Thursday, October 31, 2013

bring them in without burning them out

Volunteers are amazing. Period.

Especially for organizations like the church I lead, where volunteers really make it possible for us to be viable.

I've been thinking a lot recently about how to create space for volunteers, how to engage new volunteers, and how to facilitate expectations and fair loads. In other words, how to "bring them in without burning them out."

My goal is to help those who volunteer to identify their passions and their gifts and then connect them to opportunities where those passions meet the needs in the community. What I'm learning is that there are some pretty talented people out there with LOTS of passions and great ideas. My connection time is short and the limitation is usually time. How do we as an organization make the connections smoothly and (here goes my boundaries awareness again) how do we practice saying "no" so that the load doesn't become too much for any one person?

If only people weren't so awesome with so many talents, right?  :)

The organization has needs, too. Consistency and Commitment. There are things that have to get done "the nitty gritty" to keep the mission alive. Sustainability of the organization is an ongoing pressure I feel as we want to honor the movements of passions, dreams and new ideas.

As I'm thinking about this I'm curious what resources are already out there?

What creative approaches are you using either in your own discernment of how you volunteer your time or as a leader of an organization that depends on volunteers?

Looking forward to learning from you - the community that reads this - to learn how to better enable and support our volunteers. Thanks (in advance) for your help!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


"No" was a word that didn't really exist in my vocabulary. Particularly in response to being asked to do something social or service oriented or that I thought I "ought" to do.

The word "no" entered my vocabulary in seminary, when a dear friend Leslie reminded me I'm not superwoman and shouldn't expect myself to do everything. I have limitations. I need self care. I need boundaries. Say "no," she said.

I didn't realize boundaries were such a major theme in my life until recently. I was talking with my coach about situations in my life and current ministry where I felt like a line had been crossed, I felt manipulated, guilted into doing something, I felt like people were requiring too much of me. And then I realized, I can say "no." I can define a boundary that makes sense for me, for my family, and for the church.

It's a hard thing to move from a place of always saying "yes" to others, always putting the needs of others above your own to a place of creating safe and clear boundaries in which my own needs are respected and valued. In my line of work, sometimes it can even feel wrong. I'm supposed to be super available, always giving, practically Jesus. Wait, no, no I'm not.

As a person of faith, I am called to reach out to others. I'm to share good news and speak truth in love. I'm also to be prayerful, centered, full. As a church, we are to reach out, share good news, comfort, love, challenge injustice. And we are also called to recognize our limits and work within them. None of us, individuals or collectives, are called to do it all.

Boundaries are a hard thing to figure out. Not all boundaries are good. In fact, I'd argue that some of the lines churches and people draw are unfair and hurtful. Still, some boundaries are good and necessary, especially when they are intentional and loving....set for the purpose of building care, safety, and love.

Jeannie, my coach, said often when we pray for patience God doesn't give us patience, God gives us lots of opportunities to practice patience. So. True. I know as I'm more aware, more prayerful, more intentional about desiring boundaries that are healthy and safe and good...I will be presented with many opportunities to practice these boundaries.

So, if you hear me say "no," please don't take it personally. I need to. If I don't pick up the phone or answer your email right away, know I still care about you. I just might be sleeping (no joke, I've been known to sleep 14 hours in a day to catch up), or outside running without my phone in hand, or lost in a good book or ridiculous T.V. sitcom. Know I'm not saying "no" to hurt you. I'm saying "no" to help me.

I don't anticipate this being an easy journey, but I am excited about it.
I'm ready for it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

doubts and stouts

It still kind of surprises me that 10-15 people show up each month curious to talk about some controversial/theological issue. It reminds me how hungry people are for a connection, for some understanding about who God is and how God is at work in our lives.

Last night we met to talk about the doctrine of election. Predestination - the belief that God predestines some to heaven and some to hell. Over the years, predestination has given Presbyterians a bad rap. In corny church-culture jokes, we're sometimes called the "frozen chosen." Now, gathered with actual church folk I was surprised to learn that they hadn't really heard about this belief through the church, only through history books. It seems our church is so shocked (or shamed) by the stigma that we don't teach about it anymore.

As always, there were more questions raised than possible solutions and as I know this is frustrating to some, it's quite beautiful for me. As Sarah Miles writes in her book Take This Bread, we are perhaps called to be "the personal and institutional capacity to dwell in the ambiguity and unsettledness."

Many of us were uncomfortable with the belief that God chooses some and not others. We struggled with the continuous tension between God's sovereign character (all powerful, all loving, always present) and our own free will.

We did find grace though. We found comfort in knowing God has reached out to us. We found great encouragement in scripture where it is written in Ephesians 1:4 that "God chose us in Jesus Christ before the creation of the world." We found some solace in 20th c. reformed theologian Karl Barth's thoughts who said that Jesus was both the Elect and the Rejected and that through him all are invited to know God. We felt more comfortable with God choosing all of us, granting us free will and then acknowledging that some will turn away. Also acknowledging that justice needs to be part of the equation and we don't need to play judge, but trust that God does.

All sorts of new questions came up for us: What is heaven, really? And what about hell? Are these places or spaces after death or experienced here, too? What about when Jesus talks about the kingdom coming now (on Earth) in the Lord's Prayer...

Well, stay tuned. Next month, that's exactly what we're discussing. Join us and please feel free to continue the conversation by adding your thoughts here.