(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

Almost finished with the Strawberry Black Pepper. Next up: Salted Butter Caramel.

Almost finished with the Strawberry Black Pepper. Next up: Salted Butter Caramel.

Haven’s pretty sure she digs the Black Pepper, too.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, which means one thing in our family:

Ice cream for dinner.

Father’s Day Ice Cream Dinner has become somewhat of an annual tradition, because (a) I’m the father and (b) I love ice cream and (c) I rarely win a dinner argument the other 364 days of the year.

But everybody in my family loves ice cream for dinner, and everybody in my family loves going to one of two local Durham ice cream joints: Locopops or The Parlour.

Locopops is on the inexpensive side. The Parlour…is not. You can drop five bucks on two scoops faster than you can say Espresso-Infused Whipped Cream. But you know what? I keep going back and gleefully handing over my money, because both of those shops are way different than my local 31 flavors.

Whether it’s the pint of Vietnamese Coffee at Locopops or the just-tried-it-last-night-for-the-first-time Strawberry Black Pepper at The Parlour (don’t love it till you’ve tried it), they just do it differently. They don’t subscribe to the normal roster of “exotic” flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough or Moose Tracks. Nope. They’re rockin’ Blueberry Buttermilk, Fluffernutter, Mango Chile, Lime Lemongrass, and Corn (yes, as in the vegetable).

When you do things differently, people take notice.

It works the same way in the church. Granted, we should all be dealing in the same “product.” There’s no need to repackage the gospel into a newer and better flavor. You don’t have to fancify it for different palates. The gospel has done pretty well for the last 2000 years, with or without the help of locally grown, pasture raised, antibiotic free ingredients.

But that may be the only place that we should draw the line on “newer and better.” Some of our churches are extremely cutting edge for 1963. We’re satisfied that we greet guests and sing songs the way we did back in our great-great grandparents’ day. We don’t want to change anything because we’re comfortable, regardless of how that impacts the comfort of our guests.

But when we do it differently, people take notice. When we give thought to the guest experience, we position ourselves differently than a lot of churches our guests have visited. When we consider their needs greater than our own, we set ourselves apart from the same old flavors they expect.

I believe that the gospel is offensive, but nothing else should be. I want to see a new lineup of flavors roll out so that people far from Jesus can get closer to him.

How about it? What’s your Strawberry Black Pepper on your menu? Comment below.


Shell Station


I snapped this little jewel a few weeks back at the gas station just down the road from my office. In case you can’t tell what the gentleman in the picture is doing, he’s not trying to fish a bird out of the pump header. He’s not seeing how far he can reach with his stick, thereby one-upping his co-worker who currently holds the record with eight feet, two inches.

Nope, he’s taking care of the details while cleaning up around the station. I watched as he took the pole, covered it with a dusting cloth, and proceeded to clean underneath the covering at the top of the pump.

Can I tell you how many times I’ve looked underneath pump coverings? Zero. Not once in my forty 32 years have I ever given the white glove test at a gas station. But this guy has. And his work ethic is such that he believes cleanliness matters…details matter…even where no one else can see.

How does that translate for our churches? Are we taking care of the tiny details when it comes to our facilities?

  • Are we picking up the trash, even when it’s tiny trash? Even when it’s not our trash?
  • Are we keeping our storage areas tidy, so it’s easier for us (or our volunteers) to find items we need?
  • Are we noticing areas that others have long since forgotten to notice?

Seeing my friend go the extra mile did more than just make me appreciate a clean facility. It caused me to appreciate the entire business. If he’s taking care of the details in a spot I’d never think to look, then he’s probably taking care of them in spots where I would. And that probably translates to a greater loyalty on my end.

It’s a sad day for the evangelical church when a gas station attendant cares more about the details than we do. If the cleanliness of a gas pump matters, how much more should we clean up our facilities?

Do the details matter at your church?


(photo credit: Chris Haston / NBCU Photo Bank)

(photo credit: Chris Haston / NBCU Photo Bank)

True story: I was just a little bit old for the Saved By The Bell. I was 16 when it premiered in ’89, and besides, it didn’t really take off until Mr. Belding hired his brother Rod as a substitute history teacher and the kids had to convince him that – even for all the charm and charisma of Rod – their principal was the better Belding.

But I digress.

If you watched SBTB much (unlike me, who again was way too old for it), one of the common themes was that those six kids did everything. Can we agree on that? Zack, Slater, Screech, Kelly, Jessie, and Lisa had a larger on-campus presence than a Zack Morris cell phone. Band? They were all a part of it. Sports teams? On ’em. Debate team? Swim team? Student council? Check. Check. Check.

It seemed that everywhere you looked you had six kids as the primary do-gooders, surrounded by a chorus of extras who may or may not have been engaged. It’s enough to turn a teen to caffeine pills to keep up, which may finally explain why Jessie was SO EXCITED! SO EXCITED! SO…so…scared. (Arguably the best dramatic moment in television history. Yes it is. Shut up.)

Watching those wacky Bayside kids get involved in everything can kind of remind you of your core team of church volunteers. Maybe they serve on the parking team, moonlight in the first grade classroom, step up to help with the offering, tutor kids after school, and show up to help stuff envelopes for the quarterly mailing. And it’s volunteers like that that we’re grateful for. We thank God for. The activity of the church is built on their backs, and we couldn’t do it without them.

But is it healthy? Is it sustainable? Is it a workable model for either your dependable volunteers or your dependent church? I’m afraid that we’re all too eager to cultivate a Bayside atmosphere with our volunteer team. They’re up front, they’re willing, they’re doers, let’s just let ’em do more.

And all the while they’re strung out on caffeine pills. And all the while there are others in the background who should serve, can serve, and maybe even are willing to serve, but for whatever reason, they don’t serve.

I’m not knocking faithful volunteers. Again, I thank God for them. But are we being faithful to their faithfulness? Do we better serve our servants by helping them target their service? And do we better serve our congregation by encouraging those on the sidelines to step up?

Figure this out…help your congregation see the beauty in involvement and shared responsibility…and you too can be the better Belding.

Go Tigers.

(photo courtesy Mike McDaniel)

(photo courtesy Mike McDaniel)

This weekend the Summit commissioned 108 people to four North American church plants. Over the next few weeks we’ll be seeing these folks move to D.C., Wilmington, NC, and two locations in Durham. Our Summit Network has been training up the lead pastors of these plants, preparing them in part for the rigors of planting a new work.

In full disclosure, not all people on stage were covenant members of the Summit. We were missing some of our covenant members who are going, and in their place Grace Park Church and Waypoint Church both had part of their core teams that were there. But the majority of people standing on that stage have been an integral part of life at the Summit. We’re sending pastors and interns, worship leaders and elders, First Impressions and Summit Kids volunteers, college students, older people, younger people, married couples, singles…you name it, they’re going. People have given up jobs, sold homes, given sacrificially, and poured out their lives to see the gospel go forward in new places.

At the Summit, one of our plumblines is We send our best. We don’t want to be guilty of hoarding talent or gifts; we recognize that God gives us great people so that we can give them back as a faith offering elsewhere. But while we’ve said that now for several years, this weekend I felt it in a real, tangible way.

Two of the men standing on that stage represented the best of the best. Josh Lawrence and Clayton Greene have been my fellow pastors, team members, and personal friends for the last several years. When they made the decision to be a part of The Bridge Church in Wilmington, they represented 50% of my Connections team. One-half. Two out of four. However you do the math, that’s a chunk of “best” that is heading out.


Josh was my First Impressions Director in our Brier Creek South venue, and held down a side role as my Special Events Coordinator. That’s a lot of hats for a guy workin’ intern hours. Nobody thinks through the logistics of an event and gets volunteers where they need to go quite like Josh. He was the calming force to crazy moments, the unsung hero of all kinds of behind the scenes magic, and just simply got the job done. In addition to that, he served as the small group leader to my two oldest sons for several years, so Josh is a part of our family’s fabric.

Clayton was the First Impressions Director in Brier Creek North, and the evil genius behind a tremendous amount of the “why behind the what.” Clayton has suffered through – and subjected me to – hours upon hours of conversations on why we do what we do, how we do what we do, and how we can do it much, much better. We’ve never met a whiteboard or a blank sheet of paper that we couldn’t fill up with ideas we just knew would change the world. I never walk away from a conversation unchallenged or discouraged. He gets guest services at the heart level like no one I’ve ever seen, and he wants to do whatever it takes to help people take a step towards Jesus.

Send our best? Yes we do. My buddy Ethan Welch, lead pastor of The Bridge, is getting the cream of the crop, as is Waypoint, Grace Park, and Restoration City Church. Whenever we send our best, we are making a sacrifice. There’s no way around it. There are tears. There are losses. There are real, gaping voids that are left behind.

But here’s why sending our best is vitally important: I’d rather give away good people than get greedy with good people. I’d rather see the gospel take root in new places than just build a deep bench of talent in RDU. I’d rather lose geographically-close friendships if it means seeing friends use their gifts to do some serious damage for the kingdom in another city.

We’re called to send. It’s in the DNA of the Christian, and it’s in the mandate of the gospel. So if we’re called to send, why not send our best?

(photo courtesy @AaronJCoalson)

(photo courtesy @AaronJCoalson)

We’re coming off of another incredible Easter weekend at the Summit. 18 services at seven locations, plus two worship events on Good Friday. 169 people who symbolized their faith in Jesus through the act of baptism. Nearly 10,500 people in attendance. Hundreds upon hundreds of faithful volunteers, many serving multiple services over several days. And oh…did I mention that two campuses combined for a first-ever service at Carolina Theatre downtown?

I don’t take any of those things lightly. Lives changed through the gospel is nothing to sneeze at. Our volunteers are my absolute heroes, and there are not many words to express my gratitude to them. Hundreds of first time guests were exposed to the resurrection message of Jesus. God did more than we could have asked or imagined, and we are grateful to him for that.

But there is one aspect of Easter weekend that cannot be missed. It has nothing to do with baptisms or first time guests or volunteers, and yet it has everything to do with that.

Like most churches with multiple services, we made a big push for our regular attendees to attend at a service they normally wouldn’t, to free up seats for those who may be showing up for the first time. At our Brier Creek campus, we asked for people to consider coming on Saturday (same experience, more elbow room) in order to create room on Sunday (a more traditional time for a first time guest to surface).

And boy, did they ever.

We saw 1110 people show up and scoot in for the 4:00 Saturday service. Our previous “high” for that service is 740. Folks, that’s a 50% increase, even by common core math standards. We packed the auditorium, packed the lobby (pictured above), and tossed 100 more into a secondary venue that wasn’t supposed to be used until the following day.

And because of everyone that showed up at a time normally inconvenient to them, we created space that lasted us the rest of the weekend. What we thought would be crowded, wasn’t. Where we didn’t believe we’d have room, we did. The “80% full is full” rule didn’t apply. Not a single guest was turned away, not a single guest was put off by the sardine-like conditions, and I credit that largely to the faithfulness of our regular crowd.

Here’s what we’ve learned over the last several years: mission trumps need, every single time. Many times churches appeal to need: “We need you to come at a time you hate so that we don’t have to turn people away!” “We need you to serve in the nursery or we’ll have to toss babies on the sidewalk!” “We need you to volunteer or this place will go down like the Titanic!”

And while need always has it’s place, it’s not sustainable. People get tired of responding to need after a while, and so…they don’t.

Instead, we prefer to appeal to mission. We asked people to temporarily move to Saturday because it was a missional opportunity to make room for guests. It was a way they could practically, easily serve. Was it a need? Sure it was. But more than that, it was a part of the mission. We say all the time that people are the missionand for that reason, making room for new people was a critical step in the mission.

How about it, church leader? Are you banging the drum of need? Or are you faithfully casting vision for the mission?


Neighbors accuse church of too much joyful noise(via @latimes) What’s the balance between being a blessing to your community and risking annoyance? Discuss.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

“Is this a church?” Sidonie Smith said as she stood outside Grant Elementary in Santa Monica. “I’m so excited about the impact it will have on our community. I’ve been praying for a church to come here for 40 years.”

Not all residents share Smith’s enthusiasm. Since late January, some neighbors have expressed dissatisfaction with the arrangement between City of God church and its landlord, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

Might as well burn that bridge all the way down to the pilings(via @ThisIsSethsBlog) Work with guests? The public? People who are breathing? Might wanna read this today.

When someone gives you gentle feedback, it’s because they want to connect, not because they want to help you finish burning down the bridge you ignited in the first place. They don’t want an excuse, a clever comeback or a recitation that you’re just doing your job.

Snake fights crocodile in five hour battle to the death…then eats it(via @22Words) Australia: one of the 1,001 Places You Need To See Before You Die If You Want To Die.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Once the 5-hour reptilian brawl ended, the snake dragged the crocodile to shore. It then began at the crocodile’s head and over the course of just 15 minutes, completely swallowed the entire thing.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Yesterday we covered the six times in a weekend service that you should strategically plan to address your guests. But what about times when you should strategically plan not to talk to them?

Any time you would single them out.

True, the whole point of yesterday’s post was that you should recognize guests. But not if it means turning the spotlight on them in the service. Recognizing them in a general sense (“If you’re a guest with us today…”) is great. But getting too specific in a service can turn people away faster than you can imagine. (“Hey, you’re new. Stand up and tell us your name, who invited you, and the sin you’re currently struggling with.”)

I’ve got horror stories for days of how I’ve seen this go bad: “Welcome times” when members stand and guests remain seated. “Introduction times” when guests stand and members remain seated. Ushers handing out name tags or info cards to seated guests as a part of the service (i.e., all eyes are on them). I’ve even seen a church that played “Name That Mystery Person” at the beginning of the service (and no, I’m not making that up, and yes, the details are worse than you can imagine).

The key to interacting with guests is that you want them to set the speed for interaction. You should provide multiple opportunities for them to connect and take a next step, but ultimately you should leave the option to them. Some are ready to make themselves known from day one. Others want to remain more anonymous for a time. Neither of those things are wrong, they’re just deeply tied to an individual’s personality and comfort level, so respect it.

Think through your guest’s experience from your own perspective as an outsider. When you visit a restaurant or retail establishment, when you show up for the first day on the job, when you’re called on to give an impromptu speech at a big meeting, how do you feel? Harness that. Multiply it by ten, and then you’re starting to imagine what it’s like to show up at your church for the first time.

So how about it, readers? Are there any other times you shouldn’t talk to a guest? And better yet, what are your horror stories? Comment below.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Let’s start with the basics: we should aim to talk to our guests all the time. When they show up on the weekend, they are our honored guests (that’s why we call ’em guests, and not the V-word).

But there are strategic times during the worship service when we should especially address our guests. When we do so, we serve not only our guests, but our members and regular attendees as well. Addressing guests reminds a growing church that there are newcomers in the midst, and encourages a plateaued or declining church of our evangelistic responsibility.

Keller says it this way in Center Church:

Almost every Christian, if they pay attention, will be able to sense whether a worship experience will be attractive to their non-Christian friends. They may find a particular service wonderfully edifying for them and yet know their nonbelieving neighbors would react negatively, and so they wouldn’t even consider bringing them along. They do not think they will be impressed or interested. Because this is their expectation, they do nothing about it, and a vicious cycle begins. Pastors see only Christians present, so they lack incentive to make their worship comprehensible to outsiders. But since they fail to make the necessary changes to adapt and contextualize, outsiders never come. The pastors continue to respond to the exclusively Christian audience that gathers, and the cycle continues. Therefore, the best way to get Christians to bring non-Chrsitians to a worship service is to worship as if there are dozens of skeptical onlookers. If we worship as if they are there, eventually they will be.

So you should make a plan for talking to guests every single week. Here are six specific times that you can do that:

  1. At the beginning of the service. Within the first five minutes someone should deliver a welcome. Most churches do that, but we have to be intentional in recognizing that there are guests present. So welcome them. Let them know you’ve planned the weekend with them in mind, and you’re glad they showed up. (“Some of you may be with us for the very first time. We want you to know that we’re especially glad you’re here. There are a lot of places you could be or other things you could be doing, and we’re grateful that you’ve trusted us with your time.”)
  2. During the sermon. Your preaching shouldn’t be exclusively focused on the guests in your midst, neither should it be exclusive to the seasoned saints among you. So every weekend in every sermon, address the common doubts, questions, and “so what?” moments that your guests are certainly having. (“If you consider yourself an agnostic or atheist, skeptic or seeker, this [passage / statement / point] may be confusing or it might make you downright angry. This is a place where you are welcome to ask your questions…I still have lots of them as well…let’s work through this together.”)
  3. Prior to communion. Whether your church offers communion weekly or quarterly or anywhere in between, you have a responsibility to “fence the table” appropriately and explain the significance of the event. (“This church offers many things that are wide open to you. But if you’re here today and you’re not yet a believer, the Bible is clear that this one act of worship is not intended for you. As the elements come by, we respectfully ask that you let them pass you, and rather use this time to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for you.”)
  4. Before the offering. Nothing riles a newcomer’s fur quite like the money bucket coming around. So give ’em a pass before it’s passed. Let your guests know that the service isn’t about what they should give, but what they can receive. (“If you’re a guest, we don’t want you to feel compelled to give in any way, we’re just glad that you’re here.”)
  5. At the end. As you’re dismissing the service, remind guests of an appropriate next step. For your church, that might mean a stop by the Welcome Center or First Time Guest Tent. Whenever we remind guests of that opportunity, we always see an uptick in those that drop by. (“Maybe you saw the First Time Guest Tent when you entered. That’s set up especially for you. We have a gift there for you and would love the opportunity to get to know you.”)
  6. Any time something is unclear. Baptism. Communion. Commissioning. The stand up / sit down / stand up / sit down game that is Baptist Aerobics. No, you don’t have to specifically address those explanations to your guests, but an occasional description of what is coming next will benefit not only first timers, but long-timers. (“This morning we’re sending out one of our families to serve as church planters overseas. Any time we do this, it is our privilege to pray for them as they go out.”)

So what area(s) did I miss? Are there other times when we definitely should address guests? Comment below.

Coming tomorrow: when NOT to talk your guests.

(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.