Legacy Now - Jason Carr Writes

Exploring the collision of everyday life and an incredible God

Strong & Fragile

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Some things just don’t make sense.

It’s amazing how God made humans to be so strong yet fragile at the same time.

Those two things don’t always align. But when you take stock of your life, it makes perfect sense. He has made us frail to remind us that He is not.

Everyone has a story. Every story includes overcoming challenges. Every story includes failing them.

It demonstrates the polarities of God’s economy: you are often the most whole when you are broken.

Brokenness can be so fulfilling. I know, that doesn’t make sense—right? Not in a broken world, but in God’s completeness, it makes perfect sense.

In the last twenty years of ministry, I’ve heard countless stories that sound something like this: “If you would have told me that I could get through this, I would not have believed you.” Yet, in the power of His grace, we manage to carry on throughout the hard times. In fact, those moments become engrained in our story.

One of the special things about engaging in relational ministry with others is that you get to jump into the trenches of the stories of others. At times, that is a celebration. Other times, it’s a challenge to make it through the battle. Either way, it’s part of the opportunity of investing in others, helping them trust, and leveraging their story towards our Heavenly Father.

Many years ago I had to call a parent. I hated doing it, but I had to. A student had made an extremely unwise choice that threatened his life and the life of others. That student was mad at me and disengaged from our ministry. That hurt.

Much later on, I ran into him. He’s married now and has a family. He gave me a big hug and simply said: “Thanks for loving me enough to do the hard thing.” His story reminded me that loving, leading, and investing in others is not always easy, but in the end by His grace, it is always worth it. It does not always work out like that, but the results are up to Him, not us.

Redemption wins in the end. And it seems that often the path to redemption is paved in brokenness. As you engage in leading others, don’t run from the brokenness, run TO it and trust Him that He will redeem it in ways only He can.

Free E-Book!

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These days if we have an issue, we can usually Google or YouTube it and figure out an answer quickly. That works for most things, but not everything.

As you build your relational ministry, it takes time. There is no quick band-aid fix and it actually takes a lot of intentional planning and time to set your ministry up for long term relational impact.

I know that because I have lived that. I have served in both the para-church and church world for the last 20 years building relational ministries. It is my passion and what I do for a living through Legacy Now. I’ve taken many of the constant issues I’ve heard from student pastors and leaders and put together a quick resource to help you build a ministry based on relationships and the volunteers who invest in them. More and more churches depend on these heroes to help invest well in the students He trusts you with.

I am giving away a E-book I wrote titled “5 Tips To Build Your Relational Ministry” to help you do that. My ministry Legacy Now is for you. I want something for you more than I want something from you. I am also launching a monthly email that will have a quick tip in it to serve you as you invest in others.

To download the book, you need to sign up to get the email. I am honored to be a resource for you. Thanks for allowing me that opportunity. Hoping and praying that it is of help for you.

– Jason

You can access the download page here: Free E-Book

WIRED

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On the Myers/Briggs test I am an EFNP.

On the RightPath test I am a Networker.

If you are familiar those tests, you see my results reveal that I am highly relational. In fact, I once met with a life coach who examined my tests and told me: “You test as one of the most relational people I’ve ever seen.” As excited as I was by that comment, she told me that includes some great strengths, but also some glaring weaknesses.

I keep learning about that and in doing so, it’s changing my life and ministry.

I used to have a roommate who was brilliant with technology. One time I walked into his room to ask him a question, and he snapped at me. I was taken aback. You see, I am the guy who always has multiple things going on at once. Music. TV. Something is always going on. He looked at me and said, “Sorry man, I don’t do two things at once well. I need to wrap this up before I can talk with you.” Gotcha. I am not wired like that, and he reminded me that God wires us all uniquely.

A student shared something really deep and personal with a ministry friend and me. I held onto it, and when I brought it up a few days later, my friend said, “It’ll work itself out.” He was not troubled by it at all. As we talked, we realized that the day God handed out empathy, he was not first in line. I evidently was. We hear the same story and react differently to it based on how we are wired. Fascinating.

One summer while on a college beach project where college students go to grow in their faith, I was hanging out in our common room. I was listening to some killer 80’s hair metal having a good time playing rock star in my mind. And then a guy in my room came in and just turned it off. I was mad. He looked at me and said, “When I hear that, it reminds me of the person I used to be, the person I am trying to move on from.” Huh. That didn’t pop up in my head when I heard that. I learned about convictions in a new way and how we process them.

I share all that to make a simple point. Knowing yourself and others is huge in life and ministry.

While I was consulting with a student pastor recently, he shared some frustration he has with some young leaders on his team. As we unpacked it, one obvious discovery was that he was not clear on how his leaders are wired, yet he had expectations that might not fit. We landed on the need for him to better understand how they are wired and how that fits into their ministry. Simple, yet profoundly important.

Take time to consider how God has wired you and those around you. It will help you extend and receive grace in critical ways.

Doing vs. Being

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A good friend said something recently that triggered some deep thoughts in my mind. He said: “We are not a small-groups church, we are a church that does small groups.” He was saying that although small groups are a part of their church’s rhythm of operations, it’s not what it is built around.

That means that some time and energy will be given to develop and maintain them, but not as a priority. Programming and staffing will reflect that although it’s important, it’s not the most important thing.

I appreciated his candor, because so many churches are trying to be a small-groups church, but instead are churches doing small groups.

To really engage in small groups well, it takes a cultural shift to prioritize staffing, funding, leadership, and vision to that end. It won’t just happen because you break students up and put a leader in the room. It takes vision, training, and regular maintenance to build a thriving ministry based on small groups.

There is a huge difference between doing and being. You can be a small-groups church. You can also be a church that does small groups.

It’s a foundation question that is worth asking. What kind of church are we? What kind of church do we want to be?

It’s wise to act like you are, not like someone you are not.

In student ministry, this is a massive question because students in this generation are wired so relationally. You are only going to reach so many through teaching. I’m all for teaching. As a speaker I love it! At the same time, I understand the value of relationships too. Honestly, as much as I love speaking to students, I understand that some of the greatest impact I can make is in the life of the small group I lead. In fact as a speaker, my passion has changed over the years to speaking more as a setup for small group as much as anything.

If you are a church that just “does” small groups, what can you do to make that more than just “doing” and “be” a church that does small groups. Your honest answer to that question will help you determine planning and organizing for your ministry.

If you are a church that just “does” small groups, how can you change your methods from “do” to “be” and become a small-groups church?

This is an area I love helping churches with. Let me know if I can serve yours!

Random Things I Think I’m Thinking

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The older I get the more I find myself just thinking. Not that I didn’t think when I was younger (although that might be debatable) I just enjoy taking time to think. Below is a random list of things I’m currently thinking, learning, and find myself talking about with others.

  • Reminding myself that the more I have to learn humbly reminds me about the more I have to learn.
  • Some times God brings you to the wilderness to help you more clearly hear His voice.
  • What the meaning of “coffee” to each person is unique. Respect it, but don’t judge it.
  • Empathy is a discipline of learning that this world is not about us and we were not meant to do it by ourselves.
  • Much of life is more about how you deal with things along the way.
  • Our stories are much deeper than we usually let on and often even realize.
  • Some of the most life-giving conversations and moments have nothing to do with a cell phone and social media.
  • Writing and re-writing a book is a constant lesson in self-doubt and confidence.
  • If God cares mostly about the heart of a person, so should we.
  • I almost told a student the other day that my car was older than them, almost.
  • Behavior matters, but you can’t fix behavior if you neglect the heart.
  • I’m big. A golf ball is little. Not as easy as you would think.
  • Many churches would benefit from fresh eyes perspective, but the fear of many things prevents that.
  • Is it bad when a barista at Starbucks asks you where have you been?
  • Music with meaning has the power to transport you. Go on the journey.
  • Every time I learn of a friend/leader falling into sin, I’m reminded that that sin lives in me too.
  • Consulting is harder than I thought it was going to be, but way more rewarding.
  • Leading a small group of students to authentic community is a lesson in learning how to listen, ask questions, and teaching them to talk.
  • Having a vision for the church that’s personal does not mean it will be shared corporately. Don’t expect others to be a part if they don’t know.
  • God has yet to give up on me and asks me to do the same to others too.

Clear Vision

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I recently worked with a church that had run into a wall trying to build momentum for its student ministry. After talking about what was going on, it was clear to me what was happening.

The leader had not clearly shared his vision. He was getting frustrated that others did not show up or engage in what he was trying to do. They had no clarity on what that was.

It leads me to a fundamental truth I talk about and see often with churches. Don’t assume that because you spend a lot of time talking, praying, and dreaming about something, that those around you are tuned into it. If you work at a church, it’s your job; you spend all week thinking about it. Even those who work with you might not fully know your vision if you don’t communicate it.

Remember that volunteers have a life outside of the church. They might have jobs, families, school, hobbies, and friends among other things. Believe it or not, they don’t sit around all the time waiting to read our emails or see what we post on social media.

If you want them to buy in to the vision, you have to communicate it clearly and often. Click To Tweet

That means on stage, in person, and through all your streams of communication. The vision should be clear and easy to engage.

For example, if you envision a “revival week” and no one else shares that vision or understands why you are doing it, don’t be surprised if they don’t show up. If you are transitioning to small groups, but don’t clearly explain what you are asking of leaders, don’t be shocked to have a room full of Sunday School teachers, not small group leaders.

A friend recently said this to me: “Vision is sometimes the easy part; executing the vision requires a lot of work and commitment.”

Whatever your current vision is, take time to think about those He has put around you. Do they know it? Are they helping you chase the vision? Are you communicating it well?

I’m praying that He will give you the wisdom to answer those honestly and then give you the courage to do whatever you might need to do to engage with it.

Senior Letter

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The local high school in my hometown has a cool tradition of giving personal letters of encouragement to the upcoming graduates. Written by family, friends, and persons of influence, the letters are collected and given out at a special senior breakfast. I’ve been honored to write quite a few letters over the last two decades.

As I finished one, I saved the letter in a file and had a sentimental moment as I looked through some of the other letters I’ve written for students over the years.

Just like that, the lives of so many come flashing back in my mind.

Those letters reflect years and years of relationships. They reflect small groups—good times and hard times. They reflect countless coffee meetings and weekends full of chili and football. They reflect a lot of prayer, huge dreams, and unmet expectations. They represent life.

I’m leading a group of freshmen now and reading those letters made me think of them. What do I want to write them three years from now? What do I wish were true by God’s grace for them in the next few years?

All those thoughts land me on a really important, but hard-to-swallow, truth of student ministry: ultimately, the results are up to God.

We can do everything we can in the life of a student, but only God can change a heart. Click To Tweet

As I look at all these letters and think of all these students, I know that many are walking with God. Some are not. Neither is really “my fault.” My role as their leader was and is to love them, point them to Jesus, and leave the results to Him. No more, no less.

As the school year wraps up, take time to think about what kind of letter you wish you had received when you graduated high school. How can you help someone else get one of those today?

You can. Go be an influence in someone’s life and leave the results to Him.

Start Small To Dream Big

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It’s really easy to say that your church “does” small groups. That might mean you have a dedicated time and space for a group to meet, usually after someone speaks.

But does small group time really happen well? Why wouldn’t it? Perhaps because:

* Many communicators focus more on being liked than seeing the role as one to set up small group leaders to lead discussion.

* Many communicators think what they have to say is more important than the person going through life with the student.

* Many leaders see small group time as a chance to reteach the lesson, a chance to talk instead of ask questions, a chance to be right instead of listen.

* Many volunteers don’t value small group enough to help with the behind-the-scenes necessities to make it run well.

* Often worship time does not point towards students and leaders doing life together pursuing the Lord, but to a “look at me” time.

Ouch. I know those might hurt. I write them because I’m guilty of some of the above. It’s not that the things above are wrong, excellence is a good thing. It’s that the goal needs to be built around.

The heroes of the story in this context are the people investing time with the students.

In this case, start small to dream big. Does your programming set that up? Does your staff get that vision? Do the other volunteers see their part in helping students engage in meaningful relationships?

Consider how you can leverage your resources to set up your leaders to lead well.

Again, start small to dream big.  That’s the vision. Hang it high and point to it often. As you consider budgets, events, and planning, remember it’s about setting up those relationships to win.

I recently worked with a church that really wants to do small group ministry well. The challenge is their current culture does not bleed that way. They landed on the fact that some extensive foundational work needs to be worked on to take their ministry to the next level. They are dreaming big, but need to start small to move that way.

As you give your ministry away in a big way, consider how you are setting it up small. Your influence and legacy will be maximized when you empower others to invest well.

Bonus plug: I love helping churches do this. Let me know if I can help you!

Legacy Story

LegacyNowlogo.jpgAllow me to share a few stories with you.

A friend who hired me to consult with his church told me something cool. He said, “I could spend a ton of money and send my staff to conferences, which we’ll do some of—but I get more bang for my buck having you here. You observe, train, interview, speak, and do whatever we need to make our ministry better. Having you do that at our place makes it easier to apply.

I’m grateful for his kind words. It captures so much of what I love doing with churches: whatever they need to help the student ministry reach more students, families, and volunteers. The more reached, the more who get a chance to collide with the Gospel and are challenged to live a legacy for something eternal.

I recently ran into a small group leader from a church that I’d led leader training at a few years earlier. He said this: “Man, your training really challenged me, but it worked. The last few years I’ve really been spending time outside of group with my guys, and it’s made so much difference.” He went on to tell me stories of how the Lord has been teaching him and using him in the life of his small group—mostly because he’s pursuing them. That came from a time when a church hired me to challenge their leaders in relational ministry with their students, and primarily from something only the Lord can do. That is changing hearts. We get a chance to be a part of that.

Legacy Now is not about Jason. It’s about the hallways of teenagers who desperately need to be in a relationship with someone who loves the Lord and them. It’s about the potential volunteer waiting to be unleashed on your community if you had the system in place to let them to invest in others well. It’s about living for something bigger than ourselves and something that lasts forever.

I know it is not easy to ask for help. I’m a guy; I get it. I also know how freeing it is to have an advocate who simply wants to help you do what you’ve been called to do.

A special thing about my ministry is that there are a lot of people who believe in you whom you don’t know. They invest and pray for me so I can do that for others. It also helps me serve others and work with all kinds of budgets.

You have stories to be told and I’d love to help you tell them. Let me know at contact@legacynow.me if I can serve you to do that.

Your Choice

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It sounds so simple, so why is it so hard?

It would be communication.

In today’s world, there are so many ways to communicate, and most of them are impersonal. It’s easier to write a subtweet about someone than address what you really think. It’s easier to direct message someone than tell the person to his or her face.

One of the things I get to do with Legacy Now is spend time with student pastors. I love learning about different cultures and what’s working and what is not; I also love that I can share that with others. Consulting has some cool benefits.

That being said, one of the hard things I see often is the struggle between a student pastor and leadership.

I’ve written about it before and I will keep saying it.

Choose clarity over assumption. Click To Tweet

Choosing to communicate clearly can divert you from the built up frustration that comes from assuming.

I once met with a young visionary leader who had a huge idea for his community. He started a new event and built momentum. Students were coming and bringing friends. He felt on the cusp of something special. His authority? They were not happy he was putting his time in resources in this “new” thing and not building Sunday School. To hear him share, the win for the old leaders was simply “get ‘em in Sunday School.” He mentioned to me the only real chance he had to grow the program would happen when the old folks moved on. He had to make a choice to either engage with those old leaders and make the most of it, or pursue something elsewhere.

Imagine if they would have clearly told him their desires in the interview. (I asked and he said they did not.) Imagine if he felt the freedom to discuss with his church leadership why students in his community were drawn to the event rather than the Sunday morning class. He did not feel that freedom at all. The communication lines were not open. That’s not all “their” fault, but clear communication improves results.

Don’t let the enemy win this area, friend. It’s happening regularly, and our ministries hurt for it. Choosing clear communication is a great way to fight that battle.

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