Top goals for staff retreats

Leader Resources

For some, the phrase “staff retreat” conjures up images of a group going to a great location, but being locked up for hours looking through minutia of the calendar, or focused on a particular department’s health or strategies.  Even the word itself has some negative connotations with “retreat” commonly known as falling back in some type of defeat.  For our staff my hope is anything but what I’ve described above.  My prayer is we are able to get away to the hillside if you will, to breathe, to reflect; yes, to rest.

There are three main goals I have for our staff retreats:

  1.  Relationships – As a church ministry staff we do not work one day a week, Sundays, as many like to joke.  Another notion is that we chat and drink coffee all day when we are in the office.  The reality is, I share office space with a group where it is common for us pass each other in the halls as we are about the work.  I actually am sad to confess this, but it is true.  There is a hustle to ministry, and much of that work is focused with energy to those we serve and are trying to reach.  The work is not focused inward, on the team.  To have a time to focus only on our relationships as a team is not only a challenge, but a blessing and precious commodity when we get it.  At our retreats, how do we focus on relationships?  Time – I designate a large chunk of the schedule for unstructured, non-agenda driven time with one another.  Sometimes an activity is planned, but often not – and it yields time to connect in ways I could not have planned in the first place.  We recently experienced ample time to talk at our meals, and a staff member described this aspect as such a good, laughter filled time of connection.

2. Rest – Another objective is to create space, margin, time to rest.  I will do a future post on some of my favorite locations for retreats.  But the location is important.  Get away, make it feel like a break.  Our recent retreat to Quartz Mountain State Park was perfect in that it was far enough of a drive to feel a disconnect, but not too far to be road weary.  And the main box it checked was the scenery.  If you have not been to this gem in Southwest Oklahoma, plan a day trip.  Rest removes us from the constant drum beat, it refreshes the soul.  It calibrates us to understand that we are not so important that we cannot rest.  It reminds us of how small we are and how big God is when we see and breathe in His creation.  Jesus frequently stepped aside, alone or with the disciples, to talk to the Father.  He implored His disciples to get to a solitary place and rest. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)” Mark 6:31 NASB/biblegateway

3. Responsibility – One thing about rest though, it seems sweeter when you feel like you have or are accomplishing something.  As I plan the agenda, I like to focus on one thing that will be a takeaway of completion.  What is our task?  What are we here to do?  This particular retreat’s task was to introduce and solidify our 2019 theme and settle the action steps for the first half of the year.  Confession: did we walk through a calendar?  Yes.  We do want to insure that all have had opportunity to hear the “big pieces” ahead and to be able to avoid overlap or ministry conflicts with one another.  But, I did try to limit this time and held it off for one of the final meeting times.

Bottom line, I walked away from this retreat with a deepened friendship with our staff.  We prayed, we laughed, we were stirred and challenged.  We tackled a task together.  I sat by myself and reflected on the Lord; I wandered about a bit in His incredible handiwork.  Thank you God.

60th Anniversary – Key Marriage Success Factor

Marriage and Family

Over the summer, my parents celebrated 60 years of marriage.  Congrats Mom and Dad!  1958 was a little while back!  I am so happy for them.  My family gathered for a fun time to let them know how thankful we are for them and this testament to their love and commitment.  I am mindful of the truth of the Bible as it says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22

There is no question that milestones like these, ones that really stand out, should drive us to step back and ask questions.  How did they do this?  I am simply trying to live to be 60, let alone be married for 60.  Are they really happy?  Are they simply just driven, or have an extra measure of grit?  Are they really in love?  How do you even describe love at a 60th anniversary?

But I think it is best to simply keep this post focused on one key success factor for marriage.  A key factor that I have seen displayed for my 47 of their 60 years of marriage.  A key factor that to me becomes more precious everyday personally, in my marriage and in ministry.  A key factor that when absent leaves relationship and interactions lacking or worse, deteriorating.  Kindness.  Be kind.

Kindness speaks to others’ needs before my needs.  Kindness speaks to being slow to anger.  Kindness speaks to respect.  Kindness speaks to bold tenderness.  Kindness speaks to being steady – even keeled.  Kindness speaks to care with words and deeds.  Kindness speaks to forgiveness.

The Bible says:

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Kindness defined – “the quality of being warmhearted, considerate, humane, gentle, and sympathetic.” (logos)

I have shared through the years with couples the x-factor to displaying kindness.  Here’s the thing.  You can’t work this up.  You can’t simply try harder at being kind.  It really doesn’t work well.  Sure some people have gentle temperaments etc., I understand.  But, here’s what I have seen.  I have seen mean people have their heart tenderized by the Lord Jesus.  He moves in, takes over.  Simply, He becomes Lord of their life.

It is not normal for people to display “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.”  It literally involves a take-over, a remodel that reminds you and me that at our best, we are still fixer-uppers.  But a life displaying the fruit of the Spirit shows evidence that He is alive and well in us.

*Disclaimer – Reality Check
Listen, life is hard, people are difficult, plus you don’t always feel good or like everyone all the time.  You will not be perfect, you will need to back up and ask for forgiveness, or pray for a do over.  Sin.  But, the point is, there is a way, there is a path and even a standard that we can at least aspire to.  Am I even trying?  Do I address a problem by focusing on the other person, or on myself?  I read recently, “I am not kind to others because they are, but because I am.”

Mom and Dad, thanks for displaying kindness.  I love you and I thank the Lord for you and I pray he blesses you with many more years filled with joy.

Thanks for hanging out on the blog with me.  I am grateful!  If you desire to dig deeper in your relationship, check out some of these encouraging people:

Dr. Tate Cockrell

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Dr. Gary Chapman

Peace!

Bible Study Tools

Discipleship, Personal Growth

Currently I am reading through the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament.  I’m a guy who’s grown up in church, even been to seminary, and I still have to slow down and think through some really hard to grasp passages.  Ezekiel no doubt is an entire book that takes some extra time and thought – what is this about, who is it written to, what do these visions mean, how does it apply to me?  If it is difficult for a seasoned believer to understand complex Bible passages or books, imagine being a new believer or unchurched?  Wouldn’t it be great to have some tools to help in the journey of understanding God’s Word?  Here are four great tools to get in anyone’s hands to help in understanding the Bible.

The Bible Project.  Just this morning while reading through Ezekiel, I clicked on youtube to this great resource, pulled up the comprehensive flyover of the book and got my bearings on the who, what, when, where of this important writing.  The link I gave here takes you to their actual website.  Simple, clear, and visual, this tool is like a quick map to gain your bearings, and even today I learned new things.

The Bible App.  Thank you LifeChurch for your creation of and investment in this app.  I use it daily, weekly!  From looking up a passage in relatively any translation or even language, to unique Bible studies and reading schedules, this app is the ultimate.  I use it for my daily reading using my favorite format that is reading through the Bible in chronological order.

Understanding the Bible by Max Anders.  The Bible is a library of books in your hands; sections of history and poetry, prophecy and letters.  One thing it is not is a novel.  It does not read in sequence according to years, it is chopped up.  Anders takes the Bible and helps the reader grasp the grand sweep of history through the Bible, how all the books flow from creation to eternity, where and how a minor prophet relates to Moses and the Gospel writers.  This book is a must for new believers or seasoned saints.

Logos.  The new believer to the mature can certainly use Logos and its tools, but this is likely more appropriate for the deep divers, pastors and teachers who rely on the languages behind the Bible translation used and technical commentaries.  It certainly is for the Bible student who is looking to offload a library full of physical books for an even bigger digital library; a library that instantly pulls a search or query from all those books into one click.  It really is incredible and I am grateful for this amazing tool.

There you have it.  Four powerful resources to help anyone get to know the Bible better!

Family Values

Marriage and Family, Personal Growth

A couple of years back, the Griffin crew headed up to one of our all-time favorite spots, Red River, New Mexico.  It is a great mountain town in the Enchanted Circle of New Mexico.  We have skied there, hiked there, shopped there, fished there and yes, have had intense go-cart and putt-putt golf competitions.  Recently a family who is dear to us headed up that way, and I made mention of two great hikes, one up to Middle Fork Lake and the other to Lost Lake. 

From Lost Lake you can scramble on up to the top of New Mexico, Wheeler Peak.  Both lakes are beautiful, but you have to pick a direction.

In life, knowing your direction is key.  Core Values, that is the direction or vector you choose in life for yourself, your family or for an organization can either be accidental, or they can be thought through and chosen.  Either way, you are definitely headed somewhere.  Wouldn’t it be better to choose your direction?

For my family, there are identified values.  These guide our heading – which by the way, we may not know the ultimate destination or outcome until we get there – but these values set the course.

Here are our Griffin family values:

Lifelong learning

We are committed to the pursuit of learning and stretching ourselves – about God and all He has created, from history, cultures and languages, to the arts, sciences and nature.

Launching pad

Our family is a launching pad, for each of us – to go, explore, build relationships and community, and challenge ourselves through mistakes and success.

Christ-likeness

Our desire is to be like Jesus – to obey His commands to love God and love our neighbors.  To be filled with the Spirit and display the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and most of all, love.

Unconditional love

In a world filled with pain, painful choices, and the pain we may endure or cause, regardless, we are committed to unconditional love and acceptance.  We are committed to a bold love that can say “no”, that challenges, rebukes, corrects, forgives and restores.

Joy

We pray that our home is filled with much joy and laughter!  Life is hard – why make it more difficult by being unkind?  Slow to speak, slow to anger – a gentle answer turns away wrath.  Peace.

 

There you have it.  These values keep us on the path to what I believe will continue to be a very fulfilling and rewarding future.  Which trail will you choose?

Take 5

Leader Resources, Marriage and Family

You are familiar no doubt with the phrase “let’s take five” – to take a five or ten minute break before returning to work.  Most places of occupation have some type of work break through the day.  These short bursts of breaks are effective in many ways, from quick energy boosts to regained focus (coffee doesn’t hurt either).  In an even greater sense, you are likely able to accrue longer periods of time to be away to get some valuable rest and relaxation.

Recently, I traveled with my family to the Florida gulf coast and wow, was it a stunning place!  The combination of miles of powdery white sand and incredible crystal clear waters provide for hues of vivid color that look as if edited with a image filter.  But even more, the beauty of that time, even time in traffic (thanks Alabama) with my family was a huge boost; a massive recharge to my soul.

If you’re like me and serve in ministry, we are awful good at guilt tripping ourselves that this time away is not okay, or a waste or idle.  How could we take a break when there is Kingdom work at hand?  True, there is no off switch on the mandate we are given; but in order to avoid personal burnout, moral failure, and/or the neglect of our families these times are critical.  Thankfully I serve at a church and with a group of ministers who understand the value of the recharge!  Thank you Jesus for your example of going off to the hillside to spend time alone with the Father.

I learned a very valuable and handy concept from one of my good friends about how to think about time and how we invest it.  Jeremie Kubicek penned a book from his insights in dealing with leaders and their management of time called 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time.  And no, we are not talking simply about how to handle your schedule and appointments.  Rather, Jeremie helps us explore our presence behind the schedule – where’s your focus and attention?  He explores and unpacks how to maximize the types of time we have every day, every month, and every year.  He shares these times of focus in the form of gears, like selecting the right gear at the right time in a car.

Which takes me back to family vacation.  Through the concepts of this book, I not only understand the importance of the gears and what gear vacation time is, but how to use this gear/time to the fullest by how I set my mind during it.  I fully engaged the right gear for the right time.  When I returned to work, I returned with my soul energized and refueled with my most important relationships – to God, and to my family – empowered.

Premarital Counseling Assessments

Leader Resources, Marriage and Family

Through the spring and early summer, odds are you have attended a wedding or two and perhaps led the ceremony.  Such good times!  And as you know, these times of immense excitement also bring anxieties about the readiness of the couple for this lifelong journey.  I have experienced this concern from the couples wondering if this is right and if they are ready.  But there are others who also want the best for them and want to help them be prepared, including their families and ministers.

If you are responsible for working with couples on this important part of the journey, there are tools out there that are great resources to assist you!

These premarital counseling tools can help you:

  • Assess couple preparedness/success for marriage:  Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly assess strengths and weaknesses for this particular couple in the area of finances, romance, communication styles or family background to name just a few?  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a “dashboard” warning so to speak of issues that could cause grief for this couple in the years ahead?
  • Manage the counseling sessions: It can be intimidating for ministers to think of how to structure premarital counseling – what should be covered, how long the sessions should be, how to find and ask the right questions, and give the right coaching exercises.
  • Launch the couple with tools for the future:  How fulfilling would it be to give resources and concepts to the couple for the journey ahead!  Assessments like the ones I’ll mention give practical help to daily life like budgeting, dating and romance, conflict management, healthy communication and spiritual growth!

Back in 1995 I was introduced to my first premarital counseling assessment called Prepare-Enrich and I have used it for many years.  It is extremely helpful and very thorough asking the couple to individually rank “most like me, least like me” type questions about finances, physical intimacy, family background, personality, communication and conflict management to name a few.  The concept is this, while you could spend hours asking questions of the couple about the previous list, you would then also need to work to figure out what are areas of strength and what areas need attention because they could cause trouble.  For this assessment and the next, they do this task for you.  This is not about ease, but rather about precision.  Why talk in length about financial management if the assessment shows this is not a great area of concern for that particular couple?  I also like that it allows me the opportunity to simply reflect back to the couple, “Here is an area that we need to address, because you indicated disagreement about this statement on the assessment.”  This is far different than, “I think you have a problem here.”  There is cost involved and an amount of training to be a facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich tool.  Walter Mullican here in Oklahoma is a great contact for how that works.

But, I have added a new assessment as an option and I have been using it most recently with my premarital couples.  Developed by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, it is called SYMBIS, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.   I like the fresh view that it gives in its format and delivery, and while much of the content would be the same as mentioned above (as with all premarital content), how it shares it is fresh and I believe unique.  In short, the bonus for me with SYMBIS is that its up to date personalized report for the couple is thorough and available for them through the sessions.  The facilitator report and guide is also very thorough and walks you through each session’s content.  Prepare-Enrich is also thorough and provides workbooks and reports, but to me it seems to take a bit more searching for and connecting of the areas that need to be addressed.  As with Prepare Enrich, there is training and cost involved to become a SYMBIS facilitator.  Dr. Parrott leads the online training through recorded video segments and brief content mastery quizzes.  Either way you go on the assessments, the cost is worth it, the training is worth it.  You’ll be glad you did, and the couples certainly will be as well!

Share in the comments of any tools for this aspect of ministry you have found useful!  Keep at it!

Leader Resource: Church Answers

Leader Resources

As you minister in the local church, you likely grapple with issues and are responsible for leading in areas that range from the health of your ministry’s discipleship and evangelism to risk management and campus security.  You likely wrestle personally and with others on your church staff about church vitality and day in and day out operations.  Are there answers out there?  Is anyone having conversations about current needs and trends?

As I have scanned the horizon for resources that are solid, I continue to be grateful for how Thom Rainer shares his insights on church health and leadership.  Many would be familiar with books he has authored like I Am a Church Member, Simple Church and Transformational Church.  But I want to highlight a couple of resources beyond these solid books.

One is thomrainer.com.  There are varied outlets here from the blog to podcasts.  The links and resources are strong, but most importantly this resource is free.  I appreciate this site and it has a permanent home in my tabs.

A click up from this free site is a new (to me) resource I have been using for the past couple of months.  It also has a home in my tabs, churchanswers.com.  No matter the church size, and no matter the location, as you connect online with this resource you will be part of a monthly “virtual staff meeting” with Rainer and other leaders.  Each month he walks us through a current issue within the church.  Let’s say you cannot make that meeting – every meeting and all resources connected to that meeting are archived on the site.  Beyond the “virtual staff meetings” are other resources, like a leadership forum where you can easily find conversations and content related to a myriad of issues.  Check it out.

Thanks Dr. Rainer for the resources.  And minister, thanks for leading!  Keep going!  Please comment on any of these resources, but especially share about anything you have found that is helping you in ministry.

Southern Baptist Convention 2018 – Dallas

SBC

My family and I returned to the SBC this year in Dallas.  My parents attended as well as messengers from their home church.  Mom and Dad talked with me today about the US Vice President speaking to the convention Wednesday and the stir that created (security etc).  But we hearkened back to a 1976 appearance of our US President when we were present at that convention.  Obviously, I have been to a few SBC’s through the years!  US Politics aside, this convention did not fail to have its ups and downs, times of encouragement and discouragement; things to praise and things to confess and repent.  But, overall I left this year’s Southern Baptist Convention heartened and encouraged about our future.  Why?

Clear mission.  While a massive entity made up of thousands of churches representing millions of people, the SBC is bulky and perhaps clunky, but healthy.  My home church sent voting messengers to the meeting, as all SBC participating churches can and should.  For the differences among churches and individuals, we clearly unite around the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ.  And, we are clearly united around partnering together to send that message globally.

Clarifying meetings.  Beyond our unifying mission, churches that comprise the SBC give financially through the Cooperative Program. By the Lord’s hand, the CP funds our efforts to partner together to equip, resource and deploy our energies in the Great Commission.  This happens through Mission Boards, Seminaries, our voice in the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and through powerful ministry aid like Disaster Relief.  Our annual meetings shine a light on that work; accountability if you will.  The older I get the more I realize everyone has a boss.  Listen, all we do in the SBC can be clarified or called into question by any messenger at any microphone at our annual meetings.  This is good.  In the end, we all get the privilege to show up, pray and worship at our gathering, listen, give input or speak up if needed, and most importantly vote.  I heard one fellow mention, “this is why we don’t do business meetings at our church anymore.”  Really, that is sad.  Our polity and local ecclesiology is set up to be quite flat and in the end, purposefully shared.  An influential pastor in my life realizes the importance of this shared responsibility in business meetings in the form of forcing communication.  If decisions are going to be made – the content about those decisions must be shared.

Humble Champions.  Look, no one is or should be an idol and no one should be put on a pedestal.  AND it is refreshing and encouraging to find faithful leaders who are compelling us to the future.  Number one, there are the 79 we sent to the nations, leaving heart and home to share the Gospel.  There were the heartfelt stories of the Pomeroy’s of FBC Sutherland Springs, TX who have ministered faithfully in the midst of unimaginable grief and are pressing on to a new day!  There were the bold, transparent and solid words of our Seminary Presidents like interim SWBTS president Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, in the wake of a tide of sobering, bold and clear needed changes.  And many more are faithfully following Christ and serving!  Listen, I thank the Lord for H.B. Charles, Bart Barber, J.D. Greear, Felix Cabrera, Russell Moore, Tate Cockrell, David Platt, and many many more, faithfully following Christ.  And there are those who serve that are not on the platform so to speak – champions that serve on the committees and boards of the SBC bearing as we have seen in recent days, burdens of responsibility that create personal anguish and the need for bold decision making – for no pay, no accolades, and perhaps no recognition.

I’ve been going to the SBC for over 40 years.  We have weathered much through the years.  There will be more storms ahead.  But, as Augie Boto reminded us, this old ship is sturdy, and at the helm are new vibrant leaders humbly following the Lord.  I hope and pray when Jennifer and I join in the convention halls with our kids and grandkids in the future we also reminisce about this current group of leaders, commission new servants in the Kingdom, and commit to stay focused on the Word and the Gospel.

Welcome!

Hey there!

Thank you for checking out the website.  I am grateful you are here and I hope you are encouraged by the insights and resources that I have found.  Please take a moment to share insights that you have gained as well! 

My wife Jennifer and I have been married for 25 years, and have two awesome teenagers.  I have been blessed to be in ministry for almost 30 years.