10 Steps for Rebuilding [from Nehemiah] (part 1)

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This summer our student ministry is in the process of rebranding and rebuilding.  Sometimes you rebuild because things have been blown apart or have come crashing down… and sometimes you rebuild because you want to upgrade what you have.  The latter is our case.  We decided that it was time to dream about new direction, new vision, & new ideas and that led us to bring in the demolition team to clear the area so we can begin to rebuild and renovate.  About 8 years ago, during a study I was doing on the OT book of Nehemiah, I charted how Nehemiah chose to go about rebuilding the city of Jerusalem’s walls.  I discovered in the text 10 STEPS that Nehemiah took in his rebuilding process that I believe can be useful for anyone who wants to begin a rebuilding process.  I’ll highlight 3 today:

STEP 1: INQUIRY

One of the first things that Nehemiah did was to inquire what had happened to the city that his family was from.  He asked some survivors of the exile, and their report was not good: everything was destroyed.

The first step in any rebuilding process is an honest evaluation of what is really going on.  If we can’t take an honest look at our current situation, we will never rebuild well.  A lot of times leaders lie to themselves and say “Everything looks fine… there is no need to do anything” but they are only deceiving themselves.  This is why it is so important, as a leader, to not have “yes men” surrounding you.  You need people who can see what you can’t, and will be willing to tell you the brutal, honest truth.  It does us no good, as leaders, to not know.  So inquire about what is really going on, and demand 100% honesty.

STEP 2: BURDEN

The text says that Nehemiah immediately “sat down and wept and fasted for days.”  It destroyed Nehemiah to hear about his home being in complete ruins.

When you hear from those you inquire about what is really going on, does it affect you?  Does it bother you?  Even if things are “OK?”  It does for me.  I sure don’t like to hear that things are not as good as I think they are or think that they should be.  It is this BURDEN that causes me and other leaders to want to take bold action.

Without a BURDEN, there is no BUILDING.

STEP 3: PRAYER

Nehemiah prayed a simple, yet deeply profound prayer: “God we (nation and his own family) screwed this up by going after other gods… and you said that there would be consequences.  BUT you also said that if we returned to you, you would return us.  You promised.  We are ready to return to you and rebuild this FOR YOUR NAME, so please grant me success as I make preparations and go through the hoops to get this going.” (my paraphrase, of course.)

I think Nehemiah’s prayer highlights 2 things for rebuilding:

  1. Am I rebuilding what GOD wants… or what I want?
  2. Am I praying that God would grant us success in our plans?

I believe that if we pray about what GOD wants rebuilt, that is a prayer that He answers big time!  I cannot put the cart before the horse.  Pray first.

A little over a month ago I took our student ministry staff and volunteers through a 40 day prayer campaign called “GREATER” where we were praying Eph. 3:20 and John 1:50 and asking “What GREATER things does God want us to see happen in our ministry?”  On about day 4 there was a very strong urge to start planning… but I had 36 days left to go in the prayer journey.  I decided to do something that I would normally not do… I IGNORED that urge.  I didn’t even write my thoughts down… even though they were flooding in.  And guess what happened… at the end of the 40 days, God affirmed some of those early thoughts… and he changed a lot of other ones.

I can’t begin PLANNING before I begin PRAYING.

Next week I will highlight the next three steps Nehemiah took in rebuilding that we can learn from.

The Death of Entertainment Church and what it means…

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I need to start off this post by saying that I have spent the majority of my life in church.  I have been in 5 different churches throughout the course of my life… and they ALL have been VERY different.  Growing up, my family went to a VERY CONSERVATIVE, FUNDAMENTALIST, INDEPENDENT, KJV ONLY, BAPTIST CHURCH (even writing all of that is exhausting… I bet I broke a few rules in how I wrote that too 🙂 ) . I then served at an Evangelical Free Church for a year while I was in Bible College…  I then became a youth pastor at a “less-conservative-than-before-but-more-conservative-than-I-am” Baptist church.  I learned a lot from that 5 year stint.  I learned some big leadership lessons and how to be a pastor.  I also learned how deeply ingrained church politics can RUIN a healthy church.  I then moved on to be the youth pastor at a highly energetic, VERY attractional-oriented church, where we often used pop music, engaging stage designs, flashy lights, and dense fog to help people have an authentic experience with God.  I now work at a Non-Denominational church that values congregational singing and the teaching of God’s word as the centerpiece… there are lights and technology…  but if you were to visit our church, you’d probably come away with the idea of, “They have this stuff… but it definitely is not the main thing here.”  I say all of this not to poke fun at any of these churches or to say one is better than the other.  I stated all of this to show that I have seen church at A LOT of different stages.   I have seen inward focused church.  I have seen outward focused church.  I have seen seeker church.  I have seen seeker sensitive church.  I have seen believer focused church.    I have also, for the past 15 years, worked with teenagers and young adults.  I have seen HUGE PRODUCTION ministry and quiet home ministry.  And a powerful trend I am seeing in the emerging church of the future is a STRONG DEPARTURE from the “come and observe our show” type of church.  Millennials are walking away from this at an ALARMING rate.  I am watching young (and not so young) people around me “deconstruct” their faith and then try to reconstruct it… and one of the things that happens in that process is they are walking away from the modern, entertainment focused, “cool” church and trading it for a church that offers liturgy and deeply spiritual experiences that are based in readings and traditions and history.  This all actually started about a decade ago… and pastors on the coasts began showing us this trend.  We saw the “Emergent” movement happen… and then it seemed to go away, or, at least become quieter than it was.  But everything that they were highlighting and saying is now coming to the forefront… and churches are going to have to face this at some point, or become irrelevant to the next generation.  So, as a leader and a pastor (especially over the next generation ministries) how do we begin to handle this?   What should we begin to do to shape the future of the church?

Here are a few suggestions that I have been wrestling with… they are not the DEFINITIVE list… but just my thoughts on how I’ve been trying to process this for students and young adults:

1. Help them know what the Bible is.

This is a huge topic, “What is the Bible?”  We need to begin to answer this question because people, over the years, have held the Bible up as their banner while they commit ATROCIOUS things… INHUMANE things… and it is no longer being swept under the rug or hidden away in the closet.  People are asking the tough questions of “Does the Bible REALLY condone this? and if it does, is that what God is really all about?  And if He is, can He be trusted?  Or is this just another attempt of man to find out what the purpose of this life is and they’ve made all this up?”  These are serious questions that WE, as the church, cannot ignore… and  it starts with helping people understand what the Bible really is.

For years, I was taught that the Bible was many different things: A history book, a science book, a rule book, a guide, an instruction manual to the human existence, a sword to offend the culture, a defense of the christian faith, etc…  What I am coming to discover (and probably have known for a while) is that the Bible is the narrative or story of God interacting with His creation.  A lot of the Bible is God pulling his creation to a better understanding of who He is and what it truly means to be his creation.  (That is why some things seem to be viewed differently as the Bible goes along and even how we tend to read it today (mutliple wives, plurality of gods in Canaan and Egypt, racism and slavery… just to mention a few) It is not that God has changed his mind… but that he has changed his creations’ mind about something and caused them to write something different.)  It is God using human authors to reveal himself to his creation in the way that HE sees fit.  It’s human authors struggling to see the divine in the mess.  It is a book about how to know the God of the universe and how to know ourselves and why things are the way they are (mostly from a spiritual point of view).  There is some history in the Bible… but it is not a history book.  There is some science in the Bible… but it is not a science book. (Thank goodness on those last two things… or this might get a little bit messy)  There are rules in the Bible… but it is not a rule book.  There are instructions on how to live our lives… but it is not an instruction manual.  The Bible is basically about the questions: “Who is God?” “What is the point of this life?” and “How can we know and trust Him?”  And it follows the narrative of the lengths that God will go to BE WITH his creation… even when His creation doesn’t want to be with him.  The Bible’s ultimate point is to direct us to Jesus and a life of trusting him fully.

We need to help them know what the Bible is.

2. Value HUMILITY over CERTAINTY.

When I graduated Bible College, I was on fire for God and wanted to take the world by storm…  charge Hell with a squirt gun…  PASSION.  I had a huge flaw, however.  My flaw was that I thought I had EVERYTHING figured out.  I thought I had God figured out.  I thought I had Jesus figured out.  I thought I had the Bible and Church figured out . I thought I had people figured out.  I WAS 100% CERTAIN that I was right about it!

Do you know what 15 years in ministry, becoming a parent (especially a parent of a kid with some special needs),  & walking through people’s struggles and pain does?  It makes you realize just how UNCERTAIN you are about things.  And that is a beautiful place to be.  Why?  Because certainty leads to arrogance which leads to a lack of empathy which, ultimately, undermines my calling as a pastor.

I’m not 100% certain of a lot anymore.  Would I like to be?  ABSOLUTELY.  (I’m a control person by nature)  But here is what I have learned/am learning:  Humility goes a lot further than certainty.  Do I FEEL certain about things like “There is a God,” “The Bible is God’s revelation,” “Jesus is the Savior” etc… YES.  But I must come at those with Humility.  Faith is built on Humility.  I used to define faith as “Being certain of what you can’t see.”  But I think that faith and certainty are mutually exclusive.  I think faith is trusting even when you aren’t certain.  Certainty says, “I can’t see it… but this is how I can explain it… and I am 100% right no matter what you think.”   I think faith built on humility is “I can’t explain it… but I can’t deny it either… so I will trust.”  I think that is a better, and actually more Biblical, place to land… and i think it will become the way the next generation expresses themselves with faith.

3. Teach that DOUBT & DECONSTRUCTION are a natural part of authentic faith.

I don’t know how this point sits with you… but what I have seen lately is that when people begin to doubt, they feel guilty and alone and somehow embarrassed for going through this.  This is our (the church’s) fault.  This happens because we have championed certainty… and pushed answers and apologetics instead of faith and trust.  We demonize doubt.  We look at Thomas in the New Testament and characterize him because he doubted… and then sling rocks from afar with the judgmental attitude of “How could you?”  But how did Jesus treat Thomas?  Was he mad?  Was he disappointed?  Did he demonize his doubt?  NOPE.  If anything, he legitimized his concerns and doubt… and then met him in the middle of it.  And also notice… Jesus didn’t sit Thomas down and teach him all the Old Testament prophecies about why this was true and the answers he needed to have for him to intellectually accept all of this.  He simply said, “experience me… and trust.”

We need to teach people that Doubt and Deconstruction are a natural part of the faith journey.  We can’t be afraid of it.  We can’t “FIX” it for them.  We can’t just give them more answers in hope that they just “get over it.”  The best we can do is 1) help them have a chance to personally experience Jesus, & 2) help them understand how to TRUST him in the midst of their doubt.  The people I have known/or know of who have gone through this and reconstructed their faith have actually come out STRONGER because of it.  So did Thomas!

4. Emphasize PRACTICES over PRODUCTION.

One of the things that I have been seeing is that personal and corporate spiritual practices are HUGE to the next generation.  Everything in life is over-produced.  Our food is over-produced.  Our music is over-produced.  Our TV is over-produced
(even reality tv… oxymoron).  Our Social Media is now becoming over-produced.  And our churches are over-produced.  And what happens when we over-produce things… we lose the authenticity of it.  It becomes less “real” and more “manufactured.” It’s like we are “Truman Show”ing people the church.  People don’t want a manufactured faith.  They want a RAW faith.  They want a REAL faith.  They want REAL experiences… not manufactured ones.  There was a Babylon Bee (satire about church) article back a couple of months about a church where the fog machine stopped working… and so did the Holy Spirit.  It was being completely tongue-in-cheek… but with every “just kidding” there is a nugget of truth.  The nugget of truth here is that we think the more we manufacture an environment… the more we can help someone experience God.  But what if it isn’t God that they are experiencing?  What if they are just coming to grips with their own emotions because of a feeling we created?  And does this mean that people can’t experience God in a well lit room with no LED lights and fog?  With ancient music, hymns, and liturgy instead of modern music and a band?  For the past 3 decades we have traded Practices in the church for Production in the church.  Now, here’s the deal… I LOVE PRODUCTION.  I AM A FAN OF PRODUCTION.  (just take a look at the banner picture of this blog) . BUT… PRODUCTION MUST NOT TRUMP PRACTICES.  I think this is a HUGE shift we need to start making.  Doing responsive readings, public reading of scripture together, celebrating communion together, singing old and new songs together, fasting, confession… these are all important practices (plus a lot more) that need to be emphasized MORE than a Sunday morning production.  The question to ask is not how we can do away with productions… but how can we begin to emphasize Spiritual Practices both personally and corporately MORE than our productions?

5. Emphasize TRUST over FEEL.

I don’t know where we got this idea… but a lot of Christians equate their life in Christ to 1) what they know and 2) how they feel.    That somehow, if they can just figure out how to have the RIGHT BELIEFS mixed with the RIGHT FEELINGS… that means they are in the club!  But what happens (let me be facetious for a second) if all of what you constructed to believe turns out to be WRONG or mostly wrong?  What if one Sunday you wake up, head to a morning service… and all the feels are gone?  Has your faith left you?

It has if you defined it in those terms.

But the writers of the New Testament said in pretty clear terms that their faith was based on one thing and one thing only… the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Paul said “We preach Christ crucified.”  He also talked at length about the most important thing being the resurrection of Jesus.  That without the resurrection, their faith means nothing.  It was all about trust.  It was trusting that what their eyes saw was true even though it didn’t make reasonable, logical sense.  It was trusting that the over 600 witnesses to the risen Christ were accurate and truthful.  That is faith.  It is a TRUST thing.  It is a “I can’t fully explain it… but Christ died for my sins, was buried, and on the third day rose again… according to the prophets of the Old Testament Scriptures… and my trust is in that for the forgiveness of my sins.”  We need to emphasize that it’s about Trusting Jesus even when we don’t get the feels…

6. ELEVATE JESUS!

Jesus is the point of church.  He is the point of life.  He is the point of the Bible.  It’s ALL ABOUT JESUS.  We need to make sure our churches emphasize this.  I think
Hebrews 1 shows us why we must ELEVATE JESUS:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Creator, sustainer, the exact representation of the being of God, redeemer… he is all those things.  And if we elevate Jesus, guess what?  He said that he will draw people to himself.  As we elevate Jesus… we build his church.

 

Times change.  Trends change.  Jesus remains.

 

Aligning Next-Gen Ministries in your Church (part 3)

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As I have stated in previous posts, my job as a Next Gen Pastor is to make sure that the ministries in my Next Gen area (kids and students) are all heading toward the same goal.  When I first heard of this concept, I have to admit, I thought of curriculum.  Now that I have been doing this for a while, I realize that it is soooo much more than that.

In my last 2 posts I gave some suggestions on how you can do this:

POST 1: 1] Create and Cast Vision and Values for Next Gen Ministries & 2] Develop Common Language to Rally Around.  

POST 2: 3] Create a Once-A-Month “All Hands On Deck” Next Gen Team Meeting, & 4] Take Your Team to a Conference.  

I want to add 2 more ideas to the conversation today:

5] Create a “MUST READ” book list 

This has been huge for our team.  Our team has identified a bunch of GREAT books that are helpful for us in moving our ministries in the right direction.  I have been working on compiling that list and making sure we have those resources readily available to our team members.  I make sure that we are reading important books together as a team and talking about them.  This not only helps us lead better (leaders are learners & readers are leaders) but it also gives us some “common language” to rally around.  Sit with your Next Gen leaders and talk about what is important to read and make a list… it will take you to the next level.

6] Use Great Curriculum

Ok… so I started this post by saying that it is not about curriculum… which I will still say.  Curriculum cannot be the ONLY thing that aligns you, but it is A PART of what aligns you.  If you can get your curriculum to line up (content and direction) then you will be on your way to your goal together.  You will know what the other ministries are up to and what they are teaching so the baton can be passed smoothly from one ministry area to another.  We use the RETHINK curriculum with the ORANGE STRATEGY
(First Look, 252 Basics, XP3).  Their curriculum is AWESOME and Rethink does a lot of the alignment work for us.  Now, I’m not saying that you HAVE TO use their curriculum to align your Next Gen Minsitries.  What I am saying is that you need to make sure that your curriculums make sense when placed next to each other and that it takes a kid & student on a journey that leads them to a destination when they graduate high school.

Next week I’ll conclude this series with my final 2 ideas for aligning Next Gen Ministries. But until then, what do you do?

Aligning Next-Gen Ministries in your Church (part 2)

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Last week I started this idea in motion of how a church can get their next gen ministries (kids min & student min) aligned and moving in the same direction toward a common goal.  The first two ideas were: 1] Create and Cast Vision and Values for Next Gen Ministries & 2] Develop Common Language to Rally Around.  

This week i want to add two more ideas to that list to keep the conversation rolling on.

3. Create a Once-A-Month “All Hands On Deck” Next Gen Team Meeting.

I don’t like too many meetings, but well placed meetings are necessary for team building, morale, and great communication.  At Hopevale, we started this meeting 2 years ago.  We invite EVERYONE that works in the Next Gen department to this meeting (Pastors, Directors, Coordinators, Assistants… sometimes interns).  This meeting is the perfect environment to recast our vision and values, to celebrate wins and share stories, to talk about what is coming up in our ministry areas, and to talk about important issues and topics in the Next Gen ministry world.  I have also used this meeting as an opportunity for staff training.  What I have found is that this meeting keeps us running on the same track… and it also provides a sense of team and family that is very encouraging to our individual ministry areas.

4. Take Your Team to a Conference.  

We made this a HUGE value about 3-4 years ago.  We know that conferences are very expensive… and there is no way to take everyone to a 3 day conference that involves plane tickets and hotel rooms… so we found a one day conference that is perfect for us.  it is the Orange Tour One Day Conference.  This day helps reinforce our vision for Next Gen, it helps us continue to speak the same language, it offers new ideas and learning for Next Gen ministry, and it gives us a team-building shared experience.  To find our where the Orange tour is going to be and if it is close to where you are, go here.  You won’t regret this one day spent with your team and the Orange team… they are AWESOME!

Next week I’ll add a couple more ideas to the conversation.

Aligning Next-Gen Ministries in your Church

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One of my major responsibilities in my role as Next Gen Pastor is to make sure that there is alignment between our Next Gen Ministries in our church.  I need to make sure that our Kids min and our Student min are all pulling in the same direction so that we can be effective in the life of a kid or teenager.  That is a very important task.  Sometimes what happens is this: the Kid’s pastor & the Youth pastor may work at the same church, in the same office… they may even share a wall in that office, but from the outside looking in, you would think they worked at two entirely different churches.  Why?  Because leaders want to lead… and “where there is no vision, the people perish.” Well… that is a little dramatic (thanks Proverbs) but it highlights a principle that if there is no common vision, leaders will create vision.  And when leaders in an organization begin creating separate visions… it usually leads them in separate directions.  This is what we call SILO ministry… Where every leader does what is right in their own eyes.  So the Next Gen Pastor’s job is to CAST a COMMON VISION for the Next Gen ministries so that they can pull together toward a common goal.  YAY!!!

So… big question:  “What do you do to align those ministries and ministry leaders?

Over the next couple of weeks I want to take some time to answer that question.  I’ve discovered 8 things that create next-gen ministry alignment in our ministry that I would love to share. (there are probably WAY MORE than 8… but I ran out of room on my paper in my journal… so I stopped at 8 🙂 )

Here are the first 2:

1. Create and Cast a VISION and VALUES for Next-Gen ministries.

The beginning of ministry alignment is to reorient our ministries and ministry leaders around a shared vision of where we want our ministries to go and what we want them to work together to accomplish.  Our MISSION is our goal, our VISION is what propels us toward that goal, and our VALUES act as guardrails to make sure we head toward that goal.

I am of the belief (no matter what PDYM says) that our kids ministry and our youth ministry mission statements need to be the same as our overall church mission statement.  We are all on the same team shooting for the same goal.  Now… VISION… that is something different, and it kind-of has to be.  Why?  Because what propels adults to our mission is not the same as what propels kids and teenagers toward our mission.  That is what caused us to come up with a separate vision statement for our Next Gen world at Hopevale.  Our Next Gen vision statement is:

For every kid and teenager to HEAR about, KNOW, and EXPERIENCE an authentic relationship with Jesus. 

Those 3 words actually dictate our vision for our 3 separate areas in Next Gen:

Preschool – HEAR

Elementary & PreTeen – KNOW

Students/Youth – EXPERIENCE

We talk about that vision OFTEN!

we also came up with 5 basic Next Gen values that keep us going toward our mission.  They are: AUTHENTICITY: “Be Real” , EXCELLENCE: “Be Exceptional“, PRESENCE: “Be Available“, HUMILITY: “Be Teachable“, & COMMUNITY: “Be Vulnerable.”  These are important in our world because they keep us focused on our mission and vision.

2. Develop Common Language to Rally Around.

If you want alignment on your teams… your teams have to speak the same language to each other.  This is something that I have worked REALLY HARD ON (whether my team knows that or not) and I think it shows.  There are words or phrases that we throw around a lot… and I’m not even sure if we recognize it or do it on purpose anymore, it just happens… and we all know exactly what it means and what it implies.  One of those phrases, for example, is that we “Partner with parents.”  We all say it, we all know what it means, and it drives us to our goal.  We even know when we aren’t doing this and someone says “We need to be better at “partnering with parents” on this one.”  Creating common language reinforces common vision.

There are the first two on my list… and these are where I would start, personally.

Next week we’ll talk about the next two ways you can align your next-gen ministries into a solid Next-Gen team.

Creating An Intentional Self Leadership Rhythm in Your Day and WHY it Matters

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I don’t know about you, but over the years I have really struggled at being consistent with having times of quiet thought, reflection, reading, learning, listening or just BEING.  The sad thing is that it doesn’t matter if it is in prayer, meditation over scripture or life, or reading about bettering and improving myself as a person or as a leader… It has always been a struggle… IF I AM NOT INTENTIONAL.

I am not a natural reader or journal-er.  Those things don’t come easy to me.  I was never an “Academic” person, and I’m pretty sure that I have some form of ADD/ADHD that has not been diagnosed.  (And I don’t say that lightly or as a self-deprecating joke… I have a child who has ADHD… and I relate to him on an hourly basis… so I am pretty sure it is a real thing.)   I am also NOT a morning person, so even finding minutes in my day that are focused, quiet and distraction free are almost never there.  So all of this is naturally fighting against any kind of “easy” rhythm in my day to spend some time leading myself. But just because it isn’t “natural” doesn’t mean it isn’t NECESSARY.

LEADERS ARE LEARNERS.

It is that plain and that simple.  Leaders have to be learners because the more you learn.. the easier it is to lead those around you to that new learning.  If I am not learning… I am not leading.  It’s more like coasting.  If I am going to be a learner, and if the best moments of learning are done in those quiet moments, and if those moments are not NATURAL to me… I need to learn how to INTENTIONALLY figure out how to make it a valuable part of the rhythm of my day.

So how did I do this?  Well…

1) I Recognized that WHERE I spent that time was VERY IMPORTANT.

I can’t do this in my office at Hopevale.  It just won’t happen there.  My office reeks of meetings and activity and sermon prep and strategic moments and thinking about work.  There are too many screens to look at and too many people that pull at my attention.  So I have to be somewhere else.  I decided that the best place for me to spend that time is in my recliner in the corner of my living room.  It is a relaxing place that faces the window and doesn’t have too many distractions around it.  It has become a significant place for me.

2) I Recognized that WHEN I spent that time was VERY IMPORTANT.

Like I already said, my day is pretty chaotic and filled with one thing after another.  So I made a very difficult decision… I turned myself into a morning person.  I have to wake up my kids at 6:30am to get them to school on time anyway… so I decided to make an extra sacrifice and wake up at 5:30am to spend an hour before the day really gets going on self leadership.  This was BRUTAL at first… because 1) I hate mornings, 2) I value my sleeping in, & 3) I go to bed at an insanely late time most nights.  The more I forced myself to do it, however, the easier it has become.  I made a best friend also… Me and COFFEE are TIGHT now.

3) I Recognized that WHAT I spent that time DOING was VERY IMPORTANT.

Can I just be candid for a second… the right content to read and meditate on is difficult to figure out.  I have started so many “Bible reading plans” over the course of my life that end up getting 1/4 of the way done and then forgotten.  I think it is because (and here is why I said “candid” earlier) most of these plans were not written for “normal” people… they were written for people with an amazing attention span. (anyone want to raise their hand?  Not me!)  But for spiritual content lately… the Bible App on my smartphone has been GOLD.  If you don’t have it yet… download it ASAP!  There are so many valuable PLANS on there to keep you devotionally connected.  And the best part?  It walks you through setting up reminders on your phone so that you can’t “FORGET” about it.  You have to purposefully ignore it to not do it.   This has been AWESOME for my spiritual growth and accountability.

I also decided on a formula for how I would go about learning on the leadership side of my life as well.  I picked 4 books for personal spiritual growth, 4 books for personal leadership growth, and 4 books for ministry growth back in January.  My goal is to read them all on a rotation by category throughout this year.  I am not being militant with it, however, because I realize that some books will take longer to digest than others.  So if I get through all 12… GREAT!  If I make it through 3 or 4… GREAT!  I am still taking the time to learn in an undistracted way.

I also decided to spend the last 10-20 minutes or so journaling and praying. (I wrote that line like it was a throw away… but it is not!)

So that was what I did and why I did it.  And I have to tell you, I have grown a lot in the past 5 months and have been MORE CONSISTENT with this in my life than I EVER have been.  Intentionality is an amazing thing.  

So what would I tell someone who asked me, “Sam, how can I be intentional about creating a self leadership rhythm in my day?”  I would tell them this:

1) Get a PLACE

2) Get a TIME

3) Get a PLAN

…and STICK TO IT.  If you don’t intentionally create GOOD HABITS as a rhythm of your day… you’ll fall into BAD HABITS… and those are really hard to break (from experience).  

I think what did it for me was to imagine what I wanted my preferred future to look like when it comes to this area of my life… and then work my way backward from that vision to reality and ask “What is it going to take to get there?”

So, “Where do you want your life to go in this area… and what will it take for you to get there?”

Sermon Prep Storyboarding

sermon prep storyboarding-01

Part of my job as a Next Gen Pastor… actually, about 60% of my job… has to do with prepping and delivering sermons.  I teach to both middle school and high school students and to adults, but no matter who I am speaking to, it takes a significant amount of preparation.  Early on in my ministry career, the process of sermon prepping became very daunting and time consuming.  I began finding that the model of sermon prep that I learned in classroom environments in college really did not lead me to speaking and communicating well to real life people.  So I began a quest to find out how to prep sermons in a way that was 1) easier and less time consuming & 2) fit me and my style best.

I tried just about everything.  One of the major shifts I had in my communication style was after watching Andy Stanley teach on how he communicates  and organizes his sermons at a DRIVE conference years ago.  His ME, WE, GOD, YOU, WE roadmap approach to preaching was very intriguing to me.  It still is.  In fact, it is basically how I organize my sermons to this day.  (I’ve tweaked the main headers to fit me and my language and style a little bit better, but it is pretty much the same gist of things) .  A few years back, though, I began to realize that just putting those 5 headers on a paper and trying to fill them in was still VERY time consuming and difficult.  That is when I came up with my storyboard idea.  I would break my white board in my office into 6 components… the sixth being my BOTTOM LINE IDEA in the very center, with everything else wrapped around it.  I then started adding different components to each box to help me think through how to fill them in.  Things like: Personal Story, Cultural Story, Hook, Burden, Transition Statements, Critical Questions, etc…  The more I used this approach, the easier it was for me to fill in the blanks and make sense of my messages.  This process has actually cut my sermon prep time in half.

IMG_1681   [example of storyboard for a message]

So I thought that I would share with you my storyboard.  Maybe this concept will help you if you are prepping and delivering sermons.  What I have also discovered is this:  Even if you don’t deliver “sermons” this storyboard can help you prep any type of speech that you will have to give.  In fact, I used this approach with my 10 year old son to help him organize a “book talk” that he had to do for his 4th grade class at school.  I’m all about keeping things simple and well organized… so hopefully this will help you do that as well!

storyboard-01