Standing Stones

One of the things that I love in the Old Testament is how people would set up standing stones, they were a pile of stones that stood as a remembrance of how God did something amazing there. I have a box where I keep mementos of things where God showed up and did something amazing in my life. My own personal standing stones.

Even though 2020 has been a rough year, I would bet that there are some areas where God showed up. Maybe it was an unexpected financial blessing in a time of financial stress, or even a debt that was forgiven or paused until the economy recovered. It could have been that this year brought a new job opportunity, or the ability to work from home that you had been lobbying for over the last few years.

As we head toward exiting 2020 and entering into 2021, I’m challenging you to reflect back on this year and find those places to put the standing stones of your life. We have no idea what 2021 will look like, but if we can look back to this year and still see where God was working things out… perhaps, just perhaps, it will be easier to make it through what ever 2021 has in store.

Tea in the Testaments (2021)

In addition to the LeadHer Well Podcast, that will launch in January of 2021… I’m also excited to share that I will also begin a Youtube series called Tea in the Testaments!

What’s the tea?

Starting and Genesis and working our way forward, book by book, we will explore the 4 T’s of the Testaments:

  • Time
  • Theme
  • Text
  • Truth

And, I’ll share my favorite Tea recipes with you!

For week 1, we will address Time: What time period is this, what is happening in the world, and why does do we need to know this information? How does it pertain to the story?

Week 2, we dive into the Theme: What is the theme of this particular book, and how does it fit into the overarching narrative of the complete Word?

In week 3, we look at the highlights of the Text in context to the whole story. It’s important to read the Scriptures within context so that we can fully understand the truths being revealed to us in the Word.

This brings us to week 4, where we will discuss the Truths of that particular book. What are the big take aways? How do we apply these truths into our lives?

And, for the tea? I love tea. Hot tea, cold tea, healthy teas… and some good old southern sweet. Each week, I will feature various teas blends or what my current favorites area. Just for some fun.

Join me for the Tea in the Testaments!

Food For Thought

2020 included some leader failures, some pretty big ones, and I’d love to leave this year with some food for thought. Those of us who are leaders, marching toward 2021, should keep a few things in mind.

Do not celebrate the fall of a leader. This is not the time to walk in pride, gossip, or toss jabs at that leader you never liked anyway. I’m certainly not suggesting that we as leaders don’t examine these things when they happen. We must learn from them, but we shouldn’t celebrate them. These are real people who have fallen, and falling hurts. It hurts not only the leader, but all of those around them. Their family. The church family they Shepherded. Depending on the fall, it may also affect other people and their families too. Publicly, this also can impact the view the world has toward religious leaders. Their fall affects us all. The correct response: We should mourn with those who mourn. This is not something to celebrate, but something to grieve. We should be praying about over it.

Do not believe yourself to be too high to fall. We should see these failures as cautionary tales of what can happen to ministry leaders who lose sight of their calling. When the audience grows, the opportunities come, financial blessings start rising, popularity increases, and influence expands… so does the space for temptation to enter. None of us are immune to the attacks of the enemy, to tempt us in the ways in which we are prone to weakness. If we allow our pride to blind us to what is happening around us, we too can fall. No ministry leader sets out to fall from grace, but we live in a world that is priming that pump every single day… that wants to see us fail, and the enemy takes advantage of that. The correct response: We should be setting up protections, accountability partners, and guidelines to help us guard ourselves from temptation. Invite others in as overseers to our lives, to have input, influence, and even investigate into our lives when needed.

Fallen leaders are not always unable to get back up. Yes, I do believe there are some serious moral, and illegal, failures that should prevent certain people from ever leading again. But, I also believe there are some things that a fallen leader can recover from. It may require time, counseling, reparations, or interventions to happen first, before there can be restoration to office. And, restoration to office may require having more accountability or working their way up through the ranks again building back up trust over time. The correct response: Each situation must be evaluated individually, to determine if this is an offense that can be overcome and restoration to office is possible or not. If your church or ministry has a leader that has erred, and it is believed restoration is possible, come up with an accountability plan and an action plan of what things must occur for restoration to happen. Additionally, include clear explanation of consequences if the leader should err again.

If 2020 Taught Us Anything…

2020 has been an unexpected year. If it taught us anything, it was our ability to let go of everything we expected, and our ability to adapt quickly to change. The hardest part about change, I think for most people, is not sudden change but rather anticipated change. We build up the pending change in our mind to be hard or difficult. When in reality, it’s often not nearly as bad as we thought it would be… or in some cases even better than we could have imagined.

The changes that 2020 ushered in were not ones we could have anticipated or prepared for. We were thrust into the moment and didn’t have time to freak out, worry, get anxious, or overthink the possibilities. We had to pivot and change, for some immediately.

In the realm of ministry this was seen as those of us who were holding off of moving our ministries onto, or at least to include, virtual platforms. Suddenly the thing we were avoiding or putting off was a necessity. We learned that the cost of the equipment wasn’t nearly as expensive as we had believed. We learned that the software or platforms were not that hard to learn after all. And, we found out that our people were far more flexible than we could have imagined.

(If it sounds like I have said this before, I have… in different places… but it still bares repeating.)

And while we learned so much about what we could take on, we also learned about what we could let go. Not only could let go, but also probably should let go.

We should let go of expectations during seasons of change. I find the person most often with the most expectations of me, in a trial like this year has been… is myself. I have to let go of the unrealistic expectations I am setting for myself and embrace that those I am serving have a ton of grace for me right now. They know the pressures we are facing, the new waters we are navigating, and for the most part are pulling back the reigns.

The ones who are not, by the way, extending the grace and offering up demands… are few and far between, and we may need to let them go too. Let them go to find a place that is more equipped to meet their needs. We can become ok with letting go of plans, places, things, and even people if necessary.

We should let go of, instead of grasping to hold on to, normal. As much as we all wanted things not to change, they did. Those who decided to swim with the current fared better than those who were trying to grasp the buoy that was floating away from shore. I’m not suggesting that none of us are recoverable, or our ministries can’t find their way back. Rather, I am suggesting that those who didn’t fight it simply would get their faster and maybe a bit less dinged up. Normal has left the building, and we are not really sure when it is coming back… or even if it is. We may be facing a new normal. Instead of grasping to hold to normal, let go of that ideal and instead hold on to your people.

Let go of waiting for perfection. Don’t get caught up in the hype of expensive programs or tools. Embrace the mantra of do what you can, with what you have. Don’t get caught in analysis paralysis, where we get so caught up in preparing to do something that we never actually do it. At some point, you must just “do the thing”. The more you do it, the better you will get, and over time you can get better at it. Over time, you can invest in better equipment or pay for a heftier software program. You may even decide that you have the budget to hire someone to do the work for you (or that you have someone in your membership that has the talents & willingness to volunteer). If you are waiting for perfection, it will never happen.

For each of us, we could probably come up with an exhaustive list of things we let go… and some we didn’t want to, some we will try to take back, and some we will revise. Weigh it all out and see what is worth keeping, and what is best to let go.

The Hardest Sale

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I’ve been planning to write on this topic for a while, but it’s taken me a bit to put my thoughts together.  I decided to just shoot straight.  For those who don’t know, I have a background in retail management.   On any given day I managed hundreds of employees, dealt with thousands of products, and I can’t even begin to quantify the amount of cash that I was responsible for.  I worked directly with CEOs, business owners, organizations, politicians, and the every day customer.  I coordinated with our corporate trainers, hired, and fired.  I met with every level of leadership at our corporate office, that also happened to be just down the road.
 
After leaving that field, over the years I’ve done a few other things.  I worked in direct sales, started some niche businesses, and so on.  So, when it comes to sales… retail… marketing… business… I’d surprise you with what I know.
 
Because of my background, when it comes to sales… I am also a skeptic.
 
That may surprise some people. Others not so much.
 
As a customer, I will be your hardest sell.  I can also be your best customer.

I’m going to give you some insight into the mind of a customer who thinks like me.  Why?  Because, maybe you are opening a business in 2021.  Perhaps you are wondering why people are not falling through the door to hire you for the service you provide.  You may even wonder why it seems so hard to reach people for your ministry or non-profit.

Have a Good, Functioning, Website.
 
If I can’t find what I’m looking for on your website, if it takes me too long to check out, if your verification processes are broken, and if I feel the slightest inclination that my information is not safe… I leave without purchasing.    It’s pretty astonishing how quickly a poorly designed and developed website sends me packing.  At least it was until I watched  a TEDtalk that said customers want to execute their purpose on your site within 3 clicks.  Longer than three clicks or three searches to find what they are looking for?  Gone.  Longer than 3 clicks (or page loads) to check out?  Gone.   I guess I’m not alone, the numbers don’t lie.
 
Even if you are not selling products, but looking for information, make it easy to find.  Make sure those links work.
 
Not that I said a “good, functioning” website.  Not perfect.  Not high tech.  Not all the bells and whistles.  Just one that has the information, and it works like it is supposed to.
 
Be straight forward.
 
If I have to hunt for the information, it makes me question how forthcoming you are.  If I can’t find out about your company/product without providing my information first, I will pass on by.  If you are promoting your product, but you can’t say the name of what you sell or the company that sells it, I will pass on by. 
 
If you are trying to recruit a person for a sales company, be honest about commission.  Nothing irks me more than when people tout what the top 0.5% of the company are making as something “anyone can do”. (This coming from someone who did direct sales, was the director for her state, won trips, etc.)
 
A skeptical customer wants full disclosure, otherwise it seems suspicious. I shouldn’t have to work to be your customer.  I shouldn’t have to disclose my personal information until you disclose what you are selling, how much it costs, etc.
 
If you are offering a service, clients like me want to find that information on your site quickly.  What do you offer, how much does it generally cost, what does it include.  We want upfront pricing, or at least an estimate so we have an idea of what you are expecting for pay. 
 
If you are a ministry or non-profit, we want to have a clear idea of who you are, what you stand for/believe in, and how you serve the community.  I can’t tell you how many church websites I have visited that don’t have their service times or even the church address on the website.  Parents want to know if you offer a children’s program or youth group.  Women want to know if you a have a Women’s Ministry. For non-profits we want to see statistics on who you serve & how much of your raised funds go directly to those whom you serve.
 
Understand we wait, watch, and learn.
 
If you provide a service, course, class, etc. I sit back and watch. I want to see what kind of sales person or business owner you are. I am watching to see what people say about you, or how you respond to others questions or concerns.  If it is a company or product that I am unfamiliar with, I am doing research too.  I am looking up the history of the company, customer reviews, customer criticism, BBB comments, and looking at FB/yelp ratings.   I want to watch how you conduct business, how you respond to competitors, etc.
 
It will take a bit before I am willing to give you my money.  It will take longer for me to make referrals.  I will never recommend a company, product, service, etc. that I have not vetted.   However, once you have gained me as a customer, you will have one for life.  Remember, at the beginning I said I can also be your best customer.  If you are honest, have great customer service, and your products are amazing… I will tell people about it.  If I’m being quiet it means I just not convinced enough to put my name on the line just yet.
 
It could take me a year or more of having your service before I recommend you to someone else.  I’m not judging you based on your immediate performance, but over the long haul.
 
In the case of a ministry, I’m looking to see how the ministry navigates in the community, what are the messages that are taught.  I don’t take recommendations lightly, so don’t be offended if I’m not screaming your name off the roof tops yet.  It means I’m learning more about you, your staff, your purpose, who you serve, how you serve, the results of your efforts.
 
Be clear about who you are.
 
I am skeptical of anyone who is bouncing from one business to the next.  I am uncertain about people, businesses, products, or events where the purpose is unclear.  I will become cautious if I even begin to question your integrity.   I will also begin to question moving forward if I feel there are less than genuine intentions.  Nothing will shoo me away faster than a sales pitch wrapped in concern.  Nothing will turn me off faster than when I feel you baited me into a conversation that ends with a sales pitch.
 
I’m not suggestion I need to be BFF’s with everyone I do business with, sometimes it’s just that… business.  But, don’t feign a relationship for the sake of the sale of your product or to pitch your service that I “need”. 
 
The same can be said for ministries and churches.  Be careful that you are not using gimmicks to lure people in, that you are putting on a show for the sake of awing the crowd, etc.  We can see through those veiled attempts to look cool or be the next big thing.  We are still seeking substance.  If your ministry or church is on it’s 10th name in as many years, rebranding after rebranding, my skeptic meter is going off.  I’m going to be very hesitant to visit or recommend anyone to you.
 
Finally, don’t waste my time, money, or emotional currency.
 
While this really is a given, even for those who are non-skeptics,  you’d be surprised that I need to say it.  I remember back in my retail management days thinking about how much time was wasted in meetings.  I don’t want to waste my time on things that don’t give me a return on that investment.  I’d rather sit at home and read through documents at my leisure than sit through a long sales pitch.
 
My husband and I were once asked to attend a meeting, but we really were not given much info.  At the end of a lengthy presentation, we were asked to join up with this revolutionary company.  We couldn’t because of my husband’s employee contract having a non compete clause.  (First of all, had we been given the full info from the start… we wouldn’t have gone and wasted our time or the time of those who put it together). 
 
The gentleman continued on trying to “help us” find ways around it.  (Second, don’t ask me to bend the rules for your advancement, that is not helping me).  No matter how many times we tried to excuse ourselves, he kept going until we finally had to firmly shut it down.  (Third, sorry… I’m not risking my husband’s job, that has benefits, pension, etc. for anyone.)
 
When you don’t fully disclose what you are doing, and a skeptic feels like you lured them into something… taking their time, taking their money, etc…. you can’t undo the damage from that.  We will run and never look back.
 
When attempting to sell a service, don’t promise more than you can deliver.  Or try to sell me on something that I very much don’t need.  I remember once getting a message from someone that I hadn’t talked to in several years.  She opened with the typical “long time no chat” only to ease into the sales pitch of her service that she felt I needed. 
 
For ministries and churches, don’t make promises to people to get them to engage that you can’t keep.  Or call someone in for a meeting, only to keep them waiting.  Nor set up an event, and invite everyone, only to pitch to them on the spot for donations.  Dave Ramsey folks didn’t budget for that!  When we see that you are disorganized, going off the cuff, and don’t have clear vision it makes us wonder how reliable you are.  And, for skeptics, those are all red flags to us that will send us running for the mountains.   
 
When you are honest and put the cards on the table…
When you are patient and let us take our time to assess…
When you respect and value us as a person before sale…
When you exhibit integrity and responsibility…
When you clearly present information, or make it easy to find…
When you are upfront about your expectations…
 
Skeptics can end up being your most loyal customer, regular client, or dedicated member/supporter.

I am sorry for…

During this past year, I was part of the audience for an online event. Amazing speakers sharing from the depths of their hurts due to oppression, racial injustice, racism, sexism, etc. It was very eye opening to listen to accounts from all over the world, outside of our own microcosm of space.

At one point, a woman from the viewing audience commented about something she experienced.

It was just heartbreaking, and I replied “I am so sorry.”

She responded back:

“You don’t need to apologize, you didn’t do anything.”

There are two types of apologies…

I am sorry for what I did to you…

I am sorry for what happened to you…

In the instance of this woman’s response she was attempting to relieve or release me from my feelings because I wasn’t the person who harmed her. Which I do appreciate it, but she was misunderstanding what I was sorry for. I wasn’t attempting to take culpability, or apologize on behalf of the person(s) who harmed her. I was simply expressing my sorrow that she had to experience that pain.

Just like when we say sorry because someone has died, loses their job, is going through a difficult time, etc.

Empathy and sympathy lead us to compassion.

So, I will continue to say sorry… even for the things that I am not responsible.

I do so, because someone once told me that they were sorry.

Sorry for something they were not responsible for.

AND…

It meant the world to me that someone validated the experience as wrong. That they were truly sorry that moment occurred, how it impacted me.

BECAUSE…

Sometimes, the person who is responsible will never apologize. A sorry we will never be given a chance to receive. The absence of which affects us in ways we don’t even realize.

SO…

We are gifted the sorry that we didn’t even know we needed.

A sorry that frees us.

Gena’s Favorite Things: My Favorite Podcasts

I’m going to be ending my #GenasFavoriteThings series with my favorite podcasts!

Some, have been around for a minute and I’m still trying to catch up. Some are newer, and I’ve been listening since the beginning. And…. there are even a few I have actually been a guest. I’ve got a few more that I’ll share in December and January too. But, I’m giving them a little more listening time before sharing.

Gena’s Favorite Things: Where to Buy Event Decor!

A lot of Women’s Ministry teams will head to their local Party Supply store and spend tons of money on decor for their events. Those who are on budgets will head to the local Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, or Dollar General to save money on event decor. Purchasing plastic table cloths, utensils, etc. that are lesser quality but fit within in the budget. What if I told you there are ways to get Party Supply store quality (or better) for closer to Dollar Store prices? And, often times these items are reusable so that you don’t need to replace them for future events?

Here are my 3 favorite online retailers to shop for Women’s Ministry Events:

CV Linens: This is probably one of my favorite places to shop for tablewares, from cloths to forks. If you are on a tight budget, shop from their clearance items and build a color theme from there. Otherwise, their world is your oyster. You can buy the complete look too! Coordinating sets make shopping super easy, but I also love that you have options from traditional, classic decor to more modern looks. Many of the items on this site I have seen in local Party Supply stores for three times these prices or higher. When shopping their sale/clearance items, I’ve even paid less than dollar store prices with shipping included. The quality is also so good that our volunteers have washed the plates, bowls, and silverware for use at later events vs. disposing of it. Purchasing table linens here, versus plastic table cloths from the dollar store, is a small investment that you can use over and over again.

EfavormartSpeaking of table cloths and linens, efavormart is another great find! While they do sell other things, this is one of my go to stores for table linens specifically. I’ll shop the clearance for the organza table squares even if we are not having an event, so that I can build up a supply for the future. We set up for 24 tables, and I will usually buy colors in quantities of 12 so that I can mix and match. This helps stretch my budget further, and give me more options for color combinations. You can find efavormart on ebay as well, and sometimes there are better prices there. Not sure why, maybe ebay is where they go to sell off overstock? Anyway, I find great deals and so many choices that cover limited budgets as well as generous ones. For almost all events I start with a white linen cloth and use either organza squares or table runners to bring in the accent colors.

Nashville Wraps: All things gift wrap! Whether you are looking for gift bags, canvas totes, food packaging, tissue paper, gift boxes, bows, or more… this is the place! I have been using their products for well over 15 years, probably even longer than that. If you have the budget, you can even have custom imprinting done directly by Nashville Wraps custom to your event. There are some times sale items too, as a particular design is discontinued or overstocked. I have put together amazing gift bags and favor bags using their products for very affordable pricing. Most products come in an option of a small pack quantity or a larger quantity. The more you buy, the price per item goes down. They will have special items for certain seasons, but great options throughout the year.

Things I will buy at the Dollar Tree: plastic metallic chargers, they are the best price here at $1 each. You can spray paint them to match any theme. I don’t keep spray painting the same ones over and over again. Paper napkins or paper coffee cups are usually the best price here. I’ve purchased some decor items as well, and favors but usually things that come in a set that I can break up. Don’t buy mason jars there, you can get them cheaper by the case at Walmart. If we need to distribute pens or markers, I usually get them here. Folders, binders, or any sort of notebook, most often I’ll purchase in a location like this. Crafts are hit and miss on the quality of supplies.

Ebay, etsy, and other retailers can come through for better prices when looking for specific items or if you are just shopping for the future. You can find some awesome items in the clearance sections you can build themes around. And, if it’s not the right color paint it or dye it. I’ve purchased succulents and bamboo clippings, dried flowers, and handmade paper flowers from etsy before. Ebay has come to the rescue on certain favors in the past, as well as items for crafting projects. When I was in MOPS leadership, I would shop the clearance aisle at Michaels, JoAnn Fabrics, or Hobby Lobby and create our craft based off of what was available at the time.

Oriental Trading – I didn’t include it in my favorites because I find it to be hit or miss. I’ve gotten amazing items at a steal of a price, and other times the items were junk. I do still buy there, but always careful about what I’m getting. Their glass votive holders have yet to let me down, but I find a lot of their table decor to be overpriced for what you are getting. For decor like streamers, those tissue paper accordion style balls/fans/bells, etc. their prices are pretty much the best.