18 July 2013

broken liturgy and Peter Rollins

Posted in Emerging, Leadership, Church

brokenliturgyLast night I attended broken liturgy with Pete Rollins.

Wow. It was amazing.

broken liturgy is, as the creative team behind it (John HardtChristopher Cocca, and Lin Preiss) will tell you, hard to describe.

It deconstructs liturgy and church (the tag line is "church undone") and at the same time is incredibly generative. It is avantgard and ancient. The MacBook sits on the piano. Hand cut figures are hand-placed on the the digital projection screen. It does not promise answers. It offers an experience, which is open to whatever you bring to it. It doesn't explain. It doesn't tie things up neatly at the end. The lights just come on. The ending is liminal: no permisson, no instruction, no dismissal. (Unlike my Lutheran tribe, which can't leave a room unless someone says, "Go in peace. Serve the Lord.") It is music, poetry, art, and story, beautifully and carefully combined. And it is broken. Over pints afterward, the team and Pete recounted some of the hiccups in the program and also noted that that's kind of the point. We are broken people—and this is a liturgy by and for broken people.

19 June 2013

What's Your Tough Mudder?

Posted in Leadership, Church

tough mudderWhen was the last time you set an audacious goal for yourself—when you committed yourself to something you weren’t sure you could actually do?

Last month I participated in the Tough Mudder. It’s a 10 mile course with 20 obstacles that include, among other things, lots of crawling, climbing, and jumping into freezing cold water.

It’s designed by British Special Forces and described as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” You have to climb over an eight-foot wall just to get into the starting area, for God’s sake! And not for nothing, the day of our Tough Mudder was over 90 degrees. So, it is a beast. (Check out the video below for a taste.)

I decided to do the Mudder as a way to motivate myself to get back into great shape. And, honestly, to make me feel better about turning 40 next year.

So, I committed myself to this crazy thing—and to doing something I wasn’t sure I could accomplish. I trained like crazy for five months—running, swimming, suspension training, kettlebells, weight lifting. Many early mornings and many late nights at the Y. It took our team just under three hours to complete the course, but we did it. I finished.

A big part of the Tough Mudder is about confronting fears, whether its jumping off a 20-foot high platform into water below, crawling through dark underground tunnels, or running through electroshocks. And that fear can either paralyze us or it can propel us. That is the fundamental lesson of the Tough Mudder.

27 March 2013

Explaining the Holocaust to our Nine Year-Old Daughter

Posted in Culture, Church

seder plateThe other night we had to explain to my 9 year-old daughter what the Holocaust was.

Not because she is learning about it in school, but because it is part of our family story. It is part of her story.

I’m a Lutheran pastor. My wife is Jewish. Her ancestors come from Poland. My wife’s grandmother, we call her Bubbie Helen, was just a teenager when World War II erupted. She lived with her mother, Ella, an accomplished portrait photographer, who owned her own studio in Warsaw, and cared for her sick mother. Her father Eser was a traveling encyclopedia salesman. When the war broke out he was in the United States and he sent them letters urging them to leave Poland before the Nazis invaded. Helen’s mother refused to leave her sick mother.

But Helen did leave. At 16 years old, she set out from Poland. Her father would send her letters leading her to the next safe house. They led her across Siberia, to China, to Japan, where she was on the last US refugee ship to California before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

She arrived in California speaking only Yiddish and with no money. She was taken in by two professors at Cal Berkeley who taught her English. She believed her father was in New York City. His last name was Goldberg. And they called every variation of that name in the New York City phone book until they found him. It took two years until they were reunited.

Later they learned that the rest of Helen’s family died at Auschwitz. My wife’s small family is all that remains.

Now my daughter knows the horrible tragedy of the Holocaust, but also that she comes from a line of strong women, like her great-grandmother Helen, her grandmother, her aunt, and her mom. She knows more now about the evil human beings can perpetrate against one another. She also knows more about strength and courage and living in hope. It is a lesson that our younger three children will also learn in time.

18 March 2013

This is the World You Live (and Lead) in Now

Posted in Digital Ministry, Culture, Social Media, Church

You may have seen this photo published by NBC News about the difference in the crowd in St. Peter's Square from when Pope Benedict XVI was elected the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and the announcement of the newly minted Pope Francis just last week.

It is an image that dramatically captures the rapid advance in technology and culture—and the difference in the way we live our lives—over these last eight years. 

This change has profound implications for how we live, lead, and minister today.

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Remember that in 2005, the iPhone, the advent of the modern smartphone, didn’t exist. It was still two years in the offing. Facebook was available to college and high school students, but would not be open to the public-at-large for another year.

12 March 2013

Send Great Church Emails People Actually Want to Read

Posted in How To, Resources, Social Media

emailFor all the advances in digital communications and social networking, email continues to be the most reliable way for congregations to digitally communicate with members and potential members. Why? In the transition we find ourselves in between print and digital communication, email is the most reliable way of digitally sharing your ministry’s news and information. It’s as close to mailing a letter to everyone’s home as you can get, just without the paper and postage.

Unfortunately, most congregations fail to get the most out of their emails for several reasons:

  • Uninteresting design
  • Inconsistent scheduling
  • Incomplete email lists (who gets it)
  • Inability to measure their success (who reads it)
  • Too much or too little information
  • Lack of focus

However, for some that use email well, a weekly email update is becoming the anchor of their communications strategy, lessening the need for a time and paper intensive production of a monthly newsletter.

Here are some ways and a few examples of how to send great emails that people will read:

05 March 2013

Pastors, You Are Not Too Busy (or Important) To Exercise

Posted in Leadership, Church

runnerIt’s a lie we tell ourselves: “I am too busy to exercise. This work is too important.”

Pastors are among the biggest culprits in perpetuating this myth, and not surprisingly suffer from high rates stress, emotional distress, addiction, and burnout. Many pastors sacrifice their short- and long-term health in the name of their ministry, which to them seems too busy and important to pause for even a 30-minute workout. In the end, their ministry suffers and, at times, is even cut short.

I was struck by a recent profile Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball, The Big Short, and The Blind Side) did of President Barack Obama, in which Obama talks about his exercise regimen. Lewis writes,

“When he awakens at seven, he already has a jump on things. He arrives at the gym on the third floor of the residence, above his bedroom, at 7:30. He works out until 8:30 (cardio one day, weights the next)....”

“‘You have to exercise,’ [Obama] said, for instance. ‘Or at some point you’ll just break down.’”

You have to exercise or at some point you'll just break down.

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