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

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!

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?

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.

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…

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.

Things Can Change

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

The Mentoring Project from DTJ on Vimeo.

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.