Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Quote of the day

As we start down the road of wedding planning and preparation, I have been seeking and getting advice from various folks. Today's quote comes from one of the bridesmaids:

Choose a color that will look good on a pale-skinned red head.

Thanks K for making me laugh outloud!

is it the season or bad boundaries?

For the last seven or eight months I have been teaching 3 classes a week.  Two were pre-existing when I arrived to my current church and I merely stepped in and started teaching.  We had new people coming to the class and had an interesting mix....some people who had NEVER been in Bible study, others who had been in some study or another for over 50 years.  So, to put us on level ground I did a study on Bible history and exegesis.  We talked about how we read and what we are reading so we had common understanding and questions to ask of the biblical texts.  Next we did a doctrinal study, to center ourselves on the primary Christian beliefs.  

Those classes were going well and then another group from the church wanted something similar for them. So I started the third study.  I've been teaching all three ever since.  

This month, I added a fourth class: the UMW book study.  It's 4 Thursdays in the month of May (though I'm only doing 3 because I was on vacation one of them and we had a sub).  I also ended up adding a one-time class on prayer.  I want our laity to pray more often in do the pastoral/prayers of the people at least twice a month...the problem is people don't feel confident enough to do that, so I added a class on prayer to help facilitate their confidence and eloquence for public prayer.  

So, five studies this month.  Part of me feels like it's bad boundaries.  The other part of me feels like it's just the season of teaching.  I've noticed in ministry that at different times different issues arise and for a time I spend most of my time and energy devoted to one issue.  Examples are:  immigration, domestic violence, youth, teaching, preaching, missions.  

I have been frustrated with myself for taking on so many classes, and yet at the same time, the congregation is hungry for learning.  I am not teaching one class of 2 and another of 3 and another of 5.  I have a class of 17, a class of 12, a class of 8, and a class of 8.  Those are pretty good numbers in my book.  But I am still doing most of the teaching and people don't seem ready to let me go and to have someone else teach. 

 There's a mythology about the pastor having so much more insight or knowledge.  I could buy into the need for me to teach the doctrine classes or the major theology classes...but for a book study or a gospel study, I do not believe I have the most knowledge.  Yes, I have studied the Bible, but so have many others...and many of them for MANY more years than I have even lived.  There are riches there in their studies and their teaching, which are not being tapped right now.  

I have recruited one new teacher who has been doing the subbing most of the time when I am away on vacation and she has stepped in to teach one of the three primary studies on an ongoing basis.  I am there for this 6-week study as she gets started and gains confidence, but hope to bow out once we finish this study.  And I have started planting seeds of possibility with a couple of others who I think would do well.  The goal for next year is at least 4 new teacher/leaders.  If we do the concert, and we have significant new numbers at the church, obviously we will need more teachers and I will have to step up my training recruiting.  

As I mentioned in the last post, finding balance is tough.  From an outside perspective (as in, before I got here), I would have said, "I will teach only 1 class a week", but somehow in practice that just hasn't worked out.  Maybe because I haven't stuck to my guns about saying no. But maybe because this is what God wants me to do with my church right now, and in the fall or the winter something else will be at the forefront of my ministry....who knows?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Visioning 101

For the last couple of months our congregation has been working on laying the foundation for visioning.  Well, more accurately, our church council on behalf of the congregation has been laying the foundation.  We have been reading "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" by Bishop Schnase.  Each month we read one chapter and then discuss the reading and offer brainstorming ideas for future ministries.  There is an interesting tension because as we share ideas we want to get started and do stuff, but we aren't done yet, we haven't even covered chapter 2 yet, so we need to wait until we cover all the areas before we start instituting new things.  And yet at the same time, there are "little" things that can be covered immediately, little things that make a big difference, and we have done some of those things as we go.

So, in the fall, we are planning to do a visioning retreat.  The hope is to look at the future of our church and our community and our ministries and set goals for the next 5, 10, or 20 years.  Projecting who we want to be and some of the things we need to do to get there sounds appropriate and necessary.  The only problem is:  I'm totally winging it!  I have done planning for educational goals...4 years from now...finish BA, 7 years from now...MDiv...8 years....ordination.  But aside from that, on a large scale for a multitude of people and not just myself, I've never done it.

I'm pretty good at winging it. I'm also fairly good and simply being faithful to the call and trusting that God will guide us appropriately. But I would like to be a little more prepared before we get to the fall (which, for the record, is not all that far away).  As part of my personal pastoral covenant, I have decided to read at least 2 books on visioning.  

So, today, I am looking for book suggestions to lead us through this process. Or just suggestions in general for how we can do proper planning for our church and our community and how we can help lead the larger congregation into the vision.  Any takers?!  

Monday, May 25, 2009

To lead and to care

Often finding a balance in ministry is a challenge.  Any pastor can tell you that.  If they deny it, either they're lying, or they're Jesus...but I think even Jesus had to try and find the balance.  So, basically, if they deny it, they're lying.  

Anyway, lately I've been struggling to offer pastoral care and to lead the congregation.  With a congregation of 150 it makes sense for me to do regular visitation.  I do have a retired minister who is a part of the congregation who is a tremendous blessing and visits our homebound regularly.  But even still, I generally visit anyone who is hospitalized or in a rehab center and have tried to make it at least once (in the last 10 months) to see each of our homebound.  

But lately I have felt more of a strain in doing visitation.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy visitation.  Pastoral care is one of my strengths and it's easy and natural for me.  The rub is that there is also a lot of other work to be done.  There are leaders to be trained, studies to be done, administration to do, and of course the weekly sermon that always gets less time than I would like.  And as I look ahead to growing our congregation, pastoral care will not be as do-able.  

With a congregation of 150, the expectation is not just that I will visit anyone and everyone in the hospital, but also that I will be at every church event and program.  But if we think ahead to a congregation of 300 or 500 or more, there is no way I could do such a thing.  

So, the question becomes how do I care for my congregation (the size it is) in ways that are appropriate and necessary while at the same time not creating bad habits and standards that won't hold up in the future?  (for the record, I do not have an answer yet, so if you have input or wisdom, feel free to chime in).  

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The rest of the story

Gavin asked for the rest of the story, so here goes:

We took the week away for some vacation time after I cancelled my trip to Atlanta for the festival of Homiletics because I was too stressed to do another conference and travel across the country. So, we traveled up the coast and stayed with some of Rick's family.

During the week we went to the beach at San Simeon and played in the water and looked in the coves at all the very cool marine life. We also met up with some of his family so I could meet them.

On Wednesday we went to Hearst Castle and did the tour and then headed up highway 1 to Monterey.

We hadn't eaten since 6am so after the 3 hour drive up the coast we headed to Bubba Gumps for some dinner.

While we were there Rick put a banner on his iphone that said, "Will you marry ME?!"

(Now, you need to know some back story or you'll think I'm a total jerk. We have been talking about getting married for awhile and regularly one or the other of us will ask, "Will you marry me?" and the answer is always yes. We say it often and are earnest in our response and so when we talked about the "real deal" Rick said I would know because he would be on one knee. I also pretty much knew he would be asking while we were at the beach on vacation and had decided that until he asked for real I would simply answer, "probably.")

So, when I saw the banner, I smiled and said, "probably." He frowned a bit and took the phone away. A few minutes later he pulled out the ring (a temporary until we can get the family setting and stone put together by a jeweler) and said, "Will you marry me?" Again I said, "Probably." Again he frowned, and then he put the ring away.

We enjoyed our dinner and took some pics out front in the Forrest shoes on the bus bench:

And then headed toward the beach to walk. It was evening and cool and I had on his sweatshirt so I suggested we head toward the sun and rocks where it would be warmer. We climbed out on the rocks that protruded into the ocean and talked for a bit. After a few moments he said, "Will you marry me for real for real?" I said, "For real for real?" He said, "For real for real, even though I'm not on one knee because it's wet on the rocks and I will fall in...?" I said, "you're using your play voice." To which he answered, "So?!" He pulled out the ring and said, "I have this for you....(in a normal voice) will you marry me?" And I said yes. =)

In other news....

....I got engaged!!!!

Planning a MAJOR event is a major endeavor

Things at the church have really been taking off lately. There is so much going on I feel like I can hardly keep up. There are more Bible studies getting started, the work with the homeless is expanding, the trustees are taking on more major repairs at the parsonage, and our Katrina Mission team decided they wanted to try and raise $42,000 so they could sponsor an entire house next year when they go to do more work on the gulf coast.

It has been a full spring. Rewarding. But very full. As we look ahead to the Katrina concert, which we hope will host at least 3000-4000 people, but could host up to 17,000 based on space availability....we have a lot of work to do! Coordinating the concert will be a feat in and of itself, but we also need to coordinate after-care for any folks who attend who don't have a church home or who are looking to get involved in mission themselves or who need a small group or Bible study, or prayer, or....

All of that work is a major task. Hopefully we can do it and do it well. But to be quite honest, I feel like I am in WAY over my head! I've put on "big" events before....but that was for 300-400 people....never more than a thousand, let alone 3000 or 4000 or more! Fortunately, RS is on board and has done this multiple times, so he's helping our church chair to do the technically I am not putting on this event. I'm not even on the committee! =) But, it is still at my church and so I need to be involved and the after-care aspects are seriously up to me to decide and coordinate.

For my clergy covenant I had said I wanted to have at least 4 new Bible study and small group leaders in the next year...not a bad goal in my mind, but if we have the potential for serious new numbers....4 is not going to cut it! So, we are doing some serious praying and planning and asking to try and get more folks on board.

It is weird to try and prepare though because I have no idea what the actual effects will be. We could have 5 new people come to the church, or we could have exactly are you supposed to make plans for that? We want to have everything ready and in place right away so that people don't have to wait for a call or a way to get involved, but that's a lot to have ready to go but on hold at the same time.

And I fear that if we don't do it well that people will fall through the cracks and we will miss major opportunities, which isn't what I want either.

On the practical side of the planning there have been quite a few planning glitches. Those are to be expected with an event this big, but they can still be quite frustrating. First was not getting the band we wanted, second was getting the band we wanted on board only to be harranged by a local promotion company that wanted in on the deal and dictated they would get 30% of the proceeds, third was moving a band we don't know and appeals to a very different generation--good, but not as excited about the music itself, fourth was having to change venues, fifth was finding out our key date at the new venue was a no-go because of a local marathon, sixth was finding that the alternative date would in no way work for me because I will have just climbed the tallest mountain the contiguous needless to say we are on plan F and still moving forward!!!

I am really excited about the concert, especially because it will be the biggest thing our church has done in a single event...ever! And it can be an amazing opportunity for us to expand current ministries and start new ones. But the next few months are going to be CRAZY as we make our way there!

Wish us luck! And send up some extra prayers!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

stepping up my game

Apparently this is the season of bigger challenges in ministry. It seems that everything that is coming my way counseling wise is more difficult and more trying.

  • a domestic violence situation that is abusive on both sides
  • someone who is suicidal who wants help but will only go kicking and screeming
  • marriage counseling that is WAY above my skill set
  • a 5000 person concert with cranky pants publicity people who want to stand in the way
  • long-term church visioning (yeah...where was this class in seminary?!?)
and much more fun!!! In more than one situation I have caught myself thinking, "I am in way over my head!!" Each time I have felt like I need more training, to read 10 more books, and to have 20 more years of ministry and experience to help folks.

In some ways, it's like going back to the beginning of ministry for me...back to when I worked at a transitional living center for drug and alcohol addicts who were mostly middle aged black men who had suffered lots of abuses in their lives, and there I stood, a young, privileged white girl who had no idea what they had lived through.

Back then my mantra was, "It's not about me, it's about God, and as long as I let God work through me, it will be ok." I think it's time for that mantra to become my everyday is not about me, it's about God, and I need to keep being the vessel for God to use in ministry.

It is challenging feeling like you have no answers and nothing to offer. It's hard to feel like a novice again after feeling like I was doing so well.

Ahh...the joys of ministry

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tips for entering a new appointment:

It's that time of year when new appointments are made and people begin to pack their boxes, finish ministry projects, and prepare their hearts and minds for a new beginning.  Granted, I have only moved once, but these are some of the tips I found helpful and some of my added 2 cents.  

For what it's worth: 
  • Wait at least 6 months before making any major changes. (This one can seem super difficult because you will see many things that you would like to change--some might be "needed" and others may only be a matter of preference for you.  Trust me, it's worth the wait.  In part because time will show you what truly is needed versus your simple preference.  The time will also give you time to know your people and get them on board for those changes that are necessary). 
  • Get to know your people!  Take the time to meet with them (share a meal!) and learn their stories.  They can tell you about the church if they want to, but really, the initial meeting is for you to learn about them.  It's their time, let them use it as they wish.  
  • Be humble.  Your people have been at the church for awhile, they know the city, they know the customs, they know the history and the history is as important as the future you will forge together.  You are learned and have a lot to bring, but so do they....don't forget that.  
  • Stay one step ahead.  It is important to acknowledge and use the knowledge and gifts of your people, it is also important to be ahead of them in as much as you can.  Not that you need to be a know it all, but they will ask about former members, or homebound members, or city issues, and the more you know, the better off you will be.  If you have already visited Joe and can tell them a current report of how he is doing, they will know you care about them and their friends and are truly invested.  

Walk to Emmaus

I did the walk to Emmaus last weekend and could share many things, but this will be the first.

May you meet Christ on your road today.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Precious Lord,
You are amazing. You are faithful despite my infidelity.  You honor me with your love and affirmation even when I fail to honor you.  Your love surpasses anything I could even imagine. You are persistent in seeking me and unfailing in loving me. I wish i could love you as you love me. I wish I could be as forgiving as you are. I wish i could see with the same depth of compassion as you do. Teach me Lord. Teach me to love as you love.  Teach me to lead with humility and grace as you do.  Show me your will for my life and for your church. Show me what it is you wish for me to see. Shine your light on me so that I might reflect you with all I do.  In Jesus' name, amen.