No Thumb, Advantage One

The story is told of an African king who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, “This is good!”

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, “This is good!” To which the king replied, “No, this is NOT good!” and sent his friend to prison.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the prison to speak with his friend. “You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” And he proceeded to tell the friend what happened. “And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied, “This is good!” “What do you mean, ‘This is good’? How could it be good that I sent my friend to prison for a year?”

His friend replied, “If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you.”

You might need to let that last line sink in. Can you say in all situations, “This is good.”?

Life may not always seem fair. Trouble and trails come into the life of every person. Yet, when we look for some good thing in every situation, we will experience a better life. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”

Why not begin today; find and possibly write down some good thing coming from every situation you find yourself in. If you will journal these, and look back over them in one year, you will have a story to tell. A story to encourage others.

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist and life coach assisting pastors, churches, and individuals to reach their God-given potential.

So Much Love

In the motion picture, Marvin’s Room, there are two sisters who have been estranged for many years. When one of them is diagnosed with cancer, the other sister arrives to help take care of her. In one of the final scenes of the movie, the two sisters are talking about their lives, and the one with cancer says, “I’m so lucky. I’m so lucky. I’ve had so much love in my life.” “Yes, yes,” the other sister agrees, barely looking at her sister while she cleans the kitchen. “You’ve always had people around you who loved you.” “Oh no,” the other sister says with a look of surprise. “I’m lucky because I’ve been able to love so many people.”

Love comes in many forms, shapes and sizes. Love is not only held between husband and wife. It extends beyond family relationships. Too often, especially in our culture today, we cheapen the act of love, using the same word for our favorite meal as our most cherished soul-mate. I love a steak dinner. I love my wife. Love is not based on a word. Love is based on action.

Love is not relegated to family members. Love is displayed through our actions. This movie scene portrays love among family, and demonstrates the greatest characteristic of love.

True love is not about what I receive from another person. The greatest characteristic of love is demonstrated in how many other people I pour myself into and the depth of my pouring. I can give to a worthy cause and talk of how good it is. But, unless I take action in upholding that cause, I am not necessarily demonstrating love.

I can give a cup of cold water to someone thirsty without love. Two organizations set up a booth side by side in the community festival. One, a church giving bottles of cold water “in Jesus name”. In the booth next to them was a group of atheist’s also handing out bottles of water. We want to believe the group who holds most closely to our beliefs is truly demonstrating love. But what of the other group? Love requires more than simply a free handout.

It is said many young people in our inner cities join gangs because the gangs are the only place in their lives where love is demonstrated. The only place where they feel a sense of acceptance and belonging. Gangs are pouring into these young lives to get their commitment. Perhaps, in some strange sense, these rough gangs have learned the true art of love better than the government, families, churches, and other organizations in our society.

What about you, who are you truly pouring love into? Can you say as the lady dying with cancer, “I’m blessed because I’ve been able to love so many people”? How are  you demonstrating this great characteristic of love and teaching others to do likewise?

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist coaching pastors, churches and individuals in reaching for their greatest God-given potential.

Champions at Heart, (Endo & Morgan)

I recently read the story of a young equestrian rider, Morgan and her horse Endo. In her teens, Morgan had been diagnosed with Lupus, a disease that attacks your own body. Morgan struggled as the disease worsened through the years. She even considered at one time taking her life with an overdose of pills. The one thing that stopped her was her thoughts of Endo, the horse her grandmother had given her as a foal when she was 13. They had grown up together. Morgan was now 28 and about to do something that three years earlier she thought would never be possible.

Three years prior, Endo lost his sight and had his eyes surgically removed. Her horse was blind. Through his blindness, Endo would teach Morgan to be a survivor. The day following his surgery, Morgan expected Endo to be clumsily or worse, in terror, thrashing around bumping into walls in his stall. When she went out to tend to him she found the opposite. Endo would turn around in his stall and maneuver his way around as if he had not a care in the world. He never bumped into a wall, feeder, or any other obstacle in his stall. Later, as she sat on the floor talking to him, he was eating straw from the pile beneath her feet.

Morgan cared for and tended her horse as usual, every day. In time, they began riding again. This required trust on both horse and rider. Endo trusted Morgan’s voice and hand guidance. Morgan had to trust Endo would not spook or balk at a jump throwing her frail body to the ground.

On this day, three years after Endo’s eye surgery, they were competing in a prestigious equestrian event in Oregon with 11 obstacles to avoid. Not only did they compete, they won first place. They have competed and performed in the US and Canada since. In 2016 they performed in the Breyerfest Carnival in the horse capitol of Lexington, KY.

Like Endo and other animals, people also are very adaptive. With proper care and love we can move on beyond our infirmities and hardships. Morgan and Endo built trust in each other. The trust they built after their afflictions was founded in the life they had lived together prior to those afflictions. Our trust in each other is based on our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Let us pray for, care for, and trust one another in order to accomplish all that God has placed us here for.

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist and life coach assisting pastors, churches, and individuals to reach their God-given potential.

Lineal vs. Lateral Thinking

Jim and Julienne were both being considered for consulting with Delmar Community Church (DCC). DCC was a church struggling to reach the community immediately around the church property. It’s not that there was a lack of people to reach. After all there were 450 homes in the three subdivisions surrounding the church. Jim and Julienne were both interviewed and given the information church members thought was pertinent. They each were to come back and present to church leaders their proposal for working with the church in one week. The basic question each was asked was, “How can you help us to reach our community?”

The following Monday evening, Jim was first to present his proposal. Jim arrived fifteen minutes early, set up his computer and projector and began at 5:30 sharp. Very confident in his proposal, Jim’s PowerPoint presentation included charts and graphs of the churches declining attendance for the past ten years, demographics of the community around the church, and various other photos and statements. It was obvious Jim had done his homework and put time and research into his proposal. Jim’s final statement was, “It is apparent that the community does not know who you are or that you want to get to know them. We will come along side you and help you to develop mailers, postcards, doorhangers and other items to help you get the word out about the church. We will assist you in promoting the events you are already doing to draw more people in. This is how we can help you reach your community.”

The group thanked Jim and carried on minor conversations while he packed to leave. Fifteen minutes later, Julienne arrived. She came in carrying a leather-bound notebook. No computer, no projector, no posters or other visual aids. The one other item she seemed to be carrying was nerves. She seemed a little timid or apprehensive. Like the first one, the pastor opened this meeting with prayer and asked Julienne the basic question she had been asked to research. “Julienne, we’re eager to hear “How can you help us to reach our community?”

Julienne, sat up straight in her chair, leaned into the table and stated, “I thought about that question for probably a day and a half before I came to a conclusion.” She had everyone’s undivided attention. They were awaiting a big announcement. And she gave them one, but of a totally different aspect than they were expecting. “My conclusion is that that is the wrong question to be asking. And if I were to answer it, I would not be helping you with what you desire.”

With perplexed looks of surprise and puzzlement on the faces of her audience, Julienne continued. “If I came in here and gave you a list of things to do, or that I could do for you, then that plan would be mine, not yours. Let me ask you, would a better question be, ‘What has God given you? What has He placed right here in your congregation to use to reach your community?’ What ever that is, it is not mine. You are not borrowing from me. You already own it. It is in your possession. What I am willing to offer you is assistance in discovering and developing those skills and resources to reach your community.”

Now, a few nods appear around the table and looks of satisfaction and agreement replace the surprise and puzzled looks from moments ago. Julienne spent the next 20 minutes leading the group in discussing what this partnership could look like. (Julie was asking most of the questions, leading the members to discover the path needed.)

Julienne got the consulting job with the Delmar Community Church. Why? Jim was thorough and made a very good presentation. However, Jim used lineal thinking. Julienne, on the other hand, used lateral thinking. Lineal thinking stays on the path we know, the familiar, well-worn path. While Jim had a good plan, it did not carry a wow factor. It did not create any discovery learning for the church leaders.  Lateral thinking is willing to get off the known path into the weeds and thicket to find the jewels that can only be found off the beaten path.

Most people are lineal thinkers. It takes practice to become a lateral thinker. A good lateral thinking coach can help you and your organization become better, more effective than you’ve ever dreamed. For more information on becoming a lateral thinker or moving your church or organization to better effectiveness contact George Yates and pick up your copy of Turnaround Journey.

 

Disciplemaking Transformation

The following is from a recent meeting with a Reaching the Summit pastor.

“Some of the changes I’ve noticed since we started Reaching the Summit: People are coming to me and asking to help. This never happened before. I have people coming and asking to do things for me or someone else. Just this week we’ve had two deaths. One young deacon called me and said, ‘I know Jack (name changed) is the deacon for this family (just lost a loved one).’” Jack’s family had also lost a family member the day before. This deacon went on to ask, “Is it all right if I go and minister to this family? Jack does not need to deal with this right now. He has his own family to take care of.”

The pastor went on to say, “This has always been a loving church, but in my ten years here, nothing like this has ever happened before. And this is just one incident. I have people calling me asking about me and what they can do for me. That did not happen before. Not the way it is now. Only since we started this process (Reaching the Summit).”

Reaching the Summit has helped many churches in various ways. Reaching the Summit is a process that looks at each church individually. It is not a program or a cookie cutter approach. Every church that I have worked with through the Reaching the Summit process has gained valuable, usable insight and been able to constructively use that insight to be more effective in ministry.

The church mentioned above has seen several shifts and modifications in ministry and they’ve not completed the sessions yet. By changing the way they do small groups Bible studies, they saw an immediate increase of 25%. Whether you’re running 60 or 6,000, 25% is a great increase of people in Bible study. This church is seeing a true disciple-making transformation.

Other churches have seen significant increases in baptisms, community engagement, discipleship, leadership development, and prayer ministry. All of these lead to more effective disciple-making ministry. And it is all principle based.

Reaching the Summit is not a consultant’s view of “if you do these 3 things you’ll be good to go.” Reaching the Summit starts with confronting the brutal facts of your ministry and builds upon what God has placed in your midst, using biblical principles and practices to support those principles.

I am a firm believer in biblically based principles. Whether in your personal life, business, or church if you get the principles right and put practices in place to follow those principles, you will succeed. Let me encourage you to purchase a copy of Reaching the Summit and contact me, George Yates about the possibility of working with your church to be the most effective ministry for which God has set you apart.

Core Values & the Motives Behind Your Motives

In his book, Lead with a Story, Paul Smith shares of a new CEO for a grocery/department store chain. Upon taking the helm of the company, the new CEO began implementing practices that demonstrated the company’s core values. One value was “The Customer Always Comes First.” The CEO sent out an edict that all store management personnel were to park at the farthest point in the lot from the front doors of the store. The customers should never park beyond where the management parked. The idea was employees would follow suit. Apparently, this had not been the practice at most of the company stores.

The employees of one store were watching for the new CEO’s arrival for a scheduled visit. It was raining hard on this particular day. They watched as they saw the CEO’s car pull into the parking lot driving around in the torrential downpour. The CEO had a decision to make. Surely, he had a valid excuse. After all, one parking space certainly would not matter in this rain, for a half hour visit.

The employees watched as his car pulled in, drove around, then headed straight to the back of the lot, farthest away from the door. A couple minutes later the employees watched a man in a very expensive suit running across the parking lot, enter the store completely drenched. He purchased an ill-fitting suit off the rack to replace his expensive tailor made one and continued his visit.

For this CEO there was no decision to be made – or at least it was an easy, “no brainer” decision. He set the standard and lived by example. And, in doing so, he taught a valuable lesson that circulated throughout that company for years and is still being circulated today as it is retold in organizations and stories like this one you are reading today.  And all for the price of one suit.

Values are not something to compromise. In fact, every action you take and every word you speak are outward manifestations of your core values. That’s right. The way you treat people. Whether or not you smile at those you meet. The places you visit, your shopping practices, your eating habits. Everything you do is rooted in those beliefs you hold so dear – your core values.

To reach your full potential as a person, determine what your core values are. Core Values are not that difficult to determine. Ask yourself these questions:

1)      What causes me to act and respond the way I do?

2)      Why do I treat certain people differently?

3)      What am I passionate about?

4)      How do I desire others to see & think of me?

5)      What is the motive behind the motive for each of the answers to the above questions?

The fifth question is critical after answering the others. I might say I give to a particular organization because I want to help people. That would be my stated motive for doing so. However, there is a motive behind that motive. And it many times has to do with “feeling good about myself.”

Why not take time to discover your core values? Be certain to include an honest, thorough examination of the motive behind your motives.  

For more information or assistance with determining core values for yourself or your organization contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries. It would be my pleasure to assist you. – It’s one of my core values!

Settling for Good is Settling for Mediocrity

As a child it was a privilege and rare occasion when my siblings and I received a soft drink. I can remember a time when we stopped for lunch on one particular trip. There were four of us lined up across the back seat of the car. Stopping like this for lunch usually meant stopping for a loaf of bread, a package of fresh sliced bologna, and a half gallon of milk. It may not sound like much today, but a slice of fresh cut bologna between two slices of fresh bread and a cup of cold milk, is a treasured memory for me.

On this particular occasion, instead of milk, Dad purchased a bottle of 7up for us to share in the backseat. Wow! Now this was a real treat. It started on the right side of the car. We each took a drink and passed it to the next person. Each one taking a drink (yes, out of the same bottle. This was before germafobia set into our culture) and passing it to the next sibling. When the bottle got to the left side of the car, the process started over from left to right.

It did not take long for my Dad to realize something we children had not comprehended. The two seated in the middle were getting two drinks to every one drink taken by the two siblings on the outsides. The two in the middle would drink as it went to the left and as it returned to the right. The two on the outside however, would take one drink and pass it back. Dad then instructed us in how to make it fair with everyone receiving equal amounts.

Sharing is a good thing. However, sharing can be done in an unfair and unfruitful way as well. These types of sharing will lead to mediocrity and away from greatness.

I want to consider one other approach we see in churches and other organizations that leads to mediocrity and keeps an organization from greatness. This often occurs in many small churches when two or three people pass a position back and forth. One, let us say Mr. Smith, will serve in a position for a term as per the church by-laws. When his/her term is over, the position is passed to a second individual, Mrs. Davis. When Mrs. Davis’ term is over, the position will go back to Mr. Smith. And the cycle continues with these two individuals swapping out key leadership positions.

Good is always the enemy of Great

What happens in this church scenario is the church had gone through phase one of decline without noticing it. And now having drifted into Phase two, the personnel, the leadership, of the church was being affected. While these people were likely doing a good job at their respective responsibilities and keeping the church alive, good is always the enemy of great. Our enemy, Satan, is not afraid of us attempting to be good.

I have witnessed this scenario in more than one church. What may have started with the best of intentions, can eventually lead a church to mediocrity and decline. In one such scenario, three people held the “controlling” positions in the church. What no doubt began as a good assignment for each of these three individuals, over a period of five to six years, as they decided to rotate the positions, they had largely assisted in leading the church from an attendance of 250 to about fifty. Sharing is not always fruitful. Settling for Good is settling for mediocrity.

To learn how to avoid and break these cycles in your church or organization contact George Yates and pick up your copy of Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church.

 

Good is Always the Enemy of Great

Life seemed to be spinning out of control for Libby. Married to her high school sweetheart, Tom, the mother of three elementary school age children, Libby is also the hospitality coordinator for the PTSA. Aside from being a homemaker, wife, and mother, Libby also works full time as a receptionist for an insurance company, sings in the church choir, serves on two committees, studies for a weekly Bible study group, and works with children’s church.

For some reason, since the start of this school year, Libby cannot seem to keep up. Accustomed to being on top of everything, Libby is feeling unusual pressure as things begin to fall through the cracks. Her Superwoman complex has left her.

What Libby and many others do not take into consideration is no one can be great at six different obligations. We see this often in the church and other organizations. One person taking on five or six positions in the organization. It is impossible to be great at five obligations.

If our focus is on good, we cannot make the leap to greatness. The best efforts of success come out of greatness. Good is always the enemy of great. Superman is a myth. And not even Superman was great at all things. As Clark Kent he was not the greatest of communicators and he wore glasses. Even Superman had his faults. No person can be great at all things.

Trying to carry too many obligations at once will never lead to greatness – for the person or the organization (ministry). Too often we settle for good when God created us to be great in service to Him.

No one can take on five, seven, or ten areas of responsibility and perform to the best of his/her ability in any of the areas. It is physically impossible. Given the choice, I would rather have a person be great at one thing she is passionate about than have her attempt to be good at six things pulling at her time and talents from different directions.

Why not conduct a little self-introspection and decide at what you really desire to be great? You will find it will be something that you also have a passion for. Then focus on being the very best that you can at that obligation. We all play multiple roles in our life. Some of these you cannot drop. Taking on more commitments for your organization does not make you a better person. In fact, it detracts from your ability to achieve God’s greatness. However, when we focus on one major and one minor commitment, we will succeed and then alone can we achieve the greatness for which God created us. Remember, Good is always the enemy of Great!

For more on achieving the greatness of God’s design in your life, organization, or ministry, contact George Yates and purchase your copy of Reaching the Summit:

 

Every Person Has a Story

A young man in his early twenties seeing out from the train’s window shouted, “Dad, look the trees are going by!”

Dad smiled and a young couple sitting nearby, looked at the twenty something year old’s childish behavior with pity.

Suddenly he again exclaimed, “Dad, look the clouds are running with us!”

The couple couldn’t resist and said to the young man’s father, “Why don’t you take your son to a good doctor?”

The boy’s father unassumingly, smiled and said, “I did, and we are just coming from the hospital, my son was blind from birth, he is seeing for the first time today.”

There are at least two lessons we can learn from this simple, short story.

First, it is easy to make assumptions based on what we may first see or hear. Too often we jump to conclusions without knowledge of the facts. Assumptions and jumping to conclusions like this can cause detrimental effects in our own lives and those around us.

The second lesson I see here is that every person has a story. Take time to learn and to listen to the stories of others. Other people’s stories can encourage and build us up in a way that will enrich our own lives and our story.

Rather than listen to another person’s story, it is easier to judge people before you truly know them.  When you are tempted to judge someone, first, stop and ask yourself if you know their story. If not, why not ask them to share their story. Carefully listen, the truth might surprise you. Then, see for the first time a brand new view from the train of life.

Making the Right Decision

Recently, while returning home from a speaking engagement the airplane I was on was experiencing turbulence as we began descending toward our destination. I fly quite regularly so I am use to turbulence and I have experienced harsher turbulence than on this particular flight. However, there was something new to me with this experience.

It was late at night so it was dark in the cabin as well as outside. As we descended through the blackness of night and thunderstorm clouds, bouncing with the turbulence, suddenly the plane dropped. The drop was so sudden and significant that it lifted everyone out of our seats. The incident only lasted for a couple of seconds. I’m not certain how far we dropped, likely only a few feet. Honestly, I do not want to know how far it actually was. The pilot was masterful and got us to our destination on time and safe.

Most organizations do not fall in one clear-cut, quick drop. There is normally a series of digression. An examination of the organization will, in most cases, show a departure from the original purpose and core values of the organization. The initial signs of decline may be subtle and ignored or explained away. This first phase can go on for several years without notice.

While working with a particular church a few years ago, I realized a series of decisions they had made which had contributed to their decline. Highlighting those decisions, the group in front of me began to realize for the first time how those decisions had led to their steep decline. I stopped at a decision the church had made five years prior. On woman who had been in the church for years responded, “No, that’s not right. We were making bad decisions long before that.”

As a series of the right decisions propels you toward success, so a series of poor decisions will propel one toward decline. It is important to understand the difference between what seems to be a good decision and the right decision. What could seem good, can actually be detrimental to you personally and to your organization.

For more information on making the right decision contact George Yates and pick up your copy of Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the church. (It’s not for churches only)