How many licks to the center to a Tootsie Pop? No matter how hard various cartoon creatures have tried, they have all failed to slowly make to the candy center. Because it's the center—that tootsie roll (or bubble gum) core—that everyone loves. It's that core that makes a Tootsie Pop what it is. Otherwise, it's just another run-of-the-mill lollipop. Likewise, there are certain elements that make an effective team: diversity, trust, competence, empowerment, and dialogue.
One evening when our adult kids were home for Christmas, we entertained ourselves with Google translate by translating phrases back and forth to see how they might change. Communicating clearly and effectively is both important and challenging for church and ministry leaders. How often have you conveyed a key message and then been shocked at how it was misunderstood by others? Probably far more often than you would like.
I haven’t always been a big fan of teams. My perception of teams was what is commonly known as the 80/20 rule—20% of the people are doing 80% of the work. I generally equated “team” with “committee” and saw both as sterile ground for finding solutions and fertile forums for discord. It was not until I arrived at UBA in 1990 that I encountered a learning culture that differentiated between a group of people on task and a truly high performance team.
This year, I begin my twenty-fourth year as founding and current pastor of The Brook Church in northwest Houston. Statistics reveal that lasting this long in one church is rare. However, there is a strong correlation between the length of time a pastor stays in a church and the church’s degree of health. So, allow me to share with you some things that I have personally learned or had to learn that have enabled me to make it 20 years. I hope these are encouraging to you no matter where you are in your journey.
I think a lot about helping people know and follow Jesus. It's more than my general mission as a Christ-follower but a specific calling for which God has gifted me and generously offers me wisdom. I have learned to think vertically when it comes to the Kingdom of God—meaning I consider the generations of disciples of Jesus that were before me and I think about the generations that will come after me. We need to give our youth an understanding and framework for persecution.
I've been in combat in two combat theaters, but church planting has been the most grinding thing in my life. It's also brought me the most joy. So, if I had to sum it up in five words, I would say church planting is: grinding, joyful, mind-boggling, exuberant, and learning. Here's what that has meant for me.
The most serious injury I ever had playing soccer was momentary, but it still scared me to death. While I never lost consciousness, I lost my vision for about two minutes. Before that, I had approached my health with the cavalier nature of a teenager. Unfortunately, many of us make the same mistake. We think we’re physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy until an event happens that gets our attention—until we get blindsided by a different reality. What can we do to prevent that life-altering event?
“Sweetie,” my husband gently began. “This is an intervention.”
In his most compassionate voice, Craig began describing my life—my job and the amount of travel it required, my responsibilities in raising our teenaged kids, my ministry as a pastor’s wife, my efforts to be a good friend and a good daughter. “This is just not sustainable,” he said. “I’m not upset with you, but something has to change.”
Waves of inadequacy and shame washed over me. I was trying so hard to do it all. People depended on me. How could I stop?
Like the hyperdrive on Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon, there are leaders who propel their churches forward at breakneck rates, helping them journey great distances and achieve impressive results. In the leader’s mind, the idea of being a “visionary” excuses their obsession with results and the tunnel-vision that accompanies their success. When this occurs, a hyper-driven leader creates vision-weary people and may be authoritarian, autonomous, and even downright mean.
Why would otherwise great leaders act in such destructive ways?
One of the best parts of getting a PhD in Leadership was being required to read widely on the subject. From time to time, I get asked what some of my favorite leadership books are. So, I thought I would take the time to answer that question here and accompany my answer with a fairly through review.
If stranded on a desert island and given only one book from which to teach leadership, I would choose a lesser known book called Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership by Lee Bolman and Terrance Deal.