I read an article today about projecting content (lyrics, readings, etc.) during worship. It had some tips to help projected content be more helpful for worshipers. I was pleased to see that our system passes the test for all of their tips, but the article got me thinking about what we’re doing with projection.
One of the first things I did when I switched into my current position was overhaul the projection system. At the time, we only projected lyrics to songs and each song was made up of an entirely different set of images, with little consistency from slide to slide. While I liked the additional art involved in the old style, I often felt that it was more distracting than helpful. Text would start at different positions on the screen, which makes it harder to track when flipping through multiple slides in the presentation. More problematic was that the design time it took to make each song was too high to sustain, especially once we started to project the entire service and move away from paper bulletins.
So I set to work designing a new system for projection. My guiding principles were:
- Readability is job 1. Moving to a paperless worship service meant the slides had to be readable above all else. After researching online, white text on darker backgrounds would result in the highest readability we could obtain. After our new projection system was installed, I invited some of our older members to do a readability test for font sizes to determine a minimum font size. Our standard is 32pt Calibri, 4 points above the minimum depth. Stand/Sit rubrics, Scripture references and service notes are 28pt.
- We can’t abandon the art. White text on black is the most readable combination, but I’m not sure it’s the best solution if we want to draw people into worship. Artwork and content are locked in a complex dance routine. After some trial designs, i decided to reserve the top 80% of the slide for content, and let the artwork reside in the bottom 20%.
- Design tells our story. Our three core story statements would influence the design so that the slides emphasize and reinforce who we believe God has called us to be at First Trinity. The primary story statement that I chose to focus on with the slide design was “Rooted and Relevant.” We have deep historical roots, but relevant expressions of faith. The primary font on the slides is Exocet Heavy, an “old” looking font based on ancient Greek and Roman design. Behind it sits the King & Queen, a more modern script, but with hints of old England calligraphy. The text show what part of the service we’re currently in, and matches the single page Order of Service that people receive in worship. The background has a rock texture applied to it, a nod to the solid foundation of God’s Word that our worship is based on.
- Icons and color amplify the mood. Behind the fonts sit black graphics with a soft light filter to allow the background to show through. The images are meant to help reinforce and teach what the various parts of the service are all about. They are subtle clues to the purpose of this section of the service. Times of song and celebration include people in celebratory poses. Prayer has a person on bowed down on their knees before God, illustrating our humble hearts in prayer. The Agnus Dei (Latin for “Lamb of God”) has a lamb in the background, a reminder of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Confession and Absolution have a hill with three crosses, a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us. When possible, I chose traditional, liturgical colors. Confession/Absolution are purple, the color for Lent, a season of repentance. Scripture, Creeds and Baptism are blue, the color of life-giving water. The Lord’s Supper is brown, the color of a rich loaf of bread, fresh from the oven. Sometimes there wasn’t an obvious color, so I just chose something that worked.
- Sustainability and Speed. The slides have to be easy to create once in PowerPoint. With the use of master slides and formatting in PowerPoint, I’m able to convert the contemporary service (4-5 pages of printed text) into PowerPoint in under 45 minutes (assuming I get that long without distractions). Because verbiage changes from week-to-week, very few slides are reused. The design had to accommodate this.
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.
One of the tips from Erik Ticen, our awesome communications consultant at Vaughn Street that helped us analyze and improve our communication strategy, suggested we try to capitalize more on our weekend worship folder. Each weekend, 425 people get a copy, each week, plus some at some special services. We’ve always used the worship folder as an announcements sheet, primarily focusing on what’s coming up with the occasional story about what happened thrown in. In light of people not knowing what’s going on, what if we started treating the announcements as a form of story telling?
Starting this weekend and going through the the MOVE sermon series, we’re trying something different on the front page of the announcements. I’ll be writing an article, almost as if it were a paper version of a blog, highlighting some of the goings on that you can find inside the announcements. It’s less informational (though there’s certainly some in there) and more relational (kind of like a friend sharing what’s happening in their life). It invites people to engage more with the content, while also acting as a summary page, highlighting what you’ll find inside.
Let me know what you think about it in the comments, our through the First Trinity Feedback page. If you just can’t wait to see what I wrote, you can always sneak a peak by downloading the upcoming announcements page. It kinda feels like traveling forward in time when you do. Sadly, you only get that feeling on Friday afternoon before it becomes the present again.
Thanks for all the feedback on the Scrip program over the past couple days! Here’s a summary of what I heard, both online and off, from this group of readers and research in other programs:
- Increased visibility of point-of-sale. It’s hard to find it and when you do, it’s really crowded. A sign would be helpful. Also signs to help navigate from the information center to the ministry support center.
- Increased awareness. People forget it exists, don’t know it exists, or just plain don’t know what it is. Fliers, skits, video commercials and more are options to help here. We also want ways to easily share the information with friends/family that might be interested in partnering with us. Quick access to what’s in stock and what needs to be ordered is helpful as well.
- Incentives. Gift card wrappers at Christmas (and possibly other times), key-chain Sharpie marker with purchases over X dollars, one entry into a drawing for a $25 gift card of your choice for every X dollars.
Today’s questions then:
- Check out these gift card wrappers. Most are 16 cents per wrapper when ordering 1000. At best, we can order two designs. Do we go with one more generic “A gift for you” type card, a Christmas themed one, or one of both?
- Here’s a flier about the Gift Card Ministry. It answers three basic questions about the program: Why, What and How. It’s intentionally emphasizing the “why” we do it and frames profits in terms of how many trips it paid for. It also draws the “why” into the “what” and the “how” using the recurring phrase “serve others in Jesus’ Name.” We do it to help students serve in Jesus’ Name and when you purchase gift cards, you serve in Jesus’ Name through us. The back side is not done yet. Any wording that’s confusing? If you can, show it to someone who’s never heard of Scrip and see what they think about it.
- Which incentives would get you buying cards? Most are self-explanatory. The marker idea was so that people could have it with them to track the balance. Also, what should X be for pens and drawing entries? Markers cost around $1.20, so we’d lose money on sales of $25/50. We’d make money at $100 on all cards except Wegmans/Tims/Target where we essentially break even.
During the Dave Ramsey Town Hall for Hope event, he talked about what to look for in a financial advisor: one who has the heart of a teacher. If they aren’t willing to teach you about managing finances, they aren’t worth having as an advisor.
I like to think I have the heart of a teacher. I love teaching, especially in impromptu moments. During the funeral for Ken Cross yesterday, I was running sound in the media booth. Becca, one of our youth, asked if she could come sit up there with me. She joined me in the booth and started asking questions about the board.
I ran through some basic functions: mute, volume, which slider was for which microphone, etc. We started off both manning the board. I handled the Lectern/Pulpit mics and she took Pastor Carl’s. Ten minutes into the service and I had moved off to the side and she was running the show. It was fun multi-tasking for me and she had a good time learning something new.
At the heart of it, youth ministry is about discipleship. Spiritual growth is certainly a key piece, but we also like to help youth grow in other areas. We want to help nurture youth to be the young men and women God wants them to be. And it’s a joy to be a part of the process along the way.
We had what we’re now calling a “Prayer Party” last night for Jennie with our youth group at church. Here’s how the name came about:
On the way to the Lake yesterday, Kelsey was telling me about her experience at camp this year. She told me that she had mentioned some other counselors that she had been at a prayer party just before leaving for camp. The prayer party was a special gathering we had to pray for Annie as she was getting ready for her 2nd surgery.
After a little bit of ribbing and laughing, one of the other counselors asked what that meant. Kelsey told them how we get together and pray for youth who are having surgery. It usually involves goodies of some sort, gifting a blanket to the youth who is having surgery, then laying hands on and praying for them and their family.
After hearing the description, the other counselors expressed how they wished their youth group did the same thing.
It’s funny how “traditions” get started, but the Prayer Party is a fun one for us now. It’s great to see God working through them. And I imagine He might even feel like it’s a party when His kids come together to lift one another up in prayer.
Here’s our Workcamp T-Shirt for this year. Big thanks to Randy for the design:
Our Workcamp shirts are becoming something of a spiritual memorial. After we’re back, they remind us of the work we did in a particular city. We can remember what God has done in the past and look forward to what He will do in the future.
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.
Last night, we celebrated our 8th Graders who are getting ready to make their Confirmation this Sunday. It’s a special day in the lives of our students, so we celebrate them at a special banquet every year. Everyone gets dressed up and we put on an amazing spread of food for families.
Each year, we get comments about how great the event is, but especially about the food. That’s all thanks to Mike Hangen and his crew of helpers. This year, that was Anne Miller and Kathy Figini. (Kathy #1 of Kathy, Cathy, Kathy, Cathi, Kathy fame.) The team outdid themselves again this year!
Another special piece of the banquet is that our High School students serve the meal to the 8th Graders. Megan, Shannon, Hope, Kelsey and Anna were our serving crew this year. It’s fun to see them serve, but especially fun for this event as they wait on the “Rising Freshman” as they are starting to be called.
The best part, however, is this is an opportunity for students to get some one-on-one focused time with their parents. Just like with Everyday Faith: My Bible and the Senior Blessing Event, we want to provide opportunities for families to have special moments with their children. For many of the kids, this is probably one of the few times when they’re able to be the sole point of attention for their parents.
How do short-term mission trips affect those who go?
- 75% say the experience changed their life in some way
- 25% say it helped them become more aware of other people’s struggles
- 16% say it taught them more about poverty, justice, or the world
- 11% say it increased their compassion
- 9% say it enriched their faith
- 9% say it broadened their spiritual understanding
- 5% say it boosted their financial generosity
It would be interesting to see where our youth fall on this, but my guess is the percentages are higher. Group recently shared some stats about the Workcamp Experience, based on the at-camp survey:
Question (% answering “yes”)
- Did the youth leader grow closer to the youth in their group? (99%)
- Did the youth leader feel their youth grew closer to God? (98%)
- Did the youth group grow closer to each other as part of the camp experience? (97%)
- Did each camper grow closer to God? (97%)
- Would each camper want to participate in Group mission camp again? (97%)
Not bad. I’m looking forward to our next trip already. Speaking of which, the deadline to register is October 19.
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!
The Sunday before the series starts, we’ll be voting on some of the top songs at Billboard’s music charts. The highest vote-getter will be the basis for our lesson the following week. The plan is to look at popular culture and see what spiritual issues it raises and what the Bible says about those things. Most of our students are listening to this music, so we want to explore it with them and teach the skills to identify those spiritual issues and bring them back to the Scriptures on their own.
This song probably won’t make the list (thanks to The Plow):
How did Christian music ever make it out of the early days?
This is one of the most chaotic times of the year for me. We’re trying to put out a master calendar for all events in Cornerstone and Crossroads at the beginning of the year so families know when to plan on being at church. It includes teaching topics, events and more. I’m always thankful for the final product, but it’s a ton of work getting it all worked out.
I’m especially thankful that I’m able to do something now in scheduling events/ministry that will help me when the baby comes. Right now, we’re looking at a lull in Student Ministry that requires intense work on my end from mid-November through the end of the year. From what I’ve heard from other families, they’re excited to try a less taxing schedule during December as well.
The other thing that planning now does is allow for ministry to happen while I’m over-busy learning to be a parent. If the stuff wasn’t planned and prepped now, when I have the time, it wouldn’t get done and our ministry would suffer. Still, it’s a challenge.
After some good sleep in my own bed, I’m ready to start wrapping up the Workcamp for the year. There are a lot of decisions to be made for next year, and a lot of evaluating yet to do, but I wanted to get some thoughts down on paper (or digital bits as the case may be). It’s a long post, but I’ve broken it up in sections so you can just read the ones that interest you. Don’t miss the video and the picture of our group they put in the local museum at the bottom. Here we go:
Quick Hit Thoughts
- Having youth from our church in our crew was great. Really great.
- Our youth were well-behaved despite some over-tired moments.
- Saturday was too long. I can’t help but wonder if we missed some opportunities for ministry by spending all day at the amusement park.
- We may move the after-event to before the Workcamp. I want youth coming home focused on Workcamp, not the special event.
- Piqua is a generous community. We were blessed to be there.
- Media was everywhere. Bucher’s Beat visited Workcamp (Like our Why Guy). We’re towards the left hand side in the video.
- The school was cold at night.
- Christkins need to be explained more, possibly in written form.
- Cell phones are growing to be a bigger problem than in the past.
- We need a “What to know about Workcamp”, including what to pack, published at the very beginning.
What I’m Thinking In More Detail
- I think there’s a better chance of continuing the ministry back home with this style camp than there is with the more traditional one. It felt like we were getting a little tired of one another towards the very end of the week, but in the end, our youth came away knowing more about each other than ever before. Those who wanted to meet new people had plenty of opportunities to do that.
- The pictures from this camp are so much better than in the past. It used to be that most of our pics were of one youth from our group. This time, they tell a different story. Check out the ones Group took. Lots of stories in those pictures. Here are some of my favorites that our people took. I only had mine and Carolyn’s pics to choose from, but I’ll add more once I get digitals from other people.
- Thursday night is so powerful as we hear of the life and forgiveness found in Christ, followed by our special evening enjoying letters from home. I wonder if these should be spread out onto 2 different nights. Maybe the letters happen on Wednesday night instead so youth can enjoy the Thursday night message on their own time. Doing them together means youth need to hurry out of the program and spend less personal time in prayer after the event.
- Piqua was a wonderful community to serve. They really rallied around us, giving us a welcome bag with goodies, getting businesses to give away free stuff like drinks and meals, inviting us into their homes, feeding us and just generally loving us. Maybe it has something to do with Piqua being a smaller community. Katherine, our resident’s daughter, was on the host team and worked with hospitality. They nailed it.
- We weren’t approached as often as I’d have liked to pray for people, but I’m still happy we did it. I wonder if there’s a better way to get people to actually take us up on the offer. I noticed lots of people reading them, but not many actually asking. My first wasn’t until I was standing in line for The Beast at King’s Island. Still, even for one person, it’s worth doing.
- Other groups came with some great ideas to meet people at Camp. One group had an “Introduce Yourself” clothespin. You had to introduce yourself to someone to get rid of it, then you give it to them. Another had a thumb war clothespin. I’d like to bring some of those things along next year to our camp. I’d also like to do some sort of Workcamper Bingo game that gets our youth out meeting people and finding out some interesting things about them.
- I love getting to see the students wrestle with the theme each year. Maybe it was because we made some videos, maybe it’s because we were trying to be more intentional about teaching the theme ahead of time, but whatever the reason, many of them really connected with it. They were taking risks, looking for ways to serve and have their gifts multiplied. I was really proud of them.
Jaime has always thought it would be a good idea to get shirts made that say something like the above made and wear them on one of our trips. Now, we can do one better.
I’m going to print up ID Cards for all our kids and bring some of the bright yellow lanyards for them to wear with it. It will be totally optional, but we’ll have enough so that all our youth and adults can participate if they want to. Some questions:
- Is there a better text to put on there? I debated between a question and a statement.
- If a statement, should it be punctuated? It looks weird, but the teacher in me says it should be.
- Should we print extras and bring supplies so we can pass them out to other interested individuals at the camp?
- Are there other badges we could make for the trip that would give our youth opportunities to minister to others?
I’m really excited about this fun, informal way of discipling our youth. We’d coach them ahead of time for what to do:
- Ask for a name so you can pray for the person by name.
- Get some specific prayer requests.
- Give them some “generic” prayer requests in case people want prayer but aren’t comfortable sharing.
What a great way to give them some practice sharing Christ with those they come in contact with while on the trip, plus it gets our kids meeting lots of new people and having conversations. Plus it will be great to share the stories during our evening devotions. I’ve got goose bumps thinking about the possibilities to Love Out Loud here.
When we made the switch to our new system for the carwash this year, there was lots of talk about how much money we’ll raise. In the past, we’ve called the congregation for donations, then supplemented those donations with “free-will” offerings at the “free” carwash. We also sold drinks/hot dogs. It all seemed somehow … not right. We weren’t sending the best message we could to the community, our youth or the congregation.
I like Data. Seth Godin wrote about the importance of data yesterday in the context of marketing. He argues there are 5 pieces to marketing, and the two foundation blocks are data and stories. For two years now, I’ve been tracking the data of the carwash. Here’s the breakdown of what we made in 2007:
- $1,560 in collected pledges from members
- $475 donation from Thrivent. (Thanks for all you do for us Thrivent, especially our local congregation reps!)
- $384 from food sales and “free-will” offerings.
- TOTAL: $2,419
The data said we were risking about $384 to try something new.
Now for the story. As of Saturday at the Carwash, we were at roughly $1,800 in donations. There was some anxiety when we shared the amount donated to that point with the youth. I’m sure some were thinking we should re-think this whole “no donations” thing at the carwash. Jaime and I didn’t put in a donation for the carwash yet, so we were talking about what to give. We decided on an amount on Monday. I went to the office on Tuesday to see the Teller’s report. I add up the numbers, add in our donation, and guess where we end up?
Seriously. And to the best of my knowledge, that’s all donations from members, no matching funds from Thrivent. That’s a 55.2% increase in giving from the congregation. Our “data” was better than last year, plus we added a pretty cool story and built a better connection between our youth and the congregation, not to mention the impact we made on those that came to the carwash.
It seems like maybe we made the right decision this year. And maybe God really means what He says.
And now, some fine work from Paul:
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.
My 3 month goal from the National Youth Ministry Conference was to develop a plan for praying for our youth on a regular basis. This would not replace the 3rd Thursday Prayer group (which, btw, actually meets this Thursday because of Maundy Thursday last week), but rather would be a supplement to it. We want to pray for the youth, but we want them to know we prayed for them as well. Toward that end, I’ve drawn up a new prayer card, similar to our birthday one:
As we pray for the youth, we’d send them a card letting them know we prayed for them and that they are loved by God and their church. Now I just need to draw up the rotation and find the volunteers to commit to praying for the youth regularly. If any of you are interested, let me know and I’ll add your name to the list.
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.
I got to spend the better part of two hours sharing with our OPUS (Older Persons Up to Something) group about our student ministry today. I loved my time with them. I love talking about our youth and what we’re doing in ministry with them, and the OPUS gang loved to hear about it. Despite the difference of age, they have a real heart to see our youth nurtured and cared for by the church.
Their love for youth is why our church has been around since 1839. We’ve never stopped caring for the young people of our congregation. Just like the “traditional” family unit, we’re one generation in the church from losing the faith. These men and women have a passion for our kids and love to hear what we’re doing on their behalf in ministry. I wish I could make our youth understand how much their church truly loves them. A great day!
One of the blessings here at First Trinity is the abundance of people willing to participate in leadership. Another blessing is that we get to take them to conferences and workshops as a team from time to time. Some of the Cornerstone small group leaders (Heide, Paul and Phil) are heading to the National Youth Ministry Conference with me. Alicia, who triples as one of our office workers, small group leader for Crossroads Sunday School and plans Crossroads events, will also be joining us.
We leave on Thursday and return Monday. I hope to be blogging from the conference with some of the fun insights we gain from the speakers and workshops. I’m looking forward to a great time of spiritual and programmatic growth while we’re there!
The weather people were predicting it and it turns out they were right. The heavens did indeed open up Saturday night, dropping snow on the city throughout the evening and most of Sunday. Because of the snow, we had to make a decision about church. Thankfully, just like we tell our youth, we decided well before the storm even started gathering to have services. We don’t cancel church services at First Trinity. We’ve decided that those who can get to church will come and we will celebrate worship together, no matter how many people there are. It’s been an interesting thing in the 2 short years I’ve been here.
During the October storm of 2006, we saw ~125 people at worship on Sunday morning. I remember being crowded into Grace, the only room with a heating source (a natural gas fireplace), and celebrating Communion together. Families were sitting on the couches in the back all squished together so everyone could fit. We even had people out in the halls looking in for the service.
This past weekend, we had a decent crowd again, and again celebrated Communion together. We had a modified form of Sunday School for all ages. We even had visitors at church looking for worship because their churches had canceled. There were also five people who had been to church Saturday night with us and came back Sunday morning. It was a great morning, and I’m thankful we made that decision to have services no matter what happens outside.
In case you weren’t able to get out for church (and we say that’s OK!), you can still hear the sermon on Expectant Hope. Use the audio player below, or download the audio yourself.
I’m a firm believer that God has blessed us to be a blessing to others. He calls us to give a portion of our income back to Him. While we have been freed from the hard “10%” number, I still consider 10% to be a good goal. The point is not the number, but to stretch our faith. We should give until it’s a little uncomfortable and then see how God responds.
I also believe that if students are to learn the joy of tithing, we must model it to them. That means that parents should include their kids in the discussion about what to give to the church each week. It means that the church must set an example of tithing. And so our ministry tithes from all group fundraising efforts. We give students the opportunity to decide where we send the money, so they may know the joy of giving to others. We did this at our meeting this past Sunday. Here’s what they decided:
- $125 to the orphanage in Les Cayes, Haiti that we sponsor as a church
- $94 to the 30 Hour Famine that the Crossroads youth will participate in on Feb 8-9, 2008
- $70 to Lutheran World Relief
May you be a blessing to others through your stewardship of time, talents and treasures!
I happened across this cool photo of the earth today. When I step back and look at our planet, I realize how small we really are compared to the sheer immensity of it. I’m struck by the beauty of it, even from a distance into space. It helps me to understand how all the small pockets of beauty (and not so beautiful places) fit into the whole and increases my appreciation for it all.
An interesting side-discussion occurred in my Introduction to Theology class today at the Seminary. We were talking about teaching the Christian faith to students and how the catechism is constructed towards this end. Often, confirmation is about memorizing statements about what we believe. We focus on the smaller beauty (or not so beautiful, depending on your feelings towards the catechism…) and miss the larger picture.
Those truths were all drawn from the larger backdrop of Scripture, but we focus only on a key verse here or there rather than the whole. The small things are important, but so is the big picture.
At Cornerstone and Crossroads, we look to teach the close-up details and truth of the Bible, but put them in the context of the larger picture. Our large group teaching time explores the details, while our small group time allows students to dig into the bigger picture as a group as we focus on a story from Scripture that emphasizes the key point we’re teaching. It’s why we believe the 1-Minute Bible is a great resources for students (Email me if your student wants a copy) as it helps them understand the big picture while developing a habit in their lives. It’s why we try to tie our events into the greater picture of the Scriptures, using stories that relate to our activity whenever possible.
I’m thankful for the close-up, detailed descriptions of what we believe that have been developed over the years. But I’m also thankful for simple stories from the Bible that give us the big picture about God.
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)
May you see the big picture in the little baby this Christmas!