1) If you hadn't heard, the Buchers are expecting their fourth child. We found out a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, it's a bit of a shock. I can't say that we had ever planned on having another child, but then again, we knew that at this point it was a possibility (we know how these things happen). I'm coping with the idea that the youngest child in my home won't be a graduate from high school until I'm 57 years old. And as for Aimee... well, I think this having the greatest impact on her. It's pretty much shaken up her plans for the future, and the immediate present. We're just both feeling more than a little overwhelmed... but blessed. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for a little girl, but as always, around here the top of the checklist is "healthy and happy". Anyhow, we'll see if we still have our sanity as we embark this year in our new home, me in a new job, Eli in the throws of "Terrible Two-dom" (he's got it worse than either of the other two boys ever did), and prepare for another trip down "Newborn Lane".
And consider this your warning: Make twins jokes around us, and Aimee will take you out at the knees. Seriously!
2) This next week is going to be a bear. I've got my first SPRC meeting Monday night, my first Finance Committee meeting Thursday night, our last dual swim meet Tuesday (against Westside, Sherwood's bitter rival.... they are to us what Michigan is to our Ohio State. Or more appropriately, they're more like Florida in that they've been beating Sherwood like a rented mule for a number of years now.), and WOAL Championships all day Friday and Saturday. Couple that with some one-on-ones I'll be having with some of my staff members, the formal start of youth pastor search process, and whatever else comes up, and you've got a full seven days. We're also dog sitting my father-in-law's Great Dane, Rufus (who is old enough now that he has little or no control over his bowels..... great) and checking on my parent's cat while they're visiting friends. It you need me, be prepared to leave a message. I'll get back to you just as soon as I can.
3) First and foremost on the agenda is our youth pastor situation. Must have had six different families come talk to me about it this morning. Everyone is nervous about this, and wondering if and when a new person will be in place. The good news is, though, that given the state of things, lots of folks are coming out of the woodwork right now to offer their help, which is what will be needed to get over this hump.
I can say this, I've come to the conclusion that whoever it is that ends up in this position will have had more people praying for them, and their success, than any other youth pastor in the history of this church. Maybe any other youth pastor, ever. We're ready for a new day. Pray for us, please, as we cautiously begin taking the first steps toward a new reality.
4) The Finance Committee meeting this week, too, should be an interesting experience. We've got a three-pronged issue we need to discuss and pray over in the coming months. First, our church is always faithful when it comes to giving. At the end of day, we always have what we need to keep the church plugging along. But, like every church, we have periods of the year where attendance and giving good, and other times that it isn't (summer, of course, being one of those times, and any Sunday in the winter where the weather is so absolutely brutal that folks stay at home fearing for their safety). This creates, then, serious cash flow issues that inhibit our ability to make medium or long-range plans for ministry.
Second, unlike many other churches our size, we have no "emergency fund" or available cash in an endowment available for us to dip into when things are tight. In my time at Shawnee these past three years, we've had at most in the General Fund, a month-a-half's worth of operating expenses on-hand ($90,000), and at the least, two days ($4000). Most of the time, we're right around one month (about $60,000) which sounds like a lot of money to most folks, but two off weeks or one unexpected expense, and we're in a situation where we have to cut budget - which in our case, because from a programming standpoint we run lean, has always meant reductions in staff salaries, which creates chaos cause these are people everyone knows and loves. Then people respond, and we keep plowing along, but not without creating all kinds of confusion, merely because our cash flow got tight. We must begin to do some long range planning to grow our General Fund as a means of enabling us to continue growing ministry opportunities for people in our community.
Third, as a means of trying to address the cash flow issues I mentioned above, we engaged in a three year capital campaign just under a 18 months ago, in the hope that people would make gifts above and beyond their normal planned tithe. The goal was raise just over 600,000 over a three year period to pay off the existing mortgage, with interest, while also simultaneously easing the burden on the General Fund by, for intensive purposes, eliminating our monthly mortgage payment. That goal was not achieved. What's more, the bump up in giving we saw in the first year gifts to the campaign, has slowed considerably in year two. While the committee would love to use all available capital campaign funds to pay down the mortgage at an accelerated rate, we can't and stay solvent. Thus, our compromise has been to use the capital campaign funds to pay only the principle on the monthly mortgage payment, and on a quarterly basis, to make additional principle payments when the funds have been available (which did happen once last fall).
My feeling is that I'd rather come up with a strategy that would increase our cash reserve so as to relieve this cash flow issue, while at the same time accelerate the pay down of our mortgage, all with the goal of resourcing needed ministry geared toward helping people. I'd rather be upfront with the congregation about all of this, and invite them in helping us deal with this situation positively. Or, as I like to think about it, I'd rather write a positive letter during a stewardship campaign explaining our strategy and goals, than three letters of appeal later as a means of cleaning up a financial mess. In any event, after the Finance Committee chews on this issue, I'll let you know exactly where we'll be heading, and it what will mean.
5) People have asked: So, are you making progress on your dissertation?
No, I have not.
I've put it off a couple of weeks longer that I would have liked, but before I take some vacation later this month, I'll be putting an advisory committee that I'll need to report to monthly, on whatever progress (or lack there of) I've made in my studies. This committee is a requirement of the DMin office at Asbury, so it has to be put together soon. Besides, knowing I have to make a report monthly, I believe will propel me toward actually making progress each month toward the end of my degree completion.
Or that's what I keep telling myself.
6) Our second swim season is rapidly drawing to a close, but not before we face the dreaded Westside Waves (a team described by a Westside father, as being one loaded with swimmers imported from East Germany so as to maintain their continued superiority) and spend two entire days waiting for Max to swim five events at Championships. I, however, have already concluded that this season has been a success for the following reasons:
- Max has consistently cut his PB times all season long.
- Max has made a lot of new friends on the team.
- Max is learning how to take his competitive drive, and channel into performance.
- It gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Max this season.
- No other team we've seen all season is more supportive of one another than Sherwood, and that's been a good thing for Max, and I, to have witnessed.
So if Flori.. I mean Westside ends up spoiling Sherwood's perfect season, no worries. It's all good. Go Sharks!
7) In all time swim team has commanded, and the insistence of Elijah that Daddy spend time with him whenever he's home, Xavier has kind of gotten the shaft this summer as far as one-on-one time with me. So, I'll be taking a couple of days very soon to do some stuff with just Xavie on what we like to call "DaddyXavie Days". I think a couple of motorcycle rides, some time crawling on lawn tractors at Lowes (one of Xave's favorite things to do), running a few errands together, reading some books at the library, and maybe taking a few nice hikes (not too long though.. the boy is still only 5) are in order. Got to get things back into balance, so Xavier knows without a doubt how much he is loved.
8) Did I mention that we have a Great Dane living with us right now? A Great Dane, by the way, who cannot control his bowel movements? This is where you find out just how much your family loves you... when they house your Great Dane which is likely to poop in your house. Just know that before you come to visit, there will be a Great Dane on a chain in our backyard, not messing up our carpet. He's big bit worry not: He only looks like he could chomp off your foot. In reality, if you were a thief, he'd show you where we keep the good silver, and help you stuff in a bag so you could make a clean getaway. My brother's chihuahua, Spike, could mop the floor with Rufus, and that's no lie.
9)In case you missed it, this was the woman on MSNBC who refused to cover the "Paris Hilton is released from jail" story. Apparently, she felt that on a morning when she had to report a war in Iraq, that Paris' release didn't warrant being the lead feature of the morning. To that, I say "kudos".
Remember after 9/11 when the talking heads said we wouldn't be covering meaningless pop culture like it was news? That the world would be changed forever and people wouldn't care about stuff like that anymore? Well, now it's news on the news when the news doesn't report Paris Hilton as news. That's how far we've come. God help us.
10) And finally, if you are new Beeson Pastor, and you are reading this right now, please enjoy your year. You have the chance to make life-long friends, lots of connections, and the luxury of reading and thinking without the interruptions that come from the pressures of a full-time job. Use this time to reflect, think, challenge one another, and discover how far the Lord can push you as a servant and leader. I envy you right now, because this could be one of the very best years of your life.
I hope and pray, that will be the case. Please e-mail me if you are blogging about your experience. I'd love to read about it.