OC#17 Rundown 17.1

Orange Conference hasn’t even started yet but I am already feeling excited and pumped for the next few days. Today, the YouLead Breakouts gave us just a taste of what’s to come. The first session was called “Understanding Social Justice in the City” from Sean Watkins. Then, I went to see Jon Acuff give some tips and advice in order to “Talk Better Now.” The mxain session was awesome as always with a lot of great speakers bring out the best of the theme For Our Neighbors. Here are some of the BIG ideas from both Sean Watkins and Jon Acuff and the rundown on the Opening Session.

Social Justice in City

Sean came out right and said that, “our calling as parents, our vocation as youth ministry leaders, is incomplete if we do not address social justice issues.”

Going through Nehemiah as a guide to leadership, character and how to do social justice reform in our communities Sean broke down how leaders can engage the communities around them. The issues in our cities, in our communities, that are evident to people around us should break your heart, should make you angry as it breaks Gods own heart and angers Him. We begin to engage the communities around use first by becoming more aware. We must lament and grieve to the injustices in the cities and communities we are a part of. That we should engage the least of these in a way that honors the fact that God is so portrayed as a stranger needing hospitality. Ask yourself questions that raise your own awareness about social justice issues and those around you. Who is missing from your programs? Who has come and not returned? Why? What are the social justice issues in the city? Once we are aware, we know, and knowing is half the battle. We must continue to strive to understand the context of social justice issues through the historical lens of our cities, understand the biblical mandate to engage in these issues and to look for ways to meet a need. From awareness, to action to advocacy. We must advocate for these issues that impact the lives of people we encounter. We cannot afford to simply not be racist but we must be anti-racism by advocating for those impacted by racism in our communities. Bring people along with you in this journey, be honest with where you are in it yourself. Find organizations that are combating these issues and work hand-in-hand with them.

Sean did a great job of clarify issues, giving us a biblical understanding of social justice and equipping us to take the next steps. Check out his, and others, podcast at Voices from the Margins. Sean works for Intervarsity and can be reached at sean.watkins@intervarsity.org or followed on twitter @seanisfearless

Talk Better Now

Most people get excited to hear Jon Acuff speak. I am no different. I walk away with something new to motivate me, a new technique to try at work or that little nudge to push me past my comfort zone. Jon gave a quick and dirty rundown on simple ways he prepares to give speeches and tips for listeners to be more successful.

Jon gave the audience some points on being a better speaker. His first point was to simply know your audience. This helps you to connect with someone through a message. Ask the host questions like what should you avoid in the speech, what is the audience going through, what are they excited about. These questions help formulate a better understanding of the audience, develops empathy with them and allows the audience to connect in a deeper way. His next tip was to play to your strengths. Simply write out your speech, then edit later. They are two different things and shouldn’t be done in unison. Using that template create main islands and bridges that connect those main ideas. Predict where there will be pushback from your audience on ideas and explain them in a way that they acknowledges their pushback but also challenges them. Be authentic in your talk. People, especially teenagers, can smell dishonest a mile aware and can be pretty unforgiving. When speaking, read the room and use tension through changing rhythms to tailor your talk to the audience. Practice until it is almost perfect and then make sure you enjoy the process, or the audience won’t either. A huge idea that Jon talked about was the speaking is a form of serving. That it is his goal to communicate an idea in such a way that it equips the leaders with something they can take way with them. That peoples response should be, “it was like you were reading my diary, you understood what I was going through.”

Jon has so much to give about being an effective communicator. He has a tone of great books out and is always on twitter @JonAcuff.

MainSession

Opening session saw some awesome speakers light up our world and get ready to start a party. Jon Acuff, Carlos Whittaker, Gerald Fadayomi, Danielle Strickland and Reggie Joiner all brought their voices. Ways to see our neighbors, to help parents, listen to students, see people in a fresh way and how to start a party. We are FOR OUR NEIGHBORS

Click the section headings for Notes on sessions and connect with Orange using the hashtag #OC17

#OC17 is HERE

I am sitting in the airport right now about to board for ATLANTA!!! I am super stoked to being going to Orange this year. The theme is “For Our Neighbors” and we are talking about what it looks like for churches to be bridges to the community and to engage the places that we go home to, where we work and where we play.

Head here to RSVP to check out the Livestream of the Conference

https://whatisorange.leadpages.co/oc17-rsvp/

I will be on social media through Misfit_Min on both Twitter and Instagram and will be blogging daily with what I was learning that day.

My good friends over at @YMSidekick and @tapounder are some great people to look at to keep updated

Follow the hashtag #OC17 to see what is going on throughout the conference

BONUS*

Every morning check out the podcast YMSidekick for a breakdown of the previous day! You’ll hear from me and my friends

 

 

Books!

books

 

I love reading. Every time I do I learn something new, take a adventure, get some crazy ideas and grow in confidence in a new area. Over the past few years there are a few different books that I wanted to share with you all that have helped me grow as a leader, teacher, mentor, and husband. They have helped me to influence other people and challenged me to grow closer to God. Here are a few essentials to add to your reading list.

My Utmost, His Highest – Oswald Chambers

https://www.amazon.com/My-Utmost-His-Highest-Paperback/dp/1572937718/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=HW3E38186B4CMJVQJEG5

I have loved this devotional since college. My friend Louie put it in my hands and he always referred to Oswald Chambers as Ozzy. I have probably read this book through and through seven or eight times and it never gets old. It is like a spiritual kick to the face and helps me to navigate life. It is a great addition to your daily readings and you can download it as an app. It has challenged me to grow in my faith and become closer with God. 

Wild at Heart – John Eldridge

https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Heart-Revised-Updated-Discovering/dp/1400200393/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492469417&sr=1-1&keywords=wild+at+heart

I read this book yearly. Again, Louie gave me my first copy and it has helped me to understand faith, my part in Gods bigger story and how to find an authentic manhood. It is one of the few books I have multiple copies of simply to give away to people (seriously, you want one let me know it’s yours). Reading this book has helped to understand my personal struggles, my role as a man in this world and helped me to see who God has created me to be. 

7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

https://www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-People-Powerful/dp/1451639619/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492469433&sr=1-1&keywords=7+Habits+of+Highly+Effective+People

The first time I read this was with a bunch of youth pastors looking for ways to step up our game. It was impactful in ways that I cannot describe. Even today when I am feeling overwhelmed I think about the four quadrants and where I am currently in (if you don’t know what I am talking about you should pick this book up!). It helps me to be a more strategic person, a better decision maker, become more mindful about my work and has allowed me to stay organize and focused. I am not perfect and don’t have all 7 down to a science, but I try and find that they help me out a lot. 

Love Does – Bob Goff

https://www.amazon.com/Love-Does-Discover-Secretly-Incredible/dp/1400203759/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492469466&sr=1-1&keywords=Love+Does

Through reading ‘Love Does’ I was inspired to step out of my comfort zone and love other people in a more impactful way. Bob shares a vignette every chapter that helps me to see God in a better way, connects my personal story to Gods narrative, and allows me to dream up new ways to simply love people. It helped me to see that loving people is easier than we think, we just have to have the courage to do it. Bob is funny, loves people and is always up for an adventure. 

Lead Small – Reggie Joiner

https://www.amazon.com/Lead-Small-Ideas-Every-Leader/dp/0985411627/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492469482&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=LeadSmall

I felt like Lead Small was the last kick in the butt I needed to finally realize it is ALL about relationships. Life, ministry, you name it, it is about connecting with people in order to have a greater impact than you can imagine. Lead Small is a cornerstone idea from Orange that helps to inform  leaders on how to think small in their areas of life.   Instead of trying to influence hundreds of people, Lead Small helps us to think strategically on how we can influence a few. Whether it is ministry, in schools, or at work when you think small you discover a big impact. Lead Small has helped put relationships on the forefront of my mind, helped me discover new ways to connect with people and figure out how to walk alongside my few through life. 

What are some of your favorite books? What are owns that have change you and made you better. Comment and let me know.

Art of the Ask

xlba-00052

Many of us are in the need of help with something. Some of us need volunteers, others need financial help and others are simply looking for ways to connect with people through an organization. Sometimes I just comes down to the ask, but don’t get me wrong, that ask can be tough. It is a mental game and you really just don’t want to be annoying. When going to ask someone to help, give or just connect here a few thoughts to go in with.

I don’t think I have ever just cold called someone and asked them to be part of what I was doing. I always try to connect with them without my own agenda. I like to get to know them as people and what they enjoy doing. Asking someone to help isn’t manipulating them if you are invested them as an individual over your own agenda. I try not to get selfish with only seeing them helping me out but by getting to know them I can help put them in a place for them to thrive with others. They may not be a fit for the direction you’re going, but you may know someone who they could help considerably.

After getting to know people on a friendly basis I just ask them to meet up and may let them know that I want them to think about helping out. Before I do I really sit and  think through what I am asking that person to contribute. Is it time, their talents, or asking them to give financially.I try to get specific. For instance, instead of asking for money, I tell them about how we need a new printer, or instead of saying I need a new volunteer I talk to them about role they would be filling. I have a clearly defined role planned out, with expectations, for people to understand what they may be committing too before I ask. I try to think through their questions and have some answers. When you have a better handle on what you are asking from people, they get a clearer idea of it too.

I always try to share with them why I feel they would be a great fit. I share with them somethings that I have seen from them already. I talked to them about our need and how they can help. I share stories. Stories are a great way to connect with people. They help connect us to one another and to the mission of where we are going. I try to tell them stories of why I got involved, of other volunteers or success stories that we have seen.

Then, I let them make the choice. I don’t twist their arm, or guilt them into saying yes. I pray hard. I take what they can give and leverage that for wins. Sometimes, a yes to a small ask will lead to a yes to a bigger ask, later down the road.

So what do you need to move forward in your ministry? In your life? In your next steps? Who can you ask to walk alongside with you. Don’t be afraid to ask. Walk with people with no agenda, have a clear idea of how they an help you or someone else, share with them a vision of thriving and then let them do the rest. Be bold in your ask and you’ll be surprised at how people come through.

 

Dreamers

dreams

 

When I close my eyes and think what God wants me to do I always get the same image in my brain. The same ideas, the same processes, and the same passion. It’s a dream that He’s given me. To be honest, I get scared that my dream will simply be a dream. There are things I am doing right now thought to make it happen.

I talk about my dream a lot. Honestly, I do this just to simply keep me accountable. I don’t want the dream to die so I figure if I talk about it then there is still hope for it to be. People have started to ask me questions about it in conversation and I love processing new ideas with people. A friend randomly gave me a tool I needed to start on one aspect of it. It was probably the coolest thing ever. 

I am doing a lot to learn. I am basing my research papers for grad school on issues regarding my dream. I email random experts in different fields asking them questions just trying to just learn things. I always just have this thought that if they don’t respond or if I get shut down then I am exactly where I am currently. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

I take small steps. I look at what other people are doing in their businesses, or in chasing their own dreams, and I do what I can. I start with social media, or blogging. I try to network with other people and get ideas from them. I plan a lot, write curriculum or fill out forms (in a lot of dreams you end up filling out some sort of form). It keeps me hungry and I know it may not be today or tomorrow but it is going to happen.

Fear ultimately is my biggest enemy. Fear leading to doubt which leads to inaction. That it is a dumb idea, how can I support a family on a dream or that voice that says I am too messed up to even think about something good for myself. I like to tell that voice to shut up (and a few other choice words).

What is your dream? What do you think your purpose is in life? Maybe it is a new career path. Maybe it is to travel more, or to learn a new skill. What are the little things you can do to take steps to seeing it become real. I may not happen in a day, but keep chipping away at it. The biggest advice I got was to do a few small things every day towards your goals, your dream.  These are called low cost probes. Little steps that give you a lot of reward. Experience, knowledge, insight, just about anything that will get you closer to your end goal. Then, go for it.

I would love to hear about your dream. Love for you to hear about mine. Share ideas, help one another and encourage one another to allow dreams to be reality. Comment here or text me 585-441-4610, can’t wait to here what dreams you’re chasing. 

For Our Neighbors

 

We Misfits are for our neighbors. So are our friends at Orange. Every year they put on a conference in Atlanta that challenges and grows people to engage the world around them in a different way. Orange helps churches to build relationships with kids and their families to grow their faith in Jesus. This year they are using those relationships to not just engage the families but the communities they are a part of.

The theme for this years conference is “For Our Neighbors.” I am really excited for it. Neighbors, that means, people who just don’t quite fit in, the rebels, the dreamers and the innovators, and us Misfits. We are also for the people who are like us and for those who are not like us, equally. Being “For Your Neighbor” means helping someone else win, even when we don’t always agree with them. Being “For Your Neighbor” means supporting someone else, whether they are right next door or across the globe. “For Your Neighbor” means supporting someone, showing up for them, even when they are different then ourselves.

Orange wants us to be for our neighbors and we agree. We want our communities to be transformed and for people to see Jesus in new way. Maybe you’re reading this and you hate God and you hate church. You’ve been hurt there before, your trust was broken, someone lied to you or you just don’t believe in the same things. That’s fine, I’ve experienced those same things in church. But what if this conference helped change your ideas and transform churches. What if churches were a place where kids and families could build friendships, where churches knew how to help when something goes wrong in our communities and could restore hope back into the lives of their neighbors and to the cities they are a part of. I would be for that.

If you’re interested in learning more about Orange Conference head to

https://theorangeconference.com/

 

We are all part of this world and we are called to be for our neighbors. Lets come together and learn how to do that better. See you there.

Risk

risk

 

Chances are you’ve taken a few risks in your life. Heck, simply asking my wife on our first date was a risk. I took a risk this weekend with the cheese in the fridge. Everyday life throws us opportunities and chances to play it safe or take a risk. Sure there are somethings that you don’t want to risk (like your marriage, or safety of your kids) and there are smarter ways to take a risk than others (like don’t quit your job until you have a lead on another). Yet, I am always amazed at how often those around me, and myself, simply choose the safe route. I may talk a big game, or prove my risk taking initiative by doing something just slightly more risky than usual, yet I am still where I am. And often I can feel stuck there. 

The courage to take a risk produces some of life’s best moments. Sure, there is never 100% chance of success, but that is why it is a risk. Think about it, that moment where you think of what you want to do, you visualize all the outcomes and failures and then say, “I’m in.” That moment, even with failure, brings out a sense of freedom and confidence in us as people. 

Working with youth, many of them face a lot of decisions. Some of these choices are small, but some are huge. What college to go to? Should I ask that girl out? Should I really eat 25 packets of Diablo sauce at Taco Bell on a bet? I remember one student being a romantic and really wanted to ask this girl out. He was super awkward, typical 15 year old. I just said, “do it, the worst that will happen is she says no, and you’ll be in the same situation you are right now, but at least you’ll know.”

That’s mostly what taking a risk is about, discovery. There is adventure and joy in that moment when you step out in order to take a risk you didn’t think you could.

Maybe it is a job change you’re thinking about. Or you have a new business idea. You want to ask that person out. You want to do something but are too nervous about the odds and the outcomes. You have had a dream in your mind for years, but have always thought it wouldn’t work out. 

If you’re like me you argue with yourself a lot. If you’re like me you try to wait for a “sign” from God. If you’re reading this, this is that sign. You’ll be surprised what God is capable off when you step into that risk that He has been nudging you towards.

Here are some things I do when I approach a big risk I am deciding on:

1.) Think it through and weigh the cost/benefits

2.) Ask people their thoughts, especially people who can ask you really tough questions

3.) Small cost probes, little things that give you a taste and experience with that new risk

4.) Close your eyes and jump

I would love to hear about some risks you dreaming about and think of ways to take that risk boldy. Follow us on twitter or Instagram at misfit_min, or leave a comment on here.

Come to Me

immigrant

Jesus invites people into a relationship with Him. He invites them in close. Jesus could smell the disease on the lepers and  was close enough to get spit at from possessed man. He wasn’t afraid to share an intimate space with those that the society of His time viewed as outcasts, villains, sinners and those who people forgot about.

We are coming to this point here in our world today. Where we can choose to bring people in, care for them, love them and point them towards Jesus; or we can choose to turn people away, shun them, treat them as villains and abandon them.

Matthew 11:28 came to mind as I reflected on the last few days. I have heard a man, speaking on behalf of a faith, alienating another group of people. Matthew 11:28 says “Come to Me, ALL who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Over and over again Jesus invites all people in. The Good Samaritan would’ve been despised by the man he saved, yet he had compassion. Romans, a people group not too friendly with the Jews, would come to Jesus. In fact, Jesus commends a centurion for his faith.

We are blurring the lines of faith and politics. Faith always trumps politics. They are not the same. Sometimes, they agree and sometimes they disagree, but they are not the same. We contradict our faith and our beliefs with how we act. Our actions then are what seems best to us at the time, not led by our relationship with Jesus. I think it fitting that a plaque on the Statue of Liberty, a sight millions of immigrants would see coming to America, says this “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Jesus would say the same thing. 

My wife said something the other day and I loved it. She said “I don’t want someone in the name of my Savior, of my faith, to give me favor, or blessing, and take  away freedom, opportunity, safety, compassion from someone else. That is not what a christian does. It’s not how Jesus would have it.”

Remember, Jesus invited everyone to come to Him. He invites us still. As Misfits we see this. We see that the lines are blurred and many are asking questions. In these moment, push into Jesus. Ask for understanding and for words in the midst of heated discussion. Use your influence and your talents to point all people towards Jesus. Demonstrate care, compassion and   humility. Open the doors for the weary, the oppressed, the burdened, the refugees and point them to Jesus.

Here is a link to some thoughts on how to treat refugees and immigrants from Relevant Magazine. 

For The Outsiders and the Misfits

outside

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

cogs

 

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.