Monday, January 31, 2011

Build Momentum For It

The event of Leadership Retreat 2011 may have ended on Saturday night at 8pm, but the work God began there is only beginning. Here is the next in the series of posts about Leadership Retreat. Build momentum for it.

We've done this in a few different ways over the years. Planned blog series. Sent cryptic em
ails to slowly unveil the theme. Prepared CDs for participants to listen to prior to the retreat. This year, I just posted lots of pictures on Facebook and Twitter in the weeks before the retreat. They are blurry...but here is just a sampling of the pictures we posted...usually with cryptic captions.

The first picture to be posted was Amanda Giobbi on location filming the Paula Dean spoof video on "Putting Your All (Oil) In."

Hmmm...what could be in that box? Just a few days later, Amanda Giobbi would escape from it while Maegan Stout would disappear into it.

Dancers? Yes, we did a rap/rock/Glee-style rendition of The Gambler. This is a scene from rehearsal.

Our Emcees Amanda Giobbi and Jeremy Sexton are literally blowing off the doors for Leadership Retreat. We had to tear up the office this year to make it happen. The real story: we couldn't get the disappearing box out of the office!!

Unveiling the theme:

Sneak peek at message notes from the opening session, Blood, Sweat, and Spit.

Proteges Josh Stockstill and Heather Corsi stuffing packets late Thursday afternoon...

Our production team hanging lights early on Friday morning. This room will soon be totally transformed.

Jenilee LeFors, Summer Batterson, and Juliet Main setting up the NCC history wall in what will soon become the "Groove Lounge."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Invest In It

The next in the series of blog posts about Leadership Retreat: Invest In It.

To steal the theme from this year's Leadership Retreat, we go All In. We invest in Leadership Retreat in a big way and we spare no expense. Good stewardship means you don't spend needlessly. But that's only half the equation. Good stewardship also means you spend extravagantly where it is appropriate.

In very practical terms, Leadership Retreat is the largest line item in my annual budget. For 22 hours. For the leaders. It's good stewardship for all the reasons I mentioned in a previous post.

That budget goes to room and board for participants. We pay for the whole thing because we want them to be there and want them to come for free. It goes for lights and staging and media equipment because we believe in creating the right environment. It goes for Chickfila lunch because making them eat camp food is not doing it right or doing it big. It goes for items that will honor and resource our leaders. It pays for childcare workers so parents can bring their kids but be focused on their sessions at the same time.

Whatever training avenues you are creating for your leaders, make sure to invest in it appropriately. I would suggest that means investing in it extravagantly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Theme It

The next in the series of blog posts about Leadership Retreat: Theme It.

For our first few retreats, it was just...Leadership Retreat. In 2004, we decided to theme. To pick a word of a phrase that captured the overarching character trait or story or vision we wanted to cast or instill in our leaders.

Here is a list of themes:

2005: One
2006: Expect the Unexpected
2007: Some Assembly Required
2008: Forceful Advance
2009: Greater Things
2010: LXVI: From Garden to City

This year, we are going All In.

The theme is the primarily the product of conversations between the teaching team and the discipleship department.

Once we have landed on a theme, our media team, worship team, retreat emcees, and discipleship team go into overdrive thinking of ways to creatively present and promote the theme throughout the conference. Every single thing we do is carefully considered: gift bags, what we put in rooms, how we welcome participants, songs, costuming, staging, creative elements, movie clips, games, videos, on and on. Nothing is done at leadership retreat without serious consideration and very strategic intentionality.

I can't post any examples for this year's a secret! But I'll give plenty of examples later.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Leadership Retreat. The Method. The Madness. case you've missed all the commotion on my Twitter and Facebook, we are in the final sprint to our Annual Leadership Retreat.

In 2002, I came on staff "part-time" at NCC (that's when Mark Batterson's scheme to trick me into ministry began), and my very first responsibility was to plan our very first leadership retreat.

We've done it ever year. Without question. Until about this moment when a nagging little question haunts us in the wee hours of the morning...somebody remind me why we are doing this again?

Hauling pounds and pounds of bananas. Setting up lights and stages and screens and banners. Stuffing bags with odds and ends. Super secret rehearsals at weird times. Not sleeping for nights on end. Making dozens of ridiculous videos. Investing literally hundreds of staff hours for a 22-hour experience for our leaders. The question usually comes around 2:17 am when we wonder why we are struggling so much over a song choice or an edit to a graphic or a 5-minute schedule change.

And then we remember. This is about who we are and what we believe in our guts.

We honor and appreciate leaders. One of our core values is "everyone is invaluable and irreplaceable." So yeah...we are going to go the extra mile to make it the best experience we can for them. That's why our A Team (administrative team) goes into overdrive to make this happen.

We create culture. Another core value- We expect the unexpected and expect our leaders to do the same. Leadership Retreat is about creating and carefully protecting our unique NCC culture. That's why we deputize our Proteges to create welcoming environments and "groove lounge" experiences.

We believe in doing it right and doing it big. We believe in big vision. We believe in right execution. At Leadership Retreat we cast big vision; and we are going to cast it in the right way.

We are creative. The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. That conviction is rooted deep in our guts. That's why we our media team and worship team go into overdrive.

We are disciples who make disciples. Ultimately, this is what we are about. Leadership Retreat is a time for us to reconnect with God-- to make sure our hearts are pure before him. And a time to reconnect with his primary calling on our lives-- to hand craft other disciples.

Leadership Retreat is the part of my portfolio that I love the most, that humbles me the most, and that I expend the most of myself on. For the next few days, I'll be blogging about it. What we do. How we do it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Face-to-Face and Shoulder-to-Shoulder

I've talked a lot recently about making disciples. I'm struck by the fact that Jesus told his followers to go "make" disciples, not "find" disciples.

Once upon a time someone stumbled upon my blog because they did a Google search for “how to shorten the discipleship process.” Which prompted me to immediately write a blog post on how the discipleship process cannot be shortened. And if that’s what you are looking for then you are in the wrong business. This isn’t FedEx. It’s not even the Pony Express. It’s discipleship. The life-long pursuit of God and invitation to others to follow you in that process.

In the Great Commission, Jesus instructed us to go into all the world and make disciples…

As leaders, we think we are accepting that challenge, but in reality, we are trying to find disciples. Jesus said go make disciples not go find disciples.

If the people in our groups are not growing, it's our fault. If we get discouraged after one month or one year or even three, we haven't yet grasped that discipleship takes time. Twelve Galilean guys spent three focused years with Jesus himself and still didn't show up for the prayer meeting on the most important night in history.

We often look for disciples. We look for a potential leader. We hope to find someone with maturity and gifts that we can raise up. We forget that Jesus told us to go make them. Not find them. If you can't find a potential leader in your group, in your ministry, or on your team, it's not their fault. Don't blame them for being immature or needing to grow. It's your fault. It's my fault. We are supposed to make disciples. And making disciples is long, hard work.

The only way to measure success in discipleship is by looking at reproduction. At multiplication. Two verses continually serve as guideposts for me.

2 Timothy 2:2- "You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others." Discipleship is about shared truths. It's passing on what God has taught us to another. This is the environment of face to face discipleship.

1 Thessalonians 2:8- "We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too." Discipleship is also about doing life together. It's about shared experiences. It's about inviting them into the opportunities and activities that you do and letting them be a part of them and learn with you and from you. It's the environment of shoulder-to-shoulder discipleship.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tour Guides vs. Travel Agents

Some of the best discipleship advice I ever learned was from a book on evangelism. It's more important to be a tour guide than a travel agent. Thank you, Rick Richardson.

There is a big difference between being a travel agent and a tour guide. Travel agents sit in the climate-controlled comfort of an office, sit behind a desk, and give you brochures telling you where to go, how to get there, what to do once you're there, and what you might see along the way. They may or may not have even been there before.

Tour guides are different. They lace up the hiking books, strap on the pack, and go on the journey with you. Tour guides have trekked the path before and can interpret the path for you along the way. They don't just warn you of possible dangers; they help you walk through them.

Good disciple-makers are tour guides who see the hand of God at work in a person’s life and point it out. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul acknowledges the influence of Timothy’s mother and grandmother in the development of his faith. He saw that hand of God and helped Timothy understand his spiritual history. Paul also used examples from everyday life—athletes, soldiers, and farmers—to describe the work that Timothy was called to do. People who leave legacies are able to make the simple things profound and the complex things simple. They see the hand of God in a person’s life and point it out to them and help them understand how God is at work in their lives. And they see the simple things in life and use them to paint pictures of our complex calling in God.

What does this mean practically? We can't just talk about prayer in our small groups; we've got to do it with people. We can't just complete a workbook on serving our community; we've got to get out there and do it. We can't just explain to someone the best way to lead a group; we've got to do it alongside them.

Be a tour guide.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Value People Over Programs

Leaders who leave a legacy see the value in people. They realize that ministry is not a program but people who are moving out of the overflow of their gifts. Disciples will not emerge from a program; they will emerge from a relationship. Discipleship must be carried out by someone, not something. It takes time, attention, prayer.

Paul demonstrates how he values Timothy when he refers to him as “my true son” in both 1 and 2 Timothy. He told Timothy to fan into flames the gift that he received when Paul laid his hands on him, so evidently, Paul deposited some sort of spiritual gift into Timothy. Paul told Timothy not to let others look down on him because he was young but to be an example to them. Paul recognized that it’s not just his preaching and his writing that will carry on after him; it’s the investments that he had made in people. In fact, when we look at the qualifications that Paul gives more leadership in the church in 1 Timothy 3, most of them are directly related to how a person interacts with other people. It’s not about his gifts or his leadership ability as much as it’s about faithfulness to his spouse, self-control, reputation, gentleness, the way he manages his family, be respected and people of integrity.

People who leave a legacy will invest their time and their gifts in other people.

Consider a story of two preachers—George Whitefield and John Wesley. They were contemporaries- both lived in the 1700s, and both amazing leaders of the church in their day. Whitefield was an amazing speaker, probably the best preacher of his generation. John Wesley spent more of his time training others. Even today, you can visit the chapel that he built at Bristol in which he installed a glass window above the sanctuary from which he could watch his young emerging ministers preach. Afterwards, he would meet with each of them and evaluate their progress. While Whitefield’s legacy certainly lives on in his writings and sermons, Wesley’s lives on in his writings, sermons, and the investments he made in others. Wesley was committed to spiritual reproduction—to multiplication—and the result was the Methodist movement which turned into the Methodist church which boasts of thousands and thousands of followers today. That’s the power of valuing people and investing your life into them.

Spend less time trying to devise your next program for discipling people and invest a few hours talking to someone, giving them an opportunity, or taking them on an adventure.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Leadership Year

Each year, I choose a new area for focused growth. Previous foci (yes, I just used the plural of focus) included theology, church history, communication, etc. This year, I wanted to return to leadership. About ten years ago, I was consumed with the topic of leadership, and for that reason, I've stepped back from it quite a bit in recent years. However, as my role at NCC seems to be shifting from leading primarily a team of volunteer leaders to leading a staff team, I realized that my leadership style and goals needed to shift and it was time for a return.

My goal was to read 12 books on leadership. Listed below are the books I read. For clarification, they are not my "Top 13 Books on Leadership." They are just the ones I read this year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

X-Ray Vision

Leaders need X-Ray Vision. They need the ability to see gifts, abilities, and passions in people that they don't see themselves. The theological term for this would be discernment.

When Samuel looked at David, he didn't see a shepherd boy but the greatest king to rule Israel.

When Jesus looked at Peter, he didn't see a loud-mouthed fisherman but the rock on which he would build his church.

When Barnabas looked at Saul, he didn't see a murderer but an apostle of the Gospel.

And when Paul say Timothy, he didn't see a young punk kid but a young pastor with great potential to spread the Gospel to his culture and generation.

Your job as a leader is to believe in someone. Think of one person you are leading right now. What do you see in them that they don't see? Now, go tell them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kaleidoscopic Calling

The calling of God is kaleidoscopic.

This morning, I had a great conversation with one of our young leaders at NCC. She's in her mid-twenties and sorting out what God's call on her life looks like. I asked her the following:

When you think about the call of God, do you understand that to be a call to what you do, a call to where you are, a call to who you are with, or a call to who you are becoming?

When I was a 20-something, I always understood the calling of God to revolve around the task I was to do. Like Nehemiah was called to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem and Moses was called to lead people out of Egypt.

But the calling of God is much more kaleidoscopic than simply the task we are called to do. Sometimes, God calls us to a specific place. Abraham was called to a land that he would be shown. Other times, God calls us to specific people. Paul was called to the Gentiles. His location changed and his task changed-- sometimes he was a tent-maker, sometimes he was an itinerant preacher-- but he was always called to the Gentiles.

Most importantly, God's calling for all of us involves the person we are becoming. My 20-something friends long to know what God has called them to do. But I am learning more and more that God is more interested in the person we are becoming than in the work we are doing.

So, as we ponder what God's call on our lives might look like, let's not reduce the call to a task we are to do. His call on this season of your life might be a call to a place, to a person, or simply a call to himself so that you might become the person he created you to be.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tooting Their Horn- Julius Hunter

LSU Campus. 1998. Destiny Campus Ministries.

Julius Hunter was one of the first people crazy enough to come to one of my small groups. While I recognized leadership potential in him pretty quickly, he told me very quickly that he would never, ever, under any circumstances or for any reason, lead a small group. Great leaders learn to ignore such statements and just smile and nod. I was not a great leader, but I was a desperate leader. So I likewise ignored him.

Today, he is on staff at one of the most high impact churches in the world leading young men and women into deeper relationships with Christ. Two years ago, a party was thrown to celebrate the milestone of leading 1,000 young men in small groups all over the Baton Rouge area.

Today, he leads the church's thriving intern program which invests in approximately 100 young men and women every year and cranks out the next generation of leaders. He leads 100 interns. I lead 7. Yesterday, I called him for guidance, mentoring, and training.

I'm super proud of him. He is a gifted communicator and leader, has a great sense of humor, and believes in people and encourages them. Watch him. Follow him.