Flipping Christmas

 —  December 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

“Flipping Christmas.”

That’s either an expletive, or a hopeful ideal.

Our church is boldly exploring the dream that Christmas can be flipped from what it’s become to what we all know it “should” be. That concept in itself is not without controversy… some insist that the “real” way to celebrate Christmas is more about abstinence from the stereotypical stuff, while others maintain that you can buy stuff without making it all about the stuff.

The bottom line?

Christmas makes it possible for us to invert life as we know it.

The birth of Jesus literally helps us discover how to flip from doubt to belief, obscurity to being blessed, separation to salvation and so much more. You really can uncover the special wonder of God’s transforming love this Christmas… and you don’t have to wait until December 24-25 to do it.

Sometimes it helps to flip your habits around. Try these on this week:

  • Let no phone call during your work day go to voicemail. You know how when you try to reach someone and you can’t ever seem to get them on the line? Over time, that subtly communicates (even if incorrect) that the other person is too important to be reached. Now flip that around… might you have something to learn here when it comes to when you answer the phone?
  • Let every work phone call go to voicemail when you’re with your family. Again, every conscious action you make communicates something unconscious to others around you. Make sure your family knows that you value them exclusively with one of the best bursts of your energy and time.
  • Set up get-togethers with people for no reason. Ask if you can just get together to hang out. If they need more than that, tell them you just want to swap stories about what’s going on in each other’s lives and build your friendship. That will flip the value from “I want to meet with you to get you to do something” to “I value you as a person and friend.”
  • Wake up fifteen minutes earlier than normal and go to your “altar.” There’s probably somewhere in your home where you can be quiet and still before God. Worse case scenario, head into the bathroom (no, really). Intentionally give God your day, and invite Him to give you a fresh joy of knowing Him.
  • Read every headline in your local newspaper as a prayer request. Whether things are great or bad, allow God to break your heart for your city and love it like He does.
  • Make some new friends. It could be neighbors, co-workers or people who goes to the gym the same time that you do. Even if you just learn their names and something about them, you’ll again enlarge the Story you’re living in and realize God has you in their lives for a reason.
  • Become extraordinary at hospitality. This will be easier for some versus others, but find a way to make people feel incredibly comfortable wherever you’re at. Let the weird lady in line at the grocery store who wants to talk with you actually feel like you are listening to her. Giving someone your full attention may be the only moment in their day when they realize they are valuable people that God loves.
  • Do something seasonally awesome. Volunteer to be a bell ringer outside of Wal-Mart. Go caroling in your neighborhood and pass out homemade cookies as you do. Get up on Christmas morning and pass out blankets to the homeless before you open your first gift.

What else? Do you have any ideas on how to flip Christmas around?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Think about how many things in life you need to apply that principle to. While you’re at it, reconsider where you feel you’ve nailed it but may actually need a good gut-check.

How about when it comes to technology in your life or ministry?

mp3 My 12-year old son owns an MP3 player that I don’t see much of. He only uses it a few times a week, which means I typically refresh his playlist about every two months. That happened recently when he mentioned how he’d put the device on my office desk and was hoping I could add some new tracks.

It seemed like an easy enough task.

The only problem was I ended up loading songs into the wrong MP3 player. Apparently, I own one that I don’t see much of either. Both are black, only mine has a screen that allows the user to see the title of the track that’s playing. I didn’t realize my mistake until my son pointed it out to me.

“Here you go, buddy,” I said, placing the device on the dining room table.

“What’s that?” he asked.

I was confused. “It’s your MP3 player.”

He was confused. “No, it isn’t.”

“Wait… that isn’t yours, is it? I’m sorry. You’re right. I must have loaded songs onto the wrong player. Tell you what – I don’t really use this one, so how about you just keep it? It’s actually a much better device.”

“I appreciate that,” he offered, “but I’m content with the one I have.”

I was confused again. “Well, I understand that you like the other one, but did you notice how you can see the title for the track you’re playing on this one?”

“Yep, but I don’t need that.”

“This one will also let you fast-forward more easily,” I countered.

“Dad, I’m really content with what I have. Is that okay?”

It was a striking question.

Of course, I know the right answer. My wife and I intentionally nurture the value of simplicity into our family. It’s also a benchmark of how I try to minister in our church.

Still, I didn’t realize until that defining moment how much I’ve let “justifiable greed” snag pieces of me that I still need to push back against. I literally was on the verge of debating with my son that he needed a “better” device to be happy. Thankfully, I shut my mouth and honored his decision.

Here’s the principle again: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

technologyWe can easily struggle with this when it comes to a kind of tech lust in ministry. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Peer Comparison: Perhaps your conscious frustration with how other churches have more resources than you is creating some unconscious action steps in what you’re doing. Does your ministry website really need all the bells and whistles that their ministry does? Who is the website for, anyway?
  • Self-Validation: It’s easy to spot how students use technology as a status symbol. Might you do the same thing? For example, is the purpose of your blog to share Jesus, or to create a platform to be “discovered” and “noticed?”
  • Unnecessary Streamlining: In some cases, it makes sense to say something in a technological format to maximize the people we could reach. In many other cases, we use that as an excuse to avoid the hard work of investing into people. Do you really need to create your own podcast for students or youth ministry when you could instead use that time to personally talk with teenagers and fellow youth workers? Could a phone call or a personal visit have a greater impact than yet another text blast?

Decades ago, people generally believed that technology would make our lives easier. In some ways it has, but it’s also made it possible to complicate our lives that much more. You won’t just feel this when you’re banging on the church copier or yelling at your phone for not working with the speed you need them to.

You’ll usually feel it when you experience the inverse reality of the truth I shared earlier… for while it is true that “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” we’re more familiar with “Just because you should doesn’t mean you can.”

King Solomon (said to be one of the wisest men to have ever lived) shared about how he didn’t apply wisdom in this area: “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

Saved By The Bell phone

Keep in mind:

  • Not every piece of technology is essential. Things that were once cutting edge eventually become old news. When do we decide it isn’t worth it versus when it is?
  • Not everyone will use technology the way you insist they should. Our church created a message board system to get everyone more active on our website. We later realized that more people in our church preferred to use Facebook instead. It was a good lesson to learn, but we wasted time creating something useless. (Tim Schmoyer shared some great thoughts on this.)

Maybe you don’t have access to what the church down the street does. Sorry about you not getting what you think you deserve.

What you do have that you can never deserve is Jesus Christ. He shared his most famous sermons on mountain sides and along the road. Here we are today, twenty centuries later, still affected by his personal investment into a dozen young people who changed the world.

Might there be a lesson there?

Share your thoughts:

  • How are you maximizing technology?
  • How is technology really not panning out like you thought it would?
  • How are you intimidated by what’s out there?

Thank you for loving students!



*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*


I would like to say that when I was young and single that I enjoyed all the margin that was in my schedule to the fullest. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Just like now I had responsibilities, obligations and burdens that constantly made me wonder, “Where did all the time go?”

Doesn’t matter what season of ministry you find yourself in, time management can be a struggle. The problem comes when you do not monitor the amount of responsibilities and obligations that cross your plate. What it does is create a unnecessary and debilitating tension. In order to be successful in youth ministry and manage all that is in front of you, it’s important to step back, look at your calendar and:

  • Focus On A Few: There is this pressure in youth ministry to do it all; however, all that leads to is ineffective ministry. Focus on those few things that you, and only you can accomplish. By focusing on what you are best at doing you’ll have the greatest impact for your ministry. Delegate the rest to your volunteer and leadership teams to create more capacity.
  • Learn To Say “NO”:  It’s flattering to receive invitations and offers especially when they can lead to big opportunities. While it’s not always easy to say, “NO.” what it will do is protect you from overcommitting. To discern what to accept and what to turn down, figure out what will move you towards your vision and what will pull you away.
  • Prioritize:To stay efficient you need to know what is Urgent, Important andExpendable. By sorting tasks and responsibilities in their proper category you won’t have to worry about tangents tearing you away from your vision. Make a list, write it down and revisit frequently.
  • Build Safety Nets:Find people to share your schedule, and goals with. Ask them to hold you accountable and check-in. It’s also important for you to schedule in (Even if you don’t have time) to just connect with God. When you feel as if you have no time, the best you can do is pause and wait for God’s direction.

You always have time, the question is, “How are you using it?” Consistently look at your schedule, review your responsibilities and trim what is unnecessary When you can add margin to your schedule you allow room to recover, refresh and enjoy what God has called you to do.

Which of these habits is hardest for you when it comes to making time?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

I went to a local fair and they had an exhibit featuring Star Trek- it had props, costumes, scripts, sets the whole 9 yards everything you could want to see and more!

Now I am more of a Star Wars guy but I do love me some good Star Trek too! Lately, Amy and I have been working our way through the Star Trek movies (Thank you Netflix!). I started to think about what benefits/skills the Captains would bring to youth ministry:

Captain James T. Kirk
GO with the feeling inside- While Kirk went with his gut reaction, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, and if we were smart we’d listen to it.

Keep a diverse team- Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scott and Sulu. This is a team that is made up of people with different strengths and weaknesses. In ministry we often try to do everything on our own, but the fact is we all have weaknesses. We need to find people to work with who can fit within our weak spots and we need to let them shine.

Keep learning- If there was anything Kirk did really well, is he learned from others so he could adapt and be flexible. We need to do this in ministry to keep fresh, otherwise we become stale and less effective.

Captain Jean Luc Picard
Have your priorities in order- Picard always put his crew or the people he was helping before himself. He also made sure to always complete his prime directive of every mission. There is an order of who we need to take care of: Our families and ourselves then others- if we don’t take care of ourselves we will be useless to work with anyone else.

Ask for help- One thing Picard did well was ask for help. When he knew he was beat he would get help. We need to do the same thing in ministry. Sometimes we need to get ideas from other people, sometimes we just need help getting a task done. No matter what you need help with, make sure you ask.

What are some leadership lessons you have learned?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle