Monday, May 30, 2011

NEXT middle school camp

After a ton of planning, praying, and preparing NEXT middle school camp is here. This will be the first camp our team at Relevant Student Ministry has pulled off but we believe it is time. Our team has done camp many times while working at other churches but this time we get to do camp Relevant style. Just wanted to ask any of you who read this blog to simply lift our team up in prayer as we invest in these students. I hope to have several video updates through the week. Thanks for lifting us up. I know we will have some crazy stories to tell.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Summer 2011 @ RELEVANT student MInistry

Summer is here, school is out, and we are excited about what God is going to do through RELEVANT student ministry. We know families are busy. We also like to mix things up every summer here to best give our small group leaders a break and also connect with teens during the summer. One of the ways we bring students together is REMIX UNITED where students from both Relevant locations come together. Our first REMIX UNITED is June 22 at Northeast High School at 7PM. We are going to do three Remix United experiences during the summer. The dates are...

June 22 / 7PM at Northeast High
July 6 / 7PM at St. B Christian Church
July 27 / 7PM at St. B Christian Church

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Graduation is just the beginning...

Those of us in student ministry experience the graduation season every year. We watch seniors move into a new phase of life. This past Wednesday at Remix (our high school gathering) we honored 19 seniors who were getting ready for life beyond high school. I used to see this time as an ending point for our ministry with students. In the past my goal was to help teens get to this point and then wish them well as they moved into the college years. My perspective has changed over the years. I now see graduation as kind of a starting line for teens to begin to craft their own faith story in this journey we call life. When a teen graduates from high school they simply take another step forward into personal responsibility. We want our graduates to continue to pursue Christ, live in community, gather with other believers, and passionately serve others. Through all of these next steps we also want teens to know we are here for them. The college years are filled with some major decisions...we want to be available as mentors to walk with them. We have also crafted a college ministry here in our church to continue the process of investing in young adults as they follow Christ. College aged students have freedom and they also need adult mentors, parents, and educators to stay connected as they move forward in life. Graduation is not the end...its the beginning of an amazing adventure. We are praying the class of 2011 and the classes to come write some amazing stories that honor Jesus Christ. Thank you class of 2011 and know Relevant Student Ministry and Grace Community Church is here for you, cheering you on, celebrating the story you are writing. You have already made an amazing mark on this planet through your teenage years, use the coming years to take it to another level.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CAMP...middle school style >> fun

If you are going to do a middle school camp, you better plan for some major fun. Our goal is simple. We want middle school camp to be the best week of the summer in every way. Yes we want to push teens spiritually but we also want them to leave with memories of fun. We want teens to laugh, let their guard down, and go for it. There is no better way to get to a teen's heart than through laughter and adventure. We are planning for both. Here are some goals to help enhance the fun factor at middle school camp...
  • Lead the way // our production team is ready to make a fool of ourselves, yep...we have to set the tone and we are going for it.
  • Video // there are just way to many funny ways to implement video in different segments of every large group time. We are intentionally planning in advance how we can use short video elements in every gathering to capture funny moments and communicate truth together.
  • Characters // we are introducing some amazing characters this year. There are just too many good costumes on Amazon not to take advantage of some great live characters.
  • Crazy Rec // rec time should be amazing and we have learned from the best...Student Life! No camp does rec better than SL and we are implementing a ton of wild ideas inspired by their team. Water Day...Messy Day...Mega Relay can you go wrong!
  • Fun Free Time Options // the pool, the lake, canoes, a water trampoline, basketball courts, nerf guns...we are planning some great free time FUN options
  • LATE NIGHT // no teen wants to go to bed early so of course we have LATE NIGHT plans that are going to be killer.
  • Mountain Dew // this is for me but really we are planning fun food options for every night. Junk food takes fun to another level!
Make sure when you plan camp you think FUN along with SPIRITUAL GROWTH. They go hand in hand!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

CAMP...middle school style >> small groups

Life change happens best when people are surrounded by other people cheering them on and moving the same direction. We believe in small groups and we want to make sure that our first middle school camp is built around small groups. We started our planning for everything at camp around how we were going to set up groups to be most effective. Every large group session we have will connect back or set up a small group setting. Here are some ideas that have guided our planning...
  • Tons of our small group leaders at camp are small group leaders every week at home. // we are so excited to take many of our weekly leaders to camp for a week! The connection from our weekly environment to camp is going to be next level. Shared adventure creates some amazing small group connection.
  • We are empowering some amazing high school small group leaders // yep we are taking some great high school leaders who are going to lead and invest during camp. We are raising up teens to lead now.
  • Small groups will connect 2 times each day at camp // we are planning our main small group time in the morning then at night each group will have a time called ONE QUESTION to process after the night message
  • Small groups will be...small // we are making sure every small group gets small...we want literal small groups at camp so teens get a huge investment in their life
  • An amazing team of writers helped create our small group guides // we had some great writers take sessions and craft the small group guides. Our writers worked together to make sure our group times are going to drive teens to scripture and to encounter God through community!

Monday, May 23, 2011

CAMP...middle school style >> production goals

In just a few days NEXT middle school camp will be a reality. We have been planning for the past year to create a camp experience for middle school students. Our team has taken middle school kids to several camps in the past and honestly we can't find a week long experience that really addresses the needs of this age group. Instead of complaining we are going to take a risk, rent a facility, and go for it. We are wrapping up our production planning for the week and we are trying to stay focused on a few goals...
  • FOCUSED TEACHING >> middle school students need focused teaching like no other age group. Each day we are going to drive home one idea and make sure both the morning and evening talks support that idea. We want students thinking about one idea everyday and we want it to be connected to our theme.
  • FUN >> we are trying to make sure and create moments of fun in every gathering. Humor helps middle school kids relax and remember what the message was. Our team is trying to make sure we all laugh all week long.
  • SHORTER WORSHIP TIMES >> we have an amazing band at camp but we are breaking the worship sets up. Shorter worship sets keep the sessions moving and help middle school boys engage...they will engage but we have to make sure and move it forward. Less is more.
  • SMALL GROUP DRIVEN >> we want every session to drive toward small group discussion. We think teens need to process in order to grow. Every session is going to support and set up what we are doing in group!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is DOUBT hoding you back?

We all doubt. It's natural, it's talked about in scripture, it drives is to search for truth, and sometimes God uses it to help us discern difficult situations in life. Doubt is natural but self doubt has the potential to be a paralyzing force in our lives. How many times do we miss an opportunity to serve God, invest in another person, lead our team in a healthy direction, or make difficult choice only because we are trapped by self doubt. So many time self doubt shouts at us...
  • I can't say that...
  • I don't have enough experience so no one will trust me...
  • Someone else will say what needs to be said...
  • I might fail if I take that risk...
  • I need to make this step but maybe I will wait till next year...
  • Who am I anyway...
  • I'm not good at "that"...
  • That's not my job...
Self traps us and pushes us to not do what we know God is calling us to do. If the only thing holding you back from making the choice you know needs to be made you might want to move forward. Self doubt is just another word for fear and facing it is never going to get easier. Here is what God says about God, move forward, accept responsibility.

Romans 8:31 (NLT)
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  

Romans 8:38 (NLT)
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

PARENTS // control the chaos of life

One thing I know about families today is that we are busy. If you have kids then your life is so much more busy than the pre-kid days. We now have 2 girls and our pace of life just keeps getting more hectic. One of the best books I have ever read as a parent is The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni because it helped give my wife and I a plan to control the chaos of life and give our family direction. Patrick explains that there are connections between successful organizations and successful families. Any successful organization needs leadership, clear goals, and a strategy. Your family needs the same thing. So many times we allow everyone else to give our family leadership, goals, and a strategy. Other families embrace the chaos and accept it as the norm. Healthy families choose to control the chaos by setting boundaries, goals, and by saying no often.

Set Boundaries >> seriously we all need boundaries and our families needs them too. Set boundaries that help you decide how many of the nights of the week will your family be out, how many sports or activities will the kids be in each year, how many meals will your family eat together each week, and how much will you plug into your church. As parents your kids need you to set the boundaries that will help your family thrive.

Set Goals >> decide what is most important for this season of your families life. Your family goals will shift from season to season but they will help define what is most important. For my family our goal right now is to help my wife get through grad school. All of us are making sacrifices to make it happen. When it is done we will have a new goal. Goals give the family a cause to rally around.

Say No Often >> when a family has set boundaries and set goals the family is able to say no to good things in order to focus on what is best. Controlling the chaos of life means parents have to learn to say no. Sure you and your kids will not be everywhere or do everything but what you may find is a healthy family in the other side of no.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

keep thinking, learning, and listening

No matter what you lead, where you lead, or who you lead the natural tendency is to allow the immediate needs of the organization to consume your attention. Taking time to think, learn, and listen takes a back seat to handling those 30 emails that are in your inbox, or that call from a parent who needs advice, or that report that needs to be filed. If we don't make intentional time to think, learn, and listen then immediate demands for our attention will always win. Here are some strategies I am using my time to think, learn, and listen. I try to....

Stay Current >> one of the best ways to stay current is to follow a few blogs regularly. I have about 25-30 bloggers from all around the country that I stay connected with through my Google Reader. Blogs are a great way to see what other leaders are processing. Mix it up also. Follow ministry leaders, marketing leaders, business leaders and think outside the box.

Stay Challenged >> read, read, and then read more. I think reading allows us to learn from people on our time when it is convenient for us. I try to balance spiritual and leadership books from different authors that will challenge me to see life and leadership in different ways. The best purchase I made this past year was my Kindle...go get one!

Find inspiration >> there is no inspiration like the inspiration that comes from God himself. Blocking off time for prayer and scripture is a must. I also find inspiration by changing up my schedule, working from different places, and making time each year for conferences.

Get advice >> connect with other leaders in churches and ministries you want to learn from and ask questions. I have a few guys out there who I go to when I need direction. Look for churches you respect, check into the leaders there, and go for it...ask questions.

Monday, May 16, 2011

when "low numbers" might be a good thing

We might not admit it publicly but when we have low attendance nights it is hard to deal with. Our teams put tons of time and effort into setting up our environments to make the maximum impact and when students are gone we all struggle. I was reminded last week there are some times when it is good to have low attendance. It has happened 2 times this year at REMIX, our high school service. The first time was when one of our local high schools made an incredible run into the state basketball playoffs. The second time happened this week when 2 of our local high schools met in the district baseball tournament. Seriously, there were about 50-60 students that are connected with our high school ministry that were at the game! Yes we had a smaller crowd and yes we still had a great night. Later that night after processing how many students were at the game I realized that these are just the students God has allowed us to connect with and invest in. We are connecting with tons of high school students who...

See our high school ministry as part of their life, not the center of their life. // hopefully these students are pursuing a relationship with Christ not just a relationship with our student ministry.

Are  involved both at school and in the community // these are students that are not just attending school, they participate in the process! Yes they are busy and we have to deal with that reality.

Are connected to other teens // many of the high school students we are reaching have relationships with other teens outside our student ministry

Are inviters // many of the high school students not only attend our ministry they invite others to be a part of this movement. There is nothing better that seeing high school students reach other high school students.

When you reach a wide audience of teens you just have to embrace the fact that you are going to have those nights. Depending on your community and your students there are just going to be nights when you have low attendance and that is a good thing!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Last Cross Street Live of the year! // May 15 @ 1:30

This Sunday will be our last Cross Street Live of the school year. If you have kids then you are a parent and you need to make sure you are there! Cross Street Live is an interactive family experience where kids and parents laugh, learn, and worship together as a family. This month we will be talking about forgiveness. CSL happens at 1:30 on the Rossview Campus and we provide lunch for families at 12:45. Check out all the details at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PARENTS // your kids need to hear you say...

Word's are powerful. They shape who we are, how we feel, the direction we are headed in life. Have you though about the words you are communicating to your children on a daily basis. Your words as a parent have the power to mold the heart of a child. They are listening. They need help definine both reality and truth. Here are some things I think we need to keep saying to our kids no matter how old they are...
  • I love you!
  • I am blessed to be your parents.
  • I'm sorry.
  • God made you and has a plan for you.
  • I love your mom (or dad for all the ladies out there)
  • Go for it, you can do it.
  • This is what God is teaching me...
  • I believe in you.
  • I'm not too busy, tell me what is going on.
  • I know this is hard...don't give up.
  • Your beautiful. (or you are the man if you have boys!)
  • You are incredible.
  • What do you think the wise choice is?
  • Jesus is amazing.
  • You can be a leader...step up!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

summer planning...

Summer break is just a few weeks away and for those of us who invest in teens and summer brings opportunity to mix things up. Seriously, there is no reason to not mix things up in your ministry every summer. I know some of you try to keep normal programming going but I promise if you plan a different summer schedule you will bring fresh energy to the ministry you lead. For the past five years we have changed things up in the summer and it has created buzz for the fall. We have worked hard to find a summer plan that created momentum, blocked off time to intentionally invest in teens, and space so our volunteers could have a break. Every summer plan will be unique but here some ideas that help us guide the summer planning process.

make summer intentional // camp, groups, events, gatherings, mission trips...make sure everything you invest in during summer is intentional and has a goal. Your mission is to reach teens not create a social life for a small group of kids. Make sure you know why you are doing what you are doing.

make it fun // summer =fun so make sure plenty of fun is included in every event you do during the summer. Fun leads to making memories. I also find when kids have fun they are more open to allow you to invest in them spiritually.

change the pace // never keep the same schedule as you do during school for summer. Make it different. Give leaders a break. Give your teens a different experience. Changing the pace keeps things fresh.

build relationships // summer is a great time to connect with teens and get to know them better at camp or on a mission trip. Make sure your leaders know summer should lead to deeper relationships.

plan and pray toward fall // this is a big key. Bring in some of your core leaders and allow them to speak into fall and the ministry plan there! Give leaders a voice and ask them to help make the dream a reality.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Do you have a "meeting strategy" for your team?

Finding time to meet as a Family Ministry Team is difficult. Our team all works on the same floor here at the Grace Community Church office so we interact and connect daily but also set aside a monthly meeting to allow us to block our time to look ahead as a team. When we meet we want that time to count. We also want that meeting to be more that informational reports...we want to process ideas that matter. This year we are using a tool called YouLead to help us focus on one topic a month as a team. In May we are talking about Milestone moments for kids and teens.That's an important topic but if we are not careful our monthly time of details will overtake a significant topics like this one. The great thing about YouLead is that the resources provides time for both personal and team development. Leading ourselves is just as difficult as leading our teams. What is your meeting plan? How do you make sure you focus on what matters most? How do you become intentional about your meeting flow? This is one tool we are using and it is built to work with paid or volunteer staff! I hope you will check it out!

Should we use these guys at NEXT middle school camp?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cross Street Live...coming to GCC May 15

Yea we know Mother's Day is this weekend and we wanted to give kids a little present they could wrap up for mom. If you live in Clarksville or Uganda wrap up an invite to the greatest show on earth Cross Street Live. Next Sunday we wrap up an amazing season of CSL and we want your family to be there. This month we tackle the virtue of forgiveness...a topic we all need to hear about. So save the date. May 15 at 1:30 will be the greatests hour your family had had in the last 30 days. We make that promise. You also have to see this promo video. Here we go!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My rule about adding staff // HIRE SLOW

Adding staff to your team has the potential to help your ministry advance or crash depending on who your hire. When I think about hiring or even choosing to add staff I advise to go slow. A few years ago I watched a bad hire (the wrong offensive coordinator) wreck the career of Phil Fulmer at the University of Tennessee. Coach Fulmer hired the wrong guy and it cost him his job. I have also watched church leaders rush a hire and add the wrong leader. Instead of advancing the mission the wrong hire wreaked havoc. Hiring fast is usually a product of stress. We feel overwhelmed and we rush to fill a hole with a quality resume. The problem with the resume is they only say what is good about your possible hire. The only way to know if you are making the right hire is time, process, and patience. Here is what I am talking about...

  • Searching for the right leader is time consuming. We are a church that searches, we don't ask for people to send a resume. You won't see an add up for a job for our team. What I have learned is that searching is hard work and takes time. One great idea is partnering with a hiring a firm like Minister Search or the Vanderbloemen Search Group so help you start the process. Sure it costs money but searching for staff will take you away from what you are called to do in your ministry.
  • We always try to hire from within so we know who we are hiring and they buy into our philosophy as a volunteer first // even with an internal hire you have to pause and not rush the process.
  • When we look for new staff we look for a track record of ministry health. We want to be able to see the time they have invested in others. This is never limited to church jobs...we have hired as much from outside the "church world" as inside.
  • We look for leaders who are willing to give us time to process. If a potential hire is trying to rush there might be a problem.
  • Personality profiling works. We want to know the makeup of a potential hire...their personality and strengths...before we add them. Is this person a good fit? By testing we might avoid a disaster.
  • Multiple interviews are a big deal and getting to know their spouse and family is very important. Make sure multiple people meet and encounter a potential hire if at all possible.
  • I know I should not have to say this but you have to do research on all potential hires. Call to ministry leaders at former churches...background checks have to happen. This is all just part of the process.
  • Never settle // If you feel like something is missing from a potential hire walk away and wait.
  • Pray // We are staffing to advance God's Kingdom. Make sure every interview, conversation, and potential candidate gets covered with prayer.
  • Never cut corners  // The minute you take a hiring shortcut you have a great potential to soon be cleaning up a mess.
  • Sleep on it // before you make that final call, give it one more day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Parents...are you creating 1 on 1 time?

In just a few months my two girls will both be in elementary school and our house will not have a preschooler in it running around! Times are changing for us and we are adapting. This year I have learned the power of creating quality one on one time for both girls. Don't get me wrong, we do tons of stuff as a family. We love family time, we share meals together, we can't wait for vacation but there are times both my girls need dad time just like my wife and I need to date. Creating one on one time is a principal that applies for your child no matter how old they are. Last week my oldest daughter and I simply went out for dinner while my youngest and her mom went to a birthday party. I was amazed as I looked across the table and saw a little girl who is becoming a young lady. We had great conversation, we laughed, and we enjoyed a great meal together. The time was priceless! What I do know is this...when we make time for one on one time with our kids when they are young we have a better chance of having that time with them when they are teens. If you are a parent I hope this week you will process the idea of blocking off one on one time with your kids. Make the connection, it's worth it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tornado Tithe Challenge // Sunday at Grace Community Church

This past week we watched storms and flooding destroy many communities in the Southeast. We watched as families and business owners lost everything due to tornadoes. The past few days many of us on the Grace Community staff have been in contact with leaders on the ground in Alabama asking how we can help? This Sunday we want to take action and do something to help families with no insurance begin to pick up the pieces. We are uniting with other churches (right now over a 100, we hope that climbs to close to 1,000) to give 10% of all money given Sunday at GCC to help tornado victims in the Southeast. The local church on the ground will use these funds to reach out and help families. This Sunday if you give, 10% of every dollar is going to make a difference. As you give Sunday you are partnering with churches all across America to make a difference. We pray you will join us in taking action...pity is not enough, action is needed. Our partner churches have let us know that have plenty of volunteers right now. The greatest need right now is for funding to help the poorest in these communities. Join the movement and pray about what you can give Sunday.

If you lead at another church will you pray about joining us in this offering? Check out this website to see the details of what is going to happen with this offering. Let's make a difference this week.

Monday, May 2, 2011

worship planning for student ministry

Monday morning is one of my favorite times of the week. On Monday morning I close my office door, pull out my guitar, turn up my iTunes, and begin to process the final tweaks for this the worship set for our student ministry and the plan for next week. I'm not a worship leader but I am a worship planner. I am a worshiper and when I plan worship sets I'm always thinking of the audience and where we are taking them...where are we leading them...what message are we sending them...what will connect. Sure I have been a worship leader before and I loved that season of student ministry but when I served in Virginia Beach a few years ago I discovered my passion for empowering worship leaders and producing worship environments. For all of you planning worship environments for student ministry here are a few ideas that guide me as I plan week to week...
  • Know the strengths of your worship leader // it is important to know your worship leaders strengths and weaknesses and then build accordingly. We make sure and listen to our worship leaders about what works and what doesn't but we also push our worship leaders to try new songs. Many times worship leaders do not get what will or will not connect with teens. Listen to them and push them also.
  • Manage songs intentionally // you have to protect great songs so you can keep them in your flow for longer periods of time. When a song hits you better pace it or you will soon have to take it out of the rotation. We work hard to space songs out after we know them so we can keep them in our rotation for the long haul.
  • Worship sets have the power to communicate powerful truth // never forget music can communicate doctrine. The words you are singing communicate as much truth as the spoken word.
  • Always be listening for new expressions of truth // be on the hunt for new stuff...I am amazed at how many worship leaders are continually behind the new music curve. When it comes to finding new stuff we have to always be looking and listening.
  • Have a starting SONG PLAN and build for an entire year // Nate Edmondson helped me discover this plan. Start the year off with 10 songs you will implement in your song rotation and help the band perfect them. After those 10 start building your song list for the year slowly. Also never forget to look back at older songs you can reformat and bring back.
  • Take risks // with teens you never know what might connect. You have to take risks. Sometimes your plan will work and sometimes it will fail. Risks lead to great rewards and failures. Embrace experimentation and keep it fresh.