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Investing Beyond the Walls of Your Church

Investing in the Church Beyond Your Walls

For those of us called into local church ministry, whether it’s in a staff or in a volunteer leadership position, our job descriptions rarely ask us to look beyond the walls of our own church facility.  And, when we are asked to do so, it’s generally in order to bring families to our own church in order to sit in our seats and hear our weekend message.

Yet, if you do the math, the amount of unchurched people in your town could never fit inside the walls of your church – it just isn’t possible.  Which means, if we’re going to actually reach our neighborhoods with the Gospel, we’re going to have to learn to work together with the church down the street.  Today, I’d love for you to consider taking a step toward partnering with another church in your community – not because you need more friends, but because your neighbors need to know who Jesus is.

Building a Kingdom, not Castles

A few years ago, I was asked to contribute to a book which asked a handful of ministry leaders to choose one word that they felt represented the most important concept for people in Children’s Ministry as we looked toward the future of our field.  My word: Kingdom.  I went on to write, and still believe, that our churches would be more effective at ministry if we understood that each congregation in a community has a unique calling and purpose in their context and that, by working together to build the kingdom, we’d better be able to reach those who are lost and hurting in the world around us.

For those of us who find themselves at churches who have legacies of castle building, where the idea of working with other churches in the community might sound like heresy, let me assure you – I’m not asking you to stop inviting people to your church gathering.  In fact, I strongly believe that people will be more willing to worship in your faith community if you have a friendly relationship with other churches in town.  But, with simple math in mind, there simply aren’t enough seats in your church’s sanctuary or worship center for everyone in your neighborhood to sit in if they showed up on a Sunday.

The Three Mile Challenge

Being able to name what makes your church unique and what you bring to the table in a partnership first requires you to know what other voices are in the conversation.  But, in order to do that, you need to know what churches are in your neighborhood.  A quick Google search (if you just type “churches near” and then your church name, Google will give you a map of the churches in your area) will give you a great place to start.  From there, choose 5-10 churches within three miles of your church and check out their websites – what stands out to you? … what would they offer to a family looking to visit them on a weekend?  … who would you connect with on staff if you sent them an email?  … if you already know something about that church, what have you heard?  Your first steps into partnership should be with the churches on that short list who you already have some connection to.  Don’t make this harder than it has to be.

Next Steps into Partnership

Some of us might get intimidated by the idea of partnering with other churches because we think it means that we have to run joint events – massive VBS initiatives that will require us to rent out local stadiums and spend thousands of dollars.  However, that’s not what partnership has to look like.  Kingdom building begins with relationships long before it ever (IF it ever) leads to events.  So, beginning with that list of churches nearby, consider what it would look like to begin praying for three of those churches.

In my marriage, I can generally measure the health of our partnership by how well I know my wife’s prayer requests.  That is to say, if I know what’s on her heart and how to pray for the things that she cares most deeply about, then – chances are – we’re probably closer to being on the same page than when my prayers for her are more general.  In a similar way, the more details I know about how to pray for the churches in my area, the higher the chances are that I’m in relationship with those churches and that I actually care about the ministry taking place there.

In my community, I’m blessed to be surrounded by amazing friends at Grace Church of Glendora, Cornerstone Church, Grace Church of La Verne, Church of the Open Door and Foothill Church – and, because we pray for each other, I have a better sense for the hearts of the people at those churches and can tell local families what they might find in those congregations that my local church might not be able to offer.  Through partnering with those friends, the impact we can have on our community becomes multiplied and our seating capacity on a weekend increases exponentially.

If you want to try something new in caring for your community, try investing in kingdom building by getting to know another church in your area.  Though it might not be in your job description, you might get a new friend out of the effort – and, even if you don’t need another friend, your neighbors need a place to worship where they can hear about the Gospel of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2015 in Thoughts

 

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Dreaming in Orange

Orange Week: Dreaming in Orange

Simple ways that we’re becoming a more Orange church (and you can too!)

I remember walking away from The Orange Conference for the first time and wondering where to go from there.  Seriously.  You can’t help but feel like you have a spoon to build a mountain with when walking away from a conference that gives you a passion for a strategy that nobody else on your team has ever heard of.  Yet, we’ve been able to make some pretty significant moves toward partnering with families over the last 3 years.  How, you might ask?  Well… I dream in Orange.

(In other words, I’m always thinking about Orange and how we can embrace the strategy more as a team and as a church family – it’s become a part of everything I do)

I need to lay a couple things on the table.  First, the subtitle to this post is a little misleading.  Every church’s “next steps” into Orange will look different and it’s hard to describe a one-size-fits-all approach to stepping into a strategy that hinges on family partnership and unified team dynamics.  Second, our church hasn’t “arrived” at being Orange – in fact, I have weekly moments when I’ve had an interaction with someone else on staff and I want to retreat back into a silo mentality.  It’s never the right answer, but it’s so darn tempting sometimes!

All that to say, I’m going to suggest three simple things that we do on a regular basis that you and your team can try as well (you can start doing them as early as tomorrow!) that help us Think Orange.

We work with an end in mind

One of the things that Reggie and the rest of the Orange team talks about ALL the time is the importance of having an end in mind – of knowing where you’re going.  So, before I began conversations about “partnering” and started using Orange vocab, I chose one of the 5 Orange Principles and started there.  It’s hard to argue against having an end in mind when it comes to developing program content and strategy, so, for me, it seemed like a great place to start.

I began talking about having an “end in mind” at home to see if that language works when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t think about ministry 24/7 (crazy to consider – our spouses don’t necessarily think about ministry as much as we do!)… and, I was a little surprised, but it totally makes sense to those outside of Orange circles.  I began talking with other parents about parenting with an end in mind and found that it was an easy place to start.

From there, I began working Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner podcasts and videos into training sessions and parenting gatherings – and I chose clips where they talked specifically about having an end in mind.  Once that principle became a part of our regular conversations – as a staff, as parents, and as families – I began introducing more orange concepts.  It was a great place to start, and I’d encourage you to consider choosing one of the 5 Essentials (I’d argue that Imagine the End is the easiest) and go from there.

We talk about being a team

It’s not uncommon to hear me end a conversation on staff by restating the reality that we’re one team.  Whether I’m talking to our Student Pastor, our bookkeeper, our Small Groups Pastor or our volunteer front-desk receptionist – I am often heard up and down the hallway of our office building talking about the team we are all a part of.  In fact, at most coffee meetings I have with other pastors and directors in the area, I try to slip in the phrase “one team” into as many conversations as I can.

I talk about our one team reality A LOT for a couple reasons.  First, it helps us live into that reality.  It’s easy to overlook rules and philosophies that are never discussed.  Do you know what kind of pesticides your church uses in the event of a bug infestation?  Most of us don’t – because we NEVER talk about those sorts of things.  It’s easy to ignore the ins and outs of church life if you aren’t talking about them – so, I make it a point to talk about being on the same team.  All.  The.  Time.  Secondly, it’s a great reality check and helps me when it comes to accountability.  When we were setting our schedule for mid-week programs this Fall, I had to remind myself over and over that our schedules needed to align with our church’s other ministries – I don’t want to start talking about being a team and have people begin to roll the eyes because I made a decision or program choice that doesn’t reflect that vision.

By talking about a unified team, a staff can begin to live into the reality of those words.  Orange isn’t something that’s easy to do alone – if you can get the rest of the players to catch the vision of being One Team, it’ll be easier to get them to catch the vision for partnering church and family together onto One Team.

I wear a stupid amount of Orange

There are days when I wish it could have been a different color.  Green maybe?  I know Green, as a color, has already been hijacked by another movement.  I totally get it.  But… Orange is just so… Orange.

Now, with that said, I love that something as simple as a piece of clothing I’m wearing on a Sunday or Wednesday can communicate an entire philosophy or, at the very least, begin a discussion about our ministry strategy with a parent or a volunteer.

An easy way to get people in your church, staff or parents, to begin asking questions about Orange is to begin wearing it.  For the first year of overhauling our strategy, I bought a pair of orange shoes and wore them to every ministry event I was in attendance at.  After a while, people began asking about them (because, seriously, Orange doesn’t match everything and stands out a bit) and I’d have a chance to talk about partnership and the direction we were heading as a ministry and as a church (one team!).  A few weeks ago, I didn’t wear orange on a Sunday and I had parents AND kids call me out – Orange has become such a part of what I talk about that families care about and notice the color of my clothes.  Wearing orange is probably the least expensive and most effective thing I’ve done to get people at our church and our community talking about Orange.

If you’re thinking about shifting things at your church to partner with families, maybe it’s worth a try?  Start wearing something Orange.

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For others who’ve moved Orange in the last few years, what were your first steps?

For those looking at making that shift, what questions do you have?

What did I miss?

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange

 

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Out of Left Field

Orange Week: Out of Left Field

The thing I learned at Orange that I never saw coming

When I attended my first Orange Conference a few years ago, I had a lot of expectations.

At Orange, I expected to hear amazing large group teaching from Reggie Joiner and Andy Stanley.  I knew that any breakouts led by Jim Wideman would leave me reading and re-reading my notes for days.  I expected to experience an amazing time of worship through music that resonated with me.
(one of my favorite things about being at a conference w/ youth pastors is that nobody on stage is going to ask you to do hand motions to the songs you’re singing… I can’t overstate how much I don’t like music aimed at 4 year olds at a conference for ministry leaders.  just sayin.)

However, I was given a gift at Orange that I never saw coming… and it’s changed the way I do ministry more than anything I’ve ever learned sitting in a chair – at Orange, I came for the strategy and I’ve stayed because of the friendships.

When I’m having a hard time in ministry, and don’t want to vent to someone in my local community, I know that I have a handful of people across the country that I can call, text or send a quick message to who will not only lift me up in prayer but will offer me advice as if what happens to me actually matters.  I’ve been to other conferences, but there’s something about Orange that actually lends itself to forming and encouraging lasting friendships.  When my wife had a miscarriage a little over a month ago, one of the first people that I sent a message out to was a friend I met at Orange 3 years ago.  Because I knew that part of my friend’s story is that he and his wife have miscarried in the past, and he’s also in church leadership, I knew that he would have a sense of how to pray for my family.

That first year that I went to Orange, I had to find the money to travel and attend out of my personal bank account – I didn’t have a church budget line that was going to help me get out to Atlanta.  I’m pretty sure that, if I would have told my wife that I wanted to spend our money to go make some friends who don’t live near us, she may have balked at the idea.  But even now, looking back on that trip and relationships that now exist because of Orange, I think we’d both agree that it was worth every penny we spent.  And, in all honesty, all the expectations I had about learning and growing in my faith and leadership skills were met – so, that’s always a bonus.

As I wrote in this post during the Orange Conference last year (Cheering for Each Other, Apr 28), I am struck at how having ministry friends outside of my own neighborhood greatly increases my sense of the Church-at-Large and the greater team that I’m a part of.  Because I’ve grown close to guys like Dan Scott (danscottblog.com, large group communicator extraordinaire), Matt McKee (mattmckee.me, my go to guy for all things tech and large-scale-printing related) and others at the conference, I’ve grown in my ministry skill set as well as in my own spiritual life.

Each year, before the Orange Conference, I make a point to write down on a post-it that I stick onto my wallet for the trip.  It says, “add 2 more.”  My hope and prayer, at every Orange Conference (or Orange Tour stop) that I attend, is that I make 2 more friends who will support me in ministry and life over the next year.  And, each year, God answers that prayer in greater ways than I could have ever imagined.

I never saw that coming.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange

 

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Lockdowns, Medical Teams & The Mom Squad

I care about safety.

And… anyone who knows me knows that that’s an understatement.  I live a life that’s built on rules, strategies, formulas and procedures.  So, for better or for worse, I bring my crazy-love for safety to the kidmin world that I work and live in.

While visiting a nearby VBS recently, I was once again reminded that not everyone in kidmin shares my same passion for keeping kids safe (it’s not that they want kids to be “unsafe” – I’m just pretty sure that they are living in a world where nothing bad ever happens, so they don’t plan for worst-case scenarios).

I had tried to contact the church for weeks to set up a time to observe one of their programs, but never received a reply.  So, I decided I’d swing by and try to meet someone during the program who could walk me around and give me a behind the scenes look at things (annually, we offer campus tours during VBS for parents and church leaders who want to hear what goes into putting together our camp… I was hoping for something similar from them).

During my hour-long visit, without any identification or uniform, I was able to walk freely across a church campus while programs were running. I was next to children during their opening worship time, I spoke with children and gave high-fives, I walked to and through small group rooms where pictures and names of children in those rooms were plastered on the windows, I took pictures and even walked past check in teams that were supposed to stop random guys like me who are walking onto the church campus. I know, that’s a long sentence and I’m pretty sure the grammar is pretty weak – but, you get the point.  I did all of that – and I was never once stopped.  Nobody said a word to me.

Now, I don’t bring that up to say that our church and our programs are perfect.  I bring it up because many people in kidmin don’t think through safety procedures unless you make them… and, many don’t know where to start.  So, today, I want to share with you 3 things that you can do to begin taking safety seriously during large programs that you run.  You can plug these into your next camp, VBS, whatever – with little effort and HUGE reward (in my world, keeping kids safe is a big deal – in fact, I’d say it’s priceless).

The Lowdown on the Lockdown

During our large events, we have Lockdown procedures for a variety of incidents that might happen while kids are at church.  Because we go out of our way to train our team on the methods and reasons behind lockdowns, we’ve been able to successfully lock down our church campus on multiple occasions over the course of the last few years.

We teach our lockdown procedures through story and examples and spend about half an hour of our VBS training talking through our expectations of our leaders and staff during an emergency.  We cover examples of what to do in the event that a camper is separated from their group (Level 1), what to do if an unescorted adult comes on campus (level 2) or if wildlife or another dangerous threat is within the immediate surroundings (level 3).

You can download the PDF of our emergency procedures (Lockdowns are on page 2) by clicking HERE.

Putting a lockdown procedure into place isn’t something that takes a lot of effort or money, but it saves you time and energy when everyone is on the same page during an emergency.

We need a Medic!

One of the major upgrades we made to our VBS program last year was the addition of a volunteer medical team and a medic station.  I actually stole the idea from another church who had done something similar – and… now you can steal it from me!

As a church, we have a pretty good sense of who our medical, fire and law enforcement personnel are in our congregation.  We have an idea of where they sit in church and what service they attend.  We know which officers are required to carry firearms while off duty and which ones have kids in our program.  So, building a medical team to be present during our large programs became as easy as phone calls.  In fact, that’s all it took!  We had nurses, doctors and firemen spend their days off with us in the church office tending to injuries that a bandaid and a hug couldn’t quite fix.

Parents LOVED the fact that we had trained professionals looking after kids with bumps and bruises and I loved the fact that I didn’t have to be the only qualified first responder on campus.  A week before VBS, we asked for a shopping list from one of the nurses so that we could have any supplies our team would need during the week.  We made one more trip on Monday to get some last minute items – and, from there, the process worked without a lot of intervention from me.  Kids were safe and their parents knew it – there aren’t many bigger “wins” in my book.

The Mom Squad. It’s like an Easy Button.
But Better.

Do you have moms who just kind of “hang around” during an event?  Give them a role!  A few of my favorite moms have figured out that, by the time they drop off their kids and get settled in back at their house, they’ll need to start getting ready to come pick them up again.  So – they became our Mom Squad.

Our Mom Squad patrols our campus during an event and serves as extra hands, feet and voices for the staff running the event.  Random guy walking on campus?  The Mom Squad knows to intercept him and walk him to the front office to check in.  Child wandering away from his group?  The Mom Squad can call in a lockdown until we reunite him with his team.  Parents trying to force their way in to see our closing ceremonies?  The Mom Squad has that covered and might even recruit a couple volunteers in the process.

I joke around that having a Mom Squad is like having an Easy Button.  Our programs flow better when I don’t have to be everything and everywhere at once.  Having a group of moms who are patrolling our campus to watch for and care about the safety of our kids frees me up to give guided tours to other kidmin leaders in the area while we have 1400 minors on campus.  They require very little training, cost nothing and make our program 100 x’s better.

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Some might say that 1200 words about safety is a little much.  I could write a short novel – there’s so much more to say.  However, I’ll end with this – all 3 of these ideas were things I’ve picked up along the way because I visited other churches, met with other church leaders and constantly take the brilliant ideas of others and make the best ones fit our setting.  If you have questions or ideas you’d like to share, please use the comments section below.  Without your voice in the conversation, we are all at a disadvantage.

I think safety matters – what do you think?

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts

 

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Calling All Youth Pastors

(Here’s a picture from our morning session on the first day of Middle School VBS Leader training)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, keeping the Kingdom in mind (and not just your own castle) is essential to lasting, effective and sustainable ministry.

As I wrote earlier this week, we spend a week each summer training hundreds of middle school and high school students in preparation for their work at our annual Vacation Bible School.  By opening the invitation to serve at VBS to all students in and around our community (we even have a couple that fly in from out of state to serve on our student leadership team), we find ourselves with an interesting mix of students.  The majority of students serving at VBS do not call our church their “home church”.  In fact, many have no church affiliation at all – they’re serving because they like kids and a friend invited them.  For many, it’s that simple.

During our training, we give our students a chance to commit or recommit their lives to following Jesus.  It’s been a conviction of mine that we give students a chance to own their faith in a new and fresh way before 1,000 little kids come onto our church campus to hear about God and the call that has been placed on their lives.

However, our staff has struggled with the follow up aspect of these decisions.  For years, we’ve followed up with parents and children’s pastors who have campers making decision to follow Jesus during VBS.  I spend the week after VBS calling local churches who were listed at the “home church” for campers who make commitments at our camp. Yet, we’ve never done that with our students – until this year.

For the last week, our Jr High guy, Scott Boss, has been contacting the nearly 40 churches who have students serving at our VBS this year.  He’s inviting the youth staff and ministry teams from those churches to come alongside us at our Saturday training event in order to connect with and pray for the students serving on our campus next week.

This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while for a couple reasons.

Jesus is bigger than OUR building

By making these calls, and inviting other youth pastors onto our campus to help own what’s taking place here, we’re sending a message to our community – following Jesus and being a part of the Church has nothing to do with what building you meet in.  Jesus’ Church is bigger than any one building, denomination or church staff.  Our facilities might be hosting this event, but we don’t own it.  Jesus does.

Maybe other churches might try it

I know that kids from families who attend our church attend other church programs in town.  Odds are, some of the kids from our congregation have made important faith-commitments at the programs of other churches.  Yet, I’ve never received a call or email about it from another church in town.

I do know that “evangelism teams” from other churches have shown up at the houses of some of our kids and invited them to their church the following Sunday.  My guess is, if other churches are coordinating a follow-up process that includes door-to-door visitation, they could probably find the time to send me an email.

Because a lot of church’s senior pastors grade their kids and youth programs on attendance numbers, I can totally understand why return attendance would be something that children’s ministry teams would want to invest in.  However, I’m not convinced that partnering with other churches would hurt attendance – I’ve only experienced it fostering a community and posture that encourages the growth of a ministry.  With that said, maybe we’ll see other churches try it out.

We’ll let you know how our little experiment goes.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

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Cheering for Each Other (The Land Between)

How many churches do you cheer for?

As I sit at the Orange Conference, listening to Jeff Manion from Ada Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI), I feel like I’m listening to an older brother sharing his wisdom with me.  The crazy thing – I’ve never met Jeff.  However, I cheer for his ministry and his church every chance I get.

A few years ago, I met a dear friend of mine, Dan Scott (www.danscottblog.com), at the Orange Conference.  As I spoke with Dan and shared hopes and dreams together, I began to understand that the Church is bigger than my church’s building.  I began regularly praying for and cheering for Ada Bible Church – though I’ve never been there and probably never will.

So, now, years later I find myself listening to Dan’s senior pastor and feeling like we’re family.  And, as Jeff speaks about The Land Between, I’m listening differently than when I hear other conference speakers.  It’s because I cheer for, and pray regularly for, his church and the lost people his ministry is reaching.

So, I’ll ask again – how many churches do you cheer for?

There’s someone out there in a Land Between – the land between where they’ve been and where God is calling them to move to.  What if God was calling you to reach out to and pray for someone who’s in that season?  Would your ministry look different if you began seeking out and cheering for others in ministry?  I’d like to think it would.

Praying for and connecting with other church leaders doesn’t require anything but a willing heart.  You could be a small town kidmin, you could be an amazing volunteer, a mom who doesn’t feel like she has it all figured out… God just wants you to be willing.

God is calling you to move.  It will change the way you do ministry.

Now, go – meet someone and start cheering them on.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange

 

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Drinking “Orange” from a Distance

It’s probably a little late in the game to say this, but you should be attending the Orange conference this year.

As a parent, I’ve learned a ton from attending Orange.

As someone who ministers to kids, students and their families, the way I view ministry has been shaped from the voices at Orange (speakers and attenders alike).

Yet, I know a TON of people who can’t make it to Orange in Atlanta, GA next week.  I totally get it.  It’s the week after Easter and it’s a stretch for me to even get out there!  However, in this flat world we live in, you can follow along at home – and many people are planning on it.

So, here’s my question to those of you who will be following the bloggers that Orange is bringing in… what are you interested in hearing from us?  What’s helpful and what kind of stuff will you just gloss over?  And, all of you guys and gals on twitter following the #Orange11or ##thinkorange hashtags, what do you want to hear?

Sarcastic commentary?  Amazing quotes?  Session recaps/notes?  Which sessions to download?  Links to free stuff?

Basically, I want to know what I can do to be most helpful to you.  There will be some giant orange spotlights aimed at Atlanta this next week… where are you hoping we shine the light?

—-

Sidenote: The Orange Conference is live webcasting their opening session… for free!
(details here:  http://bit.ly/hnCy6r)

If you can’t be there LIVE, check it out – it’s going to rock!

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange

 

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