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Archive for May, 2011

Thoughts on Youth Ministry and Change

May 18, 2011 3 comments

What’s the good word? Summer time is here. I have to admit that it’s still weird for me going into the summer months because for 10 years I was getting ready for youth events and mission trips. It was a busy time for youth ministry and so I’m thinking about Michelle’s summer and how busy she will be. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have Michelle on board as our Children, Youth, and Family director. At the time of this writing, I am about to go to synod assembly, where this year we will be discussing the importance of intergenerational ministry. Children, Youth and Family ministry is important to me, and it should be important to the church. Let me tell you why.

There is a scene in the movie, Super-Size Me where the man behind the movie, Morgan Spurlock is sitting with a group of kids. He shows them pictures of famous people. Most of them recognize George Washington, but all recognize Ronald McDonald. The sad part is, none recognized a common depiction of Jesus Christ. Not one. While the depiction may be inaccurate, let’s face it none of us know exactly what Jesus looked like, most children in America are growing up without any knowledge of Jesus. I read a statistic that was new to me in our staff book. It said that only 4% of upcoming generations become Christians. What’s even more startling is that only 10% of our youth stay active in their faith life and in a church after they graduate from High School. It seems that McDonald’s is reaching our kids far more than our churches.

Most churches are either stagnant or declining. Good news is that my church, Messiah, is not one of them! But as a whole, the kingdom is not expanding. Lives are not being changed. Our youth are being left out in the cold. So what is our response? What is at stake for us? What is at stake can be compared to what happened when the Israelites reached the Promised Land. Scripture tells us that no one knew about the amazing things God did for them. Why? Because this new generation had not been told by the previous generations about their faith. Will history repeat itself?

In order for the church to reach new generations, it must begin to change. Yikes there’s that word again. Change is difficult. We all know that. But how difficult? I recently read that in a medical study where 600,000 people have heart bypass surgery a year in America. Now, these people are told after their bypasses that they must change their lifestyle. The heart bypass is a temporary fix. They must change their diet, exercise more etc. You would think that a near-death experience would forever grab the attention of the patients. You would think the argument for change is compelling. How many changed? Studies show that only 10% of heart bypass patients change their way of living. 90% do not! Change is that difficult.

So, the church has before it a dilemma in front of it. Will we change, or will we continue to shrink and become irrelevant in the lives of a new generation. For too many churches the pain of change is greater than the pain of ineffectiveness. This is why children, youth, and family ministry is so important. This is why you hear me say that the decisions we make today are not about us, but about our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren. Now that I have London in my life, I see the value in that. I want her to remain in the faith. I want her to see a growing, vibrant church that is changing people’s lives. The decisions I make today, affect her. What do we want to leave for our children? What is the legacy we want to leave behind? Can we come together as a congregation and rally behind our children, youth, and family ministry? Can we make the difficult decisions today that will ensure a better tomorrow for our youth? The kingdom is not about chatter and saying we will do it, it’s about action. The Nike Company says it best; it’s time for the church to just do it!

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Just a Few Steps

What’s the good word? I’m preparing for a new class that I will be teaching on Sunday for the next three weeks about evangelism. I was reminded as I was preparing for this class that evangelism really isn’t that hard. We make it difficult. Why? Why do we have a hard time with this one? It was the last thing Jesus told his disciples to do before he left, “Go into the world…” and that commandment lives on in our churches today. But what if it wasn’t that difficult? What if you knew that by simply walking across a room and saying hello to someone would change that person’s life forever? Would you do it? I remember as a kid going to this retreat at Lutherhill. It was one that was put on by the synod. Had a “ho-hum” attitude about church and the “Jesus thing” at that point in my growing up. But I remember this leader at the retreat, seeing me sitting on the floor as we gathered for worship by myself, getting up and walking over to me and saying hello. It changed the course of my weekend, and ultimately helped lead me in my faith towards Christ rather than away from the church. To this day we are still good friends, and both are ministers in God’s church. 10,000 steps. That’s roughly the distance we travel from sunrise to sunset each day. Are we using those steps wisely? If we knew those steps could change someone’s life for eternity- well we just might change the way we walk. And that’s the good news for today.

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