Chronicling 40: Days 113-115 of 365

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The past few days have been a distraction with a mixture of struggle.  Big things are happening, lots of things being added to the calendar … and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Even though these are all good things, they are a lot… and some are big steps for my ministry work.  Add in the pending holidays and I wonder… can I really do all of this?  Am I taking on too much?

In my devotion a few days ago, the main point of the passage was that even there, in the hardest or most difficult times God can do miraculous things in you, and through you, for His glory.

I’ve been clinging to that each day.  His timing and purposes are always right and as long as I’m in alignment with His will… I can do hard things.  I can do big things.  I can do intimidating things.

I can because HE can.  He loves me, and you, so much.  Why would I doubt His ability to carry me though what ever it is He has laid before me?  Why would I doubt His provision, when I answered the call … “Who will go…”?

If it is in His will… then it is in His strength.  His provision.  His power.  His timing.  His pathway.  I know He will steer me in the right direction, because He is right and good.  If God is within me, I shall not fall.

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Chronicling 40: Day 4 of 365

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One of the things I have come to realize recently is how disconnected I am from my own community.  What I mean by that is my specific neighborhood and surrounding areas.  When we moved to our current city, we knew absolutely no one.  We had been given a few church recommendations, that just didn’t work for our family.  Through a chance encounter at a park, I met a woman who invited me to a local MOPS group.

We had only been living in the area a matter of months, when I found out I was going to have another baby.  Since pregnancies are not easy on me, I was home a lot.  Thus, I didn’t really connect to anyone in my immediate community.  By the time I met this mom, I had a brand new baby and was desperate to get out of the house and make new friends.  A MOPS group being hosted in a church would mean that I could build up a group of moms who shared the same values as I did.  I envisioned our children being friends, our husbands too.

The hitch in this plan is that the church was actually in a neighboring county, albeit close in proximity.  I didn’t think this would be a big deal.  Additionally, most of the moms in this group were just starting their families.  I entered in with our last child.  This created a gap in the ages of our children, to an extent.  Please understand these were just hitches in the plan, not any negativity about the group at all.  These are wonderful women, many I am still in touch with and see occasionally.

The problem came in as our lives began to change.  It was convenient to drive to the next county when none of us had kids in school or to find a park in the middle to meet at for lunch.  Once the kids began attending school, and time became more strained… the travel time was a little less convenient.  The kids were not as close as they once were, as my kids were attending school in a different county.  Once I was graduated out of MOPS, often the only time they would see each other was during Sunday services.  There was just a very natural parting.  It happens.  That is ok.

In the last year, I started to notice things.  I noticed how close the kids were who were in the same schools, the families were that lived in the same county.  We didn’t have that same closeness.  We lived just far enough away to make it difficult to have that same connection.  I realized, however, that I had done a really poor job of connecting into my local community once I was not part of the MOPS group.  Perhaps I thought that the weekly connection in the church would be enough to sustain?  Or, perhaps having three kids so apart in age, it was just difficult connecting into anyone school community because our time is so divided.  (We have had three kids in three schools for quite some time now).

I began to feel almost burdened by our lack of connection to our community.  This grew each month as my eyes opened wider.  I never run into anyone I know at the grocery store.  I don’t have a neighborhood friend that I can go walking with.  Swinging by for coffee takes effort and planning.  Going to meet up with others means that I also have to factor in my travel time, which usually means I must arrive late or leave early.  This was an environment I created for myself, and didn’t even realize it.

I’m not a total hermit in my own neighborhood.  I know some people by name, I can tell you who has lived here the longest, we wave at each other, have mailbox conversations, etc.   Still I long for a different kind of relationship with the people on my street.

Case in point… found out that a family who lives on my street and I were going to the same church.  Only found this out in the last month.  How crazy is that?

Ultimately all of this has had an effect on us as a family, and we have been trying to decide exactly what to do about this.  It’s been weighing on us for some time.  How do we connect locally?  How do we give our kids a change to build real friendships?  What can we change?

The first answer to this question, was probably the hardest to make… and one we have been struggling with for some time.  This was the decision to leave our church of eleven years, really the only one we have attended since moving here.  Our 3 children were baptized in this church.  We have invested so much service into this church.  We have made so many great connections, and have grown in this church.  To leave is an incredibly difficult decision, and yet one shrouded in such peace.

Right decisions are not always easy decisions.  Peace doesn’t always mean easy decisions, either.  It is peace in spite the sadness that affirms this is the right move for our family.

My husband and I were both experiencing this call to move from our church, yet we had not shared it with one another.  It was a thought rolling through our minds, but I suppose we were both uncertain of how the other would receive the idea.  Finally one night my husband started sharing with me, and I realized that we were of one mind.  I was feeling the same way, having the same thoughts, feeling the same call.

We spent several days talking over these feelings, just between the two of us.  This is a big decision for a couple to make, but even more so when there are kids involved.  How would they feel?  Then one day, coming home from school, we passed by a local church.  One of my children asked if we could visit that church.  That began the conversation with our kids about possibly changing church, and a surprise for us at how open they were to the idea.

I remember a few years back speaking to my Pastor’s wife about moving and how it impacts children.  She told me then that God has always taken care of her kids when they have moved.  I believe that to be true, and the Lord had already softened our kids hearts.  He was preparing us for the time the call to move would come, and I fully believe that is why everything unfolded the way it did.  When we were all ready, when the timing was right, He prompted the conversations to begin.

I am very excited about what is to come, and how we will begin to plug into our immediate community.  I’ve been taking the time to learn about my community demographics, connecting with ministries serving our community, learning about our local churches, and even reading up on how others have done the same thing.

If you have done anything to intentionally connect to your local community… I’d love to hear about it!  Comment with your ideas, suggestions, and experiences.

I’ve been looking at the “Teal Table Project” as one idea too.  If you have done this, I’d love to hear about how you got the ball rolling and how it has worked out for you.

This is my neighborhood.  These are the people of my neighborhood. It’s time we are apart of this neighborhood.

Lead Me…

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This isn’t going to be long, or all that profound.  Just a reminder.

Leaders need to be led too.

Your leaders are spending a lot of time leading others, make sure that someone is leading them… pouring into your leaders, on a regular basis.

Your leaders are pitchers that fill up the empty cups they serve.  Empty cups can’t be filled by an empty pitcher.  Someone must pour fresh water into the pitcher, so that it can continue to serve.

What do you do, in your church or ministry, to fill up and refuel your leaders?

Boxing In Spiritual Gifts

boxedin A few days ago, I was reading a post on Facebook from a fellow leader.  She was lamenting over the fact that she had just had a conversation with a person in the church about having an intentional relationship with their youth.  He was sharing ideas on how’d he would like to become active in their lives.

It was either in the midst of the conversation, or shortly there after, that this leader became aware of a need in the church.  A Sunday School teacher for the teens would not be able to make service, she thought of this man, and reached out to him to fill in.  He said no and she was disappointed in his response.  She continued her lamenting, pointing out that teens want to see they are valuable and people want to invest in them.  She was disappointed this man couldn’t see it.

It is easy to look at that situation and feel that there was a bit of hypocrisy on the part of the man.  One second he is talking about investing in the lives of the youth, but when an opportunity presented itself he found the exit as quickly as possible.  However, I saw something very different.  What I saw was a man who was willing to step in and share his gifts and talents with the youth, and instead was being funneled into serving in an area that is not his gifting.

I’ve seen this in the church before.  I’ve experienced it myself.

As a woman, and a mother, one of the very first places churches have wanted to put me to work as a volunteer is in the children’s ministry or VBS.  There is an assumption that because I am a woman and have children of my own, that this is where my gifting is.  Hardly.  Or, perhaps this just happens to be a space in the church where there is a need and I visibly have all the qualifications.  Either way, I can tell you that to date I have never had anyone in church leadership sit down with me and talk about my gifting and how to use it in the church.  Instead, I have waited until I saw a need that I felt I could fulfill.

My husband once volunteered at a church in our home town, reaching out to the Pastors to see where he could be of service.  They never accepted his offer, and to this day have no clue on how much a blessing my husband would have been.  Even being as involved in churches as I am, I’ve never witnessed leadership take an effort to get to know my husband and his gifting.  Oddly enough the one occasion that I can think of, where someone reached out to my husband for his assistance… my husband handed the phone to me because I was actually the one more qualified to answer.  Clearly despite being apart of that community for over ten years, they really didn’t know either of us.

The crazy thing is that we call ourselves “the body”, and scripture tells us that every person in the body is given Spiritual Gifts… to be used in accordance to God’s will.  Yet, by and large, we are consistently limiting the use of those gifts to the areas WE think they are best used.  Or, dismissing gifts we don’t see the need for and asking people to serve outside of their gifting to fill up the holes on our volunteer rosters.

Statistically we know that in most churches, 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people.  Some sites argue it’s more like 80% done by 20%, but the point stands.  In every church 80-90% of it’s members are not using their gifts in the church.  Yes, some have been called to use their gifts outside of the church through various ministries and organizations.  None the less, it’s crazy to think that the overwhelming majority of the body is atrophied.

In the human body, when a person is in a coma or paralyzed, the muscles atrophy.  Why?  Because they are not being used.  So, these muscles begin to deteriorate.  In nature, when an animal no longer needs certain aspects of their body, they evolve to future generations that don’t have those body parts.  It is why we have blind cave fish.  Since they have lived in caves so long, absent of the sun, they no longer need their vision due to swimming in complete darkness.

What I see in our churches today is a LOT of atrophy.  Parts of the body that are no longer working because they haven’t been used.   They become comfortable writing their tithing checks, dropping of donations for the local Christmas present drive… but that is about it.

We MUST become intentional with our members, helping them to identify what their spiritual gifts are.  However the work doesn’t end there.   Once we know what the gifts are, we can then figure out how these gifts can bless our church or community.  As leaders, however, we have to realize that we are not the ones who get to pick and choose the gift based on our own/organization needs.

We must stop boxing in the Spiritual Gifts,

labeling them according to what we think we need.

This is incredibly important, especially with our desire to engage the millennials into our church community.  Millennials desire to be a part of something, active participants.  The want to be a part of a church that isn’t just talking the talk, but walking the walk.  Which means our numbers grow and millennials begin to fill those pews… we MUST have opportunities for them to use their gifts.

There is no way we can accommodate all of these new volunteers if we expect to plug them into the same old volunteer roles.  What a prime time to expand our ministry offerings.

  1. Take the time to get to know your new members and their spiritual gifts.
  2. If they don’t know what their spiritual gifts area, help them figure it out through spiritual gifts testing.
  3. Talk to them about how they see themselves using their gift in the community or church.
  4. Build connections between members who share gifts, or organizations that you know could benefit from those gifts.
  5. Lessen the load on your paid staff by pairing them up with those who have gifts and talents that can be a blessing to them.

 

 

 

Marginalizing Spiritual Gifts – #Write31Days

Christmas Gift Ideas And Gift Guides Telegraph

We’ve been taught that good things come in small packages.   If your husband presents you with a small box on your birthday, instinctively you know that it contains a piece of jewelry.   We’ve learned that often the big boxes hold things like new bed sheets or a set of pots and pans.  Or, your favorite candy bar that has been repackaged into umpteen dozen boxes because someone believes he has a sense of humor.  Nonetheless, it is a conditioning that tells us that we can’t assume how good the gift is based on the size of the box.  A gift that looks professionally wrapped may contain your one hundredth neck tie.  The one still packaged in the shopping bag with the store logo on it, could be exactly what you’ve been wanting.

This is also how I see our spiritual gifts.  You can’t necessarily look at a person and determine what their spiritual gift is, or where they are destined to use it within the context of the church.

A man who looks raggedly dressed may actually have a gift of stewardship.  I think of a man who dressed modestly, people assumed he was poor, but upon his death it turned out he had several million dollars that were donated to organizations close to his heart.

The stoic looking man, who sits in the back of the church, may not say much.  Yet, when he prays the words are like a sweet offering to the Lord.  Full of sincerity and compassion, and a love of the Lord.  My Father in Law was like this.  He had a sense of humor, don’t get me wrong… but sometimes, he could be incredibly hard to have a conversation with.   Yet, when he would pray… he would weep through most of it.

That woman in the long flowing dress, you may not realize it but she has a degree in advertising design.  She is responsible for all of the materials the church mails out to the community, the signage in the church, etc.  She joyfully works on her off days on church campaigns.

As you walk down the hallways of your church building, beautiful paintings fill up the what would otherwise be blank walls.  There is an eighty year old woman, who has painted her entire life.  She blesses the church with her talent.

You just never know what the spiritual gifts are that lie under the surface of the people we see before us.  Yet, quite often… when it comes to areas of service like finances, construction, pastor searches, technology, et’al our church leaders look to the men in the body.   When they need more volunteers in the nursery, Sunday School teachers, meal ministry, holiday decorators, greeters, and VBS volunteers… they look to the women.  We have allowed ourselves to marginalize spiritual gifts by gender.  We assume based on what the package looks like, what type of gift is inside.

A friend of mine shared a scenario where a group of men and women from her church were invited to a dinner to kick off that years ministry work.  When they arrived they found the tables themed to different areas of services.  Name cards were placed at each table.  Someone in the leadership of the church had assigned all of these individuals to a ministry job in the church, without even discussing it with their volunteers.

This leader felt they could discern the individuals gifts and assign them tasks based on that discernment.  No spiritual gifts tests were administered.  No conversations happened between the leader and these various people to determine what gifts or interests they had for serving.  Even still, the people were just assigned the task without even being given an opportunity to say yes or no to the position.

When we make these assumptions we are really marginalizing the spiritual gifts based on our human perception or need.  We are too focused on filling holes in our volunteer needs than we are looking at the individual person’s gift and figuring out how to connect them to serving in the church.

Another way we can marginalize the gifts is when we allow ourselves to become hyper focused on our ministry goal.  It is almost as if we put on blinders and the only way we can see that goal being achieved is through the methods we are comfortable with, what fits in our box.  We can’t think outside of that box and any ideas that differ are cast aside.  We may even get defensive and think that anything outside of that box will take away from our vision or goal.  It too is cast aside.

If we are a body, made up of many parts, and each part having a job or purpose…

If we are all one in Christ, not Jew or Gentile, master or slave, man or woman…

If we all receive different gifts to be used for different purposes…

Then why do we hear of statistics that suggest that 80-90% of church needs are met by 10-15% of the body?  Why are more people not serving?  Why do we not have 100% of the needs being met by 100% of the body?

Because we are failing somewhere.

We are failing to recognize that spiritual gifts are not based on our genders.  We fail to see our men as capable nursery workers and children’s teachers.  We fail to see our women as capable administrative leaders, teachers, and staff members.  We fail to see past the specifics of our own vision to value the gifts and vision of others who are serving along with us.  It is almost as if we think the Lord is only capable of doing ONE thing, in ONE way, within our church or ministry walls.  As if multiple ministries can’t coexist and support each other.  We put all of our eggs into one basket.

We fail to put effort into connect with each of our members, helping them figure out what their spiritual gift is, and develop those gifts. We fail to give them a place to serve with their gift in our body or ministry.  Then, we wonder why our gifted people leave our church or move to another ministry to serve.

When we marginalize the people in our church, we are taking control of something instead of surrendering it to the Lord.

Sometimes we need the reminder that just because a ministry isn’t something we understand… or something that we personally need; doesn’t mean it is not valuable.

Sometimes we need the reminder that just because a person doesn’t show up in the exact package we expect… or doesn’t fit our defined roles; doesn’t mean they don’t have value to add.

Women’s Ministry Resource – #Write31Days

If you are a Women’s Ministry Leader, or thinking of starting one at your church…  there is a great website that is full of resources that may be helpful and an online forum where you can ask questions.   For the next 2 weeks they are offering this free download ebook, with contributions from Women’s Ministry Leaders around the country.

Click on the cover below, and it will take your right to the page to register for the ebook.

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Project Update – #Write31Days

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A few days back, I wrote about the adult coloring book I purchased at Publix.  I decided my first project would be this palm tree. 

I first began the project by putting the coloring page under a sheet protector.  I built the trunk, the coconuts, and a few of the fronds on top of the actual page.  As if I were tracing it.  This wasn’t too hard, but once I got the hang of what I was doing…. I went rogue.

Truth be told, I received a few new tools in the mail and I was eager to give them a try.   My final tree is not much like the coloring page, but that is ok.  I really wanted to use them for inspiration anyway.  Plus, once I deviated… I felt a little more freedom.  I added two additional coconuts to the top, giving it some height and dimension.  I also added the coconut at the base.

Now, I think I would like to work on taking this and creating an actual beach scene around it.   Some water in the background, beach in the foreground.  Perhaps a sun in the sky, and even some small items on the shore.  We’ll see.