Tag Archives: Ministry

Life Lived in Focus

The new year is fast approaching. Somehow it seems like I blinked and it is 2015. In February Cami and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary. WOW! Just 2 months ago we welcomed our 4th child, Kaylee Albritton. Even more WOW! We are now a family of 6. Life is busy to say the least. I am sure the same is true of your life as well. Whether you are single, a single parent, newly weds, a growing family, or empty nesters, I am quite sure you find plenty of ways to keep yourself busy.

With so much going on, our brains primary goal is to simply, to take our everyday tasks and send them into auto pilot. This is why as you drive to work everyday or pick up the kids from school, there are times you cannot remember a certain stretch of the road. You know the feeling, when you are waiting to go through the light and turn in and think, I don’t remember passing ________. And it kind of scares you. You think, did I fall asleep? No, your brain was just on auto pilot simplifying our everyday processes.

Elemental_focus

In his book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg talks about an experiment where rats were placed in a maze and their brain activity was measured as they made their way through. The first time or two, their brains were running at near maximum capacity. All of their senses were clicking, but the more they ran the maze, the more their brains and senses disengaged from the process.

Our brains ability and capacity to transition tasks to routines, allows us to do more. So while routines are good, stay in a routine long enough and it becomes a rut. And ruts can be difficult to get out of. Especially in ministry. If you have gone to church any length of time you know exactly what I am talking about.

As a leader it is important to avoid getting stuck in ruts. People don’t want to follow some one who is stuck and going no where. One of the ways I try to avoid getting too bogged down in routine is by developing new focus areas as I move into the new year. These areas could use a little more attention both in my personal life and my leadership roles. So here is what I do. You don’t have to do it exactly like this but find a method that works for you.

  1. Define FOCUS AREAS. I would recommend keeping this list pretty short. such as 2 to 3 areas at a time. They can be simple or complex. However, the more complex, the fewer you should tackle at once. In the past, I have focused on prayer, on developing a specific ministry program, church structure, spiritual disciplines, intentional time with family etc. If you struggle with finding them, ask the question, “what are the routines I have turned into ruts?”
  2. Determine a SPECIFIC LENGTH OF TIME. This does not have to be a year long process. Maybe there are four things you want to focus on building and you need 3 months for each. Be specific and write it down. Maybe it is getting out of debt and you know it will be a 3 or 4 year process. You are not tied down to a calendar.
  3. Clarify the WHY. Why are you doing this? Why this focus? Why now? Bring clarity to the process. Have a reason you are choosing to focus on this area of your life.
  4. Define the WIN. Begin with the end in mind. At the end of this specific time period, what will it look like if you have accomplished your goal? This should be short, with one sentence defining what it will look like.
  5. Determine your ACTION STEPS. You have to move. There has to be some muscle behind the mind. Ideas, thoughts and concepts need to be surrounded with action or they are going to ever happen. So what are 2 or 3 action steps you need to take to start moving? Write them down. As you get moving you will add more to the list but just get started. Make them simple. Something you can do right away. Just get started.

All of this is for the purpose of bringing clarity and purpose to our life and leadership. So often we have big ideas, dreams and goals that are never realized. Why? Many times this is simply because we never take the time to clarify what it is we want to do or how we are going to do it. So saturate this process in prayer. Evaluate, Define, Dream, Focus. May God bless your life, family and ministry as we move into 2015 and beyond!

This is a series of blogs for Shiloh Road Leaders (staff, shepherds, deacons, and ministry leaders) to help you prepare and plan your ministry as we move forward into the new year and beyond. If you lead a team, get together as a team to work through these exercises. If you are over several ministries, encourage those ministries you oversee to make this a priority.

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Defining the Direction

Earlier on in my marriage I had gotten a new phone. It was one of the first smart phones with GPS built in. My wife and I were going out to eat in Dallas for our anniversary, so I put in the name of the restaurant and headed for Dallas. Going from Cleburne, it is easiest to jump on HWY 67 which basically drops you off on the outskirts of downtown.

leadership

As we approached 35W, the GPS began telling me to head north on 35W. I am driving and thinking to myself, “this GPS has no clue what it is talking about.” So, I keep on going thinking it will realize the “correct” way to get there, but it does not. It begins says, Recalculating… make a U-Turn. After the second and third Recalculating, I begin talking to the GPS (as if it could hear me) “No, I will not make a U-Turn!” Finally, after realizing the errors of its ways and my superior intellect, it remaps our trip the way I want to go. We are flying and everything is going good I was right and the GSP was wrong.

About 10 miles from Dallas a warning appears in the middle of the screen, “Warning Construction Ahead, expect delays.” Now, my own phone was mocking me, as if the bright red stream of taillights illuminating the night sky was not enough, my phone needed to rub it in. So we wait, and wait, and wait. Eventually we made it to the restaurant, and yes, the GPS would have gotten me there much faster.

It knew a better way to get there and had a much more complete picture. The problem was it did’t show me the bigger picture. If it had taken the time to say, “Gary, if you go this way you will get there, but you are going to get stuck in Dallas Construction Traffic, so go this way, trust me,” I would have done exactly what it told me to the first time.

As a leader, you have to try to paint a clear picture for people of where you are going and how you plan on getting there. People want to follow someone who has a plan. People want to follow someone who knows where they are going. So if as a leader, you are not real sure of where you are going, or how you are going to get there, or what it is suppose to look like, then you will always have a hard time convincing people to follow you.

Many times the problem leaders in the church face stem from not really knowing where we are going. Leading when you don’t have clear direction as to where you are going is next to impossible. So, as leaders it is really important that we work to define three things. One, where we are heading. Two, how we plan to get there. Three, what will “there” actually look like.

As you are defining the ministry, begin with the end in mind. You are not just building with what you currently have, but what you hope to have. So, below are several questions to help you as you define the ministry that you are leading. It is also very important to revisit these questions on a regular basis, clarifying and redefining as you are growing and learning.

Where are you going?
Who is this ministry trying to impact?
What is the purpose of this ministry?
How does this ministry play into the over mission of Shiloh Road, to KNOW God and make Him KNOWN?

How do we get there?
What resources do we need for this ministry to be successful?
What are the challenges you anticipate along the way?
Draw an organizational chart for the teams and positions you need in place for this ministry to function at its fullest potential?


What does “there” look like?
We will consider this ministry to be successful if…
What will be the first indication that this ministry is no longer effective in fulfilling its purpose?

A few reminders as you engage in this process. 1. Priority of prayer throughout the process. 2. Invite other people into the discussion who are passionate about this ministry. 3. Begin with the end in mind. 4. Think big. We serve a God who is more than enough, who exceeds our expectations. 5. If you want to go deeper into this process, here is a strategy-worksheet_srcc we have adapted for Shiloh Road. It will go much more in-depth into this process of defining ministry.

This is a series of blogs for Shiloh Road Leaders (staff, shepherds, deacons, and ministry leaders) to help you prepare and plan your ministry as we move forward into the new year and beyond. If you lead a team, get together as a team to work through these exercises. If you are over several ministries, encourage those ministries you oversee to make this a priority.


BLESSED ARE YOU – REFLECTIONS FROM THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Over the last couple of months I have lived in chapter 5 of Matthew.  Never have I spent so much time in one place in scripture, working through and memorizing.  I have been amazed at the new insights that have surfaced.  So see my understanding deepen.  To this point I have completely committed Matthew chapter 5 to memory.

What has really amazed me are the insights I am gaining weeks and months later on certain sections.  Things I worked through 2 months ago begin to take on new shapes as I continue to add new pieces to the puzzle.  Even more importantly I am beginning to see the world around me afresh, as I look through new lenses.

NIV  Matthew 5:1-11
1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I have heard lesson after lesson on the Beatitudes, they typically have all leaned this direction…  If you want to be a part of the Kingdom of God you need to learn to behave this way… and fill in the blank.  In other words it becomes about you shifting your attitudes to and nature to conform with God’s way of life.

The more I have dug into this passage, especially in light of Matthew 5:12-16 & 17-20 the more I am convinced, we may have in some ways missed the point of what Jesus is communicating.  What if we were to read the first 20 verses through the lens of a religious system which Jesus is confronting rather than rather than everyday life.  Jesus is announcing a new kingdom here on earth; a new kingdom which most of the world will reject.  Before Jesus gets into our understanding of the law and the prophets, before he starts talking about being salt and light, he wants these disciples to understand they will be rejected if they live the way he is fixing to challenge them to live through the rest of this sermon.  It is an announcement of hope and an announcement of heart ache.  It is the pronouncement of blessing in the midst of hardship.  It is a new kingdom that will infringe on peoples understanding of who God is and probably more so, infringe on who they are and what they posses.

Verses 1 through 10 focus is very indirect.  Jesus is calling those who will follow him to understand there will be a price you will pay.  Why, because this kingdom will stand in direct opposition of all who are trying to further their own kingdom.  However, by paying the price, living in differently you will find unspeakable blessing.  Jesus then ties a nice little bow on the package for the disciple in verse 11 and the focus of the passage now becomes very direct.  Now, blessed are YOUBlessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  In other words if you are willing to follow my teachings, you should expect insults, persecution and lies to be pointed at you.  Persecution for what?  Persecution which comes because of your relationship with Jesus.

But why would your relationship with him bring difficulty, because the poor in spirit, the meek, the pure in heart, all seem pretty non-threatening to me.  Honestly, is there any characteristic in verse 1 through 10 which seem even remotely threatening?  So why persecution?  I think the answer really lies in verse 17-20.

Matthew 5:17-20 NIV
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees and Teachers of the law would see Jesus as a false teacher, one who was abandoning God’s law and had to be stopped.  Not only was Jesus, in their eyes, a threat to God’s divine plan, probably even more so, Jesus threatened the Pharisees and Teachers of the law because within their system they were set up as god’s.  They had the power, they were able to add to the law, they had control, and they had the money.  People looked at them and felt being people of God was impossible in light of how these men looked from a distance.  Jesus kingdom however, would directly oppose their kingdom.  This new kingdom Jesus was inviting people to be a part of would threaten the system of control the Pharisees and teachers were building because it was a system that exalted the powerful.  In this new kingdom the avenue to God the Father was not the religious elite, but an avenue which was open to all.

In this system, righteousness was all about appearance.  So maybe we could better describe verse 1 through 10 as the new righteous.  Jesus concludes verse 20, saying the ones who appear to be righteous, the Pharisees and Teachers of the law, really aren’t and if you buy into their system, striving for self preservation, power and control, then you will not enter the kingdom.  Now, this has numerous implications for us today as followers of Jesus, which I will tackle in part 2.

I am still working through so much of this in my own head and it seems like things are shifting daily.  This is simply an avenue to work through and try to sort out these thoughts.  I would love to hear your insights and thoughts from the Beattitudes.


5 INSIGHTS FOR MENTORING STUDENTS

Over the past several years, I have been focusing more and more energy on discipling and mentoring students.  At Cataylst this past year Andy Stanley challenged leaders with this statement, “teach people to do what you do.”  Pretty basic right.  I have been looking at different things in my ministry I do on a regular basis and trying to teach and empower students to learn to fill those roles.

I made the decision to stop getting adult co-teachers each quarter but instead to pair up an experienced teacher with a young inexperienced teacher or better yet a student.  So this quarter has been our first try, it has been really good, and really bad.  Haha  I thought I would share some insights and things I have learned from the first go around that could help those in ministry beginning in this process.

This quarter our High School class has been taught by a guy who has been teaching for me for a while.  He is a fireman and has to miss every 3rd Sunday.  I paired him up with one of our seniors in High School who does a good job teaching and is contemplating going into ministry.  Our Jr. High class has been taught by me and a 9th grader who has taught a couple of times in the past and has really enjoyed it.

  1.  Prepare to be frustrated, because you will.  Especially, when dealing with students.  There will be a time they will not show up.  Whether, they didn’t have a ride, they forgot, something happened.  Just because they don’t show up does not mean they will call and let you know they won’t make it.  You must remember these are teenagers, and part of this process is mentoring them through these issues.  I have had to let them know on several occasions when you say you will be somewhere, be there.  If something urgent comes up, call.
  2. Create a covenant.  I wish I had done this early and asked them to sign it.  Also, I would have parents sign it so they know what is expected of their student.  Lay out the expectations.  For instance, we will meet every week at 5 PM on Wednesday to plan out Sunday.  Do not assume the student will tell their parents their schedule.
  3. Value the relationship over the instruction.  The teaching aspect is very important but the relational aspect is even more crucial.  Pour into the person’s life first and foremost and everything else you are trying to teach them will be communicated to.  Most adults when asked to teach focus on the tasks of teaching.  This has been difficult for someone who has been doing this for so long.  Yes, I want you to teach your class, but more importantly I want to you teach this student how to teach, prepare and study.  The goal is not make sure the class has a teacher that week.
  4. Have a set schedule.  I set up a calendar at the beginning.  I would teach the first 3 weeks and they would observe.  When we would meet we would talk about different aspects of the class, why did I choose to do or say something a particular way.  The next 7 weeks we would team teach.  Divide the lesson out and both have roles.  The final 3 weeks is all the student.  Also, schedule your meeting time on a weekly basis to prepare for class.
  5. Read a book together.  We have been reading “Communicating for a Change” by Andy Stanley.  Each week we read a chapter or two and discuss the reading in our weekly meeting.  I have found this is very helpful for them because the book is so practical they can use what they are reading right away.

I would love to know some ways you are integrating students into ministry and what are some of the lessons you are learning in the process?


THE VISION OF A LEADER

Vision, it is one of our five senses and just like all of our senses we tend to take for granted that we can see.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to live without sight.

Yet, many people are completely capable of living without sight; they find ways to make it work.  However, they will never be capable of doing everything they could do as if they could see.  A lack of vision greatly limits life.  In leadership a lack of vision is magnified many times over and is far more detrimental.  In a leadership role lack of vision no longer simply affects the one without sight, it also effects all who follow.  It truly becomes the blind leading the blind.

I find it amazing; with vision being as important as it is, how easily as leaders we lose sight of our vision.  For a church when the leadership loses sight of the vision the people lose their way.  When the church loses sight of the vision it turns inward.  Once the vision turns inward it is impossible to truly follow Jesus because Jesus was constantly focused on what was happening out in front of Him.  He was constantly focused on building His Fathers kingdom.  Think of it like this, Jesus said in the Great Commission to “go into all the world.”  Going requires vision.  Of course you can go with no vision, but you will never be capable of accomplishing all God is calling you to as a leader if you can’t see where you are going.

As leaders there is an incredible burden to continually be refocusing yourself and others on the vision.  But how as leaders do we stay focused?

  1. We must continually be pursuing Christ, through prayer, study and communing with Christ.  As leaders we should be saying to people, as did Paul, “follow me, just as I follow Christ.”  As leaders we must fight against vision loss in followers, but that fight begins by making sure we do not lose sight of the vision our self.
  2. We must continually check our direction.  It is so easy to lose sight of where we are headed and it is even easier when people feel there is no one leading them to wander away.  How do you check direction?  With a compass.  As God gives you vision you must be developing action plans and goals from that vision.  You have to have a way to measure and see where you are.  This should be done on a weekly basis, because it does not take long to get lost.
  3. Most importantly keep pushing forward.  It is far too easy to lose sight of where we are when we stop moving.  What can cause us to stop moving?  Other people can distract us from the vision, through complacency and complaining.  Busyness can also distract us from the vision.  It is imperative as leaders to learn the word no.  We have to learn to say no to good things for better things.

Leaders, I want to encourage you to stay focused on where you are headed because your vision is vital to your leadership.

Where there is no vision, the people perish.  Proverbs 29:18


Ministry & Intimacy

Some great reminders for ministers and pastors. Too often we wear our busyness around as a badge of honor, when it should be seen as a disgrace. Great thoughts shared By Britt Merrick at Catalyst Space.

Ministry & Intimacy