Getting Your Want Back…

A while ago I posted about the intense and intimate season God and I are in… I have had several people ask me what I’ve done to “get” that…

The honest answer: Go through a hard season and press into Jesus at the same time.

I’ve been through rough seasons before… Some way worse and others not as bad. Some I started in a super healthy place, and others I felt like I was dragging and clawing my way into the desert season already starving and dying.

Maybe you feel like you’re in pain and He’s absent or silent.
The passion has turned mundane or boring and bland.
The overwhelming feelings are negative… or maybe just a deep feeling of ambivalence.
Praying is more rote than meaningful.

Let’s be honest here, going through the motions suck (I would venture to use other descriptive words too.. but you get the idea), but when you don’t know what else to do… you sort of just keep plugging forward hoping something eventually gives or sticks and makes you feel differently. (Or maybe that’s just me)

It was probably 4-5 years that I ebbed and flowed between feeling nothing particularly interesting in my spiritual walk, a few moments of connection with the Lord, a few seasons of intense pain and struggling, and then grateful to feel pretty much just “ok” about God and I… But, honestly, nothing particularly fulfilling or satisfying, much less internally all-encompassing and changing.

My heart and soul were definitely in a drought season… and it was sprinkled with some rains to keep the well surviving, but definitely not life abundantly.

Don’t get me wrong, life had these amazing moments, incredibly fun weeks full of laughter and satisfaction; but, deep down, there was no deep and moving elements impacting my relationship with God… It just sorta, was there; plugging along like normal, mostly mundane and comfortably boring, but it was dedicated and persevering none the less.

I hated that.

I was also coming off of an intensely painful season of life, and it took me a long (long) time to find my way back to healthy. – Then it took me an even longer time (almost a full year) to desire to wrestle through how I felt about the idea that “The Best is Yet to Come” or that God wanted me to live a life of abundance that is full of joy… I really had totally forgotten what it felt like to feel overwhelming joy and peace that could only come from the Lord anyway.

Slowly, over the course of about a year and a half (2016 and into the beginning or 2017), I started desiring God again. I wanted to want a close intimate relationship with him again…

Here is where I’m supposed to actually tell you how to get your “want” back with the Lord… How to turn around from your struggles of connecting, to suddenly (realistically slowly) begin to rebuild and make it all better… To find that meaningful connection with God.

But, let’s be honest, as much as I wish I had a three-step process for you or a formula that is simple, the reality is, it just isn’t simple.
My journey isn’t yours.
My season isn’t where you find yourself.
My struggles are not where you are.
What worked for me isn’t a three-step process… It was much more all-encompassing.
The only thing I know is that I had to choose to press into the Lord no matter how I feel. – That was the biggest shift.

I had decided that no matter the time it took me each day, I needed God’s face in mine to deal with this season I was/am in.

Our heart, and our journey is complex; it’s hard and complicated, sometimes overwhelming, and full of sorrows. But, when it all boils down to it, when you’re ready, you have to desire a healthy relationship with our Lord more than you desire Netflix, dinner with friends, or any other activity or distraction. It takes determination, but mostly it takes setting aside of your pride and own selfishness.

If you have decided that in your pain, sorrow or struggle and with all of your feelings that you won’t turn to God and force it all onto Him… Then your pride is still in your way. What have I learned and continued to fight for? God to speak to me. Each day it looks more like an emotional, mental, physical $h!tshow that really isn’t pretty, but over time God is changing me, changing our communication, He is healing and slowly restoring what was broken and hurt.

So, no matter how you feel: You. Need. God. To. Fix. It.

How do you get your want back?
I don’t know, but I can share what I am doing now, and what I have been doing the last few months that HAS actually helped me get my want and desire back from the Lord.

God is speaking to me more in the last few months than He has maybe ever in my entire life. – But, I am also trying to connect with Him each day.

Music.

Sometimes. Eh, no, actually probably most of the time, worship music gives my heart, soul and spirit words to connect my emotions to my Sweet Savior that I just do not have on my own. I feel like in the dark and hard times of life, in the grateful, overwhelmed, and everything in between, worship music fills the air with the spirit and presence of God. When I’m hurting the most, I likely do not have the words to speak, but my emotions need to express anyway, and music creates a way to do that.

I believe that the Holy Spirit meets us in those moments and spaces where life just is hard and hurts… Or maybe we are longing and struggling. When we are trying to press into the Lord more, but just feel lost, abandoned, or maybe just too numb to feel Him there at all. – I think worship music creates a safe place for rest and is a salve to our raw hearts.

Recently I have found that my heart is struggling to choose Faith, Hope, and Love… and peace over anxiety and fear. The most tangible way I have found to calm the fear and anxiety is by playing worship music; when it is playing, my mind is paying attention and reciting the words, and subsequently, I’m not paying attention to the struggling, but rather speaking life into my own mind. It feels a bit like the words are washing over and through me.

So, find new worship music for whatever season you find yourself in, and let it wash over you and speak for your heart. – Ask me if you need some fresh recommendations.

Journaling.

The church I attend, is huge on journaling, taking notes, listing gratitudes, and writing down prayers. – I journal prayers.

Why?: Because we often forget our prayers, and then later lose track of being able to thank God for what He has done, and we are unable to give Him honor and glory later or point to the journey, process and miracles He did along the way.

Journaling prayers also makes me feel less crazy… And my prayers are more focused.

I have realized in the last year alone that I have written prayers on specific days or long forgotten prayers that the Lord amazingly showed up; He answered, He proved Himself faithful, He was present and He carried me through. And yet, I had forgotten all about the prayers and would never again remember them if I hadn’t written them down. Going back and re-reading them, I also didn’t realize I was lining my prayers up ahead of time for a specific reason or season… The level of awe and honor that God got and gets for how He worked in those seasons simply wouldn’t be possible without having written them down.

On the flip side, one of my absolute biggest regrets from the most painful season of my life (so far) was that I did not journal my prayers. I have no record of the nuances of ways that the Lord showed up and was present in my suffering. I cannot tell you the little ways that my Sweet Savior carried me when I was too numb to notice. I actually had to go back and spend some time apologizing to God for this, and now I tell everyone to journal prayers no matter how they feel! – God deserves the credit, but you’ll never see it in the midst of the pain, only afterwards will you find yourself blown away and grateful for what He did and how He showed up.

Praying.

Sounds simple, but prayer matters.. and not just prayer, but prayer on behalf of others, prayer every day for the same thing; repeatedly going to God over and over. Absolutely pray for yourself, but don’t forget petition for others, like pray as if their life depended on it (because it might).

There is just something about the needs and urgency of praying for and over other people that will put a bit more weight behind my prayers. More yearning and desiring for the Lord to answer and His faithfulness to shine through.

Read Yo Bible.

Yes, I know, seems obvious and maybe cliché, and you’re probably doing that already. – Unless you’re in a season like I was a few years ago, and I just Could. Not. Read. My. Bible.

But truly, find a topic, press in.
Find a book and begin – Psalms, Isaiah, Timothy, Ephesians, Philippians, John.. Somewhere, just start.

OR… Find themes/topics and research them.

The last couple of months for me has looked like this:
Find a word/theme,
Look up the definition for the word, then write down all the synonyms,
Biblegateway.com the word – usually in multiple version of the Bible,
Read through ALL of the different passages that have that word in it,
Expand some of the verses to get context or read the whole chapter,
Then, copy the pertinent verses into my journal…
Sometimes copy the passage in my journal in a couple different versions

It takes a long time. It’s worth it.

Fast.

Listen, I. Am. Bad. At. Fasting.

Actually, I’m pretty much just bad at fasting food… Everything else is pretty easy; which means I need to continue to fast food. *facepalm*

Like seriously, I’ve been legit practicing fasting over the last year or so… Thankfully, I’ve gotten significantly better, but dag yo, it’s hard. I’ve had to make clear rules and guidelines for myself to help me learn how to do it better. I’ve done just about everything wrong as I learn how to fast, including the “I actually just starved myself today because I forgot to pray or read my Bible while I fasted.” – Terrible.

It’s called a spiritual practice for a reason… You have to practice it in order to perfect it and get good.

Also, know SPECIFICALLY what you are fasting for. Unless you are an expert at fasting, you need something to focus all your prayers towards.

Have a plan. Set reminders, spend your lunch walking and praying… Make decisions ahead of time to help you succeed on this day of fasting!

Also, it’s helpful to know, often my fasting days are really hard and frustrating days. I get annoyed very easily. – Neat.

Find a Study or Book.

Sometimes, when you just cannot pull it together in your head, finding a study helps. A book or study that someone else has done all the research and reading to craft and create for you on a topic or need. Dig in.

Listen to Sermons.

I happen to think my church has some amazing sermons, on a plethora of topics (no really, you can go back YEARS and look for series’ that sound interesting or speak to your season.)
But, so does Northpoint, Elevation, LifeChurch, Crosspoint, Newspring etc..

Find Community.

Genuine and authentic community makes all the difference. Choose some people and don’t do this alone.

Don’t let your own struggle and pride be what keeps you in this season any longer than you’re supposed to be.

Some of the most healing, restoring, encouraging, and challenging things for me are found sitting around a table with food, drinks and talking through hard, authentic, and complex life things with people I trust and love. It takes vulnerability and it takes courage, but it is worth it. – If you do not have people in your life who can do this or be this for you, let’s talk.

Change Up Your Routine.

Changing the timing of what I do, the place I do things, the cadence to my time with Jesus has also been a huge help. My pastor Mark Batterson always says “Change of pace, plus change of place, equals change of perspective.” – It has absolutely been true for me in this season of learning how to press in each day no matter how I’m feeling.

Find your grit to get back to the Lord.
He will meet you there.

Also, I want you to know, none of these things I list mean that each day hasn’t been hard… Different types of challenges, new graces, new words, emotions and tears.. But, you must find your perseverance and determination to dig in and grip with everything you are to our Lord. Decide you won’t let go until God speaks to you and meets you there. He will meet you there, but never when or how you expect Him to.

Prove your grit and character; you can do it and He is faithful.

While I cannot say with absolute certainty that these methods that sparked my own “want to get closer to God” again will work for you, I’m also willing to bet that you might be stubborn enough to try it for three or four months… And if that is the case, I’m actually confident that your spiritual life will never look the same.

Learn everything you can, steward this time and season well.
Don’t let what you are going through go to waste or be for naught.
Don’t be prideful enough not to need God or anyone else to get through this.
Don’t blame anyone else, even if your situation is someone else’s fault, it is up to you and God to dig in and do the work to get through this season and heal.
Don’t let where you are now prevent you from going to God in all the rawness and authenticity.

Also, for the record, this list of things doesn’t mean that it won’t also be a $h!tshow. – It is likely to still be hard and painful, exhausting, overwhelming, but also full of peace and love. It may be the hardest season of life you have ever fully engaged in… It will be all of the things as you work out your faith and salvation with love, fear and trembling.

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43:19

Wisdom and Foolishness

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
– James 1:5

“The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.”
– Proverbs 19:3

Since I was a child, literally 11 years old, I can remember praying for two things for and over myself: Wisdom and Understanding. – If that gives any insight into the type of child and person I am! haha I realize and love that I’m a bit of a weirdo haha

I remember, and continue to feel like if only I have more wisdom and understanding, then I can and will do better at life. I will handle situations better, I will see people differently, I can assess and respond to various things that I encounter more effectively, I can keep the best and most important things in perspective… But, ultimately, I can just love others well.

Occasionally, I will also swap into my prayer mix, clarity and knowledge for myself before the Lord.

The opposite side of wisdom is foolishness, so it is no surprise that I want to perpetually stay as far away from that as possible.
One of the big things I process and struggle through before making decisions is wanting as much information and perspective as I can get to ensure that I do not make a foolish decision. – I don’t want to ever look back and feel like I had been foolish, hasty, thoughtless, or stupid in my decisions or actions.

So, given the way the Lord and I are working through things lately, Foolishness was the theme a few days ago, and Wisdom was soon to follow… As in, the next day.

I was amazed to realize that when you look up “foolish” in scripture, and when you read through the passages one right after another; it is actually very clear about who is considered foolish and what is considered foolish! And then, because God has a sense of humor, there’s one section of verses that throw a little wrench into what man considers wise vs foolish and what God does. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Just so we are all on the same page, other descriptors of foolishness are: thoughtless, senseless, stupid, mindless, unwise or incautious actions… The level with which I do not want to be or ever be described as these things is intense within me.

So, I began to dig deeper in scripture to get a handle on what it means, and compare myself authentically to see if I am foolish.

Here are some of the things I learned reading through the 88 passages that talk about foolishness in scripture:
Those who are foolish don’t even try to understand or seek wise counsel.
Foolish people are quick-tempered.
The Foolish have eyes but do not see, ears but do not year, and they do not honor or give thanks to God even though they know him.
Foolish people speculate futilely knowing it will lead to arguments and strife.
The foolish seek riches, fame.
Foolish people, who do not believe and follow Christ are actually enslaved to their evil thoughts, coveting, deceit, sensuality, adulteries, envy, slander, and pride… They are even described as having qualities that are evil and proceed from within them.
Foolishness is something that comes from within, it produces actions that harm ourselves or others, and entirely disregard the Lord.
Foolish people operate in pride and don’t even attempt to see or care about what is right, nor do they give thanks to the Lord and honor him in any way.

But also, interestingly enough, believers and followers of Christ are described as righteous, and that they previously were foolish but are no more…

However, I find it interesting that Paul won’t let believers sidestep people who are foolish. We must seek after them with love too. He says that we are actually under obligation to both Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and foolish. We must love and follow hard after our Lord making disciples of all people and all nations.

(You can read more about where I’m getting this information from here.)

One of my favorite things about the really hard, and honestly exhausting season that the Lord and I are currently in together right now is that I spend all day every day mulling and praying through things that He is teaching me. I feel as though in my head, in conversations, in my prayers, and journaling, in my seeking, in my rising and laying down I am working out my salvation with the God of the Universe. That, while He has already saved me, He is taking this season, and making me new. On a foundational level we are re-evaluating things and removing lies and insecurities, and also replacing and building new hope and faith in the process. – It is draining in every possible sense of the word, but it is intensely good and rich.

I feel like daily I am consumed by this season. I spend every spare moment reading and digging deeper. Exhausting.

As I get my Theme’s of the day and begin to dig deeper and try to wrap my mind around them, I have realized there are a lot of thoughts and assumptions that I have that are not actually described in scripture… or better yet, other things that are incredibly clearly defined that I was totally ignorant of!

There was so much internal sigh of relief when I realized that while I certainly have plenty of foolish moments and have done foolish things, *I* am not foolish by any stretch of the imagination.

This whole internal process of mulling and praying my way through this topic was sparked because I have been trying to figure out whether it is considered foolish to hope and pray for things that are more just “wishful thinking” when I do not know if it falls within the will of God.

My everyday struggle is that, I want intensely to do things well in the eyes of the Lord. I want to follow the Lord, and pursue Him with everything I am. I desire for my prayers and actions to be in alignment with him.

So, what did I find out as I dug deeper into wisdom and foolishness?

No, it is not foolish in the slightest to hope and pray for things that we don’t know whether they are or aren’t in the will of God… There is actually nowhere in scripture that foolishness even comes close to touching praying and hoping for things in the Lord. – Instead, it is actually the opposite, wisdom and understanding slide up right next to hoping and praying for things we want. It honors God when we go to Him, foolish people do not give Him honor, nor do they care about the things of His kingdom.

Throughout scripture, wisdom and understanding are intimately acquainted with every type of communication between us and the Lord.

In fact, the more we press in, the more we seek and ask for wisdom, the more we are actually changed by the Spirit. We find ourselves in alignment with Him as part of the process, and even if we don’t get what we want, we are content and continue to hope and build our faith throughout the journey.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom… But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
– James 3:13 & 17

I do not know that I’ll every consider myself “wise” but, the more I learn about wisdom, the more I want to pursue it and also just find it fascinating. I seek the Spirit of Wisdom that is talked about throughout scripture. I want the blessings that come with having knowledge and understanding that is only given from the Creator of the Universe.

I also find it interesting that wisdom is given a gender, and that gender is female.
I also find it interesting that wisdom is ranked above coral, crystal, silver, gold, and any other riches or desirable things cannot compare.

Also, I very much am drawn to the fact that the righteous utter wisdom and their tongue speaks justice.

If your mouth speaks wisdom, then the meditations of your heart will be understanding.

Fearing the Lord is the start of wisdom, and it is pleasant to the soul within you.

Did you know that in scripture, wisdom is better than weapons of war?

And, just when I didn’t think it could get any better, the wise make the most of every day and every opportunity, especially with people who are not believers of who Christ is.

So, what is the biggest key marker between wisdom and foolishness? One seeks the Lord, the other does not care in the slightest.

My loves, be wise in all that you do.

Help Give Clean Water in Uganda

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As many of you know I am co-leading another trip back to Uganda in July to hand auger clean water wells! We will be partnering with Mission4Water once again; this year our goal is lofty and exciting!

Please consider supporting us financially.. but not until you read more about what we are doing and why!

Below are lots of questions and thoughts that I have been getting as I share about going to Uganda this summer… There’s a good chance some of your thoughts or questions are answered here too!

Why water?

I mean… I like water don’t you?

Who doesn’t like cooking with water?

Is there anything quiet as refreshing as a cold drink of water on the hottest of days or after a hard workout at the gym?

But really, if you have known me for a few years, you will remember that I donated a birthday to charity:water to help them drill a clean water well!

I take water for granted. So do you.

Trust me on this; we take water for granted every single day (even in Flint!).

So, ok, fine… Water. But why Uganda?

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It started with a breaking heart, and then finding an amazing organization with Mission4Water.

But, that doesn’t really answer the question does it?.. Why have *I * chosen water and Uganda? That’s a really long story that written words won’t do appropriate justice to, so, let’s FaceTime, Skype or get dinner to talk about this, cause that would be more fun!

The short answer is that God broke my heart for what break’s His in Africa in 2008, and in 2016 I had the opportunity to do something that makes a physical difference in the lives of hundreds of people in Uganda. Why would I turn that down?

Don’t people need help here?

Yes, they do.

There’s no way around the fact that people need help everywhere.

My choice to go and support an organization that is giving clean water to those in need in Uganda is not at odds with the ways and needs locally and nationally that I care about or support.

The most common question I get challenged with is, “Why are you going since people need help here too?” – Let me assure you, people needing help here is not an appropriate excuse for me not to go; instead it is a reason for everyone to do his or her part… If I feel called to go, and you feel a burden for here, then get up, step into the work of relieving the burdens and needs here while I do the same for the things I am burdened for.

However, some people are called to go (anywhere), others are called to stay, while still others are called to support financially.

Paul went. Timothy went. Jesus went (along with so many others)…. Jesus also told us to go too (locally, nationally, and internationally). Ergo, we should go.

We are supposed to go… If God has not called you to go anywhere, then He has likely burdened you for the people or causes here that you should get involved with, OR He equipped you with the ability to give so that someone else is able to go.

Throughout Paul’s letters he consistently references how one church was funding him so that he could go to another church and not burden them. As a body and community of people, together we can actually change the world, clean water in Uganda is just one of many ways that I am doing my part.

Please, won’t you join me? Please consider supporting my team of 15 people changing the lives of over 1,000 people in just two short weeks of work in July!

What is the money ask and why?

Our crazy huge goals is to raise the money for 5 clean water wells!

In order for us to reach our goal of digging three clean water wells, and leaving money for two additional wells (so their work can continue after we leave), we need to raise just over $72,000.

We are well on our way with 22% raised already by the end of February! (Thank you to everyone who has donated so far! *dance party*)

How does the cost breakdown?

It will cost us $4000 to build each clean water well.

Each well serves an average of 350 Ugandans.

~ $12 gives 1 Ugandan clean water for the rest of their life.

~ $24 gives 2 clean water to two…

~ $36 of course then gives THREE people clean water!

~ Meaning that if you donate $48 you have changed the life forever of 4 Ugandan’s!

 

Donate here!

All donations are tax-deductible.

So, here are a few facts:

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  • It costs $12 to provide a lifetime supply of clean water to one person in Uganda
  • On average, Ugandans walk 6 kilometers a day for dirty water
  • Typically, it’s women and girls who are responsible for the gathering of water
  • Current water sources often cause serious illnesses
  • Lack of clean water means a large percentage of young girls are not able to attend school for a large variety of reasons.
  • Water born illnesses impact the family groups in dozens of way, causing financial hardships

On this mission to Uganda in July of 2017: 

Our plan is to dig three clean water wells simultaneously. Each of our three teams will be composed of five US team members, and two Ugandan drillers.

Our team will dig 3 wells, meaning during our time there, we will supply water to more than 1,000 Ugandans.

At the completion of our two weeks, it is our incredibly lofty goal to also provide monies for two additional wells.

That means you would partner with our team as we strive to provide clean, safe water to more than seventeen hundred Ugandans in 2017 alone! – Which brings the three-year total to over 5,000 people having access to clean water!

This mission is being funded by those of us participating in the trip, through donations and fund-raisers.

You don’t have the money?

That’s ok! While we have financial needs, that is far from the only support we need in our journey!

Follow along with our story via our blog and my personal social media.

Pray for us!

  • We need prayer for health: physical, emotional, spiritual.
  • We need prayers for safety, no illnesses and no injuries.
  • We also desire prayers for the right hearts, humility in our approach to learning, and for connections to be made.
  • We need prayers to hit water THREE times!
  • And, of course we need prayers for God to meet us anew in Uganda, to hit a soul reset, and for each of us to learn what it is that God wants to teach us while on mission.

What if this isn’t your thing?

If clean water is not anything you care about, that’s ok!…

My challenge to you is to find what is the thing you care about deeply, and work towards that passion! Choose something that matters in the biggest scope of eternity; then invest your time and money there!

Thank you!

Thank you in advance for partnering with the 15 of us as we take on this adventure!

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Be on the lookout for the sign up for our 3rd Annual Race for H2Ope 6k Run/Walk coming May 6th!

Be sure to follow along in our adventures and share our stories!

#ugandaexcited #onmissioneveryday #threeforthethird

First Impressions Church Resources and Where to Get Them

One of the best parts of my #tourdechurches trip was that I got a slew of resources from other churches, learned how they do guest services, guest relations, hospitality, and of course manage and train their volunteers!

At least once, if not two or three times throughout the month I get contacted by another church looking for resources, trainings, and simply wanting to talk and learn from each other. My favorite part is that they are all sizes, shapes, and colors. Everyone is looking to collaborate and learn, it is a beautiful picture of how God will grow and move His church. I love that my job allows me the chance to get to network with these other churches, to learn from them, and share what I have learned.

One of the biggest things I have realized as I learn more about what I do: there is a severe lack of information about First Impressions for churches. – Even if you expand your search to guest services, guest relations, hospitality etc.. there is very little (compared to pastoring, leadership, discipleship, worship, prayer, and kids/youth ministries etc..) that can serve as a resource or training. Most of what you find are basic “tips” buzzfeed style. So, because of the lack of information, I have begun to compile information to share with you.. The best part, most of it is FREE! Boom. Winning.

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Materials for guests and volunteers at Elevation Church

Lots of churches have created their own materials and resources, but there’s little out there for assistance to learn and grow from other churches like other ministry areas.

My goal is to create a place and begin networking to find information, to learn, and share. Some of this will be excellent and others mediocre.. The helpfulness of the resources will depend on your needs and church culture most likely.

I am hugely passionate about First Impressions and the Church; it matters to me a lot. I love when I get to train my own leaders and volunteers, or when I get to spend time with other churches doing the same thing. #Sameteam

I want to become a resource for people trying to learn how to reach others from different cultures, beliefs, backgrounds better. Understanding where they are coming from so you know how to engage with them, make them feel loved and cared for is hugely important. Paul was so great at this!

When I went on my Tour de Churches (You can read a bit about it here), I learned some cool things that you should know!

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A few of the Grow Network Materials

Church of the Highlands in Birmingham Alabama has a Grow Network, and IT IS FREE. You can sign up and they will help you grow your church! They have thousands of resources… all free!

Also, while I am at it, here are a few articles I have found on Hospitality and First Impressions for the Church. (Most of which are a couple of years old at this point):

Should Your Church Stop Having a Stand and Greet Time? – By Thom Rainer

Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests – By: Thom Rainer

Christian Hospitality is Key to Being and Inviting Church – Huffington Post

Inviting Someone to Church Without Being Awkward – Existence Church

Many of the resources I have found, like these below, are more just basics…
Sort of like a “First Impressions or Hospitality 101” for Churches:

Implementing Hospitality – Churchleadership.org

Fix Your Church Hospitality 

First Impressions: Ten Ways to Make Guests Feel Welcome

Then, there are some very helpful “outsider” perspectives that I think everyone should read, consider, and share with other church attenders to help everyone understand:

10 Common First Impressions Mistakes that Churches Make

Also, because I think it is helpful Google Church First Impressions and learn more… Read it all! – No, seriously, read as much as you can from as many different perspectives as possible.

Become a student of what it feels like to be an outsider to the church; because the longer you have been an ‘insider’ the harder it is to remember what it was like to be an outsider.

 

What does Scripture say about First Impressions?

Read more about the topic here, here, and here! – Also, keep coming back because I will be blogging more about the scriptural basis for First Impressions in the upcoming weeks and months. Coming soon are some stories that help to put all of this into perspective as to why First Impressions at Churches matters so much to me.

More resources and blog posts to come.

Do you have Hospitality, First Impressions resources and materials to share?

Do you have any questions?

Comment below!

#TourDeChurches for First Impressions

Passion City Church “Welcome to Church” Shipping Container

A few weeks ago, I went on my own “conference” of sorts and plotted and planned to visit as many churches as I could in a week’s time. I have finally caught up enough and processed enough that I feel I can begin to share what I learned along the way! There will be many posts likely coming from this, but this is a good place to start the processing and conversation!

I am so thankful that my boss came up with the idea, and pushed me to make it as large and encompassing as I could manage!

I deemed my trip Tour-De-Churches.

It was the best, most refreshing, but also entirely overwhelming experience I have had in quite a long time!

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To help you follow along, and also create a space for networking for you as well, I went to:
Crosspoint in Nashville, TN (Talked with Kylie)
Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL (Talked with Janah and Amy)
Passion City, Atlanta (Talked with Stephanie)
Northpoint, Atlanta (Talked with several staff members)
Newspring, South Carolina (Was hosted by Sarah, but met with SO many staff members/teams)
Elevation, North Carolina (Talked with Stephen)

Also, when I was at Northpoint, I attended their NP Lead Labs one day conference, which was awesome and a great (inexpensive) learning conference for churches to help them engage non-believers! But, it was also SUCH an amazing way to network with other churches. – I met some amazing people doing really cool things and had great discussions because of this!

One of the unexpected positives from my #Tourdechurches is that it is just nice sometimes to be around other people who are doing church ministry, and realize in solidarity how difficult it can be. It is intensely draining on you mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally and you must be careful to hit the reset button and refresh.

Here are some of the highlights that I learned:

Guest Relations,

Guest Services,

and First Impressions looks different EVERYWHERE you go. 

Cultivating a first impressions experience for guests is different for church. The strategy of every church I visited had vastly different goals. – Each of them the purpose crafted the experiences to be very different.

Every Church that I met wants to learn as much as they can from others. – #Sameteam

If your church does not have money/budget to spend on first impressions things: Every church I met with agreed, THE best way to create a friendly environment is how your volunteer teams are trained and are greeting and welcoming your guests.

If you are on a church staff: One of the most valuable things I have learned, be certain and clear about your goal each Sunday morning in regards to First Impressions, volunteers, and the guest experience. – Communicate it clearly and often.

Love. On. Your. Volunteers. – This was the biggest thing I saw globally at each church. They love on their volunteers well; the best ones create amazing community among serving teams and go above and beyond to take care of them.
Also, feed your volunteers! – Snacks, lunch, something, feed them as much as possible! haha

A great litmus test I learned: Take a few of your key staple pieces of materials, and ask someone who is not in your church (maybe is not even a believer), and see if it is clear, makes sense, do they understand it?… Test to see if you are using the right language.

If you think it is clear, it probably isn’t. The thing I think stood out to me the most is that there is a huge lack of clarity on the part of new guests. If you think something is clear, they are probably too confused to notice.

Smile and step into awkwardness. You must be ever-conscious of your face – Smile. Smile. Smile. But also, if you do not recognize or know someone, it IS your job (and that of your volunteers) to go say hello and introduce yourself.

Training. It is crucial; literally the life-blood of your teams to train them well. But, not just train them HOW to do their jobs, but also WHY what they do is important. – Also, simple piece of advice, never stop learning yourself.

I have a few additional blog posts here, here and here about this if you want to learn more! (with many more to come)

To Be Continued…

More to come.. I have a whole list of resources to share from these churches. That is coming next blog post! (I’ll back-post a link to this post once it’s up!)
I also plan on sharing some (attributed to anonymous) stories of people who had good or bad experiences, and talking through what I have learned in and through these situations…. Basically, stay tuned, there is so much more coming!

Have questions? Post in the comments!

Yes, It Is Normal…

I want to be known for my blending of Grace and Truth exactly perfectly…

Unfortunately, I tend towards Truth naturally and really have to work on being better at HOW I say things.

And, in the spirit of honesty, one of my biggest struggles is learning how to blend Grace into my words to mitigate my natural leaning towards Truth in a way that reflects the Holy Spirit and Jesus well.

You see, I believe that one of the biggest tricks the devil uses against us is making us to feel like we are isolated. I think often many do not share openly their lives in a way that could be helpful to someone else because it is personal, private, and feels intimate… But, if we are alone, and if that thing we are struggling through is believed to be abnormal, if we are the only one, then clearly we are weak or there is something wrong with us…

I regularly find myself in conversations with people that allows for me to share my own story, struggles, and in a completely honest light offer them authentic encouragement because, after all, we are now in this struggle together.

Over the last few months, I have been given this amazing opportunity to share about my ministry/job with other churches around the country. Some of them were referred to me, others found my name and title (First Impressions Director) on our website, and others I am not entirely sure how they found me. But, I have gotten to talk to them, encourage their ministries, hearts, and share whatever information I could about how and what I do… As well as simply connect over our common bond of “overwhelmed but passionate” for our ministries.

One of the biggest things I have come to realize, regardless of the ministry, church size and even occupation, it needs to be said frequently: 

What you are feeling, that’s normal. 

It doesn’t really matter what you’re feeling:
Overwhelmed,
Annoyed,
Blessed,
Content,
Frustrated,
Excited,
Like you’re drowning,
Struggling,
Overjoyed,
Dry inside,
Agitated,
Numb, etc…
AALLL of the feelings are normal, they are being experienced by someone else also in your same place trying to keep that same pace.

I have been asked SO many times, “How do you manage it all?”

And, my very real and honest answer:

Sometimes I handle it well, flawlessly, and feel energized!…

Aaand then other times, I find myself binge watching Netflix with a glass of wine and snacks, locked away in my room with my puppy for six hours. – Totally healthy coping mechanism 🙄

Sometimes my daily Jesus time is SO GOOD! Then all of a sudden I look up and it’s been TWO WEEKS and I’m not entirely sure where my Bible is even located.

Sometimes my journal and prayers are overflowing, and other times I just sit and stare blankly.

Sometimes I wake up looking forward to my day, having slept well and stoked about what I have planned. Other times I hit snooze until I’m late for work (sorry boss!) and have to bolt out the door without brushing my teeth (I promise I make up the work time)!

Sometimes I go to the gym and eat so well totally dominating the meal prepping for the week. Other times I can’t even remember the last time I ate something other than fast food.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the love and joy for my job and life. Other times I am just overwhelmed with a heavy and discouraged heart.

Life is hard. 

Following Jesus is hard. 

Life and following Jesus are all real things, real struggles, authentic joys and sorrows, love and hate, anger and repentance. These are normal life things that so many try to hide or pretend are not a normal part of their lives. Why are we not highlighting the good, bad, beautiful and ugly as ENTIRELY normal?!

Some days we will feel ready to go and like we can conquer the world. Other days we will do all we can to merely survive the day. 

So, Yes, it (whatever “it” is) is normal. 

Don’t let the smiles, adventures, Instagrams, Facebook posts, snapchats or 30 second conversations of and with others fool you… We are all swinging back and forth on this pendulum of so good, and really just trying to survive the suck.

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”– 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Trust me, those feelings are normal, and experienced by others! Share your feelings with others, be honest, choose to help someone else see their feelings are normal and accepted too.

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Generosity is the Key…

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I have always sorta known that being generous was important. Without realizing it, I saw it growing up in my parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents etc.. I understood that they were kind and loving, but I do not think I interpreted their actions as generous at the time because it was just sorta how they were.

Grandparents on both sides of my family were generous with food… Literally feeding everyone who came and went from their house. People in my family seem to be known for taking people in to live with them… and feeding them. They always had things to give them, and lived a life that repeatedly said “people are more important than things” – Sometimes actually repeating this mantra.

Now that I am grown, and trying my best at this adulting thing, I have realized so many of the ways that my parents were generous. My parents never ran out of time for you. Hours upon hours have been spent talking and spending time with people in my house growing up. Sometimes it was me and my siblings that needed the time, other instances it was cousins or other family members, students, co-workers, friends; regardless, my parents have always been generous with their time.

Growing up it would drive me bonkers because we were endlessly late places. – Why? Why could my dad not stop talking and get in the car so we could go?!… Looking back, so many hours were spent in parking lots and at restaurants giving people what only my dad could give, and what people needed most: his time. People are drawn to my parents, to their kindness, to their wisdom, to their knowledge, to their genuine authenticity, and to the joy and love that they spill out to everyone. Whether people realized it or not, they have always been drawn to the way that Jesus exudes from my parents.

Thankfully, I feel like these traits of my parents has been passed on to me and all of my siblings.

I never totally understood growing up what was happening because generosity was just a part of our family… But, because we did not have money, I had separated in my mind that generosity was supposed to mean with your money, everything else was sorta just how my family was.

As an adult, I realize how flawed and totally wrong that perspective was. So totally wrong.

Being generous certainly can include money.. which is why I think tithing and gifting is so important. It helps you separate yourself from the control that money can have on you. But, in reality, generosity is so much more pervasive and multi-dimensional that just currency.

Generosity of any kind changes people’s lives.

Generosity has a rippling effect that impacts people we will never meet face to face.

I find that as I get older, I take note of the generous people in my lives and are drawn to them, respect them, and desire to surround myself with them at an ever-increasing level.

Two of the most generous people I have ever met are my lead pastor Mark Batterson and his wife Lora. I do not really understand how they always find the time, money, and attitudes of generosity, but they do, endlessly. Pastor Mark says all the time that he wants those who know him best to respect him the most; and it is true. The more you get to know him, the more you respect him; I am fascinated by how true this fact plays out, even working at the church that he has been pastoring for 20 years! He and his wife’s giving spirits are so built into their lives that I do not even think they realize some of the ways they are generous. Interactions with them are teeming with graciousness, kindness, and generosity… So much so that it is tangible!

Sometimes, I think my friends get tired of how much I love and respect this next person (who I have only met once); but Josh Garrels is another person whose generosity has made a huge difference in my life. I shared once a while ago about how much his generosity weathered me through a horrible season because he put his albums up on Noisetrade for free. This week I was once again reminded of his double blessing generosity; he put out on Noisetrade an anniversary album that included bonus tracks, and instrumental tracks from his album Home. While the album is free until April 28th, he also included a note that any tips you leave him on Noisetrade will be donated to World Relief and One Million Thumbprints (Check them out, it’s pretty amazing).  – All I could think is of the abundant generosity that exhibits of him and his wife!

Here I am as an adult, finding that the most generous thing I have to offer is my time, my joy, my kindness… and a little food certainly doesn’t hurt. People are more important than things, and letting people become more of “my people” and join my community is one of the most generous things I can do. And, oh how I love it.

I cannot always give money, but I can always give time. – Especially as I become more diligent with my time management.

I think the world can absolutely become a better place with more kindness, more generosity, and more stepping into community that is hard to love people well.

Generosity is the key to changing the world one impactful moment at a time.