Love before Knowledge

There are two things I have come to hope for on Communion Sundays:

Welch’s grape juice in the cup, and Hawaiian Sweet Bread on the table.

 

941928_479696322109898_1492252979_nAnd that’s for a couple of reasons:

First, they both taste better than most other options available.

Second, the Hawaiian Sweet Bread is the perfect combination of soft and easy to tear and yet not crumble into pieces all over the place – which is a good thing when you are the one breaking bread every time.

And third, the Welch’s are Methodist.

 

In fact, the birth of Welch’s grape juice came out of our desire to stop using fermented wine during the temperance movement. Thomas Welch was a dentist and a communion steward at his local Methodist Church. He heard about how Louis Pasteur had begun to pasteurize milk, so he decided to try and apply the process to grape juice in 1869.

His son, Charles, marketed the pasteurized grape juice to these temperance-minded churches. In fact, he quit his job as a dentist to do so and created the Welch’s Grape Juice brand in 1893. (from Welchs.com/about-us/our-story/our-history and http://www.gbod.org/resources/changing-wine-into-grape-juice-thomas-and-charles-welch-and-the-transition-)

 

While the roots of our “unfermented juice of the grape” go back to the late 19th century, we have continued to emphasize using grape juice, even long after prohibition was repealed.

Our 1964 Book of Worship included this phrase which we have continued to use until today: that while the “historic and ecumenical practice has been the use of wine, the use of the unfermented grape juice by The United Methodist Church and its predecessors is an expression of pastoral concern for recovering alcoholics, enables the participation of children and youth, and supports the church’s witness of abstinence.” (BOW p 28)

I share the brief history lesson, because I think it relates to our lesson from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians this morning.

As this community struggled with what it meant to be unified, they realized that a lot of different types of folks were part of their church.

Some of them were life-long Jews who had followed the way of Jesus. They had only ever worshipped one God. Yet some of the new believers in the faith were pagans. They had spent their entire lives worshipping at the temples of various Roman deities like Apollo and Poseidon.

So how were these people all supposed to share one roof? They had different histories of practice and different understandings of what it meant to worship.

One particular place where their practices conflicted was around the practice of eating meat. In the ancient world, almost all of the meat consumed was done so at a temple. That lamb or beef or whatever was the result of an offering given to the local god.

And here is where the conflict came.

Those who had been followers of Christ of a while, many from the Jewish background, KNEW that there was only one God. Intellectually, there was no worship of these various gods because they simply didn’t exist. So who cared if they partook of a little steak at the local temple?

Well, for those who had recently converted away from that temple worship, it was a big deal. The new converts were working hard to keep on the way, to follow Jesus, and all that alluring smell of roasted meat was making it awfully difficult. And when they peeked in the doors of Apollo’s temple and saw the elders of their new church eating – well, they got pretty confused.   Was Apollo real or not? And if Apollo wasn’t real, why were those Christians worshipping him?

So Paul lifted up a practical solution for the faithful long-time Christians: just stop eating meat.   It is the loving thing to do. And even though you know it isn’t idol worship, you have the ability to choose to act a different way in order to help your brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the same way, we lift up grape juice when we break bread together, so that all might be welcomed at this table. It doesn’t mean wine is bad. It doesn’t mean that some of us don’t drink. But choosing to consume grape juice together means that everyone has a place here.

There is a line in Paul’s letter that I think is key for us to remember this morning: You sin against Christ if you sin against your brothers and sisters and hurt their weak consciences this way.

Now, here Paul doesn’t mean they are weak as in bad… he simply means they are new to the faith. They still have a lot to learn. They are growing into what it means to be a Christian. And so they need to have as few barriers to their faith as possible.

Do you remember, with the children, when we talked about evil spirits? When we talked about those things in our lives that keep other people from knowing Jesus?

Knowledge is sometimes like that. We can flaunt it and it can puff us up and keep us from really and truly showing love to another person.

Love is what is important. Not rules or knowledge or what we eat or drink. Love binds us together. If we remember that we sin against Christ if we sin against our brothers and sisters and hurt them, then love leads us to ask the difficult question of how our actions keep others from Jesus. Is there something about what we are doing that is harming the body of Christ?

 

I am tempted to keep this a surface level conversation about grape juice on the communion table, but the truth is, there are all sorts of really tough and difficult things that threaten to break apart our churches. There are all sorts of things we do and say as Christians that hurt our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and neighbors.

And perhaps the one that is on many of our minds in recent weeks has been same-sex marriage. Perhaps you have read in the newspaper, or seen on television, how a retired pastor in our conference, Rev. Larry Sonner, officiated the wedding of a same-sex couple and then turned himself in to the Bishop. In our Book of Discipline, our tradition and teaching does not support same-sex marriage, even though our state laws do, and so a process was begun seeking a just resolution.

What is amazing is that we have a process of just resolution at all. According to our Discipline, “a just resolution is on that focuses on repairing any harm to people and communities, achieving real accountability by making things right in so far as possible and bringing healing to all the parties.” (¶363.1).

It is a powerful witness to the love and grace and mercy of God in a world that is so focused on punishment and retribution. In his article on the Des Moines Register, columnist Daniel Finney wrote:

“It’s especially admirable considering how poor our public dialogues are relating to just about any issue today. Here you’ve got a veteran pastor questioning the laws of a church he has dedicated his life to serving and not a voice was raised, not a fist was shaken. Instead, there was thoughtful discussion, prayer and resolution.

Regardless of how one feels about the specific issue, there’s a powerful lesson for peaceful negotiation in this story.”

This is how we act in a church when love and not knowledge is our guide. And this is the witness we have to offer to the world… a witness of finding a way forward in spite of our differences. A witness of acknowledging the harm we do by our actions and inactions. A witness of seeking the good for our brothers and sisters.

So today, I want to share with you portions of a pastoral letter that our Bishop, Bishop Julius Trimble sent to all churches last week:

Grace and peace to you as we journey in Christian discipleship in 2015.

One of the early prayers and initial responses to the formal complaint was that we would be “perfected in Christ love” and engage, rather than ignore, the difficulties the current conflict between what is prohibited in our Book of Discipline and what is legal and celebrated in Iowa.

The reactions to same-gender marriages and relationships and the serious subject of covenant accountability to church polity remind me of a Nigerian proverb: “Children of the same mother do not always agree!

Questions and conflict regarding our future as a Church require much prayer, graceful conversations and decisions that may spell a different future for the Church…

When I was consecrated Bishop, I promised to work to uphold the unity of the Church. I believe that unity has, as its foundation, our love of God and neighbor. I also believe we can have unity of heart and not necessarily all be of one mind. While this Just Resolution is a response to a specific complaint, it recognizes the division of our church on the issue of human sexuality. This Just Resolution is an attempt to honor our disciplinary process, maintain accountability, and seek a deeper, more prayerful, listening to each other and, most of all, to God.

As your Bishop I invite you to join with me in a time of intentional listening to God and each other, remembering that as the Body of Christ, the Spirit can speak through each of us.

Be Encouraged,   Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble

We don’t have time in worship to spend time listening or really go over the content of the just resolution, but I want to extend to you that invitation for a time of intentional listening to God and to one another.  And I want to let you know that I am always available for conversation about this and any other topic that affects our life as a congregation and your lives as individuals.

We won’t all agree. We come at the conversation from various perspectives. We read the scripture through the lenses of our own experience. But above all, we are a people of love, service, and prayer. And together we can put love at the forefront of our conversations and we, too, can seek a prayerful way forward.

And that way forward starts at the table. The table of love and grace and mercy. A table, set with grape juice. Amen and Amen.

 

 

Ashes and Lattes

In the middle of a public place, a busy coffee shop, surrounded by strangers… people got real.

We hosted our first ashes to go in the community and while we didn’t have a large turnout, the conversations were deep and holy. I got to know my parishioners better. I heard what brings they joy and where they are struggling. I witnessed the joy and excitement of a family rushing through on their way to school.

People you only have time for quick conversation with in the greeting line after church hung around for a while and visited. It was fascinating to have so much more intimate encounters in a public setting.

In fact, I think the average length of stay at our table was probably 20-30 minutes.

Although, that’s what people do at coffee shops. They talk. They go deep. They open up and become friends.

I’m declaring our first time a qualitative success :)  I wonder about the conversations that will come as a result of our few hours of ashes and prayers.

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Them, Too!

When I was looking at seminaries, two of my top schools were in Chicago right across the street from one another in the Hyde Park neighborhood. My mom and I went to visit and we started to imagine what life would be like if I was there. My brother, Tony, was also attending school in Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Technology – right near the White Sox stadium. I started envisioning hopping on the L and going to visit him and all of the possibilities.

But I remember as my eyes lit up, my mom looked back at me with a tiny bit of fear in her eyes. “Katie Marie” she said. “I don’t want you traveling alone in that part of town.”

It was hard enough to send her son to the big city… but her daughter?

We ALL have some definition of what “that part of town” is like. But it is different for each of us.

For some of us, “that part of town” is the street where all the shops are boarded up and folks loiter on the corner.

For some of us, “that part of town” is full of expensive houses and we might get pulled over because of the color of our skin.

For some of us, “that part of town” is where we read about shootings and crime.

For some of us, “that part of town” is where we were a parent or relative was spit on or discriminated against.

It is the place where people aren’t like me. Where we are afraid of what might happen to us if we went there. It is the place where we just can’t wrap our minds around what life must be like there.

And the truth is, we all live in somebody else’s “that part of town.” Or “that part of the country.” Or “that part of the world.”

Each of you were handed this morning a slip of paper.

I want to invite you to take it out right now and hold it in your hand.

This morning, I want to invite us to think about those places where we refuse to go. The people we aren’t sure we want to talk to. The situations we would rather keep our distance from. Maybe it is because you have been hurt. Maybe it is because you are afraid.

This is just for you… not for anyone else to see or read… and what I’m going to ask is not going to be easy.

I want to invite you to write on that paper a place that you stay away from. I want you to think about someone you have intentionally not tried to build a relationship with and write their name. I want us all to spend a minute or two in silence as we reflect and are honest with ourselves and with God.   What people or places come to your mind…

[ pause ]

That might have been the longest minute some of us have ever spent in worship.  I know that wasn’t an easy exercise and I thank you for giving us that time.

Now, fold up that paper and hold it in your hand.

I want you to know that you are not alone.

We all are afraid at times.

We all hesitate to go to certain places.

We all have baggage and prejudice and facts and excuses and our reasons for staying away.

You are not alone.

In fact, Jonah, is just like each of us.

If he was with us this morning, Ninevah would be written on that sheet of paper.

The city of Ninevah was full of horrible, terrible people.

In the book of Nahum the prophet, chapter 2 and 3, we read about their misdeeds:

“Doom, city of bloodshed – all deceit, full of plunder: prey cannot get away. Cracking whip and rumbling wheel, galloping horse and careening chariot! Charging calvary, flashing sword, and glittering spear; countless slain, masses of corpses, endless dead bodies – they stumble over their dead bodies!”

That’s not a pretty picture!

It’s not surprising that Jonah doesn’t want to go.

How would you feel if God asked you to go to this violent, wretched city and tell them all they were about to be destroyed by God’s wrath?

Jonah bought a ticket and headed as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

Well, if you remember the story of Jonah, that didn’t work out so well. He got kicked off the ship, swallowed by a whale, and spit up on the shoreline.

And finally, reluctantly, with fear and trepidation in his heart, he goes.

He goes to “that part” of the world. To “those people.”

He goes to the city and preaches a one sentence sermon:

“Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!”

He repeats it over and over again as he walks across the city.

Think about “that place” you have written down.

Could you do that?

Not just go to that place you fear, but actually proclaim their destruction?

I think the core of this one sentence sermon was the message that all was lost.

The people were too far gone.

They were just too terrible and God was ready to wipe the slate clean.

And Jonah thought so, too.

He thought the world would be better off without them in it.

What a terrible thing to say.

And yet, if we thought long and hard about the people and the places we have written on our little scraps of paper, I wonder if that phrase maybe had crossed our mind the past.

Anytime we write off someone as hopeless… or treat a community as if it didn’t exist… or think “wow the government would be a whole lot better off if (insert political party here) weren’t around”… we are doing the same thing.

We have done it throughout history… and we have had it done to us.

Whenever the line has been drawn of us/them, good/bad, right/wrong, folks of all sorts of different faith traditions have felt divine calls to pronounce judgment.

The good news is, it isn’t up to us.

Because even when we have declared something hopeless, God isn’t ready to be done yet.

God could have just sent a plague or rained down fire from above upon Ninevah.

But God didn’t.

God called Jonah.

God warned the people.

God gave them a chance.

And even though Jonah didn’t even offer up the possibility of hope in his one sentence sermon of destruction, the people changed their ways.

They repented.

They turned to God.

The entire kingdom, from the king to the lowest in their midst put on sackcloth and ashes.

As Rev. Bill Cotton pointed out in his reflection this week, some translations say even the cattle repented!

Over this season of Epiphany, we have been exploring the light and the dark. We have been wandering back and forth between the two, and one of the things I hope we are discovering is that the dark isn’t a terrible awful place.

There is possibility in the dark.

There are the seeds of creation and re-creation.

And even a place like Ninevah… Even a place or a person like (hold up your piece of paper)… isn’t lost. It isn’t hopeless.

The question is, are we willing to look for the possibility of change?

Will we open our eyes to see the good in a neighborhood or another person?

Will we lay aside our fears and prejudice and assumptions and go to build relationships?

Will we celebrate when we witness transformations?

Will we ourselves be transformed?

Yes, you, too.

Because God is working on your life also. All those pieces of you that are bent out of shape and bruised and dented. You aren’t hopeless either.

So in the words of Christ, “Now is the time! Here come’s God’s Kingdom! Change your hearts and lives and trust in the good news!”

It’s a coaching problem…

1389667_71630522I was recently talking with a colleague about the fear/frustration that church members think we, as the pastors and staff, are the ones who do ministry.

Obviously, since we are the ones getting the paycheck, we should be the ones out making new disciples and teaching and being prophetic and visiting the sick and all of those other things churches do.

In that scenario, it is the congregation’s job to sit back, complain if something isn’t happening (like growth), and financially support the work.

 

Our job, however, is not to do the work, but to call and equip the laity (the people) to share in the work.

 

Using a sports analogy, I guess you could say we are a lot more like coaches than players.  We are paid to look at the gifts and talents of our players, to train them, to condition them, to challenge them to grow, but they are the ones who play the game.

We can stand on the sidelines and encourage. We can call timeout and give advice and lay out a new strategy (pastoral care).  Coaches review game films and get the team ready for the opponent (bible study). We can hold practices where the players learn the essential elements of the game.Worship is such a time where we learn to pass the peace, confessing and forgiving, and hear a pep talk about how to play.

What I love about this analogy is that most coaches have a season of recruitment where they go out and build relationships with people and build a team.  So, evangelism and community engagement are an important part of our job.

But then the church has to go out there and play.  Out to their schools and homes and workplaces and golf courses and hospitals and homeless shelters.

 

 

As a sports fan in the Hawkeye State, there is a lot of armchair coaching that goes on in my house.

Some days are better than others.

During football season, we’d cry out, “put Sunshine in!”

Watching ISU miss free throws makes you want to pull out your hair.

I’m not even going to discuss the Hawkeye loss last night.  I can’t even….

But at some point, you have to stop looking at the players, and you have to ask what is going on with the coaching.

 

The same can be asked of the church.

When we see a church declining or in financial trouble or stagnant, we have to ask what is happening with the coaching.

 

Part of the problem is that as pastors, we forget we are supposed to be coaches.

We get bogged down in meetings and administration and in the pressure to go out there and bring people into the church and don’t always make time for one-on-one coaching sessions.

We sometimes worry about how the music or sermon will be perceived, rather than how it will shape and form the congregation.

It seems to be easier to make the visits to the sick and home bound than to train up the laity to care for one another as an act of Christian love (and to train them to receive care from one another).

And sometimes, we simply assume the “team” is playing fine so we fail to change the line-up. Maybe that’s the hardest one. With good and faithful people serving in a particular ministry area, we are afraid to inject new leadership, or worry more about how someone will feel if they are benched… even if it is better for the mission and work of our church.

And then, in some churches, we find that we are coaches who don’t have a team in the church, but a booster club. We have people who think they are fans rather than the starting line. And the coaching mistake is that we let it happen or continue to happen.

 

 

Maybe its time to run some laps and do wind sprints and shoot a thousand free-throws.

Maybe what we need is a good hard season of practice.

 

 

 

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In the Night

When I was in college, our chaplain encouraged us to go to this event called, “Exploration.”

It was a conference for young people who felt like they were hearing a call to ministry – a place to explore what that meant for their lives.

I don’t remember a single thing about the conference, except for one worship service.

Bishop Minerva Carcaño was preaching and before her message she read aloud for us the call of this young man we hear about today.

But even though Bishop Carcaño is from Texas, she doesn’t have a Texas drawl.  She is Latina.  So what sticks in my mind is her calling out, over and over again through the scripture and her message:

“Samuel! Samuel!” (heard phonetically as Sam-well!)

Hearing her say that name in such a different dialect helped me to hear the entire passage in a new way. It snuck into every corner of my mind.

The entire drive home, I thought about all of the people throughout my life who had been calling me to ministry: my pastor, a youth leader, teachers and fellow students. I realized that like Samuel, I thought I was simply hearing the voice of my pastor or my teacher.  I had never stopped to consider before that weekend that perhaps it wasn’t just a human voice after all…. Perhaps God was speaking to me!

So I love this call story. It helped me to hear my own calling into ministry in a difficult time of my life.

 

Today, as we continue our exploration of The Light in the Darkness, I notice as I read again this passage how God calls to us in the night, in our darkness, in our times of difficulty and asks us to serve, to lead, to go.

Samuel has been serving in the temple with Eli and that night is charged with the duty of keeping the lamps burning through the night in the part of the temple where the ark of the covenant was kept.

As we learned with the peace light from Bethlehem came through, it is not easy to keep a lamp burning over night. You worry the oil will go out or the wick will burn through.

So Samuel is sleeping there on his mat in the temple so that he can get up periodically and check on the lamp.

And there in the night… in the dark… God speaks to him.

We don’t know how old Samuel might be in this part of the story, a boy is all the scriptures say, but he has spent his entire life in the temple.  His mother Hannah was barren and prayed with all her might for a child.

“Lord of heavenly forces, just look at your servant’s pain and remember me! Don’t forget your servant! Give her a boy! Then I’ll give him to the Lord for his entire life. No razor will ever touch his head.” (1:11)

Her prayer was answered. So Hannah and her husband brought the child before God and left him in the care of Eli, the priest.

Out of her struggle and despair, God blessed them with not only Samuel, but five other children.

So Samuel grew up in the temple, under Eli’s care.

 

But I think too often we focus on how Samuel heard his call and forget to pay attention to what he was called TO.

 

In that time, Eli had two sons: Hophni and Phinehas, and they were the worst pastor’s kids you have ever met.

When people came to the temple to offer sacrifices, some of the meat was always given to the priests for their service. But the boys wouldn’t wait until the sacrifice was nearly over and then take their share, as was custom… but they would  grab a chunk of the choicest meat right off the fire. Today, it would be like if the pastor’s child stopped the offering plates as they were being passed, took out the largest bills they could find so they could go spend it as they pleased, and then allowed everything to proceed. And they did it with threat of violence.

Not only that, but they also sexually harassed the women who served at the temple.

And Eli didn’t stop them.

Oh, he said once or twice, “you probably shouldn’t do that,” but he never actually stopped them from doing so.

And God promised that this injustice would end. God promised to establish a new, trustworthy priest and that the sign of this prophecy would be the death of Hophni and Phineas on the same day.

So God waited until Samuel, who had dedicated his life to God’s service, was nearly ready.  And God called him in the night with the vision that the injustice and outrage of Eli’s household would end.

 

Can you imagine that?

 

Can you imagine growing up in a place with a vision of what was good and right and true, and yet every day having those in power and in leadership stomp all over those ideals?

 

That was life for Samuel. He knew the struggle of his mother. He knew he was meant to serve the Lord. And every day, he watched as Hophni and Phineas drove people away from the temple, and took advantage of them. He watched as Eli did nothing to stop it.

Yet somehow, he didn’t allow the example of his mentor and peers to turn him away from his path.

 

Can you imagine what it would be like to find yourself called to do something?

To proclaim a different future?

To speak light out of the darkness?

 

I have been inspired by the stories of young people around the world who are doing just that.

Julia Bluhm is a 16 year old dancer who saw young women around struggling with their image based on photoshopped and unrealistic images of what it meant to be a woman.  So she stood up to Seventeen magazine and asked them to commit to unaltered photographs and a diverse range of girls in their magazine. In 2012, the magazine committed to never change the size of a girl’s face or body and to show real girls n the magazine.

Malala Yousafzai  was just 11 when she started promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley. She was targeted for assassination and survived and continues to work to ensure all children have access to education and rights for children and young people. When asked by Jon Stewart about what gives her courage to keep going, she talks about how she decided early on to speak the truth, even in the face of someone who wants to hurt her:

If he [the Talib] comes, what would you do Malala? …If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there will be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others…with cruelty…you must fight others but through peace, through dialogue and through education…then I’ll tell him [the Talib] how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well… that’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.

 

Can you imagine proclaiming a different future? Speaking light out of darkness?

 

Today is Human Relations Day and we celebrate this Sunday in connection with Martin Luther King Jr. Day

To quote Dr. King: Every [one] must decide whether [they] will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

So with Samuel, we choose to seek the light of service and sacrifice, rather than to simply stand by and do nothing when we witness wrongs.

The United Methodist Church is committed to standing with those who are on the margins and who are struggling.

Rev. I Maliik Safir, whose church works with those gripped by addiction in Little Rock, sums up the work of Human Relations Day by recalling Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan: “to meet the poor, the disadvantaged and the underserved at the places where others have robbed them and help them to recover from the wounds of social inequality.”

 

But I think this Sunday needs to be about more than putting a few dollars in the special offering envelope to support these important ministries.  You should do that, by the way… take out that envelope and give whatever you can to help us continue to serve in these places.

But God demands more of us than simply our financial resources.

I think this is also a day when we are called to look at the world around us and ask what is happening in our midst and how are we called to proclaim a different future.

In the dark of the night, where do you hear God calling you?

Has something kept you up at night, calling you to do something?

Have you felt the tug of your heartstrings around something you are reading in the news… issues affecting Des Moines and Iowa?

Is it around issues of incarceration?  Racial disparity?  Poverty? Mental health?

Are you called to advocate for others?

Speak truth to power?

Is there something at work or school that just doesn’t feel right?  Can you do something about it?

Sit beside someone who is struggling?

If you are… take it to the Lord. Cry out that you are ready to hear. You are listening. Ask what God wants you to do.

And feel free to come and talk with me or Pastor Todd if there is a place you think we, as the church, should be responding. Because together, we can work to let the light of Christ shine in the darkest parts of this world.

As Dr. King said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Let us be people who are not afraid of the darkness.

Who go to the darkness.

Who listen in the darkness.

And who work to let the light shine.

 

 

 

Status

An ideal Saturday in the making

1) sleep in

2) eat a late breakfast/lunch

3) work out (because I promised myself I couldn’t do #5 until I did)

4) surf the web / blog / facebook

5) play skyrim

6) cook an awesome dinner

7) chill, preferably in front of the tv (tonight it will be the ISU bball game)

8) SLEEEEEEEEEEEEP (because Sunday mornings come early)

Did you notice what isn’t on there?

Yeah, writing sermons.

Because days off should be days off!

Procedures

My household recently added a person to it.

My brother in law moved in for a bit as he prepares to start graduate school. It is our chance to help him out and besides, we love having him over!

1081209_78016322It has been interesting to watch as we navigate around one another. We are running the dishwasher more, which means we have to figure out loading and unloading chores. We haven’t yet figured out who is cooking when. So far we haven’t had to fight over the remote control. ;)

Simply adding one person creates so many more places where communication and processes need to be put into place to help the household function at its best.

This is something I’ve discovered in the church, too. It amazes me how many procedures we have to learn/implement in a church with multiple staff.

For example, in my first church, the number of people who touched any particular bill was limited. Almost everything was under my direct supervision, because I placed the orders and opened the mail and indicated the expense line and drew up the financial reports. So I knew how it all fit together without needing a plan written up.

The shift to a larger church means more people are involved from the admin to the assist treasurer to the staff person who  places an order to the finance chair… and we don’t all understand the process in the same way. We together need a system that helps, rather than hinders, our ability to do effective and efficient ministry.

With a lot of new staff, this has been a great opportunity to ask some really basic questions about why we use certain procedures that might have outgrown their usefulness and to explore new ways of doing them. It is also a good time to reeducate everyone on how the system functions.  I’m learning a lot, but it is also neat to see when a process works and all the pieces click.

And the same is happening at home. I think the fresh perspective from our new house guest is helping Brandon and I discover some ruts in our system, do some things in a new way, and better talk about why we do what we do. There are still things we haven’t worked out yet, and others yet to be discovered, but we’ll get there. And with the right “procedures” we’ll be alright.