Tag Archives: church 2.0

Understanding why Web 2.0 works.

There were ten of us in the room.

I gave the other nine people pieces of paper. Each got one 12″ by 12″ piece of fancy paper, the kind that you see in scrapbooks. Each got several pieces of smaller plain yellow or slightly fancy blue paper, the kind that will stick to other paper.

I asked them to take one of the small pieces of paper and write a few words. I said, “In a few words, write what you think social media is.”

I waited. This is a group that has heard the phrase, most of them. It is also a group that doesn’t understand the phrase. They’ve never, most of them, really talked about it. That’s why I’m here.

Then I said, “Put that on your scrapbook page. Now, give me a few examples of social media.”

Then I said, “Answer this question: Have you ever created a web page?”

Each person had three small pieces of paper on a larger one.

I walked over to the head of the group. “Read your first note.”

He did.

I looked across the circle to the junior member of the group. “What do you think about his definition?”

“Great!”, she said.

“Write that on a little piece of paper and sign it.” She did. I carried it across the room and stuck it on the bottom of his definition.

I looked for a person who I knew understood social media. “What do you think of that definition?”, I said.

“I’d add this,” he said.

“Write it down,” I said. He did. I carried it back and attached it to the first two notes.

While he was writing, however, the junior staff member said, “Can I add to mine?”

“Write on another one,” I said. She did. I stuck it on the end of the list.

I looked at the person next to the guy who got it. “What do you think of his addition?” “It’s good,” she said. “Write it down.” She did.

Then I told them a story. It is a good story.

To help me explain the story, I handed them a color copy of a scrapbook page I had created. It looked sharp, bright, almost professional.

After the story, I picked up the color copy of a page I handed out.

“This is a traditional webpage. It looks great.” I picked up the page with sloppy list of notes stuck on it. “This looks awful compared to mine. But it is yours. You created it. You created the conversation. You can add to the conversation.”

I pointed to a picture on my page.

“If my friend wanted to look at this picture and tell me he likes it, there is no way for him to add to the page. He would just have to use a Sharpie on his computer screen. On the other hand, on your page, you could have a picture and someone could talk about it and someone else could and someone else could.”

A copy of a scrapbook page or a scrapbook page that can involve lots of people. Underneath the technology, creating a conversation makes sense.

The technology isn’t the why, it’s the how.

I think they got it, by the way.


My Monday

God bookMaybe it doesn’t matter, you seeing my schedule. But maybe it does. I’ll run through it and talk about some of the things I talk about.

  • I preached yesterday, something I do every few months. The topic, part of a series on God’s characteristics, was “God is loving.” I’ve been updating our church website and sermon podcast with links to the message. (I also DM’d the link to a friend).
  • A lady from our congregation died Friday night. I won’t be doing the funeral, but talked with the family and pastor about the bulletin and the service (What names should be listed? Do you list relationships for the sake of people who might not know everyone? I know that she was shy, but what about a picture of the dolls that she collected for the front of the bulletin? We’ll record it, don’t worry about that).
  • I’ve talked with a person who teaches at our church about a conference that’s coming up. It’s by video this year to save on travel costs. I want to have several people from our congregation attend to learn how to build relationships within groups more effectively.
  • I wrote a memo on how to refine one of learning tools. I used dark room to help me concentrate.
  • I’ve helped the funeral director move the casket into the building, talked with the person in charge of the funeral lunch tomorrow and met her son, moved some furniture and trophies.
  • I’ve talked with a couple of friends at a distance about why Paul (the apostle) was cranky and how to spell a word.
  • I looked up how much it would cost to send a package to Serbia.
  • I added StickyScreen to my browser at work as part of my focusing process.
  • I’ve used Jing to create a screen capture to put on our website where I also uploaded a video about the community carnival we do every year (and told our facebook fans about it).
  • A couple other things
  • four cups of coffee.

What is interesting to me is the mixture of communication tools and media I am using in the course of my day. I bring my social media conversations about audience into the conversation about what goes into a funeral bulletin. I bring Jing and Facebook into promotion for an intensely local carnival.

Some days my life confuses me and I think about how simple it used to be, back when I only had one conversation at a time. But the truth? I wouldn’t trade now for then. Because of you.

two years

Two years ago I was in Portland.  I was at our denomination’s biennial conference. It is safe to assume that I was one of two people on twitter. The session on how churches could use the Internet focused almost entirely on a broadcast approach, rather than an interactive approach. (Streaming sermons, having pretty websites, advertising). As a digital person, I felt very alone.

That’s not completely true.

I took many friends with me. There was a wonderful online birthday party for me. But I felt like I was on the edge.

Today feels very different. When I searched twitter for “general conference” and “missionary church”, I found some people who I have already started following…and then met in person. Several of us are talking to each other and people from our local communities in real time using facebook.

There are still some challenges.

At an event like this, where voting will happen, you need to identify a “conference bar”, the voting section. When that area was identified, it excluded almost every area close to outlets. When we voted, there was a loud “no” vote from the corner where the outlets are. Everyone chuckled. No one without a laptop understood.

At an event like this, where reports are offered, the only way to respond is by standing up and asking. Someone just joked about putting a report on facebook. It would, however, be very helpful to gather comments in real time using the technology that many of us, many of the people who could be the future of our organization, are using anyway.

Both of those are illustrated in this facebook comment, (said mostly joking):

“I’m wondering if ____ is FB-bitter seeing that the rammed through vote moments ago put him on the front row–apparently a place where he is uncomfortable being on his laptop–I type this from the 2nd row (I want my old seat back.) ____, is the ability to vote really worth losing your FB privileges?”

However, we have made progress in the last two year. And I am grateful.

Just like when we started – a social media reflection

new building GMC in 1917Grabill Missionary Church started more than one hundred years ago.

Here’s how it happened.

In 1898, a bunch of like-minded people were meeting in small groups in fifteen church buildings and school houses, all served by a couple brothers who were preachers, all within a circle about 12 miles across. Some of the places had preaching services, some of them had Sunday school.

Some of the people in these small gatherings came from other churches, responding to a new (for them) understanding of what the Bible taught. Others came from no church at all. There was great excitement about the new things God was doing, and some resistance from those who had learned the old way.

In 1900, the railroad decided to build a town and the spreadout groups started talking about a central location.  In November, 1901, a church building was dedicated. In January, 1902, the first train went by. In February, 1902, the first plat of the town was filed.

At the time, people from the congregation saw each other all the time. They lived within walking distance. They shopped from each other, traded goods, chatted while at the post office or hardware store. They lived local.

Much of the conversation was, I’m guessing, pretty mundane. People talked about weather and sick animals. They mentioned that they needed to get some work done. They mentioned coffee.

This mundane conversation was, however, the fabric of community. You can’t talk about deep spiritual concepts all the time. Sometimes you just talk. And in that chatter grows connection and in that connection can grow faith. Particularly when you watch what happens in a life across time, how a person handles crisis.

Community is formed in communication and communion, interaction and intimacy. The more of both, the deeper the relationships.

In churches, that kind of interaction doesn’t happen easily anymore, at least not for large parts of a congregation. The technology of the car has made it possible to travel further to church, to shop, to eat, to live. A community is less defined by geography.

Churches, at least wise ones, respond by creating additional times of interaction. We create small groups or Sunday school classes where people can share life together. Or that’s what we hope. And sometimes people are aware of what is happening in each other’s lives daily, and sometimes not.

And for a long time, no one has known any better. We’ve known that more communication and communion would be nice, that our sense of community was suffering, but we figured that we were like the rest of American culture, feeling the disconnection that comes from distances.

And then came a new set of communication tools. They are simple enough for almost anyone to use. They are cheap enough for almost anyone to afford (as cheap as a free library card if necessary). We call them social media. We could call them “small town streets”

Just like people were able to chat with each other while heading to the store or waiting at the mill or taking the milk to the creamery, people now can chat while sitting at home. And some of the conversations sound the same, about weather or work or coffee. Or the neighbor’s odd behavior at midnight every night.

At first, only one or two people in a congregation knew about these tools. The first person to talk about Twitter or Facebook or Myspace was viewed as peculiar. When it was explained that this was an Internet thing, all the stories about bad people lurking in chat rooms to injure children were mentioned.

A funny thing has happened, however. More people are becoming aware of these tools. Parents and then grandparents discover new ways to see pictures of the trips that their children or grandchildren are taking. And then conversations like this happen as a small group from a church gets together.

A: “How was that phone call this afternoon?”

B: “It was great. He’s doing well.”

A. had heard about the phone call from looking at B’s facebook status.

To look at social media as a new evangelism tool, just like broadcasting was viewed, misses one of the core values of social media: transparent interaction. Rather than thinking of social media (facebook, twitter, myspace, youtube, blogs, flickr) as a new broadcasting tool, churches are probably wisest to think of it as a way to live life together away from Sunday morning, to live in the community as a community, like churches that make a difference usually do.

There are some cautionary notes, however.

  • We can’t fall into believing that this way is the best way, that people not on Facebook are somehow missing out. In fact, congregations using social media have to be more aware than ever of the need to be redundant, to provide key information in as many forms as possible, to foster communication and communion wherever possible.
  • We have to remember that what is online is a search away. I have chuckled sadly at the times I have read online comments about how to reach people on the Internet, how to convert “lost people.” There has been a complete lack of understanding that those “lost people” can read what is being said about them.
  • Social media is a place where the new is addictive. I spend time bouncing from platform to platform wondering if there is something new, if someone said something that I need to respond to. This fear of missing out (FOMO) is an addiction of sorts. Of course, people probably spent too much time chatting in front of Grabill Hardware, too. But no one ever thought the answer was to tear the porch off.

Technology is not relationship. Jesus did not talk about technologies, he talked about people. However, it the technology allows more frequent interaction, even about the details of life, then maybe we can build the same kind of community that happened in the early days of our congregation.


For more on online/offline as a difference on tools rather than a difference between real life/fake life, see Liz Strauss’s wonderful post Online Culture: is your definition out of date?.

For history on Grabill, Indiana see Grabill.net.

Grabill Missionary Church is on facebook at www.facebook.com/grabillmissionary.

emilio and the box pews

Emilio stared at the pews.. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen pews before. He saw them every Sunday morning. And Monday morning. And most other mornings.

Emilio was an associate pastor. Pews were his business. But these were different. They were box pews, benches with sides, benches with doors.

He was visiting this church for a concert. It always intrigued him to see how other churches did things, how they were built, how they sounded. He always looked at the print materials, looked for clues about how they did what they did. It gave him the opportunity to think about church.

This evening, staring at the box pews, was no different. He knew that these neat, civilized, regular cubicles weren’t how they had started. After the reformation, in the British Isles in particular, people brought in seating, they built boxes, treating them as little personal spaces in the public space of church. It was a way to have privacy, to maintain family space. It didn’t hurt that they blocked out the breezes that blew through the cold buildings. But it didn’t help to break down barriers.

As he stared at them, Emilio pictured the cubicles in his own church, and in many other churches. This time they weren’t around families. They were around generations, around interest groups, around social strata. There were groups that went into their cubicles every Sunday, with walls around them.

Sometimes that was fine. Sometimes it wasn’t.

But the challenge it posed for Emilio tonight was huge. He kept hearing about the importance of communication. He kept hearing people talk about wanting to know what was happening at the church, what great things were going on. He kept hearing people talk about the importance of vision, of knowing what is going on.

His project was to give everyone access to the information they needed to grow, in formats and frequency that helped them feel like they belonged to the community, to the tribe.

And he knew that they were trying. There were weekly bulletins, biweekly mailers, web updates, a facebook group, Sunday school class email prayer chains. There were displays in the hallways, announcements in the services, notes on clipboards in classrooms. There was a limited circulation enewsletter. There were hundreds of pieces of information. And there were people who said they never heard what was going on who, when questioned, acknowledged that they didn’t read the newsletter.

Emilio, self-styled “social media pastor“, knew that there were tremendous opportunities for conversation using new technologies. But he was also aware that a significant number of people in the congregation didn’t want to be part of those technologies. The ages of the congregation spanned a century. The income likely spanned 6 figures. The education ranged nearly as far.

He knew the social media options. He used them. But it wasn’t a social media congregation. It was a people congregation. And his responsibility was not to social media. It was to the people and to God.

As Emilio stared at the box pews, he knew that although the people sat in chairs and pews, they might as well be in cubicles…or silos.

One core message, a hundred applications, a thousand different mailboxes.

What could he do?

8 ways to use social media in church

Chris Brogan is helping people figure out how to apply social media tools in particular contexts. I offered to do the church application. Of course, because Chris has been helping me explore the possibilities for the past couple years, he has been mentoring this post.

I’ll start with a couple of principles which I try to remember.

Church buildings are tools. So are social media.

When people think about church, they think location. They go to a building. But the building is a convenience, a place to gather and stay warm and dry. Although we want buildings that are useful, if we get stuck on making them too cool, too amazing, too vast, we use up resources that could go elsewhere. Not just money, but time and attention and energy. When we think about social media, we often get captured by the coolness.

I do. As a result for example, I have a pownce account that I never check, which has left one person thinking I left the internet. When I am at my best, however, I am looking at social media as a set of tools to be used for a variety of specific purposes…and I will choose carefully based on what I want to accomplish.

Church is by definition about community and relationships. So are social media.

If you take what Jesus said about what we know as church with some seriousness, it is a set of vertical and horizontal relationships. It is about the people. And so it is with social media. How are we building relationships? How are we developing connections and using the connections to help people grow?

The curtain is pretty transparent

For some reason, people who are exploring social media for proselytizing seem to think that no one will know what they are trying to do. For example, if you are creating strategies for saving people and you publish those strategies online, the “lost people” who are the “target” of the “assimilation strategies” can read them. And will understand that the appearance of authenticity is just a strategy. Maybe of the borg.

I understand this struggle. It is the struggle of every brand that is trying to create a social media strategy. However, at some level, church isn’t a brand. My solution is to just live and talk and explore as if my Invisible Friend is real. Just like Big Bird did.

What I’ve done:

1. Share work trips with flickr and audio blogging. I was part of a team that went to Gulfport as part of Katrina reconstruction. While we were there, we put pictures on flickr, we audioblogged with hipcast, and just blogged. People back home were able to look and listen and read. Even people who didn’t know what the technology was could follow the links that we emailed around and also put on the church website.

2. Share corporate gatherings with ustream. A year ago we started turning on a video camera and streaming our services. These weren’t services produced for broadcast, with great camera work, stellar audio, and TV timeouts. Quite the opposite. The service existed and we let people at home watch it through an unobtrusive camera. For the first couple months, we just used the mic on the camera. We just took what was happening inside outside. And people watched. A guy whose wife couldn’t get out because of early Alzheimer’s disease. People who are living on the other side of the world. And one day, people who couldn’t safely travel because of the ice. (Though I haven’t tried it, I’m guessing that you could use blog.tv and chat back)

3. Share your heart with blogging. I’ve been writing here for a couple years. My friend Rick sometimes tells people what he will be preaching about to get ideas and suggestions. The key, however, is to wrestle.

4. Share community development with a corporate blog. During Lent this year I was part of creating a small group. 7 people wrote once a week each about a lent-related theme. They talked with each other. They talked with commenters. They ended up having as much interaction as a face-to-face small group might have during its first 6 weeks of meeting. They want to keep going.

5. Share your life with twitter. I can’t ever figure out how to describe twitter. Even calling it microblogging doesn’t help. So I just send people here. Especially when I am traveling. And then they discover that they can find out what I’m doing and where I am. And then they understand.

6. Share your heart with youtube. I’ve created a number of pieces of video to use in services and other places. Some are citizen journalism, showing what people connected to church are doing in the community. Some are thought pieces. (Bonus: that video used audio that was captured by on a digital voicemail service. People could call in, leave a message, and then I was able to edit it in.) Some are, well, odd. But all of them are quickly produced and connect to particular people. The secret is to remember that an apology or a birthday greeting with only one intended audience member can be absolutely huge in impact.

7. Share attention with a note. Yep. You can actually handwrite a note to someone. Of course, if you take a picture with your cameraphone, order a print through walgreens or snapfish or other photo sites, and then glue it to cardstock before you write the note, you can personalize a moment or an event in a way that merges multiple media for maximum impact.

8.  Be human. Are people at facebook? Friend them. Building networks at Linkedin? Connect. Writing a book on conversation? Sign up. Raising money to fight cancer? Join in.

Chris has had a ton of other ideas I haven’t done. One of the best? Have kids interview old people on camera and produce videos together.

Oh, one other thing. I know people that I didn’t know a year ago because of all of these things above. I have cried and laughed with, prayed for, talked to, understood, taught, been taught by these people. There are real people behind these words and screens and cameras. Out here, outside the church building.

just wondering

What’s the question that “Good Friday” answers?

I’m thinking about Good Friday services and thinking, a little, about what it would look like to have one here.  The first question that I thought about asking was, “What do you want from a Good Friday service?

The more I thought about it, however, I realized that my opening question matters more. The latter one, about what we want from a service is about us, from an experiential perspective. That’s fine, of course. We are created to have experiences. But I’m curious about the larger conversation. What, in descriptive terms, is the question that Good Friday is a turn in, that this death answers?

Of course, the follow-on question is, “What question do you wish it answered?”

I’m curious about your answers. They will help me think about having a virtual Good Friday service, an exploration of some aspects of that day.

You can leave comments here or you can email me at jnswanson at gmail dot com.

This is a journey into the trees. I’m not sure where the path goes. But I’m interested in your thoughts.

Interruption or invitation?: Social media and congregational worship

I’m considering submitting an abstract for a research paper to a conference on the influence of technology in worship (for more, look here). As I was working on the abstract and waiting to find out whether the due date on the website (January 15) or in a letter (February 15) is accurate, I realized that I need to invite your interaction before submitting this proposal.

You see, I’m thinking about thinking about social media and worship, both of which are intended to be interactive. And I realized an hour ago, that I better ask you all whether this makes sense from a  social media perspective before I commit to writing a paper about it.  So here’s my abstract as it stands now. Is this a set of research and reflection that you would like to reflect more about?


Interruption or invitation?: Social media and congregational worshipSending text messages during a corporate worship service seems irreverent. But what if the texter is actually sending 140 character summaries of the service to 500 people who follow his twitter feed, many of whom have no other connection to worship? For many church leaders, that question is nonsensical; what is a twitter feed?

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argued that the nature of television raised significant challenges for those seeking to use it for religious purposes. Religion was about mystery, television was about entertainment, and the better religious programming was as television, the worse it was at religion.

A new generation of communication technologies have emerged with a new set of values.  With very simple technology requirements and no cost to the producer, these tools are allowing individuals to produce content with greater ease. Working with values of community, interactivity, authenticity and immediacy, these Web 2.0 tools are disrupting thinking about news, entertainment, marketing, and community.

They also have tremendous potential in corporate worship settings:

  • With ustream.tv and other video streaming tools, it is possible to broadcast directly to the internet, and to record the broadcast. As a result, any church with a highspeed internet feed can allow parishioners to watch the service from anywhere in the world.
  • With twitter and other microblogging tools, people report on their current activities in 140 character messages. Some tweeters are reporting on the services they are attending.
  • With flickr and other photosharing tools and youtube and other videosharing tools, individuals can share pictures quickly with their faith community, pictures which can be incorporated into the congregational gatherings very simply.

As helpful as these technologies are, however, there are significant questions for study:

  • How distracting does using the technology become for those sitting around? For example, are non-tech people distracted by the sermon-tweeter?
  • Do people move beyond information into worship? Are you watching ustream for the participation in worshiping or the information gained?
  • Is a broader worship community developed or are we still in a period of novelty?
  • Do we need to figure out even better ways for the people “out there” (not in the physical space) to interact with the people in the physical space?
  • How can we most effectively move these technologies toward being just ways to communicate, rather than being distractions or objects of attention?

As these technologies become part of the lives of people in congregations, it is helpful to explain them, to consider the implications for community and faith, and to help congregations use them most effectively to extend invitations to those who live in the contemporary communicative context.


So what do you think? What can you suggest as additional research questions? Can you help me shape this abstract?

Better together

I spent Advent blogging in two places, here and over at advent2007.wordpress.com. Over there I was creating a blogged advent calendar. It was an interesting adventure in daily blogging.

At the end of that time I reserved lent2008.wordpress.com. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I figured that it would be a good project.

Then one morning, I realized that I needed to make it a group project. As a result, there are 8 contributors who are signed on to write for the Lenten season. Although Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, February 6, the first of the posts is up today.

As people responded to the invitation, their hearts were pretty open:

I am interested. Willing. And scared. But fear is fleeting. And obedience … obedience is better than sacrifice. You obeyed the calling to do this in community, so I’ll answer the call too.

Well, it sure beats coming up with stuff for my own site, I’m in.
Thank you for hearing this call and for being so brave as to invite me

This is a little scary to me, but I would like to ask the Lord to teach me through this opportunity and to share His answer to that prayer with others–count me in.

I am honored and humbled to be included in this holy mess. I was going
to give up writing for lent. Thanks for screwing that up Jon! But,
hey, if God says “Kill and Eat!” who am I to say it’s unclean?
I pray, and beg, and fully expect that we will draw things out of one
another we didn’t recognize in ourselves. And as we stumble around,
expectantly looking for the right words, that we may encounter The
Word, find Our Way, and discover Truth and Life.

May we be broken to be given.

What has been happening already in the email conversation is that these writers are already helping each other rethink the traditional “giving up” approach to Lent. There is a shift happening from giving up to offering up, from giving up to acting. It is a wonderful thing to watch.

We’ll be posting a couple times a week between now and Ash Wednesday. At that point, we’ll start writing daily. We aren’t sure where were going, but wherever it is, we’ll get there together.


Thanks to Rob Hatch, Thomas Knoll, Anna Lenardson, Laurie Nichols, Connie Reece, Tom Swank, and Amy Van Huisen, spread from Maine to Texas to Minnesota, for being willing to live out here.

Subscribe to Lent

What I learned from – waiting backstage.

Just to the left of this picture is the stage of the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, a classic old theatre with a huge pipe organ, a wood stage, great acoustics, and a sense of history.

Out on that stage, every action is visible to 2,000 people. Every word, every mistake, every gesture is evident. You are literally in the spotlight.

This picture is what it looks like backstage. Dim lights, whispered conversations, people dressed in black to be obscure while making things happen. It is the place where you stiffen your spine before walking out to create a persona. It is the place to be real before putting on your best behavior and stepping out into the performance.

One of the things that we are trying to do as we live out Web 2.0, Life 2.0, Community 2.0, Church 2.0 is to make the disjunction between onstage and backstage less glaring, to reduce the gap between being real and performing. We’re trying to live in dialog rather than monologue, to have a measure of authenticity. Sometimes it means that blogs get pretty self-indulgent and tweets are, well, gross (or at least pointless). However, much of life is self-indulgent and seemingly pointless, so perhaps that is the point.

My own version of this living out is to give a picture of what it means when you are confident that a real God really interacts with real people…and you want to resist the temptation to ritualize those interactions in a way that traps us into thinking more about the routine than the Person. I mean, I really have real interactions with Nancy. You can believe she exists or not believe, but I do really walk with her almost every night and hold her hand occasionally and argue speak with intensity and love her. I don’t want you to start reenacting those walks; I just want you to meet her sometime. And I want you to understand that while I am not perfect, I am in love with her. And with God.

So that’s why I think out loud here. So I can wrestle through relationship and invite you to watch. And that’s why, sometime in the middle of August, I learned how complicated that kind of living out online can get.

I got a call inviting me to talk about a new job at a new church.

(Just so you know, I don’t look at what I do as a job. It’s more like a life, like a calling, like a relationship, like an addiction when I don’t watch it. It’s just easier to call it a job here.)

At the first conversation, I discovered that it wasn’t the job that I had thought it was (mostly administration). Instead, it was mostly what we are calling spiritual formation, a process of helping shape people so they more and more resemble Jesus. That’s what I’ve become more about, and so I stayed in a series of conversations which resulted in a job offer and acceptance on November 2.

Here was the challenge: I couldn’t write about any of it here.

That’s the kind of process I’d love to talk about. How do you know that God is saying something? How do you know whether to leave where you are? How do you decide that it isn’t a career move but a calling? How do you decide to leave the people you have loved for 11 years (more than 7 on staff)? How do you know?

I mean, those are the questions that everyone faces, whether a Christ follower or not. And the question I face is, do I wrestle with those any differently than anyone else?

However, my face-to-face community and my online community are pretty well blurred together. Some of you I have never met. Some of you I see every week (at least). So I can’t say, “Because I see you regularly, Anna and Dennis and Laurie and Randy and Amy, please ignore this little conversation about what interviewing is like.” You understand?

So now that this change has been announced (this morning) at the church where we have been, I can talk about some of the things I learned over the past months.

1. My wife is my best friend and the one who I most need to talk with. Nancy and I have walked more and talked more in the past year than in the previous 23 years. Combined. If I talk through this stuff with others and not with her, it’s silly. At best.

2. When I ask other people to pray for me, I am often doing that instead of talking with God myself. So because I couldn’t write here, because I couldn’t ask my usual circle of pray-ers, I had to actually just talk with God. And that was and is a healthy thing. After all, don’t you hate it when people talk about you as if you weren’t sitting in the room? I realized that I regularly treat God that way.

3. My online friends really are. Friends I mean. I have written a couple of “off-line” posts, emails to a small circle of online friends. I had to stay in touch and let them know why my writing just felt flat sometimes. And their encouragement and spiritual direction has been invaluable.

4. Sometimes I actually have to make decisions. I am an option-generator. That’s what I do best. I’ll give you six ways, sixteen alternatives, sixty ideas. But one night, sitting in this very chair, with just Nancy and I and God, I had to say, “This is the direction that I’m thinking. If it isn’t right, You need to kill me.” And I knew He wouldn’t, but I wanted to be clear to myself and to Nancy and to God.

5. The right decision is both delightful and painful. And that’s how it is. We love the people we have known. After 13 years in our current church (off and on), with the last 7 of them as a pastor, we have been folded into several lives. The part of that folding that is “pastor” will change somewhat. And that will hurt.

However, we are excited about the new people and the tremendous opportunities and responsibilities that will be ours.

6. Although some things have to happen backstage, I want to make the distinction disappear as much as possible. For this time I needed to be quiet. There was the very real possibility of not changing jobs. I didn’t want to have people unnecessarily disturbed. My explorations of possibilities can have real implications in the lives of other people. However, I need face-to-face AND online, I need inside and outside of my head. I need to be able to live with all these parts of my life integrated.

Thanks for reading this far. And thanks to Robert Hruzek for challenging us to think about what we have learned. I knew that I was learning something significant; his group writing project pushed me to figure out what. So this is part of the What I Learned From series.


Oh. You want to know where I’m going? I could be difficult, even more than I have been by waiting until this point in this long post. In January I will become the executive pastor of Grabill Missionary Church. Grabill is near Fort Wayne, about the same travel time from our house as First Missionary Church (Fort Wayne) has been. As a result, we won’t move and Hope will be able to graduate in 2009 with her friends and Andrew will still have a house to live in while going to college.