Reflections: On Bygone Interviews

30 04 2012

We moved back to Shreveport nearly two and a half years ago, without any clue of where we would land once we arrived. Youth ministry was barely even on my radar, except for a telephone call I had received a few weeks earlier from a pastor friend. Apparently, there was a church looking for a youth director, and he knew I was moving back…was I interested?

I shrugged my shoulders, sent in my resume, and continued seeking out other job prospects, as well. Before I knew it, I had two job interviews lined up for day after we would be moving into our new apartment. One job entailed coordinating an annual arts festival; the other was that pesky youth director position. I thought I knew which one I wanted, but I decided to keep an open mind.

The first meeting was by far the weirdest job interview I’ve ever had. Sample question:

Interviewer: This job involves a lot of communication. Let’s say you are waiting to hear back from someone, and you’ve emailed them and called them, with no response. But you can’t move forward unless you hear from them. What would you do next?

Me: (clearly this is a test of my creativity and ingenuity in a tough situation) Well, if it was appropriate, I might try to visit them in person. Or if we had a mutual acquaintance, I could see if they might be able to get in touch with that person. Or, depending on what I needed from them, I might be able to talk to someone else instead.

Interviewer: (flatly, disappointed) No. The right answer is to send a fax. After we call and email, our third form of communication is fax.

Me: (brightly) Well, fortunately I do know how to use a fax machine!

I walked out to my car, blinking back tears. That clearly did not go as well as I had hoped. And I only have a an hour to pull myself together in time for the next one! 

The second interview should have been intimidating — the 12-member hiring committee crammed themselves into the pastor’s office and tossed questions to me, firing-squad-style — but all I felt was a sense of intense calm. Peace, you might call it. Sample question:

Interviewer: What is your five-year plan?

Me: I used to think I had one of those, but I don’t anymore. I’m here for the time being, and I guess I’ll see where God leads me from here.

It was an entirely honest answer, and the committee members nodded their heads — if not in approval, then at least in understanding.  I was only 22, after all.

Two and a half years later, that answer still rings true. I’m here for the time being, and I guess I’ll see where God leads me from here. We’ve neared the end of an era, Jordan and I. We thought we’d be preparing to move again at this point … but instead, whenever we have had the chance to move on and do something else, we have made the conscious choice to stay right where we are.  We realized this past weekend that we just might be planting roots…and the more shocking realization was that we’re okay with that.  Though we’re still open to being uprooted, as well.

Yesterday, we attended the very same arts festival that I had once applied to direct … and we enjoyed being able to experience the decorations and the booths and the music without having to stress about any of it.

I wondered about the person who ended up with the job. I hope she’s happy and thriving and planting her own roots. I hope she’s loving her job and her path as much as I’m loving mine. And by golly, I sure do hope she learned how to use the fax machine!

Mosaic Crosses

30 04 2012

At our spring retreat this year, we spent a night thinking about grace and salvation. We looked at the story of the woman caught in adultery and talked about how the message of the cross is that God makes beautiful things out of our brokenness. After singing, playing a game, and talking through this story, we divided into our small groups for a time of creative response. We gave each group a hammer, old towels, and one ceramic tile per person. We invited the youth to smash their tile into tiny pieces as they reflected on the idea of “brokenness.” (The idea was, each small group would amass a variety of different colored tile pieces in the process). Then, we passed out plain wooden crosses (we bought them for $1 at Hobby Lobby), mosaic grout, and plastic spoons, and we let the youth create to their hearts’ content! Hand wipes also came in handy (no pun intended).

If you want to do this craft for less money and less mess, check home improvement stores and ask if you can have their broken tile pieces. But for us, it totally worked to break our own tiles!

breaking tiles

Jordan's cross in progress

Remind students not to eat the grout 🙂

one small group's completed crosses!

A Control Freak’s Guide to Delegation

17 04 2012

Read up on any ministry blog/book/magazine for a while, and you’re destined to find advice about how important it is to delegate. Empower the laity. Give your job away.

It all sounds great, really, but it is often easier said than done. When I’m planning the details of some event or program, it sounds like a lot of work to call up these delegatees to recruit and prep them. Much easier just to do it myself. That way, I can do everything exactly how I want…and if something goes wrong, I’ll take the blame.

You might say I’m a little bit of a control freak.

But I’m trying. And sometimes I just have to translate the benefits into a tangible form for my workaholic mind: when I delegate well, our youth ministry is always the better for it. Delegating allows me to be more productive, more effective, and more joyful along the way.

So, here are the lessons I’ve been learning lately:

1. Delegate the tasks that make you break out in hives. For example: I’m good at planning Bible studies. I’m good at listening to kids. I’m not so good at preparing food for the masses. (And in fact, I am apparently incapable of simple food-related tasks, like picking up cakes). And when I am put in charge of youth group dinners or breakfasts or receptions, I freak out.

But here’s the thing.  There are a ton of people in our church who have the spiritual gift of cooking. I should never have to put myself through the agony of something multiplies my stress level exponentially, when the exact same task can be done better (and more joyfully) by someone else. So from now on, I commit to delegating all food-related tasks in our ministry.

Note: I did not say, “Delegate the easy tasks.” Or, “Delegate the tasks that don’t matter.”  There is a difference. People can tell when you’re just giving them busy work. But there are surely essential tasks in your ministry that are causing you undue stress. Start there.

2. Delegate for growth. Let’s say you do the same back-to-school event every year. If you’re always in charge of the whole thing, it will always look exactly the same…and you will quickly reach the limit of how much you can do. But when you involve others, they can take care of the tried-and-true aspects of the event, and you can focus on expanding, adding new ideas, and thinking critically about how this event fits in with your larger vision. Giving away your nuts-and-bolts ministry tasks will free you up to dream big, plan strategically, and ultimately, grow.

3. Take baby steps. If you haven’t been in the habit of delegating, then start small; it will help you get used to the idea of giving up control, AND it will help your volunteers get a taste of what the process looks like. Last year, I had a few parents cook breakfast for our graduating seniors, while I handled the rest of the details of the event. This year, I have two parents in charge of decorations, and two other parents in charge of food (and so the cycle continues…they will be delegating to other parents!). Make it a goal to delegate a little bit more every year.

4. Choose people you trust. Don’t pick random people off the street to do your ministry work. The ensuing uncertainty will give you a heart attack. Instead, choose people whom you have seen in action, whose work lines up with your vision. In an ideal world, you would have a system in place where new volunteers can learn the ropes from experienced volunteers before they have to step out on their own.

I can tell a difference between the volunteers I trust and the ones I don’t. I’m constantly checking up on the second group, while the first group works like a well-oiled machine. Learn to tell that difference…and then capitalize on it.

5. Give clear instructions … but don’t hover. I think it’s good to stay in communication with your volunteers, but as much as possible, give all the information upfront, so that they can plan out exactly what they need to do. Which means, you need to have all the information upfront. I’m going to try to be better about this; depending on the task at hand, that might mean job descriptions, meetings with volunteers, trainings, etc.

And then … let go. You’ve got people you trust. So trust them! And (dare I say) trust what God is doing with them. Sometimes it will look exactly like you envisioned. Most of the time it won’t. Often, it might even be better.


15 04 2012

Another video, because I was super proud of my youth today!!! Our youth band led music in our contemporary service and combined with the adult praise band for the song Manifesto, by City Harmonic.  (Sorry we didn’t catch it from the beginning. But take notice…we staid Methodists were actually raising our hands in worship!!!)

Confirmation Cakewreck

15 04 2012

Today, for Confirmation Sunday, we welcomed eight youth (and two of their parents!) as new members of our church.

Perhaps because Confirmation was such an important part of my own faith story, I always  look forward to this day each year.  And this class of confirmands was so much fun to work with: they asked great questions, thought deeply about the topics we studied, undertook the memorization work with gusto, and were full of great joy and excitement about stepping forward in this journey of faith.

We celebrated with a reception at 9:30 this morning. My job was to pick up the cake from Sam’s Club. It was not quite ready last night, but they told me I could pick it up when the store opened this morning at 9 a.m. If all went perfectly (and let’s be honest…nothing ever goes perfectly), I would have exactly 30 minutes to buy the cake, get it in the car, drive halfway across town, and get everything in place for the reception.

Here I should probably mention that when I’m pressed for time — or worse, running late! — I transform from a fairly pleasant person into a stressed-out, snarky, panic-attack-prone, sometimes-just-plain-mean monster. So while I had given myself the easiest job of all, I still might screw it up horribly.

But all went more perfectly than I could have imagined. Sam’s Club let me enter at 8:59 a.m., the cake was already ready for me, and I did not even have to wait in line at the check-out. After just a bit of maneuvering, I managed to fit the cake in the backseat of the car.

9:06. It seemed too good to be true…I was going to make it!  And in fact, I pulled into the church parking lot with 10 minutes to spare! Proudly I set the cake down in the middle of the table.

And then, for the first time, I actually looked at the cake.

It said (in beautiful cursive letters):

Ron            James
Jane           Jordan
Lee             Quicky
Jake           Zachary

Did you catch that? Third line??? QUICKY????

It was supposed to be Ricky!!!

Frantically, my volunteers and I began scraping off icing and scrounging around for more red frosting in the church kitchen. All we found was black frosting, though, so we salvaged it the best we could. (And by “best,” I mean…it was pretty clearly ruined!)

Fortunately, his parents had an excellent sense of humor about the whole thing! And in the big scheme of things, that was the only major mishap … so all in all, I’d call that a success!

*Names have been changed…although none so horrendously as the cake itself!