About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (bryanstoudt.com), I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at cmdaphiladelphia.org. On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.

Fall Student & Resident Retreat

Fall 2015 Philadelphia Student & Resident Retreat

Friday, September 11 (6p) – Saturday, September 12th (8p)

Location: The Welcoming Place | 1:15 west of the city in beautiful Lancaster County, PA

Ever feel like – slowly, but surely – your life has become all about school or your work?  That you want to connect more with God and others but don’t know because your life is so busy?

If that’s you, you’re not alone.  And although there are no easy answers, God’s Word and Christian community offer real hope even when training threatens to make our lives one-dimensional.

Join us for our annual fall retreat where we’ll consider, in community, Bigger Than You: Following Jesus in Your Training to A Life of Meaning, Healing & Growth.

Mealtime 2012

This will be a great chance to:

  • find rest and refreshment
  • develop relationships with your peers from around the city who understand exactly what you’re going through
  • connect with mentors who have gone before you
  • add some balance to your life and start your year off on the right foot

All allied health, dental and medical students and residents welcome!

More details and online registration may be found here.

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Our Ministry To Couples

Chen-Mosebrook Wedding Liz & Bridesmaids

Liz & Dave’s wedding. Sharon was a bridesmaid.

My beloved spoke and said to me,

“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.”

–Song of Solomon 2:10

 

 

Tim & Tiffany - together at the rehearsal

Tim & Tiffany – together at the rehearsal

Dear Friends,

We have been blessed to be part of five weddings over the past twelve months!  There are too many joys to list, but here are some highlights:

  • having the couples over to our home for premarital counseling sessions after our kids are in bed, sharing & praying together, often late into the night
  • discussing: what is God’s purpose for marriage, anyway?

    Dan & Rachel with our five-year-old Braedon, who served as the dashing ring bearer.

    Dan & Rachel with our five-year-old Braedon, who served as the dashing ring bearer.

  • getting one-on-one time with both the bride & groom, to get to know them more deeply and care for them individually
  • premarital counseling is a great way to remember how much God has matured our own marriage, and weddings are a great time reminder of God’s covenant love!
  • watching the love grow between our children and these couples.  Braedon was twice a ring bearer, and Carissa was asked to greet guests at one of the weddings.
  • and finally, watching Bryan pronounce them “husband & wife!”
Bryan with Mike & Youna, just after pronouncing them husband & wife

Bryan with Mike & Youna, just after pronouncing them husband & wife

The verse above is the one Bryan had engraved on the inside of my wedding band nearly 17 years ago (by grace!)  As we recount God’s many blessings to us, I are reminded His gifts are rarely for us alone, but intended to also be a blessing to others.

Hopefully the photos capture just a hint of the great joy we’ve had in being involved in ministering as a family to these younger couples.  I love hosting brunch Bible studies in our home, meeting up with the individual women on campus by text, email or in person, as I’m able — as well as mentoring couples.

 

Sharon and Patricia

Sharon and Patricia

Steve and Bryan

Steve and Bryan

I feel like the blessings are all mine – but I know that’s not true! I trust God is also blessing YOU richly for your partnership in these things.  None of it would be possible without your support.  We remain deeply grateful.

    Yours in Christ,

    Sharon

Please join us in the following praises and prayers:

  • Praise God for the privilege of being involved in the lives of young couples. Pray that God sends more our way!
  • Praise God for the Grace Prescriptions course we’re using in our bible study brunches.  Students are learning to share their faith with peers and patients in their everyday, secular contexts.  One student decided to pray with patients just two days after our first session!
  • Praise God for a great Graduating Student Roundtable, where our students interacted with practicing professionals about issues they’ll soon face upon graduation.
  • Praise God for a medical student who came to Christ at an Easter service!  God used the witness of the Christian community, and getting hit by a bus (he’s alright now), to lead him to faith.
  • Pray for our campuses as leadership transitions are taking place.  Pray for us as we assist them through the transition.
  • Pray for us as we spend more time developing our ministry team.  There are so many opportunities that we need more laborers to take advantage of all that God is doing!
  • Pray for the many personal interactions with students God is giving us in person, over the phone, email and, increasingly, via texting.

 

How & Why To Take A Spiritual History

If you’re a Christian healthcare provider, chances are you’re already committed to treating the whole person.  Of taking a holistic approach to quality patient care.

Recently, we’ve been going through CMDA’s all-new Grace Rx curriculum in our bible study brunches.  Last week we discussed how and why to take a spiritual history. Initially I had planned on sharing the various options for spiritual assessments with those who came, but figured others could benefit, too, so I’m putting it up here.

To give credit where it’s due, Dr Walt Larimore and Bill Peel put Grace Rx together, so I’m largely just passing along what they cover in Module 5 of their course.

Why We Should Take A Spiritual History

There are 5 main things we can learn by taking a spiritual assessment:

  1. a patient’s religious background
  2. the role that religious/spiritual backgrounds play (if any) in how they cope with illness and distress
  3. convictions that may affect, or interfere with, how we treat them clinically
  4. determining whether/not the patient is involved in a spiritual community, and, whether/not that community is supportive
  5. any spiritual needs that they may have

Evidence-Based Reasons To Take A Spiritual History

A large body of evidence suggests that taking a spiritual assessment/history is beneficial.

Here are 5 evidence-based to perform one:

  1. patient desire – about 70% of the American population views religious commitment as a central life factor, especially when dealing with illness.  Most patients want professionals to inquire about beliefs important to them.
  2. patient benefit – of studies reporting relationships between spirituality and mental and/or physical health, about 70% report positive relationships.  22% report mixed/no results, while 9% report a negative one.
  3. identification of risk factors – an inverse relationship exists between faith and morbidity and mortality.  For example, patients who ‘felt alienated from or unloved by God or attributed their illnesses to the devil were associated with a 16% to 28% increase in risk of dying during the two-year follow-up period’.
  4. may enhance healthcare – empirical literature from epidemiological and clinical studies that explore the relationship between religious factors and mental/physical health suggest that religious commitment helps prevent, improves coping with, and, facilitates recovery from illness.
  5. considered a standard of care – an increasing number of healthcare organizations are calling for greater attention to be given to spiritual issues as patients are treated and assessed.

Spiritual Assessment Instruments

Taking a spiritual assessment doesn’t have to take a lot of time, or, seem weird.  They can be delivered quickly, and, in concert with other questions designed to assess a patient’s overall health.

In addition, you don’t have to choose one instrument and stick to it rigidly.  You can use whatever questions work well for you, and, help you help your patients.

  1. Open Invite.
  2. FICA Spiritual History.
  3. HOPE Spiritual History.
  4. SPIRITual History.
  5. CSI-MEMO Spiritual History.
  6. ACP/ASIM Spiritual History.
  7. Larson Spiritual History (slide 69).
  8. GOD Questions (slide 70).  This is the one covered in the Grace Rx curriculum.

As I wrapped up this segment of the post, I stumbled upon Dr Larimore’s presentation at the 2013 Global Missions Health Conference.  This contains each one of the spiritual assessments mentioned above and may be the easiest way to access them in one place.

To Keep In Mind

When spiritual needs surface, remember to:

  • listen compassionately – regardless of where a patient is coming from
  • respect and clarify – always respect any beliefs that come up and seek to clarify as necessary
  • document – your spiritual assessment and a patient’s openness to it; the information may be helpful in future discussions

It Takes Courage

Even though a great deal of organizations (many of them secular) encourage spiritual assessments, pressures to avoid the topic and keep patient encounters brief make it hard in practice.  In addition, our own insecurities and (frankly) selfishness pose barriers, too.

Our commitment to treating the whole person, as Jesus did, can help us to press on past the barriers and include a spiritual assessment.  Doing this allows us to see where a patient is in their spiritual journey and join them – and God – in it.

New Year Ministry Trifecta (Or, The CMDA Philadelphia January Update)

Winter Conf - group photo

Our 2015 CMDA Northeast Winter Conference Group!

Recently, we’ve been sending out monthly updates through MailChimp so that our support team can save a click or two.  In retrospect, though, I’m realizing that not using our website might make it seem like we’re not up to anything.  This would be – in the words of The Office character Dwight Schrute – ‘false’.  We may send out future updates in both places (here and MailChimp) to give you the best of both worlds.

Here, then, are some recent happenings since our last update in December.

Men’s Night

One of my (Bryan) passions is raising up men who are difference-makers.  Men who will change the world for Christ and make a mark for him wherever they go.

To that end, in early January we held our annual men’s night at ‘The Shabazz’, a home where 6 guys training for healthcare are living together.  (Although it sounds like a hookah bar, the home takes it name from Shabazz Napier, one of the guys’ favorite basketball players).

As the New Year rolled around, our topic was how to make – and actually follow through on – goals that change us and the world around us for Christ.  Toward the end of our time, I walked the guys through exactly how to do it and gave them the chance to set a goal right there.  Not to mention all the wings we consumed and fun we had.  One of the guys even suggested having another before this one finished.

Women’s Night

The very next evening, Dr Marcie Macolino joined Sharon in hosting our annual women’s night. The topic – how to balance life in healthcare with the rest of life – is always one at the forefront of everyone’s mind.  Although an exhaustive, once-for-all solution was not achieved, God gave the women a great discussion and tremendous food and fellowship.

CMDA Northeast Winter Conference

All of us want to make an impact for God’s Kingdom right where we are, everyday.  Have you ever felt, though, that you can’t?  Or aren’t?  I know I feel like this all the time.  We get overwhelmed, feel ordinary, and forget that God is at work.  And become isolated.

Our Annual Philly Area Denny's Run at Winter Conference!

Our Annual Philly Area Denny’s Run at Winter Conference!

These are the very things that our healthcare students and professionals are struggling with every day, and why we hold our annual CMDA Northeast Winter Conference.  This year, our theme was ‘The Extraordinary Life Of An Ordinary Christian in Healthcare: Lessons & Stories From The Field’.  We had a great turnout, with roughly 180 in attendance.  (In fact, we had to close registration early).

Without a doubt, this was the best Winter Conference I can remember, largely because our speakers were so transparent about their failings, yet pointed us to God’s work in and through them.  As we closed the conference on Sunday with a worship service and communion, there was a tremendous sense of God’s presence.  And, best of all, one of our dental students put her faith in Christ for the very first time.

Sharon and I were privileged to play a role in planning the conference, helping with logistics there, and, many meaningful conversations with the students.

In a way, you – our support team – were there, too.  Your support allowed us to represent you and your prayers were the fuel behind everything God did through us.  From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.

With Christ’s love,

Bryan & Sharon

Please join us in these matters of prayer and praise:

  • praise for several fantastic events: our men’s and women’s nights, as well as Winter Conference.  Please pray that everyone would apply what God showed them!
  • I (Bryan) give God praise for Sharon.  She did so much for the women’s night and especially Winter Conference.  Everyone was raving about her work and she frees me up to focus on what I do best.  [End of bragging session].
  • Praise God for a solid December financially.  At the same time, our ministry account remains lower than normal at this time of the year, so please pray for me as I will be conducting more personal support appointments.
  • Please pray for these upcoming events – our home bible study brunches (2/7 & 28), focused on the theme of how to discuss faith with your patients, and, a wedding I’m officiating for two of our favorite medical students on Jan. 31st.
  • Finally, pray for our times with our students, the heart of our ministry. We need God to give us wisdom help us help them in their relationship with the Lord, and, impact others.

For The Nations, From Philadelphia

Our panel at Fall Intermed.

Our panel at Fall Intermed.

Throughout the year, we keep a pretty full ministry calendar. Sometimes, though, God surprises us.

That’s exactly what happened a few months ago when I received an unexpected call from Steve, the CEO of CCHF, Christ Community Health Fellowship, a ministry that promotes Christian healthcare among our country’s underserved populations.

He explained that CCHF’s board, comprised of physicians and leaders from Christian clinics around the country, would be here in Philadelphia for their board meeting in late September.  ‘Would it be OK’, he asked, ‘if we put together an event where his board could interact with our local students and help them gain a vision for their future?’

‘Why yes’, I replied, ‘it would be more than OK’!

So that’s what we did.  On September 20th, we held our ‘Fall Intermed’ at Esperanza Health Center around the theme of using healthcare to serve the underserved. Roughly 80 healthcare students, residents and providers from all around the city gathered to:

  • Learn about the overwhelming need for quality healthcare right here in America, and, how healthcare providers are uniquely positioned to share the gospel. (Did you know that a Gallup polls shows that people trust their physicians and dentists more than their pastors?)
  • Hear real stories of God’s faithfulness from real clinicians serving real patients in Christ’s name.  It was inspiring to see how deeply these providers love their patients and get involved in their lives, as opposed to the usual (and understandable) tendency to hold them at arm’s length.
  • Receive a strong challenge to hold onto, or rekindle, their passion for missions. So many times this is lost amidst the financial, emotional and spiritual toll training exacts.
  • Prayerfully consider – near the end of our time – a next action step to practically respond to what was shared.
  • Eat great food.  Generous contributions made it possible to eat Chick-Fil-A not once, but twice.  This might have been the most exciting part of the event.  (Just kidding!)

You may remember that 1 in 5 physicians in America (and countless other healthcare providers) passes through Philadelphia for some portion of his/her training.  As a result, we recognize that God has entrusted us with a special opportunity to share Christ’s love with the country – and even the nations – simply by being faithful right here.

Thanks to God, beginning with a surprise phone call from Steve, we took another major step forward toward reaching that goal.

Thank you, friends, for making it possible through your prayers and gifts.  Together we are making a tangible difference in the lives of the patients and colleagues our local students and providers touch every day.  As the years go by and students continue to go throughout the country, your investment is multiplying exponentially.

For the Gospel,

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • Please praise God for a fantastic Fall Intermed and the many people who helped it happen (especially CCHF, Esperanza and our student leadership team).  Please pray that God leads those who came to take specific follow-up steps of love and obedience in response!
  • Please pray for our upcoming Fall Student & Resident Retreat (Oct 11-12). Specifically, please ask God to lead many to register (ends Oct 1st – tonight) and connect deeply with God and others in their situation.  Also, please pray for me and the providers as we interact with students and lead sessions.  Finally, pray for Sharon as she provides a great deal of the logistical support for the event.
  • Praise God for many new first-year students throughout the city!  Each year God is faithful.  Pray that God grants discernment to know who to invest most deeply in, and, how best to do it.  We want to make a lasting impact!
  • Praise God for three student couples Sharon & I are counseling, two of whom I’ll be marrying in the winter/spring.  Pray for us to provide wise counsel, and, to model the sort of marriage we desire for them to have.
  • Finally, please pray for God’s rich financial provision.  We are at a lower point right now.  I’ll be attending a fund-raising conference Oct 28-29 to gain fresh ideas for adjusting our strategy so that we can setup the ministry to accomplish all that God has in mind.  Your prayers for the conference and resulting fruit are coveted!

 

Fall Student & Resident Retreat!

Group shot - croppedWhat would make this year a great one for you?

If you’re like most, slowing down long enough to ask (let alone answer) that question can be a source of stress!  Although there are no easy answers, God’s Word provides a solid foundation we can return to even when training threatens to make our lives one-dimensional.

Join us for our fall retreat where we’ll consider, in community, What Matters Most: Laying a Strategic Foundation For Serving In Healthcare.  This will be a great chance to be refreshed and develop relationships with your peers and even mentors from around the city!  All allied health, dental and medical students and residents welcome!  (Professionals, please contact us for additional information on pricing and involvement.  We’d love to have you present as mentors!)

Here are the details:

  • Sat., Oct. 11 (9a) – Sun., Oct. 12 (lunch)
  • Held at The Welcoming Place in Akron, PA (just 1.25 hours from Philly; same location as last year)
  • Theme: What Matters Most: Laying a Solid Foundation for Your Year
  • Cost of $40 includes lodging and all meals
  • Graduate panel (students/residents can ask anything) likely held early Sat. afternoon

Register now right here!  See you there!

Campus Leadership Summit!

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Campus Leadership Summit 2014!

Campus Leadership Summit 2014!

Over recent months, God has challenged us to think about how we can focus on what we do best, and, where we can bring unique value to the students and professionals in our area.  With 8 different campuses, we want to have an increasingly clear focus on what matters most!

Without a doubt, one way we can ‘mak[e] the best use of the time’ is to invest in our student leaders.  Since they impact others in their campus fellowships and experience nearly 100% turnover each year, equipping them is one of our highest priorities.

This past Saturday, along with Medical Campus Outreach (MCO), God allowed us to do exactly that.  Fifteen students from 7 of our 8 campuses joined us for a half-day event that exceeded our expectations. In addition, a resident and three professionals currently supporting the students joined us for portions of the day. Later, one of them shared this:

I was glad to come! Thanks for organizing it! I was able to get in some catching-up with [two of the women], and to hear the Temple guys out as they formed their “keys to the game” for the coming year – both very excellent things!  Especially that last little bit was helpful and I feel more aware of their priorities for the coming year and also more able to be involved. 

Here are the topics we emphasized:

  • What Matters Most: Your Walk With the Lord
  • Servant Leadership (led by Steve Munz, MCO)
  • 12 Principles of a Successful Campus Leadership Team
  • Everyone’s Back: Now What?  (Reaching First-Year Students, Establishing A Clear Vision)

Throughout the day, we allowed for small group sessions by campus so that the leaders could personalize what we discussed.  Afterwards, I emailed some key follow-up questions and will touch base on them as I go around to our campuses.

All in all, it was a tremendous time of teaching, fellowship and application.  We trust that God will multiply our small investment in the months to come.  Thank you, dear friends, for making it possible.  You are an absolutely essential part of our team!

With love,

Bryan & Sharon

Please join us in praise & prayer for the following:

  • Praise God that the students are back!  And, that the Campus Leadership Summit went so well.  Pray that God helps our leaders apply a few things God impressed upon them, and, that he helps me (Bryan) follow-up faithfully.
  • Praise God for a new (to me) ministry car.  So thankful!
  • Please pray for great wisdom as I visit all our campuses as much as possible this first month.  I need God’s help in discerning what each campus’s leaders needs are, how I can help, and, which men to start/continue investing in.  Pray also that God helps Sharon connect with the women He has in mind.
  • Pray for many first-year students to get involved: they are the future of our campuses and next year’s leaders!
  • Pray for new donors, and, our overall account balance, which is lower at this time.
  • Pray for Intermed (teaching, fellowship, worship for local healthcare students and professionals; domestic missions theme) on Sat. 9/20 from 9a-1:30p at Esperanza’s Hunting Park location.
  • Finally, pray that many students and residents would come out to our Fall Retreat on 10/11-12.  We’re praying for 25 to sign up, in addition to several professionals to serve on a panel and connect with those who come.

Being A Team Player: You Know What You Bring – Now What?

photo by shubijam

photo by shubijam

Over the summer, my kids are in and out of camps, trips and clubs.  There’s one club, though, that never ends.  Any guesses?  (Hint: we have a teenager).

Yup, drama club, courtesy of our teenage daughter and (mainly) her circle of friends.  It’s not official, but it’s very, very real. Friendships start, friendships end.  Teachers are ‘awesome’ one minute and ‘the absolute worst’ moments later.

I’m not sure, though, that adults are, after close inspection, much different.  We hide the drama better, but it’s still there, barely beneath the surface.  And, it really affects us and the groups we’re part of.  Instead of concentrating on the work at hand, these hidden dynamics are a distraction from what God is calling us to accomplish together.

I can think of several student leadership teams where a few people weren’t pulling their weight.  Those who were more involved became burnt out and resentful toward those other leaders, creating a quiet, but clear, tension that made those teams more than a little awkward.

But, what can be done?

Last time, we took a look at the first part of one answer to that question – you’ve got to ‘know what you bring’.  When you know who you are and what you’re good at, you understand your role on the team.  You don’t try to take on others’ jobs and you’re free to contribute your own strengths.

Well, at least in theory.  Knowing may be ‘half the battle’, but, it’s only half the battle, right? We can all think of times where we knew what was right but didn’t do it.

That leads us to those deeper, annoying ‘why’ questions.  If I know what I’m good at, why do I sometimes hold back?  In our context, if I know what I bring to the team, why don’t I always share it?

We can’t get into all the possible answers here, but in my experience, team members often hold back because they’re afraid of what others will think.  Rather than risk looking stupid, we keep our thoughts to ourselves.

The bible has a ton to say about fear.  This is slightly oversimplified, but at the end of the day, we either choose to fear God or others.  The overall pattern of our choice will go a long way in determining how we live, and, whether we can make the kind of impact we want to as we serve on teams.

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

I love this verse because it’s so clear.  If we understand that God is our ‘helper’ in each moment, we won’t be afraid because we’ll be reminded that others can’t really do much to us.  And in a culture with a fair degree of (outward) civility like ours, the negatives generally boil down to people talking behind our backs or cold indifference.

Getting back to our context of working with others, what happens if we fear God and not people?  When we start to worry about what others might think, God’s presence helps us step back.  We can evaluate our contributions apart from what others might think.  We can share them, and, if others find them foolish, it’s fine.  It hurts, but it doesn’t destroy me. God – and not someone else – determines my value.  He’s accepted us, so we don’t need to fear someone else’s rejection.

A student friend told me about a resident who was trying to make him do a procedure he wasn’t really competent to do.  He understandably felt a lot of pressure to comply, but he stepped back, remembered that he ultimately served God (and the patient) and told his resident that he couldn’t do it.  Sure, there was some tension, but ‘fearing’ God made all the difference and everyone moved on.

As we close, here’s your ‘assignment’, some possible steps to move forward:

  • In group settings, where do you find yourself fearing others?  What does that look like specifically, and, how does that lead you to hold back what you could otherwise offer?
  • How would ‘fearing God’ change how you think about your situation and shape your response?

We need to know what we bring (what we’re good at), but the key to actually contributing it starts with putting God – not others – at the center of our lives.  This is a lifetime journey, but each step adds up and allows us to make the impact we’ve always wanted to.

 

Summer Snapshots

Chao & Stoudt Crop

Chaos & Stoudts at the rehearsal dinner

Sharon and I recently took a self-paced DVD course in photography. Although we’re not exactly shutterbugs yet, one of the principles that kept coming up went something like this:

Don’t miss life in the process of taking the perfect picture – just take a few snapshots and move on!

This month, we’re going to give you just that – a few snapshots of what God did.  We hope you’ll enjoy reading about them as much as we did participating in them!

  • June 12th – met with a ministry leader and friend about supporting a new campus in our area.  One of our council members serves as adjunct faculty there, and, there’s a strong faculty adviser already in place, so we’re excited to see how we can help.
  • June 17th – first meeting with a new couple we’re mentoring.  Great time getting to know them and their stories.
  • June 18th – nice time of discipleship with one of our campus leaders.  In response to the question, ‘What was one key thing God has been teaching you this year?’, he mentioned ‘God has taught me to be quieter and listen more to what others have to say’.  Priceless.
  • later that day – reconnected with a physician I hadn’t seen in some time.  I appreciated his candor in asking for prayer to overcome cynicism and living for comfort.  His request itself is a sign of God’s work.
  • June 21st – spoke with a physician who wants to get involved with PCOM, one of our medical campuses.  Her willingness to jump in and see what God will do is exactly what the students need!
  • June 22nd – hosted a gathering for students, residents and practicing professionals at our home.  God gave a true spirit of openness and vulnerability, with a theme of ‘trusting God when life is hard’ emerging among our professionals.  Great for those who are younger to listen in and learn.
  • June 25th – met with a student leader at one of our dental campuses.  Met with two of his co-leaders on different days because their schedules are so intense we couldn’t coordinate!  We’re working together to see how we can create a community in this environment.
  • later that day – met with a local pastor who’s completed medical school before receiving a call to ministry.  Curious to see how God will let us work together!
  • July 2nd – terrific time of discipleship with a student.  God used his questions about a relationship and his future calling to lead us into even deeper issues that, more fully explored, will lead to great blessing in his life.
  • July 4-6th – officiated the wedding of two of our student leaders!  We had done their pre-engagement/marital counseling, so it was a privilege to be there for their special day.  We also had the chance to visit two couples from the area who are good friends and supporters of our ministry.

So, there you have it… or, some of it, anyway!  A lot more happened, but hopefully this gives you a feel for this past month.  Thank you, thank you for allowing us to do what we do!

With love,

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • praise for a balanced month where we enjoyed time with students, but, as many are away or busy, also with other people who are both friends and essential to the ministry.
  • praise for the privilege to share in the Tim’s & Tiff’s wedding.  It was such a great joy to see them officially starting their new life together!
  • praise that God has provided us with a cost-effective, solid car I can use for ministry. Thanks to the many, many people who prayed, networked and contributed to this effort!
  • praise for our first-ever picnic for residents and fellows (7/12) and the two local physicians who graciously hosted.  Those who came want to meet on a semi-regular basis and stay connected with each other.
  • pray for our support development efforts to yield fruit.
  • pray for our next summer gathering (7/20) and citywide campus leadership training (8/23).
  • pray that our family’s time away at ‘Joni & Friends Camp’ (7/28-8/1) is both restful and a time to grow in what it means to have Matthew as part of our family.

Being A Team Player (Part 3): Know What You Bring

This summer, we’re talking about what it means to be a team player.  You can read the first and second posts, but what else matters?

Principle #2: To be an effective team player, you’ve got to know what you bring

Imagine your favorite football team drives down the field to the opponent’s fifteen yard line. It’s a tie score with 2 seconds left.  Only time for a field goal.  After a quick timeout, the team runs back out on the field.  You’re so excited you can barely stand it, until… you look up and realize that the quarterback is standing where the kicker should be.  

Ridiculous, right? 

Well-run teams are teams where each person knows their role.  In real life, the kicker does his job, everyone exchanges high-fives and goes home happy.  

In other team settings, though, I’m surprised by how often people don’t know their role. They don’t know what they bring, what they’re good at.  They have a vague sense that the group is important, so they keep coming, but lack a sense of purpose.  

Like our scenario above, the results are usually not good.  One or more of the following tends to happen:

  •  People who don’t know what they bring keep quiet, wondering if what they have to offer is valuable.  Or, even if they know it’s valuable, they worry about whether others will agree.  As a result, others who do have a sense for what they bring dominate the group and have more influence than they should.  The group becomes unbalanced.
  • On the other extreme, people who aren’t sure of their role can say too much.  They aren’t sure where to contribute, so they contribute everywhere, talking too much and/or burning out.  People start to tune them out and may even stay away from the group.  Again, the group misses out on the sum total of what it should be.

Some years ago, I remember falling into the first category at a weekly staff meeting.  I believed my contributions were important but not valued, so I didn’t say much.  Looking back, I think my thoughts were undervalued but I wrongly excused myself and placed the blame on others.  In reality, I was robbing the group of what God wanted to add through me.

Understanding our tendency to either clam up, or, dominate, in group settings, what can we do about it?

Let me make two suggestions (see next week for the second):

1. You’ve got to figure out what you bring – what your role is – on the different teams you’re on.  There isn’t a formula, but there are principles.  If you’re not sure what you bring:

  • see what needs and opportunities exist on your team and the people you’re serving. (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, where Paul deeply considered who he was ministering to).
  • (b) examine yourself: what gifts, desires and abilities do you have?  (If you’re a Christian, you have at least 1 ‘spiritual gift’ expressly meant for building others up (see 1 Peter 4:10-11), and, many other desires and abilities).
  • (c) ask others you respect for their opinion (As Proverbs 15:22 puts it, ‘in an abundance of counselors there is safety’);
  • (d) try different things and see how it goes (obvious, right?!);
  • (e) pray for clarity (See James 1:5: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God… and it will be given him’).  

No doubt other things could be said, but, this is a good start.  Here’s your homework:

  • In group situations, do you tend to clam up or dominate?
  • What one step could you take to gain more clarity in what you have to bring?