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Relevance: A Youth Minister Answers (Part 2 of 2)
My first experience in youth ministry while in college was in a poor, rural community in Alabama at a Baptist church where the overwhelming majority of the 50 or so regular attendees were over the age of 65.  At some point, kids who lived in the small houses and trailer homes nearby discovered that every Wednesday night this church offered a free, warm meal and they started coming in droves.  Suddenly there were 20+ kids aged 7 to 15 at this church.  None of their families were involved in the congregation.  No one in the church had any youth ministry...
Is Your Pastor Holding Your Church Back?
Imagine yourself and a group of people in a meeting with your church’s pastor. The church has been changing and seeing new life as people explore what it means to be a church in the early 21st century. The group presents a concept for a phenomenal new ministry connecting the community and congregation, leading to radically transformed lives. Excitement grips the group as they explain the concept to your pastor. You are elated when she says “yes!” and you start planning the roll out. As the group finalizes the plans, you find out about newly imposed guidelines and limitations that...
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Relevance: The Youth Minister’s Questions (Part 1 of 2)
Youth ministry is a tough needle to thread.  It requires a lot of personal commitment and patience, an expectation that your target audience is going to show a general lack of interest and enthusiasm about most of the things you do for them, and a willingness to sacrifice sleep and earn your gray hairs early. It’s also a tough needle to thread because it’s a field of ministry surrounded by towering questions and often conflicting answers. In this article, I want to raise seven of what I think are the most pressing questions many  churches and youth ministers face when...
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An Open Letter to Grace and Megan Phelps-Roper
Dear Megan and Grace, I understand, in I’m sure a merely limited way, you have left Westboro Baptist Church behind. I also understand that this means, for both of you, that you have left your family behind. I want to first and foremost commend you both for the courage it took to take that step. Not only did you step away from a church that will now actively seek to distance itself from you, to preach your damnation, to make you doubt your choice at every turn… …you stepped into a world, out from under that same church’s umbrella, that...
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When is it Time to Stop Arguing?
I remember hearing a story in college about a large church with a young pastor who boldly preached the gospel according to Calvin and Albert Mohler.  The mega-church he led had lost a sizable number of members (though certainly not enough to diminish its mega-church status) and a friend commented that this was because this pastor was “preaching the truth.”  What he meant, which I agree with, is that the truth isn’t always what we want to hear.  What he implied, which I want to question, is that any consequences of bluntly telling the truth are perfectly acceptable. A friend...
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The Miracle of the Season
I wish I could write a nice piece about the miracle of the season, but the Newtown shooting ripped away any remnants of a Norman Rockwell Christmas.  Because the primary targets were young children, it was a stark reminder of the madness that exists in this world.   Of course, every day, children are forced into war, slavery, prostitution, and extreme poverty… So, Newtown is not a new or unique story.   Even the Christmas story itself has a bloody postscript of Herod slaughtering all the male babies in and around Bethlehem. While Americans have mourned the victims and embraced the survivors,...
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Thirty Seconds Of Silence
The tragedy in Connecticut has once again thrown Americans into a tailspin. None of us can wrap our heads around the horror of it. We can’t find a reason for what happened. In our bewilderment, there are no words to say. Of course, that doesn’t mean that some well-meaning Christian folks don’t try to come up with something since apparently any God-awful answer trumps silence on any and all current events. Here is some of the Facebook wisdom that some have offered up as a reason for what happened: “How does Barack Hussein Obama have the nerve to get up...
Let’s Have a Talk… Will Somebody Hold My Sword for a Second?
As I look out into the faces of the people in the congregation I’m speaking to on any particular Sunday, I think to myself once again, It would be so much easier to get up here behind this pulpit and talk about the joy of pap smears. Or snot. Or farting in public. The message I’ve been given to share, however, doesn’t involve topics as cozy and comfortable as these. I talk to churches and other organizations about proactively protecting children from sexual abuse. I say words like pedophiles and predators and prey. I throw out percentages and numbers, and...
Evangelism Is Not a Dirty Word
The five of us have been sitting around the same antique table on a semi-monthly for more than four years. We rarely see each outside of these monthly get-togethers, yet I consider these women to be among some of my dearest friends. We come from different backgrounds, different demographics, and different parts of the metro Chicago area, yet we always have one thing in common – our mutual interest in facilitating each other’s spiritual accountability by engaging in respectful faith sharing. We began meeting as part of a small group through the Unitarian Universalist church that we were attending at...
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No Boundaries
As I write this, our family is about to begin a journey into the Unknown.  We’re stepping off the dock into our boat, setting sail in a sea of options.  It’s a voyage we’ve never undertaken together.  In fact, it’s one I’ve never taken at all. We’re in process of finding a new church. Churches have always found me.  A friend brought me as her guest to the first church in which I held membership.  My second church was one of convenience.  As a college student without a car, I simply attended church with a carload of friends.  My third...
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