Saturday, June 25, 2011

nothing like vacation...

This is going to be my view for the next few weeks. For the first time in my life we are trying to go back to back weeks at the beach. We have my family coming the first week and my wife's family the second. The great thing is we are only missing one Sunday...yea we really like our church. Honestly I am thrilled I serve at a church where I don't want to miss! Personally there is no place like the beach for me to refocus and refuel. My iPhone is loaded with new music and my Kindle has several books I am ready to attack. I will check over my email once a day but just to clean it out and only handle mission trip stuff, yep we have a mission trip the week we get back to New Orleans but our team is rocking it and getting stuff together. Other than 2 planned hours to work on some mission trip details I am ready to shut it down. Shutting it down for me means putting the blog on vacation also. Seriously thanks to everyone who checks this blog out. I love being a voice contributing to the family and student ministry movement. If you are out there and you serve the next generation I hope you take a week off this summer also. Even if you stay at home take the time. Rested leaders are better leaders who last for the long haul. Hope everyone has a great 2 weeks ahead and trust me, I will get some vacation video and pics up on Facebook!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Looking for a coach?

Coaching is a hot topic these days. It seems like everyone is starting up a coaching network but for me personally I think it's a great trend. Coaching networks are nothing more than intentional mentoring. All of us need people in our lives who will push and influence us to be the people God has called us to be. My friend Terrace Crawford just announced he is starting a coaching network and I hope you will check it out. Terrace is a youth pastor, blogger, speaker, networker, and great friend to me. Here are some of the things his coaching network will offer...he has 12 spots so make sure and check it out if you are interested.

This coaching network will offer everything you might get from a conference, but it will be a semester long (approximately 6 months). Here are some of the advantages of being a part of this coaching network:
  • You'll get a personal coach and cheerleader for 6 months.
  • You'll get practical guidance and personal counsel.
  • You'll get a weekly phone call with Terrace.
  • You'll get encouraging but constructive feedback.
  • You'll get occasional free books from publishers.
  • You'll get the shared experience with other network participants.
  • You'll get select chat sessions with notable thought-leaders.
  • You'll get other free resources too.
  • ... and other fun surprises.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

connecting with camp

I know I have been stuck on a camp theme this month but that is where my mind has been. Since we were doing our own camp for middle school students we looked for every way possible to connect and include families in the process. For the families we are reaching through Relevant Student Ministry dropping kids off at camp can be a struggle. Parents worry. Parents want to make sure their child is having a good experience. Parents want to make sure the experience is worth their money. With that in mind our team started looking for simple ways we could involve parents in the camp process. Here are some simple ways we tried to connect with families during camp this year...
  • Parent / Teen Dinner >> The picture above is just one shot of our parents at teens eating dinner on the first night of camp. Our camp location is about an hour away from where we live so we simply asked parents to drop their kids off for camp and have dinner with us. Parents got to meet their teen's group leader, got to see the facility, had the chance to eat dinner as a family, and got to tell their kids goodbye. I have to say, it was hard to pull off but it was a highlight of camp!
  • Email Segment every morning >> We had an email segment every morning of camp where we gave out email that parents sent to the kids. We set up and had them email away. I was so blown away by how much email we got and the teens loved it. Email let kids and parents stay connected.
  • Update videos >> The main reason to do an update video every day of camp is for parents. Parents love seeing what is going on with their teens. The video every day allows a parents to follow along the journey during the week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Say less for more impact...

When it comes to communicating, speaking, preaching in student environments I think we all need to take a step back to work on becoming better. We can all improve. We can all be more clear. All of us can find better ways to connect with the hearts of teens rather than trying to impress them. Last week at Bigstuf camp and our leader training with Reggie Joiner he reminded us that we need to say less so we can say what is most important more often. The words coming our out mouth week to week are shaping the view of God many teens have. The words we say when we speak matter and if you have the chance to communicate on a regular basis then you have a responsibility to get BETTER. I believe that communication is a craft that has to be worked on, honed, and practiced. You can get better. Go read Communicating for Change. Dedicate time for message prep. Talk through your message with another trusted leader. Practice your talk before you give it. Here are some ideas that those of us trying to think ORANGE are trying to implement...
  • Be relevant. Our job is to take the timeless truth of God and help it connect to a 15 year old heart.
  • What has moved us in the past may or may not move the generation to come.
  • How you say what you say is as important as what you say! // change your words, change your world
  • Say one thing at a time.
  • Create memorable experiences. 
  • Don’t resolve tension too fast.
  • Allow space and time to process. / this is why we do small group following our talks
  • Cultivate better communicators. / find other communicators and give them opportunity in your ministry. Also strive to be better yourself! Keep working at it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

making camp...efficient

What made both our camps 100% better this year? Making them more efficient on the front end. You have to understand that I am a production guy and I love the big picture. My favorite parts of camp are thinking about the stage, the band, the service flow, the small group material, and all that kind of stuff. Honestly what makes camp (not matter if you do your own camp or partner with another organization like Bigstuf, Fuge, or Student Life) work better is becoming more efficient on the front end before your students ever hit the bus to go. Here are a few simple ways we tried to make camp more efficient this year.
  • We added a registration leader to the process // this year we added an amazing volunteer to our team who helped me with registration. She was a second pairs of eyes on the number count. She developed a check in procedure. She developed a Google doc system to keep us on the same page. I will never do a camp without this person on my team again!
  • We spread our purchasing // we did middle school camp on our own and we partnered with Bigstuf for high school camp. With both camps we spread out purchasing to several leaders so we thought through everything we needed before we left. No one person was stuck trying gather everything...that's a huge help!
  • We left nothing to be done "at camp" // we banned the saying, we will do that at camp. There is no time at camp. We did everything possible pre-camp so we could ficus at camp.
  • We designated camp "jobs" before we left for camp // we did our best to make sure everyone on the team clearly new their role before camp kicked off. When a team has clear direction they are more productive.
  • We streamlined transportation // this year we used more charter buses and less van rental. The fewer vehicles involved the less the headache!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

why "camp" matters...

Wrapping up our final day of high school camp and reflecting back on an amazing week at middle school camp. I have been doing camp with teens for years. This year has probably been my favorite year of camp. Why? I think I am getting a balanced perspective after a few years of doing this thing. Camp matters because kids more than ever need time a change of perspective so they can hear from God. Home brings so much is hard for teens to get clarity...even when teens have a moment with the Creator they are immediately thrown back into the noise of normal. Camp gives us a week where teens can hear from God, be mentored by loving leaders, and have space to process. For one week of the summer teens get an entire week to encounter the God who made them and desires a relationship with them. One solid week where the message gets a little clearer. At both middle and high school camp we have seen teens make some big moves this summer. Those moves happened because we blocked off a week, equipped leaders to invest in teens, made sure our teens were in the right environment, and begged God to do what only He can do. Youth matters because it gives us a week to see life change.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Turning Dials / what are we saying?

We have these dials we are trying to turn in the lives of teens...Wonder, Discovery, and Passion. Those are big ideas and big concepts and I am a big picture guy but at some point we have to move to the detail of what we are really going to speak into the lives of teens. This week at Bigstuf camp Reggie Joiner unpacked more of the detail behind the ideas of Wonder, Discovery, and Passion. There are nine basic ideas we are trying to communicate to teens on a regular basis. Why nine? Nine because we have to say what is most important the most. If we are able to wrap our teaching, mentoring, and small groups around communicating these ideas we have a chance to shape the world view of a teen for years to come. A world view that is shaped by mission, love of God, and love of others changes the future of shapes the choices they will make down the road which impacts the world directly. What could happen if we unleashed these principles on our students? What if we...

  • Incite Wonder / Design (we are intentional) Identity (you were made in the image of God) Connection (the God of the universe wants a relationship with you)
  • Inspired Discovery / Faith (relationship with Jesus) Transformation (tension that we are in process, we have not arrived) Truth (God has given truth and it can be a compass)
  • Fuel PassionCommunity (we are connected, we are a family and we are connected) Compassion (we are here to give and to go for others) Restoration (we can be a part of the solution)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Turning Dials

One of the best parts of taking high school students to Bigstuf is the opportunity for our leaders to be trained by Reggie Joiner. Sure the teens are having an amazing week but when you get to add the chance for our leaders to be invested in for three days it takes the camp experience to another level. Today Reggie helped our team process the idea of turning specific dials in the heart of the teens that we lead. There is so much we hope to accomplish in our short time with teens. If we are not intentional we end up trying to turn dials that are good but may not be the most important. Our goals are simple. We hope to help teens see God at work in the world around them so they desire to be a part of that bigger story. We hope to help teens follow Christ now and in the days to come as they become adults. We hope to help teens discover a faith that lasts well beyond our youth ministry. If these are our goals then here are a few dials that Reggie thinks we need to be turning...
  • Wonder / we are made for a relationship with God, with something that is bigger, we are drawn to what is supernatural, miraculous, or spiritual
  • Discovery / we are drawn to understand your own uniqueness and role in a bigger story, we all want to know more about ourselves and how our life connects with the story of Christ.
  • Passion / we are made to give our lives away, we are drawn to connect relationally and to rescue those who are hurting and broken

RELEVANT @bigstuf / day 1

Sunday, June 12, 2011

RELEVANT is headed to Bistuf 2011

In the morning Relevant Student Ministry is headed to Bigstuf Camp with 85 high school students and leaders. One week to get away, invest in high school students, and pray God will collide with our normal view of life. We love Bigstuf because it provides the perfect environment to capture the attention of students and aim their hearts toward Jesus Christ. The beach is nice...well very nice...but watching God work is so amazing. Pray for the students and leaders this week that God would capture our attention. Pray that our small groups times will be open and authentic. Pray that teens will choose to follow Christ. Pray for safety and good weather. We will post a video update everyday for families back in Clarksville so check that out each night!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

when people walk away

It's very hard to watch people walk away from the ministry, organization, or church you lead. People are going to walk away and for many reasons. What matters most when people leave is how we respond. When I think about people leaving the ministry I lead I always come back to when people walked away from Jesus and his ministry. People told Jesus that what he was teaching was too difficult to come to terms with and they walked away. I am sure it hurt Jesus the same way it hurts us...Jesus was fully human...Jesus had to hurt that people did not understand His message. Like people walked away from Jesus, people will walk away from our ministries. How we respond is what matters! When you see someone walk away from your ministry you have to...
  • Listen > you need and want to know why someone walked away even if on the inside you really don't want to know. It's hard to hear someone reason out why they left your organization but it really can help you process what is going on in your ministry setting. When you listen it shows you care. It does not mean you have to change anything, you are just respecting people enough to hear their story.
  • Encourage > when someone walks away do everything you can to encourage them to connect with another ministry. When we respond to people leaving with grace and love then we help them leave on a good note. We also leave the door open for ministry down the road. When people walks away be a promoter of the the Kingdom of God not just a protector of your organization.
  • Refine > many times we can learn from people who walk away. Maybe some things do need to change. Maybe nothing needs to change but the way you communicate your strategy needs to adjust. When people walk away I am reminded that we have to get better at what we do. We have not arrived, we can always improve.
  • Move Forward > you have to move forward with the team you have. Sometimes when people walk away we can be distracted from the mission. Why? Because it hurts. When people walk away we always are reminded of the amazing people who are with us. Deal with the issue but always remember to move forward and focus on what God wants to do next.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

beyond cool

Cool is great, I love cool, but there has to be more to our churches and ministries than cool alone. One thing I know is true is that if you see an effective organization then you will be quick to attribute their success to the "cool factor." I promise there is more substance to what is going on than you are willing to give credit. As Apple was revealing the the new operating system that will release this fall I saw a dude quickly tweet that he was amazed what "cool" could do for a company. The reason that Apple has done so well over the past 5 years is very simple. Sure they have cool designs but more importantly they work, last longer, have a strong brand, and have amazing customer service. People who are quick to discredit an organization because they are using the "cool factor" to their advantage are simply looking for an excuse. Organizations and ministries that make success last use cool to their advantage and create systems that are effective. If you build what you are doing on cool alone, you will not last. If you discover an organization that is built around hype and the cool factor they will not last. Cool comes and goes, cool can be created, cool can be fleeting but effective always lasts for the long haul. Sure you need and want the "cool factor" but you better make sure you have a system in place that you believe in and that is effective if you want to reach your goals as an organization or ministry.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

just a little "personal maintenance"

This past week I had some work done on my lawn mower. I have had my mower for about 4 years and had no work done to it. There were just a few things that need to be fixed. While it was in the shop I had them sharpen the blade and wow what a difference. It was like a new machine today.  It got me thinking about how much better we all would be if we made time for personal maintenance. I have realized without some intentional personal maintenance in my life everything tends to drift toward chaos. I am drawn to short cuts when I don't take time to step back and evaluate where I am headed. Some small changes can make a huge impact in our lives...
  • Do what matters most, first // we spend way too much time doing busy work. I have to make sure I am doing what matters most, first.
  • Make sure I am going home and taking time to relax // I tend to push pretty hard and I enjoy what I do. Home is where I can breath deep and connect with what my top priorities need to be. I have to go home and protect my days off.
  • Plan a new schedule for my time with God // getting a new plan for my quiet time is so refreshing for my walk with God. A new devotional book or a plan for prayer and Bible reading can really open my heart to what God wants to do.
  • Read a new book // reading helps me to learn from others. Nothing helps me think like reading.
  • Connect with mentors // sometimes I need to block off time to hear from guys who are my mentors...I'm lucky...I work with 2 of them. Many times I need to sit down and process ministry and life with them.
  • Mix up the schedule // this is magic. Mixing my schedule around helps me gain momentum. To mix up your schedule you have to have a schedule...some of you need to start there!
  • Clean // there is something amazing about throwing stuff away and deleting things on my mac.
  • Set some goals // goals inspire me. Even short term goals can make a huge difference in my life. Goals help me to say no more often to things that are good but not best.
What are some practices that help you focus? What helps get you back on track when things are not going well?

Monday, June 6, 2011

everything starts with an IDEA...

Last week we experienced an amazing week at NEXT middle school camp but it would have never happened without the picture above. This is a picture I took last year on the last night of our middle school camp (we were at a Student Life camp) where our team locked the door and processed through the idea of what our own camp could look like. Looking back at this board full of writing is so amazing. We made most of what was on this board come to life over the past year. We made it happen because we wrote it all down, defined the win (set goals), assembled a team, got buy-in, and took a risk. When you see something is not working that is a great time to assemble and team and start dreaming. There is a better way out there, you just have find the right idea. When you find the idea you have to go through action steps to make it come to life.
  • WRITE IT DOWN >> writing down your ideas will give them so much more momentum. So many times when we see problems we just sit around and gripe. Turn griping into productivity by brainstorming ways you can make progress. When you write ideas down you immediately have accountability.
  • DEFINE THE WIN >> when you have a great idea immediately define what a win will look like. Make sure you know the goals you need to accomplish so when it is over you can really understand where you need to improve and how you can celebrate.
  • ASSEMBLE A TEAM >> no idea comes to life without a team. The quicker you can identify the team you need the more likely your idea will come to life.
  • GET BUY-IN >> when you have the right idea you need to get buy-in and permission quickly from your supervisor. What kind of permission? Permission to Trust me you need it.
  • TAKE A RISK >> set a date and go for it. Idea's need courage if they are going to become a reality.
Got an idea? Great, everything starts with an idea! Go out and make it a reality.