Your Calling, His Timing

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Clarity of vision is essential to all successful organizations. To have it, leaders must first seek God’s calling upon their lives. It’s tempting to want God to lay everything out for us at once.  We all love the great Biblical stories of God reaching down from heaven to speak directly to his people. From Samuel to Mary, to Paul on the road to Damascus, these amazing accounts of God communicating vision with power and clarity can be found throughout the Bible. But the reality is, it’s often a process of God moving in our hearts, over time, to reveal his plan one piece at a time. This takes patience, commitment, and faith.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Floyd, senior pastor of Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Over the last 12 years, Daniel has led his church from a group of 50 to over 5,000 people at four separate sites. It’s clear to everyone that Daniel is doing exactly what God has called him to do. However, you may be surprised that this wasn’t always the case. It was only after God worked in Daniel’s heart over many years that this calling became clear. Here’s what Daniel told me:

After my undergraduate degree, I considered an MBA or a law degree and thought, you know, I'll be the best church member I can be and do something that creates a lot of income. And during that season God just arrested my heart, and I knew that ministry was where I was heading. In that season I told God, “I'll do ministry, but I just won’t be the senior pastor. I don't think that's me. I'm a good second-hand guy. I am a good executive. I'll take the vision and run with it. You know, I'll make the job happen.” And God just had other plans.
I knew this group of 50 people from previous ministry opportunities. They called and said, “Would you be our senior pastor?” And I said, “I'm not your guy.”
They called back a couple of weeks later and said, “At least talk to us.” So my wife and I went to meet with them. I told her on the way up that I'm going to paint a picture of what the church could look like and what it could do. It will be a life-giving place, reaching people and loving this community. I said that I don't know if they're going to go for it because some of them have a more traditional background. We get to the end of the meeting, and they said, “When can you start? We're ready to jump into this thing.”

When asked if there was a moment that he knew his calling, Daniel responded:

I don't have one of those like, I went down in a service and that is when I was called to ministry. It was a process of them affirming that in me.

God will reveal our calling to us based on His divine design. If we faithfully seek Him and His will, He will faithfully direct us into our calling. 

TO LISTEN TO KENT'S FULL INTERVIEW WITH CHAD VEACH, LISTEN BELOW OR GO TO APPLE PODCASTS

Fix Yourself Before You Try to Fix Others

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In every group, there seems to be someone who knows exactly what to say, rapidly recounts the most amazing experiences and acts like they have it all together. You know exactly who I am talking about. I bet at least one or two people immediately come to mind.

Early in my leadership, I used to be jealous of these people. I wanted to be like them, talk like them, and do things as they did. What I learned as I got to know these people is they didn’t have it all together; they just learned how to make it seem like they did.

The truth is everyone wants to be perceived as smart and successful. We all want to be admired, respected, and listened to by others. But this can be a sticky trap if we are not careful. It can shift our focus from the real work that needs to be done and incorrectly emphasizes others. Thus, we live our lives from the outside in instead of the inside out.

MY BEST ADVICE TO CURRENT AND ASPIRING LEADERS IS THIS: FIX YOURSELF BEFORE YOU TRY TO FIX OTHERS.

I believe there are five ways you can ensure you are always living from the inside out:

1.    Embrace personal disciplines. Being a disciplined person isn’t a negative thing—at least it doesn’t have to be. If you want to be a better runner, you follow a training plan. If you're going to earn a degree, you follow the curriculum plan. So why do we think leadership is any different? Whether you’re leading yourself or others, discipline is a defined plan that results in continuous improvement.

2.    Don’t be defensive. Be willing to accept that you won’t always have the best ideas, the right answers and that you will make mistakes. So what? The point is to reach your intended destination. If you always have to be the smartest person in the room, you’re in trouble.

3.    Find a mentor. I really can’t stress this enough. You need someone in your life that will help you see what you can’t see. We all have blind spots. Opening yourself to personal and professional coaching from others who can speak wisdom into your life, will take you places you’d never imagined before.

4.    Never stop learning. There is something that happens when you consistently put yourself in a position where you need to learn something new. Leadership is a lot like that. Whatever got you to where you are today will not take you where you want to go. At every level of leadership, you’ll need to evolve as a person and leader. Growth isn’t always fun, but it will keep you humble.

5.    Listen actively. No one likes the person in the group who has an answer for everything. The leaders I admire are the ones who listen the most. They ask great questions—even of the people who report to them. They adapt based on feedback from others because they recognize they don’t need to be the source of all ideas and strategy.

IF YOU CAN’T LEAD YOURSELF, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO LEAD OTHERS.

If you want to help others grow, you must be a growing person. And if you're going to lead through change, you must recognize the first person who needs to change is yourself. A leader who is disciplined in the areas of self-knowledge and personal growth will be someone others want to follow.

The road you are walking down is full of uncertainty, fear, and doubt. You need a compass, not a map, because where you’re going, you’ve never been before. If you can master yourself, you will be able to lead others effectively and help the people around you release the full potential of their divine design.

Choosing Unreasonable Hope

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On this week’s Framework Leadership podcast, I had the opportunity to sit down with pastor Chad Veach. Chad is the founding pastor of one of the nation’s fastest-growing churches, Zoe Church in Los Angeles.

A few years ago Chad released a book entitled "Unreasonable Hope," which tells the story of his daughter Georgia, who has been diagnosed with a rare, gene-linked brain malformation called lissencephaly.  The disorder is characterized by the absence of folds in the brain, also known as "smooth brain,” and only 50 percent of children with her condition live to ten years old.

A situation like that can be a parent’s worst nightmare. But Chad and his wife Julia have chosen to focus on hope even in the darkest times. I asked Chad how Georgia is doing and what he's learned through this circumstance. Here is some of what he had to say.

Chad: First, let me say what a blessing it is to have a special needs child. Nothing has changed us more than that. You grow in compassion. You grow in concern for others. So it's changed us even though you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy. We know the good that it's done to us.
That's the thing about problems, circumstances, or situations. They can improve us if we choose to let them. You can get bitter, or you can get better. And we've tried our best and have failed in seasons. We tried our best to get better from this, and now Georgia is doing the best that she's ever done. She's in school through L.A. Unified School District. They pick her up at our house every morning at 7:15 a.m. They drop her back off at 3:30 in the afternoon. They're changing her life. She's never been more alert, happier more, more involved. It's unbelievable.
The other night Georgia and I met this guy who had read “Unreasonable Hope.” He's sitting there, and he goes, “This is not the girl you wrote about in that book. Look at this girl. She's so alert. She's so alive.” I forgot when we moved down here (to Los Angeles) that she was lifeless. For weeks on end, there would be no response. And now she is kicking and cooing and smiling. It's unbelievable. I have to believe that God is also healing her.
Kent: How do you keep that discipline of hope because it can be so easy to feel like this is just never going to get better?
Chad: That was a great word to use, discipline. And you can feel it when you're not disciplined because you can just act, receive the results and just accept them. And I think what has allowed me to keep hope is my confession -- the confession of faith. The decision to say I'm going to actually declare God's Word…. His character… His heart. And I state my faith, so to speak. That's when my hope rises as I start to remind myself who God is. That's what God can do.
Any time that I lose sight of that, I start to say, “Georgia will probably live these many years,” and I'll start to just accept the status quo. But in order to keep hope up, I have to stir that up to remind myself she can be healed and she's going to walk.
Last night I went into her bedroom, and she's talking so much. I went to say, “I love you Georgia.” And in my mind I expected her to say, "I love you too, dad." I literally was like; she’s going to say it tonight. And I have to get myself going that way. I think we have to get our hopes up. What gets my hopes up is the authority of God's Word, the promises of God. It's not a feeling or emotion or worship song. It's just knowing this is what the Bible says.

I encourage you to listen to my full interview with Chad. I’m sure it’ll uplift and motivate you as it did me .


TO LISTEN TO KENT'S FULL INTERVIEW WITH CHAD VEACH, LISTEN BELOW OR GO TO APPLE PODCASTS

How Death Gave Life

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I love chocolate as much as the next guy, and there is nothing wrong with coloring eggs or eating jelly beans. But the real meaning of Easter has nothing to do with any of that and everything to do with eternity. The significance of the Easter story in our Christian faith is in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Without this single component, the gospel story would be completely powerless. So, today I want to encourage you to take time to reflect on the incredible story of Jesus and highlight three important Easter lessons that you can think about as you celebrate this Easter season.

Death is not the end. 

Yes, there is life after death, and this journey on earth is only a small preface to the novel of eternity. I think that we often forget that our lives have a greater destiny than what we think. We are consumed by the world, our careers, daily life and all the things that come along with it. However, Easter reminds us through the resurrection of Jesus that something more significant awaits for those who follow Christ and serve in His kingdom.

There is hope. 

As I watch the news and learn of all the sad things happening around the world, it’s easy to become disheartened. Our world’s condition tears down our spirits and, yes, it can feel hopeless. However, Easter reminds us that even the worst things of life can be overcome with Jesus. Through His life, Jesus healed the sick and best of all, He conquered death. The world may be telling you that there is no hope, but I want to encourage you that Jesus says otherwise. There is always hope with Jesus. He proved it on the day He rose from the dead.

Everyone can be saved. 

I love the old saying that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. It reminds us that all can be saved and we’re all equal in the eyes of God. It says that all are the same and all can be saved if they choose to believe. So no matter your story, the good or bad things you may have done, all can be saved because of the work of Jesus. Easter is the reminder that all who are lost can find their way to life at the foot of the cross. They don’t have to spend eternity separated from God, but if they choose, they can spend it with Jesus.

As you celebrate this Easter season, remember to take time to reflect and think about these lessons. I hope they encourage you and lift your spirits during this season and bring you closer to Jesus. Happy Easter.

The Best (and Toughest) Leadership Lesson

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The best, and sometimes the toughest lesson leaders can learn is that great leadership isn’t about you. If you want to influence change and build a legacy, you need to think about others more than you think about yourself. Generosity—at every level—will shape how you view others and how others view you. This is something that requires a genuine and sincere effort on all fronts.

If your end game is just to boost yourself—your power, position, or prestige—then people will interact with you with that in mind. If your end game is to help others grow, learn, and develop—their needs, wants and desires—then people will be drawn to that. You may be able to fool some people for a season, but time and opportunity have a way of surfacing everyone’s true intentions.

THE TRAP TO AVOID

I remember meeting with a new manager recently. He was frustrated that his team wasn’t falling in line with his vision and plan. I listened to him describe his situation for nearly an hour. When he finally stopped talking long enough to listen, I took the opportunity to share some observations with him. I explained that throughout his entire explanation, he placed himself at the center of the dialogue. I understood his perspective on the issue but knew very little about his team's. 

It’s a trap many leaders fall into. You spend so much time thinking and planning that you forget the humanity that exists within every team. Everyone wants to feel heard, valued, and considered. After all, the point of leadership is to develop new leaders, not grow your followers. The paradox is the more you focus on replicating leaders, the more followers you’ll have.

HERE ARE FIVE TIPS TO INCREASE YOUR VALUE TO OTHERS:

1.    See every person as a human being first. The people around you are not resources or merely full-time equivalents. They are people. They have feelings, families, and faith that the best is yet to come.

2.    Assume everyone wants to grow and accomplish big things. You are not where you are today just because of your knowledge, skills, and creativity. You are a product of the people who mentored you. Do the same for others.

3.    Think about others’ needs more than you think about your own. Consider the perspective of other people more than you consider your own. Your decisions impact others.

4.    Look for ways to set people up for a win. When you crossed the line into leadership, it became less about what you can do and more about how you can help others accomplish great things. Don’t try to lead and be the hero. It won’t work.

5.    Encourage others through the losses. No one likes to lose. But failure is part of success. Don’t just be there when they win, but be there when failure happens too.

The foundation begins with how your view others. Are the people around you a means to an end? Or are they an opportunity to invest for their future gain? This point, while seemingly simplistic, can’t be overlooked. It will seep into every conversation and interaction you have and will fundamentally shape how you interact with others and how they interact with you.

When you choose to live an others-focused lifestyle, you’ll be amazed at how your life will be enriched, and your happiness will go through the roof. It’s not about reaching the corner office, making the big bucks, or even living the good life—whatever that means. This life is your opportunity to invest in the potential for change by investing in the people around you.

CHALLENGE: List the name of three people who invested in you over the years. How is their influence benefiting you today? How can you do that for someone else this week?

 

Shifting the Conversation with Propaganda

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At Southeastern University we are all about divine design. We want to help people discover how God has wired them so that they can develop into who God has designed them to be. 

This week I had the opportunity to sit down with the artist Propaganda (aka Jason Petty). Propaganda is a rapper and spoken word artist from Los Angeles, CA. As we discussed his life and thoughts on topics including race, family, history and the American church, his divine design was evident. God has used his experiences, gifts, and passions to produce a fantastic, unique young man who brings a much-needed voice to the church.  

I encourage you to listen to our conversation. I believe he will bless you as he did me.

TO LISTEN TO KENT'S FULL INTERVIEW WITH PROPAGANDA, LISTEN BELOW OR GO TO APPLE PODCASTS

The Most Important Leadership Ingredient

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I remember my early years in leadership. I was full of energy, ideas, and had very little patience. There was one key decision that I thought was a great move, and I was sure it was a slam dunk to get the support of my team.

When the meeting time came, I walked to the front of the room and didn’t get three sentences out before I was interrupted by the first of many questions—some of which I hadn’t even considered.  And to be honest, I didn’t have very good answers. That “slam dunk” presentation was only supposed to last about 10 minutes. It went on for a whole 90 minutes. That was, without a doubt, the longest meeting of my life. The reason is that I didn’t know the difference between influence and leadership.

I had been so impressed with my ideas and new title that I assumed everyone was waiting for me to come up with the next “big” idea.  The reality was that if I was going to lead a team, I needed to get their input and include that as part of my plan.

 

INFLUENCE ISN’T NECESSARILY LEADERSHIP, AND LEADERSHIP ISN’T NECESSARILY INFLUENCE.

Both words are used in similar context, but they mean very different things. Leadership speaks to the idea of authority and position while influence speaks to the ability to align people and plans to drive toward an outcome.

I’ve met very influential people who aren’t necessarily in a leadership role. At the same time, I’ve met some people in very powerful positions who have little to no influence at all.

I’ve come to realize that influence is personal while leadership is often organizational. Those are two distinct realities. Whatever exists on an organizational chart is just half the story. The other half is building a connection with the people I would work closest with to accomplish the results and goals defined.

 

NEXT-LEVEL LEADERSHIP WILL REQUIRE A GREATER AMOUNT OF INFLUENCE.

If you want to take your leadership and your team to the next level, you’ll need to understand the ground rules for building and growing your influence over time. Here are seven ideas to consider:

1.     Influence is earned over time. You can get the promotion in a day, but it will take time to earn the opportunity to influence others. You can’t get around this reality.

2.     Influence requires trust. You must earn the confidence of those you lead through consistency in your actions and words. If you say one thing and do another, you’ll never fully realize the power of influence.

3.     Influence is grounded in relationships. You lead initiatives, but you influence people. Being a great leader isn’t about the tasks you can execute as much as how you can assemble and activate the talents and skills of others to drive toward a shared vision.

4.     Influence demands long-term thinking. You can dictate an action in a moment, but you must play the long game if you want to leverage your influence to drive toward breakthrough outcomes.

5.     Influence can’t be faked. There is no getting around it. You either have it, or you don’t. And if you’re not sure, you don’t.

6.     Influence must be reinforced daily. Once you earn influence, you will need to re-earn it again and again. It’s not a blank check tied to an endless bank account. You can have influence one moment then destroy it completely through one or two fatal mistakes.

7.     Influence is the building block of enduring leadership. Leadership, in my opinion, is not contained to one organization or role. It is part of our divine design. That means endurance is the name of the game. If you want to continue to lead decade after decade, then you’ll need to study influence and earn that from those you lead consistently.

 

THERE IS NO MAGIC BULLET OR “GET INFLUENCE QUICK” SCHEME.

If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, run! Earning the right to influence others is hard work because it is deeply entangled with human relationships––which are inherently complex. While the concepts of influence might seem straight-forward, business and personal relationships require care and “maintenance” over time if you want them to last.

Without influence, you will always be limited in the strength of your leadership to drive toward breakthrough outcomes. And don’t expect to be the singular influence on every group you lead. Part of your job is to develop the influence of others within and outside the organization. It’s critical to expanding the growth potential and capacity of your organization.

Strategic listening is where it all begins. That will provide the inspiration necessary to build a framework to lead your team through. If you are patient, you’ll find that influence will help you go farther faster. The paradox is it won’t feel like it. But when groups of people work together, you always get more accomplished.

Don’t let yourself become infatuated with the authority your position extends to you. Recognize that without influence it doesn’t mean anything at all.

Networking Is Not Enough. Why Relationships Are So Valuable. 

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In today’s hyper-connected culture we all have a lot of “contacts,” but authentic relationships are rare, which is why they are so valuable. So many times, you meet people who are just interested in talking about themselves or burdening you with their problems. I’m not talking about the times when you are in need. I’m talking about the times when people are exclusively consumed with what matters to them, which leads them to conclude others should be concerned with the same things. Those people rarely have a healthy relationship network.

There is a leader on my team who is what I call a "relational entrepreneur." He is one of those guys who knows everyone, and everyone knows him. He is incredibly valuable to us because he practices good relationship habits, and it pays off for him and others again and again.

You might think he is just about finding and starting new relationships. That's called networking, and there is only short-term value in that. This leader is interested in authentic relationships. After meeting someone, he can continue the relationship, learn and care about the individual, and over time provide them with relevant and valuable information. And because he has cultivated these relationships, they also invest in him.

Cultivate is a great word when you think about relationships. While many people use the word cultivate with slightly different meanings and contexts, I can tell you it means to invest, grow, and develop over time. That sounds like an excellent strategy for establishing, building, and growing authentic relationships.

Authentic relationships require a long view, just like investing for retirement. But before you jump head first into cultivating relationships, let’s outline the rules of engagement.

A FEW THINGS ABOUT AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS

•    They are based on respect for humanity. The individual is the primary building block rather than a personal agenda.

•    They are driven by a desire to connect. Humans were designed to be in relationship with one another from the beginning.

•    They are grounded in the unique realities of the other person. You must accept people for who they are rather than who you want them to be.

•    They are other-focused rather than self-focused. Good friends don’t make it all about them.

•    They are propelled forward through meaningful interactions and encounters. You must add value to the other person; otherwise, you’re wasting their time and yours.

The greatest investment you will make will not be in your education, profession, or even your retirement plan. Those are all good things, but they are not the most valuable assets you will accumulate in your life. Those things come and go. What you are worth on paper, the size of your house, the brand of your clothes, nor the logo on the front of your car are as valuable as the people in whom you invest your time, wisdom, and experience.

“You Believe What?” How to Have Better Disagreements.

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The following is an excerpt from the Framework Leadership Podcast with Kent Ingle. 

It seems that right now, political debate is more about attacking people than addressing issues. That was on my mind several weeks ago when SEU had the opportunity to host Congressman Dennis A. Ross, a Republican, and Congressman Darren Soto, a Democrat, on our campus for a special town hall event. The highlight for me was seeing the two congressmen engage in passionate, yet amazing civil dialogue.

Dennis A. Ross was recently a guest on the Framework Leadership Podcast. I had the opportunity to talk to him about the nature of political debate. I asked him how, in such a politically charged environment, we can return to civil dialogue. Here’s what he had to say:

Once you start assassinating the character, you've lost the debate. And the character assassination occurs here in more ways than one could ever imagine. It is used either to gain an upper hand in a debate, to raise money, or to just embarrass somebody. But the issues are going to come and go. When we start off our debates (in Congress), we say the gentlewoman from California or the gentleman from New York. We try to at least exercise, through words, a sense of civility.
I will tell you that I have probably just as many good friends on the Democratic side  (of the aisle) as I do on the Republican side. My mother was a lifelong Democrat, and my father was a lifelong Republican. And they used to joke about how they would cancel each other's vote out when they would vote.  But they never, ever got up from the table and walked away because of a political argument. And I think that we need to understand that we all want to get to the same destination. We just have different methods and manners by which we get there. That allows us to have that respect and civility for one another.
I get very heated. And I have to count to three (or three hundred) sometimes just to back off. But I also know this is where my impatience comes in. I also know that I owe the respect to the other person to hear their opinion.

As Christ followers, we cannot afford to sit on the political sidelines. We have to be willing to engage in civic discourse and stand for the principles that define our faith. As we debate the issues, we can’t let our message get lost in the noise as we get locked into pre-defined roles and stereotypes. As Congressman Ross stated, we owe respect to people on the other side of the issue. That is Christ-like and the only way to bring about a healthy change in our organizations and our country.

TO LISTEN TO KENT'S FULL INTERVIEW WITH CONGRESSMAN DENNIS A. ROSS, LISTEN BELOW OR GO TO APPLE PODCASTS

Why That Promotion Might Not Be the Best Thing For You

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One of the most common stereotypes of today’s young leaders is that they feel slightly entitled to certain things. People, of course, say that about every generation. However, as a person who has the chance to build relationships with a lot of young leaders, I’ve realized that many millennials believe they should reach a certain level of leadership or a higher up position before they reach the age of 30.

While I admire the drive, the danger is that they feel like they don’t want to “waste their time at the bottom” or learn from the experiences that you can only earn through hard work and time.

There is a severe problem that arises when a person reaches a position of influence without developing the maturity that comes from spending time learning the nuts and bolts of what makes up a great organization. In his letter to Timothy, Paul emphasizes maturity as an essential quality for leaders. He writes to Timothy in the context of the church, but his truths are necessary for all positions of leadership in which people serve:

“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” – 1 Timothy 3:6

Paul warns that reaching a level of high influence without developing all the proper tools that come with maturity can be dangerous. He knew the value of working, growing, learning, and pruning before we have a position of authority. And don’t get me wrong; no matter high up we go in an organization, we will always continue learning and growing. We’re never done growing in our leadership. More importantly, Paul notes that quick success can lead to pride and false conceit. Just in case we didn’t realize how dangerous this could be, he adds, “…and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

In case we forgot, Paul reminds us that pride was the devil’s downfall. Therefore, we must guard ourselves against anything that could cause a sense of pride. Young leaders must learn that early success is relatively rare and can be dangerous.

It may be difficult to train yourself to embrace the early parts of your career that seem a bit mundane, but it’s the best thing you can do to prepare yourself for the future. Learn as much as you can from the leaders in your life, at your workplace, church or wherever. Respect and learn from them, and the time it took for them to reach their current level of leadership. The best way to set yourself up for future success is to embrace every opportunity and take advantage of every moment you have to learn, grow and mature.

What is the Key to Leading Millennials?

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Over the past several years we've been inundated with articles decrying the millennial generation as self-absorbed and impossible to lead. So when I had the opportunity to sit down with leadership and mentoring expert Dr. Alan E. Nelson, I wanted to dig into his experience with millennials.

In addition to teaching in the MBA program at USC's Marshall School of Business and the Naval Postgraduate School, Dr. Nelson is a social innovator, professor, and author. He is also the founder of LeadYoung Training Systems, a premier organizational leadership training curricula for 3- to 23-year-olds. 

With that in mind, I asked Dr. Nelson, when it comes to leading and empowering millennials, where he would focus his attention.

There are two things. I would look for those who can lead others and those who are social influencers more than just treating them all the same. Then I would develop them and mentor them because I find that they are open to that. They want to develop themselves.
The other thing is ironic. I think that millennials, because they are so interested in the work-life balance, sometimes they're perceived to be noncommittal. But if we're going, to be honest, most organizations are not that committed to their employees anymore. It goes both ways. So we want them to be committed to us, but we're not that committed to them.
We have to understand their mindset and understand how to not over-elevate the work-life balance value in our organizations. It's teaching them the discipline of, "if you want this job and if you want a paycheck, this is what it's going to require." But on the flip side, we need to determine how we can create more flexible schedules if we're going to attract the talented millennial. We've got to do things differently. It's both give and take. We have to change, but we also need to nurture and mentor them along the path.

I encourage you to pick up Dr. Nelson's book The Secret of People. The book focuses on what makes people tick, understanding what people value, and deciding how to honor and give them dignity.  

TO LISTEN TO KENT'S FULL INTERVIEW WITH DR. ALAN E. NELSON, LISTEN BELOW OR GO TO APPLE PODCASTS

Thank God For a Flawed Church

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One of the great comforts in the Bible is how God used imperfect people to achieve His perfect plan. Peter was a headstrong, stubborn fisherman. Paul was a poor public speaker who often had authority issues. There are innumerable examples of flawed people who God used.

When we look at the family of God today, we see many people who also have “flaws.” All of us, at one time or another, have felt like leaving this “dysfunctional” family of God. Fortunately, God doesn’t look for perfect people. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind when you’re faced with leaving the flawed church.

God’s family isn’t determined by religious ideologies. There are many people who leave churches because they disagree on trivial ministry opinions. But there will always be matters that we will never completely agree on. What we have to realize is – a family is not determined by their opinions. We have to position our focus on the beliefs that are the foundation of our faith. We need to let go of the minor things and focus on worshiping Jesus as one unified body.

God’s family isn’t determined by people’s opinions. One of the greatest freedoms a person can experience is freedom from what other people think. Just because members of a church disagree with you doesn’t mean there is no place for you. One of the beautiful things about the church family is that it grows through diversity. As Paul writes, there are many members of the body, and only together can we fulfill the Divine Design God has for His body.

God’s family isn’t determined by church leaders. The body of Christ was never meant to revolve around human leaders. It was meant to focus solely on the “head” of the Church – Christ. At one point during his ministry, George Whitefield was hard pressed by his supporters to assume leadership of the Methodist movement. His friends earnestly tried to get him to think about the legacy he would leave behind. Whitefield responded that his ministry wasn’t about him or his legacy. It was about one person – Christ. At the heart of the family of God, there is a central focus on Christ. That is the primary purpose of our very existence as a church. When we focus on Jesus, we will be united.

 

Changing the Ministry Equation with Holly Wagner

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Holly Wagner. She and her husband Philip are the founders and lead pastors of Oasis Church in Los Angeles, California. They started in 1984 with a vision to see the people of Los Angeles encounter the love and grace of God. Today, the church has grown into a life-giving community of over 3,500 people.

Over the past several months, our culture has become more and more aware of the environment and prejudices that women have traditionally encountered in the workplace. I was curious what it was like for Holly to be a female lead pastor starting a church in the 80s. 

“When we started, we had our heads down, and I was doing everything but leading worship. We just did it together. And then, after a few years, I looked up, and there were people that would come and challenge that or question that more. That's when I became aware that not everybody is as big a fan (of women leaders) as I am or as Philip was. So it's been... it's been a journey."

“But honestly, I think that just like a healthy home has a mother and a father, I think a healthy church has a mother and father. You know I was created in God's image just like Philip was. We both come from Him. And so there's just as much of a need for the feminine voice to be present. And so I think perhaps in days gone by––because women might have been oppressed or held back––they came back with a vengeance and with an anger that might not have been acceptable or appropriate. And so I think it's finding the strength without trying to control everything. I feel like that's the dance that I've had to walk in.

“Many times I have been the first woman on people's platform. And I think it's partly because I'm at a local church, they know it’s not just a gig for me. I’m coming in to help build a church. And so I'm always honored when I find that out.  I'm also a little freaked out when I find that out, but I'm always honored, and then I realize I'm opening a door for a generation of young women to come behind me to actually have the chance to communicate the word of God from this place.”

Despite the naysayers and those who challenged her place of leadership, Holly trusted God and did what He uniquely designed her to do. Today, because of that faithfulness, thousands of lives have been changed, and new doors are opening to women around the world.

I invite you to listen to my full interview with Holly. We talk about many things from her days as a Hollywood actress, to her cancer diagnosis and the launch of the organization She Rises.

HOW TO KEEP MILLENNIALS IN YOUR CHURCH

Lately, I’ve read a lot about how Millennials and Gen Z are not satisfied with the church. Many older people lament what they believe are self-centered young people simply looking to be catered to. I, on the other hand, don’t think that is the case.

Having the privilege to work with college students gives me an insight into their lives. They have grown up in a world completely different than anything before, and two things are certain about them – they want a lot out of life, and they want the church to matter.

Justin Lathrop wrote a blog that I thought was very insightful. He highlighted four ideas about young people that I believe all ministry leaders should hear.

Here they are:

First, young people want realism about the state of the world. If I'm honest, I believe young people are more aware of the world’s problems than my generation was. With news, articles, and podcasts available at their fingertips 24 hours a day, seven days a week, young people are acutely aware of the state of the world. In fact, many get their news from independent resources and most don’t even trust the mainstream media. They want real answers. They care about the hurt in the world, and if your church isn’t addressing those things, young people won’t stay for long.

Second, young people are looking for a safe place to work through real issues. They want someone to understand them and to give them grace as they work through their problems, which can be hard for some people. Far too often people have been hurt because the church turns a blind eye to real issues prevalent in today's culture. Ministry leaders must deal with what is relevant, and offer genuine discussion and a biblical response to these struggles.

Third, young people want the truth. This is true for not just them, but for many others as well. They don’t need anyone to sugarcoat anything. Instead, they want to be told the whole truth, and they want an opportunity to process the situation. They want to know why they believe something. In other words, they need to own the truth, and it needs to become real to them.

Fourth, they’re passionate about social activism. Is your church backing any major social movements? Are you supporting nonprofits that are doing good things for people around the world? Young people are becoming more and more active in the social issues of the world, and they want a church that cares about those things, too. They don’t want a church that shies away from the controversial, the tough, or the dirty. They want to face it head on and make a difference. So I challenge you to seek out an organization spearheading a worthy cause and start supporting them financially. You can also send volunteers to work with them. The point is, support causes that are not just new building projects on your property, but solve world problems.

WANT REAL BREAKTHROUGH IN 2018? START WITH AUDACITY.

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Here’s a clear way to check if you’re really leading; if everyone likes everything you do, you’re not driving toward a breakthrough.

What you do as a leader has two dimensions: There’s what you do. And then there’s how others perceive what you do. Both are equally important. So when you’re attempting to break through in your organization, you should expect bold moves of yourself and a variety of responses from others.

Here are five reasons why you need audacity in your leadership:

    1.    Audacity comes from clarity and confidence. When you’re centered as a leader, you’re confident in the decisions you make and the steps you take. If you’re not confident in yourself, no one else will be.

    2.    Audacity draws out the best in others. When you make bold moves, others will surprise you. You’ll discover others who want to join you in your breakthrough but didn’t necessarily want to make the first move.

    3.    Audacity proves that you are only held back by the limits you place on yourself. Audacity is often perceived negatively because we’re conditioned to follow the rules very early in life. Rules are important, but sometimes you have to think outside the box and view the world differently.

    4.    Audacity inspires new people to join you in your work. No one achieves a breakthrough on their own. You need a team of people. When you make bold, courageous moves, others will be drawn to your passion and conviction.

    5.    Audacity creates momentum. When you find momentum, the organization will fall behind you in support. And those who oppose you will have to decide whether they will go with you or not. There is no room for a passive response when you achieve momentum.

You have a decision to make. Will you be captive to the constraints of your current situation, or will you be bold enough to step out in faith? It won’t be easy. You will experience resistance. But it will elevate your Divine Design and position you for a journey you’ll never forget.

Audacity is not a bad word. Embrace it. It’s a requirement to lead in our culture today.

STOP FAKING. START LIVING.

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Something happens as we grow up. That innocent belief that you can do anything and be anyone slowly disappears. I'm not sure exactly when it happens. I do know it fades so slowly that it's likely you'll wake up one day and forget it was ever there. And if you're not careful, letting that happen will rob you of your desire to reach for the impossible.

UNFILLED, UNSATISFIED, AND UNREALIZED POTENTIAL

The net result of a life lived below your capacity is one that is unfilled, unsatisfied, and full of unrealized potential. You were created for more. And no matter how far along you are in life, there is still time to accept your great adventure.

If you are someone who ...

  • Wants more out of life than just a job
  • Believes you were created to accomplish something special and unique
  • Desires to find a way to leave your mark on the world in a meaningful way

… then you must stop faking your way through life. Stop pretending to be someone you're not. All the self-talk in the world will never silence that still, small voice within you that serves as a reminder you were made for more than just going through the motions.

MEANT FOR MORE

Successful people aren't any different than you. They simply understand the source of their motivation, and that helps them push through the resistance they encounter on their way to what is most important to them. They are true to their calling. You must never lose sight of this, no matter how dark or dangerous your path becomes.

What does it mean to fake your way through life?

  • You give up your dreams because you think they are impossible.
  • You allow the expectations of others to set your boundaries.
  • You settle for less than what you know you can accomplish.

If that's you, don't beat yourself up. That's the last thing you need to do. Instead, you need to recognize you were not meant to fake your way through life. If you realize this, you will be able to sustain the energy necessary to accomplish something truly significant and meaningful.

YOUR DESTINY REQUIRES YOUR BEST

If you know you're faking your way through life, what do you do now?

·      Start believing in yourself again. No one can do this for you.

·      Grab a notebook and start writing down the things you need to change to stop faking your way through life. Get it out of your head and onto paper. It may seem tedious, but it helps make it tangible and real.

·      Find a mentor, pastor, or coach to establish a source of encouragement and accountability as you plan some massive changes in your life. Everyone needs someone like this in their life.

·      Take one step toward your destiny every day. Life is not a sprint but a test of endurance.

No matter where you are in life, you can decide today to reconnect with your passion and find the drive and motivation you need to make your mark on the world. I believe you were created to solve a unique problem in the world. The world needs you to fulfill your destiny.

Whether you are an accountant, builder, business professional, pastor, or educator, a life lived to the fullest is a life that is fully lived. Don't settle for anything less.

ATTENTION DREAMERS: THE 4 STEPS YOU NEED TO TAKE TODAY.

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Your divine design was embedded in you at the moment of your creation. But don't expect it to show up before you develop, cultivate and exercise that ability over time. And the truth is, you can’t do that on the sidelines. You must get in the game of life.

If you feel stuck, paralyzed, or hesitant, here are four steps you can take to get moving:

1.      Find a mentor: You need someone to keep you from drifting back into the kind of thinking that will keep you stuck.

2.      Keep a journal: Write down what you’re thinking. You’ll start to see important patterns and learn about yourself.

3.      Do something different every day: I don’t care if it’s as simple as trying a different kind of coffee, donut, or changing the route you take to the grocery store. Stay acquainted with being uncomfortable.

4.      Say yes to the hard decisions you’ve been postponing: It could be as small as losing five pounds or reading a book. It could be as big as finishing your degree or quitting your job. Whatever it is, you know you’ve been delaying; stop waiting and start acting.

It will become very clear to you as you move through life with this mindset that your past has uniquely prepared you for your present and future. You'll discover a personal power you didn't know you had. You'll sleep better, breathe deeper, and live with a level of intensity you haven’t experienced in a long time. That's what it feels like to be fully alive. And there is no better way to remain fully alive than when you align what motivates you with your divine design. At that moment, you are unstoppable.

Be the person you were created to be. Say yes to the adventure that is in front of you. This is your life, so live it with no regrets.

HAVE A MESSY LIFE? DON’T WORRY. YOU'RE DOING IT RIGHT.

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There is so much I like about formal, structured education. There is a plan, process, and path to follow. The beginning, middle, and end are clearly defined. The problem with life is that it doesn't happen in nice, neat semesters. It happens all the time, every day, and in every moment. Life is messy, and sometimes it can feel confusing.

If you feel unsettled, here are five things to keep in mind.

Restlessness is part of life’s journey. If you ever feel settled, hang on because a disruption is coming. Shaking things up ensures you’re paying attention.

You’ll never arrive. Stop thinking life is some destination; it’s a journey. Enjoy it!

Don’t hang onto jobs, titles, or paychecks. Those things will change over time. Those are vehicles for you to learn about yourself and your divine design. They are simply a catalyst for your adventure.

You were made for more than one thing. Get it out of your head that you were created to do one thing. Culture, jobs, and market demands change over time. I’ve been a professional communicator my entire life. But how I did it as a sports broadcaster is very different than how I do it today as a university president.

Self-discovery always results in self-expression. The more you open yourself up to learning during every situation, circumstance, or opportunity, the more opportunities you’ll have to do and experience new things. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

I've been where you are. You want to know "the secret" that is holding you back from living a life of abundance, purpose, and blessing. You want to know at the end of your life that you left everything on the field. I do too.

You don’t need special powers to unlock your life’s greatest work. What you need is courage, perseverance, and determination. Life is not something to be conquered, mastered, or controlled. It is, however, a catalyst for growth, change, and learning. If the point is not to rush to the end, then the alternative is to fully immerse yourself in every twist and turn along the way.

THE SECRET TO SUCCESS? TAKE A NAP.

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Part of being an empowering leader is to instill boldness, dedication, and vision into those around you. However, we must also model a lifestyle that cultivates sustainable growth. One area where leaders tend to fall short is getting enough rest or downtime. The greatest success happens when passion meets perseverance, but this can’t be sustained unless you know how to take it easy once in a while. Here are three reasons leaders should be diligent in the discipline of rest.

Rest helps you avoid panicking in a crisis. Tasks always seem twice as hard when you’re tired. Assignments and meetings are harder to get through, and it takes longer to get anything done. When you’re tired, a crisis always seems more terrifying. It’s natural to panic and start reacting to the situation emotionally. And most of the time, this makes things worse. However, when you’re well-rested, you can deal with problems from a calmer mindset and make better decisions. Sometimes, the best thing you can do before dealing with a difficult situation is to get a couple of hours of rest. 

Rest helps your awareness. When you’re tired, you tend to be less observant. You might even miss opportunities that you normally would have noticed. Sometimes you don’t see changes in your team or recognize new opportunities when you’re dealing with exhaustion. It’s hard to get excited about an idea or a new venture when you’re dealing with fatigue. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to maintain a lifestyle that will help them be well-rested so that they can be aware of themselves and those around them.

Being well-rested will always set you up to overcome challenges. Exhaustion can make it difficult to concentrate and strategize when dealing with challenges. You struggle to prioritize and delegate appropriately. But if a leader is well-rested, they can approach the challenge one problem at a time. They can weigh the pros and cons of an action. They can process advice more easily and make a decision that will maximize their organization’s effectiveness. So commit to a lifestyle of sustainable growth. You’ll find you can achieve more significant, impactful results by having disciplined rest habits.