Advice on Taking the Trail for the First Time

by | September 27, 2018

Many years and miles of backpacking in America’s wilderness areas have taught me a few things about taking a trail for the first time – about intentionally wandering into a much bigger and wilder world where you are not in control of everything. Visionary and entrepreneurial church leaders are drawn to something analogous – to stepping out in faith onto unfamiliar new paths. Are you ready to finally get out there? Ready to do something bold and different? Ready to go somewhere unknown where you are not in control? Here are six lessons I've learned from taking the trail for the first time.

 

1. Have a plan and carry a map.

Your sense of adventure and faith are admirable, but a successful journey is going to take some serious preparation and work on your part. Regardless of what you may think, you are not likely the first explorer in these parts. Learn everything you can about where you think you are going. Do the research. Talk with people who have taken that trail. Walk with someone who has taken the trail, if possible. Know as much as you can about what you are getting into. Study the landscape, topography, and the changing weather. Adequately prepare for the dangers and the wonders you may encounter. Know how to use whatever your compass is. If you have no idea what your definition is of true north, then you will never find your way. Sure, you may well decide to deviate from your original course; but creativity works better if you have a clear picture of your context to start with.

 

 

2. Carry as little as possible with you.

I do not know a better way to say this than … you do not need more and more stuff to carry on your back. You are not going to make it very far carrying a lot of weight that you don’t actually need. From experience, I can tell you … the more times you take a trail, the lighter your backpack becomes. Thoughtfully pack the necessities you will need for your journey and leave the rest behind. Pare down. Then pare down again. Focus on the basics -- the fundamentals. The problem with most churches is not what they might do in the future – the problem is the drag of all that they think they need to carry with them into the future. Before taking the trail for the first time, lighten your load by removing extra baggage; only take the stuff that matters.

 

3. Walk with someone you can count on.

Taking a trail for the first time is not something you can do all on your own. It is not likely you will travel with a large group, so choose your companions carefully.  Find a mentor, a visionary, an entrepreneur, another leader, or a friend to share the journey. Your trailblazing companions should provide perspective, insight, encouragement, caution, help, and company along the way. Yes, it is possible to trek alone, but you are more likely to successfully reach your destination with trusted companions alongside you.

 

 

4. Open yourself up to a new perspective.

Explore. Discover. Ask new questions. Be amazed and awed and blessed. If you have already lost your sense of wonder and amazement, then you are better off staying comfortably at home.  Walk with your head up instead of watching your feet. Remember to look around! Stop often just to take in everything. Be open to new ideas -- perhaps even grander than you dared to imagine. Listen well. Write and keep a travel journal.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Understand how small you are ... and how astonishingly big the world is.

The wider world is an enormous place that you are just a small part of. That viewpoint may be the most important discovery of your journey. This trail was never actually about you anyway. This journey is about God's plan - the same one that created the wilderness you are exploring. Go discover what else is out there.

 

 

 

6. Mentor: become a trail guide.

Help other people to experience what you have experienced. The trail you walked is not real to anyone else until you help them to step out on their own. You have encountered something inspiring and amazing. That is wonderful! But now, how do you help other people experience that journey for themselves? How can you create and facilitate experiences to help other people walk their own paths of discovery?

 

 

 

Mick Tune was a pastor for eighteen years and has worked as a consultant with churches across the country for more than twenty years. He is a partner with Doug Turner at Culture of Ready (a ministry partner with Horizons Stewardship) and the author of Wildering: Anyone’s Guide to Enjoying the American Wilderness.

Images by Mick Tune

5 Comments

  1. Excellent article. Would you be offended if I used part/most of it for a sermon? Our church is at a point that it needs these ideas.

    Thank you.

    Ron Johnson, pastor Mt Carmel UMC

    Reply
    • Yes great stuff. Also take a look at Repacking Your Bags by Lieder.

      Reply
  2. What I needed for today. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Thank you. I am serving in a traditional setting, but I am spending a great deal of time with two other ministries that are focusing on serving the homeless and the least, the last, the lost and the lonely. People have criticized me for wasting my time with these ministries, but I feel I can learn so much from the trails they are walking. Thanks for the confirmation.

    Reply
  4. As someone who loves trying new things and the love of the outdoors (hiking, backpacking, canoeing, photography, etc) this really caught my eye. I took on the position of stewardship chair this year and we are a week from the first announcement. I wish I would have this article at the beginning but it is all lost. I am printing out so I can pass this one to next year’s chair as I mentor that person. And yes, one can do it alone, but not advisable. A committee that is willing to work is a blessing. Thank you for this inspiration.

    Reply

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Mick Tune was a pastor for eighteen years and has worked as a consultant with churches across the country for more than twenty years. He is a partner with Doug Turner at Culture of Ready (a ministry partner with Horizons Stewardship) and the author of Wildering: Anyone’s Guide to Enjoying the American Wilderness.

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So how should churches respond to these changes? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Educate yourself, your staff, and donors about the changes that impact charitable gifts. The TCJA left the charitable deduction intact while repealing and limiting many others. In fact, some benefits were actually expanded! Many denominational and community foundations have staff whose primary job is providing advice and resources for their constituents. Take advantage of these low-cost (or free) resources. The Sharpe Group has excellent white papers and educational materials, too. “Talk to your financial advisors” should be your mantra in 2018 and 2019!

 

  1. Promote the benefits of gifts of appreciated securities and other non-cash assets, such as IRA rollovers. Because about 8,000 Baby Boomers turn 70 ½ every day, appreciated asset gifts will be increasingly important in funding your ministry. Remember the IRA rollover provision allows eligible donors to enjoy the tax benefits of their gifts regardless of whether they itemize. However, your church will not receive asset gifts unless you make a conscious effort to educate members about these opportunities. Remember to tell donors how these gifts make a substantial difference to your mission and ministry. Colleges and nonprofits are making the case for why they should receive these gifts. Be sure you are doing the same.

 

  1. Inform your donors that the federal estate and gift tax has, for all practicable purposes, been eliminated. Many donors created estate plans based on the old tax laws. Those plans usually included insurance or assets in trusts to pay the necessary taxes. Any bequests to family and charities were made from the remaining assets. The higher estate tax exemption means donors can leave more to charity and increase the amount distributed to family members! Position your church to be the recipient of these “extra savings.” Once again, take advantage of the resources available through denominational and community foundations.

The new tax law does not mean your giving will be negatively impacted. But growing giving requires being informed about the best ways to give.

Too many church leaders are operating under the assumption that the TCJA will have a negative impact on giving. Robert Sharpe reminded us that the “sky has never fallen” except during major economic downturns. It is clear the opportunities made possible by the new law outweigh the threats created by it. Churches need to tell that good news in order to enhance their ability to proclaim THE Good News!

Tom Norwood, D.Min, CFRE is a Senior Vice President with Horizons. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister who holds degrees from Davidson College, Columbia Theological Seminary, and Yale University. Tom is a regular speaker at regional and national fundraising and stewardship conferences.

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