Inside a four-week series entitled “Remix,” we took time to celebrate volunteerism at Granger Community Church.  There’s a ton of value added when we commend ministry efforts, cheer the accomplishments of our teams, remind people of the reasons we serve and, yes, cheer on the volunteers who make ministry happen.

Again this year, our Senior Pastor, Mark Beeson, handed out what he has termed Smooth Stone Awards. Based on the Old Testament story of David and Goliath, they are given out to heroes serving above and beyond in ministry. Mark does such an incredible job with these that I’ve included a clip from one of the services below.

Since “Remix” incorporated volunteerism, our leadership team thought it best to present these awards during the final week of the series. It was a great addition to the weekend message to celebrate volunteerism and recognize the vast scope of ministry within the body of this congregation.

Other elements of celebration included video testimonies from attendees and volunteers thanking other volunteers, a ministry or ministry team. What an amazing way to say thank you publicly and incorporate so many members of the body of Christ in the weekend celebration. You’ll find that video below, too.

Encouragement, testimonies and recognition of both the ministry and the people who serve in them are worth celebrating. It’s not the reason we do ministry nor is it even in the playbook. It’s a way of honoring both the people and the accomplishments that happen as darkness is pushed back and hope and light are given to a world in need.

So you might be asking yourself, “How many people took a next step and signed on the dotted line from the two weeks of Expo?” There’s still a lot to be done. Cards are still coming in and follow through will continue over the next few months.  Here’s what we do know: Over 735 people filled out a card.  Dozens have already served their first weekend and are experiencing “team” for the first time in a local church.

We’re seeing first-steps sightings across every part of the way we do church at GCC and hundreds more will join them in the coming weeks. Good things happen when people decide to do life together and when all is said and done, lives will change and people will be moved closer to Christ because of the selfless efforts of many.

Hopefully you’re more confident about trying an Expo at your church. Remember: Think it out and follow it through.

Enjoy the videos.


In my previous post, I developed the reasoning for what I believe to be the most effective way to utilize an expo. Take the time to develop the clear call for inviting people into ministry. In other words, wrap this expo around a series of messages that look at the benefits of volunteerism. Celebrate volunteerism, “show off” what gets accomplished in your church by volunteers and talk about the importance of using the gifts God gives us.  Below are a few more keys to help launch a successful expo.

Brief “ministry descriptions” prepared.

As I mentioned, we have six “big buckets” at Granger Community Church.  For instance, Guest Relations and Care is one of these six buckets. That bucket incorporates three sub-categories: Retail, Guest Services and Support. Each of those three sub categories has their own ministry teams.

We don’t want to overwhelm our guests with information, so there are only three pages of print distributed at the expo for Guest Relations and Care.  Since Guest Services is a sub-category, there is a one-page sheet of information to cover the six teams that we hope guests will consider – usher/greeters, kids check-in, traffic, bulletin assembly, campus guides, security and medical.

 Have “next step” opportunities in place.

Every guest who visits a booth, makes a decision in their seat or shows an interest online or throughout the days to come will be given a next step.  Every sub-category has a next step.  Depending on the ministry, our guests will be asked to attend an orientation where they will get a global view of the “big bucket” they’ve taken interest. This could be followed by a breakout where they might get some brief training and be scheduled for their first weekend event or opportunity.

Have an amazing follow through plan in place.

The bottom line:  Without follow through it will all come to a halt. Worse yet, you’ll loose credibility and the opportunity to connect with those whom God has prompted to get out of their seats. An entire post could be written regarding this step but I’m simply going to say this: It’s just good manors! Have well-defined “in-house” expectations and communication, then process ruthlessly how that follow through happens within your system … then follow through on the follow through!

Offer a second chance.

For a lot of people, a second week of expo will be just what’s needed to get it.  Perhaps they left the first week’s event considering it. Maybe God used that time to speak to them. Maybe they just missed the event all together! Too much work goes into these events to make it a one-shot deal. Things are already in place; give it a second chance!

 Add some service elements

Do you want to add value and capture the attention of guests you hope to engage in ministry with through your volunteer series?  Add some arts!  This will take some planning but when you add arts in conjunction with all the other expo planning, people get it.  They really do.  Below is a video that my boss and good friend, Mark Waltz hosted-and an amazing producer and friend, Ben Sanders, created. Enjoy 

This January, we’re planning a Ministry Expo at Granger Community Church.  That’s awesome for many reasons. January is a great time to introduce Jesus’ perspective on serving and offer opportunities for volunteering. It will allow many people to step outside of themselves and examine the benefits of being part of a team. A team that will add value to others and fill the voids created when we’ve yet to decide to engage in ministry for the cause of Christ. 

What kind of voids am I talking about? How about the gap between our giftedness and someone else’s needs? When we use our gifts to serve and help others, we’re on mission to change the world for Christ. Or what about the lack of “koinonia” in our lives? When we’re on mission with team members, we’re encouraged, challenged, strengthened and simply made to laugh right when we need it.

January is a great time to offer a fresh start – an additional perspective – on giving, one that includes the most precious commodity: time.

The challenge (read as opportunity) comes when our teams prepare for a four-week series that will honor, inform and engage would-be volunteers, one that will only work if our plans have been put in place by December. How does your December look?  I thought so.

For the next few posts, I’ll be taking you on the journey of Expo preparation.  I’ll skip past the Guest Relations-side of my job in keeping up with December’s activities while planning for an Expo so you’ll not send me sympathy cards.

Let’s start with giving you a broad picture of the series, a sequence that’s focused on volunteerism and volunteers. I believe wrapping an Expo is paramount. Rather than just lobbing an Expo out there and “hoping” for the best, we’re making it the center piece of a series of weekend services that take into account the teachings of scripture on serving, examine the benefits, celebrate the accomplishments and honor the current volunteers. Not effectively done on a single weekend.

We’re taking these four weeks and looking at all of this and more. Right in the middle of the series, we’ve set aside two weekends where the Expo happens. It will conclude every service at every campus.

Here at GCC, we have what we call “big buckets” of ministry. From an organizational viewpoint, they simply look something like this:

1. Arts (creative, performing, communication and technical)

2. Campus Support (grounds, maintenance, facility care)

3. Guest Relations & Care (guest services, retail services, care and support)

4. Kids and Students (yep, kids and students)

5. Mission (international,  “local” and inner city)

6. Technical and Skilled (IT, Admin, Finance)

The point is, there are only six “stations” our guests could visit during this Expo.  They’re right in the auditorium with banners hanging and lit for all to see. Our guests have printed materials in their weekend bulletin to look at. After a couple of weekend teachings about SHAPE, the importance of serving, etc., we’ll encourage them to only pick one or two possible interests as a first step.

In the coming posts, we’ll look at key factors to be managed in advance, during and after the event.  I hope it helps.

Often times when I think of a volunteer Rockstar, I’ve tended to stereotype the requirements or limit them to the amount of “time-served.”  Although that’s an impressive way to grab the attention of any ministry leader, it’s not the sole measurement.

There is one Rockstar you won’t see here on the weekends, serving alongside the hundreds of other volunteers that make a typical weekend run so smooth. And you won’t see him during the week, serving with our ministry outreach teams across the communities or the world. You won’t even recognize this volunteer because his primary serving capacity takes place inside the walls of his business.

I first met Tim Markley in April of 2005 when his name came to me as someone interested in helping with “graphics.”  Having no clue what he meant by that, I called and found out that his business was graphics-centered.  After a long conversation, I grabbed a few staff members and took a tour of his business.

I remember the feeling of awe when he told us “whatever you want, just let me know.”  That was the beginning of a new look for our church.

Be honest for a moment … haven’t you known someone who thought, “I wonder how much “that” church pays for all those series promotional posters?  I’ve enclosed a few to remind you of how long this has been going on.

That” church – our church – is being blessed nearly every week or series since 2005 with the generosity of Tim’s graphics company.  Not only does Tim’s company print these dynamic, eye-catching gems, but he or a member of his team delivers the finished graphics to the Granger site.

These are ginormous scenes require a great deal of preparation, management and a commitment to excellence that Tim has overseen. I would venture to guess that his incredible gift through the years has reached into the thousands of dollars.  Now, as you may remember I’m not good at math, so let’s just agree that whatever the gift, it’s been amazing.

The amount of the gifting has never been a concern of Tim’s.  He loves the church and its mission, vision and values so much that he’s doing what he’s been blessed to do to help reach people for Christ.

I wish I could post my favorite 50 pictures of Tim’s work over the years but I’ll just conclude by saying this: If it’s been displayed as a poster board or vinyl on our campus, it’s probably because of Tim Markley and his gifting to the church.

Thank you Tim.  You’re a Rockstar in the eyes of the few who know you and now that you’ve been exposed, may others celebrate in the gift of your ministry to us.

Photos: Jeff Petersen

Last week, I returned from the LifeServe conference in Louisville, KY. It seemed to me that since this conference was focused on the ministry I’m charged with, I thought this might be worth attending so I could learn from and connect with others about this whole “engaging” process.

Six months ago – when I investigated the conference – I discovered that my boss, Mark Waltz (the guru of Guest Services himself), would be one of the conference leaders teaching. So, it seemed only natural to make the trip with him. On a side note: His teachings were amazing! If I could have given each attendee a collection of his books, the world of Guest Services in our churches would be changed forever.

Here’s what I’ve been convinced of over the last 10 years. Granger Community Church has always been a leading force in creating a culture of volunteerism and leadership. We’ve learned from the very best around the country and have developed our share of inspiration over the years as well.

So here’s what I sought God for before leaving on our eight-hour flight to Kentucky – and if you’re doing the math, you’re realizing that there were flight issues from Northern Indiana. That may be a post for another time 🙂

I sought God for three things:

Let me gain from the wisdom of others

Allow me to speak into the lives of a few ministry attendees

Help me to leave with a few new friends in ministry.

Photo Credit: Tim Bath

God is so good. He inspired me once again from the incredible ministry and teaching of others on this journey. He spoke to me through much of what I’ve always known. He spoke to me through others as they shared insight on their strategies to engage volunteers and guests who attend their church. God allowed me the incredible privilege of sharing principles that have worked so well in our culture with others who are on the journey.

I left knowing that although I have a bunch of head knowledge when it comes to practices and principles, I have yet to go so far in the application realm. I’m grateful for that challenge and awareness. It will make me a better leader and it has encouraged me to push even harder toward obtaining goals, creating environments of growth and establishing opportunities for communicating vision to those engaged in the process with me locally.

God allowed me to meet others whom I’ve followed or have followed the path Christ has led our church leadership on for almost 25 years. These great leaders I met have a fresh vision and passion for their ministries. They refreshed me through engaging conversations and enthusiasm that could not be bridled.

Once again, I’m focused and grateful to God – the creator of the universe – who spoke into me through the Church across the country where He is at work.

I’m blessed. So blessed.


Posted: August 2, 2011 in Everything Else, Heart

The ebb and flow of the week can take you from awesome heights in ministry to your knees at the speed of an email, a passing conversation or a phone call. I’ve been reminded recently just how much I don’t know, how little I really control and how much I must rely on the provision and mercy of God.

Here’s what I know to be true about me.  I need to continue to seek God for his wisdom, discernment, timing and intervention. I need to continue to prepare myself, humble myself and focus on the fact that whatever good I’m privileged to accomplish is only made possible because I’m seeking that wisdom, listening for that discernment, willing to wait on His timing and looking for those “Godidents” so that I can make myself available in a way that honors people and guides them to, or closer to, Christ.

I want to see, in a nanosecond, everyone outside the “body” who’s entangled by sin as a “there, but for the grace of God, go I” individual who matters to God. I need to work hard at putting aside biases, stereotypes, and preconceived ideas that isolate me from the very ones He has called me to serve.

I need to be faster at realizing, quicker at thanking God for, and then somehow learn how to share His work as if I’m having anout-of-body experience, watching God and God alone accomplishing that which my heart knows to be Him and Him alone.

I want to realize hourly that I’m surrounded by many of the best leaders, creative and mission-minded staffers who share this journey. I want to learn from them and without a flash of envy, humbly share with others what I’ve gleaned as nuggets I happened, by the grace of God, to stumble upon.

I want to see with fresh eyes that every volunteer who has partnered with this church has a unique story, a God given gift that he or she is looking to share. I continually want to be about helping others who have yet to dive in to understand the same.

I need to have eyes and ears that recognize people who are hurting, or those I hurt, and have feet that move me toward the ones I often try to avoid.

And finally, if that day comes that I’ve done my best at all these steps, I need to realize that my best may often not be received by everyone. That’s when, after careful examination, I’ll need to be faster at letting things go.

The first time I met the “better half” of this duo was about five years ago. Mayra Sandoval-Cooper came into the arts department speaking to me of creating imagery out of sand or some such discussion (it could have been sculptures or paintings, too) What I do remember was thinking “this lady’s got passion and loves the arts; I think I’ll see if she can run words for our weekend services.” My job isn’t rocket science.

That was Mayra’s entrance to volunteering. Although she remains a member of the arts team, her first passion in ministry is with her husband, Ken, as the two of them partner to lead Son City Kids.

Son City Kids, I’m convinced, is where Jesus would be spending much of His time if He had come to South Bend in 2001, the year the ministry was birthed. The Coopers, along with their team of volunteers, specialize in loving children and creating an environment where the love of Jesus is exposed to “their kids” and to the children’s parents.

Ken and Mayra have intentionally downsized their business venture in order to lead this amazing ministry and its volunteers into one of the most heartfelt ministries offered through Granger Community Church. Just a weekend ago, the annual Son City Kids Carnival exploded into action again. A fire truck was made available to spray water to help quench the 100 degree temps along with activities such as face painting and water slides. Like any good carnival, hotdogs, popcorn and snow cones were served up…only without the cost. There was no end to the action as hundreds of children visited the annual event.

Here are a couple of stories I’ve been able to dig about these two rock stars:

“Ken and Mayra can be caught often walking through the Monroe Circle meeting with kids and their parents. Ken is like a Rock star of sorts. When you walk through the neighborhood with Ken you realize they all love and respect him as you hear nothing but the chants of kids and parents alike calling out his name, “Coop!”

“Coop walks through the middle of gangs, some of which have grown up in SCK. ‘I know a better way,’ Coop suggests. The boys smile, shaking their heads at this old white guy wearing a lime green SCK t-shirt with a smile as big as Texas and saying, ‘I know Coop.’ Coop can always be found walking through the community making sure kids are signed up for the upcoming events.”

“Currently, Coop took on the head coach position of the SCK sports program after the original coach relocated out of the area. Even after putting in a full day at his business, he makes sure he gets everything together for the baseball game … then he puts on his coaching hat.”

“At anytime you can expect that Mayra or Ken will receive a text or call from the teens they have poured their lives into stating how much they love and appreciate Mayra and Coop for all that they’ve done. For many of the kids, the Coopers have stepped in to assume the parent role.”

“Ken and Mayra are often caught finding and moving furniture to anyone needing it in Monroe Circle.”

You two are changing the community for Christ! You are truly Rock stars in ministry here at Granger Community Church. Thank you!

Bottom of the Ninth

Posted: July 9, 2011 in Encouragement, Heart, Team

Last Wednesday, Claudia and I had the opportunity to take her dad to see the Cubs for his 87th birthday. Our two sons and their ladies joined us for the evening adventure to the “friendly confines”. It was an amazing outcome, leaving me pondering, “how could this relate to teams of great volunteers”? I know that sounds a little strange-but this is how my mind works now days.

This was the game status when this team analogy thing hit me: the Goliath team just tied the game on their end of the ninth. It’s now a one-to-one game in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and a man on third for the home team. Pinch hitter up for the Cubs with two strikes on him (OK-it was Aramis Ramirez pinch-hitting, but go with me).

Put that suspense on hold while I give you the history of my visits. Our family visits have yet to see the Cubs lose in Wrigley. Yeah, it’s the Cubs, so we’ve come close but we’ve always “sung the song”.

Hang on tight while I take this next turn.

There’s another team I admire, that “plays” with passion in “bottom-of-the-ninth” situations. This team always comes through in the clutch whether I’m there or not; for 10 years, I’ve never seen them loose. They’ve covered each other’s back and have always come through to raise the W flag at the end of a weekend.

I’m talking about the GCC I-Mag team and though the analogy might be a stretch, it gets the point across: these players aren’t just determined to be in full force on “game day,” they’re also committed to each other. They’re winners. They strive to make the weekend experience great and, in the process, to make each other feel great about being a part of a team. This team’s strength started months before the service, before the temperature hit 90 on a rare three-day holiday.

We’ve never had anything less than a full, team presence on game day for a full decade. The I-Mag team unexpectedly went to the “bottom of the ninth with two outs” last weekend, but team players stepped up to the plate – thanks Doc, Laura and Chuck for your willingness – to keep the perfect record intact. Like so many Cubs baseball games, we’ve come close a few times but we’ve always “sung the song.”

Speaking of the Cubs, Aramis came through, we sang the song and the undefeated record is still intact. It’s hard to imagine 39,000 fans cheering and singing for a club that’s 12 games below 500. That’s a post for a sports writer…or psychologist.

Now, here’s where I hope this post comes together. When you’re able to come through in a pinch like our team did, it can probably be credited to months or years before, when the intangibles were being built into the individual team members and when those members internalized the meaning of “team.” It’s the training, the encouragement, “coming to bat” for team members when needed and never giving up, even in the bottom of the ninth. It’s knowing the vision and executing it for your guests because you know the stakes.

I salute the greatest I-Mag team on the planet for their commitment and excellence. I salute the individual volunteers (all 37 of you) on this team who have been and are willing and able to pinch hit and come through in the clutch when unforeseen circumstances strike in the 9th.

You’re my heroes.

Who is this guy who shows up with teams of gifted construction workers to gut an entire building and transform it into a place that rocks our community with the love of Christ?  An entire building would be an understatement-more like an entire block.

Mark Scott would be the first to tell you that it’s a team of volunteers who’s combined effort has impacted the community for Christ. He’s right too-without his team little would have happened. That’s not the point though.  Mark’s been leading charge with this ministry for several years and because of his love for a transformed heart, he’s willing to give hundreds of hours every year to make sure things continue to happen.

Jack Magruder, Director of Life Missions for Granger Community Church puts it this way:

“Mark is one of the most ‘all in’ people that I have ever met.  Nothing in his life is off-limits from Jesus or his devotion to the Kingdom of God.  In all aspects and spheres of his life and world, Mark simply brings all that he is and all that he has to bear to whatever mission is at hand.  His family serves both as individuals and as a group in a variety of capacities on and off-campus, and Mark brings his workplace and business expertise as a master builder and construction company owner to projects ranging from MC3 to 2nd Saturday to the Veteran’s Center initiative.  He leads the GCC Construction Team, is incredibly generous with his time, his finances, his talents and his resources, and can always be counted on to not only show up, but deliver with excellence on any project.”

Mark will always shine the light back to Jesus and his team, and he’s not willing to let that light stop as long as long as God gives him breath.  Mark’s a leader of leaders, pulling in partners and resources in the community for an impact that goes far beyond what his incredible team could do on their own. When recently asked to take on the directorship role for the renovation of the Veterans Center in South Bend Indiana, Mark accepted the challenge under the condition that the entire forced salary would be used to purchase all the tools and equipment the team called Carpenters Hands Ministry will ever need. Can you say generous? Amazing.

If there’s one thing this Rockstar hates, it’s any type of recognition that points to him. Fortunate for me, he’s not my editor. To Mark, it’s all about team and following God’s call.

Mark’s team of volunteers will forever be grateful for his vision, leadership, his care, his compassion and drive that takes on projects of seemingly enormous unreachable goals.  He and his team, transform not only buildings, but lives so that Jesus is honored and hearts and lives can be changed for eternity.

Thank you Mark Scott for making a difference in not only the lives of volunteers but in the lives of those who are the recipients of Christ’s love through your leadership.

“Clarify the Win” Part 3

Posted: May 25, 2011 in Team

If you’re just joining the post, you’ll need to jump back here to get the context 🙂

(Guest Services, Team Members)

“Clarifying the Win” in Guest Services means executing your giftedness and ministry so that a complete stranger will know they matter to God. Here are a few questions for our incredible volunteers who make it all happen:

  • Are you showing up expecting to make a difference?  Do you believe in the “win” enough to show up with excitement and urgency for the ministry, anticipating God to work through you?
  • Are you reaching out to a team member or engaging a guest with hospitality beyond the norm so that they know you care and are convinced that they matter to God?
  • Are you praying at your “post” over that program you’re about to pass on to a guest, that driver in the parking lot or that mother waiting patiently to check in her most valued possession? Are you praying not because a leader has pointed it out, but because you’ve decided that it’s time to kick it up a notch? It will make a difference in how our guests know they are loved.
  • Are you, as a team member, recognizing the high calling of ministry that is often the first step of engagement for guests who are not sure they matter to anyone, let alone the creator God of the universe?
  • As “boots on the ground,” are you seeking to recall the name of that one guest God may have placed in your path? Are you looking for opportunities to be “Jesus with Skin” to that person next time you’re ministering?

There is a need to “Clarify the Win” in every organization and how that’s accomplished at every level of an organization will differ. Other than our tax-exempt status, the Church is no different.  Our “product” just happens to be moving people closer to Christ while communicating, at every level, our win – that they matter to God.