Monthly Archives: February 2014

Why Do We Have to Go to Church?

This morning, as we were getting ready for church, our eight year old daughter blew up in frustration and yelled, “Why do we have to go to church?”

Instead of responding with a quick answer, I was actually glad she asked the question. I would rather have my daughters ask good questions  and learn to think for themselves.

After leaving a full-time church job a few months ago, our family hasn’t really had to attend church. Each Sunday we have a choice whether to attend or not. And our girls know that.

So why do we attend church? Even the author Donald Miller has written about his personal struggles with attending church.

This month we are focusing each week on one of our family values. This week we are focused on the value of faith and answering Anna’s question of why we need to go to church is definitely part of the conversation. Notice it is really about why we NEED to attend church instead of HAVE to attend.

So here is my attempt at how I would answer the question of why church attendance is important to our family. Read the rest of this entry

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Jeffco Schools and the Search for Leadership

Children

I am a parent of two daughters in a Jefferson County elementary school. My wife is a paraprofessional at that school. I substitute teach in Jefferson County Schools on occasion. The nonprofit I lead trains and mobilizes reading tutors to work with K-3rd grade students who struggle in reading.

Though I am not a Jeffco graduate myself (Go Arapahoe Warriors!), I care deeply about Jeffco Schools and want to see all 85,000 children succeed in school and in life.

Since the election of three conservative Board of Education members in November and the early resignation of Superintendent Cindy Stevenson this weekend, things are starting to get interesting.

The divisive climate of politics has become local and it is very hard to stay in the middle. The camps are forming. Either you are supportive of the new board majority or you are not. You are with the unions or you are not.

The sad part is that many of us are in the middle. We don’t think charter schools are the magic antidote for education and we support our neighborhood schools.

But we also think that education is due for some reform. Any organization or company needs to remain on the cutting edge to innovate and keep ahead of a changing culture.

I also believe in education innovation when I look at our Edgewater schools. At our three Edgewater schools, over 90% of the children receive free or reduced lunch because of poverty in their families. Yet when you compare the test scores at these three schools with three schools in southwest Littleton where we used to live, you see a big achievement gap.

This is a moral wrong. Children growing up in poverty have every right to a great education. The achievement gap should not exist yet in reality it does.

We have some great teachers and school leaders here in Edgewater but we can do better. I believe that if we can rally our community around our schools and change the education paradigm, we could see the achievement gap bridged.

Continuing to do things the way we always have done it doesn’t cut it anywhere. My daughters’ friends deserve better. Don’t lower your expectations just because we are poor. Right now a Jefferson (our local high school) graduate is on the Colorado Supreme Court, another is a Congressman and yet another is the bodyguard for Peyton Manning. With a great education, imagine where the next Jefferson High graduate might end up.

So circling back to the events of the weekend, I am frustrated on many levels with what happened. What I am most frustrated with is that the focus is now away from the 85,000 kids in our district. Union members are spreading fear and rumors. The three board members are demonized and any change they bring up is automatically thrown out. And because this new majority is silent on their agenda, then people assume the worst.

Finding common ground is possible. I’ve seen it happen in Jeffco Schools in the last month. I am part of the Choice Enrollment Steering Committee and have seen people from different education philosophies work together for 85,000 kids in the district. We sit down and listen to each other without jumping to conclusions. We have built relationships and stay focused on the task that unites us.

To each of the current Jeffco Board of Education members, I implore you to lead and focus the district on the common good of 85,000 children. To the Board majority, build bridges and start to dialogue in public about your ideas for the district. Board President Ken Witt has already started to do this by appearing on KHOW on February 11 (listen here). To the unions in Jeffco, don’t fall to the level of spreading fear and speculation. To quote the wise Yoda, ““Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

What we need right now in Jefferson County Schools is a leader.

Someone to unite our community around the common good of 85,000 children with hopes and dreams.

At this point that leader needs to be one of you sitting on the Board of Education.

Ken Witt. Julie Williams. Lesley Dahlkemper. John Newkirk. Jill Fellman.

Which one of you will step up and lead?

The Secrets of Happy Couples

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Connecting at Church and Wimping Out

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Ever have those moments when you are transported back to your awkward middle school stage? I had one of those tonight. Driving downtown to a brewery, I couldn’t find a parking spot so I just turned around and drove home. I was supposed to meet a group from church that shared my interest in craft beer. But I wimped out.

Connecting into a new church is hard.

For eleven years of marriage, Hillary and I were always part of churches where I worked. Connecting with people took work but is wasn’t that hard because I was on staff. We developed relationships with volunteers or people in that specific ministry area and it happened naturally.

This fall though we started attending a great church just north of us in Arvada called Mile High Vineyard. Walking into church on Sunday mornings for a few weeks we were anonymous which was actually kind of nice. No one had expectations of us. We were just another family at church.

But then Hillary and I realized it was time to be part of the church community not just a place to worship on Sunday mornings. Mile High made it easy to connect and meet staff with a Connect Lunch on the first Sunday of each month. There were only 15 or so of us and we had the opportunity to meet one of the pastors.

We are still trying to figure out how to meet other families. How do you do that? There are so many fears that run through our minds. If we show up to a small group what if they all know each other really well and we don’t fit in? And do we even have time for more relationships when we are trying to connect with our neighbors in meaningful ways?

Our kids are having a hard time too because they are so used to being the pastor’s kids and all their teachers having to report to their dad. They have to figure out their own identity at church which is even harder when they are in separate classes.

All of this has a point.

Connecting into a new church is hard and it takes time for it to happen naturally. It takes effort and it doesn’t happen overnight.

I also think it is important for pastors to understand how hard it is for people to connect into a church. Create easy avenues for new people to connect with other new people. Pastors, if you haven’t experienced what it is like to connect into a new church when you aren’t on staff, listen to the stories of people in your church who have experienced it.

We are meant to be in community. Church isn’t really about singing and listening to a lecture. It is about discipleship that happens in the midst of relationships.

But like everything that is good in this world, it takes work.