Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm sick...did I tell you I hate being sick?

I thought I might get my 4 year old's help to let you know how I feel. I had a great post in my head but I have been sick for 3 days and just got meds from my doctor. Hope to get back at it Tuesday! I hate being sick but when my body shuts down I am reminded that I am not in control. My God sustains me. My life is a gift. Nothing should be taken from granted. Now I'm just gonna go to bed and pray these antibiotics kill this infection! Good night everyone!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Surviving GROWTH / dealing with the 500 mark...

I can't remember a more stressful time in the life of our Family Ministry at Grace Community Church than when we crossed over the 500 mark in weekly attendance as a church. We were running 2 services every week, we were moving into a new facility with tons of fresh potential, and we were full of ideas about what the future would look like. In the midst of all this excitement we were understaffed, needed to add volunteers quickly, and were all tired. We had to make some critical decisions as we navigated this season of our ministry. I am so thankful for the team of leaders that helped us find stability in this time of growth and for our senior pastors that believed in investing in families. We made it through because we began to think differently about the way we served families and planned for the future. Here are some critical moves that had to be made as we faced the stress of growth...
  • Establish a Preschool Ministry Team >> preschool ministry is not and will never be the same as ministry for K-5th grade kids! When you hit the 500 mark you better distinguish these ministries and begin to define the goals of preschool ministry. When we hit 500 we empowered an amazing volunteer to be the preschool director and by the time we were running 850 as a church we had a full time preschool director on staff. A healthy preschool ministry sets the course for everything to come in your family ministry. Growth demands dedicated leadership that will serve preschool families and lead preschool volunteers.
  • Empower Volunteer Leadership >> when we hit the 500 mark we were forced to multiply and give leadership responsibility to volunteer staff. We gave leadership roles to people running large group, gathering supplies, leading our family production, and training volunteers. This process continues on today but it was even more critical when we hit 500. We could not afford to pay staff and our team leaders helped us move forward as we looked for new staff.
  • Focus >> when we hit 500 we had to say no often in order to allow our ministry team to focus. If you want your family ministry to excel decide what you do the best and focus on what matters most. You can't do everything. Don't feel pressure to add EXTRA when you can't do what matters the most week to week.
  • Plan to add staff >> Once your church hits the 500 mark you must begin to plan how and when you will add staff. I joined our staff as the Family / Student Pastor right when we passed the 500 mark. From that moment on we have been working with our senior leadership at GCC to plan how and when we add staff. Your team has to decide how you use part-time and full-time staff. One full time staff member can do the work of 3 to 4 part-time leaders. Adding staff will be a boost to your ability to empower more volunteers and reach families.
  • Invest in your volunteers and staff >> when you cross the 500 mark you have to be more intentional about investing in both volunteers and staff. Provide training times for volunteers. Make time to say thanks. Work hard to balance schedules for volunteers so they stay fresh. Provide staff and key volunteers time to hit a conference every year.
If you are out there and are facing the pains of growth please listen to me. Make a plan, work hard, empower other leaders, and trust God. The worst thing you can do is ignore reality. Without some intentional leadership nothing will improve. You are the leader...set the course and invite people to join you on the journey.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When a FAMILY actually enjoys CHURCH...

We were asked this week what we were most excited about since Grace Community launches it's second campus this Sunday in the Kenwood community of Clarksville. There are many aspects of doing ministry in north Clarksville that excite me but what really inspires me is the idea of families plugging into GCC Kenwood and finding a church that the entire family is excited about partnering with. Something special happens when mom, dad, and kids get stoked about church. When families choose to partner with the church as a regular part of their week suddenly the direction of a family can change. When mom, dad, and the kids get excited about Sunday morning what happens at church begins to invade that space in our life we call home. We have have the joy of watching families enjoy church together every single week of the year and at Kenwood we get to partner with brand new families. When people enjoy something the are automatically more open to learning, questioning, processing, laughing, and growing. When families enjoy church God has much more room to do what God wants to do in the life of a family. We have worked hard to build a church environment where families can actually have fun on Sundays. Sure we talk about difficult truth many weeks but who said it can't be engaging at the same time? Kenwood families...we can't wait to meet you in the coming year. We hope your family enjoys coming to church every week as much as we enjoy partnering with you as a church!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Everyone loves a surprise when it's a good surprise. We love surprise promotions, parties, gifts, bonuses, and notes of encouragement. Those are great surprises. The kind of surprises we don't enjoy are when things break, our plans get altered, or when we face a difficult loss. When leading an organization I think it is best to limit the surprise factor. If you hold too many good things to yourself in an effort to surprise your team you are probably keeping too many people in the dark. If you constantly surprise your team with difficult information you are probably avoiding conflict and trying to do too much on your own.
  • Never surprise your supervisor // KEEP YOUR SUPERVISOR IN THE LOOP...I have never met a leader who likes to be blindsided by good or bad news. If you want to build trust with your supervisor keep them in the loop and leave the surprises for birthday parties.
  • Limit surprises for your volunteers // work hard to keep your team in the loop and for sure keep your key leaders in the loop. When you keep leaders involved in direction of your organization you let them know you trust them. You can't put everything on the table all the time but work hard to not surprise your team with directional change.
  • Always keep surprise alive in your environment // ok, surprise isn't all bad in fact it is great when it comes to environment planning. Save your surprises for the teens and kids in your environment. Mix it up and have fun!

Monday, January 24, 2011

a great cause + teenagers + God = limitless potential for change

Last year at Relevant Student Ministry a few kids saw the devastation from the earthquake in Haiti and wanted to do something. They gathered a team, got help from parents, support from business leaders, and held a concert. They raised over 1,200 dollars to help people in Haiti. This year they are going for it again by not only hosting a concert and dance for high school students but also facilitating a 5k run/walk to get community support for the cause. I would love for you to check out and see what these guys are doing but I also want you to slow down long enough to think about how your ministry is empowering teens to make a difference. You have teens who have the ability to make a difference right now and they are willing to put the work in to make it happen. A great cause + teens + God = limitless potential for change in our world. How can we best help teens to make a difference?
  • Listen / when a teen has an idea they need someone to listen. Even if the idea never takes shape they need to express the idea. Be a dream encourager not a dream killer. Listen to teens when they have an idea.
  • Provide Guidance / every idea needs shaping so it can thrive in the context of your community. You can help a good idea become a great idea by taking time to provide some wisdom. This is not where you take over the project, this is where you help set the scope and direction. Every teen leader I know welcomes this help.
  • Promote / you have the influence to get others involved in the cause. Help teens get the word out and help them find ways to communicate their mission.
  • Provide resources and make connections / you may not be able to give money to an idea a teen has but I bet you can help with getting a graphic made, making a video, or providing a sound system. You an also help teens get access to people in the community who have resources. Use your connection to advance the cause.
  • Support /walk teens through the process, encourage the mission, and be ready to solve problems. Your help might be the difference maker for the cause!
  • Pray / seriously invite your team of leaders to pray for teens as they lead out. Also help our teens understand the power of inviting God to make a difference through the process. Serving can shape toe spiritual direction of teens like nothing else.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The gift of launching a new campus...rethinking everything!

Spending the afternoon installing Fellowship One on computers for our preschool and K-5 check-in areas at our new campus in north Clarksville. Our first test run is this Sunday and our launch is January 30. One thing launching a new campus has done for our team is force us to rethink everything! We have processed setup, check-in, small groups, large group, how we communicate with parents, our family experience, and how we train our volunteers. We are trying some new things and we are using this launch to experiment with ways to make life better on our first campus also. I have been blown away by the lessons we have learned so far. Starting something new brings life and energy. Sure it is hard work but anything new is difficult. Our goal the next two weeks is to learn, listen, and make a good first impression. Will everything work right...NO. Will everything we have ordered for the new campus be here...NO. What we can do is strive to make a good first impression and work hard to make sure when families arrive here they have a good experience.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

5 keys to a great MIDDLE SCHOOL environment

This year we launched our first middle school environment at RELEVANT student ministry and we call that gathering THE MIX. It has been a great adventure building this environment from scratch and we learn more every week. Investing in the lives of middle school students pays off big in the end even though in 6th grade we can't imagine how! Here are 5 principles I have been reminded about this past year...
  1. Explain everything // never assume that your middle school audience knows what you are talking about. EXPLAIN everything and the explain it again.
  2. Have fun // seriously, you have to laugh and laugh often in your middle school environment. Make it happen, have some fun!
  3. Build around small groups // middle school teens need an adult who is looking out for them. Middle School ministry has to be rooted in caring adult mentoring.
  4. Less is more // less time of singing, less time speaking are the key to helping middle school students connect with the content. Middle School students love to worship and study scripture they are just not ready for your "John Piper" talk. (just kidding) Keep it clear and remember if you usually do 4-5 songs in high school cut it to three is middle school. If you speak for 30-35 minutes in high school cut it to 20-25 with middle school.
  5. Always remember the boys // make sure you are thinking about the boys in your group as you plan worship, plan games, and prepare for your talk. Girls are much more confident in middle school, boys are a stage where they are constantly cautious. Keep the guys in mind!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Authentic...why do we keep using this word?

Authentic worship...

Authentic community...

Authentic church...

Authentic ministry...

Authentic leadership...

Authentic prayer...

Why in the world do we feel the need to add the word authentic to everything we do or experience? It seems to be we are always on the hunt for something authentic in our ministry.  My problem with the over use of the word authentic is we keep trying to attach a human emotion or feeling to things that are eternal like community, worship, prayer, or the church. Authentic is subjective. What is authentic to me may not be authentic to you. When we say something is authentic we are subliminally saying that it is the right way to do something, it is genuine, it is real. We unintentionally are saying there is a way to be in community, to worship, to encounter God, or do church that somehow is not authentic. Maybe it is time to expand our vocabulary when we are talking about things that are eternal. Worship, ministry, church, community are way more than authentic in any context.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What helps a staff really work TOGETHER?

This week our kids ministry and small group ministry worked together to have 2 events going on in one area of our facility on the same Sunday. They worked out the timing, the space usage, the lighting, and then both events pulled off with success. It took some careful planning and intentional collaboration but the partnership worked great. Why are our teams able to collaborate and work together? Our staff is linked together through our strategy and mission. We will do whatever it takes to make sure Grace Community Church is able to fulfill our strategy even when we have to put aside our own personal ministry goals. When we signed on to work here we agreed to support a vision of what church could be if we were willing to unite behind a strategy.

Are you picking up on a theme here? If you want your staff to collaborate then your team has to be united in visions, mission, and strategy. Most of our organizations have only two goals and that is to make people happy and sustain the institution. With these goals the staff are left to fight for their own agendas. Most of us understand this because we are currently fighting for our own ministry goals and when we are supposed to collaborate with other staff all we find is conflict. Your team can begin to work well with other teams when you take these steps...
  1. Unite around strategy and mission // The entire staff needs to constantly be reminded of the bigger mission of the organization. Strategy and mission have to be constantly repeated and modeled!
  2. Serve each other with humility // when staff members work together they model humility. There is nothing like collaboration to help staff value other areas of ministry in the organization.
  3. Identify the win // before collaboration begins a clear win needs to be identified. Clear goals help staff know where they are headed together!
  4. Celebrate together // teams that collaborate with success find moments to celebrate with each other. Even if it just over a quick lunch or in the middle of staff meeting make sure teams have time to celebrate the in.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why we are launching the Kenwood Campus?

We are 13 days away from launching our second campus at Grace Community and then energy is high on our team. We are excited about this new adventure. This morning we commissioned our launch team heading out and it was an exciting reminder that this is real...this is really happening...after all the planning and prayer it is go time. Here are a few reasons why we are launching another campus and going multi-site.
  • People are looking for a place to go to church in their community! The Kenwood area is a community we get to become a part of.
  • We know we can never build one building that will reach this city, we have to provide local sites that will invest in different part of our city.
  • We have a partner in Kenwood High School that is excited about partnering with us and we are pumped about investing in that school.
  • We have the chance to empower an entire new volunteer team! Want more volunteers? Create a new adventure for them to join. We are pumped about new opportunities for people to serve.
  • We have a passion to engage a city and we feel God's call on our team to move this direction.
We ran this video in our service this morning...this is where we are headed!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

intentional ISOLATION

At our office we try to keep our doors open as much as possible. We love the exchange if ideas that comes we when we have freedom to connect with each other during the day. We want conversation to happen and ideas to flow freely. What we are discovering when you have this type of office environment is that you have to become intentional with your alone have to plan distraction free time. Because we are so available due to email, instant messaging, video chat, and text messaging combined with natural interruptions from members of our team in the office we are easily distracted from the finishing any project. This year our family ministry team is trying to plan times of intentional isolation. This is just a block of time where we place an isolation sign on our door and we give ourselves time to focus on creating without distraction. We are finding when we get alone for a block of time we accomplish more and fuel creativity. We also find when we block time out for isolation we create space to focus on what is most important. In our culture of constant connection don't apologize for taking time to be alone and focus.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

RELEVANT is back in 2011!

We have had Christmas, New Years, bowl games, and lots of snow but tonight RELEVANT student ministry kicks back into full speed ahead mode with THE MIX (our middle school service) and REMIX (our high school service) kicking off. As we start the new year we could not be more excited to start the write.rewrite series. We all have huge expectations for 2011. We have goals, hopes, dreams that we have embraced and I think we underestimate the influence we have in making those ideas a reality. God invites us into a story He has created and at the same time welcomes us to live this out with Him. Will the story of our lives be one that is worth repeating. We will we have a story that matters. Will we live out stories of significance or just fit into the mass of humanity around us going through the motions. Going to be a great adventure the next three weeks.

If you are wondering, our student ministry partners with the team at XP3 Students...go check out how we collaborate with XP3 and how you can too. Great environments are no accident, great environments have teams that make it happen every week. XP3 is on our team! Check them out!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Make the most of what you have!

You never know where you are going to be inspired. This week inspiration came from my daughters and their friends in our neighborhood. We didn't quite get the amount of snow we wanted but what did the girls do...they made the most of what they had. They sled, threw snowballs, and even worked together to make that amazing snowman. No complaining, no excuses they just went for it. I wonder in the organizations we lead if we need to stop complaining, stop evaluating, stop procrastinating, and simple strive to make the most of what we have. The difference between an average and an extraordinary ministry lies in how we maximize the resources God has given us. When it comes to making the most of what we have we have to...
  • Maximize our environments // a room, is a room, is a room. The difference comes with how we use the space. Never allow your meeting space to hold you back from excellence. Environments are what you make them. We are a ministry that rents a local church for our venue. We have to transform it every week. Sure you will have to dedicate time and resources to the space but you have to maximize what you have constantly.
  • Maximize our volunteer teams // your volunteers need to be released and empowered. Make sure you are maximizing the influence of your volunteer team.
  • Maximize our strategy // make sure you have a strategy you believe in then maximize it. This is not about copying what someone else is doing this is about innovation in your environment. Make sure you are pushing your strategy to the limit.
  • Maximize our budgets // use what resources you have to strategically advance your strategy. You are always going to want...need more but you to have maximize what you have.
  • Maximize our leadership // there is no excuse for not providing your organizations with clear consistent direction. Don't wait for someone to tell you to lead, lead now!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Feeling Stressed?

With the launch of our second campus just a few weeks away I can sense an awkward emotion in our office at Grace Community...STRESS. Yea I know many of you work in stressful church environments where you have to deal with lots of people who stress you out, but we have a pretty laid back environment at GCC. Sure we work hard and we strive for excellence but our team laughs often and our office environment is pretty chill. When you throw launching a new campus in with natural growth from week to week everyone will face pressure. When I am feeling stressed I have to be more intentional with everything in my life. Stress seems to push us to make poor choices. Here are some ways I try to deal with stress when it explodes in the ministry I lead...
  • Make a list >> I am serious, in stressful times people need to slow down and decide what is most important. When we slow down to make a list we force our minds to deal with the situation step by step. You can't do everything today. You will not make any progress if you worry all day. Make a list, decide what is most important, and move forward.
  • Ask for help >> in times of stress it is important to delegate and trust your team. Sometimes our pride pushes us to try to handle everything on our own but when stressful times invade our lives that is the last thing we need to do. Make sure you are empowering your team to tackle the challenge together.
  • Fight for your health >> go exercise, eat healthy, get some sleep, spend time with your family, take your day off. Stress tempts you to cheat and take shortcuts. Do your best to fight for health in the midst of challenges at work. You only get one body, and one family. You have unlimited challenges in ministry, it never stops.
  • Spend time with God >> stress tempts us to fix everything on our own...we find ourselves too busy to pray and read the Bible. When stress hits we need God's direction the most. Protect your time with God.
  • Choose your attitude >> we may not have control of our situation but we always have control over our attitude. You get to choose your attitude. Choose to be positive, encouraging, hopeful even though the challenge is difficult. Your team needs someone to set the example.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


What I love about the beginning of a new year is hope! The new year is a time to rethink, plan, and embrace hope for a new year. I personally am kind of addicted to hope. I become a pretty miserable person when I lose hope. I also become a miserable leader when I have no hope. For those of us who lead a ministry, a small group, family, business or volunteer team we have to be persistent in our search for hope. With our God there is always hope, we are the ones who lose sight of what is possible. We tend to give up on people, dreams, and sometimes even God as He doesn't respond to circumstances as we think He should. Maybe as we start 2011 off it's time to step back and do a hope check...look around for the hope that surrounds you. We easily get so locked in on our current problems and circumstances that hope can be hard to find. Look around for hope. Embrace hope. You might have to make some new plans but I promise a leader with hope is a better leader.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

the missing element

What is the missing element for many teens when it comes to faith? I believe it is relationships of significance. For many teens their faith is connected with an emotional moment, a camp, a night, a speaker, or a retreat. When those emotional feelings are gone then God seems to be gone. The only thing they can hope to do is find that emotional moment, camp, night, speaker, or retreat again. Who creates these moments for teens. We do. Yes I am a part of this youth ministry culture along with thousands of other leaders across the country serving in churches and para-church ministries. I think we short circuit spiritual growth when we create events of experiences for teens that have no relational component where teens can process. I have never seen a teen be able to survive spiritually in isolation living on the memory of past emotional experiences. True impact is made in the lives of teens when we connect the experience we create with relationships of significance. Our solution to this issue is to help teens connect in small group each week. We also make sure that at any event we work to connect students and small group leaders. Is the small group process fool proof? Do all the teens in our ministry connect with small group? We all know the answer is no but it is the best tool we have found to help teens discover mentors that will invest in their life. This generation of students will never grow if we don't help them find the missing element of relationships that matter.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

drop the FEAR set some GOALS

I am back after a blogging break over Christmas, the New Year, a short vacation to celebrate 15 amazing years of marriage with my wife. As I get back to work this week I am consumed with setting goals for our family ministry, myself personally, my family, ministry budgets, and events. I also find myself more inspired by goals than ever before. I find that I need goals. I am also finding that the team I lead operates at a higher pace with clear directional goals. When I looked back at my ministry and personal goals for 2010 I see the they helped me move forward. Goals can make an impact in our life and most of us will not set them because we fear failure. If you are willing to take a risk in 2011, goals might...
  • inspire us to take action
  • hold us accountable
  • lead us to center our life on what matters most
  • provide needed boundaries that help us say NO more to things that distract us
Go ahead...have the courage to set some goals in 2011. When you set your goals take the next step and let a few other people around you know what they are. There is something powerful in sharing our goals and dreams with people who will cheer us on.