One of the things about blogging that seems to be true is that the more you read, the more you write. I suppose it’s true for other forms of writing too. I’m certainly finding it to be true myself.
One of the reasons I haven’t blogged much in the past two months is that I haven’t been reading many blogs in that time period. There are lots of reasons why, but I can certainly see the truth of the statement. Lately, I’ve been reading blogs again and find myself with more to say. Huh.
Here’s a snippit from an interesting post I read the other day, from Craig Groeschel:
When I meet people from our church, they often tell me more with their words than they realize.
They almost always say one of two things:
- “I go to your church.”
- “I love our church.”
People who respond the first way generally just attend the church. People who go the 2nd route tend to be the church.
The spiritual connection: Are we attending or being church?
One of the interesting things about our recent super series titled People Matter was the daily devotional. We asked people to limit their devotions to 500 words or less. Having a cap on the text forced people to get to the point—to trim the fat and leave the meat.
I find that I use lots of unnecessary words. I’m trying to be better at self-editing, especially on long emails or letters. Trim the fat and keep the meat. I believe people are so over-exposed to information that they’ll thank me for it. (Unnecessary aside: please don’t actually thank me for short emails.) Whenever possible, I like to follow the five.sentenc.es way of doing email.
As a church, we probably need to “trim some fat” from our communications. The extra words can sometimes cause the message to be lost. We’re working on it, by the way. We’re still working with a consultant to improve our communications strategy. It’s an incredibly long (and sometimes frustrating) process. But I think it will help us communicate more effectively.
So here’s the theological question: Are there areas of our life where we need to “trim the fat” to better communicate the Gospel?
St. Francis of Assisi thinks so. He wrote:
Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.
By the way, this post has 228 words, including these.
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.
I like this verse about guarding our soul from Joshua 23:11 as paraphrased in The Message:
Now, vigilantly guard your souls: Love God, your God.
Vigilance is so important to our daily lives. It’s easy to let small things creep into our lives and take over. I think about it in our financial journey, and how easy it is to slip into old habits. Really, it’s important for any daily discipline. Another great passage from 1 Corinthians 10:12 as translated by the ESV:
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Without keeping constant vigilance over our lives, we may find ourselves on shakier ground than we supposed. Whether it’s our finances, our relationships, or our spiritual habits, we need to be vigilant. We need to watch for the pitfalls and old habits we used to practice and keep them from resurfacing.
Interesting experience today. A strut went out on my car. Long story short: it cost $900 to repair. I heard the number and immediately panicked. I panicked because that’s been my learned response to unexpected bills for about 10 years. How were we going to pay for this?
It was a silly response I guess. We actually have the money to pay for it with cash. It comes from our emergency fund, which we set up as part of our financial journey these last 8 months.
The problem is that for years this kind of thing overwhelmed me. It was as if the spirit of fear had come over me. It felt like three years ago when we would have had to pay for this on credit and not known what to do when that bill came due.
As we talked about it, Jaime said we might have to relearn our emotional responses to situations like this. We no longer have to be slaves to the spirit of fear because by the grace of God, we are living in a way that we don’t need to panic about these sudden expenses.
In Christ, we have the Spirit of Power, not the spirit of fear. Sometimes, though, it takes a while to let go of the learned “spirit of fear” response and trust in the Spirit of Power instead.
Seth Godin had an interesting post on meetings yesterday. I know lots of churches that are drowning in meetings. I’m thankful we don’t have nearly as many at First Trinity. It would be interesting to try some of his suggestions. If you lead meetings, you give it a try and let us know how it goes.
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.
I’m involved in an interesting discussion on a DCE email discussion group I participate in. The discussion started around the question, “How do we measure effectiveness in ministry if not by numbers of people coming?” Numbers are easy to measure: they are either up or down.
It’s not a perfect measurement, however. There could be lots of people not coming, but growing spiritually through other means. Or people could be coming for the wrong reasons. We could probably up attendance 200% by offering $20/week for everyone who comes to church, but is that really spiritual growth?
We like to think of spiritual growth at First Trinity as steps on a journey. What’s the next step in your spiritual life? Where do I go from here?
If spiritual growth is a journey, how do we measure it?
What if there were a personal spiritual assessment tool? A PSAT if you will. The tool would have questions that you answer in numerical form (scale of 1-6 style), but also include room for comments. You would take the test now, and again in a year, theoretically measuring your progress in journey.
Let’s say we’re developing the tool. Here are some questions I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
- What areas should the assessment cover? (Example: Prayer life, Worship, Serving others)
- What specific questions would you include?
Sound off in the comments!
Made it home late last night and then spent the day getting ready for preaching this evening. I’m thankful to be home from Atlanta and enjoyed sleeping in my own bed again. I don’t sleep so well on the road. I’ll write more about the conference soon, I’m sure, but for now you can see my updates about the conference over on my Twitter.
I leave in about 40 minutes for Catalyst. I’m especially interested in Seth Godin and Craig Groeschel. I was hoping to hear Mark Batterson, but it seems he’s only doing a lab session, which we aren’t participating in. Maybe I’ll run into him at the conference sometime. I’m not sure I’ll be able to blog about it, but Sue and I are considering tweeting the event. You can follow mine or Sue’s or both.
I think part of discipling youth is teaching them how to use their gifts at church in meaningful ways. We’ve had youth acolytes forever, but there’s so much more out there. Here are some of the exciting things youth are doing (or will be doing soon!) at First Trinity:
- Jon W., Abby, Anna and Joe regularly provide the tech services at our 7 p.m. Saturday worship service. Joe is also helping on Sundays.
- Jon W. is one of the prayer partners at Sunday worship.
- Jon B., Annie, and Jake M. all play/sing in worship bands on a regular basis.
- Megan and Laura have played/sung in the past.
- 19 youth have signed up to work with our new youth band that is starting up. Many of those were complete surprises to me.
- 2 youth each Sunday from the 7th-8th grade Sunday School class will be helping to teach younger kids (Kindergarten and under-2’s). 20 in all have signed up so far.
- Anna and Kelsey (plus Samuel, who isn’t a youth yet but will be one day) are on my PIT crew.
Additionally, we want students to be in the Word on a regular basis. Some fun things going on there:
- 6 youth have signed up to be in rooted this year so far.
- Sue’s small group at Cornerstone has committed to interacting with each other about the One Minute Bible for Students on a daily basis through text messages and instant message. Loved hearing how she is connecting with her students!
- A parent recently liked the One Minute Bible their student received so much that she asked to get a copy for herself. They were working through it together at home, which turned her on to the resource.
- We have a lab-based Sunday School series coming up in the winter that helps students learn how to be in the Word, pray, give and worship.
It’s exciting to see what God is doing in the midst of our young people. What a joy!
I’m looking forward to the start of Cornerstone tomorrow night. Some of my prayers for the youth this year:
- That they would walk closer and closer with Jesus
- That they would grow closer to one another
- That they would form a personal relationship with their small group leader (Heide, Paul, Pat, Darcy, Sue).
- That they would connect ancient truth with modern living
- That they would feel comfortable inviting their friends to Cornerstone
- That they would know their church family loves them
- That they would “plug in” to the church body by serving in some way
If you wouldn’t mind lifting our students, small group leaders and the entire Cornerstone ministry up in your prayers, I’d appreciate it!
Also, check out the front of the binders this year:
I’m looking for creative ways to put faith into practice that are alliterative or rhyming. I’m currently going with:
- Learn: Knowing something or Memorizing a scripture passage
- Love: Serving/Helping others
- Live: A change in personal lifestyle habits.
If you have more to add to the list or suggestions for another group, leave them in the comments.
Sounds like big returns from some small investments.
I’m not for isolating ourselves from other churches, but there’s something awesome about a local body of Christ supporting one another through prayer. Wouldn’t it be neat we had something similar at First Trinity?
Maybe it’s online at our website that Joe Z does such great work on.
Or maybe it’s just a section of wall with butcher paper from floor to ceiling where people can write prayer requests and praise reports.
Maybe it’s off the beaten path on Sunday morning (is there somewhere not on the beaten path?) where people could not only write, but actually stop and pray, together or individually.
After more than 2 years on the job, Cindy is stepping down as our Scrip Coordinator. I remember approaching her with the idea of starting this Fundraiser at some event in the Gym. I’m not sure I even remember what it was. Tenley, one of our friendly faces selling the gift cards, is also leaving the team as she’s moving to Florida (we’ll miss you guys!).
The idea is that we sell gift cards for face value, but purchase them for a discounted price from Great Lakes Scrip. Since May 19, 2006, here are some statistics for this Fundraiser:
- Total Value of Gift Cards Sold: $124,934.55
- Total Profit, after shipping expenses: $6,593.21
- Average Return Rate: 5.28%
- Top 5 Gift Cards Sold by Total Value:
- Tops — $65,850
- Panera Bread — $4200
- Red Lobster — $3,525
- Disney — $3,000
- Sunoco — $2,400
- Families Participating: 135
- Families Purchasing More Than $500 Lifetime: 47
- Top Family Amount by Total Purchased: $10,915
- Top Family Amount by Contribution (Profit to us): $486.85
Cindy has been instrumental in getting this program off the ground and running. Tenley has been helping sell the gift cards since the very beginning also. I’m so thankful for their efforts these past 2 years! If you see them this weekend, be sure to tell them thanks for all they’ve done for our youth!
And in case you’re wondering… Yes, the hunt is on for a new Scrip administrator. It’s mostly administrative work, scheduling the other volunteers and occasionally finding more people to help sell at the table. If you think that might be you, or you know someone who might be interested, shoot me an email.
One day, I hope to be raising between $10 and $12,000 per year through Scrip. With our growing number of kids in Crossroads attending Workcamps, we’ll need it!
I’d rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas.
Right now, I feel like we’re coming up with lots of good ideas in Student Ministry. Are they leading to (or springing from?) a God idea? I don’t know. Yet. Isaiah 43:19:
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
It feels like there is something bigger coming for our ministry. I can’t perceive it yet, but I know God’s working on it. It’s exciting. Really exciting.
Warning: Long post ahead! We’re considering a dress code policy for youth ministry. It could become emotionally charged. It’s difficult, but it’s important. Read on for a lengthy, back and forth look at the problem.
I’m struggling with what to do with regards to a clothing policy for student ministry. The issue has come up as a part of preparing for our Workcamp to Piqua. Just a sampling of some of the questions our leadership team has to consider:
- Should we have a policy?
- How detailed should it be?
- How do we enforce it?
- What are the consequences for breaking it?
- Does it turn kids away from a possibly life-changing experience at Workcamp, either because we have one or because we don’t?
- Is this an altar worth dying on?
- How do we balance the culture of today with the timeless truths of Scripture?
Is forcing a dress code on youth any different than how the Pharisees acted? Jesus called them hypocrites and compared them to whitewashed tombs for appearing to follow the law outwardly while not following it in their hearts. Youth may keep our dress code, but resent it inwardly. Is that doing them or us any good? Is it akin to legislating morality? We may win the battle, but lose the war in the end. We need to be in the world, not isolated from it, so maybe that means inviting people to come as they are.
And yet, we are not the world. We are to be in the world, but not of it.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
We are to set an example for other believers in the area of purity. More than that, our body is not our own. We should treat it with respect not only in how we dress, but also how we use it and how we feed and care for it. Women are called to dress modestly, possibly because guys have a hard time thinking pure thoughts. In the end, purity and modesty matter to God, so they should matter to us.
God does not want empty sacrifice, but rather a broken heart. Do we present the dress code as a Law to follow while at youth trips and say you can’t come unless you agree to dress to our standards while there? Will youth make that meaningless (to God) sacrifice and still participate in the trip?
Or, do we set a minimum (and I think we almost have to), but hold up the high standard and let youth and parents choose to keep it or not? If you don’t want to go beyond the minimum, fine, but know that God has something more for you. You can still come as you are, but know that we want more for you as well. Maybe it’s enough if youth just start considering that God might have higher standards for how they dress and act at this point in their faith-walk.
We aren’t asking youth to dress modestly because we’re no fun. God made them beautiful and living a pure life means caring for and protecting that beauty for their future spouses. It’s about helping our young men, who have surprisingly little else on their minds than sex at this age sometimes. But it’s also about not clouding our message to other believers and, more importantly, to the world. I’m reminded of John’s words:
He must increase, but I must decrease.
Immodest dress is all about drawing attention to ourselves, which distracts from our message. If we are going to share the Gospel with the world, we must decrease and Jesus must increase. And now we get to the heart of the matter and perhaps the answer to our dilemma. Is Workcamp about having a good time with friends, traveling to a new part of the country and enjoying an after-event together? Or is it about bringing God’s Word in physical form to the people of Piqua, Ohio, loving on them and being Christ to them? If the former, we’re no different than anyone else in the world and it doesn’t matter how we dress or act or think. But if it’s the latter, then He must increase, but we must decrease.
I don’t know what the final policy will be. I hate that we have to consider setting one at all, but we can’t just ignore those parts of God’s Word. This is part of living in a world where God’s Word is counter-cultural. It could be an unpopular decision for us either way. But that’s part of being in leadership.
Share your thoughts on either side in the comments. Remember, we’re all on the same team, even though we might have different views on the subject. I’m thankful we’re at a place where we can speak the truth in love, looking to do what’s best for our students and sharing the Gospel.
- It comes from the Zeitz family, at least as far as I’m concerned. That would be my Mom’s family. How it got started there is unclear to me. Perhaps Mom will tell us in the comments…
- It’s spelled M – U – H.
- Sometimes it is spelled and said together: “M – U – H, Muh!”
- Sometimes it’s on you: “Muh on Jason!”
- Sometimes you are one: “Jason is a Muh!”
- Sometimes it’s both: “Muh on Jason, Jason is a Muh!”
- It’s not mean.
- Jaime thinks it means “Sucks to be you,” but she’s an outsider, not raised in the Muh tradition. She’s learning though. Around 10 years of exposure and she’s starting to get it down. I think she still secretly thinks she’s right about the meaning, but she plays along.
- It works when you don’t know what else to say about a situation, but it’s best to know your audience and whether they can take the “Muh” at that time.
Now you know a bit more about my family “Muh” tradition and could probably survive a Zeitz family party.
You also might now have a sense for what an unbeliever feels when they walk into our church with so many strange phrases, symbols and traditions that we just “know” because we grew up in the family. Maybe this is why Paul went to people in their culture to share the Gospel with them. Maybe we should speak their language instead of expecting them to know ours.
Mark Batterson has an interesting post from a few days ago about memory and imagination. Here’s an excerpt:
Neurological studies have shown that over the course of time, there is a cognitive shift from right-brain to left-brain. And if we don’t find a way to stop the shift, memory overtakes imagination. We stop creating the future and start repeating the past. We stop innovating and start imitating. We stop doing ministry out of imagination and start doing ministry out of memory.
A team-model for ministry seems like it could help with this as you periodically bring in new people to the team to refresh your thinking and get creative again. We’re starting to see some of this from our communication consultant. I’ve noticed that once a new idea is inserted in the group, the creative process takes off again and gets everyone thinking more creatively.
I’ve said it before. I think our youth are super talented. Two examples this evening:
- I just got home from a coffee house at the corner of Clarence Center and Goodrich. It was a cozy little joint with a homey atmosphere. I was there to see Lauren’s artwork. Tonight was her senior art show at the coffee house. I’m not a great judge of art, but even I know that this was good stuff. Cindy took me around to show me all the pieces, beaming the whole time as proud mothers do. It’s going to be there for a few weeks, so if you are out that way (or fancy a quaint little coffee shop), be sure to stop by and check out Lauren’s Work. (We’ll also have some at the Spaghetti dinner on April 11)
- Tonight was opening night for the Kenmore Middle School musical, School House Rock. Annie and Jennie are the leads. I’ll be there on Saturday evening for the show. Annie sings with our band on Sunday morning, and they’ve done a duet together for our Christmas program one year. I’m sure it will rock the house (poor pun intended). Tickets are $5, available at the door, if you’d like to see it.
I love seeing our youth explore their God-given talents and grow into the young men and women God wants them to be. One day, I’d love to see a ministry at First Trinity that would help youth develop their talents and use them in worship and ministry amongst us. My first goal (a big leap!) is to find a college student willing to organize a youth band for Sunday mornings at Sunday School and occasionally at worship. I just need $5,000 and the right person. I’m praying God drops something in my lap. Now I’m wondering if I need to also look at starting an art school…
Grady Sizemore, the Indians‘ center fielder, holds the current streak for consecutive starts in baseball with 360. That means that sometime in 2022, if all goes well, he’ll break Cal Ripken‘s streak of 2632 consecutive starts. Cal did it all with one team over a span of about 20 years. I’m hoping Grady makes it there, all with one team as well.
What would our churches look like if their workers gave 20+ years to a single church? We’ve been blessed with Sue for that long. And Ruth, who recently retired. Ruth gave over 12,500 days to serving the Lord at First Trinity. In case you missed it, we’ve posted the audio from the end of the service where we specifically celebrate Ruth’s ministry among us. We’re thankful for Ruth’s past ministry and look forward to how God will continue using her in this new chapter of ministry!
Seth Godin had an interesting post about some bad habits in his writing, specifically using the word “just” and “sort of” in his writing. I’m curious if anyone here has noticed what my “bad habits” are while writing on the blog. I’m trying to cut down on clutter in my posts and would love your help! I’m hoping it will also help me more clearly communicate both here and in other media types for my ministry.
We had an awesome meeting with Erik Ticen, a consultant we’re working with to improve our communications at First Trinity. There were numerous gems we found from the discussion, but the best was his comment that we do an excellent job of celebrating our heritage (tradition) while innovating and being modern. I quipped that we are Rooted and Relevant. After thinking about it some more, I feel the statement “Rooted, Relevant, Real and Ready” is a great description of our church.
- Rooted: We’re rooted in the ancient truths of the Gospel and we hold on to those things from our heritage that help us spread that truth. Our Lutheran Christian heritage is a good thing.
- Relevant: God’s Word is ancient yet timeless. We adapt and reinterpret our traditions for today.
- Real: We mess up. We’re dirty. We laugh. We play. Through it all, we’re Authentic.
- Ready: We are ready to serve and be God’s instruments for spreading the Gospel.
It’s not one word, but I still like it.