Back on the Wagon…for when you’ve been away too long.

It’s been too long since I’ve haunted these pages.  I am sorry.  I do have reasons…good ones…but I promised consistency, didn’t I? And I love this place here that we’ve created together.  A place where I can turn raw sentiment into flowery words; where I can share the things God is teaching me;  where I can ask hard questions and maybe sometimes get answers, but most times just get support. Most of all, a place, where you can find these things too (I hope).  But I haven’t been around much lately….I kind of fell off the wagon, eh?

Charlie and me_ch 13

This is the wagon I hopped on…Captivating Heart 2013

This year’s Captivating Heart was the best yet.  Sixty women from 5 states joined us in Oklahoma for our second year.  We’ve already begun to plan our third- perhaps two events next year.  And, what I’ve found is that there is “Administrative Leader Cari” and “Creative Writer Cari”, but they don’t tend to inhabit the same time and space well.

I did have moments when God’s beauty was just so breathtaking that I wanted to pick up my pen and write…

Like this one…

All photo credits - Brandi Jones

All photo credits – Brandi Jones

and this one…

Photo credit Brandi Jones

Photo credit Brandi Jones

I have long wanted to capture in words what my heart has been learning in real time, but the words don’t come…and the time is short…and I’m real sorry ’bout that.  Now that I am exiting this very busy speaking season, I hope to experience a flurry of writing! I hope to regail you with wise (and maybe even some funny) stories.  So stay tuned…there is so much more to come!

New Life Ranch Chapel, Captivating Heart 2013. Photo credit Brandi Jones

New Life Ranch Chapel, Captivating Heart 2013. Photo credit Brandi Jones

 

Enjoying the fire pit at Captivating Heart 2013

Enjoying the fire pit at Captivating Heart 2013

 

 

Vision-Casting: Developing Your Methodology

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013So, we’ve dug through scripture to determine our biblical foundation.  We’ve lined that up with the cultural and contextual teachings that drive our ministry.  We’ve laid a foundation and built walls to form our structure….now for the fun stuff! What do we do?  How does our ministry function in the world?

 

Jeremy Pace from Resurgence calls this our furniture.  He puts it like this:

Furniture should complement and enhance the function of a room. Likewise, yourmethods (the how to’s) should be based on your theology and philosophy and should fitwithin the boundaries set by them. Remember, furniture is only functional for so longbefore it wears out and either needs to be replaced or reupholstered. The reality is thathaving a solid foundation and a clearly defined framework allows you to be creative andnot limited to how you go about doing ministry

furniture

To begin “furnishing” your ministry, ask yourself these questions:

•Based on your theology and philosophy, what are the methods that you will use to
see the vision fulfilled?

•Does your current furniture fit in the new rooms? Do you have a toilet in the living
room or a bed in the bathroom?

•How does your philosophy of ministry look organizationally?

•Do you have the right positions in your organization?

•How does each ministry/program fit within the philosophy?

It’s important to remember that the methodology should not drive the ministry.  Your philosophy and your theological foundation drive the ministry.  Don’t become so attached to a “how-to” that you find yourself “remodeling the room because you like the couch.”

Chicago-modern-colorful-sofa-sets

 

 

Vision-Casting: Your Philosophy is Your Filter

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013Last week we talked about building the framework, or more aptly, the foundation for your ministry.  We began (or continued) working through the questions that every ministry leader should ask as they begin the process of deciding how their ministry should function in the world.

The theological foundation upon which you build is extremely important to defining your over all goals and mission on the field.  It has been a lengthy and prayerful process for me to work through taking the better part of a month and lots of wise counsel and prayer from my spiritual mentors.  Take time to nail this first part down, before moving on,

Once you’ve determined the scriptural basis for your ministry, it’s time to begin building the grid work which will become the filter through which all opportunities and ideas should pass when making decisions: the philosophy. Jeremy Pace of Resurgence likens these to the walls of a home.

You begin with the load-bearing walls.  These are immovable, unchangeable within the structure (else the structure falls down). They are the primary grid which make up the shape and form of a home.  Ask yourself the question:

•What are the non-negotiable, prescribed truths of Scripture that set the boundaries?

The next step is to begin constructing the interior walls.  These determine what you are and are not about.  Ask yourself these questions:

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does your church/ministry/organization need to explicitly articulate because they are overlooked?

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does your church/ministry/organization practice faithfully (almost without thinking)?

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does the culture and context of your church ignore or fight against? These you will want to make more explicit.

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives are paralleled within your culture and context but need to be connected? (These too you will want to make more explicit.)

These questions will begin to define the type of culture your ministry will subscribe to and thus become the filter for everything that you do.

snail crossing finish lineSo I am on to building these walls.  I said this before, but I think it bears repeating, this has not been a speedy process for me- although I must admit I thought I had already done most of this work.  What I have found is that as I dig, God opens up questions in my heart.  He opens up visions of something more in places and less in others and is awakening me to a renewed sense of purpose through my ministry.  I hope and pray that as you work through these questions with me, he does the same for you as well.

Vision-Casting for Your Ministry- Pt 1

It’s that time of year again….
12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013
You know the time of year when you put on your rose colored glasses and look bright-eyed into the future…

The time of year when you take a serious look at all that you are discontent with, and, with hope rather than our usual resignation look forward to a better you…

A skinnier you.
A healthier you.
A wealthier you.
A more deeply in-tuned to the Spirit you.

At this time of year you can google “New Year’s Resolutions” and literally get 135,000,000 results.  I’m actually working through Donald Miller’s Storyline this year and loving it so far.  The thought is to use a story to create a narrative that compels you to reach your goals and there is a an awesome online resource that can help you through that- you can go start your own storyline or simply root me on as I write my story here.

And guess what? Your ministry needs a fresh vision every year.  Not resolutions that will get shelved by Valentine’s Day and not a re-branding that confuses all the folks that follow and support you, but a fresh look at the plan God is working through you.  You need a strategic plan just like any other business.

For me, this starts with a question my friend and mentor asked me a couple of years ago.

“What is your philosophy of ministry?”

Your theology determines your philosophy, which THEN determines your methodology.

So your philosophy of ministry then is the attitude that acts as the guiding principle for your ministry.In Christian terminology, we’ll call that your ‘calling’.  What is your ministry called to do?

This question is such a vital part of planning your strategy for, well, anything- events, engagements, blog posts, books…whatever it is you are doing- this question should be the VERY first step.

A philosophy of ministry isn’t a one-line mission statement, although it is what shapes and forms that statement.  Philosophy of ministry is a well-thought out framework that becomes the filter through which you filter everything you decide to do.  It’s an amazing resource when the calendar begins to fill up and distractions start flying at you.  And while it requires some thought and prayer and a little bit of elbow grease, it is well worth the work and thought.  In the coming weeks, I will post my own philosophy of ministry as we talk through this subject of vision-casting for your ministry.  But until then, maybe you would like to start on yours?  The guys at the Resurgence have a great free resource that will walk you through it.  Over the next month, we will be working through the development of a strategic plan for your ministry- starting with the writing of your philosophy of ministry.

So let’s travel the journey together, shall we?

My Top Five Picks: Improv Games as Icebreakers

I love icebreakers.  I love opportunities to get folks up, moving and interacting with each other, and I think you can learn amazing things about your group just by listening to the interactions as they are happening.

Never underestimate the power of laughter to disarm even the most shielded person.  By opening a group up to hilarious and goofy interactions with one another, you give them an opportunity to safely let their guard down without feeling too vulnerable.

My favorite way to create fun interactions is through Improvisational Comedy.  I would have to say improv games are my go-to resource for fun activities and icebreakers.  I’ve talked about ice-breakers before, but you asked for more…so here they are….My top five pics for Improv games:

Fun and Laughter pave the way for open conversations.

1.  Conjoined Twins

Supplies Needed: None

Set Up: Have your group divide up in pairs. Each pair has to come up with some way to be ‘conjoined’ (yes that means they have to touch one another.)  You’ll need someone not playing to interview each set of conjoined twins.

The rules for this game are simple.The players are conjoined twins who must speak simultaneously when giving answers to the questions from the audience. The players receive questions one at a time from the group and are then given the opportunity to spontaneously answer. Generally, the answers are only one or two words. Asking questions that require longer answers challenges the players. The players are forced to follow each other in determining what to say- they are speaking together as they listen.  The content of the answers is not important to the game but yield howls of laughter as the players try to come up with the answer and speak in unison.

I’m kind of starting with the most difficult on the list first, but this is my absolute favorite.  This game brings up so many things….like trust, listening, willingness to lead and to follow. It is a veritable minefield of learning lessons.  The drawback is that once you get a gaggle of gals giggling, it can be a bit difficult to control, but it’s a great trade off, especially for a smaller group of 10 or so.


2.  Circle Warm Up

Circle Warm Up– Warning: Uncontrollable laughter is possible!

Supplies needed: None

Circle Warm-Up is Comedy Improv game used to loosen a group of people up and get loads of laughs.  The group stands in a circle facing in.  First person steps forward and makes a gesture or sound and everyone in the group repeats it.  Play continues around the circle until everyone has gone.  GO FAST! Do whatever you think of first.  If someone gets stuck, and starts to fidget, that becomes their motion and the group repeats it.  This is a great way to begin talking about how much easier it is to open up and be silly when you trust everyone is going to as well- this helps build the trust that others will open up and be vulnerable later.

3. One Word Story

One Word Story- Learning to accept and build

Supplies needed: None

One-Word Story is an Improv game used as a warm up in Comedy Improv groups.  Divide your group into groups of 8-10.  Once you are in your groups, ask for a suggestion of a fairy tale story to tell as a group.  Then instruct the groups that they will have 2 minutes to begin to tell the story one. Word. At. A. time. The key is to go fast and to add onto the word the person in front of you said.

Tip: Inevitably, you will end up with a yellow submarine in Cinderella or ruby slippers in Snow White.  This game gets hilarious. Stop the game after two minutes and ask, “Do you guys actually remember the story?”  Ask for some of the really ridiculous suggestions.

This game highlights the point that even though we may have a really clear direction and idea of where things should be headed, we only have control of ourselves and our contribution to the team.  The idea is to learn to take what your teammate gives you, view it as a gift no matter how much it diverges from your plan, and build on it.

Recently I played this game with a group of young women 18-25.  As we were going around the circle there seemed to be this wrestling to control the “power” words of the story- you know the big ones- nouns, verbs, seemingly ridiculous adjectives like Irish, and frankly, the story got lost.  This game the opportunity to talk about the fact that often times the most valuable word in a story is a single letter, like ‘a’ or a short word like ‘the,’ and tat while those words seem insignificant to us when we look at them by themselves, the story can’t go on without them. It was a beautiful moment that spoke to the importance and purpose of each and everyone one of us.

4.  Whoosh

Supplies needed: None

Whoosh is a warm-up improv game that is played in a circle.  The basic level of it is whoosh is passed around the circle like an energy, it travels from person to person in one direction around the circle. Then you can add levels like “BOINK” which stops the whoosh and rebounds it to travel in the opposite direction. You can add “OVERPASS” which makes the whoosh jump over the person next to you and land on the next person. And at this point you can add many fun hilarious levels to the game which gives players handfuls of choices to make, respond to and be confused by. We play ninja,  monorail, scooter, galactica, hyperspace and subway just to name a few…and I am fairly certain that most of these I made up on the spur of the moment…so have fun with these!

This is a great exercise to watch who engages and who doesn’t and to learn who has a tendency to overpower things as well. This one game can tell you a whole lot about the personalities in your group and how well they work together.

5.  Flock Dance

Supplies: None

This is a very physical, very silly and wildly fun game! Stress the silliness of it and that there must be commitment on everyone’s part in order for this to be fun.

Have your group arrange themselves in a “flying V” with one person at the front of the ‘V’ and the others staggered behind them, like a flock of birds. The player at the front begins leading a dance (either to a stereo or to music that they hum or sing themselves). The other players follow the leader, duplicating their movements as closely as possible. After 15-20 seconds (or when the song changes, if you’ve got a stereo and a “DJ”), a new leader moves into the front until each player has had a chance to try leading.

The idea behind this game is to get full commitment.  This is an especially useful game if your subject material for the rest of your event is very deep and will require lots of vulnerability.  This also helps players be aware of leadership and take the initiative, to follow, and to let go of habitual patterns of movement and really WATCH someone else closely.

Flock dance is about finding a balance between leaders and followers, so in as much as followers should be aware of the leader, so should the leader be aware of his/her followers and ensure that they are supported.

Safety is also a concern, as the flock will be watching the head bird.

Woah! This is a long post, but there you go…my top five improv games.  There are so many more that I love…you know what, that I would love to share with you- so if you are interested in more or in chatting about how you can make your next event super awesome- shoot me a line at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com, I’d love to help!

Have fun!

Re-Mix:The Key Ingredients for Incredible Women’s Events

I originally wrote this post in early 2011, not much re-mix needed here….women people still need the same things to stay engaged.  In the past couple of years, lots of churches have gone to using DVD materials to lead retreats…this is not necessarily a bad thing (well maybe for me it is- I do feel that pinch!) but we still need to build in time to move, to fellowship and to be alone with God…and no, the five minutes the DVD gives you to write your answers in the $10 workbook you bought from Lifeway does not work on any of those counts. Remember, just cause you are using a boxed curriculum, doesn’t mean that you are suddenly off the hook when it comes to making sure that your attendees have gotten the message.  *ahem* Stepping down from the soap box now :)…here’s the post:

As a speaker, I am often called on for advice in planning women’s events. I hear over and over again how different and fun Strings Attached events are, but what makes them so different?  I think that there are a several key ingredients to an incredible women’s event.  Keep these in mind while you are planning and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Always create moments to connect with each other and engage everyone’s learning method.

An incredible women’s event is centered on building relationships (with God and with others).  I know, I know, relationships are kind of a big deal here at Strings Attached, but this because all women are relational.  They want to interact with each other.  Many women’s conferences try to shove so many special features into the day that they don’t leave time for forging connections.  As a team-building coach, this is my forte – bringing games and exercises that invite connection and sharing of story.  Plan times for connection, for mingling, for fun. Laughter is a great unifier.

Even the most engaging speaker will lose your audience after 45 min.

People should never be talked AT for more than 45 minutes.  This is a difficult one, especially if you are using an inexperienced speaker or a DVD program.  I always think back to my school days.  When sitting in a class, no matter how interesting I found the subject material, my ability to concentrate and assimilate would wane at about the 40 minute mark.  This is true for the women who are attending your event as well.  Incorporate experiential games and mixers to help the message stick, object lessons to bring real world metaphors to life, and time to reflect and absorb the information. Get the women up and moving, get them talking, help them form bonds and connections.

Every lesson should be applicable and give “real world” ways for incorporating it into life.

Remember, that the speaker’s story or curriculum needs to be applicable.  This gets left out most often when using lay speakers or women who haven’t yet learned to craft their talks.  (Sheila Wray Gregoire provides some great instruction on honing your message on her website Becoming a Christian Women’s Speaker.) Every presentation should have a way to apply it to everyday life.  There needs to always be a “Why” and  a “How”. Choose a retreat and speaker that challenges women to grow personally and wear the message home.

All women do not learn the same way.  Incorporate activities that provide a variety of learning methods.  In Strings Attached Retreats, you always find auditory (music/speaking), visual (object lessons and games), and kinesthetic (games that require movement and touch).  It’s not difficult to build these into your event, but it does take some thought and practice to get the timing right.  Many games and exercises cover all of the learning modalities.  We will be posting more about how to build this into your event in the coming weeks.

Leave time for reflection at the end of the day.

Reflection, reflection, reflection. In our harried world, in our frantic lives, we very rarely give ourselves time for reflection.  These women who have chosen to share their most valued resource—their time—with you, need time to reflect and connect with God. I attended Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating retreat in Colorado last year (if you haven’t been or haven’t read the book by the same title- you should!). Many things touched me—the speaker, the worship time, the food :), but the most profound moments came during what they called “Covenants of Silence.” It was during these times of reflection that the message of the weekend, the message God had brought me there to hear really soaked in. So many times during a women’s conference, we get so excited that we cram full our day or our event with programming. Leave some time and space for quiet reflection.

So there you go, “Cari’s Special Recipe” for a fantastic women’s event.  I am booking dates for the spring and fall of 2013 now if you would like Strings Attached Ministries to come to your group. We have packages available for any budget. We’d love to be a part of making your event spectacular. You can contact us here.

However, if you are a do-it-yourself-er, I will posting more tips on how to create this on your own. Until then, if you have questions  feel free to put them in the comments or send us an email at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Laura Keck. All photos were taken at Hayward Wesleyan Church during 
"Vital Pieces: You are Signifcant to God's Plan." If you would like to order a copy 
of this presentation on CD, click here.

Captivating Heart was awesome!

 

 

There were 31 of us….women from all walks of life….beautiful women who came for rest…who came for restoration…who came for redemption.

And after a year of planning and  and working….the weekend was amazing!

 

We had adventure..

We had friendship….Join us for the rest at www.captivatingheart.com