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Thursday, May 21, 2015

So Many Resources, So Little Time 5-21-15

Like many others I work with, my days are filled with a wide array of tasks and responsibilities. While I could bore you to death with a list of the things I had to do this week, what is more important is for me to think about the fact that my work requires me to juggle a strange combination of personal interactions with sizable administrative tasks.

The problem comes in that when I am sitting at my desk trying to plow through a dizzying combination of emails to answer, articles to write, assignments to create, and research to read, I am thinking about all the people I need to meet with, either in person, on the phone or via video calls. And yet when I make those important face-to-face appointments happen, I feel the piles of to-do's stacking up in my inbox and on my desk!

This week's recommended resources speak to that tension that I find many of us experience. I'm hoping at least one of them is useful to you!

Want to Reduce Stress? Try Commuting by Bike. This month marks the twelfth year since I started being a bicycle commuter. It is a badge of pride that I wear loud and proud. In May 2003, I decided to ride my bike to one appointment per day rather than drive my car. I was motivated by the need to exercise, to reduce my carbon footprint ever so slightly, and to force myself to slow down and not try to cram so much into each day. This became a bit addictive (in that it was surprisingly easy in Southern CA and I loved getting my exercise in this way), and I started making entire days dedicated to bike riding... to the point where I actually sold my car in 2010. The article I've linked here describes what I have found to be the greatest benefit of bicycle commuting: it helps me manage my stress. Whenever I'm feeling that pinch between the to-do's on my desk and the appointments I need to have, I hop on my bike and work it out. It frees me up to think through some conversations and quandaries on my mind, maybe even pray a little bit, and generally focus my energy in a productive direction. TRY IT OUT! And contact me with questions... I can explain what I do when I have to travel further than 5-7 miles, what to do during inclement weather, how do I handle grocery shopping, etc.

How to Organize Your Entire Life. Some may read this article and feel utterly overwhelmed. Go slowly, and perhaps start with organizing your work life and then tackling the rest of life later...? I will tell you that app profiled in this article (Trello) has been a HUGE fave of mine in the last year. It operates with the simplicity of the Reminders app on iPhones, but on steroids! In other words, it's clean and easy to use, but also manages MUCH more complexity, but in a way that makes you feel sane. (PS If you haven't used Lifehacker before, it's pretty darn helpful.)

10 Questions to Consider When Negotiating Across Cultures. Part of my angst when juggling various personal and organizational projects is the fact that I have a rather narrow frame of reference as a white woman of a certain age. I do not want to drive toward just "getting things done" when I am with people who value building trust before working together. What do I mean by that? Just this week I have worked with people who are Puerto Rican, African-American, Hawaiian, Mexican, and Indian-American. Every culture has a different way of viewing work and relationships, and my desire to meet people in their world, on their terms, whenever possible. Thus making sure I grow in "cultural intelligence" is extremely important to me, and I can point to situations when I have made really insensitive remarks or acted out of ignorance. This article only touches on profound cultural complexities, but I have found David Livermore to be a reliable source when trying to be in a learning posture in this regard.

Invest in the future. This week I launched my fifth year with interns through the Center for Transformational Leadership, a strategic initiative of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California. In late June I will launch a new, but similar initiative for the Free Methodist Church in the Pacific Northwest. I love doing this! This is a photo of the interns for this summer's class, and I couldn't be more excited to work with them. I feel so committed to identifying and investing in young leaders, and pray that you are equally excited about this. Our jobs are to replace ourselves! I have been fortunate enough to have had 38 students since 2011 in this program, and am adding another 10 this summer. I'm sure I'll be writing more about these little minions in posts to come...

Ciao for now. May your work not be too hectic. Breathe.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

So Many Resources, So Little Time 5-7-15

At the end of 2008 my life was greatly impacted by a simple book titled Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. It was the first (only?) book in my then 27-year career of youth ministry that correctly described the stresses and successes of youth ministry, while also defining best practices in a
useful and accessible way.

One of the many key premises of the book is that youth workers really need to take "balcony time" on a consistent basis to pull back from the work on the ground and assess things. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, it's really valuable to keep climbing the ladder toward your goals, but occasionally you need to pull back to make sure you've leaned your ladder against the right wall! Balcony time allows you to reflect, renew, evaluate, change course, be creative and get perspective. It is crucial to long-term health and sustainability.

Why do I share that? Because nearly every person I work with tells me that they have so many plates spinning that it is difficult to imagine carving out the time to go to the figurative balcony with any regularity, unless they feel like jumping off one!

This post is not intended to guilt you into balcony time. Heavens, you have enough pressure in your life already. Perhaps I'm hoping to whet your appetite for taking some balcony time by giving you my top favorite resources from this week which helped me to step back and take a few minutes to think about the how's and why's of what I am currently immersed in. Step back for 7 minutes and read these. Here goes:

What are the Least Churched Cities in America? This one totally stirred the pot for me, especially because my own location was listed #2 in the "never-churched" category. This has prompted multiple conversations with others in my community this week about what it means to reach out to our neighbors in substantive ways. Don't just browse the article to see where your city lands; read through to understand a bit more about the changing landscape of church involvement in the US of A.

500 Clergy Marching for Peace and Justice in Baltimore. Come on, let's keep talking about, praying about, and grieving for the state of race relations in our country. And while we're at it, let's be praying about how faith leaders can speak directly and personally into this conversation, more than the media, bloggers and the politicians. I was moved by this brief clip, and reminded of how clergy and faith leaders have deeply moved the world on major issues of justice in the past (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Heschel, C.S. Lewis, Bishop Tutu, Dorothy Day.... hello!). May we not neglect our calling.

Best Alternatives to Power Point. From the utterly sublime to the painfully mundane... I have to put together presentations on a regular basis, and often spend more time on the appearance than the content, because I have sat through WAY too many horrible slides! I'm just digging into this one, and intrigued by a couple of them. Just want to pass this along... And even if you are already a Keynote user, like I am, keep reading the article. This is also a quick shout-out for the SlideShare newsletter, where I found this link. You will either love it or hate it.

How to Document a Performance Review. Yep, still swimming in the mundane. But this is really necessary if you supervise a team. Much of my work is spent working with churches on "the things we don't learn in seminary," and this is one of them: the supervision, training, hiring and firing of staff. This was a helpful and quick article.

"What is Your Purpose?" I'll end with something more meaningful. I profiled David Brooks' recent op-ed titled "The Moral Bucket List" a few weeks ago, and I found this equally thoughtful. You can be cynical and feel like Brooks is shilling his new book, The Road to Character, or you can smile at the attempt to bring some qualitative dialogue into daily conversation. I opt for the latter, at least today. This quote is one that we should be seeking after whenever and wherever we can:

"As I travel on a book tour, I find there is an amazing hunger to shift the conversation. People are ready to talk a little less about how to do things and to talk a little more about why ultimately they are doing them."

May these few moments on the balcony provide some rest and refreshing. Ciao!