Photo credit: Google images
Time flies, doesn’t it?
We’re in volunteer-recruiting season in our middle-school student ministry. Soon, a host of brand-spankin-new 6th-grade students will arrive – some trembling, some celebrating, all clueless about what’s about to hit them – in our programming or life.
But, as they spill into the room, I won’t see them through the lens of staff. I’ll eye them as a small group leader entering my ninth year of volunteering to lead students. I started out with a group of kindergartners – and now they’re heading into the 8th grade.
So, okay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
Am I – and every otherwise-sane adult who makes this choice – crazy for volunteering to serve as a small group leader during what is surely the most wretched stretch of human development?
That was easy, wasn’t it?
I mean, c’mon. They’re middle schoolers.
Do you REMEMBER middle school?!?
But… would we be nuts not to volunteer to lead middle-school students?
A few years ago, a friend’s daughter knocked on my door. She was 14 – and shared that she needed a pregnancy test.
Imagine how differently that conversation might have gone if someone had been walking alongside her three years sooner, speaking healthy, loving messages into her life.
No, I don’t mean a parent. Because this is the age when students are wrestling confusing emotions and, though they may not understand why, they’re distancing themselves from those who have nurtured them since birth.
They need someone who will show up, week after week – day after day, even – and be available to have the tough conversations that come with life change.
They need someone willing to be real.
Lemme tell you a few things about volunteering.
Some of this won’t surprise you:
Haha, you think that’s a strike against it, don’t you?
Well, you’re wrong.
Think about the things to which you’ve committed. You care about them immeasurably more, don’t you? Investing in something or someone links you in a way that blows away something that merely interests you.
So don’t bother to step toward volunteering if it only interests you – step up and commit. It will make the difference in what you contribute – and receive.
- Even though you’re too busy to volunteer, you’re not too busy to show up.
Then do it again the next week.
Picture me grinning right now.
Because I know what happens next. God does, too. This is where he does his thang. You know, that thang where he begins to form relationships where there had only been a vacuum.
Trust me, this is something I know intimately.
When I first felt nudged to serve, it was beyond inconvenient. I was the communications director for a company based in France. I traveled incessantly – to Toronto, Mexico City, Paris, Venice, Las Vegas, NY, LA.
Committing to show up week after week to lead kids in a church I didn’t even attend every Sunday made no sense at all.
I had it all – and that’s what finally convinced me I needed to give. Because “having it all” was falling flat and Christ was whispering in my ear that he had something bigger in store for me.
His plan for something bigger would begin with a group of children who barely reached my waist.
I worried that my absences would shortchange the kids, but discovered very quickly that, when I was away, I missed them like crazy. Instead of the obligation inspiring me to change, the relationships that grew shifted my priorities.
Somehow what had seemed impossible became possible and I missed few Sundays.
… which leads me to my final point…
- What is impossible with man is possible with God.
Yeah, that’s not original. But it’s important to trust when you’re wasting time rationalizing why volunteering simply isn’t an option for you.
No matter what your excuse, there’s a solution if God is whispering for you to step up. Share your life with the few – or many – he has lined up for you to help shape.
Remember that elephant?
It’s time for it to step on your fears!
Someone needs you and life won’t wait.
This week, I commented on Twitter that, though it was surely odd, I was excited about heading to our ministry staff meeting. You asked why. So, this morning, I paid close attention during the meeting to see just what it is that leaves me eager to attend.
I chuckled as I walked toward the theater where we were meeting, because it reminded me of one of those Rapture scenes you used to see in paintings. Everyone was headed in the same direction, with smiles on their faces, and seemed genuinely happy to be together and excited about what’s just ahead. I know that might sound a bit dramatic, but it was the image that popped into my mind.
So, why do we want to go to something that is chronically mundane in other organizations?
I noticed a few appealing elements that our meeting included and, yes, there are several that smaller environments would have a tough time duplicating. Among those are the big screens and fancy technology – but there are simpler ways to achieve the same goal of celebrating employees and keeping them on mission. That bottom line is ultimately a win.
- As employees arrive, there are nametags. Not worth mentioning, right? Yet it’s satisfying to find your name. Even after a year, I’m still thrilled to be included as staff. That sounds silly, doesn’t it? But it’s nice for that delight to be part of my reality. Also, honoring others by calling them by name is always a win – so the nametags in a large, continually changing organization help old brains like mine.
- New employees or milestones are scrolling on the screens for all to celebrate. Cool to catch up!
- Breakfast is served. Tables are nicely set with mints, lesson notes & pens. (Hey, a little bit of pampering and acknowledgement goes a long way!)
- A video recap of the most recent event is played to celebrate a ministry’s success (and the WIN of that is always celebrating fresh evidence of honoring our mission, which is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ).
- The sense that we’re firmly on the cutting edge of innovation is always exciting, whether that is technology, programming, dynamic staff or guest speakers.
- Announcements are made by an engaging (and often funny) host. Today, it was the lead pastor of one of our local churches. Laughing in staff meeting is golden.
- New hires, guests, birthdays and anniversaries are individually recognized and celebrated. Showing individuals you feel they are special is a great habit.
- Event announcements and organizational updates keep everyone informed about what’s on the horizon – even the behind-the-scenes, not-yet-for-public-consumption stuff. Don’t keep your staff guessing. I, for one, love that about North Point.
- There is often a fun or surprise element. Today, they had taped gift certificates under the chairs of three lucky employees. Even the suspense of maybe winning was fun.
- Strategic partner churches tune in live. It’s a win to include select, exterior audiences who want to learn, benefit, stay informed and be included.
- Our staff meetings have honest-to-goodness teaching. Attractive, printed outlines are provided (with fill-in-the-blank statements to keep staff engaged in learning). I don’t know why this is so appealing, but it just feels nice to see excellence and effort in every gathering, no matter how ordinary. It’s also helpful to capture relevant information without having to show up with an armful of supplies.
- Andy Stanley. Need I say more? (No, but I will.) Andy has extraordinary clarity and his ability to articulate what matters, in a way that inspires others to contribute their best, drives the difference between an average workforce and one that will move mountains to achieve mission and vision. Can that be taught? Well, Catalyst One Day, Drive and lots of other conferences certainly try.
Rich, I hope this helps. Granted, we have smaller, ministry-specific meetings that involve less fanfare. However, even those tend to be fun. I work in our middle-school ministry and it’s not at all uncommon for someone to bat a beach ball around or break out the Nerf blaster. We are hired to think like middle schoolers! No matter what your environment, loosen up and enjoy work.
The bottom line for me, I suppose, is that it doesn’t feel like we’re having a staff meeting when we get our entire staff together – it is more like a staff event… and a FUN, useful one.
Next time you’re in town, I hope you’ll join us as my guest.
Disclaimer: These are just my musings and don’t reflect any official North Point thoughts about staff meetings. Especially the Rapture comment – chalk that up to my quirky, random mind. I’m certain the Rapture will be way more joyous than filing into a room filled with colleagues – no matter how fun and brilliant they are.
You have done good things.
It reminds me of the song, “Beautiful Things.”
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things
Out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things
Out of us
If you look at what large organizations have accomplished in the missions field, the teeny bit we’ve recently achieved seems miniscule.
If you ask Markenley and his family about their life today compared to just six months ago, they will tell you your contribution is everything.
I mean everything as in EVERYTHING.
Is it because they can now wake up and go to school, dressed in the pride of a uniform and confidence of a budding education?
Or can it be because they can sleep at night with the knowledge that tomorrow night they will also have a home in which to sleep? (For an entire year, their rent is paid and, with it, the rent of the school they also house.)
Is it because their stomachs don’t sink in, anymore?
Or that, for the first time in a long time – or maybe ever – they have medical attention and the possibility of employment?
But my guess is that, far beyond even those stunning changes, something new and powerful has taken root in their hearts.
You made that happen.
Maybe you gave a little; perhaps you contributed a lot.
To them, it is everything.
Without you and your heart of giving, there are 12 people in Haiti whose eyes would still be numb to the possibilities.
That number grows when you consider the dozens of families with students to whom you sent gifts and letters of encouragement.
Their lives would be less.
In Haiti, that’s tough to imagine.
From me and from them.
I see God in you and it is a beautiful thing, indeed.
(To listen to Gungor’s Beautiful Things and, trust me, you want to, click HERE.)
This is the first time that I’ve posted on my blog about something other than Haiti, but this seemed oh so worthwhile.
My husband leads an incredible small group of 7th-grade boys at our church and their heart for serving those who are hurting continually amazes me.
Over the course of the year, they have trekked several times to the little community of Fort Payne, Alabama, to prepare and serve meals to hundreds at Bread of Life Ministries’ community center. They’ve also helped with painting and renovation projects there, so that families have a comfortable space. Plus, they worked alongside homeowners to clear debris after the recent tornado.
A few months ago, these boys saw a need.
So they collected and gave away over 400 pairs of shoes……
…and fed 300 people!
Can you imagine?? They raised the money, planned the menu, did the shopping, prepared the food and served it –
… AND got shoes on a community’s feet before school started!
They’ve already done more than most adults I know and yet they refuse to slow down.
Next month, on Saturday, Nov 19th, they want to give 300+ Thanksgiving meal bags and serve another meal – but they can’t do it alone. If you can help by gathering a few groceries, giving a few dollars or coming with us to serve, you will get a sense of what motivates these precious young men. This is an awesome way to serve together as a family, class, small group or with friends! Here’s their letter:
Thanksgiving Blessings in a Bag
“Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34
Thank you for your support of our Transit group at North Point Community Church and Bread of Life Ministries. Be assured that you will be blessing a family as you fill this bag with the traditional Thanksgiving items listed below. Please use a large Ziploc Brand Big Bag or a decorated box.
We need to have the completed bags back no later than November 14th!
1- large can green beans (50oz) or equivalent
1-can french fried onions topping
1-can cream of mushroom soup mix
2- large cans corn (29oz) or 4 small cans (15oz)
2- cans peas
1- bag/box instant mashed potatoes
1- box/bag instant stuffing mix
1- can cranberry sauce
1- large can yams (40oz)
1- jar/can gravy
1-box Jiffy cornbread mix
1- box ready pie crust or pie pan
1-can pumpkin pie filling
1-can evap. milk
1-$10 gift card towards purchase of turkey from WalMart (optional but recommended if possible)
It costs approximately $25 to fill a bag, plus the gift card. If you cannot add the gift card, please fill the bag, anyway, as it will be a blessing, regardless. However, if you can include the gift card, this will provide the family receiving the bag with the funds to help purchase the turkey, since we are including only non-perishable items in the bag.
IMPORTANT: ONLY Non-Perishable Items can go in the bag!!!
Decorate the outside of your bag to make it special for the family receiving it. You may add notes, cards, crafts, Bibles or any encouragement that would be appropriate for a family. Most importantly, please pray for the family who will be receiving your bag(s).
You can also donate online (tax deductible) at www.breadoflifefp.com in increments of $35. We will use online donations to buy the food in Ft. Payne and create a care package from you. If you do this, we would also like to insert a personal card from you so that the meal is still a family-to-family blessing. (You can add a note on Paypal or send a longer one to me, so it can be included.)
Update: Wanna see how the day went? Click HERE to see the video! In fact, I’m writing this in 2012 and the boys have gone back for a second year – and did it, again! The hearts of those who care never fail to awe me.
Hmm… so the Talkmaster, Neal Boortz hisownself, is publicly teasing me for being excited that I found a dollar under my pillow. Yep, just one. It was crumpled, probably a stowaway in my laundry that always ends up piled on my bed. But there’s just never a bad time to find money, is there? It’s always fun.
So Neal, who is one of my dearest friends, thinks it’s not much, huh? Kinda got me to wondering just what this little buck could do.
It’s not enough for a DQ treat. Won’t get me my favorite mango gelati at Rita’s. George is a little guy and, quite frankly, looking a little worse for wear. No telling how many times he has gone through the wash cycle or exchanged hands. And 100 pennies just don’t stretch very far these days. Heck, we fling ‘em around like they don’t matter at all. We would need way too many to make a difference.
So, I guess it’s pretty unlikely that this little dollar can solve world hunger. And yet…
… I DO know of a family that is hungry right now. Just yesterday, I received word that they’re struggling for groceries.
It’s not a new story, is it? Someone is down on their luck and can’t feed their kids. There’s no work to be found and the cupboard is bare.
At times, we’re not particularly sympathetic. That might be because we’ve never really been hungry or felt fear for our kids. It could also stem from our certainty that, for those willing to work, jobs – at least the menial ones – can be found. After all, we work for OUR food.
If someone is hungry enough, they’ll figure it out.
There’s plenty of truth to that. But there are complexities to the problem, aren’t there? For this family, their reality in Haiti means work really CAN’T be found. The hospital where Markenley’s aunt worked collapsed in last year’s earthquake and hasn’t been rebuilt. His uncle is a pastor who tries, despite his own fears that he might have to shut down, to keep a school of 47 students aloft.
His compassion for those kids doesn’t feed his belly – or those of the 12 family members trying to survive under his broken roof. He hasn’t been able to find other work.
I’ve been to where they live and walked away heartsick. You would, too.
So here’s what I’m wondering. If I toss this lowly dollar into a pot – and do my best to stir up some compassion from others who care – can we fill a larder of groceries today for Markenley and his family?
It’s a temporary fix, I concede. But it’s not bad for a dollar.
Will you match mine?
(The Paypal link is above on the left corner of this page)
This morning, I woke up at home – not Haiti – and the differences are dramatic:
I wasn’t awakened by a rooster and the sound of a broom already energetic in the leaves outside my window. My alarm waits until I’m ready.
I didn’t wake up on the floor this morning. My mattresses atop my 4-poster mahogany bed are covered with another feather pillowtop mattress.
My pillow wasn’t an airport neck beanie sack. I have four feather pillows.
I wasn’t covered with a Shamwow towel as a blanket. I have a king-sized, uber-soft blanket that covers my bed.
There was no need for a battery-operated fan. Now I have A/C.
I wasn’t wearing my sports bra, necessary when surrounded by 10 other people. I can close the door of my own room for privacy.
I didn’t have to fumble for my flashlight. When I flick a switch now, light appears.
I didn’t have to don my flip flops before walking on floors that might have untold bacteria. I’m barefoot until I walk out the door – and sometimes carry my shoes to the car. My car. My own car.
I didn’t need to check the toilet lid for splatters in the darkness or wonder whether the flush pump is working. I’ve trained my husband and son – and we have light & reliable plumbing.
I didn’t have to take a cold shower or keep the water from entering my mouth. I have hot water, serious water pressure and water I can trust.
I didn’t have to brush my teeth in a cup of purified water from a large jug. Sometimes I let the water in the sink run way too long.
I didn’t have to perch outside with a mirror to have enough light to see my reflection. I have a bank of mirrors – and a lighted makeup mirror.
I didn’t have to slather DEET onto my arms and legs before beginning the day outdoors at an orphanage. If a mosquito bites me here, it’s unlikely I’ll get malaria. And, if I did, medical treatment is easily accessible.
I didn’t have to eat a protein bar so I wouldn’t throw up while taking my malaria-prevention pill. I have 10 days left of my meds – and can eat a full breakfast to keep it down.
I didn’t have to fill my canteen with purified water before leaving for the day. There is safe water everywhere I go.
I didn’t have to pack enough protein bars for me, my translator and a Haitian child for the day. Food is everywhere. And my conversations are in my native language.
I didn’t have to put on clothes that have been worn several times without cleaning. I have a washing machine with plenty of water, electricity and detergent.
I didn’t have to leave my hair a mess. Now I have a hair dryer and electric straightener.
I didn’t have to step over 10 other people in a three-room house. I’m home alone this week – in my 10-room house. With my dog. Who lives indoors. And is fed better than many children and adults in Haiti.
I didn’t have to wait until evening to type this – IF the electricity came on for three hours that night. All I have to do is flop down on my leather sofa and begin to type on one of my computers – at any time of the day or night.
I didn’t need a driver (likely armed) to get where I’m going. I have my own car and fuel and merely need to be cautious about my safety.
There was no need for clearance to enter the grocery store parking lot and there was no armed guard at the entry and no sentries posted on every aisle. I shop freely and without concern for personal protection or theft.
I don’t pass throngs of hungry men, women and children when I drive down the road. While they certainly exist in some quarters, they are rarely visible en masse.
I didn’t drive two hours to go 30 miles. Our highway system is efficient, cars are roadworthy and streets are in great shape.
I didn’t drive on any side of the road necessary to navigate the seething, creeping, honking traffic. Travel is orderly here.
I didn’t worry about the day’s blazing heat forecast. I’ll be inside and be so chilly from air conditioning that I’ll need a sweater.
I didn’t have to slip through the gravel and dust down the side of a hill to reach a dilapidated tent that contains 8 people or drip inside it with sweat from the heat, just to visit my friends and family. Just about everyone I know has a house with a groomed yard and air conditioning.
I didn’t have to go without. I have a job and money in my pocket to spend on more than survival. Whenever I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I’m bored, I forget that is a luxury we cannot afford.
I didn’t wake up to the smiling face of a young boy whose eyes are bright with the new knowledge that someone cares.
I didn’t wake up where I want to be.
I want to go back.
If you have to ask, you’ve never been where you’re needed most. I challenge you to try it – just once.
Double dog dare ya.