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(This is a excerpt from an open letter sent to the parents of Stewarts Creek High School Baseball parents. The responses were so surprising I felt like I should share with a larger audience. Feel free to adapt to your parenting situation.)

Thankful for the Red Hawks baseball family. My son has played on a few different teams in his life, but the ones that had the most impact in preparing him to be a dependable friend and man of character are the teams that were/are more like family.

This is more than “my son making the baseball team”! This is the opportunity to develop future leaders of our community and country. The opportunity to learn how individuals become a team to fight together for a common goal. The opportunity to show our sons how much we love them and are proud of their efforts to go out for something…compete…and make the team. The opportunity to support them in their efforts.

This is an opportunity to influence, at a deep level, our boys one last time…before that dreaded (or longed for…in some cases) graduation day. That day when they will leave the nest and carry our names into the world.

Ask yourself: Have I made my son proud to carry my name? Does he feel I care about him and his desires? Does he know my cheering at the game, working the Concession Stand, driving him around to sell fundraising cards, and buying him a Gatorade…is because I am proud of him? As we kick off the 2016 season Monday night be sure he does.

 

 

This question comes to our office every month via texts, emails, phone calls or drop in visits.  If you know LifePoint you know that we love to try new things, spend time living in the Research and Development department, and correlate the findings into a plan that we will pilot or beta test. The following list is not all-inclusive or permanent, but some of these practices may help your ministry.

Our Small Group Leaders (SGL) have developed along with LifePoint to the point they are not fearful of or avoid training and development.  We started years ago with the HOST style of leadership where the SGL operated the DVD for the weekly study and kept conversation going around the material presented on that DVD.  We did a poor job training these HOSTs once we had them in place to lead a group and our groups were not producing the disciples we desired.

Leadership Camp (see info-mercial for Leadership Camp) .  We have designed this six-week training on Sunday mornings on most of our campuses throughout the year.  The six weeks include 3-weeks on what it means to be a disciple and 3 weeks on how to lead a small group. If you use the HOST model, please learn from our mistakes.  I would encourage you to design and calendar in a few training sessions before you launch new groups. (Planned by semester)

Huddles: Three times a year I am able to meet with every Small Group leader, whether they lead on or off campus.  This happens via Huddles in my office on Sunday mornings during one of our worship hours.  We invite 8 Leaders, by gender, to come together for an hour, three times a year. Each Huddle has basically 2 questions: how’s your family, how’s your small group. This has been the most productive leadership time for Huddles and Coaches/Directors. (Planned by semester)

SG Luncheons: Three times a year every Small Group Leader and their co-leader are invited to a luncheon right after church services.  Luncheons include stories, giveaways, training principle, vision casting, lunch and free childcare.  We hold these meetings to 1 hour!  (planned one year out)

One-on-one Lunches: I cannot think of one single thing that has helped in leadership development more than a personal lunch with one leader/couple.  This focused time to be transparent, answer questions, deal with issues, etc has really reaped great dividends for our ministry. (Planned weekly)

Weekly Reports: Your Data Base is very important in keeping up with what is going on in the group.  This goes way beyond attendance. We use Church Teams (@churchteams) which automatically sends an email to the Leader or Reporter the day after their scheduled meeting.  It may take a few months to help transition the leader from just attendance mode, but it is worth the effort.  Look for activities, study material, prayer request and then attendance.  Make a mental note and respond to every report with a personal message.  (If you have over 10 groups, you may consider adding a coaching structure to your ministry).

Retreat/Banquet: Leader development & celebration in which we offer skill development for our team as well celebrating the team.  This is usually a special location that our team would not normally go to or a special guest speaker about whom the team would be excited.  (Planned 4-6 months in advance)

What does your leadership development structure look like?
How far out do you plan these opportunities?
Who could help you plan, prepare and carry out one of these (Share the Load)?

As we launch into the fall, many ministries will have their training and kick-off events.  One of the things I have discovered is the heavy emphasis on doing things right and not necessarily doing the right things.  We train on proper procedures, communication, and process.  But we sometimes forget or assume the obvious concerning the bigger picture.

Barna Research has discovered there seems to be a disconnect for most Americans between serving the community and helping individuals find their way to God through Christ.  Ministry related goals–such as teaching the Bible, introducing people to Christ, and bringing people to salvation–are infrequently viewed as a primary ways to serve the community.  Even among many churchgoers, contributing positively to the community is perceived to be the result of offering the right mix of public service programs.

Let me challenge you to consider the right things as you plan on doing things right.  Each of our adult ministries (MOPS, Softball, Fishing, Men’s, Women’s, etc) train to do things right…set up, requests, posters, communication, teaching, etc…but all of them also know the value in knowing about the bigger purpose of LifePoint: Pointing People to a Christ Centered Life.  We include in the design and training of ministries and events on the right things, and for LifePoint that is he Christ Centered Journey.  http://lifepointchurch.org/smyrna-journey

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Stephen R. Covey

10  WAYS to LIVE SENT THIS SUMMER (SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF POST)

This summer LifePoint Church will be encouraging you to Live Sent by being active in your neighborhood.  Here is how my story of living sent began.

I had always looked up to a friend of mine who seemed to know everyone on his street.  He had the ability to connect with people very easily.  He suggested I read Randy Frazee’s book The Connecting Church and that’s when I began to Live Sent as he had been doing. My family and I started getting to know our neighbors. Over the years it has become second nature to not only know my neighbors, share ministry opportunities and do life together with my neighbors, but teach others how easy it is to be a loving neighbor.

Over a three-year period in my previous neighborhood, we saw a man and son baptized, another couple come to Christ, a man far from God cry over his excitement as he was baptized.  A marriage on the rocks was salvaged and became a shining light to others.  We even rallied for service projects for others in the community as well as shared items, recipes and swimming pools.

We hosted a block party, it was a cook-out at the Commons Area.  We just put a flyer on everyone’s door inviting them to the cookout and to bring hotdogs, drinks and ‘fixins’ for their family.  We provided grills and tables. Nearly 100 people attended, met new neighbors and shared life stories about the neighborhood.  We even rented an inflatable for the kids.  We are now planning a July 4th event and possibly a camp-out. (Luke 5:29)

We met new people and started a small group. As we planned this cookout we discovered neighbors who also attended LifePoint church.  We asked them to help with the party and then invited them to join our small group.  It is so much fun to be able to walk to small group.  To see others in your small group on an almost daily basis.  Now when we pray for our neighbors, we actually know their name and some of the issues for which to pray. (Acts 2:42-47)

For some, their neighborhood may be the ball fields, tennis courts, fishing zone, boat, etc; you define your own neighborhood. Begin by walking your neighborhood and praying for homes and families.  Watch for God at work as you begin to build relationships with neighbors.  Here Here are our top 10 ideas on ways to connect with your neighbors this summer. (Acts 1:8)

  • June 3 Movie on the Lawn & Walk neighborhood & pray for each home.
  • June 10 Host cookout for neighbors, Help neighbor with yard work
  • June 17 Dessert Party for neighbors
  • June 24 while on vacation “pay it forward” by paying for people behind you
  • July 1 4th of July Cookout
  • July 8 Give out Capri Suns at pool, host a Block Party
  • July 15 Organize summer potluck street parties.
  • July 22 Have watermelon, coffee or dessert with friends
  • July 29 Neighborhood Back-to-school campout, Pray for others in the stands at a sporting event
  • August 5 Deliver flowers in pots to friends as prayer notice

Why not help your neighborhood?  The eternal destiny of your neighborhoods can be affected by doing life together.  Now is the time to begin planning your next opportunity by getting a few neighbors together and hosting a cookout or neighborhood project.

For more resources on Living Sent in your neighborhood check out
101 Ways to Reach Your Community, Steve Sjogren
Field Guide to Neighborhood Outreach, Group Publishing

UPDATE:  One family took us seriously!  Sunday’s Live Sent event included a movie by the pool.

movieonlawn

You have probably heard some of this before.  You may have seen Steve Gladen talk about his street in a conference.  Maybe you read Randy Frazee’s book The Connecting Church. You may have bought the book 101 Ways to Reach Your Community by Steve Sjogren.  But still wonder how to impact your neighbors with Christ’s love.

Here are three easy steps to get started impacting your neighbors this spring.

1. Draw your streets: What would you consider your neighborhood?  Do you already have friends on your street?  If you have a dog or like to walk for exercise, the spring time is a great opportunity to walk the streets of your neighborhood.  As your walking notice every house, car, swing set, pool, etc.  Pray for the family who lives there and watch for opportunities to build a relationship with your neighbors.  When you return home, draw your streets and place a square marking each home.

2. Place name on each house:  Begin to place a name on each home and how you can pray for them.  You may have noticed a swing set, pray for their children; you noticed a business sign on a truck in their driveway, pray for their business.  It won’t be long before you begin to build relationships and get to know a few neighbors by name.  You may realize that you attend the same church.

3. Plan parties: Have a dessert party in your home for your new neighbor friends. At this party, plan neighborhood parties that this group can host.  Here are a few we have hosted: cookout, bonfire, can collection event for local food pantry, wiffle ball  tournament, flower sharing event…the list is endless on ideas for parties for your neighborhood.

The parties will be opportunities to build relationships with more neighbors.  Through these relationships you will be able to impact your neighborhood by discovering needs, services, common interests, etc.  These relationships will not end with the event but open the door for you to be able to share Christ with your neighbors.

Easter is coming soon.  it has been one of the best opportunities for our neighborhood to come together.  We host a 2 hour Easter Egg Hunt (actually hunt is about 10 minutes) in which eggs, prizes and leader are all from our neighborhood.  We divide the hunt by age divisions, even leaving time for the parents to participate in an egg toss.

This maybe your first step to impacting your neighborhood.

I met Zech 2 years ago in Haiti.  He was on staff at the Chadasha Guest House as the security guard.  He was very quiet and never really close to any of us.  Zech would stay in the front room or hang out near the gate of the property. When our LifePoint team would travel through out Port-au=Prince, he would ride along for our protection.  At that time Zech was not a Christ-follower nor did he know much English. I guess that is why he did not interact, but just tagged along with us.

Since that first trip Zech has continued to be security for the Guest House as well as on travels around the city.  He has walked with visitation teams, waited around with doctors and nurses at the clinic, played with the children at the Children’s home, and walked the Tent Cities with mission teams from the United States.  Zech did not say a much on our initial mission trips. His common pose for pictures, if you could catch a photo of him,  was to ‘never smile’

In spring of 2010 Zech gave his life to Christ.  He began to work on his English speaking and study God’s Word.  He gathered 4 other English speaking Haitians around him and continued to grow in Christ and English.  In 2011 he began to get involved with leaders of Chadasha in a discipleship Bible study each week.   He challenged the other Haitian guys to be dedicated to the study.

I cannot tell you the shock I had when I once again traveled to Haiti last week, Zech met me at the front door of the Guest House.  He smiled and said ‘Welcome’ in his unique Haitian-English accent.  That was not the only surprise I received during the week.  Each morning our team would visit people who lived closed to the church we were serving.  Zech was one of the team leaders and interpreters. On more than one occasion Zech would take the lead on witnessing and challenging people to give their life to Christ or ‘get back in church’. Our team watched as he lead one lady to Christ right on her front porch.

It has been 2 years since my first introduction to Zech. Yet it feels like a life-time of difference this young man in Christ has experienced.  He has thrown himself at the feet of Jesus, learning everything he can about Christ and his Word.  His weekly discipleship group has grown from not having Bibles to caring, quoting and living out Christ.

Last week our team witnessed a new step in Zech’s spiritual walk.  He met a lady while visiting with our team who was paralyzed.  Zech felt led to make a difference in more than just praying with her.  When he returned to the Guest House he called his discipleship group together and challenged them to make a difference in people’s lives.  He was going to give monthly to a fund and then share it with people who had special needs.  He challenged his group to match his monthly gift.  In a country where $3 a day is a good, solid salary, Zech is giving 14% of his income to others, over his tithe to the church.

Zech moved from tagging along to taking the lead!

Here Zech is presenting the money he and his discipleship group raised to help handicap adults in Haiti. (and holding true to his pose of ‘never smile’)


Zech’s reply when asked “What is wrong with this lady?”

“well, she’s my sister in Jesus Christ she’s paralyzed she don’t have anyone to taking care of her and her family but now God gonna taking care of her and her family.

Zech’s life is a challenge to me to live for Christ at another level.  Tagging along as a Christ follower is not sufficient.  It is time for me (and maybe you) to take the lead in serving and sharing Christ.

(You can friend Zech on Facebook at Henry Ezechiel)

You have been praying for your unconnected friends and neighbors.  You worry about the spiritual condition of those around you.  You have found the security that comes from being in a Small Group and you want others to experience this same thing. Here are six reasons that you can discuss with your friends and neighbors on why they should be in a small group:

  1. Understand the Bible better through group discussion as you apply the Bible to your own personal situations.
  2. Develop close relationships with other believers who will walk beside you in your journey as a Christ follower.
  3. Find answers to the needs in your life through group prayer.
  4. Get support in times of crisis or major changes from people who really care for you.
  5. Demonstrate to your lost friends the love of Christ in a non-church setting.
  6. Move from being a spectator to a participant by using your gifts and talents as you serve others.

What are you intentional about? -Being on time? – Eating healthy? -Exercise? -Landscape being perfect? -Having on the correct shoes? -Spending time with the kids?-Having the most recent release of the Iphone? -Improving your golf game? -Investing in your IRA?

Whatever it is, I bet you enjoy it, spend time weekly or at least monthly working on it.  There may be times when you take time off of work to focus on it.  You will read books, watch videos, talk to others who are doing it better than you.  What is it?

Let me suggest an area that each of us need to be intentional about: apprenticing.  You know your role in society, in God’s Kingdom, in your neighborhood, at your school.   A way to help more people as well as the next generation is to share what you have learned with others.

At LifePoint GroupLife we have spent the last 45 days trying to discover the key to doubling the size of our small group ministry.  We have been blessed to have many people to step up and host their friends, neighbors and co-workers in a small group.  Each of them has learned what it means to help each other become more like Christ next week than they are this week. They: 1. understand the Bible better through these group discussions. 2. Develop close relationships with other believers. 3. Find answers to the needs in their lives. 4. Get support in times of crisis. 5. Demonstrate to others the love of Christ. 6. Discover how to move from a spectator to a participant by using their gifts and passions to serve others.

The opportunity is ours.  Intentionality on our part could change a persons future.   Each of us has friends, neighbors and co-workers who do not have the chance to share their burdens, understand the Bible better or find answers to their needs in life.  So about what are you going to be intentional this week?

The 11U travel baseball team, Smyrna Bugs, began their sixth season this past weekend.  With the fields finally being dry enough to play, the Bugs entered Saturday excited and ready for spring.  Sadness was felt by the Bugs as we found out Justin would remain on the disabled-list through the weekend awaiting an MRI on Monday.

It was a learning day for the team.  Saturday’s opponents were as eager to get a win as were the Bugs.  They split the pool play going …5-1 and 4-5 against a couple of tough competitors from Kentucky. This landed the Bugs a 9:45am start time on Sunday, requiring two wins to make it to the big game.

Sunday was windy, cold and threatening rain.  The Bugs took the field with Patrick pitching.  Patrick went all 6 innings getting a 8-2 win over the Southern KY Sluggers.  Steven hit his first home run of the season in this game.

Then we faced the KY Bearcats who brought the heat on the mound with a kid who pitched in the upper 50s.  Gresham took the mound for the Bugs going 5 innings giving up only 1 run.  Dylan finished out the allowing only 2 runs.  A few key hits on top of a couple of walks and ANOTHER home run by Steven led the Bugs to a 6-3 victory and on the Championship game.

The Championship game would see the Bugs facing the Nashville Knights.  Aaron took the mound and pitched a great game.  His first five innings he threw twice as many strikes as balls and equally dominated the game. Hits were hard to come by for the Bugs as the Knights pitcher appeared to be throwing close to 60mph.  The Bugs ‘rallied’ for 1 hit and 1 walk and no runs for a loss.

Although we walked away with a 2nd place trophy and medals.  Seeing the ball carry to the fence by the stronger hitters and the pitches increasing to the speed-limit of metro Nashville made the weekend less than a total loss.  We learned Steven can hit home runs and our pitchers are strong enough to compete this year.  We learned Brandon could catch 3 games in one day, throw out runners and still be able to walk to the parking lot.

It looks like a highly competitive year again for the Smyrna Bugs.  Stay tuned as we share our sports lives and growth as individuals and as a team this year.

LifePoint church is a multi-campus church with campuses around the world. Each campus is working to start small groups, some beginning even before the launch of a worship environment.  As I work with the Small Group Coordinators of each campus, I am learning and building strategy to start and multiply small groups.  Each campus has unique situations and cultures and the learnings from each are being shared with all campuses,  helping to design our foundational processes in the future.
We are seeing three seasons develop as we try to build small groups from outside and inside the church.  We cannot limit God’s activity to only  those who show up on Sunday.  Daily God is giving us the chance to connect with people with whom he desires a relationship,  let’s help each other not miss these opportunities.

3 Seasons of developing a Small Group:
1. Relational season: who are the people you like to hang out with? neighbors, ball team, singers, boaters, skateboarders, etc. These are the people who make up your relational season.  1. I had 75 adults attend an Easter Egg Hunt.  2. I skateboard with 15 guys every week.
2. Potential season: seeking God’s movement in the lives of people who are in your relational season. 1. Out of the 75, it seemed that 12 families might have potential to discuss “God things”  2. Three of the guys mentioned God this week as we riding our skateboards.
3. Small Group season: over time this season develops out of the potential season participants.  There is no time limit on something like this.  People move at a different pace, but we can’t wait on all of them.  1. Of the 12 families only 8 would attend a cookout (BBQ) at my house.  And only 7 would commit to a meal every other week to discuss parenting. BUT, we had a small group! Over 2 years another family made the move to join our small group.  2. I now meet with the three guys weekly to discuss God stories and issues in their lives.

This process can be implemented anywhere because it is about life, not a church program.  The key is ‘progression of intentionality’ that we are building relationships and watching for God at work  Loving and helping others does not have to end, the friendship and relationships can grow and deepen as you begin to do life together.

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Disclaimer

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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