Theology Matters

Titus Benton —  July 17, 2014 — 1 Comment

We can sometimes get so wrapped up in the practical side of ministry that we forget that theology really does matter. I don’t know what your theological training looks like, but in this day and age we have no excuse to not get familiar with the what (and the why) we believe.

What we believe impacts our ministry methods. Think about these questions, on which a variety of opinions are held:

1. What constitutes a member of a church?

2. What does one have to do to indicate their voluntary surrender to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?

3. What constitutes, if anything, someone losing their membership in your church?

4. Who is welcome in your church? Is anyone unwelcome?

5. How do you communicate the expectation of giving in your congregation?

6. How often do you practice the Lord’s Supper and how is it practiced?

Any answer to any of these questions reveal a core theological belief. Though there’s certainly room for variance on these items, each opinion is influenced by theology.

Reading practical ministry books is great. I do it, and I advocate for it. But I would also encourage cracking open a theology book every now and then. Or read a church history book and discover how your particular belief developed. We all have ministry role models, but we need theology role models as well.

In this way, we’re not only understanding why we believe what we believe, but we’re allowing the horse to pull the cart instead of the other way around.

First 100 Days

Titus Benton —  May 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

Young or old, everyone is a rookie more than once in their ministry career. As I approach my third year at a “new” church, I’m reminded of how it felt to be the new kid on the block. I was challenged by my new lead pastor to develop a first 100 days plan. LIke the POTUS, the first days in “office” are crucial to long term success.

Here’s how I shaped my first three months:

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

I had more meetings than I care to recall — with parents, staff members, students, volunteers, elders, etc. I sent mailers. I updated the website. I did everything I could to make sure people felt like they knew me as fast as I could. I sent hundreds of e-mails.

2. Evaluation

Though I don’t think I changed a single thing, I evaluated everything that was going on in our ministry at the time and everyone who was doing it. I made note of necessary changes, but didn’t worry about trying to change them. Instead, I watched and waited. I asked other people what they thought. I did lots of brainstorming. Planning was toward after the 100 days.

3. Easy Win

I remember looking to contribute in a significant way with one or two things–something that could be celebrated as a win. I don’t know what that might be for you. Maybe it’s an event or perhaps it’s just a key conversation. Perhaps it’s adding a key team member (or eliminating one). What I was looking for was something where everyone would respond with, “Sheesh, yeah. Why didn’t we do that ages ago?!”

4. Don’t Over Do It

Transitions are stressful, and fake smiles are easy to spot. So don’t forget to rest. No use in having a great first 100 days if every day after that is miserable. Burn out can happen fast, and there’s no way you’ll get three years worth of ministry done in three months. So set patterns of rest early. If you don’t, you may never recover.

What about you? How do you position yourself for success when you’re the rookie pastor. Or the rookie pastor again?

Would love your insights below.

World Vision and the New Reality

Josh —  March 27, 2014 — 1 Comment

World Vision, the Seattle based Christian relief agency that does incredibly good work on behalf of the poorest of the poor has been in the news as of late for nothing even remotely close to child sponsorship.

If you have been living under a rock here’s a quick update.

President of World Vision, Richard Stearns, announced earlier this week that a policy concerning hiring would be changing. Same sex couples in a legal marriage would not be barred from employment. Stearns cited Christian unity. World Vision employees come from various denominations, including some that sanction same sex marriages. In addition employees reside in states that legally recognize same sex marriages.

As you can imagine the outcry was swift and loud. Two days after the initial announcement it was reversed.

This is the new reality.

If you are a younger Rookie Pastor, statistically you are more open to same sex marriage than older generations. However if you find yourself here there is a good chance you are interacting with and leading people whose interpretation of Scripture leads to a passionate resistance to same sex marriage.

So what do you do?

The sad thing is that no matter how we deal with this issue someone will be upset. And ignoring it may be the worst thing you can do.

Condemn. Condone. Accept.

Those are the three options I see.

Condemn. Same sex marriage is wrong and must be fought with everything we have. Redefining marriage is an assault on marriage and the family, the central institution. Any deviations from teaching homosexuality is a sin is a compromise on the authority of Scripture.

Condone. The 6 passages of Scripture said to address homosexuality are not speaking to the modern form, and definitely not committed, monogamous marriages between two consenting adults. If God is love he couldn’t deny people who they choose to love.

Accept. The cultural war is over. The local church needs to stay out of politics and become more concerned with how we treat people than developing a theological line in the sand.

I tend to lean towards a variant of the third option, even though I think you disappoint the most people here. As the new reality we can still choose not to participate or celebrate the activities or sexual identities that we believe to be outside of God’s intent, but we are called to love people.

It is a mess and it will only get worse. Figure out your posture on this and lead with grace. We all need it.

In moments of weakness, frustration, or exhaustion, it is easy to think that the world is against you. By “the world” I mean people in your congregations, leaders who oversee you, subordinates you have responsibility over, or even your family. Each group–if you are in ministry long enough–will offer some sort of criticism along the way.

From the stereotypical volume of the music during worship to the subtle jabs about the length of your sermon, people’s “suggestions” can sometimes seem mean spirited.

The truth is, people don’t hate your guts and the general population is not determined to bring you down.

When your spouse says you’re working too hard or your boss corrects some error in your thinking or a friend comes to you and asks you to reconsider a stance you’ve taken, don’t forget one possibility:

They might be right.

In the moment you might not want to hear it. That doesn’t make them wrong. There have been many times I’ve sat across from someone who I disagreed with only to later reconsider and see their train of thought. Usually when people approach us with some input they have good reasons and good motives.

Here’s some practical advice on accepting critique with humility: Continue Reading…

Andy Stanley on Preaching

Josh —  March 3, 2014 — 1 Comment

Stuck in a communication rut?

The below video is well worth your time. It has been around for awhile, but I watched this in preparation for the launch of Movement Church and it brought a lot of clarity to my process.

Wouldn’t recommend you watch this a few days before you preach because you’ll end up reworking your whole message.

Thank You for Your Support

Josh —  February 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

Rookie Pastor has changed in large part because I am involved in planting Movement Church. So many of you have been supportive I wanted to share this.

Thank You from Josh Tandy on Vimeo.

I’ve been in student ministry for 15 years. I don’t have it all figured out yet, and indeed I probably never will. However, there’s one thing I think every successful student pastor does that I wanted to pass on to you wide-eyed, hopeful rookies out there.

I call it the rule of thirds. Every student minister should spend a roughly equal amount of time with each of three groups of people–parents, volunteers, and students.

Parents

Let’s face it–parents are more important than us. A student ministry that is not actively partnering with parents is destined for confusion, misunderstanding, doubt, and division. Those are strong words, but I mean them.

In my ministry, this partnership is aided by the fact that I get to be in front of parents preaching in our main worship service ten or twelve times a year. Not everyone gets this platform. However, it is simply too easy to communicate with parents not to. I have a text messaging database that is helpful for last-minute changes and follow-up questions for Sunday morning teaching. I send a monthly e-news through Mail Chimp that highlights upcoming events. We are doing an increasing amount of roundtable discussions and training events out in the community, because not just church folks are wondering what in the world’s going on with their kids.

There’s Facebook and Twitter and websites and tons of ways to equip parents to disciple their kids. Use your personal blog to communicate what other experts are saying, linking them to those resources so they can add them to their parenting toolbox.

Whatever you do, don’t neglect parents. I would wager that if we forget one of these three, this is the one. Stop! Spend a third of your time thinking about and ministering to the parents of your students.

Volunteers

I don’t care what size ministry you serve in, you need help! Even when I was a young guy just starting out with a youth group of less than a half dozen students I needed volunteers. They drove the church van and hosted events and baked cookies.

I’m old enough to drive a church van now, but I can’t drive all of them or pick up three at a time from the rental place. I can’t lead fourteen small groups. I can’t teach every week. I certainly can’t play instruments and sing and I don’t know a ton about technology. I can’t run our cafe and do check-in and do follow-up and reach out personally to every student and plan every event and single-handedly watch every kid that’s at every event.

So you’ve got to build a team. Spend a third of your time doing this. Lead a small group that includes all your volunteers, go out to eat together, send personal notes of gratitude, ask them how their study went, and throw parties every now and then. Weekly communicate via e-mail. Don’t waste their time. Laugh with them. Visit them when they or their family is in the hospital. Model for them the kind of leadership you want them to provide for their classes or groups or huddles or whatever it is you call them.

Students

I save students for last because most guys and gals in student ministry spend about 90% of their time working directly with kids. In your setting this might serve you well. Particularly as ministries grow, though, you have to spend less if you’re going to lead well. To adequately build team and inspire parents means taking less time drinking smoothies with students. This is an unpopular take, but it’s a no-brainer if you want your ministry to last beyond you.

Students will probably still think you’re the stuff. Don’t get a big head. Spend energy integrating them into the life of the whole church. Introduce them to other adults that you know they’ll have affinity with. Make it about them and not you. I think sometimes we buy student’s lunch and take them for frozen yogurt and have them over at our house because it makes us feel important, not because it’s in their best interests.

I think a third of our time should be spent directly with students or on lesson prep or some other element that will benefit students directly. But to spend much more than that probably means you are either in need of their affirmation, neglected another important component of your ministry, or both.

Sit down and reflect on your week. How did you spend your time? Did you give equal attention to each of these three groups? How can you move toward more balanced attention?

 

Another Ham v Nye Postscript

Josh —  February 6, 2014 — 2 Comments

I watched the debate last night. I wasn’t surprised as I have heard Ham talk at length on this and Nye had many of the common objections and questions of creationists.

The only thing the two appeared to find common ground on was laptop hardware, if not personalization of said hardware.

You can read all the other reaction pieces out there as there are plenty. Or you can read a more nuanced stance that rejects the either/or paradigm and approaches the question of origins from a different, yet Biblical standpoint.

If you are looking for something else you should read John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One.

Walton is an OT prof at Wheaton and the short book will at the very least challenge you to consider something else. I don’t know if or who is right and who is wrong, but I do know we could be served by a more nuanced conversation.

Slap of Reality of the Day

Josh —  February 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

GOTW.020514.Diversity.V2

So there’s the problem. The trend for more unaffiliated is obvious and seemingly compounding for younger generations.

How are you part of the solution?

 

 

Last night was a bad game. And our plans to enjoy the game were cancelled last minute because of sick kids. But it was still better than a lot of previous Super Bowls.

As a former Student Pastor I’ve hosted the youth group Super Bowl party, been the Emcee for a church wide party, and I’ve done community outreaches where we had to contractually avoid using the word Super Bowl.

We always tended to avoid the commercials and halftime shows in case someone was exposed to something inappropriate. One year I had to sit by the projector and block the image anytime a GoDaddy commercial came on, while all the 14-year old boys groaned with disappointment.

What a joke.

I’m not saying that sexualized images or glorifying alcohol consumption or erectile dysfunction or other commercials are virtuous and of value. What I am saying is that our actions every first Sunday in February is rather futile.

We aren’t going to beat this with censorship and selective viewing. The culture war is over.

Wars are lost when nations fail to adapt and acknowledge new reality. It doesn’t mean we have to embrace it or be ok with it or even do away with the Super Bowl parties (lock-ins though need to be put down though).

It was great to sit back and watch the game. It was nice not to play the morality police.

Ministry can’t be about morality, or at least ministry that hopes to make a lasting impact can’t.

It can’t because if someone had changed the channel as they saw fit I’d respond like a 14-year old. I can’t expect people to protect me, I have to make the choice to not allow certain images, messages, or stories in.

I wish I had focused more on equipping students to make this choice as opposed to making the choice for them and celebrating the number of kids who showed up to watch something they could watch on their own, uncensored.