Reader Survey

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Over the last few weeks I have been brainstorming about some amazing new content to share. I then realized I had failed to ask YOU what you would love to see here! I am so thankful for an amazing readership and I love connecting with you through comments and across the internet. If you would take a few moments to fill this survey out I would be terribly appreciative.

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4 Ways to Have A Great Conference Experience (and not drive your folks crazy)

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The sign of a great conference is plenty of notes and great memories.

I spent a week at a training event earlier this month and had a ball. I learned some great information, some new skills and gained the confidence to lead in an area I had previously felt apprehensive about.

It’s one of the reason I love conferences and seminars. They make me a better pastor. 

As I sat down and process through my training, I wanted to heed the advice I heard from many and not come home and expect the people I work with and the people I pastor to drink through a fire hose. Let me share them with you.

4 ways to get the most out of a conference

1. Take Great Notes.
I don’t care how you do it. As big as a fan of evernote as I am, I opted to go paper. It worked better with the information and let me pay more attention to the presenter. But let me tell you-I took TONS of notes.

2. Network.
One of the things I love about conferences is networking. I was lucky enough to spend several days around some great pastors from my annual conference. We laughed and shared plenty of stories. I learned lessons from them. It was great. I also made a couple of new friends.

When you go to a seminar, conference or training event make sure to take advantage of who is there. Do dinners with folks, after hours hangouts. Talk about what you are learning. Often times, other people have heard things differently and give great ideas. I often find these conversations are as beneficial as the actual training. Make sure to bring business cards (I didn’t) and get other peoples information. This is how great relationships and connections are forged.

3. Define takeaways    
Early in the post I talked about what I didn’t want to do. I know organizations dread when certain people come back from an event and decide to change everything. I kept that idea in the front of my mind. I set three takeaways for myself

What can I immediately implement (a personal goal)
What would be helpful for a quarterly goal?
What can I share/point a colleague towards?

4. Process later.
A few days after I got home I pulled my notes out. I took an hour and dropped them all into Evernote. This helped me look over things and digest it. It also let me organize it in a way I can quickly reference again. All of the information I learned is worthless if I can never find it.

I hope these lessons helped you. This was certainly one of the best conference experiences I have had and I think it was because of intentionality.

Productive Pastor 009: How to Have a Productive (and Great) Month

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Have you ever wondered where the month went? Sat back on the last few days and realize time has slipped through your hands? I want to talk exactly about that this episode. The month is a great amount of time to use as part of a productive strategy for life and ministry.

The List:

1. Front Load Your Week and 3 Other Stress-Busting Time Management Strategies. 99u is consistently becoming my favorite website for productivity and other strategic leadership articles. This is a great article not just for weekly strategy practices, but many other times.

2. 10 Tips To Keep Your Desk Clean, Organized and Productive. I am horrible at keeping my desk area clean. I even wrote a blog post about clutter and how it relates to our spiritual walk. This blog post gives super practical ways to keep your work space clean and ready to go.

3. 30 Days of Hustle. Jon Acuff is running this free email series. The signup looks low-key, but the content is top notch. It will only take a few minutes a day. I am around half-way through it and I really dig it.

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How to Have a Productive (and Great) Month

Months are a long amount of time. But they are awesome at helping us get focused for one big reason. They can be broken up easily. You can do anything for 30 days. You can also divide most months up into 4 separate weeks. This makes it easy to slowly attack a problem or project and complete it in a short amount of time. Imagine what your year could be like if you were able to accomplish 12 medium sized goals?

No one is born productive, at least most of us aren’t. We learn how to be and we learn how to be by developing systems and taking it all in one bite at a time.

Here a some tips towards getting ready for a great, productive month.

1. Prep the last week of the previous month. 
Set your big goal. Look at your calendar and find holes. Plan around big things. Special events, services, or anything else that will need big attention. Get a grasp on the big picture (sermon series, classes, bible studies, etc) and set your month up for maximum efficiency.

2. Production Calendar:
I put my sermons (2 a week), blogposts, articles, podcasts anything that is either deliverable or takes some research and preparation goes on my production calendar. I can move things around until there is a good focus and flow for what I am working on. I give everything on the calendar an evernote note, drop it in it’s particular notebook and I know I always have a dumping ground for anything I come across that might apply. I will do a youtube video on my production calendar early next week and post it.

Anne Samilov post:  My Simple, No Sweat-No Struggle Content Creation Method. This is a GREAT post for anyone who has a hard time working on multiple projects.

3. Monthly Focuses
Our committees at church work off of a quarterly schedule of tasks. They build off each other and are seasonally appropriate. What are the monthly focuses you can have in ministry or personally you can attach to work slowly on across a month? Once a year you come back to them or they can be specific projects. This is the time to spend some attention to what otherwise might turn into a stressful event and get compressed into a small amount of time. Spend a few minutes every few days moving forward on what you decided you need to do. Remember, little chunks.

Toolbox Tip:Have you ever struggled with managing sharing articles and curating content as a ministry leader? This article from social media examiner gives really practical advice about automating sharing on social media.

How To Speed Up Your Content Curation Process.

Mentioned:
Bill Streger’s  Weekly Massive Action Plan (pdf download)

Listen:
Stitcher
RSS
Direct Download
iTunes

Three Industries the Church Should Learn From

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Churches exist in culture. They exist in particular culture. What would be a highly successful ministry in a large city wouldn’t work necessarily in a rural community with a handful of members. I believe church leaders need to also be watching marketplace leaders because they have done the tough cultural homework to thrive in our modern economic culture.

If you are thinking about Proctor and Gamble, Big Oil and Walmart, then you need to go back. Jim Collins’ Good to Great was a fantastic help in the 90’s, but the modern marketplace is much different. Here are three industries you might not even be aware of. Each of them can help you ministry and church leaders need to be listening.

If you are against the church paying attention to business strategies from the secular world, let me point out a few things.

1. The Church is in the redemption business.
This means we are looking to redeem people AND practices. Study church history and realize the power of different Christian movements involving the redemption of secular practices. Pagan Christianity? by George Barna and Frank Viola is eye opening.

2. The Church is in the incarnation business.
We are called by God to go into the world and be the physical representation of Jesus in a fallen world. How beneficial would you say it would be to have Christian leaders at the top level of business in your local ministry context?

3. We aren’t in the consumption business.
Here is the rub. We aren’t trying to make a profit. We are trying to build the kingdom. We aren’t in ministry in order to add to the consumptive chaos of the modern world. Neither is everyone in this new economic marketplace. These new industries want to provide a quality, life changing product for people. They want to add value.

Three Industries the Church Should Learn From

1. Social Marketing
Did you know there are people whose job is to be on Facebook all day long? Many of us would instantly roll our eyes at this profession. If you saw how successful the best social marketeers were, your eyes would stop rolling. The social marketing world is powerful because they are specialists in modern human behavior and communication. They specialize in trends and predictability. If you want a great online ministry presence, these are the people you need to be giving attention.

The funny thing? Many of the best social market professionals are people of faith. Looking at the top podcasts in iTunes we see Christians at the top of the lists (Dave Barry, Michael Hyatt and others). Justin Wise (author of The Social Church) is one of these top notch players. I asked him why there are so many people of faith in this industry..,

The Church needs to listen to social marketing because they are relationship based.

2. Corporate Social Responsibility
My wife has built a great career in the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR). She spends most of her day developing community engagement opportunities for employees of a global Fortune 100 company, and educating employees and leadership about the positive impact they can have in their community through employee volunteerism. Her company has three philanthropic focus areas, and they try to ensure that everything they do in communities around the world can point back to one of those specific areas. I asked her to give me a few reasons why churches need to be thinking about CSR.

  • It provides an opportunity for increased community engagement. Many churches already have partnerships with local non-profits like food pantries, homeless shelters, etc. It is critical to specify the focus areas that your church is called to in your community, and then make sure that your outreach efforts reflect those areas.
  • Countless studies show an increasing trend toward CSR influencing millennial’s consumer decisions. Companies like TOMS, Noonday, The Giving Keys, Warby Parker, Patagonia and Zappos are just a few examples of companies who have made giving back a part of their mission. Churches would be remiss in thinking that this is not a factor when people are looking for a place to worship.
  • CSR objectives should align with an organization’s core mission & vision. Every single thing you do in your community should be able to point back to your mission, and strengthen and reaffirm it. This is why it is critical to be specific – if your mission is vague, then your outreach efforts can quickly snowball into a hodge podge combination with no focus. Instead of doing a few things really well, you can find yourself spread out across the community doing a little here, a little there, but not really making a lasting impact.

Ministries can learn a lot from non-profit organizations, especially in the area of fundraising. Non-profit directors are professionals at raising money for the sake of furthering their mission and helping others.

The Church needs to pay attention to the rise of corporate social responsibility because it is transforming several aspects of our society.

3. Boutique Restaurants/Lifestyle Brands
I realize this might be the biggest stretch, but listen to me. Cruise on over to Iron & Air or The Wilderness Collective. They are carefully curating experiences. High end resturants are the same thing. Many times they are storytelling as much as they are serving food. The hot place to eat in my town, Restaurant Cotton, is owned by a chef who won Food Network Chopped. It celebrates creative classic delta cuisine. Funny thing? It’s fancy poor people food. I’m talking churched up corn bread and black eyed peas. It is fabulous. I have never had a lackluster experience at Cotton.

The professionals in this new industry understand they must tell a unique story which simultaneously draws someone in while making them instantly feel included. This is done not in broad brushstrokes, but instead in carefully designed narrow boundaries. They don’t do many different things…they do one or two extremely well.

The Church needs to listen to lifestyle entertainment and brands because they are experience creators.

I hope these three industries have shown some highly applicable resources. What other businesses do you find helpful or inspiring?

 

 

Sermon Preview: Learning Together

learning togetherIn 2013, St. Paul’s began an intentional path of vision discernment. After consultations, prayer and discussion we feel this is the mission God has called us too:

Through loving, learning, and living together, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church provides care and support for its community that leads to a fulfilling life in Jesus Christ.

Over the next few weeks we are going to talk about the three strategies we have for living into this mission; Loving, Learning and Living.

Think about the last time you learned something…or perhaps didn’t learn something? Over the last year I have learned (through the help of youtube) to work on motorcycles. It was pretty frightening to tear apart my entire exhaust and air filter system and replace it. I did it. I only was able to do it because I had help.

If we look to the scripture, we see learning doesn’t happen in isolation. Here these words from the apostle Paul to his close friend Timothy.

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. (2 Timothy 1:5-6)

Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:13-14)

But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

Paul is reminding Timothy of the own path of his learning. He is also calling him to remember and utilize the pattern of faith he has been taught. Patterns can become useful. Just because we can see something in our head or even have seen someone else make something doesn’t mean we can necessarily pull it off on our own.

Have you ever seen the Pinterest Fail blog? Besides it being pretty funny, it has a tagline that really makes us think.

Where Good Intentions Come to Die

I don’t think any of us would willingly subject our own spiritual life and gospel mission to this. Patterns are essential for faith. They help us tell the truth as we are consistently measuring ourselves up to the truth Christ has placed in us.

Learning is done by practicing a pattern

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Romans 12:2 tells us this:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The pattern that matters to us is the pattern of Christ. It was taught to us by others and Christ himself. We have the responsibility to use it to guide and form our lives and to teach the pattern to others.

This will be an exciting time in worship. I hope to see you there.

What is a sermon preview?
Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.