Guided Steps

Its funny how when we are willing to trust God with something only He could make work, He, in turn, does incredible things though our lives. My prayer over the past 8 1/2  years, since taking the position as Worship and Creative Arts Director at The River Church, has been “God, you gave this to me. Move me when you are ready.” Part of that prayer was because I came into the position by default. There was a need and I was the one who could step in.  The other part of my prayer was a bit selfish.  I was hoping God would give me a “heads up” so I could exit before the time came for a new leader to take my place.  With everything that is done for a long period of time, though, it is easy to get comfortable and used to life as you know it.

That was me, until this year.

For five years, I have been traveling to Haiti and working with orphans, special needs children and the elderly. My first year, I remember having all sorts of ideas of how I thought God would use me.  I was a worship leader so I assumed I would be led to lead all the songs and do everything “music related”. But He didn’t use me that way. I was introduced to the needy, the lonely, the broken and the outcast. He called me to hold hands with the discarded elderly, cradle the sick and to sit for hours sewing seats for walkers made for children with disabilities.  It was life changing for me. God used me in new and ordinary ways that were so unexpected and yet so beautiful.

Toward the end of our trip, one of the missionaries said, “Take what you love doing here in Haiti, and find a way to do it back home.” In other words, our ministry didn’t begin and end in a foreign country. We were called to minister everywhere we went. I had discovered a love for ministering to the elderly and special needs children but I didn’t know what to do with that new passion as it related to my everyday life.

When I returned from my fifth trip to Haiti this past March, I began to sense something was changing inside of me. That desire to do what I did in Haiti began to ignite and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I loved what I did as a vocation, but something was pulling me in another direction.

I decided on a whim to do a search for nonprofit jobs.  Thats when I saw it. A job that would allow me to plan activities for the elderly in a local retirement community. I was still a bit hesitant, but sent my resume anyway.  In my first interview, I was overjoyed with the possibilities yet, at the same time, I was afraid. Afraid to leave something I knew and loved. Afraid of what people would think about this sudden change and afraid of the unknown.  I prayed over and over that God would guide me whether or not that was where He was calling me but I didn’t get a direct answer. That is, until my second visit, when I was called back for a second interview.

I walked back to my car and couldn’t help to be excited. I knew this was my next step. I would have the opportunity to love and to bring value and fun to those who were in their end stages of life.  What an amazing ministry laid before me!  I was offered the job later that day and accepted. I made the decision to follow the prompting from God and stepped down from my position at our church.

One of the statements I love to say to those new traveling to Haiti with me is this:

Lean into the uncomfortable.

Whenever I have leaned into things that are seemingly uncomfortable, I have always been blessed beyond measure. Starting very soon, I will be doing just that.  I am excited, nervous and expectant.

I am ready for this new bend in the road and trusting God to guide my steps into this new adventure.

Not Going “Back”

not going back

It happened just a few weeks ago.

I was wasting time, walking around Target, looking for the hidden clearance corners.  My husband says I can “sniff them out” from the moment I walk in a store. I find the thought of finding a great “deal” exhilarating and I had an hour to spare, so I was on the hunt for  those bright orange stickers .

As I made my way toward the back of the store, I suddenly caught the sight of a large, gleaming sign. With its “happy” declaration staring me down, I suddenly felt a strange sensation creep into the pit of my stomach. The sign taunted and teased as it stood tall from its perch, like a naughty school boy who had caught me unprepared for the punch he was about to throw.

“Back to School”

That was all it said, but I knew what it really meant.

It was something that used to have me scrambling to collect school supply lists and finding the best deal on backpacks.  My kids and I would argue over which binder size was required and whether or not we could get away with the cheaper calculator. It had me digging out last years blue jeans from the bottom of my son’s closet and hoping that he hadn’t grown another two inches.  We would rush to stores, struggling with how many outfits we really needed to buy and which shoes would be “gym appropriate”.

Our daughter would be on the hunt for the perfect “first day” outfit and I would be anxious to get up to the school to see the “teacher list”.  The open house at the high school will bring even more anxiety as we helped our kids navigate the “school map” and memorize their locker combinations. Then would come the evening when we would set the alarms, pack the lunches, lay out the new clothing and prepare for the biggest day of the year.

As I stood, facing that cheerful, bold sign, a new reality hit me.

We’re done.

Our youngest graduated just a few months ago and “back to school” was no longer a part of our family vocabulary.  From here on out, the preparation, the shopping, the stress, would be an option for our kids. They could choose what school and what direction they wanted to go and the options were wide open.

My how those years flew by.

I was relieved that I no longer had to join in the rush to collect the glossy binders and crisp packs of paper, but a small part of me was also, honestly, a little scared.

Did we set them up for successs? Have we done all we could do to encourage them to live their lives boldly, in faith and confident in who they are? Did I do enough?

Though my kids don’t need my hand to cross the street or a reminder to do their homework, deep down, I hope they will always need me.  “Back to School” may not be relevant to our family anymore, but we are now entering a new stage of life and I am excited to see my adult kids take those steps out on their own. Its a new kind of uncertainty, but one I am learning to embrace.

As I walked out of Target, the stomach ache subsided and I felt warm, strangely comforting, emotions flood in. From now on, I would watch from the sidelines, cheering them on.  I made a silent promise, one that I have continued to make since before I heard their first cry entering the world.

When I am needed, even just for a moment,

I will always be here.

 

Leading with Humility

humility

Usually the words “humble” and “leadership” are not readily matched together.

Humbleness implies meekness, lowliness and submission. Even the Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “humility” as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance”. In contrast, leaders want to be confident, strong and bold. They want to carve out paths and inspire others to follow behind. Yet, in church leadership, humbleness is vital to our ministries.  Studies have shown that volunteers become more committed and engaged when their leader leads in humility. Humbleness creates a positive atmosphere which leads to higher performance. Beyond that, as Christ Followers, we have an even higher calling. We are called to model Jesus, who stepped out of heaven, took on flesh, and suffered our punishment by dying on the cross. His radical demonstration of humility should spur us on to want to emulate his example. So, how do we lead with humility?

 

To lead with humility, we must be:

1. Teachable

A humble leader is willing to learn from others. We must recognize that we are not skilled in everything and that others may do things better.  Humble leaders are not afraid to learn new things. Be open to feedback and, when needed, adjust.


2. Compassionate

Humble leaders sincerely care about the needs of others. We should take time to prepare the environment our team will be working in. Humble leaders always make sure their team has what they need to succeed. Key in on individual needs and take time to get to know them. Most importantly, PRAY for your team!


Humble leaders sincerely care about the needs of others. @kimmyaporter 


3. Honest

Honestly can be one of the toughest areas for leaders, but it’s the most important skill for those who want to grow trust and transparency in their team. A humble leader admits mistakes without excuses. We need to take responsibility for team failures. Take time to self-reflect and look for ways that you need to grow.


4. A Team Player

A humble leader does not micro- manage. We must be open to other’s ideas. Openly communicate change and make sure everyone is on the same page together.  Get in the trenches and serve right alongside them.  Take a rotation on the team if that is not something you do on a regular basis. Get their perspective by serving with them.


We are called to model Jesus. @kimmyaporter 


5. Empowering

Lastly, humble leaders allow team members to do what they do best! Give opportunity for team members with leadership skills to lead. Be positive and encouraging ALWAYS!  Take time to appreciate the team members individually. Let them know they are a valuable part of the team.

 

True humble leadership will grow an environment that attracts committed and engaged team members.  Proverbs 11:2 (NLT) says, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

 

We have been given the privilege to lead, but it doesn’t come without cost. When we lead out of our own strengths and with our own benefits in mind, we will fail. When we lead out in humility, we will find ourselves surrounded with people who believe in us, are motivated to do their very best and who are inspired to serve Jesus with us.

When Manager and Minister Collide

WHEN-MANAGER-AND-MINISTER-COLLIDE.-In-Page-Image

In the world of church leadership, there are numerous hats that leaders end up wearing.

Many times, the art of balancing pastor, administrator, counselor, creative guru and other miscellaneous titles, can end up in a heaping mess on the floor of our church office. If we are honest, we can’t all wear the hats equally.  Some hats, become more pronounced while others get neglected.

Where should we put the most effort? How can we be both administrative AND love on people?  

Let’s be honest, its less stressful to focus on tasks then it is to put our hearts and souls into the individuals we work with. Because of this, the pull to manage can overpower the ministry we are called to. Slowly, we become drained, shallow and dry.  To truly do what God has empowered us to do well, we need to lean into both.  We need to manage, but we also need to value and engage people. So how do we do both efficiently?

To keep a healthy balance of manager and minister, we should look at how they can work against each other. Here are just a few areas where they can collide.

The manager will focus on tasks, while the minister focuses on people.

There will be days when we can neatly check each box on our task list and drive home satisfied. There will also be days when we are unable to check a single box because someone had a need more important. Lists keep us organized, but we can’t mark people off our agenda. When one needs to trump the other, always side with caring for people first.

The manager is driven to accomplish a goal, the minister plans for the experience.

If we are not careful the planning, production and number counting can overtake the reason we do them- the people.  Know the purpose of your plan. Remind yourself why you are doing it. Keep your focus on what God has planned for the hearts and souls of individuals who will be impacted. A goal is important to achieve, but without a plan for what God wants, all we put forward is pointless.

 The manager is an organization developer, the minister is a people developer.

Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church, said in his book, “The Purpose Driven Church” that it should be the “purposes of God” first, “people” second, “programs” third with “property” in last place. To build a great church, we must develop those who are committed to it. When we invest in people, our church will grow naturally.

People are not an interruption to our ministry-

they ARE our ministry.

Yes, they are messy. They make mistakes. People aren’t always reliable and they will, on occasion let us down. Ministry needs to be based on our love for people.  When we get that down, all the other details and planning will fall into place. Trust God to guide you through the beautiful mess called “Ministry” and see what amazing things He will do!

 

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NIV)

Stage Design on a Budget

STAGE DESIGN ON A BUDGET. Featured Image

When it comes to stage design, money matters. Unfortunately, when you are a part of a smaller church and have a low or non-existent budget, money matter even more.  Money, however, does not have to dictate your design options.

Here are a few guidelines to creating unique stages on a budget:

Think FREE or “almost” free

Every church has an attic or storage area that is bound to contain things of the past. Old paneling can become a rustic backdrop, sheets can become curtains, and you can never go wrong with old, white Christmas lights. Wooden pallets are easy to find and can be pulled apart or painted to create endless stage props. If you need a common household item, ask for donations first.  Lastly, take advantage of clearance aisles.

Use your local hardware stores

Take the time to walk through every aisle in stores such as Home Depot or Lowes and look at inexpensive building supplies. Adding lighting and spray paint can instantly change insulation, plywood, plastic pipes and even furnace filters from ordinary to unique pieces of art. The more you build or put together on your own, the less money you need to spend.

Reuse Recycle Repurpose

Don’t be afraid to use pieces from a stage design more than once. Make a place to store curtains, lights and other items that can be used again. Don’t forget to check that area before shopping for supplies so that you don’t spend money unnecessarily.

 

Be encouraged that no matter what your congregation size or what your budget restraints are, you can make incredible stage designs that make an impact.

Don’t let money be an issue.  Get out, get to work and let God use your creative abilities to their fullest potential!

Honoring God in our everyday lives