Kaye, my wife, teaches third grade at the public school in our neighborhood—the school our daughters attend. Kaye has always viewed teaching as an incredible opportunity to love and serve kids and their families, and this year she sensed the Lord leading her to start a Bible study before school for kids who wanted to come. It has been amazing. Each time they meet anywhere between 40 and 50 kids come to the Bible study. Because the study has made such an impact and because of my love and respect for those of you who serve kids, I thought it would be helpful to hear from Kaye on five steps to launching a Bible study for kids before or after school.
The rest of this post is from Kaye (the greatest wife in human history):
1. Find a location close to school.
I spoke to an attorney friend who confirmed that any on-campus Bible study in a public school must be 100% student led. Of course this was highly unlikely with 5-11 year olds, so I looked for a location close to the school so the kids could walk to school together after the study. Because the Bible study is not on school grounds, I am able to lead it. A friend of mine, whose student I taught and who loves the Lord and kids, offered her home. Since school starts at 9:00 for us this year, we decided to meet before school every other Wednesday. We walk together to school after the study, escorted by adults.
2. Get a posse.
There is no way I can effectively care for all these kids, so I enlisted three other school moms that I knew would love the opportunity to love these kids and help them study the Bible. All it took was asking!
3. Choose a study for kids.
The kids love having something to take home and it shows the parents what their kids are studying. We started with Armor of God for Kids and now are using The Gospel Project for Kids. Both studies have been great for the kids and they have learned so much.
4. Get the word out.
To start the study, we personally invited kids we thought would be interested and then really encouraged those kids to invite their friends. It was truly beautiful to watch our children invite friends who do not go to church to come and learn about Jesus.
5. Communicate to parents.
We told those who were interested to contact one of the adult leaders. Each semester we send a message to the parents to let them know what we will be studying with a link to the study. We want the parents to know exactly what we will be doing; we don’t take it lightly that they are entrusting their kids to us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I am so grateful that Jesus is letting me be a little part of what He is doing with the kids in our school. The Word of God is piercing hearts and changing lives. If you are considering starting a Bible study for your school, take Nike’s advice and “Just do it”!
Some folks are deeply spiritual, but not the best leaders. Others are strong leaders, but their actions deny their professed Christianity. To be honest, it’s not always easy to find folks who are both deeply spiritual and strong leaders. Here are some markers of those I’ve known who do indeed show both characteristics.
They pray a lot. These are men whose hearts are bent toward God, and their knees are worn out in prayer. Their confidence in God is palpable.
They recognize the reality of the spiritual war. They respect the enemy’s power without ever forgetting they’re following the Conqueror.
John Maxwell is famous for saying, “Leadership is influence; nothing more and nothing less.” I would tend to agree, and you likely would too. The problem is that a lot of us don’t know how to build influence, especially when we’re new to a team.
Stephen Covey developed the Pyramid of Influence. Covey said the most important thing is what people see, the bottom layer of the pyramid. You need to model what you want done. You must align yourself with the purpose and ensure that what you’re doing aligns with where the team is going because actions speak louder than words.
Despite all your meetings, emails and phone calls, you wonder if you’ve made any substantial progress on the things that actually matter.
Maybe you lead meetings with your staff week after week, but you haven’t gained momentum in months. Instead, you’re checking off a task list and your staff feels more uninterested than ever before. In fact, it’s not just you that feels stuck; everybody you’re leading feels stuck!
At some point, Chick-fil-A leadership made a decision that saying “My pleasure” was a kind and unique response to “Thank you.” It was repeated over and over again. Excellence on every level is expected. If getting your lunch excellently is important, why wouldn’t we make ministry that has eternal significance just as significant? Repeating the values to your ministry team and those involved helps create a culture of excellence and a culture that cares. Here are three ways you can develop the habit of being a leader who is a repeater.
We were going to launch a capital campaign. We knew we needed to do it at some point. Everyone was excited, or so they seemed. The momentum was high, but something inside of me said wait. When I began to get nervous about moving forward and went back to the excited crowd, and asked them to pray again, it was unanimous. They didn’t think the timing was right. We were moving forward in emotion, but not under God’s direction. I learned this one the hard way. Other times I’ve not been as sensitive to my gut or the Spirit’s leading.
Video of the Week: The Biggest Hindrance of Leadership Development
The Biggest Hindrance of Leadership Development - YouTube
Every church sends a message through how they welcome and treat guests. Those with no strategy send the loudest message: “What we believe has not impacted how we treat you.” Not to be hospitable is to prove the message of God’s grace hasn’t impacted the totality of the church.
Hospitality is the combination of two words: stranger and love. It literally means to show love to strangers and it is very biblical. God’s hospitality toward us is the foundation and motivation for our hospitality toward others. God loved us while we were still strangers. While we were His enemies, He pursued us. And now we are to accept others the way Christ has accepted us. Being hospitable is even a qualification for being a leader in the church (1 Timothy 3:2). Churches must have a plan for how they show love to those who are their guests.
So what are churches doing in terms of their hospitality toward guests? LifeWay Research interviewed more than 1,000 pastors on how their churches welcome guests, and here are a few points from what the research revealed:
Nearly 80% of the churches have a centralized location where guests can learn about the church.
40% of the churches gift some type of gift to first-time guests.
Churches with less than 100 people in attendance are much more likely to ask guests to stand and be recognized than churches with more than 250 people in attendance.
The vast majority of churches (96%) with more than 250 people in attendance ask guests to provide their information on cards the church provides.
85% of the churches with more than 250 people in attendance provide some type of informational class for new people to learn about the church. 50% of the churches with less than 50 people in attendance do.
The research is encouraging in that most churches have a plan for hospitality, for showing love to those who visit. When thinking about hospitality to guests who visit your church, it is helpful to think in terms of systems and culture. They feed off one another in that a church culture that values hospitality will ensure systems are in place, and systems will help reinforce a culture. Both are important.
Systems for hospitality include:
A plan to ensure guests know where to park, where to bring their children, where the worship gathering takes place
Signage and greeters placed at strategic places in a guest’s path (parking lot, doorways, etc.)
A process to gather information from guests
A plan for follow-up for those who have attended
But if you do not have joyful and loving people in your church, your systems won’t be able to overcome the lack of hospitality from the people.
A culture of hospitality is based upon the following important principles:
Ministry leaders must continually remind people that we were once strangers and God pursued us.
Those serving as greeters, ushers, etc. must be friendly and joyful people who love the church.
Because this is such an important aspect of a local church’s effectiveness, I am really excited about Dr. Rainer’s new book, Becoming a Welcoming Church. You can find more information about the book here. I highly recommend it. It would be a great tool to give to people in your church to encourage and challenge them to help make your church a welcoming place.
I am honored to lead the Resources Division at LifeWay and serve with a team of leaders who are passionate to serve the Church in her mission of making disciples. Each Wednesday, I share the heart behind one of the resources our team has developed and give an opportunity for you to register to win a free copy of the resource. This week’s post is from a bestselling author and my boss, Thom S. Rainer, whose book, Becoming a Welcoming Church, launched on March 1. Lots of things can go wrong when you welcome people to your church. Watch, read, and enjoy.
Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom S. Rainer - YouTube
Most church members have forgotten what it’s like to be a first-time guest. They now have established relationships in the church. They love their church. Their biases tell them their church is great. But many church members and leaders are wrong. When we asked hundreds of guests about their experiences visiting churches, it was not a pretty picture. We asked specifically why they did not return to a particular church. Here were their top ten responses:
1. The stand-and-greet time in the worship service was unfriendly and awkward. Some guests saw it as only a ritual for the members while others felt totally ignored or inundated with superficial greetings.
2. Unfriendly church members. Most church members don’t usually speak to guests because they don’t know them and instead retreat to the comfort of the holy huddles of the people they do know.
3. Unsafe and unclean children’s areas. If your church does not have clear safety and security procedures, and if the children’s area is not clean and sanitary, young families will not return to your church.
4. No place to get information on the church. Guests are trained to look for a central welcome and information center, however, some churches didn’t have one or it was hidden or unmanned.
5. Bad church websites. The two critical items guests want to see on a church website are the physical address of the church and times of the services.
6. Poor signage. Guests get frustrated when they don’t have clear directional signage for parking, the worship center, the children’s area, and others.
7. Insider church language. Listen carefully to the words and conversations in the worship service. See if members say things that a first-time guest would not understand.
8. Boring or bad church services. In the digital age, with so many affordable resources, no church is allowed that excuse.
9. Members telling guests they were in the wrong pew or chair. In fact the most common comment was, “You are sitting in my pew.”
10. Dirty facilities. A dirty church communicates to the guest, “We really don’t care.”
Enter here or in the form below by 11:59pm tonight, Wednesday, March 14, 2018, for your chance to win 1 of 10 copies of Thom Rainer’s new book, Becoming a Welcoming Church.
I never thought he would fall. He seemed too strong, too wise, and too dependent on the Lord to ever ruin his life.
He was such an incredible leader, a person we deeply admired and sought to emulate. He shepherded us with skillful hands and a pure heart. He brought our people together, and we were blessed by the stability and fruit of his leadership.
But even more than being a great leader, he was a great follower. He followed the Lord with all his heart. He was not embarrassed to celebrate and sing and dance before God. It was well-known that he woke up early to spend time with God. When times were tough for him, he found his joy in the Lord and not in his circumstances. He wrote songs to God, songs many of us recited and sang. He was even called a man after God’s own heart.
He was so strong in our eyes that even the people who surrounded him were called his “mighty men.” And his strength clearly came from his trust in the Lord. Once he stood up to our biggest enemy and the Lord granted success.
His predecessor fell miserably and even took his own life, but we were confident he would not follow that example. He even wrote a song about the one who had gone before him, a song that reminded us how horrible it is to see a great leader fall.
I know all are frail, but I never thought David, our king, would fall. If David can fall, surely I can…
When we think of God’s people who lived during King David’s reign, we can imagine that those who knew the whole story wrestled greatly with their own fragility in the light of David’s fall.
If there were ever a person whom people believed would be above falling, above imploding, it would be David. David penned psalms, defeated a giant, defended God’s people, conquered enemies, united God’s people, and received the promise from God that his throne would last forever—which is presently happening because Jesus Christ came into our world through the lineage of David. David was so powerful that even men around him were considered mighty. When we read about David, we can easily feel dwarfed by his passion for God, his skillful leadership, and his bold moves for the Lord. He was a great man, a skillful leader, a passionate worshiper, and a brilliant artist. Yet David fell.
David, who penned the words “How the mighty have fallen” after Saul’s death, could not keep himself from falling.
And we can’t keep ourselves from falling either. If David, who woke up the dawn with singing to the Lord, can drift from the Lord, we surely can. If David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, can harden his heart toward the Lord, we surely can. If David, who conquered his enemies, could be so easily conquered by his own sin, so can we.
The apostle Paul reminds us, “Whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). We need God’s grace, not our strength, to keep us from falling.
This is the heart behind my upcoming book, How to Ruin Your Life, which walks the reader through David’s implosion, repentance, and celebration of his forgiveness. I hope you’ll check it out. Click here for more information.
My newest book is titled How to Ruin Your Life and releases early next month. I have lived with the content of the book for over a year now, in speaking engagements, in conversations, and in forming the book, so I’m ready to get the book out the door. I am hopeful and prayerful the Lord will use the book, and here are five things I want you know about it:
1. The book was born in a season of pain and brokenness.
In my role at LifeWay, my team works daily with authors and church leaders. We love them. It is not just a job for our team but our lives. Over many months, we saw several leaders we work with implode. They were removed from their positions because the cracks in their character became obvious to those they served alongside. Marriages were lost. Families were impacted. Churches were deeply hurt. We saw the devastation of imploded and ruined lives. After a meeting with my leadership team that was marked by weeping and prayers, several encouraged me to share with all our employees. I walked through King David’s implosion with our whole team and begged them to keep repenting daily. Afterward, our book publisher, Jennifer Lyell, came to me and said, “That has to be a book.”
2. The book is based on King David’s implosion and repentance.
We should be grateful that the story of David’s implosion is in the Bible. We can learn from his implosion because in the story we see cracks in the foundation of his character that led to his downfall. The book is written to help us identify those cracks so we can repent of them. We can also learn from David’s repentance. David was at his best when he was repenting, and so are we.
3. The book is written in hopes that you won’t ruin your life.
In David’s story we learn that none of us are above ruining our lives and that any of us can implode. David penned psalms, was a man after God’s own heart, united God’s people, and served as their king. If he can implode, surely I can. Knowing we can fall and ruin our lives should cause us to look to the only One who can keep us from falling.
4. God’s grace is greater than our sin.
Half of the book is about David’s fall, and the other half is about the forgiveness he finds in the Lord. David ruined his life in isolation and repented in community. After the prophet Nathan confronted David, he repented and came to the Lord for a clean heart. Psalm 51 is David’s beautiful confession of his dependence on the Lord for forgiveness and a clean start. David’s story did not end with his downfall, and our story does not need to end with ours.
5. Be the second type of friend.
Every time I release a book, I am reminded that I have two types of friends.
The first type of friend messages asking me to send a free copy (which authors usually get around 25 free copies).
The second type of friend buys the book, reads it, and tells others about it. Be the second type of friend. Here is how.
It’s our job to go out first. If something needs to be discovered, we need to discover it. If you’ve been given the role of a leader, go outside your office, and investigate the hard things. In a church setting, there’s so much at stake. And ignoring the possibility of dangerous things can literally have eternal consequences.
So whether you feign bravery, or even sprint back to safety after your discovery in the dark, check it out. Don’t send others to do your role as a leader (in my case, my wife is faster than me, so I did consider sending her to check out the trash can area).
In day-to-day operations, military officers aren’t usually expected to do manual labor. Their subordinates, the enlisted personnel, will dig trenches, fill holes, and other tough jobs as required. The story goes that Mattis, upon witnessing a shortage of enlisted personnel one day, addressed his officers with this quote. Soon, they were also filling sandbags.
Leading by example is a leadership style that is often overlooked by CEOs and others in positions of power. When subordinates are in need of support or guidance, a good leader will often roll up their sleeves and jump into action with their people.
A culture is simply the collection of beliefs on which people build their behavior. Learning organizations – Peter Senge’s term — classically focus on intellectually oriented issues such as knowledge and expertise. That’s plainly critical, but a true growth culture also focuses on deeper issues connected to how people feel, and how they behave as a result. In a growth culture, people build their capacity to see through blind spots; acknowledge insecurities and shortcomings rather than unconsciously acting them out; and spend less energy defending their personal value so they have more energy available to create external value. How people feel – and make other people feel — becomes as important as how much they know.
Several years ago, Kaye and I went white-water rafting together while on a summer vacation. We planned it for months as it was something we were looking forward to doing together. As we planned the trip, we noticed a big difference between travel agents and tour guides. We talked to travel agents who could book a trip for us. They didn’t seem to care that much about the trip we would take, or what river we would experience, or what class rapid we would go for. They just passed out the information and let us decide. There wasn’t passion in their voices, and if there were a love for the river or the adventure, it didn’t come out in the conversation.
And then we met our tour guide for the several hours journey down the river. We could tell right away that the journey we were going to take together was more than a job. He spoke with passion about the river, told stories of times when the river was at her fastest, lamented the lack of respect some showed the river, and bragged on daring stunts his friends had attempted on the river.
The travel agents passed out brochures for adventures they thought we should consider. The tour guide got in the raft with us, rowed alongside us, and led us to places he had been before and places he loved going.
I have noticed the same is true in organizations and ministries among those who lead and serve. Some are travel agents and some are tour guides.
There is a mammoth difference between a leader who can offer insight and one who acts on insight. People love to follow leaders who are willing to jump in the boat and row, who offer their hearts to the work, not just their heads.
Ultimately wisdom is not merely knowing what one should do but putting sound thinking into practice. Thus, a wise leader pushes for robust and grandiose thinking to be put into real practice.
3. Travel agent leaders are above the work; tour guide leaders are in the work.
Travel agent leaders are often disconnected from the work, from the people, and from how decisions made in offices impact real lives. Tour guide leaders are in the work because of their love for the people and the mission.
4. Travel agent leaders can tell you where to get a paddle; tour guide leaders row
It is impossible for leaders to row in every boat, to be in every discussion, and to be in all the activity of those they lead. And it is unwise and unhealthy for leaders to attempt to do so. At the same time, servant leaders long to row alongside those they are leading and find ways to do so.
5. Travel agent leaders are not emotionally invested; tour guide leaders love the journey.
Travel agent leaders don’t really care that much about the work or the mission. They are not deeply invested. Tour guide leaders love the journey. They care.
Just as Steve Jobs was synonymous with Apple and Jeff Bezos is synonymous with Amazon, Elon Musk has become synonymous with space travel and electric cars with his companies SpaceX and Tesla. I just finished reading Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance, and although Musk did not approve of the writing beforehand and has refuted some of the content, Musk did grant the biographer access to his top leaders, and the two spent time together monthly. Elon Musk was one of the founders of PayPal, and after realizing a massive payday when the company was sold to eBay, he started SpaceX and cofounded Tesla. Reading about Musk felt similar to reading about Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos in biographies written about them (Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson and Jeff Bezos’ biography by Brad Stone). I have read all three and here are four common traits their biographies portray about these leaders.
1. Driven by a grand idea
Great leaders are driven by a grand conviction over a long period of time. Great leaders don’t shift their convictions continually. Steve Jobs was driven by his conviction for great and beautifully designed products, and this idea drove him until his death. According to his biography, even on his deathbed, he was consumed with design. He rejected the first oxygen mask they gave him and insisted on seeing multiple designs before settling on which one he would use. Creating an everything store, a store that gets you anything you want from A to Z, has driven Bezos. He has been relentless in this grand idea (For fun, type in relentless.com). Elon Musk deeply believes technology should be used to solve big problems and better humanity.
2. Perseverance through lots of adversity
Great leaders are able to weather challenging days because of their fierce commitment to their convictions. Jobs, Bezos, and Musk have persevered through incredible amounts of adversity. Their convictions proved greater than the challenges they faced. Jobs was ousted by the company he started. Bezos has famously said that he has lost Amazon billions of dollars in projects that failed. And Musk nearly sold Tesla to Google when money was scarce.
3. Incredibly high expectations
Because of their deeply held convictions, great leaders also have high expectations of themselves and those on their team. The biographies of Jobs, Bezos, and Musk reveal expectations so high that some thought they were unreasonably so.
4. Often difficult to work for
Their high expectations often resulted in people struggling to work for these leaders. There are stories of Jobs’ verbal attacks on people who did not meet his expectations. The Bezos biography reveals that some who worked for Bezos required counseling and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. According to the Musk biography, when someone declares to Musk that the project timeline is unreasonable, he will remove the person from the project and declare himself to be the CEO of the project.
It is true that people with high expectations can be difficult to work for at times. But for the Christian leader, we must not aspire to be such a leader. When projects are prioritized before people, disrespecting and hurting people is inevitable. But for the Christian leader, we must remember that people are our mission. People are not merely tools to help us accomplish our mission. We must be driven by our convictions and persevere through adversity. We should also hold to high expectations, but how we treat people should reflect the kingdom we belong to and the King we serve.
I am honored to lead the Resources Division at LifeWay and serve with a team of leaders who are passionate to serve the Church in Her mission of making disciples. Each Wednesday, I share the heart behind one of the resources our team has developed and give an opportunity for you to register to win a free copy of the resource. This week’s resource is Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Exalting Jesus in John. Below is an excerpt from the book by Matt Carter and Josh Wredberg.
When I was in the early stages of planting a church, we needed to find a building to meet for our services. One of the places we looked into was a new YMCA. We walked in to talk with the person in charge about the possibility of renting the YMCA out on Sunday mornings for a church service. He told us, “I don’t think we’re able to do anything with churches or religious organizations.” Here’s how I wanted to respond: “So you’re telling me the Young Men’s Christian Association can’t be associated with Christians?” This organization founded to minister to young men in the name of Christ had forgotten why it started.
In John 3 we’re deposited into the middle of a brewing conflict (vv. 22-26). Two charismatic leaders have emerged, and people are flocking to hear both of them. The disciples of one of them start to grow a little frustrated. “Why’s Jesus getting all of the attention? Why are people following him?” So they bring these questions to their leader. John’s answer is a bit surprising. Here he has a captive audience devoted to following him. He has the perfect opportunity to declare why he’s the man. But he doesn’t. When John the Baptist is asked about the popularity of Jesus, he tells his followers that his ministry is all about pointing other people to Jesus.
We’re supposed to read this statement not as a question about baptism but about authority. John the Baptist’s disciples are wondering who has the authority. Who should men be following?
They’ve already made up their minds. To them it’s clear that men are to be following John, and Jesus is an imposter. You can hear the resentment toward Jesus in their statement: “The one you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan” (v. 26). They remembered the encounter between Jesus and John. John publicly testified Jesus was the Messiah. Despite hearing what John said, they missed the significance. John’s role was to bear witness about Jesus. Once he did that, it was natural for people to then follow Jesus based on John’s testimony.
However, in their minds John is still the superior leader. Jesus owes everything to John, and yet he’s stealing John’s followers. Their concern for John drips from this statement: “Everyone is going to him” (v. 26). That’s not true. In verse 23 we read that people are still coming to John to be baptized. But to John’s followers the shift in attention feels like a great tragedy. John is losing his popularity and momentum to someone else.
This is one of the typical attacks of Satan that is especially effective. He convinces us to criticize others who are faithfully doing God’s work. We see the crowds going elsewhere, and we get jealous. Envy and division were a massive problem for the Corinthian church. The apostle Paul wrote to them,
Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by members of Chloe’s people, that there is rivalry among you. What I am saying is this: One of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? (1 Cor. 1:10-13 CSB)
The remedy for the ills of the Corinthian church was to focus back on Jesus Christ. Jesus should be the focus, not earthly leaders.
John the Baptist answers the implied question from his disciples similarly. They want to know who should be followed. In essence he says to his disciples, “Don’t follow me instead of Jesus. Follow Jesus.” Ministry is about pointing other people to Jesus. If we miss that, we miss it all. If we surrender that, we’ve lost.