story: (noun) an account of incidents or events; a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question; origin: middle english from anglo-french, first known use 13th century

For the past week, I have attended a training put on by the Synods of Lincoln Trails and Mid America entitled “The Art of Transitional Ministry.” In short, it’s what most would traditionally call training to become an interim pastor.

I was encouraged to attend by Jan. She’s good at getting me into things. She has good ideas, and if you let her talk you into something, you pretty much won’t ever regret it.

She put the idea into my head.

Again, I never regret doing anything Jan tells me I should try. She was right. I loved it.

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There were parts of it where I felt as though I should hold my tongue. Like the part about someone saying that we needed to find a way to get millennials back into our churches. We don’t need to get millennial back into anybody’s churches, we need to make sure that all generations feel welcome and part of the community. Others shouldn’t be molding to become what we are, we should come together to become something new. We should be breaking molds, not live within their confines.

But, I digress.

There were other parts of it where people shared stories, knowledge, information, where we laughed and where we talked about hard truths. We explored what it means to be someone who is in the business of transition. Someone who loves communities, but also realizes there’s a job to be done and sometimes that job means that not everyone likes you when it’s done, or that there’s some fat to trim and you’ve got to be the one to do it when no one else will, and so on.

The best part, by far, for me, was hearing stories. I can easily say there there were only a few others even in my age bracket. And, to make it even more interesting, I was the only one not serving in an installed position as of yet. I couldn’t have been any greener than this weekend. So, sitting around tables and hearing stories of those who have come before me and those who are in the thick of their ministries, was by far the biggest reward that I got for doing what Jan told me to do (I also did want to do this, but Jan deserves lots of praise in general cause she’s awesome).

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The awesome Sara Dingman.

I heard stories of foot-washings gone wrong, how to cull membership rolls without having to trim names, that a good good-bye is important, how to find ways to reimagine children’s ministry when Sunday School just doesn’t work any longer, how to never go in alone, how to write a PIF that tells your narrative, and so much more. People shared of how they led with their stories and how those narratives played out for better or for worse. I don’t think I could have gotten such an opportunity to hear from such a great cloud of witnesses anywhere else.

Each of us has a narrative. They intertwine and they interrupt one another and there are those who take the lead in being the narrator. Take Jesus for example; he came to rewrite the narrative of the world by challenging the established power and the conventional wisdom that said, “this is the way of the world.” He re-wrote the narrative from a world-centered story to a God-centered one. Jesus led with his story of love for the poor and the marginalized.

We need to know Jesus’ narrative because that narrative, that story, is what will change the world. But we need to hear one another’s stories as well, because those stories will also change the world. Hearing others’ stories and sharing our own is how this happens. It’s that simple.

So, what’s your narrative going to be and how will it change the world?

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