July 2009

I’ve mentioned here before that I’m a fan of Joseph Michelli’s podcast, The Starbucks Experience (he’s also the author of a best-selling book by the same title).  On a recent episode, he talked about the concept of keeping our personal problems out of our professional (or ministry) lives.  It’s the principle of “making it invisible.”

Making it invisible is a constant discipline for me on Sunday mornings.  Regardless of what volunteer doesn’t show up or what task didn’t get completed or what ball got dropped, I have a responsibility to our guests and my team to make all of those things invisible.  When I’m prone to complain or talk about what a rough morning it’s been or how busy I am (and believe me, I can complain about that stuff a lot), I have to remind myself that my momentary problems are not the problems of other people.

In the guest services realm, we have the responsibility of making it invisible.  When we bemoan our tasks or our job or our lives in front of guests, we chip away at their “wow!” experience.  This Sunday, do a mental inventory of the things that you’re talking about, and ask: can I make it invisible?

Last week on the big TenneBama vaca, I went to one of the three restaurants in my hometown (And no, I’m not joking…there are three: a Mexican joint, a barbecue joint, and a place with a bona-fide salad bar / sports bar combo called Legends.  Sure, there are fast-food restaurants that hold their own – especially the Burger King that required four days’ worth of cops directing traffic when they first opened 12 years ago (true story!) – but as far as sit down, you’ve got basically three that are worth going to.  But I digress…)

The Legends salad bar / sports bar combo is the “fine dining” option in town, meaning that typically the menu doesn’t have salsa or barbecue sauce stains on it.  We usually hit it at least once when we’re home, and I’m very glad we did this time.

My sister had called ahead to let them know we had a party of seventeen (yep, big family), and when we arrived during the lunch rush, the seater up front wasn’t really sure what to do with us.  Apparently, our party of seventeen and another party of eleven were too much to bear.

Suddenly, out popped a waiter with a larger-than-life personality.  He recognized my sister, took control of the situation, and led us to our table.  I found out that Steve was a regular waiter for my family, and they were pretty excited that I was going to get to witness his wow-worthy waiter skills.

Steve took our drink orders first…with no notepad.  Not too terribly impressive, because just about everybody in our family orders Legend’s famous fruit tea.

But then, he came back for our food order.  Seventeen people…seventeen different menu choices…at least fourteen different special orders (my family is picky)…and Steve nailed every last one of them.  Not a single order was wrong, though not a single order was written down.  He remembered every last detail.  Hold the mayo on your burger?  Check.  Extra cup of ranch dressing for your potato chips?  Not a problem.  Want your fries extra crispy?  Can do.

But Steve’s amazing memory wasn’t the most impressive part.  No, in a local service economy that’s usually known for poor customer care, Steve was the architect of a very good experience.  He was entertaining, he was responsive, he was attentive…

He owned it.

Steve probably doesn’t make more than a few bucks an hour before tips.  But I would hasten to guess that if his customers are smart, those tips are very good.  Because the food, although good, is nothing spectacular.  The atmosphere, while arguably the nicest in town, is nothing memorable.  But the service?  The service is something that’ll keep me coming back.

I told Steve at the end of our meal that if I had the power to do it, I’d move him to North Carolina and put him to work here at the Summit.  I told my family that if they had any sense at all, they’d make sure Steve was a believer (if not – bonus witnessing opportunity!) and use his expertise to build a guest services ministry at my home church.

The church world needs more Steves…men and women who are attentive, who are responsive, and who take control of the situation and design the experience on behalf of the guests.

Great job, Steve.  You bring truth to the name of your restaurant…you truly are a legend in your own right.

…get the t-shirt!

As a former student pastor, I am the proud owner of no fewer than 718 t-shirts.  Each one has a proud history, from summer camps to mission trips to annual themes to even – I kid you not – t-shirts that were made up to look like gas station uniforms (complete with name patch) …just because we could.

I am a huge fan of the t-shirt, much to the chagrin of people who feel that they are inappropriate attire for the office, for evening wear, and for the occasional funeral.

Nonetheless, we are giving away mountains of t-shirts to random folk who go online and vote for one of five new designs.  You can do that now through Sunday, so go on and get your clicking finger loosened up and cast your vote for your fave.

I’m secretly hoping for a five-way tie, because I’d really like to bump my total collection up to 723.  And I probably have an upcoming funeral, so I need fresh digs.

From the mouth of my 12 year old:

“Dad, when I grow up I’m going to be an NBA player.”

[Thirty seconds later…]

“I’ll have to be an NBA player because I’m going to need to make a lot of money.”

[Twenty more seconds…]

“Because I’m going to buy a monkey and he’ll need lots of bananas.”

Last week the fam and I spent some time back in our hometowns in Tennessee and Alabama. Both Merriem and I grew up in towns of less than 8,000 people, so going home is a little bit of culture shock for our kids, especially at McDonald’s (No shirt? No shoes? No problem!). Nowhere but home can you…

  • …have total strangers ask you how your recent mission trip to Greece was.
  • …hear an answering machine message from a senior adult at your home church asking if “Brother Danny made it in alright.”
  • …find out that you were the beneficiary of a prayer request in Wednesday night prayer meeting (I’m pretty sure it included the phrase, “traveling mercies”).
  • …watch your kids revert to their inner cowboy as they spend every waking hour with their “Paw” at the barn.

Obviously there are sobering moments at home, as well…

  • …such as hearing my 12 year old refer to Tennessee pulled pork BBQ as “that meat stuff.” (Darn you, North Carolina! You have rendered it impossible for my kid to recognize REAL barbecue!)
  • …having people tell you, “You’ve lost weight!” followed by “…and your hair!”

I really dig my hometown and my home church. Merriem and I have decided we’re going to host our first Redneck Camp next summer, complete with bunk beds at the farm, BBQ tours, and cow tipping. That’s right. I said cow tipping.

Sign ups begin now for the low low price of $89 per person, per night. Shirt and shoes optional.

Your Mom Goes To College
















In a recent post I was probably a bit too harsh on some of the new social media. But in reality, I am amazed at what our e-mails and Twitters and interwebs will allow us to do…

  • I can communicate vision to an entire ministry (or an entire church…or fans of an entire movement) with two minutes of typing and hitting the “post” button on a blog.
  • I can turn on my phone and find out what some of America’s most influential pastors are reading, what conferences they’re attending, and even what they had for lunch (although honestly, that last one is still lame).
  • I can use the power of Skype to talk face to face – and pray with – some of our church planters located on the other side of the globe.
  • We can broadcast the gospel to the darkest parts of the earth through the uber-coolness of iTunes.

Does technology have its drawbacks? Certainly. But the church has done a pretty good job of redeeming technology for the kingdom of God. And that’s something that even Kip can get behind.

As you know by now, this fall we’re adding a 12:30 service and a 10:45 overflow service to the Brier Creek AM Campus. With those additions come a huge need to beef up our First Impressions Team. We need peeps to serve on the parking team, the auditorium seaters team, the coffee bar team, and on and on. If you want to serve, we want to help you get plugged in to serve.

On Saturday, August 22, we’ll be hosting the First Impressions Frontline event, designed for both potential, beginner, and seasoned members of the FI Team. It will be held at the Brier Creek Campus, but it is open to Summit folks from all campuses. Watch for sign up info coming soon or talk to your First Impressions Campus Director today!

Confrontation has never been one of my strong suits. Merriem loves to tell the stories of our dating and early marriage days when I wouldn’t even speak up if a restaurant got my order wrong…

Me: Mmmm…these salmon cakes and asparagus look delicious!

Merriem: But baby, you ordered apple pie.

But through the years – especially as a pastor – I’ve learned the importance of the occasional, well-timed confrontation. Perhaps it’s with a husband who has let his relationship with his wife drift. Maybe it’s with a volunteer who has let the vision of their ministry leak. Possibly it’s with an entire church that has become too complacent with sin.

Regardless of the reason behind the confrontation, we rarely love people well if we’re too scared to confront.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times that we can confuse confrontation with our own twisted sense of self-righteousness and nosiness. In all things, God needs to guide our need to lovingly confront through the truth of scripture. But when God guides, we need to allow him to use us as necessary.

Don’t be afraid of the tough conversations. Avoiding them only makes it harder.

In case you’ve ever wondered how things shake down in the Franks household, this picture should be worth 1,000 words:

Dog 1, Kid 0.

Just a few bullets worth of explanation:

  • This was taken at 11:00 PM.
  • No, it wasn’t staged.
  • No, she’s not allowed on the furniture.
  • No, she doesn’t care.

I feel a little funny writing this post since it’s a bit self-serving and strictly personal (not personal in a “none-of-your-business” way, but personal in a “TMI” way), but since many of you have asked or at least wondered, I figure I might as well:

I’ve lost weight.

I’ll go ahead and answer some questions that I’ve been asked:

  1. No, I’m not sick (my left nostril is stopped up at the moment, but I think it’s unrelated to the weight loss).
  2. No, I’m not under stress (any more than normal for Summit pastors, anyway).
  3. Yes, I know how skinny I am (we bought mirrors just for this occasion).
  4. No, I’m not going to whither up and blow away (what does that even mean?).
  5. No, I won’t let you see if you can lift me (not that anyone’s offered, but we live in a strange world and it could happen).

The fact is, I hit a point back in the spring where I realized that I’m not getting any younger, and I had the healthy-eating habits of a four year old in a Reese’s Cup factory.  I’ve always been a snacker, and those years of chips and chocolate (mmmm…chocolate chips) finally were taking their toll.  I was beginning to look like the typical Southern Baptist pastor, which upset me because I specifically got rid of the sculpted plastic hairstyle with matching leisure suit years ago.  And most surprisingly, every time I took off my shirt I noticed I had a six-pack.  Not the kind where you have three distinct abs lined up beside three other distinct abs, but the kind where six little rolls of flab were stacked up on top of each other like a Sharpei puppy.

So, I got on a plan: 1500 calories a day, no excuses, no turning back.  There are no idiotic diets, no meals I have to order through the mail, no colon cleansing (gross!) and I can eat bread.  (I LIKE bread.)  I’m doing a lot more fruits and veggies and a lot less fast food.  Exercise is still an elusive animal due to my husband/dad/pastor/couch potato schedule, but I’m working it in as I can.

My goal was to lose 25 pounds, and I’ve lost 25 pounds.  From this point on, it’s all about maintenance and trying not to go all Oprah on you.  Feel free to keep me accountable on that, but so help me if any of you slap a donut out of my hand I will wrestle you to the ground and kick you in the head, because that’s just rude.  (Your initial actions, not my obviously justifiable and Nehemiah-style response.)

I went to my doctor for my already-scheduled annual physical about two weeks into the new plan, and he endorsed it whole-heartedly.  So yep, I guess you could say I’m doing this under medical supervision.  My calorie intake, my goal weight, my food choices…they all checked out okay with him.  (Now that I’ve hit the goal, I think I get to increase the calories a little.  Party on, Garth.)

What I’ve learned through this process is that eating – like much of life – is all about wise choices.  I can still eat the occasional bacon cheeseburger for lunch, but that means no bowl of ice cream before bed tonight.  And a handful of baby carrots now means that I can sneak a brownie later.  But by no means can I have the bacon cheeseburger, carrots, brownie, and ice cream all in one day or even all in one meal…which was nothing unusual for me a few months ago…especially if you replaced the carrots with super sized fries.

It’s odd to me how my tastes have changed.  I’ve never been much of a fruits and veggies guy, but now I’m saying things like, “Let’s go check out the Farmer’s Market” rather than, “I have a 2-for-1 coupon at Marble Slab!”  I still love Marble Slab, but in far more moderation than I used to.  And while I have the every-once-in-a-few-weeks cheat days, that’s a far stretch better than the “cheat years” that I used to observe.

The way I look at it now (and it was really hard to see it this way with a jumbo-sized Snickers bar in one hand and a Frappuccino in the other) is that I really am responsible to be a good steward of the body God gave me.  That might sound a little hokey, but on this side of the scales I realize it to be true.  I want to be around for a long time to love my wife, disciple my kids, and serve my church, and while only God knows the number of my days, I figure I shouldn’t give him a reason to block an artery any earlier than necessary. 

If you’d like some very practical help in this area, I can’t think of three better resources than the two Eat This, Not That! books (find ‘em here and here) and The Calorie King’s Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate Counter.  They’ve been a constant help as I’ve worked through the last several months.  Both of these will help you make wise choices like I talked about above, while still eating at least some of your favorite foods at your favorite places.

Thanks for reading…now pass me the carrot sticks.

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