What I’ve Learned

Between Chicago Ideas Week – which ended today – and my whirlwind visit to the NC State Fair and my Introduction to the New Beginnings program of the PCUSA, I’ve learned a couple things in the past several days.  As I head down to St. Simon’s Island, GA to learn about pastoral care networks, here are several  nuggets to consider.

What I learned from:

  • Lauren Drain It’s important to allow questions in our faith communities, and if our church doesn’t allow questions, look out.  TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH: Church should be the one community in which it is always good to ask questions.  There are no stupid questions.  There are no faithless questions.  If our kids are not asking hard questions they aren’t paying attention.
  • Leah Libresco Even the most committed atheists can change their minds.   TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH:  Answer those questions honestly and love lavishly and you never know what God will do.
  • Julia Sweeney Even a religious upbringing doesn’t guarantee lifelong faith in God. TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH:  Love people even when they let go of God.
  • Kiel Murray Collaboration & brutally honest feedback sparks the best from us.  TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH:  We need to trust each other enough to be held and to hold others accountable.  We need to be able to say, “Your sermons are not growing disciples, this Peach Festival is not reaching the neighbors, our Bible Studies have become gossip sessions.”
  • Karen TenkhoffResearch is essential.  If they are making a movie about scuba diving, for example, everyone from the screenwriters to the editors to the gaffers go scuba diving.  TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH:  Everyone needs to be on the same page working towards the same goal – from the music director to the sexton to the clerk of session to the pastor.  If the goal is disciple-making, then everything each individual does should be about disciple-making.
  • Brian Bowen Smith – “I don’t just look at the subject of my photographs; Context is everything.”  Are we in a studio?  At the beach? In an airplane hangar?  TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH: The way we work is impacted by our context (aka missional or incarnational church.)  If we serve in a biker community, it’s different from serving in a country club community.
  • Brandon Boyd“Art is creative problem solving.”  TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH: Instead of bemoaning the issues we face, why not approach them creatively?  Parking problems?  Partner with the Tattoo Parlor with plenty of parking.  Huge building with too many pews?  How about taking out the back 30 pews and create a space for an art gallery or children’s play area or an expanded hospitality center.
  • Scott BelskyCreativity x Organization = Impact.  TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH.  We need both 1) creative leaders (those with great ideas) and 2) organized leaders (those who make the trains run on time) to have an impact in our community.  Dreamers need doers.  Doers need dreamers.
  • Susan Meier, Our New Beginnings Consultant – We used to believe that Trying Harder would move churches ahead.  Now we know that Doing More doesn’t necessarily help.  What’s needed involves doing a Completely New Thing.  TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH:  Amen.
  • NC State FairAn experience is enhanced by sensory treats.  The Smells (Fried Dough, Bar-B-Que, Caramel Apples, Chickens, Donkeys), the Sights (Pig Races, Tractors, Mega-sized Pumpkins), the Textures (Cotton Candy, Straw, Pottery),the  Sounds (Carnies Calling Us to Play Whack-a-Mole, Screaming Roller Coaster Riders, Cows Mooing), and the Tastes (ham biscuits, fried Snickers Bars.) TAKE AWAY FOR CHURCH:  God has created too many sensory experiences for us to bore people with bland worship.

May you learn amazing things this week.


6 responses to “What I’ve Learned

  1. Jo Ann Staebler

    Sensory treats: (Smell) On Communion Sundays, have the narthex full of the aromas of wine and warm, just-baked bread. (Sound) At the Declaration of Forgiveness, amplify the sound of water being poured into the font, and (Touch) toss drops of water toward the people. (Sight) Offer the prayer for illumination from the Christ candle.

  2. I love the thoughts about creativity and organization. Churches need to use more creative people and not by asking them to organize creative events.

    The sentences on questioning should be put on screens in every sanctuary.

    Glad you’re going to St. Simon’s. That’s where we honeymooned (King and Prince) forty years ago. It’s a great place. We went back once at Thanksgiving and everyone was lamenting the weather which we thought was just fine. Enjoy!

  3. How about getting a MS in Creative Studies (creative problem solving and change leadership) from Buffalo State via the distance program? It is the oldest and first degree program in creativity in the US. I have found it wonderful in learning new ways of solving challenges in any discipline. Check out http://www.buffalostate.edu/creativity.

  4. Love these – where does your image come from?

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