Archive for September, 2010

It Doesn’t Take Much to Make a Difference

It doesn’t take much to impact a life.  And the cool thing is, often times when you make an impact, an impact is also made on you.  Since that’s true, who wouldn’t want to be a part of something that positively impacts people?

So at my church, we have a youth-led service once per month, and after the service, the teenagers usually enjoy what we like to call a Y-NOT.  It stands for Youth Night Out Tonight (Our former youth pastor, Michael Haley, came up with the concept).  So anyway, this past Sunday night, my brother issued a challenge to the teenagers.  He asked them to go out into the community and be a blessing to people in need.  The idea was to find people at Wal-Mart, the grocery store, the bus stop, the convenience store, or wherever, who look like they might be in need, keeping in mind that there greatest need may be a personal relationship with Jesus.  To facilitate their experiences, the teens were partnered into teams with each chaperon taking about four students.  They were also given business-size invite cards, and $40 to give away.  And so, off they went to make a difference, and that’s exactly what they did.

Upon their return later in the evening, each team gave a testimony of their experiences.  The event was a hit.  The teens talked excitedly about what they had an opportunity to do…helping the needy, giving to the disadvantaged, buying food, giving of their own personal money, and the list goes on.  They met people with real life stories to tell, but even better they got to share the greatest story ever told!  The teens benefited so much from the event that they didn’t just talk fondly about it while at the church, they also went home and talked about it on Facebook.  Some even said that it was our best Y-NOT ever.  Pretty cool.  I’d say that there are at least four reasons that this event was successful:

It was successful because…

1. The teens experienced that it really is a bigger blessing to give than to receive – As it turns out, the Bible is right!  Acts 20:35 tells us that we are blessed to bless.  The more you bless the more you are blessed.

Go bless someone this week!

2. The teens felt like they made a difference – Everyone wants to be a difference-maker.  That’s true in sports, and it’s true in life.  We want our lives to count for something.  The teens performed random acts of kindness that demonstrated in real life the teachings of Jesus, who had compassion on people and obviously made a difference.

Go make a difference in someone’s life this week!

3. The teens got excited when they got to share their faith – Sure, it can be intimidating to share your faith, but it’s much easier when you have a group cheering you on (That’s what our teams did).  And once you’ve shared your faith, it feels great!

Go tell someone about Jesus this week!

4. The teens liked the feeling of win-win – It can be fun to play a game, especially if you win, but if someone wins that also means someone loses.  And for the losers, it usually isn’t as much fun.  But with this event, everyone wins…it’s a win-win!  That means the night is positive for everyone.

Look for the win-win this week!

So was the event perfect?  Probably not.  Did everyone we sought to help really need/deserve help?  Who knows.  Will any of the people we impacted ever come to our church?  We sure hope so.  Will the people ever become Christ followers?  Only God knows.  Did we give away a lot of money? Perhaps.

Was it worth it? Definitely!  The four reasons listed above explain clearly why it was all worth it.  Plus, we planted seeds…in the community and in our own lives.

So, what are your thoughts?

The “I just work here” Attitude

I love Wal-Mart… really, I do.  I easily visit a couple of times a week.  Whether living in Virginia or living in Florida, I have always lived just a few tenths of a mile from the retail giant.  In Virginia, I could see it from my front home.  But unfortunately, Wal-Mart has a problem… well they probably have several problems… every organization does.  But, for today, their problem involves the “I just work here” attitude.  This is the attitude that happens when someone feels no responsibility for the impact of the organization.  It may be that they are not empowered to make a difference, or it may be that they are not motivated to do so.

So, a couple of nights ago, I went to Wal-Mart.  As I walked in, I snapped the picture to the right.  The picture shows the display that offers sanitary wipes that can be used to clean your shopping cart.  Well, the sign says, “Please let us know if the container is empty.”  Well as you can tell from the picture, there is no container there at all.  So, being the upstanding citizen that I am, I politely told the notorious “Wal-Mart greeter” about the problem.  The gentleman quickly replied, “We’re all out.  Sorry.”  Well… Now, if I had seen this sign and gotten this response from someone at an office building, church, school, or restaurant, that answer would have been mildly acceptable.  But the thing is, we were at WAL-MART!  You can’t just get away with that answer at Wal-Mart.  Are you telling me there aren’t any containers of Clorox wipes or even diaper wipes on the shelves of the entire store?!?  Not even an off-brand wipe you could put out there?  I’m certain they weren’t truly “all out.”  The bottom line is that this greeter was communicating that the sanitary outage wasn’t his fault and wasn’t his area of oversight.  Boo on that!

But here’s the deal, how often do we do this at our work place or at our church?  Being of the mindset that “It’s not my problem. I just work here” is horrible and unproductive.  And at church, it hinders the movement of God.  You are impeding God’s work when you choose not to be part of the solution.  Please, don’t stand against God!  That’s a dangerous place to be.  So, next time your church is out of toilet paper, paper towels, or pens, or the next time the trash needs to be picked up or emptied, or the next time the parking lot is full, or the next time a visitor looks lost, be part of the solution.  It’s the right thing to do.

The Danger of Defensiveness

Defensive driving is good.  Defense on the football field is also good.  But, defensiveness in our interactions with others can be dangerous.  In the same way that a picnic draws ants, defensiveness allows problems to enter into the communication process, ruining the picnic.

Defensiveness at its root is our attempt to protect ourselves from feeling badly.  It has been something we’ve used to help us cope since our childhood.  Consciously or subconsciously, we don’t want to feel like a failure, a loser, a problem, a burden, a liar, a mean person … and the list goes on.  Defensiveness is the mechanism of human nature where we say or do things that temporarily shield us from feelings or anxiety that we don’t want to experience.  The problem of course is that this only works temporarily and has unhelpful, relational side effects.

Now, we can easily spot defensiveness in others, and we know how annoying, impeding, and unproductive it can be.  But, since it’s harder to spot within ourselves, here’s a short list of markers that can alert us to defensiveness in our own lives:

  • Sarcasm
  • Rigidity
  • Blaming
  • Shaming
  • Catastrophizing
  • Trivializing
  • Whining
  • Endless explaining
  • Withdrawing into silence
  • Loss of humor
  • All-or-nothing thinking

(A list of markers can be found in Jim Tamm’s book Radical Collaboration.)

Okay, so how do we fix our defensiveness and what’s the long term solution?

Ultimately and as unusual as it may sound, experiencing and absorbing the “bad” feelings is the only way to free ourselves permanently from the feelings that defensiveness seeks to prevent.  More specifically, though, we can suggest four actions steps to help along the way.

1. Spot Your Defensiveness – As with any personality flaw, you must admit that you do it in order to get better.  So admit it.  And then, learn your particular type of defensiveness, and identify your triggers.  That way, you know when it’s about to happen.

2. Slow Down – As with anything, we get dumb when our feelings start to get hurt.  That’s when the guard comes up and the gloves come off, and we say and do things that we later regret. So, slow down.  Take a few deep breaths, and proceed with caution, making a specific effort not to get defensive.

3. Self-talk – You talk to yourself.  Everyone does.  Maybe not out loud, but everyone does it.  The key here is to make sure you’re telling yourself good stuff.  Like Philippians 4:8 teaches, replace the bad thoughts with good ones.  This will further help you not to get defensive.  You must tell yourself the truth.

4. Step Toward the Goal – You didn’t become defensive overnight so don’t expect to be healed overnight.  But, take it one step at a time.  You can recover!  You need to!  It’s a necessity to experiencing a happier, healthier you.  And, it will facilitate more productive and Christ-honoring communication.

So get to it … start today!

Time, Money, and Opportunity

Time, Money, and OpportunityAs the old saying goes, “Time is money.”  But, it’s more than that.  Time poorly invested represents lost opportunity.  Here’s what I’ve learned this week about time and about money…

So, we’re in the market at my church for a new computer that will power the visual elements of our worship experience.  For a while now, we’ve used a PC that one of the guys on staff at our church custom-built.  The problem is that the unit has been acting up for about a year… maybe more.  From time to time it freezes up, and now it glitches consistently when playing videos.  We are well overdue for a replacement.

Well, after a decent amount of research, we settled on buying a Mac.  There’s a reason many large churches use them to power their worship experience … they’re reliable.  But, they’re also expensive.

So, here I am working for a church with limited resources, and I’m trying to be a good steward.  I’m shopping for the best deal.  I’m waiting for the exact Mac we want to become available in the Apple Refurb Store … And that’s my problem.  I waited.  For the savings of $230, I waited.  And because of that, we had a major meltdown in the early service this past Sunday.  The computer hung up several times and even had to be restarted.  Oops.

The sad thing … we had visitors in the service.  We just lost the chance to make a good first impression.  We looked unprofessional … like it doesn’t matter if God’s program is run smoothly or correctly.  But the thing is, God deserves the best.  And, we didn’t get it done this week.  And unless God is gracious, we may have lost our only opportunity to reach these visitors.  So, was it worth it?  Was it worth waiting another weekend in order to save the $230 bucks?  Probably not.

May God be gracious to us!