Posted on 22. May, 2013 by Kenny.
I absolutely love teaching. Teaching is one of my top spiritual gifts. Unfortunately I don’t get to do it nearly enough. There have been times though where I have received criticism from my teaching that I simply didn’t agree with. I’ve had people tell me that they thought I taught over the kids heads, teaching information that was too complicated. Yes, I probably push the boundaries a little, but as passionate as I am about teaching, I’m absolutely disgusted by our ability to bore kids at church. I push the limits of teaching over their heads only because the default is often to teaching down to kids. We’ve taught the same stories so many times, kids have lost the wonder and joy. I’ve always taken joy in presenting information in a way that challenges what they think is true, maybe even confusing them for a bit and thing bring resolution in a way to resolve the conflict in their minds.
A couple nights ago I was watching some TED talks on my phone while I was watering the grass in my front yard (everyone does that, right?). There was an amazing talk by Ramsey Musallam, a Chemistry Teacher at a Catholic School. It took a life-threatening incident to shake him out of what he calls pseudo-teaching. Now he has some very strong ideas about teaching students. If you teach/communicate within the church, this 6 minute video is worth watching.
The premise is that true understanding of material is much more likely if curiosity is provoked in the student. If we can engage their curiosity, then they will actively engage in the material, question it and explore it. He says that “Student questions are the seeds of real learning — not some scripted curriculum that gives them tidbits of random information.” He goes on to say that questions and curiosity are magnets that draw students to their teachers.
That leads us to the million dollar question. We spend most of our times with kids talking to kids and asking them questions. How do we create an environment where we turn the tables and get them to ask the questions. Ramsey goes on to say… “[If] we have the guts to confuse our students, perplex them, and evoke real questions … we as teachers have information that we can use to tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction.”
The students questions are the seeds to real learning. How do you evoke curiosity and questions?
About a month ago, I started seeing tweets and facebook updates about people waiting in virtual lines for the new Mailbox App for iPhone. I was intrigued, so I jumped in line. It took almost 2 weeks before I got access. Within minutes I was saying, “Wow, this is a pretty cool app.” However, or the past several weeks, I’ve simply been “playing” with Mailbox. I use it as my primary email client, but I didn’t really use it the way it is intended to be used.
You see, the creators of Mailbox realized that mobile email is kind of broken. People read their emails and often mark them as unread or flag/star so they can do stuff with it later instead of really working their inbox from the phone. Mailbox was designed to push your toward inbox zero. Inbox zero is pretty much the goal of getting rid of every email in your inbox on a daily basis. It’s the idea of working a system so that every email is either answered quickly, deleted, archived (searchable for later), delegated to someone else, pushed back for later or put on a list to be done. If you can apply this system quickly to every email that comes in, there isn’t any reason why you can’t get to inbox zero every day. Then when you have some extra time (on your determined time), you can work on the emails on your to do list.
I saw I’ve been playing with Mailbox because I have four emails connected to Mailbox and for the past 2-3 weeks, I’ve had a little over 3000 unprocessed, read or starred emails in the combined inbox. Then today, something happened.
I love instagram… and it just got better. Now you can tag people and places for better organizing photos that you took and photos that people took of you. Check out the video below or read more in this WIRED article.
Several years ago, I read a pretty amazing book by Patrick Lencioni, Three Big Questions for the Frantic Family. Lencioni writes amazing books for business leaders about overcoming dysfunction within teams, having better meetings, clarifying core values and other important business objectives. However, he dipped into sacred family territory with Three Big Questions and I must admit, it made quite the splash in my family. Within a couple of weeks, we had a chalk board in our kitchen and several of our friends moved chalk and dry erase boards into their kitchens.
Was the book helpful? Yes! Are we good at applying the principles. Not always. Maybe we just need a coach to help us move along at times.
A new book just came out that approaches the same topic. Bruce Feiler wrote the book, The Secret of Happy Families. Bruce was inspired by Agile software programing, a system to keep teams on track with software development and saw connections to daily family life. The system encourages practices which encourage flexibility, bottom-up idea flow, constant feedback and accountability. Why not apply this to the family. He did and the result was a best-selling book and a TED talk.
What do you think? Have these business/family crossovers been helpful? Inspiring? Lacking?
Anyway, below is the TED talk by Bruce Feiler:
Yesterday I celebrated my 5th year anniversary at Gateway Church here in Austin, Texas! Wow, hard to believe it’s been five years. What an amazing ride.
This is an interesting milestone for me for many reasons.
- This is the longest I’ve been on staff at any church. My first church was for four years, which coincided with going to school. It was a part-time gig that ended when I was hired for my first full time role as a Children’s Pastor. After this, I ended up in Southern Indiana in a larger Southern Baptist church. It was an incredible four years that taught me a lot about leadership, confrontation and how to focus on strategy. After this, I moved to the DFW area in North Texas where I served at one/two churches for three years. The church I came to was acquired by a larger church. I never moved or interviewed anywhere else, but it technically was two different churches. Here I learned a lot about the kind of Pastor I wanted to be, most specifically about what authenticity really was. Lastly, I moved to Austin 5 years ago to take a job as the NextGen pastor at Gateway Church. It’s probably been the hardest job I’ve ever done, but I’ve been challenged more than in any other place.
- Let me be clear. I don’t feel like I’ve ever “arrived” in any position I’ve been in. However, there were some roles where I felt I had reached my potential at that church. I’d made adjustments to the programs and structure and the future meant tweaking and adjusting what had been established.
The best thing we can have in our lives is a community of friends who help us become better. They speak truth because they love us and they want us to get better. Then sometimes we just need the friends in our lives who like to mess with us a little. For the past 5 years, I’ve had this kind of friendship with Matt McKee, Sam Luce, Gina McClain and Jonathan Cliff. That circle has expanded in recent years to include other close friends like Jenny Funderburke, Jim Wideman and others, but these four know me better than anyone else. They’re there to encourage me and help me when I need to make hard decisions. I can’t imagine being in full time ministry without this crew. If you don’t have people like this in your life, what are you waiting for?
One way this group helps me (I think) is by encouraging me to be more succinct. Yes, I send very long emails… and I’ve sent many of them in the wee hours of the morning. I’m a verbose narcolept. I’m getting better though… really I am. However, yesterday I fell off the wagon. I called my friend Matt McKee and got his voicemail. I proceded to leave him a message. By the time I was done, the message clocked in somewhere around 5 minutes. So, Matt called me today and left me a voice message clocking in at 4 minutes exactly. It was a challenge for him, but I thought I’d share with you how Matt is trying to help me. Check out the voice mail below.
My 5th Orange Conference has been a very different experience. For years I’ve been coming to learn and gather with others who are seeking ways to better partner with families and impact kids and students. That was a common thread this year as well, but the difference was a specific focus on connecting with other NextGen and Family Ministry Pastors and Directors. Wow, what an experience.
Five years ago I came to Orange only days before beginning my new role as a NextGen Pastor at Gateway Church. At that point in time, I only knew three people who did what I did, and I only had a relationship with one of them. About 6 months ago, I started putting a list together of other NextGen and Family Ministry people and quickly got to 30-40 people. However, in the last two weeks, my list has jumped north of 200 names. WOW! Something is happening here!
My emphasis this week has been about connecting with these people and it’s been a very successful week. NextGen and Family leader have come out of the woodwork. Now, it helped that we led a NextGen leader track at Orange and I got to host or speak at each of these breakouts. I added many people to my list from conversations after breakouts. Yesterday, I was interviewed on the Orange live stream and after talking about my list of NextGen leaders, I got tweets from 6-10 additional people.
Lastly, I was able to have breakfast with 25-30 of some of the sharpest NextGen leaders I’ve ever met. We talked about our biggest challenges, our biggest needs and what beginning a conversation might actually look like. I can’t tell you how excited I am about what is coming for this obscure, new and rapidly role that is so significant for so many churches.
So, I know that most of the people who read this blog are children’s pastors. However, if you happen to be NextGen or Family Ministry Pastor (primarily defined as a staff role that has direct oversite of both kids and student ministry), I’d love to add you to my list. Just contact me on this blog or send me a tweet. There’s a little info I’d like to get from you.
Orange released a new app yesterday. It’s both frightening, amazing and depressing all at the same time. Whatever emotion you feel, it’s a truth that no parent should ignore. We have limited time. Below I have put in both of my kids. Wow! Time is ticking away!
This app allows you to put in a child’s birthdate and it estimates the time left until their graduation. It is a visual representation of the time we have left to influence a child before they leave home.
You can also add in specific events and see the countdown until that day.
When you see the time you have left, you get serious about the time you have now.
Orange 2013 kicks off right now with a fusion of old school DC Talk with a dubstep vibe… very cool. You can watch live right now here. This is a no miss session, Reggie Joiner is going to talk about focus… specifically how it relates to the time we have left as kids grow up and we run out of time. Updates to come later, but don’t miss it!
Orange 2013 is a big one for me. It was almost exactly 5 years ago that I attended my first Orange Conference. Six months earlier, I had been let go from my previous church in a massive down-sizing. I was in a bit of limbo as I knew that God had called me to Children’s Ministry, but just jumping into another Children’s Pastor job didn’t seem like the right move. Even though I didn’t yet have a job, I made plans to attend the Orange Conference. As I dove into what the Orange Strategy was, I was overwhelmed. The principles that Orange was wrestling with were the issues that frustrated me most about ministry in the local church. YES, this was exactly where I needed to be. As I got closer to that first conference, I was hired as the NextGen Pastor of Gateway Church in a position that was best suited to leverage a strategy like Orange. I drove to Atlanta five years ago so excited… as if everything was about to change. Oh how it has!