Who Are These People?! (Friday Night Details, part 3)

This is the third of a series of posts that explain the details and the how and why we do Friday Nights. You can read the backstory herepart 1 here, and part 2 here.

Who Are These People?!

So who actually comes to Friday Nights?

Well, that’s both easy and difficult to explain. We have our regulars…those that come nearly every week. We have semi-regulars…those who only come once or twice a month. We have the not-so-regulars…those who only come a few times a year. And we have new people or those who have only come once.

Including our family, there are half a dozen families that are regulars. Three of these families have been coming from day one and continue to help Brandy and I put it on. The Whites, Coombs and the Grunaus never agreed to produce this event on a weekly basis, but they’ve been faithful in their help none-the-less! In times where either Brandy or I have had to be gone during a Friday night, these families have stepped in to cover the slack. We love these couples and their children immensely!

Aside from these regulars, we’ve noticed there are four special groups of people that tend to REALLY be attracted to our Friday Night community.

1) Large Families

We have a large family. As a result, we never get invited anywhere! When you invite us over, eight people show up…with a service dog. We’re loud, busy, confusing…and eight is just a lot for dinner. It’s like this for many large families. You never get invited anywhere.

So here we are…a big family, inviting your big family.

It allows parents to sit and eat and chat with other adults and not have to worry what the kids are doing (another post on that later). Many people who come have large families…so large families always feel welcome.

If this is you, you are welcome here.


2) Special Needs Families

Two of our children have special needs. They can be a challenge every day. If it’s not our large family that deters you from inviting us over, it might be our loud, never-stops-moving, child with autism and her accompanying service dog. Or maybe not being able to talk with my wife who is on constant surveillance of said special child.

Having special needs kids can be incredibly hard. Try taking a kid out to dinner that randomly screams, is confined to a large wheelchair, or has unusual looking movements or limb differences. It attracts unwanted attention and sometime invokes a feeling of guilt or dismay when you cannot control your child in public. Special needs kids are tough. Not just for mom and dad, but the siblings also.

At Friday Nights…we all understand this because many of us are THOSE people. On some nights there is that screaming child, the non-verbal child in a wheelchair, the adult brother who struggles with motor control, the child that finds every unlocked door to run away…and no one bats an eye because that is our normal here. It’s beautiful really.

We ARE those families.

We LIKE those families.

If this is you, you are welcome here.

special needs sign

3) Single Parents

Single moms, single dads…you might get the offer to go out more often than the groups above…it’s just that you typically can’t go! You have a kid or two or three at home you have to be with. So you never go out either.

Friday Nights allows single parents that opportunity. You can bring your child…we kind of expect that actually…let them have their fun and you can participate in adult conversation.

It’s a free night out!

If this is you, you are welcome here.

parental stress and raising autistic child

4) Our Children’s Friends

One of the more fascinating groups we didn’t expect to attend Friday Nights is the parents of our kid’s friends. Our teenagers rave about Friday Nights to their friends at school and invite them all, including their teachers! So when their friends come, their parents often show up too. So quite often, when their parents show up for the first time, it’s our first time meeting them! We love this because it truly starts to create community with random groups of people who otherwise would never meet.

If this is you, you are welcome here.

Lastly, we’ve noticed that friends will bring friends and family with them. One couple came with their family…they were from New Zealand. We have had people from Madera, Merced, Coarsegold, North Fork, Kingsburg, and Reedley.

If you can drive to our house, you are welcome here!

We have always said that Friday Nights is open to anyone and everyone. We mean that! Life is just hard. Whether you can’t keep track of all your kids or your kid is screaming at the top of his lungs or you just need a break from your kid…Friday’s is for you!

It’s Friday Night…where ya going?

Frequency (Friday Night Details, part 2)

This is the second of a series of posts that explain the details and the how and why we do Friday Nights. You can read the backstory here and part 1 here.


It is EVERY Friday.


We honestly believe this is one of the keys to making it work…if not the most important part. It’s also one of the most difficult to do.

It’s about consistency. It’s about making sure that everyone always knows they can show up at our door without that awkward feeling of, “Oh, you’re not doing it this week?”

It’s every week. Our door opens up at 6pm and most people leave by 9:30pm.


The Holidays

As of this writing, we have been doing Friday Nights for well over a year and a half. We were even open the Fridays after Thanksgiving, New Years and Christmas.

Initially, we thought that the crowds would lessen during the holidays. But when they tended to increase, we realized it just adds to the need for community. For many people the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are filled with joy and celebration and family and presents and thanks…but not for everyone.

Often these “joyous” times are not very joyful. Separation from family members, a past death during the season, or just having a difficult time in life can sometimes make people resent the holiday season. People just sometimes need to get away. We get that. We’ve been there.

That’s why we keep our doors open during the holidays as well. People need community. And we need it too!

Since we began this endeavor, we have only missed one week and that was because Christmas was actually ON a Friday. (I wanted to do it, but I got voted down by the kids and my wife who was sick in bed!)


The Real Challenge

The biggest benefit to Friday Nights is also the biggest challenge. Pastors and church staff have a common phrase, “Sunday comes every seven days!” It’s a reminder of both the benefit and challenge of pastoral work. As soon as you finished Sunday morning preaching…you have to start preparing for the next one…which is in seven days!

Friday Nights often feel that way. By the time Friday morning rolls around, we just sometimes don’t want to put in the effort. But then we realize, we need the community ourselves. We have to make dinner anyway…might as well just make more!

But if we’re keeping it real, at times it can be hard for us personally. Maybe we had a difficult week, the kids are complaining, the house is messy (a post for later), or we just don’t want to be social. But we’ve committed to this, and even on the hard days, we’ve never regretted it. Not once. In fact, we have NEVER had a Friday Night where nobody came. Even if just one family shows up (which is our lowest record), we’ve provided and received community. Therefore, it was worth it.

Friday Happy

So whether we heavily promote Friday Nights on Facebook and Twitter during the week, or completely forget to mention it at all…we’re always open every Friday Night. Please stop by. Message me for directions. Take a load off. Get a free meal. Share some company. Laugh a little. Get some advice. Give some advice.

Create some community.

It’s EVERY Friday!

Beans & Rice (Friday Night Details, part 1)

For thousands of years, people have gathered around the serving of a meal. Food merely sustains us. But meals bring people together. Meals can bring together the best of friends…and the most random of people.

Some food can be elegant and exquisite. Other times, it can just be hot dogs and fries. Regardless of the type of food, the sharing of the meal, the breaking of bread, the conversation and community that ensues around a table…can be life changing. Friday Nights at our house has become that for us. Life changing. It has been for others as well.

Many others…

For over a year and a half, our family has opened our door to anyone and everyone who wants to share a meal and share in that community. Every Friday, we have people over for dinner, but what they get is community. EVERY Friday. You can read the back story here.

This will be the first of many posts that will share what we do and why in more detail. Brandy and I run into friends frequently who ask many questions about what and why and how we pull this off.

“How can you afford it?” “What about the kids?” “Do you really just let anyone in?”

We also hear lots of excuses as to why some people do not come. Granted, not every CAN come…we get that. But when they start the conversation off by saying they think it’s really cool and they want to participate but…. There is always some reason that we’ve already addressed but they just don’t know.

So this series will be about addressing all the questions anyone has ever asked about Friday Nights. So here we go!

Beans and Rice

It’s pretty much all we serve!


On most weeks, we put beans in the crock pot Thursday night, let them soak, and then start cooking Friday afternoon. We might use the crockpot if we’ll be busy that day. Add in an onion, garlic and spices and we’ve spent nearly zero time preparing. Beans are cheap…and this is important since we pretty much finance the whole endeavor.

Crock Pot

Brandy also typically cooks rice. Plain ol’ white rice…with a little lime and cilantro. Maybe Mexican rice if that’s what she’s got around.


We also lay out shredded cheese, flour tortillas and sour cream. Recently, we’ve also started providing corn tortillas since several people have said they’re gluten free.

So if you are gluten intolerant…you now have no more excuses!

We also put out chips and salsa…more on that for another post!


Sometimes other people will bring additional food. Desserts, candy, soda, olives, a salad. One time someone brought some enchiladas….hmmmmm. That was a good Friday Night!

Anyway, sometimes people bring something else to share…sometimes nobody does. Many people will ask if they can bring something and typically we just want them to show up themselves, bring nothing and have a good time.

It is the same basic food every week. There are two basic reasons:

1) Cost

As stated above, beans are cheap. We’re already a large family and with four of the six kids being teenagers, we spend more on food each month than we do on rent! Doing this every Friday…beans is pretty much all we can afford!

2) Expectations

Serving the same base meal each week sets an expectation for everyone…particularly kids. Let’s face it, nobody wants to go to dinner somewhere each week and have no idea what is being served. And kids hate not knowing even more. So everyone always knows it is always beans and rice and cheese and tortillas. If there is something extra one night, awesome…but no one will expect it and then be disappointed if it’s not there the next week. In addition, making the same thing is just easy and we’ve perfected it. The beans here are good!

More Than Beans and Rice…

Somehow, the cooking of beans and rice has led to much more than just filling the bellies of a few friends. It has led to real community. People we call family. People who we can depend on. People we can text or call for prayer. People who we can ask advice of. People who care about our well-being and spiritual lives and family and kids and work and future.

People who we call community.

Everyone is welcome to join us. And join the community.



The Boxes in My Garage

I have tons of boxes in my garage. Dozens upon dozens. Perhaps well over a hundred. I have no idea how many.

There is a lot.


Small boxes. Big boxes. Frame boxes. Odd-shaped boxes.

I’ve been planning to move for over four years. But I have never packed one box. I have no place to go…but I’ve been planning!

I started collecting boxes several years ago as I was preparing to move. The assortment got bigger and bigger over time. I have moved them from one side of the garage to the other, re-stacked them several times, loaned them to friends, and received them back…only to re-stack again.

My house is fine…it suits our needs. But I’ve still been planning to move.

Why do I keep them? Misplaced hope.

During much of this time I was hopeful of finding a new job, a new position with a church that needed my skill set of leadership and administration. I’ve interviewed all over the country. Literally. Dozens of times I’ve been called out to meet with pastors and staff, only to have someone else be offered the position. (My experiences with this to be written another day.)

Back to misplaced hope…

While cleaning out my garage the other day…and re-stacking boxes…it finally donned on me that these boxes represented a hope that wasn’t secure. I was so focused on the future, the potential, the excitement, the adventure that would ensue from moving to a new place, that I failed to hope in something more concrete. My hope in a move meant I was hoping in the job, the career, the church, the “newness” of the situation…rather than hoping in Christ to renew me and guide me through a transition. Instead of hoping in Christ, I was hoping in moving.


Nehemiah didn’t find hope in the building of the walls of Jerusalem. He found hope in knowing that the city would be secure if the walls were built. Daniel didn’t find hope in the vegetables he ate. He found hope knowing that God would strengthen him and his friends through the unique diet that kept him right with his faith. The Apostle Paul didn’t find hope that Caesar would find him innocent and set him free. Rather, he found hope that Christ knew he was doing the right thing and used the opportunity to preach about Jesus.

So often we find hope in the wrong areas, the wrong places, the wrong people, the wrong jobs, the wrong education. But we must always come back to the One True Hope. Jesus Christ. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25, emphasis added)

I could always “see” my hope in the garage. The boxes were visible to me every day.


I walked by them to get to the yard…or take out the trash…or feed the cat…or re-stack them when they fell. Each time I thought about the pending move. It gave me great hope each time for the soon-to-be needing of these boxes. The boxes were merely a means to an end, not the end itself. But I had these reversed in my head.  But it was all misplaced hope.

So now, as I started cleaning out my garage again, I’ve realized I don’t need these boxes anymore. My hope is in Christ alone because He is the end in mind. He is both the means and the end.

And I suppose that if I do need to move someday…He can provide the boxes I need.

So in the meantime…I’m cleaning out my garage…anyone need some boxes?

Game of Purpose


What is the purpose of your game?

What is the purpose of your game?

During one of our Friday Night events where anyone and everyone can show up at our house for a free dinner and some fun, my youngest son, Cale, gathered some of his friends to play a new board game he had just gotten for his birthday. As the group laid out all the pieces, Cale began telling everyone how to play, beginning with the first step.

Although it started off fun, ultimately…chaos ensued.

Over the next half hour, I watched from a distance and realized that most of the kids didn’t really know the end goal. My son had never explained the purpose of the game. Sure, everyone knew they wanted to “win,” but most didn’t understand what winning actually looked like, nor “how” to win.

In my experience of working with churches, this is often the case. The church (or staff team) get together, the pastor begins to explain the process of their ministry and the first steps. Everyone is excited. Everyone is energized. This is going to be fun! Everyone listens to their leader, often the most experienced player. And they begin the “game.”

Eventually…chaos ensues.

Maybe it is not always “chaos,” but certainly it doesn’t go as each player had planned.

The problem is that most of the players do not actually know the end goal. The vision. The “win.”

What does “winning” look like for your church or organization? What should it be like?

Describe it. Explain it.

Be detailed about what it means to win and what the circumstances are that lead to that winning. Certainly for Christian churches, the win is often to lead more people to Christ and have them love and follow Jesus. But this is too vague. Be more specific, more detailed, more targeted.

For the game the kids were playing, are you supposed to be the first one to the end of the trail that is mapped out on the board? Am I supposed to lose all my cards? Or get as many cards as I can? Am I supposed to get the most points? Or are points bad?

After describing the end-game, then…and only then…start explaining the process of how you get there.

Recently, I was doing some consulting with a good friend of mine at his church. I asked him to describe what the vision was for his ministry three years in the future. He immediately began describing processes and sign-up forms and practices. I’m sure he thought I was rude, but I cut him off mid-sentence.

“No, no. That is not what I mean. What is the vision? What is the purpose of this ministry? What do you want to accomplish?!”

After a brief pause, he said, “I want people to feel welcome in [this particular ministry] and feel the freedom to sign up, feel accepted, attend regularly, and grow closer to Christ. It should be one of the life-bloods of the whole church.”


That is it! The end-game! Now I know how to win. I know what the goal is!

I think Nehemiah understood this idea well. Although the dialogue between Nehemiah and King Artaxerxes is quite short in Nehemiah 2, the principle is there. When asked why he was upset, Nehemiah simply responds, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it” (Nehemiah 2:5). That was all he explained. “I want to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem!”

THAT was the vision, the end-game, the goal. The “win.”

Later he worked with the people of Jerusalem on how to rebuild them and what that process might be.

Nehemiah's vision was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He focused on the "win" first, then laid out the process.

Nehemiah’s vision was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He focused on the “win” first, then laid out the process.

So now, let’s talk about how to get there. Let’s talk about first steps, second steps, next steps, processes, plans, routes, finances, development, and whatever else is necessary.

Pick a reasonable and logical time in the future. I like three years, but maybe for you it should be one year or maybe five. Whatever works in your setting for your situation. Develop the goal, the vision, the end-game, the win. Explain it to your team, describe it, and make sure everyone understand the target and purpose.

Pick a time in the future and write out what you want that future to look like.

Pick a time in the future and write out what you want that future to look like.

Then, start discussing the best strategy, the best methods, and the best processes. If you don’t, then chances are everyone is focused on their own process and strategy rather than on what the purpose of the game is.

We are all playing to win…but the real question is, what does winning look like?