Friday, January 30, 2009


Youth Ministry: Did we fail...

I think youth ministers and youth ministry can be great blessings and additions to the Lord's church. They can be wonderful supplements to the spiritual formation young people receive at home. They can be incredible evangelistic opportunities. I grew up in a congregation that hired the second full time youth minister in our fellowship. I worked as a full time youth minister. I have spoken at more youth rallies and retreats than I can remember. and here is what I see in our churches today:

Youth groups that have so much activity the kids are busy all the time. Little evangelism. Great emphasis on taking care of our own. Youth ministers who know lots of youth ministry theory and little Scripture. Little parent involvement. Young people that lose their faith (if they ever really had it) shortly after leaving home.

Did we fail? Forty years of youth ministry in our fellowship and I am not sure we get it right. Have we as parents expected the church to be responsible for the spiritual formation of our teenagers? We seem frightened that our young people will not like it if we do not cater to their interests and preferences. Are we sure our teens know what is best for themselves spiritually?

What makes strong, faithful Christians out of teenagers? Not the youth program. They come from strong families that take responsibility. They come from small churches with family environment and inter generational faith communities. I think it is possible we have been doing it all wrong.

It seems we have made youth ministry the focus instead of it being a supplement. I think that because I see parents get upset if they think the church is not going to do youth ministry for them. Maybe the church should get of the way and let parents raise their children in the Lord.

And if the parents will not do it, it is not youth ministry we is parent ministry we better start.

Feel free to react.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My grandson Jake has been in the hospital the last couple of days. He had bronchitis, an ear infection, and managed to pick up a stomach bug along the way... all of which resulted in dehydration. Things are looking up today but I realized some good things over the last couple of days in my quest to experience God in the midst of everyday life.

...I would die for Jake. And for Avery, Anna, and Andrew. But as I watched him lying there, I was reminded again of how much I love my family. I feel pain when any of them hurts. God feels the same about each of us. And sent Jesus to die for us. Great love.

... I love my church family. I showed up last night to preach HIP and had 5 or 6 people ask me about Jake. He had only been in the hospital about 7 hours and we hadn't even called the church. How did they know? And what do people do who don't have anyone to share the tough times with?

... I love and appreciate good Doctors. But I still believe God is the healer. Prayer works.

... God is a God of the good times and the bad. He's always there for me. I'm the one who sometimes doesn't show up.

... Faith can be handed down thru the generations. And it must be intentional. It won't happen by osmosis.

...Jake wants to go home. Tears can be wiped away. You can get well. Bad times don't last. Draw your own spiritual lessons.

I am continuing to try to find God, see God, know God in whatever happens in my everyday life. If you find some really neat insights from your everyday life, let me know.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Hello everybody, Hallelujah...

I'm not sure why but our grandson Jake has started using "Hello everybody, hallelujah" as his favorite greeting. I have heard him use while climbing into air castles, when entering a classroom, and when getting out of the tub. He has said it at our house, his house, Rainbow Bible school, at church, and at birthday parties. He said Daddy says Hallelujah, but I have no idea why the rest of this is his favorite phrase now.

OK. Enough of the cute Jake story that isn't cute to anyone else except family. But this is more than that, it is about me trying to hear God's voice in different places, including Jake. I think this is a greeting I should use more in my life. I want to include everyone in the circle my life. I do want to greet brothers and sisters, friends and family. But I also want to greet waitresses and neighbors and visitors and lonely people and hurting people. And I want to say Hallelujah more. I want God to get the glory.

In fact, I may use this one day in the call to worship or even communion thoughts.

Thanks Jake.

So... hello everybody. Hallelujah.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Inside an elder's meeting...

Just thought you might like to know what happens in an elder meeting at Southern Hills. Last night met before HIP to do a blessing and prayer for one of our members before their upcoming surgery.

After services, we met with staff and the first thing we did was welcome two new families who have joined us at SH. We meet them, introduce ourselves, and gather around them to pray over them. Often we have new Christians in at this time or sometimes we use this time to bless and pray over those working in various ministries.

We spent some time updating everyone on some exciting plans for better equipping our members to share the good news of Jesus. Staff updated us about the Groups project we are starting this Spring.

Then we spent about 45 minutes in prayer for our flock. We prayed for families in grief, those facing serious health issues, marriages in trouble, those struggling with sin, people making decisions about following Jesus, and those asking for strength to deal with ministry challenges. We gave thanks for physical healing, for those who are overcoming sin in their lives, for healed marriages, and for answered prayers. And all of these are specific and by name, not just generic.

I like the first and last parts the best. Admin and oversight is important, but we are spending as little time as we can on those. Love the shepherding.

Just thought you might like to know.

Oh yeah. After last nite's lesson, thanks to all of you who are asking to be my friend on Facebook and who are texting me. Very funny. Kinda cool. Some day I may really be as technology savvy as the average second grader.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


It's all about the people

More reaction to some of the comments (posted and verbal) from last time on big church blues.

I do wonder what the church in Jerusalem looked like. They were a mega church, but the end of Acts 2 sure sounds like a blueprint for home gatherings or small group ministry. Maybe the temple gatherings were their large assembly times. How did the Jerusalem elders oversee and shepherd a church like that?

Has the era of the megachurch passed? The fastest growing churches I know are house churches in Cuba and churches in Africa that are community based. Each community or neighborhood has a congregation. We are still chasing the "bigger is better" model. will we someday look at our church buildings as museums from a past model that is no longer effective?

So why is Southern Hills in a $4 million building program?

This next observation is from me. I pray we are moving into a model that works for the next 50 years. We are building facilities that better enable us to have multiple assemblies (that may mean language, communication style, cultural styles, and any number of other differences). These may meet at different times, or at the same time in different parts of our facility.

I hope our facility empowers our members to deeper fellowship, discipling, and evangelism opportunities.

I pray with God's help that we can oversee and shepherd a church that has 4 or 5 assemblies on site, 4 or 5 assemblies off site, and 15- 20 home gatherings. That is a mega church with no mega assemblies (at least on a regular basis). That means we have to rethink concepts such as staff, every member ministry, and the idea that one man (or even 2 or 3 men) can be the "preacher" for the congregation.

I don't have many answers, but I sure raised many questions. Help me with the answers.

Next time I may work on the idea of busy ministry, lots of contact, but no deep connection or fellowship.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Big Church Blues

I like large congregations. I really do. There is excitement, multiplication of efforts, pooling of resources, professional staff expertise, exciting worship, and I really could go on and on. But this week I have been frustrated with some of the problems that are unique to big churches.

One of my flock came to ask me to pray for a couple at church who are in marital crisis. I didn't know who they were. Looked up their px. in the church directory. Didn't know them. How am I supposed to shepherd a flock larger than some towns?

Realized I already have 6 people asking to meet for study, counsel, prayer, or mentoring this week. Students are not even back yet. Too many people -- not enough time. Maybe the problem is in being a visible elder in front of over a thousand people on a regular basis and inviting them to share their life and call for help. I could say that in a crowd of a hundred. And they would all know all the other elders.

Someone is always unhappy. Singing was both too fast and too slow, too high and too low. Staff should be renamed the apostles, staff should all be fired. We don't communicate enough, can't we cut down on all the announcements. You and Phil preach too long, why don't we spend more time in the Word. I know that happens in all size congregations but the bigger we get, the more this happens.

We have too many elders to oversee the flock, not enough to shepherd.

I met a visitor last night who is not a Christian. We'll get together and study, but I wonder how many like him we are missing. Easy to lose them in a crowd.

Sometimes I wish I was in a church of about fifty members so we could all really be family. We could all help each other and everyone would be critical to the mission and function of the congregation. We could really connect with visitors and might baptize 15 or 20 people a year. Which would be about like us baptizing 700 people at SH this year.

So I am convinced one answer to this is small groups. We have to get everyone connected to some kind of group where they belong: youth group, Bible class, small group, shepherding group, family group, friend group, tennis parents group. Just some connection with people who will know if you're in trouble or who you can call if you are. Some group to bring your friends and family into and see them brought to Jesus. So our congregation of 2000 becomes 100 small congregations connected together.

We are actually in three groups: our small group, the elders (yes, in many ways we function as a group within the congregation), and our family group (in-laws, us, kids, and grandkids).

So are most of you (SH members, or those who worship elsewhere) in a group? What does it look like?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Random thoughts from the holidays...

... Grandkids are the best and they get more fun every year.

... the greatest joy I have is knowing my children are faithful, active Christians and that they are intentional about passing that faith on to their children.

... to have all four of our parents alive and functional is very rare. We are blessed.

... The combined service at the Civic Center for the whole Southern Hills family was special. Lots of visitors. Some seeking. But it is not enough to know they were there. Someone has to say something to them. God is doing a great work in and thru Southern Hills.

... Marsha and I spent New Year's Eve alone. Family in other places. Friends scattered. Had a good time. She is clearly out of my league. Lucky me.

... Jake had his third birthday party. If we can keep all those kids together, he and Avery are going to be part of an awesome youth group someday. There are lots of neat kids that age from good families hanging out at SH.

... I do like giving more than getting.

... And what was I thinking when I got talked into being chairman of the elders for next year.

So how were your holidays?

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