I have been on my offical ministry vacation for a little over a week now. I would like to say that I feel completed rested, but that's not going to happen since I still have a full time job, a husband, house and two "kids" to look after! I am however, feeling refreshed. I have been enjoying reading again. I just finished Christain Reflections on the Leadership Challenge. I took several pages of notes and began to get excited about possible changes I could bring to LIT. However, I am not moving forward with any of these ideas until after my vacation as I wish to pray over these ideas. One of the chapters in the reflectiions book mentioned how two friends from college hatched a business idea and although they were both extrememly excited to begin they both thought it more important to prayerful consider their intentions. They spent the next month praying about it. They later went on to start up a very successful business.
I shared some of my ideas with Rod and was given confirmation that this rest/vacation will be the catalist to some awesome changes in LIT. "Why not take this opportuinity to shake things up a bit" was how Rod put it.
I am looking forward to the books that have been recommended to me. I have just started Holy Invitations and was loaned Heart Whispers. These are helping to confirm this is a time for me to sit, listen and learn.

My first Sunday off

Today was the first day of my ministry vacation. I got to sleep in since I didn't have to be at church 30 to 45 minutes before the start of service. It was nice to walk in just as worship started. I was greeted at the door by Harry - one of the lead ushers -as he handed me a program, his heartfelt "enjoy the service" was touching. I sat with friends whom I haven't seen in a while and enjoyed worship, especially the new song. As I sat there observing things from a different perspective, I got to witness an act of kindness. A family had sat down in front of me, but there were only two open seats on the end, so one family member sat in another row. Without being asked to, the others already in the row made room. Now the family of three could sit together on Mother's Day. During offering another usher -Bob -shook my hand and wished me Happy Mother's Day. Not only did I get to hear the entire message, I got to write my own fill-ins rather than use the cheat sheet! One brief stop in the office to pick up a book and I was off campus. Nice start to my vacation.
These brief encounters may seem insignificant, and had I been serving, they would have been because I would have missed them. I look forward to meeting God in the little things over the next few weeks.

Why I am "on vacation" from ministry

I have been serving at Journey Community Church in some aspect for the past ten years. Except for the occasional vacation or illness, I have been there for at least one of our three weekend services, every weekend. This might be considered normal for someone in full time ministry, however, I am a volunteer. Up until about 6 months ago, I used to say this was the best part time job I ever had, with the greatest benefits.
Since I am an introvert, I enjoy serving behind the scenes. One roll I have is to help coordinate our Lasting Impression Teams. This "first touch" ministry consists of ushers, greeters, decorators, daily journey and guest services. Another roll I have is that of Onsite Event Manager for The Global Leadership Summit. Journey has been a host location for the past seven years. Although both rolls can be physically challenging, I gain great strength and pleasure from doing my very best to ensure our guests have a distraction free environment, so that God may meet them just where they are in their journey. It takes a great deal of coordination, planning and timing to pull this off. Because of the behind the scenes nature of my roll, I tend to miss most of the messages.
I would "fill my bucket" by listening to the messages on my ipod later on in the week, or read books on leadership, or on rare occasions go out of town for a conference. This seemed to do the trick, until about six months ago. I can't quite put my finger on the one thing that changed. It was probably little things building up over time.
Dealing with a team of volunteers has its own challenges, at times it can be quite chaotic. I kept tripping over the same stumbling blocks - leaders not showing up, or not following through. I tried to remind myself that they were volunteers, but it got tougher and tougher not to get angry. After all, I am a volunteer. I have a full time job, a husband and a house to take care of. I am there almost every week. I would spend lunch breaks or evenings preparing things for the upcoming weekend, or for an upcoming leadership meeting. I even take vacation time to fulfill some of my volunteer duties. How tough could it be for them to show up on time to a meeting, or follow through with the one thing I asked them to do??? I started to not gain as much pleasure and joy out of serving. I was loosing passion.
The last straw was something that happened in preparation for our Easter weekend services. As a volunteer who was working on Good Friday, I was having trouble getting other volunteers to commit to serving for the same reason - they were working. When I saw that I would not be able to support a portion of our service due to the lack of volunteers. I asked for help. I got met with resistance. And excuses. What ran through my head - I don't need this crap. I am a volunteer. You get paid to do this.
Journey has a ministry called New Format. This is our service for college aged people. They have weekly services and have ministries similar to our main worship service. They have a tech team and a production team and a people team. The people team is New Format's version of what I oversee - The Lasting Impression Teams.
About a year and a half ago, I was asked to mentor the people team. This would consist of meeting with them at least twice a year and share insights, encourage, inspire and be supportive. I loved these meetings. Truth be told, I get more encouragement and inspiration out of our meetings than I think I give them!
In March I was asked to again join them for their meeting in April. Just like in the past, I began to pray about what God would have me share with them. I got nothing.....
I had not been consistently reading anything dealing with leadership. I had not been excited about serving with my own team. I was still reeling from Easter. I had no idea what I was going to do. It crossed my mind to make something up and fake my way through the meeting. But I didn't. I realized that wouldn't be fair and maybe God wanted me to share that ministry isn't always roses and sunshine.
The night of the meeting we broke into small prayer circles for a few minutes before we met in teams. I thought what was prayed in prayer circles stayed in prayer circles. Wrong! I had asked God for strength and the words to share because I felt so empty and had nothing of myself to give.
I should be mad at Ja (our worship pastor) for saying something to Rod (the pastor I report to) about "my being a bit off" (I think that's how he put it) but I am not. It opened a conversation I had been avoiding.
As I opened up to Rod about ministry feeling more like a job than a passion. That I felt empty and dry. He mentioned three things that he felt could be the root of this. Sin, the need for a rebirth, or faith. I didn't tell him then, but they all struck a nerve. I am very angry with some of the team. (sin) I need to see my ministry through fresh eyes. (rebirth) I need to trust that God will bring me through this season. (faith)
Last Monday, I sent the entire LIT group an email briefly explaining my vacation. I felt so free and less stressed than I have felt in a long time. I am encouraged by the support I am getting from my fellow Journey-ites for my decision to take a step back and reconnect with my first love. I am going to continue to post my "travels" during this vacation. Hope you enjoy the ride!

Leadership Thank You!

On January 16th, the majority of the LIT leaders came over for dinner. After a fabulous dinner (if I say so myself since I cooked), the team gathered in the living room since it wouldn't be an LIT function without a "meeting".
This is what I shared with the team:
A few months ago I met with Ann on a Saturday morning to begin to craft my personal purpose statement - something I encourage everyone to do. My key words were "empowering value". Since then I have been playing with words and phrases to apply this term to myself, people and with God. Some of the alternate words were - commission, invest, entrust, hold in high regard, appreciate and significance. Terms that I can easily use to describe the leadership I serve with. One of the statements I came up with was "empowering value in people by entrusting them to serve with purpose". I hold each of you (my leaders) in high regard and value your contribution to the purpose of LIT. I gave each of the leaders something that they could invest in themselves, their team and their leadership. I also wrote out comments to share with them. Besides wanting to empower the leadership of LIT; I wanted LIT to empower others.
KIVA is an organization that uses micro-loans to empower entrepreneurs around the globe, start or expand their business. After reading many stories on the website I settled on 4 that really struck me because they were highly regarded in their communities. I have their names listed in the poll portion of the blog. Please read their stories and vote for your favorite. LIT will make a starting donation of $25 to the entrepreneur that is the favorite among LIT.

The kindness of strangers

On Wednesday I flew from San Diego to Chicago. I was attending a conference in South Bend Indiana at Granger Community Church. I was looking forward to a few days on my own to read, and wander around this small town. The flight was uneventful, uncomfortably full, but uneventful. I was renting a car to drive to Granger. When I got to the rental counter I realized my current driver's license was no where to be found. Rental car company policy - can't rent without a license. All kinds of things are running through my head.....what do I do now? How do I get to the conference? Where in the world is my license? I am shaking and very frightened. The guy at the counter had no idea what to do with me. God did.....

Standing at the very next counter was a young lady who was also on her way to Granger. I asked her if she would mind giving me a ride. She graciously agreed. What an answer to prayer! Okay God, my plans have just gone out the window, what do you intend to teach me?

Over the next 2 hours I got to know Laura. Amazing person - works for Bethal Bible church in Tyler; is on Twitter, Facebook and has a blog. She dropped me off at my hotel and told me to call her if I needed a ride in the AM.

Checked into the hotel. No shuttle, but the church is only a mile away. I can walk or take a cab. Only one last hurdle to overcome - how to get home? Laura was only staying until Saturday. I am staying until Sunday.
Needless to say, my first night here was rough. I slept terrible for several reasons - time change being one of them, another being the fact that my best laid plans are now completely out of my control - I HATE feeling dependant on others, and stressing out on how to get back to Ohare. Somewhere around 4 AM I remember that in Granger's welcome packet there was information on transportation. I thought I recalled something about bus service from the regional hotel to Ohare.

In my quiet time this morning, God revealed to me that I need to hold His hand and trust. Oh boy, must be some lesson I need to learn!

This morning I went to the Guest Services counter and asked for a copy of the welcome packet. As I waited for a volunteer to obtain a copy for me I was explaining to another volunteer,Lisa, my situation. She commented that the bus from the regional airport to Ohare was very nice, ran every day, throughout the day, and was reasonably priced.

Just before the start of the first session, another volunteer, Lori, from Guest Services found me. She had been told by the Lisa about my situation. Lori handed me a copy of the bus schedule and ticket prices. She even offered to find me someone staying at my hotel to give me rides to/from the conference.

I am wowed, all this help from complete strangers, and they are so sincere about it, I don't feel like a burden. This group of volunteers removed what was distracting me and I was able to thoroughly enjoy the conference. I was also able to learn a bit more about myself today.

When I travel to conferences without Ken, I look forward to the alone time. As an introvert, I LOVE and NEED this to recharge. Having to rely on others for the past few days, caused me to step WAY out of my comfort zone. But in doing so, I realized how much I needed to be ministered to. Although I thought I needed to be alone, God realized I needed others to recharge me by giving and by me receiving.
I also wonder what is happening to me.....In years past, when I would attend a conference, alone, I would never talk to anyone, would not engage in conversation if we had to sit at tables, would find a way to eat alone because it was too uncomfortable. During the past two days, I have asked a total stranger for a ride, engaged in conversation at the table, struck up conversations during lunch, asked questions on a tour of the facility and found a way to "serve" with the guest services team Saturday night. Who am I?
Now I will still have to deal with the dreaded DMV when I return, but the loss of my license has been such a wonderful learning experience. It was very cool to see God take a terrible, scary situation and grow me.

Nascar and Leadership

Last week, I was in Phoenix for a long weekend of Nascar racing. Thursday night featured the Midget Series. This is grassroots racing; a place for future Nascar drivers to get experience. As I was listening to the driver's being announced, I noticed that several of these up-and-comers were owned and/or sponsored by several major players in Nascar. (Tony Stewart owns a two-car USAC team. )
Ummm, looks alot like a leadership concept I just finished reading about.....
A seasoned Nascar driver taking interest in young drivers. Giving them opportunities to gain experience, to be encouraged and supported, to possibly fail, and to use that failure to improve, knowing that there is always another race. Then the "young" driver moves up to the next level and continues the cycle by sponsoring and encouraging another new driver.
Nancy Beach writes in Unleashing the Power of Rubberbands that " the reason we are leaders is because we had people in our lives take the time to develop us". Humm looks alot like Nascar.....

Gifted to Lead Session 2

Session 2 was titled "Navigating Your Leadership World". It covered self awareness, communication and managing power. My notes are all over the place from this session - almost every bit of free space had something written on it.
Self awareness - I need to be clear on who God made me to be; know how I have been gifted and use these gifts wherever I am; embrace my uniqueness; become comfortable with my brokenness; understand who I am and who I am not which will make saying yes to the right things and no to the wrong things easier; carve out my own path.
Communication/Managing Power - Find my "voice" which is my style and it comes from my core beliefs - something Bill Hybel calls "Holy Discontent"; speak up and be heard; give myself permission to make mistakes (tough for a perfectionist) so that I don't hold myself back; know my conflict style (avoid at all costs) * need to work on this*; own and collaborate power to energize teams; my team needs my voice; be prepared, be spiritual but be real; . Nancy O. sums it up from her book this way - " a women leader must develop the muscle of talking back from an inner core of strongly held values and beliefs, and a willingness to face her fears and even harness her anger in order to communicate with clarity, logic and passion."
In this session Nancy O mentioned that we each needed to find a word that would motivate and inspire us, to keep us going when things got tough. Her word was "flourish", she posted this in her office next to the team's mission statement. I am still looking for my word.
Some phrases that I need to incorporate into my life in order to become a better leader - "I am sorry", "I made a mistake", "I dropped the ball", "I need your help", and "I don't know, what do you think".
Things I will be working on - I will fight hard to be the leader God called me to be and remember that the heart of my leadership is God's vision and my gifts are from Him. I will try to better understand my brokenness, and I want to find "my word".