February 2012

If you’ve been reading this blog for oh, say 42 seconds, you know that I’m a big fan of guest services within the church. I want to make sure our guests – especially those walking onto one of our campuses for the first time – are loved, cared for, and positive we want them to return.

We put a crazy amount of time, energy, and resources into creating that type of environment for our guests. I think about it to almost a psychotic level. (My wife is not a big fan of visiting other churches with me, because I’m constantly either critiquing them or stealing good ideas.)

Putting it mildly, first impressions are a big deal.

But they’re not the deal. If your designed experience begins and ends with hospitality, you’ve missed the point. If you bill yourself as a friendly church…but it doesn’t move beyond that…you’ve failed. If your systems for parking and seating are flawless but only lead to a dead end, then you need to hang up your orange vest and call it a day.

Hospitality has to lead somewhere. It must be a jumping off point. It might be the thing that initially delights and surprises, but you can’t keep up that cycle of bells and whistles for long.

Hospitality has to be a catalyst. It has to move people from here to there.

It has to be the front door for the gospel.

If we’re not being gospel-centered in our treatment of our guests, we’re going to have a hard time centering them on the gospel. On the flip side, if we view the brewing of the world’s best cup of coffee in our lobbies as the ultimate end, then we’re wasting our time.

What is it about your hospitality that has become an end unto itself?

What happens when a team member (be it paid staff, volunteer, etc.) discovers they’re not passionate about something that’s part of their job?

Worse, what happens when you discover it before they do?

Maybe their job requires up-front people skills, but they’re more comfortable behind a desk. Maybe they have to be crazy proficient at administration, but spreadsheets aren’t something in which they excel (pun!).

Maybe you’re asking them to perform outside of their niche.

Everybody has something that they’re great at. Something that they’re actually quite proficient in, and they leave you scratching their head about (a) why they enjoy that so much (because you don’t) or (b) how they developed that skill (because you never have).

One of my painful leadership lessons is that not everyone works out of the same niche that I do. That’s caused conflict on the teams I’ve led over the years, because I expect that everyone will love the same things I love. I can’t understand why my team doesn’t give 110% in the same areas where I give 110%

What I’ve realized is that while it may not be their niche, it can be something they learn and improve in. And yes, if a team member is functioning outside of their job description, then that requires a deeper discussion.

But part of my job as a leader is to help them discover their niche and use that to our team’s greater advantage. I’ve never had a team member that couldn’t use their passion to improve our team. True, it may not have been a core component of their job, but it was a core component of their soul. It was what made them, them.

And when you free your team members to be who God wired them to be, the whole team improves.

Costco is the new KFC.

There was a day when you could find all the Baptists scarfing down drumsticks and mashed potatoes & gravy every Sunday afternoon at the Colonel’s place. If the Methodists ever wanted to launch a pre-emptive strike on the Baptists (“Immerse this, denominational no-gooders!”) they could just waltz on over to the KFC buffet and take care of business.

But there seems to be a new after-church trend, and it has “Costco membership card” written all over it. Church goers take to the cavernous warehouse on Sunday afternoons, perusing aisle after aisle of freebie samples. “Salmon dip? I’ll take summa that.” “Swedish meatballs? Yessir.” “Dinky cup of organic granola? What the heck.”

I find it fascinating that we (I) shamelessly approach the sample counter to wolf down things we have no intention of actually buying. Never in my life have I considered buying a six pound tiramisu from a warehouse club. But put a sample cup with a plastic serving stick in front of me, and I’ll send my nine year old back for seconds (“Turn your baseball cap around. She won’t recognize you.”).

It’s fitting that it seems to be church people who are invading SampleLand every Sunday afternoon, because it seems they’ve just come out of an environment where they’ve done the same. They pull freebies from aisle after aisle of ministry options, but never consider committing themselves.

They take advantage of “free childcare,” but never step up to invest in the next generation.

They grumble about being told where to park, but never consider donning an orange vest and stepping outside.

They’re quick to criticize the lack of options for a small group, but never think about opening their home to host one.

Please don’t misunderstand: this isn’t a Monday morning rant against consumerism within the church. I believe that one of the greatest joys of ministry is taking care of the consumers that God sends our way (I wrote an entire series on that here). But there comes a time when consumption has to end and commitment has to begin. There’s a time when we have to stop sampling the proverbial salmon and purchase the dad-gum fish.

The body of Christ known as the Church has to get better at this. If we are marching under the banner of Jesus, then we have to serve like Jesus. We have to consider others better than ourselves, get our hands dirty, invest. Give back. Serve.

If you’re a part of the Summit (specifically our Brier Creek campus) and you’re ready to jump in, then it’s go time. Get in touch with me at the “Make Contact” tab above. I’ll help you.

If you’re a part of another church, email your pastor. Call the church office. Shoot, just show up on Sunday and tell somebody you want to volunteer.

Life’s too short to survive on Swedish meatballs and somebody else’s ministry. Make it your own.

Today is the day. Our lives have changed forever. We are officially old.

Our firstborn is sixteen.

While it will be a few more days until Jacob gets the coveted piece of plastic that will declare vehicular freedom (and outrageous insurance premiums), I thought this flashback post from when he got his learner’s permit would be appropriate.

Happy birthday, Jacob! I’m going to give your mama her antidepressants now.

Dads, you should practice the key toss. You know the one I’m talking about: The “We-Just-Walked-Out-Of-The-DMV, I’m-The-Casual-And-Cool-Dad, and Here-You-Go-Son-You-Drive-Us-Home-Because-I-Have-Confidence-You-Won’t-Kill-Us-Today” key toss. I had one chance to get it right, and by golly it was a Kodak moment. I threw well, he caught well, and it’ll remain etched in my memory forever.

Read the entire post here.

It’s that time, boys and girls: time to jump in the wayback machine and dig up a few things from this week’s news…

Canadian Man Excavates His Basement Using R/C Trucks Over Seven YearsFile this under “somebody’s got too much time on their hands.”

Since June of 2005, farmer Joe Murray has been excavating a basement in his home in Saskatchewan Canada using only radio controlled vehicles. Nearly every step of the process is accomplished through R/C – trucks haul excavators to the site, drills and dirt crumblers break down the walls – there’s even a spiral ramp so dump trucks can unload the waste outside. [read more]

Upgrade a Wall Outlet to Charge USB Devices
I want one. Remember, only 224 more shopping days ’till my birthday!

Wouldn’t it be nice to just plug your USB device right into the wall and not have to use the power adapter and take up an outlet? The Wall Plate Charger from RCA that Apartment Therapy mentions is $20 and fits over your wall outlet, adding two USB outlets, but subtracting one standard outlet. [read more]

20 Beautiful Private and Personal Libraries
If you listen closely, you can hear J.D. Greear’s heart stopping.

…we can’t really get enough of gazing lovingly at photographs of books. We know it’s what’s inside that counts, but one simple fact just can’t be avoided: books are beautiful, and they sure do warm up a room — or, in some cases, an entire building. [read more]

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that we spent all last week on the blog talking about the Summit’s Ten Year Anniversary. I know that some of you feel like this Ten Year celebration has actually lasted for ten years. But if you’ll indulge me, one more thing needs to be mentioned.

We have one of the most fun staff cultures of any church I’ve ever seen. If you don’t have a healthy sense of humor, you won’t last long around this joint. (You sort of have to laugh to cope with some of the things you get to deal with in ministry.) We’re a family, and like a family, we trade off a lot of good-natured teasing. We’ve learned that we love each other best when we are poking fun at each other.

That’s why we had such a great time shooting the following video in honor of our lead pastor. J.D. gives us tons of…um…material to work with, and we put that on display on Monday night during a dinner for the “original 300” of the Summit Church.

Editor’s note: the views expressed in this video do not necessarily represent the views of those who would like to keep their jobs.

Boom! Roasted. from Danny Franks on Vimeo.

[special thanks to the incredibly talented Josh Sliffe for putting this together!]

In case I haven’t mentioned it in the last 15 minutes or so, I have a daughter.

A daughter whom I love very much.

A daughter whom I love very much, despite what you might think from what you’re about to read.

A daughter whom I love very much, despite what you might think from what you’re about to read, and who is still cute as a button and her daddy’s princess.

Some friends were visiting from out of town and we stayed awake talking on Friday night until 12:30, which is entirely too late for a man my age. I crashed at about 12:34, and at 1:00, Haven woke up hacking like a seal.

My wife, who gets worried about seal-hacking noises, suggested that we give her a nebulizer treatment. If you’re not familiar with nebulizers, know that it’s something you own if you have children with asthma, as two of our kids have had. Haven doesn’t have asthma, but she has had pneumonia, and her pediatrician told us, “Hey, this is your fourth rodeo. If you think she needs a treatment, I trust you. Give her a treatment. [and don’t call me at 1:00 on a Saturday morning]”

So I very carefully snuck into Haven’s room, very quietly removed her from her bed, tiptoed down the hallway so as not to wake up our company, and gave her the breathing treatment with a machine that sounds like a horde of yellow jackets flying into a wood chipper. By 1:45, I had taken her back to our bed so that she would fall asleep. At 2:00, she still hadn’t stopped coughing, Merriem suggested a second breathing treatment, and so the yellow jackets made a return flight to the chipper.

It was exactly 3/4 of the way through the second breathing treatment that we fully emerged from our post-midnight stupor and realized that the concoction in the breathing treatment was a stimulant.

That we were giving her two doses of.

At 2:30 in the morning.

At that point, Haven came fully alive. She was bouncing around our room like Tom Cruise on Red Bull. She jabbered 90 miles a minute. She sat on my chest and growled like a bear. She put her nose in my face and said DADEEE DADEEE DADEEE DADEEE. If you’re a fan of the classic Homestar Runner website, it was exactly like when Strong Sad got too much caffeine.

Finally at 3:30 AM, I decided that the only thing that would put that kid to sleep was a car ride. (Also a horse tranquilizer, but I was fresh out of those.) And so off we went, driving the streets of Durham in the wee hours of Saturday morning. I saw the inebriated people at Waffle House. I saw the inebriated people at Cook Out. I saw the inebriated people at K-ville.

And Haven saw them too, because she didn’t go to sleep until I finally pulled out the big guns and decided to head south on I-85. She fell asleep just outside of Durham, so I turned the car around and pointed it towards home.

Where she promptly woke up as soon as we turned into the driveway.

And from 4:15 until 5:00 AM, we sat on the couch as she rolled and jumped and bounced and said DADEEE DADEEE DADEEE.

Meanwhile, her DADEEE was quietly cursing the breathing machine and the medicine in the breathing machine and the guy who invented the medicine in the breathing machine.

And suddenly, at 5:00, she said, “Night night?” which is code for, “Father, if you would be so kind to return me to my bed, I shall be happy to go to sleep.”

And she did.

And the next afternoon when she went down for her nap, I crept into her room, peered lovingly over the side of her bed, leaned in close to her sweet angelic face, and yelled HAVEEE HAVEEE HAVEEE just so she’d know what it felt like.*

What’s your “up all night” story? How have your kids made you earn your parenting card? Comment below.

*Just kidding. Although I wanted to. I really, really wanted to.

If you lead a team of one or 1,000, if you lead a team of all-paid or all-volunteer staff, if you lead a team of pastors or pastry chefs, you need to let ’em own it.

Your team will make mistakes. They will have an error. They will fall flat on their face or trip over protocol or stumble over the systems. They’ll miss the budget, miss the meeting, or miss a goal. And when that happens, you need to let them feel the weight of owning their mistake.

Here’s what I mean: if a team member has a job to do and doesn’t do it according to your standard, you shouldn’t go back and do the job for them. You walk beside them, help them to see where they fell short, and let them own the fix.

A couple of years ago I was visiting a church in California whose coffee and refreshment area looked like something out of a Ritz Carlton Sunday brunch. The serving tables were pristine. The coffee and food were constantly topped off. It screamed excellence to every guest who walked through the door.

This team was made up of all volunteers, but it was also led each week by a volunteer. I pulled that guy to the side and said, “What’s your secret? How do you ensure this standard every single week?”

He smiled, reached into a box that was hidden under one of the tablecloths, and pulled out an 8 x 10 laminated photo of an already-set-up table. “This is standard,” he said. “This is the blueprint my team goes by every single week. And if it’s not set up according to this blueprint…if one single Splenda packet is in the wrong place…I track down the set up team and they do it again.”

Now that may sound harsh to you (Having a volunteer re-do a job? Scandalous!), but consider the flip side: what if you were the one to correct every mistake or right every wrong or take an “If it’s gonna be done right, I’ve gotta do it” attitude? You’d never sit down and volunteers would never step up.

As a leader, you have the responsibility to show your team grace, but you also have the right to ask them to meet a standard. Do it as a servant leader. Do it in a way that empowers, not embarrasses. But at the end of the day, let ’em own it.

This week we’ve been talking about the Summit’s 10th and 50th year anniversary here on the blog. During times with our staff team this week, there have been lots of “how did you get here?” questions. We have people who came to our staff as college students, as seminary students, as interns who are now executive pastors, as transfers from another church staff, or as refugees from corporate America.

Here’s my “how did you get here?” story…

…this was where the rubber met the road.  Initial conversations & interviews with Rick and J.D. centered around the idea that this would be a one-year commitment.  I was in my last year of seminary, and I had plans of heading back to Tennessee after graduation.  As the conversations progressed, it became incredibly evident that this would not be a one-year gig.  This would be something to build, to invest in, and to commit to.

In the words of the late, great Paul Harvey, click here for the rest of the story.

Every Thursday we dial back the original content a bit (because let’s face it…Monday through Wednesday ain’t exactly an art walk through the Louvre) and share a little of what I’ve been reading on the side. This isn’t your Piperesque defenses of Trinitarian supremacy or the great works of Chesterton. Nope, you’ll always find three quick articles regarding stuff that’s piqued my interest in the past week. Enjoy…

Wal-Mart, Customer Service, and Your Church. Friend-to-the-Summit and small groups czar Ben Reed speaks my love language  in this post. He nails why we do what we do.

It’s easy to feel like we have more “important things” than helping someone find a different classroom. Or find the welcome desk. Or get information about another ministry. Our role is much “bigger” and more “important” than that…we preach, we lead children’s ministries, and we equip volunteers. We set up hallways, hang banners, and operate the computers. We don’t have time for little things like, “Do you know where the baby dedication happens today? [read more]

Extreme Fliers. This “up in the air” phenomenon has fascinated me for the last couple of years. Do you know anybody who does this? And can anyone tell me why my frequent flier points have only netted me a six-month subscription to Fast Company?

Collecting frequent-flier points also is important, almost like a badge of honor, for these extreme fliers. Many of the travelers here at MegaDo have hundreds of thousands of miles in their accounts. Some say their mileage can be counted in the millions — all of which, of course, can be turned into more travel. [read more]

“Cloud Tsunami” Rolls Over Florida CondosStaying on the topic of flying, this is one oddly beautiful sight…

[see more]

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