Wednesday, March 30, 2011

10 Stupid Things

I started reading Geoff Surrat's book 10 Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing yesterday. I'm only at the first stupid thing, but already see a lot of wisdom in what he's saying. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to pull out the concepts of each chapter and reframe them a little bit to talk about some stupid things that keep youth ministries from growing. I'll use his 10 things in subsequent posts, because the same stupid things that stifle a church will also cripple a youth ministry.

In twelve years of youth ministry, I've been through some times of great growth. Students stepping out of the familiar, new kids catching a glimpse of God, students reaching out to their friends and the outcasts, serving with a genuine love... It is truly amazing to see what God can do with a handful of kids learning to recognize, willing to listen, and excited to obey His Voice. I've also been through times when the only growth happening was merely the physical consequence of adolescence and good nutrition. Few students engaged, very little actual ministry happening, no one really interested in what God might want to do, "Why aren't we playing dodgeball?"...

While it definitely is God who is at work in any flourishing ministry, and He can certainly overcome any obstacle we may present, there are some stupid things we do that keep us from experiencing the kind of growth He could catalyze. I look forward to digging through the book and talking with you about some of the stupid things that keep youth ministries from growing.
What's the stupidest thing you've seen in student ministries? (Go ahead... hit me!)

Sticks & Chisels 3.4

(Continuing thoughts regarding the use of media in ministry)

...First and foremost, the media ministry must always keep in mind that their function is to enhance the church's communication (internal, as well as external).

Anchored in that mentality, it’s best for a church to make use of every technology it can effectively manage. This will depend on a number of factors, like church size, location, and budget, and the personal expertise of the media ministry team. There’s little argument about the use of older technologies. Who would oppose the use of print in the church, or electricity? When it comes to adapting newer technologies, however, there is sometimes resistance to what can be seen as unnecessary innovation. The keepers of the status quo may even feel threatened by proponents of technology and media that they don’t understand. Balance is important here. We don’t have to always chase the latest and greatest, but we should certainly be aware of the pulse and pace of technology’s current advance. Imagine a preacher who carved out his messages with sticks and chisels. He’d be seen as a relic and much of his message, no matter how good it is, may be lost to the perception of irrelevance.

Which leads into my final assertion regarding media ministry. More important than any technology we use or don’t use is this fact: we are the media. We are the media that God is using to reveal Himself to the world. God has a message He wants to deliver, and He wants to do so through our lives. If a certain media technology enhances our ability to be used by God to communicate His love and ours, then we should take hold of that tool and put it to use. But we are by no means obligated to use any particular media just because it is there. And we should be careful to craft our use of any media technology to minimize our separation from the intended recipients of His message. 
Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This letter is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.              -Paul

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stop Motion Fun with Cans

Recently, we had a sweet Cloverton concert with Delusions of Pluto. The cost of admission was 3 cans of food, which are going to a local food pantry led by Panhandle Love In Action. As the pile of cans grew before the concert, I thought "It would have been cool to have set up a stop motion video of the counter as the cans were collected." Good thought... too late.

But, last Thursday morning, I stole my wife's camera, set it up on a tripod, and dumped out a box of cans to play. (Is it ever ok to play with someone else's food?) I've never done a stop motion video before... just thought it would be fun. It was. I learned a few things though:
  • Fewer moving parts would have been a good idea!
  • More pictures = better.
  • Small movements make for less stop, more motion.
  • Stop motion takes a lot of time.
It's fun to experiment, and just so I don't keep all the fun for myself, here is my first jerky jump into the stop motion world. Also debuting is the compositional skill of my soon to be 9 year old son, Dakota. He's been messing around with Pattern Music on my iPad and I used something he composed for some background music (based on his recent obsession with Phineas & Ferb). I'm much more impressed with the results of his technological experimentation than with my own!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 3.3

We're closing out a missions emphasis period here at WestWay and had a guest speaker yesterday. Dave Robinson is a Bible College professor, an elder here at the church, one of my lifelong friend's dad, & my wife's uncle. More to the point, he's also very passionate about missions, having given several years of his life to translating Scripture for the Mbore speaking people of PNG (and many others to helping English speakers understand the Word as well). During Dave's sermon yesterday here at WestWay, he mentioned how we have to be faithful to the message of Christ AND creative in using every resource at our disposal to communicate that message. His statement reminded me of a paper I wrote a few weeks ago that I had intended to post here. I never got around to posting, but now I will... Here's what I think I think about using media in ministry.
... And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, “Be reconciled to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.             -Paul
The church has been entrusted with the greatest message known - that the reconciliatory love of our Maker has been offered to humanity in the atoning death of His own Son, and that the power that affected His resurrection is the same power available to work transformationally in our own lives. By any measure, that is a hugely consequential message to carry to an innumerably vast and diverse audience. Eternal life and death are at stake, so we should make the most of every available resource for the communication of that message. That is the essence of media ministry.

The word, media, is used to talk about a means of communication. Media is simply a conduit for the transference of a message from the giver to the receiver. Media ministry, then is not about the shiny, new toys of technology. It is about the effective communication of Christ. This is a key issue to effectively leading the media ministry of a church. It’s too easy to become so distracted by Dells and pixels that the technology can actually hinder our communications efforts. First and foremost, the media ministry must always keep in mind that their function is to enhance the church’s communication (internal, as well as external).
I'll post the rest of the paper later this week, but for now:
  • What are some creative uses of media you've seen? 
  • How are you making the most of the resources available to you to communicate Christ's message?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Guest Post: Young Thoughts About School (or Something)

Last night, Emily walked through the room while we were watching Waiting For Superman and it caught her attention enough that she stopped and watched. She just asked me to set her up a blog, so I'm going to compromise a little bit and let her do a post here about what she thinks of the movie and school in general:
 My dad left the room so now I'm going to write what I want.  On Sunday night I went to a concert by Cloverton and Delusions of Pluto.  It was so cool!  My friend, Brielle, and I sat on the steps by the stage, right next to the speakers!  It was so loud!  We had a blast!

Oh-no!  Dad is back!  Ahh!  Bye!


P.S I did like the movie.  You should watch it.  But don't tell my dad.

Are You Waiting For Superman?

Last night, LuAnn and I watched Waiting for Superman. Actually, Emily and Dakota watched most of it as well, even though it's not really a kids' show - they caught a few minutes and were hooked. It's an interesting look at the American education system - what's broken and some of what's working. Statistically speaking, we're falling behind, and the film takes a look at why that may be and what can be done to improve. There are some great examples of schools that are doing better - and some sad stories of the heartbreak for those who can't get in to them.

As I watched, I just kept thinking of how fortunate I have been. My kids have had some great teachers in the past few years. And that's really what it boils down to in Waiting for Superman; we cannot have great schools without great teachers. But our educational system doesn't do enough to foster great teaching... and often sticks rigidly to practices and procedures that inhibit them, instead. In most careers, if you do a good job, that merits a raise, a bonus... some type of recognition. Not so much in teaching. In most careers, if you don't do a good job, you don't keep your job. Again, due largely to the influence of the two major teachers' unions... not so much.

I am thankful for my kids' teachers, and the school systems that have given them enough space to teach well. I'm thankful for my own teachers through the years and the extreme efforts they gave to educate me and my peers. I think of Mrs. Washenfelder. I was a straight A student - but I was skating, and she knew it. She pushed me to do my best, not just settle for better than the next kid. I think of Mr. Staffileno who had a way of pushing into some of the less interested students and engaging us all - no one slept in our Algebra class! I think of Dr. Brown & Dr. McCoy who forced me to dig into ancient texts like I'd never done, and of Mr. Cravatt who drew our youth ministry classes deep into discussions that still echo in much of what I do every day.

I also think of the teacher who refused to give me anything to do. Nearly every Spring afternoon of second grade was spent staring at the back of the kid in front of me - done with my work and not allowed to even read an extra book or two I'd snuck in from home. I think of a Geometry teacher who didn't even care enough to brush his teeth or make eye contact with us - and still doesn't seem to 20 years later. I think of a teacher whose idea of American History consisted of little more than whatever video was easiest to pull of the shelf of the school library.

But this is not some vendetta against what I, or the filmmaker, perceived as a bad teacher. I hope Waiting for Superman will open up more dialogue about how education in our nation can be improved for everyone involved. Check out the website, watch the film, and do something to recognize and help a great teacher you know.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Car a Benz? Really?

When I turned 16, I wanted a Toyota 4Runner. I'd be able to go anywhere, get over any obstacle in my way (because there are a lot of those when you live a block and a half from the school), plus they were just cool. I wasn't completely impractical, I told my parents I'd settle for something used - a 1990 would be just right (this was in 1991). Needless to say, I didn't get my 1990 4Runner when I turned 16. I did buy one somewhere around 32, though, and it's still in my driveway... It's not that cool anymore, though.

My students may hate me after this, but... I'll have to live with it. I just came across an odd little article about The 10 Best Used Cars for Teens. It's definitely more of a subjective list than anything based on factual reality. At least the reality of growing up in a home financed by a youth pastor's salary - sorry kids. You can check out the full list here, but here are a few of their suggestions:

  • 2007 Volvo S40
  • 2006 Mercedes Benz C230
  • 2009 Volkswagen Jetta
  • 2010 Hyundai Sonata

I'll spare you the Porsche Boxter reference, or the shoutout to the Mini Cooper... (oops, guess I didn't). It's actually a good list. I'd rather have any of the cars on the list than what I currently drive. The problem I have with the list is this: you don't have to spend $15,000 (the price point used in this article) on a car to keep your kids safe behind the wheel. Maybe I'm just bitter because the combined value of all 3 vehicles in my stable wouldn't touch $15,000... Maybe this bugs me because my first car was a Dodge Colt with a gutless guinea pig barking orders under the hood... (when it got wrecked by my experienced, responsibly driving parents who borrowed it when I was out of town on a church trip, I got upgraded to an Omni... ooohhh).

Honestly, I'm not bitter, I'm just cheap. I don't want any of my students, or my own kids in a few more years, to get hurt driving or hurt someone else. But don't think that just because you bought your kid a "well equipped" Volvo that he's safer than my kid running around in well worn Pinto... ok, maybe the Pinto takes things too far, but you get the point.

Here's what you need to do with this list:

  1. If your child is currently hunting for a vehicle - throw the list away. None of these cars are a good option for a first vehicle - unless you have way more money than brains. You don't need to spend $15,000 to keep your offspring safely behind the wheel. You need to actually teach them to drive. Sorry, that was rude. If you'd like to spend $15,000 dollars on a car for your kid that's none of my business, but don't do it thinking they're going to be more safe. Statistically speaking, my guess is that there's very little relationship between the price of a used car and its relative safety when operated by a new driver.
  2. If your child is in Jr. High - Keep the list. In 3 or 4 years when your child starts driving, go shopping for yourself and save yourself the trade-in headache. Give him your old car (unless you're currently driving a Boxster or something). 
  3. If your child is in 1st Grade today, this is a great list. Print out the list of cars and let him hang it up on his wall, right next to his bed. Let him spend the next 9 years dreaming about that fun little Jetta. Let him get a job he can walk to when he's old enough. Teach him how to actually save money, and let him buy himself the car of his dreams when he's 16 - year, make, & model!
What was your first car? You did survive it, right...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gone Mobile

I just enabled a mobile option for the blog here.

Mobilized friends, let me know what you think - and how the blog appears on your device. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Things Can Change

Things can change... but they won't change by themselves. Let's do something...

The Mentoring Project from DTJ on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 3.2

I've been enjoying the computer/ministry class I've been taking - getting to sharpen some skills that help me use technology for greater impact in my ministry. Over the past couple months, I've found some really good websites and articles outside of class that deal with issues related to ministry & technology. I thought I'd pass on a few links here to share what I've found:

8Bit - This is actually a network of sites led by John Saddington (who shares tons of blogging insight at tentblogger). The sites range in scope from creativity issues to IT tips to membership management systems. My favorites of the 8Bit family would have to be ChurchCrunch & ChurchCreate.

CreationSwap - This site currently lists itself in Beta, but there is already a great stock of images and graphics (many completely free) that I've found useful in ministry. In addition to finding images, there is a good network of artists who can provide feedback on graphics submitted to share.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Would You Recommend Yourself?

I'm working on a reference form for a student who'll be enrolling in college next year. One of the sections instructs me to do this:

Rate the applicant's potential for success:
   -should be discouraged from going to college
   -below average
   -above average

I have to admit, I'm struggling with the question a little bit. Not because of the qualifications of the applicant, but because of the nature of the question itself. What is success? How does the college define success? Who am I to determine whether or not a 17 year old kid has the capacity to achieve what someone else defines as success?

Partially, I'm just bristling a little bit because I've had to fill out other reference forms from another college that are identical to this one. Not 'closely related', not 'asking similar questions', but boiler-plate identical in their wording. Which makes me wonder how much thought is put into the potential freshman information gathering process.

But more than that, I wonder what damage has been done to young people who grew up hearing 'average' applied to their potential... Can you really say, at 17 years old, what someone's potential is? Maybe it's the idealist in me, but I want to say, "limitless". I want to say, "Stop pigeonholing people into the shells you've constructed and let them hatch." I want to say, "Teach them how to put their lives in God's hands and watch Him crush the limits everyone else seems to put on their potential!"

Then I remember that I was just filling out a college reference form that will get glanced at, filed, forgotten, then thrown out in 20 years when the secretary decides it's time to purge... and maybe I'm taking something a little too seriously. Or maybe... just maybe, I really do believe that anything's possible.
If you had to write a reference form for your 17 year old self, what would it say?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Kawasaki's Enchantment

Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
You already knew that, right? Right? I've been reading Guy Kawasaki's Enchantment and this is the conclusion I'm forced to draw: I am enchanting. (Or at least I was until you read that statement!) Well at least my mom thinks so... and I passed a test to prove it. (This is going downhill already isn't it?)

In the interest of full disclosure, and in deference to Kawasaki's 3rd chapter, I received the book in exchange for reviewing it here on my blog. Why would writing this blog earn me a free book? Because my blog is listed on Kawasaki's Alltop (halfway down the page somewhere between Eric Bryant and Ragamuffin Soul, two very enchanting guys whose blogs you should be reading way before this one), which puts me on an e-mail list for the offer of a free pre-release book. Why is my blog on Alltop? Because I submitted a form and someone at Alltop deemed my blog sufficiently stocked with content to warrant inclusion on their site, I guess, but this is getting way off track - we'll be taking no more questions at this time.

The point is this: If you want to hone your skills in "the art of changing hearts, minds, and actions" this book has some great content. It's not a ministry specific book; in fact, some ministry minded readers will probably be ticked off by a few things, but it is very applicable to ministry, where changing hearts, minds, and actions is definitely our hope. And if you get so ticked off by something like this that you can't get anything out of it, you're probably not very enchanting, so you should probably read the book so you can learn how to be less prickly.

I've been told that I'm really good at talking people into doing things they don't think they can do. (There are mountain peaks with teen footprints, and cliffs where their fingers clutched granite to attest to that.) And in a sense, that's Enchantment, or at least my own spin on it - helping someone see a potential they didn't see before and helping them find a compelling reason to step into it.

Kawasaki's stature in the business & finance world (Apple, Alltop, Garage Tech Ventures... and a whole bunch of other stuff he's got a pulse on) affords him access to a lot of great stories from enchanting people and places all over the globe. He shares these often in the book as examples of the principles in action. Similar in theme to Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People", Enchantment is the attempt of one guy who's winning to help other people win, too. And in the process, he'll make a lot of money and do good things with it... right, Guy?
In all seriousness, this is a pretty good book if you're in any kind of position (like living & breathing) to influence action. Read it.
It occurs to me that I have one more thing to disclose. Not only did I get the book for free in exchange for reviewing it, but if you buy the book from the Amazon links I've provided in this post, I'll receive about 53 cents or something as an Amazon affiliate! I'm not enchanting at all... I'm a paid shill. Oh, man...
Seriously... the positive nature of my review has not been influenced by the fact that I'm about to get rich by telling you to buy the book and read it. I promise.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Back In the Market

A few years ago, I wrote a post which consisted of a quote from Erwin McManus' An Unstoppable Force (still one of the best books about leading a church that I've read), followed by a quick thought about the cost of the assumptions we make. I called the post Assumptive Language. The post has ended up being one of the top 3 most visited posts here on this blog. Why? Because of the title. It was entirely accidental, but I ended up using a phrase that was connected to something entirely different than my intentions: Sales.
In the sales world, assumptive language is the practice of speaking to your prospect as if the deal is already done, as if all obstacles will be managed. It's touted as a good closing strategy. (The quote I used in my post spoke of the way we speak to people as if they understand what we're talking about even when they don't.) The term "assumptive language" has been the number 1 search term that's brought people to my blog - even though my blog has nothing to do with sales. I'm not search engine savvy enough to know exactly why this is true, but at this point, I feel an apology is owed to the misled masses of used cars salesmen and realtors looking for a quick tip. Sorry.

Your industry had a bit of a chance for revenge this weekend however, as we are looking for a replacement for our oh so tired mini-van. 

At the first dealership we visited, I already found the perfect vehicle. LuAnn's not convinced, though, that you can replace the family Caravan with a 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 (which is #689 or something of about 1100 if anyone's interested). White with blue racing stripes, 6 speed manual transmission, 6.4L V8 cranking out more horsepower than any Caravan will ever dream of, (not to mention the sweet blue stitched leather interior)... This car had my name on it. Alas, the bank account with my name on it doesn't have $48,000 sitting around.

I really don't like shopping for vehicles. There were two lots we looked at and we actually were able to wander around unaccosted for quite a while. At 35, we still don't look like real buyers, I guess! That's part of one of my least favorite things about car buying:
  • You either can't get help, or you can't get rid of help. I realize this is a no-win for the salesmen, too.
  • The 'right car' is never the right price. Car loans are stupid. I hate that I may have to get one - should've saved more, should've got a better paying job, should've planned better, blah, blah, blah...
  • Staying content in a culture that does everything it can to make me discontent so I'll spend more money.
  • The unknown. We're not looking at new cars. Whatever we buy, it will be something that someone else deemed "not good enough to drive". Why wasn't it good enough? What gremlins are hiding underneath the hood?
  • Assumptive language. When I sign, and my name's the only one on the title, then it's my car. Until then, let's not try manufacturing emotional attachments, ok...
So what are your least favorite aspects of buying a car?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 3.1

Image: Kyle Key via
Without interaction, social media is basically pointless. Dare I say it... "Like so much other media!" Without the give and take and sharing of opinions, social media is just a bunch of introverted narcissists staring deeply into their own mirrors. Blogs are one part of the social media parcel. This blog, for example - I started it, I write it, I am responsible for it. But I don't want this blog to just be me spouting my opinions & collected thoughts. That's what books are for, right? Just kidding authors! A blog is completed (or maybe fulfilled would be a better word) by the thoughts of a community sharing perspectives. But there are some obstacles to that sort of interaction online. Here are several:

  • Fear of Broaching Boundaries - We are afraid to say something wrong. Is there a different etiquette to online interactions? It seems some people lose all sense of civility when digitally interfacing. We know we don't want to be those people, but we're not quite sure where the line is, so we just stay quiet. If this is you, step out a little bit. Don't be a jerk, but share your thoughts.
  • Fear of Exposure - We're afraid to reveal something about ourselves to people we don't know. A colleague recently stepped into the realm of facebook, very reluctantly. He'd been afraid that specters from his past would arise to cloud the respect & relationships of today. It was great to see those fears assuaged a couple days ago as he connected with a long-distance grandson he loves like crazy. Remember that the internet is a very public place and not every detail of your life needs to be shouted from the rooftop - but really being known in relationship requires taking the risk of letting someone close enough to see our faults.
  • Technological Roadblocks - Sometimes, we just can't figure out how to comment the way we want to. I know this has been a problem here. I get e-mails often from some of you who wanted to comment, but had a hard time navigating the comment section. While I've tried to make it easy, the system doesn't always work. And if I make it too easy, the comments can quickly become a dumping ground for all kinds of unwanted junk. I'm actually looking at a couple options to make this easier - possibly installing a different commenting system in the template if I can figure that out, or moving the blog altogether to another service with easier commenting.

What other boundaries do you see to connecting online?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

5 Signs Your Creative Problem Solving Efforts Have Failed

Problems beg to be solved. Sometimes, the solution is obvious - other times... not so much. So we start thinking, imagining, tinkering. We get creative.

Unfortunately, there are days when creative solutions just flat out fail. Here's how to tell if your creative solution is probably going to fail (or already did).
  1. The gathering crowd seems to sense impending doom as you implement your strategy.
  2. The solution involves half a ton of dynamite and a consensus of city officials & the highway department.
  3. Police are called in to cordon off a safe zone before you can act.
  4. The problem is still there when you're done. Doh!
  5. The problem is worse when you're done. Duh.

HT to Sheldon Shires for bringing this stunning bit of creative thinking to my attention.

Bonus Signs
If either of these phrases could possibly be uttered as a result of the implementation of your tactics:
     "Bits of whale rain across the beach."
     "Over a quarter mile away, a massive chunk of blubber has flattened the roof of a brand new Cadillac..."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

3 Quick & Easy Strategies to Avoid What You Need To Be Doing

Image: Chris Orr via
I started this post yesterday while I should have been finishing off a paper that was due last night.
I should be writing a paper right now. I planned to have it done two hours ago, but our staff meeting was canceled, so my afternoon just blew wide open. So, instead of sticking with that deadline, I've been organizing my inbox, reading some articles, returning messages and overdue library books, thinking about some Scripture passages... (I made the overdue library books part up, besides, if you wait until Wed. here you don't have to pay the late fee!) And now, I'm posting some thoughts about the avoidance strategies that I often employ to keep from doing the one thing I should be doing.

  • Do something useful that's not really that useful. For example, it's always nice to have the children's books alphabetized and cordoned off into their appropriate sections. Who can stand it when the Golden Books get mixed in with the Kidz Lit Classics, right? So, instead of fixing that flat tire that has your wife stranded at home, you could tackle the munchkin section of your home library. At my house, that's a solid 4 hour project, minimum. And by the time it's done, it's too late to start something new...
  • Distract the Tasker. Someone needs something from you. You know the request is coming. They're about to ask. So you speak up right before they say something and get them engaged in some other conversation with so many rabbit trails, they're hopelessly lost and forgot to ask before you send them on their way. Good work.
  • Hide. Again, you know someone's coming. The boss finally remembered what he was going to ask you yesterday and you find out he's on his way. But what if you're not in when he gets there? What if... hang on, someone's coming...

Sometimes, when it really comes down to it, though... just do what needs done and get it over with.

Kota's Online Adventure

A couple days ago, I heard a sound from the kitchen (where the computer sits in our house) that seemed a little out of place. LuAnn and I were watching something in the living room, 3 of the kids were downstairs, and Kota was in the kitchen on the computer. He's always been the one the other kids go to for electronic assistance, so he's pretty proficient when it comes to finding his way from one online game site to another. He also knows how to find his way to other stuff, as well...

What I was hearing was certainly not the sound of a game. As I walked into the kitchen, I could plainly see that he wasn't playing anything - he just sat there staring, mesmerized by the dancing pixels on the monitor, mouth slightly open, eyes fixed and dilated (ok, maybe not dilated, but at least wide open). I could see the YouTube logo in the corner of the screen... "Uh-oh... what's he staring at... awkward conversation on the way... what did he stumble into..."


He was impressed.

So am I.

We raise geeks at our house.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

3 Thoughts on Worship

Nervous isn't quite the right word, but whenever I lead worship I get a little bit concerned. There's a certain level of angst present leading up to our time together. Maybe there shouldn't be, maybe it's a sign of a distracted, fragmented mind that should be better focused. At any rate, last week was that kind of week, since I was leading worship Sunday while Shane was at our couples retreat (which I'm hearing was a great weekend).

It's not that I don't like to lead worship, or that I haven't done it much... Most Wednesday nights include a significant worship time with our students. I'm not delusional enough about my musical ability to have any kind of performance anxiety... But as I sit down and pray and try to craft a service that will leave people wanting to step out of the sanctuary and worship with their lives, I often lose track of who will actually be in the room and the musical preferences they bring with them. (I can also cause people to run out of the sanctuary covering their ears, but that's not really the same thing is it?)

I'll study songs, scriptures, videos, & other service elements and then, often too late to do anything about it, I'll realize I've picked a bunch of stuff that will be completely unfamiliar to half the people there. For the most part, I'm ok with that - but with a caveat; too many times, when people don't like the songs, they project that on the song leader. I don't like to be disliked, so that puts me in a bit of a bind - my therapist says it's because I was coddled as a child and rewarded too much for being so likable, but I think he's just making stuff up to make me feel better. Thus, the concern. 

An older gentleman told me that he really enjoyed the music, and his follow up comment really caught me off guard. "It's fun doing those old songs." Totally not what I've ever been accused of... He put the whole service into the "those old songs" category. He's not a musical guy, not a song critic by any means, but he liked it. Now, "liking it" isn't the point of a worship gathering, I know, but it's not supposed to be torture, either, so I was glad he left with a favorable disposition toward the experience.

Here's the kicker-fact to his comment, though: 1999, 1939, 2000, 2010, 2010, 2005.

Those were the copyright dates of the music this week - 1 song that legitimately qualified as old, 2 that can't even walk yet, a kindergartner, and a couple slightly awkward tweens! As I pondered that between Thursday night after practice and Sunday morning, I was a little apprehensive. Too many songs. Too many new songs. Uh-oh... people are gonna get mad... pot-roasts will be dry... But the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced the selections would be used. We prayed, the service went well, I'm sure there were some that would have preferred a more familiar palette of music, but God is being worshiped.

I received an encouraging e-mail Monday morning regarding the way the service was being used by God to reveal a glimmer of hope and a salve for someone's loneliness. Part of the e-mail was worded in almost carbon copy language of what we prayed backstage just before beginning the service.

A few, final thoughts:
  • His grace really is amazing. I love it when my efforts are maximized by a team of people who draw together for God's purposes and He steps in and moves beyond what we imagined.
  • We need to pray for our worship leaders and thank them for what they go through week in and week out to musically inspire, comfort, challenge, correct, rebuke, teach... Don't let this be a thankless, can't-ever-please-everyone job in your church.
  • If you lead, be sure your attempts to appease the worshipers don't get in the way of pleasing the one we worship. When it comes to music - someone's always going to prefer something else.
  • And just for the record, a good gravy and a can of pepsi will do wonders for a dry pot roast.

Blog Archive theoquest