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Advent and Christmas usually affect pastors in one of two ways (or maybe both!): we are drained beyond belief and know January will be tough; or we are riding high because we had big crowds and people loved what we said and how great our choirs sang.

The holidays drained and energized me and I was left wondering what to do with all the excitement coupled with the strong desire to sleep! Given that the New Year offers an invitation to start anew or resolve who you wish to be, I thought about what I hoped 2016 would hold. I had these thoughts while I was holding my six-month-old daughter, Phoebe.

Watching her I realized I had much to learn from her. I wondered what 2016 would be like if I acted like she did? The way she interacts with the world, tries new things and deals with all that comes her way (new toys, foods, family, etc.) made me wonder how much ministers could learn from a developing infant. Here are five things I’ve noticed about her that might aid ministry:

  1. SHE TRIES EVERYTHING ONCE.

This doesn’t mean she likes everything (see #2), but she is all about a new toy, food, and sitting location. We’ve made it to the stage where we have to watch what is in her immediate location as it will inevitably be in her hands and/or headed to her mouth. How often do ministers find themselves in a routine that works because we are too afraid or lazy to try something new? I’m often fearful of trying anything new because that means I have to step out of my comfort zone or put extra energy into something new. But what if we developed or grew or learned something new because we tried something new?

  1. SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE LIKES.

The girl won’t eat prunes for the life of her parents. This is hard because her older sister LOVED them so we assume she would like them too. But she isn’t going to eat them, come hell or high-water (or another spoonful). How often do ministers keep doing the same thing because it’s easy and we don’t want to upset anyone? What are some things you or your church does that could stop? What holds you back from making those decisions?

  1. SHE KNOWS WHEN SHE’S TIRED.

January is a tough month because it comes on the heels of a big season. We are tired; we are worn out and believe a few good days of vacation will do the trick. But we all know that isn’t enough. When Phoebe is tired she starts talking (albeit in an unknown language) and it’s a clear sign she needs to rest. I don’t know about you, but I’ve realized that I need to rest (close the computer and head home—no matter what else needs to be done) when I can’t write or my words won’t form. Give yourself permission to rest.

  1. SHE GREETS ME LIKE I’M THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND.

It doesn’t matter whether or not I just left the room for a minute, when I return it is a glorious occasion and her smile makes that known. I know there are times when I don’t feel terribly cheerful, but I also know what it means to be greeted by one of those ear-to-ear smiles that announces to the world, “Welcome, we are excited you are here.” Maybe the church needs to share a few of those for our folks who join us for worship, education or whenever the doors are open.

  1. SHE IS LOVED BECAUSE SHE SHOWS UP.

This has less to do with what she does and more to do with how people interact with her. She (and our other daughter) are greeted with love and affection (as are all children in our church) simply because they show up. And it’s infectious. People see others greeting (or trying to greet!) the kids and then they want to say hi, too. And the best part is parents see how other adults greet their children and they feel loved and welcomed too. To welcome children is to welcome God, in my opinion.

Do you act like a six-month old? How? If not, what holds you back?

Within our denomination there has recently been a call to join the conversation. Heath Rada, the current moderator from the 221st General Assembly, has invited Presbyterians across the country to participate and share what they think our identity and purpose are as the PC(USA).

let all things be done for building up

#PCUSAidentity

In order to do make this happen, they are attempting to reach a many of us as they can. There are certain dates/times in which any member can call in and participate in the dialogue, add their input, and be a part of this provisioning process. You can also fill out forms online or join Larissa Kwong Abazia, our vice moderator, on twitter chats about it using the hashtag: #pcusaidentity. And in addition to all this, they have encouraged us to talk more openly with each other about “who we are” and “why we are here”. Continue Reading…

My Stop Doing List

Benjamin Kane —  October 28, 2015

I love books on leadership.  They are inspiring, enlightening and offer tangible help to my ministry.  While there are many out there, my favorite leadership writer is Jim Collins who wrote Good to Great (a must read for anyone in leadership or thinking about being in leadership).  Recently I came across a speech he gave at the Drucker Institute (click here to view the speech). The entire speech is worth listening to, but the last 10-15 minutes are pure gold.  He offers 10 pieces of advice to emerging leaders, two of which are: “If you woke up tomorrow and found out you inherited $20 million dollars while also finding out that you had a terminal disease and would be dead in 10 years, what would you stop doing right now?”  His next piece of advice is, “Create a stop-doing list.”  I immediately created one and here it is:

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1. Stop trying to memorize my sermons. I thought great preachers memorize their sermons and I want to be a great preacher.  So I tried, worried, tried some more and ultimately felt unfulfilled because I never found the time to do it.  I realized that I was setting myself up for failure and my gifts and time could be used elsewhere.  I know great preachers who use notes—and I know great preachers who don’t.  To each her own! Continue Reading…