Are Your Excuses Getting the Best of You?


Mind Craft - Part 3

Excuses are deadly. They justify staying where you are, validate mediocrity, and are ultimately selfish. When the going gets tough, we so easily submit to excuses and remain stuck within our circumstances.

You simply cannot succeed and make excuses at the same time. How can we overcome this defeated mindset in order to accomplish the amazing things God has planned for us?

Pre-orders for Mind Craft will be available shortly, so stay tuned!

3 Steps to Starting Any Project


Project Management - Part 1

As leaders, we are constantly starting and finishing a variety of projects. However, the church is an event-driven business. How do we manage our projects without getting stuck in the rut of our weekly programs?

At one of our past All-Staff days, I discussed with our team eight of the necessary components for planning projects. Today, we are going to tackle three of those.

1. Identify your project.

In this stage, it is very important to be specific for a couple of reasons.

The more specific you get with your team, the easier it is for them to follow your instructions and go to work with clear expectations. The leader benefits personally because it brings clarity to their thinking. It is also much easier to follow through on the project when the details have been thought out.

As a young leader, I discovered that taking time to plan may take some effort initially, but in the long run, having a clearly defined project saves time, money, and a lot of headaches once the project has launched.

2. Define goals and objectives.

Your goals are the “what” of the project. The objectives are the “how” of accomplishing that goal. When working to accomplish something with my team, I would inform them of the goal and then ask them, “How do you think we can accomplish this?” Allowing them to brainstorm and be apart of the process of setting objectives will boost their involvement and motivation in carrying out those objectives.

3. Delegate tasks.

Let’s be real, as the leader you can’t do everything yourself. Delegating is a part of giving your team ownership over the project and efficiently completing all of your objectives. It will save you time and allow your team to work together.

Why do Church Projects Fumble?

Church projects can get caught in any one of these points. We often aren’t clear in describing projects and objectives to our teams or ourselves. Sometimes we skip involving our team in laying out objectives or we don’t delegate the specific tasks to our team members to get done.

Skipping any of these steps will cause us to drop the ball. Churches are event-driven organizations that exist to put on weekly programs. We can easily find ourselves in the rut of the weekly grind and ignore the big projects.

With all of this project management to handle, reaching people for Jesus can be somewhat more complicated, but it is more important then ever before. Amidst a lost and uncertain generation, the church is the hope of the world and we have a vision to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.


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10 Characteristics of a Pioneer - Part 2


Abraham - The Original Pioneer

Are you missing your destiny by choosing to remain comfortable? Do you dream about possibilities or simply live within your current circumstances? In the second instalment of our pioneering series, Pastor Gene and I take a look at the life of Abraham and how God led him to become the "Father of Faith."

If you missed last week's podcast, you can get all caught up here. Let's get started!

3. Pioneers are dreamers.

Before God could use Abraham, He had to get him dreaming. God led Abraham outside and showed him the stars, telling him that one day, his descendants would one day be as vast as the night sky. He was giving Abraham a visual to dream about.

God likes us to dream big, in fact, He encourages it. The limitation in our lives is not God's lack of ability to fulfill our dreams, but often our inability to visualize them.

Dreaming big starts by giving yourself time to dream. Our schedules can often be laden with responsibilities, causing us to neglect time to think or dream. Don't just work in the church, work on the church. Don't just work in your business, work on your business.

When I dream, I begin by reading my Bible and praying. My faith is strengthened when I read about God utilizing ordinary people for incredible projects. In prayer, I find that the Holy Spirit pushes me to think beyond my own limitations and dares me to believe for more.

4. Pioneers are willing to go where they have never been, to do what they have never done.

Hebrews 11:8 says that Abraham "obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." Because of his obedience, Abraham has been deemed the "Father of Faith"; a true pioneer. Pastor George Hill put it best when he said, "Today's breakthroughs are the result of yesterday's obedience and tomorrow's breakthroughs are the result of today's obedience."

5. Pioneers are willing to put up with what is less than ideal.

If Abraham would have chosen to remain comfortable, he would have missed his destiny. Hebrews 11:9 says, "By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise." Abraham was willing to put up with what was less than ideal to obey God and pioneer. If he hadn't done so, he would have never been known as "Father Abraham."

Pioneers are not afraid of hard work and sacrifice because they know that both will be rewarded in the end. They are more focused on the future and end results than they are on today's comforts.

Pioneers live in what Pastor George likes to call the "happily terrified zone." To many on the outside, the risks they take look haphazard and reckless. Why would someone move to an unknown location to plant a church? Why would someone leave their comfort zone to reach out to the lost in missions work? Well, because the church is the hope of the world, on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches that unchurched people love to attend.

Episode Resources

If you are interested in learning more about pioneers, we would encourage you to grab a copy of Marching Off the Map by Tim Elmore. You can find it here.

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10 Characteristics of a Pioneer - Part 1


Taking Risks and Stepping Out of the Mold.

Do you value routine over risk? Fitting in over stepping out? Maybe you have settled somewhere in your leadership. Tune in to the first part of our Pioneering series to discover how to get out of your rut.

One of my most recent reads was Marching off the Map by Tim Elmore. It was a phenomenal book that gave great insight into where we are today as a society and how we can connect with the next generation more effectively. I would highly recommend every leader, pastor, communicator, or educator pick up a copy. It certainly has us talking about what we are doing and how we are doing it.

Last week, we gathered as a staff for our monthly training and I discussed the difference between pioneers and settlers. Pioneers march off the map whereas settlers are not so willing to leave comfort behind. For the next four weeks, Pastor Gene and I will be discussing 10 characteristics of a pioneer. 

1. The pioneer is about risk. The settler is about routine.

There are no guarantees of success when you march off the map. But at the same time, there is a guarantee of failure if you don’t and remain a settler. Elmore made a powerful statement when he said, “Settlers will be left in the dust as the young people we lead disconnect from us and find others they can follow to new places. Or, they will forge ahead with no mentors at all.

Pioneers are usually the one with arrows in their back. They are shot at by settlers that have no understanding of their strange new tactics. Being a pioneer is not a comfortable place to be, yet settling is not a chance we should take. We have to bravely march off the map!

2. Pioneers often don’t fit in.

Pioneers have the tendency to feel out of place, especially in a room full of settlers. Instead of just going with the flow, pioneers create their own. They are not conformists, they are reformers, therefore, setting themselves apart from the crowd. They are leaders like Caleb in the Old Testament whom God noted as having a “different spirit.” Caleb went on to inherit the promise while the others didn’t.

Our goal as pioneers is to adapt, not adopt. We need to shift, not drift. We can either resist change until we no longer can, or we can adapt and harness that change powerfully.

Pioneering within the Church

As leaders, we must realize what is permanent and what is temporary. Our mission and vision to make disciples are permanent whereas our methods and programs to do such are temporary. We never compromise what the Bible teaches, but we may change the ways we present those truths.

We must also be constantly focused on our why. We can adapt our what or how to achieve our why, but the why never changes. This is about being focused on our outcomes.

I became passionate about the church at an early age but I fell madly in love with its purpose and vision when Pastor George taught me the Book of Acts in Bible College. It was there that I discovered that the church is God’s original plan and there is no backup. It was there that I saw the difference between our mission and vision and the methods we use to get those things done. It was there that I learned that the church is the hope of the world on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend. 

Episode Resources:

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Marginal Gains


There is always room for improvement within any church or organization. Today, we are taking a look at where to begin, the steps to be taken, and ultimately how to achieve your greatest goals!

This month, we are discussing our topic from the last All Staff meeting we held. We looked at how we can improve using the idea of marginal gains, and what this meant for our teams. Let’s get into it!

Be Honest with Where You Are

Be realistic about where you currently are. That sounds so simple. But leaders tend to think they are being realistic when they focus on what’s not working or on where they’re failing. William Arthur Ward said, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” I am continually adjusting my sails. As a leader, you have to be a constant analyst.

Critiquing vs. Being Critical

One of the things that I had to input into our culture was the skill of honestly critiquing everything. Now, there’s a big difference between being critical and critiquing. Being critical focuses on the negative, while critiquing focuses on what could be improved. We critique everything we do because we know others will do it for us if we don’t do it ourselves. Therefore, we regularly analyze everything we do and ask, “Could we do it better?” We don’t always keep that analysis positive. Our tendency is to try to avoid conflict and keep everything positive, but sometimes it’s okay to allow a little bit of conflict or negative talk. This can help to dig out the real issues. If you don’t allow it in a controlled meeting, it will happen on the outside, so it’s best to discuss it while in private. My only stipulation is that if we address a problem, we must also focus on a solution to that problem. That’s how you keep things positive and moving forward.

Count Everything

If we see a slump in one area or another, we ask if we are missing something or if we need to change it. We never allow ourselves to make excuses for poor results because excuses remove our power to do anything about it. I can make excuses or I can make progress, but I can never do both. I think counting everything and analyzing the data is vital because you can’t manage what you don’t measure. When you get the data, you have a choice as to what you can do with it. You can make an excuse as to why the number is lower than expected, or you can make the necessary adjustment and set your sails accordingly.

[bctt tweet="Excuses remove our power to do anything about poor results. #leadership #marginalgains" username="kellystickel"]


Self-talk is a game-changer. We often tend to believe more of what we hear ourselves say than what we hear others say. Self-talk is not only a powerful business and ministry tool but an effective lifestyle tool if done constructively. I once heard someone define thinking as self-talk. I like that because all of us do it, whether we are aware of it or not. Once I became aware of that, I began to realize that I should consciously guard my self-talk and guide it with positive, forward-moving talk. Good self-talk doesn’t ignore the obstacle or difficulty in front of you but instead focuses you on being solution oriented instead of problem focused.

A good example of this is the difference between the 10 spies in Numbers 13, and Joshua and Caleb. The 10 spies' self-talk was focused on how big the enemy was and how strongly fortified their cities were. They were problem focused whereas Joshua and Caleb said, “We are well able” and, “God will make a way.” The two men didn’t ignore the enemy or their fortified cities, they just chose to focus their attention and talk on the solutions that would enable them to overcome those obstacles.

Think Big, Start Small

I once heard a quote from Seth Godin that read, “The thing is, incremental daily progress (negative or positive) is what actually causes transformation. A figurative drip, drip, drip. Showing up, every single day, gaining in strength, organizing for the long haul, building connection, laying track — this subtle but difficult work is how culture changes.”  The truth is, we as leaders often like to go from peak to peak, focusing on the outcomes instead of the journey. It’s our tendency to continually focus on big thinking and forget that it takes day-to-day, roll-up-your-sleeves hard work, and small steps to get there. For me, the key to continuing to think big, but at the same time starting small, has been to celebrate the little things along the way. This keeps myself, as well as my team, motivated in the mundane daily work. If I set smaller progressive goals along the way to our big destination, and then celebrate once we get there, it keeps us focused and moving forward until we reach the ultimate, big-thinking goal. Celebrate the journey every step of the way.

Focus On The Process Not The Results

Leaders have been taught for years to be results focused. Consequently, leaders tend to allow the big picture obsession to downplay the power of the process. As leaders, we are typically the visionaries or big picture thinkers, but we need to realize that most of our team is not. That means they don’t often see the end result like we do.  When we paint a picture for them of what that result will look like, they often view it as an immediate outcome, and that we will be there quickly. I know I have made this mistake many times as a leader. I see a big goal for the organization and share it with everyone prematurely which makes for disappointment when we don’t reach it quickly. Peter Drucker said, “People often overestimate what they can accomplish in one year. But they greatly underestimate what they could accomplish in five years.” With this being the case, it’s important for us as leaders to be wise in what we share and when we share it. It is wiser as a leader to focus on the process and celebrate the little steps rather than just on the big picture. This keeps the team focused and motivated to move forward.

Small Improvements Add Up to Massive Differences

Recently, I heard a story from my friend Rex Crain about the 1986 Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. They were heralded as the best team ever assembled but, ended up losing in the semi-finals that year. It was a major disappointment and you can imagine how their coach, Pat Riley, felt. In the offseason, he decided to do something about it. Instead of relying just on motivating the team as a whole to do better, he instead decided to work with each individual player on making marginal gains in their own development. He recorded every player's performance from each game the previous year and built a formula to calculate an overall personal score. Then he challenged each one to improve by just one percent in the next season. Of course, each player agreed because one percent was doable and they went to work on making their marginal gain. Then, Coach Riley used the same formula throughout the next season so that each player could see how they were progressing. It worked! Every player improved. The lowest level of improvement was 5% and the overall average was a 12% improvement. The team went on to win 2 straight championships and appeared in 4 of the next 5 NBA championships. So at All Staff, I told this story and then asked our team to work on areas in their own departments and with their own team in which they could get just one percent better. I believe if each team member and each department got just one percent better, the overall effect on the organization would be astronomical.

Progress Is In Your Control

Like I said before, we can make excuses or we can make progress, but we can’t do both. This reminds me of when I first began working with our worship team. We began with how they practiced. I attended each practice and had the team focus on how they would rehearse each song. Then, we worked on each player and vocalist and had them prepare individually for their part. We got rid of the “just wing it” mentality and had them rehearse a specific part. Then, we worked on the presentation of the songs they were learning and had each member watch videos of themselves alongside videos of other worship leaders to compare where they could make improvements.

This whole process happened over the course of 3 to 4 years. We made little steps like removing worship stands from the stage. The team was now individually rehearsed and prepared and in watching videos of themselves, they realized how much of a barrier these stands created between them and the congregation. After learning their parts, we focused on their tones because music is just a sum of sounds blended together. The better the sounds and blend, the better the song is received overall. Now, here we are 6 years into the process and we are not only better, but are now writing, producing, and releasing our own worship songs! I saw this as a goal years ago, but if I would have cast that vision from the beginning, we would have skipped a number of valuable steps along the way or would have given up in the process and settled with where we were. This way, we celebrated each step along the way and are now seeing the fruit of that progression.

Daily Investments

Small daily investments are the way to produce big changes. The secret here seems to be that in the patience of daily investments, momentum begins, though momentum at times seems nearly invisible. I challenge our leaders to listen to podcasts daily, read books weekly, and to attend conferences yearly. I encourage them to grow themselves first, and then monthly I train them in leadership at our All-Staffs as well. Each one doesn’t make a noticeable difference, but over time, these behaviours have made a huge improvement in our organization and on the individuals who have invested in themselves this way.

[bctt tweet="Small daily investments are the way to produce big changes. #marginalgains" username="kellystickel"]

As a leader myself, I continually listen to leadership podcasts, read books and leadership blogs, meet with mentors and ask them lots of questions, and attend conferences at churches much bigger than mine. I am constantly working on bettering myself as a leader because I know that if I stop growing, I will stop leading and my organization will stop growing. I take that very seriously.

What I love about the marginal gains concept is that it will work for anyone, anywhere, at any time, regardless of the size or scope of their ministry or business. The fact is, once you are realistic about where you currently are and you focus on making marginal gains in each area you are involved in, you will advance forward. You don’t build Rome in a day, but you will grow and eventually get to where you want to be. Imagine if every church leader made marginal gains this year. Imagine if every church grew by one percent. That might not seem like much for the church of 100 people. But, if every church in the world did that, there would be millions of more people in the Kingdom this time next year. So, let’s do it! Why? Because the church is the hope of the world, on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email