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-Sharing Christ with 6 different teams (35 man rosters) in 5 different cities.

-Watching my son read scripture and share about how spending time in God’s Word changes our lives.

-Getting to take grounders, give away equipment, and pray in two languages.

-Leading our 16 yr old left-fielder to Christ…who said “I have never had a conversation with anyone about becoming a Christ-follower.”

-Hearing your son and other players say the biggest highlight of the week was spending time at an orphanage playing, singing and sharing with the kids.

-Using our passion (love for baseball) for God in another country.

We know that two of the biggest transformers of a life for Christ are in spending time with God daily in His Word and going on a multi-day mission trip. Both of these allow you the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with our Creator. Both are centered on dependence on God and His Word as he communicates with us. These two things deepen our knowledge of Him and our faith in Him.

This would describe our fall break for 2014 and many of you helped send us. My son & I were invited to go on this SCORE International baseball mission trip to the Dominican Republic by a fellow lover of baseball and Christ. We prepared, prayed, packed and thought about the impact we would have on the players and coaches. Our Coach’s comment on the last day sums up what really happened:

“What we did for them is so temporary, but what it did to my (our) heart is permanent.” Coach Mike Bartlett @mbartlett24

What is your passion? What are you doing to lead your family to share Christ? When can you take your first or next mission trip?

PS: you may need to have your Passport in hand so when God offers you are ready: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html

 

 

You have probably been on or at least entertained the thought of taking a mission trip.  At Lifepoint we call them ‘experiences’ instead of trips.  That is because a trip implies a start and end date.  Experiences implies a potential life-changing event that can have a lasting impact in what you do when you return.

So why do we spend our vacations, our money, take shots, pills and a week packing for a journey to another city, state or country?  What was the goal of the mission experience in which you participated?  In the years of participating and now leading mission experiences God has shown me several benefits and experienced several stories that have developed my thoughts on mission experiences.

1. For Them:  we go to a country to help with medical issues, construction, education, training, evangelism, etc.  Our focus and conversation is on the people who live where we are going.  This can go to extreme in some cases (which I am not promoting!) where we even print shirts say “saving _______” fill in with country or area you are serving.  We have to be careful in what we communicate. But the goal of helping others is a valid reason to considering going on a mission experience.

2.  For Us: After several mission experiences with various people I began to realize the impact these trips have on the individuals that go.  We will never be the same.  Our worldview just “expanded past the PlayStation and iPhone” as the 13 yr old shared in her story upon the return from Haiti.  God uses this time to expand our faith, grow our relationship with him and draw us closer to the Christ-Centered life to which He is calling all of us.  In the Christ Centered Journey research we discovered a vast gap between Growing and Maturing stages.  The top two answers on how people overcame this gap were: 1. a crisis, which we can’t create in a life. 2. a mission trip, which we can easily calendar and organize.  LifePoint’s purpose statement is to Point People to a Christ-Centered Life.  Mission experiences are one of the major element in that process.

3. The Ministry: We know nothing unites a group like a common enemy or a common project.  So what better way to unite your group and/or ministry division than a mission trip?  The rally cry of a group taking on the work to organize and participate in a mission experience is like no other.  The faith element of being on a trip where you have to trust God for your meals, safety, team unity, etc will grow this team tremendously.  They will never be the same.  This has the potential to change an entire ministry, your church, your group, your community. Nothing unites or builds community like a common project or common enemy or common MISSION EXPERIENCE!

So, now you know why am I so passionate about taking and/or leading mission experiences and expecting EVERY LifePoint small group leader to participate in one before January 2016?  What trip will you plan, take, lead in the next 18 months?

Here are some choices for you.

Here is your Passport application.

This is a three-part series that shares ideas on how to accomplish the foundations of small group ministry.  Not to be too simple, but help ground us in the basic starting blocks for a ministry that helps move people on the journey of being a Christ follower.

1. Connect: LifePoint Adults, Connection Events, Campaigns.  You can find out more about Connect here.

2. Grow: Spiritual Health Survey, Christ Centered Journey, Gender-based Huddles

3. Live Sent: Test Drives, Service opportunities, Mission experiences  (For more on the LifePoint Living Sent journey read The Sending Church, Pat Hood)

Live Sent: How are you using the influence, the talent, the time, the things God has given you…to help others realize His presence and grow in a relationship with Him?  It may start with serving at your local church, finding a need in your neighborhood and meeting it or traveling to another city, state or country on a special mission experience.  But how to you start living sent?

  • Test Drives: This is your opportunity to spend 15 minutes in an overview tour of an on-campus ministry that you are interested in serving.  If you like to work with sound, lights or production, take a Test Drive of Worship Arts ministry.  If after the 15 minute overview you like what you see, your heart beats a little faster for the excitement of serving in that area, we invite you to stay for a worship experience to see options for where you might serve.  We do test drives in all our ministries to help people discover a place to live sent on campus.  You can sign up for a test drive at LifePoint here.

 

  • Service Opportunities: Work with your staff and local agencies for opportunities to serve others locally.  Volunteer as a group or individual to minister to others.  A guiding statement around LifePoint is “The more we grow, the more we serve. The more we serve, the more we grow.” Kyle Goen.  Watch for needs in your neighborhood or city for which you could rally a group of people to help serve.  Check out this list for ideas for your group, your church or your family.

 

  • Mission Experience: We have discovered a major spiritual transformation experience is going on a mission trip. After reviewing the Christ Centered Journey with several of our leaders, it became more clear that some were living a transformed life in the Maturing and Christ Centered stages.  We asked several of these leaders what was the biggest catalyst that moved them forward on the journey.  Immediately they referred to a mission trip where God had clearly shown them, challenged them, gave them a vision of what life in Christ could look like.  It was not the trip location or project necessarily, but the chance to be set apart for a week dedicating all your energy and time to serving Him.  The relationship has a chance to grow deeper and more personal.  The communication and faith increase at a rapid level when on a mission experience.  Here are  some of LifePoint’s opportunities for you to live sent.

What can you do to help people around you live sent?

 

 

How can I be intentional about building deeper relationships with friends this summer?  The flowers are all in bloom, the allergy season has passed, the temperature rises and grilling out seems to be the natural thing to do.  This summer why not be intentional about building relationships with friends and neighbors.  I’m not talking about trying to build more relationships with new people.  Focus on the social circles your already run in…teams, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.  Take one night a week or a couple of nights a month this summer and invite some friends over and use that deck, patio, pool, swing that you worked so hard to get.

Here’s three thoughts on being intentional:

1. Invites: who should you invite?  I would start with a group of people who are my friends but may not know each other.  Invite four or five couples and ask each one to bring their favorite dessert and drink.  You can provide the main course to grill along chips or veggies.

2. Gas, plastic ware & decorations:  Don’t forget to check the grill gas  and have plenty of plastic ware on hand.  Maybe decorate the backyard with colorful balloons, tiki torches, fresh-cut flowers or your favorite decor from Better Homes and Garden.

Ok, so all that sounds simple, I know.  But this next step is what makes the evening intentional.

3. Ice breaker Questions: plan to have a couple of questions you would like for people to answer.  My favorites are the ones that share something about the person’s childhood, home life, dreams and/or passions. Remember to sprinkle in spiritual language in your conversation.

Sample ice breaker questions: (not for cookouts only 🙂 )
-When you were a child, what was your favorite room in your house? Why?
-What would be your dream vacation and why?
-Who was your best friend growing up?  What was unique about them?
-If you were rich, what do you think you would do with all your time?

 

 

 

Each Summer Lifepoint Church encourages families to intentionally invest in their neighborhoods.  Sometimes this is walking the streets, lending a hand, borrowing tools, or cooking out together.  At least once a summer we help them throw Block Parties for fun and relationship building.  Here are three steps we encourage people to take to have a great experience.

1. Develop a team, don’t do this alone!  Several reasons this is #1: it sounds overwhelming to take on such a party by yourself so we eliminate that right up front.  Talk with a couple of other families (from your church or not) and develop a team to manage the party.   Why? Because
-You will need families in charge of various items below.
-You will encourager more people to attend by including more people in the planning.  -You will still have energy to get out of bed the day after the party.

2. inflatables, donuts eating contest, music, etc:  this is where the creative minds on the team really get excited.  For larger neighborhoods, find out if there is a Home Owners Association (HOA) if so, is there a socials budget?  For smaller gatherings, have team decide on activities, food, timing and entertainment.  Then assign each family some of these responsibilities.  We have 1 or 2 inflatables to keep kids and younger minded dads busy.  Someone is brings chips and grills hotdogs.  The party couple seems to always end up running the games and contests.

3. Email list: I don’t like to have a bunch of people together and not get their name or a way to communicate with them again.  So have a sign up sheet so they can get info about other neighborhood events, needs, emergencies, information, etc.  Keep the communication going because it is a part of building relationships.

Good luck!   And please share your Block Party story with me via comments on this blog.

Helpful resource for being Intentional in your neighborhood: Making Room for Neighbors by Max Lucado & Randy Frazee       making room for life  

Think about the many social circles you run in: family, work, sports, hobbies and community.

Are you intentional about listening?

Are you intentional about sprinkling your conversations with spiritual language?

Are you intentional about discovering where people are in their relationship with Christ?

This summer I plan to be intentional about all three of these questions. Over the last few years I have slowed down in what I try to accomplish in a meeting, a day, a community project, and at home. Not because I am getting older. Nor is it because I want to be lazy. It is so I can be intentional, so I can listen and share more about life and eternity.

This was a hard lesson learned while on a mission trip to southern Mexico. We were there to install wood cook-stoves in Mayan Village huts. We were told there were 50 stoves in the warehouse, so I took that as our goal for the week (silly American). After watching the missionary install two stoves, my teammate and I took off on our own to install as many as we could on the first day. Halfway through the fourth installation the missionary walked in and said “Eddie, if you would slow down a little I might have time to tell the hut owners about Jesus.” I stopped dead in my tracks. I had missed the intentionality of which we were there for…not stoves, but THE story!

Can you identify a couple or two that you would enjoy cooking out with? What about a co-worker or someone on your kid’s sports team? It may be a neighbor whom God has placed on your heart who you already spend time with, but lack intentionality. How could you use three months of your life to be intentional for God in one of your circles?

I challenge you to consider being intentional about listening, deepening the relationship you already have with them and sprinkling your conversations with spiritual language. Take time to listen. Offer encouragement to them.

For helpful idea s on how to sprinkle your conversation with spiritual language see:
Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels.hybels

Over the last 18 months we have been praying, reading, researching how Small Groups can increase their impact as a catalyst for disciple making.  Our groups have been very successful as community builders, care givers, party goers and foundational Bible study discussions.  We have been blessed with hundreds of people getting connected and doing life together.  But our team has become more burdened with the disciple making command found in Matthew 28:19-20.

So our GroupLife team began to re-think, re-write and implement some practices in July 2013 that we are seeing making a difference in the life of some of our groups.

1.  We changed from a pure HOST model of small group leadership to a Shepherding model with an intentional disciple making element. (Shepherding map here http://lifepointchurch.org/journey). We still call from the stage for people who are interested in leading a small group in our next campaign.  However, instead of this being a Sunday or two before the campaign begins, we actually schedule this “mass call” five weeks prior.  Anyone interested in learning more about leading  a group is invited to Leadership Camp.

2. We now require a potential Small Group Leader to attend Leadership Camp, six hours of discipleship and development.  We were worried about the length of this course, but after 2 seasons it has proven very productive.  Half of Camp covers “How to grow as a disciple and shepherd others on their journey”.  The other half, what potential leaders are really looking for, focuses on “Small Group Leader helps”.

3. We intentionally write into all of our studies a gender-based meeting within every 6-week study.  For the studies our groups use which we did not write, we remind leaders to plan ahead for a gender-based session a minimum of once every six weeks.  Stories from Small Group Leaders and participants over the last nine months have proven this to be helpful in increasing discussion, transparency and disciple making.  Some groups have chosen to have these gender-based discussions more often, some even dividing the gender group meeting nights and couples – once a month.

So, where have I been?  Continuing to learn, test, change, grow…be stretched by God.

Stay tuned for weekly stories from Small Group Leaders, Leadership Development processes which focus more on the person than the task, Sending Small Groups that impact their communities.

 

Several years ago Randy Frazee and Rick Howerton launched my family and me into a lifestyle of making room for neighbors.  That lifestyle continues today and we continue to see the multiplications as neighbors repeat the practice.

It all began with a 42 inch picket fence.  Randy, in his book The Connecting Church, encourages the readers to not build privacy fences, build 42 inch picket fences so you can talk over them to your neighbors.  I even joke that 42 inch tall fence is perfect height to lean on as you talk. Fortunately when we moved into our neighborhood, both our neighbors had 42 inch sectional fences.

For the first couple of years I would make time for neighbors by talking to them over the backyard fence.  Many times I would lean on their fences and chat. This investment over time developed into a deep friendship. The couple joined our small group.  We ate meals together.  We helped each other with projects, doctor visits, service to other neighbors, and a lot of laughter about what God had done through our relationship that started by leaning on a backyard fence.

The time came when our neighbors had to move.  It was a very sad day for us.  But we trusted God in what he was doing in all of our lives.  They moved into an apartment in a much larger city, where they knew no one.

About a year after moving I received a call from them.  We caught up on old times and laughed about the projects and ‘trouble’ we used to get into. Then my friend mentioned our backyard conversations and how I leaned on his fence as we talked about projects, life, family and God.  He complained how he thought I had wore the paint off his rail fence by standing there so many times as we talked.  He then said “You know, I am doing that same thing with a guy who is far from Christ right here in our apartment building, except I am using a truck fender since we do not have a fence.”  We both laughed out loud.

God had used a fence and many conversations over time to draw an entire family to him.  Now he was multiplying that practice to the next recipient hours away from where it started.

Spring is near! Beautiful weather invites you to come lean on a fence.


I am a “get it done” kind of guy.  If you have ever been around me you know how hyper and focused on the goal I can be. This is how I work and play.  People will not invite me to fish or play basketball because of the danger to those around.  A friend uses the phrase “Go. Go. Go.- Do. Do. Do” to describe me.

Recently on a mission experience this caught up with me.  We were installing cook stoves in huts in the Mayan Village.  DSCN1053Our team of 6 was trained on the first install, then we took off.  Because of the language barrier we had to have Mayan to Spanish then Spanish to English translators. This really slowed down the install and increased the amount of people in the hut.  As we would install the cook stoves, more and more Mayans would gather around to watch, averaging about 25 people in the small space.

I realized we could split the team up and accomplish the (our) goal much quicker.  So I began to quickly help our team complete the first install and then hurried off with two other team members to the next install.  Leaving part of our team and the translators behind to finish talking and cleaning up.

As the team joined us at the second install, the missionary/translator pulled me to the side and basically said:  “Hey Eddie, if you would slow down we would have more time to tell them about Jesus.  This is the only chance I will have to spend quality time in their hut with such a large number of their family and friends.”  I looked at Doug (missionary/translator), but all I could hear was God yelling  “Be still and know that I am God.” (I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!)” Psalm 46:10

Do you often miss opportunities because you will not slow down?  Will not be quiet? Will not take time to notice the real reason you have a goal to accomplish?  I have to pause, take a deep breath, get comfortable with silence, remember it is about people-not a goal,..even when I lead my small group, train other leaders, coach baseball or drive on the interstate!

This week as you lead, coach, work, and drive, try putting into practice Psalm 46:10.  Slow down, be quiet, be still. Don’t miss opportunities.

Now is the time to prepare for an Easter Egg Hunt as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors and have a fun-safe event for the kids,.  The steps to hosting an Easter Egg Hunt for your neighborhood are simple.   Our neighborhood of 200 homes can host an Easter Egg Hunt for less than $100.

First, consider the streets around you.  What do you call “your neighborhood”?  For some it may be as simple as the houses that are inside your subdivision, clearly defined by only one or two entrances.  For others it may be a community identified by a common name or region.  Either way, identify the area you want to invite.

Second, invite some neighbors to be part of the core group that will help you host the hunt.  For us, this is our neighborhood Small Group.  To discover other church attenders who live near you, ask your church  office if they can send you a list of other church attenders who live near you.  You then can call and ask them to help.  Get together with these people and decide on who can bring coffee, get prizes, set up tables, and bring eggs for the egg toss. (in Middle TN it is usually too cold for donuts).

Third, design a flyer (or email if you have a directory of your neighborhood), copy, and have core team distribute to homes.  The flyer will need to have:
Event title        Hosted by/for
Time            Location
Date            Age Divisions (Birth-3 yrs; 4-6 yrs; 6-9yrs)
**Egg toss following hunt for ages 10 –up.
“We are asking each family to bring a dozen or two plastic eggs filled with individually wrapped candy.  We can stuff the eggs for you if you do not have time.  Please drop off all eggs by (Friday night date) at (addresses of two core team members).  You can help us hide eggs on Saturday morning.   There will be prize eggs for each division.
If you will be blocking off any streets, please include this on the flyer and the times the street will be blocked.  People will still complain, but at least you tried to explain ahead of time.

Always start 10 to 15 minutes after advertised time.  In 10 years of hosting Easter Egg Hunts I have learned that there are ALWAYS two or three families that are late.  And for Easter Egg Hunts you only have about four minutes before all the eggs are gone.  ☺

Fourth
, core team will meet on Friday night to stuff eggs.  Saturday morning, hide eggs, set up prize table (usually 5 prizes <animals, coloring books, crayons, chocolate bunny> per division; however the last few years so many people have helped in collecting prizes that we have a prize for every participant), rope off division areas, (we use wooden stakes and caution tape), and keep kids out of hiding areas until 10 minutes after start time.  Some of the core team will manage the hunt while others work the crowd.  Many parents will stand around, drink coffee and introduce themselves to their neighbors while the kids hunt eggs.  This is the time for some of your core team to be meeting others, listening for stories and discern next steps in the relationships with neighbors.

Fifth, encourage everyone to attend the next event, gather names of people who would like to help with next event and then clean up.
The entire event is about an hour and a half.  Our work begins at 10am to hide eggs and set up tables.  Easter Egg Hunt will be at 11:00am.  Then we clean up and take down tables and go home by 11:30am.
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**The egg toss consist of real eggs and teams of two players of any age old enough to catch and throw.  The two players line up across from each other approximately five feet. One has an egg that he/she tosses underhand to the other player.  The receiving player must catch the egg without it breaking.  Take two steps back and repeat toss in the opposite direction.  Be sure to not catch the egg over your head or in front of your face or a messing cleanup will be the result.  The team who can toss and catch the egg without breaking it is the winner.  Kids (and some parents) will continue to play this until all the eggs are broken.  We usually provide two dozen eggs for this game.

Happy hunting.

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I am on staff at LifePoint Church as the Executive Director of GroupLife. While I get to serve with a great team and help lead a great church, the opinions and views shared here are not necessarily the views of LifePoint Church or other staff. You have been warned...
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