Archives For growth

I originally posted this 2 years ago. My wife and I are coming up on the 2-year mark for this portion of our stories, but with the massive changes in our lives recently (I’m now on staff at Long Hollow), I wanted to share this again. Just so you know, this was, and is, a painful part of our story.

 

It wasn’t just a miscarriage. It didn’t feel like we were “losing a pregnancy.” It felt like we were losing a baby.

Those are the words I’ve uttered countless times to countless people. As the news eked in through little spurts of information from multiple ultrasounds and blood tests, what we feared became a reality. “It’s not a viable pregnancy” didn’t make the pain or reality disappear. It didn’t make the baby growing inside my wife any less of a human.

Earlier this year, my wife experienced the most pain we’ve experienced in our marriage. My wife processed it out loud on my blog HERE.

Though the pain wasn’t as visceral for me, it was no less real. Through the process, I learned some valuable lessons.

Lessons I learned through a miscarriage

Every life is a gift.

I value my own life, and especially the life of my won, so much more now. It’s so much more valuable.

Every life is miracle.

Seeing that this whole pregnancy/birthing process doesn’t just happen automatically has really helped me see how each and every birth is a great miracle.

Experiencing a miscarriage is a real loss.

Not that I didn’t understand this from a theological, academic standpoint. But going through it myself, experiencing that loss, has given me a greater understanding of how to minister to people who are experiencing this. We had talked about the difficulty of miscarriages in seminary. But it was all theory. And I know that someone doesn’t have to go through every difficulty before they can help someone else. But there’s a different weight, a different level of help, that you give once you’ve experienced the exact pain that another person is experiencing.

There’s no “getting over” this.

I dont’ think it’s possible to really “get over” this loss. You can move on. You can grow. But to think that you can “get over” this as if it never really happened is foolish. Anytime you experience significant pain, the answer in coping is learning how to deal with life differently, because life has been altered.

My wife and I are doing well. We’ve grown because of this. Grown in ways we probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

We’ve still not had the joy of getting pregnant again. Maybe God will see fit for us to head back down that path. But maybe not.

Regardless, we’re trusting Him.

*photo credit Creation Swap user: Joe Cavazos

 

 

Screen Shot 2012-11-19 at 10.13.39 AM

I attended the ReGroup conference at North Point this year. I decided to post some of the notes. To see all of them, click HERE.

Introduction

How do we know if our ministries are working? Is it stories or is it statistics? Yes. Stories and statistics are not mutually exclusive. The measurements that we track help us tell the story of our ministry…about what has happened, what is happening, or what will happen. They help us know if we are “winning.” Measurements matter, so we measure what matters.

I. Where stories and statistics intersect

A. “Story” people and “statistics” people

  1. Stories engage the heart
  2. Statistics engage the head.
B. As a church, we are both organism and organization.
  1. Organism without organization is chaos
  2. Organization without organism is lifeless

II. Involve the right people

A. Establishing measurements must be a collaborative effort.

B. Establishing measurements requires diverse perspectives.

  1. Ministry involvement offers the perspective of ownership.
  2. Manager involvement offers the perspective of oversight.

III. Leverage best practices

A. Tie to the strategic

  1. Vision (life is better connected, which is why they measure “connection”), mission (to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ, which is why they send out a survey 2x/year to people in groups), and strategy (to create environments where people can grow, which is why they track the number of groups and the number of people in groups) must drive all measurements
  2. For each area of the organization, measurements must be developed around a clear win and critical factors of success. They measure 4 things: group participation, leader apprentice (for future growth), leader retention, and leader training
B. Tips on the tactical
  1. If you can’t or won’t change something, then don’t ask for feedback
  2. When relevant, use rations 100% of the time. This makes it easy to compare over time.
  3. Track over time to establish targets. You have got to have trends.
  4. Don’t marry your metrics.

IV. Follow up the right way

A. We don’t make decisions based on measurements alone.
B. We do…
  1. Open conversations. We believe the best, and don’t assume the worst.
  2. Start explorations
  3. Plan ahead…use numbers to look forward
  4. Benchmark standards
  5. Celebrate success. Don’t just focus on gaps.

Conclusion

The church is people and every one of them has a story. Our measurements must always be complemented with the stories of the people they represent. But stories, like numbers, can be manipulated. Therefore, it is not one or the other. We must walk the path between the ditches of the lifeless, organization-only mentality and the chaotic, organism-only approach. This is wise and skillful leadership; this is where sustainable growth is found. What you manage shows what you value.

 

We’ve constructed a new leadership development pathway for our small group leaders at Grace Community Church.

I talked about it on a guest post I wrote for Matt Steen right HERE.

Here’s a video that I put together for our leaders, with help from Dustin York and Brian Coleman. *Make sure you watch about the 1:50 -2:05 mark for a cool effect that we incorporated.

 

Strategic Changes

Ben Reed —  September 16, 2011 — 4 Comments

 

*credit, iStockPhoto user 06Photo

Chip and Dan Heath, in their book Switch, referred to the idea of “scripting the step” as you’re walking yourself, or anybody, through the difficult process of change.

We (at Grace Community Church) made some strategic, but very practical, changes to help people “script the step,” and more easily move towards authentic, Gospel-centered community  in small groups. I wrote about some changes we made, and they’re over on Mark Howell’s blog today.

Head on over and check it out HERE.

And while you’re at it, track along with Mark on Twitter and Facebook.

 

The art of the spoken word

Ben Reed —  August 24, 2011 — 2 Comments

Over the past few months, I’ve had the chance to preach at my church, Grace Community Church, three times.

And I’ve loved it. Each time, though, I’ve learned quite a few things. Some about myself. Some about the art of preaching. You can read what I’ve learned HERE and HERE.

Well, this past Sunday was no exception.

5 Observations about Preaching

1. It’s incredibly easy to get distracted.

I notice every single person that stands up to leave. Every one. And I try oh so hard to not get distracted by them. Remember that next time you get up in the middle of a sermon.

2. To preach well, you have to give of yourself.

When I preach, I pour myself, my life, my personality, my research, my stories, my heart and my mind into the craft. And this past Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching 3 times. It was a beautiful exhaustion.

3. Beware the death blow.

Want to know how to deal a crushing blow to a pastor? Right after they say ‘Amen,’ find them in the hallway and tell them which part(s) of their message were a disaster. They’ll love you for it. And by love, I mean…watch out, because they may swing at you.  Preachers should elicit feedback, but it’s okay to wait a day or two.

4. If you want to get better, you’ve got to work at it.

I work to get better every single time. I evaluate what I said and how I said it so that next time I can communicate more effectively. And, hopefully, I’m improving.

5. Preaching is an unbelievably incredible motivational tool.

I talk so much about the importance of community. In fact, that’s what my sermon was about on Sunday. And I talk so much about community that I can almost forget how powerful the public, spoken word can be in someone’s life. We saw people taking steps of faith in droves on Sunday, as they took a step towards community by signing up for small groups.

Question: Has God worked in your life through hearing someone preach?

 

 

No more excuses

Ben Reed —  August 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

I saw this sign at a local food chain yesterday:

Last time I checked, being “sold out” meant you were selling things…which was good for business.  Right?

And if business is going so well that you’re selling out of supplies, shouldn’t you be looking for more suppliers?

I’m convinced that many people are just hunting for excuses to not do what they need to do.  Even when all of the signs are pointing in the same direction.  It’s easier to find excuses than it is to do the hard work required to be successful.

There’s rarely anything magical about success.

It’s more often about hard work, even when nobody else is looking, than it is about you being in the right place at the right time. (before you comment, know that I’m not taking God out of this equation at all.  He’s sovereign, and chooses what He wants to do…but I don’t think that God rewards laziness.)

Don’t let a lack of supplies become your excuse.

Don’t let a lack of volunteers become your excuse.

Don’t let a shortage of financial resources become your excuse.

Don’t let a hater’s discouragement become your excuse.

Don’t let, “We’ve never done it like that before” become your excuse.

Do the hard work, even when it’s not fun.

In the end, it’s worth it.

 

Did you know that studies show that toddlers who wear cloth underwear tend to potty train faster than those that wear disposable pull-ups?

I have a two year-old now, and we’re in the middle of potty training. And 9 times out of 10, we have cloth on him. Because we’re ready to be done with this stage!

Do you know why children who wear cloth underwear train so much faster?

Because when they go to the bathroom, they feel the discomfort. It’s not immediately wicked away by a disposable diaper.  They feel the same discomfort you’d feel if you wet your pants right now.

It’s not a pleasant feeling.

Discomfort is a great motivator

Discomfort is a great motivator for a child to not pee their pants. Because they instantly feel the discomfort, and until someone changes their pants, they remain in that discomfort.

It’s as if part of their growth comes through pain.  And part of their immaturity is allowed to hang around if they are never exposed to that difficulty.  In other words, their difficulty is wasted (no pun intended) because they don’t feel it.

Don’t Waste the Pain

The exact same thing can happen in our lives.

Difficulties have the chance to grow us.  To help us take steps of faith towards God.  Or, we can move so quickly past them that we waste them.

If you never feel the sting of defeat, the pain of losing someone you love, the failure of your plans, the loss of a job, a bad decision, rejection, heartache, or just the dark side of the soul…then you can’t grow through the pain.  Difficulty incubates growth.

Some of the greatest times of growth in my life have come on the heels of great failure.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now.  But I know something about your struggles.  You can act like the pain’s not there.

Or you can acknowledge it, feel it, invite others into it, and grow through it.

God allows difficulties to fall on us because He’s interested in our growth.  Because without pain, growth ekes.

Don’t waste pain.  Let God use it for good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

 

 

 

The commitment

Ben Reed —  May 6, 2011 — 3 Comments

I have a small group that I am a part of that meets every week.  And I’m going to have to miss it soon.

I’m going out of town, and there’s no way I can make it back in time.  And that really bothers me.  Even though it’s only the 3rd time I’ve missed the group in 2 years.

Because I made a commitment to the group.

When I joined, I committed to being there every week.  The people in my group aren’t imposing any guilt on me for missing.  They’re not upset.  The group will carry on without me, no problem.  Somebody else will lead the discussion that night.  Somebody else will take up the prayer requests.  Somebody else will make sure the group keeps moving forward.  The group isn’t dependent on me.

But I’m bummed I can’t be there.

I’m missing out on

  • a dynamic discussion
  • a broken-hearted request
  • a cry for help
  • an opportunity to praise God for His goodness
  • a belly laugh
  • a good meal
  • catching up on life
  • sharing my own difficulties
  • sharing my own triumphs
  • doing life with friends
  • praying for a friend
  • being prayed over

You may not like my small group (I wrote about it HERE).  But I do.  These guys challenge, encourage, and equip me to do what God’s calling me to do.  Their influence in my life is beyond measuring.

To get the most out of your small group, you’ve got to make a significant commitment. Otherwise, a small group is just a Bible study.  A group of acquaintances.  An I-have-to-go-to-that-again? meeting.  A burden.  A time-waster.  Something that takes you away from what you really want to do.  A place of forced community.

Make the commitment to the folks in your small group.  They’ll be glad you did.

And so will you.

Have you ever made the level of commitment necessary to really invest in a small group?

Have you ever seen someone not make that commitment, and burn out quickly?

 

It’s time to fail

Ben Reed —  March 8, 2011 — 7 Comments

Maybe it’s about time you failed.

(image by ArtMoth.com)

I remember when I didn’t make the varsity baseball team in high school.  I was crushed.  But through that, I ended up quitting baseball to pursue golf, a sport I turned out to be pretty good at.

In seminary, I absolutely bombed a paper that I thought was one of my better projects.  Through that, I worked hard to refine my writing, and in the process, found a great love of writing.

The first small group my wife and I were a part of (in Louisville, KY) was an abysmal failure.  I didn’t want that to happen to us, or anyone else, again.  Now I’m a small groups pastor.

The New Testament Church was led by a guy named Peter.  Don’t forget that he had an epic fail, where his pride was kicked in the teeth.  He thought he was ready to die for Jesus.  He wasn’t (John 13:37-38).  His pride would even need to be kicked again a little later. (Galatians 2:11-21) And it needed to be in order for God to use Peter.

Why you need to fail

It’s through failure that we learn what we’re not that great at. Here’s a shocker: you’re not great at everything.  God’s gifted each person uniquely…you included.  We may not always find that gifting on our first shot.  Be open to other ideas than what you’ve always thought or been told.  Maybe your failure is a good indication that you need to try something else.

It’s through failure that we find out which ideas aren’t the best. Failure becomes a way of culling out the ideas, projects, programs, and directions that needed to go.

It’s through failure that we are motivated. Who wants to fail twice?  Failure pushes you to work harder, more efficiently, and lean more heavily on others.  Failure is a great deterrent to future failure.

It’s through failure that God comforts us. It’s hard to experience comfort without some level of failure. (see Lamentations 3:16-23)

It’s through failure that our pride is sucker-punched. If you were as awesome as you thought you were, you’d not have failed.  As John Ortberg says, “There is a God, and it is not you.”

As valuable as failure is, I still find myself consistently praying, “Lord, please help this _______ to go really well.”  Or, “Lord, you want this __________ to succeed more than I do…”  Or, “Lord, help this idea to not fall flat on its face.”

Maybe I should start praying, “Lord, maybe this needs to flop.  You know best.  Help me grow in the process.  Chip away the parts of me that don’t look like You.  Grow your Church.  Knock down my pride.  Renew my faith in Your plan.”

Is there an area of your leadership or your life that needs to fail?

Have you seen God grow you more through failure or through success?

 

Removing the competition

Ben Reed —  March 4, 2011 — 4 Comments

(graphic by Aaron Justin)

The bigger a church gets, the more the tendency creeps in for the church to offer more and more programs.

More nights of the week.

With more variety.

Seemingly meeting more needs.

But the more you offer, the more you show how little you believe in each one of them.  Allow me to explain.

If I believe that Justin Bieber-style music is the way that people truly experience God through song on Sunday mornings in our context (I don’t…but just hang with me), then I’m not going to let any other genre of music happen on stage.  I’m going to work my tail off to get more and more Bieber music in front of the congregation.  I’m going to have CDs ready for people as they leave.  I’m going to find musicians who are gifted pop artists.  I’m going to recruit volunteers who have an ear for the way creative pop music can/should sound.  And if I’m asked, “Can we start incorporating country music into our worship experience, because we used to do that at my last church, and I liked it…” I can easily say, “No.”  Not because there’s anything wrong with country music, but because in our context, Bieber is the most effective.

If we open up the door for country music as well, what we’re saying is that your spiritual growth isn’t that important.  We’re diluting the water with things less important.  Things less effective.  And what we’re communicating is that we don’t strive first and foremost to help you best understand the Gospel…we strive first and foremost to make you happy, and keep you from leaving.  Because if we believed that the Gospel was first and foremost, we would do that thing that most effectively helps you understand and apply it.

Adding more and more programs sounds great.  It sounds like you’re doing the right thing.

But instead of adding more, try honing in.  Figure out the most effective thing you’re doing to help create disciples on Sunday morning…and do that with excellence.  Figure out the most effective thing you’re doing to create disciples in small groups (whether that’s Sunday school, home groups, cell groups, or shallow small groups like THIS), and do that well.

The more programs you offer, the thinner you spread your volunteer base.

The more programs you offer, the weaker each becomes in the mind of your congregation.

The more programs you offer, the more your people are encouraged to do “church” stuff, instead of investing in their family and in their community.

So next time someone says, “Can we start doing __________ program,” you may just want to say no.

Have you ever said, “No” to a program idea?

Have you ever said, “Yes,” but wish you’d said, “No”?