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How are you doing this week? As you have navigated a pandemic, balanced family and work responsibilities, and continued to lead prophetically through recurring acts of racism, how are you feeling? How are you doing? 

If you are weary of the false promises, disillusioned with artificial relationships, and disheartened with the political bantering and conflicting opinions, you are ready for an encouraging word. As a leader, created to lead for such as time as this, a word of hope would be good. 

The Meaning of Hope

As you know, hope means different things to different people. To some, it has religious connotations. To others, it’s a strong feeling that motivates them to do great things. Some people think of hope as wishful thinking where they wish for something but have no control over the outcome. Still, others see hope as a genuine possibility of making dreams reality by reaching goals. 

So, what will lift your spirits and keep you looking beyond the obstacles you are facing at the moment? What will keep you believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, God’s light will shine brightly? 

Hope Keeps You Focused

What we know is this, when there is a clear vision and a defined direction, hope is more than wishful thinking. It is the driving force of being able to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be. Hope keeps you focused on the direction you are moving in the midst of the challenges. 

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Even hope-filled leaders need a word of hope. I know it will sound strange, but you already know what is needed to move forward. Even though you might feel weary, anxious, and exhausted, you have it within you to lead others through the days we are living. 

Hope Abounds

Even with that in mind, I know that when you are weary, you are more open to doing anything other than what you are doing to get out of the weariness. So, here is what I want you to do: 

Keep your eyes on Jesus 

  • Jesus said, “If you believe in God, you believe in me.” God created you to lead through this time. As much as you want to please people, keep Jesus at the center of your life. Feeling anxious is normal. Following Jesus is transformational.

Trust your instincts

God has put within you the desire to trust God’s leading. You are who you are for a reason. There will be times that you will doubt yourself. Trust who God has created you to be and lead out of who we are.

Be generous with the people you are leading.

Love people the way God, in Jesus, has loved you. People are only trying to live into what they know. You are the leader and you know the mission and goal that is to be accomplished. People trust who and what they know. Give them the benefit of your doubt and love them into the future.

Don’t give up. 

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Continue to hold before those entrusted to your care the picture of what’s next. Empower them to look beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers. 

Remember that you are surrounded by those who have gone before you. They are cheering you on. Listen closely when you are weary. You will hear family members, mentors, saints throughout the ages saying, “Don’t give up. Keep going. We are with you! Hang in there! Don’t give up.”

Don’t be afraid to move forward.

You are a leader.  You know there will be times of disapproval and pressure to conform. But you also know how to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be.

Be the hope-filled leader you feel you need to face the challenges of today. 

I know it is easier said than done. But the bottom line, in the midst of your weariness, is not to be afraid. When you are weary it is easier to be motivated by fear and by hope.  

Fear prompts you to stay with the status quo. It is easier to stay with what you know rather than what you don’t know. There is a level of fear that is reasonable. But, when you let your fears take control, you often become paralyzed and do nothing.

Hope, on the other hand, gently steers you toward making a difference. By keeping your eyes upon your goal, hope helps you manage your fears. You move from weariness to expectation. 

Slow Down for Hope

Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning historian, writes, 

“The opposite of fear is hope, defined as the expectation of good fortune not only for ourselves but for a group to which we belong. Fear feeds anxiety and produces anger; hope breeds optimism and feelings of well-being. Fear is about limits; hope is about growth. Fear casts its eyes warily, even shiftily, across the landscape; hope looks forward, toward the horizon. Fear points at others, assigning blame; hope points ahead, working for a common good. Fear pushes away; hope pulls others closer. Fear divides; hope unifies.” 

When you move forward with hope, you:

  • Let trust be the basis for your relationships,
  • Offer opportunities for improvement,
  • Test your assumptions with those entrusted to your care,
  • Think more about what you stand for and less about what you oppose,
  • Are curious about possibilities.
  • Step outside your comfort zone, embrace the risks, and move forward.

Move Forward with Hope

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Stop what you are doing and read your favorite verse of scripture. Let the God who created you for this time give you a different perspective. Call, text, email a friend or colleague, and let them give you a fresh perspective on your leadership.

Remember, in the midst of weariness, hope is a gift. Don’t throw it away. 

“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning and as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, in him I will place my hope” (Lamentations 3:22-24). 

When you need and want encouragement, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you in the ways you might need it the most. Know how much you are appreciated. 

Don’t give up! Move forward with hope. We need you and want you! Don’t give up!

As the youngest of three children, my seat in the family car was in a predictable place. My “spot” was the center of the back seat of the car. I ate my knees as we drove to a meal out or to visit family. To make matters worse, my brother and sister were always invading my personal space.

If you have siblings, you likely know what I’m talking about. Siblings have a way of crossing the line of our personal space, testing our patience, and also inviting us to laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother and sister. I credit them for my twisted sense of humor and ability not to take myself too seriously.

But, what I remember most about driving somewhere with my family is that I was never sitting in the “right” place…especially when we were merging on or off the highway. The car would make a horrible noise as we went around the entrance or exit ramp. My Dad would announce from the driver’s seat, “Sara, you’re not sitting in the right spot.”

It wasn’t until I was ten or eleven years old that my siblings FINALLY helped me realize that horrible noise had nothing to do with where I was sitting. That horrible noise was my Dad intentionally driving over rumble strips.

Coaching helps us become who God created us to be Transforming MissionThe Truth About Coaching

At a young age, thanks to my siblings, I learned that what I believed to be true, was actually false.

Whether it was the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, we’ve all believed in something that wasn’t actually true at some point in our lives.

One of the beliefs I encounter as a coach is that coaches tell people what to do. Another is that coaching is punitive. You’ve messed up in some way and you have to be coached. Another is that coaching is prescriptive.

Each of these false beliefs about coaching can stop people from engaging in coaching. May I set a different expectation for you?

Coaching is a customized means of growth and development. It is a privilege to participate in coaching.

As we head into 2019, the fast pace of change in our world and growing anxiety within our denomination is challenging Pastors and local church leaders more every day.

We’re here to walk with you.

The Capitol Area South District is offering CAS Pastors the opportunity to be a part of a coaching cohort between January – May, 2019.

Please review the information below and complete the interest form to get started.

Why Coaching?

When I first received a coach, I thought I was going to be told what to do. Then, when I started coaching, I thought I was going to tell people what to do. Thankfully, both turned out to be unrealistic expectations.

Instead, the coach I work with asks great questions and helps me become who God created me to be. I am grateful for the hundreds of hours of training I received to help me learn what it means to be a coach. The people I coach help me become a better coach, too.

Because I have a coach, I am a better leader, a better pastor, and a better coach to leaders as a result. One of the most intense times of growth and development for me is when I am being coached. I stay focused on the goals I am trying to reach. A coach helps me navigate turbulent waters with more grace than I can alone. I get outside perspectives that help me appreciate a different point of view. And, I always know there is someone cheering me on. I could go on an on. As with anything, coaching yields the results of your investment. Coaches are partners. They inspire you to maximize your potential.

Rumble Strips & Coaching

Rumble strips have taken on new meaning in my life. Those silly rumble strips now grab my attention and invite me to slow down. They keep me within the bounds of the path I am traveling. Interestingly enough, it’s often the same thing that happens in coaching.

I’m grateful that my initial thoughts about coaching were as wrong as my belief that where I sat in the back seat determines the noises the car would make. Coaching is a gift. It is a privilege. Coaching helps us become who God created us to be.

And you don’t need my siblings to tell you that.

 

About the 5 Month Coaching Cohorts

Deadline to express interest:

November 29, 2018

Expectations for Coaching Cohort Participants

  • Give prayerful consideration to what God wants to accomplish through you in 2019.
  • Participate in one orientation meeting.
  • Show up and fully participate in five, monthly online meetings for 60-75 minutes.
  • Faithfully pursue the actions you commit to during our online meetings.
  • Reach out to your cohort/coach when you encounter roadblocks and celebrations.

What is coaching?

  • Coaching is a customized means of growth and development.
  • It is a privilege. Coaching is a privilege.
  • Coaches partner with coachee(s) in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires coachee(s) to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Coaching is NOT:

  • Punitive
  • Therapy
  • Counseling
  • Whining or complaining session
  • Prescriptions for your ministry

Why might you want to participate in a Coaching Cohort?

  • Do you have a goal you want to achieve – personally or professionally?
  • You want to continue growing as a leader.
  • You are leading the church in a new direction.
  • The neighborhood is changing and you’re trying to help the congregation navigate the changes.
  • You’re encountering resistance to change.
  • There is a huge turnover in leadership in the local church.
  • You’re leading something new.
  • You want to start a new ministry (or need to end a long-term ministry).
  • You have goals that haven’t been achieved and you want to accomplish them.
  • You’re in a new position.
  • You’re anticipating retirement.
  • Your family is in a new season of life.
  • You need an outside perspective on a specific area of ministry.
  • You are a leader

Cost

  • CAS Pastors
    • Your District and Annual Conference Apportionments are covering the normal cost of $150/hour
    • Your time and effort
  • Other Pastors/Leaders

If you are willing to commit to the following, we’d love to talk with you about participating in a Coaching Cohort.

  • Coaching Cohorts will take place between January – May 2019
  • Participate in a cohort coaching group with 3-5 people + Coach
    • One, 2 hour, in person, orientation meeting
    • Five, 60-75 minute, monthly, online video meetings (via Zoom)
  • A desire to grow and lead change. This change may be within the local congregation, leading the congregation into the local community, a team within the church, or your own personal leadership.
  • Let us know you’re interested by completing the interest form

Questions?

Contact

Sara Thomas

sarathomas@wocumc.org

or

Tim Bias

tbias@wocumc.org

Deadline to express your interest:

Wednesday, November 29, 2018

 

 

We ask leaders seven questions to guide us to a process of personal and congregational transformation. The process and questions begin with naming God’s presence. If you’re thinking…“Why do this?” “Who needs one more thing to do?”

Let me frame the expectation.

  • We’re asking you to lead a congregation to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • We’re inviting you to be open to the transformative power of God in your life and the lives of the people in your local context.

The process we’ll outline over several weeks (perhaps months) is a journey of transformation – for all of us. It begins with a focus on the purpose of the church and the presence of God.

Naming God’s Presence

Today, we begin with naming God’s presence. This is the first foundational element of a transformational process. We know and believe God is with us. But, it’s a whole different task to actually pay attention to how God is moving. So let me ask you:

  • Do you and leaders in the church experience God’s active presence in the congregation? How do you know?
  • Can you articulate what God is up in the congregation?
  • How is God moving through the congregation and its people?

This is not something we do once and move on. It is an ongoing, integral part of daily life as a disciple of Jesus. It is a simple, yet profound act of being in God’s presence and responding to God’s movement.

Awaken the City

While serving a church in Cincinnati, I had the privilege of starting a ministry we called Awaken the City. (It’s now called Summer Impact.) Every summer we hosted teams of people for a week at a time for the purpose of introducing them to ways to serve as disciples in the city.

On Sunday evening, we’d lead a prayer tour of the city. Every week, we’d pray for specific ministries, people, and situations. For between 90 minutes to 2 hours, we knew the city and her people were covered in prayer. As teams piled into mini-vans and 15 passenger vans to go from one location to the next, we were sharing what God was doing, the needs of the community, and asking God to open us to use us in service every day that week. We’d return for a worship experience where I invited people to respond to a simple question from Scripture that set the context for our prayer experience.

Often, the question that started the week was, “Where did you see the light of Christ tonight?’ The response on the first night was underwhelming. One of our interns would inevitably get uncomfortable with the silence and name a place where they witnessed Christ’s presence. Often a leader or pastor offered the next observation. At the start of the week, usually, 2-3 people wanted to speak. No more. No less.

Three-Fold Pattern

Throughout the week, every day, we would practice this rhythm:

  • Study Scripture and pray for our ministry partners
  • Serve in the city during the day
  • Celebrate through worship in the evening

From the Scripture for the day, a question emerged that individuals reflected on as they served. In the evening, during worship, we’d share our reflections.

Every week the same thing happened. Sunday: crickets. Minimal responses. By the end of the week, either on Friday or Saturday morning, we came together for a final worship experience. When it came time for me to invite reflection, I reminded the teams that there were 40-50 of us, everyone wants to speak, and we need you to depart in less than to be 30 minutes.

They never got the point. 🙂

The stories unfolded about their own life-changing, about the people they met who were different from them and learning that Jesus is what makes us all the same. Every summer I had the privilege of my bucket overflowing witnessing, hearing, and seeing how God’s presence was transforming lives.

Focus and Themes

At the end of every summer, I knew where we needed to focus for the coming year in our community and global outreach ministry. One year we needed to develop a deeper relationship with a ministry partner working with children, the next year a local school, the following year, I realized we needed to be in the urban core fulltime. I also learned about where and how people found their place of passion to serve in the church.

The intent of Awaken the City was not to name priorities or develop a process for claiming a ministry passion. The intent was to help people engage in service in the city – in their local context. Over the years, I’ve shared this online in different forms. Inevitably, the same thing happens. We move from crickets to a concert of voices naming and witnessing God’s presence to people adapting it to their daily life.

A couple years later, I learned that a mainline denomination had done research, showing that God’s presence and God’s purpose were foundational elements of congregational vitality. I laughed and said, “Would you like thousands of stories to prove that is true?” When I finished my doctoral work on this very topic I knew the challenge we faced. How could others embrace something so simple, yet transformative?

The Invitation

First, we have to want Jesus to transform our lives. Letting Jesus into our lives means giving up control of where and how Jesus will show up and show off. It means letting go of what we want and sitting at the feet of Jesus long enough to hear his hope for us.

Second, transformation does not occur without reflection. Transformation necessitates reflection. Trevor Hudson, a South African pastor, notes, “Unless we value and practice reflection, little personal transformation occurs. Unreflected-upon experience seldom yields its life-giving secrets. Too many of us work and live without reflection, without gaining any objective perspective on our behavior or any understanding of why we do what we do.” When we pause to reflect, specifically on God’s presence, faith is articulated and becomes a lived reality.

Third, transformation has stalled for many of us. How do we know? Some people reading this are thinking a basic practice of Christian discipleship is another task to do rather than a way of living as a disciple of Jesus. Transformation necessitates a relationship with Jesus, each other, and your local context. If any of these relationships are lacking, you’ve likely stalled in growing to become more like Jesus.

We get it, it’s a busy season. We’re inviting you to lay aside the excuses that have appeared as obstacles and focus on the transformative work of Jesus.

A Vision for the Coming Year

Tim Bias offered, “At the end of next year, I want to hear how your life and the place where you live and worship are changing.” How will this begin? It begins when you pay attention to where Jesus shows up and by choosing to join in God’s movement in your local community.

That can’t happen if we don’t stop and pay attention to God’s presence. It can’t happen if we’re living vicariously through others.

It happens because we are in touch with the Spirit of God moving in our midst. As leaders, then you can come together and share how you’re experiencing God. Listen closely and deeply. You’ll start to notice patterns of where Jesus shows up and shows off in your life and the lives of those around you. Then, jump in and follow Jesus’ lead.

God with Us

During this season of Advent as we’ve invited you to reflect on God with Us, we’re seeing anticipated and unlikely patterns. The depth of hurt, illness, and loneliness is sobering. The power of music this time of year is a reminder that music is a language of the soul. Music evokes memories and emotions while moving within us. From the ordinary moments of being with kids to the extraordinary moments of sitting with others in hospice and the hospital, the abiding presence of Christ is evident.

The example of God with Us is an invitation to read, reflect, and respond to one scripture, one word, and one question for the day. At other times we might say, let’s focus on “Scripture, serving, and celebrating.” You may even say, let’s look at “Word, work, and worship.” It doesn’t matter what you name it. What matters is that you integrate reflecting on God’s presence into your daily life. And, in case you missed it. No, this isn’t something you do at special seasons or times of the year.

Can you imagine what might happen in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods if we focused on naming God’s presence? What might happen if we then joined God in ministry where we live, work, worship, and play? I believe our lives and our communities would change.

The question of God’s presence will stay before us in the coming weeks as the first foundational element of a transformational disciple-making process.

  1. Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes, p. 57