Performance Feedback

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by Dan Amos

There are few things in life I dislike more than watermelon, chalkboard screeching, and performance feedback. I can decline the watermelon, and whiteboards have pretty much replaced chalkboards, but they keep making new ways to do feedback. At work, it’s a semiannual recurrence, whether I want it or not.

But, there’s a reason for it. Without feedback, we tend to not improve. While I’m pretty sure I have a good grasp on my world, I’m continually shown that there are other perspectives on things and lots of stuff to which I am just totally oblivious.

As a body, we at Elim are committed to making disciples—passionate followers of Jesus who seek to know God, grow together in Christ, and go and serve South Hill and beyond. We have a staff, a building, a budget, and people—so how are we doing? We can ask ourselves or a few and see part of the picture. But to really know, we need to get feedback from as many as possible.

Feedback isn’t just a general question about how you are doing personally, or how we are doing as a body. It’s more specific, and a team has put together some questions designed to make each of us think and give useful feedback. The answers to these questions will help assess our progress in the following:

  • Worshipping our Father
  • Maturing in our faith
  • Connecting as disciples in community
  • Reaching out to our unsaved neighbors and friends

Community groups and Bible studies are being asked to work through questions on these four areas. Regular attenders who are not currently in one of these groups will be asked to meet with a small group of others to give feedback. Someone will take notes, and all the notes will be collected and reviewed and studied for themes and things to work on. The idea is to keep moving forward as disciples. Complacency is not an option.

On another note, Tom Chase just finished six years as an elder and is taking his constitutionally-required break from that service. For the last few years he has been the vice-chairman of the board, and last year he led us as the chairman. He served sacrificially and with passion. He did not seek the position, but he humbly accepted it, to our great benefit. Thank you, Tom; and thank you, Corrie, for enabling him to serve so well!

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Resourcing Community Groups and Group Leaders at Elim

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By Larry Short

This is the third in a series of seven posts on guiding principles for community groups at Elim. To read all seven principles together, please click here.

It probably sounds way “obvious” to make the following observation: those programs that a church (like ours) places a high value upon are those things that church spends its greatest time and energy focusing its resources on.

If you think about it, this becomes quite clear. At Elim, we rightly place a very high priority on what happens in our Sunday morning service—worship, preaching, fellowship, etc.

Can you imagine us saying, “Hey, it’s pretty darned expensive and time-consuming to have professional pastors spend all that time preparing and delivering sermons. So let’s just go without, okay?”

And how about children’s and youth ministry? Elim (obviously) places a high value on the next generation, and rightly so. As a result, we focus a lot of resources and efforts raising up leaders who will help train and care for our children and youth.

Missions? We have a long tradition of faithful support of various critical missions programs. We send out short-term missionaries and have even raised up and helped resource professional missionaries from within our own congregation.

As I’ve thought about community groups here at Elim in light of this reality, I have experienced some conviction that I believe is from the Holy Spirit. In the first part of this seven-part series, I spoke of the value that community groups have in discipling people in this church. In the second post, we discussed how it is God Himself who raises up group leaders and who works in the midst of these small groups of believers.

If all this is true, then we should therefore be placing great emphasis on how we resource group leaders and their groups—how we recruit leaders, equip them, and encourage them in the task. This reality forms the commitment behind our third principle for community groups at Elim:

We will prayerfully consider what recruiting, equipping, and encouraging group leaders should look like. But here are some early principles we will seek to live by:

  • “Three Hands” and leadership pathway principles must play a key role in raising up and training new leaders. Group leaders are encouraged to pray about and seek to identify a potential leader or leaders they could mentor. If you would like to become a leader, your first step should be to get connected to an existing group and mentor under its leader.
  • All group leaders should also themselves have identified mentors who can encourage and help equip them. The Community Ministry intends to help connect leaders to mentors.
  • Group leaders also need Barnabases in their lives—other leaders they meet with for encouragement and prayer. This can’t be accomplished without spending time together, which the Community Ministry intends to facilitate. Part of that process will be group leaders sharing their stories, successes, challenges, best practices, and dreams with one another.

If you are unfamiliar with the “Three Hands” model, it basically says that all serious disciples of Jesus need a hand up (to someone who is mentoring them), a hand down (to someone they are mentoring), and a hand across (to co-laborers who can encourage them in the task). You may have also heard this stated as the “Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas” model. The Apostle Paul was a mentor to Timothy and a co-laborer with Barnabas in the task for which God commissioned him.

(Pastor Brian Sharpe has developed a cool “Three Hands” booklet which explains this well, so touch base with him if you’d like to know more.)

Please be praying for our first Community Group leaders’ meeting of 2017, taking place Sunday afternoon, May 7 at our home after worship. If you are a group leader or trainee, a leader mentor, coleader (or other “Barnabas”), you are invited! Hopefully you have already received details by email. (Leaders of men’s and women’s groups here at Elim are also encouraged to attend.)

If you have any questions, please drop me an email. Thank you!

Next in this series: In the most effective community groups, people “live life in proximity.”

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Community Groups at Elim: God Is in Charge

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By Larry Short

This is the second in a series of seven posts on guiding principles for Community Groups at Elim. To read all seven principles together, please click here.

In 2002, our son had already graduated from high school, and our daughter was drawing near to her graduation date. Both had been quite involved in Elim’s youth ministry, but as they graduated they drifted away from Elim. We realized that there really wasn’t anything designed to keep them, and other young adults like them, engaged in the life and ministry of this church.

One day Darlene said to me, “I think God wants us to do something about this.” But I really couldn’t imagine how we could help. We didn’t have any training in college-/career-aged ministry, and college/career groups in local churches were notoriously difficult to sustain.

“What could we possibly do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she responded, “but we should pray.”

I was skeptical . . . but, pray we did. And, as we prayed, we began to get a sense that God was indeed calling us to step out and take a risk and try to start something that could create community for this very important life/stage group in our church. I’m thankful that the staff at Elim supported us as we sought to respond to God’s leading.

We called that first effort “YAM,” which was a truly terrible acronym for “Young Adults Ministry.” A number of years later, as the group began to grow and flourish, its members took matters into their own hands and renamed their group “Pulse.” (Which I think was a definite improvement!)

Those first five years of ministry, there were many times we asked: “Is God really in this? If so, why is this so hard? Why aren’t we seeing more young adults join this group?” We often had just a small handful of faithful young adults at our gatherings. Darlene and I remember a Bible study where just one young man, Kennith, showed up, despite being exhausted after work. We decided to press ahead with just the three of us. Then, during the Bible study, Kennith fell asleep! After that meeting, we once again looked at one another and asked ourselves, “Is God really in this?”

And we continued to pray. Despite the seeming lack of success, we still had a conviction that God wanted us to continue. So, after about five years of this, and after a lot of experimentation, the group began to take off and soon hit some sort of “critical mass.” Young people brought their friends, and close bonds were formed. Many of them got married (we’ve counted about 18 Pulse weddings thus far!) and began serving in ministry at Elim.

Over the years the group has waxed and waned, and changed a lot in many ways; but we are grateful to discover this one very important principle, which we believe directly relates to all sorts of community groups at Elim:

God is the One who raises up groups, and He does so by speaking into the lives of leaders and laying a vision on their heart for the group. Every group is different, and the group leader(s) are responsible to manage the group in accordance with God’s leading. Hence, it is unlikely any two groups will be the same, and our goal (as leaders at Elim) should be to encourage, exhort, and grant a great deal of freedom to group leaders to lead in a manner in which they feel called. We will therefore resist any cookie-cutter approach to creating groups at Elim.

In my last post (part one of seven), we discussed how vitally important groups are to the life of the church, because small groups are one of the most effective places people can grow in their relationship with Christ and one another. But the truth is, we are all different, and this doesn’t happen the same way for every person.

Some of us find it easier to grow when we meet with people who are a lot like us, in terms of life stage or circumstance. Others like to hear from a wide variety of people at different places in life. Some of us do well in larger groups, and some of us get our batteries recharged when we are talking life with just a few close friends. Some of us have better emotional energy and more time in the evenings or weekends, and some of us prefer meeting together first thing in the morning, when we are fresh. Some of us really want to dig into verse-by-verse Bible study, and others need fellowship and just sharing life together. Some of us love dark chocolate, and others prefer vanilla. We are all different!

The truth is, God knows us and what we need. After all, He created us! He cares more about us than anyone else ever could. Thus we need to trust Him as we seek to find a group of people to walk in community with.

As staff and elders at Elim, our goal is to encourage and give freedom so that God can work in our midst and raise up the kinds of groups we may not yet know we need in order to meet the needs of the people He wants to bring us. If you are aching for community, let’s talk! If there’s a special kind of group you wish existed, let us know, and we will pray with you and ask God to raise up a group that would fit the vision He is giving you.

We all need community in order to grow in Christ. So let’s throw off every encumbrance and go for it!

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Political Leaders: Is This the Best We Can Do?

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By Martin Schlomer

I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching and repenting over the past few months. I find this political season very disturbing. We have one candidate who wants to give everything away and call no one to take responsibility for their own destiny, which will only push our national debt well beyond the current 19 trillion dollars, further bankrupting our nation. Another candidate may be indicted by the FBI, while another appears to be a reckless megalomaniac lacking any sense of decency. As Max Lucado writes,

He ridiculed a war hero. He made a mockery of a reporter’s menstrual cycle. He made fun of a disabled reporter …. He routinely calls people “stupid” and “dummy.” One writer catalogued 64 occasions that he called someone “loser.” These were not off-line, backstage, overheard, not-to-be-repeated comments. They were publicly and intentionally tweeted, recorded, and presented.

Where are those who aspire to be the leader of the free world who have a sound, moral core, practice wise judgment, respect the value of all people (including the unborn, the elderly, and the invalid), are passionate about moral and economic justice, refuse to be bought by special interest groups, and tremble at the account to which they will be called when they meet their maker?

So, when I look at the slate of viable candidates, I ask, “Is this the best we can do?” How should those who feel as I do respond? Most certainly, we should pray! In addition, I’ve also considered not voting for the first time in 38 years. I read the following article from Christianity Today entitled “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?” This article has influenced my perspective. Russell Moore asks the central question many of us are asking:

What happens in a race where Christians are faced with two morally problematic choices? Should voters cast a ballot for the lesser of two evils? This unpredictable election cycle could go in any number of directions, and I keep getting asked this question.

I offer it here for your consideration as well. Please read this article and reflect upon it.

May God give us His wisdom as we engage this important issue and embrace this privilege.

Martin

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What Matters Most to This Pastor?

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By Martin Schlomer

The year 2014 has been a year of many blessings as well as spiritual growth! God’s faithfulness and grace is evidenced in the lives of many who have been baptized and in those who continue to grow in following Christ.

As I look back on 2014 and write this report, I ask myself, “What matters most?” I could talk about the blessings of increased attendance, new people coming, near-record giving, strategic efforts to develop disciples (efforts which need a lot more work), missions trips, building projects we’ve accomplished, or challenges we’ve faced where God has grown us. All of these metrics—and many others not mentioned—matter a lot! However, in this season of my life and ministry, they are not what matter most to me.

What matters most to me? Elim being an oasis for renewal (life-changing redemption) with God and one another so that people become passionate followers of Jesus who live out the compelling realities of the Kingdom of God in the midst of our increasingly lost, hopeless, and hostile culture! Are there metrics from this last year I can write about that would indicate this is taking place? I suppose what I mentioned are some worthy indicators. However, while they measure things that can be seen, they don’t necessarily reveal the passions of the heart.

Passions of the heart that would indicate whether or not what matters most to me is happening are discovered through story. For instance, in the community group Kim and I lead, we are listening to life stories for the first few months. As I listen to these stories, I hear a common theme of how God is using Elim to redeem these people through the grace and love from this community, the preaching and study of the Word, and prayer. “Elim has been an Oasis for me,” is a common statement. As I look back over this past year, this is what matters most to me. As I look forward to 2015, this is what matters most to this pastor!

What challenges do I face when pursuing what matters most in 2015? I need to make sure that what matters most continues to be what matters most. My heart can be fickle and easily distracted by good but lesser things. I believe that if I focus on what matters most, the good but lesser things will follow. For those planners among us, I realize there needs to be strategic planning. However, I’m also realizing I need others who will take that on so I can focus on what matters most.

As I focus on what matters most, I need to transmit this focus and passion throughout the fabric of Elim’s core leadership. I want to do my best to make sure they “catch this virus.” This is essential because those they lead need to catch this virus also. If the leaders don’t have it, the followers won’t catch it. This means I also need to work with others to develop a leadership pipeline that will infect leaders with the virus of what matters most.

As I focus on what matters most, I need to transmit this focus and passion throughout the fabric of the congregation through preaching and leadership. I desperately want every attender to choose to become a passionate follower of Jesus! I pray that God will do whatever it takes to make this happen in your life, because following Jesus is what is most important in all of life. This calls me to greater levels of boldness and clarity as we enter this new year.

There you have it! This is what matters most to your pastor. I hope you will join me in this pursuit.

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Be a Worship Leader

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By Nate Champneys

There are a lot of “Christianese” words that get thrown around within the Church. Some of these words are very frustrating because the true meanings and the normal definitions of these words are two different things or are, at minimum, incomplete. Take the word “worship” for example. We use this word a lot in the context of group singing during our services, and so the word “worship” has almost become synonymous with “corporate singing.” We know, however, that worship is a blanket term referring to “declaring worth” of something or someone, and we use it in the context of declaring worth to God. We also know that this is more than singing on a Sunday morning; it includes every aspect of our lives.

A word that has become commonplace in our church culture is the term, “Worship Leader.” We generally use this term to refer to the person on stage on Sunday morning who is in charge. The longer I have been a staff worship leader though, the more this term makes me uneasy. I lead week after week after week, but I have come to realize that I don’t have nearly as much power to lead people as someone sitting in the front row of the seats (or the back row for that matter). What I mean is that I think people are more influenced by other people in the congregation than they are by the people on the platform. This has led me to ask the question, “Who is actually leading?” Many Sundays I’ve watched from the platform as we as the “leaders” are very expressive in our praise while people in the seats are not. I have also watched a single person in the congregation who stands and raises their hands be the first of a wave moving through the congregation.

I have come to realize that everyone is a leader and a follower at the same time. As human beings it is our nature to look around at what everyone else is doing and follow suit, while at the same time everyone is looking at you as well. I once was leading morning worship (there’s that term again), and watched a woman who was new to the congregation sitting a few rows back with her eyes closed, and her hands raised. Throughout the whole song set, she was very expressive. This was in a church that was from the Dutch Reformed background and was typically not very “open” in expression of worship. This Sunday, however, was different. I watched as many people through the service seemed to become more expressive. I went up to her afterword and said, “Thank you for leading worship this morning.” I told her that I knew she hadn’t been doing it for a thank you, but for the praise and glory of God. Yet when people in the congregation express praise to God, it is contagious.

What you do affects others. Period. I want to give you a charge: be a worship leader. You don’t have to be up on the platform to lead people. Do you want to bring God glory? Do you want to point people to Him? It’s really simple. Recognize that people are following you. I’m not talking about putting on a show for others. I am talking about authentic worship with the understanding that people are going to follow you either way. Are you going to lead them closer to Jesus, or farther away?

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