Archive for August, 2011

30 Simple Ways to be Missional in Your Workplace (From Josh Reeves)

30 Simple Ways to be Missional in Your Workplace (From Josh Reeves and Verge Network)

Recently, Josh Reeves posted some very practical ideas for blessing others in the workplace (please pay special attention to item #24):

1. Instead of eating lunch alone, intentionally eat with other co-workers and learn their story.

2. Get to work early so you can spend some time praying for your co-workers and the day ahead.

3. Make it a daily priority to speak or write encouragement when someone does good work.

4. Bring extra snacks when you make your lunch to give away to others.

5. Bring breakfast (donuts, burritos, cereal, etc.) once a month for everyone in your department.

6. Organize a running/walking group in the before or after work.

7. Have your missional community/small group bring lunch to your workplace once a month.

8. Create a regular time to invite coworkers over or out for drinks.

9. Make a list of your co-workers birthdays and find a way to bless everyone on their birthday.

10. Organize and throw office parties as appropriate to your job.

11. Make every effort to avoid gossip in the office. Be a voice of thanksgiving not complaining.

12. Find others that live near you and create a car pool.

13. Offer to throw a shower for a co-worker who is having a baby.

14. Offer to cover for a co-worker who needs off for something.

15. Start a regular lunch out with co-workers (don’t be selective on the invites).

16. Organize a weekly/monthly pot luck to make lunch a bit more exciting.

17. Ask someone who others typically ignore if you can grab them a soda/coffee while you’re out.

18. Be the first person to greet and welcome new people.

19. Make every effort to know the names of co-workers and clients along with their families.

20. Visit coworkers when they are in the hospital.

21. Bring sodas or work appropriate drinks to keep in your break room for coworkers to enjoy. Know what your co-workers like.

22. Go out of your way to talk to your janitors and cleaning people who most people overlook.

23. Find out your co-workers favorite music and make a playlist that includes as much as you can (if suitable for work).

24. Invite your co-workers in to the service projects you are already involved in.

25. Start/join a city league team with your co-workers.

26. Organize a weekly co-working group for local entrepreneurs at a local coffee shop.

27. Start a small business that will bless your community and create space for mission.

28. Work hard to reconcile co-workers who are fighting with one another.

29. Keep small candy, gum, or little snacks around to offer to others during a long day.

30. Lead the charge in organizing others to help co-workers in need.

Link to original post on Verge Network http://www.vergenetwork.org/2011/08/16/30-simple-ways-to-be-missional-in-your-workplace/

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I Feel Terrible for the Trees

I Feel Terrible for the Trees

It seems like every day I get a ton of irrelevant mail.  Most of the time, it doesn’t even get opened.  A lot of it is from my denomination.  Usually that kind of mail is offers for stuff we don’t need or don’t have have money for.  There is some committee somewhere out East that must sit in a room and dream up our context and then, whose job it is to tell us what we need to equip our people and to do what we are called to do.  Really?  The mail is either that or it is some plea for financial support for that same committee.  I feel terrible for the trees.  So much paper used in ways that bear no fruit.  If the tree had been left to stand, it would have borne real fruit.

Not once in twelve years has this committee, or staff, or whatever ever dialed up my number and asked me what we’re up to and what we think we need for support.  Okay, so a phone call costs money.  How about e-mail? Facebook?  I mean, I pay for my own internet service.  They could, too.  I’m sure they have it at home, if not at the office.  Not once in twelve years has anyone from that committee ever shot me an e-mail to say, “Hey dude, what are you up to these days? Need anything? Tell me something good.” Not once has anyone from this body ever come down here and worked with us in our missions or ministries.  I doubt anyone there even knows that “StreetLife Ministries” or “Despensa de la Paz” or “Heritage Court Ministry” even exist.  There seems to be a complete disconnection between those who are engaged in the mission and those whose actual paid job it is to support those people who are engaged in the mission.  This is basic leadership – you can’t lead people that you don’t talk to.  Basic stuff. So much paper wasted.  I feel so bad for the trees.

In the missional environment that I work in, we live and die by the principle that we seek out and listen to the person on the ground.  Let me say that again a little louder, “WE SEEK OUT AND LISTEN TO THE PERSON ON THE GROUND.”  If anyone is serious about effective leadership, please do these two simple and very basic things – seek out and listen to.  We seek out the person who is closest to the engagement between our mission and the world. We literally go out there and find them in person and talk to them face-to-face.  We talk to them at least once a week, if not once a day.  When we want to know what’s going on, we don’t sit in a cubicle and dream up an answer.  We put on some work boots and go get dirty with them and listen to what they are telling us they need.  They know what they need. They tell us what kind of training they need.  They tell us what funding and material resources they need. They tell us what they need prayer for specifically.  We get down on our knees with them right there on the street and pray with them for what they tell us they need prayer for.  They know the context of the situation, and context is everything.  We don’t “assume” because that makes an “a** (donkey) out of u (you) and me”.  I have seen some of the most beautifully prepared and packaged curriculum in an expensive color-glossy catalog, and not one item in it is relevant to our context or need.  How could it be? The writers never bothered to talk to us.

Leadership by assumption is insanity.  Trying to lead without tacit information soaked in context is ignorance.  Our job as leaders at this level (and thus at every level above us) is to support the people in the arena at the cutting edge of the mission. If we aren’t doing that, then we are irrelevant, and a waste of crucial resources.  How can we claim to support the people in the arena if we never talk to the people who are in the actual arena?  What do we think? …that we can dream up their needs better than they can tell us what their needs actually are?  As a result of the kind of “we’re the professionals – we know what you need” thinking that leads to this tremendous waste of paper, we go without needed resources (which is fine – God has always provided). But people’s hard-earned dollars that they think are going to the mission are being wasted on mailings that don’t even get opened anymore.  How can we, as a collective body claiming to represent Christ in the world, be led by people making six-figure salaries who have never even talked to the people on the ground who bear fruit for the Kingdom every day and don’t even have enough to eat? Led where? I think God will have something to say about that.  We do recycle, but I still feel terrible for the trees.

Sorry for the rant…actually…no, I’m not. But wow, the poor trees.  Somebody has to speak up for them.

First Steps? I Really Don’t Remember Them

First Steps? I Really Don’t  Remember Them

I have been asked to go and speak before a group in October about the journey that my community of faith has been on over the last 12 years or so.  I have to say that I am a bit afraid. It is really hard to remember the first steps…the first revelations that have led to profound transformation from a “church” that was focused primarily on its own maintenance, to a community willing to sacrifice itself in order to participate in God’s present kingdom.  When we began this journey into whatever it means to be “missional”, the questions being asked all began with, “What do I want?”  Now the questions all begin with, “What does Jesus want from us/me?”  But where we began?…how we got started?…what opened our eyes?… those things are going to be hard to tease out.  Things are now so dynamic, so fluid, and so immediate that looking back has never been a necessity or a luxury we could afford to spend much time with.  Now, however, I have been asked to tell someone else how we got to where we are…a very humbling honor in and of itself…and somehow I have to figure out how to it.

I liken this task to another one I had many years ago.  When I was in the Army, my superiors noticed that I was a pretty good skier.  And they asked me to teach people in my unit how to ski.  I started to immediately say, “Yes, sir”.  And then I realized that I knew how to ski very well.  I just didn’t know how I came to know how to ski very well.  And teaching others apparently requires both things. Uh oh.

When I was in grade school or early middle school (I really am not sure which) my friends took me up to the mountains for a ski trip and they taught me how to ski.  Actually, they didn’t teach me anything.  They just gave me the opportunity to teach myself to ski…or die, actually.  They got me on the ski lift after several painful and unsuccessful attempts and got me to the top of Bryce Mountain.  And then they said, “See you at the bottom.  And don’t hit the trees.”  Then they took off and left me standing at the edge of the precipice wondering how in the world I was ever going to get down.  I imagine that that part of my story likens itself to what it feels like for a church or faith community to peer into the future and see that change is at the very bottom of a steep and icy hillside that could kill you if you get it wrong.  No matter what, nobody’s going to get to the bottom without some scrapes and bruises, and more importantly, some very injured ego.  Looking over the edge and knowing that I didn’t know how to ski was terrifying…absolutely terrifying.

When I looked down that slope at my impending doom and then realized that my only alternative was to put my tail between my legs and be escorted down the mountain by the Ski Patrol, my brain clearly malfunctioned because that kind of moral calculus was more than a boy of my age and wiring was capable of.   So…with my hands and knees literally shaking, I said to myself, “What the heck.  Let’s do this!”  And off the edge I went.  I got about twenty feet and wiped out painfully, and decided maybe I ought to watch the other skiers…the practitioners of this sport…and see what they do and how they do it.  Then I can just sort of emulate what they do.  I watched intently and emulated the best I could.  Somehow, I managed to arrive at the bottom alive though one of my skis arrived several minutes ahead of the rest of me.  I repeated that process over and over until I finally got pretty good at skiing…or at least got to the point where both of my skis arrived at the same time and with me still attached to them.

I looked around at the kids whose parents had bought them a place in the fancy ski school.  They all had the nice ski apparel…everything matched and all their gear was top of the line.  They weren’t all bruised up with pine branches sticking out of their jackets from where they sailed off the trail. They all learned the same way and the safer way.  They all looked the same, acted the same, and even talked the same.  I wished I could do that, too.  But my parents weren’t in that tax bracket.  Taking lessons wasn’t something they or I could afford.  And my ski apparel consisted of blue jeans and a ski jacket acquired from the Salvation Army.  That was what I had to work with, and I was grateful for it.  There were plenty of kids who didn’t even have the money to get a lift ticket or to ski at all. At the same time, I did look with envy on the wealthier kids…it would have been very hard not to.  I think that sometimes small churches look with envy at the churches with big budgets that can do fancy training with all the cool technology at nice hotels at attractive locations.  My community wasn’t in that situation, and most of the people reading this participate in communities that aren’t in that situation either.  The temptation is to look with envy at the formal and pretty training that some communities get.  Some of us think that if we don’t get that, we’ll never learn what we need to know.  But the truth is, as I learned to ski then, we’ve learned to be effectively missional now…in blue jeans and hand-me-down jackets and by the seat of our pants.  I have come to believe that God gives us exactly what we need to be what God wants us to be.  We don’t need to envy others.  Theirs is simply a different journey.

When my military counterparts asked me to teach others to ski, I came to the realization that learning to ski was a methodical process of steps learned one after the other, and I had no idea what those steps were.  I didn’t learn that way, though I did learn the steps some way.  What I ended up doing was going back and taking novice classes so that I could learn a way to teach the steps…the first, second, and third steps…so that I could teach others a method of going forward without nearly dying a terrifying death among the pine trees and stickers bushes and boulders.

My experience of learning to be missional is kind of the same thing.  My friends took me to the top of a mountain and said, “See you at the bottom” and just kind of left me there.  By scrapes and skids and cuts and bruises, and by watching the few others who were in the journey with us and learning from them (and they from us) our community arrived at the bottom of the missional mountain alive, and it has now repeated the process again and again to the point where we are pretty good at it.  Teaching someone else, though?  Well, that’s a whole other thing.  There’s a lot of purported “experts” out there, but I have found them highly suspicious…mostly because they don’t seem battered and bruised in a way that would indicate that they are on the same mountain we are on.  This one is brutal.  We are, by no means, experts.  We are battered and scruffy and we still fall down a lot.  We are merely avid practitioners seeking to be more effective and more obedient to the call of Christ.

So…in looking back, the first transformational realization that we came to had to be why we needed to make a change to begin with.  At least a part of it was that we were dying up on top of the mountain…left as the dead to bury the dead as the Kingdom of God marched on without us.  But that fear wasn’t what got us moving.  I can point to hundreds of congregations that would rather die up there and face the shame of being helped down the mountain by their adjudicatory and ecclesial ski patrol. What got us moving down the mountain was a joyous, life-altering realization and a simple one. I will begin and end this article with this simple realization.  We had misunderstood the project of following Christ and had misunderstood the nature of Christ’s message.  We had understood the project as coming to salvation as an achievement of a status and that protecting that status was the aim of the project.  The first and most important realization was that the Good News of Jesus Christ as related in scripture has nothing to do with our status…indeed it has nothing to do with us as individuals at all.  The Good News is simply this: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  The project then is to participate in the Kingdom wherever we are and to invite others to participate in it with us.  That is the mission – to seek first the Kingdom of God.  And the project of following Christ is to live more and more into His present Kingdom. That realization got us moving down the mountain.  It wasn’t all we needed to know by any means, but it did get us moving and it keeps us moving deeper and deeper into some pretty scary territory as we seek to follow Christ into His mission.

If you are on this missional journey, it would be awesome if you’d comment on here about what the first and second steps were for your community that got you moving into the mission.  If you were someone fortunate enough to have received some formal training, I’d love to hear what was recommended in that as good first and second and third steps.  Thank you, and God bless you on the journey.