Unexpectedly Trained for the Next Step

Unexpectedly Trained for the Next Step

Dear Courageous Church,

Three years ago, Josh asked if I wanted to be a part of a church plant.  There wasn’t a name.  There wasn’t a location.  And there weren’t even people.  We sat down week after week to dream and plan and soon started to have weekly gatherings.  When we sat down to discuss my role in the church.  I assumed since I had been a youth pastor for over a decade, I would be creating a youth program.  Josh had other plans and told me “I believe your gifts, talents and abilities lend themselves to develop our group life.”

Immediately I went and wrote out plan for small groups.  Small groups have always been a part of my ministries and I had a time proven plan.  As I started praying over the plan, I quickly realized that we would not be using my standard plan for small groups.  I had been entrusted to develop a group life that would become the culture of the church.  Whether that be home groups, cell groups, discipleship groups, journey groups, missional groups, community groups, missional community groups or any other name you might call them – Josh trusted me to come up with what was going to be best for Courageous Church.  I read dozens of books, went to conference after conference and talked to anyone that would talk to me about groups and communities.  Out of that study, came Courageous Life.

For the past three years, my ministry has been focused on what people need from a community.  What people need to contribute, how they contribute, what they need out of and need to put into a community. I studied how a community develops, functions, grows, and multiplies.  For the past three years, I have been studying and learning how people connect for the sake of the gospel.  How joyful and fun it has been to watch God work in and through Courageous Church and Courageous Life.  To see others be used by God and be used in ways they didn’t even know about, yet.

Last July, I got a phone call from a sweet lady in Georgia.  As we talked she told me all about her church and their needs.  I finally asked what they were looking for specifically.  She told me that they were seeking an Associate Pastor who could connect people.  God works in crazy ways and uses us in the most unexpected ways.  God has used you Courageous Church to train me to connect people for His glory. On January 18th, I was called by First Baptist Richmond Hill to become their Associate Pastor for the purpose of connecting people to each other and to Jesus Christ.

By watching how God has been preparing me, I am absolutely convinced that God has prepared this specific step for my life. So out of obedience, I will faithfully and trustingly take that step.

I love you.  You know I do.  I have told you every time we have prayed together as a church family.  Know that more than having the honor of being one of your pastors, I have the privilege of calling you my friends.

Always Serving Beside You,

Haley

Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2015

How to Have Great Missional Communities

How to Have Great Missional Communities

This one is for all my missional community groups out there.  My last two post were geared toward the small groups of youth at camp and at church.  This was due to being asked to speak to small group leaders of a camp on how to do small groups.  The last 3 years of my ministry has been dedicated to forming missional communities for adults in a church plant.  It really doesn’t matter though what kind of small group we are discussing, the principle behind the concept is the same for all groups.  The more time you spend outside of your missional community with people from your missional community, the better your actual missional community will be.

The more time you spend outside of your missional community with people from your missional community, the better your missional community will be.

Leaders, think about what you want for your the members of your missional communities or what constitutes a good missional community.  What you really want is for people to open up to each other, to share their deep concerns, hurts, praises, and live life with each other.  It can take an entire semester of year to even come close to that kind of bonding between adults if you just see each other in the missional community and at church.  However, if there is a concerted effort to spend time with each other out side of the missional community meeting time, when you sent down for the group time, it will be a much more valuable time.

For example, I recently had a group plan to all go eat with each other after church.  A very old yet simple and effective idea.  They finally left the restaurant after over 3 hours of talking with each other.  They got to know one another on a whole new level, a fun and social level.  I attended that groups next meeting and it was one of the most productive missional communities I have ever been a part of.  Everyone participated and shared their thoughts and opinions like they had never been closer.  They didn’t have to spend that time getting into each others lives, they were already in each others lives so they could move forward in their purpose.

So how does this look for your Missional Communities?

  • It’s Just Lunch

How crazy are our work days?!?!  Sometimes its hard to even find time to eat.  On the flip side, many of us spend our lunches in networking groups where lunch is part of the deal.  If you as a leader will simply schedule lunches far enough out with your group members, they can make it and they will find it a much needed breather from work.  Furthermore, if your group members will begin to schedule lunches with each other they will find friendships begin to flourish.  These aren’t bible studies, prayer meetings, or counseling sessions.  It’s just lunch between friends getting to know each other.

Every time you meet with each other it doesn’t have to be a bible study, prayer meeting, or counseling session.  It really can just be friends.

  • DYI

Have a “Honey-Do” list a mile long?  Or maybe your buddy just got a new dog and has to put up a fence.  Or your friend is having a baby and really needs to get the walls painted and ceiling fans hung before the baby arrives.  Perhaps there is a new craft or nicknack that you want to make.  Or maybe someone you know has been sick and their lawn is over grown and the shrubs look hideous.  I think you get the point.  If there is something to do and or work on, it is a great time to spend time with each other.  Beside the fact that and extra set of hands is always helpful, think of the time you get to spend with each other and shoot the breeze.  If you shoot the breeze enough with someone, eventually the storm in their life or yours will come and you can face it together.  My own salvation story revolves around a handful of men spending time with me teaching me how to use my hands to build a building.

If you shoot the breeze enough, eventually the storms will come.

  • Play Dates

I’m admit out of my league here, but think I need to mention it.  If you have young kids, there is no better fun for them and a reprieve from having to entertain them, than having them play with other kids.  This can easily be done during the week if you don’t have to work or even after work.  But then how much fun is a simple grill out on the weekend and have someone over for a play date with your kids.  The kids get to play together and you get some great time to just hang out with people your age.

  • Sports & TV Shows

Ok, back to my wheelhouse.  Where I live, every Saturday in the fall  has the possibility to be an event.  All I need is a reason to get together will some friends and eat; most of the time we call that the big game.  Honestly, there are Saturdays where I go to 3 or more houses to watch different games.  These are the times when you can just be yourself and cheer for your team and talk “polite” trash about the other team and more importantly spend time with people.  If you are intentional about this, your small group can easily be a part of these events.  For a long time I have been getting together to watch TV shows.  I remember in college a bunch of us would get together to watch Survivor and Friends.  To tell you the truth, I don’t even like Survivor (except for the games), but I would go just to be around those people.  Right now, I get together with a group of people on Sunday nights to watch a certain show that will remain nameless (it’s The Walking Dead).  At this point, we watch the show and discuss it, but we are really there to be with each other, not for some stupid show.  But, its those times of conversation during half time or during commercials or after the game that we really get to know each other.

I don’t even like what I am watching, I just want to be with the people.

  • Community Missions

Want to get close to a group quick, serve with them.  Do something for someone else.  Walk the streets of a neighborhood and pick up trash, all you have to do is talk and pick up garbage.  Go sort food for the city food pantry, all you have to do is sort and talk.  Build a wheelchair ramp or roof a house for someone, all you have to do is build and you got it, talk.  Get the point.  People love to tell stories, our stories are our lives, tell each other your stories and you know each others lives.

Of course there are other ways to spend time with each other, these are just a few.  Get out there and get to know each other, then when you sit down to spend time with God together, watch God do some incredible things.  I have promised again and again, if you will spend the time outside of your missional community time, you will have great missional communities.

If you will spend the time outside of your missional community time, you will have great missional communities.

Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

 

How To Have Great Adult Small Groups

How to Have Great Adult Small GroupsAlright adults, its your turn.  My last two post were geared toward the small groups of youth at camp and at church.  This was due to being asked to speak to small group leaders of a camp on how to do small groups.  The last 3 years of my ministry has been dedicated to forming small groups (missional communities) for adults in a church plant.  It really doesn’t matter though what kind of small group we are discussing, the principle behind the concept is the same for all groups.  The more time you spend outside of your small group with people from your small group, the better your actual small group will be.

The more time you spend outside of your small group with people from your small group, the better your small group will be.

Leaders, think about what you want for your the members of your small groups or what constitutes a good small group.  What you really want is for people to open up to each other, to share their deep concerns, hurts, praises, and live life with each other.  It can take an entire semester of year to even come close to that kind of bonding between adults if you just see each other in the small group and at church.  However, if there is a concerted effort to spend time with each other out side of the small group meeting time, when you sent down for the group time, it will be a much more valuable time.

For example, I recently had a group plan to all go eat with each other after church.  A very old yet simple and effective idea.  They finally left the restaurant after over 3 hours of talking with each other.  They got to know one another on a whole new level, a fun and social level.  I attended that groups next meeting and it was one of the most productive small groups I have ever been a part of.  Everyone participated and shared their thoughts and opinions like they had never been closer.  They didn’t have to spend that time getting into each others lives, they were already in each others lives so they could move forward in their purpose.

So how does this look for your Adult Small Groups?

  • It’s Just Lunch

How crazy are our work days?!?!  Sometimes its hard to even find time to eat.  On the flip side, many of us spend our lunches in networking groups where lunch is part of the deal.  If you as a leader will simply schedule lunches far enough out with your group members, they can make it and they will find it a much needed breather from work.  Furthermore, if your group members will begin to schedule lunches with each other they will find friendships begin to flourish.  These aren’t bible studies, prayer meetings, or counseling sessions.  It’s just lunch between friends getting to know each other.

Every time you meet with each other it doesn’t have to be a bible study, prayer meeting, or counseling session.  It really can just be friends.

  • DYI

Have a “Honey-Do” list a mile long?  Or maybe your buddy just got a new dog and has to put up a fence.  Or your friend is having a baby and really needs to get the walls painted and ceiling fans hung before the baby arrives.  Perhaps there is a new craft or nicknack that you want to make.  Or maybe someone you know has been sick and their lawn is over grown and the shrubs look hideous.  I think you get the point.  If there is something to do and or work on, it is a great time to spend time with each other.  Beside the fact that and extra set of hands is always helpful, think of the time you get to spend with each other and shoot the breeze.  If you shoot the breeze enough with someone, eventually the storm in their life or yours will come and you can face it together.  My own salvation story revolves around a handful of men spending time with me teaching me how to use my hands to build a building.

If you shoot the breeze enough, eventually the storms will come.

  • Play Dates

I’m admit out of my league here, but think I need to mention it.  If you have young kids, there is no better fun for them and a reprieve from having to entertain them, than having them play with other kids.  This can easily be done during the week if you don’t have to work or even after work.  But then how much fun is a simple grill out on the weekend and have someone over for a play date with your kids.  The kids get to play together and you get some great time to just hang out with people your age.

  • Sports & TV Shows

Ok, back to my wheelhouse.  Where I live, every Saturday in the fall  has the possibility to be an event.  All I need is a reason to get together will some friends and eat; most of the time we call that the big game.  Honestly, there are Saturdays where I go to 3 or more houses to watch different games.  These are the times when you can just be yourself and cheer for your team and talk “polite” trash about the other team and more importantly spend time with people.  If you are intentional about this, your small group can easily be a part of these events.  For a long time I have been getting together to watch TV shows.  I remember in college a bunch of us would get together to watch Survivor and Friends.  To tell you the truth, I don’t even like Survivor (except for the games), but I would go just to be around those people.  Right now, I get together with a group of people on Sunday nights to watch a certain show that will remain nameless (it’s The Walking Dead).  At this point, we watch the show and discuss it, but we are really there to be with each other, not for some stupid show.  But, its those times of conversation during half time or during commercials or after the game that we really get to know each other.

I don’t even like what I am watching, I just want to be with the people.

  • Community Missions

Want to get close to a group quick, serve with them.  Do something for someone else.  Walk the streets of a neighborhood and pick up trash, all you have to do is talk and pick up garbage.  Go sort food for the city food pantry, all you have to do is sort and talk.  Build a wheelchair ramp or roof a house for someone, all you have to do is build and you got it, talk.  Get the point.  People love to tell stories, our stories are our lives, tell each other your stories and you know each others lives.

Of course there are other ways to spend time with each other, these are just a few.  Get out there and get to know each other, then when you sit down to spend time with God together, watch God do some incredible things.  I have promised again and again, if you will spend the time outside of your small group time, you will have great small groups.

 

 If you will spend the time outside of your small group time, you will have great small groups.

© Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

How to Have Great Small Groups – Youth

How To Have Great Small Groups 2

Small groups in the youth world have been around for a long time and in lots of different forms.  Sunday School, table groups, home groups, cell groups, disciple groups, core groups… the list of names goes on and on and on.  There is a key out there that works no matter what you call your small groups for your youth.  This is part 2 of 3 of How to Have Great Small Groups.  In the first post I dealt with small groups at camps, this will be based for small groups in youth groups and the next post will deal with adult groups.  The key for all 3 of these groups is the exact same, just worded a little differently.  If you will train your leaders to invest in those in their small group outside of the small group setting, their small group time will become great.

If you spend time outside of your small group investing into those in your small group you will have great groups.

How does this look for your youth group?

  • Sporting Events & Extra Curricular Activities

This is so simple, really it is.  Do you students play any sport?  Really any sport will do.  Most if not all schools now post their athletic schedules online, you don’t even have to ask the student or their parents when and where they play.  A simple Google search will give you all the dates the students play their sports.  And then show up.  It’s really that easy.  For most student athletes outside of perhaps football and basketball, only their parents and a few friends come to watch them play.  When you show up as a youth worker, they feel special.  Have you ever been to a debate team competition?  If you have a student on the debate team, you better be at their competition.  Band competition, yep, be there, you don’t even have to know what’s going on, just be there.  This is the easiest way to get into your students lives and as youth workers we drop the ball so many times.  Dance recitals, swimming and diving competitions, cross country races, and whatever else your students are into need to be flooded with youth workers that care.

Make someone feel special and your have their attention!

Bonus! Take another student or a few students with you.  The more the merrier and the more special the student feels, not to mention the students you bring feel like that matter as well.

  • Get Outside

Going for a hike today, take a student.  Going on a bike ride, take a student.  Going fishing, take a student.  Want to go see a baseball game, take a student.  I think you get the idea here.  If and when you can, take a student to go do what you love to do.  Part of getting into students lives is allowing them into yours.  They already look up to you, if you allow them in on your hobbies, they will quickly become their hobbies.  Car rides are great times to talk, when you rest from that set of tennis, that’s a great time to talk as well.  When you go, take a student.

It all comes down to spending the time to get into students lives.

  • Bring Them In

Students want to hangout, so why not create the hangout.  These are really simple to do and don’t take much money if any.  For instance, there are so many classic movies out there that students have never seen.  Watch a group of guys get pumped up about spending all night watching the original Star Wars Trilogy, or the Goonies.  Does your church have a basketball court or a volleyball court, game on.   How about those really big screens that are used for words on Sunday mornings, yeah, those make great video game screens as well.  Trust me, food and something to do is all it takes to get students to hang around you.  Do it right once and they will be begging to hangout again.

As youth pastors and leaders, we too often get caught up in the lessons and the programs.  If you train your leaders and they are solid in the word, the lessons of life and Biblical foundation will be gained in time.  What I want out of my leaders is for students to be around them.  If students want to be around me or them, I can get them to Jesus.  Its up to Jesus from there.

As a pastor I will take youth leaders and volunteers that hustle over those who are incredible teachers.

© Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

How to Have Great Small Groups – Summer Camp

small groups girls - blog

A youth director friend of mine is gearing up for Summer Camp for his middle school ministry.  He will have 10 groups that will each have 2 leaders.  His plan for this year is to equip his leaders more than they ever have been.  So, he invited me to come and share my “wisdom” with his leaders.  For the next 3 post, I will post  about how to have great small groups.  All three of them will have the same method but from different applications.  This one, yes I said one, method isn’t anything new or radical but it does change the dynamics of your group.  If those in your group will take hold of this concept your small group will not be small for long.  In fact, this method is the fastest way to form new groups from existing groups.  For this post, I will speak about small groups or family groups or cell groups or D-groups or whatever you call them at camp since that was what originally spurred me to write this post.

Yes, you have to have good leaders, this isn’t a magic pill you take that makes every small group great.  Good, trained leaders are always key in the life of small groups, but even the best trained small group leaders usually have times where it just feels like they are spinning their wheels.  Training leaders in this particular method will make those times disappear.  So what is the key to great small groups?  It doesn’t happen in the small group at all…

If you spend time outside of your small group investing into those in your small group you will have great groups.

So what does this look like at camp?

  • Make Small Special Moments

Not long after camp there isn’t much that students remember about camp except what made them feel special.  This is why small groups are so important, because they build relationships and relationships make people feel special.  So how do you build relationships quickly?  Make sure you are intentionally making those in our group feel special.  I mean have laser focus on making those in your group feel special toward you.  This could be as simple as a secret handshake, high five, a song you sing together, a word you both shout out or shout something back in response.  It takes a little time and work and at times some creativity, but that small thing is just between you and one or a few students makes them feel special.

  • Free Time

Every camp has free time, what as a leader are you doing with yours?  It’s time to invest, invest, invest!  I developed a twist to the saying, “people don’t care what you have to say until they know you care”, it’s for youth and has the same principle, but dives into who youth are.  “Students don’t care what you have to say until they know you’re willing to play.”

Students don’t care what you have to say until they know you’re willing to play.

Playing with students is the gateway into their world.  All kids want to play, that’s why sports, video games and bands are so popular, it’s kids playing.  Story after story of kids responding to others just because   Once was playing football with the stud linebacker in the ocean, as he caught the football I committed to the most insane tackle of my life.  I speared him as he caught the football so hard his feet left the ground and I knocked the breath out of him.  I was fully aware that I might be running for my life when he leaped out of the water, but instead he leaped out of the water and exclaimed, “That was awesome!  That’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit!”  He became one of my biggest allies in reaching his friends.  Play, play, play during camp with your group, you can rest next week.  Or for those that work summer camp, you can rest in 2 months.

  • Eat With Them

Talk about a captive audience, make sure you are eating with at least on of they youth in your small group every time you sit down to eat a meal.  This is such an easy time to get into their life and know them more.  If you are taking the time to understand who they are outside of group time, when you sit down for group, you already know where they stand and how to specifically ask them questions.  There is no better place than the breakfast/lunch/dinner table to listen to there stories and share yours.

  • Make A Big Deal of Small Things

Many kids don’t have fans.  What I mean is, they don’t have someone who supports them.  At every baseball game, soccer game, basketball game, and the first 15 times I preached, my mom and dad were there as my biggest fans.  Making over me like I was the best thing since sliced bread and selfies.  I was told how great I did and how to improve my weaknesses.  A lot of kids don’t have this, this is what I mean by fans.  It’s time they had one and as their small group leader, that’s you.  If a student does something awesome, crazy, cool, makes a great play, go nuts!  Let me make sure you hear me.  IF THERE IS A REASON TO MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF A KID, LOSE YOUR MIND AND GO BANANA SANDWICHES!!!

If there is a reason to make a big deal out of  a student, lose your mind and go banana sandwiches!

Talk about how cool it is, tell them later how funny that was when they said ___________, tell a group later how proud you are of them in front of them, and make sure to make a big deal out of students when they are are reflecting the image of Christ.  Again, make students feel special.

It all really comes down to the closer you are with your group outside of the group, the better your group will be.  Put in the time outside of your group and when you sit down for your group time, it will be great.

Have fun at CAMP!!!

© Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

Words From Joe: Part 4 – God’s Plan

Words From Joe: Part 4 – God’s Plan

blue prints

Thirty minutes with a guy that I have just met is not a lot of time to give him credibility and listen to his words.  But Joe, earned trust in a matter of seconds.  It was his spirit, his humble spirit.  It is his uselessness, humble, kingdom minded spirit that was apparent and drew me in.  This was Joe’s first lesson he gave me and I saved it for last.

I have been looking for a full time job in the ministry and getting frustrated as time goes by.  I’m ready!  As I finished introducing myself, I told Joe I had graduated seminary a few months earlier and looking for a job. “I just am tired of waiting”, I sai

d. In his mellow, South African / Australian, deep voice he said…

“Waiting is hard, but you can’t have plans for God.”

So why do so many of us try to plan out how we are going to do ministry? How we are going to restore the church? How we are going to …

Joe continued.  Noah didn’t have a plans to build a boat and definitely no plans on how to build an ark.  God provided the wood and the plans on how to build the ark.  Then He provided the animals and the rain, remember, God even shut the door. Noah was not involved in the plans, he just had to show up.

Moses didn’t have any plans of freeing Israel from Egypt, that would be ludicrous.  God made

the plans, gave him the words and the miracles.  What are Moses’ plans when he gets to the Red Sea, nope he doesn’t have any, God did.  How does Moses plan to feed a

n entire nation in the middle of the desert, he had no plans, God did.  Ten Commandments…God.  How about building the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant.  Moses was given all the plans by God,

who provided all the material.  Even Moses’ kid, God had the plan, Moses’ plan messed up.

An entire army bearing down on Israel and mocking them.  Does Saul have a plan?  Nope.  God Does.  Example after example, over and over again, it’s God’s plans.  How about saving Christians from Saul’s (Paul’s) wrath.  No plans there, but God shows up and not only stops Paul from harming believers, sends Paul out to bring the message to Gentiles.  Bet that was never on Paul’s radar.  What are the disciples to do, Jesus is gone and they have no plans.  That’s right, God has plans and saves thousands with one sermon from Peter.

Here was Joe’s question to me, “Why is it that we try to make plans to grow a church?  Is it not our job to just show up and do God’s plan?”

Matthew 16:18
“And I tell you that you are Peter,and on this rock I will build my church,”

Who is building who’s church?  Jesus will build His church.  It is not our job to build the church, that’s Jesus’ job, God’s plan.  Our job is to follow God’s plan.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Jesus will build his church if we are making disciples.”

That’s the plan. Jesus will build his church if we are making disciples.

Originally Posted August 2nd, 2009

 © Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014