Monday, November 14, 2011

Church Can Be Different 3 - 100% of Offerings to the Poor

Let me introduce you to Keith Giles, "Author, Blogger, Missionary" who planted a church that gives 100% of their offerings to the poor.  He tells his story here, and below is a glimpse of how his church has reached out to their neighbors. (For them, "neighbors" really does mean the folks on their street.)  The excerpt below is from his church's blog.

"...from the beginning (about five years ago now) we started reaching out to the kids in our neighborhood. At first that involved leading Kids Church in our home on Sunday mornings. Mainly because Wendy and I had been children's pastors at our previous church (and we loved teaching kids together), and also because by inviting the kids in our neighborhood to come on a Sunday morning we would figure out which families already went to church somewhere and which one's didn't. Most of them, we figured out, didn't attend anywhere on Sunday mornings.
Later, we hosted pancake breakfasts for everyone in our cul-de-sac on the Fourth of July and we intentionally went out of our way to meet our actual neighbors, invite them over for dinner, take out their trashcans for them, and serve them in whatever ways we could. In essence, we determined that we would become missionaries to our neighbors. 
Over time, (and this is an ongoing story), we got to pray for families in real trouble. We got to encourage them. We got to share Jesus with their kids. We got to see their kids fall in love with Jesus. We got to share groceries with families in financial need. We got to tutor their kids in math and spelling. We got to babysit when they were in a bind. 
Suffice it to say, our neighbors know that there's a church on their street, and they know that we love them and that Jesus loves them. We're still hoping to make a deeper impact for them and to bring the Kingdom of God into their lives in a more powerful way, but we also know that God wants this even more than we do and He will lead us as we continue to submit ourselves to Him."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Church Can Be Different - 2

No pulpit, no pews, no "pastor," no programs, no property.  No budget, no band.

People in prayer, baptism, conversion, spontaneous "church planting" to a new site (i.e. living room), joyful invitations spreading on social networks.

Read the story from Felicity Dale below and that's what you'll see.  You can find the original post here.

Church can be different.


A story from our simple/organic church--and an urgent request

We need to go away more often. It's amazing what happens when we leave the country. 
We currently have a simple/organic church that meets in our home. It's actually run by our daughter and son-in-law. We turn up from time to time.
For most of September and part of October, Tony and I were in Russia and the UK. Shortly after we left, a young man named Jose (aged 15) turned up at the gathering--schoolfriend of two nieces of Roxie who is part of the church. Jose is a sweet, incredibly loving, guy with a great sense of humor and a real love for the Lord. Jose had one thing on his heart.
"Pray that my mom will come to church with me. She needs Jesus."
His prayer was speedily answered. The very next week his mom, Rosaura, came with him. Rosaura had many needs. She had major problems with both drugs (including crack) and alcohol. The group spent most of their time together that week praying for her. She surrendered her life to Jesus and was completely delivered--no substance abuse since then. 
The following week the group didn't meet for various reasons but Rosaura was anxious that her sister, who has also had problems with alcoholism, get prayed for too. So Roxie opened up her home and the sister was set free too. Roxie has had a weekly get-together in her home since then.
Two weeks ago we were back in the country. That week, during our time together, Rosaura's sister gave her heart to the Lord.
Jose's simple faith led to his mother and aunt finding Jesus.
Last week, the family turned up with some devastating news.
"Jose has been diagnosed with a brain tumor!"
Apparently Jose had been having increasing problems with headaches and deteriorating vision. He saw an eye doctor early last week. Several urgent specialist visits later, he was diagnosed with a large, infiltrating tumor pressing on his optic nerve and pituitary gland. He is scheduled for the 8-hour surgery tomorrow.  Full recovery of both nerves and his endocrine system is expected to take more than a year. As yet, there is no way to know if the tumor is malignant or benign.
Rosaura is standing firm in her new-found faith. The morning Jose was due to see  the neurosurgeon, she asked the Lord, "Please show me something from your word." She opened her Bible randomly to Mark 1 and put her finger down on verses 30-34--the story of Jesus healing not just Peter's mother-in-law but also many other sick  or demon-possessed people. She knows that Jesus is working in her son's life.
Two days ago, we had a phone call from Roxie. 
"Jose and Rosaura want to get baptized tomorrow before Jose's operation."
So yesterday evening, around 40 people gathered around our hot tub as Jose and Rosaura were gloriously baptized.  Many of their family members and friends were there, several having come into town to support Jose and Rosaura through the ordeal of major surgery. 
So here's our urgent request: obviously we have prayed for Jesus to heal Jose, but his surgery is scheduled for 10 am tomorrow morning. Rosaura has given permission for us to tell her story and to enlist others in the battle for Jose's life and health. Please pray that if the tumor is still there, it is easily removed without complications, and that Jose makes a full recovery with no residual effects. And it would be wonderful if you would get others to pray too. 
Many thanks--and if the Lord reveals anything to you as you pray, let us know.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sermon Writing and the Stewardship of Time

I posted a question about sermons in an ELCA clergy forum on Facebook, but would like to hear from other folks as well so I thought I'd put it up here to get your thoughts:
"A recent question here asked about time spent on sermon prep. Eight hrs/week was mentioned, as was the "1hr per minute" rule. MLK Jr. apparently clocked in at 15hrs. I confess, this makes me wonder about the stewardship of time. What if, say, even once a month, you took 6 hours and spent them with a group of three people instead. Maybe 2 hours at a time on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Talk with them about their lives and faith, pray and study scripture together to see what Jesus is saying to them these days. Then on Sunday, the four of you spend 20 minutes in worship as a group sharing with the congregation what God has been up to among you over the past week. Question: would that be more beneficial to the Kingdom than the usual 8 hours and a sermon from you? Be sure you factor in the value of life-change experienced by the three people (and you!) over the week. What do you think?"

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Church - and life - can be different

Came across this article today about some house church folks who are doing what is sometimes called "incarnational ministry" in Kansas City.  They and others have intentionally moved into a "blighted" area of town.  It reminded me of what I wrote in part of my Facebook profile: "Christianity may be a religion, but following Jesus is an alternative lifestyle and faith is a lived relationship."  Check it out if you'd like a little window into different ways to live the faith.

Cultivating community: Church members forsake suburbs to put down roots in struggling urban neighborhood

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Adult Baptisms per 100 People in Worship

In connection with my previous post on helping congregations learn from each other about doing evangelism, my friend Ron Amundson was struck by the chart below that is included in the background section of the discussion site.  So I thought I might lift it up here as well.

The chart shows the number of adult baptisms per year per 100 people in worship in a (non-representative) sample of 27 of the 107 ELCA congregations in the Saint Paul Area Synod.  (Since most of them are less than one per year on this measure, the data was actually produced by averaging worship and baptism statistics for the six-year period of 2000 through 2005.  This kind of data is publicly available, by the way, on the ELCA website. Once you find the congregation you are interested in, look for the "Full Trend Report" link for a wealth of information.)

A couple of things to note:

  • Some congregations appear to have no effective evangelism (by this measure) with no adult baptisms over the six-years represented in the data.
  • Among congregations that do report adult baptisms over the last six years, there can be a ten-fold difference in effectiveness.
  • There is no evidence here that larger congregations are more effective than smaller ones (by this measure.)  The data suggests that the reverse is likely to be true.

So.  More food for thought.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Learning to Evangelize... Maybe

This post is a bit of inside baseball/local interest mostly for my fellow Lutherans in the Saint Paul Area Synod. It's about a resolution I wrote for our upcoming Synod Assembly about evangelism.

In a nutshell, it's about discovering which congregations are being more effective among us and drawing out stories from them that the rest of us can learn from.

"Actually, I'm a Resolution."
To get this Resolution to the Synod Assembly, I brought it first to my Conference Assembly where it passed - but just barely, which was a surprise to me.

Next it was reviewed by the Synod's Reference and Counsel Committee which also had reservations and is recommending that the Synod Assembly not vote on it but rather have a discussion of evangelism at tables at the Assembly.

Well, there are 17 days left before the assembly and I'd still like to see this thing passed so I set up a little website where people can read and discuss it. It's public so anyone who wants to can join in. You can find it here at Learning to Evangelize.

We now return to our regular programming.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Theological Minimalism for Mission

At some point, I need to make a collection of My Favorite Metaphors.  Here's one that will surely make the list.

The Library
  When Lewis and Clark set off in 1804 to explore the Louisiana Purchase and seek out the Northwest Passage, I expect each of them had a sizeable library in their homes.  I envision whole rooms of wonderful books on Art, Literature, Science, Philosophy, History and so on; books that they valued highly, and yet chose not to take along.  For a settled life in Civilization, all those books were a great asset, but for a journey across the wilderness those same books would be a liability.  For mobility and exploration, it’s important to travel light.

  The “missional Church,” like those explorers, possesses a vast and wonderful library of theology, practices, liturgies, hymns, traditions, stories and so on.  For a settled Church in a civilized Christendom, that depth and breadth is a wonderful gift to enjoy.  But for a Church on the move into uncharted territories, the “library” is too much to carry.  The missional Church needs a field guide for this venture, a “Boy Scout Manual” that can fit in a back pocket.  The lighter it is, the less it will slow you down.  But it needs to cover the basics: food, shelter, safety, and navigation.  Thus the theme of minimalism.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Two or Three... is that it???

When you read Matthew 18:20 - "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them" - how does it sound to you?

Do you hear something like this:

For even where merely two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them?

Does that sound like the voice of Jesus coming through? Or is it more like the voice of our culture which, even though it it profoundly individualistic, still lives by the more is better, bigger is better value system?

How deeply has this taken root in the way we envision our faith communities?  It's pretty common to find that the Kingdom logic runs the opposite direction from "worldly wisdom."  Have we missed the boat and are we doing church upside down (or "backwards" as I argued in my napkin diagram here?)

Sure looks like it to me.

For more reflection on "two or three" in the Bible, take a look at this post from my friends over at Church Multiplication Resources.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spiritual Fruit-of-the-Week for Lent

Here's a little peek for you into Lent at the Thompson's this year.

My wife and I talked with our daughters (14 and 9) about what we'd like to do for Lent and we came up with the idea of picking one of the fruits of the Spirit (unintentional pun there, sorry about that) and all of us focusing together on it for a whole week.  Then the next week, we'll focus on a different one and so on.  This led to a very interesting conversation about which fruit was most urgent to get started on.  Kindness and Gentlenes were top contenders, but Self-control won out so we're off and running with that one as of today.

I made a little billboard of sorts to go on our table as a reminder with a complete set of fruits on sticky-notes tucked inside so we can swap them out from week to week.  We're also going to use this to help us all memorize the set of 9 in order by the end of Lent.  (I set up the billboard so you can hide the list while you try to put the notes in order, then open it up to see if you're right.  How slick is that?!)

So if you need an idea for intentionally shaping your faith while helping your kids to learn from your example, there you go.  If it's helpful, pass it along.  Either way, have a blessed season.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Napkin Diagram for Simple/Organic Church

Can there be a simple description of "Simple Church?"   You'd think so!  Roy McClung at Maximize My Ministry took a shot at it in the video below.

Note how he takes pains to be gentle in the comparison of simple and institutional church forms, stating that he is "in no way attacking" the more familiar form.  I have found that spirit to be common among the people I've encountered who are pursuing simple church (e.g. House2House and CMA).  It's a very good sign.

If you like napkin diagrams you may want to look at the one I've posted that shows how most of our resources are spent on the least effective things in conventional church settings - again, an argument in favor of simple church.  I'd also like to point out that I used a real napkin, which is more simple than Roy's fancy-schmancy video.  So there.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Zero Faith by Zip Code

I just ran across a little gadget on the Percept website where you can type in a Zip code and immediately find out what percent of the people living there report "No Faith Involvement."  For example, in my little corner of God's Country here in the upper Midwest, we manage to beat the national average (35%) by an exemplary three points, coming in at 32%!

Census data puts my Zip code at about 45,000 in the year 2000.  That means there are around 14,000 people with no faith involvement essentially in my backyard.

As they say, North America is a mission field.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Advice for Pastors, Bi-vocational and Otherwise, on Sustainable Life

An issue that comes up often among pastors who want to work in a simple/organic/house church mode is the need to be bi-vocational.  That is, since you're unlikely to get enough income (let alone health insurance) from your pastoring work, you need a second (or third) job to cover that.  This immediately leads to questions about how to manage it all and have some kind of sustainable life, all the more so if you have a family to tend as well.  Maybe it's no surprise, but the struggle for a sustainable life is a major challenge for full time professional clergy as well.  The depression statistics suggest it's a struggle we aren't managing well.

I came across a conversation on this topic back in November '09 that had more frankness and transparency than usual.  But perhaps the best post just showed up there the other day and I wanted to share it with you here.  I commend to you, and to myself, the wisdom and experience of bi-vocational pastor and church-planter Mark Woodruff:


I was cleaning up old email and this was sent to me by a church planting friend who has planted 4 churches in 2 countries over the last 20 years.
I myself finished my medical training in 1989 having been an elder and assistant pastor and built a church planting team in parallel from 1981-89. We moved to Omaha, NE where I started working full time as a doctor and quickly began to church plant. After 3 years in the Air Force we had established a leadership team(3 elders but unfortunately only me as pastor)and I moved to working part time in medicine(ED shifts, usually 2 12 hr shifts a week, including some nights).
Over the subsequent decade I continued this bivocational lifestyle while my children went from ages 11/7/5 to 21/17/15. The benefits of the ED were short hours but the disadvantages were increased stress and shift work.
At that point I had to make a change in my medical career and joined and subsequently bought into a medical practice. As that practice built it became increasingly obvious that I could not do a 60+ hour a week job and continue to pastor a church of about 75 people. After a 3 month sabbatical during which I sought the Lord I turned the church over to the other two elders and became “pastor emeritus”.
Here’s is what I learned about bivocational ministry:
1. You must be truly part time in both(or all 3 in your case): you can’t expect to work 80 hrs a week at 2 full time jobs, maintain your health and build your family(which is your primary calling/ministry in this life stage);

2. You must have a Sabbath!!!!!!! God established the Sabbath, and we neglect it at our own peril. I don’t know how to put this any stronger: I believe this is the primary cause of burnout, not working too many hours or church problems or anything else. That day must be a day refreshment, deep communion with God and rejuvenation(see Bill Hybels’ sermon tape: “Gifts, Gauges and Playing Games” about maintaining/filling your emotional tank; on my best days I would play some golf, read, nap, study just for the sake of studying, not sermon prep; also write, journal, ponder, think, fellowship with my wife and children, and share my heart with them; but I was not faithful to this, especially after I went back into family medicine and a full time job;

3. You must fight ministry maintenance at every turn; the benefit of newer church models is less maintenance, but you still have to delegate; you should never be doing cleanup,not because its beneath you but because others can do it and they can’t do what you are supposed to be dong when you are doing it!

4. You have to avoid the Superman syndrome–”I’ll do it”; think rigorously about whether “it” is in your calling/role/job description;

5. You must have as clear a delineation of your role/responsibilities as possible; I believe there are 3 primary leadership responsibilities in the church: a. vision casting and mission progression(seeing, articulating the vision and moving people to pursue it), b. pastoral care of the people, c. outreach leadership(leading others as they outreach, serve, care for and incorporate new lives into the Body of Christ). Discipleship is involved in the last two. If you have a 40 hour a week job(s) you will be lucky to do one of those well; at 20 hours a week you can probably do 2; to do all 3 you have to be fulltime(and it makes much more sense to split these tasks 2 or 3 ways anyway–there is quantitative research out of Fuller that shows 2 planters working half time will be more effective than one working fulltime); of note, anything not directly included in the above 3 is the responsibility of the deaconate, leading the people in doing he work of the church; also of note, much of this doesn’t fit the American culture nor the American church model;

6. You must have a pastor’s heart, particularly toward your wife and children; you don’t have to pastor(provide pastoral care) for the church, but you must have a pastor’s heart toward them, or you become a hireling; you must actually pastor your family, and given your busy schedule and your lifestyle, I recommend you be intentional in this(my wife used to sit down for an evening 2-3 times a year, discuss our children individually, talk about our vision for them, and write down a goal for each of them in the following three areas: body, soul and spirit; doing this for them at a young age when its easier incorporated it into our thinking when they were older, so it became almost automatic;

7. You must live a fairly spartan lifestyle; the amount of discipline in terms of exercise, rest, healthy eating(not gaining weight over time)does not leave a lot of time for secular pursuits(TV, following college/pro sports, hobbies–except as it relates to #2 above). One of my mistakes was thinking I “deserved” to watch football on Sunday afternoons(and Monday nights, and Saturday afternoons, etc) because I had “worked so hard”; this is unfair but an elite athlete gives up a lot of things his friends do because he’s “in training”; you are perpetually “in training”;

8. You must have focused one on one time with your wife, where you can shut out the other aspects of your life and focus on her; I recommend a 3 day weekend every quarter if possible; if you can’t afford to go anywhere, see if someone will take your kids(individually or corporately, you can return the favor) and see if anyone you know has a lodge/cabin/vacation home you could use for a weekend; don’t hesitate to talk to faithful pastors of larger churches who may be aware of this kind of thing and will be willing to share it with you;

9. You must have your own pastor/mentor; whether this is someone local with whom you develop an intimate relationship, or a denominational leader(if you are part of one) or another pastor who is translocal, you must have someone with whom you can be transparent, and it can’t be your copastor(s);

10. You must have plenty of grace for yourself and your limitations and the limitations of your lifestyle; God gives grace for your calling, but that grace is for you doing it in your weakness, not in perfection(ism).
These are the lessons I learned over more than 20 years of bivocational ministry.
I am not a prophet, but I do believe that full time paid ministry will ultimately disappear; it may hold on for a long time in the US, but it is already not part of the picture in much of the rest of the world; the American Church model of the 20th century is not sustainable in the 21st, for a variety of reasons.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Greenhouse" Organic Church Workshop offered in Minneapolis, March 2011

If you are interested in the simple/organic/house church movement and live in or around the Twin Cities there's an excellent opportunity coming up quickly for you.  Church Multiplication Associates is holding a Greenhouse Training March 18-20 in Minneapolis. It's a Friday evening, Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday afternoon.  

What's a Greenhouse?

In a nutshell, a Greenhouse training does two things:

  • Helps participants to reground their thinking about Church in "organic" terms as a simple, living organism that readily grows and reproduces. Much of the time at the training is spent exploring how that looks in practice, both as outreach and as discipling believers.
  • Invites participants to follow up on the training by gathering monthly through the following year for encouragement and supportive accountability as they begin to pursue this kind of "missional living" in the context of natural relationships.
I attended a Greenhouse some time ago and highly recommend it from that experience. The cost ranges from $110 to $150. It's worth it.

For more specific information, contact my friend Katie Driver who is the local coordinator and will be one of the presenters.  You can register here.  For more of my thoughts and opinions about it, read on.

Although the Greenhouse training has good content in several areas, that's not the main reason I suggest you go. Frankly, good content isn't that hard to find these days and you can buy a lot of books for the price of this registration. What makes this worthwhile is that it pulls together three things that I think are key to Kingdom work - whether you're talking evangelism, discipleship or social ministry for that matter:

Simplicity.  Lots has been written about simplicity.  That's ironic, that is. Simplicity is vital for something to be easily transmitted and replicated. That goes for churches as well as viruses. The Greenhouse training works with a very simple expression of church, simple in both written and in human forms. That's good.

Substantive Relationships.  Relationships where people feel safe enough to get below the surface of life are foundational, both for people to come to faith and for believers to mature in faith. This is one reason why conventional congregations struggle so much under the burden of maintaining a weekly large group gathering that inherently can't facilitate those kind of relationships. The Greenhouse training focuses on equipping people for exploring faith together in groups of 2 to 4 as normative. It offers one simple tool for people to use in self-facilitating such groups, but only as an example or as one resource they recommend.

Intentionality.  This truly is the linchpin. Even mediocre ideas that actually get implemented will probably show more results than great ideas that are left on the shelf. I think the Greenhouse folks know this, which is why the real goal of the training is not simply to deliver good content to people. It's to lay a foundation for the formation of supportive accountability groups. (That's my term. They call them Greenhouse Monthly Gatherings which sounds much more fun and friendly and is probably a better term for that reason.) At the end of the training, they invite those who are interested to begin meeting monthly to encourage each other as they work to live out what they have learned. And note how the monthly meeting is not the main event. Rather, it plays a supportive role to the weekly gatherings of people in groups of 2-4, most of whom have not had the Greenhouse training. That's the kind of flip-the-pyramid strategy that sent me off to learn about house churches in the first place, two years ago.

This is good stuff and these are good people. If you can get to a Greenhouse I think you'll be glad you went.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Navigating the Asteroid Field: Spiritual Growth Practice

One metaphor I keep returning to in my thinking about how to pursue the life of faith with intentionality is the asteroid field.  I haven't yet written about it here. but did bring it up recently over on Felicity Dale's Blog.  The topic there had to do with the tension between tending internal relationships vs. outreach to others, but that raised the question of whether there is a regular "sequence" to these things or not.  (E.g. "FIRST we get close, THEN we can reach out to others.")  In that context I dropped in my thought about navigating in the absence of a stable sequence or pathway.  I think it applies both to groups and individuals.  At any rate, here's the comment from that conversation which will at least introduce the metaphor for us here.

The critique of "sequentialism" resonated with me. It's like the traditional way of navigating where you have a map and a route and just go step by step. But that only works if the terrain stays put! These days I think navigating as a faith community is more like flying your moving spaceship through a field of randomly drifting asteroids. There is no "path," and if you start trying to chart one the asteroids will have moved before you get it finished so it's obsolete before it's done. Navigating in this environment is, I think, done by quick orientation followed by incremental movement, then repeat. And orientation means knowing what's right next to you as well as where you ultimately are trying to go.

In practice, I think that calls for the listening to God and each other that others have mentioned. We Refresh our awareness of where we are and where we are going, then Respond. So the path forward isn't laid out in advance as a sequence A to B to C to D etc. Rather, the sequence is replaced by a discipline: "(Refresh, Respond) Repeat."
I think, if we do that, then the original question about community vs. mission gets answered over and over as God leads.
Thoughts on an (R,R)R practice for faith life?  I'd love to hear them.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Visual Census Data

Interested in race, income, education, and housing diversity in the US or your local community?  Check out this fascinating, interactive map based on census data.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Community Pot Luck Accountability Experiment

Back in September I launched a little experiment in supportive accountability with some friends.  The idea was very simple: gather once a month for three months for a pot luck dinner, followed by a conversation.  The conversation was an opportunity for people participating to share some goals for their family faith life for the month, then report back at the next gathering.  I knew that was something I was wanting for my own family life so I was hopeful some others would want to give it a try as well.  I invited three other families, friends of ours with children around the same age as our daughters, and they all three signed on!  Woo-hoo!

Well, we finished our 3-month a couple weeks ago and will be re-upping for another round shortly which is a good sign.  And this time we're going to look for ways to gently lean our conversations towards more depth.  It's not like we were talking about the weather before, but it was clear that we were all drawn to the deeper sharing when it came about.  So rather than just let that happen whenever, we'll be looking for ways to nudge ourselves that direction without locking into anything rigid.  One idea that's been floated is to view the conversation time as a pot-luck too.  There's still an element of unstructured freedom at the core, but we would come to it "bringing something that we have prepared," be that a prayer, a question, a song or a thought.

This simple no-pressure accountability scheme of our first round really helped me to move on some of the things I've wanted to do, but never quite got started.  The simple presence of a kind of "due by date" on the calendar got me to follow through on my desire to have a monthly service project of some sort as a family. That part worked well.

Another part didn't work as well, and that turned out to be very instructive.  I kept setting a goal for having one or two intentional faith conversations per week with my daughters - to talk about different ways to pray for example - and those conversations just weren't happening.  And of course, by the end of the month it was too late to "catch up" before the pot luck!  (After all, what's a deadline for if you can't cram everything in just before it hits?)  So I changed the goal.  Rather than a goal to have conversations, I made the goal to set target dates for the conversations.  And the key here was to link the scheduling task itself to a fairly stable weekly event which we had in place around the Monday grocery shopping run.  So it went like this: once a week when my wife and I sat down to figure out the family schedule (who's home which nights; who's cooking what for dinner...) we also looked for two days per week to have a conversation, typically at dinner.  The goal was simply to plan which days we were going to shoot for having the conversations.  If they actually happened, that would be good too but the main thing was to have them in sight - it was what we needed to move our desire into a specific intention.

Well, it worked pretty well!  Most weeks now we are having these conversations on purpose with the girls and that's been a real treat.  And I've learned some good points about intentionality and the value of building off of existing schedule patterns.  But I probably wouldn't have gotten that worked out if not for trying and failing and reporting on it for three months in a row.

It's just a pot luck and a conversation, but it makes a difference.