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Six things I am learning

In September Laura Treneer was appointed Chief Executive of Woman Alive’s parent company, the charity CPO (Christian Publishing & Outreach), where she has been Innovation Director for the last three years. Her husband is pastor of a large Baptist church in Brighton where they live with their family.

Laura writes:

1 It’s about testimonies, not titles

This was the conclusion of a great Pentecostal sermon I heard once. Titles – particularly job titles – can sometimes give the wrong impression. CPO was founded by three graphic designers who wanted to use their skills to serve the Church. They moved into community, shared what they had and lived in fellowship to serve their mission. Their testimony was that God blessed their vision.

Sixty years later, part of my testimony is that God has clearly called me to lead CPO in this season, even though it was never my expectation or intention. Being called ‘chief executive’, as my predecessor often said, sometimes just means you’re the one to take the blame!

2 It’s about obedience, not stereotypes

As Christians we have developed extremely nuanced ways of putting each other in boxes. There are Christian ‘tribes’ within denominations, within local areas. When CPO creates publicity for churches, it is an enormous challenge to serve, let alone reflect, that rich diversity. I love it when churches and Christian movements find creative ways to collaborate in contextual mission, rather than be led by stereotypes. It’s Jesus’ words in John 13:35 “It is by your love for one another that they will know you”.

Personally, I have never met a stereotypical working mum, pastor’s wife or CEO, and certainly don’t expect to be one. I just want to do what God tells me to do, which won’t always be what others expect.

3 Changing times need flexible expectations

Churches and organisations suffer from people’s fixed perceptions. For those who have known CPO over the years, they may associate it with tracts or posters, Messy Church resources or us sending out the popular book The Servant Queen. They may not know we also help churches and charities with websites, videos and training, and that we print and distribute magazines for scores of charities you will know and support.

Saying ‘yes’ to serving the Church means being flexible. As all charities and Christian mission agencies know, sometimes the right thing to do requires relying on God for the finances. We live in changing digital times, and standing still is not an option.

4 The extended family of the church is a gift

My husband and I have been at the church where we serve in Brighton for 20 years. When he arrived he was an engineering consultant and served as a volunteer. He’s now been senior pastor for 10 years, with an amazing team. Without our families nearby, the church have been our extended family. Our children have the privilege of honorary grandparents, aunties and uncles, some of whom share our lives and take care of them regularly, teaching and nurturing them in ways we can’t. They’ve taught us that we cannot do life just in a nuclear family unit. We need each other. Church is a place for cross-generational community to thrive.

5 ‘Notice everything, turn a blind eye to some thing, chastise a little, cherish the brethren’

When I was young, my mum had this quote from St Bernard of Clairvaux stuck up in the kitchen. As a parent and at work, I now see the wisdom in it. There is plenty I can choose to ignore, to turn a blind eye out of grace. But if I’m to have any shot at nipping potentially massive issues in the bud, I need to pay close and loving attention. Many years at home when my children were small helped me with this.

Most of all, St Bernard says to cherish the brethren. I find this helpful thinking about CPO’s work helping churches communicate too. There’s plenty to criticise about how even our own churches do outreach, but for me ‘cherishing the brethren’ is to see the potential rather than what is broken. I’m motivated so often by just trying to remove the headache from a vicar with no spare time.

If your church leaders or volunteers have been known to produce publicity themselves badly (and probably in a rush with limited resources), please suggest they let CPO help instead! It’s what we’re there to do: to enable churches to reach their communities (and release time and energy for church teams along the way!)

6 It’s about Jesus, not us

Finally, every time we fix our eyes “not on what is seen, but what is unseen”, we remember that Christ is at the centre, not us. What a relief. What a hope.

For your prayers

  • Please pray for the ongoing ministry of Woman Alive magazine, and for CPO
  • For the team behind Woman Alive, as they seek to encourage women in their faith and ministry
  • For CPO, providing resources, design, print and training for thousands of churches to help them reach their communities. Please particularly pray for CPO as it goes into 2018.

Your gift to inspire women

I want to inspire women like me in their faith, even beyond my lifetime.
How about you? Could you leave a gift to Christian Publishing & Outreach in your will, so we can use it to equip and enable the Church in its outreach, and to help ensure the future ministry of Woman Alive? To find out more e-mail womanalive@cpo.org.uk

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