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Is It Too Late?

The church is dclosed-300x223ying. Literally.

I don’t have a plethora of stats to back this up, at least not on the rural level.  I just use my own two eyes.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a statistician) to see that rural churches are aging and younger people just aren’t stepping up to lead.

As I look around at small rural churches, I see a lot of older leaders.  Men and women who have been serving for years who are still serving in those positions.  Where are the young leaders?  Sitting in the pews, if they’re coming at all.

Now, before this becomes a bashing session on older members, I don’t think they are completely the problem.  Yes, in some churches, we have older leaders who just don’t want to relinquish power.  I saw, first hand, what can happen when older power brokers refuse to give up power.  It can be ugly, stifling and limit leadership growth in the church.

Yet, I’m now seeing a new trend that bothers me just as much—a reluctance by young people to take leadership positions.  I recently read an article that suggests millennials would rather plant a new church than to fix the current one.  As the article states, “They would rather have babies than raise the dead.”

And so, the church is dying.  I’m not being completely figurative.  I’m being literal.

You see, here are the hard facts.  The baby boomers, those folks who have led the church for years and who are likely in leadership positions now, are dying.  As they begin to retire and face the golden years, churches are going to feel the pain.  In the next 20-30 years, many of them will be passing away.  If you look around and see 2/3 to ¾ of your leadership as 60 or older, then realize that 2/3 to ¾ of your leadership won’t exist in the next 20 years.

That’s scary, and here’s why.

They’re still leading because younger folks, the busters and the millennials, don’t want to lead.

I don’t know if this comes from the “serve me” mentality or the “let the pastor do it” idea, but they have no desire to lead.  But make no mistake, if they don’t lead, the local church will die.

In fact, I saw it happen.  A church had faithful deacons who all died off.  When the last one died, despite having a decent congregation, the church closed the doors.  Why? No one wanted to take over as a deacon.  No one wanted to lead.  Without leadership, the church had no choice but to close.

Something must be done.  What?  I don’t know.

I’m burdened with this problem.  How do you get young people engaged in serving the church?  This transcends youth ministry.  It transcends the pastorate.  It’s a growing problem and one, that if not corrected, will see churches, many of them rural churches, closing their doors.  Not for failure to bring people in, but for failure to find people to lead.

A Youth Ministry Prayer for Today

“Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10″

In our society we have a hard time slowing down, to relax , to wait. We want it our way and right now. STOP IT. Just sit here and rest in the next sentence.

God is.

That’s it.

Not God was or God will be.

God is.

His immediacy is what should give us rest. He is here with you now. It takes slowing down enough to BE STILL and then you will know He is God.

Rest in this. And truly rest.

On Suffering

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.  Philipians 1:29-30

One of the biggest questions in philosophy and Christianity is the question of “how can a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?” . We lack the human understanding to process the full impact of a single decision. There are so many things in our life that are affected by the fallen state of our world. These are all pretty oft-repeated answers. We hear almost trite answers about the effects of sin (which is true), good people being incapable to overcome the effects of the decisions of bad people (but what about God’s role in all this?)

How can we address this as a serious question within the church today? How do we explain the suffering that Christians go through in various areas of the world (and throughout history) simply for how they choose to believe?

How do we explain and share a Christianity that is devoid of suffering, that flees from suffering? I like to be comfortable as much as the next person, but How do I reconcile that with poverty, abuse, human trafficking, lack of basic human needs such as clean water, food, and shelter?

How do we counter a false gospel that states that states “because you had little faith, you suffered. I have comfort because I have faith”.

We live in a messed up world of suffering. How are you going to respond to the need?

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Being a Bystander is Hard…

Last weekend, while we were out of town, my son saw another boy wheelalmost killed on a bicycle. There was nothing my son or the friend he was playing with could do to stop it. A car was driving what looked way too fast, the boy jetted across the street at the wrong time without looking and the boy collided with the car. He broke several bones, collapsed a lung, and last I heard from the people in that area was in critical condition. What they left me with was “if he makes it, he’ll be in the hospital for a while”…

My boy came into the house to get an adult, so we could make sure someone called 911. He did the right thing, but really felt like thats all he could do. It was all any of us could do.  We were just bystanders..

A couple days later, I saw a church that is in nearly the same condition. It is a church full of people “disenfranchised” from a church that “went young”.  So they went and started their own new/old church. They determined that the way to reach their growing college -town community was to have a set of old fashioned revival services (nothing wrong with revival, i just question putting it on the calendar sometimes..) with a grey-haired evangelist from the south. He had a “hellfire and brimstone-lite” message delivered the way I remember in the early 1980’s. The guest music leader (from another church in town) was reprimanded by the pastor for singing songs that were too new (it was stuff from the early/mid 1990’s). So the night I was there, we had hymns, and more hymns. I was one of about 5 people there under the age of 55 (Including a staff member in her 30’s, who was required to be there). This church started as a hurting church, and they are slowly dying out as the congregation does. There are no real plans in place to reach young families. They are just doing it they way they have always done it, and if someone wants to come join, so be it.

I left that service very sad for the church. But it’s tough to be a bystander sometimes.

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Staging…

A couple weeks ago, I announced that I was embarking on a new ministry adventure. There has been much preparation in the transition (and not all is complete, but we’re getting close).

In all the preparation and training, I feel like the driver sitting behind the wheel of a top-fuel dragster, waiting for that little green light on the “Christmas Tree” to light up. It’s because I know that when it is “go time”, things are going to move fast and furious for a very short time at the beginning of this new adventure. Making contacts, securing pledges for support, building relationships with prayer partners, and so many other things that have to happen at just the right moment. God is with us in this wild ride. We are following the path He has laid before us.  We are trusting Him to put the right people in our paths that we can connect with His ministry opportunities.

I would love if you joined us to pray for this new season of ministry and for all the students and youth workers this ministry impacts.

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What’s the Point of Arguing?

bsr005Recently, I read this article about Bart Campolo.  He’s the son of author and preacher Tony Campolo.

Bart, who originally followed in his father’s footsteps, now serves as the Secular Humanist chaplain at the University of Southern California.  He does a lot of the pastoral care pastors do for churches, but he does it for the Secular Humanist movement.

I watched his video.  In it, he addresses a secular humanism audience and details his initial conversion to Christianity.  He talks about the need for community.  To paraphrase, the community of Christianity brought him in and welcomed him.  He wanted and needed that, so he joined, even though he didn’t have their faith in Christ.  He implored his secular human audience to create a similar type of community to attract others to the secular humanist way of thinking.

First off, it reminds me how important our Christian community and environment is. Scripture is not always easy to understand, particularly to a non-believing audience.  But love is.  If we love others—as Jesus said we should—we can share with them the truth of the Gospel.  Love builds bridges.  We must take our Christian community seriously. Souls depend on it.

Secondly, I noticed an interesting divide.  Apparently, others are not taking Campolo’s advice.  In the video, he mentions that secular humanists won’t win in an argument.  In fact, I found this true of Christianity too.  Very rarely is someone persuaded to Christianity or anything through a debate.

Yet, in a response to the Christianity Today article, Frank Schaeffer, wrote a scathing piece refuting much of Ed Stetzer’s article.  In the piece, he makes some broad generalities and uses some particularly inflammatory language.  He paints Christians with a broad brush, and attacks Billy Graham, Christianity Today and a host of others.

Here’s my question:  Why?

Why does Frank Shaeffer and others feel the need to prove Christianity wrong?  If they hold the superior view (and I disagree with that), then what’s the need to tear down those of us foolish enough to believe in Christ?

To assume that Christians are weak-minded, brainwashed or just stupid is an insult.  Most of my Christian friends have, at minimum, a college degree.  These are not dumb folks.  I know believers who are doctors, scientists, teachers, principals, administrators, CEOs, entertainers and executives.  My parents have only a high school diploma, but both are very smart people.  They believe in Jesus.

So I reject that simpletons alone believe in Jesus.

But if that’s your belief, why are you arguing?  Why try to convince us foolish people that you’re right?  And why try to vilify us?

I just don’t get it.

And perhaps, as Campolo suggests, that’s why Christianity has more of a following.  We create communities based on love, not engage in endless debates that resort to name-calling.

Maybe Schaeffer should pay more attention to Campolo.

But what do I know?  I’m just a brainwashed, mindless, dumb Christian.

budget

A New Perspective on Budgets

So, I’ve been budgetaway from MinistryPlace.net for a while.

It was sort of by choice.  You see, I’ve had a lot of changes in the past few months.  We had a new baby.  I moved six hours away.  I started my senior pastor position in Illinois.  I began my work towards my second master’s degree.  I was also working on my second novel.

That doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging.  So I took a self-imposed sabbath from the site.  I love this place to write and express, so it was never meant to be a permanent departure.  Just a small break to recharge, re-prioritize and reorganize.

Now that things have settled down, I want to get back to blogging here.  Since I’m no longer in youth ministry officially (though I’m not sure anyone ever leaves youth ministry totally), I want to change the focus and voice of my blogs here.

I plan to write things to evoke thought.  It might be a theological issue.  It might be a response to something I’ve read.  (Check back next time for my thoughts on Secular Humanism’s response to Christianity.)  It could be something I’ve learned in my brief time as the senior pastor of a church.

But rest assured, I still come from a small, rural church perspective.

So what’s my first nugget in this new foray.  Just this:  spend your budget.

I had my first budget meeting a few days ago.  We poured over the current budget, expenditures and anticipated budget needs for next year.  As we looked over the budget, we made notations of money not spent that could be allocated elsewhere.

I quickly learned this:  Those that spent their money are likely to receive the same amount or a slight increase next year.  Those that didn’t would likely see a decrease.

That blew my mind.  I had always been taught to stay under budget and run a tight ship.  I did.  In all my years of youth ministry, I can only think of one year we ran over budget, and that was due to an increase of students attending the mission trip.  I thought staying within budget and not spending all your money insured a budget increase down the road.

What I’ve learned, from a strict numbers standpoint is, if you don’t spend your money it might be better allocated to other areas.  The church budget has to cover a lot of ground.  If you’re not using all your money, another ministry that needs money is going to get what you didn’t spend.

So heed this warning:  you have a budget for a reason.  Estimate it as accurately as possible.  Then spend as much of it as you can without going over.  I believe a budget is meant for you to stay within.  I just now believe you should spend right up to the limit.

If you do, you will get that same money.  If not, it may get redirected somewhere else.

NNYM-Avatar

A New Adventure…

NNYM-AvatarI have exciting news. I have taken a position with National Network of Youth Ministries in the Great Lakes region. I will be serving as a Rural Ministry Specialist working with youth worker networks in Illinois and Western Indiana.

This position involves resourcing and encouraging youth workers in both paid and volunteer roles. I will be seeking out a team of people willing to champion the cause of equipping students for sharing their faith in the Rural Midwest.

I have posted more information on what I will be doing with NNYM on my personal website (BrentLacy.com). I would love for you to become part of my prayer and support teams. There is also a chance to take part in the Ministry Launch Fund.  This is Kingdom work. This is to enable more people to join in the work that God is doing among us. I pray that you will join in the work.

We are Better Together.

A Simple Approach to Youth Ministry Budgets…

Its that time of the year again!! Time to start looking at next year’s budget. I know some of you are asking “what’s a budget?”, I will get into that in a future post. Preparing a budget seems to be a necessary evil of Youth Ministry, but here are a few things I did several years ago to help make things a lot simpler to prepare and administrate.

1) Pray.  Ask God how He would want to use the resources you are given for His Glory and Kingdom growth.

2) Start with the end in mind. What is the total amount that the Church/Board will allow on Youth Ministry. Start here, and begin to plug in your planned events and resources

3) Use simple containers. For 5 years, I have  used three containers/categories in my budget. Everything we do fits in one of those three categories, and I can explain the why and how in less than 30 seconds. Here they are:

Inside Ministry – Happens inside the church building. (lock-ins , movie nights, Turkey bowling, etc…)

Outside Ministry – Happens outside the church. ( retreats, conferences, camps, block parties, outreaches, etc…)

-Administrative - Stuff that has to happen for ministry to go on. ( Subscriptions, event scholarships, office supplies, etc…)

I hope this helps you tame the Youth Ministry Budget this year. It doesn’t have to be hard. Share your budget tips in the comments area below.

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Just Stop It Already!…

“Why do we do this ministry every year?”

“Well…kinda because we’ve always been the ones to do It?….”

We have all had that conversation in our churches. There seems to be that one ministry in every church that is a sacred cow that happens every year only because it happened the year before. Many times, the people who originally started the ministry are long gone by the point that the church experiences the “critical mass necessary to kill it”.  The transition process in our church has led to the leadership team looking at most all of the ministry opportunities in our church and asking “why do we still do this?”.

At the end of the day, we were a church trying to do far more than it should. We had to let some things go, and be ok with it. One of the things that was let go was a back to school cookout that our church sponsored for a local collegiate ministry. One of the other churches in our fellowship of churches locally picked it up with fresh people and vision. They had a blast with it. Last night at a meeting of the local churches, the report thanked our church for allowing the new church to get the blessing of taking on this new ministry opportunity.

There are two things we can learn form this:

1) Ask why we do what we do. Is it for God’s Kingdom growth, or because you did it last year?

2) Killing a ministry doesn’t always mean its dead. Maybe its that God wants to carry it on through someone else as He leads you in another direction.

Who can you bless by killing a ministry? God knows.

What is a ministry your church “killed for the glory of God?” Share in the comments below.

MCHS June 2013

Campus Ministry

As schools across the country have started back and fall is in the air, youth ministers around the country are shifting their thinking to campus ministry. If you are a youth minister and you do not have a presence on your local school campus you are missing out on a large ministry opportunity. Now some schools are closed, youth ministers are not allowed to come eat lunch or be on campus during school hours. There are ways to still have a presence on campus and we are going to look at ways for open and closed campuses.

Lunch:
The old tried and true stand by for youth ministers. If you campus does allow you on to eat lunch it is a tremendous opportunity to connect with your students and it puts your face in front of the other teens.

Games, Arts, and Competitions:
Even if you have a closed school on your hands they cannot keep you from attending games, chorus recitals, band competitions, or tournaments. I just attended a middle school softball game the other day and four of our middle school girls were shouting, “That’s my youth pastor!” Imagine this in your head. Your students are telling their friends who you are, their friends see them hanging out with you having fun, and maybe you even get your students who are on the team together for a quick prayer and have one of your students lead it. What a great witness!

FCA:
I love FCA. I used to be a FCA Endurance Adult huddle leader. I have multiple schools represented in my ministry, (Two High Schools, Three Middle Schools, one private Christian School, and home school students). First thing I did at the start of the school year? Find out who the local FCA sponsors at each school are. I contacted them and asked if there was any way our student ministry could help support them. I’ve been invited to help with every single FCA group and I know the bridges I build through helping with FCA will impact students that may never grace my ministry but its about the bigger game plan not just my ministry.

Sports Teams:
We get the opportunity to feed our high school football teams prior to a game every year. Not only do we get to be the hands and feet of Christ by allowing students to see us serving them, but with both teams I get a short time to have a devotional and prayer with them before they leave. Awesome sauce!

Team Chaplain:
Some schools allow teams to have a volunteer team chaplain. How awesome would it be to have students who may not be in your student ministry asking you for spiritual advice? What an awesome way to expand your ministry influence!

Just a few campus ministry ideas we had this year? What are some of yours? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

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Lets Start a Facebook Prayer Meeting…

I received an interesting Facbook notification first thing this morning. Late last night Kevin Patterson tagged me and 9 other people, stating that he was challenged by a friend to choose 10 people publicly on social media to pray for in the coming week. Kevin added the ministries those people represented as well as their spouse/significant other.

I am going to up the ante a little more and hopefully make this a great, positive, far-reaching thing for all that are involved.

1) Create your post with the ten people that you are praying for (I recommend that you choose 5 in your church, 5 that are not.

2) This week, pray for that person daily, including their family and ministry

3) Tag each person, including the person who challenged you.

4) Now The Hard Part… Actually pray for those people this week.

Feel free to add a link to this article as part of of your challenge post.

Let’s do this, expecting to see God do great things for His kingdom as we pray for others both inside and outside our churches/ministries.

When the week is over, come back and share the great things God has done!!

#RuralMinistry and More.

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