Friday, March 25, 2011

Do it anyway

I recently had dinner with some friends that have had a mentoring ministry for many years. Part of the vision for this ministry is to have self-supporting young adults join the team, so a home was purchased to give them a very inexpensive home base (room and board for far less than anywhere but living at home), in part so that they could be mentored by my friends in preparation for mentoring others. As it turns out, there are a number of young adults that want to share in the exciting work of mentoring, but that struggle to understand and act upon the need to be self-supporting. The thrilling, hands-on work of ministry is followed by time idly spent, “waiting for the Lord,” as it were, to give direction to their lives. It is a picture of the worldview that one must “know” what his or her life will be spent doing before spending any time doing anything. Where are faith and faithfulness in that? Where is doing all things as unto the Lord? Where is the maturity? Indeed, growin’ up is hard to do, but that does not mean that it should not be done!

As I spoke with my friends, I was struck by the severe short-sightedness (immaturity) of the eager young people in the situation. Indeed, I could not imagine a more wonderful opportunity than they had, being squandered more fantastically than they were squandering it. Mentoring others takes maturity. Sustainable, believable mentoring means living up to one’s responsibilities. This was lacking severely in these young people. Their gifts for the work of this ministry will eventually be seriously undermined if they do not grow up, and grow up soon. There many Bible verses that come to mind when thinking about this, but I Corinthians 13:11 brings immediate clarity.

The first eight verses of First Corinthians 13 are very familiar. They speak of what love truly is and is not, but they are followed by an interesting comment in verse 11, before finishing with familiar words again in verse 13. I Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” It is time to give up childish ways! It is time to set aside the world’s view of perpetual adolescence and be responsible. It is not spiritual in the Christian sense to simply “wait for the Lord” if we are not acting within the boundaries He has given us in His Word to show responsibility for our lives. That is immaturity at its height. That is childishness. It is also selfishness.

In my current unemployment, I must fight the same childish self-centeredness and must daily challenge myself to look for what the Lord would have me do to support my family. I am working while waiting. I ply my hand to this direction and that, praying for God to work His will in my life (our lives) and knowing that He will answer that prayer. Sitting on my hands accomplishes nothing (literally!).

This mentoring ministry is close to my heart and to the passion God has given to me for Christian education. If it were possible to support my wife and children and to be part of this ministry, I would love to do it. However, the Lord has already placed some wonderful (and much younger) people for this work, and this dear organization would be greatly blessed by their full participation. I am praying that these young people will do the hard things (thanks, Alex & Brett Harris!) necessary to grow up and give up childish ways. It would not be a detriment to themselves at all. It would only benefit their ministry and themselves. I know from my own experience that growin’ up is hard to do. Do it anyway.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm flattered

I'm flattered. I really am. I got a phone call one evening this week from a Christian school about 60 miles south of here on I-95. They're a very young school and they have a lot of exciting opportunities ahead of them. I was called because they are interested in hiring a combination of teacher and administrator for next fall. I've done that, and I'm willing to do it again.

The first twenty minutes of the call involved my saying, "Hello, this is Bill," and then listening while an impassioned description of the founding and status of the school was delivered in detail.

Eventually, after having a couple of chances to add my comments and ask a few questions, the caller then revealed the salary range for this position. It was less than half what I was making at my previous employer (where we were living paycheck-to-paycheck as it was). Then the caller told me the tuition rates charged, explaining that tuition was only for the paying of salaries. They were much too low, too.

The saying, "You get what you pay for," is aptly applied to this situation. Would I enjoy the challenge of helping a fledgling school grow and mature? Sure, I would! But there is a real cost involved. If this school added to its total one-third of what it already charges, the tuition would still be incredibly cheap for a private school in the U.S., and it would help them meet their staffing needs much more quickly.

It was flattering to be called and to hear that my skills were sought after by this school. However, I still have to support my family, and this would not do it.

Still trusting in the Lord and praying for the right fit.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Market your school!

I cannot tell you how many times I was told that I needed to market my school, and that I had to expect to spend money to get the name of the school recognized in the community. At the same time, the same people were telling me

Creating and Maintaining a School Community

I have been struck several times of late by the comments of former clients and colleagues regarding changes that took place at my former job, some of which occurred before I got done there. One point that has settled into my thinking consistently has been that the sense of community was significantly altered in recent years, and the feeling that the school was a "family" had been lost.

Many attempts were made over the years to promote community activities, but all the projects and events brought less than satisfactory results. It is really about relationships, and the missing piece fell into place for a couple of weeks ago. A parent was telling me her frustrations over the fact that although she had several children in the school, both she and her husband had to work in order to afford the tuition, resulting in a disconnection from the school community. She commented, in particular, on the fact that she did not even know most of the school board members, and she surmised that there are several other families with a similar experience.

The truth of the matter is that in a school that is run by a parent board, it is vital to the success of that school and its board that everyone knows each other. I believe very strongly that the board of directors of such a school would do itself a great favor by assigning each member a list of families in the school to contact each month, either in person or by phone. By creating an atmosphere of relationships with those families--and having the list change every three months or so--the board can establish a real connection with the families it is serving, greatly improving communication and reducing the likelihood for distrust. Then, when the organization undergoes a major transition of any kind, the relationships are built to withstand the splintering that often disrupts even the possibility of making the necessary changes smoothly.

Build the relationships now to create and maintain a school community.

And so we wait

It has been more than three months since my last day on the job (not counting the fact that I was paid till the end of that month). In that time, I have spent most of my days as a "house-husband." I help shuttle the boys to and from school, do some of the grocery shopping (having learned to get only what is on the list!), and I have begun to cook again. For several weeks my wife had a part-time job three days a week, and I tried especially hard those days to cook and keep the house presentable. It helped that both boys were in school two of the three days each week.

I spend a couple of hours each day perusing job opportunities online and replying to inquiries sent directly to me or for which I have some kind of referral. I have had countless interviews, but nothing has opened up yet. I am signed up as a substitute teacher in a couple of local towns, but have not been called.

All in all, this is a waiting game. I have tried to use my time to good advantage, and I keep in mind that when the next job does come along it will likely consume a considerable amount of my time, so I need to be conscientious now about spending time with my boys.

Folks aren't hiring. And so we wait.