Priorities for Leading Change

Three Priorities for Leading Change

By: Danielle Wingate



If we are honest, most people are uncomfortable with change.  They have developed routines, patterns, and comfort. There is nothing wrong with this, we are all creatures of habit so essentially our teams have created what works for them in their time, with their perspective and their available resources.  Now, for whatever reason, let’s say a system no longer works and it is time for a change and as the leader, you are steering the ship.

Like any good team or organization, you are probably moving at a high pace, all too quickly to make sharp turns, no matter how opportunistic, negative or detrimental behaviors or attitudes are.  However, you can begin turning slowly with urgency with clear vision and communication. It is our job to paint the picture for our team and then hand them the brush to fill in the details.

When leading change, here are three things you can do:

1) Cast the vision early + often.  This is your picture for your team, helping them “see” a different way, a different solution, a better tomorrow…

2) Give them a voice.  As we have said, change can be challenging, give your team a safe place to vent, ask questions or share feelings.  If they aren’t doing it with you, know they are doing it with others without you.

3) Be realistic + follow through.  Are the steps needed to take place realistic with all in motion?  Is the timeline achievable? How can you ensure follow through?

Realistic expectations are healthy to keep in this… think in terms of 6 months, one year or even three.  It may seem like a daunting timeline, but you are turning a ship, already in motion. It will be amazing when it’s complete, but for now, we need to be intentional, strategic and patient as we navigate change with those around us who have a different lens, experiences and tools.  Our team needs to know the extra effort to transition, adapt and learn new ways has a greater value and that we as leaders are going to see this “new way” to the end.

Leadership is a privilege that we are entrusted with, it won’t be easy, but done well, the value is immeasurable.  Keep leading well!

Danielle is passionate about creating and supporting systems that improve the guest experience from beginning to end.  She has been part of some amazing church staff teams and now spends her time supporting churches and leaders through consulting.  She is the founder of Catalyst Women, an online space to share stories and invite women to be the change.
Danielle lives in Seattle with her husband Chris, two kids and giant schnauzer.  She is a fan of any good local coffee shop and enjoys a vanilla latte with coconut milk!

Culture Has to Come First

Culture Has to Come First

By: Danielle Wingate


“If your culture is horrible, your vision is irrelevant.” – Jenni Catron

How many times have you walked in to an environment only to feel like something is off? Maybe you enter a room and there is relational tension.  No one has said anything about it, there are no signs pointing to it, but you sense it.  You begin to see and hear things that affirm it. Truth is, it’s quite challenging to focus on much else and furthermore, why would you want to stay?

Culture is similar.  You can’t touch it, there are rarely signs pointing to it to say who, what, why and how, but it is evident when you enter an environment.  How so? It’s in the posture that your team carries, the attentiveness as guests are around, the problem solving and serving, the ambition, the words used and the investment shared.  Our guests are going to walk in with fresh eyes and ears… they will pick up on everything that your team has been pressing on to mask on the back end. The hard work to “look and feel” great is there, no doubt, but I guarantee, it will be quite challenging for your guests to focus on much else.  Which as you can imagine impacts everything else.

Vision is a buzz words these days.  It’s pretty, enticing and essential to the end goal.  Your culture is the means by which you get there and the length of time.   Just as your church never arrives, neither should culture. It’s always growing, learning and evolving, asking the question, “how can we do this better?”  Your “this” is your team, your people.

What’s the next step?  

Busy probably doesn’t even describe how you feel most days.  Leaders, let me encourage you, the best thing you can do for yourself and your team is to clear your calendar for an afternoon or a day.  Partner with your fellow executive members or key leaders and talk through these five things:

1- Core Values– Are they clear and measurable?

2- Communication– what are the lines like?

3- Celebrations & Coaching– How do we respond when good things are done or opportunities are evident?

4- Team Building– what are we doing to help people grow in their relationships?

5- Investment– What are we doing to invest in our people personally & professionally? in that order.

To be an extraordinary leader, team and organization, we can’t afford not to build a strong foundation in culture.  It will be slow and clunky at first, you are turning a big ship, but starting is often the hardest part. So lead well, look at your calendar today, clear that time and invest in your culture to enable your vision to excel.

Danielle is passionate about creating and supporting systems that improve the guest experience from beginning to end.  She has been part of some amazing church staff teams and now spends her time supporting churches and leaders through consulting.  She is the founder of Catalyst Women, an online space to share stories and invite women to be the change.
Danielle lives in Seattle with her husband Chris, two kids and giant schnauzer.  She is a fan of any good local coffee shop and enjoys a vanilla latte with coconut milk!

Why a Title Doesn’t Make You a Leader

Why a Title Doesn’t Make You a Leader

By: Ron Edmondson

My first paid leadership role came to me by default. I was a full-time college student working in the men’s department of a large retail department store. I had been at the store under two years when my boss quit suddenly to pursue other interests. Turnover is often high in the retail world, but it seemed even more so in this department. I was the most tenured person, so they made me the department manager.

At 20 years of age, I had basically “arrived” in the field of leadership.

The store was located close to a university, so it was a great place to attract college students as employees. I remember the first time we had a big sale after I took over the leadership of my department. Popular in the day were “midnight madness” sales. We would close for a couple hours late afternoon, cover all our doors with butcher wrap paper to add suspense, then reopen in the evening with significantly marked-down items throughout the store. People would stand in line for hours prior to the sale and scramble to find the bargains as soon as we opened the doors. These type sales are not as common anymore, because people have come to expect bargains daily – either in the store or online. Although it was not quite midnight – it truly was madness. (We later changed these sales to “moonlight madness”.)

I had added additional staffing for the evening – relying on the advice of others for how many people I should schedule. You can only imagine my disappointment – and embarrassment – when the doors to eager shoppers opened and my department was flooded with customers and grossly understaffed. Two of my employees, both fellow college students, had not shown up to work this night. They did not call. It was before the days of cell phones, email or Facebook. I tried their dorm rooms and got no response. I was mortified – and angry.

The next day I ran into one of my “no-shows” on campus. I asked him where he was the night before and why he never called. He told me he had a test and realized he needed to study. He said he meant to call, but got distracted. It was not his regularly scheduled day to work, so he assumed he would not be missed.

I stood there with him in awe – wondering how he could justify what he was saying to me. It was in this moment I realized he was not seeing me as his boss. In spite of my position of leadership, he saw me as another college student. I was his friend – his colleague – his equal. He seemed to think I would understand – he had a test – and could not seem to grasp my frustration. (Which made me even more frustrated.)

I learned through this experience a title does not make one a leader. There are people like me – who have been in positions for years – who actually believe simply having a title makes them a leader. People will look up to them, do what they request, and show them a higher level of respect. It is what I thought, but I learned the hard way – it simply is not true.

You can take on any title you want – call yourself president, manager, boss – Mr. or Mrs. Boss – regardless of your title it will not necessarily change how people view you.

This is just one of the seven myths addressed in my book “The Mythical Leader”. Over the last 30 years of leading I’ve learned some things we think about leadership simply aren’t true. When we live as if they are our leadership is greatly hindered. I hope people find the book to be very practical. It’s full of real life examples. Some lessons we learn the hard way. Some we learn from others. My hope is to help others learn from my experiences.

Ron Edmondson is a pastor, teacher and church leadership consultant. Ron has led in two church plants and two revitalizations. He is currently Senior Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Ron blogs at

Marching Into the Unknown

Marching Into the Unknown

By: Beth Graybill


I’ve always had a fascination for maps.  I love to see the big picture, to know where I’m going, to see where one road intersects another, to explore the many possibilities of getting from one place to the next, and the joy of the adventure along the way.  I love the challenge of figuring out the most direct route regardless of where the GPS is telling me to go.

That is, until a recent move.

A few months ago, our family moved to a new area – one that I know little about and have traveled to very few times.  It’s an area where four different roads have the same name and all go in opposite directions.  It takes me a few miles to get my bearings straight.  Sometimes I use the GPS to help with navigation, and other times I convince myself that I will find my own way this time.  Most often, I wind up lost… again.

This drives me crazy — not knowing my way around, not knowing what lies ahead, not being able to anticipate the next turn or the final destination.  It feels a little out of control, a little uncertain, and maybe for the passengers in my car, a little unsafe. As hard as I try to remain calm and confident, they know… “She doesn’t know where she’s going.”

The truth is that we’ve all been here before – uncertain as we lead.

This reminds me of Alexander the Great (stay with me!).

Alexander was known as one of the most reputable leaders of the ancient world during the Greek and Roman Empires.  At 20 years of age, he inherited a successful kingdom and an experienced army.  By the time he was 30, he was the commander of the largest known empire in the ancient world, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Himalayan Mountains.

When Alexander’s empire reached the Himalayas, he sent scouts into the mountains to report what was ahead.  His men nervously reported back:

Sir, we’ve marched off the map.

They had marched to the edge of charted territory — there were no maps for what lay ahead.

Isn’t this true for most of us in our personal and professional lives?  We get promoted to a position with more responsibility and leadership expectations and we’ve marched off the map.  Our organization is growing faster than ever, and as we respond to the growth, we realize we’ve marched off the map. We transition a family business from one generation to another and we realize that we’ve just marched off the map.  We become a parent, a grandparent, a spouse, a mentor, a leader in the community and we’ve marched off the map.

Have you marched off the mapAre you leading through uncertainty?

You’ve truly entered leadership terrain. My encouragement to you: Keep moving forward.


(Previously posted on and North Points Blog, a publication of North Group Consultants)

Beth Graybill is a Spiritual Maturity Minister at Saddleback Church in Southern CA. She has a background in Organizational and Leadership Development and has worked with Propel Women, Zondervan, North Group Consultants and several churches over the past few years. She is married to Matt Graybill, also a Pastor at Saddleback Church, and has two middle school boys, Kallan and Aaron. She loves coffee, curious questions, good books and traveling to new places.

3 Things You Can Always Do As A Leader

3 Things You Can Always Do As A Leader

By: Taylor Snodgrass


Hello. My name is Taylor, and I make excuses.

As much as I hate to admit that, it’s true. I make excuses for why I can’t do something. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough information. I don’t know how to do that. It all ends with the same thing, though. I can’t.

But is that really true? Is there truly nothing I can do? To be a strong and trustworthy leader, I can’t pass the buck. If I’m to be a leader worth following, then I need to come to the table with more than, “I can’t.” So in those moments, we come to a crossroads. We can simply say, “I don’t know. Go ask someone else.” Or we can step into our role as strong, confident leaders and exhibit an “I can” attitude. Here are three ways we can always take an “I can” stance and grow our leadership influence.


  1. I can…ask questions to understand.

Often times, someone will ask me a question about a project that I’m not directly involved in. The easy answer is, “I’m not involved in that, so I can’t help you.” But chances are I know a little bit about it. Chances are I can be somewhat helpful. I can ask questions. I can try to understand the question and situation. Once I understand what’s going on, chances are I can help answer that question. Even if I don’t know the exact answer, I can at least point someone in the right direction of where they can get the information they need.


  1. I can…learn how.

One of my go-to excuses is, “I don’t know how.” It’s easy. It’s not something anyone can challenge. If I don’t know how to do something, I’m off the hook. Except I shouldn’t be. As leaders, we should always be getting better. We should always be learning, and that doesn’t only mean reading the newest Patrick Lencioni book. That means adding to your toolbox. There’s a tremendous amount of respect and trust built when you, as the leader, are willing to roll up your sleeves and learn a new skill to help the team. Learning new skills is something we can agree we want our teams to do, so let’s lead the way and do so ourselves.


  1. I can…stick with it.

Sometimes, I just don’t want to deal with it. Something comes up that I don’t know a ton about, and as I start asking questions and trying to learn, I get over it. I don’t want to deal with it anymore. It starts to seem like more effort than it’s worth. But if a team member is coming to you with a problem, that’s when they need us as leaders the most. We want to lead teams that trust us and will give their all for our vision. To build that trust, we need to show up for our team. We need to stick it out and fight for our team. The classic saying of “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” applies. We need to be the tough that stick with it and see it through.

Next time someone comes to you, and your first reaction is, “I can’t,” try stepping back, taking a breath, and responding instead with, “I can…”


Taylor Snodgrass is the Associate Programming Director at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, where he lives with his wife, Heather. He is passionate about leading others to excellence in the church and in their every day lives.

3 Guardrails for Leaving Well

3 Guardrails for Leaving Well

By: Kimberly Roddy


For the majority of us, there comes a point where we will leave our organization. There are many reasons why people leave. Some leave because they are no longer in alignment with the organization. Some leave due to retirement, marriage, or a new baby. Some are offered a better paying position. Some move on to start new ventures. Others are fired or asked to leave. Whatever the scenario, transition is involved and opens the door for potential conflict. One definition of conflict refers to it as “a condition in which a person experiences a clash of opposing wishes or needs.” With this clash comes the need for protective guardrails to guide and prevent regrets and mistakes when leaving.


3 Guardrails for Leaving Well:


  1. Find appropriate ways to process your emotions
  2. Don’t burn any bridges
  3. Maintain your integrity


Find appropriate ways to process your emotions

We all need people, places, and processes to deal with our emotions. When you are leaving an organization, there is emotion. It can be sadness, hurt, disappointment, relief and a myriad of others. These emotions need to be processed. You must care for yourself in order to be the leader God has called you to be. Jenni Catron says, “Lead yourself well to lead others better.” Do you need counseling or a relaxing vacation? Do you need good friends to be present with you? Someone to make some meals for your family for a few weeks? Do you need to sleep more or exercise more? What is it that you love doing? Get out and do it. Discover what helps you come to life. As you begin to engage in some things that cause you to have energy and rest, you will typically be able to dialogue more about the emotions as you begin to understand them more. Do you need to surrender your hurt? Forgive people? Celebrate your legacy? How can you begin to trust Jesus again after you’ve been disappointed? These are good questions to ask. Take the time to sit with these questions. One way to process the emotions and hear from Jesus is by doing the word branching exercise. A friend taught me this. Write a question or an emotion you feel in the middle of the page and then just begin to write all the things you hear Jesus saying to you. I was struggling with a lot of hurt when I left my last organization. Yet, I chose to write the word “joy” in the middle of a piece of paper. Then, all around that word, I wrote the things that had brought me joy in the ten years I had been there. This was a helpful exercise in dealing with my hurt.


Don’t burn any bridges

You will hear people say this over and over again when they talk about leaving well. Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” You have worked so hard to build things as a leader in your organization. You do not want to ruin that with a moment of anger or hurt or frustration. As you’re leaving, resist the urge to retaliate. Go ahead and bite your tongue, take lots of deep breaths, and only be accountable for your responses. Further conflict will not accomplish anything. Burning bridges is dangerous work. In doing so, future ministry partnerships, necessary references, or working partnerships could be in jeopardy. Be responsible for your words and actions.


Maintain your integrity

In His sovereignty, God called you to lead where you’ve been. You want to be faithful to God and who He has designed you to be. Be honest. Walk with upright character. Remember Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” and Proverbs 11:2-3, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” Once again, resist the urge to take justice into your own hands. Let God take care of it. Resist the urge to gossip, defame, or make yourself feel better by demeaning those who have hurt you. Trust God to reveal what needs to be revealed.


Leaving well can be difficult, but it is possible. In taking the higher road of humility and integrity, we trust that God has our back. We honor God—allowing him to redeem all things in His perfect time.

As a twenty year student ministry veteran, Kimberly Roddy, has a passion for the next generation and a love for the local church. Using her background in Congregational Studies and her years of experience, she desires to see the Church and non-profit organizations be all they were designed to be, specifically helping leadership navigate conflict and change.

7 Tips for Leaders to Improve your Self-Awareness

7 Tips for Leaders to Improve your Self-Awareness

By: Paul Sohn


By now, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) needs little introduction – it’s the sine qua non to your success. Here’s some stats that demonstrate the power of EQ in today’s marketplace.

  • “People with the highest levels of IQ outperform those with average IQs just 20%of the time, while people with average IQs outperform those with high IQs 70% of the time.”
  • “EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58% of performance in all type of jobs.”
  • “The link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary.” [1]

Self-awareness is not simply knowing that you’re a night owl or an early bird. It’s much deeper than that. It’s going on this journey of peeling back the layers of an onion. It’s a life-long journey.

Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves defines self-awareness in their best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 as the following:

Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across your situations. 

The best part of the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is the unique code to an online assessment where you’ll be able to get a free report and analysis of your EQ scores. It’s highly revealing. The authors lists creative ways in which you can increase your self-awareness.


  1. Quit Treating Your Feelings As Good Or Bad

People have a tendency to create dichotomies. Either good or bad. Some would automatically classify frustration as bad. For emotions like excitement, you might find those as good emotions. But, attaching such labels make it difficult for us to really understand what it is that you are feeling.


  1. Observe The Ripple Effect From Your Emotions

Like dropping a stone into water, your emotions are like stones that creates a ripple effect. Your emotions will impact other good either in a good or negative way. The more you understand the impact of this ripple effect, the more you’ll be able to realize what type of influence you want to exert through your emotions.


  1. Feel Your Emotions Physically

Practice experiencing your emotions through your body. The physical sensations can be quite unique such as stomach muscles tightening, your breathing quickening, heart rate increasing, or your mouth going dry. Since your body and mind are intimately connected, one of the best ways to gauge your emotions is to spot the physical changes that come with your emotions. Practice closing your eyes the next time you have a few moments alone. Feel how slow or fast your heart is beating. Notice the pace of your breathing and how tense or relaxed your muscles are in the various parts of your body. Now, think of defining moments in your life – both the positive and negative – that generate strong emotions. Take note of the physical changes that accompany the memory.


  1. Know Who And What Pushes Your Buttons

All of us have buttons. We might call this pet peeves and triggers. When you push it long enough, you get irritated and explode. If you become aware who pushes your buttons and how they do it, it will help you develop the ability to take control of these situations and calm yourself down. Pinpoint the specific people and situations that trigger you (e.g., drama queens, feeling scared or caught off guard). When you get to the source of it, this will really help you find ways to manage it properly.


  1. Keep A Journal About Your Emotions

The greatest challenge with improving your self-awareness is maintaining objectivity. Use a journal to record what events triggered strong emotions in you and how you responded to them. If you practice this for a month, you’ll begin to notice specific patterns in your emotions and you’ll develop a better understanding of your tendencies. You’ll understand which emotions get you down, which pick you up, and which are the most difficult for you. Describe the specific emotions you feel each day, and don’t forget to record the physical sensations that accompany the emotions.


  1. Spot Your Emotions In Books, Movies, And Music

If you’re struggling to spot your own emotional patterns and tendencies, you can discover it by looking outside yourself in movies, music and books you identify with. For instance, when the lyrics or mood of a song resonate with you, capture it. They say a lot about how you feel and when a character from a movie or book sticks in your head, it’s because you relate to his thoughts and feelings. Try to journal these things and you’ll find yourself connecting to certain emotional tendencies.


  1. Seek Feedback

Everything we see and interpret is based on our filter. The problem is that our lens through which we see the world is tainted with our experiences, culture, beliefs and moods. Self-awareness is the process of getting to know yourself from the inside out and outside in. Open yourself up to feedback from others. If you’re afraid of feedback, try feedforward. Ask your friends, colleagues, coworkers, mentors and family to give you specific examples and situations. Look for patterns and similarities in the information. These outside views can be a real eye-opener by showing how other people experience you.

Paul Sohn is an award-winning speaker, blogger, and leadership coach. He has spent his career building leaders worth following and creating good-to-great organizations. He has worked for both a Fortune 50 company and a Top 100 Great Place to Work Company. Now, he works for a global leadership consultancy GiANT Worldwide as a leadership transformation consultant.

Invisible Fences

Invisible Fences

By: Kimberly Roddy


Fences are meant to define boundaries, show property lines, and keep people out. Invisible fences are typically meant to keep pets in. Usually one isn’t aware of the invisible fence until it is crossed. The first time little Fido breaks the barrier of the newly installed invisible fence by his owner, it shocks him. It startles him. He realizes that he was not allowed to go somewhere. Conflict or tension may arise when we cross an invisible fence.  

Fences in the leadership and business world exist as well. Visible fences can look like written policies or job descriptions. But, invisible fences are obviously harder to recognize. These look like unwritten or unspoken procedures, policies, expectations, and values.

I have had interns for most of my ministry career. Several years ago, one of my interns, Sam, crossed one of these invisible fences. He decided to hand out t-shirts at the end of the retreat. He thought he would be helpful by taking the initiative to complete the task and not bother me. When I walked up, all the t-shirts had been handed out, but he did not have a copy of the spreadsheet that listed which student ordered which size. Before I knew it, I was scolding Sam in front of many of the students and leaders.

“How did you hand out the t-shirts without the spreadsheet?”

“I just held up sizes and people took what they wanted.”

“Well, is there a medium left for me and how did you even know what size I needed or ordered?”

“Yes, there is a medium right here for you.”

I turn to another student, “Kate, what size do you have in your hand?” She replied, “Small.” I looked at the spreadsheet and said, “Well, that works well because that’s what size you ordered.”

I turned to the intern and muttered something like, “Well, I guess you got lucky this time with our order and what people wanted.”

At that point, I felt like an idiot and did not want to admit I failed in my response. So, in an attempt to “save face,” I made some general announcement about gathering up all their belongings and loading the vans to distract from the delusional Kimberly that was just leading. As Sam walked away, I called to him to apologize and to seek forgiveness. He was not ready to talk, so he kept walking. His fiancé told me to give him a little time. I looked at her and said, “You know, I guess I have some pretty big procedural issues!”

My procedural issues can be an invisible fence for me as a leader. Maintaining control is my value. I think policies and procedures should be carried out in a certain manner. Conflict arises when my way of following the procedure is different from those under my leadership. As a leader, I can do one of two things. I can expect those under my direction to do things just as I tell them to do (or sometimes don’t tell them to do but expect them to know). Or I can expect them to lead with their gifts and their perspective, training them and trusting them to do so. Connecting with your team members relationally and trusting them is crucial to handling conflict appropriately.

Seeing Sam walk away, dejected and probably angry, made me realize my reaction to him was less than best. Mulling it over for a few days showed me several flaws in my leadership style. I needed to invest more time and energy in Sam, make my expectations clear, and trust him more. He did the job well, even though it may not have been done my way. My response was inappropriate, violating a well known leadership principle: always praise in public and correct in private. When I could tell that he was ready a few hours later, I pulled him aside and gently said, “I am so very sorry! Please forgive me for shaming you in front of everyone. I was wrong and I won’t let it happen again.” He graciously forgave me and we are still friends today.

So, three simple steps to resolving the conflict over a crossed invisible line:

  1. Admit your failures. This is one of the most difficult things to do. However, admitting our failures reveals our humanity. It allows others to see us as more than an unreachable leader.
  2. Seek forgiveness. When we’ve seen and admitted our failures, we must humbly approach the one or ones we offended and ask them to forgive us. Saying “I’m sorry” admits how we feel about the wrong, but saying “Will you forgive me for _________?” actually acknowledges to the offended person we are aware of the wrong and desire reconciliation.  
  3. Define the line for next time (possibly even readjusting the placement of the line). The only way to move forward is to communicate about the invisible line so that others know the boundaries next time.

My intern could have done a few things differently as well. He could have recognized that lines exist and he could have communicated better. He could have come to me and said, “Hey, I think now is a good time to hand out the t-shirts. Is it okay for me to take the lead on this?”

Two simple steps to avoid crossing invisible lines:

  1. Recognize invisible lines exist. No matter what situation you walk into, you must recognize that someone else has a different perspective from yours. So, take a few minutes to look at life from their perspective. Take a few minutes to ask what their values are and how they would like you to operate under their leadership.
  2. Communicate those lines to all involved. As the leader, it is up to you to set the tone, clarify the job description, and go over policies and procedures for your teammates. Make sure that you have done the hard work of articulating what you expect to be done, how you would like it done, and the timeframe in which you would like it to be accomplished.

My conflict with my intern wasn’t really about t-shirts at all! Our conflict was about crossing an invisible line. As leaders, it is critical to be self-aware. Have you taken the time to know what your issues are that become invisible fences? Some invisible fences need to be clarified and communicated. Others need to be let go and processed internally for the leader. Good leaders work to discern the difference.

Have you experienced conflict as a result of crossing an invisible line?

What ideas do you have about communicating invisible lines? Sometimes you don’t know they are there until they are crossed. What then?

As a twenty year student ministry veteran, Kimberly Roddy, has a passion for the next generation and a love for the local church. Using her background in Congregational Studies and her years of experience, she desires to see the Church and non-profit organizations be all they were designed to be, specifically helping leadership navigate conflict and change.

The Trophy Generation

The Trophy Generation

By: Heather Snodgrass


I started running cross-country in 6th grade and I can’t tell you how much I hated it. The only reason I didn’t quit after the first week is because, in my family, you finished what you started. Every single race until halfway through 7th grade, I stopped and walked at least once during the excruciatingly long 1.9 miles. Yet, every single time I crossed the finish line, even if I was dead last, I got a ribbon.

That ribbon was given with the best intentions, and I’m pretty sure I still have every one that I “won”, but it taught me that I didn’t have to be the best to be the best. I didn’t have to win to be a winner. I could succeed without succeeding.

Oh, what a dangerous lesson.

If I have learned anything in my short year and a half since graduating college and entering what they call “the real world”, it’s that I don’t deserve anything. Just because I was the director of Special Olympics and got all A’s (okay fine, all B’s) and was a student athlete in college (I ran cross country. Funny, right?), doesn’t mean I’m entitled to a Director or Manager or Executive position. It doesn’t mean people are supposed to treat me like I’m royalty or anything.

If I want to be the best, I’m probably going to have to start at the bottom and work harder than anyone else until I’m at the very top. And if I start slacking once I get to the top, I’m not going to be at the top for long.

The same goes for us as leaders. If I want to someday lead hundreds and maybe even thousands, I have to work hard at honing my leadership skills right now. I can’t just do nothing and hope that someday the world will wake up to see how great of a leader I am. At 23 years old, I’m probably not going to be trusted to stand on a stage and lead thousands of people, but maybe I’m trusted with one single assignment that someone else wasn’t able to do. Or maybe I’m given with an intern that I get to guide through the next couple of months. Or maybe I’m chosen to lead a short-term team as we market such and such to success.

At the end of the day, if I work from the trophy-generation mindset and expect to be given things I feel I deserve, I’m not going to work as hard as I should, and I’m going to end up disappointed with the work I’ve done and ultimately with the life I’ve lived. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that may help you as you try to navigate the real world under the label of ‘trophy generation’:

Don’t take it personally…it’s just business. This is hard, oh so hard. Especially as a creative person, when you reject my work, I feel like you’re rejecting me. My mom always told me I was talented, so why are you telling me I’m not? This is something I’ve really struggled to learn. Speaking up is already tough for me, so when I speak up about an idea I have and get rejected, it makes me want to curl up in a little ball and stay there forever. If I do that every time someone doesn’t like my idea, though, I’ll never get anywhere in life. I guarantee, though, when people dismiss an idea of mine, it’s not because they don’t think I’m ‘good enough’ as a person, it’s because they think the idea needs some work or isn’t quite right for the project as a whole.

Always go the extra mile. Like I said earlier, leading doesn’t necessarily mean holding a leadership position. If you want to be seen as a leader, though, you have to act as one, and part of that means striving for excellence and going above and beyond in everything you do. As millennials, we’re expected to fall into the apathetic and lazy categories, but that doesn’t have to be who we are! If you want to actively defy the ‘trophy generation’ label, always go the extra mile.

Never stop learning. Just because school’s out doesn’t mean the learning can or should stop. As leaders, it’s crucial that we never stop learning…about anything and everything. I just finished a book about how Nike came to be; my husband is reading about Chick-fil-A’s strategy and just ordered another book about how the Navy Seals lead. Learn about how other organizations do things, how some of your favorite leaders lead, best practices in your field, etc. If you really want to humble yourself, start learning about how some of the world’s greatest leaders got to where they are today…I guarantee none of them got there because they were handed the position.

Heather Snodgrass works at Cross Point Church as the Bellevue Dream Center Coordinator, where she oversees the DCS Safe Room and the adult special needs ministry. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Taylor.

Sermon Series Planning Process

Sermon Series Planning Process

By: Emily Hendrickson


The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. It’s one of our mantras at National Community Church in Washington, DC. But it’s more than a mantra. It’s an operating system for us. We want people who come to NCC to get swept away by the greatest Story ever told. We’ve found that leveraging sermon series helps us communicate the gospel and teach practical truths in a creative way week in and week out. The series are typically between 3-8 weeks depending on the flow of our calendar. 

Here are some practices that I’ve found helpful as we plan out our sermon series from idea to execution at NCC:

Evaluate your diet

Evaluating your diet of past sermon series will give you some ideas of what topics your upcoming series need to cover. It’s really easy to go a whole year or even several years missing a key topic because you aren’t keeping tabs on where you’ve been so this is always where we start. I’ve also found that during this part of the process I find myself remembering all that God has done in our and through our church.

While this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, I tend to think of our diet as wanting to get a good mix of these:

  • Old Testament/New Testament Mix (Revealed, If, Altars)
  • Life and teachings of Jesus (The Moral of the Story)
  • Spiritual Disciplines (How, Reset)
  • Character of God (God Anthology, Holy Ghost, Blessing No 10)
  • Practical Living Tools (He Said She Said, Work the Plan, Reset)
  • Mission (On Mission Everyday)
  • Community (One Another)
  • Practical Theology (Did God Really Say) 

Establish a rhythm

When you establish a rhythm you maximize workflow. When it comes to series planning, every detail cascades to more details. You need an idea to get a title. You need a title to get a graphic. You need a graphic for promotion. Every deliverable relies on another deliverable. What gets even trickier is that often deliverables are coming from different teams–teaching team, creative team, communications team, admin team. It’s important to establish a realistic rhythm and set milestones for your team.


Here’s an example of an ideal rhythm for sermon planning:

  • Evaluate Diet / Big Ideas and Themes (July) – where have we been? Where are we going?
  • Series Calendar Planning (October) – big ideas and titles nailed down
  • Series Brief (10+ weeks out) – series title and teaching topics communicated to the team
  • Creative Brainstorm (8 weeks out) – branding, illustrations, trailers, stage design
  • Mood Boards (7 weeks out) – options for branding
  • Graphic Package (4 weeks out) – delivered for promo
  • Communication Brief (4 weeks out) – communication/promotion strategy, announcement schedule, key Scriptures
  • Trailer Preview (2 weeks out)
  • Trailer Completed (10 days out)
  • Weekend Service Planning Meeting (Tuesday before) – service order, input on teaching content, response song, announcements


Get the whole team on board

Some of the most effective series we have done have been church-wide efforts–what we call alignment series. Take advantage of teaching topics that can work for adults, children and students. This gives families an opportunity to talk about what they are learning at church together and it aligns your staff in a way that few other things do. Write songs for adults and kids. Distribute curriculum. Create videos. Launch small groups.

These are valuable not just for what they bring to our congregation but for the vision that fuels our team. When we are all working together for the same goal it brings us together, maximizes our collective strengths, and diminishes the silo effect.

Share the platform

C.S. Lewis said, “Every life is comprised of a few themes.”

Every preacher has a handful of life messages that they would preach over and over again if they could, and those themes seep into their messages even when we are intentional with diet.

A teaching team does the following:

  • Decreases the burden.
  • Gives new perspectives, personalities (different people at NCC connect with them to varying levels).
  • Opportunity for discipleship–train up others.


Make going with the flow part of the agenda

Planning is helpful. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll seldom get it. But, no matter how well you plan, you will fare better if you expect the unexpected. The plan is there to serve you, not control you. It’s always easier to deviate from an existing plan, than it is to make last minute changes without a plan. Work hard to have “in advance ideas” but leave space for “last minute ideas”. I love my nice, neat, clean Excel sheet that tells me what we have coming up in 6 weeks. But what I love more is seeing the Gospel communicated in creative, effective, and compelling ways, which sometimes requires a change in plans. Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it. Make going with the flow part of your agenda.

Emily Hendrickson is the Weekend Experience Director at National Community Church in our nation’s capital. You can usually find her tuned into ESPN or out playing a competitive corn hole game. Emily graduated from the University of Tennessee where she worked alongside the legendary Coach Pat Summitt with the Lady Vol Basketball team.

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