When I served as a pastor the summer was always a time of intense activity around the church. There were summer youth camps, Vacation Bible School, mission trips and a myriad of other activities to keep me busy and engaged.
Summers are a little different for me now in my role as the executive director of UBA. Churches are busy, so the pace slows down around the associational office. This gives us time to review, to reflect, to think and to plan. (Lest you wonder, yes, also to pray and try to hear from God.) That's what we are doing these days in UBA. While our consultants are all working on a variety of projects, three things occupy my attention.
- I am reflecting on Loving Houston and wondering what comes next.
- I am working with the staff and board of our Mission Centers to develop ways we could do that ministry more effectively.
- One area of great personal concern is how to train the next generation of leaders that lead our churches and the association.
Reflecting, thinking, pondering (and praying) … it sounds like easy work. Henry Ford didn't think so. He said, "Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it." Neither did Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
So what are we thinking about? Let me share some of my thoughts with you. Mind you, these are not necessarily decisions. Just thoughts. And I invite your feedback to add to my thinking.
Regarding Loving Houston, we've begun something that I believe will continue. The feedback from Loving Houston--from volunteers, from the city of Houston, from people we served--has been tremendous. We know we completed over 100 projects (our latest accounting). We've looked at what we did well and where we can improve next time. We are looking at various ways to restructure things going forward that will make us even more effective. One option we are considering is to focus on schools, which may be one of the best ways to impact and shape the future of our city.
Regarding the Mission Centers of Houston, we are working closely with Ginger Smith, her staff and the board of the mission centers to rethink their ministry. In one of our meetings Ginger said, "The mission centers are now giving food to the grandchildren of folks we gave food to forty years ago. What we are doing is meeting needs but not having a transformational impact." That's not the legacy we--the staff, the board, UBA leadership, or our churches--want for the mission centers. So we are rethinking our strategy. Changing the results we get requires changing what we do. Changing what we do requires changing the way we think about things. William James said, "Man can alter his life by altering his thinking."
I've been in leadership positions for more than forty years, now, and I plan to serve for many more years. But the number of years I have served is now greater than the number of years I have left to serve. So it is time for me to think about the next generation of leadership. That's why we are rethinking our leadership development initiatives and will make training the next generation of leaders a major priority for UBA over the next few years. We want to develop leaders who have a missional DNA, who are creative and entreprenuerial, who are kingdom minded, willing to challenge the status quo and take risks in order to advance the kingdom of God, who are less bound to tradition and more motivated by godly principle. We want to learn from every arena of leadership--church, athletics, military, business--in order to develop the best leaders possible. In the next few months you'll begin hearing more about new offerings in the area of leadership development.
So the summer may be a quieter, gentler time around the associational office, but it is by no means unproductive. Like the seed growing silently below the soil before it breaks through the surface and produces fruit, we are thinking, praying, pondering and planning for a new season of even more effective ministry.
Now for a few of my favorite quotes on thinking (and I saved the best for last):
- If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking. -George S. Patton
- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. -Albert Einstein
- Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it. -Niels Bohr
- Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- I asked a ref if he could give me a technical foul for thinking bad things about him. He said, of course not. I said, well, I think you stink. And he gave me a technical. You can't trust em. -Jim Valvano
PS: Check out our newly designed website at www.ubahouston.org. I think you'll really like it.