Placing Volunteers Never Works, So Try This

Last week on the My Ministry Breakthrough Podcast, Todd Adkins and I discussed a bit of the difference between just placing volunteers in ministry positions and truly developing leaders for ministry roles. It got me to thinking… how would a church staff person know the difference?

Here are 12 signs you’re just placing volunteers… not developing leaders:

  1. The excuses of why they will miss this Sunday keep getting lamer and lamer.
  2. Lots of people fill out a card, next to nobody shows up for your training.
  3. Training keeps getting put off until  “things slow down”  and never happens.
  4. No new ministry has been added, yet the same number of vacancies exist each year.
  5. Your team comes to you for answers to every problem, even the most minute.
  6. Not much gets done if you’re not around.
  7. You’re banking on the worship service announcements to get you some more names.
  8. You’re proud of how much busywork you’ve delegated.
  9. Everyone on your team has a different definition of success.
  10. You have a ministry org chart but no process for existing leaders to take on a new responsibility.
  11. It’s easier to be jealous or critical of success in other ministries instead of celebrating it.
  12. You find yourself dreaming of ministry somewhere else and struggle to see a better future where you are.
It’s not just wordplay, there is a difference between developing leaders for the long haul and placing volunteers to meet a ministry need.
Which are you REALLY doing?
To learn more, check out these great Leadership Development Resources:
My Ministry Breakthrough Podcast Episode 4 with Todd Adkins of LifeWay Leadership 
Leadership Development Video Resources from Mac Lake
Leadership Pipeline Coaching for Churches 
Pipeline Conference in Nashville
> Read more from Bryan.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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Are You Placing Your Volunteers?

Ministry strategy hasn’t changed much over the past millennia. And nothing can propel your ministry further and faster than thriving, healthy volunteerism and ensure the long-term health and vitality of your church.

And thankfully, people are the one resource every church has more than anything else.

Healthy volunteers are those in our pews who are growing in their relationship with God. And those people who are growing in their relationship with God naturally desire to serve.

As Chris Mavity explains in his ebook, ‘Your Volunteers: Place,’ healthy volunteerism isn’t about staffing a team of random people; it’s about knowing enough about each individual to offer a customized volunteer opportunity to fit their specific interests, skills, passions and gifts.

His ebook guides church leaders through the process of connecting people with the work in which they will thrive and equips them with the strategies and tools required to effectively steward the Church’s number one resource – people.

So then how, exactly, do we really get to know so many people in order to place them according to their innermost passions and gifts?

Getting to know a lot of people intimately is much like completing a jigsaw puzzle, Mavity explains. A jigsaw puzzle has a grand picture on the outside, but inside there are hundreds or thousands of pieces that make up the complete picture – and the same is true for your church.

The key is looking at the placement of a volunteer the same way you’d start to assemble a jigsaw puzzle – by learning the basics about them (placing corners and edges) – and creating your puzzle’s ‘frame.’ Only then will you get a sense of who the person is and in time through observation, feedback and results, you will be able to place various inside pieces, allowing you to see and understand even more about the person.

And much like fitting puzzle pieces together, you’ll find that your initial impressions and approaches to placement won’t always be the best fit. No problem. Just adjust a corner piece and some of the edge pieces to make it work.

Volunteers are a precious component of church life. When the purpose of each puzzle piece is made clear, volunteers can do amazing work to grow the Kingdom. And when you get the right person in the right place at the right time, your volunteers will grow and evolve, and you’ll become more adept at fitting more pieces into the jigsaw puzzle.

And as your church implements the ideas in ‘Your Volunteers: Place,’ you will also see discipleship-level growth that naturally multiplies.

Read more from Church Community Builder.


 

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Why Your Volunteer Problem is Really a Vision Problem

As I pulled into the parking lot, the temperature on my dashboard read negative twelve degrees

And there he was… standing there waving.

VolunteerVision2

I couldn’t see his face, it was obscured by a heavy duty ski mask. But I could tell he was smiling.

And waving. And pointing me to another volunteer equally protecting every bit of bare skin from the unforgivably cold temperatures and minus thirty-something wind chills.

They were all out there. I found out later that every man on the team, had made it a point to serve this morning. The coldest morning any had seen in a long time.

Later, in the church lobby, they were resupplying hand and shoe warmers, to again face deathly cold. Just to park cars. 

So I asked them how, and why, and what.

How, today of all days, could they stand outside and wave?

Why would they literally risk life and pinkie toe to make sure cars get parked?

What could possibly motivate this level of servitude?

They just smiled. And to a man said: “It’s my ministry. Parking cars is my calling around here.” 

These men reminded me…

Most churches do not actually have a volunteer problem.

They have a vision problem. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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Humble Volunteers: The Secret Sauce in Your Ministry

One of our staff members at Elevation used to work at Chic-fil-A. He claims to know the secret about how they make the chicken taste so delicious. He shared it with me. Interesting theory. Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy.

People have asked me quite a few times over the several years something like this:

What is the secret sauce that has helped Elevation to grow rapidly and make a big impact?

Obviously, the secret sauce is Jesus.

But that’s not what they’re asking. They’re looking to learn how Jesus through the Holy Spirit is working through us in a specific, tangible way.

Additionally, it always feels funny to try to explain what you’re doing right when you know there are so many areas where you want to do so much better.

With that said, I do think there’s a secret sauce that you would discover if you spent some time behind the scenes at Elevation Church. It’s something that I’ve seen God bless over and over again- not just in our church, but in churches, businesses, and families all over the world. And it has nothing to do with my preaching or the Sunday morning worship experience.

The secret sauce? It’s the humility of the volunteers on our team.

By humility, I don’t mean sheepishness. When I say I’m inspired by the humility of our team, here’s what I mean:

They submit their pride and preferences to God’s plans and purposes, and deflect the glory to Jesus.

  • Our creative team has had to completely scratch a finished product that took them hundreds of hours to create because it wasn’t the best thing for the worship experience.
  • Our ushers have had to respond with kindness to angry parents who dropped F-bombs when they were asked to leave the auditorium with a crying baby so that people could hear the Gospel undistracted.
  • Our worship leaders have practiced and performed many songs they didn’t personally like with a great attitude and wholehearted effort because it best supported the message.
  • Our volunteer leaders have accepted hard correction about the way to lead their teams, made the adjustments, and come back the next week, even though they’re not paid to.
  • In the administrative department- I walked through and saw 7 people in Volunteer Headquarters pounding away on keyboards, entering first time guest data just moments before I wrote this. Very few people have any clue about the hard, tedious work they do. But that’s not why they do it.

And on and on.

Elevation team- thanks for serving up the good stuff with humility every week.

You’re the secret sauce that God uses to make this thing so special.

Read more from Steven here.

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Steven Furtick

Steven Furtick

Pastor Steven Furtick is the lead pastor of Elevation Church. He and his wife, Holly, founded Elevation in 2006 with seven other families. Pastor Steven holds a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the New York Times Best Selling author of Crash the Chatterbox, Greater, and Sun Stand Still. Pastor Steven and Holly live in the Charlotte area with their two sons, Elijah and Graham, and daughter, Abbey.

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Ten Red Flags Indicating Ephesians 4 Might Be Turned Upside Down at Your Church

I don’t think my pastor understands what I do or believes my work and ministry matter.

This oft-repeated, sad comment reveals bad theology and, more sadly, the neglect of church leaders. How can we ignore the ministry and work of so many people, often leaving them to believe their lives, work and ministry are less important than the paid staff?

I just returned from a weekend retreat to discuss “vocation” with Steven Garber of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture. We discussed this issue at length and why the church still has so far to go in valuing people’s work and calling in the ordinary everyday world.

Garber’s work addresses the whole range of what it means to be alive and engaged in the world with our whole being. Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good.  He says “vocation” includes our occupation, but is so much more. It includes “also families, and neighbors, and citizenship locally and globally” and that “faith shapes vocation, and vocation shapes culture.”

Speaking specifically about our occupations, Garber mentions friend and pastor Tom Nelson, author of “Your Work Matters,” as one who gets it right, a leader who needed to repent before his large congregation of his ignoring their work and not supporting their ministry.

Here’s a few minutes of his story and why he wrote the book.

Does your work matter to your church leaders?

Here are 10 red flags suggesting there is a problem and that maybe Ephesians 4 has been turned upside down.

1 – The staff consistently pleads for more volunteers to help them do their work.

2 – You are asked to give more money so “we (the staff) can get more ministry done.”

3 – Announcements are filled primarily with “what is happening here” and “how you can get involved and serve here” with the ministries “on campus.”

4 – “Success” is measured primarily by attendance at services, dollars donated, buildings completed, and how staff members have met their ministry goals.

5 – When there’s more ‘ministry’ to be done, plan A is hire more staff who recruit people to their team.

6 – You hear more about the staff members’ lives and work (often the pastor’s family, ideas, vision, writing, travels, etc.) that vision, ministry, lives and callings of people in the church. (We hear, ‘pray for pastor as he travels…’ yet there are so many members who travel the world each week for their work. Who prays for them? I wonder what they think when they hear such a plea.)

7 – The “pastoral prayer” almost never includes a blessing or intercession for people who labor in the name of Jesus each week in their daily work, except maybe on Labor Day weekend.

8 – “Ministry” is defined primarily as that which is done in programs officially sponsored by the church.

9 – Reports about “how we are doing as a church” are limited to updates about finances, building programs, or peak attendance at holiday services.

10 – High capacity people and influential community leaders (particularly the wealthy who “have the gift of giving”) are only viewed as potential board members or donors, not as people to partner with as they use their vast influence, skills and experience to impact to shape our world for the gospel. (One executive said, “Basically, the message I get is, ‘leave your work at the door, but be sure to bring your wallet.’” – Yikes!

Turn This Around

To turn this around leaders and members alike must recover a biblical understanding of vocation, work and “ministry.” And we must pray with and for those who labor in their ministry – their calling—every day, everywhere.

God of heaven and earth, we pray for your kingdom to come, for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Teach us to see our vocations and occupations as woven into your work in the world this week. For mothers at home who care for children, for those whose labor forms our common life in the city, the nation and the world, for those who serve the marketplace of ideas and commerce, for those whose creative gifts nourish us all, for those whose callings take them into the academy, for those who long for employment that satisfies their souls and serves you, for each one we pray, asking for your great mercy. Give us eyes to see that our work is holy to you, O Lord, even as our worship this day is holy to you. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. (by Steve Garber, Visions of Vocation, p. 239)

LEADERS: For one pastor’s journey into this transformation that helped him reframe how he viewed his calling and the work of the congregation, please read this short article in Christianity Today.

>> Read more from Bill.

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Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

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sufferingservant — 02/03/15 8:12 pm

Great content and perspective that complements marketplace and career ministries.

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How to Systematically Improve Your Church’s Ministry to Volunteers

Leading volunteers is challenging. It can even seem impossible at times. And the truth is, if you’re trying to do it without a system, it will always seem impossible. The good news is that it’s possible to improve your ministry to volunteers without having to give up another night away from your family.

Here are four steps you can take to systematically improve your church’s ministry to volunteers in a way that increases engagement and multiplies the number of people willing to serve:

1.     Understand Your Existing Volunteer System

There are no universal solutions; there are only universal principles. Your system will be unique to your church because your church has different needs and resources. The first step in defining the system is determining your congregation’s status in how well you’re engaging volunteers. Once you have determined some of the needs present within your congregation, brainstorm a list of people who might be able to address them.

2. Outline Your Volunteer Engagement Strategy

After you have defined your church’s existing volunteer system, you’ll need to determine a plan for implementation and execution. Whether your church is large or small, finding a systematic way for implementing a strategy to enhance volunteer engagement will ensure your volunteers are serving in their areas of giftedness, receiving all they need to be growing, involved disciples of Jesus Christ.

3. Manage Through Online Tools

Many churches seek to implement processes without electronic tools because they fear technology will strip the heart out of the ministry. On the contrary, technology manages information and details to free you up for deeper relationships. It can help you track the status and involvement of every individual in your church. You can quickly identify those who are not serving, those who are serving in multiple positions, and those who are involved in leadership training. Online tools also allow you to communicate with individual volunteers or sub-groups. This becomes more and more important as your church grows.

4. Measure for Effectiveness

Though many people hyper-focus on data analysis, data truly is helpful in determining the effectiveness of every area of ministry, especially the development of volunteers. As attendance increases, the expectation is more people will become part of the volunteer pipeline. After implementing your new volunteer system, your church will begin to reap the benefits of a healthy culture of volunteers. Once this process is set in motion, however, you will need to consider ways to keep it in motion.

It’s time to take the guessing game out of improving the way our churches recruit, engage, and disciple volunteers. If you want to dive a little deeper into creating a systematic approach for your church’s volunteer plan and learn how to keep volunteers engaged, you can download our free eBook, “The Challenge of Leading Volunteers.”

Read more from CCB here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Caton

Steve Caton

Steve Caton is part of the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder. He leverages a unique background in technology, fundraising and church leadership to help local churches decentralize their processes and equip their people to be disciple makers. Steve is a contributing author on a number of websites, including the Vision Room, ChurchTech Today, Innovate for Jesus and the popular Church Community Builder Blog. He also co-wrote the eBook “Getting Disciple Making Right”. While technology is what Steve does on a daily basis, impacting and influencing the local church is what really matters to him……as well as enjoying deep Colorado powder with his wife and two sons!

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Appreciating Volunteers – 33 Actionable Ideas

Volunteers are the life blood of your church. In fact … your church literally wouldn’t exist without them! Often it’s small actions that show your true feelings about your volunteer teams. Why not pick a few of these things off this list and try them this weekend at your church? The first step towards building healthy volunteer teams is making sure that your existing team members feel appreciated!

  1. At the beginning of every “shift” make sure team leaders cast vision for “why” their service is critical to the vision of the church.
  2. Visit every service area that you are “responsible” for this Sunday and say “thank you.”
  3. Send birthday cards.
  4. Every time a volunteer serves send a “what to expect” email three or four days before.
  5. Assign some people to spend time with new volunteers on the first weekend they serve with you.
  6. Take time out during the message to brag about how amazing your volunteers are.
  7. Get to know what’s happening in your volunteers personal lives.
  8. Make sure there is a enough work for volunteers to do when they arrive … don’t waste their time!
  9. Food … always have a meal available before or after they serve.
  10. Make it easy for your team leaders to send regular thank you notes to their team members.
  11. At the end of every “shift” take time to hear what the volunteers think could be improved on for the future.
  12. Open up leadership development opportunities for volunteers to advance in the church.
  13. Don’t impose new policy’s and procedures without at least talking them through with your team.
  14. Throw parties regularly.
  15. Write letters of reference for students volunteering with you.
  16. Read “impact emails” that you get about how great your church is to your team.
  17. Easy off ramps … don’t lock your team into perpetual service!
  18. Send out a press release to your community paper celebrating your team when they do something “above and beyond”.
  19. Make sure your volunteers are “first to know” about exciting things happening in the future of your church.
  20. Give them a team t-shirt
  21. Make sure everyone has a name tag on.
  22. Use quotes from your team members in your “annual report” … or other donor targeted communications.
  23. Calculate how many hours your volunteers have served in that last year and celebrate that!
  24. Reinforce regularly with paid staff that our #1 role is to support our volunteers.
  25. Take pictures of your volunteers serving and post them on various Social Media channels.
  26. Make sure your volunteers have the best equipment you can afford for them to work with.
  27. Create easy channels for your volunteers to communicate with the church leadership.
  28. Insist that the church reimburse them for out-of-pocket expenses.
  29. Send ‘em a hand signed Christmas card.
  30. Have good coffee and a few snacks available when they arrive.
  31. Allow some volunteers to gain more influence & take on more responsibility.
  32. Take at least one volunteer a week out every week to thank them and get to know them better.
  33. Buy 10 books that have impacted you and give them to 10 volunteers who have gone “above and beyond” recently.

Read more from Rich here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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7 Key Steps of Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Church Volunteers

I’ve written on burnout (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & also this one) and volunteer issues before, but the key to avoiding those issues is right-fitting volunteers and placing safe boundaries around their workload.

In my experience, there are three parts (Recruit, Train, Retain) to this process, so I’ve included my 7 Steps of Recruiting, Training and Retaining Volunteers. Feel free to share and comment.

1) Invite someone to learn with you. There’s something powerful about being invited and asked to participate in something bigger than ourselves. Most of the best volunteers I’ve met at hundreds of churches came because someone asked them if they’d like a chance to see what it was like to do what we do! Your pool of current volunteers are the best possible recruiters. Why? Because, chances are, they are friends with people similar to themselves. That means techies know more techies. It also means that your non-techie volunteers (more on that below) know people like them, too. Leveraging the spheres of influence that your volunteers have is the best way to invite new people to your ministry.

Another important recruiting tip is to find college interns, stay-at-home moms and retirees who have the time to give on a Monday thru Friday basis. Unlike your other volunteers with full-time jobs, these folks have more flexible schedules and can help you with a host of necessary areas including volunteer scheduling, administrative support, copywriting,  organizing, documenting and encouraging other volunteers with handwritten notes. I have had men and women help me out during the week so that I was freed up to do the work that only I could do instead of work that anyone could do. One of my best volunteers was a brilliant administrator; she just kept me organized and helped me with the myriad of daily tasks that I didn’t like or have the time to do.

When you use interns, keep a log of what they do and give them the chance to apply their time and effort towards their high school or college credits. It may mean you need to go and visit with their high school counselor or college professor, but those real world on-the-job training hours can result in applicable hours towards their degree.

2) Guide someone through the process, initiate them slowly through the ropes and give them a lot of freedom to watch and observe. There’s a great deal of safety in knowing that an invitation to come into the tech booth has no expectation for them to perform. If possible, have a trained techie with the observer to point out what’s happening and to answer their questions. De-mystifying the tech is a big part of alleviating their fears.

3) Encourage those who have a giftedness at certain tasks or in certain areas. We all love hearing when we’ve “got it” and like to know we’re doing something well (or have the potential to do so). Your best volunteers will ‘own’ their role, taking your ministry to new heights because of their joy, passion and talent! Plus, really happy volunteers are also highly motivated volunteers who show up early and stay late.

4) Develop the people who show the most interest, have the best servant attitudes and are teachable. I’d much rather have a person who is inexperienced and teachable than an “expert” who can’t be taught. If you’ve got a soccer mom who doesn’t know technology but is highly teachable, pour into her and see where she can serve. I’ve quite often found that soccer moms make some of the best presentation software volunteers and excellent camera operators. Truly, you don’t have to have a techie person to keep up with detail work. They don’t have to know the operating system or even how the camera really works. They just operate with confidence and style!

5) Evaluate honestly. Hurting feelings doesn’t have to be a part of the job, so be gentle when you have to redirect people out of areas where they can’t accomplish the job. Keep written records of evaluation and offer tangible steps for people to either improve or find new ways to serve.

Also, as blog reader Mark Alves points out, evaluation is easier when done against a set of pre-defined expectations – a job/role description. He’s right, too, because it’s hard for a volunteer to hear they missed a mark they didn’t know they were supposed to hit!

6) Participation has to be consistent. There’s not an expert or professional on the planet who simply showed up and started being a genius without any failures or dedication to their role. This is a “team sport” and it takes all of us working together in unison and not flaunting individual talents.

For worship and church tech arts, I’m personally a fan of having a volunteer team serve the entire weekend and then not serve again for at least two more weeks. This means you will have the same team for all rehearsals and services so that you’re all very consistent and work fluidly as a unit. By building these teams and operating in a one-week-on, two-weeks-off rotation, they’re consistent in their roles while having the time off to recoup from a long weekend.

7) Reproduction should be a natural part of someone becoming seriously qualified and competent in their role. Far too many churches have “the sound guy” (as in ONLY ONE PERSON) or “the worship leader”. While there can (and should) be a leader for decision-making and administration, a team of leaders is the only way to obtain consistency, quality and growth. An example of this reproduction came from my own life as a volunteer. One of my roles at a large church was as a volunteer trainer. Sure it was training, but I looked at it as loving on volunteers. It was also the first time I viewed myself as a volunteer pastor, by taking the time to connect with these other volunteers outside of weekend services to listen, encourage and share life with them.

How are you recruiting, training and retaining volunteers? Leave your comments below and share your successes, lessons and failures with us!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anthony Coppedge

Anthony Coppedge

On the team at Auxano. Lover of Jesus, my wife and my kids. Unapologetic Apple fanboy. Slightly addicted to MindMaps, but in a good way.

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