For The Outsiders and the Misfits

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Jesus was a Misfit.

He was an Outsider.

He was born to reconcile all of us back to Himself. That is why we celebrate Christmas.

Christmas time can be a tough time. Many people bring up the history of their hurts and struggles during this time. People are triggered and many face relapse. I was reminded this year that Jesus was for all of us. All of us Misfits and all of us who have seen brokenness, hurt and loss.

Jesus was born in a barn. Literally. He took the idea of what a King, a Savior, should be and flipped it on it’s head. Instead of being born in the Temple, or in a Throne room, He was born with sheep. His first visitors were like you and me, the Misfits of society.

Angels came to announce this birth to some shepherds in a field. The sheep these men tended would be used in ceremonies to wash sins away. Jesus was born in the same place as these very lambs. Yet, in keeping these sheep the shepherd themselves were deemed unclean. They were marginalized, outcasts, isolated, yet recipients of the grace of of Jesus.

This Christmas season we are reminded of how Jesus came to bring salvation, redemption and joy to all people. Those the world have deemed Outsiders, us Misfits, Jesus has called us Sons and Daughters of God. Walk in that.

Systems

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Systems do not create or hinder culture, they allow culture to flourish. There is a fear that systems create a rigidity in an organization. That a system does not allow for adaptability or the handling of unique situations. These systems then lead to a culture and organization that is too rigid. Systems are created to allow the culture of your organization to flourish. If systems are failing to do this for your organization it is time to get rid of them and start fresh.

In creating systems you need to first figure out the identity, and mission, of your organization. Some may call this your brand, I believe though that brand is just one part of the culture. Who you are and what you do creates the culture of your organization. If you are known for incorporating the arts, for outreach in the community, connecting people or for your innovative ideas, systems must be in place to allow those to be at the forefront of your organization. These systems help to prioritize the pieces of your organization you want to see flourish and streamline the messy parts for even greater success. Systems are routines and procedures that are created to help your organization do what it does best.

Whether your organization is just starting or is as old as I am there are always some problems that arise. Being proactive with these problems helps to maximize time doing what you love to do best. Spend some time up front thinking through problems and issues that have arisen in the past, in similar organizations, or that could arise in your organization. What would be devastating to you? What is the most common issue that arises? Then, begin to think through strategic solutions to these problems before they make life miserable. Always in a rut with volunteers? Think of ways to recruit year long, improve the volunteer culture you already have and look for ways to streamline the process. 

In creating systems it takes time up front to analyze your current situation. Be honest with the current state of your organization and think of different ways to make it better. Create systems to further the reach and influence of your organization. As your organization grows the systems you create will change and adapt to meet that growth. When productivity, growth, or your culture begins to go places you do not with it to, begin to look at the systems that allowed the divergence in the first place.

Your organizations culture will flourish and you will find more success when the systems that you create allow it to do so.

A Nearness

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Our proximity to people helps us to see the struggles they go through and the hurts they carry. Working with youth for a number of years has allowed me to walk with them through a world of hurt, questions and frustrations. Many times they don’t have answers or the words to explain what they are going through and feeling. Part of being a Misfit is to step into the gap for the hurting, to draw closer in to another person in a bad spot,  to create empathy and simply show up for someone else.

This takes time. There is an ebb and flow to dealing with people who have seen trauma and experienced deep hurts. There are relapses and backward steps. There are good days and bad days. Yet, our consistent presence in the lives of others, simply showing up for someone we care about, helps.

In the midst of the relapses and backwards steps you are going to want to give up. You will want to give up on yourself or the people you are walking alongside. It is important to give yourself and one another grace. To celebrate the smallest victories and find encouragement in the moments of defeat. We are called to help, aide and point people back to Jesus, back to sanity, and not hold another grudge when we feel slighted. 

Be energized to go into the fray once more. You are meant to be near the hurting, marginalized and the those trying to find their way. You are a Misfit.

Misfits

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Jesus is a Misfit. He took the expectations of religion and society and turned them upside down. He spent time with the least of these. The sick, the marginalized, the oppressed, the prostitutes, the widows and the orphans. He took, and continues to take, a bunch of ragamuffins and turns them into world-shakers. He breathes life into dead things. Jesus continually challenged the status quo of our society and engaged people where they were. Jesus met sinful people, in the midst of their sin, and showed up for them. He never asked for them to clean up first, to get it right first, and only then He would help. He rubbed shoulders with those society had forgotten and demonstrated genuine, authentic, love. Jesus challenged how we viewed God and how our beliefs shape us. He challenges us still.

How are we engaging the forgotten, the downtrodden and the lost in our lives? Do we interact only with people so that we could gain something? How does your proximity to people demonstrate authentic love and care? Do you stand for justice and seek to find solutions to the problems in our world? How is your life pointing others to Jesus?

A Misfit looks at the world differently. We stand boldly in our faith in Jesus to evaluate the world around us. We step in relationally to meet people where they are, in the midst of their hurts and struggles, to give support, pray and sometimes to just sit in silence. We are not afraid to challenge the way things have always been done in the hopes of something better. To be a Misfit is to step into the challenges that our world faces and point it all to Jesus.

Through this endeavor we hope to lead leaders, generate empathy, teach influencers and participate in engaging the lost, forgotten, hurting, oppressed and the outsiders. Let us be challenged to be more like Jesus; to meet people where they are, to grow relationally, to empathize with one another and influence the world.

Join us on Instagram and Twitter at Misfit_Min to learn with us and engage the world together.

Keep them Around

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Non-profits, churches and schools all receive a significant boost in productivity through the work of volunteers. Volunteers are the life blood of many organizations. Yet, volunteer turnover effects them all. This leaves organizations in an constant pursuit for new volunteers that need to be trained, coached, launched into positions, and overseen. The pressure to be in the constant hunt for new volunteers can be lessened when you increase your ability to retain the volunteers you already have. Before you can go and recruit more leaders you have to make sure leaders aren’t slipping out on you because of your volunteer culture. Fix the culture first so that volunteers can flourish in your organization. Through working as a volunteer, leading volunteers and helping problem solve with other organizations here are a few ways to retain the volunteers you have currently.

Value your Volunteers

Volunteer retention can be as simple as showing that you value them. You care about them as the individuals they are and not just for the tasks they do and how they advance your organizations agenda. Look volunteers in the eye and say you appreciate them and tell them how you see them engaging in the organizations mission. Volunteers often leave because they are overworked and under appreciated. Buy them coffee before they show up, send out thank you notes, and budget for volunteer retention ideas. Show that you care about your volunteers and they will stick around.

Clearly defined roles and expectations

Make sure your volunteers know their role and the expectations of them. Volunteers get frustrated when they signed up for one job and end up being overwhelmed with tasks they didn’t sign up for. Volunteer frustration often comes from unclear expectations and not knowing what a win looks like for them. They may not see how their effort helps in the long run. As an organization, take time, especially during the recruitment and training phases, to coach volunteers on expectations, defining their roles and what a win looks like for them. Your volunteers will knock it out of the park when they know what pitch to swing at.

Create ownership

Whenever you can generate a sense of ownership in your volunteer team your organizations culture begins to shift. Listen to your volunteers and their suggestions. They are the eyes, ears, hands and feet of your team. They see the problems in your systems and procedures that you may overlook. Ask for volunteer feedback and empower your volunteers to come up with solutions. When volunteers are asked for their thoughts and suggestions it helps them to feel part of the team. Creating a culture of safety, mutual respect and ownership goes a long way in retaining your volunteers.

Stay organized and ahead of the game

Get your stuff together! You cannot expect a team of volunteers to work well in the midst of chaos and dysfunction that you create. Take a moment to get yourself organized, create better systems and stop living in the moment. When you are going by the moment a lot of your time is putting out small fires that arise. When you have a great volunteer culture you have coached and empowered volunteers to put out the fires for you in a way that drives the mission of your organization. This allows you to stay ahead  of the game, think big picture, and be innovative.

A revolving door of volunteers prevents momentum in your organization. Look at the volunteers you have right now. How are you celebrating them? How are you allowing them to feel part of the team? How are you getting yourself organized to better lead others? If you are struggling with volunteer retention and recruitment it is time to evaluate and improve your team.

Faithful with Few

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I’m helping my current church launch small groups in their student ministry. I learned a lot about small groups when I was a student pastor and love the relationships that small groups foster. I’ve even helped launch a small group model in the current school I teach at. Launching small groups can be tough. There are leaders to find, sign ups to happen, contacts to be made. Transitioning a student ministry from a program emphasis to a small group/relational emphasis is tough. It changes the goals, the wins, and the measures for your ministry. Yet, it is completely worth it.

One of the small group leaders (SGL) had ten girls originally signed up for her group. For her groups launch four showed up. I celebrated, people wondered why I was so excited. I explained how four girls connecting to a leader in an intimate setting, growing relationally, is a HUGE deal. I told the story of how I had a group of two kids that over time grew to be a home group of over twenty consistently. I talked about celebrating those four girls and praying for them daily. That those four girls connecting with a leader and with each other helps to connect even more girls. We are laying the foundation for something great.

We can get caught up in the numbers. I’ve learned from a good friend that numbers are important, but they should not be sole factor in your ministry. Numbers help us to see trends in our ministry, help us to be strategic with plans and they help us to see where God is leading the ministry. Numbers are not relationships though. You could have a student ministry with hundreds of kids, but if community is not a central aspect of that ministry students may miss out on discovering and developing an authentic faith.

There is a vision of huge number of students connecting through small groups. Right now we are laying that foundation. We are connecting leaders to students. Even if it is a few, we party.

Rough

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Some kids are tougher to reach than others. My proximity to kids helps me to realize some of the severe trauma that some may experience. Dropping kids off at their homes that have no furniture, no electricity, and no food you begin to realize the lives they live after 4pm. You may be the only consistent person in their life, they may not know how to respond and act around you, they may fear abandonment and have seen so much loss they don’t even want to try.

The toughest kids are the most rewarding kids when you give them love over time consistently, show up for them and speak life into them.

Dealing with kids that have dealt with extreme trauma in their lives is tough. They can be more argumentative, angry, defiant and lack the desire for social connections. Don’t take it personally. You did not cause their trauma, and you are not the sole person reasonably to fix it. It takes time and will be rough at times. Things will be said and done that seem like a personal attack. Sometimes, students who have faced trauma ‘test’ your willingness to stick around. Show up. Some great advice I received once was to “let all the badness roll off you like water off a ducks back.” Remember to not take the rough moments personally.

Despite the frustrations you get from dealing with students who have faced trauma in their lives, you are called to love them anyway. Know them, ask them questions, treat them fairly, be clear with expectations of behavior and be fair. Invite them to have lunch with you. Treat them as they are, kids. Build a relationship that is founded on trust, respect and consistency. You may be the first time they have seen this type of relationship.

You will get tired. Tired of the struggle and tired of the slow process in building relationships. Keep at it. It is worth it, they are worth it. These students will come around, it may take longer, but they will open up. When they do listen to their stories, help them to see that their stories do not define them and speak life into them. Help them discover their passions and strengths in life.

#OC17

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I believe in students. I love to see them grow, learn and be awesome. I love to cheer the students that I lead on throughout their lives. Sometimes, working with students is difficult. They have drama, struggles and hurts just like the rest of us. Yet, the time I can spend with students is time I know I am impacting the world.

Orange believes this too. Orange believes in students, in all kids really, and their families. They believe that for kids, no matter their age, to understand God they need to be connected relationally to other people. That these leaders need to engage the kids they work with and their families to walk alongside them in life in order to grow their faith. Orange equips churches and leaders to help point kids and their families best towards Jesus.

This year Orange Conference is helping equip churches and leaders to reach not just their few, but entire neighborhoods and communities. At Orange Conference this year we are exploring the question: What would happen if the neighborhoods around our churches began to see church as a fun, safe, and helpful place for families and the community at large? There will be awesome speakers, a lot of laughs and insights into how the church make a lasting impact on the communities we belong to.

Join us this April for one of the most impactful experience you will have. This is not just for family ministers and lead pastors. This conference is people looking to leave a meaningful legacy in the lives of students, their families, the community and our world. Come be equipped, refreshed and rejuvenated to point your neighbors towards Jesus.

More information about great speakers, the theme “For Our Neighbors,” and all things Orange Conference head to their website at:

http://theorangeconference.com/

Registration opens up October 13th! You don’t want to miss out on this adventure!

 

Orange is Coming

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Orange Tour is underway and you have to get your tickets. Every year Orange takes the information, speakers and resources from the Orange Conference and brings them to you. It is a great time to learn, laugh, and create a dialogue around your ministry.

Last year, I had the chance to have Orange Tour come to the church I was the student minister at. The people on the tour are amazing. Even Reggie got into the hustle of the day as we set everything up. Orange leaders make themselves available for attendees to chat with, ask questions and better themselves. Not everyone is able to go to Orange Conference, that is why they bring the fun to you.

Monday is coming and Orange Tour is bringing it. Here you will discover the best ways to connect kids and their families to Jesus throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Monday is coming is a great idea to test your ministry against. How are students and their families acting on their faith throughout the week? How is your ministry helping them to do just that?

Through the speakers, workshops and conversations at Orange Tour you will be challenged. Challenged to re-evaluate your environments, your programs, and even your mission. We all want students and their families to live out their faith. To have an autonomous faith that can change the world. Monday is coming will challenge our current practices and provide practical steps to see success.

Check out Orange Tour this year. It will be a great way to invest in your leaders and your ministry. Create space to have conversations about your ministry with your leaders, students, parents and your lead pastors. Sometimes, for success to happen we change what our success looks like. Monday is Coming will help you connect Jesus to the everyday lives of people and to the moments that mean most to them.

For more information check out http://orangetour.org/. Can’t wait to see you there.

Be ready for Orange Conference 2017! Registration opens up on October 13th

 

Storytellers

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Stories are powerful. They have the ability to transform our hearts and transport our souls to far away places. Stories can breathe life into us as they inspire us to greatness. A good story pulls on our hearts and forces us think beyond ourselves to the world at large. You can tell a lot about a person through the stories they tell about themselves. If you listen closely you hear the values that define their lives and peer into their souls. A person’s story is who they are, it is continuously being written and it can change directions at any moment.

When we influence the lives of others we must be aware of their stories, and our own. We must look for ways to connect our stories to one another and to the grander narrative of God’s story. Let us listen intently to the stories we hear, have courage to share our own and learn to look for the greatest story of them all in the midst of it all.

We must become the greatest of listeners. I have been working a lot on being an empathetic listener. For a long time I was just listening for my turn to talk. While people would talk I would barely be listening because I was forming my own replay or wait for a pause for me to jump in. I have tried to be better. Listening just to hear the other person. To reply back with words that affirm what they are saying and show that I care about them. I listen to the stories people tell and I ask questions. How do these stories impact them? What emotions are they feeling as they tell the story? What can I do to help? I sit with them, sometimes just being silent for a long time, just so they can share. Look to understand them, their hurts and struggles, their excitements and joys and share in their experience. In understanding the stories of people we can begin to understand who they truly are.

The ability to tell a story is powerful. To engage the hearts and minds of people is a rare gift. We can influence the world around us with a simply story. You know who the great storytellers are. They are usually the one at a party surrounded by people listening intently or making others laugh in a classroom. When we can learn to share our stories transformation happens. We can relate to other people better. We, and they, don’t feel so alone. You can often hear a “me too!” during a good story. We need to practice sharing our stories. Take courage that God has given us our own stories for a purpose. That He has given us the hurts and experiences of our past so that we can learn from them and help others learn from them. The stories we share transcend our own personal experiences and allow us to see a deeper meaning in them.

When listening to the stories of other people and sharing our own we need to be able to find the link to the grander narrative that God is writing. I love that God has given us all our own stories. That He reveals Himself to us in such beautiful and unique ways; yet He reveals Himself to all through His Son. God is the master storyteller. Just read the Bible. What a grand story, what grand truth. In the midst of our own stories we need to look for the connection to His story. There is always something. Connections of grace, redemption, or forgiveness; connections of adventure, romance and faith. When we see the intersection of God’s story and our own He becomes more personal and real to us. If we want to know God in a deeper way, look for how your story mirrors His deeper narrative in the world.

When we engage students we need to listen to their stories. They reveal where they are at right now. Love them in that moment; empathize with them. Find the connection to a story of your own. Break down the walls that can often divide us and find a way to simply say, I know how you feel. Empathize with students and reveal a piece of your story to them. They will be able to latch on and build a bond through these shared experiences. These stories point us to Jesus, find that point and run towards Him.