News

Leaders Eat Last

May 2014 In the foreword to a new book, Leaders Eat Last, Lt General George Flynn, USMC (Ret) makes an observation that deserves a lot of attention. He writes, “I know of no case study in history that describes an organization that has been managed out of a crisis. Every single one of them was led.” “Good management” is important, but as author Simon Sinek suggests, it “is clearly not enough to sustain any organization over the long term.” I happen to agree with both Lt. General Flynn and Simon Sinek. You may or may not agree, but I can say with a high degree of confidence
after years of working with Christian schools, colleges, churches and other ministries – Leaders matter – a lot. Spend some time exploring the Scriptures and I think you will find confirmation of my observation. Whenever there is a problem to be solved or a challenge to be met, God raises up a leader. Think Moses. Think Joshua. Think the Judges. Think David. Think Paul.   And when He doesn’t elevate someone to leadership (which He often doesn’t) there is usually chaos. Think of all the weak kings in Israel and Judea. Think of the   Read More ...

What is education for?

The words of the wise men are like goads At the conclusion of one of the most extensive sociological research studies in history Solomon writes the following final observations. “In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs.   The Preacher sought to find delightful words, and to write words of truth correctly. The words of the wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.  But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive
devotion to books is wearying to the body. The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12: 9-13 The role of a teacher:  Teach the truth In reality, that pretty accurately summaries the role of a teacher:  Teach the truth.  Teach it well.  Push beyond mere information to life application.  Begin and end the conversation with this reality: Fear God and keep His commandments.  And   Read More ...

An Extraordinary Talent

For Christian School Administrator: A publication of the Association of Christian Schools International Generalizations are like weather reports; useful, but not infallible.  It is generally true that the sun shines in Colorado, but during my latest round of golf the predicted sunshine gave way to angry, gray skies, nasty lightening and rather large rain drops.  Strike one for Accu Weather. As dangerous as it can be to generalize, however, there are good reasons that we do, and a fair amount of evidence to suggest that we are right most of the time.  In his intriguing book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explains why that is the case.  He writes, “The
part of our brain that leaps to conclusions . . . is called the adaptive unconscious. . . . a kind of giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings.” In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary we are usually safe in making on-the-spot decisions.  That is true unless there are hidden biases or information gaps which are likely to distort our thinking and lead to poor decisions. With that said I’m going to offer a generalization.    Read More ...

Are You Ready?

Making the Journey to Financial Health Years ago, long before cable and Dish Network, I was the proud owner of a 17 inch black and white television set whose chief value was its portability.  Now and again on a quiet weekend my wife and I would decide to watch a movie from the comfort of our bed.  So I would move our “massive” TV from its location in the living room/family room/office to a spot on top of the high boy dresser in our “master suite”.  That high boy put the TV at a perfect angle for viewing a movie from bed. On one particular
evening, with pop corn a-popping, I went through my relocation routine, plugged in the power cord and made final preparations for a quiet couple of hours of mindless movie watching.  At that point that I made my fatal mistake.  I pulled the comforter from the bed with a bit of extra enthusiasm and tossed it aside (only a guy would do that).  What didn’t catch my eye was the taut power cord stretching from the TV atop that high boy to the electrical outlet next to the bed. While I watched in horror our nifty   Read More ...

Counting the Cost

Is There a Future for Christian Schooling in America? Let’s see. What will $350,000 buy in today’s market place? Well if you live, as I do, in Denver, Colorado, $350,000 will buy you a 2,500 square foot, well appointed house in a nice community. But that $350,000 is just the beginning. Once you factor in the impact of interest, the cost of routine maintenance, and major renovations or repairs, then the final price tag on that house increases to over a million dollars. So, are you interested? Amazingly most people are. Even in a down housing market, $350,000 homes are a dime a dozen, so to
speak. Indeed, whatever the cost, most Americans dream of owning their own home. They calculate the cost, consider the alternatives and see home ownership as a positive, even essential thing to do. As a result they will freely commit themselves to a financial obligation that could easily exceed $2,000 per month when all costs are considered. The rather daunting price tag on home ownership is simply seen as a fair exchange of value all things considered. So, what else will $350,000 buy? Well, if you live in Denver, or almost anyplace else for that   Read More ...

IMAGINE

Written for Christian School Administrator, A publication of the Association of Christian Schools International Imagine the impact on enrollment at your school if tuition could be reduced by fifty percent while doubling the amount of financial aid available to struggling families? Consider what might happen if such a decision caught the attention of your local newspaper, radio and television stations? Now imagine that despite sharply reduced tuition rates the school your children attend could still provide a world-class education. Imagine. Are you intrigued? I hope so because this is not just an exercise in wistful thinking. It is a matter of
survival. I’m certainly not a prophet but I don’t think there is much risk in predicting that Christian schools must find a way to keep themselves financially accessible or there are going to be far fewer schools in ten years. If, however Christian schools are willing to follow the lead of colleges and universities like Harvard, Duke, Columbia, Stanford, MIT, Yale, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, and Emory they could actually reduce their tuition and still provide a quality education. Impossible you say. Not really. Consider this single fact. The University of Texas system could provide all   Read More ...

It’s the Process, Not the Plan

On October 17, 1777, English General, Gentlemen Johnny Burgoyne, surrendered an entire British Army to Horatio Gates, commander of the American forces at Saratoga, New York. If the battle of Lexington produced the “shot heard round the world” then Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga produced the “shock heard round the world”. Many historians have identified the Battle of Saratoga as the turning point in America’s war for independence. The victory heartened the sagging morale of the American forces and helped encourage the French to enter into a military alliance with the fledgling nation. This alliance proved invaluable to the American cause. In October
of 1781 the French fleet played a key role in forcing the British army to surrender at Yorktown thus bringing the American war for independence to a successful conclusion. Interesting you might say, but what does the British surrender at Saratoga have to do with school leadership? Fair question. Consider this answer. Agur, author of Proverbs 30, reminds us that we can derive personal benefit from observing the small things of the earth (Proverbs 30:24-25.) Since that is true perhaps we can discover valuable lessons on ministry leadership through a study of eighteenth century military history. At Saratoga   Read More ...

7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis

A book by Bill George, Jossey-Bass, A Warren Bennis Book, 2009 “Man is born into trouble as the sparks fly upward.”  So observes Job’s friend, Elipahz.  The apostle Paul echoes that reality as he takes his readers through a brief review of key events that had marked his years as one called to “take the gospel where it had never been presented before.”   I wince and wonder every time I read through this list of experiences; ship wrecks, beatings, imprisonments, hunger.   I must confess that I find it hard to imagine the pain and trauma.  We face our challenges here in America but nothing even remotely like
the struggles of everyday life for believers in the Greco-Roman world of the first century, or in much of the two-thirds world today. What I have a far less problem understanding is his simple closing statement.  “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:21-28).   That I get.  The responsibilities associated with leadership while not bloody in a literal manner can, nonetheless, produce a battered body in the metaphoric sense.  I’ve never been stoned with bits of broken   Read More ...

Newsletter: December, 2011

Imagine a world without teachers.  Or books.  Or pens.  Or even schools.  Sound crazy?  Unlikely?  Another outlandish idea from the unsettling mind of a writer of science fiction or fantasy like Steven King?  Well, if you think that way hold on to your hats because it isn’t all that unlikely.  Not anymore. In an article titled, My Teacher is an App, Stephanie Banchero and Stephanie Simon write, “In a radical rethinking of what it means to go to school, states and districts nationwide are launching online public schools that let students from kindergarten to 12th grade take some – or all – of their classes from their bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens.  Other states and districts are
bringing students into brick-and-mortar schools for instruction that is largely computer-based and self-directed.”  Indeed in just three years the number of students enrolled in full-time cyberschools has increased from 175,000 to 250,000. And consider this.  “In just the past few months, Virginia has authorized 13 new online schools.  Florida began requiring all (yes, that is all) public-high-school students to take at least one class online, partly to prepare for college cyber-courses.  Idaho soon will require two.  In Georgia, a new app lets high-school   Read More ...

Newsletter: April, 2011

I’m not very good at “speaking the truth” in love. Sometimes rather than say what really needs to be said I stumble around and miss the opportunity to give someone the genuine help they need. More often than not, however, I speak with a bit too much frustration or anger or just plain impatience, thus while what I say is right on target the meaning gets lost in the turbulence of my emotions. Knowing this about myself I am cautious when responding to messages that drive me crazy. It doesn’t happen often but now and again I find my blood pressure rising as I read a particularly aggravating e-mail, usually
from someone who should know better. That happened recently during a series of e-mails from the leader of a school with which I am working. Each message pushed me a bit closer to the edge until I finally fired off a rather testy reply. Fortunately I paused before hitting the send button to re-read my remarks. Even in my state of advanced agitation I could recognize that my response was way too much truth (at least as I saw truth at that moment) and way too little love. So began   Read More ...