Newcomers and New Questions

In this fourth week of learning about church administration, I’m learning about being like a “CEO” and communication. If you want to follow along, this week I’m reading and reflecting on the chapters titled, “Oversight (Being CEO) Is a Worthy Calling,” and “Communication: Ministry Means Messaging” (pgs. 143-199) of Church Administration by Robert N. Bacher and Michael L. Cooper-White.

This past weekend I taught a new member’s class for the first time. We had about ten people made up of young families, couples old and young, and some on their own. I got to steward my experience from the last eight months of internship with a hope and a prayer, and hopefully I represented our congregation well.

Reflecting on it now, I know I want to share about all the wonderful stories I heard, thoughtful and open conversations we had on church, LGBTQIA, communion, and Theology on Tap, all the beautiful and broken people I met, and an ADORABLE infant who will be the youngest new member in the next couple months. But I truly want to stick to the administrative side of it. I don’t mean to paint “administration” and “human moments” as polar opposites. In fact I’m finding that they’re more intertwined than I thought.

This week Bacher and Cooper-White responded to 1st Timothy 3:1 by saying, “Such a ministry of oversight [someone trusted to lead a congregation or region], whether as bishop of a diocese or pastor of a congregation, inevitably includes administrative dimensions” (144). This is all too true. As with all pastoral interns, I came into a congregation with systems and a culture already in place, churning, and shaking. So when I asked our Office Administrator if I could make copies of the forms I knew we were going to have the new members fill out at the end of the evening, I saw that there was one that was used a while ago but hadn’t been brought out recently.

In the spirit of the old form, I created something new: “Harvesting of Gifts, Interests, Passions, and Growing Edges,” where you can find things like “Telling stories,” “Comforting people who are sad,” “Making people laugh,” and “Making breakfast,” to select under I enjoy/want to learn more about… The other column are options (strengths and talents) to check for If I were to guess, I think I am…

The form can’t be more than 20 lines long, but it gets people identifying their gifts and growing edges, while giving staff members a way to introduce and connect them with people at our church who can get a new person to feel like we’re their people, and they’re our people. Over half of the people there filled it out and I can’t wait to connect them with people who are experts at giving new folks opportunities to share, serve, be known, and feel like they belong.

Prepping the multi-media, scheduling guest speakers, making sure there was enough material for participants without killing too many trees, answering emails, coordinating with the Office Administrator to invite people, following-up with staff connectors, expressing thanks and asking for previous teaching content, crafting an agenda, making copies, playing with babies (ok maybe not the last one)–were all part of the administrative picture of this wonderful New Members class.

My role as facilitator, teacher, and pastor was to set the table; Bacher and Cooper-White write, “the way the table is set for a meeting will have a significant impact on its ultimate results” (169). I didn’t make the dinner, but I confirmed with the cook that we could squeeze in two more for dinner. We set out dark chocolate candies to hold people over for the dinner break an hour in to my presentation. But I also set the table by setting expectations and setting the space to maximize the learning and connection of the people gathered there.

I shared with them the objectives for the evening, why they were there, and what I wanted them to think and dream about together.

Believe it or not, this whole church thing isn’t 100% unchanging (!). God’s promises are unchanging, but the Holy Spirit has a funny way of blowing people in (and out of) communities and bringing with them (or leaving room for) new questions, new perspectives, new backgrounds, and new pairs of lens with which we read the Bible and the world. I hope I established a space to share how our church is sensing God’s call, and also invited these new members to imagine how their presence and new contribution might enrich this congregation’s response to God’s call and vision for this church. I’m grateful for the staff people that supported me in this teaching, and I’m excited for more opportunities to engage with ministry and administrative tasks in new and creative ways!

Is there a particular class, activity, service, or project that you facilitate regularly that engages in administrative tasks that enrich that experience for your participants? Or do these administrative tasks do the opposite? What’s a way that you engage in administrative tasks with joy and gratitude?

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Dream: Overlapping Faith, Life and Service

I’m not sure if this happens to anyone else, but sometimes on Pinterest, the pins I don’t repin (they’re like visual posts) will stay with me for days as if to taunt me saying “Haha you didn’t repin me so I’m going to send the guilt and shame gremlins on you until you find me again haha!” I guess my guilty conscious takes the form of flying monkeys. Anyway, there’s a pin that has stuck with me – not because I think I’m a bad person for not pinning it in the first place, but because it speaks to me. I get inspired by the written word anyway, so this is not a stretch. But the quote in this pin pings a nerve in me:

All of the organizations, universities, colleges, ventures, start-ups, or nonprofits we (that includes you I’m pretty sure) work for started with 1 person who had 1 idea. This person had the insane courage to risk failure and shared their vulnerability and passion with a friend, a colleague, a mentor, a pastor, a family member, a significant other. I’m not sure how ‘business’ works, but I’m pretty sure there are relational, financial, and communal jumps and risks that are required of making someone’s dream come true. This idea of ‘dreaming’ of one person and its importance (good or bad) just jumps off of the screen when I read this quote.

So this got me thinking. If we are to take this quote as true (I’m not sure who Tony Gaskins is, but I think this soundbite is pretty good) then each one of “your” dreams – you, the one person unique child of God you are – is worth the risk discovering and cultivating. It’s not that it’s “my way or the highway,” and our individual dreams are in competition with each other. It’s not like you have to work on one dream, and not the other – I think dreams can be cultivated side-by-side. But I think what struck me from this quote was this tiny voice saying “Are you talking to me? Are my dreams worth discovering and [dare I say] realizing?” To use one of my favorite emoticons from high school: 0.0 (two big eyes looking like deer in the headlights)

When I think of my biggest, biggest dreams, it’s like my soul is on a trampoline, jumping with unconditional joy, on the cusp of jumping the highest I’ve ever been. I jump out of bed in the morning when I know I’m about to get the opportunity and honor to help someone realize that they are worth it. When I help someone understand that the extraordinary lives in the ordinary, that God works through our lives and our very selves as we serve our neighbor with our gifts, passions, imperfections, strengths and weaknesses. Sure, this might be “vocation,” but that’s a huge word to unpack. When I boil it down, this concept looks like 3 spheres of our lives that overlap each other in different ways:

These spheres don’t intersect with each other, they overlap: Intersecting to me is like a freight train that is suddenly smashed and intersecting with a car, and that’s not how I understand these spheres. “Service” is a value on its own, not something that magically stops to intersect with “life.” These spheres stand on their own and have integrity, but they also shine interesting light on each other when they overlap. We see life differently when we see the unique colors that are produced when we shine light through two or three of these spheres. Life, service, and faith are connected to each other, and when these values overlap with each other I know I find meaning and purpose in my life.

That’s a dream for me. To help people understand that they are lovable, worthy, complex, soaked in God working through them, and they are a vehicle for meaningful service in, to, and alongside the neighbor.

This is a starting point for me, and hopefully it’s something that might resonate with you too when thinking about your vocation! If you could build your dream, your dream organization or effort, what would it look like?