Aaron Summers

What Coffee Teaches Me About Christianity

In Chrisian Life, Cleansing on August 21, 2014 at 8:03 am

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Coffee is a beautiful thing!

A few years ago, while on a church trip, I was given a coffee mug.  I have used it nearly every day since.  The wide bottom makes it so it doesn’t tip over very easy.  As you can see I have worn off much of the label!  This past Summer I got a new coffee cup and, in the excitement of something new, began using that one as of late.  Today I forgot the cup and I remembered that I still had this older, well-used one.

The problem was that it had not been used for a while and it had some coffee left in it.  I didn’t just want to add more coffee.  I needed to get rid of the old and put in the new.

  1. The cup couldn’t wash itself. As much as I would like, dishes still do not wash themselves.  We might have technology that speeds the process up and reduces the labor of the individual, but dishes do not wash themselves.
  1. There was no point in just wiping off the outside. I could have set it down in the sink with water but the problem was not the outside, it was the inside.  It needed to be clean from the inside out.  Simply washing off the outside would not have affected that which was floating in the cup!
  1. Fill it up! Now that the cup was clean I could have what I wanted – COFFEE!

Our lives are often like this cup.  By our own choosing we do not put ourselves in the Master’s hands every day.  As a result, we become stagnant and bad things begin to grow inside of us: hate, malice, envy, lust, pride, and more.  These will take what was good, but now unused, and degrade it to the point that it is sickening.  Like the cup, we cannot wash ourselves.  We must allow God to wash us from the inside out.  Though we may try to attend church more, be better people, and do the right thing.  Adding fresh coffee to that mug would have tainted the whole cup.  We must be emptied of all the nasty by God’s power through our faith and confession.  Then the Spirit will fill us up once again.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  2 Corinthians 5:17

4 Must Includes for Your Next Meeting

In Leadership on August 19, 2014 at 8:43 am

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Have you ever left a meeting and wondered what just happened? Have you ever left a meeting needing to check your blood pressure? Have you ever found yourself texting, checking email, or playing Words with Friends during the meeting? Maybe you began posting rants about the meeting on Facebook or Twitter. If you are really sneaky you might have taken pics and posted them too.

I call these Killer Meetings. We get so bored or frustrated because we do not feel anything is being accomplished. We all have so much to do that we only have a certain amount of time. We don’t want our time wasted unless it was our choice. A new form of meeting that is emerging is called the Email Meeting. I appreciate what is being attempted and sometimes it works best with busy schedules. However, there is a creative confluence that happens when we get together that is missed in email. I read in Proverbs the other day that toil brings profit and talking brings poverty. Let’s apply that to the meetings we lead or attend. Here are 4 must-includes for your next meeting.

1. Movement. The best way to keep a meeting moving is to have a definite finish moment. This reminds me of counseling sessions that have a timer. You have seen movies and shows that portray the couple in the middle of an emotional moment when the alarm sounds. The counselor interrupts and tells them the session is over and calendars the next session. The point is to keep the couple focused and working hard. Starting and ending on time may feel awkward but creates a respect for the time provided. Reminding people that another meeting will be scheduled if the agenda is not accomplished tends to drive home the need for focus and good flow of information and ideas.  There are times when another meeting is required and some information should not be rushed.  However, many decisions are neglected because we did not move through the discussion in an appropriate fashion.

2. Management. People have a tendency to get off task. Discussions and conversations ensue on a variety of topics. Countless meetings have gone on for hours only to leave everyone worn out and wondering what happened. Many leaders and committee heads have started printing agendas and passing them out. The problem is they are not always used. The leader must keep the group on task. One way to accomplish this is to send out the agenda before the meeting. This way everyone knows what to expect and can formulate their thoughts that aid in movement.  When the group begins to stray the leader needs to guide them back to the topic at hand.  Managing a meeting requires a focus and attention to the task at hand.  If the leader simply lets the conversation prattle on indefinitely then hours pass and no decision is made.

3. Making Decisions. I am constantly battling this issue. Often I sit through meetings where there has been grand discussion without any decisions. An agenda that does not drive toward a decision is not useful. Meetings that stay on time and are managed well but do not make decisions leaves the people tired and possibly deciding it was not worth it. I have seen groups dwindle because nothing is happening. A skilled group leader will design the agenda that demands a decision before the end. Certainly we are to discuss. However, some people like to talk about something without conclusions. These types will kill a meeting, a ministry, or any group. They can hijack the group and drive to derision and not decisions. I am not saying that rash decisions should be made with discussion and debate. Excessive talk and off-topic discussion must be squelched in order for the greater good of the group to be experienced.

4. Maintenance. When the alarm sounds, so to speak, the clean up begins. Have all the items been completed? Is another meeting needed? After the meeting the leader or secretary sends a report to the group reminding them what happened. Also, a report needs to be sent up the leadership ladder for accountability. Without this work, we all forget what happened. The decisions made at this meeting might affect other groups in the organization. If these are not shared there could be overlapping resource needs which leads to difficulties.

Adjusting from killer meetings to meetings that kill it takes courage and consistency.  This change does not happen in the first meeting of a group that has a history of babbling without anything beneficial.  Allow for some flexibility and over time your group will start killing it!

 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23 ESV)

Welcome Home

In Church, Leadership on August 18, 2014 at 8:24 am

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My wife and I have been house hunting for a while now while we wait for our current home to sell.  I believe I have seen 50 houses in person and 100 more online.  We know what we want and what we need.  Finding the balance between those two things can be tiring.  As we walk through each house, both in person and online, we evaluate the rooms, the layout, needed repairs, the neighborhood, and cost.  We make charts to help us examine the pros and cons of each location.  It strikes me that so many people look for a church the same way.

The Research

The last time we purchased a house there was no online option, really.  If you wanted to see the house you contacted the realtor and set up a time.  Today, Realtor and Zillow make it much simpler to do research and weed out so many that “sounded” good but do not fit our needs.  As people are looking for a church home, many look online first.  Gone are the days when the majority would be at church first.  We live in a technological age.  What are people able to discover about your church online?  What information will they click away with when surfing? If they looked again next week would it be different?  It is imperative that churches today have an online presence.  Then, when they choose to attend church there is a familiarity that allows for comfort in today’s young adult market.  Are you preparing to receive those who choose to attend for the first time?

The Walk-Through

House after house has been walked through, some on Sunday open house and many others with our realtor.  As we walk up to the house I begin scanning the roof, the yard, and perimeter.  Is it shabby?  Are repairs needed immediately?  As we enter the house, my wife and I split up and look around.  She is looking at the fit and feel.  Do the rooms look adequate?  Is the kitchen enough?  Is the layout comfortable or not?  I look for what will need to be fixed or updated.  I want to know how much will it cost me after closing.

As young parents come to your church, they are looking too.  While it does not have to be flashy and new, it does need look and feel clean and nice.  Young mothers are picky about dropping their babies off in a place where they feel uncomfortable.  Clean, neat, well-lit rooms that have happy people at the door is so important.  How long has it been since you walked through your church with “first-time” eyes?  We get accustomed to how things are and forget what it is like to be a guest in our space.

The Cost

At the end of the day it always come down to cost.  We have looked at a lot of houses.  We have turned away many because they are out of our budget.  We have turned away others because the “real” cost after closing is more than we care to bear at this point.  We are not opposed to hard work, but I have more time than money!

As people are looking at churches today there is a calculator, of sorts, in their psyche.  They are adding up the costs of attendance and possible membership.  Some are more important than others to those IN ministry, but it might be the opposite for those NOT in ministry.  I have counseled several churches in regards to this area.  It is important that you be true to who you are.  If a church changes who they are at the core just to reach a few they likely will lose others.  Your church must be true to God and who He has made her to be.  Not everyone will be drawn to you.  Find the balance between being who God makes you and who we have made the church.  Our traditions, often, are nothing more than approved preferences.  Let us be careful we are not pricing ourselves out of the market.

Closing Day

What a joy it will be when we can, not only sign a contract, but also close on the contract and move into our new home.  That moment of satisfaction when it is final is fabulous!  As families make the decision to attend and join let us celebrate those moments over and over.

Ooops…gotta go!  Another house needs to be seen….

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