Posts in Ministry
Tips for Talking to a Celebrity

What would you say if you had 15 minutes to spend with a celebrity?  Would you stammer your way through a question?  Would you turn your shirt sleeve up, request an autograph with the promise that you wouldn't wash your arm for a week?

I had the privilege of speaking recently at the Paterson Diocese Catechetical Conference which featured renowned Bible scholar Scott Hahn.  I had followed Scott since high school and had always appreciated his amazing story of conversion and hope.  When my friend Allan Wright called me the night before to see if I could bring Scott to the airport after the event, I glanced at Cary for permission (note to all husbands: always check with your wife) and then said, "heck yeah!"

Then I started stressing out.  What do you say to one of the premier Scripture scholars in America?  More practically, I walked outside and gave my car a quick cleaning.  After all, you don't want to have a celebrity in your car with an old Dunkin Donuts bag at his feet.  Not that that's my car mind you...

The day of the event I grew less nervous and my own workshop rocked.  I had 80 participants and the vibe was excellent.  Afterwards, I managed to get Scott to the airport in one piece and we had a great conversation along the way.  So what are some tips if you're faced with an event like the one I was, albeit with a "quasi-celebrity"?


  • Make a great first impression.  Remember to use a firm handshake, look the person in the eye and be gracious.  Famous people are both fawned over and used all the time.  You don't want to fall into either of those categories.  Very specifically, do not ever eat salad prior to meeting someone you care about.
  • Look good.  Not much to say here except what I tell our high school seniors- you want to be remembered for the right reasons. 
  • Have one or two prepared questions.  For example, I asked Scott some "big picture" questions about the Church and his perspective on the new Pope.
  • Get a photo taken.  Be sure to ask someone who will actually take a good, unblurred photo.  I once met Margaret Benefiel and was so excited to have a photo taken only to see later that is was blurry and a waste of megabites. 
  • Write a personal note to follow up.  Sure, he or she will probably never see you again but polite people write personal notes so why not?
  • Have fun telling people about it without being obnoxious.  Enough said.  


While Scott Hahn may not have as many Twitter followers as any member of the Kardashian family, he's a big deal to me.  My opportunity to meet him was definitely a highlight of the year.  I'm glad I made the most out of my 15 minutes with him.

What are your tips or suggestions for meeting and making the most out of the celebrities in your life?

Pope Francis and the Importance of Servant Leadership

Can you remember a time when a new leader brought such palpable inspiration in his first week on the job?

Sure, Marissa Mayer is in the news a lot these days for her leadership at Yahoo. Poor Tim Cook can't catch a break even though Apple continues to amaze its shareholders. Then there's Cheryl Sandberg and the ways in which she's encouraging women in the workplace at Facebook and beyond.

Back to the man that few expected to get the job a week ago in the Vatican- Francis.

Catholics look at this name choice as fairly amazing. Francis is a Jesuit and yet he took a Franciscan name. This would be like me, as a Red Sox fan, naming my firstborn son after a famous Yankees player. Ok, so maybe the Pope's name choice is bigger than that but you get the point- in choosing the name Francis, the Pope made a statement.  Franciscans are still high-fiving one another around the world.

He's telling the Church that he feels that it needs a humble, down to earth, service-oriented pendulum swing. We have plenty of doctrine. Lots of devotions. More than a few novenas. What the Church needs to focus on now is its call to love and serve the least among us.  And not just for a few years as if it were a new marketing campaign.  The Church needs a few hundred years of practical, heart felt religiosity rather than the overly heady stuff that has taken the European and American Church hostage.  

This is scary stuff. Doctrine is easier because it's a matter of belief. Head and heart material for sure but belief nonetheless. Serving the poor? That's about action and it's messy.

Let me provide an example.

I was speaking with a friend recently who had worked with 30 unmarried couples, all preparing for marriage. All 30 were living together. Messy stuff.  I suspect that this is the kind of situation that the new Pope would want us to wrap our arms around.  For better or worse, there are a lot of other messy things surrounding Christians and their practice of the faith.  These include but aren't limited to:


  • The fact that most Catholics don't practice the Church's teaching on contraception.
  • The fact that so many Catholics voted for Obama, in spite of his pro-abortion views.
  • The fact that so few Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  


There is a lot of messy stuff in the world probably because we are complicated and flawed people.  Francis accepts that and wants the Church to take these issues and infuse them with love.

I actually have hope for the first time in an awful long time.  The road will be difficult for sure.  Francis is only one man after all.  Still, if God could raise up Francis of Assisi in a time when the Church was on its knees, he can surely bring us a simple man from Argentina to teach us to serve.

How are you practicing servant leadership in your role at work or at home?

How to Make Your Heart Big Enough to Care

When I was 22 I got a gift.  A friend, Dennis, gave me $37 for my birthday.  He had been saving for weeks and with a big smile, presented the odd amount to me in an crisp envelope.  It may not seem like much today but his gift meant a lot then.  He expected nothing in return- he just wanted to be nice.

Generosity is like that don't you think?

I met with a group of emerging leaders earlier today.  Our topic was generosity.

We discussed Seth Godin's book Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? and the need that the world has for generous leaders.  According to Godin, "Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn't matter. The intent does."

We shared about how bad it feels when someone turns on you and displays the opposite of generosity. No we're not talking about being selfish or about being cheap with time.  Actually it's something far worse.

Transactional kindness.  

Transactional kindness says many things, none of which are good:


  • I'll help you if you do something for me ...
  • Here is my donation in return for ...
  • My service will be extraordinary but only if ...
  • This smile is only given to people who ...


Kindness, by its core nature isn't meant to be in exchange for anything.  It's sort of like a road that's just awesome in and of itself.  No matter if it's raining or sunny, the drive feels swell.  My friend Dennis was generous because he valued gift giving in its simplest form.

The artist gives gifts not to make money but because he has something to share.  He can't help but to share what's going on in his head and inside his heart.

I was an artist last week.  I gave a talk and expected nothing in return.  My generosity was in my preparation for the event and savoring each moment of the night.  The result- my heart got bigger and perhaps those in attendance received a gift or two.

When your heart gets bigger, it's usually because you put someone else before yourself.  Dennis did that and I'm learning to do this as well. You can make your heart bigger by practicing the most simple of things.


  • Smiling like you mean it
  • Looking someone in the eye
  • Being inconvenienced by someone else's question
  • Pausing before you speak so that you can actually hear the other person
  • Trusting that the folks you will encounter today are God's most accurate gift


None of these are particulary scientific but each puts someone else first, if even for a fleeting moment.  That's pretty generous when you think about it.

Question: When was the last time that you gave a gift freely and without expecting a reward?


*photo courtesy of DB

3 Signs that You Are Becoming More Contemplative

Mother Theresa said that her sisters, who lived simply and served the poor, were more than social workers. She described the role of her nuns in the following way:

“We are all called to be contemplatives in the heart of the world — by seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and [God's] hand in every happening; seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

This is contemplation being lived out not on an isolated mountaintop but through daily life.

Like daily saints, contemplatives hug the world in which they live. They see the hurt and walk towards it. They find beauty in unexpected things. They find ordinary life to be an opportunity for God to do something amazing. It's good to be contemplative but it does take time to develop.

How do you know that you are becoming more contemplative?

1. You notice something that you didn't see previously. A sunrise, a mailbox, a physical characteristic of a colleague, the accent of someone you know, a field on the way home that you ordinarily wouldn't notice.

2. You read more slowly. Rather than being sucked in by the quick pull of Twitter or Facebook or Email, you manage to read more slowly. Books come alive, the Bible is interesting once again and you have more "AHA" moments.

3. You actually listen when others are talking. I don't mean that you are waiting to speak in a more polite way than usual. I mean actually listening to folks and then taking in everything that they say. Real listening.

Being a contemplative is powerful stuff.

Are you recognizing signs in your own life that show a growing contemplative spirit?

*Photo courtesy of JW.

7 Ways to Make Your Faith Portable

So your relationship with Jesus means something to you on Sunday but can you bring it with you on Monday?

This is of course THE question that haunts most Christians each Sunday as they leave church.  The problem isn't the gravity of the question but the fact that so many believers don't realize that their faith is portable.

You can take it with you, even if it means to work.

Here are my seven simple ways to bring your faith with you to work:


  1. Begin your day in prayer, asking God to keep you on the calm and confident path.  Nothing beats a good quiet time in the morning.  
  2. Begin every commute with a prayer.  Take a breath, close your eyes and ask for God's safety during your ride.
  3. Bless yourself whenever you pass by a Christian church.  Thank God for His presence there and in the lives of those that worship there.
  4. Use a pocket device to trigger on-the-fly prayers.  A small cross, a rock, a rosary- whatever will trigger your mind and heart to pray is good.  Think of how many times during the day that you put your hands in your pockets, etc.
  5. Take a break during the day... with God.  Whether at lunch or in your walk around the building, spend time with God and process the past hour or two of your work.  Imagine you're having a chat with a trusted friend.
  6. Tell someone that you'll pray for them.  After all, you didn't expect to just keep your faith to yourself did you?
  7. Decompress on your route home.  I like to stop at an Episcopalian church parking lot on my way home.  This puts just the right amount of margin between me and being fully present at home.

Your faith is too important to leave at Church.  Let's encourage one another as we keep opening the doors to God at home and at work.

Question: Why is it so difficult to think of God in the midst of a busy day?

Photo courtesy of PS

The Secret Behind Interviewing

When was the last time that you put a spotlight on one of your competitors? 

If this seems counterintuitive, it probably is.  On the other hand, if you think that the internet now affords a “culture of sharing” (as Charlene Li puts it), praising a competitor might be a good idea after all.

Earlier today I participated in a podcast with another school’s administrator.  Sure, Jim and I compete for some of the same students and sure, it might seem like we were giving Jim praise for the work that he’s done at his school. Still, it just seemed like the right thing to do.


That’s one of the great things about the internet- it gives you a platform to share your knowledge with anyone, even a competitor.  It levels the playing field in order to serve a higher good.  In our case, as school leaders, our higher good is the cause of furthering digital education among teens.  


The bottom line: there’s plenty of attention to go around.


Someone who does this very well is Michael Sliwinski of Nozbe.  At no cost to anyone but himself, Michael offers Productive Magazine to anyone who wants it.  He interviews some of the smartest people on the planet in an effort to shine a spotlight on their talents.  The counterintuitive result- Michael actually takes the lead as a facilitator of productive people.  Not a bad role to play!


Myke Hurley of the 70 Decibels Podcast Network also does this well.  He interviews noteworthy bloggers and authors on various topics and this results in a series of listen-worthy shows.  You should seriously check him out.


The good news is that you can do this too.  Are you a realtor who can interview others in your field?  Are you a musician who can highlight the musical skills of a fellow instrumentalist?  Are you a chef who can host dinner parties that feature the recipes of noteworthy cooks?  The ideas are endless and as they say, the potential is huge.


The point is that you become more by giving away information, ideas and even your network. What you get in return is a bigger audience, a more robust platform and a generous heart.  We give in order to get.  Very simple.


For follow up: With whom can you share your expertise this week?  


Photo courtesy of JR