Showing posts with label Ministerial Leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ministerial Leadership. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2018

Seeing God in the the Giggles of Your Summer Binge Watches

While some watch sports or cooking shows, I am slightly obsessed with well-written comedies. So much so, that my friends threw me a shower that was themed Saturday Night Live. There was a “Mom Jeans” skit and more Chris Farley impersonations than one could imagine.  My utmost respect & admiration is given to comedic writers. Laughter is the sweet fruit of the highest form of happiness and these literary geniuses bare this in a simple sentence. Ha! Just like that, that stressful work memory is now silenced by the sound of one’s own glee.

As Proverbs 17:22 teaches, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”. Studies have pointed to the healing power of laughter time and time again. A few belly laughs naturally open the floodgates of oxytocin in the brain. This hormone (found in both genders) not only fills one with love and joy, but it is also a bonding agent in relationships. Sharing a good laugh biologically binds us together. Chuckling is a day at the spa for your psyche, i.e. it’s a natural de-stress tool -and it’s way cheaper than therapy!

So if you are seeking some R&R from your vocational ministry, I would like to share with you one of my greatest loves. While the church realm can be a tense place to serve, it can also be quite humorous, and nothing makes that more apparent than the shows below. They each serve up some freshly diced chuckles and some pippin’ hot theology. And if you’re like me, you have an appetite for both.

With this list, please know I am not suggesting the following:

  • The theology presented in these shows is 100% sound.
  • These shows should be watched by your students. Although, they are full of quality clips for sermons or lessons.
  • Binge watching all 5 of these shows before school returns should be a goal.  #challengeaccepted

All of these can either be streamed on Hulu or Netflix. Along with the links to the show’s page, I have added some of their main theological themes. Feel free to add any that I missed in the comment section.

    • Spiritual disciplines
    • Christology (the study of Jesus Christ)
    • Pneumatology  (the study of the work of the Holy Spirit)
    • Communal living
    • The cloud of witnesses of our faith
    • Vocational calling
    • Forgiveness/Mercy
    • Justice
    • Theodicy (the problem of evil)
    • The separation of Church and state #giveuntoceaser
    • God’s Sovereignty

    • Soteriology (the study of salvation)
    • Grace (God’s unmerited favor)
    • Works righteousness (Can grace be earned?)
    • Vocational calling
    • Immortal Souls
    • The religious pluralism of our culture

    • Vocational calling
    • The Domestic Church
    • Stewardship
    • Grace

    • Eschatology (the end of days)
    • Our fallen nature/Sin (The destruction that can be done with the misused power of religion is quite sad in this show.)
    • Forgiveness/Mercy

    • Is this finally a Protestant example?! (yes.)
    • Although this show is laugh-till-you-hurt-good, one specific episode puts it on this list. It is the first season’s fifth episode, called “Godfellas”. This hilariously portrays a praise band forming and the lead trying out for altar boy. Holy Moly! Talk about funny!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Where Jesus Prayed", By Danielle Shroyer: A Book Review By Meg

This scrumtrelescent read will fill you up like Thanksgiving Dinner (minus the Tums). It is a rich dish that covers many facets of the Christian faith. It is hearty in the sense that it is satisfying to those of all levels of Biblical literacy.   With each page, readers are led into a different time and culture by Pastor Danielle Shroyer’s authentically wise and witty voice. She is both a credentialed spiritual director and tour guide.

Upon traveling to the Holy Land with her fellow pilgrims, Shroyer had planned to take a break from her “word-crammed” life.  A desire to do more sensing and less talking filled her as she discovered that “Jesus was more human, more real, more divine and more beautiful” than she had ever imagined. Thankfully this break was short-lived, and this literary souvenir can now be shared with the masses. If one is on the fence about checking out this masterful two-hour-read, prepare to be persuaded.
  • Each chapter is based on a  word or line of the Lord’s Prayer that thematically intertwines with a specific destination on her tour. This makes this book a versatile resource for any small group or sermon series. 
  • Carter Rose’s photography is a life-giving spiritual discipline all on its own.
  • While some might be weary of a boring geography lesson, they can expect the exact opposite. Shroyer has a magical way of getting her readers emotionally attached to each timeline and map that her words depict. She writes, “ The air in Galilee feels...FULL. [...]It’s as if the air had more energy in it.[...]I wonder if that’s because Jesus’ imprint is still here, somehow, as he left behind a trace of his own  life-giving force that even two thousand years cannot erase.” She describes the sea of Galilee as Jesus’ routine commute (Galilee’s borders had been divided into quadrants), “Jesus spent much of his life traversing boundaries. Where others were labeled by place or tribe or religious affiliation, Jesus saw fractured hearts, dismembered dreams, the ache of alienation, hopes faint as a whisper.”
sea of g .jpeg
  • Each chapter drips with mind-boggling facts of our Christian story. She writes of the Synagogue in Magdala that was discovered in 2009. It remained in nearly pristine condition for two-thousand years safe underground. To add to the surprise, it was hidden less than two feet below the earth. Amazing!  The new sanctuary in Magdala, Duc in Altum (“into the deep”) honors all women ( named and unnamed) who had walked with Jesus and led others on their walk as well. This part of the book is truly empowering. Tissues will be needed. 
  • Shroyer would not be doing her job as a Pastor if she did not close the book with a booming benediction, and that is exactly what she does. The final destination on the tour is the Chapel at Shepherd’s Field.  Here where the Shepherds heard angelic sounds, Shroyer sends her readers out with, “You remember that you were made for: praise, and joy, and a heart that delights in the glories of this world and its Maker, Savior, and Keeper. You were made to be loved and to discover that love with boundless overflowing joy. You were made to see stars, to witness miracles, to watch love be born into this world, to proclaim it ever new each morning.” 

Monday, June 25, 2018

An Ode to My Donaghy: The Dance of a Senior Pastor & a Children's Pastor

Like Liz Lemon on NBC’s 30 Rock, I too have been richly blessed by the professional friendship of a suave, very-opposite-of-me mentor who has been in the biz for quite a while. For a decade now, similar scenes of me rushing into his office to be either picked up or patted on the back have occurred. He has encouraged me to: grow my position, use our “company” as a writing laboratory, and to “get a life outside of work so I can survive work”.

Many a meeting have I sat across from him studying his techniques with hopes of one day replicating them. He’s keenly aware of the undertones and red-tape of our faith community. His stealthy strategies never cease to amaze. While he’s much more humble than Jack Donaghy his confidence is rooted in his calling and I feel every church employee should get a cup of coffee with this guy.

As Lemon beautifully illustrates, one’s vocation can leave her high on a mountain one minute, then feeling hopelessly ill-equipped the next. A kind mentor is needed to survive this roller-coaster. I know I would have burnt out years ago if not for the confidence, creative freedom, and Michael-Scott-like-wit of my senior pastor.

Similar to Donaghy, Dave would humbly brush off the label of a mentor at first-but for different reasons. There have been times when he denied being my boss when introduced, “I’m a work colleague”, he would say, “a teammate”. I realize now that instead of me gluing my identity to him and striving to write my story as his, he was implicitly nudging me to trust myself more. Who doesn't need this lesson?! Instead of using my days to impress him as the authority in my “real-world” life, he desired for me to focus this energy on impressing the only one worth imitating -Christ.

The time has come, in fact, some would say it’s long overdue. It’s time for an ode to my Doneghy-an ode to my senior pastor. I shall no longer see you as a master and I the young grasshopper. I shall now see you as a friend. Know that whatever type of servant-leader I am in my fifties and sixties will be greatly due to serving alongside you in my twenties and thirties. Before the relationship status is altered, and we become equals, here are the top ten things I have learned from you.
  1. Make the white elephant in a meeting the centerpiece on the table so everyone can get a good look at it. 
  2. Never triangulate between teammates-ever. (DON’T DO IT!) 
  3. Quirky humor has a life-giving and morale-boosting effect at even the most life-sucking, tactical and operational meeting. 
  4. Strive to love (really love) every member of your team, and may your prayer-life be infused with this love. 
  5. Assume the best in people. 
  6. Celebrate your teammate’s strengths, and honor their weaknesses. Realign your expectations of them based on these so they are set up for success.
  7. Make a point to acknowledge the sacrifices your teammates make-in private AND in public.
  8. Know how to intentionally use silence as a tool for powerful conversations or brainstorming sessions.
  9. Timing is EVERYTHING; new programs, funding, the flow of formative worship-it’s everything. 
  10. There is a healthy balance of an “open-door” policy and also maintaining healthy work-life boundaries and you, Sir, wrote the book on it. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Top 6 Takeaways of My Hometown Conference

A beloved tradition of mine is to venture to my hometown each summer and help at my mom's conference. Know Your Impact is a cost-efficient and highly-equipping opportunity for educators of all settings.  In the above pic, the keynote speaker is presenting my mom with a gift of appreciation. What fun! 😁

From "Mrs. Beautiful of MHS '04" telling me that I get prettier with age, πŸ˜‚ (#ConfidenceBoost) to learning new ways of using technology in the learning space, KYI was filled with takeaways, but for now, we will start with the top six.

Doc Brown getting rid of implicit biasses one amAzing talk at a time. 

Doc Brown sets the standard for Keynote addresses. 
  • Every second of Doctor Adolf Brown's address was infused with his endless knowledge of behavioral science. From laughing to dancing to crying and creating, my brain has never held so much oxytocin/many endorphins in a lecture hall. I loved how his vocational calling as a professor/dean/author/speaker was so beautifully integrated into his life as a dad and husband. His wife was even on his PR and Tech teams--so.Cool! He had many tweetable tidbits, but my fav might have been, "Genetics may lower the gun, but environment pulls the trigger." If your event is needing a keynote speaker, check out his website and search no further. Seriously, if you want motivation with some sharp undertones of spirituality and heaping doses of research, he's your guy. 
The fantastic musician, Mitch Michael with my Mom, my sister from another mister, Hilary, and future YA Author, Anna Rhea

When you're following a divine nudge, God will bring about the "right" people to partner with you towards the goal.
  • Back in January, my mom joined me as I presented at a Children's Pastors Conference in Orlando. While she was there she was recruiting musicians for KYI. As we dined at the Royal Caribe Hotel, we heard the glorious sounds of Mitch Micheal and he agreed to offer up some tunes at her KYI conference. He is an insanely versatile pop rock/acoustic/acoustic rock artist. He can do Cash one second then jump up three octaves and do Coldplay. Insane! He's amazing on guitar and his voice is beyond lovely. Check him out! 😍
  • As I have shared before, my favorite teacher of all-time is my choir teacher from middle school and high school, Mrs. Catherine Lindsley. Two years ago, I met her partner-in-crime, Hilary Strum and she and I have since bonded. Although I only get to connect with her when I am in Mabank, I honestly feel that she is my sister from another mister. πŸ˜‚ Her friendship has been a blessing on both a personal and professional level. 
  • One workshop that I attended was on using Google forms to connect with the parents you serve. Anna Rhea was the presenter and after one-minute into her content, I knew I was learning from a highly creative, competent, and hilarious person. As we got to talking, I found out that she is an aspiring YA writer with some books already completed. I connected her to another Winfield author, Andrea Berthort, and I can't wait to buy her first book. ❤ To add to this, Anna and I are now niche-mates and will be trading publishing advice for editorial work on my next book. How fun is that?! 
Christian parenting resource author, Callie Grant
  • I also had an awesome conversation with Christian parenting resource author, Callie Grant. She was another one who my mom recruited while at the Children's Pastor's Conference in Orlando. Instead of premarital counseling books, she writes resources for parents to use while they are expecting a child. Her work is beautiful and unique. Click on the above link and see how it can enhance your church's serve. 

Region 10 Autism Consultant, Layne Pethick 

Layne Pethic taught me to move differently with my toddler and screen time. 
  • Did you know that both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates limited their kids to twenty-minutes of screen time a day? πŸ˜• Yep, it's true. This is shocking considering that the average kid in America spends seven hours a day in front of a screen when kids really should not be in front of a screen for more than two hours a day (and kids under five should only be in front of a screen one-hour a day). Layne taught us that too much screen time increases cravings, alters kid's mood and causes inconsistencies in speech. After being in front of any screen, all of us need around five minutes for our brains to scramble back into place before transitioning on to the next thing. 
  • Layne's presentation was based on 55 neuroscientific studies and he shared that the latest research is pointing to the sad increase of anxiety and depression in teens due to increased screen time. 😒
  • The three things we need to support healthy brain development at any age? Layne proclaimed, "conversations, play and being in nature". (It's really not that surprising, right?) 
While I was presenting at KYI, my Aunt Nancy (and Dad, and Grandparents) 
filled Henley's days with fun. 

I am (almost) ready for Henley to go to preschool. 
  • Fear has been overwhelming me lately as a parent. Pour on the courage, Lord! Help me to gather up my gumption! πŸ˜† As my offspring turns four in the fall, I am shockingly terrified of sending her off to preschool. However, as I saw how much fun she had with my Aunt, and all of the neat things my Aunt taught her, it gave me a glimpse into our new chapter. And what I saw made this wimp-of-a-parent a lil' bit bolder.  

Me and my bold offspring, Henley June

Here we are exploring the "7 Dwarfs of Setting the Brain up for Success: The Internal and External Factors that Affect Every Learner".

As a presenter, it is helpful to set out promotional materials on the tables/chairs before folks arrive. 
  • When I have presented in the past, I always waited until the end to share fliers on my book, workshops or online book club. And I always wait for folks to ask for them first, as to not come off as pushy or cocky. However, since I was offering three different workshops at KYI, I figured I had nothing to lose in doing a little experimenting. With this said, during my last workshop, all of my promo materials were awaiting folks at their tables as they arrived. The timing of this experiment was also golden because most of the people got there twenty-minutes early. (Who are these people?!)To my surprise, people were actually interested in them.πŸ˜† Most took them home, some took pictures of them, and the rush of book sales after my presentation was more than those of the past. (Insane!) Most importantly, this intentional time for them to explore what I was all about enriched our conversations because they knew the ways that my services could help them. From now on, promo materials will always be set out at the start! πŸ’ͺπŸ’“πŸ™‹

My fav hometown dining spot, Vetonis

There is just as much comfort found in change as there is when things stay the same. 
  • In the fourteen years since I flew north, it seems that one of the rare things that remains unchanged in my hometown is my fav restaurant, Vetonis. This place is very near and dear to my heart. I learned how to go on dates here. I won a speech scholarship here. I got shot looks from my mom for eating an entire calzone (on multiple occasions) here. πŸ˜…(#NotAshamed) When I think of my years in Texas--I taste the sub-par pizza of this almost out-of-place mom-and-pop joint. It nurtures me on every level, and I am so thankful that the menu, like the wallpaper, has not changed in two decades.  On the flip side, I am thankful for the change in my relationships. My Dad and I are much more capable of healthy convos now then when I was in school, and I am so grateful. I am thankful that we have both evolved as emotionally mature humans (for the most part). I have also reconnected with friends from my teen years in new and fresh ways because of KYI, and this calls for much rejoicing as well. 
Thanks, Mabank, for a refreshing time, and in closing, I will share two of your eye-catching murals.

"The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." Prez. Willie

Monday, June 4, 2018

Aidy Bryant and Goals


Back in 2012, Saturday Night Live was enhanced with the addition of Aidy Bryant. Through her roles as  Huckabee Sanders, a cop in Dyke & Fats , and of course--the many hilarious digital shorts, her values, writing, and acting have been "instrumental in shaping the new and distinctly feminine comedic sensibility" on the forty-plus-year-old show, as expressed by Anna Silman

As one who stands in awe of comedy writers, I was stoked to see that Aidy had just tied the knot with another comedian. (Yay, love!) This excitement led to a super-fun sesh of social media stalking and to the discovery of this lil' gem. 

Aidy's Instagram from Second City less than a year before she made it onto SNL

Now, the only things that I love more than well-written comedies are goals. I love setting them, reaching them, and in the process, I love exploring why it is that some get going when the going gets tough and others don't. I am eternally curious about the spirit of resiliency.

For example, have you ever wondered if Dolly Parton's self-talk is that different than "Rosemary's Granddaughter", Miss One-hit-wonder, Jessica Andrews'? 

Questions on grit are music to my ears! ♭♮♯

With this obsession, you can see why Aidy's above post caught my attention.

Here she was, just doin' her insanely talented thing at an improv club and while on a break, she's watching SNL-- a goal that would be obtained in less than 9 months.

Do you think she knew when she snapped this pic that she would be auditioning for SNL?

Do you think she thought that she would actually make it?
Possibly, but then again, 32 of the most famous comedians failed to make Michaels laugh.
Did she even stand a chance?😳

Regardless, here she was on her break watching SNL. Not only was she choosing an R&R activity that would naturally polish her skills, but her present surroundings were filled with the hopes of her future. (And boom goes the dynamite!πŸ’₯)

I know what you're thinking. The hilarious SNL sketch with Aidy on vision boards?
Coming right up! πŸ˜‚

Ok, now that we have returned to our seats after rolling on the floor with laughter, back to goals.
Is this true? Does surrounding our present with our hopes for the future actually catapult us toward tomorrow's goals? 


Our goals begin to not only feel more attainable but also real as we 
marinate our days with them in a variety of multi-sensory ways.

My daughter, Henley, havin' a good ole' time by my vision board

As the psychologist, Barbara Nussbaum teaches, “This holistic experience [of things like vision boards] allows us to connect emotionally to our goals and our process in reaching them. When we invest the time to visualize, in detail, we become more emotionally connected to our wished-for goals,” she says. “And emotions are the glue that connects us to what’s most important in our lives.”

Along with being the glue, discerning our emotional reasons behind a goal is like putting the pedal to the metal on the road to success. In Weight Watchers, we call this "Finding Your Why", and each person's "why" is written in a very visual spot on her weight log so that they are constantly reminded of their reason for joining. 

Not only do our physical surroundings affect the shelf-life of our aspirations, but our relationships do as well. (Big time!) As the famous motivational speaker, Jim Rohn (and my Dad) teach, "We are the average of the five people that we surround ourselves with the most." This means that our view of self, habits, and even goals are all transformed (for better or worse) by those in our social circles. This also means that it should come as no surprise to us that Aidy's besty is another extremely talented and driven comedian. #YouAreWhoYourFriendsAre

Aidy and beloved officemate, Kate McKinnon at 2014 Emmys.

Basically, the more intimate (Is that awkward?πŸ˜•) we become with tomorrow's goals today by filling our surroundings (physical and emotional surroundings) with the hopes of them, the more efficient we become at growing toward them. 

I know what you're thinking, 
"Meg, I still think vision boards are lame, so what else ya got?" 

I hear ya, so here are some other tips to fill today with tomorrow's achievements. Tweak and apply however you best see fit.

When the goal of writing a book struck my heart, I made some major changes in my life. I got off of every board/committee that was not helping me achieve this goal. (I got off of all of them.) I hung up quotes and pictures of some of my favorite writers around my desk, bed, and closet. Now don't tease me, but I put a little shelf right by my bed and it held my most beloved books. For some reason, I wanted them closest to me while I slept--osmosis, maybe? πŸ˜‚

While I folded laundry or washed dishes I would listen to Ted Talks by some of the best communicators. I got serious about practicing mindfulness in hopes of decreasing my negative self-talk. I gave up 1.5 hours of TV at night, so I could get up before the fam and write. Since my brain operates best in the morning, I fiercely protected this time. Me at my kitchen table with Google docs, Mozart, and coffee still gleefully pull me away from my pillow. After two years of nurturing this habit, my days are incomplete without it. 

My creative corner of the world, i.e, kitchen table

I began reaching out to actual authors on social media for advice, and to my surprise, most of them responded! I honored my free-time by filling it with healthy friendships that gave me life, and I found that even in my lil' midwestern town there were five published authors, who I could annoy with questions. πŸ˜‰

So, that's what it looked like for me, but what about you?

What is a goal that is on your heart?

If you have a moment, whip out your favorite pen and reflect on these questions. 

Do you see, feel (smell?) or hear reminders of this goal throughout your day? 
If not, what is one simple way that you could? 

However your brain is wired, do you have a space created where you can work towards this goal? 
If not, what would your ideal workspace look like? 

When is your brain most alive? Morning, afternoon, or night? 
What routine could you establish based on this to work toward your goal? 
(Even if all you have is thirty minutes a day, these add up real quick and can make a huge difference.) 

Are your relationships setting you up for success re: your goals?
(Relationships that suck the life out of you also suck the creativity and focus out of you.) 
Is it time for some boundaries to be established with certain loved ones?

Most of the time, the biggest roadblocks in reaching our goals are our minds. 
How are you at being nice to yourself

If you were to support your best friend toward a goal, 
what would you tell him/her? Write or say those things to yourself. 
(And if you really struggle with negative self-talk, I would highly recommend the work of Ruby WaxNot an overstatement, but her work saved me and improved everything.) 

Know that the God who calls you 
will stir up courage within you,
will accompany you in your waking, 
will sustain you in your seeing.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: An Interview with Myself

Last month, I interviewed four persons who entered into a full-time ministerial position under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years. After many requests (one), I think it's only fair that I answer the questions that I expected others to answer. Asi que, here we go! 

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions?

For sure, this is such a weird gig. Only the called survive in this line of work, and not only survive, but thrive! Before I go any deeper into the weirdness of serving on a church staff, I must first express how weird my story is--how weird I am. πŸ˜‚ I am an odd-ball of a case because I have (thankfully) served on the same church staff since I was 18, and I turn 32 in two months. With this said, my story might read a little differently than others.

Ok, back to the weirdness of the gig to which I have been called. Serving on a church staff as a minister is weird because:
  • People consider the weirdest things as "good donations to the children's and family ministry program". Wallpaper, a (new) catheter, and a stack of old photo albums take the cake as the oddest over the years. 
  • It is assumed that you live like an Amish-nun (Not a thing, but a funny image!), and are not up-to-date on the current trends of fashion, entertainment, or technology. 
  • Folks confuse necessary relational methods from a minister with a desire to be their new best friend. 
  • In honor of being nice and in the name of (how they are defining) 'grace', churches sometimes discount (actual) talent and emotional maturity when selecting volunteer leaders. This lack of standards can be a huge liability and end up hurting the entire team/tribe. 
  • Never will there be a place where volunteers have so much power. This can be a good thing (priesthood of all believers and such) if the above point does not happen, but if it does it will take a strong staff to do some major damage control. 
  • Because all of our staff's job descriptions get blurred by our church members, sometimes blame is misplaced. 
  • When you live in a small town, some always think you are "on the clock". It takes years to teach folks how to treat you when you are at Nieves with your family. (What?! Ministers eat chips and queso?! What?! Ministers leave the church?!) 
  • It is so odd that some want their church to grow and be sustainable, but are highly intolerant of the noise of kids and youth in the said church. It's as if they don't see the connection between the two. 
  • Some were raised on translations of the Bible that were somehow filled with typos. Their versions were sadly void of the stories of Esther, Mary, Joanna, and Lydia. I'm so sad for them because they have been misinformed and believe that women can't lead in the name of the Lord. πŸ˜‰ Occasionally running into these folks is most likely the weirdest thing about the gig. (Let it be known though, I preached my first sermon in the Bible belt, was a chaplain on the east coast and serve in the Midwest, and I have never run into this with members of my own tribe.)  These people are out there though, and we really need to get 'em better versions of the Bible.πŸ˜† 
What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct?

We are not all like Hilary Faye in Saved or Ned Flanders in the Simpsons. Most of us are genuinely caring people (and I thankfully serve alongside these types). Some of us are not socially awkward.  We are normal people who are capable of feeling the full range of emotions. We have hobbies, vices, friends, and families. We have a work hat, and a mom hat, a wife hat, and a friend hat. And at our best, we know when to wear each one and when to not.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? 
  • The ability to advocate for the church's role as a supplemental family to kids of troubled homes
  • The opportunity to encourage others (of all ages) in their gifts and empower them towards action
  • The love of building strong teams
  • The excitement of exploring the relationship between neurology and spirituality              I have always loved learning about the brain, and one gets to do this a lot through lesson planning or motivating different types of personalities on a team.
By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place?

Thankfully, I now get to do even more of this type of work than I did when I was first hired.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

I was most likely guilty of having too many 'mentors', and by 'mentors' I mean people who I wanted to impress so that I would feel better about myself. So, they weren't really mentors at all, just lil' signs of my emotional unhealth at the time. (Yes--I'm going to make up a word and leave 'unhealth' right there for the moment.😁)

Thankfully God has worked wonders in my heart over the past 14 years since I entered into this church family, and looking back I would consider 4 persons as true mentors to me when I was a mere rookie.

My boss, Dave, has always encouraged a healthy work/life balance for me. And since I came out of the womb a workaholic, this voice was greatly needed. Another strong one over the years has been Rev. Ashlee Alley, my campus minister at college. She was an awesome mentor because she was never afraid to speak the truth in love, and she was very self-aware/self-disciplined. I would also say that the way we are wired is a tad bit similar.

Dr. Michelle Adler was another one who was fierce in the secular classroom and in the religious #KidMin realm. She also carried out her calling as a mom with great conviction and honor. Her compassion for kids with special needs was always inspiring to me, and her confidence was contagious. When I got to Bethel Seminary, I met Dr. Denise Kjesbo who is a powerhouse leader in children's ministry and she models being an academic and a practitioner very well.

All in all these 4 were great mentors to me because they had seen me at my most confused, most emotionally unhealthy and loved me through it. I think they might even still like me. πŸ˜†

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now?

Jo Saxton teaches that "Sabbath is not the absence of activity, it is the presence of peace." As a high-energy extrovert, the permission this grants is so freeing. Don't get me wrong, my mornings are incomplete if I don't make time to meditate, pray, study and journal, but my limit of introspective time is 3 hours.

With this said, my ideal day of sabbath rest is taking time to be outside (running, walking, collecting sticks with my daughter) and being in conversation with some of my favorite homo sapiens.  I also love going to antique stores or playing board games. These two things are oddly refreshing to me.

Unlike viewing Sabbath as something I honored one day a week (which I used to), I now view it as something that needs to be part of my daily routine. I take 20-minute power-naps 6 days a week and have a tight schedule that intentionally involves times of playing and resting. Unlike when I first started out in the church, my mindset is now to play and rest much harder than I work. And by doing so, my work is much more focused and fruitful. This mentality will also sustain me in my career/calling much better than my old one.

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred? 

Yes, there have been days that I felt I was in the wrong gig, or that my efforts were all in vain. These days come about when an idea was moving way too slow or an incompetent, emotionally unhealthy volunteer was getting way too much say in how the ministerial work was carried out.

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling?

My secret for success? I care way less about certain things now. Yep--some things that used to really ruffle my feathers (Ya know, parts of the whole political game of doing church in a small town?), don't even bother me anymore. Being mindful of our thoughts and feelings are forms of practicing healthy boundaries.  I am very picky now about what I do with my emotional and mental energy. It is truly all I have control of in my life, so I cherish it. I choose to focus my energy on the areas of the church to which I have been called and I don't let the others steal my joy. I just don't care anymore. πŸ˜‚

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Nurture those friends that love you as a 'you' and not as a 'minister'. Make time for these persons at least twice a month. (yep-no more, no lessπŸ˜‰) If you are married, give your spouse a break and don't always talk about church-work. You are a fun person, you really are, and your spouse deserves that version of you (and you do too).  Work will be there tomorrow, and there is nothing to be gained by ruminating over it while you fold bath rags. So for now, talk about the next episode of Sneaky Pete and eat ice cream together after your daughter is asleep.  Also, read these books on vocational calling. And above all else--make time each day to simply let God love you. #SpiritualDisciplines

Monday, April 9, 2018

Mindy, Monty, and Ministry: What Comedians Teach Us on Leadership

While some watch sports or cooking shows, I am slightly (ok--very) obsessed with well-written comedies. So much so, that my friends threw me a shower that was themed Saturday Night Live. There was a “Mom Jeans” skit (written by the blogger, Leah Hartman) and more Chris Farley impersonations than one could imagine.

My utmost respect & admiration is given to comedic writers. Laughter is the sweet fruit of the highest form of happiness and these literary geniuses bare this in a simple sentence. Ha! Just like that, that stressful work memory is now silenced by the sound of one's own glee.

While it has been proven that laughter is healing on a holistic level, today I would like to explore another gift that comedians give us, and this the gift of wisdom in our ministerial leadership.

After the first 5 years of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels (its creator) left the show due to burnout. Want to be sustainable in your leadership? Tighten up those boundaries. 

This can mean different things. To me, it means that I do not talk about volunteer needs when I am off-the-clock unless the person brings it up to me first. I don’t want others to run away when they see me in the bread aisle for fear I might hound them for their time or talent. I also keep healthy boundaries by only speaking on issues that I am “over” (#busychurch) and delegating the rest to the right personnel. This naturally builds up the rest of our team and eliminates some potential miscommunications.  (I won't bore you with thoughts on rest, work, and play, but all I got to say is that Colossians 3:23 teaches us that in everything we do, do it as if we are doin' it for the Lord. So work hard, but play and rest like you are doin' it for the Lord! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‰) #ExegeticalHumor

Michaels returned 5 years later armed with stronger boundaries and for forty-plus years now, the show has been killin' it.

Tina Fey shares in her book Bossy Pants that the talent must outweigh the crazy (lack of emotional health) in the comedian in order for the show to be a success. 

A volunteer’s vices must not upstage her talents; if so this is a liability to your team and the reputation of your program. A high maintenance teammate can be a huge distraction from the ministry to which God is calling you. Plus, your other teammates will suffer if the majority of your attention is used on damage-control for this one person.

After the second or third apology to parents, you might need to take a page out of my boss's book and ask, “Is this simply a rough edge of this volunteer who is serving out of her gifts and has loads of potential?” or “Is this is a red flag that this teammate is either A) not emotionally/spiritually healthy at the moment to fulfill this role or B) not serving out of her gifts?” Either case calls for an honest conversation. The latter calls for a potential break from serving or some grace-filled redirection towards a different position.

The birth πŸ˜‰ of the Mindy Project by Mindy Kaling taught us that when it is heart-work, you don't just survive the hard work, you thrive in it.

Kaling based her show the Mindy Project on her Mom who was an OBGYN. Her show got picked up by FOX on the same day that her mom passed from pancreatic cancer. To say Kaling is close with her mom is the understatement of the century. She considered her a soul-mate. While the grief was insurmountable, Kaling honored her mom's legacy in doing what she was made to do and created an amAzing sitcom.

When you serve in the nonprofit world, it is a necessity (sometimes) that tasks end up on your plate that are not inline with your gifts/passions/job description. I get it, I really do. However, I would be wary of these tasks taking up too much your time, because they will slowly diminish your grit. Doing heart-work (the tasks that our hearts fiercely beat to do) is how we thrive in the moments of ministry that are gut-wrenchingly hard. Like yeast building up bread, time given to heart-work builds up our resiliency over time.

The Dana Carvey Show taught us that no matter how talented a team is, timing is everything for an idea and to make sure that your vision is the same as your supervisor's. 

In 1996, after leaving SNL, Carvey joined comedic greats like Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Heather Morgan in starting his own variety show. Despite all of the talent, this show failed due to its crummy time-slot (It was shoved next to Home Improvement. I mean, come on?!) and the big dogs at ABC trying to squeeze Carvey into a different comedic box than he was feelin'. Seriously--there are so many illustrations on teamwork and innovation in their documentary. You have to watch it, friend.

Think long and hard about the timing of your next big idea. Is it being set up for success by its "time slot"? What does this season of life look like for your parents? Your volunteers? Also, communicate this idea to your supervisor clearly and get him/her on board before moving forward (or else, you will get fired after only 7 episodes).πŸ˜†

The Monty Python taught us that other teammates are sometimes needed to carry another teammate along. 

Many don't know this, but the best actor in the bunch (their words, not mine), Graham Chapman, was an alcoholic. In fact, he was late and often clueless of his lines while shooting The Holy Grail. Throughout this time, the other Pythons patiently loved him through it and helped him reach his potential as an actor. They believed in him and their love paid off as Chapman went on to star as the lead in their next flick The Life of Brian and totally crushed it.

Sometimes, in order to be a healthy team, we have to fling another's arm around our neck and lovingly carry her towards the best version of herself (personally and professionally). Can I get an amen?!  (I feel a sermon coming, I'd better move on to the final lesson.)

Miranda Hart teaches us that vocational callings evolve and that our talents can be used to offer healing to others along the way. 

Where do I begin? I have so much love for this chummy (actress/comedy writer/ author/director/producer/mental health advocate) comedian's work. I first "met" the fabulous Miranda Hart on her sitcom Miranda on Hulu when I was on maternity leave. Watching it was like taking shots of oxytocin--instantaneous joy and warmth. Her work was such a cathartic release for me during this nervous season, that for the next 3 years while my husband worked nights, I would fall asleep to her show. Yep, I have watched Miranda episodes over 800 times--impressed?πŸ˜‹

Arabelle Weir hit the nail on the head when she said that, "Miranda is the sort of performer whose funniness is timeless. Every tiny thing she does is amusing. She'd have been a great "turn" in 16th century England or 1930s vaudeville. She can't not be funny: everything about her – her expressions, her mannerisms, her pauses, even her silences – are funny. It is an unlearnable and rare quality."

Ok, I will stop bragging about Miranda Hart. (But, here's the link to her show, just in case you want to check it out.πŸ˜‰)

Bottom line--the underlying value of her work is to offer joy and comfort to others. This is shown implicitly through every word she (very methodically) speaks or writes and explicitly in her work with Comic Relief and other causes for mental health.

While serving in full-time ministry comes with its challenges, (That's a whole other comical post.) we get the privilege of joining people in life's most sacred moments. In these times, may we follow Hart's lead and be fully present, and then explosively share comfort or joy.

I am curious to know who your favorite comedians are, please share 'em in the comment section!