July 21 – Leadership – Vulnerability

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I was the student/athlete who brought in Christmas gifts for all my coaches and teachers growing up. It was great, until it went all wrong. I was a freshman and was coming out of the locker room after practice with the few gifts that my mom had stuffed in my gym bag for my coaches. Abruptly I encountered an upperclassman who said, “You bought the coaches Christmas gifts?!?! … Give them to me.” She took them from my hands and walked into the coach’s office and handed each of my coaches the gifts I had for them. She said, “Merry Christmas!”, they shared a special moment of joy and celebration together, and then she walked out. We both had the same first name too, so the “To:” and “From:” even worked out for her. Tears and anger welled up inside of me. Worse yet, when she came out and saw me standing there empty handed, she looked me in the eye and called me a brown-noser.

None of us like being bullied, nor do we like to be in situations where we can be taken advantage of. That’s why the word “vulnerability” makes some of us cringe. Being bullied is one thing outside of our control, but being vulnerable is something we choose. And it puts ourselves in a position where others can hurt us. To be vulnerable is to be able to let others know that we don’t have it all together, that we aren’t picture perfect, and that we have weaknesses. And when others know where we are weakest, they can choose to take advantage.

Paul talks about his weakness and how God responds to his weakness in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The reality is that we all have weaknesses and all are needy. Whether we are physically or emotionally exhausted, going through something that we don’t feel like we can bear, finding ourselves living in sin, or a number of other situations, it’s clear that we are all in need of strength from God. Weakness drives us towards dependence on the Lord. As we admit our need to God, He moves in on our weakness and provides His strength as we depend on Him.

Vulnerability is risky, but it’s also brave. It puts our pride on the line, but also leads to great reward. It’s the driving force of connection. Every time I finally get to a place that forces honesty before my Creator, He meets me there with His generous grace that never runs out (just like He did for Paul). He welcomes me in and gives me everything I was looking for, a new hope and a new power through Him. Vulnerability has taken my relationship with others and with God to a whole new level.

We can self-protect and build walls that keep us from being known by God and others. Or we can tear down the walls of our hearts and let others and God in to even the weakest places of our lives. When we do, God promises that His power will prove strong even there.

Rachel Snyder

July 20 – Leadership – Excellence

Read Colossians 3:23, 24b

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters . . . It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

I’d like to think Paul wrote this in the middle of a perfect day at his dream job. But history says Paul wrote it from jail. What might Paul possibly have been doing as a prisoner in a jail cell that he could work at with such excellence? It’s the excellence required for leaders, influencers, followers of Christ who actually work for God Himself, not for men and women. 

Maybe you’re like me and you find yourself in the day-in, day-out sometimes mundane work of all that life demands. Whether it’s directing a company or flipping burgers, gathering grocery carts or watching PAW Patrol for the 347th time before changing a diaper, the instruction remains – whatever you do, work at it. With all your heart.

There’s no delineation between what seems important and what feels mundane. No matter what you’re doing, Paul wrote, do it heartily. It’s the Greek word “psyche”, which means the soul, the very energy that is life. In other words, in everything you do as a follower of Christ, an influencer (whether to one person or to a million), do it with all of who you are and with every ounce of your heart and soul. Give it your all.

Do it with excellence.

Leadership and influence often begin right there inside the mundane where it would be easy enough to forget the One who called us to this very moment. It would be so easy to just slide by, forgetting that the Lord of our lives wants to work even here. But when we keep our focus on things above, like Paul wrote at the beginning of this same chapter in Colossians, we work in ways that show Him off. And that’s where He shines brightly through the whole-hearted excellence in our influence.

Think about what lay ahead of you today. Now choose just one task at which you can work whole-heartedly today. How might working with such excellence show off who God is and bring more of a godly influence to the lives of those you lead? Ask God to show you and to give you the enthusiasm to tackle each task with excellence today.

Bria Wasson

July 19 – Leadership – Model What Needs Practiced

Read Matthew 4:18-22

If you ever want to know what you’re like, have kids. If you want to live in denial, don’t.

Kids are like a living mirror.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a social situation with families, and someone’s son or daughter will act up, and one of the parents will say, “I wonder where (s)he gets that from!” And everyone else is marshalling all the willpower they can muster not to blurt out, “YOU! You are the one (s)he gets it from. It’s you!”

So much of life is caught as much as it’s taught.  And, frankly, there is more caught than we might think.  Thus, the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”

And that is so true of leadership. If we have the privilege and responsibility of leading others, what we do may speak louder than what we say. I heard it said this way: “If what you do is inconsistent with what you say, then what you do will speak so loudly no one will be able to hear what you say.” Whoa! That’s sobering… and convicting.

In our passage today, Jesus didn’t say, “Come, listen to me.” No, He said, “Come, follow me.”

I’ve learned that disciples were not merely expected to learn what their rabbi taught, but their goal was to be who their rabbi was.

In the same way, leadership is as much caught as taught.

So, when we’re leading, let’s make sure we are on the right path.  Let’s make sure our priorities are right. Let’s make sure we are sharpening our skills for leadership (Psalm 78:72b; Ecclesiastes 10:10) and refining the character of our lives (Psalm 78:72a).

Because those who are following us are watching us.

Oh, and one more thing.  This is important. Look at verse 19. As leaders, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. As a Christian leader, our priority is the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and fishing for men (v. 19). Our prime directive is to invite, equip, and release people to that cause. And, as leaders, we need to model it and champion it. The priority of the Kingdom and striving to reach our full redemptive potential must be obvious, both in our actions and our words.

Remember, the ones you are leading are watching.

David Lawson

July 18 – Leadership – Work/Life Balance

Read Psalms 127:2 and Psalm 1:1-6

One season while coaching basketball, we had our point guard lose his balance and somehow fall during practice, breaking his collarbone. He missed 7 weeks of the season. The young man who replaced him got better over the next 7 weeks as he was our point guard for 14 games. When the injured guard returned, he played several games and then it was time for the state basketball tournament (the most exciting event in all of sports). We had two excellent guards and our team was now unbeatable.

Have you ever lost your balance? You could break a bone or hit your head. If you lose your balance in life, it might hurt in other ways. You might lose sleep over it or become distracted from what matters to you.

Sometimes we let our schedule run our lives and rearrange our priorities, as opposed to us taking charge of our schedule and priorities. The result can be exhaustion, stress, and frustration. We risk a “fall.”

Is it worth it?

Be aware of warning signs that your life may be heading towards a fall. Take action today to bring balance to all areas of your life. This requires prayer, planning and continually working at it. This includes maintaining healthy relationships with those closest to you.

Many Americans constantly struggle to find balance between the needs of family and one’s own needs—for exercise, time to read or be alone, to visit with friends, getting adequate sleep, even to take a long hot shower or eat balanced meals. Are you single and working so hard that you have trouble developing a social life, or even finding some downtime for yourself? Are you so involved in social media that you fail to take care of either your physical needs or the demands of your job?

Balance is an issue for all of us.

The Bible says we should have a balanced view of work. It praises hard work and condemns laziness. (Proverbs 6:6-11; 13:4) The Bible encourages us to enjoy reasonable periods of relaxation. “Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind.” (Ecc. 4:6).

To get adequate sleep is extremely important.

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalms 127:2

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. Many suffer from daytime sleepiness. Do you?

The key to lasting – and ultimately eternal – fruitfulness and vitality lies in your relationship with God. Maintaining that balance between work and life helps you keep your focus on God. Avoid the setback or fall.

Do you work to maintain balance in your life?

Tom Weckesser

July 17 – Leadership – Teamwork

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and 12:20-25

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”1 Corinthians 9:24

Have you ever noticed that, at a high school or college sporting event, usually the captains of the teams meet and shake hands a few minutes before the game at half court or at mid-field? It is a time for leaders to demonstrate sportsmanship and respect for the game. They briefly discuss the ground rules for the game with the officials and they are reminded that they are the leaders of their team. These leaders were either voted on by their teammates or picked by their coaches. But they should have leadership characteristics such as integrity, self-control, resilience, accountability, humility, positivity and confidence. They need to lead by example and be selfless.

People notice!

Some captains are excellent leaders and some captains are not. Leadership skills are not common, but they can be developed and taught. Picking the leaders is a key to success for any team.

To live and lead on the team that loves Jesus Christ is a war. It is a battle of good (Christ) – such as loving and serving others, compassion and patience – versus evil (Satan) – such as selfishness, greed, human trafficking and abortion. Every single person has spiritual gifts that are indispensable (1Cor 12:22) in the battle. Every little example you set and every word you say is crucial. If everybody on the team is doing their part, then you have a team that is difficult to defeat. If you have selfless, patient leaders, it can make a big difference. What are the priorities in your life?

Consider this priority: “He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

Look at the words of Jesus Christ:

“This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.”Matthew 12:30 MSG

To succeed, we need to know the word of God. “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Cor 9:24b. This verse is about how we live our lives.

Let’s live as leaders with integrity, self-control and resilience.

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”1 Corinthians 9:25

An athlete is in strict training for a blue ribbon or gold medal. The Christian is in strict training for the crown of eternal life in heaven with Christ.

We need teamwork and leaders in this fight against evil. Be alert and in top condition. Know the Bible. Use God’s weapons such as kindness, gentleness and self-control. Use your spiritual gifts to get the prize!

Tom Weckesser

July 16 – Leadership – Release

Read Luke 10:1-23

Having very athletic grandkids, I have attended many sporting competitions. While waiting for the games to begin, I have gotten in the habit of watching coaches and their leadership skills…

or lack thereof.

There are the “Micro Managers.”  These coaches cannot let go.  They feel they have to tell their players every single thing to do, “Take two steps forward!” “Hold your mitt this way!”  “Move here or move there.”  They don’t have any confidence in the ability of their players and consequently, their own coaching abilities. That kind of coach/leader only causes confusion. Instead of letting the players concentrate on their own problem-solving skills and knowledge of the game, they become dependent on the coach for everything.

They are not ready to fly solo.

Then there are the “Yellers.”  They have a fit every time a player makes a mistake, may even kick or throw something in their frustration. They aren’t correcting anything, just adding more anxiety. 

Their players are afraid to fly!

The most successful coaches are the ones who have given their all-in training to prepare and equip their players for the competition.  They have confidence in themselves and it shows in the confidence their players have in themselves. If something does go wrong, the coach is there to offer support and will gently remind the players of their training with a hand of comfort on their shoulders.  He/she builds up the player’s own confidence.  Prep is over; when it is time for the competition, the players are ready to fly and the coach is ready to let go.

The latter is what Jesus was doing in our verses today.  Training was over, it was time for His followers to leave their nests, spread their own wings and, not only fly, but soar like eagles!  Jesus had prepared them for adversity, told them what to do when faced with it and move on. 

Letting go is hard for leaders. You have to have confidence in yourself, then confidence in your training and your trainee.  If you have done your job correctly, then you should have confidence in letting them go.

When helping a child learn to ride a two-wheeler and holding on to the back of the seat, there comes a time when you have to let go and trust that the child will continue on and not crash.  The same is true of a leader. 

Who have you taken under your wing? 

Who is looking up to you for advice? Do you have confidence in yourself that you have done a good job in training them and now it is time to “push them out of the nest”, so to speak, and let them fly?

Pat Arnold

July 15 – Leadership – Equip

Read Ephesians 4:11-14

“We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader.  We’re following the leader, wherever he may go!”

Playing “Follow the Leader” at recess was always one of my favorite things. Everyone would get in a line and we would walk behind each other, imitating any actions the first person did. We would wave our arms when they did. Walk in circles or tap our heads.  Anything they did, we would do it too, until it was our turn to be the leader. It was a mindless game where no one needed to have any training to become the leader, you just did it.  That is ok for the playground, when you are a child but not in the game of life.  

Leaders lead but they also equip. 

You wouldn’t just toss your car keys to your child on his/her 16th birthday and say, “Good luck!”  In the same way, you wouldn’t want to discover that, once your plane was on the runway, the pilot had never flown before!  “But hold it!” you might say.  “Those situations are a matter of life and death!” Exactly, and so is the relationship you and the people around you have with Christ.

As a teacher, I have often marveled at how Jesus taught/equipped His disciples and got them ready for service. There is a kind of “golden rule of teaching” that says, “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.”  The disciples lived it, saw it and participated in all that Jesus needed them to know.  They heard the words, saw the miracles of healing, multiplying bread, calming storms, walking on water!  Using everyday objects like birds, sheep, lilies, and soil, Jesus cemented in their hearts and minds the lessons He was trying to impart.  So later, every time they saw one of these objects, His lesson would pop into their heads.  Once He was gone, all they needed to do was tell about their own first-hand experiences which they did in their books of the Bible.

All that is expected of you today to be able to lead others to Him is to go TELL your own story of what He has done personally for you.   

“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

What is your story?  Are you ready and willing to share it?  No one can dispute it because it happened to you, not anyone else.  Maybe take some time just to reflect on your life or make a list of all the times God has been there for you.  You might surprise yourself, once you stop to think about it and write it down.  

To be a leader, you need to first equip yourself for service and then go and equip others.

Pat Arnold

July 14 – Leadership – Invite

Read 1 Corinthians 11:1

A few years ago, my husband, Jon, and I were asked to be co-adult leaders for a team of teens on a short-term mission trip to southern California to put on a Bible School for a small Hispanic church. 

Team members were from churches all over the country and none of us had met before meeting at the Columbus airport.  Many of the team members had grown up in their individual churches and even served in some capacity but hadn’t stepped out of that bubble.

In preparation, each team member was given a copy of the book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg.  It basically said, if you want big things to happen in your spiritual life like what happened to Peter in Matthew 14, you need to move out of your comfort zone and take risks.

Out of our comfort zones we went!  Scary? Yes! But one foot at a time we climbed out of the boat, expecting to stay afloat as long as we kept our eyes on Christ and the mission He asked us to do.

We had tons of hurdles we had to not only face but jump over. There was a hurdle of getting to know each other, plus the language and cultural barriers once we met the kids we would be teaching.

Week one was dedicated to team building and getting a taste of the culture of the kids of the church. The second week was actually teaching Bible school lessons.  This, believe it or not, was a relief because, even though we were from a wide variety of backgrounds, we had one thing in common – our love of the gospel!  With God’s help, we survived and everyone, including us leaders, grew both in empathy for others and our own spirituality.  None of that would have happened if we hadn’t all been willing to get out of the “Boat”, trust God and lead others to Christ.

We are all leaders in some capacity, be it at work, in the home, or with friends and family members.  People are watching you, whether you know it or not, especially if they know you are a Christian. They are looking to you for guidance in this crazy world of ours. How can you invite them into leadership to learn from you and also from Christ?

Are you telling people, as Paul said in our reading today, “Follow my example, as I follow Christ”? If not, who can you take under your wing and teach them to lead?

After all, their first step is simply to “Get out of the boat”!

Pat Arnold

July 13 – Leadership – Guarding Against Negative Influence

Read Galatians 5:7-9

Have you ever heard the saying “You are who you hang out with”?

When I’ve heard that in the past, I used to believe it was absolutely ridiculous and would say, “I don’t care what people think, I am my own person and none of my friends effect that”. I was confident that the people I was closest to didn’t change who I was. In high school, I thought I could have it all – go to church, go to parties, and be the same girl at both. After I started coming to church and started surrounding myself with a different crowd of people, I quickly learned that the people I had in my close circle did, in fact, effect me.

I had to change a few people within my inner circle so I could become the person who I knew God had created me to be.

What I have learned over the years is that, in order for me to love others and share the love of Christ with them, I need to first surround myself with people who are going to be pouring truth into my life. I can’t lead others well if I don’t first lead myself. Being a leader means that I need to be equipped to share the gospel to help others do the same. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to share the name of Jesus and to be a light in the lives of others. We’re not called to only hang out with other Christians or only church people, but rather we’re called to make disciples.

So, the question is . . . how do we do both, hang out with people who challenge us to be more like Christ and those who don’t know who Jesus is?

The best thing I’ve found is creating boundaries. For example, for my friends who don’t know who Jesus is, I am extremely cautious with how much time I spend with them so that I have a chance to influence them but limiting my time, in case I feel them beginning to influence me. Being a light in someone’s life is incredibly important but, if you’re the only light shining in a dark room, your light will begin to dim, and no one will be there to help it shine again if you’re relying on your own strength to power through.

Maybe you’re like I was in thinking that you’re strong enough to not let it effect you, but as Galatians 5:9 says, “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough”, which means that, if you’re only around those who don’t challenge you to be like Christ, it will impact who you are overtime. We could lead others to do that same, we just need to be intentional with whom we surround ourselves.

I challenge you to look at your list of friends.

Who are the people that can pour truth into your life? And what do you need to do to make sure these are the relationships that are influencing you? Who are the people that you’re able to influence, and what boundaries do you need to set in place to be a shining (not dim) light in their life? What does it look like for you to lead these people into also sharing the gospel with others in their lives?

Michelle Perrino

July 12 – Leadership – Feedback

Read Proverbs 19:20

Getting feedback from others is complicated. I’m not sure any of us naturally enjoys it, though you can learn to love it.

Feedback, generally, has two features – highlighting the positive and, second, identifying what needs work and growth. It’s the second part that’s really hard to accept. Since our verse seems to infer the type of feedback that identifies our weakness and admonishes growth, let’s talk about that.

Feedback, especially unsolicited, tends to sting. It gnaws at our pride and our perception of ourselves. If we live with an inflated view of ourselves, we can scoff at it, discredit the messenger or get angry. If we are insecure and timid, feedback seems to confirm what we despise about ourselves. Neither of these reactions are helpful. Instead . . .

When feedback stings, befriend it.

While not all feedback is equal, it’s always an invitation to grow. Keep this in mind when you feel the sting:

  • Feedback leads to wisdom.

If the giver of the feedback sincerely has your best in mind, you can trust it. They may spot something that isn’t fully informed or they may know from their own experience that there are consequences up ahead. At the very least, if you’re tempted to reject their words, practice pausing to listen and consider. Wise people examine all the data, so consider the advice and wisdom someone is introducing to you!

  • Graciously receiving feedback is endearing.

It might be hard to listen to someone’s feedback when it stings, but admitting you may be wrong and seeing the opportunity to grow is often one of the most endearing qualities. People are drawn to this characteristic. This is probably at least, in part, why wise people tend to find other wise people. Like attracts like. Proverbs 15:31 says, “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” On the other hand, people who aren’t teachable are harder to befriend because they aren’t gracious listeners.,

  • It makes you more self-aware.

Self-aware people know their weaknesses as well as their strengths. They’ve gained this awareness by listening to others tell them what they can’t readily see at first – their blind spots. When you know your weaknesses, you can work on them. When you know your strengths, you can finesse and perfect them. All in all, you get wise!

So now what? Next time you receive feedback – the kind that stings – try responding in these ways:

  1. Send signals that you like, even if it stings. Every wise person I know appreciates feedback and you can be at any stage of your growth to assume the same posture. It will endear you to others.
  2. Ask for feedback before it’s offered. This one’s simple. Feedback hurts (a little) less when you ask for it than when someone feels they must give it unsolicited. This way, at least, you won’t be caught on your heels!
  3. Reframe “the sting” by thanking God that He’s growing your wisdom. The Bible says that the Lord’s discipline is evidence of His love for us (Proverbs 3:12). He cares for you. He desires your best and knows a little correction and feedback is growing you into who He’s destined you to be.

When feedback stings, don’t fight it. Befriend it.

Ben Framstad