New Initiatives Coming This Fall

859261_92044453Recently I posted about the need to use the summer to plan for the fall. Read that post HERE. I have been heeding my own advice and dreaming and planning for the fall. This is going to be an exciting time. We are experiencing record growth at Grace Community Church, God is showing up mightily in people’s lives, and we think this fall is going to be crazy.

This week one of our elders stopped by my office to pray with me and I was able to share where my wheels have been spinning lately with him. Putting it all on paper excites me, so I thought I would share them here also.

Here’s the current major initiative list on my agenda for this fall:

Financial development. We want to work with our people to teach them Biblical principles of money and help those who are willing receive coaching in their own personal finances.

Serve Strategy. We have a 3-part strategy at Grace Community Church. Gather/Commit/Serve. This fall a major emphasis will be placed on the Serve part of that strategy.

Systems development. We have grown so fast and now we need some structure in place to sustain that growth and continue to grow. Read a post about that process HERE.

Staff development. We have an incredible staff, but new people have been added and we need to intentionally build understanding of and relationship with each other. We want build on our strengths and improve our teamwork.

Growth of people. We want to strategically think through the discipleship process at Grace through community groups and service opportunities to help people grow spiritually.

Social media. We want to expand our use of social media and take advantage of the cultural opportunities those mediums provide.

College Ministry. This is the year we intend to launch college ministry in a big way. We are excited about our outreach to Austin Peay State University! We love our university and college students!

What new initiatives are you planning for this fall?

Some Economists Want More Stimulus

us-money-photo

I have a few questions about the economy based on some recent news articles…

  • Did you know there are economists who claim the government needs to pump even more money into the economy?
  • Which number stimulus package would this be?  Who will pay for this one…China maybe?
  • Seriously, aren’t countries about tired of loaning us money so we can place it back in the economy?
  • Have we given the last two stimulus packages time to work?
  • Do we expect immediate rebound, considering the spending frenzy of Americans went on for numerous years that got us into this mess.

Just questions I am pondering….

Read this Business Week Story HERE.

What questions do you have?

Guest Post: Creating Systems For Worship Teams

2349_64241154877_678929877_2148714_488_nI decided my 18 year-old son’s latest post was important enough to steal it from him. I only wish I had written this first.  Great thoughts.  Nate has led in our student worship area for the last couple years and done an amazing job.  Our church is going to miss him this fall as he begins his college days at Moody Bible College in Chicago.  You can follow Nate’s thoughts at his blog Moons from Burma.

Here is Nate’s post on Creating Systems for Worship Teams:

For any organization to maximize its potential, GREAT systems have to be in place. You can have poor systems and still reach your potential, but your potential will just not be very potent.

One of the most important areas of church world is the worship team. If a church wants to maximize the potential of their worship environment, then it obviously makes sense that a GREAT system would have to be in place. The problem is this: the system builder types are typically not on the worship team. Usually the worship team consists of extremely abstract/creative people and people that simply want to help setup and tear down stuff. Both are vital to the team, but neither is especially gifted at building systems.

The temptation is to just let the worship environment take care of itself, because after all, creative ideas are probably flourishing already. However, creative ideas are not a system. If your goal is to maximize potential, you need a great system; which means you need a system builder. You need someone who can sit down and figure out how to get every part of the worship team on the same page; someone who can build a framework in which the creative ideas can be executed. Every second of the worship time needs to have been thought through with an ultimate purpose in mind.

The reality is that most worship leader positions are filled based on musicianship and vocal ability, not on LEADING ability. There are multiple types of leading that must be done in order to truly LEAD worship, and I would argue that the majority of it takes place behind the scenes on Monday and Tuesday, not on stage Sunday. So, if you are going to really take your church somewhere in terms of worship, you need a system in place. What that ultimately means is that you need a leader in your worship area… in addition to an artist.

Systems can be hard to build for a group of abstract/unstructured people, but ultimately there needs to be a great one to maximize your potential. You need structure to succeed, which also means you need a structured person on the team.

How does your church systematize its worship environment?

Random Observations from our trip to Lithuania

DSCF7044I have pages of random observations from my time in Lithuania.  I thought I would share them with you randomly. These are my opinions and these notes come right form my personal notes as I made observations while in the country and from conversations with Lithuanians.  In the coming weeks I will unpack some of them more.

  • The Lithuanians are still very much working under the impact of years of Soviet occupation.  You hear it continually in their conversations.
  • We need to be leery as a nation of trying to make everyone alike.  That is a basic goal of communism and it did not work for the Lithuanians.
  • If you remove a person’s ability to dream or succeed you run the risk of crushing their spirit.
  • There are fewer smiles in Lithuania, especially among older people, but the people are very warm and friendly once you get to know them.
  • Most stores and restaurants offer no customer service.  Under communism there was no such thing and it has not yet caught on in the country.
  • There are many fewer older men than older women.  The average age of a Lithuanian man is much lower than for Americans.
  • McDonald’s fries are good in Lithuania too!
  • One visit to the KGB museum will make anyone better appreciate freedom.  Read my post on that HERE.
  • There are few fences for cows.  Instead they chain cows to an assigned area.  Without the freedom to roam most of the cattle I saw were laying down, not eating as much and smaller than American cows.  (Does freedom impact a cow also?)
  • It is very easy to distinguish a Soviet building from a Lithuanian building.
  • Under Soviet occupation there were two styles of bicycles….one for boys and one for girls.
  • Lots of American companies are finding new markets for their products in Lithuania.
  • The whole world needs Jesus!

Those are just a few.  I will share more later.

10 Tips For Handling Conflict

In every life situation involving people, whether among family, friends or co-workers, there will be potential for conflict.  In fact, if relationships are normal, conflict is inevitable.   It seems to reason then that learning to deal with conflict successfully should be our goal, especially those of us who desire to lead organizations.

Here are 10 tips for more effective handling of conflict in your life:

  • Understand the battle.  What is the real source of the conflict? Make sure you are addressing with the real issue.
  • Find the right time and place to confront the conflict. When emotions are high is not good timing for dealing with conflict. Personal conflict should not be handled in public.
  • Examine yourself first. Sometimes the issue is personal to you and you are only blaming others for your problem.
  • Consider the other side of the conflict. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider their viewpoint in the conflict.
  • Do not overreact to the issue or overload on emotion.  Stick to the issue at hand.
  • Do not dance around or sugarcoat the issue or disguise it in false kindness.  Sometimes we fail to address the conflict because we are afraid of how the other person may respond or we are afraid of hurting feelings.  The avoidance usually will cause more conflict eventually.
  • Do not allow the small disagreements to become big disagreements without confronting them along the way.  Minor conflict is always easier to handle than major conflict.
  • Be firm but gentle.  Learn the balance between the two.
  • Work towards a solution.  Never waste conflict, but use it to make the organization and relationships better.  The best-case scenario is a win-win situation, but ultimately the conflict needs to be resolved with the right solution.
  • Grant forgiveness easily and do not hold a grudge or seek revenge.  Healthy teams handle conflict and allow it to make the organization stronger.

Those are my suggestions.  What would you add?

Michael Jackson Facebook Page Explodes

michael-jacksonWhat is faster than the speed of light?  Perhaps the rise of social media attention to a news story these days.  Michael Jackson supposedly had 80,000 fans last week prior to his death.  Today his Facebook page has over 6.5 million fans!  Wow!

The news has been full of Jackson’s untimely death and memorial services.  I heard a projection that it will be the largest memorial service of all time.  The economy of California, which has been struggling more than most of the country, is expected to see a surge of spending from the travel to Jackson’s memorial services.  Would you have predicted this kind of attention?

I love Michael Jackson’s music.  I will never forget the Jackson 5 or the Thriller or the Michael Jackson dance.  It was part of my generation, so I guess I thought it only appealed to my crowd, but I guess his music and impact was more timeless and universal than I would have expected.

How To Hear From God

ear-closeupI received a great question from one of my readers:
Ron, how do you learn to be a good listener?

(He actually said this in reference to marriage, but I understand he wanted to learn to listen and hear better from God.)

Here was my reply of how to better hear from God. It may not be the answer he needed, but perhaps it is the one you need.

  1. Recognize who God is and who you are. (Ecclesiastes 5:2) We should ultimately listen more than we talk.
  2. Give yourself time to listen. (Psalm 46:10)  It is hard to really listen to someone when you are rushing through the conversation.
  3. Learn His voice over time.  (John 10:14)  I do not need Cheryl (my wife) to introduce herself when she calls.  I know her voice well.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. (Exodus 16)  I like the principle of the daily manna God gave to the Israelites.  This should be our principle of meeting with God.  We should do interact with Him on a daily basis.

Are you trying to hear from God these days?  How do you know His voice?

Congratulations Lithuania on 1,000 Years! (How to make a vision last!)

125px-Flag_of_Lithuania.svgJust a couple days after our own celebration of independence as a country, today I want to honor another country.

We had the opportunity our last night in Lithuania to attend an opening weekend of celebrations for Lithuania’s 1000th anniversary. Thousands of people crowded the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, to hear presentations, sing songs of pride, watch period dances and have a good time. Lithuanians love to celebrate.

I cannot imagine history in terms of the thousands, but it is standard in this part of the world. One thing that spoke highly to me is the pride that was displayed in the people that night. For one thousand years the country has suffered periods of wars, domination and corruption, but one thousand years later they still have pride in their nation. I love the perseverance in that fact.

As someone who studies organizations and leadership I think there are lessons to be learned from us in this. For 1,000 year the Lithuanian people have:

  • Continued with a common vision of pride in country
  • Rallied together during stressful times to promote their continuance as a nation
  • Made the best of the situation when bad circumstances faced the country
  • Worked to consistently improve their circumstances
  • Celebrated the good times

Could your organization take lessons from the Lithuanian people?

Happy Anniversary Lithuania!

Preaching at City Church, Klaipeda, Lithuania

DSCF7412For over a year Grace Community Church has partnered with City Church in Klaipeda, Lithuania.  This partnership has at this point consisted primarily of frequent Skype or Tokbox conversations between me and Pastor Saulius of City Church.  This trip was primarily a vision trip for our church, combined with a focus on building business relationships between our churches.  We learned a lot about the culture and how our churches can continue to learn from each other.

I love to invest in other pastors and churches and this provides a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other.  They currently are meeting in a T-shaped attic of an old hotel the church has purchased and is renovating, so the picture of me speaking here actually shows one smaller portion of the crowd.  They average about 150 people each week, which in relative terms makes the church a thriving Protestant church in a country fairly new to freedom of religion.

Last Sunday I was blessed to stand where Saulius stands each week before his people.  By the way, I love the cheer of applauds the speaker receives before he or she delivers the message in Lithuania.  (Their custom also has them applaud a safe landing of an airplane.  I thankfully got to experience that custom also.)

If you have never experienced a translated message before, here is an example of one.  Click HERE to hear last week’s message from City Church Lithuania.  This was a simple message of hope, something the Lithuanians (and all of us) need a lot more of, but God somehow used it last Sunday in some people’s lives, according to the feedback from Saulius.

I am praying for the years of partnership between our churches to strengthen each of us and help further the Kingdom of God.  This week I will continue to share highlights of our trip.

The Real Top 10 Reasons I Love America

american-flag-2aYesterday, as I was preparing to leave a foreign country to return home after almost two weeks away from the United States, I posted a quick entry called 10 Reasons I Love the USA.  A comment to my earlier post convicted me that I needed another post.  I often write tongue-in-cheek satire posts that are a reflection of some of the random thoughts that go through my mind at times.  This post was one such entry.

Yesterday’s post was not at all meant to capture my true heart of patriotism towards our great country.  Sometimes it is hard when someone only reads one post of a blog to understand the real person behind the blog.  I write frequently here about some of the things I love about this country, but I decided it was a good idea to share another post with my real top 10 reasons I love the United States of America.

I love the U.S.A. because:

  1. We still elect our leaders and have a stake in the direction of our nation.
  2. Our nation, in spite of our political differences, still rallies behind the idea of independence as a nation.
  3. The United States is still one nation that allows individuals who apply themselves and work hard to succeed.
  4. We have a rich history of patriotism and fighting for freedom here and around the world.
  5. We have so many dedicated men and women who are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect our freedom.
  6. Our military families suffer separation as a family and even loss in order to have a strong military presence around the world. You can read another post about my love for military HERE.
  7. We are a nation of many background, nationalities and ethnicities, but we have a common bond of freedom.
  8. Our nation still is a commanding leader in capitalistic thought and practice.
  9. I can complain about things I see wrong in this nation, without fear of retribution from government, and know in my heart that I am still very proud to be an American!
  10. Our freedom allows me to do what I do (preach the Gospel) without fear of government interruption.

God bless America, land that I love!