Stay Connected: Summer & Small Groups

In the past most people’s holidays had a tendency to coincide with the school ones. Things are ever-changing in as our Western society is becoming more complex and fragmented. While most Small Groups in most churches are taking a well-deserved break, a few will probably carry on – attempting to connect with those unaffected by the holiday season.

I see the weekly small groups as one of the two wings that makes a congregation ‘fly’ (along with the Sunday gatherings) and they are the circles that enhance the rows (A. Stanley). Therefore they are vital to the spiritual well-being of both the disciples as well as the church community as a whole.

Here are some (hopefully) helpful ideas to still support and encourage one another during the next few weeks:
  1. Keep praying for those in your small group. Do a list. Find out their needs/passions and hardships. Keep at it. Let them know you’re praying for them.This will be such a support to them.
  2. Keep in touch, even if you’re not meeting, you can still e-mail, text, Facebook, Tweet, Skype, Facetime or whatever the verb for using What’sApp is – what I’m saying is, there’s no excuse nowadays.
  3. Keep an eye on those who might be either particularly vulnerable or lonely. They might never ask for help but very often if you pay attention, you will see their need.
I’d rather keep the list short as there might be a chance we will do at least one of those. Maybe you have even better suggestions. Whatever you do, don’t do NOTHING. Very often it is in those ‘off the calendar’ times that we can prove that we are more than an organised club that functions on duty rather than delight.

And if you’re really stuck – there might be more ideas here:

STOP BY

You know those places you pass by many times through the week that you suddenly notice something you had not done before? Well, I had one of those moments earlier today. It’s a turning point into a main road at the corner of our local cemetery. It has two benches, next to each other. Not that unusual. Well maybe a tad unusual as you would have thought that one might have been enough as there doesn’t seem to be huge amount of wannabe bench sitters in that particular spot.

What was striking to me was the fact that both were facing the cemetery.Of course, they would have provided someone with the much-needed restful gaze perhaps towards the place that a loved one had been buried. But I guess – it isn’t just for them. It might be for all of us. a daily and necessary reminder to all passers-by – that we will all have to face our immortality.As Kingsley Amis wrote:

“Death has this much to be said for it: You don’t have to get out of bed for it. Wherever you happen to be they bring it to you, free.’
This is a strange pit stop for the soul, in a world that prefers so often to be blind, deaf and mute about the big D word. Perhaps one of the last taboos of our Western world…Yet smart people think about death – not with a morbid fascination – but with a sober preparation. Many questions could pester us: what happens after, when will it happen, will it hurt, how will I cope?
We are wise to remember the words of Saul Bellow:
“Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are able to see anything.”
The thought of it should bring clarity to our everyday life. The striking thing is that many people in the Bible die well. It is one of my humble goals in life: to learn to die well and teach others to do so too.

Think of Simeon:
 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word.” (Luke 2:29).
Or Paul:
“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23) and For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21).
Take that journey today, sit on the bench, ponder and re-frame your life in the light of your mortality

 

LEADERS AND ‘LEANERS’

Mondays are never easy for pastors. Some review numbers and sermons. Some receive bad feedback or no feedback. Whether it’s the sense of achievement following a good day on Sunday, or a sense of failure after a bad one – we are vulnerable. Pride, disguised as insecurity or invincibility, comes out to bite.
The naked truth is, leaders need ‘leaners’. Yeah, I just made up that word. It reminded me of one of my favourite Bible passages that describes team ministry in leadership, in Exodus 17.

While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.”

10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. 11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage.12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

Moses was smart and humble enough not to try to do this alone. He did not get insecure about people’s potential rumours that would point out to his mighty job of holding the staff, while the brave new warrior would be on the frontline. He did not look very commanding having to lean on a stone and be supported by two other leaders.

But Moses had learned the humility lessons the hard way already. He did not care. This was not about him and his image.This was about serving and supporting. Together, as a team. True leaders will never look for occasions that make them shine but will always see the higher pursuit that goes way beyond personal glory.

If you’re a leader, who are your ‘leaners’? Have you humbly acknowledged them? Have you sincerely cried out to them?

If you’re not a leader, who can you be a ‘leaner’ for today. Chose the so called ‘small’ things as they most often matter more than you could imagine.

Actors or Reactors

Oh how easy it is to let the circumstances around us to dictate our mood and our direction:

In our lives in the world, the temptation is always to go where the world takes us, to drift with whatever current happens to be running strongest. When good things happen, we rise to heaven; when bad things happen, we descend to hell. … I know this to be true of no one as well as I know it to be true of myself. I know how just the weather can affect my whole state of mind for good or ill, how just getting stuck in a traffic jam can ruin an afternoon that in every other way is so beautiful that it dazzles the heart. We are in constant danger of being not actors in the drama of our own lives but reactors.

—Frederick Buechner, U.S. writer and preacher (1926 —)

10 OF THOSE | EMAIL ETIQUETTE

Email is so prevalent now. Almost all ages use it and most of us probably never had a tutorial. So as I have learned ‘on the go’ here are some helpful tips I can pass on.

  1. Use e-mail suitably. Where face to face or phone is better – chose the right option. Even if it’s more difficult and takes longer.
  2. Always acknowledge receipt. It’s courtesy.
  3. If you need more time to digest – let he person know.It’s clarity.Short reply is always better than no reply.
  4. use separate accounts for personal and work. That way you can switch off properly during the weekend and on holidays.
  5. Try to aim for ‘inbox zero’- leaving only very urgent ‘to reply’ in. It’s simplicity.
  6. Use folders | labels and file emails accordingly. It’s easier to find them later.
  7. If you’re not wired – almost always on – let people that  work with you know your habits and rhythms.
  8. Create template emails suited for different needs. They are time savers.
  9. Unless you’re in demand or expecting something extremely important, switch notifications off. they are unnecessary distractions.
  10. If your work requires email – devote a clear amount of time to it rather than moving ‘in and out’.