A month ago, I had the privilege to return to Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI for a 6-month check-up and continuing education. This year’s Transition into Ministry (TIM) Summit theme was ominously titled “(dis)organiZed.” According to the invitation trailer, the premise for the Summit is that ministry is sometimes like playing with LEGOs. (I’m already 100% in, by the way. I love LEGOs!). Imagine buying a massive bin of LEGOs, only to pour it out all over the floor, and discover there are no instructions!
Beginning in ministry can be like that: you may have a picture or example to work from, but there are a lot of little pieces that don’t seem to fit with that picture you have in your head.
And there is very little help available to begin to get organized and start building. So you start to lay out all your pieces, hoping that making piles will help you see where to start.
The Summit set out to give us further training in getting organized, and specifically, to start to see how the day-to-day administrative work in ministry can itself be ministry when shared with others.
After just over 6 months of ministry here at Emmanuel, I feel like I understand the basic pastoral responsibilities pretty well: preaching, planning worship, visiting in the hospital, and leading consistory — although, I know I still have a lot to learn in all of these. But some of the day-to-day pieces of ministry are slipping through the cracks, and mostly because I don’t know how to make them feel like ministry, and not just busywork. So this Summit was right on time for me, and I was eager to attend. I am also very grateful that Emmanuel was gracious enough to let me go for a week. Thank you, ERC!!!
When we arrived at WTS, the registration table was filled with LEGO minifigures. As we signed in, got our name tags and meal tickets, and picked up our schedules, we also were asked to select one of the minifigures that we felt said something about where we are at in ministry. I chose this minifigure, who I named “Scuba Sal.” He was holding a trophy and standing on a victor’s podium, and that echoed with the celebration I feel for God’s good work in calling me to a church that fits me so well. I have been so thankful for so much these last six months, and I praise God often for his grace. As you can see, “Scuba Sal” also has a snorkel on his mask, and I have realized the past month or so that I have been floating on God’s grace, allowing him to carry me in my ministry. But “Scuba Sal” also has an oxygen tank and diving fins. He’s clearly equipped for the deep waters, and I have been called to ministry to go deep with people. I am celebrating God’s goodness, but now it’s time for me to dive deep and explore the depths of ministry with Emmanuel. My prayer is that the TIM Summit can be that turning point as I begin in ministry.
The Summit was Monday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon, and over the course of those three days, we explored several facets of ministry:
- how we are received by the ones we lead, using a simple personality diagnostic, and how others’ perception of us can be an obstacle to our leadership
- which of the five key Leadership Practices of adaptive leaders — Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart — we need to develop in our leadership
- how to lead and facilitate a strategic planning process.
- how to welcome and receive and learn from three kinds of feedback: appreciation, coaching, evaluation
- how to work with a board (consistory) to lead an organization
- how to organize finances and build relationships with the generous people behind them
Overall, the Summit delivered what it promised: namely, helpful tips and insights to help me begin getting organized in the administrative tasks of ministry. And on top of the learning that took place, this week was also a blessed time of retreat, of reuniting with friends, and of refreshing my spirit. More than just a learning conference or seminar, Summit was a chance to reconnect with colleagues and peers in ministry and rediscover my calling and my passion for ministry. Thank you, WTS/Journey, for your work in putting this event together, and thank you, Emmanuel, for giving me time off to attend.
Lessons Learned or Ideas Gleaned:
- As a leader, I don’t have to have all the skills all the time; I do have to be aware of how I impact people — positively and negatively — and make sure I don’t get in the way of my own leadership. I was reminded that I tend to work slow and deep, which easily frustrates others who are eager to work more quickly (for instance, my wife.)
- I excel at the Leadership Practice “Challenge the Process.” That wasn’t on my radar at all, but the feedback I got from my leadership team showed me that I have been doing that often/well these past six months. The Leadership Practices I need to develop most are “Inspire a Shared Vision” and “Enable Others to Act.”
- As a church, we must not talk about our money as taboo, but sacred. If how I use my money as an individual can show me where my priorities are — i.e., my spiritual health — then how our church uses our money can show us our spiritual health as an organization!
And as always, I can’t leave any class or conference without adding to my long and lengthening “to read” list:
- Bill Gates’ TED talk on feedback
- Satisfied: Discovering Contentment in a World of Consumption, by Jeff Manion
- A Spirituality of Fundraising, by Henri Nouwen
A month after the Summit, I am still ruminating on how to lead others with all my LEGOs organized and my instructions laid out. But just this weekend I was playing LEGOs with my nephews, and they reminded me of the crucial piece of this analogy. The best part about LEGOs is that, even though you buy them as sets with instructions, you really aren’t playing until all the pieces are laid out all over the floor and you ask, “What should we build next?”
Holy Spirit, guide me and Emmanuel as we ask together, “What should we build next?”