A couple of weeks ago I wrote about wanting folks to change, but feeling inept in helping them do it. Then my brother commented that he had learned from a speaker that if you are going to ask someone else to change, that you should change one thing about yourself first and reflect on what it took to get you from point A to point B. To be honest, when he said it, I thought to myself, “I don’t know what I need to change.” Really. I thought about it a fair amount and couldn’t come up with anything specific that really needed to change (particularly in regard to my ministry).
Well, this week I was away on mission in Mississippi and it was apparently my time for seeing myself a little more clearly. There is something about being away from home, distanced from the “right now” needs of my congregation that allows me to see things a bit more clearly.
My first dose of self-reflection came on day 1 on the job site. I had been asked to join the dry wall team by my former head of trustees. He’s done SOOO much to help me at the church and the parsonage, and is an all around good guy (so good we consider he and his wife like family) that I could hardly say no. So I went. I spent a fair amount of the day teaching the other women (none of whom had “mudded” before) how to do the different parts of the job.
Now, if you’ve never mudded drywall before, you should know that corners are the hardest part. To do them really well (at least how I was taught) you should only do them once (verses regular joints that require 3-4 layers of mud). They require a certain level of finesse. Knowing that they are hard, I was slightly reluctant to teach the newbies and would have preferred to just do it myself, but instead I decided to teach. I tried to teach the first woman and was not terribly successful. I wasn’t explaining it well and kept trying to correct her technique but managed only to make her very self-conscious, so she gave up the job. I gave her friend the option, I said, “Do you want to try it, or do you want me to just do it.” A willing learner, she said she’d try it. From my mistakes with mudder #1 I decided to try a new teaching technique—hands on. I had her hold the tool and then I held her hand to teach her the right amount of pressure to apply. She did a better job with it and stuck with it. Now, I’m not sure if she had a “knack” for it, or if the different teaching technique made that much of a difference, but they were able to continue with their work in the bathroom.
Now, in that time I saw how quickly I was ready to reassign them to a different job and just do the harder portions myself. I was willing to teach, but only if they were quick to pick it up. Now, that wasn’t my conscious thought about it, but rather what I saw in retrospect. (Remember, hindsight is 20/20). And I was disturbed by what I saw. I tend to think of myself as a patient teacher, but could easily see how I do much the same thing in other instances at the church. I’m willing to teach someone how to do a job, but if they don’t pick it up quickly, I just step in and handle it. I could name specific instances here, but I would also be calling out particular staff or volunteers and that wouldn’t be fair, so I’ll keep the examples to myself.
I get focused on getting the job done and don’t always have a good appreciation for the process. In mission work, especially with inexperienced volunteers, you have to be more about the mission than the task. That was part of our orientation Sunday night—you have a task (the job at hand) and a mission (healing hearts and homes) and the mission is the most important part of the work you will do. While it may seem obvious, I’ve never thought about church (meaning on the church campus and the daily affairs of church life) in those terms. I focus on the task a lot, and I should be focusing on the mission more: making disciples of Jesus Christ—it’s not just about offering a good class or quality program or amazing worship, but it is also important to utilize the process and focus on the mission.
I am by no means fully reformed, but I do think I did a better job on Day #2 when I took some folks back to camp in the afternoon to work on a different job. We were asked to build a hanging rack for the yard tools (rakes, shovels, brooms, etc). We were given a basic design, which we had to modify, and got to work. We needed to use a chop saw, a skil saw, and a nail gun to finish the job. I know how to use the nail gun and the chop saw, and one of the other women knew how to use the skil saw (sort of) and I easily could have just made the cuts and done the nailing, but I was able to step back (thanks to day #1 of learning) and see that teaching them to use each tool and giving them that experience was just as important (if not more so) than accomplishing the task. So I made sure each woman had a chance to use the nail gun and the chop saw as we did our project. I also made sure that we worked together on planning the project. So we brain stormed through each of the modifications to make sure we were thinking through each of the possibilities to have the best possible outcome.
And, the end result was, everyone learned a new skill, contributed to the project, and…
Here’s the finished product!