Monday, April 11, 2011

Ego Goggles

The youth leading worship at Promiseland
 Wesley Memorial UMC in Tampa was a wonderful church when I arrived there in 2001, and I loved the 4 years I spent as their Director of Student Ministries.  But there was one issue I discovered early on in my time there that put a damper on some of our efforts to make the youth ministry everything we wanted it to be.  The church leaders- those in positions of power- viewed the church as much larger and much more stable than it actually was.  You know how bar patrons are accused of having "Beer Goggles" when they think someone is better looking after a few drinks?  At WMUMC I think we had Ego Goggles.  We saw things the way we wanted them to be so we could be seen as successful.  And perhaps no one had bigger Ego Goggles than yours truly, because no one had bigger dreams that I did.  But I was far from alone.  Let me explain.

There were lots of things about Wesley that were a little misleading to the naked eye.  They had a wonderful children's Sunday School program called Promiseland that was a little over a year old when I arrived.  The staff and the church were exceedingly proud of it.  But in truth, Promiseland had been brought to WMUMC, organized and to a great extent financed by one amazing couple- George and Jennifer Woods.  They had recruited great teachers and other helpers, but it would have never have happened without them.  Another ministry the church was very proud of was called Naomi's Daughters, a weekly meal and program for single mothers.  Again, this was a marvelous outreach and ministry- but the vision for it came from a group of women who did it without any help from the church.  The church provide space and helped provide meals on occasion, but the ministry itself was not a ministry of WMUMC.  It should have been a warning when 2 of the best ministries of the church actually received very little financial support from budget- but we had our Ego Goggles on.

Construction of the FLC
In fact, after salaries were paid and the electricity was kept on, there was very little money for actual ministry included in the church budget.  This only got worse as the efforts to build a new Family Life Center increased the financial strain.  I was excited about the FLC.  It would have a youth room (which we did not have) and a full gymnasium (which no one in the community had) and in my mind, through my Ego Goggles, this building could make Graceland THE place for student ministry in northwest Tampa.  I didn't pray about needing it, I just prayed about getting it.  I didn't really even think  through all of the ramifications. I just wanted that building.  So did our pastor the other church leaders. And so, over the loud cries of long-time members who could see without Ego Goggles, we built a multi-million dollar building for a church that already had precious little money for ministry.  I was about to find out in the summer of 2003 that just because the church budget said that there was money for youth ministry didn't actually mean that there WAS money for us to use, or that I would be able to use it in the way I saw fit.  People who had no idea what student ministry was about were getting ready to tell me how to do my job.  For really the first time in my 25 years of working for churches, the financial tail was getting ready to wag the ministry dog, and I wasn't going to like it.   To say there were going to be some issues is the understatement of the year... (to be continued Wednesday)

Because of Jesus,

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