April 2012

I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t have two dozen witnesses.

I was at a lunch last weekend with my two oldest sons and a small army of friends from our First Impressions Team. We were at a local fast food joint on Sunday afternoon at about 1:30, recapping the day and making plans for the weeks ahead. I was engrossed in the conversation and didn’t notice the bus at first, but one of my boys did.

It was a charter bus, obviously carrying a sports team from a college in Somewheresville, USA. They had wandered off I-40 in search of lunch, and stopped at the one where we were eating, roughly a mile from the interstate exit.

According to my son and a few members of our First Impressions Team, a couple of folks behind the counter got a nervous look in their eyes as they spotted the bus. Then the team’s advance scout hopped off the bus, stepped into the restaurant, and grinned, “Can you handle a busful?”

It wasn’t a question as much as it was a heads up. The guy was trying to be polite and let the manager know that their profit margin was about to be nicely padded on an otherwise slow Sunday afternoon.

But the guy’s heads up got an answer instead. A very firm answer. And it was one that surprised all of us:


No, we can’t handle your bus.

No, we’re not interested in the extra business.

No, we weren’t prepared for you. We turned on the lights and opened the doors and fired up the grill, but you’ll have to go somewhere else. We’re open for business, but not necessarily that much business.

And with that, an entire charter bus full of hungry athletes was sent out to find an alternative lunch spot. My meal was just north of six bucks. If you multiply that by a 60 passenger bus, that’s nearly $400 that also drove out of the parking lot. But beyond the financial cost, that “no” spoke volumes of the restaurant’s preparation and their ability to serve people.

The point is, they had to know the bus was coming. Maybe not that bus, but a bus. On some day in their operating calendar, they had to know that a charter bus would pull up and they’d have to implement plan B. All hands on deck, fire up the extra fryer, open up an extra register, ask a couple of people to work a few minutes of overtime.

And yet, they weren’t.

And our churches aren’t either.

On the weekend, what’s your bus? What is the thing that you know is coming, that you should be prepared for, but you never are? Is it the fall attendance surge? The monsoon Sunday when the parking lot turns into a swimming pool? The icy sidewalks on the first snow of December? What are the things that you’ve experienced before, but haven’t allowed experience to teach you?

The bus is coming. What are you doing to accommodate it?


Yet another sub-standard customer service experience yesterday made me think of this post. What are your worst customer experiences? Comment below.

Being a customer service hero doesn’t take any extraordinary skills, but it does take engagement. Look people in the eye. Let your conversation rise beyond “You want fries with that?” Smile, for Pete’s sake.

If you work at a fast food joint and can’t engage with the customer, request a job in the kitchen.

If you answer telephones and can’t engage with the person on the other end of the line, switch to a data entry job.

To read the full post, click here.

Good stuff. Bite sized.

Global Food Disparity. A Photo Diary. Absolutely stunning. Thanks to my friend Jason Luna for the link.

Traveling to 24 countries, from Greenland, Chad, and Japan to Germany, Guatemala, and the United States, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio photographed 30 families accompanied by a careful display of a week’s worth of food. Chronicling the enormous differences in eating habits between industrial and developing countries, each section includes a family portrait, along with their groceries, and a listing of how much was spent in each food group. [read more]

When You’re Constantly Checking Your Email, You’re Putting Your Needs Behind Everyone Else’sUm. Hello, me.

Chances are you’ve got a few tasks you plan to complete during the day, ranging from pieces of a project at the office to folding laundry at home. When you stop what you’re doing to look at your email, you’re putting a priority on what other people want from you. You’re making the tasks in your life less important by constantly checking to find out what everyone else needs. [read more]

If You Think That’s What We Want, Why Don’t You Give It To UsAs usual, a great post by Seth Godin.

Marketing pitches are finely tuned to resonate with the audience in mind. Too often, though, the marketer is only in charge of the pitch, and someone else in the organization has to make the thing. [read more]

There’s a possibility that I’m about to tell you a story that I’ve told you before. But I’m a pastor and that’s allowed.

When I was in 8th grade, the band director from the local high school came to our middle school cafeteria for a meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to determine musical ability and potentially recruit a new tuba player or xylophone dancer or whatever other kind of hot item instrumentalist he needed for that fall’s band season.

We were forced to take a music aptitude test. I don’t remember much about it, except it specifically didn’t include questions about the lyrics from Michael Jackson’s Thriller album (which I would have dominated, by the way). What I do remember is that I never got a callback. Never was asked to consider donning a Giles County High School woolen band uniform and workin’ it with the Marching Bobcats. Never asked to play a single note. Not then. Not now. Because apparently I stunk at all things instrumental.

And for me, that was the day the music died.

I tell you this very vulnerable story of my middle school emotional wounds, because that makes the fact that I was asked to do a CD review all the more special. Here’s my official review of Jesus In My Place, the brand new worship album being released by the Summit:

It has songs.

They are awesome.

You should buy it.

That’s the review. I’m not going to give you any pretentious musical snobbery like “Track four carries melodious harmonies that evoke a crisp fall day and finish with an acidic aftertaste of luscious melons and gingersnap cookies.” What does that even mean? Nope, this is just pure and simple good music, by good friends and worship leaders at the Summit. This is like carrying a weekend worship experience on your iPod. You want Matt Papa in your pocket? Here’s your chance. Sam Fisher Jr. playing the bass in your passenger seat? You got it. Kaimy Masse wailing it as you hang out in carpool line? You’re welcome.

So here’s the skinny: this Sunday night, April 29, Summit Worship will host a special Night of Worship celebrating the CD release at our Brier Creek Campus. CDs will be available at the event, even before the record is publicly released on May 1. Boom. Here’s a little sumpin’ sumpin’ video our team put together. And yes, the Night of Worship will be even more amazing than this video, if you can imagine that.

Check out summitrdu.com/jesusinmyplace for more info and a sneak preview of the record, and follow @SummitWorship on Twitter to receive updates and exclusive content.

And watch for me on Sunday, because the Xylophone Dancing sounds like a cool idea and I know how to sneak backstage.

Stuff I’ve been digging over the last seven days…all in one place for your hyperlinked pleasure:

A Challenge for Dads on the Way Home TodayMichael Kelley is the real deal. If you’re a working father (and that shouldn’t be an oxymoron), this’ll be the best piece you’ll read today.

…the temperament of your wife and your kids is going to be altered in some way upon your arrival. It might be that you’ve had a hard day, and you want nothing more than to sit down and watch the news because, after all, you’ve earned it. It might be that you’ve been missing your family all day and you’ll bring laughter and joy with you. Whatever the case, you’re going to bring something. [read more]

Want More Volunteers? One of our sister churches here in the Triangle is raising the volunteer bar. Here’s how…

On the Kid’s Ministry webpage, they have very clearly listed out all the ministry roles. They communicate which roles have vacancy’s as well as what roles are filled. In addition to a list of roles, they’ve included job descriptions for each role so a potential volunteer can determine which role is their best fit. Lastly, they’ve listed the staff/volunteer process along with providing their ministry application/background check form. They’ve made it into a 5 step process, making it so easy to volunteer and know what to do next. [read more]

Top 10 Awesome Things You Can Do With the Underused Gadgets You Already OwnI’m enough of a nerd that I think this is incredible. I’m not enough of a do-it-yourselfer that I’ll ever actually do it.

What can you do with a dead hard drive? A lot, apparently. For example, you can turn it into a laser light show projector, make a steampunk clock, or turn it into a smartphone stand. Hard drives, even when dead, always seem like such a substantial thing to throw away. Instead, just make something cool and let it’s spirit live on against the wall, on your desk, and in your heart. [read more]

Regular readers of this blog know that there’s nothing necessarily regular about this blog. Some days we talk about Bibley things, some days we talk about family things, some days we talk about guest servicey things.

But today we talk about productivity things. So here’s your fair warning, free spirits! This post will make your collective heads explode. Go back to sniffing daisies or petting puppies or running through fields of cotton candy or whatever it is you do. The nerds need to talk for a minute. Or 186 seconds, depending on your reading & comprehension speed.

If you’re a leader who tends to run regularly recurring events, you need an event template. Weekly events are one thing: you get into the rhythm of planning a weekend service, and you can typically do it with your eyes closed (worship pastors do that all the time, it makes ’em look holy).

But when it comes to a not-so-weekly event, you need a template in place to keep you from reinventing the wheel and wasting time. Our First Impressions Team for our monthly Equip Leadership Forum is one example of how we pull that off. Away we go…

  1. We usually depend on our paid pastors and staff to run the First Impressions Team for Equip events. Because we have to get to be here anyway, and because we want to allow our people to fully engage in the event, ministry heads and interns will often serve alongside each other on the Parking Team, the Entry Door Teams, etc.
  2. Ahead of the event I’ll sit down with Eric Stortz, the director of Equip, to ask event-specific questions. What venues will be used? How many attendees do you expect? What breakouts occur (and where) after the main sessions? All of those questions help determine the types of teams and how many people we’ll need to serve.
  3. A monthly invitation goes out to all staff, inviting them to serve on one of the First Impressions or Summit Kids teams. We push all sign ups to an online form that is generated by our database.
  4. A couple of days before the event, I’ll pull names from the form and start plugging them into the team roster. The roster needs are put together based on the answers in #2 above. On the roster, I’ll typically have first level teams: those that must be staffed, and second level teams: those that would be a nice touch if we have enough people.
  5. I assign team leader roles to the especially awesome staff members (defined as anyone I think will say “Yes”), and send them the Equip First Impressions Playbook. This is a quick-glance guide that helps certain student pastors understand their job for the evening (I use small words). Those team leaders are then responsible to disseminate that info to their team members.

And at that point, it’s all gravy. Staff members show up, they serve, and the events generally go off without a hitch.

Templates are processes that need to be tweaked frequently, but again, the wheel is not being reinvented on a regular basis.

So what about you? Where do you need a ministry template? Better yet, where are you already using one? Share the goodies and comment below.

I’ve been hanging out a lot in Exodus lately, which is undoubtedly one of my favorite books of the Bible. Behind 1 Timothy. But ahead of Malachi. Maybe tied with Genesis. Definitely more attention grabbing than Leviticus.

I love Exodus because of the narrative, the drama, the view of a sovereign God who would stop at nothing to direct the hand of a Pharoah and the feet of a nation. I love it because of the rich history that’s unpacked around God’s chosen people. I love it because I hear Charlton Heston’s voice every time Moses speaks, and Steve Martin’s voice every time the Egyptian magicians throw down.

But what I read this morning was a great reminder for me, and maybe a great one for you. Picture it: the Hebrews are exactly 27 minutes on the outskirts of Egypt. Their feet hurt. Their stomachs are growling. One of them realized he forgot his phone charger back in Cairo. And the grumbling began:

“What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:11-12)

When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” (15:23-24)

“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (16:3)

Fear. Thirst. Hunger. Those three things and more were the perfect recipe for the Hebrews to get their bathrobes in a wad and start to speak out against their leadership.

And Moses felt that burden.

And so do you.

I have friends in the ministry who have been on the receiving end of the grumbling for years. I know guys who found themselves without a job because they made risky ministry decisions like moving the announcements to the end of the service, installing a video projector in the auditorium, or (gasp!) encouraging the church to share the gospel in their community. I realize that here at the Summit, we are privileged to enjoy a surprisingly grumble-free zone. But I know many of you don’t.

So you need to hear what Moses said. This is what I read this morning. And this is what I hope will be an encouragement to you:

“…the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.” (16:8)

Your grumbling is not against us.

Oh, it feels like it. It feels like that deacon or that Sunday School teacher or that charter member will never allow you to lead. But they’re not grumbling against you.

It feels like the mom of that 7th grader or the WMU president or the disgruntled choir director wants your head on a platter. But they’re not grumbling against you.

If you’re following God’s voice…if you’re acting on his word…if you’re leading according to your calling…if you’re humbly aligning yourself to the plans that God has laid out for you…then they’re not grumbling against you. They’re grumbling against God.

It’s his battle. Not yours.

Now serve that way.

On the fifth day I kick back and pull up something from the archives. Here’s today’s contribution:

Since you have three sons, what are you doing to make sure your sons don’t grow up to be wimpy pansies?

Let’s get one thing straight: I’ll never be mistaken for the Brawny paper towel man.  I can’t grow facial hair, I don’t carry an ax, and the idea of running fifty yards to score the game winning touchdown makes me want a nap (I don’t think Brawny man plays football, but you get the drift).  That said, I think we rip our kids off when we neuter their gender-specific identities and don’t teach them how to be men (or women) from a young age.  No, I wasn’t the guy that freaked out if my kid was playing with his girl cousin’s baby stroller (Two years old?  Okay.  12 years old?  Not so much.).  But I believe that Merriem and I have a responsibility to raise our young men to be men.

Read the entire post here.

The Quietest Place On Earth Will Drive You Insane Within 45 MinutesOkay. I don’t want to go insane. Can I stay in there for 44?

‘When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. ‘In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.’ And this is a very disorientating experience. [read more]

Ten Things You Can Learn From The Apple Store. More evidence that the product isn’t just about the product, it’s about the experience.

Hire for smiles. The soul of the Apple Store is in its people. They are hired, trained, motivated and taught to create magical and memorable moments for their customers. The Apple Store values a magnetic personality as much, if not more so, than technical proficiency. The Apple Store cares less about what you know than it cares about how much you love people. [read more]

Caine’s Arcade: Boy Creates Cardboard Wonder, And Grown Men CryIf you haven’t seen this viral video yet, I promise you this is the best 11 minutes you’ll spend on the interwebs today. Promise.

Since school started back up, Caine’s Arcade is only open on weekends, when Caine gets out his turquoise Caine’s Arcade T-shirt that he designed himself. It says “staff” on the front and “Caine’s Arcade” on the back.

Caine charges $1 for four turns at the arcade, but for $2 you can get a handmade fun pass that allows you 500 turns for one month.

When you win a game, Caine will climb inside the box and push tickets out a slot. The prizes include his old matchbox cars, silly sunglasses and bubbles. [read more]

18 services. 8,036 in attendance. 181 baptisms. One amazing God.

And the gospel in four words: Jesus in my place.

[photo credit: Blair Graham]

[photo credit: Kimberly Naranjo]

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