Ministry in Context

Hitting the Wall: A Reflection on November by Steve McKinley

I admire those folks (some of them interns and the spouses of interns) who run marathons, but I cannot say that I have ever wanted to be one of them. Perhaps if I had started serious running 30 or 40 or 50 years ago I would be a marathon addict by now, but I didn’t, and I’m not, and when you look at me you would not mistake me for a marathon runner.

I have heard that marathon runners often reach a point 20 miles or so out when they “hit the wall” and wonder if they can possibly

Excellent Mistakes: A Reflection on Doing and Learning

Just for the sake of giving him a name, I’ll call him Nebuchad-nezzar. Nebuchad-nezzar did his internship last year, and came away with excellent and hard-earned evaluations. I was talking with Nebuchadnezzar, and told him that his successor, Jeroboam, had now begun his service, and good reviews were coming back.

Nebuchadnezzar pondered a minute, then posed a semi-rhetorical question: I wonder if Jeroboam forgot the Kyrie the first time he led worship.

Nebuchadnezzar, you see, did forget the

A Good Start: A Reflection on Beginning Well

As September begins, so do many internships. We want those internships to get off to a good start, so here are a few tips on starting well.

For Interns

Walk away from that computer screen! Get out and meet people. Ask your supervisor to give you a list of people you should visit. If a group is meeting in the building while you are there, introduce yourself and then do a lot of listening. If the church has a photo directory, use it to learn names. That tells people you care about them.

Take some

A Little Crazier All The Time

At the end of May, my wife and I had a wonderful tour of Spain, during which we engaged in one of our favorite activities: buying things for our grandchildren. (We have enough things. Too many, in fact. But that is a story for another day.)

In one of the two Picasso museums we visited (Barcelona and Malaga), we bought the children’s book Picasso’s Trousers by Nicholas Allen. In this book, people are always saying no to Picasso, telling him what he cannot and should not do. They say he

Step This Way, Please: A Reflection on Leadership

I’ve occasionally had guilt pangs about not doing enough as a volunteer in the church we belong to, so during the most recent “Time and Talent” survey, I signed up to be an usher. We’re in church most Sundays anyway, so it didn’t seem like an imposition on my schedule. Now I have actually ushered a few times, and, let me tell you, this ushering business is a great gig, one of the best church assignments I’ve had in years.

People come in and I greet them and hand

Behind in Their Reading

I’ve talked to quite a few pastors recently, and I am concerned about them. I don’t think they’re keeping up with their internet reading.

These pastors tell me that they consider themselves blessed to be serving where they are. Their congregations are supportive, encouraging and understanding. While there is a steady throb of disagreement within those congregations, the pastors understand that as a sign of health, people wrestling with hard issues together. These pastors say that

You May Refer To Me As...

When asked about my ethnic background, I usually say “Scotch Irish” and leave it at that. In fact I do carry Swedish on my mother’s side, but we were never into that when I was growing up, and I liked Scotch Irish better. I’ve had lutefisk once in my life, which was once too often. But haggis? Bring it on!

I visited Scotland for the first time last September, and it immediately felt like home, like this was where I belonged. Knowing that, for Christmas my eldest daughter gave

On Walls and Second Winds

I admire people who run marathons, but have never been so inclined myself.  A few times I have participated in 5Ks in which some of the participants have run the entire distance, but I have limited my own running to distances approximating 50 yards.  Nonetheless, I do read and listen, and have seen the testimonies of marathoners that one typically “hits the wall” at about 20 miles, feeling totally spent and worn down.  However, the further testimony is that if one persists

Psychiatry, Not Surgery: A Reflection on Adaptive Leadership

We’ll give up when the snow comes, but until then our dogs Hobbes and Abby and I take a three mile walk each morning at 6 a.m. We all get exercise. They deal with bodily functions. I get my mind stretched listening to Morning Edition on public radio. We’re all ready for breakfast when we get home.

The other day I heard a particularly interesting story. It was an interview with Ron Heifetz, Professor of Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. (http://www.npr.org/2013/11/11/230841224/lessons-in-leadership-its-not-about-you-its-about-them

Your Own Reality Show

There is usually nothing overtly thrilling about the day to day life of the average pastor or intern, unless your threshold of thrilling is low enough to include committee meetings.  But every now and then...

I got an e-mail the other day urging me to buy a particular book.  I haven’t done it yet, but I might.

The book is a thriller about a Lutheran pastor.  The blurb in the e-mail describes the central character as “a Lutheran minister with a past quite different from