Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’


March 10, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the fun challenges in church planting is generating momentum.  In particular, it is challenging to generate momentum in attendance.  We have 100 or so people in our directory, but an average attendance of 65-70.  I know, I know…this is a pretty normal percentage for a church, but we need, Need, NEED to gain momentum to take a next step.

I don’t want just numbers, but I do want to help those who have never made weekly worship attendance a priority or a practice/discipline feel the benefits of having an established rythm of worship.  So, I’m trying something fresh this week.

We are going to be walking through the book of Esther for the next 5-6 weeks.  The story is one of the funniest, most ironic, soap operas in the Bible and I think it lends itself to a series in the fashion we enjoy at Embody – conversational engagement of the text.

Here are some of the things we’ll be doing over the next 5-6 weeks:

1. One of our resident artists will be producing a weekly piece of art in various mediums during the worship service (we’ll see if this is helpful, distracting, or both).

2. We’ll read the story outloud.  Since this would take over an hour to do all at once, we’ll read our weekly portion outloud and use cartoon pictures (made by a resident artist) to recap the previous parts of the story before we read each new section.  By the end of the series we’ll have a cartoon handout of the whole story!

3. I’m inviting people to read each week’s passage before hand and turning in (via email) a 10-word or less summary, like a headline for the passage.  For instance, if we were doing the story of David and Goliath headlines might read: “Underage Recruits Used In Battle”, “King Refuses Lead Army In Battle”, “Ancient Weaponry Utilized”, or even “Shepherd Boy Defeats Giant, Leads Israeli Army to Victory”

4. If appropriate and if we’re able, I hope to use some people in reenacting parts of the story.  Physical representation of certain aspects might be helpful.

My hope is that this will give people a reason to continue to return to hear more of the story and to engage scripture as well as participate in the sermon.  I don’t have a number goal, but I do have the aim of having the same people return week after week.  We’ll let God do what God does best – work in the heart of God’s people!

Here’s how you can help with my sermon…well, with the intro to the sermon: I could use your summaries or “headlines” for this Sunday over Esther 1:1-2:18.  Send them to my email account .  Thanks!


Old Carseat

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently we sold a car of ours (a little gray neon), and as I cleaned it out we said goodbye to a carseat that was permanently stationed in the backseat.  It was a hand-me-down from someone else.  Can’t remember who gave it to us…Dana will remember.  It was the kind where the big bar comes down from over the kid’s head and the seatbelt/harness clips between the kid’s legs.  Super safe and super bulky.  Come to think of it, that should probably be the way they market those things…if they wanted to be honest.

Bis was growing out of it, and I don’t think she ever really liked it because it really hindered what she could do and how she could move and what she could see.  The seatbelt/harness is the kind that you can move through different holes to accomodate your child’s growth, but alas, the Bis was being crowded by it on its largest setting.

The car and monster car seat have been gone for a little while now and it wasn’t until today that Bis mentioned she missed the old car and carseat.  She missed the CD I played in the car and she really lamented the loss of the carseat.  I try to take my kids seriously when they are sad about something being gone or changed.  We’ve lived in Michigan for over two years now and they “really miss” our house in Iowa.  They don’t even remember our house in Iowa.  But, I let them grieve the loss without smirking.

It struck me today that I do the same thing.  Sometimes I grow up and out of something that really fit earlier in my life.  Then I lament the loss of it.  Hopefully, I move on and grow attached to something else…there’s nothing wrong with getting a little attached to something as long as you can move on, right? 

As I lead a young church from infancy to toddlerhood it’s time to turn the carseat from rear-facing to forward facing, and I can already see that there are things we love about our rear-facing seat.  I can see that when it’s time to move from the toddler version to a booster it will be a tough transition, too.  Then, like many, many churches today it will be a struggle when we grow to the place where we need to accomodate some new and larger changes…the kind that comes with adding a larger change…one of daughtering our own infant or moving to a new car or whatever the change may be.

I just wish it weren’t so easy to hold on to the shoulder-pinching old carseat, the one we know we’re too old for, but feel so comfortable in.

Categories: The Slow Grow Tags: ,

Brian Davis For President!

February 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The title of this entry is a sign I saw alongside the road today.  That particular house had a homemade ice rink in the front yard.  I kid you not.  Right before it gets really cold every year these people build a rink.  There’s a framework of plywood and loads of what I’m expecting is super thick plastic sheeting in some unbelievably large size roll and butresses made of 2×4’s.  Then they must fill it with loads of water right before the first big freeze. Then *ka-zaam*…ice rink.  They were out playing hockey on it today: a Friday.

They should have been in school, but they weren’t.  And neither were my children – riding in the back of the van on our way to the grocery store to get a birthday gift for Nolan down the street (silly beans or something like that…I don’t know what they are).  No school.  Hasn’t snowed in days, sunny and beautiful out, but no school.  I was pretty confused, too.

Tuesday night we got somewhere between 13 and 17 inches of snow and the next day our road wasn’t plowed until after 4pm, so I understand no snow on Wednesday.  Everything in town was closed down.  Thursday…also no school.  Ok, they couldn’t get all the snow out of all the important places.  I get it.  Then, Thursday night after two sunny days home with the kids (who are loving this, by the way) we get a robo-call from Brian Davis, the superintendant of Holland Public Schools, who tells us that…yup…no school on Friday.

“What?! Seriously?” I say to Dana as she hangs up the phone.  Apparently there are over 1,000 kids who walk to and from school and they rely on local residents to have their sidewalks shovelled in order to safely get to school.  Because it’s just not cool to have some 1st grader walking on the streets.  But not everyone was able to get their stretch of 50-100 feet of sidewalk cleared in two days.  Now, I shouldn’t be too judgmental.  I don’t have a sidewalk, and I pay someone to plow my driveway.  Wednesday I didn’t get out of my pajamas.

Here’s my point: The robo-call I got on Friday night started to mess with me.  Brian Davis calling again.  Basically, he was imploring all residents to do what they can to help get the sidewalks cleared for kids who walk to and from school. He also asked us to work together to carpool kids.  It was kind of a beautiful moment, strangely enough, where a local leader taps us on the shoulder and calls us (even in the middle of a winter’s hibernation) to be a community.  To work together and help one another out.

I may just have to grab my shovel and head down near my son’s school this weekend to see if there’s a stretch of 50-100′ that needs my help.

Sermon Notes

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Pastor Dan from First Church and I swapped pulpits today.  I told Alex that I wanted to know what Dan preached about, so I was asking him to take notes during the sermon.  The passage was John 2:1-11, Jesus turning water into wine.  Following are the notes he took, separated by commas:

old scripture, dan doesn’t understand it, cind of a part of a puzzle, Angels talking about what Jesus might do, wedding in Gallale, Jesus, Deciples invited, talking about wine the best is Jesus blood, smart guy named rodney – studies gods and goddisis, jurny found 1 temple with 100,000 skulls, sacrifice them to the gods, mean guys thats wat people in the olden days were like, they came to Isreal to do bad stuff, wedding whole comuniys there, wine gone, weddings usaly 7 days of food, wine dude screws up, peple laugh at them, its not there foult, there misreble, Jesus comes up with a plan, they have no more wine, Jesus: I’m no longer just belong to you, I belong to the world., saves them, first mericle, turns water into wine, happiest day of his and there life, take big stuff to him, take little stuff too he cares about everything, what matters to you matters to God, this scripture takes along time to understand

Those are the notes he took.  Not bad.  Kind of proud of the little guy for paying such good attention.  I can see that kids of that age are definitely able to pay attention and get a lot out of a sermon.  I should never discount their presence and their ability.  Perhaps we should start expecting a little more out of children in worship and in life.

At what age do we start allowing children to lead us in one way or another?  At what age do we allow children to make important decisions alongside the adults?  I have a bit of a grip with the church, and it’s this: I hear complaints from pastors all the time about the missing generation (people from 18-28).  Seems we lose our children for about 10 years after graduation and only get them back (maybe) when they have children of their own and remember the importance of raising your children in the company of other believers.

I don’t have the answers to this challenge, but I propose this: why not treat them like part of the church before they’re 28?  Why separate them all the time?  Why not incorporate them in important decisions, ask them their opinions, take their point of view into council?  Why not have a teenager on every important task force or ministry team?  Help them prepare for being an adult in the church by taking them seriously.

Maybe, just maybe their involvement will give them enough ownership in their own faith and faith community that they’ll know how to act as an adult believer when they come of “age” … whatever that means.  Perhaps we should be taking a few sermon notes from them, huh?


January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

We had 95 people in worship yesterday!  I know.  Where did that come from? Right?  I’ll tell you:

Makenna Sue Slagh, one of our youngest worshipers, brought about 25 people.  She was baptized and brought the family.  It doesn’t hurt that her dad has 6 brothers.  We knew it was going to be a full day, so we pulled the chairs a little tighter and set up some wooden chairs in the back as well.  It was just great!

95 is terrific, but normally we’re not that large.  It was full, and a little crowded.  Felt wonderful and helped me see the future a bit.  It leads us well into this next week when we meet after worship for a church meeting.  We’ll be talking about our space issues and what’s next for Embody.  Here are some of the things that go into our conversation:

1. How we talk about it: this is our first big meeting and our first big decision. So HOW we make our decision is almost as important as what our decision is.  We don’t want our church to be a congregational church – meaning that all decisions are made by everybody (there’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s not to be our way).  Also, we don’t want to be episcopal – meaning that one person makes the decision and everyone else just goes along with it (also good, but not to be our way).  We’ll be presbyterian in our “polity” – meaning that there is a leadership group that makes the decision after hearing the heart and mind of the congregation. 

2. Prayer.  I’m going to ask everybody to pray in preparation for the meeting and we’ll pray during and after.  God will point us in the direction.

3. We are preparing Embody to think about the issue by giving them a survey. It allows people to answer some questions anonymously and to think through their answers on their own.  We’ll also have the results to tabulate.  Hopefully, many people will participate.

4. We aren’t just “willy nilly” having a meeting.  This really is an important decision and we really DO NEED the hearts and minds of the church to be shared. 

5. We’ll be sharing important information about our finances that give rise to our need to have the conversation.

6. Finances aside, we need to keep our church growing.  We’ve reached a point where many church plants plateau and end up dying.  They get comfortable with the people they have and close off and end up closing the doors.  We want to grow (not for numbers’ sake) because we want more and more people to know the goodness of God and the difference God makes in lives.

OK.  So, now that you know that…please pray for us.  I’ll let you know how the meeting goes.


January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I know it’s usually taboo to tell someone’s age.  It can be considered rude if the person is a woman over a certain age.  Did you know that correct etiquette dictates that when you sit down to eat at a dinner party nobody should start eating until the oldest woman at the table begins eating?  How is that not awkward?  I can see it now:

“Well, Erma, I’m famished, would you like to begin?”

“Whatever could you mean, June?”

I guess I don’t think it’s a big deal.  Well, maybe if you start talking about who can drive at a certain age, or perhaps when you’re allowed to start filling your lungs with smoke.  But when you get to be an adult, there is a leveling, an evenness that comes about.  If you’re wise you begin to see that those younger than you can offer quite a bit to your life.  If you’re the younger in a group and wise, you’ll begin to notice that you don’t know everything.

I spoke with a man who’s been fixing cars for a long time.  He sees young men just out of tech school who come into the shop with their certification and a certain knowledge that they have every answer…until they don’t.  He says, “They know more than they understand.”

The same is true in faith.  Today I had coffee with a friend who is in desperate need of a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy.  A person to learn from (Paul), a person(s) to walk alongside him (Barnabas), and a person to teach (Timothy).  I’ve found these people, and know that without them I’m going to fall flat on my face because I know more than I understand, and those things I do understand don’t help anyone who’s still learning.

I’m married to a woman who’s all three of those people for me.  I suppose I am those for her as well.  And even though it’s not socially acceptable to pronounce someone’s age, I am confident she won’t mind me telling you it’s her birthday today.  Iron sharpens iron and if one falls down there is another to pick him up. I’ve found these to be true.  Happy Birthday Dana: b. January 5, 19**


November 29, 2010 1 comment


Brett (Embody’s seminary intern) plays the djembe (it’s a drum).  He plays it very well, and it adds a lot to our worship.  He’s able to create a mood that is just right and helps usher people into God’s presence with the movements of his hands.  It’s remarkable, really.

Months ago a gal named Kathy noticed that Alex was tapping his hands along with the rhythm of the music and brought him a little drum (tiny version of Brett’s djembe).  Now…whenever Brett is playing the drum on Sunday morning, there’s Alex right next to him playing his little drum.

It’s a beautiful picture, really.  The older, more experienced Brett doing what he’s trained his hands and heart to do.  The younger, less experienced Alex watching Brett’s hands and mimicking his movements.  Brett leans over and whispers something into Alex’s ear in the middle of the song and they both start playing more quietly during a particular part of the song – Brett with an invisible lessening of pressure and Alex by playing with his fingers instead of his whole hand.

I watch Brett training Alex and giving him tips and help and it gives me hope.  Not just for Alex and the possible future of a complete drumset up in his bedroom in 5-6 years (yikes), but for the church in general.  It’s the picture we need to see everywhere and in our own lives: older, more experienced Christians (doing what their hands and hearts are trained to do) leaning sideways to teach a younger, less experienced Christian how to walk the way of Jesus.

Which one are you?  Do you have a partner for the journey?  If not…it’s time to follow Jesus words more closely, “Therefore, go and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”