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Gordon MacDonald: Building Below the Waterline

There was a time when I would have been jealous for leadership; today, I find it sobering. I have passed the point of aspiring to leadership. It is a privilege to be a leader, but the price is great.

A leader has to watch every word he or she says and quickly learns that you can’t go through life without a few critics, some well deserved. Occasionally, leaders have a rough time knowing who’s a genuine friend, and there are some serious time limitations on pursuing healthy relationships. There’s pressure on friends and family, and at times most leaders, I suspect, ask, “Who needs all this?”

On the other hand, everything I’ve been privileged to be a part of has been the result of a choice to respond to God’s call to leadership. So, I’m not whining about the pressure. Read more...

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Is Your Children’s Ministry Safe?

Five simple ways to create a secure environment

With the spate of recent national tragedies in the last few months, all parents are asking, “Is this a safe place for our kids?” That includes churches. As children’s ministry leaders, we’re charged to take our role as both physical and spiritual guardians very seriously, and we should do everything we reasonably can to make our ministry environments a safe place for kids to come. It’s too important to “wing it” or think that the chances of something happening are slim.

Ask yourself and your team: Where are the weak spots in our ministry? Where are the places that need to be shored up to keep kids, families and volunteers secure and safe?

Here’s the challenge. Take action on at least one thing this week. It’s worth the effort and if it’s a visible change, it tells parents, “We care about your child’s safety.” 

Recently, we made a slight change. We posted signs on all our doors letting parents know that our ministry areas lock down 15 minutes after the service begins. The doors actually lock and anyone coming in after that time has to be escorted. We also amped up our security check to make sure that every adult walking into our ministry areas had claim tags. Several parents expressed appreciation. Everyone is thinking about security right now.

The challenge for you, however, is to continue to hold the banner of security high. Although everyone is especially raw right now, it will pass. Security won’t be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, unfortunately—but it must be for you. Here are some simple reminders of easy steps to take:

 

Update or create a ministry policy manual. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Borrow, copy and tweak what you see and put one together. Check out childrensministryonline.com for online examples of policy manuals.

Make it a policy that workers are never alone with a child.Always have at least two adults with any child. This has been my cardinal rule for more than a decade. It protects the church, child and worker. If you have to speak to a child alone, pull him or her aside where you are in eyeshot of at least one other adult. If you need to help a child in the bathroom, be sure there is a set of eyes on you, watching you. Make it a policy that if only one adult shows up to help, the room is closed. This is why we always have three volunteers/staff in a room. If someone needs to leave to get help or supplies, two are left. And if someone doesn’t show up, we still have two and can open the room.

Train your volunteers. Yes, volunteers don’t flock to training meetings. So get creative. Put a quick five-minute training on Vimeo or YouTube. Go over training points in your pre-service meetings. Make sure every volunteer knows the essential policies and safety procedures.

Perform background checks and screen all staff and every volunteer. Regardless of how often someone works, if they have access to kids, they should be screened. If you don’t run background checks, do it—no excuses. If your leadership says no, give them multiple reasons why background checks are a non-negotiable. Several companies offer legitimate checks that take a day to complete for about $7-$12 per person. Make sure the company performs an identity check (be sure to look at the photo identification to ensure they are who they say they are), a criminal background check and a national sex-offenders check. Screen volunteers as well. Ask them to complete an application and call their references. This process will weed out most people who would bring harm.

Update your evacuation, emergency and intruder policies/procedures. Do your volunteers know what to do if something happens? Make sure they do (this is an area we’re working on right now).

Think safety now and always.  

 


Kenny Conley is the Next Generation Pastor at Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas. A children’s pastor for more than 11 years, Conley has a passion for equipping and encouraging those who pastor and work with kids by sharing ideas, training and giving away “things that have worked for him.” Read more...

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Do You Have the Heart of a Disciple Maker?

Why do you want to make disciples? Have you ever asked yourself that question?

As followers of Christ, we should be focused on making disciples. But if we don’t do it with the right motives, we are simply wasting our time. Worse yet, we could be doing more harm than good. If God cared only about outward appearances and our participation in religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him. The Pharisees would have been heroes of the faith.

After all, they were continuously engaged in ministry: They vigorously pursued outward demonstrations of godliness; they made sure the people around them kept themselves holy; and they diligently taught the law of God. And yet Jesus’ harshest words in Scripture were always reserved for these religious overachievers. Read more...

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Pass on What You Have Learned

Why it’s important to pour out for others what’s been poured into you

As a brand new member of the Saddleback staff, I know I’m here because of the principle of stewardship. Saddleback Church poured into me and the church I pastored for 18 years; then I passed on to other churches what I learned from them. Paul taught this same principle in his second letter to Timothy: “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (2 Tim. 2:2, NLT).

You don’t have to be big to make a big splash for the kingdom. You just have to be willing to help someone the way God helped you. There are no perfect models or churches—just growing ones! 

I remember inviting a neighbor to my small group once, and his reply was honest and revealing: “I don’t need a small group”—to which I replied: “Maybe one needs you!” Read more...

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How to Execute The Daniel Plan

Why thousands of churches follow this roadmap to wellness—and how yours can too

Pastor Dave Barr and his congregation at New Hope Windward Church in Hawaii managed to get their entire congregation of 900 into small groups for The Daniel Plan. The weekend attendance during the campaign exceeded the previous Easter and Christmas services and continues to grow.

The six-week study launched more than 100 groups that began a vibrant small-group ministry. The Daniel Plan series was a huge attraction point in their community, as it was with the initial rally at Saddleback, because it focuses on a huge felt need but ultimately fulfills the deeper needs that we all face.

The Daniel Plan was inspired through Saddleback senior pastor Rick Warren’s vision to provide a practical program for people that would restore their health and prepare them to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. During an afternoon when he baptized more than 800 people, he came to the conclusion that his congregation was overweight!

He confessed that while he gained only three pounds per year while leading the church, he had also been their pastor for 30 years! He said he needed to improve his health as well. Read more...

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Relationship Health: Can Numbers Lie?

The numbers are in. Pastor Ted can see the report on the top of his desk. His stomach clinches as he walks across the room, picking up the report.

There are times when the numbers haunt us. It might be the budget, or attendance numbers. Every week there is a part of us that lives and dies by the numbers.

Then there are the times when we just give up. We might be so underwater that we can’t see light, or our numbers are so depressing that we let go. We decide to acknowledge that God is in control and just trust.

Why is it that we have to be at the end of our rope before we really learn to trust? In those times when things are going sort of well, we pick back up the stress and forget to leave the numbers on God’s lap.

There is a scripture that baffled me for years: “Then David prayed, I have sinned badly in what I have just done, substituting statistics for trust; forgive my sin—I’ve been really stupid.” 1 Chronicles 21:8. This is the Message version, and it helps a lot. You see, David took a census of Israel’s fighting men. He focused on the numbers. Read more...

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Embrace, Express and Empower Your S.H.A.P.E.

Learning who God created you to be will help unlock His unique purpose for your life

God doesn’t create anything without value. He is the ultimate craftsman. And He designed you specifically to fulfill a unique role in His ultimate plan to establish His kingdom on earth.

Even though each of us has made mistakes, we still are a special work of the Creator’s hands. He even takes time to know about our day-to-day lives. In fact, He is smiling right now, rejoicing as you seek to discover the masterpiece you are to Him.

The Bible says we are God’s “masterpiece” and that He created us anew in Christ so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago (see Eph. 2:10, NLT).

This verse helps us understand that if we want to discover our mission or purpose in life, we first need to look at the masterpiece God has made us to be. While self-help books tell you to look within, the key to living the life you were meant for is to look to God and ask Him to help you discover your uniqueness.

After you discover who you are, then you can start figuring out what God has planned for you—the specific way He designed you to make a difference in the world for Him.

Here are three helpful steps for you to maximize your ministry with God and for God: (1) Embrace your S.H.A.P.E.; (2) Express your S.H.A.P.E. in service; (3) Empower others to do the same. Read more...

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5 Radical Shifts for Better Discipleship

What changes can you make to be more effective at making and releasing disciples?

Are we making disciples surrendered to Christ and His Lordship? Though very few concrete statistics on our overall effectiveness currently exist, it’s difficult to argue in the affirmative.

What then can we do to get better at the Great Commission? Based on his considerable experience with starting churches from disciple-making small groups, Real Life Ministries founder Jim Putman has identified five paradigm shifts church leaders can make to become better at accomplishing the mission of the church. We asked him and Dave Ferguson, who also leads the church-planting network NewThing, and Community Christian Church in Chicago, to help unpack each shift and its potential impact. Read more...

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Dr. Richard E. Anderson Passes at 91

Richard E. Anderson, 91, senior pastor at Faith Tabernacle Church in San Jacinto, Calif., for nearly 50 years, passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday in Hemet, Calif.

He was born to Earl and Dewey Anderson on March 23, 1921, in Hobart, Okla. At 18, he was gloriously saved and called into ministry. Anderson was one of God’s Generals with a 73-year heritage of victory in faith and full gospel ministry.

He was ordained a minister with the Pentecostal Church of God in 1941. Anderson specialized in educating ministers and lay leaders involved in the ministry through School of Bible Theology Seminary and University (SBTSU.org), and was a valiant defender of the gospel of Jesus Christ and Pentecostal distinctives. Read more...

Tempted by the Three P’s

A God-given plan for avoiding the pitfalls of power, prestige and possessions

Have you ever wondered why God the Father would allow Jesus to be tempted by the devil? In the desert? In a weakened physical state after Jesus had just spent 40 days fasting?

I believe God allowed His Son, our Savior, to endure these kinds of trials to benefit us—the people He came to renew and redeem. He knew our lives would be filled with temptation. By allowing Jesus to experience the same adversity, He gave us the preeminent model for how we can and should respond to the enemy’s lures.

The Three P’s: Power, Prestige, Possessions

Just as Satan attacked and tempted Jesus with what I call the three P’s (power, prestige, possessions), we can count on Him doing the same thing to us—repeatedly.

Power. First, the devil tempted Jesus by appealing to Him to use His power to turn stones into bread (Matt. 4:3). By refusing, Jesus not only showed us how to overcome temptation, He also reassured us that He understands our struggles firsthand (Heb. 4:15). Instead of using His divine power, Jesus enlisted Scripture and rested in His Father’s power.

Don’t miss this: Jesus refused to establish His identity on the basis of what He could do. Essentially, He told Satan, “My identity is based in My Father’s power, not Mine.”

Do you base your identity in what you do? For years, Satan used this “P” on me. I thought my power—or my profession of being an NFL player—defined me, and that people would accept and like me because of what I did. If I lost my career, who would I be? I bought the lie of believing that what I did defined me as a person. The big problem is that NFL stands for “Not for Long.”

When we ground our identity in what we do, we never win. It’s bondage.

Prestige. Second, the devil tempted Jesus with prestige: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down” (Matt. 4:6). Jesus didn’t find His identity in opportunities to promote Himself, but in being God’s Son. Once again, He went to Scripture to deflect Satan’s appeal to prestige (v. 7).

If you haven’t already been tempted with prestige, you will. We live in an age of self-preoccupation and self-promotion. Our culture values and worships superstars. The popularity explosion of Facebook and YouTube should tell us something: People love to promote themselves. Conversely, Jesus valued humility and called His followers to be servants (John 13:1-17).

Possessions. The third temptation was possessions—probably the No. 1 scheme Satan uses to shipwreck the common man. Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8-9). But Jesus, once again secure and grounded in His identity as God’s Son, refused to find His identity in possessions. He crushed Satan once again, using Scripture (v. 10).

Every advertisement or commercial screams, “Buy me and you’ll be better.” Granted, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things. But when things have you or when you find your identity in what you possess, something has gone terribly wrong.

Strength Training in the Wilderness

Jesus knew His identity was secure and anchored as God’s Son. By refusing to find His identity in power, prestige or possessions, He resisted (I like to think He drop-kicked) the devil. Because we are God’s sons and daughters through our faith in Jesus (John 1:12; 1 John 3:2), we too can resist and defeat Satan’s temptations.

Take time this week to think about and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is temptation playing out (or about to play out) in my life?
  • How is Satan using power, prestige and possessions to pull me away from God?
  • Where do I find my identity?

Each day this week, send yourself a text or email, reminding yourself that power, prestige and possessions do not define you.


Derwin Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, S.C. From 1993 to 1998, he played football for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers. Gray is the author of Hero: Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart and is a highly sought-after communicator. For more information, go to tc521.org. Read more...

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