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Time for Adventure and a Return to Learning

The summer of 2022 should be an invitation into adventure for you and me as leaders!

“Seriously?” you say.

Yes! Adventure…as wide-eyed learners!

Set aside the expert “thing” for just a little bit. (A few years back when one of our teenage sons was making a few decisions Gail and I didn’t think were best, I remember saying, somewhat confrontationally, somewhat humorously, “So how’s that working for you, son?” Translated: not so good.

There are very few experts sitting around churches these days after we just accelerated through a decade of change in one pandemic. So fast, so discontinuous, so jolting. Many former experts have become pretender experts today. 

So, with your permission, I’d like to do a little reminiscing, some story telling, with a purpose and something valuable to offer.

And here’s why: If “facts” were going to change things in your congregation, they already would have. 

You know that no one, including you, is going to “force” your congregation to accelerate into a new post-pandemic vitality. 

Plus, for those who have not jumped ship or joined the ranks of the apathetic, “fear” is a familiar companion of leaders across the church. Fear of what we might have—or already have—lost. 

So, I’m thinking it might be okay to share some of my blunders in my early years! Most of the folks to whom I was accountable are gone. And, what do I care if you grin at my early ineptness?

12 x 100 = Unrealistic Expectations

Today’s story comes from my very first board of elders. What a great bunch of guys! Twelve of them, just like Jesus had 12 disciples, I guess. The chairman sat at the head of the table and I sat to his right around the corner. Tuesday nights. Once a month. 7 pm.

Mine had been a fast transition over 5 years. From loan officer for farms in Nebraska to seminary student to assistant pastor to senior pastor of a 125-year-old once grand church where 4 digits were required to count attendance, now in the throes of a changing neighborhood on the outside and lots of conflict on the inside.

I feel guilty about this today, but I convinced the elders that they should have a shepherding role and visit all of the households in the church each year. I guess we had a lot of households back then, lots of inactive households! Each elder was assigned 100 households. 12 x 100 households = 1,200 households! 

Who knew that wasn’t very realistic?! 

Each month, I’d ask for reports on their visits. (It’s just occurring to me now that I never trained them or even modeled making a visit with them.) It was intended to be equal parts encouragement and accountability. The room would get quiet. Heads would bow. Silence in the room. When I said: “Who wants to report first?” it looked like I said: “Let’s bow our heads in silent prayer.”

To these 12 guys, I’d like to apologize. Bright idea. Didn’t work.

So, this is week #1 of an invitation into a spirit of adventure.

Give yourself a break. Laugh with me. Shake your head with me. Create a bit of space for a serendipitous discovery.

Can we just be honest that we’re all a bit stuck right now? Gridlocked?

When I’m stuck, and things aren’t “working,” my default posture is to keep doing the same thing over and over again except I “try harder.” And, if I’m busy trying harder, it will maybe distract me and hopefully others from someone simply saying: It’s not working right now.

Here’s what I’d like you to do!

Forward this to 12 of your elders, or disciples. Ask them to join you for a few weeks of smiling and head shaking…and it’s okay for all of you to say: “I’m sure glad Jock wasn’t my leader/pastor in those early days!”

Ask them to sign up for the blog so you don’t need to forward it to them each week.

And, who knows? Maybe in the serendipitous moments, we might be okay being forward-leaning learners who can better handle some of the painful loss we see around us each week.

A final word? Could I invite you to check out the Art of Invitation? I genuinely believe that the interactive course that Debbie Tieke has built could create some serendipitous discovery for a bunch of folks in your congregation.

5 Responses

  1. Mike Vincent says:

    How is Debbie Tieke’s “course” delivered? Are there text/video available so that I could perhaps teach others?

    • Gail & Jock Ficken says:

      Mike, thanks for asking. Great question. The easiest way is to get the leader’s guide titled The Art of Invitation and then go to the Art of Invitation website. The videos are free and accompany the guide. It’s easy to facilitate. You and others in this community would do very well Mike.

  2. Debbie Smith says:

    I look forward to becoming a learner for Jesus

  3. David Grulke says:

    This is a good plan to help us all to grow in our faith and be better disciples for our Lord.

  4. gas subjects says:

    You’ve written it so nicely, and you’ve come up with some great ideas. This is a fantastic post!

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