Riding the Wake of Leadership

As a boat glides through the water it will leave a v shaped trail of waves. These waves are known as a wake. I was with friends that summer evening as we were boat riding on the Ohio River just southwest of Louisville, KY. About a mile ahead of us was a Tug pushing several barges as is often seen on this river. Our driver and boat owner decided to get a little closer to the barges and tug, to follow and ride its wake. Riding other boats wakes was something we were accustomed to. However, we had never ridden the wake of a tug and barges.

Pushing several hundred thousand pounds in those barges, a tug boat produces quite a large wake. We were used to one and two foot wakes. The wake of a working tug can create waves twelve to fourteen feet high. Riding the first of those waves that evening was fun. Something new and challenging. After all, four and five foot waves were twice the size of any we had previously ridden. The real challenge would come a few minutes later. To ride the waves our boat was traveling faster than the tug.

Therefore, we were closing the distance gap on the tug. Before we knew it we were riding on top of a ten-foot wave, staring across a gap at one even taller. Since we were riding across the waves our boat was not positioned to ride with this particularly large swell. In a matter of seconds the wave we had been riding rolled right out from under our boat. This left the six of us and this one small 16ft pleasure boat sitting in a gulley of water, trapped between two waves. In front of us a twelve-foot wall of water. Behind us a similar but slightly smaller ten-foot wall. Nowhere to go. Within seconds the twelve-foot wall of water that was in front of us quickly came crashing down on us burying us under its massive weight and thousands of gallons of river water. The next thirty seconds went by in extremely slow motion – underwater.

Leaders often find themselves in a similar position, riding the wake. It may be the wake of a booming or bust economy. For some it is the wake of competition. Others may find themselves riding the wake of former leaders or successes, and there is always the wake of forward progress.

Great leaders understand and not only accept the challenge of riding a larger wake. They have grown in leadership enough to realize you do not ride a ten foot wave the same as a two or three foot wave.  Too often leaders have one way of leading, and attempt to plow through any situation with that particular leadership “wake running.” Oftentimes to the detriment of those they are leading and the organization which they represent.

Every leader should surround him/herself with other leaders whom they can learn from. If you do not have people whom you trust and have given permission to mentor, correct, and coach you, you will find yourself between those two walls of water. One of them is going to collapse on you. Whom do you know who has successfully ridden the wake further & higher than you? Turn to that person (preferably more than one) and entrust your skills to their tweaking. Be teachable, willing to learn and to change. After all you expect those you are leading to change. First, you must be willing to be changed and flexible. Also, read, study, and grow in your leadership ability.

The simplicity of this one act can move your leadership beyond comprehension and you’ll be able to ride the wake of whatever comes your way. Happy, safe boating!

After that long thirty to sixty seconds, we arrived back at the surface of the river. Only the windshield of the boat was above water. The boat was swamped. Several lessons were learned that evening. We all survived and made it back to shore thanks to other boaters towing us in. Today, we can laugh and talk about it because of God’s grace to us that evening thirty-some years ago.

For more information on Riding the Wake of Leadership or finding the right leaders to be mentored and coached by, contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

A Leader is a Learner

My wife and I had not been married long and needed to move to a bigger apartment closer to where we both worked. One of my wife’s sisters and one brother and his wife came to assist us in moving. After a half hour or so and carrying, softball and baseball equipment, a basketball, golf bag & clubs, bowling balls, tennis balls and racquets, racquetball racquet and balls, archery equipment, shotgun, stunt kites, a lot of Frisbees, and other sports related items, my sister-in-laws asked my wife, “Is there any sport he doesn’t play?”

From my childhood I have enjoyed sports and have always enjoyed learning to play various sports. While I did not play much organized sports, other than church leagues growing up, I did join the professional Frisbee tour for a couple of years. It’s true there is one. And there was some very good money to be made at some of these tournaments. (I never made any, that’s why I am in the ministry today.) No matter what sport it was I watched others, I read, and listened, and I practiced. To learn one simple, basic Frisbee freestyle move, I practiced the move no less than one hundred times a day until I could do it without dropping the Frisbee (more than a month). I played basketball every chance I could as a teenager, in our back yard, in the church parking lot, at friends houses. I played for hours each day, every place I could, and every opportunity I had. A lot of sports equipment went into that moving van because I spent years watching, reading, listening, and learned – a lot.

Fast forward fifteen years, I am working in the gym of our church moving shelving units and weight equipment with Russ, one of our young men in the church. Russ worked in the high-tech industry, one of those you like having around for computer issues, and he was a good friend to hang with. On this particular day we had been working together for a couple of hours and as normal when we were together, talked about a variety of topics. With no warning Russ changes the conversation with the following statements.

“You can talk about any subject. (hyperbole) How do you know so much about so many topics?” Russ was very genuine in making his statement and his question.

While I have heard similar statements over the years, this is a somewhat awkward situation to be in. My reply to Russ was and still is today, “I’m a learner. I read a lot. I read, I listen, I learn.” That’s it, that’s all there is to it. I’m not super gifted, or talented. I simply read and I always read to learn. I observe and listen to others, and I always listen and observe to learn. When I have a needed repair around the house, I watch the repairman. Not to spy on him, but to learn. I may or may not be able to complete the repair in the future, but I can see how things work and where the issue might be with the needed repair.

Today, I am a leader. I’m not certain if I became a leader because I am a learner or if I am a learner because I was first a leader. I simply want to be on the cutting edge. I want to be effective. When I observe anything, I want to know more about it and how I can be a better leader enabling others to be better and more efficient. Therefore, I want to learn. So, I read, observe, listen, and learn.

There is no place or time in leadership to stop learning. Any great leader will tell you the learning never stops. Talk to or read about any great leader of our generation, of the past 100 years, or anytime throughout history; you will find a common thread about continually being a good listener, observer, and a consistent reader. Be a better leader by being a consistent reader. Read to learn. Read to Lead.

To find out more about learning and leadership contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Chance Meeting in a Parking Lot

The morning was warm but not hot, the sun was up, and the day was off to a good start. After breakfast in the hotel on this particular morning I decided to go for a walk. I had a couple of hours before my first meeting, or at least I thought, so a fifteen-minute walk would be good. As I entered the hotel parking lot near the end of my walk, my first meeting was about to take place. A small white car approached from the hotel parking lot. There was no one in the car except the driver, a woman I had never met. With her window down she slowed and pulled to a stop when her car reached where I was.

There were a couple of traveling teenage girl basketball teams staying at the hotel, so I assumed this was the mother of one of the players. Expecting her to ask for directions to some local eatery or store, I stopped when she stopped her car across the drive from me. Her question was of a different sort than I anticipated. Very congenially she inquired, “How far do you walk each morning?”

“I don’t walk every morning. I should. I’m just out for a little walk this morning.”

She nodded demonstrating that she understood. “Do you live here?” she inquired.

I thought this was a little strange, since ‘here’ was a hotel; not the Hilton, but not a rent by week place either. “No.” was my one word reply.

“Are you married?” was her next question. (An unusual question from the parent of a teenage basketball player.)

Raising my left hand to show my wedding band I proclaimed, “Yes I am.” Mind you, I am still standing 10-15 feet across the drive from the car.

“Well. I better let you go. Don’t want to get you in trouble with your wife.” The woman stated.

As I started to walk away, I probably gave the worst reply possible. “That’s okay.” And I turned to walk away.

I hadn’t taken two steps when she vocalized her next question “Is your wife with you?”

And so I realize, Okay, this is no basketball mom. (I catch on quick) But I answered anyway. “No, she’s at home.”

This woman had two more questions for me. How long are you here, and her final question, “Do you want some company?”

There was no hesitation in my voice, nor in my step as I walked away with this plain and matter of fact answer. “No, Absolutely not.” As I (quickly) walked toward the front doors of the hotel, the woman in the little white car casually drove off, likely looking for her next target. Just as quickly as it began, the first meeting of my day was finished – and I was glad it was over.

That was a first for me. I have never before been propositioned and I pray it is also the last time. Yes, I told my wife about it that afternoon.

Life is full of unexpected situations and offers. You will always act out of your core values, those beliefs you hold so deeply that they cannot be deterred. Do you know your core values? What do you do on a regular basis to strengthen your core values those deeply held beliefs? Continually working to build and strengthen your deepest core values will benefit you in everyday life and especially in times when you find yourself in a situation you did not see coming.

For more information on how to discover and develop your core values contact George Yates (no propositions please) and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

 

The Rough, Calloused Hands of a Working Father

A young man went to seek an important position at a large printing company. He passed the initial interview and was going to meet the director for the final interview. The director saw his resume, it was excellent. “Have you received a scholarship for school?” The boy replied, “No.”
“It was your father who paid for your studies?”
“Yes.” He replied.
“Where does your father work?”
“My father is a Blacksmith.”
The Director asked the young man to show him his hands. The young man showed a pair of hands soft and perfect. “Have you ever helped your parents at their job?”
“Never, my parents always wanted me to study and read more books. Besides, he can do the job better than me.”
The director said, “I have got a request: When you go home today, go and wash the hands of your father and then come see me tomorrow morning.”
When he returned to his house he asked his father if he would allow him to wash his hands.
His father felt strange, happy, but with mixed feelings and showed his hands to his son. The young man washed his father’s hands, little by little. It was the first time that he noticed his father’s hands were wrinkled and they had so many scars. Some bruises were so painful that his father shuddered when he touched them.
This was the first time that the young man recognized what it meant for this pair of hands to work every day to be able to pay for his studies. The bruises on the hands were the price that he paid for their son’s education, his school activities and his future.
After cleaning his father’s hands the young man stood in silence and began to tidy and clean up the workshop. That night, father and son talked for a long time.
The next morning, the young man went to the office of the director.
The Director noticed the tears in the eyes of the young when He asked him, “Can you tell me what you did and what you learned yesterday at your house?”
The boy replied, “I washed my father’s hands and when I finished I stayed and cleaned his workshop.
Now I know what it is to appreciate and recognize that without my parents, I would not be who I am today. By helping my father, I now realize how difficult and hard it is to do something on my own. I have come to appreciate the importance and the value in helping the family.”
The director said, “This is what I look for in my people. I want to hire someone who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the hardship of others to do things, and a person who does not put money as his only goal in life. You are hired.”

What could you learn by washing the hands of the person(s) whom have made it possible for you to be who you are today? God has created you and me in His own image. His desire for you is greater than your own desire. In fact, He sent His one and only son to give you the opportunity to experience the very best you possible.

If you had the opportunity to wash the nail scarred, working hands of Jesus Christ, what would be your reaction? Would there be tears in your eyes as in this young man in the story above?

 

Debriefing for Effectiveness

Can you tell me more about the debrief meetings mentioned in your blog post (06/06/16)?” Following the guest post from two weeks ago I have had some inquiries like this one. It is one I am happy to share. In fact, I strongly believe that it is one every church, business, and organization should institute for better efficiency and effectiveness.

 A debrief session is a meeting to determine the effectiveness of an event, ministry effort, single or series of sessions for your organization. I’ll write this for a church event as most readers serve in the capacity of church. The precepts are easily adapted to any organization.

While many churches and organizations review past events, true debriefing does not take place. Leaders must be intentional about proper debriefing, willing to accept input, and ready to make necessary adjustments.

A debrief session is used to not only evaluate a recent event, but to assist in planning for more effective future events. A Debrief session should be conducted as soon as viably possible following the event or ministry session. Everyone who was involved in planning, staffing, & follow-up for the event should be invited to the Debrief meeting. You want to probe all minds and viewpoints possible.

Begin the Debrief session with a sincere statement of gratitude to everyone for being involved in the event. It is also a good idea to have snacks or a meal (pizza, sandwiches, or something light)

I suggest you share these ground rules at the beginning of the Debrief session.

1. A debrief session is not a gripe or complaint session

2. We do not talk about people. Only comments concerning issues and practices are to be shared.

3. Everyone’s input is important and desired. If one person is dominating the conversation, we will ask that person to allow others to speak and to hold his/her thoughts.

Properly formulated questions are critical for thought provoking, truth seeking reality. Do not ask questions that require a yes or no answer. Those are closed ended questions and will not help in a true learning or evaluation of the reality.

The type questions to ask:

1. What did we do well? (always begin and end with positive questions and comments)

2. In your opinion, what allowed this part (answer to #1) to be done well?  (use the word “allowed”, not “caused”)

3. How was the movement and transition, getting to the proper location in the church and moving from one to another room (if this type of movement was involved)?

4. Finish this statement: the time used in _______ portion of the event was _____________. (You insert in the first blank a portion of the event, i.e. missions, standing worship, crafts, etc. and allow participants to fill in the second.)

5. In what areas could we have used more “workers/volunteers”?

6. In planning our next event (or next year’s event) what could make this event;

              a. more effective?

              b. less stressful?

              c. more evangelistic – fruit bearing?

7. In what one way are you willing to step up and increase your assistance with this event?

8. How is our follow-up progressing? What changes do we need to make in our follow-up process?

9. If you were in charge of this event, what would you do differently? (This is best if used in written form allowing members to submit in writing)

10. What role did prayer play and what should we do to enhance/improve the prayer emphasis for this type event/ministry?

There are plenty of other questions that could be asked. These are suggested to help you think through in pre-planning the Debrief session. These questions are designed to keep the focus on practices used and issues/opportunities observed by members throughout the event. (Do not use the word “problem” or “problems”. There are no problems, only opportunities.)

Fortune 500 companies and churches of all sizes adopt this method of review and I trust this post will be helpful in your ministry or organization as well. For more information on Debrief sessions contact George Yates and pick up your copy of Turnaround Journey at SonC.A.R.E. Ministries. 

Praying Through Times of Uncertainty

Last week’s post was chosen not because I was mentioned in it, but because many people have fears and doubts, as did Rachel, when their pastor retires or leaves the church. Certainly this is a time of sadness (in most cases), and uncertainty can creep in. However, through prayer and careful consideration the right person can be found to lead your church through times of uncertainty.

Prayer is a key. Every step, every decision must be bathed in prayer. And not prayer as usual in most churches. The prayer ministry of most churches is weak, at best. The combined time most Christians spend in prayer in a week, including prayer at church and home, is less than 30 minutes. Out of 10,080 minutes given to us, we spend less than 2/10 of one percent of our time communing with the one source for ALL our needs. Two tenths of one percent? I had to calculate that twice to make sure I had not entered the numbers incorrectly.

If you committed to spend 30 minutes each day in prayer how could that affect your life? Thirty minutes per day is still only 2% of the time you have each week. And yet it would increase our prayer time ten-fold. I believe we would see God’s hand at work in a very increased way. God’s word tells us to Draw near to God and He will draw near to us. I ponder what God might do in our lives and in our nation if only half of those called by His name would increase their prayer time to 30 minutes each day truly communing with God?

Does most of your prayer time involve requesting from God healing and safety? If we’re honest, most of our prayers are asking God for something – health and healing of family and friends, safety, and a good day. Think for a moment, what kind of prayer life is this? Isn’t it more like a genie in a bottle than a time of communion with our Creator?

I like to pray scripture. One of things we incorporated at Barrett and Rachel’s church is a time of prayer in the worship service where we prayed scripture. We need to get back to praying scripture – not only the prayers found in scripture – but praying scripture. There is so much of scripture that can be prayed. There is so much that relates to your daily life, personally. If this is new to you then begin with the Psalms. When I pray scripture I first read the scripture in my prayer and thank God for that particular passage. Then I will pray using the words of that passage, changing the identification of the scripture so that it is my supplication, thanksgiving, and request.

Let’s use the first two verses of Psalm 1 as an example. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

My prayer would be, “Lord, may I be considered in your sight, a blessed man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; instead may my delight be in your law, and my meditation be on your law and your commands at all times, day and night.” Then I might pray, “Lord help me to not stand…, walk…, sit…

I do not only pray the words of the scripture passage. I must wrestle with the truth of the meaning and deliver from my heart the passion needed to make these words mine to God.

When the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that in my opinion was stripping away at the very fiber of morality I’m certain prayers were going up in pulpits across the nation. The prayer I led our congregation in that Sunday was not about the justices of the court system, our nation’s leaders, or the proponents of the immorality. God had given me a passage from Jeremiah 3.

Father, God Almighty, forgive us. It is not the court system, or the rulers of our nation who are at fault here. It is us, the church, believers in Christ; those who call ourselves your children. Forgive us O Lord, for we have prostituted ourselves with many partners…We have been unfaithful to you O God. Move on us that we will return to you. Do not look on us with Your anger, show us the way to return to you that you might spare our nation. We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord. Help us, guide us to return to you in truth, justice, and in righteousness. Then will you bless our nation and once again make it a great nation…”

Our churches can make a difference in times of uncertainty, both in the church, and in our nation. First, we must bathe in prayer the very thing that we seek to be and to do in God’s will. Praying scripture is only one way, but it will transition your prayer life from worldly requests to truth seeking.

For more information on this topic or helping your church through transition contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries

 

Can a Church Really Grow & Thrive When its Beloved Pastor Leaves or Retires?

Can a church really grow and thrive when its beloved pastor leaves or retires? Today’s post is a guest post. Read what Barrett & Rachel Tingle say about their church experience during such a time of transition.

A church without a leading pastor is a scary thought. When our church became leaderless I immediately began to pray out of fear. Would our church fall to pieces? Would we stand still? Will we lose members? We (husband & wife) had recently been given the position of Minister’s of Youth and Children. We had worked so hard, alongside the members of our church, to see growth and spiritual development among our youth and children programs. Now I was afraid without a pastor, we would lose direction and our church progress would begin to fade. However, it wasn’t long after Bro. George became our transitional pastor that I realized these fears were in vain. God had a plan for our church during this time of transition that was anything beyond I or I think the rest of our members had imagined. The time of transition through the leadership of Bro. George would be a time of healing, examination, growth, restoration, excitement and overall a huge learning curve for our church and its members.

When Bro. George started he hit the ground running! I will never forget during one of his first sermons as transitional pastor he told us that he had seen churches actually grow during times of transition. This blew me away and made me begin to realize that God could still move and work among us during this transitional time.  And He sure did! As Bro. George began to meet with different leaders in the church changes began to take place. He implemented a weekly staff meeting that allowed us to more effectively communicate among the different ministries of our church. He helped to develop a much-needed system for using the church building for different events. He even helped grow our Sunday school classes by teaching us ways to be more effective in the way we care for each other and reach out to others.

The list of positive changes that took place at our church during this time of transition is numerous. But one area of change that particularly helped us, as the Youth and Children’s Ministers, was when Bro. George suggested we hold a debrief session with our children workers after Vacation Bible School (VBS).  He gave some guidance on how the meeting should go and what type of questions to ask. We cannot tell you just how effective this meeting was to our children’s program.  As a group we were able to come up with valuable solutions to our problem areas of VBS, we were able to express gratitude toward our volunteers, and the workers were able to express their opinion on different matters and have a voice that was capable of change.  After this meeting the excitement and sense of community began to develop among our children workers that had not been present before. And all this during a time of transition. (Debrief sessions are now held after every event & ministry cycle.)

The effectiveness of Bro. George and his ministry does not end with the administrative needs. Bro. George also helped to meet the spiritual needs of the church. Every Sunday he clearly and unashamedly preached the gospel message challenging us each time to be more like Christ.  Bro. George, also brought forth much needed wisdom from his years of experience and often shared it with others in times of counsel.  During his times of preaching and teaching he encouraged the church to examine itself and seek out ways to improve the way we ministered to the lost. I believe for several of our members it was very eye opening. We began to see areas that needed improvement and began to learn new ways of reaching out to others. It was a time of learning and the church is the better for it.

The last thing we will say about Bro. George is that he exceeds the expectations for a transitional pastor. During his time at SBC he went above and beyond his duty. He poured his heart and soul into his ministry from day one. He developed relationships with those in and outside the church, he became an active member of our church body, and he truly reached out to those in need. In fact, when it came time to dedicate our newborn son we wanted no one else but Bro. George, who had been there for us every step of the way.

Bro. George made a lasting impression on our church that we will never forget.  Through his leadership our church began to look more like Jesus and less like the world. We thank God that he had a plan for us in our time of transition. We thank God that he sent Bro. George and his ministry to our church!

With Deep Gratitude,

Barrett and Rachel Tingle

Youth and Children Ministers at Springfield Baptist Church

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

 

Leading Like a Pencil

Sometimes the simple everyday items in life can be used to demonstrate great lessons. This is one of those lessons.

A young boy asked his mother what he should do to be a success when he grew up.  The mother thought for a moment, and then told him to bring her a pencil.

Puzzled, the boy found a pencil and gave it to her. If you want to do good,” she said, “you have to be just like this pencil.”

First, you will be able to do a lot of things, but not on your own.  You have to allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.” Be a learner. You can learn from many people in your life. Allow the people God places in your life to lead you to better, more intelligent ways. And most of all allow God to hold you in His hand. This is the sure key to success.

Second, you’ll have to go through a painful sharpening from time to time, but you will need it to do what you need to do.” Neither learning or growing takes place in your comfort zone. Stretching and painful trials build character and growth that cannot be found in any other avenue.

Third, you will always be able to go back and correct any mistakes you make if you want to slow down and do it.” A bigger man it takes to say I was wrong than one who refuses to admit his mistakes. The best way to earn respect is to respect others and show your vulnerabilities.

Fourth, no matter what you look like on the outside, the most important part will always be what’s inside.” In each of us, this again speaks of character. No matter who you try or wish to be what is inside will come out. What you allow to consume your heart, will be the person everyone around you sees.

And, fifth,” the mother finished, “you have to press hard in order to make a mark.” Nothing will bring success without dedication and commitment combined with a durable work ethic. Press on and press hard for accomplishing the task of the one whose hand you are in.

Now that you have read the entire post, go back and read only the italicized parts of this post. Then go, Lead Like a Pencil.

Catching Pigs

There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the Professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter.

The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist regime.

In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked: “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?” The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said that it was no joke.

“You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming.

When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side.

The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught.

Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”

While this story could certainly be shared concerning our nation today, I share it with our churches in mind. As believers and churches we have become so comfortable with what we do inside the comforts of our “safe” buildings that we have forgotten our original quest and mandate. We have so bought into society’s philosophies that we have forgotten that we are to be different. It was entrusted to us by God to reach a lost world with the good (Great) news of God’s plan of redemption.

What will you do to get back outside the confines of the parameters we have placed on ourselves and allowed society to place around us. We are not captives of this world, but slaves of the great, Almighty creator of the universe! Let us return to forage in the forest of lostness as commanded by God Himself.

Effective Vision Preparation

“Our pastor returned from his vision retreat a changed man. What happened to Him on that retreat began to spill over onto us (Reaching the Summit team) and pretty soon to the entire congregation.” What could possibly impact a man and his church setting so greatly today? Simple, it was a retreat, a vision retreat.

Most pastors do not take vision retreats. There are several reasons given for not taking such retreats. Many pastors believe they are too busy to go away for 2-3 days. Some are under the self-imposed impression that the ministry cannot stand on its own while he is away. Still others have family commitments preventing them from such a retreat.

While there may be some truth to each of these reasons, the validity is not strong enough to keep any pastor from having a couple of days alone with God. In fact, these could be the most productive 2-3 days of a pastor’s ministry, and for the church as well.

I believe the number one factor for pastors not having a vision retreat is fear. Think about this: a pastor knows if he comes to the church with a vision, he is expected to stand before them with this big grandiose picture of what God wants the church to be in 1, 3, or 5 years.

This is wrong thinking, bad theology, and poor leadership. While God could certainly present a vision like this, in most cases He will not. In these instances, this is a dream or a wish, not a vision. We should see a vision as “The Compelling Image of an Achievable Future.”

Before a pastor goes on his vision retreat there is one important element needed. Prayer! The pastor must spend some time (weeks) in prayer preparing himself for God’s speaking and his comprehension to take place during the retreat. The church should also be advised weekly on how to pray leading up to the pastor’s retreat. Church leadership should demonstrate, in the worship service and distribute devotions and prayer thoughts for the congregation to follow leading up to and while the pastor is away on his vision retreat.

The pastor’s vision retreat should be to a place where the pastor can have his privacy. This should be 2-3 days of the pastor alone – by himself – with only his Bible and a few sheets of paper for notes. God – the Bible – and the Pastor. Be sure to remove all distractions – no e-mail, text, or cell phone communication (except maybe one call per day to family). The first couple of hours is to be spent in prayer asking God to clear the clutter of the mind. Some pastors have testified that this has taken up to four hours, but the results were well worth it.

Next I instruct the pastor to study 5-7 men and women in the Bible who received vision from God. Read and re-read the biblical passages. Then answer four questions about each person studied. Download these questions @ Biblical Personality Vision Assessment . Read through each scripture passage again, review your answers to the questions on each sheet. Then, write in the comments section what God is showing you about your ministry through this biblical passage. Repeat this for each passage studied.

Before leaving the retreat, one more step is necessary. Pray through the comments section of each sheet asking God to reveal to you the common thread as it pertains to your church setting and ministry.

More pastors walk away from this retreat with a renewed spiritual walk and commitment, stating this was one of the best spiritual experiences of their life. Some have said this was their first retreat, but certainly not their last. Others have said they have tried something like this before, but never with such impact on their lives and the lives of their church.

The key is to set yourself up for a true personal experience with God. Remove everything that could hinder this experience. Then Expect something from God. Do not expect to come away with some great and grandiose picture of what the church should look like. Instead, look for the simplicity of God speaking through His Word.

When the pastor returns from his retreat there should be another one-day retreat already on the calendar. This retreat is for the pastor to share (in 45-60 minutes) with 7-12 church leaders what God revealed on his vision retreat. The remainder of this one-day retreat (5-6 hours) is for the leaders working together to articulate how that vision is to be carried out through the ministries of the church.

For more information about creating and implementing vision contact George L. Yates and read chapter 10 of Reaching the Summit. “The best chapter on vision I’ve ever read.”