Friday Bag: Athens Edition


The Cliff Family has been in Athens, Georgia for 3 months, and we are loving every moment of it. I wrote a little earlier this week about our church, but I thought I’d do a special Friday Bag of some of our favorite things.

Downtown Athens – This may be the most attractive part of coming for a visit. There are great restaurants, great bars, great music, and  eccentric  happenings on most every street corner. We love, love, love spending date nights there, and walking the sidewalks with our kids.

The State Botatanitcal Garden of Georgia – We’ve been here a couple of times, and love all of the nature and greenery we’ve missed for so long. It’s all that you’d expect from a garden…it’s got flowers and trees and streams and more flowers.

University of Georgia - As of yet we’ve not been to Sanford Stadium for a game, but we have been there for an after-the-game event. Most of our experience at UGA has been just walking around on campus and reading markers outside of 100 year old buildings; but one of the best parts of the campus is that it backs up right beside the fun downtown!

The People – Wish I had a link to them, but I don’t. Our family has found a safe place to land, and we’re excited about all that the future holds for us here in Athens. I promise to not fill the website with reasons why where I live is so great, but once every few years will work…right?

Here is another great city guide to Athens. Enjoy!  

The Risk of Small Groups

Lead Small

I’ve recently been reading through Lead Small, by Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas. Lead Small is unique in that it is written for the small group leader. It walks the reader through 5 big ideas that every small group leader needs to know. I recommend it, and recommend the conversations that come from it with our small group leaders!

I believe that kids and students need relationships to grow spiritually, and I’ve worked hard everywhere I’ve ever served to create a system that breeds leaders leaning into kids through relationships. I could insert story after story after story here of how God has fully changed a students life through a small group leader. I sit in meetings every Monday morning, and listen to stories of small group wins pour in from every family ministry area of our church. I believe it works, and I believe it enough to prioritize it for all 3 of my kids (not to mention my own community group.)

But small groups do present one very big risk. This risk is oftentimes the very reason that churches don’t do small groups. In fact, I’ll be bold enough to say that 99 times out of 100 this is the ONE reason churches don’t do small groups for kids and students.

When it’s bad it’s really bad. When it’s bad it keeps people away, and that’s not the goal!  The weirdest part of all is that it can be bad even when there is a fantastic group happening right next door.  

Look at the numbers on this. With no small groups, I have to concentrate in ONE area. I have to make this one 60 or 90 minute event as influential as possible, and many out there do a great job at this. Sure, there are many facets to this one area, but down to it’s core it is ONE event in ONE moment with ONE big impact.

Now there are a  million  different ways to get kids and students into smaller groups (I’m speaking in very general terms), but when you commit to small groups you are taking that one impact opportunity and you are turning it into 10 or 20 or 30 different areas where things could go right or wrong.

In a way our greatest strength becomes our greatest weakness. Our 3rd grade boys group is totally hitting it out of the park, and the leader is way more than awesome…but our 8th grade girls group is struggling to get any momentum, with spotty attendance and no teenagers willing to invite anyone to this terrible experience. It’s a risk, and I can tell you from experience that the danger is always there. There will always be some frustrations and struggles, but the wins are more than worth it.

What do you think keeps churches and leaders from  committing  to a true small group experience for their kids and students?


Another Friday Bag

The Friday Bag

The 50 free apps we’re most thankful for -Here, we’ve taken your votes (and added a few of our own) and ranked our 50 apps using those votes as a guide. So without further ado, here are 50 free apps for your downloading feast.”  I use many of these free apps, but I promise that I do NOT have all 50 installed currently. I think.

7 Reasons You Should Give a Talk without Notes – Carey Nieuhof tells us what most of us already know. We are better speakers when we speak from passion, and don’t have to look down to find our next point.

7 Unusual Things Great Bosses Do -Great bosses do these things. The rest don’t–because these simple gestures would never occur to them.”  Attention bosses out there…read this!

And now I give you the single creepiest piece of advertising I’ve ever seen in my entire life. You are most welcome.

Friday Bag #17

The Friday Bag

50 Dangerous things (You should let your kids do!) -  “In a time when children are too often coddled,  50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)  reminds readers that climbing trees is good for the soul, and that a pocket knife is not a weapon. Full of exciting ways children can explore the world around them, this book explains how to “Play with Fire” and “Taste Electricity” while learning about safety. With easy-to-follow instructions, it includes:  Activities, like walking a tightrope;  Skills, like throwing a spear;  Projects, like melting glass; and  Experiences, like sleeping in the wild.”

Engaging your Kids in Discussing their Day -   Fine.  Sometimes I wonder if that s the response that Adam got from Cain when he asked him throughout his life, So how was your day, son?

Visual Theology: One Another – This is one of my favorites of the series Tim Challies has done.

Here’s a video I did last year when I attended the Children’s Pastor Conference in San Diego (and also Orlando.) I will always have a special place in my heart for those that lead children, and there are few places as unique as CPC for training. learning, and encouragement.


“Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to this country and to mankind is to bring up a family.” -George Bernard Shaw