January 2014

Good grief. The interwebs have their collective panties in a bunch again this week, and the topic is breakfast cereal.

Perhaps you’ve seen the furor over the upcoming Super Bowl ad featuring a biracial family eating their Cheerios. MSNBC has already had to pull an offensive tweet which suggested that Republicans would be in a tizzy. And Republicans were in a tizzy…over the suggestion that they get weirded out when families don’t look like a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

And I’m sure there will be some armchair quarterback somewhere in the good ol’ USA that will see the commercial on Sunday, and then declare in a Bud Light-induced rant, “That just ain’t nattrul.

The fact that we’re still having these conversations saddens me. As the daddy to a princess and a part of a biracial family, I’m grieved that this is still taking place in my daughter’s world. The new uproar reminded me of the very helpful post by Jemar Tisby when Cheerios aired the first iteration of the biracial family last year.

You can read my entire original post here, if you’re so inclined.


(Remember kiddies, if you’re new to T34A, click on the bold print to see the original article.)

Ravi Zacharias on Postmodern Architecture(via @_MichaelKelley) File this under A for “awwwww snap.”

He said, “This is America’s first postmodern building.”

I was startled for a moment and I said, “What is a postmodern building?”

He said, “Well, the architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind. When the architect was asked, ‘Why?’ he said, ‘If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?’ So he has pillars that have no purpose. He has stairways that go nowhere. He has a senseless building built and somebody has paid for it.”

Who Would Be Surprised? (via @thisissethsblog) If you’re a leader (of employees, of volunteers, of guests, of your family), what are you doing to deliver the goods?

Surprise comes from defying expectations. Sometimes, we have the negative surprises that come from missing those expectations, but in fact, those negative surprises are part of the process of exceeding them… if you’re not prepared to live with a disappointment, you can’t be in the business of seeking delight.

Dad pre-writes over 800 daily notes for his daughter because he’s not going to make it(via @22words) I dare you to make it through this without weeping.

Statistically speaking, Garth has about an 8% chance of surviving another five years. This means the odds of him seeing his daughter Emma graduate from high school are very low.

But he’s not going to let that keep him from being with her through those years…

Since Emma was in second grade, Garth has been writing her little notes for her lunchbox. Whether it’s an encouraging comment or an inspiring quote, Emma always opens her lunch to find her napkin contains a special thought from dad.

And now, since he almost certainly won’t be able continue this tradition with Emma for as long as he’d hoped, Garth has pre-written enough Napkin Notes to get his little girl through high school…


JJ7F7523 copy

This weekend our pastor preached a barn burner on busyness. (If you missed it, you can catch up here.) And at some of our campuses, the “You’re probably doing too much” sermon was followed up by a “You’re probably not doing enough” announcement: attempting to get volunteers to sign up for a weekend ministry.

As the Announcement-Guy-In-Residence at the Brier Creek Campus on Sunday, I found myself on the horns of an ethical dilemma: could I legitimately encourage people to take the opportunity to serve when the vast majority I was talking to were still repenting of their busyness?

The answer: yes. (And not just because I get commission off of each new volunteer that rushes the stage as a result of my mad announcing skillz.) I really believe that there is enough bandwidth in the life of a believer for each of us to use our wiring to serve one another.

But before we get there, let me clarify: I’m not advocating for people who already have 15 ministry activities to take on a 16th. I’m not suggesting that people who are actively ministering in their community during the week should feel guilty because they don’t have an “inside the walls” ministry on the weekend.

No, I’m talking about the believer who isn’t currently, actively serving out of the overflow of their gifts and skill sets. Yes, they may be working 60 hours a week. Yep, they may have a job that keeps their weekend availability a bit unpredictable. But I believe that most Christians – with few exceptions – are wired to serve others, and for that reason, God dispenses grace for those believers to do what he’s wired them to do. Here’s why:

  1. Serving others is a constant reminder that “it’s not about me.” Don’t misunderstand: I believe you can get great personal joy from serving in the nursery or parking cars on a cold winter’s day. But when you do those things, it’s a heart check that the universe doesn’t revolve around you. When you serve, you give up something you love (your comfort and convenience) for something you’ve learned to love even more (the joy of selfless giving in the love of Jesus).
  2. You serve not because the church needs you to, but because you need toPastors are pretty infamous for pleading according to need: “If you don’t sign up to serve in the nursery, we’ll have to toss babies out on the sidewalk.” But that’s just what they teach you in Announcements 101 in seminary. (In reality, very few babies are placed on the sidewalk.) When you serve according to need, you’ll quickly find yourself on a slippery slope of never-ending need. The church was probably okay before you came along, and they’ll likely survive if you never get off your padded pew. No, serve because it’s the way you’ve been wired and it’s a part of your own spiritual growth.
  3. Serving according to your passion can supply energy, rather than drain it. We’ve all served in areas where we weren’t qualified or did it because someone begged us to. And we know how that goes – after a few hours or few weeks or few months we’re ready to chew off our arms to get out of there. But when we serve in a place that matches our passion, gifts, and skill sets, church leadership will have a hard time keeping us from serving.
  4. Serving perpetuates a very important weekend cycle. When you first show up at a church, you rightfully arrive as a consumer. And after a time of getting assimilated to life within the church, you should grow from a consuming taker to a commissioned giver. But here’s the catch: you’re serving those who are arriving in your wake. You are remembering the grace others gave you, and you’re now doling it out to others. And your example can serve to raise up those consumers to one day serve as well.

Are you serving? Is there a place where you’ve determined your gifts and you’re pouring them out to others? Are you following the biblical mandate to serve one another and outdo one another in showing honor? If not, now is the perfect time to get started. If you attend the Summit, you can follow this link for more information. If not, email your pastor today.

Yes, I recognize the irony in having a flashback post that tells you not to look back, but work with me here, people.

Wednesday was a first at our household.  After weeks of begging, I finally relented and let my 12 year old hop on the riding mower and mow the lawn.  I had mowed all the tough parts…he had no trees, no flowerbeds, no sidewalks to maneuver…just one huge rectangular spot of grass.  Up.  Down.  Back.  Forth.  It was simple, really.  I gave him a quick tutorial about how he needed to use the front right tire as a guide.  Watch the tire.  Keep it lined up with the strip that needs to be cut.  Watch the tire.  Watch the tire.  Austin, what did I say?  Watch the tire.  There was no way he could fail.

Read the entire original post here.

Outside-In Approach to Design and ROI of Patient Experiences(via @Zhecho_BeyondP) It’s a long article, but there are nuggets in there well worth the read. What can a hospital’s MRI machine teach you about your weekend guest experience?

Dietz went in and designed an experience to appeal to children and overcome the feeling of “fear”. He and his team created “the adventure series”. Before the child goes to the scanner room, it will be told that it’s about to go on an adventure. Doug’s team then redecorated the room so it looks like the kid is about to step into a “canoe” and to be careful not to “rock the boat” and if it stayed still it may even see fish jumping on top of the boat. The design also made use of other human senses e.g. smell and sound. They injected water and lavender smells in the room and as they had painted a waterfall on the wall they played the distant soft sound of water running which we all know is calming. In a word they designed a complete experience.

Automating Small Decisions(via @trenttsd) Like life hacks? Here’s the reason they work:

…our lives are full of decisions and our minds can only successfully handle so many of them in a given time period. Once we reach that cap, we become more and more subject to “decision fatigue.” The decision making parts of our mind are tired and thus are more susceptible to making errors when making little decisions.

Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow(via @LaughingSquid) Yep…I’m a proud child of the 70’s. And yep…I had one of these. You kids can keep your GameBoxes and XBoys. I’ll take Milky and her milk pills any old day…literally minutes of by-yourself-enjoyment.


(photo credit: David Cosand)

If you need me to do something for you, the best way to get ‘er done is to send me an email. You can send me a text, but it’ll likely get buried and forgotten. You can leave me a voicemail…if you don’t mind waiting a few weeks until I remember that I never did anything with your voicemail. You can have a passing conversation with me in the hallway, drop me a note in the mail, DM me on Twitter, or leave a post-it on my desk, and it might just get done. But nothing is as effective as a request via email.

For all of my digital to do lists and productivity hacks, nothing works as well or is as (almost) foolproof as my inbox. My daily goal is to hit Inbox Zero. And I don’t delete it or move it until I’ve taken some sort of action on it: answer it, put it on my calendar, etc.

So why does that matter?

Well, it doesn’t, if there’s nothing you need from me. But there’s someone you’re going to communicate with today. There’s an “ask” you’ll need to make: be it of a co-worker, a client, a spouse, or a friend. And if you don’t know their preferred communication gateway, your request may be doomed from the beginning.

If you’re a leader, chances are good that different people on your team have different styles. One person may be able to keep up with a random string of text messages; another may be more comfortable with a pad and pen in a face to face meeting. Caring about their preference means you care about their success, so do what it takes to figure it out. It’ll pay off for both of you.

So what’s your preference? Comment below, if you’d like. Just don’t leave me a voicemail.

(photo credit: ComicVine)

(photo credit: ComicVine)

Last Sunday I dropped by a local fast food joint on my way over to the new Blue Ridge Campus. Join me in my flashback, won’t you?

It was roughly 1 PM on a Sunday afternoon. The place was largely deserted, there were less than half a dozen other customers in the building. I was the only one in line when I first walked in. And yet, it didn’t seem like anybody cared that I was there.

I made eye contact with 2-3 employees back in the kitchen and drive through area. And by “eye contact” I mean they stared at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. A couple of them murmured to each other, presumably about the guy in the front that had the audacity to show up at a restaurant at lunch time. Finally, after 45 seconds or so that felt like 45 hours, one of them yelled in the back to some unknown presence, “YOU NEED TO GET UP FRONT.” At that point, I felt like I was in the middle of this old Sinbad stand up routine.

Unknown Presence slowly emerged, half-heartedly taking my order, fumbling over my order, restarting my order because something glitched in my order the first time around. I finally got my food and got out, lest I interrupt any more of their afternoon.

I left the whole experience feeling like I was a burden. It was as though bagging my meal and taking my money was an unfortunate afterthought rather than the core of their existence. In that moment it seemed that everyone put on their uniforms, showed up to work, turned on the ovens, but then failed to realize that the reason for it all was the customer who would eventually walk through the door.

Sadly, we see that too many times in our churches on the weekend. When a guest shows up, they’re going to inherently bring some messiness with them. They’re going to need assistance. They might sit in your seat. They may upset the status quo.

But the guests aren’t the problem.

No, your guests are a large reason your weekend exists. The corporate church gathers to make much of Jesus, yes. But when we gather, we declare something about who Jesus is to the surrounding community. If a guest shows up, they should never feel like a burden. They should be a delight, a welcome addition to the community, an opportunity to put the grace of Jesus on display in their lives.

Churches that are cold and unfriendly…churches that don’t have a plan for “outsiders”…churches that view guests as more of a distraction than a discipleship opportunity…those are churches that have lost sight of why they exist.

People are the mission. They’re not the main thing of your weekend (Jesus fills that role), but they’re the reason that Jesus came. The one you celebrate, the one who came for you, also came for them. The grace of Jesus in our lives dictates that we prepare for our guests and welcome them into the fold.

Are you a pastor? Preacher? Speaker? Ministry leader? Businessman? Marketer? Butcher, baker, candlestick maker?

This may help end the white noise and drill down to the heart of your message:

A unified message cuts through the clutter. A unified message reinforces what someone should do next. A unified message is outrageously simple to understand. We owe it to our people to cut the clutter and make the message clear.

Read the entire original post.

Delight the weird(via @ThisIsSethsBlog) How does this apply to the “overlooked and outsiders” that visit your church on the weekend?

…it’s not everyone who wants a cup of coffee. Some want a cup of tea, or a cup of herbal tea, and those folks are used to being ignored, or handed an old Lipton tea bag, or something boring.

What if you had thirty varieties for them to choose from?

Dear “Daddy” in Seat 16C(via @GoTeamKate) I wanna be like this guy when I grow up.

You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat.  You could have ignored her.  You could have given me that ‘smile’ that I despise because it means; ‘manage your child please.’  You did none of that.  You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles.  She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored by you that she keep eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about.  I watched and smiled.  I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it.

Man famous for dancing with raccoon is running for governor of Tennessee(via @22words) I love my home state. Anybody remember Basil Marceaux?

(photo credit: Mike McKee)

(photo credit: Mike McKee)

You’re looking at a picture of this morning’s kickoff of the 2014 Connections Cohort. To give some context, last year we started a monthly meeting of anyone who’s paid to to Connections Ministry at the Summit: full time, part time, interns, First Impressions, Starting Point, whatever…if they got a check, we met. We discussed guest services and assimilation philosophy, theory, best practices: you know, heady, nerdy stuff that would make the average mortal cry bitter tears (in between dozing off from boredom).

But as year one wrapped up, we decided that the collaboration didn’t need to stop there. So not only are the paid folk continuing to meet monthly, we started another group and invited 1-2 “high capacity volunteers” (HCVs) from these ministries at each campus. This group began a nine month journey this morning that will serve to infuse them with the guest services DNA of the Summit. They’re already great at their craft…now they’re going to move from practitioner to visionary.

It’s not a light ask, by any means. We’re asking them to show up once a month…at 6:30 AM. We’re asking for 90 minutes of intense focus and conversation. We’re asking them to roll in late to work or school on those mornings. We’re asking them to read a book a month and show up ready to rock. And we’re asking them to drip this vision on down the line to the volunteers on their team and the people in their circle.

But in the end, it’s going to be worth it. So worth it. Even this morning as I watched the room come alive with discussion and saw the lights come on in their minds, I knew that we’d just scratched the surface of what God could accomplish through a team of willing, humble, servant-hearted volunteers. As conversations went on and one “aha” moment catapulted into another, I knew that they were taking their weekend task to a newer, deeper level. They were learning not only what hospitality looks like from a corporate worship standpoint, but how that translates into their Monday through Friday lives as well.

This is part of what it means to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. This is part of giving them the tools they need to serve well and to put the gospel on display in a huge way. This is what it means to replicate ministry, person by person, team by team, campus by campus.

Do you have a cohort? For years, I didn’t. For years, I received knowledge through books and mentoring and conferences and networks, but didn’t do anything to replicate that knowledge in others. But now I know what was missing. I know how I was squandering the things that God had generously shared with me. And by the way: lest you think that this is a 90 minute information dump where one guy lectures a room full of people, I was able to sit back this morning and listen to these incredibly wise men and women teach one another and learn from one another while I was able to learn from them. It was indeed the body being the body.

What does this look like in your context? Maybe you’re not a ministry leader, but you are a business leader. Who are you raising up? Maybe you won’t gather 17 people, but could you invite one to sit down over a cup of coffee and a good book? Where are you replicating the gifts God has given you?

I’d love to hear your model and where you’ve seen success. Comment below.

Next Page »