What are you about?

It's a simple question really, although one that might be difficult to answer:  What are you about?  What defines you?  What is unique about you?  What makes you who you are?

Jamie asked this question of herself on her blog, which got me thinking about what I'm about.

I'm about Jesus, and I'm about helping others follow him.

I'm about my wife.

I'm about the Church and more specifically my church.

I'm about community.

I'm about cities. I live in DC, and my last three trips have been to Seattle, New York City, and Addis Ababa.

I'm about food. I especially love Chicago pizza, hot dogs and beef sandwiches, and if you grill meat I'll like it.

I'm about leadership, learning to lead myself and others well.

I'm about too much TV.

I'm about receiving grace and trying to get better at giving it.

I'm about reading and writing.

I'm about social media.

I'm about driving.

I'm about generosity.

I'm about being stressed and agitated but trying to change that.

I'm about my friends.

I'm about Sabbath.

I'm about poker.

I'm about competition and winning.

I'm about thinking and challenging and stretching my mind (and yours).

I'm about serving the vulnerable, because that's what Jesus is about.

I'm about integrity.

I'm trying to be about joy and intentionality.

I'm about theology.

I'm becoming about artistic expression and travel.

I used to be about politics.

I'm about exercise (sometimes).

What are you about?  Leave a comment below or better yet, write your own post and link back to mine.  I'll be sure to swing by your blog and check it out.

Photo by Flickr User gfpeck

What the Church can Learn from Starbucks

Last week Rachel and I had the opportunity to visit Starbucks' headquarters thanks to Erin, a friend of a friend of Rachel's who was kind enough to give us a tour.  Being a huge Starbucks aficionado, I was thrilled.

When you walk into the lobby you'll see two things on the walls: the Starbucks mission statement and a timeline of their history.

I had never heard their mission statement before touring their headquarters: To inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

I asked Erin if the mission statement is something that the employees are aware of and think about, and her response was that they most definitely do.

Curious if the corporate mission had made it all the way down from HQ to individual stores, I texted my friend Tim Holland—who manages a Starbucks in DC—and asked if he knew the mission statement.  His response, "You kidding? Of course I do." And he proceeded to write it out.

When I asked if his baristas know it, he said, "I make them recite it to me. No better way to get them to buy into the culture than teaching them our history and values. Both are encapsulated in that simple statement."

The Starbucks mission statement isn't just something that's on the wall.  It permeates the culture and affects how the company operates, from the CEO all the way down to the front-line barista.

In the last 25 years, Starbucks has grown from a small company to a huge international corporation, but when the recession happened a few years ago they took a hard hit.  Their response?  Refocus on the mission.  The results speak for themselves.  They recovered and are growing again.

Before he left Earth, Jesus gave the church a mission statement: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

The mission of the Church is to move people closer to God, if they don't know Him to help them get to know Him and if they do, to help them know, love, and obey Him more.

While Starbucks has spent the last 25 years experiencing phenomenal growth, the influence of the western Church has declined markedly. I can't help but wonder if at least part of that is attributable to a loss of focus on our mission.

Tim said that not all Starbucks stores are as focused on the mission. "Those [managers] are comfortable staying where they're at and keeping their baristas put, too.  There's too much talent in our stores to ignore its development potential. Really sad."

Pastors, is your church like Tim's store, with a laser focus on the mission and leadership that is committed to seeing the mission lived out?

Or is it more like the stores where the managers "are comfortable staying where they're at and keeping their [people] put too"?

A Rhythm of Rest

August 12-September 17 Task List
  • Lead mission trip
  • Launch fall small groups
  • Film three leadership training videos
  • Train new Protege

...it's been a long few weeks.

Fortunately, Rachel and I have nine days away from it all in sunny Seattle.  I'm looking forward to a lot of reading, writing, and caffeination.

On tap are a tour of Starbucks headquarters, the troll and the Lenin Statue in Fremont, perhaps a couple of days in nature, a visit to the Space Needle, and did I mention lots reading and writing in coffeeshops?

Not on tap? Checking my work e-mail.

The last few weeks and months are teaching me some important lessons.

There are no "slow" seasons in ministry, only busy seasons and busier seasons, and I know that's a problem not limited to pastors: entrepreneurs, politicians, activists, and many others face the same struggle.

If I, or anyone else with a demanding role, is going to last—to live, love, and lead for a long time—it's going to take a concerted effort to keep a sustainable rhythm.

Notice that I didn't say a sustainable pace.  It's not about making sure you only work 48.5 hours per week every week.  Some weeks will be sixty or seventy hours.  There will be busy days, busy weeks, busy seasons, but don't fool yourself into thinking that every day, every week, every season can be like that.

I suppose there may be a few notable exceptions, a few people who can go and go and go day after day after day, but for the vast majority of us...

  1. We need to balance our periods of intense activity with real rest,
  2. We need to avoid taking on more than necessary during our already busy times.

I could have done a much better job with both of these this year.

I have taken very little down time, very little time to rest.  There's a reason I still have 5+ weeks of vacation this late in the year... I haven't taken any.

And during two of my busy months, May and August, I managed to pile on a lot of extra work, like 30-40 hours of study for an intensive small group and an eight day mission trip.

Without a sustainable rhythm, we're setting ourselves up for burnout or worse, a crash that sets us back years.

Do you have a sustainable rhythm?

When are you resting?

What do you need to change so that you can last a long time?

Photo Credit: Nova77