Legacy Now Blog - Jason Carr Writes

Exploring the collision of everyday life and an incredible God

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Your Choice

Choose-Your-Path

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.

Your Voice

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“Wow, you sound different.”

Voice changing. All teenage boys experience it. It’s part of life. A visit to a middle school service at the beginning of a school year and again at the end will render about an octave lower sound change.

We don’t know exactly when the change will occur. Nature has its way of doing that in each life. You could call it by design.

The same is true about our own “voice.” By voice, I mean how you sound and how you say it. You might not even realize your voice has changed or is changing. Many times others point that out in us.

In my own life, last year proved to be a rough one with some severe family circumstances. In the midst of that, the anchor of my faith had to extend to depths I was not sure was possible on the front end. As a result, my voice has changed. I have experienced a relationship with my Heavenly Father in a new way, and it changed my voice.

The experience reminds me of Paul. Before he knew God, he was committed to stopping the message of Christianity and its followers. And then he became one. In one instance we find Paul in prison singing praise songs while in jail. Really? He used to send people to jail for being Christians, and now is in the same predicament and is thanking God? (Acts 16)

As God directs our lives, He often develops our voices too. Click To Tweet

Amazing how He takes our situations and resets our perspective! In doing so, our voices might reflect what He is doing in and through us as we navigate what’s going on.

While I was catching up with a friend recently, he said I sounded different. I just nodded my head and thanked God that He is with me along the way. There is so much in our voices beyond our words. Our voice reflects what He is doing in and through us.

So I need to ask, how is your voice today?

Culture Dirt

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Programming? Volunteers? Staff? Events? Curriculum?

All these are important, but which one is most important? In the case of growing ministries, they all work together. Something underneath holds it together and gives it fertile soil in which to grow.

That soil would be the culture you create and maintain.

Your volunteers know when the staff do not get along with each other.
Your band knows when you are not on the same page.
Your curriculum sets the stage for your communicator and volunteers.
Your events are a big momentum swing or drain.
Your volunteers check a box or engage on mission with you.
Your students can tell from their leaders more than they will say, but they will observe and carry with them the health of your culture. That goes home with them.

Your culture affects way more than you see on the surface. Click To Tweet

I’ve been in both unhealthy and healthy cultures. Frankly, I’ve contributed to both. Chances are you have too.

One pattern I see in healthy cultures is the willingness to ask hard questions and evaluate. That might be by taking surveys, bringing in fresh eyes consulting,  or reviewing your mission statement to see if you’re on track.

The word culture is so overused right now it’s become almost vanilla in church world—I get it. But it’s important for us to consider the health of our culture, because it affects literally everything.

Peel back the layers and consider your culture. It very well may be one of the most important things you can do as you lead the ministry with which He has trusted you. You might have to get your hands dirty, but it’s worth it. Weeds will kill your growth, and it takes constant tilling, fertilization, and patience to grow healthy crops. The same is true for your culture. It won’t happen overnight, but a consistently faithful approach to trusting Him to lead it well might just grow something you couldn’t imagine and take credit for.

Respect

Photo Feb 20, 6 00 36 PM

Respect is often earned, not given.

I was recently visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California when I witnessed a great scene. A high school Naval Junior ROTC unit was on property preparing for an event. As I left the library, I saw an elderly man wearing a WWII Veteran hat and jacket approach them.

Age had slowed him, but he moved towards the group with purpose. He walked up to them and looked each cadet in the eye to shake hands. I saw the teenagers immediately turn to attention. They didn’t know him, but instinctively they knew to show him respect.

In a mere matter of seconds, a man who has been there can remind you of the power of service. We respect someone who has done it before and been in the trenches. We respect someone who has experienced what we are training for. We naturally respect those who have gone before so we can do what we do now.

The same is true for us as church leaders. Those who have gone before us deserve our respect. Those behind us could benefit from our journey. Let’s not forget those whose shoulders we are standing on now and those who will be standing on ours.

I heard about a retired pastor who now feels useless. Though he had planted and built churches, his ability to communicate and lead regularly diminished. But his heart still beats to help others. A friend asked him simply to meet for coffee once a month, and now that retired pastor has a renewed purpose. He can help others. You can too.

Maybe you are “further down the road” and part of your mission now is to invest in others. Maybe you are still getting started.

Take time to consider to whom you can show respect. Click To Tweet

It might be those before you or those coming after you, but His Kingdom is made up of all kinds of leaders.

As those cadets knew to respect the veteran, so should we in our service to Him.

 

Your Word

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What is your favorite word currently?

Seriously, take a moment and think about a word that causes your brain to think and dream.

Obviously, I’m a bit of a words guy; you are reading mine right now. I have noticed that during different seasons, specific words seem to rise up as the words God is using to help me as I keep growing in Him.

I want to challenge you today to simply take time and consider what God is doing in your life. What word would describe that? It doesn’t have to be a happy word. It doesn’t have to be a spiritual word. It’s just a word that summarizes what He is doing.

One of my favorite “back porch” questions is, “What is God teaching you right now?” For me, it usually comes back to the word He has floating around my life. The more I can see that, the more I seem to get an idea of how He is chipping away at my soul, character, and life.

For example, my current word I am thinking a lot and talking about with others is “sovereign.” I know it’s a bit of a churchy word, but for me it has been powerful. Through that word alone, He has been digging deep in me and resetting some foundational things in my life and faith. Last year my words included “abide” and “anchor.”

It’s wise to take time to simply ask: God what are you trying to teach me right now? Click To Tweet

One really interesting side-effect of honing in on a word is how He will bring it up in conversations with others, sermons you hear, things you read, and songs you hear. He’s good like that.

God determines the seasons, so the word He is challenging you with might be for a day, it might be for years. Our role is to lean in and seek His wisdom as we unpack what He is doing in and through our lives.

So, what’s your word? Take time to consider that and ask Him to use that in deep ways in your life.

HALT! E-book

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I self published my first book almost 8 years ago. It’s only been available as a physical book . . . until now!

I am excited to announce that I have made HALT! DISMOUNT AND BE RECOGNIZED available as a download on the Noisetrade site.

You can download it for free, or tip as much as you want.

As I ramp up into what’s next, I wanted to share with you what came before.

I wrote HALT after many years of leading small groups of teenage guys and being frustrated with how they don’t read. I kept trying to read a book with groups and rarely did we finish one. I intentionally made the chapter’s short and included questions for a small group leader to use. The crazy thing is, it worked. I’ve even read it with several small groups I’ve led since its release.

HALT is full of stories that have a point. It has three sections, each pointing to seeing God in the midst of the journey. I’ve shared a lot of the stories in HALT over the years speaking at camps and events and it’s been something special seeing God use them to impact others. I hope and pray that if you have not read it and want to use it for a small group or your own reading, that He’ll use it to encourage you.

HALT is not a perfect book. It has some funny references reading it now (MySpace?) and it has a few errors in it. I’ve come to love that over the years, because we all have our warts and it’s imperfections make it more real.

Hope that God might use it to nudge you or your small group to laugh a little, think deeply, and have some great discussion about how amazing He is.

You can check out the page here.

At Fault

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It’s always his or her fault, isn’t it?

You can track back to the story of Adam and Eve when the blame game began. And it continues today.

A pattern I’ve seen in my life and in other leaders is that our struggles have a face that is not our own. Yet, often we choose not to handle it well and make our struggle worse.

The lack of clear communication and understanding in relationships leads to apathy—a feeling of “it’s always going to be this way.” The remedy for that is empathy.

Empathy trumps apathy. Click To Tweet

Choose to see things from a side of empathy, not apathy.

Choosing to be empathetic simply means to choose to listen and ask questions about why someone is acting the way he is.

Often I am recommending student ministry teams (in some cases church staffs) take personality tests to help understand each other more. I regularly encourage engaged couples to take personality tests and be honest about how God has wired them. I’ve even encouraged some parents to do this with their families to better understand some of the behavior patterns of their students.

Knowledge is power and can lead to understanding, which leads to empathy. The enemy would prefer us to be apathetic and to choose the worst in our relationships. Simply taking a test does not make anything better. You have to do something with the results. That requires time, understanding, and clear communication. It starts with a willingness not to assume, but to do the work of choosing empathy over apathy.

I’m writing this for a reason. As I take stock of the many conversations I’ve had with church leaders, this is a big issue. Many are struggling with their work and ministry culture, and it’s led to apathy. The enemy wins. Choose to work through it and seek clear communication, which very well might lead to understanding and empathy.

In that case, the enemy will not win. In fact, I think that God often gives us tough relationships to lead us to a deeper trust of Him and of how He has made us.

It might not be their fault after all.

Were we like that?

THE-QUESTIONING-MIND

Were we like that when we were that age?

That question was asked to me recently and I love it. It was a profound “legacy moment” for me when God reminded me of a great truth.

I am leading a new small group with some incredible freshmen guys. I’m excited to engage and go on this journey with them. I hope that twenty years into this I have some idea of what I’m doing.

One of the “only God” elements of this group for me is that my co-leader was once in a group I led years ago. In fact, one of students has an older brother from that group; he wanted this for his little brother. After our first meeting with the guys, my new co-leader and that older brother asked, “Were we like that when we were that age?”

They were taken aback a bit by how quiet the new boys were and that they barely spoke.

I told them they were the same way at that age.

I reminded them of a huge truth when engaging with students: it takes time to build community. Click To Tweet

In many ways, leading a small group now means teaching students that community can actually exist beyond social media. That means crazy things like talking, listening, asking questions, and responding.

As you start a group, it’s wise to have a long-term perspective. You most likely will not have groundbreaking theological discussions on the front end. I vividly remember many groups when getting in the closing prayer between snickering over bodily noises and sarcasm felt like a win (no, it was not all my fault).

Ask the Lord to give you a long-term vision for your group and pray for a boatload of patience and self-control as you launch. At some point they might just ask: “Were we like that?” one day too. Our part is to be faithful and leave the results to Him.

QTL

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What are you going to do with what you have left?

As we start a new year, it’s a great question to consider.

I read an article  about the hall of fame coach Jimmy Johnson and his son’s struggle with addiction and recovery. In the article, Coach mentions something a football team owner told him once: “What are you going to do with you QTL?”

QTL means “Quality Time Left.”

That question jarred him and led to his eventual retirement from coaching. That question should jar us as we invest in students. We only have so much time.

Taking time to think about the time you have left should encourage us to use it well. Click To Tweet

That is a great question for those of us engaged in relational ministry. Just this past week I had the chance to spend time with guys in their 20s and 30s whom I led when they were teenagers. As we were catching up, time and again I was reminded about how important it is to engage in relationships now. They remember so much about our time together.

As God trusts you with students and others to invest in, consider your time. The good people at Orange have talked about this a lot over the years: you only have so many moments to engage. Make it count. No matter what season your students might be in, your QTL clock is ticking.

Students typically remember way more about who we were and what we did than what we said. Create moments. Engage in life. Be a positive presence, even in the negative times.

2016 is a great year to make time in your ministry to take advantage of the QTL that the Lord allows you to have. Ask the Lord to help you set plans now to be able to by faith look back on 2016 as one of the years that you leveraged your QTL for good. By all means, let’s not look back and wish we had used it better.

It’s in those QTL moments that He might just use you to help pave the foundation for what He has for the rest of their lives.

The Missional Moment

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Have you ever been in a room full of people, yet felt alone?

Of course, you have. You are human. You have feelings, longings, and desires.

It’s a strange feeling to feel alone. In some ways it reminds you that you are made for human contact. In other ways, it’s a pathway for voices to discourage you and manipulate your feelings.

I’m a professional at this, on both sides. Being vulnerable here, there are many times I have felt alone in a room full of friends.

As I’ve talked about this realization with others and sought out scriptures, one truth has been unearthed for me.

Jesus was here too.

I can’t even try to put myself into his shoes (or sandals?). But imagine that you are the chosen Son of God, sent to redeem mankind, and surrounded by a bunch of arguing, doubting followers scared of old-school tradition and dictatorship. Yet in the midst of that, our Savior trusted, loved, listened, questioned, told stories, and ultimately died on a cross to be risen again all because He knew those people and that you and I are worth it to Him.

In the midst of the moment, He remembered His mission. Click To Tweet

That’s true for you and me too. I know the holidays can lead to some not-so-great feelings and realities. It also is a reminder that we have a Savior who can fully understand our emotions and feelings.

One pattern we see a lot with Jesus is that in those moments He will sneak away to simply be with His Father and pray. That is a great tool for us too. When the moment is overwhelming, it’s wise to hit refresh with the Father and remember this mission.

Recently I had a Sunday morning free from any commitments with Legacy Now, so I attended church. Resisting the urge to stay home alone and watch online, I physically went to church. Before I left that day, I had enough hugs and high fives from friends to remind me that my mission is worth pursuing.

You are not alone, friend. You have a Savior who is with you. Lean in and listen, and you’ll be reminded what this season is all about: His great love for you.

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