Monday, April 30, 2012

The week after a conference...make a plan!

I'm coming off an incredible experience last week at The Orange Conference. I learned so much and connected with so many incredible leaders from across the country. In the past there have been many weeks following a great conference that I almost got overwhelmed from all the ideas and thoughts I wanted to share with others and implement in my ministry setting. What I have learned is you need a post conference plan ad much as you need a plan going into a conference. When we attend a conference we choose breakouts, set up meetings, and circle the main sessions we know we don't want to miss. We have a plan! You need a plan coming off a conference to make sure you are able to squeeze as much as possible out of the experience without letting what you learned push you off course or bring you discouragement because you can't implement things as fast as you want. Here are few ideas to help you move forward...
  • If God have you something specific for your life, share it with one other person. // This is big in two ways. When God speaks we need to share it with someone so go ahead and find someone you trust and process what God said to you with them. Also when we go ahead and have the courage to share what God said we are less likely to push it away and just forget what God tried to communicate to us. Many times getting busy leads us to push aside God's mission for our life.
  • Looks back over you notes and decide what's most important. // When you look back over what you learned some things are going to stand out. Make those things your priorities and take action. Also make another list of things that can wait. Great ideas have to trump good ideas.
  • Decide what you learned that your team needs to hear. // The people (staff and volunteers) back at church can't hear or understand everything you learned so choose what is most important and share it with your team.
  • Allow what you learned to bring focus not discouragement. // Sometimes coming back from a conference makes us wonder why people around us just don't get it? Why are things not moving faster? That is a trap so move forward ASAP! Get focused, not discouraged. True leadership means we step out and lead our team in the right direction and that will take time.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is Bigger Better #OC12

Is bigger better? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I know that it's hard for all next generation leaders to deal with because we are addicted to growth. We find joy in growth. We find our identity in growth. We find affirmation in growth. Sometimes we love bigger more than Jesus. I know that because I have experienced it. I have found more joy in growing numbers than my relationship with Jesus. Today Doug Fields helped us process how many times we are blinded by growth, blinded by our pace, and blinded by comparison. Here are his thoughts from the session...

Many time we focus on the wrong things. Here are some spotlights that blind us...

Numbers / when bigger is better you feel the pressure to feed the beast

Pace of life / ministry becomes a sprint, you skim on relationships

Constant comparison / outside the church, inside the church, how we speak, how they speak

When you focus on these things too much you get burned and drained. The majority of us focus on these way too much.

With healed / corrected vision...

Bigger is NOT better, better is better / people do not want to be a number they want to be known, people want to be a part of a thriving organization not a big organization,

Hurry is the enemy of depth / business comes with a price tag, depth of people, myself, and Jesus comes when we slow down

Replace comparison with effectiveness / we need to stop comparing and start abiding in Jesus, effectiveness helps us find peace in giving our all

We need Jesus to open our eyes. He is the real light of life not artificial light.

Just a few more ideas Doug through out...
When people talk about how busy they are something is broken.
Every leader, ministry, and church looks better from a distance than is in reality.
When you look to the future do you like the kind of leader you are becoming.

The heart of a healthy staff culture #OC12

How do we develop a healthy culture inside our staff and volunteer culture? We ask that question often if we lead any size team. We read books about it, we lead training to encourage it, and we find ourself frustrated when people don't get it. This morning Andy Stanley helped us process the root question to ask when you want to learn how to play well together inside our leadership environments. That question is...HOW CAN I HELP YOU? Check out these notes from the session this morning...

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:41-45 ESV)

Healthy and productive staff cultures are characterized by mutual submission.

The question mutual submission asks is HOW CAN I HELP?
How can I leverage my influence for you?

The struggle comes with this idea is when pastors and leaders feel like the anointing in a leadership role demands special treatment. We are all servants. Look at what Jesus said, event he came to serve others. The annointed one means you are the best servant. The new testament talks about the church being a body not a corporation with a CEO.

1. Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. // Do not allow the pressure to be "fair" stop you from helping people. Be engaged and take action. Being fair will keep you from serving anyone.

2. Systemize top down service. // Figure out how we can make service happen all year long. Place service into your calendar.

3. Create and maintain a sustainable pace. // The reason many of us don't help others is we do not have time.

4. Celebrate and reward mutual submission. // Who helps you go further faster? Share that answer!
What is rewarded is repeated.

5. Confront your ego. // If this is all about you tell people. We know it's not but sometimes we lead like it.

6. Drop the term loyalty from your vocabulary. // When we demand loyalty we have a loyalty problem.

The starting post for creating a culture of mutual submission is...HOW CAN I HELP?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Making Exponential Change #OC12

Leading change is one of the hardest things any leader has to do. Most next generation leaders love change. We love change because we know it will help the ministry grow. The people you lead are not always as excited about change because you are changing their routine. Our team at Grace Community Church understand this process because we are a little addicted to change. We also have experienced the pain of change when the people resisted the process. Today at The Orange Conference Carey Nieuwhof talked us through the process of making exponential change in our church culture. Check out these 5 steps to take and look for his ebook on this process summer of 2012.

1. Start by casting a vision bigger than yourself (your organization)
Outward vision attracts people.
A bigger vision implies bigger change.
Plot and share trajectory. Reveal where we are doing and what happens if there is no change.

2. Focus on the why behind the what.
Why is the best question a leader can answer.
Why unites.
How and what divides.

3. Set realistic expectation for everyone
Understand but don't be deterred by the cost.
People will leave.
Change before decline. Courageous leaders ask questions in their best days.
Changing what's working can create greater long term success.
Asking questions early leads to a season of conflict.
Conflict is not fun but you will have to make change before others see the need.
The greatest threat to your future success is your current success.

4. Communicate in concentric circles.
Make sure the people most invested have the most information.
Dialog with the core. / Don't make changes in isolation.
Get input from the committed. / Many times people don't want to make decisions they just want input.
Get information to the congregation.
Vision to the crowd.
Invitation to the community.

5. Be prepared to change again. You are never done.
Don't rest on your success. Don't trust in your success more than the need to change.
Stay committed to the vision but not nessesarily to the methods.
Hold your model loosely and your mission tightly.

What kind of kids are we raising? #OC12

What kind of kids are we raising? That's a question every parent, educator, and next generation pastor asks often. This morning we started the day off at the Orange Conference with Craig Groechel asking us that question. I know if you have kids or you serve kids then you probably have a few thoughts about the question. Here are the notes from today's talk!

As parents and as leaders what is success for the next generation?
Culture says: success is raising well rounded well educated happy kids
Jesus said: what good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul

We are called by God to release single minded, biblically anchored, Christ centered, kids who are world changers.
The quickest way to move off track in life is to be more concerned with what people think of us over what God thinks about us.

How do we raise kids that are single minded, christ centered, biblically anchored kids...

Enlist supporting voices. / the parents voice is always the most important voice but it can't be the only voice.

Raise the expectation / we reduce following Jesus to loving God with some of our heart and not all. We have to raise the standard. What are our standards for teens? Stay out of trouble. We have a generation we are raising who have low standards. Teens believe they can do what they are told they can do. They will rise to the standard we set.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (1 Corinthians 13:11, 12 NLT)

Keep it real / make sure faith is real and consistent in all areas of life. This generation can sense fake. They will do what they see is real.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Get Messy #OC12

Tonight Reggie Joiner opened up the Orange Conference and even as I type this I am trying to wrap my mind around he full weight of his talk tonight. The truth is that what we do in family ministry is messy because the Gospel is messy. You can't serve teens, kids, college students, preschoolers, or parents and led them to Jesus and not get messy. Some of us have spent so much time eliminating the mess from our life and our ministry that we forgot the gospel is messy. Tonight we processed the idea of living in the mess and helping families learn to live their faith in a messy messy world. Jesus lives in the mess...why are we not joining Him there. I'm just gonna share these thoughts and let you process it with us here at the conference. Here are my notes...I'm still processing...

The gospel is messy. // Sometimes God places messy people in our lives to remind us that the gospel is messy!

There is no way to do what we do in ministry without getting messy

There was no way for Jesus to do what He did without getting messy. // Jesus did not die to make you happy just to make you forgiven.

There is no way to make disciples without getting messy. //The disciples were willing to get messy because they watched Jesus for three years do ministry in the mess. The gospel is not just about creating environments where Christians can become more Christian. The gospel is about stepping into the mess with the message of hope and salvation. This is not something we sign up for. We are called to this. Times are changing but we stand strong because we serve a Savior that understands messy.

There is no way to make disciples without them getting messy. // We must invite this generation into the process and get messy doing ministry so they are equipped to do ministry in a messy world when they leave. The gospel transcends culture. What would happen if the world around us actually believed we loved them. We raise kids who have faith in a God bigger than our church and our theology.

#Fammin events for churches who are in portable environments #OC12

At Grace Community Church we are a portable church. We rent 2 schools for our Sunday environments and we rent a local church on Wednesday nights for our student ministry. We live the portable idea every week. Sometimes we love it and sometimes we hate it. One thing we try to never do is allow our facility to limit our ministry possibilities. When God gives an idea we know He will make a way. I went to a great session today on how to do family ministry events even when you don't own your facility. Buildings don't do ministry, people do. In the portable church world we simply have to think outside the box. Here are some things we are doing at GCC and some ideas that I heard at the breakout today at the Orange Conference. Here are some ideas...

  • Host a Preschool FX on Sunday mornings or after church at a local park.
  • Have a Parade day in a neighborhood.
  • Host a Live nativity at a park in December.
  • At GCC we are renting out a skating rink for a skate night for families.
  • Use a projector and screen and host a Movie night
  • Host a easter it something crazy like an eggstavaganza!
  • Take your Preschool families to a local pumpkin patch during the week.
  • Have Serve days at schools for parents and kids to serve together
  • Have a Familt Experience for the community in a theatre or local park.
  • Glow in the dark Easter egg hunt on Saturday night of Easter for the community!
  • Karaoke night for families / dinner and dance!!
  • Mother - daughter tea / Father daughter dance at a rented facility
  • Have a Battle of the bands for teens with bands.
  • Use the facility you rent to have a family experience after your last church service once a month.
  • Chalk up the town / one street free chalk lots of art and yes get permission!

Ok, there ya go. Never let your facility determine how you serve families. Find a way, have fun, and go for it!



Get and Keep Alignment #OC12

As a family pastor there is nothing harder than helping our team stay aligned. My job is to help our preschool, children's, youth, and college leaders fight together for a common vision instead of just for the ministry they lead. Our team at Grace Community is always working on this. It is a constant battle because we are moving at such a fast pace as we reach families. This morning I had the chance to hear Todd Clark, lead pastor at Discovery Church in California, and he helped us process how to get and keep alignment. It was probably the most helpful session on alignment I have every heard. Check these notes out from the session.

Here are seven insights into gaining and maintaining alignment...

  1. Develop a proper reference point. / balance is needed! Balance our busyness with the proper goal. Not programs but it's people and a person Jesus Christ.
  2. Constant corrections / we lose balance when we refuse to make needed corrections. People on the team come together when problems are solved and forward motion is gained!
  3. Clearly and constantly articulate your mission, vision, and strategy. / use every opportunity to share the stories that matter. It will take years! Alignment is a process.
  4. Foster and atmosphere of input / true alignment is fostered and not coerced. Every team member needs the freedom to have a voice. We ask people to buy into the dream. When staff have influence they can buy in to the team's direction. When a big move comes we have to ask how we will be do this and get input! 2 meetings instead of 1 meeting! Acceptance and agreement are not the same thing as alignment. Acceptance is the bottom level of alignment, agreement gives you their mind, alignment happens when you have the head and the heart!
  5. Trust your instincts and confront mis-aligned team members. / if you feel like someone is pulling in a different direction I bet they are! Confront it. Mis-aligned team members are not going to align themselves and they will draw other team members off track.
  6. Little deviations in direction are devastating over time. / the faster pace our organizations run means being off course just a little can be devastating to the church. Growth demands alignment.
  7. We vs. Me / alignment means we have to constantly push people to think we because we are drawn to focus on me. Alignment happens when a team member, regardless of position, gives precedence to the team they belong to over the team they lead.

Understanding the middle school mind #OC12

My first breakout from Orange this morning was with Tom Shefchunas and we looked at how to understand the middle school mind. I'm pretty passionate about middle school ministry because I have seen it shape the lives of many great leaders over the years. Here is a thought I hope you will process that Tom reminded us this morning. When you don't understand where your kids are at physically and emotionally you begin to see them as problems to solve. The truth is that we are the last preventative ministry in the life of every teen. They are still forming their identity. They are in discovery mode and we get to invest in their lives. Here are a few things Shef reminded us about this time in the life of a middle school student...

A brain can only do what it is capable of doing.

For middle schoolers...Prefrontal cortex doesn't develop until people are 25 years old. It controls... Alertness and attention / Planning and forethought / Priority setting /Working memory / Multi-tasking / Regulating appropriate social behavior

For middle schoolers...theire Cerebellum is in a state of renovation.
Balance / Language / Motor coordination /Attention

Middle school students are experiencing synaptic pruning - the brain focuses on keeping what is repeated and getting rid of stuff that is not used. Ideas become hard wired by experiences and repetition. Extra info sometimes get lost! We have to teach less for more because the truth is that kids are only going to learn so much. You can't teach kids everything. You have to decide at the end of the day what is most important.

Middle school students are learning about this idea...Metacognition - the ability to have a conversation with yourself. / middle schoolers hear themselves for the first time.

They realize...
The world does not revolve around them.
Their parents are not perfect. They lose trust.
They are not perfect. They lose trust in themselves.
Others have ideas that are just as important as theirs.
They ask themselves for the first time. Do I believe in mom and dads god?

With middle school students we can expect...
A struggle with sense of identity
They are more likely to express feelings by actions and not words.
Close friendships gain importance.
Less affection shown to parents.
A tendency to return to childish behavior.
Developmental schizophrenia
Peer groups influence interests and clothing style.
A feeling of invincibility
Engagement in risky behaviorsPreference to be with friends over family.
Realize parents are not perfect and sometimes point that out.
A search for new adults to confide in other than parents.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

6 ways to get the most out of the Orange Conference #OC12

It's the night before the Orange Conference and once again this year I am so excited about how God is going to work in the lives of next generation leaders. For three days preschool, children's, youth, and college pastors and volunteers (even a few senior pastors) are going to unite with one idea in mind. When we partner with each other and with families we can accomplish so much for the Kingdom of God. I'm blogging all week from the conference so I hope you will follow along on this Orange journey. This is also my 5th Orange Conference to be a part of and every year God uses this place and these people in my life. Let me throw out 6 things you can do over the next few days to get the most out of the Orange Conference. Here we go...
  1. Join the discussion online // you can see what people are saying during the conference by following along on twitter with the hashtag #OC12. There are also about 15 bloggers here and they will be processing ideas online for you to digest. You can also join in live online with our backstage feed at Orange
  2. Take some notes // we remember so much more when we write and listen at the same time. Make sure you capture ideas in a way you will be able to use them later.
  3. Talk to the people around you // I have met some amazing people here at Orange who have become friends over the years. Talk to the people around you. Hear their story. Share ideas. Encourage someone.
  4. Be willing to rethink everything // use the next few days to rethink what you do in your ministry and how you do it. This is a conference that will challenge you to think outside the ministry box. Drop your assumptions and dream a little this week.
  5. Slow down // next generation leaders are always going 100 miles an hour. Please slow down enough this week to listen to the voice of God. He is speaking...listen.
  6. Take time to worship // next generation leaders are usually busy leading others in worship..teaching others...serving others. Make sure this week you take time to worship our great God.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Relationships or Information

All small group leaders sign up to lead with one goal and that is to help their group become more like Christ. We sign up and have dreams of our kids or teens sitting around listening to us talk about the great truths of the Bible, asking deep questions, and walking out every week telling their parents how incredible their group leader is. That lasts until that first week we meet as a group and we wonder where these creatures came from. Why don't they listen? Why don't they pay attention? Why don't they remember what we talked about last week...or five minutes ago? Take heart, we all face this struggle. Here is something to remember every week when we sit down in our circle to lead our group. Relationships that are built lead to opportunities to communicate truth. In order to be able to give our group the information (Biblical Truth) that just might change the rest of their life we have to build significant relationships. As group leaders we love our content but the groups we lead want to know we care before they embrace our message. Effective group leaders have to embrace the tension that information and relationship bring us and understand that we need to find ways to fight for both in our group times. Our mission to communicate the greatest message in the history of mankind and the relationships we have with our group open hearts and minds to the message! The next several months you will build relational credibility if you do these three things....

Show Up / Make being at group a priority. Showing up each week for your group is the foundation of building consistent relationships. Your group needs to know they are important. They can tell if you make them a priority. If you do they might just make you a priority in their life.

Connect outside of group / Write a note, send an email, go to a game, host a group event, go on a retreat, and send plenty of texts. All of these things lead to connecting outside of group.

Listen more / As group leaders we have to become the master of asking questions and allowing our group to be heard. Kids and teens want to share their story...listen as much as possible. Questions lead to discussion and discussion leads to teachable moments.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Still time to join 5,000 friends at Orange 2012!

In just a few days 5,000 youth ministers, senior pastors, volunteers, children's pastors, college, and preschool pastors are going to descend on Atlanta for The Orange Conference and there is still room for you to join us. By the time you read this post we will probably be 20 leaders away from going over 5,000 at Orange and if you are 5,001 you are going for free to the 2013 Orange Conference thanks to the team at Minister Search sponsoring the spot! The Orange Conference has been a part of my life for the past 5 years and I am such a better leader because of the time I have spend around this conference every year. Next week I'm taking some of our staff from Grace Community Church and I am blogging from the conference. Here is what I am looking forward to next week at Orange...

  1. Connecting with other leaders // there is no better place like Orange to meet tons of next generation leaders. I am so blessed every year as I get to connect with and learn from so many leaders passionate about reaching the next generation!
  2. Dreaming with our staff // every year our team walks away with significant ideas that we get to bring back and implement in our church.
  3. Evaluating, evaluating, evaluating // love having time to get away and just evaluate how our family ministry team is doing...sometimes you just need time away to get better perspective.
  4. Laugh, celebrate, and refuel // a great conference allows you to do all three! Can't wait to do all three!

That'a what I'm excited about. There is still time to jump in and it's worth it even if you can only come to pre-conference or to Thursday and Friday sessions only. Get registered today and join us at Orange 2012!



Thursday, April 19, 2012

some days you want to walk away...

In student and children's ministry there are just days when you want to walk away. There are times we look at what we are doing an wonder what is happening here? Is God working or not. Moments like these...
  • when only 2 out of 10 kids show up for small group
  • when the only thing they they remember from the service is that funny video you showed
  • when small group leaders call right before you start the service to say they can't come
  • when the band has to start a song over because the drummer forgot the intro
  • when you have to get on to kids or teens breaking stuff in your environment
  • when the breaker blows and everything electronic stops in the middle of the service you spent 10 hours this week planning
  • when people want to know who is coming before they sign up for the retreat.
  • when none of kids at church "take home" the the "take home tools" and none of the parents use the ones they have!
  • when the weather changes and you have a small crowd at your family experience
  • when "activities" (sports, dance, school, you name it) keep kids and teens from plugging in
  • when small group blows up...with DRAMA
  • when literally no one signs up for the event you planned
  • when your worship leader on Sunday sleeps in and you have to fill in...unprepared!
I could go on and on with the list. We all could add to it. There are days we look around and wonder if what we do makes a difference. The Apostle Paul had those days to but he also was confident in asking God is finish what He started. Read this...

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 

Paul's confidence and hope was in God and not in his ministry or his plan or his work. Our confidence should be placed in God and not in our efforts or circumstances. God will finish what we have started. We are a part of something bigger...the Kingdom...and it's never going to end and God will win. Don't walk away!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Do you really empower teens?

What can a teen do? Just about anything if they have people around them who believe in them. Teens can accomplish so much and student ministries and the church are in the perfect place to help teens make an incredible difference in this world. Why is that? We already believe in teens! A month ago a group of teens in our student ministry had an idea to host a Karaoke / Dance event to raise money and awareness for cancer research. They pulled the event off, raised 1,000 dollars for research, and helped 4 schools unite behind a cause and all because of an idea and a desire to do something that matters. They were able to pull it off because a few adults who believe in teens (youth ministry leaders, educators, and parents) decided to believe in their idea. Empowering a teen means we get behind them. We empower teens when we give opportunities but also when we push their ideas and help make them a reality. We empower when we lead them to significant leadership roles but also allow them to lead us to creative ideas. When a group of teens have a idea here is what we try to do...
  • Push them to make the idea a reality (they do the work) >> Adults really empower teens when we push them to do the hard work. We do not help teens when we shortcut the process and do the work for them. Making any idea reality takes hard work and when teens have the idea they need and want to do the work.
  • Support them with resources we have >> This is different for every idea a teen might have. We do try to help with what resources we have.
  • Help them to focus >> Many times teens need help cutting out what might be good so they can accomplish what will be great. Help them to say no to some ideas so they can focus.
  • Be a voice of wisdom >> We can help teens avoid problems. As adults we can look out for problems and help teens address the before they become a reality.
  • Spread the word >> We always try to leverage our social media tools for student led events and causes. We also try to find creative ways to let adults know about events in our church family. Parents and other adults love seeing teens do things that make a difference.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Help your kids read the Bible!

Most teens and adults I know tell me they have a hard time making time to read the Bible. It's so common that I am beginning to believe we are simply waiting too long to help people start incorporating God's word into their lives. We convince ourselves that the Bible is complicated and meant for adults to break down and interpret. We think that when our kids get older they will start reading the Bible on their own but the leap seldom seems to happen. What I am finding is that when my kids engage the Bible they read it with a passion and imagination that most teens and adults have simply lost. Why not help kids engage the Bible as soon as they can read? The Bible is the raw unfiltered story of how our God chose to redeem humanity and it's an amazing story that is living and needed in our lives. So here is my your kids engage with the Bible right now. Here are a few simple ways to start the journey.
  • Make reading the Bible a part of your family schedule // Most days our family eats breakfast together and four mornings a week we read a few verses from the Bible together and do a short devotion that our kids ministry provides us. It works because it's easy and it allows God to influence our family in the flow of our family life. This is just part of who we are as a family and the earlier you start the better it goes!
  • Memorize a verse with your kids each month // My wife started this with our kids last year and it has been so much fun. Our kids ministry has a verse of the month and every morning we say the verse. I'm not good at memorizing scripture and yep this has been so cool for me as a dad. I'm learning it and it's part of our family routine.
  • As a parent have a time each day when you read the Bible // If you want your kids to read the Bible you have to make time to do it yourself. When kids see parents read the Bible they see that our faith is more than just a Sunday morning event we attend. You need the Bible in your life everyday if you want to set the tone for your family. There are great tools out there to help you read everyday on your computer, tablet, or smartphone so go for it!
  • Challenge your kids to read every day and give them tools // When your kids are old enough give them a Bible they can read and understand then challenge them to find a time to read everyday. No pressure either! When my girls do not feel like reading they take a day off. So far my third graders had tackled John, Acts, and now is working on Genesis! Yes she has asked some wild questions but it has been fun. My kindergartner pretends to read because she watches big sister then draws pictures of God!
If you are a church leader and you want to check out some of the resources we use to help families engage the Bible on a weekly basis at Grace Community Church you check them out for free this month. Check out what the Orange Experience is all about for FREE!

Monday, April 16, 2012


This month I am going to be blogging about some curriculum thoughts we have here in our family ministry at Grace Community Church. Six years ago we linked arms with a group of writers who had a new idea of how curriculum should function. After six years of working with the team at Orange we have learned so much about how to actually partner with our curriculum provider instead of just allowing them to send us material. We have discovered that curriculum moves from good to great when you actually embrace a strategy. When our family ministry team talks about curriculum we are always processing ideas with our strategy in mind. The team at Orange makes curriculum for every age group but first and foremost they are helping churches embrace strategy before material. With all that in mind I will be talking some about some curriculum ideas we have as a team, some reasons why we partner with the Orange team, and some ideas of how you create better curriculum if you write your own. This month you can try out the Orange experience for yourself for free. Click on the graphic here on this post and it will take you right to their website and you can check it all out for yourself. I know changing curriculum partners is difficult so this is your chance to ask questions, dream, and evaluate with no strings attached. I look forward to thinking curriculum with you this month!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Leading Up

I am reading through the book The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker this month. This week I was reminded about our need to serve those who lead us. We invest in our leaders by serving them and helping them push the organization forward. When we do more complaining about our leader's weaknesses rather than praying and partnering with them we are hurting our organization. We serve our leadership when we look and enable them to thrive in their strengths. Check out this quote from Drucker...

The effective executive accepts that the boss is human (something that intelligent young subordinates often find hard). Because the superior is human, he has his strengths; but he also has limitations. To build on his strengths, that is, to enable him to do what he can do, will make him effective—and will make the subordinate effective. To try to build on his weaknesses will be as frustrating and as stultifying as to try to build on the weaknesses of a subordinate. The effective executive, therefore, asks: “What can my boss do really well?” “What has he done really well?” “What does he need to know to use his strength?” “What does he need to get from me to perform?” He does not worry too much over what the boss cannot do. / Page 93, The Effective Executive

No matter what level of the organization you lead work hard to always try to serve those above you, in leadership over you by building on their strengths and not exposing their weaknesses. The heart of great leadership is humble service. Celebrate and build on the strengths of your boss and you will advance the mission of your organization.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

FREE STUFF / worship signals!

Found this on Josh Griffin's blog a few weeks ago and had to share this video. I love videos that help us laugh and not take ourselves so seriously. This is a funny take on worship and yes it will make you laugh. Great for an opener on a night when you are going to talk about worship. Enjoy some free stuff and check this video out...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

avoiding the trap

It's so easy to forget that we have an enemy in this life. The Bible teaches that Satan looks to destroy the lives of those who call on the name of Jesus. When Jesus taught about our enemy he said...

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10 NLT)

The other day a young leader and I were connecting for lunch and we began to process what it takes to avoid the traps of Satan as we serve others. He asked a simple can I avoid the trap? Over the years I have learned that I have to fight to embrace a simple truth if I am going to avoid the trap. If I am going to maintain public moral boundaries I have to be willing to say NO to the enemy in my private life. Every trap the enemy has begins when no one else is looking. The traps we fall into originate in the private places of our life. Saying no in the private sets us up to avoid traps publicly. Want to avoid the traps of the enemy? Here are a few thoughts on how to do that...
  • Be honest with a few people you trust >> We all need a few people in our lives who have our back and know our weak spots. In my life my wife and a few guys play that role for me and they have freedom to challenge me! A few people need to know you, the private you, the one Satan is coming after.
  • Make private sin really difficult to pull off >> Make sure you have accountability on your mobile devices and your computers. Make sure you do not meet with the opposite sex behind closed doors or alone. Make sure you limit digital conversations on Facebook, by email, or text that might be questionable. Make sure you avoid places or situations that tempt you to give in to the enemy.
  • Continually strive to have your heart aimed at Jesus >> Stay in God's word. Make time to worship every week with other believers even if you are on a church staff and you are busy. Stay connected with a small group.
  • Celebrate when you say NO in the private >> When you win a private victory by saying no, celebrate. You won that battle. It is a big deal and when we choose God's way over the enemy God is pleased! Celebrate!
  • Pray for protection >> You can't do this alone. Pray for God to surround you and protect you and your family.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter is over...what's next?

Yes Easter is a big deal if you serve on a church staff. It's kind of the biggest week of the year because it's one time when people let their guard down, bring their families to church, and give us a shot to share the message of Jesus Christ with them. We plan and prepare for this Sunday like none other because we understand the potential. Jesus can change a life, a marriage, a family, a future in one day and we believe that. As much hard work as we put into prepping for Easter Sunday the effort we make after Easter is just a important. What you do this week will determine how much influence you have with the families you reached beyond Easter Sunday. Here are a few things you need to do this week as you get ready for a Sunday with just as much potential, the Sunday after Easter!
  1. Celebrate with your team >> This is big. I know you have ideas of how you want to improve next year but please slow down and celebrate with your team. Share stories of life change. Breathe and take time to thank God. Tell your volunteers what a great job they did!
  2. Follow Up >> Make sure to follow up with as many families as possible this week. Every visiting family needs to hear from your family ministry team and then work hard to reach out to families you saw during the day. Make Easter as personal as possible.
  3. Strategically pray for families that visited on Easter >> Make sure you are praying for families that visited. Satan will try to distract them and keep them from coming back. Pray God will make a way for our churches to connect with those families!
  4. Make sure you are striving for excellence the next 4 weeks >> Glad you had a rocking Easter. Make sure when families come back they are seeing them same level of excellence. Go for it. Plan some surprises!
  5. Make some plans for next Easter >> Sometime this week write down some ideas for how you can make next Easter Sunday work more efficiently. Capture ideas now while it is fresh on your mind!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Let's connect at Orange 2012

You need to see this video for 2 reasons. One, I'm hoping if you are at the Orange Conference this month we can connect. Two, one of my good friends gets hurt in this video and it is pretty funny. Seriously I hope we can connect at Orange. This year I will be blogging from the conference and one of my favorite things about the week is getting to connect with other family ministry leaders and hearing how God is working around the country. The video here talks about a great networking event for student ministry leaders that XP3 Students is hosting. Check out this video and know there is still room to join us at the conference, just click on the add here on the blog to link over and get registered!

XP3 Networking Event 2012 from Orange on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

FREE STUFF // pizza face

If you are like me you are always looking for a game to get things going with kids or middle school students. This idea came from one of our middle school students and it's now free to you to check out and use. The game is called Pizza Face and the idea is really simple. Get three teams of 2. One person is he pizza holder and one is the pizza eater. On go one person holds the slice with one hand only and the other has to eat the pizza with hands behind their back. First team to eat all the pizza (whatever amount you decide) is the winner! What kid does not like pizza? Easy game, easy setup, enjoy some FREE STUFF. Below is the graphic we used for the game.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

No Pranks Allowed

I know it does not sound like fun but our student ministry has a no pranks allowed policy for all our events and that has been my standard in every student ministry I have led over the past 13 years. Do I like pulling pranks...yes. Do I like having pranks pulled on me...not really. The reason we started asking teens not to pull pranks in our ministry years ago was simple, we never want a teen to leave an event where they felt harassed by other teens or leaders. Things like that go down enough in school on on sports teams all over the country, but we just have a different standard as the church. How many times have pranks become a barrier for teens following Christ or connecting with a student ministry? I am betting more often than you think. Here are a few reasons not to allow pranks in the ministry you lead...
  • The wrong kids always become the target >> Most of the times it's the weaker kid, the new kid, the different kid who becomes the target of a prank. Teens look for a safe target and go for it. We have to stand up for kids who need protecting.
  • Pranks are just distracting >> Pranks become the focus of teens when they get started. Pranks distract teens form whatever event you are leading because they are planning a prank or trying to avoid being pranked. Our mission to create a safe environment for teens to grow spiritually.
  • Teens make bad choices when it comes to pranks >> Teens and many leaders never know when to stop when pranks begin. Pranks push great kids to make some really dumb choices.
  • I've never seen a prank lead to life change >> Never seen a person follow Christ because of a great prank that was pulled. They have a memory but I have never seen a prank lead to life change.
  • Pranks can turn into a legal nightmare >> Yes, trust me...I'm a parent and if you mess with my kid you mess with me. Parents are not playing around with this stuff anymore and I really don't blame them. Allowing pranks placing you and your ministry in danger of a legal disaster.

Monday, April 2, 2012

5 reasons to stay at your church

Leaders are wired for change. Leaders see a need or challenge and want to push the organization to a better future. This love of change sometimes leads us to look outside our current ministry role. Go ahead and admit it, you look at other ministry settings and wonder if it might be time for a move. What would it be like to serve there or with that team? Leaders love the thrill of the move and the enticement of possibility. This week I will have been here at Grace Community Church for five years. For the first time in my adult life I have lived in the same house for five years. I have been serving this city for five years and it is hard to understand but I am thrilled about the next five. Funny thing I am discovering is that time spend in a ministry setting leads to trust and trust (by parents, staff members, the church family, and community leaders) leads to opportunity. Time spent in ministry allows you to build something that is better not just bigger. Here are five reasons to consider blocking out distractions and stay in your ministry setting...
  1. You get to serve multiple generations // There is nothing quite as cool as getting to watch a senior graduate and then see their 6th grade sister show up in your middle school environment. That is priceless. That is generational ministry. That is what being an influence partnered with the family looks like.
  2. You can take bigger risks for the Kingdom // When you have relational credibility you have the influence to take bigger risks for the Kingdom of God. People follow leaders they trust will be there if things don't go well.
  3. You can see your strategy through // How do you know if your strategy really is making a difference. Plant your life in a city and see what happens over the span of several years!
  4. You can make changes and corrections faster // When you are committed to staying you will push your self you keep molding the organization. Invest leaders don't like stagnation. Time allows you to make changes and see them through.
  5. You learn to strive for the bigger story and not just a perfect picture // When you stay locked in with a ministry or a church you learn to look for the bigger story for motivation. Time with people teaches you that there are no perfect families or churches. What really inspires is the bigger story that God is at work.