Creating a Healthy Culture of Ownership in Community: Everyone Coming to Give and Receive

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Jun 232013
Giving in Community 2

Crisis creates a sense of ownership and community.

As I write this, our city of Calgary and my community of Bowness is experiencing a state of emergency due to unprecedented flooding that has forced the evacuation of around 100,000 people from their homes. A large portion of our downtown is under water, including Stampede Park and the Saddledome. This disaster has been no respecter of persons. Rich and poor have been affected.  In the midst of all the loss and chaos, I’ve been amazed at the how this crisis has created a sense of community where so many folks are pitching in and willing to go to extra-ordinary measures to help their neighbors in whatever way they can. There is a strong sense of ownership, and people willing to sacrifice for each other. My questions are, “Is is possible to sustain this sense of ownership and giving and receiving in community beyond the crisis, and if so, how?”  and “What are the factors that stymie or kill ownership in community?”

When people have a sense of ownership in the creating of a community, they are willing to make great voluntary sacrifices for the sake of the community. Sacrifice becomes a privilege not obligation.

Eighty Twenty RuleOne of the factors that sooner or later will stunt or even kill the health of a community is when the same few people are doing all of the giving while the majority of the community are happy to come and receive. This is what we commonly call the 80/20 rule: 20% doing the giving while the 80% receive. If this trend continues in a community, the ‘givers’, who are usually the leaders, either burnout or become resentful that they are doing all the giving.

Greener grass 1

Hmm, the grass is greener over here!

Furthermore this pattern breeds a culture of immaturity in the rest of the community. The 80% come happy to consume but not contribute. This consumer mindset and practice results in people treating community like a commodity where they can pick and choose what goodies they like, and become critical about those goods and services that are not meeting up to their expectations. They don’t own the community and when the community is not meeting their needs they pick up and leave. In church culture, we call this the migration or shuffling of the sheep from pen to pen in search of greener grass.

“As leaders we need to be training people how to be be self-feeders and empower them to care for each other.”

navel gazing

Inward focused community gets stuck with navel gazing!

While it is true that many people have been deeply hurt within church communities and need a place to heal and process these hurts, some communities develop an identity around people’s pathos or sickness, leading to a culture of navel gazing, negativity, and narcissism. The ethos of the community is created around being against something, or bad mouthing everything and everyone, as well as a self-centered attitude of victimization. The tone of the gatherings quickly turns into a complaining session about what’s wrong with the existing systems or institutions of government and church, and what people think the organizations should be giving them rather than how they can be a solution to what’s broken. People never get better and stay stuck in their unhealthy patterns of behavior spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally. Instead of taking personal responsibility for their choices and their healing, there is blame shifting. This is enabled by leaders who are always bailing folks out, coddling people, and assuaging this ‘woe is me’ mentality. This focus on navel gazing and negativity repels healthy folks. The community becomes ingrown and eventually dies or people turn on each other.

isolation 2

Resist the tendency to isolate!

The other tendency I’ve noticed in faith communities is that some people, when they are going through a hard time, will tend to isolate from the community. They disappear and don’t let anyone know. What we fail to realize is that our decisions do not just impact us, but affect the rest of the community. We are not an island unto ourselves. I do believe that there are times when we need distance from the community for a period of time. A healthy way to process a time out from the community is to communicate that decision with the community. The community should keep a door open for their return.

Need in many leaders to be at the center!

Need in many leaders to be at the center!

For many of us in leadership roles, we need to be aware of our unhealthy motivation to be needed that is fed by people treating us like a savior, as if we are indispensable. We quickly can become the center of community to the point that the community revolves around us. We develop an identity around always being in the power position of giving or having all the answers. This over-inflated view of our importance manifests in leaders trying to do it all to keep everyone happy. When these needs become our primary internal drivers, we become a bottleneck to healthy community.

Often leaders resist letting their guard down out of a fear that people will lose respect for them. Other blockages to leaders receiving are the fear that they will be perceived as incompetent, or that showing their weaknesses will make them vulnerable to others taking advantage of them through gossip. Yet if leaders never share their needs with the community or receive from the community, people will not bond with their leaders, or grow up and take ownership.

Receiving from community!

Receiving from community!

At any stage in the life of a community we have folks who are coming primarily to receive something  from the community because of tough life circumstances such as economic, spiritual, relational, or emotional struggles. We need to create space in our community for folks in these stages of life. They need to feel free to just come and be loved, without any pressure to perform or produce. Community for people who are suffering, grieving, spent, burned out and running on empty should be a safe place to just ‘be’.

We all have something to give and receive in healthy community!

We all have something to give and receive in healthy community!

On the other hand, it is my firm belief that every person has something to give and receive when the community gathers. Not everyone can give to the same level, but we all have something to contribute. Even the poorest person can bring a bottle of pop to the potluck. It has been my conviction and observation that part of the process of healing for people going through troubled waters is to be able to come alongside another person in the community and give a word of encouragement. Even if all someone can do is show up, their very presence is a gift.


Giving and Receing 2I believe that we all have an innate longing to contribute and create together in community. How do we create communities of ownership and mutual giving and receiving ? Below are a few practical suggestions:

Change the language in community from ‘I’, ‘mine’, or ‘yours’ to ‘we’, and ‘ours’.


  • Give opportunities where ‘everyone gets to play’ or have ownership in contributing and co-creating: take time for people to express their vision for the community and then invite them to be the initiators to see that vision happen.

    Creating community together

    Our community that we create together!


  • As leaders, resist the temptation to start a program or initiative that people have expressed as a need, but are not willing to implement themselves or co-create with others of like mind.

“When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” I Cor. 14:26


  • Everyone has something to give!

    Everyone gets to participate!

    Here is practical way to help a smaller community begin to develop a giving and receiving culture :  Prepare people to come ‘share their gift’  in the next gathering. Encourage everyone to bring something to share with the community. It could be cookies they bake, a painting, a poem, a Scripture, a word of encouragement for the group or a member of the group, a song or piece of music they would like to sing or play. These times of sharing can include participation from even the youngest group member, teaching children from an early age that they have something to give!


  • Develop a board on your website where people can post their needs practically, and others can post skills they can use to serve, as well as material things they have to give away.Giving and receiving 3


  • Communicate the expectation and value for giving and receiving in community over and over again. Allow people to express what they are willing and able to give. Be careful to not project your expectations on others! Instead negotiate reasonable expectation.

By Tim Schultz

Wired For Adventure: Dare to Take the Road Less Traveled!

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Jun 172013
Bilbo's Band of Friends

Going with a band of friends on an Adventure

One of the deepest longings in all of us is the desire to make a difference in this world.  Though most of life is full of the mundane and ordinary, which is important and keeps us grounded, deep down all of us crave adventure. Even the most risk adverse or timid homebody is drawn towards epic stories of bravery, honor, deep friendship, and yes, even some romance. Some of us fantasize about what it would be like to go on a quest with close friends to overcome evil with good. We often choose to live these longings vicariously through someone else’s story rather than daring to take the road less traveled for ourselves. Just look at how popular the recent movie the Hobbit is or how many kids are immersed in video role playing games, especially boys.

The next generation is searching for a an adventure worth giving their lives for!

Don't let fear keep you from saying YES to an adventure!

Don’t let fear keep you from saying YES to an adventure!

Most of us are like Bilbo Baggins from the movie the Hobbit. Bilbo is quite content to stay put in Hobbiton where life is safe and predictable. That all changes when Gandolf and the dwarves show up at his house and invite him to join him on a grand adventure to restore and redeem their homeland from the evil dragon. Initially, he refuses the invitation to join the dwarves on their odyssey. He is afraid, feels inadequate, and would rather enjoy the comforts of Hobbiton than risk signing up for a sojourn with Gandolf and the dwarves which would be rife with danger and uncertainty. After the dwarves leave to start their journey, Bilbo is overcome with that gnawing internal tug we all have to be part of something life changing and not miss out by giving in to our doubts. He overcomes his fears and runs after the dwarves embarking on the joy and challenge of taking the road less traveled with a few, faithful, forgiving friends.

We are all wired for adventure!

We are all wired for adventure!

Deep down we all want to be part of a grand story where even the menial and the mundane things of life have meaning. In short, we all want to live a life of significance. We want our lives to count for something. Even the most shy, fearful person is wired for an adventure that makes a difference.Adventure Seeking

Some try to escape the tedious, ho hum, daily grind by becoming thrill seekers. They embark on some daring feat like climbing Mount Everest, or becoming adrenaline junkies by always pushing the limits. They attempt crazy pursuits such as hang gliding, or the latest craze in Norway, called wingsuit jumping. This is a sport where folks climb to the top of a cliff overlooking a fiord and jump. The first hundred or so feet you free fall. Then at the last possible moment you pull the ripcord for your parachute and hope it works to break your fall before you splat on the valley below.  Sounds crazy to me!

The majority of us will never attempt such great exploits, yet all of us are being invited to go on a grand adventure where we become contributors and sojourners in the Big Story of God’s plan to rescue and restore this world back to His original idea. Yes, as amazing as it sounds, you and I are being tapped on the shoulder with the invitation to join God on His mission to bring justice, peace, beauty, reconciliation, renewal, and restoration to all of God’s creation. (Romans 8:18-21; II Cor. 5:18-20) We have the privilege to be part of God’s natural and super natural solutions to end poverty, to provide clean water and education for all, to be advocates of justice for abused women and children, to eradicate diseases such as HIV and malaria, to bring real peace between competing and warring peoples and ethnic groups, to discover clean energy sources that don’t damage the environment, to create beauty and communicate truth through the arts, and to be the delivery boy or girl who brings the message of Hope to all: the Good News that the Creator of the Universe loves us and desires to have a relationship with each and every one of us.

We are not to go on this journey alone. God promises His backing, and all of His resources to help us. We are to find a circle of friends who together ask these three questions: “What part are you and I to play in God’s Big Story?” and “What are the gifts, talents, and ideas given to us from God to make a difference in this world? ” and “Who are the band of friends that we are link arms with on this grand adventure?”

To take our place in this Grand Story requires taking a risk and choosing to take the road less traveled. These choices are presented to us daily in small ways, and then occasionally in our lives we are given opportunities to choose a path that results in monumental and deeply impacting changes to us and the world we live in. With that I leave you with this poem from Robert Frost to reflect on as you and I contemplate the choices before us:

Divergent Paths



by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 

And sorry I could not travel both 

And be one traveller, long I stood

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Road Less Traveled

Here’s to living a life full of purpose and adventure. Take the road less traveled and see where it takes you!

Demystifying Our Life Calling: Diving Into the Zig Zag Adventure of Connecting the Dots

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Jun 052013

Connecting the dots 1Many of us struggle all our lives with the existential questions such as, “Why am I on planet earth?”, or when framed in a more religious context, “What is God’s will for my life?” The quest to discover the answer to these questions leaves many of us stuck in a fatalistic, passive, ho-hum resignation that the answer is to mystical or difficult to figure out. It feels like we have to be a spiritual guru, mystic or prophet who regularly gets open-eyed 3-D visions, hears the audible voice of God, or sees angels. If not a mystic, we feel like we have to be Bill Gates with the intellect of a genius to unravel the labyrinth of life.

Realizing that we are not spiritual giants or geniuses, we decide to just let life happen to us, or hope that God zaps us with a clear directive dictated through the proverbial writing on the wall or through a vision of an angel telling us what to do. We end up paralyzed as we grope around in the dark or fog waiting for this sudden flash of light, angelic appearance, or prophet to illuminate the path or direction we should take. We end up feeling like the quest for our life’s purpose is much like playing the proverbial game of pin the tail on the donkey blindfolded. At best we have a 10% – 30% chance at hitting the mark.

This is not to say that God doesn’t speak to some through more exotic or supernatural means on a regular basis. It is the feeling and thinking that if we don’t regularly get dreams, visions, or angelic visitations then something is wrong with us spiritually, or that we don’t quite measure up that I want to free us from. God does speak through extra-ordinary ways when we are in danger, need a dramatic change in direction, or when we start out developing our spiritual radar to encourage us that He is real! Yet for most of us and in most cases the journey of hearing God’s voice is a conversational relationship between two friends that recognize each others voice after spending a lot of time together. They don’t need to shout at one another to get each other’s attention!

Rubix CubeOthers of us embark on a complicated journey of attempting to unravel the mystery as if it were a game that we can conquer if we could only figure out the rules and master them. We think our life calling is like a riddle, a Rubix cube brain teaser, or like trying to untangle a knotted ball of yarn that simply needs to be figured out. If we just get the formula right or execute our 5 year plan, the road map for our lives will be clear and a straight line to our end destination. The harder we try to make things happen and bring about our desired outcome, the more we realize that we are not fully in control. There are surprises and serendipitous encounters that just happen and become pivotal threads in forming the tapestry of our life mission.

For many, the quest for our life purpose or God’s will for our lives seems so illusive, and only to be attained by the few really smart people or the spiritually elite folks. We feel like schmucks or second class citizens when others speak with confidence about their life mission and how they are living it. I want to debunk this kind of thinking.

If only I could figure out the way through the labyrinth?

If only I could figure out the way through the labyrinth?

“Finding our calling should not be so complicated and mystical. It is neither a formula or a mystery! It is more like the zig zag adventure of connecting the dots by following our hunches in the midst of making value based choices. As we follow our intuition with intention, the bigger picture of our life mission takes shape.”  Tim Schultz

It is a series of daily small decisions we make like choosing which stones to step on to get to the other side of the river. It is both a subjective and objective process where we need to give up the fear of making mistakes or getting it wrong. I want to demystify this journey of discovery of our life purpose by suggesting some ways to connect the dots and have fun doing it.

  • Listen, trust, and move on your hunches, gut feelings, nudges, or what Christians call the ‘still small voice or whisper’. (I Kings 19:12)  Other words to describe your gut feeling is intuition or discernment. For Christians, this is where the interaction and conversation with the Holy Spirit takes place.


  • How do I know whether my hunches are right to follow?

    How do I know whether my hunches are right to follow?

    I know that following one’s hunches raises some good questions like: “How do I know that my hunches are right and that I’m not just making stuff up or being led by my emotions?”  “How do I know whether the still small voice is God or not?” Like any relationship, we learn to recognize the familiarity of the voice of our friend by spending time with them, listening to them, and risk taking on what we hear. (John 10:4-5; II Cor. 2: 12-13) Another safeguard is to test our gut feelings through the filter of our core values. If a hunch contradicts them then best to test that hunch by consulting some friends, collecting more objective info, and not making a rash decision based on our hunch. 


  • Make room for, and adjust to the surprises and serendipitous encounters or experiences that come along your path and change your course, or interrupt you plans! (Proverbs 16:9;I Cor. 16:5-9) Interruptions to our plans are to remind us that as much as we plan there are factors beyond our control that shape who we are to become. We can fight or resist these seeming zigs and zags, and in doing so miss out on wonderful opportunities or open doors.


  • Get the car in drive. Start moving in a direction even if the road map is not yet fully clear as to where you
    Which way do I go?

    Which way do I go?

    will end up.  If you need to make adjustments to your course, you can do so while in motion, or if God needs to re-direct you He can do so even through more dramatic ways such as through a dream, vision, or an angel. (Acts 16:6-10)


  • Daily Live Your Values. (I Thess. 5:16-22) These are the ropes or chains that you hold on to and keep you from straying off the path and over a cliff by making decisions solely on subjective feelings that could be catastrophic. If you are a follower of Jesus start by ‘obeying the Book.’ As you do the general will of God, He will give you the specifics.


  • What do I really love doing?

    What do I really love doing?

    Figure out what you are good at, what you really enjoy doing, and keep doing more of that. (Romans 12:6-8) I tell people that I was born to coach, start things-which means being a catalyst, and connecting people to one another. One reflection exercise to help unearth these passions or motivational gifts is to look back on your life up to this point and track what kinds of things have you done where you felt a sense of this is what I was created to do. When have you experienced the most joy, fulfillment, and a clear sense of contribution?


  • Ask for input from friends or community around you. (Proverbs 15:22;16:20) Court counsel from folks who really know you, are for you, and will be honest with you even to the point of telling you what you might not like to hear.


  • Have fun in the adventure and don’t be afraid to make mistakes!


By Tim Schultz