Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Dog Died

During my years in ministry occasionally I have been given incorrect information… the church hot line wasn’t so hot. This can be especially troubling if it is a premature report of the death of a church member. Unfortunately, the follow up done on such misdirection can be just a tad embarrassing.

When told of a death I usually call the deceased one’s home to express my condolences to the bereaved family members and to offer to assist with the making of funeral arrangements. With the subject family member still alive, my call was generally not well received. On one occasion the supposed deceased person happened to answer the phone. That made for a rather clumsy conversation with me having very little to say.

I had started calling ahead because of an experience I had during my student ministry days. Even though it was before the days of speed dial, someone must have had the parsonage number on some form of speed dial. Answering the phone one afternoon, a voice I did not recognize said, “Bobbie Glenn just died,” and hung up. A little short on information I headed for the Glenn’s home, located on the outskirts of our tiny Kentucky community. After a very short drive, I arrived and found the front door standing open. I stepped inside and a profoundly distraught family ran to me and said, pointing down the hallway, “He’s in there.” I walked down the hallway, dodging wailing family running around in circles and calling out incoherently, and looked into the first bedroom. I then glanced into the bathroom and saw Bobbie sprawled on the floor and, indeed, looking quite dead. This was before my many years working in EMS and was my first time seeing a freshly dead body. I considered just getting back in my car and returning home. Pride forced me to seek to be more helpful and I suggested to the family that it might be a good idea to call the funeral home; which they did. Good sense dictated that in the future I call before going.

We had a premature announcement of a death in our family. When our two oldest children, Mack and Meg, were just entering grade school we lived in Stanford, a small town in central Illinois. It seemed a good time to get a dog. We purchased a beautiful little Shetland Sheep dog (They look like miniature collies.) and named her Kelly. She was a joy and the whole family just adored her.

One summer week we sent the kids off with their grandparents to spend a couple of days in the country with the great grandparents. Kids are great but sometimes a little break from them seemed a good idea. After a couple of days my wife and I made the trip Kentucky to pick the kids up and bring them home. My mother-in-law (Who was such a sweet person.) met us at the door and tearfully told us she was so sorry to hear that our dog had died. I was surprised at the announcement since the last thing I had done before leaving home was to feed the dog. And she seemed very much alive at the time. I asked her where she had heard that news. She said, “Mack told me that Kelly died.”

Mack. How does one describe Mack? Even as a child he was an interesting and complex person. I good looking kid with bright red hair, big blue eyes and a patch of freckles scattered across his nose. He had a wonderful laugh and, even as a toddler, loved a good joke. He was the leader of the other children and often led them into some very imaginative play scenarios. He was smart with a great imagination.

I was the father and one of my children had obviously told a big old hairy lie. Something must be done and it was my job to address this misdeed. So I called Mack in from whatever he was doing for a confrontation. I took a seat on the couch, up close to the edge so I could be nose to nose and eye to eye with the little liar. I stood him right in front of me for the questioning to begin. Knowing Mack, I knew I would have to catch him off guard. I thought I had the perfect approach. I looked directly into his deep blue eyes and said, “Mack, I just heard that Kelly died.” Without batting an eye, with the sweetest, most sincere look on his face, he replied, “You know, I heard that too.”

Good Lord, how do you respond to that? I was the father… the disciplinarian… the regulator of his moral compass. I had only one choice. I laughed until tears ran down my face and my abdomen cramped. Mack just smiled at me and went back to playing. The dog lived and so did the child. It was a good day.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Friday, May 20, 2016

Touchy, Feely

This is a difficult time for me to live. I am not a “touchy, feely” kind of guy and we live in a (hopefully short lived) time that is run on emotions.

When I say I am not touchy feely I don’t mean I don’t have feelings. I love the guts out of my siblings. I am crazy about my wife and kids; I dream about them, pray for them, smile about them and weep over them. I have loved every church I have ever served. I will admit that I rarely get fired up over any athletic competition but I have been known to cry during a movie. (Field of Dreams gets me every time.) I enjoy children and love to hold babies. Puppies are adorable. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets give me chills. The best times of my life are sitting around the table chatting with my family and friends.

When I say I’m not touchy, feely, I mean I don’t run my life by my emotions. I have discovered that naking emotional decisions is generally a really bad idea. Think first. Think again and then spend some time thinking about it. It seems that every time I watch the news I see people making emotion decisions with poor results. I’m not just talking about the idiot who attempts to rob the local quick market armed with a toy gun and gets blown away for his efforts. Though there always people who get all emotional about it and cry on television news and want to know how that could happen. Let me tell you; it happened because he was an idiot. Boohoo, blame it on the gun. Boohoo, blame it on the system. Boohoo, blame it on the schools. No, blame it on the guy who did a really stupid thing. Life is dangerous enough without making bad decisions. Decisions have consequences.

The news hits that someone was shot. We feel bad about it so we hit the streets in protest of something (Guns, police, the schools, the government, the family – there is just a huge group of things to choose from.) or post our unhappiness on Facebook. Do we wait to hear what really happened, wait for all the facts to come in, wait for the investigation? Oh, hell no. It makes us feel bad so we fire off in all directions. And the reality is, whatever the investigation proves, it we don’t agree with it, we won’t believe it. What’s interesting is that the same scenario happens over and over again and we never seem to learn from our experiences. Perhaps it is because our collective attention span is so short we are not aware that the investigation proved our jumped to conclusion to be incorrect. We’re too busy emotionally responding to the next thing that strikes us wrong; rushing out to throw a hissy fit over something we know almost nothing about. We don’t need any facts cause we run on feelings.

It is how we got to the whole transgendered bathroom fight we are now having. I have several good hearted friends who are aghast that some state passed a law requiring men to use the men’s room and women use the women’s room. As for me, I will never set foot back in that state – unless I have to or want to. I can’t think of a single adolescent boy who doesn’t feel that he should be allowed in the girls’ room. My good feeling friends don’t want anyone to feel left out or unaccepted or looked down on or unloved or treated poorly. I don’t want to do that to anyone else either. But does feeling that way mean I can’t draw a conclusion that tells me you are wrong? Loving someone doesn’t mean I always agree with them or think what they are doing is right. My understanding of love is just not that shallow.

It seems to have started with the lady who claimed she was black because she felt black. Really? Well if she FELT BLACK SHE MUST BE BLACK. Ignore the facts that both of her parents are white and no one found any black people in her family tree. We know that she is black because we are ruled by our feelings. Now if I was born a male but feel like a female I must really be a female – I’m transgendered. Feelings are what life is all about. Feelings rule. Okay, I can go with this. Today I feel like a 6” 8’ professional basketball player who has women falling over me. I can easily dunk the basketball, run the 40 yard dash in just over 4 seconds and have a full head of hair. I feel it so it must be true. If that sounds stupid to you, you probably need to rethink the whole transgendered bathroom thing.

How about we go back to an earlier way of thinking. (I realize that is heresy for many of my readers.) Instead of jumping to conclusions based on our emotions, I suggest that we mix together some reason, logic, reality, a whole lot of thought, add just a tiny dab of emotion and then draw a conclusion.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Mother Wasn't June Cleaver

Tomorrow would have been my mother's 100th birthday. If you didn't know her, you missed out on a treat. In her honor I share this blog.

I grew up watching several “perfect” families on television. Two of my favorite characters were
Wally and the Beaver. They were two clean-cut screw-ups with a perfect set of parents, Ward and June Cleaver.

Ward and June never said anything mean. They rarely became upset and yelled at the boys. Whenever problems arose they always had quiet, meaningful, wisdom filled talks with them. The house was always spotless. The meals were delicious, nutritious and always on time. Ward always wore a suit with a white shirt and tie. That family gave me the creeps.

We weren’t the Cleavers but there were some similarities. My dad wore a shirt and tie every weekday. It was his business attire. One day, after he had retired, he showed up at the kitchen table in a shirt and tie. When I asked why he was dressed up, he looked surprised and took off the tie. Old habits die hard. We and the Cleavers were also similar in that my mother’s name was June.

But my Mom was no June Cleaver. The mother of my growing up years was many things -- interesting, funny, unpredictable, a wonderful cook, willing to try almost anything, good with kids (especially teenagers), counselor, fixer of tragedies, painter (of walls and canvases), seamstress, dog trainer (our dog loved to bring her "ripe" dead rabbits), and resident theologian. Mother was not known for her nurturing skills. If one stayed home from school, one spent the day in one’s room – ALONE. At noon she might slide a sandwich under the door, but there was no other interaction.

She was many things, but a perfect, plastic reproduction of a mother wasn't one of them.  She was June McConnell, NOT June Cleaver.

One picture of my childhood stamped indelibly on my memory is of my mother, in gaudy, golden house slippers, with her housecoat flapping in the breeze, disappearing over the hill on the back of my best friend's motorcycle.  He had come to show me his new Triumph cross-country cycle.  The one his mother was afraid to look at, and certainly would not ride on.  He made the mistake of jokingly asking Mom if she would like a ride on his bike.  She, of course, took him up on his offer. He was shocked. I was not. That was just Mom.

I believe my mother forged my father's signature on every paycheck my father ever brought home. That was especially humorous when you realize that, as treasurer of the company, Dad's signature was on the front. And friends, she made no attempt whatsoever to make the signature on the back even remotely bear a resemblance to the signature on the front. She then took that check to the bank, cashed it and proceeded to work miracles with the money in taking care of five kids who were black holes that money disappeared into.

With it they paid for a beautiful home in the country, fed five children (two teenage boys) who could consume vast quantities of food at a sitting ("While you're up would you get me another glass of milk?"), put nice clothes on our ever-growing and changing bodies, shod our constantly expanding feet, came up with weekly lunch money and allowance, paid for the "little extras" that seem to mount up into the millions, and saw to it that a college education could be a reality.

And then there was Mom's home cooking. When we children were in the house, mother was a cooking machine. After we grew up and left, not so much. After cooking for a herd, it was difficult to get motivated to cook for two. The menu changed.

To give you an idea how unusual it was, my children always looked forward to trips to their grandmother's house so they could have her gourmet jumbo hot dogs and micro waved White Castle hamburgers.  When she did cook, it is not that she didn't fix scrumptious, nourishing meals, it is just they were not necessarily traditional.  Sure, Mom could fry chicken with the best of them and she made a mean pot roast.  Sunday dinner, which was usually shared with company, was traditional fare with homemade pie for dessert. (Chess pie was my favorite.) Umm, umm, good.  But lord only knew what would show up on the table weeknights. Good stuff. But not things I would feed to children. Shrimp cocktail, Reuben sandwiches, chef salad, liver, Kentucky Hot Browns and of course, our all time favorite, rubber duck.

The rubber duck is another story. My father occasionally got the urge to "provide" for the family in the tradition of his ancestors and went hunting or fishing.  He rarely returned to the house with much game. Once he arrived at the door with a stringer full of beautiful fish in his hand and a strange look on his face. We still suspect he bought those fish. On this occasion, Dad (bwana, Capt. Ahab, great white hunter), went duck hunting on a cold, drizzly, nasty early winter day and returned with one sorry-looking duck. We boys were dispatched to the back yard where we dutifully plucked and cleaned it and Mom cooked the thing. It smelled awful. Dad couldn't slice it to serve (no heartbreak to the assembled tribe) because he couldn't get his fork in it. My brother Bob suggested the duck had "Goodyear" stamped on the bottom. We threw it out for the dog. The dog buried it. The entire family agreed that the dog made a good choice.

I don't want the reader to get the wrong idea. Mom wasn't weird. She was just unique. My sisters loved to tell her that if she ever suffered from Alzheimer's we will never be able to tell. She did all of the things one hears about moms doing. Mom fixed our meals, bound up our wounds, kissed our "owies," listened to our problems, dried our tears, mended our torn clothes and broken hearts, told us about God, threatened to turn us over to our father when he got home, and ran interference for us when the task or problem was more than we could handle. 

An example I clearly remember was the time I, a teenage driver, brought home my first and only speeding ticket. I ceremoniously laid it and the car keys in front of my father as he sat at the kitchen table.  He looked at the ticket, at me, at the keys, back at me and took a deep breath to begin what promised to be a monumental and endless lecture on topics as varied as safe driving habits, my attitude (he always threw the attitude part in for good measure), the cost of living, his childhood, and, of course, how I would be welcome to use the car again sometime just before I reached middle age. But at that moment my mother's voice, like a warm, gentle, sweet summer breeze, floated gently into the room and Dad deflated like a cheap balloon.  She simply said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." End of lecture… return of car keys.

My Mom was not June Cleaver. And for that I will be eternally grateful.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Friday, May 13, 2016

I Love a Parade

My father died 30 years ago and rarely does a week pass that I don’t wish I had a chance to talk to him. He is my most often mentioned person in my sermons. Tomorrow we will celebrate the 101th anniversary of his birth. A few years after his death, I was motivated to write the first piece I ever had published. Allow me to share those thoughts with you at this time.
I love a good parade. I even like bad parades. I have seen both kinds. Some really stick in my memory.
The 1970 Memorial Day Parade in Waddy, Kentucky (yes, that is the town's real name) immediately springs to mind. The town folks had been talking about the Memorial Day Parade for weeks before the event and I was getting rather excited about it. One couldn’t spend any time in the local grocery store without the conversation turning to the parade. Plans and preparations were being made. It seemed that most of the people in the little town were going to be participating.
My family and I passed up several offers so we could be sure to be there for the "big" parade. I will admit that the offers we received were not all that tempting. But we did make a conscious decision to be around for the big parade. At the appointed time we took our places on the sidewalk of the main drag. I must be fair and tell you that Waddy in 1970 was a community of about 255 people and the main drag was the only drag. And there were not very many feet of sidewalk to get on. Since most of the residents were in the parade, finding a place to watch it wasn’t difficult. We didn’t have to come down the night before and stake out our space. Showing up ten minutes before parade time worked out fine.
We didn’t have to wait long before the action started. Here came the parade. It was absolutely wonderful. Strung out for several feet behind the town's antique and only fire truck were two shiny, brand spanking new pick up trucks. The owners had obviously spent a lot of time washing and waxing their pride and joy. One of the trucks was pulling the only float in the parade which was carrying some of the local veterans riding on a tobacco wagon. The other truck was hauling a young girl – perhaps she was Miss Waddy or Miss Shelby County. The entire local Cub Scout Pack, all six of them, were the color guard. There were bicycles and wagons and baby strollers and balloons and crept paper and sparklers and dogs, some horses and a couple of ponies. My, it was grand. One the finest parades I have ever seen. My heart was touched. I wouldn't have missed it.
There have been several other parades in my life. All of them were larger and longer. Many were more exciting and colorful and entertaining. Some were so long they became boring. A couple of them have been just plain stupid. No offense is intended (Really) but have you ever attended a gay rights parade? There is a bad idea. But none of them grander... except one. That is the parade that wandered through my parents’ kitchen in the fall of 1986.

My father was very busy that fall dying of cancer of the God-knows-what. The doctors couldn't tell where the cancer had originated but it wasn't difficult to see where it had gone. It was everywhere and Dad was so skinny by then that much of it stuck out on various parts of his body. It was horrible to watch a strong, robust, commanding man reduced to a skeleton struggling to live through each day seeking to find ways to have as little pain as possible. It was horrible, but riveting – like those slasher horror films young teens flock to watch. It was also a wonderful time of quiet conversations and opportunities to do for my father; a man who had always done for others, especially his children. Though the role reversal was a bit challenging for both of us, it was a wonderful God gift to be able to serve my father during a very difficult time.
As cancer took more and more from him and more of him from us, we were completely centered on his well being. Though not unusually tall, my dad was very strong. As a high school kid he had a job picking up milk cans from the local dairy farmers. He could hang on the back of the truck with one hand, lean out and grab a milk can in the other and swing it up into the back of the truck. That is about 140 pounds per can. Whoa, strong guy. Dad played baseball and basketball well and taught his boys how to play.
Because the degeneration of his physical body and our all consuming struggle to make him as comfortable as possible had so captured my attention, the parade that had begun had been passing before my eyes long before I noticed it.
But one those beautiful cloudless, bright blue sky, breezy autumn afternoons it burst upon my sight. For a parade, it was difficult to spot. There were no fire trucks or Cub Scouts or floats or marching bands or riders on horseback.  There were no pretty young beauty queens seeking our attention or politicians seeking our votes. Most of the faces in this parade were familiar to me, although some were strangers. But they all knew my father. He was the "theme" that held this parade together. This was a parade of people, passing through my parent's spacious, warm, welcoming kitchen, in front of the reclining chair that had become Dad's chief place of residence.
They came from near and far. As close as the next door neighbor and as far as several states away. They all came to say the same thing in many different ways.  They came to say, "Thank you, Mr. McConnell.  You have made a difference in my life."   What a wonderful thing to say!  "Thanks for living and letting me be a part of your life.  Your life counted for something in my life." “You have lived a life that was significant because your life powerfully impacted my life.”

And what a strange mix of people it was that carried this message to my father. There were the preachers and church leaders from all over the state that Dad had prayed with and for and taught so much about how to be sensitive to the needs of others and the leading of the Lord. He helped them have more than a theoretical Christianity. There was the alcoholic who lived next door who was snubbed by the community but was proud to be called "friend" by "Mr. Mack". There were the young men of the community that had looked to my father for advice and counsel on subjects ranging from family budgeting to how to win an argument without losing a friend. There was the single mother and her children who were helped through some hard times by a man they hardly knew. There were the old people that came to thank the man who brought them meals when they were too sick to cook for themselves. There were the business associates that had worked with him for over a quarter of a century – folks who really knew him and thus knew him to be a man of integrity, courage, compassion, wisdom and humor. There were his law clients who received much more than just good legal advice from their attorney. There were the students from more than 30 years of Sunday school classes that came to thank the man who helped make God real and understandable to them. There were the Little League ball players who had become middle-aged men, wanting to thank him for being a fine baseball coach and an even better example.

They came from all over. They loved and appreciated my father and came to tell him. Dad was sick, but he was having a wonderful time. He had invested his life well. And though it was coming to, what many of us considered, a premature end, it had been a great, meaningful, full life. My dad had been successful. He grew up on a little hill farm in Robertson County, Kentucky. He had served his country in World War II. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. He worked his way through law school and was the Vice President and Treasurer of a very successful life insurance company. He had provided very well for his wife and children. He was successful. But more importantly, his life had been significant.

Fortunately, I recognized what was happening in time to join this wonderful parade. I grasped the opportunity at hand and thanked my Dad for being a fine father, good friend, wonderful teacher and excellent example. What a parade! My, it was grand. One the finest parades I have ever seen. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.
He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Old and Dangerous: Armed with a TV

The problem with old age is that it creeps up on a person so slowly that you are old before you realize it. People can’t seem to get ready for it. Preparations are rarely made. Probably because none of us really believe it will happen to us. Old age only happens to old people, and I’m not old. Old is always 20 years older than I am.

Several years ago I took a church member, an 85 year old woman, to check out a retirement home. It was a beautiful facility. After a tour and a delicious free lunch, we left. As we settled into the car for the ride home I asked her, “Well what do you think?” She said, “It’s a nice place but there are just too many old people around for me.” I wanted to ask her what she thought she was but I didn’t want to be severely beaten about the head and shoulders with her purse.

I grew up in St. Matthews, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville. As a teenager I joined my friends in making fun of the rich old ladies driving around in their huge, expensive cars. They were funny to us because it looked like they were looking through their steering wheels instead of over them. We pictured them sitting on a stack of phone books to get that high in the seat.

When it comes to driving cars, getting old can be dangerous. My father never was a top notch driver, but as he aged his driving got much worse. Riding around the hilly roads of Henry County, Kentucky was a thrilling adventure… especially since he never watched the road. He was busy checking out the crops and counting the cattle. My mother called him the most dangerous man in Henry County.

The only person I ever met who could top him for frightening driving was Edna Oyler. Edna was, as we say in Kentucky, a character. She was funny without meaning to be. Edna attended the church I served and, as she did everywhere she went, considered herself as in charge. She had more keys than the janitor, oversaw the kitchen, (I got a real insight into the church went I realized the pastor’s office remained unlocked and the kitchen stayed locked and Edna had the only key.) critiqued the sermons, harassed the choir and scared the hell out of everyone when she got behind the wheel of her car.

Edna, of course, owned a massive car and she drove down the center of the street… any street… every street. Partially because see didn’t see all that well; but mainly because she thought she was entitled to the center of the street. Remember, Edna thought she was large and in charge. She was a taxpayer so she owned the street. When she turned on a street in our little town people literally pulled to the side of the street, cowered in their seats and prayed for God’s mercy. Thankfully, Edna rarely got up over 8 miles per hour so when she did hit someone or something (Which she did with regularity.) there was minimal damage.

Old age is creeping up on me. A couple of experiences I’ve had lately have tipped me off. First, it took me four attempts to back my car into a parking space. Since I spent years backing ambulances and fire trucks into tight spaces, this should have been a piece of cake for me. I got out of my car and started considering how I could afford hiring a driver on my limited budget. Perhaps I will extend our family tradition and I will, like my father, become the most dangerous man in my county.

The other experience I shared with my wife. It was a Tuesday night and we were watching our new favorite show, Little Big Shots. As we watched the program a storm alert, a severe thunderstorm warning, appeared at the top of the screen. We looked at each other and immediately went to the window. It was a clear, beautiful spring evening. So we both checked the weather radar on our phones. Nothing. Clear as could be. Suddenly, what has probably already occurred to you, if you are a fan of Little Big Shots, occurred to us. Little Big Shots is on Sunday evenings, not Tuesday evenings. We had recorded the show Sunday evening and were watching the recording. And it had stormed Sunday night. Duh.

So we just smiled at each other, snuggled up on the couch and enjoyed the show and growing old together.

Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

By Action of the Board

I have attended many more church Board meetings than I have wanted to. That number would be something like all of them. When discussing my curfew, my father used to say, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” My personal experience says he was wrong. But I must say, nothing good happens at a church board meeting.

In my experience, generally speaking, there are too many people on the board, (I once served a church with an average attendance at Sunday worship of 65 and a Board of 66 people.) the group can’t keep on task and stick to the subject being discussed, many people are immature and tend to attack other people instead of attacking the problem the group is seeking to solve. At church board meetings I have endured some of the most hateful personal attacks of my life. In the name of “church business” I have been demeaned, cursed, verbally attacked and threatened with physical harm.

There are several reasons why church boards tend to act in such ways. I will not even attempt to address those issues in this blog. (If you would like to look at those issues I suggest you pick up a copy of my book, RENEW YOUR CONGREGATION; HEALING THE SICK AND RAISING THE DEAD.) Since I discovered a better way to do church, (Including much smaller boards.) church board meetings have become pleasant, invigorating and exciting. For years early in my ministry, as the monthly board meeting date approached, I became increasingly tense and on the evening of a meeting I was usually nauseated. Now I look forward to board meetings.

We had one just this past week I really enjoyed. It was short and to the point, just the way I like them. I have an excellent board chair who runs a great meeting. We start on time, have some prayer, do the business of the church, have a few laughs and head for home. Perfect.

This particular board meeting gave me a new experience I hope I never forget. Church boards do business. That is what they do. A business item is brought up, it is discussed, a motion is made to pass the motion and a vote is taken. In the board meeting this week a motion was made to do nothing. I have known churches that were doing nothing, but that didn’t stop the board from passing motions – from doing business. The issue we were discussing was whether or not to change the worship service time for the summer. We decided not to change the time; just leave it as it is. I thought that took care of it.  But no… someone made a motion to not change the service time and it passed unanimously. We voted to do nothing. And it was unanimous.

That says something, but I am not sure what.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ohio Plates

Yesterday I changed the license plates on my car.

I took off the Tennessee plates and popped on the Ohio plates. No big deal. Well, maybe a medium sized deal. I have trouble putting Ohio plates on my car and I have been trying to figure out why.

Part of the problem is that I am a native of Kentucky. Being adjoining states, I spent most of my growing up years making fun of people from Ohio. And they returned the favor. That’s just what you do. When I lived in Iowa we told Missouri and Minnesota jokes. In Tennessee we told Arkansas and Mississippi jokes. In Ohio we tell Kentucky and Indiana jokes.

For example: “What is the number one pickup line in Indiana?” “Nice tooth.” My favorite Ohio/Kentucky joke is: “Did you hear that a Kentucky pickup truck went off the bridge over the Ohio River connecting Ohio and Kentucky? Four out of six of the truck’s passengers drown. They were riding in the back and couldn’t get the tailgate down in time.” So, it wasn’t that I didn’t like Ohio; it was just that I had spent my younger life making fun of Ohio. So I didn’t want to drive a car that advertized the fact that I was an Ohio resident.

I had pretty much gotten over that problem, having lived in Ohio for over 20 years. But then I moved to Tennessee, bought a new car and tagged it with Tennessee plates. I ended up living in Memphis, Tennessee, for almost 3 years. And I loved living in Memphis. I enjoyed the culture of a southern city with much musical and good food history. Talented musicians were everywhere so I was able to hear lots of great music. The worship teams at the church I served (Lindenwood Christian Church) in Midtown Memphis were amazing – both traditional and contemporary. And then there about a zillion awesome restaurants available for meals. I was in heaven.

But the main reason I didn’t want to change plates was because to do so would be the last physical thing I would to sever ties with Tennessee and my friends. I knew we would always be friends; but it would also never be the same again. The folks at the church were some of the best ever. Intelligent, fun, kind and interesting; they were just great to be with. For example:

Morgan Parks: my associate minster, tour guide, lunch companion, provider of a family on loan and my best friend.

Cindy and Carol: support staff, constant source of entertainment, fun to be with, my best source of information, providers of wonderful smiles.

Phil, David, Chris and Courtney: Ministerial/program staff, good people, fun to hang with, psychotic IN A REALLY GOOD WAY, made for great and laugh filled staff meetings, and were hard working and loyal.

And then there are church members too many to mention. When Bob and I met we instantly bonded because we each spotted a kindred spirit. Harold and Sarah we the best friends and neighbors a guy could hope for. I had three of the most wonderful Board Chairs while I was at Lindenwood; smart, hardworking and very intelligent. Harold and Joe are retired ministers in the congregation and two amazing guys who were always there for me. Connie is hilarious and tended to think like me, which I found interesting and a little disconcerting. Anna, the chair of the Elders, who became a true spiritual sister. There were many who allowed me into their homes and their families: Cyndy and Harold, Morgan and the girls, John, Jeri and Megan, Bill and Ann Morris and others. And dozens of just wonderful friends: Karlyn and Nancy, Teresa, Joe, Kevin (He’s another whole blog J) and Beth, Ryan, Davey, Carolyn, Gene, Jonas, Ken, Charlie, Clay, Wayne, Herb and Beth, Carter, Sally, Chuck, Terry, Mike, Michelle, Brian and Emily and Lela and Steve and more.

What a wonderful group of people.

And they are why it was difficult to change my car tags.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon