Earlier this week, I posted an awesome TED talk about how to start a movement. Today, I want to talk about how to be a movement.
My generation is, quite frankly, a beautiful mess. We are defined as one of the most passionate, entrepreneurial generations–with a strong desire to change the world.
Ironically, we’re also called one of the most flaky, non-committal generations.
That creates a conundrum, wouldn’t you say?
Over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege and burden of coordinating volunteers, and I can attest to the fact that both of those statements are true. I’ve worked plenty of talented, passionate, well-intentioned young people. They start up with fervor and passion, but once the fun and glory fades, things change. People show up late, or don’t show up at all. They hurry to leave. Emails, phone calls, and text messages go unanswered. Soon after, like clockwork, I get an email saying that God is leading them in another direction.
I always, always, want to respond: “Really? God told you to stop teaching kids about Jesus? That’s interesting. Tell me more.”
I know. That’s my broken, cynical, stressed-out heart talking.
I don’t doubt that God is leading people towards other things. I truly believe that one of the intentions and benefits of serving in the local church is the opportunity to grow confident in your unique gifting, for the purposes of leading you to serve in bigger and greater capacities. When that happens, my heart is warm.
Instead, more often than not, I see people bounce from opportunity to opportunity. Repeating the same destructive pattern over, and over, and over. As a result, serving is no longer fulfilling for the person and it creates more harm than help for the cause.
A lot of people mistakenly call it “burn out,” but I don’t really believe that’s the case.
Rather, I think it’s a symptom of a lack of direction. We’re a passionate generation. We want to see change, and we want to be involved. We want to find meaning. These are great things! However, most of us haven’t determined what we want to contribute to the world. So, we (unintentionally) let ourselves be swayed by fads. One week we’re about the homeless, the next about climate change. Next month I’ll care about sex trafficking, and in a year I’ll try children’s ministry. Sometimes, we care about all these things at once.
The solution is knowing what you bring to the table.
A few months ago, I realized that I was a victim of this thinking. In the past few years, I’ve been involved in plenty of good things, but I always find myself wondering if my trail of serve opportunities is actually making any kind of impact. I decided that needed to change.
Thinking and talking with friends gave me an idea: I needed to solidify how I want to define my life. If I have a value set for my standards, I can make informed life decisions and choose opportunities that appropriately line up. Honing in on a value set will ensure that my experiences are building on top of each other–not in multiple different directions.
So, I sat down and asked myself:
- What matters to me?
- What unique skills, talents and gifts has God given me?
- What from my past has impacted my present and future?
- What makes me feel fulfilled?
- What can I do for hours on end, and never get tired of?
- What do I talk about so often that it annoys others?
- If I could change only a few things in the world, what would I want to change?
I didn’t sit and think about saying everything correctly. It was simply a brainstorming session. It wasn’t about being pretty or well-spoken; it was about being honest and true to the image of God in me.
After a few minutes, I sat back and looked over my notes. I prayed that God would make themes clear to me. I went back, and underlined the words that stood out, then revisited those words. Lo-and-behold, there were very apparent themes.
So, I categorized the themes that arose with five words. These words are now my value set. Here they are:
STORY: I believe God has gifted me with a desire to communicate. I want to honor that gifting by sharing my life through story, while equipping others to share theirs.
CREATIVITY: I believe creativity is one of the strongest forces for good. It is common language, uniting people across cultures. I want to define my life by creating, as well as facilitating the creativity of others.
PEACEMAKING: I recognize that I have a unique (and to some, obnoxious) love for peacemaking and reconciliation. Peacemaking has been something that Jesus has consistently made a theme in my life. I want to be an advocate for God’s heart for peace and reconciliation in global and local, big and small, national and personal capacities.
INCLUSIVITY: I have been given a unique responsibility–I am a woman, and I am bi-racial. My identity is wrapped up in the stories of many who have gone before me to create a path of freedom. Therefore, my life ought to birth freedom for others. I want to involve myself in patterns that bring people of different backgrounds to one table.
LOVE: This one could easily become a cliché, but I want to fight to keep it from going there. I want to live a life that actively seeks to love those I find most challenging to love. I’ll leave it at that. (Maybe this one is better defined as SIMPLICITY.)
There are my words. They are broad enough to give myself wiggle room, but narrow enough to make sure my decisions are made with structure and purpose. Surely there is some flexibility in this, to ensure I’m being attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. However, identifying and being aware of who God has created me to be will help me stay obedient for the long haul. No more swaying from fad to fad.
I’ll admit, these words have already proven to be a challenge. They’ve caused me to look critically at every facet of life; Questioning each on if it fits in the trajectory of my life. It has forced me to let go of things that don’t align, and chose new paths. It is a new struggle, but hopefully one that leads to a life clearly defined and making an impact.
What will your words be?
Hey, while you’re here, you might also like:
How to Start A Movement : Derek Sivers
To My Ladies : A Few Thoughts on Submission
Dan Pallotta : Re-thinking the Way Charities Are Funded