Monday, October 31, 2011

learning...not imitating

I have always been attracted to strong leadership and strong leaders. When I started serving in the local church years ago I was always looking for leaders who were doing great things and I tried to learn everything I could from them. I went to conferences. I read books. I listened to CD's. In that rush to learn I found myself many times trying to lead like them...speak like them...make decisions like them. Seriously I know I'm not the only person out there that found myself wanting to lead like Bill Hybles, create a student ministry like Doug Fields, speak like Louis Giglio, or inspire like Rick Warren. You know you have your list of leaders to you tried to imitate as a young leader. What I have learned over the years is that God calls us to learn from other leaders not imitate them. Learn all you can but never feel like you have to be anyone but yourself. God called you to serve Him. He wants you to lead. God already has all of the leaders you learn from. He needs you to show up and simply be you as you lead. The student ministry or kids ministry or church you lead needs you.

Learn from other leaders and become the leader God wants you to be. We need you!

Environment Matters

A few years ago I figured something out about how I'm supposed to use my time serving the church. God made it clear that he wants me to create environments, lead teams to accomplish more than they though they can, and communicate. Those three things get most of my attention these days as I work with families, kids, and teens. One thing I believe for every ministry setting is that environment matters. Environment shapes how we engage the content that is trying to be communicated. Environment either helps keep our attention or distracts us. In ministry, environment is a big deal. I serve in a church that rents the facilities we meet in and still we have worked hard to maximize our ministry environments. So I hope you get it...I am passionate about creating next level environments that will help the next generation see the greatness of our God. I am so excited to announce here on the blog that I will be partnering with an amazing organization called Worlds of Wow. These guys partner with churches to create amazing spaces for kids and teens. In the coming months I will be sharing some amazing things these guys are pulling of and helping next generation leaders process how they can best shape the environments and budgets they have to spend on environments. Check out Worlds of Wow and watch this video of some of the work they have done around the country...

Friday, October 28, 2011

The kind of organization that is...Insanely Great

Found this video on a friends blog I follow. This is Steve Jobs introducing the world to the first Apple Macintosh computer in 1984. Just watching the video inspired me and seeing the line "insanely great" come up on the screen just blew me away. What would it look like for our churches to be insanely great? What if we helped people have insanely great environments to worship in? What if we have community groups that were insanely great? What if people described our next generation ministries, communication, or worship team as insanely great? What if the life change people experienced because of our churches was insanely great? We serve an insanely great God...our church, ministries, organizations need to reflect this insanely great God to a broken world. If Steve Jobs can do this with a computer company nothing can stop us from doing the same inside the church. Are you willing to do what it takes to help your organization become insanely great? Check out this video...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

establishing consistency with your small group

About this time every fall we have a few small group leaders say...things are not going the way I thought they would go in my small group. It's no surprise that when October hits and we have met with our group for about eight or nine times every small group leaders out there questions their choice to invest in pre-teens, middle school, or high school students because...IT NEVER GOES LIKE YOU THINK IT WILL. One promise I can make to every small group leader is that there will be challenges and surprises. Small group leaders need help pushing through. If you are out there and you are wondering if your group is going to make it then this is for you...
  • Keep showing up >  really this is 90% of being a great small group leader. Show up prepared to connect, to lead, and to listen at group. Show up at ballgames. Show up and try not to be distracted by other opportunities that would cause you to miss group. Your small group is wondering right now if you are going stick with them and be there. Keep showing up.
  • Push toward fall retreat > shared experiences build connection. If you can make it and go to fall retreat with your student ministry you are going to build some powerful bonds with your small group. Fall retreat is like small group will help take your group to the next level.
  • Keep connecting > keep sending those weekly texts, emails, and Facebook posts. In time it really does mean so much to your small group. Maybe even try to set up a movie night or bowling night. Go do something with your group just to connect.
  • Keep listening, learning, and praying > this is the hard part of being a group leader. You have to lead out in your spiritual disciplines as you invest in the group. Pray, prepare, listen to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to lead strong as God opens the door.
When small group leaders push through the difficult task of establishing consistency good things happen. Life change happens. Mentoring happens. Community happens. It's worth pushing through October to see what God can do through your small group over an entire school year!

Youth Ministry News / the origin of pizza!

Every student pastor in the universe has helped teens embrace the glory of pizza. Every event, every retreat, every leader meeting must be accompanied by glorious pizza. Why? Because it is cheap and someone will bring it to us. This morning my mind was blown when I discovered the possible true origins of pizza. Seriously...this is really funny and your welcome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

developing a theology of leadership / BOOK REVIEW!

The methods of writing and sharing great ideas are changing now more than every. Technology is shaping how we get information and how we share information. Tony Morgan has published a series of ebooks that are free...yes free...and great resources for every leader working in a church or non-profit setting. You can go check out all of the recent books he has released here on his blog. I recently read Developing a Theology of Leadership on my kindle and I wanted to share some of my favorite ideas Tony shared. Go check out this book and the others he has released recently. This is a guy who is serving in the trenches of church life and he is a voice you can trust. Here some of my favorite quotes from Tony's book...
  • Leadership isn’t leadership if it isn’t released to others.
  • Leadership is less about the words or actions of the leader and more about the character of the leader.
  • We are all followers, but not all of us are leaders.
  • Character is proven over a lifetime.
  • Leadership is less about the words or actions of the leader and more about the character of the leader.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Are you empowering teens to serve AT CHURCH?

If you want your church to be a place where teens want to be then you need to begin to find ways to help them serve. Think about all the amazing things teens do every week at middle and high schools across the country and then ask yourself this simple question. How are we challenging teens to do amazing things inside our church? Every church around the country needs high impact volunteers and the sad fact is that many of these same churches are herding teens into classrooms on Sunday mornings instead of giving them significant opportunities to make a difference through service. Six years ago at Grace Community we chose to empower teens on Sunday morning to serve and worship with their family instead of creating a separate Sunday environment for them. Six years later we now believe that we made the right choice and we hope we can help some other churches rethink the idea of letting teens serve now. Here are some reasons I think teens should be empowered to serve...
  • Teens that serve open themselves up to new mentors // teens need other adults speaking into their lives and serving opens up an entire new group of influences. I love that our tech and kids ministry teams gets to invest in the lives of our teens!
  • Teens are some of the most innovative volunteers you will have // seriously we watch teens run cameras, monitor sound boards, greet visitors, create videos, and lead worship every week. Teens are so talented...let them lead and let them create.
  • Teens who serve connect with the church not just your youth ministry // youth ministry that does not help teen connect with the church as a whole it simply self centered and has a short term perspective. Serving allows teens to belong at church!
  • Teens have a deep desire to contribute not just sit or participate // something in this generation wants to take action...give them permission, training, and support and watch what happens.
  • When teens serve they grow // this is true for all of us. Serving leads to spiritual growth.
  • Teens that serve and find community at church look for it when they leave church // teens that leave our church and have served look for a new church when they leave for school. Because the served they had more than just our student ministry.
How can you start opening more doors for students to serve on Sunday mornings? I promise, your church will win when you empower this generation. Remove the red tape, dismiss the doubters, and allow teens to serve now!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yep...we're looking for some amazing volunteers!

Not sure about your church but at Grace Community we are trying to find new volunteers all the time. This week is our event we call ServeNow. We really believe that every teen and adult in our church needs a place to serve in our church and in the community if they are going to grow in their faith. We believe serving is connected to spiritual growth because it opens our hearts to the needs of others. What we try to do with ServeNow is have one place, one Sunday where people can sign up to "test drive" a place of serving. When people sign up they are only signing up to try out serving out in one of our ministry areas by hanging out with a seasoned volunteer for a Sunday and if they feel like that is the right fit they can commit. If they don't like the experience...they can simply walk away. We have found that if  we make serving a priority of the entire church (not just our ministry areas!) we can fill our volunteer needs and help people grow spiritually at the same time. This is how we are helping people make a difference with their time and talents. What are you doing to help people serve in your church?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FREE STUFF // Some videos we used in our Family Experience

This past week we had our first family experience of the fall for parents and K-5 kids called Cross Street Live. We changed up the format to make it more like a "So Random" type of flow this season. I was really proud of Adam Bayne, Van Riggins, and all our CSL team. I wanted to share the three commercials we did just for a laugh...if you want to use them, go ahead they are great. The last one is one you have seen but it is one of our favorites so I added it here also!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tunnel vision will kill ya (probably just limit ya!)

If you are not a fan of the University of Tennessee then you have no idea who this guy is. His name is Matt Sims and he stepped in for our injured starting quarterback this week against the #1 team in the country. Things really didn't go well for Matt because of one thing. He had tunnel vision. Matt threw a few interceptions at big times in the game because he was locked in on one receiver and did not look for the other players who were open. Tunnel vision in ministry will kill you in the long run because you will miss other opportunities that will help your team advance. I see this play out for leaders all the time. They think their idea is the best way to solve an issue and they fight for their good idea over an idea that might be great. When we allow tunnel vision to control our leadership decisions then we often choose the live in the good at the expense of the great. You know you are a leader with tunnel vision when...
  • You constantly want to make sure you get credit for solving a problem.
  • You limit the input of others when a problem comes up in your organization.
  • You never ask for help when problems arise.
  • You fight harder for your idea than you do for forward motion in your organization.
When you are a leader with tunnel vision you will continually make good choices over great ones, demoralize your team, and lose momentum. How do you get beyond it...humility, teamwork, and becoming a learner. Lose your tunnel vision and start being a big picture leader!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pick the right leaders!

This past weekend I went with my family to Sky Top Orchard in South Carolina and we picked apples. Sky Top was amazing. We got a few baskets and went out into the orchard and started looking for apples. We are late in the season so the closest trees had been picked clean so we had to walk to the trees at the back of the orchard. When we found the trees we figured out that we had to be careful of what apples we picked. There were tons of apples all over the ground that had fallen and were rotting. (My dog liked those!) On every tree there were apples that were not ready to be picked because they had bad spots on them or they were just not ripe. There we also perfect apples that have now turned into a few perfect apple pies. It took more patience to look for the right apples to pick but that really is what determines what the final result will be when we  use them at home.

Picking the right leaders for your ministry setting is no different. Picking the right leaders takes patience, discernment, and faith. Rushing the process means we choose people who simply do not fit. If you want to improve your ministry setting then work harder at picking the right volunteers who will become your leaders! The right people will make ministry happen not a new room, new band, lights, or event. Make sure you are bringing the right people on board.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cross Street LIVE...this Sunday @1:30!

Yes...we are stoked to have the new season of Cross Street Live starting this Sunday (family lunch at 12:45 and CSL at 1:30) at the Rossview Campus of Grace Community Church! CSL is an experience where kids bring their parents to church. We have new actors, new dancers, new videos, new games, new everything coming this week. We know fall break is wrapping up this Sunday so make it count with your kids and get to Cross Street Live. Sunday is going to be epic! No matter where you go to church on Sunday make sure your family is at CSL, it's open to the entire community! Here is a sneak peak at what CSL looks like!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's next?

What's next in youth ministry...the church...children’s ministry? I get asked that question often and I think about it constantly. I can’t help it. I was a young leader trapped in churches designed for a past generation for years. When I got to Grace Community I promised myself that I would spend the rest of my ministry trying to push young leaders forward and allow them to influence me and the ministry we craft for students, teens, and adults. After traveling to churches across America I am sure that we are allowing this generation to shape our environments at Grace. I watch young adults, teens, and college students worship right beside parents, business leaders, and grandparents every week and it's a beautiful thing. If we want our churches to be open to this generation then the church has to continually be turned over to them. It has to be “their place.”

This past weekend I was told about a church in Southern California called Rock Harbor. Doug Fields told me...:you have to see this church” so we went and I am so glad we did. We showed up for the 7 PM service and I’m glad we got there early. I got to watch over 1500 (may have been more) pack the room. The building was well designed but simple in form and function in a business park in Costa Mesa. The stage, projection, and lighting were well designed but simple. The band went for it, the speaker taught a clear and powerful message from scripture, and the people responded to our great God. The room was packed with people 16-30 just going for it. The presence of God was thick and it was the only time I have felt like I was at a Passion event in a church. Rock Harbor is pursuing what is NEXT by empowering this generation to speak into what they do as a church. Will you be willing to do what it takes to create space to reach this generation? I promise some people will not like it but I also promise if you don't then one of this generation will plant a church next door and do it. We will not wait...the time is now. Next is coming fast, do something.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

great environments for teens...

Had the honor of hanging out with Kurt Johnston, Josh Griffin, Jared Kirkwood, and Matt McGill and see the student facilities at Saddleback and Mariners Church. I wanted to see these to facilities because I so respect these 2 churches for doing student ministry with excellence when they did not have permanent space. I promise you can make any facility work for teens if you work hard at crafting the just takes work, planning, and a little cash. Both churches had the chance to craft these spaces from top to bottom and both did amazing things. There are things I prefer about both of them when it comes to a space. Maybe one day we will get to design a space like this for teens in Clarksville. Here are a few pictures...thanks to these leaders for letting us see their environment!

Student Facility @ Saddleback

Student Facility @ Mariners Church

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lunch with Doug Fields...

Great chance to sit down and have lunch with Doug Fields last Friday...check out Doug online here. Doug has been a distant mentor to me over the years, distant in that I have read all his books about three times each and he has been a huge encouragement to me over the years. I was so grateful for the time and thankful to my friend Terrace Crawford for setting up the meeting. Trying to put the entire conversation into words is a little overwhelming for me but there were a few things that stood out...
  • You can stay in student ministry when your kids are teens. / Yea I'm getting older and I'm processing what my girls in our student ministry will look like. Doug said give your kids space, empower other leaders to invest in them them, and put family first and it works!
  • When you need to add staff think about an intern process. / I asked Doug about when to add staff and he brought up the idea of 2 year intern process where you bring guys in, provide housing, and empower them to lead. 2 years makes it possible for both the church and the leader to gain in the process. Love that idea.
  • Partnering with parents of teens mean involving them in the journey / keep parents in the loop so they know what we are talking about, showing up when you say you are going to show up after that retreat with their kids, be available, give teens quality small group leaders...that is how you can set parents up to win.
  • Every church as it's own challenges /mega churches, small churches, house churches, missional churches, liberal churches, conservative churches, non-denominational and even denominational churches all face challenges. The church is a living organism therefore every church has some sickness. Face it, work to heal it, and lead through it.
Thanks Doug for the time and for your investment in my life over the years!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kidmin Conference, California, and all in one wild weekend!

It's going to be a wild weekend for our Family Ministry team at Grace Community Church. This weekend 4 of us are getting away to hit a conference and visit some churches on the west coast. I am headed to check out the student ministry at Saddleback Church and Mariners Church in California with my friend Terrace Crawford. Our Kids Ministry Team is heading to Chicago for the Kidmin Conference learning from some of the best children's ministry leaders around the country. The reason this kind of stuff matters is that leaders have to strive to be learners. Our team never wants to stop asking questions and learning from others. Praying this weekend brings big ideas for our family ministry team. Look from some cool stuff from California on the blog this weekend.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

week of chaos

This week if just a little different...well it is simply crazy. I call it the week of chaos and these weeks tend to show up once or twice a year. I have a friend who suddenly got the news that his fiance was in a car wreck and passed away. I have another friend who is fighting for his marriage. I have worked with a few teens in the middle of crisis. Chelsea and I found out the transmission in our 2007 Ford Freestyle was jacked and we had to get a new vehicle. This has been a week where nothing seems quite right. These kind of weeks come not matter what we do. This is life. We all have these kind of weeks. It's in these times when I am reminded of the importance of working ahead, planning ahead, and leading through a team. When a chaotic week hits adjustments have to be made and it is in those seasons that we see if we are really empowering a team or if we are leading solo. I am going to make it through this week because of last week and the great team around me. You never know when your chaotic week is going to come. Work ahead, plan, and choose to empower other leaders around you!

Monday, October 3, 2011

So your ministry is what?

Growth is good. I have never met a leader who didn't want to see growth in their ministry. Growth means more people are discovering Christ, finding community, and serving others. Growth is also relative. Relative in that each year God gives us a new perspective, new goals, and new opportunities. The crazy thing about growth is sometimes it can lure us into playing it safe, getting comfortable, and settling for good over great. If your ministry is growing then you better work hard to... 
  • Get smaller // a big crowd is great but life change happens through one on one relationships. Bigger just means you better have a plan to get people in small groups fast!
  • Get personal // return phone calls, answer emails, write a note to a volunteer. Getting bigger just means you have to work harder to stay connected to those you lead!
  • Be authentic // get over yourself. Be real, be you, be consistent, be transparent.
  • Be bold // stay and do what God is calling you to do even if people walk away. People stopped following Jesus when He led. I bet some people stop following you.
  • Get risky // go for it! Growth just means you next risk is going to be bigger. Faith leads to risk.
Guess what, in the Kingdom of God we can't settle. Glad the ministry you lead is get back at it and keep moving forward!