• Organizational Leadership

    Being Wrong about Better Planning

    I’ve always believed better planning would eliminate the last-minute scramble to accomplish work before a deadline. Over the past few years this is the theory we at SpringHill have believed to be true, especially in preparing for summer camp. We’ve believed if we planned well we’d coast smoothly into summer instead of scrambling and working nonstop in the weeks before camp.

    Well, I’m now admitting my theory is wrong. Based on watching our team over the last few years continue to improve its planning for summer camp, I now realize I’ve misunderstood the true benefits of good planning. For one thing coasting into summer camp hasn’t happened; instead our better planning has created more capacity to do more things, and to do them with higher quality.

    This, as I now think about it, makes total sense. It’s because our culture has never been a “coasting” culture. Instead it’s always been a “what more can we do to create better life-transforming experiences?” culture.

    Our long history of using every last-minute of every last day before the start of summer camp to do as many of these things as possible to exceed our campers’ and parents’ expectations hasn’t changed. But now, with better planning, we just do more of these things and do them better.

    So how do I feel about my theory being wrong? Well I have to admit, apart from continuing to improve our pacing before summer; I rather think increasing our capacity to do more things better is the right outcome for good planning.

  • Organizational Leadership

    Propulsion into the Future

    With the rollout of our new vision, and with SpringHill staff and board being the people they are, I’m expecting over the next year a lot of new ideas for programs and ministries we could embark on. Thus our challenge will be in screening and prioritizing these ideas, with the goal of only doing what will propel us towards fulfilling our vision and BHAGG.

    So as I’ve thought about this opportunity it’s become apparent that there will three groups of ideas we’ll be evaluating.

    Humility Ideas:

    Humility ideas are all the possibilities that result from seeing a need or an opportunity in the world and wanting to do something about it. Most will be great ideas, ideas that can and should become reality. But they won’t align with our mission, vision, core values and philosophy of ministry, thus we shouldn’t do them. They’re humility ideas, because it’ll require us to remember – we can’t do all things and be all things to all people.

    One off Ideas:

    These are ideas that do align with who we are and direction we’re going but do not propel us forward or give energy to our envision future. Though they may align, they don’t integrate well with SpringHill and the direction it’s going, thus they provide little momentum forward, and so, as a result, they will be lower priority ideas.

    Propelling Ideas:

    Propelling ideas will be our top priority. These are ideas that are both aligned and have the potential to propel us forward in fulfilling our future goals. These ideas will give energy to SpringHill because they’ll integrate with other initiatives, with our ministry allies, with our staff, and with our supporters.

    So over this next year we’ll need wisdom and humility as we work to take on only what will lead SpringHill be all that God’s called it to be, and to do only what God’s called it to do.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Listening to All the Voices

    After months of talking, and more importantly, listening to many people, reading, observing the world, and praying about SpringHill’s vision for our next season of ministry, I discovered my role, in this process, has been to listen for God’s voice in the voices of others.

    As you might remember from earlier posts, vision answers the question “what does God want us to become in the next 10 to 20 years?”

    I also discovered four voices I needed to pay special attention too. The first voice is the voice of SpringHill – including the SpringHill of today and the SpringHill of yesterday. In particular I needed to focus on the unchangeable DNA of SpringHill – our statement of faith, core values, mission, and philosophy of ministry.

    The second voice is what I call “the world”. The world includes those trends, cultural issues, and industry realities that stand outside of SpringHill but can, and most likely will, impact SpringHill now and into the future.

    The third voice’s represented by the people of SpringHill – our staff, board, donors, volunteers, and alumni. I found my experience listening to these voices to be informative and inspiring. These conversations also reminded me why I love working with and for these incredible folks.

    Finally, with encouragement of our board chair and vice chair, I’ve listened to all that God’s put on my heart and in my mind about SpringHill, most of which now resides in my journal.

    So after listening to these voices it became clear that each one had many significant things to say about our future. But it’s where all four voices meet that I’ve heard God’s voice, and His clear calling, for what SpringHill’s to become in this next season of ministry.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Ministry Strategy

    Being Called Together For Kids and a City

    Brian ( on the right) and the staff at Cafe Mosaic, one of Overflow’s non profit social enterprises

    In 2007, Brian Bennett (former SpringHill summer staffer) and his wife Cindy packed up their belongings, along with their young children, and moved into heart of Benton Harbor, Michigan to plant a church.

    If you know anything about Benton Harbor, it’s a city that unfortunately resembles many small, Midwest cities where the loss of industry, and the work that goes with it, has gutted the life of the community. Abandoned buildings, struggling schools, broken families, and the loss of human dignity and hope that poverty so mercilessly steals away, all fills the Benton Harbor landscape.

    It’s into this city that Brian and Cindy have brought the hope and dignity that only comes through Jesus Christ. Their church, Overflow, has brought the Good News to Benton Harbor through the Word and the deeds of its church family. And in 5 short years under Brian’s leadership, significant work, impacting the lives of many in this broken community, has occurred.

    This past week, Todd Leinberger, our Great Lakes Vice President, Jeffery Wright, President and CEO of Urban Ministries Inc and Chairman of the board of Circle Y Camp, and myself met with Brian to discuss, pray, and dream about how our respected organizations could help Overflow in its ministry to the children and young people of the Benton Harbor community.

    The story of how the four of us, and our organizations, have come together is for another post, but it’s because of this story that we sense that God may be leading us to work together in such a way that the transforming power of Christ is brought to the lives of 1000’s of young people of Benton Harbor area.

    I’ll keep you posted to how this story of possibilities unfolds.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    SpringHill’s Journey to Discovering Its New Vision

    As I said in my last post, my goal for the process of discovering and articulating SpringHill’s new vision is that it would be a shared vision.  Meaning it would be understood, embraced and committed to by the entire SpringHill community. 

    To this end we’re taking the following intentional steps on our journey.

    In small groups or in one-on-one meetings, I’ve asked our staff, board and other key constituents to answer these three questions (taken   from the book “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror”):

         What do you hope SpringHill will achieve in the years ahead?

         What is special about SpringHill?

         Why do you give your precious time and energy working for SpringHill?

     Then I summarized all the answers into prevailing themes and created four example vision statements incorporating these different themes. 

     The next step is to meet once again with staff, board and other constituents to ask for their thoughts on the themes and the four example vision statements.  The goal is to hear what’s on their hearts and minds, and to seek for God’s voice in theirs.

     Next I’ll prayerfully consider what I’ve heard, in light of the reality of the world we live in, SpringHill’s history, and our understanding of the future.  From within this context my goal, God willing, is to articulate our new vision. 

     I’ll present this vision, along with 3 to 5 key strategic thrusts necessary for the vision to become a reality, to our Leadership team for their advice.

     Then I’ll present a final vision, the key strategic thrusts, and the supporting thinking, to the Board of Directors for their adoption.

     Finally we’ll share our new vision and the key strategic thrusts with our staff, followed by a full roll out to our greater constituency.

    Then all we have left to do is make the vision a reality!

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    Discovering Vision

    “God’s will is more about who we are than what we do or where we go. Being always precedes doing.” Enoch Olson, SpringHill’s Founding Director

    Over the past few months I’ve been deep into the journey of discovering SpringHill’s vision for its next season of ministry. I’m on my second round of meetings with our staff, board and other involved constituents. Meeting with these committed, intelligent and insightful people is inspiring. I have no doubt God’s speaking through SpringHill’s community of people.

    But exactly what is vision? It’s a term that’s used differently by different people and organizations. So it’s important to know exactly what you’re after if you’re on the journey to discover your vision.

    At SpringHill, we use vision to answer the question “what does God want us to become, as a ministry, over the next 10 to 25 years?” We like to say vision answers the “Be” question and not the “do” questions (effective organizations need to answer both types of questions – click here to read my post on the 6 Key Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer).

    We also believe that there are certain truths about God centered visions, including:

    1. You discover visions not manufactured them.
    2. In mature organizations like SpringHill, vision does not come to just one person but is expressed through the community of constituents involved with and committed to that organization.
    3. Thus to be shared, a vision requires the input from all of an organization’s constituency groups.
    4. The leader’s job is to discover and articulate the vision of God from the voices of the community, the reality of the world, history, and an understanding of the future.

    My ultimate goal in this process is to discover God’s vision for SpringHill’s future and do so in such a way that it will be a shared vision, one that everyone committed to SpringHill will work passionately to see become a reality.

    In my next post I’ll walk through the specific steps I’m taking in this discovery process.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    What it Takes to Be Influential

    This week I had the opportunity to have lunch with Enoch and Joan Olson. Enoch is SpringHill’s Founding Director and under his leadership the vision, core principles and values of SpringHill were clearly developed, articulated and built into our organization.

    I asked to have lunch with Enoch and Joan so I could hear their current perspective on SpringHill, and what they believe God could be calling SpringHill to be and do in the future. As with all my meetings with Enoch and Joan, I walked away with a some helpful and challenging thoughts.

    One of the more provocative perspectives Enoch shared is his belief that SpringHill needs to continue to expand its influence in Christian camping, youth ministries and, most importantly, in the lives of young people. This led to the discussion around the question “how does a person or an organization become influential?”

    Enoch provided the following insightful answers.

    First, we need authority. Not authority which comes from power or position but the kind of authority that is the result of wisdom, knowledge, and depth and breadth of experience in a particular field or subject. The more authority we have in this sense, the more potential influence we can have.

    Second, we need to have relationships with others. True influence comes through and in the context of relationships. We gain relationships through networking, and we build relationships through quality time. Quality time means asking lots of questions and doing even more listening. The greater the number and the depth of relationships we have, the more potential influence we can gain.

    On my way back from my time with Enoch and Joan, I thought to myself, as I’m sure you’ve just thought,  “Wow what a lunch. I may have just been blessed with a glimpse into SpringHill’s future.”






  • Organizational Leadership,  SpringHill Experiences,  Summer Camp

    What I Believe to Be True!

    In The Leadership Challenge the authors Kouzes and Posner recommend an exercise that helps clarify one’s vision. They recommend writing on paper “what I (we) want to accomplish” followed by asking the question why, writing down your answer, and then keeping asking why until you’ve run out of reasons. The result is an insight into your core motivations and the beliefs behind what you want to accomplish.

    When I did this exercise, answering the “why” behind what we do and what we want to be at SpringHill I ended with a core set of believes that I then articulated in a form of a confession.

    Though this isn’t an official SpringHill statement it does, I believe, hit at the heart of many of the reasons behind why SpringHill staff are so passionate about what we do and why we do it.

    What I Believe to Be True!

    1. I believe the most transformational moments in a person’s life begins with a saving faith in Jesus Christ and a vibrant, growing relationship with Him.


    2. I believe that the most likely time for a person to have these transformational moments is when they are a child.


    3. I believe these transformational moments in a child’s life best happen through the partnership of parents, local churches and ministries such as SpringHill.


    4. I agree with Bill Hybles, that the local church is the hope of the world.


    5. But I also believe that the future hope of the local church rest with children. Therefore, if we want to strengthen the local church and thus change the world, the most important thing we can all do is to focus our time, energy and resources on the spiritual development of children.


    6. I believe that, through the partnership of people and organizations that share these same convictions, we can create more opportunities for more young people to have these transformational experiences, thus preparing them to join us in creating a better world.


    7. Finally, I believe God has called SpringHill to create significant transformational experiences for young people where they can know and grow in their relationship with Jesus. I know this to be true because I’ve been privileged to be a part of and witness to 1000’s of young lives being transformed every year.
  • Book Reviews,  Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    “Strategic Planning is Not Strategic Thinking”

    As part of my work in re-articulating the SpringHill vision I’ve turned, once again, to one of the best books on leadership ever written The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. In the section titled Inspiring a Shared Vision Kouzes and Posner write…

    “Strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking because it causes managers to believe that the manipulation of numbers creates imaginative insight into the future and vision. This confusion lies at the heart of the issue: the most successful strategies are visions; they are not plans. McGill University professor Harry Mintzberg explains that planning represents a “calculating” style, while leaders employ a “committing” style – one that ‘engages people in a journey. They lead in such a way that everyone on the journey helps shape its course. As a result, enthusiasm inevitably builds along the way. Those with a calculating style fix on a destination and calculate what the group must do to get there, with no concern for the members preferences. But calculated strategies have no value in and of themselves…Strategies take on value only as committed people infuse them with energy.’

    Leadership that focuses on a committing style is what leadership scholars have called transformational leadership. Transformational leadership occurs when, in their interactions, people ‘raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality. Their purposes, which might have started out as separate but related, as in the case of transactional leadership, become fused…. But transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both the leader and the led, and thus it has a transforming effect on both.'”

    I’ve taken these words to heart and am using them as guides as I lead SpringHill in the re-articulating of its vision.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Peter Drucker on the 6 Key Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer

    Jason Hoffer our New Frontiers/TST Director passed this Peter Drucker quote to me from some reading he’s been doing – Management, Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. It perfectly applies to the discussion in my previous posts about the 6 Key Questions every organization needs to answer, and specifically the answers to the last four Key Questions – “why do we exist?”, “what makes us distinct?”, “what do we want to achieve in the long-term?” and “what do we want to become?” Drucker says…

    “It is not easy for the management of a successful company to ask, what is our business? Everybody in the company then thinks that the answer is obvious as not to deserve discussion. It is never popular to argue with success, never popular to rock the boat. Sooner or later even the most successful answer to the question, ‘what is our business?’ becomes obsolete. Very few definitions of the purpose and mission of a business have anything like a life expectancy of thirty, let alone fifty years. To be good for ten years is probably all one can normally expect. In asking, what is our business? Management therefore also needs to add, and what will it be”

    Notice Drucker’s language of both “doing” (i.e. Mission, BHAGG & Brand) as well as “being” (Vision). Drucker understood that the answer to the last four questions will change over time if an organization and its leaders stays attuned to the world around them.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with Jason’s comment about the contemporary perspective of Drucker’s thoughts – “that was written in 1974 – I can imagine if he were to write that now those years would be dramatically fewer”

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