Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quotes: Another Tool for Teachers

As teachers, we often look for the details and background information we think will most benefit our students: statistics, word origins, definitions, cross-references, cultural contexts, etc.

And we're adept at finding stories and anecdotes to hook or engage.

All of this is good and necessary. But let's not forget the power of a pithy phrase or penetrating quote.

Take these for example (talk about summing up the idea of these subjects in just a few words!):

Exhortation: "Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead." (Chinese proverb)
Priorities: "Our greatest danger in life is in permitting the urgent things to crowd out the important." (Charles E. Hummel)
Forgiveness: "Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Affliction: "Storms make oaks take deeper root." (George Herbert)

Prayer: "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." (Martin Luther)

Scriptural Authority: "If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself." (Saint Augustine)

Scripture: "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me; it is the parts that I do understand." (Mark Twain)

Learning: "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." (Richard Steele)

Wisdom: "The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is the knowledge of our own ignorance." (C.H. Spurgeon)

Pride: "A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you." (C.S. Lewis)

Quotes, when used well, can be powerful tools in the teacher's/leader's tool box. Here are some place on-line where you can find quotes pretty easily by subject: (go to sermon illlustrations, arranged alphabetically by subject) (searchable at ) (especially ) (’s quote-of-the-day page)

Yes, keep doing all those other wonderful things you do as teachers, but don't overlook the power of a simple quote.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tips for Annual Goal-Setting

It's January: that time of new beginnings; the time when we feel refocused and energized to be more productive and effective in our ministries. And goal-setting in January is a great thing...if it's handled well. If not, it can set us up for frustration and failure.

Here are a few ideas that, if implemented, will almost surely help you avoid the standard goal-setting disappointments. I call it my "Resolution Solution" (and if you'd like to read a related article I wrote on the subject a few years ago for Today's Christian Woman, just click here).

Tip #1: Write down your goals. They're easier to remember and evaluate that way.

Tip #2: Make your goals realistic. Don't overestimate what you think you can accomplish. Instead estimate, then cut that estimate in half. That will give you a more realistic goal.

Tip #3: Make your goals specific. Don't just say "I want to be a better leader." What does "better leader" look like? How will you know when you've arrived? What do you have to do to get there? Instead, set a goal like "I will read one book on effective Christian leadership this year." That goal is specific.

Tip #4: Make your goals measurable. Part of specificity (tip #3) is measurability. Notice that the previous example ends with "this year." That establishes an end date by which you will have read the book. The example also specified "one" book (not "some"). "One book in one year" is measurable. "Some books sometime" is not.

Tip #5: Make your goals flexible. All endeavors, including our efforts to accomplish goals, rely on God's grace: literally "there but for the grace of God go I." For example, what if one of your goals is to arrive at your evening Bible study class an hour before its start time each week to set up, and then your day job requires you to stay after work on those evenings so that you can't even leave work until that time? Flex. Do what you can. Maybe you ask someone else to set up the room. Maybe you see if your class can switch nights. The point is: don't give up; just flex as you need to!

Tip #6: Review your goals monthly and quarterly. Sometimes we forget what we're aiming for. Other times we discover (by experience) that what we aimed for wasn't the best target, so we need to adapt the goal. Someone once said, "if you aim at nothing, you will certainly attain it." Review keeps us aiming, and it keeps us aiming at the right thing.

Tip#7: Get feedback from those who know and love you best. We can think a goal is perfect for us, but we can be blind to our weaknesses and limitations. Getting feedback will help us set goals that are more realistic, measureable, and suited to our giftings and seasons of life.

Tip #8: Change your goals as you need to based on your review and the feedback you receive. Change is not failure; it's just course correction. Give yourself grace to change and grow.

That's it. Not too complicated, eh? For a fuller explanation, please feel free to check the article at TCW.

And happy goal-setting to you!

'Til next time,