Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Study Leave

My 3 week study leave has officially ended this morning. I can honestly say this has been one of the best periods of my pastoral life. I've grow in ways and learned things that will impact my ministry years from now.

I've typed out pages and pages of thoughts about what I've learned but I want to share just two main ideas I wrestled with during these 3 weeks.

1) Communication
I spent some time talking with Dr. Todd Frye about how to better communicate with people who both think and act differently than myself. Another pastor friend told me that we unintentionally hurt people when we assume they communicate in the same way we do. During one meeting, Todd drew this picture for me:

The emotions listed at the top, Joy, Sadness, hurt, fear and shame are what's known as "primary emotions." We act out of those few primary emotions. What often happens though, is we move so quickly through those emotions into a secondary emotion such as anger, that we fail to realize the primary emotion. For example, if someone says something to you that hurts, you may speed right through the hurt feeling and go right into anger, which then leads to dysfuntional communication and behaviors.
The key to effective communication is to slow way down and recognize the primary emotion. You then act out of that primary emotion. If you're being hurt, you need a person to comfort you (or you comfort the other person, if you're causing the hurt) and so on. You can see the arrow that goes from the top, through the point of primary emotion down to the healthy responses. Todd said that relationships grow through primary emotions and their appropriate responses.
If you trust the person you're communicating with, you can share your emotion. If you don't trust them (they could turn that honesty against you), you can still act out of the recognition of that primary emotion.
I've already reaped the benefits of this knowledge. Wish I'd known it earlier...

2) Assimilation
I've been talking with pastors who have effectively grown their churches and connected new people into the life of their church. All 3 pastors are talented, smart and leading growing churches. And all 3 have different approaches to how the connect people. I'm going to give a very brief summary of what I learned from all 3 pastors.

Dale Schaeffer: Intentionality, intentionality, intentionality. Nothing just happens at Bridgeway, everything is done for a purpose. Dale and his small groups pastor have set up a system that effectively brings people into the life of their church, develops new leaders and allows for systems feedback. My brain almost exploded during this conversation...
Dale's church is growing like weeds and he shared several stories of people that he personally brought into the life of his church. Of my close pastor-friends, I don't know anyone else who leads with the type of intentionality, discipline and constant evaluation as does Dale. They are literally taking over their county.

Shane Ash: Shane is the pastor of Lee's Summit New Beginnings. He kept pounding into my thick skull, that "new people must know the next step after showing up for worship." Shane is very big on conversation and wants to blow up the traditional model of church life (Sunday AM worship, small groups) for a structure that facilitates conversation. I'm sworn to secrecy however, so I can't share some of his way out-there ideas, but I track with his way of thinking.
Shane's an innovative thinker and is seeing some amazing Kingdom stuff happen in his church.

But I'm only impressed with good thinkers if they back it up with actions. Before dropping me back off at the church office, Shane stopped by the low-income apartment complex right next to their church building. He told me that when he first moved into New Beginnings, he knocked on every single door of that apartment complex, introducing himself as the new pastor and apologizing that he didn't know their names. He got some pretty interesting responses.
As we sat outside that complex in his van, we started getting swarmed by people, "Pastor Shane, Pastor Shane." And Shane preceded to tell me story after story of people in that complex that have given their lives to Christ over the past few months. I saw a few of them in worship that next Sunday morning. I saw some beautiful pictures of the Kingdom while hanging out with Shane.

Steve Southards: Adult Discipleship pastor at Indian Creek Community Church in Olathe. He shared with me his church's newly developed Community Groups plan. His main idea was that everything in the life of the church flows through groups. If people have a passion for starting and leading some new ministry, they start a new Community Group to make it happen. Their structure is pretty open, just asking a few simple things of their leaders.
Just like my meeting with Dale, the scope of their plan overwhelmed me. So, I asked Steve what two things he'd focus on if all the other levels and steps were eliminated. 1) Leadership development through their Leadership 101 class and 2) Continual leadership training and encouragment through Leadership Community (a small group for small group leaders).

This Sunday, our Point Team is having a work day to develop our own process for assimilation and discipleship. As I think through what I've learned, I'm pulling principles from each of those 3 churches and thinking through how we work those out in our unique context. As I met with each pastor, I realized just how unique TFC is and how grateful I am to be pastoring this church!


Jenn said...

I was wondering if you'd met Shane yet. I went to college with him in Cincinnati. :-) I also know a few people that go to his church & hear there are some really great things going on right now. Glad you learned so much on your study leave. We're praying for you guys!

Jenn said...

I was wondering if you'd met Shane yet. I went to college with him in Cincinnati. :-) I also know a few people that go to his church & hear there are some really great things going on right now. Glad you learned so much on your study leave. We're praying for you guys!

Derin Beechner (Durk Niblick) said...

I think a small group for small group leaders is brilliant and one that I have seen/been a part of personally in the past. Good stuff.