Monday, January 04, 2016

One Word 365: Play

For the past two years, I've approached the New Year by using One Word 365, which encourages people to choose one word by which you live the entire year.

This past year my word was Venture:
At least once a month, I plan to venture out to do...something. Anything. I could call up a friend for coffee or drinks. I could more actively participate in a justice cause that I care about. I could be more intentional about making connections in the community of which my church is a part. I could play my guitar on a stage somewhere. Whatever the particulars, I'd be venturing out to just be a bigger part of the world beyond the walls of home and church. Consider it the logical next step of Share. 
Ideally, this would happen much more often than once a month, but that's the absolute basement-level requirement. 
For my continued development as a person and as a pastor, I need to venture. So I shall.
Venture went very well, I think. I never made it to an open mic or to Friday Night Magic, but I experienced some new restaurants, pubs, and coffeehouses, saw some concerts, got to know the area schools a little better by attending church youth's games, reconnected with old friends and got to know some new ones.

Oh, and I'm publishing a book this year.

If I hadn't ventured a letter and proposal after years of kicking ideas and wishes and good intentions around in my head, this wouldn't be happening. Part of it was the right opportunity presenting itself, but a lot of it was still taking the chance and putting myself out there to make it happen.

I wasn't sure I'd take this approach again this year. The last few weeks of 2015, I wasn't coming up with any clear direction for a word. The few possibilities I considered were underwhelming and not borne out of a real need.

But then I read this blog post from Jan, entitled Are We Having Fun Yet?:
It had never occurred to me that professional ministry was supposed to be fun. Spiritual satisfying? Intellectually challenging? Yes and yes. But fun? My Calvinist heritage runs deep. We are not fun people. 
But we could be. And if we want to be creative and effective, we will be. So, I am accepting The Carol McDonald Challenge to work John Cleese’s quote about play and creativity into a post. 
While there’s no one recipe for sparking creativity in the Church, I look to smart people to shed some light. Tom Kelley is one such smart person and he wrote this last week. He suggests that creative leaders do these three things: 
1. They build core enthusiast communities inside and outside of their organizations.
2. They achieve big change through a series of small experiments.
3. They jump-start their innovation journey with storytelling.  
We in the church do not create robots, furniture, or nail polish, but we do create spiritual communities that transform the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ. (At least that’s my personal faith statement for the Church.) So how would we translate Tom Kelley’s insights for Church World?
This post got me thinking not just about church stuff, but life in general. I like to think of myself as a playful guy, but so often the past few years I feel like I've either been approaching certain practices and obligations in an overly serious way, or have settled into a rut such that I'm not pushing myself to think creatively about them any more. The ultra-organized part of me can get pretty comfortable with a routine to the point that I even become protective of it. And some of the things I was supposed to do as part of Venture (e.g., open mics, Magic) were supposed to get me outside of the usual day-to-day activities and thinking, too.

So, my word for 2016 is Play.

I want to lighten up, to approach both work and home with more creativity and fun, to mess around with the usual things and see whether I can get some new ideas and energy going, and to spend more time on hobbies and extracurriculars.

I used to do this more regularly in ministry and in life. Sometime recently I became too reliant on the sure things and didn't pay as much attention to the possibilities outside of what I'm used to. So it's time to play more.