Monthly Archives: October 2013

What makes our work significant?

It’s always important to understand the bottom line.

It’s always important to know what matters the most.

It’s always important to be clear about the simple things that make the complex things worth doing.

I recently read a great article on leadership in Forbes online that referenced something important.  Here is one of the thoughts that caught my attention:

“I’ve often said, managing expectations is gamesmanship, but aligning them is leadership. The best leaders inspire a one company, one agenda mindset. They don’t create internal competitors, but rather they focus on creating an ethos of internal collaboration. The best leaders are those who operationalize values, vision, mission and strategy – this only happens through an understanding of alignment of a shared purpose. No purpose = no passion = no leadership.”

This leads me back to something we touched on last week in the article about being the most excited person in the room.

“It is so important to realize that all of our groups serve a vision that is greater than any single Sunday School group by itself, and one that unites us all.  Worshiping God, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives.  When we realize that the unifying vision of our church is rooted in The Great Commission and The Great Commandments, it gives us security and courage to move forward boldly.  Jesus’ vision for the whole church is the vision for each small group.  Interestingly, the whole church can’t accomplish it unless each small group embraces it.”

Our church’s vision is to build a community of disciples who both individually, and corporately, do three things very well.

Worship God, Strengthen Families, Change Lives.

I want to clearly align our mission, vision, and values in a series of simple statements.

The church is a body of individual families who come together as one big spiritual family.

One of our core purposes is to strengthen families.  This means strengthening individual families and connecting them to the larger church family.

This “connecting” happens most effectively through Sunday School small groups. (But worship and service are equally essential.)

Our mission is not to build a large Sunday School.  It is to build deep disciples.

Each of our Sunday School small groups have the same purpose: the spiritual formation of people.

We also share the same strategy as to how we go about accomplishing that purpose.  When these values are present, Sunday School W.O.R.K.S.

Wants to grow, Organized to Serve, Reaches new people, Keeps people connected, Studies God’s Word together.

We believe that healthy things grow.  When our Sunday School small groups are living out these values, we will accomplish our shared vision and will grow in a healthy way.  It’s happening all around us.

With this in mind, we set a number goal for our Better Together Weekend.  Not because that’s the measure of our success, but because it is an expression of what is possible when we work together.

The measures of success for our Better Together Weekend are things like:

*how many of our small groups actually do service projects.

*how many of the people in our small groups participate in those projects.

*how many people can we bless in the name of Jesus through our service.

*how many meaningful contacts can we make with the people on our rolls who have become disconnected.

*how many of those contacts lead to people coming to church.

*how many people can we move from disconnected, to connected.   (not something that can be measured in one weekend)

*how many new people can we connect to our small groups through this special event.

A lot of churches do a good job of keeping score.  Not all churches keep score of the things that really matter.

Who wants to work hard and fill up a scorecard that isn’t biblically significant?  Why bend over backwards trying to convince a group of people to get excited about winning at the wrong contest?

If we do the things in this article we will all be working together in one accord, and we’ll be filling up a scorecard that really matters.

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You should be the most excited person in the room.

I rarely post entire articles that other people have written for you to read.  But Heather Zempel has written a great article about The Excitement Variable in small groups, and I wanted to share it with you.  I think that you will find it very meaningful.  Each of us who have accepted responsibility to shepherd a group should always be the most excited person in the room about where the group is headed.  I feel that way about the church and the Sunday School.  I bet you feel that way about your group.  But that is a bold and occasionally lonely place to be.  Read this article and be encouraged.

In general, no one will be as excited about your group as you are. It’s just a simple leadership principle. You carry the weight of the burden, the thrill of the vision, the task of implementation. No one was as excited about Goliath as David. No one was as excited about the wall around Jerusalem as Nehemiah. No one was as excited about the church in Philippi as Paul. A leader will be more excited than anyone else on the team. They must be more excited. But that carries a burden of its own.

I think this ties in with the idea that sometimes leadership is lonely. I love to lead in teams, but sometimes there are places that only I can go. Think about Jesus going into the garden to pray. Or Elijah hiding out in the cave. Or Moses going before Pharaoh. There are some seasons and situations where leadership is lonely.

When I become aware of my loneliness…and when I realize that I’m way more excited than anyone else…these are some things I try to keep in mind.

  • Embrace the Territory. This is what leadership is all about. Having the guts and the insanity to jump out ahead and take people where they haven’t been before. Leaders have to be a little crazier than everyone else. It comes with the territory.
  • Gut Check. I check my vision, my heart, and my methods. Sometimes, when I get leadership loneliness or start thinking that I’m the only one who really cares, I run the risk of getting martyr syndrome. Each of us is wired differently, so we all respond to that in different ways. For me, I tend to get more domineering, self-assured, and unilaterally decisive. Sometimes, those are attitudes a leader must employ. But I’ve got to check whether I’m leading from humility or leading out of self-defense.
  • Remember Your Motivation. It’s not ultimately about what people think. And it’s not about you. It’s about God and bringing him glory and honor.
  • Remove the Plank. When we sense that those we lead aren’t as excited as they could or should be about wherever we are taking them, it’s easy to be quick to judge. That’s when I have to stop and remove that rather large log poking out of my eye.
  • Serve Another Vision. I think one of the best ways to train to be a great leader is to faithfully serve the vision of another. We can’t expect people to get excited about our vision until we have gotten excited about the vision of another. Sometimes, I have to step out of my narrow world and find someone who I can support, serve, and be excited about.

On that final point I would only add that it is so important to realize that all of our groups serve a vision that is greater than any single Sunday School group, and one that unites us all.  Worshiping God, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives.  When we realize that the unifying vision of our church is rooted in The Great Commission and The Great Commandments, it gives us security and courage to move forward boldly.  Jesus’ vision for the whole church is the vision for each small group.  Interestingly, the whole church can’t accomplish it unless each small group embraces it.

No one will be as excited about your group as you are. And if they are, it’s time for them to start leading. In the meantime, use your excitement to lead well, encourage often, and stir your group to love and good works.


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Trunk or Treat Inspiration

Below is a collage of some very creative Trunk or Treat decorations.  As of today we need about 40 more families to sign up to bring cars to the trunk or treat.  Last year a bunch of people signed up the week before and we ended up with a great line up of trunks.  Our goal this year is 60 vehicles and I believe we can make it. We believe that around 2000 people from our church and community participated last year, and we expect this year to be a bigger success because people had a great experience last year.   But we need to have people go ahead and sign up to bring cars so we can know what to expect (and be able to sleep peacefully at night without worrying about this part!).  Please share these images with your groups either during class, or ask them to look at the pics online so we can hopefully get some folks excited about signing up.  Also, hopefully these images will spark some creativity.  This week we will have posters available to place around the community, and will be putting up yard signs and banners.  Remember that you can share the Trunk or Treat Video posted below on Facebook to help promote as well.  Social media played a huge role in last years success.  The more you like and share, the better! Thanks for all of your work in making this event a great success!!



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Information Guide for New Sunday Evening Schedule

Poplar Springs Baptist Church is improving its Sunday evening schedule!  Our church leadership is committed to providing a Sunday evening schedule that is spiritually rich, and family friendly.  We have been evaluating and praying for some time over potential changes that would streamline and improve the Sunday evening experience at Poplar Springs.  Below are some of the highlights, and answers to  important questions.  The new schedule begins October 20.

What is changing about Sunday evening church service?  The Sunday evening worship service will now begin at 6:00 instead of 7:00.  All adults will finish up their Discipleship University course at 5:45 and be able to walk straight into the sanctuary at 6:00 for worship.  The service will include worship, prayer time, and a great message from God’s Word as it always has.  The main difference will be that everything on campus will end at 6:45, so that people will be able to get home earlier.  This will be a blessing to families with children, as well as seniors who don’t like to drive home at night any later than necessary.

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What’s changing about discipleship training?  Discipleship training will now be known as Discipleship University.  We will still be offering short term courses that range in topic from parenting, evangelism, apologetics, or Bible doctrines and more.  The change is not only in name, but start time as well.  Parents, no more dropping your children off at 5:00 for choir and having to come back, or wait until 6:00 for discipleship training.  Discipleship University will begin at 5:00 just like the children’s activities.

What will change for my child?  Nothing at all. Children’s Choir will still meet at 5:00, with a healthy snack provided before they move into KidConnect at 6:00 to study God’s Word. Children who are not in choir will have an activity planned for them at 5:00. The main benefit for children is that when they finish KidConnect at 6:45, parents will be out of the evening worship experience and everyone will be done for the night.  Sunday night is a school night, and we want to make sure that our Sunday night schedule is a blessing for families who need to start their week off right with plenty of rest.

What about my preschool age child?  Preschool Choir/Discipleship Training will meet at 5:00.  We are adding an activity time for preschoolers at 6:00.  Parents wishing to volunteer to help with the 6:00 activity are welcome.  Preschool children can be dropped off at Preschool Choir at 5:00 and go to their chosen Discipleship University course.  The activity leaders will gather the children from Preschool Choir 6:00, so parents can go straight from their classroom into the sanctuary for worship at 6:00.

What about my teenager?  Discipleship University for students will meet at 5:00.  This time of in depth study for the teens will end at 5:45 so they can join their parents for the worship service at 6:00

What about Special Events?  On nights when there are special events such as Children’s Choir performances or when we celebrate The Lord’s Supper, regularly scheduled children and preschool activities will be canceled so that all families can be together in the worship service at 6:00.  Discipleship University will meet on its regular schedule at 5:00.  This will be the case on October 20 as we celebrate The Lord’s Supper. The new Discipleship University courses will begin at 5:00, but there will be no KidConnect activity or Preschool Choir at 6:00 so we can all be together in the sanctuary for The Lord’s Supper.

What about meetings that have traditionally been held at 5:00?  Meetings such as support groups and committees will still occur at 5:00.  These meetings happen infrequently and involve small groups of people.  Of course, groups are free to meet earlier but infrequent meetings can happen at 5:00 without any problem.

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Better Together Weekend

I am excited to announce that we have selected a theme and a weekend for our high attendance effort this fall.  November 9th and 10th will be celebrated at Poplar Springs Baptist Church as “Better Together Weekend.”

What can you expect?

On November 9th,  we will be celebrating God’s design for the church to be Better Together by organizing service projects all over our community.  We will be asking each Sunday School class to plan and carry out some kind of service project that morning.  The Children’s Sunday School Department will provide a pancake breakfast that morning before the projects begin, and the Preschool Sunday School Department will provide morning babysitting at the church so that the adults can serve with their classes.  Service projects can be simple or elaborate.  Classes are welcome to do yard work for the elderly, have a free car wash, or any other creative idea you come up with as a class.  The church will provide “Better Together Weekend @ Poplar Springs Baptist Church” yard signs to put out as you serve.

better together weekend

On November 10th, we will come together to celebrate being Better Together in Worship and Sunday School.  We are setting an attendance goal on that day of 725 in Sunday School small groups.  The vision for this day has two parts.  First, we are challenging our classes to contact every single person on their roles with a personal invitation to participate in the weekend. We have 961 people on our church Sunday School roles.   Invite them to come serve with you on November 9th, and then to come sit with you on November 10th.  Many people who have fallen out of fellowship at church don’t come back because they feel they have lost their place at the table.  Serving together bonds groups, and provides an opportunity for people to feel they belong before they come.  (Plus we can do some really good things to bless people!)  Second, invite your friends and neighbors.  I really believe that Poplar Springs Baptist Church is Better Together.  It’s the way God created us to thrive, in community.  This will be a weekend to invite all of your friends and neighbors so they can experience the greatness of what God is doing in us…together.

Next week’s teacher training will be a very special meeting.  More details will be coming about this special weekend.  Please make every effort to attend, or at least have a representative from each class present.


Categories: Keeps People Connected, Organized to Serve, Reaches Out to New People, Studies God's Word Together, Sunday School, Wants to Grow | Leave a comment

One trait every teacher should have.

In every resource I have read lately about what it takes to be a great Sunday School leader, I have noticed one theme that keeps showing up.  Authenticity.  One might argue that this quality is essential for any leader, but especially for the man or woman who seeks to shepherd souls and teach God’s word.  But what does it mean to be authentic?  Bill Donahue shared some thoughts recently about what authenticity is not.


Authenticity: Yes, authenticity is an overworked word… but it remains an underutilized practice. I believe this is because it is often misunderstood. Sometimes it is interpreted as putting all your cards on the table all the time, totally revealing everything about yourself.

Not healthy. We have reality TV to thank for that perspective. Unbridled and unwise communication and action is not authenticity – it is simply overexposure. And, like too much sun without sunblock, it does more damage than most relationships can tolerate.

Or, people fake authenticity with trite phases and clichés. “I totally understand what you mean!” “Wow thanks for putting yourself out there, Susan. It felt so real.” Or what a women said in a group I was in “I hate my husband, he’s a creep!” That was certainly real…but was it wise to share in the second meeting of a small group just learning to become a community and trying to take basic risks?

Rather, true biblical authenticity is revealed as a leader’s heart is moved by the compassion, confidence, and grace of Jesus.  The compassion that comes as one’s heart is moved by the love of Christ towards others inspires us to make real contact with them.  It draws us away from our safe zones and compels us to have sincere interactions with the people we care about.  Confidence in Christ inspires confidence to be vulnerable without the fear that people will discover you for a fraud or as someone who is less than they thought you should be.  In Christ we are all broken and humble and yet healed and bold.  Because Christ is strong in is, we can be vulnerable in Him.  When we understand the profound implications of grace we neither fear judgement or rush to deal it out.

We must be committed to authenticity.  People were drawn to the New Testament church, not because they were perfect and had a flawless plan, but because their weaknesses were publicly out shined by the power of Christ in them.  Like Paul, we must rejoice in our weaknesses and allow Christ to be shown all the stronger to our community as He shapes us into the church He desires.

Wouldn’t you rather learn from someone who was being authentic with you?


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