That’s right. Or at least that’s what’s going on here at the blog. I’m being blown by things going on around me. My mind is being filled by some good studies & conversations. My spirit is being revitalized by spending more time with my family, with God, and with some pretty amazing co-workers. My heart is being softened by hearing some incredible things from God’s word – things that are changing me.

But when it comes to the blog, I really got nothing right now. It’s all just churning inside & maybe it will begin to pour out soon. But I’m ok just soaking in for a while.

As far as just life updates, here goes:

Many of you know that in February I began working at Rancho Community Church & School, as pastor of communication. There’s a lot to do, A LOT. But I’m trying to take it easy, prioritize, set goals, and accomplish as much as possible while maintaining health (what a concept). On the church side I’m working hard on:

  • Web rebuild. From the ground up, we’re redesigning and re-architecturing the entire site. A huge project that should be completed in about 7 weeks.
  • Some re-branding. From the overall church to individual ministries & departments, we’re modernizing and bringing up the quality.
  • Kiosks. We’re implementing a culture shift from printed materials to digital media. So we’re building kiosks which will run computers linked to our website where people can get all the info they want/need instantly.

On the school side of things:

  • I setup my school office just last week. (That’s right I have 2 offices – inconvenient yes, but very necessary). I’m there Mondays & Thursdays – stop in and visit anytime!
  • I’m doing parent meetings – just inviting parents to come meet me (& Jen) and hear what my role is and my heart – and also to hear their ideas & concerns. So far I’ve done one meeting which went amazing. Looking forward to another one next week.
  • Advertising. Mailers, News ads, website, twitter, you know the drill.

And a little mind dump…

  • We moved… Again. This time hopefully we’ll be here for a long time. We moved out to a beautiful 5 acre place in wine country. It was a 2 edged sword: The condo we were in was practically unlivable because of the “environment”, luckily Jen found this place – it’s way more “us”.
  • I’m praying about ONE VOICE (last year’s worship gathering & hopefully this year’s as well).
  • I’ve got whiteboards FULL of ideas & not enough time in a week to even make a dent. And of course they are all the best ideas ever that will forever redefine how church functions, so of course they MUST be completed (read: sarcasm).
  • My son is almost 7! The time is flying by (I know, how cliche).
  • My daughter is continuing her terrible 2’s into the 3’s but she’s freakin’ CUTE!
  • I’m a new Francis Chan convert – can’t get enough of the old podcast.

So, for having nothing, I guess that’s something. But I’m not posting thoughts on leadership or how-to’s for church media. I’m just enjoying life and enjoying some health, coming back it feels like.

So I got to spend 5 hours at Catalyst West Coast at Mariners Church on Friday, thanks to a ticket from by good friend Eric Beeman. I went into work a little early to wrap up some important projects & headed out to the OC. I’ve always heard from anyone who’s gone to Catalyst that it is awesome – I’ve just never been in the position to go. Let’s just say I’m SO STOKED to have gotten to experience just the short time on Friday.

  • I got to rub shoulders with some cool friends: Eric, Jimmy, Bobby, Victor, Carlos, Steve, Troy, Bobbbie Joe, to name a few.
  • I got to jump into a “behind the scenes” tour from one of the guys from Visioneering, who help design/build some of the Mariners amazing campus.
  • Took a TON of photos – I love doing that, then I can refer back to them when we’re visionizing stuff at our church (Thanks to the Mariners tech guy who gave me 4 new AA batteries – how awesome is that?) Saw the Tom’s Shoes, Planning Center, & Renewed Vision booths – all AWESOME companies!
  • Got to hear Francis Chan live for the very first time – he wrecked me. Got to hear Perry Noble live for the first time as well – he inspired me.
  • Got to experience the wonder that is the stage, lights, and sound at Mariners – very impressive. I told Daniel @ranchocommunity’s tech meistro, that the bass made my insides rattle (which I like).
  • Twittered and Twitpic’d like crazy.
  • Got to eat dinner with some great people from Cornerstone (Livermore), who bought Eric & I’s dinner – awesome?!

I know, conferences are hit & miss – but I think it’s all what you make of it. When I go to a conference, I expect to be overloaded with information. I expect to get tired. I expect to be wowed. I expect to see & hear things that blow my mind. Then I go back to reality and try and apply a little bit, remember the places where God really spoke to my heart, and just grow a little bit more. I will say that I will be going to next year’s Catalyst West Coast – I really wanted to catch Andy Stanley, hopefull next year. And lastly, I want to give a shout out to LV Hanson, who tried to get me a sweet deal to go to entire conference, unfortunately I just couldn’t swing it this year. Thanks for trying LV! Were you there?

Planning center Being responsible for the order, timing, and flow of the weekend worship service and trying to inform everyone of what is planned can be a tall order week after week. I can’t even count on two hands the amount of times I’ve attempted creating a planning template for weekend worship services & presenting it. The over-zealous planner vs the fly-by-night worship leaders, teachers, pastors, announcers, and any other additions thrown into the mix.

Then I stumbled upon www.planningcenteronline.com – I can’t even remember how I found it! It must have been divine intervention. This is an online planning center that is totally web 2.0 looking – very easy to navigate through and packed with features designed just for the church. Plan your service from start to finish. Include preservice activities, worship songs, announcements (yuck!), videos, teaching, communion, offering, etc. As you add elements to your services, a running total adds up the time each event takes and keeps an updated total time so you can see how each addition affects the overall time.

This doesn’t just keep the events of a service organized, it is also a volunteer organizer, helping you keep track of your teams, scheduling and automatically emailing them & reminding them of rehearsals and services that they are scheduled for. Better yet – when they confirm their position, they can view the plan online with all the details – the songs, keys, charts, videos, etc. Did I mention that this becomes your worship leaders song database as well? Add songs to the schedule, upload the lead sheets, the mp3’s, make notes on arrangements – as you add songs to your database, planningcenteronline shows you how often you play songs, when the last time you played it, etc.

If all this is not making you drool all over your keyboard, there is also a matrix view that let’s you look at weeks at a time so it becomes super easy to plan songs, videos, promo’s, teams, speakers weeks in advance. You can also look back in time to see what has happened in the past weeks – remember you did that really cool new song? You forgot to do it again! Let’s plan it for this week!

Check it out here – you can sign up for a 30 day FREE trial, after that you can sign up for plans from $10 or so per month.

One of my long time personal favorite people is Louie Giglio. He used to teach at 722, a singles worship service at Northpoint Church in Atlanta. Now he heads up the Passion movement, and sixstep records (Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, David Crowder, Matt Redman). Quite the resume‚ If you’ve never heard of him or any of the above ministries, then you have some catching up to do. Every year for the past few years, Louie and company (the above worship leaders, along with Beth Moore and John Piper) have gathered tens of thousands of college students to Passion – a multiple day teaching and worship event that draws people from all corners of the USA. There they are exposed to deep and challenging theological teaching and top notch worship music, and challenged to ‚“not waste their lives.
Anyway check out what Louie has to say about worship here – some really good stuff.

If you know me, you know I’m a “Raving Fan” of Chick-fil-A. I’ve always been a fan – the food is great, the atmosphere is so positive, and like I’ve told my wife, I’ve never even had a “not great” experience there. When we go there and we’re fumbling around with the kids, their stuff, our stuff, trying to order, find a seat, and all that – it’s nice to have a smiling face and even nicer to have the food brought to the table.

When I first came to Rancho, I had this crazy idea of pulling our entire staff together to encourage them and remind them that we (church/school) are one team, with one vision and mission. I had just heard Dan Cathy speak at the Saddleback Worship Conference, and was blown away with his presentation; and, I remembered that Chick-fil-A had brought lunch to our VBS about a month earlier, so I called them up with two requests:

A. How does one go about getting Dan Cathy to speak at an event?
B. Would they be interested in feeding our staff?

Well, number two was easy for them as they just had to cook up 180 Chick-fil-A Sandwiches. Number one was a little bit harder – Dan Cathy lives in Georgia, so getting him out here was not that easy. However, Andrew (his son), works in Southern California and was available. He came and spoke and really made the day inspirational – talking about “Operational Excellence, 2nd Mile Service, and Emotional Connections”. We were so appreciative of Andrew and our local (Temecula) Chick-fil-A.

 

There was a time when I was a frequent blogger, posting at least 5-7 times a week. I usually blogged on churchy ideas, worship stuff, funny stuff, design stuff, and family stuff. Then I got rid of my internet and resigned my position at my church. Then I got a new position, at a new church/school, and still didn’t get internet – so no blogging. Then I got a new position at the same church/school, and decided it was time to get internet again, at home that is. The whole time I’ve been wondering if I’d ever really blog again – the answer is still up in the air. Anyhow, that’s the intro for this post.

Over the past year my main job has been in customer service. I’m the Admissions & Family Relations Director at Rancho Christian Schools (I also am designing, brainstorming, and doing odds & ends for the church, but that’s another story). A huge part of my job has been and continues to be helping our parents (and sometimes staff) when they “hit walls” at our school. Maybe they can’t get the information they need, maybe they are in a conflict and need a mediator, maybe a staff member hasn’t been as courteous as we’d like them to be, maybe they have an idea and just need to be empowered, maybe we’ve just made a mistake and we need to own up to it.

So I thought I’d begin sharing some of what I’m learning when it comes to “Customer Service”. For those more churchie people, this would be framed around acting Christ-like (humbling yourself, walking the extra mile, washing feet, the one-anothers, etc). These are just some cool quotes that I found and thought I’d share, to inspire myself and anyone who’s reading:

From “Spreading His Gospel of Warm and Fuzzy“:

  • “You do not have to be the very best in your business to be people’s favorite,” Ms. Salgado explained. “It’s all about how you make people feel.”
  • Mr. Meyer, who serves up labels and analogies as readily as foie gras, calls his approach the Virtuous Cycle of Enlightened Hospitality: Employees focus first on pleasing one another — creating a warm-and-fuzzy energy that fuels the staff as it tends to patrons, the community, suppliers and, ultimately, a company’s backers. Meyer restaurants offer employees a variety of rewards, from bonuses to birthday cakes; employees, in turn, have discretion to give customers free extras.
  • Mr. Meyer always looks to hire what he calls “51 percenters” — people whose job skills are 51 percent emotional and 49 percent technical. Managers can teach technical skills, the theory goes, but cannot recalibrate someone’s emotional makeup.
  • “Skunking,” for instance, refers to “spraying contagious, negative energy into the workplace.” But because skunks spray when they are frightened, as Ms. Salgado explained, co-workers are encouraged to make a “charitable assumption” — Meyer-speak for the benefit of the doubt — and approach the fragrant employee with respect, trust and perhaps an offer of help and support.
  • The “jazz level” refers to how excited one is to be at work, while A.B.C.D. means “always be connecting dots” — collecting clues about what a customer wants. “In hospitality,” Mr. Meyer has written, “one size fits one!”
  • “It has now become almost impossible to distinguish your business based on innovation or execution for more than about two seconds,” he said. “In this next economy, if you want to distinguish yourself as being the best and being the favorite business within your category, the only thing left is the hospitality experience.”
  • “Ten or 15 years ago, we were the only place to get a Mac fixed, and now there are lots of choices,” Mr. Lerner said. “It’s not enough to do a perfect repair if the customer feels you were grumpy or you kept them waiting too long.”
  • Lakythia Ferby, who directs the center, said she created a staff-appreciation program in which co-workers take note of each others’ high performance and nominate them — using a form headed, “Kudos, you were caught doing good!” — for a reward of a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

From “Compete for Customers, not Against Them“ (a novel concept!):

  • Have you ever sensed an adversarial, “us vs. them” mentality from employees of service organizations?
  • Always compete for customers, not against them. You’ve probably heard the saying: “You never win an argument with a customer.” It’s true. Even if you have signage to point to or a policy to support you, if you’ve offended a customer then you lose—maybe a little or maybe a lot.
  • The next time that you draw a line in the sand between you and your customers, consider inviting them to cross the line. That way, you can be on the same side.
  • PS – Check out the authors blog and follow him on Twitter.

There’s some powerful concepts in those articles. We’re working through some of these very issues so the questions on my mind are:

  • In what ways do we find ourselves competing AGAINST customers? Let’s stop doing those things.
  • In what ways can we compete FOR customers? Let’s start doing those things.
  • How can we create that “warm and fuzzy” environment in our staff; what are some practical things that other organizations do to accomplish this?
  • What are the best ways to confront staff (and help them realize) who struggle with being “grumpy” or “skunking” people?

This is a picture of the Governor of California. He’s got very large muscles. That has nothing to do with this post.

I’m reading “Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity” and just sharing my reflections here. I love the book. I love reading about stuff like this. And I love thinking about how it applies to my world. In this case, how it applies to our church/school organization at Rancho Community Church and Rancho Christian. Here we go. (part 1 is here).

Chapter 1: The Case for Connection at Work

…connection is invisible, yet has a very real effect on the behavior of people.

…unless the people in an organization have a strong sense of connection – a bond that promotes trust, cooperation, and esprit de corps – they will never reach their potential as individuals, and the organization will never reach its potential.

We have so much potential, could a lack of connection be a barrier to our potential?

Employees in an organization with a high degree of connection are more engaged; more productive in their jobs… feel energy, empathy, and affirmation.

Connection transforms a dog-eat-dog environment into a sled dog team that pulls together.

(research shows that) 75 percent of workers do not feel engaged or connected at work.

The state of many organizations today is like that of a bodybuilder who exercises only one arm. The result: one bulging bicep and three skinny, underdeveloped limbs.

What are some of our strengths & weaknesses?

Widespread disengagement is a waste of human talent and energy. It’s not healthy…

So What? Increasing connection in the workplace is a significant opportunity to improve the performance of individuals and organizations.

Do we feel a need to increase connection in our organization?
How significant is connection at our church/school work environment?
How are we seeking to improve the performance of individuals? Ex: maybe we need more accountability in our workplace to help people reach their potential. If we simply impose new accountability measures without first making personal connections, we cause people to distrust, act fearfully, defensively, become suspicious of or all-together reject change.

I’m making my way through “Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity.” So far, I’ve found it to be an incredibly powerful book with some real applicable leadership principles. After I got about half way through it, I recommended that our executive staff at Rancho Community go through it. Rather than all reading it, I’m now leading our staff through a weekly short synopsis of each chapter. So I thought I’d just share my notes here on the ol’ blog for anyone interested. These are just some powerful quotes and a few of my thoughts intermingled (my thoughts in italics). If you like this, then you should get the book, seriously.

Fired Up or Burned Out: Introduction
People generally enter their organizations fired up, over time most work environments most work environments reduce that flame to a flicker. Solving this problem needs to be one of the highest priorities of today’s organizations.
Do you thrive or survive? Which term describes what your work culture is doing to you? How would the people who report to you answer that question?

We Must Connect with Others to Thrive
Connection meets the basic human psychological needs for respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth, and meaning. When these needs are met we thrive.
Lack of connection will gradually burn us out… environments where connection is low or absent diminish our physical and mental health.
Connection makes us better problem solvers, more creative, more trusting, and more cooperative. Trust and cooperation are the lubrication that make the tasks of organizations run better.

The Competitive Advantage of Connection (Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks, JetBlue pg. xxii) – This is an interesting part of the book where the author talks about how some of these companies that are taking steps and putting for major initiatives to connect with people. One story is of Southwest Airlines and their supervisor to worker ratio of 10 to 1, which is off the charts, compared with other companies that are much higher like 40 to 1. I love hearing about companies that take the extra steps to make connections like that, especially with their employees – you just know creating that kind of culture builds trust and keeps the team aligned in vision and focus.

…connection is a necessity to any organization that aspires to achieve sustainable superior performance.

It is possible to thrive at work and be a catalyst for positive change.

That last line means a lot to me because I want nothing more than to be catalyst for positive change – that’s the world I live in. I’m all about change – I find it fascinating. Our level of connection is proportional to our tolerance for change – if we are disconnected, un-trusting, and unsure, change scares us, even offends us. So I’m learning to create more connections, to build trust, collaborate, and listen more than ever now.

How connected are you in your organization? What are some creative things you’ve done to build connections with your teams, with your customers, clients, or congregation?

It’s been a busy few weeks! I was sick for like a week and a half – I was only down for a couple days, but I felt pretty gnarly the whole time. Anyway, I missed blogging a few things and just thought I’d catch up.

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Last week my dad turned 60! I know, that’s pretty crazy. He’s such a cool guy – the best grandpa you’ve ever seen! We did a little surprise party for him, which was like a local reunion of sorts with the church that I used to be a youth pastor at – it was so good to see a bunch of old friends and celebrate my dad.

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A very good friend of mine, Trasier, invited us over to hang out and we got to connect with his family and some other old friends, the Beavers. This is a picture of their girls and our kids hanging out. Its amazing how old friends can instantly reconnect and have a great time together.

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We discovered “Guitar Hero Word Tour”. One word: AMAZING! We love playing Guitar Hero 2 as a family on our Wii, this just takes it to another level. Even better songs (Sweet Home Alabama, Are You Gonna Go My Way, La Bamba, etc), online playing, downloadable songs, record your own songs, drums, guitar, bass, vocals – it’s awesome. Of course, we only rented it. Maybe we’ll get it for Christmas. And yes, Macy plays Guitar Hero on a Uke!

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Me and Jen got to attend another South West Church Planters Forum and hear my great friend Eric lead worship. These are such a great resource in our valley for pastors, planters, and leaders in local churches – great networking, great food, and just refreshing.

Photo_103008_007Halloween! Actually the day before. We went to Jen’s Grandparents place, a local elder care place. The kids got to trick or treat to all the folks who lived there, plus we celebrated Jen’s Grandpa’s birthday. That’s Miles as Darth Vader – of course! Macy’s on the end as a princess, and then their good friends Ella and Allie. (Not sure who the other kids are!).

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Miles had a park day for his school, Santa Rosa Academy. By the way, we are very pleased with our decision to send him to a charter school. He’s in school two full days a week, and home for the rest. We work with him on the other days – sort of like home school. He’s got some great friends and he’s already in 1st grade reading/writing. We’re very proud of him!

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Miles is now a 4 stripe white belt and he tests tomorrow (Friday) night for his yellow belt. He’s doing his ‘forms’ all over the house and looks like a stud! Again, we’re SO proud of him.

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Macy had Pajama Day at her school last week! She LOVED it! Got to wear her princess jammies to school and bring her baby. She was so cute – she’s such an awesome little girl.

We’re truly blessed!

This is a new blog series that I’m going to work through. Let me just begin by sharing that over the past year my life as I’ve connected with more an more people outside my little ‘Temecula Circle’ – I’ve become more aware, or more attracted to generosity. I love reading stories about people who come together to give back, give away, help, share, whatever – all in the name of love, of help. A little sappy I know, but something’s happening to me, to our family.