Life

Taking Time to Honor

Years ago I had an idea.

I am not sure where it came from, I may have heard of it from another youth minister or I may have just been inspired one day.

But I had this vision of the youth ministry no longer feeling and acting like they were in opposition to other ministries, especially senior adult ministries, in the church.

For many years I watched other youth pastors gripe and moan about how the “old people” were holding the church back and ruining the church for the next generation. And this saddened me for two reasons, first the shortsightedness of the youth pastors that were saying these things and second the fact that there was some truth to what they were saying.

Then the idea.

What if we taught our students that instead of viewing the senior adults as problems we taught them to see them as heroes?

The Honor Banquet was born.

The concept was simple. The student ministry would plan, prepare and host a banquet for the adults in our church who were over the age of 55. The adult leaders would help oversee this event but the students would do all the work. We would roll out the red carpet and go all the way to make the senior adults of our church feel special. Everything, from the decorations to the meal to the clothes that would be worn by the students would reflect how special the occasion was. The students would help cook and plate each course of the meal, wait tables and provide entertainment.

This past week the student ministry at the church I just started serving with in October had the chance to put on their very first Honor Banquet. After all was said and done, I could not have been prouder of our students and adult leaders. The banquet was executed flawlessly and those who attended had nothing but praise for the students who waited patiently and attentively on everyone in attendance, going out of their way to make sure everyone had a great time.

More importantly the students had a chance to express a great and emphatic “Thank You” to all the members of our church who have given so much over the years and acknowledge that without the senior adults’ contributions to the church in years past there would be no church here today.

This has been the seventh year I have been able to lead a ministry in doing an Honor Banquet and it gets better every year. If you are a youth pastor our a student ministry leader let me encourage you to take time to honor those in your congregation that have done more than you can ever know to serve the kingdom.

You won’t regret it

Categories: Life, Ministry, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Please Don’t Ask What I DO

I’m just putting this out there…..

 

I HATE when people ask what I do.

It might be at a coffee shop, or the hair cut place, or a salesperson, or a parent at my kids school.

 

They always ask!

 

And I HATE answering.

 

It isn’t because I am ashamed of what I do (I’m not proud of it either but that is for another post) because I’m not. It is because of the inevitability of the reaction on the part of the person who asked the question when I answer “I’m a Youth Pastor”.

 

It is always “Oh”

 

Sometimes “Oh” is followed by a smile and a polite gesture of a compliment about my life’s calling and sometime the “Oh” is followed by a subtle (or not so subtle) groan. Sometimes it is the last word that person ever speaks to me….

 

But worse than the verbal reaction is the non verbal reaction and that is why I hate answering the question. In the micro second it takes for the person to process the word pastor (and usually the youth part isn’t even acknowledged) everything about the interaction I am having with that person changes. They become defensive, illusive, private and standoffish.  There is something very unnerving about quietly having my motives for EVERYTHING questioned. Suddenly I am the enemy. Either I am trying to corral them into a gospel presentation or I just want their money or I am looking to condemn them for their sins.

You know what I hate about it most?

 

I lose the chance to know them. Who they really are, what they are really like and what they struggle with. They hide it all.

 

It’s not their fault though….

 

It’s ours….and by ours I mean the Church.

 

Jesus loved people and desired to KNOW people and to lead people to His Father.

 

Sometimes the church treats people like a herd of cattle. We just want to tag them and let the world know they belong to God and move along to the next herd.

 

So please, let’s change this

 

Or at least just stop asking me what I do!

 

 

Categories: Humor, Life, Ministry, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Divorce, Marriage, The Church and Fairy Tales

I saw an interesting article on a friend’s Facebook today from The Huffington Post concerning divorce and marriage statistics in Red states vs Blue states. You can read the article here http://www.huffpost.com/us/entry/4639430  . Obviously the conclusion that they reach seems biased against the church and I don’t agree with them. What I can’t argue is that there is problem with divorce amongst Christians.  Church leaders have been concerned with this for a considerable amount of time. What many have realized is that while in the secular culture marriage and relationships have become self centered and disposal at the same time they have made “falling in love” into an unrealistic fairy tale. Christians have bought into the fairy tale. At the same time the church has an epidemic running through it of pastors teaching that Jesus magically fixes everything. So when Christians get married and find out that the love fairy tale isn’t true they turn to Jesus the “fixer”. The problem is that Jesus isn’t a love genie who grants your wishes just because you tried the methods you learned at the latest greatest Christian marriage conference. Jesus gives us strength and understanding, yes, but his command is to love our spouse as he loves the world and, just in case you haven’t heard, the world rejected and crucified Jesus and he still refuses to abandon us. If we want to see successful marriages then we need to preach grace, mercy, sacrifice and long suffering and most of all work. Marriage is work, hard work. I know it isn’t the fairytale you have heard but it is much better than what Hollywood and romance novels have to offer.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Starting a New Chapter

One of the hardest things I have found in ministry is the knowing of when you have finished a  chapter and it is time to move on to the next. There was a point and time this year that I felt like I may be at that point but I could not bring myself to simply walk away with no other ministry to go to.  My wife and I talked at great length and I decided to steal a page from Gideon and ask for a sign. In my prayers I was very specific and asked God to show me exactly what He wanted and He has graciously answered my prayer.  It wasn’t necessarily pleasant or an exciting moment when I got that answer but it was undeniable. And so last week I submitted my letter of resignation to Reedy Fork Baptist Church where I have served the last 5 almost 6 years. It has been a wild ride along with plenty of ups and downs but I can conclusively say that this chapter is over.

So what is next?

I don’t know.

As of right now I have no job to go to , no church to attend, no house to live in. I have some time to figure all that out and have some options available to me. What I do have is peace and clarity. There is something very exciting about knowing that God gave you the exact thing you asked for even if it was the last thing you really wanted and knowing that this is exactly what He wanted.

It hurts.

It hurts to say goodbye. It hurts to walk away from something I built up from near nothing. It hurts to know that so many that counted on me for things in the community will have to find someone else.

But I have no worries for myself. No worries for my family. And I look forward to the day when God reveals more about the next chapter of this thing I refer to as my calling.

Oh and if you happen to know of a church looking for a really great guy to be their youth minister….

Tell them I am available anyway

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry, Religion | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Hey I may be crazy

So many people have  a problem with my having an “imaginary friend” . If you are one of them please understand that I have this group of people I hang out with that have the same “imaginary friend” and we have been inspired by that “imaginary friend” to do some pretty awesome things. We have made sure that 100 children in our community have food to take home for the weekend when they leave school every Friday. We support a food bank that reaches 40 families a week. We fed 80 high school marching band members lunch for 10 days straight. We cleared a 90 yr old woman’s grossly overgrown yard, replaced a floor in a house that was rotten so a 3 yr old would have a bedroom and wouldn’t have to sleep on a couch, we raised hundreds of dollars for a young man who had no money for clothes,  are providing 50 teachers with funds to buy supplies for their classrooms donate almost 1000 dollars worth of candy and cash to the local elementary school so they could have a successful fundraising event. Raised school supplies for over 100 underprivileged children.  Sent over 100 gift boxes overseas for Operation Christmas Child. Sent bags full of toiletries to countless soldiers and prisoners and have served hundreds upon hundreds of meals to homeless people. And so much more I can’t even remember all in LESS THAN A YEAR. But I am sure that this “imaginary friend” isn’t worth keeping and I am sure that I must be an awful person for believing in this “imaginary friend”.    Oh, and yes I call Him God and I don’t think he is imaginary at all in fact he is very real to me.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Humor, Life, Ministry, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I was Profiled as a Shoplifter- The Sufferings of an ADHD Shopper

I wanted to share an experience I had tonight at the Simpsonville SC Walmart and can only laugh about in retrospect.

Our children are getting ready to head off to a week of camp and they are getting to the age now where they want their own luggage. So today we had gone out and had bought our oldest daughter a cute, girlie rolling suitcase but had struck out when trying to find something for our son. I also had to get those items that every camper needs as well as some household stuff and so I struck out to Walmart, where you can find anything and everything.

I must admit that I love Walmart and never just go in and get what I need and with my ADHD my trip through the store looks like a blind mouse caught in a inescapable maze.  I looked around at some stuff and priced out some things I wanted to buy later and looked at supplies for the camping trip I want to take. My headlight on my car has gone out so I grabbed a pair of those. Then, as I walked through bedding I grabbed a comforter that was the match to one I bought for one of our girls a while back and hadn’t been able to find since. That is when I grabbed the 5 piece luggage set, bright almost but not quite Carolina Panthers blue, I knew my son would love it. After that I went over and got all the kids travel needs toothpaste, shampoo, sunblock etc. And while I was over there I grabbed some hairbows and headbands and some brushes for the kids to take to camp that they could lose and not get skinned by their mother for.

With all that done I was ready to head over the grocery section but I wasn’t ready to leave yet, I knew I would be bored and had nothing to do at home, so I headed over to the bike section. One of our students wants me to go mountain biking with him but I need a new seat and a helmet so i was entertaining the idea of going ahead and getting them so I could be ready to just go when I had a day free.

That is when I heard him. There was a man at the other end of the aisle and I could barely understand him. but what I could make out was. “This isn’t shopping” “he’s throwing handfuls of merchandise into the buggy” “I am going to need help” “he is in the toy section”. Two things went through my mind at that moment. 1. Oh crap somethings about to go down I better get outta here before someone goes crazy on someone! 2. Is that guy somebody I know trying to prank me.

I walked around and tried to get a look at the guy but I didn’t know him so i shrugged it off and went back around the store to finish my shopping. From the toy section I went through the home decor section and looked at clocks, I don’t know why so don’t ask. Then as I walked through the sunglasses section I looked to see if they had anything my kids would like. They did not. So it was time to end the trip and head to the dairy section and out to check out. On the way I passed the kid’s clothing section and saw that they had value packs of underwear for sale. It took a while for me to find the right size and cut for my girls. Sidenote 1: I am not comfortable with the idea of size 4 toddler panties being available in low rise bikini and definitely will not buy them for my daughters Sidenote 2: there is not much as awkward as a 30 yr old man shopping for girls underwear in Walmart alone on a Saturday night but hey ya gotta do what ya gotta do right?

Anyway I found what I needed and went over to get my son some underwear in the boy’s section. At this point I am approached by a young man who makes eye contact , head nods and walks away. He then reappears and whispers “hey”. He was so quiet I could barely hear him. He walked closer and I judged him to be your average Hollister wearing teenage boy nothing particularly shady or off about him. Leaning in towards me over my buggy he whispers again “Hey if you are stealing anything you better be careful some old guy in a gray shirt is following you and watching you.” My eyes must have gotten huge and my jaw must have dropped in disbelief because he repeated himself again and added “seriously” I laughed and said that was hilarious and asked him if he wanted to know why that was so ironic. Then i explained I was a youth pastor and stealing was the last thing I would ever do. He laughed said “For real? That’s messed up” and walked away.

The whole conversation made me laugh and I tried to peak around the corners to spot the guy but I never saw him. Obviously it was really time for me to go and finish my trip. I walked back to the dairy case got some coffee creamer and texted my wife about the convo I just had. I could not get over it and so I tried to hover and spot the guy but I couldn’t.

I wandered up to the front stopping along the way to look at the As Seen On TV display. Recently I have gone crazy for the Magic Tap Drink Dispenser and was hoping they had gotten it to store already, no luck. While I was looking, I spotted the boy who had tipped me off at the checkout, I was a little suspicious of him at this point, and so I walked the other direction. After a quick stop at the Pepsi single cold case,I got in line and started unloading the buggy. As I unloaded the majority of the small items I saw the older man duck behind a clothing rack trying to appear as if he wasn’t watching me when obviously he was. My first instinct was to try to make eye contact to acknowledge him but he turned and walked away. After a few moments he walked back and took position again. There were a thousand different scenarios racing through my mind and I was about to ask the cashier if the guy was a Walmart employee or not. I then decided on a more direct course of action. I squared my shoulders, stood up straight and walked with a confident stride and a friendly smile on my face. The gentleman turned away from me acting as if I was intruding but I was not going to be denied. I looked him in the eye, even though he would not maitain eye contact, and point blank asked him. “So are you the guy that I was told is following me and thinks I am stealing from the store?” He stammered a bit and denied watching me and explained he was simply talking on the phone but he added, almost  under his breath, “I am with Walmart Security”.  My reply was quick, emphatic and confident.  As I grabbed his hand and firmly shook it I drew my body to full height, which put my eye level just above his, my eyes widened and I smirked as I said “Allow me to introduce myself. Rev Jason Roth Youth Minister Reedy Fork Baptist Church I just bought a load of stuff tonight to send our kids off to camp next week.” The gentleman broke eye contact, still holding a phone to his ear this whole time, looked at the floor and snickered as he shook his head slowly side to side and said simply “Have a good night sir” and walked away. I went to the checkout helped the cashier go through the rest of my items and even helped her open the luggage to make sure there were no “extras” inside, paid for my order and started to leave. As I turned to walk away I caught a glimpse of the teenage boy that had been so gracious to tip me off walking back with his friends into the area of  the clothing section that I had just had my confrontation. If I had to bet, I would bet that those boys were Walmart employees posing as shoppers and that the tip off was just a ploy to try to get me to say something incriminating.

As I walked out I shook my head and knew that I would have a great story to add to my shoplifter thwarting tales except this time instead of being the store employee tackling the shoplifter I was the one the store was trying to thwart!!

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Humor, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

HELP!! I WANT MY KIDS IN CHURCH!!

I get asked this a lot and was telling someone just today what my standard answer to that question would be. So I thought it would make a good blog post. So here it is

How does a parent get their child involved in church?

First and foremost the parent has to model the behavior that they want their child to adopt. If you want her in church consistently then you have to be in church consistently. This will show them that it is serious to the parent and that it is more than an extra activity but a part of the way of life.

 

Secondly, you must be find a church that is supportive of the values and goals that you want for your child to absorb and commit yourself to that church and that church alone for a substantial duration of time, in your specific case I would say the remainder of her High School career. Children of all ages need consistency and in this world it seems that everything in their life changes so fast they can’t count on anything. When the church becomes a constant they are more likely to latch to it.

 

Thirdly a teen is going to be drawn where their friends are. If the youth group does not have anyone in it that the teen can or will connect with then they will feel isolated and alone and not want to go.

 

Fourth, it is important for any parent to realize that the principle influence in a child’s life will always be the parent. In turn that means that the one who must be discipling the child in Christ is the parent as well and that the youth minister and youth group are only there to support and enhance what the parent is already doing, which is why number one is so important.

 

Finally there as to be some lines drawn. If the previous four statements are applied first then this is an easier task. Not to say that it is at all easy but if placed first in the list it is almost impossible. The parent is the parent and makes the decisions if the parent decides that the family is going to start attending and participating in church then that is the rule and is enforced. Many times parents will tell me they don’t want to force their kids to come to church because they are afraid it will turn them off to religion. But the fact is that we force our children to do many other things and yet never consider to apply that principle. They go to school, eat their supper, go to the doctor, go to bed, have a curfew, etc etc etc. Again when the previous four are applied this becomes easier.

 

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, family, Life, Ministry, parenting, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Born This Way

This phrase “born this way” has been used as a justification for many things through the years. Mostly those people who have a part of themselves that they cannot control and that normal society would deem deviant  love to unfurl the flag of  their helplessness with the reasoning that they were just born the way they are and cannot be expected to change their ways to conform to the societal norm. The next step, for some in the religious community, is to translate this claim into religious rhetoric and explain to the world that it is God who has made these individuals the way we are and that we as humans have no right to judge God’s will.

Does anyone else see a problem developing

Most recently this claim has been the forefront argument of the homosexual/ gay rights movement. We have even seen entire denominations of Christian churches move towards the legitimatizing of the homosexual lifestyle. As this happens inevitably we hear the “born this way” or “God made me this way” argument.

But where does it end

What about hoarders? They can’t control their urges. We condemn their homes and take their children and make TV shows that profit off of their embarrassment. If they were born this way why can’t they be left to live how they would like? The TV shows have shown even small children with tendencies of hoarding. Who are we to judge?

What about murderers? What if there are some that cannot control their urges? They have no moral balance and thus cannot stop from killing. Should they not be excused from any punishment maybe given refuge in a place where they can live and unleash their brutality?

What about pedophiles? They claim they cannot control their feelings. Why do they receive such harsh criticism? Isn’t it unfair to treat them so harshly?

DUH!!!

All of those are ridiculous arguments! Why because every one of those things is wrong and we have accepted them to be wrong and we understand why they are wrong! We were made by the Creator God our Lord to be a reflection of His Glory. Sin has screwed us up! Not God  not the moon or the stars or any other thing but sin! We cannot think that just because we cannot overcome something within ourself that it is God’s will for us  Romans 8:24 -26a

24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness”

If we could control ourselves why would we need God’s grace? If we were able to perfect ourselves what need for the sacrifice of Christ? We need to watch our blasphemy of God’s name and His work.  Following Him is not easy that is why we need Him. It hurts. Mentally, Physically, Emotionally and Spiritually it hurts. But in the end…..it is worth it.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Love, Hate and Disagreement

One thing I love, and wish people could do more of, is openly disagree in a civil fashion.  Whenever I get into a discussion or debate with someone on a blog or in person I never enter in with the belief that something I will say is going to magically sway them from their side to mine. That is not a healthy way to view discussion because if your goal is to sway them then you will wind up being very frustrated.

I have seen this occur in my blog reading and commenting time and time again. An author will post their views and then anyone who opposes them gets trashed and demeaned.  That is not good.  I believe that every person has room to be wrong and that every person is at least partly wrong in their positions. Why? Because everyone is imperfect. Opinions are not facts and are not based on facts. Sure someone will quote facts but what they are really spouting is their interpretation of the facts. Everyone should recognize that they have some room to be corrected and grow and be stretched and at the very least take an opposing view and chew on it.

Sometimes bloggers have really healthy interaction with their commenters and when they do it is beautiful. As a church staff person I have always wondered what it would be like to work in a environment where sharing differences  on non-essential theology and methodology was not only allowed but encouraged.  Too many times I have seen senior pastors either force their staff to agree with them or push them out when their was disagreement. Worse yet I have seen senior pastors completely avoid issues so that they will not get into a deep discussion.

Now don’t get me wrong a public disagreement between staff can be divisive…… but maybe…… what if we modeled it in a Christian way?

What if instead of shutting down or fighting we sought to understand the other side through a different perspective. Not agreeing with the other side but trying to understand the path that got them there so that we can understand the foundation before we judge the conclusion. And all the while we are not bashing or trashing people because they don’t think like us.

And do not  misunderstand me to be saying truth is relative and that what one person believes is ok for them and not for me and we just need to accept. Believe me I believe what I believe and if I think you are wrong I think you are wrong but I want to know why you have arrived at the belief that directly opposes mine. I do not want to write you off.

Now consider the impact. I minister in a community with a very diverse group people and pastors.  I have church members and other pastors in the community that are Republicans and I have church members and other pastors in the same community that are Democrats. Now we all know how confrontational these two sides can get. But can we say that as Christians we handle our differences any different? One church uses traditional music and one church uses modern “rock” worship and the leaders post blogs essentially damning the other church’s actions. I could go on and on with examples. No wonder people act with such selfishness an hate when the ones who are to love do not model love.

Maybe if we could begin to see where our opposition was right we could work towards a understanding of  how to work through and around what we are doing wrong.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving All, All the Time

I had the privilege of serving with a man named Chris at NYWC  201o. Chris is a youth ministry vet who has been loving on kids for 20+ years and to call him a character would be the understatement of the century.   Personality is this man’s middle name and you cannot help but smile when he is in the room. But with all the laughs and cutting up, the stories and the off the wall sayings what was displayed even more prominently, and more importantly, was Chris’ love for others.  I had the privilege of not only working with Chris but also spending down time with him as well, whether that meant eating a meal or walking to and from the hotel or shopping in the YS Store or just browsing the Exhibit Hall.  Wherever we were wherever we went Chris never met a stranger.  His interaction with every single person was as if he had known them for a lifetime and he truly showed care and in each and every person.

I will confess that many times when I am running in the store of gas station that I blow by people and never think twice about who is waiting on me.  What really is sad is that I used to work retail and I know how big a difference a customer with an outgoing personality can make in a employees day. I have even said to myself years ago that I wanted to be that guy.  Often times I will forget peoples names and simply brush it off with lame excuses but not Chris. Within a day of being at the event he had learned every name not just on our team but on the entire YS staff that was onsite for the conference which must have been a good 50 people.  And it was more than just memorizing, he had genuinely gotten to know each person and cared for each and every one of them.  When we would walk through Chris would take time to speak with anyone who stood still long enough whether that be a security guard or a janitor or a YS staffer.  With a smile on his face and a kid word on his lips Chris would make sure that everyone in his path would be left with a smile.

As I sat in my office reflecting on this week and my experience and what I had learned what convicted me the most was how I fail so many times to love the people around me whether I know them or not. It is really a powerful thing, a difficult thing to be sure, to love all at all times but oh so important and a lesson that hope to be able to learn.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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