Monday, April 5, 2021

New Staff and New Campuses

This past month we interviewed and selected 19 new apprentices for the 21-22 school year! It's a group I'm really excited about, especially as we are looking to start up as many as 5 new campuses this fall! Our staff is divided into five teams of pastors focusing on different areas: UTD, Dallas, Collin, Arlington, and Denton. Each of these teams is looking to pioneer a new work or a new campus this fall. Much more on all that to come, but be praying for these opportunities! 


Showcase

Our Showcase fundraiser was a big success! We have come near to meeting our record raised last year, with some donations still coming in. If you didn't get to watch it and would like to, we are working on an "on-demand" option for the second part of this week. Our teams did an amazing job both in front of and behind the camera. Thank you to all of you who donated toward SICM this year. I'll have more to tell in the coming months, but we have an exciting plan in place for 2021!

This was pretty much the whole showcase crew. So many hours into this event!




A couple of behind the scenes shots

And my good buddy and fellow-UTD-pastor Rhett proposed live during the show. She said yes!

Most of my team has been vaccinated now, so we were finally able to take a staff picture. This is my team at UTD for the 2020-21 school year. They've done an amazing job pastoring our community!

Student Testimony





Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Entertainment (2 ways)

So first off, in just a little less than a month, we have our annual Showcase fundraiser for SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry). We are doing both SICM and Showcase a little differently this year.

We are planning our own SICM at a camp at the end of the summer when, hopefully, everyone will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. We will be inviting a huge group since we have last year's crew plus a new batch from this year. Details on location and price are still being worked out, but with such a large crew, we will be using the money from Showcase last year along with whatever we can raise this year to make this training happen. I'm so excited to get these students pumped up to go out on campus right before the school year begins! Our colleges and universities have already started signaling that they plan to be back to normal, more or less, come fall semester!

Showcase this year will be an online experience, which means those of you in other states can attend for the first time! In addition to music, we have a professional illusionist/mentalist performing. He's amazing! You can look him up and see how many famous people he has performed for over the years. It's going to be a different show for sure! I hope you can join us. You can make an optional donation to watch, or watch for free!


On the flip side of entertainment, Garrett Davis recently taught our spring Pizza Theology on "What Would Jesus Stream" about the theology of entertainment. As we all spend quite a few hours per week (or per day!) entertaining ourselves, I know you would find his balanced reflections on the topic challenging and helpful. Feel free to watch on Youtube! (You can also find the packet and just the audio here.)



Thank you for supporting campus missions. Your gifts and prayers and hard work make a difference!



Sunday, January 31, 2021

Developing Next Level Leaders

A key need for our growing mission is more wise and experienced leaders who are able to think strategically and are skilled at developing the next generation of FOCUS pastors. Mandy Lanciani has been an amazing partner in developing our younger pastors for over a decade, and Garrett Davis has stepped up in that area the past few years. But now, the three of us do not have the time or bandwidth to do the kind of life-on-life mentoring and leadership development that we value with a staff of 40! 

To that end, I've been investing in 13 of our staff ministers over the past year with the goal of helping them take their leadership to the next level. I'm hoping to develop leaders who can mentor younger pastors, pass on our values effectively, and shape the culture of our team and our broader community. Every other week, we meet on Zoom to discuss leadership principles, work through case studies, and talk about how to move FOCUS forward. I love getting to do this! The only thing I don't love is that I don't get to do it with all of our younger staff. They are all so gifted in different ways, but these 13 are the ones I've identified as most poised to step into new leadership opportunities in the next couple of years. 

Our most recent lesson comes from a Habitudes book by Dr. Tim Elmore. He writes, "In the classic story of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy illustrates a new kind of leader. She invites her friends on a journey, helps them discover their gifts, encourages them, and walks with them rather than insisting on being up front. She doesn't have all the answers but she gets them to their goal." That pretty much captures the kind of leaders we want at the helm of our organization! Building leaders for the kingdom is about helping people grow into men and women who can be used by God wherever they go. 



Dr. Elmore thinks the leader of the future will be marked by these qualities:

  1. Highly relational
  2. Interpret culture well
  3. Emotionally secure
  4. Share ownership freely
  5. Empower others
  6. Comfortable with uncertainty
  7. Listen and foster self-discovery
  8. Embrace the role of a mentor
  9. Less formal in structure
  10. Driven by service more than ego
Sounds like Jesus to me! Please be praying that I and those under my leadership will grow in these qualities in the coming year. We have huge opportunities ahead as the schools open back up!

Student Testimony




Thursday, January 7, 2021

Building a Team

One of the passages I've spent a lot of time reflecting on over the years is in Mark 3: "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out..." Such a simple message, but how did he do it? How did he pick the right 12 guys, 11 of whom would take his message to the world and lay a solid foundation for thousands of years of Christian outreach? Luke adds that he prayed all night before, but he doesn't tell us what he was praying. Paul also gathered a team. Just from the letters we have, we see a group of 40+ talented and Spirit-filled men and women who were his coworkers in the gospel mission. Their impact together was expansive.

This time of year, I'm always thinking and praying about the team of pastors with whom we undertake the mission to make and mature disciples on DFW campuses. Some of our pastors are contemplating whether to commit another one or three or even five years to serving in FOCUS, we're talking with our apprentices to discern whether staying on our staff is the right fit for them and for us, and we will soon have to prayerfully consider another group of applicants to our apprenticeship for the 2021-22 school year. 

In 2002, I was one half-time pastor for FOCUS; now we have over 40 if you include our administrators! Each one brings new strengths and shapes our team in new directions. Each of us also brings our own sin and weaknesses and slightly different values. There's both risk and reward.

For our student leaders, we use a FAITH acronym: Faithful, Available, Initiating, Teachable, Heart for God & People. On top of that, I have long used the "Three C's" for selecting new staff members: Character, Competence, and Chemistry. These are so helpful, but they are very broad, especially for a jack-of-all-trades campus pastor job! Competent at what? Chemistry with whom?

To help answer that, we've added three F's for our pastors: Fire, Fruit, and Fun. Here are some of the questions we're asking right now about potential FOCUS pastors:

Fire
  • Are they on fire for the Lord?
  • Do they have a fire in their belly, work hard, do whatever it takes? Are they a self-starter? Do they have momentum?
  • Do they evidence a desire to learn and grow?
Fruit
  • Can they reach new students and bring them to Jesus?
  • Are they a catalyst for growth, maturity, and decision making in the lives of students? Do they make the people they are around better?
  • Can they make things happen? Do things happen in our community because they are on the team that otherwise wouldn't? 
  • Can they take whatever they are given and go beyond basic expectations?
Fun
  • Are they fun to work with? Do we really enjoy having them on the team? Are they net positive in terms of team dynamics?
  • Do students want to be around them?
  • Are they positive and lighthearted? Can they laugh at life and at themselves?

I say all this to say that we have a fantastic team of pastors. It has grown fast, but not because we will just take anyone and throw them out on campus. The Lord is doing powerful work in the lives of young people and raising up a team of pastors I could never afford to hire. They are talented men and women who could do so many other things but choose to serve in FOCUS because they love college students and are deeply committed to the Lord's mission. 

Please pray for me and my team of campus directors, that the Spirit would give us great wisdom and help us to discern who should be on this team for next year. I don't think there's a more important set of decisions we make!

I want to say a big THANK YOU in the Lord's name for all you do for me. Your steadfast love and care, your prayers, and your generosity do not go unnoticed and they are very appreciated!



New Staff and New Campuses

This past month we interviewed and selected 19 new apprentices for the 21-22 school year! It's a group I'm really excited about, es...