Scarcity, abundance, and COVID-19

On the best of days, many churches have long spent too much energy on what they do not have, usually a balanced budget and pews bursting at the end caps. The COVID-19 crisis has ramped up that fear about scarcity. Not only do we not have an offering plate to pass or full sanctuaries, we cannot safely gather in person at all. We do not even have the incarnational comfort of physical proximity.

Ok. All of that is true. All of that is hard. And, it is not the only story. Abundance still exists. You might just have to look a little harder or get more creative to find it. But once you do, you can build on it in ways that will benefit your congregation far beyond the passing of this immediate crisis. Here, then, are some places where you might take stock:

Tech savvy. Who are the people in your church who know how to connect others or disseminate information in a variety of ways by technology? What platforms or equipment might they have access to that your church could use to gather constituents virtually at various times?

Connections to denominational partners. Your denomination (including publishing houses, benefits boards, and more) or middle judicatory has probably sent information out to churches. What resources are on offer? What resources might you ask about, such as mini grants to set up online platforms?

Time. Some of your church members are extra busy right now as they work from home (and possibly try to homeschool their kids simultaneously). Those who are home and cannot/do not telecommute, though, might have availability that they might not otherwise. How might they use that time to serve others, perhaps by calling or texting individuals or hosting virtual gathering?

Individual connections. Who do the people in your church know, whether from school, work, volunteer efforts, professional networks, clubs, or businesses they frequent? How might those connections be leveraged remotely to help those in need, whether within your congregation or beyond?

Individual talents. What are the people in your church good at – whether those are life skills or for pure enjoyment – and that they might teach others to do by phone or video? What can they make and share (with proper precautions) with others, such as poetry or meals or activity kits for kids?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does provide examples of ways to think more deeply about strengths your church can leverage in a greatly changed context. Getting creative about ways to connect has the added advantage of moving your congregation forward into an increasingly digital world – pandemic or not. And it further trains us to notice where God is at work among us, a habit that is spiritually transformative.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.

 

 

 

Celebration: I have leveled up!

Last week I received word that my application for the next level of coaching credential was approved by the International Coach Federation. Formerly an Associate Certified Coach, I am now a Professional Certified Coach. Logistically, this means I have more than 125 coach training hours and 500+ coaching hours, have been mentored by my own coach for no fewer than 10 hours since my ACC credential was awarded, have passed a Coach Knowledge Assessment, and have demonstrated PCC-level coaching (assessed according to increasingly rigorous standards) in two recorded coaching sessions. In a bigger sense, though, this designation means that I have committed myself to a higher standard of coaching and to continual growth as a coach.

I would like to thank:

my first coach, Melissa Clodfelter, who showed me what a difference coaching could make,

the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for inviting me to consider becoming a coach and then getting me started down that path,

all of my coach trainers over the years,

my mentor coaches in the process of attaining the Certified Christian Leadership Coach and ACC designations (Eddie Hammett, Brian Miller, and Bill Copper),

my mentor coach who got me ready to apply for the PCC credential, Janice Lee Fitzgerald,

and my family and friends who have encouraged me over the past 6.5 years of growing into this joy-filled ministry niche.

Above all, though, I am grateful to every person who has trusted me as a coach. I am excited to go to my office each day to find out about the good you are doing and to work with you on increasing the impact of your faithfulness, giftedness, wisdom, and experience. What a privilege!

Here’s to many more years of our journey together.

Repost: Thanks Living

Last week I posted a prayer calendar from 2017 extending the spirit of All Saints’ Day throughout the month of November. This week I am re-sharing a prayer calendar from 2015, one that invites thankfulness on each day of the coming month around a broader range of prompts. Here’s how I originally introduced the calendar:

While the goal is to live attuned to our many blessings all year long, in November we tend to be especially mindful of everyday graces. Below is a calendar of gratitude prompts to supercharge your thanksliving. You are encouraged to share widely the JPEG or the PDF (found here), and I invite you to record your daily responses on social media with the hashtag #NoticingGrace.

thanksliving

Repost: Rejoicing in God’s saints

[Note: Since All Saints’ Day is quickly approaching, I thought it would be a good time to share a prayer calendar for the whole of November that I created in that spirit.]

Sometimes I wish All Saints’ Day could be more than, well, one day. Our lives are shaped by so many people who have gone before, whether we knew them personally or not. I think we could all benefit from reflecting on their influence and considering what parts of their legacies to carry forward.

Since All Saints’ Day is November 1, and since we are already inclined toward thanks-living during November, I have put together a month-long prayer calendar with daily prompts to remember a departed saint whose impact has been significant. This calendar is available as a copier-friendly PDF and as a Canva PDF. Feel free to share the calendar on social media, print it for your church members or yourself, or use it as your November newsletter article.

rejoicing-in-gods-saints

I appreciate you, pastors

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, but let’s be honest. You deserve to be noticed and thanked year-round for the ways you have committed your lives not just to the tasks but also to the intense spiritual, emotional, and mental labor of ministry. I want you to know that…

…I see you when you get up at 4:30 am for a pre-surgery visit after crawling into bed late the night before due to a meeting that ran long.

…I see you when you struggle over whether to take that much-needed vacation, knowing that a beloved church member is on hospice care.

…I see you when social media tells people in the pews to “walk out of worship if your pastor doesn’t preach on [insert current event here],” yet your sensitivity to the Spirit and to your congregation’s capacity tells you that doesn’t need to be your focus today.

…I see you when the lectionary is serving up softballs for addressing the world’s ills, and you go there, knowing some of your parishioners will be angry.

…I see you when it’s hard to date or make friends outside of work because of the assumptions about and demands of your vocation.

…I see you when you are pulled between wanting to be a whole person (including showing up for your loved ones and yourself) and wanting to be the best pastor possible.

…I see you when you feel like you have to hide part of yourself, whether a belief or an aspect of your identity, because you want to be able to continue in this vocation to which God has called you.

…I see you when you work so hard to encourage your church’s progress, only to have conflict burn it all down.

…I see you when your calendar looks like a box of markers exploded on it, with color-coded appointments leaving precious little blank space.

…I see you when you have to wear the mantle of spiritual leadership even as you wrestle with your own faith.

…I see you when you are moved to enter search and call and have to deal with the ickiness of feeling like you are betraying your current context.

…I see you when you are confined by circumstances to a ministerial role you have outgrown, and you keep showing up despite the chafe.

…I see you when you have no idea what to do next after a metaphorical bomb goes off in your congregation, so you keep putting one foot directly in front of the other.

…I see you when the Church or your church makes you representative of all of a particular demographic, such that you bear the weight of excellence on behalf of all your peers.

…I see you when constructive feedback is hard to come by, no matter how much you seek it out.

…I see you when others discount your voice because you are too something, yet still you keep raising it because your message is faithful.

…I see you when you toil in obscurity, leading small congregations, because you are making big impacts that will ripple out far beyond what you will ever see.

…I see you when you make (or lead your church to make) decisions that are hard but good.

…I see you when you offer care to people who disappoint or even hurt you.

…I see you when you want more for the Church, because it is Christ’s body here on earth.

…I see your love for God and neighbor, your tenacity, your creativity, and your wisdom.

Thank you, dear ministers, for all the seen and unseen work you do to bring more peace, connection, and understanding into this world.

Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash.

 

 

 

Indignation and indifference

“JEEEE-susss, it’s no fair. Mary is making me do all the work. Make her help meeee.” This quote is often used to pit Martha against her sister in Luke 10:40, thus retconning the catfight trope into holy scripture itself.

Not today, Satan. Not only does the typical translation of these women’s relationship set up a false binary between doing and being, service and leadership, it keeps us from more deeply seeing ourselves reflected in the scripture.

Martha says, “Tell Mary to get off her butt.” She speaks to Jesus with the confidence of someone who knows her hearer will certainly see her side. Instead: “Sorry, Martha. I’m enjoying this conversation with your sister.” If she’d had access to an ice pack, Martha would no doubt have used it on her floor-bruised jaw and her indignant-red cheeks.

How often do we approach God authoritatively, knowing God will agree with us? If you’re like me, it’s more often than I care to admit. “Not my will, but thi…yada, yada, yada, I’m sure you’d like to bless me with good weather for my road trip and a change of attitude for that person who has been a thorn in my side and a new on-sale dress for Easter.”

Whole congregations can do this too. We pray for more people to join our membership – because God must want that for us – but what if we’re already the right size to do the job God has for us? We pray for more resources, but what if more money leads to more distractions and excuses from spiritual growth and disciple-making? To the best of my understanding, God doesn’t think in the same categories and metrics that we do.

This is what makes the prayer of indifference – a key component of discernment – so important and so dang hard. It means acknowledging our short-sightedness. It means giving up some control. But unless we can offer prayers that sound like, “Here’s what I’m worried about, please do your God thing” without prescribing what we’d like that God thing to look like, we’re too attached to a particular outcome. That means limiting God, or at least limiting our openness to God.

The prayer of indifference is made a bit easier by cultivating a habit of gratitude. Noting where God has been at work in, around, and through us in big and small ways reminds us that our faith in God’s presence and goodness is warranted. God doesn’t do on-demand prayer responses, but God hasn’t abandoned us yet.

What adjustments to your prayer posture would you like to make? How might you incorporate noticing gratitude into your routine to make these changes possible?

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash.