Wednesday, July 28, 2010

we do missions because...

We do missions at Grace Community because people matter...because God is redeeming this broken world...because Jesus changes everything...because hope is real. Sunday we have the chance to celebrate what God is doing all over the world. So glad we had three teams who got to be a part of what God is up to this summer. If you live in Clarksville you don't want to miss Sunday at GCC!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

setting SMALL GROUPS up to win

The best small groups must to be set up to win. I know in a perfect world every teen should be knocking our door down to find out who their leader is (we hope it is the same one from the past year but again that is a perfect world) and they are begging to start meeting. We all know this never happens. Like most things that people need, they don't naturally gravitate toward it. Teenagers need to live life in community but left to themselves they will choose isolation. If you want small groups to work in your ministry you have to set them up to win. Our ministry is trying some new things with small group life so we are really working hard to make sure our new groups are set up to make a difference in the life of our students. Here is what we have to do...

Build the team >> We are working hard right now to build our team. Finding the right mix of leaders can make or break the small group process in a ministry. Some people are going to stick some are not but remember a quality leader can take a small group to the next level. Find people who are passionate and teachable and you will build a great team. These people become the real "pastors" in your ministry because they live life with teens. College students, young adults, and parents all come together to make up our team of small group leaders and I promise...they make ministry happen!

Make a plan >> the best small groups are in sync with the direction of what you are teaching in your large group environment. We partner with XP3 because we want to sync small group life and what we teach from the main stage every week. If you don't have a plan you are setting up your small groups for chaos. Get a plan and empower your team to take it to the next level and make it work for your students.

Work on the atmosphere >> When and where are HUGE issues if small groups are going to be a WIN in your student ministry. Guy and Girl groups need different kind of environments in order to thrive. Middle School and High School student group meeting times can vary. You have to work on creating an atmosphere and environment that help make group life work for your ministry.

Make it a priority >> If you want group to be a major part of your ministry you better be prepared to promote, plan, and invest in your strategy! You have to make sure everyone knows that relationships matters. If spiritual growth happens best in the midst of community then we have to be willing to invest time and energy to make it a priority. If small groups are going to be a win in the lives of your students be ready to protect and promote your strategy. 

Evaluate and KEEP TWEAKING >> Great small groups and small group strategies are always being evaluated and tweaked to make sure they are healthy. Community is messy and there are always messes to clean up. When students live life together (rather than just sit in a room and hear a talk) then things can get a little crazy. THIS IS NORMAL, just keep working on it and keep learning! You will never find perfection when it comes to small group ministry so keep working on it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saying what you are THINKING

Speaking up and SAYING what you are THINKING is so difficult in leadership. I see something going wrong or not working right, I have a million thoughts about the issue explode in my head with multiple solutions, then I say nothing and let the issue pass because I don't want to say the wrong thing or I think someone else will or should see the issue and address it. Most of the time when I say nothing I end up with a truck load of regret and frustration. I am learning that if I want my team, event, or organization to succeed I better find a way to say what I thinking in a thoughtful but courageous way. Thoughtful because how I give advice or direction has a direct connection to how people respond to my idea. Courageous because I have to choose to speak up and it is much easier to just keep my mouth shut and not make anyone feel uncomfortable. What I am finding is that I need to say what I am thinking more. More than that, we all need to speak up more. Our perspective might be what God is going to use to take our team, event, organization to the next level.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I'm sorry. In leadership those words can be very powerful. No one likes to say them because none of us like to make mistakes. Some leaders even try to pretend they never make mistakes, but those types don't last in the long haul. Our team recently made a mistake (I know, I was surprised too! I thought our staff at GCC was perfect!) and I was so impressed with everyone's willingness to simply take responsibility and say I'm sorry. Apologizing and owning responsibility allowed our team to humbly evaluate and move forward. The people who follow us (those we work with, our families, our friends) need to hear us say those words with regularity. Why? Leaders take risks and that leads to mistakes. Leaders also have to be willing to own the mess and take responsibility when something goes wrong. Saying I'm sorry actually leads us to be the kind of leaders people want to follow. If you are going to lead just get used to saying it...practice it...embrace it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

why we are launching a MIDDLE SCHOOL GATHERING this fall...

Why have a middle school gathering for teens in our ministry? We have been asking that question for several years here at Relevant, landed on some answers, waited for the right time, and now are about to launch our first gathering created for middle school students. Coming up on August 11 we start this journey of trying to create specific space for middle schoolers. We have been serving this age group for 3 years with our small group ministry but we know we need to step it up if we want to really impact families in our city who have middle school kids running around the house. Why are we going to launch this new environment?
  • We have reached so many high school students they are actually keeping middle school kids from being comfortable at our student gathering (this is a great problem!)
  • We want to make sure we OPTIMIZE the environment every week for this age group. Middle School students and High School students learn in different ways.
  • Parents like to know their middle school teen is not hanging around a bunch of high school kids they don't know.
  • The lives of Middle School families are in constant flux from 6-8th grade...a stable ministry presence parents can partner with is so needed.
  • Middle School students are more likely to invite friends to a gathering aimed at them!
  • What God does in the heart of a Middle School student has lasting impact on the rest of their high school and college experience! 
  • With a Middle School gathering our transition from Cross Street (our k-5 ministry) to Student Ministry will be more effective.
Those are just a few of the ideas that are driving us to launch The Mix this fall! We announce this to our students tonight and I am so pumped about seeing what God is going to do. We are taking a risk and in the middle of that risk I am praying God shows up in a mighty way. If you go to Grace Community Church and you have middle school kids at home we ask you to pray about partnering with us this fall!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Gaining support for your cause if hard work, but losing support is much easier to do and can happen very fast. Several weeks ago we asked a few non-profits to come in on Sunday morning at Grace Community and allow us to promote their cause. The only thing these organizations had to do was show up at a supporter's location and give out info to people who might help their cause. Guess what two of these organizations did? They ignored the invite and even declined to provide simple promotional info for the day. We ended up showcasing the one ministry in our community that came in and partnered with us. The other two we invited lost out on the promotion that Sunday and much of our support for their organizations. When most people or organizations support a cause they want to feel and experience a real partnership. You can look at World Vision, Soles 4 Souls, or Compassion International for good examples of how these organizations partner with their supporters. Nonprofits lose support when they break trust or fail to respond to the needs of their supporters. Want to lose support?
  • Try not listening to your supporters
  • Don't give your supporters regular feedback
  • Don't find ways for people to get "hands on" with your organizations
  • Don't show up when your supporters invite you to promote the cause
Any combination above will help you lose support for your cause...if your cause matters then show up, inform, involve, and listen!

Monday, July 19, 2010

next level mission experience for teenagers

Every student pastor I know wants to make sure their student ministry is helping teens get a grasp on what it means to serve the world and spread the message of Jesus. We talk about global issues throughout the year and a summer camp every year. We work to make sure and partner with the mission efforts of Grace Community Church with Operation Serve where we invest in our city. We give and we go. We want to be a ministry that takes action not just encourages great discussion. This is my first post in 10 days because a team from Relevant Student Ministry has been serving in New Orleans in a week we call SERVE New Orleans. In our third year with this partnership we experienced a great year and made a real took us several years to figure out how this was going to work. Here are some lessons we learned over the past three years about how to create a next level mission experience...
  • Partner with a local church // we tried doing a mission trip using a missions organization with multiple churches but it just did not fit our ministry. We needed to focus. We found that partnering with a local church that has relationships with the community and can continue the work started by the mission team the best route for our team.
  • Stay plugged into a region // Mission work is not tourism! Mission work is about making a difference and we have chosen to stay plugged in with one city, one church and 2 areas in that city. One week of the year we can promise families we will be there to invest in their part of the city. We have lives life with a few kids for three years now!
  • Do what you are good at // don't try to go to a city and do things your team are not good at! Serve in a city and do what you are best at. At Grace Community we do children's ministry well so when we go on mission trips we serve kids and families! Your church might be able to pull off a sports camp or do construction. Just do what you are good at.
  • Bigger is not better // our mission trip teams are made up of around 25 people. THAT IS IT! As the ministry grows we will add other teams going to other areas. The right size team makes sure every leader has a job on the team. Bigger just leads to more problems. Mission trip experiences are a time to invest in the lives of teens and work with them to invest in others. Bigger is not better.

Friday, July 9, 2010

make your IDEA reality

Ideas are amazing but they are worthless if they are never put into action. I am always pumped to see people who take ideas and make them a reality. Our children's pastor had a great idea a few months ago and then worked to make it happen. Adam and his wife Marissa wanted to serve the homeless and the hungry in our city and since none of our community agencies provide breakfast on Saturday morning he chose to work on this issue. Some planning and some strategic partnerships and now it is a reality. What I love most about this is that it has nothing to do with his job and everything to do with Jesus! Check out this video and hear about COMMUNITY BREAKFAST...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

want a great mission trip // get the right people on the TEAM!

Spent most of this week working on mission trip details for our high school mission trip to New Orleans. As you can tell if you follow this blog, I am off rhythm with my posting schedule. There is just a ton to do and blogging has been moved a little down on the priority list. This will be our third year serving in New Orleans. We have learned so many lessons from our time in New Orleans about how to make a mission experience work. One of the most important aspects of a great week is getting the right people on the team. For us mission trip = humble service. We take students who are already serving at Grace Community Church. When we see teens already serving on a weekly basis or we find teens that might move in that direction we add them to the team. We also make sure we have a team of adult leaders who are ready to serve the teens on our team and serve the kids in New Orleans. Most of why this week works for us has nothing to do with my leadership and everything to do with 6 adult leaders who are TALENTED and bring amazing organizational and teaching ability to the table. We keep this team small because the goal is to make a difference in New Orleans and we need to be flexible in order to make that happen. If you want to make the most out of your mission experience get the right students and leaders on the team and set them loose to serve!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

down days?

In the church world we talk about "down days". What is a "down day"...a holiday, spring break, fall break, or many summer Sundays. These are days we tend to see attendance slip because people are busy or traveling or have plans. I am beginning to wonder if we should ever let "down days" get in the way of planning our environments. Every Sunday is somebody's first Sunday...will we be ready for them, strive for excellence, go the extra mile for them when they show up? This past Sunday was July 4. In the "down day" theory we should have just planned an average day or a less than average crowd. The thought never crossed our mind as we planned last month. We tried every way possible to step up our game and make July 4 a great Sunday. We landed on a plan and wow this past Sunday we had an amazing day. 15 people got baptized. Our preschool ministry had an amazing day with our little kids. Families gathered together in all three of our services and experienced one of our best services of the year. We had tons of first time guests. (one that was asking where our traditional service was but that is for another post!) All of that went down on a "down day". THERE IS NO DAY THAT IS A DOWN DAY WHEN IT IS SOMEBODY'S FIRST SUNDAY AND WHEN LIVES ARE CHANGING!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pace Yourself

There is not a week that goes by that our staff does not get asked about all the stuff we don't do. Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Discipleship Classes, Men's / Women's Ministry, Children's Choir, Adult Choir, Suits...(that was a joke) are just a few things that we don't do. Because we have worked hard to re-imagine what church looks like many times we get defined by what we don't do rather than the things we are doing! With that said, we are always looking to find new avenues to serve our community and help people become growing followers of Christ. We have added and will add many ministry strategies in the coming years. One concept that I think we have to be careful about as we add things to our agenda is to PACE OURSELVES. Many ideas are great ideas but they are not the ideas we should advance right now if we want to guard our ministry pace. These ideas are great ideas for later because if we add them now we will outpace our time, staff, and resources. A good idea at the wrong time can turn into a monster in our organization...a monster that kills momentum and steals focus. There are ideas we had three years ago at Grace Community that we are just now getting to implement because THIS IS THE RIGHT TIME. If I want long term health for the team I lead I have to help set the pace. I have to give my team the freedom to WAIT and protect a good idea so we can implement it when the time is right. How is your pace right now? How often are you saying no or wait to good ideas? The answer to that question will help you evaluate how you are doing at setting a healthy pace.