As we approach the end of the year it’s a good time to look back and assess. So we’ve launched a series to talk with church communicators and find out what they’ve done in the last year and what they’re looking forward to in the next year.
1. What’s the smartest change you’ve made in the last year?
One of the smartest changes I made this past year was doubling down on protecting and honoring my boundaries, specifically putting down my work and taking my days off. It’s easy to become a human doing. It takes work to remember that I’m a human being.
In order to do my best work I need to be my best self. I need to smile, breathe and go slowly in this scowling, hyperventilating and rushed world all around us.
This past year began for me with my ordination (Dec. 14, 2014). Throughout this past year I’ve revisited the ordination charge my friend and former colleague Rob Bell recorded. He reminded me about the safety instructions they give you on an airplane, specifically the instructions about the oxygen mask. “In case of loss of pressure,” the flight attendant says, “an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling. Put the mask on yourself first, then assist those you are traveling with.”
As a pastor, my first instinct will often be to think of others. And while this is often good and right, I cannot forget, as Rob reminds me, you gotta put your own mask on first. I won’t be of much good to anyone around me if I can’t even breathe.
And so this year has been one of reclaiming sabbath, setting boundaries, saying no, putting work down and picking up a book or a podcast or a video game. I know I don’t have this one all figured out yet, but I think that I’m moving in the right direction so that I can fill my tank and serve out of that overflow.
2. What was your biggest mistake or regret?
My biggest regret this past year is working on too many creative projects too close to the last minute. Whether sermons I preach or podcasts I produce or any creative endeavor I am a part of, I will always have the last minute to make shifts and changes but when I put off the work until the last minute I no longer have the necessary bandwidth for my crappy first drafts to properly ferment into something truly amazing. Working at the last minute increases the distance between my capacity and my potential, leaving my final product falling far below what I know it could have been. While I learned that I am able to create a sermon at the last minute, writing it on Saturday evening or sometimes even Sunday morning, I cannot rely on this as a sustaining pattern for me and my creative work.
3. What do you look forward to doing better in the future?
Looking forward to 2016 I am hoping to be more intentional about creating and maintaining new and healthier patterns and shift some of the habitual tendencies in my life. Each couple of months will focus on giving up something different. (You can follow along with my entire “year of giving up”) This project kicks off with two months of Giving Up “Not Running” where I will run at least one mile every day (with some sort of Internet-based consequence for any day that I miss).
There is an implicit connection between my creative health and my physical health. My creativity is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m less interested in making a single piece of content go viral and more interested in developing a lifelong portfolio of content and ideas. I want to be intentional about increasing my overall health and balance so that my creativity can continue to expand this year and beyond.
4. Who are some voices we should be listening to in the next year?
Other voices I would recommend everyone listen to in the next year are Rev. Jes Kast-Keat (my wife, in case the shared last name didn’t give it away), Rev. Adriene Thorne (a colleague and the executive minister at Middle Church), Daniel Camacho (a theologian and grad student at Duke University), Rev. John Russell Stanger (the executive director of Parity), Micky Jones (a contemplative activist, theologian and organizer with the Transform Network), Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort (an author, pastor, podcast host and more), Natalie Perkins (a graduate of Union Seminary, former intern at Middle Church and emerging public theologian), and Rev. Emily Scott (the founding pastor of St. Lydia’s Dinner Church and cofounder of the forthcoming Progressive Christian Podcast Network).