I’m not really big on giving things up for Lent. I understand the practice, and can even see value in it, it’s just never really been for me. This week we start, as we start our journey to Easter, we start a new series about giving up. Read on for the front page of this week’s announcements as you prepare for the sermon this weekend.
There are times when wars end in a stalemate, where both sides just decide to stop fighting, but more often they end when one side surrenders. Generally speaking, you don’t want to be on the side that surrenders, because surrendering means defeat. It means the victor gets to impose their will on yours. But in God’s upside-down view of things, surrendering is actually the path to victory.
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Romans 7:22-23
There is a war waging inside us. It’s a war between our own sinful nature and the Spirit of God. The Spirit is calling for our complete surrender. No terms. No demands. But total surrender. And in return, the Spirit offers freedom. It is only through surrendering to God that we can win the war raging in our body. Paradoxically, surrender leads to victory.
This week we start a new series about surrendering, about Giving Up those things in our lives that keep us from God. Check inside for a complete list of what we’re called to give up. This Lent, we walk with Jesus towards Golgotha, the hill on which He would surrender His very life to win our freedom. This Lent, we give up more than chocolate, TV or some other bad habit. This Lent, we heed the Spirit’s call to wave the white flag. This Lent, we surrender and experience true freedom in the process.
We wrap up our Pain Killer series this weekend talking about the Pain of Rejection. As I reflect on this pain, I’m reminded of the pain God experiences when we reject Him, and how he continually takes us back. Read on for the front page of this week’s announcements as you prepare for the sermon this weekend.
Nobody likes to be rejected. Whether it’s applying for a job and not getting it or asking a girl or guy out on a date, only to get the cold shoulder. Rejection hurts. After several rejections, it’s easy to just give up and not try anymore. How many times can I hear the word “no” and still keep going? Eventually, it’s just easier to give up and not risk rejection.
Have you ever considered how God feels about rejection? He calls us to Himself, to trust Him more than anything else, yet we continually reject Him. Jesus lamented this on His way into Jerusalem:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Matthew 23:37
God is continually inviting us into His loving arms and we are continually turning our backs on Him. But He is a loving God. Unlike us, He doesn’t get tired of inviting. He doesn’t give up on us because we continually reject Him. He keeps inviting us, drawing us back to Him. And when we do return, He’s waiting with open arms. In the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15, we see a picture of the Father’s love for us. When the son finally decides to return to the father, we hear of the father’s great love:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
As you struggle with the pain of rejection, maybe it’s time to return to your loving Father. He’s waiting for you, with open arms, ready to forgive all the times you’ve rejected Him.
One of the things we learned from our Spiritual Life Survey (results here) is the importance of embedding God’s Word everywhere we can. Sue approached me with a project a while back for posters that would have the books of the Bible on them to hang in the classrooms at First Trinity. We also wanted a matching bookmark to accompany them. Here’s what we came up with:
We went with white text on black to improve readability from a distance, but I also liked the contrast of mostly black/white with a splash of color on each. Both the plan and the water convey life, which connects nicely with God’s Word being our primary source of life. The green and blue colors are also reminiscent of our logo, which has a leaf-like shape with green on top and blue on the bottom.
We’re currently in the bidding process to get the posters and bookmarks made and hope to have them available by Spring, assuming the cost is right.
You may recall I mentioned a few weeks ago about a new feature in our weekly announcement sheet at First Trinity. Sue suggested I cross-post the articles to my blog. If you want the full context, you can download our announcements sheet.
It’s late August in Buffalo. We’ve just had a beautiful, sunny day, and I’m just arriving at the baseball stadium to watch a game with some friends. There are familiar sounds of people cheering. Smells of popcorn, hot dogs and peanuts. Scorebook in hand, I’m engrossed in the game, soaking it all in.
Being a spectator is a lot of fun. It’s relaxing. It’s casual. It’s easy. But I never dreamt of being a spectator. As a kid, I always imagined myself as the star athlete, the one that others come to watch. The one that makes the big play and wins the game. The hero. But the spectator? Nope.
Being a spectator is fine, but how much more exciting it is to be the doer. To be the one on the field, playing. You know God designed us to be doers, not spectators.
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Genesis 2:15
God designed us to serve. Not to be spectators, but to get in the game. Not seated, but serving. Jesus showed us the example we were to follow:
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
God has a ministry in store for you, one that only you are able to accomplish. It’s the reason He saved us from our sin, “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Maybe He’s calling you to serve prisoners through Kairos, or reach out to young adults through Lutheran Campus Ministries. Maybe you want to become a Homebound Visitor, being a friend to those who can’t get out on their own. Maybe you’d like to be one of our Haiti Missionaries next year. Come hear what they did at the sharing event and seek God’s advice on whether He’s calling you to Haiti next year. Where is God moving you to serve?
On an email list I participate in for DCEs, someone recently sent an email looking for ideas on themes to use in Worship for Lent. I thought it might be helpful to document our worship planning process as a resource for others working in this area. Here are some of the things we do as part of creating a meaningful worship experience each weekend at First Trinity:
We’re much smarter and creative together. Myself, Pastor Chuck (Senior Pastor), Sue Brese (Traditional Worship Director) and Jubal Myer (Contemporary Worship Director) meet twice a month usually to brainstorm ideas. I lead the meeting and we spend time:
- Picking Series Themes: We look at what other churches are doing online. Life Church and David Choate at Table Rock Fellowship have been big inspirations for us in particular. We brainstorm ideas as we browse through what they’ve done. Sometimes we use their concepts and create our own sermon titles/artwork, other times we use most of their concepts/titles. Life Church grants the rights to their artwork, so we end up using a lot of it. David’s material is more brainstorm fodder for us. We try to pay attention to the rhythm of the year and pick topics that apply. For example, our current series for the start of the new year is titled MOVE and focuses on becoming more spiritually fit at a time when people are making New Year’s resolutions.
- Refining Sermon Titles/Themes: Pastor usually has in his mind what he wants to talk about, but we refine it with him and settle on three readings for the service/sermon to be based around. We also come up with some main ideas to help plan the worship service without having a complete sermon outline to work from.
- Refine Artwork Concepts: I usually pitch multiple concepts to the group and we talk about them. Later I develop samples using images from iStockPhoto.com or other “Open Source” sources that we’re legally allowed to use. These are circulated among staff in the building and further refined before settling on a final graphic for the series. This gets used as a title slide, the background for the Bible verses in worship, on our sermon outlines if possible and on the website as a promotion on the front page and a banner on the series page, linked from our “Listen” section.
In addition to this group, we also bring together a larger group of staff before and after the Christmas and Lent/Easter seasons to talk about the theme and get all our ducks in a row. This process includes:
- Brainstorming: We review notes from the previous year and decide what elements we want to keep and what new things we want to try this year. This might include new altar decoration ideas, new traffic flow patterns (like adding a Communion station to the loft for Easter Sunday) and the scheduling/training of volunteers.
- Deadlines: During the busy seasons, we have a lot more going on and need to allow more time for bulletin production and distribution of music/scripts/etc. This means more deadlines to ensure everything gets done. We set deadlines for finding and training volunteers. Deadlines for getting content to Dona for print layout. Deadlines for sermon outlines. If it needs to get done, it gets a deadline date.
- Review: Afterwards, we meet to review the season that was. We debrief what went right and what could be improved next year. Our awesome office manager Kathy Figini records all this and starts the process again the following year. If we had any new ideas to try for the following year, or things we should do away with, we record them so we’ll remember later.
I was talking this week with Bekah and Kathy about how the sermon series and even individual titles stand out to me more now than they used to. I never could have told you what topics we covered a year ago in worship, but now I can probably rattle off at least half of the themes, if not 70 or 80%. I think the more cohesive theme packages we’ve been developing have helped with retention. Or maybe it’s just because I work so much more with these areas now. Or maybe it’s both.
To First Trinity readers: What would help you connect more with God in worship? What kinds of series would you like to see in the future?
For everyone: What worship planning processes have you used in your church? Or what topics have you seen that really struck you and meaningful? If you have a link to your church’s sermon archive, let me have it.
Share your thoughts in the comments.
When I informally poll members at First Trinity about what drew them into this family of faith, I often hear some variation of: “I was driving by and saw the Contemporary Worship sign.” I’m struck by the comment, because it’s really a pretty simple sign, but it really speaks to people who are looking for something different than “traditional” church.
Side note about “Traditional” church: I struggle with this label because I believe what people really mean when speaking negatively about past church experiences and labeling them “traditional” is something akin to “empty rituals that have no meaning to me.” There’s lots of other baggage tied up in that word, but it’s often used negatively by those seeking a more “contemporary” worship style. We call our other services “Traditional”, but Sue Brese does such an excellent job of making them anything but “traditional” in the usual (read: bad) sense. They might use familiar liturgical elements and style, but it’s nothing like the “traditional (bad)” church where I grew up. I prefer “contemporary” worship myself, but I have yet to participate in a traditional service carefully planned and orchestrated by Sue and not felt like it was relevant and speaking to me. But this isn’t about worship styles, it’s about signage!
Here’s our new Contemporary Worship Sign:
Our communications team (Pat Canfield, Cathi Doebler, Carolyn Doster, Heide Edgington, Kathy Figini and Myself) has been working on it for a while. Carolyn did most of the design layout on the various options we looked at. After bringing in a few people for a sort of focus group, we narrowed it to two options, which we then sent to the EMT for a decision.
After much discussion, we felt it was important for this sign to remain as an emphasis for Contemporary worship as most people driving by would look at our building and assume we had Traditional worship available. The photo of the guitar players is certainly modern, but not over the top. I think it manages to convey both a contemporary sound, but also a warm, authentic atmosphere.
The primary content is sized to be between .5 – 1 inch larger than our existing sign, which was already quite readable from the corner. The web address is almost twice as large as the current sign. (Side note 2: Did you even know the existing sign had it? I might have known, but forgot until I went out to measure the letter heights.)
I have a dream to add lighting to the sign, but there’s some cost involved to making that happen and we couldn’t afford it right now. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to get that added. It would increase the effective hours the sign is visible, especially during the winter and the peak holiday shopping season.
Tim Hartnett recently circulated a flier for feedback regarding our Change-ing Our World ongoing fundraiser for missions at First Trinity. As I work on communications pieces here, I’ve tried to remember Kem Meyer‘s slogan: Less Clutter. Less Noise. Rather than a wall of text explaining the concept, I wanted to distill down the basics into an easily digestible chunk of information.
I quickly came up with the first two steps. Commit and Collect made sense, but I was struggling with the 3rd. Kathy Figini and Bekah Freed were the only ones in the office to bounce ideas off of, so we went to work. Kathy suggested “Clang!” as an option. We laughed a bit, generated a few more ideas, then I decided to give “Clang!” a go. In the end, I think it works perfectly.
Most of the text is in a light blue, except for a few key phrases in white. We decided to make “Change Our World” in white, but leave off the “-ing” part in the title. It gives the poster an active voice, despite the use of an -ing verb in a subtle way. “Serve others in Jesus’ Name” started on a Crossroads Workcamp flier from several years ago. Bekah kept the emphasis on a recent publicity piece so I decided to carry it over here as well.
This is the poster version of the artwork but there is an almost identically themed version for use as a flier that will be distributed after Christmas.
One of the things I get to do on a regular basis at First Trinity is create artwork for use in worship, PowerPoint, on the web and other projects. Here’s a recent one I did for Sue’s newest short course, titled “I Am.”
There wasn’t a clear visual associated with the series, so I went with a text treatment of the key phrase, “I Am.” After some searching online, I found this great tutorial for making a typographic poster. I liked the look, so I kept the color scheme, but I changed a single phrase to white instead of black to make it stand out a bit for people. The font is Myriad Pro, Bold Condensed, a standard font in Adobe’s line of products.
If you aren’t familiar with the Short Course concept at First Trinity, check out Sue’s post about this current class.
Huge hit on my stats overnight… If you arrived here looking for new about our Haiti Missionaries (14 of them total), we’ve heard that they are ok, but nothing else yet. We’re posting updates on Sue’s blog if you want to stay up-to-date.
I’m looking for ways to increase sales for our Scrip program, one of three ways we pay for Short-Term Missions around these parts. I’m starting to work on two publicity pieces for people:
- A new “What is Scrip and Why Should I Care?” type of brochure. There are still lots of people who don’t know much about the program I imagine.
- A Christmas Scrip flier.
So I’m looking for some help:
- What are questions you have about Scrip?
- What are things people who’ve never heard about it would like to know?
- What gift cards are especially important to have in stock at Christmas?
- What would make cards sell better at Christmas?
Really, any ideas you have for raising awareness and/or sales, I’d love to hear them, so post them in the comments, please!
Jaime and I got to participate in the very first Baby Blessing event as part of our Everyday Faith program at church this morning. Some of the information we already knew, but it was good to hear it again. Some of it was new for us.
By far, the hardest part was trying to come up with a blessing to use for Addison. It was suggested that you may be able to build it around the meaning of your baby’s name. Doesn’t work so well for us, since Addison means “Son of Adam”. So we decided to use some of the story behind her middle-namesake: Naomi.
We have a draft—which I won’t share quite yet—but we wanted to include this section of Naomi’s story, spoken by Ruth to Naomi in Ruth 1:16:
For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
It’s hard to write a blessing for our dear little Addison, but we’re praying it will be one that is meaningful to her throughout her whole life.
Yesterday, I wrote about how we’ve got some groups staying at our church this year while they travel to/from their Mission Trips. It got me to thinking… What if we had a packet of information for groups coming to our area?
We’d have information about our facility, directions, etc. But I think it could be helpful to have information about what there is to do in the area and tips for doing it. Some of the things that we might include:
- Niagara Falls Info (where to park, what to see, rough prices, etc.)
- Niagara Jet Boat Tours
- Area Malls/Movie Theaters
- Area Parks/Waterfalls
- Restaurants Near First Trinity, highlighting “local” flavor like Ted’s, Anderson’s, Mayback’s, etc.
So what would you include in the packet? What is there to do in our area that a youth group might enjoy?
During the Eastern District Convention last week, there was a time during one of the Bible Studies to talk in small groups about things that we’re discouraged and encouraged about in the church at large. In other words, what do you see in the church that discourages you and what do you see that encourages you?
My encouragement was Kingdom Thinking. I like that more and more churches are thinking bigger picture. It’s not about “How does this help us?”, but rather “How does this help the greater Kingdom?” I love that First Trinity thinks that way. Here’s an example:
We’re all about sending out missionaries at First Trinity, but we also like to serve as a base for other mission teams. This June, we have three youth groups staying a total of four nights while traveling to/from mission trips:
- Holy Cross Lutheran in Flushing, MI is staying here tomorrow, June 19. They’re helping out at Camp SonRise, just North of Pottersville, NY.
- Grace Lutheran in Monroe, MI will be here on June 30 and July 1. They are doing a mystery trip where the students don’t know where all they are going. There is a mix of fun and service events that they’ll be doing on the trip.
- Messiah Lutheran in Joliet, IL is staying here on June 27 and will be in worship with us at the late service on June 28. They’re doing a mission trip on Grand Island.
We’re looking forward to partnering with the greater body and helping others impact the Kingdom.
You may have remembered me talking about a website for the work of the Renovations Committee. Well, I was checking out Joe Z’s work at FirstTrinity.com and noticed there’s a clue about the renovations website… Can you figure it out?
Watch here for the address on June 23 if you can’t guess it early.
I’m a compulsive Google user. I might even have a Google addiction. But they are so stinking cool I can’t resist. A few months ago, I found a website that suggested you should list your business in the Google Local Business Center. Theoretically, it helps people find your business.
So I added First Trinity. Check out our listing. Tonight I got an email telling me that I can now log in and see stats about how people find us and what they do with our listing once there. Here are some interesting statistics about how people Googled us in the last 30 days:
- Our listing showed up 633 times.
- There were 65 actions taken:
- 10 Clicks for more info on Google Maps.
- 27 Clicks for driving directions.
- 28 Clicks to our website.
- Top Search Queries (impressions):
- First Trinity Lutheran Church (56)
- Churches (45)
- Preschool (45)
- Church (32)
- Daycare (26)
- Trinity Lutheran Church (22)
- Preschools (21)
- Child Care (19)
- Lutheran Churches (19)
- Christian Schools (16)
- Where the driving directions requests came from (requests):
- Buffalo 14202 (7)
- Buffalo 14224 (6)
- Hamburg 14075 (4)
- Amherst 14068 (3)
- Buffalo 14228 (3)
- Angola 14006, Buffalo 14217, Lockport 14094, Summersville 26651 (1 each) [Note: Summersville is where we’re looking at staying on our way home from the Workcamp. That may have been me looking]
- Our listing went live on May 1, 2009. We were averaging 15 impressions/day through May 25. Our average from May 26 through June 11 is 31.7.
So I was inspired to go ahead and connect our profile with some videos and added some office hours and worship times. We’ll see if it increases traffic.
EDIT: We get 10 pictures to place in our profile. One is a picture of our facility so people will recognize it. The remaining 9 are to be decided. Help us choose! Check out the following places for your favorite pictures of First Trinity:
Try to find pictures that match these simple statements:
- Where People Matter
- Rooted and Relevant
- Celebrating Life Together
I’m preaching this weekend for Pastor Chuck as he heads to Ft. Wayne for a Haiti Missions conference. Last week, he talked about the Ascension of Jesus. This week we look at the next major event in the life of the church, the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
I’m curious to know if anyone has any stories they’d like to share that may or may not make it into the sermon about the Holy Spirit in your life.
You may or may not know, but we’re in the process of looking at some renovations and repairs for our wonderful campus. I’m serving on the Renovations Team as much of our work will involve the youth space at church. One of my major roles on the team is communicating information about the project to the congregation.
One avenue we’ll be using is a special blog set up for the project. I’m working on the design right now, but I’m curious to know what should be on there. So here’s a question for my blog readers:
What sorts of information would you expect to see on the blog?
The blog will mostly be pushing information out, though we will have comments turned on for most of the posts to allow people to ask questions or give feedback on what we’re doing. I expect many more people to read than comment, however.
There will also be other mechanisms outside the blog for giving feedback and getting information about the project. This will only be one part of the effort.
It’s been a long week. Here are some of the highlights:
- Easter Breakfast Setup/Service
- Easter Dinner at Kim’s, straight from church
- Nephew Zachary arrives from Cleveland
- Early morning with Zach
- Afternoon chasing Zach on the playground at Maple East
- Entertaining Zachary
- Work in the morning
- Shoulder surgery in the afternoon (Everything’s good, as far as I know. I find out more on Thursday)
- Afternoon with Zach
- Work in the evening
- Bowling with Zach and friends
- Morning home with Zach and Hope
- Work in the afternoon
- Testing our Town Hall For Hope internet stream from 7-9:30 p.m.
- Slipped on the stairs and fell down the bottom three with Addison. (She’s fine, I’m extremely sore in the neck/shoulders)
- Sermon practice Friday Afternoon
- Worked on Confirmation gifts
- Youth Band
- Home to see Zach off
- Sermon practice and leading worship in the evening
Looking forward to some actual rest this afternoon.
I’m preaching this weekend for Pastor Chuck. We’ll be looking at Jesus’ appearance to the two people on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13ff. I’m working on the sermon right now and can’t get this verse out of my mind:
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. (v. 21a)
I guess I’m struck by the fact that these people could spend so much time with Jesus and still not see Him for who He is. It’s a reminder to me how important it is that we spend time regularly with Jesus, not just learning about Jesus. As Pastor said this weekend in the sermon, it’s about following Jesus, not about following a set of teachings.
If you read our blogs in a feed reader, you may not notice when we make changes to our actual site design. I just wanted to highlight Pastor’s new look. Be sure to drop in and tell him what you think!
I’ve enjoyed Dave Ramsey ever since we saw him at the Catalyst conference. After taking the Good Sense budgeting course with Susan Whited, I’ve taken a much more proactive approach to finances, and Dave has been a great companion for that.
If you’re like the typical person, this economy may be freaking you out. First Trinity is going to be hosting a live streaming event with Dave Ramsey in partnership with churches all across the country. Here’s what they say about it:
Tired of hearing the fear, doom and gloom that’s filling the airwaves? Join Dave Ramsey for a nationwide town hall meeting and discover what’s happening with the economy, how we got here, and where we’re going.
I’d encourage you to come be a part of the event. If you’d like to promote it, here are a couple of resources for you:
If you’d like to get either print pieces to hang in a local business, we’d be happy to print one up for you. Just let me know which you want and when you’d like to come get it and we’ll have it ready for you.
Here’s the promotional video for the event:
Despite the rainy weather, we were still able to do the prayer walk for Crossroads Sunday School as planned. We made a few modifications so we wouldn’t have to go outside, so we were still able to hit most of our topics in appropriate places. It was fun to see the students walking along and praying in the church. I think lots of people were wondering what we were doing at first!
After church, we celebrated Kelsey and Kay with their families as part of our Everyday Faith Senior Blessing event. We had a great meal prepared by the Canfield family (I left the camera at church, so you’ll have to wait for the photo). Then we did an activity with the families looking back at their journey together and remembering God’s work in their lives.
In between was all kinds of craziness that involved a police officer, a paramedic, two EMTs, and two separate cases requiring medical care. Both people were checked and released and should be just fine. Still, makes for a crazy morning! So proud of all our people who jumped up to help.
You’ve probably heard of the cult game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The game is to start with an actor and try to connect them to Kevin Bacon within six steps. For example, Humphrey Bogart can be connected to Kevin Bacon in 2 steps. It’s a fun game to play, especially if you like movies.
I got a call this past Friday from a man who was very concerned that people who visit our church blogs can click through to inappropriate material within just a few clicks. I was getting ready for the Famine, so I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time talking about it with him. My best guess is that he’s talking about clicking off our blogs to another website, on which you click another link and end up at inappropriate material. I’ve often seen this with YouTube, which links to videos at the end of the one you’re watching.
He’s right about this, of course.
In trying to find an example of an actor/actress connected to Kevin Bacon, I couldn’t find one with more than two steps to connect them. The Internet and inappropriate materials are equally connected. I imagine if you tried, you could find inappropriate material within two to three clicks of any website.
So what’s a church to do? I suppose one alternative is to stop using blogs, which seemed to be the implied solution in this phone conversation. We could also stop using the newspaper (which has any number of inappropriate ads), watching television or movies (for obvious reasons), or even talking with people, who may introduce us to someone who uses inappropriate language.
Or, maybe, just maybe, we don’t work at building a better wall, but equipping people with some better armor. Instead of isolating ourselves, we live in the world, but not be of the world. Instead of abandoning new forms of communication, we can use them to bring light to the world.
So surf responsibly, friends.
Special moment yesterday at church. The birth of Addison Naomi was one of the best days of our lives. The Spiritual Rebirth of Addison in Baptism is up there also. In case you missed it, here’s the Baptism:
It was extra special for us because Pastor Chuck and Sue are such good friends, so for them to do what they always do with Baptisms, but doing it to our Addison was just different. Hearing Pastor tell her that she has been marked for all time and eternity as God’s own and Sue giving her the charge to let her light shine before men, that they might see that same Father is almost overwhelming. A wonderful day!