Outreach … Bah Humbug

Leneita Fix —  November 6, 2013 — 1 Comment

gift

It’s that “outreach” time of year again.  Perhaps it’s because many really believe “Santa is Watching.”  We just finished up some form of Harvest Party or Trunk or Treat for Halloween. Now we will turn to food baskets and Christmas gifts for the “less fortunate.”

Now before you accuse me of being a “Scrooge,” I am not against helping the Body of Christ reach the least, the lost and the lonely, especially during the “holidays.”  I certainly am not against those in need receiving a special touch this time of year.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I feel like we all need to feel a little “spoiled” every once in awhile.  In other words, let’s give extravagantly.  Where I get hung up is on the approach.

I hate “Outreach,” because that is how we see it- as an event.  We mark it on our calendar and a couple of times of year we tell the world what we accomplished.  We gave out X number of  plates of food or reached X number of shut ins or saw X number of shining happy faces get gifts.

We love to quote Matthew 25:35 & 36 when the Lord says this,  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”   He is talking about a lifestyle, not an occasion.

As we enter this season I wonder if we can see it as an extension of who we are anyway.  This is a great opportunity to meet a hurting and aching world that would love a little “Holiday Cheer.”

As we look forward to the “Season of Giving,” I just wonder if we can approach it differently by asking ourself these questions?

If I Get NOTHING Out of This Would I Do It Anyway?

There is a way of serving that is really more for us.  We say that it is about “the Lord.”   However, take a look at your heart. If you don’t get even a “Thank You,” “no satisfaction,” nothing at all,” would you still serve?  We want the answer to be “YES,” but is it really?

Do I Give or Remove Dignity From Those I Serve?

There can be an attitude of “you need this,” sometimes when we give.  In what you are doing, does it allow the person to feel empowered?  If you give something are you looking down on the person as “lesser, even if not intentionally?

Is This An Extension Of Who I Am?

It can be easy to point to those “events” as the time to get out and “Do Something.” As long as we have the attitude that we can “show up” and then “go home,” our selfishness stays intact.  We can’t MAKE anyone be selfless, but we can show service is often about seeing the hungry, thirsty & lonely DAILY.

So go for it!  Serve meals on Thanksgiving and wrap an extra present for a child whose parent is in prison this Christmas.  Show a little extra love and then on January 2nd keep it up!

Thanks for loving students,

Leneita

@leneitafix

Everyone has an opinion on Halloween… and its alternatives.

candycornOn one hand, I completely appreciate opportunities to remember that Halloween is really a degradation of “All Saint’s Day.” Everything belongs to God, including whatever has been corrupted or changed over the years to reflect something else. It’s why my family is a huge fan of how this season can be a time to sip apple cider and eat pumpkin pie while the leaves change. We don’t do the ghoul/ghost thing, but we do let our kids get dressed up in a fun costume and make the rounds for candy while we bond with our neighbors. That seems kind of important to God,doesn’t it?

On the other hand, I also appreciate the efforts of Christians who believe we should “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” That word “nothing” is rather powerful, isn’t it?

Churches have tried to come up with alternatives that try to ride the tension between those two thoughts. Sometimes we forget how this comes across, though. Here’s a great one-liner from “Angry Youth Pastor

Harvest Festivals are like substitute cuss words…God and everyone else still knows what you mean. #holyghostweanieroast

ayp

Meanwhile, Greg Stier offers 13 ways not to share your faith this Halloween. Here’s a slice:

  • Insert Testamints into marshmallows covered in chocolate and blessed by a priest.
  • Tell the kids who come to your door that Halloween is the Devil’s birthday party (Like my son used to believe.)
  • Give away apples with John 3:16 carved into them. John 3:16 is great but apples? Seriously? Don’t be that house.
  • Go as a zombie with a sign around your neck that reads, “Dead in my sins

Jesus PumpkinPerhaps a more comprehensive summary is what Darren Sutton hits on regarding how Halloween outreach efforts often fall flat.

Somewhere, we decided that Halloween was bad – and we were going to offer an ‘alternative’ (that strangely looks just like Halloween huddled up on our parking lot.) And then we heartily pat ourselves on the back because 700 people show up for free candy and a dunking booth. We don’t get their names, We don’t REALLY meet them, because this time they’re actually wearing real ‘masks’. And somehow we think we have accomplished ministry. And we’ll do the same thing for our Christmas program, Easter pageant, and July 4th celebration.

So… what’s your perspective on all of this?



Top Model: Ministry Edition

Tony Myles —  September 16, 2013 — 6 Comments

Youth ministry is safe.

Before you reply back with a counter-thought that puts me in my place, hear me out.

Youth ministry is safe because it gives you a reason to not do what you’re asking students to do.

Role ModelEver notice how easy it is to spend all your time trying to get teenagers to take a bold step with God that you don’t actually take yourself? We say things like, “Share Jesus with your friends! Bring them with you to church!”

How often are you regularly doing those things with your own peers or neighbors?

Maybe you feel you’re too busy serving students that you don’t have time to sit in “big church.” Perhaps you feel so called to your niche that you don’t know where to start with other adults.

Students don’t need another pep talk from you on how to serve their generation. They need to watch you be an example in serving your generation.

Here are some ideas:

  • Print out a Google map of your neighborhood. Write down the names of the people in each home, and learn the names of those you haven’t yet met. Begin praying for everyone by name.
  • Install a basketball hoop so the neighborhood kids feel free to play on it. Use it as an excuse to meet their parents.
  • Instead of reading a book on the couch, head outside and read it outside. Be sure to say “Hi!” to those who walk by.
  • Crank up some familiar music when you’re working on a project outside. Music can help people feel you’re approachable.
  • Share chores with your neighbors, like helping them with a big project or asking them to help you with yours. Spring for lunch either way.
  • Set up a “grown up table” outside for things like Halloween when people will be walking around the neighborhood. Have bottled water and granola bars available for the adults.
  • Get a dog and walk around your neighborhood each day. It gives you the chance to linger without looking like a creeper. Just make sure you pick up your dog’s “deposits.”
  • Do thoughtful things for your neighbors, like mowing their lawn when they’re at work. (Just avoid trimming their hedges to look like a silhouette of Moses.)
  • If a neighbor has said, “If you need anything, just ask,” go ahead and ask. Sometimes you build a friendship by helping someone else feel needed.
  • If you’re not in a situation where you’re close with neighbors, such as apartments or homes that are far apart, organize a board game night in your home or a community room where you provide ice cream sandwiches and the games.

I think you get the picture. The point isn’t to regard your neighbors as a project so you can get them to church and say, “TA DA!” It’s about loving your neighbor as you love yourself so the Holy Spirit can use your example to change more than one generation.

You know this won’t be easy, and you probably have all your excuses lined up. Feel free to comment and share them so we can sort them out together.

I will say this with full confidence, though– this will be more fruitful than you think.

Teenagers aren’t just looking for a great youth worker… they’re looking for a Christ-follower who is leaving footsteps they can step into.

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

church too

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to spend time with a small church in Tampa, Fl helping them with some strategic planning.  They are a perfect example of so many houses of worship in the US today.  Decades ago when the doors first opened it was placed in a primarily “Anglo” middle-class neighborhood.  As years have worn on the congregation who “grew up there” have become commuters while the community has changed around them.  The main road to the church that once was barren now holds stores as evidence of the Colombian, Venezuelan, Peruvean and Vietnamese population that has moved in.

The church had a choice to make:  Do they move where they worship, keep the “face” of their congregation the same or actively open the doors to the community at hand? We all know the “Jesus” answer.  However, the reality is I have known churches who have moved, and others who have made sure the changing neighborhood knows they are not really welcome. They decided to welcome in the large number of primarily Hispanic and Vietnamese neighbors at their door.  This has caused a unique set of challenges, the least of which is all becoming multi-lingual. It’s funny how you believe you came to serve and the Lord teaches you so much more than you had to give away.

Here is what I learned:

1.  Unity takes Action

It’s easy to go “do an outreach” in our backyard. Then we can invite those we meet to what we offer anyway. However, when you recognize the people in your pews are a now a different mix of people, it takes work to bring unity. First, they invited a Columbian pastor from the area onto their staff.  Then they held services in  both Spanish and English with an integrated service once a month. These were first steps. We came in to help as they work intently towards becoming a multiethnic church  as one total body of Christ. This means thinking through various languages, cultural differences and styles of leadership in all they do and offer.

 

2.  Beware Of Pre-Conceived Ideas

As I met the Hispanic congregants they were clear they didn’t want to be seen as a “ministry” of the church.  The current church body were already welcoming in addicts, the grieving, the mentally ill and reaching those in prison.  The new members would identify themselves as previously disconnected from church but not those living on the fringes of society.  As we reach out it’s important we talk to those we invite in. We may see them as more “broken” than they see themselves. They may not want to be added to the list of those we “outreach.”

 

3.  Involving ALL Families

This church had a deep history of mercy and love.  This meant that it’s youth group was full of primarily “unchurched” teens prior to the church opening it’s doors to the community. Families coming from the neighborhood come from a culture of tight-nit almost over-protection of their children. There are actually an equal amount of single Dads to single Moms. As the church seeks unity one challenge has been teaching to groups who have grown up in the church alongside those who have never heard anything about the Bible. This means they have had to rethink the way they approach all of their programming to include ALL families, from ALL backgrounds. It would be easy to exclude some parents and just focus on their children.  Instead they are finding creative ways to bring the FAMILY to a deep relationship with Christ,  even when it’s complicated.

Walking the journey with this little congregation has left me a lot to think about the way I have approached my own community and notions about who lives there.  Yes, I happen to live in “the hood,” however, it doesn’t mean all who live there are “stuck in a place of survival mode.”  It leaves us with a choice as we “do” church.  Are we willing to take any step necessary not to only invite the community in, but will we seek intentionally to meet them at their deepest need?  This may mean giving a cold cup of water on a hot day,  it might mean learning a language we never knew or it just might mean that we ask them first the question:

“What is your deepest point of need?”

How is your church or youth group working to outreach into your community?

 

 

 

 

 



Pizza Church

Leneita Fix —  August 15, 2013 — 8 Comments
Picture courtesty of Brothers' Pizza

Picture courtesty of Brothers’ Pizza

Recently my 7th grade son came up with what he felt would be a brilliant idea.  He is going to offer “Pizza Church.”  At the end of each service he will have and alter call. As he invites others into a relationship with Jesus there will be a Pizza down front.  If you come forward for prayer you get a slice or two.
While he was not serious, it did get me thinking about the “gimmicks” we use to get our students and their families to come to church.  Our answer is always another “program,” or “formula” to get people through the door.  We know it doesn’t keep them returning, yet we do it anyway.
So I thought I would offer other ways we can keep youth from NEVER coming back week after week:

Focus on “The Show”

By all means make the Pizza the star.  Kids like free food and that is the only reason why they would want to be a part of something bigger.  Make your youth environment one where they can slip in and out without being noticed.  Like any good concert or movie, make certain they are merely spectators.  After all if you have put on a good show then you feel  good about what you offered.

Avoid Authentic Relationships

There will always be the superstar student and the overtly needy student.  They will find us and we can go ahead and spend all of our time with them.  Never make time to get to know students, and of course avoid parents at all cost.  Assume all of your “good kids” are home schooled and all the “troubled” ones are unchurched.  Go ahead and even make time to see students in their latest sports endeavor or school activity.  Wave afterward or perhaps give them a high five, but never actually sit with anyone, find out their heart or ask them who they really are.

Make Assumptions

Never actually ask any of the families in your ministry what their needs are.   Do not under any circumstances ever hold a forum and brainstorm ways you can better serve your youth.  In a silo pick curriculum that reaches your student’s deepest issues.  It’s a media driven culture so they must want videos, movie clips or the latest and greatest idea.  You know what better yet they don’t even know what they want or need so you decide.

Lower the Bar

Our students are apathetic and lazy.  It’s best to not ask too much of them.  They couldn’t possibly want questions answered or to know the Bible in a deep way.  None of them even open up the Word at home so just push them to do less.  They don’t really want to be here anyway.  Make sure to never expect them to lead or do more,  this is very helpful.
As we laugh, how many of these do we do anyway?  How many has a “youth ministry culture” perpetuated even when we know they don’t work?  My 7th grader understands that “Pizza Church” might get them to the alter, but it doesn’t grow a deeper relationship with Christ.  Could we need to shift paradigms and learn to reach a generation that is genuinely hungering for more?
What are some ways we might ENGAGE youth and get them involved? What are YOU doing?

I would love to hear!

mcdonalds

The Scene: Working on the laptop at McDonald’s. A table full of pre-teen guys are trying to eat. The oldest (perhaps a freshman among them) is acting like a social rooster, pecking down the awkwardness of the younger guys, strutting for the girls sitting nearby, nudging the smallest one of out of the booth with his rear end… over and over.

I’ve been praying for several minutes about the best way to respond.

And then…

the others all suddenly had to leave. They hopped on bikes and peddled out. He looked like he was waiting for a ride – it was just him and I. I didn’t move toward him, but stood up while holding my drink and spoke.

Me: (slurp) “So, are you the oldest?”

Him: (a bit startled that I’m talking to him) “Huh? Oh, yeah.” (he smiles… like a security blanket… I’m “bigger than he is.”)

Me: “They look up to you, you know.”

Him: (he pauses, as if to realize it) “Oh, yeah. I guess.”

Me: (a half-step slower this time) “They look up to you.”

Him: (he catches my eye) “Yeah.”

Me: “Use that wisely.”

Him: (another pause) “Yeah…” (another pause) “…yeah.”

I go to get a refill, and return. A couple minutes later he heads out to catch his ride.

As he passes, he says, “Hey, see ya!”

—-

Changing the world? Speaking Life into life? Serving students?

Maybe it happens just like this.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)



Here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we are often asked, “What is everybody else doing out there?” Since we work with many churches and student pastors throughout the country, we have the honor of seeing what some of the most growing churches are doing in their student ministries. Every student ministry is unique, but here are a few trends we’re seeing in growing churches:

1. Small Groups – Generation Y craves relationships. Student pastors often share with us that the best discussion and discipleship happens in the context of small groups. Some churches have their small groups on Sundays, and some have them throughout the week. Some have them at the church facility and others have them in homes. Regardless of the approach, we are seeing that small groups are a pivotal part of healthy student ministries.

2. Leadership Development – We find that the healthiest student ministries are equipping their high schoolers with leadership skills to lead Bible Studies, outreach events, and mentor programs to the middle schoolers. We also see churches involving the youth in the Sunday service, training them with responsibilities of sound, lights, worship, etc… Developing an effective leadership program may be time consuming at first, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Many youth pastors we talk to bring on a few of their high school leaders as interns over the summer. These students often pursue ministry after high school.

3. Volunteer Training – Recruiting volunteers can be one of the most challenging aspects of ministry for student pastors. It’s difficult to find dedicated volunteers who also have the “cool factor” that high school kids are looking for. We find that youth pastors who succeed in finding great volunteers invest in their training and development. Bring in a leadership coach and be sure that your volunteers have the resources they need to invest in your students.

4. Separating Jr & Sr High – Some of the most growing ministries are separating the Jr and Sr high worship services to provide a more tailored message to the age groups. Jr highers are concerned about different topics than Sr highers, and the way you approach topics with each group should be different. We’re noticing that growing churches are developing separate teams over Jr and Sr high with a director leading the vision of both ministries.

5. Outreach – We see students craving purpose and meaning. Student pastors are getting students out in the community to serve under-resourced communities. Students like being given significant challenges and responsibilities. Effective student pastors are also networking with local schools to identify the scope of their ministry responsibilities beyond the walls of the church.

Depending on the unique needs of your students, these strategies may or may not be effective in the context of your ministry. If you’re using these strategies in your ministry, we’d love to hear your thoughts! If not, what strategies have you found to be effective for your students?

Thanks to VSG for this guest post! They are currently searching for Student Pastors who are dynamic leaders in a few churches like this one in NV and this one in GA.

My students will tell you, one of my love languages is words of affirmation. I love encouraging them, whether by dropping by their work or school, sending an unexpected text message, a facebook message or just pulling them asisde at youth to point out an area where you see God working in them. Its powerful, meaningful and a core part of youth ministry. So when I get a chance to send a note to all our students, you better believe I am going to take it. For some context all summer we spend 2 hours every Wednesday hanging out at McDonalds and for a few weeks this fall, met in the “upper room” at the same location for one our high school prayer groups while waiting for a room at the school. This morning I posted this comment in our Journey Facebook group.

Some Encouragement for all of you this morning. 

I was having breakfast with Mitchell today and the lady who worked at McDonalds leaned forward and said, “you guys are with that Church group right?” to which I replied yes. She then said “you guys used to meet for a prayer group here right?” and I said yes. She said, “okay, then do you mind praying for my friend? He is going in for cancer treatment, he is a teacher and his name is Mr Hunter”. Of course we will, I told her. 

Journey, the consistency that you guys show in being Jesus to the people in our community is staggering. When we do uptown Wednesday or prayer group there, people notice, they watch and they see the way that you guys live your lives and they are compelled by it. 

God is doing something in South Surrey and we get to be part of it. Much Love -Pastor Geoff

Take the time to encourage your students, show them how God is working in their lives in ways they might not even realize.
-Geoff (Twitter)