May 2013

Jumpin’ in the wayback machine in 3…2…

My wife loves me.

I want to tell you that right up front, because based on what you’re about to read, you’re going to question it. You’ll think that your pastor blogger friend needs immediate marriage counseling and/or a protective order, and it just ain’t so. She loves me. I’m confident she does.

At least…I’m pretty sure.

Merriem is a preschool teacher, and at their preschool they have “secret pals.” That’s a term that means “additional frou-frou items often containing polka dots show up at my house every few weeks.” The way it works is: at the beginning of the year all the teachers draw names, and then several times throughout the year they leave gifts. In my wife’s case, it’s usually pink, and it’s usually fraught with polka dots, because that’s how she rolls.

Read the entire post.

The Baptist men, they’re going to get it done tomorrow. (via @DennyBurk) The first church I served had a big-time Disaster Relief Ministry. Dick Staggs could cook eggs on a modified hubcap like nobody’s business.

38 signs you’re from North Carolina. (via Buzzfeed) I wasn’t born here, but man do I identify with a lot of these. (Notably #29.)

29. You know the Cook Out Tray is the best deal. Ever.

You know the Cook Out Tray is the best deal. Ever.

Cook Out is usually open pretty late. So you know it is not only a good deal, but fantastic after-bar food (you can get a corn dog as a side!).

It’s not about the nail. (via Laughing Squid) Oughta be required watching for every engaged couple. Hilarious.

Yesterday was a hard day.

Several weeks ago, I signed up as a volunteer proctor at Jacob & Austin’s school. The sales pitch was that parents were needed to hang out in the rooms during end of grade testing to make sure ne’er do wells didn’t cheat and that the teachers read the state-mandated testing instructions word-for-flippin-word (“Please make sure you have a no. 2 pencil. If you do not have a no. 2 pencil, I will provide one for you if you raise your hand. No, not your right hand. Your left hand. And you must raise it at a 45 degree angle. What do you mean you don’t know what a 45 degree angle is? This is an end of grade test for geometry, you moronic imbecilic children.”)

I thought that it would be an easy way to volunteer, to give back, to get involved, to sit in a quiet room for three hours and read a good book or maybe play on The Twitter, glancing up occasionally to make sure the kiddies weren’t passing notes or constructing pipe bombs.

But no. Fast forward to yesterday morning, when I showed up for my proctoring orientation. Here are the proctoring rules, in no particular order:

  1. You may not read a book.
  2. You may not play on The Twitter.
  3. You may not do anything except pace around the room mindlessly for three no four no FOUR AND A HALF hours staring off into space and believing you’re going to go out of your ever-loving mind because you’ve never ever been this bored and thanking the sweet Lord above that you no longer have to take math exams because dadgummit those questions look hard.
  4. Oh, and we may pull a very sneaky bait and switch and put you with eighth graders.

That’s right. Apparently there’s a middle school attached to my high schoolers place of education. I signed up believing I would work with high schoolers, who have gotten to the point in their lives where their brain has re-developed and they don’t smell like a mixture of cheese fries and Axe body spray. But no. I was assigned to an EIGHTH GRADE CLASSROOM. Which was partially filled with EIGHTH GRADE BOYS. Who, as everyone knows, cease to be a productive member of society until the aforementioned brain re-develops.

Before you write angry comments, you should know that I’ve owned a couple of eighth grade boys. In another few years I’ll have another eighth grade boy living under my roof. And if anything I’ve said so far rubs you the wrong way, you need to go out and meet an eighth grade boy and then instead of writing angry comments you’ll nominate me for president, because you realize the vast and copious amounts of wisdom that is contained in my skull.

But I digress. I walked toward the insane asylum eighth grade boy classroom, praying that I wouldn’t get shoved into a locker or given a swirlie or any other thing that may or may not have happened to me in eighth grade. And as I entered, my worst fears came true: the eighth grade boys were indeed still there and had not been shipped off to a detention facility.

Watching the poor teacher try to distribute exams and read testing instructions was somewhat like watching a young butterfly trying to bring order to a pack of rabid hyenas. The eighth grade boys asked stupid questions. They made stupid noises. They acted out stupid motions. They did stupid things.

And because I distinctly remembered the fine print in the proctoring instructions that warned me against the use of tazers, I sat there helplessly.

But finally, the teacher got it through their thick skulls that if any of the testing rules (no talking, no cheating, no hand to hand combat with the test proctor) were violated, it would be considered a “misadministration” of the exam and they’d have to come back to retake it, the hooligans finally settled down and began filling in their dots.

And so, for the next several hours, I paced. I walked. I watched. I fell asleep standing up. I read every single poster on the wall (If You Can Believe It, You Can Achieve It!). I counted the planks in the floor (82). I felt my outlawed phone buzzing in my pocket, alerting me to life that was being lived and live-texted by friends outside the walls.

And I realized that – out of all the unenviable jobs in the world – middle school teachers have to rank at the very top. Here’s a formula for how we should set middle school teachers’ salaries: Take what they’re currently making. Multiply it by 20. Double that. Add $100,000 to it. And whatever answer you come up with ought to cover the first year of their therapy bills for their PTSD treatment.

Finally, the last kid finished the exam. But because we had to follow state-mandated instructions, the kids still had to sit there quietly. Which – if you know eighth grade boys – means that they certainly did not sit there quietly. So for another hour, the teacher and I pretended to maintain control, even though we both knew that at any minute these wild children could overtake the room, haul us off to the biology lab, and disassemble our persons and sell the parts on E-Bay.

At the end of my shift, the teacher thanked me for my time. And then he very innocently asked, “So are you back with us tomorrow?”

I’ve never run so fast in all my life.

Other posts you might enjoy:

I own a 14 year old entrepreneur.

Well, “entrepreneur” may be too nice of a word. “Con artist,” “swindler,” “shyster” … those are the words that more accurately describe my – ahem – entrepreneur.

Austin has launched several money making ventures in the past: dog walking, lemonade selling, propane tank painting (hey, there’s a market for it)…but none has the profit margin contained in ripping off his little brother.

Read the entire post here.

You say, “This is a lazy man’s way of writing a blog post.” I say, “This is the way of a flippin’ GENIUS.”

How to set yourself up for a productive day(via @MichaelHyatt) Ah, if only I could get into this routine. Except for that “exercise clothes” thing. Let’s not get crazy.

In my experience, the best way to ensure a productive day is to set myself up for one the night before. This gives me a chance to make sure I do the most important things first.

Even if my day gets hijacked—and sometimes it does—I’ve achieved my most important tasks. I structure everything around this.

Here are five strategies I use to set myself up for the most productive day possible:

Summer lovin’(via @DurhamMag) I’m gonna do a few of these this summer. I love me some Dirty D.

There are plenty of free movie and concert series to keep the little ones entertained:Brightleaf Square concerts; Duke Performances’ Music in the Gardens at Duke Gardens; Third Friday concerts; Center Stage at American Tobacco CampusRock the Park movie and concert series at various Durham parks; and the new Downtown Durham Inc.Find Your Cool concert series at CCB Plaza.

A young student describes what it takes to be a good teacher(via TwentyTwoWords) I’ll hand it to the kid: he’s got relational smarts.


Sometimes we get so caught up in the constant barrage of ministry that we forget to pull back and have fun with the people we do ministry with.

One of the sure-fire ways to push a team to the limit and make sure you’re barreling towards burnout is to never take time to celebrate each other.

A couple of weeks ago our staff got away for a couple of days to simply rest. That doesn’t sound very spiritual, but perhaps it’s the most spiritual thing we could have done with and for each other. We hung out together, ate together, played Minute to Win It together, and laughed together. It’s not that I didn’t like our staff before the retreat, it’s just that I like them all a lot better now. And in turn, I like the task that’s ahead a lot better, too.

One of our Saturday night First Impressions teams goes out to dinner together after they finish serving. Every. Saturday. Night. There’s probably not a team at our church that’s much tighter than that one. We have teams that’ll take in a Durham Bulls game together, teams that catch the latest movies together, and teams that simply gather together to enjoy each other’s families.

Ministry is high-stakes enough without adding a level of 24 hour grim-faced seriousness to it. Trust me, those who laugh together typically last together.

How can you play with your team today?

Over the last couple of months I’ve read two or three books that just happened to mention the Reticular Activating System. [Pause whilst I attempt to sound smart.] The RAS is the network of nuclei in our brains that controls our awareness and attention. It seems that when one stimulating factor activates our RAS, it begins to recognize and categorize similar things around us. We start to take notice (maybe even obsessive focus) of things we’ve never stopped to think about before, like a certain song on the radio…or a certain model car on the road…or a certain network of nuclei called the Reticular Activating System in two or three books we happen to read.

See what I mean?

The guys in lab coats seem to think that we can train our RAS. We can choose the things that move to the forefront of our minds. The things that get a filter, get our focus.

Before I start to sound like a certain shiny-toothed televangelist, let me ‘splain how this can really work to our advantage: we can train our RAS to function on behalf of our guests on the weekend. We can filter our environment in order to focus our brains on what needs to be seen:

  • That little piece of trash that needs to be removed from the sidewalk.
  • That squeaky auditorium door that needs to get a shot of WD-40.
  • That greeter who has made an art form out of mumbling and avoiding eye contact.
  • That outdated signage that needs to be replaced. This week.

Being excellent at delivering on great guest services is part art, part science. But it’s an art that can be developed. And while it doesn’t happen overnight, you can filter your focus and start making improvements this weekend.

So what do you need to focus on?


I’m a man with exquisite tastes. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve been known to polish off a bag of chips that are well past the expiration date. And also, I view high dining as anything related to the words “Dollar Menu.” So disregard my first sentence.

But I am a man with a few preferences. As in, most of the time I think that things done my way are the best way. And so do you, most of the time. But some of the time, our preferences are wrong. (Insert Scooby Doo-style flashback music here)

Preferences aren’t right or wrong, they just are. As long as you’re not violating scripture or common courtesy, you can shape a service or a congregation just about any way you’d like. And it’s natural that the longer a pastor is at a church, the more that church will look similar to his personal bent. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but the question is: do your preferences represent the majority?

Read the entire post.

Ten ways to pastor adoptive parents and those considering adoption. As a daddy who has adopted, and a guy who pastors adoptive families, this article is spot on.

The majority of adoptions are filled with great highs and great lows.

There are often many tears shed due to failed placements and other setbacks. There is also unparalleled joy in being matched with your child and bringing them home.

Do what you can to enter into their experience. Embody the compassion and empathy of Christ in the hard times and magnify the joy of the Father in the celebration.

Everybody picks up the trash. Bob Adams shares one of my favorite Disney stories from his recent behind-the-scenes tour of the park.

In the Disney organization, there is an inner value of ownership that goes beyond every Cast Member picking up trash when they see it. It gets back to never saying, “It’s not my job.” This Takeaway is not about trash, although that is important.

It’s about everyone being involved in your organization, from bottom to top. It’s about creating priorities, about being a part of a team that demonstrates care, no matter what your role is.

Comedian Tig Notaro gives Conan O’Brien dry-witted lessons in remaining present. This is pretty hilariously profound (and Bull City gets a shout at the end).

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

I just finished re-reading Nelson Searcy’s Fusion. It’s one of the top five books I recommend to anyone who is trying to refine the ministry of guest services / assimilation / first impressions / general all-around niceness at their church.

One quote in particular grabbed me:

The first time my wife and I went to a Broadway show, we saw the value of a good usher in action. From the moment we entered the theater, we were literally ushered to our seats. If you’ve ever experienced Broadway, you know the drill: The usher who scans your ticket points you toward the correct entrance…there is another usher who points you toward the correct aisle, where there is yet another usher who walks you directly to your row and motions to your seats. In that first Broadway experience, we knew that as long as we had our ticket in hand for the ushers to see, they would do all the work. We were along for the ride. That’s usher service. [emphasis mine]

Can your guest services team compare to that? Do you do the heavy lifting for your guest before they ever arrive? Do you think through the bottlenecks, the points of confusion, the moments of anxiety, the transitions from one environment to another? Do you have a plan for getting a first timer from the street to the seat and back to the street?

Yes, we want to make outsiders insiders and turn people loose to be a fully-functioning member of the body. But until that time, how easy do you make it for your guests?

Can you really say they’re along for the ride?

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