Bright Spots

I had a recent conversation about ‘Bright Spots’ in ministry with Russ Long, pastor for 23 years of the Bel Air Church of the Nazarene in Bel Air, Maryland. He is also the chairman of the Eastern Nazarene College trustees and chair of the search committee for a new ENC president. I have been coaching and mentoring Russ for several years now.

He has a ‘Bright Spots’ journal with over 100 pages of notes about what he calls ‘small victories’ that often are unnoticed in the midst of the challenges that go with leading a congregation and a college board. It’s a counter to the temptation to focus on what isn’t happening.

He wrote in a blog that ‘sometimes I don’t record much for a week or so, and then there seems to be season in which there are quite a few things to enter.’  He looks for ‘bright spots,’ he said, in part for his own mental health.

He begins board meetings at the church and with the ENC board by noting these ‘small victories.’ And he asks board members to talk about the ‘bright spots’ they are seeing around the church or the college. His annual reports include a review of ‘bright spots’ from the past year.

And he now begins his sermons with a projected picture of a ‘bright spot.’ He told me it could be members volunteering at a homeless center, or a wedding. He wants people to see the good things they might have otherwise missed.

Russ got the idea from the book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath. In one of the chapters they cite the leaders of Kaiser
Health who have made it a high priority to study their own internal ‘bright spots.’

Russ began to do the same within his own ministry. ‘Had I not recorded them, I either would have not noticed or I might have forgotten them.’

He has it right. We may fail to remember or even notice good things and small victories if we are not looking for them and taking time to write them down and talk about them.

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5 Responses to Bright Spots

  1. Bob Sloan says:

    Thanks Tom:

    It is good to both recognize and celebrate “Bright Spots” that surround us. We are bombarded with bad news all day long. If we are not careful and observant we can miss the best things that are happening in life. Keeping a journal of good things is a way to notice, remember and celebrate Bright Spots. Spread the word.

  2. Mark Cork says:

    Thanks for this Tom. Bright Spots are often fuel for my soul!

    Good to see you’re writing again – I’ve missed reading your thoughts and reminders. I hope you’re well.


  3. David Ralph says:

    Love the thought… The pastor that married my wife and me would often pause and tell the church; “We focus on things that need to be improved but look at the marvelous things God is doing among us.” Then he would give a list of encouraging highlights that were small and large miracles” Love anything that Chip & Dan Heath put out… Thanx for the tip!

  4. DENNIS L KING says:

    Thank you, Tom. Russ is one of my personal heroes and my greatest pastor-mentor. He is one of the “bright spots” in my life.

  5. Mark HALE says:

    Every single staff meeting at Thrive Community Church of Grand Forks, ND., begins with this question. “Who has a story from last Sunday?” We spend at least 20 minutes talking about the wins, big and small. If we messed up in some area of ministry, we tackle that later in the meeting. I think it’s SUPER important for the team to celebrate those bright spots. Thanks for sharing!

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