Deep and Wide Day Retreat: A True Blue Friend

2016deep4Last year was our first day away retreat for rising 4th-6th graders and that info is here. Our first retreat is a faith milestone and this we do once a year for rising 4th-6th graders.  This year offered several movie themes to jump from and the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) proved to be the most applicable to our group in attendance with the theme of “A True Blue Friend.” This is the rundown:

Location: At my house along with other CLUB345 adults, 10am-9pm….I live so far away from the church, it’s a very special treat to come and spend the day at my house for my students.

What the kids bring: A bag to carry everything in, swim suit, sunscreen, refillable water bottle, towel, pen, Bible, walking shoes (for the hike to the reservoir), flipflops (shoes for the pool), bag of favorite candy for popcorn bar.

2016DeepLesson 1: A Heart That Chooses Friends Wisely (Jonathan & David)…Spiritual Gifts Inventory from Credo …A True Blue Friend (Naomi & Ruth). This spiritual gifts inventory relates to body parts and makes the ‘gifts’ more relative to students. It was a great encouragement for the students to hear about the best parts of them which are gifts of the Holy Spirit truly from the Lord.

Students made sub sandwiches and we hiked to the local reservoir for a picnic lunch.

To the neighborhood pool! Then to the movies. Debriefed the movie and lesson #2 which is a trifold I prepared years ago for a scout event on friendship. This is the info on the trifold:

2016Deep2Advice on selection of a friend

A. BE CAUTIOUS IN SELECTING YOUR FRIENDS

A righteous one is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26

B. PEOPLE YOU DO NOT WANT AS YOUR CLOSEST FRIENDS

  • Gossips (Proverbs 20:19)
  • Short-tempered (Proverbs 22:24-25)
  • Those given to obsession (Proverbs 23:20-21)
  • The rebellious (Proverbs 24:2122)
  • Liars and those untrustworthy (Proverbs 25:18-20)
  • Those inconsiderate and those unfaithful
  • The violent

C.  THE SORT OF CLOSE FRIENDS YOU WANT…

  • Those who display wise choices (Proverbs 13:20)
  • Those whose love is constant (Proverbs 17:17)
  • Those who are loyal (Proverbs 18:24)
  • Those who aren’t afraid to help you be the greatest YOU that you can be (Proverbs 27:6)

2016deep1Solving problems with your friends

  1. Be slow to anger. Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension but a patient man calms a quarrel.
  2. Be slow to respond by not interrupting Proverbs 18:13 She who answers before listening that is her folly and her shame.
  3. Avoid quarreling. Proverbs 20:3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
  4. Speak gently. Proverbs 15:1 gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up more anger.
  5. Speak briefly. Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but she who holds her tongue is wise.
  6. Be quick to show love. Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.
  7. But if necessary, rebuke rather than flatter. Proverbs 28:23 He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

10 Commandments of Friendship

  1. Speak to people
  2. Smile at people
  3. Call people by name
  4. Be friendly and helpful
  5. Be cordial (speak and act as if everything you do is a real pleasure)
  6. Be genuinely interested in people – you can like everyone if you try
  7. Be generous with praise and cautious with criticism
  8. Be considerate of the feelings of others
  9. Be thoughtful of the opinions of others
  10. Be alert to give service – what counts most is what we do for others!

Things to avoid, which can disrupt a good friendship

  1. Don’t repeat everything you hear (Proverbs 17:9)
  2. Avoid senseless arguments (Proverbs 17:14)
  3. Don’t overstay your welcome (Proverbs 25:17)
  4. Don’t meddle in affairs not your own (Proverbs 26:17)
  5. Don’t play bad jokes (Proverbs 26:18-19)
  6. Don’t be contentious (Proverbs 26:21)

And if you get lonely, God has provided friendships for you:

First, you have a friend in _____JESUS_________

Jesus said in John 15:15, “I have called you friends.”

Second, you have friends in your __PARENTS_____

They are God’s gift to you and believe me, no one loves you more or cares for you more deeply and genuinely than your very own mother and father.

And third, you have friends in your  ___FAMILY__& CHURCH___ (This was especially important for us to cover since all of our students who attended the retreat go to different schools.)

2016deep3We prepared dinner of fruit salad and deep dish pizza and enjoyed fruit sorbet for dessert. After several heated games of Pit, laughter, sharks & minnows, line tag, and popcorn fun, we are already planning next year’s event. Of course we wear our tshirts to church the following Sunday.

“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of Christ.” Romans 8:39

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Remarkable Moments and Little People

KidsIt seems I’ve attended more funerals in the last 90 days than in my whole life combined. Celebrating the life of my own precious Mother-In-Law with little people in my lap opened my eyes to an area of service I had not considered before. Isn’t that how it goes?

It wasn’t a real plan, but this is how we set up the environment…

  • Folded over construction paper, wrote “sticker book” on the cover and had a few sheets of stickers. We set a couple of these in the front pews ahead of time…didn’t want Mama to have to carry or keep up with not one more thing with a toddler.
  • Several rubber bugs, animals, or non-battle characters in a beach bucket…quiet play poured out in the floor of the pew or in the aisle for a preschooler.
  • Since Mama was playing the piano, we all sat toward that side of the pew/row rather than the center aisle so that having Mama in sight kept for a calm little one.
  • Etch a sketches with a roller ball mover made for an easy win with very little hands and challenging fine motor skills.
  • Several small bottles of water, already opened, with a little poured out to avoid opening spills.

FuneralLast week, one of our families lost their second, much-loved grandparent in two months. In the midst of this sweet Mama’s grief, she stopped by the church to pick up a bucket of items to keep little hands and hearts present and busy during the funeral service at her home church. I also handed three rolls of Mentos to the oldest to share with his younger siblings.  The middle one received her Mentos roll and immediately asked, “Do you have a bottle of Diet Coke?” Man, I love them!

An outside wedding filled with all ages and all stages. Little people dressed in comfortable clothes, shoes off, playing in the dirt on the side, but within sight of the ceremony of the beautiful couple which a 2 and 4 year old watched intently while their hands were busy. Be still my heart!

On Sunday, I danced and sang the closing song with a 5-month old in the service where he was dedicated to the Lord. He’s a talker and so am I. His kind Grandma handed him to me and so we danced and sang. His beautiful Mama was tending to the needs of his toddler older brother. Man, I love them!

A wise pastor once shared his four favorite sounds: folding chairs, the turn of a page in a bible, the tearing of a check from a checkbook, and the noise of little people while he preached. All four sounds reflect life in a living, loving church.

Remarkable moments of life. Births and deaths. Baptisms and funerals. Weddings and new babies. The smells, the sights, the sounds, the tastes (celebration food!), the touches that build the foundations and connections for little people to all of God’s people in the remarkable moments of life.  To be invited into these moments is a privilege. To share the journey is an honor…even if it’s with rubber bugs and cloth diapers embroidered with “We may not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51

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VBS Conversations

playmobil-451203_960_720I love Vacation Bible School for a whole host of reasons: training youth, sharing the gospel with little people, dancing before the Lord, and having amazing conversations with folks. You know those wonderful conversations with folks who probably don’t need new friends, but I want to be friends with.

  • Conversations with those who might attend a different service.
  • Conversations with those who I can’t get to know from a handshake and a ‘peace be with you’ before the Children’s Moment on Sunday mornings.
  • Conversations with young people who see VBS as training and take instruction without offense.
  • Conversations with little people who want access to me so I can tell each one he/she belongs here.
  • Conversations with fifth graders who are invited to watch and learn everyone they meet this week so they know who’s job they want next year if they want to serve.

This is better than a survey.

From the conversations that took place this year…

  • I discovered who is on the hospitality committee for the local neighborhoods.
  • I discovered new families are moving in with younger and younger little people…..so we’re talking about planning a preschool club to get those relationships started.
  • I discovered there will be a Cotillion offered for local 5th graders and since it’s happening in October, I can schedule accordingly.
  • I discovered my 5th grade boys are already telling me what jobs they want next year in VBS leadership.
  • I discovered our high school seniors were handing over the reins to their younger counterparts for a smooth baton hand-off for next year.
  • I discovered our middle school girls can change the roadside sign in no time.
  • I discovered our kids preferred fresh fruit for snacks.
  • I discovered our kids are inviting other kids to come and see about Jesus and church.
  • I discovered Friday nights are better nights for specials for elementary kiddos for when we start a new life skills series for children’s ministry outreach in 2017 called “Wesley Chapel Academy”.
  • I discovered even folks who attend the traditional service want to, and do, dance before the Lord ‘in the Sanctuary.’
  • I discovered who lost their jobs over the last several weeks and who got new ones.
  • I discovered there are already calendars out there for 2016-2017 with dates for local organizations and I asked for copies so as not to overwhelm my families with the church calendar.
  • I discovered who has been thinking about serving on the CLUB345 Team for next year.
  • I discovered our theme for the Bible Late Night this year will be “American Ninja Warrior: Wesley Chapel style” in August and started talking with the graduating youth of how to pull it off…with their help.

What VBS conversations did you have this year? What are you going to do about it?

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4 

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Ministry and Administration: Two Hats, One Heart

GirlDancingArtLast week was Vacation Bible School and all that goes with it. Rather than leave for a much needed nap after the last little one was signed out, I would eat my bag lunch and change hats. I serve as the half-time Director of Children’s Ministry AND the half-time Church Financial Secretary and Administrative Support. In the words of one of the kid’s favorite VBS songs, “I’m all in.”  The narrative of how we got here two years ago is here. As I re-read the blogpost, my soul grins.

This week I am participating in the Academy of Church Business Administration hosted by The General Council on Finance and Administration in Nashville, Tennessee. This program is designed “to provide church business administrators with the necessary training and continuing education to obtain their designation as a Certified Church Administrator (CCA) through The Church Network.” The facilitators are the best of the best who wear ‘this hat.’ This is the second week. The first week, last week, I was wearing the other hat. I’ll take the first week next year, as I was advised by the coordinator and director of the program who refers to himself as a ‘church geek.’

Always looking for connection to learn best practices in all that I’ve been called and entrusted to do, the room is filled with other church geeks. Those who are responsible for “effective business practices in finances, facilities, human resources, and information technology.” Those who crunch numbers so we are good stewards of resources. Those who use limited resources to create a spirit of generosity within their local churches. Those who are hosts with the mosts. Those who communicate and market ministry to their worlds of influence. Those who consider and advise on legal and tax issues, finances and facilities. Those who have seats at strategic planning tables and facilitate human resource considerations.

That’s where I am. Jesus freak AND church geek.  I’m so ok with that. When I’m too old to get up off the floor after offering the children’s moment without asking for help from the front row youth, I can still wear both hats. It just may look differently. I plan on that being a long time from now. Two hats, one heart. A heart sold out for the One and Only and the local church for whom He sent His son to give it all that we may live out His kingdom here ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’

After singing VBS songs in my sleep last week and getting in my minimum Fitbit steps before closing at noon each day, you can find me this week along the side wall of the classroom at ACBA. I hope I won’t be much of a distraction, but if I break into dancing before the Lord, or shout, “Amen!”, well….  I wear two hats and sometimes they overlap.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

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Transitioning From Children’s Ministry to Youth Ministry

VBS2014DI’m glad to be busy this time of year or I’d be sitting in the corner crying over the loss of the kids I just trained up in children’s ministry who are moving on. Yep….they keep insisting on growing up. Sigh…sniff! I don’t profess to know the answer to a smooth transition, but will share a few of the intentionals I’ve tried to offer to make the move.

Our Children’s Ministry includes bed babies through 5th grade. At 3rd grade, they get to be a part of CLUB345 where we go deeper in the Word, introduce greater use of our bibles, and partner with other churches for special events (Splash Night, Messy Night, Winter Ball, etc.) We also go on our first overnight retreat with our local denominational leaders.

With Ministry Milestones, we can set some special events that are ‘rites of passage’ like moving up to large group Sunday School, accolyting, starting in CLUB345, getting new bibles (1st graders get Early Reader Bibles, 3rd graders get red-letter NIVs), Deep & Wide Retreat, running the Bake Sale fundraiser for camp, etc. By the time the kids reach the next milestone, they are so excited they about can’t stand themselves.

At 4th grade, our kids attend a day long Deep & Wide Retreat at my home to practice developmentally appropriate spiritual disciplines to begin using as they begin to live out their faith as a follower of Jesus. Our 5th graders also attend for the first time or as a refresher and a chance for building closer relationships with the 4th graders who are coming up behind them.  Our CLUB345 piggy backs with the youth’s missions lunches and Souper Bowl For Caring with a bake sale to fundraise for the fall overnight camp. At our end of school year CLUB345 the youth have come out to cheer on the CLUB345 talent show so my oldest kids begin to ‘feel the love’ of their new youth peeps, and those completing 5th grade receive their names in framed scripture.

Our students who complete 5th grade get to have their feet in both camps during the summer of transition.  Most of our youth go on local and international mission trips, so the rising 6th graders can’t go on mission trips, but are invited to a couple of youth activities. Summer is where they totally get to serve in VBS as travel guides (partnered with a seasoned youth) or section minions in an area of leadership (partnered with a Titus 2 adult).  After the VBS decorating party, we gather for a Safe Sanctuary training specific to them and the rising 6th graders join the youth for Youth Training.  On the Wednesday of VBS, we gather at a local Mexican restaurant for lunch to bring all the youth volunteers and my rising 6th graders together to share table life.   Rising 6th graders pray over bandanas and prepare treat bags for the youth attending the missions trips. At the ‘Slide Into Fall’ dual water slide they graduate to the right side of the slide which is much faster and slicker.

It’s these students who know where all the supplies are. These students who now offer to run and load up the Bible Bucks store when we get donations. These students who come for a few hours to transition the children’s hallway from season to season. These students set up the Winter Ball. These students are invited to write articles for the newsletter. These students offer to help me and our kids in so many ways. Every opportunity is a training and sharing opportunity which makes their faith even stickier as they experience belonging and service. A 3rd grader joined us for last year’s VBS decorating party with her parents. She shared afterwards that she had no idea so much went into preparing for VBS. “I thought y’all just pulled stuff out of a closet and poof it was there.”

teens%20pointingOh, and when they age out of youth, children’s ministry sends gift boxes, cards, and notes to continue in relationship. So when they come home from college or stick around after high school, their connection is still clear as we arrange for them to serve on Fantastic Friday (parent’s night out), late night, and CLUB345. I invite them to share testimony of what’s going on in their lives with my kids and lead a Sunday school class so they get to inspire my current kids to stay strong in their faith. For it’s in ministry with children where we can continue the relationship that clearly communicates: this is MY church! They will always age out….but only for a season.

What do you do to intentionally transition your kids to youth/student ministry….and beyond? What can you do to invite kids when they’re no longer kids to answer God’s call on their lives to be walkers (servers) and talkers (teachers) for the cause of Christ?

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.” 1 Corinthians 1:26

 

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From Tablet to Table: A Book Review

tablet-to-tablePicking up books for a couple of newlywed gals from the local book store, I came across Leonard Sweet’s From Tablet to Table: Where Community Is Found And Identity is Formed. Table Life being one of my faith files, I picked it up.

This 163 page little book is filled with statistics (the average dinner time 60 years ago was 90 minutes; today it is less than 12 minutes), stories (I like any vegetable stir-fried, my chicken deep-fried, and my table story-fied), and historical facts of the importance of table life (God’s first commandment in Genesis 2:16 is to ‘eat freely’ and his final commandment in Revelation 22:17 is to ‘drink freely’).

Sweet reminds us of our spiritual heritage where the story of God’s deliverance is told by a child and by the food in the Seder meal. Children catch their tribal identity by the table stories, food and customs of our tables. It’s around the table where we learn boundaries, manners, rituals of right and wrong, and get to know one another.

Jesus started out on earth in a food trough, he dined with sinners, he fed the hungry, ate with dirty hands, sipped water at a well with a Samaritan woman, and though He may have started as a guest at homes all over the region, Jesus ended up taking on the role of the host. When the Greco-Roman culture partied on to keep the gods away from mortals, Jewish feast days invited God’s presence among His people. Of the 23 parables in Luke’s Gospel, more than 15 (or almost 70%) of them feature food. (pg 110)

Sweet speaks specifically of three tables to intentionally set: setting the table at home, at church, and in the world. These are the aha moments I discovered in the read:

Setting the table at home: Homes used to have two tables – a dining room table and a kitchen table. We have exchanged the kitchen table for an island where we sit facing one direction. We have exchanged the dining room table for a great room where the ‘screen is queen’, speaking of the TV.

Setting the table at church: It’s the Communion table in the sanctuary and table of communion in the fellowship hall which brings the church talkers and church walkers together. The church walkers invest in using their hands, feet, and knees to serve. The church talkers revel in the teachings of Jesus and Paul, loving the life of the mind. When Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me” at the Last Supper, Sweet suggests that our Savior meant for us to ‘do the table.’ Have a seat, join the conversation, engage in civil debate, share ideas, speak of human concerns, persecutions, provide comfort, extend compassion, eat, teach the children, and be the church. Do table life in memory of Jesus.

Setting the table in the world: Matthew 14:16 reminds us We love our neighbors when we reach out to them, when we listen to them, when we ‘give them something to eat.’ There is nothing like homemade food prepared and planned by a friend that feeds my soul.  When my mother-in-law passed away a couple of months ago, the church came out and dished out. There is a lovely Mom in our church who’s ministry and business is to prepare weekly meals for her community and she has blessed my socks off so many times. She makes a chicken pot pie that is heaven on my plate.  My daughter prepares dinner for her pastor and his family regularly. The gift of Christian hospitality.

The biggest star I placed in the book is on page 133: Irish novelist Bernard MacLaverty recalls a key detail of his Belfast childhood: “The air was full, always and everywhere, with the sound of the old ones talking.” Do the ears of your kids ring from the sound of the old ones talking? Ask those who have given their lives to children and youth, like Presbyterian pastor Lars Rood: “Kids gravitate to the oldest person in the room if that person shows an interest in them.” Children belong at the table. Teenagers belong at the table. They can be a pain, and they may ruffle the tidiness of the table. But if your eschatology is strong, if you have a vision of the future, they become a joy and a pleasure. The table talk they experience there gives them a sense of their place in the story, so that even if they leave the table, like I did, they can’t escape it.  Oh, the power of doing table life!

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and EAT (emphasis mine) with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

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Family Summer of Service Bags

SummerofServiceOur church theme this year of DISCIPLESHIP encourages our families to faithfully participate in worship, be involved in fellowship opportunities, and grow in our faith intergenerationally. Each summer our youth and adults are headed out on multiple local and international mission trips.  Our children share in the journey by praying over and sending out each mission trip member with a bandanna which we then see in the multiple photos that follow. The children decorate lunch bags for the MUST Ministries Summer Lunch Program and fill lunch bags on our Super Summer Lunch Prep Sunday in June.  But what about the day-to-day opportunities of being a blessing and serving in our own neighborhoods?

It’s hard enough for Moms and Dads to keep up with the hustle and bustle of swim practice, VBS, and road trips. Yet, we wanted to turn the focus of our little people from themselves to others. SO, we put together a bag of goodies to take the supply gathering stress away and offer ways kids can serve this summer without packing, without shots (required for some international mission trips), and without a ton of $$ as they go about their summer.

SummerOfServiceBagsA swift look on pinterest under ‘random acts of kindness’ and a few blogs put me on a path of creativity. I gathered goodies from the 2nd floor supply room, ordered a small handbook of service projects online, and made up a list of children’s books focusing on kindness and we are set.

The pdf with the starter ideas is here:  Summer of Service Bags

I gathered lists and printables from several places including 100 Random Acts of Kindness for KidsRandom Acts of Kindness notesRandom Acts of Kindness tags, and Light ’em Up.

The Saints Book Club list for June and July I resourced from here. We added to the list The 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes, A Little Rees Specht Cultivates Kindness by Richard E. Specht, Jr., and Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.  All the books should be found at the local library and focus on kindness. There is a bonus: read Wonder by R.J. Palacio (the one with the added ‘Julian’ chapter.) Eight books for June and the other eight books for July. At our Saints Book Club gatherings this summer, we will include a service component.

Some new things will be offered at the beginning of July.  For now, this will get the creative juices flowing of our kids as they adopt a summer where it’s less about me and more about we. We’ll post stories and photos in the summer newsletters as our families serve together this summer.

How will your families serve together this summer?

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

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The Ideal Team Player: A Book Review

TeamPlayerPatrick Lencioni leads a consulting firm, The Table Group, specializing in executive team development and organizational health. Two of his previous books that have impacted my journey are The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and Death By Meeting. Where the Five Dysfunctions focuses on how a group of folks interacts in order to become a cohesive team, The Ideal Team Player: How To Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues is all about the makeup of individual team members.

In typical Lencioni fashion, the author leads the reader through a fable where the premise of an ideal team player is defined, recognized, and developed. This storytelling brings the reader into a situation where the success of an organization is determined by the hiring of a team member. A nephew was hired by a successful uncle to help creatively lead his construction company. Over lunch, the uncle shares he has medical issues meaning he is going to step aside and hand over the entire organization to the nephew. Oh, and there are two major jobs they just got and they’ll have to hire close to 80 people to pull it off. Here we go.

There is drama, there is juggling, and there is a great deal of dialogue. Love me some dialogue where talking through stuff is the major function of a team.  There are interviews (great questions and situational processes), there are systems, there are situations of culture building to carry on the ideal team following the hiring. In the process, they determine that the ideal team player must have three virtues:

The ideal team player must be HUNGRY…They go beyond what is required, passionate about the work they’re doing (not just passionate about other stuff, but passionate about the work), always looking for more to learn, self-motivated, diligent, thinking about the next step, next opportunity and they ‘loathe the idea that they might be perceived as slackers.’

The ideal team player must be SMART…people smart: referring to a person’s common sense about people, knowing how to say, what to say, and how to act, ‘which is a lot more than being nice.’ They ask good questions, listen to what others are saying, and stay engaged in conversations. Smart people have good judgment and ‘intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics.’

The ideal team player must be HUMBLE…They are quick to point out the contributions of others, lack excessive ego or concerns about status, share credit, and emphasize team over self.  Even if someone has the skill set to take on a role on the team, if they treat people with preference or bias, they are not the ideal team player.

Are you an ideal team player? I admit, I have some work to do. That’s why I read these books.  The author speaks into how to become an ideal team player: practice what you want to be. Lencioni even lays out situations and scenarios of how to practice and boost your ‘idealness’ (my word, not his.)  A quick read with a story to share.

The author closes the book with ‘apart from the other two virtues, humility stands alone. It is, indeed, the greatest of all virtues and the antithesis of pride, which is the root of all sin, according to the Bible. The most compelling example of humility in the history of mankind can be found in Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. He attracted people of all kinds when he walked the earth, and continues to do so today, providing an example of humility that is as powerful as it is countercultural.’

Are you an ideal team player? It’s the person who walks in the combination of all three virtues: hungry, humble, and smart.

“For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14

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“Leadership Pain”: A Book Review (Part 2)

LeadershipPain1400Last week I shared the ‘pop-up’ for me in the first part of the book, Leadership Pain. At the end of each chapter is the line, “And remember: you’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain.” Finishing the book this week there were several areas that further resonated with me.

A testimony from a pastor of a church in Nashville wrote, “Pain is unavoidable, but I’ve learned it isn’t eternal.” Another testimonial shared, “We can’t stop what happens to us, but we can certainly stop what happens in us.” If you are in the midst of a season of leadership pain, it is difficult to look out 3 months, 6 months, a year from now, but it helped me tremendously to think the situation could not go on forever. The line from Steel Magnolias comes to mind, “That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.” But what if the professional pain feels like it’s killing you? I would go to page 182.

It’s on page 182 that I found the life preserver I’d been looking for, “Be certain of this: when you suffer the pains of leadership, God is trusting you to weather the storm and represent him to a watching world.” What? God is trusting me? My world is watching me?  “God has put you in a position to display His kindness, wisdom, and power in the midst of your heartache.”  Whew! The author continues, “When we’re in pain, it may not seem like much of a privilege to represent God at that moment and at that place, but God himself has appointed us, empowered us, and placed us ‘for such a time as this.’ He trusts us to endure with grace. The moment of pain, then, is a point of high honor earned by faithfulness, effectiveness, reputation, and proven character. It’s an honor and a challenge to be God’s representative in a time of heartache.” What a statement!  When I naturally respond by fight or flight, I am invited to yield. My heart is hurting and God knows. This is my chance to display not blame, not vengeance, not anger, but His kindness, His wisdom, and His power in the midst of my heartache.

The author closes the book in chapter 10 with the challenge to find and build pain partners. In a terrible time of King David’s life, he had his mighty men.  David’s mighty men were totally loyal to him, loved him, knew him well enough to notice when he was in need. We also need mighty men/women. The challenge: Friendships such as these take time and have to be in place before the crisis hits.  Like the friends who dropped the paralytic in through the roof, when our faith falters, we all need friends who share a similar call into leadership who can carry us, and whom we can carry along for a season. The author warns us to be selective though. Jesus took a chosen three when He went into the Garden of Gethsemane to come closer…Peter, James, and John…they were His pain partners. They didn’t get it right all the time, but they were invited to come closer.

Characteristics to build these pain partner friendships?

(1) Listen…really listen…to hearts, not just words. Plan to listen for the long haul. What is your question-to-statement ratio? Are you engaging in conversation…tossing the convo ball back and forth…or just offering statements, announcements, info.

(2) Revealing…”relationships deepen gradually through a slow dance of self-disclosure.” Will I continue to wear the mask, or be ‘on’, or does our shared faith permit us to be honest without judgment? And here’s the hard part: do we invite others to be revealing without offering advice or judgment? Lord, help this naturally ENTJ gal to check my J at the door!

(3) Finding common ground…others who share your call, your position, your profession, not to give advice, but to ‘listen and love without strings attached.’ Without expectation…no strings attached.

I have pain partners – professional friendships who will speak truth into my life and who invite me to speak into theirs or just sit and share sacred space.  It seems we don’t have enough margin in our lives to make the time for such gatherings, but I would die without them.

The testimonials throughout the book were shared by men and women in pastoral, para-church, non-profits who further the cause of Christ in our world. Many were from outside the US.  Most were on the other side of their leadership pain. Sheryl Brady from Plano, Texas offered precious insight, “I thought my painful position would destroy me, but it was really just a place for my personal preparation. It was never meant to work there because it was simply a training ground. I fasted there, but it wasn’t for there. I served there, but it wasn’t for there. I prayed there, but it wasn’t for there…I couldn’t see where all the pain would lead, but He could…This is when you must keep going, step by step, day by day. This is when your hungry heart must follow the daily bread crumbs God always gives and accept that you have enough hope for today.”

Looking back on that painful season through this book, the daily bread crumbs God offered by the hands of my family (my children were the world that watched me and they still love the local church as I do), my pain friends (children’s ministry colleagues and mentors who helped me laugh through tears), and remaining in the written word of God (I’ll never forget the day I turned the page and discovered John 12:7a) grew my trust muscle like nothing else.

Today I serve in a healthy, ‘Spirit of Yes’, and kind local church.  Today I even get to serve outside my local church pouring into the lives of others answering the call into professional ministry with children and families. Today I get phone calls and emails from others who are living through painful leadership seasons. Some have persevered to find their emotional legs and continue to follow their calling into professional ministry. One suggested this book make my reading list and I am so glad she did. One is no longer in ministry…no longer even an active part of a local church. I will call her this week and offer what I have: some daily crumbs. Because that’s what pain friends are for.

“Sometimes you have to walk with Him for a while to realize just how good He is.” Sheryl Brady

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“Leadership Pain”: A Book Review (Part 1)

brokenAsked why I was invited to mentor a precious group of Children’s Ministry professionals for the next six months, I responded, “I think because I had outwitted, outplayed, outlasted and been voted off the island, but I am still in the game.” We laughed.

I LOVE God’s call on my life to professional ministry with a focus on faith building in children and their families. My professional development includes being connected to a networking group for more than 10 years, sharing life with several mentors who speak truth and laughter in my life, listening to podcasts (EntreLeadership and The Bregman Leadership Podcast), and reading books.

Leadership Pain: The Classroom For Growth shares in personal stories, insights, and practical exercises to live less confused by the pain we experience in our roles and process through it. The author, Samuel R. Chand, is a mentor to pastors. The book is written for leaders in ministries and non-profits and opens with “Leadership – all leadership – is a magnet for pain.”

Resonating with me is our need for ambidextrous faith: holding God’s blessings in my right hand and life’s challenges in my left hand, ‘trusting God to use both to accomplish his divine purposes in and through him.’ The book is not a treatise on the biblical analysis of pain, but rather a help to understand the external challenges, internal stresses, and growing pains of leadership so that every heartache, hurt, and disappointment doesn’t stop me in my tracks.

One testimony in particular struck a chord with me.  A Pastor in Orlando shared, “In life, you can’t heal yourself; it takes relationships to heal you.”  From the colleague driving over an hour to greet me at the door with flowers, the visiting young missionary family who stayed at our home offering that ‘working at a church is like passing a brick…it’s painful, it’s gonna leave a mark, and there’s going to be blood for a long time’ (young guys, huh?), and the prayers of my networking group which I stayed with even when it was awkward. Laments aren’t sub-Christian; they are part of a vibrant , authentic walk with God.

What are the relationships that heal you?

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

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