A year ago today, the day after the Super Bowl, I was pulled into my Sr. Pastor's office to have a meeting with my Executive Pastor. I was informed that my contract would not be renewed at the end of June. I would have the next couple months to wrap things up and have the freedom to interview. I was presented with a legal agreement to consider. I was allowed one week to consider it. My options were simple, quit immediately, give 30 days notice, or work until the end of June receiving 1 month more of pay. The decision as I was informed was not personal, "it was just business". There was a change in vision and direction. The reasons why I was hired were no longer the direction the church was taking and etc.. More on that and the decision for another day.
More importantly...In this last year, 365 days from that Monday exactly a year ago today, God has taught me some things. I have learned a few things and am still very much still learning. This last year has been filled with endless interviewing, sleepless nights, hard conversations with family and friends, homelessness, and lots and lots of tear filled prayers...AND HUGE BLESSINGS, including a new amazing church!!
Here Are 10 Things I Am Trying to Learn Since A Year Ago Today...
10. Family is important. I cannot sacrifice my family and marriage to human demands, expectation and rules. When you move on from a place people move on without you too, but your family and spouse moves with you!
* Find a place in ministry where your family fits and is loved. Ministry calling is not just about you. Much like the military families we had the privilege of serving. Dad's (and/or Mom's) service and calling effects the family in every way.
9. Make sure to let past negative experiences and struggles teach you, but not defined you or your future. Personal history is like world history, if you don't learn from it you are bound to repeat it. I have learned much over this last year, as I consider all the ups and down. I pray that I have learned the lesson I was supposed to. I don't want to lead from a place of hurt or defense.
*Way too many ministry leaders are leading with negative baggage weighing them down, defining who they are and how they lead. Your past is either baggage or luggage. Baggage is something you drag along from place to place slowing you down. Luggage is something you pack well with a purpose, that is unpacked and used when you arrive where you are going!
8. Homelessness is not always what you think and is harder than you imagine. (click here). We all have stereotypes of the homeless, but most of them are incorrect and wrong.
* No matter your experience, resume or background. Anyone can find themselves "without a home" or in "transition".
7. Forgive and move on, leaving in a negative way will not change anything. Humanly I wanted to have the last word or defend myself. I knew the behind the scenes secrets and hidden sins and it is so tempting to let them all out, so I could feel like I got revenge or make myself feel better.
* Instead 1.)work through a personal and family process of forgiveness. 2.) Move on emotionally and also physically. Physically move on by leaving the area. It is hard to move on, if you never...move...on!? 3.)Instead of writing or speaking negative truth, choose rather to speak and write positive loving truth to those that really matter.
Personally, I chose to write thank you notes to people that we appreciated as family and to each youth leader.
6. Appreciate and celebrate the small blessings of the ordinary, so God can overwhelm and surprise you with the extraordinary! My family and I look back at the last year and we have a list of little things and every day blessings that continued to encourage us revealing God's love. Even in the darkest moments, God would give us little blessings. When He finally revealed His final big plan, we were overwhelmed by how extraordinary it was! "Don't despise the day of small beginnings!"
* If you don't learn to celebrate and notice the small things in life and in ministry, you will end up missing the big things and big blessings!
5. We are all migrant workers in God's harvest field. I am temporary. No matter how long or short I am at a place I will not be there forever. I am there to prepare the ground, plant the seed, water and tend and if I am blessed enough to be there I get to see the harvest. I believe in longevity and I have seen the benefits. It is truly hard when I don't get to see the harvest. I have learned however over the last year and the last 20+ years, it is not about me. I am only at a place as long as God has me.
* Don't move on if it not God's time but also don't stay if it is God's time. God may also end up helping you move on... so just be prepared.
4. Leadership is not about prideful demands but humble invitations. I learned this in different ways. I learned this most by beginning to serve under my new Sr. Pastor at my new church. I have seen leadership in a new light through his style of "humble open leadership". I am learning leadership by example and comparison over the last year.
* Work hard in your leadership to be humbling serving and inviting others to follow instead of being the expert on the stage that demands respect and expect others to just follow!
3. Prayer that is truly powerful is not easy and simple. I remember long morning walks and sleepless nights of prayer. Pouring over what I thought or wanted. What I discovered in those moments was prayer was changing me and not me changing God. I mentally knew that and even taught that, but I had to learn it in real life. It is something I am continue to learn, struggle with and be challenged by. This last year has been a long prayer lesson.
* Make sure that prayer... real, genuine prayer is a part of your person life and your ministry life. If it is not, you will struggle and maybe even fail.
2. There is a different between calling and potential. (click here). There is a difference. Just like there is a difference between giftedness and talents.
* If you are just living up to your potential and it is not your calling, you will be frustrated in ministry. If you are living up to your calling, you will feel fulfilled, have a sense of joy even in the down times.
1. God is always in control even when people think they are!
This last year has been year of having moments of feeling like things were complete out of control. There were moments when it truly felt like I was falling. There were times when I felt controlled by situations, circumstances and yes, people. What I discovered is control is a human illusion of personal pride. I was not in control. People were not in control. God was ALWAYS in control.
* The same is true for you. You are not in control. There are people who want to feel like they are in control, but in the end God is really the one who is in control of you, your calling, your family and your ministry!