5 Ways to Keep Your Sanity During December

Here we are again. It’s December. The blog posts are fewer, the tweets are less consistent and my email response time is probably at an all time low. If you’re in creative ministry, this is crunch time. It gets no busier than this! So, how do you deal with the busiest time of year without feeling like ground beef come December 26th? Here are 5 things that should help a lot…

– Plan WAY Ahead: If you’re just now planning out your 5 Christmas Eve services, when and where to place the Kids Choir in your service and what to do to make your stage look “Christmasy”, you’re in deep junk! Though it’s probably impossible to wrap everything up in November, you should have a working “model” of your Christmas services and all that goes with them before the first snow hits the ground.

– Use Your Team: You have a team right? Use them! There’s no reason for you to be the “line up maker/set designer/video editor/light hanger”. If you’re doing it all, you’re doing yourself, your church and your family a disservice. Lean on the giftedness of the people God has placed around you.

– Take a Day Off: Yep, you heard that right. In the middle of the busiest time of your year, schedule an extra day or two during the month to call your own. Even when things are at their craziest, you can always look forward to that day of rest. I took just such a day on Monday and it has completely refreshed me!

– Focus Harder on Your Family: You’re not getting out of December working a 40 hr. work week. You know it, I know it and your family knows it. That makes your time at home even more important. Remember, even though this is your busiest time, it’s also a special time for your family. Go the extra mile to make an investment at home.

– Prioritize: Easter isn’t until April! It’s nice to be ahead, but dialing in your focus will benefit you a lot this month. Put off what can be put off, delegate what can be delegated and take on only what you MUST take on.

Anyhow…these are some things that I’m working hard to utilize this month. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

Dealing With The Average

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Here are just a few things your average church goer DOES NOT DO:

-Serve every weekend

-Come to Sunday morning and Wednesday night services AND engage in a small group

-Discuss the weekend’s message around the dinner table

-Give 10%

-Spend daily time with God

-Understand what worship REALLY is

-Share their faith with those they can influence

So what do we do about it? Do we launch program after program trying to draw people in to the deeper part of the journey? Do we beg and plead from the stage about how badly God wants their all? Do we wrap everything in the slickest packaging we can muster and fire it off at the bullseye we’ve placed on peoples foreheads? Or…DO WE SET THE STANDARD?

Let’s be honest. Even though you may be in ministry full-time doesn’t mean you do all of the things listed above. How often does your quiet time get replaced by the busy work of ministry? How often do you check out during the message simply from brain fatigue? Do you REALLY talk about the message around the dinner table? Do you manage your finances well enough that 10% is even doable for you? I know I’ve struggled in a number of these areas and I suspect that the struggle will always be there.

Ministry is hard and often overwhelming, but if we can manage to prioritize what God is asking of us as Christ Followers over what our jobs requires of us we just might be able to be standard bearers to the people we have been called to serve…just a thought.

 

 

chchchchanges

bowie

I have a list of 5 people I’d like to see perform before I die…David Bowie is one of them…but that’s beside the point. This post is about CHANGE. Ahh yes…my favorite subject. I love change in the context of church life, because it’s an essential part of effective ministry, yet our ministries are centered around a God who NEVER changes. I don’t know about you, but I find that fascinating.

If God never changes, then why should we? If God is perfection, shouldn’t we strive to be just as perfectly unchanging as He is? There’s the key…God IS perfection…and we ARE NOT. Ministry must change and move at a constant in order to effectively and consistently engage an imperfect and shifting culture. Churches are dying by the thousands in an attempt to hold on to an unchanging philosophy. Communities are looking everywhere BUT the church to find hope and real answers in troubling times. God hasn’t changed. His love, mercy, compassion and heart for His people is as intense and alive as ever, the problem is, the church hasn’t changed much either.

I came to Christ in 1980 because of a week at camp where God became real to me. I had a counselor who invested consistent one on one time with me over the week. He told me about God in a way that made sense to a 10 year old boy. He didn’t speak “christianese” or lay down a bunch of legalistic rules and regulations. He didn’t make me take communion, or memorize 100 verses or sit through a years worth of flannel-graph driven Sunday school classes. He simply formed a relationship, molded his approach and shared how God had changed his life. If I had been a 20 year old, He would have approached things differently, but I wasn’t. I was just a kid. A kid who needed Jesus and He made sure I could understand that.

It seems so simple doesn’t it? If the church could change from religion to relationships…from rules to relevancy…from Christianese to real language, amazing things would happen. There are so many churches that are doing just that and hitting it out of the park right now. Lives are being transformed all over the planet, but there are many more that are continuing to swing and miss over and over again. I have a hard time believing that God designed His church to be so small minded.

Maybe that’s the problem right there. When the church is run by our thinking, vision, strategy and purpose, it lives and dies with us. Think what would happen if God’s church as a whole got over itself. Now THAT would be a change!

What’s Your Strategy?

strategy

Momentum in ministry is a really big deal. All it takes is one wrong turn and the sails deflate, the vision blurs and you and your team find yourselves in search of direction. This past week has been a strategy check for me. Even though I have 4 incredible music teams, a flourishing tech team, a great creative team, a new Music Director and a Partridge in a pear tree, I know that we are one mis-step away from losing all of this forward motion.

I’ve spent the last several days rethinking everything we do creatively at Sunnybrook. Even though we seem to be firing on all cylinders at the moment, what we do now may not be what’s best around the corner. Ministry, environment, technology, culture, perception…everything is changing and changing constantly. If we fail to strategize, we may fail on a much larger scale down the road.

For us, this kind of planning will take shape in specific ways…for you, it may flesh itself out differently. The important thing is that we strive to be ahead of the curve. We need to be leading the change instead of catching up to it all the time. More details coming soon.

Our New Worship Environment

One of my greatest passions is creating worship environments. I love creating those “encounter moments” where people find themselves drawn closer to God in worship. Last week, we launched the“Worship Cafe'” here at Sunnybrook and I couldn’t be happier with the results. The Cafe’ features table seating, free flowing coffee, new lighting and more of an “unplugged” musical atmosphere. The purpose behind the Cafe’ is really two fold:

1. We wanted to create a more intimate atmosphere for people to pursue God in worship

2. We wanted to create a smaller environment for those who struggle with the big crowds in the main auditorium.

So far, the crowds have been incredibly diverse. Young, old, traditional, contemporary, visitors, seekers and regular attenders have all been joining us in the Cafe’. Here are a few pics from yesterday’s gathering.

10 Things I’m Convinced Are True

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Straight talk is better than beating around the bush.

Ministries falter when they become more concerned with popularity than their God given mission.

Insisting on having all original ideas is a pride issue. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there…use it!

Creativity is a gift from a creative God. Leveraging that creativity for the gospel is putting the arm of God in motion.

God doesn’t give fuzzy vision. If you’re not clear where God is leading your organization, you’re probably missing the obvious.

Offering anything but our all is short changing God.

Striving towards your God given vision is going to make some people unhappy…count on it!

People will disappoint you…and you will disappoint people.

If you don’t care about what’s happening outside the 4 walls of your church, I can promise you…you’re missing the call of God.

You can’t lose momentum if you’re striving passionately towards the vision.

Decisions, Decisions…

decision

Decision aren’t always easy to make. Sometimes we waffle back and forth for days just trying to come to some kind of conclusion. Ministry decisions can be even harder. Every decision you make needs to line up with the vision of your organization. That, along with the knowledge that the decisions you make could effect your team, your congregation and ultimately the community you’re called to reach, can render decision making an exhausting exercise. Here are a few things that have always helped me out along the way…

Pray – This seems like the obvious“Christianese” thing to say, but how often do we forget to bring our decision making process before the throne of God? How often do we make “shot in the dark” choices without seeking His guidance?

Counsel – Don’t make the tough decisions alone. Get with your team and weigh your options together. More often than not, the right choice is found in the midst of fellowship.

Go Slow – Don’t rush a decision simply because you don’t want to look like you can’t figure out what to do. Sometimes God needs us to slow down and work through the finer nuances of a situation before we move forward.

Consider the Cost – Weigh out what this decision means in regards to your team, congregation and ministry target. Sometimes the answer you’re looking for is found in considering it’s impact on those you serve.

Humility – Sometimes we simply get it wrong. We make a decision and somewhere down the road realize we blew it. Be humble enough to admit you made the wrong choice and work hard to find an alternative.

Choose – In the end, if you’re a leader, people are looking to you for direction, vision and decision making. You don’t have the luxury of sitting back and choosing to do nothing. Seek God and make a choice…to decide nothing is not an option.

It’s not always easy to lead a ministry. We’re all human and we will all fall short as leaders, you can count on it. However, if you seek God, surround yourself with a great team and strive towards the vision God has given you, you’ll find that your decisions hit the target consistently.