Month: July 2019

6 Ways to Lead Yourself in College

As summer draws to a close and you trade in your long weekdays on the lake for early morning classes, here are 6 ways you can lead yourself on your college campus:

Practice self-care

You cannot lead others well if you’re not taking care of yourself.

There’s a time to stay up late with friends, and there’s a time to go to bed early. Good self-care will take learning how to discern when it’s time to slow down, spend time with yourself, and just take a nap.

Get to know yourself

Leading up to college, it can be difficult to know who you truly are due to being a part of an environment that has been crafted for you. You didn’t have a say in what high school you went to or what neighborhood you grew up in. Most life-altering decisions were made for you, and that’s intended to be for your own good. You need time and help to develop.

College affords the freedom and responsibility of becoming your own decision-maker. What will I study? Who will I live with? What church will I go to? It’s these decisions that will reveal who you are and who you’re becoming. Get to know yourself by observing how you’re answering the questions that come with life.

Walk with confidence

You don’t have to have life figured out in order to be a confident person. As you discover your God-given identity, walk in it with confidence. You have nothing to prove. Your heavenly Father crafted you with purpose, approves of you, and has intentionally placed you on your campus. Help yourself walk in confidence by preaching yourself these realities.

Do excellent work

Focusing on your studies may be one of the most simple, yet difficult ways you can lead yourself at college. With friendships to form, organizations to join, places to explore, classes can seem like a joy-sapper in paradise. But you’re there to learn, so learn to the best of your ability. It’s the greatest opportunity to make an impact on your teachers and peers, and it’s a lifelong tool that will do you well beyond college.

Serve With Your Talents

Don’t feel like you have to serve somewhere for the sake of serving. Your local church doesn’t need a lifeless you directing traffic in the parking lot. Once you discover where your passions collide with your talents, use that mark as the means to find your space to serve. Nothing is quite as life-giving as combining passion with talent to serve another person. It’s also an excellent way to continue to sharpen whatever craft you’re developing.

Build Community

The key word is build. Finding yourself within the right community takes work. Join a local church. Check out organizations that share similar passions as you. Seek out people you want to be like.

By graduation, you will resemble the people you spent the most time with. Choose these people wisely.  


Article written CatalystLeader by Luke Baker. Luke is the Digital Content Producer at Catalyst. He is a lover of tea and Twitter, and cares too much about his Uber passenger rating. 

It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It.

936 weeks.

That’s how long you have from the time a child is born until the time he or she graduates from high school.

Most people have a mixed reaction to this reality. I’ve had moms and dads get tears in their eyes when they understood how fast the weeks are counting down. But the more important reaction is this: When these same parents realize how much time they have left, they start doing more with the time they have now.

At this year’s Catalyst conference, I had the opportunity to talk with leaders about how they can partner with parents to make the most of every week for every kid. Admittedly, what a church leader thinks about most is probably Sunday morning. It’s really Monday that makes the difference. How does Sunday morning better prepare parents for Monday morning and the rest of the week? And how does a month of Sundays (and 936 weeks of Sundays) prepare a kid for a lifetime of knowing God?

That’s why we say this: It’s just a phase, so don’t miss it.

A phase in a kid’s life isn’t something to be survived, gotten through, or passed over. It is an opportunity—usually lasting about 52 weeks—to engage children in a new way that recognizes the intricacies and nuances at each stage of life. It is something to be valued, celebrated, and leveraged.

For us, a phase in a kid’s life is defined as a timeframe when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future.

In every phase, we recognize there are three things we need to be attentive to:

present realities to understand,
distinct opportunities to leverage,
and significant relationships to influence.

There’s one thing that every parent cares about—whether that parent is part of a church or not. 

The parents inside your church, and the many more parents outside of your church, care about one thing

Every parent cares about the future of their child.

They care about future friendships, future education, future careers, and everything else that’s going to happen as one phase turns into another.

Because a phase gives a parent an opportunity to leverage distinctive opportunities for that future, a parent’s role is redefined at every phase. As a new phase approaches, the questions a kid will ask change from “Who am I?” to the question “Am I safe?” to “Do I have what it takes?” to “Who do I like?” to “Why do I believe?” and so many others.

Those questions change at each phase because with every phase comes a unique crisis. The crisis prompts the question, the question prompts a conversation, and sometimes the conversation offers a few answers that a kid might be able to take hold of.

Many reasons exist why a parent or a leader might miss a phase, but here’s the most important one: Sometimes we forget that every single kid and every single teenager is made in the image of God.

Jesus made this clear when He stood a child in front of the disciples and said, “Whoever welcomes one of these welcomes me.” He said that because He knew what we too often forget: those kids are made in the image of God.

Every kid has a divine capacity to reason, improve, and lead. care, relate, and trust. believe, to imagine . . . even to love.

So maybe you’re thinking about the phase your kids are in. Maybe it’s the dirty diaper phase, and it’s hard to see the image of God in all that mess. Or the teenage driving phase and it’s even harder to see the image of God in all THAT mess.

But Jesus made it clear: No one should feel more welcomed than a screaming baby, a bratty kid, a hormonal middle schooler or a defiant teenager.

Some people miss it because they treat kids like they are not old enough, smart enough, mature enough, important enough or even Christian enough to really do or learn anything.

Every one of those kids, though, is made in the image of God. And every phase is a distinctive opportunity to make sure those kids know you see that too. Even if it’a just a phase.

  • For ways to be praying for your child, click here!

Article written CatalystLeader by Reggie Joiner is founder of Orange and was one of the founding pastors at North Point Community Church. His book is entitle, It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It.

Preparing for Your Back-to-School Ministry Launch

Now that we’re well into the summer, it’s time to talk fall. Depending on where you live in the country, “fall” kicks off in August or September. (And if you’re a faithful listener Down Under, we’re just giving you an extra six months of lead time!)

We know that kid min leaders don’t get to relax during the summer. Summer camps, VBS. You squeeze in family vacay. Your volunteers are in and out. And by the way—here comes the launch of your big fall initiative and the start of your ministry year!

You want to start off on the right foot with all your volunteers in place and ready to go.

But you’re so busy working in your ministry that you don’t get to work on your ministry. It’s time to create some space, whether it’s a few hours or a full day, to get set for fall.

That’s why we’re thrilled to welcome Alston Causey to help us prepare!

Mike kicks off the conversation:

It’s July. Fall is staring us in the face. What are some things listeners should be paying attention to as they plan for the fall season?

Alston: Don’t give up hope. It can feel like “there’s no time, so I shouldn’t do anything.” Even if you can only do onething, it will set you up for a better experience through the year.

Alston’s come up with Five Awesome Things. Do one, do several, delegate.

1. Get specific about volunteer recruiting.

Shockingly, you probably don’t yet have 100% of the volunteers you need yet. (Unless you’re Gina. She’s way overstaffed. Riiiiight.)

Alston: We are often looking for volunteers right up through promotion Sunday. One of the easiest ways to find new leaders quickly:

Great leaders know other great leaders.

Be real with your volunteers. Tell them your specific needs and encourage them to invite someone in their life to come and serve.

Gina: You gotta know your need. Let your team know you’ve done your homework and know what’s coming down the road. Sometimes as ministry leaders we say we need more, but we don’t define it.

Say, “Who would you love to invite to be part of this?” If there’s hesitancy, maybe you’ll discover something about your ministry that isn’t working. You can drill down and make your ministry more appealing.

Alston: We want our culture of volunteering to be remarkable—that it would be worthy of remarking to your friends about. It’s not what we want from you. It’s what we want for you.

When they see that you are for them, they’re excited to bring other people along with them.

How do you create a great onboarding process for volunteers?

Alston: Are you just plugging them in to get a hole filled quickly? That’s never a win. When they don’t know the win or the vision for that role, they’ll stop serving before long.

We are intentional about the onboarding process, even though it can slow us down sometimes. You still have time to get them to an orientation, have them check out the roles they’re interested in, and do a training.

On day one when school starts back, create a moment. Acknowledge, yes, it’s going to be crazy, but you are beginning something big. At the end of training, we have a confetti moment that no one knows is coming. “Congratulations, you are officially a volunteer!” It feels like a party.

Be intentional about kicking off [fall season] in a big way, not just for the kids, but for the volunteers.

Mike: When you’re short volunteers, you can ignore it. Or you can beg and plead from stage. Please don’t. It devalues your ministry. Go personal instead. Trust that God will bring the right person in the right time

2. Help your volunteers love volunteering.

Alston: Before fall gets here, think of three ways to appreciate volunteers this semester or during the whole year. Put it on the calendar. We forget to develop and appreciate our volunteers because we don’t take time to think about it.

When you ask your volunteers to come to an event or training, give it added value for them: This will make you a better volunteer, but also a better spouse, parent, coworker.

Alston used a personality profile training last year because people enjoy learning about themselves.

Which Disney Princess are you? Kellen is Belle.

Make sure volunteer training is not just a value add for you, but a value add for your volunteers.

Gina: It’s an investment in them that will have a return for you as well. “I want more for you than I want from you.”

How different would it be if our ministries were a place where someone would say, “I’m a better dad, I’m a better husband, I’m a better Christ follower because I serve [in this ministry”?

Alston: Do a movie night with popcorn and candy and invite your volunteers and their families. (A movie night can be more than $100 for a family.)

It doesn’t have to be expensive. Take the time and think about it. It communicates love and shows them how important they are.

Mike: A lot of time training defaults to “here’s what I need from you.” You’ve swung it the other way

3. Gather your key volunteers and cast vision.

Alston: Identify your key volunteers who lead other volunteers (coaches). If you don’t have a system of volunteers who lead other volunteers, consider creating one. Small groups of volunteers led by a coach are just as powerful for volunteers as small groups are for your kids.

Cast the vision for this leadership team. It may be the same as last year, but re-engage and encourage them not to lose sight of it.

Gina: It’s recalibrating your leaders and making sure you’re all moving in the same direction.

Alston: If you are a volunteer who leads other volunteers, you are part of the leadership team. Usually the final Sunday before the big promotion Sunday, we create a fun night with a short vision cast. It can be as simple as dinner and games.

One year Alston threw a big family event outside. It was fun, but also harder to vision cast with shouting kids and yellow jackets.

Mike: You already feel the pressure of leading your ministry area. You can expand your capacity by investing in a few volunteers who in turn invest in the rest of your volunteers.

Alston: Having a volunteer leadership team is the reason we could open a second campus. It’s worth starting a volunteer leadership team even if you can only find one or two people before fall ministry season starts.

Mike: You may get volunteers who aren’t  a great small group leader or large group communicators, but can help lead the volunteers. That opens it up to more volunteers.

Fall is a natural time to go back to a rhythm after the chaos of summer. It’s a great restart and time to cast vision.

Alston: Number one thing to give your volunteers: a roster of contact information for volunteer team leaders and staff. Let them know who to go to with needs and questions. This sets up their team lead to be a pastoral figure. It helps big churches feel small and small churches feel even more personal.

4. Re-engage parents and kids with your ministry.

Alston: Back-to-school has become the second Easter. [Families] all come back when it’s back-to-school season.

Leverage the back-to-school bash mentality. We gave kids a different school supply for each Sunday in August. Kids loved it because they are collectors.

Establish a rhythm of coming back every Sunday.

Plan a cool event in September or October. Build momentum and hype with something to look forward to.

Mike: Do something that is already built into the rhythm. Themed days, like PJ Day for “Spring Ahead.” They love it.

5. Pray

It seems like the Christian throwaway answer. But if you’re going to do anything before the school year starts, it’s praying intentionally for your ministry. How can I pray that this year would be different? How can I pray that God would do measurably more through our ministry this year?

I’m praying for my staff and my volunteers, that they wouldn’t just see it as serving Jesus, but they would grow closer in their relationships to Jesus through serving.

We’re praying for the parents. We want to equip them to win.

Ultimately, we pray for the kids that we serve: for safety, that our ministries would be irresistible for them, and that our ministries would be transformational for them.

If you do nothing else but pray—pray through the filter of what we’ve talked about today.


  1. Get specific about volunteer recruiting. Determine exactly what you need and lean into your current volunteers to invite people they want to serve alongside.
  2. Help your volunteers love volunteering. Schedule three times during the semester or year when you will celebrate your volunteers.
  3. Gather your key volunteers and cast vision. If you don’t already have several key volunteers to help lead your volunteer team, invite several to join you. This expands your own capacity. Find a time to cast vision to your leadership team.
  4. Re-engage parents and kids with your ministry. Take advantage of the back-to-school rhythm to encourage consistency and momentum for families as you begin the fall season.
  5. Pray. Pray specifically for your volunteers, parents, and kids. It may be a ministry cliché, but it is THE game changer.

Podcast taken from OrangeBlogs 

Churches That Play Together Stay Together

In its new Households of Faith report, Barna researchers claim that one of the many reasons “vibrant households” stand out from others is because they engage in “meaningful, fun. Quality time with both housemates and extended household members.” That includes playing games together (32%), sharing meals (63% eat breakfast as a family and 75% eat dinner as a family), and enjoying other leisure activities. “These are practicing Christians who know the meaning of play—and indeed, half call their home life ‘playful,’” according to the report.

In other words, the old adage still rings true: Families that play together stay together, and more than that, exhibit signs of strong spiritual health.

The same can be said of the church family.

From softball leagues to book clubs, jazz ensembles to craft nights, churches that play together seem to stay together and grow together, too, adapting more easily to upheaval and building up the camaraderie, compassion, and collective resilience that are essential to a robust church body.

“Our congregation is experiencing some growing edges as younger families begin to assume leadership roles,” said Katie Nix, lead pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Missouri. “Usually the generations become divided between gatekeepers and new people, but kickball helped to break down some of the walls of fear and create relationships. I believe we avoided several potential turf wars because the two groups experienced an opportunity to play together.”

Other pastors, too, report the unique gains of “letting loose” as the body of Christ.

Jackson Clelland, head of staff at Presbyterian Church of the Master in Mission Viejo, California, often provides opportunities for his church staff and board members to play together as a way to lay the foundation for their collaborative work as the people of God.

“My mentor, the late Chuck Miller, taught that we need a proper order to our relationships within the church. [We need to view our colleagues as] brothers or sisters and then fellow workers,” quoting from Philemon 1–2. Staff meetings at Church of the Master are commonly held in a conference room—except when they’re not.

“We went to an escape room a month ago, We play so that we can learn to enjoy each other beyond the tasks we need each other for.”

In the earliest Scriptures, the people of God are called to a regular rhythm of work and worship, rest and play. In addition to the weekly Sabbath celebration, the Pentateuch mentions seven feast days. After the Exile, three more were added. Wedding celebrations commonly lasted a week or more. While some contemporary congregations find play by practicing these feasts of the ancient church and other traditional “holy day” celebrations, others are discovering it in even simpler, almost child-like forms.

Antoine Lassiter, pastor of Think Kingdom, a multiracial congregation in North Carolina, extols the power of play to bring diverse groups of people into deeper relationship.

“This church was the result of two churches merging—a predominantly black church with a white church. Play was a way to get folks who didn’t normally interact to talk. We’d encourage them at the doors—‘Find someone you don’t know and sit with them!’—and they wouldn’t do it.”

So Lassiter and his team came up with a creative solution in Sunday worship. “I’d say, ‘Grab all your belongings!’ Then the musicians would play some happy music, and we’d play musical chairs.”

As Lassiter helped shepherd his congregation through the change, he learned that play was essential for him as a leader, as well.

“For the first three months [after the churches merged] I was a politician,” said Lassiter. “I had stopped having fun and the ministry became dark. It became stressful. Then I realized that it wasn’t for me to make it work. It needed to be a Holy Spirit–led thing.

“We have a church full of young men who play basketball, so I started walking with them and having fun with them. And that’s where I think the church turned.”

Pastors in international churches, too, notice the benefits of church play in developing a community spirit and practicing creative mission.

“One of the signs of healthy community is laughter and the ability to have fun together,” said Ondřej Szturc, preacher at Evangelical Christian Fellowship in the Czech Republic. “It also attracts people and speeds ministry up, making it easier and more pleasant. Hospitality is one of the big priorities for us.”

Two other Europeans, Andrej and Nina, helped plant their church in Maribor, Slovenia. “We do yearly church retreats where we intentionally build in play time—bonfires and s’mores, hikes and swimming time. “We had to push ourselves once a month just to play games together as a leadership team.”

Lovse finds that occasionally replacing traditional worship with play can strengthen bonds of friendship and fellowship, especially in the group of young adults who comprise the bulk of his congregation.

“There have been times when we canceled our church service and all went out for coffee. When we grew distant and needed to reconnect with one another, through play we got to know and appreciate each other.”

Agaba Moses, an ordained minister in the Anglican Church in Uganda, noted that play hasn’t traditionally been part of his church culture. That is starting to change. “Churches in Africa commonly do not go beyond pulpit preaching to engage Christians in play activities like football, swimming, or drama, calling them ‘secular.’ But playing well is of great importance in navigating conflict and developing a united and focused church.”

“Towards the end of last year, we invited the bishop as the chief guest” of a soccer event. The bishop knew how to play, and he demonstrated it by kicking a penalty. This helped people change their attitudes toward the entire church.”

Research suggests that organizations whose members fail to play often descend into unhealthy seriousness, leading to increasing anxiety and resistance to change. By contrast, study after study show that play begets creativity, innovation, relationship, rejuvenation, and joy. All qualities found in healthy congregations and their time together both outside and inside of worship.

“If a fundamental purpose of corporate worship is to proclaim and to enact the gospel,” writes David Taylor, “then surely, I would like to believe, our practices of proclamation and enactment would somehow point to the astonishing, gratuitous, even hilarious nature of the good news.”

For pastors whose plates are often filled to overflowing with the traditional work of the church, enabling play in any form can feel like an additional burden. But when congregations engage in recreation, laughter, and creative pursuits together, they are building bonds that strengthen mission, deepen fellowship, and create a relational foundation for discipleship.

“As leaders, we have to teach people to flow with the rhythms of life,” says Lassiter. “Sometimes the music is happy. Sometimes the music is somber. We can dance to both.

Article written ChristianityToday by Courtney Ellis. Courtney is a pastor and speaker and the author of Uncluttered (Feb. 2019, Rose Publishing). She lives in Southern California with her husband, Daryl, and three kids. Find her on TwitterFacebook, or her blog.