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It’s pretty much the first question I get when I run into folks these days: “So…what are doing now?”

After 24 years of youth ministry (15 with the same congregation) and stepping away with no concrete “next step,” it’s hard to answer that in a way that makes sense to people. Today I’m going to try.

First, the specifics. I needed more rest than I thought. After two decades of never really using my allotted vacation time, never getting a sabbatical (in the defense of all three organizations I worked for, I never asked for one, so that’s on me) and some difficult happenstances of the last half-decade, it has been nice to just relax. I’ve gotten no less than 7 hours of sleep per night in the last 3 months (sometimes more), nor have I used an alarm clock since Dec. 16, 2011–which has done wonders…as have occasional naps. My diet has been planned & home cooked for the most part and I’m drinking lots of water. I’m on a consistent exercise routine. All the stuff that the job-seeker literature recommends as a must.

I journal. A lot.
I read. A lot. You can check the list on the left column.
I pray. A lot. And my time reading the Bible is much more enjoyable when it isn’t for a class or study for a series.
I spend a good deal of time in the arts: music and movies, mostly.
I have done some travel and visited family.
Tracy and I are visiting a church in Deep Ellum and we’re among the oldest in every service. We also have the fewest tattoos.
And, of course, searched out jobs from all the places you’d suspect…but that can only be done an hour or two a day at most. Lots of irons in lots of fires and I’m certainly not worried about it yet. I can be choosy at this stage of the game.

I’ve discovered a group of pastoral/staff exiles from various large churches in our area who feel like I do about ministry. They’re a few years further down the path I’m only starting to walk and if you’ve read the Diner for any length of time, I feel like I found my “bees.” They’re encouraging to me in so many ways and pointing me in all sorts of helpful directions when it comes to books or conferences. They encourage some book ideas I’ve bounced off them and when one recommended a conference to attend next month, one said, “You gotta go. Those guys are borderline subversives. You’ll fit right in.” These folks are big into cigars and scotch.

I’ve made an effort to hang out and visit with old friends. Just enjoying the relationships, not in a “pastoral” kind of way, but in a real friendship sort of way. In fact, I’ve been surprised at how gracious folks have been to “give me space.” Almost like they were adhering to some “statute of limitations” on hanging out. Let me say, for the record, if you’ve been doing that, consider that time passed. These friends are big into dinner and coffee.

But I feel like I’m in the middle of the “fuzzy front end.” In some business literature I read, it describes a time of necessary ambiguity in the creative/innovative process where you have lots of questions and the answers are “fuzzy”…not fully defined. The idea is that you spend some time wandering which will get you “antsy” and ready to experiment even if you aren’t sure what will emerge from it all. Alan Hisrch (an author I have now read everything he’s written) describes it this way:

The ambiguous, fuzzy front end is the necessary, and perhaps even annoying, phase of the innovation process, yet no innovation is possible without it. At this stage, the innovator has to take a counterintuitive approach of deferring judgment, embracing uncertainty, and exploring all options. Ambiguity calls for listening and waiting, not immediate action…New possibilities bubble up when we resist the urge to define and categorize problems and their solutions too quickly. Innovation and creativity need ambiguity to flourish.

But note that it’s simply “ambiguous.” It doesn’t mean that you’re not getting some opaque directions and such. And I took a “360 Degree” inventory of my ministry “type.” You know, where you take the profile and then you enlist 10 friends to take it with you in mind and it gives you results? Yeah. I had 10 people who know me well and have been a part of my life and I thought I’d share with you the gist of the profile (I’ve taken the liberty to remove the organization’s “jargon” and definitions to make it easier to understand).

The general description of my ministry mix of style results:
“[Brent] is motivated by a belief that they are personally commissioned for their cause. This minister sees the world through a lens of great needs and great causes. The commitment to God’s cause is paramount. They can be people highly sensitive to the Holy Spirit and the heart of God for the world; and plan to do something about it. [Brent] ensures that the Church is moving together with God. [Brent’s] motivation is both movement and belief; we know why we need to go.”

The description of my highest area of style of ministry:
He or she is a questioner, freely disturbing the status quo and challenging individuals and organization to move in a different direction. He or she may probe individual or group awareness to solicit further questioning, all to gain clarity. This leader impacts communities through integration. This style of leadership influences others by truth-telling, not afraid of speaking in a tension with the dominant way of thinking and practice.”

Some key characteristics of my highest area style:
Questions what has become normative.
Disturbs common thinking and practices.
Agitates for positive change.
Desires learning for purposes to influence.
Discerns the message of Truth.
Urgency felt now, in the moment, “this must happen.”
Comfortable dismantling the present for future hope.

The description of my secondary style:
“The uniqueness of [Brent’s] leadership lies in the ability to pioneer new, innovative and mission minded works. This leadership style has the ability to oversee the development of [ministry] works. [Brent’s] leadership has a unique sense of being sent, prepared specifically for a purpose. In a leader, he or she has an internal sense of urgency for the future, an awareness of the needs of tomorrow.”

Some key characteristics of my secondary style:
Visionary thinking and motivation.
Comfortable crossing boundaries – intellectual, social or cultural.
Entrepreneurial interests to build communities of faith.
Starting something new is energizing.
Pioneering new endeavors.
Strategic decision maker.
Innovative approaches and solutions.
Uncomfortable with the status quo.
See things holistically, part of larger system.

For those of you that know me, well, ya think there’s value in the assessment tool and having friends who know you take the profile?

And, as most of you know, thinking is hard work. I’m in the process of figuring out how those traits can lead to a ministry that will allow them to flourish and be used for His glory most effectively.

But thinking is what I do here in the middle of the…

…fuzzy…
…front…
…end.

It’s hard.

But I’m beginning to get really antsy.
And I’m anxious to see how this all plays out.