How David Saw God (OBJ LESSON)

Holy OneTime

20 minutes

This object lesson teaches about all the different ways David saw God.  It uses all the Davidic psalms and captures the metaphors he used for God in them.  Participants will explore the different metaphors and make buttons representing their favorite image of God.



Children, Youth, Adults



o  You can find all the following documents on the Lesson and Material Downloads page at .

o   A copy of the document “How David Saw God – Instructions and Poster” (1 copy in color)

o   Several copies of the document “How David Saw God – Button Images” (enough copies for each participant to have a choice about which button they want to make – in color)

o  A copy of the document “David’s Metaphors for God” quick reference guide at the end of this lesson (1 copy for the facilitator)\

o  Posterboard – 1 sheet, white

o  Glue

o  Scissors

o  2.25” button maker and supplies (available from Badge-A-Minit – )  Purchase enough button supplies for the size of your group.

o  Bible



o  Psalms 3, 7, 9, 11, 13-14, 16, 18, 20-25, 27-31, 35, 36-38, 40, 51-52, 54, 57, 59, 61-64, 68, 70, 124, 140, 142-145



o  Print out one copy of the document, “How David Saw God – Instructions and Poster” (in color).

o   Cut around the borders of the frame and the letters.

o   Paste the images to a piece of posterboard or foam board.

o  Print out one copy of the document “David’s Metaphors for God” at the end of this lesson.

o  Print out several copies of the document “How David Saw God – Button Images” (several copies in color – you want enough copies for participants to have a choice about which button they will make)

o  Watch the training video “Make a Button with Badge a Minit Button Maker” at

o  Practice the script.


Use the following script and instructions (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart.”
  • “This means that David had a really close relationship with God.”
  • “Throughout his life, David wrote songs to worship God.”
  • “We have these saved in the Bible in the book of Psalms.”
  • “If we look at all the Psalms that David wrote (74 in all), we see the many ways David saw God.”
  • “David liked to use picture words to represent a part of God’s nature.”
  • “God is so much more than any one image, but when you put them all together, you get a really good picture of what God is like.”  (Point out how the images on the poster all combine to make the word “GOD.”)
  • “Take a look at this poster, and pick one of the images you would like to know more about.”  (Allow participants to select different images.  Use the “David’s Metaphors for God” document to give them more information about that image.  Feel free to summarize what is on the document.  You don’t have to share it all.  When everyone has asked about all the images they want more information about, let them choose one image to make into a button.  Follow the instructions on the YouTube video to make the buttons.)
  • Review the Rhyme Time below to reinforce the main message of the lesson.


Rhyme Time

David saw God in many ways

And used each one to give Him praise.


Source: Michael Kientz



David’s Metaphors for God

David used the following metaphors to describe God in his Psalms.  The number beside each metaphor designates Psalms in which they are present.


Metaphor Psalms Meaning
Cup 16 David had been chased away from Jerusalem, where he daily ate at the king’s table.  The king provided his meals and drink (his “cup”) for him.  When he wrote this psalm, David was hiding from Saul and didn’t know from where his next meal was coming.  However, he knew that God would supply everything he needed.  Cup also refers to God’s plan for someone’s life.   In it are both blessings and sorrows, and each person must decide if he will “drink it” (obey God) or not (just like when Jesus asked the Father to “take this cup from me” as in Luke 22:42).
Deliverer 18, 40, 70, 140, 144 David faced many dangerous situations as he ran from King Saul, but God delivered (saved) him from every one.  In the Psalms, David says God delivered him from the attacks of people, from those who wanted to take his life and from evil doers.
Fortress (a.k.a., Strong Fortress, Fortress of Salvation) 18, 28, 31, 59, 62, 144 A fortress is a military stronghold.  When King Saul chased David into the desert, David had to hide in caves.  He didn’t have a secure fortress, but he trusted in God and knew that God’s protection was better than any fortress on earth.
Glory 3 David was given glory every time he fought and won an impressive battle.  He received glory when he killed Goliath and when he defeated the Philistines time after time.  The woman sang songs about how Saul had killed his thousands but David had killed his tens of thousands.  But David knew that the true glory belonged to God.  David knew that he couldn’t have won those battles without God.
Help 30, 40, 54, 70 Whenever David found himself in a dangerous situation, God helped him.  When David fought Goliath, God helped him.  When Saul threatened David’s life, God helped him.  God was always there whenever David needed him.
Holy One 22 The word “holy” means spiritually perfect.  David knew that God is the only one who is holy and worthy of our praises.
Horn of My Salvation 18 In the Bible, God told the Israelites to blow a ram’s horn (a shofar) whenever they went into battle, and He would save them from their enemies (Num 10:9)  The Bible also tells us that a horn will blow when Jesus returns to earth to start His reign.
Judge (a.k.a., Righteous Judge) 9 David was being judged by a bad king (Saul), but he knew that God is a righteous Judge who would give him justice in the end.
King (a.k.a., King of Glory) 9, 11, 24, 29, 68, 145 David was a good and powerful king, but he still bowed his knee to a better King, King Jesus – the King of Glory.
Light 27 Light pushes back darkness.  It brings hope and makes things clear.  David knew that God was the true Light, the One who had led the Israelites out of Egypt in a pillar of fire.  The Bible also tells us that Jesus is the light of the world and that anyone who follows Him will never walk in darkness (John 8:12).
Living Water (implied but not explicit) 63, 143 David spent a lot of time in the desert running from King Saul, and he and his men were thirsty a lot. Even in a dry land, David thirsted for God more than water.  Jesus also tells us that He gives us living water (His Word and His Spirit) and that anyone who drinks it will never be thirsty again (John 4:10).
Maker of Heaven and Earth 124 David recognized that God is the Creator of the entire universe.
Portion 16, 142 A “portion” to Hebrew people is their inheritance.  In other words, it’s the amount a son receives from his father when the father dies.  King Saul chased David away from Jerusalem and the kingdom, because he didn’t want David to become king after him.  King Saul thought he could keep David from receiving the kingdom (his inheritance) after him, but David knew that his real inheritance (his portion) came from God.  David didn’t want earthly treasure.  He wanted a relationship with God.
Redeemer 20 A redeemer is someone who pays what someone owes.  In David’s time, people who couldn’t pay their debts might become slaves to someone else, but a redeemer could pay to get them out of slavery.  David knew that his sins put him into debt with Satan but that God would pay to buy him back.  Jesus is our Redeemer, because He paid for our sins on the cross.
Refuge 9, 14, 31, 59, 61, 62, 142 A refuge is a safe place to hide.  David spent a lot of time running for his life and living in hidden caves, but he saw God as the safest place to hide.
Rock 18, 20, 28, 31, 61, 62, 144 David hid in a lot of rock caves, and he knew they were a safe place that he could depend on.  He thought about God as his safe place to hide.  The Bible also tells us that Jesus is our Rock (1 Cor 10).
Salvation (a.k.a., Horn of My Salvation) 18, 27, 35, 62 David spent years running for his life, but he had faith that God would save him from every trouble.  He trusted in God to be his salvation.  Jesus is our salvation, and everyone who believes in Him will have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Savior 18, 24, 25, 38, 51, 68 God saved David time after time when King Saul tried to kill him.  Jesus is our Savior, and His name even means, “God saves.”  Everyone who believes in Jesus will have everlasting life with God in heaven (John 3:16).
Shepherd 23, 28 David was a shepherd for many years when he was a boy, and he knew how important it was for a shepherd to love his flock.  David saw God as a loving Shepherd, who took really good care of his sheep.  Jesus told us that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).
Shield 3, 7, 18, 28, 59, 140, 144 David was a warrior, and he knew the value of a good shield.  Shields protect you from an attack and provide a good defense.  David saw God as his best defense against his enemy.
Strength 18, 22, 28, 59 When David felt weak, he trusted in God to be his strength, and strength is really important to a warrior.
Stronghold 9, 18, 27, 37, 52, 144 A stronghold is a place an army has built up to make it strong against attack.  David felt that he was safe from any attack, because God would protect him.
Tower (a.k.a., Strong Tower) 61 Castles have towers, because towers make it possible to see your enemy from far away.  David called God his strong tower, because God protected him from all his enemies.
Warrior (implied but not explicit) 7, 13, 18, 21, 35, 38, 64, 144 David was a warrior, but he saw God as the most powerful warrior, able to come to his defense against any enemy.
Wings (a.k.a., Wings of Refuge) 36, 57, 61, 63 A mother bird covers her children with her wings to protect them.  When David compared God to wings, he was thinking of God’s protection every time David was in trouble.



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Filed under David, Object Lesson, Praise

Don’t Take Shortcuts (OBJ LESSON)


20 minutes

This object lesson teaches about what we miss out on when we take shortcuts in reaching God’s will for our life.  It uses a maze and the life of David.






o  PowerPoint file – “Don’t Take Shortcuts – Maze  (You can find this on the Lesson and Material Downloads page at  Make one copy for each participant.  The file also includes answer keys with three different paths.  You might want to print one copy of these for your reference.

o  Pens or pencils to work the maze.  (One per participant)

o  A package of gummy fruit for each participant.

o  Bible



o  1 Samuel 16:1, 11-13

o  1 Samuel 24:1-7

o  1 Samuel 26:1-25



o  Print copies of the maze for each participant.

o  Practice the script.


Use the following script and instructions (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “When we know what God’s will is for our life, we sometimes want to take shortcuts.”
  • “David knew God’s will for his life from an early age – maybe from about fifteen years old.”  (Have participant read 1 Samuel 16:1, 11-13.)
  • “If you knew that God wanted you to be king, you might want to make that happen as fast as possible.”
  • “However, David was different.”
  • “He didn’t want God’s will for him until God wanted him to have it.”
  • “Even though God had Samuel tell David he would be king of Israel some day, David let King Saul chase him around the desert for fifteen years.”
  • “David had two opportunities to kill King Saul.”  (Have volunteer read 1 Samuel 24:1-7 and then summarize the story from 1 Samuel 26:1-25.)
  • “David didn’t kill Saul either time, because he didn’t want God’s will for his life until it was God’s time.”
  • “That was smart, because it helped David grow more like God as he waited.”
  • “When he was finally made king fifteen years after he was anointed to be king, he was ready!”
  • “Let’s do a maze that will help you see what I’m talking about.”  (Pass out copies of the maze to each participant.  Hand out a package of gummy fruit to each participant, and tell them that they can eat a gummy candy anytime they cross a picture on the maze.  Give them 5 minutes to try and solve it.  Let them know that the rules are that they can’t cross lines or go over the same space twice.  There are three possible solutions (shown in the PowerPoint file).  When they finish, debrief with the following questions:
    • Why do you think it is better to take the harder path?
    • What do you miss if you take the short-cut?
    • Why does God want you to be patient and wait for His will for your life?
  • Review the Rhyme Time below to reinforce the main message of the lesson.)


Rhyme Time

It may be a test,

But we should wait for God’s best!



Filed under David, God's Will, King Saul, Obedience, Object Lesson

God’s Anointing (CLOSER)

David's AnointingTime

20 minutes

This closer can be used at the end of a teaching period on the life of David, or you can use it when you teach about David’s second anointing as king in 2 Samuel 2:4.



·      1 Samuel 16:1-13

·      2 Samuel 2:4

·      Galatians 5:22


·      One or more small containers of oil, i.e., olive or otherwise.

·      Printouts of the instructions at the end of this file for any teaching assistants you have.


Create the following three slides or write these words on a whiteboard or flipchart.


  1. Prepare the containers of oil.
  2. Meet with your teaching assistants, and review the instructions for anointing with them.



Use the following script, or modify to suit your context:

  • “David was anointed by the prophet Samuel when he was maybe fifteen years old (1 Samuel 16:13).”
  • “An official anointing is a ceremony where one of God’s leaders puts oil on someone’s head to let that person know he or she has been called by God to an important work for God.”
  • “David was anointed to be king at fifteen years old, but he didn’t actually become king for fifteen or more years!” (2 Samuel 2:4)
  • “Why?”
  • “Because even though God wanted David to be king, David wasn’t ready when he was fifteen.”
  • “God had to prepare him, and God did that by letting King Saul chase him around the desert for fifteen years.”
  • “During that time, God developed David’s character and skill so that when he became king, he would be able to handle it.”
  • “And God does the same for us, too.”
  • “God often anoints (or calls) us privately before we are publically anointed (or called) for what He wants us to do.”
  • “To let us know, God may send someone to us who encourages us, points out a special gifting or talent that we have or speaks a prophetic word over our lives.”
  • “This is exciting stuff, and we may get so excited that we run out and try to make God’s promise for our future happen RIGHT NOW!”
  • “That would be a mistake, though.”
  • “We have to wait for God’s timing; He knows when we are ready.”
  • “If we try to grab God’s promise before it’s time, we could damage it and maybe even ruin it forever.”
  • “David knew that he had to wait, and even though he had two opportunities to kill King Saul and take his place as king, he didn’t.”
  • “He was smart; he let God tell him when the time was right.”
  • “When God first gives us an anointing or a calling on our life, He is planting a seed in our hearts, but that seed isn’t ready to grow fruit yet.”
  • “The seed needs time to grow, and it grows as we grow.”
  • “God grows our character and our skills until we are ready to handle His anointing / calling on our lives.”
  • “God may have to take us through a hard time to grow us like when He let King Saul chase David in the desert.”
  • “Then, when we are ready, God gives us what He promised us so long ago.”
  • “Maybe you haven’t ever had an anointing or heard God’s calling for your life.”
  • “Just in case, we want to make sure you hear it today.”
  • “The teaching assistants (or other role available to you) and I are going to anoint anyone who wants to be anointed today.
  • (Ask teaching assistants to follow the instructions from the page below to complete the anointing of the children.)


Instructions for Anointing


  1. Ask the child’s permission first.  If the child doesn’t want to participate, help him or her feel okay about that.
  2. Dip a finger or thumb into the oil, and smear a small amount on the child’s forehead (possibly in the sign of the cross, but a simple smear is fine).
  3. Tell the child something you have noticed about him or her.  It could be about:
  4. A skill or talent
  5. A spiritual gifting
  6. A fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Galatians 5:22)
  7. A hope for his or her future
  8. Give the child a special Scripture to bless him or her.
  9. Pray a blessing over the child.


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Filed under Annointing, Anointing, Calling, Closer, David, Future

When Technology Changes (ANECDOTE)

Minie BallsIn 1847, French Army captains Claude-Etienne Minie and Henri-Gustave Delvigne developed a new technology called the Minie ball.  This new type of bullet was an innovation that improved the accuracy of rifle muskets, because it took advantage of the gun’s spiraled grooves inside the barrel (“rifling”).  When the rifles were fired, hot, expanding gas pushed on and deformed the Minie ball so that it connected with the spiraled grooves and spun as it traveled down the barrel.  The spin made the bullet more accurate, and the seal created when the Minie ball changed shape pushed the bullet faster and gave it a longer range.
Older muskets fired simple, round bullets that were accurate only at short range, so soldiers that used them had to advance shoulder-to-shoulder and get within yards of the enemy to have any hope of hitting anyone.  However, with a rifle musket and Minie ball ammunition, this was no longer necessary.  The tradeoff for the new technology was that the soldiers couldn’t just point and shoot.  They now had to learn new skills to improve their aim, since they would be firing from much further away.
This new technology became popular right about the time of the American Civil War, but military commanders were slow to change their tactics.  Having learned their strategies in earlier conflicts with different types of weapons, they didn’t see the potential of the new technology and continued to line up their troops for close-range attacks on the enemy positions.  As a result, they experienced terrible losses on both sides until they began to change how they trained and deployed their troops.*  

When a new technology has the potential to impact our work, it’s time for us to adopt different tactics. However, the pace of change is increasing, and the number of new tools out there makes it difficult for us to know what is useful.  Plus, we have been operating in a different paradigm (way of thinking about our work).  It’s not always easy to see the potential of new tools.  So, here are a few ideas that might help: 

  • Encourage your staff to be on the lookout for new, relevant technologies.
  • Give them regular opportunities to help you see the possibilities for applying them to the work.
  • Allow them to try out new tools on a small scale and report back on the results.
  • When they find something that makes a difference, let them help share it with other staff and implement its use.
  • Provide recognition for those that find effective, new tools.
  • Share what you learn with your peers.

As leaders, it’s often up to us to model the way by challenging ourselves out of our comfort zones and learning which new tools give us a strategic advantage.  This doesn’t mean we have to be the technology experts, but it does mean that we have to create opportunities for our teams to show us new ways to create more impact.

* Historians estimate that the war killed over 600,000 people – 10% of the men in the North and 30% of the men in the South.


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Filed under Change, innovation, Strategy

An Excellent Failure (ANECDOTE)

Success is 99 Percent FailureI was at a meeting with some of our leaders from part of my ministry a few weeks ago, and we were discussing the topic of failure and how it is perceived within our organization.  We agreed that there is an unspoken rule that failure is NOT okay.  We will go to great lengths to prevent failure or even to cover it up and make it look like success when it does happen.  
Why do we do this?  It’s not biblical.  Jesus let His disciples fail on a regular basis.  Here are a few examples.  They failed when they:
  • Tried to cast out an unclean spirit from a boy
  • Were asked to feed the 5,000
  • Argued about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom
  • Walked on water
  • Tried to stay awake and pray with Jesus before His arrest
  • Defended Jesus against the soldiers
  • Denied knowing Jesus
You may think I’m cynical, but I believe Jesus even set them up for failure on certain occasions.  He knew that they wouldn’t succeed, but He let them try anyway.  Why?  Because failure gives birth to growth and learning, maturity, character, humility, a teachable spirit, dependence on God, empathy for others, and even innovation, transformation, and revival!  We learn sooooo much more from our failures than we do from our successes.  Are we missing out on God’s best for us when we work so hard not to fail?
Recognizing this problem in their culture, here’s what one region of our ministry did.  They flipped failure on its head.  Instead of hiding failures, they required their leaders to celebrate them.  In every leader’s performance appraisal for the past few years, they have had to share an “excellent failure” for which they were personally responsible.  An “excellent failure” is a failure that taught you something, that gave you a new perspective, that prepared you, that matured you, that shaped you to be more like Christ.  It’s a failure that produces a harvest in your life or ministry.  
And for it to count, you have to own it.  You’ve got to identify what you did or did not do that made things go wrong.  You’ve got to say, “I failed,” or else the failure has no power to change you.  You can’t dilute it by saying “we” or “my team” or “because they.”  There may be truth in those statements, but the failure won’t be transformational for you until you acknowledge your part.
So, what do you think?  Do you have the courage to own your failure?  Are you willing to put your name on it and see what God is willing to do with a transparent and humble leader?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ~ John 12:24
For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again… ~ Proverbs 24:16


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Filed under Failure, Humility, test, Transformation, Transparency, Trial

Potemkin Villages (ANECDOTE)

Potemkin VillagePrince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski (Potemkin |pəˈtemkin| for short) was a Russian military leader and personal favorite (and possibly secret husband) of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia from 1762-1796.  He was intelligent and daring, and as a young man, he won many victories fighting the Turkish forces of the Ottoman Empire.


After defeating the Ottoman Empire in Crimea and what is now known as Southern Ukraine, Potemkin became the governor of the region.  The area had been devastated by the war, and Potemkin struggled to rebuild it and bring in Russian settlers.  Before he could make sufficient progress, the Ottoman Empire threatened war again.  Empress Catherine wanted to impress her allies and gain their support during the upcoming war, so she engaged upon a six-month trip to the area with her court and ambassadors from many other countries.


Potemkin was embarrassed to show the true condition of what was now known as “New Russia,” so he had his men build “mobile villages” and set them up along the banks of the Dnieper River as Catherine traveled it by barge.  As soon as the empress arrived with all her powerful friends, Potemkin’s men would emerge in the sham village dressed as peasants.  When the barge left, they would disassemble the village and quickly move it downstream overnight.  They would then rebuild the village in preparation for her visit the next day and repeat the process as before.  This risky ruse paid off, but Potemkin’s men were exhausted.  Worse, they had now seen the true character of their leader and knew what lengths he would go to in order to keep up appearances.


Have you ever built a Potemkin Village to impress your boss or senior leaders?  Ever made things look better than they really were to hide your lack of progress or impact?  Ever put on a show to save face or avoid the consequences of having leaders see the true situation?


There are several problems with erecting Potemkin Villages:

  • We will waste time, money and skill creating the illusion of success when we should be working on our problems.
  • Leaders above us will have a distorted picture of what is really happening in the organization.
  • Because the leaders won’t know the problems we are having, they won’t be able to help us solve them.
  • Leaders will make decisions about the organization based on what they think is true, and these new initiatives and commitments will often strain our resources and staff even further.
  • Because we have pretended that things are going well, we won’t be able to ask for the resources we really need to fix the problems.
  • Our staff will become exhausted and disengaged as they regularly build “fake villages” that they know do nothing to help improve their situation.
  • We will lose the trust of our staff as they see us misrepresent reality to the leadership of the organization.

The longer we pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, the longer we participate in keeping it alive.  If we truly want things to get better, we have to get honest.  We have to have the courage to accept the consequences for the way things are so that we can get the help we need to make them better.


Let’s spend less time building fake villages and more time building the Kingdom.

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Filed under culture, Honesty, Transparency, Trust, Vulnerability

Counter-Culture (EXERCISE)

Silo MentalityTime

25 min



Participants will engage in an exercise to examine four negative cultural norms at the organization and four positive replacements.  They will be asked to explore how they feel in the midst of each one and to commit to adopt the positive cultural behaviors.



  • 8 sheets of posterboard
  • Thick marker
  • Masking tape (1 roll)
  • Printouts (1 per participant) of the following two documents. Both documents can be found on the website on the Lesson and Material Downloads page..
    • EXERICSE – Counter-Culture – Problems and Solutions.docx
    • EXERCISE – Counter Culture – Wide Range of Emotions.pptx



  • Print copies of the two documents for all participants.
  • Tape a very large circle with masking tape in the middle of the open floor of the teaching area.  It should be large enough so everyone will be able to stand in the circle together.
  • Create eight large signs on posterboard by labeling each one with a different cultural element from the list below:
    • Distrust
    • Silo Mentality
    • Polishing Our Rough Edges
    • Over-commitment
    • Trusting Others
    • Collaboration
    • Being Vulnerable & Transparent
    • Ruthless Prioritization
    • Ask 8 volunteers to each take one posterboard and line up along two different walls – the four positive cultural elements (Trusting Others, Collaboration, Being Vulnerable & Transparent and Ruthless Prioritization) on one wall and the four negative cultural elements (Distrust, Silo Mentality, Polishing Our Rough Edges, Over-commitment) on the opposite wall.



  • Pass out the two pages (“Problems and Solutions” and “Wide Range of Emotion”) to every participant.
  • Invite each participant to join in one of eight little groups, aligned behind participants holding up eight large placards.
  • Instruct participants to move around into other groups until there are about the same numbers of participants standing with each placard. (NOTE: This exercise will work even if there is only one person in each small group – the one holding the placard – but will also work with 100 people.)
  • Ask the group behind the “Distrust” sign to read together and aloud the description of “Distrust.”
  • After that reading, call upon anyone in the room to call out the feelings/emotions that they experience when they encounter this cultural problem in their organization. (Remind the participants to look at the graphical list of Feelings in their hands to help them identify any feelings they experience.)
  • After this, have the group behind the corresponding counter-cultural placard (“Trusting Others” in this case) read aloud and together the description of  “Trusting Others.”
  • Then have both groups dealing with the Distrust/Trusting Others issue walk into the large circle in the middle of the room, holding their signs high so everyone can see them.
  • When those participants are in the circle in the middle of the room, the facilitator calls upon anyone in the room to call out the feelings/emotions that come to mind when they imagine this powerful counterculture of “Trusting Others” becoming a reality throughout their organization.
  • On the count of three, have everyone in the room say aloud and together “We release Distrust” and the person holding that placard goes outside of the circle and lays that placard down on the ground.   (The placard “Trusting Others” remains held aloft in the circle.)
  • After this, the same overall process is repeated for the remaining cultural problems and counter-cultural behaviors.
  • When this is completed, invite someone to pray in a short time of conversation prayer.


Source – Greg Boyer and Michael Kientz


Cultural Problems and Their Counter-Cultural Solutions


Some of our cultural problems in our organization are:

1. Distrust – Managers don’t trust staff enough to delegate to them. Staff don’t trust their managers enough to give them honest feedback. Senior leaders don’t trust staff enough to share information.  As a result, work takes longer to complete, misunderstandings abound, and, gossip and rumor often replace formal communication channels.


2. Silo Mentality – Staff are focused on doing the best job they can, but they don’t talk to their peers doing the same roles. As a result, they reinvent the wheel on a regular basis or suffer silently, not knowing how to solve problems that someone else has already solved.


3. Polishing Our Rough Edges – In a desire to look “Excellent” (which translates to “Perfect” in our culture), staff misrepresent the situation to make it look like things are better than they are. Staff overstate their strengths, skills and contributions. Field Offices put on a show for visiting leaders. Leaders do whatever it takes to ensure they get “green KRIs” (a proxy for all kinds of visible measurements) even when it requires enormous sacrifice from their staff. As a result, leaders and senior leaders don’t have a true picture of the condition of the ministry, resources aren’t allocated correctly, and problems are prolonged.


4. Over-commitment – Senior leadership regularly takes bigger bites than the staff can chew. Because we don’t know what’s most important, everything looks important, and we feel that we have to do everything. At the heart of this behavior is a pride that makes us feel like our efforts are essential to the success of the ministry and a lack of faith in God’s provision to bring about positive outcomes.  As a result, staff are exhausted, burnout and turnover are common, relationships are strained, our infrastructure is stressed, and staff lose confidence in their leaders as we regularly invest fully in initiatives that have little to no impact.


Counter-cultural corrective attitudes and behaviors are:

1. Trusting Others – Every worker at every level commits to being trustworthy by honoring commitments, being transparent, communicating frequently and strategically, and dealing with conflict in a biblical way. Leaders take risks to share information and delegate to give opportunities for workers to earn their trust.


2. Collaboration  – When people encounter a problem that they aren’t sure how to solve or initiate a project, their first thought and action is to contact their peers and find out what’s been done already. Workers regularly spend 25% or more of their time collaborating with other staff both inside and outside their office.


3. Being Vulnerable & Transparent – Everyone commits to giving an honest and realistic picture of what the current state is. Leaders and workers ask for help when they need it. Leaders honor this risk by not punishing staff for admitting mistakes or asking for help. Everyone allows their rough edges to show so that God can use them to connect us to each other (like a jigsaw puzzle).


4. Ruthless Prioritization – Senior leadership identifies a few anchors that all workers can use to make decisions about which activities get done and which ones detract us from our main focus (even if they look good and important).  Senior leaders require other leaders to justify initiatives by matching them to the anchors and hold themselves accountable to say “no” more often than they say “yes” to new initiatives. The organization regularly assesses workers’ capacity and work-life balance and makes adjustments to protect the well-being of the staff.

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Filed under Collaboration, Communication, culture, Priorities, Transparency, Trust, Vulnerability