Debrief – Using Questions to improve Your Next Event

For your next event or endeavor to be the most effective and successful one of the keys is to debrief the last event. Debriefing is taking a close, objective observation of an event or endeavor as soon as possible following the event. This cannot normally be accomplished in a one person setting.

The best way to debrief an event is to have a group meeting with as many people as possible who were involved in the event within one week of the event closing. The quicker the debrief session can happen the more people can remember with fresh minds and recollection.

A debrief session should not only consist of “atta boy” moments – congratulating each other on a good job. Though expressions of gratitude should be part of the meeting. The main purpose of conducting debrief sessions is to learn from and gain a perspective on how to improve your next event or similar activity.

The leader should prepare for this debrief session with an open mind and a willingness to lead everyone to learn and improve the ministry efforts for the entire organization. The best way for the leader to do this is to prepare a series of good thought-provoking questions pertaining to the execution and operations during the event. In other words, how well was the actual deployment of the plans for the event? You would not want to use that particular wording, rather you will need to devise questions which bring you to a right conclusion – not necessarily the desired “we did good” answers.

Let’s say your church or organization planned for the first time to have a booth in the county harvest festival. Your 10’x10’ tent covered booth will be one in a line of 65 booths with all sorts of organizations and vendors. Begin the Debrief meeting with words of gratefulness and thanks. Then moving to your discussion time you might begin with a couple of standard questions.

For the most part you will want to stay from closed ended questions. Closed ended questions require little thought and have a simple one word or one statement answer. Once one person answers the question, everyone’s thinking shuts down. A sample closed ended question is “What day of the week is today?” As soon as someone answers, the thought process of everyone shuts down. Avoid using questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer.

Closed ended questions never introduce a discussion forum. Without discussion you will not determine what all these other sets of eyes saw in your event. Without this discussion you will never develop an accurate plan to improve future events.

Now, moving back to the harvest festival debrief. The following are samples of the questions you could propose:

  • How effective was our presentation at the festival letting people know who we are and why we exist?
  • How did we affect people’s lives? (Ask for examples)
  • What did we do to set ourselves apart from all the other booths at the festival?
  • What happened at our booth that people remember us today and will remember us one month, six months from now?
  • What did we do well to convey our mission?
  • What could we improve upon?

One pastor came up with a great question for his debrief session of his church’s role in a similar community festival. The question he posed to himself first, then to his debrief team, “What did we do that an atheist have set up next to us could not have done?” This was a great and almost perfect question for his church. He was in essence asking, “Did we share the gospel? Did we do anything to show who we are in Christ Jesus?” Of course he knew the answer. The answer was they had done nothing that any other group or organization could not have done. This was an eye-opening revelation to the pastor and church that while they were doing something they considered good, it was not advancing their mission or their cause.

Begin planning your next event(s) by debriefing your last event. A solid and objective discussion about the deployment of your resources will give you an answer that will improve your future and help you make decisions toward wiser, more effective outreach for your ministry or cause.

For more information on this subject please contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Who is Qualified to Lead You?

In a conference I made a statement that if a church or other organization wanted to turn itself around from a declining position, the greater possibility lies with bringing someone in from the outside – an experienced coach.

One pastor, sitting in the middle of the room raised his hand and asked, “Why can’t I do that with the men in my church?” His inquiry was genuine. He was polite, and courteous, and sincere in wanting to know why. He trusted the men of his church. No outsider could possibility know his church better than the men who had been in the church for years, overseeing the day to day and week to week ministry. Certainly, these were the men he needed to make the right decisions.

My response might not have been so courteous had I not delivered it with a smile. My reply to his inquiry was, “How’s that working for you so far?” Now, I admit, I might not have said it that bluntly, but I did get around to asking that very question. Think about it. If this pastor’s church was in decline, who had been making the decisions? It was the pastor and his leadership team. They needed outside assistance.

Everyone in your church has a bias, even the pastor. We all look at our ministry from a normally narrow viewpoint. The nursery workers look at the ministry of the church from their nursery experience perspective. The senior adults from their own history in the church. Each and every person in the church will view the ministry of the church from his/her ministry experience with the church. The pastor must look at the bigger picture, which should take in all the ministries of the church evenly. However, pastors are human. Therefore, even pastors look upon the ministry of the church with a bias. A bias will never allow you to see your church or ministry with total objectivity.

It is imperative that church and ministry leaders make an objective evaluation of the true reality of all aspects and facts of the ministry. I suggest that the best way to conduct a truly objective evaluation of all the facts is to bring in a neutral observer from outside the ministry or church. This should be someone such as a seasoned coach or strategist, trained and experienced in asking probing questions that the church leaders and members might not think of or want to bring to the table on their own.

There is a growing ministry today of Christian coaching, and this can be very valuable to churches and individuals in sustaining health and growth. A coach is one who is trained in bringing out of the players (church leaders and members) what is otherwise hidden and covered up. A coach is not a mentor, though mentoring might become part of the coaching process. A coach is not a consultant, though some consulting may be part of the process. A coach is a person who has the ability to see the big picture of your ministry from a vantage point you do not have. Upon seeing from this vantage point, a coach is equipped to formulate questions that allow you to explore the unknown or unused wisdom, experience, and discernment of your ministry and the members of your church or organization.

You should be very careful when choosing a coach. Seek out a Christian coach who has experience in a similar church setting. You want to find one who has experience in growing and maintaining healthy ministry and one who knows how to properly formulate the needed questions while facilitating a healthy forward-moving process. You are not looking for someone who only wants to give suggestions but an experienced coach who is willing to walk with you through the process and who knows and relates to your doctrinal positions.

There are many people available today who want to coach you and give you suggestions. Unfortunately, there are few who are true practitioners of what you need. Many have read the books and even taken courses in “church revitalization.” Yet, they have never actually led, by serving on staff at any church that has actually made the turn around. Be certain to find a true practitioner, one who has done it, helped lead at least one church in a turn-around process. There are coaches and strategists available who are practitioners. Contact your denominational offices or George Yates at SonC.A.R.E. Ministries for assistance finding the right coach for you and your church.

Is There Life After Delivery?

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The other replies, “why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” says the other. “There is no life after delivery. What would that life be?”

“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”

The other says “This is absurd! Walking is impossible. And eat with our mouths? Ridiculous. The umbilical cord supplies nutrition. Life after delivery is to be excluded. The umbilical cord is too short.”

“I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”

The other replies, “No one has ever come back from there. Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” says the other, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother??” You believe in mother? Where is she now?

“She is all around us. It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”

“I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”

To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.” I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality….” (unknown author)

Just as we know there is life after delivery, there is also life after death. Just as “mother” is all around us while we exist in the womb, God is all around us in this life, protecting, providing, and feeding us to maturity.

Human life begins at conception and is manifested as we exit the birth canal. When this physical life is over we can know that our souls will live on through all eternity. For the soul does not know a limited 75 year life.

Perhaps we are here to prepare ourselves for where we will be later. There are only two options for the soul after this earthly existence. One is filled with eternal ecstasy. The other with everlasting pain and suffering. Which do you choose?

For more information contact George Yates.


The Farmer Sharing Quality Seed Corn

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So it is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

In his story the farmer did not give up his good crop or his lively hood. Neither did he support his neighbors. It is important to understand that he gave his neighbors seed corn. Seed corn is what was required to grow and good quality corn. The farmer did not plant or raise the crop for his neighbors. He did not harvest the corn. The farmer did not carry the final product over to his neighbors.

What the farmer gave his neighbors was the resource needed to work themselves to produce a successful crop. It is sad in our society today that some have taken this vital principle of life and twisted it in an attempt to produce a culture of dependency and entitlement.

A successful life comes when we encourage and resource others to be independent and resourceful. But it does not happen when part of the community (culture) lives in dependency waiting on others to supply them without lending to the process of productivity.

When we live in harmony with this principle that the farmer practiced, we assist others in growing in personal development and independence. We also are aided and benefited in our own lives as our productivity matures.

You have something to share with others. It is something that will benefit and resource them throughout their lives and the cross pollination effect will benefit your life as well.

When you give of yourself to pull others up, you too, will be lifted. Don’t forget this week to share the best of your seed corn with others.

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

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The Boll Weevil

The boll weevil is an insect. During the 1910s and 20s, the boll weevil devastated cotton production in the Southern states of the U.S.A. Nonetheless, in 1919, the town of Enterprise, Alabama built a monument to honor the boll weevil and what it had done to benefit the South.

Why? Because the boll weevil forced people to change, adapt and grow:

In Coffee County, almost 60 percent of the cotton production was destroyed. Farmers faced bankruptcy and the area economy was at stake. Farmers turned to peanuts and other crops to overcome the damage brought by the boll weevil.

By 1917, Coffee County produced and harvested more peanuts than anyboll weevil other county in the nation. Seventy-six years later, in 1993, Coffee County still ranked 4th in the state of Alabama with 128,000 acres planted in peanuts. In gratitude for the lessons taught, residents erected the world’s only monument to an agricultural pest, the boll Weevil Monument. The monument, dedicated on December 11, 1919, stands in the center of the downtown district at the intersection of Main Street and College Street. The Boll Weevil Monument is a symbol of man’s willingness and ability to adjust to adversity. Citizens continue to remind visitors and newcomers to the city the lesson of the boll weevil.

The base of the monument is inscribed: “In profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.”

What a marvelous attitude! No wonder the town is called “Enterprise.”

Has your church or organization reached such a devastated state yet? If and when it does, what will be your attitude? Will you fold up and move on? Or will you be like the people of Enterprise? Someone has said attitude isn’t a big thing, it is everything. For some reason in many devastating settings, people like to pass the blame, wallow in the mire, without any attempt to find a viable working alternative.

Perhaps it is the “working” that keeps many from seeking the alternative. Or could it be any alternative would require change, and everyone knows the only one who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper.

When those times of devastation come and threaten to destroy life as we are used to, we need to welcome the opportunity to grow into something we have not yet considered. The economy from peanuts produced in Coffee County far outweighed what the cotton ever brought in. Yet, the people of Coffee County would never have known the profitability and economy had it not been for that pesky boll weevil.

When you face adversity as a family, individual, church, or organization, look to the one who created everything. He alone knows what is around the corner for your future. Trust Him. He can do more with what little is left over after adversity, than you could do with riches of bygone years. It is okay to change, adapt, and grow in a different mindset. Just ask the people of Enterprise, AL.

For more information on this or other areas of interest, contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Dust & Clutter

Have you ever walked into the aisle of a small hardware store and noticed everything covered in dust? I am talking about dust on dust on dust. I’ve seen dust so thick that you could not read the writing on the package. My first thought is, “How do they expect to sell anything in this condition?”

Have you ever been in a bowling alley or other independently owned business and noticed cracks in the floor, broken floor tiles, or torn places in carpet, and perhaps even broken window panes.  Other businesses are so cluttered and disorganized that it is difficult to shop. Perhaps like me and many others you wonder how these places can stay in business.

If we were to look at our churches and our class rooms with the same eyes we might see many of the same situations. I know you do not want to believe that about your class room, but it is true of many of our churches.

We tend to overlook what we get use to seeing. What may start out as a small stack of left over quarterlies turns into a stockpile of previous years lessons. And the posters –if we take them off the walls– start another pile in another corner of the room. That small stand at the front of the room was placed there for the teacher to place her two markers and eraser. Now on it lies three different Bibles left behind, several magazines, greeting cards, and a stack of unused napkins. Looking at the floor we might see carpet ravels, the scuffed up floors, and walls? “Oh, that light? That one hasn’t worked for three years!”

A few years ago, I walked around a church building on a Saturday snapping pictures of broken floor tiles, burned out light bulbs, cluttered rooms, and even holes in the wall. That morning I snapped forty-seven photos. A couple of weeks later when I projected those pictures on the screen – on a Sunday evening – all present were embarrassed. Some were shocked and did not know many of these areas of need were in their own church.

I have been in many of our churches and seen these and other circumstances including broken windows covered with cardboard and plastic, yet none of the members could remember how long the window had been in this state of disrepair.

It is easy to overlook these things because we are use to seeing them this way. We may see the disrepair at first, but after walking past it for a time it becomes natural to us and we tend to overlook the obvious need to repair. However, to a guest this is like walking into a hardware store with dust so thick they want to ask, “How can you as a church stay in business?” or “If this is the way you do not take care of your building, how do you treat one another and me, your guest?” What message are we sending to our guests and new members?

It is time to take a walk-thru (with the eyes of a guest) and see what can be discarded and what can be cleaned up to make your room more appropriate for a teaching/learning environment.

For information on avoiding this type situation or recognizing these areas in your church, contact George Yates & visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.



The Shock of Easter

I felt a shockwave of distress and stunned surprise come over me as I rounded the corner to the kitchen that Wednesday afternoon. Water covered 90% of the kitchen floor. My first thoughts were it must be a busted pipe under the kitchen sink. I opened the cabinet doors to find everything dry. That is when I looked over the counter to see water standing on the dining area, living room, and hallway floors – a half inch of water. At the same moment I heard the washing machine running. Well, I heard water running to fill the washing machine (which had been running for about an hour). That is when the second shockwave ran over me.

While this experience was a shock and surprise, it cannot compare to the shock and surprise of the women who headed out early one morning to anoint the body of their dearly beloved friend who had died two days earlier. When the women rounded the corner, they did not see a floor full of water. They found an empty tomb. Shock and distress had to be two of the many emotions experienced by these women on this Spring morning.

However, their shock and surprises for the day were only beginning. To their greater surprise, the empty tomb that morning was the first indicator of a resurrection from the dead. Their friend, their loved one whom they had watched die, was now, three days later, alive and living in his resurrected body.

This week people and cultures around the globe celebrate this same resurrection. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the long awaited Messiah. In the United States Easter has become more about bunnies and chocolate. There is no shock or surprise in chocolate and bunnies – except perhaps when you look in the mirror two weeks later.

Mohammed died and he is still dead. No surprise there. Buddha died and he is still dead. No surprise.  John Smith died and he is still dead. Confucius died and he is still dead. People die and they remain dead. There are no surprises in this. I do not trust my life and my eternity in one who is dead. Jesus died but He did not stay in the tomb. He died and now He lives. I trust in the living Savior. The only one who has risen from the dead. And He arose from the dead after a horrible beating and crucifixion.

My excitement comes from the shock and surprise of the empty tomb found on that long ago Easter – resurrection morning. When was the last time you experienced shock and surprise? Was there a pleasant surprise awaiting you around the corner? There can be. Even in the hard times. No matter what shock life seems to throw at you, there is an empty tomb around the corner. It is not yours, but the empty tomb of the Savior of the God of all creation. And He wants to walk with you around all the unknown corners in your life.

 This week how will you celebrate Easter? Will it be more about chocolate and bunnies or celebrating with the women who found the empty tomb on Resurrection Day? Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest! For He has risen from the dead.

May God have a prominent place in your life this Holy week and beyond. God bless you!

Engage Higher Thought Processes with Proper Questions

In many churches when asked a question you can answer Yes, No, or Jesus and be assured you have the correct answer. The reason is the most used type of question used in the church and often in other leadership circles is a Closed Ended Question. Closed Ended Questions very rarely if ever create a learning experience. Closed Ended questions are not learning initiators and employ only static recall – reciting a simple piece of information from one’s brain storage. Most Closed Ended Questions call for simple one word, or one statement answers of recall from our memory bank.

What day of the week is today? This is an example of a closed ended question. It employs no learning technique and only asks for recall of known information – static recall. When used in a group setting, as soon as one person gives the correct answer, “Wednesday,” the thinking of everyone in the room is shut off. There is no longer a need to engage thought processes. Closed Ended Questions requiring only static recall, do nothing to engage the Higher Order Thought processes as we wrote about in our last blog post. Static recall is a very basic use of the brain and cannot produce learning.

To encourage true learning that will bring about behavioral change in one’s life, (which is what all true learning does) we must engage his/her higher order thought processes. Questions is one of God’s greatest gifts to us in leadership for engaging these higher order thought processes and fostering learning. The challenge is to learn to develop the proper type of question to engage these higher order thought processes which will promote a learning experience.

Learning to use Open Ended Questions is a key in life-changing leadership. An Open Ended Question is one that prompts the listener to use his own knowledge base and life experiences applying these to the new information being shared. Relating the new information to something he already has knowledge of creates a connection to the new information. This connection is the handle for the new tool (information, truth, expectation). Without a handle a tool is useless. However, with the proper handle a tool is a valuable resource.

What does Wednesday mean to you? This is an example of an Open Ended Question. Whether speaking with one person or 1,000, everyone in the room must engage his or her higher order thought processes to consider this question. The leader may call for some to answer verbally. As one person speaks, each person in the room will consider what is being shared, weighing it with their own experience. Perhaps adding to or taking away from their knowledge of the topic. Not everyone will answer verbally. But everyone will continue the thought process until the leader says it is time to move on.

Open Ended Questions engage every person’s higher order thought processes and causes them to recall from memory past experiences, knowledge, and information. Unlike static recall where the thinking shuts down, in this higher order thinking, the new information is attached to the old so it can be stored into the memory bank. Learning builds upon learning.

Learn to use questions properly and watch your team soar and true behavioral change take place.

For more information on engaging higher thought processes and proper use of questions in leadership and teaching contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries. Purchase your copy of Teaching That Bears Fruit and Turnaround Journey as both books share some about this topic.


Engaging the Higher Order Thought Processes

Gary walked out of the meeting with his team discouraged. The team functions well, but team meetings are a drag. Most of these weekly team meetings are the same. Everyone leaves discouraged and often frustrated. Team meetings are a low point of the week for team members. Gary is frustrated as well. He cannot understand why. His team works together well. They accomplish tasks in a timely manner and with high standards. But coming out of team meetings, the valley of morale is obvious to even Gary.

Perhaps you can relate to Gary and his team members. Many organizations, for profit and non-profit alike, have similar responses to team meetings. There are several topics we could address for this. But for this post I want to look at a couple factors to assist in improving the participation and morale of team meetings, communication at home, or any volunteer organization you are involved with.

People will not learn if we cannot engage their higher order thought processes. There are proper ways to do this and leaders must be willing to step out and implement some of these. Learn to use leadership techniques that engage the higher order thought processes leading to healthy discussion. Then as a leader, you must be ready to accept and welcome the discussion.

Within the first sixty seconds of speaking to another person or group of people, your listener’s attention will drift from your speech at least twice. You are the same. When listening to someone else you will drift away briefly from what is being said. This drifting is not from outside distractions. Rather it is due to memory focus. As a speaker, teacher, or leader shares, our minds have a tendency to pick up on certain words or phrases and we begin thinking about an event or experience in our own personal lives. In most cases the listener will quickly pull himself back into the current discussion.

We should remember that learning builds upon learning. As we speak, the new material is being processed and attached to something similar in our listener’s memory bank. This is what creates the learning experience and causes new information to be added into our memory bank. Since it is happening to our listeners every time we speak, why not take advantage of this natural occurrence and use it to produce learning experiences that produce results.

In certain conferences I will pull a plastic circular disc out of a book bag. I never have to tell anyone what it is. They know it is a Frisbee disc. I can proceed to relate new information to what the conferees already know about a Frisbee. Within a few short minutes, the conferees tell me the truth of the lesson. They have attached the new material to something they already know. And the lesson sticks. The new information is now in their memory bank. Learning builds upon learning.

Learning to use statements and objects that employ the higher order thought processes can be vital to your team remembering and carrying out the details of the project ahead. Planning and using these type statements requires discipline on the speaker’s part. Like a question, if you issue a thought provoking statement, be certain to allow time for your listeners to process the information. These can be great discussion starters and can bring out great and creative ideas and enthusiasm from your team members. A good leader knows it is not only a good practice but vital in the learning process to not give all the answers, but to lead your people in discovering answers for themselves. Jesus used this type statement in various places including John 14: 2 and 4.

The Ripple Effect

Drop a small stone in the water and what happens? That one small splash creates a ripple effect of concentric circles widening out from where the stone broke the surface of the water.

This past Sunday I spoke to our congregation about Living for the Ripple Effect. I want to share a small portion of that with you in this week’s blog. The ripple effect is the nature of leadership. It is the nature of influence, and it is what you and I as believers in Christ have been called to do.

As Saul, later the Apostle Paul, demonstrated in his life, we should be living to make ripples in the spiritual waters around us. No matter where you are, or in what circumstances you find yourself, you have an opportunity to make ripples in the spiritual waters around you. All it takes is to drop a pebble, a small stone, into the water and it will always leave a ripple effect.

In fact the more you exercise this practice, the stronger the ripple effect. Scripture from Acts chapter 9 tells us, “Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

This same man, Saul, who had only weeks before been persecuting people who believed in Christ, was now proclaiming Him to be the Messiah. And this verse (22) tells us the more Saul shared, the stronger his witness became. It is his spiritual strength this verse is speaking of. Saul had become “a voice to be heard.” His conviction of who Christ is and his compelling speech and actions was baffling the Jews who heard him speak.

Just as in physical exercise gives us strength to our bodies, likewise studying God’s word and spending time with God strengthens our spiritual being. The world today tells us to build bigger bank accounts, stronger financial portfolios, and to accumulate more “stuff.” God and His people on the other hands pursue people. Our stuff will not outlast this world.

The moment you die, your stuff will be owned by someone else. However, every human being has a soul that lives on forever in one of two places. You will either spend eternity (a very long time) with God in heaven, a place full of happiness and joy. A city that knows no suffering. Or you will spend forever in Hell referred to as a lake of ever burning fire, rendering constant pain and suffering.

As Christians, believers in Christ, it is our duty to make ripples for Christ for the many souls around us. Jesus Christ Himself began those ripples more than two thousand years ago to His Apostles. They in turn continued those ripples creating the earliest of the New testament churches in Jerusalem. Those followers in turn carried the spiritual ripples into the world, and they continued throughout the centuries until one of those ripples intersected your life. Your life was impacted by one of these ripples. It is now your turn. How will you make ripples for God this week? Into whose life has given you the opportunity to continue this ripple effect?

Once a stone is dropped into the water you can no longer see it. But the ripple effect carries on long after the stone has disappeared. You have one opportunity to make a splash. One splash makes many ripples. What will be seen after your life is over? What will be said of the ripples you leave behind?

Will you live this week and every week to create a ripple effect for God?