Lessons on /rəˈlāt-ing/

 re·late 

/rəˈlāt/

(Merriam-Webster)

: to show or make a connection between (two or more things)

: to understand and like or have sympathy for someone or something

: to tell (something, such as a story)

teach, inspire, motivate - a collage of isolated words in vintage letterpress wood type

I’m an introvert at heart. I can talk, that’s for sure, but it might take me awhile to get comfortable. And conversation and interaction drain me, so I require downtime, alone time, to refuel and re-energize.  Small talk…never really cared for it and was never good at it. However, being a military brat who moved almost every two years of my life, I did get used to making new friends quickly. And I’m married to the most extroverted, people-loving man I know! I’ve learned so much just watching him and mimicking what he does. This year I’ve committed to being more intentional about RELATING (one of my Four Words for 2015). I’ve loved watching who God has brought into my life this year and how He is using each one of them to encourage and sharpen me. This week, the Lord has taught me much about relating and used some amazing people to pour into my life. It’s a longer post, but I’d love if you’d hang with me and meet some of the people who poured into my life this week —they will encourage you!

It was no accident that the Lord has placed me where He did in my job. As my chicks began to leave the nest, my years as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom (and in home marketing transcription) came to a close. Very hard transition years for me! But the Lord opened doors for me to take a position on staff at my church in Augusta. It was a part-time position as the Ministry Assistant to the Teaching and Counseling Pastor, Bret Legg. This eventually led a full-time position. It seemed odd to me that the Lord would place me —task-oriented introvert—in a position where I listen to the stories of crisis and pain every day as people call in for help (Isaiah 55:8-9). My background is interior design and event planning/operations, so I was not doing the counseling — simply taking phone calls, making appointments and directing people to the appropriate Pastor or ministry resource to help them in their time of need. Bret has been an amazing influence and encouragement in my journey of learning to listen and to love others better. He’s had a tough job trying to train this task-oriented, performance-driven introvert into someone who listens and loves better. Yes, this position IS the perfect place to learn to listen and love better.

Bret is also the Pastor who oversees our digital communications at Warren. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last several years learning how to go digital. He’s definitely a tech geek and is always introducing me to new technologies (his influence spurred my purchase of an iPhone several years ago — that thing I swore I’d never need or use and now doesn’t leave my side.) He has also influenced me in the art of the importance of people’s stories. Stories matter because people matter.

Earlier this year, Warren offered me a new position as Communications Director. The intent was to bring all communications under one ministry roof.  I still work under Bret’s leadership (so thankful!) but I now have responsibility for our print publications as well as digital. Warren has a social media presence , but it’s been very organic and each ministry has handled their own, so it really wasn’t on my radar as I began this new position. But quite by accident this summer, I discovered six different Facebook pages for our location in Grovetown (new plant in the last 18 months). These pages were not created by Warren, but were created by  “check-ins” at our location, by our people. Our Augusta campus had four. So began my mission of “claiming” and merging these pages into one. Huge learning curve for me to say the least!  

Side Note: My personal experience on social media was initiated by a desire to stay connected with my kids as they headed off to college (and now to see and share grandbaby pics, of course). Both of my sons were media majors. Both my sons and son-in-law are very techy in that whole audio, video, media world – and employed in these fields in churches and beyond —I’m still trying to figure out how to connect the TV and DVD player…HMDI/VGA what? So the extent of my social media exposure has been grandbabies and trying to use it to encourage others with the Word of God. Shout out to my kids for being patient teachers and troubleshooters.

As I began to investigate how we might better use social media as a church, it felt like I was chasing a speeding bullet train — and I found myself worn out, worn down and frustrated.

Enter  That Church Conference (#ThatCC). I discovered it while googling an answer to some social media question. It was happening just two hours away in Atlanta. There were a lot of speakers (none of whom I recognized — but remember I’m green and over 50). But it seemed like it might be a starting place. Little did I know, I would be introduced to experts in this field! This past week, I spent the day with the most amazing people and learned more than I ever imagined. But more than “how to” knowledge (even though I definitely gained some of that) I was inspired by the “why”. I was encouraged, inspired and re-energized on a personal level as well.

As I’ve been downloading and processing all I heard and experienced at #ThatCC (like dial-up speed), it hit me that the Lord used this in a big way — showing me a new way to relate. Here are a few of my takeaways. (This will be a multi-post blog feature, I’ll start with the first two presenters, but please stay tuned in the days/weeks ahead.)

@Van Baird — Big props to Van in one word —grandbabies! I had tweeted during my travels to #ThatCC a pic of stopping off to see my grandbaby Evelyn Belle. Upon arrival at the conference, Van was making his way down the registration line greeting folks. He asked my name and then replied, “oh yeah, you stopped off to see a grandbaby on the way in, right?”  Right? Right! Okay…okay, he had me at Hello (that’s for you @Carrie Kintz). But seriously, the Lord used Van to speak to me personally —not only because he remembered my grand baby post— but because he spoke so passionately about learning to love people by listening better and pouring into their lives. Remember, I’m that introvert who watches and mimics others. And Van, I see you —thanks for reminding me to learn to listen better in order to love better. And his stories of how he leverages digital to listen and love better were amazing and inspirational! From Van…

  • Listen to learn.
  • If you’re not listening, you’re not ministering.
  • Give people a place to tell their story.
  • Digital platforms are at their best when stories are being told.
  • The church has to be THE best at using digital platforms.
  • Don’t promote social fatigue = UNLINK social media accounts. Space it out. (I immediately disconnected my personal social media accounts and this is one of the top items on my “to do” list for work on Monday.)

@Carrie Kintz — The girl was amazing!  Loved her presentation style, loved her communication of the Word and the gospel throughout. Instant kindred-spirit connection for me as a Bible study teacher and student and lover of God’s Word. Her use movie references as the framework for her talk were great! My movie-buff kids would have loved it. Carrie also helped me to recognize that the alignment of our ministry (Teaching & Counseling) with church communications is so divinely appointed. As a church, we are seeking to reach our community, many of whom are broken, bruised and hurting. We have a great opportunity to listen and to see things from a unique perspective and then allow that to direct what and how we communicate. From Carrie…

  • The digital world we live in is personal.
  • Personal is two-way. There’s personality — shared back and forth. (Phil 2:1-4)
  • When we do that, we model the person of Jesus.
  • Figure out who you are, who you want to be, who you are not. (Three columns on a whiteboard is another item on my “to do” list for next week at work.)
  • Everything we do should burn with the gospel!
  • Identify where lies have gotten in to dilute the message of the gospel. (not just for churches, but in our personal lives as well.)
  • We tend to react to what happens around us. You don’t always have to comment! Listen.
  • Read the story people are telling you about yourself.
  • Tell the stories of your people.
  • What story is your church writing for the kingdom of God? (and I’d add what story am I writing for the kingdom of God?)

Remember — the foundation for all of our relationships is our Creator God. He IS the great “relator”! He passionately pursues. He listens (Ps 116:2).  He has made a way for us to walk in relationship with Him through Jesus. This is the one relationship I cannot live without. He mends broken relationships. He orchestrates my encounters with others. He heals and restores. This is the ONE relationship that completes me, gives me hope, satisfaction, joy and peace.

Stay tuned in the days ahead. I’ll share more as I continue to download and process what I’ve learned from these amazing people and innovators in the field. I’m there #ThatCC next year — already have my ticket!

I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath. —Psalm 116:1-2 (NLT)

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