Learning to Succeed

I’m currently reading Marcia Layton Turner’s book, K-Mart’s 10 Deadly SinsIt is a pretty academic manual that reads like a textbook.  However, it has many applications that apply to the church world and particularly specialized ministries. 

Of course, you cannot understand the demise of K-Mart without a pretty complete investigation of Wal-Mart’s success.  Turner provides that analysis also.  Before Wal-Mart’s amazing rise to become the leading retailer in the US, K-Mart was the stand-alone discount giant. 

The thing that is standing out to me as I read Turner’s thesis is how little energy K-Mart spent in learning about their customers.  The CEO once showed reams of data garnered from the spending habit of the customers at K-Mart.  He bragged that this gave the company all the information they needed. 

Before Wal-Mart moved into our neighborhood, I was a regular K-Mart shopper.  However, I was amazed at how little the organization (local and corporate) seemed to know about my spending habits and what I really needed.  The things I valued (like a clean store and good, courteous service) was void.  I leaped to Wal-Mart when it opened because I found these things there.

The mission statement of Special Gathering has always been:  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community, whose purpose is evangelism and discipleship.  The within part has been a great emphasis for us. Part of our deliberate mud throwing has been to experiment with new ways to get under the skin in the lives of our members. 

Our consistent goal is to get beyond the outside exterior of people who are mentally challenged.  To fully identify and fully know this segment of the population.  Do we always succeed?  Of course, not.  However, that is our goal.  It is a repeating rhythm that propels us into the community daily. 

How can I become a part of this community when I’m not mentally challenged?  I would be arrogant to say that it’s easy.  Yet by knowing, not just your members, but the entire community so well that I can speak in first person terms–us and we–rather than third person–them and they,  I can have a measure of success.  By not being afraid to fully integrate myself within their activities, needs and goals.  To be eager to identify with them as a shared participant, not just their pastor, I can participate in their eagerness and zest for life, as well as their woes.

Visiting activities where my members work and play is important.  But years ago, our Executive Director said, “You need to decide if God has called you to this community.  If he has, then our members deserve that your entire mindset and holy goals become ministry to this population.”  It was some of the best advice I ever received in ministry.  That day my focus and therefore my ministry changed drastically.

God became a man so that He could fully identify with humankind.  He wanted us to know that He understood our hurts, joys and despair.  That is the glory of the crucifixion and resurrection.  Christ came to live and died for me–for my sins.