Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Choose your attitude

This is a vlog based on a true story. We did have a great time, just not what we expected! I'm sure everyone can relate!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Life at Grace Adventures can be summed up in one word: BUSY!

Let me give you a glimpse at what this weeks looks like at 2100 N. Ridge Road.

  • Saturday: Host 2 church groups here for a weekend retreat, one paintball group that played for 6 hours, a 4-H group that spent the weekend at the ranch working with the horses and cattle and host a board meeting.
  • Sunday: Wave goodbye, close up and clean!
  • Tuesday - Thursday : Welcome 100 6th graders, here for a 3 day overnight experience. They will be going boating, teambuilding to work on communication and problem solving, pellet guns and archery, orienteering, going to the Lighthouse, high ropes and much more!
  • Friday: Welcome a math tournament for 245 participants and 2 other groups.
  • Saturday: All day summer workday where we will be putting in the blob and waterfront, painting the Treasure Room and setting up Leadership Island.

Like I said, BUSY! That doesn't even capture the meetings, paperwork, and summer preparation we're in the middle of.

Sometimes, I have the tendency to get caught up in being "busy." I rush from place to place, accomplishing task after task but never stop to look around. Usually, I feel like this guy.

Yes, we're busy. But let me tell you what's GOOD about being BUSY.

  • In the past 6 days, we've had the privilege of impacting 524 people with Jesus Christ on our grounds alone.
  • Summer staff and other volunteers are arriving to help support us in this busy time and their excitement, joy and enthusiasm for the upcoming summer is contagious!
  • God's answers to prayer are evident as we continue to search for summer staff, volunteers, resources and facilities. He always provides in a perfect way.
  • Our team is able to laugh, work, play and celebrate together.
  • We've been able to add another full-time staff member, Jenny Schlukebir to work in development.

When I get caught up in feeling overwhelmed like I'll never accomplish all the tasks on my list or when I start to grumble and feel like I'm just toiling away, I remember these verses:

Ecclesiastes 3:9-14

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

What about you? Do you get lost in the busy-ness? Find satisfaction in working and working hard. After all, it's for the Lord we work.

Monday, March 14, 2011

When should a leader blow a gasket?

When is it okay to yell and scream as a leader?

We've all been there as a leader. You set expectations with those you're leading and they don't follow through. How do you respond? Is it okay to bring emotional intensity to the situation? When isn't it okay?

Emotional intensity can be a very effective tool in motivating, but when is it wise. The danger done from a half-cocked tirade in the heat of the moment can destroy credibility.

Emotional intensity is not always yelling and screaming. It can be manipulation, guilt trips, a know it all attitude, or anything else that creates unnecessary tension, drama, or emotion.

Here are a few rules for how not to use emotional intensity;

1. Don't use emotional intensity when the receiver has no opportunity to respond with their behavior. If they screwed up and made a mistake, but what is done is done, and they can't do anything about it, yelling and screaming moves from motivating to humiliating. Odds are they know they screwed up, embarrassing them won't fix the problem. It just makes you feel better for the moment. In reality you're just embarrassing yourself however.

2. Don't use emotional intensity to demoralize or insult someone. There is never room or cause to insult, make fun of, or attack somebody personally. As a leader you may need to criticize behavior or decisions, but never the person. You will lose your team immediately if you start insulting them.

3. Don't use emotional intensity often. You will become "that boss" that is always bringing too much drama to the office. Like the boy who cried wolf, you will be written off and blown off when you are trying to motivate your subordinates.

Here's when and how emotional intensity can be valuable;

1. Use emotional intensity to motivate when the person has a chance to respond. Now it is more of a pep talk than a scolding. You can be to the point, and point out unsatisfactory behavior or results, but then you need to send them out on a mission.

2. Let your anger and emotion shine through when someone needs to understand how important an issue is to you. If they are blowing off the assignment or initiative, it may be valuable to help them understand how important it is.

3. If you do choose to let some emotional intensity into the situation, the best thing you can do is walk right out of the office, and get your hands dirty with the person. This will demonstrate that you're not better or view yourself as superior. It will also diffuse any resentment or anger from the subordinate. Gordan Ramsey is the master of this. In almost every episode he will dress down the kitchen staff about how disgusting the kitchen is. Then he will grab a mop and get his hands dirty along side them.

So beware of letting your emotions get the best of you. If in doubt the best choice is to approach an interaction with the intention of eliminating personal intensity. Ultimately emotional intensity is an external motivator and left alone will not sustain change in a person. There must be an internal motivator as well or else change will short circuit.

What do you think? Ever been the victim of emotional intensity from a boss? What would you do different?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

When is a leak a good thing?

Just got home from the Michigan Sectional Conference for Christian Camp and Conference Association. What an amazing time every year to gather with other Christian Camp professionals from around the state.

This year was very special as a senior saint spoke many times. The character of a leader came up and he made the statement that our true character is what we display in times of pressure or turmoil. His picture was like this. Imagine a cup. It is filled with water. When the cup is bumped what will come out? Water. What you are filled with is what will come out of you.

A mentally handicapped camper years ago once told me, "Ryan, I know that I am not normal. I have tons of holes in me. I pray every morning that God would fill me up with Jesus. That way all day long I am leaking Jesus out of my holes."

What are you filling yourself with? Fill yourself up with the things that you want to display when you are tested and that is what will come out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I got no rythm, but I can dance: Part 2

  • In my last post, I explained how Tom and I ended up at our daughter's middle school dance. The first surprise was the complete lack of any other parent's presence. Not even one parent came through the doors to drop off their student. Granted we did bring three girls, which means they were late in trying to get ready. So I only witnessed the arrival of about half the students. A credit to the school because they had the dance well chaperoned by teachers.

  • Flashbacks to my middle school days popped up as I hung out in the back of the room watching. As expected, circles of girls bounced up and down to the music and circles of boys stood around talking. I got the inside information on a number of the boys from one of the teachers. Friends of my daughter said hi and boys nervously walked by the two stern looking fathers.

  • Finally, the moment for the King and Queen arrived. Without too much ceremony the crowns were placed on heads and the King and Queen danced. It was hilarious to watch two very straight and stiff middle schoolers dance, which really meant stand in place and sway ever so slightly. I noticed with relief my daughter dancing with one of her girlfriends. But then another friend started repositioning the King and Queen into a more intimate pose.

  • It was time to act. I leaned over to Tom and said, "Time to cut in." Of course our daughters were horrified. We insisted and they let us cut in for about 10 seconds. The King and Queen dance was over. Mission accomplished!

  • Numerous studies have shown the importance of a parent in a teen's life. Our children want to hear from us and surprisingly want to do what we say. Tom and I did not go to the dance as friends of our daughters. We went as Parents. Two fathers desiring to love and protect our daughters. Leadership in the home is vitally important and leadership is not a popularity contest. Consider how you have been influenced by the 'parents should be friends concept'? What actions can you take this week to be a leader in your home?

  • By the way, this week my daughter reported that I was really popular with her friends because I had been at the dance. Doing the right thing, almost always attracts people.

I got no rythm, but I can dance: Part 1

In case you missed it, Valentine's Day is in February. At our local middle school, the Valentine Day Dance was last Friday. I am the father of a middle school daughter. Many see the dilemma immediately; for those without daughters, think middle school boys. Picture getting clearer? I have always desired my three daughters to be beautiful; when they were 25. Unfortunately, they are early bloomers. The school dance debate began earlier this year with my 8th grade daughter. She hoping to have fun with her friends: Me picturing bump and grind with boys. As Lou Holtz once said, "Somewhere in between lies reality."

The dance debate turned into an opportunity to negotiate an acceptable compromise. My daughter researched what happened and how it was chaperoned. I trusted her judgement in a relatively safe environment. But then the Valentine Day Dance loomed on the horizon. I am no prude, but do not see the need to promote dating in 8th grade. Wanting to protect my daughter from forming unhealthy patterns in her relationships with boys, I said no to the dance. Desiring to help my daughter navigate the tricky waters of middle school relationships, I found an ally. Her best friends father and I decided to take our daughters out on a date the night of the dance.

Here it comes... the monkey wrench. My daughter's best friend was elected the Queen of the dance. The dads debated and decided it would work to let the girls go to the dance until the ceremony was over and then go out for dessert. Of course, we would be at the dance the whole time. You will have to read the next post to find out what happened at the dance. As a leader you must know what remains the core principles. Everything else can be negotiated. If you live by a set of rules, eventually you will break. If you live by principles, you will be able to handle the challenging times. What are your core principles?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nobody likes me :(

How do you judge your success as a leader? Micheal Scott from the office would say whether everybody likes me or not. He has a famous episode where he agonizes over having to fire somebody, and in the end his last sentence to the fired employee is, "I just hope we can remain really good friends after all this."

The cold hard truth is not everybody will like you or your decisions as a leader. You must have a different filter for making your choices. Trying to get people to like you, will be counterproductive in actually getting people to like you. You will behave differently than who you really are. Then the people around you will like somebody you're not, which is unsustainable, or they'll see the charade and you'll lose tons of respect.

You can't make decisions based on what people think of you, but you do have to be sensitive to the general emotions of your team. There is a balance between strong leadership, and ignorance to other peoples needs and emotions.

A strong leader has to know who they are before they make decisions. How do you make your decisions? How do you balance being a team player, yet making the right decisions?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why you want to be like Madonna and not Milli Vanilli

I watched most of the Grammy's last night and what struck me was a bunch of performers desperately trying to out shine each other. From arriving in an egg to parading in a giant, red, peacock, knight costume it was a clear these artists were screaming for the spotlight to be on them. The gimmicks and stunts will only last you so long. Lady GaGa is famous for stunts, and it is getting increasingly more difficult to surprise us now.

Many Grammy award winning performers are heralded as leaders both of music and men. Some last for decades while others are more a flash in the pan. How do leaders stay relevant and influential over time? Let's look at a few artists and learn from success and failures.

In order to last as a leader you cannot;

1. Cheat! - Just ask Milli Vanilli or Ashley Simpson. Both of these artists were caught lip syncing in "live" performances. While one scandal was much larger than the other, have you heard much about either lately? Integrity is an absolute must for a leader to stay the test of time.

2. Stop working / Creating - One cannot stay anchored in the "Glory Days". If you have had previous success, in order to maintain, you must work harder. The recent Super Bowl Champion coach when asked three days after the Superbowl when he would start preparing for next season replied, "I'm already in day two". One day off after winning the penultimate championship? While that seems extreme the point is he was not satisfied with success. Don't be a one hit wonder. 

3. Become self focused - Leading is ultimately about other people, not yourself. Too many people stop focusing on the people around them and start focusing on themselves. Micheal Jackson became so self obsessed it crippled him from performing and leading. Perhaps the greatest artist of our time, locked himself away for most of his adult career.

Things that you must do to last as a leader;

1. Stay relevant - The hardest things for coaches to do is stay relevant. As one coach said, I keep getting older, the kids keep getting younger. This is the same for music as well. As tastes and genres change like the wind how does one endure? Stay relevant. Madonna has re-invented herself as much as any other artist possibly. You can disagree with her content, message, and public personality, but she has remained relevant for a long  time. The Key is she is willing to get outside her comfort zone in order to grow. Sometimes our comfort zone can become a danger zone because we never grow.

2. Focus on content not choreography - There must be substance to your message. Do not let stunts and flash be all that defines you. Eminem has evolved as an artist over time. However watch his performance last night compared to others. There was no choreography, very little effects or props. He often performs in jeans and a t-shirt. The core of his performance was his words and his message. Eminem is known for painfully sharing his feelings through his music. While often offensive and harsh, it resonates with people because we all feel pain and hardships.  

3. Know what you don't do - Think about how many actors and musicians try to cross over the line to the other medium. It doesn't often work, actually it's usually disastrous. An effective and efficient leader knows when to say no. It's easy to be distracted by shiny new objects. What filter do you use to decide what not to do. They may be the most important decisions you make so this doesn't happen. 

So what did I miss?

Which new artists today will be gone in sixty seconds? Which will last? Why?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Stupid Cow: Famous Dairy Farmer

Here is a funny story from my Grandfather's dairy farm. At dinner with my grandfather, I had an important question. "Why did he name a cow stupid?" I knew all the cows had names. 'Stupid' was, well... a stupid name for a cow. Laughter erupted around the table at my question.
Confused, I explained myself. Earlier in the day, in the milking barn, I watched the cows exit. One of the cows tried to go out the wrong door, a door much to small for a cow. My grandfather yelled at the cow, "Wrong door stupid!" I assumed the cow's name was "Stupid." Embarrassed, I realized my perception provided a wrong interpretation.
How many famous dairy farmers can you list? It is not a job that leads to fame. The day starts around 4:30am and cows have to be milked every day of the year. Not much time to do other stuff. My grandfather was not famous, he was a godly man who:
  • Delighted in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1)
  • Worked hard
  • Loved his wife for 60 years
  • Loved his family
  • Prayed for lots of missionaries
  • Stayed faithful for over 90 years

Some impressive stuff, But recently I learned my grandfather

  • Travelled the world visiting and encouraging missionaries
  • Was president of the board for the Harrisburg Youth for Christ six times
  • Started a Good News bible club in a black neighborhood during the 1950's
  • Helped start a church
  • Was a great neighbor
  • Donated the meat from at least 100 cows to an organization ministering to international students at Syracuse University
  • Taught hundreds of people in Sunday School classes

My perception of a godly man who was a dairy farmer totally missed the point. January 17, 2011 John Hertzler, my grandfather, passed away at the age of 94. An ordinary man living a day at a time for God, producing an extraordinary life. He achieved very little fame in this life. But I know he is getting all kinds of attention in heaven from the people impacted by his life. Not bad for a dairy farmer.

Now Hiring!

What if for 3 months your typical work day looked a little like this? Prayer meeting with staff 3 buffet meals praise & worship Beach, boats, blob Dune Hikes S’mores around the fire Trail Rides Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Summer staff at Grace Adventures has all of those things. We can guarantee your summer will be fun but not necessarily easy. You will be stretched and challenged in your faith and as a person. At the end, you will know that you’ve been part of making a lasting impact and eternal difference. At Grace Adventures, we’re in the middle of staff hiring for summer 2011. We are looking for staff that are dedicated, caring, sensitive, and trustworthy and want to minister to God’s kids. We desire to equip today’s youth to become tomorrow’s leaders. That’s why we run 11 days of intensive staff training with continued training through the summer. Another key component is our core leadership staff that mentor, encourage and support summer staff. We believe in investing in our staff so they can invest in others.
We are hiring for a variety of positions: • Cabin counselor • Ranch counselor / Wrangler • Worship leader • Program specialist • Food service • Office registrar • Maintenance • Media specialist • Camp store • Health officer If you are interested or know someone who would be a great addition to the Grace Adventures team, send them to our website or have them contact Ben at 231-873-3662 or Come join the staff at Grace, where everyday is an adventure!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Think You Are Too Old To Be A Youth Leader?

Does age matter in leadership? Most younger people say no, even young people can lead. Can you be too old to lead though? What about leading youth today? Can you be too old then? How come you almost never see senior citizens leading a junior high youth group? I have. It was awesome. This last weekend at our Winter Blast at Grace Adventures, we had over 10 churches from all across the mid west attend an incredible retreat. The highlight for me was not the speaker or the band (who were great), but an elderly couple who looked very out of place at first. Ed is 77. Ed has Parkinson's disease. He and his wife were the youth group leaders for their church and were attending this retreat with a whole gang of teen and preteen students. As you watched closer though, Ed and his wife weren't out of place at all. These kids loved them. They had a open door into the kids hearts and minds as well. This older couple sang the LOUD songs, played games, and Ed even climbed our climbing wall!!!! What an inspiration. Here's where it gets cool though. Ed and his wife are not only leaders of youth. By setting the example of being willing to serve where ever God would have them, they have inspired and challenged a generation that is largely absent in youth ministry. Listen to Ed's heart as he wrote an e-mail to the Grace staff after the weekend.

Hi Abby Thank Everyone for a great weekend. Our kids really enjoyed it. Nan and I were a little embarrassed by the age thing. I know what pastor was trying to tell the younger leaders, you don't have to use age as an excuse to quit. We don't feel old. I've always told people that age is in the mind and heart until the LORD tells us differently. He may have been trying to tell me something on that wall Sat Night when my right leg wouldn't go the extra three inches. The Parkinson's is only on the right side. We hope to see you next winter good LORD willing and I plan to do some more snow shoeing and training and see if I can get to the top.

Also we don't have a problem with anyone using it (our story) if feasible to try to get more elderly people involved with young people. I know in our case we are often their sanctuary. Many weekend we have kids at the house, we play games, watch movies etc. Were on a small lake so in the summer they all come and swim, fish and of course eat. We can't do things like we use to, but, we can be their for them and we all have so many things to offer and so much to learn from the kids. Example, I've always disliked Rock Music I was talking to my oldest grandson (Jr at Grand Valley) about Christian Rock one day and my dislike of it, as most of the time, the music was so loud you couldn't hear the words to the song. He said Grandpa that's not music it just noise when it's like that, but I know you like music because you rock and bounce to it a lot. So move with the rhythm, but listen to the words as most of them have a good message. SO with that attitude I've come to really enjoy most of it and even clap and rock, but I haven't convinced most others my age to do the same. I guess they just like there rocking chair. Anyway again Thanks for a great weekend. GOD BLESS. Hope to See you Next Year. Ed And Nancy

God Bless you Ed and Nancy, and Rock On!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fuzzy Reality

Does an American Idol contestant really believe he can impress Jennifer Lopez by going shirtless. Even more perplexing, Randy what are you thinking?
It seems like a new reality TV show starts each day. There are literally hundreds of them now. Who watches Meerkat Manor, Parking Wars, and Airline Repo?
Reality used to mean what is real based on fact. Now it means whatever I show or tell you based on my perceptions. So we have one wannabe and two old guys lifting their shirts and Jennifer Lopez wondering what just happened. Everyone wants to define their own reality to the great confusion of everyone else. It would be entertaining if this was just left to TV and Youtube. But in everyday life people live in a made up world, ignoring reality.
A true leader does not convince you their reality is the best to gain the most followers, though it does appear to sell well on Youtube. No a true leader discerns reality and helps us navigate through it. Discernment is a lost art or gift. We can all practise a little more discernment. I would hope it takes little discerning to realize a 60 plus year old out of shape guy should never lift his shirt in public.
It may be harder to discern some one's motives and determine what is really happening in a given situation. Leaders can have discernment or rely on someone who does have it. Either way you will have a difficult time seeing through our fuzzy reality without a heavy dose of discernment.

Lessons are better caught than taught

We have a saying around Grace that lessons are caught not taught. What we mean is that how we conduct ourselves must reinforce what we say about ourselves. If we talk to a school group, college, or business about character qualities of a leader, and demonstrate a lack of those character qualities we have undermined ourselves. However, we can use this principle to our advantage as well. If you want to see a behavior in a group of people you're leading, you have to model it. A lazy person cannot inspire discipline and hard work. At my church one of our pastor's and his wife have decided to adopt a baby. The catch is this child is HIV positive. They explained the process of how God has led them to this decision. They asked a doctor to come speak to our church about the realities and myths of HIV. I have to tell you I am completely humbled and confronted by their obedience to God in this act of love to a young girl from another country who would be dead by 5 if not for their decision. It is easy for a pastor to preach about getting outside your comfort zone, loving the unlovable, and trusting in God. Actually demonstrating it in a radical way is one of the most powerful sermons I've encountered in a long time. So what does the team your leading lack? What do you feel like you've praying they would do more of? Have you been leading by example? What responsibilities do you not like to do? Is that trickling down your organization or team?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What is a first follower

No I'm not talking about your first follower on Facebook or Twitter. As a leader do you understand the importance and role of a first follower.
What is the difference between a leader and an eccentric?
If you are a leader the most important person to help get action in a group of people is the first follower. Consider the situation. You're at a play and at the end you feel like it was a great play. So you stand up and applaud. Are you a leader yet? No, you're just a single person standing and clapping. Anybody can go off half cocked and do something different than the norm.
Now the other people in the room aren't so sure it was a great play. They are a little nervous and anxious because it's getting awkward that only this one weirdo is clapping. Then all of a sudden another person stands up and claps... the first follower. Now the ice has been broken it is okay for others to clap and a wave of standing applause erupts. As humans we look to each other for validation and permission of our actions. If nobody else is doing something we're hesitant to do it. As a leader you may have a conviction, but if nobody else has that conviction how do you get people to follow you? Get a first follower. When people see somebody else doing it, they will follow.
After first followers come early adopters and then the multitudes.