HOW TO PREP YOUR ANNUAL TED TALK

TED Talks are short, powerful speeches given by 2,000+ leaders since 1984. TED Talks celebrated their one billionth video view in 2012, and since then they’ve averaged 17 new page views a second. In a ministry leader’s world, your speech for the annual gala or banquet rises to the level of a TED talk. So how do you prepare for your most important talk of the year?

Let’s start with ways you don’t want to prepare. I know this because I used to do this!

3 Ways NOT to Prepare

  1. Delay. With a mountain of projects on your desk, it’s hard to even see much less prioritize an event that’s two months out. So, wait to write your speech until it becomes super urgent.
  2. Do it alone. You know your ministry, you know what’s most important to share, so figure it out by yourself. After all, isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do?
  3. Cram. All-nighters worked in college, so why not in ministry? If the week leading up to the event is jammed with speech revisions, just look forward to crashing afterwards.

Hopefully warning signals are going off in your head. Your speech may not flop if you use this approach, but it also won’t be as impactful as it could be.

7 Steps for Preparing Your Annual Speech

  1. Start discerning 4-6 months out. Meet several times with your event team to talk with God and each other about the theme and program content. Stay alert to ministry trends and advancements, and ponder how they could shape or be woven into your theme.
  2. Develop key concepts with a team. Choose two or three main points for your talk. Ask appropriate staff members to provide pertinent facts for each aspect.
  3. Write the first draft. Pray. Write. Pray some more. Write some more. A good speech is best written in the context of communication with the Lord. You want His passion and Scripture to fuel it and flow through it.
  4. Invite feedback. Choose a handful of ministry associates, hopefully both women and men, to read your speech and give honest feedback. This will help you strengthen, tighten, omit, and revise where needed. They serve as a microcosm of your eventual audience.
  5. Create PowerPoint. You may delegate this to a team member who’s up on current trends in design, photos, font size, colors, etc. Your PowerPoint imagery should support the event theme.
  6. Do a trial-run with a review team. Run through the entire program with a group of six to eight associates. Give everyone a copy of your speech so they can mark possible changes, comment on PowerPoint images, timing, tone, etc.
  7. Build in margin. Complete the trial-run at least a week out from the event. This gives your entire team breathing space—including you! There are plenty of other ministry responsibilities and event details to attend to in the final week.

Granted, this type of preparation spans months and requires lots of planning. But guaranteed, it will yield a much better experience for your audience because it was birthed in God’s presence and shaped by trusted associates. The best annual talks are developed over time with a Spirit-led team, and not pulled together at the last minute—solo.

 

What process do you go through to prepare an important speech? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

REINING IN AN EMAIL DISCUSSION

Email has obvious advantages and inherent disadvantages. Because it’s concise and impersonal, we can misconstrue the meaning behind the words. And if a handful of people are part of an email deliberation, decision-making can become unwieldy. Knowing when to rein in an email discussion is an important leadership skill.

Recently, a pressing decision shouted at me from a sticky note near my computer. I sent an email to two groups of decision-makers, hoping we’d quickly agree on a course of action. But over the next few days, my Inbox lit up with ideas and opinions. Instead of leading to consensus, the perspectives spread out like wildfire.

So I scheduled a face-to-face meeting and we were able to come to a decision in 30 minutes. (An alternative would be a conference call.)

How to Reach Consensus Following an Email Discussion

  1. Start with prayer. This doesn’t go without saying. In the urgency of ministry life, it can be tempting to launch into horizontal conversation before vertically acknowledging our Father. But aligning ourselves with God is essential.
  2. Lay a biblical foundation. Resist using a verse that seems to support your opinion. Instead, choose something like James 3:17 that describes God’s wisdom as pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
  3. Invite people to share. Give each person the opportunity to unpack their perspective, rationale, and opinion on what the final decision should be.
  4. Listen carefully. Listen to each person’s words with a desire to truly understand where they’re coming from. Honor the gifting God has given them; the lens they see through.
  5. Address any tension. If divergent opinions stir up conflict along the way or within the meeting, deal with it biblically—in truth, honor, and love. Mature team members may initiate this on their own; otherwise encourage apologies and forgiveness.
  6. Share your perspective last. Expressing your opinion first may hinder others from sharing freely, and gives it undue weight because of your position. Plus, you’ll glean more of God’s wisdom as you listen to others’ perspectives.
  7. Ask for responses. After you share your recommendation, invite the others to weigh in with any needed tweaks or adjustments.
  8. Reach agreement. When you esteem and include other key decision-makers, God’s fully-orbed wisdom will emerge. And in addition to making a good decision, you’ve strengthened your relationships. (If you don’t reach agreement, continue to wait on God in successive in-person meetings.)

There’s nothing wrong with expediting decisions through emails, texts, etc. But it’s important to monitor if you’re progressing in relational cohesion toward a sound decision. Wise leaders discern whether electronic communication is yielding unity and consensus, and call for a face-to-face meeting when it’s not.

 

What issues have you faced with electronic communication, and how has God helped you to deal with them? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

THE VOICE CHOICE

There are two primary voices vying for a leader’s attention. Knowing how to distinguish and deal with them is a critical leadership skill.

As I sat down to pray about this week’s blog, I knew I was in trouble. I positioned myself near our puppy’s pen so she could see me. Maybe that will keep her from barking, I thought. Not to be. Ear-piercing, brain-jangling barks filled the room. I tried ignoring her. More barking. I tried reprimanding her. Louder barking. I tried giving her a small plate of chicken pieces. Short-lived reprieve, then… “Woof-woof! WOOF-WOOF!” Arghh!

It reminded me of how incessant and soul-penetrating the enemy’s voice can be if we let it. So how do we differentiate it from God’s? The best way to know the enemy’s voice is to know God’s voice really, really well.

Characteristics of God’s Voice

  1. Truth-filled. Everything God says lines up with His Word. Words and thoughts from God are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy. They anchor our souls.
  2. Peaceful. Through Jesus, we’re reconciled to God. Words from God’s Spirit affirm your rock-solid position in God, bringing confidence and peace.
  3. Strengthening. Jesus is a High Priest who understands our weaknesses, but He doesn’t leave us there. Through His words, we are built up in truth and strengthened.

Characteristics of Satan’s Voice 

  1. Laced with lies. Whether boldfaced or subtle, Satan’s messages are founded in non-truth. They’ll often pull your attention onto circumstances, yourself, or others in a distorted way. Anyplace but on God—that’s Satan’s goal.
  2. Stressful.  If Satan can get you agitated, irritated, anxious, depressed, or angry… he’s duped you out of your peaceful position in Christ.
  3. Weakening. Satan wants to lure you away from the shelter of God’s truth, and get you entangled in negative self-talk. He wants you to wallow in weakness, and then condemns you for feeling weak.

How to Deal with the Message

  1. Accept or reject it. Examine the content of the message. Is it something God would say? If not, don’t receive it. When a false message or thought comes my way, I picture it like water on a duck’s back, rolling right off.
  2. Correct it. Pay attention to your thoughts. If they don’t line up with God’s, correct them. During a busy stretch of days, I thought to myself, “This is too much.” I realized where that thought came from and replaced it with, “God, You are too much.” As I reveled in His goodness and greatness, the feeling of overload left.
  3. Stand in truth. I picture myself like a tree. My roots are reaching deeper into the soil of God’s love. My trunk is growing stronger in the truth of who God is and who He says I am. And my branches are stretched out in praise, laden with the fruit He’s producing.

Leaders are bombarded by messages and voices all day long. Whether it’s your own thoughts, someone else’s input, or messages from your Heavenly Father or the Father of Lies, there are just two types of content: truth and non-truth. Wise leaders intentionally choose the voice of Truth and lose the voice of lies.

 

 

What’s one way you’ve learned, as a leader, to ward off the enemy’s lies and stay anchored in God’s truth? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

GOD’S WILL: THE THRILL OF DISCOVERING IT WITH OTHERS

You hole up with God. He reveals His vision for your ministry’s future. You share it with others. They embrace it. Does it get any better than that? I’m here to say that it does.

My adventure-seeking husband has been to places near and far—on business trips and snowmobile ventures. When he gets home, he invariably says, “Lisa, I want to take you there!” He wants me, his best friend and bride, to see what he’s seen. He wants us to experience it together.

This is not unlike what our heavenly bridegroom, Jesus, wants to experience with His bride, the body of Christ. He delights to take a group of people on a journey of discovering His will—together.

At our ministry, we’ve learned the value of what we call corporate discernment. Instead of me holing up with God solo, we join together to seek God’s heart and will for the ministry. Watch this visual metaphor of the process:

4 Benefits of Corporate Discernment

  1. Each has a piece. When you and your board members, or you and a team of staffers, pull together to hear God’s heart, each person has ears to hear. God will often distribute portions of His will to different people, and each one does their part in voicing what they’ve sensed.
  2. Jesus has the full picture. When two are three are gathered, Jesus is in the midst. He’s in the center. He has the full, complete picture in His mind. His Spirit prompts and encourages as people express various aspects, and then He pieces it all together.
  3. You discover it together. With each person listening, each person contributing, and each person watching God highlight key elements and placing them into a cohesive picture—you have the joy of shared discovery.
  4. There’s greater buy-in. When appropriate team members participate in the discernment process, they are energized by God’s Spirit to carry out their part of the new vision.

Wise leaders realize they don’t have a corner on the market of discerning God’s will for their ministry. While they often play a key role, they don’t play a solo. God’s manifold wisdom is best discerned corporately and rolled out in glorious harmony.

 

What benefits have you experienced from corporate discernment? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

A SHINING LIGHT FOR JESUS

Our ministry family is grieving the loss and celebrating the life of Carol Weaver—a beloved friend, sister in the Lord, and co-laborer in the gospel.

Carol Weaver    Director of Post-abortion Ministry   Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services

Carol began volunteering at our ministry in 1997. She became director of one of our centers in 1999 and has directed our post-abortion ministry since 2004. She and her husband Tim have three married daughters and eight grandchildren.

Carol was known for her vibrant love for Jesus, her deep compassion for people, and her passionate faith and prayer. Her life impacted each staff member and volunteer at our ministry, and the countless individuals she counseled or trained in post-abortion recovery.

When Carol first began post-abortion ministry, she’d say, “People come to me in such bondage because of the guilt they’re carrying. I have to try to keep a lid on my enthusiasm because I have so much faith that God will forgive them and set them free!”

Carol’s contagious joy was rooted in her love for Jesus and His Word. She saw people with Jesus’ eyes, and went out of her way to talk to and pray with strangers. Recently, she prayed with a woman in a grocery store who said to her afterwards, “You’re the first person in weeks who paid attention to me and spoke kindly to me.”

Carol was an exemplary shepherd-leader. She walked so closely with the Good Shepherd that His qualities emanated through her. When you were in her presence, you experienced the presence and love of God.

If Carol were here to read these words or hear the many, many accolades she’s receiving, she would say, “Well, glory to God! It’s all Him anyway!”

While our hearts break with the pain of earthly separation, our spirits soar with the joy of heaven’s reality. We know Carol is with Jesus forever.

We love you SO MUCH, Carol! We’ll see you on the other side.

“Be God’s children,

blameless, sincere and wholesome,

living in a warped and diseased world,

and shining there like lights in a dark place.

For you hold in your hands the very word of life.”

Philippians 2:15b-16a

 

If you knew Carol, or knew of her ministry at SVPS, please feel free to share your memories in the Comment Section below.

THE BEAUTY OF AGREEMENT

There is profound beauty when a man and woman say “I do.” It becomes even more profound when they reach agreement after their first major conflict. There’s something spectacular about two deeply different individuals honoring, listening, and submitting to one another to come to a place of harmony.

In the context of leadership and ministry, there’s no end to divergent personalities, different opinions, and disagreements. These are natural. In God’s wisdom, He designed each of us to carry just portions of His characteristics and giftings. The key is to work toward a heartfelt, multifaceted agreement that’s representative of His will.

6 Keys to Reaching Multifaceted Agreement

  1. Truly value your coworkers as image-bearers of God.
  2. Seek understanding. Listen with the goal of truly comprehending your coworkers’ perspectives.
  3. Express your opinion. Your perspective is important too. Share it with conviction and humility.
  4. Give honest feedback. “Hold up mirrors” to each other, so you can see yourself from others’ viewpoints.
  5. Be malleable. God wants to shape you and your coworkers into a cohesive whole—both relationally and practically, regarding the topic on the table.
  6. Embrace God’s wisdom. Move forward in God’s will, heart-to-heart, hand-in-hand, as one.

Watch this YouTube, looking for these aspects of the beauty of agreement: symmetry, coordination, complimentary gifts, deferring to one another, blending, synergy, glory to God.

Perhaps the most vivid picture of agreement in the Bible is found in Psalm 133:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron,

running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Notice all the exclamation points throughout this Psalm. There is great joy and excessive goodness in unity! Leaders who want the fullness of God’s blessing in their ministries cultivate the beauty of relational agreement.

How do you cultivate relational agreement in your ministry? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

WHOSE ONE-MAN SHOW?

As leaders, especially in our early days, we can fall for the notion that it’s up to us to keep everything going. Here’s a visual metaphor of what it looks like.

Initially, it’s pretty impressive to watch how talented that guy is, and to see the huge variety of instruments he’s able to play. But if you convert that to the world of organizations—where responsibilities and projects and events are nonstop—a one-man show quickly fades from being impressive to impossible.

Here’s how the guy playing all those instruments ended up.

Inevitable Results of One-Man Shows in Ministry

  1. Pride
  2. Lack of participation from others.
  3. Unrealistic vision, according to one person’s discernment.
  4. Narrowed impact, restricted by one person’s gifting.
  5. Exhaustion

There is only one person qualified to run a true one-man show in ministry—God Himself. And the beauty of how He does it is in conjunction with others. He’s a Father, we’re His children, and He takes great pleasure in including us in His work. But there’s no doubt who’s leading, who’s orchestrating, who’s conducting. Take a look at a vastly different visual metaphor—with God on center stage.

Results of God’s Leadership in Ministry

  1. God receives glory; we remain humble.
  2. Everyone’s gifting is incorporated; there’s amazing synergy.
  3. God has clearly revealed His vision, and everyone caught it.
  4. There is an astounding impact as God’s “song” is masterfully led and played.
  5. There is celebration afterwards; not exhaustion.

When God is actively leading a ministry—like the conductor in this YouTube—it’s because He’s been intentionally sought. Leaders who acknowledge God as the True Leader stop running their own one-man show and ensure that He’s front and center. They invite their teams to participate in seeking and honoring Him, and the results are astounding.

 

In what ways do you invite God to lead your ministry? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

GO WITH YOUR GUT?

It happens all the time in leadership. You have to make a critical decision in the next hour or the next day. Either way, there’s pressure to decide quickly. So how do you do that?

It’s tempting to go with your gut—to do what feels right in the core of your being. We’ve all done it. But is the core of our being always lined up with God’s wisdom?

Recently, a late-breaking opportunity/assignment came across my desk. I was asked to present material for a training video that would be used nationally. Opportunity-wise, I could help the national group. Assignment-wise, it would take time I didn’t have. Gut-wise, it was out of my comfort zone and I didn’t relish the added pressure.

I spoke with a colleague about it. Her first words were, “Seems like a distraction to me.” She knew my busy schedule and the importance of my current tasks.

I said, “Let’s pray about it,” and we did. As we prayed, my gut became more aligned with God’s heart. I began to see things from the national group’s perspective, and could see why they’d want leaders from the field to participate. More and more, it seemed like something I should say yes to. After we prayed, my colleague said, “The word ‘availability’ came to mind during our prayer.”

Ugh. That was the confirmation I needed. I essentially dropped everything, pressed through the weirdness of doing a sample videotaping—knowing it was what God wanted me to do—and sent it off to the videographer.

Had I gone with my gut, I would’ve bowed out gracefully. But had I gone with my gut, I would’ve missed God’s intention for me.

How to Go with the Spirit

  1. Acknowledge your gut. God already knows your instinctive feelings about the situation, but it’s helpful to express them to Him. Doing so will help you discern any influence from your flesh, and God will begin to align you with His Spirit.
  2. Find a trusted associate. You won’t always have time to include someone else in the discernment, but when you’re able to—it will be invaluable. You’ll gain their objectivity and their participation in prayer.
  3. Ask God for perspective. Be as open-minded as possible, and sincerely ask God for His wisdom. He wants to lead you, He wants you to hear His voice, and He will speak as you listen.
  4. Allow yourself to adjust. If what you’ve heard from God is different from your initial inclination, He’ll help you shift your emotions and make the necessary changes.
  5. Confidently obey. When you’ve made your decision according to God’s Word and Spirit, you are good to go. Press forward and be assured that God is with you as you carry it out.

In the fast-paced world of leadership, it’s tempting to make gut decisions on the fly, hoping for the best. But leaders who take time to press into God and go with the Spirit’s leading—and not just their gut—have a far better track record of making sound decisions.

 

Think of a time your gut said one thing and God said another. Feel free to share your scenario in the Comment Section below.

How to Have Cultural Integrity at Board Meetings

The culture of a ministry is the foundational beliefs and values on which its relationships and decision-making are built. Godly leaders establish cultural consistency throughout the organization, even at board meetings.

The three cultural foundation stones at our ministry are:

1) honoring God

2) cultivating healthy relationships with each other

3) seeking God’s wisdom for decision-making

Anytime two or three staff members are in a meeting, we’re intentional about engaging with God as our Father, connecting with each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus, and discerning the Spirit’s plans for the ministry. It keeps us aligned with God. It’s invigorating for us. And it’s powerful for the ministry.

If you’ve read my blogs, you know that we’re proactive about engaging in our culture at board meetings as well. (5 Keys to Productive & Enjoyable Board Meetings, How to Take the Bored out of Board Meetings, Freshly Baked Bread at Board Meetings.)

These “Family Times” have primarily been staff-led—probably because it’s the world we live and function in, and it’s easy for us to carry it into board meetings. But recently, God impressed on us the importance of board members taking a turn. That way each person’s gifting and relationship with the Lord can influence these meaningful times together.

4 Steps for Inviting Board Leadership in Ministry Culture

  • Discuss it with the board chairperson. Anytime you sense a new thrust for board meetings, you’ll want to talk about it privately with your board chairperson to seek his or her perspective.
  • Share it with the full board. When you and your board chairperson come to an agreement, decide who will communicate it to the rest of the board members at the next meeting. Explain the value of having each person take a turn leading your board in an intentional time of engaging in your organization’s culture.
  • Give direction for culture infusion. While your board members have likely experienced your culture at board meetings, it’s different to be in the driver’s seat. Talk through a few guidelines regarding purpose, types of activities, and time frame.
  • Create a schedule. Map out a sequence of who will provide leadership for the culture activity over the next year. Include yourself and staff members who participate in board meetings. A week before the meeting, send a simple reminder to the person who’s leading.

For organizational culture to have integrity, it must be actively engaged in throughout your organization. Mentally comb through the various groupings of people in your organization—from volunteers, to staff, to board members—and assess the healthiness of the culture at each level. If you detect gaps or weak areas, work toward strengthening them. Great leaders ensure that their organizational culture is systemic and thriving.

 

Describe how your board participates in your ministry culture at board meetings. Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

 

METAPHORICALLY WRITING

Leaders are born with a megaphone at their mouth and a laptop at their fingertips. Whether they’re giving stadium keynotes or elevator speeches, writing year-end appeals or weekly thank you notes, they paint the sky with their impassioned, flowery words. But… leaders who learn to write tight have happier readers.

Did you catch what I just did? In two sentences, I overloaded you with mixed metaphors and took you from cheerleading to technology to multi-sized venues and letters, and then switched to art and even nature!

I know this because I’m guilty of it. My book editor catches mixed metaphors all throughout my writing. Here are some tips I’ve learned. Let’s put them in the context of writing a fund raising letter.

How to Use Metaphor in an Appeal Letter

  1. Determine the core. Most appeal letters contain a real-life story of the organization’s impact on an individual’s life. Before you begin writing, review the story and search for a singular theme. Find the client’s most deeply felt need and how God used your ministry to meet it.
  2. Choose a metaphor. Look for a way to describe the central theme you’ve chosen. Maybe the person had no hope, and you’ll illustrate that with phrases like, “Kara had lost her footing,” or “Kara felt like she was in quicksand.” And you’ll go on to describe how your ministry spoke truth that was “solid ground” for Kara, or built a “firm foundation” in her life.
  3. Don’t overdo it. Instead of being effective, overused metaphors can be distracting or even unintentionally humorous. Reinforce the metaphor concept enough times without becoming repetitive. You want people to feel the story, not your writing.
  4. Select appropriate pictures. Many organizations purchase online photographs to represent their clients. Look for pictures of an individual in various moods and activities, and choose those that fit. For Kara, find one where she’s staring out a window looking hopeless, and maybe another one where she’s walking confidently on a pathway (conveying solid ground).

In a recent fund raising letter, I used the metaphor of “drowning” to describe a client who was overwhelmed, and coupled it with the word “lifeline” to convey our vital help. See if you can find a total of 12 references to that metaphor as you look at the mailing envelope and letter. Can you see how using only one metaphor brings cohesion to the entire letter?

Jesus was famous for using metaphor as He communicated. Notice how clear, tight, and powerful His words are:

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?’ Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35).

Most leaders are passionate communicators and inadvertently mix metaphors to strengthen their messages. But just like Jesus, leaders who streamline their metaphors and pare down their words don’t diminish their messages; they enhance them.

 

What’s one writing tip you’ve learned in your leadership journey? Feel free to share it in the Comment Section below.