Wednesday, February 28, 2007

FAQ: What is a Win Sheet?

One way we try to facilitate communication between small groups leaders, team and zone leaders, and the staff is through the weekly win sheet. The win sheets also make us intentional about the "For One" part of our vision-- doing everything for the glory of God. After each group meeting, we ask small group leaders to submit a "win sheet" for their meeting that includes the following:
  • Names of potential leaders
  • Group Attendance
  • Wins for the week (These can be as silly as good snacks to more important things like answered prayers. Basically, it's anything that demonstrates the group is connecting with God and to others and that people are growing as seekers, learners, influencers, and investors).
  • Name of anyone who has left the group in the past month (this helps us determine if people are plugging into another group or just slipping through the cracks)
  • Any special prayer requests that the staff should know about

So why do we do these? Two reasons: Communication and Praise. In Acts 21:19-20a, we read, “Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God.”

That’s the primary reason for completing win sheets—to remind ourselves of why we do what we do and to give God praise for what he is doing. Here are some other reasons why we do win sheets:

  • As our church grows, we need to have some systems in place to ensure that our small group runs smoothly and leaders get the pastoral care and attention that they and their groups need. Win sheets facilitates that process.
  • Completing win sheets after each meeting help leaders think more critically, intentionally, and strategically about their groups.
  • Focusing on wins each week creates momentum.
  • Win sheets help the pastoral team help the leaders. They let us know immediately about issues in groups that may require our attention, prayer, or assistance.
  • Win sheets help the church leadership know how to pray for and encourage leaders.
D0 we get 100% return each week? No. But in general, there does seem to be a correlation between healthy groups and those who complete and submit win sheets.

You can find a copy of the Win Sheet here in our Tools and Resources section of

Book Review: Why Small Groups? (Mahaney)

Yesterday, I rediscovered a book that's been sitting on my shelf for a while-- Why Small Groups? edited by C. J. Mahaney. I don't remember when or how I got it, but I decided to read it yesterday.

Why Small Groups? addresses a question that far too few pastors have considered: Why are we doing small groups? Many of us know how to do small groups; we understand, teach, and implement the mechanics. But why are we doing them? We need to take a big step back and try to understand the purpose we are trying to accomplish through them. In Why Small Groups?, Mahaney and fellow authors begin with the Biblical basis for small groups and the theological purpose for them.

Since the book is a collection of chapters written by individual authors, there is sometimes a lack of a cohesive strategy or model of small groups. For instance, one chapter assumes that small group members must be members of the church first while another chapter assumes a small group can be a front door for the church. In my opinion, that's not a big deal because it's not the how but the why that this book is addressing.

Some of the distinguishing characteristics between this book and many of the others that have been written on small groups include the following:
  • It is written by practitioners- men who have come up through the ranks from small group member to pastors. They have seen small groups from every angle.
  • It includes a thorough discussion of the doctrine of sanctification and how it relates to the purpose of small groups.
  • It gives a clear Biblical and theological explanation of the relationship to and importance of small groups to the mission of the local church.
There's also a great chapter on Biblical confession, confrontation, and conflict within the group setting.

The Appendix "What It Means to Me?" by Walt Russell takes a hard look at the difficulties faced in small groups when different members bring their own opinions to the interpretation of the text. This very good essay helps leaders understand the difference between the meaning of the text and the significance of the text and how to make that distinction within the group setting.

Certainly, different traditions will find things to disagree with (male-only leadership, small group members must first be church members, etc), but the question that Mahaney is posing is one that we must address: Why are we doing small groups? What are we trying to accomplish?

Why Small Groups? addresses this important question in a clear, Biblical way.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Post-Sermon Unwind

I'm developing some post-sermon habits on the 5-6 weekends per year that I preach. It seems I come home feeling 100% energized and 100% drained all at the same time, so I never know whether to take a hike or take a nap. So, I've come up with a compromise. I like to come home and crash with either video games or movies.

This weekend, it was Gladiator (an interesting choice given the topic of my sermon) and Pinky and the Brain (Ryan's netflix choice).

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I don't do a lot of communicating from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. But I've done enough to realize that some sermons are a lot tougher than others. Wow. This Battle of the Sexes series is one of the hardest sermons I've prepared for, and I'm sure it will be one of the hardest to deliver.

How to be a man of God. How to be a woman of God. Such an important topic, but it's so difficult. It's difficult for a number of different reasons: so much static from the world and the church about what it means to be a man or a woman, so much sensitivity and tension in the topic, so many wounds that people have experienced. There's the tough reality that, no matter what is said, it runs the risk of being misunderstood or misinterpreted by the listener.

Biblically speaking, femininity reveals itself in many different ways. Who should be our role model? There’s Deborah- the warrior and political leader who saves her people. There’s Huldah—the prophetess that gave spiritual direction to King Josiah and the nation of Judah and led them to revival. There’s Ruth—who was known for her faithfulness, loyalty, and ability to win a man through seduction. There’s Esther—who was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom and whose inner strength matched her outward beauty to save a nation. There’s Hannah—who shows us how to deal with depression and how to be a good mother. There’s Mary of the Mary/Martha duo—who teaches us what it means to be at rest in the presence of Jesus. And then there’s that famous Proverbs 31 woman—how many women are tired of living in that shadow?

Right now, it looks like I'm going to do a contrast/comparison of Eve and Mary the mother of Jesus. We don't talk about Mary much in the Protestant church, perhaps as a reaction to the quasi-deification of Mary in the Catholic church. But if we want to hold someone up as the prototypical woman of God, then it might make sense to start with the woman through whom God chose to send his son.

Deli Devotional

I don't have favorite small groups (this is a no favoritism zone), but if I DID have favorite small groups, then Deli Devotional would be one of them!

Lisa and Dennis have begun a small group that meets for lunch at the food court at Union Station. They discuss the sermon, discuss life, and pray together. It's convenient for people working on the Hill and near a metro, and it's an easy, low-risk way to get plugged in at NCC and meet some new people.

I try to go to Deli Devotional when I can, but I had to miss today because of a meeting. When I got back to my desk post-meeting, I found a tuna steak sandwich, fries, oreos, and a coke waiting for me at my desk. The DD crew stopped by the bless me. Wow! Thanks guys!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

FAQ: How do you communicate with your leaders?

As the leadership base of any church grows, communication becomes more difficult. We continue to experiment and try new things, but we don't have it all figured out yet. Our communication to leaders primarily flows in two ways: 1) Email and 2)

We structure our leadership with zone leaders and team leaders, and most communication flows via email from the Discipleship Pastor to zone leaders to team leaders to small group leaders. If there's something urgent or of extreme importance, the communication will flow directly from Pastor Mark or me to the inbox of every leader.

In 2005, we launched a new vehicle for communication-- it's the online community for NCC small group leaders. Most things that need to get communicated to our leaders are posted here, and leaders can check in weekly, daily, or hourly to see what's new. Obviously, we don't post sensitive or confidential things to this site because people outside the NCC leadership base can access it.

Some pros and cons:

Email- Email is quick, easy, convenient, and all of our leaders have it. The advantage with email is that you can ensure that the message gets sent to the inbox of each and every leader. The disadvantage is that sometimes the news has to travel through several different people before landing in the small group leader's inbox. This can result in time delays.

Zonegathering- The blog method of communication is also quick, easy, convenient, and all of our leaders have access to it. The advantage is that anyone can check in at any time to see the latest news, and things don't have to wind themselves through the communication channels. The disadvantage, at least from my perspective, is that we cannot force our leaders to go to zonegathering on a regular basis. It's opt-in for them, and we never know who has gotten the message from there and who hasn't.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sermon Help

Alright, I need some help. We've just kicked off a new sermon series, Battle of the Sexes: How Both Sexes Can Win. You can read more about it here. Pastor Mark did a great job of framing the series this weekend, and over the next two weeks, we'll be talking about the unique challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities associated with our femininity or masculinity. Pastor Mark has dragged me into this insanity, so I'm on deck next weekend to talk about femininity.

This is such an important topic but one that is so often misunderstood. The world has given us one image of femininity while the church has given us a completely different image. To add to the confusion, the church has sent mixed messages to women throughout the years of what it means to be a woman of God.

As I prepare for this sermon, I'd really appreciate any input you might have, particularly on the following:
  • What does it mean to be a woman of God?
  • What are some of the unique challenges that women face?
  • What are some of the unique opportunities that women are given?
  • What are some of the unique responsibilities that women are given?
I think it would be great to start a conversation on the comment thread. But you are welcome to send me an email instead if you'd like to be anonymous.

Friday, February 16, 2007

FAQ: How do you recruit leaders?

Wow-- this is one area that a little more intentionality and strategic planning could help us a lot. I would say that leaders probably recruit us more than we recruit them. But every semester, we have an average of 30 people go through Leadership 101. Of those, about half become new small group and ministry leaders.

Here's our very non-strategic approach:

Group Apprenticeship Recruitment
Most new leaders come from our existing small groups. We don't even have a uniform name for them-- apprentice leaders, potential leaders, leaders-in-training, etc, but it all stems from our "Make One" strategy. Every group leader knows that it's their responsibility to reproduce themselves by raising up new leaders. We reinforce this goal each week as they are asked to list their potential leaders on their weekly group Win Sheet (we'll describe the Win Sheet in our next FAQ installment on communication). About a month before Leadership 101, group leaders will cast a vision of leadership and discipleship for their potential leaders, encourage them to attend Leadership 101, and then help them walk through the Leadership Process. This strategy works like clockwork when a group is busting at the seams and needs to multiply.

Active Leader Recruitment
Every leader knows that part of their mission is to "Make One." Since we drill that into their brains, our best leaders are constantly on the lookout for potential leaders-- even those not currently in their groups. When I meet with people and the conversation turns towards their passions and interests, I often encourage them to look for ways of turning those into disciple-making opportunities and invite them to participate in a group and attend Leadership 101.

Leadership 101 Announcements
We make sure the entire church knows about Leadership 101 and encourage everyone to come. We do this by putting a prominent "ad" in the Discipleship Atlas each semester. And we make bulletin and pulpit announcements 2 weeks prior to the training. While we require that a potential leader be involved in an NCC small group for at least one semester before they lead their own group, we don't require them to be in a group before attending Leadership 101. We believe the sooner we can get them through Leadership 101, the more likely they will be to catch a vision for discipleship, understand the discipleship wineskins at NCC, and step up to lead their own group someday.

Book Review: Imagine

Last week, I decided to read a book that's been sitting on my shelf for a long time, Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts

I do not consider myself to be an artist, but I have a passion for the arts and for artists. For too long, the church has neglected them, misunderstood them, ignored them, and many times hurt them. Yes-- artists are quirky, weird, moody, difficult, opinionated, and often do not play well with others. But you know what? That also sounds an awful lot like the Old Testament prophets.

Artists are prophetic voices in our communities. As their pastors, we must carry out our Ephesians 4:12 mandate and disciple them to use their gifts for the glory of God. Please note, I did not say "use their gifts for ministry," but "for the glory of God." Perhaps it's a semantics issue, but there is a subtle difference.

Imagine is written by Steve Turner, a man who has lived as a Christian on the frontlines of the entertainment industry for over 30 years. He is not a theorist but a practician. Steven opens the book by boldly declaring his vision for the reconciliation of arts and faith and he skillfully differentiates between "Christian art" and Christians who are artists. The following chapter gives a very good overview of the history of the often tenuous relationship between arts and the church. The book speaks to both the artist and to the church and covers topics such as discipleship, convictions, Bible and theology, the incorrect split between sacred and secular, and the challenges that both the church and the artist must face.

The thing I appreciate most about the book is the fact that he challenges both the church and the artist. He challenges the church to respect the power of art, disciple artists, help them find their voice and role in the Body of Christ, and give them a platform. He also challenges the artist to become fully participating members of the Body of Christ and to renew their art through the renewing of their mind and growing to be more like Christ.

Steve spoke of the struggle of the artistic Christ-follower: "They are already misunderstoond by the secular world because of their faith and now they are misunderstood by the church because of their art." I would encourage every pastor to read this book. You may disagree with some things in there, and that's okay. Art is not about resolution and answers but about struggle, questioning, and new perspectives. And that might be the first step we need to take in understanding how to disciple and incorporate these precious people into our communities of faith.

"The best art doesn't tell people what to believe, but enables them, for a short while, to see things differently, and the Christian can enable people to momentarily glimpse the world through eyes that have been touched by Christ." (Imagine, p. 115-116)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

BBQ, Othello, and Valentine's Day

My husband loves me. No question. He had my favorite BBQ-- Corky's-- flown in from Memphis for lunch today. This is the best BBQ ever. I had a beef brisket sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich, fudge pie, and Code Red for lunch. What a great Valentine's Day!

For whatevers its worth, we decided that Othello would not be a good theatrical choice for Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sweet Home Alabama

My sister just sent me "20 Ways to Tell You Are a Real Alabamian." I think I'm 16 for 20 on this.
  1. You can properly pronounce Arab, Cahaba, Opelika, Sylacauga, Oneonta, and Eufaula.
  2. You think people who complain about the heat in their states are sissies.
  3. A tornado warning siren is your signal to go out in the yard and look for a funnel.
  4. You know that the true value of a parking space is not determined by the distance to the door, but by the availability of shade.
  5. Stores don't have bags or shopping carts, they have sacks and buggies.
  6. You've seen people wear bib overalls at funerals.
  7. You think everyone from a bigger city has an accent.
  8. You measure distance in minutes. (It's about 5 minutes down the road)
  9. You go to the lake because you think it is like going to the ocean.
  10. You listen to the weather forecast before picking out an outfit.
  11. You know cowpies are not made of beef.
  12. Someone you know has used a football schedule to plan their wedding date. (I did this myself)
  13. You have known someone who has a belt buckle bigger than your fist.
  14. You aren't surprised to find movie rental, ammunition, beer, and bait all in the same store.
  15. A Mercedes Benz isn't a status symbol. A Chevy Silverado Extended Bed Crew Cab is.
  16. You know everything goes better with Ranch Dressing.
  17. You learned how to shoot a gun before you learned how to multiply.
  18. You actually get these jokes and are "fixin' " tos end them to your friends.
  19. You have used your heater and air-conditioner in the same day!
  20. Finally: You are 100% Alabamian if you have ever had this conversation:"You wanna coke?" "Yeah." "What kind?" "Dr Pepper."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Godspell Retreat

I'm heading out with the NCC Godspell cast in a few minutes to Pine Creek Camp for our cast retreat. We thought it would be a good idea to build community within the cast and to concentrate on choreography and final blocking. It such a blessing and so exciting to be a part of this process.

Soundtrack of My Life

I pulled this from my friend Genevieve's blog. Here's what you do:
  1. Open your iTunes (or other) music library.
  2. Put in on shuffle.
  3. Press play.
  4. For every question, type the song that's playing.
  5. When you go to a new question, hit the next button.
  6. Don't lie and pretend you are cool. And don't skip songs.
Here's my iTunes shuffle Soundtrack of My Life:

OPENING CREDITS: Be Thou My Vision- Smithfield Fair

WAKING UP: Blessed Be Your Name- Matt Redman

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: Virginia- Gene Miller/Civil War Soundtrack

FIGHT SONG: Lord of the Highlands- Smithfield Fair

THIS IS WHAT MATTERS: Stars and the Moon- Songs for a New World

BREAKING UP: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear- London Festival Orchestra

HAPPINESS: The Honor of Your Name- Trisha Yearwood/Civil War Soundtrack

LIFES OK: I Don’t Wanna Be- Gavin DeGraw

MENTAL BREAKDOWN: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For- U2

DRIVING: Transformation to Evil- Fantasmic! Soundtrack

FLASHBACK: Act 2: Exploring the NT- Heather Zempel (from the Story series. Yes, I have it in my iTunes library)

GETTING BACK TOGETHER: Alas For You!- Godspell Soundtrack

WEDDING: Control- Mutemath

BIRTH OF A CHILD: Light of the World- Godspell Soundtrack

DEATH SCENE: Famous One- Chris Tomlin

FUNERAL: Kyrie Eleison- East to West

CREDITS: A Whole New World- Brad Kane and Lea Salonga

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Team Kenya

I'm going to Kenya. And I cannot wait. It's been a life goal to go to Kenya ever since I fell in love with the Kenyan people in college. The first small group I led consisted of one white girl (me) and many Kenyans. I ate lots of beef stew and ugali, and I learned to love chai before it became trendy. My friend Daniel Moriasi, a fellow biological engineering grad student, became an adopted member of the Sawyer family and tried his best to teach me some Swahili in return for some lessons in American slang.

So now I'm finally going. NCC is going on a mission trip to Nairobi, and I have the privilege of leading the team. There are 50 people interested in going on the trip! I think the final team will probably be somewhere between 15-20 people. I'll post more soon on our destination, purpose, objectives, and needs.

Friday, February 02, 2007

FAQ: Why are people at NCC for only 2 years?

This particular FAQ is a little outside the realm of discipleship strategy topics, but I wanted to address it because we are asked a lot. In fact, I was just digging through some archived posts and noticed that someone had asked that question.

NCC is location in Washington, DC, which is an extremely transient and fluid city. I think the primary reason folks stay with us an average of 2 years is because that's the average amount of time a person stays in this city. Twenty-five percent of our congregation are full-time college students. The majority work on Capitol Hill, in the Administration, or in some other political or politically-related capacity. It's just a very transient place. Lots of students, interns, fellows, etc. For example, I was only in DC for one year when I first came. (I did come back 2 years later).

Yes-- people do leave NCC for other more "traditional" reasons-- they don't like the music (too loud, not loud enough, too contemporary, not contemporary enough), they claim the teaching isn't good enough or too deep or not deep enough, they want a bigger children's ministry, they want better pastoral care, etc., etc. That's cool-- there are lots of different kinds of churches because there are lots of different types of people.

But the 2-year average is primarily linked to the transient nature of this city. And that's why we've built our discipleship strategy around that.

FAQ: What is Leadership 101?

Leadership 101 is a three-hour class leadership/discipleship training class for potential small group and ministry leaders. We are in the process of redesigning it, so I'm going to describe the class as it will look in 2007. Leadership 101 is the first step in NCC's leadership development strategy.

The class is typically held on a Saturday morning at Ebenezers Coffeehouse. The schedule of topics looks like this:

First 2 Hours:
NCC 101- history, vision, DNA of the church
Philosophy of "Church"- relational and missional
Philosophy of "Discipleship"- non-linear, 4 dimensions, discipleship map
The Free Market Model
Be One, Make One, For One
Leading Yourself Well
Checking Your Motivations

**at this point, the larger group will probably break out into potential ministry leaders and potential small group leaders for more targeted training.

Last Hour:
Leading Others Well
Understanding Relational Spaces and Creating Community
Understanding Group Types
Steps to Leadership
Leadership Expectations

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Christie Cookies

This morning, I was reading this great post by Perry Noble about appreciating pastors, and before I had even finished, these beauties landed on my desk.

Christie Cookies! These are absolutely my favorite cookies. I discovered them while I live in Nashville, and I always make the point to get them while I'm there. Someone from NCC sent them to me anonymously, and I am so happy!

To whoever you are, THANK YOU so much!