First Third Conversations

Leading at Intersections

IntersectionA blog post by Terri Elton

Church buildings are often located at intersections; Main and 8th, County Rd 42 and Highway 35, Elm and University. Sometimes intersections have no significance, but sometimes they physically signify the coming together of different communities. Might physical intersections, like street corners, be a metaphor for leading ministry today?

In these changing time, intersections offer leaders clues about how to navigate the many and varied streams of our time. Think about it. Intersections are common while they are also complicated. And all intersections are not the same. They are, by their very nature, designed to simplify the coming together of two different streams of activity.

Today's church leaders, it seems, are trying to do the same -- merge together people's everyday lives and the Christian faith. And just like our traffic patterns have changed with the times, so might our ways of bringing these two together.

And not only do intersections merge together different streams, each stream in and of itself is complicated. For example, think about traffic. Most often, each stream includes not only cars, but also trucks and bikes and pedestrians. Without some rhyme or reason, merging all of these different elements together would be dangerous. But we navigate complicated intersections every day, rarely thinking about it. Why? Because engineers have well-designed intersections, and over time we have developed "crossing" skills and patterns.

What if leading faith communities was the similar? What if we, leaders of the church, are called to redesign ministry in order to help people navigate the crossings in their life with a lens of faith? What would happen if 21st-century ministry leaders began studying intersections? Start with the intersection by your church, but don't stop there. What other key intersections might you study in your community? How might the ministry we are engaged in help people navigate these crossings? And what about other intersections, like socio-economic, cultural, or generational?

As I read the gospels, I see Jesus place himself in the intersections of society. This makes me wonder if intersections are exactly the place where we, God's people, are called to be. And as we dwell there, questions emerge. What does it mean to help the unwed mother find her way? What does it mean to help grandparents share their faith with their grandkids? What does it mean to be God's people living next door to college students? Living in intersections might reveal the true issues of your community.

This week, pay attention to the intersections in your community, and wonder what's going on. Pay attention to how well people are able to navigate crossing, and ask where God's people might be present. And look for ways to lead.

Terri EltonAuthor Bio:
Terri is passionate about young people and their families, and loves the church. No really!  She's our Associate Professor and teaches with an eye toward developing leaders and leading change. She also serves as Director of the Center for First Third Ministry and hopes to help ministry leaders create environments that cultivate a faith that matters. Growing up in southern California, Terri discovered her love for the city, cultural diversity and the beach. You can usually find Terri running or biking the streets of Minneapolis/St. Paul, or wherever she happens to be. When not moving, she's watching a movie with her husband or traveling with her two young adult daughters.

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