“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-12, NIV, emphasis mine)
This past weekend I had the great privilege of attending the McLean Bible Church 2012 Accessibility Summit in Tyson’s Corner, VA. Our organization makes every effort to attend conferences like this, mainly to share the SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES story with participants. We often share that story by having a booth at conference expos and occasionally speaking at them. Additionally, we like to network with other organizations, learning from them, sharing information and opening the opportunity to refer or collaborate.
This weekend’s Accessibility Summit ended up being so much more. Having a delightful occasion to connect with several colleagues I know personally, some of whom I have only spoken to by phone or engaged with on the internet, made this conference extra special. Not only did we participate in our roles as professionals, but we also had personal time together. We shared stories that brought us to tears for one another. We laughed incessantly. We ate ridiculously good food together. And we just enjoyed one another’s company to the fullest extent.
There was tremendous benefit in just hanging out together. Being with another person who speaks the same “language” as you, the language of leadership, the language of service, creates instant edification. We were there as peers, not superior to one another, but mutually affirming one another unintentionally. In addition, when ministry work issues did come up, we had the great blessings of knowing that there were others in our midst who understood our situation. Whether it be the unruly participant, the demanding parent or the church as a whole, we “got” each other. What a splendid gift that was!
I returned from this weekend filled up, excited to do that to which I was called. I was energized both in my personal and professional lives. I could go back to colleagues at home who were flagging, either because of professional obstacles or personal trials, and fill them up with the energy I had received from being at the conference. Words of encouragement or wacky humor came easily to me. And compassion for wicked challenges readily poured out of me. I was even strengthened to make a long emergency room visit with my own child, and spring back more quickly the next day.
The point in sharing this story with you is not to brag about my weekend jaunt. Instead, I want to encourage all of us in ministry to engage in some form of mutual edification. It doesn’t even have to be an intense, directed sit-down. It can be going to play mini-golf or have an ice cream together. One group of my colleagues does a fly-in at Chicago O’Hare for one day each fall, gathering for lunch and sharing the latest update on their own particular ministries. Others I know meet for coffee each month. Whatever the choice, if you are not doing this in some form, I want to help you move towards such a goal.
We who are serving in ministry leadership live a poured-out life. Those of us who serve in some form of disability ministry are poured-out that much more because of the deep needs of the population we serve. This role demands that we be deliberate about our self-care. This years Accessibility Summit even offered a post-conference workshop entitled “Staying Balanced and Passionate about Disability Ministry”. The panel discussion offered much wisdom along these lines. I urge you to check out the blog post by Jackie Mills-Fernald that I have linked to the workshop title, so that you will gain a better picture of what you might do to care for yourself as a leader.
I leave you with this question today: Are you doing something intentional as a leader in the area of mutual edification? If so, why don’t you share it with us here!