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.

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.

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.

 

 

HEAR GOD’S UNSPOKEN SPEECH

As leaders, we listen to important words day in and day out. If we’re not careful, though, we can be deaf to the most significant words of all. Let’s learn to tune in.

Creation is constantly pouring forth knowledge about God (Ps. 19:1-2). There’s no lack of words on God’s part; just a lack of hearing on ours.

The other morning, I planned to go outside to be with God. No go. It was pouring rain. I stood in our sunroom looking through the drenched, dreary windows. What a bummer.

I settled into my God chair and turned to Psalm 119—the chapter I’d been reading on vacation. Verses about God’s love drew my attention:

  • “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord” (Ps. 119:41).
  • “The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love” (Ps. 119:64).
  • “In your steadfast love, give me life” (Ps. 119:88).

God’s theme for the morning became obvious—His love for me. I got up to check on the rain. This time, I was drawn to a stained-glass piece of artwork, its beauty undiminished by the darkness.

“Like My love for you, Lisa. It’s never dampened by circumstances. It’s always vibrant. You just need eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to receive.”

Even through artwork, God was revealing Himself. He spoke volumes that morning about the “shining sun” of His truth lighting my path, the “ocean” of His love buoying me up, and the “sailboat” of my life, crimson in color, like the blood of Jesus, my Savior and Lord.

Simple, sustaining truths. My sails were filled afresh with His Spirit; positioned to follow His lead for the day.

How to Hear God’s Unspoken Speech

  1. Desire to. If your heart isn’t inclined toward God, ask Him to help you want to hear from Him. He will.
  2. Listen. We’re good at tuning out background noise. But the knowledge of God—spoken forth by creation—can become prominent whenever we quiet ourselves to hear it.
  3. Look around. See your surroundings with God’s eyes. Is He drawing your attention to something specific that conveys a spiritual truth?
  4. Look in the Word. All of God’s communication is rooted in Scripture. As you interact with God, you’ll find confirmation and further inspiration in the Word.
  5. Receive. Whether it’s a single word, a verse, or a heart-filling expression of His love, take in what God has for you.

I had to laugh when I looked up the Hebrew word for “pour” in Psalm 19:2a—“Day after day they pour forth speech.” It means to belch forth, to eagerly utter, to bubble up. The last part of the verse says, “… night after night they reveal knowledge.” “Reveal” in Hebrew means to show or declare.

There’s nothing passive about these words. I picture God bursting through nature to provide the most enlightening show-and-tell we could ever experience. As leaders surrounded by voices all day long, let’s tune into the glorious surround-sound of God’s creation revelation.

 

How do you focus on God’s voice in the midst of many? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

“LOOK AT ME”

Remember riding a merry-go-round as a kid and watching your surroundings turn into one big blur? I used to focus really hard on a nearby tree and try to hold it in my gaze, only to have it swoosh away. Leadership can be like that. The plethora of projects can be head-spinning and ADHD-inducing, unless we regain our focus.

My husband and I have a 3-month-old puppy with a severe case of ADHD. Within one minute, she’ll chase a ball, notice her water dish, stop abruptly to lap up some water, lunge at our ankles for a quick nip, twirl around to attack the rug, and inadvertently bump into her ball, which scares her silly and sets off a cacophony of barks.

Our only hope at directing her behavior is to get her to look us in the eye. We say, “Look at me,” as we hold a treat near our eyes, and then reward her when she does. It’s not easy and it takes lots of repetition, but when she locks eyes with us, she’s all ours. She’ll sit, lie down, get back up, and stand on command. It’s an amazing—albeit short-lived, for now—transformation.

3 Benefits of Looking at Jesus

  1. Better view. Jesus is exalted. Reigning. Sovereign. Full of peace, goodness, and love for you. As you lift your eyes off your projects and onto Him, you’ll be freshly awed by the grandeur of His heart and character.
  2. Truer perspective. As you feast on Jesus and His Word, you’ll see your projects from His point of view and glean His wisdom for working on them.
  3. Greater direction. Instead of flitting from project to project, when you fix your eyes on Jesus, you’ll sense His priorities and guidance.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” The Greek word for “looking to” is aphoreό, which means “to look away from all else” (Bible Hub Interlinear Greek). So when Jesus says to us, “Look at Me,” He’s saying, “Stop looking at all your projects and gaze on Me for a while. I’m the initiator, sustainer, and perfecter of everything that concerns you.” Leaders who develop a regular habit of looking to Jesus will experience His presence, His peace, and His productivity.

 

What’s your workday like when you don’t look to Jesus vs. when you do? Feel free to share your experience in the Comment Section below.

 

HOW TO HAVE EYES THAT SEE

God gifts leaders with vision, administrative ability, and people skills. But one of His greatest gifts is the ability to see with spiritual eyes. Let’s learn how to strengthen this ability.

Source: Google Images

My husband, Ron, and I stood on a pier overlooking a shallow body of water. To my surprise, a whole group of carp swam right up to us. “Oh my word,” I said to Ron. “Can you believe that?!” He said, “What? What do you mean? What are you looking at?” I pointed to the water and said, “Can’t you see them, they’re right there!” He said, “See what? All I see is the water!” Suddenly, I realized I could see into the water because of my sunglasses. I gave them to Ron and his mouth dropped open when he saw the school of carp.

Years ago at the ministry, we needed a speaker to do sexual integrity presentations in public schools. I’d done them for years, but the ministry had grown and I no longer had time. Over a period of weeks, we prayed God would provide a gifted communicator who could take the message to the next level. We spread the word to youth leaders, but no one came forward. We continued praying, and one day over lunch we were discussing our need for a speaker. As I described the type of person we needed, our events assistant threw her arms in the air and said, “That’s me! That’s totally me! I did theater all through college, and I’m passionate about purity. I’d love to do that!” Suddenly our eyes were opened, and we realized she would be perfect for the position. And she was. She’d been there all along, but only through prayer and discussion did God make it clear.

5 Ways to Sharpen Your Spiritual Vision

  1. Close your eyes and pray. You don’t have to close your eyes, but there’s something about shutting out the earthly realm and tuning into God’s realm that helps us see what He’s seeing. Talk with God about your situation.
  2. Ask God for wisdom. God’s wisdom is multifaceted, and His thoughts and ways are greater than ours. Ask with a willingness to lay aside your opinions and perspectives, and reach for His.
  3. Look for signposts in the Word. God desires to light the pathway for us, and He’ll often do that with specific Scripture passages and verses.
  4. Keep your spiritual antennae up. Nothing spooky here; just pay attention to how the Spirit may be leading through conversations and circumstances during your season of discernment.
  5. Discuss what you’re sensing. It’s best to have two or three others joining you in a time of discernment, and to gather periodically for prayer and discussion. God often gives each person a piece of the puzzle and then fits it all together.

God has 20/20 vision, and He wants to share it with us. In Jeremiah 33:3, He says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” As a leader, if you want to sharpen your spiritual vision, call out to Him in prayer, spend time in the Word, and invite others to join you.

 

How has God sharpened your spiritual vision? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR HEART SOFT

Just like doctors can become calloused to the physical suffering of their patients, we as leaders can become hardened to the people in our ministry and lives. It can be painful to walk with them through their struggles time and again, and sometimes we wish we didn’t feel so deeply. It’s tempting to harden up a bit.

Recently, a friend and I were both in the throes of navigating through troubling situations with others. We were lamenting about our empathetic hearts, and how painful it is to experience people making unwise choices. We wondered out loud if it would be better to just toughen up so we wouldn’t feel so deeply. But we both knew the answer—God designed us that way, and He wants us to be Christlike in our response to others.

So, whether it’s dealing with difficult relationships in the ministry, repetitive situations with clients, or heart-rending scenarios on the home front—my friend and I committed to have soft, Christlike hearts.

3 Keys to a Christlike Heart

1) See with Jesus’ eyes.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36 ESV).

Jesus didn’t just see the unruly, irritable, and self-centered people; He saw the reason behind it—they weren’t in a relationship with Him. When engaging with people, let’s look beneath the surface. Instead of reacting to their behavior in judgment, let’s respond in honor—seeing them as individuals made in God’s image, designed to be in a close relationship with Him.

2) Feel with Jesus’ heart.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15 ESV).

From first-hand experience, Jesus understands what it’s like to live in this fallen world. He empathizes with our lack of strength and propensity to sin, and He calls us to Himself. Let’s be like Jesus. When people are messing up around us, let’s have empathy and let’s help them find grace in their time of need.

3) Love like Jesus did.

“There came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean’” (Luke 5:12-13 ESV).

Jesus didn’t recoil from needy, sick people. He moved toward them and touched them. Let’s embrace the hurting people in our lives. Let’s intentionally accept them, affirm them, and share God’s truth with them.

Leaders encounter challenging people almost daily. To keep from becoming jaded, leaders can press into Jesus, remember His sympathy and love toward them, and extend that love to others.

 

How has God helped you keep your heart soft toward others? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.