Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Proud Father of Three

While I continue to get my feet wet as the father of a son, I am no novice to parenting. For a decade I have given my time, energy, and wisdom to two lovely daughters. They bear my image and likeness, with the added blessing of their mother's eyes and kind soul. Claire and Margot have accepted their role of older sisters remarkably.

For the past five years, Liz and I have talked openly, honestly, and regularly about adoption with the girls. We discussed adoption and its difficult adjustments at the dinner table, on walks to school, and at bedtime as we prayed. Adoption became central to their vocabulary.

Margot the Younger anticipated Sensi's arrival. "I'm going to teach him to annoy Claire," she promised. "Then she'll be outnumbered." Nevertheless, Claire, too, voiced her excitement to have a little brother.

Their visit with Sensi in the orphanage only peaked their hopes. Three visits did not satisfy them. "I want to see him again," Claire said on the fourth day.

"He's so cute," Margot repeated.
After returning home, we continued to talk with the girls about the upcoming adjustment. We warned them against running through the house naked. We prepared them for a few months of limited visitors and travels. They hoped this meant exemptions from school and church. They swore an oath to keep their clothes on.

We did not, however, prepare them for kind of reception they might receive from their new brother once he arrived home. For the first week, he mostly snubbed them. He shot an occasional glance in their direction or laughed at them from a distance. But meaningful engagement with his sisters was limited.

Then came the water guns. On his second weekend with us, Sensi grabbed a hose and sprayed the girls. They fought back with water guns. Sopping and laughing, the siblings connected.

Since then, their interaction has improved. For the record, Sensi needed no mentor in obnoxious behavior. He is a little boy. He puts every doorbell and light switch to use in pestering others. He stands in front of the television when the family watches a movie.

However, it is more accurate to call Sensi playful than annoying. He and his sisters throw flower pedals at one another on the way to school. They swap (gentle) punches while driving in the back seat of the car. To date no one has been seriously injured.

If the girls are jealous of the attention Sensi has drawn, they have hidden it well. Perhaps they were helped by our many conversations. Perhaps they were aided by our many friends and family members who have shown them special attention. Folks have brought them gifts, spoiled them with sweets, asked about their feelings, and accepted their introverted responses.

No, I detect little jealously from the girls. They are simply wrestling with the growing pains of The Adjustment. I heard it one night from Margot after Sensi went to bed. "I miss just the four of us," Margot said. Liz and I understood the sentiment.

Another time, I caught a trace from Claire. She commented, "Sensi's a rock star." Her subtext implied: "We are not."
For that I am glad. I prefer my two, beautiful girls, who live in the background, who bear my image, who have their mother's eyes and kind soul.  They treat their brother with patient affection and make their father proud.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Family Meals and Daily Progress

I won the bet: Sensi ate lunch with the whole family on Sunday per my guess. This was a small feat, commemorating the start of his second week with his forever family. My wife bought me a Take Five as a prize.

Family meal: Check. We're making progress. Next step: College.

Liz and I would be lying if we said we don't salivate over the idea of an empty nest. And we would be deceived if we didn't acknowledge that may not happen. In addition to the growing number of children who return home after college, we face the possibility of Sensi requiring care into adulthood. Wisely, we limit our look down that long road ahead.

Our boy is biologically eight years old. Physically, he resembles a six-year old. Emotionally, I slate him between two and three. Now ask yourself this: What do you get when a toddler can reach the knife block and turn the dials on the oven? (See answer below.) Wisely, we limit our son's alone time in the kitchen.

Sensi's host of problems goes beyond the "shame core" of abandonment and loss (where his mother died and father lived in poverty). He brings more than the emotional deficits of five years in an orphanage (where they loved him as well as they could). His brain is underdeveloped from hypothyroidism. His cognition and hearing are delayed. His legs drag and hands jerk, as if operated by an inattentive puppeteer. And Sensi remains mute, whether selectively or by virtue of physical defect, we do not know.
When we consider the complex issues, we cannot help take life slowly, limit long-term plans, and celebrate small victories. A family dinner calls for a parade. But since crowds terrify our son, we'll opt for seconds on dessert.

Quite frankly, the day-to-day existence relieves some pressure. In a culture where many elementary schools are going the way of STEM and helping second graders plot their career path in engineering, it's nice to think about Monday. In a country where we face the horrifying prospect of four years of Hilary or Trump, Tuesday (unless it's Election Tuesday) sounds like a breeze. In a time where technologies continue to invade our lives and feign intelligence, Wednesday's worries do not seem so grim.

Our detour from The Long Road Ahead may become an on ramp to Strength for the Day.

Jesus taught his disciples to tame anxiety by trusting him for daily supply. "Seek first God's kingdom. Don't worry about tomorrow" (Matthew 6:33-34). His brother James made a similar remark: "Don't brag about next year's plans, but remember the Lord numbers your days" (James 4:13-16).

In this day-to-day adjustment, we weigh our son's smiles against the times we say "No." We affirm Claire and Margot, praising their kindness and inquiring about their feelings. We check a single responsibility off the list -- set up a doctor's appointment: check; write a thank you note: check; order Play-Doh Fun Factory from Amazon: check; treat for lice: check* - and expect from ourselves no more.
Meanwhile, small victories and new memories pile up. Wednesday: Sensi's first trip to the park. Thursday: Sensi's first night in his own bed. Friday: Sensi's first Happy Meal. Saturday: Sensi's first scooter ride. Yesterday: Sensi's first family meal. Today: Sensi's first Foosball game.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? As for me and my house, we'll have to wait and see.

Answer:  A hot, bloody mess.
* Yes, Liz did find lice in one of our daughter's hair last week. Impeccable timing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Post Process Depression & The Adjustment

Liz and I are no longer in the adoption process. That four and a half year phase ended last Tuesday when I brought Sensi from the orphanage to my hotel room. By the weekend he was united with his full, forever family in the States. Our neat and tidy tribe of four added a clumsy and conspicuous fifth (hence his code name: Conspicuous Number Five).
This new phase is called "The Adjustment." It is neither neat nor tidy. We've added one more pile of soiled clothes to the basement floor. One more dirty cup and dish to the kitchen counter. One more pair of scuffed shoes to the entryway. One more wet towel to the bathtub ledge. One more unpredictable body to the ongoing family dance.

Meanwhile, food is vanishing from our refrigerator at an alarming rate (Sensi eats like a champion). Water usage has tripled in a week (Sensi flushes the toilet as a sport). Our light bulbs will flame out any day (Sensi flips them ON and OFF as a game). And although Claire and Margot have played along nicely, the focused attention they have received from Mom and Dad will forever be divided into smaller portions.

"The Adjustment" is a ledger, marked by clear losses and challenging gains.

Fortunately, Sensi's independence has smoothed "The Adjustment." He sleeps like a bear, entertains himself, clears his spot at the table, and goes to the bathroom on his own. His eats ravenously, but only after the girls have left the table. Thus, mealtimes have doubled in length, and his food is always cold. This concerns us because family dinner is a cherished time for our household.
As we try to understand the mind and mechanics of Conspicuous Number Five, we cannot distinguish what motivates him: Ethiopian culture, orphanage culture, his complex of special needs, or some combination of the four. Either way, I wish he realized that hot eggs taste better than tepid ones and our daughters will not bite.
In these first few days of "The Adjustment" my wife has cried more than once. Regret does not define her sentiment. Grief or depression (and her prevailing anxiety) better suit the situation. I can relate. While we were "in process," adoption remained a romantic ideal. Not only did it picture a spiritual reality -- God setting us into His family by the redeeming work of Jesus (Rom. 8; Eph. 1; Gal. 4) -- but it also sounded heroic. To rescue a fatherless child and give him a future and hope -- what a story. Indeed, this has all the makings of true religion (Jas. 1:27).

For four and half years we talked about adoption from the distance of 3500 miles. Such talk was theoretical and did not disturb our daily rhythms. Waiting was no picnic -- it was exhausting and expensive -- but "in process" we received sympathy, inquiries, gifts, and grant monies. Once a month the agency emailed us growth updates and pictures. In digital form, Sensi only charmed us; he was incapable of dissembling our board games or disrupting our family routines.

And last week this process ended. Without a moment to catch our breath, "The Adjustment" began. Family life ensues. Sensi is home now (praise God). The waiting is over (praise God). The adoption is complete (praise God). Now we are adjusting (God, help us!).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Becoming American

After passing through immigration on our port of entry in Washington DC, Sensi will become an American citizen. The adoption process includes a complicated Visa application. "Newer immigration officers don't even understand it," the clerk told me at our Embassy appointment yesterday. I had just sworn all my documents were valid and true, my right hand raised high. I did not swear to understanding governmental minutiae, but I apparently not all governmental employees do either.

The clerk continued, "In about two months you'll get an envelope in the mail verifying your son's citizenship. You do not have to readopt. Congratulations."

Sensi and I concluded his Visa appointment and returned to the hotel. In a matter of days he would be a bona fide American. Thus, I've taken it as my patriotic duty and fatherly calling to immerse him in the land of the free and home brave.

Becoming American started with branding. Earlier in the week I taught Sensi the importance of designer labels. We shucked his orphanage dregs for a sleek, Adidas ClimaCool tee. He slid it over his midnight arms and beamed like a spotlight.  He traced his finger across the embroidered letters and flashed a Cheshire grin. The shirt quickly became his favorite clothing item.
Becoming American requires a fair amount of consumption. Last night Sensi ate an entire bowl of pasta and nabbed half my sandwich. Today he ate an elephant. But our temple for consumption is the Addissinia cafe, where we have made a tradition of afternoon fizzy drinks. I witness's Sensi's first soda. Every swallow of Sprite contorted his face in welcomed displeasure. The carbonation bit at his throat; sweet lemony-lime soothed his pain. 
The second day he opted for pineapple flavored Fanta from the cooler. When I took it to the bar to pop the lid, the worker questioned me. "Cold soda? For a kid? I think he like it better warm." The bartender guessed correctly. Sensi drank the 300 mL bottle in six swigs. Hence I taught him the word "savor."

The consumption theme comes in many varieties. For the past two evenings, I spoiled him with American film. Both nights we watched The Peanuts Movie on my laptop while eating Zootopia Fruit Snacks. Call it a double-feature of cartoon-driven consumption. Both viewings, Sensi laughed from start to finish.

To be fair, Sensi was becoming American long before I arrived on the scene. Disney, Adidas, and Sprte are American exports that have infiltrated the Ethiopian market. Overseen from our balcony view is a giant Coca-Cola advertisement in English, which is common tongue not only in our hotel lobby, but throughout the city. Two blocks down the road, the Edna Theater offers show times for The Jungle Book and, yes, Captain America: Civil Wars. (Can you get more American than than?) And two days ago I noticed a bumper sticker for Hillary in 2016. I guess some Ethiopians prefer American goods to American greatness.
For Sensi, becoming American goes well beyond speaking the language (if he ever speaks), sporting the brands, and consuming the goods. Becoming American for my son has to due with geography. He will live on American soil. He will attend American schools. He will have American parents and siblings. On port of entry, he receives unalienable rights.

So each day I have helped my son visualize his new geography. We have worked on this eighty-piece puzzle of our fifty-state nation to give him context for his new home. And I took it as a sign of God's good humor and outstretched hand that the final piece we fit into the puzzle the first day was the state of Indiana. The Hoosier State. Home. Where Sensi will become who God has made him to be.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Battle for Control: A Timeless Parenting Tale

I had to unplug the TV. It's magnetic pull possessed my son. So many new luxuries have greeted him in this hotel. At the orphanage I doubt Sensi had control over many light switches, telephone receivers, faucet levers or computer devices. As soon as he inhabited our deluxe-sized bedroom, he began to test the limits of his control.
Quickly my son learned how to operate the TV by remote; after numerous bouts of correction and rebellion, I hid the device. (Please God don't let me forget it's in my toiletry bag before I leave. And please God, don't let Sensi find it there.) 

Not to be rebuffed, minutes later Sensi located the manual ON/OFF switch on the side of console. He pressed it ON. 

"Please turn it OFF." 

He pressed it OFF. 

ON: again. "OFF, Sensi."

OFF: again.

At first, I offered to watch TV with him on the bed as a compromise, but given the lineup of shows, Sensi denied. He was more interested in seeing the LG logo than watching Premier Soccer League or Slugterra. (Can you blame him for this?) 
Actually, he was more interested in having control.

This need for control plays out all day. While our hotel room offers a scenic balcony view and two complimentary water bottles, it's a meager amenity for two people passing twelve hours in 200 square feet.* Even my selection of books, toys, and activities has lost its luster after eighteen rehearsals (excluding Curious George Goes Camping due to the unfortunate encounter with skunk!).
Needless to say, we've gotten a little bored. And boredom leads to bad behavior.

Whenever Sensi gets bored he shuffles to the forty-two inch* flat screen and presses ON (see above). Judging by the number of times he's pressed the button, I fear boredom has subverted bonding. 

This morning I grew tired of redirecting and denying my son. So while he was in the bathroom flushing the toilet ("Just one flush, Sensi"), I pulled the plug on the LG. Minutes later, when boredom and control collided, you can guess what happened. Yes: Sensi reached for the TV again. 

He pressed ON. Nothing.

He pressed ON again. Still nothing.

He shot me a look of quiet confusion.  "It's not working?" I replied. "Weird."

Sensi and I have bonded. We have also battled. Our brief confrontations have revolved around control. In his new-found freedom, he wants to manage everything. Buttons and lights have undeniable allure. But I am the dad, and I deny him, even if I cannot control him.

This pattern does not surprise me. At the root of all sin is the need to control. Throughout this adoption process, God has reminded me how illusory my control is. The global orphan epidemic and childhood trauma are outside my control. Court dates and waiting periods are outside my control. Government officials, both international and all-American, are outside my control. Air fares and flight delays are outside my control.

I would be a fool to assume too much control simply because the adoption process has reached its final stage. Now begins the arduous labor of parenting, where Liz and I shape another freethinking, self-willed being into maturity. Bonding and battles (with intermittent boredom) will continue as we each vie for control. Our four days in 200 square feet* is but a prelude.

What I can control is my trust in God and patience for His unfolding. I can control my purity of heart and compassion toward my children. And, yes, in the meantime, I can unplug a television.

*Ethiopia uses a metric system, so the hotel may not concur that their TV is 42-inches and room 200-square feet. I write with an inherent American bias.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I Was an Unexpected Visitor

They did not know I was coming to the orphanage today. It explains the absence of red carpet and confused greeting I received from Sister Camille. "You're coming for Sensi? No one told us."

"I was afraid of that," I replied.

Communication between my agency and the orphanage had gone cold. I had experienced a lag in email responses myself, as of late. "They've been so responsive up until now," I told Liz last week. "But this is when we need them the most."

Sister Camille stood before me, shaking her head. "I was beginning to wonder about Sensi. What's happening? Did they find TB or something else? We've heard nothing."

"Well, he passed his medical exam," I assured her. "And I said I would be here Tuesday because we have an embassy appointment tomorrow."

"Praise God," she said, tracing a cross from her forehead to chest to shoulders.

Sensi, of course, was not prepared to see me. Since the orphanage workers did not have prior notice, they could not tell him, "Your daddy is coming." So I was an unexpected visitor.

After a moment of commiseration, I asked, "What do we know? I just showed up. I don't know anything." I needed information about Sensi's paperwork, medications, daily schedules, diet, and how to keep his skin from drying out.

The Sister and I hatched a plan. I would wait in the sitting room, listening to rain pummel metal rooftops, while she made arrangements. She summoned Sensi and called the local lead for my adoption agency. She gathered baby oil (for his scalp) and meds (for his thyroid).

Ten minutes later Sensi appeared. So did Sister Luthgarde. "I didn't know you were coming," she said. This, apparently, was a refrain for the day. When two ladies from my agency arrived within the hour, carrying a copy of the court decree and a file of medical tests, they echoed the sentiment: "No one told us you were coming."

Sensi never said a thing, but that is his nature. I may have been an unexpected visitor to him, but he showed little sign of shyness. In fact, he quickly reflected a level of comfort and warmth. When I read him a book, he turned the pages. When I drew a picture, he added a scribble with his pen. When I crawled to the floor and pushed a miniature monster truck (an oxymoron, no doubt) in his direction, he laughed and sent it rushing back.

This boy looked similar to the one I adopted five weeks ago, but he acted drastically different. Whereas before he was braced, today he was buoyant. We laughed and joked, explored elevators and balconies, read books and colored pages, built Legos and ate cake. When he tried on a new outfit, he beamed with pride, even shuffling his feet in a modest dance.

The day was not without stretches of boredom and difficulty. We flitted from activity to activity, as if he were a bumblebee or three-year old boy. He touched every screen, manipulated every switch, messed with the phone, and stuck his hand down the toilet (after several flushes). I constantly redirected, reaffirmed, and reminded myself this was the same boy I met a month ago.

His lively, humorous, and ornery nature were not what I had expected. But my expectations were formed by a few hours in a formal setting. Perhaps, you get a better impression of someone when you come to them as more than a visitor. Today I came as a father to bring him home.

Monday, May 9, 2016

It Is Not Bad for Man to Be Alone

It is not bad for man to be alone.

Those familiar with the biblical narrative know I've just co-opted a line from Genesis. Worse yet, I've contradicted a clear statement from the Bible. Speaking of Adam, God said: "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). I am like Adam in so many ways: bearing God's image, betraying God's rule, and longing for a moment (or more) of unashamed nakedness with my wife (Genesis 2:25). But unlike Adam, my loneliness is good.

God did not handcraft me to fill the earth and father all peoples (Genesis 1:26-28). He did send me to Ethiopia to finish an adoption and father a son. And I arrived two days early. I wanted to adjust to the time, prepare our room, settle my heart, and do a little shopping. I fed the last of these desires this afternoon, spending a few thousand Birr* for keepsakes and Christmas gifts.
In spite of all my spending, reading, resting, and organizing, this primitive ill called loneliness has pinned me down. And I have embraced it. For this loneliness has made me more conscious of God's redeeming presence, the passage of time, and the people who pass it with me. 

Loneliness & the Presence of God
God has affirmed His redeeming presence amid my meddlesome fears and stresses. The loneliness presses these anxieties to the surface. From point A to H on this trip, I have worried about missing a step, checkpoint, or start time. Even though all my paperwork is finished, I still fear something with the visa appointment may fall through -- my driver forgets to show; my agency forgets my file; my passport gets rejected. These fears are unfounded, and I hear God continue to say, "Trust me." Psalm 91 echoes in my head.

Loneliness likewise exposes my fear of people. It is fair to call me conspicuous in Ethiopia. I shout America louder than Donald Trump. However, my international sensitivities are higher. Too high. I feel apologetic, conscientious, and out of place. I assume everyone is watching me as I perform some cultural foul. On my first trip, Liz and the girls provided a constant sense of belonging. They are not here; I am alone. Yet in my dizzying sense of isolation, God affirms His redeeming presence. He says,"Fear not, I am with you... I am your God" (Is. 41:10).

Loneliness & the Passage of Time
Loneliness has slowed down the passage of time. (Perhaps this is how Adam could do so much in a single day!) My awareness of the hours I carve out for meaningful activities -- exercise, study, conversation, eating, service -- or flush on amusements -- Yahoo Sports, YouTube, and Jedi mind tricks -- has intensified. Yesterday I purposefully moved from desk to floor to balcony to hotel lobby to bed to divide up time. I alternated from writing to calisthenics to people-watching to eating to reading. Each event and location cut time into consumable bites, so I could swallow the lonely elephant.

Loneliness & the People I Love
Loneliness reminds me how much I enjoy the noise of my family (and my absence reminds them how much noise I contribute). Shared space results in shared experience. Thousands of miles (and unreliable WiFi) has limited our sharing; no shared meals, no spying on neighbors, no celebrating homework scores and track races. Every family interaction I notice here digs the lonely blade a bit deeper.

In addition to immediate family, my thoughts have wandered to friends, church, and other relatives. Every text, email, and Instagram heart is a lifeline. I hereby swear to redouble my contact with overseas missionary friends. My church lifted my spirits yesterday when on of its hip, young members sent me a live Tweet during the service. I liked it (and him #BrandenIsMyFavorite). Relationships enrich my lives and spare us from loneliness..

Loneliness & the Place for a Son
Of course, I would not want this loneliness to last forever. Indeed, I know it will not.

Tomorrow my loneliness will shift. Tomorrow I will fill the rib space with a new son. Tomorrow I will bring him to the place I have prepared for him -- where time passes slowly, thousands of miles from loved ones, but within the reach of God's redeeming presence. 

Tomorrow Sensi and I will be alone together. And it will be good.

*21.4 Birr is equal to 1 US Dollar. One can spend 2000 Birr and not break a Benjamin.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Getting Situated (and Awaiting Sensi) in Addis Ababa

The first time I landed in Addis Ababa, the passengers gave a round of applause to the pilots. This time we did not celebrate. We simply unbuckled, grabbed our carry-on luggage, and disembarked.
The first time I entered in Bole International Airport, my two daughters leaned next to me in the visa line, eyes bloodshot and legs slack. Our encore to eighteen hours of travel was another hour of waiting for a sticker. Margot cried. And when we added thirty more minutes to claim a lost suitcase, I cried too. This time I stood in line alone, quickly earned my visa stamp, and found the only bag I checked.

The first time I drove through Addis Ababa, I was blown away by the foot traffic and erratic driving. Horns blared, cars swerved, sheep bleated, and pedestrians flooded the streets. This time I smiled at the familiar sights, noting the Edna Mall, Kaldi's Coffee, and the arena construction across the road from our hotel.
And the first time arrived at the Addissinia hotel, I rode the elevator to the eight floor, where me and my three ladies found our Family Suite. We spread out our things, claimed our beds, and took a brief nap. We couldn't sleep too long because we wanted to adjust to the seven-hour difference before our first meeting with Sensi the following day. 
This time, after a warm welcome from the staff, I walked to the second floor to a Deluxe Double room. The same rumble of construction and timbre of horns sounded outside, but inside my room was quiet. No Liz and the girls chattering. Sensi does not arrive for another two days. Even then, I know my boy will not fill the room with his voice. He has yet to find it.

But I have come early to prepare a place for him. After claiming the bed closest to door, I began my work. For an hour I organized our environment: arranging stuffed animals on the mattress; placing clothes in drawers; taking inventory from our lost luggage; lining up toiletries; stacking books; sorting snacks; and stocking Sensi's backpack for when I pick him up at the orphanage. 

He leaves his orphanage without any personal belongings--naked we come, naked we go--but he will come to a place where he belongs. A place I have prepared. A place that is the first step toward home.

(NOTE: It's so much easier to write a blog on my computer. I'm grateful to have it back and that it works. Claire and Margot will be happy to have Doggie and Froggie back, too. And Liz, if you read this, I found your makeup, but you look lovely without it)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Church Metrics: What Do You Track?

I value my sleep. I dedicate a third of my life to the activity. But I refuse to wear a sleep monitor. I don't need data to tell me how rewarding my sleep was the night before; the drool on my pillow paints a good enough picture.

Not all metrics are created equal; not all data are equally helpful.
Regardless, in the digital age, we tend to reduce our lives to quantifiable points: steps, calories, and sleeping hours. The church is not immune to the tracking trend. We count attendance, financial contributions, and volunteer hours. This is nothing new. In ages past, the apostles counted converts (Acts 2) and King David numbered fighting men (2 Samuel 24).
Tracking itself is not the problem. What stunts the church is deriving value from misleading metrics. According to Os Guinness, we measure quantity instead of quality: "[Metrics] tell us about the externals of religion and say nothing about the heart" (Renaissance, 43). Because most metrics fail to inspect the more elusive markers of Christian maturity (think fruit of the Spirit), Guinness fears the church will prefer "decisions rather than discipleship, bandwagon rather than Bible, and performance rather than relationship" (ibid., 44).

When we clearly track attendance, participation, and budgets, but havefew metrics for spiritual maturity, our value for performance and popularity seems to outweigh our call to raise people to their full potential in Christ (Ephesians 4:13-16): the ultimate win for Equipping Churches.

So what's a church leader to do? Scrap metrics altogether? Certainly not! Equipping Churches make use of metrics. They measure maturity.

In his recent book, Rediscovering Discipleship, Robby Gallaty argues for assessing churches by their weight, not head count. He proposes tracking D-Groups (discipleship groups of 3-4 people) that are Missional, Accountable, Reproducible, Communal, and Scriptural. This is one way to measure maturity.

Stetzer and Rainer encourage "changing the scorecard" in their book Transformational Church. Their metrics evaluate the Missionary Mentality, Vibrant Leadership, Relational Intentionality, Prayerful Dependence, Worship, Community, and Mission of a church. This is another way to measure maturity.

Our church (Leesburg Grace) has identified eighteen clear markers of maturity, which serve as the the rationale behind our preaching, teaching, training, gathering, and serving. This is our way to measure maturity.

Many of my colleagues measure church plants, mobilized leaders, next steps, baptismal testimonies, personal stories, and ministry teams. Ways to measure spiritual maturity abound. Whatever constitutes the precise data points, Equipping Churches prefer tracking changed hearts rather than head counts.

Think | Assess | Discuss
What do you measure in your ministry? Is it quantitative or qualitative? How well do your metrics reflect the maturity of the body? Did you drool at night? 
(First published for Equipping Network May Newsletter)