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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Stuff I've Used in the Past 2 Weeks 12-28-14

Admittedly, the subject line for this post could be smoother, but it's the truth. I've used every single one of these resources in a coaching, consulting, shepherding or training conversation in the past two weeks. Sometimes more than once. There are so many issues on so many fronts that each one of us faces in a regular week of care and ministry to those around us. See if any of these scratch where you (or someone you know) itch.

200 Years of African-American Prayer - OnPoint Radio. So I jokingly tell people that I listen to NPR like it's my job. Interviews like this one explain why... in the midst of tragic news like Michael Brown, Eric Garner and die-ins, this story gave me some legs to stand on in terms of how to press on in the long journey toward dignity and equality for all. Listen to it on the edge of your seat.

College for Grown-Ups - NYTimes Now that the majority of my work life is spent pursuing leadership development with college students and young adults, I try to read everything I can find on the current trends in higher education, which appear to be changing about every 3.7 seconds! Here's a fascinating article on re-thinking the trajectory of college, from gap years to bootcamps to lifelong learning to MOOCs. Get the skinny here. For the next 3.7 seconds at least.

Yeah Yeah, Another Link about Millennials. Yes, I'm hitting repeat on this topic because it just keeps. coming. up. Many of the training and coaching conversations I have with pastors revolve around how to reach younger adults (roughly ages 18-34) which is understandable, given that the average age of church worshipers in the US is 54 (as of 2009), which is 10 years older than the average American.

There is certainly no quick fix, but here is a link with a GRIP of articles. Not everything will be applicable to every church, but what I appreciate about this link is that it is built on experience and data, not just guessing, hunches, or the opinion of one or two people. In my work with our Center for Transformational Leadership interns over the past 4 years, I have found many of the conclusions from this website to ring true. Students and young adults do not just look for more upbeat music -- they are looking for authenticity, intergenerational relationships, and consistent intentionality with their age group. They want to be given a voice in every aspect of church life, and taken seriously.

Dr. Kent Brantly -- Lessons Learned from Fighting Ebola. If you told me last year that a missionary working for an organization founded by Billy Graham's son Franklin would be profiled on NPR, I would have smirked at you with a "yeah, RIGHT" look. But here it is, front and center, and friends, it is one AMAZING interview. Dr. Brantly preaches the gospel in every way, shape and form in this 8-minute interview, and his final words about loving your neighbor will bring you to tears. I have recommended this interview to two clients already as an object lesson in teaching others how to be God's person in the marketplace. Yes please.

Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll. OK, not totally, but I did just receive an email from a parent asking how to talk about sex and dating with her 16 year-old son. I let her know that was not a book out there that I really trusted -- or more importantly I guess, that a student would be willing to read with his or her parent! But I found this series recently on Fuller Youth Institute that has some solid input: http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/viamedia-x1. There are 5 discussions on this link that can get the conversation going, at least.

Healing Words: Final thoughts as we finish up the year. How I hope you (and I!) will come up for air this week and get your bearings for 2015... Shalom. Come Lord Jesus.

I have come to believe that the true mystics are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self…. If they are wise, they treasure the rare moments of solitude and silence that come their way, and use them not to escape, to distract themselves with television and the like. Instead, they listen for a sign of God’s presence and they open their hearts toward prayer. 
Kathleen Norris

Monday, December 15, 2014

Simple Resources for Ministry 12-15-14

I will assume you are "busier than a one-armed paper hanger" (to use an old family saying) these days. So I will not clutter this post with complex theological conundrums. Here are three fundamentals for ministry that I found so valuable in the past week. 

My experience over many years has been that this season has been anything but relaxing. Between Christmas concerts, parties, special services, end-of-year budgets and last-minute shopping, it has been NUTS for me. So I hope and pray that this holiday season not be so full of work that you are not able to enjoy Jesus Himself. May the Spirit be deeply present in your midst. 

Idea from a client for involving more people in worship: One of the pastors I meet with weekly for coaching told me this: "I figured out an idea of having people read scripture in their language of origin, because I want to have different voices in worship. Jesus came for the world, and the world extends far beyond our experience, to remind us who the gospel is actually for. This past weekend, I had a women from India read in her native dialect, and halfway through, most of the congregation was weeping."

That'll preach! I receive daily devotional emails from Inward/Outward. Here is a pithy thought:

This is the mystery of the Christian life, to receive a new self, which depends not on what we can achieve but on what we are willing to receive.
Esther de Waal

Building blocks of ministry: I am in the thick of an eighteen-month journey with about 20 others, where we are doing our best to build a missional community in a Latino neighborhood. Most of our friends are poor and undocumented. For as many joys as we experience, we are also facing tremendous roadblocks and outright disappointment. These words really addressed some of my anxieties and were a healing balm to my discouragement:

There are, I should say, four elements in a redemptive community. It is personal, with things happening between people as well as to and in them individually; it is compassionate, always eager to help, observant but nonjudgmental toward others, breathing out hope and concern; it is creative, with imagination about each one in the group and its work as a whole, watching for authentic new vision coming from any of them; and it is expectant, always seeking to offer to God open and believing hearts and minds through which He can work out His will, either in the sometimes startling miracles He gives or in steady purpose through long stretches where there is no special "opening." It may fairly be said that unless one enmeshes himself in this "redemptive fellowship" of the church, he lessens his chances of steady growth and effectiveness, in his Christian life and experience. 
Samuel M. Shoemaker

May your work in the kingdom seek after these four things, for they are tremendous good news for all who experience them.