An Early Christmas Present

Christmas gift present lights

Yesterday I got an early and much appreciated Christmas gift.

If you read this blog regularly, you will know how much I liked my job. Yet, at the end of the day, there were parts of it that definitely qualified as work. (Isn’t there always.)

You’ll also know that it’s really hard for me to “turn it off” sometimes most of the time okay, okay, all the time. See, I really REALLY like what I do. You might call it my hobby. Or my passion.

Read this.

But, clearly, there were some things about my job that my family wasn’t liking. And they made sure I knew.

The first day of my official unemployment, I was a bit stressed thinking about staying connected to my peers, keeping up with trends in technology and communications, and – let’s be honest – our family finances.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. (Because that always works, right? I may have momentarily forgotten any scripture that says we should go to God first.)

Gratefully, God didn’t throw me completely under the bus. As a matter of fact, a Pastor that I greatly admire managed to connect me with some communications clients. They are social media and web content clients that I knew I’d be able to maintain even if I got a ‘real’ job.

A local arts non-profit has asked me to serve as their Communications Director. I’m excited about this opportunity. It’s a volunteer position, but they will give my daughter free tuition in their classes. That’s worth a lot.

But I couldn’t let go of some of the worry. (Clearly, I forget to read my Bible sometimes.)

I made a mental note of the job I wanted, the geographical area, my job duties, the hours, the organizational structure of the church or ministry, I had it nailed down and when I prayed, I prayed specifically for that job (not even knowing if it existed).

Yet, instead of believing that God was FOR me (and who could be against me), I began looking at any opportunity I could find. I think the term “throwing darts to see what sticks” could apply. One day I decided I could teach pre-school (I can’t). Another day I decided I could work in retail (probably not a good idea, either). Working in the medical or dental field? I do that on missions trips. I don’t want to do it all day, every day.

So a few weeks ago we were sitting in church and the Pastor was talking about taking our questions and concerns to God. Got it.

But…

Seriously, dude, there’s a but to that!?!?!?

When you do, you have to have your yes on the table first. Basically, he likened it to signing the contract agreement first, then reading the fine print after.

I’ve heard that before, but that day it really resonated.

As we left church, I made that statement. I’m done looking for a job. My  yes is out there to whatever you have for me, whenever you have it. Lead us where you want us next.

That very night, all six of us ended up going to the same place. If you’ve ever had college-aged kids, you know that’s a miracle. Normally, we have to pay our kids to hang out with us. But that night, all six of us. In the same car.

I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in 7 years – at least. Her name wasn’t even on my radar as far as connecting with. I was surprised to see her, yet ecstatic. The most awesome thing was that after all these years, she seemed happy to see me. I love my friends. Even when I don’t see them for 7 years.

She said she’d kept up with me on social media and wondered what was happening lately. I told her that I really wanted to find a new job, but wasn’t sure what that would look like.

What do you do?

I told her what I do, what I felt like I was good at and then I said, “I don’t know what it looks like, but I do know it has to be with a church or ministry.”

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. She knew of the perfect job for me.

Oh snap!

Is it too soon? Have I communicated to my family that they are number one? Have we learned a lesson from this? Are there still more to be learned (isn’t there always)?

I decided to send my resume. It couldn’t hurt.

The ensuing whirlwind – meeting with the Pastor, talking to an Elder, another meeting.

Multiple confirmations from my husband and kids – multiple prayers answered and some things that just only could have come from God.

The perfect job I described to God was right there on the table.

And I still feel like I’m dreaming, but it’s very real. Do I get to say, “I’m living the dream?” I am.

December 14 – exactly one month to the day that my last job came to an end – the Lead Pastor looked at me and said, “I’d like to move forward with this.”

Technically, I start in January.

There’s a lot I can’t – and don’t want to – share right now. This story belongs to my future employer. It’s their story to tell and I’ll give more details when they feel comfortable.

What I can share is that God hears our prayers and answers them in His perfect time. I can share that God orchestrates everything – that nothing is a coincidence. Every person I’ve seen and talked to over the past few weeks has been a part of what is right now. These are people I hadn’t expected to see – people I hadn’t expected God to put in my path. But He did, and I’m grateful.

I can share that problems should be tackled head on. It would have been easy to sweep things under the rug and hibernate. Instead I looked at my family and apologized to them for the blinders I’d had on and for how I’d put the church first. How could we move forward as a family? What did they need from me in order to feel like we had a healthy family again?

I read a blog post this week about someone being on a plane that had some issues prior to taking off. In the end, all they had to do was turn the plane off and back on to re-set the computer system. I think that’s what God did. Turn it off, now turn it back on. In only one month.

Hearing the Lead Pastor say he was comfortable moving forward… hearing his wife ask if I could start early and have it be volunteer work (um, yes!)… knowing that my husband and kids were ready for this (again)… and realizing it was one month to the day.

Yesterday I received one of the best early Christmas presents I could have asked for.

Oh, and I’ll still be working with Church Management Software. The blog will go on…

 

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Full Steam Ahead

train steam

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how some of my actions (and words) had been communicating to my kids (and husband) that the church and my work and service for her was more important than they were.

Understand that when you work for a church or ministry, there will always be some unpaid hours that have to be viewed as service. No one goes into church or ministry work to get rich. The Church is the Bride of Christ and we have to serve her selflessly. And, for some leaders, it’s really hard to ‘turn it off.’ For me, my mind is always drifting back to communications and connections. Always.

But my kids felt that. And they weren’t always happy about it.

So I’ve been intentionally investing in them and it’s been awesome. But there’s been that small voice in the back of my head.

How do I stay connected to my peers? How do I stay up-to-date on current trends and technology? What happens when we decide it’s time for mom to go back to work?

And – let’s be honest – even though there’s no “get rich quick scheme” in ministry, there’s college, insurance, and other bills. Another regular income would be great.

I reached out to a few close connections and was able to pick up a few clients that would allow me to work from home on web sites and social media.  They aren’t high paying clients, but they are people I want to help and it will help add to my resume. Even when I get a new job, these are clients I’ll be able to maintain on the side.

I had friends give me advice. Conflicting advice.

Wait 3-6 months, find a large church, and blend in with the crowd.

Get plugged in right away, serving during the time you’re not working can be like therapy.

I love my friends. They don’t always agree with one another.

Last weekend, starting with Sunday’s sermon, God worked in some incredible ways. From places we went, people we talked to, and a host of other things. The perfect job came across my way. If I had sat down and written out everything I was looking for in a job and employer, this would be it.

This week I’ve had to talk to the kids and ask: is it too soon for me to go back to work? Have we learned what God is trying to teach us? Basically, “are y’all good with this?”

Confirmation came from Alan. He’s on board with this. The kids are all okay with it, too.

Full steam ahead. We hope.

Please pray with our family, that if this job is God’s will, the details will work out and everything will fall in to place. If it’s not God’s will, we will accept that move on, but so far, things are on track!

 

Guinea Pig / Test Family

guinea pig bibleThis morning our family visited a new church. This week, I had spoken with the Lead Pastor and one of their Elders and they both knew of my love for knowledge of neurotic obsession with CCB (Church Community Builder) software.

Their web site and social media gave us enough information to know where we needed to go and a general idea of what to expect when we got there.

Their greeting team did a great job of telling us the important information: where to take our kids, where the bathrooms were, where to get coffee. We were walked to (not pointed to) the children’s check-in area.

It was there that this magic happened. The Elder serving at the children’s check-in desk was helping to explain to someone a new thing they were trying with CCB check-in and said, “she [pointing to me] wouldn’t mind being  our guinea pig and testing this for us.”

Wouldn’t mind!? That’s a bit of an understatement. Does this guy know who I am and what I love? Jesus. Family. Coffee. Church Management Software. I try to keep it in that order. I’m not always good at it.

“Wouldn’t mind.” Make that: “happy to…” “I’d be mad if you didn’t ask me…” “I’ll report for work on Monday morning. Where’s my office?”

Okay, I didn’t say that. I thought it. I didn’t say it out loud.

I did tell him I’d blog about it. So here it is.

Their childen’s team did great and when I pointed out that it may be taking too long to check in a new, first-time guest and made a suggestion about about what I’d seen and helped with at other churches, they listened. I don’t know if they’ll do what I suggested. But they showed an interest in what I said. (They may be blogging about the crazy first-time guest who tried to tell them how run their church.)

The Children’s Pastor took us from there to where we’d leave our youngest son. (Again he didn’t point; he walked us to our destination.) Our middle-school daughter had the option of staying with us or participating in a Bible study. This morning, she chose to stay with us. He asked me how I came to love church management software. I told him that while serving as Next Steps Director at another church, I saw it’s power and ability in helping us get guests connected and retaining them long-term. He said he’d only really been using it for about a year. (It’s okay, I’m here to help. I’ll report for work Monday morning. Where’s my office?)

Side note: I’ve been known to tell churches that they didn’t even have to pay me. That I believed so much in this software helping them, I’d help them implement it for free. With two kids in college and rising insurance rates, my husband has suggested that I rescind that offer.

We saw a few friends. One we saw just last week. Another we hadn’t seen in 19 years. It was great to see them both.

After service, we got to chat with the Pastor and his wife. The Pastor asked us to send an email with our feedback. I’d send an email if I had anything critical to say. Because I have nothing critical to say, I’ll post publicly on my blog.

This morning was fantastic. I have no doubt, we will be back.

And any time you need a guinea pig to test a CCB feature, please use our family. We are happy to help.

 

Ministry vs. Marketing

smartphone laptop

Ministry vs. Marketing
Job is defined as:
a paid position of regular employment.
Work is defined as:
activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.
Do you see the difference?
A quick search yielded these results from scripture on the topic of of work:
Of these, my favorite is Psalm 90:17:
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.
Another quick search yielded not as many references to the term, ‘job’ (Unless it was with a capital ‘J’ – a person’s name.)
There was this – from 2 Chronicles 34:13:
had charge of the laborers and supervised all the workers from job to job. Some of the Levites were secretaries, scribes and gatekeepers.
They were referred to as ‘workers’ first. The workers had jobs.
During the course of my typical work…at my job… I get to manage our communications outlets – the database is one of my primary internal communication tools, but I also get to manage our public-facing communication tools: web site, social media channels, etc.

This week I’ve felt challenged to look at how we use our communications assets – specifically social media.

What if…

We used this more as ministry; less as marketing.
We told people what was happening in our church now, instead of just upcoming events.
We told stories of what God is doing now; not just what we believe  He’s going to do.
We invited people to what’s happening today; not just to planned events weeks from now?
We posted more scripture and fewer ‘buzz words’ and ‘catch phrases’?
We quit using the terms ‘branding’ and ‘style guide’ and replaced them with ‘clear communications’ and ‘not confusing’?
What if…
We ministered more and marketed less.
I have a great book on church marketing. Actually, that’s the name of the book: Church Marketing.
But I also have some great books on how we should view our entire lives – all we do – as a ministry.
I don’t want to market our church.
I want to minister to our community.

 

mom.com

As I sat down to write this, my son referred to my blog as “mom.com.”

And so begins this ridiculously long blog post about the random things God has been teaching me.

99.99% of the time, this blog is going to be devoted to church management software. Mainly because I like church management software. It’s what I think about for fun.

But I also think about the church web site (which is slowly edging out the church management software for the #1 spot), guest services and assimilation, and handful of other church-y things. And I also don’t forget that it’s about God. It’s about how He is molding us and shaping us into who He wants us to be for His glory. It’s about growth. It’s about change. It’s about connecting people to church and people to people. It’s about facing challenges and recognizing His blessings. It’s about finding peace in the midst of a trial.

And so…every so often…I’m going to break from writing all about church management software and databases and just give you a glimpse into our lives. And how God is working in our family. And what he’s teaching me – as a mom…and in other areas.

This summer has been challenging for our family. Any change – even recognizably good change – brings it’s own set of challenges.

A few weeks ago, my youngest son – who is in public school after 5 years of homeschooling – had a difficult week. There were some things that brought him to tears, which in turn, brought me to tears. And I questioned. I questioned a lot.

Was I supposed to go back to work? Should I still be home with him? What if we’d put him in public school two years ago when we first had an inclination that he might do better in that setting? What if we’d never put him in at all?

So as I was listening to my son’s fears, concerns, and cries. And as I myself was crying and questioning, I received a hand-written note card from my boss. Except that he didn’t write it as a boss. He wrote it from the perspective of a Pastor.

To some of you, this might be nothing. But when I got that card in the mail, I realized he was already thinking of our family as part of the church family and not just of me as an employee. And I realized how grateful I am to serve there.

Then God took it to a whole other level (He always does!).

One of the things my son was struggling with at school was making new friends. He felt a little left out. But this week he received a birthday party invitation and he is extremely happy. And I was able to use this situation to teach him how powerful prayer is. I told him that last week, when he was so unhappy, that we had people praying for him (for both of us), and this week he’d gotten a birthday party invitation. Not only that, but when I called to RSVP, the other boys’ mom seemed genuinely happy that my son was coming. I showed my son the note we’d received from my boss Pastor, and I made sure he realized how much God loves us.

This week, two other churches contacted me about team structure, leadership development, and volunteer development. I’m not even sure why they contacted me or how they got my name, but it’s truly humbling to think that not only could I play a small part in what God is doing at Fairview Baptist Church, but that He’s allowing me to play a small part in what He’s doing in and through other churches. I always think there are probably 1,000 other people out there more qualified than I am and I am grateful each day for the opportunities He gives me.

In talking to another church leader, I (we) realized that we can approach paid staff (both Pastoral and other) in two ways:

The first is that we can look at them primarily as paid staff members who also attend our church. We look first at their position, title, and authority. We look at their job duties and expectations first, before looking at them as part of the church family. And in some cases, they are never looked at as part of the church family.

The second is that we can look at them as part of the church family, who – because of position, title, authority, and expected duties  – we honor and appreciate by giving to them financially.

In a perfect world, I believe you’d see a good blend of both of those views all the time. However, after much discussion, I admitted that as a church staff member, I’d rather see the second. I’d rather be seen as part of the church family first, employee second. One of my favorite quotes is by Tim Keller: Our daily work can be a calling if we reconceive it as God’s assignment to serve others.

What about you? How do you think you are viewed and how would you like to be viewed? Is there a third option we didn’t consider? Or have we completely missed the mark?

And finally this week – I began a new Bible study on the Book of James. And almost immediately, I had to admit how selfish and prideful I’d been in many areas. You see, at our old church, I oversaw the database and first impressions teams. I was always at the info desk which means that I usually had all the info. I entered events into the database, which in turn went to the public calendar (web site) and I created online sign up forms that would be displayed in the lobby.

But going to our new church is different. The person who held this position before me, did not attend, and seeing my face on Sundays is a new thing for some members to process. People have said, “this is new. We’ve never done this before.”  I get it. It’s new for us, too. And thus, I have yet to serve on a Sunday. And I miss that.

But maybe in all of this, I’d become too reliant on my own talents and abilities and not fully reliant on Him and what He can do. I found contentment and fulfillment what I did, rather than who I did it for (Him). I took pride in what I had done, not fully giving credit and glory to Him and thanking Him for the gifts and talents He had given me.

This week, I received an email from Google indicating that our searches, clicks on our web site, and other actions had taken a dramatic increase of the past month.

There would have been a time when my immediate response would have been to pat myself on the back. But instead, I found myself ‘speechless’ before God. I could not believe my efforts had produced these results. And I had nothing by thanks for Him.

 

There are still some things I miss about serving on Sundays – pre-service team prayer, meeting our first time guests and first time guest follow up – to name a few – but I’m also exceedingly grateful that God has given me new opportunities to learn and grow in other areas.

Tonight in the car, my youngest son said, “Mom, the Bible is 100% true. All of it.”

And with that, I’ll get back to Church Management Software and processes. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our family’s life. Until next time…