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{creating} settle-in-time

it's a super busy meeting week for me -- so, i'm re-posting a few of my favorite posts about how to lead great meetings. of course, you know, i'm a NERD for smoothly run, on time, productive, creative, efficient meetings. but, don't hold that against me---i'm cool, too. happy monday! 


everyone needs some good ole' settling-in-time. before a meeting, before volunteering, before getting down to business, they need some time to get settled and to feel ready to participate. 

here's what i've noticed -- people walk into most meetings and need a good five minutes to get settled. they take their coats off, look for the perfect seat, search for a pen, and then{!} when i think they're finally settled and ready to start the meeting, they turn to the person next to them and say -- how was your weekend?! really. did you see "chat about weekend" on my beautiful agenda?

maybe this is obvious already -- but, allowing for settle-in-time does not come naturally to me. when i arrive at a meeting, i'm ready to go. ready to work. we can chat later. but, that's when i'm the leader. because i've already had my settling-in-time. i came early to the meeting, i put my coat away, i found my pen, printed the agendas, and mentally prepared for the meeting before i arrived. 

leaders settle in pre-meeting. participants settle in at the begining of the meeting. 

today: a few things i'm intentionally trying so that participants feel settled and ready to engage in meetings, and so that i feel less frustrated at the beginning of meetings.

build in the time. i'm creating agendas that allow a good five minutes for settling in. i'm not adding a new agenda line, but i'm mindful that the first agenda item also needs to account for settling-in-time so that folks can engage as the meeting starts. 

don't get panicky. let the settling-in-time settle. i notice that when folks are chatting, and looking for just the right seat, and not getting to the work of the meeting quickly enough, i start to feel panicky. i'm nervous we'll run out of time and won't get to everything we need to discuss. i try to tell myself -- this is good! this is the work of the meeting! people chatting, connecting, all good! 

move the meeting along. once it's time, move the meeting to the next topic. settling-in-time can easily turn into a thirty minute free for all, where everyone chats about everything. NOT GOOD. allow for settling, then move the meeting along. if someone does need to chat further, make a note and mention that you'll follow up post meeting. 

oh! oh! also! when it's time to move along, don't say -- let's get this meeting started. i'm so guilty of this! i do this every stinkin' freakin' meeting. settling-in-time is part of the meeting, it's part of the good work that's needed for everyone to fully engage. don't discredit that by implying that the real work of the meeting begins after this time. 

{creating} settle-in-time in order to lead effective, productive meetings. additional tips? 

oh! and, in case you're new to the blog. it's a little passion of mine to lead great meetings. i've previously written additional meeting related posts here. enjoy! 


discipleship {webinar}

a few months ago, i had the opportunity to participate in this INCM webinar with my friends matt + sam. take a listen as we each share our perspectives on discipleship.


on MLK {day}

today on MLK day. 

i promise to do all i can to help children notice + appreciate each other. to help them understand that we're all interwoven, connected, and affected by each other's well-being. 

i want kids to know the world is broken, unfair, and not the way God intended or hoped. that injustice, violence, and selfishness are not the ways of Jesus. ever. 

i promise, today, to remind + educate children so they know that God created them in his unique + beautiful image to contribute to the restoration of his kingdom on earth. 

that their differences, when matched together for the sake of greater collaboration + good, will actually change the world. towards greater love, fairness, kindness, peace. 

today on MLK day.

i recommit my life + ministry to the calling God has placed deep in my heart. to be a voice, advocate and champion of peace for the sake of children in my community. to risk greatly so that every child would know God's love fully, and see herself + himself in God's story. 

in the words of my favorite 5 year old -- "MLK worked to help fix things that were not fair." 

may we all do the same. 

 original image created by Molly Z. for willow chicago custom curriculum. ©Willow Chicago


follow me! {current FAVS}

for the month of january, at willow chicago, we're teaching lessons titled: Follow Me (stories of people who followed Jesus). i LOVE these lessons for so many reasons -- TOP of the list: we have the opportunity to show children that ALL people had + have access to jesus. following Him, being part of His inner circle is not limited to your race, gender, social class, etc. nothing better!

a few of my current favorite things from this unit:

Fishing Set --- we wanted a great fishing toy for our kids, given that many of the people who followed jesus were fishermen. and, let's be honest, land of nod has the best EVERYTHING for kids. so, when this toy went on sale, i scooped it up! if we had the right place to put a fishing curtain, i would have bought this, too!

Foam Stacking Blocks w/Photo Pockets --- i'm LOVING the addition of these photo blocks in our preschool classes. we're currently teaching lessons on people who followed jesus, and we were having trouble finding non-white disciple images. and then, THESE! we added our art to the pockets of the blocks -- thus making the toys a match with the curriculum!

and, this is what it looks like when you combine all the toys to make a new activity. disciples fishing in a giant pond made of brick walls. naturally. 

Kerplunk --- we made these kerplunk games as a small group activity. (they're simple utensil canisters!) after children had quiet time to reflect on how jesus was asking them to follow Him, they played kerplunk. each child had a turn to share how jesus was leading him/her, and then took out a straw. a fun way for kids to share!


Wikki Stix --- have you tried these? SUPER fun! last sunday, the kids shaped the stix to create the crowds that followed jesus. a great way to imagine what the people who followed jesus looked like. 

 now it's your turn---what are your current favorite things? SHARE! we all need new ideas!


on impact {one-by-one}

some days, i act like i'm the superhero CHICAGO has been waiting for. that somehow my prayers, actions, efforts are just what kids + families in the city need in order to feel loved, know jesus, turn from bad choices, and find meaning in their lives.


but, it is easy for me to feel down when my efforts appear not to be changing an entire city. 

these days, when attendance numbers get me down, or anxious thoughts take over my mind, i remind myself that true impact appears to happen life-by-life, one-by-one. one child, one volunteer, one family. not a CITY. one life, by one life. 

in my job as family pastor, i spend a good part of my day walking alongside families in crisis and chaotic seasons. as i imagine you do in your jobs, i see all types of families just trying to do their best, to not only provide food + shelter for their kids, but a brighter future than they had. 

recently, i was supporting a friend in family court. the courthouse might be the darkest place in the city: divorces, child custody disagreements, and a whole slew of ugly, domestic issues. watching the dissolution of family, specifically when it impacts children, really gets me down.

later that day, i walked from the courthouse back to church, feeling heavy hearted and discouraged. i wondered, what difference my effort was really making for the larger good of the world. i pray with people, i offer encouragement, i give advice, and still, on that day it felt like darkness was winning. 

and then, as always, God's spirit spoke to me. not in an audible way, but a quiet whisper in my soul as is often the case in my christian faith. his spirit whispered: one by one, i've asked you to care for, and offer love and kindness to your small community. you want to do big things, i want you to be faithful with each life. be present with one family, knowing that simple act of love will be enough. 

because, here's the thing. each of us, doing our small parts, our small acts of love and kindness will be enough when added together. none of can change the world for good all on our own. but, together, the power of community, each one being faithful to the church, neighborhood, business, village, God has placed us in, called us to, and empowered us to lead and serve, we will overcome evil. we can make a difference, but it will take all of us, offering a smile, a kind word, a forgivable spirit when mistakes are made, a gentle attitude, a generous heart for the poor, a listening ear to those different than us, grace for the unlovable, and above all, love for all. 

today, i'm committed to doing my part. not as a superhero for the city, but as a faithful leader for my community. BECAUSE, when we add together each one of our small parts -- there's the power! the magic! a city, a world might actually be changed for the better. 

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