Friday, June 25, 2010

Discerning the Call

Last week, I shared my story of ministry "calling" with about a dozen folks who are discerning God's call on their own life. We've got so many amazingly gifted people at NCC that Mark Batterson and I decided we should facilitate a small group for those who were trying to figure out whether their life was destined for ministry in the marketplace or ministry in the church world.

My story is not orthodox. I chose biological engineering over theatre, stayed an additional two years for a masters degree, spent a couple years designing erosion control plans and writing air quality compliance reports, and then served as a policy advisor for a U. S. Senator for several years. You know, traditional ministry path. And when I finally succumbed to ministry, it was not because I saw a neon sign in heaven or was able to read the handwriting on the wall. I just made a decision to do it.

As I was sharing my convoluted and confusing path into ministry, I shared that there were three criteria that helped me make the decision. I simply looked at where I was feeling most fulfilled, being most fruitful, and having the most fun.

I looked at the Senate and at NCC and decided that the work I was doing with small group leaders-- training, discipling, writing, speaking, dreaming-- had become more fulfilling than the talking points and legislation I was writing.

I searched my soul and honestly evaluated my work in both spheres and concluded that I had become more fruitful in my work with discipleship than my work in politics.

And finally (and quite spiritually- but I will save the Theology of Fun for a different post), I was having more fun with small groups and mission trips than with committee hearings and CODELS.

My prayer for you is that your calling would be clear and certain. For some of you, the clarity will come in the form of smoke signals from heaven and the voice of God on the wind of your life. For others of you, it will be a simple discerning process of your fulfillment, fruitfulness, and even fun.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Relational Intelligence

"Our day-to-day interactions will determine the quality of our lives more than the tasks or work we do, whether it's in our careers, in leadership, or in any other arena of life" (Steve Saccone).

The older I get, the more value I place on relationships. Ten years ago, my primary reasons for moving would be a career advancing position or a risky adventure that presented itself to me. Now, I'm finding that who I do life with is just as important-- if not more so-- than what I do in life.

I recently finished reading the book Relational Intelligence by Steve Saccone-- a campus pastor at Mosaic and the master-mind behind their amazing Protege experience (we stole ours from them). He encourages leaders to value people more than the task and relationships more than strategies. I love the way he begins because he roots his thesis in good trinitarian theology and moves from there to practical ways we can improve the way we relate to those around us.

Steve presents six roles of a relational genius- the story collector, the energy carrier, the compelling relator, the conversational futurist, the likeable hero, and the disproportionate investor.

I really loved the idea of being a story collector. That one resonated with some of the other areas where God is encouraging me right now.

I gained some new ideas from the chapter on the converstional futurist about moving my meetings with leaders to more meaningful places.

I was inspired by the disproportionate investor and want to challenge myself to invest more in people than I take away.

One practical take-away from this book for me is to intentionally seek feedback about my blind spots from those I lead and those that lead me. We've all got relational blind spots, and if I can find some people who are willing to name them and then commit to walking me through transformation, I will become a better leader. And more importantly, I will become a better person.

While it comes naturally to some people, relational intelligence can be learned and cultivated. If you are looking for a way to do that, this book is a good place to start.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Would You Rather? Friday

It's Friday, so...

Would you rather walk on the moon OR stand at the top of Mount Everest?

And tell us why...go...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This One's For the Girls

Now that I've got Martina McBride singing in my head, let me try to crank out a thought. I don't think I've ever written a post specifically for you girls who are reading, but today I am.

A few years ago, my boss, friend, mentor, and pastor Mark Batterson gave me some important leadership advice: you've got to develop thick skin and keep a soft heart. While I think this is great advice for any leader-- man or woman-- I think it's especially critical that we girls get this. Because we tend to get it backwards so often.

I'm so grateful I'm gifted in and called to leadership. I experience the presence and pleasure of Christ when I am leading, teaching, and mobilizing teams towards a larger purpose. But sometimes leadership is lonely. And sometimes leaders become the punching bag for someone else's insecurities and issues. How we respond in those circumstances reveals our character and sets a course for our eventual success or failure. Developing tough skin while keeping a soft heart will give us the right posture and perspective.

For many of us, we default the opposite way. We have soft skin and develop hard hearts. We allow criticism-- whether constructive and helpful or damaging and hurtful-- to pierce our skin and leave wounds. Then we harden our hearts as a defense mechanism. That leaves us wounded on the outside and hard on the inside, rendering us unable to minister, lead, or relate to others effectively.

Developing thick skin means we let the stupid stuff bounce off-- not allowing an arrow to pierce our skin unless it first pierces through the truth of Scripture. And keeping a soft heart means remaining transparent, vulnerable, teachable, and pliable in the hands of God and in our relationships with others.

It's easier said than done. But we've gotta do it.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Who are your MVPs? The people-- whether paid or volunteer-- that you cannot imagine doing ministry without? The people who make it happen, keep momentum flowing, keep the vision at the forefront, and give you joy.

As I read the epistles of Paul, I'm struck with how often he praises people in the various churches he writes. He's so thankful for the many great leaders, and he's constantly acknowledging their sacrifices, accomplishments, and efforts. He heaps gratitude on people who bring him joy because of their ministry and their friendship with him.

We've all got MVPs around us. They are the people that make us happy to do what we get to do. And we should find ways to let them know that.

Operation Kaboom- Connections

We blew up the small group structure at NCC, and when the dust settled, we discovered we had formed three teams-- Connections, Coaching, and Training.

The Connections Team oversees the logistical operations part of small group ministry. Will Johnston leads the charge on connections from a staffing perspective, and he is responsible for recruiting leaders, ensuring that each campus maintains a healthy diet of group offerings, and that groups are adequately promoted across locations.

Each campus has a Small Group Coordinator, which serves as the "face with the place" for small group ministries. They serve as the recruiting arm of the discipleship ministry and serve as the liaison between NCCers and groups and between group leaders and campus pastors. They are uniquely gifted leaders who possess strong people skills and the ability to offer strategic and management leadership for the implementation of systems and processes.

Responsibilities and expectations include the following:
  • Represent groups at Campus Connection Points and Connections Cafes.
  • Maintain a high level of knowledge about opportunities at assigned location and work with hospitality team to make accurate recommendations for people.
  • Call each leader at the beginning of the semester to thank them for their leadership.
  • Serve as “face with the place” for groups at assigned location.
  • Work directly with Campus Pastor to advance group life values and goals and location.
  • Provide oversight of the leadership recruitment process.
  • Meet with potential leaders to assess their interest in and readiness for leadership.
  • Providing direction to potential leaders regarding the NCC leadership process (Leadership 101, application, Covenant).
  • Meet with existing leaders as appropriate for guidance, support, and encouragement.
  • Deliver pertinent information regarding upcoming events and deadlines to leaders via email, phone calls and/or face to face interaction.
  • Ensure the availability of easy-entry groups at NCC locations (meal groups, ongoing community-based groups, interest groups)
  • Work with Team D Administrative staff to maintain a list of active, inactive, and potential leadership at assigned location.
  • Meet with Connections Pastor as necessary and with Discipleship Pastor once a semester.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Would You Rather? Friday

It's Friday, so...

Would you rather be divinely beautiful, dazzlingly clever, or angelically good?

(With my compliments to Anne Shirley...)

And tell us why...go...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Operation Kaboom- The New Teams

Okay, back to my Operation Kaboom's been a few weeks. So we blew up our small groups at National Community Church. After a process of re-thinking, re-imagining, and re-orienting vision, we decided to split NCC small group efforts, roles, and responsibilities into three teams:

Connections is the logistical drive of the NCC small groups ministry-- ensuring that we have a healthy diet of group offerings each semester, that leaders are recruited, that groups are promoted, and that people join. Each location has a small group coordinator that serves as the "face with the place" for small groups at NCC and they are the primary champion for group life.

Coaching is focused on the heart and spiritual growth of the leader. Each leader has the option to be assigned to a "growth coach" who ensures that the leader is growing in their relationship with Christ, growing in their leadership gifts, and growing towards their goals.

Training is focused on the skill development of the leaders. The training team is responsible for developing training tools and resources that help leaders with both the hard and soft skills of group leadership.

I'll break each of these down in subsequent posts.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Would You Rather? Friday

It's Friday, so...

Would you rather have complete and unlimited access to Area-51 or to the Vatican files?

And tell us why...go...

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Catan Fail

For all you Settlers of Catan nerds out there, this is for you. Desert Build Fail. It kinda made sense at the

I won't say who it was. But it wasn't me. Or Ryan. And no, this brilliant individual did not win.

Guides and Fathers (1 Corinthians 3-4)

Reprinted from yesterday's From Garden to City Blog.

Toddlers are sponges. And parrots. My two-year-old niece Ruthie has begun copying everything she sees and hears. My sister Laura told me of a recent traffic incident in which she yelled out “You jerk” to a reckless driver who had cut in front of her, and from the back seat, she heard a tiny voice echo, “jerk.” Laura recognized it was time to start watching her language and reactions more carefully. Ruthie’s growth over the next few years will come primarily from the imitation of her parents.

The passage that struck me the hardest from today’s reading was 1 Corinthians 4:15-16, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”

There are lots of people who can give us instruction about our spiritual journeys-- telling us where to go, how to get there, and what to do once we are there. But being a spiritual parent is a much more important and daunting task. Especially since the primary job is to simply say, “imitate me.” On one hand, that makes the process of discipleship a lot easier. We don’t have to be seasoned theologians or learned Bible scholars; we simply have to be willing to invite another person into our lives and give them a lifestyle worth imitating. But then, that’s what makes discipleship so difficult. We are saying “imitate me,” and if I’m being honest, I can’t point to many moments during my average day that I would want people to imitate.

If we look at the other writings of Paul, we find that this charge to “imitate” is found in a number of places. Check them out:

1 Corinthians 10- “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ”
Philippians 3:17- “join in imitating me”
Philippians 4:9- “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-- practice these things.”
2 Thessalonians 3:7-9- “You yourselves know how you ought to imitate us”
2 Timothy 3:10-11- “You...have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings”

Take just a moment and think over your day so far. What moments were worth imitating? Which were not? What regular practices do you engage in as a Christ follower that are worthy of imitation?

And while you are thinking about this paradigm of discipleship, who are you imitating? And who is imitating you?

Good Idea of the Day

Here is a good idea to remember:

Those that extol men above measure strip them of their true dignity. For the grand distinction of them all is...that they gain disciples to Christ, not to themselves.

Thank you, John Calvin.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Love Sweet Home

We do some ridiculous things in the South.

For instance, we give kids names like "Young Boozer." For real.

We give a town the name "Seminary" and then name the town just up the road "Sanitorium." Wondering if there is a logical and sequential connection.

Some of us insist that we must lock our doors so a serial killer does not come in and wipe us all out (Regena Sawyer) while others don't lock any doors at all but choose to reason with those who break in and want to know where the money is (Billy Berry)

Some of the ridiculous things we do are noble. We have great-grandmothers who made 12 dozen biscuits from scratch every morning. Yes, that's right. Twelve dozen. As in 144.

Ryan and I carried on the tradition of doing ridiculous things by consuming 1000 calories within our first five minutes of being home. Love some Raisin' Canes.

Here are some highlights of the trip.

First, the Berry Family Reunion in Harrisville Mississippi on the Berry Family Land. Which of course, is the the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts. (Extra points for catching the reference)

The whole Sawyer clan.

Niece Ruthie has fun chasing the bubbles as Nana and Gran look on.


Ryan end the weekend with a big plate of fried dill pickles. This would also be included in the list of ridiculous things that Southerners do.