Re-Post: What to Do with Your Past

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Lots of people have suggestions about what you should do with your past.  Most ideas sound something like this:

  • Don’t bring it up; why reopen old wounds?
  • My future is ruined because of my past.
  • I keep track of how others treat me so I can do the same to them.
  • Focus on what is working, not on what is broken.
  • Don’t cry over spilt milk.
  • Suck it up.

Some of these statements have an element of truth, but ultimately every one of these approaches will take a toll on you and your relationships.

Before I was a teenager I endured some very difficult experiences (not from my family, gratefully; they are and have been wonderful).  I kept those experiences hidden for at least 8-10 years and carried the shame with me as a teenager.

When I finally let someone know what had happened, I was more relieved than I could have imagined.

Throughout the years since then, whether through friends or relatives or counselors, I have unpacked those experiences and dealt with them, each time gaining greater freedom.  Up until a week ago I felt like I had dredged all of the available wisdom and healing from those experiences.

Last week, however, God showed me something in those tough experiences that I had missed.  I was blown away at how one detail of those experiences had made its way into deep parts of my life without me even knowing it.

As soon as I realized what God was showing me I felt freedom and rest enter my soul, freedom and rest I did not know I needed.

If you are human you probably have had many painful experiences and carry around numerous wounds, some which you probably do not even know you have.

Here is my advice to you:

  • Don’t be afraid to go there.  When you air those wounds and experiences you will ultimately find healing in your present life.
  • Pray.  God will shepherd you through your past if you let him.  Remember that he was betrayed and mistreated beyond our comprehension, yet he was able to rise to a completely new life.  You can rise, too, with his help.
  • Find a safe friend or counselor.  If you need to talk, carefully choose someone rather than talking about your pain with every person you meet.
  • Trust.  The pain of re-opening old wounds is worth it.  If you are truly looking for healing and restoration for you and your relationships, go for it.
  • Let go.  If you have done all you know to deal with your past, let it go.  This is easier said than done, I know, but with God you can do it!  If there is more to be done, God will bring you to that point at the right time.
  • Keep short accounts.  The best way to avoid a painful past to live a healthy present.  Confront issues instead of skirting them.  Forgive everyone.  Love unconditionally.

I am still learning, but God continues to prove that he can revive the tired areas and heal the broken parts in me.  I know the same is possible for you.

How have you successfully dealt with your past?  What experiences do you need to re-visit for your good or the good of those around you?

Re-Post: Do Shortcuts Work in Relationships?

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

In any sort of relationship you will face conflict.

  • “Your comments made me feel inferior.”
  • “Oops.  I forgot to pick up the keys to the car.”
  • “You were not listening to me; I did not feel like you were on my side.”

We are patently human.  You will regularly experience conflict and tension.  The importance of conflict is not in the nature of the conflict but in the nature of your response.

Our tendency as humans is to try to find the shortcut to resolution.  My natural tendency is to placate, to try to make the other person feel better.  What is usually necessary is some time, discomfort and wrestling before bringing the issue to a full resolution.  I personally have to choose to enter that zone of discomfort for my benefit and the benefit of the relationship.

We all have choices every day.

  • You can move towards someone or away from them.
  • You can engage conflict or avoid it.  (Warning: Avoided conflict will always find you somewhere else.)
  • You can be stingy or generous.

To be human is to choose.

Here is the choice we each need to make:

  • Will we be the people who stick with a relationship for the long haul, through miscommunication, pain, hurt feelings, and scarcity, as well as through abundance, laughter, and celebration?
  • Or will we be the people who avoid conflict and pain and look for relational shortcuts?

Shortcuts do not give lasting rewards, but discipline and perseverance pay off long into the future.

What choice are you going to make today?

Re-Post: Six Steps for Taking Your Worship Ministry to the Next Level

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Trying to understand how to grow your church’s worship ministry can be challenging and overwhelming.  Anyone, however, can discover how to take their worship ministry to the next level by applying six simple steps.

I distinctly remember the feeling of wondering how in the world I was going to unearth the next steps for my ministry.  I had been at this church for five years and now they were applying a new accountability structure requiring me to really understand where we needed to go in worship.

Not knowing what steps to take, I was completely overwhelmed by the untold possibilities.  What kinds of new music should we introduce?  What kinds of physical improvements did we need to make to the auditorium?  Should we keep the pews or go with theater seating?  Should we replace the aging projectors with HD or standard definition projectors?  What role should the choir have in the next five years?

Nothing had prepared me for these kinds of decisions.  Nothing in my upbringing as a pastor’s kid, in my two professional music degrees, or in my year at Bible college had hinted at resources for making these questions.

Of course, the congregation and leadership had plenty of ideas, which only made me feel more overwhelmed.  One person was certain they had just found the sound technology our church needed.  Another well meaning person had very strong suggestions about the kinds of music we should use and how loud it should be.  Others said, “Make up your mind and don’t worry about the nay-sayers.”  Elders urged caution.

Over time I began to get a sense of how to move forward without being overwhelmed.  Below are six steps anyone can take to get a grasp on where God might be leading them.

  1. Pray.  So often this is the last thing on our list, even as ministry leaders.  Solomon, near the beginning of his reign, asked God for the wisdom and understanding to rule the people of Israel, and God granted his request.  Jesus also reminds us, “Ask, and it will be given to you.”
  2. Study God’s Word.  Learn what God has to say about worship and it’s place in the church and in our lives.  God is your ultimate leader.  Know what is close to his heart.
  3. Study your senior pastor.  Regardless of whether your church is elder-led, pastor-led, or congregation-led, your senior pastor is going to set the tone and agenda for the church.  He is the one God has set in place to lead your church.  Get to know what is on his heart.
  4. Study your church vision.  Everything you do in the future will need to be in service to your church-wide mission.  Dig into it, even if you think you already understand it fully.  Take it apart with your senior pastor so that you can understand how to apply it accurately to your ministry.
  5. Study the health of your ministry. The growth your ministry needs may be more internal than external.  Some seasons are for growing in size and others are for strengthening what we have.  Endeavor to know your ministry better than ever before, whether you have been leading it for two months, two years, or 20 years.
  6. Study your personal health.  We often forget that we can only lead within our capacity and experience.  Sometimes the best growth steps for our ministry involves growing ourselves in order to improve our leadership.

Through prayer and study God will begin to reveal to you the areas of your ministry that need shoring up and the areas that are doing well.  Over the next week we will dig deeper into how you can plan the next steps for the ministry you lead.

Which of these six steps needs attention in your ministry, and how are you going to address that step this week?

Re-Post: A Guide to Planning Center Online Permission Levels

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Planning Center Online (PCO) is a powerful resource for churches, but it can also be complicated.  Permission levels is one of those potentially confusing features.

PCO provides multiple permission settings for each person.  For instance, if your church is like ours, several ministries use PCO.  At our church Worship Ministry, Children’s Ministry, and Student Ministries use PCO.  As a result every person has four permission settings:

  • Site Permissions
  • Children’s Ministry
  • Student Ministries
  • Worship Ministry

The other day I noticed that our setup of PCO had 10 people listed as Administrators at the Site level, which is inviting disaster to camp out on your doorstep.  I have since adjusted permission levels accordingly.

Let me share my reasoning with you.

Several years ago I was editing categories for my people on PCO and I decided that a particular category was incorrect – not matching across the program.  I deleted it.  Then I found out that I had just deleted all of the activity under that heading throughout my PCO history.  Oops.

Those are the kinds of things that can happen when someone has Administrator privileges and does not know what they are doing.  Needless to say, I am much more careful now, and I train people to watch out for those hiccups.

PCO provides four permission levels in addition to Administrator.  Here are the permission levels in PCO, with PCO’s own descriptions:

  • Scheduled Viewer: Can only view plans that they have been scheduled for and that the notification email has been sent.
  • Viewer: Can view all plans & songs.
  • Scheduler: Can view all plans & songs. Can edit & schedule people.
  • Editor: Can edit all plans, people & songs.
  • Administrator: Can change permissions for the service (templates & categories).

I find it helpful to think about the different levels this way:

  • Scheduled Viewer: Use this level if you want the person to only have access to song, plan, media and people information when they are scheduled for an event.  At all other times they will only be able to access their own personal contact information and calendar.
  • Viewer: A person with this permission level can always access songs and media, view plans, and see contact information for other people, whether or not they have been scheduled.
  • Scheduler: Use this level for volunteers who help you schedule people.  They can edit people information, but they cannot edit anything else.  In every other area they are at the same level as a Viewer.
  • Editor: Volunteers who help with service planning, people management, and song entry need this level of permission.  These people are only restricted from global ministry category and template editing, which is reserved for Administrators.

The Site level permission setting determines the default permission level for the person throughout PCO.  If a person is set as a Viewer at the Site level they will have Viewer privileges in every ministry.  If a person is an Administrator at the Site level they will have Administrator privileges in every ministry.

In order to manage these different levels of permission PCO also provides two other permission modifiers:

  • Disabled: User cannot login and is excluded from all emails and is not able to be scheduled.  This modifier is only used at the Site level.
  • Same as Parent: Will use the same permissions as the group above that service. If there is not a group above it, it will inherit the site permissions.  This modifier is only used at the Ministry level and is the default setting.

I recommend Scheduled Viewer as the default setting for every volunteer and guest artist.

If you have people who are Administrators, Schedulers, or Editors you will want to decide if you want them to have those privileges in every ministry or just one ministry If your answer is every ministry set the Site permission level to the proper setting and leave the Ministry permissions at Same as Parent.  If your answer is just one ministry, then set the Site permission to your default permission for everyone (in my case, that is Scheduled Viewer) and then give them the proper permission level for the specific ministry.  Then make certain the other ministry permissions are set to the default level as well.

Finally, if you have a volunteer who moves out of state and no longer serves in your ministry, DO NOT DELETE THEM from PCO.  If you do you will lose all of their serving history.  Simply change their Site permission level to Disabled.  Their name will disappear from the People contact page but will remain in the history.  If you ever need to pull them back up you can go to the upper left hand side of the People page and select “View disabled accounts.”

A few important comments from Aaron Stewart, Product Manager for Planning Center Online:

Permissions are also what give people access to the main top tabs (Plans, Media, Songs, People). If you set a site or ANY permission to Viewer, those people can now access everything on the songs tab, the media tab, and the people tab. They can listen to and access any files and get to other people’s contact information. For this reason, we generally recommend you leave the site permission set to Scheduled Viewer unless you really want the person to access everything in all the other tabs.

From a song copyright standpoint and a people privacy standpoint, it’s usually not ideal to give this access to your regular volunteers. There is a way for you to change a master site setting so that Viewers can’t see the people page, but they will still be able to get to the song and media pages.

What strategy do you use in handling PCO permission levels?

Re-Post: Something Worth Living For

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

I am a parent, and parents easily get caught in the day-to-day business of managing children, school homework, and lunches, not to mention extra curricular pursuits and puberty.  It’s no surprise, then, that when your son or daughter thanks you or expresses appreciation in some way for what you do as a parent you can feel a little bit giddy.

I had one of those moments today.

I like to say my boys are the best in the world; I wish I could take credit for how good they are.  They are rambunctious boys who like to make fart noises and play legos, but they are sharp and witty and respectful at least 90% of the time, which is pretty good in my book.

Today the boys went to work with me.  I was able to interact with them some, but for the majority of the day they were on their own, playing Wii, legos, Minecraft, and other things.

At one point in the day one of my boys just walked up to me and said, “I love you, dad.”

Wow.  That made my day.  I do not get to see them often, so hearing that from him meant so much to me.

Thank you, Lord, for the small things that make the challenging days worth the effort.  Thank you for my sweet, innocent boys.

What moments as a parent have encouraged you?

Re-Post: Hope for the Sad Heart

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Every person experiences times of sadness and hopelessness, times universally felt by the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown, men and women, grownups and children.

The beautiful truth is that there is hope for you and me.

Sad Woman

I often use the YouVersion bible app on my iPhone.  Two weeks ago they advertised that each person who began a three-week devotional plan and completed it on time would be entered in a drawing for one of five iPad minis.

I almost always read the bible in the mornings and pray, but my humanity got the best of me and I started a devotional just because I could have a remote chance of winning an iPad mini.  I chose the Lead Like Jesus plan put together by Ken Blanchard.

God had other plans, I am convinced.

Earlier this week the Scripture for the plan was 2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV):

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

This verse blew my mind.

Just the first four words are enough for my times of doubt:

And God is able.

Paul goes on, however, to explain that all of God’s grace is available to each and every one of us who is a believer.  Grace is when you receive something you do not deserve.  Grace is what you need to get through a difficult situation or to forgive someone who has harmed you.

The rest of the verse drives home the fact that this grace is available everywhere all of the time in order for me to have “all sufficiency,” or contentment, allowing me to thrive in doing good work.


I do not get angry; generally I am very cool headed.  A few days later, though, a minor incident had me seething.  I had to go on a long walk to cool off.

In the middle of that walk this Scripture came back to my mind and I began to ask God to do this for me, to make all of his grace abound for me in this situation at this time.  I had been trying to have peace on my own all morning and had failed miserably.

Five minutes later I was completely at peace.  God did what he said he would because he will always keep his promises and my desire was his desire.

Does God always answer the way we want him to?  No.  But 2 Corinthians 9:8 is a promise, and God cannot deny his promises.  He must fulfill them because Paul says elsewhere that in Jesus Christ every promise is “Yes.”

The next time I hit a hard situation I have a new plan:

  1. Admit to God I am unable to remedy the issue or bring about the desired result.
  2. Pray for him to fulfill his promise in 2 Corinthians 9:8.
  3. Ask for guidance on what to do next.

If you are a believer there are no impossible situations, no times or places where God cannot help and rescue you.

If you are still undecided about following God, let this verse remind you that no one and no place and no time is out of God’s reach.

Where do you need to apply 2 Corinthians 9:8 in your own life?

Re-Post: What the Hatfields and McCoys Teach Us About Worship Wars

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

The Hatfield and McCoy families were at war with each other in the latter part of the 1800s, resulting in the death or imprisonment of dozens in their families and many more outside their families. At one point Kentucky and West Virginia almost went to war over the feud. In May of 2012 the History channel ran a three part miniseries on the feud, drawing record numbers of viewers.

Too often church members wage decades-long battles with each other over worship issues. We exchange angry and sometimes vengeful words with each other.

Not long into my first church job a long-time member marched into my office and pronounced firmly that she and 23 others all felt we should never do drama in the traditional service.

This church had three services and two styles and the arguments over worship style had been raging for almost 10 years by that time. Over the next eight years I got a first-hand taste of the Hatfields and McCoys worship style.

Now, looking back, I think of all the positive things that were overlooked because of the need to deal with conflict. The Hatfields and McCoys have showed us exactly what we will gain by fighting and arguing:

  1. Bitterness. In 2 Samuel 2 the armies of Israel and Judah were fighting each other and Abner, commander of Israel’s armies, said this to Joab, commander of Judah’s armies: “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” Joab then called off the pursuit of Israel.
  2. Self-righteous indignation. Worship wars are usually fought because one group claims the high moral ground over another group. Each group has it’s own standard of right and wrong and nothing can persuade them otherwise.
  3. Unhealthy pride. If your group “wins,” you can develop a very prideful spirit, and God has stern things to say about the proud. In Proverbs 16:18 God says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

These poisons will damage you and your church deeply. Instead, God calls us to demonstrate:

  1. Love. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “The greatest of these is love.” God’s currency is one of love, grace and forgiveness towards those who wrong you or disagree with you. Love brings more freedom than you could ever protect by being bitter and self-righteous.
  2. Humility. Christ gave us the ultimate picture of humility when he came as a child to save us. He actually had the high moral ground and he gave it up to save us. When he rose from the dead and proved he was the Christ, he did not flaunt it but gave credit to God the Father.

Philippians 2:3-11 points us to Christ’s model for our lives:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

P.S. The Hatfields and McCoys of today are very much at peace with each other, showing that even the staunchest of enemies can be reconciled.

How can you demonstrate more love and humility in your worship discussions?