Monday, December 17, 2007

Here are Al Menconi's thoughts on "r" rated movies. I thought they were interesting vis-a-vi the discussion on Guitar Hero, Halo, the Golden Compass, etc. He wrote it in response to a letter questioning his discernment. I like his thoughts here.

Original article here.

This guy makes some good points. The point I disagree is where he arbitrarily says R rated movies are evil and then states that we shouldn't have anything to do with evil. While I agree that we shouldn't have anything to do with evil, where does Scripture say "Pvt Ryan" or R rated movies are evil? The thing that we need to be careful of is adding to Scripture and giving our addition the same credence as Scripture. Doing this only leads to trouble. The classic example is Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 3:3, when the serpent was questioning Eve about God's instructions she added to God's Word. Her reply seemed innocent, "God said that we must not eat from the tree in the middle of the Garden, and we must not touch it or we will die." God simply said, "Don't eat from it." He didn't say anything about touching it. What had she done? She ADDED to God's Word just to be safe; but what's wrong with adding a "bonus of goodness?" By doing this she was implying that God's Word wasn't good enough to stand up to Satan's temptations. She had to "help God out" and she made an extra rule just to be safe! You know where that led.

How does Eve's actions relate to your critic's stand on R rated movies? Scripture is clear on many things we should avoid, but it is silent about movies. I would say that it is a good policy to avoid R rated movies in the majority of cases, just as you said in your article, but be careful of saying it is a sin to attend R rated movies. That's adding to God's Word and it can only lead to trouble. Why not simply say we will evaluate each movie on its own merits in light of Philippians 4:8? Doing this will eliminate 99 and 99/100% of R rated movies. We are not condemning the movie; we are simply evaluating it in light of God's Word. Be careful about making blanket statements and making conclusions Scripture doesn't.

I believe this would be an excellent time to teach your kids how to discern quality entertainment as a whole. They typically don't know. The problem isn't R rated movies, the problem is most kids don't know what is good. Their parents or youth pastor said to avoid R rated movies, but they never taught them what is worthwhile. Many PG and PG-13 movies are much worse than many R rated movies. Often the child's thought is, "it's not R rated, so it's okay." Is it really? Someone needs to teach him how to choose quality entertainment. If most kids are asked if a movie was good, their response is often, "It was funny!" Or "It was exciting!" Or "It was sexy!" Or "It had a lot of special effects!" But they can't explain if it was good or not.

If your kids don't have the ability of discerning quality entertainment, they will forever be subject to the manipulation of the Hollywood marketing machine. As parents and leaders we must see the vast majority of entertainment as "ammunition" aimed our kids in the Spiritual war of life. It is our responsibility to teach our children how not to be causalities in this battle for their minds. A way you can do this is to bring "their entertainment" into your Sunday school class and help them filter it through the grid of God's Word just like you did with "Pvt Ryan."

Finally, as a caution, study Eph 5:1-12. We are to expose evil, but to stay innocent of sin. How can we do that? This is my most difficult challenge as a speaker. My problem is not knowing my material, it's how do I expose evil and still keep my audience innocent of sin. I'm sure you have seen "presentations" on the evils of entertainment that exposed too much. Don't be one of them!

In His service and yours,
Al Menconi"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wendy's Night is canceled

due to bad weather. The next one is scheduled for January 8.

Monday, November 19, 2007

We have had many new families and students coming to both our church and our student ministry weekly gatherings. Because of this, I thought I’d break down the purpose of each of our meeting times. At the end, I’ll give some observations as to the fruit that this is bearing.

We meet on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8pm. This time is designed to introduce students to who Jesus is. Not only do we want our students to come, we want them to bring their friends. We have a hang out/fellowship time from 6:30-7:00, then a relevant message about Jesus followed by small group time. In their small group, they dig deeper into Scripture, discuss the text, and talk about what they learned. Again, this is ground level, foundational stuff; we’re trying to teach who Jesus is and introduce them to the love of Christ.

The next “step” for involvement or growth would be on Sunday mornings. We meet from 8:45-9:45am. Here, we teach right from Scripture, using the Faithweaver material, which takes a student through the main teachings of the Bible in 3 years. Currently, both our high school and middle school groups meet together but this will be changing after the new year. The material here builds on the foundations laid on Wednesday nights. We go deeper into Scripture, and focus on application of spiritual truths. Here, our goal is to introduce them to what it means to be a disciple of Christ. If Wednesday night is the foundation, Sundays are the walls.

The deepest level of growth takes place on Sunday nights from 6:00-8:00pm. This time is a straight Bible study. Many of our studies on this night are multi-week studies and the students are required to purchase their own material and commit to doing the work. We just finished a 9-week session in which we used Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” material. Next up, beginning January 6 is the “Why?” study, which will be 6-weeks long. Continuing the analogy of the building, this time of study would be the roof and finishing touches- how their discipleship affects their lives on a daily basis.

Here’s what we are seeing as a result of how we’re currently “doing” ministry. Many of the kids who only attend our Wednesday night meeting do not know who Jesus is beyond the intellectual; He is simply not real in their lives. For some students who attend on Sunday mornings, but NOT on Wednesday nights, they struggle with the application because they have no idea who Jesus is; there is no foundation.

As a ministry team, we would appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we wait on the LORD on this topic. We also ask that you would evaluate the spiritual needs of you and your family and involve yourselves in the direction(s) that you feel the LORDs leading.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Next year, our student ministry is going on 2 mission trips. Each student who wants to participate is being asked as a part of the application to answer a question or two about their relationship with Jesus. Many are struggling with those questions. I came across a joke today on the internet while thinking about the question, "Who is Jesus?" Here's the joke...

"Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone find themselves all at the same time at Caesarea Philippi. Who should come along but Jesus, and he asks the four famous theologians the same Christological question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Karl Barth stands up and says: “You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.”

Not prepared for Barth's brevity, Paul Tillich stumbles out: “You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”

Reinhold Niebuhr gives a cough for effect and says, in one breath: “You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming oughtness in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”

Finally James Cone gets up, and raises his voice: “You are my Oppressed One, my soul's shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”

And Jesus writes in the sand, “Huh?”"

Hilarious. But, isn't that the way we often think of Jesus? When someone asks us who Jesus is, we feel put on the spot like we have to give some deep, 20 minute long theological answer.

Jesus once posed this very same question to his followers. We can read about it in Matthew 13. Jesus and the gang are in Caesarea Philippi, and he asks the gang, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?". His followers reply, "some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Jesus then asks the stunner..."But what about you? Who do you say I am?" I love the simplicity of Peter's response, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter is then praised for it. His simple response.

Who do YOU say that Jesus is?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

From Salvo Magazine, comes an interesting article on "fame". In talking with many of our kids, they too have the desire to be famous. Here's the link to the article itself, with some highlights posted below.

"A Pew Research Center poll of 579 18 to 25-year-olds released in January revealed that to 81 percent of them, getting rich is their generation’s first or second most important life goal, and 51 percent said the same about being famous. A similar poll of junior high students, conducted a few months later, showed that when asked what they want to be when they grow up, the majority said they want to be famous...You don’t exactly need a poll to tell you these things, though. We are surrounded by anecdotal evidence of it. Ever see an entire stadium full of people waiting outdoors for three days for a chance to audition for American Idol? It happens about a half dozen times a year and all over the country...."

Monday, October 29, 2007

13 is the new 18?

I got this email today. My son Nathan, 14, has his own email account through MSN. When he originally signed up for it, he had to have parental authorization. Now, according to MSN, not only does he not need my authority to have an email account through them, but I may not "manage permission for this child for Microsoft Online Services." Here's the email in totality...the arrogance is astounding.

"Dear parent or guardian:

According to the birth date provided for your child's Microsoft online account,
Nathan is now 13 years old. You are therefore no longer able to manage permissions
for the Nathan account through Account Services, and your child may create a new
account without your permission.

United States law requires websites and services to obtain parental permission to
collect, use, or share personal information from children under 13. Because this
child is now 13, you can no longer manage permission for this child for Microsoft
online services."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Please take a look at the new calendar feature (left-hand side).

Soon, I will not be including a monthly calendar in my monthly mailing to you; I'm moving more and more info to this site, so please be checking often.

We're going to be doing a few "different" things over the next month or so, ex: a Fall Party next week in lieu of youth group on Wednesday night (note time change), and also our Sunday night group is going to Martelle TWICE in the coming months (once on November 25th, and again on December 9th).

Monday, October 22, 2007

For an article about passports for those looking into our Mexico trip:

Click here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why Mormons do better youth ministry than we do

Original Source
By Greg Stier from Dare2Share Ministries

"Let's face it. Most of us look at the clean cut Mormon missionaries that peddle the streets of our city and knock on the doors of our houses as somewhat out of date. Although they are kind and well spoken young men, when they knock on our doors we either don't answer or tell them we are already Christians who reject Mormonism and bid them good day

We think to ourselves how "behind the times" these young people are forced to be when they are required to do door-to-door evangelism for their religion. We reflect on how grateful we are that we have the truth once and for all delivered to the saints. We may even think about how much more superior our youth ministry strategies are compared to theirs.

Or are they?

  • Mormons expect a lot out of their teenagers. We don't.
  • Mormons ordain their young men into the ministry at the age of twelve. We don't.
  • Mormons require their teens to attend seminary every day of high school. We don't.
  • Mormons ask for two years in the field of every graduating senior. We don't.

Maybe that's why we don't meet a lot of ex-Mormons, while there are hundreds of thousands of former church attendees in the true church of Jesus Christ (of everyday saints) who flee the church after graduating from high school.

Maybe that's why Mormons give more, work harder and are exploding as a religion. In 1985 there were 4.5 million Mormons and now there are over 12 million.

When many of our teens graduate from high school, they grab their books and a beer and go off to the college dorm (A.K.A. "The Party Zone"). When Mormon teens graduate from high school they grab a backpack and a bike pump and go off on a mission.

They know what they believe and why they believe it. They've hammered out their theology on our doorsteps. Their souls and minds have been steeled and sealed into Mormon orthodoxy through their fanatical commitment to the accomplishment of their version of the Great Commission.

Meanwhile we compress most of our mission work into one week in Mexico once every year or two. And even that is comprised mostly of building houses, not necessarily advancing the kingdom of God and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There's a great line in the movie Braveheart where Robert the Bruce is commenting on William Wallace to his father. He says, "He believes. I want to believe like he believes."

When I look at the Mormons I think to myself, "They believe. I want to believe like they believe." Now don't get me wrong. I don't want to believe what they believe. Mormon theology is far from what the Bible says about Jesus, God, sin and salvation. It is, by no means, a truly Christian religion.

Having said that, Mormonism pushes their kids harder and takes them deeper and farther than even the most ardent of evangelical youth ministries would ever dare.

Can you imagine a youth group that challenged every teen in the youth ministry to meet at 6am every day of the school year for a class on Christianity? That's exactly what Mormons do with their high schoolers and their belief system! We get excited if once a year at 7:15am, while Mormon teens are coming back from their daily seminary lesson on Mormonism, our teens gather around a pole and pray.

I'm not saying that we copy the Mormons specific strategy. I can't foresee our teenagers racing Mormons to the door in a battle of the bicycles. Nor do I believe the answer lies in a daily early morning class. We don't need to copy their strategy. We do, however, need to adopt their philosophy.

We need to push our teens. We need to turn them into active activists. We need to build consistent opportunities for service, outreach and training. We need to equip them to share their faith and then go with them, leading the way. After all, we are youth leaders.

Somebody may accuse me of looking at this as some sort of competition. It is. We are in a competition with Satan for the souls of our young people. And we are getting our rears kicked.

My problem is not with Mormons. It's with us. Let's learn from the Mormons and turn our kids into missionaries. Armed with the power of the true gospel (not some aberrant belief system) our teens could mount a comeback and help us win this thing.

Game on."

How much are you personally demanding from your children when it comes to their faith?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Last week on my personal blog, I posted some lyrics to a song by Dashboard Confessional. The song is entitled "Several Ways to Die Trying". I'll post them again here, please take a look at them before reading further...

"Pacific Sun, you should have warned us, it gets so cold here.
And the night can freeze, before you set it on fire.

And our flares go unnoticed.
Diminished, faded just as soon as they are fired.

We are, we are, intrigued. We are, we are, invisible.

Oh, how we've shouted, how we've screamed, take notice, take interest, take me with you.

But all our fears fall on deaf ears.

Tonight, they're burning the roads they built to lead us to the light.
And blinding our hearts with their shining lies,
while closing our caskets cold and tight ... But I'm dying to live.

Pacific sun, you should have warned us, these heights are dizzying,
and the climb can kill you long before the fall.

And our trails go unmarked and unmapped and covered
just as soon as they are crossed.

We are, we are, intriguing. We are, we are, desirable.

Oh how we've shouted, how we've screamed,
take notice, take interest, take me with you.

But all our fears fall on deaf ears.

Tonight, they're burning the roads they built to lead us to the light.
And blinding our hearts with their shining lies,
while closing our caskets cold and tight ... But I'm dying to live."

Chris Carrabba is issuing a call to arms to the adults, leaders and parents of this generation. He is speaking for all of the kids, my kids, your kids, OUR kids who feel that they have no voice, no input, no one who cares. They are the ones yelling, "Take notice, take interest, take me with you." Over the past few months, I've been reading the weblog of a girl NOT in our youth ministry's sphere of influence. Please read her most recent post. Be pulls no punches and is graphic.

"Well tonight has been hell. I might spell a few things wrong. I can't feel my fingers on my left hand. You'll find out why in a minute. Just gotta dig through everything else to get there.

I ate today. A grand total of:
a bowl of pasta salad
2 handfuls of mini vanilla wafers
a cheeseburger
and a large (gah) chocolate extreme blizzard.
I shouldn't have had all that. God. I can see that cheeseburger clogging my arteries. After I ate I got on the scale. The number was so fucking huge I won't even say it. I ended up having a lovely urge. I think I'm better now. Of course, I say that after having cut a million times and a lovely salt and ice burn on my wrist (that's why the fingers are numb). But I'm okay. I think. I never really know any more.

Lindsey gave me the link to her diary thing. I read it. Wow. I know she would like shoot me in the ass for saying this, but it makes me worry about her. I want her to be safe and happy. I want her to eat and not worry about it. I want to eat and not worry about it. Who wants to worry about how many calories are in toothpaste? I don't. I would trade anything not to have gotten into this. I want to sit down and eat a fucking big mac if I want to. I want to find a guy that the size of my pants doesn't bother him. I want some one who loves all over a hundred pounds of me. I just want... Idk what I want. I just want every one to be happy. I want to go a whole day where no one says emo, talks about cutting, or has an urge. That would be like heaven. I don't remember the last time I went like more than 2 hours with out thinking about it. I'm even afraid to sleep. It's in my dreams. I don't want to deal with that.

I hope it's cold tomorrow. At least for a hoodie. What about softball? Hopefully cold enough for sleeves. Ick. I'm going to need them. Gym will be a fun one.

I have no clue what I'll allow myself to eat tomorrow. Ugh. I really don't think I'll be able to shove anything down my throat after today. My stupid fat ass self.

And omg. Mama hung clothes in the closet. I'm not allowed to shut the door (something about them not drying; they were wet). So I know I won't sleep tonight. Not with the doors open. I'll probably wake up in the middle of the night and have to get up and close them.
Anyway, done for tonight. I'm starting to get feeling in my fingers. Which equals screaming pain."

About a month ago, when I asked her how her parents responded when they learned of her cutting, she said, "They got mad at me and yelled...then did NOTHING". Nothing. And the girl still cuts. Parents and adults completely un-engaged.

Parents! This is a WAKE UP CALL to us! Are the fears of our children falling on "deaf ears"? Are the flares our children are sending up going "unnoticed, diminished and faded" as soon as they are fired?

While this student is NOT in our youth ministry, I know that some in our ministry feel the same way. What can you do?

Don't burn the roads that lead them to the truth. Don't blind their hearts with your shining lies. Live out your own faith. Be real and honest and transparent with them. Love your kids.

They are crying out to us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

From Come to the Waters comes this article...

"Youth Perspective on Youth Ministry"

Over dinner, my daughter and I were talking about youth ministry. I told her about some of the conversations I’ve been reading around the blogosphere.

She saw my point about Halo and the need for youth to be more about being Christians than just hanging out and having fun. But, she said we adult Christians are using a double standard.

She noted that youth sometimes feel like victims of false advertising. At confirmation we tell them they are taking on the full responsibilities Christianity. They are - despite their status in the wider culture - Christians in full standing, just like the adults.

What this means in practice, however, is often nothing. Even at our church where our lead pastor tries to appoint youth to leadership positions, the voice of youth is often treated as - well - the voice of those at the kiddie table during Thanksgiving.

If we treat them as “not ready for prime time” and relegate their gifts to the youth lounge, what room do we have to then suggest they should be more interested in ‘religious’ youth group meetings than youth-oriented fun meetings. Do we let them act on the inspiration they might find in serious Bible study or prayer setting?

I told my daughter that most adults feel the same way when it comes to matters of church leadership, but that did not seem to help her much."

From Just Another Pretty Face:

"My Problem with Youth Ministry"

My general antipathy toward youth ministers in general is fairly well-documented. Of course, there are individuals in the field whom I truly like but in general I’ve got a bone to pick with youth ministry.

I’m not sure, but I think it happened in the 60s or 70s. Someone, somewhere thought it was a great idea to start engaging the young people with Church. So we started changing the lyrics to popular songs (Who here hasn’t heard “Amazing Grace” sung to the tune of “House Of The Rising Sun”?) and having big parties at church.

When I was growing up, most of the youth ministers I encountered were guys who had some sort of arrested development thing going on. They got into youth ministry because they loved the feeling of someone looking up to them, thinking they were cool. In Junior High I had the best Sunday School teacher. Dave Roth was great. He never talked down to us and delved deep into the meaning of scripture. We had actual Bible study. It was fun and not dry, but we managed to learn at the same time. I’ll stop naming names now, though, because subsequent youth leaders all of a sudden began to believe that we were incapable of study or rational thought. Suddenly church–which I had loved–turned into Mini Golf Paradise. They started youth meetings at 7:37 (Look! A HIP TIME!!!! WE’RE SO TEH KEWL!!!) and bribed us with pizza, pop and ping pong. If there was any Bible discussion at all it was usually pretty facile and covered territory we had already visited in kindergarten. You know–God Loves You! Sharing is Good!

I’ll never forget one of my youth ministers coming to chapel at my Christian School. This was a school where we had in-depth theology classes and deep discussions about things like transubstantiation, abortion, euthanasia and other faith/ethics topics. My youth minister’s idea of addressing “kids” was to sing “Little Bunny Foo Foo”.

As I’ve grown older (and even more curmudgeonly) it seems like this problem was not solely at my home church. The dumbing down of church for the young is causing the modern institutional church to lose 20-somethings at a hemorragic rate.

It’s almost become an expectation that people will drop out of church between 18 and 30 and then return when they have kids and are ready to start “real life.” Meanwhile, the 20somethings are drinking their lives away, buying into the American dream of materialism, and starting off marriages on shaky foundations.

I agree with the bulk of that author’s post, but here’s the thing. I was a 20-something Christian who tried to find a church home periodically. But all the 20-something ministries were geared toward that whole Rock-N-HolyRoll thing. No church seemed to take 20somethings seriously unless they had kids. Then they were only taken seriously as parents of future youth group members.

Yet I wasn’t “buying into materialism” or “drinking my life away”. I was trying to cope with entering the workforce, figuring out who I was, building a healthy marriage, dealing with the struggle of infertility and health issues. In short, I was being a grown-up. But most church congregations don’t see you as grown-up until you hit 30 or drop a couple of shorties–which ever comes first.

The church needs to expect more from people between the ages of 14 and 30. The church needs to realise that this is when serious life choices are being made. Where shall we go to college? Can we go to college? Whom shall we marry? What will we do for the rest of our life? Instead of wooing “youth” with pizza party fun, the church ought to prepare growing people for the challenges of life.

I place a lot of the blame on youth ministers. Instead of hiring a series of Peter Pans to amuse and distract, we ought to hire theologically-grounded counselors with the ability to nurture. Then perhaps institutional church will once again be relevant to those who are adults everywhere but under the steeple."

Finally, there is an article about video games and youth group here. This will be a topic of discussion at our retreat this weekend.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Some interesting videos on girls and self-esteem.

From Youth Ministry Exchange

Why Most Missions Trips Are a Waste of Time

By Noel Becchetti "We're going to Ecuador!" The words ring out in a dimly-lit sanctuary. As music pulses, more lights come on and more voices ring out: "We'll be working with our denominational missionaries!" "We're going to repair the roof of their mission house!" "We're going to put on a Bible club for the village children!" The voices? Members of a youth group in a large church in the Pacific Northwest. They were presenting their upcoming mission trip to members of their congregation. Me? I was the guest speaker, brought in to inspire the adults to support their students' summer mission plans. No problem--except that I was in a quandary. What can I honestly say to these people, I thought, when I know that this trip is mostly a waste of everyone's time and money?

"We're going to Ecuador!" The words ring out in a dimly-lit sanctuary. As music pulses, more lights come on and more voices ring out: "We'll be working with our denominational missionaries!" "We're going to repair the roof of their mission house!" "We're going to put on a Bible club for the village children!" The voices? Members of a youth group in a large church in the Pacific Northwest. They were presenting their upcoming mission trip to members of their congregation. Me? I was the guest speaker, brought in to inspire the adults to support their students' summer mission plans. No problem--except that I was in a quandary. What can I honestly say to these people, I thought, when I know that this trip is mostly a waste of everyone's time and money?


Those words may read strangely, coming from the keyboard of someone who is dedicated to advancing short-term mission and service opportunities for young people and adults. But I'm concerned that many (if not most) of our well-intentioned mission and service efforts are misguided.
Quotation But I'm concerned that many (if not most) of our well-intentioned mission and service efforts are misguided. Quotation
And as the world of youth-ministry mission and service continues to grow (and time, energy, and financial costs continue to rise), it's imperative that we make the most of the precious resources that God has given to us to work with. Since the key to solving any dilemma is to first identify the root causes, let's take a look at how we get ourselves off course.

(Mirror, Please)
"We have met the enemy," the saying goes, "and it is us." Afraid so--the first place to look when trying to figure out why we're wasting our time is in the mirror (me too, so don't feel too bad). There are three common errors we North-American, Western-Culture types make that can torpedo our best efforts.

We want to control the situation. This is understandable, given the responsibility we carry in taking a group of kids into a strange and potentially dangerous location. The problem is, missions by its very nature is a cross-cultural experience. We're choosing to go into a situation where the values, norms, cultural rules, and methods are radically different from ours. If we continue to insist on control--which means imposing our cultural and methodological framework onto our ministry partners--we create two wasteful byproducts:

1. Our ministry partners divert us to meaningless (in their framework) tasks that fit our control grid. A friend of mine has coordinated mission and service trips into northern Mexico for years. One of his sites is an orphanage, full of boys and girls dying for love and attention. And The Wall. "I've got this wall," he told me. "When a group comes that can't handle what's required to build relationships with Mexican kids, or insists on completing a task so they can 'accomplish' something, I put them to work on The Wall. They feel like they're a big help, and it keeps them out of everyone's hair so the ministry isn't compromised."

2. We pull our ministry partners away from more meaningful work.
"People need to remember," an inner-city friend from Chicago told me recently, "that a ministry pays a price to accommodate volunteers. It takes a lot of time and energy to set up an environment that can effectively handle volunteer help." While there are a number of legitimate reasons why a ministry partner may choose to allow volunteer groups to come in on a "make-work" basis (expose kids to the mission field, build awareness of the ministry, generate financial support), it's a waste of their distinctive gifts and skills to force them to accommodate our control issues.

Remember the high school group headed for Ecuador? The missionaries really didn't need their roof repaired; they figured that it was what the kids could handle. But for two weeks, it took them away from their core ministry--an outreach to the adult men of their village.

We want to define what is 'ministry'. The 'ministry' that God calls our mission partners to pursue may be (and often is) the exact opposite of what we would do. The point isn't to decide whose definition of ministry is "right"; the point is that as we insist on defining what ministry is in a context we know little about, we head down the garden path. Ever wonder why so many other cultures don't maintain their homes and buildings up to our standards? Maybe other things are more important to them.

One of the most common cultural collisions occurs between linear cultures (like ours) and nonlinear cultures (like Latin). Our culture is task-oriented; Latin culture is people-oriented. Our culture is time-sensitive; Latin culture is situation-sensitive. Glen Kehrein, co-author (with Raleigh Washington) of a terrific book on racial reconciliation entitled Breaking Down Walls (1993, Moody Press), relates an incident that illustrates how these basic differences can collide:

"While visiting missionary friends in Mexico City, [his wife] Lonni and I decided to go sight-seeing. On the way to the pyramids outside the city, our friends dropped off a package for a friend of theirs. In the U.S. the encounter would have lasted thirty seconds--tops. In Mexico it involved extended conversation and refreshments. Our friends, Rick and Diane, had never met the recipient and would, most likely, never see him again. Two hours later we were back on the road."

"As whites we often see such encounters as a 'waste of time', rushing to judgment rather than attempting to understand the culture. The Mexican value of relationships is often viewed as laziness."

When we give in to our task orientation and define "doing" as ministry (one of our most common mistakes), we create more wasteful repercussions:

1. We spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and money to do 'ministry' that is a low priority to those we're attempting to serve.
A few years ago, a friend of mine went with a group of other adult men from his church to a jungle village in Brazil. They were there to build a new meeting room for the mission compound. "The only problem was," he told me, "the weather was horrible the whole time--driving rain 24 hours a day. It was the worst possible time to build a building; but we'd come to accomplish a task, and by George, we were going to do it!" He went on: "It got to be ludicrous. The villagers were laughing their heads off. They couldn't figure out why the gringos were so loco that they'd slop around in the rain and mud when anyone with half a brain was inside."

2. We tempt our ministry partners to tell us only what we want to hear.
I've got another friend who also works in northern Mexico. He's built a network of relationships with Mexican pastors all over the region. There's just one problem, he says: "Some of the pastors have learned how to make a good living telling Americans what they want to hear. They'll tug their heartstrings with some cute children, then tell them how, if they could only build a new wing on their church, they could do so much more for the kids. It's not that these pastors have such bad intentions; they've been overwhelmed by the amount of money and material resources that Americans can pour into a situation."

Buildings are not automatically bad. But these Mexican pastors have become sidetracked from the ministry that is most effective in their culture (relationships) because of the overwhelming influence (and its attending temptations) of well-meaning but ignorant groups.

We want to see certain kinds of results. After all, we're investing a lot of time, energy and money into this mission trip. Surely God (not to mention the church board) wants to see some results from our efforts! True enough--but in rural Ecuador or inner-city Cleveland, "results" can be tough to pin down.

This pitfall can be especially treacherous when we're ministering in difficult, complicated situations. It would be great if homeless crack addicts could meet Jesus, get clean, and land a job in a week; unfortunately, it rarely happens that way. Results like "We got to know some homeless men and women and told them that God loves them", or "We helped the missionaries hand out information for an upcoming service to the village men as they came out of the cantina" can be tough to quantify. But insisting on attaining results that fit our criterion for effective use of resources creates still more wasteful ripple effects:

1. We run the risk of seeing 'results' that aren't really there. "What a great day!" one group leader told me after his group spent the afternoon at a Washington D.C. homeless shelter. "We handed out tracts and witnessed to dozens of guys. At least ten men accepted Christ!" Well, maybe...but homeless shelter residents are (unfortunately) familiar with evangelistic blitzkriegs and know how to go through the motions so they can get some peace and quiet.

2. We could do real damage to our ministry partners' long-term work. When the Iron Curtain fell, there was an explosion of evangelistic outreach from the West into the countries of the former Soviet bloc. Huge stadium rallies brought together thousands of people, virtually all whom, it seemed, raised their hands to accept Jesus. Unfortunately, the organizers of most of these events forgot to consider how they were going to follow up these respondents. Guess who absorbed the blow created by this phenomenon? The men and women who had patiently worked over the years to smuggle in Bibles and Christian literature, connect with believers behind the Iron Curtain, and support clandestine youth camps and other outreaches.

One friend of mine who has worked in the Eastern Bloc for more than a quarter-century recounted how he was approached by an American group that had held a crusade in Romania. "We've got over 2,000 decision cards that were filled out by people who attended our crusade," they told him. "Can you follow them up?" His ministry was staggering under the weight of trying to meet such needs while continuing the work he'd been called to for decades. (In 1993, the head of a respected mission agency reaching a former Iron Curtain country concluded that the results achieved from all the evangelistic efforts made into his country were essentially zilch.)

Take heart - your mission and service trip can be a wise and effective investment of your time, energy, and resources. All you've got to do is keep three principles in mind as you prepare yourself and your students:

1. Let Go and Let God. Several years ago, a friend of mine and I were able to gain an invitation from the Romanian government to bring a group of baseball coaches to their country to conduct instructional clinics for their youth baseball program. (We were also given complete freedom to share with the kids about our faith.) I was in charge of the pre-visit; so, in the dead of winter, I headed over to Bucharest for my first meeting with Cristian Costescu, the Secretary-General of the Romanian Baseball Federation.

Romania is a Latin culture. It's people-centered, situation-sensitive, and they don't sweat the details. As Cristian, my taxi-driver/translator friend, and I sat in a Bucharest restaurant for the first of what were many hours-long meals together, sweat began to pour down my forehead as I realized that there was no way that we could nail down the logistics of our trip ahead of time. Where we would stay, what the schedule would be, who we'd interface with--every query was met with the reply, "You will be our guests. It is not a problem." I had two options: I could pull the plug on the trip, or I could place our group in Cristian and his associates' hands and trust them to do right by us.
Quotation I could pull the plug on the trip, or I could place our group in Cristian and his associates' hands and trust them to do right by us. Quotation
I decided on the latter. The orientation meeting with my guys when I returned home was, let's say, brief. "How's it look?" they asked. "It's going to be great," I replied. "How are things going to work?" they asked. "I have no idea," I replied. "But we can trust them - they'll work it all out."

Which they did--in Romanian, roundabout, by-our-standards-last-minute fashion. It was a fantastic trip. The clinics went great; the kids were responsive; God put us in touch with local Romanian Christians who were willing to follow up with interested players after we departed. Most importantly, my wife and I established friendships that we've maintained over the years, friends we've gone back to see several times since then. And interestingly (and appropriately) enough, we've 'done' more ministry just sitting around visiting with our Romanian friends than we ever accomplished during our mission trip.

Most of the control issues that hover around a mission and service trip concern method rather than goal. We're all after the same things; it's in considering how to get there that our differences emerge. As we allow our methods to be adjusted to fit the situation we're entering, we communicate a powerful message of trust and respect to our ministry partners that will ensure our time will be well spent.

2. A ministry by any other name would smell as sweet.
In 1992, my wife Kyle and I started the Chicago branch of Center for Student Missions (CSM). As we began to learn our way around, we made friends with a number of African-American Christians who attended a church on Chicago's South Side.

One Saturday, I headed down to their church to get my car hand-washed at the facility they'd set up in a warehouse next door to their sanctuary. Kirk Bell, one of my new friends, came by. As we chatted, I looked across the street to the new sanctuary they were building out of what had been a burned-out grocery store. "Kirk, we could bring all kinds of work groups to help you with your church building," I said (in a dazzling display of Anglo task-oriented linear brilliance). "That would be great," Kirk (diplomatically) replied, "but what we'd really like to do is to train teams of Christians to go back with us into the projects where we grew up and share Jesus with the folks who live there."

Their ministry goals looked nothing like mine - and, as I was to discover, it took some real selling to convince our groups that traipsing into housing projects (where 100% of the residents were African-American) with a team of black evangelists was a good idea. But sharing Jesus with people in the Stateway Gardens housing project with Kirk and his friends has become one of the most powerful ministries our groups experience during their times in Chicago. By deep-sixing our focus on task and redefining our understanding of ministry, we were able to see God work in ways we couldn't have otherwise imagined.

3. Leave the driving to Him.
Have you read Matthew 25:31-40 lately? It's one of Jesus' most significant discourses. After all, he's articulating the actions by which God decides who's going to heaven and who's headed You Know Where. What's fascinates me in this passage is what he doesn't say. Do you notice what he leaves out in his charge to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and minister to the sick? He says nothing about what results are supposed to be achieved through these actions. There's no talk about ending hunger, defeating poverty, or seeing the prisoner go straight. He says simply to Do It, because when we do, we're somehow ministering directly to Our Lord.

Jesus gives us the freedom to go into our mission and service trips with the goal of just plain ministering. We don't have to achieve certain "results" to justify our investment. Frankly, we might not recognize some of God's divine results when we see them! But as we can remove our cultural blinders, discard the limitations we place on God's definition of ministry, and "leave the driving" to Him, we can begin to understand what it means to be Jesus' hands and feet to a hurting world.


So what did I say to the congregation that was sending its students to Ecuador? To be honest, I wasn't very bold. I played it safe and affirmed what was praiseworthy about their trip--their willingness to move out of their comfort zone, their desire to serve God, their heart for the children they were looking forward to meeting. But I took comfort in the knowledge that they were under the guidance of a solid youth leader whom I knew would learn from the experience (he did) and approach future mission and service trips with more flexibility and sensitivity (he has). The "result" has been healthy relationships with ministry partners all over the world, and students whose lives have been changed forever.

That's what we want our kids to experience. And that's mission and service that's worth anyone's time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A few things...

Fundraising update:

Our Kernels money is on the way! I'll let you know when it has been deposited into the accounts of those who helped.

Wendy's night is NEXT week. There will be a sign-up sheet at youth group tonight.

The School Lessons for the next 2 weeks are in the resource folder. Check them out! While you're there, check out the "High School Media..." article in the "Interesting Articles" folder. How much "screen time" are your kids getting?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

There are a few things coming up I wanted to let you know/remind you about...

1- We have a fundraiser at Wendy’s on Collins Rd coming up. We need people to help us make this effective. Basically, we’ll be promoting our church and youth ministry there that night. We’ll be volunteering to clear tables, get refills, etc. It will be a fun and easy fundraiser for us. It is also a profitable one. We need at least 6 people. Please let me know that you’ll be there!

2- In October, we’ll be doing at least a group photo, and maybe individual ones again for our group. I know there were parents who wondered why their kids’ photos were not in the wall, so this time, I’m letting you know that we’ll be taking them, the date will be out soon.

3- On October 21st after our corporate worship service, we’ll be have an informational meeting about our mission trips planned for next year. If you have a student involved in our ministry, both they and you need to be there!

Thanks for all that you do with your kids! You are setting the example for them, and you are doing great. You have created a home environment that makes them want to know Jesus!

Jesus is working in the lives of your students, your homes and our ministry. Keep up the good work.

Friday, September 21, 2007

This is related to my September parents letter.


Women on Facebook think provocative is empowering

As I was scrolling through some profiles of my friends on Facebook, I came across a slightly surprising sight. An acquaintance of mine had uploaded photos of herself and girlfriends scantily clad and in positions simulating the most risqué sex acts possible. Subsequent pictures showed her and her friends licking salt off each other's breasts and pelvic bones, or holding bottles of alcohol next to their heads and making pouty smiles.

The beauty of this situation is that none of my female acquaintances can be angry at me for putting this into writing, because at least 50 of them have photos of themselves online doing the same thing. The ugly part of this situation is that there might be photos of me out there, too.

Although I am not one for body shots, there probably are photos out there of me drinking and smothering my friends' cheeks in kisses. If I hadn't already ruled it out for myself, my shot at being elected president is, well, shot. And if prospective employers saw these photos of me, they might think twice about what a level-headed job candidate I am.

Which raises an important question: Why do teens love taking pictures of themselves doing illicit things and posting it on the Web?

Teen rebellion to authority — especially when it comes to alcohol, drugs and sex — is not new, but the ways of expressing that defiance are, thanks to the Internet.

Like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, you, too, can appear online in photos or videos doing provocative or naughty things. In a generation that worships privilege and fame, many teens seem to feel that if they photograph themselves drinking and posing provocatively the way celebrities do, the glamour might translate into their lives.

But how glamorous is it when your grandmother can easily stumble upon photos of you and your friends in a drunken pose that puts the Kama Sutra to shame?

Should there be limits on how far is too far? According to a Facebook spokesperson, users "may not post or share content that … is obscene, pornographic, or sexually explicit." But the fact that so many photos of disrobed young women adorn users' photo albums suggests that "obscene" and "sexually explicit" cover only the truly extreme, if that. Or maybe Facebook needs more babysitters trolling what its users are up to.

My generation has a faulty concept of privacy. Instead of journaling in marble composition notebooks, we do it on blogs for anyone to read. When we see other teens getting attention from their silly (and often confessional) YouTube videos, we learn that keeping one's life an open book is a ticket to fame. We find that when it comes to Vanity Fair, Nicole Richie concealing the private details of her public fight with Paris Hilton cost her a spot on the cover, which Teri Hatcher "earned" upon disclosing that she had been sexually abused as a child.

Many of us Generation Y-ers learn in social studies classes that our government has the power to violate citizens' privacy with the USA Patriot Act. We learn both in de facto and de jure ways that privacy just isn't a priority today.

And as the continuing reports about photos of beauty queens in compromising situations (most recently involving Miss New Jersey) suggest, this phenomenon mainly applies to young women. Although young men are often photographed with cans of beer, they don't pose for countless pictures with their buddies doing illegal things. Young women act as though they derive some kind of power from the act.

Perhaps young women of my generation truly need to reconsider what power is and what empowerment means to them. Does publicly flaunting raunchy photos really boost one's status? Definitely not.

And if embarrassing photos of oneself surface during a job hunt or a campaign for elected office, pursuing faux power could get in the way of acquiring real power.

Liz Funk is a freelance writer based in New York and a junior at Stony Brook University.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I thought this was worthy of posting. KJ-52 is an artist who serves Jesus, and is telling us about the kids that we minister to on a weekly basis here at Eastview. Maybe, even YOUR kid.

The lyrics are below.

"My arms are sliced up but I’m not embarrassed
It’s the only way I get attention now from my parents
It’s not like they really take the time to be caring
They just use me to watch the baby when they run they errands
My name is ______ I got a friend named Karen
She gave me your CD with the track for Eminem
You wrote a song called #1 fan I listened and
I wanted to know if you can help me like you was helping them
She had something even harder to be mentioning
Like every single day I struggle just with fitting in
Plus the boys won’t give me no attention and
I get teased and made fun of by all my friends and then
See I’m feeling like I’m wishing now that I could end
My life cuz I’m sick and tired of all the time I spend
Trying to figure out how I could be worth anything
Can u help me KJ from your fan

I’m writing this letter
Cause I have to tell ya
I need some help from you
I’m writing this letter
I hope that you get it
I need some help from you

I live with my mom ever since my parents split
And At home I spend my time on the Internet
Looking at porn Im addicted and I’m sick of it
Myspace dot com is mostly where I’m getting it
On top of that there’s videos that I can watch
And I really wanna quit but its like I can’t stop
See I’m scared that I’m just gonna get caught
And when I see a girl all I think is dirty thoughts
And its not that I don’t know that it’s really wrong
But its right there for me every time I’m logging on
I got all your CD’s I really like your songs
Well I downloaded em but anyway moving on
My screen name is KJ-52 is the bomb
I want to do a website KJ rock’s dot com
I really some help cuz I can’t tell my Mom
Oh by the way my real name is ________

I’m writing this letter
Cause I have to tell ya
I need some help from you
I’m writing this letter
I hope that you get it
I need some help from you

I took the time just to write you
We play you every Wednesday at my youth group
I love your music and we all think that you’s cool
But I been struggling ever since I moved to a new school
See everybody thinks that I’m the perfect Christian girl
I had a hard time trying to believe that God is real
I’ve been on mission trips and camps the whole deal
My dad had cancer tho I prayed that God would heal
But he died anyway so it’s hard to feel
Like he cares about me so was it God’s will
To take away my dad I really got a raw deal
Sometimes I just want to swallow all my mom’s pills
When I pray I really doubt it
I’ve lost my way or maybe I’ve never found it
I been smoking and drinking nobody knows about it
By the way my name is _____ don’t mispronounce it…

If I could write to every kid that’s out there
Every kid that’s hurting feels like nobody cares
I would tell them that God can wipe away tear
And he's right near and I would say it quite clear
Your here for a reason you’re not a mistake
You are a special creation that God himself made
To the victims of abuse to every girl that was raped
You can live you can be free from your pain
And find strength and no longer be ashamed
You can find peace and hope In Jesus name
You aint gotta live with this hurt every day
Christ came to give you life in a much better way
To every kid right now that’s full of hate
And bitterness I'd tell em just to give it all away
To the one that came to take all the blame
That’s what I’d write here’s what I’d say "

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Iowa Teen Challenge info

We’ll be departing Eastview promptly at 5pm this Friday. The event ends Sunday around 11am, so they will be back in Cedar Rapids mid-afternoon. The students will call home once we hit 380 by Iowa City.

The adult sponsors for this event are Sher Barns, Lori DuCharme and Josh Davis. Katie Mulholland is going as “junior sponsor”.

Sher will be the lead sponsor. Her mobile number is 319-521-5667.

Please have your students at church by 4:45pm on Friday for loading and a 5pm departure!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More info coming soon.