Where Did Everyone Go?

COVID Leadership Lesson #2

During the global pandemic, Dr. Carson Pue has been mentoring Christian leaders around the globe. In doing so, he has made some observations.

These are their stories.

Photo Credit: The Irish Times

Ministry organizations I am mentoring and coaching are now working with fewer people on staff. Staff members are absent due to sickness – either themselves or loved ones for whom they are caring. Others have left because they are caring for children home from school or due to furloughs or layoffs caused by the impact of closures and reduced revenue.

My friend Bob Kuhn, in conversation the other day, said the challenge ahead is discerning how to maintain the mission while modifying the methods. Not only a catchy phrase, but Bob also speaks wisely about the role of leaders in organizations and businesses today. In the book Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner considers “fewer things done better” as the most powerful tool for effective leadership. Essentialism, written in 2014, is perhaps the exact theme needed in 2020.

– Robert G Kuhn
Photo by Mark Arron Smith from Pexels

When asked by leaders how they are supposed to cope with all the reductions they are experiencing, I propose some questions to help think through what is essential, and how to maintain the mission with fewer paid staff and reduced financial resources.

Questions Leaders Can Ask

  1. What are the essential services we offer? Can we limit any other services or activities and put more resources into our essentials?
  2. With fewer staff, you cannot expect to do all you have done before COVID-19. Can we reduce the number of service hours we are open?
  3. Do you have any area of your organization where only one person knows how to do a critical part of your work or ministry? If a crucial member of the team became ill or indisposed, is anyone cross-trained to keep the organization going?
  4. Do you have any former staff or volunteers whom you might call on to ask for help during the pandemic?
  5. Is there some new service, resource or product that you might be able to retool with fewer workers and generate new revenue?
  6. What about you? If you were to become ill, have you identified who could make critical decisions in your absence?

I have been very encouraged by leaders who are not trying to be heroes, and who are inviting team members into leadership roles during this time.  I think in years to come we will look back and realize how this Covid-19 season re-calibrated teams and revealed previously unrecognized strengths within them. 

Keep your heart up,


Time For A New Journal

New JournalNew Journal

New Years Day is when I open up a new journal for the coming year. As I do so I recognize that last’s years journal is not nearly full – quite blank actually with sporadic writings. Some years I overflow into two journals but not 2014. It is not that there wasn’t much happening – just the opposite. There was so much taking place that I barely had time to write. When I could find a moment here and there, I was lost for words.

One year ago today we received a phone call from our family doctor telling Brenda he had seen something in an x-ray that he wanted to have a closer look at. This led to her cancer diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer spreading to the brain and bone. At that moment, time stood still. From that moment on, time has been different for me.

We were told that Brenda might not see her birthday in August and that she would definitely not see another Christmas. However, doctors can’t know God’s time plan for Brenda. We are grateful to have celebrated the Christmas that was not to be. We are living with cancer as a reality in our lives now.

A lot can happen

How Time Feels

The first year of living with cancer seems to last forever. I have lost count of how many medical appointments there have been. We seem to measure time by when the next appointment is. Then when waiting for blood work test results or the latest MRI or CT scan time seems to take forever. Each day feels like a week. Weeks feel like months, and months feel like years.

Lengthening Days

Time has become very precious to me this year. Every second does count and we rejoice at every day we have together. Here in the northern hemisphere, and at our latitude, we are in a season when daylight increases by one minute per day. Brenda and I were out walking together and she asked, “So what are you going to do with your minute today?” At first I did not understand what she was talking about. She then explained about the lengthening of the daylight hours. This led to a very enjoyable, fun, and reflective conversation about how we might each use our extra minute that day. Suddenly I found myself dreaming about how I could use that minute – and then the new minute tomorrow and the next day.

For most of us, time is something that we never seem to have enough of. We have so to do that we scarf down our meals to get meetings just in time to get a seat. Then it is off to the next thing, and the next thing – then we swiftly make our way home for dinner and just when you think that the day is finally over – there is another meeting at the church or a workout that is calling your name. When we finally get to sleep it can be near or after midnight and we need to get up at 6am the next day. With all the expectations on us plus adding family, friends, relationships, volunteer work etc. – who has time for anything else?

How often have you heard in the marketplace, “Time is money”? Well time is not money. Time is life and you and I get to choose how we spend it.

How We Spend Time

The way that we manage time can be one of the most challenging parts of our working life. But remember that Jesus had more day-to-day demands than can be imagined and yet he moved throughout his days with a peace that came from knowing that there was always enough time to accomplish His Father’s will for that day. All the time that God allows to us, is just enough for the work that He calls us to. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Each year Brenda and I take a day to do planning for how we are going to use our time and resources in the 12 months to follow. It is our family annual general meeting and we do this right around the change of the calendar year. We are about to have that meeting and dream about our intentional use of our time in 2015. I said “dream” because we have certainly been reminded this year that time is in the Lord’s hands. However, this year it is perhaps more important for us to meet and discuss our use of time. We now have to factor in our energy level and capacity for activity. We have to be selective about our relationships – spending time with those who are inspiring and hope carriers and not draining. We are discerning about how we spend our minutes.

So I am thinking a lot about time. In fact I am spending more time than ever before planning how to spend my time.

Time With God

Time is precious. It is our most precious commodity. That is why I wanted to write something about it and emphasize that the most important activity of our day is actually our time with God. I have never been perfect at having intentional time with God but I have a long enough history and experience to know that it is extremely important.

Scripture reminds us, “Make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-to-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” ROMANS 13:11-12 MSG

If you spend days, weeks, months acting oblivious to God it is going to make a difference. What if you didn’t spend consistent time with your spouse, your family or friends? It would result in losing touch with one another – a lack of closeness making you feel “out of touch.” The same thing happens in your relationship with God if you do not spend consistent time with him.

So with all that you have to do during the day, make sure that your time with God does not go by the wayside. Make it a priority for the day. You can move around other appointments, but not your time with God. Figure out what works best for you. When is the best time? Just find a few minutes of private Bible reading, prayer, and close by thanking God for all He does for you and who He is. By doing so you will learn to love Him.

So that is how I am going to use my extra minute. Quiet time with God in my library and favorite chair.

Every day God thinks of you. – Psalm 68:19

Every hour God looks after you.- 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Every minute God cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Because every second, He loves you. – Jeremiah 31:3

Lion Like Leadership

A highlight memory in my life was recently watching a pride of lions hunt in Kenya on the Serengeti plains. Here are some leadership points I took away from the experience.

Leaders are hard to find

The pride was carefully concealed in the grass. Although these lions are large creatures, they usually kept their heads beneath the level of the tall grass. You had to look very carefully and get up closer to really notice what was taking place.

Lion Insight: This is true of leaders. You need to get close enough to them to really see their leadership at work.

Identify the target

One of the pride raised her head high above the grass and spotted a single Hartebeest on the horizon more than a kilometer away. Once identified, she never took her eyes off the prey and somehow signaled to the entire pride to do the same.

Lion Insight: Leaders are the ones who can look out to the horizon and determine where the entire group should be headed. They also have a way of communicating this so all eyes are on the goal.

Spread out and gain perspective

With a military like precision, the pride began to spread out across the plain, each one staring intently at the goal. By doing so they were increasing their ability to judge the direction and potential action of the prey. It also positioned them in such a way that no matter what took place, some member of the pride may be in a place to have success. This was a team effort.

Lion Insight: Leaders are always helped by getting more perspective on a situation. Allowing your team to be among your feedback group gives an even greater potential of achieving your goals.

Be patient

The pride began to move toward their goal slowly, quietly with stealth. They were not in a rush, as they knew that would be futile when they have to cover so much territory to get close to achieving their goal.

Lion Insight: Leaders need to have the discipline to patiently work towards their goals. One step at a time will get you there. If you rush, you may loose entirely.

Ignore the distractions

We were in a four-wheel drive right amidst the pride, in fact they walked around us while hunting without even giving an acknowledgement of our presence.

Lion Insight: There are so many things that can capture a leaders attention, but if we are going to reach the goal we must learn to ignore distractions and keep moving forward.

Outside influences can affect the plan

As the pride were moving towards the Hartebeest another Land Cruiser came across the plain towards the lions so that their customers could catch a glimpse of one of the Big Five. In doing so, he attracted the attention of the Hartebeest who then quickly took off in the opposite direction foiling the hunt.

Lion Insight: There will always be the outside influences that can impact your plans. Leaders need to realize this and get over it quickly.

Be quick to regroup

As soon as the pride realized their dinner was now far from a reality they quickly moved back together and began the task of identifying a new target

Lion Insight: Leaders should be quick to call the team together again when there is a need to regroup and set a new goal.

We have an example

There is another lion from whom we can glean leadership principles. Revelation 5:5 refers the Lion of Judah, one of the names ascribed to Jesus.

Lion Insight: Following the Lion of Judah can be a guide for life providing leadership insight and life in all its fullness.

PS – I might add one more to this list and that is that it was the women doing all the work!

Day 2 Lima Peru: We Don’t Honk Enough

After over eleven hours in the air we were delighted to finally get to our hotel in Lima with the prospect of getting a real sleep. That was at 2:30am, so imagine my pleasure of being wakened by the sounds of hundreds of cars honking to one another.

They did awaken me, but amidst the roosters crowing and general traffic sounds, both Bob and I noticed how their honking is different from ours. We usually honk when we are angry. Here in Peru they honk just to say, “Heh, I’m here,” or “Hello”.

Peru is a country that is one tenth the size of Canada geographically however with almost the same population base. It is bordered by Ecuador and Columbia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south.

Although Peru has rich natural resources and a booming economy almost 40% of the population live below the poverty line. Now, I have seen visible poverty before and what I always find difficult is in countries where there is such visible disparity between the rich and the poor. I am sure it is a complex economy here and I look forward to finding out more. Our hotel is surrounded by this very disparity – not that we are in a fancy hotel (more on that later) but the living conditions not far from here.

Yet the Latino people are friendly and helpful. Our background in French and Latin still comes in helpful in trying to communicate.

Tonight we are visiting and interviewing the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Betania a downtown church in the Lince district of Lima. Bethany Baptist Church as we would call it is connected to Christ for the City International.

The pastor called our hotel and Bob took the call. Bob commented, “He was very enthusiastic!” Much like their honking I assume.

A Mars Venus Moment

I am exhausted. Not physically tired, but because my nice quiet Saturday morning has been disrupted by a very tedious conversation beside me.

Brenda is away on a course so I decide to have a quiet morning starting with breakfast out at our neighborhood spot. It started well until a voice stood out in the crowd. You know the type of voice that is not speaking loudly but just stands out because it is unique in tone and frequency? It was that kind of voice.

It was a young school teacher who was out with a woman that he seemed to be trying to impress, however this is where it went sideways.

They were one table away from my nice ‘quiet’ corner location. I wasn’t meaning to listen. I had reading with me I wanted to do but I just couldn’t stop myself. It was like there was no one else in the cafe.

For forty-five minutes the teacher talked, almost without a breath, detailing every action of his last week at work. Where he was, what he did, who he talked to, what he said, what they said – even I was bored! His gal just sat there, back straight with her hands in her lap expressionless. The shape of her mouth gives the impression of a slight smile constantly. I think he misreads this as her being interested.

I felt like just bursting in, sliding into the chair beside him for an impromptu mentoring moment. Here is what I would like to share with him:

1. Don’t try to dominate by talking all the time. It is probably your own insecurity that makes you do this. Do you feel you have to monopolize conversations droning on and on about topics that bore women to tears?

2. Do you really think she is interested? Just because a woman listens to you and acts interested in what you’re saying doesn’t necessarily mean she is. If you would pause long enough to notice the social cues, like her looking at her watch every five minutes, and her glancing up desperately to see if she knows anyone – anyone at all – entering the cafe – you might have given her an opportunity to say something and you could actually learn about her.

3. Stop worrying about what you’re going to say next. Instead, focus all your attention and energy on listening to what she wants to say to you. This does take a little effort but it’s not very hard to do. It is not something that you (as a man) do “naturally”. You simply have to concentrate and you can learn to do this.

Okay, I can’t take this any longer, I have to leave. She has now been listening to you for an hour (yes, I am typing this right beside them). Oh no! It just got worse, now he is talking to her about his involvement at his church. Lord help us!

My restaurant experience today is repeated day after day in ministry and organizational offices I visit. With women in leadership roles I observe similar behavior in the board room. Men dominating conversation and discussion. Women waiting for an appropriate opportunity to say something and to actually add to the deliberations. Women leaders report to me that they do not feel listened to, that when they speak in meetings their comments and suggestions are ignored or belittled—and that the same comments or suggestions from men have more.

We want women to talk like us – “Martian”. Recently my assistant, Wendy, said to me, “you want me to speak like a man” referring to my asking her to send me “bullet point” updates. It made me smile but she was right. John Gray in “Men are from Mars Women are from Venus” closes his book “remember men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Even if you don’t remember anything else from this book, remembering that we are supposed to be different will help you to be more loving.”

In another book, the Bible, it reads “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).

In these very early verses in Genesis it is interesting to note that God called both male and female, “Adam” (meaning “man”) the day they were created. Adam and Eve were created with differences, but together they made a full “man,” – a complete picture of God Himself. The differences between men and women were not to be a source of discord or inequality, but a beautiful compliment to each other. So let’s at least learn how to have a conversation.

Brenda is home now. I can hardly wait to go listen about her day.

Doppelgängers and Recognition


The TV sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” has popularized the use of the word “Doppelgänger” as a term to describe finding a ‘double,’ an erie but awesome look alike. It is a word that causes you to use both lips and tongue to say it aloud and makes you want to smile just saying it. The TV sitcom uses it to describe finding a look alike of their friends such as Vancouver actress Cobie Smulders who plays television reporter Robin Scherbatsky, also a Canadian. Take for example Cobie Smulder (Robin), Kirstie – my son’s girlfriend, and Meghan Fox. Given the right hairstyle and pose – very similar.


In my travels I frequently come across strangers who look like someone I know. Over the years have used these occurences as a prompt to pray for my friends. Now I have  name for it. I have recently expanded my travel game to include taking a photo of the doppelgänger and then sending it to my friend with the location of where I am at the time and a note to say that I paused to pray for them.

Doppleganger David

Recently I noticed a fellow in the balcony of a church in New York that looked like my friend David – and I paused to pray for him.

In an airport I saw a fellow that reminded me of my friend Eli Hernadez so I also offered up a prayer for him. (Interestingly I received a Blackberry message from him just minutes later.)

This little reminder to pray has increased my intercession for others – and it is fun. Try it.



I knocked on the door then opened it announcing my arrival with “Hello” with the ‘..lo’ drawn out and sounding musical.

“Gampa.Gampa” came squeals of delight accompanied by the sound of feet running towards me. My two ‘walking’ grandsons, Landon (3) and Liam (1) rushed towards me. Landon imitating the moves of a hockey player with his socks sliding on the wood floor and Liam walking carefully – trying not to smile so broadly that his soother would fall out – with his arms upheld . This is the universal sign language for ‘pick me up and hug me Grandpa’.

Simply the sound of my voice was enough recognition for us to embrace in this little love-fest at the door.

Don’t we love being recognized by those who love us?


Recognized By Your Love

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” —John 13:35

This was the test Jesus said would distinguish his followers. We would be recognized by our love for one another. The Bible gets more specific on the ‘love’ we are to show.  To present or show this ‘love’ succinctly we are instructed  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Howard Lawrence and I had a chance to hang out together in Phoenix and I enjoyed discussing neighborhoods. He is an Arrow leader who directs the Neighbourhood Life emphasis of Forge particularly attending to what God is up to in our neighborhoods.

Who is your neighbor?

The word comes to us from an old english term, nēahgebūr – from nēah [nigh, near] + gebūr [inhabitant]. There is no way of dodging the fact that if you are a follower of Jesus you should be known by your love, and we must be engaged in loving those who live near you.

In our developing of leaders in the Arrow Leadership Program we remind them of this need for recognition by love, and add that our ‘first neighbor’ is actually your family – spouse and children, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews – and of course grandchildren.

Howard and I reflected on how the actions and expectations of ‘the church’ frequently mitigate against our doing just that.  It has left me reflecting on how Arrow might encourage Christian leaders to engage their personal communities and empower those they influence to do the same. A key to this being successful is that those who engage their neighbors are spiritually formed by Christ – mature and transparent enough to handle the love.

What do you think? I’d like reading your thoughts.

Would your neighbors say that you are a doppelgänger for Jesus?

Selah (a contemplative pause)

Time Flies

When was the last time you used the expression “time flies”? It flows from my mouth when I am feeling rushed or just can’t get things done in a timely manner.

Logically, we know time is consistent; it is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries for all of us … so what’s going on?

Over the past weeks I have reflected on the pace of my life and everything points to – it being out of control.  My commitment and previous practice to create space to take care of my mind, body, and soul has been disrupted – and there has been a price to pay.

Leaders have different capacity – and it is important to not expect all leaders have your capacity. I have high-capacity – just ask anyone on our team – but I too have limits. Lost productivity, susceptibility to fatigue, discouragement and a soul snapping possibility threaten us if we as leaders get to this place.

Reality settles in as we realize that it is the pace ‘we choose’ to live that is the problem.

That’s right, it’s the pace we choose to live.


As I reviewed my schedule of the past year I can see that I made choices that have displaced my time for reflection, writing and many things that bring me delight. Yes, it has been a busy season. Yes, I lost three months due to a car accident. Could I have done some things differently? Certainly, and that is my responsibility, no matter how crazy the season.

In discussing my reflections with the Arrow board they encouraged me to simply pause, and ‘unplug’ from Arrow for a month. “Get restored and spend time with God” they loving said to me – and  backed it up by offering to put on their volunteer hats and serve in a variety of ways throughout the month to assist Arrow in continuing our ministry of developing leaders.

Selah – You have heard and seen the word peppered throughout some of the Psalms. It is often translated ‘pause’ which is fitting. It comes from the Hebrew word which literally means “to hang” and thus “to measure” as in hanging scales. So for the month of April I am taking a selah.

There is no question I have been over-functioning – red lining it as on an RPM gauge. So I will be unplugging from email, ditching the Blackberry and structuring my days around physical rest, relational renewal and spiritual restoration.

While the Arrow board have encouraged and freed me from the work at the office I was also encouraged and ‘freed’ while in New York with my friend Geri Scazerro. Geri shared how she came to a place of ‘quitting’ and has since reordered her life. She has written a book telling the whole story that I recommend.

In her book Geri shares that she came to the conviction she needed to:

  1. Quit being afraid of what others think
  2. Quit lying – to yourself and others
  3. Quit dying to the wrong parts of yourself
  4. Quit denying anger, sadness and fear
  5. Quit blaming
  6. Quit over-functioning
  7. Quit faulty thinking
  8. Quit trying to live someone else’s life

These insights from Geri are helpful for every leader – every person. They are worthy just pausing over.

Pause Button

Leaders recognize the responsibility to lead their own lives before trying to lead others. This is why I feel it important to simply pause for this time, devote the days to God and time with him above all else.

Few are able to have a month for ‘pausing’ – I understand this – but actually this may never be necessary for you. We have been created to punctuate life with rest and things that restore us. Observance of a weekly sabbath rest and well planned holidays are two practices that help leaders sustain themselves both physically and spiritually. I’m going to take the time during my selah to lay out my days, weeks and months ahead and ensure my calendar reflects this kind of healthy rhythm going forward.

Well that is my story, but let’s talk about you for a moment. How are you doing?

Let me ask you:

  • When was the last time you heard someone brag on how rested they feel?
  • When was the last time you celebrated a “normal” workweek?
  • What’s it costing you, to let life’s pace drive you?
  • Are you doing for others what they can and should do for themselves?

Selah, Carson