Saturday, March 31, 2012

How To Avoid Killing Anyone While Builidng Community

People often get very excited when they hear how we eat meals together to build authentic community. This biblical practice is not only really effective, it's really easy to do. Just tell people bring food and set up tables for the food and for eating, right? Simplest plan ever to build relationships in your church.

But without a little additional planning, you run the risk of spreading food-borne illness through bacteria and viruses, which in extreme cases literally kills people.

Here's what I've learned about food safety (largely through being a consultant for Chick-fil-A):

Avoid Room Temperature
Nationally required food safety courses talk about the “temperature danger zone” where bacteria and viruses thrive. It just happens to be room temperature. Specifically, restaurants are required to keep food either below 40 or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Food that sits for 4 hours or more in the temperature danger zone can’t be served anymore (restaurants are supposed to throw it away).

Use Food Servers
Station volunteers behind the tables full of food and only allow these food servers to dish out food to the plates the others hold. If someone shows up with germs on their hands (maybe their already sick and don’t know it), this will save everyone who comes in line after them. And it’s a great way to serve people and make them feel special.

Wash, Wash, Wash
Food Servers should wash their hands AND use hand sanitizer--maybe multiple times while serving. Of course, they should wash before serving. But if they touch their hair, their mouth, the floor, or even shake hands with someone else, they need to wash again before serving. You might be surprised how much illness can be avoided by simply washing your hands frequently.

Don’t Underestimate Hand Sanitizer
In the same vein as above, place a lot of hand sanitizer pumps around the room and encourage everyone, not just the food servers, to clean their hands.

Announce Allergy-Risky Ingredients
Even when general food safety standards are met, food allergies can pose serious risks for those who have them. Either make an announcement and/or put a simple signs up to identify food that has things like nuts, gluten, etc. If necessary, you can have a volunteer ask people when they drop off the food what allergy risks they may have (a simple allergy checklist helps with this).

Final note:
I don't make a big deal about bacteria, etc. Most of us violate food safety standards in our home kitchens on a daily basis. Fear is not our goal and the risk of death is only real for those who are already seriously ill or severely allergic. Otherwise it just looks like a 24 hour sickness. If asked, I’ll mention safety briefly, then I’ll explain how following these guidelines is also a great way to make people feel served (food table servers) and make the food taste better (keep it hot or cold).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Which Leader Holds the Key to Fixing America? (Hint--not who you might think)

Presidential Primaries are all over the news. I think leadership matters (I did get a Masters Degree in Leadership). But I think we're leaving someone out the conversation.  You and me.

We seem to think that if we pick the right uber-man, a Great Leader, then he or she will do it all and solve our problems. Our national strategy: 1) Pick the right leader. 2) Go back to our regular life and leave it all to them to fix the country.

Is that strategy really going to work?

For example, we want our President to grow the economy. But what am I doing to grow the economy? Instead, over the next four years, 300 million of us regular people could be a little more creative (i.e. think up one new product or service to our company) and a little more disciplined (save a little more and spent more carefully). Wouldn't 300 million of us making just one small improvement make a huge difference?

Yes, I’m know improving the economy is more complicated than just working harder. And, again, I'm NOT saying that leaders don't matter. For example, the President can sign into law something stupid that ruins a whole sector of the economy. I'm not saying we ignore the leader's role. Let's keep debating who should be our President.

But we shouldn't ignore our role, either. Let's not forget that we can be leaders, too.

If we want a better America, then everyday Americans, like you and me, have to step up and do at least one thing differently--one thing better than we did in the last four years. We are America. If we want a better America, we're saying we want a better us. And even the best leader can't make us different. Only we can choose to improve.

This "leader who will do it all for us" bias isn't restricted to politics, either.

For example, we do this in our churches, too. We pick leaders (pastors, priests, rectors, etc) and then we leave all the ministry to them. But no matter how great our pastors are, they'll never come close to matching the impact of a whole church fully engaged. God has called all of us to be ministers--leaders representing Him to the world.

Making a better America, or a better church, isn't just the leader's job. It's our job, too. Choosing one great leader helps. But 300 million leaders can radically change their nation. Let's not lose the involvement and energy we're spending on which leader is better. Let's carry that energy beyond elections and, maybe, in our own spheres of influence, become the more like the kind of leader we want.

What can you do differently in the next year? How can you be the leader who changes your part of America? Because you and I are the leaders who really hold the key to fixing America.