Sitting in my new office, boxes stacked unpacked in corners, just a few papers lain carelessly on the then-empty desk at the Iowa Conference UCC office in January 2009, I could not check email or voicemail with any proficiency. But, even then I started getting a slow, but steady stream of messages asking advice about what curriculum or resource to use for this or that church event or program. I “answered” by asking another question, “What do you hope to accomplish?”
I know it wasn’t a satisfying answer. People on the other end of the phone or email exchange get a little flustered and don’t readily have an answer. The reality is that this earnest volunteer youth leader or very part-time Christian education director wanted to make sure young people had a fun time at that weekend’s lock-in or learned a little about the Bible at Sunday school. They didn’t want, in that moment at least, to think strategically and intentionally about their program as a whole. I’m sure some of those early callers asked themselves, “Just what IS she doing in Des Moines then?”
Now, I still ask that question often to the people who call or email. But, four years later, I also give a suggestion of a resource or piece of curriculum that I like. The reality is that the caller or emailer can’t get to that thoughtful question until the more immediate need for programming is met. It’s kind of like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for faith formation leaders. (Among the physiological needs would be chocolate, good, free curriculum and quiet time. In that order.)
Maybe I’m feeling a little reflective this week because I’m celebrating my fourth anniversary as an associate conference minister in the Iowa Conference United Church of Christ. But, I also feel strongly that good leaders (and I aspire to be one) should be open about what they’ve learned and how their ministry has adapted to the realities they face every day.
Four years into this delightful work, I now fully embrace (and even enjoy) my role as a curator of resources. You can see lots of evidence of this in my Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest posts. I spend a lot of time looking through email listservs, reading blogs and investigating training programs I can pass along to the great local church leaders I resources and help train.
So, if you learn nothing else from me, remember to embrace your wrongness! It’s healthy in the most counter cultural of ways. How often do we hear people publicly admit they are wrong? More importantly, it’s the only way we learn and grow into the leaders God is calling us to be.