The Kingdom Dream

I am currently attending the Annual Meeting for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Last night was the big kick off for the 132nd annual meeting, which is appropriately called Gather. We started with some amazing worship. The worship team led us in song and prayer before and after dinner. Then 3 people read the Scripture, Acts 1:1-11, in 3 different languages. That was super cool. Then, Al Tizon brought the message. Oh my goodness, it was SO good!

I want to give you some of my notes and my thoughts.

Al started with saying that Jesus is alive and on the move in God’s people through the Spirit all over the world. What a wonderful thought! Jesus is ALIVE. He is on the move in God’s people through the Spirit all over the world. This is something we see daily. It reminds me of all the good I see/saw in Haiti. This is something I see in the faces of the kids I work with at church. I see this in the faces and lives of my nieces and nephews. This is all so amazing, Yet, how can I help foster this movement in my community?

Al posed this question, “If God lived in your community, what would be different?” If we want to see and enduring transformation, it needs to being with dreaming the kingdom dream.

In Acts 1:3 we read, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (ESV). When Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was resurrected, he spoke about the kingdom. Jesus tried to instill the kingdom dream in his disciples. Yet, they still didn’t get it.

All throughout Scripture, we read about kingdom dreams of various Bible heroes. In Isaiah 65:17-25, we see Isaiah’s kingdom dream. In Revelation, we see John’s kingdom dream. The kingdom dream is very real – it’s not just a nice thought or ideal.

After Jesus presents the kingdom dream in verse 3 of Acts 1, He then tells the disciples to just wait for the Holy Spirit before they do anything. He warned them not to do anything on their own. Jesus doesn’t want us to do anything on our own. We need to make sure the Holy Spirit is moving in us to do something. When we try to do things on our own, we end up feeling like we’re beating our heads against a wall and we burn ourselves out, as well as those in our ministry.

All too often, I try to do things on my own. Jesus has been trying to tell me this a lot lately. As someone who struggles with severe anxiety and depression, I tend to try to keep control. I want to believe I am always in control. I all too often try to do things on my own. I wear myself out. I burn myself out.

Our church staff has been reading a book (we just finished it, actually) called Churchless by Barna & Kinnaman (2014). In the last chapter, they talked about churches leading with prayer, starting with the church leadership. As a member of the church staff, I consider myself to be part of church leadership. I have not been praying or living my own spiritual life, like I should be.

I am transitioning into a MUCH better time of life after wading through 2 very terrible years. Part of my personal journey has been working on healing. For those who don’t know, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have started to open up about this a lot more lately. Through all of the work I’ve been doing, I have had to spend time grieving relationships that will never be the way they should be. I spent all of 2015 grieving some of those important relationships. In 2016, I worked in a church where I was not a good fit. They hired me in haste and looking back I should never have accepted the position. That being said, I am grateful for the friendships I made and I know that something good will eventually come out of the work there. In my time of waiting last year, I grew tired and weary. I let my anxiety and depression take over and started trying to do things on my own. I lost sight of who I am in Christ. I lost sight of the kingdom dream.

I am now is a MUCH better place. I know that God has placed me in my current church. It’s the only way to explain how I ended up there. I have such a great vision for my current church. I see God doing some seriously amazing things. That’s not just in my current church where I see God doing amazing things. I see it in our country and the world.

We live in a very polarizing time where people seem to only identify through certain politics. As I scroll through my Facebook feed every day, it gets me down a bit. All I see is hate and negativity on all sides of the political spectrum. I heard a very respected ministry leader recently say that if God fits within your political ideals, then politics is your idol. I started to think about how so many people I know try to get God to fit in their political spectrum. God doesn’t have a political spectrum. Al reminded us last night that it’s not about the Israelite dream or the American dream. It’s about the kingdom dream. Jesus teaching is NOT about national greatness. While I could start a political tangent, I won’t. Just listen to Jesus and remember the kingdom dream. Sometimes, your faith will put you at odds with your political stances. That’s ok as long as you keep the kingdom dream what you’re striving towards.

The last part of the Scripture (Acts 1: 9-11), the disciples watch Jesus ascend into heaven. They continued to gaze up  into the sky when 2 angels appeared to them, asking them why they’re still looking into the sky. Essentially, they tell the disciples to move on, stop gazing at the sky because Jesus will come back just as he left, but we don’t know when that will be.

We can’t just stand and gaze up into the sky. We need to engage the poor and oppressed. We need to live out Micah 6:8 – love mercy and do justice. We need to love our neighbors as ourselves, even when it’s hard. We live in polarizing times, yet God is at work. Don’t settle for a lesser dream than the kingdom dream.

 

Featured photo courtesy of Free North Church.

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Resource Review: Owlegories

I have known and played around with the original Owlegories app for several years. I like that the app has updated and added more over the years. It’s a fun way of teaching our kids faith plus science. From the Owlegories website, “You can tell a lot about an artist by what he creates. That is the theme behind Owlegories, the animated series. Owlegories teaches kids about God through the amazing things found in nature and revealed in God’s word. The banner verse for Owlegories is Psalm 19:1-4:  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Over the years, the creators have added more to Owlegories, including 2 other apps! There’s now the Owlegories TV app and the Owlegories Memory Verse app. What a fun way to teach your kids about God and nature/science.

I’ve just had my first experience watching the animated series. While the animation isn’t something like you would get from the big studios, it isn’t terrible. I like that they have a recap at the end, which brings the faith point and science together. After that, a guest – typically a well known person in ministry – gives a 2-3 minute talk to help make the point relatable. The first episode had Dr. Tony Evans, another has Si Robertson, and Jennie Allen to help connect these ideas with kids. I also like that there’s a Bible verse for each episode.

Each episode follows 5 young owls (Joey, Gus, Nora, Violet, and Twitch) as they learn from Professor Owlester. They go on an adventure in each episode. Of course, there is a bad guy, Devlin, in every episode. However, he’s not super scary. I think kids can handle him.

This is a great series for kids – especially younger kids – to watch. I find it super cute – especially because it’s owls. The animated series is available to watch instantly on Amazon Prime. You can also purchase the DVDs online or in stores such as Wal-Mart, Lifeway Christian Stores, or Amazon.com. This series is a win for kids – as is the original app. You don’t have to worry about kids getting a wrong message or learning about things they shouldn’t be. I give this series/app a huge thumbs up!
Featured photo from a review post by Melissa Nesdahl. 

 

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Getting Out of the Boat

Oceans is probably one of the most popular worship songs over the last couple years. It’s a song penned from one of my absolute favorite passages of Scripture, Matthew 14:22-33: 

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”” (ESV)

The story of Peter’s faith – and the doubt or lack of faith. 
In the bridge of Oceans it says, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander, that my faith would be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” A year or so ago I read a post from Annie F. Downs about why we should stop singing Oceans. Annie reminds us that when we sing this bridge, we are asking the Holy Spirit to lead us to a place where our trust is without borders – this song is a prayer. Those borders He can lead us to come in a variety of ways – geographic, economic, racial, religious, social, political, and so forth. Annie asks her readers, “If you will ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to where your trust is without borders, do you actually mean that?” 

A similar question was posed to me while in Haiti – except it was about the hymn I Surrender All. When we sing that, are we really willing to surrender all? Will you surrender your spouse, children, finances, job, etc.? I’d like to think that yes, we would. Giving up control (even the idea that we’re in control) is not something we like to do. I’ve fought God on this one. I’m getting to a point where I’m finding and learning total peace when I surrender all. As a military spouse, this is really hard. During my husband’s last deployment, I almost flat out refused to surrender my husband to God for fear of something terrible happening. God showed me time and again that He’s got my back! As I write this, it’s early in the morning and my husband is sound asleep next to me. 

When we ask the Holy Spirit to lead us where our trust is without borders, then we have to surrender all to Jesus. Ever since reading Annie’s post about it, it’s what I reflect on every time I hear and/or sing Oceans. It’s that reflection that brings me to tears. I want to live my life in total surrender to Jesus. I want to go where He wants me. I want to have a faith so deep that if Jesus calls me to get out of the boat, that I will walk on water toward Him. I also know I’m human and I’m a sinner. I let my doubts and fears sometimes become bigger than my faith. 

Often times, when the waters get rocky, instead of trusting, I start fearing and doubting. I try to make that bridge part of Oceans my prayer and mean it, but then I get afraid of what that means. I let my faith become shallow like Peter did as he walked on the water. 

One of the reasons I love this story about Peter, is because I think it’s a perfect example of how we, as Christians, really experience our faith journey. We keep our eyes on God during the easy times. Even small storms we stay focused on Jesus. But what about the big storms where the wind is scary and the water we’re walking on gets choppy? Do we stay focused on Jesus or do we let fear and doubt get the best of us? Friends, even as Peter looked away, Jesus saved him. Jesus will be there for us when we fall. We just have to be willing to let Him help us back into the boat. 

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Two Are Better Than One

While at CM Connect 17, my good friend Heidi gave a message on the main stage. She focused on the Scripture passage Ecclesiastes 4. Ministry has to be a calling – it cannot be just another job. Even when you’re living into your calling in Ministry, it can be very hard and exhausting. I think, personally, that sometimes those of us who are living into our calling are also in bigger need of a support system because we know that Satan does not want us to live into our calling. Satan wants to keep us from furthering the kingdom of God. Spiritual Warfare is real, my friends, and we need to make sure we are prepared for the battle.

Heidi explained that when we are at work, 2 are better 1. That is because the work we do – ministry – is NOT about us. It’s about God/Jesus. It shouldn’t be about us. If we are doing the work by ourselves, we identify that “I did that” instead of “God did that”. Ecclesiastes 4: 9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (ESV). The NIV says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” When we work together, when we are in ministry because we are living into our calling – furthering the kingdom of God – we are sowing good seeds. We are laboring. Ministry is a Team Sport. It’s not something someone can do by themselves – not effectively. There are those who try and want to do ministry by themselves, but it doesn’t produce good fruit. The return for the labor of one person will not be anywhere near what the return of the labor of two or more is.

Two are better than one because if one falls, the other is there to help him up. Friends, we are not perfect people. We are a fallen people. We all sin. The only exemption of that is Jesus. We will fall. I fall all the time. I am so glad to have the ministry support system that I have. They catch me more times than they know. Outside of my co-workers at church, I have 5 very close friends that I can count on to help me up when I fall.

Often times, though, we have warning lights before a big fall. We need to pay attention to those warning lights just like we pay attention to the warning lights in our cars. We need to have people in our lives that also know when our warning lights are coming on. 1 Corinthians 10: 12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (ESV). The key word in this verse is thinks. We need to be paying attention to our warning lights. We need to know that we are standing because we are not doing this on our own or for ourselves. When our friends tell us of our warning lights, we need to be ok with that and not get upset. We need to take heed so that we don’t fall.

Further in Ecclesiastes 4, we know that two are better than one because a second person will help us when we are cold. Do you know what your spiritual temperature is? Are you spending time in the Word every day? What about prayer? Are you actually building into your relationship with God? These are all indicators of our spiritual temperature. 2 Timothy 2:6 says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands,” (ESV). Encouraging and affirming each other in ministry is fanning into another’s flame. One of the many reasons (and this is on the lower part of the list) that I love my “new” church (I’ve been there less than 2 months) is that my pastor, my co-workers, my volunteers, and the rest of the congregation affirm and encourage me every chance they can. Not only are they doing this for me, but they do this for each other. I also try to do this for them.

In Family Ministry – especially with kids and youth – we have volunteers that are in the trenches every week. I want my volunteers to know that I truly appreciate them, that they are amazing for what they are doing. I want to affirm and encourage them as much and as often as possible. I want to fan into their flame. As you go through your week, look around your “playground” and see who is falling. Hand out encouragement! That encouragement will keep you warm. Encouragement is warmth. Sometimes, in the more tough times in ministry, encouragement can be the only thing to keep you going. I’ve been in spots like that and to be honest, it sucks. But the encouragement is needed and it keeps you warm.

As I mentioned earlier, we need to be prepared for battle. Spiritual warfare is very real. Satan wants to bring us down. When there is just one of us in the battle, we can be overpowered. However 2 can defeat it. I’m a veteran. While I never saw combat, I did serve. I know that in order to be combat ready, you cannot do it alone. The military requires teamwork.

There will be times when  you think you are going to land, but instead you’ll find that you are going to crash. I had this experience in ministry. I took a position where I thought I was landing, but instead, I crashed. I crashed hard. My spiritual temperature dropped, I fell, and I didn’t have a team to work with. Thankfully, I had a support system that prayed for me and helped me. They encouraged me, which kept me warm during the cold times. They were my battle buddies.

We have our battle buddies, but at the same time we still need to prepare ourselves for battle. Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us to put on the whole armor of God. However, even with armor, we have an uncovered part of our body – our back. When I was in the Army we did MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training. We trained to watch our buddies’ backs. Why? Because it’s the one area that is not covered. Why is the back not covered? There’s 3 reasons: 1 – mobility reasons, 2 – you NEVER retreat, and 3 – you don’t go it alone in battle. There’s a level of trust you have to have with your battle buddies when you go to war. Battle buddies. We need them to survive the war. We need to be able to trust them, be transparent with them, and be close to them. Be a friend. Be an encourager. Win the war. Add Jesus as your third cord, and the strand cannot be easily broken.

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St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Actually, it’s technically the feast day of St. Patrick. From Catholic Online, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was actually born in Roman Britain, but was captured by Irish pirates. He was taken to Ireland where he was a slave – working as a shepherd. Patrick was held captive in a land of pagans until he was about 20. 

After returning home, he had dreams & visions about returning to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick did just that. Of course, there’s now differing legends about what happened after he returned to Ireland. He did preach & convert pagans in Ireland for 40 years. March 17 is the anniversary of his death.

Patrick loved God with all of his heart, mind, & soul. He wrote about it. One of his poems, The Breastplate prayer, is one that all Christians have come to know. 


This is just a portion of this prayer. I think it’s quite evident that St. Patrick wholly loved God. He even used the Shamrock to explain the idea of the Trinity.

While I am not Catholic or Irish, I believe we should celebrate the life of St. Patrick – not necessarily in our ways of partying and drinking. However, St. Patrick is such a great example of someone who loved God wholly.  He wanted to be bound to Christ. 

Here’s the whole St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer:

I bind unto myself today

The strong Name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.

By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;

His baptism in the Jordan river;

His death on Cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spicèd tomb;

His riding up the heavenly way;

His coming at the day of doom;*

I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power

Of the great love of the cherubim;

The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,

The service of the seraphim,

Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,

The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,

All good deeds done unto the Lord,

And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the starlit heaven,

The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

The whiteness of the moon at even,

The flashing of the lightning free,

The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

The stable earth, the deep salt sea,

Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today

The power of God to hold and lead,

His eye to watch, His might to stay,

His ear to hearken to my need.

The wisdom of my God to teach,

His hand to guide, His shield to ward,

The word of God to give me speech,

His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,

The vice that gives temptation force,

The natural lusts that war within,

The hostile men that mar my course;

Or few or many, far or nigh,

In every place and in all hours,

Against their fierce hostility,

I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,

Against false words of heresy,

Against the knowledge that defiles,

Against the heart’s idolatry,

Against the wizard’s evil craft,

Against the death wound and the burning,

The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,

Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,

The strong Name of the Trinity;

By invocation of the same.

The Three in One, and One in Three,

Of Whom all nature hath creation,

Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:

Praise to the Lord of my salvation,

Salvation is of Christ the Lord.


As we celebrate this day by wearing green and pretending to be Irish (unless you are Irish then you’re not pretending), let’s also remember the example that St. Patrick left for us. He loved God with his whole being and his ministry was evident of that.

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CM Connect Breakout Session – Slow Motion: How Slowing Down Will Move Your Ministry Forward

Something that has been coming up over and over again, is the notion of slowing down. Just yesterday, I was text messaging with a friend. She commented that I am the busiest person she knows. That’s saying a lot because this particular friend is a mom of two under age 4, a small business owner, an army wife, someone who is involved in her church, and so much more. While I know she didn’t mean for it to sound as a not so good thing, those few words made me stop and think. Busy.

I have a tendency to fill my calendar so full that if I try to jam anything else in, something falls. I have a tendency to book myself to be in 3 different places at the same time without even thinking about it. I try to keep it all straight, but I often fail. I do this, not just in my personal life, but in ministry also.

I had the privilege to sit in a breakout session presented by April Jackson from Group Publishing. It was called Slow Down: How Slowing Down Will Move Your Ministry Forward. Talk about good timing! April gave us 4 principles to slow down so we can move forward called S.T.O.P.

  • Spend time with God each day
  • Take time to listen
  • Organize with structure
  • Practice Daily Reflection

Spending Time With God Each Day

When we talked about spending time with God each day, I absolutely loved the idea of making sure I write an appointment with God each day in my planner – in ink. I live by my planner. The thought of writing this in ink in my planner every day is just amazing and crazy and mind-blowing, for me. I prefer to write things in pencil because of the fact that I tend to over-schedule myself and because with my crazy schedule, things get moved on a constant basis. I’m also a military spouse and a veteran, so I know that things will change multiple times before these things happen. Writing them in ink says a lot. It means this IS going to happen.

Another item in this category is to recognize long lines in the grocery store as an opportunity for a few deep breaths and a time to listen for the voice of God. This is a great time to practice breath prayers. I started to think, as we talked about this particular point, “You want me to be patient in a line at the grocery store? I don’t have time for that. I’ll find the shortest line, thank you.” I am learning to change my thinking on these things. Not only is a line in the grocery story a chance to listen for God’s voice, but it’s also a chance to talk to the person in front of or behind you – a new opportunity to show the love of God – to be the light, so that when others see you, they see God.

Taking Time to Listen

We talked about listening to understand versus listening to respond. I am guilty of listening to respond more than listening to understand. How often in ministry are we listening to parents or volunteers or even our pastors and thinking of our response as they’re talking instead of listening to understand and process? We have all the answers, right? I don’t think so. It is always good to clarify what the speaker is saying. I have been working to retrain myself to listen to understand. Sometimes I will say back to the speaker, “So what I am hearing is….” in order to make sure I am understanding what they are saying. It is also god to ask, “Is this what I hear you saying?” or “Do you mean…..?”. At the end of a discussion, it is always good to summarize it so that everyone is on the same page.

Organize with Structure

I consider myself to be an organized person. I have some OCD tendencies, but sometimes in ministry, I can lose that structure. April gave us some suggestions for organizing meetings with these questions:

  • Where are we going? (This is a team mindset)
  • Where are you going?
  • What is going well?
  • Where can we improve?
  • How can I help you?
  • How can you help me? (How can I be an effective leader?) – this shows you are willing to grow and that you  have a teachable spirit

Structure forces us to slow down and think. It also helps us to reach our goals. Sometimes in my strive for perfectionism ( I am so guilty of this, as you may have read in one of my Haiti trip blog posts), I do not want to ask the question, “How can you help me?” in the meaning of asking how I can improve and grow. Sometimes I am not open to constructive criticism. I’m working on that. I know that I cannot be an effective ministry leader if I am not open and receptive to constructive criticism. I don’t have all the answers. Notice I said constructive criticism. This does not mean I need to be open and let myself get hurt with criticism from those who are saying harsh things out of angst or not getting their way. That is not constructive criticism.

Practice Daily Reflection

As a young teacher, I learned to often reflect on my performance of the day. Could I have done something differently to be more effective? Was I fully engaged? What worked or didn’t work? We did this in the Army too – it was called an After Action Review (AAR). April gave us some other questions we can ask ourselves at the end of each day:

  • Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  • Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals?
  • Did I do my best to find meaning?
  • Did I do my best to be happy?
  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  • Did I do my best to be fully engaged?

These are some excellent questions to ask ourselves at the end of the day. In the handout we got for this session, they used a rating scale of 1 to 10 for each question. This was adapted from Trigger by Marshall Goldsmith & Mark Reiter. This is a good thing to follow. I don’t know if you personally need the 1-10 scale, but at least ask yourself these questions and answer yourself honestly.

Be honest with yourself in your reflections. Sometimes that’s the hardest part. Sometimes it’s also too easy to be your own harshest critic. As you find yourself reflecting at the end of the day, don’t forget to reflect on God’s word. This can help to keep you balanced. It can help you to be honest with yourself and not be too hard on yourself.

 

Rest in the Lord. I am going to add something in addition to what we learned with April. Try to take a day of silence and solitude at least once a quarter – once a month if possible. As leaders in ministry, we need this. We need it to be refueled and renewed. In another session, Heidi M. Hensley talked about making sure her volunteers, staff, and herself get to a worship service over their weekend so that they are being fed. That can be hard to do in ministry – especially if you’re at a smaller church with fewer services and less volunteers. Something I’ve found is that there are some local churches with Saturday services that I can attend. Crossroads is a mega church in Cincinnati. It’s 5-10 minutes from my house. I try to get there on Saturday evenings where I can worship Jesus completely undistracted. If I don’t make it there, I subscribe to their podcast which will download the video to my phone each week. In addition to that, my new church posts the sermons to our website on Monday afternoons, so I can go home on Monday evening and watch the sermon. Recently, in a KidMin group on Facebook, a known and respected ministry leader posed a question about doing a live stream worship service for those of us in ministry – something we can come together for virtually. I love that idea. We need to take care of our own personal faith journey. That is going to require us to slow down. When we do this, I believe we will see great growth in our ministry and ourselves.

 

Slow down. Rest. Reflect. Breathe.

 

Posted in CM Connect, Family Ministry, Group Publishing, Listening, Ministry, Relationship, worship | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s all about Relationship

Relationships. That’s how we’re to build our ministry. Makes sense, right? Then why is it that so many churches are getting this wrong? There’s been a post going around about what Millennials are seeking from churches and why they aren’t attending churches anymore. One theme I picked up on was that Millennials are seeking relationship.

If we’re preaching relationship, then why are we so bad at doing it? Jesus was all about the relationship. There are many examples throughout the Gospels where Jesus practiced relationship. He had an inner circle of 3 friends: Peter, James, & John. John was his absolute closest friend and most trusted confidant. Jesus also had his 12 disciples. They spent a lot of time building relationship with each other and then building relationships with the multitudes that followed them and Jesus everywhere they went.

If we KNOW relationships, we KNOW ministry. However if we have NO relationships, we have NO ministry. To be honest, I haven’t always been best about building relationships in my ministry, which is why at that time, there was no ministry.

The nice thing about building relationships is that it also builds a sense of trust. When the day comes and you mess up, because that day will happen (it does for me, often), when you have a relationship with people in your ministry area, they are more gracious and forgiving than if you don’t have that relationship with them. Relationship are the FOUNDATION of your ministry. In my last church, I had a difficult time building relationships with the families. As a result, the foundation of my ministry there easily cracked.

Building relationships with the kids in your ministry area is equally important. Just because they are little doesn’t mean they don’t matter. When kids in your ministry area KNOW that you truly love and care, they are much easier to work with. According to Dan Jenkins, who ran the breakout session on relationships, when kids know that you truly love and care about them, it’s easier to discipline them instead of constantly being on them to keep their hands to themselves or whatever the case may be.

One huge piece of building relationships is learning to listen. Listen to the parents. Listen to the kids. Listen to your team. Listen to your co-workers and pastors. Don’t just hear them, but listen. Force yourself to slow down and listen instead of thinking of what you want to say next. This is hard to do, but it is good practice and it goes a long way with those in your ministry. I can attest to this. When you listen, instead of just hearing, you can discover what the needs are in your ministry area and build on those. Listening builds relationship.

Greeting families when they are dropping off and picking up kids is a great way of showing you care and building relationship. Heidi Hensley, in another breakout session, talked about greeting families while wearing the giant overstuffed Mickey Mouse hand. Kids know and love that Mickey Mouse hand. I ordered myself one of those after listening to her talk about that. I cannot wait to see the looks on the kids’ and their families’ faces when I stand by the door wearing my big Mickey hand (not to mention the looks on the faces of the rest of the congregation).

I’ve recently transitioned into a new and smaller church. I’m super excited to be there. Our council is doing a book study together of “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” and it lead to conversation about our behavior types via the DiSC assessment. I am a C when it comes to this stuff – I am introverted, analytical, very detail and task-oriented. Sometimes, because of that, relationships can be overlooked. I have to intentionally work at it. I know that sounds weird for a children’s pastor to say that, but it is true. Now, as far as my personality goes, according to Myers-Briggs, I’m an ENFJ – an extrovert. It should be easy for me to be relational and to build on that. While I am extroverted, my anxiety and my need for everything to be right and perfect and detailed often gets in the way.

Relationships don’t take details and don’t need to be perfect. They can’t be perfect because we are human and we are a fallen people. Thankfully, God gives us grace and forgiveness. He is a God of mercy and grace. The number one relationship we really need to foster and work on is our own personal relationship with God. We need to be working for Him, an audience of 1. When that is in place, it will be easier to make and maintain relationships. God designed us to be relational, starting with our relationship with Him. The entire Bible is full of examples of God being relational. Look at His relationship with Moses and Abraham and Noah and David and Daniel and Jesus. Just as God had relationships with those Bible “heroes”, God wants to have relationship with us.

When we build on our relationship with God and with others, we can help others to have that same relationship with God. Relationships matter. Relationships are connecting with one another and helping them to connect with God.

 

***Featured image from Vertabalo***

 

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