What musical are you?

April 16, 2007

OK, this might be pretty lame, but I had to bite. I do love musicals and have a blast playing in the pit. So here we go. What musical am I? I am…

Annie Get Your Gun
You’re Annie, Get Your Gun! You’re talented, but very innocent. You have a tendency to believe lies. You don’t always undertand what’s going on, but your cuteness makes up for it.

I guess it fits. And it is one of my favorite musicals to play. The clincher was selecting from the available songs that is most me. “I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.” Yeah, I knew it was from Annie. But I do lean toward optimism so it wasn’t a stretch.

It’s that last line that makes me want to redo the quiz. (You don’t always undertand what’s going on, but your cuteness makes up for it.) Not very flattering. It does, however, offer us something to chew on as small group leaders. We can’t know everything that’s going on with each person in our small group. It might be tempting to let our cuteness or some other trick we pull out of the bag help us through a bumpy segment of our small group life. Don’t fall to the dark side! Small groups are about doing life together. Something out of sorts? Someone suddenly turning bitter or biting? Confront it with love. Ask. Pray. Talk. Respond. There is no better way to say to someone, “You are known and valued.”

That’s life at the kitchen table.

I wonder what it would take to be Professor Harold Hill?

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Instant gratification takes too long

April 3, 2007

Are you doubletaking on this title too? This bit of wisdom comes from Carrie Fisher. At first, I just laughed. Great oxymoron. But sit on it for awhile and a nugget or two of insight emerges. Like…

  •  This may describe attitudes present in your small group. Continual impatience at the pace of a study. Difficulty balancing listening with contributing. Ever eager to explore the “latest and greatest.”
  • You may have group members who believe they are “close” friends with everyone, yet have never actually gone below the surface in those relationships. The instant gratification relationships are quick, but have nothing solid to build upon for the long haul.

Either way, this draw toward the quick, the new, the immediate ends up taking way too long simply because it’s hard to get around to building connections and relationships with substance. It’s a bit like the stop light drag racers. Yeah, you see their tailpipes. Yeah, you usually catch up to them at the next light. All that energy output, and little to show for it.

Is instant gratification gripping your group? A great antidote is to return to your group agreement or covenant.  Particularly focus on the group’s purpose, spiritual health, and spiritual partners. Ask the entire group to review, comment, and evaluate…not necessarily about individuals, but about the group in general. Perhaps you, as the group’s leader, can pair up as spiritual partners for a couple of weeks with an instant gratification member. Pray together. Become better acquainted. Look for ways to understand what might be motivating the instant gratification actions. Can you direct any of that energy into deeper relationships, commitments, or leadership roles within the group?

Want more help? Track me down!

Pouring and splashing

March 26, 2007

Ever try cracking this thing called “shepherding?” It’s pretty Biblical, but I’ve always thought for us nonagrarian, neighborhood types, there are some assumptions.

So, Serving Team leaders, suit this one up and see how it fits. You’re not shepherds. You’re SGSTLers. I think it’s pretty cool because I’m always impressed with people who have lots of random letters after their names. Not so random here, however. I think of you as Small Group Serving Team Leaders. Sure, you have your tasks – your “To Do” lists that help you accomplish your tasks. No question. Those are critical. But they’re not the end all. If the To Do lists are where you end your serving team leadership, you’ve actually cut yourself out of the greatest kick in serving leadership. Think of it like creating the world’s greatest gourmet feasts and never tasting a bite, week after week.

Think like small group leaders and you’re stepping out of the food prep area and right into the main dining room. Bring on the prime rib and enjoy. That’s what can happen among your serving team if you’ll add to your To Do list a small group leader perspective.

Check this out as a way to describe it: “And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12   If you think that sounds like The Message, bingo.

Here are some ways to pour on the love to your serving team:

  • When I’m weary, you encourage me.
  • When I’m looking for another serving team position, you guide me.
  • When things are falling apart, you listen and pray with me.
  • When I’m in the hospital, you’re with me.
  • When a family death occurs, you’re asking what you can do.

And splashing?

  • When I’m here, you greet and welcome me.
  • When I’m not here, you follow up with me.
  • When my birthday/anniversary rolls around you remember.
  • When a teammate is having “life” speed bumps, you alert me.
  • When a team celebration occurs, you include me.

And please, avoid the trap of thinking only you can do all these things for your serving team. Even if there are only two of you on your team, take turns!

When everything’s said and done, you’ve shown me that I am more important to you than what I do. You’ve shown me that pouring and splashing are what I can expect to receive and give while being on your Serving Team.

When 3rd place is a win

March 25, 2007

What a great morning I had attending our county’s Science Olympiad. Our own Addison Elementary 5th grade team competed and did they rock! I went with vested interest in the team: my wife, Betty Jo, was a co-coach of the team and I had the pleasure of working with 3 of the teams (egg drop and helicopter launch teams both nailed 1st place which was pretty exciting).

But here is why an overall 3rd place finish was really a huge win:

  1. Parents really supported their kids. Extra trips for after-school practices, practicing on events at home, and almost perfect attendance at the actual competition. It was great!
  2. These students really hung together as a team. They were running from their own events to be observers/encouragers at their team’s other events. They were high-fiving and hugging each other, no matter the outcome. Nobody wanted the spotlight over their teammates. Pretty cool.
  3. Several events threw these kids knuckleballs. Stuff they hadn’t anticipated. Possibilities they hadn’t considered. Construction materials they were unacquainted with. Unfriendly environments. Did they lose their cool? No way. Waste time struggling with the challenges. Ha! It was press on regardless. And did they ever press on. Embrace the concepts, work the game plan, keep the focus, have fun.
  4. They stayed focused on why they were there: to have fun working with scientific concepts, applying those concepts to specific olympiad challenges. Their smiles were a “10.”

Sure, 2 other school teams accumulated higher scores. But not where it really counts.

Let the children lead. What lessons would you like to apply to your small group?

Aging Peeps

March 25, 2007

Aging Peeps? I couldn’t believe it either, but my local exotic food authority, Brian Glass, assures me I’ve been missing out on a little known food delicacy featuring Peeps. (I almost hesitate to share it, wondering what it might do to his sky-high healthy food blog editorship. Dangerous living has its attractions, I suppose. Here goes.) It requires a simple knife slit and patience. Slit open the Peeps packaging. Allow air to circulate freely. And wait. And wait. 2 weeks for those who are weak of will. 4 weeks for those who know that patience is a virtue and will be rewarded.

Ahh, but what about those of you who suspect Peeps and fine wines might have something in common? This sounds bizzare, and I am not making this up. Brian has a Peeps that he’s been aging for over 5 years. That’s like 74 Peeps years. And he’s willing to ditch his pacifistic ways if someone plots anything funny with it.

No kidding,  I’m heading to the store tomorrow right after church and stocking up my own Peeps aging cellar.

Small group welcome mats look like this:

March 25, 2007

You remember when you were new to Crossroads. There came that day when you were ready to sample small group life. Bet you’re glad someone had their small group welcome mat out for you.

There are people who, this Sunday, will be new to Crossroads. There will come that day when they will be ready to sample small group life. Bet they’ll be glad someone has a small group welcome mat out for them. It could be you and yours. Here’s how:

  1. Choose to be a welcoming leader and a member of a welcoming small group. (It can be that easy.)
  2. Serve  beverages and  snacks.  It’s amazing how easy it is to talk when there’s finger foods on a plate.
  3. Offer a relaxed opening activity each time you meet. Plan to welcome visitors by making it easy for them to fit in.
  4. Stock your bookshelf with an extra copy of your study booklet/notes and a Bible, ready to loan to a visiting person or couple.
  5. Reassure visitors that window shopping is great. Hey, you love it when you’re at the mall!
  6. Follow up after a visit. Let your visitors know you appreciated having them join in.

Easter Egg payoffs

March 22, 2007

I just received a thank you note from 2 or our nieces/nephews. They were pumped about their introduction to Peeps. Yeah, I know they’re about up there with Twinkies and other essential kid food groups, but I happen to like their taste, plus the parents in this household could use a bit of loosening up treat-wise. (You know: healthy food, natural sources…all the things we all start out doing with great intentions but sort of drift away from as our kids become more assertive and independent.) Every other line in their note was something about Peeps.

“Uncle Doug, do you like these Peeps too?”

“This color tastes really neat.”

“Mom only lets us have 2 Peeps each day.”

“Do the Peeps like each other?”

“Thanks for Peeps! I love them!”

I’m thinking that’s a pretty good payoff for a $2 investment. I’m also thinking that something new or unusual has quite an impact.

That’s one of several reasons why we do a 65,000 Easter Egg Flashlight Hunt each year. Sure there are other egg hunts a family could attend. But 65,000 eggs? 1,600 flashlights? Fire trucks blowing their sirens off at dusk? The Biblical plague of locust picking a couple acres clean in 10 seconds? The chance to give our community a totally free, safe, fun, larger-than-life event? Connecting opportunities with lots of families who may not be planning to attend any Easter services? The reasons keep growing.

This is also an exciting time for people – kids or no kids – to make a difference. Easter Egg stuffing really isn’t about stuffing the eggs. Last year I had a blast with 10 people sitting around the table as we stuffed, met each other, laughed, and naturally took strategic candy samples for quality control purposes. That’s coming up April 1, 3pm. My family always looked for ways to serve around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Here’s one! Small group leaders: bring your small group to work together at the stuffing or the actual hunt. You’ll have tons of great stories, memories and fun serving together. Let Shari, our Kid Crossing Director, know and she’ll be able to plug you and your group in.

About the only thing I can’t promise is that there’ll be complementary Peeps. Actually, they are too large to fit in the eggs. No one said you’d be sacrifice-free.

Good news from Minnesota

March 20, 2007

News from Lake Wobegon” is now a podcast? I am truly a happy man.

How many empty seats?

March 20, 2007

Has anyone else been noticing the empty seats at the NIT venues? Curious, isn’t it, that even a home town team in its home town arena can’t always fill the house. What might this say about what fans think of the NIT? Not much, if Tommy Amaker is any indication.

Empty seats aren’t always cause for concern. Sometimes they’re down right exciting. I sat in on one of Crossroads’ small groups last night and did they ever rock!  I was there to explore with them the opportunities and challenges of helping people new to our church connect in small group life. This small group loves empty chairs. They said, “Send them on over. If we get too large, we’ll figure out what to do with everyone.” Not surprising in light of their group DNA. They were part of a small group that grew huge and launched several new small groups. They have, themselves, launched new small groups. They love each other and they love increasing their circle of friends.

Isn’t this usually true that we tend to think about what we might lose in transition instead of what we might gain? This group sets the bar pretty high. They’re eager to see who they might gain.

Detective work at a science teacher’s conference.

March 16, 2007

I am riding my wife, Betty Jo’s coattails today as she attends her Michigan Science Teachers Association annual Conference. It’s pretty interesting to sit in on various seminars and presentations designed for science teachers. And there are many things to learn about church, faith, and small groups. Here goes:

  1. The Amway Grand Hotel is eager to tell me hello and point out directions. I was lost big time somewhere in the netherland between 3 different meeting buildings/venues. A painter (don’t even know if he is on staff or a contractor) saw my puzzled looks and actually escorted me to my next stop. Impressive 2nd mile effort.
  2. Why are 80% of the people in each of my seminars women?
  3. This is the absolutely largest bar of bath soap I’ve ever had in a hotel.
  4. What’s up with wireless internet? I can sit in the lobby with a complementary connect, but have to pay $10 a day to have it in my room? I bet the painter would think that’s strange too.
  5. It is refreshing and invigorating to be around people passionate about what they do. (No wonder I love being around Crossroaders!)
  6. Our hotel is 50 yards from a Beaners. Is this heaven, or what?
  7. Those Miller beer guys need to unload the cooler at the hotel’s sports grill. Those hamburgers are expensive.
  8. The “Dr. Evolution” presenter is also leading a human cadaver seminar. How exactly will he explain the intricate complexities of the human body? Won’t know. I’m not allowed to attend…human anatomy/physiology teachers only.
  9. I got pumped at the rock shop. For $10 we are bringing home some really neat examples of God’s creativity, including a half-polished Petosky stone: one of my 3 favorite Michigan “collectables” (The others?  copper and Lake Superior agates)
  10. I think we’re up for seeing “Amazing Grace” this evening.
  11. Absolutely no one has tried placing us in small groups. They’re talking about it, but not having us experience it. It’s all lecture (Powerpoints are all the rage). They could learn something from the Crossroads living room/kitchen model.
  12. I am enjoying downtown Grand Rapids. People are out walking around late into the night. Safety seems assumed.