Good Leaders Retreat

Good leaders don’t always advance, sometimes they retreat.

Great leaders retreat really well.

Escaping the pressure of leadership for a time of evaluation and recalibration is critical. Good leaders know this. In my context, the pastors I most respect who have done some of the most profound work for the kingdom are the ones who have learned the art of retreating well. They make it a habit and they don’t violate the practice.

And you should too.

Like you, every summer I strategically plan a time away with family. I take 2 weeks. No exceptions. That’s what I need to fully decompress. But here’s where most pastors fail: after they take time off, they go back to work. Why is that a mistake? Because the best time to seriously evaluate ministry is when you are fresh, not fatigued. That’s why immediately following my vacation I slip away for a ‘study break.’

My study “break” is by far my most productive, most meaningful time of work each year. But it took some time for me to learn how to do it right. Here’s what I’ve learned about protecting that time and retreating well…

6 KEYS TO GREAT STUDY BREAKS

  1. Don’t shortchange yourself. Take no less than 3 days. One day isn’t a break… it’s barely enough time to honestly reflect and evaluate your leadership. Gaining clarity the first day is pointless if you don’t leave yourself time to work, plan and strategize based on that clarity.
  2. Remove distractions. Isolation is key. Don’t bring anyone with you. Don’t make phone calls. Limit the internet. If you want to hear from God then leave put yourself in a position where He is the only one you can hear from.
  3. Think about what, not just whenMany leaders plan time away but never think through what they’ll actually do with it until they get there. That’s a mistake. Consider what the biggest issues your organization needs you to focus on before you leave and then plan out how you will tackle those issues.
  4. Plan what you read wisely. Take books specifically geared towards those issues that most need your undivided attention. Don’t do pleasure reading on a study break – this is supposed to be think time and productive for your ministry. Focus your reading on things that will help you see your problems from new angles. Also, be sure to preview new books before you go. There’s nothing worse than ending up on a retreat with the wrong book at the time you most need the right one.
  5. Pray for your church. The best idea I’ve ever stolen was from a pastor who asked everyone in his church to write down 1 thing they needed prayer for on an index card so that he could be praying specifically for the church while he was away. Every year before I leave we put index cards on every seat in the auditorium for 2 weeks so that I can get 1 prayer request from as many people as possible. These cards give me incredible insight into where people are spiritually, what they are wrestling with and how I can better lead the people God has entrusted to me.
  6. Communicate your time well. If you want to keep the right to take these crucial breaks, make sure your church (or organization) knows how beneficial they are both to you and to them. Again, ask them for prayer cards and tell them how they can pray for you. When you return, give them a sense of how God spoke and led you in terms of clarifying vision and direction for the church. If they see it benefit the church they will be all the more eager to help you retreat again in the future.

Obviously, I’m still learning what makes for an effective study break. If you’ve got some advice as to what has worked for you, I’d love to hear it. Leave me a comment below.

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5 Reasons to Read as a Team

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Child development specialists are always telling us that reading to our kids is critical for their development.

The same is true for your team.

If you want to lead well at home, read to your kids… if you want to lead well in your organization, read as a team.

Here are 5 reasons to read as a team and why doing so matters so much to the growth and health of your organization:

1.  IT BUILDS A COMMON LANGUAGE.

Good communication is critical for any team to thrive. One of the best things you can do for your team is to create a common vernacular; language that binds you together and provides clarity and consensus on who you are, what you believe, where you are going and what matters most.

Common language in our culture is the expression that “all of us is better than one of us.” That principle came out of something we read together that now consistently reminds us that we are best when we operate as a team instead of as individuals. Reading together as a team helped forge not only that language but that culture.

2.  IT EMBEDS TEACHABILITY INTO YOUR DNA. 

Reading together as a team is a corporate admission that you don’t know everything yet. It keeps your team humble, teachable and hungry.

Team members that lack teachability hold everyone back. Absorbing great ideas together as a team will quickly surface who on the team is ready to help you move forward and who will only hold you back.

3.  IT FORCES PEOPLE TO BE ON THE SAME PAGE.

Reading together forces your team to get on the same page when it comes to mission and vision. The discussions that ensue while reading together brings ideologies and differences to the surface which gives you, as the leader, yet another place within your organization to express what is important and what you want to see embraced in your culture. Your team won’t produce great tunes unless every is reading off the same sheet of music.

4.  IT KEEPS YOUR TEAM OPEN TO CHANGE.

Reading together opens doors to new ways of thinking about the same old problems. It forces you to think out of the box, look at things differently and consider new approaches to doing whatever it is that you do. Consequently, one of the best things you can do for your team is to set the tone for growth by revealing your own openness to great ideas from outside of your organization. Leaders who are threatened by such discussions teach their teams to resist new ideas as well. Young leaders especially want to know that the opportunity exists within your organization to run, risk, experiment and do something lasting. Shutting down new ideas only proves to them that new things will never happen here.

5.  IT DEEPENS THE LEADERSHIP POOL.

I’ll just come right out and say it, “You’re not Jesus.” You are not the be-all, end-all for your team. Moreover, your team needs more than what you alone can offer them. They need other voices speaking into their lives, other people pushing them out of their comfort zones and other leaders challenging their ideals. They need a deeper leadership pool than just you. (And for the record, you do too.)

If you’ve been leading your team for more than 5 years your team has already heard all of your stories and probably all of your great ideas. Good leaders know that their team needs access to the outside – access that reading together easily affords. Reading together deepens the leadership pool within your organization.

These are just 5 ways that reading together is critical for your team’s growth and development. I’m sure there are more… in fact, if there’s one I’ve left out feel free to leave it in the comments section below.