Today and tomorrow Jayson and I (and maybe 40 other people from Trinity) are attending Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit at the East Bayou satellite site. Even though Willow Creek puts on the summit it's not just for church leaders. In fact, they always have a good mix of some of the best spiritual and business leaders from across the globe. This is Jayson's first time to attend, my second, and several times today he mentioned that he wished everyone that he worked with could come to this.
Bill Hybels, the senior pastor at Willow Creek, gave the first talk of the morning. I'm not a huge Hybels fan but I can't put my finger on exactly why. His talks are always good, his books are good, his church seems to love him, I'm not sure what it is about him that makes me cautious. It's probably his cheekbones, apparently I have issues. Anyway, he talked about how one of the roles of a leader is to move people from 'here' to 'there'. Hybels tends to speak in a way that makes every single sentence sound like it is extremely profound. Or maybe it is, I dunno. Remember when you were taking notes in school and how you knew what you should write down by the way the teacher said it? There's something about Bill Hybels' diction and his voice inflection that makes me think I'm supposed to write down everything he says. So I do. And then when I go back and reread it, I realize that I wrote down a bunch of common sense stuff that I already knew but I didn't realize it at the time because he made it sound like a brand new important concept. I feel kind of deceived and stupid but that's not really his fault. Then like all authors, and I can't really fault them for it, he pitched his new book "The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond". I think there's a DVD study that goes with it.
During the break, I went to get some coffee in the hopes of remaining conscious for at least most of the summit, and was extremely entertained by the coffee urns at East Bayou. Most of them were labeled with whatever kind of coffee was inside but there were a couple labeled "preschool". I know this is probably because these urns belong in the preschool area of the building but I couldn't help but think that maybe this coffee was for the preschoolers to drink, or even better maybe it was made from freshly roasted preschoolers. When I went to fill my cup I said, out loud but to myself, that I was going to try the preschool roast. The lady standing next to me absolutely busted out laughing like I'd just said the funniest thing she ever heard. It was humorous and made me chuckle but she was carrying on to the point of tears. Then she wanted to continue to talk about the preschool roast long after it ceased to be funny. Poor little thing. I couldn't imagine how stale and boring her life must be if she got that much joy out of a ridiculous coffee joke. She must have been a Junior Leaguer.
Being a church employee, it's a little strange when I visit another church. Good strange, not bad strange. Churches are different and I think they all have their place and serve a purpose but it's just natural to compare them to your own. Not that I'm trying to figure out who is better, I just love to get a different perspective how things can be done...then I go back to my own church and make sure we do them better. Just sayin'.
There are a few things that East Bayou does that I would love to see happen at Trinity. One of those things is these clever cooler stands they had stashed around the snack area. Some people might think, "big deal, so what"? Those people are not my friends. This is one of those small, seemingly insignificant details that are easily overlooked but when given the attention they deserve they can have an enormous amount invisible impact. What good is invisible impact, you ask? Well. Let me tell you. It can make or break an event, in my humble but usually right opinion.
I just deleted 2 paragraphs of me going on and on about invisible impact and how seemingly insignificant little details can be a catalyst for a major wow moment. You can thank me later. Those kinds of things make me positively giddy and it's one of the things I love about my job. Suffice it to say, as an event attender (not a church employee) matching coolers on stands makes me think that whoever planned this event cared about my comfort, my convenience as well as the aesthetics of my environment. The bottom line being...I felt valued and yes, silly little cooler stands are just part of what created that feeling. Well done East Bayou!
Another thing I love about East Bayou is their totally black auditorium. The walls, ceilings, everything is black. Some people might think this would create a heavy or depressing environment but it really doesn't if you use it well, and I think they do. Black is a good neutral background and you can do a lot of really cool lighting techniques with it. It also makes an effective camouflage for things like music stands, mic stands, amp cords, pedals and all those other technical gizmos that are a necessary part of the stage on a typical Sunday morning. What I love best about a black background is how it can make other visual elements pop. What do popping visual elements have to do with church, you ask? More than you might think. No one is going to come to Jesus just because I put some kind of cool looking decoration on a black stage, but it might bring them back to church next week where they'll meet the person who brings them to Jesus. That's another one of those little things with huge invisible impact. I would love to see us have an all black stage area if not the entire auditorium at Trinity. I might get strangled in the parking lot for saying that out loud but dang it, black is not bad like people make it out to be! Decorators used to tell people to stay away from dark colored walls, they'll make a room feel small and closed in. That was before they knew how to work with dark colors and use their potential. Black gets a bad rap but black is our friend. Black is the new black. That's profound, write that down.
The second session of the day was from a man named Jim Collins who is a business guru and author of "Good to Great" and "Built to Last", both of which are on my long list of books I must read some day. His talk, which was very good, came from his latest book "How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In". He talked about organizations in decline, how they got there and how they can work their way out of it. He gave examples of several well known companies and their leaders. These leaders were very diverse but all shared some common practices and ideals that keep their companies successful. Really good business leadership stuff.
After Jim was this little dynamo named Christine Caine who is a pastor from Hillsong Church in Australia and founder of the A21 Campaign whose goal it is to abolish human trafficking. They do everything from rescuing and providing after-care for the victims to helping them prosecute the perpetrators. How cool is that?! This woman overcame incredible obstacles, abuses and injustices in her own life and has an energy and passion that are so genuine they are infectious whether you want them to be or not! She had me wanting to jump out out of my seat, run up on stage and give her a chest bump...which would have been weird since we were watching her via satellite. I'm definitely going to pick up her book "The Core Issue: Authentic Living That Impacts the World".
Marti picked up Cane's for lunch so all the Trinity folks went over to her house to eat. I love a house where 40 people can comfortably have lunch. I sat on the couch which is in the living room that's off of that other living room and let me tell you that couch is made for napping. It's probably 8' long and the seats are deep and the cushions are extra cushy and I would never leave my house if I had that couch.
Even though Mark and Marti have a large beautifully decorated house, it is very comfortable and homey and not at all a stuffy show place like some big houses can be. Sometimes my allergies act up and will cause one or both of my eyes to water and that started happening during lunch. I asked Jayson if he could find me a kleenex since I was much too busy eating and talking to be bothered with it. Jayson came back and handed me a wad of toilet paper. He said he asked Mark where he might find a kleenex and Mark looked a little perplexed and suggested he check the bathroom. Jayson didn't find kleenex in the bathroom but he knew that I would find toilet paper to be an acceptable substitute. If you come to my house and you ask for a kleenex, there is a 99% chance that you will be handed a wad of toilet paper. Since Mark didn't instantly produce a kleenex when Jayson asked, I figured that meant that he also found potty paper to be an acceptable substitute which made me feel slightly less white trashy. Or maybe it just made me consider him to be slightly more white trashy. Either way it was a good thing.
We were one of the first to leave Marti's house after lunch and head back to East Bayou since Jayson has this annoying habit of always wanting to be on time. I just don't get that. Anyway, it was lightly raining outside so I stayed in the garage and asked him if he would pull the car up into the driveway for me since we all know that my kind melts in water. He obliged but not without an eye roll and a comment about how it was barely raining at all. When I got into the car, everyone was starting to file out of the house and head for their cars as well. Jayson said, "you're such a prima donna...look at those ladies, they're all walking to their cars and are not afraid of a little rain". To which I replied, "they have UMBRELLAS!!!"
I'm too tired to describe the rest of the afternoon sessions but they were all good. Craig Groeschel did an interview with Tony Dungy who talked about mentoring. Adam Hamilton, the senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of The Resurrection in Leawood, KS tackled an unpleasant topic. Two of his staff pastors were caught having an extramarital affair and he talked about how their church handled that and offered advice on how to resist temptation in general. Good stuff but difficult stuff. After another break we heard from Dr. Peter Zhao Xiao who is a Christian Chinese communist economist. Through a translator he talked about how China is warming up to the idea of Christianity since they have done studies that show how the prosperity of American business is linked to Christian values. This struck me as incredible. China has always been very resistant to allowing Christianity into their country as a religious choice for their people but they've warmed up to the idea after seeing how it could help their country to prosper.
Okay, maybe I'm not as tired as I thought. I love the Chinese people, they are so precious and so misunderstood. China used to have the largest economy in the world and they have a goal to gain that status again. They are very business oriented and they want to be a great country again, to lead others and to influence other countries. They're doing well in economics, politics and sports but they fail on the platform of faith. This adorable Dr. Zhao is teaching Chinese leaders the importance of morals and values in their efforts to become a great nation. Think about it. This is an important man in China. He is advising the leaders of his country. He is telling them that their success is linked to Christian churches. And he's here, in America, speaking at a Christian conference that will be broadcast all over the world...with the blessing of his government. They know what he's doing, they had to give him a visa to get here and they're okay with that. This is a very good thing :) Right now China might think this whole Christian thing is just good business but once it gets into their hearts, stuff is gonna happen. Good stuff. It's very exciting for their people!
Andy Stanley was the final speaker of the day and of course he was good. He talked about how all organizations are going to have problems and tension that they simply cannot resolve and he suggests they shouldn't resolve it. He talked about how to determine if your tension is one of these unresolvable kinds, then he described how to leverage that tension to benefit the organization. One of those tensions that doesn't go away is the balance between work and family. If you work too much you can lose your family, if you stay home too much you can lose your job. How do you solve that? You don't. You manage it.
At some point during Andy's spiel I noticed some of the stage decorations behind him. They were the same exact little stage thingies that East Bayou had on their stage. What a cool coincidence! Or maybe they had seen the Willow stage and ripped off their idea. Kudos either way. It's hard to see in the picture but the lighted thing on the right is on the East Bayou stage and on the left is the screen showing the stage at Willow Creek with same stage prop thingie. I pointed this out to Jayson and he looked at me like I had just sprouted a third eye. Apparently he noticed it as soon as the satellite feed began and I didn't see it until 8 hours later.
It is a misconception that all artsy types (that includes me most of the time) have an eye for detail. Some have an eye for detail and some have an eye for some detail some of the time. Then there are those who are strictly all about the big picture and simply can't get bogged down in details. I'm one of those some detail some of the time types. My closest friend could lose 75 pounds and I would not notice. Is this because I pay so little attention to her that I have no idea what size she is? No. Well...probably not anyway. She's one of those no detail things where I just see the big picture of who she is. I might not notice if she shaved her head because the state of her hair, or lack thereof, is not one of those details that grabs me. I am a terrible proofreader because I don't notice words that are misspelled. I can read a word 10 times, slowly, out loud and never realize that it is misspelled. But if there is a mistake in the size or consistency of what I'm reading it grabs my attention like a stick in the eye. If there's an extra space between sentences in a paragraph, I'll see it. If the font size of a word is one point more or less than the font size of the word next to it, I'll see it. It's very bizarre. So you see, the fact that Jayson noticed the matching stage thingies 8 hours before I did is because of a difference in perception, not because I am oblivious to my surroundings. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.