Healthy Debate – Building Healthy Teams

Healthy Debate – is a great tool especially for strategy planning and leadership teams yet it is one seldom used, or at least seldom used effectively. Healthy debate should work to engage everyone on the team in the discussion. Healthy debate does involve conflict. However, in healthy debate, the conflict always remains on differing points of interest and not on personalities. The scenario played out in most organizations, large and small, is the conflict quickly turns to personalities. This is detrimental to a healthy outcome. Therefore, it cannot be healthy debate.

Healthy debate is conflicting points not personalities. In our story in Turnaround Journey (as in most scenarios) there are differing points of interest. Each of which could be validly supported. For healthy debate to occur the discussion should be led in such a way that the team comes to a ‘what is best for our situation’ answer and substantiates that answer with factual information. It is not based on any personalities or ministry preferences. In chapter seven of Turnaround Journey, Greg (the coach) had actually prepared the team for healthy debate for a full half hour prior to this decision making discussion. Greg had the team divide in pairs to share their ideas. Then he had them present the other person’s idea, not their own. What was he doing? He was allowing them to build a defense for the other person’s idea, not the person. Everyone’s idea was heard and accepted. But by being voiced by a second person, it brought a broader understanding and acceptance for each idea.

There are varying ways to build healthy debate into your team meetings. The key is to keep personalities out of the discussion – as much as possible. Make no mistake people’s personalities will come out as they share their ideas and thoughts. Otherwise there would not be passion for any particular idea. What we mean by keeping the personalities out is not to allow differing personalities to close off our open-mindedness. Healthy debate should not leave anyone feeling left out or belittled for sharing his/her opinion. As a leader it may be necessary from time to time to remind the team members to look beyond the person voicing the idea, and look at the premise of the idea. It is not the personality but the premise that will be implemented.

With some teams it may take time to build in true healthy debate, especially where people have not had the opportunity to openly express their ideas and understanding in the past. When first introduced to the idea some may feel insecure due to past experiences on your team or previous work, school teams, or even at home. In the church people do not want to offend another and do not want to feel offended or belittled. Therefore some may at first feel a little intimidated by the thought of healthy debate. This is where good strategic, encouraging leadership is very valuable to building your team members confidence that each person’s ideas and thoughts on every situation is vital to the team and the organizations future.

Seek out ways to implement and lead your team(s) in healthy debate.

For more information on healthy debate for effective decision making contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

To order a pre-release copy of Turnaround Journey visit soncare.net for this and 33 more leadership tips as well as a prescription for effective strategic planning and implementation for your church or organization.

Engaging the Higher Order Thought Processes

Engaging the Higher Order Thought Processes – When we study the works of Jesus we see He was a Master at engaging the higher order thought processes of those in front of Him, be it disciples, followers, or the Pharisees and other adversaries. What does this term “higher order thought processes” mean? It is engaging your listeners into life changing learners, causing them to go beyond mere recall and to delve into a deeper level of thinking and processing of information. For learning to take place one must be able to relate to the topic being discussed. The only way to relate to something is to have some prior knowledge. Learning always builds upon learning, therefore we must always have some prior knowledge of or related to the topic at hand to be able to understand the new information.

For example, we know an infant, once she develops their motor skills adequately, will transfer everything she picks up to her mouth. Have you ever wondered why? Consider this. What is the very first action where a baby learns satisfaction? It is being fed. When hungry a newborn knows to cry in hunger. What does Mom do? She instinctively feeds the newborn. The newborn experiences satisfaction. As that baby grows and discovers new things, the only option she knows is to take that new toy, scrap of paper, or other object to the place where satisfaction is experienced. The youngster will only grow out of this as her ability to grow in understanding increases and she is taught other options.

In Turnaround Journey Pastor Tim Farling and Greg the church’s transition coach, engage the leadership team’s higher order thought processes often in meetings and discussions. In chapter five Greg (the coach) uses a couple of statements to engage the higher order thought processes of his listeners. Then, he pauses, allowing each person to assess, reflect, and ponder the stated information. Too often, leaders and teachers jump ahead giving an explanation and not allowing these higher order thought processes to be fully engaged. In doing this we lose the greatest learning opportunity for those under our leadership and teaching. Greg waits silently for a response. Then when one of the team members asks a question for clarification (“What do you mean? What opportunities would we miss?”), Greg still does not give a direct answer. He gives enough to allow those wheels of higher order thought processes to continue in each of his listeners around the table. It is not always the best and most effective approach to simply give the answer, though that might be the simplest, easy way to proceed. Simple and easy is not always best. For a lasting learning experience allowing the higher order thought processes to engage and think through the scenario produces the most effective and lasting learning experience. One that is more likely to be carried into the workplace assignment.

Another tool coach Greg uses in Turnaround Journey is also one of Jesus’ teaching techniques. He uses an analogy and an object lesson (taking a trip). Why? Because everyone around the table has taken a trip and can relate to the question posed by Greg, “What is the first vital piece of information you need before you can plan or take a trip?”

In doing this Greg is able to allow the discussion to flow from the learners before turning the analogy back to the matter at hand. Engaging the higher order thought processes helps people process the information being offered and transforms it into learning by attaching the new information with what is already stored in the memory bank of our mind.

Jesus knew that engaging his listeners’ higher order thought processes would bring about life changing learning – and look at the following He gained as a leader. The leadership and teaching techniques He used were geared to learning rather than dispensing information. Learn to use leadership and teaching techniques that focus on learning not teaching. It’s what Jesus did and all His teaching/learning techniques engaged the Higher Order Thought Processes. Engaging higher order thought processes produces effective efficient fruit. Use these and you’ll see a more productive team. To learn more about Engaging Higher Order Thought Processes purchase your copy of “Teaching That Bears Fruit,” Guardian Press, 2001.

For more information on engaging the Higher Order Thought Processes contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

For more information about or to order a pre-release copy of Turnaround Journey visit Turnaround Journey.

 

Responsive Leading

Responsive Leading – Responsive leading should not be misconstrued as reactive leading. It is not. The two are completely different. Reactive leading is leading after an event or series of events has led to a particular situation. The situation has caused you to change leadership practices. Responsive leading on the other hand is leading subjects from the point of his/her knowledge and understanding to a discovery learning experience.

Too often we are preparing our response before listening to the full disclosure from our inquirer. A good leader does not jump in and begin responding until he knows his subject has fully expounded her inquiry. A wise leader may sit quietly allowing his facial expression and body language to speak for him telling his inquirer, “Yes, I am listening, I am interested…” Once his subject has finished, a wise leader does not necessarily rush into a premeditated answer that he has been plotting while his inquirer was speaking.

At this point it is wise to take a few seconds, gather your thoughts, ponder what was spoken as well as what was communicated through body language, voice tone and inflection, and eye contact. The best response is always one that will lead the inquirer in a discovery learning experience. Often, the best first response from the leader is to ask a question. This question can be critical to the outcome of the conversation. This first question may be for clarification of the need or inquiry. Even if the leader is confident of what the inquirer is asking or divulging, it is never a bad idea to ask for clarification. “So, if I am hearing you correctly, you believe we should…Is this correct?” This question can assist the inquirer in reviewing and summarizing her thoughts.

From here the leader can begin formulating a response to assist the inquirer in the discovery learning experience be it for herself or something to aid the organization in general.

Chapter two of Turnaround Journey gives an example of Responsive Leading. Be certain to read Turnaround Journey and observe how Pastor Tim Farling uses Responsive Leading. In this one scenario one of Pastor Tim’s staff leaders asks for clarification of an assignment. Tim takes a few seconds to gather his thoughts. Then, he first recognizes Roger’s work and shows appreciation for this work. Following this, Tim does not immediately pose a question that might put Roger on the defense. Instead, Tim says, “Let’s think through this a little more and maybe I can clarify my desire.” Notice Tim places himself in the boat with Roger. He begins his response with “Let’s” expressing his desire to walk through this together. Now Tim is ready to assist Roger in a discovery learning experience using a powerful tool of leadership – questions. Also, since Roger has not been put on the defensive, he is ready and eager to learn. His mind is not building a defense or meditating on a prescribed answer. Instead, Roger is ready and willing with an open mind to discuss the potential and possibilities of the query at hand.

Again, take notice of the questions Pastor Tim proposes. They are formulated to not put Roger on the defensive, but to lead him in discovery.

Responsive leading is effective when deployed with the intent of assisting the inquirer in discovery learning. Pacing your response as a leader and formulating the right types of questions is very valuable in the learning process. Will your inquirer learn more from a patient, listening, leader or from one who interrupts, cuts off, and interjects before hearing the full inquiry? Perhaps it is good to practice the golden rule here. You like to be heard and you expect to be heard in full, do you not? Do those subject to your leadership deserve the same respect and hearing?

Practice responsive leading with those subject to your leadership. You’ll see greater team effort both in private team meetings and in the public venue where you serve. Responsive leading – listen to the full inquiry without fabricating your response while your subject is still speaking. Pause, think through what has been shared, then phrase your response as one with you in the same boat rowing together with your inquirer as a team effort – let’s find the solution together.

For more information on Responsive Leading contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries at http://soncare.net

Order your pre-release copy of Turnaround Journey by visiting soncare.net/turnaroundjourney

 

A New Year, Turnaround Journey

A New Year has dawned and within the first quarter of this year we should see the release of the next book God has enabled me to write, Turnaround Journey. One of the struggles churches and all organizations face is effectively implementing plans, strategies, and events. Turnaround Journey takes the reader inside the meeting rooms of Calvert City Community Church as they embark on a journey unlocking the intricacies of successful strategic planning and execution for effective ministry and carrying out the Great Commission, the church’s main purpose or mission.

Once the church unlocks these intricacies they realize the process is uncomplicated and simple enough to assist the church (any church) in planning and executing strategies on every level of the organization with great effectiveness. Included in Turnaround Journey are thirty-four leadership insights that will assist leaders of any organization or ministry in becoming more effective and efficient in leading others and accomplishing the organizational goals and objectives.

After reading the manuscript for Turnaround Journey, Syd Garrett, a friend and executive with one the world’s largest telecommunications organization wrote this, “Turnaround Journey is an excellent handbook for all leaders in the church –  ministers, teachers, staff, as well as lay leaders.  George Yates does a fantastic job of laying out the tools and techniques for leadership and problem solving in the church.  In reality, many of the insights are really not limited to churches – really applicable to a Christian leader of any organization.  I’m going to borrow some of the analogies and approaches for use at work.”

In this blog for the next 8 weeks I plan to give you, the reader, a taste of what to expect from the upcoming book Turnaround Journey, giving some of the brief leadership insights found in the book. Today, let me share this story.

While serving on staff at a mid-judicatory office (denominational office servicing churches in the region), I had a vision, a plan to implement a regional equipping and training conference. This was not just another conference. My thoughts were to bring in experienced, successful ministry leaders for all areas of church ministry and office work to lead training and equipping sessions for people serving in those particular ministry positions i.e. secretaries, Sunday School teachers, Youth Ministry, Deacons, Treasurers, Women’s Ministry, etc. We would bring in twenty-five in all the first year. My boss approved the idea and I went to work. I approached the next level judicatory and asked for their help. They gladly accepted and got behind the effort financially, and with personnel to help plan and lead conferences.

One thought I will never forget from that meeting with the next level judicatory leaders. They asked what I would consider a success as far as people attending the inaugural event. I stated that I had asked our staff to pray for four hundred (400). They did not laugh or tell me it could not be done. However, they did try to let me down easy (as this was my first attempt at something on this scale). They informed me that no one in their building could remember in twenty years of hosting and promoting training events in this particular region ever having more than 250 people in attendance. They could not explain it. In other regions larger numbers were the norm. But not the region where we were planning to host this event.

A little deflated, I went back and told my staff, but said, I believe 400 is the number we are to continue praying for, and we did. On the day of that inaugural event we did not have 400 in attendance. 520 people showed up that day for training and equipping for ministry. There were a lot of logistical headaches that day, but what a glorious day it was. I was humbled and blessed at God showing up and showing out that day. Each of the next five years that conference grew while I was part of it – not because of me, but because of a God who is greater than all those involved.

I share this story with you because people ask, how can we get more participation or better results at our events, ministries, etc. As I have studied this I realize most people or organizations can plan. But there is a huge difference between planning and strategic planning with effective execution and implementation. Turnaround Journey helps answer these questions leading to effective and efficient execution and implementation by giving the reader a simple formula to follow. Enjoy the Journey!

For more information on Turnaround Journey and to be placed on a list for a pre-release copy contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

How Do You Pray?

How would you answer the question in the title of this post? How do you pray? How does your church pray? I have become especially concerned about this over the past two years. I believe in the church we have failed to teach our people to pray effectively. And we do it through our own example. How many times have you been in a mid-week prayer service, and listened for twenty to thirty minutes as people gave updates and shared of family, friends, and colleagues in need of prayer. Then following this elongated time of sharing and verbalizing the requests (mainly for the sick and infirmed) one person will stand before the group and pray for maybe sixty seconds, either grouping the requests or naming a few asking for healing. His or her sixty second prayer is completed with an Amen, which in the church has become equivalent to “The End” at the end of a movie. It signifies the finishing point, our prayer service is over. We spent thirty minutes talking (sometimes gossiping) and sixty seconds praying – and we call this a prayer meeting.

This is happening all across North America on a regular basis. I believe the average “committed” Christian spends less than thirty minutes per week in prayer. This includes prayer time in church, before meals, bedtime, and throughout the week. Less than thirty minutes, and this is the average for committed Christians. I realize there are those prayer warriors who do spend much more than this in prayer each week and I praise God for these saints. What would the average prayer time per week look like if they were not spending hours each week confessing, interceding, praising, and giving thanks to God in prayer?

Our prayer lives have become routine and even rote, to the point that I would venture most of our prayers come from the head and not from the heart. I recently heard a third year college student called on to pray in a public venue. This young man had been raised in church all his life. When called upon to pray, this was his prayer: “God is great, God is good. Thank you for our food Amen.” Now I am grateful that he did not abstain. He did pray in a public restaurant. While I was grateful, at the same time my heart sank. Here is a twenty or twenty-one year old who’s prayer at mealtime is to recite what I call a child’s prayer. Surely he had heard prayers in church and his home all his life. But had he not been taught how to pray himself?

We have said for years that prayer at its simplest is a two way conversation between you and God. Have we not taught our people how to have that conversation with God? I mentioned above that much of our prayer life has become rote and routine. We pray phrases and sentences as: “Bless the gift and the giver,” “put a hedge of protection around…,” “heal…,” “Keep us safe until we meet again.” We use these and other catch phrases not because they are expressions coming from the heart, but because we have heard others use these same phrases and we like them or think they are appropriate for the prayer time and occasion.

When I read of the prayers of the early church in the book of Acts and when I read of Jesus’ prayers and His teaching on prayer I see something totally different. Jesus’ prayer life was so powerful that the disciples ask Him, “Teach us how to pray.” They did not ask him to teach them how to preach or how to outwit the religious leaders. They asked Him to teach them how to pray. As Jesus responded to his request He did not say pray these words. He did say “When you pray, pray like this…”

In Luke chapter two, in verses 31-32 Jesus speaking to the Apostle Peter stated, ““Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  Jesus didn’t pray for a hedge of protection. He did not ask God to keep evil away from Peter. Jesus said “I have prayed that your faith may not fail…” How much more effective could our prayer life be if we would only learn and practice this one principle? Our friends are already walking through this battle with cancer. God knows the outcome. Yet most of our prayers are for God to change the direction or the outcome. We’re asking God to use His omnipotent power to change everything to fit our desire.

Jesus did not pray for God the Father to change the direction. He prayed for Peter’s faith to remain strong. Why? So that on the other side of the trial Peter would be able to strengthen others. How many of us could pray for one hour without falling asleep as did Peter and the others in the garden of Gethsemane? Jesus on the other hand prayed for three hours that night. How much of His prayer time do you believe consisted of catchy phrases, clichés, and repetitive popular sayings as He prayed in the garden that night?

I still struggle with this myself. I’m trying daily, praying regularly for God to teach me to pray from the heart and not from the head with rote and familiar phrases. When I find myself using one of those, I pray for forgiveness. I want all my prayers to be from the heart and not something that I’ve heard before. Why not begin today in your prayer life. Prayer is a two way conversation between you and God. If God were your neighbor, sitting at your kitchen table over a cup of coffee, what would your conversation consist of? Then teach someone else what God is teaching you about true, heartfelt prayer.

Much to Offer

“I don’t have much to offer,” the aging, retired widower thought to himself as he sat down at the small table to address a few cards to shut-ins and sick friends. Placing stamps on the cards the widower walks outside to the mailbox still contemplating the preachers sermon. “Lord, I don’t know what I can offer. I don’t have much.”

He turned and saw his neighbor and her little preschool daughter. He waved and said hi! Both, the woman and her young daughter smiled, spoke and waved back.

A few minutes later he drives to the home of his long time friend, Fred, who now suffers from Alzheimer’s. Every Tuesday, he arrives around 10:00 and stays for a couple of hours, giving Fred’s wife a break and a chance to go shopping.

Fred’s wife asks her husband’s friend to stay for lunch where they share conversation and laughs. On the way home he stops at the store for a few things. It is starting to rain. He assists a young mother getting her groceries and children in her car out of the rain before entering the store.

Back at home he makes a few calls to his church friends and some retired work buddies, ending each conversation with, “I love you, and I’m praying for you.”

Before retiring for the evening he reads a couple more chapters from his Bible as every night. Then he turns to the passage his pastor preached from on Sunday. Reading it, he leans back in his chair, looking to the ceiling he prays, “Lord, I don’t quite understand what I can do for you. I don’t have much to offer. But if you’ll show me I’ll do what you call me to do.”

In the quietness of the night he receives this word, “I want you to keep sending cards. Those cards of encouragement carry my special healing for the heart.

I want you to continue bringing smiles to the parents and children in your neighborhood. Each smile shares my love with another soul.

I want you to keep visiting Fred and his wife. You are my messenger of hope and comfort in that home.

I want you to continue doing good deeds for others – in parking lots, grocery stores, and everywhere you go. At these times you are a courier of my love in action.

I want you to continue praying to me for your friends – churched and unchurched, and continue calling them. Here, you are my advocate and my seed sower.

Most of all, I want you to continue spending time with me each day. If you will , I know you will continue doing for me as I call on you each and every day.”

This is Mission Minded Ministry.

We all, young and old, have much to offer. The question is how are you using what God has given you to offer? Share His love this day and every day of the year with everyone you come in contact.

Merry Christmas

Santa’s People Know the Mission

In their book The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus, The Walk the Talk Company list several traits of leadership and use a narrative by Santa himself to describe those traits and the importance in an organization.  While I had this book for quite some time before I read any portion of it, when I did pick it up I was impressed with the delivery of the information. Using a fictitious organization (the North Pole), that everyone from our childhood has a perception of, the authors use generalizations of each trait of leadership that the reader can conceptualize. Then, hopefully each person can relate that trait in his or her own organization.

One of the first traits the authors write about is mission. Perhaps you have attended conferences or had denominational (or organizational) leaders come into to your ministry/organization and remember the first thing they spoke of was mission. It matters not what industry or ministry you are in, you must know your mission – Why are we here? – What do we hope (or plan) to accomplish? Without a mission you have nothing to aim for. Without it you may find yourself and your organization stretched in ten different directions, draining resources without forward advancement. Mission brings focus to your organization.

First, do people in your organization know the true mission of the organization? Can they quote the mission statement (if you have one) or at least accurately paraphrase the mission in their own words? If not, some training might be in order. Make it fun and even exciting. Sponsor friendly competitions, offer small, but fun rewards for learning and using a mission statement inside the organization.

A second point of value is for each person to know and understand his or her part in fulfilling the mission. Do your employees, volunteers, members, know and understand exactly how they are specifically needed to fulfill the mission. In many organizations members and employees are not aware of their direct contribution to fulfilling the mission of the organization. This lack of awareness leads to a non-willing approach to contribute. Equip and educate each person in the organization on their particular role – using his/her gifts and talents in leading the organization to fulfill its purpose.

A third point of value is for each individual, once they know their part in leading the organization to fulfill the mission, is to understand how the parts work together to accomplish the end result – fulfilling the mission. A team approach is always a best practice. Individuals can accomplish certain tasks. However, no one individual or group of individuals can accomplish the amount of a group working together as a team. You will see lights go on in people’s heads and a new found effort at teamwork when you can successfully demonstrate how each piece fits together and together everyone accomplishes more.

And lastly for this writing, keep the mission in front of the people. Whether your mission is building thing-a-ma-jigs, or fulfilling the Great Commission, the mission needs to be ever present in front of the people of your organization. In fact it needs to be publicized beyond the walls of your organization. This is how you grow your organization. Continually find ways to keep it in front of the people of your organization; in print, video, musically, visually, verbally. Utilize people and means that reaches across the various learning styles of those in your organization.

Mission is only one thing, but it is a very important and critical piece of successfully accomplishing the undertaking of your organization.

For more on this topic and how to assist your church or organization contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Building a Strong Small Group – One key element

If you want your church or small group to grow there is plenty of information available to assist you. There are lists and books by various authors such as, The Ten best…The Seven Ultimate…, The five Essentials. Pastor, Dr. Fred Luter If we’re going to grow we, 1. must be a people of the word; 2. must have leadership accountability, and 3. must be discipling. All of these are good and each one valid for assisting churches in keeping to the plan of God for fulfilling the Great Commission.

One of the essentials that I believe is part of everyone’s list involves building relationships through regular gatherings. These gatherings can take on a variety of faces, fellowships, ministry projects, activities, and mission trips to name a few. In Dr. Luter’s list these gatherings can come under each one of the three essentials. It is biblical and practiced in the New Testament (Acts 2: 42-47). Regular activities builds in friendly accountability, and should be an intentional discipling component.

Over the years I have written about scheduling and planning regularly (monthly) events and activities for the small groups in churches. I have even written about them seasonally giving examples using titles as, Cold Class Convenings for winter, Sizzling Summer Socials, Awesome Autumn Activities, and Sprouting Spring Sharings. No matter what you call them it is important to schedule them. People take ownership where they are accepted. People feel accepted where they can participate where they are comfortable, using gifts and talents they enjoy using.

People feel accepted when they can belong. Belonging and acceptance is the third level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need and it is where most people enter your church. They are looking for acceptance and a place to belong. When someone first attends your church or small group they need to begin developing one new relationship (with someone in your organization) within 30 days or they will not stay. The more relationships they can foster, the stronger bond of acceptance to the organization. These regular scheduled activities serve as one of the greatest means of fostering relationships.

A new comer or unbeliever working beside a committed believer at a community event, such as cleaning the park, will have the opportunity to interact on a personal level, building a new friendship and seeing Christianity in action. Likewise, a new comer can see more of Christ sitting in someone’s home with ten to fifteen others, sharing a meal and joining in casual conversation than in a year’s worship services or Bible studies. I have lost track of the times I have heard, “That’s when I realized it’s okay to be Christian.” or something similar.

Whether it is fellowshipping over a meal in someone’s home (the Christmas season offers a great opportunity), a cook out, a ball game, raking leaves for the elderly, or other local ministry project, these small group gatherings are essential for establishing and fostering relationships as well as building friendly accountability and growing as disciples of a living God through New Testament living.

Not everyone will attend at first, but don’t give up. As those who attend share with others they will begin and you will see a new excitement and bond within your small group spreading to others in your church and your circle of influence. Don’t put it off. Why not start now? Plan your first one while it is fresh on your mind.

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

 

A Grateful Heart

At the close of the worship service Sunday, our pastor challenged each one in attendance to consider one thing that we are grateful for, one thing God is doing in our life, and how He is using us, growing, building, teaching, and blessing us. Well, our pastor may not have gone into that much detail, but I certainly did. I could not help myself. I am truly grateful to God. I have many things to be grateful for, more than I can number – and I am very grateful. But the one thing that came to my mind sitting in that church service is Reaching the Summit.

In December 2008, while riding alone in my car, God asked me a question. It was one of those rhetorical questions coming from God. There was no need to contemplate it. God was not expecting a discourse on the various thoughts of the topic. Though not the actual question, the topic was, “Are you ready for your next step of faith?” Was I ready to leave a thriving ministry, serving among godly men and women in a work God was using? Was I willing to leave a solid based financial package for no guarantee of income at all? Because of what God had done in the past the answer was easy.

Six months later Pam and I were moving from California to Kentucky to begin a new ministry. By accepting God’s renewed call in the car that December afternoon I agreed to go where God led me; to work with churches anywhere I was asked as long as funding and calendar/scheduling allowed. Little did I know at the time where that would lead. (I’m still finding out each day and month)

In 2010 I began writing for my own purposes and ministry use (so I thought) insights and experiences I had seen throughout the past seventeen years as church consultant, coach, and staff member. I wanted to see correlations and similarities, warnings and cautions, as well as victories and effective ministry practices. Those personal notes became the book Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church.

While the manuscript was going through the editing and pre-publishing stages at the publisher I was compelled to write an Implementation Guide to assist pastors and church leaders in implementing the practices and principles recorded in Reaching the Summit. The release date for Reaching the Summit was March 1, 2012. By the end of April I was asked to prepare a training program to equip others around the nation to lead churches through a Reaching the Summit process. To date we have equipped more than 100 coaches in various states and will continue to do so in 2015.

Every church that I know of whch has undertaken this Reaching the Summit process has experienced spiritual maturation, increased baptisms, renewal to the purpose of the Great Commission, and more. Not because of me, but because of the faithfulness and grace of our Lord.

Each step of the way, these steps that I have mentioned and the miracles and wondrous works in churches who have experienced this process, is truly an act of God – an experience I am truly grateful to be part of. So this Thanksgiving week I am thankful for many things. But most of all I am thankful for a God who is merciful to one such as I. (I know from whence I came.) Thankful that He would choose to use me and allow me to be part of something like Reaching the Summit.

What about you? What one thing are you grateful for God doing in your life right now? How is He using you or desiring to use you in his great manifold plan? He has a plan far greater than you can imagine and his blessings flow in proportion to how we follow and allow Him to use us in fulfilling His plan.

I gratefully await the coming months and 2015. What joy and blessings will fill my heart from my God and Lord of All?

For more on this topic and to find out about Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church contact George Yates and visit soncare.net.

Finding True Restoration and Peace

As I was walking along the open pasture I stopped for a moment to look down the hill. I stopped at this particular point because I was looking down a wooded draw, a narrow strip of woods covering a low portion between two pastured hills. Beginning at the top of the hill where I stood it came almost to a point, with only one tree. But as I looked down the draw the wooded path widened, gradually, in proportion to the ravine emptying into a completely wooded hillside almost 200 yards below. The oaks and other broadleaf trees were mostly bare this November day. Their trunks and limbs different shades of gray mixed in with evergreens of all sizes and the multi-colored leaves on the ground, dead branches, and large rocks was truly a thing of beauty.

As I stood there I thought of how beautiful a sight it truly was. To some it might seem as a cold, barren woods; something to be avoided. But to me it was a piece of God’s creation that beckoned me and brought peace and joy to my soul. I love the outdoors and a sight like this, especially this time of year, is unmatched. I drank it in for a moment then continued my trek along the downhill pasture beside the finger of woods and walked into the wooded hillside where I climbed a ladder attached to one of the trees and sat down for an afternoon of quiet, peaceful, joy observing this small corner of God’s creation.

We all need a place, a hobby, or thing of rest and restoration. A place to go, to get away from the hustle and bustle of our normal busy lives. My wife retreats to a book. For me it is the outdoors, especially in the Autumn woods. Many people today attempt to finds this retreat in TV, watching sports, playing video games, surfing the internet, even gambling at casinos. None of these, in my opinion, can bring the restoration needed in our lives. They may give us a break, and take our minds away from the current turmoil in our life, but in most cases we are filling our minds with other “things” not allowing for the  needed clearing out for a brief time. Some even lead to addiction and create more anxiety in our lives. This is not the kind of break we need.

In a recent coaching session with a pastor whose life seems to be on overload, leading an 1800 member congregation, we were discussing his need for decompression, retreat, and restoration. I posed the following question: “Where is the one place you can clear your mind, set aside the ministry for a few hours and allow God to give you that needed break and restoration? Not to take a vacation and get away for two weeks, but that place (or thing) where you can go regularly for a brief visit? Following a few seconds of thought his response was, “the golf course.” I posed a couple more questions probing the idea. I know for me the golf course does not work. When I play golf, it is usually with other ministers and we talk about ministry most of the golfing venture. But I discovered for this pastor it truly was his getaway. He could set aside ministry and clear his head of the many daunting tasks at hand for a few hours, concentrating only on his golf game while enjoying the beauty of the golf course. Living in a warm, sunny state, he now sets aside Monday, his day off, and plays golf on a regular basis (weekly when he can).

God has given each one of us a passion. Somewhere in that body of passion we can find that place, hobby, or idea that can bring the rest and restoration we all need. Seek it out. Unearth your place and passion. Be certain it is doing something where you can sit all other things aside and not carry your burden into the activity. To be restored and refreshed you must have a change of venue and a change of mind. Also, be certain it is not doing something that might get you discouraged or disgruntled (as the golf course might for me). Here are a couple of questions to get you started.

What do you have a passion for that is totally separate from your normal activities?

Where is the one place you can clear your mind and set aside your normal life’s activities for a few hours and allow God to give you that needed break and restoration?

Could this lead to an addiction bringing more anxiety to my life? (social media, a visit to a casino, watching certain TV programs, video games) If so scrap the idea and begin again with the first question.

For more on this topic or coaching for a better life outlook contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.