Posts by: Bryan Hardwick

Received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from UC Santa Barbara and a Master of Arts in General Ministry from Western Seminary with honors. Currently serves as the Groups Pastor at Adventure Christian Church. Prior to Adventure, Bryan was the Commit Pastor at SeaCoast Grace Church in Cypress, CA and also served as the Executive Pastor for Lakeside Church in Folsom, CA.

24 Lessons on Marriage

Today my wife Jennifer and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. That’s 757,382,400 seconds, 12,623,040 minutes, 210,384 hours, 1,252 weeks or 8,766 days of being married to my best friend!

I remember, Saturday, May 15, 1993 like it was yesterday! I remember my groomsmen gathering at Lyon’s for breakfast! I remember my eyes tearing up as my beautiful bride Jennifer walked down the isle. I remember stopping by Kaiser in Vallejo to get a prescription for birth control, before we hopped on a plane for Hawaii the next day. I remember watching the sunset as we ate our first meal as husband and wife at the Moss Beach Distillery. It was the beginning of a spectacular journey that has almost spanned a quarter of a century.

We had no idea what the future held for us on that day. But we said we would love and cherish each other for richer and poorer, in good times and bad; and we knew that as long as we had God and each other, we would have enough. And through all of life’s surprises and challenges, its hard fought lessons and its moments of sweetness, we have stayed true to each other and our vows by God’s grace.

So to honor our many years together, here are 24 lessons I’ve found most valuable in our marriage:

  1. Marriage takes work. You can’t just cruise into idle after the wedding date. Each season, with its challenges and opportunities, is an opportunity to trust God, grow in His likeness and cling to each other.
  2. God is the only One who can fulfill us at every level. It’s unfair to expect my spouse to be my all-in-all. Therefore, it’s important to surround ourselves with other friends, who will encourage us on the journey.
  3. You cannot change each other. And you cannot change yourself either. God is the One who changes and transforms us.
  4. My spouse is my most important ministry. Period.
  5. Love is an action, not an emotion. The greatest and most challenging definition of marital love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
  6. Play together. Participating in an activity or hobby together will bring you closer together. Over the years Jen and I have taken country western dance lessons, played golf together, and watched many of a San Francisco Giants game together! These moments are priceless.
  7. It’s about the simple things. Over the years, some of the best times Jen and I have had are when we simply took a walk on the beach, watched a movie on Netflix, or did the dishes together.
  8. Opposites attract. Remember all those things you loved about your spouse when you were dating? Well those are same things that drive us crazy when we’re married. We simply get attracted to the opposite of us. And I believe it is part of God’s design.
  9. Listen to your wife. Don’t offer advice! Be empathetic and meet emotion with emotion. As it says in Romans 12:15, “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.”
  10. Pray together. Nothing has brought Jennifer and I closer together than praying to God together! We are the closest, when we pursue God together.
  11. Non-sexual touches lead to great intimacy in the bedroom. Perhaps that is too much information here, but it took me awhile to learn this lesson. Men are like microwaves. Women are like crockpots. Understanding each others need in this area will go a long way.
  12. Date your mate. For Jennifer and I, much of our time on date nights are talking about our kid, but it’s important to spend time dating. Do the things you enjoy, without the kids.
  13. Take family vacations. These create treasured memories for your kids. Every year for the last 24 years, minus a year or two, we have taken an annual camping trip to Plumas Eureka State Park! And every year, we spend some time on one of the hikes, recalling God’s faithfulness to our family. The place holds treasured memories for our family. And in doing this each year we’ve created family traditions.
  14. Capture memories! I am the photographer in the family, and over the last 24 years I’ve captured over 25,000 pictures of our family. That’s almost 1,000 per year. But it’s so fun to look back on all the fun we’ve had as a family. In addition, Jennifer has placed pictures in our house in strategic places to remind us of God’s faithfulness to our family.
  15. Children change everything. Adjusting to parenthood is hard but rewarding. And just when you think you’ve figured it out, you enter into a new phase of parenting, which keeps you humble and dependent on Jesus!
  16. Marriage thrives best in community. Being a part of a married small group over the years has brought us great blessing. In fact, it was the prayers of our small group that God honored by giving us the biggest blessing of all, our son Zach, after years of struggling with infertility.
  17. Marriage is not a 50%-50% give and take. It is 100%-100%. The love that we’re supposed to show our spouse every day is unconditional, sacrificial love. This is what Paul states in Ephesians 5:1-2, “be imitators…and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
  18. A good marriage takes two good forgivers. It’s important to keep short accounts in marriage and resolve conflict in a productive way that leads to greater intimacy.
  19. Speak words of life. Intimacy is about being fully known and loved. Therefore, we need to learn to express our needs, wants and desires, in order to allow our spouse to understand and respond. Your spouse also needs to hear words of encouragement. They need to know that you appreciate them.
  20. Love your spouse according to their love language. I learned this one early on in our marriage. I was doing all these things around the house to show Jennifer I loved her. Then one day, she called me out, stating I was doing all those things for me. That was the last time I ever did anything around the house and she regrets ever saying that. Seriously, there are 5 Love Languages: 1) time; 2) gifts; 3) service; 4) touch; and 5) words of affirmation. Jennifer’s love language is time! And it’s not quality time; it’s lots of time.
  21. Don’t have a television in your bedroom. This came as advice from the pastor who did our pre-marital counseling. We’ve honored it since; and we’re so glad we did.
  22. Keep a budget. The most important step to achieving financial success in your marriage is to make a budget. Put simply, a budget allows you to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
  23. Turn off your phone. The simple act of turning off your phone can go a long way toward growing closer. Just put it down & concentrate on being together.
  24. Take time to laugh. Most couples spend the majority of their time talking logistics: who’s doing the grocery shopping, which one is calling the repairman, who’s picking up the kids. A relationship is more than logistics, so have a pillow fight instead!

20 Things I Learned from My Mom

In honor of my mom this Mother’s Day, I wanted to share some of the life lessons I learned from her, either by her words or by her example…

  1. Believe in yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to.
  2. Don’t expect things to be handed to you. Work for them.
  3. Don’t give up. When you encounter roadblocks or hurdles, figure it out and move on.
  4. Keep your commitments. If you say you’re going to do something – do it.
  5. As long as you try your best in everything you do, you’ll never fail.
  6. Be respectful to those around you.
  7. Education is worth pursuing. Plan and save for it.
  8. Work smarter, not harder. Do it right the first time.
  9. Spring cleaning is good. Don’t hang onto junk, throw it out.
  10. Age is a state of mind.
  11. Be responsible with your money. It doesn’t grow on trees. (Okay, maybe I heard that one from my dad!)
  12. Getting organized will help you get the important things done.
  13. Prioritize vacations. Work hard. Play hard.
  14. Try new things. Life should be full of experiences.
  15. It’s important to remember special days in people’s lives.
  16. Be dependable.
  17. Honor family traditions. They’re fun and create memories.
  18. Always send thank you cards!
  19. Take care of the things that matter most.
  20. Stand your ground. Sometimes it’s okay to go out and play, even though you didn’t eat your liver!”😀

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Thanks for who you are, all you do and everything you’ve taught me. I love you!

Live. Love. Thrive.

We were never intended to live our lives apart from God. In fact, it’s impossible to try to live the Christian life apart from Him. God has not called us into a relationship with Himself, only to leave us alone to find our way through the maze of life. Prior to His departure, Jesus promised a Counselor who would guide us into truth and act as our guide and companion. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, not only empowers us to become like Jesus, but he also fills us with a supernatural ability to do great things for God.

In West Texas there is a famous oil field known as the Yates Pool. During the Depression, this field was a sheep ranch, owned by a man named Yates. Not able to make enough money on his ranching operation, Mr. Yates was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes or food, his family, like many others, had to live on government subsidy.

Then one day, a seismographic crew came into the area and told Mr. Yates that they thought that there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract. At 1,115 feet the well struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. 50 years later, a government test showed that one of the wells still had the potential to produce 125,000 barrels of oil a day.

And to think Mr. Yates owned it all! The day he purchased the land, he received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he was living on government subsidy. A multi-millionaire, living in poverty! The problem? He did not know the oil was there. He owned it all, but did not possess any of it.

I know of no better illustration of the Holy Spirit than this. As Christians, the moment we receive Christ, we are indwelt (I Corinthians 3:16) and sealed (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) with the Holy Spirit, and as such we have direct access to God’s unlimited power source for strength and victory. But, like Mr. Yates, most Christians continue to live in self-imposed spiritual poverty, because they do not know how to appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit, which is already theirs in Christ.

Such was the experience of Peter, who apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, denied Christ three times, but who later under the power of the Spirit, proclaimed Christ boldly. Of course, we know that the Spirit had not yet been given when Peter denied Christ, but clearly Peter’s story shows us the difference the person and work the Holy Spirit can make in our lives. Not many sermons or talks are devoted to the work of the Spirit, but it’s important to understand the Spirit’s work in our lives, so we can experience the promise Jesus made to his followers in Acts 1:8 when we said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In looking at the biblical data concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit’s roles are numerous. He assures us of our salvation (Romans 8:16); He baptizes us (Acts 1:4,5; 1 Corinthians 12:13); He convicts the world in regards to sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8); He directs us (John 16:13); He empowers us (Acts 1:8); He fills us (Ephesians 5:18); He guarantees our inheritance (Ephesians 1:14); He helps us (John 14:16,17); He indwells us (I Corinthians 3:16); He regenerates us (John 3:5); He seals us (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30); and He teaches us (John 14:26). The regenerating, indwelling, baptism and sealing by the Holy Spirit take place at the moment of salvation. However, the assuring, directing, filling and teaching aspects are ongoing ministries of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.

Because the Holy Spirit is the source of the overflowing life (John 7:37-39), we must live in dependence upon Him, walking moment by moment in His strength and not our own. This is why Paul, in Ephesians 5:18, exhorts us to “be filled with the Spirit.” To be filled with the Spirit, means to be controlled and empowered by the Spirit, and the imperative is in the continuous progressive tense, suggesting that one must “continually be being filled.” By appropriating the fullness of the Spirit by faith, one is not only empowered to be Christ’s witness, but also empowered to live life to its fullest (John 10:10).

So, how do you know if you are walking according the Spirit? Check the fruit! As it says in Galatians 5:19-23, The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” If you want your life to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, the solution is simple, walk according to the Spirit. As Romans 8:5 tells us, Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit, have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

If you have been living in spiritual defeat, wondering if there is any validity to the Christian life, there is hope for you! The same power that was available to Christ is also available to you in the person of the Holy Spirit! And Jesus’ promise to us is this, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

Remember, if you are in Christ, you do not have to ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life, because He is already indwelling you. But to be filled, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, you simply yield to Him and ask for His fullness and power. It’s the difference of a glass of milk with a bunch of chocolate sitting at the bottom of the glass, and a glass of milk with the chocolate stirred up, so that it looks and tastes like chocolate milk. Both glasses have the same amount of chocolate in them, but one looks no different than a regular glass of milk, while the other is taking on the characteristics of its indwelling force. In the same way, as Christians, we need to allow God to stir us up (fill us), so that others see Christ in us, the hope of glory.

So here’s the point. When we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, the evidence of the Spirit’s work is supernatural. The church can’t help but be different. And the world can’t help but notice.

Post written as a contributor for Principles to Live By

Flourish in Relationship

relationshipsGod made us to flourish! And as God’s created handiwork, we are made to flourish with him and with others in relationship. Therefore, in order to become God’s best version of ourselves, we need to be connected with others, specifically seeking to build and cling to these four important relationships in our lives:

God…

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In this passage, Jesus tells us that there is no other relationship of greater importance; there is no aspect of life any more important, than to know and to be in relationship with God. A healthy relationship with the Creator and a willingness to allow God’s Word to guide our actions, activities, and govern how we act towards others will allow us to experience the promise of this verse.

In my life, none of my other relationships work well if my relationship with God is out of whack. I can tell when I have neglected time with Jesus, as I get weary, become less patient and less present with others. And sadly this state of mind rubs off into my relationships with my wife, my son and with those I work with. But as I seek first God’s kingdom, and prioritize my relationship with Him, everything goes much better, as I experience His presence and power!

Friends…

Everybody needs a few close friends they can laugh with, cry with, have fun with, or do life with. And there is such power in connectedness. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that, “Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help.”

Zig Ziglar used to tell a story about how Belgian horses are trained to work together—and how it made these incredible animals so much more effective. Belgian horses are huge, powerful animals. In fact, one Belgian can pull more than 8,000 pounds. That’s one strong horse! But the amazing thing is that if you put two Belgian horses together, who are strangers, they don’t just double the amount they can pull; they actually triple it to 24,000 pounds. And if you spend some time training them to work together, that unified pair can pull a whopping 32,000 pounds. That’s four times what a single horse can do alone!

That story reminds me that connections are powerful. And just as Solomon reminds us, people need healthy relationships to win at life, too.

Wise Counselors…

Life can present us with challenges and decisions that are not easy to make on our own. We may pray about the situation and read God’s Word for guidance, but could still feel confused and uncertain about the direction we should take. It’s in these times, that it can be helpful to seek the counsel of other wise and godly people.

I believe that everyone needs a mentor in his or her life. To cultivate a relationship with those who have already been where we are or who are a little further along on the journey. A wise counselor is someone in which you can bounce ideas off of, gain wisdom and get perspective from.

Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others.” Seeking wise counsel is a sign of maturity and humility and some of the most successful people in life have surrounded themselves with wise counselors.

As a pastor, I have come into contact with many great Christian leaders like Bill Hybels, Phil Vischer, Dave Ramsey, and Rick Warren, and what strikes me about their leadership is that they are always asking questions. In my conversations with these men, they don’t seek to impart with me their wisdom; they seek wisdom by asking lots of questions. And I believe it’s this humility and perspective on life that God blesses.

A Close Confidant…

Finally, I believe we all need a trusted friend who you not only enjoy being with, but who speaks truth into your life and with whom you feel safe enough to be real.

Jesus called twelve guys to do life with him, but within his circle of twelve, he had an inner circle of three comprised of Peter, James, and John. These were his closest friends and confidants. And in following Jesus’ example, we need to circle ourselves with a few people that truly know our story, our struggles, our insecurities and our fears.

It’s these types of friendships that shape who we become and truly affect where we go! Having these sorts of relationships will not only help us run the race that God has called us to, but will also help us to experience joy and encouragement along the way.

Yes, life is all about relationships! So get connected, start taking some risks to be vulnerable and get connected by pursuing these relationships in your life. Until next time…

Post written as a contributor for Principles to Live By

Best of 2016

the-best-2016Wow, what a year 2016 turned out to be! From setbacks to comebacks, 2016 was a mixed bag of emotions, where we saw God work in remarkable ways.

This past week, while traveling to San Francisco, Jennifer, Zach, I recalled some of our most favorite times together as a family and here is a recap of our Best of 2016.

Best Dining Experience –
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch

We’re a bunch of foodies, so we headed to Saint Helena after my grandma’s memorial to enjoy some fried chicken in her memory. My grandma made some of the best friend chicken this side of the Mississippi and Farmsteads take on this classic meal did not disappoint.

Honorable Mentions: The Place in Roseville, The Monkey Pod in Maui

Best Day Trip – Pinnacles National Park
I can’t tell you how many times I have driven through the city of Soledad, especially on my way to and from Santa Barbara on Highway 101 back in my college days. And I never realized that their was such a treasure known as Pinnacles National Park just miles from the freeway. Our family enjoyed a wonderful spring day hiking the trails, exploring caves and taking in God’s beautiful creation.

Best Hike – Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls had plenty of water flowing through it this summer, which made this hike all the more enjoyable as we got to experience moments of replenishment from the mist of the falls. It was a glorious day as we enjoyed distant views of Half Dome and a bird’s eye view of Yosemite Valley.

Best Movie – Rogue One
Zach and I saw a bunch of movies this year, but Rogue One clearly lead the pack! The ending of Rogue One might just be the best movie sequence ever. And for this kid, who saw his first Star Wars movie back in 1977, the story line fit into the larger sequence of Star Wars events and rounded out the story in an amazing way.

Best Vacation – Hawaii
We took time in November to celebrate all our birthdays on the island of Maui during Thanksgiving week! We enjoyed a wonderful time hiking, snorkeling and spending time with family.

Best Sermon – Albert Tate: VIP – Jesus and the After Party
While we heard some amazing messages from some fabulous commuicators at Bayside @ Adventure, our hands down favorite was Albert Tate’s retelling of Jesus and the Samaritan women from John 4. Albert brought it home with a great blend of humor and hard hitting application. To watch Albert’s message online, click here.

Best Live Show – Oklahoma 
We saw several shows and concerts this year, but throughly enjoyed William Jessup’s production of Oklahoma this past spring. William Jessup is doing some marvelous work in their theatre arts program and its fun to see some of the college kids we know singing and dancing their hearts out.

Best Wedding – Chris Hardwick & Lydia Hearst’s Wedding
Having officiated several weddings this year, this one took the cake. Outside of the celebrities we saw, it was the largest gathering of the Hardwick clan in some time. A wonderful evening with lots of fun surprises. Harpers Bazaar touted it as one of the Top 10 celebrity weddings of 2016. We also enjoyed our first ever Blue Star Donuts, which we hail as the best donuts in the world!

Best Sporting Event – Zach’s Championship Game
While we took in several San Francisco Giants games this year, our favorite event by far was seeing Zach’s basketball team from Adventure Christian School go undefeated in 2016 and take home the championship trophy!

Favorite Overall Memory – Zach’s 8th Grade Graduation
It was wonderful having all our family together to celebrate Zach’s graduation from Adventure Christian School. Afterwards, we enjoyed time together at our home eating some of Zach’s favorite foods and playing some of his favorite games.

It was truly a year to remember. Looking forward to 2017! Happy New Year!

Reflections on Turning 50

football-50Today I turn 50 years old. That’s right, the Big Five-O. Yep, it’s my birthday and I’m thrilled to be given the gift of turning 50. As i embark on this new decade of life, I’m filled with joy, gratitude and wonder. And instead of complaining, or making jokes about being over the hill, I’m celebrating the gift of reaching this milestone day.

These past 50 years have been an amazing ride for Bryan Hardwick, and I have the scars, age spots, wrinkles, gray hair as well as the AARP card to prove it. And at 50, I think I look pretty good and can probably still make your head spin on the dance floor. But, I have to admit, embracing this milestone day has been a journey for me. And as this day has approached, I have truly wondered if my best days are behind me or before me. Yet in recalling God’s faithfulness over these past 50 years, and in understanding God’s character and promises, I have come to embrace that the best days are truly ahead.

In considering the stories of the Bible, I learn that many men of the Bible experienced greater fruitfulness and blessing in their ministry in the second half of their life. Moses and Aaron were chosen to lead the Israelite’s out of Egyptian at the ages of 80 and 83. Joshua was given the charge of leading the conquest of Canaan, during the last thirty years of his life to which he lived to 110. Daniel was well over 80 when he served as one of three governors over the kingdom of Babylon and was thrown into the lion’s den. So until God takes us home, our mission is not done, and each moment is to be treasured until we are called home.

The last 50 years have been great ones…I have an incredible family who I love and who loves me. I have been blessed to spend the last 25 years of my life with this most amazing woman of God who loves me unconditionally and who is an incredible cook and mother to our son Zach. I have an amazing son, who is our miracle from heaven. He’s thriving in his freshman year at Rocklin High School and I am so encouraged by the young man he’s becoming. I have a career that I truly love! Yes, it’s complicated at times, especially over these past couple of years, but it is truly an honor to come alongside others to help them experience God in fresh ways. In addition, I have been blessed by some awesome friends and mentors who have walked through some amazing seasons with me. I could go on and on, but special thanks go out to Dan, Dave, Mike, JP, Todd, Brad and Michael for believing in me and making a difference in my life.

  • Yes, it’s been an amazing 50 years and by God’s grace I have learned to take myself less seriously, worry less, and to accept and even love my imperfections. To embrace that I am perfectly imperfect. That I am flawed, and that I make mistakes. Yep, I bump into walls and I stumble and fall. But I have learned that in embracing my imperfections, I embrace God’s love and grace in my life. And for this recovering perfectionist, this has been one of the greatest gifts I have experienced.
  • So, thank you God for the gift of another year! Today, I own my age and I wear it proudly. I am 50! WooHoo! And I’m praying that this will be the best year ever. I am filled with anticipation of what this next phase of my life will bring and I welcome it all.

Tweets from the 2016 Summit

2016 LSmtn_Blue_Logo_WebI have been attending the Willow Creek Leadership Summit for over almost 13 years straight! It’s one of my favorite conferences because it brings some of the best leaders from all over the nation for two days of great inspiration and information on the topic of leadership. I always leave challenged and inspired, and it gives me the just the jolt I need to start off a new ministry season as a leader in the church.

This year was no exception! And in keeping with some of my tradition, I am posting my Top 20 tweet worthy sayings…

An organization will only ever be as healthy as the top leader wants it to be. –

God never intended for our vocations to crowd out every other dimension of our life. –

Empowering leadership is not about leading from the front. Empowering leadership is about leading alongside. – Jossy Chacko

Don’t allow earthly practicalities to cause you to lose sight of the heavenly possibilities. – Jossy Chacko

People who are workaholics tend to have a piece missing in them that they are trying to replace with work. –

There is a thin line in leadership that is very easy to pass between motivating people and manipulating people. –

People don’t want to follow someone who doesn’t care about them. –

People have uphill hopes, but they have downhill habits. The only way to break a downhill habit is to get intentional.

We allow people to put a period, where God put a comma. –

Jesus spent more time with the 12 than the 5,000. –

Pain is a gift that draws us to an area where we didn’t know there was a problem. –

At every age, at every stage, you can be fruitful. Reimagine yourself. –

A universal blind spot with “Type A” leaders is self-reflection. –

Connectedness increases your capacity. –

If it’s lonely at the top, you’re doing leadership wrong. –

Love is something you receive, as you practice the sacred risky act of being exactly who you are. –

Love is never found in the hustle. –

You manage things, you lead people. –

A leader who stops learning, stops leading. –

The American Dream is to have it all, but the Kingdom of God is about losing it all. –

What was your favorite tweetable moment?

Christian Athleticism & The Olympics

An Edited Repost from August 1, 2012

If you are like most American’s r2016_1ight now, you’re probably a little sleep deprived from watching the Olympic coverage! With so many televised options, you can literally watch Olympic coverage 24-hours a day! It’s amazing to see these athletes, some of whom are just teenagers, perform at the highest level of competition! When I was 17, I sure wasn’t preparing to fly to Rio! I was just hoping that I didn’t blow the engine in my 1967 Volkswagen Bug!

What I’m struck by is the sheer amount of perseverance and dedication these Olympic athletes possess. Countless hours of practice, a myriad of sacrifices and an incredible amount of strength & grit got them to the Rio games. While they make it look easy, they put in years of hard work, for a single event that will, at best, last for only a few minutes!

The games teach us the value of self-control, discipline, training and adherence to principle. And these athletes make us shake our heads in disbelief at the strength, skill and determination of which human beings are capable.

In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul writes, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (NLT). In considering this verse, I believe that the Apostle Paul knew and understood something that many of us contemporary Christians miss: Success in the Christian life requires training, conditioning and focused effort. There is a spiritual athleticism required. Learning to trust God and live the Christian life requires training, just like gymnastics and swimming.

Watching the Olympics has once again inspired me to give my all for Jesus! After all, lazy Christians, like lazy athletes, don’t win. What’s more, they don’t even have much fun!

Effective Leaders Build Trust

1901ed3The heart of a great relationship is trust. It’s also the first, and most critical piece for building strong teams. Lately I have been giving a lot of consideration to this topic and I have come to the conclusion that trust is empowering. It enables me to be more. It opens me up to grow and learn. It allows me to collaborate, gain feedback and do better work. It allows me to be human. And it allows me to develop significant relationships with others.

However, I have to admit, trusting others is not something that comes natural to me. So I have been giving consideration to the factors that allow trust to flourish within me, and came up with this list of how leaders can build trust with others.

In a nutshell, leaders who build trust with others are…

  1. Vulnerable – As a leader, they model vulnerability. Usually they are the first to “open up” and extend trust to others. As Ken Blanchard says, “vulnerability…engenders trust.” The best leaders are vulnerable, not invincible.
  2. Self-aware – Leaders who establish trust with others pay attention to their words and actions. They don’t commit what they can’t control, make promises they can’t keep, or fail to own their mistakes or shortcomings.
  3. Caring – They operate with a compassionate heart. They see people as individuals, not as someone who helps them look good or serves their agenda.
  4. Encouraging – They bring out the best in others, help them apply and develop their strengths and reach their goals. They speak highly of you in front of others and help provide challenges and opportunities to help you go where you want to go.
  5. Listeners – Leaders who build trust don’t listen so they can talk; they listen so they can learn. By withholding their judgment, being present, and engaging real dialogue, they embrace differences, create openness, and facilitate connection.

I recently had lunch with a leader who modeled all these characteristics and I found it so refreshing. And it inspired me to be a better leader myself. At its simplest, trust is a catalyst for our organizations and businesses to be more: more nimble, more efficient, more effective. It’s like oxygen for a successful team or a thriving relationship and one simply can’t exist without it.

10 Common Mistakes in Developing a Ministry Plan

blue_compass_square-300x300Our church is getting ready to launch a big groups initiative this fall and it’s got me thinking about strategies and goals. Leaders always set out with the best intentions, but if we aren’t careful, we’ll find your best intentions have led us nowhere. So as you make your ministry plans, here are ten common mistakes leaders make in writing ministry plans. Hopefully these will provide you with more clarity and success in getting the most out of the ministry plan process:

  1. Either not reflecting or not including the standards of excellence in your ministry plan. Be specific.
  2. Only putting new programs, activities, and initiatives in your ministry plan and not including or building on existing programs.
  3. Placing goals and initiatives in only one area that definitely has overlap in one or more areas. If it is written in one area and applies to another, make a note of it.
  4. Developing programs, goals, and initiatives that are not measurable or quantifiable.
  5. Programs, goals, and initiatives that are not obtainable. Be realistic and honest. Use what you accomplished last year as a baseline and build from that.
  6. The leadership team of a particular ministry is not involved in the planning process and implementation of the ministry plan. Share your plan with your leaders. Get their buy in.
  7. Seeing the ministry planning process as an administrative task rather than a spiritual process. Pray and listen for God to speak to you and the leaders involved with you.
  8. Thinking that once the ministry plan is finished, it can be set aside rather than used as a fluid document. It should be used with your leaders and adjusted and “tuned up” as you minister through the year.
  9. Looking for ways to “cheat” the process, instead of allowing the process to help your ministry change and get better each year.
  10. Not interacting with your team or supervisor. They are a resource for you when you have problems or questions in the ministry planning process.
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