July 2011

One of the myths of pastoral ministry is that folks of a certain demographic (translated: the older demographic) are hard to deal with. Stuck in their ways. Intolerant of creativity. Ready to hit you with their cane and tell you to get off their lawn.

I recognize that my church is a bit of a different breed, but I thank God for some incredible seniors who have led the way in making the church who she is today. These are folks who shelved personal preference and sometimes personal comfort for the sake of carrying the gospel forward. Some of my most dependable, servant-hearted friends at the Summit are those old enough to be my parents (don’t tell ’em I said that).

But this video from Clark Retirement Community in Michigan takes the cake. My proverbial hat is off to to activities director who made this happen. The A.D. proves that seniors are fun, creative, and willing to try new things.

When I grow up, I want to live there.


Thanks to my buddy Darin – and his dad Ron – for tipping me off to this.


Franks Family Vacation 2011 is nearing the end. For the last few days we’ve been hanging out in Colorado (state motto: Our Mountains Are More Mountainous Than Tennessee’s Mountains) with Merriem’s brother and his family, as well as our peeps from Summit Denver (church motto: We’re Way More Autonomous Than Our Name Implies). It has been a week of cognitive relaxation, relational rejuvenation, and parental infuriation.

Case in point: The Rocky Mountain Tour.

The Rocky Mountain Tour happened last Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or April. I’m not sure when it was, since I’ve checked neither watch nor calendar since I’ve been here. We loaded up two cars full of Franks & Murphys (family motto: We’re Not a Shoe Store) to wind our way through the back 40 of God’s creation. It was a day of amazing sights and sounds, not the least of which was the sound of my wife screeching “OH SWEET MERCY SLOW DOWN YOU’RE ABOUT TO CAREEN OVER THE EDGE AND KILL US ALL!”

Somewhere around Mountain #712 I realized that my parental admonishments of “Whoa…Jase, wouldya look at that!” were going unheeded. You see, all the kids were split up amongst the cars, and we had two of the younger ones…a couple of cousins who spent the day buried in their iWiiCubeBoyStations or whatever they’re called, trying to make it to Island #7 on Tiny Wings (motto: Not Quite As Addictive As Angry Birds).

Colossal parental fail.

There we were, surrounded by some of the most majestic scenery that I’ve ever experienced, and my nine year old is playing video games. (I’m pretty sure I heard a whine of “booooooorrrrrrrinnnnng” escape his sinful little lips at one point.) We were driving past moosen and prairie dogs and elk…um…caribou…um…I have no  idea what those things were, and he missed it. We were eight-flippin-thousand feet above sea level with nary a guard rail in sight, and he missed it. We saw waterfalls and snowdrifts and rockslides, and he missed it. We were traversing the same exact path that Lewis and Clark traversed way back when they settled the west by paying a $20 per buggy park entrance fee, and he missed it.

The very thing that captured my attention escaped his. I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ famous quote, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

As much as I’d like to chide my child, I see too much of myself in him. Rather than view the wonder of the world through his eyes, I want him to adapt to my own fascinations. Rather than participate in God’s glorious work in another person’s life, I want to stick to my schedule and remain uninvolved. Rather than immersing myself in my Creator’s plans, I want to wade through my own agenda.

I’m far too easily pleased.

A few weeks back I attended not one…but two grand openings. (I also get up early to watch women claw each other’s eyes out on Black Friday.) North Durham landed a couple of new establishments: Ollie’s (think Big Lots on crack) and Zaxby’s (Zax Sauce is crack).

Because North Durham doesn’t get new establishments all that often – and because my family and I are morons who have no regard for crowds or long lines – we went. By golly, we went. We were there the first day for both businesses, loving the excitement, the rush, and the fact that we were a part of something new.

One of those openings went off without a hitch. It was smooth, it was well-planned, it was downright fun. The other…well, not so smooth. (Because my general policy here on the blog is not to disparage businesses by calling ’em out, I won’t tell you which was which.)

One business made their opening work. The other needed work. They had one shot to craft a memorable experience, and they both did. Both were experiences. Both were memorable. But not for the same reasons.

So whether you’re launching a store, a restaurant, a church, or a new ministry, you need to do all you can to make your opening grand. And because I spent a few years in the food service industry in high school and after college, as well as a brief stint in the public service sector, I’m obviously qualified to tell you exactly how to do that. (I also had surgery once, so if you need something removed, call me.)

  1. Acknowledge the stress. Not many people enjoy lines, and lines tend to make somewhat sane people turn into crazed, elbow-throwing maniacs. You know opening day will be stressful. People won’t necessarily know where to go, what to do, or how to act. Acknowledge it. Embrace it. Prepare for it. Play off of it.
  2. Have twice the workforce you think you’ll need. At one of our grand openings, the number of employees seemed like it matched the number of customers. They were at every entrance, on every register, holding every door, keeping every item stocked. There wasn’t much of a chance to get stressed, because an answer was just a few feet away.
  3. Keep it fun. If you get the first two right, keeping it fun won’t be a problem. When you walk into the day with a huge team and embrace the insanity of it all, it changes your focus and your filter. One business got that. The other seemed caught off guard that people actually showed up, and it showed in their attitudes.
  4. Give stuff away. Whether it’s a Coke or a car or a coupon for my next visit, you should honor the effort of a first-day customer with a reward. Have a drawing. Give a door prize. But do something to show your gratitude for them giving you some business. (Hint: giveaways also take the sting out of standing in a long line.)
  5. Give me something to talk about. In his great book Tribal Knowledge, John Moore says that “tourists bring home souvenirs, but explorers bring home stories.” In other words, you don’t want to send a valued customer away with a few consumable trinkets. Nope, you want to create a rich experience that they’ll replay to their friends.
Here’s a deep thought for you: nobody can visit your business a second time before they visit it for the first time. But to ensure second-time access, you’ve got to get the first time experience right.

If you’re a church leader, remember that every Sunday is somebody’s first Sunday. What are you doing to make sure their opening is grand?

Comment below.

When I was in 8th grade, I had a gig as a teacher in “Children’s Church,” which is where Christian parents send their kids so they won’t whine for the grape juice and little stale crackers that’s served in Big Church Communion.

Children’s Church was a sweet job if you could get it. All you had to do was study for the talk, write out the talk, and then stand up and teach the talHEY YOU STOP CLIMBING ON THAT WHAT ARE YOU INSANE?!?

Sorry. Flashback.

One of my weekly challenges was to introduce a memorable object lesson that the kids could remember through the week and temporarily distract them from bonking each other on the head with a flannelgraph board. One 4th of July weekend, my memorable object lesson was a homemade firecracker. This was not just any firecracker. This was a firecracker made out of a paper towel roll that I painted red, put caps and authentic looking warning labels on either end, and placed a bona fide wick in the top that sparkled when it was lit.

You’re right…this was no firecracker. This was a stick of dynamite. And it was awesome.

The talk was based out of Matthew 23:27, where Jesus told the Pharisees that they looked good on the outside, but were dead on the inside (you can’t pull any punches with self-righteous second graders). And in what would be a defining moment in the history of object lessons, I was going to barricade the kids behind furniture, and then light this beautiful stick of dynamite and let it flash and pop and sparkle down, until it finally just puttered out.

(This is the point where I should mention that the brilliance of that object lesson was obscured by the face that little Jon Bass ran and told his worship pastor daddy that I had lit a stick of dynamite and blown a hole in the wall of the choir room, and before I knew it I had a line of angry deacons ready to revoke my Children’s Church teacher’s license. But I digress.)

The lesson for the pharisaical second graders is the lesson for us all: we can look good on the outside. We can sparkle and pop. We can have all the outward appearances of someone who’s going to make a bang.

But we’re still a dud inside.

Duds happen when we fail to instill the disciplines necessary for growth. We avoid reading the Bible, we put off prayer, we don’t do life in community. Duds happen when we don’t cultivate an inner life that matches our outer life. Duds putter out. They leave us hollow.

The gospel is the antidote to a dud-deadened life. It’s no longer our failed attempts, but his finished work. It’s not our worthless acts, but his worthy sacrifice.

It’s Christ in us, the hope of our glory.