The Danger in Getting Things Right


Making changes in a ministry and seeing success based on those changes isn’t my ultimate “win” as a leader. If it is, then I’ll never change things again after immediate success has been reached. That’s a problem because one day the changes I made will need to be changed again . . . and again and again and again.

For this very reason it’s imperative that as a leader I recognize the true win as it relates to making changes. The win from change isn’t the potential success that follows, but instead, the fact that I was simply willing to make changes and experiment with new ideas in the first place. 

Since this mindset isn’t based on chasing after success I find myself free from the fear of failure. I’m embracing a desire to always be on the lookout for new ways of doing things, and I’m viewing failure as a wonderful learning experience that can spur new and even greater ideas for change.

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A New Adventure Awaits


This is the first time I’ve written a blog in the past couple of years, but I thought it appropriate to get back on the horse in order to share with you about what God is doing in my life and where He is leading me and my family.

A few months ago I accepted a position to be the Preschool and Children’s Pastor at a church in Chattanooga, TN. Marissa, my two lovely daughters, and I will be moving during the month of May, and I officially begin my new role on June 1st. I’ll be under the leadership of a close friend with a big vision, and I’m excited to join him on this new adventure. The news hasn’t been communicated to his congregation yet, so I’ll refrain from using the church’s name and the name of my future leader.

Thankfully my current church family, Grace Community Church, will allow me to stay in my position through the end of April so I can finish up with important projects, help with the transition of leadership, and selfishly use the time to prepare my heart to say goodbye to some of the best kids, parents, and leaders I’ve ever known. This is also a huge blessing to my wife and seven year old daughter. Marissa is a school teacher and wouldn’t dream of leaving her kids midyear, and Emma needs to finish 2nd Grade with her best buddy and her teacher whom she adores.

It’s crazy to think that my family and I have lived in Clarksville for almost eight years. Time has definitely flown by. My time at Grace started in a little Mexican restaurant on a Sunday afternoon enjoying a meal with the church’s founder, Ron Edmondson. After I listed all the reasons why I should stay in Chattanooga (where Marissa was raised and where I had lived for eight years), Ron encouraged me to take a risk, move my family to Clarksville, and join a great adventure. I’m beyond grateful that I took him up on his offer. During my time at Grace I was able to help in adding service times, help launch a second campus, lead a dynamic preschool and children’s ministry, help a sweet friend launch a special needs ministry, head up rebrandings of our preschool and 1st-3rd grade ministries, launch a preteen ministry with an incredible buddy of mine, and head up events, with top-notch staff and volunteers, such as Grace’s Trunk or Treat where we’ve seen as many as 5,000 people in our community attend. But most importantly I was able to pray the prayer of salvation with many kids in Clarksville over the years, baptize them (or witness their parents baptize them) in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and watch leaders do amazing things each and every Sunday.

But even though I have a list of things I’m simply proud to have been a part of, I have a far greater list of failures. In the mix of all those very cool and challenging experiences listed above, I made more mistakes than I can count. Simply put, I made dumb decisions (repeatedly), reacted poorly to people in moments of stress, placed my ambition and passion for kids ministry before my family at times, allowed my insecurities to cloud my judgement, and on and on and on. In short, with all the cool opportunities I’ve been a part of, I, in some way or another, can guarantee I made a mess of things. But during each challenge and opportunity when my flesh and weakness got the best of me, God allowed me to reach the end of my rope and welcomed me to lean in on His strength. Not only that, but God surrounded me with some of the greatest mentors and leaders a guy could ever ask for. Over the years, Godly men helped me learn from my mistakes, challenged me in ways that deepened my relationship with Jesus, and encouraged me to keep moving the mission forward.

So, the church receiving me on June 1st will be getting a broken leader at best, but, because of my time at Grace and all of my friends who have invested in me, I now see that I’m at my best when I’m broken. In fact, it’s only through a broken state that I can see clearly the powerful, life-giving truths His Word provides, the peaceful intimacy found through prayer, the need for God’s wisdom in even the smallest decisions, that ministry can never trump my precious family, the joy in putting others first and being a servant-leader, and that my own personal agenda pales in comparison to simply caring for and investing in those I have the honor of leading.

So when the day approaches for us to head off on our new adventure back in good old Chattanooga, my family and I will leave with many of you forever in our hearts. Thank you for allowing me to lead the preschool and children’s ministry at Grace over the years, and thanks to Grace Community Church and so many others here in this awesome community for loving and caring for my greatest treasures, my wife and girls.

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Our Roles and Wins in Grace’s Kids Ministry

winDefining THE WIN for each role helps Kingdom Builders at Grace Community Church understand what is most important. In other words, as long as a leader fights for his or her win then they have succeeded in carrying out the mission. Even though every role has it’s own win, every Kingdom Builder shares an ultimate win that we are all striving for every Sunday and at every family event we host:

To value and love every child and parent like family.

Wonder Warehouse (Preschool) and Cross Street (K thru 3rd) Classroom Roles/Wins:

Class Leader: As the point person for a class, a Class Leader is expected to know the lesson well, lead the Class Assistants in what to do with the children, and connect with parents. A Class Leader should be free from leading a small group so he or she can ensure the Divide and Love strategy is being implemented, that all the Class Assistants are supported, and to handle disciplinary situations. But of course if not enough Class Assistants are present then a Class Leader will take a small group of children along with the Class Assistants.
A Class Leader’s Win: I win when I engage with Class Assistants, parents, and children while working to provide a safe, loving environment where children can build relationships with adults using the “Divide and Love” Strategy.

Class Assistant: A Class Assistant is expected to know the lesson well and to invest in a small group of children. Class Assistants follow the lead of their Class Leader.
A Class Assistant’s Win: I win when I ensure that the children learn about the day’s bottom line presented in the lesson by engaging every child through the “Divide and Love” Strategy.

Youth Volunteer: Young helpers who assist the Class Leader and Class Assistants. Unless a child is serving with his or her family, he or she must be at least 11 years of age to serve as a helper in Wonder Warehouse, in 6th grade to serve in Cross Street, and in 9th grade to serve in Revolve.
A Youth Volunteer’s Win in Wonder Warehouse: I win when I comfort a child/children through play and interactive time, which helps to facilitate a calmer environment more conducive to learning.
A Youth Volunteer’s Win in Cross Street: I win when I listen to my Class Leader and carry out what I’m asked to do with excellence.
A Youth Volunteer’s Win in Revolve: I win when I help support the Small Group Leader by being engaged during worship, pay attention during large group, and help foster intentional conversation during small group time.

Wonder Warehouse and Cross Street Large Group Roles:
Storyteller: By using a script provided by Large Group leadership, storytellers get to tell kids engaging stories from God’s Word.
A Storyteller’s Win: I win when I teach a lesson that sets up class time for good discussion.

Worship Leader: No singing required! You are provided with a simple script and videos showing dance moves to learn ahead of time. During worship you lead by dancing and encouraging the kids to dance with you.
A Worship Leader’s Win: I win when I have established a welcoming environment to worship God.

Tech Crew: In Cross Street we have Tech Crews running the soundboard, computer, and lights during Large Group.
A Tech Crew’s Win: I win when I have enhanced the Large Group environment to help children remain engaged.

Revolve (Preteen Ministry) Small Group Roles:
Small Group Leader: As a Small Group Leader you are expected to have studied your lesson beforehand so that on Sunday you are prepared to lead your Small Group in meaningful discussions, but more importantly you are prepared to build authentic relationships with the kids in your Small Group.
A Small Group Leader’s Win: I win when I have connected with each student before, during, and after Small Group.

Speaker: Using the outline provided by Revolve leadership, your job is to explore a Biblical Truth by sharing a story from the Bible.
A Speaker’s Win: I win when I have taught a lesson that can help a student grow in their knowledge of the Bible and how it can be applied to their lives.

Check In Leader: This role focuses on welcoming and assisting parents as kids are checked into GCC’s Kids Ministry.
A Check In Leader’s Win: I win when I welcome EVERY family that walks through the front door of Grace Community Church.

Special Needs Buddy: A “Buddy” is an amazing role where a leader is partnered with a child who has special needs. We are an inclusive ministry, so a Buddy helps his or her child during large group and class time.
A Buddy’s Win: I win when I create a partnership between the family with a special needs child and myself that will help the child know church is a place of belonging.

Set Up/Tear Down Leader: Since both campuses of Grace Community Church are located in schools, Set Up Volunteers and Tear Down Volunteers are needed in order to create exciting environments where kids can build relationships with leaders and grow in their faith.
A Set Up Leader’s Win: I win when environments are carefully set up on time and no damage has been inflicted upon the school or church property.
A Tear Down Leader’s Win: I win when environments are carefully broken down and equipment properly stored so that no damage has been inflicted upon the school, and equipment will be easily accessible for the Set Up Volunteers the following Sunday.

Supply Team: Leaders meet during the week in order to work on supplies that will be needed on Sundays or for special events.
A Supply Leader’s Win: I win when the resources necessary are allocated and delivered so that those who requested the supplies are sufficiently equipped to successfully complete their role.


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A New Vision and Mission in Grace’s Kids Ministry

VisionWe view every Preschool and Children’s Ministry team member at GCC as a Kingdom Builder.

A VISION functions as the “north star” – it is what every Kingdom Builder understands they are accomplishing over the long term.

Our vision is to be the best kids ministry by how we value and love every child and parent.

Simple Ways for Every Leader to Value and Love:

1. Make eye contact and smile.
2. Greet and welcome each and every parent and child. The spirit of hospitality is contagious.
3. Seek out interactions with kids and parents.
4. When things go wrong be the first to offer a solution.
5. Strive to make every Sunday magical by how well you love and value every parent and child.

A Mission Statement defines the present state or purpose of an organization by answering three questions about why an organization exists – WHAT it does; WHO it does it for; and HOW it does what it does.

Our mission is to help kids become growing followers of Jesus by consistently focusing on the three “high’s”: high touch, high quality, and a high dependence on God.


High Touch is how we are relationally strong as a team and willing to build relationships with the children and parents in our ministry.

High Quality is how every role is carried out to the best of each leader’s ability. The excellence we strive for is a part of our worship to God and deserves nothing less than the best we can offer.

High Dependence on God is how we consistently pray for God to use us to strengthen our ministry’s partnership with parents and to see children grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

A Strategy is a plan of action that activates the mission and ensures forward momentum toward the ongoing vision.

Our strategy is to always strive for high touch, high quality, and a high dependence on God in the following ways:

By building relationships with parents and providing support as they lead their child in a growing relationship with Jesus.
Parent partnership is the most important part of our strategy because what happens at home is more important than what happens at church. GCC’s Children’s Ministry is passionate about supporting parents as they take on the role as their child’s most important spiritual influence. Partnership happens when Class Leaders, Class Assistants, and parents know each other by name and interact on Sundays. Also, by providing parents with resources that reinforce what’s being covered on Sundays and help families foster intentional milestone moments in their child’s life.

By creating Large Group experiences where children learn about amazing Bible stories and engage in exciting worship.
Large Group is a time when classes gather together in a whole group setting to experience upbeat songs that allow children to dance and sing as they worship God. It’s also a time for us to focus on God’s Word and drive home the Bottom Line, which is what we want every child to understand more than anything else for that day.

By creating incredible classroom experiences where leaders get to build relationships with children and lead them in fun and creative activities that reinforce the day’s Bible story and Bottom Line.
During class time a child has the opportunity to interact with leaders and other children, forming relationships through fun activities, meaningful conversations, and prayer time. Something that needs to be on the hearts of all leaders in a class is for every child to be looked in the eyes and to have a chance to interact with their leaders. In today’s world it is easy for a child to become a “shadow” overlooked at home and school. We firmly believe that one of our most important roles as a ministry is to make sure that every child is valued and loved . . . THAT THEY ARE NOTICED. This can only be accomplished if leaders Divide and Love during class time.

Divide and Love is a simple strategy where we ask every leader in a class to focus on a small group of children. This happens when the entire group is divided by the number of leaders present so that each leader can focus on a few kids instead of the entire group. Divide and Love ensures that every child is looked in the eyes, listened to, and reminded that an adult has taken out time to invest in their life because they care.

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Grace Parents: New Preschool Ratio System

WonderWarehouse-668x351Preschool Parents of Wonder Warehouse,

Sunday, August 10th, we implemented ratios in Wonder Warehouse (Grace’s environment for birth-preK). This, as with all change, was met with mixed emotions. After a year’s worth of research and consultation with other churches, we implemented ratios for the following reasons:

1. Effective learning takes place. We move our volunteers from mere crowd control to helping our smallest ones develop a true WONDER for God.
2. Safety is increased. Volunteers can supervise children more closely which leads to fewer accidents.
3. Leader retention increases. Volunteers burn out easily when they are asked to just manage chaos. When we honor ratios, we honor our volunteers.
4. Children enjoy the experience more. Children become stressed and over-stimulated in crowded situations. With ratios children can truly KNOW their teachers and feel safe with them.

When a parent is turned away from Wonder Warehouse due to a full class they are first offered to stay with their child in the class. If the parent declines they are offered an activity bag they can take into service with them. These bags will contain crayons, coloring book, age appropriate toys, and snacks. We want the kiddos to be excited to get these bags and the parents to know that, while we can’t physically help them by taking their child, we have thought ahead and have offered some help.

If you have a special place in your heart for this age group we’d love to have you on the team in order to help the families of Grace become growing followers of Jesus. Please contact me at if you have interest in serving.
You can see the ratio #s on our website

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A Letter To All Kids Ministry Volunteers At GCC


Hello Kids Ministry Team,

I know on Sundays it can be so fast-paced that it becomes difficult to see past our immediate roles to the big picture. I can easily lose sight of why I’m doing what I’m doing. But as I visited the different areas within GCC’s Kids Ministry at both the Rossview and Kenwood campuses yesterday I got to see the big picture again and it reminded me about “the why”. My big picture involved each of you working together as one to form the body of Jesus Christ, wrapping His loving arms around our children and supporting our parents.

I saw this big picture through Jason Barnhill of Kenwood talking to a bunch of Cross Street kids about creation; Pam Christenberry at Rossview and Shelia Carter at Kenwood warmly greeting parents at Check-In and making them feel welcome; Rossview’s Kasey Panczer, with a cast on her leg, leading worship in Cross Street with excitement and incredible energy; Kenwood’s Wendy Shackelford and John Bryant loving and investing in their Wonder Warehouse kids and making them feel so special; Rossview’s Michael and Melanie Davis giving 110% in Revolve even though it was hotter than you know what in the front of that school; And Mallory Fundora at Rossview loving on a new child at Grace with severe autism who came from a church that didn’t welcome his special needs.

I could go on and on all day long talking about volunteers like Tim and Lori Cribbs, Amanda Craig, Erin Johnson, Trisha Kemp, and all of you that pour your hearts out for these kids and their parents. But why? Why do you do this? Because each of us in Kids Ministry is called to a single mission . . . to help our kids grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. But that mission can only be carried out when we allow the Holy Spirit to empower us to value and love every single child and their parents as if they were family.

That’s exactly what I saw yesterday . . . I saw God’s people at GCC value and love every single parent and child, and every Sunday that we “value and love”, we win. That win gets us one step closer to our mission, helping kids grow in Christ.

I thank you for reminding me why I do what I do and for making Sundays not only magical for all the kids we serve, but for my little girls as well.

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One Simple, But Powerful, Thing You Can Do For Your Preteen


Is your child ready to become a teenager? Are you ready for your child to become a teenager? Think about it, you’ve already seen the preteen years bring on a new set of challenges, but you know that the teenage years will bring on a new wave of changes, temptations, and struggles.

Knowing that the preteen ministry at Grace is helping equip your child for what’s to come is a major concern of mine. Luckily we have a preteen pastor at GCC that is passionate about getting preteens ready for what’s next in life. That’s why I want to strongly encourage you to sign your child up for Revolve Camp this summer, June 16th thru the 18th. Your child’s preteen pastor, Van Riggins, and I have designed a curriculum for your 3rd thru 5th grader that will empower him or her to rise above life’s struggles by diving into God’s Word.

It’s not enough for your child to simply state that they believe in Jesus and that’s it. Your preteen needs to understand that his or her life should revolve around Jesus by diving into the Bible in order to learn firsthand what God expects from us as believers.

Van and I, along with amazing small group leaders, will be teaching your child about faith, courage, sacrifice, and having heart by diving into God’s Word. Our goal is for each child to walk away with a new appreciation for the Bible and to equip him or her with practical steps to take that will help incorporate God’s Word into daily life.

Go to today and register your child! It’s much cheaper than last year’s camp and it will be here in Clarksville.

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