Thursday, April 24, 2008

Don't Forget the Heart

Amy and I are blessed to be staying in Linda's home while we're at the Conspire Conference. Being here is a gift. Not only is staying here part of what made it possible for us to attend this year, but it's also shown me so much about what to look at when I walk through the doors of Willow Creek, or any church for that matter. Linda moved here (to Illinois) eleven years ago when her granddaughter was born. Her daughter is on staff with Promiseland, and Linda has a small position in the ministry as well. She also volunteers as a small group leader, and takes people on tours of the church.
When Amy and I arrived at her home late Tuesday night, we were greeted with hugs and love. The next morning we were served a beautiful breakfast of cheerios, sliced strawberries, Pennsylvania Dutch cake, and coffee. As we told her about how we were looking forward to seeing Jared and Roni's reactions to the church, as well as the excitment over meeting some of our heroes in ministry, Linda was quick to tell us about what really matters--the heart. "It's not about the big building, or our programs. It's about what God is doing in people at Willow, and about how He works in people's hearts."
Then, during one of the breaks at the conference, I took Jared and Roni to meet our sweet hostess. Once again, she talked about what's so important is the heart. To recognize that it's not about the size or the number of people, but what God is doing in people.
So I started looking at the heart. I've always been impressed by the number of volunteers who give of their time to make the church work. But now it wasn't just how many of the them were around--it was the smile on their faces as you walked by. It was their eagerness to point you toward the closest restroom. It was the guy handing out candy to people as they waited in line to purchase books. It was the lady taking coffee orders and making a point to give you a genuine smile and eye contact. It was the couple we ate dinner with--the wife who came to know the Lord through a ministry of Willow, and now takes every chance she gets to tell her non-believeing friends about Jesus. None of these people are paid for what they're doing. None of them have incomes dependent on their friendliness or desire to help. Instead, they have beautiful hearts and a passoin to serve God and His people.
Linda has blessed me with more than a bed to sleep in. She's reminded me to look at the heart behind the people of a church.

I'm Conspiring...

I'm not really sure where to start except to say that there's a smile on my face! The Conspire Conference has been more than I even imagined it could be! Amy Dolan was welcoming everyone during one of the main sessions on Wednesday, and made the comment that God had a plan for each of us to be here. There is no way I can deny that fact. I have pages and pages of notes from the main sessions yesterday and the break out sessions today... the best part, though, is that I have so many golden nuggets of practical ways to go back and implement positive change in my ministry. From Christine Yount-Jones asking us where we're at in our storm--seeing it on the horizon, going through the intense waves, resting after a period of exhaustion, or feeling like things are pretty good. To a WONDERFUL worship time with Jon Klinepeter (I must add, our team purchased 6 copies of his CD--we've helped build a house in Indonesia!). Then the reminder of how much more we need to be doing for our fourth and fifth graders wrapped up with some wonderful hope for what's going on at Disney... The main sessions were so refreshing!
Today in the break outs I walked away ready to go evaluate the kid-friendliness of our environment. And not only can I evaluate, I now also know how to DO! And then I was challenged and inspired in so many ways on methods for communicating with and supporting parents. And finally, it became clear that it's not too hard to do more for our fourth and fifth graders!
But above all, what I've loved the most, is the team that does the Children's Ministries for Promiseland. They have shown so much honesty, vulnerability and modesty in the way they've shared what's going on in their ministry. But not only that, it's always inspiring to see the standard of excellence they've set for themselves, as well as the level of professionalism in the work they do.
I feel connected... I feel inspired... what do you know, I've conspired!

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