Part-Time Youth Mission Trip Coordinator Wanted (Central NJ, contract)

December 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion, Work, Youth 

The Evangelism and Church Development Committee (ECD) of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, with the concurrence of the Educational Ministries Committee, wishes to explore the concept of supporting youth ministry programs and services for churches that are too small to afford their own youth ministry staff or to hold a mission trip on their own.  As a part of that exploration ECD would like to hold a presbytery-based mission trip for Senior High (rising 9th graders through recently graduated seniors) youth in the Summer of 2011, or to assemble such a group from small churches to join an existing trip being planned by a larger congregation.  This trip is expected to be one week long and located at a site somewhere within the US.  We are hiring a paid part-time Youth Mission Trip Coordinator to work with ECD and youth leaders in the presbytery to determine the best way to pursue such a trip and to plan, coordinate, and lead the trip and all preparatory activities.  Those interested in this position should send a resume and cover letter to Mark Smith (markrsmith@gmail.com, 609-585-1849) by December 17, 2010.  The detailed job description is attached: Presbytery of New Brunswick Youth Mission Trip Coordinator position.

Trading Limbos

November 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Princeton Seminary, Religion, Seminary, Work 

Sometime last week, I realized that I’ve traded one kind of limbo for a new kind.  A better kind, from where I sit.

For the past 2 years while I’ve been out of work, I had a soul-crushing type of limbo.  Any day I could get a response to a contact or job application inviting me to an interview.  Any day could start the process of becoming employed again, in as soon as a few days to a few months.  A number of times that process happened over the 2 years, but that was a very small part of that time and never resulted in ultimate success – a new job.  The rest of the time I was left with the depressing, esteem-destroying time trying to make that happen.  For most people there’s only one path out of that limbo, and it’s always the last path that you take.  (That’s a lot like the truism that you always find your lost items in the last place you look.  If not, then you’re wasting your time after you do find them.)  Some folks get lucky and get the choice of two paths out of the unemployment limbo, but to me that looks more like two branches of the same last path.

I’ve taken an unusual path out of that limbo – the path of further education – made even more unusual by my future vocation.  This is a riskier path and I likely wouldn’t be taking it except for a few unusual circumstances.  First and foremost there is God’s call to ministry that I have discerned (and will continue to discern in the years ahead).  Second, there are some things about my place in the world that are fortuitous (whether you credit God, good planning, or dumb luck) for this path.  I live near one of the most prestigious Presbyterian seminaries (and I seem to be comfortable in the culture there).  My wife has a very solid income that is big enough to support this.  We were able to (and chose to) save severance and unemployment money.  And we have chosen a lifestyle that doesn’t include the expenses that others need to plan for – mainly children and their futures.

So now I’m in a new limbo – one with a time limit.  Barring some major unforeseen circumstance, I know what I’ll be doing next September.  I have ten months to fill which hopefully will include me bringing in a rather small amount of money.  This limbo is much more comfortable that the prior limbo – having a solid sense of the future and my direction is so much better than not being able to plan events and vacations more than a week or two in advance, because one might have a new job that would prevent whatever you are planning.  I’m even able to see the calendar for the Summer Language program next summer (still on the fence about that) and next year’s academic year.

But it’s still limbo.  I need to figure out what to do with the next 10 months.  I would prefer to make some money by doing small church-related projects like Revive!  (last spring’s justice revival, which employed me as a 15-hour-per-week project manager for a few months).  I can make some money from my itty-bitty tiny computer consulting company.  I could go to a temp agency and see what they’ve got.  I’ve also got some time to work on myself, to try to continue the personal growth that the last 6 months has included (and the last 2 years, for that matter).

So I’ve exchanged one limbo for another.  And I’m in a better place as a result.  But the future is still not completely clear.  But … part of my growth of late has been comfort with ambiguity.  I’m feeling good about all of this.

Into the future

September 2, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Candidate Process, Seminary, Work 

Hello, folks.

I know that this blog has been dormant for a while.  The main reason was that I was being very careful not to post anything related to my job search that might upset a future employer.  As you know if you go back into my history, I’ve been mostly unemployed since August 2008.  More recently working with the US Census allowed me to create my own small business without upsetting the unemployment folks and that has been operating at a part-time sporadic level since last spring.

Throughout my unemployment period I repeatedly heard a call to ministry.  Sometimes it took the form of a thought that perhaps I should go to seminary.  Often it took the form of me simply noticing that I was choosing to spend my free time while unemployed increasing my volunteer work in the church.  I also found myself thinking that my church work was more important that my job search at times.  A number of times it took the form of a surprise opportunity to stretch my ministry skills into a new area, and succeed, and I credit God with providing those opportunities.  Once in the last 2 years I had a sense of God’s immediate presence, which felt a lot like my previous dream and vision.

All of this came to a head this past January.   Several events – conversations with people that I know, and my hard work back home the week that my church’s mission trip was caught in Haiti after the earthquake – led me to the point where I felt that I “can’t not” consider seminary.  So I took a few steps in that direction.  In the spring I audited a class at Princeton Seminary on pastoral counseling.  I spent a LOT of time talking to people who have already gone through the vocational discernment process.  My wife and I went to considerable efforts to determine whether or not our relationship could handle the change in career to one that pays less and demands more.  We consulted a financial planner to make sure that our cash flow and retirement planning would allow for me to have five years (the next year, 3 years of seminary, and a year after seminary looking for work) of very low income.  I prayed a LOT – sometimes for God to help me make it happen and sometimes for God to take away the call.  Ultimately I reached the point in August where my wife and I (among others – see below) agree that going to seminary and likely going into ordained minstry is the right choice.

While this discernment was going on (and believe me, it will continue essentially forever but will be very focused for the next few years) I started the official process for becoming an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  My Session voted to recommend me to the presbytery Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) as an Inquirer in March.  I met with CPM this past Monday evening and they voted to recommend that the Presbytery of New Brunswick enroll me as an Inquirer at the next meeting in 2 weeks.  So from the official side I’m on my way.  Our denomination has a very planned and regimented process of care, support, discernment and gate-keeping where the CPM committee will work with me (and my church Session, and to some degree the seminary) between now and the day that I may someday be ordained into my first call to make sure that God, the community and I all see that Call to ministry.  That’s moving now.

My plan at this point is to start seminary for my Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree in the Fall of 2011.  Our financial plan calls for me to work on a very part-time basis for each of the next 5 years.  So for the next year I hope to find some combination of small business work, project work (hopefully church-related or something similar) and a regularly scheduled part-time job (again, ideally church-related or something in the non-profit field) that makes up about 10-15 hours a week.  At the same time I’ll be continuing to discern, work on seminary applications, and volunteer at church and elsewhere.  My wife has a solid well-paying job here so we are not looking to move either for school or the future.

So that’s what’s going on.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments.  I do plan to reactivate this blog going forward to keep you updated on the journey and to again open up the release of writing that I felt needed to be temporarily stifled by my job search.  Watch this space!

Sorry it’s been quiet

June 8, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Admin, Job Search, Life, Work 

Hey, folks.

It’s been quiet here because there are decisions being made about my life and work-life direction that unfortunately aren’t really bloggable.  I’m looking at a fork in the road and trying to decide which way to go, or even if I can make some kind of hybrid path down the middle.  Blogging about it could make folks from either fork concerned that I’m not 100% committed to that fork (though if I chose it I would be), and therefore I’m not writing here.  Rest assured that I will be committed to my path once I choose it.

And if that sounds cryptic, it’s the best that I can do.  Friends on Facebook can probably get a better read on what I’m talking about.

Thank you for your patience.

40 Prayers of Hope and Gratitude, for Bruce

May 2, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Youth 

Tomorrow is the birthday of Bruce Reyes-Chow, a friend and currently the moderator of the PC(USA).  On his blog, he asks for some very charitable birthday “gifts” to him.  One of them is “a list of prayers for 40 things for which you are grateful, gives you hope or are in need of God’s healing“.  (Besides – he needs a little love.  The first comment on the post attacked him for a position of faith and politics – on a post related to his birthday!)

I can do that.

  1. For my wife, who I am VERY grateful for.
  2. For my family (parents and siblings) and the relationship that we have that didn’t look too likely for a while.
  3. For Barbara, Jill and Kathy – former co-workers who are being very supportive during my career transition.
  4. For the youth group at my church.  I am both grateful for them, and they give me hope.  Some of them need your prayers for healing.
  5. For the horde of Twitterati who follow my every tweeted move, give me music when I need it, give me information when I need it, and entertain me.
  6. For Rich, Jeremiah, Jill, Gooitzen, Elsa, Aaron and others from my church family who are being very supportive during my career transition.
  7. For the many recent and near-future seminary graduates that I interact with, who are both a source of hope and in need of prayers to find their destinations.
  8. For S (who will remain otherwise nameless here but I’m sure is reading this), for being/assisting my sense of call and helping me to explain my Montreat experience.  You know who you are.
  9. For the children in my neighborhood, who remind me of the relative importance of parts of life.
  10. For healing for those on all sides who have been hurt by the whole Amendment B business.
  11. For my cats.  Gratitude for them being there for me and entertaining me.  Hope that they radiate (particularly when it’s snack time).  Healing for both as they age and begin to suffer the effects.
  12. Hope from the members of my church’s confirmation class, who were able to teach parts of the lesson that I was teaching.
  13. Healing for two youth workers waiting for transplants.
  14. Gratitude for those who have let me put my skills to work for them while I’m seeking a job.
  15. Gratitude for my sister whose birthday is today (sharing it with Bruce’s “Middle” child).
  16. Healing for everybody else hurt by the economy.
  17. Healing for everybody else hurt by greed.
  18. Hope and healing for those with obstacles between them and what God is calling them to.
  19. Healing for those affected by swine flu Hamthrax H1N1 and gratitude that it is turning out to be mild for most.
  20. Healing for those suffering from mental illness.
  21. Healing for Mom, who had two teeth pulled yesterday.
  22. Hope for/about Sara, who is taking the first steps in a new direction.
  23. Gratitude for and hope from Rich who is letting me find my place in the youth ministry.
  24. Gratitude for Lorelei.  Everybody needs a Lorelei, some of them the same one.
  25. Gratitude for two places on the entire planet (outside of my relationship with Carolyn) where I have been able to be myself 100%:  Camp Johnsonburg and Montreat.
  26. Healing for the people whose prayer cards come to me each week after worship.  Hope that my prayers are helping.
  27. Healing for the people of Sudan, of Somalia, and other places where oppression and violence reign.
  28. Gratitude for Tim, Jessica, Jessica, Nancy, Carolyn, Andrea, and a few others who have been there during my darkest hours (whether they realize it or not).
  29. Gratitude for the Project Open Door task force – it was great working with all of you, and I look forward to the next steps.
  30. Healing for all of those who feel that fighting about minutia is more important than loving one another.
  31. Hope and healing for all who feel that being somewhere else is what they have to do.
  32. Gratitude and hope for all of those who I’ve networked with during my career transition.
  33. Gratitude for the opportunity to play the drums again for a purpose.
  34. Hope (healing?  help?) for the God Complex radio staff and talent that we’ll be ready by Monday.
  35. Healing for those that I have hurt and have not reconciled with (and for me to do so someday).
  36. Gratitude for polity – specifically that of the PC(USA).
  37. Gratitude for that unexplained good mood that strikes sometimes.
  38. Hope?  Healing?  for my personal discernment in this season of change.
  39. Healing for all of my issues that I’ve chosen not to mention here.
  40. Gratitude, hope for/from, and healing if he needs it for Bruce.

Happy Birthday, Bruce!  Welcome to the over the hill gang.

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.

I am a Project Management Professional (PMP)

March 5, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Work 

As of this afternoon, I am now a Project Management Professional (PMP), certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

In order to achieve this certification, I had to document 4,500 hours of time leading project tasks, 35 contact hours of project management training, and pass the exam.  I actually documented about 5,600 hours of time and 71 hours of training.  This certification is not so much a new skill for me as the formal recognition of skills that I already have and use.  This should enable me to more easily get through the screen for positions that require these skills and/or certification.

My wife got this certification several years ago, so we are now a 2 PMP family.

A quick life update

February 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Work 

Here’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.

Job Search – I’ve been putting most of my effort into gaining Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the PMI.  My application has been approved and I’m scheduled to take the test next Thursday.  I’ve been spending the majority of my time during the day preparing for the application, taking an online class, or studying.  As a result, my job search has been more or less temporarily stopped.  This certification will open up many job openings that I do not qualify for today – not because I can’t do the job, but because the company chooses to require this certification.

Church – As I wrote below, Project Open Door has completed its work.  We’re going to have a bit of a social celebration soon to close out.  Deacon stuff is keeping me busy – I had coffee duty last week, Shrove Tuesday dinner this week, and next Sunday I’m serving communion at the morning service and perhaps again at the Worship in a New Key service.  I may also play drums at the WINK service in some fashion, and we have youth group afterwards.  Tonight I’m going to the Pennington School with our youth director to see the production of Wizard of Oz that at least one of our youth is in.

Home – It’s been a busy week – Carolyn or I have been out each night this week with something.  Monday was the monthly ham radio emergency test, Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday, last night was her yoga and Ash Wednesday, and tonight I have the school production.  The weekend is hockey-free and will be quieter.  House is fine, wife is fine, cats are fine.

2008: My personal year in review

December 31, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Admin, Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Young Adult, Youth 

Good riddance.

It’s not that the year was all bad.  Some of it was really very good.  It’s just that the bad outweighed the good.  Most of this was due to one very bad thing.

Work
This was a particularly bad year.  I’m not going to go into details, but you should assume that life at my former employer wasn’t particularly fun before August.  In August, I was laid off from a job that I’d held for 13 1/2 of the last 15 years.  It only helps slightly that this employer ultimately filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November.

And if that wasn’t enough – the economy tanked at the same time.  The cause of the company’s failure wasn’t solely the economy, but it was a big part of it.  Jobs just plain dried up from September through early December.  There are signs that things are easing now.

If it weren’t for positive things and positive people in the rest of my life, I don’t know how I would have handled this.

Church
The good:
I LOVE my youth group.  The young men and women that I work with more or less every week are all wonderful, and I learned a lot about myself, them, life and God over the last year.  Sunday afternoon/evening is the high point of my week.

The summer trip to the Montreat Youth Conference was one of the top 10 experiences of my life.  I truly feel that God spoke to me that week in some fashion.  I know that my faith deepened, and that the same happened to most if not all of the group from our church that went on the trip.  I also feel that I grew outside of the religious aspects.  (Of course, this high leaves me wondering where God is in my life now, when things are not so good.)  The biggest thing that I learned this year – while I care a lot about our youth, they care about me too.

Putting together the Moderator Meet and Greet event in April was a lot of fun as well as being a lot of work.  I met a lot of new and wonderful people.  The event was well attended, and I hear that it helped commissioners make a decision at General Assembly.

Meeting in person and working online with other church leaders has been mostly positive.  I’m amazed at how strong the online Presbyterian-and-beyond religious community is.  I’ve felt support when I needed it and given and watched it flow the other way when others needed it.

Serving as a deacon has been rewarding.  This is work that I know that I can do and do well, and that is relatively easy, and that aids the church.  That’s sort of the point, isn’t it?  I just have to be careful not to schedule myself too heavily (like the Sunday that I had coffee service AND served communion AND agreed to set up tables for a later event).

My committee studying hospitality, visitor and community issues for the church has nearly completed its work.  We have identified 19 issues and more than 19 suggestions for how to change/fix/handle those issues.  We present to the Session in February.  The team has worked hard and learned a lot.

Serving as the new webmaster for the church’s website and weekly e-mailed newsletter has been a growth experience for me.  It has forced me to learn new technical skills and also to generate a little content independently.

The bad:
The worst has to have been the controversy over my blog in March/April/May/June of this year.  I don’t know if people realize it, but the church was about 12 hours from losing me in April – the only things keeping me were the facts that Youth Sunday and the Moderator Meet and Greet were imminent responsibilities of mine.  This event only took 2nd to the loss of my job in how poorly I felt while in the middle of it.

I am also continually dismayed by the negative tones in some conversations/fights/battle-royales in the church community over the hot button issues of today.  Those of us within the church fight harder and with less love than we do with our colleagues in other denominations or religions, even though the points of disagreement are far smaller and unimportant.

Home
Home life continues to be solid.  Carolyn and I have ridden out the very rough patches of the 2nd half of the year with no negative effect on our relationship.  Most of this is due to Carolyn’s very conservative nature when it comes to money, and the strong planning ability that both of us have.  She continues to be supportive at a very difficult time in my life and it has brought us if anything closer together.

The cats are still fine.  They turn 13 tomorrow.  Isaac is still suffering from a bit of arthritis in his hips, but the daily Cosequin is helping.  Both of them still have a fair amount of kitten left and still go running around like crazy animals occasionally.  Albert has had no recurrence of his kidney issues.

The house is fine.  We have had to put off a bit of home repair work (mainly fixing the fireplace chimney that failed a while back) for economic reasons.  Nothing important is wrong, and we continue to love living here.  It’s a great neighborhood – not too noisy, not too quiet, and plenty of kids running around.
My car has had a rough year.  I was rear-ended in July and minor damage was done to my rear bumper.  It was fixed pretty quickly, but it took about 4-5 months before the insurance companies paid my deductible.  Here’s a tip – no matter how late you are, don’t pass on the right on a one-lane on-ramp.

Health

No major changes.  On the Montreat trip I lost a number of pounds due to the stairmaster-like qualities of the village of Montreat (to get anywhere you have to walk down a big hill and up a big hill).  The emotional strain of being out of work took off some more.  I’ve managed to end the year a net 10 pounds down.  Otherwise, my health remains the same.

I’m hoping that 2009 will be a combination of the continuance of good things, and an end to the bad things that are happening now.  I see new hope in the elections of both our PC(USA) Moderator and the new President of the USA.  It remains to be seen if that hope turns into a better reality for the country, church, and me.

Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving Weekend Update

November 26, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Work 

It’s time for another update.

This year is different.  Being out of work at a holiday is both easier and harder than usual.  Easier – because there’s more free time to prepare.  Harder – because the situation does tend to drag on you.  This year I am thankful for what I still have:  my wife, my home, my health (more or less), my cats, my church youth group, my other church friends, and all of my friends who have been so helpful with my job search.

The job search continues.  I have a few irons in the fire for possible permanent positions, and I’m starting to look at consulting as a temporary or permanent solution.  I have heard from several companies that they are impressed with my skills and experience, and that they need someone who can do what I do, but that they are unable to hire at the present time.  They’re telling me that they’ll get back to me in the first quarter of next year, assuming that I’m still available (and truthfully – I hope that I’m not).

This weekend is alternating nothing and crazy.  Here’s a quick rundown:

Today (Wednesday) – Later this afternoon I’ll knock off the job search and start vacuuming the whole house.  Tonight Carolyn will start preparing the stuffing for tomorrow’s dinner.

Thursday (Thanksgiving) – Carolyn’s parents will be arriving at our house in the morning, and all of us will head over to my parents in the early afternoon for the big extravanganza.  (Carolyn’s aunt, uncle and cousin will go to my parents independently.)  The afternoon should include dinner, a post-dinner snooze or walk around the neighborhood, then dessert and probably the Eagles game.  The Brennan parents and Carolyn and I will head home and the Brennans will stay overnight at our house.

Friday – The in-laws will head back home at some point.  So far, nothing else is planned.

Saturday – No big plans, but there’s a Trenton Devils game in the evening.  Carolyn will probably make the dessert for tomorrow.

Sunday – Church-a-palooza.  This is what happens when I’m not paying attention while scheduling.  I’m on deacon coffee service before and after worship, I’m serving communion during worship, and then after Fellowship Hour is over I’m setting up tables for the evening Hanging of the Greens Advent Potluck Dinner.  In the afternoon Carolyn and I will prepare a salad, then we’ll go back to church for said potluck and cleanup.  It’s actually a good thing that I’ll be that busy – it offsets the week.  This is a semi-historic worship service – the “first elder under age 18 in 310 years” is also serving communion for his first time.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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