wiggle room


Yesterday was one of those days.  For months, I’ve tried to figure out how The Special Gathering of Indian River Christmas play should be written.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our population learns more slowly than normal; yet they are adults.  It is important that the play is not only educationally appropriate but also appropriate for adults.

Regarding the play, I write it.  Therefore, I begin searching for ideas for the next year as soon as the play is written for the current year.  Sounds as though I’d be way ahead of the game by mid-summer, doesn’t it?   That could be true if I can “see” the logistics of the play.  Many years I’m a bit stumped regarding some portion of the production.  My idea this year comes from the participation of the youth department at our program in one of our programs.  Yet, how do I make it appropriate for our other program.

During my prayer time yesterday, I suddenly knew how the play should be written so that it would be age appropriate and would easily adapt to our other program that does not have youth participation.  I began working on the play about 6:30am.  By 9:30am, I was ready to send it to our staff and volunteers for their suggestions and comments.

Then I began working on other deadline projects.  I was able to complete them all.

By the end of the day, I was thrilled at the productive time I’d experienced.  As I crawled into bed, I was pretty satisfied with the accomplishments of the day.  I prayed, “Lord, thank you so much for the great day.  I feel your presence and your pleasure because of all the work I was able to do today.”

Gently, I felt the Lord’s response, “Linda, I’m with you, leading and directing you at your least productive day, also.  Sometimes I have a greater goal in your life than finishing tasks.”

Whoa!  My tired brain soared.  Of course, it is great to be able to complete tasks.  But what about the days that you work diligently and nothing is accomplished.  Is God pleased with your failed efforts?  Will the Lord honor us, even when we fall short?

Johnnie and Peter Lord

Years ago, Johnnie Lord, the wife of well-known Pastor Peter Lord, said that the Lord assured her that he was much more concerned about the intent of her heart than her actual performance.  While the Bible teaches us this truth, we forget.

How has God assured you that he loves you even when you don’t “perform up to par”?  Are you able to pass on to others the same gace and mercy?

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Within every ministry or business, there is wiggle room.  Before we examine “the how” for learning about and becoming comfortable within your ministry’s culture, there are several things where there can be no wiggle room.

Jesus’ disciples knew that he was not only their leader.  He was their example.  Before he sent them out in two’s, he traveled with them, showing them the way.  At his death, these men had experienced survival because the Lord had sent them out to experience the Holy Spirit’s working through them.

If any ministry is going to succeed, it is vital to learn how to work as a team.  Jeffery Lay in his book, Top Gun on Wall Street, says “We don’t send anyone, anywhere. We all go together.”  Lay was a top gun pilot who transferred the leadership skills learned from the military into the business world.

Leaders cannot lead from behind.  If you are in a leadership position, you must not only be willing to go before but you must be the first to venture into new avenues.

There is a fatal notion that leaders don’t actually do much work.  They learn to delegate.  The problem with that philosophy is that few people willingly or happily work for a leader if their leader does not fully understand the concerns of the workers.  Before delegation can successfully happen, there must be example.

Within a ministry, you must have the good will of all your volunteers and paid staff.  That doesn’t mean that you need to know the nuts and bolts of every single activity.  However, you must do more than walk though the ministry space, looking, pointing and asking stupid questions.  The person who is following you must know your commitment to the people you are serving.

They need to understand that at any time you are willing to pick up a broom and sweep the floor or make the refreshments.  Each week volunteers need to see you moving chairs, teaching or doing some physical ministry.  Volunteers and staff must know that you are willing learn the bookkeeping or the desk-top publishing or a new data base.  You want to be able to venture into the new activities demanded by your ministry.

When The Special Gathering was having some concerns with our bookkeeping, the head of our ministry, Richard Stimson, went back to college to learn the fundamentals of accounting.  While he didn’t need to learn how to be an expert in accounts receivable, he wanted to be able to have an overall vision regarding this area of ministry.  I was impressed with his willingness to venture beyond his comfort zone to learn how to lead in this vital area.

Years ago, I visited a large ministry in southern Florida.  A bit shocked, I listened as the director of the ministry spoke to her fellow volunteers.  She was more than stern as the men and women listened.  They nodded and smiled, agreeing with her admonitions.  After the meeting, I asked her how she could be so stern with her volunteers.  “I’m also a volunteer,” she said, laughing.  “My teachers know that I am doing as much or more than they are every day of the week.”

She and Stimson live what Lay advocates, “Don’t send anyone, anywhere.  We all go together.”  Without a team no ministry will not be successful.  However, without a leader, there will be no team.