BEACH PARTYAND BAPTISMS

Sharing a testimony

In the past year the student ministry at my church has exploded. Called BURN it seeks to help kids develop a deep desire for God. A Wednesday night youth worship gathering is the front door and chief engine used by the Spirit for this ministry. It is led by a passionate and grounded young man named Jeremy Moyer. Instead of the typical youth group that is, to quote Ed Stetzer, “a holding tank with pizza,” Burn seeks to help kids become leaders and influencers of their generation. When this began our “youth group” had 12 kids. By the second semester of the school year, the numbers had swollen to 100. Many of these kids are unchurched.

In March Jeremy preached a series on commitment called “Real vs Fake.”

Do you affirm your faith in Jesus Christ?

One evening 16 of these kids decided to become Christians. The next week there were four more.

That’s when Jeremy came to ask me about baptism. These kids needed to baptized and he already knew that it would be a powerful opportunity for those kids to witness to their newfound faith.

My church has a beautiful 150 year old marble baptistery in the sanctuary. We began to plan to secure it on a Wednesday (that’s when the Burn worship gathering occurs) to conduct the service.

The next day Jeremy came to see me again. “Do the baptisms have to be in the church?” “no,” was my response.

“Well these kids want to use the occasion to tell their stories to their friends, many of whom are not yet Christians. Those kids won’t come to the church.”

One of our original kids

What was then created was a Saturday Night Beach Party the night before Palm Sunday at the nearby rec center and its pool. And that night with 75 kids in attendance and about a dozen of our elders and youth leaders (and a few unchurched parents), 12 kids shared their personal testimonies and Jeremy and I baptized them. It was one of the most moving worship experiences in the history of our 177 year old congregation. (It was also the first time I ever had a baptism with a life guard on duty.)

Easter morning we showed the pictures as our call to worship with the simple announcement “This is what we are all about as a church.”

An encouragement hug for a new believer

One of the new kids already in our church family

A new disciple of Jesus Christ

21 QUESTIONS I’VE BEEN ASKING MYSELF LATELY

This appeared on Timmy Brister’s blog Provocations and Pantings in February 2010.

Several of you will find these questions familiar, but their familiarity does not minimize the piercing factor for this pastor.  I wanted to put them out there in case others might find them helpful.

1.  If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?

2.  If all the pastors were tragically killed in a car accident, would the church’s ministry cease or fall apart?

3.  If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)

4.  What are the subcultures within the church?  Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?

5.  Is our church known more for what we are not/against than what we are/for?

6.  What are we allowing to be our measuring stick of church health? (attendance vs. discipleship; seating capacity vs. sending capacity; gospel growth, training on mission, etc.)

7.  Are the priorities of our church in line with the priorities of Christ’s kingdom?

8.  If our members had 60 seconds to explain to an unbeliever what our church is like, what would you want them to say?  How many do you think are saying that?

9.  If the invisible kingdom of God became visible in our city, what would that look like?

10.  In what ways have we acted or planned in unbelief instead of faith?

11.  As a pastor, is my time spent more in fixing people’s problems or helping people progress in faith through training/equipping them for ministry?

12.  Are the people we are reaching more religious or pagan?

13.  What can we learn about our evangelism practices by the kind of people are being reached with the gospel?

14.  What will it take to reach those in our city who are far from God and have no access to the gospel?

15.  What percentage of our growth is conversion growth (vs. transfer growth)?

16.  How many people know and are discharging their spiritual gifts in active service and building up of the body of Christ?

17.  How many people do I know (and more importantly know me) on a first name basis in my community and city who do not attend our church?

18.  Am I using people to get ministry done, or am I using ministry to get people “done”?

19.  Is the vision we are casting forth honoring both God’s heart for the lost (builder) and God’s passion for a pure church (perfecter)?

20. If money and space were not an issue, what is one thing we ought to dream for God to do in our midst where it is impossible for anyone to get the credit except for the omnipotent hand of God?

21.  If being a church planting church is comprised of disciple-making disciples, then how are we doing?

MINISTRY SHOULD NOT BE SAFE

Mark Batterson speaking October 6 at Catalyst 2010 shared this challenging observation:

“Too often Christian leaders make the assumption that ministry should be safe. But how can this mindset be supported when 11 of the disciples were killed because of their faith and only John died a natural death after surviving being boiled alive, he questioned.

“I think we need a moment of reality check. I think we made an assumption that ministry should be safe. And I don’t think it should be,” said Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., to a crowd of young Christian leaders at the Catalyst conference.

Citing Matthew 10:16 (“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”), Batterson challenged Christian leaders to examine the verse and determine if that sounded like Jesus was sending his followers to a comfortable ministry.

“I’m not suggesting that we necessarily put ourselves in physical danger, because we live in a very different time and period and place,” said the pastor, who is known for using movie theaters as church space. “But should there not be an element of danger to our ministry?”

“Maybe it is a vision beyond your ability to accomplish. Isn’t it dangerous to risk your reputation?”

I resonate strongly with Mark’s challenge.  One of the traps of professional ministry is to value the predictable, systematize the Spirit’s work, secure outcomes that are acceptable instead of following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I am reminded over and over that God calls us to take risks to be obedient to His will.  I didn’t say to be reckless, but obedience demands a willingness to trust in God’s protection, power and provision and then follow where He is leading.

Moses had to go back to a land where there was a price on his head.

The priests carrying the ark needed to step into the flooded Jordan before God parted the waters and they walked into the Promised Land.

Joseph had to go ahead and marry Mary.

Peter and Andrew needed to leave their nets.

Ananias had to go knock on Paul’s door in Damascus.

The list goes on.

Pretty compelling, isn’t it?

THAT’S NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR

Kem Meyer from Granger Community Church has some important thoughts for helping volunteers as they connect in a quality way with ministries of the church. She writes:

People want to make a difference with the time and talents God has given them – they want to be part of a team where they can make an impact. Many times, as an organization or leader, we miss the boat by either making opportunities hard to find or by making a promise we can’t deliver on.

Knowing life transformation happens in relationship and ownership happens in the context of team, I see many churches labor over this question:

“How do we get people to volunteer?”

A more important question I rarely see anyone ask is:

Are we prepared for people when they show up?

Case in point… A few years ago, we noticed people expressing interest in the communications, graphics and web development teams. That’s a good thing. We also noticed, more often than not, people were disappointed after signing up and didn’t stick around. That’s not a good thing.

We discovered the picture people had in their mind when they signed up is not how it looked when they showed up. Potential roles on creative teams like these cover a pretty wide spectrum of disciplines and skill sets (not to mention personalities). Every organization has a different strategy of how and what they use in the spectrum. We are no different.

Ah ha. We owe people some context. That’s what was missing. Without good information, they couldn’t make good decisions about which teams provided the best opportunities for their their time and talents.

So, we took a stab at documenting a framework. It’s not precise or comprehensive. It’s not a policy. It’s not written in stone. It actually changes from month to month. But, it is enough information for someone to determine at a glance, what we do and don’t do. It gives individuals control on the front-end, successfully filtering and self-sorting.

Here’s what one version looked like.

The Communications teams are involved with what you read, touch or click beyond the auditorium. We believe excellence honors God & inspires people. One of our primary goals is to simplify everything our audience sees or touches, to make their life easier and more rewarding, in every aspect of their engagement with Granger Community Church.

* We are here to serve and need to model servant-leadership. Egos have no place on our team. No matter how great the talent, there’s no vacancy for lack of preparation, chronic lateness/missed deadlines or lack of submission to leadership.
* There is an overall ministry, communications and technology strategy in effect at Granger—it drives all the communication deliverables (print, video or online). There is a reason for everything. If you have comments, observations, ideas or opinions…please share. But, also, assume the best and take the time to learn. We value your input and encourage you to share your thoughts with us, but not at the cost of dissention or confusion among the team.
* We are a church that models and expects encouragement from and for each other. Negativism, criticism and complaining are not embraced.
* GCCwired.com, the weekly enews, the weekend bulletin and @GCCwired on Twitter are the main communication vehicles. We also use blogs, Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube and YouVersion.

What We DO:

* At-a-glance, pithy, short, quips, bullets and easy, scannable articles. We are not about more information, but about making existing information easy to find and act on.
* Promote high emphasis events, ministry opportunities, connections and other next steps at Granger Community Church.
* Editing, proofing
* Share life-change stories or brief testimonies.
* Third-party plug-in’s, admin panels and templates.
* Continually review deliverables to ensure they are helping people take their next steps (i.e., keep the “main thing the main thing”), support all-church vision and reinforce core values.

What We DON’T DO:

* Fiction or poetry.
* Detailed or journalistic reports of each ministry/event or full-length testimonies.
* Leisure reading publications or newspapers.
* Big, fat, bloated web sites.
* Proprietary, custom-coding, complicated HTML or donated computers.
* Reciprocal links.
* Try to be all things to all people. Developing sites, pages or handouts just because someone asks for them doesn’t mean they are helpful.

Today, almost everyone who signs up to serve on our team today—sticks. This isn’t the only tool that helps people find their fit on our teams… but, it’s one of them. With better information, people can make better decisions.

For more of her great stuff go to LESS CLUTTER