The Benefits of Backwards | Productive Pastor 72

The Benefits of Backwards | Productive Pastor 72

Do you work backward? I love it. Working backward means choosing to start with a preferred future in mind, not a problem to solve. You need to try it!

Front Matter:

I’m super excited about how episode 71 (Deep Work with Isaac Hopper). It is turning into our fastest downloaded episode ever! I have some amazing interviews scheduled and parallel content for this spring. You don’t want to miss it.

Have you checked out Ministry Library yet? I’m creating some super practical video content for them this year. The only way to get it is to become a subscriber. It is a super worthwhile investment in your ministry. Sign up through this link and help support Productive Pastor.

The Benefit of Backwards

Working backwards is all about having and understanding the idea of preferred future. This is a key concept in leadership. It focuses on vision instead of problems. Working backwards simply means identifying the qualities of this preferred future that you have the ability to control. Here are the keys to working backwards

Have whiteboard days and hustle days.
These are some of my favorite tools. Both of these tactics including gathering your best dreamers AND doers together to plot out this preferred future. When you have action steps in place, it means drilling down and getting the work done. These are a huge tool.

Work from the perspective of a preferred future. 
Getting this idea into your imagination is key. Understand you are going to strategically design steps backwards from this preferred future. You aren’t moving forward to fix problems. You are stating a future reality and scheming through which steps will get you there. And I literally begin working backwards. Inside this flow, you are able to consistently realize and create the situations to move forward.

Get into the space of the future by asking intentional questions. 
In order to find this pathway, don’t initially think actions. Think about the emotions. What questions help you set the stage?

Then begin creating the system design. 
Once you properly understand the emotion, you will be able to start realizing what the previous (next) step should be. If you get stuck, you go back into questions of emotion. When you are done, you will find that you have answered questions before people have ask them, then come up with super clear steps for people to take and cover all of your bases.

Back Matter

Archive Episode: Building a Priority Based Schedule

Reading: Deep Work, This is Service Design Thinking and Design a Better Business: New Tools, Skills and Mindset for Strategy and Innovation

Make sure to subscribe to the Productive Pastor Insider. You can join the Productive Pastor Community here.

Remember to Review and Rate in iTunes. You can do it right here.

Deep Work (with Isaac Hopper) | Productive Pastor 71

Deep Work (with Isaac Hopper) | Productive Pastor 71

How often do you build deep work into your schedule? Do you even know what deep work is? In this episode, I sit down with my buddy Isaac Hopper and talk about deep work. Isaac isn’t a stranger to the podcast, having been a guest before and being a moderator in the Productive Pastor Community. I was excited to grab time with him and talk about such an important topic.

Deep Work

Deep Work is the action of scheduling long amount of time, for a distinct purpose. As Cal Newport says it gives the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.

The question we kept asking ourselves was this, what if deep work wasn’t the last work, but the first work? What are the handful of things we as ministry leaders should be concentrating our best efforts and energies on?

Here is our short list of what can/should be constituted as deep work:

  • sermons/preparation
  • scripture/prayer
  • reading/study
  • vision
  • writing

Most leaders do not necessarily need to fit all of these elements in, but picking 2 or 3 should be sufficient to grow in leadership. These will be contextual topics, depending on your place of ministry, your unique gifts and the specific leadership situations you find yourself in. Just like a to-do list, your focus items should fit on a post-it note and written with a sharpie!

The biggest lesson is finding the time for deep work happens around ministry leaders understanding what it means to control their calendar. This is the item in which we need to be the most responsible. We talk about how pastoral care fits into the equation and what it means to spread this out across the entire week, instead of attempting to fit all of it during one workday.

You can find more about Isaac (and his fantastic writing) at

Resources Mentioned

SermonSmith on Spurgeon

Lectures To My Students- CH Spurgeon

Deep Work-Cal Newport

Tools of Titans- Tim Ferriss

Church Unique- Will Mancini

God Dreams- Will Mancini

Back Matter

I’m working with Ministry Library this year creating exclusive video content. I’ve been a user since the very beginning and I use their content constantly personally, with my staff, and in leadership training. Your monthly membership fee gets you access to all of their content.

Make sure to subscribe to the Productive Pastor Insider.

Remember to Review and Rate in iTunes. You can do it right here.

2017 Reading

2017 Reading

Every year I try to read more and read better. A few years back, Jon Acuff started the #EmptyShelf project, with folks sharing their reading each year by adding books to a…(wait for it)…empty shelf. So here are the books I’ve read in 2017 so far, and a quick review. Hopefully find some great books to read.

2017 Reading

Imagine Heaven by John Burke
I first heard about this book from a series Carey Nieuwhof preached at Connexus Church. I recommended the series to a friend who had some questions about death and ended up listening to all 6 sermons in one day! I picked up the book the next day and read it in 2 days. John wrote a fantastic book about near death experiences and what we can correlate them to in scripture. This is a fascinating and fantastic read. Some folks might be a little highbrow over the entire concept, but I highly recommend the book AND preached series. You can find John Burke’s resources to preach the series here.

Deep Work
Cal Newport wrote a fantastic piece for anyone who practices thought work and needs to find the time to work better. This whole idea started off with a few conversations with my friend Isaac and went deeper on an episode of Productive Pastor. It took a longer time for me to read, but I kept find myself soaking and wanting to go deeper and deeper.

What Is The Bible
A few years ago, Rob Bell was castigated, called a heretic, and left his church. This is his first book since the controversial Love Wins, and it is fantastic. I picked it up on a whim, I heard about the book listening to an episode of Robcast. I was curious as to what it would be like and what Rob’s ministry looks like right now. I was only a few chapters in when I realized how good this book was. It is 97% not-controversial. If you love his style of exegesis and story-telling, pick it up.

Resources for better reading

Do you want to read better? Here are some resources on reading and keeping up with your reading.

Why You Need To Build A Trello Reading List – Blog Post

How To Read For Maximum Effectiveness – Productive Pastor 26

Previous Years Reading Lists

2014 reading

2015 reading plan 

2015 reading (#fail) 

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2016

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2016

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2016

I like to read. I like to read casually, I like to read intentionally. I have lists of books I want to read…and I will also stumble across something and put everything else absolutely down.

So I wanted to make a list of my favorite reads of 2016.  Each book is wildly different and somewhat totally unrelated. If you are looking for more books to read in 2017, I don’t think any of these will disappoint.

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2016


– Tools of Titans | Tim Ferriss

I’ve read this 700+ page book in the last week. It didn’t come out until December, but I went through it super quick. Besides the few chapters of the research into psychedelics , I didn’t find a single bit of content unrelated to me life. Ferries is a noted (let’s just say THE noted) lifehacker. He compiled this book from his guests off the award winning podcast he hosts and produces. Every 4-5 page chapter is sharing the best window from countless practitioners around the world.


– Center Church | Tim Keller

I read this book slowly in the beginning of the year. I need to read it again. Actually, I will probably always be flipping through this book. I was excited to see they have sectioned portions of it out into easier to carry copies since Center Church looks and thumps like an Algebra textbook.

Keller’s thesis is that God has a distinct theological vision for each city, and the role of the Church is finding her place, conversations, neighborhoods and other points of intersection with this message. It is a clarion call to gospel uniqueness.


– American Buffalo | Steven Rinella

Rinella is an outdoorsman, hunter, chef, writer and television personality. I’m a big fan of his show Meateater. If I pointed anyone who isn’t a fan of meat/hunting to someone to help them understand…it would be Steven Rinella.

American Buffalo is both the story of a once in a lifetime hunt and the story of the animal known as the Buffalo. Going back and forth, we see into the depths of the hunters quest but also how we almost lost this gracious animal. Anyone should read this.


– Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series | Eerdmans press (primarily Ben Witherington III)

A few years back I stumbled into a volume of this scripture commentary. It was handy and I thought I might need to add it to my normal list when I am hunting for new biblical study resources. Over the last year I have been buying up the whole set. I studied under several of the authors, but that didn’t really affect my interest.

For anyone who wants to understand the world, customs, behaviors and sociological contructs behind the New Testament, any of these volumes would be handy. I actually do find myself reading them cover to cover.


– The Life of A.W.Tozer in Pursuit of God | James L Snyder

I love a good biography. And I love A.W. Tozer. I recommend Pursuit of God constantly to folks. I’ve always been on the lookout for a decent biography of Tozer and I have found it. I don’t think I have ever read a book faster than this one. It was a great look into the life of someone who has influenced so many people.

I’m excited about 2017 reading and how I am going to learn. I haven’t done the #emptyshelf project in a few years and I am going to focus more on it this year. If you are looking at a way to be strategic about your reading, check out my post on using Trello for reading lists.

Planning Your Best 2017 | Productive Pastor 70

Planning Your Best 2017 | Productive Pastor 70

Welcome to season 5 of the Productive Pastor!

I’m back from my December break and I can’t wait to see what 2017 will look like for you and your ministry…and the podcast. I’m excited about the podcast. In this episode I am going to share some self-reflection, team reflection, and resources to help you plan a fantastic 2017 in ministry.

Front Matter

The Tip Jar Podcast: My friend Cody has started a fantastic new podcast dedicated to worship musicians. He is having conversations with some of the biggest guitar players, drummers and technicians of your favorite worship bands/leaders. It is a super entertaining podcast.

The Productive Pastor Community: We have an incredible group of folks interacting in the Productive Pastor Community on Facebook. It’s a private group, so we can have great ministry focused conversations about productivity and strategic ministry in an environment full of folks that speak the same language! One of my deeper commitments in 2017 is to this group. Come be part.

Planning Your Best 2017


– What are three things that would make you tremendously happy next year?
– What are three things about this year that made you happy?
– What are the places of personal healing you need to be seeking in 2017?
– What do you need to prioritize next year? (I’m a fan of Chris Brogan and his three words concept).
– What are the goals you would like to set?


– What wins have we accomplished this year?
– Where did we miss the mark?
– Where do we feel God leading us in 2017?
– What new ground did we cover?
– What gaps did we get filled?
– What holes did we discover?


– Preparation Day (personal)
– Church wide surveys (volunteer, leadership, all church)
– Globe out the year. (download file here)

Resources Mentioned
Chris Brogan. Three words. 
Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward
Foundry’s annual church-wide survey

Back Matter

I’m working with Ministry Library this year creating exclusive video content. I’ve been a user since the very beginning and I use their content constantly personally, with my staff, and in leadership training. Your monthly membership fee gets you access to all of their content.

Make sure to subscribe to the Productive Pastor Insider.

Remember to Review and Rate in iTunes. You can do it right here.