In other news, my WordPress dashboard tells me this is the 100th Thursday Three For All. That calls for a celebration. Or a realization that I’m really, really lazy and just like to curate other people’s stuff.

(Let’s go with the first option. It sounds better.)

 

Discretion. (via @ThisIsSethsBlog) I’ve long wondered how we could put something like this into practice for church volunteers. Got any suggestions?

How much do you trust your people to do the right thing?

Consider giving every person on your team a budget—$1000 a year? $200 an incident? and challenging them to spend the money to make things right, to create efficiency, to delight.

 

Inside President Obama’s Secret Schedule. (via @OKnox) Whatever your political bent, try to set it aside for this article. It’s a fascinating look at the art and science of handling one of the biggest jobs on the planet.

In classic Washington fashion, there are also presidential meetings called “drop-bys” that sound casual but are actually meticulously planned. Sometimes a meeting gets that label to dampen expectations that the president will stick around for a long time. Other times, there are questions of protocol — for example, it’s appropriate for the national security adviser to schedule a meeting with a given ambassador or international figure who might not rate a formal sit-down with the president. Then the president just “drops by.”

 

Astonishingly detailed 19th century sand art jars. (via @LaughingSquid) What did you expect? They didn’t have Twitter to keep ’em busy.

clemens1

 

(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

[Quick note: after I drafted this post last week, I heard from my friend Jason Young, who compiled the mother lode of guest services reading for the summer. You can find that list here or on Jason’s blog (which should be in your bookmarks, anyway). Alrighty, now on to the post…]

It’s that time once again, campers: time to dust off your beach bags and fill ’em with beach reads and head to the beach. Unless you’re like me – a guy who hates the beach – in which case you’ll stay inside out of the sunlight and as close to the air conditioning vent as is humanly possible.

There are plenty of bloggers out there who are offering up a fantastic eclectic mix of summer reads. Trevin Wax published his last week, and it’s been making the rounds quicker than a stomach bug in a first grade classroom.

I thought it might be fun to put out my seven favorite reads from the last year or so, all centered around guest services. And away we go…

Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees, Doug Lipp. Lipp trained under Van France, the first to implement Cast Member training at Disneyland. Reading this book will inspire you to capture the same kind of magic for your church vols.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande. You will instantly bear the title of “nerd” if you order this book. But you’ll also thank me. Gawande is a Gladwell-esque style writer who uses fantastic stories to illustrate the ingenious importance of a simple checklist. Don’t love it ’til you’ve tried it.

Secret Service: Hidden Systems that Deliver Unforgettable Customer ServiceJohn DiJulius. I’ve never recommended a book on hair salons before. And chances are, you’ve never read one. But DiJulius has captured the essence of his chain’s service with one (paraphrased) statement: “We don’t provide $100 haircuts. We provide $25 haircuts with $100 worth of experience.”

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek. Sinek unintentionally explains one of our First Impressions plumblines: the why is more important than the what. Get a grasp on how you help your volunteers know not just what they do, but why they do it.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull. We’re all fans of Pixar movies: whether it’s Toy StoryA Bug’s Life, or that classic kiddie movie about an old man whose wife died and left him to float away in his house, Pixar knows how to tell a story. Learn the method behind their team’s madness.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell. Some research says that a person will make eleven separate decisions about you within the first seven seconds of contact. How can you use that knee jerk reaction for both your benefit and theirs? Get inside the mind of your guests – and your vols – with the help of a fantastic storyteller.

Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space, Tim Cool. Tim walks the reader through what your facility – owned or rented – says about what you value.

What about an eighth? Or a ninth? Got any great guest services reads that need to be on my reading list for the summer? Comment below.

 

It’s that time again, campers. Thursday: where I serve up the stuff that’s been rattlin’ around in my skull this week. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy…

 

Lighten Up, Christians, God Loves a Good Time. (via @CTMagazine, HT @_MichaelKelley) Send this to a stuffed shirt you know and love. And remind yourself of it, while you’re at it. I know I need to.

Look over our day-to-day lives. How do we parent, for example? Rules. Fears. Don’ts. Don’t jump on the couch. No gluten in this house. Get down from that tree. Quiet down. Hold still. We live as if God were an infinite list of negatives. He is holiness, the rawest and richest of all purity. In our bent way of thinking, that makes him the biggest stress-out of all.

 

Six Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Volunteers. (via @cnieuwhof) This has sparked more than a few discussions over the last couple of days. See if it does the same for you.

3. You’re disorganized

Few things are more demotivating than giving up your time as a volunteer only to discover the staff person responsible didn’t set you up to succeed.

The tools they need to do the job are missing or incomplete. The rest of the team is late.

Or maybe—worse—they’re not even 100% sure what they are supposed to do or how they are supposed to do it.

You can always find people who will put up with disorganization, but many more will simply give up.

And high capacity people will make a beeline for the door.

 

If you can spot what changed in Google’s new logo, you have an amazing eye for detail. (via @22words) Don’t anybody ever call me OCD again.

Here’s the updated version…

Google Logo - After

And for reference, here’s the previous one…

Google Logo - Before

 

Leaders Light the Way. (via @JasonYoungLive) A post by a new friend over at his newly-launched blog. If you’re a guest services geek, go ahead and add Jason to your RSS feed. Trust me.

1396360931764 I recall being in the middle of significant changes in my own area of responsibility. I shared a new vision with my staff and 850+ volunteers. As we rolled out the plan, there were elements that worked really well and other elements that created pain for both the team member and my staff. Having been in situations like this several times, there are five helpful reminders I have used and continue to do so when communicating vision with volunteer team members. and staff.

10 Things Organized People Do Every Day. (HT @BradHoffmann) I wanna be this when I grow up.

6. They spend 10 minutes at the end of each day tidying up. It’s easy for your space to get a little messy as the day progresses, and in all likelihood, by the end of the day you may have accumulated a pile of dirty clothing in one corner and scattered papers in another. Set a timer and commit to tidying up for 10 minutes. It will make you feel accomplished, up your productivity for the next day, and you’ll sleep better too.

Evernote’s Espresso Bar. (video) (HT @evernote) I share this not only because the concept is cool, but because of the CEO’s attitude towards serving his team members:

The original idea is that we would hire people to staff it, but when the espresso machine actually showed up, I thought, it’s just not the right image, [to hire baristas to run it]…so I thought the thing to do is now that we have this very expensive espresso machine is to staff it with the world’s most expensive baristas. …All of our [executive level employees] are required to serve at least one hour a week.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Way back when I was a bivocational pastor and moonlighted in the business world for about 25 minutes, I attended a few of those events where an inspirational speaker would stand and talk about how he changed his life through motivational excellence and You Can Too.  Usually they were somebody who had gotten so unbelievably excellent at their job that they had shot from the mailroom to middle management to CEO and then blew right out of the building to the ultimate in the business world: Consultant.  The consultants would usually pad their pockets with extra cash by flying around to business people events and help the rest of us morons figure out not only how to have excellence on par with Abraham Lincoln, the Dalai Lama, and Bruce Springsteen, but also how we could file our papers more effectively.  And they usually just charged $199 to get you to be as awesomely excellent as they were, and they even threw in an attractive leatherette portfolio with stars embossed on it.

One of the excellent guys (who actually was better than most of them) talked about the power of active listening.  He had a habit of going into a retail store, and when the cashier would mumble, “How are you today, sir?”  He would smile all bright and cheery and reply, “Your face is on fire!”

Read the entire original post here.

(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.

2Musketeers

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?

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

A few weeks ago the Franks crew made a stop at a Starbucks.  I love Starbucks like fundamentalists love denim jumpers.  They are all about customizing the experience for the customer and delivering the element of “surprise and delight” as Joseph Michelli mentions in his bestseller The Starbucks ExperienceOur visit that day illustrated that point well.

As my 14 year old Jacob was waiting on his drink, the barista behind the counter took a glance at his baseball jacket.  As he walked away from the cash register, he casually said, “Second baseman, right?”

Both Jacob and I were stunned that he nailed Jacob’s position, so much so that all Jacob could stutter was, “Um…uh…yessir.”

We basked in that moment until he came back with the drink, when he said, “So aren’t you going to ask me how I knew?”

I jumped in, “Well if he won’t, will.  How could you tell?”

 

Read the full original post here

Somebody's gotta launch Lego Church. Might as well be us.

Somebody’s gotta launch Lego Church. Might as well be us.

I spent the last few days in a guest services geek’s dreamland: I was fortunate enough to sit around a table with seventeen of the sharpest church hospitality minds in the country. We came from churches of different backgrounds (from maybe-sorta-traditional to hey-wow-you’re-not-traditional-at-all), churches of different sizes (from really big to good-glory-are-you-a-church-or-the-population-of-Montana), and churches with varying philosophies and approaches to how we do just about everything.

But one thing united us all, and that’s our vision that churches nationwide must step up to reach those who are far from Jesus. In addition to being missional communities who send people out, we have to be attractional communities that welcome people in. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

By the time the first sixty minutes of our conversation had elapsed, my brain was full. I picked off enough ideas and “aha!” moments to last me for months (and I’ll share many of those with you in the days to come). Even this morning – a half a day removed from the event – my mind is racing as I try to process some of the things I learned and some of the topics we discussed.

But here’s my first big takeaway: planning is not the same as dreaming. 

I plan a lot of things: from weekend volunteer teams to training opportunities to large scale events, planning runs in my blood. I love it. I love wrestling a spreadsheet under my control, ticking every little item off my to do list, and seeing it all come together at the end of the day. And the insidious nature of planning the work and working the plan is this: you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

But planning isn’t the same as dreaming. Executing a plan doesn’t mean you’ve created an experience. I can plan an event down to precise detail but never see the experience change from one time to the next. So if I never take time to dream, my plans will never really evolve into something better.

When it comes to guest services, I’m prone to take the easiest, cheapest, simplest, pragmatic-ist way out. I want it to be replicable across eight campuses. I want it to be simple for our staff and volunteer teams to understand. I dumb down the plans in the name of simplicity. But creativity is not the enemy of simplicity.

Here’s what I learned this week: sometimes you need to just dream. Forget the practical nature of what you do. Forget the budgetary constraints. Forget your lack of volunteers. Yesterday eighteen of us spent a couple of hours simply dreaming: “What if we could implement this?” “What if we had a blank check?” “What if we had an unlimited staff or a bottomless pool of volunteers or 27 hours in a day?”

When we get to the end of the “What if?” road, we know there will still be some limitations there. We’ll never have unlimited cash or the millions of volunteers we hope for. But the great thing about dreaming is that it knocks the ceiling off of some of our preconceived notions. When we get out of the world of spreadsheets and checklists and start staring into the blue sky of creativity, we see new things evolve. New initiatives arise. New values emerge. And sometimes those new insights may indeed mean just adding a couple of volunteers here or a couple hundred bucks there. But that small tweak is the thing that raises the bar and helps us truly create an experience that captures the imaginations of our guests and points them to the truths of the gospel.

So how about it, guest services friends? Ministry friends? Leader friends? Are you planning or are you dreaming?

 

To find out more about what we’ve been up to the last few days, check out a couple of posts by our fearless leader Bob Adams here and here.

 

Gandalf

As I type, I’m sitting in a local tire repair shop, getting my front driver’s side tire plugged. Or patched. Or replaced. They haven’t told me which one just yet, but I’m sure it’ll be the most expensive option, because that’s how my tire problems roll.

(I’m sorry. Couldn’t help myself.)

The adventure began on Sunday afternoon on the way home from church. Merriem and I were in separate vehicles as usual (sorry, Mr. Gore), when I got a phone call telling me she was on the side of the road with a screw in the tire. This was no ordinary piece of hardware. It was a major chunk of metal. I think it might be the type of screw that holds up the Empire State Building. Heck…it may be the Empire State Building. And for once, I’m grateful that I wasn’t the one running around with a loose screw.

But I digress. We met up, switched cars, and I decided to try to make it to the repair shop on the still-mostly-inflated tire. But because I valued my life and safety (hands at ten and two, keep it below 40, no Netflix watching behind the wheel), I turned on my hazard lights and crept along in the right lane.

Now picture it: I was on two major highways (Hwy. 70 and I-85, for my local readers). There was always between two and five lanes of traffic. My hazards could be seen from a half mile back. And yet, there were still some – ahem – impatient ignoramuses who insisted on tailgating me, swerving around me, and shooting me dirty looks. And although I never saw it, I’m sure I received more than one Durham Wave. (Just like a regular wave, except with fewer fingers.)

Now my friends, I ask you: was such impatience justified? Other drivers had fair warning. They could see my hazards. They could obviously tell I wasn’t going fast enough for their preferences. In most cases the passing lane was clear and they were free to pass. So why the frustration?

In case you’re wondering, there’s a point to this story other than the one that went through my 225/60/R16’s:

if the guy ahead of you isn’t going as fast as you’d like, it’s okay to pass.

Here’s what I mean: more often than not, I’m not the smartest guy in the room or the best voice at the table. And a lot of times, my title and position possibly dictates that I ought to be. Maybe I’m talking to a group of volunteers, a new batch of interns, or a table full of much younger pastors. And though I should be leading the pack, I’m not. Whether or not I should be the fastest brain, I’m often struggling to keep up. And in those moments, I want to communicate that it’s okay to pass.

It’s okay to be smarter than your leader.

It’s okay to be more well-read on a topic.

It’s okay to bring up better ideas, smoother strategies, or cleaner systems.

Passing your leader isn’t something you need permission to do. No, it’s a gift. It’s a gift to the one leading you. It’s a gift to your peers. It’s a gift to the entire team. Don’t hold back a great idea or a valid opinion just because you feel bad about passing the guy in front of you. While it might not feel natural, it moves everyone forward.

To keep quiet and stay where you are just proves that you may have a screw loose.