Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Leadership choices

This year we had a number of changes in leadership.  And by "a number" I mean the chair of EVERY major committee changed.  In some ways that was really stupid on my part.  Training all new leadership requires a fair amount of time and energy (not that it's not worth it) and that extra time should be allotted for.  In comparing (sometimes helpful sometimes not) the different folks from the two years, I have a couple of observations I offer for what they are worth:

  • when you choose people for the personnel committee, they have to be willing and able to handle conflict with tact.  They need to be not only nice people who care about others, but also people willing to confront someone when they are not doing their job in all the ways they are required to.  People who run from conflict will not get the job done.  As a note, there are many (most?) people who hate conflict. Not many (healthy/stable) people run toward it, but the person who dislikes it is different from the person who refuses to engage it.
  • when you choose the person who will lead the meetings, choose someone who can stay on task and get to the point (this might be a personal preference b/c I am task oriented and like getting the job done, but really who likes being in a meeting that lasts 2 hours when it should only take 30 minutes just so everyone can share a story?!?!) 
  • The people on finance committee should be willing to ask hard questions (repeatedly if necessary) in order to clean things up (supposing they are messy), and should be committed to faithful stewardship personally and corporately, they should also be willing to do fundraising (and able to encourage and empower others to do fundraising).  
  • Some people will require more training than others.  Their need for additional instruction is not a testament to how well they will do as a leader, only that they have received less instruction along the way. 
  • Sometimes giving people a fresh start and not asking too many questions about their past is helpful, it can offer a new (grace-filled) opportunity where they don't have to fight an uphill battle just to get started. It can also be problematic if (negative) past behaviors are sure to re-present themselves.  
I'll leave it at that for now.  Feel free to add your own. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

What's in a name?

So in 12 days I will be a married woman. It's a bit of a crazy thought to think I will be married next week. That's nuts. I realize we've been on the marriage train officially for a year this week, but somehow in the timeline of my life, it never seemed like it would be this close.  

Surprisingly (?!?!) I am not anxious or worried or any of those things. Last week my mind finally had freedom after I finished the concert, my brain kicked into high gear about all the things that still need to be done for the wedding and I hit super stressed and mildly cranky.  It's all detail work at this point and if nothing else happens, the wedding will still go on.  We will be married and there will still be a party and we will still leave for a honeymoon in Mexico(provided the passport glitches get worked out this week....if not, we're going somewhere.  Period.) 

But this week I passed out of cranky and into super excited. I'm getting married next week!!!  Period.  =)

But there's this other reality that I am having trouble wrapping my head around is that I will be changing my name.  That's not a huge deal to me in and of itself, (not yet anyway), the stranger part is thinking of what that title means to people.  I mean "Mrs. Sperry" will be me. I will be "Mrs. Sperry."  But my mother in law (*to be) is Mrs Sperry; and I am not her.  And, for that matter, my new sister in law to be is also Mrs. Sperry.  I'm not her either.  So, to take on that name in some way merges my identity with theirs and I'm not quite sure what it means to be a Sperry and not a Camphouse.  Not that I'm not a Camphouse, I'll always be one of them, but you know, I won't be known as a Camphouse.  And then you could argue that I could use my title to distinguish myself from the other Sperry women.  I could be known as "Rev. Sperry" or "Pastor Sperry" and in that way have my own identity. But you'd be wrong again. Because "Rev. Sperry" was R's dad.  (Was because he passed away over 2 years ago now....) but he was the Pastor Sperry who was well known.  Oh yeah, and R is clergy (though he doesn't use the title) but that's his title too.  So, being "Rev. Sperry" won't feel like an identity of my own either.  

I'm not saying it's good or bad either way. I'm trying to say it's new and different and I'm not quite sure how to process it fully yet.  It's bizarre to have created an identity and reputation for myself and with just 4 simple signatures (mine, R's, the pastor's, and a witness') all of that will change. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A new stage in church life

Yesterday I mentioned my time with the girls. I am deeply blessed that the girls love to come and sit with me and join me in leading worship. My hope is that it makes them feel more and more comfortable themselves, that as they grow up they will move from sitting in my lap to lighting the candles, to reading scripture, to leading prayer, or teaching Bible study, or going on missions. I hope that their comfortability in church lays a firm foundation for their future discipleship.

One little one has already progressed from lap sitting to candle lighting and yesterday I witnessed a new stage: she's learned to read, so now she can read the words on the screen and sing along.  At times when I am able, I've tried to prompt the kids with the words to a song so they can sing too, but it doesn't work all that well. But I can tell you that my heart was overwhelmingly full as I sat next to this young girl (I think she's 6 now) and listened to her sing the words she could read for herself.  

I could just feel the empowerment. She didn't need to rely on someone else to include her in worship, she was finally able to join for herself and it was really cool.  Reflecting on it, it makes me grateful that we are a church that is dedicated to education, not just of the Bible, but in general, that we want people to be able to read the word of God for themselves and to be empowered...they cease being dependent on someone else (who may or may not have their best interest in mind) and can go seek God (and God's word and our worship) all on their own.

It was truly amazing. Simple. But profound.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Well, let’s just say the last month or so has been insane.  I did the planning and preparation for our trip to Mississippi. I collaborated with 2 other planners, but was responsible for 23 of the group (paperwork, money, scholarships, etc).  we made it safely to Mississippi and had an amazing time.  We were at a different camp in a different city this year. Our projects were varied (as is normal), but, as usual, it was life-changing (particularly for the first-time missioners). 
It was also pretty revealing to me about some of the greater things I need to work on in regard to leadership.  Yet, even in that hard learning, I am also able to use what we did there for practical teaching within the church, which is always awesome. 
At the end of the trip, I got the worst migraine I’ve had in nearly a year and wanted to just die. I also managed to get some sort of stomach bug and ended up sick Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday and then still just zapped of all energy the next couple of days.  So, I tried to lay low (or as low as possible) and then slowly got back into the swing of things.  Only trouble was a week of mission plus company left me with about 13 loads of laundry!!!  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I am not a big fan of laundry. I don’t mind the washing part…you know because the machine does that work. It’s the folding and putting away that kills me.  But, I survived.
In the midst of all that, there was still work to be done, a wedding to plan, and a concert to work on.  So there wasn’t a true break, just the best break I could imagine being sick in the middle of the busiest time ever. 
I keep trying to grasp for a break or a breathe or something, but I still keep grasping. There’s an occasional glimpse, but still plenty to do, so I keep on going.  I am fairly certain that somewhere there is an end to this crazy roller coaster ride I got myself on! 
Now we are one week away from the concert and are working our tails off to sell as many tickets as we can.  I’ve also chronicled some of the obstaclesand problems we’ve encountered and it’s hard to believe we are finally there.  Whether there’s 20 people or 2000 people, the bands are paid and will put on a concert.  We’d love to have 2500-3000 people because we’d reach our goal of sponsoring a whole house for someone still living in a FEMA trailer! That would be awesome. And God would totally get the credit because with all the obstacles we’ve faced, and the size of a church we are, there’s no way we could have done it without God.  So, we’re praying, and fliering, and praying, and hoping, and finalizing details, and praying that all will work out well. 
If you live near the IE or want to travel to Riverside for a very cool charity concert, click here or here or more info!

Cherished Moments

Yesterday was "Family Camp Sunday" where we wear our jeans and camp shirts and come to church "camp style". We worshiped in the fellowship hall instead of the sanctuary and sang camp songs and had more foibles than a normal Sunday, and it was all part of the experience.

Part of the joy of being a family is the presence of all the generations, young and old and everything in between.  At family camp we invite the youth to come up and do motions and help lead worship, and the same was true yesterday.  Nevermind the fact that I am the most outgoing 'youth' up there, they were there, dancing and jumping and doing the motions. And the little ones came up and held my hands and jumped and danced and laughed and smiled through those songs.  

And when we sat in between, they would sit really close and snuggle in as they sat with me. 

Then, when I went up to preach, one came up and held tight for some extra TLC, and then another saw she was up there and she too came up. Now, I know for some this is distracting and difficult. It causes them to lose their focus or feel disrupted or disrespected, but I love it. I love that the kids feel so comfortable with me and the church body that they can just walk right up when they are ready to, when they want a hug or a cuddle.  The only complicating factor was that the lapel mic wasn't working so I had to switch hands to hold the mic and hold the girls, but it was fun.  I was happy to have them there.  I want them to feel free to be themselves in worship. I relish in those moments.  

Then their parents felt uncomfortable, embarrassed even, so the girls were called back to their seats and I kept on preaching.  But it was good. They were good moments and I am grateful for them!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Do you ever just want to throw down?

(“throw down” means fight…I’m guessing it alludes to throwing down your gloves or something, but I can’t tell you for sure)

So, there have been an inordinate number of problems and conflicts at the church lately. As is usually the case with church business, I can’t detail most of it here, but let’s just say it’s been way too much at once. I have been overwhelmed and often feel totally ill-equipped to do the job I do. There have been personality issues, staff issues, moral issues, and more. 

But one of the things that has been particularly striking to me is how being so tired and frustrated has led me to want to just lay down the law and fight. (I need to say here I’m not a fighter. I’ve never been in a fight. I have never thrown a punch. I’ve never even been hit. I was only challenged once in High school and that was because I called someone out as lazy and ridiculous in class and she was not thrilled (go figure) and she came after me after class. I let her throw her insults and threats, looked around and saw my friends had left me, but I stood my ground, and she walked away…no fight. ) and when I say here that I want to fight, it’s typically not a physical fight I’m ready for. I’m much quicker with words. 

When people act out or act a fool and seriously disrupt things, my desire is to tear them apart with words. I have been tempted to put folks in their place. Now, I know this isn’t the normal type of confession you’d expect from a pastor, but it’s the reality of how I’ve felt.

Now, fortunately, I have had enough sense not to say anything. I’m typically pretty good at diplomacy. But I need to say it has taken extra concentration and patience lately. I have not wanted to be super nice with my words. I’ve wanted to be straightforward and blunt. Not p.c. or nice.

Gratefully, I held my tongue, and in doing so, I encountered greater wisdom about how to handle some very difficult situations and things are better in many areas. (Others still need the right words and I’m getting there with caution and patience). 

So, here’s looking forward to more days of non-violence (both with word and with deed).