With the horrific event happening at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut last week, one of the things that has bothered me the most is that some have said this horrible tragedy has happened because “God is not allowed in the schools anymore.”
To start off with God is the almighty ruler of the universe, so this idea that God needs someone’s permission to be able to go somewhere is ridiculous. I believe when we make statements such as “God is not allowed in the schools anymore” we are showing how small our view of God truly is. Now I understand what many people mean by that statement, which is that class prayers are not offered, students are not taught about creation instead of evolution (I believe in creation), and students are not reading the Bible as a part of their English classes. My question is if these things are not happening does that mean God is not present? In my humble opinion not by a long shot.
I attended a public high school before I went to a Christian university and now seminary. In my years in high school I prayed each day and no one stopped me. Several students and I also led a Bible study/prayer group once a week at the school before school started which usually had around 20-30 people at it. I would bring my Bible to school sometimes or a devotional book so I could read it if I had spare time and no one made me put it away. I would on a regular basis tell people about my faith in Jesus Christ at school and invite friends to events at my church. Did I get made fun of for doing these things sometimes? Sure, but in my mind it was worth it. I chose wise times to do these things so it was not interfering with what the teachers where doing in the classroom and didn’t cause problems with other students education. I understand though that others may have faced more ridicule for doing these things in their school than I did.
I say all of this to say no one has taken God out of the schools. There are Christian students and teachers in public schools across this nation who each day are sharing the love of God with those around them, saying a prayer for their classmates, and sharing the hope they have in Jesus Christ. So do we have class-led prayers? No, but I don’t think we need that for God to move in a powerful way. What do we need then? We need people of faith that are willing to just say, “God I will follow you” and then take those steps of faith.
Ah yes….meetings the thing none of us can avoid. Whether you serve in the ministry or work at a secular job we all encounter the joy of having to go to meetings for our occupation. In the last 2 days I have had 4 meetings that I have had to attend. Some meetings we attend can be great and accomplish a lot while others can seem to drag on like a never-ending marathon of the TV show “Whitney”. There are times we are able to collaborate with others who work alongside us and accomplish great things and there are other times that we might feel like we are having a meeting just to have a meeting.
Here are some of my personal thoughts and questions about meetings…
Do we even need a meeting?
Do we have to sit down for this meeting or can we do it standing up to make it shorter?
What will be the structure of our meeting? What are we trying to accomplish?
Am I respecting people’s time with the meeting by keeping it productive and moving to accomplish our goals?
After the meeting ask yourself?
Did we accomplish the purpose we set out to with our meeting?
How will the churches mission advance because of what was discussed?
What was learned from the meeting?
When it comes to meetings what are some of the things you have done to make them the most effective? What are some of the biggest time wasters? What are some important principles you try to use when you are leading meetings? What are ways you get involved in meetings you are not leading?
If you are in the ministry Mondays can be a tough day. On Sunday there is usually so much going on from the worship service, Sunday School classes, to other ministries going on throughout the day and night. When Monday rolls around that next morning it can be a challenge. There is so much that needs done but you can still feel very drained from the day before. To be honest I am not the most productive on Monday. I know myself…I know I can’t tackle huge tasks on this day so I usually spend it reviewing what has been going on in the ministries, reading, reflecting, and visioning for the coming months. It is not the day that I will use to plan the logistics of the big event coming up, organizing a big promotion for a study coming up, or making lots of phone calls and emails. Today is different as I had my one on one meeting with my pastor, I am planning for our youth leader meeting for tonight, and I have 4 hours of driving I need to do in the middle of the day today. How about you? If you in ministry what do your Mondays look like? Obviously some of you are full time in ministry, some bi-vocational, and some volunteers.
Today I met with my youth ministry support group….we don’t really have a name but there were 8 of us there today from various denominations both Protestant and Catholic, Full time and Part time, those specifically in youth ministry and those who work with youth and various other areas. I really look forward to these meetings because it gives us all a chance to lift one another up in prayer, ask questions, share doubts, admit frustrations, and offer solutions. Did we solve all the problems in youth ministry today…no not by a long shot. However, it is great to know we are not alone in this but we have partners in the ministry. It is easy to begin looking at each other as “the competition” because we are all trying to reach out to teens in our local area but no good comes from this. As Christians we are all part of the body of Christ. We may differ in styles, disagree on how things should be done, and theology but nevertheless we are called to reach out into our world and make disciples for Christ.
If you don’t make the intentional effort it is easy to put yourself on an island all by yourself in the ministry and that can be a very lonely place. I want to challenge you this next week if you don’t have a ministry group you meet with find one to become a part of…if there isn’t one then start one! If you happen to be in the Toledo, Ohio area, you read my blog, and work with youth and would like to be a part of our group let me know!
Some of you who read my blog know me better than others but those who know me well know that I don’t do things half way. I am a very passionate person especially when it comes to the ministry I serve in. I have served in different jobs where I was able to go to work, do my job, check out and go home and not think about work until the next time I showed up but ministry is much different. Before my current ministry position I served as a postal ramp agent for a company that shipped out most of the mail from the state of Ohio to all of the other states. While I worked hard, tried to have a good attitude, and help those in need so I could set a good example in my faith I honestly didn’t feel a passion for U.S. Mail. I am glad I could do a good job, make my fellow employees laugh, and try not to freeze working 3rd shift at the airport however I was not passionate about people’s mail.
Things are so much different in my current ministry position….I love it…but last night I was restless. I tried to go home and unwind afterwards but the teens were on my heart. As I thought about the day I was thankful for the opportunity to be able to preach in the contemporary service earlier in the day and I prayed for those I was able to minister to. The best word that could describe how I felt last night was restless because I want so much for people to have a life of surrender to Jesus Christ. I know how powerful it can be when a teen shares their faith with their friends, I know what kind of impact it can make when a parent takes that time to guide their child in their faith, I know the power of a Christian when they are in prayer for those around them, I know the love that is available when we as a church care just as much for those who don’t know Christ yet as those who are already at our churches. When we surrender our lives to God and we die to ourselves and let him live through us we can see the power of a risen savior….we begin to expect the supernatural.
This is what kept me awake last night…this desire to see a people filled with the Holy Spirit reaching out to a broken and dying world with the hope of a new life in Christ. I wish these thoughts would not have kept me up till 3 a.m. because that alarm clock came awfully early this morning but I never want that passion to die.
In the different ministries we serve in we will all come across road blocks in the path of our goals. No matter if you are working with children, youth, or adults there will be those things that seem to keep popping up in your journey to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I think some of these obstacles that we face can be the same and some might differ based on the denomination we serve in, the size of our church, the area our church is located in, the part of the country we live in, etc…
I have a lot of youth that are involved in our ministries that their parents are not connected to the life of our church or if they are they are not really involved. This can make it hard for them to see the importance of being a servant and of not only being a disciple but being a disciple maker. Another area which I think many people struggle with is families schedules. There are so many opportunities these days and families are so busy that it makes it incredibly difficult to find ways to minister to them. When this happens it can be easy to demonize the schools for requiring the students to be at all those activities, or to think it is the church against school sports. However, we can also do what we can to equip those people to be disciples out in the community. Does this mean that the current system is fine…no I don’t actually. I think families many times are over stretched, over committed, and are living on spiritual fumes. There are many families that are going full blast from one activity to another and are not taking time to invest in their relationship with God or to encourage their children in their faith. The hard part is I can’t change that for them and neither can you. I continue to look for those opportunities to speak into people’s lives and pray that the Holy Spirit works in a mighty way through them.
What about you? What are some roadblocks you are facing in ministry? How are you dealing with them?
Let’s be honest….for myself asking for help is not easy. When I persevere, work hard, and accomplish a big task I feel pretty good about myself. Asking others for help is not a strong suit for me. Through the years I have gotten better with this but it is still not a strength of mine.
Throughout the years I have heard about the importance of not working harder but working smarter. One way for us to do this is to identify what our strengths are and continuing to grow in those areas. We also need to identify what our weaknesses are and empower others to lead in these areas. This may go against the advice of some who say it is important to work on those areas of weakness so they are not weak anymore. While I can agree with this to some extent I truly believe our time is better spent growing in the areas we are strongest.
For myself personally I am strongest in the area of Prophecy (declaring God’s truth boldly and publicly for the purpose of correction or instruction), Learning/knowledge (this is a God-given ability to gather, analyze, and share information appropriately with others, leading to greater understanding and insight), and Evangelism (the ability to effectively communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ to non-believers so they can respond and begin to grow in their faith). However, I am weak in the areas of Exhortation (encouraging) and Mercy. Does this mean that I should not work on being more encouraging or showing mercy? Of course not! I am aware that I am not strong in these areas so I keep my eyes open for opportunities to show mercy and be encouraging. Is this where I spend most of my time and energy though? No, I spend most of my time on working on being a more effective communicator which aligns more with my gifts and abilities.
So as we get ready to go into this new year I want to encourage if you have not done so already take a spiritual gifts test and find out how you are gifted and then use those gifts! Also identify in what areas you are weak and if you are leading a ministry find someone who is strong in those areas and empower them to lead! When we do this we don’t just add to our ministries we multiply if we are willing to be honest with who we are and how we are gifted.
Where do you need to be honest with yourself today?