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A couple of years ago everything on television was “EXTREME!”  It marked an era of radical transformation. About a decade or so ago my family and I made the choice to move into the community where we serve. For many this is a no brainer, the people in your church live in your neighborhood. Yet, we serve in an inner city ministry. The areas where we live make the news for crime, poverty and poor education. In the last two years our street has seen two fires and two shootings. My school district ranks as one of the bottom three in our state.

When we made this choice to move into what some would call the “hood,” family and friends called it “extreme.” Would our children be safe? Wasn’t this a place others were trying to avoid? Our philosophy was that to truly be in community with people, we needed to live where they live. Our current neighborhood is an eclectic mix. We are multiethnic with several African American, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and Mexican families. Ours happens to be the only Caucasian family on the block. A bartender from New York City and his partner have their summer home two doors down. He tells us it is the one place on the “shore” a gay couple can be “left alone.”  There are those that have lived here their whole lives and the transient.  We are lower Middle Class, working class and some struggle below the poverty level. Everyone would consider themselves “unchurched,” except for us and a wonderful Haitian woman across the street. It is “extreme” because we get to meet and interact daily with all sorts of people who look at the world in a variety of ways. Living and doing “ministry” here has taught me some great lessons:

1. Be A Community.

On a nice day everyone hangs out on their front stoop. Kids play on the sidewalk, we chat and talk about life.  This is where we get to know each other. In other places I have lived we come home, and go right in the front door without acknowledging anyone. We don’t “keep to ourselves” at all.  It’s also where we disagree and make up. I trust my neighbors. Community is messy. It means we don’t get along and then make up. We pray for each other when we are hurting. It’s reciprocal.

 

2.  Don’t Bother To Hide Your Mess. It Gets Found Out Anyway.

There are some who go to a lot of work to pretend like they have it all together.  In my “hood” the attitude is, “We are who we are and it isn’t perfect.”  Fights can be loud. The other day we could hear every detail of a two hour exchange between boyfriend and girlfriend with allegations of cheating. There is no embarrassment, because they could be quiet about it and the mess would still be there. Just put it out there for everyone to see, and perhaps then we can find a way to clean it up.

 

3. Lead By Example.

It was easy to tell that from the first moment we unlocked our door people were watching. One neighbor says still, “I don’t get why you choose to live here, when others are trying to get out.”  They aren’t looking for our perfection. I live with three Middle Schoolers. Sometimes I get frustrated and our mess is obvious (see above).  I have to “practice what I preach” for they want to know who we are and why we care about Christ. In addition, we have to be willing to constantly be about our own relationship with Christ. People are looking to the way we live, more than what we say to notice a difference.

 

4.  Jesus IS the Only Answer.

Last summer a neighbor ended up in the hospital near death. His girlfriend knocked on my door and wanted to know if we would pray. Yes, we provided rides to the hospital and stood with the family. Yet, there was nothing we could do to save this man physically or spiritually. Jesus is the only Savior.

 

5. Service Is A Lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I want to hide in my house and not talk to anyone. This winter, every storm, we dug one neighbor out. She has never said thank you. She may never say it. Serving isn’t about the thank you. It isn’t about an event, an outreach, a program or even compassion. These are all part of service, but serving isn’t even just relegated to my neighborhood. Service is about loving the Lord your God with every bit you have and loving your neighbor as yourself.

These are ongoing lessons. I would love to tell you I have it “all together” and every day is filled with roses in doing what we do.  Sometimes when my street makes the news, I want to scream. I don’t stand apart as special because I live here. Whenever we immerse ourselves in the adventure with Christ, then it is “extreme” ministry. You do it too.

What are you learning from your own “Extreme” ministry?

- Leneita

I am so proud of Tyler, a freshman in high school. He and his family have been coming to our church for about a year and a half.  It’s fun to see a high schooler rallying his friends at school to do something for the gospel.

The news station didn’t mention our church in this video (probably for obvious reasons, we were lumped in under the phrase “other non-profit organizations”), but it’s things like this that our church is seeking to give more and more money towards.  We are coming behind more things like this that those in our church are doing.  Helping our people do things in our community for the furthering of the gospel.  I love this and am very encouraged.

A local news station recently aired this recap on what Tyler is doing. Click the image below:

Portland_homeless

 

Proud of these students wanting to bring hope to others,

Chuck

@chuckbomar



The Ministry Race …

 —  September 10, 2013 — Leave a comment
prerace
Sunday I ran my first half-marathon in Freeport, ME.  It’s a longer story but just know that this 41 year old just “took up running” six months ago for the first time in her whole life and fo fell in love with it, because it is a great stress reliever.
 As we set out it was cool, and raining, with gusting winds most of the way.  I knew this particular race was considered “moderately difficult.“ What I did not know is that it is possible to create a 13.1 mile course that is primarily up hill the whole way.  It is probably the greatest physical challenge I have taken on to date.  As my husband and I ran together we prayed, laughed chatted, and of course got thinking about how a literal race like this one we are told Biblically to “run” for Christ
As we plugged along  (up hill) here are the conclusions we came to:
1. It’s about the finish line.
running finishI am a severe asthmatic.  In practicality this means it slows me down and I end up towards the back of the pack. I hate this.  I am competitive, driven by nature and I want to “win.”   In my journey with Christ, how often to I compare my race to those around me? How often do I decide that if you are “famous” or have what others think of as a “successful” ministry, that you are the “winner?”  Paul tells us to run as if we will be the winner in 1 Cor. 9:24.  However, it is about keeping our eye toward the finish line. Christ simply wants us to keep running with Him and keep our eye towards ending well.  The celebration is in the finishing.
2. It’s also about the race

house

If we are only ever thinking about the finish line we just might miss the journey.       In our day on Sunday:
Cool turned to warmth.  Rain turned to sun.  The wind pushing in our face eventually ended up at our backs.  We passed by fields of wild flowers,  haystacks, and dilapidated farm houses with bright yellow doors.  Keep your eye to the horizon,  enjoy the path you are on and who you are with..
3. Don’t forget to laugh.
runningThe first hill was steep.  We looked forward to the downhill.  Then we got to the top and  it dipped and went up once again.  Isn’t life like that sometimes? Then the rain went from drizzling to pouring, before it got better.  All sorts of ridiculous circumstances kept hitting us.  We started making jokes and just absorbing that sometime it’s in the craziness we find the greatest joy.
4. Take it one hill at a time
At one of our water stops we joked with a policeman about the difficulty of the course.  He smiled and said these profound words, “Focus on one hill at a time.”  Trials will come and when the focus is on that reality we can get overwhelmed.   Instead,  with Christ, conquer the hill at hand.   When you reach the next one, you are another step forward.
running 1
This race of life is yours, it’s about being in it with Jesus.  Sure some will pass us, the terrain will be tough and it might all sound like a Hallmark card.  However,  it’s the only one we have,  we should run it as hard as we can.
Remember in the end we too want to say:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Tim. 4:7
 
I would love to hear about your life “race” these days, tell me about it!

Are You a Volunteer?

 —  October 31, 2012 — 3 Comments

A few weeks ago our leadership team gathered in my tiny town home for ice cream sundaes, talking, praying and planning the next few months. Whenever we meet I always make a point to thank them for giving up so much of their personal time to serve the Kingdom by loving students. Our team members on average serve 6 hours per week on top of full time jobs and or university.  I am humbled by the commitment of my volunteers, as they give up hundreds of hours a year.

One thing that new members of our volunteer team find surprising is that all the paid staff in the youth department are all volunteers as well. We work during the day and at 5pm on our youth night we become volunteers. When they ask why, my answer is simple: How could I ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself?

It seems obvious to me that we would serve alongside our leaders and give as much or more as they do, modelling a servant-like attitude. I recognize for some it is not that easy due to multiple services or multi-event weeks, but at a minimum should we not serve as a volunteer for the same amount of hours as an average volunteer in our ministry?

Maybe you coach a team or serve somewhere else but I have to ask, shouldn’t we be volunteers too?

Geoff – (Twitter)



 Over five years ago we started having high school students lead small groups in our 5th and 6th grade program.  Since then we’ve expanded to allow them to lead the rest of the middle school students in our 7th and 8th grade ministry.  This decision for us started out of a need for small group leaders in general; however, has bared much fruit over the years.  What we’ve seen is that the high school students who lead small groups:

Act Like Leaders In Their Own Small Group – They’ll see what their adult leaders go through in leading them; therefore, they’ll make sure to move the conversation along.

Become Role Models For Their Younger Peers – While you want to connect your teens to an adult, sometimes you need a liaison.  That is what a high school student can be for a middle school student.

Develop As Student Leaders In The Church – Just as you pass vision onto your adult leaders, you will pass it on to your teens.  When they capture the vision there is no telling what they will do with it.

But it’s not as simple as putting a high school student in charge of a group.  On top of what you do for your adult leaders, you need to make sure that you are partnering up your high school students with an adult accountability partner.  By doing this the high school student receives support when it comes to:

 Talking With Parents – It can be intimidating for a high school student to approach the parent of a teen in their small group.  An adult will give them affirmation, hold them accountable to acting maturely and back them up if a parent is unsure how to interact with their child’s leader.

Serving Hurting Kids – When teens trust you they open up and sometimes what we hear can be overwhelming.  On top of the emotions that come with serving hurt teens there can be liability issues, if an adult is not informed.

Growth In Their Own Faith Journey – Just as your responsibility is to encourage your adult leaders to grow, this adult mentor can hold the high school students to do the same.  That might mean making sure they are plugged into their own small group, reading scripture and finding quiet time with God.

High school students leading small group for middle school students will raise the bar on their faith journey.  It gives them responsibility and accountability to another person’s faith formation.  High school small group leaders is another example of growing disciples, growing other disciples and isn’t that what we are trying to achieve?

Do you have high school students leading small groups?  Are you for this idea or against it?  Why?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more about his ministry and life on his excellent blog Marathon Youth Ministry.