How Can You Know You Are Making the Right Decision as a Leader?

How can you know you are making the right decision as a leader?

Every organization and every leader faces difficult decisions. How can you know you are making the right decision? Is it the right decision for everyone involved, even if it may cost someone his job and a family’s main source of income? Certainly there are many factors which come into play with each and every situation. Are there any hard and fast rules, any guidelines to assist an organization or individual in making these difficult decisions.

I cannot say yes to the hard and fast rules, but I certainly suggest there are guidelines for this purpose. Whether it is a decision in the personal life of a single adult, a family decision, or any size organization there are three questions I recommend that can help you make any decision regardless of the seeming difficulty. Let’s look at them with two scenarios in mind. (Church leaders be certain to read to the end)

Scenario A: Due to a prolonged downturn in the economy and lack of funding a customer service organization’s leaders decide they should downsize their number of employees.

Scenario B: A 23 year old single college graduate has decided she wants a more reliable car. She has found one she likes and will need to finance it to purchase the car. The finance plan could stretch her budget to its limit.

1. What is the very best that can happen to our organization (family, personal life) if we make this decision?

Scenario A: Our finances will stabilize. We will show a larger profit and continue business as usual, preferably with growth.

Scenario B: The young lady will have a reliable, nice looking car to sport around in and worry-free from maintenance and breakdowns.

2. What is the absolute worst that can happen if we follow through with this decision?

Scenario A: Customer service will plummet. We could lose a portion of our customer base. Income will not match the needed budget throwing the organization into a grasping for survival mode or even bankruptcy. Also, the families affected will lose income, insurance, and other benefits. Some could lose their houses and other necessities.

Scenario B: The young lady could lose the car by accident, theft, or from loss of income. Especially if it is the latter (loss of income) not only could she lose the car and her income, but her credit could be damaged as well.

3. Can we live and continue to operate with the answer to question number two?

Scenario A: Further loss of income and smaller number of customer service representatives will certainly bring damage to the organization and lead to its demise.

Scenario B: You decide.

While we always want to look at life with rose colored glasses and see the absolute best in all situations, if we will pause long enough to ask and sincerely answer these three questions, we can make better, more informed decisions.

I used the illustrations above to demonstrate these questions work in differing areas of life. Think of them through the eyes of the church or your particular organization. Certainly we can see the church of North America today in Scenario A above. We realize the loss of income from a few years ago and dwindling attendance and we create excuses and pass the blame to outside sources (the economy). Are our decisions based on one sided thoughts, attempting to draw a biblical correlation? Nehemiah wept, prayed, and fasted. Afterwards he took time to gain an objective perspective from every angle, first from the inside out, then from the outside in.  (Nehemiah  chapters 1&2)

We can also see the church in Scenario B. We want the next shiny, new idea that we heard someone else talking about. But have we counted the cost for our particular ministry?

Learn to use these three questions in making decisions in your life and your ministry. Seek God’s guidance and He will lead you to making the ultimate “best” decisions.

For more information on this topic contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries on the web. You can also find more on this subject in Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church.

Leadership that Blesses God

Last week I was fortunate to attend and speak at a large gathering of church leaders at a statewide convention in California. During the first evening’s service we heard a devotional message from Pastor D.A. Manuel. In this blog post I would like to share the points of his message with a few of my thoughts on each. Pastor Manuel’s message was based on the scripture passage found in Ephesians 4:11-13.

Leadership that blesses God is…

  1. Leadership that is a gift from God. It is a gift of grace. When we find ourselves in a place of leadership, it is because of the grace of God that we are there. There are many others who could fill that void, yet God chose you or me. God given and blessed leadership will manifest itself in our words and actions towards those in our charge, our subordinates, and those who come across our path on a regular and on a one time basis. Where God has blessed you with a position of leadership (be it home, work, ministry, civic organization) always consider it a gift of grace and treat others likewise, with the same grace.
  2. Leadership that has a guiding purpose.  The very term leadership or to lead infers the idea of guiding or bringing others along. True leadership, successful leadership will always have a clear purpose as its driving force. With Christian, Godly leadership that purpose will always deal with the improvement or betterment of people, the people who report to you, the people you are charged to lead, and others whom your leadership will affect.
  3. Leadership that inspires growth. There is but one ultimate reason for Christian, Godly leadership; to build up and mature others into Christlikeness. We are blessed with leadership opportunities not for position or to “Lord it over” others, but to guide them into growing, healthy disciples of Christ. Whether it be in the church, workplace, or the home God’s gracious gift of leadership is to assist others, guiding them into successful men and women of God.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (HCSB)
11  And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12  for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,
13  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, ⌊growing⌋ into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

Realize today that every area of your life where you are privileged to lead is a gift from God. Spend time alone with God discerning your purpose in leadership. Is it in line with God’s desired purpose? How are you leading others inspiring them in growth in various areas of their lives?

For more on this topic contact George Yates or visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Four Ways Leaders Practice Faith Building

Heeding Jethro’s counsel, Moses began enlisting and building spiritual leaders. Jesus’ spent a little more than three years building the faith of those He would leave to accomplish His Father’s work. Throughout scripture we read of spiritual leaders building the faith of others and encouraging them to become strong leaders. The primary task of all spiritual leaders is to lead others in faith building. Those people God has put in your charge, your circle of influence, you are to lead these in building their faith.

The Apostle Paul is one great example of this. Anyone who has been in church any length of time knows of Paul’s relationship with the younger Timothy – his encouraging Timothy in developing his leadership abilities and strengthening his faith. Not only Timothy, each one of the letters of Paul included in the Holy Bible demonstrate Paul’s work, even from prison, in building up the faith of others. Dr. Luke’s account of Paul’s life in the book of Acts records the same enthusiasm of the Apostle.

What can we learn from the life of Paul and other spiritual leaders in the Bible? Actually there is much to learn. Here is but a few thoughts.

Demonstrate faith and faith buildingGod places people around us who will encourage and influence us. He also places around us people who we will influence and encourage. The question is how are you influencing those God has placed around you? God’s desire is for each spiritual leader to work, building the faith of others. The only way we can do this is to be people of faith. You cannot lead from a position you know nothing about. The apostle was certainly a living example of true, unbridled faith.

Teach the principles of faith – Each of Paul’s letters in scripture have a teaching component. Each letter was different and specific to its intended audience. Yet each letter speaks into my life and yours today, nearly 2,000 years later. In Ephesians chapter 4 he writes of this very topic: “…for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” How is your life a walking, equipping, faith building experience for others?

To be a leader is to be a learner – To be a leader is to be a learner. To be a learner is to be a reader. Certainly we can learn by other methods besides reading. However, reading is a great gift we have, and in our information, technologically driven age today we have almost unlimited opportunities to be leading readers. Reading for knowledge and wisdom improves the thought processes of our mind and increases our decision making skills. The Apostle Paul was certainly a reader. Even in prison in an age when owning books to read was not common, he wrote to Timothy and told him to come quickly and bring my books…(2 Timothy 4:13)

Utilize every opportunity – in life there are times of joy, and sorrow, success, and failure, trials and victories. Every situation offers an opportunity to build faith – our own faith and the faith of others. Too often we do not recognize these opportunities because we are not looking for them. Even in times of hardship and when others disappoint or even walk away from us, there is a faith building opportunity. The Apostle Paul early in his ministry rebuked and refused to have anything to do with a young John Mark who deserted him. Yet later in life he wrote to Timothy saying “Bring John Mark with you. For he is good for me…” (2 Timothy 4:11) Remember, God places people around you for specific reasons. Do not let a setback or disappointment from someone keep you from missing God’s plan for you to build that person’s faith.

There is truly much we can learn from the leaders God chose to use and recorded in scripture. Read more about them in God’s Holy Word and practice daily the leadership skills and abilities God reveals to you!

For more on this topic contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Is Your Church in Custodial Mode?

Is your church maintaining status quo by doing the same things this year as last year – repeating the same efforts, programs, and events? Are the routines of your church so dreary that even the favorite traditions seem lackluster and dead? Does your church do certain things a particular way because that’s the way it’s always been done (tradition)? If you answered yes to any of the three questions above your church is likely in custodial mode.

Churches in Custodial mode operate to hold on to what is left as if waiting for brighter days of the past to return. Every ministry, program, event, effort and every dollar is safeguarded, sheltered, and protected in hopes things do not worsen.

One major hindrance with custodial situations in the church is it almost always restricts any good and positive transformation in the church. Instead what is considered positive is that particulars did not get worse. E.g “We were able to pay all our bills this month.” “The furnace got us through another winter.” While these are worthy and good things in the church, when they become our focus, we have certainly lost our God-given focus and become a custodial church.

God did not call us to be keepers of the furnace, but of the gospel. When we become more concerned about paying the bill for lights than shining His light, we have certainly gotten off track. It is time to call for help. There is plenty of help and assistance available. Not assistance to pay the light bill, but to revitalize God’s church.

Unfortunately in too many churches we will not ask for help, until it is nearly time to permanently close the doors of the church. In conferences and consultations I often ask why. Why is it that we are afraid or unwilling to ask for help and assistance? It does not take long for someone to mention pride. And this is true. Are we so prideful that we would rather see the church close its doors on God’s work, than to admit we need help?

Holding on hoping nothing gets worse is an outward expression of an overprotective custodial situation that will drive a church to its dissolution. We know this is not God’s desire or part of His Great Commission. Therefore, it must be due in part to our self-indulging pride.

God has placed people and organizations around you to assist and come alongside the church to help and to revitalize His work in the local community. If you believe your church is in or headed for custodial mode, do not wait until it is time to lock the doors and walk away. Call on your local, state, or national denomination office and work together to find a solution to revitalize God’s work in the community. If none of these are available locate a church of like faith and order and ask for ideas and help. God has not given up on His church, we cannot give up either. Only God knows the greater days that lie ahead of our churches.

For more information or assistance in your situation contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministires website.

 

Why Read?

Why Read?

I heard an alarming statistic recently I do not know the exact percentage, but most men will never read a book after leaving school. Can this be true? Apparently it is true. It is my belief that everyone should be a reader. A true leader is a reader and everyone is a leader at some level in our lives. Therefore, we should all be readers. There are so many benefits, advantages and reasons we should be readers. Let me relate just a couple.

First of all there are different types of books and different styles of reading. You read a newspaper differently than a novel. The way you read a blog post is different from the way you read a biography. Certainly the way you read a phone book or dictionary is different from a book on history. The way we read various types of writings is interesting – an interesting read for you someday. But today I want to focus on why we should be readers.

My wife reads for enjoyment and pleasure. She is a fast reader and reads a lot of stories, novels and fiction. I on the other hand am a slow reader. Therefore I do not take time to read fiction. More than ninety percent of what I read is for education. A large portion of our reading material should be for self-improvement. Our reading should not be categorized into learning more information. Information does not produce learning. – It may produce a good trivia buff, but not life-changing learning. Reading for educational purposes is to read for a better understanding of a particular subject or lifestyle. I read about leadership because I desire to be a better leader and I want to be able to lead others to be better leaders.

We should not read to refute or invalidate another person. Instead we should read for insight and consideration, for contemplation and reflection. I do not read to debate or contradict others. I read to test and stretch my knowledge base in several areas (leadership, strategic planning, spiritual growth, people skills, etc.). Not for the sake of knowledge, but because I want to weigh what I know with what I can achieve. I read to know how and where I can improve in my life. Life is bigger than me so I read to improve my life and to help others along life’s road as well.

We should read to acquire current information, knowledge, and expertise to keep up with the times. Otherwise I might be writing this on a typewriter and not be able to post it to the internet. If I cannot keep current, I will not be an effective leader. And remember we are all leaders in one area or another of our lives. I want to be well informed and capable to progress in my live and to help others to do likewise.

Oswald Sanders writes, “A good book has great power.” And I agree wholeheartedly. If you are not a reader, set out to change your habits and become a reader. Begin with 10-15 minutes each day and build from there. If you are a reader, examine your reading qualities and the material you read. Do your reading habits promote and stimulate growth in your life and guide you in leading others in growth as well? Thirty minutes of quality reading each day will bring you great rewards and keep your mind fresh and crisp with knowledge and power. Power to change lives, yours and those you influence as well.

Here’s to happy and joyful reading.

For more information on this topic or to learn about SonC.A.R.E. Ministries contact George Yates and visit the SonC.A.R.E. website.

Stalwart & Steadfast

In all areas of life and ministry, we confront adversarial situations. As I read about and study the great heroes of faith, successful organizations, and entrepreneurs, I see a common thread. This common bond or thread as I see it is a twofold character trait. While each of these two facets are great qualities and can stand alone, together they solidify a man’s temperament and resolve. These two character traits are a stalwart belief and a steadfast faith.

Standing stalwart in your beliefs and steadfast in yourfaith will carry a man farther than skill, ability, or fortune. Those finding themselves in an adversarial position may not be able to rely on fortune, skill, or ability. The two elements that can be relied upon are belief in a successful outcome and a faith to carry on through the difficulty. One thought that may come to mind here is that the outcome might not be the “successful” outcome we perceive or desire. However, God’s ways are much greater than our ways and His thoughts higher than ours. Therefore, it is worthy to always look at the outcome and see it from God’s kingdom perspective.

One of the great men of faith from the first century is the apostle Paul. Reading some of the words of the apostle Paul from the New Testament gives us insight into a man who was both stalwart in belief and steadfast in his faith.

Five times I received from the Jews 40 lashes minus one.

Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned.

Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night

and a day in the depths of the sea. On frequent journeys,

[I faced] dangers from rivers, dangers

from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers

from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers

in the open country, dangers on the sea,

and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship,

many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without

food, cold, and lacking clothing. Not to mention other

things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all

the churches (2 Corinthians 11:24–28).

The apostle Paul suffered all these things, yet he always had words to share of his love and devotion to the God he served. Paul was stalwart in his journey, always pressing on, no matter what hardships he faced. He never stopped, suffering through all these things. Even after all this torture, pain, and hardship, Paul was found singing and praising God in prison, witnessing to the guards and writing letters of encouragement and training to the churches he had helped to start. He didn’t complain. Instead, in his own words Paul said, “I press on” (Philippians 3:14 NIV). Paul was stalwart in his belief and steadfast in his faith, never wavering.

God has promised He will never leave nor forsake you. He is with you every day, all day. Jesus, in the last words of the Great Commission, said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (KJV). You have what it takes to build a stalwart belief and steadfast faith. Stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before so that you will be strengthened for the victory and your shoulders will be broadened for those who come after you.

This article is adapted from Reaching the Summit:, Essence Publishing, chapter 13, Stalwart & Steadfast

For more information on this topic or to purchase your copy of Reaching the Summit contact George Yates and visit soncare.net

Eyes that See are Rare

In reading Oswald Sanders book Spiritual Leadership, I came across the following statement. “Eyes that look are common, eyes that see are rare.”[i] The reality of truth in this statement is critical in great leadership. Yet, we are so busy looking that we rarely see. Sanders goes on to explain his statement with an illustration I have used many times as well. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day saw in the disciples only a band of fishermen, tax collectors, and other common, uneducated people. However, Jesus saw in Peter and the others men of integrity, prophets, preachers, workers with capacity, willing to go the extra mile.

The Pharisees and other religious leaders were looking on the outward appearance, knowing these men had a lack of education. Eyes that look are common: they did not try to see beyond the outward appearance of these twelve men. Jesus on the other hand saw a group of men with the potential to turn the world upside down, eyes that see are rare.

When you look at someone for the first time, what do you see? Subconsciously, when you meet a person for the first time, you make a series of judgments about that person in the first twenty seconds. Within those first twenty seconds you have made judgments and suppositions that you will use in every future interaction with that person. (Unless they can over time convince your subconscious to change those suppositions) Using these suppositions can cause you to miss the reality and potential of this person.

In coach training one area I try to work with participants on is using what I refer to as deeper listening skills. Deeper listening skills requires much more than using our normal mode of listening. In fact it requires more than using our ears. Developing your deeper listening skills perhaps requires more use of the eyes than the ears. Your spoken words make up only seven percent of your communication. Therefore, using only our ears and our normal listening means we could be missing out on ninety-three percent of what is being communicated to us.

As we first meet someone, in most cases, we are using our eyes even before our ears hear them speak. This is why the first twenty seconds plays such a critical role in “sizing up” other people. It is our eyes sending signals to our brain cataloging information about what we are seeing with what is already stored in our brain that causes us to form opinions and suppositions so quickly.  Example: You see a young man approaching you with earrings in both ears and one through his left eyebrow you automatically make assumptions based on your beliefs and the information stored in your brain. It does not take twenty seconds to make those assumptions. In fact you had particular thoughts about that person simply reading the statement above, though this person is fictional.

Learning to use your eyes and ears, listening and observing not only the spoken word, but the voice tone and inflection, body language, eye contact, and one of the most important, the emotion in voice and action, will guide you to being a greater leader, parent, and friend to those in your circle of influence. You will also see more effective and efficient production out of those same people.

Leaders need to understand the difference between looking and seeing as in Sanders’ quote. Study and develop skills to assist you in seeing beyond the surface. Look for the potential in people who report to you and work with you. Many a good talent has been overlooked because leaders were looking instead of seeing. “Eyes that look are common, eyes that see are rare.”

For more on this topic or learning to use Deeper listening skills contact George Yates or visit soncare.net.

[i] Spiritual Leadership, by Oswald Sanders, Moody Publishers,2007 p. 57

Contentment; a way of life.

Are you content with your life and where you find yourself today? Many people are not. I have been fortunate to live in six different states and have loved each one. The key is finding contentment. The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:” Paul was not speaking of the state of Texas, Rhode Island, or any other commonwealth or geographic location. The Apostle is speaking of a state of mind. In fact Paul was in prison when he penned this letter to the believers at Philippi.

Paul is speaking of a state of mind. Contentment truly is a state of mind. When you set your mind to being content, God through Christ and the Holy Spirit will bring  contentment into your life. Two verses later Paul writes, “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. The Apostle Paul had come to the realization that his circumstances (even being in prison) need not dictate his state of mind. He could be content even when he was in a place and situation where he did not desire to be.

Being content is simply having a mind at ease regardless of your circumstances, having a sense of satisfaction whether you are experiencing one of life’s highs or lows. Determining in your mind to be content will allow the Joy of the Lord to permeate your, mind, soul, and strength.

Determining to be content in your current circumstances does not mean you must relegate yourself to the confines of your current situation. You can be content and still dream your dreams. Just do not let them stop as dreams. Strive to improve your circumstances. Look for ways to help others rise above their circumstances. Helping others will always lift your spirit and bring contentment. Often times it will also lead you to an understanding of how to improve your own situation.

Determine in your heart today to live in a state of mind that is content – no matter what your circumstances. Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding. He will provide. After all, “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Four Churches Celebrating Change

Sunday evening, May 4th, my wife and I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a celebration service with the members of four churches who have recently completed the twelve month process known as Reaching the Summit. All four churches have seen remarkable and significant change in the past year. Change is sometimes considered a dreaded thing in churches today. But the people of these four churches gladly talk about what they’ve experienced using words like incredible, a complete 180, and phenomenal. Change can be good. If you do not believe me, just ask the members and staff of Mansfield, Milstead, Grace, and East Newton Baptist Churches in the Covington, Conyers area of Georgia.

What we witnessed and heard at this celebration service and what these churches experienced varies according to the congregation but here are some of the facts and words of testimony.

  1. Two of the churches had not baptized more than three people in any given year for at least ten years. Some years they recorded no baptisms. A third church had baptized six, one of the past ten years, otherwise their numbers were the same as the first two. From May until December of 2013, two of these churches baptized eight and nine people. One of those has baptized five since the first of the year 2014. The third church baptized seventeen during the process.
  2. One church, as stated by one of the members, has experienced a complete 180. The church had been slowly declining and had leveled off when they decided to venture into the Reaching the Summit Process. Their Sunday morning attendance has increased by sixty-eight percent (68%). On Palm Sunday this church began a second service to accommodate the influx of people. They have started at least one new Bible study class on Sunday morning and have a new-found excitement in the church, spreading to the community.
  3. Each of the four churches have openly testified to spiritual growth in the church evidenced in and through the members. Throughout the process a consistent emphasis is placed on the spiritual intentionality of the church members, the health team and the pastor and staff.

These are only a fraction of the testimonies coming from the members of these churches. Last May, these churches began a journey; a journey they thought would take them 12 months to complete. Near the end of those twelve months each member of every health team realized, this is not a twelve month journey. The twelve months was only setting the stage, preparing them for the journey of a lifetime and beyond.

Here are links to videoed testimonies from three of the churches. Others will be uploaded to the SonC.A.R.E. Ministries channel in the next few days.

Mansfield Baptist Church     http://youtu.be/Dc0RSFKPg4E

Milstead Baptist Church        http://youtu.be/OYhbH-NL02k

Grace Baptist Church              http://youtu.be/qmpq8sqjTbA

For more information on the Reaching the Summit Process and how your church can benefit from it contact George Yates and visit SonC.AR.E. Ministries.

The Leader’ Input Comes Lasts

Leader’s input comes last– Effective leaders, especially in the church learn when to speak and when to listen. Working with churches in an on-going basis I normally meet with the pastor before every meeting with staff or planning and implementation teams. In the very first meeting with the pastor I encourage him not to speak first in our conversations and discussions in team meetings, unless I call on him to speak first.

The church is a different organization from most others in several ways. One of those is the respect for the position of leader (Pastor). While similar respect is seen in other organizations, in the church more people act out of an “S” personality type than any of the other three (using the DISC personalities descriptor). An “S” personality is people oriented but not the outgoing personality. An “S” personality is not likely to start a conversation with a stranger. This is not in their make-up of comfort. “S” personalities will carry on a conversation with you, but in most cases you need to initiate the conversation.

This behavior plays out in meetings in the church this way: If the pastor speaks first and gives his opinion most everyone in the room will concede, agree with the pastor and not make further comment. This is not healthy as someone else in the room may have a better option for accomplishing the task at hand. Also, it could be that the pastor has not by himself explored all possible avenues. We all act out of our own experience. If the pastor has not been exposed to a particular way of doing something, chances are he may not even think in that realm. Someone on the team, however, may have experienced or read of a different course of action and can bring that into the discussion. It may be that neither the pastor’s option nor the member’s option is the right one for this church. However, with an open discussion the team will have a much better opportunity of coming to a healthy outcome and solution that works for this particular congregation.

When the pastor or team leader speaks first, members will resign their thinking to the leader’s input. Not only allowing, but requesting and encouraging input from each team member leads to healthier outcomes through quality discussion. If you are a pastor or leader of a church ministry or committee, try soliciting suggestions from everyone in the room before you comment on the matter at hand. You will build a bonding team and get better working solutions that all team members buy into.

For more information on this topic or other leadership topics contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.