Go slow to go fast

[Note: a version of this post first appeared on Searching for the Called.]

When we onboard members to a committee or team or launch a new program – as many of us will do in January – often the tendency is to capitalize on initial enthusiasm to get as much done as quickly as possible. That’s totally understandable. After all, novelty begets energy, and we don’t want to waste it. But if we haven’t taken the time to build our team and outline our processes, even a small bump can drain that momentum and derail our collective work.

That’s why it’s important – even though it’s counter-intuitive – to start slowly. Develop relationships among the key players. Learn where each person is coming from, what their reasons were for signing up, what skills and experience and ideas they bring, what they need from others in order to make their best contributions, and how they deal (or don’t) with conflict. When those involved have this kind of context for their collaborators, they will be able to engage one another more quickly and effectively when difficulties arise.

In addition to interpersonal processes, agreeing on procedures at the outset can make work go faster. What is the future story we’re striving for? How does everyone plan to participate in the work? What is our timeline? How will we come to agreement on major decisions? How will we ground our work in God? How will we hold one another accountable? What will we do if we come to an impasse? Intentionality at the front end can ease – if not prevent – many stresses that pop up as humans, with our anxieties and agendas, cooperate.

Note that slow movement at the start might prompt questions such as “why are we wasting time on this ‘soft’ work?” Be prepared to explain how deliberateness serves both the overall goal and the speed of the work that is to come.

In what situations do you need to pump the brakes in order to do some of this foundational work? Though it might seem tedious at times, your relationships and your efforts will greatly benefit. If you need help with going slow, this trust-building workshop is worth your consideration.

Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash.

Announcing a new coaching package

An out-of-control blaze. A hose flopping around because of the high volume and velocity of the water running through it. A pool so deep that sunlight barely filters through. Dozens of dinner plates spinning precariously. These are just a few of the ways new coachees describe the ministry life. Expectations – internal and external, stated and unstated, real and presumed – make it seem impossible to meet all the demands. Pastors are intelligent, gifted, and called, but they are uncertain how to tackle what seems like a Sisyphean vocation.

That’s why I have put together a new coaching package around helping pastors focus their leadership. Through an initial assessment,* 5 one-hour coaching sessions, and a resource list that I will customize for each coachee’s needs, we will tackle the following:

  • Sharpening a sense of purpose in ministry. We’ll consider how the assessment results highlight the best uses of your energy, pinpoint areas of strength and high engagement, and work toward a personal statement of purpose in ministry.
  • Setting clear, contextual goals for your pastoral leadership. We’ll identify how you want to show up as a minister, think through how your statement of purpose can help you prioritize your work, and concentrate on the aspects of your professional and personal lives are within your influence and control.
  • Designing organic strategies for reaching those goals. Taking the goals you named separately and as a whole, we’ll create action plans and benchmarks.
  • Stocking your toolkit for proactive and responsive time management. Based on your personality, goals, and challenges, we’ll come up with ways to plan ahead good uses of your time and to adapt when inevitable pastoral emergencies arise.

The cost for this package is $550 ($425 for members/alumnae of YCWI, $225 for seminarians or ministers between positions).

If the opening paragraph of this post and the proposed four-pronged approach to combatting overwhelm resonate with you, I invite you to set up a free exploratory call about coaching. The church needs your focused, eager leadership!

*The Core Values Index is a 10-minute assessment that helps takers gain awareness of comfort zones, decision-making and conflict styles, areas of struggle, means of improving relationships, and ways to make the biggest impact.

Book review and giveaway: We Pray With Her

Since last Advent I have been searching for a new devotional book. Some that I looked at were too light, while others were a bit more academic than I wanted. Many were focused solely on personal holiness, and a few were so social justice-oriented that I had to stretch to apply the readings to my everyday life.

And then, We Pray With Her was published this fall. I was already looking forward to getting a copy, because some of the friends and colleagues I respect most contributed to the book. The first night I opened it up, I felt seen and understood. Here were young clergywomen speaking to the threads that I find myself pulling on daily in my ministry, parenting, and civic participation: call, courage, struggle, resistance, and persistence. In these 100 devotions I found good biblical scholarship applied to the challenges I face in this stage of life and work. The pieces invited me to tend to my spirit, then turned me outward to enact in the world my faith in God’s love and abundance.

In addition to the devotions, there are standalone prayers tailored to situations young women often find themselves in. Some center on choices and realities associated with parenting, such as being asked – AGAIN – why we don’t have children, struggling with infertility, experiencing post-partum depression, and dealing with the everyday challenges of parenting. There are family-related prayers that are not child-centered, including muddling through the illness of a parent or a divorce. Other prayers focus on professional concerns like preparing spiritually for interviews, difficult meetings, position changes, and returning to work after vacation. And there are some prayers that speak to the overall tenor of our lives: prayers for boldness, for discernment, and for help in the midst of loneliness and panic and struggle.

I have felt my way through We Pray With Her. Instead of going through the book in order, I have considered the theme that best speaks to my current state and gone to that section for a good word. I have then flipped through for a standalone prayer that relates to what I’m going through. This approach – and the words that I find on the page each night – have been a boon to my spirit. Ending each day with the sense of being seen and using the prayers to open a conversation with God have allowed me, in the midst of all that is difficult in the world right now, to be grateful and thus to be empowered.

I want you to feel seen and to be empowered too, so I am giving away one of the review copies that Abingdon Press sent to me. You can enter by commenting below with a note about why you’d like to receive We Pray With Her. Your comment will enter you into a random drawing on Friday, November 30, at noon central.

New (external) resource on clergy sexual abuse

[Note: this post originally appeared at Searching for the Called.]

Unwanted hugs.

Comments on my clothing and body.

Lewd jokes.

Revelations about his marital (and extra-marital) activities.

All of the above have been done to me by senior pastors when I was serving in associate pastor roles. All of the above fall into the category of clergy sexual misconduct. All of them, though damaging, were relatively mild compared to what many other subordinate clergy and parishioners experience from ministers.

Clergy sexual abuse is defined as using one’s pastoral role to exert power over someone else in order to meet the perpetrator’s sexual desires. The abuse includes unwanted touch as well as sexualized talk such as jokes and harassment. These overtures and acts make the church an unsafe place for work and worship for the targeted person(s), and the emotional and spiritual trauma congregation-wide of abuse takes years to work through.

Before the #MeToo (and related #ChurchToo) movement got a foothold in the larger culture, Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship formed a task force to address clergy sexual abuse. This task force has just released resources designed to help congregations discuss what clergy sexual abuse is, create policies and procedures that both prevent and respond to incidents, and locate services to aid survivors in their healing.

The resources include a series of videos intended for congregational discussions, guides for those discussions, a policy and prevention guide, and articles with survivor stories and biblical bases for setting good boundaries and caring for victims. Note that while these pieces were created by Baptists, their applicability is ecumenical.

I urge you to check out the resources and introduce them to your congregations and judicatories, for your sake and for the sake of your fellow ministers and the people in your care.

Image from Hermano Leon Clip Art.

A spirituality of fundraising

We’re coming to the tail end of the traditional stewardship season, and it’s highly possible that you are sweating pledge numbers that currently fall short of your ministry dreams for 2019. You might also have a treasurer or bookkeeper whispering anxious nothings in your ear about how much people need to give between today and the New Year’s ball drop to end 2018 without a deficit. It’s ok. After all, you didn’t have anything else to stress about as Advent looms large! [Sarcasm font]

Here’s the thing: we will always struggle with money – and our feelings about it – as long as it is only a means to an end: “We’ve gotta make our budget so that…” It’s not a sentiment that will make people whip out their checkbooks and credit cards and smartphones with money transfer apps. But you know what might? “God is calling us to do this exciting thing, and we don’t want you to miss out on being part of it!”

This is what Henri Nouwen called a spirituality of fundraising. He approached the ask not as an unfortunate necessity to be apologized for (a tack that makes so many stewardship sermons cringe-worthy) but as an invitation to others to join in the work to which God has called us. As such, fundraising is relational and community-building, not transactional. For Nouwen, fundraising was a “call to conversion,” an opportunity to re-orient our focus to the world beyond ourselves – to begin to see things as God sees them – as well as to transform our relationship to our own resources. In the process, we partner with God in bringing the reign of God here on earth. In taking this loftier view of fundraising, we are free to make the request out of our sense that we are ministering not just to the people we might serve but also to the givers themselves. To me, that is a compelling message. It is inclusive. It is formational. And it recognizes that those with resources have needs that can be met by relationship, so all parties involved are both giving and receiving.

So as you come to the end of this year and the brink of the next, I encourage you to view stewardship and fundraising as opportunities to grow disciples of Christ as we move together into the future God is compelling us. See what a difference this approach makes in your willingness to ask for money and in the generosity with which givers respond.

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash.

Announcing a new online workshop on trust-building

A lot of things seem hard right now, don’t they? Polarizing talk raises our anxiety levels and prompts us to seek out people who think like we do. Financial uncertainties make us grip our hard-earned dollars ever tighter. Threats to our physical safety, whether felt individually or collectively, cause us to look askance at any stranger within our peripheral vision.

God wants more for us than isolation, hoarding, and suspicion. God wants curiosity, generosity, and connection. But how do we make this shift?

It’s all about trust. 

But real trust is different than what we often think it is. It’s not just about being able to guess how others will act or react and planning our words and deeds accordingly. It’s about showing up as our authentic selves and inviting the people around us to do the same.

I will be offering a workshop about building trust on Thursday, January 10, from 12:30-2:00 pm eastern. We’ll explore what the deeper kind of trust looks like and why it matters. I’ll share 8 Cs key to developing trust. And we’ll work together on ways to apply those Cs in our one-on-one interactions, team and committee work, and whole congregations. The cost for this workshop, which will take place via Zoom, is $15 per participant. All are welcome, and I especially encourage you to attend if you are an influencer – clergy or lay – in your setting. You will come away from this workshop with greater hope for creating community and some tangible ways to make it happen.

People are crying out (whether in word or deed) for help recognizing the image of God in one another and connecting and collaborating accordingly. Learn how to lead the way in this trust-building work, which has never been more important than it is now.

Registration for the workshop is available here.

 

Have you made your self-care plan for election day?

I was utterly unprepared for the impact – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically – of election day 2016. I was away from home, taking a weeklong course at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta as part of my Pastoral Study Project grant. I became more anxious through the day, despite the class focus on discernment. As precincts began reporting and the outcome became clear, I started furiously doing push-ups in my guest room. I was hardly able to drag myself out of bed the next morning to join the other zombies who couldn’t believe what had transpired.

Though next Tuesday’s election is a midterm, it is perhaps the most consequential one of my lifetime. I expect it to be a hard day, so I’m going to be proactive about my self-care. I have blocked off my calendar for the day, because I don’t anticipate being my most focused self for coaching calls. I will bookend my day with barre class, which makes me feel stronger in body and mind than anything else I do. I have signed up for a Get Out the Vote phone banking shift so that I will know I am contributing to civic engagement. I will play with my son after he gets home from school and eat dinner with my family, which will help me stay grounded in my most important relationships. I will offer prayers of thanksgiving and petition throughout the day in quiet moments. Somewhere in there, I will cast my ballot. And in the evening I will watch the results, holding in my heart and brain the reminder that though God calls us to join in justice-making, our ultimate hope is not in human processes.

If you anticipate that election day might be anxious for you (no matter what your political persuasion), how do you need to plan for your self-care? Here are some prompts to help you start your strategizing:

  • How do you want it to be with your spirit on election day?
  • How do you hope to show up for your loved ones, the people in your care, and your larger community, both on election day and in the days that follow?
  • What do you need to say no and yes to in order for these things to happen?
  • What can you use as a touchstone throughout the day, whether a word, a verse from scripture, an image, or an act?

Whatever happens on election day, let us seek out connection with others, be generous in our thoughts and with our resources, align ourselves with the most vulnerable, and continue to partner with God in bringing about God’s reign.

Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash.