But God

But God.

Friday I’ll be about an hour from home. All day.

Friday night I’m babysitting.

I’m old enough to know where my wall is. (I’ve hit it enough times.) Hitting the wall isn’t fun. It’s hard. It hurts. I’ve seen it coming and I’ve been completely blindsided. The wall hurts and it’s hard whether you see it coming or not.

So I put a big red ‘x’ on Saturday. ‘X’ marks the wall.

But God.

But our church scheduled a day of service for Saturday.

Y’all can serve. Need some graphic design? I’m happy to help. Website update? Social media update? I got you.

Anything that can be done from my house + in my pajamas… it’s my wall day.

But God.

But then I realized that maybe there’s something I can do.

So…I’m babysitting Saturday morning for a couple so they can go serve together ❤️❤️

Then Saturday afternoon I’m possibly babysitting for another couple so they can go see a movie.

The wall told me I’d be at my limit.

But God told me I could throw on sweats and keep kids alive and entertained for a few hours. (I’ve been doing that for 22+ years.)

Do I get tired? Nope. Okay, well, yes. But no – because I’ve learned not to hit the wall.

But the same God who moves mountains and parts seas can push that wall back a little further.

☕️ Also, my love language is coffee so if you see me this weekend and I look dead, you know what to do. ✌️

Do we practice what we preach?

I write this to all of the congregations. All of you. Everywhere.

I know this: God has called me to serve vocationally in the local church. Definitely in the areas of communications, first impressions, next steps, and assimilation.

I also know I’m looking for every reason not to.

The sad part is that I don’t have to look too hard. This is a post from a group I’m in (I’ve left out a few details on purpose):

“Does anyone else notice that as we preach mental health as a Church, ours isn’t the best example? I was told on Thursday to (insert project + short timeline). Five hours of work later – on a Saturday – it’s finally done. Is it just my church??”

I have a friend who recently left the ministry. She’s posting a lot of pictures showing the activities she’s enjoying with her family. Many of the posts contain the phrase, “for the first time in a long time, I’m able to…”

Think about that. For the first time in a long time, she’s able to enjoy activities with her family.

Just last night, I received this message from a friend “…after having worked in… a daycare, in restaurants w high functioning alcoholics and/or drug users, a government job, and in a regional insurance office that included several dozen insurance salesmen, I’d never been in such a dysfunctional work environment until now.”

(She’s referring to her job at a church)

My own personal experience? I’ve missed family celebrations, flown home early from a family vacation, and even taken my laptop to and worked at the ER – when I was the patient.

I’ve loaded my personal cell phone (that the church didn’t pay for) with apps and images that were only for the church.

And I justified every second:

  • It’s my family’s church home, not just my job – I want to see things succeed (done, done well, etc.)
  • I’m earning a paycheck
  • Jesus never promised easy, He promised it would be worth it
  • I’m not hanging on a cross

I justified it because I knew it’s what God was calling me to do.

And then I ran. For many reasons. And in some way, I’m still running.

But I know I’ll go back.

Because despite the soul-crushing sacrifice, there’s another common bond among church employees: we love our congregations. Your Pastor loves you (I hope). The church secretary loves you. The maintenance guy loves you. The financial secretary loves you. Even the website and graphic design person loves you.

We know it’s a sacrifice. We know it’s a calling. And each and every church employee I know wants desperately to see people connected to the body of Christ.

And almost every congregant I know will say at some point to a church employee, “you work so hard, you need a break (day off, vacation, etc.)”

You’re right. We do.

So…what’s the point?

Here it is:

If you’re sitting in church, not DOING anything, please step up.

Assume this: every time you pick up the phone and need to talk to your Pastor, every other person in the church also called him. If you attend a church of 200, that’s 200 phone calls. And there are still day-to-day operations.

I used to spend 8 hours a day at the office, then come home to work. For real.

Please – volunteer to do something. What’s the thing you do best? What are you most passionate about? There’s probably a staff leader at your church who needs you on their team.

If you’re not sure where to start, I use a Venn diagram, Make three circles, making sure they intersect. Label each: Ability, Affinity, Affirmation. Ability should be the things you are naturally able to do. Affinity are the things you love. Affirmation are the things that other people have told you that you do well. For example: I’ve been told that I’m good with kids (affirmation). I don’t necessarily like working with kids (that would NOT go under affinity). I think that I’m able to work with kids – if there’s enough coffee. So that could potentially go in 2 of the 3. When you find the thing that hits all 3, that’s your spot.

If you know a church staff member is on vacation or it’s a day off – respect that time. I guarantee you, each and every employee will go above and beyond the call of duty, but even Jesus rested.

Resist the temptation to call, text, email, etc. (Yes, we check our emails on our days off.)

For me, my own first step back to obedience is volunteering.

And I’m grateful every day that I get to practice what I preach.

Have we already lost the battle?

Do they know how loved they are?

As I write this, it’s a Friday morning.

Our county schools have canceled in-person instruction (all remote learning today) because they are concerned about their teachers and students being able to get to school.

From their statement:

“Due to the impact of the gas shortage on staffing availability and student transportation,“

(North Carolina is currently experiencing gas shortages.)

Yet, many churches did not cancel in- person services on Wednesday night.

Now… look at this through the lens of an unsaved/unchurched person. 

Unsaved people typically reach a place of need, a place where they feel empty, or alone. It can be minor or major, but it’s there – the hole in their hearts where Jesus should be.

We, church people, scream from the rooftops, “you need Jesus!” It’s true. They do.

Now let’s jump back to current events. 

There are people anxious, maybe scared.

Heck, if I didn’t have Jesus + church people in my life I would be anxious and scared. I’m calculating the number of trips I have to take over the next few days and seeing closed gas pumps… and so there are granola bars, bottled water, blankets, and blood pressure meds in my car. Don’t think I’m kidding.

So we’ve got nervous, anxious, and scared unchurched people.

And our county school system canceled in-person instruction because they are concerned for their staff and parents of students.

Churches had the chance to lead the way on this on Wednesday night. They didn’t.

24 hours later, our county school system showed more care & concern for people than churches.

Think about what that communicates to the non-Christian. (We’re still looking through that lens.)

They’ve just been told the government cares about them more than a church does.

Why would they ever need or want a church? Why would they ever need or want a church family? Why would they ever need or want a relationship with Jesus?

This is the real battle we’re fighting, Christians, and if we don’t jump out ahead of it, we’re going to lose.

Or maybe we already have.

A Church To Call Home

2020 was….

well…

2020.

I jumped and didn’t look back. (See previous blog post.)

And then…COVID.

And like so many others, Covid impacted our lives. From new work schedules, less hours, and new school schedules, our lives were impacted in both positive and negative ways.

Every day brought more uncertainty, but with one certainty: we trust God.

And one thing I grew to love was couch church. Or as I named it, “The Church @ Marcy’s Couch.”

The benefits of couch church:

+ No commute

+ Coffee and way I want it

+ Dress code: pajamas

+ Super-comfy chairs

+ And if the Pastor says something I disagree with, I can mute him, or “attend a new church”

Everyone wanted to get back to normal. Me? I’m good with this.

But late in 2020, I realized I missed – and needed – a church family.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my family. I do. But something was missing.

But, like so many others, the time in quarantine gave us a chance to re-evaluate our priorities. What was God calling our family to do, and most importantly, where was He calling us to do it?

Each of us was on a different page, and we took some time figuring out where we needed to be.

But we’ve finally found a church to call home in 2021…and beyond…

We’re excited about what’s next.

Would I rather be home on Sunday mornings?

Truthfully, yes. I like my coffee + couch way better than the church coffee and pews. I’ve jokingly told the Pastor we’re game for opening a second campus.

In my living room.

And maybe not so jokingly.

I’m thinking of signing up to be the online host. Every week. Seriously thinking…

There are still a lot of unknowns, but we do know two things now: we trust God + we have a church to call home.

Truth. Grace. And #TeamJesus

A Pastor once told me there’s truth and there’s grace, but if you’re going to make an error in judgement, err on the side of grace. So I do. I almost always choose Grace. Because of that I’ve been called gullible, and a pushover. I’ve been told that I allow people to use and take advantage of me.

And maybe that’s true. But I’d rather stand before God and account for being helpful and kind than stand before him and answer for the times I selfishly didn’t help someone.

And just because you offer help doesn’t mean you condone actions.

Think of it this way. If someone is playing with fire, you might say, “don’t do that, you’ll get burned.” They continue to play…they get burned.

Quick…what’s the first thing you do?

Treat the burn. Get them out of danger. Show compassion. Care. Love.

Then have a, ‘what we’re you thinking!?’ moment.

I’ve seen way too many leaders fail – moral failures, mental illness, etc. I’ve seen way too many Pastors need to step down. I’ve seen Pastors take their own lives.

As easy as it is to get angry at their failures — and believe me it’s easy, we have to be compassionate.

When the unthinkable happens, we have to remember our Pastors and leaders are people, too.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve sinned and grieved the Holy Spirit, I feel guilty. Guilt usually leads to remorse and repentance, but that guilt valley is a deep – and lonely – one.

In my deepest valleys, I’m most grateful for the friends who stick by me.

So… here’s a challenge and a few tips from someone who’s walked in a few valleys herself.

Challenge: Do you want to be known for being compassionate, forgiving, and trustworthy?

So…Here’s what I needed (and what I believe anyone going through a valley needs):

1. A safe place to worship. I found myself at one point without a church home. I was so grateful for a friend who took me to church (a few towns over from mine).

2. Meals and money. So many times, a step down from ministry means a loss of income and it might often mean a relocation. Organize meals, do what you can to provide financial assistance.

3. Prayer. When a believer has done something wrong, they know. Falls can be public…and hard. Let someone know you’re praying.

4. Someone to believe in you. Let’s face it, our leaders got to be where they are (or were) because God gifted them. A failure doesn’t remove the gift. I’ve seen leaders fail, and make a comeback. Having been there, I’m eternally grateful for the people who believed in me.

5. Chocolate chip cookies. Because who doesn’t sometimes just need a cookie?

If you go this grace route, don’t fault the “truthers.” They want justice. They’re not wrong, they’ve just chosen another stance.

In the end, we’re on the same team.

The same Pastor taught me that. #TeamJesus

Putting God First

Two date nights in one week!

I promised you new content each week, and I’m already a day behind! But I have good reasons. You’ll see…

I didn’t spend a lot of time at my computer this week when I wasn’t working.

I logged 50+ hours this week (51). That’s a combination of hours at the office, some projects I chose to work on at home, and a few things I did in a volunteer capacity that are not actual functions of my job.

Fifty-one.

Keep that number in mind when I tell you what else I’ve accomplished.

Dinner with a friend.

Live online meeting with some friends.

Afternoon lunch with a friend.

Watched World Series games 6 and 7.

Went out to dinner with my husband twice (that’s two date nights, y’all!).

Saw a movie with my husband.

Got my teeth cleaned.

Got the oil changed in my car.

Did four loads of laundry in one day.

Finalized a project for another ministry.

I also feel well-rested and ready for the new week!

Why?

Because in addition to all of that, I made time EVERY MORNING for my devotional.

I call it giving God the “first ten.” We give him the first ten percent of our income (tithe). Shouldn’t we also give him the first ten minutes of our day?

This week, try giving God the first ten minutes of your day. Read and study His word.

Then see what He does with the rest of your time.

Burnout

Burnout.

The word brings with it so many other thoughts.

Step down.

Moral failure.

Why?

One of my favorite things to do is get away in a coffee shop, find a corner table, order a strong, dark roast, and create. I pull up stock photo sites, I browse my fonts, I listen (and re-listen) to our Lead Pastor’s sermon, I look at our upcoming events calendar, I people watch, and I create.

Some people use services that provide social media content.

I use services that provide social media content.

I don’t like using services that provide social media content.

I like dreaming. I like creating. I like pushing boundaries. What do I do in my spare time? I study systems and processes, I play with demo versions of church management software (yes, really), and I create.

Is that what I do for fun? Yes.

Legit? Fun? Yes.

Recently I spent some time with my son at his summer job. He plays guitar at youth camp. At the beach. He’s 20 years old and he gets paid to live at the beach and play guitar 2-3 times a day.

Plus he gets some spending money for groceries.

I need a new job!

While I was with him, he seemed tired. He wakes up 15 minutes before he needs to be ready for the day. He naps whenever possible. On Friday morning, his roommate said they were getting ready to leave their room and they looked at each other and said, “I can’t.

They did. They did with excellence.

God got them through.

But it struck me…

Even when you’re getting paid for what you’d likely do on a volunteer basis…

You can still experience burnout.

Burnout doesn’t always look like stepping down. Burnout doesn’t always look like a moral failure.

Burnout sometimes looks like getting paid to live at the beach and play your guitar… or sitting in your favorite coffee shop…creating.

Up next: how to recognize burnout and what to do when you’re there.

People

Over the last 3-4 weeks, a few very kind, friendly, and overly-excited people at our church have set out on a mission: to make me a people person.

It’s working, but don’t tell them.

I have a reputation to uphold.

Let me give a brief history. I like people. I do. I really do.

But how I show this like for people is through how I structure a database or how I lay out a web site. You’ll see my like for people in some of my designs. You’ll see it in how I design a response form. You’ll see how I like people when I get to set up a room for one of my boss’ meetings. Then I get to quietly sit in my office – working on database updates or web site updates or social media posts – while someone else stands before the people.

But one thing I do love is helping people take their next steps.

This actually started several years ago with the database. (Yes, really.)

I was setting up systems and processes in the database and watching people (there’s that word again) move through our system.

Seeing people go from first-time guest to being fully-connected at our church.

But I also got to see the part I didn’t like. Seeing people’s names remain in the first time guest category that went unchanged. The people who didn’t come back.

Where are they? Was there something our church could have done differently? Are they connected to a church – if not ours – somewhere?

I began to implement systems and processes designed to help people move from first-time guest to fully-connected. I went from data entry to developing and being part of the process.

Because it’s more than just a database. It’s people. People getting connected to church. People getting connected to Jesus.

And thus began my transition from Database Administrator to Next Steps Director.

I tried to stay focused on the database. People won. Every time.

A few years later, I now serve as our Lead Pastor’s Executive Assistant. Each week I get to serve at our What’s Next desk. I get to help introduce people to their next steps at our church. Also every week, I get to hand-write note cards to each of our first-time guests. I use the verbiage “get to” very intentionally.

You might argue that I get paid. It’s my job. I have to do it.

You’d be partially correct.

I do get paid. It’s a privilege. I get to do it.

So a few weeks ago, one of my kind, friendly, and overly-excited friends saw my stack of hand-written note cards awaiting their trip from my desk to the mailbox and asked me, “do you actually meet and know those people?

I locked my office door, crawled under my desk, and ate carbohydrates.

Go away.” I said it nicely and in a joking tone of voice, although I may have been serious.

“How big is your circle of friends at this church?” she asked.

“I like my co-workers.”

“Really…how many people do you know?”

“Five. Maybe six. Okay, four.

“That is not enough. We need to get you out of the office.”

“I like my office. I keep carbs in here. Here – have some pretzels.”

Little did she know, God was also at work.

One of the other things I get to do: if someone is interested in serving, but isn’t quite sure where or how to start, I get to follow up with them.

Some people naturally know where they’d like to serve.

Others have no idea where to start. And it’s important to find that place where ability, affinity, and affirmation all meet.

So there I was: scheduled to meet with someone who wanted to serve, but had no idea where to start.

She came into my office and we talked about her – what led her to our church, how long she’d been coming, and what she liked about church. We talked about her family and her history, and what issues were important to her.

She wanted to serve…

In the nursery or with children? No…not really…

With our guest services team. Her brow furrowed.

We talked about some local missions opportunities. Her eyes lit up. The corners of her mouth turned up. And I knew, we’d found it.

And then I got to update the database…

This blog is about the process of progress. But I might need to edit to add a word: people.

When Words Cannot Express…

Helping our college-aged children make decisions about their future, and one of our younger children starting a new school, and planning a family vacation, and and and…

…wasn’t enough change.

Nope. Not enough change for our family.

Earlier this year, God also called us to a new church. And sometimes, even when you know it’s God, and even when your joy is found in following His will, it’s tough.

Very rarely on this blog will I mention a church by name. I know a lot of people at a lot of churches and para-church organizations and because of our professional relationships, I get to know things about their churches and organizations and we talk about what’s happening and how they are navigating their own challenges.

But I’m about to mention this church. Because they are setting an example.

We began attending in June,

However, we have not taken the next step to join with the church as members.

And then this week…

There was a death in my family. And I was faced with booking some last minute travel and making some last minute schedule changes.

So here we are: having left one church; not yet members of another. And I had a second moment of feeling alone.

But unlike some other areas of my life, the church we are attending is displaying Jesus and showing his love. This church – these people – have reached out to me in so many ways.

I sent an email to the Pastor around 11pm on Monday. On Tuesday morning I woke up to emails and texts (he had used the database to email the prayer team…since this blog is all about databases and processes). One person actually wrote out a prayer for me and my family in an email. Throughout the day on Tuesday I received calls, more emails, more texts.

My boss himself is stepping in to handle some things that should fall directly on my shoulders. He’s picking up my responsibilities. Servant Leadership.

So thank you, Fairview Baptist Church. Words cannot express how much I thank you for what you have shown our family and how grateful we are to know yours.

 

Feeling Alone

Recently  God called our family to make a change. It many ways it wasn’t an easy decision. It meant taking a new look at things we’d always felt were right or wrong. It meant going someplace we said we’d never go.

But in other ways it was easy. Because after a lot of prayer, counsel, and discernment, we knew it was where God was calling us.

This change also meant a new routine and thus, I find myself not regularly seeing the friends I had been seeing regularly.

Yet, I haven’t really connected with a new group of friends.

The old group of friends can’t understand why we’d make this decision.

The new group people seem like they already have their circles.

And I feel like this:

Parking Lot

Alone.

And I remember, that with God, I’m never truly alone. He’s got a plan, a purpose and a reason for this season.

Does this happen in our churches?

What about our church guests?

When I run a report of first time guests who didn’t return for a second visit, I want to hear their voices.

I want to ask:

Did you feel welcome or unwanted?

Was there confusion and chaos or did you feel calmness and clarity?

Did you feel alone or did you feel like you were among family?

Every Sunday we have first time guests who are doing something they’ve never done before: coming to our church. Which means, they aren’t doing whatever it was they did any previous Sunday.

Any change has the potential to cause someone to feel alone.

I pray this is never the case in our churches.