Tag Archives: ministry

BIG “G” – little “g”


In one of the classes that I’ve regularly facilitated, we do an activity called “The Parking Space.”  Participants are given a role-play scenario in which two people have to compete for a single parking space.  One person is running late for a job interview, and the other is running late for a meeting with an important client.  As one tries to back into the parking space, the other is trying to pull forward into it.  The two people get out of their cars and negotiate to see who gets the space.

What’s really interesting about the interaction isn’t who gets the space or even how they get it (and I’ve heard some really creative and unethical methods of coercion).  It’s that in the process of overpowering their adversary for the space, both people completely forget what their primary goals were – getting the job or making the meeting.  It never dawns on them that time is ticking away as they bicker about who gets to park where.  Each person fights for a win-lose outcome, but what they end up with is lose-lose, because the parking space is moot by the time they miss their respective appointments.

The role-play is an excellent example of sacrificing a Big “G” Goal (making the appointment) in order to achieve a little “g” goal (getting the parking space).  It sounds crazy, but we do it all the time.

  • We pull out all the stops to win the argument but forget that we are trying to build the relationship.
  • We prevent our top performers from transferring to other departments in order to protect our team’s productivity and end up losing them because there is no room for advancement.
  • We refuse to share information with another group because they haven’t reciprocated in the past and lose sight of the fact that we work for the same company.
  • We cut services back in order to reduce expenses and succeed in chasing off our customers.
  • We invent rules for a small percentage of “law-breakers” and ultimately punish the 99.9% of people who want to do the right thing but can’t get anything done because of the excessive red-tape.
  • We turn drill sergeant with our kids to get them ready in the morning and manage to ruin everyone’s day as we head out the door for a family event.
  • We argue with our neighbors over property rights and forget that we were trying to win them to Christ.

Our problem is that we are so focused on what’s before us that we can’t see the big picture.  We are intent on winning battles, but our short-term focus is losing us the wars.  If we could keep our eyes on the Big “G” Goals, what a difference it would make in our lives, in our work and in our ministries!

We would have so much more grace for people who don’t act the way we want them to act.   We would be able to keep a healthy perspective on the minor things that don’t go our way.  We would make better decisions in the moment as we assessed the impact of those decisions on our Big “G” goals.

Where is it that you have gotten seduced by the urgency of little “g” goals?  How could you maintain your focus on the the bigger picture?  A long-range focus informs better decision making in the moment.  It takes practice, but if you’re like me, you’ve got plenty of opportunities.

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Filed under conflict, Goals, grace, Interpersonal, priorities, Prioritize, Relationships, success

The Power of a Shared Vision


A few weeks ago, I participated in my favorite annual activity: attending summer camp.  The camp is for abused children and is part of a national effort organized through Royal Family Kids’ Camps, Inc. (www.rfkc.org).  I have two main passions in life.  One is teaching, and the other is helping children.  The camp scratches that itch for me every year.  But the reason I’m writing about it has less to do with the children than with the adult volunteers who organize and conduct the camp.

Camp is a tough commitment for many of the volunteers.  It requires a six-day trip, which usually requires the volunteer to use vacation time.  Our camp is located in the middle of Texas during a week of July, when temperatures are scorching.  Each camp guide takes responsibility for two campers between the ages of 7-11 and spends 22.5 hours a day with them.

Every day of the week starts at 7:30a (earlier if the adult wants to get a shower in) and runs until 9:30p, when the camp guide is allowed to take a 90-minute break before stumbling into his/her comfy camp bunk.  Camp guides follow a tightly-packed schedule and do their best to make camp the ultimate experience for each of their campers.

I’m not doing it justice, because many volunteers spend hours and hours in preparation for camp – submitting to an invasive interview process, participating in two days of on-site training, attending meetings, shopping for cabin decorations, loading trucks, inventorying supplies, attending fund raisers, etc…  Suffice it to say, this camp requires a unique and demanding type of commitment.

Each year, it takes over 60-70 adults to host the one-week camp for approximately 60-70 abused children.  That’s a one-to-one ratio of adults to children – almost unheard of at a summer camp but absolutely essential for preserving the safety and creating the experience for the kids.  Sixty adults is a tough number to muster for a volunteer opportunity, but this camp has done it successfully for the past twelve years.  This year, most of our 70+ adults were returning volunteers.  Twenty-two have been with us for five years or more, and seven of those have been with the camp for all twelve years.

I have never seen a team operate as smoothly and effectively as the one that comes together each year to put on RFKC #47.  Personal differences are set aside.  Egos are checked at the camp gates.  Individual agendas are abandoned…all in an attempt to serve the kids.  All this while volunteers are being tested to their physical, mental and emotional limits.

How do the camp directors generate such loyalty, commitment and sacrifice from the volunteers?  Simple.  The power of a shared vision.  The camp directors don’t have to cajole these contributions from their volunteers, because the volunteers give them freely.  They don’t have to offer incentives, because the volunteers believe that the work is reward enough in itself.  They can elicit extraordinary effort from their volunteers just by asking, because the volunteers are passionate about the goals of the camp.

Can this power be put to work on your team?  YES!  To do it, you will need to create a vision that all your team members can get excited about.  Even if the work your team does isn’t viewed as intrinsically rewarding in and of itself, you can create incredible synergy by identifying your team’s uniqueness.  What is it that your team wants to be known for?  What makes it different from all the other teams?  Why would anyone outside the team want to come be part of it?

Everyone wants to be part of something excellent and extraordinary.  They will work for less money, put up with inconvenience and hassle, step out of the spotlight…all to be part of something unique and worthwhile.  So, no more excuses!  Every team is capable of being excellent in some way.  Find out what your team values the most and then go to work creating that reputation for yourself!

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Filed under buy-in, commitment, motivation, ownership, sacrifice, Service

The Center of All Christianity


Someone asked me the other day where I was from before I moved to Thailand, and I told them that we had most recently lived in Colorado Springs, CO.  “Oh yeah,” he said, “isn’t that the center of all Christianity?”  He was making a joke about the number of Christian organizations based in Colorado Springs, and there are many.  In fact, when my wife and I made the decision to move to Colorado Springs, we did so because we found a list online of 108 different ministries that had their headquarters there.

I got to thinking about his comment later on.  Is it a good thing to have a “center of all Christianity?”  Yes, but only if the center is Christ, Himself.  Otherwise, I would say it’s a decidedly bad thing.  Why would Christians want to isolate themselves to one place on the planet?  Wouldn’t that limit our effectiveness everywhere else?  Sure, it would attract lots of Christians to come live there (like me, for instance), and you can have collaboration between ministries and such, but then it would also be easier for people who didn’t like Christians to avoid them.

I think we do this (isolate ourselves) quite often.  We have Christian communities and Christian schools and Christian friends and Christian groups that we belong to.  We have Christian music and Christian radio stations, Christian movies, Christian authors, Christian bookstores, Christian TV stations and Christian websites.  I participate in and partake of these just like many other Christians, but is it the best thing for us to do?  Have we asked ourselves why everything needs to be “Christian” before we will be part of it?

It’s probably about comfort zones and safety.  If you are a Christian, other Christians are safe and comfortable (mostly).  Those who aren’t Christian are a little scary.  They do things that we aren’t supposed to do, and they speak a different language than our carefully crafted Christianese.  It’s hard to find anything in common with non-Christians, because they don’t go to the same bookstores or listen to the same radio stations or have the same friends that we do.  And when we are around them, we feel like we should be evangelizing or something, and if we aren’t, we feel guilty.  It’s hard to enjoy ourselves when we feel like we have to draw them closer to God every time we meet.

But maybe we have become too “Christian” to be relevant.  We are like a giant lump in the cake batter – safe from the messiness outside but a little dry and dusty.  If we are going to make a difference in this world, we are going to have to leave the lump and start mixing with the world.  I’m not saying that we need to start sinning so that we can understand those outside the Body of Christ, but I am saying that we need to look for the common ground we have with non-Christians.

There is some outstanding music out there that won’t corrupt our hearts and minds even though it’s not overtly Christian.  (Some of it is produced by Christian artists who are trying to reach the world by not wearing the Christian label.)  Some movies (a little harder to find) uplift the soul, bring injustice into the light or celebrate what’s good about life.  Many authors are writing incredible books that will help you build a bridge of discussion to an unbeliever.

Instead of creating a Christian group for our favorite hobby or sport, we should join someone else’s.  Rather than attend church every time the doors open, we should find opportunities to interact with our communities.  When we throw parties, organize a potluck or hold a neighborhood yard sale, we ought to try to invite non-Christians to participate.

And the rule for all these interactions should be that we don’t “try” to evangelize anyone.  God does the evangelizing.  We should just be ourselves.  We should enjoy the company of our non-Christian friends without any agenda to win them to Christ.  God will work out all those details; He’s just saving a little piece for us to do.  Sometimes that will include openly sharing our faith, but most of the time He is going to use things from our lives that we would never expect in order to break up hard hearts and plant eternal seeds.

We are part of the batter; He’s the Cook.  All we’ve got to do is blend.

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Filed under Body of Christ, christianity, comfort zone, contact, evangelism, impact, Inconvenience, isolation, Relationships