Category Archives: Ministry

Come Again?

I’ve noticed a recent flood of student ministry events happening around the area recently aimed at drawing a big crowd. That isn’t surprising. Usually toward the beginning of every school year student ministers are trying to pump up attendance. Start big that way the end of the semester dwindle is less painful.

This isn’t a post against programs that are aimed at bringing people in. I think those programs are needed and necessary. Some students wouldn’t think twice about darkening the door of your church unless you had a DJ or local celeb or messy games blowout. These things may even draw back those students who were active last year but you never saw from June through August.

When talking with people about these type of events they are well aware of their aim. Draw people in. Hope some of them stick. Say your event draws in 100 new faces (for the sake of simple math). What would you consider to be a successful return rate? 10? 20? 25? So, if 25% of those that come for the first time return that would be great. A chunk of those students could get plugged into small groups and begin to develop deep relationships aimed at Christ.

The question that kept nagging at me last night as I was trying to get some sleep was, “What about the other 75%?”. I know that drawing in the 25% is worth celebrating, but have we done anything for the 75% to change their mind about church? What does giving away iPads/money/etc say about the desire (envy) for more stuff? Does it do anything to offer an alternative to the insatiable beast that our consumer culture creates? Sure, you may have an easily digestible message about the fulfillment Christ can bring, but everything else we’ve done up to that point has pointed to the contrary.

So, what about the other 75%? Do we write them off? Focus on the 25%? I don’t have an easy answer. I still struggle with these things. What are your thoughts, whether student or adult ministry? How do you handle that tension?

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Celebrating the Past :: Moving Toward the Future

 

I recently returned from a trip to San Francisco with the above group.  The group is comprised of, mostly, recently graduated seniors from the youth group at Arborlawn UMC.  We do a trip like this every year as an end of the year/farewell to our seniors who have served in many different capacities.  We have a leadership program that we base a good deal of our programming around at Arborlawn that helps lead our students into service in the church in the hopes that when they go off to college they have a better sense of how to be a part of a church instead of simply being a religious consumer.  They serve in a variety of capacities from helping with all ages of Sunday School classes to volunteering in the church office.

The trip is a big “thank you” to them as well as a time to remember the past and look toward the future.  I always have mixed emotions on these trips.  I really enjoy spending time with these students that I have grown closer and closer to over the years; but I also know that, come fall, they will be off to college and no longer be a regular part of our program.  I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know each and every person on this trip.  I’m thankful for the lives of other students that they have invested in as they grew through the program and I am excited for what the future holds for them.  God’s kingdom is definitely enriched by the lives of those willing to selflessly serve and willing to pour into the lives of others and these students are a testament to that.

How do you make space for the students or people in your ministry to pour back into the lives of the people that come after them?  How have you been training up leaders?

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I Want to Fail

 

I want to fail.

Not a very common phrase, especially in our culture.  We thrive on and worship success.  In doing so we often ignore one of the best avenues to attain success–failure.

Now, when I say, “I want to fail,” I am not talking about colossal fails  (i.e. life or death, marriage ending, childhood ruining), but minor to moderate failures.

Willingness to fail means that we are willing to risk and chance.  It also shows an awareness that our worth and value is not based on our accomplishments or prior successes.  I have played it safe most of my life.  I applied to one college out of high school (and got in) mainly because they sent me a special application that was as much of a guarantee that you could get.  I didn’t expend much energy pushing myself beyond what was certain or comfortable.  This approach worked for a while, but I have come to the realization that this approach doesn’t move you forward very far.  It relies on baby steps and certainty (the later of which is somewhat laughable).

Stepping out in faith (trusting in things unseen) requires us to be open to the possibility of failure.  Learning to discern God’s voice takes practice and failure is a vital part of practice and learning.  In life, in love, in ministry we are called to step beyond what we know and enter into a world that is better.  In finding our way into this world we will take wrong steps, but the beauty is that we aren’t defined by our wrong steps, but rather our failures provide a springboard for a greater success.

So, may you fail and fail forward.  Be willing to step out in faith and realize that God is calling you to bigger, greater, and more.

Where is your fear of failure holding you back from the potential God has blessed you with?

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Back on the wagon

December 8th, 2008.  That’s when I fell off the wagon apparently.  That’s when I stopped blogging.  I had nothing to say.  I didn’t want to commit the time necessary to produce anything worth anybody’s time (if it wasn’t worth my time why would it be worth yours?).

March 5th, 2012. I’m back on the wagon. It took me a while to find a purpose to blog.  It may be a selfish reason, but I need it to be in the public domain for a certain level of accountability.  Being a seminary student and currently studying Methodist History and Doctrine one of the things I found most intriguing about the character of John Wesley was his strict devotion to journaling.  He kept constant record of, not only his daily activities, but also of his theological positions by constantly writing about them.

One of the most intriguing is Wesley’s distinction of the marks of a true Christian.  At one point in his life this requires concrete assurance even in the face of certain death that one is loved by Christ and saved from wrath.  After a startling experience aboard a ship that nearly capsizes Wesley does not see it fit to call himself a Christian.  What is even more interesting is to read his own commentary of his journals from the years.

1740: I who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God” (1775–”I am not sure of this”); “[I lack] faith in Christ” (1775–”I had even then the faith of a servant, though not that of a son”); “I am ‘a child of wrath.'” (1775–”I believe not”); “I was persuaded that…I was even then [1728-29] in a state of salvation” (1775–”And I believe I was”); “I had been all this time building on the sand” (1775–”Not so: I was right, as far as I went”).

                                           – Heitzenrater Wesley and the People Called Methodists, p.261-2

Immediate reflection yields one conclusion, but looking back over his life’s journey with the wisdom experience brings he is able to see where he was being led in his theology.

As an aspiring pastor.father.husband I need something where I can reflect on thoughts and experiences over the days.weeks.years.  This is my spiritual discipline (well…one of them).  It’s a commitment that requires temporal budgeting as well as serious thought and attentiveness to my life.  I will say things that are wrong. I will say things that I will look back on and shake my head.  But most importantly I will be honest to myself about what I say.

Do you track your beliefs/experiences over the years? How do you track your thoughts/beliefs over time?  Do you have a way of keeping yourself disciplined to this?

This is me restarting this journey.

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Planning…it’s new to me

As I sit in my office attempting to plan out sermon series for the youth group that I serve I thought to myself, “I’ve never had to do this before.”  It’s an exciting feeling for me beginning to venture into new, post-college, career oriented endeavors.  I’ve already had the…err…umm…”pleasure” of being the point man for our summer mission trips and now I’m looking to stretch myself in other areas. Continue reading

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