Death to Your Ineffective Programs

Two years ago the most creative and ultra-exciting ministry (or program) was growing on the inside of me.

Coming from a competitive environment in journalism, I learned a few principles.

  • Never stop being creative and thinking outside the box.
  • Never settle on one method — even if it’s working.
  • When you think you made it — you haven’t.
  • Be flexible in all situations.

Naturally as a student pastor at the time I explored to apply those principles. I identified a problem and was determined to solve it in the youth ministry. We lacked any type of practical learning for students, so we started the ‘Deeper’ Bible Study. This bible study had a focus and desire to equip students and send them out to change the world.

Fast forward to today: when that very name of the random program is mentioned, our students laugh as if it’s a riveting joke.

Deeper Bible Study failed and was super ineffective.

After noticing the downward slope of this program, it’s vision and direction, I quickly canned it and acted like it never happened. One year ago, Kayla took over as student pastor and developed the Ignite Leadership Class. From the exterior, it looked similar to the horrifically ineffective Bible Study.

However, it took Deeper failing to know what would work in the future.

Kayla revamped this discipleship program — added vision, excitement and growth — and many students later, Ignite has turned into the most fruitful and rewarding program we’ve developed.

Chances are in any avenue of leadership, you’ve had a Deeper moment, like myself. Let’s focus on what a dead program looks like and what’s needed to turn it around. Take lessons learned from that hideous Bible Study I once thought was a divine idea.

What does a dead program look like?

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It’s My Pleasure: 6 Lessons For the Church from Chick-fil-A

Upon graduating college, Chick-fil-A was not the place I envisioned myself landing. Endless amounts of chicken and the growing infatuation for chicken (plus two pickles) sandwiches seemed less than the bright future anticipated. Thankfully, it was the exact job God planted me in to grow my love for people, not poultry.

While my time with CFA recently ended, what I gained from the company never will. Forgetting the times I spilt three gallons of sweet tea on the floor and had to remake 150 homemade biscuits, I’ll pass along the valuable lessons learned during the past 13 months.

1. It’s my pleasure! Or is it?

Chick-fil-A is known for having the most caring team members around, workers who take pride and pleasure in what they do. While working at my most recent restaurant, many guests posed the question, “Why is everyone here so nice?!”

Here’s the secret; the hiring process for Chick-fil-A is brutal and hard to get through. Operators only hire the cream of the crop in group interviews and stacks of applications. If it’s not going to be their pleasure serving others, then Chick-fil-A is not the company for them. In the words of a former operator, “the paycheck is not the reason they should be applying at this company.”

When considering if a ministry/a church volunteer position is for your or someone else, take a close look at the reason why. If serving others isn’t the top reason, it’s not a good fit for the church.

2. Stop stocking Polynesian.

The first faces of a Chick-fil-A restaurant are the front counter crew. If someone on the frontline isn’t taking an order, their first trained reaction is to clean and their second is to stock.

Know what America’s favorite dipping sauce is? Most guess Chick-fil-A sauce, but it’s surprisingly Polynesian sauce. With a high demand for the beloved, tangy sweet-and-sour sauce, many on the frontline find themselves keeping occupied and being on task by stocking Polynesian when the lines get low.

Unfortunately, if all eyes stay too long on the task, the guests are ignored.

Where are our eyes in the presence of guests? Is it on the church budget, the worship team set up, the attendance … or on the needs of those we have a moment with? There’s a difference in completing a task and actually doing our job.

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5 Things We Learned From Alaska

You know how stories and stereotypes go — you hear something about a person or a place and immediately develop a preconceived notion about it.

For the last six months we’ve had many conversations with neighbors, church people, passerby’s at Petco (where we fundraised) and family about Alaska. When July 10 rolled around, we had pretty solid knowledge about The Last Frontier.

Fresh off a week of traveling through Alaska and encountering many people, we’ve learned quite a bit. Certainly, one week is definitely not enough time to identify a culture or mindset, but these five things really stood out and were different to what we’ve encountered in other states.

1. People will actually refuse prayer

Living and ministering in the ‘Bible Belt’ –  that is Louisiana –  the good ole’, “Can I pray for you?” or “Do you have anything I can pray for you about” works. It works so well that I’ve never seen someone  in Louisiana refuse prayer during my time with them.

When we were out canvasing parts of Seward, Alaska, the majority of people refused prayer. I grew up a Catholic turned atheist and I never refused prayer. Sure, I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t care, but even when I didn’t believe it still felt like the right thing to do.

With 30 students across Louisiana — many born and raised in Bible believing towns — hearing someone actually say “no” after those above questions was a bit of a shocker.

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When Being No. 1 Isn’t For You

Photo Credit: Boaz Crawford (creationswap.com)

Photo Credit: Boaz Crawford (creationswap.com)

At 4-years-old my deck-hockey coach gave me two simple instructions I still remember 20 years later.

  1. Block any shots from going in the goal.
  2. WIN.

Deck-hockey, for those who aren’t familiar, is a common recreational sport on the East Coast. It’s essentially hockey, but you trade in the skates for shoes, the ice for gravel and the puck for a small round ball.

I have absolutely no idea if we won that game. I do remember swatting shots away from our goal as if I was playing tea ball.

Four years later I started playing organized football (Pop Warner). The instructions were similar to my deck-hockey days:

  1. Stop the team from scoring.
  2. WIN.

After 14 years of organized athletics and four years of striving in a competitive field of study (journalism), I subconsciously adopted a certain mentality —  if I wasn’t No. 1 or winning, something was wrong.

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