eyes wide open

the second Jars of Clay inspired blog of the day….

So God bruise the heels we’ve dug in the ground
That we might move closer to love
Pull out the roots we’ve dug in so deep
Finish what You’ve started
Help us to believe

This song can take on multiple meanings I’m sure, but to me it means that we’ve GOT to find a way to get over our old fashioned/self centered/comfortable/blind views on the world.  We’ve got to eradicate comfort zones.  Basically, we’ve got to GET OVER OURSELVES.

The bible says “love your neighbor as yourself” but that doesn’t simply mean the nice person that lives right next to you.  Neighbor means everyone else in the world.  We are not called to stay within our communities and comfort zones.   Some take this to the FULL extent and travel across the world, but today, I want to challenge everyone to allow neighbor to mean the part of town that you often avoid because the people there are different.

“Different” takes on many meanings…

for some it means not going to the poor part of town, with housing projects, because its “not safe”…..

for others it means not going to the town where you’re the only person of your race ….

for some it even means going to the city and you’ve always been in the country….

for some it means something different..

but whatever it means, we have to be willing to step outside of our own little worlds (cue another song) and see the world as God sees it.  To Him, everyone is His child.  All of us.  and all of  “them”.  We are called to love everyone and to get over ourselves and stop separating ourselves.

We are not called to create and further an us-them mentality, yet as the church, we do it SO often.  It used to make my skin crawl with anger, but now it just makes me sad.  What makes me the saddest about it is how far it goes.  Yes adults make mistakes that cause negative circumstances in their lives (and family’s lives) BUT those kids in the situations that we allow ourselves to call “them” did NOTHING wrong.  Children have no play in how much their parents make or where they spend it.  Children have no play in their parents occupations.  Children have no play in their house choice.  Children have no choice in their skin color.  Yet, too often, I hear judgement made about children living in housing projects, children living in the bad parts of town, children whose parents do this or that, and i want to break down and cry.

We are called to love.  We are called to break down the barriers of judgement and hatred, yet we build them.  So I challenge you.  The next time you drive to “that” part of town or see “them,”  think about the children, and think about how your judgement of their family affects them.  Then, STOP, change your thinking, see those people the way God sees them,  see that neighborhood as simply another neighborhood without your opportunities, and do something about it.  We were ALL created equal in God’s eyes, we are all GOD’S children.  So we need to stop building walls and start tearing them down.  We need to get out of our comfort zones.  What does that look like for you today? What does it look like for you to get out of your own little world?

Obituary For The American Church

Obituary For The American Church – Mike Breen

7 Youth Ministry Numbers You Really Should Know

This article was originally published October 4, 2011.

One of my favorite pastors had always noted, we need to be ministering to who we are accountable for, and that isn’t always who is on our rolls. Rolls are a terrible statistical number.
In the business world a good “ROI” or return on investment in a project is considered pretty successful if it reaches the 5% mark (sometimes less, sometimes more depending on the endeavor). That doesn’t transfer very well to the church world, where every person counts and everyone has to be involved. This is the reality we live with as youth workers.
Years ago my friend Mark DeVries suggested me to a church in my area that was looking for a youth leader. His Youth Ministry Architects had done consultant work with that church and in their report (which Mark gave to me & was made available on the church website) gave me some new understandings to “numbers” in ministry and what is feasible. I have carried much of those numbers with me in keeping some idea on the growth and health of the ministries I have been a part of.
Some numbers have been around for years, and you will probably hear similar in some youth ministry workshop that you go to in the future. Some of these Mark has written more extensively in his bookSustainable Youth Ministry.
1. 10% of the worship congregation makes up a healthy reflection of numbers in the youth ministry. 200 people in church on Sunday then you can range around 20 teenagers. Sure you can be healthy and be higher or lower for varied reasons, but that’s a good measure. It is important to distinguish the worshiping congregation over the church rolls. An unhealthy congregation cannot expect to have a thriving youth ministry that exceeds its own metrics. If it does it may not be sustainable. Churches that look for youth to be the magic pill saving their church are going to be disappointed. Rolls then become your new outreach focus, not group.
2. 7 the amount of Friends a teen needs to have in the youth group. (This I believe picked up from on of the myriad of Chap Clark writings) You know the question every teen asks when signing up for an event or deciding on signing up, “Who is going to be there?” They need to know that there will be a collection of friends there to talk to and hang with. This number ensures that someone will be there that they know. Small groups, and small youth groups, help to fill this need. The hospitality of a group helps with this. Cliques are killers to this. Notice who isn’t there, list out their friends from the group, are those friends coming? Can you list seven teens? If that sounds silly just think about where you go that doesn’t have some friendships involved. It is a number that is important.
3. 4-6 is the amount of teenagers that an adult can know intimately in a spiritual mentor type role. This makes a great case for the need for many youth leaders in your ministry. Jesus, though he had 12 disciples, is known to have kept just a few of the fellas closer to him and invested in them more than the whole group. This is fluid, a teen you are tight with this month you might have fallen away from the next because you have started to invest in another teen. That’s natural progression and perfectly okay in my book, but you want other leaders in place to fit that spot. So if you have a ministry of 25 youth, then you need 5 adults who are fully invested in the lives of the teenagers, that is if they are equally spread out. Best to have 6 or 7 so that everyone is known.
4. $1,000 per kid per year. The folks at Youth Ministry Architects through their work over the years have given a range of 1,000 per kid per year spent on youth ministries in the budget & staff salary for the youth ministries. In the case of my small church, we have 32 youth on rolls, 3 that are irregular attenders (family dynamics), so for the 29 I feel we are accountable that would be $29,000 a year for the budget. We do not quite meet that, but we certainly know it and we work to fill gaps as we can. We also know that we are not going to have bust out growth years without some financial investment.
5. 50 the general ceiling of teenagers that a paid staff person can keep up with on an effective basis. Do you see business managers who manage 50 people on their own? No, businesses know it’s a stretch and ineffective so they’ll throw structures/positions in place to help. Youth ministries are generally without that. The solo youth pastor at a 200 youth church (active) might be the manager of 50-60 adults throughout the year. Not to mention the programming and administrative tasks. If this is you, you need to be asking for some help. If help is not available in paid help then search out ways to fill in some gaps with parents gifts and talents. But again, that becomes more people in the equation.

6. 20% ceiling for youth ministry is where numbers can begin to become unpredictable. At this point the numbers associated with investment do not always work directly with growth.

7. 1 Family is what you have so don’t sacrifice them. If you are like me then had some ceremony that was before God where you took some vows to another person and thus created a family. You probably didn’t have anything in the vows to uphold, protect, and nurture a youth ministry. If you are single with/without a child/ren similar applies. There is a responsibility to that relationship first no matter what the church says. That isn’t to say that your family cannot do that for a youth ministry, just remember where your priorities and commitments stand first and foremost. Way too often I am seeing youth leaders get caught up with the youth culture and being the ‘everything’ for the teenagers that they are leaving nothing for their family, and sometimes leaving all together. Keeping up with numbers, growth, friendships, and other metrics are great, but the most important number is your family.
As with any statistic you can claim it means something different, but these are pretty observable if you go through writing down who you know really well right now. It probably isn’t that many if you are honest about it. If there are kids who come infrequently then write down who their friends are in the group, it probably doesn’t come to 7. Numbers can fluctuate depending on contexts of environment. Areas that have a single set school system (one junior high and high school) could bring in higher numbers than those who have a spread set of school systems.
So have fun playing with some #’s.
Shalom
-Gavin
Gavin Richardson is Digital Community Builder for YouthWorker Movement and the Short One at YouthWorker Circuit.  He has been in youth work for almost two decades now, has been a writer and consultant on numerous internet and published projects for the church. He’s often a speaker around the country on church communications and community building. His current projects are working on developing online Youth Disciple Groups and finishing a new book “Sticky Sheep.” He is the part time youth guy at Good Shepherd UMC in Hendersonville, TN.  If you ask, he will say that he is a “misfit” of the church. He lives in Nashville with his wife Erin, son Brooks and dog Crimson. You can connect with Gavin (and he’s totally cool with that) through http://about.me/gavoweb.

Racism is Against Christianity

The title is pretty bold.  But pretty true too.

Racism is an issue that has been on my heart heavily lately. I now work for an organization which has “eliminating racism” as part of it’s mission statement.  I’ve been reading through a book by Francis Chan lately called “Erasing Hell” which is a great read so far!  I debated trying to go into an extensive blog post on MLK day about how racism doesn’t mix with Christianity, but I couldn’t quite find the words and knew that this was an issue that needs the right words for people to continue reading.  In talking with a friend, we’ve both concluded that it can be quite difficult to speak on ‘controversial’ issues without offending people to the point where they quit reading. Well read on or stop, but the text below from “Erasing Hell” might rock your world, in a much needed way.  I’ve found Chan’s words to be some of the most fitting on the topic.  Racism is wrong in all sectors, but especially and ultimately in the community of Christians, so I encourage you to take these words to heart, and please leave your thoughts.  I’d love to start a conversation about this.

Racism. The Christian church in many ages and in many places has stood on the wrong side of this issue, and its damnable-literally.  What’s racism got to do with hell? you may ask.  According to Jesus, it’s got everything to do with it.  In Matthew 8, Jesus smuggles a warning about hell into the context of racism and ethnocentricism (the belief that one ethnicity is superior).  The entire context of Matthew 8-9 depicts Jesus reversing all of the cultural and social assumptions of the Jews f that day.  One assumption is that the Jews as the “people of God” are much more fit for the kingdom than all those other nasty sinners – those Gentiles, those Greeks, those Romans.  But in Matthew 8, Jesus is absolutely floored by the faith of a Roman Gentile military leader.  This leader of high standing had the faith and humility to submit to the authority of Jesus.  And Jesus accepted him as he is, a Gentile.  From this encounter, Jesus spins out a short message about many people of all nations and colors and ethnicities that will flood into the kingdom.  And it is here that Jesus says that the “sons of the Kingdom” who think that God values one ethnicity over another (in this case the Jewish people) are damned to hell: “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12 NASB).  The teeth that once gnashed at the person of another race or color will gnash in the agony of eternal torment.

Why is it that only 5.5% of the American evangelical churches could be considered multiethnic (where no single ethnicity makes  more than 80% of its congregants)?  Why is that?  5.5%!  And we’re supposed to be living in the melting pot, the place where hundreds of languages and colors often live within a few miles -or feet- of each other.  What’s so sad about this is that many pople outside the church are FAR less racially divided. Consider the military, our places of work, or athletics.  Yet there are three places where racial division still persists: bars, prisons, and the American evangelical church.

We need to see the glaring contradiction in saying we believe in hell making no effort to tear down the walls of racism and ethnic superiority.  If we are going to take Jesus’ words seriously, we have to make more of a concerted effort to forge the avenues of racial reconciliation and unity under the banner of the Gospel of Christ.  

One day, Christ will come back and there will be an amazing worship celebration – with African bongos,  Indian sitars, and an ensemble of Mariachi trumpets – where every tribe, tongue, nation, and color will bow to the knee of the King and celebrate!

If this sounds irritating, go back and read Matthew 8, its written for you.

What if Target Operated Like a Church? | TonyMorganLive.com

What if Target Operated Like a Church?

Tis the season to shop for Christmas gifts, so I recently made a trip to Target. I love Target because I don’t have to spend a lot of money, and I avoid going to Wal-Mart.After spending a little bit of time in the store, it struck me how different Target is from most churches I’ve visited in the past. That led me to wondering how Target would be different if it operated like the typical church. So, with that in mind, here’s my initial list:What if Target Operated Like a Church?Instead of having men’s and women’s clothing departments, they would be called clever names like Impact and Embrace that are completely meaningless to new shoppers.Each department in the store would have its own logo to go with their clever name. And, of course, all those logos would be different than the logo on the front of the store.The workers in each department would all have their own t-shirts and flyers to promote what’s available in their departments. The youth clothing department would, of course, have the best flyers.The store manager and his wife would be pictured on the front page of the website.You wouldn’t actually be able to buy anything from the website, but each department would have its own page explaining why they are such a great department and the the information would be several months out-of-date.If you are in the shoe department and have a question about flashlights, the shoe department employee has no idea how to help you because it doesn’t have anything to do with shoes.Shoppers would be able to start their own departments so that they can buy the items that they want to buy. Don’t worry…that means there will certainly be a clothing department for singles.Shoppers would also be able to appoint their own store manager and then serve on committees and boards to tell the store manager what to do.The store would only be open one day a week between 9:00 a.m. and noon and on the first Wednesday evening of every month.Hope this makes you laugh. Emily and I did. And, maybe it also challenges some preconceived notions. After all, churches are sort of notorious for worshiping methods and traditions whether or not they actually produce results.What would you add to the list?

via What if Target Operated Like a Church? | TonyMorganLive.com.

Seth’s promise is to build a school for Liberian orphans | Inspire. Change.

CLICK THERE –> Seth’s promise is to build a school for Liberian orphans | Inspire. Change.. <–CLICK THERE

We just met this guy about a month ago at a friend’s small group.  He made a promise.  did all he could.  and carried through with it.  it’s as simple and as amazing as that.  Check him out on his university’s homepage!!

Stop Stereotyping/Ignoring the Poor

http://rejectapathy.com/poverty/columns/26213-who-are-the-bottom-billion

Who Are “the Bottom Billion”?

By Tony Chen

When we co-founded Movement121, and we first set out to fully flesh out our vision of transforming the lives of 1 billion people trapped in unfathomable poverty to become self-sustaining, we started digging into who these people really are. Who should we work with to start this venture? Whose lives should we begin to knit our lives with?

Both my business partner, Brad, and I had seen unfathomable poverty up close—Brad in Africa, and me in Haiti and rural China. For those who’ve been, you know what I’m talking about. That kind of poverty cannot be captured with a camera or a news segment, or even a documentary. The direness, the endless hopelessness, the putrid stench, the complicated back stories, the deep, systemic brokenness and, personally most haunting for me as a dad, the faces of young children who’ve known no joy. I don’t mean to be overdramatic about it, but basically it is exactly 100 percent unfathomable.

Nonetheless, three things really surprised me about the poorest of the poor: the “bottom billion,” as experts have labeled them (which makes them sound so … sterile)—the 1.3 billion people living (and dying) off of $1.25 per day.

1. ONLY 25 PERCENT OF THE BOTTOM BILLION LIVE IN “POOR” COUNTRIES.

In fact, they live in (often rapidly) developing countries whose GDP per capita has grown tremendously. These countries have begun to arrive on the world’s stage, but the wealth has not distributed evenly. They’re just as poor (if not poorer) then before, but now to make matters worse, they have rich neighbors. They’ve been left behind. They live in countries like India, Pakistan, and others you might not expect. It didn’t used to be this way—back in 1990, 93 percent of the poorest lived in poor countries. This has huge consequences as to how to think about the poor and how to eradicate poverty in our lifetime.

One manifestation of this dynamic we saw on our recent trip to India was watching the poorest of the poor talk on their cell phones. Plans are cheap—free incoming calls and one cent per hour of outgoing calls. So if a dad walks 15 miles to find a job and actually finds one, he can call back home to say he won’t be back for a few days or weeks.

2. RICH PEOPLE AREN’T NECESSARILY ANY HAPPIER THAN POOR PEOPLE.

Yes, more comfortable. Definitely more safe. But not more joyful. Why is that? A weird thing happened to me when I was in Haiti. Despite all the poverty, we met some people who showed me something I hadn’t seen for a long time—authentic joy. They didn’t have nice cars, or barely a working bicycle. They didn’t have nice houses, or barely three mud walls. But they had each other. They were thankful for the days they had together. Here I was in Haiti trying to help them, but in fact, they helped me more. I had no idea how fragile and superficial my definition of happiness was until then.

The same thing happened to me in India. I can’t stop thinking about the time we spent in the slums with the kids. Yes, we feel tremendous compassion for them. It motivates me to no end to work as smart and creative and hard as I can. But oddly, I also felt some envy. These kids—all they know is a life depending on God. Depending on each other. Living in community. It’s simple. It’s actually a life I desperately want for my family and me. Sure, there is brutal violence and all kinds of nastiness that happens there. But it’s clear to me now—we need them just as much as they need us. God created us to need each other.

3. COMPARED TO THE POOR, I’M LAZY, ARROGANT AND HAVE NO CREATIVITY.

So much of my preconceived notions about the poor was that they weren’t smart and didn’t work hard. But when I dug deeper, I saw them as the exact opposite. They have a lot to offer—except they live under a system that systematically, unfairly and brutally keeps them down.

In India, we watched a tailor sew up a school uniform in front of his “hut” with a foot-powered sewing machine. It took him only five minutes to sew the entire uniform perfectly. It was masterful—as if the cloth and his hands were one—and in a snapshot, it portrayed the tens of thousands of hours he’s worked diligently (and even happily) to support his family.

At the end of the day, the surprise we at Movement121 felt has given way to a deeper-rooted desire—a passion to work as hard and creatively and wisely as we possibly can to give fight poverty in a truly sustainable way.

Have you seen the poor face to face? What was your experience like? And more importantly, how did it change your outlook on life and family when you came back?


Tony Chen is Co-Founder/Servant of Movement121, a social innovation company with a vision to transform the lives of 1,000,000 people trapped in unfathomable poverty to become self-sustaining. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter.