Why We Invest in the Jesus Mission

Posted by: Julie on Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

event-hitchhikers268×66.gifThis weekend I was reminded once again what an incredible group of staff and leaders we have here at Community.  This past weekend our NewThing team hosted what we call our ‘Hitchhikers’ Guide to Multi-Site.’  We had over 45 pastors and leaders from churches all across the country come to Community this weekend to observe and learn how we do multi-site.  The weekend began Saturday morning with Leadership Community, the monthly gathering we do for all of our staff, coaches, and leaders from all nine locations.  We worship together, celebrate new leaders together, have a vision time with Dave, and then break out into our campus and ministry huddles.  So we took our ‘Hitchhikers’ with us to Leadership Community and then gathered them together in our large conference room to do a Q & A time with some of our staff.  I have to give some kudos to the staff team who presented Saturday morning – they are the best!

Sean Bublitz, Creative Arts Director for our Naperville-Yellow Box location shared thoroughly about how artists are recruited and developed and how our arts catalyst develops content that is adaptable to all nine locations.  Sean is responsible for overseeing the programming and production of six services at the Yellow Box.  His extensive team of worship leaders, rehearsal leaders, vocal coaches, sound leaders, tech leaders, media leaders, and set design leaders is very impressive!  Not to mention that he’s one of our best worship leaders himself!  Can we have 6 Seans please?

Eric Metcalf, Small Groups Director for our Naperville-Yellow Box location and Adult Ministry Champion for all locations gave an excellent account of how leaders and apprentices are developed through small groups and how critical small groups are when launching a new site.  Eric is incredibly gifted at developing the spiritual maturity of Christ followers.  In fact, he has put together some exciting revelations for this next ministry year that are going to take us to a new level of what it means to be a 3C Christ follower!  Look forward to it!

Pat Masek, Executive Assistant to Dave Ferguson (Lead Pastor) and really The One Who Runs the Place!, gave a vivid description of our new organizational chart as well as how marketing is done for a new campus launch.  Ask Pat anything!  She’ll know the answer!  It is continually impressive to see how Pat is able to do far more than her ‘executive assistant’ title suggests.  She interviews potential church planters, she helps coach churches in their multi-site journey, she’ll even ‘be Dave’ sometimes when he’s too busy!  It’s hard to tell the difference!  Tammy Melchien, Kids’ City Director for our Naperville-Yellow Box location and Children’s Ministry Champion for all locations explained what to look for in hiring team members and team leaders in children’s ministry.  Tammy is one of the best developers of leaders on our staff.  She not only oversees the children’s ministry directors for all nine locations, but she also develops curriculum, coaches other multi-site children’s ministries, and runs a Kids’ City team of her own at the Yellow Box!  Ask her anything about leadership development, and she’ll knock your socks off!

Brian Zehr, Campus Pastor for our Naperville-Downtown location and Multi-Site Coach for the NewThing team shared how critical it is for all locations to stay aligned when going multi-site.  Brian has had experience in several other ministry settings prior to joining our staff four years ago, and he continues to bring a wise and discerning eye to the table.  Brian is one of the most respected coaches in the multi-site world, and he recently developed a whole NewThing conference with new content for reproducing churches in the post-launch phase!  Look for more great stuff from this guy!

Carrie Larson, Executive Assistant to Jon Ferguson (Co-Lead Pastor) and Administrative Director for NewThing, organized this entire event and executed it with excellence!  From the marketing to the registration to the hospitality to the follow up, Carrie makes sure our Hitchhikers’ Guide conferences go off without a hitch!  J  Carrie not only serves as Jon’s assistant, but she also has recently taken on much of the human resources responsibilities for all of Community.  She also did a terrific job alongside John Ciesniewski in leading our capital campaign last year.  Don’t try to pull anything off without Carrie!  She’s vital to the team!

When I think about why I am generous to Community Christian Church, these above people (and others like them) are many of the reasons why.  This church is filled with talented people, both on and off staff.

Before I end this blog post, I must mention another group that continually knocks my socks off.  That is our Leadership Commission – what many of you would call an elder board.  Our Leadership Commission oversees doctrine, direction, discipline, and development of our church.  Three members of our Leadership Commission served at our Hitchhikers’ event this morning, and they were Jeff Miller, Rudy Stefanski, and Paul Warner.  Talk about three guys who ‘get’ generosity.  That would be these three.  They have served on more campus launch teams and on more ministry teams and small groups than anyone I know.  And they are brilliant.  Ask them anything!  And I must give credit also to their wives – Janet, Amber, and Katy.  These three couples, along with many others on our Leadership Commission, really get what it means to be generous.  They model it in their own lives and in their roles as the leaders of this generous church. 

Thank you Jeff, Janet, Rudy, Amber, Paul, Katy, Sean, Jill, Eric, Erin, Pat, Rick, Tammy, Brian, Judy, Carrie, and John!  You are living out our investment in the Jesus Mission and demonstrating how generosity directly impacts our ability to help people find their way back to God!

New Life Begins…

Posted by: Julie on Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

The past couple of weekends I have been blessed to welcome two new lives into this world…. Two of my best friends had new babies!


The first, Mason David, is the precious baby boy of my Oklahoma best buds Sheri and David.  Sheri used to work with me at a furniture store in Tulsa, when we met after ‘dating’ the same guy one after the other.  We became best friends at a Tulsa Drillers minor league baseball game when he incidentally invited both of us!  Ah, summers in Oklahoma… We had a killer-deal for our 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 2-story apartment on Shadow Mountain overlooking the downtown skyline at $760/month…. I miss those days in the great state of OK with lower cost of living!  Sheri and David have been great friends to me in good times and in tough times.  They kept me sane while working for a really tough boss, they saved me from marrying the wrong guy, they celebrated a new job with me when I moved to Chicago, they supported me through getting my masters degree, and they cried with me when I faced tough decisions.  Friends like this don’t come around too often, and I’m thankful that the miles will never separate us.


The second, Riley Heather, is the beautiful baby girl of my college roommate Heather and her husband Mike.  Heather and Mike are incredible parents already, and they are naturals with Riley.  Heather was one of my closest friends at Wheaton College and continues to be a source of authentic friendship as we move into adulthood.  She and I not only shared our dormroom together in the third floor of Williston Hall, but we also shared a few other things… a love for cereal, a love for TCBY ice cream, a love for random outings like a Wal-Mart scavenger hunt or a corn maze in a field, and we even shared the joy of dating two guys who were brothers… Yep, that was interesting… never a dull moment with Dave and Wes!  I’m so thankful Heather found a great guy in Mike Green, who – even though he went to our rival school Taylor University – is the best person we could’ve asked for for Heather, who deserves the best.  These are two of the most generous people I know, and I’m so thankful to have them in my life.

Sheri, David, Mason, Mike, Heather, and Riley, I love you so much and am so blessed that you’re a part of my life.  Mason and Riley, welcome to this world and I’m so thankful to be a part of your life.  Can’t wait to see what God has in store for you!  You’ve got great parents and an aunt Julie who loves you very much!

Obstacles to Generosity…

Posted by: Julie on Thursday, May 29th, 2008

audible-dollar.pngBack in December, we did a series called Audible and we talked about a new vision we were hearing from God… a vision that requires generosity of our whole lives and selves – generosity of our time, our relationships, and our finances.  (If you missed it, listen to the message here.)  Within the context of the message during that series, we asked our attenders to write down their obstacles to generosity and their opportunities for generosity on each half of a dollar bill.  We asked them to tear the dollar bill in half and keep their opportunities so they could pray about them and ask God to continue cultivating those opportunities in their lives.  We then asked them to turn in their obstacles to generosity (which also contained their registration for the Generosity Conference on the back side).  Through these responses, we had an overwhelming number of debt, budgeting, and questions about understanding how generosity can be more of an opportunity instead of an obligation.  So we did a Generosity Conference in February….

This past week I had the privilege of sharing with other stewardship pastors about our Generosity Conference, our Celebration Generosity initiative, and other things we are discovering at Community in terms of generosity…. As with anything we do at Community, we definitely do not have it all figured out!  But God has blessed our team with many things that have gone well, and we are excited and willing to share our findings with anyone who might be able to benefit from them.

This particular gathering of stewardship pastors last week were gathered together because of a common curriculum we use to help people overcome many of their obstacles to generosity.  That curriculum is Good Sense.  Kudos to Dick Towner, Matt Bell, and the whole Good Sense team for putting on a great event last week and for bringing together such a brilliant group of people.  A couple of people I spent some time with I want to encourage you to check out are:  Chris DeGraff, pastor of stewardship and discipleship at Grace Lutheran in the Twin Cities has a great blog on generosity… it’s called Synergenerosity.  Check it out here.  Sharon Steen, leader of the Generous Communities Initiative, is doing some innovative things in the Twin Cities area in regards to linking together like-minded organizations in generosity.  Check it out here.  Dave Briggs, stewardship pastor at Willowcreek has developed a terrific curriculum for parents of children and teens that teaches them about finances at an early stage in life.  It’s called Raising Financially Healthy Kids.  Definitely check this stuff out.

As we encourage people to find opportunities for generosity, it is important we provide them with strong tools for overcoming their obstacles to generosity.  Sure, there are obstacles to generosity that can’t be overcome with a curriculum.  And that’s the importance of generosity as a discipleship of the heart.  But along with that discipleship come practical tools, just as with any other type of discipleship.  This evening, in fact, a group of us at Community are gathering together to get trained on being financial counselors so that we can better serve those in our congregation who are struggling with some of these practical obstacles.  If anyone wants to join us, shoot me an email and we’ll get you the info.

Where are your obstacles to generosity and how are you seeking to overcome them?

If Someone Gave $1 Million to NewThing…

Posted by: Julie on Saturday, May 17th, 2008


This week I had the pleasure of spending time with our 17 NewThing Affiliates, our lead pastors from all 17 NewThing Affiliate churches across the country.  What an impressive group this is.  These guys are entrepreneurial, innovative, committed, and relentlessly devoted to catalyzing a movement of reproducing churches that help people find their way back to God.  I love it!

During a portion of our time together, I had the privilege of talking with them for a bit regarding our NewThing financial model.  I asked them the question, “If someone gave $1 million to NewThing, what would we do with it?”  Obviously, we could absolutely find ways to use that money in a powerful way.  The sustainability and reproducibility of that dollar, however, is not as strong as it would be with a clear pipeline of where we are channeling our financial endeavors for maximium impact.

For example, if we choose to invest our dollars into Leadership Residents, then we could say, give $50,000 to NewThing and that will sponsor 10 Leadership Residents at stipends of $5,000 each.  Those Leadership Residents, through our Residency program over 6-12 months, will then become equipped to raise funds and launch the planting of a NewThing church – an average launch cost of $250,000.  So with 10 residents times $250,000 per church plant, essentially your $50,000 has reproduced 50 times to $2,500,000 across those 10 church plants.

But is that what we want to do?  Maybe we’d rather channel the finances through acquiring new affiliate churches who are desiring to become reproducing churches – church planters who haven’t yet planted (or who have recently planted) but who don’t currently have a reproducing DNA.  Do we pour finances into them and help equip them to have a reproducing DNA so that those funds are then reproduced through additional campuses and church plants of that church?

But is that what we want to do?  Maybe we’d rather expand our influence through conferences and events and continue equipping churches nationwide in the reproducing and multi-site movement…

We definitely have some ideas, but we haven’t yet settled on a defined plan.  What should we do?  How should we invest our NewThing dollar for maximum impact in catalyzing a movement of reproducing churches that will help more people find their way back to God?

Effects of the Shopping Fast…

Posted by: Julie on Thursday, May 8th, 2008


Tomorrow, May 9, marks the halfway point of my 6-month shopping fast.  It has been an extremely humbling experience, and I continue to learn a lot from it.

Why do I do a shopping fast?  Here’s why:

* Discipline:  It’s a good practice to be able to do without things for a period of time.  Anything that you’re not able to give up has too tight of a hold on you.  Giving up shopping and purchasing for six months is my form of that discipline.

* Resourcefulness:  I can’t tell you how many outfits I’ve worn over the last several weeks that I’ve mixed and matched in ways that I hadn’t tried before, simply because it’s the only thing I can do to feel like I have new clothes when I actually don’t!… And when I get a compliment, I love being able to say, “Thanks, I bought this four years ago!”  Isn’t that a good feeling?!  It goes for shoes too.  I have a pair of boots I bought back in ’97 at Kmart for four dollars.  My friend Sheri and I each bought 3 pairs – one black, one brown, one red.  Thanks to shoe polish and some black duct tape on the bottoms, they’re my favorite line dancing boots and were (hopefully!) fashionable enough to wear in Orlando a couple of weeks ago for the Exponential Conference.

* Opportunities for Generosity:  Now more than ever, Community needs our generosity.  I don’t say ‘now more than ever’ in a needy sort of way; I say it in a missional sort of way.  Community and NewThing are at the ‘IPO’ so-to-speak (initial public offering – let me know if you need me to explain this) of their growth, and there’s nothing else I’d rather invest in than helping people find their way back to God.  And Community is on the verge of some very big things that could really take us to the next level in helping people find their way back to God.  I’ve struggled with how to share this because I don’t want it to sound prideful and I don’t want to impose my benchmarks upon anyone else since I don’t have children to care for or other family expenses that many of you all have.  But as a result of this shopping fast, I’ve been able to give more to Community than I could’ve ever imagined, and I want to encourage you to try the same.  So far in 2008, God has graciously blessed me to be able to give 47% of my salary to the Jesus Mission right here at Community.  And I can’t describe to you the joy and closeness to God that has resulted in this type of investment in His people.  I share this with you not to toot horns or impose expectations but rather to celebrate what God is doing in my life and in the lives of those who have inspired me to do this.  It is not what I do that should be celebrated, but why.  Here are some of the many reasons why I celebrate generosity to the Jesus Mission at Community….

How can you not respond to that kind of cause?  I challenge us all, myself included, to respond to our capacity in our own way.  The result is indescribable.  Generosity is not something God wants from us.  It’s something He was for us.

Share It. All Boats Rise.

Posted by: Julie on Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

generis-logo.jpgI had the pleasure of connecting again with a good friend of mine and esteemed colleague at Exponential last week.  I’ve gotta brag on him a little bit…. Brad Leeper is one of the senior fundraising strategists at Generis, one of the leading Christian fundraising consulting firms in the country.  I was introduced to Brad last October through Dave Travis of Leadership Network.  Leadership Network’s chief goal is to connect innovative leaders with one another for the goal of maximizing Kingdom impact.  Not only did Brad spend time coaching me and our team during our initial meeting in October, but he even stopped into Community a month later for a couple of hours during a visit to Chicagoland.  Brad continues to impress me with his Kingdom-minded view of generosity.  If you’re a church without the means to have an entire staff person devoted to stewardship and generosity, you need to look this guy up.  And if you are the staff person leading the charge on stewardship and generosity, then you need to look this guy up.  Brad shares a philosophy that I’ve come to respect about a lot of leaders I’ve encountered in the church planting world:  When you share with one another, all boats rise.  Thanks Brad.

Chinese Food, Collaboration, and Church Planting

Posted by: Julie on Monday, April 28th, 2008

exponential.jpgWhat do you get when you put those three things together?  You get the picture to the left!  This is our crowd at the Exponential Conference last week in Orlando.  This year’s theme was, ‘The DNA of Reproducing Churches,’ so naturally our team had a lot to say – and a lot to learn from the other fantastic churches and church planting networks who were there too!  Additionally, Dave was asked to be the President of this year’s conference, since there’s no one who can talk about reproducing like Dave!  Well, except maybe his brother Jon…. :)

At the far left you’ve got Dave Dummitt, lead pastor of 2l42 Community Church in Brighton, MI and one of our NewThing apostolic network leaders, no doubt explaining something life-changing to Mary Nelson, founder of the community development corporation Bethel New Life in Chicago… Mary was a part of a group who joined us up at Community back in January for an Urban Church Planting Forum… She is brilliant… Then you’ve got Dave, just having a great time and making friends with everybody, listening to what everyone says, adding his own brilliance to it, and then putting those great ideas into practice here at Community…. Then you’ve got Pat Masek, who is Dave’s assistant, calmly making sure everything stays in order just the way it’s supposed to and making sure everyone is having a great time (thank you Pat!)…. Then you’ve got Sherry Gossman, our amazingly talented graphic artist, listening intently to everyone and mentally taking notes on how this will make us more successful….

You can’t see the folks on the right side very well, but boy do we have a line-up… Across from Dave Dummitt is his own Jeff Boriss, creative arts director for 2l42 and part of the 2l42 worship band who was our headlining worship band for the entire conference!… Next to Jeff is Kirsten Strand, one of my favorite staff people here at Community (am I allowed to have favorites?) and director of our Community 4:12 ministry to under-resourced communities…. Kirsten is strategically placed across from Mary Nelson and just next to the brilliant Troy Jackson, both expert minds in her field of community development… Troy is the senior pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati and a leader in the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association)…. You can’t see the next two peeps, but just next to Troy sits his fellow Cincinnatian, Brian Tome… Brian is the lead pastor of Crossroads Community Church, a 7,000-member church in Cincinnati and one of the leaders in reproducing and generosity… And next to Brian is yours truly, fascinatingly and strategically picking his brain as I learn his best practices for generosity within the church.  Don’t be surprised if some of his ideas start to show up at Community… And some of our Generosity Conference ideas may show up at Crossroads!

I love how collaborative this group of people is.  You don’t find such open sharing of ideas in the business world and unfortunately not in some denominational church worlds either… But it is encouraging to see such humility among church leaders resulting in a Kingdom-minded movement of generosity and reproducing churches!

A Generous Church: A Historic Day in the Life of Community!

Posted by: Julie on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

671.jpgThis past weekend was truly a remarkable, milestone weekend in the life of Community Christian Church!  As you’ve likely been reading on this blog (or hearing about in service), this weekend we did something we have never done before at Community.  We devoted the entire service to four teams of the Jesus Mission and then we gave the offering completely away to the work of these four teams!  Additionally, we did something else we have never done before, and I must say it was one of the best moments I’ve ever experienced at Community.  During the offering time in all of our services, we cheered and hollered just like we do during a baptism – to celebrate that lives are being changed as we speak by this outpouring of generosity!  Check this out:

* Of our nine campuses, all nine experienced record-breaking offerings this weekend!

* We had 137 first-time givers!!  These are people who have never given before at Community, and they are experiencing the joy of generosity for the first time!

* Community attenders gave a total of over $230,000 to the four teams of the Jesus Mission!

* As a result of this offering and of the continued involvement of Community attenders in these four teams of the Jesus Mission, lives are being changed in Uganda, in the Philippines, in East Aurora, and all across the world through the NewThing networks and reproducing churches!

One of my favorite stories came from a guy who turned in an envelope at our Naperville campus on Saturday night.  When we talk about this offering and this mission as helping the 20% who live in poverty and reaching the 67% who don’t yet know God, he writes… “I am one of the 67.  Thank you for doing this.”

God has called Community to be a generous church, and I could not be more excited about the people of Community, who are truly a generous people.  I can’t wait to see what God will do next through the hearts of the staff, leaders, and attenders at Community… He is definitely up to something big….

Risks and Opportunities…

Posted by: Julie on Thursday, April 17th, 2008

aspengroup.gifOk, I have to brag a bit on my new friend and esteemed colleague Ed Bahler.  Ed came out to Community this past Monday to lead us in a day-long vision/strategy session regarding an opportunity we are exploring in the nearby under-resourced community of East Aurora.  We gathered together a group of a few staff leaders from Community, a few key leaders from the business community of Naperville, a couple of architectural/building feasibility geniuses, and some influential leaders in the community of East Aurora.  Ed not only effectively facilitated productive communication amongst us all, but he led us in defining the vision, strategy, and deliverable next steps to take in determining if this is a feasible project and – if so – how we can best accomplish it.  Besides being a fun and energetic leader to be in a room with, Ed is brilliant and I’d recommend him to any church who is looking to start a new venture or building project.  Ed’s associate Greg Snider came with him as well, and Greg is the senior project developer for the Chicagoland region of Aspen Group.  With these two guys on the team – combined with the other brilliant minds we had in the room that day – this project, challenging as it may be, is off to a great start!

Celebration Generosity – RSVP for a Vision Dinner!

Posted by: Julie on Monday, March 31st, 2008

celgenerosity-square.JPGI could not be more excited about what is coming up at Community in three weeks!  On April 19/20, we are devoting the entire service to Celebration GenerosityCelebration Generosity is our initiative to:

Help the 20% who live on less than a dollar a day

Reach the 67% who have not yet found their way back to God

We have formed four teams as a part of this Jesus Mission, and you can check them out here. All four of our teams are hosting Vision Dinners over the next couple of weeks (two of them are this weekend!), and you will not want to miss being a part of this!  RSVP here for a Vision Dinner. Childcare is provided at most dinners.

 As a part of building momentum for these four teams, we are devoting our entire service to this celebration on April 19/20.  On this day, we are going to do something that’s never been done before in the history of Community Christian Church.  On April 19/20, the entire offering will be given to these four teams!  You are not going to want to miss this opportunity to give generously to another part of this Jesus Mission we’re on together. Come join us and bring your friends who have not yet found their way back to God. Nothing demonstrates Love like generosity!