Friday, May 29, 2009

Final CREDO note

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

There were two other things that arose from my CREDO experience/process that didn't quite rise to the level of being a goal but I felt needed to be addressed.

There were several comments about how I didn't answer some communications in a timely manner. That took me by surprise. In talking with my friends that week we talked about e-mail and how I had to check several accounts. "How many?" they asked. Well, there are four work accounts and three home accounts.

Stunned silence.

Followed by very clear input that I needed to fix that. So I'm weeding out two accounts at work and one at home. The work accounts will be for direct communication with me and one for newsletters, documents, and forms. I've already seen a vast improvement in my efficiency simply because it's all distilled into a couple places. I also realized that I was checking my e-mail several times an hour. This broke up my work into small scattered pieces, a system I've never liked. The program there is for me to check them when I arrive, at lunch time and an hour before I take off for the day. If I'm expecting something I can check more often. That has also given me much longer runs at tasks. I think I'm responding much more quickly AND getting more and better work done. Good stuff.

But if that one took me by surprise this one just about killed me. I got a note from someone who said some of our youth perceived me as playing favorites and believing that some of them could "never do anything right".

It was like a dagger in the heart. Are there some kids I've come to know much better than others? Yes. Am I closer with them? Yes. But I've tried to my limits never to play favorites. And I can not think of any young person that I had no hope for at all. I had two choices. To discard the comment as being a personal attack or to take it on board. The folks I'd asked to fill out these comments were people I knew and liked and trusted and respected. And one of them felt strongly enough to put that comment down in black and white.

So I've taken it on board. I apologized to Youth Commission for any such offense I might have committed against them and apologize here to any young person that feels I've slighted them. Creating such a feeling in you is a failure on my part and it's a failure I regret to my very core. I will be working very hard to make sure it never happens again. If you see me doing it please call me on it so that I can fix it.

So that's it. Well at least the high (and low) spots of it. CREDO has presented me with a great challenge as I move forward. I'm excited and a little scared. I hope you'll keep me in your prayers as I move forward with this new adventure.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

CREDO part 3

Part 1
Part 2

My third goal in the CREDO plan came out a little differently. The first two arose from areas where I needed to improve. As I sat looking at the plan I had the feeling there was a third goal but I couldn't see what it was. So I stepped back and started looking for big patterns again in the information. And there it was. The third goal has to do with one of my strengths, in fact it may be my greatest strength and gift. There was a consistent string of comments and data talking about my gifts as a communicator. My bishop later said it's not so much a gift as it is my identity - I am a communicator.

What was nagging at me was that I didn't feel like I was getting the most out of that area in my life. So my third goal looks like this:

To Develop and Expand projects based on my Communication Gifts

Spiritual - to expand the reach of our ministry. My hope is that I can get some of this up and running ASAP (although a technology glitch has put a crimp in that at the moment).

Health - Improve my overall satisfaction by more fully expressing my gifts. This allows me to focus on projects that feed me rather than deplete me.

Vocational - Expand my teaching and communicating possibilities. Helps to create a better link to our youth, their parents, and our congregations.

Financial - Strengthen programs to help be better stewards of our funds. We can do a better job of showing the benefits of our programs to our supporters.

I have to admit that this goal that really challenges me because it means I have to find out if I'm really as good as some people (including me most days) think I am. Some of it will be a learning curve as I expand into new areas. That means something won't be perfect right out of the box (as compared to all the OTHER perfect things I do!). I need to deal with that upfront and not let it stop me from trying.

One final note and then my CREDO report will be finished.


A little excitement for today

Our parish is right down town in the city on Main Street so we are often right on the scene for traffic accidents. Well today we were suddenly greeted by what sounded like an especially big accident. When we looked out our window we discovered how right we were:

She hit our church!

She's fine I hasten to add. We have no idea how she did this. She had to come up over the curb then up two steps to wedge the car between a wrought iron rail and a 100 year old stone wall. The railing is bent about 6 inches out of true, the wall shrugged the whole thing off. The car has the visible body damage plus it's torn away at least one rear sway bar. Her explanation makes no sense whatsoever and I've heard it at least three times.

Ironically she was headed to the garage just around the corner to get her tail light fixed.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Odds and ends of my life

Just some flotsam and jetsam -

Been reading Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone mysteries. Liking them a lot. I'm only up to D, she's already made it to T.

Tried reading "Crazy Good - The True Story of Dan Patch". I got about 200 pages in and thought this really feels like a Sports Illustrated story. Check the dust jacket, turns out Charles Leerhsen is an SI editor. And there in lies the problem. That breezy, glib SI style that I really enjoy in a 2,000-5,000 word article really starts to rub me raw at book length. All those charming little side stories become increasingly annoying as I'm trying to read about the first true American sports mega-star (endorsements and everything) who happens to have been a horse. Not a thoroughbred either. It's an interesting story, I just wish he'd tell it! Probably not going to finish it.

Madpriest tipped me to Joey Ryan. Enjoyed the tunes a lot but then I have a soft spot for those singer/songwriter types. As always I offer the warning - if you've never entered the lair of he who is mad go at your own risk. His tongue is sharp and his wit has a real bite to it. You'll either love him or you won't. If you don't it'll hurt his feelings even as he denies it vehemently.

I keep thinking that there must be something profound for me to say eventually.
I'm still waiting.....


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CREDO part 2

First post in this series

Goal #2 - Expand and empower others in leadership - Reading through all the materials and responses I began to see a pattern. A very bad pattern which resulted in me taking on more and more of the leadership for the ministry. This is bad for me because it wears me out and it's bad for the ministry because it limits what we can do. I promise you it started from a good intention but it's clearly gone beyond that. So this goal calls on me to give up leadership roles, to give up control. This will create more places for others to express their gifts, will allow me to focus on those areas that match my gifts and will give us a deeper, more talented pool of leaders and vision in the diocese.

The objectives:

Spiritual - To allow others to express their gifts. I do that by releasing control.

Health - It removes the burden of me being "The Guy". Yes it's a self inflicted burden but I need to eliminate it anyway. Not only will I be healthier but the ministry will be healthier.

Vocational - To develop programs that recruit and empower leaders. My goal is to have that up and running within the next 12 months with the first parts of it happening this fall. For this to work I need folks who are willing to step up in large and small roles. It also means not just handing people jobs and walking away but creating ways to really help them feel like they can succeed.

Financial - Many hands are able to do much more and do it more effectively. That means our dollars stretch farther. In times when money is tight anything we can do to be better stewards of what we have is what we need to do.

If you feel like I've kept you from a leadership role over the last couple years, or that I've hindered your ability to do that role please accept my deepest apologies. It is NOT because I don't trust the folks I've worked with. You are a wonderful, talented, Spirit filled group of people and I have been blessed to been at your side. In trying to make your life easier it's clear I haven't always succeeded. Now I need to ask for your trust to step up again with the promise that I will get out of your way. Plus I give you permission to, with Christian love, tell me when I'm not letting go. I can only succeed if you are willing to take that step.

I know going in that this will probably be the hardest one of my goals for me. I have to break habits and patterns of behavior that are fairly ingrained right now. Please know that I want to change, that I know I need to change.

Part 3 coming later this week.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Resource Review - RSS Readers

RSS Readers (including Google Reader)

OVERALL - RSS Readers,blog readers, news readers, feed readers also known as Aggregators. This is a software application that allows you to read large numbers of online sources all in one place. RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" a method of allowing people to subscribe to blogs or other online services.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? I spend a fair amount of time online reading. News stories, resources, web sites, blogs and more. The problem is that trying to keep up with all these things can chew up even more of your day. A reader can help you stay on top of online stuff with very little effort. The reader checks for you and only will notify you when the site has updated/posted new info. For example you want to keep track of what that rascally diocesan youth missioner is up to these days. If you look at the top of the right hand column here you'll see the words "Subscribe To". If you click on the little arrow next to the word "Posts" you'll get a list of several quick services to subscribe. The one I use is the Google Reader, a free service included if you have a Gmail account. It only takes a couple minutes to get yours set up. If you use My Yahoo as a home page (I do that too but don't use it for my RSS reading) you can click on the My Yahoo tab and have it show up on your home page. There are lots and I mean LOTS of other readers out there. I know that NewsGator is very highly thought of for example. It all depends on how computer geeky you may be. Google Reader or Yahoo are extremely simple.

RESERVATIONS It's easy to get buried by blogs and news feeds once you have a reader. My standard is that if I don't see an update on a regular basis (at least 3 a month) I will weed the blog out. On the other hand I sometimes discover blog I've subscribed to just doesn't have a lot of info I'm really want to see. So I dump it. Used well a reader makes your online time more efficient. Not used well and it's just another time waster.

RECOMMENDATION Using Google Reader has made my life MUCH more efficient and I almost never miss important posts or news any more. If you don't spend a lot of time online you probably don't need one of these. For the rest of us I strongly recommend you grab a reader app. Many of them can be connected to other services (like you cell phone)

Friday, May 22, 2009

How dumb is this guy?

This is New York State Assemblyman David Gantt (D)who represents a district near Rochester. Among his responsibilities is being chair of the Assembly Committee on Transportation. And that's what brings him to our attention.

There is currently a piece of legislation in Albany that would make texting while driving illegal. The goal of the bill is to save the lives of teens, who are the most likely age group to try this very stupid activity. That bill is stuck in process and hasn't been considered by the Assembly yet. While Assemblyman Gantt insists that he is NOT blocking consideration of the bill pretty much everyone else in Albany says he is. It has already passed the Senate and has enormous support in the Assembly. If you follow big time politics you know that committee chairs can play games if they so choose. There is every indication that Mr. Gantt is doing just that.

Now I'm not questioning his smarts because he chooses to block the bill. He has that right. Blocking it against the overwhelming support of your own party? That's dumb. Refusing to meet with the mom of a teen who died in accident caused by his texting who is advocating for the bill? Really dumb.

But that's not what put me over the edge about the Assemblyman. You see he has a pet piece of legislation of his own that he'd like to see passed. One that is much more sweeping than this bill. It's a "distractions while driving" bill that would do things like make it illegal to eat while driving. Yeah, I know it's not a great practice but I do it sometimes. It wouldn't be the end of the world if I stopped and was a little safer on the road. Then I kept reading. It would make changing channels on the radio illegal.

Let me say that again.

It would make changing the station on your car radio while you're motoring down the highway against the law.



And instead of passing this simple piece of legislation that might just get some folks attention and save lives he's holding onto a bill that is just idiotic in scope. It's been floating around Albany for awhile apparently and no one wants any part of it.

Gee I wonder why?

But I guess the Assemblyman is right and all the rest of us are wrong.

Nope, I don't think so. There's only one person in this equation that dumb. Hey, 133rd Assembly District! You need to have a talk with your Assemblyman.

Check out Donn Esmonde's column in today's Buffalo News for more.

CREDO part 1

Rather than create a single loooooong post I'll break it down into a couple bits.

Two things I really want to share right off the bat. Some of the folks decided we needed to do something special for our faculty as a thank you. So they created a full musical tribute based on the Broadway musical "The Lion King". We created the "Circle of Howard" in tribute to our director. Lights, song, live music, costumes the whole shebang. It was amazing and totally surprised the staff. I did the introductory silliness then sang with the "chorus". It was fun.

Second, one night we played CREDO bingo. Just to loosen up. Well I got (with the free center square) bingo on the first four numbers drawn! Couldn't believe my eyes! Had to share that.

OK, CREDO is, at the end, about your CREDO plan. A plan based on long thought, conversation, consultation and prayer. A plan to help you live your life more fully, happier and healthier. It focuses on four specific areas - Spiritual, Health, Vocation and Financial. The process to get there takes too long to explain here, it's one of those "You gotta experience it" kind of things. I found it very interesting, very revealing and rather humbling. All good stuff.

My CREDO plan has three goals. That's about average. Some folks have more, some less. I have three. I want to share the plan, at least in general terms, to help with my accountability. If lots of people know what I'm supposed to be doing it's harder for me to get away with slacking. So with your kind permission I'll share my plan over the next couple posts.

Goal #1 - To Create a Healthier Lifestyle I went away to the retreat a person struggling with health issues. Physical, spiritual, vocational and financial. My lady wife's one hope for me was that I'd find a way to come back healthier and happier to her. So far it seems to be headed in that direction. The goal breaks down this way:

1: Spiritual - to re-connect with my life in faith and a personal piety.

2: Health - to continue what I began last year. To work on my physical and mental health and happiness. To be joyful about what I've accomplished so far (I've lost 40 pounds over 15 months and kept it off. I've been told that not many folks manage to pull that off) while continuing to towards my goals.

3: Vocational - take some time to recharge my vocational/professional batteries. In other words - a sabbatical. I'm working on the concept to present to the bishop by mid summer.

4: Financial - this is mostly about finally bringing some discipline to our financial lives.

All of these are quite do-able while still being a challenge. That's part of the idea. I've asked specific people to check in with me to keep me working towards these goals. The next two goals are in their own way even more challenging and even more exciting for me.

Episcopal CREDO


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oh to catch up a little

Wow, it's been an amazing couple of weeks and I'm way behind. So here's the synopsis:

CREDO- wonderful. I promise I'll have more to share soon.

Came home, hit the office for a day and a half, did a meeting at D House, had lunch with the bishop, tried to bring some order to the office (epic fail), went to the funeral of a great gentleman from our church, then headed off for a long weekend to tour the wine country along the Niagara Escarpment. The Niagara Wine Trail was a lot of fun. The wines varied widely from very sweet fruit wines to one winery that only does Pinot Noir (and is very clear in their belief that this is the only varietal vine that grows properly in the area). We found lots that we liked and virtually all of it is made from local grapes. All but one of the wineries did really great jobs of presenting their product and chatting with us. Several of the showrooms were spectacular, most were very nice. We decided to try a lot of wine and ended up coming home with 19 bottles (from 11 wineries). The real find however may have been the Lockport Inn and Suites. Really, really nice quality rooms (flat screen TV, nice furniture, outstanding cleanliness)for less than $80 a night. And basically right in the middle of the wineries. We had a great time.

So now back to work. Lots to do and I'm plugging away at it.

Meanwhile the kid is off on her grand tour. She flew (rather circuitously) to Shreveport Louisiana to visit with family on my mom's side for a week. Then had to take another rather roundabout trip to get out to Burbank California to visit with middle brother and her two cousins. She'll spend a week there then fly on to Pittsburgh to hang with her cousin on her Mom's side of the family. So we'll see her after about a three week absence. Cell phones, twitter and Facebook make it easier to stay in touch with her. So far she's done very well. She'll hit no less than 11 different airports by the time she gets home. (The Burbank to Pittsburgh leg goes Burbank-Phoenix-Boston-Pittsburgh. Don't ask, I have no idea)

I'm looking forward to Memorial Day weekend.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Resource Review - Trigger

Trigger Volume 3 By: Passenger Productions 5 videos, about 14 total minutes $24.99 Published by Zondervan

OVERALL - A DVD with discussion starters for youth groups. Includes commentary track and question pages in .pdf.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This is a really interesting discussion starter resource because it doesn't even pretend to offer any answers. Too many "discussion starters" clearly indicate their bias as far as the "correct answer". The videos explore "Starving"- a look at spiritual starvation in a land of physical plenty, "A History" - what does it all mean if we're not remembered by society?, "To Begin" - asks the questions about a real life in faith rather than just going through the motions and "The Leaper" which talks about taking a leap into something new and unknown. They average less than 3 minutes long and are very well done and have a good look to them. I really like the little extras like the commentary track. There the film makers talk about what they were trying for in the video, why they used certain images and more. The idea is that it will help the leader as you prepare to use the videos in your lesson or program. The disc also includes sets of 5 questions for each video as a starting point for discussion as well. So you could use this as the center of a planned out lesson or just hang onto it as an emergency program item as well. Good versatility.

RESERVATIONS The kids will actually have think as they watch the videos. Which creates some resistance for some of our youth but I think they'll get into the idea pretty quickly. And the videos are short enough that you can play them more than once in an evening.

RECOMMENDATION Videos work for some folks and not for others. You have to have a DVD player and large enough TV to be used for the group. Not everyone has that. Plus it may or may not fit your particular style. With that aside this is certainly a worthwhile consideration for any library. Plus this is part of a 4 disc series. If it's 5 videos per disc you're looking at a library of 20 right at your finger tips. Well worth considering.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Got a little ink while I was on vacation

One of my "side" projects. Nice to get a little attention in the local paper. Spelled my name right too which they didn't always do back when I was working at the radio station (I'm a volunteer with WRFA)That's the back of my head you see at the computer. This Y location serves mostly kids from the Hispanic population of the city. Alex is my assistant and translator (and a great young man in his own right)

Budding media personalities are getting a taste of the world of radio at the Eastside YMCA, thanks to the Jamestown Public Schools 21st Century program, the Arts Council for Chautauqua County and a grant from Cummins Engine.

Jay Phillippi of WRFA-LP is leading a group of students to learn about broadcasting and the art of radio, meeting with them once a week to work with microphones and digital editing.

''These are skills that are transferable and valuable in the real world,'' Phillippi said of the students' efforts to improve their language skills and work with digital media. ''This has the potential to be both useful and a lot of fun. It's a lot better than being bored.''

Jamestown Post Journal Article

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And I'm back


I dislike phrases like life changing and mind blowing. But CREDO was all of that and more. I've made a bunch of new friends, learned a lot about myself and begun the next phase of my life in ministry and in general.

I also have a much better grasp of what CREDO is all about. It is a wellness program supported by the Church Pension Fund. It is offered for both clergy and lay employees (separate events) who are invested in the pension fund. We had everyone from a Canon to the Ordinary, to church musicians, parish administrators, youth/Christian Ed leaders and sextons. And everyone had something profound and moving to bring to the experience. It is a long experience, 8 days, but it's not one single second TOO long. I got the chance to learn in large groups, discuss in small group (there were some really awesome small groups for CLE 9 but mine was the best) and consult with experts privately. We talked about our spiritual lives, physical lives (health issues), vocational lives and financial lives. It was beyond description. The first thing I did after I got home (OK the FIRST thing I did was sleep) was thank the bishop for his support in sending me.

Amazingly, astoundingly the refusal rate for invitations among the lay employees runs something like 40%. So let me make this perfectly clear. In my not so humble opinion if you get a CREDO invitation and turn it down for any other reason than you can not possibly physically be there:

You're an idiot. And I'm absolutely serious about that.

I suppose that your life is so perfectly balanced, you are so utterly content with every aspect of your life and everyone around agrees that you are a paragon of perfection who could not possibly improve in any way (come on people, even Mary Poppins only claimed to be practically perfect) then maybe (and only maybe) you wouldn't gain from attending a CREDO event. For we mere mortals it's an opportunity too good to pass up. There is a small $500 fee that isn't covered by the pension fund - your church, organization or diocese should pick this up! And you should make them feel guilty if they don't. They will benefit as much as anyone from getting back a healthier, happier, more focused you.

There's too much to process or discuss in a single blog so I'll pick this up over the next couple weeks. Truly amazing. My thanks to our faculty, to all my CREDO friends and the folks at Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center in Oviedo FL for a wonderful experience.

Here's a photo of the lake at Canterbury(fixed so you can see the cross):

Monday, May 11, 2009

Resource Review - Insight

Insight - web site for youth ministry from a long time youth minister and trainer in the U.K. named Grahame Knox.

OVERALL - An incredible ongoing gift of ideas covering games, Bible study methods, discussion starters, prayer, Food for Thought, youth worker skills and much more. Also two free e-books to download.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This is the creation of one guy drawing on many years of experience in youth ministry. Consequently this is all down to earth, usable stuff that you can put to work quickly in your ministry. The Food for Thought posts consist of quotations from a wide range of people all on some central subject. You'll find general topic discussion starters plus specific topics too (the latest one was for Easter). Since I'm always looking for new icebreakers the resources available there are really helpful. Bible study is something that a lot of us struggle with and Grahame has some great ideas there as well. The world has started to catch on to Mr. Knox, he just won the award as the "Most Inspiring Leadership Blog" award in the 2008 UK Christian Blog and Web Awards. Not bad for a guy who only started the blog in late '07! Doesn't surprise me at all. While I can't say he's as prolific a poster as some bloggers when he does post it is well worth reading. He also has the great virtue of not going on and on and on (hmmm who does that remind us of? How much time do I have left?)

RESERVATIONS Oh there's some of the usual translating English English into American English type issues (LOL)and the whole numbers of posts issue(5 in February, 1 in March and none in April. A fan could go through Knox withdrawal!)

RECOMMENDATION This one is worth subscribing to so that you don't miss anything. This site will always make sure you've got one more tool in your ministry tool box which is never a bad idea. Easy to read, usable content from a great web site. Make it a favorite!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Resource Review - "Sacred Space"

Sacred Space By: Dan Kimball & Lilly Lewin 176 pages $29.99 Published by Zondervan

OVERALL - A hands on guide to creating multi-sensory worship experiences for youth ministry (and probably everyone else too). Provides background concepts and outlines.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Can I just say this was a very tough book to review? But for all the RIGHT reasons! I had to keep stopping to write down ideas that I wanted to use this summer in our camp program. Books of this kind tend to fall into two categories in my experience. They either spend all their time going into deep, academic style examinations of the whys and wherefores, or they assume that you're already as excited about the concept as they are and just start throwing ideas out right and left. I find both styles very unsatisfying. I'm a firm believer that we need to understand why we're doing whatever it is we're doing. Too often as a youth and sometimes even as an adult I sit in church feeling totally disconnected because I don't understand what's happening. On the other hand I also want a certain amount of hand holding as I start into something new for me. Help me get my feet wet before you toss me into the deep end (although getting tossed into the deep is in fact how I was taught to swim in real life, lol).

Well add a third category - the "Sacred Space" category. Because I think they got the balance absolutely perfect. The first 37 pages take you very carefully through the understanding of what this style of worship can offer. They take you through every phase (right down to using table cloths for each prayer station and why). They tell you what to do and what NOT to do all without being heavy handed or dictatorial (None of this "You MUST do it EXACTLY this way" mindset). They even have a chapter entitled "Baby Steps" that is about working your way into this slowly. The book includes a CD with a variety of resources so you can see exactly what some of the ideas should look like.

RESERVATIONS I wish there was some way of requiring people to read the first 37 pages at least twice before they jump ahead to the prayer stations. I'm afraid that folks will want to treat this as just another "program module" that they throw together quickly. In a culture that wants instant answers and solutions my concern is that folks won't take the time to really "grok" the concepts.

RECOMMENDATION Well by now you've probably guessed that I like this book. That's absolutely true. This book offers a way to approach worship that is new while still holding firmly to tradition. Folks in liturgical churches will probably feel more comfortable more quickly than those with non-liturgical backgrounds. In the end this approach is respectful of both understandings of worship. I have no doubt that folks on both sides of the liturgy line will also find at least some resistance to the concepts (the authors did so why not you too?) That's where the clear explanation of the grounding of the concepts in things like Scripture and Tradition are really valuable. You'll not only get some 140 pages of ideas already laid out for you but you'll be given the understanding to help create ideas on your own as well. A solid addition to any youth ministry library.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

And I'm away

So it's finally here, my CREDO week. I'm looking forward to it but I'm a little nervous too. Always am before a trip. My hope is that I come back with a better idea of who am I and what I need to be. Out of that should grow an ability to be better at my ministry and work.

It's highly unlikely that I'll post during the week.

But I might.

Keep me in your prayers.