Thursday, November 29, 2012

Using A Sermon Prep Team [1]

i've been teaching weekly for about 16 years in the church context as well as conferences/camps/etc.  this has ranged from junior/high school ministry to college ministry to sunday morning services, from a mega church to a church plant.  i've tried many different things in my prep, done my notes a multitude of different ways...on and on.  in my pursuit to continue learning i recently tried something new: i put together a sermon prep team.  this team is made up of 5 other people that i meet with every week (i want to add some others too, actually).  so, i thought i would do a short series here about what i'm learning about using this format.  hopefully it will cause you to consider it at some level.  i think i will break this series up in the following ways:

1. benefits of using a "prep team"
2. types of people to have on a team like this
3. the format of our meetings - what we actually do

today i will simply start by listing out some benefits i'm finding with using a team to help me prepare:

1. train people.  it's not too often people see how a pastor preps for a message.  and it's far less that they actually get to be a part of the entire process.  i'm finding this tremendously helpful for training others.

2. unity of the team.  my team is made up of staff and non-paid interns, so doing this together keeps everyone dialed in and totally on the same page.  i'm finding this to be very helpful with culture building.  we are all a deeply in tune with what God is teaching us and what we are teaching the people in our church.

3. immediate feedback.  i've always prepped for my messages alone.  i don't read books on the subject and actually try to limit my reading of commentaries (i can explain why that is later).  i'm finding it to be a huge help to be able to bounce ideas off the team and get immediate feedback on it.  the truth is a lot of my ideas are not good...and this way i get to find that out before i walk on stage!

4. amazing ideas.  i lead the discussion and guide the thought process and ask the questions, but the bottom line is the people in the room come up with some brilliant thoughts that i'm pretty sure i would not have.  and this isn't just ideas for illustrations or creative things, but also ideas on how to articulate thoughts precisely and in a way that is truly helpful.  we all feed off each other and collectively get to places that none of us would have alone.

5. less prep time in general.  because we are all in it together i'm finding the time it takes me to prep for a message is far less than it used to be.  this is a big benefit that i frankly did not see coming.

6. less stress.  it's interesting that this approach lessens the amount of pressure or stress i feel.  the weight is ultimately on me (i guess) but it's entirely freeing to have a team that is taking this seriously to the point of collectively taking responsibility for what i will be teaching.

i'm sure there are more benefits i'm finding than this, but those are on the front of my mind right now.  i'll continue in the next post with the types of people i'm finding to be helpful to have in the room and a part of this team.  the bottom line is, i don't see how i can ever go back to prepping in silo.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

thankfulness at thanksgiving is easy

being thankful over thanksgiving weekend is easy.  it's every other week that my sense of gratitude can be lost.
i would love to be able to say i never take things for granted and always remain grateful for what i have.
but i can't, if i'm honest.

it's amazing how when we first get something we are thankful.  but then, if we consistently have it, we begin to take it for granted.  water whenever we want it.  electricity that works all the time.  grocery stores stockpiled with food.  we are not grateful for these things all the time.  the truth is we take them for granted because they are our norm and we rarely take a step back to think about what we actually have in these things.

this past sunday at Colossae i taught on Romans 5:12-21.  in this section paul is comparing Adam with Jesus.  his point is clear: they are two different people and each leads us in a totally different direction.  here is the comparison he makes between these two in this section:

Adam led to: sin and death (12, 17, 21); Condemnation (16); Disobedience (19)
Jesus led to: Justification (16); Righteousness (17, 19); Obedience (19); Grace (15, 20)

polar opposites.  and for that, as a Christian, i am thankful.

here is what i know to be true about gratitude in my life: when i take my focus off myself (or people in general) and put it on Jesus, gratitude is naturally a part of my life.  additionally, when i take a step back and consider where i came from (i.e. the life of Adam - also see Ephesians 2:1-3) and compare that to where Jesus has brought me, i'm grateful.  

when i can keep these things at the front of my mind i remain thankful for more than just a weekend a year.  

Lord, help me to remember.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

4 Thoughts For Reaching Millenials

on saturday i was speaking at the You Lost Me LIVE tour with my good friend David Kinnaman.  he had asked me to speak previously at their Seattle event and then again to join them here, in Portland.  if you haven't read his book, You Lost Me, i would recommend doing so.

anyway, he asked me to speak about reaching Millenials in the church context.  i shared 4 thoughts.  here they are in summary:
  1. View them as people, not a stat.  this may seem obvious, but it's sadly not as common as it needs to be.  this generation is talked about (which means they are looked upon) as more of a demographic than human beings.  i get how talking about a generation in general terms can be helpful and even necessary, but this balance needs to be watched very carefully.  if you view them as a target to hit, you will surely miss.
  2. Give them belonging.  a sense of belonging only comes in/through the context of relationships.  no sermon, no programming, music, black clothe or candles...none of this gives a sense of belonging to a person.  people feel like they belong when they are relationally connected to people.  period.  to reach them there must be a relational focus of ministry.  millenials go missing when this type of connection is missing.
  3. Blame it on the gospel.  we must continue to call people to embrace the gospel, which at its very core, is a life of selflessness (Mark 8:34).  we tend to be good about teaching the benefits of the gospel, but not as good as pushing people to embrace the call of the gospel (self denial and actually following the selfless example of Jesus).  embracing the call of the gospel is the only thing that will serve as a motivator for people to focus on others, reach out, and adapt where necessary so that others can become more like Christ (1 Cor. 9:22).
  4. Embrace accountability.  holding people to the standards of scripture is not an option for spiritual leaders.  investing in other people (i.e. discipleship) is not an option or a good suggestion in scripture.  it is, in fact, a command.  as a lead pastor this is part of how i've asked to be evaluated by my elders.  if i am not helping older adults invest in younger people, i need to be fired.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thoughts on 2 Gatherings

Yesterday was the first time we had 2 Sunday gatherings at Colossae Church.  We had reached capacity, and probably beyond, for our current facility and were forced to either: move into a bigger space or add an additional gathering.  We obviously chose the latter.

Now, to be honest, I have a whole mess of different feelings with this.  Here were some of my concerns with this transition going into it:

  1. Losing a sense of holistic community.  There is something really special to everyone being together and I didn't know how this would affect that.  The concern of becoming disjointed in ways was not small.  The life of Colossae is found in community, so keeping communities together is a priority.  With this transition people in the same community may join different gatherings and we wondered if this would negatively affect community.
  2. Putting the focus on Sunday mornings.  We have a very strong emphasis on embracing truths in every day life and doing so in the context of community.  This is not something we are willing to compromise on.
  3. Perception of growth negatively affecting our culture.  With the amount of growth we have experienced people sense that God is doing something, which is exciting.  But with that also comes a fear in people that we will lose who we are in midst of continual growth.  I admit, I share some of that concern as well.
With these types of things in mind (that is not an exhaustive list of my concerns going into this), we have put up some guardrails in place to protect our culture and mission.  I may post about those at another time. But, for today, I just want to post some of my thoughts about the plus side we are seeing with this transition:
  1. Smaller group in each gathering.  This allowed us to create some space to better allow people to actually connect with others in this setting.  This contributes to our desire to keep our Sunday morning gatherings a part of what we do as a community rather than it being a separate event.  This may actually be the biggest plus for us at this point.  We were very intentional about doing some things we haven't been able to do very well up to this point due to the number of people.
  2. Serve during one and join in another.  With one gathering people that served in our children's ministry missed out on the adult side of things.  This was a price people have been willing to pay, but it was a bit of a bummer.  Now we can serve at one and still join in on the adult side.  This actually caused more people to step up to the plate and take more significant roles in serving in a number of different ways.
  3. Able to teach twice.  This is a bit of a selfish one for me, but the reality is it's kind of nice to be able to teach my message a second time.  Only having one time is tough.  There are always things I wish I would've done differently when I'm done, which is the case whenever you teach something for the first time.  But I learned to deal with it, trusting in the Holy Spirit's ability to do what He does despite what I 'could've' said better.  Now it's kind of nice to be able to record both messages and then to think as a team as to which one we should post online.  It helps appease my insecurities a little :-)