Think even smaller small group

I have been reading a book by Michael Mack entitled The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership. In this book Mack offers a lot of great insight on how to do ministry in small groups. He sympathizes for the small group lay leader who has 13-20 people in his group yet he alone is responsible for planning the group, calling and praying for his members, preparing the materials and food, hosting at his house, teaching and facilitating the group and all of the other administration tasks associated with this ministry. Not only does Michael suggest to expand the the leadership team to help delegate tasks and share responsibility for each small group, Mack goes further and suggests that each leader should really focus in on only two to four others.

Mack is not the first or only ministry leader to think of this idea. Robert Coleman in his books The Master Plan for Evangelism and The Master Plan for Discipleship, noticed that Jesus “made disciples” of only twelve disciples. Sure there were hundreds of causal followers but Jesus spent the majority of his time with  twelve. Looking even deeper in the Scriptures, Coleman shows that Jesus even focused more on three in particular. Mack agrees. Imagine if in each small group of 15-20 people, there was a leader (or shepherd) for every three or four people?

Imagine sharing life with a respected elder or someone even slightly further along the journey then you…Imagine having weekly time with a few other close friends who also love Jesus. Not only would you be able to dig deeper into the Word together, get personal attention to life’s struggles and questions, intimate prayer, but also serve God together and evangelize together! That is an amazing picture of ministry and small groups!

It reminds me of my days in Campus Crusade for Christ (or Cru) at Ohio University. This ministry is built on Coleman’s ideas. There is a weekly large group meeting for worship and teaching but the majority of the ministry is in smaller group ministry teams and Bible Studies through-out campus. Even more, as a Bible Study leader and leader on some other teams, I had the opportunity to do some one-on-one training/mentoring, we called it “discipleship.” I loved it. I meet with an older student who was discipling me. Then I also meet two younger students individually and discipled them. It is interesting now to think about it, but part of what I was doing as I discipled these young men was spiritual formation life coaching, which is something I still do today. In fact, I’ve made a career out of counseling and coaching.  

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What I learned selling books door to door

Alright, so during the summer of 2006 I sold books door-to-door in Columbia, Missouri in an attempt to pay for college tuition and rent. As it turns out, I was not much of a salesman. That summer was one of the most challenging summers of my life. I learned a lot about myself, how to sell and ho to work hard no matter what.

While I did not walk away from the experience as a rich man, as others actually did, I did grow as a person in four major areas: time management, positive self talk, self-care and a having a business mentality or mindset.

Let me explain: In time management, I learned to break days into manageable sections. Selling books door-to-door, my team woke up everyday at 5AM. We showered, ate breakfast and drove to our locations. We had to knock on our first door at 7AM. Then we were not allowed to come back home until 10AM where we ate diner and went to bed. This routine started over again Monday -Saturday. Sundays were hardly a day off, since we had to travel three hours to get to an all-day business meeting with other link-minded book salesman in the same larger geographical region.

The thing about time management, first was focusing in. Focus on the first 3 hours. Map out a game plan and work hard for 3 hours. Do not think about lunch or tomorrow, push hard and focus in on the next potential customer.
The second time management tip is the more obvious stuff. There is no time for emails, going to movies, museums, football games, etc….This is not tourism nor a vacation. This is earning wages and working hard.

During the week-long training in Nashville, before heading out to Columbia, we were given a lot of training on selling, thinking like a business person and  we did a lot of practice role-play to get ourselves ready for the actual summer. After the role-plays, mentors and business experts gave us a lot of tips and feedback. They taught us to think positively. They showed us how to do positive self-talk. In between doors, on our drive from home to our locations and even during potty-breaks we were suppose to sing or shout, “It’s going to be a great day!” and “I am a selling machine!” I was pretty unfamiliar with this idea of positive self-talk up until this point in my life. Especially after a complete rejection from a potential customer who is threatening to call the cops, it really is encouraging to look at the positives instead of getting our psyche thrown off by a ragging homeowner. Even if the positive self-talk was just lies, it was still encouraging.

Okay, well with self-care, I learned how to control my energy level. These were long days, even longer weeks. And as I mentioned earlier, I was not very good at selling. So often times, I came away empty handed. The first few weeks I was adjusting to the ridiculous schedule I was not able to focus in on one three hour time block at a time. I was worried about the entire day and that was draining my energy level. Once I figured out how to focus in on the three hour time block, I was able to get my mind off of the worries of the day and just focus on the next street. Each street was a treasure hunt to find a customer. My positive self-talk told me, “someone on this street was going to purchase books today!” I am blessed to have learned this crazy skill of energy preservation. I used this skill again just this past week at a youth-group lock-in. All of the teenagers were napping by 4AM, I stayed away the entire night and didn’t nap until after the lock-in was complete and I was in my bed at home. Mental self-care was all about focusing in on the successes, that was the only way to survive mentally.

Another part of self-care is that I learned that I do not want to be a salesman. I do not want to be a workaholic that does not have time for anything other than making money. I found my true self and many things that I am not passionate about during this summer. But by going through with the experience I can now relate to people who are feeling burn-out of long work days and of the burn-out of sales.

Finally the main thing I learned is about the business mindset. The company, I sold books with, who will continue to go unnamed, had excellent training materials. I still look back at the sales manual today. The training was a great experience. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for not waking up to the dreaded day of selling books in the summer heat of the Midwest.
So I am blessed to have learned a great deal from my time there that summer. Now I can put these things and other things into practice even today. I encourage others to learn also from my experience instead of through the hard way!

New Year, New Goals

The end of the year for me has always been a good time to reflect on the past year and to focus on some goals for the new year. Here is my reflections from 2013 and goals for 2014:

Reflections:
1. God has again blessed me with an amazing opportunity. I remember last year, this time freaking out about getting an internship to finish my degree and to become licensed. I had several interviews and nothing was working out. In 2013, during the summer, a Liberty University connection helped me get an internship that will has been vital in learning how to be a professional counselor, getting the hours I need and just a blessed place to work so far!
2. Starting my own business was an amazing dream come true as well! Talk about being blessed! And going from nothing to 4 clients and a lot of potential. 
3. Financially, it has been tough at times, but God has always provided for me this year!
4. I am thankful for the visions I have seen and the direction I am following! I am really blessed.
Goals for 2014:
1. Before the fall, I will finish Counseling internship, pass the NCE and become a Licensed  Professional Counselor (PC).

2. I would like to complete the Board Certified Advanced Christian Life Coach credential/training with the ICCA. To accomplish this I simply need to complete one extra course with the ICCA and then apply for the higher credential.

3. I would like to have a rough draft of my book completed within the next year. This is a matter of spending time each week, writing the book.

4. I would like to have at least five paid coach clients before the end of the year.

5. I would like to start paying off student loans.

The best idea for an Asian Resturant

I love Asian-American food. Anytime I visit or settle in a new town, I find out where the most popular “Asian restaurants” are located. I have visited all four of the Asian restaurants that exist  in Ashland, Ohio during my time here. They have one that has half off sushi on Tuesdays. One has a buffet, one is a hole in the wall and one is a classic old-school restaurant style. The latter impressed me a lot during a recent visit. I order a “dinner” meal during lunch time. I got hot tea, soup, an egg roll, a fried wonton, a fried wing and a meal portion entree all for about $10!

As I was waiting for the meal, I had a bright idea. What if a Asian sit-in meal restaurant, like this one, offered the same high quality food entree items but you were able to get a side and two (or three) entree items, the way platting is done at an unnamed popular corporation does their “Asian-like” platting/menu.

So, in my idea, you could get high quality chicken fried rice or shrimp lo mien (as your ‘side’) with a portion of General Tso’s chicken and a portion of authentic Kung Pao Chicken (as your two ‘entrees’. Would that not be the greatest idea?

Thankful

I am realizing that I have a ton to be thankful for. And I am.

What has been keeping me busy:
1. Internship at Cornerstone Counseling. Had someone told me I’d end up in Ashland, Ohio for my internship as I was applying for internship last year, I would have looked at them strangely. I did not apply for any internships that were more than 30 miles away from where I live, yet, through all the circumstances and connections I have made, the Lord provided me an internship and it is a really great site.
2. Fully Alive Life Coaching. It is still in the infancy stage. I love helping people and I am excited to see results already in my clientele.
3. Adjunct Professor at Ohio Christian University. First, I love instructing and teaching. Second I am thankful to be putting my M.Div to use to actually make some money. And without this job, I would not be able to do my internship and start my coaching business.
4. My education at Liberty University. I have worked hard on earning my degrees and in learning a lot of practical knowledge that I am using today as an intern, minister and life coach.

Free Time and Recreation:
1. Family. Always have been and always will be thankful for them. I am blessed to be in this amazing family.
2. My host family here in Wooster, Ohio. Because of them, I am able to have a place to stay when I am in North Central Ohio so I can complete my internship and do so cheaply! They are an incredible family and not only blessed but honored to be staying with them and to learn from their godly example as parents and youth leaders!
3. Ultimate Frisbee. The past few years a group of friends started playing Ultimate Frisbee at Rising Park. It has been an amazing success. Besides just being a lot of fun, I have also met new friends, gotten closer to old friends and got a lot of exercise out of the deal too!
4. 2013 for me was the year of Catan. I went from playing a few games of the original Catan game to now owning most of the expansions and extensions of Catan. It is a good strategy board game. This year I have spent a lot of time playing and enjoying the game with friends and family.
5. Music. This year purchased a banjo. I honestly have not had much time to practice playing it, but it is fun and I am thankful for it.
6. Target practice. This year, my brother has taken me out to the range for target practice more than ever. It has been fun and a good environment for practicing gun safety and  self-defense.

My Dreams:
1. Of writing a book.
2. Finishing my internship, which is coming up!
3. Earning a Doctorate.
4. Paying off student debt.
5. Seeing where God takes my coaching business.

Moving Away

On Mondays, I like to post something a little more person and about me. Today, the topic is about moving away. When I  was eleven years old my family moved away from the house I had grown up in. We had spent, what seemed like an eternity to me a as a child, about 5 years in this house in Kenova, WV. We moved to a larger city in Athens, Ohio which was about 2 hours away. While my step-father was moving up in his career and earning enough to raise the family in a more fortunate way, it was still tough for me. At that time my best friends lived in Kenova and it was a tough transition for me initially. I did not make friends quickly and the ones that did socialize with me were not the best influence on me.  It took some time for me to really develop healthy friends and begin to get settled into Athens. So when I see clients who are struggling in a new social situation or who are having a tough time with moving,, I realize that moving away can be really tough on a child.
As for me, I lived out the rest of my adolescent, teenage-age years and part of college life in Athens. I fell in love with the place. It is a beautiful city (mostly just the campus of Ohio University). It was at this institution that I learned a lot about my faith and myself. I was really involved with Campus Crusade for Christ in college and I really grew a lot socially during this time frame.
I have moved from Athens, Oh. And I have found that moving as an adult is not the same as moving as a child. I find the transition a little bit easier each time, but I am a a season of life where I only need to take care of myself, so it is pretty easy to pack a bag and go wherever life takes me.

A loaf of Bread

A few weeks ago, I purchased a loaf of bread in Ashland, Ohio. I took it to where I was staying at in Wooster, Ohio because I had some lunch meat to eat and I figured having some bread would be nice as I would create sandwiches for lunches.

In a week, I had a road trip to Lynchburg, Va. By the time it was time to go to Lynchburg, I had not eaten any of the bread, so I packed it with me. I was in Lynchburg for a little over a week.
 I returned with a full loaf of bread.
After a few days back between Ashland and Wooster, it was time to head back to my home town of Lancaster, Ohio. Once I got home, I realized that it had been over three weeks since I purchased the loaf of bread that was still sitting in my car unopened.

I learned some things from this loaf of bread about myself. Clearly, I do not eat a lot of bread. I Asked myself, “Why am I still holding on this loaf of bread?” It reminded me that often times in life, we hold on to things that we do not need to keep holding on to. In my bedroom, in my car and in my office, I have several books and gadgets that I am not using on a regular basis. They are just taking up space. Most of these things will not go bad like a loaf of bread will but there they sit collecting dust.

Worse, sometimes, are the feelings we hold on to. The emotions that we just do not want to let go of. Instead of collecting dust or going bad, grudges and past pains/hurts have much different consequences. When we hold on to these emotions, it is not the product that goes to waste, but the person holding on to the emotions. Let this time be a quick reflection of what emotions or past hurts you are currently holding on to.