A Simple Strategy to Build Team Unity

When I was working in an overseas ministry, I wanted to grow in my friendship with my co-workers, both my peers and my leadership. To do this, I opened Evernote and started a note with everyone’s name on it. Then below each name I put bullet points with traits about them that I either was thankful for or admired about them. From then on, whenever I got the chance, I would try to compliment them or thank them.

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The result, however, wasn’t what I expected. I thought I would be changing their lives, but it was really me that was changing. I really became more thankful for them, and enjoyed telling them so. Hopefully, this also made me a better person to work with and be around.

I believe that one of the best things you can do for your company, team, staff, family, spouse, church, school, etc. is to exude an attitude of thankfulness.

What is thankfulness and how do I instill it in others?

I would describe being thankful is showing appreciation, either personally or publicly, for something done or something you have.

But why should I be thankful for my employees? It’s their job, They MUST do their work, right?

Wrong. They don’t have to work for you. Oh sure, there will be setbacks for them if they leave their job, but odds are they’ll be able to find another one. Maybe even a better one. Then you’re stuck with filling a position and training someone entirely new. But expressing thanks to your employees and volunteers helps build confidence and retain staff. Doesn’t it make sense that people will want to stay and work hard for someone that appreciates them.

It’s even more vital for you if you’re a Christian. Think about all the places in Scripture that pop into your mind about being thankful. The opposite of thankfulness is ungratefulness, which leads to complaining. In fact, this is the reason that God punished the entire people of Israel to wander the dessert for 40 years, keeping them out of their Promised Land.

How to do it.

To train others to be thankful you must first train yourself. If you want your children to be thankful people, they need to see you be thankful. You are the leader. Just as the vision for the company trickles down from you, so does a culture of thankfulness. Some ideas are:
  • Show it to your team. Express your thanks to everyone when you accomplish company goals.
  • Show it to individuals. If you can publicly thank someone in front of the rest of the staff, do so. Just as wrongs must be publicly addressed, so should people who do their job well.
  • Take up a special challenge. One of my college teachers gave an assignment for the entire class to write an encouraging note to three people before the next day.  Everyone was amazed at how fun it was to send encouragement to another. That’s part of being thankful. Find creative ways to promote thankfulness amongst your staff.

Why You Aren’t Lovable

Once while visiting a church, I overheard some women talking about another woman. Apparently this lady had recently divorced her husband and left him with both of their kids. But it was the next words that struck me: “That’s horrible. I can never imagine doing such a thing.”

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While that sounds admirable, it’s absolutely false. We as Christians can easily think that because someone is going down a darker path than us, we are immune to the same fate. But it’s gone a step further. The popular sermon of “feel-good” preachers is that you’re special, talented, and totally worth God’s time. In fact, I recently heard a song in which the chorus ended with the line “You were worth dying for”, meaning that it was definitely worth Jesus’ time and suffering to die for you.

But what’s the problem with this thinking?

  1. It blows your chance of living with God’s power. Since God’s power working in us is based on our dependence upon Him, how can we believe that we need Him if we’re worth so much.
  2. It prevents unity in the church. Why does it seem like Christians are attacking each other instead of helping? One reasons is because we buy into this idea that I’m better than the person next to me.
  3. We end up having zero self-worth. If we are good people, better than others, and worth it for Jesus to die for us, then what happens when we sin? Maybe I’m not actually worth it. Our sense of worth and purpose suddenly revolves around our actions instead of how God sees us.

Here’s the truth: Apart from God’s grace and Jesus Christ’s righteousness, you and I are dirty, rotten, self-loving, perverted sinners.

 

Don’t believe me? You don’t have to. Just believe the Apostle Paul.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 the Apostle Paul lists characteristics of those who won’t be found in heaven. But before his audience gets too puffed up about themselves, he reminds them that “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

I don’t get my value from who I am, but from who chose me. “But Dan, because God chose you, that makes you valuable.” Also false. Why? Just because God chose me doesn’t mean there’s something special about me now. What it means is that God, in His sovereignty and mercy, chose me to be His adopted son. It doesn’t mean I’m valuable, but it does mean that I’m valued. You’re not lovable, but you are loved.

Try It!

An amazing exercise to help find your meaning is to go to Ephesians chapter 1, and circle every time you see the word “His,” “He,” or “Him.” Do that, and then read it through again. You will quickly realize the beautiful beautiful truth:

You’re not lovable, but you are loved.

5 Smartphone Apps I Use Everyday

I love gadgets, particulalrly smartphones and tablets. So I also enjoy trying new apps and finding better ones. So far, I have found these 5 to be some of my main drivers. I use them on my phone almost every day. These are all free apps, although some have a paid version or require subscriptions for full functionality.

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  1. Spark. This app from Readdle replaces Apple’s stock email app for me. I have both a Gmail and Exhange email connected to it. One thing that makes this Email app stand out is the quick shortcuts to things like Attachments, Pinned emails, and Calendar, all from the same screen as my emails.
    Cost: Free
    Subscription: n/a
  2. Nozbe. This is my task-management program. It’s based on the productivity system found in David Allen’s book “Get Things Done.” I use the free version, which limits you to only 5 projects. This is a little hindering, but I’ve managed to condense my tasks into 5 projects. I really like the look and functionality of this app. It has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s also very customizable for your work load.
    Cost: Free
    Subscription: $10/month for unlimited projects and a second account, OR $8/month when you sign up for the yearly subscription.
  3. Hootsuite. This app allows me to manage my Twitter and Facebook accounts without keeping the actual apps on my phone. (Bonus for keeping the invasive Facebook app off my phone). It allows you to view multiple social media accounts at once, as well as write a single post that will go out to several media outlets. You can also schedule posts. Very handy.
    Cost: Free
    Subscription: Allows for more than 3 social media outlets.
  4. Evernote. I’ve talked about Evernote before, particularly on how I use it for preaching. This is like a digital brain for me, and I’m finding it more and more useful every day. I save important documents as well as random addresses I want to remember.
    Cost: Free, for use on 2 devices.
    Subscriptions: $3.99/month for Evernote Plus, and $7.99/month for Evernote Premium.
  5. Feedly and Pocket. Let me explain why these two are together. I don’t have consistent internet access, which becomes tricky when I want to read blogs I follow. So I use Feedly as my RSS feed to see all the blog I follow, and then I save them to Pocket for offline reading. They both work great, and Pocket has a Mac app for desktop reading, as well as a browser extension.
    Cost: Free
    Subscription: Pocket – $4.99/month; Feedly Pro – $5.41/month; Feedly Team – $18/month.

 

What do you use? What’s your favorite app?
Let me know in the comments. 

 

Note: I don’t get any endorsements from these apps. I simply enjoy using them and wanted to share with you.

How to Biblically Confront Someone

Christian unity is a beautiful thing. But what happens when you aren’t so unified? What do you do when someone hurts you, wrongs you, or attacks you? I’m not talking about physically; that simply requires a call to 9-1-1. I’m talking about verbally, emotionally, or any other kind of malicious attack, whether they know it or not.

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Learning to confront someone about a sin is one of the best things I ever learned, but I’ve found it’s not common knowledge. So allow me to very simply break it down, and Lord willing, this will be a help to you and your relationships. But first, let’s recognize what this is and isn’t.

What this IS NOT for:

simple Mistakes. If someone makes a mistake at work, you simply show them where they went wrong, how they can do better, and move on. No need for a big production.

Disagreements over opinions. If you feel the need to confront someone because they like the New England Patriots and not the Buffalo Bills, then you’ve got the wrong subject. Opinions needs fall into the category of “agree to disagree.”

What it IS for:

When someone does a hurtful wrong against you. I’m talking about an email meant to attack you, an hurtful word, an inappropriate action, an item stolen. Use discernment about what you think someone needs confronting about.

When someone is living with a sinful pattern in their life. Confrontation isn’t really about you, it’s about them. The examples in Scripture actually talk about confronting those living in sin in order to help them. This is the process to help your fellow Christ-follower.

How to confront someone. Matthew 18, Jesus gives use three levels of confrontation.

1) 1-on-1. You talk with that person privately. Make sure it’s discreet, and make sure you know what you’re going to say.

2) 2-on-1. If the person refuses to listen to you in this matter, then you bring in a third party. Make sure this is someone that should be involved. For example, your supervisor, church elder, deacon, pastor, etc.

3) Many-on-1. The final stage of confrontation is the entire church or assembly against the one person. This might sound harsh, but if they haven’t responded to the first two levels, then it’s very necessary.

Even when Christ confronts sin, the message is covered by hope.

The key to this is doing these in order. Most people want to skip to Level 2 because it’s easier to gang up on someone. But if that was the best way, wouldn’t Jesus have said so? Follow Christ’s teachings, and stick to the levels.

We can all learn from Christ’s confrontation of the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3. His pattern for 5 of the 7 churches is to give a compliment and then confront the sin (E.g. Rev. 2:19-20). He points out the positive attribute, but doesn’t hold back from sharing the truth of needed growth.

You might be thinking “But isn’t that just some salesman tactic, or manipulation?” Actually, it’s far more than that. It’s a glimmer of hope in the midst of hearing a difficult message. Even when Christ confronts sin, the message is covered by hope. Hope of coming off this destructive path. Hope of a brighter future. Hope of a renewed relationship among His bride, the Church. This brings me to the final and most important ingredient of biblical confrontation: Love.

The entire point of confronting others is restoration. It’s about life-change. It’s about hope. And that cannot be carried out unless you confront others in love. Paul said if we don’t have love, we’re just a big noise (1 Corinthians 13:1,13).

So consider these steps the next time someone has a sin against you. Consider the commands of Christ. I challenge you to follow them and see the difference it makes.

 

5 Key Actions to Make Your Student Missions Trip Amazing

I have been on 4 short-term mission trips in my life, and by far the most memorable, and most impactful, was with my youth group. There’s many features that it takes to do a student mission trip, and as I found out from being a leader on one, a ton of work. I also know that as a pastor or youth leader, you want this trip to be one of the highlights of your teen’s christian experience. So you want to do all that you can to streamline your efforts and make this a great trip. But how do you run an effective mission trip? Where do you even start?

To help with that, I’ve listed 5 key features that, from my own experience, will make your student mission trip life-changing.

What would be some key actions I would do if I was running a student missions trip?

  • Choose a missionary you support, and partner with them. Obviously, one of the first things to do is choose a destination. Will you travel overseas? Will you stay local? Will you go to a major city a couple hours away? Whatever your decision, you should do it based on the missionaries your church supports. Most missionaries bring the mission field experience to churches when support-raising. But very seldom do they have their churches get involved by sending a team over.

    There’s several benefits to this. 1) It will be a comfort for you to work with someone you are already familiar with 2) The teens will become better acquainted with a ministry that their church supports. 3) It will be a huge encouragement to the missionary to know that you are fully involved in their ministry.

  • Book flights through an agency. There are not-for-profit travel agencies that can purchase your flights for you at an incredible discount, because they are an established and reputable travel agency. Their status with airlines allows them to work with airlines and find deals you never could. It’s great. You tell them your dates, your destination, and they do the rest. There are, of course, a few more steps than that, but the time, energy, and stress this is going to save you is well worth it.
  • Try-outs. Auditions. Interview the students that want to go on this trip. Why do they want to go? What do they hope to get out of it? Make this serious, because it is indeed serious. You don’t want someone that is going for the wrong reasons. Those aren’t the people you send to a foreign country. Out of all the people in the church of Antioch, only Saul and Barnabas were chosen. It says they were actively involved in the church.
  • Team-building activities. In the movie Miracle coach Herb Brooks has been training young college hockey players to be the US Olympic team that will finally beat the Russians. After several months of training, sweating, bleeding together, he brings in a new kid. This shakes things up so badly for the players that some of them talk to Coach Brooks about sending him back. When asked why they finally gave their true answer: “Because we’re a family!”

    That’s the unity that you’re striving for from your students. Have a pizza party together with group games. Do work projects for people in the church. There’s all sorts of neat ideas you can do as a team to build unity. Because of training like this, I felt much closer with the teens on that trip than I did with anyone else. I still have fond memories of them all.

  • Lessons: There’s so many fantastic tricks and visuals that can be used to grab people’s attention long enough to share the gospel with them. Commit time and energy into training sessions that will teach them how to use these. Good tools to start with are things like the Rope Trick or the popular Evangecube. 

Learning How to Roll With Culture

I remember a time in my own life experience when skateboarding was generally looked at as a sign of a troubled life (at least in some conservative circles). Skate parks were known as where the “trouble kids” would hang out. But there were also many who not only looked past some of the punk-like atmosphere, but embraced this crowd as a ministry opportunity. A skateboard suddenly became a way to relate to others and start conversations. In fact, I know one guy who is really good at it!

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We’re talking about culture here. There’s so many things in our world that can have a positive side to it, but all we see is the negative. A positive ministry many churches are having is called Trunk or Treat, held on Halloween. You decorate your car trunks and families can get candy in a safe and controlled environment. But some people are can’t get past the fact the Halloween has its tradition in spirit-worship. So you have a choice: do you allow this night to go by or do you claim your freedom in Christ and use the evening to show the love of Jesus to others?

When it comets new facets of our culture, we Christians can get pretty crazy, right? We hear about something new, and we go to the extreme. It’s either a brilliant idea that we throw ourselves at whole-heartedly, or we see it as the spawn of the devil and shun it altogether.

When it comes to new trends and fads, we need to ask ourselves this question: can all things be used for good?

Here’s some qualifiers.

  1. Is it permissible? Yes. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in question of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17).

    All things belong to Christ. You won’t look better before God because you didn’t go to that party or you ate a certain food on a certain day. You are justified before God because of Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

  2. Is it good for me? Simple questions require straightforward answers. If it’s bad for you, then don’t do it. Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Can all things be used for evil? Yes. But if something that isn’t has a strong chance of tempting you to sin, get rid of it. Cut if off, burn it, throw it in the trash, and then burn the trash.
  3. Is it good for others? Does this cause others to stumble? For example, would it be right to share the gospel in the slums while wearing a tux? Would it be good to bring a beer with you while you help others at AA?

 

This is a difficult subject to work through, and this blog post certainly doesn’t contain all the answers. But I hope that you start to look at things through the lens of a simple question: Can I claim this for Christ, and still keep my testimony?

It’s a tricky business trying to be culturally relevant while also obeying our Lord’s commands not to hurt ourselves. But let me encourage you not to shun away from trying new things. Be bold! Claim the culture for Christ.

3 Books to Start Your Marriage In The Right Direction

My wife and I have gone through all three of these books during our engagement and the first 1 1/2 years of our marriage. Looking back on them we’re so thankful that we read these early on in our marriage and can grow and apply them for the rest of our lives. This is not an exhaustive list, just what we did and how it helped us. Ok, so, you ready to find out what these are?92H

  • Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, by Dr. Kevin Leman. If this title makes you blush, then you definitely need to read it. Whether you’ve saved sex for marriage or it’s nothing new to you, this book will help prepare you for your new life. It talks about subjects everyone has questions about, but never once does it get vulgar.This book should definitely be read while you’re engaged. The best part is you won’t be overwhelmed as an engaged couple because he prescribes that you only read 3-4 particular chapters before you’re wedding night, and the rest for afterwards.
  • Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Once you’re married, jump right into this one. The premise: God commands in Ephesians 5:33 that husbands should love their wives, and wives should respect their husbands. This speaks to the strengths of how women and men communicate and interact.It was really encouraging and relieving to know that when my wife and I disagree about something it’s probably more about seeing things differently than actually disagreeing.
  • The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. The basic idea of this teaching is that we all have different ways of showing and receiving love, and these are broken down into the 5 love languages. For example, growing up gift-giving was a big deal in my family. So I was baffled when I gave a gift to my wife it didn’t “rock her world.” But through this book I learned that acts of kindness speaks much more loudly to her. If you learn to do things in a way that says “I love you” that your spouse appreciates, it will definitely strengthen your marriage.

What books have helped you in your marriage? What did you think of these books? 

Note: I don’t receive anything for promoting these books. I’m just sharing something that’s been helpful to me, to help you.