Tag Archives: leadership

Will Poop for Chocolate

After a long hiatus, I’m back with a guest blog from the lovely Lenita Dunlap. Ms. Dunlap is the executive director of Heart House, an after-school program in the Vickery Meadow area of Dallas, Texas. She is also a doctoral student in Public and Urban Administration at the University of Texas at Arlington. Most importantly, she is my wife and mother to my son.

As parents of an independent three-year-old, my husband and I had to figure out what would motivate our son for the significant milestone of going to the potty on his own. We knew he was capable. He’d demonstrated he had the knowledge of what to do and how to alert us; he had the ability to notify us and use the potty appropriately. He was ready, and yet he wouldn’t do it. Something held him back. A clean bottom should have been enough but it wasn’t.

As I studied my son, I realized that he likes chocolate. Correction: he loves all things chocolate. Struck by inspiration, I told him, “If you poop on the pot, mommy and daddy will give you chocolate.” Lo and behold, our son went to the pot on his own and did his business that very day. When we went to assist him, the first thing he asked is, “Where is my chocolate?” So yes, we found his motivation.

Leaders also have to discover what motivates staff. We often default to money or assume that a raise will do it, but is monetary compensation enough? You should pay your employees well, even if you work for or run a nonprofit. Passion for a mission is a great motivator but passion rarely sustains motivation; passion wanes and people get on your nerves. Position and title can often motivate. Employees like to know they’re progressing and that they play a significant role. Will that do the trick? I don’t know.

So what motivates? From my experience a true motivator understands the specific motivation of each person they lead. Yes, some value money, position and power, but what sustains most is the ability to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It’s aligning personal calling to the work they do, allowing a pathway to achieve greatness. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true: everyone wants to be significant. Even when they’re “just” working the accounting books, they want to matter. Folks need ownership. We need to understand why they’re passionate and tap into that passion to create something far better than you or they can imagine.

I remember attending a conference where a top executive of a beverage company shared that the best ideas for change came from within the company warehouse staff. The front line workers delivering the drinks understood best how to motivate themselves. Go figure.

At nonprofits we tend to focus so much on mission and forget about the people needed to carry out the mission. That same executive said they developed a culture where folks are invested, we need to do this more in nonprofits. So think about what motivates your team. Pay them fairly but more importantly invite them to the table and find their version of chocolate.


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Matching conative styles to methodology in Christian education

I think you can match conative styles to methodology. How so? Let me show you.

  1. The Philosopher. Considering the philosopher’s desire to understand God’s revelation and then communicate it to others, it seems to me that the philosopher’s chief methodologies are communication and rhetoric. They need to understand how to speak to others in every medium, and how to effectively organize their message in order to create the maximum impact in a person’s life.
  2. The Administrator. The administrator’s desire to organize people and processes manifests in the methodology associated with leadership (people) and management (processes). They need to understand how to direct groups and organizations in carrying out tasks.
  3. The Educator. The educator’s desire to help others understand themselves causes them to understand the methods of teaching and learning. They need to understand how people change in their affections, knowledge, and in their methods.
  4. The Practitioner. The practitioner’s desire to create meaningful change in their environment manifests in methodology related to policy and evaluation. They need to understand how to create and evaluate operational principles and then implement those principles.
  5. The Scholar. The scholar’s desire to understand their environment relates to methodology associated with research and modeling. They need to know how to gather and process information, and come up with predictions for future behavior.

So as I see it, the five methodologies are communication and rhetoric; leadership and management; teaching and learning; policy and evaluation; and research and modeling. Note that the student in Christian education can use any of these methodologies in any cognitive field. For example, the Christian artist who is a philosopher/administrator might learn skills of communication and management in order to function in her role as an art director.

Let me take this a step further. What if you organized your school around these five methodological disciplines? We employ these general disciplines in every field, recognizing that the application of these methods to specific fields varies. For example, research in the behavioral sciences looks different than research in the natural sciences. Research tools and languages in biblical and theological studies looks differently than research in ancient far east religion and philosophy. The general methodology is the same, but the tools and practice are different.

What if, in the Christian home, parents had a strategy and program of study to train their children in all five methods, but also focused on the one or two that their children naturally employ? What if, in the Christian elementary school, we structured our learning around these five methods, using the content of the various cognitive subject matters to teach the methodology. In other words, we taught the subject matter (mathematics, science, Bible, theology, etc.) but all in the context of understanding communication, or research, or leadership, or teaching, or policy. What if, in the Christian church, we organized our Christian Education programs around teaching the values associated with the methods, rather than on the demographics. Fundamentally, I believe that we need to find the universal commonality in education and start there, and I think it should start with conation and methodological disciplines.

We call for educational reform. I say Christian educators should pursue an educational revolution by deconstructing the whole thing and rebuilding from the ground up.

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Leadership in Christian Higher Education

I have observed an odd phenomenon.

If I wanted to hire someone to run my business, I’d look for a person who studied Business Administration (e.g. an MBA). If I wanted someone to run my hospital, I’d look for someone with a Masters of Healthcare Administration (MHA). If I wanted someone to run my non-profit organization or an agency of my government, I’d look for someone with a Master of Public Administration (MPA). So when I want someone to run my seminary, I’d look for someone with a Higher Education Administration degree, right?


In Christian Higher Education, we look for people with training in Communications, Theology, New Testament, and Bible. Rarely, you may find someone who studied Leadership. Now, I can hear the objections.

1. “But it’s a seminary! Don’t you want someone who understands the Bible to make sure we stay true to the Word?” Yes, but a Seminary is an educational organization. If I want someone to run my educational organization, I want someone who understands (a) how to lead and run an organization and (b) how to educate someone. That means, in part, an understanding of Bible and theology, but it primarily means someone who has studied and understands Education and Leadership.

2. “But isn’t the Bible sufficient?” There are leadership and educational principles found in the Bible, true. However, the Bible speaks to many things, but not all things, and we do well to study the things related to carrying out ministerial tasks that are not in the Bible. For instance, if I’m going to run an non-profit educational organization, it would do the organization well if the one running it has studied finance, fundraising, and accounting. I don’t recall Jesus’ sermon on the principles of accounting, employment law, payroll and non-profit organizations.

3.”But if you studied enough Bible and theology, won’t it help you do those things?” Studying Bible and theology helps, especially when it comes to the ethics of running an organization. Managing the intricacies of Student Development and Academic Affairs, however, requires a specialization. Yes, I want my teachers to be experts in exegesis and to be top notch theologians. However, the people running the school should have expertise in, well, running schools.

We wonder why theological education is on the decline and why people question its value, and yet we continue to employ educational methods started by D.L. Moody. As a result, churches wonder why they should invest in a pastor who utilizes antiquated methods which cannot reach the people. Then our parents, educated in the church, cannot pass on the faith to their children because they don’t know how to disciple them. We need students and scholars committed to understanding the strengths and uniqueness of Christian education, who are willing to study and expand the understanding of the field so that practitioners can then take that knowledge and apply it in the academy, church and home.

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