let me give you some feedback

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read the words feedback and review?

For some, it might be a sudden bolt of terror as you consider being on the receiving end of a rant about your inadequacies. For others, it might remind you of awkward moments of forced encouragement sharing around the boardroom table. For others, it might be more about overly long meetings that meander around, are unnecessarily drawn out and don’t always have any tangible impact. Or a combination of all that and more.

When I read the words feedback and review I think necessary! 

Feedback is PERSONALLY necessary.

External feedback and review is essential to personal development and discipleship because it answers the question (we should all be asking), “How do other people experience me?” You know your motives, you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you know your intent but what you don’t always know is how those things are received by others. Feedback is the key to discovering that and to inviting the wisdom and perspective of trusted others into your personal and character development.

Feedback is essential to IMPROVEMENT.

If your team or organisation is wanting to do things well (and if you’re not, what are you doing them for at all?) and to do them the most effective and efficient way (and if you’re not, you’ll be frustrating and burning out high capacity volunteers and staff) then you need to know what is good about your good so you can keep doing it!

You can’t improve what you don’t review.

Even if something is going well, you need to know WHY so you can continue to do what made it work in the first place. Without reviewing to identify the key components to your success (in anything – a project, strategy, team meeting, performance or service provision) you may unwittingly attribute that success to the wrong thing and neglect to focus on or repeat those factors that led to the success. Furthermore, your capacity to turn good into excellent is thwarted when you don’t know why it was good to start with.

If you don’t know why it’s working when it’s working you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.

Feedback is essential for SELF AWARENESS.

Ignorance is not a virtue. Feedback is the anecdote to that moment of revelation when we discover something about ourselves that we previously hadn’t known. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” The people around you know your weaknesses and strengths – they are on the receiving end of them everyday. There is no benefit to remaining unaware of the impact we make on others and how we are perceived and received.

We want to learn from those who love us so we won’t be unnecessarily shocked by those who don’t.

As Proverbs 27:6 frames it “Wounds from a friend can be trusted…”. We want to invite healthy and helpful feedback from those who love us, are for us and who are onboard with the mission and vision we have for our life or our organisation and will help us to head confidently in that direction.

No one has been fired for asking for feedback but many could’ve avoided being fired if they had!

Feedback given well results in profound ENCOURAGEMENT.

People need more encouragement than we think they do – and sometimes even more than they think they do. For the most part, many of us live in the void of knowing how we positively influence people or contexts around us.

We are never in the room when we are not in the room so we don’t always know the impact we made on the room!

Feedback is the vehicle to help us understand the unique offerings we contribute to relationships, to teams, to projects and to environments.

Often, our greatest strengths and our most unique capacities feel so natural to us that we don’t realise the impact of them on others. You might observe this for yourself, often when you affirm an attribute in someone they’ll respond with “yeah, but anyone could do that.” – when the truth is no, anyone could not do that. The fact that it comes easily or naturally to you doesn’t make it universally common.

Intentional feedback gives opportunity to highlight and celebrate strengths, talents, skills and gifts in others. Providing great encouragement and fuelling ongoing engagement.

Feedback shapes a healthy CULTURE.

When feedback becomes part of your culture (in relationships, as a family, team or organisation) it is self-determining. The more we give feedback, the more aware of self and others we become and, the more aware of self and others we become, the more feedback we will be led to offer.

When feedback is expected it is more accepted.

The more we engage in intentional feedback; the better we get at giving and receiving it and, the more we anticipate that as the natural process of living our best lives. Feedback culture creates pathways for feedback to be given – intentional processes and opportunities for feedback to be invited, offered and received. These pathways are predictable, accessible and supportive of the easy exchange of ideas and review. A culture of feedback also shapes language that makes this feedback most useful.

A simple example of this is the use of the word ‘because’. “I liked your presentation this morning” is a nice pat on the back but holds little value. What did you like about it? What’s your idea of a good presentation? What are you comparing it to? What did you get from it? How has it impacted you?

“I liked your presentation this morning … because …” You used great visuals to support your point. It was really engaging. You helped me understand something new. You brought a fresh perspective … you get the idea.

Empty praise is not accepted in a healthy feedback culture.

TRUST is required and nurtured.

A key component in a strong and healthy Feedback Culture of a team, family or organisation is trust. When feedback is part of natural rhythms and interactions it builds trust.

We can trust the motives of those who would give us feedback. We can believe that they are all about working towards our shared goals or for my personal benefit.

We can trust the silence of others because we know if there was something to be said they would have said it. Feedback culture means that there is as much honesty in the meeting as there is in the hallways (or the “meeting after the meeting”). We don’t have to fear what is not being said.

We can trust how we are being spoken about because of how we are being spoken to.

A healthy culture of feedback will nurture high trust and shape an incredibly healthy work or relational environment.

***

Let’s keep this conversation going – watch out for future blogs in this series about the necessity of Feedback. We’ll look at asking for feedback, how to GIVE it and how to RECEIVE it. Stay tuned.

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talking about divorce

“The reason there are so many divorces is that we live in a throw away society and no one is willing to work to fix things.”

You’ve no doubt heard a version of this statement before, or possibly even repeated something like it yourself. It is often followed up with comments that start with “in my day” or “I was raised to believe that …”

Yes, the statistics on divorce are alarming at worst, disappointing at best. But not just because they seem to increase or because they might reflect a shift in attitude to marriage (or any other cultural trend that we might point to) but because each of those numbers represents two broken people, maybe a broken family and a whole lot of implications for those in the sphere of this couple … forever!

Divorce is devastating. Divorce is sad. Divorce is taking a ‘one’ that has been created by the union of two and tearing it in half. God says He HATES divorce (Malachi 2 :16) and I can totally understand why. It’s messy, it’s hurtful and its consequences are far reaching. I know this from my own experience – both as a child of divorced parents and as a divorcee myself. 

It doesn’t matter how bad a marriage was, a divorce is never good.

Our language matters.

We need to be more careful in how we talk about divorce – because, again, we’re talking about people. Not just a social trend or statistic. People. On the end of every one of our generalisations is a person who has been impacted by divorce in ways that flippant language not only fails to consider but may also compound. As I move around I hear so many stories of people being unnecessarily wounded by the careless words of others and see the easy traps people fall in when speaking about divorce. Our language matters.

No one gets married intending to be divorced.

No one.

Even people who don’t do anything to make their marriage work aren’t expecting that it won’t! Anyone who finds themselves divorced, even if it was them who initiated and actioned it, is living a different future than they expected. It might be better (safer, healthier, necessary) to not be in the marriage anymore but it still isn’t anyone’s goal to be divorced.

Divorce isn’t the easy way out.

Even when the pathway to divorce is clear – an abusive partner, an unfaithful spouse, untenable circumstances – divorce is not an easy option.

It is practically taxing. Division of assets, closing and opening bank accounts, relocating (for one or both), potential custody considerations and all manner of things required to detach and then re-establish independently and recover financially. It’s emotionally devastating. Even the most amicable of separations are founded on a level of relational fracturing that carries all sorts of implications for a sense of self and one’s view of the world – a life story is forever altered. 

It may seem easier than staying. It might seem like a cop out. But it carries its own consequences and challenges that can’t be underestimated (by those considering it or those journeying through it with others).

“We just never gave up” only works if it’s truly ‘we’.

Often, when asked the secret to a long marriage people respond “We just never gave up”. Which is undoubtedly true. Sticktoitiveness is one of the essential ingredients to longevity in anything. But it’s important to emphasise the ‘we’ in that statement. It requires BOTH people to have not given up.

The old adage applies that if only one is paddling in a two person canoe it will just go around in circles. Some divorced individuals never gave up. Some fought harder to compensate for another who didn’t fight. In the end one can’t be married alone.

A high value of marriage should be second to a high value of people.

Many people stay (or are counselled to stay) in abusive or destructive relationships because of the emphasis placed on the value or sacredness of marriage. Well might we benefit from a greater honouring of and investment in marriage – your own or those of family, friends or church community around you. Let us be champions of marriage – encouraging and supporting in anyway we can. But let that never be at the expense of the emotional or physical safety of the people in it.

Our language matters.

How you speak about divorce – in public forums (the platform at church, social media or other communications) or in casual conversations – matters to those impacted by divorce. Let’s be mindful to consider the people the statistics are referencing when we make observation of cultural trends or shift. Let’s be champions of people and places where healing and support can be sought and experienced rather than (perhaps inadvertently) communicating judgement or exclusion to people already navigating a difficult life experience.

creativity inc. – book reflections

Disclaimer : This is not a book review, it’s just some reflections. I listen to books (via Audible – get on it!) and I listen to them at 1.5 speed (if the narrator’s pace allows). I can’t highlight or underline and, as I’m usually driving while listening, I don’t get to take notes. I listen for big ideas, not details. I listen for concepts rather than quotes. So here are some reflections on a book I recently finished.

Creativity Inc. Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.

by Ed Catmull

Ed is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. A computer scientist by training, he initially created software to assist in computer animation but went on to co-found Pixar Animation Studios and create some of our best known and loved animated movies.

This book was fascinating. As a lover of animated movies (particularly Disney & Pixar) I was intrigued to get a behind-the-scenes look at all the processes and decisions that go into the making of the movies whose quotes make up around 50% of my general daily dialogue!

It’s quite a long read but it has so much in it. Beyond the intricate insights into how characters, plots and contexts were researched, created and refined I was intrigued by the leadership lessons learned and shared. And particularly challenged and inspired about how intentionally they focused on creating, communicating and maintaining a vibrant, creative and productive culture.

Some stand out take-aways for me…

Easy is not the goal.

Disney & Pixar exist to make excellent movies. The book references the thousands of decisions that are made, the distractions that need to be avoided, the challenges that need to be overcome and the budgets that need to be managed in order to make an excellent movie … and then to make another one. Every system and process is painstakingly analysed to refine speed and quality of production, staff satisfaction and overall outcomes. But Catmull was keen to point out that in amongst all of that, ‘easy’ must never be the goal. Sure, the easiest way to accomplish a goal is the goal but the goal is never about ease. He warned about how allowing a culture to be shaped around shortcuts, quick fixes and ‘that will do’ is toxic first to excellent outcomes, but ultimately to team morale and momentum. He gave multiple examples of how high calibre workers are motivated by the challenge to create outcomes of significance not mediocrity (however that might be measured in a given field of endeavour). I loved thinking about how that might translate into other leadership and team environments. I resonated profoundly with this idea.

A culture of feedback is essential.

Catmull details the processes of feedback employed at Disney & Pixar and they are elaborate. Organisationally, they continually spend a great deal of resource (man-hours, money, energy) on extracting, collating and responding to feedback on all aspects of their film creation. The level of humility demonstrated by senior leadership sets the tone for this. And the intentionality around establishing and maintaining a culture where feedback is genuinely welcomed and valued is incredibly high.

A loose paraphrase of a quote – “You don’t want to be in an organisation where the level of candour is higher in the corridors than it is in your meetings. In rooms where ideas, policy and best practice are being hashed out you want to only be hearing the truth – the whole truth.” And he goes on to articulate how it is that they monitored and responded to this. He shares not only his repulsion at the idea that people might withhold their honest opinions because they want to appear amiable to their up-lines, but the acknowledgement that they could never be their best or do their best if these honest opinions weren’t being heard. So they went about developing clearly communicated and curated methods for extracting feedback at every level of their organisation.

Sections of this book read as a master class in how to create and nurture a culture of feedback. I suspect I’ll be revisiting it for this purpose. It’s crazy inspiring.

Failure is essential.

Feeding into the value and success of a culture of feedback is communicating (in word and deed) that there is a way for failure to be processed and recovered from – a way back. In fact, Catmull asserts that failure is to be expected because it’s a “necessary consequence of trying something new”. An organisation can’t be hoping for innovation and progress without giving permission to experiment – which innately opens up the potential for failure as risks are taken.

Healthy team culture deals with failure in predictable, articulated and honouring ways so as to re-embolden a team member (and those watching on) for continued creative endeavours.

What TRUST really looks like.

I thoroughly appreciated the repeated references Catmull made to the importance of trust – but also how he defined it. He asserts the necessity of trust for healthy team culture, releasing the creative and innovative, and ultimately for generating best outcomes. Further to his observations on failure, he posits that performance failure can’t be a reason to withdraw trust. “Trust doesn’t depend on a person not messing up – it means that you’ll keep trusting them even when they do mess up!” (paraphrase).

Trust is about trusting the motive and intent of a person – they were thinking this would help and achieve what we were hoping to achieve, it just didn’t work out that way. Rather than assuming the worst of a person – they wasted time and money on a method that was useless and now they can’t be trusted with that level of autonomy or creativity again. If failure is a necessary consequence of trying something new and you want your people to try new things then they can’t be penalised if that attempt wasn’t successful. Trust gives a person confidence to make their best effort and offer their best ideas knowing that you are behind them and for them and will help them find their way back if things go wrong.

Lots of other things.

There’s more. You might want to read it yourself. If you’re keen on learning more about developing great organisational culture – this book could be for you. If you’re particularly fond of Buzz & Woody and all their other mates, then you’ll love it too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 ways to use social media (for good)

When it comes to social media, I think many of us have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. There are so many positive aspects about the connectivity it can generate, the relationships it can develop, maintain or strengthen and the exposure it can bring to many forms of information and inspiration. But there are also well documented aspects of social media that lead some to avoid it. Here are three redemptive uses of social media that I believe could make it one of our greatest assets in making the world a better place!!

1. Advocate & support

Social media provides a powerful platform to raise awareness, profile and funds for deserving people and causes.

Through social media, we are connected with needs and opportunities that might not otherwise come to our attention. From the comfort of our own couches we can donate to worthy causes, support individuals in their world changing efforts, sponsor research initiatives, support small business, petition governments and change agencies, and shine a spotlight on need and injustice. We can also share stories of courage, inspiration and hope.

The simple act of ‘liking’ a post increases its reach, ‘sharing’ or re-posting even moreso and our comments offer encouragement and support to the person or organisation – cheering them on to bigger and better accomplishments on behalf of those who need it most.

So whether it is the opportunity to support a friend’s child in the “Jump Rope for Heart” skipathon, or sign a Collective Shout petition to take steps to rid the world of sexual exploitation, or read a story that awakens our hearts to injustice, or sponsor a young person travelling overseas to understand more of the needs of the world, or donate goods to a prison or homeless ministry, or donate to aid men’s mental health, or like, share or comment on the activity of someone championing another worthy cause … or to utilise the platform to raise funds or awareness for those things God puts on your heart – do it!

A sure fire antidote for the draw of social media to be about self-indulgence, comparison, appearance management or complaining is to consider how we might use the platform to draw attention to what matters and use our voices on behalf of those without one.

2. Honour & encourage others

There are no shortage of places a person can turn to if they’re looking to be torn down. Even without trying we can find ourselves on the end of others’ (or even our own) criticism, judgement and exclusion. Social media offers a place to reverse that experience and to bring encouragement, affirmation and honour into one another’s lives.

Special occasions – birthdays, graduations, achievements, Mother’s/Father’s/Valentine’s Days, anniversaries, new jobs, farewells (etc) – are a great opportunity to publicly honour people of significance in our lives. Those we admire, those we are proud of, those we desire to champion and celebrate. And even on no-special-occasion-at-all days! What a great opportunity social media presents to say a kind word or two – to or about another person. To pause just a little longer to find words to articulate what you appreciate about them or how they are positively influencing your life and the lives of those around them.

I love the chance to share a photo and a ‘shout out’ to someone who is giving their all and living their best life. How grateful are we for people around us who do that in a way we can aspire to and be encouraged by!? Why wouldn’t we take the opportunities to share that sense of gratitude with others and give their spirits a boost in the process?

But even more than that, we can honour and encourage just in the ways we react to other people’s sharing. I often hear people talk about social media being a place they find hard because, for them, it breeds jealousy and discontent. What mental and/or heart shift might we make to see or hear of another’s success or enjoyment and choose to celebrate them rather than give voice to the negative or self-focussed emotions that might otherwise threaten to come to the surface? What we speak out to others we speak into our own psyche also – the choice to affirm or celebrate can do as much for our own wellbeing as it does for the object of our comments.

3. Spread joy!

If you have a bad customer service experience at the shops or on the phone to your insurance company. If you have opinions on the ineptitude of …**insert people of greatest annoyance here** (other road users, politicians, attendants at McDonald’s drive thru windows, people who misuse apostrophes etc). If you have a grievance about, well, anything or anyone – you will no doubt find some cathartic relief in bashing out a well-worded (or otherwise) rant on social media and then find a degree of satisfaction in the responses of others. People are very ready to jump on board with their own stories or deep empathy for your plight.

I’m just not sure it really helps much in the long run. In some cases, it does nothing more than rally people towards judgement and bullying. In most cases, it achieves nothing positive.

Social media platforms are perfectly poised to be a mechanism to bring joy, hope, life-giving encouragement and edification. To bring laughter to someone’s day (I find a story of your own epic failure is a great way to get people laughing!!), to acknowledge difficulty and share burdens, to speak words of peace, promise and potential into another’s circumstances. To give a cyber high-five to people who are succeeding at being an adult (you know, doing all the things!) or a cyber hug to those living through difficult seasons.

It’s a good question to ask of what you post yourself – and also a posture to adopt in your responses to what other’s post – does this spread joy? Does this perpetuate positivity? Does this point people toward things that are beautiful and creative and life-giving and hope inspiring and people honouring and smile inducing and motivating? When you could respond in jealousy, will you choose celebration? When you could dismiss or minimise the needs and hurts of another, might you choose words of empathy and compassion? When you could highlight the negative, would you choose instead to emphasise the positive?

Thoughts for action :-

Do you use Social Media in these positive ways? How might you change your online engagement to utilise these platforms to advocate and support, honour and encourage and spread a little more joy?

3 things generations pastors need from their senior pastor

So, you’ve hired (or inherited) a Children’s Pastor, or a Youth Coordinator or an Associate Pastor for Generations (or any version of a Generations staffer) – what do you do next? One of the most significant relationships that will shape ministry effectiveness and a truly generational culture in your faith community is the relationship between the Senior Pastor and key leaders in the Generational ministries.

1. Access

Leaders immersed in ministry to emerging generations (or who are ’emerging’ themselves) will place a very high value on relational connection. Your time, your encouragement, your wisdom and experience, your clear articulation of the church’s vision or direction and the provision of a sounding board for innovative thinking and problem solving will all happen best through growing relational connection.

The offer of an open door is a start – a genuine invitation to come to you whenever they might need to process something, gain approval or seek advice that is supported by the reception they receive when they do.

Better still, a regularly scheduled meeting time communicates a high value from you. It also provides the consistency of contact and interaction that is necessary for a relationship of trust, open dialogue and true understanding to be fostered. Personally, I would be wary of employing someone who was unwilling to meet regularly with me. Just as I would be equally cautious about working for someone who didn’t appear willing to invest the time and intentional development into me as a leader.

Action points: Make space in your schedule for a regular time with your Generations pastor/leader – it doesn’t have to be hours and it doesn’t have to be too frequent – it just needs to be regular and it needs to be locked in to your calendars as an event (saying ‘we should catch up some’ time really doesn’t count!). Invest time to know your staff personally.

2. Awareness (& accountability)

Generational ministry finds a great deal of its expression outside of regular work or office hours. Youth pastors are doing some of their most intense hours on a Friday (or other) night, Kids Ministry workers are often squirreled away in largely unseen rooms, Young Adult small groups and events happen in evenings or on weekends, team meetings are scheduled outside regular hours to accommodate the volunteers that serve on them and, on top of all that, many Generations leaders are only working part-time hours. Left unchecked, it is easy for Generations workers to operate off the grid for large amounts of time. This is, of course, entirely practical but it is also fodder for doubt or mistrust to form when there are too many times when other staff or members of the church community ask, “Where is Sarah or Josh?” and no one can answer.

This can also extend to the question of ‘what’ – “What are they doing in Kids Ministry?” “What are the Youth studying this term?” “What is the strategy for connecting with families?”. Again, the more times the answer is ‘I’m not sure’ the more disconnected and untethered those Generational ministries can appear. And in time, that appearance can translate to reality.

In the context of regular access and strong relational links, a Senior Leader can be abreast of enough information to feel confidently aware as well as being able to communicate that awareness and confidence to other staff and members of the church community. This also provides a level of accountability to Generations staff as they are required to account for the spend of their time. In this way, they can also be monitored for ‘over-working’ – something that is easily done if their unseen hours aren’t being considered in their work-life rhythm.

Action points: Create a visual or open-access system of sign in/sign out and a way of communicating when staff can be next expected in the office. This is useful for all staff – particularly in environments when many are working part time or irregular hours. (And speaking as a person who lives alone, I like the idea that my work place might notice if I’m not there and check on me at some point!! 🙂 )
Ask for copies of term plans for Generations ministries. Dates of events, themes of study or any other broad information about the activity of a ministry area will help you to ask informed questions when you are speaking with Generations staff.

3. Advocacy

Generations ministry leaders are on the front line of feedback and engagement. Parents love their kids and are often quite zealous in their desire to see programs and opportunities meet their individual needs and expectations. Many people have opinions about how these ministries should operate and will be quick to vocalise them to anyone they deem able to influence a ministry’s direction.

Your Generations Pastors need to know that you have their back. They need to be confident in your confidence in them. They need to be assured that complaints or criticisms are not being entertained by you without you seeking out the full information and without you doing anything to undermine their authority or currency amongst those they minister to.

Raging fan in public – honest critic in private.” This is the mantra of Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church staff culture. They covenant to always support one another publically – in the moment of leadership activity and/or to anyone who might take an opportunity to question or challenge. “I’m sure they have a good reason for that decision or action, let me find out what it is and get back to you.” Assuming the best of your leaders is the only way to nurture a trust-infused environment that allows innovation and personal development to take place. Through that lens of trust and belief, honest questions of critique or concern can be processed in healthy and helpful ways.

Action points: Resolve to always have your staff’s back as they lead and when others might come to you to ‘complain’. Affirm the Biblical practice of resolving conflict directly with the person involved rather than permitting a climate of back talking or conflict avoidance. Ensure your Generations leader knows they have your full support in all things and the guarantee of your honest review and feedback. Knowing that no news truly is good news will give them greater confidence to lead boldly. Speak plainly to your Generations pastors about areas of work and create a grace-filled way back after failure or misfire.

***

Of course, all of these actions and ideas won’t guarantee a successful ministry tenure for your Generations leader – but the absence of these things will make it all the more improbable! When a Generations Leader can rely on their Senior Pastor (or up-line) to be available to them, to be aware of their ministry movements and personal development trajectory, and to advocate for them they are best positioned to thrive in their role. And everyone wins when that happens. Senior leadership, the Generational culture of the church (and the many families and young people impacted for the Kingdom) and the Generations Pastor themselves.

the power of the debrief


After living alone for several years a while back a friend moved in. The changes were immediate – both the super-fun and those more challenging as we navigated doing life together – but one of the more impactful ones was unanticipated.

Within a week of having a housemate I noticed a significant improvement in my mental health. I was sleeping better, I felt less ‘stressed’ and I was doing much better at switching off my work brain to enjoy my evenings more.

It was the power of the debrief.

Although we each led busy lives, there’d be some point after work where we’d get to chat about our days. Sometimes that was a quick touching base before one of us headed out to our evening commitments, other times it was more extended – her sitting at the kitchen bench chatting while I cooked us dinner. But in all of its forms it was powerful.

What happened today? Good stuff or bad? How’d that meeting go? What frustration did you experience? Did you accomplish much? Did you encounter any conflict? What’s on for tomorrow? What decisions are you facing? What options are you considering?

In the process of expressing those things out loud I found great release. It was like putting a metaphorical full-stop on that day, allowing me to set it aside to be picked back up the next. Freeing my mind to completely relax or to take on other thinking and processing related to my home or personal life.

It’s a consideration for us all but particularly for those who live alone. What steps do you make to give yourself a mental break? How do you get true separation or distance from work to let your brain process other things? How do you ‘switch off’ from one environment in order to be fully present in another?

SINGLES – how does this apply in your life? Do you have someone to debrief with? Is there a person at work that you can have a close-of-day chat with? Can you call someone on your way home? Is there a method of writing things down or symbolically marking your transition from one environment to another that you could practice?

EVERYONE – consider those in your family, work place or friendship group that might not have a default person to debrief with. Can you offer yourself to them to be a sounding board for decisions they’re facing, chat to them at close of day or invite them to call you on their way home?

 

‘oh no!’ or ‘oh yay!’


I have a little friend who is 4 and adorable. I love going into spaces where she’s playing or interacting with others and just watching and waiting for the moment she becomes aware of my presence. As she happens to look up and around, she will eventually notice me and it’s the best moment to watch her face completely change. From her pensive ‘looking’ face or her blank ‘wondering’ face to her ‘KimmE is here!’ face. Her eyes go wide, the eyebrows go up, a massive smile breaks across her face and she yells “Kinnay!” Then follows the enthusiastic run from wherever she is to launch herself into my arms for excited squeezes and kisses.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone was that happy to see us!? Maybe not with the run and leap, but definitely the joy and the enthusiasm and the positivity that fuels it. “KimmE’s here, oh yay!” Good things will happen now. This will be an enjoyable place to be. I want to be where KimmE is. I’m so glad she’s here.

In scripture there’s a guy named Joseph who people called Barnabas. Barnabas means ‘son of encouragement’. It was a nickname they gave him because he was so stinking encouraging in every way and in every sense and at all times that they just had to call him that. He was generous and engaged. He was a champion-er of other people. He was a speaker of truth and potential into the lives of others. He was encouraging and supportive. OH YAY! Barnabas is here!!

On the other hand, we all know some ‘oh no!’ people. You know the type. The ones you see coming and think ‘oh no, what have I done this time?’ or ‘oh no, what’s gone wrong now?’ because they are so critical and so free with sharing their negativity. They can suck the life out of any environment with their pessimism and cynicism and their disapproval. These are the people you’d sooner avoid – particularly if you’re already feeling a little tired or deflated – because you know they’ll be hard work.

I really want to be an ‘oh yay!’ person – don’t you?

I want everyone (not just 4 year olds) to see me coming and be expectant of good things. That my encouraging spirit and joyfulness might announce itself in such a way that people know they can trust this encounter to be life-giving not life-draining. I want people to be assured of my support and championing! I want them to know I am for them – even in their weakness or failings. I want my tone, my body language, my facial expressions, my interest and my responses to all be expressing hope and help. To be speaking truth and life. To be reminding others of their gifts and capacity to do great things and influence others in meaningful ways. To speak courage and boldness to the fearful.

I want to be like Barnabas.

Don’t you?

monday morning ministry


These are not my children. I borrowed them.

They’ve been seconded for an important Monday morning ministry that required availability in two categories. The first – that they needed to be somewhere at a specific time prior to 9am on Monday morning – in their case, school at 8:20am. Done. The second – they needed to be up for an early morning conversation – not a difficult task for this 15 year old deep-thinker, 14 year old sanguine and 11 year old lover-of-a-good-story. Done.

The ministry requirement is this – to help me fight a debilitating case of Mondayitis.

Although Sundays are my favourite days, they are also my longest and most physically exhausting. The love tank is full but the physical energy is depleted. Then comes Monday morning and we have our review and planning meetings – where I’m called on to bring the creativity, energy and lateral thinking. But more consistently, all I’m really able to bring is the coffee.

After a few challenging meetings, some disappointments in my own attitude and contributions, and just knowing that things were not functioning as positively or helpfully as they could, I was talking it through with a mentor. She encouraged me to consider ways to get myself in a better frame of mind and readiness for the start of the day and week.

Enter this fabulous trio.

The need to have them at school means I arrive at work 40 minutes before my first meeting – rather than 1 minute before (or after!) it starts. I have time to get a few emails processed, sort through things left on my desk and say hello to a few other people in the office. I’m more relaxed, switched on and ready to engage a better version of me.

As an externally processing extrovert, people interaction is what kick starts my engine – especially when I’m weary. Arriving at morning meetings having not actually used my voice let alone had a laugh or shared a moment of human interaction is not a great way to start. These kids ensure many laughs and a whole lot of random chats in the brief trip to the school car park.

And as an added bonus this team has totally adopted their ministry role in my life. If you ask them why I take them to school on Monday mornings they’ll tell you that they help to get my day started well and make me work better. As they get out of the car they’ll often check to see if they’ve made me laugh enough or told enough random stories. Bless them.

Some encouragements for you. Have you reflected on your own responses and best practices to be able to set yourself up to win? Who can you recruit to help you achieve that? And what might your ‘Monday morning ministry’ be? Who could you bless with some practical or emotional support? 

 

becoming more patient | #2 wisdom over reaction


Are you a reactor?

Maybe it’s better if we talk about someone else … do you know people who are reactors? Those with a short fuse. Easily frustrated. Quick to snap and lash out verbally or demonstrate aggressively.

In the quest to become more patient, we have to acknowledge that impatience is about reactivity. It’s having a low tolerance while waiting for things to happen as we are hoping or anticipating, or in the time frame we’d prefer, and dealing with the shortfall inappropriately.

In the previous post becoming more patient | #1 a big picture perspective  we noted that waiting isn’t patience, how you wait is. Patience is about our capacity to not become annoyed or anxious while we wait or experience problems.

Much of that annoyance or anxiety can be kerbed when we move more in wisdom than reaction.

Wisdom tells us that the trip to work is always a little busier at school times and so we should allow ourselves a few extra minutes – rather than getting frustrated by the crazy school drop off parents (and aren’t they crazy?!) that slow down our trip.

Wisdom tells us that kids need advanced notice to wind up an activity, prepare for departure or make a transition between tasks. Rather than calling ‘we’re leaving now!’ and then rapidly growing frustrated as the time tension gets greater.

Wisdom tells us that when we are tired, hormonal or under pressure we are less emotionally sober – perhaps now is not the time for that d&m or to process a significant decision.

Wisdom tells us that our sister/uncle/cousin/sibling/friend is going to do/say/be what they always do/say/be and to make a preemptive decision about how we will respond or short circuit it. Rather than being inflamed (…again!)

Wisdom sees us know our own limitations and triggers and grow in our understanding of others’. Wisdom helps us avoid circumstances that will fuel frustration or anxiety. Wisdom plans ahead for the times that are predictably tense and makes rational decisions about the attitude and posture we’ll carry.

Wisdom also reminds us to be more tolerant of others because of how others are tolerant of us. It recalls for us the times when people allowed us to fail and try again. When people were gentle with us as we developed new or better skills, understanding and competency. When people waited for us because we forgot something or were running late. When other’s repeated something we hadn’t heard or re-explained something we hadn’t understood.  Wisdom reminds us that we’re all in need of the patience of others at different times.

What wisdom have you developed that has kerbed your impatience? What circumstances would you be able to predict a tension that would require patience in order to prepare rather than react?