Tuesday, May 20

Encouragement from the Past


Our ministry to students at the University of Arkansas is possible because of so many who believe in what we are doing and have confidence in us – that we are about the things of God and His Kingdom. Each of those who make our ministry possible are special to me. I pray for them regularly and thank God for them. There are churches – large and small. There are former students from around the world. There are family members and old friends who know me too well and still choose to be a part of what we are doing. There are parents of students who were a part of our ministry and are thankful for our involvement in their children’s lives.


But a couple of weeks ago I received a check for our ministry that brought back a lot of memories. It was from the “remaining members of Hepler Christian Church.” The Hepler Christian Church closed in 2001. The building was torn down in 2008. But when I was a child, it was the place that we would go to worship with my grandparents and great grandparents, with my aunts and uncles, and with my cousins. My dad, my grandparents and great grandparents, and most of my aunts and uncles are gone now. But that those who remain from that church (and I have no idea how many there are) would choose to invest in our ministry touched me deeply. In some ways, it feels like all those who meant so much to me are still encouraging me and expressing their love for me and pride in what we are doing.


Below is a part of a post I wrote in 2008 about the Hepler Christian Church when I received news that the building had been torn down.



Hepler, KS (population 132 in 2010) is the community where my parents grew up, where their parents and grandparents farmed. It is where they graduated from high school (my mom was the only girl among the seven graduates in the class of 1956 and dad graduated in 1958) before the high school was closed in 1960. Hepler is where so many of the memories of my childhood are based - being at my grandparents, playing with my cousins, "marching" in the Fourth of July parade, visiting the cemetery where so many of my relatives (most of whom I never knew) were buried.

And attending the Hepler Christian Church, which was founded (and the building built) in 1881. It was the church that my mom and dad grew up attending. It was where they were married by Miss Jean Minnich, the rare woman minister who served several small congregations in southeast Kansas back in the 1950's and 60's. I remember going to Sunday School in the old school house they had attached to the back of the building. I remember my grandfather leading the singing on Sunday mornings. I remember the string of student preachers from Ozark Bible College who would hone their skills on the patient folks in that congregation. Though I don't think I ever preached there, I sang a lot of duets and quartets there, as well as played my trumpet. I remember the ringing of the church bell and having to go to the outhouse when nature called. I remember the tree and popcorn balls and bags of candy at Christmas time. My aunt and uncle lived catty-cornered from the church, and another aunt and uncle lived in the house next to them.

But, outside of the cemetery, all of my family is gone from Hepler. There are no schools, little business, and few people left in the town. Strangers live in one of my grandparents' house and the other grandparents' house has been torn down. Hepler Christian Church quit having services in 2001 because there just weren't the people left to pay the bills and keep up the building. And now it is gone, too.

Though never a large church, Hepler Christian Church was a major part of the lives of people - where they were married and buried, where friends gathered, and needs were met. And it was a sad day when the bulldozer tore through the walls of a building that once was full of people who loved God and each other and that was home to a congregation that helped shape the life of a community.

Wednesday, August 21

What I Know and What I Don’t


Below is a revised post from a couple of years ago, but it is still true and very relevant for this time of year.




One of the realities of campus ministry is that it has its own rhythm and flow – it’s own schedule and pace. It usually comes down to four months of going full-throttle, a month to rest and re-organize, four more months of going full-throttle, and three months to do mission trips and discipleship projects, solidify support, rest and re-energize, and prepare to do it all over again.


But this time of year has it’s own feel. We are just a few days away from the start of my 32nd fall semester with Christ on Campus at the University of Arkansas. The telltale signs of a new school year are all around:


* The football team is in the middle of practice.

* The band is in the middle of practice.

* Parents are moving their new freshmen into residence halls.

* Traffic is crazy.

* Road construction – the city always waits until August to do street repairs around the University.

* There is no place to park.

* Freshmen girls are lined up in front of sorority houses while they go through Rush.

* International Student Orientation is gong on and our staff is busy meeting students, working with events, and providing transportation from the airport and hotels to permanent housing, banks, events, the Mall, Wal-Mart, etc.

* Older students returning from home, internships, study abroad, mission trips and projects and are excited to be reunited with friends they haven’t seen over the summer.


It all adds up to the most exciting time to be on campus. Worship services will be starting up this weekend. Small groups will be going next week. Events will be taking place to help new students make connections. Retreats and mission trips are on the calendar.


But the most exciting thing – the thing that gets my heart pumping and my mind working – is the thing that I know and don’t know.


I know that during this school year, God is going to transform the lives of students from all over the world. Some will give their lives to Christ for the first time. Some will begin to grasp the implications of really following Jesus and it will change the way they think and live. Some will come to the realization that God is calling them to something bigger than their major or the goals they have set for their lives. I know that God is at work on our campus. I know that God is going to change lives. And I know that God wants to use me and our staff and our students and our ministry to be a part of what He wants to accomplish.


But I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. I have learned over 31 years of doing this is that it is our role to plan and prepare and pray. We have our strategy in place. But God has His own agenda and His own plans and we need to be ready to follow His leading.


Many of the students whose lives will be changed this year we haven’t met yet. We don’t know where they are from or what they believe or don’t believe or how we will get involved in their lives.


And for most of them, the last thing they are expecting right now – as they are moving in and buying books – is that they are going to have an encounter with the Almighty God while at the University of Arkansas. But they will and they will never be the same.


So right now I plan and prepare, but mostly I pray. As has been my custom over the last several years, I will take pray walks around campus. Won’t you join me in praying for Christ on Campus and for campus ministries around the US as the new school year starts? Pray that God will use us as His instruments for transforming the lives of university students, staff, and faculty and for furthering His purpose in our world.

Tuesday, August 20

Beloit College Mindset List for the College Class of 2017


Since 1998, Ron Nief and Tom McBride of Beloit College in Wisconsin have prepared their annual Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones of this year’s class of incoming freshmen to our colleges and universities – the class of 2017. Most of these students were born in 1995, so the list helps us to see is how much the world has changed since then.


I have listed some of the things that I find most interesting below. You can find the entire list here. One of the things that you notice going over the full list is how much of a role technology plays in our lives. What things do you find most interesting? What trends do you notice?


1. Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend.
2. They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.
3. GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
14. Rites of passage have more to do with having their own cell phone and Skype accounts than with getting a driver’s license and car.
16. A tablet is no longer something you take in the morning.
21. Spray paint has never been legally sold in Chicago.
28. With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address.
40. They have never attended a concert in a smoke-filled arena.
42. There has never been a national maximum speed on U.S. highways.
44. Their favorite feature films have always been largely, if not totally, computer generated.
52. They have always been able to plug into USB ports
54. Washington, D.C., tour buses have never been able to drive in front of the White House.
55. Being selected by Oprah’s Book Club has always read “success.”
57. Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.
60. They have always known that there are “five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes" in a year.

Wednesday, January 2



At the beginning of each year, I spend some time with God – seeking direction on priorities and choosing three or four words to give direction to the coming year. The words help set the direction for the year. My words for 2012 were Deeper, Wider, Higher, and Lower. (You can read more about them here.) Those were great words and, as we enter 2013, I don’t think I’m finished with them. So I’m keeping them for another year! 


But lest you think I’m cheating, I am also adding another word: With.


I have been reading Skye Jethani’s new book: With. In it, he does an insightful job of distinguishing ways that we approach God - living our lives over him or under him or from him or for him. But in reality, God calls us to live life with him. Our desire isn’t to be what we get from God or even what we can do for God. It is simply to be God and a life that is lived in relationship with him. He is to be our value and our focus and our desire. Jethani writes:


“But LIFE WITH GOD is different because its goal is not to use God, its goal is God. He ceases to be a device we employ or a commodity we consume. Instead God himself becomes the focus of our desire.”


God’s desire, throughout history, has been this relationship with us. Jethani writes:


“… from the beginning in Genesis straight through to the end of Revelation, God’s focus and desire has been to be with his people. He walked in the garden with the man and the woman…. And the crescendo of history in Revelation celebrates the reunion of God and humanity: ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’”


So it is not surprising that, at Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel – “God with us” – and rejoice in the fact that the Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1:14)


In fact, as you read through the biographies of Jesus, you see that he lived his life on earth with God – walking and talking and serving in constant communion with him: “The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)


When Jesus called the twelve apostles, he called them that they might be with him. (John 3:14) And he called those who followed him to a life of remaining in him – of being with him:


“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:4-5, 7


This theme is carried throughout the New Testament. In Acts, the enemies of the Church are amazed at the courage of the early Christians and recognize that, though they were “unschooled”, they had been with Christ. (Acts 4:13) And the Apostle Paul desired above all to “know” Christ with not just an intellectual knowledge but an intimate and personal knowledge. (Philippians 3:10) Jethani notes:


“Paul, the most celebrated missionary in history, did not make this mistake. He understood that his calling (to be a messenger to the Gentiles) was not the same as his treasure (to be united with Christ). His communion with Christ rooted and preceded his work for him.”


After more than 30 years in ministry and leadership, I’m beginning to learn this lesson. My first call is not to achieve a mission, but to walk with God. It is not to be more effective, but to know him more fully. To know his heart. To hear his voice. To follow his lead.


But that is not always the natural flow of my life and it is easy to try and cover a lack of being with God with a flurry of spiritual activity. So I want to give more attention to it this year. It will take more than reading the Bible for a few minutes every day and mentioning a few prayer requests. But it will be worth the effort. Not for what I accomplish. But for the one whom I will come to know.

Monday, October 15

A Prayer for Today


Over the past few weeks, I have added some of the “Daily Offices” to my daily schedule. If you are not familiar with them, these are scheduled times of prayer throughout the day. They come out of a more liturgical and monastic tradition. The plan that I am using has four scheduled times each day: Morning, Midday, Vespers (evening), and Compline (before bed). Other plans will add more times during the day and through the night.


Though I don’t always get to all the “offices” each day, I am realizing benefits from the discipline. One is that they make me slow down and re-focus and they help me to live in more awareness of God’s presence and in an attitude of prayerfulness. Another benefit is that it is liturgical in nature and far different than the more “free flowing” prayer that I have practiced throughout my life. It stretches my ideas about prayer and meditation. Each office has specific prayers to be said (or sang or chanted) and specific Scriptures to be read. Most of these come straight from Scripture, but many of the prayers come out of the Anglican tradition and the Book of Common Prayer. Many of these prayers have been very meaningful and helpful.


I wanted to share this prayer that I came across a few days ago. It spoke very directly to the things that our ministry is trying to build into the lives of our staff and students.


Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, the privilege is ours to share in the loving, healing, reconciling mission of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, in this age and wherever we are.


Since without you we can do no good thing,

May your Spirit make us wise,

May your Spirit guide us,

May your Spirit renew us,

May your Spirit strengthen us;


So that we will be:

Strong in faith,

Discerning in proclamation,

Courageous in witness,

Persistent in good deeds.


This we ask through the name of the Father.

Wednesday, August 22

Thank You, Calvin Miller


I was saddened to re11457992-largead of the death of Calvin Miller, who passed away Sunday at the age of 75. I’m sure there are many who read this who aren’t familiar with Miller. Dr. Miller grew up in Enid, OK and served as a pastor in Nebraska for thirty years and a seminary professor for twenty years after that. But he was probably best known as the author of over forty books.


Calvin Miller was an amazingly talented man. He wrote everything from children’s books to poetry to fiction to books that are used as textbooks in seminaries. He was also an artist. And he was a very gifted preacher and teacher – funny and engaging and insightful and moving. Many of his books and sermons were formative in my development as a Christian and a minister.


But they were all from afar until I had the chance to spend some time with him a few years ago. I invited Calvin to speak at our annual campus ministers’ retreat in Indiana. When he arrived, I was not sure what to expect from him. We had some very good speakers and writers at the retreat who weren’t “people” people and didn’t personally engage with those at the retreat. But from the time I picked Miller up at the airport, I knew that he wasn’t like that. We spent time driving the hour back and forth from the airport. We went to dinner. I discovered that Calvin Miller was personable and engaging and interested in every person he met. For the next two or three years after the retreat in Indiana, I received Christmas cards from him that featured a print of one of his paintings.


While in seminary, Deron Spoo served as Dr. Miller’s research assistant. In his tribute to Miller, Spoo writes:


“How can one person possess the gifts necessary to communicate to children, convict adults, and creatively communicate mysticism? Calvin embodied the gifts of Seuss, Milton and Brother Lawrence. But Calvin was much more than the sum of these parts. Calvin was a Christ-follower first and foremost.”


Finally, some of Calvin Miller’s own words from his memoir, Life Is Mostly Edges:


The edge is a good address. It is a good place to remember our temporariness. It teaches us to spend our time wisely. So our last days can become our best days.


Life is good. So is God.


And life with God is full of glorious daybreaks. After all, it was God who gave me the courage to walk the edges of a life that was never mine!


You can read more about Calvin Miller here.

Tuesday, August 21

Beloit College Mindset List for the College Class of 2016


Each August since 1998, Beloit College in Wisconsin has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. It is always interesting to see where the next generation of students are coming from – especially in contrast to where many of us in college ministry have come from.


Their Mindset List for the class of 2016 has just been released. Below are some of the highlights. You can check out at the complete list here.


What do you find most surprising or interesting on this list?




Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1994. For these students, Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and John Wayne Gacy have always been dead.



3. The Biblical sources of terms such as ‘‘forbidden fruit,’’ ‘'the writing on the wall,’’ ‘'good Samaritan,’’ and ‘‘the promised land’’ are unknown to most of them.


4. Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes ‘‘American royalty.’’


7. Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.


8. Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.


12. For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.


14. There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.


17. Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.


18. Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.


21. A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.


30. There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.


40. A bit of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, has always existed in space.


47. Before they buy an assigned textbook, they will check to see whether it’s available for rent or purchase as an e-book.


63. The Twilight Zone involves vampires, not Rod Serling.


70. Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.


73. Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes.

Wednesday, August 1

Olympic Track & Field–The Real Games, Part II


The Olympic track and field competition begins on Friday and I’m eager for it to get underway! NBC has promised unparalleled coverage of the Olympics. If your cable or satellite provider carries the NBC family of networks, you should be able to watch a live stream of any event or pull up an archived copy via your computer, tablet, or smartphone. I’ve “tested” it out on badminton and weightlifting on both my computer and iPad and it seemed to work. I hope that I can find the time to watch some of the track and field.


As promised, here are some more Olympic track and field stories to get you ready for the upcoming competition. If I discover more over the next few days, I will probably just post them on Facebook. So, if you aren’t friends with me on there, please hit me up!


From The Running Times, here is pre-Games quiz called “Olympics Believe It or Not.”


Of the 2,236 athletes entered in the Olympic track and field competition, 350 of the are former, current, or committed athletes at US colleges and universities. The SEC (including Missouri and Texas A&M) leads the list of conferences with 77 athletes. Southern California, Auburn, and Florida State lead the list of schools with twelve athletes each. Arkansas is next with eleven and has a list-leading five athletes who were members of their 2012 teams: Marek Niit, Raymond Higgs, Regina George, Ivanique Kemp, and Tina Sutej. None of these are competing for the US.


Though it is counter-intuitive, there has been years of debate on whether or not double-amputee Oscar Pistorius has an advantage over other runners because of his prosthetic legs. He is running in the 400 meters and on the 4x400 meter relay for South Africa in London. Here is Scientific American’s report on the issue. His is a pretty remarkable story, no matter what you think about the technology he uses to run.


The Wall Street Journal has an article called, “The Worst Way to Lose a Race.” It focuses on the 1,500 meters and brings back memories of some important Olympic races.


United States sprinters have been notorious at the last few major championship meets for not completing the 4x100 meter relays. Bad handoffs and dropped batons have seemed to be more common than medals. And it struck again at a recent warm-up meet for the US women’s team. Here is an article from the New York Times that looks at this in more detail.


Finally, here is another NYT’s article. This is on American marathoner Ryan Hall. It looks at the place that his faith plays in his running. It’s entitled “A Runner’s Belief: God is His Coach.”

Monday, July 30

Olympic Track & Field–The Real Games, Part I


We are through the first weekend of the Olympic Games. I thought the Opening Ceremonies were spectacular and I’ve had a chance to watch some swimming, gymnastics, cycling, team handball, badminton, rowing and beach volleyball. But, to me, the Olympics don’t really start until the track and field (or athletics for the non-Americans) begin. And that doesn’t happen until Friday. But to get you prepared, I have some interesting links to share with you about some of the people and storylines that are coming up. Here are a few of them. I will share some more on Wednesday. It will probably take you that long to get through this material!


First off, here is another list of good, bad, and bizarre events that used to be in the Olympic Games. Some of them sound kind of interesting!


In the “What Are They Doing Now?” category, here is a follow-up on four great Olympians from the past: Edwin Moses, Greg Louganis, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Mark Spitz.


There is always so much that goes on behind the scenes that we are often not aware of. Here are some of those stories. For instance, here is an article from the Wall Street Journal about a friend of mine, David Katz, and all that goes in to making sure the Olympic marathon course is accurate. David is in London, serving as an IAAF Technical Official.


Then there seems to be a fear that the World’s Official Kilogram is losing weight. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds serious and could affect everything from the weight of throwing implements to the weight of boxers and wrestlers. Or maybe not …


Here is a feature piece on a friend of ours from England, and the Chief Starter for the London Olympics, Alan Bell.


Here is a list of the longest held records in track and field.


Here is the Olympic track and field schedule.


Here is the entry list for every track and field event.


Here is Track & Field News’ preview of every track and field event.

Thursday, July 26

Olympic Games Countdown, Part II


The Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games are tomorrow. Here are a few more items of interest to get you in the mood. Since the Olympic track and field competition will begin on August 3, next week I will have some track and field items.


Shoe Wars – Behind all the fun and excitement of the Olympics is business. But what is in the best interest of shoe and apparel companies is not always in the best interest of athletes. And these companies work hard to protect their turf. Here are a couple of interesting articles on the “shoe war” at the Olympic Trials and a “barefoot revolt” proposed by some athletes.


Incentives – Athletes who earn an Olympic medal are often given special incentives from their nations or sponsors. Here are some of the more interesting ones!


Olympic Sports – There are dozens of sports competed at the Olympic Games and every year new sports are added and other sports are dropped. Here are some of the more strange Olympic events that are no longer competed.


Five Epic US Wins – To get you ready for the games, here are five of America’s greatest Olympic victories.


And, finally, another touching video from Proctor & Gamble.


Monday, July 23

Olympic Games Countdown–Some Things to Whet Your Appetite


We’re just four days from the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Like many, I always get excited about the Olympics. Yes, I realize that the whole process is rife with commercialization, profiteering, and hypocrisy. But there is something about the history of the Games, the huge international participation (there are 205 nations expected to participate), the pageantry, cheering for people representing your country, and seeing the emotions of the winners (and losers) that make the whole thing fascinating. 


Of course, the main attraction to me has always been the track and field competitions. That has become even more fun now that I have had the chance to get to know many of the athletes competing – for both the USA and other nations. When my daughters were young and competing in gymnastics, we were great fans of the Magnificent Seven. But I also watch a lot of sports that I never watch at any other time.


What sports do you most look forward to seeing during the Olympics?


I’ve been saving some Olympic-related links to share this week to help whet your appetite for the Games. I’m going to share a few today and a few more later in the week. Since the track and field competition doesn’t start until August 3, I will share some track and field links next week. I think they are all interesting. I hope you do, as well.


Olympic Events – From the Boston Globe, a list of all the events competed at the Olympics and a little bit about each one.


Remembering the First US Olympic Team – I bet you never thought about them.


Olympians Face Financial Hardships – We often don’t realize how much many athletes sacrifice to pursue their Olympic dream. Relatively few of them get wealthy representing our nation.


30 Greatest NCB Olympic Moments – Though this just represents Olympic achievements broadcast by NBC, it is interesting and you get to vote one which of the 30 are your top three. What did you choose? Mine were Rulon Gardner (later of Biggest Loser fame), Kerri Strug, and Derek Redmond.


The 20 Greatest American Olympians – There is a lot of room for debate on this list, but at least they included Al Oerter.


Olympians in Training – If you’ve never seen The Big Picture from the Boston Globe, you have missed some great photography. Here is a photo-essay on Olympic athletes from around the world. It may take a little while for it to load, but the pictures are worth the wait.


I always hate it when I fall for a marketers plan, but this ad from Proctor & Gamble is sure good. It makes me want to run out and buy some Tide right now!

Thursday, July 19

“New” Images From the Camera of Gordon Parks


To many who are my age and younger, the name of Gordon Parks is unfamiliar. And that is to their loss. Gordon Parks (who died in 2006 at the age of 93) was an African-American pioneer in many ways: the first to be a photographer for Life Magazine, the first to produce a major Hollywood film, a writer, a musician, and a participant in the Civil Rights struggles that our nation went through fifty years ago.

He was also born and raised (until his mother died when he was fifteen) in my hometown of Fort Scott, KS.

images (1)
Probably his most famous photograph, shot in 1942, is entitled “American Gothic: Washington, D.C.”

Parks came to mind this week when I saw an article in the New York Times that reported seventy never-before seen pictures of his had been discovered. They were from an assignment he had from Life Magazine in 1956 that depicted life in South for African-American families in the era of Jim Crew segregation. Though you might expect the photos to be provocative, they aren’t. But they are beautiful and moving in their simplicity, which makes them even more powerful. Here is another New York Times article on Parks from earlier this year.

If you are not familiar with Gordon Parks, take some time to get to know his life and his work. His work is incredible and his contributions to our nation are important. Your day will be richer for spending some time learning more about this man.

Below are a list of links that can give you more information.

Tuesday, July 17

Leadership Thoughts (and a Video) From Hoosiers, Part II

Last week I shared a leadership principle illustrated in the film, Hoosiers. That principle is the importance of commitment to the foundational truths and values of the organization you are leading and reinforcing them in a consistent and systematic way. As you do this, you build into your organization and your people the values and competencies that allow your purpose and vision to be fulfilled. But what you also do is broaden the base of those who believe in and are committed to that purpose, thus expanding the leaders and resources available to you.

I highlighted the coach of Hickory High School (played by Gene Hackman) and his commitment to the fundamental values he believed in even when they didn't produce immediate results or ingratiate him to the community. At a crisis point, when he was about to lose his job, the local basketball hero - Jimmy Chitwood - gave him his endorsement and joined the team. This final piece (as Jim Collins would say, "getting the right person on the bus") helped to turn the season. The right players are on the floor doing the fundamental things that achieved their purpose. The team began to win and they eventually found themselves in the state championship game - the smallest school to ever get there. The decisive moment of the game came with nineteen seconds left and the score tied. Hickory stole the ball and called a timeout to set up the game winning shot. The coach called a play that would use Jimmy as a decoy, but it is obvious from the body language of the players that they did not think his plan is the best one. When he asked what was wrong, Jimmy simply said, "I'll make the shot."

This is my favorite part of the movie. At this point, the coach did something he had not done throughout the film. He listened to his team and he scrapped his plan for theirs. And they won.

Here's the principle: as a leader, you have to be willing to listen to those on your "team". The players had proven themselves. They had bought into the system. They had built a foundation. They were solid on the fundamentals. They believed in the vision and purpose. And now the coach listened to them to get to the next level.

We need to do the same thing. When we have people around us who share our vision, believe in our purpose, and live out our foundational values we need to give them a voice in the direction of the organization. They often have fresh ideas and different perspectives that can sharpen our strategy and make the organization more effective. This does not mean we abdicate leadership. We just allow more people to share in that leadership and take ownership of the organization and its success. In our ministry to college students, those who begin to catch our vision and live out our foundational values have a great deal of input in the decisions we make as a group.

The principle applies to any area of leadership. A wise leader will listen to those who share the vision, believe in the purpose, and live out the foundational principles of the organization - whether it be a church, a business, a club, or a group of officials at a track meet.

I want to be involved in ventures that are too important to be left up to just my wisdom and experience. But I also want to make sure that those I listen to are ones who share the vision, believe in the purpose, and live out the foundational values of the organization.

Thursday, July 12

Leadership Thoughts (and a Video) From Hoosiers, Part I


There really aren’t many good movies about basketball. There are quite a few good imagesbaseball movies. And several good football movies. There are good track and field movies, auto racing movies, golf movies, and even rugby movies. But there is only one really good basketball movie – Hoosiers.


Not only is Hoosiers a great movie about basketball, it also contains some great principles for leaders of every type. In this post and the next one, I want to look at a couple of those principles.


The first is this: We need a firm and consistent commitment to the foundational principles that will allow us to accomplish our purpose or vision. Gene Hackman’s character in Hoosiers, the new coach at Hickory High School, stuck relentlessly to what he felt were the fundamental values of winning basketball. Conditioning. Passing. Defense. Even when their was dissent on his team, he stuck by his values. Even when immediate results weren’t evident and the team was losing, he stuck by his values. Even when there was dissatisfaction in the community and his job was in jeopardy, he stuck by his values. He was convinced that these foundational principles would produce the results desired if he continued to practice them. And, ultimately, they did. Successful coaches are really good about this. But often times other leaders are not, especially those in ministry.


This is a truth that I need to remember. There is a vision, a purpose, to which God has called us. And there are foundational values and practices that will allow us to accomplish that purpose. But these fundamentals rarely produce immediate results or overnight success. They are vital, but often not glamorous. They are things like the centrality of God’s Word, a focus on producing disciples and leaders, and investing in individuals. They are values like teaching students about intimacy with God, integrity of life, involvement in community, and influence in the world rather than just getting their bodies to a meeting. These things are like defense, passing, and conditioning to a basketball team rather than slam dunks and three-pointers. They are the foundations of continued success and accomplished purpose.


But it is easy to get distracted from them and to start looking for the next new thing. What will draw a crowd? What will make us look appealing? What will make our audience like us? What are the “successful” (meaning larger) groups doing? What tickles the ears? What appeals to the masses? What is easier? What is more immediately gratifying?


As leaders, we have to keep pointing back to the fundamentals, the foundational values that long term success is built upon. We have to be convinced that if we continue to practice these foundational things – specifically, methodically, and consistently – then we will fulfill the purpose to which we have been called.


What are the fundamental principles that are essential for success in your sphere of leadership? Are you practicing those things specifically, methodically, and consistently? Are you keeping your eyes on the vision and purpose to which you have been called and the foundational values that will get you there? Or have you allowed yourself and your organization to get distracted and off course?




As a “treat”, here is a very nice video called Hoosiers Revisited. After the next post, I’ll add a video that features players from the 1954 Milan, IN team that the movie was based on.