You Might Be Wasting Time and Money on Good Ideas

Feel busy? Do you ever have that moment where you look at the next event on your calendar and ask yourself “Why are we even doing this?”

You’re not alone.

If left unchecked, the meetings, events, and ministries we repeat week after week become routine and disconnected with why they started in the first place.

That’s a problem…but it doesn’t only exist with those routine events on your calendar.

It can happen with new ideas too.

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I was recently at a Pastor’s conference and was having lunch with two attendees I had not met before. They were not on staff at their church (they worked full time in the marketplace) but told me about a preaching development program they were participating in at their church.

I, of course, was intrigued.

I began asking questions to better understand what their participation looked like.

They began to describe some of the incredible communicators that had come to speak to them about the importance of preaching.

Honestly, I was impressed with the caliber of their guest “lecturers”. Whoever was designing this program was inviting some accomplished communicators to speak to the program participants.

But it all fell apart when I started to ask about their end goal.

What was the purpose of the program? They couldn’t really say.

Were they getting any preaching reps? No.

What were they accomplishing in the end? Learning about preaching.

That last one was noble, but problematic .

They knew it was a good idea to teach their people about preaching, but no one really had a sense of the problem they were trying to solve.

And here in lies the problem.

A solution without a problem is a waste of time. 

A solution without a problem is a waste of time.
— @StevenJBarker

We can experience this both in our routines and when implementing new ideas.

  1. Routine Meeting, Events & Ministries

    With any event on your calendar you should be able to answer:

    “What problem is this solving?”

    If it’s a weekly meeting with your team, maybe it’s insuring you stay connected as a team. The agenda should reflect that.

    If it’s a 1:1 with a direct report, maybe it’s calibrating their goals and activities. The questions you ask should reflect that.

    If it’s an annual event for your church, ask yourself: Why did we start this event? Has the goal changed?

  2. New Ideas

    New ideas, quite honestly, are easy to come by. Visit another succeeding church and I’m sure you’ll come away with a list. Listen to a prominent church leader’s leadership podcast and I’m sure you will easily double the length of that list.

    Inspiration is undoubtably important for you as a leader, but where we get ourselves in trouble is when we fail to ask they question:

    “What problem where they trying to solve?"

    And then following that question with, “Are we experiencing that same problem?”

In the end, the most valuable thing you can do is to have a vision for where your church is going in the next two years and then filtering everything through that.

Grab a piece of paper.

At the top, write this sentence:

In the next two years, our church will…

Brainstorm away. You’ve got a vision in there. A place you believe God is leading you. Write it down.

Then write down a list of problems that need to be solved in order to get there.

That list of problems becomes the filter for the types of podcasts you listen to, the questions you ask of leaders at those succeeding churches. It becomes the filter for your meeting schedule and agendas.

And then share the problems with your leaders. You wouldn’t ever be the one to come up with all the best solutions, that’s something that is always better with more minds.

Remember, a solution, a meeting, a ministry, a new idea without a problem may be wasting your time and your church’s finances.

And that’s not something that any of us get excited about.

The Secret to Finding Your Purpose

Exploit your strengths, push to discomfort.

I was confused on my journey to discover my strengths.

Maybe it had to do with those two ridiculous interview questions: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

As I would stare at the interviewer, I'd describe something already listed on the job description (”I’m great with people.”). Then with some twisted reverse psychology I'd describe some irrelevant characteristic like ”I work too hard.”

As humorous as that is, it doesn’t do me any good in my pursuit to find purpose and impact.

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In fact I think we can get confused with the idea of strengths, confusing them solely with abilities that come easy to us. That’s a limited view that does more to create frustration and disappointment.

Instead, let’s look to Marcus Buckingham’s four clear signs of strength:

  1. Success — This is effectiveness in the activity you are doing.
  2. Instincts — Find those things that you instinctively look forward to, and capitalize on them.
  3. Growth — You're growing when you can concentrate on an activity, and time just flies by.
  4. Needs — Some activities might make you tired, but they fulfill you.

I can tell you from experience that it took years of experimenting to hone in on my strengths, but once I began to understand them, I could offer them whenever possible.

The Problem

Discovering your strengths/your greatest contribution is exhilarating. It’s like uncovering hidden treasure. We discover something about ourselves that we’ve always had a hunch was there. The problem is stopping here. Discovering your strengths is not discovering your purpose, but it is a step on the way their.


Once you discover your strengths, you’re next step is to lean in. Offer that strength whenever possible. Offer it on small projects, offer it on large ones. If you do it better than anyone else, with proven results, put those skills to good work. [Read more]


The secret to finding your purpose is hidden in discomfort. The danger of discovering your strengths is the huge temptation to stay safe, to only do things you know you’re good at. You box yourself just to stay safe.

Instead, push yourself to the edge of your skill set. If you’re using your strengths, but are at the edge of your ability, you’re in just the right spot.

Modified. Image credit,  @darcyjohoman

Modified. Image credit, @darcyjohoman


Ask for new responsibility, talk to that person you feel intimidated to talk to (could be a neighbor or someone you look up to).

Just make sure to exploit your strengths & push to discomfort. You never know what God might want to do through you.

The Jolt That Jump Started the Momentum

Have you ever had one of those days where you dream about the future?

Maybe you had one of those moments talking with a trusted friend where the conversations turns to what could be and your heart starts to beat a little faster. You mind races as you bounce back and forth imagining what life would be like if we could just ______________. 


Unfortunately, as I’ve talked with pastors and church leaders, I’ve noticed one huge, discouraging problem! 


This problem plagues both organizations and individuals. 

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If you’re like me, the decade markers of our lives tend to be the moments when we evaluate our progress to date. Some people have panic attacks, others have a mid-life crisis. I landed somewhere in between. I was having a fair amount of success in my job (not in the church) but wasn’t having the kind of impact I had always imagined my life would have. I was working hard, enjoying my life but I wasn’t making any progress towards anything that remotely resembled my “life’s work”. My own life was plagued with the same, huge, discouraging problem. 


So, what was the huge problem I saw?


The problem can actually be separated into two equally important parts.


1. No clear, actionable plan to move toward the dream. 

More often then not, the dream of the future is much clearer than the steps to get there. That’s probably because dreaming is the easier part. Working out an actionable plan means working through a truckload of variables. It requires the ability to uncover what’s most important and which steps require priority. It requires a clear understanding of the current situation, as well as, what’s happened in the past. 

It commonly requires some type of change management, which undoubtedly requires conviction and focused energy. 

Teams need more than emotional enthusiasm; they need solid planning and strategy that empowers and executes the vision.
— Tony Morgan

That potential for conflict can stop any sort of actionable plan dead in its tracks. 

An aggressive actionable plan requires an appropriate amount of tolerance for risk and ambiguity, matched with the right timing, level of details, understood variables and defined tasks. None of which all come naturally to one person and therefore require some level of healthy conflict. 


2. No jolt, to break you from your current reality.

A jolt is most often the required ingredient for teams to overcome the fear of conflict.  That event that can serve as a catalyst to open the planning process and present the need for immediate action. 

Better yet, an external guide to help the process can help the team move beyond personalities. An outsider, who doesn’t, as they say, have a horse in the game can provide an unbiased focal point for your discussion and planning.  

A couple of years back, our church hit a turning point by going through this exact type of process. We hired an outside organization to walk us through a process that would point us toward a much clearer path moving forward. Starting with a two-day offsite (a jolt) we spent the following year moving through a clear actionable plan. Not only did we have a map to follow, we now had a taste for clarity and focus.  


Why I became StratOp certified.


That experience is precisely why I became StratOp certified. It has always been a passion and a calling of mine to help those I care about find clarity and purpose in what they do. The StratOp process provided the clarity and longevity to accelerate that impact. It’s why I now offer a Lead Forward process based on the Strategic Operating plan pioneered by the Paterson Center over the last 30 years. 


Leading forward to the dream and vision you have for your church’s future means is what you were meant to do. Don’t stay still and grow stale, jump forward and lead your church to the next level.