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Pastor Math

i love being a pastor. i love providing care for people. i love offering an encouraging word, a practical resource, a listening ear, helpful advice. most days, i'm in complete awe that people trust the church in their darkest seasons, and are open to receive help and care.  

i'm working hard to become a better pastor. i'm observing my teammates, who pastor so well. i'm reading books. mostly, i'm practicing, gaining experience in handling new situations.  

here's the bottom line, for me, anyway. to be better a pastor, i've got to be a better receiver.  

that's Pastor Math.  

give + receive = mutual blessing / community / shared pastoring  

brene brown says {of course, brene. love, love, love.} -- if you're great at taking care of everyone around you: making meals, praying, hospital visits, but you can't receive care when you're most in need, you really aren't as great as you think you are at giving care.  

if you can't receive care without judging yourself {i should be stronger than this. i can take care of myself.} then, at some level you're judging others when offering care {she should be stronger than this. i can't believe she can't take care of herself.}  

to grow in giving, i must grow in receiving. for me, that's being open with where i'm lacking and have need, receiving feedback, practicing honest vulnerability, and not feeling embarassed when others provide practical care for me.  

that's just good Pastor Math.  

because, my giving {pastoring} can never be as pure, intentional, helpful as i hope without receiving the same type of care from trusted friends, family, my faith community.  

we are chosen, blessed, and broken so as to be given. it is only as people who are given that we can fully understand our being chosen, blessed and broken. in the giving it becomes clear that we are chosen, blessed and broken not simply for our own sakes, but so that all we live finds its final significance in its being lived for others. -- Henri Nouwen

rest > work {practically speaking}

i'm trying, desperately, to re-orient my life. first: play, life, relationships. second: work. it's not easy. un-doing a life of work as priority and identity is proving quite the challenge. my high school band director {NERD ALERT} always said that it took 21 days to form a new habit. he's a liar. it's taken 21 days for me just to remember what i'm trying to do. hopefully, the next 21 will prove to be more successful. baby steps. just like learning to play the oboe. {seriously, NERD.}

this week's goal: trying to not see my life, or days, as either work or non-work. i want to see my life as LIFE. which means, equal parts work and non-work every day. 

i've noticed that i mentally divide the week into work days {sun-thurs} and non-work days {fri-sat}. work days are disciplined -- good sleep, good eating, no frills, no extras. non-work days are FUN! eating out, exploring the city, staying up late and sleeping in. i'm not sure how i got here, but i'm looking for integration, an equal balance each day of work and non-work, discipline and fun. 

practically, speaking, a few things that are proving helpful:

len sweet's new book the well played life has been BIG time helpful. highly recommend. 

tried a new restaurant with kelly on tuesday night. WHAT? reserved only for weekends. 

baby steps. people. 

experimented with a new workout routine in order to focus my body + mind. yesterday, tried this. {as encouraged by my favorite gal.} i NEVER work out on sundays after church. but, yesterday's workout helped to fuel last night's non-work time, and this morning's work time.

we took a mini-vacation day on saturday to our favorite beach. we usually reserve beach trips for longer vacations, but a full day away felt like a week, and led into good energy for a busy work week. 

that's all for now. tiny, tiny steps. advice or suggestions? i'll take it HAPPILY.


GLS 2014

i'm in full processing, full heart, fully challenged Global Leadership Summit mode. for the first time, last week, we hosted the Summit at Willow Chicago, which allowed us to bring our very own volunteers and key leaders for the first time, which of course, was the highlight of the time for me.

i've attended the Summit for a super-super long time, possibly my first event was in 1996, while serving as a Promiseland Coach. i've attended every year since, minus a few years when my parents scheduled our family camping trip during the event -- including the year BILL CLINTON spoke. i have such a clear, funny memory of bowling with my entire family during a raining day somewhere in Canada at the exact time BILL was taking the stage, and all sorts of secret service excitement was happening in barrington. i've since forgiven my parents. {hi, MOM!}

i have all kinds of things to say about this year's event. first, truly, the unsung heroes of any learning conference, always, are the content developers. the way they shape the experience by guiding speakers, the content, and the full event experience is magical. if, at the end of an event, you feel as if you've been on a continuous journey, and that you've been moved from one point to another, that's due to a talented content developer who worked hard to make that happen. the Summit, this year, was next level, content magic. every speaker, every word, every session so intentional. 

next, BILL HYBEL'S opening session was SO GOOD. his words on resourcefulness as the leader's secret weapon is my key take-away. he gave permission for leaders to not have all the answers, to not always know the path, but to instead develop the skill of resourcefulness by exhibiting creativity, collaboration, determination when faced with a new path. excellent. 

also, WILFREDO de JESUS on knowing the needs of your community, and responding to those needs was so personally meaningful for me. i don't want to make ministry complicated, because really, it's so simple. know your people, know the community, and walk towards need, demonstrating love + grace + care. this will be my anchor as i move into this new ministry season. 

JOSEPH GRENNY, a star, of course. his crucial conversations book has been instrumental in shaping our staff culture -- in which we give each other real time, honest feedback, always. if you haven't yet seen this talk, specifically, HIGHLY recommend. 

and, and, and. PATRICK LENCIONI. always, my favorite. his presentation style, his leadership wisdom, all of it. his session on the most dangerous mistakes leaders make was SO good. all 3 mistakes undergirded with themes of servant leadership, humility, vulnerability, and THIS, "when leaders calculate ROI, it's just economics. if it's not servant leadership, it's just economics because the only real payoff for leadership is eternal." STOP. and, "the best leaders show their sweat, their humanity. you can't be too vulnerable as a leader. that's how folks trust you." so good. 

finally, being with your team at a conference is very good. i had inklings about what the event might mean for each person, but really, i had no idea what God might do in each person's spirit. grateful heart today for my team, for new challenges, and much-needed inspiration for the road ahead.  


eliminating {let me know}

it's been three years since i first wrote the post below, and still it's one of my most valuable starting places as i provide care and blessing for those in my church. in my role as family pastor, i use {eliminating let me know} as my guiding rule when i'm thinking about how to respond to a family in need, or communicate with a volunteer. may it be helpful for you, too--

{repost: june, 2011}

i'm trying to eliminate the phrase let me know from my vocabulary. 

here's what i've found. the phrase let me know in most situations doesn't accomplish what i'm hoping for. it allows for vagueness, stalling, and sometimes even backwards motion. i'm trying instead to spend my energy thinking of more direct phrases.

for example: when someone at church has a baby, we often say "congrats! i'd love to bring you dinner. let me know when a good time would be, and let me know what you would like to eat." woa. that's a lot of mental energy for brand new parents. in order to receive a tasty meal, the new parents have to look at their calendar, call their meal provider, decide what they'd like to eat, and get the house ready. way too much effort. instead, what if we said, "i'd like to bring you a meal on either tuesday or thursday. how's 6:00? i'm thinking chicken fajitas. will this work for your family?"

see my point? usually, the person who says let me know has the option instead to offer a more direct question in order to eliminate additional work for the other person.

example #2: in the church, we often ask committed volunteers to step up their involvement. we'll say, "you're wonderful. and great. would you like to do more for the ministry?" hopefully the committed volunteer answers YES! then, we say "great! let me know what you'd like to do. we'll chat more later." and, you know what happens next. nothing. lots of excitement for zero forward movement. instead, what if we approached volunteers with specific roles in mind, and encouraged them to pray and respond. we do the work, so they are empowered to give a good answer.

eliminating let me know. i'm trying hard. somedays it's easier to simply say let me know and hope for the best. today, i'm trying a more direct approach.


on managing {various} types of energy

these days, i'm all about paying attention to my energy levels, and doing my best to manage the various types of energy i'm expending throughout the day. i'm a nerd. i'm aware. 

let's be clear. good energy really boils down to the quality of that first, great, iced-coffee of the day. bad morning coffee (or, worse! no morning coffee) = bad energy. it's simple, people. 

i've noticed -- in my job, there are different types of energy i need to expend throughout the week: People (one-on-one pastoral/leadership conversations), Thinking (high level, vision, long-term planning and problem-solving), Team (meetings in which I'm a contributor), Get-It-Done (tasks), and Sunday (game day, and a combo, really, of all the other categories). 

for me, recognizing the various types of energy and then planning my days accordingly has been the key. i've found that i work best, with the most mental clarity when i organize my days based on the different types of energies. currently, here's how my week looks:

MONDAY: Team, Get-It-Done -- i participate in staff meetings, and follow up on sunday related items. on sundays, i expend a lot of energy, so i need mondays to re-set, accomplish simple tasks, and participate well as a team contributor.  

TUESDAY: People -- i schedule all of my one-on-one pastoral and leadership conversations for this day: volunteer, parent, and staff planning meetings. expending my people energy on one day is exhilirating + exhausting (let's be honest), but it allows me to stay present and focused when i'm moving from one conversation to another, without the pressure or distraction of completing tasks in between. on my to-do list for tuesdays, i list: "Fully engage in meetings. Follow up post meetings." that's it. if i accomplish those things, i've been successful. also, this week, i'm experimenting with not checking email on tuesdays as an attempt to increase my mental presence with people.  

WEDNESDAY: Thinking -- this day, wednesday, could also be known as the anti-tuesday. i set aside this day for no meetings, and all-thinking. i arrive early to my favorite coffee shop and spend the entire day developing long-term ministry plans, researching new ideas, and pursuing partnerships. for this week, i have: further develop 2014-2015 ministry plan, finalize volunteer chart, and write global leadership process questions on my wednesday to-do list. all things i'll need plenty of space to think about. also! when a high-level question arises during the week, i don't have to panic about not having immediate answers. i can add it to the wednesday list, and know i'll have time to think through a creative, wise solution.  

THURSDAY: People, Get-It-Done -- because being a pastor requires more than just one full day of people, right? right. as i've been paying attention to my energy levels, i've noticed that i'm energized on thursday mornings (due to the energy that wednesdays give me), but exhausted by thursday afternoons (due to thursday being the final day of my work week). because of this, i'm trying to expend people energy in the mornings, and task-get-it-done energy in the afternoons. (as an aside: this post -- fantastic! a defnite encouragement for remaining present with people.) 

SUNDAY: Sunday -- the day all of the energies meet together. greeting, noticing people. following up, connecting on conversations. inspiring, informing volunteers. implementing curriculum, activities. because sundays are super-high-energy, i'm experimenting with ways to relax and transition on sunday afternoons and evenings. i've experimented with mindless activities (grocery shopping, errands) and mindful activities (continuing to work on tasks related to the upcoming week). but, neither have been just right. i picked up this book in hopes it would inspire new ideas. seriously, when it comes to this topic, my nerd status has no limits. 

final note. managing and scheduling my days according to energies is a helpful, mindful way for me to be productive and present throughout the week. of course, the life of a pastor always contains some level of unpredictability. this schedule is ideal, for me. but, not always the way the week actually goes. i must hold the ideal and the actual in tension, recognizing the good in both. 

cheers to this week, and all that it will bring (coffee, included).