The scriptures say, “Man plans his way, but God orders his footsteps.” Proverbs 16:9

Have you ever crossed paths with someone at just the right time? Looking back, was it quickly obvious to you that the Lord had directed your steps? May I share a story with you?

In January, 2005, I was spending time with our dear friends and ministry partners, Don and Vicki Carmichael, in Birmingham, Alabama. During my visit, Don said, “Bob because of your role in Leadership Development for Campus Crusade, tomorrow morning we are going to have breakfast with our pastor, Chris Hodges.” Don shared that four years earlier, Chris moved to Birmingham to plant a new church, called the Church of the Highlands, which by then had an average attendance of about 3,000 per Sunday. (Today, attendance is more than 12,000)

The next morning Don and I met Chris at the International House of Pancakes. I wish you could have been there. I should have brought a tape recorder. I could not eat and take notes near as fast as Chris was sharing his incredible insights and wisdom regarding developing a “Leadership Development Culture.”

Chris shared several things with me that morning that I will never forget! (Let me preface this by saying, Chris shared this with a humble heart.) Chris shared that since the start of The Church of the Highlands four years earlier, he had disciplined himself to never ask two questions. He shared that he would guess that 99% of his fellow pastors ask these two questions every Monday morning.

He then asked me if could guess what those two questions are?  With the help of a bit of  “charades” (Chris rubbed his thumb and index finger together and then pointed to his nose) I came up with the two questions:   “How many nickels and how many noses did we have yesterday?”

(Pastors are not the only people that ask these two questions….Cru staff, including me, also do.)

Chris said that the reason that he has disciplined himself to never ask those two questions is that if he did, it would not matter what he told his staff, lay leaders and congregation the rest of the week was really important–they would instinctively know that what was really, really important to Pastor Hodges is “Nickels and Noses!”

Chris went on to share that there is only one question that he consistently asks. In fact, there is only one question on the development review forms for his staff, by which they may receive merit pay increases. He asked me if I would be interested to know what that question was.

Interested? He not only had me hooked, I was ready to jump into the boat! He then shared the one question he keeps asking:

“What are you doing to develop leaders?”

Chris shared that no church or organization or business can grow any faster than its ability to develop leaders. And when a church/organization/business focuses on developing leaders, growth takes care of itself.

WOW! Although my pancakes were gone before we left IHOP, I am still chewing on the things Chris shared with me that morning.

Now four questions for you:

  1. If in whatever role you are leading you place the highest value on “Who will do the absolute best job?” who is most likely to lead the effort from beginning to end?  Answer:  Most likely you!
  2. But if in that same role your highest value is “Developing others to lead,”  how might that change how you will approach that effort?  Answer:  Most likely you would consistently look for opportunities to allow others to lead -so that by the end of  that effort you might have 2-3 or more individuals ready to lead future similar efforts.
  3. How will consistently asking yourself, “What am I doing to develop leaders?” change your leadership?
  4. How will consistently asking those you lead, “What are you doing to develop leaders?” change their leadership?

“Good leaders are remembered by how many followers they create, but GREAT leaders are remembered by how many leaders they create.”

Which of your friends would thank you if you forwarded this post to them?


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10 thoughts on ““There is only one question that I ask!”

  1. Pam Smith says:

    I can picture “What are you doing to develop leaders?” as a question that would change an organization from the inside out should it be asked of everyone in a supervisory role.

  2. Neal says:

    That question is “gold”. It makes me look at a successful event very differently. It’s not merely that the event attained its goals but in the process were people growing in their giftedness? Did people surprise me as they took on responsibilities, going beyond what I or they thought they could do? The real wins often happen outside of what people are often counting as successes.

  3. Thanks Pam and Neal! Great observations! That question has changed the way I lead! I am constantly asking, “What are the “development opportunities” here?”

  4. Ben thomas says:

    Great post Bob. You are really gifted and this blog is a huge help.

  5. Thanks Ben! How would applying this to your Leadership change how you are leading?

  6. timburns says:

    Great post Bob! I might quibble with the “nickels & noses” a bit (at least as being the first questions that pastors ask after Sunday service), but the closing questions are really thought-provoking. Especially question #2: “But if in that same role your highest value is “Developing others to lead,” how might that change how you will approach that effort?”

    I’m going to be thinking about that question for quite some time. Thanks!

  7. Thanks Tim! Please check back in and share with me how this changes your leadership! You are a good man!

  8. facon12 says:

    Developing others to lead,” how might that change how you will approach that effort?” This is the real nutrition that came from IHOP and our friend Bob. It is timely for me as I think about transitioning our company to the next generation of leaders. The first thing I need to do is devote more time to it. Doing the work and providing for the future must be kept in balance. Seems a bit like an abstract painting. Sometimes to need to step back to see the picture. Thanks Bob for your insights.

  9. Russ says:

    Bob, this is excellent and convicting. I think I can often be one who asks the nickels and noses questions first thing.

    As I serve on the national leadership team of a large ministry, we do have the responsibility to ask the nickels and noses questions. Do you have any insights on how to make sure we are developing leaders, but also making sure the nickels and noses are coming in?

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