associational

The Best-Laid Plans

to-do list with cup of coffee and muffin

God has a plan and a purpose for each of His followers. We each have a mission while here on earth. In Acts 20:24, Paul said, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” We are to tell others the good news about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And God puts people in our path every day.

I had a plan for my flight home from Russia after a vision trip to gather information for the International Mission Study 2017 on Central Asian Muslims living in Russia. I was going to get a lot of work done on the longer second leg of my flight. I had speaking engagements to prepare for, cards to write, emails to read and respond to, etc. But God had other plans.

Unshakable Pursuit: Read All about It

Unshakable Pursuit devotional

We pursue many things in life: Friendships and acceptance. Freedom in the form of a driver’s license or a high school diploma. Higher education or technical training. Financial security with a job that pays well and provides benefits. Hobbies that feed our passions. Love and maybe a family of our own. The comforts of our dream home. Recognition for a job well done. Retirement goals. Items on a bucket list. Happiness. Purpose.

And we even get pursued. By the university we’ve always wanted to go to. By the company we’d like to work for. By the person we are interested in getting to know better. By God.

God has pursued us in love since He created the world. The new 30-day devotional Unshakable Pursuit: Chasing the God Who Chases Us by Grace Thornton explores this truth and helps readers understand that life finds its rhythm when we pursue Him wholeheartedly.

“Siri, What Is an Association?”

AME 2018 clipart

During my 18 years as director of missions, the world of handheld technology has exploded. On my cell phone or newest tablet, I can talk to this pleasant person named Siri or Alexa and get a fast response to the question, what is a Baptist association? Siri’s response quickly reveals an article saying a Baptist association is “a self-governing fellowship of churches on mission.”

Thank you, Siri! It is hard to believe that in the palm of my hand, I hold a device that has more computer capacity and memory than the computers on the first lunar module. I am truly amazed at the amount of information that is available right at our fingertips. I am even more amazed that after more than 300 years, so many in Baptist life do not know the power contained in the association.

The association is

Nobody Tells Me Anything!

How did you learn to use makeup? Did you wake up one morning knowing how to make a quilt? What about playing a musical instrument? Did that come to you out of nowhere? Aside from the rigors of consistent practice, most of us learn new skills when someone shows us how to hold the guitar or violin, stitch fabric together, or apply eye shadow. In other words, someone models the skill for us.

There are many components involved in becoming a leader who communicates well. Let’s consider 4 of them, but remember that communication can be verbal or written, making clear communication just that much more difficult!

Pay attention to your attitude. Your attitude, positive or negative, will show as you speak or write. Our influence as leaders is often more widespread than we realize. As you carry out your responsibilities, craft your verbal and written communications carefully, making certain you are encouraging and enthusiastic. Working with others can be very rewarding, and everyone will be more willing and generous with his or her time when the atmosphere is a positive one.

CMD 2018: Go Serve

Children's Missions Day (CMD) 2018 is coming soon! In fact, this annual February event will celebrate its 11th year this Saturday, February 17. It's not too late to join other children's missions groups nationwide in a great day of service to share God's love with people right in your own community. So, lace up your sneakers and get ready to hit the road and go serve!

Appropriately, the theme for this year's event is Go Serve. As you prepare your group for this special day, help children identify people in your area who are hurting — whether it's physically, spiritually or emotionally. Remember that a successful CMD project gives children the opportunity to tell someone what they know to be true about God while also meeting a physical need or offering words of encouragement. Ask children, What would you do for these people to share the love of Jesus with them?

Develop: Changing the Way WMU Leaders Are Trained

As technology has changed, it has changed the way educational classes can be delivered. While many still enjoy the traditional classroom setting with a teacher and the camaraderie of other students, some need options that allow them to learn on their own schedule. I am one of those learners.

I have taken courses through Develop, WMU’s online and on-demand leadership training. While leadership conferences are still offered by national WMU, state WMUs, and associations, Develop’s courses extend the availability for leadership training to anyone with a computer at any time of the day or night. I have worked on courses at all hours, both on my computer and on my smartphone.

I appreciate that all Develop courses are reasonably priced and provide opportunity for interactive learning. Courses are self-paced and designed to be completed in about 4 hours. Each Develop course is a stand-alone module with a month to complete the work. The deadline provided me with motivation to get finished in a reasonable amount of time yet without too much time pressure.

Consider All Options

We recently purchased a new car, and I was amazed at all the options we were offered. What color? What seat package? We had choices about the radio, tires, warranty, paint finish, floor mats, and a GPS system. The options were seemingly endless. Oh, and yes, there were about 15 ways to finance our purchase!

We live in a time when options are available in almost every area. Even hamburgers can be custom-made! With all the options people are offered in their lives, we often make a fatal mistake when we approach leadership responsibilities: we do not offer options. We plan our meetings with no choices. We insist that activities must be conducted the way they have been in the past. After all, they were good enough for us in 1970, so why not now?

The people you and I know are so accustomed to making choices that they are not terribly open to joining a group or participating in a project where their input isn’t asked for—or wanted. Their opinions matter, and they want to be part of the decision-making process. A preordained format or action planned by 1 or 2 leaders isn’t terribly attractive to them.

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Do Whatever It Takes

Leaders, regardless of their positions, need to carefully consider the promises they make. The key question is “Can I keep that promise?” Many factors impact whether leaders can make changes, and it’s not uncommon for those influences to be completely out of their control.

Leading successfully is a challenge not unlike climbing a snowcapped mountain. The higher you go, the thinner the air! Leaders make sincere promises but cannot keep them and feel as if they are climbing higher and higher without a support system. What, then, can leaders do to ensure the success of their work?

Here are several suggestions that can help you as you try to fulfill the promises you’ve made:

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Growing as a Leader: Look Outside and Inside

As a teenager in a small Baptist church, I was often given opportunities to grow as a leader. I may not have had the deepest understanding of preschool development, but the church was desperate for someone to “teach the Beginners” in Church Training. I was willing. Advice from a wise longtime teacher encouraged me: “Joyce, act like you know what you’re doing with the children.” So I did. Both the Beginners and I survived.

“Act like” in this context means to assume the role. Call to mind a vision of a more experienced leader, and put yourself in her shoes. Do what you imagine Mrs. B would do.   

Since those early days of trying on various leadership roles, I’ve discovered that leadership can often be reduced—and more easily understood—in terms of a balance between inner and outer.

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In the Midst of Busyness, Stop, Drop, and Roll

Since my retirement, I have come to understand how easy it is to slip into a cycle of busy activity. Much of this activity stems from the creativity and needs of others. Suddenly, I do not have the constraint of Monday through Friday employment to prevent my “yes” response. So, when I’m invited to participate—from luncheons to a ministry opportunity—I have no reason to decline. My calendar can quickly fill up!

Not everyone is retired. In fact, many women leaders strive to balance work outside the home and their family obligations. But I believe the principle of making choices about involvement holds true for the unemployed (or retired) as well as the working woman with or without family responsibilities.

How to choose? Perhaps there’s some guidance in an unlikely place. The fire safety technique taught to children—stop, drop, and roll—may help direct our decision-making.

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