Don’t Phone It In…

In acting, or in speaking, you may have heard the phrase, "phoning it in".  It basically means that rather than giving it your all in doing something or performing, you simply go through the motions, and phone it in.  I've heard of lots of performers that do this, actors, singers, etc.  They kind of just go through the motions without adding any kind of personal connection. 

This usually occurs with people who are most celebrated in their own mind.  They consider themselves to be better than they are, and because they are so good at what they do, they don't require any additional training, nor do they need to put any effort into what they do.  It's just "star power" really. 

It can also occur when the performer has led himself to believe that he is undervalued or placed in a role that is "beneath him".  For example, I was with people in college who were incredibly gifted actors/dancers and in some shows they were cast as the "chorus".  They were still really good – but maybe put less effort into it. 

I think we can be guilty of this in life every day.  We kind of "phone in" who we are.  We make ourselves out to be more important than we are (pride) and we become complacent in our walk with Jesus.  We are so good, we know so much already, that we don't need to pray today.  We don't need to read God's Word today.  Or maybe, we forget how valuable we are to Jesus.  We forget that he sacrificed himself for us.  We are worth the price of Jesus' death on a cross, and we walk around like we aren't worth that much.  Why bother put in the effort?

The difference is this.  You can't "phone in" your identity.  It's who you are.  If you are a child of God, then you are a child of God.  Live like the child of God.  Walk humbly in grace, but confident in who He is. Don't "phone it in".  Every day, live for the one who died and lives again.  Live with the purpose He called you to.  Be intentional.  We are called to be complete in Him.  That doesn't happen by accident.  It requires a renewing of the mind, a redemption of the heart.

 

 

A Parent-Child Celebration

This past Sunday night, we did something at Journey we do about twice a year.  We call it a Parent-Child Dedication service.  It's one of my favorite things we do.

Some churches do infant baptism.  Since baptism is a personal decision one makes after he or she decides to follow Jesus, this does not fit with our beliefs in what biblical baptism looks like.  Our pastors did a great job explaning that elsewhere so I won't here.

Some churches have a Baby Dedication.  I grew up in a church that has those.  It bascially amounted to bringing some parents with infants dressed up pretty to the front of the auditorium.  The crowd makes a fuss when one of them sneezes or wriggles off a shoe.  The pastor or someone prays that these kids would grow up to know Jesus.  The families walk away.  It took about five minutes.

In fact, I think in Journey's first two years, that's the way it was done.  I wasn't here for all of that so I can't really say.  I just know that when it fell into my lap, I wanted it to be different.  I started doing some research and realized that I wasn't the only one!

So, we decided to make it intimate and special.  Since parents have the greatest influence in a person's life during their developmental years, doesn't it make more sense to pray for, encourage, and equip the parents? 

On Sunday, 14 famlies stepped forward to raise themselves to the calling that God has given them to create environmnets in their homes for their kids to one day know Jesus personally.  They committed to walk in faith, to model Jesus, to make it very personal.  They will fight for the heart and soul of their kids to walk in the grace of Jesus.

I'm thrilled about the steps these families are taking.  We as a church have a responsibility to give them our full support.  They are the true children's pastors.  The church is there to be their greatest ally and to help them succeed in their calling as a family of making Jesus famous in their family tree.  In 18 years, those kids will know they have a loving God and creator that they can trust and be able to live the abundant life!  They will have the support of their family, and the church.

(That, by the way, is a BIG calling Journey Church!  So, join in and get involved!  Our familes need the church, and the church is people!)

 

 

The Next Level

For some reason, this phrase has come up a lot lately. 

I told Whitney this last night:

"I feel like we are having a hard time getting to the next level.  It's because sometimes you get ahead of me, and I can't see where I am.  Or sometimes, you get lost when I'm moving ahead, or I'll jump and you can't keep up.  You know?"

I was talking about getting to the next level in "Donkey Kong Country Returns on our Wii, but I was totally saying it as if I were a guest on Dr. Phil.

But – what is true is that I sometimes talk to people who are struggling to get to that next level, or what they think is the next level, in their walk, or in their marriage, or in their life goals, plans, etc.

I think Jimmy said it well this past weekend.  It's about dying, not trying.  It's about surrender. 

In our Uptown environment this past weekend, we looked at Paul and his letter in 2nd Corinthians.  He goes on and on about all of this bad stuff that really would have given him the ultimate excuse to stop doing what God wanted him to do.  And after it all, he says, "May God be praised." 

I mean, this is a guy was hit with a whip 195 times.  This is a guy who was in three separate shipwrecks.  This is a guy who was betrayed, beaten, stoned, and nearly died numerous times all for preaching the gospel. 

And you want to go to the next level?!

Okay – so you likely won't encounter those things.  And let me be clear – I don't think that going to the next level means that you have to encounter troubles like that.  BUT – I think getting to the next level, living in surrender, means that when things get difficult, you still walk in surrender and say, "May God get the glory."

That means He gets the glory in the morning.  He gets to be praised in your marriage, and the lives of your kids.  He gets the accolades in your job, and in your car.  He gets them on the treadmill too (which if you see it, say hi to it for me…)

My next level isn't that different than the next persons. 

They are both surrender. 

 

 

LIFE

So, if you've been coming to Journey this month, you know that we have been going through a series in our adult worship about LIFE, and the theme is roughly based on the board game, LIFE.

Last night, Whitney and I played LIFE: The Twists and Turns Edition.  This specific game of LIFE is no longer in production, and there is a long story involving several midnight Wal-mart runs to the last one in the state of North Carolina.  That story is for another time.

LIFE is an interesting game.  It involves choices, some with consequences, some with rewards.  You can play the lottery, or play the market, or buy insurance or not.  You have options.

It can bring to mind a lot of questions about your own life. How did you end up where you are?  What choices did you make to bring you to this point? 

Those questions aren't necessarily bad.  But if you find yourself in a spot that is less than pleasing, you probably already know the answer.  You lived the answer, and that's how you have ended up where you are.  The better question is,  "what will you do about it?"  And that is where we must ask questions like Jimmy has been speaking on.  What is my purpose in life?  What is the vision?  How does that play into the mission of Jesus? 

In thinking on this, I began to realize that next generation ministry (i.e. kids, students, college, etc.) is extremely important. What if you could answer those questions along the way rather than later in life when you can't undo things?

Proverbs 16:1-3 "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established."

I have to believe that the verses are true for not just adults, but for kids, for anyone who is following Jesus. Imagine growing up believing that there is a plan for your life.  If you grow up believing in something bigger, and in a Savior who rescued you for a specific purpose, then wouldn't you want to know what it was?  Wouldn't you spend your time seeking it out?

So, when big decisions come along like what college to go to, what career path to pursue, who you will date and marry,who your friends are – do not all of those questions have a more pointed, more directed, purposeful, and missional answer? Doesn't that change the way you view the world, and your relationship with others and Jesus?

I think it changes everything. 

 

 

Something New

It's a new year. 

Well, it's been a new year for two weeks, so I'm sure by now the novelty has worn off with most of us. 

(Here is where I should insert something about how I haven't written since October, and what's the benefit, and yadda ydda yadda.  I'll spare myself and any reader the time of reading that nonsense.)

Last week, I was reading in Genesis.  I've read it before, many times. But this is the first book of the Bible and it has a lot going on in it.  I was prepping it for some work coming up with our UPTOWN:Wreck this Bible class and was amazed at how much comes from just 50 chapters.  If you want to know about God, if you want to know His heart, you have to start in the book of beginnings.  This book gives His promise, and the reason for the promise.  It's filled with displays of His compassion and His love and justice.  He sets up the BIG picture from the very beginning.  And it was good.

What caught my attention on this read through was in chapter 4.  Cain has murdered his brother and is exiled away from his parents.  He starts building a city, named for his son, Enoch.  Enoch grew up then with his own city, quite literally, and has a kid, who has a kid, who has a kid, who has a kid named Lamech.  Lamech marries two women (uh-oh) and has three kids that we know about. 

The first was named Jabal.  Here we have our first shepherd perhaps.  He is "the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock" (vs. 20).

The second was named Jubal.  I'm sure it wasn't confusing when their parents called for them.  Their names are so different.  Anyway, Jubal was "the father of everyone who plays the harp and the flute" (vs. 21).

The third was named Tubal-Cain.  He "made all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron" (vs. 22).

Think about it.  What if you were the guy who began playing music for the first time on earth?  What if you were the first shepherd?  What if you were the one who designed tools?

These three people are mentioned for just a moment in the Bible, but this was something new.

Music would be played on these kinds of instruments all throughout history.  The harp would be played by David, who was also a shepherd, who probably had shepherding skills passed down from to the next for a couple of thousand of years. And who knows, maybe those tools designed back then are still in use even today. So, we today, in a strange way, are still connected all the way back to the beginning of this earth.

What's interesting to me also is that at the end of this chapter, in verse 26, we read, "At that time people began to worship the LORD."

This was something new.  People were just beginning to worship the LORD.

Maybe it was because now there were things competing for their time, or for their attention.  Or maybe it was because they had some things to use in their worship.

Maybe they played music and thought, "I could write a song about our amazing creator."

Maybe they were in a field watching over livestock and thought, "God takes care of me just like I take care of these animals."

Maybe they were building something and thought, "What if there was a place where we could all come together and share with each other stories about our talks with God?"

It was something new.

Today we have so many more new things than then.  How are we using them to begin worshiping the LORD?

 

Then, there were four!

This weekend, our MiNi CiTy kids are learning about three guys named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  I'm not sure if I spelled their names right. But the point is, these were three guys who knew what we are teaching our kids this month: "I can always count on God."

Whitney, who leads our MiNi CiTy team, wrote this to our leaders:

"This coming week we are learning about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I would say that those three were DEFINITELY superheroes! I freaked out when a little bacon grease splattered on me this morning…I’m not sure I’m willing to go jump in a flaming, hot furnace! What a crazy story and a great way to remind our preschoolers that they can ALWAYS count on God!"

How true!

We are teaching our kids they can be superheroes if they remember they can always count on God.  That's part of having faith, right?  Trusting Him no matter what!

So, these three guys jump in a furnace knowing God would save them, but even if not, they were not going to bow down and worship anyone else.  As a result, God was with them in the fire, and the king who tossed them in, was amazed and said, "Wait!  I see four people in there…"  When they walked out, the king knew who the one true God was!

So, if you see some preschoolers wearing red capes this month, just remember they are in training to know that they can ALWAYS count on God!

 

Sing-A-Long: Parents and Kids Singing Together

This past weekend I went to a showing of Beauty and the Beast at the movie theater.  This was a sing-a-long version where the words to all the songs appear on the screen and the audience is encouraged to sing with the movie.

Yes, this movie was realeased in 1991, making yours truly only 7 or 8 years old. So, on Saturday, I went to see it again, now 26 years old.  I still loved it, by the way.

What is interesting to me is that the audience was made up of adults, and kids, and little girls dressed up like Belle (I saw princess-dress-Belle, village-Belle, and almost-princess-dress-Belle).

The whole idea of it was really absurd right?  Who pays $10 for a movie ticket to here the popcorn eater next to you sing "Bonjour!" at the top of his lungs?

It was very cool to see (and even hear) parents and kids singing songs together.  What a cool experience!

So – to all parents everywhere, sing songs with your kids!  They don't have to be Disney either.  The songs we sing at Journey Church each week will do!  Create a family experience at home or in your car every day.

And if you need some music for you and your kids, check out AmberSkyRecords.com

Most of the music we use in MiNi CiTy and UPTOWN can be found there!

 

15-10-5 Years

I was recently asked, how I think Children's Ministry has changed in the past 15, 10 and 5 years.  I'm not sure my answer was exhaustive at the time (I'm still considering it's validity in some aspects) but here's what I said.  I'm sure we all have our own versions because a great deal of this is based on subjective experience.  You might have a different story. 

 

15 Years Ago: I was twelve years old and could tell you a lot about the Bible.  I came from a children’s ministry where you sat at a table.  I likely did an activity sheet of some kind or made some crafty thing.  Our 5th and 6th grade class at that church were combined into a group shamelessly named “Tweens” because we were “in-between” elementary aged and full out teen-dom.  It was at that age that there was more relational based elements but it was still in a class room and we sat and talked.  I can’t remember much about it.  In fact, all my elementary years were pretty much that way.  We would go to a classroom.  However, at another church, we had Sunday school one hour and children’s church another hour, where there was a teacher who preached, but used clever stories, anecdotes, and games to keep our attention (with the occasional illusion, not magic, trick). There was no connection to parents really.  There were events scheduled to counter what the world had to offer.  Instead of Halloween, there would be a Harvest Festival where if you knocked cardboard Goliath’s head out with a wooden block, you got a piece of candy.  And you had to dress like a Bible character.  (No superheroes allowed.)

 

10 Years Ago: I was 17 and was working at a children’s camp which exposed me to lots of churches doing things in different ways.  Our format was very active, and the kids were asked to learn 15 verses in a week (which I doubt they remember at all now).  I spent an entire summer with the chapter of Psalm 91 and can’t remember half of it.  Another church in Virginia beach was taking VBS to a HUGE level, and it was then that I realized what VBS was becoming. A big investment into one week of the summer.  There was a big emphasis on VBS, and BIG events that got kids out.  Churches learned that if you could get the kids out to the church, the parents would come with them.  And they were right!  So, there began to be an emphasis on children’s ministry.  Parents wanted to their kids to grow up in a church that they enjoyed going to.  And this is where I think we began to see the start of the shift.  With families placing emphasis on great children’s ministries, the church began to place emphasis on children’s ministry.  The church was declining.  How will the church survive if we don’t begin emphasizing the next generation?  

 

Then, the world changed. In the fall of 2001, (I was still 17), people’s attitudes changed.  There was a huge culture shift to family.  I first realized it in a strange way.  I am a big movie person.  I like tracking movies, and seeing which movies make the most money in a given weekend.  Family movies began doing really well.  In fact the family movie genre as a whole saw a big uprising, even the ones that were stinkers.  Families were looking for something.  Parents wanted to not just ensure that their kids had good influences, but parents wanted to be the good influence, and wanted to connect to their kids somehow.

 

I truly believe that there has been a huge emphasis on partnering with parents as a result. It starteed before then, I'm sure. I think any time a catastrophe hits, family becomes really important.

 

5 Years Ago: The phrase “partnering with parents” is synonymous with children’s ministry.  The trend is no long for children’s ministry to be an isolated entity but rather integrated into a strategy that understands every next generation ministry is essential to the other.  If we can walk with parents from birth to graduation then our kids have a better chance of having that personal faith and relationship with Jesus.  It’s about a personal faith rather than a parental faith.  So, how we live, how we are light, how we follow Jesus, is more important than how much we know in our heads about him.  What good does a lot of knowledge do?  Further, kids only come once a week.  Who is with them more than that?  Parents.  Whereas before (10 years ago) the trend was let’s bring our kids out of one environment and place them in another, the trend is now, our kids have to live in that environment, we can’t escape from it, so how can we train them to live in it in a manner that is following Jesus.  This is taking phrases we know to another level.  Being in the world, but not of the world, being light in darkness, being salt of the earth – they take on new layer when we begin living that out.

Let’s Try this Again

Okay -

I never quite fell into a rhythm with the blog.  I get it.  But now there's a plan.  And words.  And a plan.

With the start of the fall, my coffee cup becomes more full and my mind more scholastic.  It's the smell of folders, pencils, and fresh notebook paper that does it. 

So, I'll be posting some recent thoughts over the next few days.

Actually some of what I'll be posting I submitted in response to some questions were sent to me as a project or research report.  I had a great time answering them because it made me stop and think – something I do often, just not often enough – about what we do as leaders in children's ministry.

 

There are other thoughts upcoming as we progress.

 

 

The Mouse Ran Up the Clock

Let’s be clear from the beginning here.  I have never been good with schedules.  I have heard of people who are good at
keeping schedules.  I envy those
people.  When I attended Liberty
University, it was known that  Jerry
Falwell planned his calendar in increments of three minutes.  That’s how he was able to accomplish so much
in a day.  A lofty goal to be sure.  But that’s not me.

I’m one of those that tries to stay organized with tasks and
to-do lists and somehow falls flat every time. 
I have read things on time management, and staying organized.  In fact, a student ministry class I took in
college had a required text about time management.  It was full of lofty goals and pie charts,
the kinds of things that would make Peter Drucker happy.

And that’s the problem. I’ve read Drucker’s Effective
Executive
, and it too was full of big plans, big words and such.  And it is very helpful for time management
and I’m sure that others have benefited from it greatly.  The problem is, my brain can’t handle
it.  I’m too scattered, too mobile, in my
brain.  While working on one task, I will
think of three others and as if a reflex, I stand up and go do those things I
just thought of, leaving the current task incomplete until hours later when I
realize I spiraled into a multitude of “Oh yeah!  I’ve got to do that!” moments.  Then, I realize I’ve accomplished little,
except beginning a lot of tasks and not quite finishing them.

I read that ADD people might work better in a color-coded sticky note system.  That worked for about
two days until I forgot about it.  I couldn’t
keep track of sticky notes.  They’re sticky,
but not THAT sticky.  (I really felt good
about that one too, because, I love color coding things.)

Then, I read a book by someone who is in the same field as
me.  Jim Wideman wrote a really great book
on time management strategies called Beat the Clock.  While it incorporates some of the same
principles as I’ve read in other books, it’s explained in a way that makes
sense to me, and that for the past week, has helped me really stick to a
schedule.  Why?  What’s the difference?

For me, it boils down to this idea, which he writes on page
33: “Listen, your brain is not for remembering. 
That’s your calendar’s job.  Your
brain is for thinking and dreaming-what a radical concept!”

Now, I know that’s a “duh” phrase, but really that’s me in a
nutshell.  I’ve never been good about
writing out what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, and then I get
frustrated when I forget things.  This
little phrase told me, “You don’t have to remember the details.”  That was a moment of freedom for me.  I have full clearance to forget things once I
put them down.  That made my brain happy.

So, last week, I planned out my week, day by day, allowing
for some room for things that would be unexpected.  I’ll be honest, my Monday last week
hurt.  It was painfully exhausting having
an alarm beep at me throughout the day, keeping me on track with the next
task.  In fact, when the schedule closed,
I was so tired I fell asleep.  Was I more
productive than other days? 

Whitney said, “You are already so productive in a week.  You get everything done that needs to be
done.  Why are you going to kill yourself
with a schedule?”  I told her I wanted to
create margin for the future.  We are a
growing body of Christ at Journey, and I have to be scheduled more as we
expand. 

So last week was a week that allowed me to forget.  I forgot all kinds of things, but my calendar
helped me a lot. 

This book was not just good about explaining the principles
of time organization, but also how to use the tools of time organization
effectively.  In doing so, it lays a
great groundwork for me to tackle the next big thing: multi-tasking. 

But – let’s just go minute by minute.

 Beat the Clock