June 2014


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Over the last few days I’ve been hanging my proverbial hat in Southeast Asia, spending some time with a couple of our different teams who are engaging with local people groups. I’ve traveled a decent amount over the years, but there are certain situations you’re just never totally prepared for:

  • Octopus. The more you chew, the bigger it gets.
  • Seeing a tall white person in a country full of non-tall, non-white people. I’m a white person. I shouldn’t freak out that much. But I do. Oh, I do.
  • “No seriously, where’s the toilet paper. WHERE.IS.THE.TOILET.PAPER?!?”

But one of the common shocks to my system is being in a spot where signs – if they exist at all – simply don’t help. Maybe they’re not in my native language. Maybe they don’t point anywhere in particular. Maybe they’re in my language and point somewhere, but that “somewhere” moved decades ago.

Such was the case last week, when I had an eight hour layover in Istanbul and decided to explore the old city. Nothing helps you stretch your legs and forget a cramped airplane seat more than overpriced tourist baklava and a quick pass of the Hagia Sophia. So I jumped on the metro out of the airport, carefully followed the rail map as well as the advice of a trusted friend, and headed to my transfer point several kilometers away.

Only this was no ordinary transfer point. This was a transfer where I had to get off the train go up the stairs walk across a plaza go into a tunnel go down some stairs walk under a city street maneuver my way through a bazaar go back up some stairs walk across another plaza hang a right hang a left hit another street crossing and discover that I wasn’t looking for a train station at all, but an above ground rail car.

Easy enough, right?

Once I realized that the very friendly and helpful metro janitor didn’t have any ESL classes under his belt (“T Line?” / “Yes!” / “Is it this way?” / “Yes!” / “Or do I go this other way?” / “Yes!” / “We’re not getting anywhere in this conversation, are we?” / “Yes!”) , I figured I was on my own. So I did what all good American males do: I wandered. I crossed streets. Walked through tunnels. Retraced my steps. Read the signs more carefully. Stopped for ice cream. Crossed more streets. Walked the same four city blocks for about 50 minutes until I finally had a flash of insight and figured out exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

And the whole time, I was forced to think about the experience of our guests when they come into our cross cultural context on the weekend. Do our signs mean something? Are they in a common language, or do they point to MSSGs and Xtreme and The Zone and other ministry areas with catchy titles, but no context?

And perhaps most importantly, do we depend on signs as the primary method of wayfinding for our guests, or do we recognize that signs don’t replace people, and stregthen the signs with outwardly-focused, guest-driven volunteers?

Here’s the thing: three hours later I traveled the same route. I took the same trains. I made the same stops and maneuvered the same transfer. Only this time, I did it with an “I’ve been here before” sort of confidence. How much easier would it have been if I’d had a personal guide to get me where they knew I needed to go?

You need a sign. Your guests need a sign. But don’t depend on your signs as the end-all, be-all. Beef ’em up with great people to reduce the anxiety and heighten the experience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish chewing this octopus.

If you lead a ministry, there’s a little something extra that will lavish grace on those you’re reaching. If you manage a team, there’s a way you can interact that will build cohesion. If you’re raising kids, there are tiny touches that will make lifelong memories out of otherwise mundane moments.

The key is to figure out the tiny tweak that will set your specialty apart. Sharon Al-Doost did. If you’ve never heard of Sharon, you should. She’s better known as the Lunch Lady, and every day she sings and jokes her way through the menu on her cafeteria’s phone line. Stop what you’re doing right now and call her: (510) 351-7654.

No seriously. Call her. Now. I’ll wait. And you’ll thank me and add her to your speed dial and call her up every once in a while just to check in.

Read the entire original post.

Find a common thread to tie unrelated jobs to your career plans. (via @Lifehacker) This article was the impetus for Monday’s post, Don’t Waste Your Day Job. If you’re working a job that’s not necessarily your dream, you need to read this:

Whether you worked retail, then helped a friend start a corner store, and delivered pizza at night, and now you’re going in for an office job, you can highlight how retail helped you learn to work with difficult people, how building that store from scratch got you familiar with the pace and stress of a fledgling, startup business, and how delivering pizzas at night taught you a thing or two about dedication and off-hours work.

 

How to set up your desk: an introduction. (via @MattPerman) God bless the What’s Best Next guy. Matt makes me feel better about being obsessed over stuff like this. Fellow org nerds, unite.

I don’t want to say here that there is only one right way to set up your desk. There are some pretty tricky situations given the setups that are often thrust upon us, such as odd-shaped cubicles or, if we have an office, uncooperative room layouts. And personal preference also plays a huge role as well.

The problem I found, though, is that these factors lead many to give the advice of “just do what works for you.” Which really gives no guidance at all. The result, I found, was that I had to think about my desk a lot more than I wanted.

 

Guy covers “All By Myself” during an insanely long layover. (via @22words) This will make you rethink your next night alone at the airport.

Think about the things that end up on your to do list every day: there are emails to answer, phone calls to return, a hundred little tasks that compete for your attention, and probably a half dozen major projects that need your focus.

Out of all of those things, what’s on the list that only you can do? What are the things that most need your brain, your vision, your passion, influence, and direction?

For years I’ve struggled with trying to do it all…doing things that I’m not great at, but doing them anyway because I’m s’posed to. Thankfully, God has surrounded me with a great team who know when I’m operating out of my zone. I have an administrative assistant who is gutsy enough to say, “You stink at that. Let me handle it.”

And because people on my team do what they do, they free me to do what do.

So what’s on your to do list that you don’t need to do?

And what’s on the “do what only you can do” list?

When you figure that out, you begin to operate out of the giftings that God has given you. Crank up your “you do” list today.

 

For more on this subject, read the helpful and handy little book The Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley.

KL 3Over the last few months our family has charged headlong into a series of firsts. Our oldest, Jacob, has naturally been the one to break us in on the first-time parents thing in just about everything he’s done over the last 18 years: teething. Walking. Kindergarten. Drivers license. High school graduation just over three weeks ago.

And last week: sent.

We use the S word a lot around the Summit. We talk about sending our best. We want to plant a thousand churches in forty years. Pastor J.D. encourages college students to give their first two years after graduation to ministry, unless God specifically tells them no (we call that “the Mormonization of the Christian church”).

So when our Student Pastor Jason Gaston approached me last year about involving Jacob in an immersive overseas summer project, I couldn’t necessarily lock my kid in his room and hope that the bug didn’t bite.

On Thursday, we put him on a bus that started a 40 hour journey to the Southeast Asian city that he and seven other Summit students will call home for the next four weeks. The eight of them plus two leaders will spend a month building relationships, looking for opportunities to share their stories, and engaging university students in everyday life.

Proud? Yep. (I’m a dad. That’s my job.) But this transcends the “You got an A” / “You won the game” / “You’re a special snowflake” kind of pride. This is a pride that’s broken on a foundation of gratitude: gratitude for a God who’s a better Father than I could ever be. Gratitude for his prompting in my son’s life to do something bigger than life. Gratitude for student leaders who have spoken into his life, discipled him, and mentored him. Gratitude that Jacob is willing to be used at 18 to invest in the lives of complete strangers.

Gratitude that he’s sent.

As me and Merriem and fourteen other parents said goodbye to our kids last Thursday, I suspect we all carried the same thoughts in the backs of our minds: Is this just the beginning? Does this trip symbolize a lifetime lived overseas? Does it herald a call to ministry? Does it mean that what we thought was true for our children and their futures may not necessarily be true?

Maybe a better question: does it mean that God knows our kids and loves our kids better than we do?

I wouldn’t dare guess what God will do in the lives of these eight young adults over the course of this summer. But I do know that I’ll pray for them, and cheer them on, and encourage them to not only let him work in others’ lives, but in their own.

Would you join me in praying for them? The parents received this list of prayer points in a pre-trip meeting. I’d be honored and grateful if you’d print this and pray over it several times this summer. You can also keep up with the team via their blog.

  • That students would seek and know God. 
    • Matt 6:33
    • Psalm 1
    • Deut 6:5
  • Wisdom in all situations: how to interact with each other and with new friends. 
    • James 1:5
    • Psalm
  • Fruit in ministry
    • Psalm 37:39
    • Jonah 4
    • Romans 10:17
  • Perseverance
    • Hebrews 12:1-3
  • Grace giving to each other 
    • John 13:35
    • Eph. 4:1-7
  • Not a burden to the local body, but a blessing 
    • Isaiah 52:7
(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

The chances are good that there are a few pastors sitting down at their desk, sipping a cup of coffee, and spotting this post in their blog feed just before starting work. And that “work” may be nowhere close to a church office or the pulpit they preached in on Sunday.

My name is Danny, and I’m a former bivocational pastor.

I did the bi-vo gig for a decade. I was always a pastor plus something else: Pastor + full time student. Pastor + 40 hour a week job. Pastor + full time student + 40 hour a week job. (I still compulsively chew on some stress meds just thinking about that one.)

Hardly a week went by that I didn’t curse my status in life. (Scratch that. I questioned it. Because good Baptist bi-vo’s don’t curse.) I wasted my day job for years because I saw it as a stepping stone on the way to somewhere else, not as a part of the journey where God had sovereignly, graciously placed me.

But then I came across this passage, which seemed custom-crafted for a guy who watched the clock in order to get back to doing the stuff he loved:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6)

Befriend faithfulness. Your translation may say cultivate faithfulness. Your coffee cup or grandma’s cross stitch might phrase it Bloom where you’re planted (though I wouldn’t necessarily endorse that one). You can even hijack it to say things like “If I do A, God will do B.” (Please don’t make that mistake.)

But however you cut it, the scriptures say that we are to be faithful where we’ve been placed, to delight ourselves in Jesus before we grouse about our circumstances.

I had to learn that slowly over the course of a decade. But once I began to understand this passage, I saw that there was a method behind the madness:

Those customers I dealt with day after day? They helped me understand the importance of knowing people by name and caring about their needs.

The monotonous tagging and bagging I did as a part time seminary dry cleaner? (Shut up. I did too.) It taught me that details matter.

The coworkers I shared life with? They helped me to understand that we all have a story, and we all walk around as people in need of hope.

If you’re a bivocational minister, I’m praying for you especially today. I know it’s hard. I know there are days when you’d like to cash in your chips and take your chances on doing ministry while living under a bridge. But this season? It’s worth it. Your calling and God’s work is worth it. And more than that, God’s work in your life is worth it. Don’t squander the spot where he’s placed you. View that as much of your ministry as when you’re standing behind that pulpit.

Befriend faithfulness today.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Maybe you grew up in a church like mine, where your pastor preached a 147 week series a couple of times a year on how to discover your spiritual gift, with an exhaustive explanation on everything from prophecy to prayer and teaching to tongues (scratch that, Baptists don’t do tongues). And maybe, like me, you spent more than your fair share of years wondering exactly what your spiritual gift was. It was like Christmas every time you took another spiritual gifts test: “I hope I get discernment this time! I’ll bet it’s discer…aw man! Celibacy again!”

I think our spiritual gifts quests can be misguided at times. We spend so much energy trying to pinpoint exactly what our gift is, we unnecessarily  delay the way in which God wants to use us. We’re so busy filling out surveys that we’re not actually serving.

 

Read the entire original post here.

Jesus Hates Religion. He Really Does. (via @FoxNews) Boom diggity. Read it. Remember it. I know I need to.

I think we as Christians have a reputation as conversation stoppers. When we engage people on the other side of an issue, most of the time, the conversation doesn’t end the way we want it to. It gets stopped short or our side of the issue ends up being misrepresented. And that’s largely our fault.  We prefer to be heard, as opposed to actually listening. We want the benefit of the doubt, but we’re reluctant to give it. Instead, we lead with our idea of what’s right and wrong – our belief – instead of leading with love.

 

First Things First. (via @_Jeff_J, HT @JasonYoungLive) Love this. Let’s not get so caught up in the bells and whistles that we forget the basics.

Second mile service behaviors will not create “wow” experiences if our guests are blinded to them because of the absence of excellence in 1st mile services. We can’t wow our guests if we can’t meet their most basic expectations. It doesn’t matter how many bottles of lotion, packs of mints, or what type of flowers adorn our restrooms if there is no toilet paper or the floor is dirty, or the garbage needs to be emptied (ever found yourself in this situation?). The “wow” simply doesn’t land.

 

An Octopus Unscrews a Jar from the Inside. (via @LaughingSquid) Welp, I’ll never sleep again. This is horrifying.

 

 

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

I work in a church office. And while we have a good number of ladies on our staff, we have a huge amount of dudes. And basic math tells you that lots of dudes = lots of mess. Not to be too judgmental, but there are days when “looks like a frat house” would actually be a nice description of our office’s cleanliness. Messy desks, cluttered bookshelves, bathrooms with bacteria so big you could rope ’em up and ride ’em in a rodeo.

So a few weeks ago, the – ahem – neatniks on our team took some action. We developed a quick and dirty guide (pardon the pun) to keeping things clean around the office.

Why is that important? Is it because we like mandating regulations and ruling with an iron fist, crushing anyone who dares to violate? Well, yes. (Who doesn’t?) But more than that, it’s because we believe that a First Impressions culture has to start with the leaders. And if we can’t pick up after ourselves, we can never expect volunteers to help us keep a clean facility and therefore be ready to welcome company on the weekend.

Maybe your staff culture works the same way. Maybe “culture” doesn’t describe a code as much as bacterial crud. So with that in mind, I present our ten point manifesto, slightly amended for public use.

Enjoy. And keep it clean out there, kids.

Ten Practical Tips to Keep the New Space (and Old Space) Clean: 

1. Pick up the trash. Inside. Outside. Your space. Someone else’s space. If you see a gum wrapper, SummitKids pick up sticker, or discarded copy of People of God, consider it yours and throw it away.

2. Wipe down the sink. When you wash your hands (and you should), spend an extra fifteen seconds wiping up the water. Don’t forget faucet handles and walls that you might have splattered.

3. Be choosy with leftovers. We get it: your meeting participants only drank ¾ of that 2 liter and you want to bless others with it. But ask yourself: will anyone drink the Sam’s Choice Diet Cola in the kitchen? Probably not, because you’re cheap and it’s gross. Pour it out.

4. Turn out the lights. Make Al Gore proud. If you leave a room and you have reason to believe no one will reenter the room within 15 minutes, save some electricity.

5. Return the space as you found it. Scratch that: return it better than you found it. Chairs up, table clean, white board erased.

6. Pick up your packages. UPS, Fed Ex, and USPS delivers daily. As you’re wandering by the front, check the labels and take your stuff where it should go. And even if you didn’t order any stuff, somebody did. And if it looks good to you…

7. Clean the kitchen. Seriously…no one should have to say this, but your mama doesn’t work here. Facilities covers a lot of areas, but washing your dishes is a big NO in every category. If you’re not willing to wash it, don’t use it.

8. Report what’s broken. Burned out bulb? Chipped paint? Stopped up sink? You can always go to [internal form] and put in a request.

9. Take out the trash. This is varsity level stuff right here. If you’re at the end of an event or the middle of your work day, don’t assume that someone else will come along behind you to take out overflowing trash. If it’s full, bag it, take it to the dumpster, and replace the bag.

10. Keep your space clean. Having an office is a HIGH privilege at the Summit (ask any intern with a plastic folding desk). If you possess one, keep it presentable. Spending just 5-10 minutes per day straightening up can make a world of difference.

 

Related post: Leaders Pick Up The Trash

 

 

I’m sorry for using such strong language in the title of this post. But sometimes “ain’t” is the only word that will suffice. So I apologize to all of my English teachers from the past, whom must be very disappointed in me.

Editor’s note: “who.”

My English teachers. Pay attention.

A few weeks ago I endured that American tradition, the event that’s as American as apple pie and baseball and beating Ghana to a pulp in the World Cup. That’s right: the DMV.

I love my local DMV, because one visit gives me roughly 14 months of blogging material. It’s like the What Not To Wear of the guest services world. When I go to the DMV I’m exposed to surliness. Excessive rudeness. Confusion, anger, and anxiety. (And that’s just me after standing in line for twenty minutes. The actual DMV employees are much worse.)

But I digress. My plainte de la journée (sorry, French teachers) for this visit centered around signage. Lots of signage. Everywhere-you-look signage. Confusing signage. Too much signage.

Had I taken the time to read it all, I would have known that I was supposed to have No Food or Drinks. I would have realized that DEBIT CARDS ARE NOT ACCEPTED. I would have seen that I needed to go left for Dup. Registration or right for Duplicate Titles (I’m sorry, didn’t you just duplicate that?).

The DMV is a visual wonderland of signs, signs, and more signs. New signs. Old signs. Faded signs. Torn signs. Misspelled signs. Signs with masking tape. Signs with Scotch tape. Signs upon signs upon signs.

Hey DMV: if you’re looking for a sign, I’ll give you one…SIMPLIFY.

Our churches run the same risk. It may be too much signage. It might be too many brochures on the information table. Or too many handouts in the welcome bag. Or too many options on the website, or…or…or…

Too much on the menu doesn’t reduce anxiety, it creates it. I walk into my local DMV and don’t know what to look at first. Because everything screams HEY I’M IMPORTANT LOOK AT ME, nothing is important. And so I still have to wait in line to talk to someone who’s been hired solely on their ability to growl, and direct my question to them.

Take a look around your facility. What do you see when you look at:

  • Your front doors? Is the glass or wood covered in flyers, posters, or outdated event notices?
  • Your guest bag? Do you include easy, understandable, achievable next steps? Or do you try to sign a guest up for a volunteer team on their first visit?
  • Your information table? Is it covered with brochures for kids ministry, women’s ministry, the church softball league, and the local homeschoolers group? Does the material compete for quality (in other words, one brochure is professionally printed while another was designed by a volunteer with five minutes of word processing experience)?
  • Your worship guide? Do the announcements on the guide match what’s being said on stage? Are you shoving every. Last. Thing that you can come up with in there? Do your guests really need to know what’s on the Wednesday night supper menu six weeks from now?
  • Your stage / screen? If you use visual announcements, are they short? Relevant? Engaging? If you use a communicator for announcements, is he/she able to stick to a few main talking points and call for action?

Simplify. If it’s all important, nothing is important.

 

(If you’re looking for a couple of great books that go into fantastic detail on this subject, check out Less Clutter, Less Noise by my friend Kem Meyer, and Dangerous by my buddy Cleve Persinger, et al.)

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