Thinning Out the Middle

September 6, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

No, no, no this is not a weight loss post.  I could use a little thinning out in the middle, but this post will be a little more metaphorical than that.

We have now done 3 services for 2 weeks.  It has been a lot of fun.  It has, of course, also been tiring, but it’s definitely a good kind of tired.  Anywho, we weren’t really sure what the crowds would be like from service to service going into it.  We were pretty sure that 1st would be the smallest, but we didn’t know about the 2nd and 3rd.

Through 2 weeks, the first service has been about half the size of the 2nd service with the 3rd service being somewhat in between.  This last Sunday, we had standing room only at the 10:00 service.  That makes for great energy in the room, but doesn’t make for great opportunities for new people to find a good place to connect in the long term.  We want to keep making room for newer people.  Most new people will visit at 10:00.

So…we need to thin out the middle service and move to the outer services.  If you can make it to 8:30, please do.  It is certainly the earliest, and for the most people, the hardest one to get to.  If we can make room for newer, less engaged people at 10:00, by coming at 8:30, let’s do it.  11:30 is also a good option.  You can get some extra rest, have a leisurely breakfast/brunch and come to church at 11:30.

BTW, you guys have been doing a great job parking farther away and making space for newer people.  Kudos to you and the coolest people in orange vests, Grove Parking Team.

We are at an exciting time at The Grove Church where God is blessing us a ton, and we’re excited to see what happens next.  Thanks for making some small changes to make a big difference.

We’re All in GT Now

August 16, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

That title is enough to get some of you ready to fight. Many of you believe that we no longer encourage or celebrate excellence and are disgusted by it. You think that “Every kid is a winner” is insulting to winners and not everyone can be excellent, by definition of excellent. In the great words of Dash Paar (The Incredibles) when told by his mom that everyone is special, he responds by saying that’s “another way of saying no one is.”

Your political ranting aside, what if every one is special?  What if everyone is gifted and talented?  (Hurry up, Blog Boy.  We see where this is going.)  In I Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the Church and uses the analogy of a body, that we are all parts of a body and all placed there by the Holy Spirit.  We are each uniquely and specifically gifted by the Holy Spirit. We are who we are (gifting wise) by God’s design in our lives.  No one part of the body can say that it is better or worse than any other.  We are all gifted by God’s Spirit and talented by his design, no one of us better than the other.

Comparing one person to another doesn’t even make sense, as far as what the Bible says, because these were never meant to be gifts and talents used independently.  They were always meant to be used together.  This is why Paul uses the absurd analogy of an ear thinking he was worse than an eye because he’s “just an ear.”  No individual piece makes sense except in conjunction with all the others.

Anywho, do you believe that?  Do you believe that you are uniquely gifted and talented by God?  Do you believe that God wants to use your gifts and talents in the “body” to change the world?  Guess what? It doesn’t matter what you believe.  It’s true nonetheless.

The next obvious question is how to know what my gifts and talents are.  For all you Grovers out there, we will talk about that this Sunday and work through some exercises to help us discover.

Here are some starter questions (we will talk more about this on the ol’ blog as well):

Are you more of a “in front of people” person or “behind the scenes?”

If you see a need do you want to fix it, talk to the people involved, pray about it?  What is your first response?

What kind of people do you think about, care about most?  Kids, teenagers, the poor, homeless, lost people…

What natural talents or skills do you have that you have used for God before and loved it? What are some skills that you haven’t been able to use, but would be great if you could? (Computer hacking skills, nunchuck skills.  I’m pretty good with a bowstaff.)

That’s just a few questions to get the juices flowing.  Put the answers to those questions together and put together and dream job description and then find a place to do that.  The best way to find out the way that God has gifted you is to take advantage of opportunities to serve other people and see what works and what doesn’t, what you’re good at, what you love, etc.  Then continually look for better opportunities that seem like better fits.

Above all else, believe that God has gifted and wants to use you and you will see God move mightily in and through your life.

Next Step:  Bumper stickers–”I’m in God’s GT Class”

Waiting on the World to Change

I know that this is going to be sacrilegious for many of you, but I’m not a huge John Mayer fan. So much so, I had to check to see how his name was spelled. I’m not a hater. I would just say that I’m solidly in the neutral camp. If a song of his comes on, I’ll check other stations to see if there is a better song, but I don’t turn off the radio or switch to NPR or anything. Aren’t most John Mayer fans listening to NPR already? Is that an insult? I’m confusing myself.

There’s one John Mayer song in particular that I’m a little confused by–Waiting on the World to Change. Am I supposed to be inspired by that song? Is that a comforting song? A rallying cry? I don’t want to get labelled a hater for all you Mayer fans drinking lattes reading this. (is that an insult?) However, I find those lyrics uninspiring and a bit of a cop out.

I get the basic idea that “we” are not in charge of the government, so in some areas “we” are helpless. “We” can’t bring the soldiers back from war. Therefore, we wait. For what? Duh, the world to change. How does that happen? Waiting? I would like to suggest not.

I have a friend (really?) whom you should follow on the twitters. His name is Aaron Reddin. His twitter handle? Id? Username? is homelessheretic. Here is a guy when you get to know him thinks the world needs to change. He will tell you so in vivid language. He thinks the “fight ain’t fair.” He thinks the deck is stacked against the homeless and people should care more. He laments the government and the local church for not doing more.

He is not waiting on the world to change. He is changing the world, one person at a time. He is ministering to people, loving people and mobilizing more to help him. He is doing something and making a huge difference. He even has a van. You may be thinking, so what my grandpa has a van? Seriously, check him out. and find out about what he’s doing with that van to serve people.

We need so much more of that. I would rather have 100 people skeptical of the govt and organized church that are making a difference in the world, than 1000 nice people sitting in church waiting and wondering when the govt or the church (whoever that is) to do something about what they care about.

Questions: what are you passionate about? What people or need in the world has God put on your heart?
What are you doing about it? Are you waiting for the world to change? Or are you changing the world?

Coincidentally, we will be talking about this at church the next couple of weeks, but you don’t have to wait for that.

Unpacking the Packed House

January 27, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with us buying or selling a house (although we did have a 2nd showing last night, if anyone feels inclined to pray in that regard).

This has to do with the overwhelming number of people that were at the 2nd service at the Grove on Sunday (if your church is full or fullish in the service you attend, feel free to keep reading)

I have been a part of services where I’ve said, “that was packed,” or “we were full.”  I will try from here on out to not use that expression any more, because I was at a service on Sunday that was packed and full.  We counted yesterday and we have ~210 chairs.  There were over 220 people in the room.  For you non-math majors out there, that means there were people there that didn’t have chairs. I know that people who hate math especially hate story problems.

Anywho, there are a couple of things that people can walk away from a service like that thinking, “Wow, that was cool.  There was a lot of energy,” or “that was crowded, hot, and if I’m going to be honest, smelled a little bit.”  Now I’m guessing that most of the members/regulars are in category 1.  Also, I would hope that most of the new people were in category 1.  Something like that is cool, once, maybe twice.  After a while, it can for some begin to be uncomfortable.  Again, this isn’t regulars, it’s people that are new to church, often the most spiritually vulnerable.

We certainly don’t want to do anything that would discourage people from coming or inviting a friend. (Why would I invite a friend if there is no room?) So what can we do?  Welpst, we can look for a new place to meet, which we are doing (Pray for that by the way. Hoping to have some good news soon).  You can also (gulp) come to first service. It starts at 9:15, by then on most days you are up, ready, at work or class, and have 10 games of minesweeper under your belt (Is that a dated reference?).

If you are bringing friends and they want to come at 11, come at 11.  If it’s just you, try and come to the early service.  New people will almost always come to the later service.  Let’s make room for them by worshipping early.

Speaking of that, drop your kids and wife off at the door and then go park in the worst place imaginable.  Braums lets us park in the northern part of their lot. We can park across Sunbridge at the strip mall. We can park down the street behind the church and Braums.  I think no one uses that street but us anyway.

People have always said to me in situations like this that “it’s a good problem to have.”  Agreed. But that still makes it a problem, a problem we can fix.  Come early and park inconveniently.  I’ll talk to you again about what to do when both services are 200+.

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.