Ministry Life

Authentic Kids-Discipleship

Raising up strong children requires transparency and authenticityd-MInLife-Children


A time-worn Christian cliche’ says that family decline is the root cause of much of the devastation in the nation today. From broken families, broken children emerge to create broken communities, broken churches and even broken nations. If we are going to turn America around, we must heal our families. Our families and homes are the first school house and the first church.

When my husband talks about a spiritual reformation within our nation, I often think about the practical aspects of training the next generation. I know several strong Christian leaders whose children have wound up doing prison time or they are stuck in nonproductive jobs, or even worse: They hate the idea of being engaged in ministry. This is often because the leaders did not pass the baton on to the next generation. 

Years ago I looked at my life. I saw how wounded and dysfunctional I really was personally. Born an illegitimate child, the descendant of three generations of broken homes. Sexually abused before the age of 5 and brought up in a ghetto that led to me getting involved with drugs, alcohol and premarital sex. I even had two abortions.

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Choosing the Right VBS for Your Church

Practical help for pastors and lay leaders in selecting the best outreach programd-minlife-children-vbs-1

 

Vacation Bible School (VBS) has come a long way since 1923 when Standard Publishing produced the first printed faith-based curriculum for children, which was designed as a five-week course. Today, VBS has morphed and expanded into the largest church outreach program of the year for kids, though it only lasts a few days of their summer.

Churches nationwide gear up during the winter and spring months for the summer event by investing precious time, money and resources for a number of reasons. The most obvious one is the opportunity to reach out to the local community with the love of Christ and the message of hope. VBS is a non-threatening way for families to walk onto a church campus and experience firsthand a church’s commitment to loving and ministering to people.  

VBS also creates a great opportunity for the entire congregation to support and highlight its children’s ministry. VBS should always be a big deal. The exposure it creates for children’s ministry is invaluable.  

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Disciples of Disney?

Why young adults need to hear a ‘better song’— biblical truths about love and marriaged-MinLife-Youth


I sing a lot in my sermons. I sing because students know and resonate with the songs that they have heard since they were children. In fact, young adults’ ideas about love and marriage are usually formed more by Disney movies and other media than biblical narratives. So I grab their attention by singing a familiar Disney song and then explain a better story—God’s story. Here are three lies that Disney movies tell young people.

Teens are worthy of worship by someone of the opposite sex. You know the story—it’s the all-too-familiar young romance movie. A young man becomes infatuated with the striking beauty of a young woman, going to great lengths to woo her. He will kill any dragon, trek any foreign land and embrace any hardship to be with the young lady. Once he rescues her, he sings, praises and whisks her away to a life of bliss. It’s a great story. It’s fun, exciting and pulls at our heartstrings. However, there is a problem. God is left out of the story.

Here is a better story: a God-honoring man goes to great lengths to woo the heart of a woman who fears God. Together, they honor God by serving and loving each other for the rest of their lives. These two stories have similar plots, but the difference lies in who is worthy of being worshipped.

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Happily Ever After 101

Four ways to prepare couples for marriages that will last a lifetimed-MinLife-Couples-

 

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?

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Invest in Youth Workers

How to deposit the right kind of motivation into these vital ministersd-MinLife-Youth-Kerry-Loescher

Growing up, I’d often see my mom the scout leader wearing a crazy hat. It had two bills pointing in different directions, and the caption above them read: “I’m their leader. Which way did they go?” While this was a funny message as a kid, for an adult leader this poses an important question. The key to leading scouts—and volunteer youth workers—is the same: Give them motivating reasons to want to follow.

Begin with the end in mind. Developing adolescent disciples is a worthy endeavor and a wild ride. Helping youth workers remember that the goal is always to build into teens and their families the tools to be lifelong followers of Jesus is critical. Tip: Keep the goal of what the youth ministry is about short and memorable. Talk about it often. Put it in easy view 
everywhere—on shirts, banners, even pop quizzes on the ceiling. Whatever it takes.

Appreciate their contribution and investment. Caring for teens and their families has a way of sneaking into every area of a youth worker’s life. This is not just a-couple-of-hours-a-week gig for them. Honor this investment. Tip: Handwritten notes of encouragement and thanks are not only timely but also special. Anybody can write an e-mail or Facebook post, but hardly anyone gets snail mail these days; so go “old school” and use the post office.

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Family Grieving

How to help those who have lost a loved one to suicide
Everyone can relate to difficult circumstances, especially during these economically tough days when people are losing jobs, homes and retirement savings. Divorce is on the rise, as are addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex. For millions, the emotional stress has become almost too much to bear. Yet among those suffering exists a group that actually believes the crisis is too overwhelming. Unable to cope and devoid of hope, they believe there is only one solution: suicide.
How should pastors respond to those who are suicidal or those who have lost a family member to suicide? Are you equipped with the therapeutic and supportive resources to aide parishioners who are grief-stricken? Part of your role as a pastor is to bridge the gap between emotional despair and spiritual freedom, yet that is rarely an easy task. When it comes to counseling suicidal individuals or grieving families, the work is taxing. Yet even if you lack certification or training in professional counseling, here are some key elements you can apply in helping people recover from the effects of suicide.

1. Use a team approach. You’re not a doctor, and you don’t play one on TV. Use a strength-based approach by tapping into the expertise of professional and trained individuals in the field of counseling or social work. Seek their guidance and incorporate their suggestions in the efforts to aide a grieving family. Ask them about external supports or resources that are best suited to meet the needs of the family. Some families may not be comfortable revealing their feelings to their church family, so respect their right to privacy in seeking outside support.
2. Show empathy. It’s critical that those grieving feel your sincere sensitivity, warmth and understanding. Regardless of the circumstances, refrain from making statements such as, “Didn’t he know it’s selfish to commit suicide?” or “How could she be so dumb?” There’s simply no room for this type of insensitivity. Those left behind are already confused, shocked and dazed. Help them understand that suicidal people generally want to end their suffering and pain, seek to alleviate their unendurable psychological pain, and relinquish their self-perceived reliance on others. Your compassion can help bring a sense of understanding and acceptance.
3. Be there to listen. Silence is golden, and there isn’t a better time to apply this principle than in the crucial days following such a tragic loss. Give the family space and time to work with a professional counselor and sort through the psychological and spiritual impact of their loss. In some cases, they may feel a sense of scrutiny and stigmatization. To the best of your ability, serve as a buffer from harmful remarks. Your presence as an effective listener will be pivotal throughout the entire ordeal.  
4. Ask questions. Don’t assume; ask candid and open questions. It’s easy to beat around the bush in a situation like this, but don’t let that happen. Not only will you assist the family in dealing with core issues, the questions you ask will help you ascertain vital information and give you insight into how you might prevent suicide’s devastating impact in the future.
5. Become familiar with suicide risk. You can learn about suicidal signs by attending a seminar or a suicide prevention conference. Many symptoms are easily overlooked, so take the initiative to learn more by researching online or talking to a social worker. There are also suicide hot lines available in virtually every community. Provide contact information for these in the bulletin at your church.

Devon A. Blackwood counsels at Johns Hopkins and Hope Health Systems and is president and CEO of B.W. Affiliates. He is the author of Planted By Water and is writing his third book, My Season.

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