Religion

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

A Father Like None Other

As I was driving around the other day I began to think about fatherhood. My two oldest children will turn 12 in a couple of days and it has me in a reflective state of mind.

Here are these two pre-teens that I have nurtured and disciplined, loved and cherished for the last twelve years and I the question  that comes to my mind is “Am I doing a good enough job?”

Of course only time will answer that question but it is one worth thinking about (and one that more parents should consider) because if we don’t take pause to evaluate what we are doing we can never improve.

So I began considering our Heavenly Father.

And I came to a very quick conclusion

I do NOT want to raise my children the same as God raises His!

I know that is shocking but hear me out.

I have a few goals as a parent. These goals are modest and are by no means revolutionary and most parents would probably agree that they are sensible. In addition, there are traits I want my children to develop but these traits are not the goal they are a means to an end. A few of these traits are

1. I want my children to grow in their faith

2. I want my children to learn to think for themselves

3. I  want my children to become responsible

I nurture my children and discipline them in order to teach these traits. Eventually, the application of these traits will lead to the accomplishment of the goals I have.

1. My children will become self sufficient, independent adults

2. My children will establish their own lives

3. My children will have their own families

My goal is to raise my children and send them out.

Our Heavenly Father does not have the same goals

Yes He disciplines us

Yes He nurtures us

Yes He teaches us to be strong minded

Yes He teaches us to be responsible

But His GOALS? They are NOTHING like mine.

God does not raise His children to be independent nor does He raise them to establish themselves apart from Him. No, quite the opposite, everything our Father does is to make His children MORE dependent on HIM and to bring ALL of His children BACK to HIS home.

Earthly fathers raise their children to send out. Our Heavenly Father raises His children to be drawn back in

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, family, Religion | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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!!

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Humor, Ministry, 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.

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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

Lumberjack Handicap Match

I am not an avid watcher of pro wrestling but in years past I have followed closely enough to know the jargon and definitions used in the sport.

There are two types of matches that I came to mind today while I was thinking about life and the struggles we face: The Lumberjack Match and The Handicap Match

For those of you less versed in the lingo allow me to explain

A Lumberjack match is a basic match with one exception outside of the ring is filled with other wrestlers in a single line side by side,  shoulder to shoulder whose primary purpose is to inflict pain on either any wrestler involved in the match in the ring should they have the misfortune or poor judgement to find themselves on the outside of the ring

Handicap Match is a match where a wrestler or a team of wrestlers is pitted against another team of wrestlers of greater number such as 1 on 2 or 2 on 3 or 1 on 3 etc

But what if we had a Lumber Jack Handicap Match? Can you imagine what that would be like? Outnumbered in the ring getting knocked around with the odds completely stacked against you and no where to run to catch your breath because the moment you slipped out of the ring you were assaulted by a flurry of wrestlers taking any opportunity to inflict whatever pain they can.

Life can be like that. I have experienced it. In one area of life, home, work, social whatever, you are taking a beating. One challenge after another after another after another relentlessly beating you down. And then when you run to what you think will be a safe place, one of the other areas of your life, you are met with a seemingly equal or greater number of challenges. It is enough to make you question yourself or give up entirely because all you want to do is catch your breath. 

Am I describing you?

I can say that this year has been one of the toughest of my life. Heartbreak, sadness, questioning myself,  and sometimes wondering if there will ever be an end to the storms. But I know something

I think we all know pro wrestling is rigged. It isn’t fake. You can’t fake falling through the air and landing on your back sometimes from heights of 10 15 feet. Wrestling is rigged the winner is predetermined and the match is somewhat rehearsed.

Guess what. Your life. It’s RIGGED.

It almost never fails in these type matches that I have described one of the “hero” characters is getting beat up by a group of the “bad guys” and when all looks lost and the bad guys are cheating and torturing the hero another hero or group of heroes arrives to even the odds and drives the bad guys away much to the delight of the crowd.

I have a hero. You do to.

He’s the best.

Not only does He make the save He is the one that rigged the match.

Take great hope in the fact that God has already one. Your struggles. Your pain. Your desperation. Everything is a part of bringing the crowd to it’s feet as the only true Hero rushes in and makes the save.

And at the end of it all

The Hero will pick you up. He will grab your hand. And He will raise it along with His in victory.

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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.

Categories: Ministry, music, parenting, Philosophy, Religion | Leave a comment

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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