Don’t Call It Retirement…

Posted by on Sep 29, 2014 in Blog Post, Events, News | Comments Off on Don’t Call It Retirement…

“How about we think about doing something together?”

Spoken 35,000 feet above Central America, seated across the aisle from Doug Stevens, after spending 8 days together in Costa Rica climbing (live) volcanoes, four wheeling (above), white water rafting, and challenging each other to swim across piranha infested rivers. I figured I just survived the last week with him, it could be fun to dive into something new together!

It was 12 years, and seemingly a lifetime, ago when Doug and I began our journey together, first just as friends, then as consultants in the same type of work, and most recently, as partners in The Leadership Connection. Across all of those years, there was not a moment when I have not feel incredibly blessed to call Doug my friend, colleague, co-laborer, and partner. Over the past 5 years, Doug has served as the Executive Director of The Leadership Connection and has been instrumental in developing and leading our ministry as the provider of critical support, encouragement, and equipping to pastors and ministries throughout the U.S. and Internationally.

Don’t call it Retirement!

As you may (or may not) know, Doug has made a decision to transition his role with TLC from that of a full-time E.D. to working on specific areas of focus (such as Oakland and Haiti) and specific projects (such as training and coaching Facilitators). While Doug will no longer reside in our office, he is no less in our midst as a valued leader of TLC, and in our hearts as a wonderful colleague and friend. Doug will also be continuing his work as an interim pastor, as well as assorted consulting engagements.

If you have ever had the opportunity to interact with Doug on any level, you know that it is a rare and blessed experience. We look forward to all that God has planned in the months ahead for both Doug and TLC, and will keep you posted as the journey continues.

We definitely want to Celebrate the time that Doug has Back Forty dedicated to both TRP and TLC, as well as the thousands of lives that have been blessed as a result, so we invite you to join us at our Annual Celebration Dinner on 11/13 to honor Doug Stevens and what God has done through his ministry!

Kingdom Ventures 2014 – Event Wrap Up

Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Blog Post, Doug's Blog, Events, Leadership, News, Resources Blog | Comments Off on Kingdom Ventures 2014 – Event Wrap Up



Can pastors learn to engage issues that affect people in the real world? Will the church provide vital support for their members at work? Does faith make a difference during the week?! Kingdom Ventures invites us to answer in the affirmative…and our recent conference (May 16 in Walnut Creek) fired the opening salvo.

300 brave souls joined a conversation that is still difficult and somewhat threatening for the church — and a wake-up call to those of us who are uncertain about how faith relates to work. To become Kingdom-focused is to move beyond a church-centric view of ministry. Recognizing the church as an agent of the Kingdom and its boundary-less mission is an invigorating challenge that breaks down the traditional separation of sacred from secular, and forces us into a rigorous reevaluation and reprioritization of a much more daring, life-changing discipleship.

Management guru Pat Lencioni, author of The Advantage and The Missing Conversation (upcoming) made us look at leadership with undistorted insight and unflinching honesty. Vulnerability (so rare, so essential) is the key to building the kind of trust that is the foundation for the unity/community/team we need. Trust facilitates authentic communication and even creative conflict — on the way to greater cohesiveness and commitment to the decisions we make. Finally, we become accountable when all of us participate without holding back, know we are heard, and own the cause that transcends personal interest. All of this applies equally in the church and on the job for the sake of a deeper integrity and greater productivity.

Lencioni later shared his own struggle to live and lead transparently as a man of faith in all of his relationships. Pat says out loud what many of us feel but are uncomfortable acknowledging.

Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic and author of The Artisan Soul, convincingly presents the case that all of us made in the image of God are undeniably creative, are meant to imagine, and “materialize the invisible.” He confronts our stereotypes of artistic creativity (I’m no Da Vinci) and resistance to the huge responsibility for developing and expressing our gifts in ways that bless others.

McManus is as dark and mysterious as Lencioni is bright and clear. Both are voices that penetrate our dullness and fixed routines with a vision for transformation in all venues of our lives. Add to this volatile mix the call of Pastor Chip Ingram to open ourselves to breakthrough — to stop waiting passively and distractedly for God to show up and do something. He is already at work!

Teresa Goines, CNN hero and restauranteur, opened a supper club, Old Skool Cafe, in the Hunter’s Point neighborhood of SF that employs at-risk youth (coming out of prison, out of foster care, etc). And in the context of their employment elevates their lives! Jon Talbert is founder of Beautiful Day in San Jose, a movement that is now inspiring a kind of collaboration between church, business and community that has gone viral. Osby Davis is the mayor of Vallejo who faces the most daunting challenges of urban blight with faith and resourcefulness.

These stories and others awaken us to the excitement, potential, and fulfillment of venturing for the Kingdom in ways that take us outside Sunday, outside the building we mistakenly refer to as the church, and beyond the programming of the church. Out into the wild of His Kingdom.

At the Conference we gathered in Breakout Sessions to test this vision and practice crossing the borders. It was time for us to process our own call and explore missional partnerships not previously considered. This is a new experiment, with encouraging ancient (biblical!) precedent, and wide-open opportunities for all of us.

Kingdom Ventures, the Conference, was just the beginning. And we have much more planned to prompt our imaginations and to expand our faithfulness to Christ. Whether or not you were able to join us on May 16, stay tuned for the next KV gathering hosted by The Leadership Connection and drawing on resources from diverse sources that will encourage us on this journey.

Jesus’ Advice on Overcoming Distraction

Posted by on Apr 14, 2013 in Leadership, Resources Blog | Comments Off on Jesus’ Advice on Overcoming Distraction

Almost no one wishes they were busier—that we had more things on our to do list, more places to be, more people to catch up with, more errands to run, or more emails to respond to. No one wants that.

Instead, most of us wish life would actually SLOW down, OR that we had more hours in the day, and that we could focus more on the substantial and less on the superficial – not the other way around.


If we peel back a layer, I think what we really wish is that we were able to BE MORE PRESENT in our own lives, and less preoccupied. Anybody with me?

There’s that voice inside that tells us we aren’t designed to live in fast-forward, always wondering or worrying about what is next or what needs to be done. That line gets easily blurs between healthy busyness and unhealthy scattered-ness.

The real dilemma isn’t pointing towards us believing that busyness is inherently bad.

The real dilemma is pointing us towards a more centered way of living.

The issue here isn’t busyness. Rather, distraction.

Dallas Willard says that the greatest enemy to our spiritual life is – you guessed it – distraction.


Busyness does feed into our propensity to be distracted. This often causes us to miss what and who we want to be present with. It’s often just the thing we use to feed into our preoccupation, so we don’t HAVE to be still, because for some of us, that’s a very difficult thing to do.


Recently, I’ve wondered, what does God say about busyness, and more importantly, distraction?



There’s a passage of Scripture in the gospel of Luke that I’ve read many times before, but recently I gained a deeper insight from it that relates to my own challenge of busyness and distraction.


Jesus has this conversation with Martha (Luke 10:38-42). There are a few phrases that pop out to me. First, we read that Mary, “sat at the Lord’s feet.” This isn’t a description of her location in the room. And it doesn’t mean that Jesus wanted Mary to do nothing the rest of her life but sit around. It is an assertion that Mary has made a fundamental decision about her life.


Jesus is talking about the posture of Mary’s heart as she engages life. To us, He’s talking about opening our eyes to see God as we move through our lives…and then respond to him, whether that means go faster and do more, or whether that means pull back and do less.


To “sit in someone’s feet” was an expression in ancient times that indicated the relationship between a disciple and a rabbi. For example when Saul of Tarsus “sat at feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22.3). He was listening and learning, focusing on the teaching of his master and allowing his life and teachings to change who he was becoming and how he lived.


To “sit at someone’s feet” quite simply meant to be their student, protégé, or disciple.  A disciple was someone who had chosen to be with his rabbi as much as possible in order to learn everything he could from him so he could one day be like him. In ancient times, disciples tried to be around the rabbi everywhere not just during formal teaching times. They wanted to see how the rabbi would handle money, what he would do if a woman tried to engage him in conversation. They would compete with each other to be with the rabbi when he was fixing meals, when he was doing chores, even going to bathroom because they were convinced he might say a prayer they may have never heard. A little extreme I know.


Biblical scholar Ray van der Laan notes that the first century Jews had a blessing that beautifully expresses the commitment of the disciple to stay in the presence of the one he followed – “may you always be covered by the dust of your rabbi.” That is, “may you follow him so closely that the dust that his feet kicks is what covers your clothing and lines your face.”


Disciples never wanted to let the rabbi out of their sight. What mattered was not so much the particular activity they were doing. What mattered was being with their rabbi whatever he was doing. Every activity was an opportunity to learn from the rabbi how to be like the rabbi.


I can be “sitting at Jesus feet” when I’m kneeling in prayer or negotiating a contract, or fixing my kids lunch, doing my emails, or watching a movie. All it requires is asking Jesus to be our teacher and companion in that moment. Be with him in what we’re doing. It’s about becoming increasingly aware of what he is trying to teach us, or what he would actually do or say in a situation like the one we’re in.


The intent of a disciple is to live in the presence of his rabbi to learn from his rabbi and strive to become like his rabbi in every way.  This is what it meant to “sit at someone’s feet.”


In this story, Martha is working hard in the kitchen. Luke alerts us to a fundamental obstacle that keeps us from being with Jesus. Again, he doesn’t say she was too busy. He doesn’t say she was over-committed.  His word is “distracted” – a word that means “to be physically pulled or dragged away from something.”


Jesus enters the home of Mary and Martha, two sisters. Martha must have been certain that after exchanging a few words with Jesus, Mary would come help her with all the cooking and cleaning. But Mary doesn’t come. There must have been all kinds of stuff going on in Martha’s head wondering why Mary wasn’t helping out.  Martha gets to the point where she can’t take it anymore and says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work myself? Tell her to help me.” Martha is not just criticizing Mary, she’s also unhappy with Jesus.  She’s bringing the pressure – “if you’re compassionate, you’ll make certain other people around here do what I think is important for them to do.”


Then Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” When Jesus says your name twice, be on the lookout. He did this other times in the Scriptures when he was really trying to get someone’s attention. It’s kind of like when parents use their kids first and last name together, that’s when you know you’re in for it.   I knew my mom was serious when she busted out the two full names, “Stephen Saccone, you get over here right now!”


In this case, I think Jesus was very serious (but also very compassionate).  He goes on to diagnose her condition with precision. The fundamental obstacle that keeps someone from his presence is distraction.


Jesus uses another phrase and says to Martha: “’only one thing is needed,’ and that is the one thing that Mary has chosen, which would not be taken from her.”  The “one thing” was NOT that she would spend the rest of her life sitting in contemplation, letting Martha do all the work. The one thing was being with Jesus no matter what else is going on around her, no matter what she was doing, no matter how busy she was. The one thing was about Mary walking through life aware of God’s presence, ready to recognize him, trying to learn from Jesus, trying to listen for his voice, trying to act when he said act, do when he says do, and be when he says be.


Notice that Martha wasn’t doing bad things. She wasn’t violating the 10 Commandments or gossiping about her friends or spending hours lying on the couch in laziness, or using someone else’s credit card. She was doing constructive things, working hard. BUT, she wasn’t doing it in a way that involved being with Jesus. She was preoccupied with other things. The word that describes Martha is also a word that keeps many of us from experiencing God’s presence in our daily lives.


Martha is a follower of Jesus. She invited Jesus to be in her home. But Martha is distracted from noticing God’s presence right in front of her. She’s not defiant or revenge-seeking, or hate-filled. She’s not rebellious or cruel. Just distracted.


What is it that keeps us from sitting at Jesus’ feet? What keeps us from living in the presence of God?   It is US. It’s not even that we have deliberately chosen to keep him at arm’s length. It is often something much more subtle.


I suspect that many of us are like Martha. We have good intentions. We have invited Jesus into our homes, but we end up missing out on his presence – not b/c we’ve rejected him, but because we get distracted.


So, what is the path that leads us out of distraction?

We need to be ready for the Jesus moments that are right in front of us.


The tragedy of the story is that while Martha is striving tirelessly to serve Jesus, she misses seeing and knowing him. Sometimes we’re doing good things – serving others, working hard, etc. – but we can’t forget to open our spiritual eyes and move through life with an keen awareness of what Jesus wants to teach us in a moment or how he wants to speak to us, or what he wants us to say or do.


Mary had legitimate expectations upon her shoulders, but she was willing to put aside whatever agenda others had for her, or that she had for herself, and respond to Jesus invitation to be with her in deeply profound way.


There is a series of inner choices that brings us to the place of being able to truly “sit at Jesus’ feet” as Mary did. If you are like me, and want more of these kind of profound moments to happen with the God we are so desirous to know, these are the choices before us that we must be willing to make.


First, we have to look for moments where Jesus is revealing himself. Where is he trying to be present with us and speak to us?

Second, we have to learn to discern these moments when they come. We have to learn how to see our extraordinary God in the ordinary of life.

Third, we have to be able to slow down, be still and present in those moments with God.  We must be willing to throw away our own agenda or whatever tasks get in the way, and truly be there with him.

Look, Discern, and Receive. These are the 3 inner choices that no one else can see, but are some of the most important ones we will make.


How Godly Character Makes Us Effective Leaders

Posted by on Apr 8, 2013 in Leadership, Next Gen, Resources, Resources Blog | Comments Off on How Godly Character Makes Us Effective Leaders

Every one of us needs a good dose of godly character to cover the ‘gaps’ of our gifting—the areas where we are obligated to work but not very gifted.

Most leadership theory instructs us to address the “gaps” by surrounding ourselves with people who have gifts and talents that compliment us. This is helpful advice, if you can pull it off. But let’s be real – this isn’t always as practical as it sounds when that advice is given.

Next Gen Character

So…I’ve discovered a different more sure-fire way to “cover the gaps.” And I think it’s the way God designed it.


How? Through godliness.

  • You may not be eloquent, but if you’re godly, you will have wisdom, insight and peace so that you won’t be a boring communicator or preacher.
  • You may lack the personality temperament and dynamic skills to be an effective counselor, but if you’re godly, you will have deep empathy and tender love so that you will still bear fruit as a pastor.
  • You may not be organized and have charisma, but if you’re godly, your embodiment of humility will command people’s respect and admiration.

If you “pursue godliness” as the Scriptures tell us to do, your godly character will “fills the gaps.”

Unlayering the Guilt You Feel

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Blog Post | Comments Off on Unlayering the Guilt You Feel

While pastors become guides to helping others wrestle with and release their own guilt, rarely do pastors engage their own feelings of guilt in a healthy way. This affects our lives and ministries. If we want to help others find freedom from unhealthy guilt, and understand how God sees what we’ve done wrong, we have to walk this path in our own journey. We have to deal with our guilt in a healthier, God-honoring way.

split heart

<strong>Guilt emerges when we’ve done something that we perceive to be wrong toward God or someone else.</strong> And as human beings, whenever we wrong someone else, nothing less than paying that debt will relieve our guilty conscience. Part of the journey for every Christ-follower is to monitor more deeply the unhealthy and unnecessary guilt that we harbor and ruminate over. Too often, we allow shame to get lodged in our heart, and shame is never productive. We lose sight of Jesus’ sacrifice to redeem us, and that it’s more than just a ticket to get to heaven, although that’s a remarkable and eternal gift. God invites us into a journey of the deepest kind of forgiveness that ultimately leads us to freedom in this life and the next. It is our responsibility to engage that quest toward forgiveness and freedom, by rooting out the shame and guilt that gets embedded inside.

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<strong>When it comes to getting relief from our guilt through Christ,</strong> the practice of confession is one spiritual discipline that can guide and accelerate our pursuit. However, when confession remains at a surface level, or a simple cognitive exchange between us and God, it falls short of doing what God ultimately intended it to do. My way of confession for years happened simply by quoting 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In essence, I thought, “If I sin, I simply need to admit it and remember that God forgives me. Then I can move on.” Seems simple enough.

<strong>But when I followed the trail of this thinking,</strong> I found that my tendency was right before I was tempted to sin, I’d think to myself, “I’m aware that what I’m about to do is wrong, but if I do it, I’ll just confess it to God and I’ll be forgiven and all will be good between us.” In my own life, this became a Bible verse that I distorted to use for my own selfish advantage, to support my own sinful habits. Truth is, this way of confessing isn’t focused around change. It’s primarily about relieving guilt and feeling better.

<strong>When the Scriptures use the word confession,</strong> it’s directly associated with change. And, the idea of confession leading to change is interconnected with the biblical concept of repentance. Simply put, repentance is about recognizing the error of our ways and turning around to go in the opposite direction. Confession is not intended to take the place of repentance; rather it is to be the first step toward repentance, toward true change in Christ. In addition, confession isn’t a singular moment, but must become an ongoing pattern in our lives if we want to continually live in the grace and forgiveness of Christ.
To take confession and repentance one step further, the Scriptures reveal the human tendency for us to hide our most shameful sins. That’s partly why James tells us to practice communal confession: “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:15-16). When we keep sinful secrets from others and refuse to surrender them before God, our guilt doesn’t go away. We may find ways to ignore or temporarily numb our guilt, but it’s still there. If we choose this path, we’ll never know freedom.

<strong>Unfortunately there are far too many of us who live bound up with guilt and shame. </strong>That’s why if you consider yourself someone who desires to lead the church forward into a better future, I plead with you to get this right—to implement the practices of confession, communal confession, and true repentance that lead you to real change and authentic freedom. The health of our churches, ministries, and our very lives will be determined in large part by the health of our own heart.

3 Paradigms for Spiritual Leadership

Posted by on Mar 25, 2013 in Blog Post | Comments Off on 3 Paradigms for Spiritual Leadership

There are leadership principles that span the scope of leadership anywhere and everywhere. Those things are good to learn from and apply. But sometimes, there’s something called “spiritual leadership” that presents a distinct set of things that ought to remain important and even core to who we are as people. It’s really not even about “leadership” but much more about being vessels in whom God uses in this world to accomplish HIS purposes. I don’t know about you, but I want to be that kind of vessel. So here’s 3 snapshots of paradigms that inform and guide my own “spiritual leadership.”


1. As ministry leaders, <strong>when we genuinely experience the beauty, the truth, and the goodness that God offers, that in turn will be the kind of God that we translate through our leadership.</strong> Too many ministry leaders aren’t actually experiencing the beauty, truth and goodness of God in their everyday lives. If we can’t see God’s true beauty, or fail to grasp his profound truth, or don’t really know his unwavering goodness, then we won’t be able to translate it to others..nor should we try to. The world needs spiritual leaders to represent the fullness of God to a generation that questions whether they can look to the church to find him. This is serious stuff for ministry leaders to consider. This is a paradigm that can cause internal dissonance, and I know it has for me at times.

2. For true growth in our ministries and spiritual lives to happen, <strong>we must create space within us where the mystery of God’s Spirit is welcomed and nurtured.</strong> From that place, we will lead our ministries. The rest is in God’s hands. The evil one wants to subtly alter our approach to ministry, to twist what our mindset ought to be and to put our focus more on our own doing than giving God the credit he deserves and relying on Him. The Enemy wants to twist something good like productivity and lead us to believe that it’s a positive trait, and in many ways it is. But he finds crafty ways to take something good and twist it so that we get steered away from remembering who bears the fruit. If we don’t walk in step with the Spirit, our ministries and personal lives will never be marked with this kind of fruit, this kind of love. To walk in step with the spirit, we must create space for God’s mysterious work to be nurtured and welcomed.

3. I’ll let Thomas Kelly’s words challenge and inspire you as a spiritual leader, and leave you with that: <strong>“There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.”</strong> (Thomas Kelly) Kelly: Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion. New York: Harper Bros., 1941, 12.

Spiritual Gifts and the Ego

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Blog Post | Comments Off on Spiritual Gifts and the Ego

The church at Corinth was remarkably gifted, brilliant, and thriving in many respects. We notice the active and abundant spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3—miraculous gifts, speaking gifts, incredible spiritual vision and faith that can move mountains, social engagement and responsibility, along with un matched spiritual devotion (surrender my body to the flames). In essence, this community had dynamic gifts that were well mobilized. However, we see in verses 4-7 that the Corinthians had a dark side as well. They were impatient, harsh, critical, rude, jealous, ego-centric. Paul even articulates that you can have a thriving, growing church with powerful abilities but in actuality, you’re nothing.


This is a great danger in for emerging ministry leaders to be on guard with because there are far too many churches in previous generations who have succumbed to this temptation. It can be deadly, destructive, and cause many people’s lives to unravel. We must always remember that ministry activity, even growth, is not evidence that God is for everything that we’re doing and everything that we are.

Sometimes we find ourselves trying to prove our worth, trying to earn God’s approval and the approval of others, through how we perform in ministry. We can lose sight of the character from which God-honoring ministry should flow—namely from a posture of love, humility, patience, compassion, and grace. When this isn’t the truth, we’ll notice the telltale signs similar to what we see in the Corinthian church—impatience, irritability, devaluing people, envy, self-promotion and boasting, as well as perpetual arrogance. These may become secret sins, but they are no doubt, toxic ones, even deadly. I know ministries that appear to be thriving on the outside but are rotting away on the inside. The sad truth is that some of these ministry leaders aren’t even aware of it. Next generation ministry leaders must refuse to settle for this reality.

Pastors and Their “False Self”

Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Blog Post | Comments Off on Pastors and Their “False Self”

One of the books that has shaped my understanding of how God views me (and us as human beings) is a book by Brennan Manning called Abba’s Child. I’m convinced every follower of Christ should read this book, and then deeply absorb its truths.

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Here’s an impactful excerpt about a struggle we call face as human beings, the false self vs. the true self. Or in other languages, we allow the impostor part of us to lead our lives (from p 41).

The impostor builds his/her life around achievements, success, busyness, and self-centered activities that bring gratification and praise from others.

James Masterson, M.D., stated, “It is the nature of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are—vulnerable, afraid, terrified, and unable to let our real selves emerge.” (the nature of the false self)

Why does the imposter settle for life in such a diminished form? First, because repressed memories from childhood that laid the pattern for self-deception are too painful to recall and thus remain carefully concealed. Faint voices from the past stir vague feelings of angry correction and implied abandonment. Master’s summary is appropriate: “The false self has a highly skilled defensive radar whose purpose is to avoid feelings of rejection although sacrificing the need for intimacy. The system is constructed during the first years of life, when it is important to detect what would elicit the mother’s disapproval.” (the root fear of intimacy)

The second reason the imposter settles for less life is plain old cowardice.

Brennan Manning writes a whole chapter called The Imposter in his BRILLIANT book Abba’s Child. This is one of my top 5 books that I think every Christ-follower should not only read, but absorb as they deeply know how. Another one I’ve been devouring this past year is Soulful Spirituality.

Blog by Steve Saccone

Four Guiding Principles in Learning to Say “NO”

Posted by on Feb 25, 2013 in Blog Post, Resources Blog | Comments Off on Four Guiding Principles in Learning to Say “NO”

One of the biggest challenges that pastors and other ministry leaders face is the challenge of saying “No.” There are so many demands, usually more than we can handle, but somehow we find ourselves thinking we can take it all on. And then beyond that, even we do want to say “No,” how do we go about having those difficult conversations? How do we know who and how to prioritize? Here are few thoughts to stimulate how you think about that conversation.


Stop signs

1. LIMITS: Remember that you have limits…and that Jesus did too.  Be clear on these limits of time and relational capacity, embrace them humbly, and then use this clarity to inform whom you spend time with and how often.  Sometimes you also need to communicate your limits to people so they understand why you’re saying, “No” in the first place. (see Ephesians 4:25-26, Ephesians 5:13-14).


2. PRIORITIES: Clarify your priorities in life and in ministry.  Saying, “Yes” to one means saying, “No” to another [always].  Instead of letting others determine where you spend your time, take initiative to spend it in ways that align with your priorities and core values.  Be less reactive and more proactive.  This is your responsibility, no one else. And if your family is your top priority, your behavior should be congruent to your stated value. Monitor this consistently.


3. MARGINS: Far too many ministry leaderslive maxed out, meaning they don’t leave space in their life for interruptions, which can often be divine interruptions that we don’t have time for. Make sure your schedule can breath so that you can respond to crisis, or emergency, or needs that ought to be responded to.  Jesus lived this way.  One example of a margin involves practicing Sabbath, and my experience shows me that far too many pastors don’t obey this teaching of Scripture.


4. WISE COUNSEL: Ask a couple close friends or your spouse to give you honest input on what they think you say, “Yes” to and perhaps shouldn’t.  Find someone who is especially courageous and also willing to speak directly to you about what they observe. Much wisdom may follow.


Changing the Energy of a Room

Posted by on Nov 9, 2011 in Blog Post, Resources Blog | Comments Off on Changing the Energy of a Room

Have you ever wondered how certain leaders whom you admire are able to lead with such force of presence and clarity? Have you ever noticed how that leader relates to others in such a way that she virtually alters people’s moods? Have you ever been curious as to how certain leaders can single-handedly change the vibe of a room? Have you ever envied how easy these people make it look, and yet how they do it still remains a mystery to you?


It may seem elusive as to how people set the tone, but it comes down to one thing: energy.


I’m convinced that every leader has the capacity to set the tone in a room or a conversation by how they use their energy.  We all have the capacity to be what I call an energy carrier. That is, someone who harnesses an intangible yet potent source of power that originates from within them and knows how to use it to affect those around them. What they choose to do with their internal energy determines how they affect their outer world of relationships. In essence, they can use their inner energy to affect the outer energy—meaning, the tone of an environment, the vibe of a room, the mood of people, and the overall feel of a setting.


Energy carriers set the tone not only in their relational spheres but also in leadership contexts.  One single person affects a large number of people because they’ve learned to use the power inside of them to affect their potential impact outside of them. Becoming an energy carrier is a choice that every leader must make and a skill they can develop–it’s something that can be improved on and as a result will elevate a leader’s impact.


In the presence of the best energy carriers, the tone of a room changes. They embody this in team settings, in large group environments, at staff meetings, and in other leadership or relational settings. When they’re absent, people sense the energy that’s missing. However, when they’re present, the mood of the environment comes alive.

To become a relationally intelligent leader who has the ability to affect the tone of an entire room, it’s essential to begin developing specific skills to carrier energy well.


To start with, we must learn how to accurately assess the tone of a given context.


And second, we must learn how to use relational intelligence to appropriately change the tone among the people we work with, serve alongside, and team with—this includes the audiences we speak to, the movements we’re trying to create, as well as in individual conversations. If we’re unable to do this, we will become victims of our setting rather than changers of our setting.


As leaders, there’s almost always an opportunity to change our environment for the better, but this is a challenge that’s often overlooked, or even discounted.


In order to assess the tone, you must develop the discipline of noticing. This discipline involves paying attention to non-verbal and “invisible” relational dynamics. In other words, what are people saying with their body language, what is their emotional energy telling you, and what are they saying indirectly with their words?  Many leaders are either oblivious to these dynamics or don’t recognize their significance in the communication process.


Changing the tone involves the way we choose to dialogue. When we remain fully engaged in a moment and attuned to the dynamics in a room, we can better use the skill of guiding and redirecting conversations in ways that both serve others and spark the energy in the moment. Igniting energy can happen through things like steering dialogue with intentional questions, speaking up about something that may be controversial but necessary to address, or stepping into the tension or emotion that exists in a moment in order to face that tension honestly, openly, and authentically.


On countless occasions, I’ve seen people attempting to lead a group but fail to do so because the undercurrent of the group’s energy is stronger than their own. Sometimes they can’t even identify the dynamics of a room, and as a result they remain unable to change the environment. To be able to shift the undercurrent of a given situation in a better direction, our leadership must have force and strength behind it. Leadership without this component is leadership without influence.


If you have not been able to take your leadership to the next level and wonder what may be missing, how you deal with the intangible but potent power of energy can suggest a solution. Our energy, or lack thereof, affects our catalytic efforts, our ability to set transformation into motion, our strength of presence, our capacity to engage with our surroundings, and even our reputation among those we’re trying to lead. If we want to become better energy carriers, and if we want to be able to harness the potent power within us, we must learn to harness our internal energy and use it to affect the outer energy around us.


To learn more about becoming an Energy Carrier, check out Steve Saccone’s latest book, Relational Intelligence: How Leaders Can Expand Their Influence Through a New Way of Being Smart.  You can also go to his website: to get a free sample chapter by signing up for his newsletter.