“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Being an only child for the first eight years of my life was lonely. I liked being around people because it reduced the number of hours I was alone. At an early age, I learned to hate goodbyes. Goodbyes are painful. It means the end of something. For churches, ministry teams, and members goodbyes are hard. Ending well is even harder. Too often because people hate loss we don’t say goodbye well. Sometimes we trash the person leaving and want to wipe them from our emotional memory as soon as possible. Maybe we are trying to lessen the loss, but in doing so we are creating a deeper hurt and we are not teaching our members to value the season of ministry we enjoyed. In the last two years, I have had to say farewell to many painful times. I have lost dear brothers and sisters who made my work a true joy. Now I am living with a new normal. The losses still hurt. I am tempted to move on, but, I want to honor what those dear friends did in God’s name. As an organization, the fine line you walk is how do you honor those who served yet move forward into your new normal?
Give yourself time and permission to grieve, but then Celebrate.
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.”- Rumi
Ministry is hard, and people leave ministry for all kinds of fantastic and valid reasons. Things like God is calling them to work for Him in another type of ministry. Don’t take that as a personal attack or see them as abandoning you. We have to be faithful to the call of God on your heart. Sometimes the organization and you have different values and a different vision. It is best to leave and let that new vision gain traction and legs. If you can’t support the new direction it may be time to seek a new place to serve. I often told my members, “Life is too short for you to be in a church that does not nurture your soul.” Whatever led people to desire to move on, allow yourself to grieve the loss but then celebrate the season of ministry you had together.
“Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.”- Ritu Ghatourey
Honoring the Past while looking to the future.
We all face a life full of goodbyes. People move, change careers, relationships end, they retire, and the curtain of their life will come down. In times of great change, it’s hard to find the words to express the strong emotions we feel and/or sum up a period of our life that’s coming to a close.
“To part is the lot of all mankind. The world is a scene of constant leave-taking, and the hands that grasp in cordial greeting today, are doomed ere long to unite for the last time when the quivering lips pronounce the word – Farewell.” R.M. Ballantyne
Enjoy the time you had as you look ahead to what is yet to come. Finish well, end relationships well, keep looking forward.
It has just been one of those seasons in my life. Not being a person who ever lacks confidence this is a unique place to go through. Maybe you can relate. You may have gone through a season of close calls, several job opportunities that went to others else. It shakes you the first time, the sixth time you wonder didn’t I shower, what the heck is going on? I wish I had some inspiring words of wisdom to share with you, but I don’t. Things happen for a reason. Doors close for a purpose. Nothing in life happens in a vacuum. If you doubt your gifts, wondering if you have lost your leadership edge, feeling stuck in neutral as the world speeds by I pray this post will help you regain that mojo. This will be a different approach. Today I will share quotes from other leaders. These helped me, it is possible they will inspire you.
One of my favorite Biblical accounts is the story of Elijah, the prophet. What sometimes gets lost in his story is after a major victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah had a leadership meltdown maybe even a major bout with depression. He is held up in a cave when God comes looking for him. Here is a portion of that interaction.
“The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
10 Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” 1 Kings 19
As a leader, there are times when you may seem to lose your way after all things, a major win. No matter why you are feeling off-kilter or lost, the first step in your recovery is to reconnect with God. Listen to His still small voice. It is possible the reason you are experiencing what you are is you have gone down the wrong path, or your path is about to change.
Confidence is a feeling. You cannot be measured by it, but when you lack it, others can perceive this emotion. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. My mom always told me “fake it till you make it”. Sometimes as a leader, you just need to fake confidence, until you get it back. The qualities God endowed you with to lead have not vanished. Reconnect with the Almighty and figure out how and where He wants to use you next. It is possible you are looking and serving in the wrong place. As one great leader points out, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams
Don’t allow your situation or circumstances to stop you from being what you were created to do for the kingdom. Be patient your time and opportunity will come. Until then keep inspiring others to dream.
If you are feeling stuck and unproductive, it is possible you have set your sails in the wrong direction. For Elijah, he had to hear God’s voice in the quiet. He was being reassigned. Listen.
But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
14 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16 Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”
“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” -John Maxwell
If you are feeling like you have lost your way maybe it is just God adjusting your sails.
Enough already, stop labeling people with whom you disagree. Being a Black American I can tell you I have seen my fair share of racism. I have seen it overtly expressed in words and actions and I have seen it subtly displayed in opportunities given to people who appear to get positions because of who they know not what they are capable of doing. What is getting lost in the continuous claims of racism is that true discrimination goes unnoticed. Racism is a dangerous label to attach to someone. It is impossible to defend and only serves to further divide people. Like all labels, they are the most damaging when they limit a person’s ability to live out their God-given potential.
1. Dispelling some commonly held erroneous facts.
In a recent Pew Research article. Here are some interesting trends in America in relation to Black Americans:
• For the first time in U.S. history, 90% of Americans ages 25 and older have completed high school, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – and the share of blacks who have done so is also at the highest level on record. In 2017, 87% of blacks ages 25 and older had a high school diploma or equivalent. The share of blacks ages 25 and older who have completed four years of college or more has also roughly doubled during that span, from 12% in 1993 to 24% in 2017.
• Immigrants are making up a growing number of the overall U.S. population – but the black immigrant population is growing twice as fast. There were 4.2 million black immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016, up from 816,000 in 1980, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. Since 2000 alone, the number of black immigrants in the U.S. has risen 71%.
• The wealth gap increased between middle-income black and white families but shrank between lower-income black and white families from 2007 to 2016. Much of the reduction in the wealth gap among lower-income families was driven by a sharp decrease in wealth for whites.
With all this progress in the black community that old ugly “R” word racism still keeps popping up.
• In 2017, about eight-in-ten blacks (81%) said racism is a big problem in society today, up from 44% eight years prior. By comparison, about half of whites (52%) said racism is a big problem in our society, up from 22% in 2009.
2. When Racism hurts.
An overwhelming majority of blacks (92%) say whites benefit at least a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have. This includes nearly seven-in-ten blacks (68%) who say whites benefit a great deal. By comparison, 46% of whites say whites benefit at least a fair amount from advantages in society that blacks don’t have, with just 16% saying whites benefit a great deal.
This research revelation is one that hits home. When, because of the color of your skin and not based on your gifts and abilities, you rarely get the chance to be what God created you to be, that destroys the human spirit. At its core, racism is about assigning a value to people using labels. They base those labels on impressions of what they believe a certain race of individuals are lacking. They do not design labels to build up and unite, they are in place to hold people down and limit what God designs. How to end racism? Change the narrative, change how we see people. As Paul says “regard no one according to the flesh.” Instead, see people through the eyes of God.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, , that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.“ 1 Peter 2:9
Defeat the labels placed on you by the world and remember God left a royal priesthood behind to be a light that shines brightly in the darkness. Be what God has chosen and redeemed you to be.
If I could transport myself back in time to the early years of my ministry, the first change I would have made in my thought process would be to develop leaders. Not developing leaders put a ceiling on our ministry potential. Asking people to wear multiple hats proved to be detrimental not only to the ministry but to my few, overworked and over-committed saints. Burnout was common. Ministry was inconsistent. New ministry opportunity was missed or not taken advantage of because we didn’t have the people or the energy to try new things. Have you been there? Are you there now as a church? If this is your story let me share with you how to change your volunteer culture.
You are thinking is that a business term. Here we go trying to turn the house of God into a corporation. No, but there is something to be learned from how others train and equip people for service. In an apprenticeship model, the essential foundation of the program includes structured on-the-job training. Your apprentices get hands-on training and equipping from an experienced mentor involved in the particular ministry. This hands-on training would last typically a minimum of one year. This training comprises providing the skills and knowledge the apprentice must learn over the program to be fully proficient at the job. Imagine how this would transform your leadership potential and open opportunities for further ministry possibilities.
Before you embark on this volunteer development culture shift you must be ready to allow these new apprentice-level volunteers to spread their wings and fly. Provide a safe environment up-front to put their gifts to use. In other words, give them the main stage. If they falter, encourage them, give them useful input to improve and send them out time and time again until they are ready to lead on the weight of their own ability. You will never develop the next generation of leaders if you never allow them to lead.
As you are developing these new leaders, give them feedback. However, a word of caution. If your organization has people of different backgrounds from different nationalities realize they process feedback differently.
Andy Molinsky uses this example “…in Germany in terms of tough, critical, to-the-point negative feedback was actually demotivating to Jens’s new Chinese employees, who were used to a far gentler feedback style. In Germany, you don’t single out specific accomplishments or offer praise unless the accomplishment is truly extraordinary. From a German point of view, these positive work behaviors are normal, rather than extraordinary. Employees are expected to do a particular job, and when they do that job, they do not need to be recognized. In China — at least at this particular plant — the culture was quite different. Employees expected more positive reinforcement than pure critique. These positive comments motivated them to increase productivity and put forth that extra, discretionary effort.”
Take the time to learn what motivates your volunteers and which feedback style will produce the results you are seeking.
They often ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Many little kids respond, “A firefighter!” There is something attractive about being heroic… and driving a big red truck! But did you know of the over 1 million firefighters in the United States serving families and businesses as some of the most anxious times in a person’s life, that only 31% get paid? That’s right, 69% of firefighters are volunteers. 98.3% of fire departments in the state of Delaware are comprised of volunteers or mostly volunteers. So why do they do put their lives at risk? Because they love their neighbors.
Faith calls every Christian to sacrifice to serve others. It is not just the role of the paid minister. How can we as a church serve our community at the time when it is most at risk?
You are raising up volunteers to take part in the most important mission ever conceived. It is difficult to work and in some places; it is dangerous work. While God calls us to do it, celebrating how God is using His people is crucial. Take time like Jesus did to encourage your faithful servants, lift before the congregation how God is using His people to carry out His mission. It will encourage the entire body of Christ and the ones called to serve.
On that morning the dew was heavy as we became this journey to the Magic Kingdom. The young people could hardly contain their emotions. The adults were bracing themselves for a long trip, deciding who would be the navigator, the driver, the entertainer of the young enthusiastic people in the back. As the trip got underway we began with a prayer, for safe travels, a fun vacation, and an opportunity to create lasting memories and give thanks for the three generations trapped for ten hours together on this family getaway. Once the prayer for a safe journey is over the key starts the engine and off we go.
Everything was going along swimmingly until some genius puts on some music to make time fly. And the generational war begins. Grandma wants to hear her favorite hip swinger, Tom Jones. Mom reliving her teen years wants to hear the Four Tops. Being sensitive to their lack of coolness, I want to bring them into the present and hear from a not yet discovered musical genius, Prince. No one wanted to expand their horizons and so this ten-hour trip is marked by everyone being unhappy during this trip. Welcome to Sunday morning at the intergenerational worship service.
This quote hits the nail on the head.
“The challenge of an intergenerational church is often reduced to worship style, and it is honestly difficult to plan and lead a worship service that appeals to the tastes of 5 generations all at once. But that misses the point. The biggest challenge is not appealing to everyone at once — Jesus wants disciples, not fans. Instead, the challenge is finding ways for every generation to participate in the mission and vision of our churches.”
Avoid Reducing Worship to Likes and Dislikes
To move beyond making worship about likes and dislikes we have to focus on the mission of the church. It calls us to baptize, teach, and make disciples by our Lord in the Great Commission. You will also notice that the phrase “all generations can be found 91 times in the Bible, yet we divide generations up into subgroups.”
Howard Vanderwell, who’s editing a book about intergenerational worship says,“God does not form our character all at once or all by himself. Nor does he expect us to unilaterally form our own character. God acts on us through others. Interaction among generations is necessary for forming faith and character. Each age learns from another.”
Steve Burger agrees. “Who or what we choose to exclude from our worship gatherings says as much about our community of faith as who or what we choose to include. And, really, does exclude anyone makes sense when you realize we’re spending an eternity together?”
If we are serious about doing intergenerational worship it will take an attitude shift on the part of leaders, it will require humility as well as intentionality. The founders and builder generation can’t hold the other generations captive with a “this is how we’ve always done it” attitude. Nor can current generations use a “fresh and new is better” attitude. Worship leaders who focus on one or two age-groups and ignore others will kill this opportunity to bring people together for the good of the kingdom.
Everyone takes part.
I got the chance to preach at a congregation. And I noticed that it involved no lay people. Now I preach to a lot of congregations in a year and everyone does things a little differently. I missed having more people working alongside me leading people in worship. It is not my ministry, first, it is God’s and we are serving God’s people. For intergenerational worship to work I think you need to have all generations engaged in worship. This is our act of worship, we bring our praises to God and He is offering us His grace, forgiveness, and strength to live out our lives as Children of Light.
Questions to keep the conversation going, you can add your responses in the comment section.
More posts on the topic of intergenerational ministry.
In the US, most kids have a very long summer break, during which they forget an awful lot of what they learned during the school year. This “summer slump” affects kids from low-income neighborhoods most, setting them back almost three months. TED Fellow Karim Abouelnaga has a plan to reverse this learning loss. Learn how he’s helping kids improve their chances for a brighter future.
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