Friday, October 30, 2009

Thoughts on Life, The Universe, and Everything

I have been thinking a lot lately..... which tends to be a good thing... and a really really bad thing.
The good side of thinking is that it is VERY beneficial when writing programs, and developing new functionality for web sites.... the bad side is that I ask myself questions to which I really don't want an answer.

Here's one of those questions....
Q. What do you want to be when you grow up?

A. Well, what an interesting question, that requires an even bigger question than this... which is...

Q. Do you want to grow up?

A. Again.... a good question but an even bigger question is....

Q. What does it mean to grow up?

A. Ahhhhhh..... now there's a conundrum....
Growing up, I remember being asked the question over and over... What do you want to be when you grow up?? It seems like every time I was asked this question, I was filled with a bit of anxiety in having to pick a direction in life and pursue it and it alone till I die. Funny thing is that in all the years I was asked this question I never asked myself the even bigger question of what that even meant to "Grow Up".

For a purly sarcastic response, I should have responded with the answer "Taller".
I want to be taller when I grow up.... Yeah, That's the ticket...
Or how about..... I want to be an adult when I grow up???

So much weight is put into this question which should be really asked as ... What JOB do you want to have by which people can define you when you get older? Now THAT IS a GOOD question! To THAT I say, None!

You see, I have never felt right being defined as one thing above another. Recently (over the past couple of years) I have stepped up to fill in on the worship team at church as a bass player... I even have had people say to me .... Hey, aren't you the Bass Player... blah blah blah.... The funny thing about that is I have also been in the role of an associate pastor/youth pastor/worship pastor/small group leader/network administrator/graphic designer/secretary over the years, and it seems like at every step I am being defined in the eyes of most as that particular role in which I am working at the time.

Here's my particular issue with this thought process, at any given time over the past 15 years, I have been known to opperate in many of those roles, not only that I have also been developing websites and doing graphic design and web programming. Here I am now, 31yrs old, with no one thing I would say that I do better than most.... and no one career path that I want to solely devote the rest of my life to more than any other. You see the thing is that I am not aimless, as much that I am overly ambitious. I want to experience many different things.
I LOVE preaching, teaching, and counseling people.... BUT I also LOVE Worshiping, Leading worship and playing music.... AND I Also LOVE building websites, and doing php programming... AND I Also LOVE video and audio postproduction editing, and recording....

Seeing all of this, I would say that there are so many things I WANT To "BE" that it is impossible that I am any one of them.... so for now on, I think my answer to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" will be..............

A Politician


Happy Halloween everybody [;o)

Monday, August 3, 2009

What Every (small group) Leader Should Know - pt. 3

Politics, Politics, Politics, Politics.... (it's good to be the king)

Politics, Religion, Business, Education, You name it.... they all require a little bit of the same thing....
Planning and preparation!

In a small (or large) group meeting this is no different, and above all there should be some form of organization to the meeting.

Organizing.... My own personal nemesis. (and no I am not referring to the worst NextGen Star-Trek movie to ever meet the populous, or to the fact that it was one big metophor for dealing with your biggest enemy which is yourself (sun tsu anyone?) or the fact that by the end Piccard looked like a winey sissy girl who needed to be stripped of any remaining "Man Card" in his posession.... but I digress)
I have always struggled being organized. I used to think that I could make it without being organized and God would make up for the rest.... THEN I got Married! Being organized, planning and being prepared is now something I really wish I was better at (for many reasons) BUT One thing I had picked up along the way leading small groups was a sure fire method for having a successfull, healthy meeting wherever you are.... it is..... are you ready for this???

The 5 W's of Small Group Meetings!

The 5 w's, I believe, started out as 4, and I have learned and embellished along the way. This principle originally came from some small group leadership training I had done under the vision and teachings of Ralph Neighbor (sp?) back in the big cell church boom of the late 90's.

The 5 W's are simply this...
1. Welcome
2. Worship
3. Word
4. Walk
5. Wind

I will expound on each of these over the next few posts (which MAY happen before the end of the year.... keep your fingers crossed )


In all my time traveling doing ministry in various places across the globe, I have determined this...
The Southern Baptist Denomination wins this category HANDS Down!!!!
I have been to many churches in many places, and it seems like going to a southern baptist church would ensure 2 things... 1. we would be hugged till we suffocated, and 2. we would be fed till we popped!!! (Good times!)

Nothing, I REPEAT NOTHING says we are family, or I accept you like a home cooked meal and genuine hospitality. It communicates that WE in fact are in this together, and as such we can help each other out in the process.

Why is this so important?
When you have a group of people coming to your house to share and open up in any way they need to know they can trust you and this is a safe warm and inviting place where they can do just that. Yes I know it sounds a bit psychological, partly because it is.... but more than that it speaks to a bigger truth that a lot of leaders miss...
The PHYSICAL needs in life are just as real and sometimes just as important as the spiritual ones. Remember the story of when jesus fed the 5000??? Not just a story but a practical guide to performing ministry to the masses...... Meet the physical needs and they will be open and receptive to have the spiritual needs met as well.

It is very crucial at this point that I say, this is NOT about having to make a full meal every week. More importantly is that there is some type of food/snack/drink as a point of contact to develop a time of relationship that is spontanious and allows for the natural relationships, and trust, to be formed.

What does this look like??
Open up your house 15/20 min's before the meeting starts. have some finger type foods available for people to snack on, and when people show up, be there to engage in conversation and be available to listen....
This is why planning and preparation are so important!!! You need to have your family needs taken care of before this point. YOU the leader are their shepheard and need to give them your attention and be available.

I have been to a few meetings where I didn't even see the leader until it was time for them to share, and by that time, I wasn't listening to them.... why would I?? looks to me like they are above and better than me and have the "Answer" .... which to me says they really don't get it at all!!!

On a bit of a practical note, I know as a leader that if you are trying to feed a group of people every week (even if it is just a bag of freetos) It can get expensive..... So Share the wealth!!! Make up a "Food" rotation that everyone can sign-up for....

Remember we really are all in this together!!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What Every (small group) Leader Should Know - pt. 2

Instant Recap:
1. Ministers/Leaders MUST be & learn to be servants first!
2. Leaders MUST learn to put others FIRST!

Ok, Now you are caught up... no excuses!

The focus of this particular post will be about more of the mechanics of doing ministry, than the spiritual focus of the last post.

3. Crisis Management!

First off, and I can't stress this enough.... for a good leader, learning crisis management is a GOLDMINE for leading... NO Matter WHAT, or WHO you are leading!!!

I heard Miles Monroe say one time that when God put Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, he told them to develop people (be fruitful) and Manage (tend) the "Things" of the garden. This is a very key point in learning to be a good and GREAT leader!

YOU MUST understand that in any leadership situation, you MUST... I REPEAT MUST separate people from their stuff!!! People, in general are all in need of the same thing, healthy relationship with God as well as each other. This is wonderful news if you can see that and that alone... The problem seems to be that most leaders will spend 90% of their time dealing with people's stuff, and not in relationship with the people... To use a illustration I used in the last post... Zacchaeus

You see, Zacchaeus was, in his time, what was called the "Chief" tax collector..... Think about that for a second... EVEN the bible refers to Him by what he manages... NOT who he is!

Along comes Jesus...

Jesus saw him in the tree and immediately saw through his stuff to who he was and what HE needed... relationship! He did not see him as his contemporaries did.... a cheat, a swindler, a thief..... in today's world think "Chief Politician".

What does this have to do with Crisis Management?? EVERYTHING!!!!!

IF You can successfully separate people from their stuff, you will alleviate and successfully manage crisis Situations....

You see the KEY to crisis management is to manage the situation not the people... IF you can break down what is happening from what the people really need you can be very successful as a leader of anything.

How does this pertain to small groups you ask??
Well.... here's a situation of something that WILL happen to you as a leader if you give it enough time.....

Let's talk about "Little Johnny", you know the little brat that grew up through all of the cautionary life tales of how to NOT act and what to NOT do. Well.... BAD News, Little johnny, grew up and is now big Johnny, and he got invited to your small group!!!

Big Johnny isn't exactly mean, but he is what we will refer to as "Spiritually Combative"... He is now the guy that is ALWAYS trying to prove how much more he knows than you and how contradictory everything you say about God is.... THIS is a CRISIS, that needs some serious Management!!!!!!!

So what do we do??

First you have to look at the real root of what is going on. You see, Johnny always got in trouble, and his whole life was spent feeling like the world was against HIM because of his actions. YES they did come against HIM but only because they didn't understand how to separate the actions. So now that he is all grown up, he still carries with him this self image of having to prove himself to everyone around him!

How do you deal with that???
First and foremost this is dealt with by having strong and healthy boundaries for any meeting/interaction you have as a leader... They can be as simple as "We are going to talk tonight about....bla, bla..... Please hold any comments till I open the floor for discussions".
Another option (and one I have found very helpful for dealing with a bunch of kids with ADD)
-- Explain the "ground rules" that any comments that are made need to NOT be directed as a response to what someone else has said... Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and it should be a safe environment to share opinions openly.

What setting these ground rules, does is give you the power to stop any arguments, or issues that can arise from people like Johnny... by simply going back to the ground rules, and not putting down the person.... "Please keep in mind johnny, that we are all entitled to our opinions and any comments should not be directed toward someone else because of their opinions".
IF Johnny continues to disrupt, it is a simple matter of taking a break and asking johnny to go to another room (out of earshot of the group) ans simply stating that IF Johnny continues to go against the rules, you will have to ask him to leave. End of discussion!!

In most situations as a leader, rarely will you find your self dealing with a "Physical" crisis, the majority will be these "Emotional" issues and situations.

It is a good thing for leaders to practice dealing with different scenario's... I will give you a few...

1. Johnny, decides he is going to use the time in the meeting to talk about 'Amway' and how it has changed HIS life

2. Someone in the group begins to talk about God and how "SHE" changed her life by leading her to a commune outside of town where she can TRULY be free

3. IN the discussion, you come to a topic of abortion... one of the people in the room has had an abortion, and is in a very emotional state, during the time, she breaks down and starts sobbing uncontrollably.

4. You find out at one meeting that someone is a homosexual.

In each of these examples, IF you can see beyond the issues to the person, you will find the same thing... someone who is in need of relationship with others... And in some cases, it is OK to refer someone to a professional counselor if they need more help than you as a leader can provide. IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO FIX ANYONE!!!! Only to Love them and walk with them the best you can!

*** Very Important ***
Remember, IF there is interaction with someone that seems to require/consume the entire focus of the group, take it elsewhere (And always gender specific... guys with guys, girls with girls)
There is always more than 1 person in a group... otherwise it wouldn't be a group (duh) and it is important as a leader to remember that there are quite a few other people with needs, and if one person monopolizes the meeting, can make the others feel less important (Very BAD!!!)

*** Practical Notes From The Dark Side ***

In meetings dealing with people you may occasionally come across a doozie that requires a bit of finesse to deal with.


1. Child abuse.
YOU MUST REPORT THIS TO THE POLICE!!! but be careful, and try to keep as few others in the group from knowing/talking about it as it can cause more harm in the long run than it does good. Try to set up a meeting with a superior or another "Equal" leader to help you walk through this as the more council you can get the better.

2. Spousal Abuse.
This is a bit different, you need to strongly encourage that the person leave the situation and seek help... DO NOT Confront the spouse, as this ALWAYS leads down a bad road and you may not have another chance to help them out of their situation if you do.

3. Attempted Suicide.
IF They are threatening to do harm to themselves or other you MUST REPORT THIS to the authorities!!! If they have already attempted it... remember to deal with them not their situation, they need love not judgement!! They also need someone to walk with them. NO ONE ever attempts suicide in public, or with friends... they do it when, and usually because they are alone... they NEED relationship, and healthy LOVE!!!

4. Death/Divorce... Both can be Equally as painful
This is delicate in that everyone grieves differently, but everyone that grieves, MUST be allowed to grieve in their own way (as long as it isn't causing harm to themselves or others)
Let them grieve, be there if they need you and pray for them from a distance if they don't... that's about all you can do.

I think that about covers most of what I can think of for this post, I will post lots more soon [;o)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Every (small group) Leader Should Know - pt. 1

A question I have been pondering in my mind recently (since a recent meeting with my pastor) is ...
WHAT should Small Group leader's know??

Kind of a loaded question, but I hope in my ramblings about life and ministry experience, I can give a bit of an answer that is useful.

IF I have learned one thing in life and ministry it is this...
1. Ministers/Leaders MUST be & learn to be servants first!

You see in the new testament church, there came a point when certain widows were being overlooked. This wasn't an intentional thing, but the "12" were so busy serving and trying to keep everyone going in the right direction (and there were so many new ones daily) that they couldn't do it all anymore, at that point there arose a need for others to be "Appointed" to the role of serving! - These men weren't the holiest looking, and they didn't always say the right thing - BUT they were "known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom" (acts 6:3)
This is one of these times in the theological world known as the "Law of First Reference" and VERY IMPORTANT in church leadership. This is the first place in the New Testament Church where we clearly see the appointing of church leaders other than the "Primary Leader(s)" and what are they?? Servants!! Appointed Servants!
***caution - personal commentary content here ***
I think this particular point has been missing in the church at large for
a long time. You see the world has a view of the church as anything but
a serving organization... Leaders fall into the place of being "Spiritual Money
Launderers" because they have been put into leadership based on how they look,
what they say, or what Seminary they attended, and NOT because they were FIRST
appointed as servants b/c they were "Full of the spirit and Wisdom"!

IF small group leaders (or any leader for that matter) can learn THIS first... Operating as a servant regardless if title, position, or anyone even knowing their name--- they will be on the road to becoming GREAT in the kingdom!

That's just the beginning --- Serving never stops!

2. Leaders MUST learn to put others FIRST!

This one can be affected tremendously by the personality of the individual, but I will try to talk through some of that as well.

What does it mean to put other's first? Well, let's start with Zacchaeus ....
When learning to be & become a better leader, it is important that we take our cues from the best leaders of the bible, starting with the "Mac" of all leaders -- Jesus. With this particular story we see Jesus walking down the street amongst a large crowd, when things take a bit of a turn...
The bible doesn't say much about zacchaeus other than he was THE chief tax collector and was wealthy... it also goes on to say (Luke 19:1-3) He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. --
Here is a very interesting point... He wanted to see "Who Jesus Was" -- Nothing more. He wasn't looking for a miracle, or healing... He wasn't looking for the key to life... the universe... and everything (42) ... He wasn't looking for the spiritual existentialism that most would die for... He simply wanted to see who Jesus was!
Next up is where we very clearly see "Who Jesus Is" in this light. What does Jesus do?? Sees him, and says... "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today."
You see as an effective leader we MUST learn to put others needs above our own, or above our expectation of their needs... I will say this at the risk of upsetting a lot of more traditional church "leaders" but sometimes what the people really need is NOT another event, NOT a bible study, NOT a great band on Sunday... what they need is a REAL, PERSONAL, and DEFINABLE connection and experience with the LIVING God!!! Can You SEE THAT!!! That is HUGE as a leader! People really need GOD more than they need YOU... but we are here to be used by God to be that connection sometimes, and more importantly to point people to God, then get out of the way!

I promise you ... 5 min experiencing the true and LIVING God can change your life more, and leave you happier than 1000 sermons I can give and weeks/months/years of counseling I could provide.

***caution - personal commentary content here ***
I have seen time and time again, leaders miss this by thinking THEY are what is going to change the people. Take for instance... worship service, someone engaged in worship, you can see that God is working on/in them... so what do I do ... Well I need to Help God Out" so I put my hands on them and begin to pray......... WOAH!!!!! Back That Up!!!!! Since WHEN does God need us to "Help Him Out" when he is clearly working without us in that situation??? .... Here's what happens... As soon as I/YOU/WE decide to put our hands on someone who 1 has not asked, or 2 is in a place where God is working and they are oblivious to their surroundings... we immediately call attention to ourselves, and take their focus off from God and put on US... I am NOT that big to be a proxy for God!!! Sorry, Won't do it!!! I am here to point people TO God, then get out of the way, not stand there and translate.

Which brings us to a close for today (gotta get some work done) But I will try to write more soon!!!


Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Tried, I Really Did!

So This weekend has been a fun experience for me... 
I got a new laptop... HP TouchSmart Tx2z Tablet

Straight out of the box, started it up, went through the 20 min setup and registration, inserted a special disk and wiped out the entire drive


I wanted to try to get a Hackintosh going... A PC running OS x

Now before I get into the nity gritty details ... let me say to all of the mac snobs out there... I go through hardware fast... @ 2 machines every 2-3 years... MOSTLY because I am doing so much with them I have to upgrade to get the power I need to continually do what I need to do -- so right out of the gate I will NOT spend 2k for a laptop just because it is easy and pretty [;o)

-- So Here I am on my new HP Mac typing this post right now... 

Why Mac??? 

Well B/C it is a unix environment OS that ALSO will run Adobe Software(which I use both the unix environment and adobe stuff)

Best of both worlds and CHEAPER than any Mac off the shelf (a lot cheaper) - PLUS its a tablet

Here's what I have found out... 

1. Mac is slick!
    Its pretty, smooth, and will do what I need it to do with little effort
2. Mac is Boring 
     Once you get past the pretties and the smoothness of it all... there's not much going on... I mean yeah, it works but you can't tweak the mess out of, manipulating every little file. It is a nice system but I am already bored with it... IF I stay with mac, all I will do is work, surf, and a few measley games... which brings me to my next point
3. NOT for Games!!! 
   Yeah, it has some games you can get, but isn't built for it... nuff said
4. Drivers & Compatibility - 
    And HERE is the true kicker of the matter why as I am sitting here typing this on Mac OSx, I am also downloading Linux and  Windows 7 - Mac doesn't support the hardware correctly... 
MOST everything works out of the box... BUT the touchscreen ... It works but once you get out to the edge of the screen the calibration is WAY off

I tried a linux disk and even they got that right without AND modifications

So What Gives??? 

I know it is an issue of apple only wanting OSx to be on apple machines... What a load!!! I would Gladly purchase OSx Over Windows any day... IF it would work right and completely on my machine!

So Now I am torn... Back to my original issue

Do I install Windows, and have a Virtual System for development/unix environ?? 
Or do I install Linux and have a virtual system for Adobe to play in??? 

Such hard decisions... I guess I could always re-install Mac once they get the right drivers for my hardware... if they ever do! 


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Time to Blog!!

Like everything in life, it all boil's down to how much time you devote to any one thing

whether it be work, school, music, god, face book, or (heaven forbid) even blogging!

In my world lately I haven't had time for much except for God, family, and lots and lots of work... but I did decide to take a moment out of my busy day and post a blog entry.

Things are well, I am excited that this week I will be rolling out a demo church management system to begin some of the final tweaking and testing before I make it a live project! I am super excited about this and am really looking forward to seeing it used on a day to day basis.

My wife and I got bikes (as in 2 wheels, and pedals... but no lawn mower engine) We have been ridding a couple of times a week and I have really been enjoying the time we get to spend together.
It seems like no matter how busy I get, I can always be a little bit busier and I have to take the time out and enjoy my wife and a bit of nature.

Well now that's out of my system... back to the grind...

Cracking open a new book - OOP DeMystified (a self teaching guide) - now if I could only get a teacher that doesn't have ADD i will be set


Saturday, January 10, 2009

What do you want? No, what do you REALLY want?? (insight into web development and SEO)

In my previous post I talked about a business seminar I attended earlier in the week. One of the key points that was communicated was knowing what your clients need vs. what they "want". A great illustration that was presented was this;

I go to the hardware store looking for a drill bit.... here are the possible scenerios
  • A Normal Sales rep says "What are you looking for" I say "A Drill Bit" he says "well let me show you all shapes and sizes that we carry, and I will try to sell you a new drill at the same time, cause hey... everyone needs a new drill!"
  • A GOOD sales rep's response to "I need a drill bit" would say "Ok, what size hole are you needing, what type of material are you going to be drilling through, and what kind of drill do you have" then after he found out what I NEED would show me the few options that applied to my situation.... then say "And sir, if your drill is an older model... we are having a sale and you can walk out of the store today with a brand new drill to go with the drill bit that you need!!"

You see in the first case (which is most business, the focus is on the sale and getting me to understand what you have and how I need what you have. Whereas the second instance was all about understanding MY needs as a customer....

You see, I didn't need a drill bit, I NEEDED a HOLE!! If there was an easier way to get the hole I needed without the drillbit I would have been able to find out from the second sales man... not the first.

***warning what follows is my personal insight and practical application reading this may not make you accountable to what I am learning.... but once you read it, you can't un-read it***

In My business ( Web Development and Media Design ) I see a lot of people who are sold a lot of what they DON'T need, and not given what they do need. For instance, I met with a client this week that really didn't need a entire graphicly designed site.... what they needed was one very simple page, minor graphics and a good amount of time spent doing SEO (search engine optimization) Had this gentalman gone to any number of my competitors he would have walked out with a huge bill for upwards of 2k for a site he didn't need that wouldn't accomplish a single thing for him.

This is what I'm learning --- I am not the best graphic designer out there, and you may not have the prettiest flashiest site out there (and if that is what you really need then I will gladly refer you to my competitors) BUT what you WILL have, is an effective site that reaches your target audience.... that looks good... that is accessible through the use of cross browser CSS .... and if you need, a SMOKIN Content Management System, or other database application custom tailored tyo fit your business, and your needs!

At the same time all of this comes with one of the most important human and client needs fulfilled.... a relationship with someone who understands (or wants to) what you really need in life and business (that would be me.... and in some cases my wife, but only if she likes you [;o) or if you give her candy bars (snickers)!! )

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Better Business Blogging

WOO HOO!!!!!
That about sums up the last few weeks of my life!

In December, Tim Blevins and I had a discussion about the state of finances of the church and how to effectively move forward in an unsteady and unsure economy. This discussion lead to the ultimate decision and solution that I would go out on my own as a full time web developer/designer, as I have plenty of experience doing it, and already had some clients.

Now this decision, i felt, really was in the church's and in my best interest at the time (and still do), so effective Jan 1, 2009, I became the owner and primary developer/designer for Media 42. I will blog about the name and a bit more about my company later, but for now I wanted to start out detailing my walk through the transition of full time ministry (which I had had for @ 10 yrs) to owning a tech startup and everything I am learning along the way.

An interesting thing has happened over the last couple of weeks, between finishing up a few church projects and developing my own "corporate image" if you will--- which, by the way, MAJOR PROPS to David Southerland!!! (a close friend that designed my logo). I realized that for years and years, I had been looking at business principles and business models, and trying to apply them to the church/ministry setting where applicable. Now I have found myself doing the exact opposite, looking at my business model, and trying to apply the ministry principles to it.

I had the privileged to go to a free small business seminar this week, and really helped put some business principles into perspective. So My goal is to (if not a couple times a week) at least weekly blog about my experiences, and ideas as they pertain to my new career!

Hang On, it's going to be a fun ride!!!