The top five reasons your church website sucks

Ready for this? Then let’s get to it

  1. Your website sucks because it is still telling me about your Christmas program!
  2. Your website sucks because I can’t find pictures of your pastors/leaders.
  3. Your website sucks because it has pictures of people on it who don’t go to your church… you got them from some generic website.
  4. Your website sucks because I keep landing on pages that say, “Under Construction.”
  5. Your website sucks because it makes me search for what should be obvious (e.g. service times, location, etc.).

What should you do if your website sucks?

  1. Contact Justin Michau or Cory Miller for starters. (Any other suggestions here?)
  2. Less is better so take some of that junk off!
  3. Pay attention to it! People are looking at it and make decisions on you and your church based on what they see or don’t see on your website!

The top five characteristics of a good friendship

These last few weeks Sherri and I have had the chance to spend some time with a number of good friends.

We have been reflecting on what it takes to be a good friend. Here’s where we’re at in our thinking…

  • Honesty – Will you tell me the truth? The best gift that someone can give me is honest affirmation (don’t patronize me) and honest correction. (For more on this idea read this post). Not everyone has the “right” to speak into my life this way. This right is earned by the demonstration of the second characteristic…
  • Love – Will you love me when I’m at the top of my game? Will you love me when I’m in a slump? Love that transcends the “seasons” of life is the “stuff” that genuine friendship is made of! Some people call this “unconditional love.”
  • Service – Will you help me? Friends help one another. These last few weeks we’ve been blessed by our friends who have helped with meals, prep for the yard sale, words of encouragement, babysitting, etc. To all of you, we are grateful to have friends like you. Thank you for your help.
  • Loyalty – Will you “stick it out” with me? Will you defend me when I’m being attacked? Will you stick up for me when I’m not there? A friend is someone who would not have to change the conversation when you walk up.
  • Receiving – Will you receive from me? A friendship is only as strong as the neediest friend. If you’re always helping me but I do not help you, in time you will grow weary of me! BUT when you help me, and allow me to help you we strengthen one another and the relationship grows healthier and stronger as a result.

That’s where we’re at in our thinking about friends right now.

How about you? What are the qualities you seek in a friendship?

Five practices for working with a ministry team

As I wrap up my time here at Northgate I want to share a few things that have worked well for our ministry team.

The top five lessons that I will take with me when working with a ministry team…

  • The “Three C’s” of a team. When I look for a team member I look for: character, competence, and chemistry. Each of these characteristics is critical if the team is to function at full capacity. The first two (character and competence) are kind of “givens” (at least they should be). The issue of chemistry, however, is one that has often been overlooked… perhaps to the detriment of many teams. My ideal team is one that would choose to “hang out with each other on their day off.” When you have a team that enjoys one another the possibility of high-impact ministry is increased significantly. WHO is on your team will play a significant part in determining WHAT your team does so pick your team carefully!
  • Off-site planning. As a leadership team, our most effective thinking/planning was done off-site! We were able to accomplish more in a day away than we were in multiple days/meetings “on-site.” We had three regularly schedule “away” times:
    • Monthly worship planning – Every month we would leave the church for a day to pray, plan, evaluate, adjust, and prepare for the weekend worship experiences.  Typically this would happen in one of our homes and was scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Though it didn’t always go this long… it was ALWAYS a valuable meeting
    • Bi-Monthly “Laugh” events – Every other month we (i.e. the Management Team) would leave the church for a day, just to “play.” Laughing together is a critical part of developing chemistry and so we invested in laughter. We did everything from ice-skating to laser tag!
    • Quarterly retreats – Every quarter the Management Team would leave on a Sunday night and stay at a cabin/hotel through the following evening. During this time we would tackle ONE BIG ITEM (e.g. Sermon planning; articulation of our core values, etc.). These retreats were some of our best times together and the decisions made here shaped and will continue to shape the church for years to come.
  • Laugh and Learn together. I am persuaded that a team that is learning and laughing together will be a better team leading a better organization. In order to achieve this we scheduled both:
    • Laughing together – I have already talked about this, so let me add one more thing and I’ll be done! We took turns scheduling the “Laugh” event. This kept the event fresh and fun.
    • Learning together – Every month we would read through and discuss a book together. We took turns picking the book, so again we experienced diversity in our learning. Some books read (Revolution by George Barna; Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley; The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero; Growth by Accident, Death by Planning by Bob Whitesel; A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards). Learning together helped us to wrestle with the same ideas together, use similar language when talking about issues, and identify strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities in our church, based on what we were learning.
  • Evaluations. We regularly evaluated what we were doing. If I could do it over I would work harder on follow-up… but that’s for another post! We evaluated:
    • Ourselves. We had bi-annual staff evaluations and monthly “Face-Time” meetings. You can read more about this here.
    • Our ministry effectiveness. We created a “Dashboard” that allowed us to review the “essentials” of the ministry here at Northgate: # of people saved; # of people in groups; # of people serving; attendance; and income. You can read more about this concept here.
  • Visit other churches. I asked the staff to “get out of here” at least once per quarter, and go to another church! I did this for three reasons:
    • We need to remember what it feels like to be a “stranger” “visitor” or whatever else you want to call it! I want our staff to know what our guests are feeling when they walk into our church for the first time!
    • Let’s learn what we can from other churches! It was always exciting when the staff would return with some great idea to implement at our church! We even sent our head usher to another church so that he could observe how their ushers functioned and we bought him and his family lunch that day too! (Take care of your volunteers!)
    • Get some “atta boys”! It’s affirming when someone comes back from another church and says, “We’re doing a good job with our kids ministry, etc.”

So there they are, five practices that have worked well for us these last couple of years.

The top five parenting tips… what’s working now (Part 3 by Rindy)

I’m thinking of starting a new organization, ‘Parents Anonymous’ for all the parents who are weaving their way on this parenting road, falling and getting back up, grumbling and shouting, and crying and rejoicing. I am a single mom of 3 wonderful young men, ages 17, 15, and 12. Their father has not had any part of their lives for over 8 years. I am honored that Paul has included me in this series, but I feel like standing up and declaring, “My name is Rindy…and I’m a parent”. I am just a parent on that same road, praying that once in a while I get it right and that God smooths it over when I don’t.

My “Top Five” lessons are not all inclusive, but continue to stand out against the test of time and circumstances:

5. Stay relevant and current – Learning what is important and relevant to my kids shows them that I believe they are important. I try to be a part of their lives. Whether it has been Barney the Dinosaur, Larry the Cable Guy or ‘my friends’ on MySpace, I am interested. I listen to their music, discover the latest trends, and learn the lingo. Not only does this become a catalyst for conversations, but it is also a way to help protect and guide thoughts and decisions. I don’t always agree with their style choices, but it’s what lies beneath that matters.

4. Have alone time – Knowing someone requires spending time with them. My guys are each individuals with different personalities, thoughts, and dreams. Spending 1:1 time with them has helped me discover who they are and are becoming. Setting aside time shows that they are a priority and that I value them as unique and special. The time may be spent going out to breakfast, kayaking, reading a book together, or any activity that shuts out distractions and opens the door. Be laid back, have no hidden agendas, enjoy and let the fun and conversations flow!

Alone time also means taking time being away from the kids. This I learned by making the mistake of sacrificing all my interests and time putting all their activities first and foremost. By doing this to the extreme, my kids learned that my life is second and less important. It focused their attention onto themselves and it has taken effort to shift that away. It’s not always about them…my life matters too.

3. Be open and honest – Kids see more than they hear and my accountability has increased tremendously by being a parent. I want to model behavior, say what I mean, and explain why I make the decisions I do. To be honest with them, I must be honest with myself. When I mess up, I admit it, apologize, and give them time to digest it. Being open has meant sharing struggles and failures. There is nothing that forces accountability and honesty more than when my kids confront me with an issue I thought I had hidden. Yes, being open and honest often means being vulnerable, but kids know anyway! Being real gives them permission to be real themselves. Kids learn very early what needs to be tucked away and the walls only get bigger as the issues grow! Not building walls is a lot easier than trying to tear them down.

2. Show respect and significance – To respect is to consider worthy of high regard; to refrain from interfering with; acceptance; worth; value; connection. To show significance is to show they are worth it and important. I try to recognize that my guys are developing their own thoughts, opinions, and interests. Their needs change as they grow and those needs may or may not match mine. For example, my need for wanting to know where my 17 year old is has to mesh with his need for increased independence and privacy. A parent can force a child to do just about anything, but real parenting encourages and appreciates. In other words shows respect and significance.

1. Love them completely and unconditionally – and make sure they know it! Unconditional love is love no matter what. It is security to make mistakes and take chances. It is acceptance and forgiveness. I don’t always like or agree with my guys’ behavior or choices, but I always love them. It is so important to separate the behavior from the person. My kids have made mistakes, hurt others, and yes, hurt me. They have said “I hate you”, gotten into trouble at school, and intentionally manipulated and lied. Loving them does not make those things ok. They still deal with the natural consequences, but they know that I am always there through it all.

Love needs to be shown too. I try to often say, “I love you”, give hugs, or give little surprises (like out for ice cream, notes of appreciation, or something goofy and crazy). Flashing them a wink or the sign language “I love you” from across the room shows connection when others are around and gives support without words. Public appreciation, displays of affection, or praise needs to be tailored to each child and used in moderation. My teens just go with it, roll their eyes and call me weird…but then join in and give it right back!

 

Following a recipe gives the same results every time. Parenting would be so much easier if that’s all we had to do. There are no guarantees. We can put in all the right ingredients and still not get what we hoped for or expected. Continually striving to be better parents, praying, and trusting that God will do the rest is the best recipe we can try to follow.

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You can check out more of Rindy’s writing at

her personal blog, or

her newest blogging adventure

 

Top five parenting tips… what’s working now (Part 2 by Aaron Conrad)

First off, I have to be honest and say that it is an honor to team with Paul on this series of posts. I have followed Paul’s blog from afar and look forward to meeting him in person one day. Also, I must begin with a few disclaimers regarding my “Top Five” lessons.

  • Disclaimer #1 – Most if not all of the credit for my children belongs to my wife. She is the rock of our home and has taught me as much about parenting as she has our children. I often tease her that she is raising 4 children (I would be the 4th).
  • Disclaimer #2 – My son is 6 years old. My daughters are 4 and 2. So the “proof is still in the pudding” as they say. I don’t know if what we are doing will win any awards, but I know that it’s the best that we know how.

Now, on to my “Top Five”

  • 5. Each child is different – I have learned that each child is different. Each one needs and requires a different approach with discipline, coaching, teaching and encouraging. The key has been really getting to know how they are different and then adjusting accordingly.
  • 4. “The John Eldredge Rule” – I make every effort to let my girls know that they are my princess and my son know that I believe in him. With the girls that means dancing to a song, letting them know they look beautiful, even doing some make believe if that is what it takes. With my son it is not changing the light bulb while he watches (for example), it is showing him how to change the light bulb, then letting him know how well he did that. Each one requires a validation from me that is huge. My fear is that if they don’t get it now, at home, then they will seek it elsewhere.
  • 3. Be consistent – My wife is great about this. Ever since Austin was born, we have kept the same routines with bath times, prayer times, nap times and bed times. There will always been occasional exception, but we have done our best to stay the course. Sometimes we have to miss out on things later at night, but we know our kids need their rest and what time that means they go to bed. This also gives us time at night to do what we need to do to keep things balanced.
  • 2. Decisions and consequences – When my son and first born was going through the terrible two’s, I called my sister who is a veteran of getting 4 children through that period. She taught me a valuable lesson about “decisions and consequences”. We have tried to teach our children that for every decision they make, there is a consequence. That can be a good thing, or a bad thing. Just as it is for adults in life, when we make good decisions, for the most part, we realize good consequences. However for those times when we make a bad decision or choice, there is a consequence. We don’t hold it over their heads, but rather try to use each time as a “teachable moment” and train them to better understand the next time that happens.
  • 1. The gift – At the end of the day, even those which cause the best parent to wonder what they are doing in this role, I try to remember that each one of these children has been entrusted into my care by a loving God. Each one was predetermined to be with me for a period of time for which God is banking on my ability to mold and shape them. When I feel like I am failing, I try to remember that God knows my heart and how I am wired. He wouldn’t have put a child in my care that he didn’t equip me to raise. My time with them is brief so I do my best to savor each moment. I also thank God for the gift of each one for they are teaching me more than I think I could ever teach them.

Again, the Lord only knows if we are doing the right things. I know there have been days when I have failed to be the parent I should have been that day. In those cases, I acknowledged it with the child I felt I had let down. One thing is for sure, I am always learning and seeking to be a better parent. It’s the least I can do for the 3 little ones that the Lord has given to my wife and I. May God bless each one of us as we strive to be the parents he has called us to be.

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You can check out more of Aaron’s writing at:

His personal blog or at his group blog for men

The top five parenting tips… what’s working now

One of the best experiences in my life thus far is being a dad! I am blessed with four little girls (aka “The Ladies”) ages 4, 3, 2, and 2 weeks old! Sherri and I pray about, read about, talk to others about, and constantly analyze our parenting processes. The following are some of the things that are working for us now.

Joining me in this series are two other parents: Aaron Conrad and Rindy Walton.

We are posting based on the ages of our children… mine are the youngest, followed by Aaron and then Rindy.

CAVEAT:

  • We do not by any means claim to be experts. We are parents working diligently to find the best practices and principles.
  • These principles are not comprehensive. There is more that could be said on the topic of parenting than what we will say over the next three days. These are simply the “Top Five” lessons that we’ve learned or are learning.

And with no further delay, my top five…

  • Children are “Rubber Picassos” – Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from Him.” A few months ago I read the following story:
  • Pablo Picasso’s “dream” painting has turned into a $139 million nightmare for Steve Wynn. In an accident witnessed by a group that included Barbara Walters and screenwriters Nora Ephron and Nicholas Pileggi, Wynn accidentally poked a hole in Picasso’s 74-year-old painting, “Le Reve,” French for “The Dream.” A day earlier, Wynn had finalized a record $139 million deal for the painting of Picasso’s mistress, Wynn told The New Yorker magazine The accident occurred as a gesturing Wynn, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects peripheral vision, struck the painting with his right elbow, leaving a hole the size of a silver dollar in the left forearm of Marie-Theresa Walter, Picasso’s 21-year-old mistress. “Oh s…, look what I’ve done,” Wynn said, according to Ephron, who gave her account in a blog published on Monday. Wynn paid $48.4 million for the Picasso in 1997 and had agreed to sell it to art collector Steven Cohen. The $139 million would have been $4 million higher than the previous high for a work of art, according to The New Yorker. Cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder paid $135 million in July for Gustav Klimt’s 1907 portrait “Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” Wynn plans to restore “Le Reve” and keep it.

  • As I reflected on this verse and this story it occurred to me that though children are high value treasures from God they are a bit more flexible than a treasure on canvas! The point is that one parenting mistake, one bad move (obvious exceptions excluded) won’t ruin my child!
  • What will ruin my child is if I keep making the same parenting mistake over and over and over…
  • Follow me on this one… rubber won’t tear with one bump… but it will soon weaken, stretch, and ultimately rip if we continue to poke it in the same spot!
  • What I’m realizing as a parent is that there is room for error, but not repeated error in the same spot!
  • Lesson: continually evaluate your parenting ideas and practices! If you discover a mistake, apologize and adjust! Don’t worry about making small mistakes; worry about making the same mistake repeatedly.
  • Your child is a treasure, a high value gift from God that won’t be destroyed by one parenting mistake. So relax and enjoy the parenting journey!
  • I’m a better parent when I take care of myself first! I quickly discovered that often the problem in the parent/child relationship was not so much the child as it was me… my response/reaction, my unrealistic expectations, etc.
  • I am learning that my response often sets the tone for what follows! My children, and I’m guessing they’re not the exception, usually respond to my response with an equal amount of anger, frustration, and vocal level! I am the adult. I can set the pace (usually) of the encounter.
  • A verse that has changed my life is Proverbs 17:6, “Parents are the pride of their children.” I want my children to honor, love, and enjoy me as a parent, and I realize that that will only happen as I learn to control myself, respect them, and honor our relationship.
  • I recently shared this quote which I believe sums up this point, “The best gift you can give your child is your own emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual health.”
  • Take care of yourself, and taking care of your children will be much easier.
  • Parent on purpose. I am finding that it is easy to do “Reactive Parenting.” In other words we simply react to our children and/or the events of the day. Reactive parents are not in control. They simply allow circumstances and the whims of unpredictable children to set the course (Child acts… parent reacts). I’ve done this and found that it does not work!
  • When Sherri and I began parenting on purpose (e.g. establishing clear behavioral expectations, goals, etc.) we discovered that though circumstances and children’s attitude’s change we still knew where we were/are going.
  • We want our children to: 1) Love God; 2) Love the church; 3) Be a woman like their mom; and 4) Marry a man like their dad. (You can read more about these “Top four things” here). We know what we want and consequently our parenting decisions, etc. are shaped by these desires.
  • Parenting on purpose is parenting based on a set of goals, and we’re finding that it is much more effective than “reactive parenting.” Parenting for the future is so much more effective than reacting to the present. What we do today, the decisions we make, etc. will matter twenty years from now… and that’s what we’re aiming for!
  • Learn to negotiate; let some stuff go. We’ve discovered that not every issue is a “Non-negotiable”! In fact, we’re learning that there are fewer non-negotiables than negotiables. In other words, we can negotiate more than we do! We’re learning that a lot of the stuff we get fired-up about… isn’t worth the burn!
  • There are enough non-negotiables and issues that we won’t bend on that we want to save our energy and relational capital for those! On everything else there’s room for flex, adaptation, or negotiation.
  • Some examples of negotiables and non-negotiables:
    • Non-negotiable: you will eat dinner with the family at dinner time at the table
    • Negotiable: you may not have to eat every bite
    • Non-negotiable: you will go to bed at bedtime
    • Negotiable: whether or not you have a toy in bed
    • Non-negotiable: You must come when we call
    • Negotiable: The speed at which you come
  • Learning to differentiate between negotiables and non-negotiables has been huge for us!
  • Children are little people with desires, interests, etc. Both parent and child are at their best when we flex and accommodate as much as possible without violating the non-negotiables.
  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • Date night with mom. I realize that this may not be applicable for every home. Having said that, this is one of the great lessons we are learning. A couple of thoughts:
  • The primary relationship in the home is the relationship between husband and wife. That relationship existed BEFORE children, and if properly maintained, will exist AFTER children.
  • Sherri and I take a date night every week as a part of maintaining and building our relationship. One of the very cool side effects of that is that “The Ladies” know what a “date” is… and they want to go on one with daddy!
  • I have started taking “The Ladies” out on dates alone with daddy! You can’t imagine how much they, and I, look forward to those times! These times started because of what “The Ladies” saw daddy and mommy doing!
  • I want my girls to want what they see mommy and daddy having, and the best way to do that is to live it out in front of them… and then share it with them!
  • Love your spouse openly, and then share that with your children.

Well, there they are… the top five that are working for us these days!

What’s working for you?

The top five tips for enjoying the Bible

I don’t know about you, but sometimes working my way through the Scriptures can be kind of tough! I’ve found a few things that help me as I journey through God’s Word…

  • Read a different version. There are so many different versions… try a new one! It is refreshing and often enlightening to read a familiar verse written with some fresh words. Check out this comparison of versions…

King James Version

New International Version

New American Standard

New Living Translation

The Message

Galatians 6:7-8

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Galatians 6:7-8

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature {8 Or his flesh, from the flesh} will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-8

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-8

Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

Galatians 6:7-8

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

  • Use a reading schedule. I have been using a reading schedule that guides you to read through the Bible in one year. It is set up in such a way that you can start at any point in the year! A few cool things about this schedule:
    • It schedules a day “off” every seven days and a couple of days off at the end of every month. You can catch up or reflect on what you’ve read during these “off” days.
    • It keeps the reading fresh by moving back and forth from Old Testament to New Testament.
    • It is free and you can have it by clicking here! (Thanks to Tony Morgan for the heads up on this resource)
  • Read according to need. I want to know how to be a better parent… so I look for what God has to say about parenting. I want to know more about the church… so I look for what God has to say about the church. I don’t want to be impatient and angry… so I look at what God has to say about those things! How do you find verses that apply to your need?
    • Mark them with a pen when you are reading through the Bible and put them on a 3×5 notecard to carry with you; Put them in a journal; put a bookmark in your bible that will help you to easily identify your “need” verses. Come up with some other creative way to find those verses when you need them.
    • Ask someone who knows the Bible better than you where to find verses that apply to your need.
    • Do a Google search – “Verses on…” and type in your need/issue.
  • Do what you’ve read. The best part of learning is application! David, the author of many of the Psalms, said to God, “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for your commands are my constant guide. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your decrees. I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your commandments” (Psalm 119:98-100). When we do what God says… the results are incredible! (BONUS: check this out)
  • Share what you’ve discovered. Whether you’re teaching your children, your spouse, a friend at work, a neighbor, or someone else… it’s critical that you share what you’ve learned! When you share what you’ve learned with others it could make an eternal difference in their lives, but it certainly will make one in yours, for as we know, “Those who teach, learn the most.”

These are a few things that I’ve found helpful. How about you? What have you found helpful as you’ve journeyed through the Bible?