Category Archives: Church Leadership

Church Leadership Churches United Methodists

Religion Recovery

religionrecovery      It got in my head last January to do a sermon series on the ways people have been hurt by religion. Not a real novel idea. Move on over to google and you’ll find millions of posts about how religion, specifically Christianity, has let people down, done damage, and is making our world a mess. But what really got me thinking about doing this were all the conversations inside and outside of the church that I had will people. People who want to connect with God but won’t bring their children to a place where they are vulnerable to assault, people who want to connect with God but have been told by religious leaders that they won’t be joined with their dead children in heaven unless they change their lifestyle. You know the stories. You know the people.

      I thought, okay, let’s just address the ugliness head on. Let’s just call evil evil. Not in a way to disparage the church, but in a way to let the people we’ve wrong heal. Let’s talk about hypocrites, let’s talk about exclusion in the church, let’s talk about judgement and condemnation, let’s talk about abusive leaders. read more »

Church Leadership Churches Fun

Some Stuff I’ve Learned from Performing Weddings

I found Candice and Heath's lack of faith... disturbing.
I found Candice and Heath’s lack of faith… disturbing.

     So yes, yesterday Joanna and I celebrated 7 years of marriage, and I’ve got marriage on the brain! I love marriage, I’m not going to lie. I also love doing weddings. When you’ve worked a big beautiful downtown church, you kind of end up doing a lot of weddings. I’ve performed around 25 weddings, which is probably not a lot for the average pastor, but for me and my stage of the game, it’s a lot. So in my little journey, I’ve learned a few things.

     1. The rings only fit about 50% of the time on the wedding day. You get it. All eyes on you. Making the biggest commitment of your life. Your emotions are high. This is a big deal. And now your stinking little fingers are plumping up like microwaved hotdogs. So in many cases, the wedding rings don’t fit in that moment. This is a tip I got from another pastor. I always warn the couple at the wedding rehearsal, tell them to get the ring on as far as they can but not to force it or hurt each other. Most couples give it the old college try during the service, anyway. I’ve seen some pain. Don’t worry people. It’s not a bad omen. It’s just biology.  read more »

Church Leadership Churches Family Inspiration

Portland, Hotel Bathroom 3 am, Thoughts on being better

where awake parents are exiled to.
where awake parents are exiled to.

Good morning or whatever it is for you when you read this. I am currently in the bathroom of of our hotel room in Portland, OR, and the time is about 3:00 am. More on why I’m in the bathroom later, and more on why I am awake later. I have a couple blog posts in the hopper and will be getting them up soon. I’m also going to try my hand at some videos soon, but for now, I just have a lot on my mind that I feel like I have to get out.

Well, now is later.

I’m in a bathroom
So, I’m here in Portland to attend my church’s Bishop’s Symposium, a time for all the United Methodist pastors in Oregon-Idaho to get together, hear big speakers, dream, worship, and make plans on how to better equip people to be awesome. Joanna and Clementine are joining me in Portland. We have family and friends here, and Clementine has never seen the ocean, which is what we’ll do tomorrow today.

Things are never that bad with these two.
Things are never that bad with these two.

So why am I in the bathroom blogging away on my iPad? Because we haven’t quite mastered the fine art of traveling with a 9 mo old. The trip’s been a little rough for baby Clementine-lemon-lime. She pretty much didn’t sleep yesterday and is pretty frustrated that her english just isn’t where she wants it to be right now. I try to encourage her, but she’s pretty hard on herself. So, I’m in the bathroom because C-town is asleep in the hotel room we’re sharing, and when she’s asleep, only sleeping people can be in that room. All the awake people have to go to the bathroom. read more »

Christian Culture Church Leadership Inspiration Theology

How to Make Disciples and Why I Don’t Like the Sinners’ Prayer

     If converting people to Christianity was like buying shoes, the “Sinner’s Prayer” is like swiping the credit card and signing the receipt. It’s kind of the linchpin to a proselytizing session. The goal of all the selling, persuading, and smiling is to get the person that believes differently than you to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.” And like the credit card, the “Sinner’s Prayer” is an invention to make the transaction as simple as possible.

     I was trained as a teenager to proselytize my friends to my faith. I was trained to get into conversations, and the ultimate goal was to seal the deal by getting people to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

     My first encounter with the prayer was after a terrifying Christian play. I might have mentioned this before. I was 12 yrs old, and I attended a play consisting of something like 20 vignettes of people just before some sort of freak accident (like a brick wall falling on them). Each vignette then depicted the characters waking up in front of an angel with a book, and if they at some point in their life said the “Sinner’s Prayer” and really believed it, then the Hallelujah Chorus would play and they’d get to go to heaven. 

     However, the majority of the characters had not said this prayer, so Satan and his demons would slink from the wings to drag these poor souls, kicking and screaming, into a hell of cray paper and strobe lights. At the end of the play, some guy that I didn’t know and didn’t know me came out and told me that I needed to give my life to Jesus or I would go to hell, and then he led me and other scared children in the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Transaction complete, I even got a receipt.

read more »

Christian Culture Church Leadership Devotional Thought Inspiration Spiritual Practices

Christian Living is Like Improv Acting

 Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 12.15.19 PMThe second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND… to me, YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.

(Tina Fey, Bossypants)

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   I love stories. I love hearing about heroes, conflict, growth, redemption, victory, and love. I especially love hearing true stories, stories of peoples’ origins, struggles, and family. Stories are how we understand ourselves. When we describe ourselves to new acquaintances, we don’t describe our dimensions! We tell stories. Stories are how we understand our world, each other, and even things beyond our understanding.

     As Christians, we are a people of a particular story. It has a beginning, middle, and end, filled with dynamic and round read more »

Church Leadership Churches Uncategorized United Methodists

Being a Pastor: My First Month

I can’t believe how people take such chances with me. I wonder if they know what they’re doing. Still, I thank God for all the people that have taken chances with me, believing in me, and seeing things that I don’t see. Thanks y’all.

      So, my situation is a little unique. I’m a young pastor in a denomination with some pretty stringent hoops to jump through to obtain that victorious stole of ordination. I haven’t completed all the requirements, but some people took a chance on me and appointed me to pastor a church as a Local Licensed Pastor (in the UMC, that means I can do all the pastory stuff within the ministry of one specific local church). Also, in the UMC, pastors are appointed to churches by an overseer of pastors, a Bishop, with help from District Superintendents. So, this church didn’t ask for me… they got me. There’s pros and cons, but in any case, I think these good people were surprised (to say the least) that they would be receiving a 28 yr old local licensed pastor, instead of whatever comes into your mind when you think of “pastor.” I know that the change has been difficult for many of them, but I have been absolutely blown away by their love, hospitality, and passion to “get to work” as we seek God’s will for our church and our city. Thanks y’all.

photo-7In My First Month

     Our first Sunday was tremendous. I remember talking to someone on the phone before I arrived. The plan was to have only one service because it was the weekend after the 4th of July and we anticipated many families being gone for the weekend. I said, “Are you sure?” Someone said, “We’ll have the room. It would be a miracle if we packed the place out.” Miracle? No problem. We packed the place out. The service was great before it began. I’m sure people were just curious about the new pastor, but it still felt good. I moved a few things in the order of worship, no one seemed bothered by it. Easy peasy.

     The biggest change that I’ve done so far, I haven’t done well. I always knew I would be encouraging the congregation to eventually receive communion weekly in the services. The read more »

Church Leadership Spiritual Practices Youth Ministry

3 Things Churches Must Learn From Youth Ministry

“Young people are among God’s most forthright, frustrating, and often unwitting prophets…” – Kenda Creasy Dean, Practicing Passion

Youth ministry, is actually a pretty young experiment in the churches of North America. It’s been a messy, kind of  “on the job training” situation for the last 50 years, and it’s effectiveness has been hit or miss, given the low turn out of young adults in worship attendance. Still, through it all, youth ministry has discovered and centered on things that make youth ministry vital for teenagers, helping youth groups thrive. I think the church at large can learn more than a few things from youth ministry, but here are three that the church must learn:

Friendship is greater than Order.

When Jesus prayed for those who believe in him to be one, I’m pretty sure he did not mean we should gather once a week, face the same direction, hear the same songs, prayers and words, then leave without talking to one another. Friendship is absolutely vital to the church being the church. Youth ministers have known this for a long time. Youth ministry at its core is building relationships. Rarely is there a youth event without some time for teenagers to get to know each other, through ice breakers, small discussion groups, team building activities, etc. Often, these activities introduce a little chaos into what you are trying to do! Youth group is a place where friendships are made. I know a lot of friendly churches, but a friendly church and a church where friendships can be made are two very different things. What is the process for making friendships in your church? Is it easy?

Participation is greater than Performance.

I prepare my heart out for the “youth talks” (sermons) that we do at our gatherings. I write some jokes, plan the topic, and have an end goal in mind, but what makes these sermons worth anything to the teenagers is not my expertise but their involvement. During the gathering, teens are free to raise their hands at anytime to ask a question, give their own analogy, or make it clearer for one another. Effectively, everyone gathered there makes the sermon, and it’s far more relevant than what I could do alone. This goes for music as well. Teenagers do not come to church to hear the most professional musician or speakers. Teenagers come to participate in something. Only a few churches can “perform” to standards that could sell out stadiums and win the attention of teenagers with their pure awesomeness. At their church, teens are not interested in the best music or speakers. Teens want to participate with a musician or speaker. A teenager is interested in a place and gathering that is effected by who comes and how they act. A service that will be ran the same way regardless of who attends doesn’t appeal or seem meaningful.

Experience is greater than Information.

My wife said that this one doesn’t sound like me because of how important I think good theology is. When I say experience is greater than information, I do not mean that my personal experience trumps Scripture or good theology. What I am trying to say is that as the Church, we must lead people to an experience with God, not merely information about God. Youth are drawn to experiences of God through various spiritual practices such as Lectio Divina, prayer journals, prayer ropes, imaginative prayer, fasting, etc. Youth ministers often give teenagers some sort of physical reminder of an inward grace that teens are experiencing, such as a stone, a bracelet, a nail, etc. Teens want to experience God, not just learn about God. I don’t think they are any different from adults in this respect.

Youth ministry, in many ways, have trained teenagers to expect a place where they can make friendships, where their participation matters, and where they can experience God. When teenagers grow into adults, can they expect these same things in the churches, or do they need to form their own communities?

What are your thoughts?

Cathedral of the Rockies Church Leadership United Methodists

Eric Geiger and Sue Nilson Kibbey: Awesome Church Leaders I Get to Hang Out With This Week

This week is our United Methodist Oregon-Idaho Leadership Institute. Churches from all over our conference will come together, here at The Cathedral of the Rockies, to worship, grow, plan, and dream for the future of our churches, our denomination, and our world. I am stoked for this week!

A huge reason that I’m so excited is that we get to host and I get to spend some time with our key-note speakers: Eric Geiger and Sue Nilson Kibbey.

Eric Geiger is best known for co-authoring the book Simple Church, named the 2007 Christianity Today Book Award winner in the Church/Pastoral Leadership category and was recognized by Outreach Magazine as the Best Outreach Leadership Training Resource of 2007.

Sue Nilson Kibbey is the Director of Connectional and Missional Church Initiatives for the United Methodist West Ohio Conference centered in Columbus, Ohio.  Sue is the former Executive Pastor at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, one of the most vital congregations in our little tribe, leading the way in social justice projects, small groups, passionate worship, and mission.  Sue is also the author of Ultimately Responsible: When You’re In Charge of Igniting the Ministry.

I’m pumped to spend some time with these fantastic church leaders, worship with them, and hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches through them! It’s going to be an exciting time. I’ll keep you posted.

If you are in the Treasure Valley this week, and are able to make it to any of the sessions, I highly recommend you come by (even if you aren’t Methodist). Go here for more info on the Leadership Institute.

Also, on Friday I will be leading one of the workshops on Youth Ministry. A little plug.

peace to your soul!†

 

-Ric