Nerd-alert WIN.

Here’s how you empower kids to learn and be proud of being smart. And girls? Kids from ethnic minorities? For the win.

found here: All the Scholar Ladies!

or at You Tube.

(Can anyone tell my why in the world I can never embed YouTube in WordPress? Anyone?)

Thoughts from an UMAC newbie

laptop typing hands smSome people check the water level of the proverbial pool before they jump in. But you all know that I’m not ‘some people.’

I’m a co-chair of my Annual Conference’s Communications team, and frequently contribute to our online and print media communication. This qualifies me to become, as I did this year, a member of the United Methodist Association of Communicators, and be entered in contests for communications-related things (winning both the local church website best in class award for Trinity’s website and the local level non-fiction best in class for this blog– wow!), and attend the annual meeting. So I did these things, and this week, I spent time in Nashville TN at the United Methodist Association of Communicators’ annual meeting.

But, as with so much of what I do, I didn’t really know what the heck I was doing.

The UMAC people are the real deal; they are professional communicators—journalists, bloggers, photographers, videographers, technology gurus, and people with advanced degrees in something or other that I didn’t study. They approach crafting messages for internal and external audiences with a technical, precise, methodology. They feel justifiably frustrated when church folks—particularly clergy, who tend to pride themselves on being good communicators in their own minds—don’t respect or listen to the expertise of the professional communicator. And when they get together, they tend to, um, vent about that a little bit.

I can’t tell you how many people, upon hearing that I’m an elder and a pastor rather than a Conference-level employee, cocked their eyebrows at me and said, “wow, you’re so brave to come here!”

That would be because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.

I sat through a workshop on “Writing Worth Reading,” which only served to point out that (here’s a surprise for you readers out there!) I don’t write at all as if I were writing for a newspaper or a public proclamation. I tend to write as if I were expressing an opinion, making an attempt at a persuasive argument, or crafting a sermon. And here’s the thing: I don’t want to change the way I write to be a better journalist. I’m perfectly happy being a lousy journalist and a better preacher. I don’t know that I needed to be laughed at by proxy because of it, but I can take it. Largely, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

Then I attended a workshop on Podcasting, and heard a lot about the technical aspects of how to put together a podcast, but not a lot about why we might do it or what content might be valuable and interesting. And no one there could answer my question about how to clean up my podcast’s feed so that you can actually find it in iTunes. So at least here, I’m not the only one who doesn’t totally know what I’m doing. Sometimes, technology is actually a pain in the butt for everyone. Big surprise.

And then I participated in the “ReThink Church” workshop, where I had a lot of ideas and several bones to pick with the concept of the ReThink campaign. The workshop focused more on the research, ad buys, trainings, and impact community (love this portion!) aspects of the campaign, and not discussing concept. So of course, I found a few people with whom I could discuss content. At great length.

I began to see the issue here. The off-the-chart big picture thinker is trying to bend her brain into focusing on the details, specifics, and methods. Maybe it’s not so much that I don’t know what I am doing as that what I am doing is from a completely different perspective than what the communicators are doing. That’s kind of why we need each other.

All that said, I had a great time. I did learn a lot about the methods and techniques of professional communication, and have an even greater respect for what communicators do. I used twitter more than I ever have, and I think I might actually have the beginnings of some understanding of how it can be used for me more effectively.

athenaOf course networking, on and offline, in and out of official gatherings, is always the most important part. I met wonderful people, some of whom I knew virtually, and some who were new friends. I got excited about a couple of ministerial possibilities that interest me, and saw some parts of Nashville that surprised me (did you know this city has a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon, and at least one bar advertising ‘nude karaoke’? Yea, I didn’t know that either. I went in to only one of those places, and there were some nudes inside, but they were cast in plaster).

So thanks to friends and contacts and colleagues, new and old, virtual and in person, lay people, communicators, and clergy who stumbled in by accident like I did. I learned a lot, got some great ideas, and had tons of fun getting to know you. I might even know a little bit more about what the heck I’m doing from time to time.

[I look forward to watching the video of the Social Media Round Table that I missed this morning and reflecting on that, but tonight I'm just too darn tired!]

My Kind of Church

Loving this video: Reasons people don’t go to church.

What are some reasons you don’t go to church (or didn’t)? What are some reasons you do (or might)?

HT: Jonathan Brink

(p.s.- I want a video like this for my church…)

I have, like, the best job ever.

I really do enjoy my job.

It amazes me sometimes. Sure, it’s difficult, and draining and chellenging some days. Sure, there are times when it seems like many of my days are filled with finding (and losing) paperwork, looking for prayers to go with a particular theme, and attending marathon meetings. But around that stuff, between the forms and the bulletin-making, there are the times when I dream and vision and imagine and strategize and listen and get excited and strategize some more. There are the times when I hear someone talk about an idea for a ministry or an outreach or a worship component, and their eyes positively light up. Then there are the times when I help that person work toward that idea, and I see on their face the joy and satisfaction of getting to do what they love. And I know it’s mirrored on mine.

I wrote a little earlier that I felt like I was ready to kick things into high gear and start in on some projects. This is what excites me most about ministry– the opportnity to listen to and with people for what God might be calling us to, and then together create something new that helps bring the blessing, joy, and love of God to another little corner of the world.

The current big project is the Trinity Community Thrift Store, a dream that came from Paul, a member of Trinity in Montpelier. Paul imagined that we might stop putting on 4-5 thrift sales a year as fundaisers for the church, and start offering a year-round thrift store as a more premanent source of inexpensive, quality clothing and household items in the downtowm Montpelier area. This is the best kind of project; it’s Paul’s dream, so he feels fulfilled and inspired about it, it helps the church in some ways financially and in terms of public relations, it helps people around the world because 10% of the income of the store will be given to a mission project outside of Trinity, and it helps the immediate community because there is a great need for an inexpensive shop in the town, so that folks can buy the things they need without using up all the money they have on hand for the week. I’m honored to be a part of making this happen, and to see and hear the buzz of excitement as this new thing unfolds.

And that’s just one new thing I see us doing together right now. There are a lot more ideas and there’s a lot more energy!

What about you? What exciting things are you doing in your church or would you like to do? What exciting things do you do with your work or your volunteer time? What makes (or would make) you say you have the best job ever?

Day Off

Mondays are my sabbath days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a day of rest. Sometimes, what really rejuvenates me is getting to do projects I love or to dream about ministry (and maybe even do a little of it, which I don’t consider cheating) without being ‘on the clock.’

So for example, today, on my day off, I:

  • took out the garbage. Okay, it doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s very purging.
  • did some weeding in the vegetable garden and put down some landscape fabric to keep the weeds down in the future. Again, it may not sound like rest, but I was out in nature, getting some (rare) sun, and had a great feeling of achievement.
  • had an impromptu video conference to discuss ideas about a program to help agencies and their resources better interface with people without housing or on the brink of being without housing. A passion of mine, and a discussion made possible by the wonders of internet technology.
  • talked with another group at church about rearranging some space use for a new project, yet to be unveiled. That might sound like work, but it was so uplifting!
  • called the congregant whose dream is the aforementioned new project, and asked him to come in tomorrow and begin the process of making it a reality. I didn’t see his face (no video conference, sadly), but even the sound of his voice was enough to know that moments like that are why I went into ministry.
  • managed to utterly confuse myself with my bills and checkbook, but sort it all out in the end, which again, is such a feeling of accomplishment (and relief!)
  • thought a little more about the ideas I’ve been having for sermons the next two weeks (I’m never that far ahead!) and for a series in September.
  • ran a mile and a quarter.

Now that’s a day that gets me feeling refreshed, revved up, and ready for the week ahead!

Sermon: Fools and Fools for God

dancer joy“Fools and Fools for God”

(July 12, 2009) David goes all out, dancing his heart out for God. Some thought he looked a little foolish, perhaps, but Paul reminds us that God uses that which is foolish to accomplish divine purposes. Are we ready to go all out, to live our faith out loud without caring if others thing we’re foolish, to take some risks, to (metaphorically speaking, of course) get on up and dance? (2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

(credits: music by C&C Music Factory, mega thanks to the first member of the congregation to jump up and dance; she knows you don’t leave a sister hanging!)

Warning: Pastor on the Loose!

Maybe a church or two on the loose, too!

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because they ordained me and now I’ve got an extra shot of the Spirit in me or something. Maybe it’s because I took a little time off over the past couple of weeks and got more rejuvenated than I realize. Maybe it’s the weather– well, I doubt that, since there’s not much inspiring about 2.5 straight weeks of rain. Maybe it’s because I’ve been here ten months, but it feels like a one year anniversary, since July is the normal moving time, and I think my one year of getting to know people is up.

I am a ministry fool this week.

I’m excited. I’m focused. I’m driven. I’m pulling no punches, going for broke, not taking no for an answer. I’m ready to push up my sleeves, rub my palms together and make a little ministerial magic. I’m ready to set things (metaphorically) on fire. I’m ready to shake it up, kick it up, make some changes, and get busy living the ministry we are called to live. Let’s do this thing!

To be clear, it’s nothing extreme; it’s just a little bit of everything– starting projects I’ve been wanting to start, having conversations with members of my congregations and with strangers on the street that really needed to happen, brainstorming sermon series and uses of space and community events. Nothing that’s never been done before, but all together, it’s exciting and invigorating, and I’m ready to take it out for a spin.

So beware, Gracies and Trinitarians! Beware, friends and family and support team members! I’m pumped and ready to go full steam ahead. I recommend getting on the train or getting off the track!

(mostly cross-posted as a discussion topic on the Trinity UMC Facebook page as well– what gets you excited about church? what do you want our projects to be?)

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