Original Post by Josh McQueen. His experience participating in the Leadership in the New Parish Certificate.

The Shaka rating scale comes from a tourist guide I came across with a friend when our families were in Hawaii several years ago. It was pretty standard, lame-ass, touristy booklet except for the fact that instead of using stars as a rating, they used Shakas (which is more commonly referred to as the “hang loose” sign). Hotels, restaurants, points of interest, etc were all rated with 1-5 Shakas. Ever since that trip we’ve continued to rate things on the Shaka scale- everything from our pastor’s sermons to french fries.

Without hesitation The Seattle School’s Leadership in the New Parish Certificate gets 5 Shakas from me. (If you’re not familiar with LNP, click here.) This is a little reflection I wrote at the end of the course that I thought was worth sharing* on the blog as a means of encouraging any Christ-follower who is seeking to be more faithfully present in their neighborhood to consider joining the next cohort:

After the rich experiences with the LNP cohort this past year and the way they have shaped the perspective I have on my parish, I sense the Spirit’s invitation to me to slow down, to continue to listen, and to learn to confess who I am more honestly. 

Slowing down to me at this point means letting go of my need to fix every problem of this world that I encounter. As a pastor of local and international outreach I am constantly bombarded by serious needs that must be addressed NOW. If I am going to slow down enough to be more present in my neighborhood, I am going to have to learn to acknowledge these needs, while at the same time, lay them down before a God who is able to bear them. Every issue or cause I engage in regionally or globally further removes me from my parish. I would like to believe that I might learn to choose concerns that, even if global, might be linked in some way with my parish. And to offer the other needs I can’t take on to other parishes I am linked with or to simply entrust them to the Lord. I have made a conscious decision to accept my limitations, rather than striving to exceed them, which has been the pattern of my life until recently.

 I find that I am listening more deeply these days, and I sense the Spirit wooing me into that posture, especially with those who are easily overlooked in my neighborhood. As I slow down I know I will also be more attentive to ask questions that invite connection and intimacy. In this, I trust that I will have a truer understanding of the place I live and its needs.

Confession of my true self has been difficult, even with the closest members of my community. Outside of sharing with my wife, I find that I hold back the deeper parts of who I am. I have hope though that as our community grows in our commitment to life together, I will more naturally confess my pain, my love, my frustration, my doubt, my limitations and my joy.

As I entered into the LNP experience my plan involved a lot of doing- many projects and plans to change the world. Although I earnestly anticipate the work of God’s kingdom continuing in beautiful ways in the parish as we collaborate with one another and the Spirit, this journey has helped me begin to let go of the need to control and to complete my agendas, and instead, more fully embrace the invitation to simply be.

 *FYI: I wasn’t asked to write this by The Seattle School’s Manipulative Marketing for Successful Sales Team, which thankfully doesn’t exist. This was freely offered up because the experience truly was that meaningful, and I honestly feel that anyone who is serious about parish life and ministry would benefit tremendously from it.