Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Mission Minded Family

Published in Connections Magazine (May/June 2014)

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faith and family

The Mission-Minded Family

by Marcus J. Carlson

The word mission gets a lot of buzz these days, and has enough meanings for a year’s worth of Connections magazine issues. Whether talking about mission trips, missionaries, mission statements, being missional, the mission of the church, the mission of spreading the Word or other definitions, it is good we are using the word. The church has been internal for far too long.

Mission by nature must be external (yet can have some internal qualities). Mission requires some sense of going and the church has been satisfied with staying. It is one thing to talk about mission, but it is another thing to live it. Mission is not something for the church—or even the world—alone, and while it is communal in nature, it is individual as well. Mission can also be a reality in our families, and some of the strongest, most Christ-centered families I know are mission- minded.

What does it mean to be a mission-minded family? If we consider some of the uses of the word mission in the con- text of family (regardless of family make up), we find some life-giving, Kingdom of God truths that can change our own lives, our families and the world.

The common corporate use of mission that has become a part of the church is the “mission statement.” The mission statement is meant to communicate our core focus, to keep us focused and to ensure we have a goal in mind that not only shapes our outcomes, but the way in which we operate. While mission statements have been overplayed in the church for a long time, they can be helpful. They are most helpful if they are authentic and when prayerfully considered as they reflect the church and the local community. Mission statements are only useful if they are known and practiced and become a part of the process and DNA of a church.

Mission statements are not limited to churches or corporations, however. I have my own personal mission statement: “to help others experience transformation in Jesus Christ.” Our family has a mission statement: “to be a genuine, missional family committed to God’s Kingdom.” Neither is perfect, but the work that went into them and our continued examination of these mission statements shape and impact how we operate. So often we wander and become victims of our circumstances instead of embracing the truth that God has great things in store for us.

Mission is also defined in terms of service. Whether a mis- sion trip, service project, organization, initiative or some other form of service, mission often refers to serving others, particularly those in need. The truth is, every family should serve together, in their church and in their community. Finding individual niches based on gifting, schedule and passion—as well as serving together as a family—can be transformative.

As our own children get older, we look forward to building mini-mission trips into each of our family vacations. As we embrace the blessing of time off and resources to travel, we want to take time to serve those who have neither. So many mission and service organizations today welcome family service that the opportunities are not hard to find. Need has certainly not decreased, so if you cannot find a service opportunity, create one.

Mission is also seen as spreading the Word of God, evangelism or sharing the Good News of Jesus. The Mormons are most well known for their season of mission, where many Mormon youth and young adults go door-to-door to share the message of their religion.

The best way to spread the message of our Christian faith is by our actions, but we should not be afraid to use our words. Our families can make sharing our faith with those we en- counter a priority, and we can do it effectively without being overbearing. It starts with talking together about our own faith.

The latest trend with the word mission is the use of the word missional. This word has several definitions, but at its purest core, it means to be mission-minded and to live life in a way that is focused on the mission of Christ. It is truly a way of being, a Kingdom of God mindset.

My desire is for our family to be truly missional. My hope is that each of us as individuals and we as a family are focused on Christ and the bringing about of His Kingdom. This means focusing on serving others in love rather than isolating our- selves. It means sharing the love of Christ without words so people will see the love of Christ and invite the Word of God into their lives.

So often our Christianity is cultural rather than transformative. One of the greatest ways to build a strong and healthy family is to reject a cultural approach to Christianity. When we give our lives as parents, children, individuals and families to Christ in service to the world, the Kingdom of God may become more of a reality.

Mission can have so many meanings, most of them life-giving and life-changing. Anytime we choose to step outside of our selves—our wishes, needs, opinions and desires—and serve others, great things happen. The abundant life promised in Jesus is found in love and service to others and to the world.

This is not just the action of individuals or of the church; it can and should be the action of our families as well. One of the most significant factors impacting the longevity of faith in our children and youth is missions and service (along with talking about their faith). Choosing to be a mission-minded family is a gift: a gift to the church, to the world, to our families and to the faith of the individuals we love deeply—especially our children and youth.

Our culture is perhaps more open to and in need of service than it has been since the Great Depression. We have an opportunity to not only make a difference, but to do it by becoming the individuals, churches and families God has created and called us to be.

Marcus J. Carlson

is an ordained pastor (LCMC & NALC), currently serving at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Auburn, IN. He is a spiritual director, professor, speaker, writer and consultant, with 15+ years experience in youth and family ministry. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children.

The Challenge of Self-Care

Published on Fuller Seminary’s Burner Blog for Pastors and Leaders.

Read the Article here

by Marcus J. Carlson

The challenge of self-care

Honesty is essential to leadership. Like most leadership, healthy modeling is necessary for effectiveness. Truthfully, it is easier to be honest with others than it is to be honest with self. Additionally, it is easier to lead others than it can be to lead self. Maybe it is just that I am one of those difficult sheep, but I suspect from conversations with other leaders, these challenges are not unique. Self-care is one area of my own leadership that is the most life-giving, challenging and in need of constant growth. I suspect many pastors and other Christian leaders struggle with self-care as well. Self-care may be the most important aspect of self-leadership, second only perhaps to self-knowledge.

There are probably many reasons we fail to adequately attend to self-care as leaders. Most reasons appear noble, even Christ-like at times. The call to Christian leadership certainly involves sacrifice, modeled most profoundly for us in the cross. Yet, Jesus also demonstrated self-care, set boundaries for ministry and took time to engage in prayer and solitude. Our failure in the area of self-care as leaders is a spiritual and theological problem, and we must take this deficiency seriously.

As I reflect on my own journey with the issue of self-care, there are many seasons of success and many seasons of failure. It is not easy and each season brings new needs, opportunities and challenges. Each Monday I stop for five minutes and go through a self-care inventory I created with some assistance from some colleagues and spiritual directors. It’s a series of questions in a variety of categories that forces personal reflection and an honest examination of areas of strength and weakness in any given season around my own self-care as a leader and Christ-follower. Besides general questions about self-care, the inventory includes questions about emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, vocational and relational health. In each season of life, I find one or more of these areas may be strong while one or more may be weak. I understand that it is hard to find time and energy for consistent self-care. However, we must recognize our ministry flows out of our own relationship with Jesus, and our own health in all of these areas has a dramatic impact on our leadership, organizations and those we lead. We cannot offer what we do not have ourselves, and our failure to attend to our own self-care is another example of not trusting our ministry to the Holy Spirit. When we fail to attend to our own self-care, our ministry becomes more about our own efforts than the movement of the Holy Spirit. Unhealthy leaders create unhealthy followers and unhealthy organizations. If I am as passionate about my own health, especially spiritually, as I am about those I lead, then I will take self-care seriously.

The good news is that we have a wonderful opportunity to model self-care to others in a society with few boundaries and little self-care. The health of others and the organizations we serve depends on it. The church has a great opportunity to offer something the culture cannot, greater self-care focused on the one who cares for us, and it is our call as leaders to create a culture of self-care that begins with us.