I’ve got to admit—Mother’s Day is one of the most fear eliciting, stress inducing weekends of the year for me. It’s not so much about my ineptness in selecting a gift or honoring the mother of my house—Debbie—although, I’ve messed that up more than once.
No, the trepidation comes from the annual exercise of trying to prepare and deliver a message that navigates the veritable minefield of emotions that women are feeling on that day. You’ve got women who are: moms; want to be moms but haven’t been able to yet; mothers who’ve lost a child; women who’ve lost a mother recently; moms with wayward children; women who have lost their husbands; women who would LIKE to lose their husband; women who would like to find a husband; career moms; stay at home moms, etc. The list goes on.
In 1990 my wife, Karen, and I began an endeavor that would forever change our lives. What began as a church plant became a radical reordering of our personal priorities and approach to ministry. We became painfully aware during our early days as church-planting pastors that we were far off course from God’s heart toward people of different ethnicity than us.
We slowly realized our ignorance of the daily issues that affected people of color. We also became aware that our day-to-day lives were void of any genuine friendships with non-whites. We, of course, “loved everybody.” The problem was you couldn’t tell it by our lifestyle or relationships.
I began to ask, “Why don’t our churches look like heaven?” Out of that question rose a powerful new quest in our lives.
Why personal finance must be set upon a strong foundation
The more the economy continues to bump along, without much evidence of rebounding, the more anxious people become about the future. We don’t like uncertainty, especially financial uncertainty. Have you noticed how many people are ready for economic change? Nearly all of us! And regardless of how we’ve weathered this recessionary storm, we all have a need for a solid financial foundation.
Poor employment numbers, diminished value on investments, lost equity in real estate—these and more have pushed many of us out of our comfort zone during the last several years. This has instilled some with an urgency to find new ways of doing things and has led to some good changes. Many, though, are still looking for direction, hope and a positive outlook about the future.
Four ways to prepare couples for marriages that will last a lifetime
Having been a college/20-something pastor for the last decade, I have lived in the land of dating, engagement and wedding officiating. My weekends are regularly filled with beautiful flowers, “Here Comes the Bride” and mediocre reception musicians. Officiating weddings is fun, and a lot of energy is poured into making this a special and memorable day. But there is so much more that must be considered. Have we spent more energy pulling off a wedding and less on preparing to make a marriage last a lifetime?
I have been asked “How do I know if she is the one?” more times than I can count, taught about dating and marriage multiple times, and spent endless hours in premarital counseling. Thinking about this sacred subject has been a necessity for me. Here are a few things I have come to realize in trying to prepare young adults for marriage.
Paint a realistic picture. Marriage is a beautiful thing, designed by God. There is fulfillment and joy for two people that “submit themselves to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). But having a great marriage takes a lot of work. When we get caught up in the enchanting imagery of Ephesians 5, we have to remember that it is an invitation to the death of self. It is easy to be a servant when people praise us for it, but the test is will we still serve when people treat us like servants?
Are you helping teens move beyond content into active obedience?
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Youth ministry has morphed into a never-ending conversation. Let’s face it. Those of us in youth ministry run from one meeting to the next planning, sharing, envisioning, describing—talking. If we got paid by the word, we would all be rich.
And now we have all sorts of seminars, workshops and conferences where we pay to hear others talk.
Too much talk and not enough action. I don’t think the early church was immune to this problem. First John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (NIV).
Door to Door
Jesus was all about action. He was always on the go serving, teaching, healing, feeding, touching and sharing. If we build our youth ministries in His image, then they’ll be active—not passive—focused on obedience and not just content.
I’ll never forget being a junior high intern 17 years ago. As the new guy on the block, I thought I’d try something different. My talk was on evangelism (no surprise!), and I finished it about 30 minutes early (big surprise!).
The handful of confused teenagers all kind of looked at each other and their watches with the “What now?” look. I seized the opportunity and said, “Now we are going to go do it!”
“Do what?” one seventh-grader asked.
“We’re going out into this neighborhood to serve people and share the gospel,” I explained.
“We can’t do that?” one teen said in fear.
“Why not?” I asked.
“This is Sunday school.”
“Well, you take field trips in school, right? Think of this as a field trip.”
So off we went door-to-door—raking leaves, cleaning up, initiating conversations, taking prayer requests, sharing Jesus. At first, the teens were terrified. But then it caught on.
By the time we headed back, a buzz had ignited among those young souls. Their Christianity was no longer a theory or a classroom situation. They had an opportunity to live it out in very tangible ways right in their church’s own backyard.
After that, Sunday school was never the same. There was always a sense that, with Jesus, anything could happen at anytime.
Walking the Walk
That’s the way church should happen every time. Look at the early church and how they did church. It wasn’t just about the meeting, so much as the mission that followed. Why do we compress all of our outreach efforts into a quarterly meeting or an annual missions trip? Maybe because we prefer a strategy that depends on words and not actions.
Now don’t get me wrong. Words are very important. Without words, our actions would be misguided and misled. But words without actions are like fire without heat—useless. Life-changing youth ministry has fire and heat, words and actions. Effective youth ministers talk the talk and walk the walk.
So why not have an application at the end of every talk you do? Your teens will soon catch on that “faith without works is dead” and that God wants us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.”
That’s one reason why we challenge students to call or text their unreached friends and get started immediately. We want students to experience the joy of doing what they have learned.
All talk and no action tends to turn Jack into a dull Christian.
Greg Stier is founder and president of Dare 2 Share, a ministry dedicated to mobilizing teenagers to reach their world with the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the author of multiple books and numerous resources, including Dare 2 Share: A Field Guide for Sharing Your Faith and Ministry Mutiny: A Youth Leader Fable.