Lookout - it's one of those nights. I have arrived home from another Zion Wednesday exhausted, but too overwhelmed by joy and grace to keep it to myself. I'll back up a bit.
I am a 3/4 time solo pastor. That means, in order to do anything creative | outside the box | risky | new | growth-focused, I spend even more weekend and evening hours away from my family. It means I stretch myself a little thinner and have to put down things that others view as essential to my role. It means feeling like I'm a little crappier at life because there are more spinning plates in the air.
But Zion is all about trying new things and so am I, so we're constantly weighing and balancing this dilemma. It's messy and it's so, so fun. I am moved by our mistakes and our victories. I begin experiments convinced that I am crucial and, in the end, am overwhelmed with gratitude for the Village.
The Lyndale Community Dinner is a good thing. We feed 50 people every week. Most of them are regulars and need this intersection of community and nutrition, so it's a worthy investment. We could keep chugging away the way we've been doing and there would be plenty of worth to celebrate.
But while the status quo is fine, the potential is hard to ignore. Lyndale is a neighborhood ripe for pushing boundaries about community, gathering, and wellness. People involved believe that relationships should be about neighborliness instead of "us" serving "them". And so we urged each other to try something new this summer.
It meant wide dreaming and evening meetings and cheerleading and asking people to be involved with one more thing. But in the end, this is happening:
- Once a month, volunteers are hosting a Free Lemonade stand on a busy street just one block from the dinner. They're spreading the word and providing a local "happy hour" effect that helped us make two dozen new friends tonight. And three of those families wandered over for dinner.
- Local organizations have agreed to Adopt-a-Wednesday. They get to promote their presence in the neighborhood while helping with tables and chairs, serving and grilling. The buy-in is transforming this meal.
- I am a regular at the nearby Dollar Tree. A few plastic balls, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles cost $20. Tonight we had five times the number of kids we normally serve. They played together and hugged each other goodbye.
- Zion is a wide community with friends, members, and neighbors loitering on the edge of this mission. I believe the good stuff happens on the edge, so these are my favorite invitations. I'm already seeing young adults and quiet leaders take pride in what's happening on Wednesdays because they're part of this summer scheme.
- I hired someone. In January, I hired my friend Lee to be the dinner coordinator. He has all the gifts and people skills I wish I had. He's a community builder and natural equipper. He organizes wellness and education events in conjunction with the dinner. He networks in the neighborhood and dreams big about Lyndale working together even better than we already do. Tonight I got to watch him be in charge while I found quieter ways to help.
Because of this grace and these leaders, I was in charge of very little tonight. I watched and handed out chalk and listened and loved. I ate and smiled and hugged. And I noticed the care-full things that make this time together so priceless.
Each week at 6:00pm, Lee asks us to share things that we're grateful for. Several regulars offer their thoughts: a recent surgery, family member, or addiction. They're open about life and we all cheer when their gospel is spoken into the crowd. Then kids are invited up first and we get noisy. This sets the tone for everything that happens next.
There is gratitude and grace and deep care for one another. I watched the new Lemonade Families, curious to know what they were sensing from this goofy looking tribe. And it was clear they had each made note of the care-full-ness, too.
Our numbers were up (81 tonight) and I was excited about that. Volunteers were proud of our dreams coming to fruition. Morale was high and that was a good reward for stretching beyond status quo.
I lost track of time and almost forgot about Recovery Worship at 6:45pm. Sometimes the care out here is so great that we need a touch to remember that worship is starting soon. So I moved through the crowd, gently touching the shoulder of each person who would join me in the circle inside. They all looked up and smiled the same smile, glad to be fed, glad for the touch, and glad for this care-filled place.