Monthly Archives: February 2011

Sunday’s Sermon

Yesterday I preached at our downtown campus on Nehemiah and how to proceed when the future looks bleak. The title of the sermon was “Building on a Foundation of Faith” and speaks to our possible building plans for the future.

Here is a link to my sermon.


Rethinking Sunday School

Our educational system is broken. Culture has changed and yet our educational methods have stayed the same. We invent new disorders to explain why our children can’t sit still in our outdated classrooms. Something needs to change. The same goes for our educational methods in the church. Moving toward the entertainment model with cool videos and a kid-centered worship band isn’t it either. Just because kids are happy and entertained doesn’t mean they are learning.

So what does a new educational environment look like? I don’t know yet but I am driven to find out. I would love for the church to step out and innovate.

Here is a great video that spurred my imagination this morning:

What do you think? What will the new learning environments look like?

The Anti-Tithe

Here’s an interesting view on tithing and the financial goals of the church. What are the underlying assumptions and goals of this video? How can churches respond? Is it biblical for churches to “make money?”

The Pack Mentality and the Church

Watch this video today. It will be well worth your time. It provides an evolutionary explanation for intergenerational packs and why we need each generation. Interesting stuff!

The Serenity Prayer and Parenting

This morning as I watched Anna walking into school, I realized that she is walking into an unknown world that I cannot control. One theme that runs throughout every personality test that I have taken is that I love to be in control. But I cannot control Anna’s experience at school. I am giving up control and handing over the responsibility to her elementary school from 7:30 a.m. to 2:05 p.m. each weekday.

It is hard for me to do. Hillary and I were talking last night about some of the statements and jokes Anna has told us that kids in her class say. Some of them are definitely inappropriate. I want to go in and look a certain boy in the eye and put the fear of God (and me) in his mind. But I can’t. It wouldn’t be appropriate. I have to trust that we have raised Anna well enough that she knows what to do in those situations. ¬†We can coach her at home still and help her think through what she should do, but we can’t be next to her all day long at school.

Once again I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer and its application for parents. I need to recognize what is outside of my control and rest in the knowledge that God is there. I also need to understand what is in my control and have the courage to act on those.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Why Church Based Youth Ministry is Important

My middle school youth group. I wet my pants laughing before this picture which is why my hat is over my pants. True story.

Parents often tell me that their teenage son or daughter attends a youth group at another church because their friends go there. While part of me is glad they are plugging in somewhere, another part of me mourns because they are missing out on a great experience in their own faith community. The same is true for students from Christian homes who attend Young Life.

Why is it important for students to attend the youth ministry at the church they grew up in and where their parents attend?

Bridge between Youth Ministry and the Home

When a student attends the youth ministry at their church, there is a connection with the family of the student. The leaders in the ministry know the student’s parents and understand the family dynamics of the student. They can encourage the parents and build a solid bridge between the youth ministry and the home. This cannot happen effectively when the student is attending another youth group at a church where the parents don’t attend.

Connections with the Adult Community

A solid youth ministry connects students with the adult faith community in the church. Whether it is mission opportunities or fellowship times, youth group students get the chance to interact with other adults in the church. This can be an effective web of accountability and encouragement for students. I love seeing former Sunday School teachers get excited when they see their former student involved in the youth ministry of the church. When a student attends a youth group at another church, this web is disconnected and ineffective.

Young Life is not a Substitute for the Church

I love Young Life. I love their commitment to reach students with the Gospel who are outside the church and disconnected from Jesus Christ. I love their commitment to campus ministry and Christian camping. I love meeting with our local Young Life director and hearing his heart for students. That said, Young Life is not built for churched students. Al Jackson, a Young Life staffer, writes, “But while Young Life will be many things to a teenager, it can never fulfill all the roles a church is called to be in the life of a believer.” Young Life is a great evangelism tool for the church, but it is important that those who come to faith in Young Life are connected into a local church community. We are hoping to figure out here in Champaign how a church based youth ministry and a Young Life ministry can partner in this task of discipleship.

Consumer Based Youth Ministry

Ok this one might be tough to stomach, but are we creating consumers of church when we let our kids pick their youth group? What happened to challenging our students to be investors instead of consumers of church? In high school my dad started pastoring a small church and made us switch youth groups. It was hard and I definitely didn’t like it at first, but it taught me to step outside my comfort zone and become an investor in what was going on. We are doing our children a disservice when we let them make choices based on what they like. Too many people church “shop” based on what they “like” and are missing out on the radical discipleship that God is calling us to. We need to start calling our children to this transformational path early instead of letting them choose what is comfortable.

Make your church’s youth ministry a shining light to the world by challenging your children to invest instead of consume. Connect with the youth pastor and give him/her your full support. It might be hard for your son or daughter at first but when they stick it out they will reap the full benefits of a church based youth ministry.

Wrestling Girls

Yesterday I read the interesting story of a high school wrestler, Joel Northrup, who forfeited his chance at a state title because he would have to wrestle a girl in order to advance. ESPN quotes Joel as saying, “As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa.”

I applaud Joel for standing up for his beliefs and not allowing sports to become more important than his principles. Even when I was in middle school, girls were allowed to join the guys wrestling team. If girls want to wrestle, they should form a wrestling team but girls wrestling guys is across the line in my opinion.

Maybe I’m too old fashioned, but I agree with Joel Northrup. He should be an example to children and teens of how to live with principles in the world of sport.

Marketing Restoration and Forgiveness

What do you think of Ted Haggard’s statements here? Are we marketing forgiveness and restoration but not living it out?


Know Thy Spouse

Hillary and I laugh when we see all the Valentine’s Day commercials for jewelry. We laugh because we both know that if I spent money on jewelry for Hillary, she would kill me. This makes Valentine’s Day easy for me. I don’t have to stress over what kind of gift I am going to get my wife. Hillary’s love language is not gifts.

Today is a great day to bring up the idea of “love languages.” Gary Chapman, in his book “The Five Love Languages,” describes the different ways that we give and receive love. Too often married couples give love in the way that they receive it best and this “love language” is not well received by their spouse. In our marriage, Hillary’s love language is acts of service. If I drive Anna to school or empty the dishwasher Hillary’s love tank fills up. Early in our marriage Hillary and I had to be honest with each other on how we gave and received love.

What is your love language? What is your spouse’s love language? Here is a great online test to help spouses, singles and children find their love language.

Homeless in 25 Days

How long could you stay afloat below the poverty line? How many days would it take before you and your family became homeless? Our former church in Colorado cared for homeless families on a regular basis and it was sobering to see parents who were not able to take care of their children financially.

Urban Ministries of Durham has put together an online experience which helps us understand the journey to homelessness. In a “create your own adventure” format, it gives you different scenarios and then tells you the ramifications of those choices. For instance, one of the choices is whether you let your child go to a birthday party knowing that you have to spend $15 on a birthday present. Another choice relates to whether you have your child enter the free lunch program at school and endure the shame of the other students. It is a very sobering and realistic look at how easy life can spiral toward homelessness. This would be a great activity to have your children go through so their eyes can be opened to the needs of children around them.

Enter the online experience here. I was homeless in 25 days.