Normally these kind of retrospective pieces are done at the end of the year not at the beginning. But I decided to take a couple weeks off from blogging at the end of December to catch my breath. So, this post had to wait. We try to reflect and review as we go along, but it seemed right to pause before surging forward into the new year to take a look back at the lessons learned in our first year. In no particular order, here they are:
- Don't let perfection keep you from starting. Starting is hard. We fear it because it necessitates showing your hand and giving up control of your brilliant idea. It also makes you vulnerable to the possibility of failure. Nobody has ever failed at a good idea. Perfecting your brilliant idea in the lab before letting it see the light of day is an easy excuse for not starting. We're only one year old, but we are already feeling the institutional inertia that comes when you actually have something to lose.
- Show don't tell. We cherish good writing, but often it's easier and less awkward to show something by picture, gesture, or clip. This usually requires more work and creativity. But it's the way of Jesus, a master storyteller, who was more likely to use a story/parable to say something meaningful.
- Prepare for success as much as you worry about failure. On most days our challenges in 2011 were a result of our plans actually working too well. We were often caught scrambling behind the scenes to catch up.
- People are people. The demographics at Downtown Church lean towards a younger, more transient, adaptable crowd. As a result, we've been deliberate in orienting our modes of communication, style of conversation, and emphasis of our teaching in that direction. Yet still, we're learning that when you strip away all the stylistic stuff, the Downtown Church community consists of people eager to love and be loved by God and others. Don't let matters of style distract you from this truth.
- Starting a church and sustaining a church are different. Don't get me wrong, we haven't arrived. We're still figuring this thing out. But the move to weekly worship (Who knew Sunday came back around so fast?) required something else. In addition to coming up with a creative Baptism bowl, we also had to figure out where and how to store it so it wouldn't break.