Wednesday, August 9, 2017

God's synergies and an opportunity for young adults

I love the word synergy and I think God is really in the synergy business. What is synergy? Generally speaking, it's the times in your life when 2 + 2  equals more than 4.

I've had a wonderful experience with His ability to add to our concept of time this summer. I've had the new, unique experience of parents sharing with me they don't have time to go to church and midweek groups. It's a lot. It isn't easy.  It's a choice and it doesn't happen accidentally. 

I get it - there's sports, travel ... and then you want to have time together as a family, have rest, etc. There's a LOT to fit in - times the amount of kids or jobs you have ... 
They are share this because, then, it happens ... kids start wanting to come, asking to go to additional events, making connections with friends, loving group leaders back.  Then they are are begging to go to youth group or events we have. How do you not give in to that? That's where God's work begins! I've had wonderful conversations with parents about this.

Transformation happens

Give God just a little time in your life, He can do amazing things that provide you even more to work with. That's His kind of business.  What are we talking about? 

I've heard recent testimonies that, when they have committed, their families have changed and been blessed. They have gotten a chance to reconnect with their spouse, their kids are making better choices and building strong relationships with other adults who are speaking to them, reinforcing the values the parents are sharing.

They have seen the transformation in their kids and they now have partners in parenting and loving their kids so there are more reminders, less entire conversations. God is at work in the child's heart, so this is only the beginning!  

In Children's Ministry, this is what we are here for and believe in. We want to help support your child's faith development and show them the love of Christ (sounds like a great mission statement, doesn't it??). 

I encourage (challenge?) you to pray together as a family or, if you're not ready for that yet, on your own, to help you find ways to give God a little bit of your time each week ... to grow in your journey as a family in your faith. 
I'm not talking about gardening and bike rides on sunny days together. I would agree, playing in the dirt and being at home, resting, playing can be a great connection with God.  But I'm talking about big, structured stuff.  
Stuff that screams commitment to your faith (or commitment to your consideration of faith).  
That's the kind of thing that I think God can work with, if you let Him.
I want to take this chance to share something that I think of as a recently synergy project that I think God has just poured into ... 

We have a wonderful Wednesday night kids program at Trinity. The kind that kids love going to, that they want to bring their friends to, that they show up for even on the off-night that we don't have it due to some complicated scheduling details. 

We have extended it to follow the school year, to go into the busy months of December  - to be here all the time kids are here and want to be here! We could not do this without the amazing leaders we have that LOVE kids and connect and embrace them every week. Yep, every week that we open our doors, our teams are on. 

So I was thinking: how do we grow this team to engage more kids - and keep up with the growing amount of them we have?! I thought deep, prayed through and around it and brought it to some co-workers to process with me. 

As a result of these many conversations with spiritually inspiring people who talked through and prayed through this with me,  I am really excited to be able to open up a new opportunity for young adults as we launch the Trinity Fellows Program for kids midweek connection. 

The Trinity Fellows Program (TFP) is for young adults 18-35 who have aged out of youth group allowing them a place to engage in the life of they church. They will lead, grow and serve.* 

The reason I am so excited for this opportunity is that it fits with the passions and needs of our church and many churches. I know many young adults (and I have been one too not THAT long ago!) that struggle to connect in and with a church. Its hard to start fresh in a new church or go away (to college, etc.) and come back. It's just complicated. We understand. 

This is an opportunity for our young adults because they are leaders and we know kids love them. They will serve as small group leaders on Wednesday Nights. Our kids are hungry to see what happens after they finish high school, after they grow out of youth group.  This allows young adults to mentor to the kids following them them and inspire them to go on. They will be wonderful leaders for our children. 

This is an opportunity for our young adults because our not-as-young adults believe in them.  We have been there, we have made tough decision, we have navigated life choices and have learned from it. They will meet with a mentor regularly throughout the Fellows program to support encourage their own personal and spiritual growth. 

This is an opportunity for our young adults because they will serve in meeting the needs of the church that they see and we do not. The church does not look the same to us as it does to them and we honor and respect their input. Fellows will be asked to take on a service area of ministry that inspires them to see where God is calling them.  

Ministry is about families, all kinds of families. How do we grow together and support one another in the process?  We live in a 'either/or' society but God is in 'and/also' business. 

As we grow as God's disciples, may we bring one another along with us. I am grateful fo the God-inspired synergy that was poured into this through His people's ideas and work. This is an opportunity for our children, young adults, less-young adults and ministry teams to grow in God's synergy of blessings - and then, in turn, bless others.

* To find out more about the TFP, please visit the online resources and application- click here


Monday, December 12, 2016

The challenge of living in a mutually exclusive world - why it's OK to be both blessed and stressed

I have seen on a handful of ornaments, signs and images this saying: "Too blessed to be stressed!" and in the back of my mind, thought 'oh yeah, I'm blessed, don't stress ... don't stress, don't stress, don't stress, don't stress???.'.  And then it occurred to me - you CAN be both.

We seem to live in an mutually exclusive society. It is an either or world, never both. One must be right or wrong, good or bad, true or false ... therefore blessed or stressed.

It finally occurred to me that God did not create a mutually exclusive world - that is our version that has made things much more complicated in an attempt to probably originally simplify.

I heard yesterday a great reminder that the opposite of more doesn't have to be less - it can be contentment ... to not want more but to be happy with what you have. Another paradigm shift to a mutually exclusive world.

The opposite of 'more' doesn't have to be 'less', it can be 'contentment'.

One of the largest challenges to a relationship is a lack of humility. Humility is our own ability to  accept that we could be wrong and at fault at any given time. There is nothing more challenging than engaging with someone that is always right or will always one up you.  And if we are willing to admit our shortfalls, our spouses and friends are naturally more willing to forgive them when they occur.

It Biblical too, God calls us to be humble. If we are arrogant in our lives, we will be superficial in our faith. Faith is built on the foundation that we can not do it alone, that we rely on God to get us through the hard times.

So, I wonder - was Mary stressed? An unwed woman (young girl, at that) who had to travel many miles while extremely pregnant to not be able to find a suitable place to give birth. (I can't imagine how we'd unpack that at our weekly playgroup if she were to come and ask for advice!!)

God reminds us time and time again to give our worries to Him ... to worry less and have stronger faith. God does, and will, provide.

We must have faith. In our fear and our worry, we lean on God. Our worry encourages our humility and reminds us that God's world is much bigger than the mutuality exclusive world to which we tend to confine ourselves.

Worry and stress our part of our lives. God reminds us not to worry throughout the Bible. However I have not found anywhere that it says that it's a sin to worry or stress. He calls us to not to worry as it is an individual response to a worldly problem. He calls us to chose prayer over worry. He does not want us to go it alone. He wants to share our troubles so that He can bare our burdens.  God is most at work when our shields of arrogance our down and our humility is raw and we are dependent on His strength. 

You are not alone - and you are not blessed OR stressed. Through the blessings and the stresses - He is with us.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Where do you fall on the generosity spectrum?

Would you define yourself as generous? How about compassionate? Maybe you haven't thought about it before? ... I'd like to share some statistics from Defying Gravity by Tom Berlin (we just did a sermon series on this) that I found really thought provoking.

In a study done a few years ago (2010), 45% of Americans reported giving $0 of their income to any charitable purpose (this is self reported). Nearly half of us gave away not a single penny to Girl Scouts, school fundraisers, churches, Salvation Army ... anything. Another 41.3% gave less than 2% of their income away, which means the majority of the financial generosity of our nation is provided by only 15% percent of the populationSo ... money's tight. What about time? 

If you're involved in your child's PTO, PTA or sports, etc., you may know how hard it is to find people who are able to help, especially with dual working parents and single parents - we are all busy! Again, in a self reported survey, over 76% of people reported giving NO volunteer hours to any organization. That means 3 out of 4 people help in no volunteer capacity at all. OK ...When we look at generosity, maybe it seems like something that fits more on a 15 year plan - not on our 6 month plan.  

What does every day generosity of spirit look like? It's being patient with a child, helping someone in need, listening to neighbor, extending forgiveness to a family members, texting someone you know who's having a rough day, sending a thank you card. These are all traits of a generous spirit- that cost very little. So I guess we can be hopeful that these are all things our self-reporting friends are doing but don't fall into the categories of the survey?

I'm reminded of the climate on social media in the height of the political season and I'm wondering if we are generous with our praise, generous with compassion and understanding?

Maybe we just don't have time to be generous. Are we so busy we have lost our ability to be generous? Are we experiencing such a scarcity in generosity that we are no longer able to be caring?

I don't think it's true. I think there good people all around us doing good deeds. As the beloved Mr. Rodger's is known for saying "When I as a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"  He continued: “To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'
Read more at:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'
Read more at:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." - See more at:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." - See more at:

If we challenge ourselves to be generous, we can be the hope for others; we can be generous spirits in a culture of deprivation. If not during the holidays, then when else? I hope to model to my own children the importance of being generous over being productive. I pray we can do this together. Let's work together to be the helpers.

Friday, November 11, 2016

We are in this struggle together.

I've had a challenging week but I am feeling encouraged today. 
I am reminded that often God is most at work in the messiest times of our lives and in life. 
If only it was easy to love messiness ... 

Stuck in the middle

Have you ever had one of those moments (or days) when you are actually feeling pretty good and smart? Maybe you're frustrated with others for being too slow, in the way, or kind of out of it. Life is good for you, if not slightly frustrating.

And then it happens ...

The next minute your sitting with a friend and they are telling you about the challenges of production with the ABC engineering platform (huh?!), or you meet with your boss and he/she questions if you're sufficiently meeting the expectations of the evaluation committee (what?!) or any other multitude of experiences that makes you realize you don't even know what you don't know.

All of the sudden your world gets a lot bigger - and you feel a lot smaller.

I've had that happen a lot in my life. Enough that if I am starting to feel like I might have things together, it makes me nervous and I start to explore the unknown quadrants that I might be missing.

Maybe that's humility?

I've been humbled at times when I spend hours designing fancy fliers, writing complicated curriculum to be interrupted (ugh!) by someone who wants to meet. After chatting for a bit, I find out she wants to come to this program with fancy fliers and complex curriculum but she only has t-shirts and is afraid to come to church in a t-shirt.

My world just got bigger ... and I got smaller.

I have learned from these wake up calls and interruptions the irony of modern faith which challenges us. We seem to constantly be on a quest to "be better".  We want to weigh less, fit our skinny clothes, have less grey hair, a more toned midsection, whiter teeth, smoother skin ... and THEN ...

THEN we'll get our pictures taken, meet up with old friends, schedule a reunion, buy new clothes, go back to school, go to church ...

Yep, go to church.

That's the irony. We are trying to make ourselves look and feel better before we go to the place that has the power to transform us so that none of those things matter.

We will always be in the messy middle of life. We will always be between two jean sizes. Our teeth will always either lighter or darker yesterday than they are today. We are constantly changing. Hopefully we are smarter and more compassionate today than we were yesterday. And if we feel less so, maybe our world grew larger?

Any way you look at, we are always in the middle. We are in the middle, together.

You are perfect in your imperfection to a God who loves you for exactly who you are today and every day. Just as you are. You are more than enough for Him. And it doesn't matter your jean size, what type of shirt you wear and how smart you are. He loves you, in the middle.

Monday, November 7, 2016

3 reasons kids love prayer - how to build meaningful connection into a busy week

Let me share a bit of secret with you ...  there is a rhythm of children's ministry program times. We share Bible stories in engaging ways that help kids to apply them to their everyday lives. There's a few minutes for worship singing and dancing that, I'll be honest, most often turns into a Congo line (we sometimes join in - kids know the best ways to celebrate and show God glory - and have fun in the process!).

But there's always the time consuming - therefore, must be well planned - all-time favorite element of PRAYER. Yes, your heard that correctly .. prayer.

Kids love prayer time. Here's a few reasons why ...

1. It validates their feelings. Ask your child what they'd like you to pray for. Chances are they have a few things on their mind. It can be big or little; it doesn't matter. God doesn't judge us for the size of our prayers nor should we feel the need to 'edit' or teach to their prayer requests. Just accept them where they are at. Your child might be more willing to share more of their thoughts, struggles or challenges in this open environment. Do whatever you can to support their concerns.

2. It shows them that their thoughts concerns are important enough to you that you are willing to share them with God. What a great way to tell your child "I'm on your side in life and we're in this together!" When you pray, ask for tools such as respect or responsibility to help you and your child to navigate the challenge. This will help them to learn to look for coping strategies when in these challenging situations.

3. It's time with YOU. There's a powerful video out there on YouTube that interviews parents and asks them, if they could have dinner with anyone, who it would be. Adults choose a great variety of powerful people who have had an amazing influence on the world.

When they ask that same question of the kids, their answers are very simple. Their favorite people to share dinner with are their own families. Sometimes it's a big extended family celebration dinner and sometimes it's just a simple, non-busy dinner with their small family. But the majority of the time its their very own family.

How to build in times of connection
If you've ever started working out after not doing it for a while (or at all!), you know how awkward it can be. Prayer can be the same at first. Give yourself permission to feel a little uncomfortable but remember why you are doing it. Dig deep, take a breath and begin ...

There's a few kinds of prayers that resonate with kids and come more naturally. I have found that, when kids are little, repetition prayers fit best with their spiritual levels. As they age, open-ended prayers are easier to incorporate.

At either dinner or bedtime, ask your child what their favorite/least favorite part of the day is during or maybe one thing for which you are thankful. Consider adding a prayer before you eat together or go to bed. It can be something that you say together or take turns leading. A simple go-to prayer for us is "God is great, God is good, help us do the things we should. Amen". The internet is a great resource for finding prayers that really connect with you family. Challenge older kids to search a favorite one to share with you or lead.

If it's new to your family, don't be discouraged if it doesn't catch on right away. I have a lot of kids that roll their eyes at me and make snide comments during prayer time to, just weeks later, seek me out with a really tough prayer request. Make a commitment to stick with it. And if you forget, start back when you remember. Don't beat yourself up about it. Ask your kids to help you remember. Start building patterns.

I'd love to hear from you ... what are ways that you build meaningful moments into your chaotic day?