Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Experience at the Summit - Alan Vink

After 8 years to be at ‘Willow’ once again was a highlight in and in itself. It’s a church that has blessed me, helped me a great deal in my leadership, as it has done for thousands of others around the world.

I was looking forward to this year’s Leadership Summit with great anticipation to be there in person and experience the whole 2010 event first hand. I was certainly not disappointed.

Bill Hybels opened with another ‘trademark’ talk, reminding us of some fundamentals of leadership, “From Here To There!” He reminded us how easy it is to find yourself in a leadership slump facing what seem insurmountable challenges. He gives wisdom and direction for leaders to keep the church/organization moving forward.

Then, Jim Collins spoke on “Never, Ever Give up!” He referenced his book “How the Mighty Fall.” So insightful in exploring the stages of decline of organisations. This talk alone is worth the conference fee. There were so many more highlights from great speakers like Christine Caine, Andy Stanley, Jeff Manion, Adam Hamilton, Daniel Pink and Jack Welch.

All of these talks/interviews and others will be shown at all sites in New Zealand. You won’t want to miss this. I am absolutely convinced that the GLS is a world-class event like no other, and would cost literally thousands of dollars in the secular context.

As I see it, there are distinct benefits in you bringing your team:

  • It’s a dedicated time where you as a pastor get to spend some quality time with your key players.
  • It’s an investment in your key people most of whom are volunteers, of course.
  • It’s an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve heard and have a conversation about the issues that really matter to you
  • It’s a way of saying thank you, but also putting some new skills (and inspiration) into their heads and hearts, that will be a blessing to them, to your church, and to their lives generally. To come alone you get enriched, to come as a team and the impact is exponential.

So why not make a decision today, to come to a site near you. You will be glad you did!

Alan Vink
Alan is the Co-ordinator for the Executive Leadership programme at Vision College and consults in Organisational Development.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When Motivation Is Gone And The Demands Keep Coming

Most mornings I wake up facing a day that holds promise and beauty. Opportunities are in front of me, in the warmth of familiar tasks and encounters and in the challenges that will come personally and for our team.

Some mornings I wake up a little flat. Running away looks dreamy and so does hibernating in front of Oprah or the entire Jane Austin BBC box set. Maybe for the guys it’s a day of Top Gear, being in the shed, out fishing, or indulging in a novel when we ‘should be getting stuff done’….

The occasional black day can be jollied along as we simply pick ourselves up by the bootstraps. But sometimes those days keep coming.

When there are a few of these in a row here are some hints:

Get Moving Early. Structure up your morning so you can move along almost automatically. Put exercise clothes by the bed so we can fall into them. Schedule tasks into time slots so that we don’t have to be deciding and choosing - we simply follow our plan. Regular exercise can feel like the last thing to help, yet it is wonderful long term killer of the sluggish feeling.

Eat As Well As You Can. Choose fresh food, good food, water and a little bit of what we fancy to improve our well being. Even though sugar and chocolates promise us we’ll feel better, they are not great long term helpers.

Plan A break. A mini break will probably need to suffice at first. A half day, a full day or two days if we can. Do whatever rejuvenates us best. It will probably involve some rest, a location that is tinged with nature (as close by as a garden or the local beach), and an activity we enjoy.

Health Check. If we haven’t had one for a while, visit a health professional. As people with full lives we can often ignore signs that our health has deteriorated and we might be in need of a little help. 

Take A Good Look. Checking in with a supervisor, coach or spiritual director can help us identify any parts of our being that might be crying out for change. The space and conversation they offer have been a real source of help and perspective for me and I hope the same for you.

These are my hints, what have you tried and can share?

Monica O’Neil
Vose Leadership
Perth, Australia

Friday, September 24, 2010

Keep Working on Your Insides!

Over recent years, the society-wide discussion around character, integrity and trust has become, in many ways, the new ‘lightning rod’ in leadership circles.

It doesn’t take much reading of scripture to conclude that character is a central theme in both testaments and summarized superbly in 1 Timothy 3:1-10. It is interesting to note that this passage says very little about gifts and ministry skills - rather emphasises a leaders character in the church and in the home. Personally I like to think of character and integrity as “truth in the inwards parts”. As Psalm 51:6 says, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”

Kouzes and Posner1 describe good character and emphasise that “Credibility is the foundation of leadership. Period.”

When working on your character...

  • Do what You Say You Will Do. When it comes to deciding whether a leader is believable, people first listen to the words,then they watch the actions. They listen to the talk, and then they watch the walk.

  • Watch out for “Image Makeovers”. It can be easy to create the ‘image’ of a leader. Image is skin thin! Character on the other hand is about the quality of a person’s heart. It is the personal commitment to live by biblical values - the courage and determination to do what is right, no matter what the cost. Leaders who pay attention to their inner worlds will last the distance.

  • Admit mistakes. We all make them. Why then is ‘sorry’ such a difficult word to say? The truth is, admitting a mistake is often hard, especially when you’re leading. Yet admitting your mistakes communicates a profound message about your basic integrity as a leader.

  • Endure Hardship. Paul urged Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:12). Leading a local church is as challenging as it’s ever been - with setbacks, disappointments, and hardships being part of the deal. Leaders of strong character will seize these occasions and learn valuable lessons that can only come in the hard times. Wise leaders allow these occasions to shape and further strengthen their character.

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost.

When health is lost, something is lost.

When character is lost everything is lost.”

- Billy Graham

Alan Vink

Alan is the Co-ordinator for the Executive Leadership programme at Vision College and consults in Organisational Development.

1. Kouzes and Posner - The Leadership Challenge, John Wiley and Sons, 2007

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Prodigal God Curriculum Review

We have recently run the series ‘The Prodigal God’ through our Life Groups at church. The series has brought a fresh perspective on the popular parable most commonly known as “The Prodigal Son.”

We often think that this story is primarily about the younger son, but Pastor Tim Keller expounds the text in a way that reveals to us that this is a story of two lost sons and not just one, two sons that sought happiness and fulfillment in two very different ways. The younger son sought the road of self discovery and the elder son sought the road of moral conformity and tragically for both sons they found themselves at a relational distance from their father.    

The Prodigal God series demonstrates the heart of the Gospel message. Whether one has sought the road of self discovery or moral conformity, only God can provide the way back for people through Jesus Christ. Pastor Keller also show us that, like the elder brother, how often we try and win God’s approval by trying to live self righteously and basing our relationship with God on our performance, when in fact we are only righteous on the basis of our relationship with Christ.

This series is strongly biblically based, giving the participant some rich insight into Ancient Near Eastern culture that surrounds the parable, which ultimately adds to the significance of the story that Jesus told.   

I thoroughly recommend the ‘Prodigal God’ series as a means for people to deepen their understanding of the enormity of God’s love for them and to discover afresh that Jesus Christ is the true source of our identity.

Pastor Anthony Townsend
Victoria, Australia

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Take Advantage of the Summit

A discipline I practice as a leader is to replenish my soul and mind on a regular basis. Leadership is all about giving out and so I must refill the leadership tank in order to continue to lead with effectiveness. However, in certain situations this creates a challenge. If I read a great book, I can pass it on or if I listen to a life changing podcast, I can forward the link. The key action is to share that leadership growth moment with others on my team so we all grow together.

Which brings me to this year’s Global Leadership Summit. I attended with a team from Willow Creek Association New Zealand. Our purpose for travelling to Chicago was to work with the Willow team to select the best of the best for the 2010 Global Leadership Summit in New Zealand.

There is pure leadership gold in the Summit this year! The challenge from Jim Collins to be brutally honest about the internal health of your church, the practicality of Andy Stanley helping us to embrace those uncomfortable tensions in the church and actually see them as a gift. Seasoned church leaders uncover the darker side of ministry, sharing what they have learned in those moments. There were defining moments of deep reflection and touches of divine inspiration from speakers who filled my leadership tank and sparked numerous thoughts as to how I can serve with greater effectiveness and impact in my own ministry.

Which leads me back to my challenge, which in this case is no challenge at all. A conference where I am the only one to “get it” is a wasted opportunity. Like you, I can’t effectively lead a church, by myself. I need the people on my team to also “get it.” As I sat in Chicago I celebrated that I would be able to share this in a focused setting at a New Zealand GLS site with my team. Sharing the same teaching, being able to respond with my team and explore the issues raised in each session. This makes it a truly great leadership experience.

So, take advantage of the Summit. Get your team there. Prepare before hand by highlighting key issues you want your team to deal with and then watch the Spirit of God work through the Summit to inspire and unite your team around a God sized vision for the future.

Ps Nick Field,
Senior Pastor, The Street City Church (Wellington, NZ)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Forget Not

I don’t read a lot of fiction, but the one series that I have been reading over the last few years has been J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. It’s great for a rainy day alongside a strong flat white and Lindt’s blueberry chocolate.

But it might surprise you to know that one of the most helpful tips for my ministry to youth and young adults came from the Harry Potter series. Through the mouth of Albus Dumbledore, Rowling writes;
“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.” Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix p728.

Though I love working with young people I quite often find myself lamenting their actions. Asking, ‘Why did they do such a stupid thing?’ And here is where Rowling has helped me.

She’s helped me to remember that young people cannot see their actions through my eyes, with my life experience, Bible College training and fully formed adult brain. But I can remember what it was like to be young. A time when pimples were the bane of my life and exam marks were its focal point. A time when the world was before me but I didn’t know how to handle it. A time when I wanted to fit in and stand out at the same time.

What does this remembering produce in me?


Patience to remind them of the gospel of God’s gracious forgiveness and patience to avoid berating them if they do it all over again. Patience to gently spur them on towards maturity in Christ. Patience to hear and fan their dreams but to also gently remind them that all our dreams must be submitted under God’s.

But even before this idea came from Rowling’s pen it came from another’s. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the writer to the Hebrews says this.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

The incarnation wonderfully makes our Lord Jesus a great and sympathetic high priest who is able to deal gently with each of us in spite of all our sin and inconsistency because he can remember what it was like to be one of us.

And so as He continues to gently minister to me, I will continue to gently minster to the young people around me, remembering what it was like to be young.

Mike Begbie
Youth Minister
Caringbah Anglican Church

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Global Leadership Summit Review

I am on a plane, having attended a couple of jam-packed days at the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in Chicago. I don't plan to pay for the food on offer, not because my Greek blood objects to paying extra for a service once delivered free, but because I feel bloated from eating so many American style ribs over the last week. Therefore, I have plenty of time to write this review.

On the evening before the conference began I attended a reception of international guests. Bill Hybels welcomed us in the 7,500 seats auditorium, and spoke to us about his dream for the Summit. He wants to change the world, by changing thousands of churches and ministry organisations around the globe, through the development of leaders. I was again reminded that we are saved for a purpose beyond our own salvation! That is, to work towards the salvation of others.

One of a number of highlights was Blake Mycoskie of TOMS. His for-profit company gives one pair of canvas shoes away to a child in a poor country, for every pair of shoes sold. He taught us that giving feels good but is also a good business strategy. If we focus on giving, the customers do the marketing. When people start to serve they quickly forget their own problems.

Business guru Jack Welsh, who is now attending his local church, challenged us to get rid of cynics and develop a culture of candor in our organisations and churches. His comments were controversial, but widely respected.

Throughout the conference we heard many other world class experts in several fields inspire us to excel in our leadership. I did not agree with everything that was taught, but it did sharpen me as a leader.

I have come back home with ideas to put into immediate practice, some principles to do more thinking and reading about, and a renewed desire to keep ploughing the hard and sometimes rough yards of ministry in the name of Jesus.

It would be better if the same quantity of content was delivered over a longer three day conference, rather than two, with time to reflect, discuss among teams, and make action plans.

I valued traveling to the conference with colleagues. We were able to discuss what had touched us during the day and then stretch each other as leaders. Eating plenty of baby back ribs was a necessary part of these discussions. Now for a much stricter diet and exercise program, to get rid of that tyre around my waist ...

Zac Veron
CEO, Anglican Youthworks
Author of Leadership on the Front Foot

The Global Leadership Summit - Not Just for Leadership's Sake

My first experience with the Global Leadership Summit was several years ago when I volunteered to be a car park attendant at the Auckland site. I didn’t know much about the Summit back then, but got to sit in for a couple of sessions and was blown away by the quality of the teaching and diverse range of speakers. I am now on staff at Willow Creek New Zealand and still continue to hold the GLS in high regard.

This year I had the privilege of attending the Summit in Chicago with the NZ team and was truly blessed and inspired throughout this two day event.

As Bill Hybels says, “The Summit is not a hyped up motivational seminar where speakers gloss over the rough and tumble realities of the leadership struggle and pump hot air over the crowd until they levitate into the place only to crash on Monday morning when the real stuff hits the fan. We are realistic leaders who are trying to lead better in the real world.” The Summit exists to empower and equip leaders, and not just for leadership's sake - but for the sake of the cause we are serving - in the church, school, business, or home. We need great leadership.

The Summit is specifically designed to stir and provoke - to challenge different thoughts and beliefs and to raise different points of view. The Willow Creek team are adamant that the GLS will never be an event where people just turn up, sit through some ‘nice’ messages, agree with everything and then leave unchanged.

The Summit is unashamedly Christ-centered and that it is a supernatural event that people pray for year-round. God knows what leaders need. More specifically He knows what you need. When you attend the Summit I believe the Spirit of God is ready to speak to you personally where you are at. My prayer is that you will join me in attending a Summit site and be as impacted as I have been by this year’s Global Leadership Summit - for the sake of those you lead, and the local church, the hope of the world. See you there!

Tom Atkinson

Ps. Don’t overlook us young emerging leaders. We need to be there with you!