Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back in the swing of things.

I played racquetball this afternoon, the second time in a week -- after a break of more than 4 years. I've been surprised that I still have some of my skills intact, although a strong, highly talented player would probably crush me -- just as I've crushed the two younger guys from church that I've played against.

Still, it's good to get back in the swing of things and add an extra reason to visit the gym, and we all know I need as many reasons to get down there as I can.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A good time in Old Sacramento.

Went down to Old Sacramento on Saturday with my friend Trista (yes, I know I'm late in posting, but better late than never, eh). We had a good time walking around, checking out some of the unique stores down there, and enjoying a dinner at Joe's Crab Shack. The weather was perfect, and the company was fun.

One of the interesting moments was coming across some "Jesus Junk" that would make Marko proud. In fact, it's probably appeared on his blog before. But this picture is Trista holding up the Jesus Action Figure. I thought about buying it for my office, but decided to hold off for now.

We also ran into some former youth workers from my church. It was great to see them and talk for a few minutes, and then they came to our sunrise service yesterday. Good stuff!

How should we judge Easter 'success'?

So, today is the "day after" and I'm still in recovery mode from Easter. I've managed to get some productive work done around the office, but I'm definitely not running on all cylinders.

One thought bouncing around my head is how to judge the "success" of an Easter weekend. Is it just about numbers? Which numbers matter most? Is something entirely different beyond numbers?

Here's what I know about our weekend. We had a strong Good Friday service, with around 60 folks at noontime. We had a great Easter Sunrise service, with around 80 people at 7AM. Our 9AM service had 260 people (usually around 100) and 11AM had 285 people (usually around 160), plus our kids areas had at least 40-50% more than a typical Sunday.

Does that mean Easter was a success?

We had dozens of volunteers get involved in our weekend activities. I had a crew that showed up at 6AM Sunday just to set up tables and chairs outdoors. We had about three dozen people involved in the actual Easter presentation, and we had new volunteers serving throughout the weekend.

Does that mean Easter was a success?

Things flowed nearly seamlessly throughout the weekend. We had no major problems, no major obstacles. The power didn't go out, the donkey didn't drop "Jesus" in the Palm Sunday scene, and we had enough parking for everyone.

Does that mean Easter was a success?

We don't actually know how many first-time guests came Sunday, but we had response cards from 13 (we usually get 3 to 5 most weekends). We had at least 5 people indicate that they made a decision or recommitment to follow Jesus, and I'm sure we had others who said a prayer but didn't respond to let us know.

Does that mean Easter was a success?

I guess that last paragraph has some of the most important "numbers" and info. The other areas are important, too, so it's hard to say. I'd call this weekend a success, but I'm still struggling with what was most successful -- and if our level of "success" could have been higher, and if more people could have responded to a chance at a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A good reminder for drivers.

Just came across this story; it's a good reminder that we California drivers have some new rules to follow come July 1:

    "Come July 1, drivers in California who make or receive phone calls other than emergencies will be required to have a hands-free way of talking. Motorists who don't can be pulled over and cited, $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent violations.

    At the same time, a companion law will go into effect that prohibits drivers younger than 18 from using any type of electronic communication device to text or talk - even hands-free ones. However, it's a secondary infraction, which means it can't be the main reason a driver is pulled over."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My brother is moving to Iowa.

For most of his life, my brother Rick has lived here in California. Our family moved here just before his 1st grade year, he went to college in CA, and he's lived in the Golden State (with the exception of some extended trips overseas).

But this week he's moving to Iowa. He'll be living in the same town as my dad and stepmom, and it should bring a whole host of fun, new experiences for him.

Dad and Rick stopped by Wednesday evening on their way east, traveling on I-80. We grabbed a quick bite at Wendy's before they went back on the road with the U-Haul and Rick's car in tow. Best wishes to them on this trip, and to Rick in this new season of life!

Monday, March 17, 2008

'24' comes to an end.

Well, OK, it's really just Season 1 of 24 on DVD, but it did conclude tonight -- remarkably, with the same outcome as every other time I've seen the final episode. Our crowd was a little smaller this week, but it was still fun. We've been watching at my house every Monday night for the last 11 weeks, and next week we'll launch Season 2 on DVD. Sure wish the new season was running, but if it's as horrible as Season 6, maybe we'll just keep watching the DVDs over and over and over...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Every Sunday is "Open House."

This evening, our preschool and our K-8 school are hosting their spring open house. Staff members are feverishly cleaning, assembling packets, trimming shrubs and making sure things look just right. The economy is tough right now, but we're still hoping and praying for a strong turnout tonight and a strong interest for fall enrollment.

Hearing the lawn mower outside reminded me that churches generally don't hold "open house" events for the community -- at least, not in the usual sense. But the truth is, every Sunday is an open house for a church! We have guests every weekend checking out our facilities and ministries and people. We have people walking through the doors who are looking for information and are considering "enrolling" in a church. We have folks who are just checking things out, and others who are ready to make a major commitment.

The question is, are we ready for those guests each weekend? Do we treat Sundays as an "open house" event for people in our community?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Are you a cruise control leader?

Some years back, I began talking to teens about how Christianity is a journey, not just a destination. While traveling this past weekend, I spent a lot of time on the freeway and a lot of time using my cruise control. It’s a wonderful invention for long trips, but leading a ministry with a “cruise control” style is risky. How do you know if you’re in danger of being a cruise-control leader?

You’re content with current results
If we’re cruising for new adventures, we always want more people to show up, more lives to be changed, more volunteers to get involved – basically, we’re unwilling to settle for the status quo.

But if we’re on cruise control, we’re OK with a “solid, steady” crowd through our doors. We’re happy that people still love God, even if they aren’t inviting their friends to church and they can’t remember the last time they shared God’s love with a stranger. We love our volunteers to death, but we’re just too busy or content (or maybe even tired) to recruit, train and release anyone new.

Cruise control limits us from accelerating to see increased results in our ministry.

You’ve lost your big-picture vision
If we’re cruising for new adventures, we keep our eyes focused on the big picture for our ministry, our congregation and our lives. Our ministry’s purpose is consistent with the direction for our whole church, and we look for ways to support all the other ministries – and even other churches in our community.

But if we’re on cruise control, we lose sight of the world beyond our ministry’s walls. We know that God has a big plan and a big purpose, but right now we’re just happy with teaching and leading this week. We aren’t on the lookout for ways to strengthen other members of our “team,” and if we pay attention to other churches, it’s only to compare and see who’s doing a “better job” in the community.

Cruise control limits us from cooperating with other leaders headed in the same direction.

You don’t get enthusiastic about new ministry ideas or opportunities
If we’re cruising for new adventures, we’re dreaming up new ways to create passion, impact and excellence in our ministry. (Call it the PIE phenomenon.) We’re filled with a hunger for doing things differently. We’re experimenting with new ways of discipling or reaching people who don’t know Jesus. We’re looking for new strategies to connect people and help them move into a place of honoring God, growing together, and serving others.

But if we’re on cruise control, we see “new” as a code word for “more work.” We don’t want to be stretched, we don’t want to risk our “successful” ministry for any new ideas, and we’ve lost our sense of passion. We still love people and we may still love ministry, but our comfort zone has become our ministry zone, and when we’re brutally honest, we admit that we’d rather be comfortable than challenged.

Cruise control limits us from driving new highways, ministering to new people, and experiencing God on the risky roads.

You’ve stopped planning for the future
If we’re cruising for new adventures, we can’t wait until tomorrow arrives – not because we’re tired of today, but because we know God has even better things in store. We’re placing ourselves and our ministries in the path of success and growth, and tomorrow means the opportunity to be involved in more people’s lives for His glory.

But if we’re on cruise control, we’re using the same map we’ve used for the last decade – or longer. We don’t look far beyond this coming Sunday or Wednesday, and we certainly don’t have many dreams about what our lives, ministries or church will look like in 6 months, one year or five years. We aren’t failing – yet. But we are failing to plan for the future, and when the future arrives, we may look back and regret our lack of preparing, dreaming and planning.

Cruise control limits us from accomplishing all that God has in store for us in the weeks, months and years ahead.

The good news, of course, is that at any time on our trip, we can turn off the cruise control and put our foot back on the accelerator. And that’s when the journey takes on new life once again.

Spontaneous substitute.

Just got done teaching a class of fifth- and sixth-graders at our Christian school. Our regular teacher had to bow out for a family commitment, so I got asked about 25 minutes before class started! Not much time to prepare, but it still went well. We talked about 1 Peter 1:14-16, and what it means to live "holy" lives for God.

Funniest thing about that mixed class is that there are just 2 boys, so quite a bit of talking amongst friends. Would I want to teach them day in and day out? Let's just say my appreciation for our teachers increased significantly in the last hour!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Did daylight savings affect your church?

Remarkably, today's services weren't significantly affected by the "spring" forward on our clocks. In fact, in the service I work with most directly, we had our second strongest attendance number from the last 6 months. I guess that's more a sign of health in the ministry and improvements in our follow-up efforts with newer folks.

Still, we did have a couple of funny tales today. First, our main bulletin-distributor didn't show up on time, so we had someone fill in for her. I should have sent her a text message yesterday to remind her -- but I forgot to do that! Second, after checking on another building, I was walking back toward our sanctuary just before noon -- or 11AM, if you forgot to move your clocks ahead, as was the case for the family I saw entering. They were surprised at how full the parking lot was -- until I asked if they had forgotten to change their clocks.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Good to be home.

Just got back in town a couple of hours ago after a full day of driving home (Sacramento) from down south (Orange County). The trip reinforced my disdain for L.A. and its smog and its traffic, although the OC is nowhere as bad. Driving 8 hours alone is always fun... faster pitstops, no real conversation, and lots of choices on the iPod.

Great trip, overall. Odd to see green hills almost the entire way, and even saw a little snow on some of the hills along The Grapevine. But now I'm home and tonight we all lose an hour of sleep. So it's "really" 11:19PM, and that means it's definitely time for bed!

Hmm, Blogger won't let me add a pic. Argh. And i'm tired. So maybe I'll update with the pic tomorrow.

UPDATED: Finally, I can post a pic (4:25PM Sunday)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Fun times in Southern Cal.

I've been down in Orange County for a couple of days now. Weather has been ideal, conversations have been great, and it's been a good time. A few of the highlights:

On Thursday, I got to hear/observe the recording of the Simply Youth Ministry podcast at the SYM offices. That was pretty cool, especially since it was the first time they've tried live simulcast online from their offices (an earlier session was done at a youth workers conference a couple weeks ago). I hung out for a bit, talking with Nadim and Andy and Chris, plus the podcast regulars of Doug, Matt, Josh and Jana.

Then I got to hang with Fields for a little while to talk about some book ideas. It was great to get some feedback on the strentghs, weaknesses and possible audiences for the concepts. Good stuff.

Later in the afternoon, had coffee with Sandie Morgan, a good friend for many years. I worked with her and her husband Jean over in Greece back in 2000-2001, and my senior pastor is her brother. Got to spend a little time on the Vanguard University campus, which I'd never really explored much in the past.

Today was great. I slept in. Felt so good to do! Of course, I FIRST woke up around 6:30am, and took me about an hour to go back to sleep. But after 7 hours of driving Thursday, and knowing that I still have a lengthy drive ahead Saturday, sleep is good!

This afternoon, had lunch with Josh Griffin, Jeff Baker and Tony Steward. First time to meet Jeff and Tony, and first time to finally have a long-promised lunch with Griff. Then Josh took me and Jeff on a tour of the new student ministries building over at Saddleback. That's gonna be one sweet place! (The pic is Josh and Jeff showin' off their construction best in front of "The Refinery.")

All in all, good times down here, and I head back tomorrow -- just in time to lose an hour of sleep Saturday night because of the time change! Argh...