Church Leadership Good News

10 Ways Your Church Can Be Good News to Public Schools

I have a fervent belief that if we want to reach a post-Christian society, we have to be Good News before someone will listen to Good News.

I asked some teachers, “How could a local church be Good News to your public school?” Here are 10 of their ideas.

  1. Create a team that participates at every school board meeting. Your presence at meetings, without bringing forward issues, will communicate to the decision makers that your church cares.
  2. Sponsor a community-wide clean-up day during the Fall and Spring semester. If you lead the charge, other churches and community organizations will join forces.
  3. Ask teachers to post individual classroom needs on Donors Choose, and then ask church members to help fund things that will go directly to the classroom.
  4. Set-up a tutoring program that meets in your building after school. (Example) You don’t have to be a certified teacher to help kids with math, science, and reading homework.
  5. Ask your congregation to strategically send their children to public schools. Resist the temptation to home school or send children to a private school. Instead, ask the congregation to invest that time and money into their children’s individual classrooms.
  6. Schools are often lacking volunteers for events. Meet with the principal early in the Fall and find out which events need help.
  7. Have the church cover any expenses for background checks or medical tests related to volunteering in schools. Sometimes the smallest obstacle becomes the biggest excuse!
  8. Once a month, provide treats to the school staff. Every school has a teachers lounge and every employee of the school will appreciate if you provide a bagels or a healthy lunch snack. (Don’t just bless the teachers, bring enough for everyone!) Trust me, this will make even the most hardcore staff smile.
  9. Many districts have cut spending on arts and music. Have your worship leader work with local administrators to set-up workshops, after school, or any opportunity for children to get exposure to art and music.
  10. Find out what projects are important at a school and help provide the supplies. If they have a garden, make sure they have tools. If they are allowing children to paint murals, make sure they have the paint they want.

Want to get started? Pick one and let me know how it goes!

These are my ideas. What are yours?

Many of these ideas came from classroom teachers. Special thanks to Erin, Annie, and Paul for speaking into this post.

Church Leadership hmm... thoughts

The New Four Spiritual Laws


In 1965, Bill Bright wrote the tract Four Spiritual Laws. It’s hard for us to believe this, but in its day it was a powerful and releavant tool for explaining the Gospel to people. In an America in where religious education was part of the public school education, it was based on a presupposition that God exists, that Jesus’ story is real and true, and that every person sinned.

Four Spiritual Laws was a tool that helped millions people, largely teens and young adults, connect the dots between what they knew to be true in their own lives, that they mess up, that they know there is a God but they don’t know if they can have a relationship with Him. And what they learned/memorized in grade school and high school.

Remember, up until 1964, children in America didn’t just pray in school, they were taught the story of God in the Bible, memorized Scripture, and were taught the tenants of the Protestant faith. Bill Bright was genius to create this tool that connected those dots!

The 1964 Supreme Court decision which cemented the abstract idea that the original founders of the United States wanted a literal separation between church and state amplified the culture wars between Evangelicals and “the world” that we see today. What started in 1964 in abstraction became a gulf of culture within a decade which made tools like Four Spiritual Laws irrelevant.

Obviously, those presuppositions are long gone in America today. Today, children in the church don’t grow up memorizing Scripture. Today, schools do not teach children about a monotheistic God. Today, schools are afraid to refer to Jesus Christ as a person in history for fear that a parent would cry “seperation of church and state!

Looking at the Four Spiritual Laws themselves, I don’t know if we would describe the four tenants of them in the same way. At the core this is the evangelical faith– hasn’t changed a bit. God loves you and wants a relationship with you. Your sin separate you from that relationship. Jesus Christ, by taking on your sin at the cross of Calvary made it possible to for you to know God anyway. By putting your faith in Jesus you can have a relationship with God and begin a new life in Him. Seriously, that’s not changed.

But methods have. Walking up to someone and asking if you can hand them or read them a tract is flat out offensive. (If you know people doing this in America, feel free to smack them.)

So have the secondary things in Four Spiritual Laws. People who come to Jesus do so for today as much as tomorrow. The Gospel we preach today isn’t just about eternal life, its about righting wrongs, bringing wholeness, restoration, and justice to today.

And so I am left to wonder. If Bill Bright were to write Four Spiritual Laws today, what would it look like? What form would it take? How would he capture the obvious from culture to connect the dots? What are common things we all believe in America which point us to a relationship with Jesus?

Church Leadership management

Fix what is broken


I’m always a bit surprised when I encounter something that is obviously broken that hasn’t been fixed.

For instance.

I went into a small bookstore. While I was there I noticed a steady stream of customers who walk into the shop, take two looks around, and walk out. The two people working there continued doing what they were doing. One person dutifully shelved books while the other stood by the counter. It doesn’t take a genius to see that something is wrong but the people working there are working on the wrong strategy, aren’t they?

I walked into a church and immediately felt overwhelmed with options. There were booths everywhere in the foyer, each competing for my attention. There were greeters handing me things. There were churchgoers asking my name. There were people trying to get my children’s attention. Five minutes into the visit all I could think of was GET ME OUT OF HERE! This was a broken welcome area. It was meant to make people feel welcome but just confused people. But I highly doubt that church staff spends more than 5 minutes a week thinking about the welcome area. They are working on the wrong strategy, aren’t they?

Dropping our kids off at school is absolute chaos. With no bus service every parent must either drop off their child by car or walk them from the neighborhood. Mix in 500 kids and their imagination-driven walking patterns with a few hundreds cars driven by people from all cultures and walks of life and you have one chaotic mess on a small two-lane street. While the school focuses on keeping kids safe and trying to make pick-up and drop off more efficient you can’t help but see that the whole thing is doomed. They are working on the problem instead of trying to fix what is broken.

Sometimes I visit people blogs and see things that are obviously broken. Bad links, colors that literally makes my eyes water, and no way to subscribe via RSS so I don’t have to ever go back. I don’t care how great your content is! Chosing to leave the bad design there while the content is great is the wrong strategy.

Great leaders pay attention to the most obvious stuff. In whatever you lead you have to stop on a regular basis and say, “Are the basic things running perfectly?” Can customers find what they are looking for? Do visitors feel like this is a church they can belong? Can I drop my kids off at school without them getting hurt? Can I read your blog?

If you don’t take care of the basic things– strategy doesn’t matter. No one will care about your company, church, school, or web content unless you have the basics covered. It’s like talking to a football coach who says that his number one priority is implementing the west coast offense. No one will care about your offensive strategy unless you take care of the real number one priority… making sure no one gets hurt.

When I was about 20 years old I got a job working on equipment that produced ID cards for a health insurance company. The truth was that the department was so lost in procedure and doing things right that they had no ability to get work done. The other people operating the equipment didn’t understand how the equipment worked and could only see the piles of mounting backlog. A machine that was supposed to print 900 ID cards an hour struggled to get 1500 produced in a day. Sometimes we’d have orders for 50,000 cards and be left with no choice but to outsource the work. It was bad. Pressure was mounting. And I knew that if we didn’t focus on the basic things my tenure there would be short. When I started my mantra was, “Just keep the machine running.” We started focusing on that one simple thing… keep the cards printing. We started training the operators on how to maintain the equipment. I showed them how to fix the most basic things themselves so that we didn’t have to wait 2-3 hours for a repairman to come in. By focusing on that one mantra of “keep the machine running” we were able to catch-up and eventually eliminate outsourcing the work. Pretty soon we went from one machine running one shift to 24 hour shifts, to a bigger office with 2 machines, to eventually 3 machines that could run 24 hours a day producing more per hour than the outsourcing companies could on their best day. Our team fixed what was broken and that opened the door of opportunity and expansion.

A good starting point for any leader is to look at the day and say, “What’s most obviously broken?” Work on that first.

family hmm... thoughts

Back to School Day!

For our kids, today is the first day back to school from winter break. Since they are on a year-round schedule their last day was December 19th. Kristen and I are especially thankful for our flexible work situations. I have the opportunity to work from home at least a day per week and so does Kristen. Along those lines, between my Christmas vacation time and Kristen’s parents coming to town, we really only had 6-7 work days where either Kristen or I had to flex our schedule.

It was a fun break for them. They had lots of visitors. They got to go to lots of cool places like the beach, Birch Aquarium, Cabrillo, and about a hundred other places which I forgot. And we used this time to draw a line in the sand on some discipline things which will hopefully help mom and dad in the months to come. (It is a fact, our kids are normal!)

So, today we are back to the family routine.

7:00 AM Everybody up. Mom takes her shower and the everyone else rubs their eyes and does early morning trance walks around the house.

7:30 AM Breakfast for the kids, coffee for the ‘rents.

7:45 AM Everybody dressed, except dad who usually starts his morning blog routine at 7:15.

8:15 AM School uniforms on, mom marches the kids up the hill. Dad publishes whatever he is working on and gets showered/dressed for work. (Hey, I’m a dude… only takes me a minute or two.)

8:30 AM Kristen comes back and we drive to the YS offices.

8:45 AM Kristen drops me off and heads to her office. (Sometimes this is reversed.)

2:00 PM Either mom or dad leaves work. Since Kristen’s job is PT right now… that’s usually mom.

2:40 PM Paul gets out of school.

2:50 PM Megan gets out of school.

3:00 PM Home, snacks and homework for everyone.

5:30 PM Go get dad from work. Sometimes earlier or later.

6:30 PM Dinner, play time, TV time, etc.

8:00 PM Kids bed time.

It has been fun having them home. This is our first go-round with a year round school and we are already stressing out about what to do in April for their 3-week break and July for their 6-week break… but so far we like it.

We need a regular sitter. Bad! Either that or we need to adopt a teenage girl to live with us and watch the kids when they come home. With my crazy schedule and Kristen getting more and more hours reality is setting in… we can’t do it alone!


Excited about 2009

As far as years go 2008 has been a crazy one. The year started off with me gasping for air between rounds of Kidstown events and ended with a long time of rest and reflection after moving our family across the country and launching myself in a new direction. To quote Mike Yaconelli, “What a ride!

As 2008 takes it’s last spin on the disco ball known as Earth I wanted to record a few of the things I’m excited about for 2009.

#1 A simpler life continuing. It may sound weird that moving into an urban setting, Kristen taking a job, and both kids now in elementary school is actually simpler for us, but it is. Unlike before, we’re living within our means and building healthy boundaries between our work, play, jobs, and church life.

#2 To social media and beyond! I’m looking forward to the two-fold reality of getting deeper into the social media scene while at the same time venturing into new things.

#3 A hobby with my wife. For the first time in our relationship Kristen and I have purposed to do something together. Those who know us know how true it is that we often have had different worlds. Purposing to have the same hobby of Beyond The Zoo is going to bring us closer together.

#4 Golf. After a 3 year sabbatical from the game I will be resolving to get my game back in shape. I’d love to find a league or a volunteer opportunity to force me to play. How in the world could a lifelong golfer live in San Diego and not play?

#5 A vacation. No idea where we are headed or what we will do. But the family will definitely require a trip somewhere.

#6 A new place to live. Our lease is up in February and we’ve already told our landlady we intend to move. That said, we’re starting to look at places in the SDSU area, City Heights, Rolando, Kensington, or somewhere else near our church. We need more space.

#7 New stuff at Youth Ministry Exchange. Starting soon I will have a weekly column ay YMX. After kicking around a lot of ideas I’ve decided to stick with my passion. It’s going to be a weekly encouragement. Recognizing how little worship and preaching most of us hear as we lead the students… I hope it’s helpful to fill a tiny bit of the void. Plus, YMX’s main site has a brand new look we’re popping out soon.

#8 Some cool stuff at YS. Now that I’m not “the new guy” anymore it’s fun to be around some of our things from genesis through release. I’m excited about increasing my impact at work in 2009. More importantly, I am still shocked that God has allowed me the ability to impact the lives of youth workers through YS. Gosh, that is too cool.

#9 Unloading the Michigan homestead. Hard to believe that our house in Romeo has been vacant since the first week of August. We have a buyer and we’re waiting on the banks to do their thing. Originally, we had hoped that we’d be done with the house by the close of 2008. One way or the other, we will be done with the house in 2009.

#10 Kid Stuff. Megan and Paul have hit the age where childhood hits the afterburner and starts to speed along. Blogging is awesome in that I get to capture little snapshots, literally and figurately, of their lives for posterity sake. Both of their personalities are blossoming and I’m falling deeper and deeper in love with these kids God chose for us.


Checking in with Megan and Paul

School has been in session for a couple weeks now, here’s how they are doing.

Megan loves her teacher. And who wouldn’t? Her teacher is very cool… even if I can never remember her name. Of course, she is doing great. The first spelling test she got 25 of 25 words correct. (Only one in her class.) She’s your typical first born as she always has to be the best. The school also has some rewards built in that she is hooked on. There are behavior rewards and she has 7… she claims this is more than anyone else in 2nd grade. They have a regular assembly and she is shooting to have her name called. They also have a physical fitness reward. For every 20 laps you run before school starts you get a necklace. She got her first one yesterday. We’ve not heard about her having any good friends yet, so we keep praying for that. Yet she is like her mom/dad, not the easiest person to let her guard down enough to get close to.

Paul is also loving his teacher, Mrs. Cohen. Each day Paul tells me all about his day. What he did, what he learned, what was for lunch, and what he did at each of his 3 recesses. (All day kindergarten) Paul is learning all about letters and math and other cool things. His teacher has picked up on his baby talk, so we think Paul’s going to get hooked up with a little speach therepy. (Got the eval coming, trying not to freak out about the “special ed label” to that.) Paul’s a lot like me in kindergarten… it’s all heavenly. Last night before bed Paul asked what day today was. When we told him it would be Wednesday in the morning and he had a full day of school he raised his hands above his head and ran off to bed, “I can’t wait!” I will remind him of that moment in 12 years.

Kristen and I really like Darnall. First of all, it’s in our neighborhood and we’re all about getting to know people in the neighborhood. Second, it’s a charter school. I’m digging that we’re not deeply involved in the corruption and crappy politics of Romeo. And the uniform thing… it’s so not a big deal to them now that school started.

Long story short, the kids are settling in and the learning has begun for this year. Praise God for a smooth transition.


First Day of School

Paul McLane, kindergarten studentIt’s safe to say the kids are jacked up and ready to go for their first day of school. Megan came out of her loft this morning wearing her school uniform and Paul came out of their bedroom carrying his backpack and lunch box.

It’s quite a change from Amanda Moore in Romeo. First of all, we’re actually closer to school than we were in Romeo. Darnall Charter School is about 2 blocks up the hill. (Yes, we’re so close we know we’ll be late often!)

Even if the kids aren’t nervous, I am for them. It’s one thing for dad to have this dream that his kids will grow up in an economically and culturally diverse climate. It’s another thing to send them off to it for the first time.

Megan McLane, 2nd grade studentFor Megan, this is old hat. She loved kindergarten and 1st grade and we have high hopes for second grades challenges. My hope for her is that she’ll meet some girls to connect with right away. No one is complaining, but I can tell the whole family is in need of some friends. (I’ve got built in people to hang with at work.) Every grade she matures I get a little more worried about social pressures to conform. Megan is the type of kid where she is oblivious to most of the bad stuff happening and just focuses on her stuff. She is like her mom in that! Kristen went to a large high school in suburban Philadelphia and swears there weren’t any kids doing drugs or having sex. Megan was born with that same set of blinders… it’s a great thing!

For Paul, this is brand new! Mom and dad are more nervous for the first day of kindergarten than he is. He’s been correcting me for the last two weeks. I typically call him “little man” since he’s pretty much a smaller version of me. Now I’m supposed to call him “big man” since he is in school. I’m nervous for him since he’s not done super well in Sunday school and we didn’t enroll him in preschool. (Combination of it just being easier to keep him home and we didn’t have the extra money to pay for it.) He’s a lot like his daddy. The actual educational part of school was never a problem for me and I don’t think it will be for Paul. But he was born with my “adamant adam” genes. It all has to do with his connection to his teacher. He met her last week and seemed to really like her. But that will be tested when he hears there are rules and that he’ll have to obey them. I keep saying to myself, “It’ll be fine.” But something tells me that I’ll be a frequent visitor to the principals office.