Tony Miltenberger is a husband, father, and follower of Christ. He is currently serving as the lead pastor at Restoration Church Centerville, ohio.

5 Takeaways From my Conversation with Carey Nieuwhof

Several weeks ago, I found out that I won a contest to have a private conversation with Carey Nieuwhof. The conversation was set to take place at ReThink Leadership, and in addition to the conversation, he paid for my ticket to the conference! It was an awesome conference, and if you want to read some of my reflections on ReThink I invite you to check these blogs.  

My time with Carey was exciting! Leading up to the conversation I was wrestling with butterflies. Let me help you understand something – I listen, read, and dialogue with Carey’s content A LOT. I listen to his podcast nearly every week. I read his blogs and share them frequently. And I’ve used some of his training material to help dialogue with the board about the vision of our ministry. 

Carey writes for the church that is struggling to not just sustain, but rather to build the Kingdom. I find that the topics he covers could have been written about my context, or about my leadership, and the dialogue that he has with other leaders on his podcast is second to none. 

Said simply, Carey has been coaching me since I started as a lead pastor. He didn’t know it (well, till I told him), but in a lot of ways, we have been leading this church together. Meeting him was a lot of fun, I thought I would share my 5 takeaways from our conversation:

1. Great leaders are great question askers. I’ve heard it before, I knew this was true, but I was surprised how fast Carey started asking me questions! I went in there saying to myself, “I’m going to get these questions answered.” Sure enough, he judo flipped me into answering a bunch of questions he had. I didn’t mind, it was great conversation – I was just surprised how fast it happened. The art of leading begins with asking questions. 

2. Let go of everything that you can. Carey didn’t handle any of the logistics of us meeting up. I’m also fairly confident that he didn’t know how many meetings he had after me, and he didn’t know how long we were going to meet. He trusts his team to take care of all of that, and because of that, he was completely in the moment.  Not holding on to the “stuff” that other people can worry about is a great way to stay focused on your mission. If we only have so much brain space: What are you filling it with?

3. Don’t try to fake it. Carey started off our conversation with an apology, he apologized for being tired. When I walked into the room I could tell that this was a man who had been going 100 mph for the last three days. It would have been easy to try and pretend that he wasn’t tired, but we both would have known the reality. Instead, he apologized and we both quickly moved on. It was a cool thing to do.  

4. Examine the heart. One of the questions that I asked Carey was: How do you live in the tension of change and the people who are opposed to it? I thought his answer was worth sharing: He said, “Get to know the heart of the person.” Do they have a heart for the Gospel? Are they just scared? If they have a heart for the Gospel then the tough dialogue is probably worth it. If they don’t have a heart for the Gospel, then that is a different conversation.  

5. Love people, especially if you don’t know them. The final thing Carey and I talked about was me. He asked how I was doing, and to be honest – I wasn’t ready for it. I was in business mode, asking questions, taking mental notes. Then he looked me in the eye and said, “How are you?” It was one of those questions that reminded me that even in the difficult job of leading we are still ministers of the God who loves. 

It was a great conversation. We covered a lot of ground that I’m not going to include in a blog, but just know that if you are serious about being a better leader Carey’s content is a great place to start. I’ll also tell you that he lives what he speaks. Carey’s motto is helping you lead like never before, and I’m thankful that he does.  

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