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When Kayla was born, Rachel and I made an immediate decision that has fundamentally shaped our approach to raising kids. It was a decision based on a reality: Our kids didn’t choose to be born into a pastor’s family! My wife and I together choose the way of ministry, of our own free will. It was forced upon Kayla and Cole from the moment they entered the world.

And so we determined to raise our kids not in a “Pastor’s home,” but in a “Two parents who follow Jesus” home. Obviously, ministry and church life have saturated the fabric of our family. Kayla and Cole have been raised as Pastor’s kids and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But we strived to, and mostly succeeded at, letting our faith in Christ dictate how we raise our kids instead of the expectations, pressures and spotlight of being a Pastor.

Here are a few super practical examples:

- We have never (I truly believe, NEVER) expected anything more from our children because of my position than we would if I were, say, a Christian dad who fixes cars for a living.

- “What happens in youth group stays in youth group”. Here’s what I mean by that: I rarely share with parents about their kid’s minor youth ministry infractions. When a kid is rowdy during the lesson, we deal with it in youth group and move on…his/her parents would almost never even know it happened. So Rachel and I determined we would treat our kids the same way. When one of our kids goofed up or misbehaved in youth group, it was dealt with just like any other student….and then left in the youth room, just like any other student.

- We have ruthlessly defended their right to be normal kids. Our kids deserve the “right” to go through all the normal adolescent stuff: awkward dating breakups, ditching small group to see a movie, making a poor decision or two…or three. When people have raised a “Kurt’s kids should be above this” eyebrow, we have been quick to defend our kids and protect them from the goofy pressure that members of the congregation put on PK’s.

- We gave them very few “perks”. Entitled PK’s drive me nuts. The Pastor’s kid who doesn’t think the rules apply to her. The Pastor’s Kid who knows the rules don’t apply to him, because he has been allowed to fudge on the rules over and over again. Our kids had some perks (attending most of our camps and events when they were little), but not many.

Anybody out there want to share one or two ways you’ve tried to “normalize” the childhood of your ministry children?

Been following along with my train of thought about numbers? Then you know that I said Part 3 is about how to figure your youth ministry budget. (For Part 1 on youth participation and Part 2 on volunteer requirements, see post from 3/18 and 3/20).

$1000-$1500 per active student: Its an easy amount to figure; the formula is solid and based on current cost-of-living factors. How do you land on a spot in the range of money? $1500 per (active) youth head is for major cities like NY or high-cost of living states like CA. The lowest end of the scale, $1000, it usually more rural and more often than not, in the southern states. I’ll give you and example: I recently did an youth ministry assessment for a church in Nashville and the government index showed that the per student figure was $1150. Big city yet less union costs and in the south.

What does this figure cover? Salaries/benefits and program expenses. Whose salaries? Anyone in your church whose job is fully or partially responsible for students in any way. So, if the choir director spend 25% of their time on a youth choir or handbells, then 25% of their salaries/expenses would be figured in the comparison. Easy example: if a youth ministry in my home town of Katy, TX has 19 students coming through the doors on a regular weekly-ish basis, then the amount of money a church should be spending on the outreach to those students settle around $19,000. This would cover any PT staffing hours and programming costs.

For more info, check out two things: 1) http://ministryarchitects.com and 2) Group Magazine’s 2012 Salary Survey.

Stephanie



“Now what?”

20140321_101034That’s the question that most people struggle with on their last day of a mission trip.

You first entered into a foreign culture with all of your country-isms intact, wondering how weird this was all going to be. Around your third or fourth day in, you ironically became somewhat critical toward the very culture you left, wondering why “we” have it so wrong when “they” have it so right… whatever “it” is. Now you’re not sure what to think as you go back to the sounds, flavors and comforts you’ve missed…. while wondering how important those sounds, flavors and comforts actually are.

20140321_104157Maybe you experienced a unique connection somehow:

  • God broke your heart over a group of kids/people whose smiles/tears did something inside of you that you didn’t know could happen.
  • God expanded your strength somehow, as you accomplished tasks you’ve never attempted before in your life.
  • God broadened your mind over a concept or through an “a-ha” moment that will forever change how you look at some aspect of life.
  • God ignited a fire in your soul that warmed you in placed you didn’t realize were cold.
  • God stretched your circle of friendships, and you now have social media relationships with people who you would never have even known how to look up (let alone spell their name) before your experience.

But it’s the last day… now what?

20140321_174208Well, you probably have one more local meal to eat and enjoy. And then there are the logistics of travel to concern yourself with. So perhaps the next 24 hours are a bit of a wash. You’ll soon find yourself in the old routines that you left before, wondering what really, really matters. You may even get frustrated that you and God don’t connect at home like you did on your trip, not realizing that the luxury of time has played into so much of what you experienced.

Psst… you may have noticed by now I’ve not been as personal on this post as I have in previous ones.

Honestly, it’s not because I’m lacking in material.

Today was one of the most unique days for me on this trip. I won’t go into details here, mainly because I’m still processing it. I sense God is forming some type of life in me through this experience, and I need to prepare for its birth.

My son Joshua, bonding with one of our new friends (Danny) from the school. We visited a mall together today and this spontaneous moment happened.

My son Joshua, bonding with one of our new friends (Danny) from the school. We visited a mall together today and this spontaneous moment happened.

As I can process it, I’ll circle back and write an epilogue… or maybe a prologue… maybe it’s both.

What I do know is I’m so, so thankful for this trip.

It’s been one of the stretchiest experience to go through personally-and-with-my-son, while never feeling dangerous (except to my own legalisms and spiritual safety nets that God needed to have His way with anyway). Our Lifetree Adventures trip leader Robin navigated us through each experience, juggling the hats of guide, friend and participant along the way. The missions house was a safe place to unwind each day… our team was able to get to know each other better every day.

What else is there left to say?

I’m not sure, but it’s late… and I have an early departure time to head back home to my family in the morning. Thanks for your prayers, and for journeying with me/us as prayer partners. Here’s one last burst of culture… combined with culture. Consider this the Honduras-American remix.

http://youtu.be/Zm-JVbZ423Q

 

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It could be shoddy workmanship or a graphic designer hopped up on Red Bull and no sleep.  However, in the last month three retailers have come under attack for their “photoshop fails.” Target took a  giant chunk out of a bathing suit’s backside. The Limited took so much “meat” off of the arms on a shirt model that her elbows appear broken. Old Navy created “thigh gap” in plus-sized jeans.  (You can read a great article summing it up Here)

In early February American Eagle Outfitter’s lingerie company “Aerie” announced they would not be photo-shopping or air-brushing models in many of their campaigns. They wanted to represent “real” bra sizes, shapes and sizes. (I am not posting pictures of young girls in panties and bikinis to show you, sorry.) On the one hand I am excited that the young women appear to actually have texture to their skin, on the other they are still ridiculously tanned, toned, and thin.

Yesterday a friend of mine posted an article on what “actresses look like without being touched up.”  Who knows if any of the pictures were real, but they sure did look like the famous. It was actually nice to see that indeed it is true: None of us look anything less than dazed and crazy when we stumble out of a swim in the ocean.

Mash these together and sprinkle in the attempt to teach our young people about modesty and body image, and it still feels like a mess. I think we have forgotten that real people look real…and what on earth that could even mean?

Here’s what we forget: We were created naked. In our nakedness there was no shame. Why?  There was innocence, and we understood we were created in the image of God. We make a really poor decision that we need to learn the difference between good and evil. In the moment innocence is lost,  what do we do before anything else? We cover ourselves. We put on clothes. We forget who we look like. Male and female, we are a reflection of the Living Lord. Before we hide from His presence,  we cover our skin. That is the day looking like God became less important than presenting our bodies to each other.

Try this exercise with your small group this week:

Ask them each to take a selfie without thinking. They are only allowed to take one.  Notice that they will flip their hair or position their head to take it an angle they think they will like. Have them look at the picture. What do they like about it?  What do they hate?  Do they want to retake it?  Would they post it or make you promise it will never see the light of day? Ask them if they took the picture in a certain way so they would like it?

We want to use these media examples to show our students what we are comparing our selves to. However, the reality is they will look at that selfie and compare it to the world, not to the image of God. We all do it. We are still attempting to cover ourselves with fig leaves, as they say.

So as you talk to your students about modesty and body image, remember this: Real people are created in the image of our Risen Savior- not on a computer screen. We are not objects to be seen, but a house for the Holy Spirit. I am not so sure that God sees our freckles and crooked teeth, and dimples and fluffy eyebrows as a bad thing. He isn’t sitting around saying,  ”I wish I made that guy over there with a smaller nose.”  He’s laughing and saying, “That girl has my smile.”

Instead, teach them to take a look around. If we all carry the Lord’s DNA and not one of us looks alike, can you even fathom what God looks like???

Happy Friday :)

Leneita

 



Sexual Abuse and Faith

Chuck Bomar —  March 21, 2014 — 1 Comment

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 10.36.16 AMLast night I had the pleasure of being a part of an event called, Loveology.  It’s actually the title of a new book that my friend John Mark Comer wrote.  I just sat on a Q&A panel for the event, but I endorsed the book and did so, not just because JM is my friend, but because I really believe in the book. It’s a critical message for our time, to be sure.

Anyway, there were 2,800 people packed into this theater for the night event. Phil Wickham led worship and John Mark taught a couple messages before we had the panel. People texted in questions and we responded. It went great. We laughed a lot, joked with each other…and then I cried some.

I didn’t expect to cry. There was just a question that came up that really got me. A person texted in a question about being sexually abused as a child and was asking for direction on how to break down the walls that has been built between her and God. Unfortunately, I don’t remember her exact wording of the question.

I know it was a woman, because she emailed me this morning. I apparently addressed the question with enough grace and understanding to allow her to feel safe doing so. For that I am very grateful.

She feels like she is not deserving of God’s love. She struggles with doubt that she will experience redemption in this area. She wonders if she will feel whole enough to give herself to a husband the way she desires. In other words, she is wrestling with her identity in very real and, unfortunately, painful ways.

It’s amazing how much how we use our bodies, or how they are abused, affects our mind, theology and overall health. The truth is we are human beings who are intricately designed with a complex mixture of body, soul, emotion…

I guess, to save space here, I would say the following four things to you if you struggle with shame because of your past sexual experiences (whether or not you were a willing participant):

  1. Even though it can get very confusing at times, it’s important to remember that God’s definition of you is in no way affected by your sin or someone else’s sin against you if you are in Christ.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  Sin always causes our view of God to be tweaked (Genesis 3:6-8 is a good example) and we must fight for an accurate view of God.
  2. It is rarely easy and it is rarely in our desired timing, but God does, in fact, redeem brokenness. There is limited hope apart from Jesus, but in Him we have much hope to cling to.
  3. Cling to the Church, don’t run from it.  God’s grace is expressed best through His followers (or at least it should be).  Find someone to reveal your brokenness to.
  4. If you have shared with someone and have not been responded to the way you feel necessary, don’t allow that to negatively affect your view of God or His people. People are people and there can be a huge variety of reasons why the person you opened up to didn’t respond in a manner you would deem appropriate. There is still hope and that hope is best experienced among God’s people.

- Chuck

20140320_110927aSiesta.

I’m reluctant to write this post, since I feel tremendous guilt for sharing what I’m about to share. Nonetheless, here goes… our missions team went to the beach today.

That means I don’t have a great story about the orphans, nor can I tell you what I helped build, clean or fix today. I wish I did – because I know that many people who are reading this worked hard today. I tend to work hard most days, too.

20140320_142943But today… today I walked around on a beach with dark sand made from the lava-based mountains foundation nearby. I ate locally-seasoned shrimp, experienced drinking coconut juice right out of a coconut and I put my feet up in a hammock. I walked the shore and picked up seashells with my 13-year old son.

A “siesta’ is typically a short nap taken that people in warm countries take after the a midday meal. It just so happened that our siesta embodied most of the day.

Again, I apologies if this creates any ill feelings on your part.

I have been in seasons of life where reading something right this would have made me want to bark back in bitterness, “Boy, that must be nice. I am nowhere near that experience.” I get it, I really do. Most days I’m off trying to juggle plates, chainsaws, bowling balls and more, too.

Today, though… I experienced sabbath and rest.

I live at a pace that is always cranking out the next thing. Even now, I’m putting off going to bed just a little while longer to write this. It can become easy to be a “human doing” versus a “human being.”

So today… I was a human being.

It gave me time to simply slow down my thinking and remember that the universe runs on God’s energy and not my own.

(Maybe you need that reminder, too)

There are real issues still in my life that need my attention. In fact, tonight my wife sent me a brief news update about a shooting in our hometown that happened today. It was at a location that she could have been at had the plans she made turned out according to her timetable. Instead, God allowed some circumstances to slow her day down and prevent her from being there.

1911841_10152263063296460_1068908084_nI wonder what will happen in me tomorrow because I slowed down today.

  • Will I love the orphans a little more genuinely?
  • Will I swing the hammer a little harder?
  • Will I push a kid on a swing a little longer?
  • Will I learn a story a little more attentively?

Siesta.

Where can you build some into your life? It’s easy to swing too hard one way on this… either valuing rest (and even time with family) so much that you never get to the to what matters more… or working so hard that you never get around to Sabbath.

Maybe it won’t involve a beach or a hammock, but maybe it will involve being still and doing nothing right about now, and remembering God is God.

“So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28)



Be Careful How You Teach

Leneita Fix —  March 20, 2014 — 1 Comment

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Today I was looking through some really excellent small group curriculum. I loved the way it dug into lead students in going deeper with their relationship with Christ.  However, it also held one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to pre-written curriculum:

It was really written for an adult, not a student.

The subject matter is excellent. However, the way it is written asks questions in a way that an adult who is a fully devoted follower of Christ would understand. Since this has annoyed me for years, I went through a period of time where I wrote my own stuff. In my pride, I went and looked if my stuff was any better. Truth is I did the same thing.

We think adding in engagement, activities and perhaps a video or two solves the  problem of drawing in teens. This isn’t it either. If you merely hand off any curriculum to your team they think the point is to get from the beginning to the end of the lesson. Therefore, they stop ask these “grown-up” questions, get blank stares they think is boredom, and move on.

If there are unchurched students in your group, these concepts are totally foreign to them. When students have grown up in the church they have been “told” but often are not “taught.” Just because they have heard about concepts doesn’t mean anyone has stopped and asked,  ”Do you know what any of it means?”

Recently, I was probing my own three Middle School age kids as to what Grace really is. The idea that it is Christ’s “free gift” that we “don’t deserve” and what that means eluded them. These are three kids who have grown up in Christian school, in youth group, in church, in Christian programming, with two believing parents who talk to them, and still they couldn’t explain this simple concept.

I don’t think the answer is writing our own stuff, or adding any more hands on games. The answer is in the way we teach, and teaching our teachers to teach. Connecting students to the truth is NOT intuitive for everyone. Knowing how to strategically pull apart a lesson and get to the heart of the issue does not make sense to all of us. We don’t always know how to keep bringing it all back to Jesus. It’s not about the lesson at all, it’s about asking, “How will this deepen their relationship with the Lord?”

So STOP!

As you go through your curriculum and look at questions, think before you ask, and spend the time training your team to do the same.

Look at the lesson:

If you think about it, can you easily understand and articulate every concept in front of you?

Chances are if you have to think more than a moment or are pondering, “I know I just am not sure how to say it,” the teens in your group have no clue at all. They need you to let them ask more questions- about the questions.

Could someone who doesn’t speak your language understand all of the words?

A Dutch friend of mine pointed this idea out.  If you were trying to teach this lesson to a person who had just entered the country,  how would you break it down? You would use easy concepts and small words.  Do the same with your teens.

Are you stopping along the way?

Don’t go from start to finish of the curriculum just to get through. Go through it line by line. Make absolutely zero assumptions that they ALL get it. Our unchurched students are sometimes vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know.”  Many times though they think everyone else knows when they don’t. Our “churched” kids think they are supposed to know this stuff.  They aren’t going to stop you and say,  ”So listen I’ve heard about this Armor of God thing a lot. As a matter of fact, when I was little I even owned the play set from the Christian book store. I think I understand that armor is protective, but can you give me a clue as to why wearing my salvation like a hat really is helpful, and you know what Salvation is also explained as something I only have to do once, so really I am not getting this. While we’re at it can we talk about how we wear shoes of peace or what righteousness has to do with living my life today?  Did I mention I have no clue what righteousness really is and how on earth to wear it like a breastplate, I mean practically speaking. Can you tell me how this has anything to do with following Jesus?”  The discussion question read, “How can your “helmet of Salvation” protect your thoughts?”  Line by line ask them,  ”DO YOU GET THIS?” and “DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?”

Personally I think maybe teens should be writing curriculum for other teens. Therefore, we are left with the adults trying to think like an adolescent. Maybe instead we need to ask, “If I’m honest, do I know what walking with Jesus means at all?”

How are you teaching your students?

Would love to hear your thoughts,

Leneita / @leneitafix

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@youthministry