Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reading the Year Out

The love of reading is a gift given by my father at an early age and one I put to constant use. I'm closing out 2009 with my annual reading post: "How to Read a Book", and my Top 10 Books of the Year.

Reading is more than a hobby to me: it's a passion. To help feed this passion and not go totally broke, I am a frequent visitor to our local library. In 2009, I checked out 130 books, plus dozens of magazines. I also added another few dozen titles to my personal library. I'm grateful for friends who give me books and an editor who regularly sends me publisher's preview copies. In 2010, I'm looking forward to being a part of Multnomah Press's blog tour of their titles. In order to read this much in a year, I've learned a few things.

To get the most out of a book in the least amount of time, try this strategy:

  1. Read the title.

  2. Read the introduction.

  3. Read the Table of Contents.

  4. Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and sub-headings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized.

  5. Examine the illustrations, captions, charts and diagrams. Read the pull-quotes and sidebars.

  6. Scan through the index looking for buzz words that interest you.

  7. Read the first chapter.

  8. Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph. In a well written and edited book, the most important sentence containing the topic is usually the first sentence of the paragraph — but not always.

  9. Read the last chapter. If there is an executive summary, read it.

  10. Read any other information on the cover or dust jacket.

If a book can capture your attention after doing the above tasks, then by all means dive right in!

Another reading guide: if a book doesn't capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading and pick out another one - there are always more waiting for you.

In no particular order, here's my personal Top 10 list of books published in 2009:

  • How the Mighty Have Fallen, Jim Collins

  • Organic Leadership, Neil Cole

  • The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten

  • Strategic Disciple Making, Aubrey Malphurs

  • Real Leaders Don't Do PowerPoint, Christopher Witt

  • Trust Agents, Chris Brogan

  • Word of Mouth Marketing, Andy Sernovitz

  • Start with Why, Simon Sinek

  • Rules of Thumb, Alan Webber

  • Leaders Make The Future, Bob Johansen

As soon as I write the list, I'm not satisfied with it. There are many more candidates that had an impact on me, and literally dozens of books on my "To Read" list I keep in my journal.

A special mention to a visually stunning and intellectually stimulating book: "The Elements", by Theodore Gray.

Reading it - no, gazing at the beautiful pictures of all the known elements - almost makes me want to take Chemistry II!

2010 starts tomorrow - what will you be reading?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Human Element, Part 2

What's going to be the most important thing in ChurchWorld in 2010?

2010 is going to be about "The Human Element". Yesterday I introduced the idea; today, I want to finish my thoughts.

Moving Beyond the Walls
Across the country it seems as if a revival of service is taking place. In churches large and small, in urban and rural areas alike, the people of God are discovering the ministry of service in unique and practical ways. And through it all, the love of God is being offered to people who desperately need it.
What’s the deal? Here’s my take on what’s happening: We typically think of the church as the “gathered” collection of believers in a place and time: usually on Sunday mornings. Powerful worship and illuminating study of the Word of God takes place. Then the church goes home. One week later, repeat. On and on, happily oblivious to the desperate needs outside the church walls. It’s almost as if we live separate lives.Now take another look - the “scattered” church is awakening to the power of God lived out in member’s daily lives. People are realizing that they are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, ministering and serving others as they live out their daily lives.

Entrepreneurial Leaders
“Leadership” in the church is being redefined. Pastoral leadership will continue to take its rightful place in the forefront, but the wise leader will increase her leadership be releasing others to lead. While the previous sentence is “lead” heavy, it is important to the health and vitality of the church that leaders in the body be expanded exponentially, growing themselves as well as duplicating themselves. There is a growing and healthy tension as believers understand their calling and seek to live it out, not only in the church but through the church. The wise pastoral leader will not only welcome this, but do everything possible to encourage it.

“The Human Element” – in all its brightest shining reflections of Christ and in its darkest moments of fallen man – is going to be the most critical happening in the church in 2010.

Do you recognize your church in any of the above? More importantly, do you see yourself as a leader that will lead your people, the body of Christ, forward in achieving what God has called you, and only you, to accomplish?

Welcome to your future!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Human Element, Part 1

What's 2010 going to be like for ChurchWorld?

I'm no fortune teller, but I am 100% sure it will involve people.

2010 is going to be about “The Human Element”. The people of God are going to be the biggest factor in what happens in churches around the world in 2010. Here are a few ideas of how that will come about.

The Divine Model
There are certainly many areas of my belief system that rest on faith, and one of the most prominent has to be the knowledge that Jesus Christ was both the Son of God and a man just like me. When I try to rationalize that and think it through, I always end up puzzled. But if I believe it on faith, I begin to grasp a new appreciation for who Christ is, what He experienced in life on earth, and what that means for us. Nothing we encounter is beyond His comprehension; nothing we do is new ground for Him. Knowing that should give us comfort – we serve a God who has gone before us, marking the path as a guide, and encouraging us to follow Him. Understanding that “His word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path” should give us courage as we embark on being His hands and feet to our world. He has not only been there before, He walks with us in Spirit and in Word.

Body Language
The use of metaphor in scripture is probably at its highest when Paul refers to the church as “the body of Christ”. Where else would we have a walking, living, breathing example of what God intended the church to be? It’s with us 24/7, teaching how we as individual members ought to get along and work together for a common good – the cause of Christ. The people of God should work as smoothly together as our bodies do, each part interacting and living out its unique purpose for the health and well-being of the body as a whole, and not just the individual part. When we act together in unison, the world will take notice.

Understanding What a Church Really Is
The institution of the church is dying; the organism of the body of Christ is awakening from a long sleep. Somewhere in the past, with all good intention, we slowly created the institution of the church and became more concerned with the maintenance of the status quo instead of the mission of God. That is changing rapidly and none too soon. People in the church building are beginning to realize that they are the church, and are doing something about it.

Tomorrow, some additional thoughts about "The Human Element".

Monday, December 28, 2009

Navigating 2010

What’s ahead in 2010 for the church? It’s easy to look back at 2009 and say that 2010 will be more of the same. And it may be just that – a sense of uneasiness and even fear, of things that have been bad and may become worse.

Or it could be exactly the opposite: things have been “bad” long enough and it is time to move forward in a positive direction. Leave the bad news behind by creating good news.

I make no claim to knowing which is right, but I can make an accurate prediction of a common denominator to both the above scenarios, or any other that may actually come true.

2010 is going to be about “The Human Element”. The people of God are going to be the biggest factor in what happens in churches around the world in 2010.

Starting tomorrow, a look at a few ideas of how that will come about. First up? The Divine Model, Body Language, and Understanding What a Church Really Is.

I hope you enjoy!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Word Became Flesh...

And moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

John 1:14
The Message

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Traditions...Changing

For the first time in 30 years, we are spending Christmas with my children and their families away from our home.

The most important part of our Christmas tradition has been to pick a day and have our own Christmas celebration with our children. It has varied, as early as December 21 and as late as Christmas Eve day. The day is not important; just that we get to spend an unrushed, unhurried day together.

With four children four years apart (the youngest almost 29, the youngest 17) I knew this time would come. Over the past few years we’ve added wives and a grandson, but still have been able to have everyone in our home.

Till this year.

With one son in the restaurant business, and another in the world of theater, the Christmas season is a busy time. Our daughter has been on a mission trip during Christmas break. Our youngest son, though still in high school, has a busy life too. My wife and I are working steadily and busily. We are all grateful to have jobs.

So when we started looking at schedules around Thanksgiving, it became quickly apparent that there was not a single day when all nine of us could be at our home. We thought our treasured tradition was over.

Enter Jonathan, Hallie, and Jack. They invited us all to Boone, and they are hosting us all: GrandBob, Nina, Jason, Jaime, Amy, and Aaron. For most of the day on December 24th, we’re going to be together. In the same place. At the same time. Celebrating Christmas!

Not a new tradition, just changing an old one to make it work – and still be a tradition.

Merry Christmas from the Adams clan!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Services: Making Your First Impression LAST!

Can the church learn anything from Walt Disney, Starbucks, and the Ritz-Carlton? My answer is a resounding YES!

Over the past two years I’ve been working on a project exploring the world of hospitality, looking for key principles that have application to the church world I live and work in. Early motivation for this effort came from great guest experiences over consecutive days from two establishments at opposite ends of the dining spectrum: Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Taco Bell. In both instances, the staff went beyond the expectations to deliver exemplary service. You expect it at one, but are surprised at the other, right? Why should price be any indicator of the level of service delivered? What about a place with no "price" at all - the church?

The companies I named in the opening sentence have been my primary research targets, but you could say that the hospitality industry in general is my field of research. My proposition is that the world of restaurants, coffee shops, fine hotels, and the ultimate in customer expectation and experience - Disney - can provide tangible and beneficial principles for the church to adapt in welcoming guests and members alike.

I have had the opportunity to make presentations of this material at the Worship Facilities Expos in Long Beach and Charlotte this year, and at the NACBA annual conference in Long Beach. Reactions and comments have been very positive and encouraging. I have continued to revise and refine the information for application to the local church.

Along the way, I’ve supplemented my research with practical application in my own church: I lead one of the Guest Services (Parking) Teams at Elevation Church’s Uptown location. As the “first face” of Elevation, my crew and I get weekly opportunities to practice guest services and make a lasting first impression.

We don’t just park cars; we:

  • Sanitize all touch points and spray air freshener in the elevator cabs and stairwells of the parking garage we use

  • Pick up trash along the route from the garage to the theater

  • Put up parking signs along the entrances

  • Hold the door for guests coming and going

  • Pull the parking ticket and personally hand it to guests

  • Validate parking for all Elevation guests

  • Provide VIP (our first time guests) and family parking right next to the theater

  • Know what’s going on Uptown so we can help any and everyone who has a question (sporting events, concerts, special activities, etc.)

  • Provide umbrellas to guests in the rain

  • Give a verbal greeting to everyone coming and going

And that’s just the parking crew! Elevation’s audacious Guest Services team also has Greeters, a First Impressions Team, VIP Tent, and Connections Tent. All this BEFORE a guest has stepped into the theater for worship.

You might say Guest Services is a big deal.

I think it is – and you should to.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Leadership = Vision Clarity

When I was in graduate school in the early 80's, strategic planning processes included five-, ten- and sometimes even twenty-year plans. The past was relatively stable and indicated that things would continue as they were into the future. The assumption was that the near future would resemble the recent past.

Rapid cultural, technological, and geopolitical change has rendered that assumption obsolete. Will Mancini, founder of The Auxano Group and author of the best-selling book Church Unique states it this way:

Leaders must focus more on preparation than on planning.

Mancini taps heavily into Reggie McNeal's work here. McNeal, a consultant with The Leadership Network, has written several great books. In The Present Future he addresses 6 tough questions for the church. The one of interest here is “How do we plan for the future?” The short answer is, as both Mancini and McNeal elaborate, you don't plan - you prepare.

Planning on past actions and assumptions will lead you to cultural irrelevance, methodological obsolescence, and missional ineffectiveness. Churches looking to planning like they always have will be left answering the wrong questions at best; at worst, they will be answering questions not asked!

“Church Unique” is not a road map that assumes predictability of fixed points and roads that stay unchanged over time. Instead, the tools of Church Unique are more like the compass, sextant, and chronometer of the sailor who moves across an ever changing sea. Navigating the waters of today's rapidly changing times requires ceaseless observation and adaptation to the surrounding environment.

The better (and biblical) approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction and planning.

As a leader, are you seeking vision clarity first?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Numbers Do Matter...

As outlined in the U.S. Constitution, the twenty-third census of our country will take place this year. Technology will play a larger role than ever, as census data will be collected via hand-held computing devices equipped with GPS. All census data will be a short form with basic questions of name, gender, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, relationship, and housing tenure.

Detailed socioeconomic information collected via long-form during past censuses will continue to be collected through a survey process that will provide community data on a yearly basis.

The US census is at its basic form a national head count. But the ramifications go far beyond that, with one of the most important ones being the number of seats each state receives in the US House of Representatives, starting with the 2012 elections. This also affects the number of votes that states receive in the Electoral College for the 2012 presidential election. Current projections indicate that 11 states will lose one or more seats, with 8 states picking up from 1-4 seats. Geographically, the losers are in the Rust Belt across the Midwest to Northeast, with the winners in the South and West.

This is not a civics lesson, but just a reminder that numbers do matter.

Take the numbers of people in your church, for instance. Not just the raw number, but what that number represents. Do you know the age breakdown of participants? Do you know the geographic clusters of where people live? Do you know the makeup of their families? It’s not just the knowledge of this information – it’s what it represents in ministry potential:

  • Is your congregation young or old or a mixture?
  • What is the age trend?
  • Do people have a 10 minute drive to your church? Longer?
  • What are the ages of children in your church’s families?
  • What do these questions really mean for ministry in your church?

Now for the really important numbers: what about the community your church serves? Ask the same types of questions above, but with a whole new ministry context – is the community your church serves “like” your church, or is it different?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know your church and community pretty well. Like the 2010 Census, there are usually a lot of surprises – just around the corner.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Looking Back: Viewing 2009 in the Rearview Mirror

Most church leaders are all too glad to be bringing 2009 to a close. The economic situation that began in the fall of 2008 is still impacting ministries across the country. While there is no denying the impact of that event, I prefer to take a “glass half full” approach and look at some positive movements in the Body of Christ.

Multi-site churches, servant evangelism, and vision have already been covered. Here is my final look back at 2009 in ChurchWorld:

The Greening of the Church - For me, being green starts with a foundation of stewardship – being responsible for all the resources God has blessed us with. As a church development consultant, I am committed to helping churches maximize their resources for the greatest ministry impact they can possibly have in their community. I believe that an important part of this challenge is to know how you can immediately improve your existing facilities to make them more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. I also know that as you think about planning your next facility expansion, there are many benefits to thinking green.
Why should Your Church go Green?
  • Churches are community examples – people look to their houses of worship and their spiritual centers for guidance. What happens in these places can have a positive ripple effect across the region as homeowners, businesspeople, government workers and others help their own buildings to emulate the ethical example set by the local church.
  • All churches are good candidates for improvements – Most sanctuaries are large spaces used only periodically throughout the week. Something as simple as a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars a year in utility bills. Most church offices are high-traffic, well-used areas where even small changes like weather stripping, Energy Star appliances, or compact fluorescent bulbs would make a huge difference.
  • Church buildings stand for something – Your building was built to the glory of God, the service of humanity, and the potential of the spirit. Inside these buildings we celebrate Creator and His creation. We build a community, the Church. We should be good stewards of all Creation, caring for the earth and one another.

Bottom line? If your church can be more EFFICIENT in its use of resources, then it will be more EFFECTIVE in its ministry endeavors. I encourage you to enter the dialogue about how your church can become a community leader in environmental issues. It really is getting easier to be green!

The past few days I have looked at just a few of the positive movements I see in the church at the end of 2009. I am encouraged by the direction of the church in impacting its community – locally and around the world. There’s plenty of bad news this year, but I think the church, which really has the Good News, is going to provide even greater impact in 2010 – but that’s another story!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Glancing Back at 2009

Most church leaders are all too glad to be bringing 2009 to a close. The economic situation that began in the fall of 2008 is still impacting ministries across the country. While there is no denying the impact of that event, I prefer to take a “glass half full” approach and have been looking this week at some positive movements in the Body of Christ.

Vision – Church leaders are increasingly concerned about their vision. My experience with vision planning matters goes back to seminary in the early 80's: Lyle Schaller, Aubrey Malphurs, Bobb Biehl, Kennon Callahan, Peter Drucker - these were the leaders in the field that we followed. Others have joined them in the years since, but all of these - and especially Malphurs - have influenced my own views of vision planning in the churches I served and in the churches I work with now as a development consultant.

Enter “Church Unique”, by author Will Mancini and the team at the Auxano Group. Church Unique’s approach centers on the powerfully simple concept that God has created all churches as unique. While we understand that God created His world with uniqueness (think snowflakes), and His children (DNA, environment, and culture) the same way, we think that churches are mostly alike. Do you think He would act any different with His church?

Church Unique serves as a map that will help you discover and live a vision that creates a unique church culture in your ministry setting. The book outlines a process that will help you discover, develop, and deliver your unique vision by creating your own Vision Pathway. The clarity and practical application you will realize through this process will take you to new levels of effectiveness and to a lifestyle of visionary leadership.
Leaders realize now more than ever that their vision will not move forward unless it ties into and brings together leadership, communication, processes, environments, and culture. “Church Unique” gives church leaders a practical tool to capture their culture and build a movement that flows into their community with contagious redemptive passion.
Tomorrow's final look back: The Greening of the Church

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Looking Back at 2009

Most church leaders are all too glad to be bringing 2009 to a close. The economic situation that began in the fall of 2008 is still impacting ministries across the country. While there is no denying the impact of that event, I prefer to take a “glass half full” approach and look at some positive movements in the Body of Christ.

Servant Evangelism – The church is expanding beyond its walls. For far too long the church has been viewed by many as a fort, keeping the inhabitants safe from the dangers outside the walls. Led by a movement of vibrant churches across the country, the church has “left the building.” Across the country it seems as if a revival of service is taking place. In churches large and small, in urban and rural areas alike, the people of God are discovering the ministry of service in unique and practical ways. And through it all, the love of God is being offered to people who desperately need it.

  • In South Bend, IN Granger Community Church has invested heavily in people resources in the downtown area called Monroe Circle. Amazing things have happened there in the last eight years – and it appears that even more amazing things will happen in the future as residents have found faith in Christ and confidence in themselves to start a new life

  • Hundreds of churches in Portland Oregon came together in a “Season of Service” to address five community concerns: homelessness, the medically uninsured, public schools, hunger, and the environment. Over 25,000 volunteers from these churches fanned out across the city in an outpouring of love and generosity that moved the city. Even skeptical city officials were amazed at the outflow, and promised to continue working with the churches to accomplish even greater things. Evangelist Luis Palau, Pastor Rick McKinley of Imago Dei and Pastor John Bishop of Living Hope Church are leading the efforts.

  • Dino Rizzo and the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge LA started a “revolution through serving” several years ago. It has attracted a lot of national attention, and in the week before Easter, churches large and small from one end of the country to the other participated in simple acts of kindness intended to show their communities their unconditional love.

What’s the deal? Here’s my take on what’s happening: We typically think of the church as the “gathered” collection of believers in a place and time: usually on Sunday mornings. Powerful worship and illuminating study of the Word of God takes place. Then the church goes home. One week later, repeat. On and on, happily oblivious to the desperate needs outside the church walls.

It’s almost as if we live separate lives.But now take another look - the “scattered” church is awakening to the power of God lived out in member’s daily lives. People are realizing that they are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, ministering and serving others as they live out their daily lives.

Tomorrow's look back: Vision.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 in the Rear View Mirror

Most church leaders are all too glad to be bringing 2009 to a close. The economic situation that began in the fall of 2008 is still impacting ministries across the country. While there is no denying the impact of that event, I prefer to take a “glass half full” approach and look at some positive movements in the Body of Christ.

Multi-Site – Multi-site churches are becoming the “new normal”: In an effort to adapt to the changing reality of economics, space, and atmosphere, multi-site ministry is becoming more and more prevalent. Consider these quick facts from “The Multi-Site Church Road Trip”, a new book published by the Leadership Network:

  • On a typical Sunday in 2009, some 5 million people attend a multi-site church in the US and Canada.

  • Leaders at some 45,000 churches are “seriously considering adding a worship service at one or more new locations or campuses in the next 2 years.”

  • 37% of megachurches reported being multi-site in 2008, up dramatically from 27% in 2005

Authors Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird toured the country to talk with dozens of churches that are practicing the multi-site model of ministry. Not just limited to large suburban churches, multi-site churches are also found in rural areas and urban centers. They range in size from a few dozen participants to tens of thousands. They also span the globe: it is not unusual for churches in the U.S. to have a campus or two in other countries. While there are many types of multi-sites churches, a basic definition usually includes one church in multiple locations. That being said, there are churches that do not consider themselves “one church” but have multiple sites.

Because the multi-site church is a trend that is changing rapidly, the best source of information is on the Internet: check out for a great start and lots of links to follow.

Tomorrow's look back: servant evangelism.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Matters Now - a Free ebook from Seth Godin

Seth Godin is my favorite author - one who always makes me think. He inspires more "thought per word" than anyone else I read - and I read a lot!

He just released a free ebook entitled "What Matters Now". Here is his post from this morning:

Now, more than ever, we need to shake things up.

Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around. I hope a new ebook I've organized will get you started on that path. It took months, but I think you'll find it worth it the effort.

Here are more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O'Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.

Here's the deal: it's free. Download it here. You can find an easy to use version on Scribd as well and from wepapers. Please share.
Enjoy thinking...

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Second Half of Marriage, Part 2

The second half of your marriage (when the kids leave home, and/or when you are helping with your own parent's lifestyle decisions) can be a time of incredible fulfillment, no matter what challenges you previously faced.

It can be a time of learning about each other and about God's long-term plans for your marriage. And a time of building together - sharing dreams, making commitments, and working towards a more satisfying union.

Having just celebrated my 30th anniversary on December 8, I sought out resources to help answer this question:

How can we make the second half of our marriage even better than the first?

David and Claudia Arp's book "The Second Half of Marriage" has provided a lot of helpful guidance in starting out on the journey of the second half of marriage. Yesterday, I posted four strategies they outline in their book. Here, in their own words, are the final four:
  1. Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse. Now is a great time to deepen your friendship with each other and stretch your boundaries to prevent boredom. Think of ways to put more fun in your marriage.
  2. Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship. Many people assume that as people grow older they lose interest in sex, but our survey results suggest otherwise. The quality of your love life is not so much a matter of performance as it is an integral part of the relationship. Take care of your health and renew romance even while acknowledging the inevitable changes that come with aging.
  3. Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children. Release your children, then reconnect with them on an adult level. At the same time, your relationship with your parents may need a little altering, too. The effort you expend in forging better relationships with loved ones on both ends of the generational seesaw is well worth it.
  4. Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage. Research indicates that most people, as they age and consider death, become more religious because they think more about what it all means. Why not consider this time of transition as an opportunity to talk more openly and regularly about your relationship with Christ: what it means, why it matters, and what it means for your marriage? Take time to serve others, too, and pass along some of the wisdom you have gained.

In addition to the wealth of material in the book, the Arps provide additional resources through their Marriage Alive website.

It's day 10,961 for Anita and me - and our journey together continues!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Second Half of Marriage, Part 1

How can you make the second half of your marriage better than the first?

That question looms large in my mind as Anita and I celebrated our 30th anniversary on December 8. Loosely defined, the second half of marriage comes when your kids have left (or almost left) home; it may also be marked by decisions a couple is making about their parent's health and lifestyle.

We've got both.

I found a great resource to help begin charting this journey: David and Claudia Arp's wonderful book "The Second Half of Marriage". In their own words, here are the first four (of eight) strategies that will help every long-term couple make the most of their marriage:

  1. Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best. Are you willing to let go of unmet expectations and unrealistic dreams? Or your mate's little irritating habits that don't seem to be disappearing? Giving up lost dreams and overlooking each other's imperfections are positive steps toward forgiving past hurts and moving on in your marriage.
  2. Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child-focused. The tendency, once the kids leave, is to focus on new activities rather than on each other, but these activities can keep you from crafting a more intimate relationship. Try to focus more time and attention on your spouse.
  3. Maintain effective communication that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys and concerns. Sometimes what worked when the kids were home doesn't work as well now that the kids are gone. After all, you always had the children to talk about. Now that it's just the two of you, you might need to upgrade your communication skills.
  4. Use anger and conflict creatively to build your relationship. With the kids gone, many couples find that issues they assumed were resolved resurface. Certain negative patterns of interaction that developed over the years can be deadly for an empty-nest marriage. Learn how to deal with issues and process anger in ways that build your relationship.

Tomorrow, the other four strategies from "The Second Half of Marriage", as well as some other resources and ideas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

30 Years and It's Just Halftime!

Entrepreneur and successful businessman Bob Buford is well known for founding not only the Leadership Network but the Halftime® organization. Halftime was founded on the principle that successful individuals often have a deep desire to have a second half life rich in eternal significance.

The Halftime® organization is, in essence, a community of individuals together seeking to support, encourage, learn and accelerate the attainment of a life that is truly significant. People who in this category are not alone: More than 12,000 people turn 50 each day in America, and a Harvard-Met Life study shows that more than half of these individuals want more meaning and significance in the second half. But this is still a very new phenomenon. Along with a companion organization, SuccesstoSignificance, the two groups help marketplace leaders redefine success and reorient their priorities, they can make an enormous impact on their communities and the world at large.

But this post is not about the second half of life as described above – it’s about the second half of marriage. Loosely defined, that would be the time of marriage after children have left home and begun their journey into adulthood. It’s also characterized by elderly parents needing more attention for health and lifestyle issues.

When children begin leaving the nest, and a couple’s parents need care, marriages change. Like many times of change, couples are often unprepared for those changes.

Having just celebrated thirty years of marriage, and just beginning to enter into the scenarios described above, I thought it very worthwhile to investigate this stage of marriage. Tomorrow, I will start a two-day look at a great resource for couples who find themselves getting ready for the second half of marriage.

It's going to be an interesting journey!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

10,958 Days

WOW! 30 years ago today, at 3 PM, Anita and I were married. That’s a long time, and it was just yesterday.

The first time I met Anita she had me washing dishes – it was at the 1976 Mid-Winter Retreat at Cedars of Lebanon State Park. She was the Tenn Tech BSU Hostess, and I was a visiting my brother for the weekend. Being a lowly senior in high school, I was assigned to the kitchen crew doing dish duty. I recognized Anita as a sister in Christ, and a seed was planted there, even though it took both of us several years to realize.

I ended up at Tenn Tech that fall and it was through college BSU activities that I began to know Anita first as a friend. We traveled in different circles, but occasionally those circles touched, and over a two year period God began to draw us together.

Our first “date” was at the BSU Spring Banquet in 1978. She graduated that June, began her career as an accountant in Nashville, and I remained at TTU. We began dating, and gradually, those circles became smaller, and eventually overlapped.

While serving as a summer missionary in 1979, I knew beyond a doubt that she was the one. While racking up huge long distance phone bills, we knew that we were going to be married that year. Anita became my fiancée at the end of the summer, and we set our wedding for late in the year.

We had a large wedding, with friends and family coming together for a joyous celebration service in Goodlettsville, TN. On that day, Anita became my wife.

After a honeymoon over the Christmas break, Anita moved back to Cookeville while I finished TTU. During my summer missionary service, I knew God was calling me to continue my education at Southern Seminary. Graduation from TTU came in December 1980 but entrance to seminary was delayed until the following fall – we were expecting our first child!

Jonathan was born in April 1981, Jason in September 1984, Amy in October 1988, and Aaron in November 1992. We moved several times to different places of service over three states, eventually ending up in Huntersville NC in 1995. Anita’s added role as mother was a natural fit, and our family times over the years remain some of my strongest memories.

In 2008, a new part of our family began: Jonathan and Hallie had a son, named Jack. Anita had become Nina (no grandma or granny – she’s too young!). Jason married Jaime, and Anita became a mother-in-law. Our family had grown and spread out, from WV to Boone to Buies Creek, with us still in Huntersville.

So, here we are at 10,958 days – and counting! Anita and I have been on quite a journey of relationships over those days. We haven’t moved from one to the other, but added to each along the way:

Sister - Friend - Fiancée - Wife - Mother - Nina - Mother-in-Law

Marriage is a journey, not a destination. I thank God that Anita chose to walk with me, and I thank Him for the gift He gives me daily.

I love you, A – and can’t wait for the next step tomorrow – and beyond!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Innovation, Relevance, and the Church: Paradox in Action?

One of the paradoxes of the church today is that it demands continual innovation yet often resists change.

In an effort to keep pace with fast-changing culture, churches of all types and sizes often implement various levels of change in order to reach the unchurched. These changes range from the relatively minor (different times and days for worship, different styles of worship) to the really edgy (launching an Internet campus, using building funds for missional activities and meeting outdoors).

But in ChurchWorld, there is no such thing as a minor change. Moving a worship time back one hour to accommodate another, different type of service can be very threatening to members who have grown used to patterns of attendance. And I won’t even start on worship styles!

On the other hand, churches – especially those started in the last decade or so – have so integrated innovation and change into their DNA that they are continually pushing the envelope of ministry possibilities in order maintain relevance in society.

The following quotes from Tim Manners, author of Relevance; editor and publisher of Cool News of the Day, and regular contributor to Fast Company magazine provide some things for church leaders to think about:
  • Sustaining relevance can require a kind of innovation in reverse: finding new ways to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done.
  • Relevance is designing and implementing meaningful solutions and providing them when and where people need them most.
  • If some is good, more isn’t necessarily better. A disciplined focus on what matters most is essential to innovation and growth.

What, then, is the approach church leaders need to take when it comes to innovation? There certainly aren’t any easy answers, and every church must decide for itself how much and how fast it is going to innovate. But to me, the church is a living, breathing organism –the Body of Christ. If living things don’t constantly change, they die. It’s that simple. Craig Groeschel summed it up pretty good: “To reach people no one else is reaching, we’ve got to do things no one else is doing.”

How are you dealing with the paradox of innovation and resistance to change in your church?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Son, the Hooker

That would be a rugby position, don't you know!

After playing soccer since he was 5, Aaron made the switch to rugby full-time this year. He plays for the North Mecklenburg High School team, wearing the #2 jersey.

The hooker position is in the center of the front line. It requires superior hand-eye and foot-eye coordination, flexibility, agility, upper body strength, and quickness. Powerful legs are also an asset.

At 5'6" and 190 lbs. Aaron fits the bill. He can drive the ball forward in a pile of opposing players, often carrying three or more with him.

The pictures are after a game in the rain and cold today. He had already turned his jersey in, but it was covered in mud as well.

It's literally a whole new game, as we are learning new positions, plays, strategy, field layouts - everything.

It's going to be an interesting year!

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's Your Biggest Challenge for 2010?

2009 is winding down and 2010 is looming large. For ChurchWorld leaders, December is a busy time of year; most of you just want to survive! I would like for you to think in different terms:

What's going to be your biggest challenge in 2010?

I'd like to know. Leave a comment or send me an email. Your responses, and those of other thought leaders across the country, will form a series of posts next week.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Leader's Legacy

I was still thinking about "legacy" from yesterday's post, so I turned to John Maxwell's writings for a few more thoughts on what it means to create a legacy - in the present tense.

The most strategic expression of Moses' leadership had to be his training of Joshua. Through that training, Joshua became a key element in Moses' legacy.

Joshua finished the task that Moses started: leading the people from Egypt into the Promised Land. This was definitely a joint effort: Moses' example and equipping AND Joshua's hunger and giftedness.

Notice the way Moses passed along his legacy:

  1. Moses empowered Joshua and have him authority (Num.27:20)
  2. Moses gave Joshua experience and opportunities for application (Num. 27:21-22)
  3. Moses gave Joshua encouragement and affirmation (Num. 27:23)

Because Moses spent the time necessary to equip Joshua, his dream of Israel entering the Promised Land came to pass even though he did not personally see it happen.

Now that's a lesson in legacy building! How are you going to put it into practice?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


With apologies to Mr. Webster, I think it’s time to create a new definition of legacy – as in “living legacy”.

The term “legacy” is almost always thought of in the past tense – if not in terms of a deceased’s gift to heirs, then actions or memories of a person no longer in a position to have an impact any longer. This is a correct and proper use of the word, but I would like to suggest that legacy is actually much richer in terms of the present.

I benefited from growing up in a home where Christian values were both taught and lived out daily. My parent’s legacy, then, was expressed in actions right before my eyes. Even in their mid-80s, my parents are still imparting wisdom to me – they are living out a legacy. But I was also impacted in profound ways by other adults along my life’s journey who lived out a legacy of faith that was powerfully impacting in my faith development.

I have four children, whom I love dearly. With two of them out of the house with families of their own, the third well on the way as a senior in college, and the fourth a junior in high school, I realize my significant impact on them has already occurred. But my legacy to them lives on in the way they interact with others around them. It’s not finished; it’s just a different perspective, still very much alive.

The community of faith we live in – our church family as a whole, and in smaller groups even more so – is a legacy builder in just as strong a fashion as a parent. I have noticed it even more as my children have grown into young adulthood – there are men and women who impact their lives in a regular and intentional way. These godly leaders and friends are continuing to shape the legacy of those around them. As a parent, I appreciate the close friendships and time these “legacy builders” are investing. In ways that I, even as a parent, can never do, they are living a legacy that is shaping my children’s lives. In quiet but powerful demonstrations of love, they are passing on a heritage of faith through the lives they live day in and day out – often unnoticed by others, but truly a treasure of the Kingdom of God.

Sister, brother in the faith: you are a living legacy to those around you – even when you don’t realize it. Keep true to your Lord’s guiding hand, and know that you are loved and appreciated beyond words.