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Sex at Church: when to speak and when to listen

Sex at Church

when to speak and when to listen

Churches struggle to know what to do with talking about [sexuality].  Pastors struggle to know what to do with [talking about sexuality].  From what I listen to, churches do one of at least three different things. They simply go along with whatever the culture says, thinking that people will come to church if you say things that they want to hear. They circle the wagons and act like if they keep condemning the culture then one day it will change.  They remain silent for fear of offending anyone.  I have yet to see any of these work well.

James Miller, Glenkirk Church (06.09.13)
sermon download HERE: 13MB

Sex brings life.  And yet, it seems to me, that most of our lives within our church communities are spent avoiding the topic altogether.  Human sexuality is complicated, personal, intimate, layered and infused into the rhythm of our lives.  Sex is real and conversations about it can be awkward.

I write and observe life from the perspective of a husband & father who just-so-happens to be called to professional ministry in this season of my life.  At our church’s worship gatherings a few months ago, our congregation heard the story of a friend of mine who had recently attended his gay brother’s wedding.  In his testimony and through the words of Scripture that followed, we were given a picture of what it looks like to stand alongside those who are different than ourselves when others might cast them aside.  And we talked about sexuality.  Because, when we gather as the church, we should talk about real life – even if it feels awkward.

Sex in Church

If you’re a leader in your church community, you need to consider how and when you talk to your congregation about sexuality in large group settings and then you need to move forward with a plan of how your teaching team is going to address the topic over the course of your yearly rhythm.  It might not be enough to simply have a sermon series on sexuality.  There will be new families at your church after each series ends and you can’t assume that everyone has heard everything you’ve said in the past.

When pastors stay silent on topics that impact the lives of their congregation, they are choosing to let the culture around them be the leading voice as they determine where they stand on controversial issues.  In some areas, the church and culture might line up – sermons on littering probably would carry little weight in communities where that’s already a secular priority.  In other areas, a congregation might need some coaching on how to establish a Biblical worldview of a subject and your church desperately needs more than just a reaction to what happened in pop culture the week before – they need you to be willing to have a conversation.

Just because you reposted something on Facebook that someone else wrote doesn’t mean that you can avoid talking about hard topics when your church worships together.

Sex at Home

When the church gathers, it’s important to always think about the next steps that people will be taking as they walk away from your worship services and ministry programs.  If your congregation is going to talk about real life, with sex and sexuality being one of those topics that is discussed, you’ll need to be strategic in equipping at least three groups of people to talk comfortably about sex at home:

Parents, Families & Sex

You should never assume that parents don’t want to talk about important things with their children – but, it’s a safe bet to say that the majority of them are willing to receive a little help when tricky subjects like sexuality need to be discussed.  For families with younger children, it’s a good idea to have books or resources that you can begin pointing parents to before they’re ready – so that, when they’re ready, they might remember that you had suggestions.

Parents who are looking for a podcast to listen to on their morning commute might be willing to listen to these wise words from Dr. Jim Burns, from the Homeword Center for Youth and Families:

Personally, our family has found this book series to be a helpful introduction into talking about sexuality with our kids:

For parents who are already in the midst of rising hormone levels, glossy chap stick and Axe body spray, consider what it might look like for your church to offer a support group, of sorts, for parents of teens to come together and discuss parenting topics over a cup of coffee with their peers.  Sometimes, in those hardest stages of parenting, it’s good to know that you’re not alone in the battle and if a church created a venue like this with a host who can help coach parents through life’s tricky spots, parents might feel equipped enough to navigate hard discussions with their kids.  Because, as many of us know, kids who don’t feel like their parents will listen to them and respond well don’t just skip asking their question – they skip asking their parents and jump right to Google.

Equipping Small Group Leaders

Dropping the topic of sexuality into sermons and large group gatherings is great – if people have a place to process that topic later.  For many congregations, small group settings offer the potential for conversations about topics that a person might be unwilling to talk about in larger settings.  With adult small group leaders, consider what it would look like to send them an article that discusses talking about sex as a church and ask them what their thoughts are.  Then, consider asking them to have that conversation in their small group settings, after they’ve been walked through how to listen well when people ask hard questions and you’ve modeled how they can best respond.

An article to get you started with could be: “How Should We Talk about Sex in Church” (LINK)

Leaders of youth and children’s small groups need to view their role as a secondary (but VERY important) voice in this conversation.  Teaching leaders to first reply to questions with, “What do your parents say/think about that?” or “What have you heard about that?” can help leaders honor parents and families in their answers and elevate the voice of parents in the life of a child.  When sexuality comes up in a teaching series, asking parents and students to submit questions beforehand can help you prepare a team of small group leaders for the discussions that might follow.  And, as with most things, give your small group leaders the authority to not have an answer.  When discussing sexuality, a bad answer is almost always worse than no answer.

Honoring People in Hard Places

Because it is easy for our identity to become wrapped up in our sexuality, it’s important that leaders in the church keep in mind that topics that deal with sexuality and relationships will always hit harder for some people more than it does for others.  However, as Pastor Andy Stanley might put it, that doesn’t give us room to ignore talking about the ideal for the sake of what is real.  When you talk about the ideal, you need to understand that it’s easier for people to walk away feeling judged than loved – so, keep the following thoughts in mind as you work talks about sex and sexuality into the rhythm of your conversations with those that you lead:

  • When you openly judge someone who is in the public spotlight, anyone in your church who identifies with that person’s struggles feels judged by you and, sometimes, does not feel worthy to be loved by God because of your condemnation.
  • When you only talk about sex as something that exists in an ideal state, then those who have struggled through infidelity, those who are in seasons of parenting when stress levels and sleep deprivation make sex infrequent and a source of contention, those who were just served divorce papers or those who have spent years navigating same-sex attraction are made to feel like you’re saying that they are broken beyond repair and sometimes they feel as though they cannot belong to your church family.
  • When talking about sexuality, always have a word for singles.  As the millennial generation continues to put off marriage and the generations before them continue to disregard marriage vows, you will continue to have more unmarried people in your church who need to know that sexual activity is not the only thing God created them for.  Remind them of that truth and, along the way, the rest of your congregation might get the sense that God also created them for greater things.

Anthony Prince is a husband, dad and pastor – in that order.  Since 2007, he has served as the director of children and family ministry at Glenkirk Church, located in the foothills of Los Angeles, California. 

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Thoughts

 

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Honor Your Parents: A Commandment

Anthony Prince Family

Honor Your Parents

A Commandment, not simply a “Good Idea”

I spend a lot of my life thinking about parenting and how families can best glorify their Creator with the lives they live.  So, because of that, I was recently asked to speak to our congregation about how the fifth commandment, to honor thy father and mother, should play out in our lives.  Now that the sermon is online (link posted below), I thought I’d recap here with some practical thoughts on honoring parents.

A Commandment

It’s good for us to consider that this command, to honor our parents, is included on the same list as do not murder and do not commit adultery.  As a command, we need to take it seriously.  The command isn’t something that comes with a clause at the end giving us the option to honor our parents at our discretion.  For those of us who seek to raise kids who honor God with their lives, we need to live lives that demonstrate this commandment in the way we honor our own parents and the way that we show honor to the other adults who are in our children’s lives.

On the Same Team

If you’ve heard me teach before, or have read this blog in the past few years, you know that I use the language of “partnership” when talking about the way that our church serves families in our community.  We can teach the next generation to honor their parents by joining their team and using language that shows that we value and appreciate their hard work.  For some ideas on how to best cast vision for partnership with other parents, check out this post:

Casting a Vision for Partnership

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/08/casting-a-vision-for-partnership/

Even with it’s Hard

A few people in my closest circles know that the last few months have been a hard season for me (and for my family).  When I had the chance to preach at our church, I shared some of my story – and what it looks like to show honor to our parents, even when they aren’t who we think we need them to be in our lives.

We tried a different approach to this sermon; our senior pastor spent the first half preaching on why we should honor our parents and I spent the last half discussing how it practically plays out in our lives.

Here’s a link to directly download the sermon 
The Spirituality of Family

Here’s a link to our sermons on iTunes
Glenkirk Church Podcast
(look for the sermon titled, “The Spirituality of Family”)

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Thoughts

 

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Strategic Church Leadership: ECO Workshop

A Gathering of The Fellowship & ECO

Strategic Church Leadership Workshop

I recently had the privilege to teach alongside my senior pastor, Jim Miller, at The Gathering of the Fellowship and ECO: a denominational conference in Orlando, Florida.

Here’s the description of the workshop:

Strategic Church Planning
Tired of ministry ideas that never quite hatch into effective mission? Wondering why so much of what you try
doesn’t get off the ground? Maybe a strategic approach to preaching, family ministries, staffing, meetings,
and everything else would help you move God’s people from being an institution to being a movement of the
Kingdom. Study effective steps to building systems that produce the results you want.

(Click HERE to view the Prezi/slideshow for this workshop)

It was exciting to be at a national gathering of church leaders who made a public pledge to baptize more people than they bury over the next few years – something that few denominations can actually say in 2013.  As mainline denominations continue to die, it’s encouraging to see churches rally around the call to make disciples (who make disciples) and who are trying to do so through innovation and strategic planning.  It was a blessing to be a part of this gathering.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Resources

 

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Dedication Vows

Dedication Vows

what we promise and why it matters

This is not a post about the debates surrounding infant baptism and baby dedications within Christian traditions.  Rather, this is a post meant to encourage those serving families in the Church to examine the role of dedication/baptism in the life of their congregation.  This discussion doesn’t exist in a vacuum and, as often is the case, the following thoughts were prompted by a recent real-life situation.  As you read about it, consider what your response might be…

On Thursday morning, I logged into Facebook (you can find and friend me HERE) to find this message from a ministry friend of mine:

Hey all, we have a situation in our church where unwed (but living together) parents want to dedicate their baby in church. Mom also wants to get baptized. Mom is also already volunteering in Children’s Ministry. Our Sr. Pastor has decided not to dedicate the baby without talking to mom and dad first to make sure they understand that living together outside of marriage is a sin. Then he also brought up the point that he didn’t want mom volunteering in Children’s Ministry while living with a man outside of marriage. Have you dealt with any of these things? How did you handle them? Does your church have a policy on this yet?

Question 1: What is a baby dedication?

The first question you’ll have to tackle, when thinking through your response, has to do with what dedication is in your context.  If dedication, at your church, is a moment when a congregation simply thanks God for the blessing of new life and offers a prayer for the family, then answering the question above becomes a whole lot easier.  However, some churches see dedication and/or baptism as a covenant between the congregation and the family, which has the potential to make things a little trickier.  So, in your context, what is a baby dedication?  Would everyone in leadership at your church agree with your understanding of dedication/baptism?

Question 2: What are you willing to risk?

I believe that those of us called into ministering to families should have some idea of what our goals in ministry are.  Simply put, it’s really hard to hit a target if you don’t know what you’re aiming for.  Considering the situation above, a few of the risks associated with saying “no” in the scenario are clear: the family might leave the church, the baby won’t be dedicated, friends of the family may be upset, others in a similar situation could feel judged, etc.  Though we should always try to handle situations like this with mercy and grace, it’s always good to consider the risks involved – we pray for best case scenarios, but want to take into account what could go poorly before we respond.

Question 3: What are your options?

If you church has never faced a similar situation, you may want to consider what options you’d have if this scenario presented itself.  If baby dedication/baptism services aren’t open to unconventional families, has your church considered having a “celebration of new life” option as a way to celebrate a child’s birth without the formality of vows or the perceived “blessing” of a lifestyle that your church is uncomfortable with?  Some churches take a weekend each fall to celebrate babies born during that year.  An option like this gives a staff something to point to for a family who might not be ready for a dedication service but still wants to be a church that feels inclusive to those who want to honor the birth of their child.

A response, within a context

In our church’s context, infant baptism/dedication requires a family to make vows with the congregation as we promise to raise up a child in the faith together.  For a single mom, these vows might be easy to say yes to.  For a couple living together outside of marriage, it might be a little trickier.  The questions we ask of parents, in front of the congregation, are:

  • Do you trust in Jesus Christ and acknowledge that he alone is your lord and savior?
  • Do you turn away from evil and sin and their power in your life?
  • Will you be faithful and active members of the church?
  • Will you bring your child up in the faith, opening the Scriptures with him/her/them and teaching them the way of Jesus?
The conversation that I might have with parents, who haven’t made vows to each other to raise a child together, would probably be less focused on the questions above and more focused on what stands in the way of them getting married.  A couple that is hesitant to make vows and promises to each other should also be wary of making vows and promises with a congregation.  My response, in my context, would start with those questions and move forward from there.  The language of partnership in my church is all over the place; beginning a conversation with the idea of partnering fits our ministry context well and might lead to the parents deciding for themselves if dedication/baptism is the right next step for them.
Statistically speaking, today’s parents are less likely to enter into the convenant of marriage than the generations before them.  With that in mind, churches should consider how they might respond to a situation like this before they face it so that they can handle it with the questions about in mind.
If you’ve faced a similar situation, or want to point out something I missed, we’d love to see your thoughts in the comments section!
 
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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Finding a Job in Ministry

Finding a Job in Ministry

Three questions you should have answers for

There’s a good chance that, if you’re seeking out a career in ministry (or a career in most any field, for that matter), that one day you’ll find yourself without a job – and, when that happens, I want you to find this post and read it again.  In fact, there’s a chance that you’re reading this post because you’re out of a job and a friend shared the link with you – if that’s the case, take notes… your friend is trying to help you out.

I’ve never known so many friends in ministry without a job.  Off the top of my head, I can think of 6 people who I would consider friends – 3 of whom are close enough family friends that they’ve shared a meal at my home – who are actively looking to be hired on a church staff.  Now, out of that list, I think that some of them are doing everything they can to stay active in the pursuit of finding their next call in ministry.  There are others, and I’m afraid that they’re in the majority when it comes to the masses, who aren’t helping themselves out with the choices they’re making while looking for their next ministry position.

So, today, I want to ask three questions to those who are looking for a new job and what answers I’d be looking for if I were trying to hire you.

  • Why did you leave your last ministry position?
  • Where are you currently going to church and where in the Church are you serving?
  • When was the last time you did what you want me to pay you to do?

This is only meant to help – I promise.

Why did you leave your last ministry position?

For those of us who’ve worked at multiple churches, we know the heartache that can happen during transitions.  Rarely, if ever, do people leave ministry roles in a way that would allow them to return again as a staff member or as a member of the congregation.  In fact, one of the few people I can think of off the top of my head who has navigated that transition well is the former student minister at my current church.  She is now on staff at a local seminary and worships on Sundays at our church – where she was once on staff for somewhere around 5 years.  She’s a rare exception because of how great of a person she is.  Most of us didn’t transition as well – and that’s an okay thing to admit.

With that said, the way you answer this question will speak volumes about your character.  If, in the first 2 sentences of your answer, you throw your former senior pastor under the bus – I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t hire you. At times, you’ll disagree with your future senior leadership team and they need to know that you’ll have their back at the end of the day.  Honesty is important when answering this question, but you want to make sure that you speak well of your former church.  There are often a lot of hurt feelings when it comes to ministry transition.  It’s okay to talk about them – just don’t go there in the first two sentences of your answer.

Where are you currently going to church and where are you serving?

I might be the only surprised one in the room on this one (and that’s okay), but I’m shocked at how many people looking for a paid position in ministry aren’t currently a part of a church body.  And, when I say a part of, I mean in attendance and service within the church.

It. Blows. My. Mind.

I’m not sure why I’d hire someone to work on a church staff who thinks it’s okay to not belong to a local church body.  The best excuse I had heard, up until about a year ago, was that someone looking to go on staff at a future church didn’t want to create strong bonds at a church that wouldn’t be their final stop along the way.  However, during the last year, I had someone contact me during a ministry transition they were going through and they asked if they could serve at and attend our church in the meantime.  This person, and their spouse, have been worshipping with us for months and are becoming actively involved in the life of the church.  Will it make their transition away from us harder?  Sure.  Does it speak volumes to their conviction that belonging to a local church body is a big deal?  Absolutely.  Also, they can always point back to the fact that they told us they wouldn’t be around forever – they’ve been honest from the beginning and I love that about them.

If you can come up with a good reason to not be involved in a local church while searching for a new ministry position, that’s what the comment section is for. Go for it.  Maybe you’ll say something I haven’t heard before – it’s totally possible.

When was the last time you did what you want me to pay you to do?

So, you want to be a youth pastor?  When was the last time you taught at a youth group?  Or… you want to work in children’s ministry?  Are you currently working with Elementary-aged kids or Preschoolers?  These are important questions to have answers for because a good church will ask you and you should be ready to talk about it.

We’re currently in a job market where there are far more qualified people looking for ministry positions than churches looking to hire.  There are better resumes out there than yours.  The way you answer this question may be what makes you stand out in an interview process.  Also – are you willing to not do what you feel called to do for months, maybe even a year, just because nobody is willing to pay you for it?  I want you to consider what that looks like to a future employer.  There are days when ministry is exhausting – if the only thing keeping you going is the promise of a paycheck, something is broken.  Learning to serve in the areas you are gifted in, without pay, will make you better at what you do.

Why should you share this post?

I know, this isn’t one of the three interview questions.  I totally get that.  However, there’s a good chance that you know someone who is trying to get hired at a church and they’ve never thought of how they’d answer these questions.  I don’t want you to have to be the bad guy who asks the hard questions – let me do that.  You can be there to ask them what they thought of the questions and ask how they might answer them.  But, the only way you get to be the good guy is if you share this post and then talk in your circles about what your gut reactions are.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Where we got the name “Christmas”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibyur0xMeBA%5D

Where we got the name “Christmas”

WITB Tour: The Tricky Bits of Christmas

Have you ever wondered where the name Christmas comes from?  And… why don’t we just call it “Jesus’ birthday-day”?

Today, I get to talk a little about an amazing resource that’s coming out this holiday season.  Each year, I come across some tricky questions from the kids at my church, and even the kids who live at my house, as Christmas approaches.  Questions about Santa, the date of Christmas, some more questions about Santa, what the deal is with Christmas trees, and… yes… more questions about Santa.  I’d imagine that, if you’re a parent or work with children at your church, you face some of these same questions every year.

Well, I just happen to be friends with someone on a team who has developed a new tool for parents and church leaders to answer some of those hard questions surrounding Christmas.  The guys and gals who produce What’s In The Bible?  are launching a new resource this holiday season called Why Do We Call it Christmas (You can order the series at this link).  At the end of this post, I’ll tell you how you can win a FREE copy of this resource.

I’ve been asked to tackle some of the tricky bits that surround the lesson about where the name “Christmas” comes from.  It’s probably one of the lesser controversial lessons in the series (tackling the Santa thing sure sounds tricky, but the WITB team actually did it better than I’ve EVER seen), but it’s an important question that I want my own children, and the children in my church, to have the ability to answer.  Christmas is kind of a big deal, our kids should be able to talk about it from a place of understanding… and their answers should sound a bit different than the other answers on the playground at school.

When we work through this series at Glenkirk in the coming weeks (and at my house with my own kids), I’ll be giving my volunteers and church parents a head’s up about some of the trickier parts of this lesson.  The things I cover will probably look a little something like this:

For Volunteers and Parents

  1. In explaining the origin of the name “Christmas,” the video talks a bit about Communion.  Be ready to answer questions about what Communion is and why we take communion.  At our church, Communion is something that we celebrate once a month… but, be ready to explain to kids that some churches take communion more often and some take it less often.  At the time that Christmas originated (not when Jesus was born… but when we started celebrating Christmas on December 25), Communion was a part of each church service.  Having that information in your back pocket is going to be pretty helpful.
  2. The video talks about the fact that the holiday that started out on December 25th wasn’t Christmas.  You should be comfortable talking about this and shouldn’t shy away from the history of the date.  Try asking the kids in your group or in your family what day their birthday is on and if they’d change the day they celebrate it, if they could.  For example, my birthday is on December 27th and I’d change the day I celebrate it in a heartbeat.  I’ve lost count of how many “Christmabirthday” presents I’ve gotten over the years.  I think I’d want to celebrate my birthday in early May, if I had the choice.  Or maybe February.  How about you?
  3. When explaining the history of the holiday, it’s easy to talk less and less about the actual Christmas story.  Make sure that you point your discussion back to the birth of Jesus if it begins straying too far away.  If we spend a whole lesson talking about Christmas and forget to talk about God sending his Son to rescue us, we’re failing.  We should make sure that we make a big deal out of what we celebrate at Christmas.

Ok, here’s how to win your own copy ($79.00 value).  You can enter for the drawing by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter and by sending me an email at aprince(at)glenkirkchurch.org.  Your email should include a quick story about how you handle (or how your parents handled) talking about Santa in your home.  This post isn’t about Santa… but I’m working on one and would love to use some of your stories (I’ll keep them anonymous, I promise).

Write to me, tell me about Santa, share this link and I’ll choose the winner next Tuesday, Nov.15, and post your name here on the blog.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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Budget or Die

Budget or Die

Seriously, learn to budget or your ministry is toast

It’s that time of the year when many of us in ministry take a break from the things we care about and turn our attention to submitting a budget for the upcoming year. My friend Collie recently published a post (http://colliecoburnjr.com/defeating-the-budget-monster) that got me thinking through how over-my-head I felt in my first few years of ministry as I tried to create a system and process for budgeting. Now, as my friends and staff are well aware, budgeting season is one of my favorite parts of the year.  Crazy, right?

(If you read that as though you only have to budget once and then you’re good-to-go… leave me a comment in the section below and we’ll have a conversation this week where I break the news to you that budgeting is a year-round and life-long process)

The game-changer for me was two-fold – First, I developed a way to project what a program or event was going to cost without feeling like I was simply guessing and, second, I learned to use the budgeting process as a chance to cast and realign vision for our ministry.

Developing Initial Projections

I’ve found it helpful, in developing ministry budgets, to figure out a formula for an initial cost projection for a program or event. Having a way to initially project what an event or program is going to cost helped me feel as though I wasn’t simply guessing at the cost of ministry.

As a starting point in my first 2 years of ministry, I used these two quick formulas for events for 3 yr olds thru 5th graders (nursery, parenting and middle school events need different numbers… but I’ll assume that the bulk of kids’ ministers out there budget primarily for the 3’s-5th grade demographic)…

In our context, ongoing events and regular programs cost about $1 per child per ministry hour.
Large events and events that only happen once or twice a year cost about $2 per child per ministry hour.

Starting there would give me a base for my budget… it’s then up to me to go through my list of needs and wants to see if I can actually pull it off.

I’ll quickly put those numbers to the test with 2 examples:

Let’s say you have 70 kids in an ongoing program like Sunday School. And, as it once was in my case, let’s now assume that kids in your program will be with you on a Sunday for an hour and a half. That’s $1 x 70 kids x 1.5 hours… or, $105 per Sunday, giving you an annual budget of $5460 for Sunday School.

A large event, like a Halloween Festival or a VBS, will use the other formula. For the sake of easy math, let’s say you run a VBS or Day Camp for 100 kids and that the program lasts from 9am-1pm (4 hours). That’s $2 x 100 x 4 for a total of $800 per day, giving you a budget of $4,000 for a 5 day program.

Having a formula you can work from, even if it’s different than mine, gives you a way to go back to your pastor or your board to explain why a one-time event like VBS will cost nearly as much as a year of Sunday School. And, as your numbers grow, you have something to point back to to make a case for the need for an increased budget line.

Budgeting as an outflow of Vision

When I came on staff at our church, children’s ministry was getting 0.8% of the church budget.  That’s to say, for every $1 that was donated to the church, less than a penny was going to the programs and ministries dedicated to children under the age of 12.  That was a staggering number.

Now, I’ll be honest, there was a tectonic shift that occurred at our church that began to address that figure – we hired a senior pastor who had an appreciation for where the church had been and a vision for where the church needed to go.  He allowed us to begin looking at our budget numbers as expressions of what we thought mattered most.  In the first few years, a large event that our church hosted every year was canceled and I took that money and invested it in books and resources that we could hand to parents – believing that a more lasting impact would happen in the life of a family if parents were equipped to have spiritual conversations with their kids… rather than a family simply attending one more large event our church was hosting.

A few weeks ago, The Orange Tour came to our church and Reggie Joiner sat down with our Senior Pastor to chat about life, ministry and the things that matter most.  It’s a 15 minute conversation, but has some stand out moments.

If you begin watching at about 8 minutes, you’ll hear a throw away line just before the 9 minute mark about the year that our children’s ministry budget doubled.  That was the year that our Senior Pastor told the church that children’s ministry mattered.  We used our budget as an expression of the vision of the church.  The numbers were more than numbers – they were a physical manifestation of what we knew to be true – ministry to kids matters and an excellent ministry is going to cost more money than what we had been spending.

—-

You need to know how to budget.

Whether you’re in ministry or not, money doesn’t just happen – so you need to spend with an end in mind.  As you look over your budget, household or ministry, what does it say about the things you value?  Is there a way that you’re coming up with numbers, or are they simply hopeful shots in the dark?  Can your spouse or your senior pastor articulate why you spend what you spend on the things you spend it on?

Budgeting season doesn’t have to be stressful – but it does have to matter.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Kidmin

 

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The Lingering Pain of Loss

The Lingering Pain of Loss

Ministering in the midst of brokenness

I place a high value on authenticity and transparency in leadership.  With that in mind, I’m going to lay some stuff out there that some in ministry circles might cringe at.  I apologize in advance.

Church leaders are just like you.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Just. Like. You.

We have struggles and hurts and brokenness.  When you see us on Sunday, we aren’t serving the church because we have it all together – we’re serving because we’ve submitted our broken and imperfect lives to something bigger than ourselves and the call on our lives is something that exists in spite of, in the midst of, and even through our imperfections.

—-

“One of our friends needs to have a baby…”

I was sitting in a car on the way to lunch this week when one of my friends dropped a seemingly harmless thought into conversation.  As I sunk deeply into my seat, he continued to talk and think out loud about how much fun it is to go through the holidays with pregnancy stories and how our circle of friends needs someone who will bring up the stories of helplessness that are associated with trying to care for a newborn.

It was just a few months ago when we were that family.  Just before our nation’s birthday, we had news to share of another coming birthday – my wife and I found out that we were expecting another child.  We were ready to welcome a new baby into the world.  A baby that might might grow to love the color green or have a passion for cartwheels or desire to one day be an amazing stay-at-home mom like the one that she was going to grow up with.  Then, on a Sunday morning, when I was getting ready to take a bunch of kids on a week-long adventure to summer camp, my wife came to me crying.  She was bleeding and frightened and scared that she may have lost our baby – and I had to keep our Sunday programs running.

Life happens.  Even on Sundays.

We came out of that scare with hope that the baby was fine.  Our doctors and nurses seemed to think that the episode was just a hiccup in the pregnancy and that we’d still deliver just fine.  And yet, a few months later, we received the news that we had prayed against – our baby was gone.  We weren’t going to have a chance to meet her on this side of Heaven.

We were crushed.

“If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”

We were sitting in our living room a few days ago when my son began pondering this question.  He decided that he’d ask if he was going to get to see Baby Tiny in Heaven.

Months have passed and yet time is moving slowly for my family.  Carter still draws pictures of the baby he’ll never meet.  Christine stands in the kitchen and stares off into the distance and holds her now empty tummy.  Kate continues to grow and continues to dance in slow motion.  And then there’s me.  I keep standing in front of crowds of people on Sunday mornings and at conferences to tell them that parenting is hard and marriage is hard – so we shouldn’t do them alone… we need to be part of a family that’s bigger than the walls of our home and a church that’s bigger than the walls of the sanctuary.  I get to tell kids that God is with them in hard times and that he writes a better story than we could ever imagine.

Yet, for the last few weeks, I’ve avoided checking in on our nursery team on Sundays.  I can’t even walk into the room.  I’m broken.

—-

The funny thing about loss is that it lingers.  Knee surgeries give you a limp – people can see the scars and have visual reminders of your story.  Losing a baby is different – there’s now a nothingness that sits at the dinner table with us, is in the corner of our family pictures and continues to draw hits to a video we posted on youtube to announce the news of our pregnancy.

If I didn’t tell our story, we’d be the only ones who knew that nothingness even existed.  And, here’s the thing, we’re not alone in dealing with our loss.  Because we’ve been transparent and we’ve told our story, we have a community that understands.

And so, on days like today, our story continues moving forward.  We eat goldfish crackers, build LEGO creations, shop for eyeliner and fill the refrigerator with new groceries.  Life, at times, is hard – that’s why we don’t do it alone.

Thanks for being a part of our story.

for other posts related to our journey though miscarriage, check out

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/losing-baby-tiny/

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/saying-goodbye-to-baby-tiny/

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Thoughts

 

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Reaching a New Generation of Families

Reaching a New Generation of Families

Throw Away Your Cookie Cutter “Family Ministry” Strategy

This last week, I had the privilege of spending time with Amy Dolan, children’s ministry consultant and founder of Lemon-Lime kids.  Amy led a session at the conference I attended and facilitated a conversation about what family ministry will look like in 2011 and beyond.  I’ll lead with some new facts and ideas that Amy planted in my head and what I think we, as ministry practitioners, can do to revamp and re-imagine what family ministry looks like for a new generation of families.

What is a family?

In order to begin reaching families in your community with the Gospel, the first thing you need to throw out is your definition of family.  “Why?” you may ask… well, to begin with, the families you minister to are living in a world where the definition of family has changed.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s let Diane Sawyer and her team do the talking:

In my own home – we’re faced with redefining what a family is.  I have a sister who has been with the same boyfriend for over a decade.  We like him a lot.  At Christmastime, our family (my wife, 2 kids and I) buys them one Christmas gift in the same way that we send our sets of parents one gift each.  Our kids even call him Uncle Jordan.  He and my sister aren’t married, they don’t have kids, and yet – we, in all practical purposes, call them a family.

There almost seems to be a generational divide over who is and who isn’t comfortable with the loosening of the term “family” – especially in the world of Church.  Don’t believe me?  Ask an elder or board member at your church to write the definition of “family” and then ask a teacher or administrator in your local public school district to define what a family is – they’ll probably sound a little different.  And, as you reach out into your community, you need to know that the definition of family is changing – whether the church is ready for it or not.

Throw away your cookie cutters!

These are my words, not Amy’s.  However, I think she’d be in full support of them.  Over the last decade, as the church has re-struggled to engage families by tapping someone on staff to “Run” family ministries, the Church has gotten great at running “family” events.  Many churches, if you asked them what their family ministry strategy was, would point to a potluck they host or a movie night they invite families to.  Think about the way that we’ve often pitched these events…

To kids, we encourage them to bring their parents to events – but… what about kids who come to church with their grandparents?  Or what about the ones who have neighbors driving them to church?  And how about the kids in your church who are in foster care or have been removed from their parents’ home by local authorities?  Have you ever considered how those kids feel when you get a room full of their peers excited about inviting their parents to an event?

To grown ups, we announce that family events are upcoming and tell parents to bring their kids – but… do we consider the couples in the congregation who are struggling after a miscarriage and ache to be considered a “family” by those around them?  Have we thought about the message that we send to singles in our churches who already feel as though the church tells them that their life isn’t complete without a spouse… and now there’s another hurdle they’re going to have to jump over to be considered a “family” by their pastor?

I think we can do better and that we need to do better if the church is going to run effective family ministry in the changing world around us.

Practical next steps

I want to suggest a handful of next steps for those of us in the church who are looking to better serve families and the communities around us.  However, I want us to also sit and consider some of what we just read and heard.  If the definition of “family” is more fluid in the year 2011 than it’s been over the last few decades, then what does that mean for those of us who have been tasked by our churches to facilitate “family” ministries?  Where are some places in our churches that we can make room for singles and couples without children so that they know that they are a part of our church family and their voices are valuable in the conversation?

I’m going to hold off on practical application until my next post.  I feel like throwing out answers this quickly doesn’t allow the space we need to consider the changes on the horizon for Family Ministry in the Church.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

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Train Up Your Children

Train up your children

Holy snap, the verse you know & love doesn’t exist

I love having friends who are brilliant.  In fact, anyone who knows the story behind my wife and I falling in love and getting married knows that it all began because I wanted to marry someone smarter than I am (and… it helped that she is smokin’ hot).

So, I was sitting down for dinner with one of our brilliant friends the other night when she dropped a bomb on my world.  It went something like this:

Laura: Hey, you know that verse about training up your child in the way he should go?

Me: Yup.

Laura: That’s not in the Bible.

Me: *confused silence*

Seriously – it was like a bomb went off in the room.  When I asked her, in a stumbled and broken sentence, what in the world she meant, she went on to explain that the verse is a bit confusing in the original language and that the KJV translators sort of guessed at what the verse said.  And… most every translation afterward has made the same guess!

The verse is more likely to be a warning about how, if you let your child choose their own path, they’ll continue on that path when they’re an adult.  This makes total sense… but I’m seriously wrestling with how many people have taken this verse as a promise (which is a bit silly because it’s a Proverb, not a Promise) and how to best point them in the right direction.

Rather than go any further, I’m going to link to a post that explains all of this better than I could.  My brilliant friend, Laura Ziesel, wrote a post on the subject here: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/10/train-up-child-in-whose-way.html

Not sure you want to click over?   Let me tease you with this:

I hate to be the one to break the news to everyone, but Bible translation has failed miserably in regard to Proverbs 22:6 and we have all been duped. 
Okay, now hold on. I hear you groaning already: “Oh great, she’s going to tell us what the Hebrew really says, as if the Hebrew is clear. Pulease.” I get it. I really do. If Scripture were clear, many scholars and pastors would be out of work.
So, I’m not going to pretend as if the Hebrew is clear here because it’s not. But I (via my awesome professor and a little independent verification) can tell you what Proverbs 22:6 doesn’t say. Ready?
Laura blogs over at www.lauraziesel.com – a great way to break the news to the parents in your ministry is to post a link to her article on Facebook… just a suggestion.
 
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Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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