Sunday, September 23, 2012
It's Easy to Live in a Bubble
Have you ever seen this game? I've seen it at carnivals and as a half-time contest at a pre-season football game I went to see this summer. It's a little odd - a race to see who can be the fastest runner inside of a plastic bubble. I've never done it, but it seems like there would be little air, it would be hot and stuffy, and it'd be a little hard to maneuver. Plus, you're in there all alone...Where's the fun in that!?
It just seems so ridiculous. Why would anyone run in a bubble?
Except I do. I know a lot of others do, too. And it happens with good intentions. Let me explain.
We have a LOT of work to do, right? A never ending stream of emails, meetings, evaluations. I heard Bill Hybels say one time that he only does three things: prepare for meetings, attend meetings and debrief after meetings. Pastors like me add message preparation, small groups, Bible studies, devotional and vision-casting preparation for various gatherings, writing weddings, leading leaders and creative planning, some care and counseling, staff management....
You can make your own list, but the point is the same: We all have a long to-do list of things that are all screaming for your attention. So, what we do is close the door. Circle the wagons. Work harder. Keep your head down. Stay focused.
And before you know it, you live in a bubble. The only thing you do that is work related are the things directly related to your work.
But there is a world outside of the bubble! This world does relate to your work, but it will never scream at you. You'll never get an angry email for not coming or for not being a part. And yet, ironically, not being a part of it can be costly to you.
What I'm talking about are networks and other groups that indirectly have some relationship to what you do. We often say that we don't have time, but the truth is that these enhance our lives, make us better at what we do, and they often result in tangible improvements in our organizations.
I'm a part of a few of these. I confess that I sometimes wonder if I really have the time to go to the meetings, but I'm always glad that I do. Let me share two with you. Hopefully these will get your wheels turning for networks that you can connect into.
Rotary. I joined the local Rotary Club in the county where I live a couple of years ago. I went because I figured it would be good to get out of the bubble that I work in (my church) and extend our reach a little bit, stretching my legs and meeting some new people. What I didn't expect was that this membership would have such a huge impact at PCC. I've had a chance to speak twice at the club, giving folks a little taste of what our church is like, and some have come to PCC. I've met some new folks and made some new friends. I've been able to contribute to the work of the club - which makes a difference in the community. And I've become a better leader along the way, learning from other leaders in the club.
Tranformational Pastors. I'm a member of a group of pastors who get together, with our spouses, for 3 days each year in September. We meet at different places around the state of Virginia. Last week we were in Roanoke, and it reminded me anew just how critical this group has become in my life and in my work. When we first started gathering five or six years ago, I was new and didn't know anyone. But now, these colleagues have become a critically important part of my ministry. Throughout the year, I send them questions about something new I've encountered and they respond with how they've handled similar situations, advice about what to look out for, and assurances that they will pray for me. I can call them when I'm in a bind and find some help. They remind me that I'm not alone. Rather, I'm a part of a larger family.
For me, networks are no longer an optional activity, left on the fringes of my schedule with question marks and thoughts of 'if I have time'. They are important enough for me to step out of the bubble and make a priority. They make me better and they are a benefit, not a distraction, to my church.
So, if you are not a part of any kind of network outside of your church or organization, I encourage you to find one and get involved. They'll never scream for your attention, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to have it.