Sunday, July 29, 2007


It's a funny thing--now that we have computers, email, voice mail, cell phones, iphones, Blackberrys, instant messaging, texting (how is that a verb? but I digress...), and whatever other communication tools are coming out next month, it seems like communication is harder than ever! The problem is that in the information age, there's just too much information to absorb. With all the noise out there, they say it takes at least seven exposures to one message for us to retain it.

For instance, we have a Church-wide picnic coming up next Sunday after the second service. Who knew?! It's been in the bulletin every week since the end of June. I mentioned it from the platform on June 24, when I talked about the emergency budget and how we would now have to each provide our own table service. (Incidentally, not having coffee seemed to strike a real chord--many of you responded by bringing in all the coffee we'll need for the next six months! Hopefully, you're inviting new people to church as well, but again I digress...)

It's just part of the communication paradox--the more communication we receive, the less we hear.

In our church, we have several communication systems:

  • The platform on Sunday mornings. This one can be very effective when used correctly. Most of the time, we don't do verbal announcements because the more that is announced, the less is heard. After two announcements, everyone is already thinking about where they want to go for lunch after the service and not listening to a word that is being said. We reserve this time for events that are timely and related to every single person in the church.
  • The bulletin. This is the primary communication tool of our church. A new edition comes out each week full of information that will keep you connected with what is going on with the Youth Group, with PrimeTimers, with small groups, with church events, and more! Don't forget to read your bulletins!! So many people never even crack them open (you know who you are!) and miss out on all sorts of stuff they might like to know.
  • This blog. Here you can find out stuff before anyone else does. You can find out what direction we're heading as a church, what our big hurdles are, how you can pray, and what kind of progress we're making. Many times, the stuff that comes out here eventually comes out on the platform, but you can get a heads-up before the rest (or if you miss a week visiting Aunt Gertrude, you won't come back saying, "When did we decide we're going to plant a church???")
  • The Prayer Posse. I send out an email (almost) every week to 50+ people in the church, detailing our prayer needs. This is not meant to be a newsletter, but the fact is that in order to pray effectively, people must know what is going on. So each email includes background info, as well as specific prayer requests. (Incidentally, for those without internet access, a print copy is available in your mailbox.) Not part of the Prayer Posse yet? Sign up here.
  • Our website ( Most of the information on the website is static, but you can always see what is going to be coming up for the worship services on Sunday, and there are also places to sign up for the Journey classes or get information about small groups or how to plug into ministries.

In the fall, in conjunction with the 40 Days of Community Campaign, "Let's Get 1t Together", we'll be launching a new communication tool, a revamped edition of the e-newsletter. It will be emailed every week, or every two weeks, and it will contain information that we don't include in the other communication tools, such as events at other churches or in the community, denominational news, youth and children's ministry updates, our church's finance figures, and little tibits like where to find the minutes from last month's Church Council meeting (labeled mailbox in the lobby).

Effective communication is extremely important; it's at the heart of every healthy relationship. Please understand that we are trying very hard to be as effective as we can possibly be in communicating well with this congregation.

HOWEVER... It is also important to understand that communication is a two-way street. When information is coming out, it's important that someone listen to it; otherwise, communication gets short-circuited. When information comes out and there is no feedback, it's hard to know if communication has occurred or not. We take our responsibilities as communicators seriously, but the recipients of communication have responsibilities, too.

I'm notorious for not being able to follow conversations in a crowded restaurant or at parties. I have trouble focusing in on one person and tuning out all the other conversations around me in order to hear them. It's not easy to block out noise, but it's the only way for effective communication to take place.

Ultimately, if we want our spiritual lives to have top priority, and if we are bound to one another in a spiritual community of faith, it means we all have to make church communications a top priority. We have to be intentional about sharing and listening so that it doesn't just get lost in the sea of noise.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Let's Get 1t Together

I mentioned in the services this morning that in September, we'll be launching a 40-day campaign called, "Let's Get 1t Together!" that will be based on the 40 Days of Community, a follow-up to the 40 Days of Purpose that our church did almost 3 years ago with Pastor Gayle. Whereas the intent of the first campaign was to discover the answer to the question, "What on earth am I here for?" this second one focuses on the question, "What on earth are we here for?"

For us at Pathway Community Church, I believe this campaign will give us the opportunity to join ourselves to one another in a stronger way around our mission, vision, and values.

  • Our mission is to meet people where they are on their spiritual journeys and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
  • Our vision is to become actively involved in planting new churches to reach the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family.
  • Our Core Values are Real Spirituality, Real Community, and Real Story--focusing on our relationships with God, with each other, and with the world.
These three things--our mission, vision, and values--explain why we exist, how we function, and where we are headed together. They are more foundational and more fundamental than anything else that can be said about us as a church. They represent the indespensable elements of our corporate life, and this is what we sign on to support and uphold when we make the pledge of membership.

Unfortunately, it is too easy to allow other things to creep in to our thinking--like believing the church exists so that I can have a nice group of people to be with, so that I can have fun activities to participate in, so that I can listen to the kind of music that I like, so that I can be around people who are like me. Whenever any of those thoughts surface, then we drift away from our mission, vision, and values; instead, we divide over the same things the rest of the world does: age, gender, race, socio-economic status, educational background, political persuasion, school districts, sports rivalries, etc.

We want to "Get 1t Together" and declare that none of that stuff matters--it's all temporal, insignificant, and pointless. It serves no purpose. Instead, we want to unite as a community around our mission, vision, and values--so that we are actually living out these indispensable elements of our corporate life, instead of just talking about them.

I'm currently putting together a planning team to coordinate the various elements of the 40-Day campaign. If you are interested or if you have questions, please email me. Additionally, I ask that all of you would pray that God would prepare us for this campaign, that he would accomplish his purposes through it, and that he would be glorified through a greater commitment and unity than we have ever seen in our church before!

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Soccer Camp In Review

I wanted to take a few inches here to devote to my reflections on Soccer Camp 2007. I would love to be able to share with you all sorts of stats and information, but unfortunately I don't have that available right now--be on the lookout for a comment to be added to this post once I can obtain that info.

What I do have are some random thoughts and observations:

  • It was great to see new people helping out with Soccer Camp! Many of our dependable soccer servants who have contributed their time and talents over the years were out of town this week, and it blessed my heart to see a number of new people step into key slots.
  • Our numbers were down this year. My understanding is that they've fallen somewhat steadily since the first year when we had over 100 kids. There are a number of potential factors: 1) We changed the week from what it has been previously, possibly affecting some families' plans; 2) Our new week coincided with a number of VBS and other church programs in the area (we didn't know this 4 months ago, of course); 3) Increased competition from area sports camps, day camps, and video games makes it harder to attract kids to church functions in general--there's just a lot more for kids to do these days; 4) More churches are offering soccer camps now, so it's not as unique a thing as it once was. The Life Development Team will be taking a look at these factors and evaluating the overall effectiveness of Soccer Camp as a ministry.
  • I think we did a better job than in the past of reaching out to the families who were here on our property. As I posted last week, we can host a great event, but it won't matter if we don't build bridges to the people who come to us. I saw many people making an intentional effort to strike up conversations with parents and grandparents. Way to go! We'll see what kind of results that might produce for attendance on Sunday mornings. Remember, it may not happen immediately--if you met someone new and hit it off, do what you can to follow up with them and build that relationship even more.
  • We didn't know what my availability for Soccer Camp was going to be until the last minute (because of my schedule at Olive Garden), so I wasn't put in charge of anything. It was really wonderful to be able to meet the families, introduce myself, and not feel the pressure of preparing a message for the kids or leading the singing. As it was, I worked about 80 hours last week, so I'm especially grateful to the people who stepped up and helped out in those areas. Terry and Loretta... you rock!

Once I find out, I'll pass on to you what we know about the families that were here--how many unchurched, how many who have not been at Soccer Camp previously. I'll also let you know how many decisions we had for Christ--I'm confident it will be fewer than we have had in the last couple years because we had fewer kids and because we focused more on building relationships with the families instead of trying to get kids to simply "pray the prayer."

I don't want to downplay a child's decision to receive Christ by any means, but as I've shared with you in a recent worship service, when a child is the first in his family to receive Christ, the rest of the family also become Christians only 3.5% of the time. I further suspect that the vast majority of those kids who grow up in a home without faith will not grow up possessing an authentic daily relationship with God through Christ. So our focus is now on reaching families, not just having kids accept Christ.

We're trying to become more effective in our outreach ministries--bearing fruit that will last (John 15:16). Don't miss your last chance to sign up for an outreach small group, which will meet over the next 4 weeks. Call the office (784-5388) this week if you are interested. I promise after you are a part of this group, you will gain confidence to reach out to the non-Christians around you every day. Don't miss this opportunity to let go of your fear!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Soccer Camp 2007

Well, I'm a couple days behind on my blog. Usually I try to get these done on Sunday, but it just didn't work out for me this week. Nevertheless, I want to focus us all on Soccer Camp, which "kicked" off last night.

Soccer Camp is one of our ministries that I believe exemplifies who we are as a church at our best and our worst. First, our best:

  • Although other churches have followed our lead since its inception, we were one of the first churches in this area to offer a summer Soccer Camp instead of a traditional VBS, illustrating our commitment to innovative, relevant ministry that benefits our community.
  • Soccer Camp makes creative use of the resources that we have, such as our property and pavillion. We do a great job of using what God has given us in creative ways.
  • Soccer Camp taps into the growing popularity of youth soccer in our community, just like we always try to relate the Christian faith to our everyday lives.
  • Soccer Camp has consistently provided us with more first-time decisions for Christ than all our other ministries combined.
  • Soccer Camp has had a variety of people involved in all aspects of leadership and direction over the years, yet it continues to operate smoothly because we've refined many of the logistical issues down to a science. It is one of the many things that we do consistently and with excellence.
  • Soccer Camp fits in perfectly with our church's focus on children and families, communicating that kids are important to us.

But as we look at Soccer Camp with new eyes, it also reflects some of the major weaknesses that are evident in our church on a broader scale:

  • We've never examined the actual kingdom impact of Soccer Camp (how are we doing at reaching the unchurched?), focusing instead on overall numbers and running our program with excellence.
  • Very few of us have used it as an opportunity to invite our unchurched neighbors and friends to bring their kids to.
  • We have not developed new relationships with families as a result of Soccer Camp, since there is little interaction between parents and church people.
  • We have provided a "hospitality tent" with refreshments and information about our church, which demonstrates a "come-to-us" attitude instead of a "go-to-them" attitude.

My goal is not to put down Soccer Camp or those who have led it or been involved in it. Instead, I just want to point out that I think its strengths and weaknesses over the years line up exactly with our church's strengths and weaknesses over that same time period. So if we're going to develop and change as a church, becoming more effective at reaching out beyond ourselves, maybe one of the first things to change is how we think of Soccer Camp and what we do at Soccer Camp (since that's what we're doing this week!). Here are some ideas:

  • As we see parents sitting in the grass watching their kids, let's go to THEM! We can even take cookies and lemonade from the hospitality tent and bring them refreshments. Let's find out their names, where they live, what kids they go with, what they do for a living, and start building relationships.
  • Let's find out whether they attend a church, and let them know they'd be welcome here if they were looking for a church family.
  • Let's pray for the people we meet, and pray for ourselves that God would show us the opporutnities that we have to meet people and that he would use us to help bring someone into our church.

I love doing things excellently, and I'm proud of the excellence of our ministries here at Pathway. But I don't really care about excellence for excellence's sake. I want to be excellent so that we can be even more effective in accomplishing the overall mission of our church--to meet people where they are on their spiritual journeys and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. If we're not doing that, then nothing else matters, no matter how smooth and well-done it is. Let's make sure that this year, Soccer Camp is about accomplishing our mission! Go Team!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Outreach Update

Well, since we issued the challenge in the worship services last week to become more outreach-focused, I have been so encouraged and inspired by the response from this congregation! The many commitments to get involved personally in reaching out to our community was far beyond what I expected, and I believe it represents a major answer to prayer. I have not yet gone through the sheets that were turned in this week, but last week alone brought commitments from nearly 50 people! Most made commitments in multiple areas. Praise the Lord!

With the number of people who signed up for the 4-week small groups that will be using the "Just Walk Across The Room" curriculum designed to teach people how to overcome the most common reasons that hold us back from personal evangelism, we are anticipating launching at least two of these groups. One group will be meeting on Monday evenings. The other will be determined by the schedules of the people signed up. One of the great things about this curriculum is that we are able to use it for free! We are using the surplus supplies from Brown Corners UB Church in Clare, MI. Again, praise the Lord for his (spiritual and financial) provision--supplying exactly what we need at the time we need it most!

Additionally, many people have indicated a desire to personally reach out to their unchurched friends and family--either by building those relationships, or actually inviting them to come to a church function, whether that be a worship service or some other event. We will be following up personally with each of those who made such a commitment, so that we can encourage, support, and pray specifically for them as they reach out.

For me, I'm starting to get into the swing of things at Olive Garden. Many of you have asked how this new job is going for me. It is definitely an adjustment, but I also am enjoying it a lot. I love to cook, and I am meeting a lot of great and interesting people. The management told everybody ahead of time that I'm a pastor (usually I try to keep that info under wraps when I'm out in public--it creates some weird reactions in people), so I've had to break through some stereotypes about who I am and what I'm all about. Nevertheless, it's been a good thing, too; some of the people there have been asking me questions about the church--what it's like, what kind of music we have, etc. I'm hopeful that I'll get the chance to build relationships and bring some of my new friends to church. You can all be praying for me as I try to reach out to my new coworkers, and also as I try to balance the demands of this new schedule, while keeping my own relationships with God and my family my top priorities.

I believe this is the dawning of a new era in the life of our church. The reality is that it has to be. We will not survive long-term if we don't make a serious and whole-hearted effort to make new disciples. This needs to be the central drive behind everything that we do. As we serve, we need to reach out. As we worship, we need to reach out. As we build our own relationships, we need to reach out. As we grow closer to God, we need to reach out. We need to continually be searching for ways to include more people in what we're doing because Christ died for more than just us--he died for the world. It seems cliche, I know, but it's true. Christ died for everyone around us, and he's given us the responsibility to reach them. Thank you all for your new (or renewed) commitment to evangelism. Now let's rise to the challenge and live out the true meaning of our faith! God has amazing things in store for us!