Before I am a husband or a father.
Before I am a pastor or a Christian.
I am a child of God.
I have been "fearfully and wonderfully made" in His image. My identity as such underlies what I'm about, supersedes titles, certification, or position, and outlasts any career or paycheck. It informs my spirit at home and fills up all that I do professionally. Because I am wanted, loved exactly as I am, I am compelled forward.
When asked, I tell people that I am here to help people feel welcome at the table. When I am at my best, this ideal influences my choices and methodology. I want to be a man who confidently creates a path of inclusion for all people: the hated and the guilty, the outcast and the shamed, the vile and the ignorant, the strong and the proud.
One of my favorite tools I've used in the past five years has been Strengthsfinder 2.0, a kind of personality profile for individual gifting. Created by some incredibly talented and intelligent people with Gallup polling, strengthsfinder posits that we will make our best contributions to the world if we lean into and invest in our best qualities rather than trying to smooth out and shore up all our liabilities. When someone takes the online test, he/she receives a profile of 'top 5' gifts out of a bank of around 30. I found mine to be both enlightening and accurate -- I think they communicate my style in pastoral ministry:
1. Empathy (not a shocker given paragraph #2 above)
2. Input (I collect ideas; I remember what I learn; I'm constantly absorbing information; it comes out at useful times often unannounced)
3. Intellection (I think; I process; I dream; I evaluate; and I can't turn it off)
4. Achiever (I do what I do with excellence and an aim to please; I love the feeling of competently completing a task)
5. Developer (I love to bring out the best in others. Whether in the form or recognizing, celebrating, cultivating, or investing in their gifts and beautiful work, I get more excited about the great things we are doing together than my own projects).
In my ministry, no matter what the specific work at hand, I seek to bless and serve out of these gifts. When i am in alignment, amazing things seem to happen. I always give God the credit for that!
My current role at the Walla Walla University Church allows me to minister and bless our local community through many artistic forms. I coordinate, organize, plan, and troubleshoot our two weekly worship services on Saturday mornings. This leads me into meaningful connections with musicians and artists, speakers and engineers, leaders and little old ladies who come to sing some organ-drenched hymns. It's a joy.
In addition, I have become the creative engine behind our weekly church bulletin, which is far more a newsletter of God's work in our larger community than it is a program guide for a weekly event. One of my favorite parts about planning, designing, writing for, and executing the Bulletin each week is the opportunity it affords me to act as a kind of reporter, interviewing people, hearing their fascinating stories about God's work in their lives, and sharing their amazing stories. Because I thrive on helping people feel welcome at the table, sharing stories of what God is already doing fills up my bucket like no other.
When I was in high school and college in the late 90s and early 2000s, Facebook and Twitter were only dreams. It wasn't until half way through college that my friends and I used texting on our phones! So although I feel very comfortable around technology, social media isn't second nature to me as it is some of my students. Even though I am technically in charge of how the University Church positions itself on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I leave much of the work up to experts: college interns who do an A+ job.
While the technical tools I use are far less important than the people I serve, I often am asked about my preferences when it comes to software, hardware, and other such items. (I'm also a nerd and I dig knowing all this nonsense, haha). The following are resources I'm particularly fond of - ones that help me stay organized, work more efficiently and with higher professionalism.
I love Apple computers. This wasn't the case five years ago, but the proof is in the pudding. I wouldn't go back. My current machine is a 15" Macbook Pro from 2015; I begrudgingly use it because the lightweight and thin 13" models won't adequately drive my gorgeous 27" Dell 4k monitor. As one might expect, I also use an iPhone which I find to be a great tool.
Each week, I find myself using Adobe Suite for layouts and photo editing; I use the very apt Squarespace.com platform for our websites (this allows me the appearance of high quality work without the time investment of learning to code).
For our church services, I rely on Planning Center Online to manage volunteers, program structure, technical details, and live-program flow. If you are a worship pastor or are a church in need of a quality platform, we have not been let down. In my experience so far, PCO can literally do everything we throw at it.
I use an ever-growing-and-improving platform for my overhead presentations known as Prezi. If you haven't seen it, the software (free online) allows speakers to share ideas conceptually with audiences as opposed to strictly sequentially as powerpoint or keynote allows. Prezi has some quirks from time to time and in some ways isn't yet ready for high-pressure situations. But all in all, I love it for how it allows me to forecast and show relationships in my public speaking.
From day to day, I use Wunderlist for to-do lists and to organize quick notes (an amazing piece of software that syncs across platforms), I utilize Day One for my journaling as well as quotes and notes from books I'm reading, I use Scrivener as my primary writing platform (a huge step in the right direction beyond Microsoft Office and folders of unwieldy files).
I listen to many of the books I read on Audible.com and I greatly enjoy podcasts of which I have a long list of favorites: 99% Invisible, Criminal, Freakonomics, Reply All, The Hidden Brain, On Being, This American Life, and To the Best of Our Knowledge.
Authors/Books I often recommend or use in studies:
- Strengthening the Soul of your leadership by Ruth Haley Barton
- Anything by Rob Bell
- Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann
- The Action Bible from the David C. Cook Press
- Walking with God by John Eldridge
- A New Kind of Christian, a 3-part series by Brian McLaren
- Sermons by Erwin McMannus
- Eugene Peterson's The Message, the Pastor, and Eat this Book
- The Missional Leader by Alan Roxburgh
- The Manga Bible and The Manga Jesus vols. 1-3 by Siku
- Nadia Bolz-Weber's work, Accidental Saints or Pastrix
- Ellen White's Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing and Desire of Ages.