Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Just got back from taking my family to see the Nashville Predators play some hockey. We won and it for sure helped me embrace the Christmas spirit. The next few days are going to be packed with busyness for most of us. Our team at Grace Community is getting ready for three packed out Christmas Eve services along with balancing all our family stuff. In the middle of everything going on the next few days I am praying all of us who serve in churches across the country will not miss what really matters at Christmas. Jesus. Simple as that, it is Jesus. Slow down, enjoy the time with your friends and family, and celebrate what God gave us on Christmas morning.

Speaking of slowing down. I'm going to shut it down for a few days here on the blog and take some time off from writing. I am taking the week after Christmas off to hang out with family and I need to turn my brain off for a few days. I wanted to say thanks to everyone who read this blog in 2011. I'm honored that anyone would read my ramblings. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See ya in 2012, can't wait to see all that God does!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Asking the right questions about 2011

I am blessed to work with some amazing leaders on our family ministry staff here at Grace Community Church. These guys and gals could be doing ministry anywhere and God chose to place them here on our team. This past week I had the chance to do "end of the year" meetings with 2 of our team. After both meetings I was reminded how blessed our church is to have these leaders here and I was thankful to be able to do ministry with such great friends. When it comes to end of the year reviews I think it's so important to ask the right questions. Asking the right questions helps to make sure we talk about the things in ministry that matter the most. Asking the right questions helps give staff a chance to dream and process out loud. Asking the right questions reveals that we actually value the people we are meeting with. Every year I try to change the process up but here are the questions I asked this year. Maybe asking yourself these questions will help you gain a better perspective of how 2011 went and how you want 2012 to begin. Here they are...
  • How is your relationship with Jesus right now?
  • How is your family life and what changes do you need to make to make it better?
  • What is the most important lesson you learned this past year?
  • Are you having fun doing your job here? If not what do you think needs to change in 2012?
  • If you could only accomplish one thing in 2012 in your ministry area what would it be?
  • How can I help you have a great 2012? (I guess this one was for my team only, ha!)
Now is the time to process and reflect on 2011. Now is also the time to dream about some goals for 2012. Make 2012 count by asking the right questions about 2011.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

helping teens take the step of baptism

Here at the end of 2011 we have had the chance to look back and reflect on all the teens teens who chose to take the step of baptism. Our team is kind of in party mode because we had more kids make this step of faith than ever before. God did something special this past year but I also know that we changed our approach with how we handled baptism in our ministry. When it comes to baptism you need a plan and you need prayer! You need a plan because you will never hit a target you are not aiming for. It's a matter of prayer because baptism is a result of a new life flowing from salvation...that's really God's work! Here are a few of the things we did intentionally to help teens process the idea of baptism...
  • We talked about baptism more. // when we talked about baptism more it gave us more chances to explain baptism. What is talked about becomes important in our ministry culture.
  • We linked our schedule with the church's schedule. // every time our church has a baptism service scheduled at one of our locations we had a reason to push baptism in our student ministry. Students would hear about it on Sundays and Wednesdays and parents would know about it also.
  • We encouraged small group leaders to talk about it and pray for it. // again this seems like a no-brainier but life is fast and small group leaders need to be reminded to find out who in their group they need to be praying for and asking about baptism.
  • We allowed small group leaders to baptize their students. // there is an energy happens when small groups get to celebrate baptism together.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Dodgeball 2011

Every year we do a Christmas event and for the past two years that event has involved dodgeball. Why dodgeball? I'm just allergic to traditional Christmas events. Really if I never go to another tacky sweater or white elephant gift party I will be just fine. Two years ago a leader named Matt Bucy came up with this event and it was an instant hit. It's now a Christmas tradition! We doubled attendance this year and doubled the energy of the night for sure. We added awards for best team costume and a baking completion. If your looking for a Christmas event that will create some buzz and help make some memories then try this out. Here are some pics from last night...

Friday, December 16, 2011

FREE STUFF / 2 Christmas games

It's Christmas and it is the season for giving so I thought I should give away a few games we have done the past 2 weeks at Relevant Student Ministry. Christmas games are hard because there are not many good ideas out there and not many good graphics. A good game has to have a graphic that works! Here are 2 we did, here are the graphics, hopefully here is the gift of time because now you do not have to make up a game for this week or next. Enjoy...

The first game is Fruitcake Mayhem. What is Christmas without fruitcake. You could do a million things with fruitcake but what we did was divide the room in 2 and then have 2 teams up front competing to eat a fruitcake. For every piece they ate they could choose someone in the crowd to make eat a piece. The team that finished first won. Simple, fun, easy. Just make sure they do not throw the fruitcake. That may have happened to us!

The other game is Living Christmas Tree. We have all seen the church productions where people climb into a tree to sing. We thought why not make a human being into a tree. We bought cheap decorations and had enough for 2 teams of 3 people to choose someone and decorate them as a tree. We let the crowd vote on the best tree. Yea, it was pretty great!

There ya go, 2 game ideas for Christmas. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

setting up others for success

This season Chelsea and I watched X Factor along with a few million other people. It has been interesting to watch because basically it is a new version of American Idol but with some changes. We have watched American Idol for years and there are many things that the team at X factor do to make their contestants stand out. Basically X factor has done a better job of helping their performers succeed by giving better tools and coaching. As I have watched over the past few months it got me asking myself if we are setting up our volunteers to succeed. Are we really doing what we can to help them serve with success each week. What they do matters more than any TV show ever will because they are shaping the spiritual lives of kids, teens, and college students. We are talking about eternal impact not wining a contest. Here is how we can set our volunteer teams up to succeed.
  • Provide the right tools. / To do any job you need the right tools. Our volunteers need the right curriculum, environment, supplies, and time in order to carry out their mission.
  • Give good feedback and encouragement. / In order to emotionally thrive volunteers have to have the right feedback. Ministry is difficult. Feedback and encouragement are gold for every volunteer.
  • Make the goal clear. / Volunteers have to always have clear wins to celebrate and we have to continually share them with clarity!
  • Provide significant opportunities. / Volunteers need to have ownership and opportunity. If a volunteer is giving time they want it to be spent on things that matter.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Illumiate Conference > coming to Nashville, Feb. 2012

What if there was a conference designed to encourage and equip volunteers? What would that look like? Now we know because that conference is called the illuminate conference and it's coming to Nashville on February 18. The entire experience is scheduled, priced, and crafted to allow volunteers and the leaders who lead these amazing volunteers to come together and process what effective kids ministry looks like. Several leaders that I call friends are going to be there this year and Grace Community Church will be there and we hope you will pray about being there. I really believe that this is a one day event you do not want your team to miss. This is a big week because you can register and get a sweet discount. If you read this blog and you live in driving distance of Nashville I hope you will tell your family ministry staff about the illumiate conference. Be there for the first illuminate conference in Tennessee!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do the Work / great book to help you accomplish more!

This year I have spent a ton of time reading about and rethinking how and why we work. Why do we do ministry the way we do ministry? One of the things I have discovered is that we can get better and working! I like work. I like progress. I like working with others to accomplish difficult things. Ministry is where I am called to focus my "work" so I want to get better at working and accomplishing significant things.  Steven Pressfield is one of my favorite authors so when I saw he had written a book called Do the Work I had to grab it for my Kindle. The entire book is set up to help people understand how to take a project and work systematically to make it happen. Every idea takes work to make it a reality and many ideas die because no one is willing to put the work into making it happen. Here are a few ideas about becoming more effective with the work you do. Check this book out then go read his book called Gates of Fire!
  • In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.
  • Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.
  • Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.
  • Start Before You’re Ready Don’t prepare. Begin.
  • Research can become Resistance. We want to work, not prepare to work.
  • Get your idea down on paper. You can always tweak it later.
  • Figure out where you want to go; then work backwards from there.
  • Suspending self-judgment doesn’t just mean blowing off the “You suck” voice in our heads. It also means liberating ourselves from conventional expectations—from what we think our work “ought” to be or “should” look like.
  • When we experience panic, it means that we’re about to cross a threshold. We’re poised on the doorstep of a higher plane.
  • In the belly of the beast, we remind ourselves of two axioms: The problem is not us. The problem is the problem. Work the problem.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

look ahead, work ahead

Everyone needs time in their year when they look ahead and also work ahead. For me that time of the year is December. For our team the month of December is good because we break for Christmas break with the student ministry and wait to launch again until after they go back to school in January. This time is gold because it allows us to get some strategic work done today that will free us in the future. Looking and working ahead now also makes sure we accomplish a few important goals. Here are a few...
  • Working ahead helps us make sure we secure the right facilities for our ministry events. / The right location can make or break any event. When you look ahead and plan you can get the facilities you need! We are a portable and mutli-site church so this is a big issue.
  • Working ahead makes sure we partner well with the rest of the church. / If we want to enhance and advance the mission of our church we have to plan to make our ministry work well with everything else going on. We are not the center of the universe!
  • Working ahead helps us communicate better with parents so they can make family plans and be involved in the ministry. / Parents need info, why not give it to them ASAP so they can make plans also. Last minute surprises are not helpful for families.
  • Working ahead helps you have a real budget. / There is no real way to budget without a plan. Plan first them budget to maximize the plan.
This year make sure you block out some strategic times to look and work ahead. I promise, dedicated work today will pay off with room to address the urgent tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2 words at Christmas that annoy us...BUDGET TIME

It's December which means it's budget time for many student and kids pastors. Time to crunch the numbers and figure out how much money you need for 2012 to pull off the ministry you lead. Budget time doesn't have to be a drag, it can be a time to look ahead and dream. Budgets help us think through and plan for the ministry we want to pull off tomorrow. They actually can give you a map to help guide you through the upcoming year even if you need more money than what you have been given. Budget time gives us a chance to cast vision and many times step out in faith as we talk to leaders in our church about where we believe the ministry needs to go. The next 2 weeks I am finishing up several budget areas in our church and here are a few questions I am asking...
  • What if I had no budget money? What would I do? // This is an annoying question but it's a good starting point every budget year. What if we had no money in the budget? What would be the most important things we would do? It also helps to foster a grateful heart when working with the resources we have.
  • What do I need to kill? // Every year there are things we really need to stop doing. When you stop doing things you create ministry dollars for other areas that need funding. Trust me, there are some "good" things in your ministry that need to stop so you can do something that is "great."
  • What do I need to improve? // If you see an area that is needed but lacking energy you might need to direct some of your budget to fix the issue. Budgets should be shaped to help your ministry get better not just stay the same.
  • What is going to be new? // Every year you need to be able to identify what is going to be new! New brings energy. New fosters change. New inspires. Your budget should help you clearly shape what will be new.
  • What can wait? // This is hard. There are always things you can put off for a year in order to improve and institute new ideas in your ministry. Sometimes waiting is the best call and the best way to set up for the next year. You will never be able to pull off every great idea every year.

What's the bottom line anyway?

Ever been listening to a speaker, felt like they had good content, and then walked away not being able to really say clearly what they were talking about? It happens every Sunday and Wednesday all over the country in churches and ministries all over the country. Good content, good intentions, tons of passion, with a lack of clarity. The best thing that ever happened to me as a communicator was reading the book Communicating for a Change and discovering the power of a well crafted bottom line. A bottom line is nothing more than the one statement you want people to walk away with after your talk. Sometimes it is a call to action. Sometimes it is a statement of truth. Bottom lines are that one statement that your build your entire talk around. Having a bottom line ready every time you speak means you will have a better shot of...
  • Limiting content: bottom lines help you weed out what you don't need to say. You only have so much time your audience it actually going to listen so you better say what is most important when you speak. Saying less for more impact means your audience has a better shot of walking away with your central idea. Having a bottom line just helps you choose what is most important.
  • Having an anchor for your creativity: bottom lines provide boundaries for creativity and fun. Great ideas are great unless they do not support your bottom line and end up distracting people from your message. Creativity needs boundaries in order to be most effective.
  • Setting up small groups to thrive: small groups in every environment of our church process our messages in small group. Bottom lines help set small group leaders to go further with the central idea...even go deeper! Clarity helps group leaders see clearly what is next!
Next time you speak, not matter what the setting, take time to craft a bottom line statement that you can build everything else around. I promise, it will make you a better communicator.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Read this before your next meeting!

Meetings are a necessary evil for all organizations. We all have to go to them and many of us have to lead them. People love to complain about meetings but I think we should institute a new rule when it comes to meeting complaints. If you are going to complain about meetings then you better be good at leading meetings. This year I read a great book that was all about making meetings work called Read This Before our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli. Yes I know you think reading a book about meetings would be worse than going to a meeting but this is a fascinating book you need to check out. This book lays out a plan to allow meetings to enhance your organization not hinder it. If we have to have meetings why not make them work? Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book and yes...our I am trying to make the meetings I lead better. Check these thoughts out...
  • Change is never met with open arms. Great decisions involve risk and risk scares people; it's natural for great ideas to get attacked or, worse, ignored.
  • Real work is what moves us forward. Work that involves action, struggle, and effort. It's that output that puts us closer to winning. If the mission could speak, it would constantly tell us, "get back to work."
  • Maybe even more unsettling than the false-urgency problem is that meetings have become a tool to delay decisions. They have become our default stalling tactic. I fear we have become politicians.
  • We have to remember that we can never guarantee a good outcome, no matter how much planning we do. Thoughtfulness is important, but so is speed. A system that allows the use of meetings as a stalling tactic leads to a culture of indecisiveness that is no longer acceptable.
  • Brave decisions lead to a brave organization; fearful decisions lead to a fearful one.
  • Sure, some decisions will fail. But movement even occasionally in the wrong direction is far better than standing still.
  • If you have no strong opinion, have no interest in the outcome, and are not instrumental for any coordination that needs to take place, we don't need you. From now on, if you're invited to a meeting where you don't belong, please don't attend.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

volunteers need something worth fighting for

The best way to drive volunteers to quit your ministry is to not give them a real mission and real responsibility. Leaders in kids ministry get this because in order to function with kids they need multiple leaders with real responsibility. For some reason I see many student pastors who think their job is to be the ring leader of the youth ministry circus every week and the volunteers are there for crowd control. If this is your model you may have some leaders who like you, the energy of youth ministry, seeing kids have fun, hearing your talks, the band, and maybe even like being with teens, but those type of volunteers are helpers not leaders. They are helpers because they just want to be there and are willing to stand around until someone asks them to do something. Leaders are different because they not only want to do something, they want to do something significant. Leaders want real responsibility. The volunteers you need in your ministry are the kind that feel like their time is valuable, that want to make a difference, and need a challenge. When volunteers walk into your environment they need to know they area part of something worth fighting for...
  • A clear mission // high impact volunteers have to know why they do what they do
  • A clear win // volunteers who are leaders have to have a clear goal to celebrate, they have to know what a win is for their effort
  • Real responsibility // volunteers who are leaders have to have a significant role in the organization, they want to do things that make a difference and be challenged
  • Another leader who is for them // volunteers that are leaders need another leader cheering them on, listening to them, giving them feedback
Are you giving your volunteers these three objectives? Are you recruiting the type of volunteers who are leaders and not just helpers? Your volunteers need a mission...give it to them!