Monday, December 30, 2013

What are you putting in your Christmas Stocking?

My wife told me tonight about a family she heard about who take a moment at the end of the Christmas season to write down their hopes, dreams and goals for the next year. They then take those papers and put them in their Christmas stockings when they take them down and pack them away. The idea being that next Christmas, when they open the box with the stockings, they will also be reminded of their dreams for the coming year and they can discern if those came true.

I think this is a great idea and we will do it with our kids this year. I love it because it is something I have long argued for folks to do each new year. As a coach (one of the hats I wear) I believe in the essential nature of this intentional goal setting.  In fact, last year I posted about my annual goal setting work on New Years Eve and it gained a little Facebook traction. So I shared my goal setting worksheet and encouraged folks to use it if it was useful for them. This is about personal transparency, what do you wish to do/achieve and do you accomplish it.

And the reality is, you won't. You can see below my Goalsheet from 2013 (I break it out into Personal, Professional and then Organizational Goals). Some were achieved, some partially, and some didn't even get close. That is the deal. You won't achieve everything you plan. But you should still plan.

                                                          2013 Personal Goals

Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
-Play guitar 3 times/week
-Actually be able to play guitar competently.
Dec. 2013
No: played more, but not as regularly.
-Participate in Summer 5K series and run El Scorcho 25K
-Run fastest 5K in my life
August 2013
Partial: Completed El Scorcho with a PR (despite injury). Ran 23:30 5K in November (not PR)
-Swim once a week.
-Provide alternative cardio/strength exercise with lower impact
Habit formed by Feb. 2013
No: Failed to form habit. Swam more, but not weekly
-Complete weight loss
-Weigh 210 pounds
May 2013
Maintenance: Stagnant on weight loss, no gain, but little loss

2013 Professional Goals

Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
-Online Coaching Presence
-Platform to advertise and grow coaching presence.
April 2013
Partial: Plan for January 2014 rollout.
-Build taxonomy of leadership study history
-Beginning preparation for comprehensive exams in 2014
Aug 2013
Yes: Taxonomy developed, comps prep underway
-Blog weekly
-Create a systematic structure and build audience for weekly thoughts on leadership/etc…
Dec. 2013
No: Blogged more, but not weekly

2013 Organizational Goals  
Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
-Cooperative Youth and Family ministry program.
-Do at least 4 cooperative events with other congregations
Dec. 2013
Partial: 2 events completed, one cancelled by weather.
-Sell 2017 Vision Idea, Building on culture of growth.
-worship attendance growth of 10%, 10 new members in young-adult demographic.
Dec. 2013
Partial: Worship grew 5-8%. 12 new members in young-adult demo. New small group in that demographic.
-Continue to grow stewardship and connection to TLCC
-2 new families join from TLCC
Dec. 2013
Partial: One new family. Goal for accreditation in 2014 includes more intentional work.

In working towards these goals I have had coaching friends. I am part of a new organization called the nGage Coaching Network. It is three individuals (all ELCA Pastors) who are working together to both coach each other as well as offer coaching to others. We are not a corporation or a real partnership in the legal sense. We are simply a group who believe in coaching and hope to spread the word about this important ministry.

We bring a variety of personal and educational experiences to the table. By working together we hope we can offer a couple things. 1) A variety of gifts to coach individuals and leaders through both personal, professional and family challenges. 2) Geographical diversity for the sake of either face-to-face coaching or more flexibility in time for phone/skype conversations. 

So what does it mean to be a coach or to have a coach? A coach is someone who walks alongside others to help them achieve their goals. Coaching is not consulting. The coach doesn't need to be an expert in the field. They simply need to have the skill set of listening, reflecting and then holding accountable the individual they are coaching for their goals. They help you decide what to put in your Christmas stocking and then walk with you as you try to make that a reality.

2014 will bring you many opportunities. With a coach by your side you might even be able to make it better! If you are interested in coaching, please visit our Facebook site and drop us a line. 

Oh, and if you are interested in my 2014 goals, stop by on New Years day for an update. I can use the accountability partners!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why Trinity Had Worship Today.

(A caveat: this note is in no way intended to guilt anyone who chose to cancel their church services or who chose not to attend. It is simply an explanation of the thought process of one pastoral leader for why the congregation in his charge had worship. If this induces guilt in you, I would encourage you to engage your pastor in a conversation.)

Due to a significant ice storm and multiple days of freezing temperatures many congregations in the DFW area cancelled worship this weekend. This was an understandable decision given the lack of preparedness and ability to respond to such a storm of our state and local road crews.  

However, despite this storm we had worship at Trinity Lutheran-Fort Worth today and it is important to understand why. First off, we didn’t have worship today because we were trying to show how tough we are or able to handle the weather. Icy roads are a danger and walking on ice can be even more dangerous. So we encouraged people to not come if they were at all concerned about that. Yet we had worship.


The first and primary reason is that Word and Sacrament is our main purpose for existence. The church has too often let its focus drift onto other purposes for existing. Some congregations are social gatherings for youth or adults in which people join to make political, business or social connections. Other congregations exist primarily to provide direct service to those in need or to host a daycare (as Trinity does). These are certainly part of the reason congregations exist. However, our primary purpose is to gather in worship on the first day of the week around Word and Sacrament. Without worship we are just another country club or social service agency. And frankly, we should leave that to the country clubs and the dedicated social agencies we support.

Secondly, it is vital we do this in community. As Lutherans, we believe that the Holy Spirit acts through the preached Word. That the means of grace confer God’s forgiveness and it matters that people receive them. And they should and do receive them in community. We cannot have communion on our own. We need someone to speak those words “Given and Shed for You” to us. The outside voice, speaking the words of Christ, matters.

Thirdly, we often say and we should actually believe that it doesn’t matter how many people show up for worship. Some congregations closed on Sunday because I believe in their business model it doesn’t make sense to have a worship gathering if a certain number of people don’t show up. This is one of the problems with the modern expressions of church in america today. Worship should not require so much technological and musical talent and tools that to have a simple service with 5, 10 or 20 people doesn't make sense. Jesus did not have this problem (Matt. 18:20).

Finally, I fear that when we do not gather for worship because of a storm but other agents of commerce continue to remain open we indicate to the world that this gathering is optional. When I went into McDonald's today to get a cup of coffee the staff there asked me if we were having church today (I go there a lot, they know me). They were shocked when I said we were. And one of the homeless men I talked with asked if he could come, even though he wasn't dressed well. I said of course he was welcome. Sadly, he didn't take me up on the invitation (I am used to being rejected in this manner), but he was invited. 

When McDonald's stays open through the storm but worship is cancelled it sends a message. All too often, especially around Christmas, there is a regularly occurring communal lament from the “Christian” community of how secular our society is. The call is made to keep “Christ in Christmas.” Yet when we have an ice storm and the church closes but the McDonald’s across the street stays open what message do we send about what is important and unimportant to our society?

I am grateful that our attendance today was only about 15% of a typical Sunday. And those who came either could walk, drive just a few blocks or had significant experience driving in tough conditions and 4x4’s to bring them. Those who didn't have those resources or just felt like they were safer staying home did so. We provided our worship bulletin online and on our Facebook page and hopefully some had worship with their family or if they live alone used the texts and hymns as a personal devotional. No one should ever feel they “have” to be in worship if they fear for their safety in traveling. In the same way we would never guilt a home-bound person for their lack of attendance. As a pastor part of my call is to teach our community this truth and reinforce it.

This isn't about it guilt. It is about the vital importance that the church proclaim that we are just as important as McDonald’s. Our business is to proclaim the good news and provide the gifts of God for the people of God. This business is Jesus’ business (Luke 2:49). And it is a vital business whether there are hundreds in the pews or just a handful gathered around the altar. As a pastor, it is part of my call to ensure this business is carried out.

So we were open today for those who came. We will be open again next week for those who desire to come to God’s table. This is God’s simple table of grace. Where in community forgiveness is proclaimed through the Word and demonstrated in the gifts of bread and wine, As always, all are welcome.