This image is a “To Do List” from one of my all-time favorite musicians (and an Arkansan) Johnny Cash. The list was sold at auction in 2010 for $6,400. I really wanted this list, but not just because I’m a huge Cash fan. I wanted the list because it gave a simple, yet life-changing example of priorities.

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Item #2 and #9 really stood out to me.

2. Kiss June

9. Go see Mama

These lines show that Johnny Cash valued relationships. He valued them so much that he was willing to carve time out of his schedule for them. He made sure that his to-do list included investments in those relationships.

My “To Do List” had a lot of tasks, but not too many relationships.

It’s easy to say that I invested in relationships even though they’re not on my list, but that’s not the truth. As I looked at past lists, I can remember weeks that were so busy that I actually damaged relationships rather than building them up. Something had to change.

After seeing the list from the Man in Black, I started intentionally placing relationships on my to-do list. I now have a Task column and a Relationship column.

I try to make sure that the Relationship column is equal or greater than my tasks each week. It may be a phone call to say thank you or a lunch meeting with a volunteer to share how God is moving, but I want to put forth some type of effort to invest in relationships.

I’ve entered into one of the busiest “task” times of my life. I have to admit that the tasks are wearing on me. But for every new item in the Task column, there is also a new Relationship that I get to invest in. For a relational guy like me, this has sustained me and energized me more than ever.

How can you use your “To Do List” to value relationships?


This past Sunday, we invited students from our High School ministry to come and share with our preteens. We asked them to share specifically about their experiences in Middle School and High School.

I wish we would’ve filmed the interaction, but here are a few quotes from the High School students:

“Be careful what you listen to. What goes in your ears will come out of your mouth.”

“You always have a friend in God.”

“Watch what you say. You never know how it will affect someone.”

“We’re not perfect. Don’t think that. We’re still struggling with the same things and trying to figure it out.”

“This is not the end. Eternity is the end.”

It was amazing to watch the preteens (boys and girls) be glued to the High School students. They were hanging on every word out of the students’ mouths. After the Q&A with the students, preteens went off to small groups. Several of the Small Group Mentors said it was one of the best small group sessions they’ve had. They said the kids were so talkative and repeating back all they had heard from the High School students.

I’m so thankful that God moved in this service. We will definitely do it again in the near future. After the service, I jotted down a few notes and a couple of thoughts. As I looked back over my notes, I’m really left with 2 big questions regarding preteen ministry.

How are we preparing preteens for something bigger than the issues of right now?

A 12th grade girl made the comment, “This is not the end. Eternity is the end.” She explained that good things and bad things will happen, but the most important thing is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It was such a great statement. It made me think about how we need to spend more time focusing on the big picture with preteens. We focus on the issues they face, and I think that is good. But they also need to be reminded of the awesome God that created them, loves them, and uses them for His glory.

How can we use the experiences and wisdom of teenagers in preteen ministry?

I was absolutely blown away at the maturity and wisdom of the teenagers. They shared great advice from a place of humility and honesty. As I watched the preteens, they were completely engaged. For those of you that work with preteens, you know how rare that is! I’m not sure how, but we need to find ways to use the experiences and wisdom of teenagers in preteen ministry.

What do you think?

Parent Meeting

No matter what age group you minister to—children, preteens, or students—parental involvement is essential. Parents need to know about your ministry so they feel confident that it is safe and secure. They also need to know how you will equip them and call them to disciple their sons and daughters.

One of the best ways to communicate vision and strategy with parents is to host a Parent Meeting. Bringing parents together in one room can be very beneficial, but it takes planning to be effective. Here is a basic outline for how to plan your next parent meeting.

Step 1—Invite Parents

Guess what? Parents won’t know about the meeting unless you invite them! Send out an invitation (via print or email) at least 1 month in advance. Give them plenty of notice so that they can make the meeting a priority in their schedule. Try attaching some meeting details to the invite. Let them know what the meeting is about and why it is so important for them to be present. Be careful not to give too much away! The best invite will communicate two things to parents: urgency and mystery.

Step 2—Create a “Wow” Environment

You may only have one chance to connect with a parent, so make it count. Use videos, bulletin boards, or testimonies to highlight what God is doing in your ministry. Make the room comfortable and provide refreshments. Who doesn’t love some warm cookies??

Step 3—Keep Content Limited and Focused

A parent meeting is not the time to try to cover everything you’ve ever wanted to tell parents. Try to focus on one topic that is relevant to your audience. For example, you might have a parent meeting that trains parents on how to have a family devotion or how to share the Gospel with specific ages. Other focused topics might be specific to your ministry vision or strategy. If you need to cover multiple topics with parents, it may be better to consider a parent retreat or a parent discipleship class that meets over several weeks.

Step 4—Leave Room for Discussion

Every group of parents I’ve ever met with has requested more opportunities to talk about issues with other parents. Talking with one another helps parents to get ideas and share their stories. It also helps them to see that they are not alone in their struggles and failures. Encourage parents to break into small groups and discuss the information covered in the meeting. Provide some discussion questions for the parents, and ask them to end by praying for one another in their groups.

Step 5—Provide Action Steps and Follow-Up

When the meeting is over, it will feel like a huge success—mainly because it’s over and one with! However, the true test is whether or not the meeting led parents to take action. Give some specific action steps and ideas for parents during the meeting, and follow-up with them 3-6 months later.

Here’s an example of action steps and follow-up. We hosted a parent meeting last spring on the topic of adolescent transition and sexual purity. At the end of the meeting, we gave parents a copy of Passport 2 Purity to use with their child. We asked parents to schedule a purity weekend with their preteen sometime this year, and then send us testimonies about their weekend once it was complete. It’s amazing to read the emails we’ve already received from families that have taken that step. At 6 months (mid-November), we will follow-up with all parents and remind them about the call to take that step with their preteen. Instead of a one-time meeting, we’ve managed to create a year-round conversation. It’s all about the follow-up!

If you haven’t hosted a parent meeting in your ministry, I strongly encourage you to do so. Parents need to have a major role in your ministry if you want to be effective. Parents have far greater influence and time than anyone in your ministry, so find a way to connect with them and leverage that influence for good!

My 40-Day Challenge

September 18, 2012 — 2 Comments

40 Days
Forty days.

A few months ago, I signed up to run in a half-marathon. I’ve not taken it too seriously. I wouldn’t say I’m out of shape, but I’m definitely not in “let’s go run 13.1-miles” shape! Now, I have forty days to prepare mentally and physically for this run. That’s the 40-Day Challenge.

The challenge isn’t to break a world record. The challenge is to finish. Run, walk, or crawl–I will finish. I’ve set goals and a schedule that will prepare me as best as possible. It’s going to take more discipline than I think I’ve ever shown in anything else. Each day will have to be a strategic step towards the next goal, or I will likely fail.

How’s that for pressure?

I know it will be hard. But in the words of Tom Hanks in the great movie A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great!”

If you want to join me in this challenge, you can do so by donating support to Soaring Wings Ranch. Soaring Wings Ranch provides a permanent Christ-centered home for children who have been the victims of unfortunate circumstances and just need a chance. Your support will give me encouragement, but even more importantly it will support a great ministry for kids and families.

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