Tag Archives: Emotional Health

Creating Room For God To Lead

Over the last several weeks, a number of church members have noticed how full our calendar has been getting. They’ve been saying, “We’ve got enough on our plate already! Be mindful of how much you’re asking of the membership.” We’ve heard your voices and you’re right!

In a blog post a few weeks ago, I mentioned that traditional structures of family support are often in short supply and said that we needed to find new ways to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of families and individuals who are “often over-scheduled, over-stressed, and over-extended.”

In lives that are already full, the church shouldn’t be the one to pile on. Activity should never be confused with progress, or programming with organizational health. In fact, more activities and programming often prohibit churches from focusing effectively on core principles and objectives. Over-programming can actually inhibit progress and be unhealthy for churches and communities.

overwhelmed

If we want people to create margin in their schedules, we have to be willing to create margin in ours. And if we want to create spiritually supportive communities, we have to identify the best times and spaces for that kind of community to take root and then give those spaces priority on our calendars.

In a recent Atlantic article titled, “America’s Workers: Stressed Out, Overwhelmed, Totally Exhausted,” Rebecca Rosin quotes this advice from Peter Senge, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, about how to combat the overwhelmed, totally exhausted cultures we create for ourselves:

“Create your own community, a network of like-minded people. Humans are wired to conform—that’s why these cultural pressures, however silly they may seem, wield such power over us. So find a group that fits your values that would make you happier to conform to.”

I doubt Senge had a church community in mind when he offered his suggestion, but isn’t that what many of us are looking for in our churches–a community of like-minded people who share our values? Aren’t we looking for a community that will help us stand firm against cultural pressures and instead conform to Christian values that will give our lives more substance and happiness?

Clearing space on our calendars isn’t easy. But if we value mental health, overall wellness, and spiritual well-being, we have to do it. It means saying no to great new ideas and passing up valuable opportunities. It can even mean saying goodbye to programming and ministry projects that continue to be effective.

But it also means saying yes to greater focus and clarity. Clearing space on our calendars allows us to say yes to greater unity of purpose and energy.  And saying no provides the opportunity for our church and its members to model in our individual and collective lives the kind of balance and margin that our neighbors are craving.

It doesn’t hurt that that kind of balance is biblically mandated, either. Prophets warn about earthly activity that ultimately leaves us feeling empty (Haggai 1:5-9, Isaiah 55:1-2). Micah even identifies activity and industry that leaves us feeling unfulfilled as a curse or judgment from God (Micah 6:13-15). The psalmist offers us a God who leads us beside quiet waters and restores our souls (Psalm 23).  And Jesus offers himself as a place of rest for the overburdened and weary (Matthew 11:28).

Ultimately, our incessant drive toward ever higher levels of busyness belies an arrogance that refuses to believe that the church or our workplaces or our families will make it without us…and an inability to acknowledge that we need rest and restoration to be at our best for each of them. Even worse, in our habit of busyness, we can quickly begin to adopt the attitude that God needs our activity more than we need his.

Ultimately, finding margin and balance are all about leaving room for God’s activity, creating room for God to lead. When God leads, our souls are restored. I’d be happy to conform to and be a part of a community that values that.  As our pastor says, “I’d like to join a church like that.” I bet a lot of our neighbors would to.

So get some rest. Find some balance. See you Sunday.

What Do You Give Someone Who Already Has Everything?

We’re starting to ask some new questions at Wieuca. Or, more appropriately, we’re increasing our focus on questions that churches have been asking for a long time. What do we have to offer our community? Where is the real need in our neighborhood? How can we serve our church members and our neighbors in a way that makes a real impact for God in their lives?

The simple answer is that we offer salvation through Jesus Christ, a supportive community for Christian growth and discipleship, and an effective platform from which to reach the unchurched.  But our answers need to go beyond what we do to how we do it.  And they need to reflect a burning desire to understand those we seek to minister to. We need to know how  to share the burdens of our community and provide God-driven answers and support to help our neighbors meet the challenges of their everyday lives.

As churches seek to be effective outposts for God’s mission in their communities, they must engage in constant assessment. The questions we ask don’t change, but the answers change constantly.

The answers change because the giftedness and capability of our congregation changes. The passion and God-given mission of our particular kingdom outpost changes. Externally, the demographic make-up of our community changes. The cultural norms and religious identity of our neighbors change.  And assumptions about and familiarity with what it means to be part of a Christian community changes.

As we start to think with renewed focus about how to best serve our neighbors, let me offer my preliminary thoughts. First, like many congregations, we serve in a community where, for the most part, the physical and material needs of our neighbors are already met, often in abundance. Most people would look at a neighborhood like ours and assume that most of the families around our church lack for nothing. I don’t think that’s true, though.

We live in a neighborhood where families are often over-scheduled, over-stressed, and over-extended. To make matters worse, traditional structures of family support like stay-at-home parents and extended families are in short supply. Although we don’t always see it on the outside, we live in a neighborhood where families often lack the social support structures necessary to make sure that their mental, emotional and spiritual health needs are met.

What if we could offer to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of our community with the same abundance that their physical and material needs are often met?

Christian community is about more than sharing in religious instruction and spiritual experience. It’s about sharing life together. It’s about chili cook-offs and movie nights and small group fellowship and basketball games in the gym and family trips to the zoo and bridge clubs and senior safety seminars. It’s about helping people create space for God and family in their lives.

It’s about providing a supportive framework for families when the treadmill starts to run a little too fast. It’s about helping empty nesters adjust to new realities—and new freedoms—when children leave home. It’s about connecting senior adults to Christian communities that provide outlets for service and fellowship.

God is present in every aspect of our lives and God is honored when we mutually commit ourselves to building supportive relationships with each other. That’s what the “Connect.” portion of our “Worship.Connect.Serve.” strategy is all about.

We’re committed to finding new and better ways for you to connect with other Wieucans because we know that as we connect with each other we give God new opportunities to connect with us and grow our community. In the coming weeks and months, look for opportunities to get more connected to this community and help us as we dream about new ways for Wieuca to meet the often unseen but always compelling needs of our neighbors. Everybody wins—God’s kingdom included—when we invest in each other.