Monday, February 28, 2011

Merge 11...amazing!

Not sure how to put into words how amazing MERGE 11 was for Relevant Student Ministry. We watched as God delivered all weekend. Our speaker could not make it due to his flight being canceled 2 times...God delivered and helped our team speak at each of the sessions. Our small group leaders were amazing...God helped them invest in teens all week. We saw 8 teens choose to be baptized...God changed lives all weekend. Bottom line is that we had the joy of watching God work all weekend. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our gatherings. To all of you who serve at RELEVANT, thanks for all you did to make this happen!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Merge 11 weekend

It's a big weekend here at Relevant Student's time for Merge. Not going to be blogging for the next few days because we have a ton to get ready for this weekend and I just need to focus. Merge is a small group weekend where small groups gather in homes to connect on a deeper level. Of course we have some amazing gatherings planned and we are going to have so much fun but the goal of the weekend is to give time for small groups to connect. If you are out there and you have some time, pray for our small group leaders as they invest in teenagers. Pray for Jarrett Stevens as he speaks. Pray for the Merge Band as they lead worship. Pray God does some amazing things this weekend!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

start with the good

If you have a team that reports to you (paid staff or volunteers) you job is to help empower, train, and equip them to become the best team they can possibly be. We very rarely see ourselves as coaches. We have a team, we have a goal, and we have to lead our team to accomplish the goal. Sure we are leaders but we are coaches at the same time. When things are not going well we feel the pressure as the team leader. Many times we have to pull our team aside and help solve the issue...well we constantly have to do this. Correction, training, and guidance are just a natural part of our job so we have to get better at it. In your team meetings or event evaluations let me give you one piece of advice...


I don't care who your team is, they long to hear what they did well. They need to hear what they are good at, and when a team hears where they excelled they are more open to deal with what needs to be corrected. As leaders we can't be so focused on perfection that we miss the good that is happening all around us. Even when things go wrong there has to be something good that went down even if it is only that the team tried hard to address the problem.

Look for the good and let your team know when they excel. Celebrate the victories because a team that learns to look for the positive also discovers how to learn from their mistakes. Never forget to start with the good!

Monday, February 21, 2011

taking time out to SERVE

For those of us who lead student and kid ministries we are in the serving business. We work with large teams of volunteers who invest in the lives of the next generation. We ask people to give their time for an amazing mission. We ask volunteers to serve but when do we take time to serve ourselves? I know this is a difficult topic because many of you are already stretched too thin and work too much. Work is not the issue. I know you are working hard but when do you take time to think about something other than the ministry you lead. Taking time to serve outside your ministry area keeps your heart healthy and helps you keep ministry in perspective. When we never take time to serve others outside our "ministry job" we get tunnel vision and begin to be consumed with our own goals and desires. This weekend I had a serve opportunity with a project in our city. My family understood that the time away was about volunteering and not about work. I have watched one of our staff at Grace Community take time out of his "job" to help launch a ministry that serves the homeless in our community. I watched another leader on our team serve as a DJ for an event that served families. Several of our team serve in local schools as volunteers. This has nothing to do with our jobs. Time to serve has everything to do with giving back and advancing the Kingdom of God. When you block out time to serve you have to maintain balance, but I promise taking intentional time out to give back will make you a better leader and help you understand the volunteers you lead on a different level. This week take a look ahead on your calendar and figure out what you can do to take time to serve.

Friday, February 18, 2011 are SIGNIFICANT

We spend so much of our lives looking for significance. We crave it. We want to know our lives count for something, that what we do a work matters, that somehow we are important. I am guy so I know all about our search for significance. For men this is a big deal...
  • Look at where I went to school
  • Check out the car I drive
  • I am a ___________ fan. (just insert team)
  • Look how much money I make.
  • This is my title at work.
  • This is where I am going on vacation.
  • My five year plan is...
  • Look I got the Iphone 19 it has not even been invented yet.
I told you I am guy, therefore an expert on the search for significance. When it comes to significance we feel like we have to earn it.  The problem is that there are some areas of life where this search just leads to problems. Parents...if you are a mom or dad than you are significant. You don't have to earn significance. The moment you became a parent you became the most significant person in your kids life. With parenting we need to stop searching for significance with our kids and start fighting for healthy relationships. When we stop searching for significance with our kids and start striving for healthy relationships we will...
  • listen to our kids more
  • be willing to be wrong and actually apologize when we are wrong
  • laugh more
  • relax more
  • invest more
  • give more advice and make less demands
  • talk more
  • serve more
Mom and dad, you are significant. This coming week embrace that significance and fight for what matters...fight for the heart of your kid.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

what are your plans?

Seth Godin is one of my favorite blogger, speaker, writer people out there and one of the few blogs I have emailed to my email inbox every day. This morning he wrote on his blog that making big plans is the only way to make big things happen. I think this principle applies for our families and the ministries we lead. Planning is such a huge part of helping our families accomplish great things. We plan our extracurricular activities, the time we spend at church, the trips we take, we plan for college, weddings, and retirement. Show me a family that does not plan and I will show you a family in constant chaos. The same principle goes for the ministry you lead. It doesn't matter if you are leading a small group or you are the point person for an entire kids or student ministry...planning is the only way you will ever see big things happen. What does planning do...
  • Planning allows our prayer lives and God's plan to intersect. When we plan we know how to pray and we get to invite God into the journey of advancing the Kingdom. We see God work more clearly when he advances or changes our plans rather than in the middle of ministry chaos.
  • Planning lets us know what kind of systems we need to put in place in order to accomplish the goal. Lack of a plan leads us to grasp at straws and implement systems that in the end hold us back. Without a plan we build our ministry around systems we can't sustain.
  • Planning lets us know who we need on the team. You need the right people on your team. You will never know who to recruit if you have no plan. This principle goes for staff hires and volunteers. The plan helps us know who to invite to the "ministry party."
  • Planning keeps us moving forward. Forward motion is so critical to the health of an organization. You need to know what is next and at minimum what direction you are headed. Looking ahead keeps us focused and dependent on God to do what we can never do in our own strength.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

one clear goal for your volunteers

Helping volunteers know our goal is crucial. Our teams need the "win" defined consistently if they are going to be effective. One of the questions we keep asking, one goal we have for our team here is this...

What have I done to help someone have a better experience at church this week?

We have one hour a week with many people. We have one chance to connect with visiting families. We have one shot to help share the love of Christ with many kids and teens. We have to continually ask ourselves what we are doing to make that one shot better. When you evaluate Sunday (or your ministry experience for any age group) in the light of this question everything becomes significant...
  • the moment I help that new student find some friends they know it is a significant moment
  • when we prepare well and deliver the large group talk with excellence...that matters
  • when we greet people and connect with parents after the service...that matters
  • when I help a new family find their kid's small group room...that matters
  • when check-in goes well, that matters
  • when I introduce a teen to their new small group leader, the connection matters
  • every time we help someone connect with a ministry outside our "area" is huge
  • when we help answer a quests questions about the church, yep it is a big moment
  • connecting with that person I don't know and hearing their story...that time is awesome
Every person on our staff and every volunteer can look for an opportunity to help someone else have a great Sunday. When we serve someone else that's a win! When we take time out of what is expected of us to go the extra mile that's a win. When we step up when no one is asking, that's a win! What can you do to help someone have a better experience in your environment? Think about what you can do this week!

Monday, February 14, 2011

the drift

For every organization (church, ministry, non-profit) there is a tendency to drift away from mission, to become an institution rather than a movement. Last week I had the chance to connect with the middle school staff at North Point Church and got to hear Andy Stanley talk about the drift that happens inside the church. Andy said we have to...
  • Avoid the drift toward insiders away from outsiders. 
  • Avoid the drift toward law and away from grace.  // Policy can't rule our lives. Conversations must rule. Churches that are ok with conversation are open wide to see God move.
  • Avoid the drift toward preserving rather than advancing.
If the organizations we lead are going to stay focused on our mission we will have to be intentional about avoiding the drift. Being intentional is is the key. Take time this week to process how you can avoid the drift!

Friday, February 11, 2011

TEAMWORK is possible...

One principle that I have learned over the past 4 years at the Orange Conference has been  the potential of teamwork in our family ministries. As a student pastor I was always skeptical about partnering with the kids ministry or college ministry. I had a plan, I had a budget, and I did not want those leaders to get in my way. The only interaction I had with the kids ministry was in the form of complaints about how loud our band was. 4 years ago I became the family pastor / student pastor at Grace Community and I was responsible for creating a team that would defy the odds and actually function as a team. From the first Orange Conference to 2010 every year has helped me see the power of partnership. I have watched our team (preschool, k-5, teens, and college) come together, serve together, plan together, and laugh together. I have learned from other churches about how they share resources to better reach this generation of kids and families. At Orange I get to watch 4,000-5,000 people investing in the next generation come together and worship, learn, and celebrate. When it comes to family ministry teamwork is possible. We simply have to slow down long enough to value each member of our ministry team and serve one another. This generation is ready for us to rethink church...rethink ministry...rethink what following Christ looks like. Next generation leaders...rethink that process TOGETHER. You have the potential to shape the future of the church  and the future of families every Sunday and it's time to unite. Teamwork is possible!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Where do you NETWORK with other leaders?

One of the best parts of the Orange Conference every year is time to network and spend time with leaders from across the country striving to think Orange. There is no conference in the country that allows church leaders investing the next generation to unite like the Orange Conference. One of my favorite connections made through this conference came when I had the chance to hang out with Chad Swanzy who leads the student ministry at Gateway Community Church in Austin Texas. Chad also runs an incredible website called the Youth Leader Stash that allows student pastors to share ideas and resources. Chad has a passion to reach teens in Austin and I have enjoyed watching his team go for it. At Orange I was able to take some time and get Chad's perspective on how our team at Relevant Student Ministry could rethink group life and community in our ministry. That connection came through the Orange Conference and I hope many of you out there will join us this April as we take time to process how we can reach this generation. We can do more and dream bigger when we collaborate and network. Make sure you have time set aside to get to a conference you are passionate about and make time to network and learn from other leaders. If you are out there on an island you have no one to blame but yourself.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Catching Volunteers Up to Speed!

If you lead a ministry inside a church there is a 100% chance you lead a team of volunteers. One of my favorite breakouts from the Orange Conference came last year from Darren Kizer as he helped us process how we catch volunteers up to speed. Check these notes out from last year >>>
If you work for a church you manage many team of volunteers to make ministry happen. I have yest to meet any ministry making a difference that was not powered by and amazing team of volunteers! This afternoon I had the chance to hear Darren Kizer talk about the process of helping new volunteers get plugged into our ministries quickly and up to speed with our organization. Maybe the question we should be asking is how do we get ALL OUR VOLUNTEERS up to speed without cutting corners and cheating the process...Here are some thoughts from this afternoon...

People choose to volunteer because they are motivated by the idea of DOING GOOD. People continue to volunteer because they ENJOY WHAT THEY ARE GETTING FROM THE EXPERIENCE. What it takes to get them involved is different that what helps they stay for the long haul! Volunteers need...

Organizational Support / people need us to set the course and provide personal support and resources

Group Integration / people need a TEAM, volunteers need each other!

Participation usefulness / people need to know it matters; they have to see the WIN. ARE WE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

Empowerment / people need responsibility and a real mission to achieve, real expectations and clear expectations

Some BIG Questions to ask your volunteers and yourself as the leader of a volunteer team…
I know what is expected of me?
Do I have the material and equipment to do my job?
Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best? Do I enjoy what I do?
Someone cares about me as a person?
Do my opinions count?
Is our team committed to quality work? (other volunteers doing sub-par work drag down volunteers)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

7 Principles of a Healthy FAMILY MINISTRY

The Orange Conference is right around the corner and if there is any conference experience out there you should get to it is Orange. This week I am going to look back at some significant moments from past years at Orange. There have been some amazing communicators speak through the past four years but here are the notes from my favorite session...
Healthy student and kid ministry does not happen by doesn't happen by just hiring a staff person to fill a position, building a new area for kids, painting the youth room black, our making a new logo. Healthy family ministry happens by being intentional. This morning at The Orange Conference Perry Noble, lead pastor at Newspring Church in South Carolina, talked about seven principles that guide their church when it comes to creating healthy family ministry. Trust me I have connected with their staff, been to one of their student services, seen their volunteers in action and they are a healthy team. Check out these 7 principles from Perry...

  1. Family ministry has more potential than any other ministry in the church.
  2. Healthy FAMILY MINISTRY must be supported by the senior pastor // cast the vision, be the cheerleader, fund the process
  3. Senior pastors need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. // get used to working outside the box, let your team dream how to reach kids today! Some senior pastors don’t want a move of God they can’t take credit for. UNLEASH YOUR TEAM! Learn from you generation behind.
  4. Environments matter // make sure you fund and create relevant environments for your kid and student ministry. Make their space as much a priority as the adult service. Environment can help a kid go next level with discovering the love of Jesus.
  5. Keep it simple // you have to make sure your family ministry is laser focused. We can’t do EVERYTHING if we want to be effective.
  6. Tension and conflict must be addressed //  people in kid/teen ministry compete way to much, we have create the practice of serving and loving each other as a team
  7. We have to have the right people in the right places // make sure people are serving in the right ROLES

Monday, February 7, 2011

Orange Tour coming to your church Feb. 15...

Yes the Orange Tour is coming to your church...well online at least on February 15 and we are hoping you will join us. We know you are busy and we know budgets are tight. Join thousands of folks online as we process what it means to live out the Orange Strategy in the context of the churches we lead. Check out this website, check out the schedule, block off some time in your schedule on Feb. 15 and get ready to THINK ORANGE.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

a great Dad / Daughter night...

Any event that brings "normal" dads and daughters together to have fun together is a great event! I'm not talking about some religious ceremony where a speaker puts the audience to sleep for an hour and people eat popcorn and drink cool-aid. I'm talking about a fun event that sets up dads and daughters to have an amazing night together. Last night Kozbi and I attended a Father / Daughter Purity Ball and had a great night. The Hope Pregnancy Center here in Clarksville sponsors the night and does an amazing job. Here is what makes this event work here in our city...
  • The night provides a reason for dads to take their daughters on a date. The time together is priceless!
  • I get to wear a suit and my girl gets to dress up like the princess she is.
  • The event creates a special moment where girls can hear that God loves them and hear dads say the same thing through a special commitment time.
  • Dessert is at the event. Girls love dessert!
  • Dancing...yep, we get the chance to dance with our daughters. How much better can it get?
  • A night for teens and a night for kids. The event has 2 directions with the 2 nights for different ages.
  • A community focus. This event brings people together from all walks of life. Some families are Christians and some are not. What a great opportunity to share God's love with the city.
If your city does not have an event like this gather a group of people and make it happen. This is one of my favorite nights of the year and a night my daughter loves. Creating events where dads can connect with daughters is significant, go for it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gcom families...we want to hear your story!

One of our favorite things is to hear stories of how God is working in the lives of families at Grace Community Church. We have seen God step into chaos and bring peace over and over again. We are about a month away from a new series called Family Ties and we want to share some of your God stories with everyone at Grace. Families need to know there is hope when they are facing pain, and some of your stories may be what is needed to provide that hope. Would you be willing to share your story with us...
  • Have you seen God heal your marriage after a time of struggle?
  • Have you seen God bring forgiveness when your family has been stuck because of a past hurt?
  • Have you seen God do something amazing in the life of your kids this year?
  • Have you seen God bring your family closer as you faced tragedy?
  • Have you seen your family take a new direction after you rediscovered your relationship with Jesus?
We want to hear your story! If you are willing to share your story with us for this upcoming series please email me at  Just for some added incentive for one lucky family who shares their story GCC is going to give away an amazing date night in Nashville. I promise you will want this prize and we want to hear your story. Make a difference in another families life...share your story!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

more conversation

The bigger your team becomes (staff or volunteer) the more need you will have to block out time for simple conversation. I am learning that most of my Monday has to be dedicated to sitting down with people and processing what is coming for the week, month, or year. I am also finding that most of the time people respond better and think clearer in one on one settings verses an all staff setting. There seems to be less a need to impress or to worry what others in the room are thinking about an idea. The one on one nature of conversation spurs progress. Sure there is a time for formal meeting but I think if you lead a team you better block out time to slow down and talk, to listen, to step in someone else space and ask how they are doing. Conversation breeds trust, relationship, and connection. Conversation says I care about what is going on in your world. Conversation says I want to hear your ideas. Time spent with your team is not wasted time, it is leadership development. Make sure you are making time to "just talk" with your team.