HOME + Community

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Last week, I met up with my first friend.

tiffany

We grew up together. We went to church together growing up. We have taken different life paths since graduating high school, but we remain friends through it all. We are both pretty determined women who set goals and accomplished exactly what we set out to do. Her goal was to become a lawyer and mine was to become a youth minister. While she is still a lawyer, I am flexible to what a youth minister looks like. I prefer being in the education system and meeting tons of different kids rather than working at a church.

While her life looks different than mine, she is a sense of HOME for me. Community is something I will continue to fight for, but it is so encouraging being around people you are automatically comfortable with because you’ve known each other so long.

I sat by her in church last week, and it felt so nice, especially after my recent struggle for connection in churches in this area (see the previous blog post). Her mom sat on the other side of her and commented how nice it was to sit with her two young ladies again!

The crazy part is that while my friend left our hometown area, I’ve gotten to know her mom better. This is the second time I’m back in my hometown connecting with my friends’ moms. Community is messy (thanks for the phrase, Heather Zempel) and something I will always fight for. One of my favorite books is Because of Winn-Dixie because the girl finds community with a multi-generational set of people. Community no longer consists of only my peers.

Keep going, keep pursuing community, and be thankful for those special friendships where you can pick up right where you left off when they are back in town.

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An Open Response to 9 Reasons It’s Hard to Attend a Church Once You’ve Been Involved in Leading One

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Carey Nieuwhof wrote a post that put into words all that I have been feeling for the past ten years. I really appreciate the fact that Carey said “Everything I’m writing about in this post, I have felt.”

I have been in paid ministry positions and in the workforce. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly within the church setting. Please hear me – I LOVE THE CHURCH. JESUS DIED FOR THE CHURCH. Like Perry Noble, I believe the best is yet to come for the Church.

Sidenote: Because I’ve been on both sides, I need to set the record straight –

For those who have never worked for a church, don’t be disillusioned that “working for God” is the greatest job ever and without difficulties. We also have people in the church who think they are our bosses because they “pay” us through tithing.

For those in ministry who have never been a part of the workforce outside the church walls, don’t take for granted that people work their normal jobs and then spend a few hours volunteering, even when they don’t feel like it.

We need to honor each other.

Ok, back on topic. Here are the 9 and how I relate to each:

1. Your identity is tied to what you do, not who you are

This has always been a struggle for me. One of the last chapel services in college was by Professor Wendy West and she addressed this. One of my strengths is Achiever, so for me to just BE is really hard.

A Bethel Ministry student prophesied over me a few years ago. He said I was stuck in a pauper’s mindset and needed to see myself as a Princess and a Daughter of the King. He just cut through everything to call out something I struggle with daily.

2. You like being the center of attention

As an introvert, I would love to say this is not true…. and for the most part that is. But there is a small part of me that loves the fact that I have a voice in the Church. I loved my intro to preaching class in college because I was finally heard as a woman in ministry (another post for another day). I wanted to be Beth Moore-like – but not in women’s ministry. Men need to hear truth from women as well.

3. You’ve seen how the sausage is made and have lost your appetite

With any experience in life, I have always looked to the story of the OT Joseph. You can get better or get bitter about experiences, especially when other people’s decisions put you in difficult circumstances.

I have been involved with a variety of churches – church plants and megachurches. Each have their challenges and benefits. The Church is a beautiful thing and one thing I loved about the Church I was a part of in DC was that the pastor regularly said, “It’s not about the name above the door frame, but about the Name of All Names.” There was a beautiful Church unity happening in DC. They were One Team.

One church that is really striking a cord with me these days is South Bend City Church. Thankfully, they have a podcast so you can listen to them, too, no matter where you are. They spent the month of January going through their values. I I love fields, not factories and practices, not performances.

4. You’ve become more of a critic than a worshipper

It’s easy to become cynical about something you know well.

Sometimes the best thing I can do on a Sunday is nap. It shuts my brain off.

Sometimes the best way to worship God is to stop thinking so much about everything and create something or move your body – get out and walk. Listen to beautifully great music.

One of the best experiences I had in December was going to a Dustin Lynch concert. Great music makes me worship God. I was able to see more joy after that concert then I had in a really long time. Btw, Dustin Lynch is a country artist and not necessary “Christian”. God uses all kinds of things to bring us closer to Him. From that, I knew I needed to experience MORE great music, so I went to a May Erlewine concert. LOVED IT. Keep seeking Truth, Beauty, and Creativity to curb the critic.

5. You think you’re better or smarter than the people who merely attend

Pride is a sneaky little *****. Enough said.

6. Somewhere in the process, your personal walk with God tanked

I had a rough year last year. I was teaching in DC and exhausted in every sense of the word. I had my DC community through friends instead of a consistent small group. I wasn’t really a fan of the 3-month rotation small groups my church set up, so I didn’t go to them.

Moving back to my hometown area last summer, I felt like I’ve “been there/done that” with most churches in the area. I also feel like I am 16 years old again and people see me from the perspective of when they knew me, not realizing it has been four years since I lived in the area and we have both changed.

I continue to struggle for community.

People assume because you’re in ministry, you live, eat, breathe the Word. And sometimes you do. It is your Text – inspiration for messages.

But it is also a wake up call that people’s spiritual lives can be inspired by Audio Bibles on commutes or something else that is practical instead of constantly pushing “Quiet Time”. I believe more along the lines of Brother Lawrence and Oswald Chambers, living to see the Beauty of God in every day life. Don’t get me wrong; we need to be students of the Word. We just might need to change some of the methods we are using.

7. You’ve forgotten you’re a follower, not just a leader

At my school last year, teachers would often tell kids, you’re a leader – don’t be a follower. I told my students – in order to be a good leader, you must be a good follower. Again, putting yourself in the humble position is a struggle because of pride.

8. You’re neglecting the fact that you still have a role to play

I do not know my role – I was paid in ministry to work with the kids, but now that I am a teacher, I need to find some adult interaction or non-kid related way to serve. I have taken some time to heal from previous hurts, but it is weird and awkward to begin again. I was (and am) a backrow/balcony person. I love observing people in Church – but at some point, we all need to realize we’re either going to USE IT OR LOSE IT with our spiritual gifts.

9. ‘Why’ has died on the altar of ‘what’ and ‘how’

Everyone has personal preferences, which means someone is going to be unhappy in your Church. I have talked to friends and family who tell me the best way they worship is through music. I don’t leave it to Sundays to help me worship in that way, but it obviously helps if you don’t cringe during music time in Church.

I have a long way to go in my journey. I love Jesus and will continue to walk this out and grow from all these experiences. I met with a couple this week that reminded me sometimes you just need to dig in and serve – not for yourself but for others. The Church needs us and what we have to offer. When one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. I mourn for hurt, but I also know there is JOY coming. Let’s pick each other up, dust each other off, and keep going on the journey.

The following song is dedicated to my best friends in DC who saw the good, the bad, and the ugly in me last year and still loved me through it all. Jason and Allie, you guys are true blue friends who stuck by me in the messiest year of my life. I am forever thankful for you.

May this song be a healing comfort to those who have been hurt and looking for their place.