Tag Archives: Ministry

The Discipline of Becoming All Things

We have a document called the Renovatus Manifesto. It’s our code, our culture in written form. It hangs on our walls, it’s on our website, it’s part of our language. One of the themes throughout is the emphasis we place on diversity. It’s really important to us that we honor people of all kinds.

The difficulty in doing that well is that each of us sees the world through our own eyes. We lead from our perspective, our strengths, our convictions. And while I fundamentally believe that to be good and wise, I’m starting to realize the potential blindspots we create by only leading from our own perspective, our strength.

We lose a lot by not disciplining ourselves to consider the perspective of others.

How do you learn? What engages you? What is distracting to you? What do you notice? What do you value? How do you see it?

It is only natural that we gravitate to those who see things the way we do. It is perfectly understandable why we resonate with those who share our opinions and inclinations. But gravity is quite a force and before you know it, our perspective can begin to feel authoritative and superior, as it becomes the only one we acknowledge in ourselves and our like-minded company we keep. We’d never say it that way- no, we’d dress it up in some humble language and explain ourselves using our education, our degrees, our training, our experience, our position.

In the name of protecting the vision or not diluting the mission, we can easily justify our pride, our elitism and close-mindedness, our insecurities and our comfort zones.

We have to see the entire field, consider other vantage points. What is ministry if it’s not a willingness to come alongside someone and walk with them, trying to see from their perspective?

Our worship, our preaching, our programs, our art, our curriculum– all of the church must be built with all of the church in mind. 

Let me be clear: I am not advocating a myriad of ministries to cater to any and every demographic, phase of life, and interest represented in the church.  What I am saying is that the ministries we do have need to stay accessible to the very people for which they were created.

I am also not advocating a futile attempt at trying to please all of the people all of the time. But I’m begging that we are considerate and mindful of them all whenever we can be. I do think we have a responsibility, just as the Apostle Paul did, to become all things to all people in order that we might save some. (I Cor. 9.19-22)

We cannot afford to hold our own inclinations and preferences so tightly that we cannot embrace another’s.

Ministry is messy and self-sacrificing. It requires learning how to speak someone else’s language.  It is incredibly inventive, no matter the “type” of ministry being done.
People worship differently. Children learn differently. We all experience the Lord in a multitude of ways.

For that reason, it is incredibly important that we fight our own personal defaults so that we can be free to think creatively of how we can become all things to all people.  May we cultivate the discipline to pray, learn and try whatever ways we can that lead to effective ministry and the honoring of complex, diverse people made in the image of God.

Shades of Grey

I have a love-hate relationship with “grey.”  The color, the concept, any and every expression of the word, really.

It feels at times indecisive, complex, mysterious, ambiguous, indefinable, unaccountable to me.  Somehow, “grey” can’t be judged on any grounds.  It gets a pass.  It is as if there exists no filters or rules outside of black and white.  I like black.  I like white.  I know what to do with them.  I like the contrast, I like the clarity.

I am surrounded by some really brilliant, beautiful people.  Many of them are gifted artists and creative minds.  They, unlike me, love grey.  They find it inspiring and textured and nuanced and interesting.

I do not.  I want to wrestle it down and make it decide what it will be.  Black or White.  Take your pick, but those are your choices.

My way seems like a much simpler way to live, right?  Except the longer I try to live seeing only in black & white, the more blind I become.  Blind to a world full of complicated, broken people.  Blind to my own nuanced thoughts and emotions.  We are filled with great intentions and mixed motivations.  We are selfish and ambitious and generous and noble.  Nothing stays entirely black or white for long, it would seem.

It is naive and overly simplistic not to acknowledge shades of grey.  Sure, the resolution or decision or action step might be quite clear, but to acknowledge the grey in a given situation, at least for me, is to practice empathy.  It is choosing to enter in to a subjective perspective, often one very different than my own.  It is to affirm the heart of another, even when it might be misguided and camoflaged in hurt or deception. It is to see the world with eyes of redemption rather than judgement.

And I’m no good at any of it.  Empathy is decidedly not my strong suit.  Ask any family member of mine.  Actually, please don’t!  Just take my word on it!  I do not naturally empathize.  I am quite impressive at judging.  I have to work really hard to perceive grayscale at all!  I score almost a perfect zero in gifts of mercy on  a spiritual gifts test.  I am not kidding!  You do not want me making hospital visits, you do not want me as a counselor.  And while it’d be easy for me to leave the “grey” to others better suited for it, to do so would be disobedience.  I am called to see the world as it was intended to be and as it one day will be again.  To settle for anything less would be flatly reductionistic.  And no one, not even I, like to be reduced to the confines of black or white.  There’s a lot of life happening and ministry to be done in all these shades of grey.  And I don’t want to be blind to any of it.

Great Unmet Expectations

DISCLAIMER: To avoid a few potential unmet expectations about this post, let me say that these are thoughts I have largely regarding interpersonal communication in leadership. While I hope all this translates beyond the context I put it in, this is not so much about expectations you have of the Lord or even those that you have of yourself. For either of those 2 categories, I would much rather direct you to Pastor Jonathan Martin’s blog and/or podcasts!

Us leaders, we can get really frustrated (quite frequently) when those on our teams, whom we love and have invested a great deal of time, energy, prayer and resource into, seem to be falling short on a regular basis. Maybe it’s in the same areas, maybe not. Maybe it’s the same people, maybe not. Maybe it’s just not a “good fit” for them. Maybe you are hitting some spiritual resistance. Maybe they need more discipline or accountability or maturity. Maybe.

But maybe YOU, leader, are the problem. Or at least, part of it.

Because in my experience (and in Scripture, I should add) a good leader is always self-reflecting and looking for the conspicuous plank before becoming consumed with the irritating speck. When I do that, take a look at what I could do differently to facilitate change or growth in someone, 1 of 2 things is more often than not the case for me:

1. Either the expectation given wasn’t clear or wasn’t clearly communicated in ways that he or she could receive it.

OR

2. The expectation was unrealistic to begin with.

Either way, adjustment is required and must start with the leader.

When my husband, Nathan, and I were doing our pre-marital counseling 8+ years ago, our pastor at the time taught us the invaluable practice of repeating back to each other what we heard the other say. The point of the practice is to reveal discrepancies in what is actually being said versus what is being received. Doing this can be quite an enlightening experience! Even to this day we do this from time to time and it quickly clarifies the conversation. In leading people, we have to be sure that how & what we are communicating is actually computing the way we need it to! We ensure accuracy of the reception by speaking as plainly and directly as possible, by providing concrete examples, by giving written feedback and not relying solely on your verbal communication. We give plenty of room for dialogue and question asking. We define the “win” for them so they know what success looks like and how they know when they are moving toward it. We keep the expectation always in sight and revisit it from time to time.

But sometimes, no matter how clear a thing can be, it’s just not realistic. Clarity is no longer in question. It happens to all of us from time to time. We misjudge people’s abilities, underestimate the time & energy that is required to execute a particular assignment, or oversimplify the scope of a project. And in those times, we have to lead honestly enough to know when the disappointment or frustration we’re experiencing is of our own making.

Its never a fun thing to realize when you’ve set the bar too high or set it so ambiguously that you’re the only one who could see it. But remember that it’s certainly frustrating being the one trying to clear said bar and coming up short at every attempt. No one likes failing.

Do yourself and your team a favor by doing your part in limiting the potential for unmet expectations. For some of us that starts with committing not to create them in the first place!

Oh, and do me a favor and remind me of this post the next time you see me banging my head against the wall!

2011: The Year of the Executive Pastor

It’s been a big year for Renovatus.  Little did I know as 2011 came rolling in what a big year it’d be for me.

I won’t forget Pastor Jonathan calling me in to his office at the beginning of the year and telling me of his need for an Executive Pastor, of which we were all very aware.  The church had grown in complexity and he was being inundated with matters that hindered him from focusing on the things God had called him to do.  (And a good leader knows that delegating the things that others can do enables the leader to do the things that only he or she can do.  But more on that another day!) What I didn’t anticipate was his suggestion (and by suggestion I mean edict) that I become his Executive Pastor.  I anticipated I might be asked to assist the new Executive Pastor or help somehow in this new staff transition.  I wasn’t expecting to BE the transition.

Don’t get me wrong- I know an awful lot about Renovatus and how she runs!  I’ve worked at the church nearly since it’s inception over 5 years ago. It’s the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere, actually.  The first fours years I assisted Pastor Jonathan and managed the office, which is to say I did a little bit of everything except the preaching!  I have a solid grasp on Pastor’s vision and am completely committed to the mission we are on to join God in renovating lives.  In those ways I was more than qualified to be his XO (I’m an army brat…that’s military speak for Executive Officer- the guy that the guy counts on).  However, prior to that moment if you had asked me to describe an Executive Pastor, my honest descriptors would have been along these lines:

A middle-aged man with 10+ years experience in a corporate work environment, perhaps as a CFO or Vice President of Human Resources. Or maybe Director of Development at a national non-profit or something else with an equally as impressive title.  Oh, and holds two post-graduate degrees (MBA & MDiv preferably).

On paper, if I were the one recruiting for the position, that’s who I would’ve been looking for.  Fortunately for me, that wasn’t who Pastor was looking for and I wasn’t asked to find the next Executive Pastor, just to become her!  Needless to say, it has been quite an adventurous year.

And a good part of the adventure is in the sharing of it with others.  So, here are 4 of the many things I’ve picked up on along the way this year:

1.  The Lead Pastor determines the role & scope of the Executive Pastor.  What I mean to say is that the job is largely subjective.  It is contingent upon the strengths, needs, personality and preferences of the Lead Pastor.  It is a dynamic relationship with a number of variables and as such, the position will not look, but in fact be, very different from church to church.  Because of that, I want to work really hard to understand on every level what my Lead Pastor expects of me and how he defines what success looks like in my position at Renovatus.

2.  Executive Pastors Execute.  This is not one that I’ve had to learn, honestly.  I place a high premium on followership naturally, but I think is a very important point and can’t be overstated.  It is not uncommon to hear of power struggles between the Lead Pastor and his or her second in command.  This is almost always because of competing visions.   Scripture is very clear about respecting and submitting to those in authority.  The Lead Pastor is accountable before the Lord for the church, and as such, it is only appropriate that the vision he has be the one that is carried out.  If you cannot support that vision you will end up creating your own, even if only internally, and it will cause divisiveness in your life, and ultimately, in your church.  Trust God’s lordship over your pastor.  Loyally follow him as he follows Christ.

3.  Be Fiercely Protective.  In this position you are privy to a great deal of “scoop.”  For some reason, church people love to have the scoop, which means you are a walking target.  Discretion, tactfulness, propriety, and self-control are crucial.  Always speak honorably of others, specifically of your pastor and the staff.  The churches who battle the least with gossip and slander are the ones whose leadership has made it a non-negotiable to protect unity within the body.

4.  Be Intentional.  My first few weeks and months in the job were spent largely responding- to emails, to event details, to conflicts, to situations.  There will always be some measure of responding in any position.  However, I quickly learned that I would have to actively choose intentionality and then fight to keep it amidst the day to day chaos!  The position was new to the church and we were figuring out what it needed to look like and what areas needed my attention the most.  I couldn’t wait until things settled a bit, until the church calendar was a little lighter.  That day wouldn’t come. It would always be the default option to let the circumstances & crises of the day dictate my priorities.  That’s no way to lead.  Plan the work, work the plan and guard it like crazy unless the Lord or the Lead Pastor tells you to do otherwise!

There you have it.  4 of 5769+ things I’ve learned in 2011, my freshman year in executive leadership at Renovatus.  Here’s to 2012 being our best year yet.