Why Do Teens Leave?

January 30, 2007 — Leave a comment

I just finished listening to a podcast on Inside Lifeway about The Leaving Generation. Jim Johnston of Lifeway talked about a recent study they did on young adults from ages 18 to 34 and why they are leaving the church. As soon as I finished listening to it, I saw a blog entry on the same topic over at the ChurchRelevance Blog. These are pretty good observations. They spent time on the podcast talking about the importance of countering the secular worldview. I believe that should be on this list as well. When students reach both high school and college they are bombarded with the “so-called” fact that science invalidates faith. If all we have taught and provided at church and youth ministry is an experiential faith, devoid of intellect and devoid of truth, then we are setting them up to be confused. Youth do want to be involved in making a difference, they do want community, they do want relationships, they do want to be in a church that is not just going through the motions, but they need to be challenged and taught truth in such a way that their actions will flow naturally out of their faith.

LifeWay Research conducted a survey among people age 18 to 34 that discovered a major factor causing young adults to leave the church is the church’s inability to minister to them in their transition stage.

Jim Johnston of LifeWay Christian Resources identifies four needs among young adults:

  1. Relationship
    “It just so happens that this generation’s biggest need is relationship. The church ought to be the author and purveyor of the best, deepest, most loving friendships around.”
  2. Biblical Community
    “The lost and the saved in this age group are looking for just what the church can provide in Biblical community. They want absolute truth but they embrace the struggle of finding it themselves. They don’t want it to be spoon-fed to them.”
  3. Social Action
    “Young adults gravitate to churches that are making an impact. This age group is embracing service, social action and missions. They will embrace the church with a cause as well.”
  4. Genuine Church
    “They want to embrace church, but only the genuine, earth-shaking, Christ-powered New Testament church. For some churches, that’s going to mean changing methodology – but not the message of the Bible.

Say What?

January 29, 2007 — Leave a comment

Here’s a headline that will catch your attention:

Naked Greased Student Interrupts Lunch

Conferences & Concerts

January 25, 2007 — Leave a comment

I’m planning on attending two conferences in the next few months. First, I am heading down to the Big Easy, New Orleans, for an engineering conference. SolidWorks World 2007 will be Feb 4th-7th. Sitting through 3 days of seminars and training courses with a bunch of engineers sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I like to think that I am an untypical engineer, I usually leave the pocket protector at home. They’ve had the guys from Mythbusters and American Chopper speak at previous events, so I’m hoping they will have another surprise guest this year. Steve Wozniak is the featured speaker, so I’m definitely looking forward to hearing from one of the Mac pioneers. And Jenni is planning on flying down for a couple of days, so we will have a great trip away from home for a few days. I don’t know what to expect with all the reconstruction, but everyone has told me that there is still devastation everywhere.

The other conference has me even more excited. NewSpring Community Church is hosting a one-day church leadership conference in Anderson, SC. Perry Noble and his gang will be sharing what they have learned through the incredible growth of their church. What amazes me about Newspring is that they are in a small town, but they are growing like crazy. If you want to be excited about what God is doing, then check out their story on their website. When we were iced in last Sunday, I was able to watch a couple of their services on video through their website. It was great seeing their worship band open up with service with a cover of Decemberadio Can’t Hide and another service with Daughtry’s It’s Not Over. I was impressed. But what I really resonate with is that Perry is a preacher, he get’s with it and is not ashamed of the Gospel and I love his accent (it sounds normal to me!)

Also, one more thing, be checking back here for some news about Decemberadio,

it looks like we are going to have them lead worship for Cornerstone real soon and maybe even do a concert for the youth. Tentatively, it looks like February 18th, which is coming up soon. I can’t wait. It’s pretty cool having a Grammy-nominated band at church and hanging out with our youth.

I want to introduce a new feature here on FaithEngineer. From time to time I am planning on doing some church technology tutorials. I have stumbled and fumbled my way through learning how to do some things that could help churches on a shoestring budget. My heart really goes out to small churches in rural areas like the one I attend. Typically one person has to be proficient in the sound system, the video projection system (if you have one), and the church website. Our church wanted to provide our sermons online for members who were traveling or were unable to attend. Since we currently have no full-time staff, we wanted a solution that was easy to setup and easy to maintain. I have pulled together the programs, services, and websites we use and my hope is that this will assist other churches who want to reach beyond their four walls into all the world through technology. I will concentrate here on just doing the sermon because of the tricky copyright issues you get into when recording music. I will also just concentrate on sermon audio, even though these same programs and services can be used for video at an additional cost.

Let’s break it down into 3 main steps. Recording the message, uploading the sermon file to the internet, and creating the podcast from a RSS feed.

Step 1: Record the message
Churches typically have several options here. The best way to get the sound is straight from the source, the soundboard. You can …

  • Record with a computer: You can run a cable from your soundboard directly to a microphone or line-in jack on a desktop or laptop computer to record. Then using recording software such as the free program Audacity, you can record the message directly to a .wav file. After you finish recording, you can export the song as a mp3 file. In order to keep file sizes down to a minimum, I have found that using a bit rate of 32 kbps in mono works well for sermons. It gives you very intelligible speech and keeps the file size small.
  • Record with a CD-burner: Our church has a rack-mounted CD burner, the
    Tascam CD-RW750. We run one of our auxillary sends from the soundboard to the CD-burner so we can mix it differently from the main speaker mix. When the sermon is over, we start duplicating the CD in a CD Duplicator Tower so that by the end of the service we have CD’s available for all of our Children’s Ministry workers and we also make extra for people to take and give away. Once you have the sermon on a CD, you need to transfer the message to a mp3 file using iTunes, Windows Media Player, or another CD ripping program. Again I have found that ripping the CD using a bit rate of 32 kbps in mono works well for sermons.
  • Record with a mp3 player/recorder: On occasion, I have used a mp3 player that has recording capabilities. I have an iRiver iFP 780T MP3 Player, which is only $71 currently on Amazon. Although it doesn’t have much memory, it is perfect for recording sermons. The cool aspect of this particular player is that it can record in two different ways. You can just start recording before the service and set it on the preacher’s podium and it will pick up great. The sound quality is amazing on this thing, and did I mention that it is very small and inconspicuous. The other way to record is directly from the sound board. It features a line-in jack so that you can run a cable straight from the sound board and record directly to the mp3 player. After the service you can just transfer the mp3 file to your computer. Easy, fast, and cheap.

Step 2: Upload the message to the internet
This is the part where people usually get nervous. Fortunately there are several new free services popping up to help you get started. I will talk about two here that I have played with,
SermonCloud and SermonPlayer. If your church has a website, but you don’t want to worry about storage space and monthly bandwidth and hosting requirements, then these services are just for you. Both sites offer streaming and download of mp3 files.

SermonCloud is an interesting new service. They will host your mp3 file and provide a RSS feed that you can use for your podcast. Since your sermon files reside on their servers, you are not responsible for bandwidth usage or storage space. Their current policy is that you can have up to one year of recent sermons listed for free. If you would like to have more than one year, then they will develop a pricing plan to allow that. According to my understanding, after one year, they will automatically start removing the oldest sermons so that you have a maximum of 52 sermons listed. SermonCloud has a simple interface that allows you to select the mp3 file to upload. You then fill in the topic, the preacher, the description, the main Bible passage, any artwork, the text of the message, and searchable tags and keywords. Once you upload the message to their site, it is listed with your church’s other sermons. Anyone visiting SermonCloud can then seach by topic, keyword, or Bible passage. People can also provide feedback and “amen” your sermons. I have been surprised at the number of downloads for some of our messages. I know many of the downloads have come from outside of our church. I think this is one of the main benefits of SermonCloud, that people from anywhere in the world can go to one website and search through messages. They have been going through some pretty major server upgrades, so they should have the bugs worked out by the time you read this. Their name comes from the topical “cloud” that they make with the keywords. Here is our church’s sermoncloud webpage for reference. You can list recent sermons on your church’s website through php or javascript code, but you must leave your site to listen to the message. I’ll talk more about the podcast feeds in a minute.

SermonPlayer is another new service that looks promising. It is very similar to SermonCloud in how you upload your files to their web servers. The main difference is that SermonPlayer provides a player to integrate into your website so that people do not have to leave your site to listen to the sermons. They also do not provide a searchable index to all of the sermons from different churches, although you can search through sermons from your church. Since each church is pretty much limited to their own sermons, this may or may not be what you are looking for. The player is really clean and modern looking. Each time you upload a sermon, it is automatically shown in the player window, which is shown here. The player allows you to download sermon notes, stream the mp3 file for immediate listening, or download the mp3 file to transfer to your mp3 player. The player also has a Bible window so that you can look through the Scripture while listening. Their Pricing Information shows that your first year is free. After that if you want to continue using their service, the fee is $25 per month. They will not remove your messages even after 1 year, so you can try before you buy. They also have a good flash demo of their service on their webpage.

Step 3: Create the feed and submit the podcast information
We live in an iPod world. One of the easiest ways to get your sermon out to your congregation is using a podcast. Users can subscribe to your podcast and have each week’s sermon automatically downloaded to their iPod. People can search in the iTunes store to find your church and/or sermon topic. In order to create your podcast in iTunes, you must start with a RSS feed. Luckily, both SermonCloud and SermonPlayer create RSS feeds for you automatically. The RSS feed contains the information about each one of your sermons. The feed is updated each time you upload a sermon, so you don’t have to worry about keeping it updated. The feed contains the description, the preacher, the link back to the mp3 file, and any other information you want to provide. You could take the RSS feed and submit it directly to iTunes(more on how to do that later), but I recommend running it through a feed service first.

I use FeedBurner and have been impressed by it. It cleans up the feed and formats it specifically for iTunes. It also adds many options including the ability to track your subscribers. You can choose the iTunes Category that your podcast will be listed in. The other big advantage to using FeedBurner is that if you ever change sermon hosting providers you won’t have to change anything for iTunes. You can simply go to FeedBurner and set your feed to pull from another source. And did I mention it’s free, and easy. So hopefully you see that it is not all that complicated to record, upload, and distribute your sermons online. There is only one last thing to discuss, and that is how you submit your new feed from FeedBurner into iTunes.

To add your feed to iTunes, go to the iTunes music store in the iTunes program, select podcasts to go to the main podcast page. At the lower left corner, hit submit podcast. It will take several days for your podcast to show up in iTunes. One more thing to remember is that it is very hard to remove a podcast from iTunes, so make sure you have everything right before you hit submit.

If you have found this through a search, then hopefully I have answered some questions for you. Please leave comments and ideas as well. I would like to do some tutorials for other church tech related topics as well. Please feel free to leave suggestions on what to do next. Let’s redeem the technology of the internet and use it to promote God’s Word throughout the world. I’m excited about the opportunities that churches now have. I hope you are too!

I also recommend checking out Cory Miller’s excellent introduction to this same topic on
Sermon Podcasting Made Easy at ChurchCommunicationsPro

For the last week, Luke and I have been playing through the Lego Star Wars video game on our computer. I don’t play games too much because I really don’t have the time, and my priorities prevent me from spending so much time at the computer. I spent way too much time in college playing the original Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem, and Doom, so I try to avoid getting hooked on games now. But now that Luke is almost 7 years old, I can play and have fun with him at the same time. This game is awesome. The puzzles are not too tough, and it’s fun for two people to play at the same time. When the going gets tough, Luke can just drop out for a minute and let the computer take over while I get through the difficult parts. Then he jumps right back in the game and starts destroying legos. Just last night he played as R2D2 and figured out he can disable robots so I can get them with the lightsaber. He’s laughed and had a great time. He now thinks his dad is cool because he can play video games. I still plan on holding off on any game consoles for as long as I can. But we have had fun playing together clearing a level or two each night. Fun times that bring back memories of old atari’s and arcades.

Weekend At Home

January 21, 2007 — Leave a comment

I’ve had a great weekend, mainly because we had no big projects going on and no place we had to be. I got to spend some great times with Jennifer and the kids. Also, because of the ice and snow this morning, both church and evening youth meetings were canceled. I was able to catch the service online this morning at Seacoast on their new Internet Campus. I really like how their pastor handled the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate. I enjoyed something different this weekend.

I’ve spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about some tough issues. I find myself too easily becoming frustrated when I focus in on problems. I need to trust God and know that He will work out the problems, but knowing when to push through and when to wait is tough. And that brings me to another reason I love youth ministry. Tonight, out of the blue, I got an email from one of the youth just telling Jennifer and me how much we are appreciated. Youth are sincere and I love them for it. The timing was perfect, so thanks. I needed some encouragement this weekend. God knows what I need and when I need it. The time with the family and the email were definitely divine guidance for what I am struggling with.

American Idol Again

January 19, 2007 — Leave a comment

I hate to admit it, but I really like watching American Idol, especially the later rounds of competition. And so it has started yet again. But after watching the first two shows, I’m left with a bad feeling. Here it is: Should we as Christians watch something that is based on humiliating and making fun of people auditioning? I know we can rationalize it by saying that they are the ones trying out and they brought it on themselves. But after watching the show, I really think some of the people are not mentally capable of knowing they aren’t talented. For the sake of entertainment, the producers push the limits and keep showing people way past the point of making the viewer uncomfortable. For me, it’s really not funny. I find myself feeling sympathy for those who don’t know any better. Now there are always some on there who are just trying to get on tv, so it doesn’t really bother me to see them get exposed. But what about those who really think they are good?

And I haven’t even brought up the topic of children and teens watching it. I can’t help but think this really contributes to what we don’t want to teach as youth ministers, that it is fine to criticize and make fun of others who are different and not popular. I find myself constantly telling my kids that we shouldn’t make fun of people like that. For me, I think I will hold off really watching the show until Hollywood. So, it’s something to think about.

Thanks to fellow pastor Mark Batterson, I now know that “that African elephants poop eighty pounds per day” and that cows can really put out some serious emissions. Makes me glad to live in the country. It reminds me of one day a couple of years ago when Emma came running to me and told me we had cows in our back yard. Before we managed to find out where they came from (with the help of the local police I might add), they managed to make quite a few deposits in our yard. I guess cows not only make cheese, they cut it as well!

According to a United Nations Report, cow “emissions” are the greatest threat to the environment.

The 400-page report by the Food and Agricultural Organization, Livestock’s Long Shadow, says that the world’s 1.5 billion cattle are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. That is more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.

Cow farts account for 9% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Their “wind” and manure account for more than 33% of methane. And their farts produce 100 other polluting gases including ammonia, one of the major causes of acid rain.

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