December 13, 2016

A New Thing | Sara Shisler Goff

For background on this series, read this. This was inspired by the How I Work series over at Lifehacker. If there are planters, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs–ministry leaders that are working on new enterprises that you know and think I should profile, fill out this form or leave me a note on Twitter or Facebook.
About Sara: Missional Voices recently announced that they are partnering with the Slate Project for a pre-gathering ahead of this year's event. I'm pleased to introduce you to one of Slate's founding leaders. Sara Shisler Goff is a co-founder and co-pastor of the Slate Project. Since May of 2016, she has served as Director of Communications and Ministry Development for Listening Hearts Ministries. She is also desperately trying to finish her DMin dissertation (on “being church with a ‘clean slate’”) and graduate from Episcopal Divinity School in May 2017.

The Series: Colby Martin | Jane Gerdsen | Jeya and Dan So | Sara Shisler Goff | Katie Nakamura Rengers

Can you describe your new thing?
Our new thing is the love child/brain child of Jason Chesnut, Jennifer DiFrancesco and myself. We called it “the Slate Project” because we wanted to explore what church could be like with a “clean slate.”

Why you? What drew you to do this?
I felt a longing to create a church I wanted to be a part of. This may be completely selfish, but I was a part of starting the Slate Project because I needed a place in the church where I could bring my whole self. That is why I keep doing this. I need a community of faith, confession, and self-critique, which is what the church should be. I am always asking questions, always wondering if it can be done another way, always getting bored and saying, “You know what, let’s get rid of that and try something completely different.” The church has hurt me and disappointed me, and it continues to because it is made of freaking humans, but I love it and I believe it needs me as much as I need it.

How would you describe yourself?
I feel like the “extrovert” was sucked out of my when I was ordained. I love being a part of creative conversation and I feed off of other people’s energy, but then I need to be alone and crash.

I’m a “2,” “the helper,” so that makes sense. I have to be careful not to agree to do everything for everyone else and try and fix everything and make everything ok RIGHT NOW. Those are my continual growing edges.

I hate waiting and I like being in control so I try to sit and do nothing (i.e. “meditate) as much as possible and practice being.

Where and when are you most productive?
I have discovered that the best time for me to sit at a desk and write is in the morning. Not crazy early, but like between 9-12. Then I start to get hangry and then I start to get sleepy so I either need to get up and move or take a nap. I get a second wind around 8pm which is rarely helpful except when I am preaching the next morning and I have a sermon to finish.

What inspires you to create?
A void.

What are you currently reading or listening to that inspires you?
Well, I keep making the mistake of starting new books and wanting to include their elements in my thesis. I just started reading Beyond Monotheism: A Theology of Multiplicity by Laurel C. Schneider and I think it is going to change my life. I’m also digging anything Richard Rohr says. And of course all things BrenĂ© Brown. I did her Daring Way certification program and I loved it. I am have been playing around for several years now with Patrick Cheng’s seven models of the Queer Christ from his book From Sin to Amazing Grace and I am using them to structure one of the chapters in my thesis. So fun.

Start-up’s can be spirit-draining work. What nourishes your soul?
Laughing. I like to watch T.V. shows on Netflix because I can get lost in other people’s lives- that are not real. It helps give my brain a break. I love being outside in the sun and by water and trees. Vitamin D is good for the soul. I love hanging out with my dogs. They are rarely stressed about anything.

Starting something new requires knowing who will be served by the thing you are creating. What method(s) have you employed to understand your context?
Lots of listening and then being willing to change course. When we started the face-to-face aspects of the Slate Project we thought that we would attract people who were otherwise not interested or involved in church. We attract those folks online, but face-to-face we got people who were currently leaders in other churches! So we found out that we fill a need we didn’t even know was there. Being honest with ourselves about what is actually happening is always a good method.

Typically, there are fewer people available to get work done in new endeavors. What do you use to manage your time, get things done and/or delegate to your team?
If there is no energy around something we don’t do it. Or if there is waning energy we have a conversation about what’s going on and discern if we are being called to continue in the same way or change things up. The only reason I don’t work all the time is because I physically can’t. That speaks to how much I love this work and it speaks to how generally crappy our culture’s work/life balance still is. My co-pastors and I are really great about asking each other for help when we need it and not holding it against each other when we come up against our limits. We are all human. I don’t think this kind of ministry should be or can be done alone. Not just because it is too much work or there is not enough time for one person to do everything, but because if there is not the opportunity and space for creation to happen in relationship, then something significant is missing. God is relational and is known relationally. If we are going to participate in the life of God, we must do it with others.

Time and resources are often limited during start-up’s. What time-savers have you found useful? What have you found is worth splurging on and what can you skimp on?
I need a good phone, laptop and fast internet connection. I make lists all the time. I try not to let myself check email all day long, but I often do. We splurged a bit on a shruti box. Totally worth it.

Where do you find affirmation that you are doing what you were meant to do?
I find an underlying peace about it. I think that may be what joy feels like—not exuberance or excitement but a deep, calm joy.

On days that you go to bed with a deep sense of satisfaction, what happened? What was accomplished?
I remember during the uprising when we were out protesting and cleaning up the city and meeting with people every day. I went to bed every night feeling like I really, fully showed up. Yeah it was messy and scary at times, but it was so real. Those were not “status quo” days. Those were not “maintenance” days. Those were break through the barrier days. And I know every day can’t be like that. But those days I woke up ready.

What advice would you offer to others starting something new?
Don’t wait for an institution to give you money or a blessing. Just do it. Find a way to do it.

If there are leaders you think I should profile, fill out this form or leave me a note on Twitter or Facebook.

The Series: Colby Martin | Jane Gerdsen | Jeya and Dan So | Sara Shisler Goff | Katie Nakamura Rengers