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First Impressions

First impressions

Ushers and greeters are your church’s first impression.

I’m sure you have all heard the saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. It is true in your personal life, and it is true in your church.   An area of serving that is often overlooked in churches is that of Usher.  Not everyone can be an usher. Just as not everyone can be a worship leader, work in child care, repair the building, or preach the sermon. We each have our unique God given gifts, and that includes people who are wired to be good ushers. I love how well Dan Reiland outlines the importance and “how to’s” of the usher ministry in the article below.

“Your Usher Ministry”

by Dan Reiland

One of my favorite ministries to lead is the usher team. Their role is so important, but often undervalued, undertrained, and less than organized.

The ushers are a huge force in setting the tone for worship and helping to prepare the people to hear and respond to the Word of God.

I’m pulling a portion of the training notes for our usher team and adapting for this article. If you would like the full usher training manual (free) CLICK HERE!

An usher is a spiritual ambassador for the local church – God’s ordained and organized body of believers. The usher serves as a “first representative” of Jesus Christ for a worship service. Though we thoroughly enjoy the creative edge of our worship services, make no mistake, this is a holy event where God is meeting with His people.

From the tabernacle in the Old Testament to the temple and synagogue in the New Testament, God’s presence and the teaching of His word is of supreme importance.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Mark 1:21-22

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. John 8:2

Who Can Serve as an Usher?

Not just anyone can be an usher. In the same way that not just anyone can sing in the choir, work in children’s ministry or lead a small group. The right gifts, passion, and ability make a big difference.

As you recruit new ushers keep spiritual qualities, characteristics and usher responsibilities in mind. Please make sure you work in coordination with your section leader or a service leader rather than practicing “random recruiting.”

The fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 is a solid guideline for a good usher. This is not about perfection, but a heartfelt motive and desire to live a life of a spirit-filled believer.

Qualifications of an Usher

• You understand the vital role of the usher ministry.

• You enjoy and care about people.

• You possess a servant heart.

• You are committed to the vision of “your church name.”

• You are supportive of the leadership at “your church name.”

Responsibilities of an Usher

1. Committed leadership

• Prepare yourself spiritually.

A good usher comes prepared mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is not to be seen as a duty, but a privilege to connect with God as part of your preparation. Don’t feel like this requires an hour of Bible study before you show up. God is far more interested in the commitment of your heart than the amount of your time. Take a few moments at home to connect with God and ask Him to use you as a representative of His love and an agent of His redemptive plan.

• Take initiative!

This is huge. The cardinal sin of an usher is to not pay attention. At all times watch what is going on in your section and jump in to handle it. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask your section leader. The only wrong choice is to do nothing. Never assume “someone” else is taking care of the need. Pay attention, take initiative, and make it happen!!

• Absorb the pressure of the moment, don’t transfer it.

Most of the ministry of an usher is pure joy. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun. But on occasion there are moments of pressure when someone is upset or something isn’t working right. In these moments never transfer the pressure to the person entering into their worship experience. You are the leader. You absorb the pressure. Get help if you need it, but never make the issue their problem. You help deliver a solution.

• Own your section, lead your section, shepherd your section.

This is exciting. In an average environment with average ushers, once the seats are filled the ushers relax and mentally check out. As a leader you are empowered to take ownership of the area of seats you serve in and give leadership where needed. Think of your area like you are responsible to do everything in your power to ensure that all those people have the best opportunity possible to connect with and hear from God. You can shepherd the people by getting to know them, praying for them, learning their names, and meeting appropriate needs.

• Follow the direction of your head usher.

All good leaders are good followers. It is important that you follow the leadership of the person responsible to lead you. Be supportive and encouraging. Offer suggestions if you have good ideas, but don’t be overly sensitive if your ideas aren’t used. Your head usher will do his or her best to serve and lead you and the rest of their team well.

2. Core tasks

In each of these areas you will receive practical hands-on training.

• Help people find a seat.

This seems obvious, but there is an art to it. The art is all about making people, especially new people and people far from God, feel comfortable. Their insecurities can rise and their feelings of self-consciousness prevent them from connecting with God.

Imagine what it feels like to walk into an unfamiliar restaurant or other environment and not know what to do. Do I seat myself or do I wait to be seated? Who do I talk to if I have a question? Who do I tell if I have special circumstances? (e.g. potential medical condition)

Your job is to move toward and engage people quickly and with confidence to help them know what to do. Don’t leave people hanging. Let them know that you can handle anything they need, and that you are the one that can make this a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Don’t make them come to you and ask. You approach them with confidence and a smile. Take charge with grace and poise.

• Collect the offering.

On a divine level, the offering is part of worship. It is the opportunity for worshippers to express their love, trust and obedience toward God. On a practical level, the financial needs of a large church are significant. Your smooth and coordinated execution of an offering can and does impact the resources that fund the Kingdom. On a security level, this is one of the most detailed functions of an usher.

You will be trained in the actual physical process for receiving an offering in a live session.

You will receive detailed training that will help us ensure compliance with legal guidelines and practical security issues.

• Assist in the execution of special moments.

Many churches are known for creativity in their worship services. From motorcycles to doughnuts, to tractors and bottles of coke, you just never know what may be coming down the aisles! Some of the special moments are fun, some are crazy, and some are deeply spiritual. Things like crossing a bridge, writing in journals, or taking communion. The service of an usher is crucial to these moments being leveraged toward life-change.

We are depending on your flexibility. Don’t get flustered when last minute changes are made. That will happen. Just keep positive, stay flexible and know that creativity is at work “making the magic” that makes all the difference.

• Get an accurate people count.

Why does this matter so much? Why must these numbers be so accurate? Why can’t we just make a good estimate? The answer is that every number represents a person. We want to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us and therefore it matters that we know how well we are reaching people. Just like in the book of Acts, they counted, recorded, and celebrated how many people were saved . . . we count too!

• Re-set and clean up the auditorium.

People will leave papers, cups and “stuff”. The glamorous part of an usher’s ministry is cleaning up after each service. In addition, supplies such as Bibles and pens are replenished.

Remember, many hands make light work. If all ushers jump in and help, it takes about 10 minutes.

3. Common sense

• Maintain proper appearance and personal hygiene.

• Show up on time.

o Section leaders 40 minutes before the service. o Ushers 30 minutes before the service.

• Read the bulletin – get informed, stay informed.

• Wear your name tag.

• You are not required to usher every Sunday, but when you are on the schedule, give it 100%.

• If you are on the schedule and can’t make it, it is imperative that you call your section leader.

• Smile, talk to people, and learn their names!!

Yes, there’s more, and as mentioned, you can have the complete training booklet – CLICK HERE!

Happy Ushering!!


Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  – 1 Corinthians 12:20-25

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Ministering from a Place of Rest

be still

Take time to rest

At our most recent Celera Roundtable, one of the coaches, Dave Stone, was speaking to us about “ministering from a place of rest.”  Picture this, a room full of pastors from across the country, most of them lead pastors, hearing the passionate plea to take time to rest. If you are a pastor of a growing church, or any church for that matter, you know the irony in that.  Dave broke down several areas that he takes time for rest in his own life. First, he makes sure to take a day off every week. Not a half day or a few hours here and there, a whole day. That was the first area of conviction for me. Then he made the jaw dropping statement that he, Dave Stone, pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, takes the entire month of July off! You could hear the collective gasp in the room.  Not only does he take the month off, his board of Elders forbids him to even step foot on campus during that month.

Some time after that conference I was speaking to my executive Pastor, Jared Dunn, and it was mutually decided (actually Jared insisted) that I take the month of July off. After some initial reluctance, I agreed. So for the first time in my life I took an entire month off from work, and it was fantastic. I had some great time with my family, and a lot of great time to rest and gather my strength (physical, mental and spiritual) for the push ahead.

I am back now and ready to take off running. I came across this article on Focus on the Family, and I wanted to share a portion of it with you. You can read the entire article at Focus on the Family. These are principles that can be applied not just to pastor or people in church leadership, but in every area of life.

The pastor’s need to rest and retreat

Written by Jerry Ritskes

When you get asked how you are, do you find yourself proudly (but with some frustration) answering that you are “busy”? There is a world to win, programs to organize, people to train and a church to maintain. No wonder ministry is so busy. We are short on finances, people and time. It seems the only way to make it is to work a little bit harder.

Eugene Peterson, in his book The Contemplative Pastor, makes this almost absurd statement “that the adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a  banker.” Can he really mean this? Isn’t busyness a sign that I’m making a difference for the kingdom? Isn’t it proof that I’m being a good and faithful steward? I don’t think so. I believe that busyness takes pastors away from what they are truly called to do.

Driven to busyness

I have often been so busy with “doing ministry” that I have no time to be with God. How silly is this? Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, identifies this as one of the top 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality – “doing for God instead of being with God.” Driving ourselves into busyness could be a sign that we’re trying to earn God’s approval, counter poor self-worth, quieten the negative self-talk we’ve been listening to, or we feel that saving the world is our responsibility. For whatever reason, we keep driving ourselves into doing more – and it makes truly hearing God’s voice very difficult.

Sabbath

The principle of the Sabbath is extremely important. Sabbath is a time to stop our work, not when it is completed, but when we need to stop. It is pacing our lives and recognizing our human limitations.  Sabbath frees us from the need to obtain God’s acceptance by being productive. It is resting from our efforts, and trusting God’s.

Our congregations not only look to us to teach them with our sermons, they are looking to us to as an example of what it means to walk with Christ. When they see us going “mach 10 with our hair on fire,” they interpret that as what a believer should do. We inadvertently teach that it is somehow not enough to enjoy being a child of God.  As a pastor, when I take time to slow down or even stop, this reaffirms to others that “there is a Saviour, but it is not me.”
Listening

I love the word-picture Ruth Haley Barton gives us in Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Our lives are like a jar of river water – agitated and murky. As soon as you stop moving the jar and let it sit, the sediment begins to settle and it becomes clearer. When we take time for quiet, the sediment in our lives begins to settle, and the things God is trying to tell us becomes clearer. When we take time to listen to God’s voice, He helps us to find perspective on what He is calling us to do, rather than on what we feel compelled to do.

Making the time

I’ve often said “I’d like to take a breather, but I can’t seem to make it happen. It’s just too busy.” While there are seasons in our schedule that require more time and attention than others, there is still the need to keep ourselves in tune with our Creator. Here is a “low-tech” but effective way of making time for rest and listening: Plan it. All you have to do is put it into your schedule, like you would schedule any other demand on your time, and then keep it. When something comes up that conflicts with the time you’ve planned, you can say “I’m sorry, but I’m booked then. Can we find some other time?” Unless we are intentional about taking time to be quiet before the Lord, and unless we can do it without feeling guilty, we will never really find the time to do it.

When I take time to rest and listen to God’s voice, what happens? I begin to hear His calming voice that tells me I’m His beloved child. I begin to find a “Holy balance” to my life. I become more of who He made me to be, and not nearly so concerned with performing to gain people’s approval. As The Message paraphrases Matthew 11:28-29, I begin to live “freely and lightly.”

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mark 6:30-32

Success and Leadership Principles We Can Learn From Baseball

success lessons from baseball

Lessons from the Great American Pass Time

My son and I just completed our annual trek to visit baseball stadiums across the country. We are on a journey to see a major league game in each of the 30 stadiums. This year we were at 24, 25and 26! With so much baseball on my mind, I thought this would be the perfect time to write about the many leadership/success lessons to be learned from the greatest sport in the world. (I’m not biased at all!) I have sourced excerpts from two different articles for the information.

Baseball and Leadership

Baseball is a game of resilience. Last night: 0 for 4. Hit into a double play, struck out, grounded out and hit to a fielder’s choice. Tomorrow, you have to dig back into the batter’s box and go after it again. Positions of leadership require the same resilience and short term memory. You may get beat up pretty good today. Customer complaint, union grievance, three people called in sick, budget cuts and useless meeting. Tomorrow, you dig back in and go after again.

Baseball is a game of adaptability. First time up the guy blasted an inside fastball 450 feet into the left field seats. Second time up, fast ball away, slider away and cutter down. When methods do not yield the desired results, baseball players adapt. Great leaders are also adaptable. When a coaching method does not provide fruit, they change the approach. When they are not connecting with a team member, they examine and modify their style. Great leaders are situational adapters based on the needs of team members and the need of the organization.

Baseball is a game of inherent unfairness. The offensive player stands alone against nine members of the opposition. The batter has no idea what is coming. Even with best effort and contact, the chances of success range from 25% to 35%. Leaders face the same long odds. Their highest objective is to achieve victory and results when they face of group of competing goals.

Baseball is a game that rewards the clever. As with adaptability, baseball games often hinge on the smallest and most ingenious plays. A pick-off at first base. A hit and run with two outs. A squeeze bunt. Leaders too will be rewarded for cleverness. Rather than simply replicating the results of predecessors or maintaining the status quo, the modern leader is required to seek different and creative methods and solutions.

Baseball is a beautiful when played well. The pivot at second base during a double play. A two hit shut-out. The towering magnificence of a three run, walk-off home run. Leadership is also a beautiful thing to behold when it is done well. All team members functioning within their roles like a symphony and the leader is the conductor. Minor adjustments are being made and the system is running on all cylinders. Performance is peak. Dysfunction is non-existent.
www.evancarmichael.com/Human-Resources/3485/Baseball-and-Leadership.html

Leadership lessons from the Baseball Field

Some would consider the 1971 Macon Ironmen High School Baseball team as the “Hoosiers” of high school baseball. The coach, Lynn Sweet, an English teacher with no baseball experience was the last resort for a group of players on the verge of having their program eliminated. The great thing about Coach Sweet is that he did not let his ego or those that scoffed at his unconventional coaching methods get in the way. He implemented a powerful combination of collaboration and authoritative leadership, which focused on the best result for the team and left individual egos on the bench.

Sweet had a special effect on all the kids. He threw batting practice and played pickup games with the boys; other times he let them run their own practices, watching from the bench, so they’d feel empowered by the independence.  He cultivated a teaching style which balanced discipline with collaboration and discussion, allowing all voices and talents to be seen and heard.

He believed that there’s a lot to be learned in defeat. And determined success by how much the kids enjoyed themselves, rather than just how much they won. He also fostered a sense of community and encouraged the boys to do things together outside of baseball, enabling them to build their relationships.

As a result of Coach Sweet’s leadership style, the baseball team of Macon High School went on to the 1971 Illinois State Championship. And even though he never measured success just by the number of games won, they beat many baseball teams. Teams from schools four times their size, with more resources, more experience and more exposure to competition. The one thing that Coach Sweet had over all of his competition was superior leadership. Through his balance between collaboration and authoritative leadership he was able to create a vision for the Macon baseball team that everyone else saw as impossible, including the players. But once he was able to have them experience success based on his unconventional coaching methods, the players started to buy into this impossible dream.

Though they did not win the State Championship, the experience for the coach and the players left a lasting leadership imprint for the rest of their lives. Coach Sweet is a great example for all of us. His actions exemplified those of a Conscious Leader™. Balancing collaboration with authoritative leadership in a purposeful and intentional manner, he allowed the individual talents to shine. Each player had the freedom to make mistakes and grow from their experiences. Furthermore, he made sure that the players were accountable to each other and played for the spirit of the team. Whether we are a coach, parent, CEO or manager it is our responsibility to understand our abilities and our team’s abilities and to create a compelling vision. True inspiration will lead the team to maximize their talent so the “team” can accomplish their vision.
info.farrleadership.com/bid/47190/Leadership-lessons-from-the-Baseball-Field

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I know how I feel about baseball. That’s the easy part. But communicating with people is what’s important.” – Terry Francona

Handshake excerpt – Sally Kristen Ride

Suttle launch

Sally Kristen Ride achieved her dream through persistence and personal development

Here is an excerpt/preview of Chapter 3 of Handshake. Thanks for the comments. Please, keep them coming!

Sally Kristen Ride and the Choice of Personal Development:

In April of 1982, Sally’s years of personal development had a giant pay off when NASA announced that she was selected to be part of the crew for the STS-7, or seventh shuttle flight, on the Challenger space shuttle.

This announcement made history!  Sally Kristen Ride would become the first woman to ever journey into space.  Her years of hard work, late night studying, and pursuit of personal growth had paid off in a way that maybe she had never imagined.  Dr. Ride’s choice to pursue personal development placed her in the history books and opened the door to a journey that most will never experience.

Her six day, two hour flight into space in June of 1983 was a giant success! All that NASA had hoped to accomplish was completed. Although the journey into space had ended in just six short days, the journey of personal growth and development for Sally had just begun…

… Personal development will open doors for you just as it did for Sally Kristen Ride.  It will open the doors of opportunity and allow you to walk through them.  When you realize that learning and growing is a life long journey you will see that along the way opportunity will knock and you will be prepared for it.

IN THIS CHAPTER YOU WILL LEARN THESE BENEFITS OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT:

Personal development…

1.    Prepares you for future opportunities
2.    Keeps you ahead of the game
3.    Creates other avenues for success


Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.
– Doug Firebaugh


Give Thanks

Give Thanks

What is Thanksgiving?

What is Thanksgiving?  Is it turkeys and pumpkins, Pilgrims and Native Americans? Is it a big feast with family and friends?  Well those are some of the elements that accompany our celebration of Thanksgiving, but why did the Pilgrims have this celebratory feast with their new neighbors? Why do we still celebrate this holiday each year?

What many of us think of the first Thanksgiving was not really the first Thanksgiving at all.  Evidence of harvest celebrations are shown in the worlds oldest civilizations, and records of harvest celebrations have appeared in Cultures all around the world.  It is very likely that the the Pilgrims got the idea from their Jewish brothers and sisters and an ancient celebration called Sukkoth dating back more that 3,000 years. I came across this great article by Martha R. Gore. I believe it explains the connection with great clarity.

Thanksgiving: A Festival with Hebrew Roots

Ancient Israelites Celebrated the Harvest by Observing Sukkot

Festival of Sukkot in the Bible

Thanksgiving for the Hebrews is described in the 16th chapter of the Book of Leviticus in which God commands the ancient Israelites to observe the Feast of the Booths—in Hebrew, Sukkot, “to rejoice before Adonai your God” at the time of the fall harvest [16.11]. Writing in InterfaithFamily newsletter, Rabbi Elias Lieberman, explains that, “In the Jewish tradition, the Festival of Sukkot is a joyous occasion to give thanks and praise to the Source of Creation for the bounty we enjoy.” During this time, Jews erect a sukkah, a harvest booth, in which they eat their meals.

The Sukkat or Harvest Booth

The sukkah is a temporary structure, hung with fruits and symbols of the harvest season in which they eat their meals and sometime sleep during the festival. Its roof is thinly covered with branches, admitting sunlight, starlight, wind and rain, a reminder that the precariousness of existence in the face of the forces of nature. The sukkah is also a powerful reminder of the many reasons for all to feel grateful to God, not the least of which includes that during the other 51 weeks of the year blessings that there is a solid roof on homes, clothes to wear, and food to eat.

The Pilgrims and Reminders from the Bible

The Pilgrims shared the first Thanksgiving with Native America Indians in 1621 with three days of feasting in spite of often contending with illness, meager rations, disappointed hopes, and death. The hard winter before the first Thanksgiving had restricted some settlements to daily rations of food per person per day which was five kernels of corn. In memory of those times, some settlers put five kernels of corn on each plate at their first Thanksgiving feast.

The thread that runs from the Israelites in the wilderness to that of the Pilgrims and the harsh years they experienced while striving to put down roots in a new land. The Pilgrims were people of great faith, who like the Israelites about whom they had read in the Bible, were people of great faith who believed themselves to be sustained by God’s mercy an beneficence. That they should rejoice and give thanks at harvest time was as natural for the Pilgrims as it was for the ancient Israelites.

Rabbi Lieberman believes that “Thanksgiving and Sukkot come as a reminder that there is far more to be grateful for in this world than a bounteous crop. Both of these holidays encourage all to stop and acknowledge the manifold blessings God bestows upon us each and every day.”

~This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to set some time aside to truly thank God for the many blessings in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:34

Life Lessons for All Higher Ground Seekers

Higher ground statue

Keep climbing to higher ground.

Exerts from: In Search of Higher Ground

Regardless of what mountain you are setting out to climb, you are going to be faced with challenges. Marriage has its challenges, but it’s a great experience. Parenting has its difficulties, but there’s nothing like the love from a child. Standing in front of a crowd and receiving a degree is wonderful, but it is preceded by hard work and a variety of challenges. The freedom that comes from owning your own successful business is terrific, but it does not come without its share of problems. Any Higher Ground goal you have for your life will have its share of problems.

I have been privileged to be a part of wonderful projects in my life. Some have failed, some have succeeded, but all have had their challenges. The climb has never been perfect for me or for anyone I know. The problem is that many individuals start off with good intentions of reachiing their goals, but the give up too quickly. Hershey Walker, the famous NFL runningback, said, “My God given talent is my ability to stick with something longer that anyone else.”  That’s what it takes to achieve your desires. You must be willing to work hard and stick it out. It is not necessarily your talent or ability that gets you to the top, it is your tenacious spirit that never gives up. I have found that people tend to give up early in the climb for one of two reasons:

1. FEAR

I have talked about this before, but it bears repeating that fear keeps us from climbing. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, and/or fear of what others may say or think. Fear of not having enough talent, ability or education. Fear attacks our minds, grips our heart, and chokes potential from our life. Fear is a funny thing. It’s being afraid of something that has not happened and has not been proven. It’s like a child being afraid of the dark. When my little girl was a toddler, she didn’t want me to shut the lights off. I sat down beside her and said, “Close your eyes.” She closed them tightly and then I asked, “What do you see?” “Nothing,” she said. Then I said, “Open your eyes,” she did and then I asked her, “Now how can you be afraid of nothing.” In search of higher ground Now that sounds like a logical point, unfortunately it didn’t work, the light stayed on. As adults, we fear what we cannot see or cannot predict, but we allow this fear to control us like helpless children. Next time you are overcome by fear, remember the words of John L. Mason, “Tell fear to go jump in the lake.”

2. FAILURE

Another reason people give up on the climb to the top is because of failure. Something didn’t go right, a plan fell through, and rather than pick ourselves up and continue climbing, we throw in the towel and let failure get the best
of us. Charles Goodyear purchased an Indian rubber life preserver out of curiosity. He began to experiment with the idea of making a weatherproof type of rubber. It was a known fact that the rubber would become hard as stone in the cold weather or melt in the hot weather.

Mr. Goodyear sank all his money into experimenting with this rubber. For five years he worked at this project. In fact, his family sacrificed their standard of living because of Mr. Goodyear’s obsession with his experiment. Finally, after thousands of dollars and countless hours, his experiment worked. He figured out a way to make a weatherproof rubber. Out of humiliation, hardship and defeat, Charles Goodyear won. He turned failure into success and defeat into victory all because he wouldn’t allow failure to be the final answer in his life.

Your climbing companions may let you down

There is nothing like the joy of having people climb with you on your way to the top. I have dedicated an entire chapter to this concept, and I have dedicated my life to help others succeed and to be climbing companions with me. There is such a joy to journey with others, to experience the ups and downs of life with people who share a common purpose with you. Over the years I have been honored to partner with incredible people. I have brought out the best in them and they have brought out the best in me. I love working with my staff, being their friends, partners in purpose, and being each others’ greatest fans. However, the reality is that along the way people are going to hurt you. There are people that you will pour your life into and they will, in the end, bring pain to your heart.

Realizing that people will let you down, you must determine before you ever journey to the top, that your faith in the human spirit will not be shaken. You cannot allow yourself to ever become isolated, because part of the joy in your journey is partnership, and sharing the experience with others! You cannot determine that because people let you down, that you must do it all yourself. When someone attempts to do it all themselves, they limit their effectiveness. You cannot accomplish more work with less people, and in addition you will rob yourself of the joy that’s found in helping others succeed. Finally, because people will let you down, you will be tempted to doubt others. You will begin to feel that people cannot be trusted. The result will be that your relationships with other climbing companions will always be limited because the shadow of doubt in the human spirit will be lingering in your heart. People will let you down…but never stop believing in others and never determine that your journey will be better if traveled alone.

Enjoy the scenery

My good friend Wes Beavis once said to me, “Chris, remember that the path you are on is a marathon not a sprint, it is a journey not a destination.” He was encouraging me at a time in my life where I was so focused on tomorrow that I was not enjoying today. I must admit that I fall into this trap quite often. I will find myself so focused on the future, and as soon as the future becomes the present, I focus on the future again. It is a trap that robs me of the joy of life. I must constantly be reminded by those closest to me to keep reaching forward in the race, but don’t forget to enjoy it.

Remember, that although we want to obtain our goals to see our dreams become reality and to be known as a Higher Ground climber, we must never become so busy with our futures that we forget the present. There are marriages that need to be nurtured and children who desperately need our attention. There are friendships that need to be cultivated, love that needs to grow, and joy that needs to blossom. Our Creator did not make us to be so over burdened by life that it robs us of the joy of living.

I am thankful for my wife and two children, who have a perfect way of lifting me to Higher Ground while keeping my feet on Solid Ground. My wife wants me to succeed, but never allows me to forget what really matters in life. She helps me remember what I always say to others, “No one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time at the office.” Let me encourage you to keep reaching for Higher Ground, but never forget to water your own ground -the ground you call home, family, and friends. Water them with your love and affection, and your journey to the top will never lack the joy your life was meant to have.

If you keep climbing, eventually you’ll make it

Life has a way of clearing a path for the Higher Ground seeker. For those who want to be more, do more, see more, and become more, life holds a special door open that leads them to the top. Every person who has accomplished something great or has seen their dreams lived out, has faced their challenges, but has found the timeless truth that if you keep climbing, eventually you’ll make it to the top.

Throughout the course of my life I have seen this truth lived out in me. I have watched with my own eyes how a path seems to open up whenever I become determined to reach Higher Ground. The key however is in the phrase “keep climbing.” It’s the ability to move forward and upward and never ever stop reaching. There is an old Christmas cartoon where the characters sing a song that says, “Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out that door.” You can change the words for your own inspiration and say, “If I put one foot in front of the other, eventually I’ll make it to the top.” Cosider this, if you don’t out one foot in frount of the other, it’s a garentee that you won’t get anywhere. If you’re a Higher Ground seeker, your only choice is to march forward and upward…so keep marching!

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

Set your course towards the top of the mountain where your dreams have been waiting for you. Brush away the dust of insecurity and fear and wipe away the filth of a failed past and begin to see clearly all that you once thought impossible. It is only then that you can breathe life into your dreams! Destiny awaits you, so embrace it with all your might! Stay focused, march forward and never settle. Our personal paths may never cross, but if we set our sights at the top I am confident that we will see each other on Higher Ground.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach.”

– John Muir

Growing with Multiple Church Sites

satellite church campus

Satellite locations can be a great way to expand your church

There are many great reasons for using a multi-site approach when it comes to church growth.  Satellite campuses can be a great way to plant a church in a new community without starting completely from scratch. Satellite campus are also a great way to expand when you have outgrown your main church campus. For example, at South Hills we were maxed out in our Sunday services, so we launched a satellite campus at a local high school.

There are also many ways to conduct a satellite campus. Currently, the high school is close enough that we staggered our service times, and I speak at both locations.  When our satellite location was further away, we recorded the message given at our Saturday evening service, and that was shown at the satellite on Sunday morning.  Mark Batterson has been a forerunner in the multi-site church approach, and I have included some incites from his blog regarding the why and how his church approaches the multi-site model.

Multi-Site Model

We continue the Gospel series this weekend. All of our campus pastors are teaching live! Two of them are teaching for the first time at NCC!

In our multi-site model, we have have one teacher each weekend. We have 3-4 live messages and 6-7 video messages. I preach about 36 times per year. Joel Schmidgall and Heather Zempel, our Executive Pastor and Discipleship Pastor, form our teaching team and they teach about 10-12 times times collectively. And our Campus Pastors teach live once a quarter. We honestly don’t have many guests speakers, though we do try to get my friend and mentor, Dick Foth, in the pulpit whenever he is in town. In fact, he is an ad hoc member of our teaching team.

For what it’s worth, I used to teach 48-50 times per year in the early days, but I didn’t feel like it was a sustainable pace for me because of my various callings and commitments. I also think it’s valuable for our congregation to hear different voices. A teaching team is more stereophonic.

Your Responsiblity = Their Opportunity

I think one role of leadership is creating opportunities for others. If you do everything yourself, your potential is limited to your abilities. I know that sounds obvious, but the obvious eludes us! If you’re doing things that others can do 80% as well as you can, then you are not just wasting your time. You are wasting other’s gifts! Think of it this way: your responsibility = someone else’s opportunity!

If you learn to unleash others and create opportunities for them to step into their gifts, then your potential for impact multiplies exponentially. That’s one reason I love multi-site. It forces us to raise us six times as many people to use their gifts.

I think today was such a great example of that principle. Mike Whitford, our new campus pastor at Ebenezers, preached for the first time. Kurtis Parks, our new campus pastor at our Potomac Yard location, preached for the first time. And Travis Mason, a new NCC protege, led worship for the first time. So proud of them. Few things are as emotionally rewarding to me as seeing people step into their gifts with holy confidence and letting God use them!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

-Andrew Carnegie

A Tribute to Debbie Sloan

 

grief sorrow

Grieving Debbie

 

Sometimes in leadership we face deep sorrow, and this week at South Hills we lost one of our own.   Debbie Sloan passed away on Saturday morning after a long battle with cancer. She was/is loved by all who knew her. She was a tremendous asset to our team, a bright light in the office, and I personally will miss her.  Today, rather than attempt to give you some deeply profound insight, I have chosen to simply let other staff members share about our dearly loved Debbie.

I only had the privilege of knowing Debbie since this past March when I came on staff at South Hills. Though it was too short of a time, I  am confident of seeing her again in Heaven. Debbie always put her family first. She was a very devoted Mother. When she spoke of her husband and children, you could feel the deep love she had for them. She never complained about having cancer, for the longest time, I never even knew she had cancer. She was very brave in her battle. No doubt that she finished her race well and heard the words from our Father, “Well done good and faithful servant”. – Beverly Querin

Debbie was tough, she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her. She only talked about her journey with cancer if asked and even then would always talk about it being in God’s hands. She was madly devoted to her husband and loved and cherished her two kids of who she was very proud of. She was also a servant, with a servant’s heart. She loved the staff and people of South Hills and the feeling is mutual.  – Van Metschke

I had the privilege of working with Debbie for about 3 years, she was my personal assistant who took pride in her job and never settled for average. She was a very strong woman who made a tremendous impact on everyone she made contact with. She is truly a woman of God who valued others and made others feel better about themselves every time she had contact with them. I will truly miss her. She can never be replaced and will never be forgotten. She is truly a model of what it means to be selfless and a true servant. Although she worked part time she put in a full time effort. She volunteered several hours a week and always went above and beyond her roles and responsibilities. She not only added value to ministry she added value to my personal life. My wife (Jill) and I will always have a special place in our heart for Debbie and the foot prints she left in our lives.  We love you Debbie and will miss you tremendously.  – Moses Camacho

Debbie always made the extra effort to meet other people’s needs…especially children.  I occasionally bring my daughter to work with me and she always would stop and chat with her. One time last year my daughter was a bit bored, Debbie saw a need.  She just happend to have some playdough in her desk, and made a special trip to my desk to bring my daughter the playdough to play with.  That was the kind of person Debbie was, and I will miss her.    – Diana Thompson

Debbie was one of the most dedicated and selfless people I’ve ever met. She gave her all to whatever she had her hands on, but she would never hesitate to set that aside if a friend or coworker needed help. She was always a joy to talk to and knew how to have fun and yet get stuff done at the same time. Debbie will be DEARLY missed, but never forgotten! – Jolene Campbell

I worked on staff with Debbie for the past year and she instantly became one of the best people to stop by and chat with. She was so funny and passionate about the church being all it had the potential to be in a city. She was a huge cheerleader anytime I would get the chance to preach on the weekends and was a STRONG supporter of Remnant, our NextGen ministry at South Hills. She made a point to encourage me in all that God wanted to do through our ministry. Debbie demonstrated a love for the church that was contagious. She gave her last years on this earth to connecting people outside of Christ to a community of people who would love, support, and challenge them to be all God wanted them to be. God saw fit to promote one of his precious daughters a little early to heaven and I fill honored to have had the chance to know her before he did. See you again Debbie… Pastor Chris Harrell

During my years of employment at various companies, many people have crossed my life’s path and I praise and thank God that He made sure Debbie was one of those people because she has left an everlasting mark on my life that I will never forget.  Her positive outlook and bravery battling cancer was an inspiration to me.  My memories I have of her will live on forever in the gifts she taught me of strength, courage & love.  She was a fighter and a woman of tremendous faith.  Debbie was the epitome of our mission statement: “Turning unchurched people into fully devoted followers of Christ”.  She did that by connecting people through our Small Groups Ministry and beyond that to reaching out to family, friends and strangers.  Her love of family and friends touched me in a way to not take any thing for granted, to value and embrace life each and every day and live life to its fullest.  Thank you Debbie, your legacy continues on in my life and the lives you have touched here on earth.  I miss you but will see you in Heaven! ~Shirley

Debbie was one of the kindest and most generous people I knew.  She loved God, her family, and others the way we are called to.  She was constantly connecting people in to the family of God with excitement and enthusiasm.   Her strength was like no ones I have ever seen….you couldn’t even tell she was dealing with something so heavy….she always had a smile on her face cheering everyone else on and celebrating life with them.  Her family is such a testament to the wife, mother and woman of God she was.  She left many loved ones behind….but she left us with her strength, courage, wisdom, knowledge, and love.   For what we have learned from her I am forever grateful.   – Mary Sinson

Until next time,

Chris Sonken

An Example of Encouragement

Tony Curtis encouragment

Tony Curtis was a great encourager

As leaders and as human beings I cannot stress enough the importance of encouraging the people in your life. Your words have the power to lift people up in a far greater capacity than you may may have ever imagined. They literally can breathe life. I encourage you to actively seek ways to encourage each person in your life. Your spouse, your kids, parents, friends, business partners,staff, the grocery clerk, the waiter, the guy who changes your tires, the flight attendant, they all crave encouragement. I am not talking about empty flattery, I am talking about true compliments and encouragement. What are you grateful for in that person? What do they do well? What do they do that makes your life better?  It may not always be easy to do with every person, but if you look deep enough you will always find something good to say.  Below is article by Jud Wilhite regarding the amazing lesson of encouragement he relieved from the late Tony Curtis. encourager

TONY CURTIS

Tony Curtis, the legendary actor, passed away in the Las Vegas area this week at 85. I only had a 15 minute snapshot of him, but it still inspires me to this day.

Two Christmases ago after a service, he came backstage to our green room at Central in Vegas. He wanted to see me. I came around the corner, and he grabbed my arm and pulled me down to him in is wheelchair. He told me two or three positive things that he loved about the message. He told me I had a great smile on the platform that put people at ease and helped them open their hearts. He told me I touched him, and he thanked me.

Then the host/MC walked through for that weekend. He grabbed him and told him a couple very specific things that he liked. Then he turned to some volunteer band members and remembered specific things they had done during the service and praised them personally, legitimately, uniquely. THIS IS TONY FREAKING CURTIS. He’s made about a zillion movies like Some Like It Hot and Spartacus.

We only saw him for 15 minutes, and he had poured so much courage into each of us. He gave us life by his words. He never made it about him for one moment. It was all about loving and encouraging others. When he left, I prayed that God would make me more like that.

It is amazing the kind of impact you can have in 15 minutes when you make it about others and pouring into them. Find somebody to encourage today!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”  -Proverbs 16:24
“You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”
-Jim Stovall

Risking to outreach

community outreach

South Hills Church 2nd Annual Food Drive

This past Saturday we hosted our second annual food drive/day of outreach. Don’t let the name fool you. Community outreach is something we feel very passionately about here at South Hills. This is just one special day where we stretch ourselves to further reach out to our community.

On that one day the South Hills family fed 409 families that represented 2,300 people.  On that day we also provided clothing, haircuts and connected people to free job skills classes from Smooth Transition. Many families said “thank you so much, we have no food in our home.”  And “Thank you so much, this is a months’ worth of food for our family.”

Also the staff and volunteers had blast!  Here is what one volunteer said:

“My time spent serving the community was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.  Several times throughout the day I felt the Lords presence and Him overwhelming me with total joy.  I caught myself having to stop several times so that I could gather my emotions.  God is awesome!”

It was a fantastic day!

So why did we do this?  Because we have made a commitment to “Raise Your Risk for the Disadvantaged” We want to be the flesh of Christ to literally touch people with His love.

Why am I telling you this? To toot our own horn? Well maybe a little. I am very proud of all of our staff, volunteers, and contributors who made this day happen. They worked well and gave big. But equal to that, I want to encourage you to reach out to those in your community who need a loving hand up.

I want to encourage you to be a church that demonstrates a gigantic, God-sized faith. Jesus said, if you love me, you’ll do what I ask. So what did he ask us to do? Seek & save the lost. Serve “the least of these.” Go and make disciples, baptize them. Go farther than your church, farther than your own town, help the church in the next county or another state or even on the other side of the world. These are the radical ideas of our RISK Project.

We raise our risk level when we’re willing to get our hands dirty to meet the needs of the needy. We raise our risk level when we decide to cross the line to have a conversation with a friend to bring them to Christ. We raise our risk level when we say I’ll sacrifice to give more dollars to help other churches grow, to leverage our resources for maximum impact. When you demonstrate a radical risk of faith, incredible things will happen.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTES OF THE DAY

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Wiling is not enough, we must do.”
– TJohann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”     – 1 Peter 4: 10-11