Friday, January 30, 2009

Heading Towards Greater Things

NCC's Team D (Discipleship) is about to roll out for the 2009 Leadership Retreat. I can't remember a retreat with this much excitement and anticipation surrounding it. I believe that God wants to do greater things in us, greater things for us, and greater things through us. And that's going to require greater things from us.

I believe that the Spirit of God is going to fall on many of our leaders in a fresh way tonight that will bring them joy, power, and renewed vision.

Please pray for us this weekend! If you are a Twitterer, you can follow us a #greater09.

I'll blog notes from the retreat next week. Greater Things!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Strategy

I'm going to be announcing a new strategy for small groups for this summer at the leadership retreat this weekend. It won't be a permanent strategy change-- just an experiment for the summer. I'm really excited and can't wait to talk with leaders about it.

More to come...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Greater Things: The Details

Alright, NCC Leaders. Leadership Retreat weekend is almost here! Greater Things are heading our way. All the details you would ever need for the retreat can be found on the website here.

Weekends When I Really Love My Job

Every now and then, there are weekends when I really love my job. Here are some highlights from this one:
  • Joined the Adams-zone team leaders for breakfast on Saturday morning. Dreamed together about small groups for the summer. Gave a sneak peek at the Leadership Retreat.
  • Met a zone leader and a team leader for lunch and laughed, talked leadership retreat, and schemed next steps for creative projects.
  • Saw a lot of wonderful people at weekend worship gatherings on Sunday morning. Released the spring 2009 version of the Discipleship Atlas.
  • Gathered the NCC Team Northern Ireland missions team to prepare for our trip. Learned about loving others. Skyped in a team member from London.
  • Hosted the first annual(?), quarterly(?), regular (?)...gathering of NCC artists on Sunday night.

What Happens

What happens when you get 39 artists under the same roof?

Energy. Excitement. Creativity. Connections. Ideas. Insanity. Passion. Joy. Vulnerability. Conversation. And a little karaoke.

For a long time, Ryan and I have talked about the need to get all of the NCC artists in one place. We finally did that last night. I didn't really know what to expect. We invited about 30 people and told them to invite whoever might be interested. A couple things surprised me. First, about half a dozen of the folks showed up early. Since when are artists early? Second (and more importantly), we have a tremendous wealth of talent and potential amongst our people. Some of it was hidden from the NCC community until last night.

I don't really know where we go from here, but I want to continue creating environments where people can connect with one another, encourage one another, challenge one another, inspire one another, and hold each other accountable to steward the gifts that God has entrusted to them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Greater Things: Candy

Alright, so in preparation for the 2009 Leadership Retreat, Greater Things, our most excellent protege Will Johnston is running a little poll to determine the Greatest Candy Bar. Please go vote-- whether you are an NCC leader or not. And please remember to vote for the greatest candy, which is, of course, SNICKERS. Other choices have been offered by John "Skittles" Hasler, which doesn't even qualify as a candy, in my opinion. And by Will "Reese's" Johnston.

If you have trouble with the link below, click here to cast your vote.

Let the games begin!

<a href="">Which of these candies is the greatest?</a> | <a href="">BuzzDash polls</a>

Discipleship Atlas

We are ramping up for the start of our spring semester. Every year, we create a magazine that contains information on our small groups. It sends a strong message about the value we place on group life and serving together in community.

Here's the cover for the Spring 2009 semester. We'll start handing this out to NCCers this weekend.

Busy Season

It is Busy Season at NCC. Every year around this time, my brain turns to mush. I can't remember simple vocabulary. I forget to eat. I have ridiculous sudden spurts of energy. It's Leadership Retreat time.

Every January, we take all of our NCC leaders off for 24 hours to pump them full of vision and training. We worship together and we pray together. This year, we've got 170 folks going to Leadership Retreat.

Today has been filled with script writing, costume renting, filming, signage deliveries, session scheduling, breakout organizing, room assigning, and a bazillion other little odds and ends. My blogging over the next few days may be anemic...or a one note song...but we are super excited about the Greater Things that God is going to do in us, through us, and for us in 2009.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Views of Denver

Ryan and I had a blast during our quick trip to Denver.

First stop, the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo. I have never seen so much flannel in one place in my life!

Next stop, Estes Park. Thought about getting a cowboy hat at the shops in the village, but I didn't.

Then, the Stanley Hotel, Stephen King's inspiration for Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

Finally, the amphitheater at Red Rocks.

You can see downtown Denver in the distance.

Ryan immediately went into producer mode trying to scheme a way to get a show on the stage.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Prison: Perspective

We are in a series at NCC called "Prison"- a study on joy from the book of Philippians. I kicked off the series a couple weeks ago with a look at at the first chapter of Philippians and Paul's unique perspective while in prison.

What do you do when life imprisons you? Paul knew what his life was about and who his life was about, and that perspective gave him joy when he found himself imprisoned.

You can see it online here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hangin' Out in Denver

Ryan and I made a last minute decision to take advantage of the 4-day weekend in DC and head to Denver to visit friends and family. Highlights so far:
  • Hanging out with Margaret and Leif and enjoying the amazing view from their living room.
  • Getting my butt kicked severely by Margaret. (Okay, severely is a stretch. How severe can it be from a girl who works on the "sparkle committee?")
  • Going to the Western National Stock Show and Rodeo. WOW! My first rodeo. Add it to the Life Accomplishments list. It was awesome.
  • Meeting Val Sanchez, my brother-in-law.
  • Playing Wii until the wee hours of the morning with Holly, Val, and Ryan.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Small Group Exchange: Beta Launch

I love the guys at Bluefishtv. Today, they relaunched their resource site for small groups, It's packed with training videos from awesome leaders like Mark Batterson and Russ Robinson, leadership articles from great writers like my buddies Steve Corn and Spence Shelton, and loads of small group curriculum resources. And I've got a few articles on there, as well. :)

Check out the articles section.

Rest in Peace

Today, we buried the online community for small group leaders at National Community Church. We started the blog about 4 years ago, and our goals were as follows:
  • Provide information on upcoming events at NCC
  • Provide ongoing leadership development and personal spiritual growth tools to leaders
  • Provide a forum for idea sharing amongst leaders
  • Provide a platform for celebrating what God is doing in small groups
There were times when the blog worked well and, in general, served these purposes. And there were seasons where it was less successful and saw more google search stumblers than intentional visits by NCC small group leaders. The blog inspired several other churches to launch their own small group blogs and even won some sort of blog innovation award. Lots of other small group pastors thought it was super cool to which I was forced to respond "Yeah, now if only our leaders would read it." (I think sometimes those of us who are paid to do this stuff get way more excited about our ideas than the people they are intended to serve-- I'll save that rant for later).

Here is my honest assessment of its value in each of those four goal areas for the benefit of anyone who might be considering staring a blog for their leadership.

Information Sharing was okay for information sharing...but only if leaders checked it or subscribed to the feed. Which meant we usually had to send follow-up emails to make sure everyone had the news. There were a couple of occasions- Convoy of Hope Hurricane Updates, Floods in Union Station theatres, etc- where zonegathering became a primary source of updates that were helpful. And it was a great vehicle for sharing news that might not be considered crucial and critical. But email still proved to be the best method for sharing information about upcoming events and deadlines with our leaders.

Leadership Development
I think we hit this one out of the park, in my honest and humble opinion. :) Seriously, I would put the devotional and leadership development content of up against any site out there. Really solid training and teaching from features like Bible Drill Wednesday and Thursday Leadership Lesson. Sarah Owen and Nathan Gonzales were regular contributors to these features, and they did a phenomenal job. The content on the site is solid, and we heard great feedback from leaders.

The downside, however, is that the leadership development resources we provided often came in the form of long articles (800-1500 words, on average). That's too long for a blog post. I have no problem reading 943 pages of Harry Potter, but if I have to scroll down more than 2 screens on a blog post about restoring a fallen member of my group to righteousness and community, I'm skimming the rest. My guess is that a different format would work better for disseminating this kind of information. We may want to experiment with video.

Idea Sharing Amongst Leaders
I envisioned a blog with dynamic comments posted all the time from leaders-- sharing their great ideas with one another and connecting with one another. Never happened. I remember one time that a leader shared a great icebreaker idea. And there may have been a good service project idea or two. But that was it. Blogs just aren't conducive to building that kind of online community. At least ours wasn't. Facebook would probably have served us better in that goal.

Uh...I really don't know how well we met this one. We tried to do it through Friday Scorecard. Didn't really work. We celebrated our leaders through Tuesday Spotlights. That worked pretty well. It worked when it occurred to us to get online and post something. But it wasn't a home run.

Final Thoughts
I'm not saying that blogs aren't viable options for information sharing and leadership development. I'm just saying that ceased to be that, and in many cases, was not hitting a home run in all those areas. I do think the site was most helpful when we were also posting random, human interest, silly stuff throughout the day. When the site was being updated regularly with what Nathan was thinking, what Heather was doing, and what mischief Ryan was creating...the readership was up, the participation was more dynamic, and was fulfilling its purpose. Otherwise, it was hit or miss.

I'm glad we did it. And I'm glad we killed it. We will create a new resource and training site for our leaders which should go live sometime in Fall 2009., rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What is John Hasler?

Alright, this guy named John has been lurking around the NCC offices for a few years now. We know who he is-- he is a passionate Christ follower whose heart beats and bleeds for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the less fortunate (no wonder he's a Cubs fan).

We know what he does- he is my right-hand man on discipleship and small group initiatives at NCC. He leads, he teaches, he casts vision, he navigates leaders through the group registration process, he leads missions teams.

We just don't know what that is called. So the deep, penetrating question of the day:

What is John Hasler?

He's not an assistant discipleship pastor. That's too sterile and lame. If anyone knows what John Hasler might be, please cast your vote in the comment section.

Explanation: Just to make things clear. We need a job title for John Hasler that is as cool as he is. We've never landed on anything. If you come up with something creative and we use it, you will win a moonpie. Or something. Maybe a copy of my upcoming book.

Annual Leadership Retreat- Greatest Ever

January is crazy month for me. It's the month of Annual Leadership Retreat, so my days and nights and dreams are consumed with thoughts of how we can encourage, train, and inspire our amazing small group and ministry leaders.

This year, our theme is Greater Things, and it's shaping up to be the best retreat ever. We've got about 170 people registered. That's 170 people who love Jesus and are committed to the vision of NCC. 170 people who have the potential to help someone cross the line of faith. 170 people to serve their neighbor. 170 people to discover and unleash potential in another.

What might God want to do with 170 people?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Everyone Loves Mark Batterson

You just can't not love Mark Batterson. One of my zone leaders just found this video intro from his talk at the Echo Conference.

What Might Happen At Church

You never know what might happen at church. Gary Lamb is God's favorite redneck pastor, and I just read his blog post encouraging his congregation to attend their 9:30 service. #9 states, "The bathrooms have not been destroyed yet."

That reminded me of our Union Station location. Come to the 9am service at Union Station and you might run into the naked homeless guy taking a bath at the sink. I'm not kidding. That's what Pastor Dave encountered one morning during service set-up. Doing church in movie theaters keeps things interesting...and keeps church closer to what Jesus probably had in mind, IMHO.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Let the Fight for Alan Danielson Begin...

I've got news that should shake the small group world. Alan Danielson, Central Team Leader for Life Groups for, is a free agent. After serving 4 years at, the leadership decided to combine the LifeGroup Central Team Leader position with the LifeMissions Central Team Leader position. Alan was asked to consider that new position, and after much prayer he came to the conclusion that the Team Leader of Groups and Missions was not the role God created or was calling him to fulfill. So with the blessing of senior leadership, he is leaving on January 15th.

If National Community Church had the ability to bring a new player on the team, we would snag Alan without hesitation. In fact, I told Mark Batterson he might want to shove me in front of a truck or feed my shellfish and bring Alan on to replace me.

Alan has a huge heart for people, demonstrates extreme skill in managing and leading diverse teams across a large geographical area, and is one of the most fun people to be around. I've appreciated the way he has influenced and encouraged me personally and professionally, and I can't wait to see where God leads him.

If you are looking for a dynamic small groups pastor with strong teaching skills, check out his resume. And if you're looking for someone who it's fun to do life and ministry with, Alan is your guy.

"Alan Danielson is one of the nation's best leaders in small group ministry."
~ Craig Groeschel, author of It, Going All The Way, Chazown and Senior Pastor,, Edmond, Oklahoma

"Alan Danielson's provocative teaching and passion for group life will inspire you and your groups to get serious about being the communities God calls you to become!"
~ Dr. Bill Donahue, author of Walking The Small Group Tightrope and Pastor of Group Life, Willow Creek Community Church, Chicago, Illinois

"Building biblical community in today's culture requires outside the box thinking as well as the leadership horsepower necessary to execute strategies well. Alan is one of those rare people who has a proven track record of both."
~ Greg Bowman, Brand Architect/Adult Ministries, Willow Creek Association, Chicago, Illinois

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Podcast Recommendations

While searching for a (dead) theologian to study, I'm also looking for podcast recommendations. One of my goals last year was to work on improving my preaching. In these 50 Days of Focus, I'm listening to various speakers/communicators/preachers-- some with delivery styles similar to mine and others at NCC and some with very different approaches, theologies, and methodologies.

Here are a few on my iPod right now:
  • Craig Groeschel,
  • Perry Noble, Newspring Church
  • Matt Chandler, Village Church
  • John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist
  • Clint Pressley, Dauphin Way Baptist Church
  • Andy Stanley, Northpoint Community Church
  • Joel Stockstill, Bethany World Prayer Center
  • Brian Wade, Belmont Church
Any other suggestions? Who are some people that might not be on the radar screen of Catalyst-attending, young adult-oriented, "innovative" National Community Church?


The NCC discipleship staff took off sprinting into 2009 today. Just a few of the things on today's agenda: Discipleship Atlas design; 2009 Leadership Retreat planning, production, and creative design; online Discipleship Atlas completion and debugging; scheduling for leader photos; planning for various missions trips; dreaming up Greater Things; considering the future of; planning for spring semester zone leader gatherings; planning for 2009 spring Protege huddles; scheduling meetings with key leaders...etc...etc...etc...good times all around!

I love my job. I forget to eat and sleep sometimes. But I love my job!

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Theologian to Study

In John Piper's book, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, readers are encouraged to select a theologian to study over the course of their entire lives. I love that idea. Granted, part of that section of the book annoyed me-- he said that ancient guides were much better than modern ones. In other words, we can learn a lot more from Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and John Owen than we can from Jack Hayford, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren; and I just don't buy that. I believe God has placed prophets and disciple-making men and women in every era of church history. Anyway...enough disclaimer...

So...Piper picked Jonathan Edwards, and I think it really shows in his preaching. Who would you pick?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sermon References I reflected on my sermon during the jump between Union Station and Georgetown today, I realized I made references to the following:
  • A quote from Star Wars: Phantom Menace
  • A quote from the movie Miracle
  • A quote from the movie Gladiator
  • Military analogies
  • Sports analogies
I think for my next sermon I should endeavor to make references to ballet, baking, and knitting...though I'm not sure I would know how to reference any of them. Oh well, my guess is that Paul would have resonated with warfare and sports.