Monday, April 29, 2013

Core Competencies Part 1: Ministry and Missions

As we look at the first of the four core competencies, it is important to remember that they are not sequential. For example, a believer does not accomplish one the competencies and then moves on to another. In a believer's quest to become a fully devoted follower of Christ all four of these competencies should be growing, maybe not always at the same pace depending on the current life situation of the believer, but there should be some constant change. The growth a Christian will never be stagnant. The act of spending time with God will cause a believer to grow. The opposite is also true that any time spent away from communing with God will cause a believer to begin to backslide. We serve a God who is unapologetic about his jealousies towards us. He is jealous because he knows the best thing a believer can do is turn over to him the totality of their being.

In following with the flow of Mark 12:30 we see that God wants believers to love him with all their heart. The heart is the control center for the body's cardiovascular system. It pushes through our bodies the very thing that allows us to have life.  Without hearts, our bodies stop working. From a symbolic perspective, the heart is what matters most to you. It’s what drives you to get up in the morning. It’s what holds you up when everything else is falling down. Simply put, it’s how you live.

Jesus talked a good deal about the things that are important to him. One thing of note is his bride, the church. Symbolically for Christians the church has come to represent a launching pad for ministry. The place that God loves is where Christians are trained to influence their community by engaging their world. Mark 12:30 says that we must love the Lord with all of our heart, and if we are striving to be like Christ then our hearts should reflect the same desires of God’s-that is to see his church mobilized to love people and to make him known.

The core competency of doing ministry and missions is what should drive the believer. When a person falls in love with ministry and missions, they get to experience a pathway to spiritual growth that takes them beyond the carnal knowledge of God to the experience of God. As church leaders, one of our most important tasks is to help people fall in love with the idea of serving others.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, we see him going to the sick person, touching the leper, and being with tax collectors. That was not because he did not have the power to influence them from a distance, but because Jesus was teaching his followers the importance of being with people and doing ministry within the context of relationships.

Maybe it’s a keeping the nursery at church or feeding the homeless at a soup kitchen, whatever it is a person who is endeavoring to become a fully devoted follower must be taught the importance of being involved in a ministry that God has equipped them. Ministry leaders need to understand that people serving within their body are not just providing volunteer hours, but they are doing the training necessary to being a fully devoted follower.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Core Competencies of a Believer (overview)

We spend a lot of time as church leaders endeavoring to guide people into becoming more Christ like. From a preschool worker to the senior pastor, the goal of the church should be to help those who are not connected to God become a fully developed follower of Christ.  A fully developed follower of Christ is someone that follows this description in in the greatest commandment,  

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.””  (Mark 12:30-31 ESV)

Within this greatest commandment, we see two major categories of understanding and/or obtainable qualities. The first, simply put, is to love God and the second is to love man. To love God we must learn to love man, and likewise to love man more, we must develop an understanding the full nature of God.

A more comprehensive look at Mark 12:30 revels another set of attributes that must not be overlooked and holds the essential areas of focus for a fully devoted follower. Verse 30 says to Love God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength. This is almost an exact quote from Deuteronomy 6:5 except, “The Hebrew text does not mention “mind”; the Septuagint omits “heart”; but Jesus included both terms, stressing the comprehensive nature of the command.”1 These areas can be defined in four ares of competencies that a believer must be continually developing in order to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus
  • With all your heart – missions and ministry
  • With all your soul – spiritual disciplines
  • With all your mind – theological training
  • With all your strength – life skills

If church leaders will put opportunities in place for their members to cultivate and practice these core competencies, they will see Christians develop a profounder love for Christ and other people. In the follow entries, I will explore what these qualities look like and discuss strategies for guiding believers to develop these ares in their lives.
1 - John D. Grassmick, "Mark" In , in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Mk 12:29–31.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How To Get Your Student Involved In Student Ministry

One Big Problem: FEAR
One of the most common problems I find in trying to get new students involved in the student ministry is fear. Most students are afraid to visit our programming because they don’t want to enter the room alone.

To be honest I don’t blame them. It is intimidating for students to think about coming to a place where they don’t know anyone (even though they probably already know someone). When they come they will find students talking and hanging out with students and other adults who are excited they are there.

Although students ministries have adults and students ready to greet and welcome them, the new students can miss these connection opportunities because they are victims of this crippling, blinding fear.

“Okay I’ll try it once.”
Because of parental pressure (and bribery), many kids will try the student ministry once, but return to their parents with one of the following reaction:
“It’s too big”
“It’s too small”
“It’s too wild”
“It’s too cliquey”
“It was stupid”
“I hated it”

Again, some of us would have same reaction if we went by ourselves. But if a student comes with a friend, often I hear them say:
“It was great”
“I loved it”
“The people there are really friendly”
“I learned a lot”
“I didn’t know church could be so much fun”

Friends… The Key
Friends make the difference! When a student is connected with another person, he or she feels more comfortable. I have watched students walk into a meeting and leave because they were not able to locate a familiar face. As you know, relationships bring comfort. The best student ministry is one that is built on cultivateing relationships.

What can parents do?
1. Pray – It’s amazing how many parents have not considered prayer as one of their resources. I encourage you to ask God for His wisdom when talking to your son or daughter. God is more concerned about your child’s spirituality than even you are! Start here and ask God to do the impossible while you and our adult work on the possible.
2. Make connection with other adults.
3. Choose the best “first” event. Depending on your child’s personality and spiritual depth, you might want to consider which is the best "first event" for him or her to attend.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Five Things to Remember When Communicating To Your Child During a Crisis

It is commonly understood that the most important thing a parent can offer a child is a sense of security and stability. Parents must struggle daily to ensure that these are always a priority in their daily parenting adventure.  Sometimes our world makes that difficult. A couple of months ago we all grieved a mass school shooting and today (4/15/2013) will be remembered as the day the Boston Marathon was bombed.

When national tragedies and instant 24-7 media are combined, it can rob children of their sense of security and stability. It is almost impossible for parents shield the world from their children when these types of events happen. So parents need to have a plan about how to talk to their children while protecting the security and stability that could easily be robbed. Here are some ideas about how to handle a crisis with your children. These are in no way original thoughts with me but they are easily applicable despite the crisis. 

1.    Find out what they know about the event
This should be common sense but it’s so important that it bears saying.  A simple question like, “What have you heard about…” or, “What are your friends saying about…” As parents, we need to shield our children from things that they are not ready to comprehend and we need to encourage them that it’s okay to ask questions.

2.    Reassure their sense of safety and security
Hug your child. Tell them how much you love them. Tell them you are going to protect them. Cook them a special meal or order a pizza. Give them an opportunity to enjoy things that communicate how much you as a parent love them.

3.    Listen to what your child is saying and not saying
Children love to talk and when your child is talking, listen past the words and pay attention to the emotion behind their words. Sometimes they don’t know how to say what they want to say and parents need to listen with more than their ears but with their heart

4.    Share how the crisis makes you feel
Parents are always teaching their kids. One of the most important things we can communicate is how to deal with difficult situations. Keep your communication age appropriate but don’t diminish the importance of teaching your kids how to go through difficult times. Spend time praying for those who were affected and for the person who caused the tragedy

5.    Don’t feel like you need to explain why things happen
We live in a fallen world. Bad things are always happening and if my understanding of scripture is correct, things are not going to get much better. When something bad happens, when tragedies strike, your presence and love is more important than knowledge about why things happen.

A final thought is that we need to develop a sense of compassion in our children for people who are going through difficult circumstance. As you are talking with your children, give them an opportunity to give back to those who have been affected. Whether you write letters, send cards, draw pictures, or organize some type of bigger demonstration, give them a chance to show love to someone else in a way that is relevant to them.