Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Too Many Deborah's in the Church

I learned a long time ago from C.S. Lewis that "moderation in all things" is a good philosophy for life. However, something I have noticed in my church and others similar is the heightened role of women in the church. Now, please here me out. I am not accusing women of anything, nor am I a misogynist. I believe that women have a vital role in the church, but I do believe that men have a vital role too.

As a student minister, I have noticed an abundance of women who are eager to work and serve in the church. This is a good thing. I wish that there would be an abundance of workers in my minister no matter gender, ethnicity, or socio-economics. An abundance of servants is such a great problem to have. However, I see a disparity in the level of commitment from the men in the churches.

I have come to see some effects of this disparity in the church. Let me explain:

  1. A lot of women volunteers in student ministry = a lot of teenage girls
  2. A low amount of men volunteers in student ministry = a low number of teenage boys
Like I said, I think this may be a cause and effect relationship. So, how can you the average church going dude change this? I would like to share some suggestions for men.

1. Find a ministry that is low of men servants and consider joining
2. Look for young men who need a mentor, and build a relationship.
3. Ask your church ministers how you can serve?
4. Pray for new opportunities to serve in the community, like little league soccer.
5. Up your game in whatever areas you are already serving.
6. Bring your Christians buds to church and help them get involved.
7. Try a new ministry that seems really challenging to you. God may grow you through adversity.

To the women, I say keep up the good fight. You are the life blood of many churches right now. If you can get your husbands into the church and get them active. A working man takes pride in what he does. It's not that I want women to feel bad about their role in the church. I want them to be excited about what could be their man's role in the church. Share the faith.

Judges 4:9 "She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Can a Baby Be Illegitimate?

What is an illegitimate baby? This phrase was once a regularly used expression in American culture, but its use has fallen out of popularity. The Free Dictionary defines an illegitimate baby as "the condition before the law, of the social status, of a child whose parents were not married to each other at the time of his or her birth." Society at one point assigned a stigma to such children. These children were considered dirty or unclean. Many cultures still feel this way. Illegitimate children held no rights as children when it came to claiming the name or inheritance of their fathers.

The frequency of children found in this situation is occurring more and more in our culture, but because of cultural changes the old sentiments of illegitimate children are not the same. Last year CBS News posted an article that reported half of all first babies are born to unwed mothers in America. Furthermore, with the rise of reality television shows about teen pregnancies such as 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and Fifteen and Pregnant. The concept of illegitimate children and such is not longer taboo.

Another great insight from the article from CBS is that many young people have changed marriage from a "cornerstone event" in their life to a "capstone event" in their life. In other words marriage is the last thing on their list of accomplishments instead of one of their accomplishments. Young people are holding off such commitment levels until they are secure financially, socially, and relationally. Their line of logic is that if they must constantly shift in their career and education until they are ready to be settled why not be relationally as well. This means they are willing to try out various relationships like jobs, degree majors, and where they want to live. The article further reported that the women who are not getting married are the ones without economic stability. This led to the most revealing statistic of 45% of women will have given birth by age 25 but only 38% of women are married by that age, and by age 30, two thirds of women will have had a child out of wedlock.

When I survey this question, the real question is not about illegitimate children but of illegitimate values and morals. As the father of a daughter, I am worried for the future of my daughter. I want my daughter to experience the greatness of having a great man of a husband. I want her to experience the joy of having a child together that is desired and welcomed into an already existing family unit. However, this is not the trend.

Parents, I strongly urge you to talk with your kids about the value of marriage. Christian parents, we have no excuse but to raise our children according to a pattern that is the antithesis of our culture.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Church Revitalization and Criticism

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. I took a break from blogging to spend time with family. I am very blessed to have such godly influences in my family. The holiday season always seems to lift me up and encourage me as I spend time with my family who are all struggling to engage the world with ministry. My father is a music minister, my brother is a worship leader, and my youngest brother and I are attempting to start a new business Florida Fowl Waters as a platform for waterfowl hunting and leading people to Jesus. I am so richly blessed.

Another thing that comes from a family that all struggle with ministry to some extent is understanding each other's struggles when it comes to criticism. Criticism is part of the job description when you work with people. My dad has been in vocational ministry working at churches for about 30 years. He has received his fair share of criticism throughout the years. My middle brother leads worship at a church plant. He receives little criticism about how he leads worship. He predominantly reaches college students and young families at his church, and they all love his style of music.

As I was preparing to write this blog it struck me that this is probably the greatest point of tension for ministers in church revitalization. This blog is a series based on an article from Thom Rainer 9 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Leading a Church Revitalization. Thom Rainer has lately been championing church revitalization, even as recent as 3 days ago with his most recent article. Church revitalization is by nature to work with established churches to rebuild and reconstruct to be healthy once more. Church plants are by nature fresh beginnings. When a person attends a church plant, they understand that everyone is on the learning curve, and change happens almost on a weekly basis.
I personally, feel this is why so many young ministers are interested in church planting and not revitalization. However, I feel called to church revitalization. I feel like it is the business of God to raise the dead, heal the sick, and give joy to the downtrodden. I get to be part of this when I join in a church revitalization project, but I certainly have to deal with the criticisms that come with territory.

Here is a list of criticisms I have faced, and how I find myself handling them.
  1. Tradition: This is perhaps the most obvious of the problems and criticisms I receive. It's the preverbal "We've never done it that way before." I receive this when I tell students we are changing a program or going to a new summer camp. This is hard because people are often emotionally attached, but I know that if I am diligent to do my homework and make a case for why we are changing, I often do not receive as much push back. The people deserve to know the "why's" behind our ministry and decisions.
  2. Too Much Preaching/Teaching: This one is funny to me, because people will actually tell me that I am too focused on Scripture in my ministry....like that is possible! I believe that a healthy church starts at the grassroots level by teaching the Scriptures to teens. An armed and trained Christian is a dangerous Christian. However, there must be moderation in your ministry between discipleship, service projects, and fun events. You may be criticized towards the other end of the spectrum from me.
  3. Lack of Trust From People: I get this the most from either young or impatient youth ministers. This remains a hard lesson for me still. Patience is the name of the game in church revitalization. Sometimes true revitalization in a church can take an entire generation. Trust is slowly gained, so be willing to work with the people over a long amount of time.
  4. Too Much Change: I remember Jerry Vines saying years ago that the bigger the ship, the slower it turns. Similarly, if a youth minister tries to turn the ship to quickly it can capsize. I am a big proponent of strategic phases. Work towards your goals.
  5. Lack of Resources: Sometimes in youth ministry you feel like you are scraping for funding. Foremost, I believe that the best fundraiser for a youth ministry is to get your quality students active in the church. Let the product sell itself. However, sometimes churches have this mentality of poverty, and will shrink away from doing what God has called them because of the test of faith. My solution is get creative. Do not get angry, but use what God gives you. The finances will come with time.
  6. Lack of Vision: The pastor lays out the primary vision for the church, so make sure you are working in that vision. Second, you must also have a vision for the youth group. If the youth minister doesn't have this vision, he will struggle to garner followers and supporters.