Staying Busy

Recently I have been thinking about what I do with my “non-work” time.  With my career transition, I’m able to use time for “non-work” activities during the day, hopefully to the benefit of others.  Someday I hope that I can combine my vocation and avocations.

This led me to thinking about listing all of the various things that I do.  Some people put them on their resumes, but mine is already too long and I’m not sure what it would add.  So I’ll list my “sideline” things here for your interest/amusement.  I know that once I find a job I may have to cut back on some of these (indeed – several of them have been started since my career transition started with the caveat that I may have to stop at some point).

Work-related

Recently I’ve been providing computer services to others as a sideline.  Mostly this consists of PC maintenance, including some hardware work, installing software updates, and a lot of fixes to things like “my computer does X when I do Y – can you fix that?”.  This is done for various forms of renumeration including lunch and good will.

I’m also going to be helping another church do some brainstorming of what they want on their church’s website.  And yet another church has asked for help with their website, but I don’t know the specifics yet.

Local Church

I have a lot of roles at church:

  • Deacon – currently serving on the Board of Deacons, assigned to the Prayer Team and enjoying serving Communion on occasion.  I’m also the designated “e-mail reminder” person who sends a note to the people assigned to jobs each Sunday.
  • Open Door – recently completed a stint as co-chair of a task force studying issues of hospitality to visitors and the community.  I’m likely to serve as a member of the new Session committee being created to continue this work.
  • Webmaster – of the church website and the weekly e-mail that goes to almost 400 people.  This role also has me serving as the social networking expert surrounding our presence on Facebook and such.
  • Youth Advisor and member of Youth and Young Adult Council – nothing that I do at church brings me more joy than my work with the Senior High youth group.  I’ve also been involved in supporting the youth director with strategic planning for the youth council lately.
  • Percussion – most members of the church have been surprised to learn that I was classically trained as  a percussionist in high school.  I’ve been using those skills on snare and cymbal, djembe, congas, and other instruments in both the alternative and regular service.  Apparently I’m not as rusty as I think that I am.

Greater Church

  • The God Complex – serving as Webmaster for the new weekly Internet radio show that is hosted by Bruce Reyes-Chow and Carol Howard Merritt.  This involves blogs, web hosting, e-mail and other stuff that I don’t even know about yet.
  • I will be assisting my local Youth Director with the Small Group manual for the next Youth Triennium.  Not in a major way – just reading and editing.  I hope to turn that into a trip next summer, but that would require some creative planning (anybody need someone to man a booth or serve as a chaperone?).
  • This blog seems to provide value to some.  I’m also on Twitter and most of my friends there are church-related

Other Stuff

  • I’m a member of the Delaware Valley Ham Radio club.  I’m a general-class ham – KC2SMS.
  • I’m one of the keyholders for the ham radio emergency equipment for the local Red Cross office.  The Princeton Red Cross chapter is the “center” for ham radio for the state’s Red Cross groups, mainly because we are centrally located.  Monday night will be the monthly equipment test for the Red Cross and the NJ State RACES/ARES folks.

So, I’m keeping busy.  If I were being paid for all of that at a reasonable salary I’d have a full-time job.  As it is, it’s more like 1/2 to 2/3 of my days and some of my non-work hours.  I like to help people, and I usually don’t care whether I get paid or not (though getting paid is important for other reasons).  My hope is that someday I can use these skills for a paying position with some meaning to the world.

Project Open Door news

February 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

A while ago (perhaps 18 months ago) I wrote about my new committee studying hospitality at my church.

That team chose to call itself Project Open Door.  We were charged with studying hospitality to visitors, the community around us, and inactive members.

We completed the majority of our work last night.  We’ve produced a 44-page report which will be given to the Session in 2 weeks.  We were unable to complete our work on inactive members (due to personal issues of several team members at a critical time) and have suggested that this task be forwarded to a successor committee.

Several of you have expressed an interest in hearing what we’ve learned.  We intend to ask the Session for permission to release our report.  If I am able to do so, I’ll post it here.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers over the last 18 months.

Locals: Project Open Door needs your help!

April 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

My longer-term readers know that I’m chairing a task force at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville.  It’s called
Project Open Door (POD), and is a team that is studying how we can be most effective in our ministry of hospitality – that is, how we welcome and embrace the new people who come into our doors and how we can reach even more people in our community who need our ministry.

We need your help!
We have created a new survey designed to assess what people experience when they come into our doors as newcomers.  We’re asking you to help us by 1) visiting the church as, well, “secret shoppers”; and 2) filling out the survey.   You can use either an on-line or paper version.

If you are willing to help us out and are in the Greater Lawrenceville, NJ area (Trenton, Princeton, Central Jersey), here’s what we would ask you to do:

1) Visit the church for a 10am Sunday service!  (Sometime in the next month or two) If you want information prior to your visit, about the church or the logistics of visiting, go to www.pclawrenceville.org.

2) About a week after your visit, please fill out a survey. You may do so by any of the
following means:

a. You can fill out the survey online at http://tinyurl.com/yokhuf. We understand that this is often the quickest and most convenient way to fill out the survey.

b. One will be in the visitor packet you can pick up after church at our visitor’s table.

c. You can print out a copy by going to our website (http://pclawrenceville.org/assets/survey_visitor.pdf)

3) Mail the completed paper survey (if you didn’t use the online version) to:

Project Open Door
Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville
2688 Main St.
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

Thank you for helping us understand how we can be more faithful in our ministry of hospitality.

– The Project Open Door team

Theology on Tap

September 14, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion, Young Adult 

Theology on Tap

The Princeton, NJ Nassau and Witherspoon Street Presbyterian churches, the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, and the Princeton Seminary have jointly started a young adult program called “Theology on Tap”.  Every 2nd Thursday this fall (and if last night is any indication, it will continue beyond fall) at 8pm young adults gather at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room of the Nassau Inn in Princeton for community and some light theological discussion.

Last night was the first event.  I estimate that 20-25 people showed up by the time I left at 9:30 (gotta be at work today).  There was a mix of church members, church leaders (clergy and staff), and seminarians plus perhaps one or two “bring a friend” folks.  I heard some folks saying that they’d invite friends to the next one, and I know that the postcards (with the image above) were taken to be given out.  We may have more people next time.  Ages ranged from the low 20’s through me at near 40, to a few who I suspect were older than 40.

Each of us was given an 18oz glass (call it a pint) with the PCUSA logo on one side and “Theology on Tap” on the other.  We used them for drinking and were able to take them home.  (I’m not clear on whether or not to bring them back for the next meeting.)  Only one was broken – my fault – I stood up to let somebody by and the chair hit the table behind me and it tipped and CRASH!  Oops.

The meeting organizers bought food for the group, and the rest of us paid for our drinks.  I suspect that the glasses were the biggest expense and otherwise this program is pretty inexpensive to run.

After a short introduction of everybody to everybody, we broke into small group and were asked to discuss any burning theological questions.  The questions weren’t easy.  At my table (from memory, I think I’m missing a few):

  • What does Jesus’ death on the cross mean to me?
  • Is God still involved in the world today?  Does prayer work?
  • A brief discussion on the Trinity and the paradox of three-in-one
  • A statement on morality and society
  • Where do people of other faiths fit into God’s plan and/or salvation?

As I said – that’s what I remember.  I think we covered 6 or 7 just throwing ideas around.  The crowd was highly educated on the relevant issues – the few who weren’t ministry professionals or seminary students were highly involved laypeople like me.  After the theology the group continued with basic socializing.

For those on Facebook, there is a group for Theology on Tap in Princeton at Theolodoodle.

Now for my personal impressions.

I’m a fairly strong introvert, though I can present a brave face to new people and the less sensitive might not pick me out as an introvert.  Because of that, parties (and hanging out at a bar counts) tend to sap my energy.  I generally don’t enjoy them.  I tend to arrive early and leave early.

Last night was nothing like that.  I felt comfortable with the folks that I met and felt that “instantly comfortable” feeling with the new folks that I met.  I left at 9:30 not because I wanted to, but because I had to get sleep before going to work today.  That’s rare for me – I usually leave because I want to but last night I left because I had to.

The other rare thing is that I liked everybody that I met.  That is nearly unique in my experience and it is unique to church-related events (Youth Advisory Delegate events, church camp, and this).  I enjoyed meeting Barbara, Kate’s friends Sarah and Sarah (apologies if the spelling is wrong) and Grier at our small table.  I enjoyed meeting the others in other groups and next time I’ll make sure to mingle more with people that I don’t know.  I was also pleasantly surprised at how well I fit in at almost-40 with the folks from age 23 to slightly-older-than-me.

The theological discussion was also deep and meaningful for its brevity.  These folks have actually thought about the questions and have something very real to say.  It was all said without judgment of those who hold an alternative view.

I’m 90% sure that I’ll be there for the 3 scheduled meetings to come.  I might miss next month because of my schedule.  I’m also going to see if Carolyn wants to come.

If you’re in the Princeton area and interested in meeting some great people and talking theology, stop by on the 2nd Thursday starting at 8pm!

Re-Connecting with Faith – Finding Your Home – Adult Retreat January 25-27, 2008

September 7, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

Re-Connecting with Faith: Finding Your Home – Adult Retreat
Johnsonburg Presbyterian Center, Johnsonburg, NJ
January 25-27, 2008

Are you considering a church home?  Do you currently attend a church, but feel like you’re not getting everything you need?  Are you looking at spiritual alternatives?  Have you recently moved and need to find a new church?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, this retreat is for you!

For a variety of reasons, a large number of adults leave the spiritual home of their youth, or spirituality altogether.  However, after a while, many of these people feel like something is missing in their lives.  Returning to a spiritual community after an absence can be a bit challenging for many people.  Will you encounter the situations that caused you to leave?  Will you be accepted?  Will you be fulfilled?  All too often these challenges result in the person staying away from a spiritual community altogether, and everyone loses.

Or perhaps you’ve moved to a new area and are having trouble finding that church home like the one you left behind.  This can often be a long and difficult process.  After all, how do you go about “trying on” churches, or even denominations for that matter?

This weekend long retreat is held for adults who are currently without a spiritual home, or who are attending a church but don’t feel fed there.  We’ll take some time to tell our own stories; who we are and what it is we’re seeking.  We’ll also look at some of the challenges in finding a spiritual home and what some different churches have to offer.  Come and join those who have gone through this discernment process before and who can help you find your way.  Presbyterianism is optional – the program does not assume any particular denomination.

For more information, contact the camp office at 908-852-2349 or info@campjburg.org.  The camp website is found at http://www.campjburg.org/.
The cost is yet to be determined but should be between $50 and $100 per person; if money is what’s keeping you from the retreat contact the camp – we have limited assistance available.

An article about last year’s retreat can be found HERE.  This year’s program will be very similar.

Need Help – Invitational culture and evangelism

May 5, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

I need your help.

The Task Force on Welcome and Outreach that I mentioned previously will be meeting soon (later this month, probably).  We’d like to come up with 5-8 books on our topic for the team members to read this summer and report back to the group.  This is part 1 of the education phase.

Our charter calls for surveying visitors on their visit experience, surveying the community for their impressions of the church and spiritual needs, and then making recommendations to the session.  The recommendations are supposed to cover creating a culture of hospitality and invitational evangelism.

Do you have any book suggestions?  I have a handle on what it feels like to BE a visitor, but I’m really stuck on how to survey the community.  Books on invitational evangelism and books on a culture of hospitality would be very useful.

Thanks for your help!  Please leave suggestions in the comments.  If you can’t get the comments to work, e-mail me at the address behind the link in the left-hand menu.

Being A New Member – A 6-month checkin

April 26, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

About 8 months ago, I wrote Church – A New Chapter, in which I announced that I was beginning the new member process for joining the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville (NJ).  I actually joined 2 months later.  That makes this about the 6-month anniversary.

Time for a report card.  I’ll stick with my hopes and fears from 6-8 months ago.

The overall grade is B+.  The church has come to feel like home, and I often refer to it with the same feeling that I would use to refer to my family.  There are some things that could be better, and I haven’t completely settled in yet.  The details are really long, so they continue below (those reading on the site itself will need to click the link below).

Read more

Gentle Evangelism

April 19, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

I’ve said for a while that the best way to evangelize is to do it gently.  If an opportunity to evangelize comes up, you simply express your faith and beliefs in a way that is not coercive, not overwhelming, and open and honest.  Beyond that the most important thing is to be a good example ethically, in personal relations, and spiritually.

Robert Austell has said it very concisely in his post “Invitational Evangelism”.

I can’t improve on what he wrote.  Read it.

TO Committee!

April 11, 2007 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

(well, at least To Task Force)

I met with our pastor last night about the “other idea” that he had.

It seems that he’s been reading a lot of the stuff on my blog (Hi, Jeff!) – particularly the stuff that I’m writing about new members and visitors.

He’s looking to put together a task force to study how the church is perceived by visitors, seekers, and the surrounding community.

He’s asked me to chair the task force.  There will be a small number of chosen members (as opposed to “whoever wants to show up”) and the team will work for about 18 months.  I asked for a co-chair who has been around a while and knows the church and lots of members because I’m fairly new and haven’t gotten to know all that many people.

Beyond that, the charter and membership are still up in the air.  We’ll probably get the team together in May to organize, and then take the summer for each member to do some homework (probably some books to read) and get started in earnest in the fall.

I will likely have to limit my blogging on this Task Force to what we are willing to say publicly.  I will probably do some blogging about the committee process in general, particularly successes.

One thing that I can promise – I want your help.  I will be asking questions over time about how each of you handle different issues or answer different questions in your community.  I’ve found that I have a fairly diverse audience of church-related people (and others!) and I’d like to leverage that to help.  In return, I promise that by the end of our process I will blog some useful information gained by experience – just as I have with the Reconnecting with Faith retreats.

10 Ways to Keep Me from Discovering Your Church

March 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

Via a chain of Decently.org to Church Marketing Sucks I have found a great article at Church Redone:

10 Ways to Keep Me from Discovering Your Church

My congregation has issues with #1 (we don’t podcast sermons yet), #5 (we don’t have clear signage mainly due to the historical nature of the church and road), and #6 (we have serious parking problems – 300 years of growth in membership without growth in land will do that).  I’m actually pleased with how well the congregation did!

The point about use of the Internet is particularly true.  I did not consider any churches without at least a minimal web presence in my church search.  My preconceptions of the church prior to a visit were colored by the quality of the website.  Getting the web right is essential these days.

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