Miscommunication, empathy and email


This is a great post at the 99U. It starts:

When speaking face-to-face, it’s the verbal and nonverbal social cues that allow us to gauge the best way to arrange our wording in order to get our point across clearly. In email, we don’t get such real-time feedback. Once our message is in the hand of the recipient, we’ve lost all control.

This, of course, often leads to miscommunications, guessed intentions, and a total unawareness of whether an email was typed in red-faced anger or while sipping a martini by a pool. What really leads to those miscommunications is a lack of empathy….

“The most important thing is understanding each other’s language,” founder Drew D’Agostino said. “It’s not me completely adapting the way I communicate with you, but being aware and considerate of how you communicate best. Everybody’s different, and if we can just learn to recognize the communication styles of each other we can create much clearer interactions and productive communications.”

So how do we write emails that enable empathy—especially with people we might have never met in person before? And how can we be more empathetic when reading the emails of others? We asked D’Agostino to share Crystal’s best tips on how to bring more empathy to emails; both in the ones we receive and in the ones we send.

Read the whole thing here.

3 lessons we can learn from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is a fascinating character – he’s seen as one of the most influential people of the last three decades. He’s changed the way that computing and technology intersects with the liberal arts street as he so often used to put it.

I love to read good biographies and I am fascinated by people’s stories. Not even necessarily famous people or key world leaders, I just love the story of someone’s life. Walter Isaacson does a fantastic job of truly getting underneath the surface of Steve Jobs – sharing the story, the values, the highs and the lows.

A few things jumped out at me:


Steve Jobs consistently developed news ideas, but it seems that very few of the ideas that and the brilliant Jony Ive (his main designer) came up with made it to even board level, let alone a product for consumers.

Too often I think in the church we try to use every idea for fear of missing an opportunity – we sometimes need to be pickier about the quality of those ideas. Equally, don’t be afraid of the radical ideas – the iPhone, the iPad, Pixar and Apple Stores were all ideas that were revolutionary in their own way – pushing the edge of our normal understanding.


Jobs didn’t organize Apple into separate divisions like, for example, Sony or Philips, instead he pushed his teams to work together under the one profit and loss line. My experience of working in the church is that we’re very quick to adopt a business model of silos: children’s and youth, worship, pastoral care, teaching, work with older people all have separate teams.

Instead, we need to be clear that whilst there are experts working in their own field that people must contribute to the one profit and loss for the company – we must contribute and work together for the vision and goals of the organization. Jobs uses to use phrases such as “deep collaboration” and “concurrent engineering” to describe the process. I’m deeply passionate that we need to see more of this in the 21st century church.


In today’s consumeristic world there’s a lot of focus on giving the customers what they want. Jobs challenged that. He took a quote from Henry Ford: “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’”. Jobs believed that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them and that’s why he didn’t place a large emphasis on market research.

Too often in youth ministry we’re tempted to swing from one iniative to the next trying to find the magic formula to get lots of young people to come to Christ and then grow in discipleship. Instead, Jobs believes that our task is to read things that are not yet on the page and that’s what youth ministry needs to be for the church – the prophetic voice that shows what the church should look like.

Leaders in business and politics have lots of to teach us, and we shouldn’t be afraid to learn from these leaders, but we also need to be clear that church isn’t an organization that can be run in the way a business or government can. Church has very different priorities, especially around values, in comparison with those organisations.

If you haven’t read Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson then do get a copy – it’s a fascinating insight into the change in technology and the arts that’s happened in the last 30 years.

Arrow Course Preparation Day: Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12.1

I had a great time on the CPAS Arrow Course preparation day, and heard some great teaching from Nick Cuthbert on Hebrew 12:1-13:

It is very easy to grow weary as a human, it is a struggle, especially if you have children.  We often feel live giving up, in The Road Less Travelled, Scott Peck says: “Life is difficult”

In England we think things will work but it doesn’t work we’re sad most of the time, in Africa we think things won’t work so we’re happy when they work!

It is hard to be a Christian worker today, it is very easy to grow weary and lose heart.  You will know colleagues who didn’t finish the race, they lost heart.  The writer says I am writing so you don’t lose heart.  Paul twice in 2 Corinthians explains this.

Listen to the cheering crowd

Remember the witnesses, remember the generations who have gone through what you have gone through and worse, and if they could see you they would tell you to keep going.  If you were to go to Italy to watch the Rugby you would be cheering on the England players most of whom haven’t played.  These people have, they have felt those moments and still they say keep going.  History reminds us of men and women who get through, that’s why reading biographies is so important.

In Hebrews 11 we see people who lived life as a half-way to a miracle – but a miserable place to be, Moses standing on the red sea shore with Pharaoh behind you it’s not a good moment; the same in the River Jordan; then Jericho walking around six times blowing their trumpets; disciples trying to feed 5,000 with some fish and bread!  Many of us are at that point, we haven’t seen the breakthrough of God.  Going through the process is important, see Joseph who wouldn’t have been the man he became.  Abraham never saw the miracle, he never saw the city.

Get rid of the weights

Get rid of the stuff you don’t need.  Athletes trained with weights on their back so it was easier in the actual race, but he says many people are struggling in the race because you are carrying things you don’t need to carry.  Much is linked to relationships, hurts and pain that we carry unnecessarily.  Get rid of them and you feel the relief and can run freely.

The sin that he’s referring to here is probably unbelief, as when things are hard, we’re tempted to say where is God?

Staying in your lane

Let’s run with endurance the race set before us.  When you set out on a race you’re enthusiastic but half-way through you question what are you doing.  God has given you a particular race to run, stay in your own lane, we often try to run someone else’s race.  We try to copy what other people do.  So when God meets you on the final day it will be because you ran the race he called you to – you may become very well known or no one may know of your ministry.

You are dominated in church life of the expectations of others.  If you are wise you discover who you are, if you run the race of who you are you will run it with ease, but if you run the race how others expect you to be then it will always be difficult.

Look beyond the tape

You run for beyond the tape, you set your sight on something you are going for.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, when things are hard we become consumed with what we struggle with, but if you fix your eyes on Jesus everything will come into perspective, you see something bigger than all the struggles.  Look beyond, your ministry is not the end of this life, there is something bigger and better to live for – there is another day we’re heading towards – heaven.  Only two days are important in life – today – that we live in and that day.

Growing process

God loves you and will teach you in the hard times, we learn in the struggles.  It is in the hardship and the times we want to give up.  It is more important what he does in you not about what you do.  John 15, you are the vine, the Father is working in our lives to make us all we are.  Those who receive the reward in heaven are the overcomers, that is hard work but important.

Books I have read: Building a Strategic Church

Building a Strategic Church

David Beer was one of those church leaders you wanted to learn from, one who I had the privilege of meeting and hearing speak several times.  In Building a Strategic Church he allows us to sit in a coffee shop with him and chat about lots of different areas of church ministry.

The book covers a huge number of areas with eleven chapters, each subdivided into little sections only a few pages long:

  • Why be strategic?
  • Strong leadership
  • Team spirit
  • Relational structures
  • Application preaching
  • Training and equipping
  • Exponential thinking
  • Generous attitude
  • Involvement with the local community
  • A caring heart
  • Putting it all together

After serving as Senior Pastor at Frinton Free Church (a church with approximately 600 members) he went on to head up the Purpose Driven Church movement in Europe.  This does mean that some parts of the book come across as overly American and reliant on the acrostics and structures that come from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church.

The book left me wanting more in several areas, I would want to bounce ideas with David Beer, understanding why he does things in certain ways, and what he thinks about some of my ideas.  If you’re looking for a helpful overview to the how of church then look no further.

Servant leadership

Lead On - CPAS

I loved the article on Servant Leadership by James Lawrence in the monthly CPAS Lead On mailing:

‘The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between a leader is a servant and a debtor.’ Max De Pree

Defining reality: helping those we lead to see things as they are. Saying thank you: expressing appreciation for what people do. And in between, suggests DePree, a leader is a servant and debtor. What does this look like?

Christians follow a servant king, one who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). The defining symbol of this sort of leadership is a towel. Yet servant leadership is often misunderstood. For Christians it doesn’t mean serving people, but serving God and through our service of God serving people; a subtle, but significant difference.

Serve people and we end up becoming a doormat, dutifully doing whatever they think best. Serve God and then we become a doorway, through which we enable people to walk into the priorities of the king and the purposes of the kingdom. Servant leaders serve God first, which means there will be times when we don’t do what people ask, when we say no (see Matthew 20:20-28). Such leadership is often difficult.

For example, most of us would rather avoid difficult conversations – the PCC member who is ‘bullying’ others into agreeing with what he wants. Perhaps he has been doing it for years, and no one has challenged his behaviour. The servant-leader plucks up courage, even when they would rather avoid the conversation, and does what is required.

So the critical question for servant leaders is ‘what is required of me in my leadership role today that will further the purposes of the kingdom and bless others?’

Let’s pick up our towels this month, and serve.

Books I have read: Leading on Empty

Leading on Empty

This week I’ve been reading Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro.  I was recommended this book by one of my previous colleagues who had been really encouraged by Cordeiro’s honesty and attitude.  The book starts by reflecting on his experience of burnout and how he realised that his life was not sustainable and needed to change.

For me the most helpful aspect of the book was his honesty both as he reflected with what he needed to change – that it ran deep within himself; and the depth at which Cordeiro explained practically how he managed this – especially with the Personal Retreat Days – something I will certainly be taking on board as we move into 2014.

The concept of a dashboard which helps to measure vital systems essential for health and success was interesting, he used: Faith life; marriage life; family life; office life; computer life; ministry life; financial life; social life; attitudinal life; author’s life; speaker’s life and physical life.  I found Cordeiro’s thoughts on the different questions we ask ourselves in our 20s, our 30s, our 40s, our 50s, our 60s and our 70s helpful to realise that after ten years in ministry who I am, and the questions I ask of myself have changed during this period.

With recommendations such as “This is a must-read for all leaders” by Bill Hybels it certainly isn’t one to ignore, and whilst there is nothing that you probably haven’t heard before, it will certainly encourage you and challenge you to make your life more sustainable instead of constantly leading on empty.

The Challenges of Leadership in the Charity Sector


I loved the email article, The Challenges of Leadership in the Charity Sector by Charles McLachlan in this week’s Cinnamon Network mailing:

As my career developed in commercial organisations, I believed I also had something to offer charities – the Third Sector. It seemed easy to get invited to join trustees, act as a treasurer or get more involved in operational activity. Here was a place that I felt I could contribute, if only they would adopt some of the commercial disciplines of project management, financial control and clear lines of authority that I knew so well, then we could really make a difference together!

My early attempts at introducing some of these commercial disciplines were welcomed in principle however, but resisted in practice. As my mentor used to say, “Charles, just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do” and even more confusingly, “Charles, just because it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean it is not the right thing to do”.  I felt I must be missing part of the picture.

Then it clicked. I had hardly imagined the challenge charity leaders face when:

  • 90% of your customers don’t pay you for your services;
  • 90% of your staff hours are provide by individuals who cannot be motivated by pay or financial reward;
  • your investors often have stronger opinions about how you do things and what you do than the actual outcomes delivered;
  • available resources may be allocated in response to perceptions (internal or external) rather than a business case;
  • too often, absolute cost trumps value for money in spending decisions;
  • individuals with power may have no responsibility, and those with responsibility have little power.

As I began to fully understand this, I developed a new respect for leaders of charities. I also realised how much of what those leaders achieve could be applied with enormous power into commercial organisations.

The Third sector is often incredibly entrepreneurial. With almost no resources, a community action group can initiate the transformation of an entire neighbourhood, for example. The Jubilee Debt Campaign released billions of dollars of Third World debt to education and health care.

Does the commercial sector have nothing to offer the Third sector? No, I still believe that many of the disciplines of the commercial sector are required. But it is easy to squeeze out the power of the relationships that are the Social Capital underpinning the Third sector if you just turn the organisation into a more efficient financial machine. And for all of us, where financial resources are increasingly constrained, we should look to Social Capital as the entrepreneurial resource for leaders who want to re-invigorate Britain in the 21st century.


My struggle – leaders fail


One of my biggest lessons in leadership is that leaders fail, and that it is necessary and good to fail.

The more I read of leaders the more I realise that those we often hold up as fantastic leaders in their own fields struggled time and time again with failure.  Their success is built upon a foundation of failures from which they learn and grow.

As Thomas Edison said:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

The other thing I’ve learnt is that just because you fail doesn’t mean you should drop that dream or goal – it may just need more practice or not be the right time for it to work.  Just check out this infographic:


The Best Leaders Are Both Tough and Nice

Great little article over at Harvard Business Review on how the best leaders are both tough and nice:

Leaders often ask themselves whether it’s best to be tough or nice. If you’re tough — a “driver” — you can push people to go beyond the limits of their abilities. If you’re nice — an “enhancer” — you can better understand the needs, problems, and concerns of your charges. It’s a hard choice. So which style results in the more highly-engaged employees? According study of 160,576 employees under the command 30,661 bosses, the tough-versus-nice battle is tight. Eight percent of tough-led employees are highly engaged. Nice? Six percent. So tough-minded leaders are the winner, right? Not so fast. The most effective leaders, it turns out, use both styles, and 68% percent — that’s right, 68% — of their employees are highly engaged. That’s impressive.


The “Chips” Principle

Kurt Johnston

I loved this article from Kurt, on the Simply Youth Ministry mailout last week:

I think I first heard about the “chips” principle when I was working for former pastor and current leadership guru John Maxwell.

The concept is a simple one: In church ministry you are constantly putting “chips” in your pocket, or taking them out. When you find yourself out of chips, you are out of luck and potentially out of a job. So you never want to run out of chips!

You get chips when you earn trust, when you handle an upset parent properly, when you help out another ministry, when you say “yes” to something the senior pastor asks of you, and so on.

You lose chips when you break trust, come home from camp late, say a joke from stage you shouldn’t have, whine to your senior pastor about your schedule, ignore a parent’s concerns, and so on.

Because I want you to have lots of chips in your pockets as you minister in your setting, let me share the three things that I’ve discovered consistently put the most chips in the pockets of youth workers:

  • LONGEVITY—Nothing puts more chips in your pocket than simply sticking around for a while! When you weather storms and turn down other opportunities for “greener pastures,” you put tons of chips in your pocket. In the revolving-door world of youth ministry, staying committed to the teenagers in your church for a prolonged period of time gives you chips galore…which you’ll need when you have to cash some in because you played the cinnamon challenge game at camp.
  • ATTITUDE—Sometimes it’s not what you do but how you do it that puts chips in your pocket! Agreeing to emcee the senior adult potluck doesn’t automatically win you favor. Agreeing to do it enthusiastically, and expressing gratitude that you were asked, is what earns you chips. And you’ll need those chips because you will have to cash some in if you ask a room full of 80-year-olds to play Twister! It’s been said that your attitude determines your altitude. I like that, and have found it to be true.
  • COMPETENCE—For most churches your involvement in their youth ministry, whether paid or volunteer, is a skill-based opportunity. You add chips to your pocket every time you do something well (unless of course, your attitude stinks). You add even more chips to your pocket when you consistently do something well that others on your youth team can’t. So look for ways to do what you do well and do it often! This will give you lots of chips that you will need to cash in when you miscount and leave a student at a rest station on your youth group road trip.

How full are your pockets?

Thanks for loving students,
Kurt Johnston

Books I have read: Who Stole My Church


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading Who Stole My Church by Gordon MacDonald.  Travelling back from the Digital Children conference at Cliff College I had a chance to finish it on the train.  The concept of the book is a story, a narrative of an imaginary church in a New England town which examines issues and tensions that are experienced as a church goes on a journey of change.

During the narrative we see the Pastor of the Church meeting with a group of older people for a “Discovery Group” exploring their concerns and frustrations with change ranging from worship, name of the church, prayer, mission and more.  Through the story I could recognise many of the characters in the people I have met in the four churches I have worked in.  It reminded me of the fables that Patrick Lencioni has so brilliantly written.

I borrowed this book from my library but enjoyed it so much that I’ve added it to my wish list.  It is a book that I would come back to several times to think how am I sharing vision, how am I enabling people to fill ownership of decisions, and some really interesting thoughts on how to bring different generations together in church something that I will reflect on more here on the blog in the coming days.

Spring Harvest: Lead Zone – part 2

The Source banner

Here are my notes from part 2 of the Lead Zone by Debra Green & Mark Madavan


  • Youth worker at Altrincham Baptist church – saw real growth from 30 to over 200.
  • Then went to IVY Manchester, been there for 20 years – was first female elder – took five years for women to get onto the Eldership.
  • Leading Redeeming Communities – was going to be a North West charity, became national and about to come international.
  • Key is having a go, never had a formal theology training, got a diploma in clinical and pastoral counselling.


  • Involved in youth groups.
  • Led a semi-professional drama team for four and a half years.
  • Theological college
  • Became Associate at Andover Baptist Church for 6 years.
  • Lead Loxley Heath with 350 people through doors on Sunday, 800 come through for other activities – been there for 10 years.  Have 150-200 youth and over 300 under 11s.
  • Been a school governor for a school with 1,700 pupils.
  • Looking to buy a warehouse and do a £4 million refurb.

You join because you’re really passionate about it but then hit all the red tape.

Present to God

Reflecting on Mary & Martha – are we happy to be, reflect and to sit with the Lord or are you working out your faith, activist.  p. 47, Timothy Keller quote on our default position.  We often try to emulate the leaders we look up to.  Coming to terms with who we are in Christ, being me, and letting God affirm us in that.  If we copy it’s not us and we will fail.  The key is loving yourself and enjoying that.  “I am special as God loved me…”.

We teach things as leaders, but we need to take time out to reflect on these things time and time again.  We can lead by experience, on automatic pilot, and forget that we’re special and loved by God.  So often we doubt ourselves, is it matching up to someone else.  We get into that trap as leaders.

So we need to focus on the rhythm of prayer – being present to God.  Allowing God to shape me and mould me.  To know what God is speaking into our lives.  We can lead from that, being fruitful for Him from that.

Paula Gooder quote on p. 52.  We forget who we are and find it difficult to receive.  Take some time out to be, to be present to God.  To sit and notice the things around us.  Look at Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer and Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living.

CWR asked church leaders what was their most important priority – most said prayer, but the next question said what takes the most and least amount of time in the diary and the least was prayer.

Besides a crisis what inspires you to pray?  We turn to God in the crises as it is all we can do, but what else helps us to pray.

  • Pray when we’re outside – as we’re visual people – being moved by God
  • Guilt – you get so busy, it makes you feel guilty and so you pray
  • Pray when writing a new song
  • Community Prayer Experience – prayer communities meeting regularly with particular topics linked to the venue.
  • Silent prayer – not about effort but consent – about us sitting there and consenting – say a word or picture when distracted it refocuses your mind on God.
  • Don’t judge your prayer – give thanks for spending time – you don’t know what it will do or mean.
  • Julian group after Julian of Norwich – spending 30 minutes in silence – a scripture passage to use as an option.
  • Park as far as away from the office as you can.
  • Prayer walk where say thank you prayers – we get into ask me prayers too often.
  • Who needs encouragement in your church – pray for them?
  • Pray during the gardening – active and close to nature!
  • Purposely pray in the gaps.

SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP – Psalm 42 – Be still and know that I am God

Pete Greig, God on Mute

500 More Prayers for All Occasions

Present in the world

First name?


Where you are from?  Complicated question – origins, where you were born, where you live now, your church …

Being in the presence of God is linked to wherever you are – not just where you are from.  Outside of Butlins you have family, social life, work and more.  “God moved into the neighbourhood”.  When you moved into your neighbourhood, God moved into your neighbourhood.  There is such a connection of God’s presence and where people are.

We need to reflect on this.  We expect God’s presence at church. or our cell group, do we expect God’s presence to be in Butlins outside of Spring Harvest, what about work or your grocery shopping.  Do you expect to be with God in those places.  If truth be told you are expecting God in more areas than others.

One of the biggest challenges that we face in the West in consumerism – we shop for our faith and encounters of God.  We go round a big shopping centre but only visit our favourite shops.  We look for God in our favourite places.  God in his grace does meet us there.  But the truth is God is in your neighbourhood and God wants you to encounter his presence in the different areas.  The danger is it is a lot of heartache when it goes wrong, but the good news is that God is with us in it.  When we go to school, work, the community centre, we’re with the Good News!

“My work place is my ministry place, so I don’t need to serve at church”  Discuss  Do you also expect the church to provide quality Sunday services, children’s work, youth work etc.

  • Pints of View – men’s ministry
  • Brew Crew – Refreshments Team
  • Sacred secular divide is false // Children asking leaders
  • God, home, work then church