Pausing and Reflecting…(the start of a new school year)

My kids began another year of school yesterday. My daughter will finish her last year of college. (What!) My son Declan starts his junior year of high school. And our little man, Cormac, heads into 8th Grade.

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I’ve given them the same pep talk each year. It goes something like this:

God has created you for something wonderful. He has a purpose and plan for your life. It’s the start of a new year. Last year is finished, a new day has come and it’s choked full of opportunities. The only question is how you will respond to them. What you set yourself to do right now will determine whether this is an outstanding year or merely a mediocre one. Check your attitude right now. Choose to be positive and focused; choose to work hard and pay attention; choose to do your very best in all that you do. Learn all you can, experiment, create, try new things. We (your mother and I) expect your best and want you to know your best. Love God; love people. Honor Jesus in all you do. Make this the best year yet!

I know, I know. It’s cheesy and cliched.

Yet, I can’t help it.

The start of something new is always an opportunity to pause and reflect – to focus on what it’s all about; to savor what could be…

NewThing Online Training with Hugh Halter — A Righteous Brood

What does it look like to be on mission with your family?

For many church planters, being a on mission with your church plant is separate from being on mission with your family. It shouldn’t be, according to church planter and missiologist, Hugh Halter. Hughhalter

Halter provided our NewThing tribe some insight and training around this topic in talk entitled: ‘A Righteous Brood,’ How to Making Your Family the Front Line of Mission.

Here are some of the points that Hugh made:

Be On Mission With Your Family. So many church planters are getting killed at home according to Hugh. We’re not doing well in figuring out what it looks like to be on mission with our families. And if we going to be on Jesus mission our families need to be part of it. We can’t start missional churches unless we are on mission with our families. We must make this a priority.

The story of the gospel is the story of our families. Hugh shared the challenges of raising his son Ryan who has epilepsy. The fact is life is messy and things happen and we do have so little time. But the story at home is the real story of the gospel in our lives. When people see that we don’t have it all together, that we all struggle, then the gospel becomes a bit more real for them. Moms and Dads have a special opportunity to disciple our children when we’re on mission. We have a unique opportunity to help our kids see that the gospel is worth them giving up their lives for.

Build the church. Not your church–Jesus’ church. God is building his church through you and me and the people around us. Therefore we need to focus on developing people. Broken hurting people are the people God is using to build the church. The way to build the church is to build disciples who build other disciples.

Everyone is a missionary on mission. Help people begin to see themselves as part-time missionaries. Then offer them practical ways to make margin in their lives for mission by identifying the places where they spend their time. We can help people see that their time at the gym, or watching their kids sports can be a time of mission. Being on mission isn’t an add-on or something else we do. It’s how we do life.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself and/or your staff:

  1. What does it look like for you to think of yourself as a part-time missionary?
  2. How have you helped your family be on mission with you?
  3. What does it look like for you to be more intentional about making space in your calendar to be relationally available to the people around you?

Once a month NewThing gathers together for exclusive training that we call NewThing Online. It’s a great opportunity for our tribe to hear from thought leaders and practitioners to grow into the leaders God has created us to be. If you’d like more information about these talks or NewThing, let me know.

Check out Missio to learn more about Hugh and his work and to get a copy of the Ebook.

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“Wanna Play Catch?” (Learning to Stay Available)

I admit it, I am not the world’s biggest sports fan.

I love soccer and a distant second is baseball. I’ll watch football but I am usually bored by halftime. I wish I liked sports more. I don’t. And I am OK with that.

I am more of a solo sport guy. Running is my kind of thing. Cdcatch

But I have a problem. My sons are taking to sports more. Cormac (my 9 year-old) loves baseball and my son Declan (13) is taking an interest in basketball. So I am trying to be a good Dad and find ‘sporting’ ways to connect with them. We’ve gone to Sporting KC games and have even got in a Royals game already.

Speaking of baseball–since the start of the season, Cormac is always asking me to play catch. Just the other day he came inside the house and said, “Dad, it’s time to play catch with me.”

Now, truth be told I was reading a great book and had no desire to go out. (Did I mention it was a really good book?) But I have this rule that whenever my kids request to spend time with me, I drop whatever I am doing and do it. So we grabbed out mitts and headed outside.

While we tossed the ball back and forth catch, Cormac admitted he was really scared about the school talent show.  He passed the audition (he’s singing the Bruno Mars tune “Count on Me”) but now the reality of singing in front of the entire school terrified him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to do it anymore.

So I asked him questions and tried to affirm him. I told him he has a great voice and that he’s already proven his courage by trying out. And I told him how proud I am of him for trying.

This unexpected opportunity to play catch with Cormac was also an opportunity to step right into the middle of his life. I wasn’t expecting to deal with his fears that evening. But while we tossed the ball back and forth I affirmed him and encouraged him.

Sure, I might have overheard that Cormac was afraid of singing in the talent show from my wife. (The kids tell her everything anyway.) I could have sat down and talked to Cormac about his fears. But our conversation wouldn’t have been as open and fluid and honest. It would have been on my terms, when it was convenient for me. Not his. And it wouldn’t have been the same.

At the end of our conversation he told me he wanted to stay in the contest–at least for now.

So what’s all of this got to do with church planting?

I am learning to stay available to the people around me and I’d encourage you to do the same. We must make space to “play catch” with the people on our teams or people we serve. We must always choose people over our agendas and programs and to-do lists. Sure it can be hard, but we must never forget that people are the point of everything. People matter to God. mitt and glove

The people on our teams need to be encouraged and affirmed. They have stuff they’re dealing with and they would love your insight. But they’re not going to call and ask you to sit down and talk about it. You need to be available play catch with them and give them the space they need to talk.

What about your? When do you just make time to listen to people on your team? Maybe you should find time to simply play catch?

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Who is Your Most Important Partner in Ministry?

Who would you say is your most important ministry partner?

  • Your sending organization?
  • Your coach?
  • The church that helped launch you?
  • Your lead team?
  • Someone on your staff?

Let’s face it, identifying your most important ministry partner is critical. So ask yourself…

  1. Who supports you no matter what?
  2. Who sees you’re vision and is all-in with you?
  3. Who deals with your frustrations?
  4. Who believes in you even when others don’t?
  5. Who helps you find your way when you’re lost?
  6. Who tells you’re great even when you’re not?
  7. Who gives you the most insight to you?
  8. Who prays for you more than anyone else?
  9. Who is your chief encourager?
  10. Who is your biggest fan?

Maybe you know where I am going with this…

I suspect your spouse is your most important partner. And this is so easy to forget.

For me, the answer to all of these questions is my wife, Nancy. See, Nancy and I met when we were teenagers. We’ve been together ever since and during that time we’ve experienced the highs and lows of life. We have three great kids and we’ve managed to build a life for ourselves. Me and Nancy

We were unbelievers together and we have become believers together. Now Jesus is the center of our world.

Nancy has played a significant role in everything I’ve done on this church planting journey. She’s supported me and loved me and tolerated me and believed in me. She nurtures our family so that we can be on mission. And that has made everything else possible.

No doubt about it, my marriage is the center of my ministry. All of my other work on behalf of the Kingdom flows out of this.

See, church planting is a family affair. And that means you are automatically partners in ministry with your spouse. The stronger the partnership, the greater your impact.

So today, go ahead and tell your spouse thank you. Thank them for loving you, for supporting you and believing in you. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to thank God for your greatest partner in ministry.

PS: Today is her birthday. Click here to wish her a happy birthday.

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Is Church Planting Good for Your Family? (Another Look)

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My boys with Bailie in her Birthday tiara and tutu!

If you are church planting you are doing it with your family. You don’t plant a church alone. Your family does it with you every step of the way.

When I said yes to church planting my family did as well. Indeed, had my family not said yes to planting—and keep saying yes—this journey would have ended some time ago.

Our families plant churches with us. So is it good for them?

I’ve wrestled with this question before. Our daughter Bailie turned 18 this week and so I am asking it again.

Bailie graduates in May and heads off to university in August. I am so proud of her. She is an extraordinary young woman with an amazing mind and heart. Her personality is exactly like mine so sometimes sparks fly! She asks lots of questions and reads a ton of books to understand the world. She has an incredible capacity for serving/helping people consistently inspires me.

I could go on about how proud I am of Bailie and how much I love her.

Bailie will be the first of our children to face the consequences of our decision to church plant. As she faces the realities of being an adult, I am wondering how church planting will affect her. I wonder if there will be a time in her life when she will respond negatively or resent what we have done and the sacrifices we’ve made?

Bailie was in junior high school when we moved from Chicago to Kansas City. As our oldest child, I worried about her most. Would she make the transition well? Would the separation from family and friends be too much for her? She moved into a new house in a new neighborhood and started a new school and helped us start something new. Any one of these could have caused her to go off the rails.

And Bailie watched me struggle as a church planter. As I’ve adjusted to ministry I’ve made mistakes about how I spend my time. There have been seasons when I have chosen church planting over my family. And my family has paid the price. Bailie has endured the brunt of this. I regret some of those decisions now and there is some regret that I didn’t spend more time with her.

Despite challenges like these, church planting has helped Bailie grow in many areas…

Church planting has provided Bailie strong community. All of my kids are growing up in community: small groups; nights out with other families and their kids; hanging out with neighbors; a staff team that is more like a family. This has provided Bailie ample opportunity to make friends with lots of people, including adults. Several adult woman have significant influence on her and this has been huge.

Church planting has provided Bailie a platform to grow as a leader. Bailie has a passion for middle-school girls and serves them on Sunday and throughout the week. She’s also one of the presidents of YoungLife in our area. She has leaned into every one of her leadership responsibilities and is a stronger and more confident young woman as a result.

Church planting has introduced Bailie to Haiti. Through some work Restore has done, Bailie has had the privilege of visiting Haiti twice. And it’s wrecked her in the best way. She is—well—obsessed with Haiti and it’s people. She prays for Haiti and her Haitian friends. She is setting her sites on serving Haiti with her life in a meaningful way. (She is taking French towards that end.) It’s fun to watch her dream about her future. And Haiti has provided her a means of comparison to our culture’s insistence on materialism. She is wary of our culture of consumerism as a result. (This has saved me a couple of bucks along the way!)

Finally, church planting has helped Bailie understand that risking everything for Jesus is both necessary…and worth it. She’s learned to do hard things. She’s has watched Restore start from a small group of people grow to a church of three locations and has helped hundreds of people find their way back to God.

So is church planting good for your family? For my family the answer is yes—at least for now.

But the jury is still out. Now that Bailie is 18 she will make decisions about how she will live her life. And this will be the true litmus test. I am grateful that God has given us the opportunity to help plant churches with my family. We’ve experienced both highs and lows together. In the end I believe it’s provided Bailie a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that will influence how she lives out the remainder of her days and beyond.

Happy Birthday sweet Bailie! I love you to infinity and beyond.

So is church planting good for your family? Why or why not? I would love to get some of your feedback. If you dig the content you find her please click this link and subscribe.