2015 Year End Ministry Update

ivm Mailchimp card12015 was a year filled with rewarding ministry, meaningful accomplishments, and major transitions. Thanks for your support along the way.
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! As we continue to journey together through the Christmas season, I want to share a brief update on my ministry during 2015.

The year began with me completing my research and the first draft of my doctoral thesis. You can read the abstract and introduction here: kengcrawford.com/online-journal/transforming-vocations/. The research focuses on the relationship between faith and vocation, and in particular how clergy are creating sustainable and faithful ministries that are multifaceted and include income from multiple sources. This will be increasingly important as the cost of education rises, the ability of congregations to support fulltime pastors decreases, and a higher percentage of the population remain outside of traditional faith communities. These three factors necessitate increasing emphasis on ministry outside the walls of the church, requiring new ways of training, conducting, and funding such ministries.

I took another step in response to this need by formally launching the Institute for Vital Ministry (iVM – iVitalMinistry.org) through a three year agreement with the Missional Wisdom Foundation (MWF – MissionalWisdom.com) as my fiscal sponsor for my 501c3 status. The goal of iVM is to serve as a platform that supports clergy and laity who are leading congregations and community organizations. We will do this through training, education, retreats, coaching, spiritual direction and pastoral care, along with the production of print, audio, video and digital resources for these activities. I am joined by a small and growing team of collaborators and partners. We are scheduling speaking events, workshops and retreats for 2016, so if you would like to host or participate, please let me know.

In May of 2015 I earned Doctor of Ministry with Honors from SMU. Since that time I have been primarily focused on conducting research and laying the groundwork for this new ministry. My own multivocal ministry includes serving part time as pastor of St. Paul’s E&R Church UCC (StPaulUCCDallas.org) and helping to launch a social entrepreneurship coworking space with MWF (TheMixCoworking.org). My hope is that iVM can provide an increasing percentage of my family income, freeing me up for this most important and underserved work.

2016 will include two new projects along with continuing the current work:

  • AltrCall …. A gathering and exploration of stories of calling that include but go way beyond the norm and the expected. Clergy and Laity who are finding new ways to live out their call to ministry. Some will bear a family resemblance to things you already know. Others will be as if seeing ministry for the first time.
  • MultiVocal …. Discover how vocation is manifest through the six domains of human flourising, and how you can become more fully yourself, more fully whole, by discovering, developing and deploying your vocational identity in each part of your life.

You have already provides support in one or multiple ways – through collaboration, encouragement, prayers, or financial gifts. My hope is that you will continue and expand your support as 2015 ends and 2016 begins. To receive a 2015 contribution letter gifts must received by December 31st – you can send a check or contribute online. You can accelerate the pace at which this work grows and serves more leaders and organizations by making a sustaining pledge of a monthly gift in 2016. However you give, I thank you. Please tell the story of the work being done and invite others to come along on the journey – and remember, “Wherever your road leads… you don’t have to travel alone.”

Yours in Christ,
Ken

Rev. Dr. Ken G. Crawford
Pastor, St. Paul’s E&R Church (UCC)
Executive Director, Institute for Vital Ministry
iVM: Companions on your journey.
“Wherever your road leads… you don’t have to travel alone.”

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VOCATION – Finding Your Voice

what is vocationYour vocation is “The voice with which your life speaks things into existence in the world.” This idea derives from the Latin etymology – vocare (to call) and vox (voice). The Hebrew text from Genesis 1 describes how God’s voice creates all that we know, including humanity, who are made in God’s image. We reason then that our lives also create things for good in the world, and this voice is our vocation. We actually have multiple vocations in our lives through the various relationship, occupations, hobbies and other ways that we engage the world.

There are many different individual and group practices than can help us to discern and develop our vocations. Over the coming months we will share some of those techniques here, and others will be presented in our workshops. You can also find them listed on our Facebook Page @iVitalMinistry.

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The Fredrick Buechner Center offers the following excerpt:

Vocation

IT COMES FROM the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.

Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

– Originally published in Wishful Thinking

iVM Summer 2015 Announcement

The Institute for Vital Ministry – Companions for your journey.

Summer 2015

Dear Friend in Faith,

I am writing to ask you to become an early adopter and supporter as I launch my new nonprofit – The Institute for Vital Ministry. Our primary goal is to support and strengthen the work of leaders in congregations and community nonprofits.

Leadership is difficult – particularly in the ministry and nonprofit sectors. Whether staff, volunteer or board member, the turnover and burnout rates are remarkably high. We can change that by giving these leaders the support they need for sustainable vitality in their work.

COMPANIONSHIP IS KEY!

The Institute for Vital Ministry is a platform for transformation.

We are gathering a community of collaborative partners and building a platform of resources to provide leadership and life coaching, individually and in groups, through The Institute for Vital Ministry. Specifically, we provide:

  • Individual, Peer to Peer, and Group Coaching that is self-replicating and self-sustaining – leaders learn to support one another collaboratively.
  • Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Care for those who are under the heaviest burdens or seeking additional clarity.
  • Resources for leaders, including shared stories of struggle, change and transformation, so people don’t feel alone or helpless.

The Institute for Vital Ministry offers all of this and more, to any leader, any person of peace, who promotes individual and community health, well-being and flourishing.

Every $50 raised provides a coaching session or a day of conference, workshop or retreat for a nonprofit leader.

How can you help?

  • I invite you to join me in this work by doing the following:
  • Pray for this ministry and the leaders we seek to serve.
  • Spread the word to others who would be interested in supporting our efforts.
  • Contribute financially with a one time or recurring gift.
  • Contribute online: http://www.iVitalMinistry.com/Support. OR send a check to: Institute for Vital Ministry, c/o Missional Wisdom Fndn, 185 S. Whites Chapel Blvd., Southlake, TX 76092.

Thank you for joining with us in supporting the ministry and mission of Christ in the world. We also want to join with you to support your ministry and mission. Please share your story with us so that together we might discover new ways to serve and thus spread the good news.
Yours in Christ –
Ken
Rev. Dr. Ken G. Crawford

Vocation – Fredrick Buechner

Fredrick Buechner wrote the following about vocation…

IT COMES FROM the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.

Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do.
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

– Originally published in Wishful Thinking

From FredrickBuechner.com

“The way of the cross.” or “Why you shouldn’t run toward a firing squad.”

When we remember Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, it is tempting to get caught up in an over-exuberant faithfulness toward self-denial, embracing the Way of the Cross, that verges on a full-fledged Messiah Complex.

  • Yes, we are called to a life of self-denial. *
  • Yes, we are called to “take up your cross and follow me.” *
  • Yes, we are promised that we will only find life in our journey of releasing. *
    * Luke 9:23-24

And Yes, Jesus entered Jerusalem that final week and seemingly did everything he could to get himself crucified. He stirred up trouble with every group of religious leaders, and then refused to defend himself when given the opportunity. (Mark 11-15) It could be tempting to follow his example.

(Thanks to crosstippedchurches.blogspot.com)

Thanks to crosstippedchurches.blogspot.com

Don’t.

Remember that numerous times Jesus avoided conflict and trouble, slipping away from the crowd rather than letting them take him to martyrdom. At the wedding in Cana he initially declined to intervene (John 2). In Nazareth the crowd was inflamed and sought to throw him off a cliff, but he slipped away (Luke 4). His brothers invited him to join them in Jerusalem and he said no, and then went alone, secretly (John 7:10). He repeatedly tells people not to reveal who he is. He says this to the disciples (Matthew 17), those he heals (Mark 7), and even to the demons (Mark 1).

Jesus had likely visited Jerusalem numerous times and seen the terrible things taking place in the Temple but said nothing. He likely witnessed many forms of oppression and violence without intervening. This does not mean that he condoned these things, or that we should. It seems to suggest that he had a very clear sense of his own calling and purpose, and that he would not let anything derail that –

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4)

Jesus’ public ministry lasted for three years, and he was an adult leader in his community for 15 years prior to that. He had innumerable opportunities to embrace his destiny on the cross, and he let them pass by, because “his time had not come.” (John 7) When his time finally did come, he knew, and walked with faithfulness and hope, into Jerusalem and ultimately to Golgotha. But even then, this was an end he neither desired nor sought. He had no death wish, no need to be a martyr, no longing for the glory among humans or the honor from heaven that comes with laying down one’s life. Not until he recognized the time had come for God’s plan to unfold did he, willingly if regretfully, yield to those who sought to destroy the kingdom, “taking it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)

So, whatever else Holy Week means to you, don’t get confused into thinking that God wants you to martyr yourself for the cause. In the vast majority of cases you are far more likely to be of use and service to God’s kingdom by staying alive, by living humbly and quietly and graciously with a passion for justice and a love for all people that expresses the love and peace you have found in God.

Taking up your cross and following him is not about literally getting yourself killed, at least not for most of us. It is about the many little self-denials and rejections that we experience and embrace because Christ calls us to something that the world does not understand nor know that it needs.

Generational Giving

2164 logoRecently I attended a workshop at Communities Foundation of Texas hosting Sharna Goldseker from 21/64. The conversation was titled “Generations of Generosity: How Traditionalists, Boomers, GenXers and Millennials Give.”

IMG_4436The event revolved around a group process at our tables where we had a drawing of a person from one of the four generational groups –

  • Traditionalists born 1925-1945
  • Boomers born 1946-1964
  • Gen x born 1965-1980
  • Millennials born 1981-2000

These categories are based on the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss – Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069.

Our task in the group was to identify the formative generational life experiences (write those around the figure)  and the internal thoughts and attitudes and feelings that might result from these experiences. For instance, Traditionalists lived through the depression and rationing of WWII, so frugality is a common trait among them. Boomers came to adulthood during the civil rights era and Viet Nam conflict – they are often motivated by causes. Generation X saw Iran Contra, Church sex scandals so they tend to be cynical and distrusting of institutions. Generation Y / Millennials are the technology generation, have never known a time without computers and the internet, and were raised by boomers, so they are impatient, and want to be involved directly in decision making and impact.

These are broad brush categories and descriptions, but they hold true for a large portion of the population. When there is a seeming communication gap or disconnect, these may help offer some explanation. When an institution – Foundation, NonProfit, or Religious Organization – is wanting to connect with new generations of contributors, board members and engaged community partners, understanding the generational trait can provide needed insight.

If Millennials do not see how they can participate and can’t measure the impact, they will not participate, no matter how “wonderful the organization or cause.” Boomers are still motivated by cause – help them see how the organization connects to and furthers causes about which they care and with which they can engage. Gen X cohort tend to be cynical, presenting a “prove it to me” posture and attitude. Underneath and behind that wall is a deep desire to do good and make the world a better place. They were latchkey kids, so they are trained to figure things out and do things on their own, not waiting around for permission from authorities. This makes them great innovators and hard workers.

One of the challenges not discussed was how to engage one group without alienating others. Younger generations tend to be drawn toward more edgy marketing and story telling, and are often more progressive about social issues.While we should not prejudge how people will respond, we also may want to consider how traditionalists will respond to a marketing campaign designed to connect with Millennials. Will they be offended? Will they even understand it? “Communication is not what you say, but what people hear.”* So it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to understand HOW people hear, if we want to engage them in the conversation.

One way to approach this is simply to ask, “When I say XYZ (give, donate, volunteer, etc) what do you hear? What runs through your mind? What are your questions? What is most important to you?”

NextGenDonors LogoGoldseker is the co-author of #NextGenDonors. I was very interested that there was no social media connection information provided until the end of the presentation. I was attempting to post to Twitter and Facebook, but could not easily identify the hashtags or handles to use. We finally did get #NextGenDonors on Facebook and Twitter, and I found @2164Buzz on Twitter. I’m squarely in Gen X (born 1970) and I use social media to share ideas with colleagues and engage the larger community in conversation about topics that I find important. Not being able to do this easily, and more specifically not being encouraged and enabled to do this, at a session about Next Gen Donors, was confusing to me. Perhaps CF Texas only uses twitter for specific campaigns like North Texas Giving Day. I wonder if my friends at SparkFarm have any thoughts about this?

What does your organization do to connect with each generation? Do you intentionally focus on only one or two demographic groups, or do you try to connect with all four? What resources do you find most helpful?

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* Michael Moynahan SJ. “Incarnation.” Hearts on Fire. Michael Harter SJ. ed

Virtual Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday and Lent
the Spiritual Reset Button for your life.

reset-buttonSecular and religious people have many important things in common. One of those, that is being remembered and honored by Christians today, is the need to experience repentance and forgiveness. Who among us has not fallen short of the moral, ethical or relational standards we set for ourselves, to say nothing of the standards others try to set for us? When I fail to honor the sacredness of friendship and love. When I make a promise that I am unable to keep. When I speak words in anger or fear that assault and wound. When I neglect my duty to nurture and care. When I tear down rather than build up, degrade rather than construct, poison rather than nourish. When my silence supports systems of oppression, particularly when I then gain in the process.

When I do these things, what then? How can I move from this position to a status of restored relationship? What can I offer, what do I need to receive? Who can help?

In my own life, I have found the story of Jesus to be a compelling witness to my own brokenness and frailty and lack, because he shared in it, even to the point of death and fear of the same. For me the greatest pain in my own failures is not that I have committed them, but that I may be unable to experience restoration. What if things can’t be repaired (some can’t)? What if time runs out and I never get to say, “I’m sorry,” and hear, “You are forgiven”? What if… I live not in certainty, but in hope.

I hope that you know where to turn, to whom you can go, to find the help that you need when you face these issues in your own life. I also hope that you are able to extend compassion and mercy to others, not because they deserve it, but because you need it too.