Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2 Deep...

Dan Southerland, who is the new Lead Teaching Pastor at Westside Family Church, is challenging everyone at his church to be "2 DEEP." "2 DEEP" means that every minister, leader, staff member, or volunteer should be mentoring at least two people who can replace them. Call it discipling, interning, apprenticing, or whatever... the idea is that each person should be investing in developing two other people who will be able to replicate their ministry.

I'm convinced that Dan's got the right idea, since the lid to any church’s growth is not buildings, strategy, creativity, or even vision... it’s leaders... because a church will never grow beyond the base of its leaders.

Monday, September 29, 2008

She's Back...

SoHills' talented media team led by my ministry partner, Stephen Corbett, has just completed the second installment of a new series of promotional videos in support of our First Impressions ministry. Created by Stephen, Matt Baggs and Ryan Hampton... and starring Edna Cole... the videos spotlight the ongoing heroics of Super First Impressions Lady. You can grab a sneak-peak at Super First Impression Ladies' next adventure below.

I still want to be like Super First Impressions Lady!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Free Ark...

Do you need an ark?

If so, you are in luck because Southgate Church (South Bend, Indiana) happens to be giving one away. To get a hands-on perspective about Noah’s ark, Southgate's children’s ministry built a 72′ x 24′ x 18′ ark (1/7 scale) this summer while studying about Noah.

Prospective ark recepients are advised that you will need to arrange the transportation of the ark from South Bend to its new home.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I found this post by Ben Arment intriguing:

A few years ago, I began sketching out exactly how people were coming into our church. I wasn't interested in the folks who came by advertisements or signage. I was looking for who invited who.

I started by drawing my wife and me in the center. When I finished diagramming the people we had invited... and the people they had invited, the results were astonishing.

I could see exactly who the connectors were in our church. Others simply stopped at themselves.

When we cast vision for inviting people to church, we may be assuming too much. What if we poured more resources into the hands of our connectors? What if we groomed them, encouraged them, and fueled their desire to invite people?

As for the others... what if we started with the fundamentals? What if we showed them how to build relationships? The result would be less guilt-trip and more empowering.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

God At Breakfast...

I eat breakfast a lot at the Towne Crier. It's a great place to have a start-the-day meeting, and the Towne Crier's one egg special is one of the best meal deals in Abilene. However, given that cholesterol and me currently have issues... my breakfast dish of choice is a bowl of oatmeal. Trust me, I have eaten a river of oatmeal at the Towne Crier.

Seeing as how I have been placed into the Towne Crier on such a frequent basis, and am consuming so much oatmeal there, it seemed clear God was providing me with a marvelous community front porch opportunity. In response to that opportunity, I have spent the last year or so learning the names of the Towne Crier's kind and efficient wait staff, calling the wait staff by name, trying to be a generous tipper, asking the wait staff how we might include them in our prayers... in other words, trying to be the person I believe Jesus would be if he ate lots of breakfasts/oatmeal at the Towne Crier.

My efforts at being Jesus at the Towne Crier have been encouraged by other men who are equally invested in being Jesus at the Towne Crier. Men like Mark V, Ed G, and Matt B (just to name a few) have seen the God-opportunity that we have been provided, and they have seized it alongside me.

Yesterday I felt God affirming that I had sufficiently invested myself in relationship with the Towne Crier's wait staff as to offer an invitation to them to worship with us at SoHills on Sunday. I am sensitive to people feeling that they are being treated as "projects," so I had waited until I felt a depth of relationship was in place to make extending such an invitation a natural thing.

Both of the Towne Crier's wait staff enthusiastically accepted my invitation to join us at SoHill... and I left them yesterday with my crudely drawn map (another great use for napkins), along with my email address and cell number.

Which gets me to this morning, and another breakfast meeting I had at ye olde Towne Crier. I'm standing at the cash register paying for my meal, when one of the wait staff that I'd invited to SoHills runs up to me, tame both of my hands, and says, "I really want to be at your church on Sunday... thank you for inviting me... but I have to take my son to see his stupid father, my ex, in Lubbock... thank you for inviting me... I really do need a church... thank you."

By the time she's spoken all of this out, tears were running down her cheeks. She wiped her face, smiled and said, "I gotta get back to work."

As I walked to my car, I marveled at the grace and goodness of our great God, who has... in His infinite wisdom... seen fit to entrust us with the privilege of showing and living and sharing Jesus. And I found that I was both smiling and crying as I slid into my car and drove off.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More of What The Church Can Learn from Google...

Below is another great post from Bobby Gruenewald.

Incremental improvements matter.

Google hit the scene just over 10 years ago in a business environment that was highly competitive. There were already very strong and well-funded search competitors like Yahoo, Lycos, and Alta Vista. Contrary to modern-day perception, Google did not invent the search engine; instead they perfected it. But, have they actually perfected search? The answer: they are constantly perfecting it and it’s never been complete.

Even though they have the largest search engine market share (more than three times their nearest competitor)… even though they are highly profitable… even though many people would argue that Google’s search results are the best… Google doesn’t think they have it right yet. They consistently try incremental improvements, measure how people respond, make changes, and then try to improve it again. They are evaluating every detail: color, font size, spacing, click rates, etc. People change and so Google will need to continue changing if they want to continue to be the best at search.

Though there are definitely exceptions within the church, I’ve found that many leaders are content with the mindset of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Why go through the effort to improve something that no one is complaining about? Because, by the time someone complains… it’s too late. This doesn’t mean you should change just for the sake of change, but it does mean you should change.

I believe that we, as leaders, should adopt an attitude that acknowledges that the methods (not the message) we use to connect with people must be incrementally improved if we desire to continue connecting with this ever-changing world.

What are some practical ways that you have be able to make incremental improvements at your church? If you haven’t made any improvements in a while, what is the next improvement that you need to try?

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Church Building Is On Fire...

Yep... the title of this post was also the title of an intriguing sketch that was part of this past week's Innovate '08 conference at Granger Community Church. The above picture (taken during the sketch) helps set-up the story line... in the middle of a church committee meeting a member runs into the conference room yelling, "The church building is on fire!" He's declared out-of-order by the committee's chairman, and told that such information has to be brought forward as part of new business.

The meeting continues, the smoke gets thicker, people start to pass out... I'm guessing you see where the sketch was headed.

Everyone in the audience at Innovate laughed as the sketch concluded, but it was a nervous laughter... as if the sketch hit a bit too close to home for too many of us. I'm challenged by the wake-up call that Innovate presented us: It's time to stop talking and start doing.


Friday, September 19, 2008

The Reflection of Leadership...

The following are a smattering of my notes taken during this afternoon's Innovate '08 keynote session led by LifeChurch.tv's Directional Leadership Team:

- All organizations are a reflection of their leadership.

- The difference between where you are, and where God wants you to be, is the pain you're unwilling to endure.

- It is almost always easier to keep doing what you are doing-- not altering the status quo-- because change is difficult, and many times painful. Change is especially difficult when the decisions you make as a leader affect people you know and love.

- Certain decisions leaders make will inevitably turn out to be bad ones. But God's leaders can't be afraid to step forward and challenge the status quo, or be unwilling to make decisions, out of fear of making a bad decision.

- God will not expand our opportunities as leaders until we obey what He's already called us to do.

- Our capacity as leaders will be found in our ability to endure pain.

- What decision is God calling you to make? Is there a decision God has asked you to make that you have avoided?

"Up There Down Here"...

I'm currently attending the Innovate '08 Conference... which is hosted by Granger Community Church. Here are some key take-aways from this morning's keynote session by Rob Wegner:

- God's plan to help the world is you. There is no other plan.

- We've miscommunicated the Gospel. We've talked about it as the minimum requirements to get into Heaven.

- The Gospel of Jesus is this: The Kingdom of God is near.

- For most Christians, the Gospel is either about: 1) life after death, or 2) Jesus making my life better.

- The Gospel is life in Heaven, yes, but it is more than that. It is God's Will here on earth. It is up there down here.

- We need to change our definition of the Gospel from saved "souls" to saved "wholes."

- Granger Community Church decided to move from "flashlight" to "laser" focus.

- In each area of focus, Granger decided to narrow theirr focus rather than broaden it.

- When first approached by Granger, the South Bend Housing Authority indicated they had been burned by churches before. Churches come in, tell a Bible story, ask kids to come forward, then church leaves and never comes back. The Housing Authority's Director said, "Our kids have enough issues with abandonment without the church adding to it."

- Narrowing your focus will dramatically increase your impact.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What The Church Can Learn From Google...

Very cool post from Bobby Gruenewald. He hits the nail of complex churches right smack on the head.

Make your user interface simple!

There are few user interfaces that are simpler to use than the Google search box. Who would have imagined that the massive scope of the entire Internet could be navigated through that simple box? In contrast, we (the church) often seem to create extremely complex interfaces to the same basic, but yet important, content. Now, to be fair, many times that is not intentional. But… that’s actually the problem (lack of intention)!

Just to clarify, I’m not simply talking about church websites. We make it complex for people to find answers about God, or be a part of a church in general. We put so many barriers in front of people and try to simultaneously convey way too much information and give people very little control over what information they receive and how/where they receive it.

I would never use Google if it required me to leave my house and travel to an unfamiliar building on Sunday only once a week… listen to 30 minutes of unrecognizable music, followed by a person talking for 30-40 minutes, and still possibly have to try to find a person who looked “official” just to find “results” for my search. That would be absurd! But, that is a substantially abbreviated version of what so many churches put people through who are searching.

I’m not talking about the content you communicate (though that should be easy to understand/navigate too!), but rather the way people access and interact with that content. Is it easy for them to find what they’re looking for? And what about things they don’t even know they should be looking for—is there a simple flow of involvement that leads them there?

Some churches have already simplified the “interface.”

What are some examples of things that need to be simplified in the church interface?

What are some simplifications that have worked for you?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands...

The following is an excerpt from a new book I've just finished reading called Unleashing The Power of Rubber Bands. The book's author is Nancy Ortberg.

One day I was in a meeting of senior leaders at Willow Creek Church, and a co-worker named Greg Hawkins was talking very excitedly. He was talking about this topic of development and he pulled a thick rubber band out of his pocket. He stretched it between his two hands and said, "Very simply"-Greg is a genius when it comes to making complex issues simple, and therefore, doable-"this is development."

He showed what happened when he moved his hands too far away from each other: The rubber band became taut and clearly in danger of breaking. Stretched too far for too long, the rubber band is ruined.

Then he moved his hand closer together until the rubber band became slack, not at all capable of doing what we hire rubber bands to do-completely incapable of acting like a decent rubber band.

Inherent in the leadership relationship is the expectation that over time, the direction you give will result in progress toward maturity, growth in skills and character, and even an increase in your own leadership competencies. I think it is a helpful and good discipline to write out a simple development plan for the people you lead. And once that plan is written, the best way to implement it is to think of those people as rubber bands."

The core of leadership is hope. Leadership is the hope that we can change the things that need to be changed, and create what we cannot now imagine. Hope gives us the courage to move forward, the power to forgive, and the grace to keep the promises we have made. Hope dispels fears. Hope readies us for round two...Hope redeems mistakes and prompts the optimism and resilience of a leader.

To lead well, we must possess the strong belief that our best days are ahead of us, always ahead of us. Yes, hope and leadership are inexorably linked.

It doesn't take long to realize that leadership is hard. You should be able to conjure up the names of at least five people who make that a true statement. All kinds of things make leadership difficult, but certain people are one of those things.

As the picture of those certain people comes to mind, take a minute to let that picture fade. Because of all the difficult people you will lead, the hardest person to lead will be yourself. Call it whatever you want-the discipline of a leader, self-leadership, managing yourself-you've got your work cut out for you.

The journey of leadership is as much inward as it is outward. Leadership, done well, will continually be a force that drives you back into the center of yourself to find out what you are really made of. Great leadership occurs when you understand your own motives, your ‘dark side,' what you want to misrepresent in order to look better than you really are.

One of the things I believe deeply is this: Leaders ought to be the most self-aware people in the room. Sure, who doesn't agree with that? Especially if I clarify that I am not talking about a narcissistic self-awareness. You know the kind: The people who know only two pronouns: I and me-no, not that kind of self-awareness.

I'm talking about the kind of self-awareness that makes you comfortable in your own skin. You know who you are and who you aren't. You lean into and lead out of your strengths. You have words for your brokenness, and while you may wish you had none, you know that you do, and you know what they are. And you know that other people know. You wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Time Sensitive...

Seth Godin had a great post recently that dealt with the benefits to individuals and organizations of being "time sensitive." I found Seth's observations to be rich with benefit and usefulness to churches.

Here's the #1 most overlooked secret of marketing, of growing your organization, of building trust and creating for the long haul. Actually, it has two parts:

Show up on time.
It doesn't cost anything to keep your promises when it comes to time. Show up for the meeting when the meeting starts. Have the dry cleaning ready when you promise. Ship on time. Return that phone call. Finish the renovation ahead of schedule.

Boy, that's simple. Apparently, it's incredibly difficult.

If you want to build trust, you need to be trustworthy. The simplest test of trustworthiness for most people is whether or not you keep your promises, and the first promises you make are about time.

Cherish my time.
The second part is closely related. It has to do with respect. You respect my time when you don't waste it. When you don't spam me. When you worry about the 100 cars backed up on the road and figure out how to get us moving more quickly. You respect me when you value my time more highly than your own.

If you want someone to think you're selfish, just ask for a minute of their time and then waste it or use it for your own ends. Or automate the process so three minutes of your time wastes three minutes of the 1,000 or one million people on your list.

In a society where so many people have enough, few people have time to spare. When you waste it (by breaking a promise and being late) or abuse it (by viewing your time as worth more than mine), we respond by distrusting you, ignoring you and eventually moving on.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm Sad For My Sis...

Last Thursday while in New Orleans on a video shoot, I received a call on my cell from my sister, Andrea Butcke. It was one of those moments where you knew before you heard a word that bad news was about to be delivered.

My heart was beating a tap-dance as Andrea choked out the words that her house had burned to the ground. While praising God that she and my brother-in-law, Greg, were safe (they were at work when the fire started)... the bottom was falling out of my stomach as I began to grieve with Andrea over her loss.

Greg and Andrea have great insurance and already have plans to rebuild, but I know the truly irreplaceable items in their home are those things that money can't buy: family pictures, wedding pictures, furniture they both inherited from parents and grandparents.

I know that everything we have will one day belong to somebody else, but today I'm sad for my baby sister over this great loss that she and Greg have sustained. Please keep Andrea and Greg in your prayers, and consider sending them an email (butcke@bellsouth.net) to let them know you're thinking about them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Praise Song...

This clip introduces us to a new praise song. I'll say this, it certainly has a catchy tune.

Don't blame me if you can't get this song out of your head today.

Reasonable vs. Unreasonable...

I like this quote from George Bernard Shaw:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

To be an unreasonable person is to live a life that challenges the status quo. But the incentives for being reasonable are demoralizing: "Congratulations! You get to do the exact same thing you've always done!"

Sometimes when I encounter people who say "no" too quickly, I think... "Really? That's as far as you'll go? Is that as far as your leash of possibilities will let you wander?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Celebrating Their 21st...

The New York Times posted a story recently reporting that many more young adults are drinking to extremes to celebrate their 21st birthday. The University of Texas at Austin spent four years studying the drinking habits of 2,200 college students. Using a smaller sample of students, they focused part of their study on how students celebrate their 21st birthday. Astonishingly, 98.7% of college students drank alcohol to celebrate their 21st birthday.

Side Effects of a 21st Birthday
78% had ill effects
54% got a hangover
44% had a blackout
39% did not know how they got home
34% threw up
26% suffered embarrassment
22% found out later that they had sex
22% got in a fight or argument
16% had to miss school, work, or another obligation on the next day

And it is not just binge drinking (defined as 4-5 drinks). Many students are pushing their physical limits to over 20 drinks, an excess that researchers feel is too gluttonous to be only labeled as binging.

How many of these young adults that are drinking to excess during the week are sitting on a pew in a church building on Sunday

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Super First Impressions Lady...

SoHills' talented media team led by my ministry partner, Stephen Corbett, is hard at work creating a new series of promotional videos in support of our First Impressions ministry. The clip below created by Stephen, Matt Baggs and Ryan Hampton introduces us to a new superhero: Super First Impressions Lady.

I want to be like Super First Impressions Lady!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Small Faith vs. Big God...

There are too many times in my life when I...

Pray small.

Think small.

Act small.

And my faith gets very small in the process.

In those times, I need a mind, heart and soul shift. I need to remind myself through prayer, reflecting on Scripture, serving others, or by simply watching a sunset that God is bigger than I think.

How do you remind yourself of the bigness of God?

Monday, September 8, 2008

My Son, Serge...

In mid-December of 2006 , I received a call from an ACU graduate student who asked if our family would mind hosting his roommate for a meal sometime over Christmas break. This grad student was about to leave town, and he indicated his roommate, an international student from Rwanda, would be spending the Christmas break alone in Abilene.

Susan and our girls enthusiastically agreed that we wanted to reach out to this young man... and that's how God brought Serge Gasore into our family. There was a place in our family's heart that needed Serge, and we believe this gentle, quick-to-smile young man needed us as well.

Susan and I call Serge "Son." Serge calls us "Mom and Dad." Caroline and Katie Lea call him "Brother." Serge call them his "Sisters."

At our worship gatherings at SoHills yesterday, Serge helped all of us touch the unspeakable horror he endured as part of the Rwandan genocide. Serge was also used by God to remind us of the ways in which Jesus calls His followers to be ambassadors of grace and reconciliation.

Here's what Serge had to say:

Thank you, God, for the precious gift that Serge is to me and my family.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pretty Funny & Good Moral...

Okay... I realize that the fact I find this clip hilarious reveals that my sense of humor can charitably be labeled "sophomoric." But I laugh out loud every time I watch this.

And I love the moral of this visual parable: Don't judge too quickly.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Leadership In A "Flattened" World...

I'm a student of leadership, and I found this article by Sally Morgenthaler to be a great read.

What is leadership in an age of unprecedented connectedness? When information is as accessible as the iPhone in your back pocket? When the world no longer needs data brokers, when the word “authority” inspires only suspicion and revolt, and when business, political, and religious icons are deconstructed at the click of a mouse button – what does it really mean to be in charge of anything?

Nothing. Because, in the new and increasingly flattened world, being in charge is an illusion. Being in charge only worked (and marginally so) in a world of slow change; in a predictable universe where information (and thus, power) is ensconced in the hands of a few. But that world is gone. With the rise of the individual (the power of one) and the rise of the tribe (the power of one connected), all bets are off.

Still, we hang on to our illusions. We retreat into the old story: leadership as domination and control. We try to deny that human beings are simply wired to push back. And now, we have an unprecedented ability to do so. Now, eighty-year old Uncle Harold can post his very own book review on Amazon.com. Twelve-year-old Jessica can organize a local rally for her favorite presidential candidate. It’s a YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook, blogging world. We have broken the anonymity barrier.

But the new world is more than just about push-back. It’s about connection. Yes, we may still crave cocoon time, but the Starbucks “third place” concept – whether real or virtual - has literally revived what it is to have a public life. From village-concept malls to Internet cafes, list-serves, chat rooms, match sites, video gaming events, Texas Hold-em parties, and neighborhood 12-step groups, we’re talking to each other more than ever before. It may not all be mature, healthy exchange, but the volume of dialogue says something: at our deepest levels, we want to know and be known. We want to put a stamp on life, to be noticed, to make a difference.

In summary, our expectation of influence is at an all-time high. Whether at work, in school, online, on our IPODs, or at the Home Depot do-it-yourself design center, we want our stories, our passions, preferences, and opinions to matter. And the most successful companies and innovations of the past fifteen years have figured this out. Creating interactive, personalized experiences for their customers is primary. But valuing each person’s significance and pressing for engagement doesn't stop with the marketplace. Cutting-edge companies take participation to new levels within their organizational structures as well. Reason? When employees are released from bureaucracy to actually create, profits increase.

Significance, influence, interaction, collective intelligence – all of these values describe an essential shift from passivity to reflexivity. We are no longer content to travel in lock-step fashion through life like faceless, isolated units performing our one little job in an assembly line. It is a new day. We want to help solve the problems of the world.

Inside the church, however, it’s a different story. Despite all our posturing about cultural relevance and our haranguing about the average church-goer’s lack of engagement, we continue to vision, staff, and build for passivity. In the fabric of change, we adopt yet another campaign. Another trendy look. A new slogan. New staff. We produce sound-bites that make it look like we’re listening, collaborating, releasing, but we’re not. It’s a top-down, in-charge world, and the people in the pews increasingly feel like pawns to leadership's latest whim.

We can do better. If we really want to see God’s work explode, let’s encourage our church's leaders to release their strangle-hold on ministry. Let’s challenge them to be the leaders they were meant to be, not power-mongers--but catalysts, guides, midwives, and ship-rudders. Let’s call our leaders to stop trying to convince us they are open, adaptive, and permission-giving, and encourage them to really become all those things... leaders who release people to be the best they can be for God’s kingdom.

In our current context of radical engagement, the leaders of Jesus' church have an incredible opportunity to change how they lead. Let's encourage them to make the change. A new world awaits!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Less Is More...

I recently heard a lesson taught by someone I consider to be an outstanding teacher/communicator. As I reflected on what I felt made this teacher's lesson memorable, I identified these four components:

+ He basically used one verse of Scripture.
+ He told one story.
+ He used one visual.

+ He addressed one felt need.

Sometimes we make communication, ministry, and life more complicated than it needs to be.

There’s power in simplicity. Less is more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Until You Reached This Place...

This recent post from Ali Wilks blew me away. Ali's honesty and insight shines through in every word. Ali works as a nurse on board the hospital ship, Africa Mercy.

As days go by here in Liberia, I find myself realizing that I'm possibly a real grownup now. Don't tell any of the myriad kids I play with every chance I get, but I don't think I am one of them any longer.

I think the straw that broke my proverbial back (not that I'm a camel or anything; the metaphor just seemed to fit) was getting this poster in the mail. Go ahead and click on that bright red square and you will see the reason I've had to say goodbye to my childhood once and for all. It's not really anything spectacular, nothing but a piece of poster board with kids' signatures scattered across it in black marker. But if you look up there at the top, you'll see a little card with a photo and an address on it. It just happens to be me. Ali Wilks. Missionary.

I've gone to the same church since I was about two years old. Ever since I can remember, Mr. Don has been leading Vacation Bible School in the summers. Every year there was a missionary of the week, someone he would tell us stories about and someone we would pray for. And every time we would sign a poster that Mr. Don promised to send to the missionary in question; I've probably signed close to twenty of those posters. This year, it was me. I was that missionary, and I sent stories back to be read to the kids each day and I totally forgot about the poster thing until it showed up in the mail a week or so ago. When I pulled it out of the envelope and unfolded it across the floor of my cabin, I was overwhelmed with what I can only describe as the absolute weight of my calling and the unmistakable realization that I've grown up.

I've spent my life hearing stories about missionaries. The last Wednesday of every month sees my whole church in the basement, eating potluck casseroles and listening to a different warrior of the faith from some far-flung corner of the world. I sat there, enthralled, promising my grown-up, future self that I was going to be a missionary. Going to live in Africa and take care of those laughing, dark-eyed children. Going to let God use me however He felt like it.

I knew he was telling me that I'd go. Somewhere, someday. I guess I just didn't completely believe that He was serious.

And so, of course, because that's what happens when you doubt God, here I am. I'm that girl, the one who grew up and became a nurse In Africa, which needs to be capitalized because I always thought it was such a big deal. And now that I'm here, I realize that missionaries aren't anything special. Not really. And neither are grownups; they aren't the superheroes I'd always made them out to be, because if they were, there's no way I could be one. They're just people. People who laugh and worry and do things right and do things wrong and somehow get through each day more or less intact.

I thought growing up and becoming a missionary would feel different, somehow. I figured I'd get to some magical point where I felt qualified to make decisions that affect the entire course of my life. And where being in charge of someone else's life while they lie helpless in a hospital bed wasn't flat-out scary. Where I'd know what to say and when to say it and then I'd be grown up.

Instead here I am. Just as petrified as the day I heard that still, small voice tell me not to get too comfortable in the States. And just when I'm ready to pack it all in, to throw up my hands in surrender and retreat from this strange world of responsibility and adulthood, that same voice whispers to me again.

There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his daughter, all the way you went until you reached this place. (Deuteronomy 1:31)

These waters are not so uncharted as I've made them out to me. A wiser mind than mine is laying plans. Stronger hands than mine are guiding me.

And a deeper heart than mine is loving through me.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Don't Mention It...

I wish someone had warned me just how damaging a few words could be, how a few innocent statements could sabotage my efforts at getting a new ministry off the ground. I call them the "Unmentionables"... words that have a way of eroding our credibility and alienating the very people we most need as partners as we start in a new position:

Unmentionable #1: "Back in My Old Church"

Instead of saying, "Back in Slippery Rock, we used to…"

Try this:

"What if we…?"

The second statement allows us to get our ideas on the table without rubbing our listeners' noses in what sounds like the superiority of our previous church. And if we repeat this phrase enough, the stakeholders in our new ministry naturally begin wondering why we didn't just stay… "back in our old church."

Unmentionable #2: "This Church Just Doesn't Get Ministry"

Instead of saying, “This church has been trying to do ministry the way it was done in the seventies. News flash! This isn't the seventies any more. And all those things you used to do don’t work any more.”

Try this:

“There are folks in our church who have been praying about this ministry for years, people who are open to what God wants to do here.”

We will get what we focus on: Focus on the clueless folks who led the ministry before you arrived, and watch them multiply before your eyes. Focus on the willing hearts of those who long to see the ministry grow in its Kingdom usefulness, and they will start coming out of the woodwork.

Unmentionable #3: "I Don’t Have Time"

Instead of saying, "I'm not trying to be rude, but frankly, I don’t have time to go to every ministry event!

Try this:

"I definitely want someone from our leadership team at that ministry activity. If you'll get me the date and time, what I can work toward is…"

By focusing on what we can do instead of on what we won't do, we honor the input of those asking something of us and strengthen our partnership with those doing ministry alongside us. Of course, there will be plenty of times when we don't have time, but using the “I don’t have time” excuse can come across as if we think that our busyness is somehow more important than the busyness of those requesting our time.

So the next time you’re tempted to speak one of the unmentionables... don't mention it.