Archive for the ‘small group’ Category

Small Group, Back Again

Posted: September 17, 2010 in crossings, small group

3 years ago this week, I went to the first meeting of the first Crossings guys small group.  There were four of us….me, Scott, Chris and Aaron.  That first meeting was Aaron’s last meeting.  So, for the next four months, there were just the three of us (pictured here).

3 years later, there are now 3 guys small groups, encompassing about 20 – 22 guys total between the 3 groups.  I’ve admitted in front of Crossings, as well as to other small group leaders, that our first small group “reproduction” last year was a difficult one for me.  Our original small group had been together, and grown together for 2 years.  Some of my greatest current friendships were forged in that group.

But growth is good, right?  So last year we reproduced, and I gladly assumed the leadership of the 2nd group.  This year, my group remains mostly in tact, as it’s the other group that has reproduced into 2, making the total of 3.  And it continues to grow, as 2 more guys have joined the newest group, just within the last week or so.

If you don’t know this already, small group has been life changing for me.  I’ve prayed and contemplated much over the last few years about how God might use me to serve and minister both now and in the future.  My history will certainly leave many doors shut.  But at least for now it’s clear that small group is the way in which God has called me to serve.

And not just by way of serving and loving the guys in my group….but also to help lead the groups as a whole in service to others.  I’m so proud to say that in the last 2 1/2 years, the guys group has been involved in at least 23 different “3rd leg” service opportunities.  20 of those have been helping people in our community (and guys in our group) move to a new place.  And a few of those moves have been so clearly a God-given ministry that it has brought me to tears at times.

Now, can we continue at that pace?  I don’t know.  We’re trying to be more selective in these opportunities, to make sure that we’re assisting in moves that truly need our help, that don’t have other friends or resources to call upon first.  Regardless, these opportunities have been a blessing to me, to our group, and to those we’ve helped.

Even more importantly (to me at least) is that small group has given me a reason to enjoy living in Knoxville again.  My wife and I have developed deep and wonderful friendships through small group that we know will last for a long long time.  We’ve watched friends get married, have new babies, go back to school, move to new homes, get new jobs.

This is something that you just can’t get on Sunday mornings at church.  Sundays are fabulous for connecting with God…but rarely for connecting with others.  At Crossings, that happens through small group.  And I thank God for mine.

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Moving Crew

Posted: November 13, 2009 in crossings, serving others, small group

IMG_1113bAbout 18 months ago, after our guys small group had been meeting for about 6 months, had grown in numbers just a little, and were starting to gel, we kept having conversations each week about how we wanted to serve more consistently, both as individuals and as a small group.  We wanted to be involved with helping people.  Problem was, we just didn’t know how, and we didn’t want to just default to serving meals because that seemed like something lots of people were doing already.

Over the last 18 months, God took it upon Himself to figure this out for us.  He has effectively placed in our path NINE (9) opportunities to help someone either in our small group, or in the Crossings community, move from one home to another.  We are now, as we like to call it, the Moving Crew.

Two of these opportunities have come in the last two weeks.  Last Thursday night, about 9 of us helped a single female in another small group move from one apartment to another.  The ENTIRE move, beginning to end, took about 50 minutes.  That’s what happens when you have a reasonably small amount of furniture to move, 9 guys, and a 20-foot box truck that Threds lets me use.

Then, last night, another move.  We were excited to help Kristin, a great friend and a super-awesome person, in her move as a first-time home owner!  (Refer to picture…not pictured is China Matt, who I think must have been using the bathroom while this was being taken.  Sorry man.) She had significantly more stuff.  But again, with 10 guys, a 20-foot Threds box truck, and 2 other pickup trucks, the entire move took about 2 hours.  Then we were treated to home cooked BBQ, chips, brownies, and sweet tea!

It can be hard work.  It can be frustrating.  But it’s so amazing to get to step into the lives of people in our community and help them in a tangible way, in what is usually a sort of overwhelming time.  I’m so thankful God heard our conversations and prayers, and helped us find a way to serve.

In fact, our small group is so pumped up about our ministry, we’ve taken the obvious next step.  We’re getting t-shirts!  =)

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Creating Moments

Posted: October 29, 2009 in crossings, small group

Hot Camping StudsHaving been a part of my guys small group now for over 2 years, I sometimes find myself feeling bad for churches that try to do small groups, and it just doesn’t work.  I don’t even really know who these churches are, I just know they’re out there.

Coming from a fairly traditional church background, up until just a few years ago, I can totally understand how small groups just don’t work in many places.  It’s hard to describe, but not so hard to understand.

At the same time, it’s hard to describe exactly why they DO work at Crossings.  Granted, not every small group is always flourishing.  Some have growing pains.  Others end.  Still others have consistency issues.  But, as a whole, our small groups are thriving and are truly providing the life blood of our church.

Because each group is different, does different things, and are led by different personalities, I can really only explain MY view as to what makes a small group work.  How do you build community among people who may not know each other?  How do generate a spirit of loyalty and camraderie?  How do build a small group for the long term?

For me, it’s by CREATING MOMENTS.  What do I mean?  Think back to your youth group (if you were in one).  Do you remember the lessons or what you prayed about?  I don’t, and you probably don’t either.  But do you remember the mission trip, the CIY conference, the service project you did in the cold of winter, or the crazy experiences on the church van?  I do.

Think back to high school.  Do you remember any individual class session or a conversation with a friend?  Probably not.  But do you remember your prom, going to the state competition in something, participating in a special event, or your graduation party?  I do.

Are you a parent?  Think back on your child’s first year.  Do you remember much about individual days or moments spent with your child?  Probably not.  But do you remember the birth?  The first time they smiled or crawled?  Their first birthday party?  I do.

So now, I think back on my small group.  We’ve studied about 15 books of the Bible, spent hours in prayer for one another, eaten lots of great snacks, and spent time talking about our weeks and what’s going on in our lives.  Do I remember much of that over the course of 2 years?  A little bit, but not much.

But what do I remember?  …….  our very first awkward small group meeting at Scott’s apartment, helping the Restoration House with a work project, laughing our asses off at IHOP, going to see The Dark Knight, helping people in our community move to new places, welcoming Mark to our small group with a customized banner, spontaneously deciding one night to go see midget wrestling, only to end up at Sundown in the City, celebrating the glorious revolution from England together, going camping on a wet and rainy weekend, gangsta posing with the BVD, leaving a stack of potted meat cans on one guys doorstep, going to see our new friend in the hospital after he had a wreck, then helping him move to a new apartment a week later, pissething on the wall, going tubing on the Pigeon River, going to see our buddy’s band perform, volunteering at Prom of the Stars, watching a guy in our small group get baptized.

For me, this is what makes our small group great.  Clearly, we are grounded in seeking Christ together, studying His Word, and praying for each other.  But what has made it last, what has built true friendship and loyalty and a spirit of togetherness, has been creating moments.  Moments that build, that serve, and that endure.  To me, without these, we are basically a Sunday School class that meets on Thursday.  But by creating moments, we become a small group.

I spent 4 days in Elkhart, Indiana on a work trip.  Felt amazement at the vast expanse of corn fields along the interstate.  And partook of an almost live pig while there.

Went on a “stay-cation” in Pigeon Forge with Erin & Eli in early August for 4 days.

Took a 2 day golfing trip to Richmond, Kentucky with a great friend of mine who I had not seen in three years.

Saw Eli off to his first days of Kindergarten.  He’s doing rather well, I think.  Most days, his favorite part of the day is getting to choose what he wants to eat for lunch.  The choice is the key.  When I was growing up, they served what they served.  But he gets to choose between two main dishes, and can pick 3 of 5 side items.  Heaven for a 5 year old who loves eating.

Began shaving my head again.  I can’t help it.  It’s who I am.  I like it this way.

Saw our first ever sunflowers grow to be 6 – 12 feet tall.  Soon after, they got too top heavy for their own good and began to fall over.

Went tubing down the Pigeon River twice, once with 3 guys from small group, and once with Erin and our great friends Reid and Sarah.  I nearly broke my finger swinging from an old rickety rope swing on the side of the river.

Joined my first ever fantasy sports league of any kind.  And won my first matchup.

Celebrated my 5-year anniversary with Threds (today, in fact).  The longest I’ve ever been at one job in my life.

Saw my guys small group nearly double to at least 16 guys, maybe 18.  Sadly – and happily – we’ll soon be “reproducing” into two separate groups.

Heard the loudest singing from our community at Crossings that I’ve ever heard in my over-2 years of being there.  Tear jerking.

Rearranged my office at work.  Come visit me sometime.  You can see.

Spent 3 days in Charlotte, NC at the annual Salsarita’s franchisee convention.

Went camping for 2 1/2 days in Cades Cove with my good friend Chris.  My first time camping in about 10 years.  We saw 4 deer walking through the campground, saw 3 bears while driving the Cades Cove loop, did a 5 mile round trip hike to Abrams Falls, ate 4 fire roasted hot dogs each, and went through an entire bag of marshmallows.

Helped a new friend from small group move to a new apartment just days after he had a terrible motorcycle accident, broke his pelvis, busted his hip, and tore his leg up pretty good.  I’m so grateful to be in community with guys who are ready and willing to help.

Was thrilled to see my wife, Erin, be awarded the Golden BVD award at the last Crossings Leadership Community.  Congrats, honey!

Have thought often about the future direction of this blog.  I’ll get into that more at another time.  For now, please enjoy a sampling of pictures that help encapsulate some things I’ve just mentioned in this post.

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About half of our guys small group – along with wives/girlfriends, gathered together on July 3rd to celebrate the Glorious Revolution from England with hot dogs, chips, beans, beer, rum, paint-by-water gun fights, master pyrotechnics provided by Chris the Exploder, and the general defilement of the British flag.  Here is a small taste of the celebration:

july 3 party

For more of the fun, more of the defilement, and more of the general joy we experienced at the memory of our forefathers battling it out with the Queen’s men over 200 years ago, you can check out even more pictures by going to this Picture Trail album link:

http://www.picturetrail.com/sfx/album/slideshow/22256996

small group - pastor mark

Yes, this is just what it looks like.  A custom made 6′ x 2′ vinyl banner welcoming “Pastor Mark” to our small group.  Dotting the banner are the “deadly” words that you just don’t use at Crossings.  And yes, three guys are wearing wife beater shirts.  One is wearing daisy duke cut off shorts.  Two are wearing do-rags.  And one is wearing nothing but hiked up umbro shorts, goggles, a watch, and Old Spice.

And it was a great evening.  Lots of laughs.  Great discussion.  And the opportunity to help someone in our community move her stuff into storage later in the evening.

From L to R:  Andy (Grizz), Josh (Hut, Hut), Kurt (IJ), John (P3), Scott (Scott-O-San), Mark (Pastor), Me, Reid (The Roman God).  Not pictured, because of either work or showing up late:  Josh (A-Bomb), Chris (Gater), & Ryan (The Footballer).

I’ve always been a big fan of good practical jokes….especially ones that take some time, planning, good execution.  I’ve practical joked many co-workers and friends over the years.

About 3 weeks ago, my small group met at I-HOP on Thursday night.  It was 9 guys around a huge table, stuffing ourselves with all you can eat pancakes.  My friend Chris, after having eaten sausage, eggs, hashbrowns, and about 6 pancakes, decides to try and go for the local IHOP record of eating 23 pancakes.  Big mistake.

About 13 pancakes in, he starts feeling pretty bad.  This may not be entirely accurate in who-said-what, but I think my friend Reid said something like, “if anyone sees my friend dying out in the parking lot, please help him out.”  Then, I think Chris responded with, “yeah, just treat me like a pregnant woman.”  Raucus laughter ensued.  Josh then suggested that we should make a t-shirt out of that phrase, which encouraged even more riotous laughter.

A week later….these shirts were produced:

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Just in case you can’t see…the front says “If Anything Should Happen to Me…”  and the back says, “Just Treat Me Like a Pregnant Woman.”

Here’s the joke…in addition to producing one for each small group member, I made an extra one for our lead pastor at Crossings, Mark Nelson.  Last week, I sent him his shirt.  It was folded up, placed in a white shipping bag, and sent to the Crossings office via UPS.  On the return label, I had it say “Pregnant Ministries, 4500 Half Baked Lane, Knoxville, TN, 37920“.  That’s it.  No note, no packing slip.  Just a shirt inside a bag from “Pregnant Ministries.” 

The day that he receives the shirt, I emailed his wife – Monica – to let her in on the joke.  She emails me back and says Mark is going crazy, Googling the address, the words on the shirt, Pregnant Ministries, trying to figure out where this came from.  He took to other offices in the building to see if anyone had heard of it before.  Bill – who also knew about it – suggested to Mark that is sort of sounded like a threatening message! 

Fast forward 3 days to this past Saturday at our monthly leadership community gathering.  Scott Wilson (small group leader) and I are wearing our Pregnant Women tees underneath our jackets.  A few minutes into the meeting, while we’re sharing “wins” in the community, I took the opportunity to talk about how awesome our guys small group is (which is totally true), how well we get along, we hang out, go to movies…and then briefly shared the funny story about Chris trying to eat 23 pancakes.  I then said…

“During that moment, when Chris felt like crap, something was said aloud that was SO funny, we decided to make t-shirts to commemorate the occasion.”

Scott and I stood up, took off our jackets, and amidst the laugher in the community, watched for Mark’s reaction.  It was just as I had hoped!  Laughter, shock, laughter, shaking of the head…he then proceeded to briefly tell everyone the story of receiving the t-shirt that week. 

Anyways, it was great.  Thanks to my incredible small group for creating such a classically funny moment at IHOP, and thanks to Mark for being such a great sport on Saturday morning.  And it looks like I may have 2 extra Pregnant Woman tees available – one in medium and one in large.  If you’re interested, let me know!