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Leaders: Don’t Self-Destruct

If sailing is the metaphor for leadership, I am most comfortable when the seas are choppy, the wind is blowing and there is risk in moving forward toward the goal. However, sometimes the seas are calm and there is no wind to be found, nor a challenging journey planned and I find that I am soon listless and ready for the next challenge to begin.

An all too often downfall of leaders, during these breezeless moments is creating their own choppy waters or chaos where none had existed. When I have done this I usually end up saying “why did I do that?” and I regret my meddling. Why did I meddle, tinker, or involve myself in something I should have left alone?  Truth be told, I was in need of some wind in my sails, I was bored, and I nearly caused my own self-destruction.

Have you ever done this? (Yes? Share your experiences in the comment section).

Here are three things I now do during blazé seasons so I don’t create future problems.

1. Recalibrate: Making sure I am rested and prepared for the next challenge or storm to come. I ask myself, “What can I do physically, mentally, spiritually to ready myself?” Are there new disciplines I need incorporate? I know another challenge is about to come (whether invited or not) so what can I do to rebuild and repair myself?

2. Visit with old friends, mentors and those you have helped. Relationships often suffer during challenging times. Down moments are great for reconnecting over coffee with those important people in your past. Also, visiting those who have been blessed by you or your leadership is refreshing. It can help you see your vision clearly and you can bring back success stories to those you lead and encourage them to keep moving forward.

3. Put yourself in a new environment. Go to a conference you don’t normally attend, visit a museum or try some new technology. When I have a down moment or two I love learning about new technologies, creating a new challenge for myself, finding new ways to express and show love to my wife and kids.

What ways do you keep yourself fresh and avoid self-destruction? Share your thoughts below in the comment section.


Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter:  @CHDyer1

What Firing a M16 Taught Me about Ministry

I was recently on a weekend trip with six Christian men and we shot guns.  The force that comes from a Glock .45mm, a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum, and an M16 semi-automatic weapon is powerful and fierce.  And learning to shoot a weapon taught me some things about leadership.

Surprising?  Maybe, but this group of Christian men has met twice a month for Bible study, support and encouragement for the past 10 years.  We know each other very well, and have developed a keen ability to challenge one another toward leading better lives, loving our families and developing our careers.   One guy in our group is a Police officer and of course he is very proficient at using handguns.  During this weekend retreat, he asked us if we would like to learn how to shoot his guns.

While I am not one to say no to learning something new, I accepted his offer and off we went to the local firing range. What I expected was to have been fun with my friends turned into a lesson in leadership, for some of the principles of shooting a weapon can also apply to leading an organization.

Here are a few of the key points on weapons training and then application for ministry leaders:

  1. Position yourself toward the target.  Do you know your target audience?  If you don’t know who you are trying to reach you won’t hit the target.  Speaking to everyone is really like speaking to no one.
  2. Use your dominant eye to aim the gun sites at the target.  Do you know your gifts and talents well?  Figure out your natural abilities and spiritual gifts and utilize your strengths.  Have others cover areas of weakness.  Using your weaknesses (non-dominant eye) won’t get you close enough to your goals.
  3. Time the firing of the gun with your natural breathing rhythm, fire near the end of your exhale.  There is a time to launch a new venture, a time to stop a program, a time to build and time to rest.  Find the natural rhythms in your ministry and time activities to coincide with these rhythms. 
  4. Don’t fear the firing of your gun.  A .45 caliber gunshot is powerful and loud.  When aiming at the target you may begin to anticipate the shot and the loud explosion that follows.  This can ruin your aim and cause you to miss the target.  In ministry we sometimes have to make tough calls that are going to create an aftermath, possibly loud and even unpopular.  Don’t fear these decisions or put them off.  Get advice, then more advice and then make the best possible decision with the information you have. Usually it isn’t as bad as you have imagined.         
  5. Hitting your target is a blast, celebrate your successes.  My first shot with the M16 hit the target and it felt great.  We high fived each other and laughed about how nerve wracking that first shot was.  When we hit a target in ministry; i.e. someone is saved by God’s grace through a sermon we gave or someone made a decision to give a sacrificial gift to the poor, celebrate and thank God.  These victories and other small ones as well are worth celebrating.

So while shooting guns won’t become a permanent hobby, expanding my experiences and trying something new was fun and proved to have value beyond the experience itself.

What ministry lessons have you learned while on an adventure or developing a hobby?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Raise More Money: Four Elements that Every Non Profit Should Have Right

I was recently speaking at a conference where I met a young man who had a lot of passion for ministry to the extreme poor.  He also had insight on the social media and web strategies for today’s ministry environment.

We were talking about what helps an agency shine bright among the plethora of good Christian based missions doing relief and development ministry, and rocket above the sea of agencies doing good in the world .  He had two very good points and I added my own two to this short list.

If you can laser point your efforts to conquer these four messaging principles, you are well on your way to succeeding in your ministry calling.

  1. Develop a crystal clear mission and vision statements.  It is harder than you think, takes longer than you want and may even cost you money in the short run.  Donors want to know what you are doing and how you do it.  There is no room to be fuzzy or fearful here.  As you clarify, some donors may react and stop giving because they thought you were going one way and now understand you are not.  But there is also good news, other donors will find you and be wildly excited about your ministry.
  2. Develop powerful impact statements about what the donations you receive will do.  Nothing speaks louder than being specific, i.e. “your gift of $35 dollars will provide a warm blanket, a Bible and school fees for every member of a family in the Mathare Valley by the end of May”.  Specific, direct, and time bound.
  3. Speak often to the donor’s self interest.  “Self-interest” gets a bad rap in the Christian world, after all we are to “die to ourselves”, aren’t we?  But that very fact (dying to ourselves) is the “self-interest” of a Christ follower.  At Bright Hope we know our allies derive their passion for supporting our ministry from the Biblical guidance of helping the poor and needy.   They want to be like Christ in caring for the poor, so we speak of it often in our appeal letters and promotional materials.
  4. Finally, in your appeals write about the individuals you help and not about groups, masses or statistics.  Keep focused on telling the stories of individuals who need help or are blessed by your organization.  People don’t give to grand causes or the “25%” of the population that is hungry for what you deliver.  Some experts would label this as having an identifiable victim.   I prefer to believe it is having an identifiable recipient receiving a blessing.

Obama’s Checkbook

One of my best friends is a financial adviser and he always says if you want to know the priorities of a person, check their checkbook.  The President, yesterday, released his “checkbook”, in a way, when the White House released his 1040 IRS filing for 2010. (The Obama’s charitable giving in 2010 and a link to their 1040 filing are at the end of this post.)

First, let me say, I think it is incredible that we live in a country where the President and his wife actually make their tax filings public.  I don’t know of another country’s leader who does this, but I am sure there are only a handful of leaders around the world who would make their personal finances public.

I believe transparency is key to knowing what a government agency, corporation, or organization is up to.  When the lights go on, the rats scatter.  We need the light of day to be shone in the dark corners of government and politician’s activities. Currently, there are too many loopholes and ways politicians shelter their activities from public view.  I wish my Illinois representatives and Chicago city officials would opt for more transparency in their actions.

Second, I also want to applaud the President and First Lady for giving 14.2% of their income to charity.  They gave to 36 different charities (see insert) and I am sure they are fine charities.

However, the Obama’s have claimed to be Christians and hold to the tenants on which our faith is founded.  But they are not representing Christ well in the handling of their finances as not a single church or evangelistic ministry is among their contributions.  Their giving does not reflect a Christian’s obedience to God’s word to give to causes that advance His work.

The President said at the National Prayer Breakfast, “My Christian faith has been sustaining for me….We [the President and his wife] are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but that we are true to our conscience and true to our God.”

I believe the President’s charitable giving is a clear sign of his priorities…  So this leads me to believe that the President is not mature in his faith by not following the Biblical advice on giving to God’s work.   Or it shows his words were spoken for political gain and not reflective of a true conviction.

It saddens me that the President’s faith isn’t stronger and his faith doesn’t impact his financial giving.  It would anger me if I believed I am being lied to and my faith is being used as a political pawn, so he, or anyone else, could gain some additional support or favor.

In the end, I am not the ultimate judge in this question.  Ultimately his faith is between God and himself, but for me, I am using his lack of leadership in giving to causes that impact Christ’s kingdom as an opportunity to review my own checkbook and make sure my priorities are in line with Christ’s.

“For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also”.  Matthew 6:21

Obama’s 1040

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