What's the Big Deal about a Day Off? Really.

too busy woman.jpg

It’s easy for many of us to just go, go, go. After all, this is the one and only life we have. Once we discover how we’re wired, what our talents are and what our purpose is, it’s time to "get to it," right? Maybe. But we often burn up the wonder of discovering why we exist because we don’t know how to exist without working every day of the week.

Why is it so difficult for us to unplug? To take a “day off?”

Here are five reasons we often lean in to our own demise.

*Note: if your work is in a church, feel free to replace “work” with “ministry” if that helps you.

1.     We are unaware of the energy we expend. 

My wife, Laura, chides me about my notion that I can always “get just one more thing done.” When I’m in that mode, I’m not thinking about how I feel or what may be required of me after this “one more thing.” I think I can do it all.

Many of us believe we have a limitless supply of energy. We don't know we believe it, but our behavior reveals the truth. Just one more phone call. One more conversation. A few more minutes of research. Then, although we had an unlimited sense of energy for “work,” we’re too tired to engage meaningful conversation with our spouse, visit with a friend or focus on our family.

Worse yet, a moment here, an hour there – it all adds up. And the cumulative result is sheer, life-sucking exhaustion. But until we crash and burn, we keep going. And going. And going. We keep spending energy. We’re okay, we tell ourselves, this just has to be done. ‘Til we are done.

2.     We confuse the words STOP and QUIT.

I remember an evening years ago, meeting an associate in the hallway who (ironically) asked me what I was still doing at the office. This wasn’t my first day working into the evening; it was my third or forth that week. I suppose with a tone of both pride and martyrdom, I remarked about having so much to do; it was "such a busy season."

She looked at me and said, “There’ll always be another season. After this one will be another one, and another after that. You’ll have to learn it’s okay to stop for the day.”

But to me, stopping meant quitting. It meant being irresponsible. And it certainly meant I wouldn’t be perceived as hard-working. Maybe that was it – as a perpetual people-pleaser, I wanted others to see me “not quitting.”

Regardless the reason, I’d twisted up these two words together: stop and quit. I believed they were synonymous. But, I slowly learned that I could stop and not quit. The work can always be picked up again. But, I needed desperately to STOP. To take a break. To be done for the day.

3.     We don’t know what to do with “time off.”

Most of what we read and hear about leadership is geared toward how we lead in our business, in our church or non-profit – whatever and wherever is our workplace. We don’t lack for resources related to our work: leading, building, growing, solving, innovating, processing, analyzing, reporting, succeeding. Don’t misunderstand. I want to lead better, build people, grow and develop, solve problems, innovate ideas, process challenges, analyze trends, report and succeed.

But. We know far less about what to do with “time off” from all the above. The risk is that we ONLY know how to lead, innovate and succeed. What else is there?

How do we relax? What does it mean to engage a relationship with no agenda or expected outcome? What does it look like to just walk? How do we nap with a deep sense of peace? Can we simply watch a great movie, take in a play or listen to a concert? How do we STOP and simply “BE?”

4.     We don’t know how to listen without thinking about how we’ll talk about it.

Another challenge with “time off” is that if we actually stop work and everything related to work (email, social media, reading about work), we easily fill the space with other things. Good things, things that are healthy to engage for replenishment: an inspiring movie, reading a novel, sports, travel or time with friends and family. All good. All important to refueling.

But, there is another option for that space: quiet. Blocking time to listen to the Voice within us, to nature, to God. I’ll make this personal for me. Too often my reflective journaling has a subtle but distinct second thought aside from the content: “this will be good to share with my team.” My deep soul work can become a talk tomorrow. The picture of the sunrise during my quiet morning can be taken for my next social media post. Suddenly, I'm not practicing quiet. I'm not reflecting for my soul's sake. I'm leading. I'm planning. I'm working.

Everything easily gets turned into an illustration, a story, a lesson, a piece of encouragement for someone else. Someone else we lead or feel responsible to in some way. What if we simply listened. Soaked. Dug. Felt. And that’s it. What if our gain in the quiet is lived out rather than talked out? What if our insight is for our own growth and not the next piece of wisdom that makes us a better leader?

5.     We want everyone around us to model our hard-working lifestyle.

Again, with a focus on productivity, high expectations for effectiveness and ultimate success, we demonstrate our priorities for our team. I have to talk about how busy I am, so they are encouraged to work just as hard. I need to set a pace of sacrifice so they understand the stakes are high.

And in doing so, we most certainly convey our priorities. We communicate that work is more important than marriage; productivity is valued above relationship; and the work of our hands trumps the sacredness of our soul.

What myth have you bought into?

Will you…

  • schedule time away from work?
  • honor that time?
  • give yourself to a full 24-hour period away from all work-related efforts?
  • experiment and discover what gives you rest and refuels you?

What else prevents you from taking time for YOU?

Getting to Answers Without Questions. Really?

Are questions better than statements?

Of course, the “right” answer is “yes.” Which is precisely the challenge of asking questions: We think we already know the answer. I admit it. I often do.

When I do, my arrogance spews observations as judgements (This can be especially true with family or others close to me. Ugh.). My narrow-mindedness is expressed as nothing more than biting accusation dressed up as "truth-telling." And my claim to “truth” leads me to directives and corrections with little room for push-back or open human-to-human dialog. This confession is no fun.

Surely I'm not alone in this. 

Look at your own relationships and interactions. In how many conversations - in your workplace, on your team, in your church, in your home - do you actually ask questions? Meaningful questions. Too often our dialogs are a back-and-forth exchange of statements we already share with each other. We craft questions to draw out…

Your Team Wants You to Ask Yourself These 10 Questions about Trust

The more conversations I have with clients, family and friends, the more I’m thinking about trust these days. Seems there’s precious little trust actually being experienced in work places and homes. Let’s start by defining trust.

My online dictionary states that trust as a verb means: to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of something or someone.

Conversely, the same dictionary defines distrust this way: to doubt the honesty or reliability of; regard with suspicion.

My experience confirms that people know quickly whether they are trusted or distrusted; whether their supervisor believes in their strengths or regards them with suspicion. People know when their leader hovers, limits, takes back a responsibility or removes authority.

It’s in You. And Your Team. Let’s Access It.

You know it’s good - your leadership, your team, your work, your life - but, there’s a gnawing sense that it could be better. More focused. More replenishing. More you.

I only have a few spots left

10 Reasons You're Not Ready to Welcome New Guests

You don’t intend to not be ready. You really want everyone to feel welcome. You even have some greeters at the front door. People are shaking hands, and they appear to be friendly. 

However, every weekend people walk into churches across America and feel less than welcome. They don't know what to do or where to go. They feel like strangers.

Here are 10 reasons you and your church may not be ready to welcome new guests to your weekend service: 

  1. Your culture is developed for “family” and every weekend is a reunion. Unfortunately, guests can sense when they aren’t treated as family.
  2. You have a “friendly” church. Unfortunately,...

Innovation: Exploring Sequence - An Update

My last post was about using a creative process I hadn't tested. And get this - this topic had to do with sequencing steps. I crack me up.  

Just hours after posting the idea, I led my connections staff team through the exercise, creating some of the process on the fly. The result? Crazy creativity, fresh ideas and engaging conversation. The process was so helpful, we extended our meeting an additional half hour and decided to continue the exercise in our next weekly meeting. In fact, some of our ideas overlapped the work of another team, so we've decided to pull our teams together in the next meeting. 

 If you're feeling behind, read my earlier post here, then come back...

Good? Caught up?  

Here's the approach we've taken so far:


Guest Services | The Basics

I've been asked lately about some bottom-line "musts" to establish and/or take guest services excellence to the next level. This isn't an exhaustive list (that's why I wrote a few books on the topic), but these core essentials will provide a foundation to make your serve to guests excellent and personable.

Dying on the Battlefield of Well-Roundedness

Yesterday I grabbed the Xbox controller again, as I have the past several weeks since my daughter, Liv, and her boyfriend, Jacob, have been back home for the summer. Every time I play Call of Duty, I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten worse – not better – than the last time I played.

Yesterday I finished third place (Yes, that’s the same as last place when three people play, but third still gets a ribbon in most contests. It just sounds better to me.) every game we played. Finally, in utter disgust of my inability to coordinate my hands and eyes quickly enough to avoid being killed before taking out my two “enemies,” I declared, “This is my last game.” Death is death. I was dead. And I was done.

I don’t have the natural talent to kill imaginary enemies on my TV screen. I can do it. But, I’m not good at it.

Gaming isn’t my sweet spot.

I watch people, particularly leaders, painfully strive to be good at everything.

Broken Systems Break Service


I've had some unbelievable customer service experiences that left my head spinning. So have you. You know those experiences that leave you asking, "Did that just happen?"

I have a very good friend who recently encountered "one of those." Her cell service suddenly went south: missed calls, no rings, no voicemail, inability to virtually use the phone as a phone. What follows is the actual chat conversation. "Sprint" and "Eva" are the phone company representative. "You" is my friend, the bewildered customer.

Sprint: We received your information and will connect you with a Chat Specialist soon.

Eva J.: Hi.

Eva J.: Thank you for contacting Sprint. I am happy to help you.

Eva J.: Please hold a moment while I access your account.

Eva J.: Thank you for waiting.

Eva J.: Please let me know the complete address of the location where you're getting the issue.

You: (Address provided)

Eva J.: Ok.

Eva J.: Please allow me a moment to check the details.

Eva J.: Thank you for being online.

Eva J.: I understand that you are having the network issue in your area and you are not able to use the phone services. I am sorry for the inconvenience you have gone through. Its a known network outage in your area and we have already reported it to our technicians and they are working hard to get it fixed. Its in the final stages of fix and is expected to be resolved very soon.

Eva J.: The Estimated Time of Resolution (ETR) updated by our technical team is: 06/22/2013 19:00:00 CST

You: I beg your pardon? I will continue to have virtually NO cell phone service until JUNE? That is not "very soon"

Eva J.: I understand your concern but the Sprint is working on to upgrade it's signal strength, so you're getting the issue.

You: I appreciate that "the Sprint" (where are you writing from anyway?) is working to upgrade it's signal strength but I am having serious difficulty accepting that I will continue to be billed for a service that is virtually unusable.

Eva J.: I am sorry for the inconvenience experiencing by you but it's a technical issue and resolving by our technical team.

You: Eva J, this is not "inconvenience". This is paying for a service that is not working. What would you do if you were in my place? You're telling me you're sorry but not giving me any options. As I see it, you are essentially telling me to find another service, is that correct?

Eva J.: I understand your concern and if I were at your place then may be I would have also reacted like the same.

Eva J.: The upgradation is for the betterment of the services and you'll get the credit for the known outage systematically.

You: I appreciate your time but this situation is unacceptable. I no longer have access to a land line at home which makes my cell service reliability imperative. You are leaving me no option but to cancel my Sprint service and sign on with another carrier.

Eva J.: I can assure you we are working to not only fix it, but improve your overall customer experience in the area.

You: Yes, I hear you saying that, but what you're also saying is that I will not have dependable service until June of this year. That is not acceptable.

Eva J.: As your calls are dropping, so I can offer you 100 anytime minutes for free and when the services gets corrected then you'll get the proactive credit from the system automatically.

Eva J.: Is there anything else I can assist you with today? 

You: Sorry, I'm at work and was answering my other phone.Ok, so your offer is to give me 100 anytime minutes? You already know, if you have my account in front of you, that I pay for unlimited minutes so this offer has no interest for me. My only interest is in having dependable service. Can Sprint provide me with dependable service by Monday, April 1, 2013? If not, I will need to cancel my service with Sprint. Can I do that with you or must I contact another area?

Eva J.: Yes. You have free minutes on your account but the anytime minutes can be used to call on landline numbers.

Eva J.: I am sorry but I cannot confirm you that you've updated connectivity and network on and after April 01, 2013 and the account can be closed by our accounts team only, so we can arrange a cancellation callback from here or you can also contact our Account Services team directly at 1-888-211-4727. When you call, select option 2 to make changes to your account then press 5 to cancel.

You: I will do so. Thank you for your time.

Eva J.: You're welcome.

Eva J.: Thank you for choosing Sprint - we appreciate your business!


When systems prevent serving the people we're set up to serve, our systems are broken. When anything - anything - gets in the way of people experiencing the Story of Jesus in our churches, something is broken.

Your Teams Are People, Too

We know it, no one needs to remind us. Or do we need to be reminded? The volunteers and staff who make up our ministry teams matter as much as the people we're serving. Our teams are people, too.

As I've had conversations with volunteers and staff on my various teams over the past couple weeks, I've been reminded. People matter. People need value. These people are my first "customers" or "guests".

Just this past week or so, I've been reminded - they will experience value when:

    Life-Sucking Silos, Part 2

    In Part 1 of "Life Sucking Silos" I outlined a few primary ways we focus our staff and volunteer leaders on the main thing, preventing silo ministries or teams who operate as stand-alone entities within the local church (read it here).


    Don't worry about relationships; focus on ministry. Don't take the time to get to know people. There are goals to accomplish, souls to serve. Who has time for relationships?

    • Fail to build relationship with your leaders and you'll have a

    Volunteer Culture: It Won't Just Happen, Part 5

    In the last several posts about creating and cultivating a volunteer culture, I’ve pulled from my second book, Lasting Impressions: From Visiting to Belonging, to review some common myths that prevent people from stepping up to serve in the local church (or any organization).

    Myth #2: “Volunteering Requires Too Much Time.”

    • This myth may or may not be true in your church. If the only way to volunteer at your church is by serving every week for hours at a time

    Volunteer Culture: It Won't Just Happen, Part 4

     MYTH #1: “There’s no room for me; it’s all being done already.”

    • You and I know nothing could be further from the truth. Unless it's really true, of course. Maybe your staff is doing it all. Maybe you've structured things in such a way that there really are not new opportunities for new peeps.

    Volunteer Culture: It Won't Just Happen, Part 3

    When your church decides to intentionally develop a culture where it's normal to volunteer, where it's natural to serve, it's easy to make it all about the task. And when it's all about the task, we can make it all about our church. It's all too easy to forget that it's first about Jesus and people. I know - shocking. Earth-breaking. But true. Here are a couple examples.

    • The objective, the task alone drives the recruitment of volunteers. 
      • Often churches look at the ministry goals in front of them and go into recruitment mode to get the task of ministry done. And why not?

    Volunteer Culture: It Won't Just Happen, Part 2

    In our local churches we sometimes operate in a fantasy land, ignoring the reality that our people are living outside the four walls of the church. We create programs, activities, and opportunities for people to volunteer their time and talent as though our people are sitting around with nothing to do.

    When we do ask them to step up and participate, we're often vague, and sometimes shaming.

    It's as though we think people walk through the front door of our church saying,

    Volunteer Culture: It Won't Just Happen, Part 1

    I’m often asked what it takes to move a local church from staff-led ministry to ministry led and carried out by teams of volunteers. It's certainly not an overnight process to make such an intentional change. 

    Here’s part one of several responses to the question: how do create a culture of volunteering where people choose to step up and serve?

    It starts with vision