Because life is a series of edits

Welcome, Interns (Part 2)

In Church, Education, Seminary on November 1, 2009 at 11:54 pm

(Here's part 2 of "Welcome, Interns" for my
Educational Leadership class. Part 1 is here.)

1) Change is not the enemy; loss (real or perceived) is. Believe it or not, people are open to change, but usually not for change’s sake. As unspiritual as it sounds, people tend to evaluate change by how it impacts them, and most resist change if said impact is (or seems) negative. Don’t waste emotional energy if people push back against your initiatives; figure out why they’re doing so by asking, “What are they afraid of losing?”

2) Challenging (not upholding) the status quo is your role as a leader. I’m guessing that during your internship, you’ll experience more than a few “this is how we do things around here” moments. These are not exclusive to churches – businesses, government, and the military have their own versions – but they are especially interesting coming at the hands of the church member who seems to have more power than the elder board combined; or the Sunday School teacher who is a curriculum terrorist and threatens to blow up anything he or she hasn’t used before; or a moody staff member who's the only one with the keys. You’re probably not going to be around long enough to change folks like these (it takes years), but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask fair questions, suggest creative improvements, and encourage others to persevere in their battles against the status quo. This is what leaders do, so don’t let differences (real or perceived) between your role and your circumstances here at First Presbyterian convince you otherwise.

3) Save your breath to cool your coffee…or learn to like it really hot. You’ve probably heard that you have to pick your battles, but you have to pick the timing of your battles as well. This is true not just in your day-to-day interactions with others; it’s true in your understanding of the wider scope of First Presbyterian’s history. Before you give in to your seemingly insatiable itch to criticize those all-important decisions regarding worship style, sanctuary color scheme, or bulletin font, do yourself a favor and research the when, what, and why of who made those decisions and how. You don’t know how much heat you can take right now, but you’ll find out soon enough if you pick the wrong time to fight a battle, wrong or right. Major on the majors and leave the minor stuff to those who don’t know better (but will soon learn).

4) Never, ever write off anyone, especially those who are your biggest critics. I can think of at least ten people in the past five years who I was once tempted to write off (and probably tell off as well) for being or seeming a hindrance to the purposes of God, only to encounter them in a completely different context in church or in life at a later date actually making a difference. For all its universality, the Body of Christ is a small world (the PCA is even smaller), and often the quickest way you can hamstring the process of making your contribution within it is to write off the potential of others to make theirs. By grace, people can change; if you don’t believe that, you have no business being in ministry.

5) It’s not experience that’s the best teacher; it’s evaluated experience. Any long-term benefit of your internship will be in direct proportion to the amount of your short-term evaluation done not just on your own, but with someone else here committed to your success. Peers can be helpful in this area, as can participants within your particular ministry context, but I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking, finding, and pursuing a Paul to your Timothy in order to process all that you’ll learn. Life and ministry are both less about having a closet of “Been There, Done That” T-shirts and more about having someone honestly engage with you about how each one fits…or how it doesn’t. Find that person now.

(To be concluded tomorrow.)

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  1. #4 is my favorite.

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