Current Obsession

So I have this personality quirk: when I discover something that I find new and exciting I tend to obsess about it. Maybe it's a song I haven't heard forever, but then it comes on one of my favorite nostalgia stations: like "Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodbye" by The Manhattans. I heard that on the radio recently and I've been playing on YouTube constantly:

The vocals, the dance moves, the outfits... it's amazing. I'm the same way with TV shows-- since Netflix changed how media is consumed, we can now binge watch entire series of TV in a few days-- or less! If I really dig something, I consume it until I become sick of it, or the family just starts hiding the remote controls! The obsession goes for books too.

My current fascination is with Bill Easum's Effective Staffing for Vital Churches. I heard about the book from my clergy colleague Edlen Cowley, who is shepherding Grace UMC through the Healthy Church Initiative. I've read many of Bill's books over the years; my favorite is Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Hamburgers. The title alone is worth the purchase price of the book! Anyway, Effective Staffing isn't only about staff issues. It's about re-imagining how ministry works in the local church. A few lay persons at Grace have read it, and I want our staff and other leaders to check it out.

One of the main points of the book is that people in ministry, paid staff and unpaid volunteers, should be in a mentoring relationship of some kind. Those of us who are more mature in faith should be building up others to go deeper in theirs. The focus of ministry should shift from: "What ministry am I doing?" to "Who am I helping to develop in their faith?" This is the primary emphasis for the small group ministry we launched several months ago: the ministry is not meant to increase knowledge; it's to grow people. How are you growing in faith? Who is guiding you?

The book argues that in a church Grace's size the pastor needs to be out in the community 70% of the time. There is no way I am coming anywhere near that benchmark. Honestly, being out in the world like that, mingling with (unchurched) people I do not know, is way beyond uncomfortable for me. But I am willing to put in the work to change if it will help me grow as a pastor/disciple, and if it will be beneficial to the church. Here are some steps I am taking on my own, and opportunities for you to help:

  • I've entered in to a clergy coaching relationship. I will check in regularly with the coach for accountability and feedback.
  • I'm changing my office schedule. I'll be in for administrative duties (email, staff meetings, etc) on Tuesdays. Mondays are my days off and Fridays are sermon preparation days. 
  • On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I intend to spend some time reading for my upcoming pilgrimage in England, but also interacting with people in the community.
Here's where you can help. What organizations/groups are you involved with? What events can I accompany you to, where you can introduce me to friends/colleagues/acquaintances/neighbors? Even if it's a block party... What non-Christian, not members of another church, type people do you interact with? Now, when I say I need your help, it's not for the invites; it's the small talk. I am terrible at this. So if I go with you somewhere, you can't introduce me to someone and then abandon me. I will end up in a corner somewhere by myself, near a fire exit. If you're not involved in anything like this, what opportunities can you create in your neighborhood or community?

We all need to work more on sharing our faith. Finding people who are lost and helping them see the light of Christ is the most important thing a Christian does. If people who do not know Christ ever come to worship at Grace, that's a bonus. But we have to seek them out. Maybe set a goal: each week I am going to meet three new people. Each month I am going to invite two people to church. I try to keep this mantra in the back of my mind. I pull it out when I need to ask someone to serve in a ministry or make a special gift to the church: "The answer is always no before you ask." Give people an opportunity to say yes, and more often than not they will. They will not be offended. In fact, you'll probably make them feel special for including them.

Jesus said, “The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest, to send out workers for his harvest. Go!” (Luke 10:2).