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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!

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