The Flip Side of the Bivocational Coin

I wrote this for the Center for Healthy Churches. It was also picked up by ethicsdaily.com, which was kind of cool. It was inspired by some things I learned as a part of the pilot program for CBF’s Ministerial Excellence Initiative. The Flip Side of the Bivocational Coin The treasurer reported that everything looked good. Giving was slightly exceeding our budgeted needs and financial obligations. Immediately, there were smiles all around the room. Everyone relaxed, happy to know that we didn’t have to worry and stress about our church’s budget this time. Everyone, that is, except me. We knew it was going to happen. The grant money that fully funded my position would not last indefinitely. Our small church wasn’t in decline. In fact, we were seeing growth and our participants were generous and sacrificial givers, many of them going well beyond a traditional tithe. Nevertheless, we knew that significant financial changes were inevitable. A few months before, I had volunteered to essentially become “bivocational.” I had a few other projects that I wanted to pursue and I was willing to see if they could generate some income to cover the resulting shortfall. It seemed like a win-win situation. The church was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief. The unintended consequence of that shift was that what began as a challenge for our entire congregation essentially became my problem to solve alone. It was no longer a case of “This is our challenge. We’ll solve it together.” Instead, it was assumed that I had it covered. I was now responsible for making up the difference between our current level of giving and my intended salary. I reduced my work hours accordingly and the church continued with minimal disruption to our regular worship schedule. While it is easy to count the cost of financial adjustments that result in a loss of materials, programs, or staff positions, it is harder to see measures that are essentially seen as a “tightening of the belt.” Those measures can be largely invisible. Like many things, we frequently fail to count the emotional impact of the decisions we make. Bivocational ministry is frequently seen as a perfect solution for churches struggling to survive in what may become a post-denominational culture. There are many benefits to having a minster in the workforce outside of the church. Not only does it ease the financial burden of the church, but it allows the minister to be more deeply engaged in the community. It also requires laypeople to rise to new challenges and discover their own spiritual gifts. The minister can be seen as more relatable, a fellow participant in the workforce. In spite of these perceived benefits, we tend to underestimate the impact of financial stress and working multiple jobs on professional ministers. Working on multiple projects at once can be enjoyable and appealing in many ways. Personally, shifting focus periodically over a variety of projects works well for my brain. I suspect that many people in…

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The Foreigner

The Foreigner

Another theatre project. This time, I’m directing Larry Shue’s The Foreigner for Gulfport Little Theatre. I love project like this because you can do a little bit of everything. Here’s my poster for the show: Below is the “before and after” shot of the set. The top image is my original concept design made in Sketchup. The bottom is the finished set. I’m very pleased with the result. I had lots of help with both the construction and the decorating, but I love seeing something from my brain brought to life. Lastly, the local TV stations are pretty good about supporting the Arts. Here’s some coverage we got on one of the local news shows: http://www.jaylynn.com/files/Wxxv_cut.mp4

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Who’s Your Scrum Master?

Originally Posted at the Center For Healthy Churches Blog: The game of rugby uses an iconic formation called a Scrum, players with arms linked around one another in a tight formation, working in concert to move the ball a few feet forward against an opposing group from the other team. From a spectator’s view, it looks like an unruly knot of violent pushing and shoving with no real goal. In reality, the actions of the scrum are governed by strict rules of conduct and the participants are specially trained players with specific roles. Those requirements not only maintain the competitive fairness of the situation, but protect the players from serious injury. While we see only their hunched forms in a large tangle of bodies, the players are doing what they do best – responding to an ever-moving ball in a tightly controlled situation with a very specific goal in mind. Similarly, the field of software development adopted the use of the word scrum to describe project development teams and their methods. A project scrum focuses a team of highly skilled professionals on a goal-oriented outcome which may continue to change and shift as the project develops. This is a relatively new method of project management. Traditional project management principles center on the development of a long-range plan which includes a detailed, clearly defined finished product, and which attempted to identify every change and pitfall that could occur along the way. That sort of plan usually leads to confusion and frustration, as project goals and external circumstances begin to shift as soon as the project begins. By contrast, a scrum attempts to remain nimble, responding to new goals and requirements as they come in, and focusing on specific short-term goals to move the project along towards the finished project. There are many roles involved in a scrum project, but one of the most challenging and nuanced is the role of the scrum master. In a role that falls into the “more art than science” category, the scrum master takes on the gentle but firm role of servant leadership and communicator-in-chief.  A scrum master does not set the requirements of the finished product and they do not lead the team in the details of implementation. Instead, the scrum master is tasked with maintaining the broad vision for the future while removing the impediments that might threaten the work of the development team. When I was more active in professional project management, I used to say that I stood in the gap between those that knew what they wanted and those that could get it done. The best gift I could give to a development team was to say “Tell me what you need to make this happen and I’ll get it and then get out of your way.” On the other end of the project, I could go to the primary stakeholder or client and say “Here’s what you need to know in straightforward, non-technical language. How does that match your vision…

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All The World Is a Stage

Not really. In this case, my whole world was a stage for about 3 months. Particularly, Gulfport Little Theatre’s stage and its production of Mel Brook’s The Producers. An awesome opportunity for me in my community theater life, I got to play Max Bialystock, one of the title roles. I even went so far as to shave my face, grow my hair out into a combover, and dye it black. I’m glad to be starting to look like myself again.  

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Latest Crackpot Scheme – Learn By Going

I’ve had the idea for immersive learning experiences for a while now, birthed mainly from my frustration that all of the cool internships, alternative spring breaks, and similar learning experiences seem to go to college students. There’s some faulty logic out there where people think that you should stop learning or trying new things after a certain age. Poppycock, I say. Luckily, I’m at a place where I can give this a try, and my church is willing to give me enough rope to hang myself.

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Blowing off the dust

It’s been nearly a year and a half since I wrote anything here. I feel like I owe some kind of apology, but why? One of the best things I have ever done for myself is to give myself permission to do what I need to do when the time is right. I have enough guilt out there for the things I “should” do that I don’t need to create more over nothing. Life happens and sometimes I find that I don’t have the emotional energy to write things that I think are worth reading. Since my last post, I took a half-time job, left that job, got another full-time job, moved 800 miles away, sold a house, bought a house, and had similar changes for the rest of the family – a new job for my wife, new schools for the kids, and so on. I spent most of the Fall wondering what had happened. Recently, I have felt the urge to write.  Who knows? Maybe, I’ll even get some more fiction done.

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Where You Been?

Back in my podcasting days, podfading was the term used when a show began posting fewer and fewer episodes and eventually quit publishing altogether. Usually, it meant that the show’s creators might have moved on to some shiny new project. Perhaps they had not reaped the fame and rewards they expected from the difficult work of putting together a show. Maybe they just became bored. I don’t know if there is a similar term for blogging (blogfading?), but I keep thinking about this space and wondering if it just looks like another blog gone by the wayside. I think I may be a victim of my own standards. I wanted my writing here to reflect a search for authenticity; to communicate my own efforts to move towards a more authentic version of myself. What I failed to anticipate was a time when honest communication would work directly against my goals and efforts. I made it no secret that I left my job and was actively looking for the next professional step in my career. That also meant that I had to be open to professional opportunities with new companies and organizations which might present themselves along the way. And… therein lies the rub. You can’t maintain an online “presence” and interview like a rock-star when your “authentic” self is posting things like “Just finished another interview with a vast, faceless organization that is just looking for another cog in their profit machine.” “Went to another meeting today where I felt like a square peg in an organization of round holes. I think I’m on the wrong planet.” “Oh crap. Where’s the money for _______ going to come from?” “Wah wah wah. Nobody likes me.” (OK – I might not have posted that one, but I had days like that.) It’s hard to get hired when you communicate your humanity by saying “I’m uncertain of what I want, of where I’m going, and I’m a little scared of what’s next.” There’s always someone in line behind you willing to say whatever it takes to get ahead of you regardless of the amount of truth involved. Feeling stuck between authenticity and being an ideal job candidate, I froze and opted for silence. Today, I still don’t know what the future holds, but I think I can share more openly about what I’m doing with my time. I’ll have more to write about the specifics soon, but the short version is that I came to realize that spending my time trying to find a place where I can be just another employee took a lot of time and energy and yielded little in return. I needed to pay closer attention to the businesses and organizations that genuinely wanted me, needed my help and were willing to pay for it. That is how I’ve been spending the last few months and that may turn out to be the road map for the future. Only time will tell. So, this space is not “blogfading.” I…

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Father’s Day Toys

Long ago, my wife and I discovered that one of the keys to a happy marriage is to provide each other with lists of gift ideas or cold hard cash.  As callous as that sounds, I really enjoy my new Father’s Day gifts from my kids.  With a little judicious use of eBay, and I got three gifts for the price of one.  In addition to the Orange Box on Steam (which allows me to get my butt regularly kicked by the other Olde Fartz in Half Life 2 Deathmatch), I picked up these two items: The Superman bobblehead, as shown here in its native habitat next to my Yoda bobblehead (I do NOT collect bobbleheads, by the way).  I was searching online for the Einstein Bobblehead from Night at the Museum, but they were sold out from the Smithsonian Store.  This was a good substitute.  I was most impressed by the quality of the sculpt and the material.  Both were much better than expected. Adding to my ever-growing Justice League pantheon that lives atop my desk, I found this DC Universe series Captain Atom figure going cheap.  I think someone bought him looking for the build-a-figure part and then sold the remaining figure.  I like this line of DC figures very much, and I wish they weren’t so hard to find or expensive.

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New Releases – Yay!

I buy very few things sight-unseen.  Two notable exceptions are Harry Dresden novels by Jim Butcher and fantasy novels by Raymond E. Feist.  Both guilty pleasures, I anxiously await the latest installment in these sagas (well, saga may be too strong for these books, but the novels do create one long continuity in each case).   Harry Dresden is the only professional wizard practicing openly (complete with an ad in the Yellow Pages) in the Chicago area.  Unfortunately for him, he’s one of those people that fate continues to kick in the privates.  If anything weird or evil is going to happen, it’ll happen to or near Harry Dresden. Raymond Feist’s novels of Midkemia span several hundred years, and I’ve followed them all from year one.  Feist has a rare ability to create a sweeping fantasy saga that can immediately draw you in and make you feel invested in the lives of the characters, and later their children and their children’s children.  Short on undecipherable dialects and pretentious characters, I find them easy to enter and quick to ensnare my imagine. In the past two weeks, the latest works from both gentlemen arrived in my mail box.  These two novels will be how I spend my leisure reading over the next week or two: Like I said – guilty pleasures both. -kingfish  

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