50th Anniversary Celebration

A few weeks ago, on July 21, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. On the next day (July 22), my siblings, spouses and other family hosted an open house in Fort Wayne. It was fun to stand back and watch as numerous friends came by and offered their congratulations to our parents…and there were a number of people who stopped by.

We moved to Fort Wayne when I began elementary school and lived in the same house until I graduated high school. We were members of the same church throughout that time and our family was pretty involved: youth group, Sunday School, children’s musicals, adult choir, Christmas and Easter pageants, various roles in church leadership and probably a few others not listed. Many of the relationships we had were through our church family. So, when the 50th celebration came around, many who attended were from the church.

I saw former Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, friends of my parents and past choir members. I wish I could say I remembered everyone’s name (I didn’t) or even recognized everyone who came through. It was apparent that many of those friendships ran deep as many conversations were going and many lasted for a while.

Several family members were there which also made the day special.

A 50th Anniversary is definitely worth celebrating and it was cool to see the ripple effect of my parents’ marriage. Not only were children, grandchildren, a great-grandson, a brother, a niece and cousin present, there were countless relationships and friendships represented. It’s hard to quantify the influence they have had on people in Indiana, Oklahoma, all the places they have traveled plus the places their family members have lived.

It was a good day and a couple worth celebrating.

Here are a few pics from the day.

Mom & Dad, Uncle John & Aunt Ginny, Niece Emilee and Cousin Janet

My siblings

Just a few of the people that came

A not-so-great family selfie at dinner following Open House

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Reason #199 Why We Love Small Groups

A few of our 2017 grads. Photo credit to one of our moms for snapping and sharing the pic.

Earlier in May we honored the class of 2017. It’s an annual event we do in our services where we bring our high school seniors on stage and recognize them for graduating. While it’s a regular thing we do (along with churches all across the country), each year is as unique as the members of each graduating class.

For the past few years we have asked our grads to fill out a brief questionnaire so we can make the recognition a bit more personal. Not all of our congregation knows every graduate by name so it’s an opportunity to highlight what our grads have achieved and what they have planned.

The last question for them to respond to was this: What is Your Best School Memory?

A couple of their answers show just why we love small groups.

I anticipated that our grads might point to homecoming or prom or an athletic or academic accomplishment. Some did. In fact, one of our grads was Homecoming Queen this year. Two of our grads finished #3 and #4 in their graduating class. Others enjoyed some athletic success.

But what two of our grads put down as their best memory had to do with their experience in small groups.

Here are the grads own words:

“I loved being kidnapped . . . by my small group leaders. It was always fun being surprised and spending the day with my small group.”

“My favorite memory is having our annual small group Christmas party/sleepover.”

Just another reason why we love small groups.

To the small group leaders out there: You are making an impact. You have influence. Sometimes we just have to wait until they graduate (or later) to see it or hear it.

To the small group leaders out there: Thank You!

Chase the Lion – Mark Batterson

chase-the-lion-mark-batterson-mobile-wallpaper-lion-and-textJust over five years ago I posted a review on Mark Batterson’s In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. Last week I finished reading a follow-up to it called Chase the Lion. The newest offering used In a Pit with a Lion as a literary springboard and continued looking at Benaiah as well as several other of David’s Mighty Men written about in the Old Testament.

The byline of Chase the Lion is this: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small. Through the pages of the book Batterson refers to David’s mighty men, followers of Jesus from scripture and history and contemporary Christ followers who live out this Lion Chaser manifesto.

As I was reading the book, I would mark quotes that stood out to me and then dog-eared the page so I could find them later. Upon concluding the book, I saw that I had a number of pages with bent corners. Batterson knows how to turn a phrase and pack a punch in a sentence of two.

On page 70 he had this good reminder for those who are chasing a dream God has given them: “We overestimate what we can accomplish in a year or two, but we underestimate what God can accomplish in a decade or two. If you’re discouraged, zoom out. you can’t just dream big; you have to think long.”

Good reminder.

One of the more powerful parts of the book for me personally was near the end when he wrote about the importance of thinking long-term when it comes to the work we are doing in the kingdom of God. Sometimes (or perhaps most of the time) we think about what God is doing for us or for those around us. On page 171 Batterson wrote, “We think that what God does for us is for us, but it’s never just for us. It’s always for the third and fourth generations. We think right here, right now, but God is thinking nations and generations.”

He shared several examples how men and women who lived and served generations ago are still impacting people today. Whether is was planting a church, starting a scholarship, launching a ministry or introducing someone to Jesus, Batterson showed how God used the efforts of previous men and women to impact third and fourth generations.

What a great picture to have in mind as we serve today. To think that the work we are doing now has the potential of impacting or grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren is both humbling and inspiring.

Batterson’s encouragement throughout the book is to continue to Chase the Lion. Whatever God has called to do, our task is to remain faithful and allow Him to take care of the results.

Is Facebook Dead? (Hint: it’s not…)

facebook-jaggedSocial media has changed the way we interact with each other and the world.  I saw a story on the news today that people are angry at Facebook for allowing false news story to be posted on the site.  The problem?  Those false news stories, some are saying, had a negative impact on our recent presidential election.  How true that might be is unclear, but it does speak to the fact that social media has a huge influence in our world.

I received an email this week from Jon Acuff with the title Is Facebook Dead?  I thought what he shared was pretty interesting in regards to how Facebook stacks up in numbers with other social media sites.

Near the beginning of this year I posted some information I read about the State of Social Media.  I have also shared an article about the growth of Instagram and other social media related topics.  I think it’s interesting to see what’s happening with real numbers compared to what other people are saying about the power and reach of various social media platforms.

Basically, that’s what Acuff shared.  In his article he gives information about the same article he posted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  While all of those social media sites showed good engagement from those who saw it, Facebook had the largest numbers far and away.

Here are the numbers:  On Facebook, it was shared 7,384 times. It was liked 18,000 times. And most importantly, it had a reach of 2,899,540 people. Let me repeat that. On Facebook, the post reached 2.8 million people.

Then Acuff made these two observations:

  1. If you’re an entrepreneur, ignore Facebook at your peril.
  2. Facebook might not be the coolest platform, but it is the most effective

You can see the entire article on Jon Acuff’s website.  If you are one who uses social media to engage others, this is pretty interesting information to think about.

It’s Max’s Gotcha Day!

IMG_3480Today is the day we celebrate the official entrance of Max into our family. This day last year we gathered with family and friends to sit in a Warren County, OH, court room before a judge to finalize Max’s adoption. While we met him just two days after his birth and had him in our custody shortly after that, it was finally official and legal on April 22, 2014.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since that transpired. Much has happened since that day and, as with everyone who reads this post, life has moved on.

The picture at the top of the page is Max on his Gotcha Day. Today he is walking, repeating a lot of words (some easier to understand than others) and constantly wanting to go outside. One of his most repeated words at this stage in his life is “Go!”

We are grateful for Max and look forward to how he will continue to grow, continue to change our family and influence those around him.

Syd’s Got A Blog

10455035About a week ago, I saw a tweet with a link to a WordPress blog and I discovered – my daughter has a blog!

So far she has just a few posts and I’m not sure what brought on the idea to blog. But, speaking as unbiased observer, it is pretty good. You should go check it out. Click here to go to Syd’s blog.

She has written about choosing joy and quotes The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews (a good book by the way).  She’s talked about being ready when opportunity comes knocking and how being prepared and opportunities coming your way seem to be related. Her third post looks at social media and our culture’s desire to be known and have influence in that arena.  All in all, I would say there are some good observations…coming from an a totally unbiased perspective, of course.

Happy reading!

Importance of Mentors

Apple_Podcast_logo-642x642This weekend served as a good reminder to me of the value of mentors in the lives of students. For the past 8+ years, we have made small groups a primary part of our student ministry. We connect students with adults who will meet with them on a regular basis to build relationships, to study God’s Word and to create a safe place to share both the trials and triumphs in life. This weekend, we experienced a couple of “wins” that reinforced the value of that.

I am learning the importance of celebrating the wins. We tend to focus on what’s not right or what didn’t work and there is value in pointing out when good things happen. Also, with the nature of small groups and student ministry in general, you don’t normally see fruit or results until later down the road.

This weekend one of our junior high boys small groups made an effort to invite and include another guy in their group. They saw the guy at church, invited him to come to small group, made sure they knew where he needed to meet and he showed up! While they were encouraged by their small group leader, the students made the invitation.

Another of our groups – a 6th grade boys group – just completed a challenge put forth by their leaders. Each boy was given a certain amount of money to invest into a kingdom project. Each boy was given the freedom to choose where to use that money. I just received a report from the leaders about what each boy did. That’s a win!

Then, this morning, on my way into the office, I was listening to the Catalyst Podcast. One of the interviews was with Josh Shipp, who leads a mentoring ministry.

He said the biggest problem our students face today is a lack of Christian, caring adults involved in their lives. He then shared these two statistics. Students who have a caring adult who is not mom or dad in their lives are 50% more likely to succeed and 50% more likely to stay away from things that are destructive. What he shared just continued to point to the importance of involving caring, Christian adults into the lives of our students.

The entire interview is a good as Josh shares his story of how mentors in his life made a huge impact on him. (The Mandisa interview which preceded his is good, too.). Check it out on the Catalyst website.

I’m so grateful for the adult leaders who have been (and still are) are a part of my own children’s lives and for the small group leaders that lead in our ministry. They are making a difference.