Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Atlas

Here's a copy of the cover of our new NCC Discipleship Atlas. Each semester, we distribute information on our small groups via magazine format. Two years ago, we spoofed Sports Illustrated and published Small Groups Illustrated. Last year, we spoofed National Geographic and published National Community Geographic.

This year, we wanted to do an original design, and this is it. You can view the entire magazine here.

The Map

Here's a copy of our new NCC Discipleship Map. You can read about the map and see an old version here. This new map reflects some aesthetic changes. We wanted to keep the Indiana Jones feel but update it with a cleaner, fresher look. We've also added some new groups and discipleship opportunities, and that's what I'm most excited about. We've added several groups to our Learner Island (Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, Theology 101, and Bible Study Methods) and a new port city to the Influencer island (Neighborhoods and Nations).

Two Weeks Later

Well, it's been two weeks since I last posted, and I feel like I'm finally coming back to life. The Leadership Retreat was an amazing success. From the gift bags to the Mr. Potatohead video to the 2007 Baptism by the Bay video to the human pyramid building in the gym to the commuion/commissioning service. Awesome weekend. I honestly think it's one of the best things we do as a church and it's one of the things I'm most excited about participating in. I'm so thankful for the staff and my team of zone leaders who make the weekend so great.

If you're interested in seeing notes from our main sessions and/or notes from our breakout sessions, we've got a lot of them posted over at ZoneGathering.

Now, we look forward to our semester kickoff!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Some Assembly Required Notes

We are in full-speed-ahead mode for the leadership retreat this weekend. On, our online community for NCC small group leaders, we run weekly feature articles. For the past month, we've been using those forums to get our leaders geared up for the retreat.

The Bible Drill Wednesdays focus on passages of Scripture that will lay a foundation for the principles we will be exploring at the retreat.

Living Stones (1 Peter 2:5)
Building Together (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Cornerstone (1 Corinthians 3:9-17)

The Thursday Leadership Lessons provide training for leaders as they seek to be the workers and workmanship of God.

Why We Retreat
Some Assembly Required, Part 1
Some Assembly Required, Part 2

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Some Assembly Required

2007 Annual Leadership Retreat Logo.JPGWhat do Mr. Potato Head and Pastor Mark have in common? The 2007 NCC Annual Leadership Retreat!

I promised I'd post more about our Annual Leadership Retreat, and here it is! Our theme is Some Assembly Required. When it comes to creating community, making disciples, and doing ministry, there is always some assembly required.

We will dig into the building metaphors in Scripture and develop some ministry plans. We will pull out the legos, work on some puzzles, and don the hard hats. There's going to be Some Assembly Required at NCC this year, and we need all our workers in the shop.

Less than a week away...

Book Review: Humility (C.J. Mahaney)

C. J. Mahaney’s Humility is a much-needed book for this generation of Christ-followers. I have a confession: Having recently read Andrew Murrary’s classic of the same title, I was not expecting much from this book. No offense to Mahaney, for whom I have great respect, but I just couldn’t imagine a book impacting me more on this topic than Murray’s. To my delight (and conviction), Mahaney delivered a fantastic work that puts flesh on the topic of humility and provides concrete, practical steps to becoming people of humility. Obviously, Mahaney’s book will be more accessible for this generation because his language is modern and his examples are fresh and referenced to contemporary culture.

The book begins with a discussion on the battle between pride and humility and then demonstrates how Christ re-defined what it meant to be great. The last part, which comprises the bulk of the book, gives readers practical ideas for increasing their dependence upon Christ and therefore increasing in humility: spiritual disciplines for the morning and evening, Bible study ideas, ways to encourage others, the importance of accountability, etc. There was even a chapter on raising children who understand and strive for the Biblical greatness found in humility.

As I read this book, I underlined a lot, jotted down many notes in the margin, implemented some of the principles, and discovered an idea for my next personal Bible study. I felt the chapter on practices for the end of the day would have been more developed if it included a more in-depth explanation of self-examination disciplines such as the Ignatian examen, and I disagree slightly with some of Mahaney’s doctrinal positions, but this is definitely a book worth reading and recommending.

This would make an excellent book for small groups to study.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Theology of Suffering

I'm reading C. J. Mahaney's Humility as part of my personal study times, and I read the following today:
"(D. A.) Carson goes on to say, 'We do not give the subject of evil and suffering the thought it deserves until we ourselves are confronted with tragedy.' Indeed, we should strive to develop a theology of suffering ahead of time so we're prepared for suffering and sustained throughout our experience of it."

To be honest, I've not faced much suffering. I've been through a few dance recitals and voice recitals and I've been rock climbing, but I don't think that's the suffering we're talking about here. Obviously, I've faced some rough times walking through the suffering and deaths of loved ones. But so far, I've lived a life fairly insulated from pain and suffering, and my theology of suffering has been something along the lines of "God is in control."

God is in control. However, as a person charged with pastoral care for leaders, I think I need to heed Mahaney's advice and develop a more comprehensive theology of suffering. How do we view suffering Biblically and help people (and ourselves) walk through it? He suggested a study of the book of Habakkuk. Obviously, Job is another place to study and meditate. If anyone has any other thoughts, let me know!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Crazy Busy

Life got crazy busy. We've got our Annual Leadership Retreat coming up on January 19-20. It's a week early this year, so we are scrambling. There are stacks of boxes in my office, containing everything from books to tools to legos to tiny footballs. Participants are signing up for the breakout sessions, and I'm trying to program the event and write my talks.

Then, we are also in the final design stages of our new small group magazine. Last year, we had National Community Geographic. This year, we are going with a totally original design, and it's the NCC Discipleship Atlas. We'll have a new discipleship map and lots of new group listings.

Third, I am in the process of rewriting our NCC Leadership Playbook. We give a copy of this resource to every NCC leader, and we've been using the same one for 2 years. That's ancient history in NCC years. So I am revising and rewriting. The current, ancient version is available here.

Finally, I'm preaching this weekend in our Journey series. It's a 4-part series on the four dimensions of discipleship- Seeking, Learning, Influencing, and Investing. I'll be tackling the topic of what it means to be a learner.

Friday, January 05, 2007

FAQ: What are zone meetings?

Every small group leader is supported and served by a Zone Leader or Team Leader. Zone/Team Leaders meet with their small group leaders monthly, and they meet with individual leaders as appropriate. Most of the hands-on training happens here as leaders learn from one another and Zone Leaders navigate their people through the hurdles of small group leadership.

Here is an excerpt directly from our Zone Leader Training Manual on how to conduct a zone meeting:

Team leaders and zone leaders should gather with their leaders as a group at least monthly. During months when summits occur, you can count the summit as your gathering or you can plan a “fun” gathering.

The Team/Zone gatherings should serve the following purposes:

Provide Ongoing Training

  • Develop leadership skills by reading a book together.
  • Take your leaders through part of the Discipleship Map (i.e., Journey curriculum).
  • Focus on one dimension of discipleship each semester.
  • Teach a “Top 10 List of what I wish someone had warned me about small group leadership”

Address Administrative Details

  • Give your leaders a heads up on upcoming important dates, such as retreats, summits, connection events, team/zone gatherings, etc.
  • Remind leaders about and the podcast.
  • Remind leaders about their win sheets.

Navigate Difficult Group Issues

  • Allow team/zone members to share difficult situations they are facing in their groups.
  • Provide space for other leaders to share from their own experiences.
  • Pray as a group for the situation.

Facilitate a Forum for the Sharing of Ideas and Best Practices

  • Ask each leader to come in with a “best practice” for each zone meeting. This could include an icebreaker idea, outreach idea, community-development idea, creative study idea, etc.
  • Encourage leaders to post their ideas and best practices on Friday Scorecard at

Build a Sense of Teamwork and Team/Zone Pride

  • Talk about principles of teamwork.
  • Find creative ways for your leaders to play together and serve together.

Remind Them of our Vision and Mission

Here are some helpful things to remember about your team/zone gatherings:

  • NCC will pay for food for gatherings. Request funding approval in advance from the pastor of discipleship.
  • NCC will pay for any approved books or curriculum for training in your gatherings. You can request approval and funding from the pastor of discipleship.
  • You will not necessarily hit on each one of these points at each team/zone gathering. This is not a checklist to be followed point by point. Rather, it is a guide to help you lead your gatherings.
  • If there are leaders who are regularly missing their gatherings, inform the pastor of discipleship.

See Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders, Part 4: The Coach’s Toolbox, Section 3: Leadership Huddles, pages 82-101 for more ideas.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Book Review: Humility

Andrew Murray was born in South Africa in 1828. He received his education in Scotland and Holland and returned to South Africa where he spent many years working as both a pastor and a missionary. I just finished read his book, Humility, and I'm convinced that it belongs on the desk (not just the bookshelf) of every Christian leader.

Humility is a small book-- only a little over 100 pages-- and it was a quick and easy read, as far as reading words goes. Digesting the book and, more importantly, living out the book, will require much more time, diligence, and intentionality. I read the Bethany House version with updated language which probably made the reading process a bit smoother.

It is packed full of Scripture, quotes from the Church Fathers, and challenges to a life that will require every ounce of our attention, prayer, and devotion.

Murray begins with a examination of humility as exemplified and taught in the life of Christ. He then continues to look at humility in the lives and teachings of the disciples. Finally, he shows how humility is practically linked to our faith, relationships, happiness, and even success in life. He examines some of the false views of humility and gives a Biblical-based definition of humility as "the displacement of self by the enthronement of God. Where God is all, self is nothing." Simply, humility is "being fully occupied with God."

In the midst of a lot of self-help Christian writings, this book was refreshing and challenging. It helped me gain a new and more Biblical understanding of humility, and it moved me to do a lot of prayer and self-examination. I probably marked and underlined and commented more in this book than any other I have read. Humility should be read by every Christian leader, and it is a book that I will surely revisit often over the course of my life.

Pastor C. J. Mahaney wrote a book entitled Humility, as well, that I am currently reading. I will post a review on it when I have finished.

FAQ: What is the Leadership Summit?

Over the course of the year, we do three one-day training events called Leadership Summits to keep our leaders equipped, encouraged, and excited about their groups. The Leadership Summits are smaller versions of the Annual Leadership Retreat, and we use them as opportunities to re-visit and reinforce the topics and themes introduced at the Retreat.

Our summit formula is pretty simple:

  • Connection- we provide breakfast for our leaders. It's a small way of saying "thanks" for investing their Saturday morning into ministry, and it creates an environment where leaders can connect with one another.
  • Worship- we recognize that worship is critical for establishing a good leadership environment. Good leaders begin by leading themselves well. That means they find margin to connect with God.
  • Vision- Pastor Mark shares with our leaders at each summit. Our leaders are on the frontlines of pastoral care for the church. They need to know what God is teaching him, where God is leading him, and what's on the radar screen for us as a church.
  • Leadership Development- at every leadership summit, there is a teaching time. We strategically tie this in to the topics discussed at the Retreat. The 2005 retreat focused on being a team. So we talked about qualities of a team player at the summits. At the 2006 Retreat, we talked about how your prepare for your journey (i.e., you take a map to chart a course, you take a compass to navigate, you take a tent to rest, you take others for community, you take a flashlight to illuminate the way ahead, etc.). During the 2006 summits, we continued to use journey metaphors to talk about important disciplines or skills in the life of a leader. For example, Binoculars: Clarifying and Enlarging Your Vision, Walkie-Talkies: Communicating Clearly, and First Aid Kit: Serving Others. In 2007, our retreat theme will be "Some Assembly Required" and the summits will be used to talk about different stages of construction: Laying a Foundation (leading yourself well, basing your leadership and group on Scripture, etc), Building a Community, and Repair and Remodeling (dealing with crisis situations, pastoral care, peer counseling, etc)
  • Leader Appreciation- we always try to find a way to appreciate our leaders. We have not done a stellar job on that in the past. But we have recently realized the importance of recognizing the good work that our leaders are doing. When I talk about different leadership principles, I try to share real-life stories from real-like NCC leaders sitting in the room. If they are lucky, they'll find a moonpie flying in their direction.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

FAQ: Practically speaking, what does a typical Leadership Retreat look like?

In January of each year, we take our leaders to an Annual Leadership Retreat at a campground run by our denomination that offers hotel-style housing. The entire retreat revolves around a theme that we want our leaders to embrace and model throughout the upcoming year. We begin to leak out secrets about the theme on around Thanksgiving. Here are some examples:

2005: Being the Team
2006: Journey: Expect the Unexpected
2007: Some Assembly Required

A tremendous amount of time, energy, and creativity goes into the planning and execution of the retreat. The NCC zone leader team masterminds the themes and creative elements, the NCC media team produces the event, and the pastoral team works together to present a cohesive package of content. Each participant receives a gift bag filled with practical items (like bottled water and snacks) and themed items (like t-shirts, hats, toys, etc). There’s always a big team competition on Friday night. And we always try to throw in some surprise elements.

In 2006, our theme was Journey: Expect the Unexpected. Each participant received a t-shirt, a water bottle, and a gift bag containing goodies that strategically tied into the retreat theme. When our leaders walked out of their rooms on Saturday morning, they found at their door a newspaper packed with articles about journeys. For our session notes and retreat information, we designed a field manual inspired by National Geographic’s Traveler magazine. All of our teaching topics revolved around the journey metaphor and items that are helpful along the way. There were clips from "journey movies" playing before and after sessions (Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, etc). Some of the sessions included:

Compass: Navigating the Way Ahead
Map: Charting a Course for Discipleship
Flashlight: Lighting the Way Ahead Through Transformational Leadership

These sessions focused on our typical retreat themes of leading yourself well, creating community, making disciples, and multiplying yourself, but they were packaged in creative thematic ways to help our leaders understand and remember them.

In 2007, our theme will be Some Assembly Required. I can’t give away any details yet because we are keeping our leaders in the dark, but I’ll be sure to post about it at the end of January. The schedule will look like this:

Friday, January 28, 2007
7:00 pm Registration opns
8:00 pm Worship
9:00 pm Session 1: Living Stones
10:00 pm Team games in the gym

Saturday, January 29, 2007
8:00 am Breakfast
9:00 am Session 2: NCC Blueprint (Pastor Mark)
10:45 am Break
11:00 am Session 3: Detail Drawings
12:30 pm Lunch
2:00 pm Breakout A (Ministry and Zone meetings)
3:00 pm Breakout B (Ministry and small group electives)
4:00 pm Breakout C (Ministry and small group electives)
5:00 pm Session 4: Commissioning
6:00 pm Retreat ends

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

FAQ: What is the Annual Leadership Retreat?

At the beginning of every year, we take our leaders on the ultimate community building and vision casting event—The Annual Leadership Retreat. For two days, they are immersed in high-octane worship and leadership development. The staff and leadership team spend months brainstorming theme, content and creative elements for the retreat. This is the most important thing we do every year for our leaders, and we want them to be there so badly that we pick up the entire tab. There are elements that are platform-driven and elements that are more interactive. We share stories, highlight wins from the previous year, and prepare our leaders for the next year.

These are a few reasons we do this:

Mark Batterson has taught me a simple formula:

Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective.

We want to facilitate a change of perspective for our leaders by taking them out of their ordinary environment. It’s much easier to think about your relationship with God, your leadership, and your group when you have a large chunk of time for focus and prayer.

Leadership Community
Two things I have learned about leadership: it’s caught (more than taught) and it can get lonely. So we place a high priority on creating environments where leaders can interact with one another, learn from one another, and challenge one another. The Annual Leadership Retreat creates a connection point for our leaders. It’s a great time for team-building and an opportunity for community learning.

Leadership Training
We put our leaders on a vision drip for the weekend, pump them full of valuable leadership training, and give them the tools and resources they need to effectively do the ministry they’ve been called to do. We typically do 4 main sessions, covering topics such as leading yourself well, building community, making disciples, multiplying yourself, etc. Then, we offer breakouts specific to ministry leaders and small group leaders. Ministry leaders share best practices and work on plans for the upcoming year. Small group leaders meet as teams and with their zone leaders to plan and choose from several breakouts covering topics like Inductive Bible Study, creating community in your group, leading interest groups, leadership styles, etc.

We give our leaders the opportunity to hear directly from Pastor Mark the things that God is teaching him and the direction he feels the Spirit leading us as a church.

We give our leaders valuable information on the calendar and plans for 2007.