Fixing Church Archive

We are Kodak

Why did Kodak die? The simple answer is that people stopped buying film. Besides the world’s most famous film, Kodachrome, Kodak made darkroom chemicals and papers. Today, when photographs are printed people use inkjets. There are those who would fault Kodak’s leadership with not shifting full time into the digital camera market or becoming a leader in providing paper and ink. This is worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. Kodak has enjoyed great leadership. They would need a leader like Harry Potter to take on Canon, Nikon, or Epson.

Church on Facebook Part 2

Nonprofit agencies and Churches need to look at Facebook differently:

 

Church on Facebook? Part 1

I have gone from a Facebook hater to a daily user over the past two years. There is statistical evidence that many of the people your church currently ministers to, and hopes to minister to, have done the same thing. I can identify three reasons for this in my life. Each has a direct application to your church’s use of this media:

 

1) Those people in my extended family who love snapshots, use Facebook to share their daily lives.

Visioning gets Personal

Last April, I brought out Reality Check 101 as a vision and discernment process for local churches (available through Amazon). While I was working on the book, I kept thinking that I should write a complimentary book to help people gain insight about personal discernment and career planning. Initially, I thought, church leaders who participated in a Reality Check vision for their church, would like to apply the same principles to their individual lives.

A Letter to the Editor

The recent misbehavior of Pa. Rep Daryl Metcalfe (Butler-Republican) has prompted me to devote today’s blog to the following to the letter I recently sent to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I think you will notice how theological reflection should influence political opinion. When the church stays out of politics, both are harmed:

Dear Editor

WWAAD? - What would Ansel Adams do?

    Back in the 1960s I learned that if you wanted to do ‘real’ photography, you had to learn to think like Ansel Adams. He was a perfectionist who carefully measured and noted the tone values of each scene into his notebook before snapping a photograph. He hiked with a huge, 8x10 camera, into the mountains in order to capture Yosemite at sunrise. He mixed his own chemicals and spent hours with each negative in the darkroom until he had the perfect print. I wouldn’t hesitate to call him the greatest photographer of the twentieth century. But today, teenagers with iPhones routinely capture better photographs.

Practical Packing

My mother has a suggestion from her mother concerning the comforting of cats. Many pets find moving to a new house to be traumatic. So when grandma moved, she always coated the cat’s paws with butter. The animal would spend the time in the car licking her self clean instead of fretting. It would be nice if there were similar procedures for the humans in transit during a clergy move.

 

With that in mind, here are eight thoughts on clergy family moves:

Leaving in the Wake of Change

There was a time when most pastoral moves were easier on the congregation than on the clergy family. Denominational officials used to be able to handle pastoral calls and appointments as a game of musical chairs; Alice leaves seminary and goes to church A, Henry leaves church A and goes to the slightly bigger church B, Kim leaves church B and goes to a position in the denomination’s head office. Note that in the past, change meant change in pastors. Today change means new roles and new relationships for both parties. While you, as the pastor, are praying and prodding yourself and your family through the mess of moving, your parishioners may be preparing for an even more challenging change.

Lessons from a Dark Room

In the dark places of our lives, exhaustion gives way to self pity. Our desire to have the time and resources to accomplish what we want becomes a road block in the way of doing what we can. Our demand for always, as in, ‘he always should be there for me,’ or ‘she always forgives me this,’ or ‘I always get to have…,’ blinds us to current reality. We want our lives to be a perfect fairy tale and can’t adapt to the pervasive presence of mess in the story that God has cast us to act in. We no longer see the beauty in this chaotic moment of life, or the hope that lays beyond death.

Prayer and Process

I often repeat the motto, ‘In a transition, the process is always more important than any one result.” For example; If you are moving your family to another city, you may think it is important to pack your glassware so that your cups don’t chip. In reality, the process of getting everyone in the family to make the transition, have their concerns recognized, and feel positive about the move, is more important. Surrounding any result we wish to achieve in a transitional period, there is a greater process. Sometimes by sheer will power and the cunning manipulation of others, we achieve our desired result.

Misuse of the Straw Poll

Straw Polls are meant to gauge opinion in order to see if an idea has enough popular support to go forward. In times of transition, however, they can get us into serious trouble. Say, you are in moving to a new leadership situation or pastoral appointment. Early on, you will run into something that the outgoing leader or current pastor instituted that seems unpopular. You weigh in and say, “That’s something we should reconsider.” Before you know it you’re conducting a straw poll and finding seven or eight people in agreement with your first impression. Here’s where you get in trouble:

Three Step Transition

Every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This fact becomes obvious when you are stuck listening to someone who can’t tell a story. It’s not just that the order of events gets mixed up in bad stories, it’s that things don’t happen when you need them to happen. Good story tellers begin with something that hooks your attention. They develop plot and character in the middle. They end with a memorable conclusion. 

 

Beginner's Eyes

I heard a story recently about a young man from Ohio who got amnesia while working on a study fellowship in India. He had an unexpected reaction to an anti-malarial drug and woke up not knowing who he was. He wandered down to the train station where he was eventually taken in by the local authorities. They thought he was drug addled and it was some time before his parents from Ohio were contacted. You may be wondering what all this has to do with fixing your church or transition. In time, the young man considered what had happened to him to be a gift. He was for a brief time able to see new things with new eyes, unencumbered by preconceptions and prejudice.

Having a Narrative for Your Transition

Wherever there is transition, it is helpful to objectify your experience by making a story out of it. When Homer told the story of Ulysses' odyssey, he gave his hearers a way to understand their own journeys. A certain healing and wisdom is offered when we see an actor on stage handle issues similar to the drama of our lives. We take a step back. By viewing our experience as a story, we discover its handles and the places where we can manipulate the outcome (hence the positive use of the word ‘objectify’ above).

Love It or List It

One of my favorite TV shows is Love It or List It on HGTV. The show begins with unhappy homeowners explaining how their current home doesn’t work for their family.  The show has two hosts, a realtor and a contractor, that promise to rescue the family from their housing dilemma in opposing ways. The contractor, takes the lists of complaints the family has about their house, and with a limited budget, sets about to fix each item. The realtor takes the homeowners on a tour of another house which meets all of their expectations and they can afford to purchase.

Exit Interviews

     Most churches and businesses find it helpful to do exit interviews with employees who are leaving their post for whatever reason. If done with an open attitude, these meetings provide meaningful insights into the health of the organization and spotlight areas of needed change. They also help the departing individual find closure. If you are an exiting church employee or layperson stepping down from a key leadership role, you should request an exit interview. The people you meet with should not just include your supervising committee (PPRC in UMC), but also the other staff and church leadership who understood the nature of your work.

Are You Moving?

The first thing you should do when moving from one area of ministry to another is count to forty. Before entering into his ministry, Jesus spent forty days in prayer and fasting in the wilderness. He set an example for us. Forty, throughout the Bible, is the number associated with making a transition in a spiritual fashion. When Noah and his family were baptized into a new world, it rained for forty days. When  the people of God walked towards the promised land, their GPS said ‘recalculating’ for forty years. When the people of Nineveh were facing certain destruction, a period of forty days was given to them for repentance and prayerful preparation.

Don't Trust the Rodent

This week, a ground hog will be pulled out of his hole and see, or not see, his shadow. People from as far south as Atlanta, will want to know if Phil predicts an early spring or six more weeks of winter. The ground hog’s statistics were in the paper today and they were dismal. Over the last ten years, you could spit on a rock and toss it in the air and have a better predictor of the upcoming weather. Fortunately, ground hogs are only good eating when they are young, so there isn’t much interest in shooting old Punxsutawney Phil. I have come to believe that most pastors are equally lousy at predicting the particular  missional calling of the church they serve.

When Kirk says, Engage

Whenever Captain Kirk takes the starship Enterprise out to explore the cosmos he issues a single command, “Engage.”  What follows next is always an adventure. In some episodes frightening alien creatures take over the ship shutting down propulsion and life-support. The captain and crew struggle not only to get essential systems back online, but also to understand what these strangers want and how to reason with them. The captain seeks to open a channel of communication so that he can tell them that mission of the ship is peaceful.

Asset Management

Church members in too many cases are like deep sea divers, encased in the suits designed for many fathoms deep, marching bravely to pull out plugs in bath tubs - Peter Marshal.  When Marshal wrote these words he was addressing the problem of do-nothing-pew-sitting Christians. Now, six decades later, the time has come to apply the overdressed deep sea diver concept to whole congregations. Maybe a third of the churches in America have developed protective policies and resource management skills to the point that they fail to do much good. They have, quite simply, forgotten why Christianity matters. The reason Jesus wants us to make disciples is so that the church can transform the world.

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