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.

GOD’S ONE-TWO PUNCH

Leaders are doers, movers, and shakers. But if that’s all they are, their efforts can amount to shadowboxing. Thankfully, God has a one-two punch that’s powerfully effective and worth learning.

It was our monthly retreat to plan state-wide initiatives. Given the scope of our outreach, we could’ve felt the pressure and packed our agenda. But since God was carrying the load and designed us for relationship, that’s where we started. We took our time honoring Him through worship, Scripture, and prayer. And then we honored one another. We listened and prayed, as each person shared their latest challenge. With hearts alive in God and soft toward one another, we delved into discernment and decision-making.

By the end of the day, our relationships were deeper and our mission was advanced. One woman observed, “This feels like a support group.” Someone else added, “Yes, the best kind—a support group with purpose.” Combine authentic relationships with kingdom purpose, and you have a powerful one-two punch.

Remember C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, that gives voice to the enemy’s devious plans? If Satan was scheming against ministry leaders—and he is—it would sound something like this:

Satan’s Diabolical Schemes Against Leaders

  1. “Let’s make them think they’re at their best when they’re uber busy.”
  1. “Yes, and let’s use that load of busyness to short circuit their devotion to God.”
  1. “Perfect! Let’s take it a step further and keep them self-protective and reluctant to open up to their brothers and sisters in Christ.”
  1. “Hahaha! That’s brilliant. We’ll keep them from the two sources of greatest help—their Lord and the so-called body of Christ.”
  1. “Right! So busyness is their king, and they’re operating solo—apart from their real King and their brothers and sisters.”
  1. “Sounds like they’ll be doing a lot of shadowboxing!”
  1. “You gotta love it!”

As Christian leaders, we have the Spirit of Truth to combat the enemy’s lies:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…

and, love your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Share each other’s burdens…

Galatians 6:2 (NLT)

Two are better than one,

because they have a good reward for their toil.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 (ESV)

…standing firm in one spirit,

with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

Philippians 1:27 (ESV)

For we are God’s fellow workers.

1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)

 

There is never a shortage of work in leadership. Because of that, it’s tempting to keep our noses to the grindstone. But leaders who do that lose their vitality and productivity. Let’s take God’s Word to heart. Let’s actively love Him and our co-laborers, and advance God’s kingdom together. In the process, the enemy will be on the receiving end of God’s one-two punch.

 

How do you reconcile incessant busyness with God’s invitation for relationship? Please share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

 

Elements of Enriching Staff Meetings

Staff meetings can be as satisfying as homemade bread or as stale as yesterday’s toast. As a leader, you want to serve up valuable meetings. The key is using the right ingredients and keeping it fresh.

The word meeting has gotten a bad rap, and for good reason. Tell someone you’re going to one, and they’ll say, “Oh man, sorry about that,” or, “Hope it goes quickly.” And it’s true! Meetings are notoriously boring, lop-sided in participation, and way too long. But they don’t have to be.

How can you ensure your organization’s Staff Meetings are worthwhile?

It’s natural to put on your CEO hat and plan Staff Meetings that are informative and productive. But put on your “BOC” hat instead, and plan from a Body of Christ perspective. Think of your staff members as brothers and sisters in Christ engaged in kingdom work. Realize they’re ultimately serving their King, the true CEO of your ministry. And remember their King is also their heavenly Father, so He wants to nurture them as they serve. With this perspective, your meetings will be informative and productive, and they’ll also be replenishing and inspiring.

3 Primary Ingredients for Great Staff Meetings

  1. Connect with God. As our Father, God is relational and longs to spend quality time with us. At our ministry, we engage with God for about 45 minutes of a three-hour Staff Meeting. We invite staffers to lead the time, and it might include musical worship, an inspirational story, drama, a creative activity, a scriptural focus with journaling, etc.

We also talk with God throughout our meetings. If we discuss an important area of outreach or a new dimension to a fundraiser, we ask a few staffers to pray for His blessing. When staffers join or leave our ministry, we gather around them for a special time of prayer.

  1. Connect with One Another. As sons and daughters of God, we’re family members. We want to know each other as people, not just as coworkers. We devote portions of the meeting to a thought-provoking question or spiritually-encouraging topic. Sometimes we do this as a whole group; sometimes in small groups. Or we may engage in an activity or lesson from a client curriculum, or work through a spiritual gifts inventory.
  1. Connect with Mission. God is purposeful in everything He does, and He invites us into His specific mission for our organization. We discuss the latest initiatives within our ministry – whether client-related, employee-related, or new resources we’re developing for the Church. Often, staffers from various departments provide updates, so we can value each aspect of the ministry and stay current with what God’s doing. Occasionally, we watch a pertinent video, allowing God to stir our hearts anew.

3 Secondary Ingredients of Great Staff Meetings.

  1. Fun and laughter. Get a bunch of people together who love God, love each other, and love their shared mission, and there will be lots of conversation, laughter, and heartfelt tears.
  1. Breathing space and flexibility. Keep your schedule open-ended, with room for some segments to go longer and others to be omitted, and your staffers will appreciate the relaxed pace.
  1. Coffee and treats. Nothing fancy. Just a few essential beverages and a few simple snacks will go a long way in providing the “comforts of home.”

Meetings can be content-heavy and relationally weak, or lightweight and frivolous. The best meetings have ample time for connecting with God and one another, on mission together.

 

What elements or activities do you most appreciate in your organization’s Staff Meetings? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

HOW TO VALUE EMPLOYEES AS WHOLE PEOPLE

As leaders, we can have tunnel vision when it comes to our employees – primarily focusing on their time at work. We want it to be effective for our ministries and life-giving for them. But employees are whole people, with lives outside of work, and family-friendly policies will go a long way in showing them you care.

I recently sat down with an employee to hear her feedback on the ministry. We had a great conversation and she shared many ways she’d been blessed by serving with us. At the very end she said, “I don’t know if it’s appropriate to bring this up, but I wondered if you would ever consider prorated holidays for part-timers.” She’d received this benefit from a former employer and explained the hardship a holiday presents for a part-timer. “When a holiday falls on my normal work day, I don’t work that day, but then I try to make up the time during the pay period so I don’t get behind in my work and so my paycheck is consistent.”

Our leadership team discussed her request and saw the wisdom in making the change. Not only would it alleviate pressure in her personal schedule around holidays – it would bless her family because she’d be available to them instead of squeezing in additional hours.

3 Family-Friendly, Budget-Neutral Policies

  1. Prorated Paid Holidays for Part-Timers. If a part-time employee would normally work six hours on a particular holiday, allow him to take the day off and pay him for those six hours. Trust that productivity will be ensured through the normal ebbs and flows of the workload.
  1. Sick Days for Family Care. Allow employees to use a portion of their personal sick time to care for family members who are ill or in need of some type of health intervention. This can be extended on a case-by-case basis.
  1. Sabbath-Break between Christmas and New Year’s. If it’s feasible for your organization, close from Christmas Eve through the federally observed New Year’s Day holiday. Give your employees this entire time off with their normal pay – whether full- or part-time.

3 Biblical Principles about Valuing Employees

  1. God treats us as children, not commodities. He sees us as people – sons and daughters – not slaves. He cares deeply for our well-being and wants our lives to have a good balance of fulfilling work and replenishing rest. Let’s follow suit in our employee policies.
  1. An employee’s life is 24/7 kingdom. The work employees do for our organizations isn’t in a category all its own – as far as its impact for God’s kingdom. Their time spent with family, friends, church commitments, and leisure is all part of how they’re living for God. Let’s honor this reality.
  1. God ordained families. By God’s design, families are the primary crucible of intimacy and security for individuals. Work is also designed by God, advancing His kingdom and enabling people to provide for their families. But let’s develop policies that acknowledge the God-given role family plays within employees’ lives.

As our ministry has grown in God’s wisdom and ways, we’ve grown in His life-giving rhythms of Sabbath rest. When our employees received the unexpected news of these family-friendly policies, there were whoops of joy and tears of gratitude. One employee said, “This is just one more beautiful expression of the way this ministry values life. Thank you!”

When you develop family-friendly employee benefits, you create a win-win-win for your employees, their families, and your organization.

 

What impact have you witnessed or experienced from family-friendly employee policies? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

THANK ONE PERSON

Remember those awkward pre-leadership days of not having a clear calling or definitive direction for your life? I sure do! And if you’re like me, there were a few people who believed in you, prayed for you, and gave input that shaped the course of your leadership. Have you thanked them recently?

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I did some reminiscing last week as I drove past the road leading to my writing coach’s house. I thought of how she regularly pointed out positive traits she saw in me when I was a fledgling leader. My mind drifted back to a junior high youth leader who said, “There’s a calling on your life, Lisa. I’m committing to pray for you about that.” I thought of a college advisor who slipped a note in my mailbox saying he believed in me and saw leadership qualities in me. And the speaker at my first leadership retreat who pulled me aside to say he observed spiritual maturity in me from my interactions during sessions and with others.

My heart swelled with gratitude as I thought of the impact their comments had in my life. In the midst of uncertainties, their comments were stepping stones that kept me pursuing God and the service path He had for me.

So the next day, I sent a hand-written note to my writing coach, thanking her for encouraging me through the years.

Can You Thank Someone Today?

How about you? Is there someone who’s encouraged you as a leader that you could thank today?

  1. You could give them a quick call.
  1. You could email them.
  1. You could send them a card.
  1. Better yet – if they live close by – you could line up a get-together and share what God’s been doing in your lives.

We don’t become leaders in a vacuum. God uses our parents, family members, and leaders in the family of God to build us up in Him and prepare us for leadership. Let’s thank them!

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,

just as you are doing… respect those who are over you in the Lord and admonish you…

esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-13

 

 

In the Comment Section below, share a brief story about someone who spoke into your life and the impact it had on you as a leader.

IF YOU BUILD IT…

Most of us can finish that sentence – “If you build it, he will come.” It’s from the 1989 Field of Dreams movie where an Iowa farmer built a baseball diamond for bygone players. Despite its fanciful Hollywood plot, the phrase contains a profound truth. If you put intentional effort into something, you usually reap results. At our ministry we’re intentionally building relationships, and everyone is being edified.

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That is, when we remember to do it! Last week I walked into my office to find two close associates sitting at my table. They were all smiles because they could tell I had no idea why they were there. A few chuckles and ribbings later, we rescheduled our “relational community” meeting that I was in charge of that day!

Afterwards, I talked with one of the associates about just how busy this season is. She responded, “But think about it. Even though it has been extra busy, every season is really full.” And I said, “Yep, and if we didn’t make it a priority to deepen our relationships with each other, it simply wouldn’t happen – because there’s always something ‘more pressing.’”

4 Reasons to Build Relationships at Your Ministry

  1. We’re children not commodities. At our core, we are children of God and not solely commodities to accomplish His work. Being children makes us brothers and sisters in the family of God – with lives outside of work, and families, and other interests. Everyone appreciates being valued for who they are and not just what they do.
  1. We’re gifted differently. Another biblical metaphor is that we’re the body of Christ and we need each other. Each staffer has a unique experience with God and specific gifting(s). As you get to know each other more deeply, these will become evident and will contribute to the effectiveness of your ministry.
  1. We’ve got opinions. In addition to our various giftings, we have a wide variety of backgrounds and divergent skill sets for decision-making. While it may take longer and be messier to give voice to others on your team, the outcome will always be stronger.
  1. We’re human. As human beings we have histories, joys, and burdens. There’s a very human heart behind everything we do and say. When we share our hearts and pray for each other, we feel cared for, we understand each other more deeply, and we’re able to engage wholeheartedly with the people and work of the ministry.

As God’s image-bearers, we’re designed for relationship – similar to the relationships within the Trinity. Just like there’s love, honor, and a knowing of one another within the Trinity, God wants us to value each other as human beings and as brothers and sisters in Christ. If you build relationships within your ministry, people will come and thrive.

 

What’s one way you build relationships within your ministry? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

WHY INTENTIONALITY MATTERS

A leader’s world can spin so fast there’s barely an opportunity to focus on God. But like Olympic divers who regularly orient themselves to the water so they can enter it splash-free – being intentional in our pursuit of God is essential to good leadership.

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At our staff’s weekly Body of Christ time in early June, we read a blog that posed the question, “When did you last see the sunrise?” I couldn’t remember, so I decided to watch a sunrise a week through the summer. We coined the phrase “Savoring God and Summer,” and one of the ways we did that was by tuning into sunrises and sunsets. We took photos and shared them with each other. All summer long we experienced a mutual appreciation for God and His magnificent painting of the skies.

It culminated on a late August morning. We’d scouted out a prime location – a chapel overlooking a tree-filled valley ridged by a mountain – and prayed for a clear morning. One by one our cars entered the dusky parking lot, and we donned our cameras. There was laughter, awe, and camaraderie as we snapped away at the kaleidoscope sky. Afterwards, we reflected on God’s goodness over bacon and eggs before heading to work.

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Sunrise photos by Lois Rhoads

4 Benefits of Being Intentional

  1. Receive God’s fresh instruction. God knows your world is spinning, and He also knows the specific way(s) He wants you to focus on Him in this season. Ask Him. He’ll speak to you as you quiet yourself to listen.
  1. Feel the excitement of joining God in a new venture. When God nudges you to intentionally engage with Him in a fresh way, take it seriously. Wholeheartedly commit to it, and watch it unfold into tangible blessings in your life.
  1. Experience its contagious nature. God sparked a desire in me to slow down and see the sunrise, and it became a wildfire of staffers savoring sunrises all summer long. A former staffer once said, “God is never just doing one thing at a time.” His goodness is contagious.
  1. Reap lasting impact. As you and your staffers seek and experience God together, you’ll form enjoyable bonds of friendship that will enhance your working relationships and advance the ministry.

In the blur of ministry, it’s important to slow down and stay focused on what’s most important – God, and the people around you. Yes, you’re focused on the people you’re serving. But if you do that without continuously feasting with the Lord and your comrades, you’ll only have stale scraps to pass on.

Stay tuned to the fresh ways God wants you to encounter Him, and be intentional about following through on them. Invite your staff to participate. When you intentionally engage God with others, you’ll experience His exponential goodness and ministry advancement together.

 

Share a fresh way God’s led you and your team to intentionally engage with Him in the Comment Section below.

LETTING GO OF OFFENSE

When we’re offended as leaders, it’s tempting to keep track of every jot and tittle – especially when it’s a long-standing, multi-layered conflict. We want to hold court and hold the offending party accountable for each aspect. But is that Jesus’ way?

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In my early years of ministry, an offense from another ministry leader rose to the level of outside mediation. I was loaded for bear as the meeting drew near, having mentally rehearsed a year’s worth of difficulty. I was also prepared to own my wrongs and forgive the other person, provided we talked through each incident chronologically. To my surprise, the mediator didn’t lead us to relive and reiterate the past – he simply highlighted a few key events. He coached us to discuss them with the goal of understanding each other’s perspective. We took responsibility for our part and extended forgiveness. We affirmed each other. And God’s love broke through.

Somehow God’s grace filled in the gaps of the “undiscussed” issues – in the way that His love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). We left the meeting with a fresh commitment to rekindle our relationship.

6 Keys to Rekindling Broken Relationships

  1. Meet together. Seek God’s wisdom on the timing and participants. If a mediator is needed, ensure both parties agree to the person and the process. Aim for a face-to-face meeting whenever possible.
  1. Narrow your focus. Ask God to help you distill your grievances into one or two primary areas. Working through these will take plenty of time and will provide sufficient footing to begin the restoration process.
  1. Seek understanding. As you’re talking through differences, try to see them from the other person’s perspective. You’ll gain a broadened view of the situation and an appreciation for the other person’s lens and gifting.
  1. Extend forgiveness. Ask forgiveness for your contribution to the problem, and offer forgiveness to the other person. Forgiveness is a powerful gift from the Lord. He first extends it to us, and then He enables us to give and receive it from others.
  1. Release the rest. Let go of the plethora of conversations and minor offenses along the way. In the spirit of forgiveness and love for the other person – entrust it to the Lord. After all, He’s the only one who truly understands the scenario completely.
  1. Commit to restoration. Discuss the next step you’ll take with the person toward renewing the relationship, and follow through. Allow God to reshape the relationship as He desires; it may look different from before.

As leaders, we try not to micromanage employees. Let’s not micromanage conflict either. Let’s deal with the overarching issues, let the rest go, and allow God’s powerful forces of grace, forgiveness, and love to mend the relationship. When you let go of an offense, you let go of a fence of division between you and another.

“Love… doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.”

1 Corinthians 13:5c  (The Message)

 

 

How has God helped you let go of offenses? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.