Saturday, August 9, 2014

Change Happens. Respond in grace.

failure is opportunity in disguise.
A colleague mentioned how she admired my response to the challenge of change in my business. Change is the gentle term we used when circumstances are stressful. Change happens. Stress (or peace) is our response to it.

After 20 years, I've learned not to panic, to stay calm, to trust. This type of seasoning comes with time; while I may be surprised at events, my heavenly Father never is. 

We're encouraged, commanded, to pray for endurance. You don’t have to be the smartest person at what you do; but if you’re the hardest working you’ll outlast the smarter ones. That takes endurance.

When circumstances change, the path you may need to follow is one of exploration, discovery, and anticipation— not for what you fear may happen, but for what God in his grace has planned—so that we may become vessels of generosity, with our cups overflowing with generosity into the world around us.

I recall this story that Dave Ramsey recounts from Thou Shall Prosper.
The Havdalah service is recited over a cup of wine that runs over into the saucer beneath. This overflowing cup symbolizes the intention to produce during the week ahead not only sufficient to fill one’s own cup, but also an excess that will allow overflow for the benefit of others. In other words, I am obliged to first fill my cup and then continue pouring as it were, so that I will have sufficient to give away to others, thus helping to jump-start their own efforts. (Lapin, 150).
For the business owner and entrepreneur, every day is a challenge. In spite of the challenges, I'm determined to create enough wealth so I can give some of it away to others.

Sometimes your journey takes you down a path for which there is no map. You are neither leader or follower, but explorer.

Change is certain. How you respond to it reveals your character and sharpens your focus. The things that matter take priority; the non-essential becomes secondary.

Change forces you to align your plans more closely with your purpose. Beyond the uncertainty of change is the potential for unrealized opportunity.

I think that's what carpe diem really means. Seize the opportunity in the changes each day brings. How others see you respond to it may bring grace into someone else's life.

Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow

Having spent significant time over the practicing and performing in a seasonal show (OK it was Christmas), I've come away with more observations about serving within church culture. As always, these aren't complaints, but observations. They don't apply to all churches, but to the Church (let's call it Christendom) in general.*
  • As much as I appreciate the opportunity to participate and get to know a few more people, I'm not sure it's been a worthwhile time investment. Perhaps we believers need to be more discerning with our choices of where we serve, especially in church. 
  • One needs to decide if the time investment will yield a significant enough impact and return. We should make our decisions based on where our gifts are valued, appreciated, and make the greatest impact.
  • Feeling under-utilized leads to discouragement.
  • The arts consume an inordinate amount of time, compared to the amount of time spent in service. Practice takes time. Other than preaching, is there another area of service where the ratio of prep to time spent delivering is so high?
  • Church culture is can be tough to crack, and a challenge to be accepted. Have you ever wanted to serve, and you know you're capable, but don't seem to fit into the culture? The church wants people to serve, it just doesn't seem capable of assimilating them into areas of service in meaningful ways.
  • The church seems interested in quantity of people serving, not necessarily quality, competence, giftedness or capabilities. There often seems to be little interest in understanding what one's gifts are, and where the individual might best serve. There's no point in asking individuals to take spiritual gift surveys, if church leaders aren't going to pay attention to them. 
  • What is of primary importance to the church isn't necessarily top priority for its people. 
  • The Church knows best. Outside opinions and outsiders aren't quickly welcomed, even if the outside experience will enhance the opportunity for others to serve, and the quality of their service.
  • Serving isn't only about meaning for the one who serves. For those who are served, even the  smallest contribution is noticed, and adds to their experience of being served.
  • The expectations of the one who serves is often different than the expectations of church leadership.
  • Every little gift matters, whether it's the gift you've been given, or the gift you have to give.
  • It's not about me — or you. John the Baptist reminds us that "he must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." Our participation in service should be meaningful and fulfilling, but it's goal is to reveal Christ and his grace. 
  • We need to check our egos, and lead through serving. 
  • Community and common bonds are strengthened and deepened through shared service. Leaders need to know their team members, and understand how to integrate them into the area of service they have responsibility for. If you don't know your people, you may be missing out on fully utilizing the talent that people want to share.
*Your experience may vary. Opinions expressed by this writer are observational and may not reflect your actual experience with church culture. Then again, they may. This is why God pours grace into your life every day, so that you may endure and be strengthened during the challenges you face serving—and give grace to those serving alongside you. After all, it's about Christ, not you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The personality of church culture

Have you ever noticed that the culture of a church or ministry is a distinct reflection of the personality traits of its primary leader?

There are many clues; some obvious and others subtle. Most churches are a combination of what follows, watch closely and you'll see it in your church. I've categorized a few:
  • Control Culture: The leader seeks to have input into, or control every aspect of ministry. Evidence of this type of culture is in staff and volunteers who feel pressure that their performance is never good enough. This feeling is compounded by the leader's weakness in interpersonal communication skills, lack of accountability, and unapproachable nature.
  • Numbers Culture: Evidence for relevance is driven by numbers: numbers of attendees; numbers of small groups; numbers of children in ministries; the amount donated on a weekly basis. Numbers matter more than relationships. Closely related to the Pedestal Culture.
  • Cowardice Culture: Evidenced by the use of executive pastor or staff to deliver bad news at direction of senior pastor. Senior pastor refuses to accept responsibility or be accountable for bad decision making.
  • Last-minute culture: All execution is last minute, even if planning is done months in advance. Most likely, planning and execution are done last minute. Little regard given for personal schedules of volunteers, and possibility of previously scheduled events.
  • Only my Ministry Matters Culture: Intra-church ministries and teams do not compare calendars, and cross-schedule events. So much for the idea of a body working together.
  • Pedestal Culture: Senior and executive staff who exhibit reclusive behavior, rarely interacting with "the flock," as if the very activity is beneath them, and perhaps best left for a pastoral care professional. Difficult for these individuals to come down off their pedestal and get a different perspective.
  • Excuse Culture: "Oh, it's because he's a musician." It's because he's a big picture individual." "It's because he's the teaching pastor." "It's because we're short-staffed."
  • The Miscommunication Culture: How can the church communicate the gospel, if it can't even communicate internally well?
Oh, I could go on, but it makes me tired just thinking of all the reasons why churches are so dysfunctional, and how they could be better. If only our leaders would listen as much as they talk!