What a Mess!

People are messy.

You're a mess.  I'm a mess.

Everybody's a mess.

A small percentage of people have cleaned up their mess pretty well.  Most have cleaned up all the visible mess but have mold growing in the walls.  A few folks' mess is on display for all to see.

In other words.  People are broken.  There are things deep inside that cause stress, breed resentment, elicit fear, that–simply put–hurt.

Now, take two or three or ten messy people and put them together...

You've got a mess on your hands. Mess from wrongdoing, mess from personality differences, mess from past hurts...

But you've also got opportunity for growth, healing, deep friendship, and real love.

That's what Heather Zempel-Discipleship Pastor at National Community Church-writes about in Community is Messy.  If you're going to develop real relationships, let people into your life to know you and dive into their lives and know them, it's not going to be a clean enterprise.

Heather dives head first into the mess, drawing on 10+ years of experience on staff at NCC, a masters in biological engineering, and many attempts at intentionally creating community among small groups of people. I cannot recommend her book to you highly enough.

Now for a caveat and a counter to it.  Heather is my boss on NCC's Discipleship Team, so I'm sure my recommendation is biased.  But the fact that I work for Heather also means that I know she's the real deal.  She has opened her life–allowing others into her mess–and has willinglydove into the mess of the lives of others... including myself.

Leaders Must Live in Rhythm

A couple of weeks ago NCC had its summer leadership summit.  We typically provide leadership training, and this summer Heather, our Discipleship Pastor, decided to do a series of  TED-style talks around the theme “Leaders must…”

I spoke on living in rhythm.

The other topics/speakers were:

I Fall – Off Bikes

Have you ever fallen?  I mean really fallen?  Fallen well, gotten swallowed up by a pit in the sidewalk, skidded across the ground at the top of an escalator, or nearly killed yourself on a trampoline?

I’m pretty sure I don’t actually hang out with people who don’t fall.

Personally, I’m pretty sure footed.  I might slip on the stairs occasionally or stumble a bit, but I rarely actually go tumbling down.

When I fall, it’s off a bike.

When I was a kid I was always crashing.  It may have had something to do with my jumping dirt hills and biking through construction zones… and we didn’t wear helmets.  Shoot, we didn’t even have them.

Now that I’m all grown up, I live in the city without a car, which means I bike everywhere, even to the store.

A couple of summers ago I was carrying some bags home on my handlebars when one that was hanging a bit too low swung into the spokes and immediately seized up my front tire, sending me flying over the handlebars.

Fortunately, I managed to catch myself before my face smacked the pavement, but I was still in pretty bad shape.

A week or so later I helped some friends move.  Lemme tell you, the arm still hurt, which isn’t that surprising given that when I finally went to the doctor she told me that my arm was broken.

Perhaps the funniest part was the people who asked me if I was wearing a helmet when I crashed.  As I told them, yes, but that didn’t help my arm much.

Thanks to Heather, Maegan and Jenilee for the inspiration.  As Heather said, there’s no real lesson here, just a laugh.

You Need People

Leadership Lesson #19: If you have no one to talk to, confide in, process with, etc., you’ll collapse under the weight of what you’re doing.

There’s little in ministry I value more than sharing an office with Chris Jarrell, sitting around the corner from Heather Zempel, and being just a phone call away from Paul Irwin.

These are people I go to for advice and counsel or just to tell that I’m having a tough day.  Leadership is full of difficult decisions and situations. Sometimes I make a mistake and need someone to help me get perspective.  Sometimes I’m at a loss for what to do.

I don’t think we were meant to lead alone. Jesus had Peter and James and John.  Paul had Timothy and Aquilla and Priscilla and Barnabas.  Elijah had Elisha.  Daniel had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Sure, there are plenty of Biblical examples of men of God who were lone rangers, but we don’t read that and think, “Wow, that’s great!  How wonderful it was for them to be alone!”

Maybe you’re planting a church or pastoring a small congregation and you don’t have the luxury of having other pastors on your staff.  I’d encourage you to develop a relationship with a pastor from another church or to begin to work more closely with an elder who you trust.

Whatever you do and wherever you are, don’t try to go it alone.  Ministry can and does ruin good people. Our relationships help us maintain our spiritual and emotional health.

Leaders are Limited

Leadership Lesson #22: There’s a limit to your leadership.  You need other people.

I have always been a capable person.  If you give me a project, it is highly likely that I will get it done and do it well.

I like to tackle the whole project myself.  I want to make sure it gets done right, and as you know, that means I have to do it. Any task that needs to be accomplished, no matter how big or how small, I want to personally handle.

See any problems with my approach?

  1. By the time the project is done, I’m exhausted. I’ve micromanaged every detail to make sure it’s right, but doing so has left me completely drained.
  2. I’m not good at everything, so the end product lacks the benefits that someone with different strengths could have brought.
  3. It isn’t scalable. Either I’m dooming my organization/department to remain small forever, or I’m dooming myself to a small role within that organization.

Fortunately, I have a good mentor.  The first question Heather Zempel asks when embarking on a new project or initiative is, “Who should be on my team?”

By building a team you:

  1. Distribute the workload so that you’re not overwhelmed.
  2. Gain access to more resources. Your team members likely have strengths that complement your weaknesses, plus they have access to relationships and networks that you do not.
  3. Develop new leaders. By giving others meaningful responsibility you begin to develop them as leaders, exponentially increasing the capacity of your organization by dramatically expanding its human capital.

See how each of these solves the problems with my (former) approach?  Yes, in the short run it’s very possible that your output will suffer as you focus on training, team building, leadership development, and quality control, but in the long run you will increase your impact and influence exponentially.

Twice recently I handed off a project to a team member.  Both times quality suffered some, and I even got some pushback from superiors because of that.  But the end result was that I empowered those people to see a project through and significantly reduced my stress level, a worthwhile trade-off in my mind.

The Greatest Candy

The theme of NCC‘s 2009 Leadership Retreat is Greater Things, and we want to give people the greatest candy. So we’re taking a poll to find out which of these candies is the greatest, but this isn’t just any poll. We’re having a Team D (NCC Discipleship Team) showdown. John “Skittles” Hasler, Heather “Snickers” Zempel, and I each picked one candy for the poll, and whichever candy gets the most votes will be given to all of the attendees at the retreat.

In other words, PLEASE vote Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!

Transition and Inauguration

No, it’s not what you’re thinking. For the past couple of weeks Dave Schmidgall and I have been transitioning into the campus pastor role at NCC’s Union Station location. Today was Chris Jarrell‘s last day there, and Dave and I handled most of the campus pastor responsibilities while Chris was preaching.

Heather Zempel wrote a post a couple of days ago about how doing church in DC’s Union Station can be interesting. Heather had this to say:

Come to the 9am service at Union Station and you might run into the naked homeless guy taking a bath at the sink. I’m not kidding. That’s what Pastor Dave encountered one morning during service set-up. Doing church in movie theaters keeps things interesting…and keeps church closer to what Jesus probably had in mind, IMHO.

Last week I took care of a dead mouse, no big deal. This week I got to peel a condom off the floor. I’d consider that my inauguration.

P.S. We’re always looking for volunteers. Let me know if you’re interested in helping out.

2009 Goals, Plans, Resolutions

What are my goals, plans, and resolutions for 2009? Well, I’ll be posting those throughout the day but first, a bit of New Years resolution housekeeping.

NCC (especially Mark Batterson) is big on encouraging people to set goals. So here are some tips that I’ve picked up about goal setting while being at NCC.

From Heather Zempel, goals should be SMART.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Require Faith
  • Time-Related

I think the easiest way to explain is to give an example. One of my goals for 2009 is to strengthen my relationship with God. That’s pretty vague. How to I determine if I’ve accomplished that goal? So, I need to break it down.

For the month of January I plan to go through the Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer every morning. That is specific. I can measure my success or failure. It is certainly something that is doable, but it will not be easy. I’m not a morning person. Waking up 45 minutes early every morning will take quite a bit of effort. Finally, it has an end point. This gives me something definitive to strive for, ensures that there is a time certain when I can evaluate the accomplishment, and frees me from the impossible task of committing to something for the rest of my life.

Heather also talks in that same blog post about breaking goals down into categories. I’m planning to use the categories:

  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Devotional
  • Creative
  • Ministerial
  • Relational
  • Personal

One more important point, in his sermon on Sunday, Mark encouraged us not to set too many goals. If you plan to change everything in your life at one time, you’ll inevitably fail. Ever tried to move from a fast-food diet and no exercise to something like Body-for-LIFE while committing to having dinner as a family 5 nights a week, spend less time at work, become a more avid reader, improve your golf game, and invest more time at your church? FAIL

Take steps. Take steps that require faith. Take steps that are big and meaningful, but don’t try to do everything at once. For example, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m putting my book on the back burner to focus on other things. I’ve got too much going on right now to commit to that. I’d rather do a few things well than do everything poorly.

Group Life 2008 – Heather Zempel & Mark Batterson – Where Community Grows Best

Main Session 2

Description: The high-achieving, highly mobile, de-churched neighborhoods of Washington, DC, aren’t ideal environments for small group ministry. Yet, National Community Church is making it work. Learn about their “organic approach” to community and how you can see group life flourish despite harsh surroundings.

Speakers’ Bios:

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. In 2007 Outreach Magazine recognized NCC as one of the 25 Most Innovative Churches in America. One church with eight services in four locations, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations. 73% of NCCers are single twenty-somethings and 70% come from an unchurched or dechurched background. The vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the metro DC area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. In 2007, Ebenezers was recognized as the #2 coffeehouse in the metro DC area by AOL CityGuide.

Mark is the author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase: Reclaiming the Adventure of Pursuing God.

A native Alabamian, Heather Zempel invested her parent’s money and six years of her life at Louisiana State University earning bachelors and masters degrees in biological engineering. She finally left Cajun country to apply her newly acquired skills as a consultant at an environmental engineering firm and later as a policy advisor in the United States Senate. She now engineers environments that foster community and spiritual growth as the discipleship pastor at National Community Church in Washington, DC. Heather and her amazing husband Ryan can be found on Capitol Hill enjoying theater (from the audience or the stage) and settling arguments with Webster’s Dictionary. Check out her daily ramblings at www.discipleshipgroups.blogspot.com.


Okay, starting off, I’m excited for this session. Mark and Heather are my bosses at NCC.

MB: We needs lots of different kinds of churches because there are lots of different kinds of people.

It was the first weekend of January 1996. It was our first Sunday as pastors of National Community Church. It was also the weekend of the blizzard of ’96: two feet of snow. We had three people, my wife, myself, and our baby Parker. The good news is that with 19 people the next Sunday, we had 633% growth in the first week.

I had never pastored a church, and it was baptism by immersion. It was tough. I used to lead worship and would close my eyes because it was too depressing. We’d start with 6-8 people.

The school we were meeting in got closed down for fire code violations, and if the church had died, only two dozen people would have known or cared. But sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is hang in there.

But somewhere in the back of my head I remembered that Willow Creek had started in a movie theater, so I went in to meet the manager at the Union Station theaters. They had just started a campaign to rent out their facilities during off hours. It was like God was in the middle of this thing!

I started with the traditional idea of renting a building until you can buy one, but in our neck of the woods, Capitol Hill, land goes for about $10 million an acre. I began to realize that our location was perfect. We were in the most visited destination in Washington DC with our own subway system, food court, etc.

We also own and operate the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. Coffeehouses aren’t just a place to get coffee, they are postmodern wells. They’re the places that people just hang out.

Every day we have hundreds of people come through our coffeehouse. On Saturdays we have two services there. On Monday we have Alpha groups that meet there.

We are in a unique place. We are 73% single twentysomethings. We have 40-50% turnover every year(?).

Without the favor of God I don’t want to be in ministry, do you?

As our staff has grown through the years, I realized how much you enjoy doing ministry has a lot to do with who you are doing ministry with. The quality of your ministry will also begin to depend less on your competence and more on that of the people you work with.

God will not grow our churches beyond our capacity to disciple people. In other words, all of the pressure is on Heather.

HZ: Before coming on staff I was a biological engineer, so that happens to be the lens through which I view ministry.

I know some of you are groaning because you were the kids who hated science in school.

One of the most profound stories I heard in the science world is from a cereal company that wanted to replace it’s old equipment because it took equipment from a 5 story building to produce irregularly shaped cereal. The engineers figured out how to reduce the process to a machine that produced perfect cereal and was the size of a tabletop. However, no one wanted to buy the cereal.

I have a bad habit of going to conferences like this, finding the perfect model or system, and trying to implement it without regard to the specific culture where I am. You can have a perfect small group model that will produce perfect disciples, but if the people in your congregation won’t get involved with it, then it ceases to be the perfect system.

We’re going to talk about some of the catalysts that push forward the growth of community in the context in which we do ministry.

Don’t confuse the outcome with the methods. The outcome for us is people who are living and growing in community. There might be a number of processes that will get you to the outcome.

MB: 1. Everything is an experiment

Neurologists sub-divide the brain into regions responsible for a variety of functions.

THe visual cortex responsible for the optical nerve

The pre-frontal lobe (?) is responsible for spacial operations.

The medial ventral pre-frontal cortex is the east of humor.

Your left brain is the locus of logic, and your right brain is the locus of creativity or imagination.

Those hemispheres are connected for about 300 million nerve fibers called the corpus collosum. Female brains have about 40% more connections between the hemispheres. Men have 20% more bone density.

Over the course of time there is a cognitive shift from right brain to left brain. At some point we stop doing ministry out of right brain imagination and start doing it out of left brain memory. We stop dreaming and start remembering. I think God has called us to creativity. It’s not optional. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.”

We believe that there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet.

What we try to do at National Community Church is approach everything we do in an experimental fashion.

Here’s what’s beautiful about this. How many of you as leaders have found that no matter how God-ordained your vision is, there are some people who will oppose it. So, if someone says, “I don’t think we should be doing that.” You know what our comeback is? “It’s just an experiment.” If it doesn’t work we’ll stop doing it. If it does, we’ll try to do it better.

This gives you the freedom to fail, the freedom to try new things, and to create what you want the future to look like.

HZ: One of the experiments we started about 4 years ago was running our small groups on the semester system. And this is one of those times when your context is important. We have a ton of college students and Hill staffers.

We’ve found that people are a lot more willing to try out a group if they’re only going to make an 8 to 12 week committment. How many of you really want to sign up for a 5 AM prayer group that meets in perpetuity? The fear is that people won’t stick with it, but we’re finding that isn’t true. People will join as long as they can see the exit sign.

We’ve had situations where people have been in the middle of year-long inductive Bible studies of Romans. That’s great, except that in the middle of it people may realize they’re struggling with relational and sexual purity and need out to address the issues they’re dealing with.

MB: We had quite a bit of resistance when we started.

So first, we said, let’s just try this. It’s an experiment.

Second, we allowed long-standing groups to keep meeting.

We take a break in August. And there was some concern that we’re taking a break from God, but we are supposed to be teaching people to feed themselves. Also, it allows our leaders, who invest so much time and energy in their groups.

HZ: We’ve tried some digital discipling as well. We’ve started zonegathering.com, a blog for our leaders, and a lot of our groups have started their own blogs, places where they can have discussion throughout the week.

MB: I love technology, but I am inept. I have our kids help me through the DVD. I walk through our media department and ask them if they need any non-tech support.

I started blogging because I felt like I lost connection with people as our church got larger, and it allowed me a way to connect with them.

There was some thing where people felt like technology would stifle community, but exactly the opposite has happened.

I follow our church staff on Twitter. It allows me to know when someone had a rough night because their kid was sick.

We need to redeem technology for Christ.

HZ: You promised a bad experience, and I don’t have any, so you want to share one?

MB: We decided to do a Rock Band tournament as a fundraiser for a missions trip. It worked well. We raised about $1000. Note to self: you might want to check the lyrics before you do that. But here’s the thing. It’s that dimension of leadership where you take God very seriously, but you don’t take yourself very seriously. You know how you laugh at yourself. You try stuff, you experiment with stuff.

HZ: 2. Maturity does not equal conformity

Modulus of Elasticity: How much force can you apply to an object to deform it without which it will not be changed.

Each object has a yield point at which it can no longer go back to its original self.

The modulus of elasticity is important when thinking about spiritual growth. We’ll take people to a retreat or get them in a small group but not push them beyond their yield point, so they come back and return to their old self. We need to push them beyond their yield point.

We decided to allow small groups to emerge from the creativity of our leaders. We told people that we want to build community and make disciples; how you do that is up to you. We’ve got groups doing inductive Bible studies, reading books, serving the homeless. A few years ago one of my leaders wanted to start a group around fantasy baseball. I trust Nathan. I told him we wanted to make disciples of Christ, not disciples of the Phillies. The guys got together to pick their teams. Then they adopted a little league field. Every so often they go out and take care of the field. People began to ask questions. There’s now an NCC banner hanging in the outfield. Our staff had nothing to do that.

MB: We call this our free-market system of small groups. We’re speaking descriptively, not prescriptively, but this has worked well for us.

We take our leaders though a 3 hour leadership course and have them sign a leadership covenant. We want people to be part of a small group before they lead a small group. We expect our leaders to get a vision from God and go with it. Are there groups we’ve said no to? Yes. Are there groups that ended up being very marginal? Yes. How many of you have a committee in your church that should have died 20 years ago? That’s the great thing about the free-market system. If no one shows up to your group, you don’t have a group.

Oswald Chambers: Let God be as original with others as he was with you.

HZ: 3. Expect the Unexpected

MB: Spiritual growth is a conundrum. The key to spiritual growth is establishing routines. We call them spiritual disciplines, but when a routine becomes a routine, we have to change our routine. When I’m in a spiritual slump, it’s because I need to get out of our routine. Change of pace plus change of place equals change of perspective.

In physical exercises routine eventually becomes counterproductive. Your muscles adapt and stop growing.

The disciples didn’t know what Jesus would do next. He overthrew money-changers in the temple, walked on water, and then healed someone on the Sabbath. Jesus could have healed someone on any other day, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun with the Pharisees. A good leader’s got to have a good curveball.

You cannot overappreciate your small group leaders.

HZ: We wanted to bless our leaders beyond anything they could imagine, so we went to Five Guys burgers and went into the Senate and House office buildings and took burgers not only to our leaders but also to their offices.

MB: 4. Love People When They Least Expect it and Least Deserve It

We want a culture of experimenting, originality, etc., but when you get right down to it, where does community grow best? In an environment that is graceful and respectful. John 1:14 – Jesus was full of grace and truth.

We need both of those things. Let me speak bluntly. We live in a culture where it’s wrong to say that something is wrong, and that’s wrong. I live in a city where it’s all about being politically correct. I’m going to be biblically correct. This generation wants the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, the hard truth. Let’s stop answering questions that no one is asking.

If you want to impact someone’s life, love them when they least expect it and least deserve it. When a woman is caught in adultery and brought to Jesus, she expects to be stoned. Jesus stepped in and loved her when she least expected it and least deserved it.

If you can try to love people when they least expect it and least deserve it, you can create a culture where amazing things happen.

Group Life 2008 – Community and Social Media

Pre-Conference Experience


Cynthia Ware: thedigitalsanctuary.org

Heather Zempel: National Community ChurchWineskins for Discipleship

Frank Chiapperino: Christ Church of the Valley

Mac Lake: Seacoast

Mark Howell – smallgroupresources.net

Description: FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter… is it possible to experience “virtual” community without ever meeting face-to-face? (Does iChat count as face-to-face?) Join some of the top bloggers in Group Life for a hearty conversation about technology and community.


CW: Technology is not a cure-all, and yet it is a tool. Our perspective on that tool and how we choose to use it is a stewardship tool, in the same way that you can use a knife to hurt or to heal (surgery).

Online technology fosters communication.

I’m not an advocate of forcing technology on people. There’s a lot of hype around new media right now. That will expand even more. We will be video-streaming our lives online, but there is no press on anyone that you have to be involved. There is a difference, especially generational, and we have to be sensitive to that. BUT, if people are migrating online, we can adopt early and become influencers.

HZ: I got on Twitter when I found out I was on this panel. Twitter is a microblog. You’re limited to 140 characters. If you think about Facebook status updates is kinda what it is.

CW: It’s a status update, the idea of text messaging update, but we are unable to keep it in that box. People use it in many different ways. It is a form of social media.

HZ: One way that it worked in my life this week is that Monday my husband and I wanted to go to Cracker Barrel. On Twitter I said, “Ryan and I are going to Cracker Barrel at noon,” friends in the DC area who are also on Twitter joined us.

With Twittering, you have your own status updates, and you have people that follow you and you choose to follow. For example, I am a follower of Cynthia’s Twitter feed, and I found out that she was stuck at the airport.

MH: It’s like a 24/7 confereence call.

I don’t see the updates on my phone but some people do.

I use Twitter when I want to talk about something that I’m doing as opposed to something I would post on. I have it set up so that when I create a blog post, it shows up on Twitter.

FC: It opens you up to a larger audience. People have the opportunity to subscribe for you via invitation or a search, or if you have a blog/webpage, you can link to your Twitter account.

There’s lots of customer service happening on Twitter in the customer service world.

MK: When I posted that I was switching from TypePad to WordPress, someone from TypePad followed me.

FC: Churches using Twitter in worship context. Fed a Twitter conversation to side screens during a worship service so people could interact during service. Google Vertizational blog for more info.

MH: It’s kinda like worship and the Blue Man Group in one.

CW: We don’t need every new-fangled technology. It can be overwhelming and redundant, but Twitter is creating an entirely new way for people to think about conversation. We’ve lost the boundary between the broadcaster and the audience.

You can follow people and not really say anything to figure out what’s going on.

There’s great value in me for being able to see who Heather’s friends are.

People come to church because others invited them.

Audience question: For someone who has had to block people from their e-mail address, this sounds dangerous.

MH: You can block people from your Twitter feed, but understand that the information is out there.

Audience follow-up: More concerned with people joining the conversation that aren’t wanted.

FC: You can choose to ignore something you don’t like.

CW: You can’t control the conversation/information.

I have Facebook friends, and in that I have former employers, etc. I can’t control what they do.

Decentralization: There is not a lot of control. That is what has such a broad appeal: don’t run me through your filter. In broadcast mode, the information is controled by a group of people in a bureaucratic way. Something similar happened with the Gospel historically.

We have to let down the criteria that we have for communicating.

FC: Let me expand on that a bit. On my personal blog, I recently posted on the political race, which is a bit controversial for a pastor. I don’t control my comments and was attacked by church folk for considering voting for someone who wasn’t pro-life. I might have posted another reply once, but I had people who knew me well coming to my defense. Because you have relationships in the digital arena, your’e going to have people who come to your defense, and a conversation will happen. I’m okay with not having everyone around me like me.

HZ: I had a similar situation on my blog when I posted on women in ministry. Lots of comments, people on lots of different sides interacting with one another.

I have a wide variety of friends on Facebook, not just ministry friends. They have very different religious beliefs. This isn’t about my image. I’m more concerned about reconnecting with these people who now see what sermon I’m preaching on Sunday. If it’s someone who’s intentionally being malicious, I would block those people, but I’m not seeing that.

I think Jesus would have a variety of Facebook programs that people would see as inappropriate.

Audience Question: We started a Google Group for a 30-50 something singles group that grew out of a big mailing list. We ended up migrating to Facebook so that people could see each others pictures, etc. How do we pull all of these people together?

HZ: For that to work, everyone has to have their own profile and join the group. As Cynthia said, you might have people who just aren’t interested in that.

FC: We have about four young adults large groups, a bit more of a younger crowd than you’re talking about. They’re on different social networks. We created a password protected Typepad blog. It helps maintain the privacy of the group. Provides a front page where you can post announcements, blog about events, post pictures of events, and people can comment on things.

HZ: We’ve used the blog format as well. We have zonegathering.com, which is our small group leaders blog. We found it is great for posting information/announcements but not for creating community. That’s where Facebook comes in.

MH: One thing I would add is that not all of us are tech savvy, as Mac confessed this morning, but I promise you that there’s someone in your group who is. You could have a range of solutions: Unifier, livekite.com. You won’t have to go through the same learning curve.

Audience Follow-up: Is there a place we can centralize this? Are there those applications within Facebook or somewhere else that can do that?

FC: If everyone was on Facebook that would work, but you don’t want to push people too hard. However, once you get critical mass, people will want to start joining.

ML: Is anyone using smallgroupfriends.com?

Audience Answer: It does basically what Facebook does.

CW: I encourage you to check out Unifier. It’s a product that you pay for, but don’t let that dissuade you. It 40 cents per month per person, and that’s what you would pay to announce the next baptism.

Every church that has a webpage online is multi-site because your church facility is one place that people equate with defining your church, but we all know your church is not your building, programs, etc. We all know that your church is a set of relationships under leadership. If you have a webpage, you have a place with static information with your street address and service times.

The idea of multi-site is brand new, and many people are evaluating if one of those locations can be online. We’d like our webpage to be a place that people come where we provide services as opposed to a dead-end.

At a church we were at, one of young tech people put a webcam on our site with the surf report. It provided a service that people wanted. Streaming services, pastors, small group leaders blogging. Links to other resources.

ML: We did move to an online campus earlier this year. If you were to come to our services in the building, you would have a couple of songs, teaching, and then response time. During response time people go place something on a cross, go light a candle to pray for someone, have prayer teams for people to be prayed for, and have communion stations for people to take communion.

We’ve been trying to figure out how to do this online. We’ve got candles you can light for prayer. You can pin a sin to a cross. For the announcements, we have an online campus pastor who does video.

Audience Question: What’s your website?

ML: seacoast.org

Audience Question: What’s your demographic, younger?

ML: It is mostly younger, but we’re still figuring it out. Look at lifechurch.tv et al.

CW: Leadership Network has a blog called Digital. It’s designed for ministers, pastors, church staff. In the left sidebar of that site toward the bottom, you will see links to churches with online campuses. I believe there are 15 links. I’ve taken online communion with LifeChurch, led an online prayer session.

Along with the question of who does this appeal to, there’s the question, “Can we forsake not the assembling online?”

There are questions that we don’t have answers to.

As we struggle to wrap our minds around this, there were 55 people who accepted Christ online at LifeChurch last week.

There may be resistance to coming into a church service, but people would attend a service online.

MH: A pastor at LifePoint saw someone watching the LifeChurch service online and raise her hand when Craig Groeschel asked people to raise their hand wherevery they are if they want to accept Christ.

Audience Question: Could you talk more about your online leadership development?

ML: We were trying to get people to come on Wednesday night for training. One problem was distance, we’re a multisite church. One problem was time. We’d have trouble with consistency. Also, people would come to me in October in the middle of the class and want to be a leader.

God has given leaders to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Lay leaders, not just pastors.

We’re going to move away from a program oriented approach to a people oriented approach. We’re going to put our leadership classes online.

We would sign up people to do a session online and then have their small group leader get together with them to debrief whenever it works for them. Then, I say, next week in small group, you’re going to lead the prayer and icebreaker. If they’re out of town next week, they can do session 2 the week after. Now, we can do training any time, anyplace, at any place.

We’ve trained around 500 people in the last year, as opposed to around 20/semester before.

We have leaders raise up leaders, coaches raise up coaches, and pastors raise up pastors.

You can’t just go online and do our leadership classes. You have to be referred by someone you have a relationship with.

We use moodle.com, but we hate it. We’ve hired a company to build something for us.

We do text, journaling, videos. It’s very interactive. The videos are short because I can’t sit there and watch something online for a long time.

You can go to mynextsteps.org to see some of the content, but unfortunately, you can’t get into the classes.

Audience Question: You talk about some of the appeals of the online worship service because people are opposed to church. Since the church is supposed to be a place of community and belonging, how do you create that online?

MH: As opposed to watching a service on TV, participating online is participatory. You can click, take actions, etc. At LifeChurch, you can only watch during a service time (Ed. Note: This forces there to be community present when participating).

You would probably find that people would actually rather participate online than in a real service, even if they hadn’t been burned in a church.

HZ: Alan told me a great story about an online small group. They had reached a greater level of community than many traditional small groups. They ended up meeting face-to-face because of the community that had been developed online.

CW: People may be afraid that if online is so great people will only go there, but that’s not the case at all. The idea isn’t to become a giant lake; it’s to become streams in the desert.

I have a friend who led someone to the Lord online through his blog.

FC: It has some interesting impacts in a group and community setting. We have an elderly couple with a modest house on a large plot of land. The township was trying to obtain this land through eminent domain. Some people in the church started a Facebook group to stop it, and a bunch of people showed up at the next town meeting to oppose it. The township changed their vote because of this.

Community online can mobilize a group of people to do something for someone in your church.

Audience Question: Being someone who thrives being with other people, how to balance being with people in real life and online?

MH: It requires your own discipline in how much time you will spend on it and how you will engage. That’s why I don’t have twitter on my phone.

ML: I’m Facebooking because I have to, not because I want to, but it helps me to connect with people.

It’s even helped me connect with my own family.

Audience Question: Recently in our church we had a fairly known person who’s son struggled with leukemia, and you could follow the whole process on Facebook. Plus, the dad was blogging the whole process. The boy died about a month ago. There were people who communicated from around the world through these tools. There were at least 2 or 3 churches that experienced revival around this. 25 people came to know Christ as a result of this process.

CW: We touched upon the dangers of being online, but it may be that the benefits greatly outweigh the dangers.

There’s also an age issue. My 13 year old doesn’t have a Facebook profile.

It used to be that meeting someone online was taboo. That’s no longer the case.

People want to be able to see their kids pictures online. People are participating in their families online. They connect using Skype.

If we are paying attention to the next generation, this is totally normative to them. They’re getting their assignments online. My daughter had to make a 60 second video for a school project. It’s normal to text throughout the day, to have a teacher text you.

Technology isn’t just for young people. It’s advantageous to people who are homebound, to the older generation. I had a couple of older women who e-mailed me every day to tell me they were praying for me.