For Leaders, It's the Relationship, Stupid

Thanks to the almost singular message of his campaign -- It's the economy, stupid -- Bill Clinton overcame significant personal and organizational challenges to become the 42nd President of the United States (Ross Perot's maverick campaign didn't hurt). For anyone in any position of leadership or influence, the singular message to ourselves should be, It's the relationship, stupid. Since we're talking to ourselves we should say it in love, but we should say it.

And live it.

Remember, famous does not = leader. Rich does not = leader. Same for innovative, creative, popular, gifted, talented, intelligent, and unique. But, for people who truly lead, it's all about the relationship.

That's not to say that the relationship has to be or even should be cuddly, sweet, or cute. Matter of fact, I would argue that it CAN'T be any of those things. But a real leader who's interested in long-haul influence does have to be respect, challenge, inspire, correct, equip, encourage, and motivate those she leads.

Playing, dreaming, eating, working, sacrificing, serving, calling out, and raising up are all weapons in the leadership arsenal that exponentially multiply influence capital rather than merely adding to it.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments: How do you develop influence capital through relationships?



Family Church

From the very beginning of LHC, we have pursued one thing where children and student ministries are concerned: We want kids to drag their parents to church, rather than parents dragging their kids. This weekend's installment of the Soulmate series brings a up a great question (that actually applies EVERY week):

*What ages are welcome in the weekend worship services?

First, EVERYONE is welcome at LHC-at large. But, there is no way that a worship experience can really meet children where they are and lead adults to truly worship in spirit and truth and process teaching spiritually and intellectually. When I say children, obviously every child develops at a unique pace, but there are many more commonalities between 2nd and 3rd graders than between 2nd graders and 30-year-olds.

WE DO CHILDREN'S MINISTRIES. WE DO NOT DO CHILDCARE. We invest significant time, talent, and treasure in creating meaningful worship and teaching experiences through our children's ministries. Even in infant rooms where all they do is sleep, eat, soil, cry and sit, children and their parents are prayed over and cared for by a committed staff and volunteers.

Most--not all, but most--people who demand to "worship as a family" do so out of nostalgia for their childhood experiences and because they remember boring, lifeless flannelboard Sunday School bits that they don't want to subject their kids to. That, I respect. It's just that that's not who God has called us to be, so that's not what we do. And in our context, it certainly isn't because it's what packs the most meaningful spiritual punch in the kids' lives. THAT happens in and through the various LHC Kids ministries.

That's why we ask all parents to lead their kids to the experience designed specifically for their kids. They are prayed over, thought through, and led by such gifted and committed people who are there specifically for kids.

It's a practice, based on a principle rooted in our values and vision as a church. It's part of who we are. Your kids will thank you.


Lifters vs. Climbers

Got an email yesterday from someone who was offended when I referenced a celebrity's marital track record in last week's sermon. At first, I thought, Seriously?? THAT ONE SENTENCE was the thing in the weekend worship experience that stood out?! But one sentence in the email made me stop and think: I just wanted to voice my opinion instead of just leaving [LHC].

And, the person who wrote that note was dead right. My intent and motive was never to take a shot at an individual; I really just wanted to personify a casual cultural perspective on something that should be honored and revered. But, the reality is that I did take a shot at someone else's expense. And I shouldn't have.

All of that is to say this: A few weeks ago, God led me to a principle that I violated in that sermon: I want to be a lifter, not a climber. REAL influence, REAL leadership, over the long haul encourages, lifts, and carries people forward. It NEVER demeans, belittles, or takes passive-aggressive pot shots.

That's not to say that leadership never critiques. It does. Real leadership and influence demands accountability, reviewing results. But real accountability is always connected to community and relationship. Lifters raise the bar, other people, results, and relationships.


Who's It For?

Craig Groeschel pastors Lifechurch.tv, based in Oklahoma with campuses over all the country. He's one of the rare people who gets it--spiritually, theologically, relationally, in leadership, in church. That's one of the reasons that God has done the amazing God-things that He's doing through Lifechurch.

His post on his blog today asks a few probing, revealing questions that every church should address. But, it also crystallized something very important for me about the sermon series Soulmate that we started yesterday and continue for the next four weeks, as well as our church as a whole.

This series is as much for those who aren't yet married as it is for those of us who are. If we can equip and empower young men and women to recognize the responsibility of marriage as well as partake in the privilege, then they have an exponentially increased chance of realizing God's design and desire for their homes.

That principle applies to LHC as a whole. If we build a church only for those of us who are here right now, or for those of us who are 35-50 years old, then there is NO WAY IN THE WORLD our kids will want to be a part of that and experience the blessings and community and accountability that Jesus calls his church to provide.

I'm so grateful and proud to be a part of a community that exists not only for the growth and encouragement of those already in it, but committed to doing what it takes to extend the love, and joy, and hope that ONLY Christ can offer.


Sometimes It's Just Fun

There's joy and then there's fun. Joy transcends circumstances, but fun is circumstantial.

I am so excited about the season of ministry that we get to walk through for the next 8 months. This weekend, we're beginning a sermon series about marriage called Soulmate. that God is going to use in thousands of lives, hundreds of homes, and multiple communities. I know that marriages will be strengthened and encouraged, as well as helped and healed. I know that single adults and students will engage in this series and set course for healthy, God-honoring dating lives that will ultimately result in healthy, God-honoring marriages for many of them.

And, then, after Soulmate, we're going to speak into the lives of men. May 24, I'm going to begin a series of messages called Manhunt that explores the God-given role of men in this world, in the church, and in their families (or families-to-be). I know that week is Memorial Day weekend and summer's coming. But, God is leading me and prompting me to serve this series NOW and not wait for back-to-school, January, or some strategic time. NOW is the strategic time.

Summer means kids at LHC. VBS, student ministry camps/events, Kids Camp--all these things impact kids at the most strategic times of their lives. And, Oct. 1-2 we'll host the second annual Spur Leadership Conference. We're finalizing the lineup of speakers, but the ones we have in the bag so far are WORLD CLASS influencers and difference-makers.

And, then...well, you get the general gist of why what we get to do every day is a joy. But, these days, it's just fun.


LHC Easter Insider Info

With Easter celebrations at both our campuses, we sent video-emails out tailored for two different audiences this week. They are both below:

Downtown Austin - Easter Invite from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.

West Austin - Easter Invite from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


It IS Who You Know

For years, cynics have said, "It's not what you know, it's WHO you know," meaning that qualified people are passed over by people who know the right people to get promoted/noticed/advanced. And, the cynics are right. Just not in the way they think they are.

WHO you know really does matter. Who you follow, who you lead, who you trust, who you doubt--these things matter so much more than your expertise or technical know-how. I don't mean for a second that expertise or skill is insignificant. It's critically important. If you have no skill or offer no value, it'll be pretty hard to gain and hold people's attention.

But, the #1 aptitude/ability/requirement of leadership is DISCERNMENT. You must discern people's abilities, agendas, non-verbal responses, and the like if you're going to accurately evaluate whether or not their talents are congruent with the task at hand.

The best way to develop discernment: Follow, lead, trust, and doubt the right people at the right times. Spur Leadership Test: Identify ONE person in your sphere of influence right now you are following...leading...trusting...doubting. Are they the RIGHT ones? If not, what can you do this week to get the right ones around you?


Politics & God Don't Mix?

All truth is God’s truth. And, every day, we witness and live out some clear, biblical laws of leadership in the political arena. These are laws that just are, no matter what your definition of is is.

Some truly godly and gifted men and women have chosen public service over personal gain, and we are blessed by their choices. Others…not so much. Personally, I love politics. It may be the grandest stage with the brightest lights where authentic leadership—or the lack thereof—plays out. And, as a pastor, my calling and responsibility transcend political affiliation/endorsement. I do not believe God rides an elephant or a donkey. Desiring to offend no one, and to do so equally, here is a brief list of the Leadership Laws we see manifest in the political realm:

1. Communication helps (or not). Policy and motives aside, the eloquence of Presidents Reagan and Obama significantly increase(d) their leadership capital.
2. Public Opinion matters. Democrats’ victories in Congress and Presidential races give them the opportunity to set policy, seat judges, and lead. They were given this opportunity because the public lost confidence in Republicans who had been given the opportunity and squandered it.
3. Popularity is not leadership. President Obama’s approval ratings neither make him a leader nor ensure good decisions, while President Bush’s decision to implement the “Surge” strategy was spot-on despite his dismal poll numbers. Popularity comes and goes with the winds of public opinion. Leadership lasts.
4. Crisis clarifies. 9/11, Katrina, Economic Meltdown. All these crises reveal character, strength of leadership, effective management, and compassion. Or, the lack thereof. Either way, it’s suddenly very clear.
5. Performance matters. Had Republicans performed better, led more, and spent less during their seasons of majority, they would have a greater voice in the handling of the economic crisis. They didn’t, so they don’t.


Less Is More

Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers and he posted a great, brief post about the value add of LESS. Check it out here. Great word for leaders in any arena.