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the burden is not mine {alone}

remember THIS? sixty-days later -- i'm happy to report, co-leading is going very well. 

here's the thing. i'd been acting and leading like the entire weight, the whole burden was mine alone to bear. i shouldered the responsibility and internalized the anxiety until the breaking point. 

and then, i broke. in a leadership team meeting. so, that was awesome. and, really, if you're going to emotionally break down anywhere, that's where you want to do it. JOKING. the boss asked how we were doing. i said i was stressed, and feeling anxious about the growth we were experiencing, and the volunteers who were coming-and-going, and could someone please pass a tissue or ten quickly. 

but, really, the whole thing was pretty great. my colleagues rallied around me {in addition to handing me endless tissues}, they jumped into action praying for the ministry and helping problem solve the growth problems. i felt loved and reminded {again} the burden is not mine alone. 

because, really, church at it's best is a mutual expression that involves BOTH giving AND receiving. so, imagine my delight yesterday as a key volunteer told me she'd been in a season of giving to others for a long time, and when her mom passed away recently, she watched as the church dove head first into caring for her. she's now experienced both giving + receiving in the church. LOVE.

so, i remind myself, you too, AMY. give to AND receive from the church.  

but, there's one thing we must be clear on -- sharing the burden DOES NOT mean that i shrug off responsiblity. or lead lazy. or wait for others to do what is mine to do. actually, just the opposite. i LEAD. but, i lead best and with strength and clarity when i determine what is mine alone and what is to be shared. because when i'm clear on these things, my impact becomes deeper, fuller, richer. 

since my co-leading epiphany, i've been meeting with my most trusted volunteers, asking for their help in co-leading various projects. i've been showing up to these meetings WITHOUT fully developed plans, just an idea and an ask to co-lead, strategize, figure out the plans with me. and, it's going well. yesterday, after 3 meetings with my best people, i realized i had very little follow up to do. the work was in their hands now. and, that's good. the way it should be. 

strong leadership = sharing the burden, co-leading, trusting, enlisting.

because, also, HIS burden is light. 


nothing is forever {city lessons}

i'm coming up on one year at Willow Chicago. insane, right? as the one-year mark approaches, i've been reflecting on the lessons i've learned leading and serving in this multi-cultural, urban context. and, let me say. there have been SO MANY lessons. from curriculum editing, to learning the rhythms of city families, to leading diverse volunteers. it's been a lovely, and super wild ride. 

the biggest lesson i've learned -- nothing is forever. 

and not even forever, really. in city ministry, nothing is promised for next month, or next week. because of the city's come-and-go transient nature, most people come to live in the city for a season. hopefully, summer if they're lucky. winter, if they're being punished by God. people come to the city for a job or school or for the experience of living in the CITY. there aren't many people who grew up in the city and stay. or move from the suburbs and plan to stay longterm living, working, raising families in the heart of the city. except for US. we're the crazy ones. we're here for good. 

of course, this affects my church, and my leadership. BIG TIME. first, volunteers. when i started last year, i thought about asking for a 1-year commitment. ha. i'm glad i didn't. i would have lost most of them by the end of that conversation. last week i had a conversation with a key leader who promised me she could lead at a higher level for 2 months. sold! TWO MONTHS. that's a long time, people. yesterday, we said goodbye to 3 key leaders who are moving next month. and, each sunday in july, we'll say goodbye to another leader or two who are moving/changing jobs/leaving the city. it's a little crazy, at times. but it's the way of the city. 

given this, i'm learning new tools for leading. the sheer management and admin work involved with volunteers who come-and-go is a lot. and for the last year, i've tried to do it all myself. story of my life. in the past, that's worked for me. well, not really. but, i've been able to manage/hide it better. in this context, i have no choice. i'm exhausted. so i'm working to employ new volunteers who will help take the load off. and, already i feel peace as i take steps towards asking others for help. 

each time a volunteer tells me they're moving, i'm reminding myself of the pattern i've seen thus far. as people move out -- new people move in. yesterday, 3 emails from folks moving into the city and looking to get connected via serving. i'm learning not to panic when someone announces they are leaving, but trust that new folks for new seasons of ministries are just around the corner. 

also -- i'm learning how to manage my emotional leadership energy. at the beginning, i gave my all. i took meetings and sent emails and made phone calls so new volunteers felt they were known and cared for and supported. and then a few volunteers moved after just ONE TIME serving. all that energy i gave, and they moved on. i took it personally, the first few times. then, i realized -- it's me, not them. i must give what's appropriate for the situation. enough leadership, enough relational energy for a season. not for a lifetime. 

city lessons. i love it -- this context is broadening my leadership strength in all sorts of ways.

thankful, always.  


on breakthroughs

lately, i've been experiencing a major leadership-block. our sunday morning children's program is growing like wild-weeds at willow chicago, and new rooms, new activities, new volunteer training is needed. BIG time. and, i've felt totally stumped.

what's been most frustrating is that prior to leading at willow -- this is the kind of thing i did EVERY DAY. as a consultant, i'd come alongside a church, understand their challenges, and develop a strategy for moving forward. of course, there are a million reasons why i haven't been able to access the consultant-problem-solving part of my brain. but, still, frustrating. 

and, if you've ever experienced something like writer's block, you know that the times when you try the hardest are usually the times you're least likely to experience a breakthrough. it's almost like all that pressure adds to the already-stumped-nature. 

yesterday, after another very full day at church, i declared enough was enough. at lunch, my husband told me to relax, take a nap, and trust that in time the solutions would come. he was right. so, i did the opposite. i needed to relax, but not in a nappy-way, rather in the proven, go-to way that always works for me in these situations.


for several hours, i walked around the city, all along my most favorite neighborhood, and i just noticed -- window displays and people and buildings and the weather. all of this helped me relax. as i walked, new thoughts came to mind. my eased mind helped me see the situation anew. i kept walking, kept noticing, kept taking notes, kept praying. after a few hours, a major breakthrough. 

here's the thing i'm reminded about breakthroughs -- they seem to come in response to hard work, God's leadings, and familiarity. there's just something magical about doing the same thing, going to the same place where the magic has happened in the past. it's like the familiarity gives the brain freedom to think, and see, and create. 

today, moving forward on my new plan. and, boy-oh-boy am i ever thankful. 

what do you say? how do you break through when you're stumped with a leadership challenge? 


Global Leadership Summit {CHICAGO}

i could not be more thrilled that my church, Willow Chicago, will be a host site for this year's Global Leadership Summit. i've been attending the Summit since i was 17, and each year i'm so grateful for the opportunity to grow my leadership at this world class event.

i attend conferences all year long -- mostly children + family ministry conferences. which are all great and super helpful. but, the Summit is different, a much-needed-breath-of-fresh-air. the Summit gives me the opportunity to reflect and challenge my leadership on deeper levels. because the event is not ministry specific, i'm free to make my own applications. i can take the learnings and incorporate them directly into my diverse context. i like that. 

also. for the first time, we're hosting the Summit at the Harris Theatre, located in the heart of the city. last week, we had a Summit site visit, which meant i walked through Millennium Park to get to the Harris Theatre. MILLENNIUM PARK. you know, the place people from all over the world come to visit. the Global Leadership Summit in the city. this is what dreams are made of. 

hope you'll join me -- August 14-15 in downtown Chicago. you won't want to miss it! use priority code LEAD14HS to receive the Willow Chicago Partner Rate of $99. must register by 7/19. 

{PS: read my take-away learnings from last year's event}


{cultivating} a culture of noticing

we're working hard to create a culture of noticing at willow chicago -- specifically on sundays as we interact with families. there's a special pattern to sundays, and we're finding that when you really LOOK at people and notice them and listen for the unspoken, magical-divine-like things happen. relationships grow and faith deepens, and really, that's the core of our business. kinda why we exist. 

here's what i've noticed, so far, about developing a culture of noticing-- 

i have to be in tune with and trust my gut. because growing my noticing muscles most often includes seeing the unseen, and hearing the unsaid. and, that's a challenge. BUT, so often my gut leads me in this. it's almost like my gut can see the unseen before my eyes can see. i'll feel off with someone, or wonder if there's more behind the story i'm hearing, or get a certain sense about a person, that, on the surface seems unfounded and illogical, and that's usually my cue -- there she is! the GUT.

when i'm in tune with my gut, and i sense a situation to be addressed, i pray, asking God for wisdom to see the unseen + courage to initiate conversation. my gut leads the way. and, i can trust the gut. last week, i felt really unsettled about a situation that god brought to my attention in a dream. it made NO sense. i felt ridiculous repeating it out loud to my boss. but, he's cool and God leads him in similar ways, so he advised i pray asking God to give me resolve about the situation. sure enough, a few nights later, after praying for resolve, i woke up to complete peace. divine-magical peace.  

i'm still unsure why the situation unfolded the way it did. of course, there were probably a million God-planned things going on behind the scenes, but trusting my gut {even when it seemed ridiculous} led to greater noticing, additional conversations, and in the end-peace. all good things. 

in cultivating a culture of noticing, it's important that i lead others to notice as well. the more notice-ers, the better. at the start of our sunday morning team huddle, i remind volunteers to really SEE families, to listen, to pastor, to notice. i remind them there's nothing too silly to notice. if they feel off with someone, or have a sense that a family needs a follow up conversation but they can't explain why -- that's ok. they can come to me with ANYTHING. we're notice-ers, that's what we do. 

i remind volunteers to ask parents how they are, how their commute was, how their kids are, and then look them in the eye, and really listen to their words. a few weeks ago, a volunteer asked a mom, during check-in, how her morning was going and she said not good. he told her he'd pray during the service that things would turn around for her. she came back, post-service, saying she had felt God's peace. simple. listen, notice, trust the gut, take risks in relationships.

cultivating a culture of noticing is key to growing faith. the act of noticing allows us to know, care for, and pastor folks in our communities. greater noticing = greater leadership.