Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It Really is All About God

This morning I am still sitting in awe of what God has done at our church.  A year ago when I joined the staff of Lakeview I had no idea how many wonderful lessons God would teach me through this medium-size, multi-site, multi-ethnic church.  I come from a mega-church background, a church that has been in a long season of transition, so in the process have watched some pretty painful moments.  As well as I work with churches who are in tough seasons. It is not often that I get a front-row seat to watch a church get-it-right in their process.  But the last six months it has been my privilege to get a whole new view.

Some quick history.  I live in the ethnically diverse land called Chicago.  In the Chicago area there are about 150,000 Korean speaking immigrants.  Over the last several years the four largest Korean speaking churches have each had at least one split.  It is a broken community.   My church, Lakeview, has many second and third generation Koreans, including our senior pastor.  Over the summer our senior pastor shared with the elders, staff and church that he felt God asking Lakeview to be a part of the healing process for this community. 

Sounds nice, but in practicality this vision included adopting a Korean-speaking campus, a multi-million dollar building, and raising $500,000 in a month.  Almost everyones first response was "no", and had huge reservations about taking on the financial challenge of a third campus, the cultural challenges, and relationship challenges.  Here is where the big lessons came in. I watched a church full of individuals who stopped themselves from quickly saying "no" but seeking God.  I watched an entire church voice their concerns honestly and authentically through town hall meetings.  I watched person after person process the question, "What is God saying to me?"  Then I watched and entire church fast and pray for 21 days to discern God's will. I watched them pray that whatever the outcome of the vote that God would protect the church from division.

Two days ago the members voted and overwhelmingly voted for Lakeview to adopt it's third campus.  An entire church of changed hearts, seeking God's plan for them.  Oh, and the half a million dollars, God touched the hearts of several before the vote even took place and over a quarter of a million has already been raised.  Will the next year be filled with relationship challenges, cultural challenges.  Yep, I am sure it will be.  But looking forward to being a part of a praying church and praying our way through.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's in the Bible? GIVEWAY

What's in the Bible DVD 3 Wanderin in the Desert is here!! you’ll have the time of your life as you watch buck denver and friends journey through leviticus, numbers and deuteronomy to finish out the pentateuch!

part 1: don’t lie, don’t cheat … don’t trim your beard? the old testament is full of rules, and some of them are kind of, well, weird. learn why god gave all these rules to israel and which ones still apply to us today!

part 2: what is a pentateuch? learn about israel’s 40-year “time-out” as we finish the first five books of the bible! plus, discover why we can believe what the bible says – even though we weren’t there to see it happen!

i’m giving away 3 copies to 3 winners of dvd 3 and 1 Buck’s Bundle GRAND PRIZE

here’s how you can enter to win:

1. tweet: I entered to win DVD 3 from @whatsinthebible! #kidmin

2. leave a comment on the blog expressing your excitement for DVD 3!

every time you tweet or comment, you will be entered again to win! 3 winners of DVD 3, and 1 Buck’s Bundle Grand Prize Winner will be chosen at random at the end of the day Wednesday, 5/12.

good luck!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Audience of One

It used to be the only time I was able to connect with other children's leaders was through the handful of those I met at a conference. Over the last few years the blessing of being able to follow the blogs, tweets, and social networks of some amazing children's leaders and organizations has increased my knowledge and equipped me as a children's pastor.

The longer I am in children's ministry the more I value these relationships. So I guess that is why my heart has been a little sad the last few weeks as I watched some groups/organizations and even a few children's pastors bring in the "ugly" side of business into ministry. The Kingdom is a very big place and there are SO many families and kids to serve. It is a dangerous place when we take our eyes off God.

The truth is, each of us serve an audience of One. And what a blessing it can be to God and those of us we connect with, when we reach out to connect someone with a ministry challenge to the person or organization with the solution.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Small to Great, People Make a Difference

It never gets old to me to watch what a small group of people can do to make a difference. This year I have been in awe of my sons’ high school, in the fall their school started a Rachel’s Challenge program. The program sets up the “road map” for making a difference, being inclusive, and being kind to one another. Since October the kids have raised thousands of dollars for people in our community. There was the widow with 5 children, the fellow student whose home burnt down two weeks before Christmas, Christmas for a another family of 6, and last month in support of a fellow student who’s Leukemia has returned, the school hosted St. Baldrick’s. Several students and staff had their heads shaved and raised $50,000, including one girl who raised $5,000.

In ministry it is often easy for us to be fooled into believing that we have to own it all. As a leader one of the lessons I had to learn over the years was how to provide a road map, but stay out of the way so that others can own the vision. The key as a leader is to create the “box”, provide the vision, and empower those you lead. My experience has been that most people don’t like to just carry out my plans. What makes them own and engage in ministry is to have not only the task, but the authority to complete it. That means my roll is to encourage, ask questions when I think it is moving away from the vision put in place, and support. Sometimes my biggest roll is to order supplies, offer the meeting space, or I get the job no one else wants. This is a version of servant leadership.

What I know to be true is almost 100% of the time, I am more blown away with how someone else owned their portion of a plan, than if I had done it all myself. God has created us to complete his mission in community, He has designed each of us with our own gifts and talents, and it always more fun to celebrate in team!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What's in the Bible Announces the Curriculum Companion

Today was a fun day for me and my friend Amy Dolan, Lemon Lime Kids. What's in the Bible officially announced the children's ministry curriculum companion. We are thrilled to be a part of this project.

I met Phil Vischer in 2005 when he spoke at a conference that I was executive producing. Since then I have continued to be impressed with Phil's heart and commitment to making sure the next generation of Christians is Biblically literate. Looking forward to bringing this wonderful resource to my friends in children's ministry.

Some highlights of the curriculum companion:

Each DVD will feature a corresponding 4 weeks of curriculum. we will start by launching (tentatively) the curriculum package for DVD 1 in June 2010.

the curriculum will feature several key distinctives:

1. Excellent Quality: creativity, storytelling, and biblically Sound

2. Customizable: options for children’s leaders to customize the lessons for their specific church context: size, location, denomination, and theology

3. Innovative Technology: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch apps, and at-home web applications, just to name a few!

4. Easy to use: several format options will provide every church with the ability to use the curriculum, regardless of technology available

5. Distinct Teaching about the Bible: content including bible history and stories from all the books of the bible!

we’re excited that this curriculum will encourage Biblical literacy in a new generation of Christians, and will provide a great format for children’s ministry leaders to implement.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Formational Children's Ministry - A Book Review

I met Ivy three years ago at a gathering of children ministry leaders with very different views. Prior to that meeting my perception was that both Ivy and I have different views of children's ministry in the local church. During that meeting I discovered we had much more common ground than first perceived. Since that time I have sought out her wisdom more than once of how a child is spiritually formed. Ivy's is a voice of great value when you take seriously spiritually forming the children in your ministries.

Ivy's new book Formational Children's Ministry: The Search for the New Model is insightful and thought provoking. In this book Ivy expresses some frustration with the common model in children's ministry of "teaching" children and successfully argues that children's ministries should be a place where we help children with their relationship with God by leading them into the powerful stories of God. The book explains the importance of the "story", the use of "ritual and being in "relationship."

One thing I like about Ivy is her ability to balance her thought with opposing views in children's ministry. Throughout the book as Ivy introduces new concepts she consistently balances that with common practices, and the pros and cons of utilizing a new model.

I highly recommend Ivy's new book. While I will not utilize all the ideas in my church as they would not align with our culture, and some I did not agree with. I did find Ivy's book very helpful in expanding the lens that I look through when creating a strong, spiritually forming, Sunday morning experience.

Legal Disclosure: Baker Books provided me with a free copy of Formational Children's Ministry for the purpose of reviewing. The opinions expressed are solely mine"

Monday, February 22, 2010

Problem Machine in Full Force

The snow machine is in full force today. I love winter, I love the cleanness of fresh fallen snow and how the world feels quiet. Today however, I am ready to look for signs of spring than to deal with a snowy driveway, finding a lost glove or shoveling one more path for the dogs. I was telling this to a friend today and she said at this time of the year it is always hard for her to believe that spring will ever arrive. I think I often feel that way in the hard days of ministry.

Six months ago, right before I started, one of our church locations moved to a beautiful theater venue; however the set-up for children’s ministry is less than ideal. Since opening, a significant number of families have stopped attending this venue and there has been a drop in volunteers. Six weeks ago I joined the team to help turn this ship, with my primary job being to meet with families and volunteers to hear the challenges from their perspective. Much like the snow machine, once the conversations were turned on the problems kept flying in full force.

Problems are a reality of ministry. How we respond to them determines if the ship turns, stands still or sinks all together. A few keys that I have learned over the years to help with problem solving are.

1. Ask Almost always when I am pretending to be Sherlock Holmes and uncover the real problems. I start with asking a form of the question, “From your perspective what is working and what is not?” I am yet to find a person who loves a ministry, but is frustrated by some aspect to share honestly and openly their thoughts. And it may surprise you that almost always these are good conversations with people telling most details very gently not wanting to “hurt” my feelings.

2. Listen Well Once you have asked the questions, listen well by taking notes, using good eye contact, and watch your body language, making sure it does not become defensive. This first conversation is most likely not the time to fix the problem, but a time to use affirming language. “I can understand why that is frustrating, or you are not crazy it should not happen that way.” I always end this time with thanking them for their time, for being honest, to look into the problem and will follow up with them.

3. Respond Once you are aware of the problem a response is necessary. This is what determines if the ship turns, stands still or sinks. What often seems like a mountain of a problem should be attacked one stone at a time. Dealing with the problem as strategically as possible often works the best. I start with the small stone or things that can be easily fixed, then move to building the right team of people to help solve the next level of problems, and last I look at what is systematically not working and start the conversations with my volunteers, senior pastor or elders.

Hoping the problem machine is not in full force by you today, but if it is, believing with you that spring is just around the corner.