The Semantic Game of Women in Ministry

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Out of Ur has begun posting a series of videos about the different viewpoints on women in ministry. The first video from Rose Madrid-Swetman is posted below:

The thing that stuck out to me most from this video was Madrid-Swetman’s point about how many churches sidestep the heart of the issue by wrapping it up in semantics. As she says, women can hold the title of “Coordinator,” but if a man were to have the same position and responsibility they’d be called the “Pastor.” Worship Coordinators are functionally the same as Worship Pastors; same for Children’s Coordinators and Pastors.

It’s inconsistent for churches to hide behind word games in order to appear as if they’re upholding their theological views on gender roles in the church. If you’re going to be a complementation church, I think you have to be consistent in the way you describe those roles.

How does AIDS affect your church?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Today is World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of AIDS and HIV.

Events like this are a little tricky to discuss in the evangelical Christian world. While I can’t imagine that anyone would object to being made more aware of the extent of the AIDS pandemic, many Christians struggle to separate the general subject of AIDS from the social and moral issues that live in its shadow.

I’m curious: how does AIDS affect—or not affect—your church community?

Does your church talk about AIDS? If so, does it focus its discussion on the pandemic itself, or on the sexual behaviors associated with it? Does anyone in your church have HIV/AIDS, and if so, how has that affected your church’s approach to the issue?

Today’s devotional: serving others… while respecting yourself

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Do you volunteer (or work) at your church? If you’re involved in any aspect of ministry, you’ve probably learned firsthand that there are far more ministry needs out there than a typical church or ministry has the time or capacity to address.

Faced with this reality, how do you respond? For many church workers and volunteers, the answer is to stretch themselves ever more thin to try and help as many people as possible. Blaine Smith of Nehemiah Ministries encourages us to respect our own limits while helping others:

At a staff meeting one Sunday afternoon a member complained to the youth pastor that many of us were feeling considerably overtaxed. He responded that we must learn to place some limits on ourselves. “But,” she replied, “Jesus never turned his back on any person’s need.”

As quickly as the words left her lips he shot back, “But you’re not Jesus Christ!”

It was at that moment as though giant chains dropped from my body. As a young Christian I simply assumed I was to imitate Jesus in every way possible. This meant striving to live at his energy level, and following his pattern of continually responding to an overwhelming variety of needs.

For the first time it dawned on me that there was a difference between how Jesus ministered to people and how I was expected to do so. God had put me within a certain physical shell, and I was to operate within its limitations. Not only was it okay to pace myself–I was required to do so. What a glorious insight!

However laudable the motives, trying to respond to every need or problem is a sure road to exhaustion and burnout. And this isn’t just a problem for church workers and volunteers–it’s easy to be overwhelmed by needs in our families and friendships.

What do you think of Smith’s advice? How do you draw reasonable limits in responding to needs?

Are you attending any church or ministry conferences this year?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I’m not attending any church or ministry conferences this year, but I have in the past. In my experience, conferences can be fantastic times for reconnecting with old friends, worshiping God and planning for the future. There’s something about gathering together for a solid block of time with like-minded people that manages to be helpful and fun.

What about you? Are you attending any church or ministry conferences this year?

Share your thoughts!

Today’s devotional: “should” versus “want”

Monday, June 14th, 2010

There are a lot of things that we feel we should do: church projects, ministry work, evangelism outreach, volunteering. And there are plenty of things that we want to do. Sometimes, those “shoulds” and “wants” overlap, making it easy to decide what to do.

But things get more complicated when the things we feel that we should do aren’t necessarily the ones that we most want to do. How do we know what opportunities we’re “supposed” to pursue? Is it wrong to undertake a project or make a commitment but not have our heart in it? Is it ever appropriate to decline an opportunity or a need because we don’t have the right level of enthusiasm or a sense of calling about it?

This Daily Encounter devotional addresses this tricky question, and cautions Christians not to let our sense of spiritual obligation become a weight that drags us down:

Have you ever been in a similar situation and noticed that there is a big difference between “shoulds” and “wants”? If I do certain things only because I should and my heart is not in it, how genuine is that? I am talking more about a type of compulsive “shoulds” that can be very confusing at times.

If you have ever struggled with even mild compulsive “shoulds,” how can you tell what is from God, from your own self, or even from the enemy?

Compulsive “shoulds” can come from various sources. They can come from a mental condition in the brain that is inherited, or from an over-dependent need to be popular, accepted and admired. They can come from a neurotic need for approval, from false motives, for payback or even to manipulate others. They can also come from a spirit of legalism which keeps one in terrible bondage.

Have you recently been torn between a “should” and a “want”? How did you resolve it, and did you learn anything in the process?

How do you steer clear of burnout?

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Burnout—if you’ve not experienced it, chances are you’ve skirted its edges once or twice. It’s a phenomenon alarmingly common in ministry professions (although it’s certainly not restricted to them); visit online forums frequented by pastors or your ministers and you’ll bump into regular requests for help with burnout, despair, and frustration.

So how to cope with burnout when you feel it crouching at your door? Legacy Youth Ministry Resources has a good article about detecting and coping with burnout. Here are their suggestions for someone feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Take a break and get some rest. Understand your physical limitations and accept them. God probably has much less expectations of you than you have of yourself.
  2. Change the habits in your life that are unhealthy – whether eating, sleeping, exercise, etc.
  3. Write out a clear statement of your specific calling in ministry. Share this with a close friend. Make a commitment to not accept any offers that do not fit clearly into this calling and ask this friend to help you make decisions accordingly.
  4. Make a list of everything you do in a week. Draw a line through anything that doesn’t help you accomplish God’s calling in your life. Next, underline the things that you do that could be done by someone else. Write the name of that person next to this thing. Delegate! What are left with should be the things that ONLY you can do. If these things are really God?s will, you have enough time to accomplish them without burning out. If not, you still need to draw some lines through more things.
  5. Designate one day a month for solitude. Find a place with no distractions (including your mobile phone) and spend the most part of one day there.
  6. Make a list of all the people that you spend time with on a regular basis. Next to each name, determine if they are drainers, average, teachable or fillers. If you find that you are not spending most of your times with the latter two, make the necessary changes.
  7. Review your vision statement and the goals that you have set to accomplish this. If you have not yet written these things on a piece of paper, do this during your day of solitude at the monastery.

Read the full article at Legacy Youth Ministry Resources.

Those are easier said than done; of course. For further help with burnout, see also Say No to Burnout by Elizabeth Skoglund of the Psychology for Living ministry.

Have you lived through the nightmare of personal or professional burnout? How did you make it through, and what would you say to somebody who feels burnout coming on?

What do you think?

Are you ready to lead?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

What does good leadership look like? For most Christians, “Christian leadership” is something practiced by the pastor and church staff. But there are many opportunities in everyday life where leadership is called for—and it may be that you, whether you’re a trained church minister or just an average Joe, are the one called to step forward and lead.

I was prompted to think about this sort of everyday leadership while browsing through the StudentSoul.org site. In an article called The Making of a Leader, Bob Fryling talks about the many different character qualities that go into being an effective leader—maybe the leader of a local Bible study, or of a discussion group, or of the local church baseball team.

As it turns out, there’s more about leadership at StudentSoul, and it applies not just to student groups but to anyone who’s ever called to take any sort of leadership role:

  • You’re asking me to be a leader? If we’re honest with ourselves, all of us have made mistakes or have flaws that make us less-than-perfect leaders. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be effective, Christlike leaders when the situation calls for it.
  • Should you say yes or no to leading? Ever been asked to take charge of a project or group, and wondered whether or not to commit? This article walks through the questions you should think through before saying either “yes” or “no.”
  • Choosing new leaders: does your Bible study or student group work to cultivate future leaders? Here’s what to look for in potential leaders.
  • The high cost of leadership: thoughts on the real challenges of any leadership role, and what you need to know before you step forward.

What’s interesting about all this discussion of leadership is how applicable these leadership qualities are to any Christian. You may not have a full-time job as a leader, but chances are you’ll be called on to lead at some point in your life—maybe even for just a short time. If you’ve given some thought to the qualities of a strong Christian leader, you’ll be ready to say “yes” when the opportunity and need arises.

What’s the point of student ministry?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Is student ministry worth the immense amount of time, energy, and money that churches and dedicated ministries put into it? Aren’t many young people apathetic toward spiritual issues, or inclined to abandon the faith once they leave their family and church community?

While there’s a grain of truth to these conceptions, student ministry nevertheless remains a crucial part of the church’s call to evangelism. Making the case for student ministries are five articles over at the Lausanne World Pulse’s recently redesigned website:

The LWP site is full of other excellent articles about church and ministry topics, and they’re regularly adding new content. If the above articles are useful to you, look through their online archives and stop back periodically to see what’s new!

Being Thankful for Sports

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

FootballThe day of Thanksgiving can mean a number of things for those of us in the United States. For some it’s the food. For others it’s centered on family. And still for others it’s all about football. Sports are everywhere in the United States and many Christians will find themselves huddled both around the table and television with equal earnest this Thursday.

So, if this thanksgiving weekend you or a loved one will be catching the kick-off in between bites of various meats and vegetables, we’d like to point you towards The Sports Spectrum. It’s a site that “seeks to highlight Christian athletes of all sports and levels to help motivate, encourage and inspire people in their faith through the exciting and challenging world of sports. You can read parts of their articles on coaches Lovie Smith and Steve Kragthorpe, as well as one about David Pollack. Sports Spectrum also publishes a half-time evangelism alternative called Power To Win!. Over the past decade, Power To Win! has:

  • Attracted over 2 million viewers
  • Been viewed at more than 40,000 outreach parties
  • Resulted in over 50,000 decisions for Christ

Also, if you’re looking for a way to share the Good News with a sports lover, Good News & Crossway has sports themed tracts available here.

Perhaps your local sports team is interested in ministry. Word of Life Fellowship sends whole teams overseas to use their talents to reach youth with the Gospel.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and we hope your team wins!