The distraction of Email

Picture 2 I get waaaaaaaaaay too much email.  That doesn't make me different.  Actually I think it makes me normal (Finally something does!)  I appreciate this medium for communication… it is immensely helpful to me, but at the same time I don't know what it is about the flickering pixels on a screen carrying messages about the latest and greatest products I can't live without or a quick hello from an old friend that draws my attention so fully.  But, like many of us, when my email notifier goes off it is like the world stops and I can do nothing else until I see who this new message is from and what it is about.  I have been working for a while at regularly zeroing out my inbox, but I am finding that if I do not do this daily, then I end up wasting more time by sorting through hundreds of messages (99% of which hold no significance) at the end of the week (or 2 weeks).

This is a work in progress for me, but a method that is helping me in this madness is the "star" function on Gmail.  When I check messages I scan through the list and anything of value gets a star.  Then I immediately archive everything.  Gmail allows you to search emails very easily so if there is something important that I missed I can find it quickly.  The "starred" list gives me quick access to the things that I deem important… and really, as a leader I have to make those decisions as to what is important and what is not or I should not be a leader.  I have also turned my email notifier off.  It is an uneccesary distraction.  I don't need to be reminded to check messages.  I do it far too much anyway.  A little beep every 30 seconds is conter to my productivity… not helpful.

Leadership Challenge 9/25/2008

I have been thinking a lot lately about the kind of leader I am becoming and the kind of leader I hope to be. Over the next several weeks (and as additional things surface over time) I will post particular challenges I am facing in this space and invite your input as a way to be challenged and stretched to grow.

Here is my challenge for the week:

I do not always answer the question I am being asked. I have a tendency to make things more complicated for myself by, instead, trying to answer what I perceive to be the question behind the question. For example: At the pastor's conference I attended this week there were several occasions where I was asked, "What style of worship will you have at Graceway?" This question bugs me anyway (that's another blog), but people want to know. The assumption that I often make, however, is that people (particularly other Lutheran pastors) are asking because they are passing judgement. The result, then, is often me stumbling through some kind of unintelligible description using every 10 cent word I can think of to make it sound like, despite the fact that we will not be using any of the liturgical settings or much of the music found in the Lutheran Hymnals that I am not somehow "dumbing-down" worship and that, yes, our worship will be "Lutheran." Truthfully, that may sometimes be the motivation behind the question, but then again maybe it isn't always. Maybe the way I answer has more to do with my need/desire to be accepted/respected by my colleagues and my peers. Would it not be better for me to ask the question that I have been asked and then if the "real" question is something else leave it up to the one asking to actually ask it?

Would love your thoughts, insight, stories, etc.

Missional Leadership Paper

My independent study this semester focused on Missional Leadership and here, if you are interested is my final paper.  It is very much a work in progress…I mean it is done and turned in for the sake of my grade (I passed), but there are some obvious holes at this point.  This is just one step in a long journey of discovery.  If you want to wade through 25 pages, feel free.  I welcome your feedback.

Click the following link for the paper:

Missional Leadership Paper

The Plan So Far

My last post was a brief spot about vision. As much as I am an idealist when it comes to what the vision of the Church should be, I know that there are some practical realities I have to prepare for. It is important to lead with purpose and direction while remaining open to the movement of the Holy Spirit for course correction along the way. So, I am beginningto develop a plan for the first six months (I'm still not exactly sure when we will hit the ground there…hoping for some confirmation soon)and here's what I have so far:

The Church: To join in God’s redemptive mission in the world.

Pastoral/Leadership: To faithfully proclaim the gospel and administer the sacraments. To equip God’s people for ministry.


  • Trust in God’s provision
  • Pray fervently
  • Listen deeply
  • Prepare well

Team Facilitation:
(Identification) Be present and active in the community by serving as a volunteer at Bain Elementary School (a potential large gathering space in the middle of Mint Hill). Meet people by attending and participating in local community events (specific events are not yet identified). Become a familiar presence at local community gathering spots such as Jimmie’s Restaurant and Freshly Brewed Coffeehouse (also a potential small gathering space).

(Identification) Plant seeds for partnership relationships with local congregations who might provide prayer support, financial support and/or “missionaries” from their congregation to provide initial leadership and critical mass to begin

(Training) As potential leaders are identified we will commit to meeting regularly to pray and vision and identify practical steps forward.

(Facilitate) Establish clear, effective lines of communication for ongoing conversation, visioning, and planning efforts. The challenge is to get things done while not further “busy” people’s already busy lives. I will make every effort to communicate through one-to-one conversations, regular meetings, and through online technology.


Action Plan:

  • Meet regularly with a spiritual director
  • Remain committed to daily time in scripture/prayer/worship
  • Remember the sabbath and keep it holy
  • Begin a weekly home Bible study/small group worship gathering with those who show interest in being part of the church community.

Action Plan:

  • Model loving relationships by putting my family first and faithfully spending time simply playing together
  • Invite families/individuals to spend time with our family in social settings…without focusing on “church stuff”.

Action Plan:

  • Regularly encourage people to complete a “spiritual gifts” identification tool, followed up by visioning/dreaming about how they might use their identified gifts for ministry.

Other key action plans “the 1st 6 months”)

  • The following initiatives have high priority in the next 6 months
  • Identify a “person of peace” in the local community who God has placed there to be a welcoming presence in my life
  • Get to know the community by walking the neighborhoods as an active observer. Use the Community Mapping Tool to help gather and process information.
  • Begin to meet with other area congregations to build relationships with area clergy and begin to invite prayer support. Plant seeds for consideration of additional support (financial, people, etc.)
  • Develop an internet community website (including a blog, podcast, community forums, social networking) to begin building relationships with people in the community and invite questions and conversation.
  • Listen attentively to Holy Spirit and pray intently for the community, seeking how I might best begin to participate in furthering God’s mission in Southeast Charlotte.


That's what I have so far. It is certainly a rough draft and certainly a work in progress. I would love some input from those who have been out in the field. What is missing? What needs tweaking? What is way off base? What is good?