Archive for the ‘blogs’ Category

I’m very stoked, pumped, excited, and animated to be heading to Rochester College this May 16-18 for “Streaming: Biblical Conversations From the Missional Frontier”. Streaming is an in-depth exploration about the adventure of ministry. It  will focus on the book of James and will offer ministers and church leaders biblical resources to help them lead God’s people in a missional era. Mark Love – the churches of Christ missional yoda and peculiarly dedicated Bob Dylan fan, has put together, along with JoPa Productions, an awesome line-up of missional thinkers.

The featured speakers will be Scot McKnight and Miroslav Volf! Wow!!

Many of you already know Scot McKnight. He’s a Christian blogosphere rockstar (if there can be such a thing), has written a first rate book on how to read scripture and is not afraid to call John Piper’s questions of whether or not “Jesus preached Paul’s gospel” stupid, well “irritating!” His newest book is One.Life.

Perhaps less people know Miroslav Volf, but you should. Volf is as first-rate as first-rate gets when it comes to theology, and his book Exclusion and Embrace is a modern-day classic when it comes to race, identity and reconciliation. His newest release, Allah: A Christian Response is supposed to be excellent as well.

Just those two guys make Streaming worth the mere $189 for the registration. Plus, other incredible folks you’ll want to be around will be there. People like me, Jack Reese, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt.

I hope you’ll join me this May in Michigan.

If both your mission and the communication around your mission aren’t clear and easy, you’re frustrating both yourself and your constituents. I’ve been saying this for some time now, but amazingly, I get more push back than you’d expect.

In the last few weeks I’ve had multiple conversations with new bloggers and non-profit organizations about fine-tuning both their mission and communication streams. My axiom has been: Be generous, Be helpful. Initially, everyone agrees, but when I move on to highlight that constituents want things easy, simple and clear, my audiences have appeared shocked. But my instincts are nevertheless true. Whether you’re a CEO, teacher, pastor, writer, therapist…whatever, your constituent’s lives are intensely busy, their concerns are monumentally large, and their time is magnificently short. If you want to lead them, you have to wrap your arms around your phenomenal mission and contract it into bite-sized chunks for your constituents.

Yet in so many industries (especially the church), the professionals make accessing the pertinent information hard for the populace. We don’t mean to, we just do. And I think I know 3 reasons why. See if you make these 3 mistakes while formulating your communication:

1.  You’re A Intellectual Snob – You like demonstrating that you’re smarter than most everyone else so you use every big word you know and you employ the jargon of your scholastic guild. Whenever you can you turn your staff meeting, sermons, blog posts, etc…into your greatest hits from graduate school, you do. If that’s you, here’s a tip: The people you’re communicating with aren’t stupid, they’re just outside your field. They don’t know your field and don’t care about the intricacies of it. And, by the way, the sign of a truly smart person is the ability to explain complex things simple.

2. You Had To Learn It – Speaking to a physician years ago, I asked why resident doctors had to keep such long, insufferable hours which made them more likely to make medical mistakes. His response, “I had to do it.”  This notion is at play in a great deal of communicators. Since they had to learn Greek & Hebrew (or whatever they had to learn in school to do a job) they come to think no one can be a good Christian if they don’t know. In reaction, they make sure that their audience is forced to know the ins and outs concerning the peculiarities of their field.

3. You Don’t Want To Communicate – Know one says this, but it’s true. I’ve been apart of organizations that thoroughly believed they were elite. In order to keep this ruse alive the organization must remain small. Therefore, the more esoteric and ethereal the communication the better. And guess what, when you don’t want the masses, they know it.

Each of these are killers. Over the next week, review your most recent communications and see if these communication killers are at play in your world. I know, they are too often working in mine.

I’ve been thinking for a while about what to do with this space. I took an extended break because blogging had changed so much in the past 6 years, since I began. When I started there was no Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare or other means of social networking. Blogging itself was in it’s infancy and a blog like mine covered subject matter from theology to my daughter’s ballet classes. Blogs don’t do that anymore. They’re much more narrow.

So what am I to do?

Honestly, I still don’t know. But I am going to return to writing more often. Randy and Donny at Marketing Twins have offered some good suggestions, and I may follow.

At any rate, my intent is to narrow my focus to three areas: preaching, leadership, and the ministry of reconciliation — with an occasional book review. These are areas in which I am learning a great deal very rapidly and want to test new ideas, processes and theories and/or areas where I feel I have a unique lens. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful, add it to your Google Reader or drop by to read and comment a few times a week.

I want to reconnect with those readers and friends who were so faithful to The Palmer Perspective in our heyday.

As you know, I’m a big fan of books and reading. Our world needs more reading not less. So I found this video (posted on Michael Hyatt’s blog) very interesting.

Here’s to more reading…in whatever form it comes.

Every time I mention to someone that I wake up at either 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. the first question they ask me is “Why?”. Why would anyone who doesn’t HAVE to wake up that early do so? Apparently it’s OK for people who must be at work that early, but why punish yourself?

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Become An Early Riser

I’m not naturally a morning person, though. Because I am a night owl, I presumed the move to early rising was going to be a struggle. It wasn’t. Now having made the shift, I am an early-riser evangelist, believing everyone should do it. And here are three reasons why:

  1. Spiritual Development. Most Christ-followers I know want a deeper relationship with God. We know how to do it – prayer, spiritual reading, silence and solitude, along with other spiritual disciplines – but most of us don’t have good time to do it. It’s not that we don’t have time altogether; we don’t have good time. The time we have for ourselves, after work and kids, church and life, we are often far too exhausted to do anything worthwhile. Rising early changes the scales in the direction of spiritual formation. When I wake up, before the kids, the dawn and the Dawn Rochelle (my wife), I have the best and most time – coffee aided, of course – to engage God. Getting up a little earlier affords me the opportunity to orient my life towards God.
  2. Knowledge is King. Another plus of arising at five is seeking and finding all the news that’s good to know about our world. Karl Barth once said that a good preacher prepares his sermons with his Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. And he’s right. Each morning, I crack open my MacBook Pro, fire up my Google Reader and check all the news sites and blogs that I favor. Before 6:30 a.m. I’ve picked up leadership lessons from the likes of Michael Hyatt and Brad Lomenick; I’ve been introduced to ways of connecting others with what I’m doing through folks like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan, and I’m up to speed on national and international events thanks to Politico.com, NYTimes.com, Washingtonpost.com, and drudgereport.com. Being on the west coast, most of what’s going to happen in the world has already happened by the time my neighbors wake up, but I’m ahead of the game. More than that though, throughout my day I don’t have to check websites, etc…once I arrive at the office, I can focus on being with people and tackling the day’s tasks.
  3. Family Harmony. Once our oldest daughter began school, we quickly realized that all four of us waking up, preparing and eating breakfast, brushing teeth and getting dressed at the same time was pretty tough. Now, I’m awake, coffee-fueled, fed and ready to go by the time the girls get up. This makes our mornings much less stressful resulting in better, less stressful mornings.

There you have it.  There are other reasons – such as a more productive workday and exercise – which serve as additional reasons to get up early, but I think you’re getting the point. My encouragement to you is to give it two-weeks, make a plan describing what it is you want to do with your time and stick to it. You’ll find that your bedtime comes earlier, but, most likely, it’ll be worth it.

I’ve had a hard time convincing my wife and others like her why I Twitter. “Why do you use twitter? What’s the point? Isn’t Twitter just another in long line of mouthpieces for self-obsessed people with delusions of grandeur? Don’t people just post inane information about themselves in the vacant hope that someone will care?” These kinds of questions and taunts are routine and have recently been asked by my favorite sports talk show host, Jim Rome, who spent a good portion of his show last week mocking Twitter and those who tweet.mm_twitter

If you’re wondering whether or not some of the folks tweeting are self-obsessed and tweet only about their mundane lives, yes some are. I don’t follow those people! Those folks serve little purpose, and I’ve put the public on notice that those who tweet about what they’re having for lunch run the risk of being “unfollowed.” Still there are a great many people who use Twitter to great effectiveness for their mission, message and tribe. I think primarily of Michael Hyatt, Guy Kawasaki, Tim Sanders and others. And you can too.

Let me give you some reasons why I think Twitter is a powerful resource.

  • Impact. Through tweeting you can get your message in front of a lot more people. Because your text is limited to 140 characters, you can’t blather on, but you can inform, encourage, and direct your audience. Plus, they don’t have to come to you like a blog post. You go to them. All you have to do is figure out a way for them to follow you. I used to blog in this space quite a bit. Quite frankly, it got to be a hassle. I was an early-comer to blogging, and the medium has changed significantly over the last five years. One thing that was always true though was that to have a high readership I had to post 4+ times per week. Many times I didn’t have that much to say! With Twitter now, I simply reference that a new post is up and hundreds of people can potentially see it within minutes. The same number of readers it took days to accumulate, now access the blog within the first hour it’s posted. This combined with retweets has exploded blog readership (though not comments to my discontent). My impact is now far wider, and because of it, I can post just once a week and my content is generally stronger. This is a win-win when your message is the Kingdom of God. I reach more people with my messages through the web (blog + podcast + Twitter + facebook) than I do on a Sunday morning. Maybe up to 4 times as many. That’s an impact for God’s Kingdom. Brought to you by twitter!
  • Knowledge. Twitter, more than anything else, gets knowledge and information to me fast. I learned of Michael Jackson’s death, the uprising in Iran and countless other news items through Twitter. Most of the time, someone on Twitter “breaks” the story before traditional news agencies. An easy criticism is that the folks on Twitter can post anything and we should be slow to trust what we read there. That is a possibility, however, my experience has been that Twitter-ers, like me, are incredibly concerned with their own credibility and treating their followers as friends. We are generally slow to throw a disprovable “fact” against the wall. Interestingly, it has been those in the news media, politics and public life who most often tweet first and think later. More than that, I follow the tweets of people in the same industry I’m in or want to be in or those who have something to teach me. They direct me to great information that I’m blessed to know. I’ve learned about writing, leadership, marketing, technology, missional living and ministry by following people who know more about those things than I do. I draw from the wisdom of Andy Stanley, Greg Daniel, Donald Miller, Rick Warren and others without paying a dime to hear them at a conference. I know what they’re reading, what they’re thinking, and how they are working with and leading organizations. For free.
  • Followers Become Friends. I have friends on Twitter that are not my friends in the conventional sense. I have spent little or no time with Dave Lemley, Greg Kendall-Ball, Travis Stanley, Darin Campbell and others, but we share both a common faith heritage and common perspective on U.S. and world events. I’m allowed to dialogue with them about those particular items and build relationships with them though I’ve never spent more than an hour with any one of them. In other cases I follow and am followed by people like David Christian whom I have never met, yet we’ve had many discussions. That’s just cool! It’s a glimpse of heaven where we will know and be fully known.

  • Thinking. Like all writing, tweeting makes you think about what you think. Do you really want to advocate that position? Is this something I should post without being able to enter a conversation or give some background? How can I be coherent in 140 characters (in 119 characters if I want to be retweeted)?

I encourage tweeting and am trying to discern ways that I can incorporate it in meaningful ways during church services, and classes and with our staff.

To get started on Twitter, check here, here and here.

Most of us hate feedback! I know that that has been the case for me throughout my career. Most people – especially ministers and pastors – hate the idea that we would submit ourselves to another’s thoughts, judgments, and perceptions. It all seems terribly threatening, and for good reason too. There are simply too many stories of some poor preacher being made to sit through a sermon rebuttal at the weekly elder’s meeting or having to attune themselves to the constant carping of one or two hard-hearted and untrained church members?

There are some kinds of feedback that are only destructive. While we know as a leader there is absolutely no way to please all the people all the time, yet a good leader learns to hear criticism appropriately and use if effectively.  In addition, for us to become what the Kingdom of God needs us to become, we have to open our ears and lose our fear of feedback. Here’s why:

First, “good” feedback has limited use. For years I thought I wanted feedback, but what I actually coveted was “good” feedback. Good meaning, “You did a great job, Sean.” While we all need our strokes, good feedback has limited ability to make us think more deeply and broaden our perspectives. Good feedback has a tendency to point us backward to what we have done instead of forward toward what we can do. We need to hear good feedback. We need to hear that we are on track and that our work and prayers have been meaningful to others. Yet we also need to seek out thoughtful, measured voices to tell us when we may have hit a wrong note or are headed for trouble.

Second, feedback gives us perspective. As a Senior Minister I have a great deal of latitude in what happens on any given week in my congregation. Yet it would be abusive to shape congregational life around my preferences or the preferences of a privileged few. Because I’m human, I naturally orient things around what I like. But in the process of seeking deliberate feedback I can see, hear and feel what others see, hear, and feel. At the end of the day, my job is to add value to my congregation’s worship experience, not design the perfect experience for myself. This cannot be done if I have not endeavored to know what their perspectives are. Leaders, it seems, should ask themselves, “Am I doing this because it is what I like, or because it best serves my church.”

Third, feedback keeps us humble. This applies to both positive and negative feedback. At no point in my life am I more in awe of the power of God then when people are telling me stories of how God has used my life to change theirs. At the same time, when we receive negative feedback we stay in touch with our own humanness. Let’s face it; some of us think that once we’ve entered pastoral leadership we’ve been anointed with greatness. Sometimes we are great – or do some things great – but many times, we are simply filled with hubris. If you cannot handle negative feedback, then you might need to get your ego in check. What happens in ministry is not about you, and to be good leaders, we have to know the areas where we need improvement.

These are simple ways we are aided by criticism and feedback and I don’t want to work with or alongside anyone who feels she or he is above it. If you don think you’re above it your department or organization is going nowhere fast. As a leader, your challenge is to identify the very best modalities to hear and incorporate valuable feedback. Know this, though they may not mean to be, oftentimes, your critics are you allies.