Friday, April 29, 2011

Orange 11...what I love about the Orange Conference

What an amazing 3 days it has been here at the Orange Conference. I have been seriously blessed to be able to set aside several days to process ministry to kids, teens, college students, and parents. This is one of my favorite weeks of the year and by far my favorite conference experiences of every year. Here are a few reasons I love Orange and maybe a few reasons you might consider bringing your team to Orange 2012...
  1. Unity // there is no other event in the country where leaders who work with every age group unite for a week to process ministry to the next generation. There is nothing like watching 5,000 next generation leaders unite behind the cause of Christ an a strategy that is making a difference.
  2. Team // this is a place where any staff member at my church can be inspired and also get a better grasp of our strategy at Grace Community. Our entire family staff was here this week and we are headed home inspired.
  3. Connection // I love connecting with other churches and leaders at Orange to dream together. Great networking environment every year.
  4. Inspiration and Information // great conferences do both...they inspire and inform. Every year we hear from leaders who are passionate about helping others reach the next generation.
  5. Fun // I have laughed way to much this week in sessions, at breaks, at meals with my team, and traveling back and forth from the hotel. Orange gives our team a chance to to rest, process, and most of all have fun!
Great job to the Orange team...excited about Orange12 and hope to see a ton of you there. Praying many of us make some bold moves this year.

ORANGE 11...essentials of youth ministry discipleship

Yea this blog title sounds like a title of a course at seminary but how we pull this off in our student ministries is a critical concern for every youth pastor out there. Helping teens grow in their faith in a way that impacts their everyday life is difficult and none of us have it figured out. Doug Fields is a leader that has served teens for over 20 years and today at Orange and today he helped us process what youth discipleship looks like. Check these ideas about how to lead our student ministries to become places where spiritual growth is happening...

What we believe...discipleship philosophy
Spiritual growth must be about “on their own”
// we get kids connected to a program and a person not to an everlasting savior where they grow on their own. We have to connect teens to something other than personality. Teens showing up does not mean teens are being discipled.

Reproducible discipleship is relational based // not content, not classroom

One person can’t disciple everyone // you need a team who has a huge, Jesus had 12 and one was a failure. Give your small group leaders your title.

Failure, doubt, and pain paves the way to spiritual growth. // these are moments to help teens find faith // as youth leaders your heart will also be broken because many you invest in will fail.

Students can reproduce themselves // we need to use juniors and seniors to invest in younger generations

Who we are...discipler qualities

Visionaries of teenage spiritual growth.
Examples of spiritual growth // they don’t remember your talks, they remember your example. Never allow the work of God to destroy the work of God in us.

Transparent with our journey // if kids feel like you are perfect they simply can’t relate

Relational in our approach

Tender in our response // if we know the hurt people face we treat them differently

What we do...program initiatives
Provide a “beyond youth group” relational/support // put mentors in the lives if teens that will encourage for the long haul

Motivate and maintain a climate of spiritual growth // we have to be the culture setter!

Go small // small groups, mission trips, events, fun!

Create and distribute spiritual growth resources // take home tools that teach and show them. If kids are not asking Bible questions then they are not reading the Bible.

Help teens SERVE

ORANGE 11...getting messy

Everyday we pass schools on the way to work (just happens to be the GCC church office for me) packed with kids who have never heard about this Jesus we talk about in our churches every week. Those schools are packed with kids who go home to hell everyday. Those schools are packed with kids who feel like there is no hope. Those schools are packed with kids who are waiting for someone to tell them they matter. The question that Jud Wilhite asked us yesterday at the Orange Conference was this...who will be willing to get messy and go reach those kids, those families? In Mark 2 we see a group of friends desperate to get their friend who was cripple to Jesus. They were willing to get messy, break some rules, and get their friend to Jesus. What are we willing to do to see the kids in the schools we pass everyday get to Jesus? If you are willing to get messy then here are a few ideas Jud asked us to process when it comes to the ministries we lead...

When is the last time our ministries got messy. >> The church is not just an organization created to get people to come to our building, we are a organism that goes to people. We are naturally pulled away from messiness. When we reach the next generation we have to be willing to reach them in the middle of their messiness.

Do we see obstacles or opportunity >> In mark 2 people lowered a man through a roof to get to Jesus. The crowd did not stop them, the roof was an opportunity. Our excuses are never big enough to stop what God wants to do IF we look for the opportunities.

Believe the impossible for our friends. >> It’s amazing what can happen when we believe in somebody. People are looking for someone to believe in not give up on them!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

ORANGE 11...building intentional small groups

One of the greatest gifts we can give parents in a healthy and intentional small group ministry. When talking to kids that grow up to serve Christ in the church they can often look back and recognize 5 or more adults that intentionally invested in their life. Small groups set up your ministry to help kids discover mentors that can make help them navigate faith, life, and relationships. This afternoon Joy Bowen helped talk us through how to build intentional small groups in our ministries. Here are five ideas that can help take your small groups to the next level.

Small group relationships are consistent. >> kids need consistent relationships, they are in the middle of being unknown at school and someone needs to know them.

Small groups have invested leaders. >> We have to empower leaders, cast vision, and get the right leaders on the bus and in the right seats.

Small group leaders are coached >> when leaders are coached, they are cared for, encouraged, and equipped. No leader wants to do ministry alone, we all want to be on a great team.

Small group time is calculated >> What happens in or hour is just as important as having the time. We have 60 minutes, we have to maximize the time to connect, interact, worship, learn, and have fun!

Small groups find time to celebrate together. >> Fun leads to connection. Shared experiences matter!

ORANGE 11...who do I trust when everything falls apart?

This morning Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church helped us process what life looks like in the middle. You know the middle, you have experienced the middle...Jeff calls it the "in between". The middle is the gap between where you are and where God wants you to be in the future. We see the middle in Scripture when we read about how God moved his people from slavery in Egypt to the promise land He promised. God loved his people, delivered His people, and still allowed His people to move through the dessert. Why...because he was transforming His people from slaves trapped in a pagan society to people who followed the living God. In the desert, God's people where in trust school...hope it what you want, they were learning to choose God over their circumstances. Many next generation leaders are in the middle. We are following God's call but we are experiencing the middle, the land between. In the middle we get confronted with one central question. Who do I trust when everything falls apart? I love what Jeff reminded me today. In the middle my faith can be transformed or my faith can's our move.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

ORANGE 11..."freeing" your volunteers

"Freeing your volunteers." That statement can mean a million things and it really sounds good when you say it. This afternoon Tom Shefchunas helped us wrap our minds around creating ministries full of volunteers who are pumped to be there, using their talents, and seeing progress. Many of our ministries simply just have volunteers serving out of obligation. Freeing volunteers means we are actively create a culture where leaders thrive. Freeing your volunteer team is not about changing people it is about changing the culture. Here are some steps to creating that kind of culture...

Resolve yourself that this will take time. >> You don’t see a culture change your realize it has changed, change takes time. Changing a culture takes intentional long term attention and focus!

Get great people in the room. >> organizations have to get the right people on the team, the right people off the team, and the right people in the right seats. Nothing defines your team like the people on your team. A healthy culture can push people to be more! Look for people with time (willing to give their time), mature faith, and character.

Decide this is not your ministry >> Leadership is a stewardship and I am just leading once small part of it. We often build our ministry around our personality with no other foundation of a volunteer team. Not a good idea. Will my ministry outlast my time leading it? We have to empower team to the point when we leave it moves forward with strength!

Simplify your strategy and define the volunteer’s job and role. >> If you want your leaders to feel like they are important give them something important to do.

ORANGE 11...motivating volunteers

Motivating volunteers is a constant challenge for every ministry team. How do we keep our leaders tuned into our mission? How do we keep volunteers energized? This morning Kendra Flemming reminded us that what motivates volunteers connects back to what attracted volunteers to our ministry in the first place. Of course none of us are motivated by the same things but these are 7 principles that attract volunteers to our ministry and can keep our teams motivated.

We are initially attracted to things that are visually appealing
>> Some volunteer connections are bound in relationship but many times we are drawn in simply the look and feel of an environment. Branding, clear communication, and environment matter.

We are naturally attracted to excellence >> No one wants to feed time, energy, and talent into something that is mediocre. Be committed to progressive excellence.

We are increasingly attracted to things that are celebrated >> What we celebrate becomes attractive to our volunteer teams. Celebrate what matters most.

We are relationally connected to dynamic communities >> Excellent leaders attract other great leaders. Dynamic attracts dynamic.

We are selfishly attracted to things that are personally beneficial >> leaders stay when they are serving and growing at the same time. Make sure your volunteers are growing and being rewarded!

We are attracted to fun! >> Environments that are fun, where we laugh, attract people! We have to create margin for fun.

We are ultimately attracted to leaders and organizations with integrity. >>  Know what we value and live what we value

These attraction factors help to motivate our volunteers. The end goal is to empower volunteers for the long haul. Motivated volunteers are going to thrive and serve longer. What are you doing to motivate your team? In this list of 7 is there one that stands out?

ORANGE 11...preconference plan

Awake this morning and headed to pre-conference at Orange 11. A few of the things I love about pre-conference is the small crowd, the laid back feel, and the practical side of the breakouts. Here is where I am headed today. The theme for my pre-con is VOLUNTEERS. Can't wait to share some ideas about empowering volunteers to become the leaders God has created them to be! Hope to post a few notes from each session.

Volunteering with children is not easy. Babies cry, parents are grumpy, and 5th grade boys wrestle. It's our job to make sure our volunteers walk away from their time with us knowing that they made a difference. Let's talk about how we can inspire a workforce of leaders to serve with enthusiasm and commit for the long haul.

After months, maybe even years, of making efforts toward Orange at your church you finally got all the key ministry leaders to sit down together, in the same room, to talk about what it means to Think Orange. But, now what? What exactly do you do in this meeting? What do you talk about? In this breakout the family ministry team from Discovery Church will pinpoint practical exercises to help you conduct family ministry staff and volunteer meetings that cast the Orange vision to everyone in your ministry.

Every single leader is looking for the next volunteer - we all struggle with how to get it done. Learn how you can take on this huge challenge and turn it into a win for both you and your future recruits.

Would you like your ministry to flourish? Of course you would! Contrary to what you might be praying for, it won't just happen with a mass influx of volunteers. Ministry will thrive when you have volunteers serving in the right roles that ignite their gifting and keep ministry running smoothly. Stop buying into the myth that you have to do it all alone and start believing that there is a better way to create and structure a gifted team.

HOW TO: "FREE" A VOLUNTEER >> Tom Shefchunas
Do you need help? Or, do you need better help? Have you ever wished you had better and/or more volunteers? Join Tom Shefchunas, Director of Middle School for North Point Ministries, as we talk about those challenges. Become a leader of a program that attracts high-powered volunteers who get the job done well!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Experience ORANGE 11 even if you can't make it this week!

I am about to leave for the Orange Conference but I wanted to share some great news for those of you who can't make it down this week...YOU CAN STILL EXPERIENCE ORANGE 11. There are 3 ways...
  1. follow the twitter feed at the hash tag #orange11
  2. Add these blogs to your Google Reader and read about every session
  3. follow along from backstage at for a live video feed >> you even get the first session for free!
Even if you can't make it we want you to join over 5,000 next generation leaders as we unite for a week. We hope you will join the discussion, tweet questions, comment on blogs, and learn from some amazing backstage interviews. Check out this schedule and get ready for an amazing week of thinking orange...

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2011 (all times are Eastern Daylight Savings):
7:15 p.m. Welcome to The Orange Conference 2011 & Opening Session
THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2011 (all times are Eastern Daylight Savings):
11:00 a.m. Jeff Manion
11:15 a.m. To Be Announced
11:35 a.m. Taylor Royle
11:25 a.m. Yancy
12:00 p.m. Dan Webster
12:15 p.m. Jim Wideman
12:35 p.m. Joel Manby
12:45 p.m. Mark Matlock
1:00 p.m. Jeanne Stevens
1:15 p.m. Craig Jutila
1:35 p.m. Chuck Bomar
1:50 p.m. Ted Lowe
2:05 p.m. Adam Duckworth
2:20 p.m. Sue Miller
2:35 p.m. Greg Bradford
2:50 p.m. Gordon MacDonald
3:05 p.m. Jud Wilhite
3:20 p.m. Carey Nieuwhof
3:35 p.m. Christine Kreisher
3:50 p.m. Brian White
4:05 p.m. Nina Schmidgall
FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2011 (all times are Eastern Daylight Savings):
11:00 a.m. Kara Powell
11:15 a.m. Eric Draper
11:30 a.m. TBA
11:45 a.m. Tom Shefchunas
12:00 p.m. TBA
12:15 p.m. David Kinnaman
12:35 p.m. Julio Gonzolez
12:45 p.m. Amy Fenton Lee
1:00 p.m. Jeff Shinabarger
1:15 p.m. Bubba Thurman
1:35 p.m. Ronda Malin & Sarah Lee
1:50 p.m. Caz McCaslin
2:05 p.m. Doug Fields
2:20 p.m. Don Jacobson
2:35 p.m. Brad Lomenick
2:50 p.m. Scott Williams

There is a TON that happens backstage, but you’ll only be seeing the good stuff. Go ahead….you should bookmark now.

Monday, April 25, 2011

ORANGE 11...check out these blogs

I am so excited about the coming week at the Orange Conference. The idea of Orange is pretty simple. 2 combined influences make a greater impact than either on their own. When we talk about ORANGE ministry inside the church we are talking about the combined influence of the church (yellow) and home (red). I hope this week you will join me as about 4000 leaders unite to think orange. A team of us will be blogging and I hope you will check out these blogs. You can also get the latest scoop from the conference by using the Orange Conference app for your iPhone or Android phone.

Ready...Set...Go // check out these blogs and get ready for an entire week of thinking ORANGE.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter at Grace Community Church...

Easter 2011 is almost here and our team is so excited about celebrating Jesus with our community. We have some amazing things planned for the adult service, we have pray for God to work in our lives, and we have some incredible experiences in the works for our kids but it stops there then we might have missed it. Who have I invited? That is the questions we are asking as a church! Easter is an amazing time to reach out to people around us who have no plans for Easter. Most of the time people just need an invitation. If you live in the Clarksville area I hope you will come celebrate Easter with us. Here are our services for Sunday...

Kenwood Campus: 10 AM
Kenwood High School / 251 East Pine Mountain Road, Clarksville, TN 37042
Rossview Campus: 8:30 AM, 10 AM, & 11:30 AM
Rossview High School / 1237 Rossview Road, Clarksville, TN 37043

For more info hit

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Remember to...ENJOY THE MOMENT

It is Easter week here at the GCC office...yep it's Easter week where you serve too. One thing I know for sure is we are all feeling stressed out. Last night at our student environment I could barely enjoy the night because my mind was thinking about everything our team has to accomplish before Sunday. We all feel the pressure to make this Sunday perfect because we know we have a chance to impact so many families. We get to encounter tons of visitors. We connect with people we haven't seen in a while. We have a chance to share the message of Christ. All of this combines to fuel a pretty stressful weekend if we let it go there. Maybe we just need to be reminded to HAVE FUN. All of the factors that lead to us stressing out can also lead us to work hard, trust God, and enjoy watching God move this weekend. Will everything go perfect this weekend...NOPE. Will we be able to cross off everything on our to-do list...MAYBE. Will God be lifted high...people hear about the love of Christ...lives be changed for eternity...ABSOLUTELY. Maybe we just need to remember to slow down and enjoy the moment. Thanks so much to every leader out there who reads this blog and is going the extra mile to make Sunday amazing. Go for it and have fun this weekend at the same time!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What every family needs...TIME TO REFOCUS

The gap between one Sunday and the next is an eternity in the life of a child or teenager. In that gap our children see us for who we really are. They see how we respond to their mistakes...they see us make mistakes...they see what we think is important. For many families there is never a time to slow down and refocus. Without an intentional plan we never bring our faith into their everyday flow of our home. Our hope here at Grace Community is to provide some tools that help you as a parent find that weekly time to refocus and remind everyone what is most important.
  • In our preschool ministry we give parents a monthly guide to help parents know how to connect with their kids in the car, when they are playing, at bedtime, and at meal times! Suggestions are always fun and at natural times where kids are ready to talk.
  • In our K-5 environment we give parents God Time Cards to help guide 4 days of discussion during the week. Our family uses this card at breakfast and is an amazng reminder for us of the virtue each month and gives us a chance to read the Bible together.
  • In our student ministry we email out a summary of what we talked about in our worship gathering and small groups every week. We hope this keeps parents in the loop and provides some natural questions to ask their teen.
The goal with each of these tools is simple...CONNECT WHAT HAPPENS ON SUNDAY WITH NORMAL LIFE. Time set aside to be intentional with our faith allows us to refocus on what is most important. What is your family plan?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

6 reasons we partner with BIGSTUF for high school camp

Summer camp has the potential to be one of the best weeks a teens year...we pray that way for sure! Our hope for getting high school students away for a week is to take them out of their normal routine and environment to find a fresh perspective of who God is. When we started looking for a camp experience to partner with we landed on Bigstuf Camps. Our team views Bigstuf as our high school camp even through we united with 1500 other people when we get down there. Here are 6 reasons we link arms with Bigstuf as we invest in high school students...
  1. Clarity >> every year we know our high school students will hear from amazing communicators who teach the Bible clearly. Our hope is teens clearly hear about the love of Christ! This camp brings great communicators we know we can trust.
  2. Excellence >> you will never find a more amazing environment (production, music, lights, video) than what you find at Bigstuf. Love their tech team and the way they leverage it to engage teens.
  3. Leader training >> every year our volunteer leaders get training from next level leaders in student ministry. We have had the honor of having Reggie Joiner train our adults every year...WOW!
  4. Location, location, location >> you have to admit for kids who live in TN the beach is an amazing place to visit. Not only is Panama City great but the hotel we use is amazing and safe!
  5. Inspiration >> every year high school students leave camp knowing they can make a difference locally and globally. We love that our students are pushed to make a difference through embracing the idea of making a global impact, caring for the poor, and spreading the message of Christ.
  6. Flexibility >> we get to use small groups during the week and sync our week up with our strategy and Bigstuf supports that flexibility. On a practical side we also get to pick our week for camp before they open registration as a partner church. You will not find a better team that Lanny, Kayla and the Bigstuf staff!

Monday, April 18, 2011

5 reasons we are doing our own Middle School Camp

This year we are doing our first middle school camp here at Relevant Student Ministry. We have done dedicated camps for middle school students in the past by partnering with Student Life. We love the team at Student Life but we know that it is time for our team to create a unique experience for middle school students in our city. Why are we doing our own middle school camp? Here are a few reasons that pushed us over the edge...
  1. We can reach more middle school students if we are closer to our city >> many middle school students are so insecure they don't like the idea of being far away from home. I know, I don't understand that either but since we an hour away we are close enough to calm much of that fear for teens and parents. Because it cost less and it is closer we can reach more middle school students.
  2. Middle School students need an environment crafted to grab their attention, hearts, and minds >> this is the driving force for our team! We know middle school students need a week optimized for them and no camp we partner with can do that since it has middle and high school students. We get to create a program that impacts middle school kids where they are at!
  3. We have the chance to develop high school and college leaders >> this just creates another environment to develop leaders and empower high school and college students
  4. We can enforce our strategy on the camp level like we do in our weekly environment >> since we are crafting the experience we can connect what happens all year with our strategy with what goes down at camp. This synchronization pays off in the end.
  5. We can better partner with parents because we are crafting the experience >> parents get to drop their middle school student off at camp and we are going to have a cookout for them...we know what is going to happen each night on stage so we can inform them and invite them to pray with us as the week moves and engage their teen after camp...these are just 2 ways we feel we will be able to partner with parents through our middle school camp.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

PARENTS...never script your kid's life!

Being a parent allows you to hang out with other parents. I see so many parents trying hard to script their kids life. I even find myself wanting my girls to follow my scripted path of growing up. I want them to play certain sports, excel at certain subjects in school, and of course eat what I think they need to eat (and like it! ha!). The danger of the scripting method of parenting is that as our kids get older the scripts get harder to write and control. As parents we end up pushing to control our kids college choice, career path, and sometimes even who they date. Scripting our child's choices means we constantly fight for our way and in the end children walk away from this kind of controlling relationship. Our desire to script leads us to a lack of influence and many times a fractured relationship.

As a parent I have to continually remind myself...I am not in control. Instead of fighting for my self written script for my child's life maybe I need to pray for God's perfect plan. God gives us our children as a gift but they are not ours...they are made for a purpose. Their hearts are crafted for adventure and sometimes adventure gets messy. Sure my girls are 4 and 7 right now and they need firm direction from me. I am their protector and guide. I have to make many choices for them now, but as they age my relationship has to move from parent/authority to parent/mentor. (yep this is a process and takes time)

When it comes to parenting just remember to spend as much time praying for God to fulfill His plans for our kids as we spend crafting our own scripts for them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do you have a STRATEGY?

Do you have a strategy for the preschool, children, college, or student ministry you lead? Let me clarify. Do you have a unique strategic plan that helps you navigate the direction of your ministry? I am amazed at how many leaders lead with no reason for their choices other than this is the latest idea learned at a conference. Just doing ministry is not enough. Copying other ministry ideas is not enough. Implementing suggestions from you team is not enough. You need a strategy. When you become intentional with your strategy you will finally come to grips with why you do what you do in your ministry. When you slow down long enough to develop your strategy here are some things that happen naturally...
  • You will be able to say NO and YES to ideas with confidence because all ideas will be filtered through your strategy. Without a strategy you will end up doing everything.
  • You will know who to recruit as leaders because you will be recruiting to fulfill your strategy. 
  • You will know how to budget and utilize your resources because your strategy will determine how resources are divided. 
  • You will know how to manage your time. I find many leaders struggle with time management because they have no strategy to help determine what is most important.
  • You will be able to lead with confidence. When it comes to strategy in ministry we must filter everything through prayer and scripture. There is a confidence that comes from knowing we have processed our ideas and searched for God's wisdom simultaneously. Our hope and strength comes from God.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Where is everybody at?

Where is everybody? Do you ever have those weeks or months in the ministry you lead? If you haven't experienced it you will. This questions arrives every year during the "slow season." Every church and ministry has these times in your calendar year when attendance slumps. For our team at Relevant Student Ministry our slow season is right now in March and April because of spring sports. In our community tons of kids are playing soccer, baseball, and running track. Sports + homework + school activities = a drain on our attendance. It happens every year and I can either recognize with it...or get frustrated. Here are some things to remember during the slow season for your ministry.
  • This is why we track attendance >> if you wonder why tracking attendance is important then welcome to the slow season! The only way to determine a dip in momentum or a slow season is to have the evidence in your numbers. Slow seasons have nothing to do with poor planning or poor leadership and everything to do with outside circumstances.
  • This is temporary >> remember this will be over not let a slow season get in the way of planning for what is next and creating great experiences for teens or kids. 
  • Invest in who is there >> go all out, pour into the lives of those kids that are there and at the same time let the kids who are busy know you miss them (maybe go catch a game, play, or school activity). The people that are there need you to invest in them...go for it.
  • Remind your team of the slow season and lead strong >> your volunteers will never remember the slow season factor so you will have to encourage them and remind them of what is going on. Slow seasons can be discouraging for volunteers so make sure and remind them what is going on!

Monday, April 11, 2011

attract a crowd or make disciples...can we do BOTH?

A friend of mine described the church they attend to me by this statement. "They (the church leadership) are just trying to make disciples, they are not worried about numbers." I am thrilled this friend has found a church where they can plug into and serve with but their description about church made me begin to process those 2 ideas...attracting a crowd vs. making disciples. You see I serve at that church who gets classified as a crowd attractor. Many times people think because of our crowd and the messiness of people we must not be concerned with moving people toward being more like Jesus. That assumption couldn't be more wrong. We are consumed with tweaking our strategy so we assure people are growing spiritually. We are also just as passionate about creating environments where people feel passionate about inviting their friends and neighbors. We are focused on investing in those who are with us and reaching our to those who are far from God simultaneously. This applies to everything we do in family ministry also. We strive to create environments where people want to be and at the same time we push, pray, and plan for forward spiritual motion. All our churches...our ministries...can be places that attract and invest. I pray we always strive to reach people AND make disciples and I pray we never stop worrying about all those people who are far from God. As Andy Stanley says, this is a tension to manage not a problem to solve.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My day with Operation Serve [School Edition]

Had the chance to work with a camera crew from The Orange Conference to capture the story of Operation Serve School Edition today. In the end 900 volunteers served 35 school in our community. Just a great reminder that when we partner with people in the community we can make a difference in the public schools in our community. It was amazing to see the church and school system partner. It was incredible to watch parents, children, and teens work together to help schools in our city. Here are a few pictures from this morning as we saw people prep for their day and our team captured the story of Op Serve School Edition from different leaders...THIS WAS AN AMAZING DAY!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

a great question for MULTI-SITE family ministry

We opened our second campus around two months ago and we have been learning more and more about how to make this work with our family ministry team every week. In February I had the chance to learn from Tom Shefchunas who leads the middle school ministry at North Point with their soon to be five campus strategy in the Atlanta area. Tom and his team have been working through the multi-site strategy with his team the past few years and he helped me understand a question that would have a powerful influence in how we have been leading our multi-site teams. The question we have to continually return to is simple. Is this idea/problem/need a multi-site (global) issue or a a campus (local) issue. I know that question does not seem so profound but it cuts through tons of problems before they arise. Let me clarify...

Multi-site issues // The choices made with these issues become strategies and solutions that have to be implemented on all sites. These are the big issues that shape the direction of the entire ministry. These are choices we are not willing to compromise on so they better be big, clear, and effective.

Campus issues // these are needs that have to be solved by the campus team to help create the individual environment of that campus. Room set-up, signage, check-in location, large group implementation are just a few examples of campus issues. Every campus is going to have it's own flavor and empowering campus teams to experiment leads to innovation.

When problems arise you have to use the multi-site OR campus filter in order to empower your team, divide your resources, and provide direction effectively. We have to find a balance of global and local thinking. If you lean heavy to either side you will find your team getting off track. I am finding multi-site family ministry to be all about balance. I hope this question helps you find a little more balance as you lead your teams on different campuses!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

guidelines = guardrails

Our team here at Grace Community just got done creating a new policy and procedure manual for our staff. We all saw it, we talked about it, we signed it, and we filed it away. It is simple, short, and clear about some sticky staff issues we wanted our team to embrace. I am allergic to the word policy. I have worked in the past with people who thrive in the middle of policy and that is not my style. What we created for our team is a set of staff guidelines. Guidelines sound so much better! We are now five years old as a church and I feel we just now landed at a spot where we could create our guidelines so they enhance our staff culture. I feel the same way about our family ministry team and we are just now putting many guidelines with have been living out down on paper for our staff and volunteers to see. Growth demands guidelines be put in place. The more you and your team grow the more need you will have for clear guidelines. Guidelines provide guardrails for our ministry. Here are some things healthy guildelines protect...
  • Guidelines protect our volunteers >> volunteers lead with their heart! Every volunteer I have needs to know what boundaries they have. Boundaries help them not to make a mistake and also free them to move forward with passion with their role on the team.
  • Guidelines protect our financial health >> money is a hard issue for any staff team. Guidelines help make sure staff and volunteers handle money well. God has given us responsibility of investing resources in order to advance the Kingdom of God. We need to handle that responsibility with care.
  • Guidelines protect our relationships >> the heart of leadership lies in relationships. Healthy guidelines help protect people from making relational mistakes with the people we lead and those that lead with us. I have seen too many leaders fail morally because there were no guidelines to protect them.
  • Guidelines have potential to keep us united >> the idea here is that when people know the process of communicating and have a clear understanding of their role in the organization teams have a better shot at staying united. Most staff conflict flows from a lack of clear direction and clear communication. Guidelines can help us stay connected behind a common mission and strategy.
  • Guidelines can always be CHANGED >> guidelines are not eternal. When things don;t work anymore things need to be changed. Want guidelines to be effective...keep it simple, keep it clear, and always be open to change.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

sunday school REFORMAT

Many student pastors lead in churches that have Sunday School. Sunday School is just the old name for Sunday morning Bible study groups. If you lead in a church with Sunday School you have to figure out how it is going to impact the students you lead. Most leaders just go through the motions knowing that the idea of Sunday mornings are not the best time to engage teenagers with much more than doughnuts to wake them up. If you are a leader in a church that has Sunday School I want to challenge you to not miss an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of teens.

Before we talk about the reformat let me make it clear that we do not have Sunday morning teen or adult Bible study groups at Grace Community Church. We feel adults connect better in homes and we want teens and adults to serve and worship on Sunday mornings as families. I had the honor of leading in four churches that were Sunday School churches and at each stop I tried to make the most of Sunday mornings with some amazing leaders. In my last Sunday School church I tried to reformat what we did on Sunday mornings knowing that our greatest influence on teens would be on Wednesday nights when we could really connect with teenagers. Here are some ideas of how to reformat Sunday School if you lead in a church that embraces the model...
  • New Name >> If you call your Sunday Morning experience for teens Sunday School you are making a mistake. No teen wants to join anything with the word school in it. Call them small groups, discipleship groups, bible study groups. Brand your Sunday morning experience so your students know that Sunday mornings have a goal. Your Sunday morning experience needs a name and it's not Sunday School.
  • New Look >> Tables and chairs with florescent lights and grey walls will never connect with this generation. If you want your Sunday morning experience to go the next level work hard to make the environment inviting. If you want to foster the idea teens are going to engage with scripture make the environment a place they want to be. Paint, furniture, art, coffee, and free labor from students go a long way to create a space they want to be on Sunday mornings.
  • New Goals >> If you think Sunday morning is the place your teens will bring friends you are simply not in touch with this generation. Teens invite other teens to large group experiences where it is safe...not to Bible Study groups that meet at 9 AM n Sunday morning. Why not shift the aim of Sunday morning from evangelism to spiritual growth. Focus on teens that are there. Build relationships of significance. Invest in teens to the point they are ready to not be in your Sunday morning environment but rather leading a middle school small group or working in the preschool area!
  • New Leadership >> When it comes to Sunday mornings you need to find out who your best teachers/speakers are and who your small group leaders are. If someone is going to teach they better have the skills to teach. Small group leaders better have the ability to connect and ask questions. If you are going to reformat your Sunday morning experience you better rethink who you need leading. Also know if you are doing Sunday morning groups well you probably will not be able to groups at other times of the week. FOCUS and let your leaders make an area excellent!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A few things I wish someone had told me at age 23

I can't believe it...I am 35. In March I had another birthday and like every year got to turn another year older. As I turn 35 I have also been serving as a pastor (children, youth, family pastor) for 12 years (15 if you include three years volunteering, those were great years!). Turning 35 is a big deal and it drove me to be a little introspective over the last few weeks. I am working through what is next for me as a pastor, a dad, and a husband. I am also processing the journey behind me and trying to extract as many life lessons as possible. As I look back there are a few things I wish leaders had of told me. In my time in ministry I have had to learn how to serve in the established church and rethink what church could be all at the same time. In the middle of this process here are a few things no one every told me...
  • You are going to move and serve in several church environments >> I was 23 when I took my first full time position. Guess what...I have moved several times over the years and served at several different churches and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. For some reason as I moved from ministry to ministry I felt guilty. Now at age 35 I realize that God was shaping me into the leader I am today. I could not stay at any of the churches I was at because God was shaping my heart as a leader. No leader ever told me that was just part of the process of growth.
  • Education pays off down the road >> As I was getting my education I was miserable. No leader ever told me that was NORMAL. Now on this side of things I see how important my education was. There is not a week that goes by that as I study or think that my education is not critical. So glad I finished. It is more than just a piece of paper, it is a launching pad for personal growth down the road.
  • Pastor / Staff relationships always have tension >> After 12 years in church staff I have served with some amazing pastors. Guess what...there is always tension. I now serve with one of my best friends (Chad Rowland) and a mentor (Ron Edmondson) and their role as pastor still brings occasional tension. I wish someone had of told me to just be ready for it. Your pastor is going to make choices you don't dig so you better learn how to let go and get on board.
  • Relationships are the heart of leadership >> When we are young we want the title and the responsibility. No one every told me that the title just gives an opportunity to build relationships of significance. Leadership is relational. Spending time building relationships, listening to others, and being available is priceless for young leaders.
  • Slow down and celebrate what God is doing >> As young leaders we feel so responsible to be change agents that we often move to the next thing without celebrating what God is doing. It is so important to slow down every once in a while and simply give thanks. Conferences, vacation time, and sabbath days are critical times for young leaders to slow down and process. Use them and do not feel guilty for setting aside the time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sign up for Op Serve SCHOOL EDITION

April 9th we hope to have hundreds of people volunteering in all 35 schools in our public school district. Operations Serve School Edition invites the community to participate with our church in landscaping, painting, cleaning, and completing other things the school needs done, but the budget simply can’t provide. The schools are compiling lists now and materials are being acquired.
To accomplish such a large task, we are also partnering with 5 Star Radio Group. They are providing publicity to recruit volunteers and providing tremendous moral support the day of the event with live remotes.

Besides the fact that we meet in a school…actually two schools…and doing a church our size and age would be very difficult without this partnership with our school system, it makes sense to invest in our schools this way because:

We love our schools. Our church and community are blessed with teachers, administrators and support staff who love the children and youth of our community. They are helping to build the future of our community. They need our support.

We love our community. Our church exists because the community exists. Everyone in our community may not all come to our church, but all our church lives among this community. We want to do anything we can do to support the community in which we live.

We love families. Families are a large part of who we are at Grace and the bulk of families in our community attend public schools.

We love God and others. We are called to be in the world, meeting real needs where we find them. That’s the example of Jesus.

Come join us in Operation Serve School Edition. If you live in the area, you can sign up HERE.