Archives For May 2007

Around the World

May 30, 2007 — Leave a comment

I was just checking my blog stats on Google Analytics and found that my blog has been viewed literally around the world this year. I started this thing as a way to keep in touch with my family and friends and with the youth at church. I haven’t really publicized it much, and it still doesn’t have many subscribers, but it amazes me how many people stumble upon the site. So far this year I have had 1845 pageviews on the blog. Google has really changed how people use and find information on the web. I have listed all the different countries below from where people have viewed the site.

  • United States (Of Course), Canada, Chile, Venezuela, and Mexico
  • United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, France, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal
  • India, Nepal, Japan, Hong Kong, Turkey, Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and South Africa

The encouraging thing to me is that we are seeing how God can use the internet and technology to reach people all around the world. I’m excited about coming up with new and innovative ways to use technology to help make disciples of Jesus Christ!

Yesterday was Jenni’s birthday. She was giving me a hard time because I didn’t mention it on the blog. Now it’s officially posted here for everyone to see. She turned … , well on second thought, I’ll let her tell you. I’m just thankful that God brought us together. She is an incredible wife and mother and more importantly my best friend. It doesn’t seem possible but we are coming up on our 12 year anniversary.

Jenni is also special because she puts up with my pathetic gift giving. I really need some type of 12 step program on how to give better gifts. The 3-week stretch from Mother’s Day to the first week in June is rough because I have to get Mother’s day, birthday, and anniversary gifts. I’m just glad that gifts are not one of her primary love languages. She knows that I love her and that I show it in different ways. Thanks Jenni

I have really been slacking lately on posting here, but it’s not because of a lack of activity. I have been working out the final details on some pretty big changes in my life. Since I graduated from Virginia Tech in 1995, I have been working as an engineer. One year as a crash test engineer for an aerospace company, and then for the last 11 years I have worked as a design engineer for a major fitness company. That will all be changing in a few weeks. BIG TIME! Cornerstone has asked me to come on board as the first pastor on staff and I have accepted. This is a huge step of faith for me and I have sensed God all over this opportunity.

Since the inception of Cornerstone, we have survived week to week completely on Godly men volunteering their time to preach and take care of the ministry and business of the church. We have grown to a point where this is no longer feasible, and the leadership has realized that in order for us to effectively minister and reach out to those who are attending and those who we feel called to reach, that we needed a full time pastor. We have not been a typical church, so we have faced some issues that are unusual.

Since Cornerstone formed out of a church split, it has taken a long time to establish a vision and a leadership structure. I started attending during this planning stage and just felt like God wanted me there helping out in any way I could. I have worked with the youth, with children, with music, with technology, with setup, and with preaching on Sunday morning. Pretty much anywhere there was a need. I have come to consider us as a church plant, but instead of planning everything before the launch, we have had to meet week to week and start ministries and keep ministries going while we are doing the preliminary work in setting up the church! There has even been some discussion on what the actual title should be for me since we are an elder-led church, but I think the function is far more important than the title. The title shouldn’t get in the way of what we are called to do, and for that reason I believe that the title of pastor is the best and will allow us to really connect with the culture and area we live in.

My role will be much more that of a leader, teacher, equipper, and encourager and not so much of the traditional visitation/counseling role. For us to be able to grow and get those attending involved in ministry, this role will be critical. So for the church attenders reading this, get ready. Cornerstone is getting ready to go full steam ahead. Experiencing new life in Christ, Equipping believers to effectively live and share the Gospel, and Engaging our community and our world with God’s love. I am excited and ready to start!! I put in my official two week notice at work today and assuming all the final little details are worked out, I will be starting June 15th. God is good.

This will be a big change for me and for my family, but we are trusting God to carry us through. I do ask for your continued prayers as we start this new assignment from God. It has not been easy leaving a good job that I enjoy and that I have done well in, but when God leads, you know that it is time to move forward and follow Him.

One last thing, at least for now I will continue teaching and leading the youth. I know I will have to start recruiting and plugging in some help, but I feel that youth and children deserve our focus. I will do everything I can to make sure that we are reaching and teaching the children and teens that God has entrusted to us.

Summer Challenge

May 22, 2007 — Leave a comment

I’m throwing down a summer challenge to all my blog readers. 3 months, 3 chapters a day, and you can have the New Testament read by the end of summer. I have never seen anyone really start growing and getting closer to God without reading their Bibles! I was in college when I first read through the New Testament, and I can honestly say that it changed my entire perspective about my faith in Christ.

If you think of the Bible as a puzzle, then we typically get pieces of the puzzle from church. We can start to see what the puzzle might look like, but we don’t see the entire picture until we put the puzzle together. When we actually read the Bible, instead of just learning stories from it, we start putting all the pieces of the puzzle in their correct places and we get a better understanding of God and His character.

3 Chapters a day is easy. It takes about 15 minutes of your time. What else are you going to do this summer. My youth lessons over the summer will correspond to the reading plan, so be prepared to share what you have learned. Below is a pdf file of a checklist you can use to keep track of what you should read each day.

Here are a few tips:

  • Post the checklist somewhere in your room where it will constantly remind you to read
  • Pick a time each day when you are least busy
  • Pick a consistent place and time and stick with it (early is better, don’t cram it in before you go to bed)
  • Keep a notebook or journal and write down things that confuse you or that you have questions about. And then follow through and ask questions. We’ll set aside time during youth to do just that.
  • Also write things that you need to change in your life. It is important to allow God to speak to us through His Word and allow His Word to change our lives.

Post a comment or shoot me an email if you think you are up for the challenge.

Summer Reading Plan for Cornerstone Youth
(and adults)

I’m going to share a pet peeve of mine. Really it’s more than that, it’s a conviction. I have talked with several people over the last few weeks from several different area churches who are facing this problem. Why do churches insist that youth groups sell candy bars, do bake sells, have spaghetti dinners, do car washes, and practically beg for money. On the other hand, how many senior citizen groups in the church have to hold a car wash to raise money for their activities. Or how many people in music ministries have to raise all their own funds.

The sad fact of the matter is that most churches have a double standard when it comes to supporting ministries within the church. As long as the activities of those who give are fully funded, then everyone is happy. And more times than not, children and youth are forced to raise their own support. I know the argument that they need to learn the value of work. But is the purpose of the church to teach the value of hard work, or is it to reach people for Christ and lead them to be disciples? I also know that leaders can have a good time with youth relationally during fund raising activities. But the time spent organizing and preparing the activities is where I have the biggest problem.

When you consider the fact that your adult teachers and leaders have a finite amount of time to spend with youth, I hope you would agree that there are more productive activities than planning fund raisers. I want our leaders to spend time with the kids and youth. Do things like go to their school activities and games, take them out to lunch, or send emails and give them a call to check on them.

I don’t have to dig to far into statistics to prove that the best chance churches have at reaching people for Christ happens before they turn 18. I firmly believe that children’s and youth ministry should be a top priority for every single church. How does your church budget look? Where is the money being spent? Do you believe that youth and children should have the best? Or should they get the leftovers? Grandparents and parents would sacrifice their lives to save their children or grandchildren, but many won’t sacrifice their pet projects and ministries at the church so that children can be introduced to Christ. This should not be so!

So I’ve been on my soapbox long enough, what should a church do if the money is simply not there? First evaluate your current budget and priorities. Are there places that you are spending and not seeing life change? What needs to be cut? This is where it is tough being a leader. Second, ASK for it. I have been amazed in the past when our youth were going on trips and we simply asked the individuals in the church to support us. I would share the vision for what we were doing and ask the members of the church to give as they feel led. I have seen individuals give thousands of dollars toward mission trips, I have seen companies make large donations, and most importantly, I have seen our “needs” met every single time. And the parents love not having yet another fund-raiser to do.

And finally, there is a moral consideration to this. I don’t believe in going outside of the church to ask for money to do God’s work. The church should support it’s activities and ministries, and it starts with our children. That’s my conviction, and I’m sticking to it!

Over the last 10 years I have noticed three big reasons that older youth quit attending youth events and youth meetings. These are not new, and they aren’t specific to small town ministry, but I do want to share what we can do about it. I have seen some teens who really are growing completely drop out of church and walk away from their faith. And almost without exception, I can trace the start of their problems to one of the 3 reasons below.

  1. The first reason is having too wide of an age group meeting at the same time. It is pretty typical in most small churches to have 7th grade through 12th grade meet together. In some churches they lower the starting grade for youth down to 5th or 6th grade. How many 6th graders are facing the same challenges as seniors? Typically what happens is that the younger youth feel intimidated and try to impress the older teens. The older teens get bored and frustrated by all the immaturity and quit attending. You end up with a group that is not relevant to the struggles and needs of anyone because the age gap is too wide. What’s the solution? SPLIT THE GROUP AS SOON AS IT IS POSSIBLE. Now I can quit shouting. As soon as the church has capable leadership and resources available, then divide the groups. When deciding how to group ages, consider how the schools are structured in your area. Will students complain at first? Definitely! Will parents pressure you to move their child up or down? Of Course. Hold your ground and you will see the benefits start to show up in increased attendance and Spiritual growth for both groups. And the awesome thing is they will start inviting friends when they know the group is geared toward issues that they are facing and they feel comfortable to share.
  2. The second reason is school activities. I have seen kids get consumed by school events and activities and gradually pull out of church. I used to get really ticked off every time the school scheduled something on Wednesday nights (this is the Bible belt so Wed. nights used to be off limits to the schools), or any other time when someone couldn’t make it to church because of sports, homework, practice, etc. I now realize that it is somewhat out of my control. What is in my control is to teach the importance of setting priorities and making wise choices. I also use the school activities as an excellent opportunity to build relationships with the teens. I expect a lot out of our teenagers. I think God deserves our best. We are doing youth a disservice if we teach them to skip church every time something comes up at the last minute. If they have procrastinated and not finished their homework before Sunday night, then there are natural consequences. Skipping church should not be one of them. I get frustrated more with parents because they allow their teens to use any little excuse to get out of attending. This does go back to reason #1 though. If the meeting is relevant, engaging and challenging, then typically youth will sacrifice to make it there. It will naturally become a priority. How we spend our time and money shows what our true priorities are in life.
  3. Reason 3 is jobs. Here is how it typically plays out. The teen wants a nice car. The parents tell them they have to earn it. The teen gets a job working every spare minute in order to pay insurance and help with car payments. They are never seen again at church. Am I being overly simplistic? I don’t think so. I have seen this happen so many times that I have lost count. At the most critical point in the formation of their faith, we put the importance of work and of a nice car ahead of Christ. To the teens who are reading this, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT TYPE OF CAR YOU DRIVE! It’s a car! It doesn’t matter what your friends are driving: it doesn’t matter how cool it looks: what matters is does it get you from one place to the other. I drove a Gold 78 Dodge Omni through high school and college and it didn’t scar me for life. Why work yourself to death just to look cool? Most teenagers will end up wrecking it anyway. To the parents, please think about what type of job your teen gets. Don’t allow them to push church aside just for the sake of making money. The teens years are critical to how they will choose to live the rest of their life. And also think about the example you are setting to the teens. Do you skip church every time you have the slightest excuse? Priorities are caught, not just taught!

Now you may say that youth group is not the answer to all of life’s problems and that it doesn’t hold the key to Discipleship. And I would agree. But in this day and age, the church needs to teach and model what it means to live for Christ. That takes time, and I believe parents need all the help and support that the church can provide. I take youth ministry seriously, because lives hang in the balance. These 3 things are challenges that we must overcome in reaching this generation for Christ.

MyGen Radio

May 12, 2007 — Leave a comment

I finally got around to listening to on the internet. Our local contemporary Christian station, SpiritFM, has started this internet station as a way to play some younger music. I’m grateful that we have an adult contemporary Christian radio station, but my idea of “contemporary” music doesn’t include 4Him, Philips, Craig,& Dean, Avalon, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Point of Grace. When I listen to “Christian Music”, I usually listen to stuff like Sanctus Real, Kutless, David Crowder, Third Day, TobyMac, DecembeRadio, and BarlowGirl. Anyway this is a pretty good internet radio station playing the newer stuff that you won’t ever hear on adult radio. For all the youth and young at heart, check it out.

Locks of Love

May 11, 2007 — Leave a comment

Emma surprised me yesterday by getting her hair cut. She decided that she wanted it shorter for the summer. She is donating the long hair to Locks of Love so that it can be used to help make hairpieces for kids who have medical conditions that cause them to lose their hair. I think she now looks like Annasophia Robb (who was in Because of Winn Dixie & Charlie and the Chocalate Factory). I’m proud of her for wanting to help and make a difference in the lives of others. I am really blessed with an incredible marriage and 3 great children.

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