I just got this email from a new friend of mine. She and her amazing woman’s ministry team were host for our VERY FIRST “Imagine Me…Set Free”. This feisty group of God’s girls bravely took a chance on me and a North Carolina “Freedom Weekend”. To say that it was an adventure would be an understatement. Never-less, God Blessed. Jill and I have been hooked at the hip since. There is just something about being a part of a move of God together that joins one heart to another.
The fact that our hearts are joined is evident by the following.
My last blog post was my promise to unwrap a whole bunch of newly deposited knowledge right here on “Living Free”. While I was writing that post Jill was enjoying a family vacation in paradise.
As a Leading Lady Looking for the Lasting Lesson in everything, would do……here is what she sent me after her return. You will see why God has placed this wise women in such a precious position of leading and loving on HIS beautiful daughters.
Lessons Learned on Vacation
We were fortunate enough to spend a week on Paradise Island, Bahamas for our summer vacation. We rented a three bedroom condo (got it for a great price), went on a couple of great excursions and spent a few days at the Atlantis Resort (day passes with access to the aquariums, water park, pools and beach). Our teenagers each brought a friend, so there were six of us. It was truly a spectacular vacation. I am convinced that there is no more beautiful place on earth than the Caribbean. And I think my kids would agree. My sixteen year old son, who has repeatedly said that he doesn’t like the beach, said “it’s not the beach…it’s the Caribbean…there’s a difference”. Amen to that.
While we were there, I really learned some lessons that apply not only to my life but to my ministry work. Here they are in no particular order:
Bigger isn’t necessarily better…unless it can be made to feel smaller and more intimate. Atlantis is a huge property. I mean massive. It’s like a Ginsu Knife commercial “…but wait, there’s more…”. It went on forever, it was very crowded and you had to wait in line for most things. Certainly you can achieve economies of scale, but when it’s that big, it’s overwhelming. So how does this apply to:
◦ Ministry – people want to be acknowledged, they want to be heard. Reply promptly to inquiries, even if you don’t have the answer. And follow up when you get it. Anticipate people’s needs and fill them before they realize they needed something. Don’t make people come to you, greet them, have information readily available, be accessible-not sitting behind a table, but out front with a smile. Make sure the website is up-to-date and easy to navigate. There is nothing that will turn me off faster than a difficult website – one click, that’s it, especially if I’m spending money. Don’t make it hard for the user.
◦ Life – well, pretty much all of the above. Take the time to SEE, ACKOWLEDGE and LISTEN to people. Be present. I won’t get this moment again, how can I reflect Christ in this instance, to this person? Not to be trite, but “what would Jesus do”? I should never be too full of myself to ignore another person.
People want a “road map”. Did I mention that Atlantis was big? But it wasn’t well marked. The signage, when you could see it, was small. Maybe they were going for unobtrusive, but it frustrated the heck out of us. And in Nassau, good luck finding a bus schedule. They’ve got a great local bus system, but no printed schedule. Certainly you’re on “island time”, which is vastly different than regular time (way more relaxed), but I would’ve loved to have a schedule that told me “the number 10 bus runs between downtown Nassau and Cable Beach”, that kind of thing. Navigating was a trial! Application:
◦ Ministry – provide all the information and all the tools! Events and class schedules with dates/times/meeting place/cost. Easily accessible. And provide a good map! Give detailed directions, provide agendas for meetings. This comes down to respecting people’s time. Time is our most valuable commodity. Don’t waste other people’s time by making it difficult for them to find information. Anticipate their needs, and provide for them!
◦ Life – we all need the road map, and the Bible is it. But it’s like looking at a World Atlas. Where do I start, how do I read this, what does this mean for my daily life? This is the most valuable tool we have, but it’s useless unless we know what to do with it.
People want authenticity. Now don’t get me wrong, Atlantis was beautiful. No expense was spared creating this fantasy world. And it was a fantasy of the first magnitude. The property was laid out for maximum visual and sensory impact. The aquariums were amazing, you almost felt like you were under the water. In fact a couple of the water slides took you through the shark tank. Pretty cool. Until we got on a boat and went to one of the out-islands, where we saw the true beauty of the Caribbean. The turquoise water, the pink sand, and no crowd. Pristine. Breath taking. The majesty of God laid out before you. God made, not man made. People want substance, not surface. And, by the way, we got in the water and fed the stingrays and the sharks which beat the heck out of the aquarium.
◦ Ministry and life – authenticity and transparency. These are paramount. We live in a fallen world, we are all broken. Stop wearing the masks. Ask for help when you need it. If the project’s more than you thought, say so, we’re all in this together, we have a common goal. But don’t shirk your responsibility, remember you’re working for God. Jesus was the only man who could handle things on his own, the rest of us – we need help. Why do you think he had 12 disciples?
People want a personal experience and they want to remember it. The big resort and the giant cruise ship are cool, but they aren’t personal. You’re a number, you’re cattle. Get ’em in, get ’em out. Standing knee deep in the water, having a 5′ shark pulled out of the water right next to me, that’s personal. That’s an experience I won’t forget (and I have the pictures to prove it). I brought back some sand from that beach so I can have it in a jar on my desk. Every time I look at it, it takes me back to paradise.
◦ Ministry – the large church, the big conference has to have a personal touch, or there is no connection. The volunteers and staff have to be front and center, meeting, greeting, assisting. And easy to identify. Disney is the ultimate at providing a stellar guest experience. It is that anticipation of needs. From pulling into the parking lot to trash disposal on your way out the door, it’s all been coordinated. People want to leave with a souvenir, if you will, of their experience. They want the tangible reminder. But they need to leave with something useful, something that helps with the life application of what they’ve experienced. It’s not enough to experience God, you have to have the ongoing relationship!
Jill Marquis is Director of Women’s Ministries at Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC