Faith Lab: 40 percent less


As you look around you will being to see the signs beginning to crop up with slashed prices, announcements of big savings, markdowns of up to 80% off. 

These are great deals they are things that entice us to buy goods that we might be thinking about or that we don’t really need at all, but how could you turn away a deal like this or like that.  We love it when we get 40% off of something, but what if the tables were turned?  What if 40% of something of yours was taken away?  How would you feel if 40% of your time with your best friend, spouse or pet was gone?  Not too great!

This is exactly what is happening to our young people.  In Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean’s new book, “A theological Turn in Youth Ministry,”  They report that research has found that parents spend 40% less time with their teens than the previous generation.  Now we have known for a long time that there has been a decline in parent teen relationships, but 40%!!!! WOW, that is staggering to me. 

Parents are still the primary faith mentors of the family.  They are the ones who pass on faith to their kids.  As kids become teens, though the relationships may become strained, parents are still the big faith influence (with peers closer behind). 

So how does the church respond to this?

  • We first have to realize that we cannot duplicate the role of parent in the teens lives.  Yet we need caring adults to realize that our students are in need regardless of their home situations.
  • We have to take the baptismal covenant seriously and remember that we (the church) promised to help raise up these young ones in the faith. 
  • In our programming we have to be aware that the church can add to the noise of disconnect.  Maybe plan some intentional family time opportunities where students and parents can be in faith conversations. 
  • We need to be intentional to pray for students and their families and faith may be passed down from generation to generations. 

  I am running on coffee fumes at the moment and I am sure I have left some things out that I wanted to include.  These are my initial thoughts but I would love to hear yours.




Faith Lab: Fine Print

imageIf you look at newspaper headlines on the front page you will notice that font size makes a big difference on how important the paper feels a story is.  After all the larger the headline,the less room for other stories on the page.  The things deemed less important thus get a smaller font.

We do the same thing with our biblical witness.  We give greater importance (in one way or another) to the more “important” things while the hard topics, or the things that we are not so sure about or that don’t line up with our understanding of God take on a barely visible font size. 

How do you deal with the tough stuff in the Bible?  How do we deal with the things in the Bible that make us uncomfortable?  What about the things that cause us to stumble?  So we just tip toe around them or do we slowly make our way over them? 

Lets face it there are parts of our scripture that we are more comfortable with.  This says a lot about the way that we prefer to view God.  Yet it short changes and stunts our growth as people of faith when we are only willing to look at God through a portion of scripture.  Also, if we are teachers of the word we are giving those who have been entrusted to our care a slanted or partial picture of faith.  It would seem that the parts of scripture that are though are the ones that we are always called to defend.  The parts about God ordering the decimation of whole people is something that we would like to give a very small font size, whereas people asking questions about Christianity make it of headline proportions.  Other questions become like the role of women in the church, issues of sexuality…and the list goes on. 

Just keeping these parts of scripture to the fine print does a great disservice to ourselves, those in our ministry and those who are asking the questions.  So how do we being to wrestle with the head text? 

  •   Make a teaching plan:  When we just pick up the Bible and teach whatever we would like we tend to go to the “softballs”or the headline fonts catch our eyes.  Teaching plans ensure that we cover the topics we need to cover (both large and small) and it gives us enough time to faithfully prepare.
  • Continue to do personal study.  When we come upon some of the fine print we shouldn’t just let it pass.  Because the fine print is like the tip of an iceberg.  We have to, first, do the hard work of digging out the issues to get a fuller understanding of the bigger questions and issues at work. 
  • Don’t just give answers.  Have the students dig in and get their hands dirty too.  Teach them the process of learning and biblical study.  Don’t just give them the fish, teach them to fish. 
  • Don’t ignore the fine print!! It is tempting to give a stock answer or a nice one liner, but it does no one justice in the long run. 

these are just a few of my thoughts.  What are some ways you deal with the fine print?

Define: Gospel

gospel-is-a-big-dealThroughout some recent reading I have come across a number of people’s definition of Gospel.  They (professors, pastors, teens, children…) have their own views of how to define the term.

I am curious how you would respond. There is of course no one right answer, so throw in your thoughts about how you would define “Gospel.”

Faith Lab: Owning Space

IMG_0260There is a striking difference between the way I teach when I am in “my” space and when I am in “foreign territory.”  I think about it in a similar to the way that we move and interact with the space in our own home compared to visiting someone’s home for the first or second time.

At Home you know where things are, you know the quarks of the space and you don’t have to think about some things, they are just always the way that they are in your home.  But when you go and visit, you have to ask, hunt and mentally map out the space constantly.  Though it might be a nice space, it is not your space.

I really feel like the same thing is true with the space where we do our teaching in ministry.  When I am teaching in our Social Hall, Sanctuary or youth room I feel at home.  I know the space and I know what it is going to feel like with 10 people in it and what it will feel like with 200 people in it.  It is nice and it is comfortable.  I know when I will need to get a microphone and when my voice will do just fine even when there are people who are hard of hearing.  I know these spaces because I have invested a large amount of time in them, establishing a comfort zone so that when it is time to teach I can own the space. 

There are other times, like when I officiate off site weddings, some of the other rooms of our church and when I guest speak somewhere else that I don’t feel comfortable in the space.  I always try and take some time to get to know it but it doesn’t feel like home. 

Owning the space where we teach and consistently do ministry is very important.  Our messages will be more effective if we are confident in where we are.  It is not a content thing it is a confidence thing that comes though in the smallest of ways but will put our audience at ease. 

To own the space I:

  • Take time to pray in the space.  Typically I go into our sanctuary or youth room and have a time of scripture reading and prayer for those who would come into this space.  I pray as I walk to halls and walk into the front doors.  This is the perhaps the single most important thing I have put into practice.  knowing that I have prayed in every seat in the sanctuary and on every couch of the student space gives me the confidence that no matter where the people are, prayer has claimed that space, that they may be receptive to the Spirit during their time with us. 
  • walk it and sit in the seats in the different view points
  • practice speaking in the space, getting a feel for the way my voice sounds, finding my voice. 
  • hang out in the space, do work there and make it a part of my everyday comfort zone.

How do you go about owning your space? 

Faith Lab: Icebox Insight

DSCF1491When we have large gatherings at the church there is a ton of ice that is used.  The past couple of special events have caused panic with the ice machine minders because it is thought to be broken during the heavy use.  Water found under and around the ice machine causes widespread panic within those who like their beverages cold. 

The thought is that where there is water on the floor there must be a leak.  However 95% of the time, in the haste of slinging frozen relief to the masses there are cubes that drop onto the floor.  Ice, when not kept frozen, has a tendency to change states and become water if left unattended.  The thawed cubes make a puddle and the puddle leads to concern about the proper functioning of the machine. 

I have learned an important lesson form the icebox incidents.  We have to be able to discern the difference between an event and a trend.  An event, like a few cubes falling to the ground, may cause temporary concern but can be over come or recognized as something that is passing.  Events need to be acknowledged, but perhaps we don’t shut down or turn off the ice machine because of this event. 

Trends however are lasting and continue even after the melted cubes are wiped from the floor.  There is a leak in the system and evaluation and response is needed. 

The ability to discern the difference between events and trends will save us from chasing ice cube puddles in order that we can better address any cracks that are causing leaky trends. 

Some guiding questions may be:

How long has this been happening?

What variables have made this event/trend appear?

If it is a trend how may we ebb the leak? If an event how might we respond or plan differently for when it happens again.