Category Archives: Organization

Adding in an Evening Ritual

This year one of my successes has been my morning ritual.  I get up by 6:30 AM, walk, meditate/pray, write and jump into the day.  It has worked well to have my standard plan even if there are times I travel or a too late night keeps me from perfectly following my ritual.  It is simple: walk, pray, write, get ready for the day.

This last week I began an evening ritual.  I get home by 7PM, have time with my husband Jeff, take a bath and listen to music, meditate/pray and read before going to bed by 10 PM.  What I am loving is having a clear plan lets me focus on family, self-care and learning – three essentials for me.  Of course, I won’t do this 100% of the time, but knowing it is my “usual” is very freeing.

What gives your life form and rhythm?


100 Days of Summer – A Review of the Happiness Planner

I spent the 100 days of summer using the Happiness Planner.  The planner style I’m using is a 3-month version.

I picked it up by chance when I had a gift certificate from Anthropology and thought it looked the mid year pick-me-up I need. It was.

The planner starts by asking what makes you happy & unhappy, what are your strengths & weaknesses, what upsets you and what do you want to improve, etc.  There is a place for goals, so I set summer goals (mostly around getting outside more, playing my ukulele and enjoying myself). Then I jumped in.

Weekly you put in your schedule and each day you record “what I’m excited about,” “good things about today,” “what I hope for tomorrow.” There is a place to list daily goals, exercise and meals.  I loved the focus on the positive.

What worked:

  • It was doable – setting goals for 100 days was something I could do. I found I was more focused and I achieved 50% more of my goals.
  • It was different – I liked having to think each day about what I was looking forward to. That really starts the day off differently – I liked it!
  • I could use it with what I already use (I use The Way App where I track my daily personal rituals).
  • Each week there is a 2-page summary which included a place to describe the week in 3 words (which was fun to think about) & a place to “score” your happiness, health and engagement.
  • On the 2-page weekly summary  there was a place for me to record what I learned that week – those ideas got captured and I could refer back to them. I really loved that.

My plan was just to do this for the summer and then to go back to my regular planner but I bought a second one to use for the next 100 days!

The Six Core Competency of Pastors: Focus (Part 02)

I am a high-energy person who thrives on new ideas so the Core Competency of Focus was a challenge for me.

But a couple of things happened that got me thinking…

  • Leading house churches gave me a new perspective on what mattered in growing faith.
  • Working in New Ministries showed me many declining churches being busy but not fruitful.
  • My own development made a sharp climb when focus moved to the center.

And, all got me thinking about why focus matters so much. Especially today.

When Focus is not a core competency:

  1. Pastors waste their time and energy (energy is a huge issue here).
  2. Pastors feel scattered and ministry feels unsatisfying.
  3. Pastors experience doubt, fear, vocational turmoil and even burnout.
  4. Ministry potential (vitality and growth of churches) is not realized.

A couple of tools help in thinking through what focus looks like:

  • Jesus – his life and ministry is clear and focused. Read it from this context and look for these lessons.
  • Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. This is a great read to get you thinking about what focus might look like. I loved the audio book and the author is always on podcasts .

Focus looks very practical in my life –

  1. I figured out where I want to go. (Note: this is ongoing.)
  2. I align how I spend my time with the results I desire.
  3. I am honest with what I can do and commit to it.
  4. I admit what I cannot do and get help.
  5. I simplify everything so it is light weight and low maintenance (hence the title of my blog).
  6. I reflect on how I am doing and make adjustments.

I started my 6 Core Competencies with Professionalism. Professionalism gives a foundation from which the other competencies grow and without it some of the Core Companies aren’t fully realized. This second competency is an example because without Professionalism, Focus could become a justification for pastors to do what comes naturally instead of what is necessary.  Professionalism grounds us as we make the choice to focus on the essential, on the important.

One more thing on figuring out where you want to go (#1 above).  I wonder if the times in which we live (social media, always connected) stop us from doing the deep work of figuring out where we’d actually like to go? Everything is so instant and it is natural for us to focus on today.  Focus as a Core Competency can reacquaint us with this important (bigger picture) work.

What is your second core competency?

Who Are You Mentoring?

Who Are You Mentoring?

As I visit local churches and hear their struggles, one thing I hear consistently is: “we don’t have enough leaders.”

Is there a lack of leadership in our local churches? Yes and no.

Yes, it is true that as churches get smaller there are fewer leaders. If a church had 100 people in worship a decade ago but only 50 now, fewer leaders would be one result.

But as I have listened, I have realized that it isn’t just having fewer people that fuels a decreasing pool of leadership. My hunch is that a contributing faction in our leadership decline is that for the past 10 years most of our current leaders haven’t apprenticed new leaders.

Recently I visited a church where every leader was over 70 years old. There were younger members in church but I was told they were too busy or uninterested in leadership. Maybe. But maybe there was a bigger issue – the church leadership didn’t have a process of mentoring.

What is mentoring? Mentoring is an approach of raising up a new generation of leaders. It requires current leaders to prioritize their time toward teaching upcoming leader.  In other words, it requires a leader who will invest in someone else and then let them do the ministry in the new leader’s way and style.

Mentoring matters.

How do you mentor? I like Mike Breen’s work on this – he uses the visual tool of a square to teach the concept, which has four steps.


The key to understanding this process is to start at the top with L1 (Leader at the beginning of the mentoring process) and D1.  “D” stands for disciple as discipleship is about training up new leaders for ministry. Here is how it works:

L1/D1: When a current leader notices a bright eye person who is not yet in leadership, the L1 leader recruits him or her. Early on, the leader is directive in their leadership style.   That means the L1 leader needs to give clear direction saying, “do this,” “this is how you…” etc.

This can be a challenge for many since this style of training may feel bossy or domineering. But the reality is, strong leadership is needed early on. Weak leadership at this early stage slows down the mentoring process. Early on the D1 newbie feels confident in their new role (they don’t know enough to know the complexity or challenge) yet they are incompetent – meaning, they don’t know how to lead the ministry. This is where we begin.

L2/D2: We all know D2 even if we have never heard the term before. D2 is that place when the new leader feels overwhelmed & out of their league. They want to give up. The D2 mentee is starting to see that there is much to learn, that they are truly at the start of that learning, and that this will take their time, commitment and focus. The L1 leader, responding to the overwhelm and the anxiety of the mentee speaks of the larger vision. This might look like the outgoing finance chair sharing what God is doing through the income the church receives and manages. Or the new small group leader learning not only how long it took the outgoing leader to feel confident but what God had done in her heart as she grew in leadership.

This is often the place we stop mentoring. It demands so much time, energy and vulnerability on everyone’s part that those being mentored may give up and the one doing the mentoring may not make the time needed to really invest in the new leader. Clearing one’s schedule and spending time together makes the difference here – we need to believe in each other and what God can do through our willingness to surrender, to grow and to step into leadership.

L3/D3: If we invest the time and energy, we will begin to see fruit. The mentee disciple feels a growing confidence (“maybe I can do this”) and the L1 leader has a chance to encourage a more consensus style of relationship (“how would you improve this? What are your ideas?). Here the new leader takes on more responsibility as the outgoing leader shares responsibility. A shift is happening.  The outgoing leader needs to begin to let go and trust the new leader.

L4/D4: Here the mentee becomes the leader. She has confidence and skill. She has come through the anxiety of seeing her own lack of wisdom and has learned to lean into God’s. She is not only ready to lead but she is ready to mentor.  She has someone to turn to when things get tough and she sees the wisdom in the mentoring approach.  The outgoing leader is able to step back.  He trusts that she is ready and knows that even though leading will be done differently, that is part of the process.

To summarize the flow – it begins (L1/D1) with “I do, you watch.” Then (L2/D2) it becomes, “I do, you help.” As we round the corner (L3/D3) it becomes, “You do, I help.” And finally (L4/D4) it becomes “You do, I watch.”

Want to know more? Watch. Read. Share your wisdom.

Goals – Update 1

12733442_10153510671343865_7678946094946885773_nMy last post was around my goals for the New Year and how even though I had 100% failure rate with last year’s personal goals, I was trying again. I thought an update was in order mostly because if I get off track, it is usually pretty quickly.

Here is what I am finding –

Keeping My Goals Before Me Daily – This is really working. I created a “vision board” with pictures of walking feet (I have a goal around steps I want to get in each day) and a woman sitting on her zafu meditating (my goal is a daily 20 minutes) and all kinds of other stuff. I pasted the photos into my planner and spend 5 minutes looking at them while I drink my morning coffee. It is a good reminder and I enjoy the beauty of the images. I also added the words “I expect,” “I believe,” and “its a gift not a chore.” These are phrases that are connecting me with my goals.

Also, I have added in one action which I am testing out:  imagining myself doing my goals.

Here is how it works:  As I walk in the morning, I imagine myself getting up early and spending time throughout the day doing the things to which I have committed. It is corny (like the vision board) but it is helpful in moving me into believing I can make the choices I want to make.

Honestly, I added this in after recognizing that there were things I wanted to do that I could not imagine myself doing. For example, I usually crash in front of the sofa when I get home -it is a long-standing bad habit. To open myself up to change I imagining myself talking a walk/making a cup of tea and reading/etc. instead. I am trying this out after reading evidence that using our imagination in this way is helpful in achieving goals.

Accountability and Organization – I am using my Way of Life app daily tracking what I am doing (and not doing) is helpful. When I take my morning walk, I look at the items on the app and remind myself what I want to accomplish.

One of the items on my list is “take 100% responsibility for myself.” Seeing this first thing enables me to remember that even as crazy as the day gets, I can take responsibility for what I do and don’t do in the midst of it all. This helps to stay on track with food or exercise because after all, I am 100% responsible for myself.

Support in Achieving My Goals: I enrolled in the Jon Acuff 30 day course and liked it. It was pretty straightforward and has a Facebook page so you can see how others are living into their 30 Day Hustle. My first 30-Day Hustle is walking 8000 steps. I started on Jan 2 and walked at least 8000 steps every day but 4. Achieving this simple goal every day is giving me the confidence I need to live into some bigger goals. I have continued this goal and am working up to 10,000 steps.

So, how are your goals going?

Setting Goals in the New Year (again)

I am a goal setter. I realize lots of people aren’t and some have pretty strong feelings against New Year’s goals saying they don’t work. And while I cannot disagree, still I set goals.

I set a half-dozen personal goals last year and I completed 0% of them. I even took an online course about goal setting and still 0%. Why?  I forgot. I got busy.  I made excuses. I found them too hard.  I didn’t want to make the changes.  In other words, I set them and never really did anything to move them forward. Till this week when I thought, “hey, what happened to those goals?” 0% success rate happened, that’s what.

IMG_0266I’ll be honest, I felt pretty down. After seeing this, I decided to become one of those people who doesn’t set goals. After I gave up, I had a couple of days when I felt disenchanted, discouraged, despondent. But then I thought, “Nicole, you don’t give up! When the going gets tough you don’t leave. You are tenacious!” This is about 80% true, honestly 20% of the time I run for the hills but, after I worked through my discouragement I decided to try again. Here is what I did:

  1. I reviewed last year’s plan. I asked myself what was worth moving to this year’s list & what wasn’t? What jumped out at me was less the goals I didn’t reach but the previous years (2014) accomplishments. Even though I felt like I got anything done in 2015,  I decided this was a good way to end this year too. What did I accomplish? So I made a list of what I had done and included that at the start of this year’s journal.
  2. I figured out a way to keep my goals daily before me. I wasn’t sure how to do this but after doing a bit of research I decided on a vision board. The idea of a ‘vision board’ has always seemed ridiculous to me but the process of finding photos online that symbolized my goals was fun and encouraging. I printed out a collage of all the photos and taped it into my planner. I also used the photos as screen saver images so that I see them throughout the day.
  3. I strengthened my organization and accountability. I bought a new planner and a new journal that I customized with tape and stickers and checklists. I made space to include my goals and created a larger chart (goals along the way and a place I could record how I am doing) for my planner. I updated my Way Of Life app to reflect the small daily actions that will move my goals forward.
  4. I got help to support me in achieving my goals. I find I do better if I receive support. How I had done this is through audio books and podcasts. This year, I have added a 30-day course.  The idea of the course is to pick one goal for 30 days – mine is to walk  8000 steps 30-days in a row–and to build upon that quick win. The course has an online Facebook group too!

So, here is to the New Year not giving up.  Here is to 2016!– Nicole