Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

August 31, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

7:40 is an early time to start Middle School.  I’m just sayin.  We live relatively close, yet we leave at 7:20, because apparently they are pretty serious about giving out the tardies.  I would be too if I started at 7:40, otherwise folks like me would be like, “It’s just homeroom.  We get there when we get there.”  Wait, I don’t mean folks like me, but folks with passive-aggressive tendencies who aren’t morning people.  Clearly, that’s not me.

Anywho, to leave at 7:20 and having the responsibility of getting a diva up and all the time it takes for said diva to get faboo, (Loften shortening of fabulous, which I gladly stole from Wakko from the Animaniacs.  BOOM! Dated reference.  FYI, if you google “boom dated reference” with the quotes, you get 7 hits, all from cloften.com.  “Hey! Cloften, get on with it!”  Sorry, feeling a little punchy this morning.) we have to get up pretty early.  So here is the morning tradition.  When Maylee gets up she texts me that she is up and getting dressed.  If I get up and I do not have said text, I text her.  If I get no reply then I go in there and wake her up (respecting the privacy).

Well this fine morning, I texted her, “U up?”  The response I got back made me lol (I’m such a hip, cool dad with my texting lingo.).  She texted back, “no.”  Where on earth would a girl get such a smart mouth?  Why on earth would Cloften’s daughter answer a straightforward question with a smartalec response?  Either you know these are rhetorical questions or you found this post by googling “boom dated reference.”

We never once had a lesson in how and when to give smart answers to questions.  No lessons in sarcastic humor.  I never once told them that they should do that, because it would make them a hipster doofus (that’s right.  say it with me now.  BOOM! Dated reference) like their dad.  Although, I will confess that I have given comedy lessons to each of daughters before.  We talk mostly about timing and keeping a straight face.  They didn’t need a formal lesson in sarcastic, silly humor and being a punk when asked a question.  They get lessons in that each and every day.

They see what they see every day, and they assume that what they see is what you should do.  If Dad does it, it’s funny and cool and I should do it as well.  It never fails to stop me in my tracks when they do something like that.  I laugh, and I’m proud.  Then I chase that with a good old-fashioned feeling of being overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed?  Yes.  They are listening to everything that I say.  They are watching everything I do.  They aren’t just putting stuff in the “funny” category.  They put all of it in the “godly man” category.  All of it.  That is overwhelming to me.

My girls are getting older.  This year they will turn 13 and 10.  The stakes are getting higher and time is running out.  God has called me as Dad to lead, to shape the culture of our home and show them what they need to become and what they need to expect in a husb…nope not going there today.

Ok, maybe I will go there briefly.  I want them to bring home someone that loves and honors God and treats them well.  Someone that I will reluctantly, but somewhat willingly hand my girls to.  That will depend, to a large degree, on what they see and hear from me.

I certainly don’t want them bringing home some Urkel (You saw this coming.  Didn’t you?  BOOM! Dated reference.)

Digging Deeper

Last summer I did 8 miserable weeks with a workout called Insanity.  It was awful.  It was the best shape I’ve been in for at least 20 years.  Was it worth it?  Yeah.  Should I go back?  Yeah, I guess.  Leave me alone.  Why are you nagging me?  I know I’m not working out like I need to be.  Get off my back.  It’s been quite a transition, ok?  I’ll get into some good routines when we get out of this apartment.  What do you mean, “no excuses?”  I’m starting to not like you.  And by “you,” I of course mean the voices in my head.  Yes, I’ll get on with it.  Stupid voices.

The guy that was leading these workout DVDs had an inspirational catch phrase (Don’t they all?).  It was “dig deeper.”  He didn’t say it every time I wanted to quit, because that would fill each DVD, but he did use it at strategic times to inspire us.

I have heard many times in my years in ministry from people that they wanted to go deep, dig deep into the Bible, that they wish the study, sermon, etc. would be deeper.  I have often been a little put off by that, because often I wonder what they really mean and what they are really looking for.  What do we/they mean when we say we want to go deeper into the Bible or we wish sermons were deeper?

Now what I’m going to say next has been deemed controversial by some.  I don’t know that it is, but some consider it so.  In fact, I was once accused of being a heretic that didn’t believe in the Bible.  I’ve got your attention now, don’t I?  It was during a small group leaders meeting, one of my first at this particular church (if you are trying to guess, you have a 1 in 5 chance, I suppose).  We had done a pretty basic study on what community is and how to build it in your group.  Some from the groups and some of the leaders said they wanted something “deeper” next.  Here is what I said (paraphrased).  “When we think of going deeper, I don’t want us to think of going deeper in knowledge and trying to learn more facts.  I would like for us to think of our groups going deeper in how we apply God’s word in our lives.”  The words of a heretic apparently.  I bring this up now, because I brought it up yesterday a little bit at the Grove as we kicked off our series on the parables.

Honestly, I didn’t think it was that controversial at the time, but I have come to realize that for a lot of people it is.  There is a culture out there in some Christian circles and churches that the sign of depth is knowledge of relatively obscure Bible facts and Greek verb tenses.  My overwhelming concern is not that we learn new facts as much as that we deeply and fully apply the truths that many of us consider “basic.”  “Forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  “Let no unwholesome word pass from your mouth.”  “Be anxious for nothing.” “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.”  “Let you light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Most “basically,” “Love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Before you petition to reinstitute heresy panels, let me say this.  We need to know the Bible well.  Too many of us don’t know the basic chronology/story of the Bible.  We don’t deeply understand the depth of the Gospel and why Jesus died for us.  We can’t even begin to explain the complexity of  the dual truths that God loves you unconditionally and God expects holiness from you or similarly, God is sovereign and we must choose to follow after God.

However, if we constantly appeal to the mind and fail to drill deeply into our hearts, our walks with God become an intellectual exercise, where the person who can win Bible Trivia is deemed the most spiritual.  It is easier, much easier, to learn a new fact than it is to ask how “Love my neighbor” applies to my boss whom I don’t like and don’t trust or how forgiveness applies to that person that wounded me so deeply so many years ago.

When we gain new knowledge, let’s just be on guard to let our hearts also learn new patterns of feeling and our lives new ways of behaving.  When we think of going deep, let’s think about giving God deep access into our hearts, minds, souls and lives.  Let him drill deeply into those parts of our lives where if I were honest, I wish he wouldn’t meddle.

Let’s dig deeper.

Running Around with My Hair on Fire

I don’t how many of you have ever moved to a new town and become the lead pastor of a church.  Anyone?  Just me?  Fine.  Then you will have to come up with your own context to apply this, or you will be stuck just mocking me, which I think we could turn into quite a fun game.

Anywho, when people ask me how long I’ve been here in Fayetteville at the Grove, I have to think about it.  It has only been a little over three weeks but if feels like so much longer.  It’s not because anything bad has happened or that it has been particularly difficult  It’s just that I have been moving at such a fast pace and so much has happened.  It takes a lot of energy to move into a new situation like this.  There are a lot of people that want to meet you and get to know you, and I want to meet and get to know them.  I want to cast new vision and energy for what God will do in the future and that takes a lot of energy as well.

Did I mention that I have a family?  They need to get connected to people.  We were here a week when we got Lauren connected with a Soccer (Futbol?) Club.  She practices 3 nights a week, we’ve already had 4 games, 2 of which were in Oklahoma (not a typo).  School started last week and we are trying to make new friends.  We are going and going.  It has been a blast.  I have no complaints.

However, after 2 1/2 weeks of this, last week I just crashed.  I was hit with the overwhelming tireds.  I realized I was pushing a little too hard and falling into the oft lamented trap of all doing and minimal being.  “Nice, Cloften, what does that mean? It sounds very deep but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

It is very important that I take a significant amount of time each day and connect with God, not just prepare the next talk, sermon, staff meeting.  All of those are spiritual endeavors, but they take from me.  Connecting with God because I love him, fuels me.  Recognizing that he is in control slows me down and reduces the stress and pressure.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Ministry is a marathon not a sprint.  Leading a church is a marathon not a sprint.  A friend of mine recently quoted someone else (I don’t think my senior English teacher would approve of that documentation) said that ministry is a series of sprints and rests, and that’s the best way to “run this marathon.”

(Let’s beat the metaphor to death and even mix it up)  Sometimes the fastest way to get somewhere is to go slower.  Sometimes the only way to get there is to stop and get gas.  Sometimes running and running and running as fast you can only gets you somewhere short of your goal quickly and to your goal, never.  Sometimes the way to do more ultimately is to do less now, or better said, to do more with God.

A week or so later, I’m still tired, but I think that has more to do with allergens at the Paradise View Apartments.  I feel I’m going internally slower while still growing pretty fast externally.  I still have plenty to do and plenty of stuff worthy of stress.  However, I am more and more increasingly aware of God’s love and sovereignty.

And I’m pretty sure that my hair is no longer on fire.

Forgiveness Takes Time

August 25, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

If you know me at all in the real world, then you by all means should know about my golf rooting interests.  I have never been a fan of Tiger Woods.  It always had more to do with him being the overwhelming favorite and the way the press fawned over him, not anything personal.  I’m not saying that that there weren’t things about him personally that rubbed me the wrong way.  Dropping f-bombs on live national TV, that’s not cool.  I would often with friends rant about him and advocate for my favorite golfer, Phil Mickelson (I’m a lefty golfer as well and have followed him for about 13 years now).

When all of the new allegations came out last fall, his name became a punchline and a lot of people moved over to the rooting against Tiger Woods camp.  Certainly not the TV commentators, nothing has changed there, but that is a rant for a different day.  However, the one thing that I could not escape is that there was a real woman and two real children swept up in this.  My heart broke as I thought about Tiger’s wife, Elin Nordegren.  Not in a “You go girl.  Take him to the cleaners kind of way,” as if all that is involved here is money and ruining an arrogant celebrity.  This is a real woman who, by all accounts, genuinely loved her husband.

There is an interview with her coming out in People Magazine this week. (Will you judge me if I buy my first issue of People?)  They are teasing it today, and in the snippets that they give, it is apparent that she loved him and that her heart is broken.  She says that she never knew.  “I’m so embarrassed that I never suspected—not a one. For the past 3 1/2 years, when all this was going on, I was home a lot more with pregnancies, then the children and my school.”  I suppose a cynical person could say something to that.  Usually I am just cynical enough, but not this time.  My heart breaks for her as she tries to figure out what to do and how to put a life back together.  Again the cynic can go to $$$, but would you trade money for the life you have, for the people that matter most, for the tears shed by those little ones?

This post could easily turn into me taking shots at men, calling them to step up, take care of business at home.  It likely would, except I was struck by something that Elin said, “Forgiveness takes time.”  I know nothing about Elin’s spiritual life, but I wonder how someone in her situation could possibly forgive apart from experiencing the forgiveness that God offers through Jesus Christ.  What can it look like?  How long would it take?  Do you just get increasingly less angry until you don’t care anymore?  Do you have to build a different life and move on first?

It takes me a long time to stop burning angry for significantly smaller things and I have the Holy Spirit whispering at me, “Forgive like God through Christ forgave you.”  Forgiveness means that I will no longer hold this sin against you, as if you had never done it.  Forgiveness means it’s over.  How do you truly forgive?  How do you get beyond forgiveness meaning, “I’m not going to be demonstrably angry with you…for now?”

I’m convinced that it is only through experience.  You have to have experienced that kind of forgiveness to give it.  God has to have shown you that you are completely forgiven and experience that grace.  When God has forgiven us so much, how can we not pass that on?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure.  Forgiveness takes time, and Him.

I Went Back (AKA You Only Get One Chance…Mostly)

I have a pre-game ritual on Sunday mornings (by pre-game I mean before I preach and by ritual I mean just something I do).  I will go to a local fast food restaurant sit for a little bit and go over my sermon.  I have to get the sermon “back in my head” because mostly I have it done by Thursday and I try, mostly unsuccessfully, to not obsess about it over the weekend.

Anywho, I went to a different place two Sundays ago and got terrible service.  I blogged about it here.  I told the story, added a bit of creative exaggeration, ranted and made a connection that we need to be focused on serving people, whether it’s our job or not.  I didn’t think it was a particularly interesting post, but it struck a couple of people the wrong way and it blew up, with a lot of views and comments (BTW, disagree with me all you want on what I write, it helps traffic).  Some thought my attitude was poor and that I should have handled myself differently.

So, after saying that I wouldn’t, I went back yesterday.  Why?  Well my reasons are threefold:

1) Guilt

2) Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays

3) I knew that whatever happened would make for good blog fodder.

It was a different crew than I had previously.  The person at the cash register was very friendly and engaging.  There were fewer people working, serving more people.  It was a much more pleasant experience.  I will have to say that it was still not very clean and the WiFi is spotty at best.  I hope that is sufficient reason for me to not go back, although it has been demonstrated that I can be motivated by guilt.  You could try and convince me that what I should do is go next time with my own cleaning supplies.  Though I don’t think that helping multi-billion dollar corporations maintain a clean environment will make it on my to do list.  You can try though.

This all had me thinking (of course it did), often we only get one chance.  You can apply this into a different context if you want, but I think about it with regards to church.  When people visit your church, you typically only get one shot.  If they have a bad experience, if the people aren’t friendly, if their children aren’t well taken care of, most people will write your church off.  We can discuss that it shouldn’t be that way, but there are a lot of things that we could wish would be different that aren’t.  It doesn’t change the fact that you only get one chance to welcome someone for the first time, show them God’s love through everything you say and do, and create a place where they can feel at home.

If our only competition is other churches, then it’s not that big of a deal.  I hope that people find a great church somewhere.  We are all on the same team.  There are way too many people who need God to fight over the same people.  However, other churches aren’t the real competition.  The real competition is “I knew church wasn’t for me,” and they are done.  You never know when a new person walks into your church and this was them giving God and his Church one more chance, one last chance.  You never know when someone is coming in a desperate situation and needs someone to smile at them, love them, love their kids, and say and show “we’re glad you’re here.”

This is not just a staff responsibility.  Everyone needs to feel that kind of ownership.  Even if it is only your second time at your church, become a greeter and ambassador.  Even if you are visiting a church out of state that you will never see again, greet and love the people around you.  If you happen upon a new person, they won’t know or care that you are not a member.  They will assume that you are (they also will assume you are if you say nothing), and they will just be glad that someone helped them experience God’s love in a tangible way.

Just remember you often only have one chance.

Two Service Protocol

August 19, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

For the last three Sundays, we have had just one service at the Grove (more than 3 for everyone else).  That means I’ve only preached once and that’s it.  It’s certainly less tiring, but I don’t get to redeem myself on parts of the sermon that don’t go well, jokes that bomb, etc.  Also, it has been messing with my internal clock.  Church is over around noon.  When ours has been over at 10:30, my clock has been off for the rest of the day, thinking it was later than it actually was.  That enough is reason to go back to two services, isn’t it?

Anywho, as we get ready for two services again and for the first time having Greenhouse both services, there are few tips (?), umm suggestions (?), ummm mandates (?) that I want to put out there to help everything run smoothly.

1) For people who get there early and will be there all morning. Sorry, that doesn’t mean that you get the best parking spaces.  In fact, I would like to ask you to take the worst spots, freeing up spots for newer folks.  Park on the road behind the Grove, park on the north side of Braums (they said it was OK), park across the street at the strip mall.  Leave the good spots.

2) For people attending the first service and are leaving.  Get your kids as soon as the service ends.  We will be transitioning teachers.  It’s best for the second service teachers to start with the kids they are going to have.  They don’t know who checked the kid in.  It’s easier on the teachers.

3) For people that have kids attending both services. Don’t go check on your kid between service, unless you know beyond a doubt they will be happy to see you and will be fine when you leave.  If you have a kid with some anxiety, talk to the teachers when they are done and ask how your kid did.  This helps the 2nd service teacher a ton.

4) For people serving in the Greenhouse either service. Come to the other service.  Please.  I know it can seem like 3 hrs is a long time to be there, but one of the main reasons we went back to 2 services and have Greenhouse both is for you, so each week you can still worship.  You’ll be glad you did and your kids will love it.

5) For people worshipping first service. Laugh at the funny jokes.  Don’t laugh at the ones that bomb.  This way I know what to keep or cut.  Pity laughs just force the 2nd service to hear bad jokes.

6) For people worshipping first service and serving in the Greenhouse second service. Hang out and talk a little after service and get to your class around 10:45.  This allows you to cover your class and get ready for the new kids.  You are also allowing the first service teacher to leave, get coffee, etc.  They are getting there early before 1st service.  Don’t force them to cover the class all the way to 11:00.

7) For everyone. Be mindful of traffic flow.  This is a new deal for us.  We have no idea what “traffic patterns” are going to be like.  Just keep in mind that we want to make it easy and smooth for guests to get their kids settled, get coffee and find their seats.  Stay and hang out and talk, but just keep an eye out.

This is an incredible opportunity that we have to serve each other and our guests.  We are setting a foundation over these next few weeks that will allow us to grow and multiply our impact in Northwest Arkansas.  Thanks for being a part.  If you haven’t found a great place to serve yet, let me know.  We can get you connected.

Social Media, Blogging, Ministry and Work

August 18, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Monday night was not the first time that is happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  All it is is the most recent.  It wasn’t a public rebuke.  I don’t know if you could even consider it a rebuke per se.  More than anything it was an encouragement to be better and to be a more effective successful pastor.  Now mind you, I have been rebuked before.  I have also been just asked questions about this before.  This was somewhere in between.

The issue, and I’ve probably been asked this 5 or 6 times, has to do with blogging, ministry, social networking, etc.  If someone is a pastor or a minister, is it “work” to be on Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?  This brings up a much broader question about what is and is not work.  If I’m out to eat with my family and someone from the church comes up and talks to us for 10-15 minutes, is that work?  If I am at home sort of watching TV, but rehearsing my intro to my sermon in my head, is that work?  Is having coffee with a guy from the church talking about sports work?  Is it only work if it’s in an office with papers and/or computer?  Some of my job can easily look like fun, does that make it “not work?”  If a pastor is going to be honest, he will often admit that this issue is a struggle.

However, we are talking about something specific–social networking.  If I am on my computer, replying to people’s emails or working on a sermon, and I click over to the Facebook (friend me here.) or Twitter (here) and talk about what I am doing, is that work or not?  If I blog about something related to church, and ask people to read it, is that work?  What if it’s a devotional?  What if it’s silliness?  What if it’s all three? Let me give you my reasoning (defense?) for why I do what I do.

I view my job as being somewhat complex and relatively nebulous (vague, undefined).  However, the goals are pretty clear.  I am to help people have a relationship with Jesus, grow in that relationship, and then help them help others have that relationship.  How one best does that is a matter of style, effectiveness, personality and a lot of factors.  I believe that I need to teach and inspire.  I also believe that the best way to do that is through relationships.  I want to know people and for them to know me.  I believe that gives me a stronger platform for teaching and influence.

Therefore during the day, I will take time out to post something about what’s going on with me and will check on what people are doing.  Sometimes it’s informational.  Sometimes it’s humorous.  Sometimes it’s an invitation to church, a ministry or to read something that I wrote on my blog.  Most of what I write on cloften.com are short devotional thoughts that I hope can help people grow in their walks with God.  Short, on-line devotionals.  To me, there is little doubt that the writing of a devotional and the encouraging the reading of said devotional is “work.”  If not, then the preparation and delivery of sermons would have to be called into question.  To me that is an easy way to take a few minutes and connect with about 200 or so people and help encourage them.

FB posts and Tweets that are not of an overtly spiritual nature feel like a good thing for me to do as well.  I am connecting with people where they are–on-line.  If there were a few hundred people gathered somewhere and I went to talk to them, I would consider that productive, even if it were just to say hi.  If I then got to share a thought about God with them, all the better.  It is my desire to be with people, connect with people, be it “live,” on-line, on the phone, whichever.  To me Social Networking is a highly effective ways to do what God has called me to do as a pastor.

Now, let the debate begin.  Does this ring true to you?  Does it seem like the ramblings of a guy who likes to justify goofin’ around on the computer?  What do you think when you see a pastor that does a lot of that?

Please, let me know what you think.  My guess is there are churches our there banning FB at the church office and those that require Twitter accounts for all staff and everything in between.  What do you think?  If you want to say something that you feel would be a public rebuke, don’t sweat it.  If you want to make it anonymous, you can.  I will make sure it still ends up in the comments.  Now…go!

That’s Not My Job

August 16, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I was planning on blogging this morning.  I had a few ideas in mind.  I was going to possibly talk about how hard moving is on kids and the importance of Dad stepping in to engage (still probably will) and was possibly going to talk about my neurotic issue of how often better isn’t good enough, a rambly post about impatience and trust (may not make the cut this week).  Then I strolled in to a local fast food restaurant for some tea and some free wi-fi.  It was not my usual local hangout and will not come here again. (No plug ins, spotty internet)  However, even if it had been computer friendly, I would still be out.  Why? (Let the rant begin)

I am standing at the counter waiting to order.  There are 9, yes I said 9, people behind the counter that I can see.  That doesn’t count the people behind that are cooking (?) the food and the one dude that is also behind the counter but is going on break.  One person was “supposed to be” on the register, but she was bagging an order with a scowl that said, “I hate my job and may beat everyone to a bloody pulp with a sleeve of cups.”  I am not sure what the two people at the station where they bag the orders were doing.  One person seemed to be in charge of holding a sleeve a cups (protecting herself from the register girl, to be sure).  One person was in charge, seemingly, of making sure the smoothie machine didn’t move.  There were two managers who were in charge of keeping certain tiles on the floor from moving.  One person was in charge of telling funny stories near the drive-thru.  Of course, we also had a floater.  Is that 9?

I noticed all of that, because I had time.  Plenty of time.  Some of the workers (?) made the mistake of making eye contact with me, but they held strong and never left their positions.  Others knew better and stayed locked in on their position.  As many of you know, I did a year and a half at a Chick-Fil-A in Colorado.  This never would have flied if you were on my crew.  There was only one thing that I truly cared about and that was making the customers cranky.  We had positions, but you did whatever you had to do to serve the customer.  If someone was waiting at the counter, wanted a refill, whatever, you helped the customer, quickly and with a smile.  You never got to say “that’s not my job.”  We did whatever it took to make it work and serve customers.

This kind of attitude should follow us wherever we go, whatever we do.  You are not too good, too special to do even the smallest of tasks.  God has called each of us to be servants.  There is no task beneath us.  If you see a piece of trash where you work, live, worship, wherever, pick it up.  If someone needs help, help them.  We don’t graduate or promote from roles of serving others.  In fact as we get promoted, all the more reason to be servants and do whatever it takes.

Mark 10:44-45
and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Did I mention that when she finally did come to the register that she glared at me and said nothing?   But that’s a rant for another day.

More Random Musings on 2 Services and Greenhouse

August 10, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I am currently being swarmed by about 7 flies at Starbucks.  I don’t know why I’m telling you this, except that if there are any angry outbursts in the middle of this post, you won’t take it personally.

We really do have an incredible opportunity here when we go to two services.  We will be providing an incredible worship experience for people of all ages, and I really do believe that we will see God do some great things at the Grove this year.  I know that people have a lot of questions.  I will try to answer some of them.  None of these have been asked here to me, but I know that they have been asked many, many times all over everywhere.

Doesn’t all this talk about kids and families exclude singles, college students, folks without kids, etc.?

No, not any more than having a Women’s bathroom at your church excludes men.  (Stupid flies).  Seriously, we are not going to become a church that focuses exclusively on kids, but we have kids that come to our church, and we want them to have a great experience.  We want the experience in the Greenhouse to match the experience in the worship center (This may be the flies talking, but is there a better word out there? Let’s no go back to sanctuary.  Often I just say “big room.”  Ideas?).  We don’t want to create an A+ experience for adults and not do the same for our kids.

So, what specifically are you asking us to consider?

Church on Sunday morning is a two service experience.  We worship one service and we serve one service.  When we come together we want to worship and hear from God’s word and experience powerful worship.  We also want to use our gifts and time to serve and build up the body.  Both are an essential part of our time together.

Wait, uh, every week?

I recognize that seems like a lot.  Most of the serving roles are being designed to be every other week.  This way we have two teams that can fill every position.  People are out of town a lot and this way, ideally, when one is out of town, the other is serving.  However, many of you are here every week you are in town, why not serve every week?

I’ll tell you why not.  I need a break from serving some time.

Hmm.  While technically not a question, I will respond as best I can.  Taking a break from serving in an ideal world doesn’t make sense.  Who would need a break from sharing their time and talent with people that they love?  We all need breaks from different parts of life.  We go on vacations, leave town, shake up the routine, etc.  However, serving is what we are designed to do.  We as a church need to make sure that we are encouraging you, helping you, and loving you.  Serving your church on Sunday should be something that gives life not takes it from you.

Alright, fine but my kids, my kids.  How can they be here both services?  They’ll get tired, grow up to hate church.  Then you’ll have that on your conscience.

Kids love it at church.  They are some place different with friends.  They are with adults that love them and are teaching them about God.  Did I mention snack time?  That’s all my kids have known.  I’m pretty proud of how they are turning out.

Seriously, dude.  My baby is too young, it’s morning nap time, or (fill in the blank).

I’m glad you’re comfortable enough with me not to call me dude.  I understand.  Serve one, worship one may not work out great for both parents in all circumstances.  Maybe you take turns.  Maybe one serves in the Greenhouse and the other serves by taking the kids home and clearing space.  Make it work for your family, but try to find a way where you can serve on Sunday.

Big picture, serving needs to be part of who we are, part of our culture.  We love each other and we all have a role to play to support one another and build each other up.  Serving is not an obligation, it is an incredible opportunity that we all have to be used by God to change the world.

(Please shoot me an email at charlie@thegrovechurch.org and let me know if you want to find a great place to serve)

Why 2 Services? Why Children’s Ministry Both?

August 9, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

In two weeks, we enter  a new era in the Grove Church.  I know what you’re thinking.  “We entered that two weeks ago, the era of the pastor that thinks he’s funny and sweats too much.”  Agreed.  But starting August 22nd, we will be starting a new era within that era?

I don’t know, but here’s the deal.  Starting on the 22nd we will go back to two services and we will offer Greenhouse (children’s ministry) for both of those services.   That’s something that we have not done before. I (mostly) joked on Sunday that we would think/feel differently about this had I been here since mid-June.  We would have been talking about all the reasons, getting motivated, etc.  However, that didn’t happen.  We strolled into town 10 days ago (as of the writing) and dropped this bomb two days later.

In 2014, “Charlie moments” like this won’t surprise anyone.  Hopefully, the staff will learn to manage them (me).  This isn’t 2014, it’s August 9th, 2010 and we are 13 days away from two services of Greenhouse, so here is some Q/A on the what, why and how.

Why two services?

Really one reason, fewer bodies in the room at once means a reduction in body heat and a reduction in how much I will sweat.  No really, if you have been their the last two weeks, we have been full.  It has been hard to find a seat.  We always want to have plenty of seats for people.  The same goes for the Greenhouse.  Have you seen some of those classrooms?  We may have to build a second level in some of those rooms, so we can stack the kids vertically.  This leads to the next question:

Why Greenhouse both?

Some of those classes are too crowded.  We have a lot of young families with young kids.  We want when someone drops off one of their kids for them to feel that they have left them in a fun, safe environment, not a chaotic, crowded one.  We need to “spread out” when the kids worship.  It’s also very important that the people who serve in the Greenhouse, be able to serve one service and worship in the other.  With two services, but only one of them having Greenhouse, people with children have to serve or worship, because they can’t have their kids with them both services.  Also, Grovers are more likely to come to the early service.  New people, most often, come to the later service.  We need to serve both.

Why so soon?

No one asked this question, but the size increase in the eyes of the staff asked the question for them.  The two biggest dates in the church year are obviously Easter and Christmas.  They are not only the two biggest seasons to celebrate, but they are also high attendance weeks with a lot of new people.  Putting those two aside, the busiest times for churches are when school starts in August and when school starts back in January.  People are making decisions to start new things.  They are wanting to “get back in the groove.”  So you will see attendance spikes and a lot of visitors.  A church needs to be ready.  You never know when it will be someone’s first week.  You never know when someone will walk through the doors of your church, when it is there first time to church ever, or their first time in years since (fill in the blank).  You want to have a great spot for them and for their kids.  You want them to be well-greeted and loved.  We will get a lot of these this Fall.  My guess is that this is even more the case living in a college town.

There is so much more to say, and we will continue this conversation tomorrow with some more questions about logistics.  However, we need to keep this in mind.  The reason we want to grow is because there are people in Fayetteville and in NWA that are far from God.  We want them to come and hear about the life they can have in him.  As long as there are people that need Him, we will make room for those people.

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