Category Archives: New Staff lessons

Note to Self: Study vs Personal Study

I started reading Leaders Who Last the other day after getting it for 40% off at the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference last weekend. The author talked about doing a poll of an audience that was full of pastors. He found out that most of those pastors only spent time with God when they were doing sermon prep. They didn’t really have a personal devotional life.

I can really relate to this. When you spend so much time talking with people about the gospel it can get pretty easy to forget that the gospel is for your own heart, too. A few weeks ago I started doing #SheReadsTruth with a bunch of women from all over North America. I started this because it was a visual accountability for me to be doing my personal devotions. It meant that everyone who was following me on instagram would know whether or not I had spent time in the Word that day. Surely, this is something that could become a way to “show off” but I recognized I was in rough waters with how infrequent my quiet times had become. I needed something a bit drastic.

Since coming to IBS, I’ve noticed the same thing again. I’m spending time in the Word every day, now, but it’s a different kind of learning. It’s information and intellectual, but it isn’t always personal. I need to remember that talking and studying these things are not equal to personal time in prayer and time in the word intended to shape my heart and worship God.

Note to self.

Facing disappointment

I think one of the most challenging things I face in ministry is disappointment. In my three years as staff and my four years as a student involved, I’ve seen my fair share of disappointing things. Sometimes the disappointment is so great that I feel like I have lost enough faith in God, disqualifying me from continuing on in ministry. Working in Quebec when there’s always so much more to do, it can seem like the progress we’re making is never enough and that can be disappointing. As a woman in ministry  — when there are so many women to work with and only three other full-time staff in the province, that list of things to do appears infinite and impossible.

Last August our Quebec staff had a huddle to take some time to reflect and plan for the year. One of our colleagues shared a talk on disappointment that really spoke to me. He pointed out that what is dangerous is when our disappointment turns to bitterness. There are times when we misread what God is planning to do and when he doesn’t do what we want or think He should do, we become disappointment and that can turn to bitterness towards God or ministry.

When I’m facing disappointment, I need to reflect on something important: Did God promise to do this thing? If so, I can have confidence that He will be faithful to it even if it doesn’t look like I think it should. If He didn’t promise this thing, I have no right to be bitter and angry about God not doing something He never said He would in the first place.

So where does praying in faith come in? What do we do when we beseech God for a real present and urgent need and we’re met with silence or a clear ‘no’?

I’m not entirely sure how to answer this. All I know is that we need to keep trusting God. He’s always right and “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11) and “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom 8:28). This is a real opportunity for us to hold God to these words, to trust Him and wait in expectation for Him to move, however He so desires. It’s also a good opportunity for us to get real with Him and ourselves about what we want and why.

Imagine how the apostles felt when Jesus had been entombed. They may have felt abandoned by God, without a leader, having forgotten what Jesus spoke about being raised three days later.

Every time I have felt disappointed and even cried because I felt disappointed God has always reminded me of His character somehow. Sometimes God is silent in these things, but He is never far away. His eyes and ears are never closed to us. We can always trust in Him, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Right now, I’m writing this more for me than anyone.

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Vision for the World en tant que québecois(e)

As a staff team at UQAM we started going through a document I found on Crupress Green called Ministry Principles God Honours. It was such a good reminder for us to look at the three principles of campus ministry: the Lord as our focus, the Word as our foundation, and the World as our scope. There were so many things to think about and reflect on in that first 9 pages. One thing that we were reflecting on was, “How do we maintain a focus for the world, when Quebec itself is in such need?”

In one sense the answer is simple. I’m reminded of that quétain quote, “If you shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land in the stars.” The general idea is, the farther you reach even if you fail, your success will reach more than if you had had a smaller goal.

But what does this look like practically? How do we encourage people to look beyond (but not past) the brokenness of their own people? 

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Availability & Engagement

Two weeks ago I challenged a key leader I’m discipling on one of our English campuses to attempt getting a second appointment when she was out sharing, with the goal of developing trust and learn engagement. As we talked about what might have to change in our perspective on sharing if we aim for a second appointment I could see her eyes flickering in thought. I knew exactly where her brain was going.

“I guess the hard thing is, if you keep getting second appointments that takes up your time that you think you don’t have,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, exactly,” she admitted.

Being a key leader in an increasingly student-led movement I knew she had precious little extra time.

“That should make us wonder about our motives in evangelism, shouldn’t it? I mean if we’re going around for one-off convos to pat ourselves on the back, not aiming for anything more because we don’t have time…”

She nodded. I had never thought about this before and I know neither had she.

Fast-forward to the present. I asked her how her second meeting went with the girl she ended up getting a second appointment with the day after we had talked about it.

“I cancelled it. I just didn’t have time. I know that’s bad…” she trailed off.

If our students don’t have time to engage with other students who are open to these conversations I say we have one of two problems:

  • either our student doesn’t prioritize evangelism in their life, or
  • our leaders have too many meetings that are taking them away from actually meeting with people who want to talk about Jesus and faith.

In the case of this student I know that the first one isn’t the problem. She loves EV and loves taking other students sharing. What she does have is a Servant Team meeting, a meeting with the staff director so he knows hats going on in the ministry and he can help her lead, a discipleship appt with me, 2 discipleship appointments with people she’s leading, a DG she’s leading, and a weekly meeting. The other ST members only have one less meeting and maybe one less “disciple.”

My instinct is to say that if our students have too many things pulling at their time that, even if they did want these second appointments, they’d feel so overwhelmed by all their other responsibilities… we have too many meetings for them. Maybe we need to figure out how to streamline things better and make them more organic.

This is easier to do when it’s staff-led. Student leaders have more time actually on the ground. But as a ministry we are moving more urgently towards Student-led, staff-directed movements as we expand significantly.

So here are my questions: how do we maximize our students time to enable them to really engage, while maintaining a student-led movement? What, if anything, needs to change? Is it simply a reality our student leaders have to face that they just wont get time to actually do evangelism? If that’s the case, if a student loves evangelism why would they ever want to be in a position of leadership, even if they’re a sharp and capable leader?

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There are places you do not want to go…

“There are places you do not want to go but want say you’ve been.” Holly Sheldon

Holly said this 1.5 years ago at #WCEast and it was probably the sentence that has stuck out in my mind consistently the last year and a half. It was that sentence that challenged me every time I wanted to be cowardly, it was that sentence that reminded me of my vow to go anywhere, do anything, anytime at any cost for God.

It’s the fear of the cost that always made my knees shake. The fear of rejection when I made stupid embarrassing French mistakes, it was the cost to my pride that I didn’t want to lose.

I was reflecting on this again this week on two different occasions. One, I read a blog post by my boss on how thankful he’s been challenged to do things that were so out of his reach. In his posts “In Over My Head” he basically describes the last year of my life. From the moment he challenged me to co-direct Paris project with him my life changed drastically. Before that challenge I had grown very comfortable in my faith, even if I was still sharing my faith regularly and raising support, two things a lot of people would find very intimidating to do. But saying yes to direct a project (I had never directed anything before) in a language I was rarely speaking and didn’t have much practice in was “un grand défi” – a huge challenge.

I remember walking through Charles de Gaulle airport May 2011 as we got there to lead the project and I remember feeling like I was walking to my own death. In the sense that Rick James talks about in his book A Million Ways to Die, that’s exactly what I was doing. I was walking into the death of my pride as I would be letting students correct my french grammar and knowing I’d be trying to tell a bunch of atheist students – in French – that they need God.

Fast forward a year later and we just finished launching a new campus in Montreal… in French. I’m now campus director with my married-for-6-months husband at UQAM. Aside from Paris Project, I have never worked in French before. This week I’ve been reflecting on if I had let Andy accept my initial “you must be crazy!” when he asked me to direct with him. Where would I be spiritually and organizationally? I would likely be in a rut in both senses, a stagnant under-challenged campus staff.

UQAM was a pipe dream of mine that became a reality thanks to various circumstances including my boss’s personal experience of familiarity in living “over his head”. What if he wasn’t willing to put others in that same place he was challenged to be in? What if I let my fear direct my decisions rather than trusting in the instinct of my boss? In the end, I chose to believe he was right about my leadership potential, even if I felt like it was way beyond me. I’m so glad I did.

What I needed most over the last 8 years was for God to humble me through bringing me into situations where I was regularly “in over my head,” so He did.  I am so thankful that he brought me to a place where many of my greatest assets are useless, where I’ve had to learn to depend on Him in ways that I didn’t before.

The best place for a proud young leader is the place where they have no choice but to depend on God. (link)

That’s exactly it. Don’t settle for the same rut of hard-but-regular things like support raising or initiative evangelism. Do accept challenges that make you stretch beyond your means. Don’t let fear rule your heart. Remember: “There are places you do not want to go but want say you’ve been.”
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Warning Signs

I rolled over onto my side and thought about my options and they were few: get up, get ready and meet my campus team as usual or, go back to sleep and lie that my alarm hadn’t gone off. Though the latter was admittedly appealing, I decided I wouldn’t do that, but I wasn’t going to get up yet, either.

As I lay there on my side in the fetal position, I recognized it. It was the feeling I had just shy of 3 years ago. In November of my fourth year at Queen’s I woke up one morning and wished I hadn’t. Ever again. I didn’t want to go to class and the prospect of facing the responsibilities of my day seemed more akin to being dragged across broken glass than the “running and not growing faint” Jesus promised. I ended up skipping all my classes that day, canceling my DGs for two weeks and saying nothing in servant team meetings. That was when I knew something was really really wrong and I went and got help, only to find out I was the so often talked about “burnt out”.

Fast-forward back to present and things are a lot different. I am healthy! I am rejoicing for that experience on so many levels and this is one of them: I know my warning signs. And friends, a month ago today I experienced one. I have to admit, it’s hard to share this with you because I know it means I’m coming clean with the fact that I have low capacity (or at least I do now). My ambition is too big for my abilities.

I know that I’m especially vulnerable to burnout because I’m a single woman with a bleeding heart and a hero complex, which I’ve been working these past few years.

The reason I’m posting this is that I want you all to be aware of your warning signs. Burnout is insanity. It’s life altering in ways you can’t imagine and probably didn’t think possible. I want you to avoid this at all costs; it’s something I seriously wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (and not just because we’re supposed to love them!). Heck, 3 years later I’m still in recovery!

So think about it. What could your warning signs be? And how do you respond if you’re sensing the alarm bells going off?

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reimbursements

Recently I looked at my credit card statement & the interest I’m paying and suddenly realized HOW DUMB I AM.

I have been charging reimbursements on my CC, knowing the money is in my staff account, just not necessarily in my personal account and then being lazy about doing my reimbursements.

Why, oh why, have I been so stupid? Reimbursements really don’t take that much time and yet I pay the interest.

New staff, old staff, do not do this!

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prayer and doubt and faith, oh my!

Have you ever found yourself in a place in your spiritual life you never thought you’d go? Had doubts you never ever thought you’d have or questions that you’re flabbergasted you suddenly need the answers to?

A few weeks ago I found myself there in that yucky place void of prayer. It occurred to me that I was avoiding it because I questioned whether God was actually going to do anything about my problems (MPD). I felt stuck and quite convicted of the bad place I was in.

My prayerlessness became even more evident when every sermon I heard, piece of advice I was getting was all about prayer. I became determined to fix my attitude and lack of faith, because it was sin (but probably more because the conviction was really annoying, frankly).

As a part of this process, I wrote my May newsletter on the topic of prayer and how much I needed it in order to complete my MPD in time to be on campus this fall. To be honest, I had a lot of doubt that the newsletter would make a difference. I had a lot of doubt that my supporters actually pray for me (or even really care at all about what I’m doing), and I still have doubt. But boy, am I ever glad I sent that newsletter out.

Suddenly, it’s evident that at least someone is praying. People have been responding by giving even without an ask, and in the last two weeks I’ve seen more support come in than I saw the entire month before that! Seeing this change in my support and seeing God respond to my prayers has been a huge encouragement and given me that desire to pray again. I can see momentum building in a big way.

And yet, I still have pretty large doubts that loom over my heart. Doubts that I will ever finish MPD (even though I have ~10% left to raise!) and doubts that God really cares about my agenda of getting on campus in time. Maybe he doesn’t care that I want this to be OVER! and he has other things planned. Maybe this is all about my recent uncertainty of my own theology & how that relates to God responding to my prayers.

So doubt or no doubt, lack of faith or full of faith, I have not given up on this thing called prayer (which is probably a good thing because I would have probably been fired if I had!).

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Real people, aliens and MPD.

[tweetmeme source=”jesslin”]
Fact: I don’t know how to talk to “real” people. You know, the 30-35+ aged people with jobs, spouses & kids. I just don’t know what to talk about. I can’t do rapport building because I feel like asking about their job is a dumb question because a person is so much more than just their job. If they don’t have kids, I can’t ask about their kids.

And you know what? I think it’s the Internet’s fault. Or maybe more appropriately, my generation’s use of the Internet. We MSN/gchat/facebook (and now increasingly, text) people instead of calling them. Even though I’ve been around “real” people all my life because of church, I’ve never really learned how to get to know them and talk to them. I’m so used to getting to know someone based on something I saw posted on Facebook or their blog or something. How do I get to know a generation who doesn’t really use Facebook or blogs?

This is a huge learning curve when it comes to MPD. Thankfully, after a year on campus I feel so much more equipped to make the calls. After calling people for follow-up, approaching so many people for spiritual conversations, even booking busses for events. I find calling so much easier.

But I still don’t really find talking to people any easier. With people in my generation I talk about music, movies, pop culture in general. But I just don’t share those things with “real” people. I feel like real people are this total other species that speaks a whole other language and has this totally different life that I can’t relate to. How does one connect with aliens?

What’s more, it’s even more difficult knowing that I need to learn to connect with these people or I just flat-out wont get the funding I need to do what I love.

No pressure.

I feel like an awkward teenager trying to be seen as an adult. I’m very nearly 24, but I guess I still don’t feel like I fit into the real world (hence why I don’t feel like I’m a “real” person).

So for you real people out there, how do I connect with you? How do I learn this basic life skill that I obviously seriously lack?

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Raising a salary & having nice things

Every time I enter into a time dedicated to MPD this issue comes back to the forefront of my mind. Well, maybe it’s more like every time I spend any length of time with my mother. She’s alwasys the one who reminds me of it. The other day I was telling her about an appointment I have with a donor and she said to me, “You’re not wearing those new glasses to the appointment are you?” What she was really saying was, “Having nice things can hinder your fundraising.”

The fact of the matter is, I would have had to save up for several months to be able to afford these glasses if I didn’t have health care coverage with Power to Change. I would have to save up to afford *any* glasses if it wasn’t for my health care coverage. But these glasses are stylish and outside of a big city might appear to be flashy (maybe even gaudy?).

I didn’t end up wearing my glasses to the appointment and I also didn’t end up wearing my glasses to church yesterday. I don’t think I have anything to hide, I just want to avoid anyone jumping to conclusions that I have more than enough money (especially when I’m trying to do MPD). I find this pretty frustrating. People don’t know that the clothes I buy are on sale or from cheaper stores like Joe Fresh (hello $19 dark-wash jeans!!!), but it’s easy to assume things. I have an iPhone, but I also don’t have a landline and so the cost is comparable. It’s also something I am personally willing to make sacrifices elsewhere in order to have.

I don’t really think this would be something I would ever have thought about had it not been for my mother telling me stories of experiences she had while I was growing up. I come from a missionary family that wasn’t necessarily well fund and so mom had to learn to be shrewd when it came to our family finances. Yet, my mom kept getting told by certain people who told her that it wasn’t right for us kids to have certain things like the skiis they had scrimped and saved to buy us second hand, or even the snowboard that my older brother got a job in order to buy.

Aside from my mother’s words, part of what got me thinking about this is when I got to hold an iPad at church yesterday. I have been thinking about an ebook reader for awhile because I read a lot and if I can save on books and travel with them more easily that would be great! I’ve also been dreaming up all the ways I could use an iPad on campus for surveys and in MPD appointments by showing videos. But what I felt like was even if the iPad was THE MOST AMAZING TOOL for campus ministry, even if it would change everything (which is arguably not true at all), I would feel like I would never be able to own one because people would just think “the iPad is a luxury item, and people who raise their salary should not own nice things.”

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced things like this? Am I totally on my own in this? Do you think this is an issue that is mostly for people who don’t come from bigger cities?

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