For more than 30 years now, through three churches and a season of church consulting, I’ve keep two unique files. One is titled Beefs. The other is titled Bouquets. It may sound a little strange, but it has proven to be a great tool for reflection on both sides of a life given to ministry.
Ministry always has two sides, and much like God’s Word, there is grace and law. Most of us prefer the former over the latter, but they both represent an equally important part of reality.
In the “Beefs” file, I have kept (some) of the complaints. They are part of the “I’m not a fan of yours” and mail from unhappy people that has come my way over the years. I am grateful that file is much thinner than the Bouquet file! And I will confess that I don’t look at them often, but when I do, they remind me of God’s presence, power and kindness to get me through the difficult moments in ministry.
These notes remind me that I have weaknesses but God gives me strength. And these notes remind me that some people are simply unkind and that is part of ministry. I get to try and make a difference in their lives anyway, and that’s good.
In the “Bouquets” file, I have kept (some) of the kind notes of thanks and encouragement that just breathe so much life into my soul. As leaders we don’t serve to receive these notes; I’d lead if I never received even one. But, wow, when one arrives it’s just such a gift. Especially in modern culture, where email, texts and Facebook messaging has almost completely taken over.
Don’t get me wrong—a kind email is wonderful, but nothing replaces a written note. We all love to get them. These notes remind me to be grateful for all the blessings in my life, from people and from God.
Both sets of notes and letters tell a story, a sort of journal over the years that remind me of the depth and richness as well as the personal nature of ministry. They help me see how I’ve grown and where I still need to keep learning as a leader. They remind me that ministry is a privilege and an honor. They remind me of my calling at a very personal level.
As indicated, I don’t keep them all, just the ones that really stand out. It’s not the quantity that matters; it’s the fact that they help me reflect on the journey, become a better leader and remember that through it all, God is with me.
Perhaps this idea will be helpful to you as well.
Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., listed in Outreach magazine as the No. 1 fastest-growing church in America in 2010. He has worked closely with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY. His semi-monthly e-newsletter, The Pastor’s Coach, is distributed to more than 40,000 subscribers. Dan is the author of Amplified Leadership, released in January 2012.