Tis’ the Season to be Grateful

Tis’ the Season to be Grateful

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year. More than Christmas or Easter; Thanksgiving solicits a different response from me. I absolutely love and embrace the history passed-on from our forefathers:

“It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1864, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.”

Let me take a moment to highlight three men that have facilitated the growth and expansion of InFocus. Each member of the InFocus Board has a particular role and contribution.  I give thanks to the Lord for the wisdom they have provided over the years.

In the midst of the family gatherings, friends and fun; it is easy to forget the need to give thanks. I encourage you to “give thanks” to those who have supported you in your leadership journey this last year.

  • Who are the influential people in your life?

See this blog from earlier this year, for a list of people who have made my leadership journey possible; as a prompt for you to give thanks for the people God has used in your life.

The Power of InFocus Collectives

What is the purpose of a Collective?

Collectives are focused learning intensives that focus on the best practices to make more & better disciples by creating the healthiest environments possible.

  • Activate your vision through individualized coaching.
  • Assess your framework to cultivate a movement of disciples and healthy churches by interacting with other members of the Collective.
  • Apply principles in designing an action plan to implement in your context.

Who are the Collectives going to impact most?

Disciplemaking Collective
  • Micro-Church Planters
    • I’ve put a lot of thought into this one. The Disciplemaking Collective is ideal for the leader of a disciple-making movement with the goal of rapid reproduction. Daniel B has been instrumental in establishing over 400 Discovery Bible Studies in five years; catalyzing a movement of disciples, making disciples.
Church Multiplication Collective
  • Regional leaders within denominational systems/networks
    • From my perspective, the most challenging role within the church hierarchy is the regional leader. Why? The regional leader leads exclusively through influence (in many networks). Perhaps a close second is the national leader who is charged to leverage influence through the regional leaders; but the conduit to get anything done is the regional leader

What is unique about the Collectives?

  • We’ll discuss the principles.for disciplemaking and church multiplication.
  • We’ll lean from the experienced, seasoned practitioners.
  • We’ll learn in a coach-facilitated conversation vs. an information download.

Why would I join one?

  1. The timing is right: Start 2018 with a plan.
  2. The community is right: Focused leaders intent on the same goal.
  3. The cost is right: Over the 6 months of the Collective, it comes to $5/day.

If not you – who?

  • This is a great opportunity if you have a disciplemaking or church multiplication ministry focus. There may also be leaders in your circle of influence that need what Collectives have to offer. Please share this blog with them and ask/challenge then to consider a Collective.
Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #5 – Help people tap their creativity

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #5 – Help people tap their creativity

Lessons I’ve gleaned after coaching missional leaders for 30 years:

So far, I’ve focused on the importance of the:

  • Spiritual: Discern the will of the Father, helping those you coach to do the same
  • Relational: Value the other person
  • Personal: Embrace your unique contribution
  • Interpersonal: You can’t want something for someone else more than they want it for themselves

This week I shift focus to the creativity of coaching.

Lesson #5 – Help people tap into their creativity

I’ve mentioned that I enjoy attending The Global Leadership Summit hosted by The Willowcreek Association every August. It is the gathering of leadership experts from the business (secular) and ministry (sacred) arenas. I would encourage you to attend this event with your team next year.

This year we heard Fredrik Haren speak on the topic of “creativity” from his bestselling publication, “The Idea Book”. I am taking the concept of creativity and relating it to the “core purpose” of coaching a leader.

Haren began by asking 3 questions in his global research:

  1. How many people think creativity is important to their job? 98% globally
  2. How many people believe they are creative? 45% globally
  3. Does your company/organization develop your creativity? 2% globally

Key Learning – based on his research, there is no correlation between 1 & 3.

It raises an important question for coaching: What role should a coach play in developing the creativity of leaders we coach?

Furthermore, Haren continues his examination of creativity by offering a definition for the word “idea.” According to Haren, an idea occurs when two abstract, seemingly unrelated concepts are combined in a new and novel way.

Another way of saying this is: Creative Idea = Person (Knowledge + Idea)

Let’s apply this to coaching.

Let’s say the church planter you are coaching has a vision for a different kind of church. I have been working with a planter for the last 18 months. Bruce Persons is planting The Table Church. The challenge for Bruce is to reach one of the most invisible, under-reached & under-resourced communities in the world: the Deaf and hard of hearing.

Here is how Bruce describes the unique vision of The Table Church:

  1. TTC is a church plant in Frederick, MD with a vision for rapid multiplication.
  2. TTC uses Facebook heavily, to reach remote locations of the world.
  3. TTC follows a sort of an organic, cell church model.
  4. TTC uses video because we are reaching a people group who uses American Sign Language to communicate.
  5. TTC’s goal is to make the gospel accessible to the Deaf and hard of hearing community through ASL.

Bruce saw the opportunity.

  • Knowledge – isolation of the Deaf and hard of hearing community
  • Idea – leverage the internet to reach this “invisible” group of people

With a focus on smaller communities of faith, he discovered that the internet through the use of Facebook, could cast his net wide while meeting the relational needs in smaller gatherings. As a result of streaming his sermons, 1,500 people have logged-in to worship services. This is a great example of a creative strategy that meets people where they live and creates the relational support that is a desperate need, through smaller communities of faith. He has planted one faith community at Gallaudet University, while a second is on the way in Washington DC.  

What separates a good coach from a great coach? Good coaches help people reflect; great coaches have the ability to tap the creativity of a leader through listening and powerful questions.

Here are five questions to help you tap a leaders creativity:

  • If you knew you could not fail, what would your church look like?
  • What makes your church unique?
  • How would your church make the community a better place?
  • What sets your church apart from other churches?
  • What excites you about your church?

The above story is used with permission – see The Table Church for more information.

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution

I began coaching in 1988.  I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach leaders to start all kinds of churches & pioneer disciple-making movements.  I’ve learned many lessons from coaching some of the most amazingly gifted, truly faithful & hard-working leaders serving in the Lord’s Church today.

Lessons that I’ve gleaned:

So far, I’ve focused on the importance of the spiritual foundation (Lesson #1: Discern the will of the Father and helping those you coach, do the same) the relational foundation (Lesson #2: Value the other person) of coaching. This week, I focus on the personal foundation.

Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution

Each of us has a unique contribution God has designed us to make. This is not a pre-destination issue – it is a design issue. Based on your unique design, what is your contribution?

When I first began coaching I was 28 years-old, recently graduated from seminary and single. One of many mentors the Lord used in my life modeled the kind of ministry I sensed God calling me, so I asked him if I could carry his bags to assist him on any upcoming projects. Over the next few years I immersed myself in learning all I could on church growth, leadership development, church planting & multiplication. This led me to pursue my doctorate through Fuller Seminary where I received my DMin at the age of 32.

During those early years I was developing the skills of a coach, trainer and consultant with the singular focus of starting healthy churches that reproduce. The more I refined my unique contribution the more I sensed God’s pleasure. It was, and remains, an ongoing process of stretching myself by taking measured risks, reflecting on the experience and assessing the fruitfulness of the work.

This three-step process of action – reflection – evaluation has served me well. Of course it is never as clear as it may appear in writing, but, the process does work itself out if you are committed to discovering your unique contribution. To help you through that process here is a list of 9 questions to help you refine your Unique Contribution so that you can more faithfully steward the gifts the Lord has given you.

Unique Contributions Reflection Questions:

Self Examination:

  1. What am I passionate about?
  2. What abilities have I demonstrated that produce fruitful results?
  3. What spiritual gifts fuel these skills & abilities?

Feedback from others:

  1. What positive feedback do people share with me?
  2. What skills do people consistently affirm in me?
  3. What impact do these skills have on other people?

Spiritual Litmus Test

  1. How do I measure effectiveness?
  2. What activities leave me energized?
  3. When do I sense God’s pleasure most?

Next week I will share another lesson that I’ve learned as the Lord has allowed me to partner with leaders who are making a significant contribution to the work of cultivating disciplemaking movements.

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #1 – Discern the will of the Father

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #1 – Discern the will of the Father

I began coaching in 1988.

Since then, I have logged well over 10,000 hours: coaching leaders at virtually every level of church life: pastors, church planters, network/denominational leaders, missionaries & ministry leaders. I’ve worked with leaders locally, nationally & internationally on 5 continents. That is around 330 hours annually – for 30 years.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach leaders to start all kinds of churches & pioneer disciple-making movements. Leaders who have been instrumental in raising up leaders, making disciples & starting new ministries. Missional leaders who understand the force when the DNA of multiplication is integrated in the very essence of everything that they do – releasing control into God’s hands!

Recently, while on vacation with my family & working our way down the coast of California, I reflected on the last three decades. My wife, Gina, says that when she read the book entitled “The ONE Thing – Sometimes it’s the only thing you do. But it’s always the ONE Thing that delivers extraordinary results” by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan; that it reminded her of me. That may or may not be true; but I do believe that my primary focus of coaching missional leaders & training coaches to empower missional leaders for the last 30 years, provides a unique opportunity to glean insights, that are worth sharing.

For this reason I would like to share lessons that I’ve learned from coaching the most amazingly gifted, truly faithful & hard-working leaders serving in the Lord’s Church today.

Lesson #1 – Discern the will of the Father

This could be taken as an arrogant statement OR simply what we as followers of Jesus are called to do on a moment-by-moment basis: Abide in Christ (John 15:4).

Recently I was training leaders in the coaching process in Malaga, Spain. We met in a Technology Park where 730 businesses office – from Google, Oracle & Micro-Soft to the one-man, sole proprietor. I was asked to meet the park’s Executive Coach and share our experience in coaching leaders.

As we explained our different approaches to coaching I highlighted the distinctive advantage as a follower of Jesus, in coaching leaders. Simply put, as I understand the literature of secular coaching, the coach relies on intuition when discerning the next step in the conversation vs. Christian coaches, who rely on the direction of the Spirit of God. The still, small voice that sometimes echos in our spirit. I’m not sure how that translated cross-culturally; but my friend acknowledged that this would be an amazing advantage, if this truly was the case.  This has opened a conversation to explore what it means, to be a follower of Jesus, who happens to coach leaders.

Discerning the will of the Father suggests that we submit our will to His, listen and obey.  This is the central teaching of Jesus.  The more we do this ourselves, the better we are able to help others.  Coaching missional leaders is a spiritual discernment process embedded in the best practices of making disciples.

How does a leader Abide in Christ?  For every person that has an answer to this question, you will find as many answers.  Here is how I Abide in Christ.

  1. Exercise.  As I swim, run, bike or hike – I listen to that still small voice and in many instances, discern a key insight for my day ahead.
  2. Reflect.  I think about the upcoming conversation I will have with a leader and ask for the Lord’s wisdom to prevail.
  3. Submit.  I take the posture of a servant who does the will of the Master.

Those might seem superficial or simplistic, but over the last 30 years these habits have served me well.  Of course there are seasons when I have been diligent with the spiritual disciplines of silence, Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, service, etc.  But these three are the most consistent, by far.

Hard to believe that 30 years have passed.  Right now is an important time to reflect as one chapter closes and another opens.  How are you capturing the lessons the Lord is teaching you from your experience?

Next week I will share other lessons that I’ve learned as the Lord has allowed me to partner with leaders who are making a significant contribution to the work of cultivating disciple-making movements & planting churches around the world.