Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Friday, March 9, 2018


Dear VUSA,

I have a dream.

It involves the two of us.

I’d like to tell you about it.

VUSA, you know I believe in you, I love you, I support you.

And I believe that you believe that you believe in me, you love me and you support me.

When I do pre-marital counseling with a couple one of the things we talk about is that we need to learn each other’s life language – what communicates love to one is oppressive smothering to another and what’s overly attentive to one just barely scratches the surface of need for another. Love is hard like that.

So I’m writing this to tell you what love looks like for me. Just me. I’m not speaking on behalf of or representing anyone. I don’t presume to speak for my generation, for churches or pastors in our region or even all older, chubby, white male pastors.

Just me.

And let me answer the obvious question – why do this on a blog? Why not write directly to you?

Truthfully, I don’t even know how to write directly to you. Isn’t that crazy? I know I have email addresses but I’ve sent emails off before and not even received an auto generated “read receipt.” To be fair, I’ve also sent emails off and I have received a response right away or eventually or after a while. But I don’t write every day or every week or even every month. And I’ve tried to write with positive “way-to-go’s” and not just questions or criticisms or requests.

So I’m writing this and posting on my blog much like I used to write letters to Santa as a child and then drop them in the mailbox at school. Truthfully, I never did get the stuff I asked for so I tend to doubt the efficacy of that/this approach. Still, a person has to try.

But do they?

I suppose not, but I have to try. It’s how I’m wired.

So I’m posting this in the hope of telling you about my love language and attempting some kind of positive communication.

First, I need to feel heard. I need to feel like someone is there and someone is listening to me. I think it’s one of the fundamental gifts of relationship. VUSA, I don’t feel heard, I don’t feel there’s a mechanism for being heard and that gets extremely frustrating for me.

This probably surprises you, the not feeling heard part.

Your communication to me over the last couple years has dramatically improved. Thank you for that. The last annual report was killer, as I emailed you at the time.

But telling me things is only half the relational equation, listening is the other part and the most important part.

Last year I received a call from VI. A very nice person asked me a number of questions about our involvement with VI and how VI could be an even greater benefit to our local church. We spent 30 minutes or so on the phone. I felt listened to. I’m not sure that VI made any changes at all based on my input, frankly I don’t care. But I did feel listened to and that was not only something that I care about but it made me feel cared for.

As a pastor of a small church that is in the range of 75% of our Vineyard USA churches, that little bit of feeling listened to made me feel pretty good and feel a lot more invested in what happens with and to VI.

There are some extraordinary resources available these days that you could use VUSA that don’t even require you to pick up a phone and call me or sit at a keyboard and email me. Even if you jumped on Survey Monkey and sent out a free (for you to use) 10 question survey once a year, it would at least make me feel like you were listening and I was actually participating in our relationship beyond my monthly spousal support cheque.

When you’re about to make a big decision, you could let all 600/1200 of us know before you did it and just invite some simple feedback through a simple online form or forum. Even if you never read it, I’d still feel listened to just because you asked the question and gave me a chance to respond. The illusion of partnership is more comforting than the feeling of a hard cold “I don’t care what you think, this is what we’re doing.”

It’s how I’m wired.

I know I’m supposed to be getting this from other pastors and from our area and our region but to be honest, the decisions you make are the decisions that affect us. The choices you make are choices that not only affect you but for which all of us must bear the consequences. And while it doesn’t hurt to have this same kind of thing happen at the area and regional level, it’s really nice to hear, now and then, that you want to hear from me and you want to know what’s going on with me beyond our annual census.

For me, and this is just how I’m wired, the annual auto-generated birthday email is a little like peeing in my bowl of cornflakes. For me, the way I’m wired, it just serves as a reminder how deeply out of touch I feel from you. But if you sent me a note once a year that asked me how I’m doing and what the biggest struggle I’m facing is right now, that would really speak to me.

VUSA, I get that you’ve tried to create a structure where this happens through our area and our region – I’m not speaking for everyone VUSA, just me, but for me, that’s just not working. Sorry, I wish it was but when you make all the big decisions, when you ask for my census numbers, when you decide how to spend the money we faithfully send every month, I feel the need to hear from you.

Now, let me tell you what will happen next and ask you to pray for me.  Some of your other fans are going to tell me I have a bad spirit.  A spirit of cynicism, a spirit of judgment, a spirit of criticism, and so on. Maybe they are right. I don’t think they are but I have to be open to the possibility that they are right and know me better than I know myself. It won’t be a helpful response, so please pray for me not to respond like a jerk – as is my tendency.

The other thing that will happen is that someone will explain to me that this isn’t how you and I are supposed to work, that this isn’t the kind of relationship that we have with each other.

That’s o.k. too, and no doubt it is true.

But I have a dream.

I’ll tell you more about it in my next post…

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