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Beyond Simplicity

by Bob Sitze
Former Director for Hunger Education
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Now Blogger for The Lutheran Magazine


Chapter 1 - Beyond Simplicity

     Simple living is as much addition as subtraction.
     Simple living isn’t usually flashy.
     There’s more to simple living than meets the eye.
     Anyone can do this.
Beyond simplicity
Beyond complexity
Beyond techniques
Beyond behaviors
Beyond addiction
Beyond ideals
Beyond manageability
Beyond identity
Beyond individuality
Beyond dour
Beyond beyond

Chapter 2 - Getting to Start

Starting before you start
Running alongside you
Running with Jesus
Running with the wolves
Taking a gut check
How people don’t change
How people do change
Identifying “tippees”
Identifying “tippers”
Being a lifestyle leader
     Lifestyle leadership is more about moving in a direction
           than reaching the perfect destination.
     A lifestyle leader has a “lifestyle conscience.”
     Simple questions characterize a lifestyle leader more
          than complex answers.
     The faces of lifestyle leaders show smile wrinkles instead of worry-furrows.
Encouraging each other
Motivating each other
Some motivators
     Crisis and its cousins
     The example of Christ
     The presence and example of others
     Known capabilities waiting to be realized
     Moments of change
Getting around barriers
Avoiding common errors
Before you turn the page
     Lifestyle education isn’t just another program.
     It takes time to get ready for what’s important.
     You have what it takes.
     This might just be fun.

Chapter 3 - First Steps

Taking first steps
Finding some people
Finding some places
Finding some times
Setting the tone
     Simple living has to be joyful or it isn’t really “living.”
     Facts don’t engage much of the brain’s power.
     Good questions invite good answers.
     “Ain’t it awful” is always awful.
     Speak and listen with authority.
Talking together
Learning more
     Fitting in
          Find mutual interests with other leaders.
          Fit your emphases into existing programs.
     Favor friends
     Fill the empty places in other programs.
Taking advantage
     Most contemporary leaders are asking the same questions as you.
     The spiritual core of lifestyle education is inextricably bound into Scripture,
          all three parts of the creeds and church history.
     Lifestyle emphases might form the basis of your congregation’s identity.
     Simple living emphases integrate many aspects of congregational life.
Giving permission
     Keep your work below the radar line.
     If necessary, get a blanket “exploration permit”.
     Report and share before asking.
     Involve members who are influencers or tippers.
Choosing actions
     Require tasks or actions to be observable or measurable.
     Think about changes you’d like to see take place.
     Choose what you can actually accomplish.
Mapping assets
Starting small
Inviting others
     Speak plainly.
     Invite others into something that’s valuable to them.
     Invite people individually.
     Focus on what’s real.
Looking back

Chapter 1
Beyond Simplicity


A strange word, “beyond.” It’s a simple preposition, a time-and-space word that carries some delightful nuances. Beyond issues an invitation: “Be yon(der)”, or more fully: “Go over to there-and-then.” In order for that to happen, though, the bonds of here-and-now have to be broken. That’s how beyond becomes a word that denotes transition or movement, a kind of adventure.

Transcendence rides along with beyond: Those who transcend this place, this time, this way of thinking, this way of non-thinking­ those people might find it difficult to go back to where they were before. Beyond might then describe them permanently. They become “beyond people.”

When it’s attached to a noun form­let’s try “selfishness” for an example­beyond sparkles with curiosity and delight. (What IS beyond selfishness, after all?) When it follows an added verb­let’s try “think” as an example­beyond takes an ordinary action to a new place, a new manifestation or a new level of beauty or value. (In what wonderful ways might I now “think beyond selfishness”?)

Beyond teases new mental maps out of the metaphor-making parts of my brain--“Thinking beyond selfishness” is a more interesting metaphor than “Thinking is a kind of selfishness.” Beyond hovers at the edge of metaphysics, mystery and mysticism, at the place where “ordinary” stops and the opportunities or dangers of “extraordinary” begin.

In my playing with this word, I’m convinced that it’s the perfect companion for “simplicity.” In this book I’m hopeful that something more than usual simplicity is waiting for you, something important and transcendent for congregations that are ready for what’s coming next in God’s time.

Perhaps it’s just beyond this sentence.


In this field guide, “simplicity” and “simple living” will dance with each other like an old married couple: Comfortably close to each other, moving slowly, content just to be together. “Simplicity” encompasses just about any human enterprise that’s engaged upon with relative ease, or that’s relatively easy to understand. “Simple living” is any part of daily living that can be made more understandable, more manageable, more joyful. Here are some other ways I think about this old couple:

Simple living is as much addition as subtraction.

You may already understand the “stop doing this” part of simple living. But when you’re living simple, you also add to your life what got pushed aside in the hustle-bustle of accumulation. Some simple-living adherents would even invoke “multiplication” ­ of joy and satisfaction ­ the repeated addition of things like serenity, calm, spare time, quiet, ease, possibility, hope, friendship or savings.

Simple living isn’t usually flashy.

Most of the joys of simple living aren’t super-charged. When you declutter and slow down, you don’t get trapped into a razzle-dazzle identity or mindless frolicking. Deep joy hangs around like the scent of lilacs on a summer night. Extraordinary pops out of ordinary like the seeds in a sunflower.

There’s more to simple living than meets the eye.

If you keep at it long enough, simple living ends up as an insightful way of thinking and being. When you engage in purposeful simplicity, you’re not blinded by the mind-numbing stresses of the kind of “good life” that drains money or energy.

Anyone can do this.

Great intellect, wealth, power or spirituality are not requirements for living simply. If you’re not forced to live this way, simplicity is a choice you can make without having to know much more than that you want to stop being foolish about the way you’re living now.

Simplicity and simple living, married and still dancing after all these years!

Beyond simplicity

In some ways, simple living is never simple, and for many among us, it’s beyond what we could ever hope to be true in our lives. So why push simple living into its “beyond” state? Because the messes we’ve made of our lives aren’t going to last much longer. Let me be even more direct:
* The results of our increasingly materialistic lifestyles are sucking the life out of this planet, more quickly than ever before and perhaps irrevocably.
* We may not have much more time­less than a decade by some accounts--before slight downward trends become sliding spirals.
* Technology might save us from our own profligate ways, but so far the opposite seems to be true.
* It’s pretty hard to find very many people who aren’t already addicted to oil, debt, possessions, pleasure/happiness, entertainment, speed or toys.
* Addictions don’t go away by themselves. None of them.
* People who are poor bear the brunt of our wasteful consumption of the Earth’s diminishing natural resources.
* People who are poor will not let us walk on their backs forever.
* We’re killing ourselves by our ways of living and not living. Obesity, diabetes, stress-related illnesses, pollution, deforestation ­ all are on the rise.

To put it bluntly, there are no rational, emotional or spiritual measures of contemporary life that suggest that things can keep going on like this forever. Eventually­beyond the next bend in the road?­something’s going to break. In the environment, the economy, international relationships or politics. Some small change is going to cascade into worldwide change, like the lava flow from a suddenly active volcano, burying our preferred way of life and forcing a draconian simplicity on all but the super-rich.

All of us, especially Christ’s followers, have to move beyond the simple simplicities of the past. Recycle, reuse, retire, retread, renew­they still work, but only over long decades of gradual change. The time for a luxurious pace has passed. Beyond the truths about simplicity is something more radical, more necessary and more hopeful: God’s mission-driven people changing their lifestyles to more simple and sustainable levels.

In congregations just like yours!

Beyond complexity

Some days I love complexity­some of my co-workers would say that I love to make everything complicated­and other days I come upon a set of simple propositions or behaviors that dissolves deceptive complexity like the sun shining through a rainstorm.

I’d love to line up all the complexities of simple living and treat each one as a subject to be researched. It would be fun to answer questions chock full of intellectual depth and rhetorical intricacies. (“Say, Bob, what DO you mean by ‘information overload’, anyhow?”) But there’s this sound of God’s calling in my ear, like my father’s Saturday morning wakeup call during California summers, “Get up, boys; we have work to do.” You and I have to get beyond making simple living something complicated. As God’s children we have work to do.

As you well know if you’ve lived through life-changing difficulty, on the other side of complexities are new simplicities. Past the cross there’s a resurrection; past the loss of a loved one’s death there’s a new beginning; past the agonizing confusion of which lifework to pursue there’s the joy of living into a new career.

In trying to find ways for your congregation to be a center for simple living, there are also simplicities after the complexities. After the complexity of discipleship (“Follow these principles, work on these disciplines.”) there’s the simplicity of stewardship (“However you do it, get God’s work done.”). After the study of sophisticated macro-economics and the biblical witness for simple living come the halting first steps of actions that beget other actions.

What helps me go beyond complexity? Mental maps or aphorisms­“Start somewhere, do something”. Getting in touch with my inner yearnings, like “What do you really want to be known for?” or “Why do you want people to pay attention to you?” I look for unifying threads, idea-magnets that line up all the little idea-iron filings in the same direction. Prayer, certainly. Conversation with people who are already well on their way. Prayer and conversation together.

What you do to move past complexity will become an example for others, and soon you’ll find that the wall of insurmountable complexity actually has some doors and windows in it, places where you can travel through.

To simple thoughts and actions about simple living.

Beyond techniques

As a child, I practiced the piano faithfully almost every day after school. My teacher, Mrs. Theiss, insisted on at least ten minutes of exercises­routine musical fragments that strengthened finger muscles and improved eye/hand coordination. Mrs. Theiss trusted the best techniques to make the best musician out of me.

By the time I reached adolescence I yearned for something more. I knew that music was more than the mechanical skills I had learned so well. For awhile I wanted to play cool jazz, then bebop. I wanted to be able to improvise, to string chord progressions together into new foundations for new melodies. But I was trapped by my own faithful practicing, and I knew down deep that I would forever be a well-trained performer without the soul of a real musician.

When it comes to living simply, we could distill the whole matter down into practicing disciplined actions. We can start there, of course, because simple living is more than just having good thoughts. We do have to recycle, we must learn to reuse things, and certainly we have to reduce our debt, our polluting behaviors and our hurried lifestyles. But after we’ve acted our way into thinking, what is it, really, that we’re thinking?

If we’re going to take simple living beyond its easy-to-caricature stage, we can’t be content with techniques that may have little soul to them. Our brains are more than rational-thought generators; deep and compelling emotions drive us past cherished thoughts about cherished propositions or values.

To take simple living beyond techniques, we have to hear the music of God’s own making: the soulful lament of the Earth and people who are ground into dust by poverty, as well as the dancing tunes that evidence joyful gratitude for God’s blessings of every kind. We have to see ourselves joined to God’s purposes, God’s peoples, God’s created world. We have to discover a “musician’s soul” inside of ourselves, finding new melodies, new chord progressions, new sounds that touch the souls of others.

Otherwise, simple living could become a performance that lasts only as long as the techniques, becoming only required exercises that strengthen our hands but do not engage the minds that set those hands to work.

And wouldn’t that be a sad way to spend afternoons after school?

Beyond behaviors

Some of the behaviors we engage in every day are well-prescribed by the routines of daily life. As we grow older, those routines begin to collect in large bundles of expected normality, repeated habits that guide us through our days. It doesn’t take too many years of responsible adulthood for those bundles to accumulate into very large loads of expected behavior that we carry around.

Expected normal behaviors may become like a mountain range. We may find ourselves living in what we think are reasonable and rewarded contexts, but not realizing that we are trapped in a mountainous box canyon.

If we want our behaviors to be “beyond,” then we can benefit from trying different actions, different habits or perhaps even different mountain ranges. Beyond behaviors­actions that reach toward the further side of God’s will­call us past the traps and trappings of consumerism, hustles, needless complexity, brain-destroying anxieties or stress.

Let me tell you about some of my beyond behaviors, as examples at least worth a conversation:
* When someone (or something) points in a direction, I don’t look where the hand is pointing, but concentrate on the hand itself, always asking “Why point there?”
* I look for people and ideas at the edge; that’s where living things grow.
* When platitudes pile up around me, I shed them like a dog shakes off its bath water. Then I look for new words. Or poets.
* Humor sloshes out of my brain like tomato sauce out of a juicy meatball. Because humor is usually about absurdity, my sense of humor protects me from the proposition that normal is normative. I also get to laugh a lot.
* I look for what’s missing, who’s not here. In high school I was not one of the popular kids; I think that equipped me well to side-step fads, fashion, frills and fripperies.
* I look for small things, quiet people, miniature events to teach me.

Beyond behaviors are not subversive or disdainful; they’re just different. I rejoice in the proposition that it’s odd of God to free me, and so count it a godly act to rejoice in beyond behaviors wherever possible.

Want to watch leaves on a tree with me sometime?

Beyond addiction

One thing brain scientists know for sure: “addiction” is about more than alcohol and drugs. After more than thirty years of research, they know that the neurotransmitters ­ brain chemicals -- involved in addiction can create lifestyle and identity traps no matter what the addictive source. Examples you’ll recognize: sex, television, success, some foods. A fairly recent example: the overwhelming and continuing urge to shop has now been used successfully in the legal defense of a person caught shoplifting.

This broadening view of addiction ­ “feel good” brain chemicals flooding significant brain structures repeatedly ­ yields a scary possibility: If we’re not careful, we might all be addicted in one way or another. Or to say it another way, lifestyles crammed full with pleasure-seeking may be addictive.

Didn’t want to hear that, did you? Too close to home? I know the feeling, because I’ve had to reckon with that likelihood myself. My work, public approval, love, coffee ­ these are all candidates in my life. There may be others, too, that I’m not admitting to myself or to you, but the possibility exists that instead of being a committed servant of Christ, I’m actually the committed servant of anyone who will laugh along with me. Like I said, scary. Maybe even humiliating.

Getting beyond addiction is pretty difficult. Ask any recovering addict. A brain used to feeling good about a singular source of pleasure isn’t readily changed to a different chemistry. (Ever try to stop drinking caffeine-laced beverages, hmm?) But we have to do so, else ideas like “disciple” and “steward” may become hypocritical descriptions of our actual brain chemistry.

“Cures” for addiction seem to lie within the disciplined intent to change the behaviors that cause the feel-good neurotransmitters to do their mind-bending work. With help from those around us, we can substitute one set of behaviors ­ giving time and energy to helping others ­ for our addictive behaviors ­ excessive buying of more toys so that we’ll have more fun. In our friendships, in our congregations gathered around worship of God, in earnest conversation and insistent accountability ­ in these places God’s Spirit can come into our brains and lay forgiveness over the sinful self-service of addictions and offer us another choice for how to live.

And wouldn’t that be something to feel good about?

Beyond ideals

Have you ever bought that synthetic “spider web” material? Do you remember thinking, “What am I going to do with this glob of stuff ?” and then discovering how to stretch apart the fibers to make a massive network of gauzy faux-silk? That’s how it feels inside my brain when I take a cherished ideal­like “live simply”­and tease it into a large blanket of interconnected ideals.

Ideals about living simply can be like spider webs that we construct. Because they are cherished and even God-directed, these ideals carry with them an aura of respectability and utility. We can admire our vast webs of good ideas, and we can allow ourselves to be caught up in them, rolled into the protective silkiness of what we know to be good, true or beautiful.

I think, though, that living simply has to mature beyond the knitting of ideals together into large constructs of interrelated thought that swathe our lives, perhaps keeping us from the realities that await us. Those of us with large vocabularies, expansive education or experience, and expanding hopes for the world­we can easily get caught in the implication that understanding our webs of ideals will somehow be enough.

It isn’t enough, of course. We can perfect our propositions, interlock our suppositions and polish our prepositions, but it may still be possible that our ideals-webs don’t hold water, don’t change minds, don’t make any sense to people who aren’t like us.

When that happens, we must forsake the comfort of our web-making, moving beyond ideals (and ideas, of course) into actions. Despite our most heartfelt intentions, if our ideals don’t engage others in concerted action, changed living or increased mindfulness about life­then we may become spiders whose interest, after all, is not the beauty or symmetry of webbery. The way out of this dilemma? To think of our ideal-webs as an adhesive that holds together our actions in sensible and useful patterns. As glue, this web material is nearly invisible, but it still works to strengthen our resolve to work at this simple living idea, to be more than people who throw gossamer into the ether.

But then, that’s another metaphor for another time.

Beyond manageability

In my personal lexicon, “manageable” gets translated into “what I can reasonably handle.” Unmanageable is its opposite. It’s a simple concept, I think: If I’m working past my capabilities, my work will not be done well. If I’m moving faster than the laws of lifestyle physics allow, my speeding is dangerously out of hand. If I’m carrying a load only elephants could haul, that burden is impossible--and probably a good reason to find a few good elephants.

One more vocabulary lesson: Over time, what’s manageable becomes what’s sustainable. Sustainability­a key word for environmentalists--is the byproduct of manageability. If some element of my life isn’t manageable, it just won’t last. Another way to think about this matter: If I’m not handling things right now, then it’s probably also true that “things just can’t keep going on this way.”

There’s more to my simple living than handling well what comes my way. From my understanding of the Spirit’s gifts, living simply is more than just being a good manager, more than being an obedient servant who thinks that “following the household rules” Is going to result in the owner’s great and lasting gratitude. However I manage or don’t manage my life isn’t going to save me. That’s God’s work.

What characterizes a life beyond manageability is that I don’t just want to get through this day as best I can. Instead, I want to see it as part of a long string of days, made possible by the God who presents each one as a personal gift. When I come to see that my life might stretch out over delightful decades, I want to live simply so that the string won’t be broken before I can pass on the legacy of that gift. My children, my colleagues, people who read what I write­all of them could be beneficiaries of my stewardship of every facet of life.

Beyond manageability comes sustainability: What came from the ages will last into the ages. God, who helps in ages past, calls me into ways of living that help in ages yet to come. By my simple living now, I manage what isn’t mine so that God’s gifts will be given to people I will never meet, never know, but can love even now.

Beyond manageability, then, there is love.

Beyond identity

I’ve never thought of myself as normal. I was raised as a Missouri Synod Lutheran, and we came away from our parochial school training with a strong sense of righteous separation from the world, rightful heirs to the best practices that the Essenes and the Pharisees ever dreamed up. One of my favorite Bible passages was “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate.” (2 Corinthians 6:17 KJV)

Part of that heritage was living simply. I knew at an early age that living simply is an identity, a way of thinking and being that’s markedly odd by most standards. I found myself going up down staircases, dancing with different drummers, seeing clearly what others clearly missed, carefully turning over in my mind what others’ brains had already dismissed to the background droning of the usual or boring. Still today, I explore what others trash and trash what others explore. Sometimes I get quiet because there aren’t the right words to describe what’s happening. At other times I gush geysers of gratitude for what’s “ordinary.”

If your simple living identity is “beyond,” you may experience utter loneliness or grow weary of being the only prophet in town, the only teacher in a school full of unruly children. You might even feel like you’re wearing a small fence at all times. This beyond identity could separate you from other people, giving you a sense of set-apartness that you might mistake as your life mission. Aloofness or arrogance could creep into your identity, so that you disdain those who are overburdened, overwhelmed or just overweight.

I’m not sure if all these oddities and separations are what a “beyond identity” is really about, though. All of them could be just a little narcissistic or at least a little Pharisaic. If all I do with my life is rejoice in its weirdness, what good will come of that, after all is simply said and done?

Beyond a simple identity, I think, lies the kind of otherness that Christ must surely have experienced. His transcendence resulted in his circling back to his life mission: To preach and live God’s good news among those whom he loved more than he loved himself.

The simplest form of simplicity identity, then, is to love others. In spite of themselves, in spite of ourselves.

It’s that simple.

Beyond individuality

I work in the arena of “hunger education.” It’s my privilege to help the people of God in my denomination understand the causes of hunger and all its ugly relatives. I also get to encourage them to be part of the solutions to the poverty that lies at the heart of this outrageous reality: Someone somewhere in the world dies of hunger-related causes about as often as I blink my eyes.

Since the start of denominational hunger programs over forty years ago, a truer-than-true maxim has haunted all of us who are trying to feed people, develop their capacities, find cures and change laws. The saying is memorable enough to have stayed around for decades: Live simply so that others simply live.

Here’s how that works out: In a world in which all economies are interrelated, the most widespread, most basic and most difficult cause for hunger is the lifestyle choices of people like me. When I multiple by millions of other, like-minded people my individual decisions about what I buy, what I drive, what I eat, what I invest in, what I wear­when that happens, the whole world is affected.

Why? Because for now the economy of the United States and others like it drive the economies of the rest of the world. Forests are torn down because we want increasing supplies of paper products. People sneak across borders to find “work” because we don’t want to do our own landscaping or clean our own homes. The entire health care system in this country heads toward the toilet, in part because we don’t exercise, don’t eat right and don’t like people who remind us about our stupidities. People in other countries suffer and die when most of the world’s resources are funneled in our direction.

Get this straight, please: Living simply goes way beyond the benefits that come to those of us who live simply. I’m not writing this book only so that you can live better. I want you to join with me in seeing how we can all change our living habits so that this great and abiding cause for hunger and poverty will be diminished.

God created us as social beings, we have social brains, we live best when we live well with others. We come together in churches to do what we could never do alone. And God meets us there, with an invitation:

Live simply, so that others simply live.

Beyond dour

If you and I were going out on a date, I’d want to stop about right here ­ probably at about the time I have gotten past the uncomfortable small talk ­ and sortof apologize for what I was fairly certain would eventually happen during the date: I’m prone to spilling things on myself and others. I would want you to know that about me, if only to help you get out of the way of random gestures and errant hand movements. We’d enjoy ourselves more if you knew that about the time we would spend together.

We’re not on a date here, but you have a long read ahead of you. So I want you to know something else about me: This simple living “beyondness” and everything connected with it can turn me into a dour person. Because of my work in world hunger, because of this subject, because my endorphins are all out on loan to other people ­ I can get really somber and sober about this subject. Can you understand that?

But can you also understand that I live joyfully every day of my life? Would you believe me if I told you that I live with a lively, animating hopefulness, that my sense of humor and out-of-control whimsy ­ yes, they’ll show up here ­ are evidence that my own simple living gives me deep satisfaction? Could you forgive me some of my sourpuss writing if I also let you see into the small and large moments of exhilarating gratitude I feel towards a God who blesses me abundantly? Can you laugh along with me when we both look at the silliness of trying to die with the most toys? Would you mind if I spilled something on your brain?

Why do I ask? This book’s a kind of date.

I’d like you to enjoy the time we spend together.

Beyond beyond

We’ve come to the end of this section, but let me try one more take on “beyond.” Just so the word is burned into your brain.

Just by coincidence, one of my hobbies actually IS reading and writing about applied brain science! I love to learn mind-twisting words, mind-bending ideas and mind-blowing possibilities. Almost every day I find something new that suddenly casts light on some attribute of human behavior, individually and in groups. You’ll read some of these discoveries throughout this book.

One of the most fascinating and enduring concepts in neurobiology is the idea that much of the brain’s most important work take place all over the brain. That means that brain structures in different locations coordinate their work so that the brain can maintain itself and its support systems in the body. These so-called whole-brain activities include seeing, moving, remembering­to name a few.

I think that living simply is a whole-brain activity. Perhaps it happens this way: After living this way awhile, you get beyond simple living ideals, techniques, behaviors, individualism, manageability or identity. You wake up one morning and realize that this whole matter permeates every bundle of like-firing neurons, guides every decision, marks every emotion, colors every memory and invades every conscious moment.

What I describe in this book is available to your brain, all of it. This way of living is also accessible to all the brains in your congregation, even to your congregation as a kind of “brain” comprised of all its members. Living more simply than you are now--joyfully and responsibly--is within the scope of your vision; it’s also within your capabilities. You can leave behind the here-and-now of greed, fear, acquisitiveness, and addictions to stuffing and speeding.

How’s that possible? You serve a God who is totally Other, completely beyond your description or understanding. Because you serve that kind of God, and because that kind of God loves your kind of person, you can transcend attitudes and behaviors that will eventually destroy you, the rest of the people on Earth and perhaps the planet itself. You can go beyond beyond.

Good news indeed.

Chapter 2
Getting to Start

Starting before you start

Our sons were track gods in high school. They ran fast and long. With their cross-country and long distance teams they won lots of races and set records. Part of their secret: Starting before the start. Like other well-coached athletes, they understood that preparing for the race well before the start of the race was a good way to run and win the race. Eating right, getting plenty of sleep; checking the condition of their shoes; stretching ligaments, tendons and muscles; checking out the specific details of the track or course; mentally psyching out other team; conferring with their coaches and teammates about race strategies and remembering previous races­all these preparations equipped them for their first reaction to the starter’s pistol and those first few critical seconds of a race. They were good runners well before they ran the race.

Starting new approaches and emphases down at church works the same way, I think. Excellent preparation­at both profound and detailed levels­precedes excellent execution. You just can’t expect to reap what you haven’t sown, says St. Paul. The run-up to an activity or program ensures that they will run. (You don’t need more restatements of the principle? Good.)

In this section of Beyond Simplicity, I’ll take you through some thoughtful preparations for beginning a series of activities focused on simple living. I’ll start way back­like my sons’ “night before the race”--and insist that you think very carefully about more than just the obvious elements that comprise an emphasis on lifestyle education. You’ll look at yourself and others­what’s really going on inside folks when it comes to taking on a simple lifestyle. You’ll think about matters such as the present landscape for simple living, likely audiences, how people change, motivation, encouragement and errors to avoid.

I’ll speak directly and honestly with you in this section, primarily because I’m convinced that many easily fooled congregational leaders think that “program emphasis” is the same as “techniques” and that the techniques are some kind of magic only if you work the system right. I want to disabuse you of that notion right away. At the same time, I’ll be working hard with these words to persuade you of your innate capabilities for careful, wise and enjoyable preparation. I’ll be looking you square in the eye and saying, “You are a track god/goddess, too.”

Join me for a bit of long-distance running, won’t you?

Running alongside you

Mind if I run along next to you for awhile? From the looks of you, you’re not reading this book just because you liked its cover or title, right? If you’re who I think you are, this whole “learning about simple living” is something more like lifework for you. (“Lifework?” A concept related to job like soulmate is related to spouse.)

I think I can tell by your stride: When you look inside yourself, most likely you see someone for whom “simplicity” is not just another piece of content for your congregation’s program grinder. I’m guessing that you’re someone who’s come to some point of great frustration or great hope about the way your own life is going, the directions in which it’s pointed, the good that you see it accomplishing. You’re probably also someone who has some hope that you can bring along others with you, together changing your ways of living to be more joyful, more manageable, more fulfilling.

Ready to stop jogging for awhile? Take a breather right now and react to the questions and conversation prompts on these two pages. By yourself or with another person, consider what you feel about yourself as a possible simplicity leader in your congregation. If you want, take some notes. When you’ve taken a few moments for this task, come back and finish your reading here.

If you and I were having this kind of running conversation, next we’d talk about these matters:
* How’d you get started thinking about “simple living?”
* Tell me about some of the feelings you have when you think about the subject.
* What or who gives you hope?
* What do you already know, what can you already do, whom do you already know?
* When you pray about these matters, what do you say to God? What do you ask?

After this second conversation I’d suggest we slow down and take a walk together, to free up your way of thinking about leading a congregation into simplicity. We’d imagine you doing just that. We’d think how it would feel for you to be confident about this subject, to have gotten beyond guilt and shame, to sense the Spirit’s guidance in your hesitant first steps. We’d gush just a little bit about you being the perfect person to start working a lifestyle matters in your congregation. The walk would be good for us both.

And then we’d run back to where we started and find someone else to run with.

Running with Jesus

At about age 25, while working as a Minister of Education and Youth in a Texas congregation, I began to be really curious about Jesus. Especially Jesus as truly human. I wanted to be able to look at all the Jesus art and see behind Jesus’ eyes into the mind of “Jesse Josephson, the son of a farm implement repair guy from a small town in the hills up north.” As I engaged in sermon text studies with my colleagues, I could see more and more that the way Jesus lived and died was the way that I might live and die. That his lifestyle could be mirrored in the ways in which Chris and I lived into our marriage, how we might become a different kind of family as we grew older together. It was a conversion experience of sorts, and it has stayed with me all these decades of my life.

Let’s get things straight right off: I already knew and believed that Jesus was and is the Savior of the world, so “Good Example Guy” didn’t become the major part of God’s story of grace. But when I thought past assurances of salvation to assurances of a blessed lifestyle, I could see Jesus slogging it out every day as a guy not unlike me, a teacher and a healer, a friend and mentor, a leader of like-minded people. Dealing with stupidity and sin, trying to keep his purpose and meaning central, loving all kinds of people, confronting evil ideas, evil people and evil systems.

Years later now, Jesus’ life still sparks my thinking: If we’re going to move simple living past good economics, good environmental science and good sociology­hardly compelling motivators for change­then let’s start with the gift of God in Christ Jesus. Let’s ask some ageless questions about this guy, and let’s listen to his teachings. The asking and the listening might show up in these questions and statements:
* What was the pace of Jesus’ daily life?
* God’s good news started way before Jesus suffering and death.
* How did Jesus say “NO!” to what wasn’t important?
* Did he have other choices for how to live? What were they?
* How compelling are his teachings, especially his parables?
* His way of living cost Jesus dearly. (Yes, “the cross,” but what else?)
* Jesus’ life and teachings still work well today.
* What’s hard about Jesus’ example and teaching? What’s not as difficult as it looks?

As you head toward the start of your congregation’s simple living decisions, how might you run with Jesus, thinking about his message and his example? Perhaps you have some stories to tell. Perhaps that would be a good place to start.

Running with the wolves

Before, after and during the persecutions of various Roman emperors, the first Christians knew that they lived differently than the prevailing norms of their surroundings. They shared their goods, disavowed infanticide, stayed married, stuck together through difficulty, didn’t fight back, remained healthy, cared for each other when they were ill, satisfied more than their own appetites and worshipped a God who wasn’t greedy and capricious. They might have chosen to run with the wolves of their time, but instead they never fit in with the rapacious descendants of Romulus and Remus. In other words, the early Christians lived like Jesus taught. It showed.

Sociologists of religion have noted that the lifestyle of first-century Christians was perhaps more compelling than the message of the early Christians. So much so that by the time Emperor Constantine saw the light in 313 AD, the Roman Empire was already Christianized. This ruler merely ratified what the vast majority of the populace already knew was true: A Christ-like life comes from a life-saving Christ.

Back to you: The example of the early Christians is a good place for you to start a congregational emphasis. You can look at the Acts texts about Christians’ communal lives, but you would also do well to read and talk about books like Rodney Starks’ The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries. (Harper Collins, 1996). Or just Google™ “early Christian lifestyle” and see what comes up in credible sources.

As you read and talk together, try to get past Hollywood epics or mythical martyrdoms to get at matters that connect with today, such as these:
* In what ways were the early Christians dangerously counter-cultural?
* Is it enough that “the Christian lifestyle” is just basically more practical? Why or why not?
* How did “Christ-like living” become a form of Good News telling?
* What would it take to live like the early Christians in your current contexts?
* Why would you want to even try doing that?
* What kind of “wolves” would you encounter in this congregation if you followed the example of your earliest Christian forebears?

Before you start the conversations, understand this: The way the first Christians lived really worked out well. Through their witness, the Spirit changed much in the Western world, its suppositions about “the good life” and the ways in which humans around the globe have related with each other for millennia. The world did turn upside down.

Now your congregation gets to run with your wolves.

Taking a gut check

Let’s stop running for awhile here, and settle down to some intuitive thinking. Grab a cup of coffee, tea or other refreshments, sit with a couple of leaders in your congregation and take a “gut check” that assesses your feelings about the present state of the world. This may be a good thing for all of you, especially if you’ve been “Sunday polite” with each other for so long that you actually believe that everyone’s just fine except you!

Take some time to get beyond moaning and groaning, and talk honestly about matters such as these:
* What will be the state of the environment or the economy five years from now?
* What kind of world will your children live in when they’re your age?
* What’s pushing you to live in ways that aren’t really working very well?
* How often do you say to yourselves, “Things just can’t keep going on this way?”
* What’s broken and isn’t getting fixed?
* Who’s secretly living simply because they have no other economic choice?
* Who do you know that’s downshifted or downsized? How’s it working out?
* What’s missing in the way you live?
* What are you afraid of? Why?

If evidence­statistics, stories, pictures, reports­is helpful alongside your intuition, talk about that, too. (A good question to start the accumulation of factual matter: “How do you know?”) But don’t turn this conversation into a head trip that deteriorates into arguments about accuracy or authority. What you’re after here is a sharing of feelings, so that you can see together the interior parts of your brain. So you can see how each of you is thinking about the thousands of decisions that comprise your lifestyle. So you start this program honestly.

If you want to formalize this process, keep track of what you learn from each other, then form some more coffee-conversation groups and go through the same questions. Pretty soon you’ll accumulate a lot of good thinking. Look at your notes and see the patterns­repeated ideas, connections, causes-and-effects. If you’re willing to ask “What should we do next?” you’re ready to take the first action steps toward a congregation program. You can probably figure them out from these conversations.

If not, don’t worry. You still have the rest of this book to read!

How people don’t change

In the past, some fervent proponents of simple living have worked hard to change the minds of people around them. One mistake they may have made: thinking in a less-than-helpful way about how people change.

I’m speaking here of long-term or lasting change, of course, not the kind of short-lived change affected by the power of persuasion, blind emotion or slaveries of any kind­imprisonment, economic dependence, violence, escapism or religious fervor. Those changes are fairly easy to arrange and even easier to measure, but they’re not what we’re after when we talk about lifestyle change.

One of my favorite dusty words from the past is “change agent.” In my current lexicon, the term reminds me of guys my age still dressed up in paisley leisure suits and white shoes. Change agent comes from a way of thinking that says that every effect is set in motion by an identifiable­and manageable--set of causes. The term invites a form of self-idolatry that names the self-identified agent of change as somehow just a little more important, a little more forceful and a little more righteous. After all, the change agent surely knows which change is good and godly, as well as just how the rest of us might attain this great and noble adjustment in our attitudes or behaviors.

If we call ourselves change agents, we may be assigning ourselves far more capability for agency than is reasonable or accurate. “Agency” has to do with the power of an agent­think chlorine bleach--to transform a present reality­think really dirty laundry. Don’t forget: God is primary agent for all that exists or will exist, but we’re not little gods.

Although people change all the time­they self-choose to adapt to their surroundings or their imagined futures­they don’t like to be changed by others. That’s why “most of our people resist change” language could more accurately be phrased, “People resist the changes that I know are good for them.” Pastors and other leaders, take note!

It’s important to be circumspect in thinking about our role as participants in the changes we see, to gather some notions of powerfulness around us, and to understand that change itself most often occurs in relationships with others. However change happens, though, people won’t change their lifestyles because we persuaded them to do so.


How people do change

Right now you’re asking, “So, Bob, if we can’t accurately call ourselves ‘change agents’, how do people change?” Consider these possibilities, each with some trappings of brain science attached:

Fear: Fear not only motivates, but alters brain chemicals and structures, sometimes in addictive ways. Once it becomes habitual, fear changes behaviors long after the reason for fearfulness is gone.

Identity: The bonding and bridging mechanisms of our social brain equip us to respond consistently to our perception of ourselves inside of groups. We change when the group changes; we resist change when the group doesn’t change.

Example: One of our at-birth skills is face recognition, followed closely by mimicry. We change in response to what we see in the faces and lives of others. In a sense, we read minds.

Imagination: “What you can imagine, you can do” describes the function of “mirror neurons” and the capacity of the brain to combine present observation with short-term memory so that a neuronal construct gets translated into corresponding actions.

Actions: Our brains are also superbly equipped for “acting our way into thinking.” Thus our attitudes change because we engage in activities that we later process, integrate and improve.

Mindfulness: Lasting change comes when more parts of the brain are engaged. Emotions, intellect, practiced actions and attention are focused on a way of being or doing, and thus the change is cemented into the brain’s interwoven workings.

Love: You’ll read about love several times in this book, but let me say it here as well: When love is received and shared, its power in our lives may be stronger than any of the other processes listed here. In some ways, love is overwhelming. Especially the love of God in Christ Jesus.

So now do you know enough to change your mind about change?

Identifying “tippees”

If Malcolm Gladwell is right about the idea of “tipping points,”­precisely balanced points of possible change--then there must be tippers and tippees, right? In these paragraphs I’ll introduce you to some ways to spot the people who are ready to change their ways of living, the “tippees” who might later form the core of your congregation’s lifestyle ministry.

For years I was part of the new members’ ministry in my congregation, which gave me the great privilege of meeting new members at a significant moment of change in their spiritual lives. Part of my teaching method revolved around conversations in which I paid special attention to the questions I asked. The quality of relationship that I was aiming at? To know what these new friends thought was important, what they were passionate about, what they were good at doing, what brought them to Faith (our church) and to faith.

I think that’s what you’re trying to do when you search for tippees. You’re looking for people in these possible situations:
* Tired, trapped, rushed or disillusioned middle class parents.
* Individuals or families at economic stress points.
* People looking for kindred spirits, leaders or coaches who understand and practice more manageable ways to live.
* Young adults about to begin their adult lives.
* Individuals or families who know what to do but haven’t done much yet.
* Beleaguered, brave or bewildered managers or leaders in business or government.
* International travelers.
* Mission or service trip alumni.
* Stewardship, finance or planning committee members.
* People in crises, small or large.
* Individuals at “generative moments”­changes in work, new family situations, movements into another life stage.
* People who don’t fit in with the general culture of your community.
* Relatively recent immigrants.
* Older members and others who remember simpler lifestyle practices.

Know any of these people? Would you like to know people like this? Do any of them sound like you? Good! You’re ready to start.

Identifying “tippers”

Have you ever wanted to be the person to boink a long row of dominoes with your index finger? Have you ever noticed how one word, one look, one laugh or maybe one hug changes an entire day? Or how about this one: In a large gathering of people, have you ever felt that all it would take to compel the group to action would be for you to jump on the stage and yell something like, “To the bulwarks, me hearties!” (Okay, okay, I guess I’m the only one . . . )

If any of these situations makes any sense, then you understand how a single action, no matter how small, engaged by a single person ­how that action begins or changes everything that happens after it. The moment is called “the tipping point” and the person engaged in that action is “the tipper.” The tipper doesn’t cause the change­the moment is already perfectly balanced­but adds just enough energy or emotion to start the movement of a change process.

If you’re going to fashion a congregational emphasis on lifestyle education, it might be good to have tippers around. Here are some:
* Children whom adults listen to.
* High profile leaders who gather lots of attention without trying too hard.
* Musicians, storytellers or poets.
* “Quilter ladies,” elderly women in the church whose influence crosses generations.
* People who have experienced outdoor ministries, mission or servant events, youth gatherings or overseas trips.
* “Idea-sparkers,” folks who influence others in simple one-on-one conversation.
* Outraged or otherwise passionate people.
* “Wizards” whose nearly magical abilities­in technology, teaching, soothing or leadership­are well-known in your congregation.
* The quiet folks whose wisdom is reserved for just the right moment.

One of your before-starting tasks might be to do a “tippers-audit” of your congregation. List the names and attributes of people who influence others consistently, whether they are formal leaders or not. Or perhaps you could set up a display of about 300 dominoes in a line and ask congregation members to name the persons in the congregation who are “the first dominoes.”

Either way you’ll get your tippers!

Being a lifestyle leader

As I write this book, one of my favorite writers’ demons is the one who taunts me with, “And just what kind of a lifestyle leader do you think you are, anyhow?” This fiendish imp knows that I live in a comfortable home, drive a well-maintained car, eat three square meals a day and don’t always keep my calendar from overflowing with ink. This confidence crusher has a point: Not many of us are completely exemplary when it comes to being a leader for lifestyle change.

Demons aside, what might it mean for you to be a “lifestyle leader”? These starter thoughts come to mind:

Lifestyle leadership is more about moving in a direction than reaching the perfect destination.

If we’re honest, we know that few of us are completely free from materialism, fear of death or the temptation to rush around. But lifestyle leaders can name the general direction in which their lives are heading: Less stuff, quieter days, less hectic daily schedules, or more attention given to people around them. A lifestyle leader, it seems to me, is heading in the opposite direction from the rest of the crowd.

A lifestyle leader has a “lifestyle conscience.”

Something inside lifestyle leaders acts like a brain-brake when it comes to any notion that more is better. It’s the kind of conscience that says things like “What if everyone lived like this?” or “I’m satisfied” or even “Eventually this behavior destroys something or someone.” It works well because it gets used a lot.

Simple questions characterize a lifestyle leader more than complex answers.

The matter of simple living is not all that complicated, really. Someone who can help others live simply keeps asking good questions, the ones that probe, insist, draw out, build up or expose. Questions like, “So, how long do you think things can keep going on like this?” or “What’s important to you, really?”

The faces of lifestyle leaders show smile wrinkles instead of worry-furrows.

There’s joy in living simply, and lifestyle leaders understand that well. They’re glad to be free of their stuff, happy to sidestep frenetic Saturday soccer schedules, relieved that their credit cards are tamed, cheerful about the future and delighted to have grown up.

Did any of this help you shoo your demons back into their moldy caves?

Encouraging each other

Before you start working on a plan, it might be good for you to think and talk about how well you find, gather and spread around courage. That’s right, “courage.” Guts, nerve, valor, daring, bravery, audacity­you get the picture. The rest of the picture: No courage, no action. No action, no change.

Here’s how encouragement works:
1. Any good idea can stay catalogued in the comfort of your long-term memory, but that’s not good enough when it comes to changing your behavior.
2. Courage is one of the fundamental requirements for motivation.
3. You get courage from other people-from their example, their words and their suggestions.
4. Because you read, understand and mimic the faces of people you admire, moments of encouragement are usually face-to-face.
5. “Encouraging” sometimes means that the encourager and the encouragee walk together, probably prayerfully.

So, how encouraging are you and your congregation? Or to say it another way, who are the encouragers? If you’d like to know, try some of these actions:
* Revisit courageous moments in your congregation’s history. Who were the leaders during those times? How did they behave?
* Read the announcements, invitations or reports you include in worship bulletins, newsletters, letters or annual meetings. Where do you find courage, and where do you find its opposites?
* Name the congregation members­don’t forget youth and children here!­who seem to be able to inspire other members to take action, to volunteer, to sense their calling.

Once you’ve found the encouragers, talk with them about their ways of thinking, their skill at cheering others along, heartening people, giving confidence or supporting people who otherwise might be hiding behind fear, inferiority or false humility. Collect what you’ve heard into a set of descriptive stories, and save them for use when you’re looking for leaders who might have the nerve to work with you in lifestyle change.

See my face right now? I’m smiling at you: Come on, you can do this!

Motivating each other

When I was a beginning teacher, I read the memoirs of a life-long teacher. This venerable educator had the audacity to name motivation as a cheap trick. At first I was dismayed: Weren’t we supposed to motivate children to learn? Wasn’t that why we took courses like Educational Psychology and Methods of Language Arts? After a few years of teaching­and in my current role as an adult educator­I came to see that “motivation” can become a set of manipulative methodologies that fool people into doing (learning) what they had not intended. I also learned that although these tricks may be “cheap,” they eventually result in learners who are not self-motivated. Over the long haul, that’s a pretty steep price to pay.

Before you start working at lifestyle education, you probably need to reckon with the ways you’ll motivate people to engage in learning, to change their behaviors. You might ask yourself questions like these:
* What motivations cause people to change, really? (See following reading)
* Which church-specific motivations don’t actually work that well?
* What makes a motivational method manipulative?
* How does motivation become mutual?
* How many fancy “m” words do you know?

It seems to me that an effective lifestyle education process might start with the self-interest of participants. That’s not the ending place, of course, but you probably can’t squash self-interest as a motivator simply because you believe that other-mindedness is more righteous or Christ-like. Be patient; in the presence of others over time, we inspire or provoke each other to set aside individualism and fear-based self-protection. In shared experiences we stimulate other parts of our brains to learn from each other, to take risks, to give away joyfully to others what we would previously have squirreled away, to hold each other accountable, to trigger or prompt new thoughts, questions or answers.

Because we have social brains­entire sets of brain structures joined together to enhance our capabilities to live together with others­and because we follow the example of Jesus, probably the most effective and long-lasting motivations come when we’re joined with others in small groups of like-minded intent. These motivations may require higher costs, but their long-term benefits are great.

Begone, cheap tricks!

Some motivators

Let’s look at some proven motivators that might work in your congregation as you prepare for a lifestyle education emphasis.

Crisis and its cousins

Crises occur throughout life, and they might be compelling reasons for members of your congregation to work together towards lifestyle change. People who are stressed almost to the breaking point, who have come to the end of their ropes, whose addictions are ruining them, whose guilt is overwhelming, who are discontented and empty, and who are restless for reasons they can’t name­these people are experiencing the kind of quiet or loud calamities that might tip them towards lifestyle changes.

The example of Christ

For members whose piety is strong but whose lifestyles are disconnected from their faith, the daily life and teachings of Jesus can be a convincing reason to consider amending their lives.

The presence and example of others

People motivate people, too, and so your lifestyle emphasis can start with the assurance that all around you are mentors, spouses with vision, living legacies, grateful others and inviting relationships­each a means by which lifestyle education might begin.

Known capabilities waiting to be realized

Down deep, a lot of your members know that they have the capacity to downshift their lives. Helping them recall those capabilities can sometimes be enough reason for them to begin new behaviors or to cast off old habits.

Moments of change

Sudden “aha’s”, spiritual mountaintops, career change, check-in points or even cataclysmic events - all can grip a person in the notion, “Now’s the time to stop doing all that, and start doing this.”

However you name them, motivating factors are available all around you, ready for your use to good affect. A good place to start: Ask yourself and a few others your reasons for moving towards simpler living.

Getting around barriers

Most of the time, I’m not interested in barriers. As I teach asset-based thinking and planning, I describe barriers as “something you go over, around, under or­if necessary­through.” Once you stop at the barriers to examine them, they’ve done their job and you’ve stopped doing yours. The barriers win.

When it comes to making lifestyle changes, the barriers are historically and invisibly strong. Perhaps in this startup chapter, though, we need to do some barrier examination, if only to figure out how we combine our assets to vault, skirt, burrow under or plow through barriers.

Let’s make this simple: Most of the real barriers to living more simply have to do with so-called human nature, especially the not-so-good parts. You already know about basic greed and fear, but let’s go deeper. Think about these:
* Fear of death: Psychologists are fairly certain that consumptive materialism starts with a deep-seated fear of death, or of growing older.
* Habituated addiction to pleasure: Several important structures combine to form the “reward centers” of the brain, and they really, really like the brain chemicals that come from pleasurable activities. “Hedonism” comes to mind.
* A wrong-headed search for personal power: Buying things, stacking them up, rushing through life, multi-tasking, building bigger barns­all these actions may help me prop up my self-esteem or sense of power over nature and over others.
* An entire economic and cultural system built on over-consumption, waste, individualism, short-term gain and godless values.
* Purpose-greed, the especially pernicious longing many of us feel about our life’s goals, our ministries, our response to God’s love. Sometimes we aren’t content about the size of our callings and the worth of our lives.

You can probably see how any of these could blockade any of your efforts toward lifestyle change. You can probably also guess how to get around barriers like these: Conversations, confessions, forgiveness. In other words, conversion and transformation­whether in small or large steps­compel us to break fences, deconstruct walls, hurdle barricades, and kick aside stumbling blocks.

Sounds like fun to me!

Avoiding common errors

You’re getting close to the end of this chapter, and this is the place where I wag my gnarly finger in your direction and say, “Sonny, beware the Frumptious Bagwog!” Or something like it.

Here are some common errors that I’ve made and wouldn’t want you to encounter; they flow from what you’ve already read and what you will yet read.

1. Don’t count on information-sharing or rhetoric. They don’t change forebrains all that much, nor do they get at the emotional decision-making functions of the rest of the brain.
2. Avoid the presumption that the whole congregation will get involved in this effort. Most folks will have deep difficulty in admitting that lifestyle change might be one way in which God’s grace shows up tangibly in their lives. Find a few folks who share your vision and begin there.
3. Don’t make lifestyle education merely into a kind of post-Yoga self-help class. These matters are deeply spiritual! Materialistic and hurried lifestyles suck out of God’s people the time and attention that they need to stay connected to the Savior they claim to follow.
4. Resist the temptation to start or plan big. Start small, then trust this emphasis to develop like the early church spread. Good news travels quickly among people who yearn for manageable, purposeful lives.
5. Don’t start with the problems you want to solve. Think instead of all the capabilities that exist in your congregation in order for this emphasis to begin and grow. Build your planning on the assets­the useful gifts--around you.
6. Stay away from anger, arrogance or animosity. You’re inviting people into something good, not using lifestyle education as a way to secretly punish imagined miscreants for their shortcomings.

When you make your own blunders, trust God’s forgiveness and the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit to help you move forward.

And of course, always learn from your misteaks.

Before you turn the page

A quick confession: After all the weeks of writing the foregoing sections, I’m feeling kindof like I did the day Chris and I took our daughter Amy off to college: A little bit nervous, a little unsure of what’s going to happen, a little worried, a little wanting to come and live with you just to be sure about what you’re going to do, perhaps even a little jealous that you’re going to jump into this simple living thing and have a wonderful time without me. Forgive the feelings, but I thought you should know.

In just a few moments you’re going to turn the page and get started on your program in earnest. Before you do, take into account these final thoughts.

Lifestyle education isn’t just another program.

The church is always “playing for keeps,” and simple living might just be the most foundational, the most necessary thing you do together as a congregation.

It takes time to get ready for what’s important.

Even though you already know that there’s some urgency in what you feel and what you read here, don’t cut short the time it takes to gather wisdom, people, assets and assent.

You have what it takes.

You wouldn’t have picked up this book or come this far if God hadn’t already blessed you with wisdom, showered you with talent and needled you with the calling you’re feeling right now. Don’t doubt your capabilities, because that may just mean that you’re doubting God’s abundance. (Not a good idea.)

This might just be fun.

Working at lifestyle education in your congregation may be the most enjoyable congregational work you’ve ever done. Be ready for that possibility.

Now it’s time. Turn the page and get started. I’ll see you in the next section.

Chapter 3
First Steps

Taking first steps

After you’ve prayed about this matter of starting a lifestyle education emphasis, worked through all the suggestions in the previous chapter and then prayed some more, you’re ready for your first steps. This is the chapter where I lay them out for you, based on my experiences in congregations where new directions and activities pop up all over the place.

Because I know what it feels to face a blank tablet of newsprint, a blank screen and a blank mind, I can imagine that you’re probably feeling like you want to plan everything out pretty well before you take any kind of first step. Sorry, but I’m not going to do that for you. Instead, because I’ve already imagined you as capable and willing, I’m going to show you some perhaps-different ways to take some basic first steps, so that this emphasis starts out on a good footing. So you can ice skate without the chair.

If you’re already familiar with planning processes, can think on your feet, are skilled in group dynamics and itching to go, skip this chapter. Proceed directly to Chapters 4 or 5, where you’ll find a variety of program resources.

We’ll check in again with each other at the end of the book.

Finding some people

I remember visiting a congregation that was having trouble finding people to fill the various volunteer slots in its structure. The “same old people” were getting tired and new members complained that they weren’t being asked to serve. When I asked how they went about the process, I was told that they used the traditional method of appointing a nominating committee, securing willing candidates and holding elections. My recollection is that the election process even included ushers! You’re catching my drift here, right? This is not a good way to find people to participate.

You already know that your first step is to find others with whom to work. You also know that the usual ways of “getting volunteers” may not work here. So let’s start at a different place: What will you call this kind of group? “Committee”, “team” and “task group” don’t really describe what you’re going to do. “Support group” approximates some of your work, but the closest and most accurate term might be “circle, “ a term perhaps already familiar to members engaged in women’s ministries. “Simplicity circles” have been meeting for years, organized under the care of The Simple Living Network (www.simpleliving.net), and they work very well. Think of your group as a new kind of circle.

How do you find people to join you in a simplicity circle? Try these steps:
1. Spend whatever time it takes to get to know which congregation members might find this new ministry exciting, necessary or helpful. Listen at meetings, distribute some handouts and see who responds, hold an after-church luncheon or lead an adult forum on the subject. (See the readings, “Identifying tippees” and “Identifying tippers” in Chapter Two.)
2. When you have a group of likely prospects, ask for some time with each one. A visit, a cup of coffee, a walk together. Talk about what you’ve noticed about them. Ask appreciative questions. Share what you have in mind. Listen to what they say.
3. After your visits are finished, select between five and seven individuals with whom you’d like to start this work. Personally invite each one to a first conversation at your home. Keep inviting people until you get about five strong leaders to work with.
4. At the first meeting, secure a time commitment of about six months, or a task commitment for your initial activity or project.

Now you have a new circle of workers, friends and colleagues in this new work!

Finding some places

One of the first steps you will take is to set a pattern regarding the places you choose to meet for conversations and planning. Because you’re starting a lifestyle education program, I think it makes sense for you to meet in places where lifestyles take place! For most folks that probably doesn’t include one of the meeting rooms down at church.

Here are my suggestions for some high-quality locations for your lifestyle education group to work together:

Homes: People do most of their living in homes. Houses, apartments, mobile homes, shelters­these are the contexts where the people of your congregation are trying to work at simple living. HINT: So that you can experience the witness of various people, don’t meet in the same home each time, especially if it’s the most nicely kept and cleaned!

Outside: For a better chance at quiet, peaceful and slow-paced thinking, try outdoor locations like picnic tables in public parks, gazebos, cabins, patios, porches or decks. If you want to really loosen up thought processes, you might even try a hiking trail or path as the location for a “walking-and-talking” time together.

Favorite eating establishments: Coffee shops, diners, or restaurants can lend an air of easy hospitality, familiarity and serendipity to your planning times. These locations can also gently nudge you to keep your planning aimed at people as varied as the other diners.

Workplaces: If your team includes folks who work in easily accessible work locations, spend some of your meeting time in those spots. Barns, lunch rooms, conference rooms, libraries, kitchens, empty classrooms­each can bring a different urgency and reality to bear on your conversations.

By now you get the picture: Meeting in the same place at the same time yields basically the same thoughts. When you go to places where “lifestyle” is only an idea, you’ll probably talk mostly about ideas. And when you go to the places where God’s people actually encounter the worlds around them, you’re more likely to talk about yourselves­your faith, your struggles, your hopes.

Your choice, of course.

Finding some times

I’ve been pushing at “new times for meetings” ever since I was the president of a congregation in Lake Tahoe, California. Because our congregation included casino shift workers, stay-at-home working moms, teachers, fire-fighters, nurses, seasonal visitors and retired persons, we couldn’t always trust the “7:30 PM Tuesday” presumptions about when it was best to meet.

One of your first steps in lifestyle education may be coming to agreement with the other folks on your team about “good times to talk together.” Because you won’t be hemmed in by “always down at church” ways of thinking about meetings, you might find these times to be more productive moments of conversation and planning:

Breakfasts: In the part of the country in which I live now, almost every local restaurant is filled to capacity almost every morning with small groups from area churches doing their before-workday planning. The restaurants oblige with special breakfasts, set-aside tables and helpful servers. (So you know: I live in Wheaton, Illinois, rumored to have the most churches per square mile of any city in America. Your perhaps less church-filled locale may also have less-crowded restaurants!)

After worship services: If the conversation is focused and directed, some food available and your energy still high after worship, another hour’s conversation can build on the wonderful fact that you’ve just come from worshipping your God together!

Times of enjoyment: If lifestyle education is about living joyfully as well as simply, you might schedule some special times together. They might be field trips, supper with a guest, wine-and-cheese on a Friday after work, watching a rented video or DVD together, or working at a local homeless shelter or feeding program. You might even begin your work together with an overnight retreat.

Choose times that allow for some energy­“after supper” is a killer for liveliness levels and brain-power­and that can honor the power of heartfelt conversation. Keep your word about the length of time you’ll spend together, so that “simple living” doesn’t become a synonym for “endless planning.” Above all, think of the time you take together as a gift you give to each other, a sort of Sabbath rest. Here’s a thought: Your times of meeting might actually improve the quality of your lifestyles instead of taking away from them.

And wouldn’t that be great!

Setting the tone

This may seem strange, but one of your very first steps is to learn how to portray “simple living,” “simplicity” or “lifestyle” in tones that people will pay attention to. To do so, you may need to unlearn some of what’s already bouncing around in your feelings and vocabulary, or already showing on your face. Let’s think about this together.

Simple living has to be joyful or it isn’t really “living.”

In light of the Western world’s present addiction to toxic lifestyles, you might feel justified in using stoic, hard-edged or “prophetic” vocabularies or non-verbal communication. Don’t go there. Your invitations­especially to potential tippees­will work better if people can see in your eyes and words a deep satisfaction with life and deep appreciation of what’s good, right and beautiful.

Facts don’t engage much of the brain’s power.

We live in a world of too much information chasing too few brain cells. That’s why “Did You Know?” factoids are not all that helpful in the matter of simple living. While true and necessary, factual information is not the core of your communication, nor the basis of your way of relating to people. You’re mostly after emotional states that undergird decision-making.

Good questions invite good answers.

Hone your skill in asking appreciative and gently probing questions. Yes/No questions set a tone reminiscent of bad interviews. “Why” questions are a bit better, but in the matter of simple living, the best questions draw out of people what they really think and feel about life’s most basic matters, what’s really important.

“Ain’t it awful” is always awful.

You know this kind of person, and you probably don’t want to be one, so let me just remind you about what you already know: Negative, complaining tones and visages communicate pretty quickly this basic reaction: RUN AWAY! If you need help here, talk to your pastor. If you are the pastor, ask another kind and gentle person to audit your ways of speaking and writing.

Speak and listen with authority.

Jesus lived simply, and the Scriptures constantly call for godly lifestyle stewardship. You know what you’re doing here, and you’re not asking for permission. So hold yourself tall and erect, put some kind of steel into your eyes, erase any quivering in your voice and project all the confidence God’s Spirit pours into you every day.

Thanks for thinking along with me about this matter. I can see and hear you. I like your tone.

Talking together

I think I’ve always known about the power of conversation in the church’s life. My father used to talk about his late night “meetings after the meetings” at the local family restaurant, where a cup of coffee and a piece of pie cemented together the relationships that formed our congregation’s leadership. In my four decades of church work I’ve noticed over and over again that conversation-based planning methods are efficient and effective.

For you hardcore pragmatists out there, let me state the matter directly: As a method for decision-making, conversation is exquisitely practical. Why? Planning is based on decision-making, and most decisions are made with an emotional quick-check as their starting point. Logical-sequential reasoning occurs in the brain only after the matter passes a quick danger/opportunity checkpoint (at the amygdala) and after the brain’s memory center (hippocampus) gathers relevant material from memory maps. Another way to state this idea: In true conversation, the fundamental mechanisms for decision-making operate more efficiently.

A couple of added points: In moments of conversation, people come to trust each other’s basic intent, know each other’s excellences, see each other’s appreciation. Conversation dispels the chemicals of fear­and probably those of stress as well. Conversation connects many structures and functions of the brain into focused states of awareness that some social scientists call “mindfulness.”

You’re convinced? Then let’s see how you might start your group’s lifestyle education work with some conversation.
1. Schedule your first group (circle) meeting at a time and place when natural and free-flowing conversation can take place easily. Food and a relaxed atmosphere always help.
2. Select three or four carefully considered questions or matters for mutual sharing. You can probably find some good starter questions in the pages of this book. Remember that discussion is not the same as conversation.
3. Keep notes about the tone of the conversation and your observations about the state of mind of each of the participants. Don’t worry about “good ideas for us to work on” quite yet.
4. Begin and end the meeting in conversation with God. Take “prayer” beyond reading pro forma prayers out of a devotional book.

Just in case you didn’t notice: I just gave you the agenda for the first meeting of your circle! You’re welcome . . . .

Learning more

After decades of emphasis, research and programming, “simple living” has become a genuine body of knowledge. You can find simple living material in almost every form of human enterprise--books, films, Web sites, organizations, research, musings, experiences, events, blogs diaries and Alban Institute field guides.

A good starter step for your group or circle: Familiarize yourself with this body of knowledge. You can do so in any of these ways:
* Find, read and talk about resources that present philosophical, spiritual or pragmatic viewpoints about simple living. The two best general sources are Alternatives for Simple Living (www.simpleliving.org) and The Simple Living Network (www.simpleliving.net). Both organizations have helpful Web sites and extensive catalogues of available resources.
* Spend some time in conversation with other Christians who have been working at this matter for some time. Start with Mennonites or the Church of the Brethren, whose beliefs and behaviors in this regard are remarkable.
* Fire up your trusty wind-turbine powered Web search engine, and let it find collected and collated wisdom under categories such as “simple living” or “simple lifestyle.” (If you don’t have a wind-turbine powered Web search engine, try Google instead.)
* Play around in a Bible concordance, looking for Scriptural wisdom, especially Jesus’ own. Try words like “abundance”, “satisfaction”, “grace” or “worry” or any of their derivatives. (You might start with some of the Scriptural references in this field guide.)
* Read about or talk with someone who lived through the Great Depression, who immigrated to this country recently or who lives on a farm or ranch. Most likely you’ll find ample wisdom and experience in the lives of these people.

This research will help ground you in what’s important, as well as expanding your horizons and helping you leapfrog over beginner’s mistakes or traps.

It will also help you ask better and better questions.

Fitting in

One of the major mistakes I made continually in my careers as a Congregational Leader Guy was to build programs that became magnificent edifices of termite mound proportions. Time after time, though, I watched as these giant pillars of excellence crumbled under their own weight, or sucked people and energy out of other congregational emphases or programs. Over the years I’ve learned a better way to approach first step, which I will now gladly share with other Congregational Leader Persons. (Termites: You may wait in line.)

Find mutual interests with other leaders.

Your work intersects with the interests of many other groups. For example, the global mission crew in your congregation might want to answer the question, “So what do we do with all our poignant experiences in other countries?” That group and your circle might work on a mutual project that answers that question with a question, “What could we learn from the lifestyle of our Christian sisters and brothers in other places?”

Fit your emphases into existing programs.

Use the strengths of effective programs, structures or events in your congregation, inserting little “programming packets” that help those programs become even better. For example, if your congregation has a sermon study group, offer them the added benefit of a simple lifestyle orientation session to help them ground their weekly discussion of the texts. (See Chapters 4 and 5 for ideas.)

Favor friends.

After a short while, this lifestyle education emphasis will become necessary and useful to other congregational leaders. They’ll become your friends. As you choose people with whom to work, begin with your “friends,” those who value your work along with their own.

Fill the empty places in other programs.

Attention is the major commodity in all congregations; everyone wants more of it from more people. In the general society, lifestyle matters­such as downshifting, rising consumer debt, environmental degradation, economic disparities between rich and poor­attract major attention. You have something to offer attention-seekers! Ask your friends in other program areas whether your circle could be helpful in their attention-gathering. (For example, you may discover together that “living a simple life like Christ” could be the core of a new kind of evangelism emphasis.)

(Termites: You might remain in line indefinitely.)

Taking advantage

Simple living emphases may have strong advantages for congregations. (For example, you already read about how lifestyle matters almost automatically attract attention.) As one first step, you may want to spend time finding other advantages. You may want to act on them, too. These benefits might include the following:

Most contemporary leaders are asking the same questions as you.

Your questions already live inside the souls of leaders who are concerned about trend lines in the environment, the economy and the emotions of people they serve or lead. Connect your congregation to its community quickly and efficiently through your lifestyle education emphasis.

The spiritual core of lifestyle education is inextricably bound into Scripture, all three parts of the creeds and church history.

From the time of the patriarchs, through the time of Jesus and into the early Church, God’s people have been asking the same question, “How, then, shall we live as God desires?” Lifestyle education binds together major chunks of doctrine, practice and history in the church. Study the Scriptures, doctrinal formulations and church history with these emphases in mind.

Lifestyle emphases might form the basis of your congregation’s identity.

Some congregations are places of hospitality, others hospitals. Some congregations are known for their family-oriented programs, and others for the personality of their pastor or leaders. What might happen, though, if your congregation was known as “the place where you get help in living a manageable life”? Play with that idea the next time your congregation enters a process of writing a vision or mission statement.

Simple living emphases integrate many aspects of congregational life.

Your congregation may suffer from trying to operate too many programs, emphasize too many causes or solve too many problems. As one emphasis among many, simple living may make the situation worse. But as an integrating emphasis­and depending on the size and complexity of your congregation--lifestyle education may incorporate stewardship, evangelism, hospitality, youth ministry, family life ministry, hunger and justice concerns and small group ministry into one overarching program. As one of your first steps, talk with other leaders to determine if there’s advantage to rolling other congregational ministries into simple living emphases.

It seems sensible, doesn’t it, to take advantage of your advantages?

Giving permission

Sharp-eyed critics of humble writers of field guides, please note: I wrote “giving” instead of “getting” permission for a reason. Please read below.

In some congregations, the critical first step is to pass new emphases under the microscopic scrutiny of permission-giving gate-keepers. Most of these leaders are well-intentioned, but all can slow down or dry up the creativity and energy of entrepreneurial leaders like yourself. Here are some ways to deal with permission-giving processes in your congregation.

Keep your work below the radar line.

If the permission-giving systems in your congregation tend to stifle or slow down new ideas, start your circle merely as a “monthly lunch among friends.” Keep important congregational leaders informed, of course, and seek counsel from your pastor or other leaders. By the time you begin to plan a series of activities that requires advice, consent and budget dollars, you’ll already have sought and obtained informal permission.

If necessary, get a blanket “exploration permit”.

Most congregation leaders are thrilled when members care enough to want to start a new ministry or involve others in something that feels exciting and necessary. Still, if you need this kind of authority, ask only for the blessing of permission givers to begin exploring possibilities.

Report and share before asking.

Approach permission givers with a general description of your intent, only later asking them for questions or comments. If they believe that you need their permission, they’ll say something. Most likely they won’t, if only because you have taken initiative to do something important.

Involve members who are influencers or tippers.

One sure way to build confidence and momentum is to engage from the start those members whose opinions and influence is already well-known and well-regarded among congregation members. You engage them as friends or respected members of the same family, and you ask them for their wisdom as you and your circle begin the shaping of the program.

Throughout any of these givings-of-permission, regard highly the advice and wisdom of others, but remember that much of the permission-giving already took place in your Baptism.

In a very real sense, you’ve been given permission a long time ago.

Choosing actions

I have worked in churchly enterprises for most of my life, so it’s always easy to fall prey to the mental trick that confuses thoughts with actions. In my part of the church, the markers for that condition are sheets of newsprint, filled with good ideas­usually “brainstormed” as a way of whitewashing them with supposed creativity. When I have yielded to that temptation, I know I’ve done “good work” when I have sheaves of colorful diagrams, mind maps or lists of definitions piled on my desk ready for some vague followup scheme­usually retyping into prose or reposting for the next meeting.

Because you would never want to be accused by The Great Indictment of the Church­“When all is said and done, much is said and nothing’s done”­I’ll keep my thoughts on this topic short and to the point. So that you can head for actions instead of just more thinking, think and act on these propositions:

Require tasks or actions to be observable or measurable.

Ask yourself “What will I see, hear, touch, smell or taste as a result of what we decide together?” A poster set, a simple lunch after church, a new hymn sung during worship, a bedtime prayer sent to all families in your church, a series of face-to-face visits with newlyweds, new parents or new grandparents­each of these fulfills the criterion of measurability.

Think about changes you’d like to see take place.

Good ideas are sometimes a dime a dozen, hardly worth the use of ink or pixels. Instead of congratulating yourselves on promoting more good ideas about simple living, set the bar a little higher: Look for places where behaviors or situations or institutional structures actually change. Examples: A simplicity circle begins among high school youth; you clean the junk out of your church building; weddings at your church are demonstrably less ostentatious and expensive; fewer kids trade Sunday school away for soccer games.

Choose what you can actually accomplish.

You know it as well as I do: The world is getting more complicated, harried and caged in a technological zoo. So the problems are bigger than you’re ever going to solve. Besides starting small--see the reading by that name a little later in this chapter--choose actions that are manageable. Base your choice of activities not on what is needed, but on what you can accomplish with your set of assets.

Whatever you do, do something! Otherwise “simple living” may become just another grave marker in your congregation’s cemetery of good ideas gone bad.

And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Mapping assets

One of the most important beginning steps you can take comes from the concept of “asset-based planning.” This kind of planning takes advantage of presently available gifts instead of wallowing or worrying in great neediness. Follow this outline to gather together assets for starting lifestyle education in your congregation:
1. Begin with the people who are already excited about the possibilities of a simple living emphasis.
2. Meet together in a place where walls, tables or the floor provide plenty for display or work space.
3. Agree together about the general task you have in mind: starting some kind of lifestyle education in your congregation.
4. Distribute markers and slips of paper, index cards or PostIt ™ notes, about 25-30 per planning group member.
5. Ask participants to list their specific personal assets, one per slip of paper, that might be useful in undertaking this task. Ask questions such as these:
* What are you good at doing?
* What do you like to do?
* What do you have that’s useful?
* Who do you know (who “owes” you)?
6. Construct a “map” of the slips of paper by laying them out where all are visible. Invite participants to link together assets that might likely combine to form a pleasing action you could do together. The map will tell you what to do.
7. Look at the possible actions that have emerged from the map; choose several as first tasks.
8. Decide who will do what by when. Set the date for your next meeting.

If you have extra time, you can walk among the assets, marveling at all the capabilities your small possesses for getting started. And while you’re doing this, remember that assets are “useful gifts.”

Another way to think about this matter: When you put a gift to use, it becomes an asset!

Starting small

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m not enamored of large, complicated systems or programs that promote guaranteed congregational health, vitality or growth. Most suck up huge amounts of precious time and attention; many don’t last very long after their initial big splash. Most aren’t good examples of simplicity, either. Instead of favoring large-scale overhauls of congregations, I’m an E.F. Schumacker kind of guy, still thinking that “small is beautiful” all these years after that author’s trend-setting book.

In an asset-based approach that sustains itself over time, you first choose one or more “pleasing actions you can do together.” Most likely they will be small. The advantages of small step approaches have been known for years. They include these:
* Small beginnings don’t have to stumble over this fact: Most people don’t want more work, even if it’s down at church.
* By definition, small steps take a shorter time to accomplish.
* Small successful beginnings bring small joys, which can layer on top of each other to become energetic excitement.
* If your first small steps don’t work, you stop for awhile, then change direction and start over. All without too much effort.
* It’s easier to evaluate the effect or worth of small beginnings.
* You don’t risk burning out your volunteers or your own spirit.
* In a relatively short period of time, you can finish one small step, evaluate and then take another one.
* A series of small steps easily turns into a sustainable program. Eventually small steps can combine to form a strong part of your congregation’s identity.

Use “small” as a requirement for any action that you begin together, even if you put several “smalls” together. You’re going to like what happens.

I guarantee it.

Inviting others

You and your team want others to be part of this effort, right? That means that one of your first steps is to attract their attention. I understand this from one of my regular nightmares: I’m back in the classroom teaching children­or running a workshop for adults in some far-flung corner of this church body­and not a single person is paying attention to me! In this scarier-than-true-life dream, I’m turning verbal cartwheels, displaying exemplary personal brilliance and sometimes even huffing and puffing my way into minds’ eyes. None of these gymnastics works, however, and the audience or class continues blithely on, unaware of all my inspired excellence that will change their lives forever. I usually wake up in a sweat.

I’d hate for you to sweat one of your first important steps: Inviting others to join you in this joyful effort. You’re after the attention of the people in the pew­and those who don’t usually sit in a pew--who might benefit from lifestyle education. Here are some ways to get their attention without too much work:

Speak plainly.

Simple living isn’t simple, of course, but you’ll want to promote the ideals and benefits of lifestyle change in words and concept that folks can understand. Use some of the phrases and concepts in this book as examples to get you started.

Invite others into something that’s valuable to them.

“Lifestyle education” is extremely beneficial to almost every member of every congregation. (Yes, it’s come to that, I think, because almost everyone is extremely aware that they can’t keep on living this way.) Page through this book to find those values.

Invite people individually.

Generic announcements about activities or events usually pass right over the top of folks’ heads. If you want a specific person to be part of what you’re doing, find a way to invite her or him directly, personally, face-to-face. Hard to do, I know, but usually the most efficient.

Focus on what’s real.

“Lifestyle education” is full of valuable intellectual meat, of course. But for most folks, the entry point is what’s happening in their lives right now. Rushed kids, families never eating together, over-extended finances, stuff cluttering their homes, spiritual lives down the tubes. Focus on these real-life yearnings and people will pay attention.

If you keep these principles in mind, you’ll probably avoid having my kind of nightmares. And needless sweat.

Looking back

Now that you’ve come to the end of this chapter’s reading and action, you’re operating from your assets, taking small steps that include measurable change and inviting others in a way that will draw their attention. That’s why you’re most likely going to be successful in some way or the other.

Still, one of your first activities should be to evaluate what you’re doing. That’s right, you should take stock of what you’re doing as one of the beginning steps in your work. A simple way to describe the process: act _ evaluate _ act differently. One name for this approach: “action reflection.”

When you’re finished with a first step, here are some good ways to evaluate, all of them simple:
1. With participants, conduct a formal question-and-answer discussion at the end of first-step events or activities. Ask good questions. (See below)
2. Take a selected sample of participants out for coffee and talk about what they’ve noticed, what encouraged them, what they recommend for the next steps.
3. Check changes in your congregation’s awareness of simple living with in-pew survey forms or bulletin inserts that get turned in after a church service.
4. Make a chart or map of the new knowledge, attitudes or skills you’ve learned together. Pray about what you put on the chart. Pray gratefully!

Good Questions

1. What’s changed (among our congregation’s members) since we started these first steps? How do we know?
2. Name one change you’ve made in your life, and describe how it’s blossomed or spread into other areas of your life, influenced other people, started other questions.
3. With what are you more satisfied now? Less satisfied? What’s the difference?
4. (As a result of this first step) what new opportunities lie ahead of you? How do you know?

Page updated 6 April 2014

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