(Starting a new run of blogs based off of a talk I did recently for another church staff. They wanted to know what are the main things I have learned after being at Grace Family Church for almost twenty years. Here, is my first of seven nuggets.)
Change is The Same…It Happens All the Time
If you do not like change, you are in for a rough ride at Grace and pretty much anywhere. Immediately, a couple of ironies jump out at me. In regard to Grace, the things that have not changed are essential – the desire to go after the lost and unchurched, the passion for children and youth and worshipping a BIG God in humility and excellence. Add to the mix a genuine, real pastor…that is GFC. The other irony is that it isn’t only at Grace do you see constant change. It is everywhere – look around at your favorite soft drink, sports team, clothing line, musical artist, etc. If it is in your life, it is going through change. Yet, most of us don’t do well with change. I am not going to list pro’s and cons – all change has its positives and negatives. What is someone’s joy, is another person’s pain. I have seen a lot just at Grace and it usually has some element of pain, yet it still brings growth.
The first area where I have experienced change is personally. When I came to Grace, I was twenty eight years old, married for eight years, with kids ages five, four and three. As I write this, I am forty six, married for twenty six years and my kids are twenty five, twenty four and twenty two. (the girls have their birthdays later in the year.) Do you think I have experienced some change in almost twenty years? Where do I begin – physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, maturity, wisdom…the daily list goes on. There is so much in this area that I will give you some bulleted thoughts, instead of paragraphs:
- I am physically stronger and healthier today than I was before. Each day, I lean into the idea that “I want to be able to physically do whatever my kids (and now grandkids) want to do.)
- I am free from a insecurity, fear, people pleasing and approval driven life. I battle every day – but I will not go back.
- I am more in love with God and all that Jesus is as my Savior today – He is BIG and I am not.
- I am content with what God has done for us financially and I love being a giver – it is a inner thrill to me.
- I have grown up from a young man who thought he was the center of it all to an older man who loves to serve and empower others.
- I am wiser and the road to get there hasn’t been easy. Wouldn’t change the road for anything
My personal change has not been easy. Every one of those statements is loaded with stories, joys, challenges and a journey that has shaped me today. My encouragement to you is that you embrace change in any area of your life that you deem important. Will Rogers said it well, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
The next area that I have seen a lot of change in my time at Grace has been in ministry. Pastor Craig has a great saying – “The message is sacred, the methods are not.” So many things we did early on, we do not do anymore. Ministries that were part of the fabric in the church’s history are no longer in our plan to reach people. I can use the Children’s ministry as an example. I was the original children’s pastor for Grace. What hasn’t changed is the vision to be a resource to parents in leading their children into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, the values of how that is accomplished and the importance of volunteers to do this. Even today, those pillars are intact. But since I led it, so many gifted leaders on our staff and volunteers have taken it farther than I could in my gifts and talents. I implemented the Halloween Alternative “NightLight.” We don’t do that anymore because overall it didn’t fit into our plans to reach the community. I started small groups for children. We don’t do that anymore we want to go in a different direction – and it works! Pastor Mike Moore has injected great creativity, interaction and infused young leadership into the ministry. If we stayed at the way I did it, we would not be where we are today. The great news about all those changes is that it all came in God ordained timing. We grew into the ministry we are today and it allows us bring a greater impact today. If we were doing Zone TV when we first started, we wouldn’t have the need, the resources or the right people to do it. Ministries will change because the people God gives us are changing. We must hear from God how we can continue to change our methods to reach the lost and grow the believer.
I have often joked that “I have done every ministry in the church, except the Women’s ministry. (And now that Kristin oversees that at GFC, I get grandfathered into that one.) If you are part of a growing, vibrant ministry, you will probably be doing something different than what you are doing today. Maybe it comes down to calling and gifting. One of my spiritual gifts is leadership. (Sounds like such a “lofty” gift – it is, but comes with a price tag.) Name a ministry and I have led it or worked on it at GFC. I have even served in our parking team one weekend. (I loved it – got to wave and give a smile to every car that came into church that weekend…and tell them where to go.) Your role will change. If it is ok for ministry to change, then you will have to move people into the place that is going to make them and that ministry most effective. A great example of that is Patricia Davis at GFC. She started as a Supervisor in the Preschool Department. With great people and process skills, Pat has served in many areas of our church. She even was our database champion at one time. Presently, she is overseeing our new endeavor to connect people at our weekend services, small groups and serving opportunities. She has brought some great ideas and energy to this area. Change means moving into the role that will maximize your gifts and talents and have the greatest impact on that ministry.
Finally, relationships will change. This is the tough one. I am a Type A, high D, driven person. (insert any evaluation description of a person who wants to lead, get things done, etc). Yet, I really have grown to love the people that God puts in my life. Change is the most painful to me when it affects relationships. I bet that is true for most people. With all the changes I have seen at Grace, I have allowed relationships that I value deeply to change. I have worked with so many tremendous people and when I move to a different role, I have given the mantle of leading them to someone else. Honestly – it stinks! I wish I could take them with me to my new department because by now, I would have the dream team of support staff. If I did that, I would be cheating them and Grace of all that God has for them. My biggest pain in change is “how does this affect me?” I am writing this with a big finger pointing at me. My assistant of fourteen years, Toni Ynes, is changing her role to work exclusively with Pastor Craig. (She has served both of us in that role for years.) Toni is the most amazing assistant I can imagine – she finds the perfect balance of getting my assignments done and challenging ideas to make them better. I am a better pastor and leader because of her input into my life and leadership. Beyond her tremendous work, she and her husband Kenny are a vital part of the Tampa Bonham family. When the decision was made to change her role, it makes sense. Our church will grow because of it. Growth comes from the stretching out of your established past into the unknown future.
Are you experiencing change? Let me give you a final thought…Embrace it and take it for all it is worth. Many times, we fight it, complain about it and find ways to keep things the same. Personally, I don’t want to go back to any of those things of the past. The highest of joys and the deepest of challenges cannot compare to the potential of what God can do before us. Learn and grow from the past…then take the first step in confidence with what God is doing today.