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I love the summer. Especially now that we’re living in Wisconsin, the summers have become much more precious. All winter long, while enduring negative temperatures, I have been longing for warmer weather. And to my delight, it has finally arrived! This summer I am eager to spend time at the pool with my kids, go for long runs, and enjoy concerts in the park.

A few years ago, I realized that in order to sustain a healthy pace of life and to help nurture my own creativity, I needed to pull back from blogging for a season each year. Since our family rhythm significantly changes in the summer, and since I want to enjoy every ounce of it that I can, it seems that summer is the natural time to pull back.

But before I go silent for a few months, I wanted to take a moment and say thank you to all of you who have followed along with my blog this year. Also, I want to let you know that over the course of the summer I will be completely revamping my blog to give it a totally new look and feel. I’ve already started to work on the new design and I’m eager to share it with you.

I’ll still be active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, so feel free to connect with me there. And for those of you who are local, I hope to see you out and about this summer!

Happy Summer,
Bryan

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I’m about three weeks away from completing my first year as the new Senior Pastor of our church. In many ways, it has been a fantastic year. I’m privileged to be leading and pastoring in such a great church filled with great people.

As I came into this new role I had one goal in this first year, listen and learn. In doing so, I’ve learned three important lessons about leading through listening, especially in your first year of leadership.

1. Listening is how you learn the story. Our church has been around for a little over twenty-five years. That means our story spans a little over a quarter of a century. In this first year, I have heard quite a bit of that story. I’ve heard about how the church started at a nearby park building, met in a YMCA for a while, and then, in at least two schools before we started to hold services in our current building. I’ve heard about the legacy of the sending church that helped to start, not only our church but roughly ten other churches in our city. I’ve even been able to meet some of the founding members who have since moved on to other churches for a variety of reasons. I’ve also heard many stories of how people have been impacted by our church and have come to know Jesus here long before I was around.

Our church has a wonderful legacy and it has been important to understand, learn, and honor that legacy. When taking the time to listen and learn about an organization’s history, whether church, business, or nonprofit, it’s humbling to realize that many good people have put in lots of blood, sweat, and tears before you ever showed up.

2. Listening is how you build trust. What people knew of me before I got here wasn’t much. Those who interviewed and vetted me knew more than others, but the only real way you get to know someone is through spending time with them.

Leading, especially in a church setting, is all about navigating relationships. On any given day, I’m navigating through relationships with our elder team, staff members, volunteer leaders, congregation members, partnering organizations, and the neighborhood/community. Whether they realize it or not, when they all first meet me, one of the first things they want to know is, “Can I trust him? Is he here to serve the church and community or himself?”

One of the best ways to build trust is to listen and learn. To hear people out and seek to understand their stories, fears, and concerns about the future. There is a really good chance that they have way more invested in the church/organization than you do. They care deeply about its future and want to know that you are someone they can trust and follow.

3. Listening is how to move forward. With the change of leadership in any organization comes a new season/chapter for the organization. These new seasons and chapters are good and necessary. Without change, innovation, and evolution, an organization will at best get stuck, and at worst begin to die. However, leading in a new context with a longstanding history is tough. People are often more comfortable with where they are or where they’ve been. For many people, moving into uncharted territory is uncertain and scary.

As the new leader, the best way to begin that new chapter is through listening and learning. It’s only after getting to know the story of the organization, the people, and establishing yourself as someone who can be trusted, will you have the credibility to lead people to a place they’ve never been before.

This sort of leadership is slower than most leaders prefer. The reason most leaders lead is that they want to see change and progress. And they often want to see it sooner rather than later. But in the end, the patience pays off.

So don’t rush. Take your time. Keep your ear to the ground and become a learner before you become a leader.

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Last week as I was walking my 5-year-old daughter to school, she saw a patch of dandelions in the grass and ran over to inspect them. She got down on her hands and knees and started to crawl through the grass looking for the perfect flower.

(I know, some people think dandelions are weeds, not flowers. However, for my five-year-old, there is no doubt in her mind into which category they fall.)

After selecting the perfect dandelion, she ran back to me and proudly presented it as though it were a precious, rare rose. I asked her what she wanted me to do with it? She said, “Keep it. Put it in your pocket.”

So, I did.

As we continued to walk, she saw another patch of dandelions and ran up to them and did the same thing. She got down on her hands and knees, crawled through the grass, selected the best one she could find and brought it back to me.

She repeated this same thing three more times on our short 10-minute walk to school. By the time we got to school my pocket was full of dandelions.

Our girls LOVE to collect things! Almost any random object they find outside, they think is a valuable possession. This is true of rocks, sticks, beads, flowers, leaves, acorns, and so much more. They go so far as to call these objects their treasures.

For example, this past weekend our family was throwing rocks into a river and our five-year-old found a random claw from what appeared to be a crawfish. No body. No head. Just the claw. She was fascinated by it. And of course, had to bring it home.

Our oldest daughter lays out all her “treasures” on her dresser so she can constantly view them and curate her collection as she sees fit. If/when we throw her treasures away, she comes undone.

After dropping my daughter at school and starting my walk home, I stuck my hand in my pocket not remembering the dandelions were there. When they met my hand, I instantly remembered and pulled them out. I was about to drop them on the ground and just keep walking. But for some reason, I looked down and stared at them. I was conflicted. To me, they were nothing more than a handful of weeds. Had I kept them in my pocket much longer, they would have been smashed and wilted by the time I got home. But to my daughter, they were the most amazing thing she had experienced that day.

As I continued to walk home, dandelions in hand, I reflected upon how I so easily lose my sense of awe and wonder. I look at these little yellow flowers and see annoying weeds that infest my yard. I overlook rocks laying on the ground and kick them out of my way paying no attention to what they are.

But not my girls. They are aware and attuned to all the little details of our world. They find them to be precious, awe-inspiring, and mesmerizing.

That afternoon, I was reminded of the ways my girls are teaching me to appreciate this one life that we have. I so easily take for granted the little things. I no longer stop to ask questions about why things are the way they are, or how certain things (like dandelions) have come to be.  But with the perspective and viewpoint of a 5-year-old, every day can be an adventure. Every day we have the chance to learn something new, go on an exploration, and be curious about the people, things, and places around us. We have the opportunity to uncover the treasures of this world that lay in wait around us all the time.

So while walking home that afternoon, I hung on to those dandelions for a little while longer seeking to regain a child-like awe and wonder of the world around me.

Where in your life have you lost that sense?
What will it take for you to get it back?

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