Tuesday, April 26, 2011

10ST - Bad Location

10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
The 6th Stupid Thing that Surratt suggests will keep churches from growing is clinging to a bad location. He has some great examples of how location has hindered the growth of several churches he's known. A location that's difficult to find or located far from where the people of the church and those they're seeking to reach actually live can be a huge obstacle for a church to overcome. Inadequate, shoddy facilities, or even those that are simply not designed for the ministry the church wants to do can keep the church from moving forward.

The problem for most youth ministries is that we'll have very little input on location and facilities issues.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

5 Ways to Keep Easter Visitors from Returning

I remember walking around at a football game once because I couldn't find a place to sit. You can't just shoehorn your butt between people you don't really know, so I scanned the stands for familiar faces. I thought I'd just walk across the front of the bleachers, sneaking surreptitious glances into the crowd, but it was no use. I couldn't find anyone except a kid in the band and there was no way I was sitting in the middle of the tuba section.

So I went to the snack stand, hoping to see someone on the way. No luck. So, popcorn and Mt. Dew in hand, I headed back and walked the gauntlet in the opposite direction. Still nothing. After a couple more trips, I was desperate: I offered a few M & M's to some kid if he'd pretend to know me and sit with me, but some lady came and pulled him away really quickly. I think he'd forgotten to do his homework before the game or something and was in really big trouble.

It's awkward to be part of a crowd and still feel out of place. Like a platypus in a gym full of penguins... what exactly am I supposed to do? How should I stand? What do I do with my hands? Wait, I'm a platypus, why do I have hands? Since Easter is here, attendance at weekend church services will swell across the country. "Regular seats" will be taken, parking lots will be full, and awkward moments will be plentiful. In order to isolate the uneasiness to just this 1 week (or maybe two if Christmas isn't on a Sunday), I offer these suggestions to ensure the guests who take our seats and park in our spaces won't be back next week:
  1. Take the good seats. Regular attenders have a huge advantage here: You know exactly when the service starts. That means you can get there early and take the seats in the back. Church isn't like a football game or a play or something. You want the back rows - the outside chair in the back rows if you're really going for the ultimate in church chair positioning dominance. When they show up late and have to make the walk of Sunday tardiness shame to the front rows... it just sets the tone for a morning of stifling awkwardness that will make your church the last place they ever want to be again. What if some visitor actually shows up early enough to get a good seat? Just tell them that's your regular seat and stare at them blankly until they move. They won't be back anytime soon.
  2. Holy Kiss.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 4.3

The following clip comes from a messaged titled The Cost of Discipleship from Mark Driscoll out at Mars Hill in Seattle. I found the message link as I was looking at their FAQ page for the Mars Hill Internship, which I was looking at after reading this article from Mars Hill intern, Ross Lester. The whole message is a good one for the church to hear, but this clip in particular sums it up for me. Don't quit following Jesus.

Remember when you first decided to become a disciple of Jesus? You probably felt there was nothing you wouldn't do for Him. But maybe the years have lulled you into something other than discipleship, something much more comfortable and much less costly. Ask yourself what price you're paying for your discipleship right now. If the price is low, you may be buying stock in some kingdom other than Jesus'.

As Easter approaches, take some time to evaluate what you're really following in your life. Are you still answering His invitation to come and die? Is there a price you've ceased being willing to pay?

Monday, April 18, 2011

10ST - Promoting Talent Over Integrity

10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
Marking the mid-point of our excursion through 10 Stupid Things is the promotion of talent before the reinforcement of integrity. Short version: if you make a habit of ignoring character flaws in the people you're working with, you'll cripple your ministry.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 4.2

I came across an interesting study today dealing with the use of and attitudes held toward social media by college students. The study was originally done in a class of a couple hundred students at the University of Maryland, but was subsequently undertaken by a dozen different universities throughout the world. About a thousand students in Uganda, Chile,  the UK, the US, China, Lebanon, Argentina, Mexico, Slovakia, and Hong Kong participated in a 24-hour assignment in which they used no media: no phones, no newspapers, no video games, no tv, no internet, no iPads... you get the picture. These students unplugged.

While the scope of the study isn't really broad enough to say this represents all young people, it's interesting to read their responses. Technology is everywhere and media is consumed in nearly every moment of many lives. Some students enjoyed the break, but many recognized what they called their addiction to media.

There CAN be too much of a good thing. A recent Fuller Youth Institute article talked about a report in Pediatrics (the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) about the use and effects of social media on children and adolescents (and their families). In addition to the benefits of social media use, the report highlights a number of new problems that are coming up like online harassment, "facebook depression", sexting, & what amounts to manipulation via targeted ads.

All this should simply serve as a reminder. We shouldn't just blindly buy into whatever is next in the social media/technology world. Think about what we're doing and the patterns we're setting. What kind of mess are we making when we thoughtlessly plug in to whatever comes next?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

10ST - Settling for Low Quality Children's Ministry

10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
Chapter 4 of 10 Stupid Things handles the topic of children's ministry. I think that a church who is willing to settle for a mediocre children's ministry is wasting one of the best opportunities it will ever have to shape lives. If the children's ministry is essentially babysitting church kids so the adults can have 'big church' without all the fuss and noise - then 'big church' has largely missed the point. I know that there are very few who would actually SAY they want their children's ministry to just keep the kids out of what's left of the adults' hair (though I have met several) but there are many more who functionally treat their children's ministries this way.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three Reasons to Prioritize the Youth You Know

I found this video last week on Compassion's blog giving some great reasons to make youth a priority. This was from their chapel service a while back. It reminded me of Wess Stafford's message at Catalyst West last year. Compassion is an organization that prioritizes youth like few ever will, but this was a challenge for the employees (I'm assuming that's mostly who was in attendance) to do so in their individual lives as well, and for the church to move beyond merely entertaining kids to equipping them to be disciple makers.

Lenz shares some amazingly painful statistics that reveal the need to prioritize youth. I'll leave you to hear for yourself in the video, but here's the bottom line:

  1. 2 out of 3 people who accept Christ, do so before they're 18. Where would our resources make the most impact?
  2. The enemy is attacking children. Who will defend them?
  3. It's the heart of Jesus to love children. "...it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" than to hinder the young from knowing Him.
How are the youth in your life doing? How are they being equipped? How are you helping?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Stop Procrastinating. Just Start.

A few months ago, my 4Runner died. I had gone into a store, and when I came out and turned the key, just a bunch of clicking... no life. It was pretty obvious that the starter was the problem, so we got it parked in the driveway with the intention of getting to work on it when it warmed up a bit. A few warm days came here and there, but still the 4Runner sat, pathetically mocking me every time I passed by.

You see, I had a problem on top of my car problem. I knew what the car problem was, and I knew roughly what needed to be done to fix it: Take bad starter out, put good starter in. So simple, right? But I've been dreading doing it for a few reasons.

  1. I didn't know exactly where the starter on my old 4Runner was. I knew what it was supposed to do, and roughly where it should be, but not exactly where or the best way to reach it, so I knew I'd have to do a lot of hunting before being able to make any progress.
  2. The engine compartment of my 4Runner is a mess. 20 years of small leaks and dusty places have added up to be a thick black layer of sludge covering basically everything. It's hard to tell where one part stops and another starts! (Plus, grimy, greasy hands... I have issues.)
  3. I'd read several horror stories of other 4Runner owners taking of entire suspension packages just to be able to reach their starter, then discovering the starter wasn't actually the whole problem anyway. Maybe it was the wiring, or a relay somewhere. I didn't want to do a ton of work to find out the problem wasn't really what I thought it was.
So, the 4Runner sat until yesterday at lunch. I finally decided to stop putting it off and start digging in to the mess of parts and pieces by taking off the wheel. Once the wheel was off, I took off a guard panel inside the wheel well to open up some more space and get a clear(er) view of where the starter was supposed to be. As I began to peak in and poke around a little bit, I noticed something strange - a bolt just hanging from it's perch in the engine block. Surely that should be tightened to something!?

Turns out, it was one of two bolts that holds the starter in place! The starter was just laying there, not bolted in - I have no idea how that can even happen, but I guess after almost 180,000 miles, a two inch bolt CAN revolve enough to fall out! Fortunately, the bolt was still hanging there, so I lifted the starter a bit and wedged my hands into enough space to tighten the bolt.

After some extra juice via some jumper cables, it started right up. A project I'd been dreading because it seemed beyond the scope of my mechanical acumen (which is rather limited, I'm told) turned out to be easily remedied. I just had to dig in... I just had to START to find that out.

I wonder how often we miss simple solutions because we're afraid to start.
Is there a tough question you've been afraid to ask?
Is there a hard conversation you've been putting off?
A potential conflict you've been avoiding?
A big project you just aren't finding time for?

Get some help and START.

You just might find it's not as difficult as you thought (and even if it is, you'll be one step closer to resolution).

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Watch Your Step

Found this link over at churchcreate. This place looks awesome... I need to visit Los Angeles again, soon. I'll probably have to take my brother if he sees this though!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 4.1

This is a recent shot at a map of stats from this blog. Notice anything unusual? Oui, that! Over a thousand pageviews from France in the past month! (Which is about a thousand pageviews more than in the rest of this blog's history.) "Hi, France." I don't know why there's been a sudden surge in French interest (the only French people I know live in Omaha & Lincoln), and to be honest, I suspect it's only some kind of exaggerated glitch in the stats reporting... but it reminds me, and you, that the reach of your message doesn't have to be limited to your local boundaries.

When I first started blogging, I didn't set out to build a worldwide following (not that I would say that's happened anyway). I just felt like I had a message to share, and blogging opened up the potential for me to do that with a whole new group of people. I have had interactions, both online and face to face, with new friends from far off and exciting places like L.A., Canada, China (where apparently my blog was banned at one time), and Intercourse, PA... because of windows opened in the blogging world.

I'm not out to be an international blogging sensation. Fame doesn't really interest me as a whole. Maybe I'm lying there, but even if you're a famous blogger, you're still viewed as some crackpot blogger. Even other bloggers downplay the significance of bloggers. But blogging has helped me share thoughts and encouragement with other people that I'd never have connected with otherwise. It's extended my reach.

Do you have something to say? Maybe a blog would help you say it (but if you spell like the blind chimpanzee in my last post, maybe not). Maybe you already have a blog, but it mostly sits idle. If that's the case, ask yourself why you started blogging in the first place. Go back and read a few of your very first posts and be reminded. Maybe you need to re-boot your blog. Maybe you need to scrap it and start over. Maybe you just need to write again. (Check out BlogRocket for some great new resourcing/encouragement for your blogging adventure.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

10ST - 2nd Rate Worship Experiences

10ST will be an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
This chapter, the third, had 10 practical suggestions for "improving your weekend experience." While, Surratt's suggestions focus on the Sunday morning worship time, I think there is a lot to glean about the role worship plays in a growing student ministry. As a youth pastor, you may or may not have a whole lot of influence on what happens from one Sunday morning to the next, but applying a few of those suggestions where you do have influence could be critical to your ministry's health:
  • Ask the hard questions. What exactly are we trying to accomplish?
  • See the guest's perspective. What's it like for a new kid to walk in to your ministry?
  • Improve your music. (see below for more thoughts regarding this issue)
  • Update your technology. You don't have to rob a bank to get the latest and greatest, but if your sound system (or lighting, computers, projectors, etc.) limps along like the Frankenstein that it is... find a way to make improvements. Don't be stupid about spending, but don't just settle for the crappy old equipment that's no longer good enough for the adults to use anymore. Set your priorities, decide on a budget, and do what you can to sharpen your tech-tools.
  • Overhaul your preaching. Call it teaching, leading discussions, facilitating... whatever. The method you use to communicate the truth God reveals to you... get better at it. Always.
  • Get creative. As Surratt says, "Americans don't do boring." Enlist the help of a team of your students to creatively approach topics, passages, messages, etc. in your youth ministry. Why be lazy and just rinse & repeat?
  • Create an atmosphere. What can you do to make your place of meeting, a place where students want to be? (Ask them, they'll tell you...)
Within my first week of being full time on a church staff, I recognized a problem that I knew I'd have to address quickly: my students were not engaging in worship when the church met together on Sunday mornings. They were mostly quiet and polite, but they were enduring a service, not worshiping the Savior. Recognizing this problem was one thing, finding a solution was another.

Monday, April 04, 2011

10ST - Misappropriating Your Family

10ST will be an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
This summer, for the first time, my oldest daughter will be a student at a week of camp that I'm leading. She'll be hanging out with our Middle School and High School group a lot more. (I'm suddenly rethinking our "6th graders as dual citizens of children's and youth ministry" approach... maybe I can just let Joe keep them all to himself for one more year!) It seems a little strange to me that I will have a child within the primary age group that I've been working with for the last decade plus. Like a penguin that realizes that egg on my feet just hatched and now I have to teach it something... ok, it's not really like that at all, but I thought this post could use a penguin in it.

The second chapter of Geoff Surratt's 10 Stupid Things is about establishing the wrong role for the pastor's family.

Friday, April 01, 2011

10ST - Doing It All

10ST will be an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
Surratt starts off with what may be the most common of all the stupid things that keep churches from growing: the pastor trying to do it all. Just to be clear, it's not the pastor himself who is the stupid thing, but rather the action of trying to do it all that's the stupid thing... well, usually at least. For a variety of reasons, many pastors are compelled to do way more than what is healthy, both for themselves and for the churches they serve. It didn't take long in ministry for me to get a harsh introduction to this stupid thing.

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