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A Community Church

A Community Church

being the church when the pews are empty

Over the last few years, I’ve heard a comment/question that has resonated with my soul each time that it’s spoken.  Whether it’s been in the context of a conference, a book, a conversation or a sermon, these words have struck me significantly each time:

If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would your community notice?

Now, before I get angry comments below, I’ll quickly say that I don’t think that the church is a building… though, in this context, we’ll assume the church gathers in a building.  The heart of the question is this: is the local gathering of Christ-followers that you’re a part of play a significant role in the community around you?  When thinking through this question today, I wanted to share with you some creative ways some churches are making an impact in their community.

A Substitute Staff

I recently heard of a church where the staff was required to submit an application to become a substitute teacher in their local school district as a part of the hiring process.  You see, the local public school in the church’s community does not have enough substitute teachers… and so, because the church’s heart is for their community, the entire staff also serves as subs in the district.  That’s right: even the Senior Pastor (his favorite class to substitute for is band/music).

The church I’m speaking of is not a large church, but it’s making a large impact in its community.  Because of the staff leading the way, members of the congregation have started to volunteer at the local elementary school as yard duty teachers, crossing guards and maintenance/grounds workers.  This church is bringing Christ to their community by serving their local schools.  It’s kind of brilliant.

A Shelter from the Cold

In our area, there is a coalition of churches who partner together every winter in order to serve, feed and house homeless in our community during the coldest months of the year.  Because we are in a warm climate, the Los Angeles area has a significant homeless population.  During most of the year, many of those without a place to stay can sleep outdoors without significant risk to their health… however, during the winter, there are nights when the temperatures drop and those without a roof over their heads, especially young children, face significant consequences if they’re caught out in the cold overnight.

Churches who are a part of this coalition take turns opening up the doors of their buildings in order to offer shelter and meals during those coldest times of the year.  Local congregations who do not have facilities that could house hundreds of people partner with larger churches and provide volunteers – some of whom specialize in dentistry, medical care, hair styling or other skills that help the homeless population feel cared for and worthy of attention.  These churches care for those who could never repay them for the services they offer and, because of this, offer something significant for their community by offering the love of Christ to those on the margins of society.

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Being a church who cares for your community is BIGGER than being a church who runs events and welcomes your community to come to you.  Being a Community Church often means taking Christ to those who might not yet know Him and who probably have never seen a church who actually cared for those outside of itself.

This last week, I had the privilege of watching our church rally with our community to support a family when their son was dying from cancer.  Moms, students and our church’s staff cared deeply for those who were mourning in ways that I’ve never witnessed before.  Though the family does not attend our church, we found ourselves at the center of helping organize a candlelight vigil for those in the community who needed a place to ask where God was in the midst of tragedy  (Read more about that vigil HERE or HERE).

This week, as you reflect on the role you play in your community, consider what some next steps might be in your context.  What if your church decided to invest deeply in its local school district by providing coaches, PTA members or library volunteers?  Have you ever considered taking an afternoon as a family and baking cookies for your neighbors? (Halloween is coming – reverse trick-or-treating with homemade bread could be a fun idea, right?)

Have you wrestled through this recently or maybe have a brilliant idea to share with the community?
Post your thoughts below!

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Losing Baby Tiny

There aren’t words that can fully express the sadness that comes with the news of a miscarriage.

I’ve known this to be true for years – in ministering to families, I’ve walked alongside (what feels like) too many families who have had to mourn the death of their unborn child(ren).

Those words were never more true to me than they are now.

On Wednesday morning, my wife and I were given the news that no parents want to hear during a regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment – our nurse was unable to find the heartbeat of our unborn child, Baby Tiny – we had experienced a miscarriage and our baby had died.  The rest of that day is a whirlwind of sadness and confusion – and, days later, we’re still processing what just happened.

So, today, I thought I’d put some words down to help me process and to share a little about our experience for the many others out there who are going through, or have gone through, a miscarriage.

Mourning in Community

When Christine and I first discovered that we were pregnant, we had a question to answer – when do we tell people that we’re expecting?  We decided, as many of you know, to share our news in a fast and furious fashion (see our video here).  If the worst were to happen, we discussed at the time, we’d rather mourn in community than feel as though we were alone.

Now, 2 months later, we are faced with the reality that we now have a lot of people that we need to share our not-so-great news with… and, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  As hard as it is, the fact that we’ve had a community of friends to rally around us during our sadness has far outweighed the negative aspects of telling people the sad news.  Our closest friends spent the first evening with us and brought us all of our favorite comfort foods.  We sat around, crying a bit, laughing a bunch and just talking about life together.

Had we waited until later in the pregnancy to share our news with everyone, we would have missed out on that time we were able to spend together – I’d be willing to bet that the friends who were with us on that night will be in our lives for a long time… mourning together tends to grow people closer together.

Bad news never travels fast enough

Nobody likes sharing bad news.  People don’t like hearing it either.  That’s why I think people feel the need to turn bad news into good news.  In telling people about our miscarriage, I’ve noticed that most people try to put their own spin on the news.

“At least it happened early in the pregnancy.”

“Well, you’re young and can still try again.”

“You already have 2 kids… that’s something to celebrate!”

“I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut, so I’m going to just start talking.”

Okay… nobody actually has said that last one.  But, it’s kind of at the core of most people’s response to the news.  Everyone feels like they need to turn the bad news into not-so-bad news, so they try to spin things to lessen the sadness in the room.

I write all of that to say this – if someone tells you bad news, just listen.  And, if you have sad news to share, please know that even the nicest person can say hurtful and stupid things in the midst of sadness – please don’t hold it against them.

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I know a lot of people who will read this are in ministry.  I’d encourage you to check out an event that one of my ministry friends, Kenny Conley, has put together for his church – Born into Heaven (http://www.childrensministryonline.com/family/born-into-heaven/).

If you’re a friend or family member reading this, you could help us out most by telling one other family our news, and encourage them to do the same.  We’re a little nervous about church this weekend and having to tell and re-tell our news to each person we see (I’m trying to figure out how to tell a couple hundred kids who love and pray for my family about what happened) – it would be helpful if you helped spread the news.  If you don’t know how, just tell them the basics and send them to this post.

I think what I’m most sad about is that I won’t get to ever know what kind of kid Baby Tiny would have been.  Would he have his brother’s need for structure and love for Lego Star Wars?  Would she show no fear around a swimming pool like her sister and have a passion for destroying her brother’s Lego towers?  In mourning the loss of our baby, I’m forced to also mourn the loss of my hopes and dreams that I had for her (I had been hoping for a girl, btw).  That seems like it’s the saddest part.

We’ll spend part of today at the beach putting together a little ceremony for Baby Tiny.
I’ll share pictures and more about that ceremony sometime next week.

Thanks, in advance, for your prayers.  We know that we’re not alone – and we appreciate the support.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Thoughts

 

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Top 10 Children’s Ministry Resources: #1 The Collaborating Community

There is not a book on any of our shelves that can replace the resource that we are to each other.

We live in a time in history when ideas can be exchanged in real-time across hundreds, if not thousands, of miles via text, voice, picture, or video.

There is a movement in our field to embrace the idea of collaboration and, if you’re reading this right now, you’re a part of it.  30 years ago, when guys like Jim Wideman were still cutting their teeth in children’s ministry, they could have never imagined the resources we’d have at our fingertips today.  You are a part of a movement that has been called to mobilize the Church.  We are called to tell others to take ministering to kids seriously.  We are called to be innovative and to strive for excellence.

Your best resources are the other leaders reading this post right now.

Let me share 5 ground rules for what collaboration looks like… and what it doesn’t look like.
(thanks to Sam, Gina, Matt, Jonathan and Kenny for helping me understand and truly believe what I’m about to write…)

  1. We’re all experts. God has called you to serve where your serving.  That’s a pretty big deal.  You are the only one who has expertise in being you, in your ministry context, at your age and stage of life.  Your voice carries weight.  Feel free to speak like you have ideas the rest of us need to hear.
  2. We’re not experts. Writing, commenting on, or moderating a blog doesn’t make someone an expert.  And, remember the whole, “We’re all experts” thing I just mentioned?  We all also fail.  Often.  Don’t take yourself so seriously that you can never be wrong.  You can and will be wrong… and the world will keep turning.  And we’ll keep listening to your ideas.
  3. Size doesn’t matter. Small churches and large churches are all part of Jesus’ church… we all have things to learn from each other.  Numbers should never be the main topic of any discussion.  There are appropriate times and places for number discussions.  Don’t assume that you know when and where those are – those rules are often fluid.
  4. Share your ideas, not just your victories. It’s easy to talk about the Gospel presentation where 39 kids accepted Jesus into their lives.  It’s a little tougher to talk about the time when not one child made a profession of faith.  But, here’s the thing – what we sometimes consider failures, God wants to redeem as victories.  It’s always best, when collaborating, to share ideas before you actually try them.  Someone may have insight that makes your idea better.  Write your ideas on Napkins.  Don’t taken them too seriously.  Share them.  You may have been given an idea for someone else to use.
  5. Stop Lurking. There’s a rich man in your congregation who is taking $137 out of the offering plate every time it gets passed in your church.  He comes to every service and does the same thing.  Then, he goes down the street to the church that starts 15 minutes after yours and does the same thing.  He’s become so rich from this scheme that he makes more in interest in one day than you and I make in income in a year – combined.
    Now, obviously, that man doesn’t exist.  Except he does.  And it’s you.
    There’s a good chance that, if you’re reading this right now, you’ve been here before.  And you’ll come here again.  And you check out the other kidmin blogs in the area.  And you probably rarely (if ever!) share your ideas.  You need to give back to the offering plate.  You don’t have to start your own blog or own your own space to do it.  Simply find a community and start sharing ideas.  Start giving back.  Unless you want to be a lurking jerk.

The community of children’s ministry leaders that we have access to is our best resource.
We’re waiting for you to join in.

Want to get involved?

Get involved by commenting on this blog, one of the blogs listed to the right of this page, by creating a Twitter account, or by joining the CMConnect Community.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2009 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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