Well, I was gone from just about everything for a week. When I got back, I discovered that the audio from the Town Hall meeting was no good. Like Kip (would his last name be Dynamite as well?), I do love technology. But sometimes it is problematic. So, we shall remedy this by using other technology to get it to you. The more I think about it though, this is probably better for you. I would rather read a series of blog posts than listen to me talk for an hour. That’s because I think my voice is annoying. I’m sure you do as well. Thanks for your patience.
Anywho, I will take some time this week and put different themes we talked about here on the old blog. This way, if you weren’t there, you can catch up. First, of course, you need to see this video–Have you been to the Grove? We opened the Town Hall with that. Now that I have lowered your expectations, here is the first part of what we talked about:
More than anything, I really want to thank everyone for how kind everyone has been in our transition. It’s not easy making a move like this, especially with 12 and 9 (now 10 and almost 13) year old girls. You have loved us well and we have loved getting to know you guys. With the exception of our house not selling, this transition has gone about as well as it could. Everyone in our family has very quickly felt a part of the Grove Church.
I have also enjoyed building relationships with the elders and staff. I have always believed that one of the foundational pieces to a healthy church is the relationship among the staff and elders. Thankfully this has not been hard work. It has been easy and a lot of fun to be able to get to know these great men and women, and I believe fairly quickly we have been able to become good friends.
The last four months (That’s right, it has only been 4 months. Actually, it won’t be 4 months until Wednesday, but who’s counting?) have been an exciting time for the church as well. We have seen an attendance growth of about 70% from the same time last year. I know that it has been a hard year for the Grove and that is was a difficult transition. I hope that it feels good to have some good momentum in the church.
We also have relaunched a youth (I know you are supposed to call it student ministry, but I get that confused with college students, so for now, youth it is) ministry. We have started small, because that is what we are right now. We have a guys small group and a girls small group. Big thanks to Ty Carlson and Leah Burry for getting those kicked off. They are both huge answers to prayer.
We have also seen a tremendous growth in the number of college students coming to the Grove. Several people have asked me what we have done to see so many college students this fall. The assumption has been that there must have been some kind of intentional strategy or recruitment campaign. There hasn’t been. I invited a handful of students that came from Fellowship Bible in Little Rock and that’s it. What has happened has been an example of the power of enthusiasm and word of mouth. Students have been bringing students. I believe we have created an worship environment with quality music, friendly people and a relational teaching style that has been very attractive to college students. BTW, this style is also very attractive to families and singles. It’s just that word of mouth and enthusiasm moves much quicker among students. As of now, we do not have a formal college ministry. We have a few small groups and we are planning perhaps quarterly events (we have had a lunch so far). We want to start slowly.
This is a ministry principle that we are using everywhere. Let’s do one thing well before trying to do two things well. We don’t want to try to do every ministry possible. Also, let’s not try and do everything imaginable within ministries, like children’s, youth, etc. Let’s do the core well first and then do the next thing well.
Well, part one has been mostly update. Later to come, we will talk about our facility challenges, our financial situation, getting to the next level in the Greenhouse/kids ministry and most importantly the process we are in crafting a new mission statement. Talk to you tomorrow.
In case you missed or just don’t go to the Grove, here it is. Or if you were there and just need to see it again:
So Cloften, where have you been? You know, I’m not really sure. I think it has been a combination of a lot of things. Things have been pretty busy in the new town, new job, etc. I’ve been a little distracted. Moving so fast in my paying job, that I have been doing a lot of nothing, and avoiding this–my non-paying job. I also think in part, in the old days (you know, earlier this year), this was a great outlet for teaching/communicating when I wasn’t teaching a lot on Sunday morning. Teaching 3 out of 4 weeks has changed that.
Then when you go a couple of weeks without blogging, you feel like the one that brings you back should be huge or, using the word of the season, epic. That’s a lot of pressure, even if it is only internal. So after being a headcase for a few days, I have decided to go the opposite. This is not epic.
First, a little background. (BTW, you know what I like about blogging compared to writing papers for English teachers? I can have a “sentence” like “First, a little background” with no subject or verb and it’s OK. No one is grading this) Over the last couple of months there have been a couple of strange developments in the old family. There is a storyline developing around our house involving 2 fictitious people and some semi-celebrities. It is way too silly to even get into. There is a love triangle, a dude with a snaggle-tooth, everything you would need to make a great novel. Now there is a song. The song tells the story. This song is called “advice,” though there is nothing remotely close to advice in it. This advice must be sung every morning, or like a couple of days ago when the song was not sung, I accidentally drove my car in a lake (not really. settle down, Mom).
In addition to this, we all have characters that we play now. We are not only the Loften family, we are part of another family as well–the Poc family. Many of the stuffed animals are in this “family” as well and they have roles to play. Some are too sophisticated; we don’t like them.
At this point, you are likely having one of several reactions. “That sounds like a lot of fun.” “Do I know any professional family counselors in NWA?” “I wonder what other churches there are in NWA?”
Irregardless (take that English teacher), we have fun in our house. Unlike that uppity Penguin, Dolphin or that chowder pants Tuxedo Dog, none of us are too sophisticated to just be silly and have fun with each other. Much of life is serious. Adjusting to a new town, school, job, church are all very serious. They are time-consuming and emotionally draining. Great reasons to feel like you just don’t have the energy to deal with Cheetah-Poc trying to intimidate everyone.
However, it is exactly these times where you need to find extra energy. When you are tired and drained is the perfect time. When they are still young enough to want you to do this is the perfect time.
We have a reputation with some to run a pretty tight ship when it comes to discipline. I can’t deny that, but we also be trying to do our goodest to make it a fun ship as well. (Hee hee, English teachers)
As some of you know, I like to needle people who get overly caught up in politics. The irony of that is that are likely few people that listen to more political talk or read more political websites than me. I am fascinated by the theater of it and the way that people communicate. Also, I am interested in the future of the county that I live in and I have a rooting interest in most elections. I have a pretty eclectic hodgepodge of positions, some of which I don’t think any political party agrees with me on (That got you curious).
However, the way that some of us view our candidates/party/philosophy does trouble me at times. Despite what you may think, I am not that old. However, I have already seen many “historic” elections that were going to change the foundation of politics, Washington and America for generations to come.
1994: The Republican Revolution led by Newt Gingrich which prompted one Bill Clinton to declare the era of big government to be over.
2000: Finally, a Republican president and Congress, no more meddling Democrats running around getting in the way.
2006: Huge Democrat sweep, repudiating Republicans forever.
2008: Barack Obama will finally bring hope to the US and the world and reshaping America to a country we can be proud of and a “filibuster proof” majority in the Senate that would allow progressive policies to bring compassion and reason back to the US.
2010: Which leads us to the most recent historic election. Where the people have declared once and for all…You get the point.
Here is my (rhetorical?) question: which one of those reshaped the political landscape (love that phrase. What does it mean?) for generations? Which of those finally brought America “back”?
A couple of thoughts. One, does it strike anyone else that maybe most of this is cyclical? The era of big government was not over. It came back, and now some are going to try and end it again. Then it will come back.
Second, and this is my biggest question, when did Christians start putting their hope for a better future in the hands of people? When did we believe that a reformed political system was what was going to bring hope and life to people? I understand atheists, deists, pantheists needing to place their hope in people. But Christian theists? America can do better, worse or the same and the hope of the Christ follower should remain steady. The things that matter the most still remain.
This economy has been challenging. When you work for an organization that depends on people giving, it is a challenge. When you have to sell your house because you are moving, it is challenging. I did not put my hope and trust in Obama in 2008 and I don’t put it in John Boehner now. I wish (different than hope) that all of them will do what is the best interest of the people and will lead us well. However, it never surprises me when it doesn’t work out. I want America to do well and thrive, and to be a responsible and moral country (even though there is not widespread agreement as to what that means). However, I am neither surprised, angry, or overwhelmingly disappointed when it does not live up to its highest ideals.
Cynical? Maybe. Realist? Maybe. People will disappoint you. Power corrupts even the best of us. That’s not “OK” in one sense, but in another it is–by that I mean I’m OK, my family is OK. Why? Because our hope is in God. Our leaders can and frequently do disappoint me. God does not.
Peace and Hope
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
I couldn’t help the alliteration of that title. As a general rule, I reject such cheesy alliteration. I certainly reject making my outlines spell a word–being a great father is all about Desiring God, being a great Advisor and Delighting in your kids. (I just came up with that. You can use it all you want. You don’t even have to give me credit. In fact, don’t.)
We had a Fall Festival yesterday at the church. While trying to remain Switzerland on the Hallowe’en thing (It’s just not worth the energy for me), this was a great, fun safe way for our kids to have fun, be with friends and score some candy. We have a lot of little kids under 5. It was a great time. (BTW, you cannot go wrong dressing your baby up as a dinosaur. A lot of cute there last night.)
I bring this up, not so that you will search the internet to see if you can find the picture of the elders and me, because if you found it, you would not ever come to our church. I bring this up, because I had nothing to do with this. Two different people approached me. One wanted to donate the cost of having a petting zoo, and the other wanted to lead it. I met with the person that wanted to lead. Her name is Jacey. I mention her name, because I want to praise her publicly. I don’t mention her last name, because some people aren’t fired up about their name coming up on random websites. (Not sure how Cass Harris feels about this, but we’ll let Cass Harris figure that out for himself. Cass Harris is good that way. Right, Cass Harris?)
We spent about an hour together talking about the idea, parameters, her plan, etc. Then she and her team made it happen. I guess I helped a little by helping recruit volunteers and asking people to donate candy. But other than that, I did nothing. She and her team did it all. They didn’t need my help.
The end result was that it was incredible. It exceeded everyone’s expectations. It had a lot of people saying that we should do this again, and that we should make it a community event. It really was a lot of fun. I don’t know how it could have been better. We had a lot of people serving, and a bunch of cute kids having fun.
By me stepping out of the way, creative people were able to be creative, dreamers dreamed, and task people got it done. I would have only gotten in the way. But Cloften, what if it had been terrible? It’s risky to just let people do stuff. What if they forget something? People will blame you if it’s no good.
That is true, there is a risk. If I had been more involved, I could have guaranteed that it wouldn’t be terrible. I would also have guaranteed that it wouldn’t have been incredible, because people wouldn’t have owned it, and felt the freedom to dream and create. I would have guaranteed a solid, OK event. What is the greater risk? Risking that something might not be good or insuring that it won’t be great?
Find great leaders and then let them lead. Let Everyone Accomplish Dynamic Enterprising Realities.