Lead Better by Improving the Way You Communicate   by 


You can’t lead a church, evangelize a community, or do business without communicating. And the better you become as a communicator, the better you become as a leader, and the better the team you lead becomes as a result. That means to get ahead you’ve got to continuallywork on your communication skills. Probably 75% of the problems we face, at home, at work, and at church are related to poor communication with family members, church members, your clients, or your coworkers. Poor communication is also the most frequently mentioned problem in marriage counseling.

Here are three things you must give up in order to grow as a communicator. As you lead…

Give Up Your Assumptions

We get into trouble when we start assuming we understand the meaning of what people say to us. The truth is – everything you hear goes through a filter. Your filter is determined by your past experiences and your unique personality. You may not be hearing what they are really saying. Therefore, it’s smart (and safe) to ask for clarification. There are 6 possible messages every time you speak:

  • What you mean to say and what you actually said.
  • What they heard and what they think they heard.
  • What they say about it and what you think they said about it.

Proverbs 18:13 says “It’s foolish to answer before listening.”

There is a second kind of assumption you need to give up on. Stop assuming people understand everything you’re thinking and feeling as you communicate. It’s only fair to clearly and completely share your expectations with people when you assign them a task or a project. You must find a way to be both concise and complete, and always clear when you communicate.

Give Up Your Accusations

You’re never persuasive when you’re abrasive. And you never get your point across by being cross. Anger and sarcasm only make people defensive… and defensiveness kills communication. Here are four common forms of accusation:

  • Exaggerating – making sweeping generalities like ”You never ” or “You always.”
  • Labeling – derogatory name calling. Labeling never changes anyone. It only reinforces the negative behavior.
  • Playing Historian – bringing up past failures, mistakes, and broken promises.
  • Asking Loaded Questions – which really can’t be answered, like “Can’t you do anything right?”

Ephesians 4:29 says Use only helpful words, the kind that build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Give Up Your Apprehensions

Fear prevents honest communication. It causes us to conceal our true feelings, and fail to confront the real issues. The two most common apprehensions are: the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. But when you face your fear and risk being honest – real communication can happen. Freedom is the result of openness. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free!” (John 8:32)

Good teams communicate, or they disintegrate. It’s worth giving up our assumptions, our accusations, and our apprehensions to build unity and lead everyone forward.


Boundaries for Your Teens   by Mark Gregston


It is never an easy “enlightenment” to find out that your teen has been doing things that are hardly acceptable, and it can be completely devastating when the truth comes out. Most parents are appalled. They just “can’t believe” that their child would “ever do such a thing.”

Consider the letter I received just the other day…

“Saturday night our 15-year old son informed us he felt guilty because he has been smoking pot and lying about it for the last six months. He confessed to our Assistant Pastor, whom he respects, and who encouraged our son to tell us. As you can well imagine, this has been quite a blow. My heart has been broken. I can’t stop crying. I never, ever thought I’d go down this road with him. We agree our son needs discipline, but I fear my husband will be too harsh, and it will cause my son to further rebel. What is the right thing to do here??

Troubled… –California

My Response…

You might be dealing with just an ice cube, or you might have just touched on the tip of the iceberg. Until you dive in, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the two. In the first place, try to remain calm. You have many things working in your favor in dealing with your son, such as:

  • He confessed, so you didn’t have to “find it out” or make any “new discoveries.”
  • He said he feels guilty about what he was doing.
  • He respects someone outside the family and felt comfortable telling them, and then you.
  • He’s been grounded in scriptural principles regarding his character

It is good that you are trying to get a handle on the issue. And you are wise to carefully consider the discipline that you are about to take. But, before you take the plunge, here’s something to think about. Sometimes parents are quick to hand out discipline or punishment — like grounding, extraction from social interaction, or taking away privileges or possessions. Discipline is good, but taking away something won’t always solve the problem entirely. It is only half of the solution for a teenager, who wants to also be treated more like an adult, not a child. Continue reading


A Mile in Your Shoes  by Rob Trenckmann


“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.” –Jack Handey

The power of empathy isn’t a new idea:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” –Steven Covey
“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry …” (James 1:19).
“Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue—to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.” –Socrates

Young people—perhaps more than any other age group—covet empathy. They melt when someone really listens. They bristle when we don’t. Simply put, if we listen, they listen. If we don’t, they don’t.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve listened to a student, empathized with a student, and cried with a student, and they’ve responded by saying, “I’ve never talked with anyone about this before.” Not their parents. Not their teachers. Not even their friends. Maybe most of us aren’t so good at empathizing. And maybe it’s harder than it looks.

Why are we so afraid to show empathy to students? Why do we rush to speak, to be heard, to make our opinions known? Why don’t we truly engage?

I’m not sure, actually. Empathy is one of the greatest forms of argument. It’s one of our greatest “weapons” in debate. But I wonder if it has something to do with fear.

Maybe we’re afraid that showing understanding looks the same as agreeing—and we don’t agree.

Maybe we’re afraid that if we give a little, they’ll ask us to give up everything.

Maybe we’re afraid that if we admit our own vulnerabilities and questions, it will only fuel theirs.

I, too, feel these concerns. It takes careful maneuvering to wade into the swamp of doubts and questions and challenges without sinking. It takes prayerful contemplation and nuanced reflection to engage the deepest parts of an adolescent heart. It takes patient consideration. It demands a thick skin and a sensitive heart.

It’s much easier to stand firmly in our corner and explain why we’re right. But that doesn’t work.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting we reexamine our convictions every time a 16-year-old asks a question. Nor am I saying that we give up on ultimate truth, or that we never say what we think. That’s all rubbish.

But I am saying that we must journey with our students. We need to strap on our boots and our mud pants and wade into the muck and mire of adolescent thinking and morality. This takes patience. It takes listening. It takes showing that you really understand, you really get their argument. And then it takes gentle prodding and redirection.

You’re in your best position to create understanding when you can explain their side better than they can.

You’re in your best position to share your thoughts when you’ve fully heard theirs.

You’re in your best position to stand against when you’ve first stood together.

You’re in your best position to be heard when you’ve first listened.

As a youth pastor, I often play the role of “translator” between parents and students. The interesting thing is, both sides have the same complaint: “They never listen to me!” And it’s true as they sit in my office. Neither adults nor young people tend to listen well. I think it’s up to the adults to take the first step.

And if we do, we’ll find it changes everything. We won’t always get our way—this isn’t magic. But, it does feel magical when a student’s defenses drop, their ears open, their body posture changes, and they begin to really listen. That’s the secret power of empathy.


Five Tips To Preparing For Your Child’s Adolescence   by Jim Burns

The adolescent years seem to hit from out of nowhere, and they often leave parents wondering exactly what has happened to that relatively intelligent and well-mannered child they used to call their son or daughter. Well, while it’s true there is no way you can accurately predict exactly when adolescence will begin, there are ways you can begin preparing for it so that it doesn’t seem like such a startling jolt when it does hit.

1. Regroup. How you parent your child needs to evolve as they grow into adolescence. You’ve got to be a bit more flexible during the teen years, but temper that flexibility by remaining fair and firm.

2. Recognize. Be sure to recognize the milestones in your teen’s life. The 13th birthday is a big one, as are the first prom, being able to stay out later, getting a driver’s license, and high school graduation. In marking these milestones you’re releasing them from childhood into adulthood in small, age-appropriate steps.

3. Relate. A good first objective is to “listen more and lecture less.” It’s also helpful when you remember to “major on the majors” and “minor on the minors.” In other words, try not to make a big deal out of issues that really may not be all that important while keeping an eye open for big life issues.

4. Relax. Adolescence – with all of its quirks – is perfectly normal! We all went through it, and lived to tell the tale. So will our kids. Of course, relaxing does not give you permission to avoid coaching and correcting your kids! Be proactive, striving to be fair, firm, and consistent with discipline.

5. Remember. Recall your own adolescence: think about the kinds of things you went through and how your parents handled things when you messed up. Borrow from their good examples and learn from the bad. Don’t keep score of every little mistake your child makes as a teenager. Rather, Enjoy your kids’ adolescence. These are fun and foundational years for them – and for you!


How to Use Tech Like a Teenager  by Geoffrey A. Fowler


Enough with complaining that young people these days are addicted to their phones. The question you should be asking is: What do they know that you don’t?

Believe it or not, there are advantages to using technology like a teen. I asked a handful of 11- to 17-year-olds to tell me what apps and gear they couldn’t live without. They taught me to question my own habits: Why do I use email to talk with friends? Why do I only share my best photos?

Teens are among the most creative users of technology, in part because they don’t have adults’ assumptions about how things are supposed to work.

“I will just throw away the directions and see what I can make of it,” Kapp Singer, a 14-year-old from San Francisco, told me. Continue reading


Four Big Mistakes that Lead to Ministry Burnout   by 


One of the issues that we sometimes address here at pastors.com is the issue of ministry burnout. And when we do address it, the responses are overwhelming. It’s a big issue. Why do so many Pastors burn out in ministry? It’s because of faulty thinking. Our thinking controls our emotions and our emotions control the way we act.

The problem is, when we’re at an emotional low, we typically make four common mistakes. Next week I want to talk about how to overcome these emotions and prevent burnout, but today I want you to become aware of four of the most threatening internal causes of burnout in ministry.

Mistake #1: We focus on our feelings rather than the facts.

Emotional reasoning is dangerous. Emotional reasoning says, “If I feel it, it must be so.” If I feel like a failure, I am a failure. If I don’t feel close to God, I must not be close to God. If I feel like a lousy pastor, I must be a lousy pastor. The fact is, feelings are not always facts. Your feelings will tell you that you’re helpless and hopeless, but those feelings aren’t rooted in truth.

Mistake #2: We compare ourselves to others.

When we are emotionally drained, we start comparing ourselves. The Bible warns against this over and over again. When you start comparing yourself to other people you are setting yourself up for depression. Everybody’s different. Everybody’s unique. Only you can be you. When you get to heaven, God is not going to say, “How come you weren’t more like Billy Graham?” or “How come you weren’t more like Moses?” or “How come you weren’t more like…?”

He’s really going to say, “How come you weren’t more like you?” We get emotionally burnt out because we start comparing ourselves. When we compare ourselves we compare our weaknesses with other people’s strengths. We ignore the fact that they have weaknesses that we may be strong in. We make comparisons that get us into all kinds of trouble. Continue reading


Millennials: Big Career Goals, Limited Job Prospects   by Barna Group


As graduation season wraps up, newly minted college and high school grads are entering the job market, diplomas in hand, to make their way in the world.

Here is a first-read excerpt from 20 and Something on Millennials and career.

The traditional commencement speech platitudes that welcome students into the opportunities of adulthood—”the whole world is before you”; you just have to “follow your dreams” to “make a difference”—often ring hollow in this depressed economy. Hundreds of thousands of graduating Millennials are discovering the world is not their oyster, and jobs are much harder to find than anyone had expected. As such, it’s easy to question the value of higher education. Only four in 10 twentysomethings would say they need their college degree for their current job (42%) or that it’s related to the work they’re doing (40%), and the same number wish they’d chosen a different major altogether. In the end, just under half of Millennials (47%) would strongly agree their degree was worth the cost and time.

The degree-to-job disparity seems to bother parents most of all. While only about one-third of Millennials believe universities “have my best interests at heart,” that’s nearly twice as many as Gen-Xers (15%) and four times as many as Boomers (8%). Considering most Millennials remain optimistic about someday achieving that “dream job”—52% believe it’s within reach in the next five years—they seem to believe the degree will pay off at some point.

Job Prospecting
The current economic climate poses great challenges for job-hunting twentysomethings. The employment rate of 18- to 31-year-olds in 2012 was 13%.¹ Even those young adults who are college educated are struggling to find employment; the rate of unemployment of twentysomethings who hold a BA degree or higher jumped from 7.7% in 2007 to 13.3% in just five years.

Given these statistics, it would be easy in this depressed job market for Millennials to become extremely nervous about their financial situations and cynical about work.

Yet in spite of the bleak economic landscape, Millennials remain optimistic about their future prospects. In addition to the majority who believe they’ll get their dream job, nine in 10 Millennials (88%) believe they currently have enough money or will eventually meet their long-term financial goals.² Even among the unemployed and financially strapped, 75% believe they will someday have enough money. They are more optimistic about their economic future than older generations. While 55% of Americans over fifty-five believe young people will have a worse life than their parents, fewer than half of Millennials agree.

One of the reasons Millennials are so resilient in the face of a tough job environment is that many of them refuse to be defined and confined by their job choices or lack thereof. In fact, only 31% would say career is central to their identity—listing it lower than any other factor except technology.

Millennials see their twenties as a time to explore their career options so they can find a job that will provide that sense of meaning and fulfillment. This may be a little confounding to their parents. Two-thirds of Boomers say “starting your career” is crucial in your twenties, while only half of Millennials agree.

When it comes to work and career, more than anything this generation wants to be inspired. Finding a job they are passionate about is the career priority Millennials ranked highest (42%). They don’t want a job merely for the sake of a paycheck, and they are willing to wait to find the right job. Some may interpret this willingness to wait as a sign of courage, while others may view it as colossal irresponsibility. Having grown up in an era where parents and teachers were constantly telling them they could “be whatever you want to be,” many Millennials see this decision as their prerogative, even if it means having to live off unemployment benefits or parental assistance.

Because job satisfaction and fulfillment are so important to this generation, Millennials refuse to compromise on what they want out of work, which is a lot: They cite working for themselves, a job adaptable to their strengths, having a lot of variety, and the freedom to take risks as essential career priorities, in addition to being able to fund their personal interests. Working in a positive work environment where their input is valued is extremely important to them, suggesting Millennials prefer to work in organizations where the structure is “flatter” and less hierarchical.³ Millennials want regular feedback and expect to be praised when they do a good job. They also want to work in a stimulating atmosphere, where they can release their creative passions. For many who are older, these characteristics and expectations make the Millennials a challenge to work with.

In terms of social impact, twentysomethings have demonstrated a strong desire to work at a job that has a positive impact on causes and issues that are important to them. They feel corporate employers should be socially conscious and have a “triple bottom line”—conscious of their profits, their impact on the environment and their treatment of workers.

This elevation of job fulfillment over security has led to an increase in job-hopping among young adults. Statistics show Millennials just assume they will have multiple career changes. Gone are the days when an entry-level employee could expect to remain with one employer throughout his or her career. While the average worker today remains at his or her job for 4.4 years, Millennials generally expect to remain at a job for less than three.

Entrepreneurial Spirit
Technological advances have played an important role in nurturing the entrepreneurial mind-set of this twentysomething generation. It has never been easier for a would-be entrepreneur to access information and obtain funding for budding projects. Crowd-sourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helped to cultivate an entrepreneurial culture among young adults around the world.

Success stories like Google and Facebook serve as inspirational fodder for twentysomethings who are hungry for success as they define it. For Millennials, the entrepreneurial lifestyle celebrates everything they have come to want in their work lives: self-drive, creativity and an opportunity to use their jobs to make an impact on issues and causes they care about. According to our FRAMES research, Millennials rate working for themselves as an important career priority—higher than any other generation. Young adults want to make their own hours, come to work in their jeans and flip-flops, and save the world while they’re at it.

Even the risk associated with entrepreneurialism is a value for Millennials, nearly one-third of whom prioritize the freedom to take risks in their work as important to them (32%), compared to an average of 25% among all generations. This risk, however, doesn’t come without angst. There are the associated fears of making the wrong career choice, disappointing parents and those closest to them. Nearly half of Millennials (45%) feel judged by older adults for their life choices.

For Christian twentysomethings, there’s the added dimension of wondering what God thinks of their choices and if their decisions are part of God’s will for them. Yet, with all these concerns, these young adults are pioneering the reinvention of many concepts, including the concept of career. They are paving a new way of approaching work, holding out for a work-life mix that integrates how they play and work.

Read more in 20 and Something and find out how you can support and empower Millennials to live into God’s calling for their lives. You’ll also discover twentysomethings’ perspectives on family, faith and life goals.



5 Goals for Every Volunteer (and for you)


Early in ministry I tried to do everything and not put anything extra on our volunteers. I quickly found that volunteers needed direction and some goals to aim at. When you have a goal, you know what’s expected of you and you aim to hit that target. Help your leaders succeed and give them some direction and goals. Here are 5 targets for your leaders to aim at every time they are with students. Notice I said every time, not just Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. Every time they are with students (ie. at a game, choir concert, campus visit (careful on the prayer one here), mall hang out, etc.).

1) Learn names – Don’t allow yourself to believe the lie that you are not good with names. Become good with names. Become better at names than anyone you know. I recently did a post on how to remember names better. Names are extremely important, and if you say you are not good with names, you are essentially saying you don’t care to remember the most important thing about a person. Change that! Continue reading


They Still Want To Talk Face To Face   by Leneita Fix


Common Sense Media did a survey of over 1,000 13  to 17 year olds on how they are communicating these days.

They found:

90% have used social media.

Everyday: 68% Text, 51% use social sites

52% believe using social media and text helps their friendships and 32% believe it helps with family. Only 4% believe it has a negative effect on any of these relationships.

41% consider themselves “addicted” to their phones and 41% wish they could unplug (and 21% wish their parents would as well).

What really stood out to me was this portion of an infographic they shared:

Screenshot 2014-06-05 11.16.05

Do you see the pattern here?  Now I know this is not “ALL” students, but I think it’s interesting that such a high percentage want to talk face to face. They want the full attention of someone by being drawn into their world.

This is the first generation to have grown up with smart phones and tablets in their palms. And a younger and younger generation is discovering texting apps. I read an article recently that discussed the concern from sociologists that we are growing a generation that has never been forced to learn to communicate without technology.

I would say in personal interaction with students, they don’t always realize face to face is an option. They want to talk to a friend. They don’t drive and it’s complicated to get together to hang out.  Maybe they’re in the middle of homework, but they do want to “talk.” They text. Why would you try to make face to face happen?

Instagram continues to grow in popularity among the younger set. I wonder if talking in “pictures” gives the visual connection we long for?

Bottom line is that we have a generation in front of us that feels like they “have” to be connected all of  the time. Yet, most prefer to still have the old fashioned “hang out” with friends.

My kids have a time of day when we all power down. No phones allowed for anyone at the dinner table. This forces us to just be engaged as a family. Smart phones are allowed on family outings and vacations for photography purposes alone. AND they aren’t allowed to immediately post to Instagram. Take the picture, be with us, post later. Honestly, a shared data plan has worked wonders. There’s a lot they aren’t allowed to do until they can get to a WiFi signal which doesn’t exist everywhere.

I don’t think we have to treat social media and all things smart phone connected as evil. We just need to recognize our students like their devices, but they still really want to “TALK” that  “old fashioned way” as well.


Remembering Names, Part One & Two   by Charles R. Swindoll

Remembering is a skill. Sure, there are those who have been blessed with a good memory. But they are exceptions. For most of us, remembering is a skill, like speaking in public, singing, reading, thinking, or swimming. We improve at a skill by hard work—direct effort applied with a good deal of concentration, mixed with proper know-how.

One of the most glaring weaknesses we often confess is in the realm of remembering names. We excuse it by saying: “I’m not good at remembering names!” or “Your face is familiar, but what was that name?” I suppose that’s better than: “Your breath is familiar, but not your name.”

But I’m afraid we have begun to believe something that isn’t true as we make our excuses. The fact is . . . you can remember names! Except for a very few, rare cases, anybody can remember anybody.

The secret lies in that very brief period of time we stand face to face with another person—in fact, the most important person in your life at that moment. You see, that momentary encounter has been directed by God. He has arranged two lives so that they cross at His prescribed time—so you can be sure that the meeting is significant. So is the name! How you fit the name with the face—and cement both together in your memory bank—is of crucial importance. Continue reading