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10 Tips for Living & Dealing with Anxiety in Relationships & Families

a plastic or wax couple looks panicked or worriedI once knew a high school football player (I’ll call him Jay) who was destined to go places. He’d played football since he was in elementary school, and by the time he reached his freshman year of high school he had already being watched closely. Jay had always dealt with anxiety but when he hit high school the anxiety increased exponentially. It wasn’t uncommon for Jay to have panic attacks that no one but family and his guidance counselors knew about. While he quite most social activities, he stuck with football and by his junior year of high school he was being recruited by some notable college football programs.
Jay’s anxiety had increased however with each passing year, and had begun effecting his first love, football. At times his anxiety was so bad, he struggled to run out onto the field at game time. When his senior year ended, Jay turned down every offer for athletic scholarships opting to attend a community college close to home. His family dismayed at the ever increasing level of anxiety didn’t understand and tried to force him into a variety of unwanted situations that typically ended in disaster or arguments.
In an effort to escape what he viewed as his family’s disapproval and the shame that accompanied that, he moved in with his grandmother who assisted him in taking care of his college related activities until his anxiety became so debilitating that he opted for online classes. His hopes of avoiding situations that caused him to panic were dashed once he realized many online courses required some level of personal interaction as did customary visits to financial aid and other college student resources. Jay, a former high school football standout who had earned a GPA also worthy of scholarships, eventually dropped out of community college. The last straw for Jay had been collapsing as he arrived on campus one day, literally crawling on the college’s tile floor in a panic. The last time I checked on Jay, he rarely ventured into social situations. Occasionally he’d grocery shop for his grandmother and in his spare time he tended to her vegetable garden which he found peaceful.
People who suffer from anxiety can also experience panic or anxiety attacks triggered by uncomfortable situations and triggers vary. Many people who live daily with anxiety benefit from medication, but counseling and cognitive therapy is just as important. The earlier coping skills are introduced, the better. Anxiety can also manifest alongside other conditions as well, most commonly depression. Left untreated, anxiety of any type can become disabling over time.

a couple in their twenties sit together looking pensive
Fear and anxiety of all types prevent people from doing things they enjoy, even limiting them from things they need to do. Contrary to what one might think, most people with social anxiety want to be social and experience a tremendous amount of guilt over their own avoidance and inability at times to engage because of their struggle. That’s why seeking treatment is incredibly important. That’s also why the support of family and friends is equally crucial. If someone you love is struggling with any sort of anxiety, be sure to listen and validate their feelings. Anxiety is not something that can easily be turned off and neither is it something that “will pass”.

Below are 10 tips for living and dealing with anxiety in relationships and family.
Release your own guilt. It’s important for partners to understand first that we don’t have control over another person’s emotions, challenges or difficulties. Don’t allow negative emotions or feelings of guilt to determine how you’ll react to their situation. It’s also important for people with anxiety not to project their anxiety and worries on others, and it’s equally important that guilt not factor in to any living arrangements, relationships or family.

Be proactive. As with any relationship, it’s important to work to know each other’s limits and vulnerabilities. Sometimes people with anxiety are reluctant to discuss it as it can be uncomfortable. However approaching it proactively gets the issue out there, and makes life easier for everyone, even if it’s a challenge at first.

Set some ground rules. Ask some questions. Who is a morning person? Who is an evening person? When is it acceptable to have friends or guests over? How do we handle keeping our space cleaned and maintained? People dealing with anxiety do better when a clear understanding is in place, and it’s very important to respect each other and not just say it but show it. When we don’t follow agreements, (verbal or otherwise), it causes undue stress and destroys trust.

Confront conflict. Don’t let conflict fester. Everyone knows what it feels like when problems or concerns are not addressed. You’re not helping your relational anxiety issues when you walk on egg shells. You may be worried you’ll cause them to have a panic attack or harm the relationship, but people with anxiety need for issues to be settled quickly.

close up of worried woman's faceAt the same time, it’s important to approach difficult situations in a way that will not exacerbate stress. If you are someone who raises your voice by nature under stress, and your spouse or family member’s are not, it stresses them out. It’s not always best to do unto others as you would have done unto you, sometimes it’s best to do unto others as they would prefer you do unto them. Think about how that person might prefer you approach them. Think about what they need. Sometimes confronting conflict is one of the least selfish things you can do.

Don’t assume. Anxiety is as diverse as the people who live with it. Some are introverts, and some are extroverts, some are hardworking type A personalities and others are quite the opposite. We can’t gauge anxiety based on a person’s personality. Don’t assume that a loud, partying, extroverted, adventurous person could not have anxiety. And anxiety can strike those who deal with it anytime, anywhere but when we’re thoughtful about it in our relationships, it can take us less by surprise and it it’ll be easier to cope with.

Know your space. Share the space but don’t encroach. When we live together, it’s easy to forget that we share a space and that people are still entitled to their own areas and that personal space is a different concept from “shared space”. Messiness and disorganization can cause anxiety, and at the same time, being overly organized or compulsive, or rigid about our space can also cause frustration. Decide which space is actually shared space, and which space is personal space or off limits to the other person. Space matters!

Study up! You can help those you love who live with anxiety by knowing as much as you can about it. It makes a huge impact on another person to know that you cared enough to read up and understand more about what their dealing with.

When you step up and show interest by doing your own research, you’re not only contributing to a positive living environment for each other, you’re also expressing the level of your willingness to love well.

Discover ways to relieve stress together. Find out how they like to relieve stress or anxiety and be willing to join them. For example, if your spouse or family member finds yoga, running, or other exercise to be relaxing or helpful for dealing with stress, make an effort to join them in that. Also, when you’re aware of their preferred coping strategies, and you find that your friend may be experiencing some anxiety, you can suggest they may be in need of a run, better yet offer to join, “Hey, maybe we should go workout.” That’s a non-confrontational way to let them know you’re noticing they may be a little stressed and that you’re willing to help them deal.

Be open to alternatives. You may also consider the use of essential oils in your living space if there are some oils you can agree on. There are specific oils that have been found helpful for dealing with stress or anxiety. Whether or not you are a believer in natural remedies like essential oils, they’re worth trying.

And finally…wait for it…

Be sensitive and mindful of your timing. Timing matters. Please, please avoid suggesting someone “take their meds” in the heat of the moment, or tying it to difficult circumstances or challenging moments. If your loved one uses medication as one way of coping with anxiety, then it’s ok to discuss and ask questions. It’s critical to remember though that most people who take medications for any reason consider use of medications as necessary, whether they like the fact that they take them or not. There’s a fine line when it comes to how we approach other’s use of medications. The people we love will appreciate sensitivity where medication is concerned. No one wants to feel guilt or shame for taking medications they find helpful and that have been prescribed by their clinician. They shouldn’t feel forced or coerced into seeking medication either. Whether or not someone chooses to pursue medication for their anxiety is a personal choice.

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader and Host of the Leaderbyte Podcast on iTunes.

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Heartbeats, Drum Kits and The Hardest Places: Josh Devine Talks FH Global Relief

drummer josh devine sitting at drum kit

Josh Devine/ Cal Aurend

*This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.

Wanna change the world? We’ve all seen humanitarian or global agency offers to help you help a child by becoming a child sponsor. Many of us have signed up to help change a life in that way, but how many of us actually ever get to meet the child we sponsor? How many of us get to visit their community? How many of us find a way to help those communities become more self-sustaining? Well, Josh Devine did meet his sponsored child, and now he’s helping bring about awareness to change lives in a small community in Rwanda. And you can be a part of it.

Josh Devine is a drummer. He’s been drumming most of his life—actually since he was three. Who knew that a childhood dream of becoming a drummer would take him all the way to Rwanda and introduce him to boy named Evaride, and help him fall in love with the notion of changing lives?

“I’ve just kind of been drumming my whole life really I got through school and then decided, really this is what I wanted to pursue. Then despite what the One Direction drummer calls “ridiculous odds” he somehow managed to do it. “To get to the level of where I am now—-I’m absolutely blessed and absolutely love it.”

So the drummer is taking what he loves and loving people with it. Actually, he’s loving a whole community. Josh Devine is leading by example and using the platform he’s been given to make a difference.

jeff gilbert and josh devine lean forward against a truck

Jeff Gilbert and Josh Devine

Josh met Jeff Gilbert, from Food for the Hungry (Referred to more often as “FH” because they do so much more). He met Jeff when he attended a friend’s show in LA. “Jeff got up on the stage and started talking (about FH). It was almost like a light bulb went off. You know how people talk about how a light bulb goes off above their heads? It was kind of that moment for me, it was like ‘Dang I should really go and speak to this guy.’ So I just went and talked to him about it afterwards and from that moment we just became like brothers.

Jeff Gilbert, agrees and explains how it all came down. “Yeah Food For The Hungry invited me to participate in that tour and that night one of the tour staff said, “Hey Jeff, one of the guys from One Direction is here and wants to meet with you.” I’m like, “Okay, that’s random.” I met Josh and he shared his heart saying, “Hey listen, this absolutely resonates with everything I want to do.’ One Direction was getting ready to take a hiatus and he said, “I know that this needs to be a part of whatever I do next, whatever that might look like, and this needs to be a part of it.” So One Direction drummer Josh Devine sponsored a child.

A month later he was traveling in Dubai and a family member forwarded something special. He received a letter from Evaride, the child he was sponsoring, and the letter managed to change his life. He contacted Jeff on Facetime in tears ready to get involved.

It wasn’t long until Jeff began working on a video project called “The Hardest Places”and asked Josh to join him. “I decided I would love nothing more than to see Josh’s influence support these people in Rwanda. It was a very beautiful, organic unfolding.”

The next thing you know Josh and Jeff were on a plane to Africa.

“I never actually thought when I first sponsored a child that I’d have such an awesome experience or even contact with him. I thought it would just be one of those things that you pay some money toward and hopefully ever so often you get an update saying ‘he’s doing great’ and I thought it was a really cool thing having actual hand-written letters from him. It was awesome and he was so thankful and it was mind blowing and then to actually go and meet him, face to face—that made it real.”

To Josh, Evaride was no longer just a face on a piece of paper.

“He was a breathing human being in front of me with hopes, dreams, desires, and craziness going on in his life. The most important thing that really struck me was how happy he and his whole family and his whole village were, despite their conditions that they’ve been in. They live every single day as if it’s the greatest gift they’ve ever been given.”

Josh Devine’s appreciation for his own journey and his new found appreciation and love for Evaride’s community and, for that matter all the people of Rwanda, is palpable. Evaride’s community is now graduating from FH’s program as they are considered recently to be “self-sustained”. So now there are other communities that need help. Josh is now committed in a unique way to raising money for a small village in East Rwanda on the border of Tanzania that only recently started partnering with Food for the Hungry, and now Josh has decided to giveaway his One Direction drum kit to raise $70,000.

josh devine sits at one direction drum set

Josh Devine/ Cal Aurend

That move doesn’t surprise Jeff anymore but at first he was shocked. “They had a bunch of immediate needs— about $70,000 worth of needs that would include building schools, digging wells, and getting them up and moving. When we got home we were talking about how to raise 70 grand. ‘What should we do?’ And Josh thought, ‘Why don’t we just give away my drum kit and see if we can raise 70 grand doing that?’ I was like, “Are you kidding me? Are you sure? Is that really something you’d want to do?” And he just says, “I’d love nothing more.”

Fans can enter to win One Direction’s world famous drum kit, now through December 31st. You can go on to thehardestplaces.com/sweepstakes and make a donation that’s going to help make a difference.

According to Jeff Gilbert, thehardestplaces.com is the epicenter for promotions to help Rwanda and to giveaway the drum kit. “If you give a dollar, then you’re entered in one time. If you give five dollars, then we’re going to enter you 25 times and ten dollars is going to enter you 100 times and if you sponsor a child, we’re going to enter you 250 times.”

When Josh Devine reflects on his time in Rwanda, you can feel his heartbeat through his voice, and he laughs, “We spent a lot of time in the back of a pick-up truck and I loved it. It was probably one of the best things ever. I got to play soccer, or football as it should be called, with Evaride. We sat down and had food with his family and got a real chance to connect on a personal level and show him that we’re not just faces from a faraway land. That we’re tangible people that they can reach out to and we’re here. Hopefully they know how loved they are.” Indeed, and there’s no doubt more people will feel loved if Josh has anything to do with it.

To learn more about The Hardest Places and to win the drum kit, go to www.thehardestplaces.com.

Follow Josh Devine on Twitter.

Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter.

Follow Chester Goad on Twitter.

Learn more about FH (Food for the Hungry)

Meet Evaride on the Hardest Places Video

Listen to more of the interview here.

*This piece also appears at Huffington Post.

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader and Host of the Leaderbyte Podcast on iTunes. 


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Toothpaste, Holy Confidence & Second Chances: Big Lessons in Tiny Greatness from Mike Foster

Author, Speaker and Chief Chancer Mike Foster of People of the Second Chance speaks during a catalyst lab.

Author, Speaker and Chief Chance Officer Mike Foster of People of the Second Chance speaks during a catalyst lab. /Credit Mary Caroline Russell

Have you ever needed a second chance? How about forgiveness? Have you ever struggled with accepting yourself, or with guilt or shame? Most of us have messed up. Most of us have failed. Most of us at one time or another have found ourselves broken.  Mike Foster, author of People of the Second Chance has a question for anyone “struggling to find meaning and love”.  “What if we all started loving ourselves the way God loves us?”

Foster a pastor from San Diego is also an author, and a speaker. Lately he’s becoming more notable for encouraging others to love themselves and to love others well.

“I think we’ve all experienced toothpaste moments where the toothpaste comes squirting out of the tube and it’s like ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t plan on that’, and we realize the toothpaste is not going back in the tube.” Foster explains, “It’s messy and uncomfortable. We would never have chosen that, but it happens. Those broken things, those messy things, those things that didn’t go right can actually be leveraged for good.”

Affectionately referred to as the “Chief Chance Officer” the Founder of People of the Second Chance, (POTSC), a husband and father of two teenagers, also spends much of his time talking about grace, and second chances, for everyone, including those in leadership positions.  His encouragement for leaders is to regularly examine their own heart.

“The biggest threat to a leader is the leader himself or herself.  Speaking of myself, my number one project is to manage my own heart. I know I do right things and help people but my number one responsibility is to manage what’s going on inside of me, because if what’s inside my heart is unhealthy, or dysfunctional or feels empty or tired, then that has a ripple effect on my marriage, my kids and the things that I do. Sometimes we forget that.”

In addition to his latest book, Foster also authored a faith-based small group series called, “WonderLife” focused on owning your “not-so-perfect” personal story with all of its twists and turns, and learning from that story. And rightly so, Foster points out that leaders need forgiveness too.

“Some leaders may not like to hear this…but God is only interested in a loving relationship with us. Sometimes we forget that and we are doing all this stuff, and we forget that we too are children of God. We too need grace. We too need forgiveness. I see leaders get off course when they forget to manage their own hearts, their own health, and replenish and do self-care.”

Confronted with the notion that many people refer to him as a person of humility, and then coupled with the question, ‘which is more important boldness or humility?’ Foster laughs uncomfortably. He prefers to consider the terms “holy confidence” and “tiny greatness” and he attempts to deflect the compliment.  “I get cocky, and prideful, and arrogant, trust me. Trust me. Ask my wife,” he declares, before offering a piece of leadership wisdom as his wife Jennifer laughs in the background.  “Regarding tiny greatness, I’ve become really interested in the small things, and loving the person that’s right in front of me versus pursuing a platform.”


Foster indicates that he finds the trendy, all too common pursuit these days of building platforms and gaining influence or leading movements troubling, or maybe even “ridiculous.”  Instead he prefers a “tiny greatness” approach. “What can we do here at a table at Starbucks? How can I show up for my friends? How can I be a good dad? That’s what I’m pursuing.”  And that’s what he recommends to the leaders he comes in contact with.

One of Mike Foster’s latest projects is gaining steam and attention. Prodigal parties. These parties are events designed to celebrate the second chances that are so important to Foster’s mission in life, and to pour love into broken or hurting people from hurting friends to lonely neighbors, recovering addicts, ex-cons, or anyone being marginalized or overlooked or struggling to fit in.

It’s evident that to Mike Foster, leading people well means loving people well, and he makes a point to be thankful for the privilege of leading even through difficulties.

“I remind myself every day that I’m working in people’s brokenness.” Foster finds it an honor to be working with people and suggests that sometimes leaders fall into the trap of making it harder than it should be. “We get so caught up in the stresses and anxieties that sometimes we over-complexify things, and we take things too personally. Our identity gets too caught up in metrics.”

Finally, he emphasizes that leaders should enjoy the experience because “It’s special to be a leader, to be able to influence people, to be able to create things,” and he stresses that all of it, is “an incredible privilege” and he cautions leaders not to get to the end of a career or a life before they “start living” because he says “living starts to today.”

Mike Foster possesses the tiny greatness he talks about, but is too humble to realize it. His focus on others is contagious. He makes you want to love others and to love them well. He makes you want to lead where leadership is needed and to lead others well. He makes you want to find a prodigal and celebrate them—especially because we’re all prodigals in one way or another.  And hey, everyone needs a second chance sometime. Right?

Follow Mike Foster on Twitter: @MikeFoster

Follow Chester Goad on Twitter: @CGoad09

Check out Mike Foster’s People of the Second Chance

Mike Foster was recently a featured speaker at Catalyst.

*This article also appears at here at Huffington Post.

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader and Host of the Leaderbyte Podcast on iTunes. 

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Uncommon Leadership: A Conversation with Catalyst’s Tyler Reagin

Catalyst Executive Director Speaks to Attendees during a Catalyst Lab session

Catalyst Executive Director Speaks to Attendees during a Catalyst Lab session/ Credit: Mary Caroline Russell/ CatalystATL

When was the last time you went to church?  If you fall in line with most statistics it may not have been recently.  Or maybe you attend three days a week.  Even so, at best, church growth is stagnant. At worst it’s in a free fall.  Research recently released by Barna suggests that while most Americans still identify as Christian (as much as 73%), church attendance and the ways individuals practice Christianity offer a bleaker picture.  But why? Tyler Reagin, Executive Director of Catalyst Atlanta asserts the culprit is lack of leadership, and he’s committed to turning things around through encouraging, building up, and equipping leaders especially those within the Church.

Reagin readily acknowledges that the church is all over the map. “If you look at the church landscape right now, the church is not growing. No main line denomination in North America is growing. It’s not an issue of great preaching. In my opinion, it’s an issue of great leadership. Most people are walking away from faith not because of Jesus–they’re walking away, because of the people who represent Jesus. For us at Catalyst, literally our heartbeat is–we want the church to be the best run organization on the planet.”

Thousands of people attend Catalyst Leadership events each year.

Reagin is responsible for the flagship event, Catalyst Atlanta, which has grown significantly over the last 16 years and is typically held in early October.  Similar events are scheduled all over the country, but they don’t just happen.  Effectively pulling off events like Catalyst Atlanta held inside Infinite Energy Center in Northern Atlanta requires a highly finessed cooperative effort of paid staff and volunteers.  As such, effectively leading an organization dedicated to supporting faith-based leaders, and pulling off one of the nation’s largest leadership conferences takes the right kind of leadership, logistics planning, and organization.

Leadership like that takes a great deal of introspection, self-assessment, and self-acceptance.  For Tyler Reagin, it took “realizing that the way he is wired as a leader is ok”, and an understanding that the way he’s wired is purposeful and even necessary to carry out his own purpose.

As Executive Director, Reagin oversees 11 events in addition to coaching development for Catalyst staff, but the challenge doesn’t scare him. According to Reagin it’s a lot, but effective leaders set priorities. In addition to the events “there’s some fun stuff in the works,” but he maintains, “While our investment in leaders and the team takes a huge chunk of my time, I’ve got 2 boys, 9 and 6.  And my wife (Carrie), and those 2 guys is where I try and focus a lot of my extra attention.”

Aside from spending time with family or his extended family, (the Catalyst Team), the bulk of Reagin’s focus is spent developing leaders and finding ways to help them realize their potential contributions and purpose as leaders.

Tyler Reagin conducts an interview on the Catalyst Atlanta Stage

Tyler Reagin conducts an interview on the Catalyst Atlanta Stage/ Credit Mary Caroline Russell

Catalyst is committed to five attributes.  The most prominent and the “constant” as Reagin describes it, is obviously leadership, but the other four attributes are creativity, change, courage and unity and typically these rotate year-by-year. This year’s focal topic fell around the “Unity” attribute leading to the theme “Uncommon Fellowship,” supporting the notion that the church is stronger when it works through important issues together, and that it consists of diverse groups of people.  The agenda was packed with panels, nationally known speakers like Mike Foster, Judah Smith, Craig Groeschel, and Jen and Brandon Hatmaker, Jenny Yang, Scott Sauls, Brian Houston, and rapper and spoken word artist, Propaganda, along with intimate “lab sessions” focused around racial reconciliation, guarding against division, and other challenging issues the church is facing right now, all related to scripture and corporate worship.

Interestingly the unity theme happens to be coinciding with a particularly difficult national election, but Reagin says it wasn’t planned around that. “As believers we’ve never put our trust in government. I just watch God orchestrate this stuff all the time. It blows my mind.”  An example of that orchestration he points out is the scheduling of Simon Sinek, a much sought after leadership expert and speaker. “Simon’s one of my favorite leaders, but I had no idea once we booked him that he released a children’s book two weeks before Catalyst Atlanta, called “Together is Better.

“Honestly, I wish I could say it was more strategic. It’s a combination of being on our knees going ‘God, what do we need to talk about?’ And watching Him help us believe that together, and …a lot of hard work.”

Reagin has a passion for new and upcoming leaders and stresses the importance of having confidence, experiencing coaching, and recognizing their uniqueness in leadership and purpose.  He believes that lack of confidence often delays a leader’s potential impact. “Truthfully. Insecure leaders just don’t have followings for a long period of time.” He suggests that until they’ve become more comfortable with themselves it’s going to be harder getting to that point “when you can show up day in and day out, and be the leader you’re wanting to be and the leader they expect to show up. We’re in this, because there’s a bunch of heroes, who need to be reminded to not be insecure, because the gospel tells us we have victory in Jesus.”

Currently, Reagin leads a Catalyst team under age 40. His sense of responsibility and obligation to coach and mentor them is palpable. He stresses his responsibility, obligation, and desire to develop and coach them. “If there’s one thing I can give them as a staff at this stage in their careers, it’s to coach the heck out of them, and make them understand this is how God made them.  I want to say, ‘Are you kidding me? Did you see that? You know that came natural to you. None of us even thought about that.”

It’s his desire to take what he’s learned from past experiences and help others realize their own uniqueness.

Tyler Reagin stands speaking

Tyler Reagin Speaks at Catalyst Atlanta/ Credit Mary Caroline Russell

“My life’s message and passion is that we as Christian leaders, recognize that we are uniquely made for unique purposes.  I’ve spent the last 12 years pulling out the uniqueness of the people on my team, and pulling out the uniqueness of the people around me saying, ‘Look at that. Are you kidding me? You’re the only one on our 25 person staff that does that. We need that from you. You are loved, just exactly how you are. Now go and love other people like that.”

At the same time, Reagin laments that many leaders are chasing other people’s uniqueness and that churches are chasing other church’s uniqueness.

“They’re losing, because they’re chasing the wrong things. What I know is God has said ‘I know who you are. I put you together. I put the bone to bone, muscle to muscle. I built you. I have knit you together for a unique calling. We are his masterpieces. At the end of the day, the best leaders on the planet are the ones who are okay with themselves. Our unique calling is absolutely connected to our unique wirings and our unique purposes.”

Tyler Reagin is an uncommon leader, inarguably unique possessing a love for coaching and developing more leaders, particularly church leaders.  He is authentic, and funny, and dedicated, and confident, but not arrogant. It’s obvious he’s worked through the years to understand who he is so he can live out his purpose.  As long as there are leaders like Tyler Reagin committed to building up more leaders, and as long as organizations like Catalyst are building up, edifying, equipping and encouraging those faith leaders, then no matter what the media says about faith, no matter what the latest research shows, the church is most assuredly not doomed.

*This article first appeared on The Huffington Post. 

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader.

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Exciting Announcement Leaderbyte Podcast Coming Soon!

Leaderbyte podcast cover art includes two mics and a chat bubble

Cover art reveal: Podcast Cover Art/logo for the new Leaderbyte Podcast

Soon I’ll be kicking off my newest venture by Hosting “The Leaderbyte Podcast” which will be available on iTunes. The first three episodes plus a supplemental intro to the podcast have already been recorded and are mixed and ready to go. Be on the lookout for how you can be involved in helping get the word out! The show is produced in an interview format, and I’ll be making unique connections between leadership, learning and life through the power of story and conversation. All topics are fair game. Leadership is a conversation worth having and I’m hoping you’ll join the discussion! In honor of the book that kicked off many of my pursuits, you’ll notice the podcast art is purple!

All my best, all the time,




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Unity? Chris Tomlin is Praying for a Miracle and You Can Join Him at a Theater Near You

chris tomlin kneeling holding guitar on stage with others kneeling

Chris Tomlin leading worship and prayer/Photo credit: Rayneutron

I had the pleasure recently of interviewing one of the world’s most notable worship leaders.  I hope you’ll find a moment to check it out below.

When and where was the last time you prayed? Chances are it wasn’t at your local movie theater. But if Chris Tomlin’s prayers are answered, on October 25th theaters across the nation will be packed with people praying for unity.

Earlier this summer, Chris Tomlin kicked off his pursuit of unity with live events intended to bring people to their knees in prayer for our nation and for Christians.

Tomlin has observed that in today’s culture, “Even in the church, we often feel divided and uncertain.” Tomlin’s Worship Night in America events that packed houses likeMadison Square Garden in New York, and The Forum in LA culminated a “heartfelt desire to host a night that had nothing to do with politics, but rather enlisted the humble spirit of prayer and worship to bring people together.”

Reflecting on the diversity of the modern church, Chris notes that while we may think and teach about God in various ways, we often sing the same songs.

Chris’s humility is inspiring. He sees himself having only played a small role. He’s Grammy-winning Chris Tomlin, and he doesn’t even know it, and that is also refreshing.

Having curated the songs with the help of others, Chris began brainstorming what it might be like to fill up arenas with what he refers to as “all the different streams of the church” singing the same songs, leading worship with the help of those same friends and fellow artists who had written and carried those songs around the world.

“I thought, what if we were leading these songs all together, at the same time, as if we were one artist and one band. I had never been a part of anything like that before, and I just kept thinking, ‘What if?”

So Tomlin enlisted the help of some his friends like Kari Jobe, Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Kim Walker-Smith, Phil Wickham and fellow stalwart, Steven Curtis Chapman. The idea is to lead songs together, songs that people have learned. Songs people love.

And so a powerful idea became even more powerful when prayer was added to the mix. “I thought—-during these moments of musical worship, what if we stopped and prayed for our nation?” He concedes that at this moment, many in our country feel confused about where we’re headed. At the same time, he believes that prayer is the antidote.

large crowd stands in prayer many covering their faces

Photo Credit: Rayneutron

After all, he says “worship and prayer go hand-in-hand” and he reminds me of the words of Saint Augustine, “He who sings, prays twice.” It’s evident the power of worship is not lost on Chris, the power of prayer is not lost on Chris, and neither is the power contained within our diversity. “Singing and praying really are synonymous with each other. When we sing and pray together, even with all of our differences, the spirit of unity that fills our individual hearts connects us to each other in one corporate heart, and that experience is powerful.”

Still like the rest of us, Tomlin is not oblivious to the divisiveness in our country, and suggests that these worship and prayer events were inspired for such a time as this.

“If ever there was a time for this event to come to light, this is the moment. People are uncertain of where we are headed as a nation. We feel polarized. So having the opportunity to share the unity expressed through Worship Night in America one week before the election is important.” He strongly contends that this event has nothing to do with politics. “It’s not about voting for any particular party or President. Prayer is greater than politics. Prayer reminds us that our hope is not in government, but in God. As a Christian I think, ‘What is my role in this moment and time? This event is an opportunity to stand and say, ‘Lord, our eyes are not on Washington DC, our eyes are on You.”

Tomlin agrees that unity is definitely about bringing diverse groups of people together, but suggests that it’s bigger than that, asserting that it’s also about bringing the church together, and moreover about Jesus’ prayer for Oneness.

“I think it’s interesting His last prayer on earth was, ‘Father that my people would be one as we are one.’ (John 17:21). Jesus’ own prayer was that we would reflect the unity—the oneness—he experiences with God.”

Chris believes unity is about laying aside agendas. At Worship Night for America, “No one is vying for attention on stage. No one is saying, ‘This is my moment.’ When we cheer each other on, whether it’s artists on stage, in our communities, in our churches at home, it creates a beautiful picture of unity, and I know this is the heart of God—-to be unified.”

Chris’s sincerity is palpable. I reflect on his passion and his careful but deliberate choice of words and I find his outlook and his style to be genuine, down-to-earth, human and different. And it makes me want to see the desire of Chris’s heart come to fruition, and for Jesus’ prayer for Oneness to be realized.

Most believe that achieving the type of unity Chris Tomlin hopes for will take a miracle. Is it really possible to achieve unity in spite of everything we’re up against in the world today? Chris Tomlin seems to think so. No, he doesn’t think so. He believes so. He sums up his faith in the notion of unity like this: “I don’t think Jesus would have prayed for unity if it were not possible.”

I’m expecting to see a few good movies this year but considering much of what Hollywood is producing these days, I’ll take one ticket for unity please. And I’m expecting Chris Tomlin’s Worship Night in America on October 25th to be one heck of a blockbuster event.

Unity. That’s the ticket. Can I get an Amen?


If you’d like to be a part of a Worship Night in America with Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio,Max Lucado and friends here’s how.

If you’d like to request the WNIA event for your local theater, you can do that too. Just click here.

There’s also an option to host WNIA at your local church. Learn more here.

Worship Night in America is a special one night only event on October 25.

Follow Chris Tomlin on Twitter: @christomlin

Follow Chester Goad on Twitter: @cgoad09

This article also appears at Huffington Post. 

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader.

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Protect Your Team in 2016: Five Ways Leaders Survive Election Season

workplace team meeting 3 people sitting 3 people standingDo you have friends or a co-workers who are hyper-political, easily offended or overly charged when it comes to politics? Do the folks on your team argue over state or national elections? Maybe the most opinionated person is you? It’s disconcerting when your coworkers are overzealous but what’s even more problematic is the hyper-political leader.

Political discourse at the right place, in the right company, and on the right time is a good thing. But we all know freedom of speech is never really free. Often there is a cost involved. While the right place and right time may be debatable, over-sharing your political ideologies in any work place is not best practice. Remember the old adage, “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial”?

Yes, election season is upon us, and believe it or not, it is possible to survive election cycles with your leadership integrity and the trust of your team intact. Use these five practical tips to avoid sabotaging your team’s success with your own personal political biases.

Political Self-Sabotage Protection Plan

Silence Your Walls (and your desk): Don’t let furniture, frames, or bulletin boards scream at your team. Would you wear a politically charged t-shirt to work? Then why would you tack that same message to your walls? How you choose to decorate your office speaks volumes to those who visit there. A poster that reads “Visualize Whirrled Peas” is one thing, but “Vote Right or Die” or “Vote Left or Die” is never a proper welcoming message (whether 50 percent of people agree with you or not). Party pins, bumper stickers and political propaganda are better left for other venues than the professional setting. Not only can a simple bumper sticker incite negative feelings or cause mistrust in the office, it can cost you friendships, customers, clients, partners and even profits. Purposefully placed negativity in any form has no place in the leader’s toolbox.

Cut the Snark: Know when to zip it and nip it. It’s ok to have opinions. This is where the wisdom of your parents comes in handy. Remember: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” or “If you don’t have something nice to say, then say nothing at all.” Saying nothing at all has become a challenge for many people. Don’t assume everyone agrees with you and don’t give the impression that the team must think like you. Some of your team members may withhold sharing valuable work ideas or opinions because they think you may not value their opinions. A diverse team is a productive and creative team.

Reverse Your Forward Habit: Resist the urge to forward politically charged emails: That cartoon, video or meme may have made you LOL, but others may not find it so funny. Protect yourself from crossing the line or losing respect of others or even your job. Over simplifying complex problems by verbally or visually accosting those with opposing views is a bad idea. Leave that to the newspapers.

Say No to Politicking and Say Yes to Voting: The leader sets the tone. Know your policies, preferences, and best practice and discuss them with your team. Rather than focusing on specific candidates or issues during election cycles, encourage the importance of voting and good citizenship. Most people will agree that it’s important to vote. As the leader, go vote, encourage your team to do the same and leave it at that. Set a goal for 100 percent voting in your office, and celebrate the freedom we have to do so.

Mute the Media: Turn off TVs and radios or consider choosing a streaming service without the negative ads. Leaving the office tv on in the throes of election season is only asking for trouble and decreased productivity. Remember: The media no longer wants your undivided attentions. Your divided attentions are much more lucrative. Don’t fall prey to media campaign ratings games.

November will come and go. To be certain, there’s always another election around the corner. In order to avoid unnecessary divisiveness, choose to protect your team, your mission and your sanity. Doing anything otherwise will only serve to damage team trust, your leadership integrity, and quite possibly your bottom-line. None of that is worth the risk just for the sake of “being right” or “making political points”.

Check out the Purple People Leader Promo here:

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. You can learn more about Chester at www.chestergoad.com. He’s also author of Purple People Leader and you can learn more about that at www.purplepeopleleaderbook.com. He believes you should vote your conscience in 2016 and let it go. Elections come and go. Friends are for life.

(This post was originally posted to PurplePeopleLeaderBook.com, and has been published on Huffington Post as well)


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