How to Make 2013 Better than 2012

Looking back on 2012, did you accomplish everything you wanted to accomplish? Were you intentional about your year, or did you allow another year to slip through your fingers? Did you spend more time watching CSI than reading a worthwhile book? Did you spend more time playing Angry Birds than working on your personal growth? If so, don’t let 2013 be the same as 2012. Be intentional. Here are four simple steps to make 2013 better than 2012:

1. Set worthwhile goals. I know this seems simplistic, but too many people walk through life without setting personal goals. For a goal to be worthwhile, it needs to be:

a). Specific – setting a goal of “losing weight” isn’t specific enough. How much do you want to lose? 20 pounds? 30 pounds?

b). Attainable – setting a goal of losing 100 pounds in one year is probably not attainable. Setting a goal of winning the lottery is definitely not attainable. Set a goal that will push you, but is attainable.

c). Measurable – your goal has to be measurable. “Becoming a more loving person” isn’t a measurable goal, unless you tally hugs at the end of the week. If you don’t make your goal measurable, you’ll never know if you attained it.


2. Create a game plan. Once you set a goal, create steps to get there. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds in 2013, a game plan would include the following things:

  • What will you stop eating?
  • How often will you exercise?
  • When do you want to lose 5 pounds by? 10 pounds?


3. Make it public. This is where our goals become real. Post your goals in a public place. Put them on your refrigerator. Post them on Facebook (if you’re brave). This invites accountability, which you’ll need to make it to your goal. If you make it public, here’s what you’ll find:

  • People will rally around you. The people closest to you love you and will fuel you with encouragement.
  • You’ll inspire others to set their own goals. Many people want to better their lives, they just need inspiration. You can be that inspiration.


4. Celebrate along the way. When you meet a milestone (whether large or small), be sure to stop and celebrate. You’re beginning to maximize your full God-given potential, and that’s amazing!

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How to Spot the New Family

It’s the eyes. Do you want to know the secret of spotting the new family the first time they come to your church? Watch the eyes. New eyes are always timid, unsure, hesitant. Their steps don’t have the purposed gait of someone who knows where they’re going. If you spot a nervous, deer-in-the-headlights look, then you’ve probably got a first-time guest.

To those who seek to make a good first impression, to those who are practiced and intentional about welcoming first-timers, knowing this can make all the difference. A few Sundays ago I was walking outside of our building about ten minutes before our first service started. Out in the parking lot I saw a family I didn’t recognize, pouring out of their van with mom, dad, and four kids in tow. They had ‘the look.’ They were unsure of where to go, taking hesitant steps. They began to make their way to the first building door they saw, our Commons Area.

I intercepted them about fifteen seconds after they got out of the car, before they made out of the parking lot. I simply asked if they knew where they were going and if I could help them find anything. They (surprise surprise) told me that this was their first time to our church. So I walked them in and helped them get their kids checked into our children’s environment.

In the days that followed, we received multiple emails from them, thanking us for our hospitality and helpfulness in getting them where they needed to be. They said that they’ve found their church home and that they’ll be coming every week.

Look for a new family this week. Be intentional about it. Make sure you’ve got some type of Welcome Team in the parking lot, looking for the new family. Make a great first impression. And watch them fall in love with your church!

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The Unsung Heroes

In yesterday’s post about Tomas, I briefly mentioned Shawn and Jen Rhineholt, an amazing American couple who transplanted their lives (along with their five kids) from the East Coast to the Dominican Republic to see the gospel come to life there. They are the unsung heroes of Christianity. They’re the ones with the vision for Tomas and so many others to receive an education. This video below captures a bit of their story. You can find them online here:

Meet Tomas

12.19.12This is Tomas. He is five years old. He is Haitian by nationality, living with his grandmother in a slum in Baharona, Dominican Republic. His family escaped the poverty and chaos of Haiti only to be trapped in the Dominican Republic. Tomas doesn’t have legal papers, so he is in the Dominican Republic illegally. The DR government is therefore under no obligation to provide Tomas with clean drinking water, electricity, or an education. Since he has no papers, he can’t go back to the Dominican Republic. He’s literally stuck in a cycle of poverty that can seem hopeless.

Over the past few years Mt Vernon Church has partnered with missionaries Shawn and Jen Rhineholt to start a school/church/medical clinic in Tomas’ slum community, offering the area basic services along with the hope of Christ. The response has been tremendous. Working with a local pastor who teaches at the school and shepherds the new church there, this community has begun the slow process of transformation.

Tomas still lives in dire poverty, but he now gets a solid meal everyday at the school. More than that, he’s getting an education, learning how to read and write. When he’s finished, he’ll speak more languages than me (Haitian, Spanish and English)! With an education comes the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty that has gripped his family for generations. With the gospel of Christ he has found hope for his soul.

It’s a privilege for me and my family to pay $25 a month through Children of Hope and give Tomas a shot at life. Tomas is a few months older than our oldest son, Zeke. Zeke thinks that’s cool. I think it’s cool to know that Zeke will learn from an early age the value of helping out those who need it. Mt Vernon has an ongoing relationship with this community and will get to build a relationship with Tomas and his family. If you look closely, you’ll see Tomas holding a picture of my boys that we recently sent him. He’s actually a lot happier than this picture shows. I’m told he absolutely loved looking at the picture of my boys. At school he’s super smart, always looking at books while the teacher is reading, but able to answer any question she asks of him. Tomas is going to do great things in life, and I’m privileged to be a part of it.

QUESTION: Have you ever sponsored a child through an organization such as Compassion International? How has it impacted you?

Why I’m an Unashamed Facebook Stalker

At a recent church function, a new church family came up and gave me a nice compliment. They were impressed that I knew their names and their children’s names. They know that Mt Vernon isn’t a small church. There were several hundred that called Mt Vernon home when I got here, and in 2012, several hundred more have visited. This couple had visited and gotten plugged in within the last few months. They haven’t gotten plugged into a Life Group yet, so they don’t know a lot of people. Yet I know them and their family. They said, “You must have a gift when it comes to names and faces.”

Here’s the secret: I work really, really hard at getting to know names and faces. That’s why I’m an unashamed Facebook stalker. If you’re on Facebook, game over. Our church database (F1) has the ability to add pics next to names in our directory. I’ve personally spent hours and hours adding over 300 new pictures from Facebook to recently attended guests. Why? Because once you know someone’s name, they’re no longer a stranger. They’re family.

Regular attenders expect you to know them, guests don’t. Here’s the easiest way to help a guest become a regular attender. Learn their name. Call them by name the next time they come to church. Once you know their name, they’ll no longer feel like a stranger. They’ll feel like they belong. Game over.

The truth is I’m not a natural with names. If I meet someone face-to-face and learn their name, nine times out of ten I’ll forget it. So I have to work at it. Constantly. My “Mt Vernon Faces” album on iPhoto currently has 513 pictures in it. I’ve got about 85% of those faces locked in. That’s 436 men, women and children I can call by name when they show up at Mt Vernon. That’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it. Every name you know is another soul you can impact for eternity. Work hard at names and faces. It will always pay off.

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The Power of Knowing a Name

Here’s part of an email our church recently received, “Thank you for making us feel so welcomed, we have been enjoying the church services and my heart is so happy that my children are also enjoying it too!” This is from a family who’s recently attended and has decided to make Mt Vernon their church home. What helped make the difference? We knew their names.

This family came late to our 10:30 service, dropping their kids off and slipping in before anyone could properly greet them. But our staff are highly trained welcoming ninjas. They will not let a new couple go away ungreeted! At the end of the service, while our Worship Pastor was closing out the service, one of our staff informed me that we had a new couple that came in late, but we didn’t know their names. They had kids, however, that they had registered in our children’s environments. Checkmate.

I quickly walked over to our children’s environment, got the names of the kids and the parents when they registered. By the time they came to pick them up, I was ready for them. I greeted them by name and talked with them for about five minutes. They couldn’t get out of our building without two or three other couples coming up and introducing themselves.

Two weeks later, they were back. This time to stay. They’ve found their home at Mt Vernon. Once we knew their name, they were family. Do whatever you have to do to learn someone’s name.

QUESTION: Has knowing someone’s name ever helped you connect someone with your church?

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Five for Friday

Here are some great links that will get you to think. Enjoy!

The Danger of Calling Behavior ‘Biblical’ – Great article by Rachel Evans. Read slowly through this one.

The Business Case for Reading Novels – Why I’ve read every book by John Grisham and Tom Clancy (among many others), and why it’s not a waste of time.

Create a Great Experience – Incredible insight by Brad Lomenick. Why we work so hard to make the Mt Vernon Church experience what it is each week.

Dave Ramsay’s 3 Keys to Being Awesome – True words by Jon Acuff.

The Inside Story of Charles and Andy Stanley – If you know either of these men, this article is well worth the read.

Everyone Has a Story

Earlier this year my family went down to New Orleans for a short vacation. While there, I able to engage in a favorite past-time: people watching. “People watching” sounds much nicer than “creeping,” so I’ll stick with that.

Two guys captivated my attention while there. The first guy worked at the New Orleans Insectarium. He was in his late 20s, and he screamed ‘beatnik’ with his Shaggy-like beard. He looked like the guy who would hit the hippest coffee shop in town after work. Here’s my favorite part: his job at the Insectarium was to hold live roaches and let paying guests (like me) play with them and pet them. That’s what he did all day. He sat on a stool and played with roaches. Where was that job on Career Day in high school?

The second guy that captivated me was in the New Orleans Aquarium. While we were eating lunch in the Aquarium Food Court, he was sitting behind a portable hot dog stand, waiting to sell someone a hot dog. No one came. For the entire 45 minutes we ate lunch, no one came to his stand. So he just sat there, staring blankly into space, for 45 minutes. He was young, early 20s. He looked fit. If this is what he did all day, where did he find his purpose?

Have you ever encountered someone and tried to imagine what their life was like? Next time you see someone on the sidewalk, pay for gas, or have someone bag your food at the grocery store, try to imagine their life. What’s their story?

Your story is the sum total of your life experiences, your childhood, your difficult circumstances, your personality quirks that you inherited from your aunt, the twisting, winding road that brought you to where you are today. That’s your story. The question is, how many stories do we really know? If we don’t know someone’s story, we don’t know them.

Spend some time and find someone’s story this week. See what it does to you.

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