Posts Tagged ‘Values’

Moving to Two Services

Embody has come to the place of making a big decision: do we move to two services or move to a new location?  We’ve been worshiping for nearly 2 years now, and this is an exciting delimma to be in because it means we’re growing.  The leadership team has worked on this for quite a while and looked at options, prayed, and discussed the matter and come to the conclusion that it’s time to go to two services.

This causes some concern amongst the Embody family because it means not worshiping all together.  It bumps up against the value of community that we have forged and honed.  So, I was not surprised that the church went into anxiety mode when they heard about the change.  Now, I should say that this is not the first that they had heard about it.  We met 6 months ago to discuss the possibility and heard concerns and questions at the time…and decided that then (6 months ago) was not the time to start moving in that direction.

But now our growth is dictating that it’s time to do “something.”  It’s well-documented that when a church is 80% full (or feels that way) that the church won’t grow.  Our capacity is 100 and we start to feel full at 85-90 (something we’ve had about 7-8 times).  In the summertime (a slower time in West Michigan) we have been in the 60’s and 70’s with a few 50’s and 80’s.  If everyone who calls Embody home were to come at the same time we would be over 120.  As the Fall approaches, people will find a routine that includes worship – and people for whom worship is not part of their routine…they may be looking for a safe place to explore faith.  It’s a prime time for growth.  The way I see it the options are these:

  1. Move to a new location – (problem…there are not new locations available in our area – the place we are called to minister)
  2. Alter our worship space – (problem…we did that and created space for more people…now filled up often and feeling full)
  3. Alter our worship space further – (problem…doing that would mean more money than we have, and we can not get a loan until we can cover our own expenses – something we can not do yet)
  4. Buy the land and build something – (same problem as further altering our worship space)
  5. Worship in two seperate services until we reach the amount of people or offering to cover our expenses and make a change to our space where we can worship together again…which is a goal – (problem…many are concerned that we will become two churches)

These are tough choices to work through. It comes down to a choice between two values: 1. the value of ministering to a locale underserved by churches and 2. worshiping in the same space at the same time

Both of these are important values.  One of them, I believe, can be overcome by intentionality of community-building and spending time together as a people outside of set worship times.  The other places us outside our sphere of influence and inevitably within a snowball’s throw of another church.

Way to solve the problem #1: immense donation by a rich uncle (this I don’t want because it keeps us from working it out together – that and I don’t have a rich uncle. #2 Become tithers (this takes time and a growth in discipleship) I anticipate this coming over time, but it is not something I can push because many in the church have been burnt and feel that churches just want their money.  #3 Grow in number of regular worshipers (this takes time – unless I went around to all the churches in our area and tried to skim off the top – something I won’t do because it’s not what I’m called to do, and…it tends to gather malcontents.)

I hate having to focus on numbers of people and $, but they are a reality if not the focus.  You can’t hide from them, just deal with them.  The reason to have more people is not because they bring a pocketbook but because they have an opportunity to engage God, God’s word and faithful people in a meaningful and authentic way.

So…here’s where we are: the decision has been made, the concerns and questions heard (they have been very helpful), a “make-it-happen” team formed, the anxiety raised, the plea for help raised to our God, and I’m asking you to be in prayer for Embody as we start this next phase of growth.  (Oh, and if you’re a rich uncle – anybody’s rich uncle – call me.)


Church Secretary

May 30, 2011 5 comments

And you are...?

One day I may be at a place where I need to hire a church secretary.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That’s a whole can of worms that deals with values and such – I’m not going into that right now.  However, I do know what I’m going to look for when I look for a secretary.  Here are my thoughts on the important ministry of church secretary.

Hiring a good church secretary is difficult.  You might have to beg the right person.  You might have to go outside the congregation.  You will probably need to pour money into training the right person.  You’ll especially have to train them on the mission and vision of the church.  But one thing you can’t do is train them in hospitality.

Hospitality is the thing.  If your church secretary doesn’t have the gift of hospitality, you’re sunk.  They are the first person of contact for most people entering or calling the church building.  A grumpy voice is death to any opportunity for ministry.  An attitude that seems to say, “I’ll do this for you, but only because it’s my job, not because I love my job” will leave the inquirer or person needing help feeling like an imposition.

Hospitality from the front desk means making people feel like they are the most important thing in your life and your job at that moment.  Printing the bulletin or stuffing envelopes can wait, and the person coming in from outside or calling from wherever need to feel that.  Because, in fact, they are the most important thing in your life and job.  I realize that it can be a meticulous job that requires a detail-oriented mind and a person who can get on task and complete it in a timely manner, but it must all be hung on a peg for a few minutes to deal with people.

Something else important in hiring a secretary (I’m using that word, but you know I mean whatever the politically correct version is, right?) is treating them like they are actually part of the ministry, and not just a part, but a vital part of the church’s work in the world.  If your secretary doesn’t see that they are, in fact, the most important link in the ministry, they will miss the mark.  He or she needs to see that they are the main supporting ligament in the body of Christ.  They connect, they hold up, they support – and nobody else is going to do that.

They protect the pastor, they keep their mouth shut when they know something that’s none of their business, they advocate for those not noticed, they are the eyes and ears where the pastor can’t go.  They have, without a doubt, the most crucial “job” in the church office.  Church’s run just fine without a pastor, but without a secretary?  Huh uh.  They need to be held in high regard and paid a serious remuneration – not just a minimum.

I wrote a few days ago about Barb the church secretary who said, “yes.”  It shows that the secretary is the doorkeeper.  He sees the mail and throws out the rubbish.  She can put your request on the fast or slow burner.  The secretary wields an enormous amount of “power” in the church, and next to hospitality the most important thing a secretary must have is a humble, teachable, gentle spirit that isn’t looking for power.  I guess what I’m saying is this person must be spiritually mature, and her or his level of maturity will directly correspond to the level of ministry the church is able to accomplish.

Big job.  The right person can make the church flourish.  The wrong one can bring it to a grinding halt.

Categories: Ranting Tags: , ,

What Could Have Been

There is a table in the coffee shop.  It’s low and it’s made out of chalkboard.  It’s where parents bring their kids.  Today a mom and her two daughters (3 and 5 probably).  Cute little rain jackets, pigtails, and dresses underneath that would certainly pass the “twirl” test.  Mom sets down the drinks and cookies.  Each little girl has her own drink and her own small plate with a big cookie.  Before mom has a chance to sit herself down I hear a “clink.”  5 year old has tipped over her drink.  It covers half the chalkboard and all of her cookie.

What could have been:

“There it went.  That’s ok sweetie.  Accidents happen.”  That’s the mom in a hushed, reassuring tone.  “We’ll see if they have any more cookies, and you can share your sister’s drink.  You’ll share with sister, right?  Good girl.”

What was:

“Now you’ve done it!  It’s all over the place!”  That’s mom in a loud belittling tone.  “I didn’t do it on purpose, momma.”  That’s 5 year old in an ashamed little voice.  “Well, of course you didn’t do it on purpose!”  Again, loud enough so that nobody missed the fact that daughter goofed it.  Mom storms off to the front of the shop.  Daughter shrinks into her seat.  From the front of the shop everyone hears, “My daughter just spilled an entire drink, and we’ll have to clean it up.”  Daughter shrinks even further.

And from there the cycle of parenting passes on, and surely the little girl will hear her mother’s voice for decades…even a lifetime.  Chances are good that her daughter and her daughter’s daughter will hear the same words, the same tone, the same powerplay.

I sat there with a friend, and we both looked at each other.  I wish my sister were there.  She would have said something.  She would have done something.  She would have put that “mom” in her place.  My sister is a paragon, a peerless example of justice.  The world in black and white – especially when a child is mistreated.  Dang, I wish she were there.

And now reflecting on the situation I ask myself what could have been if she were there.  I ask myself what could have been if only there had been someone in the room who knew that the little girl was being bullied.  If only there had been someone to stand up for the weak and powerless.

Categories: Kingdom of God Tags: ,

The Big Glue

May 5, 2011 2 comments

Dana will remember and point it out to me after she reads this.  I can’t remember where it happened, but I do know when it happened.  It was Good Friday and we bumped into random stranger lady who made a comment about it being strange that the calendar landed on both Good Friday and Earth Day.

Earth Day.  You might know it.  It’s when the hippy community and the Christian community have an extra thing in common – caring for creation.  My first interaction with Earth Day was from my science teacher in 8th grade, Robin Ringland.  I grew up in Stanwood, Washington, and there was absolutely no way Robin could have professed Christ in the midst of her teaching overtly – she’d be out faster than you can say molecular biology.  But she did point us in the trajectory of Christ – especially on Earth Day.

Back to random stranger lady – the kind of person I like to interact with.  She mentioned the shared date of Good Friday and Earth Day with a big question mark on the end.  We were walking away when I saw the glue that brings the two together.  Reconciliation.  Good Friday and Earth Day are all about reconciliation.  God is reconciling to Godself the creation: both humankind and the Earth.  Why shouldn’t they happen on the same day?

If you are one who calls yourself after the name of Christ, I’m guessing you’re called to be a part of that reconciliation.  We usher in this coming Kingdom of God which has within it a shalom, a wholeness, a complete-as-it-was-in-the-beginning kind of reconciling between God and God’s creation: man, woman, mineral, vegetable, science, truth, beauty, art, hard work, work without toil, sabbath, relationships, clean air, birds, and horses.  World without end.  Amen.  Amen.

Disney Recap

March 8, 2011 2 comments

We had a WONDERFUL time at Disney.  The kids were super excited to go, and the second surprise was as good as the first: their good friends from Pella, IA were in the adjoining room to ours!  What a great week.  Four adults and four kids, reservations for 8 at some seriously dangerous Fat Tuesday kind of eating establisments, rides to turn your stomach, shows to stop your heart, friends to share the memories, and everyone in all the parks calling your daughter “princess” all week.  We loved it.

At one point the kids got grabbed to join along in one of the shows “The Lion King” (totally worth the trip, by the way).  Here’s a link to some footage of the song and dance.

Then, the kids went through some jedi training and took on Darth Vader one by one.  Madalyn was the smallest one out there and was the joyous butt of many jokes (the actors never made her feel stupid, though).  Alex was intent on defeating the evil Sith lord, and took it seriously.  It was a blast.

The best part of the whole trip was watching the kids get to do something they dreamed of, and enjoying the kinds of things we just don’t do on a regular basis (flying, riding rides, spending more money than we have to).  I know my mom did the best she could, and I’m forever grateful for that, but it was really a tremendous blessing to get to offer something to my family that I never even dreamed of as a kid.  I can start to imagine what God must feel like when he reveals to his children so much more than they ever asked or imagined.

Spring Training

February 15, 2011 1 comment

Yesterday (Valentines Day) the Detroit Tigers began Spring Training in Florida.  I don’t know about you, but I’m just a little bit geeked.  Alex and I already looked at the schedule for home games this season and started planning out our attack of Comerica Park.  The Mariners come early on in the season (April 28, 1:05pm, section 102 – second row) and the Twins come at the end of May.  If time, money, and mom allow we may get to a third game later in the season.

I love the anticipation!  I love seeing pictures of the pitchers and catchers getting on the same page again…learning to read one another’s minds and signals…catchers starting to get the feel for each pitcher’s particularities.  Then the position players will come and the rhythms will be established…the unspokenness of a double play…the singular mind and shared goal of each play…the backing up of this player and that…the exact positioning and fundamentals that make for success…the joy of knowing that any pitch can bring an infinite number of possibilities.

I look forward to watching the games on TV and checking the box scores of the games I missed.  I can’t wait to train my son to keep score and predict certain pitches or defensive strategies.  Then, soon, the weather will warm enough here that we’ll be outside playing catch and the ground will dry out enough to shag fly balls and take grounders.  It’s gonna be great!

Here’s my challenge as baseball relates to church planting (or maybe just worship in any church).  How does one generate that expectation, that anticipation, that excitement for worship?  How does a pastor or worship leader or teacher plant seeds within a congregation that makes them look forward to coming to church…nay, to never want to miss?  This is my challenge in a congregation where many people do not have a lifetime of making church a priority.

We have 100 or so people who would call Embody their church, but only 65-70 on a regular basis.  I know that this is a pretty average average for any church.  I would love it, however, if each family or person would go to bed each Saturday feeling like I will feel the night before I head to Comerica with my son – anticipating being involved in something great and wonderful and larger than ourselves.  How do we train ourselves to wake up on a Sunday morning and desire to hear God’s word and sing God’s praises with the same enthusiasm that is awakened within me at the first smell of hot dogs, peanuts, and a grossly overpriced beverage?

Let’s begin this week to train ourselves to predict each other’s movements and double play positions.  Let’s begin training our hearts for a life of service together.  Let’s gather Sunday morning in our respective church buildings and fulfill a God-given desire to be sent.  It’s Spring Training, and even if there’s snow on the ground near your house, we can begin to prepare for the sowing and reaping God has planned, for the throwing and catching of goodness and the home run swings we must attempt in the name of Christ.

Sermon Notes

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Pastor Dan from First Church and I swapped pulpits today.  I told Alex that I wanted to know what Dan preached about, so I was asking him to take notes during the sermon.  The passage was John 2:1-11, Jesus turning water into wine.  Following are the notes he took, separated by commas:

old scripture, dan doesn’t understand it, cind of a part of a puzzle, Angels talking about what Jesus might do, wedding in Gallale, Jesus, Deciples invited, talking about wine the best is Jesus blood, smart guy named rodney – studies gods and goddisis, jurny found 1 temple with 100,000 skulls, sacrifice them to the gods, mean guys thats wat people in the olden days were like, they came to Isreal to do bad stuff, wedding whole comuniys there, wine gone, weddings usaly 7 days of food, wine dude screws up, peple laugh at them, its not there foult, there misreble, Jesus comes up with a plan, they have no more wine, Jesus: I’m no longer just belong to you, I belong to the world., saves them, first mericle, turns water into wine, happiest day of his and there life, take big stuff to him, take little stuff too he cares about everything, what matters to you matters to God, this scripture takes along time to understand

Those are the notes he took.  Not bad.  Kind of proud of the little guy for paying such good attention.  I can see that kids of that age are definitely able to pay attention and get a lot out of a sermon.  I should never discount their presence and their ability.  Perhaps we should start expecting a little more out of children in worship and in life.

At what age do we start allowing children to lead us in one way or another?  At what age do we allow children to make important decisions alongside the adults?  I have a bit of a grip with the church, and it’s this: I hear complaints from pastors all the time about the missing generation (people from 18-28).  Seems we lose our children for about 10 years after graduation and only get them back (maybe) when they have children of their own and remember the importance of raising your children in the company of other believers.

I don’t have the answers to this challenge, but I propose this: why not treat them like part of the church before they’re 28?  Why separate them all the time?  Why not incorporate them in important decisions, ask them their opinions, take their point of view into council?  Why not have a teenager on every important task force or ministry team?  Help them prepare for being an adult in the church by taking them seriously.

Maybe, just maybe their involvement will give them enough ownership in their own faith and faith community that they’ll know how to act as an adult believer when they come of “age” … whatever that means.  Perhaps we should be taking a few sermon notes from them, huh?