How to Use the Power of Story to Influence Others

Are you having a hard time inspiring your team to be more productive?

Individuals may represent much of the accomplishment of ministries at your church, but the real work of ministry is often done through teams. Whether a staff team comprised of full and part-time employees or a volunteer team comprised of various degrees of dedicated members, teams are the backbone of church ministry. And yet, most leaders at one time or another are frustrated by the lack of progress of the team toward accomplishing their assigned task.

To inspire and encourage the teams you lead to get the job done, tell stories.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Orange Revolution, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

The Orange Revolution is a groundbreaking guide to building high-performance teams. Research by the authors shows that breakthrough success is guided by a particular breed of high-performing team that generates its own momentum—an engaged group of colleagues in the trenches, working passionately together to pursue a shared vision. Their research also shows that only 20 percent of teams are working anywhere near this optimal capacity. How can your team become one of them?

The authors have determined a key set of characteristics displayed by members of breakthrough teams, and have identified a set of rules great teams live by, which generate a culture of positive teamwork and lead to extraordinary results.

The Orange Revolution provides a simple and powerful step-by-step guide to taking your team to the breakthrough level, igniting the passion and vision to bring about an Orange Revolution.


Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton have created a framework for developing breakthrough teams called “The Orange Revolution.” The Orange Revolution is depicted as a journey to breakthrough result, a journey that places the relationships among team members as a critical component. As these relationships evolve over time, it’s only natural that momentum slows down and the productiveness of the team begins to wane

The people on your teams are overwhelmed with information, and in your attempt to help motivate them to move forward, you may be inadvertently contributing to the slowdown. Already confused and overloaded, they assume that your added request will only make thing worse.

Enter the story.

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information – more powerful and enduring than any other art form. In the land of complex reality, story is king. Story makes sense of chaos and gives people a plot. Stories can help people who are stuck become unstuck.

There are no guarantees that using story to motivate your team will come out the way you want. But story, on the average, works much better than telling your team “this is the way it’s going to be.”

Story is like a computer app you load into someone’s mind so they can play it using their own input. The best stories play over and over and create the outcomes that fit your goals and ensure that your team keeps moving forward.

Great leaders use story to express their passion and illustrate, illuminate, and inspire their team to greatness itself.

When you want to influence others, there is no tool more powerful than story.

Teams that are focused on wow results have a charming habit of telling stories that exemplify what they are trying to achieve.

Great teams create a narrative. As teams succeed, they tell their stories again and again. They are partly their history, but they also explain to others who they are and what they do.

Breakthrough teams tell stories frequently and with passion. It is a secret ingredient of their success. The power of their stories is in the specificity and vividness, which are the very elements that make them memorable. They get repeated – typically with the same enthusiasm in which they are told.

Stories are vital in helping individuals understand how world-class results are achieved and in making the possibility of doing so believable. Such tales have a way of perpetuating success. The listener retells the story, and more important, internalizes its message and becomes part of the story.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, The Orange Revolution


As you use stories with your teams, you will be using a mixture of credibility, evidence and data, and emotional appeal. You cannot persuade through logic alone, or even logic supported by your credibility. You must persuade your team through the use of emotional appeals.

Look back to a recent story you told your team. Categorize the story into the three areas mentioned above: credibility, logic, and emotional appeal. How does the ratio of emotional appeal stack up to the rest of the story? If it is not at least twice as great as the next component, you need to rethink your content.

The next time you want to encourage your team to be more productive, weave a personal story from your own background into your conversation. The ability to tell a personal story is an essential trait of authentic leadership – people who inspire uncommon effort. By inviting your team on a personal journey, they will want to join you in your success.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 2-3, published November 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Discover That “Less is More” by Narrowing Your Focus

How can you lead your team to believe “Less is more” in a “More is more” world?

Every day, ministry leaders spend too much time, managing too much church “stuff,” for too little life-change. It is safe to say that the church in North America is over-programming her calendar and under-discipling her people.

Behind this reality is a stark irony: The effectiveness of our gospel work is limited, not by a lack of ministry effort but by an excess of ministry action.

The gospel-centered, transformational impact of your church sits as a malnourished beggar beside an every-growing buffet of church ministry programs.

We get too little discipleship precisely because we have too much church stuff.

Church stuff is the whole of the ministry activities that make up your church calendar. Programming that ranges from weekly worship and groups, to monthly programming or quarterly training opportunities.

Church Stuff = Any event service, meeting, class, or group that your church offers this year.

It’s time to narrow your focus.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Positioning, by Al Ries

What’s the secret to a company’s continued growth and prosperity? Internationally known marketing expert Al Ries has the answer: focus. His commonsense approach to business management is founded on the premise that long-lasting success depends on focusing on core products and eschewing the temptation to diversify into unrelated enterprises.

Using real-world examples, Ries shows that in industry after industry, it is the companies that resist diversification, and focus instead on owning a category in consumers’ minds, that dominate their markets. He offers solid guidance on how to get focused and how to stay focused, laying out a workable blueprint for any company’s evolution that will increase market share and shareholder value while ensuring future success.


Many churches today are multiplying new ministries or extending existing ministries at a torrid pace:

  • Starting a new worship service in a new style – not to reach more people, but because the time is convenient for existing members or because the church across the street seems effective
  • Adding a ministry program (compete with staffing, budget and a launch with a great deal of fanfare) in response to a voiced felt-need
  • Keeping a ministry program around long after its original purpose has passed – yet continuing to pour resources into expanding and keeping up with participant expectation
  • Expansive and ever-multiplying ministry programming in hopes of capturing a larger share of the unchurched “market”

In reality, these actions and more like them are reminiscent of the warning settlers of the old west were given: choose your rut carefully because you are going to be in it a long time.

The time has come to develop an organization’s power by narrowing its focus.

It should have been obvious that an organization cannot keep expanding its products forever. You reach a point of diminishing returns. You lose your efficiency, your competitiveness, and most ominous of all, your ability to manage a diverse collection of unrelated products and services.

Since a focus has to work in the mind of a customer, it can’t be complicated, high-minded, flowery, obtuse, or difficult to understand. It has to be a simple idea, expressed with simple words, and immediately understandable.

A simple focus is unlikely to come out of the overly complex strategic systems in place at many organizations. You are building a perception in the mind. It’s done with words, not bricks and mortar.

A focus is not likely to be found with an overly complicated team approach. A focus might be simple, but it’s not likely to be formulated in a frying pan into which everyone throws an idea or two. The more people involved in the process, the less likely the group ill be able to cook up a powerful focus.

A good focus will be simple, but recognizing a good focus is not so simple. It takes judgment, which is in incredible short supply in the world today.

Al Ries, Focus


Select six ministry programs, activities and ideas that are floating around your leadership team that seem to have good potential and list them on a chart tablet.

Write down six evaluation points or requirements that the idea should comply with, such as number of volunteers required, time, cost, etc. Use your Vision Frame as a core piece of this with these refining questions:

  • Is this idea helping us achieve our mission?
  • Which value is most present if we move forward? Which is most needed?
  • Where in our strategy does this fall and how does it lead forward?
  • In which mission measure do we expect to see growth in an participant’s life?

Now, assign each idea to one person on the team . One of them will present the idea as if it was on “missional trial” while the rest of the team should act as the jury

Right after the presentation, the jury ranks the idea from one to ten, with ten being the best and one being the worst. Base the rankings on both individual evaluations and group discussion.

The person that presented the idea and one random jury member should switch places in order to repeat the process, until all team members have presented their own idea.

Review all the rankings to identify the best idea. See Next Steps for Solutions 2 & 3 for similar ideas, through a different lens.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 42-1, published July June 2016

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Grow in Your Understanding of the Servant as Leader

Are you pursuing Christ-like humility in your leadership?

25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28

Humility does not come naturally to anyone.

Who hasn’t seen an example of our self-centered nature in a two-year old child in the checkout line at the grocery story, lying flat out on the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs, fists clenched because Mom wouldn’t buy her a candy bar? When the child did not get what she wanted, a temper tantrum followed.

The reality is that adults have an inner two-year-old. We know what we want, when we want it, and we are dejected, annoyed, and maybe even angry when we don’t get our way. While it’s not appropriate to lie on the floor and scream anymore, often – in our minds – we are tempted.

Our model for humble leadership lives in the servant-mindedness of Jesus Christ during His ministry on earth. We’re not likely to achieve that kind of perfect and consistent humility in this lifetime. But great leaders aspire to grow in Christ-like humility with each passing day.

If you are interested in developing as a leader, grow in your understanding of servant as leader.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Power of Servant Leadership, by Robert K. Greenleaf

Based on the seminal work of Robert K. Greenleaf, a former AT&T executive who coined the term almost 30 years ago, servant-leadership emphasizes an emerging approach to leadership—one which puts serving others, including employees, customers, and community, first. The Power of Servant Leadership is a collection of eight of Greenleaf’s most compelling essays on servant-leadership. These essays, published together in one volume for the first time, contain many of Greenleaf’s best insights into the nature and practice of servant-leadership and show his continual refinement of the servant-as-leader concept. In addition, several of the essays focus on the related issues of spirit, commitment to vision, and wholeness.


The treachery of hubris is far more than many of other potential problems a leader might encounter. It’s fun to be a leader, gratifying to have influence, and exhilarating to have dozens – maybe even hundreds – of people cheering your every word. In many all-too-subtle ways, it’s easy to be seduced by power and importance. It’s possible for any leader to get infected with the disease of arrogance and pride, becoming bloated with an exaggerated sense of self and pursuing one’s own ends. How can you avoid this?

Humility is the only way to resolve the conflicts and contradictions of leadership. Humility is the antidote for hubris.

The path to a greater understanding and practice of humility begins with the realization that in order to lead, you must first serve. 

Good leaders must first become good servants.

Ten Characteristics of the Servant as Leader

Listening – the servant-leader seeks to identify the will of a group and helps clarify that will by listening to what is being said (and not being said).

Empathy – the servant-leader strives to understand and emphasize with others.

Healing – the servant-leader recognizes that they have an opportunity to help make whole those with whom they come in contact with.

Awareness – the servant-leader makes a commitment to fostering awareness, helping one to understand issues involving ethics and values.

Persuasion – the servant-leader relies on persuasion, rather than positional authority, in making decisions.

Conceptualization – the servant-leader seek to nurture their abilities to dream great dreams, thinking beyond day-to-day realities.

Foresight – the servant-leader understands the lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequence of a decision for the future.

Stewardship – the servant-leader assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others.

Commitment to the growth of people – the servant-leader believes that people have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers, and is deeply committed to the growth of each and every individual within his or her organization.

Building community – the servant-leader seeks to identify some means for building community among those who work for an organization.

– Robert Greenleaf, The Power of Servant Leadership


Prepare a worksheet listing the 10 Characteristics of a Leader (found above) across the top of the sheet. At the bottom of the sheet, write the following: Using a scale of 1-10(1-Not at all; 10-Excellent), please write the number under each characteristic that best describes you. Make seven copies of the spreadsheet.

  • Ask two close work associates to rate you using the worksheet.
  • Ask one close friend to rate you using the worksheet.
  • Ask your immediate supervisor to rate you using the worksheet.
  • Ask a spouse or family member to rate you using the worksheet.
  • Complete the worksheet, rating yourself.

Average all six scores to obtain a composite score for each characteristic.

On the remaining worksheet, list the composite scores by each characteristic.

  • Under the characteristics with a rating of 7, 8, or 9, write specific actions you will take to move that rating up one number.
  • Under the characteristics with a rating of 4, 5, or 6, list at least one specific example of that rating.
  • Under the characteristics with a rating of 1, 2, or 3, talk with your spouse or trusted friend about why the rating is low.

Excellent leaders set the example by aligning their actions with their values as a servant leader, just as Christ did.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, writing in Great Leadership Creates Great Workplaces, suggest leaders ask themselves these three questions at the end of each day:

“What have I done today that demonstrates the values that I hold near and dear?”

“What have I done today that might have, even inadvertently, been inconsistent with what I value and believe in?”

This reflection will prepare you to ask a final question: “So tomorrow, what do I need to do differently so that my actions match my words?”

Servant leaders who make this a regular habit will not only be practicing their craft, they will be developing themselves and others as servant leaders – ultimately reflecting the heart of Christ who did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 19-1, published July 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Do You Understand How People REALLY Use the Web?

Does it feel like you are working for your website, instead of the other way around?

“If you’re not found in a Google search for churches in your area, you don’t exist to people moving into town.” That quote, by church planter and editor Brandon Cox may be a painful truth to you, but it is a truth nevertheless.

The importance of a well thought out and designed website cannot be overstated. Today’s rapidly changing patterns of communication are founded within the digital world, and are only increasing in importance. Last year, the number of networked devices in the world DOUBLED the global population.

It is vitally important that you understand the way your viewers are viewing and using your website. 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug

Since Don’t Make Me Think was first published in 2000, hundreds of thousands of Web designers and developers have relied on usability guru Steve Krug’s guide to help them understand the principles of intuitive navigation and information design. Witty, commonsensical, and eminently practical, it’s one of the best-loved and most recommended books on the subject.

Now Steve returns with fresh perspective to reexamine the principles that made Don’t Make Me Think a classic–with updated examples and a new chapter on mobile usability. And it’s still short, profusely illustrated…and best of all–fun to read.

If you’ve read it before, you’ll rediscover what made Don’t Make Me Think so essential to Web designers and developers around the world. If you’ve never read it, you’ll see why so many people have said it should be required reading for anyone working on websites.


According to statistics released by Intel, here is a sampling of what happens in one minute of Internet use:

  • 31,773 hours of music is played on Pandora
  • 38,194 photos are uploaded on Instagram
  • 138,889 hours of video are watched on YouTube
  • 347,222 Tweets occur on Twitter
  • 1 million searches occur on Google
  • 9 million messages are sent on Facebook

Along with other sources, that’s an estimated 1,572,877 GB of global intellectual property data transferred every minute of every day.

Now, how’s your church going to compete with that?

When it comes to websites, we’re thinking “great literature” while the user’s reality is much closer to “billboard going by at 60 miles an hour.”

What readers actually do most of the time (if we’re lucky) is glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles the thing they’re looking for. There are almost always large parts of the page that they don’t even look at.

It makes sense that we picture a more rational, attentive user when we’re designing pages. It’s only natural to assume that everyone used the Web the same way we do, and – like everyone else – we tend to think that our own behavior is much more orderly and sensible than it really is.

If you want to design effective Web pages, you have to learn to live with three facts about real-world Web use:

  1. We don’t read pages. We scan them. One of the very few well-documented facts about Web use is that people tend to spend very little time reading most Web pages. Instead, we scan (or skim) them, looking for words or phrases that catch our eye.

  2. We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice. Most of the time readers don’t scan all available options and choose the best one. Instead, they choose the first reasonable option, a strategy known as satisficing (a cross between satisfying and sufficing).

  3. We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through. Very few people take the time to read instructions. Instead, we forge ahead and muddle through, making up our own vaguely plausible stories about what we’re doing and why it works.

Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think 


At your next leadership team meeting, ask your team the following three questions about your church website in one minute’s time:

  1. Are we optimized for mobile devices? Hone for the Phone

Roughly nine-in-ten American adults own a mobile phone of some kind, with mobile use continuing to rise while laptop use declines. Many people are using their phones for maps and directions. Mobile browser optimization is not a passing fad. If a guest has to go through a series of pinches, scrolls, minuscule menu drop-downs and the inevitable fat-finger related back arrow taps to get to any viewable information on their phone, they most likely already wonder about your ability to connect with them.

  1. Who is our audience? Gear for Guests. 

Somewhere around 90% of church guests visit your website before they ever set foot on your campus. And most are really just trying to figure out what time they need to wake up to get the kids ready and leave the house on time. Inversely, countless hours are spent designing and writing pages of content that the average church member does not even view, beyond last week’s sermon audio or video. It’s not a stretch to apply Pareto’s oft-used principle to the church website as well: 80% of the information on most church websites is geared for 20% of the users.

  1. Is it up to date? Check for Freshness. 

If overwhelming the guest is not enough reason to simplify your web presence, remembering that the more announcements, events, and programmatic presence your website contains, the more constant maintenance it will take to keep it current and relevant. Most likely, the only people looking at those kids ministry announcements from last month are the ones deciding if they will bring their kids there for the first time this weekend. Keep your website fresh with automated social media feeds, impacting stories of life change via video and staff-wide content ownership.

How will you make sure your church is using the next minute to communicate the greatest message of all?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 40-1 published May, 2016

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Implement a Three-Rhythm Process for Effective Execution

Is it harder to stay focused and make timely decisions the more people you reach?

Congratulations – your church has just completed its third year in a row of growth! Weekend worship attendance is growing at 20% per year; your offerings are ahead of budget; and participation in small groups has increased steadily toward your goal of 75% of worship attendance.These are only the leading indicators of a successful growth curve.

While your church may not fall exactly into one or more of those growth indicators, success is likely happening in some area of ministry.

But beware – success brings its own new problems everyday. What were once easy decisions in your church four years ago now have now become complicated, cumbersome, and confusing. Your leadership team has likely grown, and chances are, your leadership in terms of group dynamics and interpersonal communication has not kept pace.

It is time to stretch your personal development and lead your church to stay focused and make timely decisions. If you are experiencing success and feeling the resulting complexity, consider implementing a three-rhythm process for effective execution.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Rhythm, by Patrick Thean

All growing companies encounter ceilings of complexity, usually when they hit certain employee or revenue milestones. In order to burst through ceiling after ceiling and innovate with growth, a company must develop a reliable system that prompts leaders to be proactive and pivot when the need arises.

Drawing on his experience as a successful serial entrepreneurial and speaker, Rhythm author Patrick Thean demonstrates how to identify the signs of setbacks before they occur, track those signs, and make adjustments to keep your plan on track and accelerate growth. Thean introduces a simple system to empower everyone in your company to be focused, aligned, and accountable–a three-rhythm process for effective execution.


A church with a successful growth pattern soon realizes how difficult of a task it is to keep everything balanced.

What if the pursuit of “balance” was the wrong choice?

Take a look around you in the natural world – do you see balance? Life is not static, linear,
or uniform. It moves, oscillates, vibrates, and pulsates. From different seasons that seem to come early (or begin late) to weather that is unpredictable to a backyard garden that one year is bountiful and the next sparse, nature doesn’t follow a balanced ow but instead moves in rhythms.

Paul, with the inspired wisdom of our Creator, called the church a “body” – a living organization. A growing, healthy church will find ways to harmonize with created and providential rhythms. Churches, like all organisms and organizations, develop through stages, experience seasons, and live in the cycles of creation.These cycles may last just a few weeks – or may extend into many years.

As pastor Bruce Miller said, “We can learn how to dance church to the God-shaped rhythms of life.”

The right rhythms give you focus, alignment, and accountability.

Rhythms help organizations continually identify the right things to review and discuss in order to stay focused on the future and avoid being blindsided. Once discovered, rhythms can help propel you forward, past ceiling after ceiling of complexity.

Think Rhythm: A rhythm of strategic thinking to create focus for the future of your organization.

Plan Rhythm: A rhythm of execution planning to let all teams and individuals know what they are supposed to be doing.

Do Rhythm: A rhythm of doing the work to keep the plan on track.

The best thing about having Think, Plan, and Do Rhythms is that they make you and your organization continuously ready to deal with ceilings of complexity when you meet them. When you hit a ceiling of complexity, you should not have to start up new processes and new habits to help your teams deal with change. In fact, making smart adjustments in your organization as a part of the three rhythms helps you avoid hitting those ceilings completely. Your rhythms should ensure that your teams are ready to respond, learn, and improve as you grow.

– Patrick Thean, Rhythm


Rhythm is a process, not an event. It takes time to improve in small steps. Utilizing the Think, Plan, and Do Rhythms will help your team become focused, aligned, and accountable.

Apply the concepts of Rhythm to your organization by practicing these following actions:

Think Rhythm Actions

  1. Make “think time” a priority in your personal schedule, and lead your team in monthly, quarterly, and annual “think” sessions.
  2. Be proactive about scheduling time to work on the strategy and continued growth of your organization by scheduling a monthly lunch meeting with your team and focusing only on strategy.
  3. Spend time refining and communicating the core strategy of your organization so ministry teams can make the right execution decisions with purpose.

Plan Rhythm Actions

  1. Separate execution planning from strategic thinking. Execution planning is figuring out how you will get your ministry initiatives accomplished to move your church forward steadily, month after month, year after year. 
  2. Create an annual plan that is both inspiring and practical – one that people connect to with their hearts and their heads.


Do Rhythm Actions

  1. To make sure that planning becomes doing, spend 30 minutes each week reviewing the week that just ended and setting your priorities for the coming week. Model this for the rest of your team.
  2. Use the collective intelligence of your team to encourage members to share when they are stuck or off track early, allowing everyone to contribute possible solutions and adjustments.
  3. Utilize two types of adjustments: corrective actions for goals not met or falling behind; and scaling the bright spots – actions that are working well – across the entire organization.

Don’t be discouraged by your success – as Auxano Founder Will Mancini writes in Church Unique:

Every leader must contend with clarity gaps and complexity factors. Clarity gaps are the logical areas where obscurity and confusion enter the leader’s communication world. Complexity factors literally wage war against the leader’s practice of clarity by making it difficult to maintain focus. When it comes to clarity, new levels bring new devils.The higher the leader goes, the harder the leader must work to stay clear.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 23-3 published September 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

To Improve Your Personal Productivity, You’ve Got to Change Your Habits

Does your team need practical help with personal productivity?

You have a pretty good sense that most of your team has too much to handle and not enough time to get it done – you may not have a sense of how much you are contributing to the problem.

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. Why not show them how by modeling effectiveness in your leadership?

By its very nature ministry makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

Solution: Change Your Habits

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.


Following habits is an important part of our personal routine, whether at home, work, or play. When you get up in the morning, you go through a routine to get ready for your day. When you arrive at work, you go through a routine for the day. When you arrive at home after work, you go through a routine for the evening. When tomorrow arrives, you begin it all over again.

Most habits are benign, but even some habits you maintain – at work, for instance – can be ineffective at best and detrimental to your job at worst.

If you desire to be more productive, you need to understand more about habits – and how to change them.

Research has documented that habits are a three-step loop in our brains. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical, mental, or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time, this loop – cue, routine, reward – becomes more and more automatic. You become locked in to the habits to the point that you no longer think about it. When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks.

While many of your habits are positive and productive, there are probably a few or more that could be improved. The problem is, habits are hard to change.

Unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically.

Changing a habit might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.

Here’s the framework for changing habits:

  • Identify the routine
  • Experiment with rewards
  • Isolate the cue
  • Have a plan

Step One: Identify the Routine

Researchers at MIT discovered a simple, neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. To understand your own habits, you need to identify the components of your loops. Once you have diagnosed the habit loop of a particular behavior, you can look for ways to supplant old vices with new routines. The first step is to identify the routine – the behavior you want to change.

Step Two – Experiment with Rewards

Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the craving that drives our behaviors. Most cravings are obvious in retrospect, but incredibly hard to see when we are under their sway. To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. By experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving.

Step Three: Isolate the Cue

To identify a cue, identify categories of behaviors ahead of time to scrutinize in order to see patterns. Experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Emotional state
  • Other people
  • Immediately preceding action

Step Four: Have a Plan

Once you’ve figured out your habit loop – you’ve identified the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself – you can begin to shift the behavior. You can change to a better routine by planning for the cue and choosing a behavior that delivers the reward you are craving.

– Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit


Set aside two hours to examine your typical ministry weekday schedule. Identify at least three habits in your schedule that are not effective in helping you be as effective for the gospel as you could be. Of the three, choose the one habit that, if changed, will benefit you the most.

Using Steps Two – Four from the framework above, begin the process of changing that habit. Follow each of the steps, spending time each day for two weeks on building personal effectiveness into this part of your schedule.

After two weeks of your experiment in modifying the change of habit, evaluate your progress with the following questions:

  • How easy was it to first identify habits that needed to be changed and then select just one?
  • How many rewards did you experiment with changing? What was the key to finding the most successful one?
  • How easy was it to isolate the cue among all the noise of your daily activity? Which of the five categories was the clear leader in the cue?
  • How easy was it for you to begin making choices again in changing your behavior?

Make a calendar reminder for three months to determine if you are still following your changed habit. Once you feel some momentum, lead your team to walk through this process.

Becoming effective in your own work habits will serve as both an inspiration and guide for your team. By demonstrating an effective, balanced role model, you are leading your team to effectiveness of vision, not just managing their output of activity.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 16-1, published June 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Strive for One-Kingdom Living

Is your congregation stuck seeing generosity as what they cannot give rather than why or how they give?

Generosity is a way of living that involves one’s daily activities, values, and goals for life, and the use of all possessions. It begins with recognition of God as Creator of all things, and our position as steward of some things.

As stewards, we are in charge of the possessions God has given us – an authority that is real, but secondary to God’s ultimate ownership.

When we get these two ownerships mixed up, problems follow.

Solution: Strive for One Kingdom Living


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Development 101, by John R. Frank and R. Scott Rodin

In our 60 years of combined experience with faith-based non-profits we have seen a lack of a comprehensive, biblically based, fundamentally sound, development strategy.

We see at least four main reasons for this situation. First, far too few ministries have taken the time to think through and create a theology of development that serves as a rule and guide for all of their work in raising kingdom resources. The result is that the demands for money, rather than Scripture, dictate the techniques used for fundraising. Second, many organizations set unrealistic goals and expectations for their development team. When they are not reached, the ministry makes a change and tries again. Third, we see a serious lack of integration in development work. Ministries take a shotgun approach, trying all sorts of different ways to reach income goals, but far too seldom take a comprehensive, strategic approach that serves the giving partners not just the organization. Finally, we experience consistent misunderstanding and confusion over the board’s role in development work, compounded by an inability by the board to develop metrics for measuring effectiveness and success in raising funds based on kingdom principles.

This book is our attempt to address these concerns and provide development professionals with a tool that can help them build robust, God-honoring development programs.


Generosity success is 100% impossible without embracing this valuable principle: God owns everything. We are stewards of a small few things that God owns. God owns your life, your salvation, your uniqueness, your calling, your job, your body, your car, your bank account, your cash, and your television.

It is God’s responsibility to provide for you, your church and family, not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to release ownership and be an obedient steward.

We were created to be one-kingdom people. That is, God created and redeemed us to be children in His kingdom where He and He alone is Lord.

 As one-kingdom people, we know that everything belongs to God, and we respond by living as faithful stewards. The problem of sin is that it tempts us to build a second kingdom where we play the lord over the things we believe we own and control. It could be said that the entire cosmic battle between good and evil is played out in this arena of two-kingdom living. When we submit to the temptation to believe we are in control of our own kingdom, we treat money as something that we ultimately own. When we do this, we cannot be faithful, generous stewards.

Jesus summed it up with razor precision: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

As we go about our development work, we must realize that every one of our giving partners struggles with this two-kingdom temptation. Our work as Christian development professionals is to be used by God to help our giving partners recommit themselves to being one-kingdom people. This may sound like a huge responsibility, and indeed it is. For this reason we believe strongly that development work is ministry. Let us say that again. Rather than seeing your development work as a means for raising the resources necessary for ministry to happen, we want you to reconsider that your development work is ministry. You have a wonderful opportunity to watch God use you in powerful ways in the lives of your giving partners. Once you make this commitment, it will affect everything you do in this field: your messaging, your planning, your budgeting, your writing, your strategy, your metrics, and your prayer life.

Does your organization operate from a two-kingdom or one-kingdom worldview?

John R. Frank and Scott Rodin, Development 101: Building a Comprehensive Development Program on Biblical Values


Think of yourself as the manager of a trust. You have been given a key role and a great responsibility, so make the most of it. God Himself has trusted you with time, money, material things, and great opportunities. Your objective is to maximize the investment of all that has been put into your hands. Take some time to examine the three gauges of how you are managing God’s investment: your calendar, your bank account, and your spiritual gifts.

In light of the one-kingdom principle, how would you grade yourself in each area? What is one thing you can do in the next few weeks to better your One-Kingdom GPA one point?

In the final analysis, the hallmark of stewardship is administration not acquisition. Only by pursuing the goal of pleasing God do we find true pleasure and satisfaction for ourselves.


Because a giving God expects a giving people, the generous Christian should be a joyous giver. We give as an expression of our new nature and life in Christ.

When our focus strays from this truth, a resentful attitude will not be far behind. You serve a generous God; remember to strive for one-kingdom living.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 30-1 published December 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.