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Author: Carey

Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church and is author of several best-selling books, including his latest #1 best-selling work, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership, change and personal growth. In addition to writing one of the mostly widely read Christian leadership blogs in the world, Carey hosts the top-rated Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews some of today’s best leaders.

emotional intelligence

5 Emotional Intelligence Hacks That Can Immediately Improve Your Leadership

How would you rate your emotional intelligence lately?

It’s a relevant question for a few reasons. First, as the research Daniel Goleman brought forward two decades ago demonstrated, EQ (emotional intelligence) is a far greater predictor of leadership effectiveness than IQ.

Second—and this is the fun part—emotional intelligence can be learned. It’s not genetic, and pretty much anyone can get better at it.

Your emotional intelligence (or lack thereof) is already affecting far more than you think at work and at home. It explains:

Why you have conflict and when you have conflict.

Why people like working with you or don’t.

Why you never seem to get the promotion you’re hoping for—or why you do.

Why there’s so much drama in your life, or why things actually go quite smoothly.

So how emotionally savvy are you?

I personally had a lot of growing to do in emotional intelligence over the years in leadership, and I’m still working on it.

Here are 5 EI hacks that can immediately improve your leadership. They’ve certainly helped improve mine.


1. Become a student of how you impact others

Ever wonder what happens when you walk into a room?

It’s a strange question in some respects because you’ve never been in a room that you’re not in.

You impact the climate of every room you’re in. In fact, as a leader, you almost always change the climate. But is it for the better or worse?

Do people tense up when you walk in? Do they clam up? Are they glad to see you? Afraid of you? Thrilled that you’re there?

Is your spouse glad to see you, or does he or she worry you’ll just have one more thing to complain about when you get home?

Many people have no idea how to honestly answer that question.

What makes it even more complicated is the fact that insecure leaders are usually too afraid to get answers to that question. And if you’re an angry or defensive leader, I promise you your team is afraid to give you an answer to that question.

If you want to grow in emotional intelligence, though, you absolutely need to know what happens when you walk into the room. You need to become a student of how you impact others.

So here’s the hack. Ask people what it’s like to be on the other side of you. Do it openly, and honestly. Don’t be defensive. Just listen. (I got that question from Jeff Henderson, who preached an incredible series on your impact on others called Climate Change.)

You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

Want to know what I learned? When I started asking my team about my impact on them a decade ago, one of my direct reports said, “You’re Bamm Bamm.”

Bamm Bamm Rubble was a Flintstones cartoon character who, as a toddler, didn’t know how strong he was.

Apparently, I have a very strong personality. Again, for years I was unaware of that because I had only ever been, well, me. But as I asked about my impact on others, my team would tell me that when I walked into a room, eyes would focus on me and I would offer my opinion and basically sway the room. It shut down real discussion.

So I gave the team permission to call me out on it. And for years, in meetings (or after them) staff would come up and say “You’re being Bamm Bamm again.” Then I’d apologize and stop.

I made it a point to be a lot more intentional and a lot more frequent in understanding what I was doing. I would ask people before and after meetings what role I should be playing, and solicit feedback about whether my level of input was too high or too low. It really helped.

Even at home, I regularly ask the question “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” The dialogue that ensues always makes home life better… if you’re willing to change.

2. Protect your team from your moods

There’s you on a good day. And then there’s you on your not-so-good days.

Too many leaders make their team pay when they’re having a bad day. No one wants to work for someone like that for a long time, especially if they have a lot of bad days.

Maybe you can’t stop yourself from feeling bad, but you can stop yourself from taking it out on the people around you.

Self-awareness is a big key to emotional intelligence. And so is self-regulation.

Self-regulating leaders realize that just because they’re upset, they don’t need to take it out on the people around them—at work or at home.

I know what you’re thinking: well, how will I process my frustration? Here’s my guess. You’ll pray a lot more.

By the way, this book by Andy Stanley really helped me get to the root of my emotions. It got to the root of four things we all struggle with as people and as leaders: guilt, anger, fear and jealousy.

3. Stop blaming others

Emotionally intelligent people are not just self-regulated, they’re self-motivated. This means they’re willing to do things like take responsibility for their actions.

If you want to become more responsible, stop blaming others. Blame is the opposite of responsibility.

So what do you do when things go wrong? When someone lets you down? Or when something beyond your control halts progress?

Well, that’s when you assume responsibility. Even if it’s not your fault (which is exactly why you’re ‘assuming’ it).

When things go wrong, say this: “I’m the leader. I’m responsible.” (My team has heard me say it 1,000 times.)

Often I may not even have caused the problem. But that isn’t the point. I’m the senior leader. I’m responsible. I need to get our team together to figure out how to push past the problem. Often I say it out loud to remind myself that blame is not an option.

So take responsibility and move forward.

It’s amazing how freeing that can be. And it has the side benefit of both rallying your team and having someone who may have been responsible come forward and assume responsibility for a dropped ball.

Why? Because nobody blamed them. Good people will often own up rather than run and hide.

4. Drop the excuses

Emotionally intelligent leaders take responsibility for everything they did that didn’t work out.

Late for a meeting? Traffic didn’t make you late. You made you late. (You should have left earlier).

Didn’t get that report done? Don’t say your kid got sick or that you couldn’t sleep. All of that may be true, but how does it help? You just didn’t get it done.

Poor leaders make excuses. Good leaders make progress.  Because (as we’ve often said around here), you can make excuses, or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

If you stop making excuses, it will do something more than change your standing in the eyes of your colleagues, it will make you come to terms with you. You will get so honest with yourself that you’ll be uncomfortable, which is where real progress comes from.

The added benefit? Leaders who own their mistakes eventually make fewer mistakes.

5. Don’t sink to the lowest common denominator

Another hallmark of emotionally intelligent leaders is their refusal to take shots—cheap or otherwise. When the dialogue sinks to a low level, they take the high road.

It can be hard not to refute all your critics or descend to the level to which others sometimes go.

There’s a simple quote that reminds me again and again why there’s no payoff in taking the low road:

Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig liked it.

That’s just true on about a thousand levels.

The high road isn’t the easy road, but it’s always the best road.

What Helps You?

Those are 5 emotional intelligence hacks that have helped me. What’s helped you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

lead pastor's chair

CNLP 110: Jeff Brodie, Carey Nieuwhof and Jeff Henderson on Navigating a Successful Transition: Stepping Out of And Into the Lead Pastor’s Chair

In late 2015, Carey Nieuwhof stepped out of the Lead Pastor role at Connexus Church (the only role he’d ever had) and assumed a new role as Founding and Teaching Pastor, while Jeff Brodie became the new Lead Pastor. A year into the transition, by all accounts, the move has been a success.

Jeff Henderson—Lead Pastor of Gwinnett Church near Atlanta— interviews Carey and Jeff about why they made the change, how they did it, what worked and where the tension has been.

Welcome to Episode 110 of the Podcast.


Guest Links: Jeff Brodie, Carey Nieuwhof and Jeff Henderson

Launch Youniversity

The Launch Youniversity Podcast

Gwinnett Church

Jeff Brodie

Connexus Church


Jeff Henderson on Twitter

Carey on Twitter

Jeff Brodie on Twitter

Connexus Church on Facebook

Connexus Barrie on Twitter

Links Mentioned

Injoy Stewardship Solutions


Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track – and Keeping It There by Les Mckeown

Andy Stanley; Episode 1

Casey Graham; Episode 104

3 Things from This Episode

What are you doing as a leader now to preserve the future of the mission? Leaders do not do well when the future is dimmer than the past. It’s one thing to have a church that grows with you, but it’s another to have a church that grows without you. Carey and Jeff Brodie talk about what’s happened over the past year since Jeff took over as lead pastor at Connexus.

  1. Keep the focus on the mission. The forefront of a leadership transition is preserving the mission. Changes were being made so that the talents of Carey and Jeff Brodie were being leveraged to reach as many people as possible. You are not the mission. Jesus is the mission.
  2. Find alignment with your staff and your elders. As responsibilities change within a transition, you have to maintain boundaries and help others understand the new protocols for your operations. Re-direct your team when they want to revert to an old process. It will take patience, but show grace and remain consistent.
  3. Don’t hang on to a title. Look for a role and look at what you can give to a team. When a new position becomes available to you, think about the mission first and see if it matches your passion. Pray about it. As God opens the doors, you’ll see positions differently.

Quotes from this Episode


Lasting Impact Team Edition


The team edition is a compilation of eight videos designed to allow the teams in your church follow along as a supplement to the book. I highlight key points from the material and discuss additional hot topics that relate to your ministry.

Get your copy of Lasting Impact today! 

Lasting Impact frames 7 pivotal conversations every church team needs to have, covering subjects like declining church attendance, team health, creating a culture volunteers love and how to engineer changes in your church.

Order on Amazon, or visit LastingImpactBook.com! The video team edition, featuring 8 videos where I teach through the key concepts in the book, is available now as well!

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from world-class leaders like Brian Houston, Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio, Ravi Zacharias, Craig Groeschel, Sue Miller, Kara Powell, Jon Acuff and many others.

Subscribe via



TuneIn Radio

Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Todd Wilson

Wonder if you’ll ever find your real calling? Are you called to ministry? How would you know? An ex-engineer with the US nuclear navy, Todd Wilson answered a call to ministry, founding Exponential and many other things as a Kingdom entreprenuer. His latest venture is to help leaders find their true calling, and in this episode, he tells you what to look for to find your calling.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 111.

church health

4 Misleading Ways to Measure Church Health…And a Guide That Can Help

By Tony Morgan

Today’s post is a guest post by Tony Morgan, founder and Chief Strategic Officer of The UnStuck Group

Recently on Episode 108 of Carey’s leadership podcast, Carey and I discussed why churches get stuck, and how to get your church moving again.

If you listened in, you heard us talk about the importance of understanding the current health of your church. In fact, that’s always the first step in getting unstuck. You cannot move forward until you fully understand where you are today.

Unfortunately, most pastors lack a clear way to measure the health of their churches. They look at the wrong indicators, make an incorrect assessment, and later wonder where their plans went wrong. In many cases they went wrong from the very beginning; with an incorrect understanding of their starting point.


Here are four ways I’ve seen pastors measure their church’s health in the wrong ways:

1. The (Biased) Opinions of Others

Each of us wants to be told that we’re doing a great job!

Unfortunately, every individual in your church comes with their own personal preferences, biases, and traditions.

It’s hard to get true perspective from a subjective source. We ourselves are no exception.

2. Increasing Weekend Attendance

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about leading more people to Jesus.

Unfortunately, we have a tendency to confuse a fuller room with more life change.

Church health involves more than just getting people to show up.

3. Money in the Bank

In some churches, survival is equated with health. Leaders feel that as long as they can sustain their ministry, they are doing well enough.

It certainly takes money to do ministry. But it’s not about how much you have. It’s about how you are using it strategically to reach more people.

4. Activity. Activity. Activity and (But Wait…There’s More) Activity

In many churches, more activity is equated with more ministry. Leaders will brag about how much they have on the calendar and that the doors of the church are always open.

Unfortunately, Jesus didn’t call us to keep people busy. He called us to lead people into a relationship with Him.

So What Does It Take to Measure Church Health?

If you want to understand the true health of your church, you’ll need an approach with these three qualities:

  1. Objective: You have to remove opinions to get at the heart of the matter.
  1. Well-Rounded: Church health doesn’t evidence itself in one area alone. It is based on a wide variety of factors.
  1. Consistent: To understand the health of your church over time, you must measure it with a replicable approach that can show improvement and decline.

My team at The Unstuck Group has a tool that can help pastors clearly understand the true health of their churches based on 14 key metrics vital to effective ministry.

It benchmarks your ministries based on our experience with 200+ churches, helping you determine where you are healthy and where you are not.

In every situation, church leaders are surprised by something they learn from an objective, well-rounded, and consistent assessment. And an assessment is better than hope. Hope is not a strategy. 

Win a Free Ministry Health Assessment!

We typically offer our online Ministry Health Assessment for $199, but I’ve given Carey 5 to give away for free to his readers.

If you’d like to discover the true health of your church, simply enter to win. I’d love to provide you with fuller perspective on the health of your church! Winners will be notified via email. 

[Enter to Win a Free Ministry Health Assessment]

In the meantime, what are some false measures of success you’ve seen? Scroll down and leave a comment.

pastor's soul

Epidemic: On The Creeping Hollow Within a Pastor’s Soul

This Isn’t Why You Got Into It

You got into ministry because you loved Jesus and because you felt a call. Your motives, quite honestly, were about as pure as they come.

Yet, if you’re like most pastors or church leaders, you discover that perhaps the hardest aspect of your work in the church is to keep your personal faith in Christ vibrant and your heart open and supple. Those are probably two of the last things you ever expected to struggle with.

But there’s something that happens inside almost every church leader’s heart that makes it difficult to maintain a vibrant relationship with God, with people and even with yourself.

Strangely enough, it’s like a reversal of the great commandment sneaks up on us. The very thing Jesus told us to do—love God, our neighbours and ourselves—often proves to be the most difficult thing a church leader does.

It’s like there is a hollow in your soul that grows. And if left unchecked, it threatens to overtake you.

These days, the hollow feels like an epidemic. Pastor after pastor seems to struggle. Some exit early after it takes them out. And even those who don’t leave, or don’t suffer any kind of a moral failure before they go, still often feel the struggle.

pastor's soul

A Creeping Hollow

The problem with the hollow in your soul is that it creeps.

It never gallops. It rarely races. It just creeps.

So just like aging, you hardly see the changes in the mirror from day to day. But you see a picture of yourself from five years ago and realize you’re not quite the same anymore.

I could quote statistics here and point out how so many people who start in ministry don’t finish in ministry. I could point out how many burn out, fail or exit early, some famous, but many who go unnoticed except by the people who loved them.

But you know the statistics. And worse, in seasons, you’ve felt them.

The signs within you are subtle but real. You are angrier than you need to be. You sing lyrics on Sunday, but the world feels distant and disconnected from your emotions. Reading scripture feels like an item on a list you need to check.

What happened to the love? The joy? The hope?

Those are great questions.

Well, maybe this is what happened to your heart: it got hurt.

And it still hurts. You carried forward some wounds from childhood. We all do. You got picked on. Things weren’t always great at home.

Life adds to it. Your marriage isn’t quite as alive as you thought it would be. The kids are amazing, but they also add stress to everyday life.

And then there’s ministry…the people who left after you introduced some change and you thought it was no big deal. That’s what you told yourself. And maybe the first few didn’t hurt that badly. Or maybe they did, but you steeled up and decided it wasn’t going to hurt anymore.

Until it did.

And the friendships you tried to have, which got, well, weird, they bother you.

Because the people who are your community are also the people you work with, and they’re also the people you lead. And it’s just so confusing at times.

You thought when you were getting together for dinner that it was as friends, but then they started asking you about that initiative you proposed last week and suddenly your leader hat was back on. Whatever happened to friendship, you wonder? And suddenly, you feel more alone than you’ve felt in a long, long time.

And the hollow crept up on you. Again.

And Now, The Toll

It’s started to take a toll.

You find yourself getting angry at the kids. You watch yourself get overly upset at the board meeting, and you withdraw from your wife when she asks you what was wrong. Even your time with God is strained because you realize you’re just as equally angry with him as you are dependent on him.

It’s like ministry puts your character in a vice and squeezes it until you feel like you can’t stand it anymore.

Truthfully, you feel a bit duped. Had you known it would be like this, you’re not sure you would have signed up. But now what will you do? Especially if there’s an actual call on your life?

It feels a lot like prison, doesn’t it?

To quit abandons your calling, but to stay makes you feel like the hollow will deepen until you’re not sure what’s left of your soul. And simply praying more doesn’t seem to fix it.

Add to all of this the knowledge that the battle is not just natural, but spiritual, and things get even more complicated. You have a hard enough time handling yourself, but now there appears to be an enemy.

I’m not sure on this side of eternity we’ll ever quite figure out how the enemy works, but very few church leaders would admit to never feeling his activity or interference. At a minimum, he makes the already hard more difficult. At other times, he pounces, making us wonder what happened. We didn’t see it coming.

You can resist, but the resistance, in seasons, gets tiring. You withstand a few attacks, but the hollow creeps a little further, and you ask yourself, “Is this what I signed up for?”

And the answer is both, ‘no it’s not’, and ‘absolutely.’ This isn’t what we signed up for, but it absolutely is.

We have pictures in our minds that if we do everything right, leadership will be a day at the beach. But we soon discover that it’s not a day at the beach, it’s a day in a battle zone, and you are on the front lines.

You see Paul in prison and think, ‘I could never survive what he survived’ (or at least that’s what I think). But in reality, you are doing that. It’s the same…just different. You’re not in a physical prison…you’re in a prison of a different kind.

Sure, sometimes it’s a prison of your own design. And with enough confession, enough self-awareness, enough counselling and some good friends, you can find the key and get out.

But even then, the battle continues.

So What Do You Do?

So what do you do? Too many pastors and church leaders have no idea what to do.

So they stay and shrivel as the creeping hollow becomes more and more dominant. They settle for a shadow of what might have been.

Some quit. They’ll do anything with their lives that will help them stop the pain.

Some burn out.

A decade ago, the creeping hollow led me to burnout.

It was horrendous. I lived in a dark season for months on end. There was a time that was bleak enough I honestly didn’t know if the sun would rise again. My friends told me it would, but I wasn’t sure I could believe them.

I didn’t quit. I didn’t even take a sabbatical. I just told my elders and team that I was broken and I needed their prayers, their love and some help.

They were amazing. So was my wife, and my family. So were the people closest to me.

As I began to deal more healthily with what had felled me, life began to return to my soul and my body. It was slow at first, but within a year, I was at 80-90%.

It took a few more years to reach 100%. I knew I couldn’t go back to ‘normal’ because ‘normal’ was what got me in trouble in the first place.

But slowly, through more counselling, prayer, friendship, reading and encouragement, and a deep look into my soul, my soul got healthier. It was made new.

I believe the ancients called this the dark night of the soul, and they called the process of getting better ‘sanctification’.

A decade on the other side of burnout, I feel better than I ever have in my life. And I’m still in ministry. Do I have learning to do? Growing to do? Absolutely, until the day I die.

But my friends—and the Gospel—were right. It is possible to come back. To hope again, to believe again, and to love again. Deeply.

The hollow still creeps in from time to time. And no, it’s not always easy.

But knowing what it is and being able to call an enemy for what it is and battle back is tremendously helpful.

The sun did rise again. And God did heal. I’m not sure time heals these things, to be honest, but God does.

If you’re in the midst of the struggle right now, just know you’re not alone. At all.

Some Help

I hear from so many other leaders who feel the hollow creeping in, or who know they’re burning out, wanting me to tell them what they can do to fix it.

There are no easy answers. And, if there are, I certainly don’t hold them.

But there is a direction that can help. At least it helped me.

The best thing you can do is get some friends around you who know you, love you and can tell you the truth and help you. I am a strong believer in Christian counselling. You need someone with a tool kit to help you move through whatever issues are underneath and whatever reconstruction needs to happen.

But in the meantime, here are some resources that can get you started.

9 Signs You’re Burning Out in Leadership

How I Recovered From Burnout: 12 Keys to Getting Back

A Decade Later: My Top 10 Insights on Burnout

I also have done several podcast episodes with church leaders on burnout and rebuilding your life. And yes, one of them I link to is with Perry Noble who is currently recovering from burnout again. Pray for him as you listen. He’s a great man and God has an incredible future for him as he heals.

CNLP Episode 065: Louie Giglio on the Back Story of Passion, His Nervous Breakdown, and How He Came Back

CNLP Episode 097: Young and Burning Out: How Grant Vissers Crashed in Year One of Ministry But Found New Life

CNLP Episode 005: When Leadership Ruins Your Family: How to Live and Lead Differently With Craig Jutila

CNLP Episode 002: How Perry Noble Hit Rock Bottom While Pastoring One of American’s Biggest Churches and How He Battled Back

Whatever you’re going through… just know you’re not alone.

The hollow doesn’t have to stay hollow. God can—and will—fill it up again. But the struggle is definitely real.

What are you learning about the dynamics of ministry and how to stay healthy and alive? I’d love to hear from whatever you’re going through in the comments below.


CNLP 109: Chuck Swindoll on How He Interprets the Scripture and Stays Fresh in Leadership

Few preachers have the legacy that Chuck Swindoll has.

Author of many books and thousands of sermons, Chuck discusses his most recent book, Searching the Scriptures, and the method he uses to stay fresh in preaching and leadership.

Welcome to Episode 109 of the Podcast.


Guest Links: Chuck Swindoll

Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs


Chuck Swindoll

Chuck on Twitter

Links Mentioned


Injoy Stewardship Solutions

Joe Sangl; Episode 68

Dr. Howard Hendricks

Richard Foster

Ravi Zacharias; CNLP 83

Takeaways from this Episode

How do you find the nourishment in the scriptures that the Lord has planned for his people to enjoy, learn from and guide their lives? Chuck talks about how the Bible changed his life and how it can transform the lives of others.

  1. Be accountable. You should solicit the advice of a trusted family member and a friend who will be transparent with you.
  2. Take God very seriously, but don’t take yourself that seriously. You’re the only one who thinks that you’re a big deal, but it’s by the grace of God that you have a voice.
  3. Stay fresh. Keep thinking of the scriptures as if it was the first time you’ve read them. Chuck says that he still finds new epiphanies.
  4. Guard against familiarity. You’re dealing with truth all the time. If you’re not careful, it becomes perfunctory, business as usual. If that happens, you need a break.
  5. Quickly admit being wrong. Don’t hide it. Say you made a mistake or admit it. Call yourself out when you judged or lost your temper, and be forthcoming.
  6. Stay positive. Chuck said that he learned about the secret of happiness from a member on his team. He says that you have to have something to do, you have to have something to love, and you have to have something to look forward to.

Quotes from this Episode

The Lasting Impact Team Edition


The team edition is a compilation of eight videos designed to allow the teams in your church follow along as a supplement to the book. I highlight key points from the material and discuss additional hot topics that relate to your ministry.

Get your copy of Lasting Impact today! 

Lasting Impact frames 7 pivotal conversations every church team needs to have, covering subjects like declining church attendance, team health, creating a culture volunteers love and how to engineer changes in your church.

Order on Amazon, or visit LastingImpactBook.com! The video team edition, featuring 8 videos where I teach through the key concepts in the book, is available now as well!

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from world-class leaders like Brian Houston, Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio, Ravi Zacharias, Craig Groeschel, Sue Miller, Kara Powell, Jon Acuff and many others.

Subscribe via



TuneIn Radio

Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Carey Nieuwhof, Jeff Brodie and Jeff Henderson

In 2015, Carey Nieuwhof stepped out of a the Lead Pastor role at Connexus Church (the only role he’d ever had) and assumed a new role as Founding and Teaching Pastor, while Jeff Brodie became the new Lead Pastor. A year into the transition, it’s been a success. Jeff Henderson interviews Carey and Jeff about why they made the change, how they did it, what worked and where the tension has been.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 110.

stopped growing

5 Significant Signs You’ve Stopped Growing as a Leader

You’ve seen leaders who have stopped growing. It’s not a pretty site.

If you’ve stopped growing as a leader, you’ve stopped leading well.

But often, the leaders who have stopped growing don’t realize it’s happened. After all, the people who lack self-awareness are never aware they lack it.

So…how do you know you’ve stopped growing as a leader? How would you know that’s you?

That’s where curiosity can save us. If you’re curious enough to wonder whether you might be stagnating in your growth as a leader, there’s hope. Those who ask the question and actually want to know the answer will grow.

The stakes are high because if you continue to stagnate long enough, you’ll soon peak as a leader and head into decline. Leaders who have peaked face their own unique set of challenges. I outline 7 signs you’ve peaked as a leader here.

Sadly, too many leaders stop growing long before they stop leading.  When that happens, they become leaders in title only.

So, in the hopes of staying fresh, alive and vibrant as leaders, here are 5 significant signs ls you’ve stopped growing.  The good news is if you jump on them quickly enough, reversal can be quick and effective.

stopped growing

1. You’re more interested in answers than questions

Hey, every leader needs answers. I get that.

But I also know that in seasons where my growth as a person and leader have slowed, one sure sign is that I only want answers; questions start to annoy me or bore me. And that’s a terrible dynamic.


Because breakthroughs are always preceded by questions, not answers.

Questions that threaten that status quo. Questions that probe for things overlooked by others. Questions that imagine what no one thought possible.

The excellence of your leadership is shaped less by the answers you give and more by the questions you ask.

2. You sift through new evidence only to back up your existing opinion

Too many leaders, and even organizations, suffer from confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias involves searching through new evidence mainly to find further evidence for your already-formed opinion. For sure, we all do this from time to time. Guilty as a charged.

But for growing leaders, regularly sifting through the evidence should lead to new conclusions, insights and perspectives.

If your insights are wrong, correct them. If there are better perspectives, adopt them.

The implications for your team are deep on this one.

If your eyes aren’t truly open as a leader, you’ll never see the future or seize it.

3. You spend almost all of your time doing what you like

I’m all for finding and working in your sweet spot as a leader. Every leader should discover what they’re best at and spend a good chunk of their time in it. I couldn’t agree more.

But you should spend all of your time in your sweet spot? As in 100%?

Maybe, maybe not.

Here’s why. You can grow in your sweet spot, getting better and better at what you do best, which is great.

But being in your sweet spot every day doesn’t always stretch you. In fact, it can start to feel comfortable…too comfortable.

Take that to it’s logical conclusion and you might discover this: spending all your time in your sweet spot can turn your sweet spot into a dead spot.

To keep growing, you need to tackle difficult projects, working out new leadership muscles and pushing you to think and grow beyond your current level.

Often tackling something new (even for a few hours a week) can do that.

What’s taking you out of your comfort zone? Chances are that’s where the growth is.

4. Your expertise has started working against you

Most leaders have a quiet desire to become an expert at something. Stick with it long enough and you’ve got a good shot at it.

Expertise, after all, is more than just training. More often than not, it involves a lot of reps.

But being an expert can make you cautious. It can also make you proud. And it can make you conservative.

Having worked so hard to achieve what you’ve achieved, you’re not as open to new ideas as you once were. You simply want to conserve what you’ve built.

Conserving what you’ve built and building nothing new as a result is a short cut to irrelevance.

Great leaders who master a field over a life time are always interested in new ideas, new theories and new insights because they know it make them and their discipline better.

If you want to build an expertise that lasts into the next generation, remember this: the more open you are to fresh perspectives, the more deeply your hard-earned expertise will resonate into the next generation.

5. You’ve surrounded yourself with people just like you

Most of us in leadership work hard to build a team we love. And that’s great. Great leaders build great teams.

But if you’re not careful, over time your team might start to look and sound a lot like you. That’s a warning sign. Don’t get me wrong, having a team that’s committed to the vision and owns the vision is a good thing.

But every leader also needs a team that can challenge the process, challenge the strategy and even challenge you.

Don’t get me wrong. I think aligned teams are a key reason leaders succeed…and you absolutely need an aligned team (I outline what I’ve learned about alignment here).

But if your team looks like you, sounds like you and acts like you all the time, your vision will never get sharper, your strategy may never become more effective, and you will miss opportunities.

Bottom line: if your team looks just like you, it’s time to change up the team.

So what should you do?

Try to keep people around you who are committed to the same mission and vision but who are younger than you, a different gender than you, and who have a different background than yours.  People with different backgrounds who are committed to the same vision always accomplish it with greater fervour and effectiveness.

What do you think?

What do you think?

What’s a significant sign or two for you that a leader has stopped growing?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

opposition to change

13 Facts About Opposition To Change Too Many Leaders Miss

You’re probably trying to change something right now.

And — if you’re honest — you’ve already thought about backing off.

Change seems too difficult.

You’ve watched friends get hurt trying to lead similar change.

You’ve heard the voices of opposition get a little louder.

You really don’t want to be afraid to open your inbox every morning.

But what if this is true?

Change is harder than it needs to be only because it’s more mysterious than it needs to be.

And it doesn’t need to be quite that mysterious.

Here’s what I believe about change: Change involves common human dynamics, and the dynamics can be learned. There are facts about change that, frankly, too many leaders miss. Discover them, and change becomes much easier to navigate.

In my book about leading change while facing opposition, I outline the learned dynamics of change that I hope can help every leader.

I’m passionate about change because I’ve lived through it and can vouch for the fact that change is more than possible.

I’m also passionate because if the church (and other organizations) are going to reach their potential, change isn’t optional, it’s necessary.

So, if you’re navigating change, here’s a short cheat sheet of 13 key principles that I hope will help you maintain clear thinking amidst the sea of emotions that leading change brings.

opposition to change

1. People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of

Everybody’s in favour of their ideas, but most organizational change is driven by the ideas fostered by a leader or a leadership team. That’s simply the way leadership operates.

When you float an idea, there’s often initial resistance from people who didn’t think of the idea or who weren’t involved in the process. That resistance isn’t fatal though.

You just need to realize that most people will come on board. You just need to give them time until the idea spreads widely enough to be owned.

Great ideas eventually resonate, even if they’re initially met with resistance.

How do you know you have a good idea? Like a fine wine, good ideas get better with time. Bad ideas get worse.

2. Change is hard because people crave what they already like

You have never craved a food you haven’t tried, and change operates on a similar dynamic.

Your people want what they’ve seen because people never crave what they haven’t seen.

That’s why vision is so key – you need to paint a clear enough picture that people begin to crave a future they haven’t yet lived.

3. Leaders crave change more than most people do because they’re leaders

The reason leaders love change more than most people is because they’re leaders.

Your passion level is always going to be naturally and appropriately higher than most people when it comes to change. Just know that’s how you’re wired and don’t get discouraged too quickly if your passion for change is higher than others.

You’re the leader. That’s your job.

4. Most of the disagreement around change happens at the strategy level 

Most leaders stop at aligning people around a common mission and vision, but you also need to work hard at aligning people around a common strategy.

It’s one thing to agree that you passionately love God, it’s another to create a dynamic church that unchurched people flock to.

One depends on vision; the other is a re-engineering around a common strategy. When people are aligned around a common mission, vision and strategy, so much more becomes possible.

5. Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change

Most leaders are shocked when they hear that only about 10% of their church or team is opposed to change at any time. Almost all swear it’s higher.

But usually, it’s not.

When I’ve challenged leaders to write down the actual names of people who are opposed to what they’re proposing, most are hard pressed to write down more than a dozen or so. And often, that’s even less than 10%.

It may feel like 50% of the people you lead are opposed to change, but that’s almost never true.

The question, of course, then becomes this: Are you going to sacrifice the future of 90% of people you lead because of the discontent of 10%?

I hope not.

I dissect the 10% rule in detail in my book, Leading Change Without Losing It. (I promise you it’s good news for leaders.)

6. Loud does not equal large

So why do the 10% feel bigger than they are?

Because they’re loud. Conversely, the proponents of change are usually quieter, even respectful.

Just because the opponents of change are loud doesn’t mean they’re a large group. The most opposed people make the most noise.

Don’t make the mistake most leaders make when they assume large equals loud. Almost every time, it doesn’t.

7. Most people opposed to change do not have a clearly articulated vision of a prefered future

Most people opposed to change do not have a clearly articulated vision of a preferred future. They don’t know what they want. They just know what they don’t want.

In fact, most just want to go back to Egypt. And you can’t build a better future on a vision of the past.

8. Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition

Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition. Wouldn’t it be horrible to look back on your leadership and realize there was little opposition to change—you just thought there was?

So push past your fears. And push past the opposition.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the determination to lead through your fears. By the way, this also does wonders for your faith.

9. Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how

What and how are inherently divisive. Someone’s always got a better, cheaper, more expensive, faster, shorter, longer way to do what you’re proposing.

Articulating why you’re changing something is different. It unites people. Why reminds everyone why we do what we do, and why we’re doing this in the first place.

So focus on why when you’re communicating. Why motivates. Always start with why, finish with why and pepper all communication with why.

10. Unimplemented change becomes regret

If you don’t muster up the courage to usher in healthy change, you’ll regret it.

You’ll look back and yearn for what might have been, not for what was.

Unimplemented change becomes regret. Remember that.

11. Incremental change brings about incremental results

People will always want to do less, which is why many leaders settle for incremental change, not radical change, even when radical change is needed.

You’ll be tempted to compromise and reduce vision to the lowest common denominator: incremental change.

Just know that incremental change brings incremental results. And incrementalism inspires no one.

Radical change brings about radical results. Incremental change brings about incremental results. You choose. Also, incremental change inspires no one.

12. Transformation happens when the change in question becomes part of the culture 

How long does change take? It takes a while, and it’s important to persevere. Because over time, change becomes transformation.

You can change some things in a year and almost everything in 5 years. But transformation happens when people own the change. That’s often 5-7 years; only then do most people not want to go back to Egypt.

So how do you know transformation has happened? Simple. Most people no longer want to go back to the way it was.

13. The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success 

As I wrote about in Leading Change Without Losing It, success has its own problems.

The biggest problem? Success makes leaders conservative. The more successful you become, the less willing you are to change.

As a result, the greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

The best way to overcome that?

Keep changing. Keep experimenting. Keep risking.

Successful organizations create a culture of change because they realize that success tempts you to risk nothing until decline forces you to reexamine everything. Keep changing.

I hope these 13 principles can keep you focused on a few of the toughest dynamics associated with change.

What would you add to this list?

And what’s been the most difficult aspect of change for you and your team? Scroll down and leave a comment.


CNLP 108: Tony Morgan on Why Churches Get Stuck…and How to Get Your Church Moving Again

Why do churches get stuck? Tony Morgan visits dozens of stuck churches every year and helps them get unstuck. He shares his findings and shares some top learnings on how to get your church moving again.

Welcome to Episode 108 of the Podcast.


Guest Links: Tony Morgan

Episode 6

Tony on Facebook.

Tony on Twitter.

Tony Morgan Live (Tony’s website)

The Unstuck Group (Tony’s organization)

The Unstuck Group on Facebook.

The Unstuck Group on Twitter.

Links Mentioned

Leading from your Strengths

Andy Stanley; Episode 1

Casey Graham; Episode 104

Geoff Surratt; Episode 40

High-Impact Church Boards: How to Develop Healthy, Intentional, and Empowered Church Leaders by T.J. Addington

3 Things from this Episode

Tony has found a few surprises in his analysis of how the church is operating. For one, there is more than one way to do church, and two, larger churches are making a positive difference in communities.

At some point, however, the megachurch will start to plateau because people will gravitate toward smaller gatherings where there is a higher perceived value on relationship.

Tony tells us what churches can do to prevent becoming “stuck.”

  1. Identify your target audience. When you can hone in on who you want to attract to your church, you become intentional about who you want to reach. Focusing a specific demographic doesn’t create an exclusive church thought. It actually reaches the friends and families of that intended targeted. But you need to start with one focused audience first.
  2. Find balance between discipleship and evangelism. This has traditionally been polarizing among churches, but a blend of these produces healthy outlook. Every church is going to be different, but a church needs to define their position up front and re-visit their strategy, where people are in the church within each path and if their outcomes are matching their strategy. Churches that focus more on evangelism than discipleship tend to be more effective.
  3. Focus on these five concepts. Tony says there are five concepts that are common among churches that are stuck.
    1. They lack clarity. It’s more than having a mission statement; you must have a vision and strategy. There is usually a gap around a specific clarity around where God is calling your church 5 years from now.
    2. There’s no clear discipleship path. It’s going to look different in every church, but it’s important that there’s a well established path.
    3. They’re inward focused. They focus on who’s already in the church rather than who’s outside of the faith.
    4. They’re complex. Churches who are stuck tend to be more complex. Healthier churches have more focus.
    5. They have weak leadership. People without the leadership gift are in positions of leadership, yet there are gifted leaders who aren’t empowered to lead. To be more effective, reverse that.

Quotes from this Episode

The Lasting Impact Team Edition


The team edition is a compilation of eight videos designed to allow the teams in your church follow along as a supplement to the book. I highlight key points from the material and discuss additional hot topics that relate to your ministry.

Get your copy of Lasting Impact today! 

Lasting Impact frames 7 pivotal conversations every church team needs to have, covering subjects like declining church attendance, team health, creating a culture volunteers love and how to engineer changes in your church.

Order on Amazon, or visit LastingImpactBook.com! The video team edition, featuring 8 videos where I teach through the key concepts in the book, is available now as well!

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

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Next Episode: Chuck Swindoll

Few preachers have the legacy that Chuck Swindoll has. Author of many books and thousands of sermons, Chuck discusses his most recent book, Searching the Scriptures, and the method he uses to stay fresh in preaching and leadership.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 109.

kinds of passion

5 Kinds of Passion That Can Make or Break Your Leadership

Where’s your passion level these days?

If there’s one common characteristic of growing churches and their leaders these days, it’s passion.

Passionate leadership is so much more contagious than passionless leadership. And passion is a key characteristic of leaders who are making a big impact with millennials.

As I shared here, if you’re trying to reach the next generation and you had to choose between passionate leadership and money to improve your building, passion is the better choice by far. People respond to passion far more than they respond to a great building or cool environments.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish, because passion reveals the heart behind the ministry. Polish doesn’t always do this.

Of course, being passionate is one thing, but not every form of passion will resonate with your audience or with God. Not all kinds of passion are created equal.

The biggest differentiator between a passion that resonates and can be sustained over a long period of time, and the kind of passion that doesn’t resonate is the motive behind the passion.

Motive answers two questions:

Why are you passionate?

What are you actually passionate about?

Here are 5 kinds of passion that can make or break your leadership. Three of them will eventually break you (or at least stunt your potential and that of your organization). Two will make you.

The difference? The purer the motivation behind your passion, the better your passion will resonate with people and the better you’ll lead.


1.You’re passionate because you want to be better than someone else

This is one of the poorest motivations I can think of for being passionate in what you do, but the drive to compete against others runs deep in many leaders.

Let’s be honest, it’s not that difficult to beat the dying church down the street, but that’s hardly a great motive.

Leaders who have to be better than others suffer from at least four problems.

The first problem? It’s you. If you always have to be the star, you’ll always play in a small universe. In fact, you will intentionally keep the universe small because you’re too insecure to spend time with leaders and organizations who are bigger or brighter than you. Bad move on about a thousand levels.

Second, you’ll never surround yourself with truly great leaders. They’ll sniff out your insecurity and won’t stick around long.

Third, you will never realize your potential as a leader or, even more importantly, the potential of your church because your reference point is something bad, and not your true potential.

Finally, there’s a good chance someone better than you will come along. Then what are you going to do? (Other than sulk.)

2. You’re passionate because you’re the leader

Stepping into the lead of something for the first time or the thousandth time creates a kind of adrenaline, because, well, you’re leading it.

Some of that is very natural and some of it is very good.

But there’s a line you have to trace out. Sometimes the fact that you’re the leader can become the main motivation for your passion. And that’s trouble.

If you notice yourself always being the most passionate about something when you’re leading it, it could be a sign that your leadership is all about you.

And while people follow leaders, most people don’t actually follow a leader for the leader’s sake. You follow a leader for the mission’s sake (see below).

A great motive check for leaders is simply this: can you get excited about being a part of something that you’re not leading?

If you can’t, do some soul work. Ask God to help break your self-focus.

And go get involved in a project, team or cause that someone else is leading.

3. You’re passionate because it’s your idea

This is related to #2 above, but a bit different. Sometimes you’re not leading the initiative, but you’re excited about the innovation because it’s your idea that’s taking flight.

Again, it’s natural to be excited about your ideas and your leadership, but truly great leaders can get excited about other people’s ideas too.

In fact, the best leaders are always able to give voice to ideas they didn’t develop themselves.

The implications for your team are huge if you only fall in love with ideas you create.

If you want to demoralize your team, be passionate about your ideas and no one else’s. Eventually, you’ll have a demotivated team. Or no team.

4. You’re passionate about the mission

So what are some motivations that will make you—and not break you—as a leader?

Try this: let the mission drive your passion.

A mission inspires because it’s always bigger than any one person.

In the case of the church, the mission is both timeless and powerful. It’s the same mission that has been around 2000 years, and it’s always bigger than you, bigger than your congregation and bigger than your church.

Leaders who get passionate about the mission of the church always tend to have better churches.

5. Your passion is Christ-focused

I think the ultimate motivation for passion in a Christian leader is a Christ-focused passion.

I know that’s the answer everyone expects, but in this mixture of sin and grace that is all of us, Christ-focused leadership and passion is all-too-rare.

When you’re leading a church, a passion that is self-less and Christ-focused is utterly compelling. I think it’s a type of passion the next generation both wants and needs.

Christ-focused leadership is also radically counter-cultural. In a world (and sometimes in a church-world) utterly obsessed with self, pointing to Jesus and letting your motivation be from him is a breath of fresh leadership air. And it’s what our hearts long for most.

How do you know your passion is Christ-focused (and even Christ-fueled)?

Well, you’ve given up comparing yourself with others. You’ve gotten over yourself and your commitment to your team is bigger than your commitment to your own ideas. And while your motivation is for the mission, you realize that at the heart of the church’s mission is Jesus. He’s the only one who makes a difference, and the only one with any power. And he’s the motivation and fuel for what you do.

What Do You See?

I know this is a tough subject. We all struggle with mixed motivations, and we all have good days and bad days, good seasons and bad seasons.

But this is what I see when I look inside, and more and more I’m trying to weed out the impure motives and live for the mission and for Christ. And even as I write those words, I know I’ll get it wrong as often as I get it right.

What do you see as you lead?

What fuels your passion, for better or for worse?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

older church members

Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing

So how do you engage older church attendees… say people over age 50?

The question’s been around a long time. And—as most church leaders could tell you—it’s a bit of a loaded question.

It’s also a question I’m hearing again and again, particularly from churches that are doing a great job reaching young families. Some leaders want to know how to keep older members engaged, especially when a church is doing a great job reaching young families.

As someone who turned 50 last year and whose kids have moved out of the house and into university and life, I can tell you I’ve thought about this question both personally and from my vantage point as a church leader.

The default in many churches is simple: provide programming for over-50 adults that caters to their needs: potluck lunches, Bible studies and social gatherings for their demographic, and, of course, bus trips.

The purpose of this post is to ask one simple question.


As in really—this is as good as it gets for people moving into their prime and then into their senior years?

I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all.

If I have to spend the next thirty years taking bus trips, I want the first bus trip to be straight to heaven. There’s a much better way for 50+ adults to spend their time, influence and energy.

Let me explain.
older church members

Here are four reasons it’s time to kill the bus trip mentality far too many churches adopt for their over-50 attenders.

1. Life isn’t about serving you

What I struggle with most about the North American dream of how to spend life in your older years is this: it’s all about serving yourself, not others.

I’m not saying you can’t take a vacation or enjoy the life God has given you, but a thirty-year vacation? Seriously? How many rounds of golf can you play? How many beaches can you lie on? How many 4:30 buffets can you eat?

Too many churches have played into the trap of trying to cater to the needs of perfectly capable over-50 adults in their church, as though they were a demographic to be appeased, and not mobilized.

When church leaders cater to appeasing needs, they miss the mission potential of a generation.

You aren’t the mission. The mission is the mission.

You can fill your life with activity, or you can fill your life with purpose. It’s your choice. I’m choosing purpose.

2. The next generation wants and needs the older generation

Perhaps one of the greatest surprises to Gen Xers (that’s me), Boomers and Elders is that Millennials want to spend time with people older than themselves.

When I was 25, I didn’t want to spend time with anyone over 30. My goodness, has that changed. And I’m grateful for that.

In my work and in my leadership world, I’m surrounded by young team members. Almost everyone on my team is 15 to 30 years younger than me. And I love it. I learn and grow, and so do they.

I’m a big fan (and practitioner) of the Orange Strategy, which not only combines the influence of church leaders and families, but leverages the faith and wisdom of one generation to build into the next.

Biblical community is more nuanced and powerful than hipsters ministering to hipsters and seniors ministering to seniors. It’s about pairing up the generations to learn from each other, serve side by side and build into each other.

In our church, every generation serves alongside other generations. It keeps older adults young and helps make the young wise.

It does more than though. Serving together creates significance. I love the way Reggie Joiner puts it: people will not believe they are significant until you give them something significant to do.

By giving senior adults something significant to do—like being a small group leader for 5th grade boys, 12th grade girls, young married couples or single 20 somethings—they realize they have a contribution to make to the next generation.

Conversely, when a high school student serves at the food bank alongside a 60-year-old retired banker, they often do something more than serve food—they build a relationship, influencing one another and growing together in life and faith.

Kara Powell, in her research, found that having generations serve together in a way that builds relationships between those really helps teens and young adults find or keep their faith.

3. Not mobilizing older adults squanders resources

If church leaders simply pander to the consumer mindset that characterizes an older lifestyle (cruises, relaxation and rest), they deny a powerful reality that could be leveraged for the mission.

First, some workers actually don’t hit their peak earning years until their 50s and 60s. Church leaders should challenge people in that category to increase their standard of giving, not just their standard of living.

As you soon discover by talking to many successful business people, there’s an emptiness that comes with success and money. The reality is that the emptiness they feel in your soul is actually filled by giving, not getting.

Church leaders who are able to help people see that this is what they’re missing will be able to leverage resources to fund the next generation.

It’s more than money, though.

While foolishness plagues both old and young alike (some people don’t grow wiser in their senior years; they just grow older, there are decades of accumulated wisdom that get wasted if it’s not leveraged for the sake of others.

There can be a significant wisdom that’s lost if years get spent only in business, at the lake house, eating potluck lunches and taking trips.

As I already mentioned, Millennials love being around older adults and are wide open to insights, questions and conversations about faith and life. Leverage that dynamic, and you will see powerful transformation happen, not just in the life of younger people, but in the lives of older adults as well.

Fulfillment is found in giving, not getting.

The older I get, the more I prioritize being around young people. In my case, it’s mostly to ask questions, learn, and enjoy the relationship and insights. Being around the young keeps you young.

4. Sacrifice kills entitlement

Given the current decline in church attendance and engagement in North America and the West, passing the faith onto the next generation has never been more urgent.

In fact, I believe the greatest thing this generation can do is sacrifice to bring faith to the next generation.

This is not the time for older adults to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight given the fact that the flight is potentially headed for a crash landing.

What if this one generation actually just sacrificed for the sake of another? What if they gave up their preferences in music, style and taste so that others could come to know Christ?

What if they changed their methods and preferences to preserve the mission?

Leveraging time, wisdom, insight, relationship, money and influence—essentially, your life— for the sake of the young is the greatest legacy you can leave.

What Do You Think?

I realize this is a counter-cultural argument, but I think it’s an important one.

No generation in history has had more resources than the current generation over 50. Leveraging them for the sake of the next generation is perhaps the best thing we can do with them.

If you want to learn more about the kind of changes churches need to make to be relevant to the next generation, I wrote about it in Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The bottom line is this: a spirit of sacrifice is far more compelling than a spirit of entitlement. What am I entitled to as a person over 50? Nothing. But I’ve been blessed with much. It’s time to deploy what I’ve been given.

What are you learning about this?

Scroll down and leave a comment.