Introducing Urbana (And giveaway!)

Winners (selected by Random.org) have been notified by email. Congratulations!

Now giving away 3 registrations!

Pastor, let me encourage you to get your leadership team…or yourself…to Urbana!

I recently attended a global church mission forum. I’m still processing all God did in my mind from that event and will share more later. The same people who introduced me to that event let me know about Urbana. It’s got to be good. If you want a better orientation to what God is doing in the world then you should attend the Urbana conference.

Urbana puts you in touch with today’s culture like no other conference can. It helps you know what is driving the concerns of a new generation. As a pastor, I am called to effectively disciple all ages. Urbana will give great insight and new resources to deal with the younger generation, especially those in college today.

It is guaranteed to be a fun event, because, as I’ve experienced at other events, there is something special about worshiping with the nearly 20,000 young people. In addition, you’ll walk away with needed information for your ministry.

Sign up for Urbana today! (Click HERE)

 

As a bonus, I’ll give away three (3) registrations to Urbana. That’s an incredible deal. Please don’t sign up unless you will attend, but if you’re interested, comment on this post, make sure I have a valid email address, and I’ll choose 3 random names sometime early next week.

(This is a non-paid endorsement. I simply believe in the people behind this.)

7 Ways to Minister to College Students

Recently my friend Guy Chmieleski asked me to write for his blog Faith on Campus. I wrote under the heading “If I were a college pastor today.” Here is that post adapted for my blog.

Living in a college community, I can’t imagine not investing in the next generation intentionally at that college. Austin Peay State University, our local university, is not only the fastest growing university in our state (Go Govs!), it’s also my alma mater. I also have two college-aged sons (one a graduate), which naturally draws me to the age.

I love college ministry, because it involves college students. Sounds like a fair reason, right? College students are confident, idealistic, and full of hope and passion for life. I love investing in them knowing they have years to carry out what they are learning. We have an incredible college ministry at Grace Community Church, led by Brandon Reed, a great college pastor, but I must be honest, sometimes I envious of his time with college students. I take advantage of hanging out with students whenever I get the chance.

So, while I’m not a college pastor, if I was one these days, I think I’d:

Help students understand their worth in Christ – When a student can operate out of this identity it will help them withstand some of the temptations they face.

Intentionally mentor a few superstars – I can’t reach all of them, but I can invest in a few. I would work to develop leaders who would in turn invest in others.

If invited, meet on their turf – I was invited to a college apartment recently. As they cleaned a place off the couch for me to sit and kicked various drink cans under the bed (which was in the same room), I was reminded that this was a special opportunity I had been privileged to attend. I felt I had enter the sacred grounds of college life again.

Feed them – I like to buy lunch for college students. Now if any of ours read this my requests will increase and I may have to say no, but it’s amazing how open students become when there is a free meal in front of them.

Let them be themselves – I think it’s important not to try to change them or conform them to a standard, other than Jesus. They are in a period of discovery. Let them explore and stay close enough to help steer them to Christ.

Be myself – Don’t try to “fit in” with college students if you aren’t one. Be the age you are and the person you are. They can spot an impostor quickly.

Have fun – College is a fun period of life. It should be less stressful. When you are hanging out with college students, don’t expect to be serious all the time. There will be times when they are very serious (even deep), but sometimes are just to hang. That’s okay.

I’m not a college pastor, but if I was…I’d love it! Anyone looking to hire one? (Just kidding…kind of…)

What would you add to my list?

7 Random Pieces of Advice for the Younger Leader

I love working with younger leaders. It keeps me young and it helps to know I’m investing in something and someone who will likely last beyond my lifetime. I want to share some things I’ve learned from experience. Some of it hard experiences.

Here’s a random list of practical advice for young leaders.

If you can learn and practice these early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience.

Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes – It helps you remember but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed. If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people that’s what you are doing.

Respect your elders – The fact is, you may not always feel respected by them, but that’s their fault not yours. Showing respect to people older than you now will ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Learn all you can from everyone you meet – This includes the awkward, even difficult people that you encounter. (You may actually learn more from them if you’re willing.)

Keep a resume handy and keep revising it – You may never use a resume again in today’s work world, but the discipline of gathering your experience as you gain it forces you to think through your worth to a future employer. You’ll likely be asked to defend this someday and need to be prepared.

Never burn a bridge- You’ll be surprised how many times relationships come back around. Don’t be caught by surprise.

Be an encourager in the organization – Encouragers win the approval of others and are rewarded because they are liked. Be a genuinely positive influence on your team.

Never underestimate a connection - When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. Follow through on the opportunity to know someone new. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will work for good.

Drop the defensiveness - Young people often get defensive when a person with more experience shares something they do not yet know. This is especially true when being corrected by a leader. Remember you don’t know what you don’t yet know. It’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Grow from your correction. Be patient with those who are trying to teach you. Get the chip off your shoulder and allow feedback to make you better. Over time you’ll win over those who see you as inexperienced.

There are 7 random suggestions. Elders, what other suggestions would you advise?

The Best 3 Things I Taught My Sons

I watched my oldest son make a life decision recently and it confirmed how proud I am of my two boys. He wrestled through it with wisdom and landed on, what I believe, was the best answer to his situation.

The title of this post may be misleading, because I don’t know if I taught wisdom to my boys or if they just saw me seek it and so it became a part of their life to pursue it, but either way, I’m glad they gained the practice.

Here are three things my boys have that I wouldn’t trade anything for:

The love of wisdom – My boys love to learn. They continue, into their 20’s, to seek wisdom from me and others.

The learning of wisdom - My boys not only listen to the wisdom of others, they seek it out from their own experience. They seem to realize that wisdom comes best through the experiences of life….good and bad…so they continue to learn from the decisions they make.

The living of wisdom – I have to be honest, my boys are two of the wisest young men I know. They truly take wisdom and apply it to their life, making wiser choices as they grow in wisdom.

I’m addicted to growing in wisdom. I’m so proud my boys seem to have inherited the practice.

Let’s talk wisdom.

Answer these questions:

Do you love, learn, and live wisdom as much as you can?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how wise are you these days? (Be honest with your assessment.)

Who is the wisest living person you know?

5 Ways to Attract Young People to Church

If a church is more interested in protecting traditions than it is in creating a future, then it will most likely fail to attract young people…

At least that’s been my experience.

If a church is interested in attracting young people, then it must think strategically about doing so…

After all, they are the future…

Here are 5 ways a church can attract young people:

Value their ideas - Young people will want to do some things differently. Give them a voice and access to authority.

Give them a place to serve – Find ways that let young people assist others. It’s a huge value for them.

Be genuine with them – Young people can spot the phonies. Let them see that you are real.

Love them - Young people want to sense they are loved….even when they mess up.

Guide them – Young people want direction and they want to learn from your experience. (Just share it in the context with the other 4 points.)

What would you add to my list?

8 Paradigm Shapers for Making Discipline Decisions as a Parent

I frequently have parents ask me what type of discipline they should use with their children. I’m glad parents are asking the question, but I seldom can give a standard answer for every situation. I prefer to use a paradigm through which parents can make their own decisions.

That’s the purpose of this post. Perhaps these steps will help you make wiser decisions regarding discipline. Here are 8 paradigm shapers for making discipline decisions as a parent:

Have a vision – If you don’t know where you want to take children you’ll be less likely to take them there. This should be decided before the need for discipline arises and it should ultimately help shape the discipline you use.

Have a purpose – The purpose of discipline should not be to cause harm, but to teach. Discipline is to help a child learn how to live. Keep this in mind as you discipline and it will help you make wiser choices. Ask yourself, “What can I do to best teach my child what he (or she) needs to learn from this experience?”

Step back and process – Immediately after an offense is not always the best time to administer punishment. It’s okay to let children wait for a response. Sometimes this is the best discipline for the child and it almost always makes your decision better. This step becomes more important as they get older and the discipline decisions become more difficult.

Never make a decision in anger – You don’t want emotions to make the decision. You want a well thought out response.

Consider the bigger picture – This is where having a plan/vision comes in handy. Considering where you want to take the child, how they are progressing in life, and the motivation of their heart, what punishment will most help accomplish your objectives for the child in this specific circumstance.

Make the punishment fit the offense – You shouldn’t have a standard punishment. Grounding for older children or time-out for younger children may work in some circumstances but not in others.

Make the punishment fit the child – All children are different, learn differently and require different methods to teach the principles you want to teach.

Reinforce love – Every discipline should be used as an opportunity to show children how much they are loved.

Let’s face it…parenting is hard work. I’m hesitant to say anyone is an “expert” in this subject. We all have room for improvement. I’m not assuming you will carry around this list in your pocket, whipping it out at the appropriate time of need, but I do believe having a framework of this sort in your schema will help you better address the issues of discipline you face as a parent. In the end, having this type of paradigm thought process, before the need for discipline arises, should help us be better parents.

Is this post helpful? What is the most difficult issue you deal with regarding discipline? What would you add to my list?

For more parenting tips, click HERE.

7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Today’s Youth

The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

Grace Community Church is built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We love when people bring their friends. This vision extends to reaching the youth of our community. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things.

If the church wants to reach young people these days, here are 7 things we must do:

Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults…and they want it to be unconditional love…through the good times of their life and the times they mess up.

Be biblically true – Young people today don’t seem to want fluff. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want people who say they believe it to teach what they believe…and be willing to discuss it with them if needed.

Be culturally relevant – Young people today have been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world today. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

Give them a place to serve and support them in their pursuits – Young people today want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input - You have to allow young people to do things their way…with technology…within groups of friends…sometimes unscripted…etc. A church that is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them - Young people today want to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.

Guide them - Young people today want direction. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today need adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching the youth of today?

BTW, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

Addressing a Porn Generation

When I was a teenager, if I wanted to view porn, I would have had to find a magazine. Honestly, even though I may have wanted to, I never had or found a “stash” of porn. I knew everyone in stores where I might have bought some and if my friends had their own stash of pictures, they never shared them with me.

I did some babysitting as a teenager in addition to my grocery store work and I found some magazines at one of the houses where I worked late one night (after the kids had gone to bed). I wasn’t really snooping. They were in the magazine rack, next to the recliner, which I thumbed through while watching Saturday Night Live. (In the golden years of SNL!) Anyway, those images are still with me today. As much as pornography was probably a part of my generation, it wasn’t that accessible to me.

My boys have grown up in a different generation. Since they have been old enough to be curious about such things, access to porn has been readily available if they wanted to look. No, I’ve never had a stash hidden around the house, and we always monitored their activities closely, but our house has always been connected to the Internet and, because of that, pornography has been programmed into their culture. Today’s generation has been saturated with opportunities to experience pornography.  In fact, all of us now have equal opportunity in this area of temptation.

I wish I could tell you this change doesn’t matter, but having sat with dozens of couples whose marriage is falling apart because of an addiction to pornography by one spouse, I have to speak against this part of our culture. Pornography is seldom talked about, but it is rampant and is destroying people and marriages. I consistently talk with young men who have been addicted since an early age. I’m certain that is true for women also, but I mostly have dealt with men about the issue. Pornography causes them to view their wives differently and cheapens the value of sex in their marriage, not to mention the emotional damage it does to the wife, forcing her to question her worth and her husband’s commitment to her and the marriage.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think legalism is the answer, but I believe the church must address this issue.

If this is your issue, before it ruins your life, let me offer a few points of encouragement:

1. Know there is a way out of the hold pornography has on your life if you are willing to find it.

2. Recognize that the consequences of pornography are huge and get help. It’s never too late for God’s grace to rescue you.

3. Get accountability now. You will be embarrassed, but you are not alone in this struggle. (1 Cor 10:13)

4. Ultimately you’ll want to learn to refocus that same passion and attention towards Christ. He is the answer for everything that ails us. Then you can begin to love your spouse as he or she deserves to be loved.

The sooner you start some of these steps, the sooner you’ll break free from the hold pornography has on your heart….and you know you want to be free!

Have you faced this battle? How do you guard your heart here? What should the church be doing with this issue? What suggestions do you have for those in this battle?

8 Ways to Lead People Younger than You

I wrote a post recently about how to lead people older than you. (Read that post HERE.) Recently I was meeting with Ben Reed and another gentleman who kept referring to how young Ben appeared to be. It bothered me and I realized I needed to write the opposite post. Ben is a phenomenal leader and agreed to help me with this post.

Here are 8 ways to lead people younger than you:

1. Give them the freedom to try, even when you may not agree with the idea. They need to experience failure and it may be a success.

2. Give them opportunities to grow…and help them see how they see fit in the organization as it continues to grow.

3. Realize the generational differences exist and they affect how we relate to people, change, and technology.

4. Allow flexibility in how they complete their work. They aren’t as tied to an office as other generations.

5. Although they do value wisdom, they are less likely to be excited if we always start with “When I was your age…” In fact, avoid continually reminding them talking how young they appear.

6. They are passionate about life…help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them.

7. Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. You may find one on your team.

8. Give them a seat at the table of leadership, even though you may not feel they’ve completely “earned” it.

You may want to read my post “The Pastor but not the Leader” for a similar thought, since most commenting on that post were young leaders.

Have you been treated as a “kid” instead of a leader because of your age? What would you add to this list?

Orange Week: Churches Partnering with Parents


It took years before I felt comfortable teaching about parenting. I don’t feel adequate to teach about parenting adult children now, since I’m still doing that, but I feel better about helping parents of younger children. Our boys have become healthy, well-adjusted, God-fearing children.

This week is Orange Week; a ministry of The ReThink Group. It’s a week to talk about the Orange strategy of partnering churches with parents, believing that the combined effort works better than either one of them working independent of each other. I’m happy to participate. Grace Community Church uses and believes in the Orange strategy. If you want to improve your ministry to families, attend the Orange Conference next year.

Cheryl and I owe all our success at parenting to God’s grace, but it’s also true that we were extremely intentional with our parenting. Our boys were early teens when I surrendered to ministry, but they were raised in the homes of committed church members. My boys have been “pastor’s kids” less than 10 years, but we were “orange” parents before we knew the term. The ideal arrangement for us was to be in a church that believed in helping us direct our children towards Christ, but not doing it for us.

I didn’t want the church parenting my children. I didn’t want my boys to learn all the important life principles, even the Biblical principles from the church, but I realized that the church should and did play an important role in the life of my two boys. Some of their best friends were in the church, which helped them make wiser decisions in school. They found mentors in the church, which helped for times they didn’t want to talk with me. Cheryl and I became better people and more committed believers in the church, which made us better parents. The reality of us working with the church in our parenting was powerful and I’m confident it helped mold our boys character to what it is today. For more on my parenting philosophy, click HERE.

Are you partnering with the church to improve your parenting? Are you taking advantage of the opportunities the church offers? Are you being intentional in your parenting? How has the church helped shape your home?

For more information about the Orange strategy of helping churches partner with parents, click HERE.