Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kids Dance Recital

I love the way our small groups are set up to help people get a vision from God and run with it. A few semesters ago, a leader approached me with a gift and passion for dance and a love for kids. She coupled that love for dance and kids to create an after school dance class for kids. She's using her gifts to help build community and make disciples of the next generation.

I just found out they are going to have a dance recital in a couple weeks. I'm so excited about the creativity and initiative of our leaders.

By the way, this also hits two of my passion areas-- helping people be disciples and make disciples and helping artists find their platform in the church.

Baby's First Iron Bowl

Yes. It's a time of celebration just like baby's first Christmas, baby's first Easter, baby's first steps, baby's first words, etc. For those of you unfamiliar with this important event, it's the annual clash of famous football rivals Auburn and Alabama. In most situations, Alabama and Auburn fans could not coexist in the same house on the day of the Iron Bowl. But it's not so easy when you are family.

My niece (Ruthie) experienced her first Iron Bowl last week, and she wore the wrong colors. So here's my question. Why all the screaming, crying, and fussing? Because her team is losing? Or because her daddy made her wear that silly red cap? C'mon, we all know she is a little Aubie tiger cub.

War Eagle! (17-10, by the way!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Surveying and Imagining

I'm doing two projects today- analyzing our 2007 small group leader surveys and imagining our 2008 leadership retreat.

Every year, we survey our entire congregation; Mark Batterson blogged about that here. And every year, we do a separate survey of our small group leaders to determine how long they've been leading, how often they visit zonegathering, how many service projects their group has done, what core discipleship groups they've completed, what leadership topics they would like to know about, what spiritual disciplines they practice, etc. Sometimes it's encouraging. Sometimes it's frightening. It's always enlightening. And it helps us plan our summits and zonegathering topics for the upcoming year.

This surveying work feeds into leadership retreat planning. Today I'm thinking through music, emcee, video, creative, and content. We sent out our first invitation email today, and we've got about 50 people registered so far. I'm so thankful for the amazing team we have on staff and the volunteer zone leaders who help us create this thing. I'm so excited about it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving Reflections

I unplugged for a bit over the holidays; here's what I would have blogged about if I had been blogging:
  • What happened to LSU?
  • War Eagle!
  • C'mon, Kentucky. You shoulda had that.
  • I love fried turkey.
  • That guy on Man vs. Wild is insane.
  • Missouri and West Virginia?! Are you kidding me?
  • What happened to LSU?
  • It was great to catch up with our old NCC friend Jason and meet his wife, Christina.
  • I love SATCO.
  • Never...NEVER try to go to the Tanger Outlets in Pigeon Forge the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It will delay your return home by 2.5 hours. Everyone east of the Mississippi must have gone to the Smoky Mountains for Thanksgiving.
  • What happened to LSU?
  • I love Eowyn Ruthie McClure!
  • What do you do when a potential small group leader sends you a group idea called "Spin the Bible?"
  • I love the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade!
  • When will the theatre strike in NYC end? I need to go get a show fix. But after the MTV special, I'm not sure I need to see Legally Blonde.
  • 80 tunes on the iPod will get you from DC to Knoxville.
  • What happened to LSU?
  • Whatever you do, don't accidentally turn into the parking lot of the abandoned building while trying to get into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express in Knoxville. The police car will come screaming towards you and detain you for 15 minutes. I still have no idea who they thought we were or what they thought we had or what super secret science experiment must be happening in that building.
  • Sounds like we might be getting The Hobbit from Peter Jackson.
  • Corky's BBQ. Yum. Seriously yum.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Moving Towards Leadership Retreat


Are you in?

That's the teaser for the 2008 Annual Leadership Retreat. We just posted our first announcement over on today, and I'm so excited about it that I'm about to bust! We'll send the next four weeks or so between now and Christmas getting RSVPs, rolling out the theme, developing sessions, and brainstorming creative elements.

Every January, we take all of our small group and ministry leaders on a two-day retreat to talk vision and strategy for the upcoming year. I think it's one of the best things we do as a church and probably the best thing we do in small groups ministry.

I've posted more on the logistics and planning here and here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Alpha Retreat

Had a great Alpha Getaway this weekend! Each semester, our Alpha course goes on an overnight retreat to build community, cover some of the lessons, and have fun. I usually tag along to give the talk, "What does the Holy Spirit do?" It's always a highlight of the semester. I was shocked when I pulled up to the retreat center and couldn't find a place to park! There were about 60 people at the retreat. Great job Team Alpha!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Measuring Groups

How do you gather information about what's happening in church small groups?

Most churches have a weekly report, either online or a single page, of information that must be completed pertaining to who was at the group and what happened at the group. Right now, NCC is using a weekly reporting mechanism called the Win Sheet. You can read more about that here. Leaders are expected to submit them sometime within a week after their group meeting.

But I'm strongly leaning towards moving to a monthly system with a hard due date. The main information I am interested in gathering is 1) who is attending our groups and 2) what stories of community and discipleship are emerging.

Does anyone have examples of their reporting system that they would be willing to share with me? You can post a link using the comment thread or send me an email.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I just finished reading the book unChristianby Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. It's the result of a research project led by the Barna Group to determine what people in our generation really think about Christians. Christians are not called to be popular. In fact, Jesus promised us we would not be popular. So bad feelings towards our kind doesn't necessarily indicate a problem. But when people have a negative image of Jesus for the wrong reasons- because we have been hypocritical, judgmental, confused our mission, or demonstrated any number of the other unBiblical and Pharisaical attitudes and actions that we've adopted over the years- then that is bad.

It's a wake up call. And it's something I think every pastor should read. You may not agree with everything in the book, and you certainly will find yourself feeling defensive at different points. But it's important to listen to these voices. Jesus listened. And then he responded in a loving but challenging way that was unique to each individual. I dream of being able to minister like that!

If you're interested in this topic, I'd also recommend They Like Jesus but Not the Church by Dan Kimball.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

100 Thursday Leadership Lessons

The ZoneGathering is our online community for NCC small group leaders. It's a blog-format site, and we use it for training leaders, making announcements, and creating a forum for sharing ideas.

Each Thursday, we post a "Thursday Leadership Lesson." An article on some aspect of leadership. We've covered things like vision, communication, engaging your group in service, growing as a leader, building community, making disciples, multiplication, and providing care in groups.

Our post today marked 100 Thursday Leadership Lessons. Big thanks to all the authors who have written and contributed over the past two years!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Non-Linear Discipleship

I've been thinking about discipleship a lot lately. After all, it's my job. To help people become fully devoted followers of Christ. But what does that mean and how do we do it? A lot of us in church world like to set people on a track of academic type classes that are designed to help people rise to the next level of discipleship. We offer stuff like Membership 101, Growth 201, Discipleship 301, and Leadership 401. It's easy to implement, manage, and measure. But are people really being changed? I'm not sure.

At NCC, we've implemented something called "non-linear" discipleship. We embrace the idea that growth into Christ-likeness is never the same, linear path for every person. And Jesus' approach with his disciples appears to be anything but linear. It was personal and born out of relationship. I think spiritual growth can be predictable to some degree, but it never seems to be linear. This is a theme that I keep coming back to.

Still...I'm not sure people are truly being changed or if they are just checking off boxes. We run the risk of building programs instead of building people. How can we make sure we stay laser-focused on building people. I'm convinced that information without relationship is not true discipleship.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Little Buddy

Okay, I'll get off this baby thing soon, but I'm just so excited about my new little niece- Eowyn Ruth. "Ruthie" to those of us who know her best. I call her Pipsqueak because she makes lots of squeaky noises. She looks like a cabbage patch kid. I had a great time in Nashville visiting my sister Laura and brother-in-law Casey. It was so cool to think about her little personality that will be forming soon and the person that she will become. Can't wait for Thanksgiving!

Twelve Things You Should Never Say to a Baptist

Thanks for Perry Noble for this great list! I'm a Baptist girl at heart, and I love it. By the way, if you are looking for a good blog to read, Perry's is a great blog to check out. It's on my once-a-day reading list. I love his heart for God and passion for seeing people come to Christ. It's contagious.

Twelve Things You Should Never Say to a Baptist

#12 - Lottie who?

#11 - What is a covered dish and why must everyone who gets sick in our church have to have some sort of casserole?

#10 - I love it when my wife has her own opinion!

#9 - For God so loved the world that He did not send a COMMITTEE!

#8 - “Were either going to Disney or Vegas for vacation this year…”

#7 - SHE did an incredible job with the message today.

#6 - Why do you keep calling me “brother?”

#5 - “Got a light?” Unless, of course, you are a deacon…then this is a perfectly valid question.

#4 - Can we please sing the third verse!!!

#3 - Hold my beer.

#2 - May I have this dance?

#1 - Ante up!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

You Know You've Crossed the State Line...

You know you're getting deep into Dixie territory when you encounter a town called Groseclose, drive by a liquor store called Bootleggers, pass a big rig proudly displaying an American flag and the statement "these colors don't run," and there are more Cracker Barrels than McDonalds. Jumping out of the car at the gas station and being hit with harmonica music would also be a clear indication of a geo-cultural shift.

Had a great drive to Nashville. Thank goodness for the iPod. Also, read a great book last night: When Leadership and Discipleship Collide by Bill Hybels. I will post a review later; my biggest complaint is that it wasn't long enough.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

On the Road Again...

I had 12 hours in DC (or slightly less), and I'm hitting the road again. Destination: Nashville, TN. Length of Stay: 4 days. Mission: To visit my niece, Eowyn Ruth. I'm really looking forward to seeing Casey, Laura, and little Ruthie. I'm jumping into the car and hitting the interstate for this one, which means about a 10-11 hour drive. Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm kinda looking forward to it. Lots of time to process the past couple days, dream about our next steps at NCC, and sing lots of Broadway songs very loudly from my own private wheeled studio.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Head Spinning

I just spent the last two days brainstorming with some of the greatest minds in the area of small groups and discipleship. I'm still not sure how in the world I wound up getting invited to this thing, but I'm so thankful I got to be here. There were moments when I thought, "we are doing pretty good at NCC," but there were also moments when I thought, "what the heck are we doing at NCC?" Being around other people who are passionate about changing the world through community and discipleship gets me fired up!

Two things I know. One, the future of the church rests on our ability to make disciples. That was Jesus' plan and it was the only plan. We are here today because the people that came before us were willing to give their lives to that mission. Two, the way we make disciples changes. There's no one way to do it, and it shifts with time, cultures, and people. Jesus encountered different people in different ways, and we've got to do the same. It's not about programs but about community. It's not about information but relationship.

Monday, November 05, 2007

New House

Have I mentioned that Ryan and I bought a new house? Honestly, things have been so crazy in our lives right now that we can't remember who we've told what! It's a very weird feeling to realize that we own a house in Washington, DC, but we are really excited! I guess we are going to be here for a while. Now, we just have to figure out a time to move.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Southern Family

Alright, is this a Southern family or what? Check out all the shirts. My mom is wearing a shirt with lots of historically informative information on the Battle of Bull Run (which she evidently bought at a Yankee shop because we call it "Manassas" down South). My Dad is wearing a polo from the Louisiana Oyster lobby. And my brother-in-law Casey is wearing an Alabama Roll Tide shirt.

Somehow, I doubt little Ruthie is wearing the pink pinstripe Yankees onesie that Jill sent to her.'s 4 generations of my family. My GranBerry. Mom and Dad. Sister Laura and Casey. And little Ruthie. I can't wait to get to Nashville next week to see her!

Repair and Remodeling

We are about to have our last Leadership Summit of 2007. Where did the year go? Each semester, we gather our leaders for a time of connection, worship, vision, and training. It's also a time to celebrate "wins" and to take care of any church business that requires a vote from our leadership. All year, we've been talking about this idea that when it comes to creating community, making disciples, and doing ministry, there's always some assembly required.

Today, we are going to talk about repair and remodeling-- at some point, no matter how solid the foundation and good the construction, every structure requires a little repair and remodeling.

I'm struggling with our Leadership Summits a bit, and I think we will do some revising for 2008. They just seem a little boring and stale, and I'm not sure our leaders enjoy coming. We absolutely need these gatherings each semester, but we may need to do a little repair and remodeling ourselves.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thief in the Night

I attended one of the best Halloween parties ever last night. Alright, some may think it lame, but I had a blast. Jeremy, our assistant media pastor, leads a group called Apocalypse Now which is looking at end times prophecy and learning about the different historical and theological interpretations of Revelation. Since their group meets on Wednesdays, and Halloween fell on a Wednesday, they decided to watch the Christian classic Thief in the Night last night. So of course, I had to go make a group visit last night. Hilarious! I had remembered that movie being a lot scarier than it really is.

And while talking about Apocalyptic things, check out the trailer (click on Apocalyptic Elephant) that Jeremy made for our last segment of the Elephant in the Church series. It's fantastic!