Ministry

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

3 HUGE Mistakes I Made in Ministry

I have been serving in ministry in some role since I was 17. I have served as an intern, part-time staff member and full time pastoral staff. As I look back on some of my experiences I have thought about all the struggles I have faced and while it would be easy to point the finger and place the blame I believe it is more important to identify my failures. As I am in a transition period I have had a chance to reflect on my most recent ministry experience and I have identified 3 HUGE mistakes that I want to share (NOTE I’m not sayin I only made three mistakes just that I want to talk about these three)

 

#1 Failed to have a realistic understanding of the identity of the church.

When i first started at my previous church I walked in taking everything at face value. If I asked a question I just accepted the answer as truth. What I realized shortly after starting is that sometimes the truth is hard to explain and even harder to admit and that  people don’t always paint a clear picture for you. This was a HUGE mistake because when I walked in I walked in with a truckload of expectations and excitement that could never be met because it was based on a false understaning of the identity of the church. And it wasn’t the church’s fault, it was my job to understand what I was walking into and to form my expectations based on that not vice versa. I wound up being frustrated very quickly because of my expectations not being met and what was worse is I didn’t realize until much later that it was my fault to begin with!

#2 I set the bar too HIGH.

I am sure you think this is ridiculous we are supposed to set the bar high shoot for the stars and never accept anything les. Right? Well, ok, sure go for that but watch yourself. Like I said before about identity expectations need to formed on truth not fantasy and so do goals. The problem with aiming for lofty goals is that you may be ready to aim for those goals yourself but those around you may find those goals (and the path to those goals) overwhelming and will start to jump ship very quickly if you are not careful. And if you start losing your crew you will soon have a sinking ship. Make goals that aren’t easy to achieve but not so aggresive that people can’t handle the idea of tackling those goals

#3 I started believing the negativity and criticism.

There are always whispers and rumors floating around and, if you are in the position of leadership,  alot of it is going to be about you. After a while I started believing that all the negativity I was hearing was truth and I reacted to it and in the process I recoiled away from those I was entrusted to lead, not because I didn’t want to lead, because I was fearful that I might perpetuate the negativity that I was accused of. When faced with negativity we should seek the counsel of people we trust and then rely on our convictions to guide us. In other words I stopped trusting my gut and in the end it was proved that my gut was right all along.

 

I made many many mistakes in the last fifteen years and will make many more. Hopefully we all can grow and learn from the ones that are already passed.

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The day I came up with a funny hashtag #UnemployedPreacherProbz

These post got pretty popular on Facebook so in case you missed it.

*My family wants me to find a church soon….or a hobby. I don’t know what their problem is I think it is perfectly normal to gather your kids and dogs together once a week for “small group”

*I told my fam “Hey if Josh Devinney can baptize dogs so can I!”

*My wife \wasn’t real happy with my idea to put a pulpit in the living room or replacing the windows with stained glass

*I might not be able to have my living room/ sanctuary but I bet I could convert the garage to a youth room……Wait. What? Oh. Nevermind

*My kids aren’t homeschooled but they are homechurched

*I made my 11yr old son a deacon. He promptly called a business meeting and made a motion to have me fired #TrueBaptistKid

*My son’s twin sister is head of personnel she seconded the motion #TrueBaptistKid #IJustCantWin

*I have been passing the plate all night…The kids still won’t give me any of their allowance #AGuysGottaEat

*I wouldn’t mind having my sermon critiqued by the music minister but she’s my daughter….and she’s 7…..

*I think I created a monster…The Hostess Committee voted to eat ice cream for dinner and the Building and Grounds Committee just voted to change the locks…..and not give me a key

Hope you enjoyed!!

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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.

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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

One Car Crash and Nothing is Ever the Same Again

A little over a week ago I wrote a post about getting beat up everywhere you turn. Today’s death of Paul Walker in a one car auto accident brought again to mind the fragility of life and how quickly it can be snuffed out

One of my safe havens is my alone time in the car.

There I am safe from all the noise of the world…… until..a  couple of weeks ago

I had left home and wasn’t 2 miles from my house. It was one of those moments we have all had. We are driving along when someone shoots past us hot-dogging the accelerator, their exhaust bellowing as they move past you at a rate of speed that not only exceeds the speed limit but also the limits of common sense and safety.

It frustrates, annoys and enrages you….and you say to yourself or out loud “That idiot is going to get himself killed”

And you believe that…..maybe even hope that they have a close call so they learn a lesson

But you never desire that they actually lose their life

And you never expect it to happen….

Not while you are watching.

There I was, in my car, as the words were dropping off my tongue, watching the little two door car speed down the road leaving us further and further behind and then…

It happened

In an instant the back end of the car shifted left then right then left again. Obviously out of control the driver most likely tried to correct but only manage to make things far worse for in the next instant the car was rocking side to side on two wheels. Before I knew it the back end off the car lifted itself into the air, dragging the nose of the vehicle diagonally across the road from the oncoming lane back into the proper lane and towards the shoulder of the pavement. The suddenly the rear end dropped back to earth as if it had been slammed down my an invisible hand and the car shot off the shoulder and into the ditch on the side of the road. As I watched this final movement I held my breath and gave a gasp of relief when the car avoided hitting three small trees head on managing to only make a glancing blow on the passenger’s side of the vehicle.

My heart raced

I couldn’t breathe

I had no phone (left it at home that morning)

I stopped and got out of my car. The truck in front of me pulled over as well the other car behind me kept driving. When the guy in the truck saw me they too left the scene and so it was just me alone. I wish I could say my first reaction was to run and help or even to pray……. No my reaction was far more rooted in the flesh

I cursed….

And then I ran….

As I ran to the car another vehicle was stopping I motioned to the gentleman as to indicate the need for him to call 911. He was already making the call. I walked to the door and looked in…..and shuddered

The driver wasn’t in his seat

He was on the other side of the car…

No seatbelt.

I backed up, took a breath and looked in the back seat through the rear hatch window, at this point praying there wasn’t a child inside.

There wasn’t

I went blank…. I couldn’t open the door…. I didn’t want to see

The gentleman on the phone ran up and opened the door and went in he tried to make contact but couldn’t get a response. We knew he wasn’t moving and that we could not under any circumstance move him. We couldn’t even tell if he was breathing. It was very cold that morning and the driver was wearing several layers including a hood that was covering his face.

I haven’t decided if I am thankful for that or not….

The paramedics were there very quickly. Their station was right around the corner. They hooked up monitors, we helped break back brush, and in the matter of just a few minutes it was over…..

They stopped….

No resuscitation….

No defibrillator……

The guy with the phone said he had overheard those two words no one wants to here in a situation like this…

Brain Matter….

He was gone. Nothing to do but call in the coroner…..

I never did see his face and only learned his name and age from the obituary in the local news. An African American man who was the same age as myself who was probably just late for work and in a hurry.

That image will haunt me. Not because of the trauma or the death but because of how quickly it passed.

10 seconds? 20?

Poof…

We are told in the book of  James that life is nothing but a vapor.  Again we see this today another one car accident and two people dead in an instant. But of course this one we see on the news and we are grieved because this was a celebrity and I am sure much will be made of what and how this happened because of Paul Walker’s popularity. Which I will be glad to hear about because it will remind everyone how tomorrow is promised to no one.   And that living recklessly even for a brief moment of indulgence can result in tragedy.

For me, though, Paul Walker’s death, as special as he was, will never impact me the way the death of a man whose name I never knew and whose face I never saw impacted me.

I learned that day that all it takes is……

A one car crash and nothing is ever the same again

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Love , Grace, Mercy, Hunter Hayes and One Direction.

My twins, Kelsey and Isaac,  just turned ten a couple of weeks ago. For about a year now Kelsey has slowly been falling more and more in love with the hit Brit pop group, One Direction. This means , of course, that daddy is also listening to a lot of One Direction. I personally believe that any parent should have the decency to be listening to what their kids are listening to so that they know the messages that their kids are being indoctrinated with.  This morning as we pulled into the school One Direction’s latest hit “Little Things” came on the radio and as usual Kelsey got that blushed look she usually gets when they come on the radio. I have heard the song before but I have never been one to really understand the lyrics of a song for the first few times I listen to it. Today though was the day that I caught on to what the song was really about.

If you haven’t heard the song youtube it. The essentials of the song are that all the girl’s insecurities and imperfections or “little things” add up to who that girl is and those insecurities and imperfections are accepted because the boy is in love with the girl. It is a beautiful concept and if I was a teenage girl I would probably swoon at the words of the song. But as I listened I was saddened, not because of the song but because of who the song was delivered by and who it was directed to and no I am not demonizing One Direction.

My point is that a group of boys is telling girls that they are loved just the way they are and girls are falling over themselves for that love.

Another song came on during my drive back home, “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes. Same point different artist.

You know who SHOULD be sending out this message?

1. The Church

2. Dads

You know who is NOT doing a good job sending out this message?

1. The Church

2. Dads

We are so good at saying we are concerned about the next generation but we are horrible at actually doing anything about it. Dads ignore their children and churches practice legalism. While church members are fighting about when committees should meet and color the new curtains should be the world is getting better at preaching love, grace and mercy than the church itself!

Maybe it is time that we realize little things really are important we just have to realize which ones.

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Translate Properly

For many years I have heard and read about reasons people give regarding why they leave a church. At the same time I have heard pastors and leaders respond in various ways. Sometimes they respond positively and seek to find ways to improve their church other times they play the blame game. So I want to look at some examples

Reason 1: I am not getting fed

This is a common reason. Too many times though leaders deflect and blame the person for not being mature enough to feed themselves or copping out or wanting to be spoon fed and have their egos stroked and their ears tickled. The outcome is a church that doesn’t change or seek to push their people. A proper translation would be more along the lines of  I do not feel challenged or grown or renewed spiritually by the teaching and preaching of the church” If we translate it this way we can begin to examine what we are teaching is it deep enough

Reason 2: The services are boring

Another common reason. A failed translation will say that this person is not dedicated to truly worshiping God because  they are too focused on themselves.  Perhaps instead what is being said is that “There is no excitement created for the things of God in our services and I see no transformation by God in our people as a result in our services”

Reason 3: I don’t like a certain staff member

This one is tricky because there could be a real issue there but too many times we are quick to point the finger at the staff member.  What happens in truth more times than we are willing to admit is that the person did not get their way and is not recognizing the God ordained leader for the  ministry. What is really being said is “I don’t want to go where the leader is taking me” or “I don’t want to submit to their spiritual authority” In either case it may be best they move on but the leader should pay attention and adjust his leadership style should this be brought up on a more consistent basis.

Translating properly with understanding gives us the opportunity for self reflection and adjustment. It is easy to play the blame game but if we don’t use the opportunities to grow that we are given the end result is death.


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CONNECT

CONNECT- Verb- 1. Bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established

The very first step in building our ministry is stepping out and CONNECTing. That contact and real link between our ministry and the world outside the four walled buildings we call the “church” is vital to the strength, viability and longevity of our ministry. As a ministry we seek to Connect on three specific levels.

Our first goal in CONNECTing is to CONNECT to COMMUNITY. The church in years past was a gathering place for community and much of what happened in the community filtered through the local church. Today in our modern society that is not the case today. Today the church, many times,  is an after thought in the midst of the ever increasing busyness of life that we have created for ourselves. Many times the church tries to force itself onto people as a center of community activity by trying to host events and activities that they think will draw people in but the reality is they are only fooling themselves. With so many churches, schools and other organizations in communities such as ours there is always someone doing something bigger, better and more interesting and it is near impossible to schedule something that is not conflicting with something else. So as a ministry our first step is to find where we can connect to the community and support it, work with it instead of competing with it.

Our Second CONNECT goal is to CONNECT with INFLUENCE. We identify people with influence, church leaders, school leaders, organization leaders or students and parents who are active and plugged into the specific social groups, in order that we can gain access to open doors where there once was none. Many times ministries have no opportunities because they have no trust. CONNECTing with INFLUENCE builds trust and helps us identify the next step of connection.

Finally we CONNECT with NEED. This step is important to identify. It may not mean a financial need and we are not just talking about poor but real need. We seek to identify areas within our community and our church where there is a void. For example in a church I served in many of the students had absentee fathers and what they needed more than anything was male role models and mentoring.  The men’s ministry of the church stepped up and started a mentoring group. It was revolutionary in the lives of kids.

Once we have a CONNECTion we are ready to move on to the next step PARTNER

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