<![CDATA[Pastor Jess - Congregational Renewal Stories and Resources]]>Fri, 03 Nov 2023 09:16:22 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Matthew 18, TRIANGLES, and Communication]]>Tue, 01 Sep 2020 15:45:37 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/matthew-18-triangles-and-communication
Matthew 18: 15-20 (NRSV)
"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

The Death of CongregationS

Both Bowen's Family Systems Theory and Jesus in the above Bible passage tell us that triangles in relationships are less than helpful.  They are normal human behavior and none of us can avoid them all of the time.  However, there is a more helpful way that we can learn.  "People are saying" and lack of direct communication is the death of congregations.  Not owning your own feelings as a member of your congregation is often normal, but also causes triangles.  Let me give you the nitty gritty of HOW to do this, and then below explain WHY it matters so much. 


Especially for those in leadership and church councils, but applies to everyone.  This is a scenario where someone comes to the church council with a complaint about the Pastor that is not in the exception category.  You can apply this to several other situations.  This is a training I often do with church councils.  

Steps in Direct Communication

  1. Person calls or talks to Council Member (CM) about a complaint about the Pastor. 
  2. CM encourages Person to talk directly to Pastor.  CM lets Person know Pastor is not scary, and that would love to hear Person's story, and that Pastor is a good listener.  CM notices if this has not previously been true of clergy in the congregation, but is true now.  If person agrees, you're done!  If not, go to the next step.
  3. CM offers to go with Person to talk to Pastor.  (See Jesus' instructions to do this in the Bible story.)  They talk to Pastor together, and you're done!  If not, go to the next step. 
  4. Person says they can absolutely not talk to Pastor.  CM offers to let Pastor know of Person's issue, but only if CM can use Person's name.  CM explains that Pastor needs to be able to follow up on the complaint for it to be useful for building up the body of Christ.  If the Person agrees, the CM can talk to Pastor, and you're done!  If they disagree, go to the next step. 
  5. CM can, if they wish and have the time and energy, offer to help Person cope with their feelings of stress, but explain that nothing can be done with an anonymous complaint, as they not useful for the building up of the Body of Christ or the congregation.  CM encourages Person not share the complaint with anyone else from the congregation so that the stress does not amplify around the community.  Move onto step 6. (See below for more.)   
  6. CM DOES NOT share the complaint with Pastor, or anyone else from the congregation.  This stops the triangle in it's tracks, and allows better and more positive energy to move around the group.  
None of us will be perfect at this.  Sometimes, we need to talk things through with someone before we know what we think.  The point is that according to both Jesus and family system's theory, we eventually need to go directly to the person who has the power to do something about our complaint.  Good thing Jesus forgives us and gives us a chance to try again if it takes practice for all of us to do this.  

As a Pastor, I sometimes fall into the triangle trap.  I hope that if you catch me complaining about someone else to you, past getting advice for dealing with the situation that I'll take back to the person, you'll tell me to stop.  I hope you'll hold me accountable for not causing triangles, too.  It'll be healthier and more Biblical for all of us.  

What Are Triangles? 

A relationship triangle is when we offload stress, or in family system's language, anxiety.  We offload this stress between us and another person by involving a third person.  For example, if I'm mad at my spouse, instead of telling my spouse, I might complain about my spouse to my child.  I've taken the stress between my spouse and I, and turned it into a triangle involving our child.  Often, our child will then yell at his other parent.  The stress between me and my spouse has now gone through our child. I hope it is obvious that this isn't healthy for anyone in my household, and that it would have been better for me to talk to my spouse directly.  (Ok, let's be real, "talk" might be code for "fight" or "yell".  I'm human, ya'll.) In our household situation, it increases my child's stress to be put in the middle, which causes my child to act out, which then increases the stress of everyone.  So much stress and behavior could have been prevented if I'd talk directly to my spouse.  In the short term, it might seem easier to triangle our child into our relationship, but in the long term, that just makes our house a less pleasant place to live.  Direct communication is good for families, churches, friendship groups, sports teams, clubs, or civic organizations.  By using triangles -- complaining about something to the people who have no power to change it in hopes THEY'LL take it back to the person you're upset with, only spreads stress and anxiety through a group.  Jesus invites us to a different way, especially in congregations.  

We create triangles in congregations, too, often, and especially, when it involves the Pastor or leaders.  If we have stress with our Pastor, or with our church council leaders, we often complain to everyone EXCEPT the person who can do something about the complaint.  Don't like something Pastor said in her sermon?  Instead of calling her directly, talk to several others to offload your stress in your relationship with your Pastor.  If you can remember the game of telephone, you might be able to notice how this could go badly.  Several times when I've realized someone was mad at me through someone else, and I went directly to the person who was mad, it turned out they were mad about something I never said, only what they THOUGHT they heard.  The stress could have been so much lower if only they'd come directly to me so I could clarify what I said.  By spreading the stress, more people were worried about what they thought I said.  It wasn't a healthy move for the congregation, or for my relationship with the person who was most upset.  

ANONYMOUS Complaints

This is why anonymous complaints in congregations are not healthy.  They only spread stress and anxiety.  If the complaint is anonymous, there's no telling if the Person is complaining about something that actually happened or was said, or if they were complaining about what they THOUGHT they heard.  One time, I had a person come into my office, after several others pushed her to do so, to complain about my sermon on Job.  She was clearly complaining about someone else's sermon, as I had a manuscript and audio recording showing that I never said any of the things she was upset about.  What she needed was for me, her Pastor, to listen to her, and to help her think through some spiritual and theological issues.  By finally coming directly to me, we were able to get at the root of the problem.  We had a much better relationship after that.  

In other cases, people have come to me, after being reassured that I'd listen to them, with things I did need to apologize for.  Sometimes, I, a human Pastor, say things I shouldn't, or act in ways that are not contextual for the community I'm with.  I can only apologize if the person is coming directly to me.  In other cases, I've been able to explain my position, and we've left the conversation on much better terms, even if we've agreed to have different ideas.  

Anonymous complains do not allow for following up, building up relationships, or clarifying miscommunications.  

Very Rare Exceptions

Ethics or boundary violations are exceptions.  Those should go straight to the executive committee or top leadership.  A person should never have to meet with someone who has sexually harassed them, done racial violence to them, or abused them in some way.  If someone has been harassed by the Pastor, the executive committee should meet with the Pastor as a group.  In these situations, there should always be witnesses from the beginning, and a protection plan put in place.  Reach out to your synod and research how to become a Consent Culture Congregation in these situations.  

More on Step 5

I think of being a church community like taking turns. We don't have to have conformity. So, for example, if current events in sermons are not your thing, perhaps you'll get more out of the sermons without current events. That might work better for you, and less well for others. Part of being in a community and being in relationship is taking turns, so I try to balance current event sermons with more spiritual ones, since the Jesus I read about in the Bible clearly cared about both, and my goal is to model Jesus as best as I can. 

This is also true for more emotional sermons, interactive sermons, intellectual sermons, or sermons with sports references.  Or even activities around church.  Maybe some of us prefer meditations and silence, and others prefer discussion, and others prefer more active running around.  Part of being community is making sure that we're all moving in the same direction toward our goal of sharing the Gospel of Jesus and responding to the invitation of Jesus to deepen our discipleship.  When we are committed to our goal of being church, taking turns and letting go of centering our personal preferences becomes easier. Yes, your church community should encourage your spiritual needs and growth and bring you closer to Jesus.  Remember that getting closer to Jesus is not the same as having everything the way you want it all the time.  We take turns in community so that all are welcome in the Body of Christ.  
<![CDATA[Pentecost Liturgy 2020]]>Tue, 26 May 2020 16:10:50 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/may-26th-2020USAGE info
You are welcome to use this liturgy, and even to modify it.  If you do use it, however, please put this in your worship bulletin or presentation.  

Without modification:
Call to Worship, Blessing, and Dismissal from http://pastorjess.com.  Used with permission.  Written by Pastor Jess Harren.  (c) 2020 by Rev. Jessica A. Harren under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

With modification:
Call to Worship, Blessing, and Dismissal modified from a resource at 
http://pastorjess.com.  Used with permission.  Written by Pastor Jess Harren.  (c) 2020 by Rev. Jessica A. Harren under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Call To Worship

P: God of creation, thank you for fire
C: To light our way and warm our food.
P: Jesus of salvation, thank you for your breath. 
C: Breathe on us anew. 
P: Holy Spirit of inspiration, be with us now as we reimagine our discipleship. 
C: Send your fire to us!  We are your disciples!


P: May God create ever stronger discipleship in you. 
May Jesus give you his breath of life and hope. 
May the Holy Spirit inspire you with a fiery passion for the Gospel. 
Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Bless you to share in this creative, breathy, and firey Good News. 
C: Amen.


P: Go in peace, with breath and fire, to share the Good News. 
C: Thanks be to God. Amen.

<![CDATA[Thanksgiving for Baptism]]>Thu, 25 Apr 2019 14:49:25 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/thanksgiving-for-baptismIn the Lutheran tradition, we often start worship with either Confession and Forgiveness or Thanksgiving for Baptism.  I think that any time we can acknowledge our messiness and imperfections in church is good.  It is such a relief to start worship knowing I"m in a room full of imperfect people who are also sinners and have also made mistakes.  Publicly sharing that together is a great way to start our time with God.  It is great to understand how messy we are, how the world hurts us, and that we need God in our lives.  Enjoy this liturgy.  
P: Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God,
the fountain of living water,
the rock who gave us birth,
our light and our salvation.
C: Amen.
P: People of God, in the baptismal waters we travel with Christ from death to life. Our past, our sin, our failure, our doubt, and our shame are drowned and gone here.
C:  You, O God, wash us clean.
P: Our fear, our confusion, our self-righteousness, our despair  -- ALL are washed away by grace.
C:  You, O God, wash us clean.
P: Our pride, our hypocrisy, and other people’s opinions of us no longer have the power to define us.
C:  You, O God, give us new life.
P: The Spirit lives and moves through us now, a great and joyful mystery, so we may bring love and mercy into the world as the body of Christ.
C: You, O God, give us new life
P: Rejoice that God has claimed us in this baptismal grace, not by our own doing or believing but by God’s mercy alone. 
C: You, O God, give us new life
P:  And so, as we begin worship, we give thanks to God for the gracious gift of baptism that joins us together in Christ by the Spirit’s power. Joined to Christ in the waters of baptism,
we are clothed with God's mercy and forgiveness.
We praise you for the gift of new life in Jesus Christ.
To you be given honor and praise
through Jesus Christ our Lord
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
C: Amen.

Resource used and edited with permission of Pr. Michael Coffey.  http://mccoffey.blogspot.com/2012/08/thanksgiving-for-baptism-rite.html

<![CDATA[Saying GoodBye to Jesus, A Good Friday Litany]]>Sat, 23 Feb 2019 02:41:55 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/saying-goodbye-to-jesus-a-good-friday-litanySAYING GOODBYE TO JESUS
P:  Saying goodbye is hard.
C:  We would rather not do it.
P:  Death is hard.
C:  We wish it did not have to happen.
P:  Knowing we will lose someone is terrible.
C:  Know that we grieve together is helpful.
P:  One of the best ways to say goodbye to someone is to honor their life by telling stories.  Sometimes, we get to do that while they are still alive, and other times we have to finish conversations with people as best as we can after they are gone.  Tonight, we know that Jesus is going to die.  Tonight, we have the opportunity to say goodbye well. 
I would like to invite you to quietly meditate on the ways you would finish these sentences:
Jesus, while you were alive, I loved the time when you . . . . . . . .
[You are invited to consider one of your favorite Bible stories about Jesus.]
Jesus, I did not like the time that you . . . . . .
            [You are invited to consider something Jesus said or did that you did not like.]
Jesus, I am confused about the time that you said . . . .
            [You are invited to consider something Jesus said you are confused about.]
Jesus, I feel this way about your death . . . . .
Jesus, I find hope because . . . . . .
Jesus, your impact on my life now has been . . . . . .
P:  Saying goodbye is hard.
C:  But it helps to do it together.
P:  Jesus, we will miss you.
C:  But we will see you again in three days.
P:  Goodbye Jesus.
C:  Goodbye Jesus.  ​]]>
<![CDATA[Saying GoodBye to the Alleluia]]>Fri, 22 Feb 2019 15:57:10 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/saying-goodbye-to-the-alleluia
If you use this litany, please print the note below in your bulletin, and please consider contributing to the maintenance fees for this website.  It us up for renewal.  
"Saying Goodbye to the Alleluia" by Rev. Jess Harren.  Copyright by Creative Commons from http://pastorjess.com (2019).  Used with permission. 

Usage Idea

Copy the picture above and hand out to all kids with crayons at the beginning of both the Ash Wednesday service and Lent 1 service.  Have them bring up their pictures at Kid's Time, talk though the idea, and have them put their pictures into the box.  Then, do this litany at the end of Kid's Time, saving one picture to put in the box during the litany.  

A Litany for Ash Wednesday/ Lent 1

P: Alleluia!
C: Christ has died.
P: Alleluia!
C: Christ is Risen.
P: Alleluia!
C: Christ will come again. 
P: Alleluia! Sometimes we must say goodbye for a time.
C: Alleluia!
P: It can help us focus on what needs to be done.
C: Alleluia!
P:  We will know the alleluia is there waiting for us.
C: Alleluia!
P:  We will sing it with a new understanding on Easter morning.
C:  Goodbye, Alleluia.
P:  Goodbye, we’ll see you again. 
(Alleluia banner or picture is placed in the box while silence is kept.)
P:  As Christians, we live in a time of the now and the not yet.  We know that Christ is not really gone, and at the same time, look forward to celebrating the new life and resurrection on Easter.  Putting away our most vibrant word of praise gives us a chance to slow down and take time to grow, and to have a new appreciation for what it means to us to praise with this word on Easter day. 

C:  Amen. 
<![CDATA[Christmas Eve Full Service]]>Mon, 24 Dec 2018 06:00:00 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/christmas-eve-full-serviceHey, ya'll, I know that it has been a long time since I've updated this section of my website.  I left my previous call in May 2018, and have been preaching all over the synod.  Right now, I am very consistently at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Arlington Heights, IL.  I'm there most Sundays, work with worship and music, and also provide pastoral care for the congregation.  They are discerning their future, and I'm along for the ride.  My goal is always to help people grow into a deeper life-saving relationship with Jesus, and to use that ground us when big institutional changes are being discussed.  There are several other links that include shorter parts of the Christmas Service.  Scroll past the list of links to watch the full service.  
It takes a lot of time and digital storage space to post videos, especially ones this big.  Click below to help support this blog! 
<![CDATA[Winter INVITATIONAL Focus 2018]]>Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:21:23 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/winter-invitational-focus-2018The Plan
Leading people by baby steps to talk about their faith and inviting others to church.  We are handing out business cards each week with the instructions on them for the week.  If you would like to purchase the original word and publisher files for all 13 weeks, you can do that in the store.  However, the content and path to leading people is helpful.  

How To Do It

The person handing out the homework, or pointing it out in the bulletin should have one story or one answer for the question that helps people start thinking.  Also, people should be planted at fellowship hour to ask the questions for the week and get a conversation going.  

The Weeks

Think of one story about how this church has affected your life.

Tell the story of how this church has changed your life at coffee hour to ONE person.

Think of one story that shows how your life is better because of Jesus.

Tell the story of how Jesus matters in your life to ONE person at coffee hour.

Name one thing that is scary about telling people about Jesus and one good thing.
When you feel nervous about telling someone about church or Jesus, what is one thing you can tell yourself to help you do it?

Think of a person who does not go to church and how Jesus might change their lives.
Contact the person you thought of last week, and mention something about how Jesus changed your life in casual conversation.
Pray for that person and whatever is going on in his or her life. You can share that you've done this, but don't have to.

Hand a flyer with church information casually to TWO people in a one-on-one conversation at one event this week or next.

What good news of Jesus will you invite at least TWO families to hear at Calvary Lutheran this Easter?  Which TWO families?

Invite at least TWO more families to come worship with us on Easter.  Including at least one sentence about why you think Easter matters.  What is the Good News for you, in one sentence?  How does Jesus change your life?

Send a message or make a phone call to the four families on Saturday letting them know you’ll see them tomorrow for Easter.

The Cards Picture Gallery

Invitation Card Files

Weeks 1 and 2 are in MS Word, while Weeks 4-13 are in publisher.  Weeks 12 and 13 were printed back to back to hand out the Sunday before Easter.  After purchase, you will receive an e-mail will all 12 files for you to edit for your congregation. These were printed on Avery 8871 labels, Avery® Inkjet Clean-Edge Two-Side Printable Business Cards, 2-Sided, 2" x 3 1/2", White Matte.
<![CDATA[Ashes to Ashes. . . Happy Valentines Day!]]>Wed, 14 Feb 2018 13:51:52 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/ashes-to-ashes-happy-valentines-day
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19, NRSV
I’m so excited!  I’m dust, and to dust I shall return.  Every year in the life of the church, we observe a Holy Day called Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is on Valentine’s Day this year, so I hope to see you at church at 7pm on February 14.  Somehow, we’ll include Love in all this.
Ash Wednesday is the day that starts us on a path to Easter.  This service begins the church season of Lent, the six weeks we use to prepare for Easter.  At this service, I will draw crosses on each person’s forehead while they kneel around the altar. 

Although some find this service “too real” and “too focused on death”, I find great meaning, great joy, and great life in it.  For it communicates so many things.  It lets me know that I belong to God, no matter what.  If I’m a tiny infant, or near death, we all have the same cross on our heads, and we all belong to God the same.  It equalizes the playing field to know that we are all going to die, and I love knowing that even though each of us are sinners (do things that cause separation and hurt), we are all in it together.  We are all made from the same dust, and we will return to the same dust, and we belong to the same God who sees us, knows us, and saves us anyway.

There is a healing aspect to this service, for it brings us together as a community.  We start our journey of six weeks knowing that we belong to God, that God made us, and that we’re all equally guilty, equally messy equally death-dealing, and equally saved.
This is a day when we get real about death, real about the pain we cause each other, God, ourselves, and the planet.  We acknowledge how much the same we are, how much God loves us, and how we are all in it together.
​This is my basic theology of life:
​ “Life is hard, we’re all in it together, Yay Jesus!”
Another thing I love about Ash Wednesday is the journey that it begins.  At the end of six weeks, we’ll end up at the Last Supper, Good Friday, and finally, Easter!  (I’ll explain more about those in March newsletter.)  Welcome to the Journey!

This year, for Lent, we’re having classes on Thursday nights beginning Feb. 22 from 4pm-5pm.  We’ll go over the stories of the Christian faith, why they matter, how we live them, how we celebrate them, with a focus on the last meal Jesus shares with his disciples in Matthew 26:17-30.  People of all ages are welcome; please let me know if you plan to attend.  Please also bring your Bible; if you need one, let me know.   Then, on Maundy Thursday (March 29, 7pm), we’ll celebrate First Communion for those who complete the classes and have not yet communed.

See you on Valentines Day!  I can hardly wait!

Love, Pastor Jess
<![CDATA[Christmas Eve]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/christmas-eveOverview
We tried some new things at Calvary with Mt. Zion for Christmas Eve.  You can read below about some of the things we did, and see pictures.  Although the morning service did not have a sermon, the evening service included a sermon that made the same point as the morning service.  You can listen to it here. Also, we used Cards for Worship so that even first time visitors could be part of making worship happen.   The kids were led through a telling of the Christmas story where they acted out different parts.  It was a no-rehearsal, pop-up Christmas Play.  It worked out great.  Also, for our message time, the kid's did an activity you can read about below.  I've included some of the worship parts that were written just for this service, too.  

Call to Worship

  The presiding minister and the congregation greet each other in the peace of the risen Christ.
P                   The peace of Christ be with you always. 
C                  And also with you.
The people may greet one another with a sign of Christ’s peace and may say:
Peace be with you or similar words. Please ask before offering handshakes or hugs.
P   Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world!
C   He is One who comes to bring us life.
P   At this hour of creative birth, we gather to celebrate the great joy of our salvation.
C   With the heavenly host we sing, "Glory to God in the highest heaven."
P   In Christ, God's Word is made flesh and lives among us.
C   With the shepherds, we will tell of the wonders we have seen and heard.

Prayer of the Day

P           Dear  Jesus,
C             Thank you for coming into the world today as a little baby.  As we think about what presents we can bring you, help us to know how to share your presents with others. In your name, we pray, and we play, AMEN. 

Message Time

If Christ came to give us the gift of
 Love, New Life, And Saving Us,
What gifts could we possibly give him?
The Bible teaches that by taking care of one another, we take care of Jesus.  Each group is invited to take and wrap two boxes. 
Inside both boxes, put a slip of paper. 
They should say the same thing inside both boxes. 
Write down something that you’ll give to Jesus, and therefore to someone else.  You can offer to check the mail, shovel the yard, listen on the phone, take someone for coffee, learn more about a justice issue, give a gift of a wanted hug . . . there are so many things. 
Place one gift in front of the manager, and take the other box home to give to someone else.  This is how we share the joy of Jesus coming into our lives.  

Eucharistic Prayer

Pastor Jess, along with her friend Jess Davis wrote our Eucharistic Prayer for Disrupt Worship.  You can see it along with the things others wrote here.  If you'd like Jess Davis to help you create things, or to be a paid sensitivity reader for you, you can contact her by sending her a message on facebook.  
​Advent/Christmas/Epiphany Eucharistic Prayer 2017 by Jess Harren and Jess Davis
Oh Creator, from the beginning of time you have been with us.
You save us again and again, from ourselves.  From our hatred of others.  From our judgements that we know more than you.
You created us as whole beings, minds, bodies, souls, all together, all connected.
You bring us prophets to point the way, to call us in, to call us toward love and life.
And yet, we turn away.  It is too hard to see.
In the creative darkness, in the beginning of time, the depth of Mary’s womb, you knit together a real human body that comes from another body.  A connected body.  You were a baby.  We hear your cries to eat, to sleep, to be held, to be changed.
In the incarnation, in becoming human, you know what it is to bleed.
To hurt.  To cry out for justice from a body that was tortured.
You know the pain of speaking up against the things that separate. The pain of oppression. Of those who think they get to define who counts as human.
And yet, you gave yourself to us. You gave your own body and blood to heal us, to bring us closer to ourselves, and one another.  To heal the broken connections, within, without, and between our whole beings.  In this meal, you connect your body to ours.  As the story about you is told:
On the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples to eat saying, “Take and eat.  This is my body. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for all people, and for the forgiveness of sin.  Do this for the reembrace of me.”
Through your human and divine body, you bring us salvation.  You also shared your Spirit with us.
Oh Holy Spirit,
Thank you for promising to infuse this wine and bread with the spirit of Jesus.  Saturate the wine and the and the insides of the bread with your spirit.  Use it to unite us to Jesus’ body, and the bodies of all those around us.  Unite everyone who eats of this meal, until, at last we know the joy of connection with all that is around us.  Amen.  

Blessing and Dismissal

​May God bless you with presence, May Jesus bless you with saving love, and May the Holy Spirit inspire you to share those with others.  
C         Amen.

P: Glory to God in the highest!
C: Peace to God’s people on earth!
P: Go in peace. Share the gift of Jesus.
C: Thanks be to God.

<![CDATA[Jesus and Goals]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/jesus-and-goalsThis time of year, in the church, and our lives, we are getting ready for Jesus.  We are getting ready to celebrate a tiny baby in a manger, God coming into the world in unexpected ways. 
It is in the vulnerability of the infant that we see God open Herself up to humanity in brand new ways.  Jesus changes everything. 

Jesus knew something about neighbors, friends, and family, too.  While we understand that God is the Father of Jesus, he also had an earthly Father and Mother.  And, depending on which gospel you read, several siblings.  God intimately knows how hard it is to get along with family members all living together – because God does it in the form of Jesus.  The workshop participants have asked me to communicate with the entire congregation the things we have been learning, and new goals.
Often, congregations work like families.  A group of us have gotten together three times now to think about our family at Calvary.  How do we interact with one another?  How do we define ourselves, while staying part of a community?  What happens when things are not going well between two groups, two people, or leadership?  How do we resolve differences in healthy ways?  For those of you who have been coming, I’ll rely on you to share what you’ve learned with others.  If you haven’t had a chance to come, the first two are posted.  You can read all about what we’re learning and how we’re growing as a congregation by clicking on the two buttons below. 
​At the end of Workshop Three, we talked about how Bibles that sit on coffee tables and look pretty, but are never opened and read, can’t really change our lives or help us follow Jesus.  Similarly, allowing these workshops to help us grow as a congregation only works as much as we follow through on new behaviors. Those at the workshop asked me to communicate our four goals for the congregation to you.  The plan is that the congregation will work hard on these goals, and we’ll meet again on February 18 after fellowship time.  At that time, we’ll do chapters 11-13 of the book and evaluate how we’re doing with our goals.  I also encourage people to write about their progress --– how things are going; what’s hard about it; how prayer matters in the process; where things went well; where conversations did not go well.  Also, I invited people to share reflections with me on the process. 
​Are you ready?  The goals requested by the workshop participants are on the next page.  They are also posted by the kitchen pass-through so that we can keep them in mind. Don’t worry about getting this all at once.  It’ll take a long time, and this is just a brief overview to get us started and it will let you know that workshop participants (along with others) might be speaking to you differently from now on.  Also, if this is all new and totally overwhelming for you, be sure to read the book if you have it, and ask questions of those who've come to the workshops.  It is ok to just pick one of these goals for you to read and concentrate on for the next month or two.  


Goal #1:
 “I Statements”

Goal #2:
Shut down relationship triangles by asking more questions to help people change their own behavior (instead of talking about how to change someone else) and sending people directly to the person they are complaining about (or hoping to change).

Goal #3:
Boundaries Around Complaining

Goal #4:

Define Discussion V. Argument
Goal #1:
 “I Statements”
​I statements are easy to understand, and very hard to do.  In our workshops, we have been learning that emotional systems, or families, or organizations, grow the most when people are defining themselves.  
In places where people have been worried for a long time it is called chronic anxiety.  In most groups, when the worry is high, like worrying for years about the survival of the congregation, we start to want to blame other people.  Often we think “If that person just would/would not do this/that . . our church would grow fine.”  However, what we have learned is that “I statements” make a world of difference.  They are hard in the moment when we’re not used to them, so just imagine Jesus arguing with his parents, and then try again the next time.  The point is to try to use them and see if they work.

​“I statements” are formatted like this
“I think/feel __________________ when you ___________________________.”  For example, someone reading this might be saying, “I feel uncomfortable when Pastor Jess talks about these goals because I do not want to do them.”  That’s an I statement, and a good and honest one.  
Goal #2:
Shut down relationship triangles by asking more questions to help people change their own behavior (instead of talking about how to change someone else) and sending people directly to the person they are complaining about (or hoping to change).
Triangles are a normal part of human life, and we all make them.  Often, they end up hurting us.  A triangle is when we involve a third person (or thing) in a relationship between two people.  For example, if my spouse and I are fighting, I might call one of his friends.  After venting about my spouse for awhile, this third person might offer to call my spouse and explain to him how to change.  I’ve taken the anxiety (the uncomfortableness) between my spouse and I sent it to a third person, who is now in the system.  While this relieves tension in the short term, it increases it long term because the two people with the issue are not talking directly to one another.
We accomplish this goal in two primary ways.  If someone at church comes to you to complain about someone else, or talk about how someone else needs to change, then the first step is to offer to help them think about how they can go directly to the person they have the problem with.  Saying things like, “If you have a problem with Pr. Jess, you need to go talk directly to Pr. Jess” will really help.  Also, you can ask clarifying questions.  What is she doing you don’t like?  How do you want things to be different?  Let me help you think of how to tell her how you’re feeling about this.  What’s really going on?  How might you need to change the ways you talk to Pastor?  How might you need to hold your boundaries better?  What tools can you use?  It is the job of the person listening to not become part of the relationship triangle, and to help the person talking understand themselves better, and go directly to the person they are struggling with.
Goal #3:
Boundaries Around Complaining
The workshop participants have noticed a pattern that often people at church relate to one another through complaining.  While this can be a good way for two people to feel close to one another and on the same page, it can also drag an organization down.  There is a difference between complaining and these preferable things:
  • Thinking about how to change the situation
  • Defining yourself in the situation, What is your role?
  • Thinking about what you have control over
  • Venting emotions for a short time so you can move onto more                                      constructive ideas
The workshop participants have many tools for responding when they hear complaining.  Those tools include asking more questions to help people define themselves, putting time limits on how long they are willing to listen, helping people to use “I statements” and other things of this nature.  While it is important to take feelings and stress seriously, it is also important that we do not pass it around so that it gets bigger without any problem solving, processing, or solutions. 

​Goal #4:

Define Discussion V. Argument
​The group decided that this would be a helpful thing for our congregation to know.  How do we define an argument, verses a discussion?  Is it the emotional intensity?  The use of “I statements”? The ways blame and anxiety get passed around?  The amount of constructive problem solving?  When these two things are confused, often people try to avoid difference all together.  They do not talk about things in open and honest ways, and avoid solving problems all together to avoid an argument breaking out.  This is most likely when an emotional system has low tolerance for people having different needs.  It is possible in some places to say “I don’t like that, that doesn’t work for me, and I am in favor of it because I understand this might be a good way that our community can show Jesus to the world.”  When we know how to have a discussion, and when people have space to define themselves, it actually becomes much easier to move forward as a group toward a common goal.  Although it might look nice on the surface, when people do not define themselves and their position, it is much harder to move forward together.  

We can do It!

​That’s it!  And that’s enough.  This stuff is hard work.  I find much hope in knowing that Jesus was human.  He lived on earth among humans.  There are times he gets into triangles, especially when he offloads his anxiety to God about the disciples not getting that the Good News is about Life for All.  Of course, as we celebrate our very human Baby Jesus this winter, we look forward to knowing that Jesus was also Divine, that God has become human and can redeem humanity.  Jesus will forgive us as many times as it take to work on these goals, with love, compassion, understanding, and guidance.  May we know that the human Jesus is with us in this, and that the Divine Jesus will always forgive us and offer us New Life and the chance to try again.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.  

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Newsletter Article on Goals

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@2017 by Rev. Jessica A. Harren. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  From pastorjess.com, and adapted by Rev. So and So for This Congregation.  Used with permission.