The Church is often known for what it is against. I have always felt the Church should align itself for things that it is for instead of that which it is against. I read this quote today which summed my thought process up fully.

"Negative words in negative main points form negative messages that result in negative ministries. Keep the Gospel the Good News."

With that being said, here are a few things that The Factory WILL be known for.

The Factory WILL be known as a place that lifts high the name of Jesus.

The Factory WILL be known as a place where EVERYONE belongs.

The Factory WILL be known as a place where continual repentance happens.

The Factory WILL be known as a place where everyone has a place to serve.

The Factory WILL be known as a place where it's ok not to be ok.

The Factory WILL be known as a place where doubts and questions are welcomed.

The Factory WILL be known as a place for you.

What are some things that you think The Factory should be known for ?
Today I'm coming off what they call a "Preacher's High."

Typically this happens when the service or event you lead was such a success that you find it hard to sleep because your mind is racing. For me, it's has little to do with the service or event, but more to do with what last night "looked" like to me.

My heart in ministry has always been given to those who have never experienced Christ before. There is nothing quite like seeing someone experience Christ for the first time as God reveals Himself through Word and Worship.

Last night, I saw that. The context of the message was not something I would have "planned" if I would have known what the dynamic of the room would have been. For that, I'm thankful that I'm not responsible for planning / timing like I used to be as God has developed my specific style of communication.

From the outset, you could see God was doing what God does. Speaking to and romancing hearts. Calling those who have gapped their relationship with God back. Revealing His character and conduct.

You also could see God working in the midst of "two or more gathered" and having the power of the Holy Spirit present in prayer and ministry to one another. From moments where I had to personally repent to someone or to when a student went to receive prayer alone for the first time. God was doing work.

Moments like this add fuel to a fire that has been faithfully burning and allow it to rise beyond where it has been (hence posting a blog after a year of hiatus).

Moments like this are why I'm grateful that God has allowed this to be my life. Wouldn't trade it.
Today I decided to put something out there, that I have been thinking about for a while.

I was driving by a car dealership the other day, and saw that they had a mini coach for sale. Immediately my mind started spinning about ways this could work, benefit and help us reach students within our city. Picking students and their friends up for birthdays, students and their friends for events and on and on the list could go.

In my mind, I could immediately see hundreds of students being impacted. With 20 students a mini coach load, we're talking about 1000+ during a calendar year. That's the kind of impact I'm talking about.

Not only that, but the students who would come and continue to come.

I'm looking for investors. Preliminary stages. But this could be big. Big time big.

Get at me if you want me info.

If you are a parent and reading this, no doubt you are curious what I have to say. If you are a student reading this, you're probably considering not going to church anymore, or wondering what I would have to say about considering I work at one.

Breathe a sigh of relief. I'm not talking about quitting.

With both small and large churches, you run into two of the very same problems. In small churches, the staff and budget are small (most likely), meaning there isn't the ability to hire additional staff to speak specifically to each demographic. Most of the churches I went to growing up fell into this category. 40-60 people at most when I was young. The church I accepted Christ got up to 300.

With large churches, you have such dynamic services (most likely), that many parents don't find the value in sending their children to age-specific ministry environments. Worship is great. The pastor can PREACH, so what would a Children's ministry or Student ministry do for my student that the Sanctuary isn't?

One of the things that I am very fortunate in at Hope is that each of our ministry areas are awesome. I would put our pastoral staff and volunteers up against anyone (even though it's not a competition). Everyone is highly trained, highly qualified and highly in love with Jesus. Equation for success.

I see at Hope, what I have described above. In our Sanctuary, our worship and speaking are fantastic. Our services are second to none. And I can understand why a parent would be in those services and wonder what good a Children's Ministry or Student Ministry would offer that our Sanctuary doesn't.

Here's what I can tell you, though in the Sanctuary our worship time is dynamic and our preaching is solid, it's intent is not for teenagers. And I think intent is important. Hopefully every church you attend will preach the Scriptures, of which they are applicable to every demographic. However, the intent in a ministry to reach a demographic is key in application, illustration and understanding.

Our Sanctuary's intent is for adults. So most of the application, illustration and understanding will be placed on adult scenarios. Granted, some apply to teenagers. However, the intent of our Children's and Student Ministries are to apply to children and teenagers. Some of that will also apply to adults, but we drive the nail home to each demographic.

When a church gets large enough or has a large enough budget to do so, one of the greatest blessings to churches and families are ministries for specific demographics. It can always be taken too far and become way too individualistic to the ministry and not the church as a whole. However, when done right, it is the best way for a church and parents to partner together in discipling children and teenagers to be lifelong followers of Christ by tailoring messages and ministry environments to speak to where they are.

Parents, stop bringing your kids to church.

We have a place for them that will speak to where they are and where they are going.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to speak at a local Christian High School. I am thankful every time I have an opportunity to share the Gospel. That a guy like me would be able to travel and speak to share God's word is a HUGE honor.

On this particular trip, it was shaping up to be a 1.5 hr drive each way. There are days where long drives (completely relative I know), early mornings and I don't get along. This day was one of them. As the drive was continuing, I thought to myself, "This is a long drive." In fact, I could feel myself starting to ramble about the amount of time I would spend speaking, versus the amount of time I spent driving (15-20 mins speaking vs. 3 hrs driving). Then, I got Jesus blocked. Here's what He said.

"Be grateful."

"The family that invited you to their school to speak does this 2-3 times a week to be apart of your church, to attend events and to keep their students involved in the Student Ministry. You're only doing this once."

"Be grateful."

I don't know how God speaks to you but when He speaks to me it is one of two ways: sarcastic or direct. If you know me at all, these are two ways that I often response. God giving me a taste of my own medicine I guess.

I can honestly say I was being ungrateful, it was a passing thought. Recently though, God has giving me some warnings before I could get to that place. It's probably God's way of keeping me in check.

As God was correcting me, I was hit with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for those who are apart of our church. We have families who drive 30-45+ minutes each way and are early to be able to serve. I had a "long" drive one day. They have a "long" drive multiple times during the week. Not only that, but the gas money, time and effort to do so is HUGE.

To those of you who make the drive, thank you. To those of you who have don't have a long drive, thank you. For our volunteers, thank you. For those who attend, thank you. For each and every person who is apart of Hope and The Factory, thank you.

I am grateful for you.
You've heard these two quotes before:

"It's always about first impressions."

"Don't judge a book by its cover."

But the two together and you get "Don't judge a book by its cover even though it matters." There are times where I hate both of these statements.

First impressions matter, but I hate when a first impression isn't representative of the impression you are trying to leave.

You can't judge a book by its cover and yet there are times where the cover is representative of the content.

Recently, I had an encounter where within 10 seconds a first impression was made and all I wished was that the book wasn't judged by its cover.

No matter how you cut it, there is no doubt that what people see within their first moments with us will be the impression they are left with. No matter what the content is on the inside. No matter what we haven't had a chance to say yet. That first impression will leave a lot. Every impression, especially a first impression, matters.

If someone only had 10 seconds with you, what would their takeaway be?
Advent is one of my favorite times of year. Before getting too far, I think it's probably necesary to define what Advent is. Here is how a reading plan available at defines it.

What is Advent?
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning arrival or coming. The Hebrews looked forward to the coming of a Savior or Messiah - the First Advent. Now, we are waiting expectantly for His return to sweep His bride off of our feed - the Second Advent. The Church has been waiting for Him to come back from the moment He left hte first time.

Why Should I Participate in Advent? So, what does Advent have to do with celebrating the arrival of Jesus?
Traditionally, Advent counts down the four week, leading up to Christmas. Practially, Advent reminds us to look forward to His return every day. This season is about restting Jesus Christ at the center of our lives. After all, when HE comes to take us home forever, we want to be ready. Expect to be inspired, challenged, refocused, broken, motivated, unified, encouraged, and most of all expectant.

Additionally, Advent usually has themes for each week (Hope, Peace, Joy, Love) and a candle to be lit for each representative week.

Prior to accepting Christ, I thought Advent was lame. Being apart of "old" churches, Advent seemed like one of the lamest things that one could do with a Sunday morning. However, after accepting Christ, my perspective changed completely. This happend as the result of two events:

  1. First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs. Prior to knowing Jesus, this would have been the very church that I would have avoided. However, after accepting Christ, this is exactly the church I pursue when Christmas comes around. There is something about singing the old hymsn, candlelight services, organs, choirs and pastor dressed in robes that brought "the weight" of Christmas to a head for me. I think I was the only person in the room who was trying to get Charismatic during a very "traditional" worship response.
  2. Jim Bradford and Central Assembly in Springfield, MO. Prior to my wife and I getting married, she attend Central Assembly in Springfield, MO with her family. During their services, as part of Advent, leading up to Christmas, they would have families come up and read a passage of Scripture together, along with lighting the candle of the week. Loved it! Loved the family aspect of Christmas and involving others in the celebration of Christ.

In both of these cases, I have developed a newfound love for Advent. In fact, it has become a time honored tradition within The Factory with selected reading, reading of the Creeds (Apostles Creed, Athanasian Creed, Chalcedonian Creed and Nicene Creed) and liturgy. Rachel and I both agree that we want it to be a part of our family and something we consistently share with our children. This year, over dinner, we will be reading through passages together, as well as providing time for us to ask questions with one another, celebrate Jesus' birth and be grateful for all his birth entailed.

Interested in celebrating Advent by yourself or with your family? YouVersion has made it very easy to do so. Each of these reading plans will provide you with a daily reading, as well as a time of reflection or response. Check out the devotional reading plans below.

Rediscovering the Christmas Season (Personal or Group)
Countdown to Christmas (Family Oriented)
One of my youth leaders said to me the other day:

"Justin, God broke the mold when he made you."

The compliment was so abrasive that I took it as an insult at first. "You are so ridiculous and eccentric that God Himself could not have been able to restrain your personality." However, I knew her intentions. I hear often, "you are so..." and then a connection is made to a part of my personality that another person finds so odd comparably.

In one case in particular, I find it easier to laugh than most people. Commercials. Life events. Etc. I've been told that I'm one of those people who have inside jokes with themselves.

I'm sure there are parts of me that are like others (in fact I know so). However, I like when phrases like "that's Justin" come up. In a world that seems to be shrinking and becoming less individualistic, it is refreshing to meet those who seem to "break the mold."

When God made you He broke the mold too.

Knowing His complexity, diversity, creative power, wonder, majesty and the scope of the universe, He had the same intentions when you were born. There has never been another "you" in all of history. Nor is there another "you" currently. In all the world. In all places. In all regions. In all nations. In all those places and in all those places throughout all times. You are the only you there has ever been, is or will be.

God broke the mold when He made you.

Let everyone else see how.
There are certain times where someone develops their "thing." Whether it's a look, sound or style, there are people who have their way of doing it and are known for it. Take Michael Bay and Zack Hemsey for example.

Michael Bay is most known for action movies. Bad Boys. Transformers. The Rock. Michael Bay has a certain way of making movies. Ridiculous action scenes. Mostly pointless scripts (so the action can shine). Slow panoramic shots at tense portions of the movie. Huge budget.

Zack Hemsey is the guy who responsible for music used in the Inception trailer. You can listen to it here. Brace yourself. Everything is WAY more epic when Hemsey is involved. He is knowing for gigantic symphonic scores, beat breaks and the occasional spoken word / hip-hop verse.

In both cases, the style is distinct, unique. However, if you watch movies (or video games) or listen to movie trailers, you can tell that a lot of people are starting to bite (copy) their style or technique. In fact, sometimes it is so blatant, you think it's actually the original person.

Our world thrives on originality. But profit can be made on duplicity.

Hewlett Packard has long been known as one of the greatest innovators in technology and personal computers. However, it's also know that HP has never benefited (mostly) from any of their innovations. In fact, many people have made more money off of HP's original concept, only moderately tweaked, than HP itself.

It's easy to copy. It's easy to duplicate. It's easy to replicate. In fact, it may get you somewhere. But nothing is more fun than finding who you are, harnessing your personality and letting it shine through. Yeah, you could do what works by replicating those whose way is working, but wouldn't you rather just be you? And let you be what lasts?
As I said in a previous post, one of my goals is to read more. I'm not looking to read more simply for reading's sake. I want to read for retention and read with the ability to recall. Here is what I've done to help me do so.
  1. Copy Quotes Instead of Underlining. One of the things that I have seen many people do when reading is to underline, pin pages or highlight. Not that this is bad, but you have no way of being able to find that information quickly. Say you remember a quote from a book, you will most likely have to flip through good portions of the book in order to find it. By creating word documents for books, they instantly become searchable by your computer to track down topics quickly (faith, leadership, awesomeness, etc.).
  2. Create a New Word Document for Each Book. I like creating a new word document for each book instead of keeping all my quotes in one document. It allows me to look through specific books quickly and easily, as well as organizing the books more along author and content as opposed to a "good thoughts" document that could end up being pages long. Some books I have read have contained over 10+ pages of notes. To put this in one document would be WAY too long.
  3. Research Paper Quote. Within the word document, I make sure that each quote is ready to go into a research paper, even though it most likely never will (i.e. Author, Title, pg.). Though odds are against me that I will use it in this manner, I can be sure that when I need to quote it, I am doing so accurately and correctly. You may think it sounds tedious, but if you copy the author, title and pg. prefix, all you need to do is paste it once you have copied your latest quote.
  4. Read Different Books. If I'm not intentional, I'll find myself reading books that are very similar to each other. I try to alternate topics whenever I start a new book and try to alternate between old and new when reading through the same topic again. (i.e. New Jesus Book. New Leadership Book. Old Jesus Book. Old Leadership Book). This keeps me from getting caught up in one exclusive topic, and thinking that only new books or old books are worth reading.
Leaders are readers. Read away.
No one knows you better than your spouse does.
No one can frustrate you more than your spouse does.
Nothing is more frustrating than when your spouse calls you out.

Unless you're me.

For some reason, when my wife calls me out on something, especially when I know I should be doing it because we've talked about, I think she is so hot!

Recently, I've said to my wife how I want to read more. I heard that a few years ago, President Bush was able to read 100 books in a year. Regardless of your political persuasion, that's legit! If the President of theUnited States of America is able to take time to read considering their importance and workload, then surely I can do the same.

The other night, Rachel was going to be out for an extended period of time. She asked what I would be doing while she was gone. Besides "pining" for her, I told her I would be burning most of the night away with media. Her response?

"Haven't you been saying how you wanted to read more?"

I think it's important here to add a disclaimer. My wife wasn't being sarcastic. She wasn't being mean. She didn't carry a snarky tone. She simply asked. Translation:

"That thing that you've been wanting to do so bad but that you've said you haven't had time for, wouldn't this be a good time for that?"

At first, it spurred something in me.

Then I was attracted to her.

For me, my wife was calling out in me, the things that she knew were present and that she also knew were my desire to let out. In essence, she spurred me to "go get" what I had told her I wanted. In something as simplistic as reading, it was the beginning step in how spouses are able to awaken dreams in one another. Encourage one another. Call out the best in one another.

For all spouses out there, I would encourage you in this:

  1. Call out the gifts, talents and desires that are within your spouse.
  2. Provide opportunity for them to pursue them.
  3. Empower them to be able to achieve them.
  4. Resource them. Time. Money. Etc.
  5. Encourage them. Faithfully. Consistently.
It's for this reason that I'm thankful for my wife. She sees the best in me. But not only that, she encourages me to go get it. May that be true of all of us in how we respond to our spouse.

Including me.
I want to start by saying I'm terrible with names. Terrible. There are times that within a conversation I have forgotten someone's name. There are many reasons why this is true of me, none of which have much importance.

Forgetting someone's name is forgetting someone's name. Forget it, and it's like you've forgotten the person themself.

In recent months, I have tried to make a dedicated effort to improve on remembering names. I'll share the ways soon, but first...

A couple of Sundays ago, I was priveleged to be able to go to Kansas City to watch the Chiefs vs Dolphins with a great friend. Every time I drive to Kansas City, I usually stop in Clinton. It's one of those towns that when driving, you want to stop in. Multiple gas stations. Multiple choices for food. Short. Quick. Easy.

On the way home, we stopped at McDonald's to grab dinner. While there, I saw a teenager that look familiar to me. At first, I couldn't place them. Then, it clicked. The first Wednesday Night service where I was making an intentional effort to remember names, this student attended. For that reason, I remembered her name.

She said: "I think I know you from somewhere."

I said: "We met at one of our services in The Factory. My name is Justin and I'm the Student Pastor. Your name is..."

She was blown away. She was shocked I remembered she came, seeing as she came only a handful of times. She was even more shocked I remembered her name.

Names matter.

Names matter because people matter. People matter because every one represents someone Christ died for. To remember someone's name holds more than just temporal signficance. In the moment, it knocks on the window of eternity.

As I've tried more and more to keep this in mind every time I meet someone, here are a couple of things I've found to be helpful.

  1. Once they tell you their name, repeat it often. In the past when meeting someone, they would say their name and I would say "nice to meet you." Now, when I meet them, I try to repeat their name in the coversation any opportunity I can get. I've heard it said that when you learn, each time you add an additional sense (i.e. the five senses) you exponentially improve the odds of you remembering. By both speaking and hearing someone's name repeatedly, you improve the odds of remembering their name.
  2. Make eye contact. We live in a time where eye contact is increasingly rare. But if we track with increased use of the senses, increase our memory, then by adding sight to see and speak, then this further increases our ability to remember the person's name, by their face.
  3. Connect the person (and their name) to a story. Finally, I think it's always helps to connect a person's name and face to a story. Hearing a story causes uniqueness. Uniqueness increases remembrance. With over 7 billion people on the planet, we all blend together. When you hear a story, the individual just became unique in your world.
End result with this student in particular? She hasn't attended our church in months. She'll be coming again this week.
If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help. Anytime I start thinking, ‘Wow, isn’t this marvelous what I’ve done!’ I look at that picture and remember how this turtle – me – got up on that post.Alex Haley, author of Roots

The quote speaks for itself.
I read this from John Maxwell's Developing the Leaders Around You. Felt like it was too good not to share.

"Two shipwrecked men sat together at one end of a lifeboat, doing nothing. As they watched intently, the people at the other end of the boat were bailing furiously. One man then said to the other, 'Thank God that hole isn't in our end of the boat!"

For teams to be successful, you have to be willing to look out for one another, share workloads as needed and jump into tasks even if they are not your primary place of responsibility.

Teams are successful because the win for the team is the team winning. Team wins are better than individual wins.
I'm a terrible blogger. Prior to my current run, it had been half a year since my previous post. Before that run, it had been half a year since the previous post. When it comes to blogging, I find that I get a couple really good ideas all in succession (close to a week's worth). Instead of waiting to blog each and every day, I take about 30 minutes on that day (or a future day after I have written them down) and rack them all out. I have them post to future days (in case you haven't notice all my blogs post at 9:00am. No, I'm not that good or consistent. Thanks future post). It frees me up so that as more blogs come in, I can keep a steady pool of future posts and not to have the perceived pressure of needing to post something new and creative each day.

For you aspiring bloggers out there, hopefully this helps you out a little bit.
One of the greatest choices I've made in Student Ministry is to commit to a local campus. For years, I thought I needed to try to be on every campus. As great as it was to see all my students every couple of months, it created a lot of drive time, infrequent relationship with the school and I always got the "who are you" look. So instead of trying to be all things to all campuses, I picked one.

It wasn't easy.

In fact it was really hard. The closest campus to our church is a high school. I called. I emailed. I stopped by. All of which, led to no avail. None of that was my fault. There were situations that happened in our region that caused local high schools to be "extremely cautious" with youth workers coming onto their campus. I understood. In fact, I felt the same. I reaffirmed. Stayed consistent and knew that if I didn't give up, it would pay off.

Finally, they let me come on campus and serve in the cafeteria. Cleaning tables. Sweeping floors. Mopping spills. As it came up, I did it. Gladly. In my very brief time of almost two years there, here is what I've found.
  1. Serve the Administration. My first and primary responsibility is not to the students. It's to the administration. By serving them, I serve students. By serving them, students notice. By serving, I reach students. I've been thought to be a staff member. Custodial worker. Random person. But many opportunities have been given because I'm a consistent face and curiosity gets the best of us all. In fact, a student came and asked me the other day: "My friends and I have noticed you here since our Junior Year. What do you do here?" Win.

  2. Let Your Student Off the Hook. At the local high school I attend, we have a good group of students who attend our Student Ministry. Many of whom are involved on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. Just like you and I, sometimes they need a break. They've been in class all day. Being taught all day. Not having a free moment just to breathe, relax and talk. Let them off the hook. Let your students know, "I'll be available. If you want me to come over to your table, I will. If you want to come say what's up, do it. If you just want to take a break from me, I get it. I want a break from me." I've never met a student who didn't say hello. I've seen plenty of times where students wished someone would not (recruiters particularly, which as a Student Pastor you can give off that vibe) have come to their table. Be visible. Be present. Be consistent. Be willing to not have to go to every table. Your students won't judge you for it. In fact, you'll probably find they appreciate you more.

  3. Keep the Target Demographic in Perspective. One of the greatest gains for me by being in a local school multiple times during the week is that when I speak to my students, I'm not ignorant. I know what's happening on campus. I hear about it. I see it. I'm not the guy who graduated 10 years ago and doesn't know anything anymore. I'm fully aware. I have a heart for this generation of students who don't know Christ and I know how to speak to my students who are constantly interacting with them. I'm a better Student Pastor because of it.

  4. Be Visible on Campus. Finally, the more times you are seen on campus, you become more than just some random volunteer. You are apart of the campus. You become a face that is visible often. As a Student Pastor, don't you want to be synonymous with a school? How awesome would that be?! This week, I've been referred more by being in attendance at this local high school than as a Student Pastor at my church. And for a highly religious town, that means a lot to me.
The temptation is to try to reach every school in your town. Your town doesn't need you to try to reach every school. In fact, Jesus doesn't need you to try to reach everyone. It's not practical and you don't have the ability to do so.

Can I share some stats with you?

The local high school I serve has 1200 students who attend. It feeds from three junior highs, totaling an additional 900-1200 students. There are 22,000 junior high and high school students within the area of students who are apart of our ministry. If I focus on those school and reach them, that's over 2000 students or about 10% of our area.

That's a BIG Student Ministry.

In fact, it would be one of the largest in the nation.

By being 100% involved with 10% of our demographic, my chances of reaching the 90% just went through the roof because students from other schools don't stop attending when you dedicate to one. I've found they like the fact that you are committed to a school somewhere and understand you pick the one closest.

Student Pastor. Pick a Campus. Go to work.
As I was writing the previous post, I learned some ways to improve leading my team of volunteers and I figured I would share them.
  1. Communicate. I've never heard of too little communicate. In fact, many volunteers feel like they are being communicated with enough. Now this can get overboard (as I learned this week), but only if you are communicated the same information multiple times. If there is nothing new to say, don't say it. But if something needs to be said, say it. No one fights knowing more.
  2. Provide New Opportunities. One of the great joys for me has been when one of the staff at the local high school ask if I would like to help them with something.Whenever I hear "We were thinking of doing [blank], and wondered if you would be interested or available to help?" There are times where you need to say no so you stay alive. More often than not though, you want more! Don't think your volunteers will automatically say no. Throw out new opportunities and see who wants to jump in.
  3. Appreciate with Words. I'm a sucker for words of appreciation. Maybe it's just my personality type, but the days where I heard from the lead staff that they appreciate me or are thankful, it's the days where I need to be charged up again. A thank you with a high five or handshake makes all the difference
  4. Appreciate with Cards. Handwritten Cards. In a technology laden world, we thrive on email, text and Social Networks. These have value and meaning. But I have yet to find something that means as much as a handwritten card. Why? It takes more time. It takes more thought. It takes more effort. For all of these reasons, it means more. And despite the fact that our Inbox can be filled with nice emails, to find something in your mailbox means more. Especially when it's not an advertising book, credit card offer or bill.
Lead volunteers? Appreciate your team.
As I said in a previous posts, one thing I want to keep doing is to be sure that I am volunteering. Many added benefits, but you can read that previous post. Today, I want to talk about some things I've learned as I've volunteered.
  1. Be Consistent. I volunteer twice a week at a local high school (more coming on that later). The days I help are Monday and Wednesday during their lunch periods, 11:15-1:15. One of the hardest things for me to hear is when someone asks me, "Are you still helping out on Monday?" Haven't seen you here in a while. What that lets me know, is that even if I have only missed a couple of Mondays, in their mind, I don't help on Mondays anymore. Consistency is key.

  2. Communicate. One of the things I want to be sure of is that the local high school I serve is constantly hearing from me. Days when I'll miss, observations I made or places where I feel like I would be able to help them in. I want to be sure that as a volunteer and one who is here to serve, they know they can put me to use. I want more! So, each day I miss, they'll hear from me before (hopefully). Opportunities to serve, I thank them for. As dialogue with them increases, their dialogue with me increases. Win, win.

  3. Make a Difference. Finally, make your volunteering count. No one volunteers and no one wants volunteers to just fill space. That's called a place holder. It's bad for the volunteer and bad for the organization. Volunteer so that it makes a difference. One of the great compliments to me was when I heard some at the high school say "Monday and Wednesdays are our best days. Justin is here." If ever I don't feel like volunteering that week, I think of the times I've heard that. Instant recharge.
I'm sure there are many, many more. One things I've learned about lists, shorts ones are the best.
When I first accepted Christ, one of the first things I did was volunteer. Fortunately, my parents had instilled it into me prior to that moment, but my natural instinct was to give back as I had been given to.

As I came to Springfield, MO to attend Central Bible College, again my first instinct was to serve. I found a local church to serve within while I was in school so I could match what I was learning in class with how that works in "the real world" (along with the fact that I had so little time in church that if I was going to be help lead one in a couple of years, I needed to have a little bit more experience). As this progressed, I found myself volunteering anywhere and everywhere I could.

Student Ministry.

If it needed someone, I would make it happen. Then something crazy happened.

That local church hired me.

Probably one of the coolest things that could happen for a 22 year-old recently graduated Bible College student. Now, all of those things I was doing as a volunteer would have a paycheck attached to it. What a deal!

Yet, the more distance I got from those initial days of volunteering, the more I found a need to return to it. There was something missing as I had begun to give and give, but now that giving had been match with getting.

One of the temptation for ministry leaders is that as you begin to receive a paycheck for doing something you were at one time you were willing to do for free, that you no longer do those things anymore.

I get it. We're all busy. We have lots of events to attend, meetings to go to and a full schedule. Here's what I found out though. So do the volunteers that staff your ministry. Last I checked, they're all busy. They have lots of events to attend to. Lots of meetings to go to. A full schedule. In fact, they are probably busier than us, seeing as they are all that AND a volunteer.

As I've returned to finding time to volunteer, I've also found that it has helped me understanding volunteers again with a new perspective. A lot changes when you are in the throws of it while trying to recruit, implement and deploy.

In the coming days, I'll share more of what I've learned.
Over the past couple of days, I've had what I call a "Creative Surge." Ideas. Plans. Strategies. Coming. Coming. Coming. Here's what I know about creative moments, they come and go in waves. Even "creative types" have days where it just isn't there. It took me a while to figure out that when creative moments come, you have to take advantage of it.

Here are some tips for harnessing creativity.
  1. Write It Down.
  2. Speak It Out.
  3. See What Sticks.
First thing to do when you have a creative idea, plan or strategy is to write it down. It probably isn't coming at a planned moment. It probably isn't a time when you were needing it to arrive. It just showed up. Find a way for you to always be ready to take a note and when it hits, write it down.

Next, find a way to Speak It Out. Find someone you can tell the idea to. Maybe it's a staff or team member, friend or your spouse. When you get that "really good idea," find other people and see if they agree. Speak It Out. Cast a vision.

Finally, See What Sticks. One of two things will happen when you Speak It Out, it will either stick and be ready to try or it will flop and you'll get your answer. You'll either need to rework you idea or move into implementation. Either way, you've had a chance with a small group of people to cast a vision before you present it to much larger groups. See What Sticks.

By Writing It Down, Speaking It Out and Seeing What Sticks, you'll never forget a creative moment, have a chance to continually cast vision and be ready to put new practices, strategies and ideas into practice. Harness Creativity. Let it rip.
I heard it said recently that every time you do ministry, you lose apart of yourself. You can't give, without something being taken from you.

Mark 5 is a great example.

Sandwiched into an account of Jairus' daughter who Jesus is eventually going to heal (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43), comes the account of woman who is diseased, walks up to Jesus, touches his cloak and is healed. Take a look:

Mark 5:24b–34 (ESV)
24 And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

If you notice, Jesus and the woman are the only ones who know something happened. Everyone thinks Jesus is crazy because He's wondering who touched Him in a crowd who is "thronging around Him." Something happened in Jesus. Something left. Something was gone.

Ministry takes from you.

And many times you have to search for a return to break even, let alone to have steam to move forward. Which is why we have to make sure that as those who do ministry, we are constantly having a steady intake in order to be able to give out well.

Simple mathematics let's us know. You can only give so much before you have nothing more to give. Give adding, keep giving. Stop adding, soon you'll no longer be able to give.

Some of us have plenty to give. We can give and give and give and never add unto ourselves. Don't let the deception that you still have something to give, keep you have having more to stock up. Stock up. Drink deep.

Jesus had an encounter with another woman that helps to shed more light.

John 4:10-14 (ESV)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” ... 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Drink deep. In the words of my friend, Jared Anderson, in the words of his friend, the most interesting man in the world, "Stay thirsty my friends." For in staying thirsty, we never thirst again.
I read a quote by Lou Holtz that was absolutely worth sharing.

"The kamikaze pilot that was able to fly 50 missions was involved - but never committed." Lou Holtz

In Church Ministry (or any place where volunteers are your primary coworkers) the temptation is that involvement is the win. Involvement will solve all the problems.Yet we've all met plenty of people who are involved but it isn't going anywhere. The deal isn't being sealed. Like a kamikaze pilot who returns home, having "successfully" flow the mission.

Commitment is winning.

Ken Blanchard put it like this:

"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when it is convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses." Ken Blanchard

Involvement will fill gaps. Commitment will take milestones.

Involvement will look good from the outside looking in. Commitment makes people take notice.

Involvement scratches an itch to do something. Commitment creates an internal need that has to be filled to achieve the task at hand.

Don't just be involved. Be committed. Don't just staff involvement. Staff commitment.
Moishe Rosen has a really easy way for you to identify your dream:

If I had ___________________. I would ___________________.

You can get cheap on it. "If I had a Maserati. I would be awesome." Your answer may not be like mine, but no doubt your first instinct is to go to a very temporal answer. Something that for the moment may satiate an immediate need, but isn't going deep enough. Only scratching the surface.

Get all of the surface answers out of the way.

Go deeper.

Search harder.

Get out the spelunking hat with the flashlight for your heart.

As you arrive to the destination, if you had ______________, what would you do? You probably have insight into a dream that you may not even be in pursuit of. Could be a good time to start praying about it.

In Hope Roots, we use a very similar tool developed by Marc Estes which is available here. He asks the following:
  1. Suppose you were given a large sum of money with one condition: you had to give the sum of it to a cause of your choice. What would you give this money to?
  2. Suppose you were able to dedicate your life towards one cause for an entire year. What cause would you spend that year on?
  3. Is there a dream or vision that you feel God has laid on your heart to accomplish at some point in your life?
So, what's your dream?

Go get it.
A few days ago, I received a message from a friend of mine that had the very best of intentions. We live in the same town and though we haven't had a chance to meet each other yet, we've heard of each other from others in who we are already in close relationship with. He made a statement (of which I won't repeat) that from the moment he said it, God checked me. Hard. Exact words:

Be careful.

Be careful.

Be careful that the opinion of men doesn't become more valuable than my opinion.

Be careful that what you hear from people doesn't dictate to you whether you are doing a good job or not.

Be careful.

The very moment I saw the first word, God checked me. Let me know it wasn't about who knew me or didn't, who liked me or didn't or how well thought of I was by other ministry leaders in my area. Checked me because it gets dangerous.

Celebrity is a dangerous thing in America (and the world). It has a way of changing people. Rightly so. Before when you couldn't get your friends to take a picture of you, people are now paying millions of dollars to have a picture of you. That changes things.

Christian celebrity is even more dangerous.

Outside of the church, take all the credit you want to for why you go to where you are. Since you're the sole proprietor for you life, you can have exclusivity. However, when God inspires, directs, empowers and fulfills, we have to be careful that we don't become sole proprietors of the work of God.

The work of God is never to glorify you or I. It's to glorify God. Exclusively. Used in the process, absolutely. Glorifying Justin doesn't help glorify Jesus though. In fact, it's highly distracting to Him.

The more people talk Jesus, and the less they talk Justin, the better. For Him. And for me.
I'm not one to use social media as a way to express political beliefs. I say, it has just as much a place there, as it does with new friends at dinner. After reading this illustration, I thought it was a fantastic contextualization of a lot of recent political conversations. This is not an endorsement, donkey or elephant. It's simply an illustration.

Once upon a time, there was a little red hen who scratched about the barnyard until she uncovered some grains of wheat. She called her neighbors and said, "If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant it?"
"Not I," said the cow.
"Not I," said the duck.

"Not I," said the pig.
"Not I," said the goose.
"Then I will," said the little red hen, and she did.
The wheat grew tall and ripened into golden grain. "Who will help me reap my wheat?" asked the little red hen.
"Not I," said the duck.

"Out of my classification," said the pig.
"I'd lose my seniority," said the cow.
"I'd lose my unemployment compensation," said the goose.
"Then I will," said the little red hen, and she did.
At last it came time to bake the bread. "Who will help me bake the bread?" asked the little red hen.

"That would be overtime for me," said the cow.
"I'd lose my welfare benefits," said the duck.
"I'm a dropout and never learned how," said the pig.
"If I'm to be the only helper, that's discrimination," said the goose.
"Then I will," said the little red hen. She baked five loaves and held them up for her neighbors to see. They wanted some and, in fact, demanded a share. But the little red hen said, "No, I can eat the five loaves."
"Excess profits!" cried the cow.
"Capitalist leech!" screamed the duck.

"I demand equal rights!" yelled the goose.

And the pig just grunted.
And they painted "unfair" picket signs and marched around and around the little red hen, shouting obscenities.
When the government agent came, he said to the little red hen, "You must not be greedy."

"But I earned the bread," said the little red hen.

"Exactly," said the agent. "That is the wonderful free enterprise system. Anyone in the barnyard can earn as much as he wants. But under our modern government regulations, the productive workers must divide their product with the idle."
And they lived happily ever after, including the little red hen, who smiled and clucked, "I am grateful. I am grateful."
But her neighbors wondered why she never again baked any more bread.
Who am I? What kind of man am I? What evil have I not done? Or if there is evil that I have not done, what evil is there that I have not spoken? If there is any that I have not spoken, what evil is there that I have not willed to do? But you, O Lord, are good. You are merciful. You saw how deep I was sunk in death, and it was your power that drained dry the well of corruption in the depths of my heart. And all that you asked of me was to deny my own will and accept yours. But, during all those years, where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to your easy yoke and take your light burden on my shoulders, Christ Jesus, my Helper and my Redeemer? How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose and was now glad to reject! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honour though not in the eyes of men who see all honour in themselves. O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.Augustine
Here is a look at what has quickly become one of my favorite worship songs. One word. Dang.

Last night I posted:

"Jesus is encouraging."

A lot of people have responded to it, liked it, etc. I wanted to clarify what I meant by that statement.

In recent months, I've been asking God about something. I knew He called me to something. I knew He asked it of me. I knew He wanted me to commit. I knew what He wanted to do through the decision. I was in a place where I had been doing it for quite some time (over a year) and hadn't "seen" what I thought I was getting into. I began to wonder if I was really doing what He wanted me to do. Asking all the questions:

Did I hear right?
Am I doing all I can?
Should I be doing something else?
Am I committing time to the wrong thing?

Then it clicked.

In the last couple of weeks, Jesus has shown multiple places where in fact I am where He called me to be, doing what He called me to and where He wanted me to be. In a moment, discouragement turned to encouragement. Wonder turned into confirmation. Doubt became conviction. Isn't that just like Jesus?

Jesus is encouraging.
When a company develops a way by which they maximize a certain product and demographic, this niche is known as a corner of the market. We've seen many corner of the markets come and go.

Sony had the Walkman.
Ford had the Automobile.
Gutenberg the Printing Press.

As the years have passed, others have found ways to move into their corner of the market or to find a way to shift people to a different niche (take Apple and the iPod for example). At its inception, each of these inventions allowed the inventor / company to do something no others were doing. For that they had great profits and great sustainability with their customers. In fact, it allowed many of these companies to excel far beyond their competitors because most were trying to duplicate their invention, not come up with their own corner of the market.

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins made the statement that all great companies have done so not by trying to be good at everything. Instead, they found what they could be great at and made it their mission to be great at it. Many good companies took on projects that they could be good at, but this ultimately kept them from what they could be great at.

I believe love is what Christianity can be great at.

I believe love is Christianity's corner of the market.

Think about it. No other organization or people group has the potential to love like the Church does. No other organization or people group has the potential to love to the extent like the Church does. I would go so far as to say that all other organizations and people groups know this. Hence, why so many grow weary and frustrated with the Church. The one place that is supposed to excel and lead, finds itself gathering ideas from everyone else.

It would be like going to Ford and them saying that they developed some great, entertaining and new products that are going to "blow your mind." However, their development team is working on new vehicles and implementation and we hope that we'll begin to see some progress soon. It would drive you insane. And yet, the Church finds itself in a lot of the same shoes.

The Bible makes love so simple that a child can understand it: "Love God and love your neighbor as yourself." Yet the timeless principles of Scripture show that this concept continues to be revolutionary and a corner of the market. A niche.

No one can love like the Church. No one can steal the niche (unless we give it away). The market will never slip.

The best is yet to come.
Jim Rome states on his show to preface those who would call in:

"Have a take. Don't suck. Contribute to the show or get ran."

How much does he believe in it? His email address is Recently, I was listening to the show and thought about this in reference to my speaking. I then decided, one rule of thumb is: "Have a take. Don't suck. Contribute or get ran." I don't know about you, but this one has helped a lot in recent weeks.

What are your rules (whatever field you are in)?
  1. Reinvest your profits. "Even a small sum can turn into great wealth," Schroeder writes, if you're disciplined to not touch your profits. Let the power of compound interest work for you.
  2. Be willing to be different. Don't follow the herd. Do what is best for you and your situation.
  3. Never suck your thumb. Ah, how I could learn from this one. Buffett makes decisions quickly based on the available information. I tend to sit and stew about things. Acting decisively can give you an advantage and prevent procrastination.
  4. Spell out the deal before you start. I stress this all the time: Don't sign a contract unless you've read it (especially not a mortgage). Read the fine print. Understand the what you're getting yourself into.
  5. Watch small expenses. While it's true that the big things matter, the little things do too. Frugality is an important part of personal finance. But this principle also applies when investing, which is one reason I'm a fan of low-cost index funds.
  6. Limit what you borrow. "Living on credit cards and loans won't make you rich," writes Schroeder. Sure, leverage can get you into a home or a new car, but too much debt is one of the biggest drags on your financial well-being.
  7. Be persistent. If you know what you're doing is important and right, stick to it. Doggedly pursue your goals. Learn to "fail forward".
  8. Know when to quit. The other day, I wrote about the danger of the sunk-cost fallacy. Just because you've already paid $10 to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, doesn't mean you should sit through to the end. Be willing to cut your losses and walk away.
  9. Assess the risks. "Asking yourself 'and then what?' can help you see all of the possible consequences when you're struggling to make a decision — and can guide you to the smartest choice."
  10. Know what success really means. Success is different for each of us. Find what it is that brings meaning to your life, what makes each day important. Make this your focus. Buffett says: "When you get to my age, you'll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. That's the ultimate test of how you've lived your life."
Taken from J.D. and his article on the Get Rich Slowly blog on September 10th, 2008. Also seen on Jimmy John walls.
One of the commands of the people of God throughout the Bible is love. In fact, when Jesus was asked to boil down all the teachings of the Law and Prophets:

Matthew 22:35–40 (ESV)
35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

And as your read the Bible, you find how much these two commands come up again and again. What I find so interesting about this is how most Christian people seem to skip over love. Love is held as an ideal. Love is held as a virtue. Yet, love is not one of the first words that comes to mind when the word "Christian" is heard by the world. In fact, love is not one of the first words that comes to mind when Christians hear the word "Christian."

I was in a local supermarket a couple of weeks back, of which there was a Christian Homeschool National Basketball Championship going on. There were Christian people everywhere. I can tell you of a group in particular that I thought wasn't just lacking in love, they weren't even kind. In fact, that experience took me back to my days at Ruby Tuesday's where many people viewed worked Sunday as a demotion. I myself, follower of Jesus, would not work Sundays because I couldn't stand the way Christian people treated others around them. Define Christian however you want to, but I'm talking about those who make it obvious that they are continually around the activity of Jesus and yet lack one of the main characteristics. Love.

Therefore, I've found myself saying again and again, forget love, we need to start with kindness. Love is a command of God. "Love God. Love Others." It seems that since we can't get the command, we mine as well start somewhere (call it progressive sanctification).

If you're lacking in love, start with kindness. But you should really go after love. It's a lot more fun on this side.