Tuesday, November 30, 2010

the WORK ENVIRONMENT is changing...

 The "work environment" is changing and I think for the better. The way we work, create, and lead is shifting in this generation and I love learning from leaders who are trying to shake up the status quo. I just finished reading two must read books that focus on the way we work and the way we make ideas become a reality. If you lead any size organization, church, business, or department then you need to check out these 2 books and process how these ideas might enhance your environment.

REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of the company 37 Signals wrote this book to provide an inside look at the work environment around their company. The book will make you uncomfortable, make you think, and make you evaluate why you do what you do at work. Why do we meet? How should we plan? Why do we never evaluate how and why we work. The book asks some amazing questions and provides some ideas that I think could help most organizations work better. Because this is an inside look at one organization you will not agree with everything but you will be pushed to think outside the box.

MAKING IDEAS HAPPEN by Scott Belsky is a book aimed straight at the heart of those who create. All of us have ideas. Making an idea become a reality is the hard part. I talk to so many great leaders who serve in churches all across the country who are great idea generators but terrible when it comes to delivering results. This is a book that will help you structure your work so you make you ideas come to life. This is a call to action. This is a must read for creatives inside the church. Check it out!

Monday, November 29, 2010

what matters most?

You are looking at my broken Macbook Pro screen. Yep, I accidentally ran over my laptop and Kindle over Thanksgiving weekend. Yes, I am serious. I ran over my laptop! While unloading our car to get something for my daughter I accidentally left my black backpack on the ground behind the car and backed right over it later in the night. I almost passed out when I saw it. My kids were watching and they know that Dad loves his Mac. Somehow I kept it together...I am not sure how but I just kept telling myself, THIS IS JUST STUFF (I also walked away from the car to VENT!). I immediately remembered I had backed up my Mac the day before. I guess that is really why I was able to not explode in front of my girls! My "replacement" Kindle just came in today and I am still waiting on my new Mac to get here. To be honest I am a tech addict so this has been a great few days to process what really matters. I bet I am not the only one who has leveraged technology to be a better pastor and leader. The problem comes when  the tools we use break or don't work. When things go wrong, break, glitch what matters most is exposed. What matters most is our character. What matters most is perseverance. What matters most is attitude. I was reminded this past Thanksgiving that thing break, things mess up, things go wrong. What matters most is how we respond!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Top 5 / stuff I'm THANKFUL for in 2010

It is the day before Thanksgiving and I am hanging out this morning with my kids and enjoying some vacation time before we head out of town to visit family. I usually do my Top 5 post on Friday but I am about to shut it down till next week. Since it is the day before my favorite holiday I thought I would talk about the Top 5 things I am thankful for in 2010. With 5 things I know I have to leave out some things that have been amazing but that is why it is Top 5 and not Top 25. Here are the Top 5 things I am thankful for in 2010...
  • I'm thankful for 15 amazing years spent with my wife >>  We are one month away but Chelsea and I get to celebrate our 15th anniversary this December. I am blown away by the amazing woman God placed in my life. I love the passion Chelsea has for our family and for Christ. Thanks for putting up with me Chelsea!
  • I'm thankful for another year with Kozbi and Kelyn >> I am blown away by the depth of my relationship with my girls. There is nothing better than being a dad and every year with my kids is a gift to be cherished. I'm so blessed to be DAD to such amazing girls.
  • I'm thankful for our upcoming Kenwood Campus at Grace Community Church >> In just a few months we will launch our second campus at GCC. I am thankful for leadership that is willing to change plans in order to follow God's plan for our church. This is going to be an amazing adventure as we seek to reach our city for Christ.
  • I'm thankful for our Family Ministry Staff at GCC >> I am so blessed to get to serve with Katrina Watts, Adam Bayne, and Brandon Reed. We have an incredible team of leaders investing in kids, teens, college students, and parents.
  • I'm thankful for the amazing NEXT GENERATION leaders I have met this past year >> seriously I have met some amazing leaders working with kids, teens, and college students across the country this year and it has brought me new hope. Because of blogs, twitter and Facebook we now can collaborate in amazing ways and actually learn from each other. I am thankful for this new avenue of connecting and collaborating.
I would love to hear your top 5...if you have time leave a comment here on the blog or on Facebook. Thanks for taking time to follow my blog and have an amazing Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the power of SMALL GROUP

Student Pastor...if you want to make a difference in the lives of teenagers then make sure you empower your small group leaders to be the youth ministers in your ministry. This past week we had the chance to watch one of our small group leaders help 5 of the girls in her small group take the step of baptism. In our church we empower small group leaders to baptize people in their group. We got to watch a small group leader baptize the girls in her group. How amazing is that? That moment happened because a caring leader walked her small group through the idea of baptism. This happened Sunday because of the power of small group. Here are some reasons be believe in small groups here at Relevant Student Ministry...
  • Small groups provide a relationship of significance for EVERY STUDENT >> every teen that comes to RELEVANT needs a mentor. Small group leaders help provide another voice in a teens life pointing them toward Christ.
  • Small groups help teens take the NEXT STEP >> small group leaders know where each student is at spiritually and can encourage each person in group to take that next step toward Christ. Following Christ is about steps not leaps!
  • Small group leaders are able to PARTNER WITH PARENTS >> small group leaders have the chance to link arms with parents. Both parents and small group leaders want to see our students make wise choices and grow in their faith. That is a unique bond that unites small group leaders and parents.
  • Small group leaders MULTIPLY LEADERSHIP >> our ministry is better because we have many leaders not just 2 leaders on staff. Our small group leaders help our environment for students thrive not just survive. Your student ministry is only as strong as your volunteer team so make sure and invest in other leaders.

Monday, November 22, 2010

allergic to CHURCH?

When I was a kid I was allergic to almost everything. I took this test where they poked needles in my back and yep I was allergic to trees, grass, dogs, and cats. I then had to take allergy shots to build my resistance against those allergies. Over time I got over many of the things that bothered me because the shots kept exposing me to the things that I was allergic to in small doses. I tell you that wonderful story to talk about something else I am now allergic too and that is ineffective churches, outdated rules and religion. You want to know why people are resistant to Christ? Most of the time it springs from ineffective churches, outdated rules, and religion. When I get around a church immersed in poor leadership, legalism, and stuffy religion I feel like I am cuddling a cat (yep, very allergic to cats). I think my church allergy has grown because I now spend my life discovering ways to reinvent church for today rather than protecting ways we did church 50 years ago. When I get around old methods that clearly are not working anymore it almost like being in a house with mold...I HAVE TO GET AWAY. Here are a few things that kick my church allergy into next level craziness...
  • Poor Leadership / I am amazed that so many churches allow people with little character and leadership ability to make decisions and have influence. For most churches the people who shout the loudest and give the most money have the most control. Only problem there is that Jesus never modeled that mindset. Churches need a revolution of Christ-like leaders to rise up and stop the noise.
  • Poor Communication / seriously, I don't blame people outside the church for not coming to church when I hear most communication inside the church. Poor may be a nice word for much that goes on today. We have the greatest message in all of history wrapped in Jesus Christ. we have no room for poor communication!
  • Tradition Worship / not "traditional worship", music is only preference. Worship of traditions on the other hand is nothing more than worshiping a small man-made God. Traditions make us feel in control. Worship of traditions only place us in control.
  • Wasted Resources / think of all the resources being spent on dying organizations (churches). What if dying churches started giving their buildings to church plants that need space to grow? What an idea!
  • Legalism / obsession with rules, procedures, dress, behavior is a passion for many churches. Our goal is to make disciples of Jesus not robots who follow rules.
  • Inward Obsession / when you hear church leaders talk about how they are just focusing on helping the people who attend "grow" then you can bet they have not thought about reaching their city in a while. Inward obsession leads to a church culture club only interested in caring for one another. The others...those who have not found Christ get left outside our church doors.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Top 5 / reasons I love my KINDLE

I love books and I love to read. I had a hard time deciding to make the jump to the Kindle. I have been an Amazon-aholic for a long time. I am also a Apple fan and I spent many months trying to choose between saving up for an iPad or getting the Kindle. Love the iPad but I could not justify buying a large iPhone for the price I would pay. I have had my Kindle for a month and I am almost done with my first book and have been using it for my Bible reading also. Guess what...I LOVE IT. Here are five reasons I am in love with my Kindle...
  1. My shelves are full > I am running out of room in my office after grad school and 12 years of ministry. I also know I will still add books to my librabry but now with my Kindle I will be saving a ton of room!
  2. Whispersync > all of my books are available and sync on my iPhone, MacBook Pro, and Kindle. In one month this has already been an amazing feature.
  3. Feel > when I read with my Kindle it feels like a book and it is so light. Even out in the bright sunlight I am clearly chill and read. I needed an ereader with the feel of a book and I got it.
  4. Notes > the ability to highlight and make notes while I am reading is so amazing. I will not have a highlight sheet for every book I read. The ability to use this feature as a speaker and blogger is so cool!
  5. Value > seriously, the best 139 bucks I have ever spent. I use this every day multiple times. The battery lasts for 1 month. I never have to have books mailed to me and most books are cheaper. The new Kindles are packed with features that are easy to use. A great tool that works for my life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Here at Grace Community Church we are sponsoring our second race so we thought we would make a video to inspire you to make a difference in Costa Rica. Check this out...it is simply amazing work...

Ok, so maybe it is not that inspiring but here is the info you need to help make this race happen!

Run for a Reason 2: Christmas for Costa Rica

On Saturday, December 11th, GCC will host the Run for a Reason 2: Christmas for Costa Rica 5K and One Mile Fun Run to benefit the ministry of Jason and Kerby Harpst. Not a runner? Come and walk one or both courses! Registration will be available between services until race day, download a registration form online at www.gcomchurch.com , or register at www.active.com

Register before November 22 to be guaranteed a long-sleeved race shirt. You can register for the 5K as an Individual, a member of a team, or as a “ghost.” A ghost runner is one who wants to support the ministry and get a t-shirt, but not run 3.1 miles.

For more information or to volunteer to help with the race, contact Donna Pittman at pittmansfive@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

new leader to bring on your next RETREAT...

This year at CRAVE we added a new volunteer leader that I don't think we will ever be able to go without. We brought in a video editor for our team and set them loose to focus on making some great stuff for us to use. Grant Caldwell took the weekend off from the University of Tennessee, missed the Vols beat Ole Miss, and was our volunteer video guy for the weekend. we set him up with 2 flip HD cameras, a Mac, and let him create. Having a video editor helped our staff focus on teens, small group leaders, and production. It also kept us from staying up till 4AM to make the retreat recap video. check out one video Grant made for LATE NIGHT...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

why we partner with XP3 students...

Right now you can sign up for a free series from XP3 Students and I hope you will check the FREE series out, it was one of our favorites here at Relevant. 3 1/2 years ago when we launched Relevant Student Ministry we had the chance to rethink youth ministry from top to bottom. We dreamed, planned, and recruited leadership with the vision of doing youth ministry in a way that would reach students and allow teens to live out their faith in the middle of their world. We wanted Relevant to be one part of their life...not the center of their life. We wanted to support our church not replace the church. We wanted to create a youth ministry that any teen in our city could be a part of because we feel teens deserve an amazing student ministry regardless where they to church on Sunday. Right off the bat we partnered with XP3 Students to provide series for our large group experience and small group resources for our leaders. 3 1/2 years later we are so thrilled we partnered with XP3 because we can see the difference it has made in the lives of students and families. Here are some reasons we love working with the team at XP3...
  • Small Group priority >> the xp3 team designs each series with the small group in mind. everything is filtered through how the topic will flesh out in the context of small group. we have seen real life change happen in our small groups and we are stoked to work with a team who values it's importance.
  • Freedom to plan for our ministry >> with XP3 we can schedule our series in any order we need. We know what direction our teens need to head and the flexibility to schedule for our ministry is great.
  • Amazing graphics, video bumps, and large group ideas >> you will not find better graphics, video bumps, and large group resources out there and all of it is available to use for promo with your online presence!
  • More time to focus on what matters most for our team >> when we collaborate with XP3 our staff has more time to focus on what is most important to the team. Every element of our ministry gets better when we collaborate and work with another team!
  • Multi-site enabler >> We are one ministry with two locations. Xp3 enables a multi-site youth ministry to stay connected!
  • XP3 listens and supports our ministry >>when we have ideas to offer or have questions about how the XP3 strategy and curriculum works the team at XP3 is always ready to help. That is what a partnership is about...working together to reach students.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reggie Joiner talks PARENTING...

I am so excited to have Reggie Joiner guest posting on the blog today to talk about parenting. No other leader in the country has influenced our family ministry at Grace Community Church like Reggie. You can read more from Reggie at www.orangeparents.org and http://orangeleaders.com and that you can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/reggiejoiner.

Time flies fast from elementary to college age, so get ready to change your parenting habits. Every child seems to move in warp speed toward the teenage years.

I was caught by surprise when a new declaration of personal independence was automatically assumed the day my son got his driver’s license. It was as though I represented an oppressive and extremely unfair regime whenever I tried to enforce any rule. (Whenever I said no to one of my teenage daughters, she would go to her bedroom, close the door and play Britney Spears’ “Overprotected” over and over again for over an hour, loud enough for me and the whole house to hear.) I have to admit, it was difficult for me to transition from parenting children to parenting teenagers. I had worked with teenagers all of my life, but I had never actually had any living in my home. I am still a recovering parent of teens, but here are a few things I have recognized about this chapter of parenting:

It’s a complicated time.
While your children are transitioning from being dependent to independent, you are transitioning as a parent from having authority to leveraging your influence. You can’t parent them the same way you did when they were in elementary school.

It’s an urgent time.
Face it. You know a window is closing fast. Ready or not, in a few short years your children will be leaving home. You are running out of time, and it is easy to feel a little panicked. Everything seems to matter more (grades, decisions, relationships.) And to make matters worse, everything costs more too. Have I mentioned the price of college these days? Feeling better?

Keep fighting for your teenager’s emotional health by investing in relational time with them. Especially during this uncertain season, they need a positive relationship with you more than you or they may realize. Here are a few things to remember that might help you make the time you spend with your teenager more meaningful:

• Find a common activity you can both enjoy.
Go to favorite restaurant, movie, or concert. Discover a hobby or a type of recreation you can do together. Find common interests. It only takes a few.

• Make sure there is no agenda.
They will see right through a masked motive and interpret your effort to hang out as manipulation. Don’t forget. This is about building your relationship. So don’t use this time to deal with issues. Guard the fun.

• Keep it outside the house.
You probably already spend most of your time together in your home. It can be full of duties, responsibilities, and distractions, so get out and do something that is a contrast to your normal routine.

• Do it without friends.
Anyone you add to your time will drastically change the dynamic. Give your teenager individual and undivided attention, without your friends or their friends, and even without siblings.

• Mutually agree to turn off cell phones.
Make at least part of your time a no-electronic zone. Phones have a way of distracting you from meaningful and engaging dialogue.

• Put it on the schedule (but not on a Friday).
Be sensitive to how a teenager wants to organize his or her life. Discover the rhythm that exists in their schedule and agree with them on the best times to hang out.

• Stay flexible (and be willing to reschedule frequently).
A teenager’s world is always changing. They could feel trapped if you are rigid about your scheduled time with them. Don’t let your time with them become a competition with their other interests and priorities. Avoid making them choose between you and something else they really want to do.

• Remember your goal is not to change them.
Avoid getting into conversations where you are trying to correct or improve a behavior. Save those conversations for another time. You can shut down a positive experience if you try to leverage it to fix something.

• Keep working at it.
Learning to communicate with those you love can be awkward at times. Strive to ask the right kind of questions and listen more than you talk. You are not trying to become your teen’s best friend, but you are laying an important foundation for the kind of friendship you want to enjoy with them during their adult years.

• Use it as an opportunity to give your teenager approval.
I’m amazed at how many adults left home without ever really feeling like their parents believed in them. Look for numerous opportunities to encourage their specific strengths and skills.

Having fun and spending quality time together is increasingly important as your relationship with your child changes. This week, find out what kind of activities your teenager likes, and schedule some intentional time together when you can simply enjoy being together.

And if you have other tips you’ve discovered about spending time with a teenage son or daughter, please post them in the comments so we can all learn from our shared experiences.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

a few shots from CRAVE 2010...

It has been a wild 5 days. When I can't make it to the blog you know my life is insane. This past week was our fall retreat at Relevant Student Ministry. Here are a few shots from CRAVE 2010...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

the beginning of ALIGNMENT

When people talk about family ministry the first question that pops up is how we are able to get ministries aligned and working together? The beginning of the alignment process for our family ministry team started here at Grace Community Church with 2 choices. We chose to embrace a strategy and we chose a curriculum to support that strategy. 
  1. We chose to EMBRACE A STRATEGY >> our team had a powerful desire to rethink ministry. When we heard about the strategy of designing ministries that would partner with families we could not turn back. We watched other churches carry out the strategy. We went to conferences that talked about the strategy. We helped our volunteers understand the strategy. We hired staff to fulfill the strategy. The strategy is not an option for our staff or volunteer team. If you are not ready to push the strategy of creating engaging environments for the next generation and partnering with families then you do not need to be on our family ministry team. Alignment slowly came as we all bought into a dream that we wanted to see become a reality in our city.
  2. We chose a CURRICULUM TO SUPPORT OUR STRATEGY >> we simply decided that we were not going to settle and just get by when it came to curriculum. The first director of kids ministry at our church looked at everything out there to see what resources would help Grace fulfill the strategy. We landed on partnering with the team at Orange and we never looked back. In order to better align all our environments we began to use the Orange curriculum in every environment. The curriculum helps us speak the same language...engage parents at every level...move kids and teens through a process of growth...provide our entire church with resources they can trust...unite with churches all across the country with the same strategy.
Alignment is a hard process that continually needs attention. Without addressing these first two issues you will never get there. Embrace a strategy and then build your curriculum around that process!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I DARE YOU...to try a new curriculum

I dare you to try a new curriculum. I know some of you deal with curriculum just like I did in the past. You take your curriculum and you make the most of it. You argue that there is no perfect curriculum so why change. You use what has been used in the past in your ministry environment because your leadership understands it. You try to help your denominational publisher understand what you need and continue to live in frustration when it all comes up short. What if there was a better way? What if curriculum needed to be more about a strategy rather than an information bundle or teaching plan. What if there is something out there that might revolutionize the way you think about curriculum?

Five years ago when we launched Grace Community Church we chose to partner with the team at Orange and began to use material called 252 Basics for our kids ministry. The choice led us to take our team to the first ever Orange Conference and began our journey toward building a cohesive family ministry team that would invest in the lives of kids and parents. We now use all of the Orange Curriculum options in our ministry environments...First Look (preschool) 252 Basics (k-5) and XP3 (youth ministry). We believe so strongly in this curriculum because it feeds into a strategy that helps us invest in the next generation at church and home through partnering with families. This week I am going to blog about ways that First Look, 252 Basics, and XP3students are making a difference in our church. I am also putting out a challenge. Go try this stuff and TRY IT FOR FREE. Yes, the team at Orange is so confident is what they do they want to give it to you free so you can experience this for yourself. I dare you to take some time this week and check out a new kind of curriculum, a curriculum built around a strategy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

TOP 5 /apps for my phone

Two years ago I made the jump from a regular cell phone to a smart phone. If you read this blog you know I am an Apple guy so of course I went with the iPhone 3g. I am excited about upgrading to the iPhone 4 in 2011but even right now with my 3g I can't imagine life without my smart phone now. I think it has made my ability to stay connected while away from the office so easy. It has also enabled me to take my office anywhere I want and stay plugged in. Here are the apps I love and most of these are available for android phones also. Also I am going to cheat and give ya 6...consider it a bonus!
  • Evernote // this is a note application that syncs with Evernote on my mac and online! There is nothing better out there for taking notes then having them available on all your devices. Have an idea...open Evernote and don't let it slip away!
  • TweetDeck // love using TweetDeck in order to keep track of the twittervere. It also syncs with what is going down on my Mac and allows me to tweet ideas and share pictures fast!
  • Facebook // you know most of our friends are now on FB and these guys have done an amazing job with the app. If I need to get a message to a teen I probably am going to text or FB message!
  • YouVersion // an amazing Bible tool and any version I want!
  • Kindle // I can read any of my Kindle books right on my iphone and any time I read it syncs back to my Kindle!
  • Yelp // at a conference and need to know where to grab lunch...YELP IT...amazing app that allows you to see what people recommend wherever you are in the United States!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

CREATIVITY is no accident

Our family ministry team here at Grace Community loves creativity but we have discovered thinking creatively is no accident. Ideas are easy and exciting to dream up. True creativity only comes to life when we embrace hard work and discipline. Today our student ministry team worked on videos for our fall retreat called CRAVE. I promise, video production is hard work. The idea came quickly but the execution was a different story. Our entire team had to work together to pull the project off. If you want to be a ministry that embraces creativity you better be ready to...
  • schedule creative TIME //  dedicated time is the most important aspect to bringing creativity to life. Projects take time and any team that will schedule time for creative projects can embrace creativity. If you never block off time for your creative projects they will never happen.
  • manage resources // creativity is at its best when we take limited resources and deliver amazing experiences. Managing resources means we use the tools, funding, and facilities we have to their greatest potential. If your excuse for not being creative involves tools, funding, or facilities every time then your never going to thrive creatively.
  • create deadlines // perfection does not exist and deadlines help us move forward and create. Create deadlines and make sure you deliver.
  • utilize volunteer talent // if you will just look around I bet you have creative people around you that have talents that are not being put to work. Put creative people around you and let their talents merge with your idea.
  • take a risk // at the heart of a creative ministry is the willingness to take risks. At some point you have to go for it and sometimes it will work and sometimes it will fall short, but creativity demands risk.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ministry & Diners Drive-ins, and Dives!

Hit my fourth Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives location for lunch this past Saturday with my brother (and children's pastor at Grace Community) at Athens Family restaurant in Nashville, TN. Any place that serves breakfast all day is my kind of place. On Triple D, Guy Fieri travels to country looking for local restaurants serving up amazing food and experiences. Every stop I have made has been next level amazing. After a few stops and watching tons of the episodes on Food Network I think there are a few ministry principles I think we can EXTRACT from these amazing eateries...
  • Excellence Matters // if you want to connect with people you better do something really really well. Choose what you are going to do then do that with 100% excellence!
  • Keep it Real // people know when something is genuine and they love it. Embrace authenticity, be yourself, and go for it!
  • Create an Experience // environment is a big deal...when people walk into your ministry your environment is telling your story. Create and experience and let your environment tell people a little of your story or the stories you are trying to write.
  • People will TALK // when people are impacted by your ministry...people will TALK. The best way to reach people is through...you guessed it...PEOPLE. People will talk when amazing things are happening.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Last night my girls had an amazing time trick or treating in our neighborhood. The first thing both of them did when they came home was run to our kitchen table and dump it all out and just stare at it. One massive pile of candy. When they were able to see it all out of their bag they were able to really be THANKFUL for our neighborhood. (we have the best Halloween neighborhood in the country, for sure)

I think we need to get in the habit of taking time to look around and process all we have to be thankful for. When we step back we can really be...
  • thankful for our volunteers
  • thankful for our families
  • thankful for the staff we serve with
  • thankful for the resources we have
  • thankful for churches that believe in reaching the next generation
  • thankful for freedom to create and rethink our strategies
  • thankful we get to do what we love and call it OUR JOB
  • thankful for our Macbook Pros (ok, those of us who are Apple people)
  • thankful for Jesus Christ
In our culture of progress, innovation, and obsession with what is new it is easy to never process what it means to be thankful, to be content, to be grateful. I think for our generation of leadership we must become intentional about creating a culture of gratitude. Take some time...dump everything out on the table...process what you have to be thankful for!