Each February, SBCA camp and conference center leaders are blessed to gather at one of our member camps for our Annual SBCA Conference. It is a phenomenal time of worship, fellowship, and inspiration that gives seasoned and starting directors and staff the encouragement and excitement needed to press on through another year, another challenge, and another busy season. The conference typically has a camp tour where the director and staff of the host camp can showcase God’s blessings and the ministries of the camp. It is a wonderful, insightful time. But, like anything positive, the enemy likes to hit where we are the weakest. While the tours are never intended to be comparisons, more often than we care to admit, directors look at the tour portion and say something akin to “Man, I wish we could do [______], but…” This remark isn’t coming from defeat, or depression, or even dissatisfaction, it is simply human nature.
Let’s face it; when we see God blessing others, it is difficult for us. We wonder why this program works here and not there, or how they can afford to do that. What are we missing?
The answer: Perspective.
I have a favorite way I like to start team building. It is a little activity I call In Plain Sight. In this activity, participants stand on designated spaces around a circle filled with random objects. The objective is to find the ink pen I hide inside the circle “in plain sight,” which means that it can be seen, without moving any of the objects, from at least one direction. After a few examples of what that looks like and the assurance that the pen will not leave the circle once the game has started, the participants are instructed to turn around, face outside the circle, and close their eyes while I hide the pen. Once it is hidden, I step out of the circle (to relieve them of the fear of shenanigans) and tell them that they must remain silent while they find the pen. Once they see it, they are to quietly turn and head back to their spot without indicating the pen’s location. Once all have seen it and have returned to their spot, I ask a volunteer to point out or describe where the pen is.
Pretty easy right?
Two more rounds, each progressing in difficulty. With each round, more people are wandering, looking, laughing when they just can’t see it, laughing at people who can’t see it even though they are right in front of it. Then comes the final round. I hide the pen for the last time and tell the unsuspecting victims participants to find it. Same rules as before, but this time, almost no one can find the pen! More wandering and searching. They look at me, they look at the ground. They are baffled. Then, I give them the final instruction: To find it this time, you must change your perspective. At this point, it is often difficult for me to hold in my laughter as I watch educated people look into the sky as if the pen is magically floating above them somehow. Others crouch down and put their face closer to the ground to see if they are just missing it.
This is what we do with our ministries. We look and we look; we have been here before. We’ve seen what success looks like. We know the ins and outs of camp. We’ve found the pen before; it should be right here. But when faced with something that is not obvious, (other’s success in a ministry event you have tried before and failed in, funding from an unknown source, forethought in how their buildings were built, etc.) instead of changing our perspective, we either blame something unrealistic (they just have more “[______]” than we have) or do the exact opposite and further deepen our perspective (our people won’t [_______]) and make excuses.
Pastor Craig Groeschel on his Leadership podcast states that these phrases, and others like them, are what he considers “the Forbidden Phrase.” They keep us from being effective and from making the impact that God has called us to make as camp and conference center professionals. He states that you can only do one of two things: You can make excuses OR you can make a difference, but you can’t do both†.
When we compare ourselves to others, and we fail to see God’s blessings in our own lives, it diminishes the gifts and provisions that God has given us. We spend so much time looking up in the air or down at the ground that we fail to see the opportunities that He is placing before us. We must change our perspective. Not deepen it. Not get crazy. Just look for where God is working in a different way. In Romans 12:2, Paul urges us not to be conformed to this world[’s way of thinking] but to be transformed by the RENEWING of our mind [changing our perspective to a Christ-centric view rather than a self-centric view]. This way we can then test and prove what the perfect will of God is [for our lives and, in this context, for our centers]. When my victims participants finally do [eventually] find the pen, they marvel at how right my instructions were. Immediately, they realize that looking up in the air and deeper on the ground were foolish endeavors that had no hope of success. It only served to further frustrate them. And when they do finally see it, even if they needed help, they marvel at how close they were to the truth but were blinded by their own obstinate quest to find it in some other way.
As directors and staff, we cannot be blinded by the forbidden phrase or our own perspective. We must take the opportunity to see what God is doing and ask ourselves, “What does He want to do where I am serving? How does my perspective need to change for me to see it?” When we take our focus off the way things have always been, or what might or might not happen, it allows us to look straight ahead and see where God is already at work. The only difference between those who have found the pen and those who are still searching is the courage to change their perspective, look straight ahead, and see it hanging before them in plain sight.
† Go check out the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast the forbidden phrase episode found here:
Jeff A Yant
Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center