Relationships to grow from

If you ask almost any adult about the impact of church school on his or her growth, he or she will not tell you about books or curriculum or Bible stories or anything like that.  The central memory is of the teacher, learning is meeting.  This poses problems for the characteristically American way of thinking about education for competence even in the church.  Meeting never made anybody competent.  Surely we need competence, unless we mean to dismantle much of our made world.  But our business is not competence.  It is meeting.  We are learning slowly and late that education for competence without education as meeting promises us deadly values and scary options.  And anyway, one can’t become “competent” in morality.  But one can have life-changing meetings that open one to new kinds of existence.  And that surely is what church education must be about…                                          

from Living Toward A Vision by Walter Brueggemann

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I wanted to share the quote above with you because it really spoke to me over the last few months after Teddy Ray sent it to me.

 

In a nutshell, Brueggemann says that the greatest gift we can give to one of our group members is a relationship.  Now, please don’t hear me saying we shouldn’t prepare and bring a quality lesson each week for that is important.  But the most important part of people being transformed is not the quality of the curriculum but the depth of the relationship.
 
As we begin a new season of Sunday School, I want to remind us all of a few vital aspects of building relationships.  Much of what I am about to say is already taking place within our classes, but I believe we all could stand to spend some time thinking through and maybe even freshening up our approach.
 
We need to create space for our class to build relationships.  I believe that we need to be getting together a minimum of 4-6 times per year outside of Sunday morning if we are to signicantly grow our relationships with each other.  Maybe that is a bi-monthly lunch, cook-out or dinner club?  Perhaps you choose to attend a ballgame or arts event?  I trust that you will know what works best for your class.  And I challenge us all to intentionally plan, or have a group within your class plan, 4-6 social gatherings each year.
 

Intentionally and regularly connecting with the members of our class is also important.  Whatever that looks like for you is fine.  I know that the Friendship class has a weekly email prayer list that has become a “must read” for class members and is a way to keep them involved in each other’s lives during the week.  Again, you will know what works best for your group but it is vital we have contact on a regular basis outside the Sunday morning time slot.  So often, regular attendance may only be 2 out of 4 Sundays each month.  How we keep these folks engaged while they are away is the key to keeping them engaged and attending when they are in town.

Making time to pray for our class by name is an act of servant leadership.  Maybe you take a picture of the class and use it as a reminder to pray for people by name?  Perhaps you make a list and rotate through the group on a quarterly basis?  My encouragement is to make praying for your group a regular part of your devotional time if it isn’t already for you.

 

Now, let me pull the curtain back and tell you why I’ve chosen these three aspects of relationship building to focus on.  They are the three I struggle with the most!  So it is part for accountability and part because I am probably not too alone in my struggle that I highlight these areas.  I know that we can together work toward creating a place where “neighbors become friends and friends become family.”  If we do that, this year will have been a huge success as I’m convinced we will make disciples of Jesus Christ as a result.
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Thanks to Kevin Burney for this great quote and picture from the King Center in Atlanta, GA.

New Year’s Resolution? No way!

If you are like most people (or me), January 1 came and left as quickly as the resolutions you set for 2013.  In fact,  I stopped making resolutions because of my own personal failure rate and it’s impact on me for the rest of the year.  But I read something from Donald Miller’s blogsite “Storyline blog” that made total sense to me.  Let me share a portion of the blogpost first before we go any further.

I don’t have to change all of my habits at once.

According to Duhigg, research shows we all have few trigger habits, keystone habits. Singular habits – when we do them, transform other areas of our lives. Keystone habits set off a chain of internal events, giving us willpower and momentum to do other things. Over time, these keystone habits form other habits, and we become completely different people. These habits can be positive or negative

post by John Sowers (full post here)

In fact, upon further reflection, something rang true for me.  As strange as it may seem, flossing my teeth is a keystone habit for me.  It is that one small thing that when I do it faithfully impacts everything else in my life. (I so wish I could say my prayer time or devotional reading…I really do and hopefully will one day)  But the fact of the matter is that when I floss, I have more discipline for just about everything else in my life. I didn’t think about it at first.  Then I read further down in John Sower’s post, someone else admitted to flossing and it set off sirens and bells in my soul!

What is your keystone habit?  What is that one thing that aligns the rest of your life and creates discipline in your life in other areas?  I believe if we will focus on that “one” thing and not all the “other” things we want to accomplish, we just might find the rest of our life coming together as well.  I personally have a whole host of things I feel called and compelled to take up this year.  I’d better get to flossing if I have any hope of making progress.

Can you hear me now?

“Communication is not about SPEAKING what you think. It’s about ENSURING others hear what you mean.” — Justin Mayo

As someone who regularly speaks, I am not quite sure I agree with Mr. Mayo.  The communication process has many components that work together to create a message.  As a pastor, I am often surprised by what people tell me they heard during a sermon.  It is not unusual that what they heard was not something I had planned or even thought about.  It’s like a piece of art.  Interpretation of the message tends to be very personal.  We hear messages through our experiences and our preconceived notions.

I wonder how often I miss God’s message because I haven’t been open enough to truly hear?  I wonder if my times of study and prayer are more about validating my own desires instead of hearing God’s heart?

My challenge today is to open my heart enough to truly hear the message God is speaking to me today.  Rather than simply hearing what I want to hear, I want to hear what God wants me to hear.  Far too often that means I must understand my own hang-ups and default way of thinking in order to create a space for God’s message to penetrate and change me.

Jesus said if we want to gain his life we must lose our own.  I see how that relates to my study and prayer just as much as my eternal salvation.