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Category: Communication (page 1 of 2)

Reality Check

rejectionSometimes God is kind to us and gives us a serious reality check. Today was one of those days.

I came out of the restroom, and saw a beautiful woman with perfect hair standing there. Next to her, I felt dowdy. It is not uncommon for me to blurt what is on my mind, and this was no exception.

I looked at her beautiful red hair and announced “I am having a bad hair day.”

She looked at me oddly, then announced in return “Yesterday I shaved my head bald… you see, I’m having cancer treatments.”

This woman gave me such a gift today. Her wig was gorgeous. I compared myself to her – and failed to see what was really going on. She could have given me a superficial answer and walked away, but instead she opened up and told me the truth.

When I shared this story with my youngest daughter, she quoted her youth pastor. “Pastor Shaun says that we often compare our worst to other people’s best.”

Are you comparing yourselves to others?

You might be missing an opportunity to minister – and you might not be seeing reality.

What is God trying to show you today?

Why we need each other

21168240_sI’ve written extensively this year on the role of church. One of the foundations that sits in the background, but has not yet been expressed is the need for women in church leadership. The doctoral program that I am in has worked extensively on understanding the theology of women in ministry. Today I’d like to look at the practical aspects of this discussion.

I walk into this discussion with deep humility. I am well aware that the issue is complex, and many highly respected men and women do not agree with my viewpoint.

However, as a recent article in Leadership Journal points out, our femaleness and maleness both demonstrate parts of God’s nature, and “the core divide in humanity is across the genders. If the way that we’re manifesting the gospel within our churches is not addressing this primary divide, we’re not truly reflecting what the gospel asks us to do—bring reconciliation to the world.”

So in this article, we will address some of the basic aspects of what it is to be male and female through the lens of brain science.*

Guarding the Organization

How do men and women approach life and leadership differently? And why should any leadership team be comprised of both sexes?**

First,  let’s consider the way that men and women guard an organization. Men, whose brain chemistry moves toward action under stress, tend to be systems protectors. Women, whose brain chemistry focuses toward conversation under stress, tend to be process protectors. One can easily visualize how these two stress responses work in tandem to help a church.

Many churches have started a large change campaign only to find a good portion of their membership has jumped ship part way through the process. The system was being protect by change, but the process did not ensure that the people stuck with the system.

Other churches face the painful transitions caused by pastoral moral failures.

Personally, I believe that men need women at the table as colleagues in order to avoid this sort of devastation. Women colleagues can help a leadership team move forward with integrity. Women will tend to bring a different view. In general, men focus on the goal, women focus on how we get there. When women are given an equal voice at the table, they will be able to help steer an organization to avoid pitfalls, and provide new insights to avoid failures.

How we view leadership

The second area to consider is how men and women view leadership. (I’ve spoken on this some in recent weeks.) Men tend to view leadership as boxes in a hierarchy. Women tend to see leadership in net-like (or web-like) structures. This may be is the physiological reason that men don’t connect with women in leadership – they can’t see them. In other words, when men look for a colleague, they look for a suitable box while women are working with nets. In fact, when I took this language to women co-laborers, they didn’t even want to talk about a web of multiple boxes. Instead they viewed themselves as wearing multiple hats. We are mom, wife, cook, pastor, writer, speaker, coach, etc. each as a different hat. When women are asked for their occupation, they may find it very hard to define one specific “box.”

Therefore, education of both sexes is vital. Men who understand the need for net-like support within the organization will look for net-builders; and women who understand the need to be clearly identified within a hierarchy will work to bring definition to their life and calling beyond the structure and nature of their relationships.

The dual approaches of men and women in leadership situations complement each other and enhance our work. An organization that raises up women to work alongside men in leadership will be stronger, more self-aware, and better protected – not just from the outside, but from the inside as well.

So what do you think? Please use the comments section below to add to the conversation.

*It is important to understand that the statements herein are generalizations and thus stated as absolutes. Individuals may place themselves closer to the center, as no two brains are wired exactly the same. In fact, Gurian and Annis suggest that women who have been trained to male leadership roles operate more as a third sex – a mix of both male and female leadership tendencies.

**(For more information on this, you can read the book Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business. by Gurian and Annis)


What box do you fit in?

11741263_sYesterday I talked about self-identity. I’m thinking through this for a reason.

I highly suspect that:

  1. Just as we tend to change careers every 7 years, we also tend to need to redefine our boxes (which means teens aren’t the only ones working on self-identity).
  2. When we are solely defined by what others think of us, that impedes this process.
  3. Men have an easier time of finding their box than women.

This last one deserves some explanation.

Men tend to lead in hierarchies. They think in boxes. In fact, when you move up the hierarchy, you just move your box up. When they leave work, they move to a different hierarchy, and switch hats to dad, or coach, or etc.

Women tend to lead in more of a web. We see the connectedness of things. We self-define through the lens of multiple relationships at a time. Therefore, we don’t have just one box at a time. Neither do we wear one hat at a time.

It is not unusual to plan dinner, create a check list for next week, and council a teen while working on an extensive spreadsheet for next year’s budget. Everything runs into each other, so it is a lot harder to define our ‘place.’

I’ve been talking with friends lately about the lack of women in leadership. I hear from some friends that men would love to have more women in leadership, but when they look for them, they aren’t there.

Where are all the women? They are sitting in 3 boxes, wearing 6 hats, hoping someone will notice the skill set they are so fantastically demonstrating – if anyone could see the whole picture at once. But, when they use their skill set to marshal the entire PTA to raise funds for kids’ field trips, people see the soccer mom or school volunteer. When they navigate medical terminology and negotiate home health care contracts for their family members, they see a dutiful daughter.

I highly suspect that because women self-define several things at once, it appears they don’t have the space to fill an open slot. There is a business adage of this: if you want something done, ask a busy person.

What are we missing?

What would you add to help further this conversation?

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

The Hardest Words I’ve Ever Said

Did I say that?Some people hate to say

  • “I’m sorry” or
  • “I was wrong”

Those aren’t my thing. It is easy for me to admit fault in those ways.

However, even typing this next sentence is emotionally trying. I hate to say “I don’t know.”

And, I’m married to a very inquisitive man. He asks questions – usually until he hits the bottom of the barrel with me. For years, he put me in a panic. I hated to say those dreaded words so much that I’d cause a fight just to avoid saying them.

You might know that panic – your blood races, your brain feels like someone turned on the AM static, and your chest feels like something is trying to crawl out of it. No matter what I did, when I could sense that final question coming – the one I couldn’t answer – the panic would start, and panic gives rise to adrenaline, which fuels our fight or flight response.

Some would say it is a pride thing. It probably is. We all have them. Some women don’t want to be caught without makeup, some of us can’t stand to admit we were  wrong, or own up to the damage we’ve done in others. My panic was as personal to me as yours is to you.

Then I discovered a work around. In recent months, I’ve expanded my abilities. Today you might hear me say:

  • “I don’t have anymore information on that”
  • “You have reached the end of my knowledge on the topic”
  • “That’s all I’ve got” and even
  • “I’ve got nothin'”

People are important. If our failure to say those very hard words means something to them, it should mean something to us. If we have phrases that send our adrenaline into an instant polka routine, then we need to face our fears and find a better approach.

What is it that you hate to say? Would it help to find some workarounds?\


You can start your own mastermind group today

Mastermind groupImagine you had a group of people who listen intensely to what you have to say, then give you honest feedback and input.

Would you like to borrow 5 other brains to move to your next level immediately?

This last year, I’ve had the privilege of walking with a group of friends who are amazing. We meet once a month for two hours, and every month this is one of my highlights!

You can create your own mastermind group in 7 easy steps:

  1. List the six most amazing people you know.
  2. Ask those six people to join you on a 10 month (or 12 month) adventure
  3. Doodle these six people and ask them for the best two hours of their month. Our group meets one Saturday a month, sometimes the third Saturday, sometimes the last Saturday from 8-10am. Depending on your demographics, your group might want to meet on a weeknight, a Sunday afternoon, or at 6am on a weekday.
  4. Set all 10 dates on the calendar and send the invites to the group.
  5. If you use gmail, you can easily add a video call (google hangout) – or you can meet via Skype. Some mastermind groups meet in person, but I love the flexibility of meeting in my sweats before my family is awake.
  6. On the day of your first meeting, get online about five minutes ahead of time and resend the invite. (I usually also ping everyone sometime the week before.)
  7. Once your group is on line, here is a suggested format:
    • Open in prayer
    • Decide how many minutes each person will get
    • Designate a person to keep time.
    • Each person will get 15-20 minutes total – they introduce their topic, and then everyone gives them input and/or feedback.
    • Either pray for each person at the end of their time, or pray at the end of your time
    • End on time.

Last, you should always solicit feedback. What is working for people? What isn’t working. Feel free to modify your group as you go – you need consistency, but you also need to have the freedom to learn and grow as a group.

Do you have questions? Please take a moment to connect in the comments below.

Have you experience a mastermind group that worked differently? Would you take a moment to share your wisdom below?Looking for more resources?


Dealing with Rejection

rejectionI read something life-changing this morning:

“Rejection is a type of communication.”

from The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes

This means that rejection could mean:

  • You confuse me
  • I don’t get you
  • You don’t fit my paradigm so I don’t know how to act with you
  • I am overloaded and don’t have emotional energy for this relationship
  • You are doing something offensive and I don’t know how to talk to you about it
  • You have beliefs that I can’t reconcile and I can’t see you as a person right now
  • Or, for some of us “sorry – I was so far in my head I didn’t realize you were talking.”

None of these are bad – they are all perfectly acceptable responses. After all, there are 7 billion people on the planet – we are bound to hit a few people we really can’t relate to.

This opens up our ability to respond to rejection. Just contemplating this will help you respond to rejection with grace – both for yourself and for others.

Keepin’ it real

By Evan Courtney on Flikr

This morning, I just sat and listened to my heart talk to God.

I know. That sounds really odd. It had been quite a while since I’d just leveled with God, I found myself with an extra hour and decided to not try to accomplish anything. Instead, I spent the hour just letting my heart talk to God.

Our Sunday School class is pretty cool. It is a class for couples, and we just go through curriculum that will help us be better together. We recently had a series on communication. In that series, they talked about a “leveling session” – full disclosure, we missed that day, but the gist of a leveling session is that you “level” with one another.

Today, I had a leveling session with God. I investigated the corners of my heart and figured out what I’ve been thinking, feeling, fearing, hoping – and I laid it all out there.

The really cool part is that I know God listened.

Are you going so fast that you only take care of business with God? Have you investigated what your hopes, fears, expectations and disappointments are? Have you talked about these to God?

Relationships require honesty and work. Even our relationship with God. Our honesty isn’t a surprise to Him – He knows our hearts long before we do – but if we aren’t keeping it real with Him, then we are not having a relationship with Him. We need to level with God for our own sakes – because when we hide behind the veil of technology, business, responsibility, should’a, could’a, would’a – we don’t let anyone in. When we let God in to the deep parts of us, we invite Him to engage with us and change us to be more like Him.

How do you keep it real with God?

David was real on a regular basis. He prayed amazingly unloving prayers – and God listened. No lightening bolts hit him. In fact, God cheered him on. He delighted in the realness of their relationship.

God won’t be appalled at your thoughts and feelings. He’d love to hear what is not just on your mind, but what is on your heart.

How to really connect with someone

Did you know that the words you use will either connect you to someone or leave you hanging?

One day I met one of our ushers in the church office. I asked him a simple question:

How did you feel about Sunday?”

This man is intelligent, and definitely has opinions, and he looked at me with a completely blank face. Now, being the only girl on a 9-person pastoral staff, I’d done some work learning the difference between guy and girl communications (also known as right and left brain communications) and realized almost immediately my error. I changed my question. I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t ask the right question.

What did you think about Sunday?”

Immediately, the light bulb went on, and he gave me more than two paragraphs of information.

The language you use can make a real difference in how people hear you. Here are a few keys to learn how to speak someone’s language:

1. Assess which part of the brain they are using – just like I did above, when my natural language “feel” didn’t work, I tried the opposite: “think”. People who use feeling language will naturally access their intuitive side for conversation. People who use thinking language will operate more on logic, facts and figures.

2. Listen to their sensory language. We all have primary learning styles, and often this comes out in our language. Think of the five senses. Some people will naturally access information through their auditory system. These people will use language like “I hear you”. If you tell this person “I see what you mean”, they will sense that you aren’t on the same wave length. Instead, use the language that makes the most sense to them.

3. Speak to their intellect. My husband had two experiences in his early years that illustrate this concept. A kid in school came up and asked him a question (I don’t remember what it was).

My husband, in his usual high vocabulary, replied. The kid gave him a blank stare.

Realizing he had not communicated, Wes tried again, this time using teen vernacular. This time the kid got it, and the communication cycle was complete.

A few years later, Wes was working at JPL/NASA. One of the engineers emerged from his office to find that his document hadn’t printed. He asked Wes a question about the printer. Wes replied in normal English “I don’t know.” The engineer gave him a blank look, two tries later, each time increasing his vocabulary, Wes finally said “I am not well versed in the operation of this machine”; the engineer finally understood, the lightbulb went on, and communication was complete.

4. Listen to body language and make sure yours is consistent. One day I discovered one of my kids getting into her swimming suit in the dead of winter. I asked her why. She said “I’m cold.” As you can see, her body language and her verbal language were not in agreement. Similarly, if you say “I’m listening” with your mouth, but your body says you aren’t, people will pick up on it. Make sure you have congruence between the message you want to convey and your body language. 

Next watch the body language of those you are listening to. Very often, they will tell you things with their arms, facial expressions, shoulder tension, etc. that will give you clues as to what is really going on.

You are in this to help others. Gaining new skills as a interpersonal communicator will enable you to make a real difference in the lives of others. Take time to learn the details, practice with a friend and you will be glad you did.

How to hook your audience

I’ve been reading a new book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. In this book, the Heaths talk about the elements of change.

We can try to change things from the outside in, starting with the environment, but lasting change won’t happen until we hook the heart. Once the heart is engaged, the emotional energy will catapult a person or organization through change.

Yesterday, I rediscovered one of my favorite TED talks. In this talk, Simon Senik talks about communication for change – people don’t engage when you tell them information. They engage when you engage their heart or their passion. They engage when you show them why. Or, put another way (from Simon), “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

This has a lot of implications for those of us in Church leadership. Why do you do what you do? Try starting your next sermon with the why. You will find people stay engaged longer and want to hear more.

Here is a special treat for you, straight from TED talks:

Do you feel connected to God?

Do you ever wonder if God is really as connected with us as we’d like to think?

There are seasons when we wonder if He forgot us (even while proclaiming loudly His faithfulness). We have whole parts of life when we only hear His voice on rare moments.

Yet God is present and He does care. Why do we feel so disconnected?

1. Stress changes our focus. When you are under a lot of stress, your brain is spending a lot of time processing what is. In these situations, you don’t naturally relax your brain to hear God speak. It is really important to schedule time to let the world fall apart if need-be, and turn off your brain. (This is called Sabbath.)

2. Emotional Exhaustion drains us. You can’t give or receive love when you are emotionally exhausted. Jesus understands when you are at the end of your rope. A quick look at the Beatitudes shows you that God is never closer to you than when you think your will lose your brain if one more person needs something.

3. Sin. Holding bitterness and anger are a sure way to shut down your God-receptors. However, sometimes God tells us to do something we don’t want to. We want to pretend it was a suggestion, and avoid discomfort. Every avoidance is  a brick in the wall we build between us and God.

4. Busyness. When we are so focused on our agenda, we fail to take time to listen.

Has God spoken to you recently? What did He say? Sometimes, it isn’t earth shattering. I went an entire year where I swear God only told me “hang on and don’t freak out.” Yet, there have been seasons in life when God clearly gave me directions several times a day. It is possible that when we don’t like what we hear, we “roll again” hoping to get a better answer this time, like a giant slot machine. God speaks what we need to hear, not what we like to hear. Sometimes, like Martha, we want to cry “if only you had been here, things would have been different.” When in reality, God was at work all along.

Are you looking for ways to strengthen your relationship with God? Check out our new Ministry Resource page to find assessments for your spiritual life and a new understanding of your relationship with God. 

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