Archive for September, 2008

Oops!

Posted on 30. Sep, 2008 by .

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In the 11+ years I’ve been a Children’s Pastor I’ve made my share of mistakes. There is nothing I love more than sitting around a table with others and hearing the mistakes they’ve made. It makes me feel better about some of the bone-headed things I’ve done in the past. Trust me, I’ve got some good ones. I’d like to think that some of the big mistakes were because I was in my early twenties and I really just didn’t know any better. Mistakes are a part of the growing process. I can tell you about all kinds of things that I do differently today because of mistakes I’ve made. So as long as we learn from our mistakes, don’t beat yourself up when you make them.

Over the coming weeks I’ll share some of the bone-headed things I’ve done over the years, hopefully to help others feel better. What prompted me to start this post today was a mistake I made last week. It was one of those “oops” that you wish you could take back. Actually it reminded me of an even bigger oops from a little over a year ago. Tomorrow and the next day I’ll share two very careless email oops.… Read the rest

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I’m out!

Posted on 30. Sep, 2008 by .

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by the time this posts, I’ll be on an airplane headed to Canada. Actually I’ll be headed to Canada by way of Atlanta, GA and Salt Lake City, UT. Yes, it was cheaper to go that route. To be honest, I’d be perfectly happy to get to Canada by way of Lima, Peru (okay, maybe that is exaggerating just a little) if it means more time to read, sleep and eat.

We had some airline vouchers and a whole bunch of credit card points… and it’s been way too long since we’ve had a really nice vacation. My parents are here to watch Titus, so we are off to Canada. We’re actually headed to Banff, a perfectly magical town nestled in some of the most beautiful scenary I’ve ever seen (I’ve only seen pictures, so I’ll let you know if the real thing lives up to the photos).

Sara and I have 5 nights in a four start hotel in Banff. We have no agenda other than relax, hike, eat, sleep and take in the surroundings.

My only concern is that when coming home, I only have 45 minutes between when I land in Houston and catch the connecting flight to Austin. The catch? We have to get our bags and go through customs. I called the airline to verify that I could actually do that and they replied (almost like I irritated them with the question) that it was a standard schedule. As much as we need to make this connection, I have a sneaking feeling that we’re going to miss this one. We’ll see.

I’ve got a few post scheduled to publish this week, so enjoy a lighter load. Have a great week! I know I will.… Read the rest

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Near perfect day

Posted on 29. Sep, 2008 by .

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I’m on vacation. Since my parents came in town to take care of Titus as Sara and I left the country, I took a few days off before we left for vacation. From my experience, I am going to highly encourage the practice. It’s like getting warmed up before the big vacation. I’ve heard some people say that it’s best to take vacation and be gone for two weeks straight as you don’t really unwind until midway thorough the first week.

All I can say is that today was near perfect. I say near perfect only because I was a bit naughty and did a few minutes worth of work. It was Sunday and I took my parents with me to church. Unless I had worn a disguise, it would have been about impossible to not get caught in conversations. Actually, when I told people I was on vacation, people were very encouraging of me to get out of the kids building. The problems was that I had to drop Titus off and I was giving my parents a tour. I guess the sure fire solution would be to not go to my own church. Maybe next time.

My day? Oh, like I said. It was almost perfect.

  • I got to sleep in.
  • I took Titus and my parents to church.
  • I got to ride the duck boat to the off-site parking (totally cool).
  • At a great lunch at home and chilled out for a few hours.
  • My mom, Sara and I took Titus swimming (always a treat).
  • We all went to the Oasis for dinner and saw the most breath-taking sunset I’ve seen.
  • Stopped for Amy’s Ice Cream on the way home and I had a delicious desert.
  • Sara and I and my parents played a card game (PIT) for about 2 hours.
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Full color sticky note pads

Posted on 25. Sep, 2008 by .

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Last year when I was helping my parents with their tax business we attempted a marketing strategy. We printed coupons for tax returns on post-it note pads. They were sharp. The idea was for them to get posted on car windows in parking lots. We ordered 12,500 notes, or 500 individual pads. Unfortunately I only had time to utilize 1200-1500 notes… so they have a lot for next year. They got 4 or 5 clients from the notes I distributed which easily paid for the $200 expense for the pads. I kept this information stored away for when I would need it again.

We’re launching a campaign in our church next month that every area of our church will be engaged in. I’ll talk more about that next week. For one of the ways we’re going to experience this church-wide even with the kids requires these sticky notes. So I ordered 500 pads yesterday. They take 5 working days to print and since they’re located only about 80 miles form here, we should get have them in house just a day or two later.

So for a little over $200 I am getting 500 note pads (with 25 individual notes each). The pads I ordered are 4″x3″ pads with full color printing. I’ve only done a graphical layout for these note pads but I’ve been very, very impressed with the quality of the product. Here is what our sticky notes look like:

SRPostitNote4x3

If you want to see who I use our what else they produce, visit their web site here.… Read the rest

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Encouraging people to park in off-site parking lots

Posted on 25. Sep, 2008 by .

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It’s that time of year and the buildings are bulging at the seams. Although the parking lot is totally full, there are still some seats available. We do what most churches do in this situation. We use off-site parking. We’ve been able to get a fair amount of people to park in these extra lots, but we really need more.

I remember having a conversation with a staff member at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY (A church many of my friends affectionately called “Six Flags Over Jesus”). She said that the biggest group of people to use the off-site parking (and they had many off-site lots) were families of young children, mainly preschool and lower elementary. Why? Because these kids love riding the bus. Many of these kids never get the chance to ride the bus, so for them its a total treat. In a world where kids have great influence over parents, sometimes it helps to cater to the kiddos.

We’re giving it a shot this weekend. For the last several weeks we’ve have two shuttle busses making rounds between our offsite lot and the church, which is about a mile away. This week we’ve rented a very different kind of shuttle bus. We rented the “Austin Duck.”

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The “Austin Duck” is an military amphibious cargo vehicle that has been converted into a tour vehicle. Being amphibious it travels across land and sea… er, lake. It’s pretty famous around Austin and who wouldn’t want to rind on the “Austin Duck?” We’re communicating to parents this week about the shuttle opportunity and we will see how many more people use our off-site parking this weekend.… Read the rest

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One week from today…

Posted on 23. Sep, 2008 by .

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I haven’t had a countdown since the last few months before Titus was born. I had a little widget on my desktop that counted down to the minute. I haven’t been as consumed as I was about the coming of my son, but one week from right now, I’ll be on vacation. Serious vacation. Sara and I’ll be on our way to Banff, Canada. Actually, we’ll be on our way to Atlanta, then to Salt Lake City and then to Banff (it was cheaper to go through Atlanta, ok). Actually, I can’t tell you how excited I am to spend 7 hours flying. That will be 7 hours of no phone calls or emails. Seven glorious hours sitting with my wife, eating airplane peanuts (unless they’re charging for those things now) and reading a good book.

  • So here is the play by play.
  • Thursday is my last day of work before vacation begins.
  • On Friday my parents fly into Austin. We’ll probably spend the whole weekend having fun, eating good food and catching up.
  • On Sunday I’m taking my parents to Gateway for a visit. During one service I’ll show my parents around and during the next service I’ll attend with them.
  • On Monday we’ll probably be busy getting last minute supplies and packing.
  • On Tuesday we’ll depart early in the morning.

Then for 5 nights and 6 days we’ll experience the glory that is Canada. Ha! I love it! I plan to do some hiking, exploring (I’m going to stand on a glacier one way or another) and soaking in one of those hot springs. Although the weather has gotten cooler (mid to high 80’s) this last week or so, I’m looking forward to the mid 50’s temperature of Banff during the day.

So, I’ve almost forgotten what it is like to go on vacation, it feels like it has been forever.… Read the rest

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Watching the numbers

Posted on 22. Sep, 2008 by .

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Something I’ve found to be true is that our “feeling” often deceive us. Too many times we also make decisions without taking an honest look at the data. One of my biggest pet peeves is when church leadership makes big (sometimes life-altering) decisions before getting all the facts. Looking at the data, interpreting the data and then asking some questions will help any leader really understand what is going on.

Last Sunday was a pretty full house here at Gateway. We’ve instituted the off-site parking shuttles and all the other things you do to “make room.” One of the things I learned last Sunday is that things were not as I had assumed. I learned an important truth. Because our attendance surged so high this last weekend, I was able to see something I hadn’t seen before.

Since coming here I have been told that 11:00 is our biggest service. It’s pretty obvious on Sunday. The lot is more full and people are sitting against the walls in the auditorium at the 11:00 service. Even when I look at my overview of numbers, I do have more kids at 11:00 than at 9:30. It’s always that way. The last 3 or 4 weeks I’ve walked around the early childhood area at 9:30 and noticed that they were feeling fuller than normal. This was odd because elementary seemed about the same as always. It wasn’t until I looked at the report a few hours ago and noticed a trend that I hadn’t seen but makes perfect sense.

At 9:30 the nursery was almost twice as full as it was at 11:00. The preschool was only 5-10% bigger than at 11:00. Elementary? It was about 50% smaller at 9:30 than at 11:00. This was an unusual Sunday, but it caused me to go back and look at past weeks numbers.… Read the rest

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My Beef with Bible Bucks: My exception to the rule

Posted on 19. Sep, 2008 by .

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Yes, I think I’ve thoroughly covered my experiences (and opinions) on Bible Bucks programs. I sense that this is one of those “touchy” areas where many people have their strong opinions, and it seems that most people have very strong opinions on the matter. I think that’s great! All the more reason to hash stuff out, push the envelope and get some good ideas. As Jonathan said, Sacred Cows make good hamburgers.

There is one place though where I have done an incentive program. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, I don’t know. Although we didn’t do this at Gateway this year and I don’t know if or when we’ll do one in the future, but I’ve always put incentives in place at our Venture Quest (VBS programs). We did this two ways. We had an offering contest and we gave away prized for kids who brought friends. I certainly had an agenda.

1. We were raising money for the work my friends Joel and Heidi are doing in Burkina Faso, West Africa. What they are doing is literally changing the landscape of a Muslim nation through Children’s Evangelism. As they continue to do their work, Burkina Faso my look completely different when the next generation becomes adults. So I do a boys vs. girls offering contest. I strongly urge the kids not to simply get money from mom and dad (although I’m sure many do). I encourage them to find ways to earn money, do extra chores or set up a lemonade stand, and many do. The last VQ I did this was my biggest yet. The kids raised over $6,000. I think the boys won. Do I give out a prize? No, just bragging rights. No really, I hype it up really big and the fact that the boys brought in more money seems to be enough.… Read the rest

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Policy Question: Lap Sitting

Posted on 18. Sep, 2008 by .

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We’re currently revising some of our policies at Gateway Church. Being new I bring a different perspective to the team. At previous churches I have had the policy that once a child is in Elementary, we strictly enforce the policy of children not sitting in adult volunteer’s laps.

However, the policy in writing at Gateway is that even Preschool (which includes out 2.5 through 5 years olds) has a not lap siting policy. I was a little surprised by this policy. This policy is not currently being followed or enforced at this time, but as we revise our policies we will be having follow-up training and communication. I just wanted to find out what others have as policies for preschoolers. I understand drawing a line for the safety of our children and adults, but is this too young?

What is your policy?… Read the rest

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My Beef with Bible Bucks: How do I get rid of them?

Posted on 18. Sep, 2008 by .

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Yesterday I talked about my thoughts on Bible Bucks incentive/award programs. This was all inspired by Sam’s posts here, here and here. Anyway, my experience has been only negative or neutral, so I’ve had the pesky little habit of getting rid of them at the churches where I’ve worked.

So, thinking about getting rid of your Bible Bucks system? It’s easier than you’d think. I’ve done it three times and I’ve had exactly the same experience every time.

First of all, your biggest reaction will not be from the kids, it will be from adults. In all honesty, the most noise I heard from were volunteers, not parents. Usually it’s been the “we’ve been doing this for 7 years” thing or “Why would we get rid of something the kids love so much?” reaction. The solution to this is just clear and honest communication. I’ll communicate to parents and volunteers something like this:

Although we’ve had success with the prize store over the last few years, we’re looking to makes some changes to see if we can provide an even better experience for our kids. Maintaining the prize store costs a large amount of money and requires a lot of our volunteer resources. We’re looking at ways to free up these resources and do something special and different that the kids aren’t expecting and will totally love (maybe give some examples like a big party bash with inflatables and games at the end of every series or an end of the school year lock-in that’s totally free).

Sometimes I’ll even be direct and say, “Did you know that we spent $5,000 on prizes last year? Essentially that was $5,000 on pencils, erasers and yo-yos.  Can you imagine how we could totally blow these kids away if we used $5,000 differently?”

I’ve never had a volunteer or parents argue with the simple truth.… Read the rest

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