clearer the system is, the more likely it will be followed.

We all benefit when things become more organized. What documents have you found to be helpful for your organization or church?

I hope you have these documents in place. Let me know if you would like help developing these for your organization.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

The Future Life of a Leader

As a leader, you live in the future. While you have to be grounded to the present, and build on the past, much of your time is spent looking at the future and how to best prepare for it.

Vision

A leader, and his team, need a clear vision of where they want to go. A vision is your expectation of what the future could look like. You need to be able to see the reality of the future clearly enough to know what you must do to get there. This takes some creative and well-informed imagination. You need to know the realities of the present well enough to know what can be reality in the future. If you understand the present clearly enough, you know what must happen to make your dreams come true.

The average person doesn’t have the capacity to dream. Some are so loaded down with life that dreaming seems impossible. I recently talked with a lady who had been a single mom, just barely surviving day to day. She said she had not had any energy to think beyond the present day for a long time.

To think beyond that was impossible. Others do not have the time or ability to dream a better future.

The average person doesn’t have the capacity to dream. Some are so loaded down with life that dreaming seems impossible. I recently talked with a lady who had been a single mom, just barely surviving day to day. She said she had not had any energy to think beyond the present day for a long time. To think beyond that was impossible. Others do not have the time or ability to dream a better future.

Leaders need to be able to see a better future and take the responsibility of helping others see that better future.

Growth

As a leader you should anticipate growth, and desire that more people come to church. This requires future thinking to anticipate what this growth will look like and how you will get there. Will you outgrow your space in the next couple of years? Will you need to expand space or start multiple services? Will you have to hire more staff or equip more volunteers? Consider what a larger congregation will look like and the realities that will be associated with that welcomed growth. As you see that future, you need to be able to begin to prepare for it.

Meetings

When you plan a meeting, you are living in the future. You need to have a clear understanding of what is most important for that meeting.

If you are planning a staff meeting next week, you need to be clear about the priorities of that day. Not the priorities of today, or tomorrow, but at that time. You need to know how to deal with the issues of the moment of that day, even though you are not there yet. In that way you can set an appropriate agenda that will guide that meeting and help everyone present know how to keep moving toward the vision. Yes, a staff meeting does need to look back a bit, and recognize the realities of the day, but the leader needs to inspire hope for the future in those he is leading.

Staffing

When considering your staffing needs, it is important that you hire employees who will help your organization do more than you are presently doing. You need to anticipate what each person or role will contribute towards your vision. You can’t just hire for the moment, because you are already handling the issue of the moment. You want someone who will help you move ahead. This requires a plan for what your organization will need in the future and how a new hire will not only help you get there, but also help once you’ve reached those goals in a way the present team can’t yet do. Hire for growth. If you only hire to accomplish what is already being done, you are adding staff for maintenance, not growth.

Programming and Events

As a leader, you recognize that there are times when a certain program or event can help your church move toward your vision. There may be studies that you want your church to go through because they will better equip your members to do what you believe God has called your church to. You are living in the future as you see what you hope will be the results of this study.

I am presently preaching a series on hearing God. I want the congregation to get a better understanding of the truth that God still speaks to us and we can hear him guiding us in our daily lives. I anticipate a future where the members are more aligned with Jesus and truly hear him speak into their daily lives.

I am a Transition Pastor so there are certain meetings I have with the congregation that I hope will resolve any issues of the past and encourage the church to look forward with anticipation to what God will do. I am living in the future when I see a church that has dealt with issues, where repentance and forgiveness has taken place, and where there is greater unity around their common vision for the future. 

Challenges

You don’t have to be a leader very long before you encounter challenges. Some of these can be completely unexpected, like the covid challenge. But others can be anticipated and prepared for. For example, if half your congregation loses their jobs because a local mill shuts down, a pastor who is leading well will see how this will impact the financial aspects of the church in the near future. Leaders can see challenges coming if they look ahead.

If you are going to lead your church or organization through those challenges, you need to be able to see what your church will look like when you get to the other side. You need to know how to lead them through these challenges. No one ever knows what the other side of a challenge will really look like, but a leader can prayerfully dream the better future and then lead toward it.

Leaders are not prophets, yet they need to read the “signs of the times.” Some farmers say that if you have a period of heavy fog, there will be rain in 90 days. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” says that a red sky at night will bring a pleasant morning. Leaders need to learn how to read their situations to understand their future, and leaders need to constantly consider the future as they lead in the present.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

8 Ideas to Keep Joy in Your Board Meetings!

Many pastors and church leaders see board meetings as a necessary evil. It’s a meeting that has to happen once a month, so I will just endure every boring moment of it and get back to the real things of leading a church or organization.

I’m on the other side of the equation. I like my job and am serving in my calling, and so I enjoy board meetings and look forward to meeting together with key decision makers as we guide our church to a better future. This is the one time a month that you get to interact with the people who help you make the best decisions and look after the big picture of the church or organization you lead.

Here are a few ideas I rely on to make board meetings times of joy.

  1. Have the right attitude.

Some of us are naturally more interested in meetings than others. It might help to remind us that this is the group of people most invested in us leading well and moving the church forward. This is a time to look at the big picture of the organization and people that God has called you to lead, and entrusted to your care. What a privilege and what a responsibility! Prepare for your board meeting with an attitude of expectancy, as you seek to hear from God together.

2. Plan it.

Do not show up to a board meeting, whether you are chairing it or participating in it, without preparing yourself to be aware and ready for what will be discussed and decided. If you are participating, review materials that have been provided in advance. If you are leading, make sure you create a clear agenda and distribute it to each participant. Think through, even pray through, the agenda. Identify what needs to be discussed at this meeting, and what could instead be addressed in an email or a one-on-one conversation. The agenda will also remind you of remaining items left from previous meetings and identify how the success of the meeting will be measured. I sometimes put a suggested time marker for each item so the rest of the board knows if we are on time or starting to spend too much time on a certain issue. With effective planning, the agenda can even include an end time.

Sometimes the joy is drained out of board members because meetings drag on and on with no clear idea of when you will be done.

3. Provide information in advance.

Make sure that all pertinent information is sent out to the board members at least a few days before the meeting. Be clear which items are for information only and what will be discussed. Send minutes, agenda, and reports to everyone so time isn’t wasted reviewing these during the meeting.

4. Personalize your meeting.

Take time to be personable. It’s okay to schedule time to catch up with people and laugh at a story together. Some leaders suggest having everyone share a highlight and something they have been struggling with. The business of a board meeting has to be about people, so make sure the people on the board know they are not just decision-making machines, but appreciated for who they are and what they contribute.

5. Focus on your vision.

When you meet, make sure that you allow your organization’s vision and values guide what you talk about.

It should be a rare occasion to spend time on issues outside of your vision. If your vision is compelling and you are seeing progress, then it will be exciting to talk about what is going well. If things are not going well, then take some time to pray and ask God to give you creative solutions how to move forward.

6. Celebrate what is going well.

Celebrate something every meeting! Celebrations help add joy. Do whatever you want. Get everyone up to do a “happy dance” or high five each other. Maybe you bring in a cake and balloons. At minimum, recognize the wins and celebrate what God has accomplished through your efforts. And before you move on, determine if there is anything that can be done to continue to build on those wins.

7. Prayerfully plan how to address what is not going well.

Often there are things in your church or organization that are not going well. As a board, you need to decide how to respond to those challenges. Ask God to help you determine if there needs to be some tweaking or a complete re-think. Sometimes a small change can make a big improvement. Sometimes it may mean personnel changes or adjustments to processes.

8. Always look ahead.

Your meeting should leave you excited about what is next. Your vision should continue to compel you to move ahead. I hope you can leave each meeting motivated and encouraged to keep going. Ask God to continue to give you clear direction as you move forward.

Joy comes from knowing you are doing what God has called you to, seeing God at work in what has gone well, and prayerfully anticipating what God will do next as you move ahead together!

I hope you have great joy in your board meetings.

Keep looking up,

Andy

Pursuing Excellence: Plan Your Sermons a Year Ahead

Life happens at a pretty steady pace. In fact, unless you plan ahead, you will be dragging behind regularly, just barely keeping up. It is valuable to set aside time at regularly to do the work of looking ahead. For preachers, there is always another sermon to prepare. Unless you plan ahead, it is difficult to spend adequate time thinking through how to preach a biblically accurate, relevant, and creative sermon. The more you plan ahead, the more time you have to think through and improve each sermon.

1.Natural Blocks of Time

I begin by determining the number of Sundays between natural breaks. For example, if I was going to preach on Christmas through Advent, and typically think of the church “year” from September to June, that means I only have September through November for a longer series. I could preach through a book of the Bible with that many weeks. Or, I might do a series for September and make a change at Thanksgiving. After determining how many Sundays for natural blocks of time, I start praying through and listing what I feel I need to preach on in the next 12 months.

2. Congregational Needs

There are times in a church where it seems the congregation needs a certain topic addressed. For example, I am presently leading a church transition ministry, meaning I come into a church that is newly without a pastor and is looking toward hiring the next one. Sometimes the transition is a painful one, where people have been hurt by the pastor or each other. Many transition pastors preach a series on the “one anothers” of the Bible. (“Love one another” or “forgive one another” and so on). The hope is to help people to restore their relationships and trust in each other.

As you pray and think through the needs of your congregation, God will guide you to which books of the Bible or topics to address. You could invite your leadership team into the process by asking them to suggest needs they see in the congregation. If you know that most people are going to take holidays over the summer, you might want to plan a summer series in which each sermon doesn’t build on previous sermons but can be fully understood on its own. If people miss a sermon, they are not falling behind.

If you have a number of new people, you may want to address some of your denominational and local church beliefs and priorities. Or if your church includes many new Christians, you might want to introduce them to Jesus through preaching through one of the gospels over the next year. You could intersperse it with thematic series at Christmas or leading up to Easter, or just preach right through the gospel.

If there are themes you feel need addressing but don’t fit in your preaching schedule, you could address some of those needs in a class or weekend seminar.

3. Main Idea of Each Sermon

Once you have decided which of the books of the Bible or themes you want to preach on, begin breaking them down to what scriptures will be preached which Sundays. Make sure each independent sermon builds on the theme you have decided on. After identifying the scripture for each Sunday, develop the basic sermon idea. This will not necessarily be the final decision, because at this point you are just doing a quick survey of the material. You may adjust the main idea later, but you want an outline of the focus for each sermon so you can begin to collect supporting materials, ideas, and stories for that focus over the next year leading up to each week’s sermon.

Develop the main ideas well enough so that you can give the music and creative service planning teams about six months’ notice for them to gather material for that Sunday that will fit with the sermon.

4. Monthly Glances Ahead

Each month, spend time looking at the next month’s sermons, reminding yourself of upcoming themes and topics. This helps you watch for how things like the news or world events are speaking into what you will be preaching about, as well as how that sermon will speak to local needs. Keep in touch with those who will be leading music or adding other creative ideas into the service so you are working together and building one cohesive service.

Prayerfully start to define the main focus of each sermon more specifically. Ask God to give you and your team creative ways of speaking truth and applying it to each one who will hear.

5. Weekly Specifics

As you work through the details of planning the sermon and accompanying service for the next Sunday, work closely with any volunteers who will be part of the service. Communicate your theme clearly and make sure you are on the same page with all who will contribute. Pray about the applications you will include in your sermon, and ask God to direct your final preparation so that lives will actually be transformed through what God has helped you prepare.

It is a privilege to weekly stand before a congregation who is waiting to hear from God. Put in the time necessary to be biblically accurate and creatively relevant to your congregation. God will reward your efforts as you continually listen to His guidance right from the time you determine what book of the Bible to preach on to the time you wrap up the conclusion of your sermon.

Keep looking up,

Andy

Pursuing Excellence: Plan Your Year

Pursuing excellence involves a number of different aspects. One of those is to plan ahead. The difference between mediocrity and excellence may come down to how well you plan.

Planning ahead gives you time to work on your project or event. When you start planning earlier, you have more time to think it through, prepare and determine the best way to complete the project. Giving yourself this extra time to think about your project means that you have longer to think about it and come up with ideas than if you are scrambling to get everything together last minute.

Pastors and church leadership teams, plan your upcoming year. While many people plan their years from January to December (I tend to plan my personal goals to begin in January), when it comes to working with churches, I suggest thinking of the year as starting in September and finishing in August. This is because church activities usually follow the school year, starting and ending about the same time the local schools do. In order to be ready for September, I suggest you actually do your planning in May.

Benefits of Planning Ahead

Planning ahead helps you improve whatever you are planning, because the earlier attention to the project results in more time given to consider it. This extra time can be used in numerous ways:

  1. You can gather the best team.
  2. You can train and equip your volunteers ahead of time.
  3. You can let life enhance your creativity – your reading and TV watching and living of life will give you ideas you did not have when you first began planning.
  4. You can find great ideas, not just good ones. Instead of settling for the first idea your team comes up with, consider how to improve on that idea. Your programs will go from good to great because of the time to percolate in the minds of the creative teams.
  5. You can build better resources and materials required for the project.
  6. You can spend more time in prayer, asking God to guide every aspect of your planning as well as the final implementation.

Plan Your Year – Start with the Big Events

Begin planning for your main programs of the year. Work with program leaders to determine the start and end times for their programs. If your programs start in September, leaders should be determined by the end of May, so they can start planning their programs and find their volunteers from June through August.

Are there a few big events or weekends your church celebrates? This could be a church camp or a family weekend, as well as Easter, Christmas, and a Fall Kickoff. Set the dates and work on developing themes. Decide who should lead each event and who should be on each team. Make sure that everyone involved knows the pertinent information, such as dates and themes, as early as possible. Plan when to do baptism and membership classes, as well as when to have the baptism and when to receive new members. Plan when and what you will do for evangelism and outreach activities throughout the year.

Once the basics of the big events are planned, start filling in the other Sundays and other activities. Pastors can work on sermon plans for the year ahead. (I’ll share more about how I plan my preaching year next week). Knowing in advance what you will focus on, give additional time to improve the sermons with good illustrations and pertinent information. By creating a year-long plan in advance, you not only give yourself more time for sermon preparation, but you also provide your worship and service planning teams that same additional time to create the best services they can.

The themes for each Sunday will come from the pastor after he plans out his sermons for the year. With a plan for both large events and sermon themes, add other activities to your plan. For example, identify when you should hold leadership meetings or training and discipleship events throughout the year.

After your yearly calendar has been filled, build in further detailed planning every quarter or so. Planning ahead involves a few stages: 1) Planning the year, 2) Planning 3-4 months ahead, and 3) Planning the week ahead. For example, begin developing detailed plans for Christmas by the end of September. Plan for Easter in January. Plan for September program starts in May.

As you plan ahead, the goal is not just to put on a great event or program, but that whatever we plan in the church will transform lives and bring us closer to Jesus. Pursuing excellence is not about performing flawlessly, but doing our best to help everyone involved become more like Jesus.

Have fun in you planning, pray for God to guide every aspect, and then rejoice as you see people impacted by God through events and activities you planned.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Pursue Excellence with Constant Evaluation

“CANEI is an acronym that stands for constant and never ending improvement. If you really want your services to soar, you have to commit to CANEI. You can never be satisfied with what you did last week, even if it was a great week. Always keep moving forward; always be working to reveal God’s excellence in a new, more powerful way.” 

– Nelson Searcy and Jason Hatley, Engage: A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services.

To become better we need to evaluate. Everything we do can be improved through taking the time to reflect and evaluate when completed. An effective way to guide post-event evaluation it to use established systems and processes, whether these are adapted from other leaders or organizations, or created internally.

Recently I was reading Leading in a Culture of Change. Michael Fullan, in talking about evaluation, refers to Army After Action Reviews. These AARs have three key questions: What was supposed to happen? What happened? And what accounts for the difference?

I like that. While many evaluation systems include many questions about every aspect of the event, they really all come back to these three questions. All the questions on a long evaluation form probably come down to these three questions.

What was supposed to happen?

This question is effective because it assumes there was a clear plan from the beginning. Every person involved in making it happen knew what was expected. They likely talked through each aspect ahead of time, and maybe even rehearsed parts of it. Your evaluation needs to begin with a reminder of what you hoped to accomplish. In this way, everyone is reminded of what their goals were.

What happened?

This is where you work through the event in hindsight and remind yourself  what actually happened. Did those leading know what they were doing? Did the people involved enjoy the experience? Did it end up being close to the original goal and plan? Were you able to work the vision well, meaning did your effort move everyone toward the envisioned goal? This is the opportunity to consider each aspect and identify what went well and what did not.

What accounts for the difference?

Once you’ve identified the expectations and actual outcomes, it is time to look at how closely your event matched what you had dreamed and planned for. Focus in on what happened differently than expected. Point out any surprises or missteps, and then try to figure out why things did not go as planned. What are some reasons for what went wrong? And just as important: what are some reasons for what went right or better than you had planned?

With this in mind, brainstorm what needs to change to be better next time. There might be all kinds of actions to take to improve:

  • Better training
  • Clearer directions
  • More rehearsing
  • Better equipment
  • And on and on

An After Action Review (AAR) may take a few minutes or may last an hour. It depends on how complicated the event was or how many items were identified when answering the third question. I like these three questions because they really focus in on CANEI. You can zero in on what needs to improve for next time.

Evaluation always needs to lead to action. Everything that needs improvement must be worked on until a satisfactory change has been defined and developed.

Incorporate regular evaluation into your routines. Ask God to help you see where you may have fallen short of His hopes for the event, and the Holy Spirit to make it clear on how to continue to improve. As a follower of Jesus Christ, do your best for the Kingdom of God, no matter what you are doing.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Leading Well When the Unexpected Happens!

We think we have a lot more control on things than we really do. We plan and prepare, but there are many things out of our control. We cannot control the weather, so it is not really all that unexpected when a picnic gets rained out. We cannot control people so it should not surprise us that people do things we hoped they wouldn’t, or don’t do things we wish they would.

Parents have hopes for their children but children choose their own paths. Business owners have dreams for their business but sometimes the market has more influence on how well they do than anything they could prepare. You plan for a big event only to have a small crowd because there were other more interesting things to do.

Most people like to be optimistic. We have to be if we want to make plans or develop anything. We have to believe that things well go well and get better. Reality sometimes chips away at that optimism.

So, what can we do when the unexpected happens?

  1. Pray

Too often we think that we need to find our way through a situation. We have worked hard on a project and want it to go well, so when the unexpected happens we feel that we need to come up with the solution. Instead, we need to remember that God is greater than any problems we come across. And God is never surprised. When challenges surprise us, why not go to God with them?

God will help you through it. He may give you an answer to quickly figure out a solution. He may give you strength as you struggle to find answers and push your way through. But God wants to be part of our lives. And if we are dedicated to serving God, then all that we do in some way should help to build God’s kingdom. If that is our goal, then the God of that kingdom would probably want to help us find our way through.

Remember to Pray.

2. Manage your Responses

An emotional response to the unexpected is not unusual, but obviously not very helpful. If we respond in a negative way to something that surprised us in a negative way, we are only compounding the problem. That is not going to help save the situation or fix what went wrong. Unfortunately, this is my natural response when a car darts in front of me in traffic. Maybe some of you can relate?

If we have enough bad unexpected things happen, when we get to that tipping point or that final straw that breaks the camel’s back, some of us give up. Whatever we were trying to do may just seem like too big of a task if too many unexpected things interfere.

Often it is our emotions that drag us down. We need to find a way to manage our emotions and push on.

3. Determine to Persevere

Some of us are resilient and continue to push ahead, looking for ways to overcome unexpected challenges. While some give up, others find a way through. Don’t immediately let the unexpected stop you from what you were planning to do. If your pursuit is of any value to you, then determine to find your way through.

These first three actions quickly lead you to the fourth one.

4. Triage the Situation

Good leaders will learn to assess the situation quickly and prioritize the needed response. When you go to the Emergency Room at the hospital, you are first taken to triage, where they assess your level of need so they can make sure that the greatest need is served first.

When the unexpected happens, you need to be able to determine the correct response by assessing if the unexpected situation needs to be dealt with first before going on with your plans.

For example, if you are planning a wedding and the hall floods on the week of your special day, you need to determine if the flooding can be dealt with or a new hall needs to be booked. This may take priority for the moment while you put aside the planning of the rehearsal to deal with the unexpected. In the same way, when something unexpected comes up at work or in your personal life, assess the situation to determine where to focus your attention for the best result.

5. Plan the Solution

Once you have triaged to identify your priorities, use that list to guide you through to a resolution. Figure out who can deal with which part of the problem and who can continue to work on the original project. Maybe part of the solution is to shut down your project or event for now and figure out how to reschedule with more planning in the future.

6. Delegate or Recruit Help

The unexpected often means that your time and resources are disappearing more quickly than you had planned. Can you hand off some of the responsibilities either in addressing the unexpected challenges or in the original project? Find someone who can step in to help. Don’t feel that you have to be limited to your abilities or that of your present team.

7. Pray and Trust God to Intervene

Continue to pray throughout the process. If you are a Christian leader, you have access to the God of Heaven. Our creative, miracle-working God can help us when we feel completely overwhelmed. I like seeing where God steps in and does the unexpected. I was just reading in 2 Kings 3 where the kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom were facing an army of Moabites. They thought they were hopelessly defeated, but then God stepped in. Water ran into the valley and onto the plains. The morning sun made it look like blood.

But when they got up the next morning, the sun was shining across the water, making it appear red to the Moabites—like blood. “It’s blood!” the Moabites exclaimed. “The three armies must have attacked and killed each other! Let’s go, men of Moab, and collect the plunder!”

But when the Moabites arrived at the Israelite camp, the army of Israel rushed out and attacked them until they turned and ran. The army of Israel chased them into the land of Moab, destroying everything as they went. (2 Kings 3: 23-24)

God can do the unexpected. Leading well when the unexpected happens depends to a large extent on how much you depend on God.

Keep looking up,

Andy

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


OUTSTANDING LEADERSHIP – by Stan Toler

There are many books on leadership, and this little book is among the best. Every short chapter is chockfull of ideas and definitions and quotes and generally good leadership advice. Stan Toler shares great advice drawing on many other good leaders. In Part 1: Leadership that Motivates, he shares how to develop and share a good vision. Part 2: Leadership that Relates lays out the value of communication and how to best communicate so that you can transform individuals and organizations. A great little book.

Plan a Restful, Renewing Break

Some people come home after a holiday, wishing they had a week off at home to recover. Holidays are not always restful. Sometimes we use vacation time to meet up with family, which can be really good – or really draining. Sometimes we fill our vacation with so much activity that we come home exhausted.

We all need a break from time to time. For many people, these next two months are the window within which we can plan our holidays. The weather is nice, the kids are out of school, and many organizations slow down over the summer.

It is the perfect time to take some time off. But there is a big difference between taking time off for a busy vacation and having a restful and renewing break from the busyness of life.

If you need a week off to recover from your vacation, you are too busy on your vacation.

It is tempting to use our holiday time to do the many things we wished we could do all year. Maybe we stay home but are constantly on the go with golfing in the morning and swimming with the kids in the afternoon and campfire with family in the evening. While all those things are great, unless we actually take time to slow down, many of us will feel just as tired, if not more, when we return to work.

Is the summer the best time to take a vacation?

Many of us assume that we must take our vacation in the summer, but is that true? Is that best for you and your family? Do you already have weekends off? Why not make the most of them during the summer? Enjoy the slower time in the office and the relaxation of being home with the kids without running off to all kinds of sports or school activities. If you are one of the families who have kids in summer sports you may not have this luxury.

Vacation during a busy season may be more helpful.

Some of us may have the freedom to take a vacation during other times of the year. You might even benefit from lower off-season prices at hotels and vacation spots. In this way, taking time off during a busier work season can be more refreshing than during a time of year that may be slower. If it is possible to take a week off during one of your busy times, you may just come back with more energy and get more done than if you just pushed through as usual.

But we have to take holidays when the kids are out of school!

One father said, “We never let education interfere with our holidays.” You may be able to take your children out of school for a bit if they are in lower grades and they won’t miss much. As they get older you could take your vacation during their school breaks in the middle of the year. If you are really concerned about what they will miss in school, ask the teachers if they can give you some assignments for the kids to work on during your time away.

Find ways to rest and be refreshed and renewed.

There are times to plan holidays with every day and hour filled with activity. There are other times where you recognize you need more sleep and time to slow down and just be. If you are a normal busy family you might benefit from time to just be together without having all kinds of activities on the agenda. Maybe you can rent a cabin on the lake, or go to a resort, and then just do whatever comes up in the day. Feel free to go for a swim when you want, or nap beside the pool. If you like reading, bring a good book. If your family plays board games, bring some to play in the evenings. Just enjoy being together and resting from your busy life.

Take your vacation time!

There are people who pride themselves on not taking all their vacation time. That is ridiculous! If you have the time, why not take it? If you don’t get paid holidays and don’t have money to do much, make your time off count with a “stay-cation” in your own backyard. Take the time for yourself and your marriage and your family that is available to you. Treasure the time you have together while you still can!

Give yourself permission to slow down and do the “nothing” of relaxing. There are times when it is quite okay that we haven’t accomplished anything in the day, except be together with the people who matter the most. Take your time to slow down and relax so you are ready to go back to your busy lives when the vacation is over.

Have a great summer, and if you are on vacation, take time to slow down.

Keep looking up,

Andy

How to Set Plans that Work

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,” goes the saying. I like dreaming and planning. I like looking ahead and doing strategic planning with churches. I get excited about the possibilities of what could happen if things worked out right. The problem is, many good plans do not bear the fruit we had hoped. So how can you set plans that will not fail?

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

John Steinbeck

In James 4:14-15 it says, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’” 

James reminds his readers that no one knows what tomorrow brings. We can do all kinds of planning and scheming and base it all on good research, but in the end, no one knows what will really happen. There are always many unknowns that we cannot prepare for. We can do our best, and often plans work out, but not always. The only one who knows what tomorrow will bring is the Lord God.

God is not bound by time, so He knows what will happen tomorrow and the next day, and the next year. So as events happen, He is not surprised. Maybe we need to ask Him to help us make plans that match His for us.

In Jeremiah 1: 4-5, we read:

The Lord gave me this message:

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
    Before you were born I set you apart
    and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was born, even before he was conceived. That is quite the theological issue to work through at another time, but the point is that God knows us and has plans for us. He had a plan for Jeremiah. He appointed him to be a “prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah didn’t need a career counselor or an aptitude test of some kind to help him discover what he wanted to do with his life. God told him exactly what he should be “when he grew up.”

This morning I was reading in Psalm 138 when I came across a line in verse 8: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life.” The psalmist believes that God has a plan for his life. He trusts that to be true. I felt comforted as I read that verse. My life and my plans are not dependent on my own abilities or lack thereof. If King David is right, and I believe other scriptures agree, then God has a plan for MY life, and a plan for YOUR life.

I don’t think God has every detail of your life planned out in such a way that you need to be constantly afraid that you are making the wrong decision. I don’t think God was disappointed that I chose the Mexican Bean soup at lunch instead of the Butternut Squash soup. And honestly, I don’t know if there is one specific girl for each guy or if God leaves that up to us. What I do know is that God is intimately aware of who you are and who I am. He has plans for us as one person of humanity and plans unique to each of us as an individual.

God’s plan for all humans is that they would come to faith in Jesus and a relationship with God the Father through Him. God wants all people to join him in living in His kingdom here on earth. God desires for all people to join him in the afterlife, in His new kingdom. But I believe he also has plans unique to us. These plans are more like the plans of a coach for each individual player. He puts the player in goal who has been playing that position all his life and is best equipped and prepared for that role. He will probably put the fastest skater and best player on the first line, maybe even at centre. God knows each of us, after all, He created us. Like Jeremiah, God knew you and me before we were even born. He has observed us all our lives. He knows how we are equipped to handle situations we will face in life. And I believe that he has certain roles He wants us to be in.

If I want to make plans that will work out, I had better talk with God about those plans. Whatever the plans, we can talk to God about them as we make them. There is generally good value in involving others on our team in plans we make for organizations we are part of. We can benefit from the input of good friends. Yet the best input is to ask God to help you in the dreaming and planning. Ask Him to guide your thinking. Ask Him to help you get the best research and information to base your planning on. Ask Him to tell you what He wants done. After all, if God has plans for me, I will be better off doing what he has planned.

There are many different steps that experts could suggest as you desire to make plans that work, but if you believe in God, your first step needs to be to check in with Him. Sometimes it takes hard work and effort to accomplish meaningful plans. Again, God is the one who can help you persevere to the end.

You want to make plans that work? Then ask God to guide you in making your plans.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe