Cross Vocational Ministry Demands Organization Skills

cross vocationalIn recent months, my role as a cross vocational minister has changed. If you are not familiar with the term “cross vocational,” it’s because I made it up.

Cross vocational ministry is my invented term for what was once called bi-vocational ministry.

I prefer the term cross vocational because the ministry leader has an everyday, normal job and a ministry calling which are constantly crossing over one another.  At times, the day job is the primary focus and at other times, the ministry role is primary. The cross vocational minister is constantly attempting to balance the two.

I also like the idea of “cross” vocational in the implication of Jesus Christ, who went to the cross, dying for sin, making a bridge for mankind to “cross” over from death to life.

In recent days, my day job at Campbellsville University has become quite a bit more demanding. After seven years of full-time teaching faculty, I have now taken on a role in academic administration in addition to teaching.  Whereas faculty members have flexibility in their weekly teaching schedule, academic administration is more of a 40 hours per week, 8 to 5, kind of job.

What I am now facing is what most cross vocational ministers have faced for years.  They work a full-time job, then switch, or cross over, to the ministry in early mornings, evenings and on weekends.  The time demands are pressing when it comes to sermon preparation, church leadership, communicating vision, and attempting to perform some level of outreach and pastoral care.

The main lesson I am learning in balancing these demands is that organization and preparation must be way in advance.  Time is limited in a full daily schedule, therefore the cross vocational minister must use every free moment to be planning, preparing, and working far in advance.

You never know when your schedule is going to change at the day job.  You might be called in for training or need to make a business trip or be given an assignment that must be finished by Friday. In order to meet these demands and the ministry tasks, you have to utilize every tool available to be organized, prepared and focused.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered for organization and preparation in cross vocational ministry.

1. Use your breaks wisely such as Christmas break, spring break, or long holiday weekends.  Use these extra days off to plan ahead.  I know there are other things on your agenda, but this “free” day might be enough to prepare several sermons or put together a major outreach effort.

2. Be constantly taking notes and jotting down ideas.  Use your smart phone or iPad to track thoughts that might come at the gym, on the road, at a lunch break, or even in the shower.   Carry a ministry journal with you everywhere working on upcoming sermons or to-do lists for ministry projects.  Pack a few blank note cards with you and when you are waiting for a haircut or a doctor’s appointment, write a note to a new member or a family that is struggling.

3. Communicate using web-based tools.  Use group emails, group texts, and group document sharing tools to keep everyone in the loop.  The more you communicate digitally, the more your team (who is probably cross vocational as well) will be able to do their work without a face to face meeting.  Social media and email can also help you connect to the wider church family without being “physically” present for everything.

4. Plan worship services collaboratively using Planning Center Online (planningcenteronline.com).  If you are the primary teaching pastor (as I am), use Planning Center Online to let other worship leaders including your worship minister, media team, vocalist, ushers, etc., know what you are planning far in advance.  You might not get the opportunity to do a sit-down worship planning meeting, but at least they will know where you are going and what you are expecting weeks (or months) in advance.

I plan on writing more this week about cross vocational ministry and several new implications for this type of ministry in the days to come.  From all indicators, cross vocational ministry is going to intensify and grow in the coming decade.

Lead Like Jesus – 9 Characteristics of Servant Leadership Pt. 1

Adapted from World Changers for Christ (CrossBooks, 2012)image

Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Matt. 20:25-26)

The Christian model of leadership demonstrated in the life of Jesus and consistently taught throughout the New Testament is that of servant leadership.

Servant leadership looks very different compared to many other leadership models in our society. Servant leadership stands in contrast to much of what we see in the news, in big business, what we hear at leadership conferences, and even among top-tier church leaders. It’s more than a concept or a strategy. It’s a philosophical and practical foundation with which to see the world around you and particularly those you lead.

Jesus challenged his followers to look around them and take stock of what true leadership is not.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.” (Matt. 20:25). The rulers of the Gentiles (or all non-Jewish persons) were men like Caesar Tiberias, the ruler of the entire world seated in the vaulted Roman Forum. Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, who sentenced Jesus to be flogged and gave way to the crowd calling for his death. Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, who feared the kingdom of his father – Herod the Great – would fall if any revolt was left unchecked. Or the Roman centurion, overseeing the crucifixion of Jesus, yet in a moment of clarity confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54)

These Gentile rulers “lorded” or dominated over the people. They exercised their authority with a sharp sword and iron fist. They controlled the populace through fear, coercion, threats, and torture. These monsters, who invented crucifixion as a form of punishment and the gladiatorial games as entertainment, controlled the masses like ruthless barbarians.

Within these societal leadership structure, Jesus speaks out, cutting through the haze when he says, “It shall not be so with you” (Matt. 20:26). For his followers, all present and future disciples of Jesus, there would be another way. There would be another leadership style at play.

There would be servant leadership where “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matt. 20:26-27).

But what does that look like? How does one lead like Jesus? What makes servant leadership, particularly for Christian people, so different from all other leadership models in our society?

Nine Characteristics of Servant Leadership

1. Servant leaders seek the benefit of others before themselves. – The core conviction of the servant leader is the desire to place others above themselves no matter the outcome. They seek the good of those they lead and those they follow. A heart of service towards others permeates every action and deed.

2. Servant leaders view people not as products or cogs in a machine, but as valued persons made in the image of God. – Servant leaders view each and every person, believer and unbeliever, man, woman, and child, as a valued creation of God himself. Each bearing the image of God, equipped with gifts and talents uniquely bestowed by the Father, meant to be used for His greater glory. People are not products; they are not little machine in your leadership assembly line. They are image-bearers, and therefore, should be respected as such.

3. Servant leaders recognize God is in control of all things and we are but stewards of the leadership opportunities He has given to us. – Servant leaders know that “leadership is stewardship.” (Stanley, 2009) Stewardship means caring for some else’s property. It is a share-cropper term. One owes the field; the steward cares for the field under the authority of the owner.

When the servant leader confuses stewardship for ownership, they are on very thin ice. We must understand God is fully responsible for any and every leadership opportunity we receive. He is the owner; we are the steward.

4. Servant leaders minimize their personal need for recognition, fame and popularity in exchange for Christian humility, grace and sacrifice. – Christian servant leaders must keep a larger perspective of God’s redemptive plan in mind. They are but a minuscule part of something very, very large. Be grateful God has called you. Be thankful that you have given a purpose and task in His kingdom. Never think more highly of yourself than you ought. (Rom. 12:3)

(5 more characteristics coming this week.)

The 6 Gotta-Haves in Student Ministry Today

ministry_logo-01In a few days, I have the privilege of representing the Campbellsville Univ. School of Theology at the 2015 Winter Jam Tour “Jam Zone” at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

Thousands of students, leaders, parents and ministry volunteers will descend upon Lexington to hear great Christian artists in a one-of-a-kind concert venue.  I have been to Winter Jam numerous times as a youth pastor and volunteer and have always had a blast.  We are bringing our boys this year…and ear plugs.

During the Jam Zone, I have chance to spend time encouraging parents and leaders in a training session called “The 6 Gotta-Haves in Student Ministry Today.”  This session is designed to encourage, inform and equip parents and leaders while they are waiting for the concert to begin that evening.

To be truthful, I am a little nervous.  I have been out of the student ministry game for sometime. The last time I can say I was an official youth minister on a church staff was 2003.  That’s 12 years in the rear-view mirror.  Wow, time has flown by.

Even though I teach a Youth Ministry class every two years at CU, I am recognizing how quickly student ministry is changing around me.  I do my best to stay up on all the changes, reading books, engaging in the online discussion, tracking trends and demographics, yet I still find myself scratching my head when someone asks, “What do we need to do to reach teenagers today?”

So to frame that answer (and prepared for the upcoming conference), I believe I would reply “You gotta-have six ‘Gs.’  Six gotta-haves in student ministry today.

1.  GUTS – Student ministry is not for the faint at heart.  You have to have passion, conviction, courage, and determination to enter into this ministry field.  Teenagers and their parents can be wonderful to serve, but they can also be complicated and complex to understand.

2.  GAMEPLAN – Student ministry does not work without a strategy, a calendar, and a system of organization.  Unfortunately many student pastors have attempted and failed to lead their students by the seat of their pants.  In the end, the students are frustrated.  The parents are put out.  The church staff is wondering how to move this leader on.  Nobody wins, everyone looses. So we much have a plan.  Work the plan.  Adjust the plan.  Evaluate the plan.

3.  G-PAs & G-MAs (aka Grandparents) or better yet GENERATIONS –  You gotta-have other generations speaking into the lives of our students.  Our American culture is fragmenting young people more and more.  They desperately need intergenerational relationships to grow up more balanced and capable of social interaction.  There is no question, students need their parents to be invested in their lives.  However, they also need other wise, non-family relationships just as much.  One of the great failures of youth ministry of the 90’s & early 2000’s was isolation from other generations.  Thank goodness we have corrected that terrible mistake.

4.  GOALS – Along with the game plan, student ministry leaders must have goals they are working toward.  Ministry leadership is easily swayed by the emergencies of life and the bumps along the road resulting in leaders who cannot stay focused, cannot complete a task, and cannot work through a to-do list.  Those “interruptions” are part of the deal; everyone in ministry knows this.  But quality leadership also requires diligence, excellence, and persistence. Having 3-5 God-directed goals each year helps focus your attention and your mission.

5.  GOSPEL – This should really be first on the list.  You must have a ministry centered in the Good News of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.  We gotta-have the Gospel that clearly states God is holy, we are sinful, and Jesus is the only answer.  In a world of rampant relativism, pluralism, secularism, postmodernism, and every other “ism” you can imagine, student ministry leaders can never shy away from the Gospel of Jesus.  It is why we do what we do.

6.  GROUP – The term “youth group” seems out-dated and cheesy to many of us.  We always wanted our student ministries to be more than just a “group” of kids that met in the church basement and played a bunch of games.  We wanted the student ministry to have substance, meaning, purpose, intentionality and value to the larger congregation and the kingdom of God.

Yet, no matter how much you dislike the word, the student ministry still needs to be a group.  A group that is open to unbelieving students.  A group that is welcoming to parents and grandparents.  A group that is focused on discipling younger believers toward maturity in Christ.  A group that find strength from being together.  A group where honest questions can be asked and honest answers given in return.  A group that functions within the larger body of the church, but also has a uniqueness to it as it ministers to teenagers.

As much as we may want to get away from the word “group,” student ministry is still a very important group within the family of God.

Six gotta-haves.  Guts.  Gameplan.  Generations.  Goals.  Gospel.  Group.  This is what I will be sharing at Winter Jam.  I hope the leaders are encouraged and challenged.

__________________________
G-words that didn’t make the list and probably should be banned from student ministry altogether: gimmicks, goofiness, gag-gifts, and game-show host youth ministers.

Invitation to Holy Week @ FBC Monticello

We would love to have you come and join us for worship during Holy Week @ FBC Monticello. Please watch this video invitation and invite someone to join you.  We promise to make you feel welcomed and wanted.

SUN MAR 29 10:30am   Palm Sunday Choir Cantata & Lord Supper
SAT  APR 4    11:00am   Family Egg Hunt
SUN APR 5      7:30am   Sunrise Service
SUN APR 5    10:30am   Resurrection Sunday Worship

More information at http://monticellofbc.com or http://facebook.com/monticello1stbc

The Gamification of the Workplace

gamificationI have been studying and learning new terminology for motivating Millennials and Gen iY’s in the workplace.

It’s called “gamify” or “gamification.”  Gamification is when employers create a behavioral rewards system for accomplishing small achievements on the job.   Similar to earning a badge for learning to tie a knot in the Boy Scouts or earning a new skill in a RPG (role playing game), the employee receives a small, visual award for a small job well done.

Gamification awards are things such as:

  • Accumulating points on the company’s online profile page,
  • Earning badges/awards which are then posted on the entrance of your office,
  • Posted magnetic dots on a publicly displayed board showing level-ups earned,
  • Or an icon showing up on the company’s and employee’s social media profile displaying their work. (Think FarmVille for your workplace goals.)

This phenomenon is a further embracing of the gaming culture of our young adults and demonstrates how powerful these motivators are becoming.

I worked for three years in sales and I can easily remember a huge whiteboard right in the center of our call center listing each team member’s name.  Each time you sold a product you were to go and write down your sales on the board so the managers could spot-check our progress each day.  I personally hated that board.  It was probably because I was not very good at sales.  The company eventually took the board down because it resulted in antagonism between the sales force and did not encourage a healthy sense of competition.

Gamifying the workplace seems to be a different twist on that sales board strategy.  My question is whether this enhances job performance or turns labor into playtime.  Advocates for gamification suggest that turning labor into a game is precisely the point.  If an employee feels more motivated, regardless of the means, the company’s bottom line improves.

I wonder how younger leaders in church ministry will implement gamification into church-based ministry strategies…if that is even possible.  A new horizon awaits.

 

Assessing Your Resources in Transitional Ministry

I have been on a bit of a break from the blogging world primarily because ministry demands have been very high the last couple months.

In January, I was on a whirlwind tour with the amazing people from LifeWay Kids helping train thousands of VBS leaders and volunteers around the country with stops in NC, TX, and TN.

Then in February, I finished up transitional pastorate No. 7 at the Stanford Baptist Church in Lincoln Co., KY.  Finishing strong is so important for any ministry leader, but even moreso for those in transitional ministry.  It is the baton-pass you were brought there to help facilitate with effectiveness and efficiency.

Then starting in March (just a couple weeks ago), I began transitional pastorate No. 8 @ the First Baptist Church Monticello (Wayne Co.), KY.  I have been there two weeks and we are quickly preparing for Holy Week outreach events and Resurrection Sunday celebrations.

Not to mention, we are in the middle of the spring semester at Campbellsville University and students are everywhere.  Jennifer and I are doing pre-marriage counseling for two couples who are getting married soon.  It is always wonderful to walk alongside students we so dearly love.

The new transitional pastorate in Monticello has been wide-open from the very start.  The people have been so friendly and welcoming to our family.  The staff, consisting of a pastor of outreach & missions and a worship leader, have been tremendously helpful to work with.  They are “whatever it takes” kind of men, which I love.  Personally, because I am a media-tech nerd, I have been so thrilled to work with a full media arts team that makes our worship time colorful and vibrant.

Starting at First Monticello has proven once again this undeniable fact of transitional ministry: “If the church chooses to sit around and wait until the next senior pastor arrives to do anything substantial in ministry, there might not be much for a new pastor to arrive to.”

There are two streams of thought in transitional church ministry: 1) maintain and buy time until the new pastor arrives or 2) move forward boldly as best you can with what you got.

I have been in churches that have practiced both.  The “maintain and buy time” churches are not wrong or bad.  There are simply choosing to push pause on everything until leadership is reestablished.  Usually these churches have some healing to do before they can really move ahead together.

The “move forward boldly” churches feel a sense of urgency to keep momentum alive.  They believe God has a purpose and plan for their church no matter who is in the pastor’s study and they want to be about that purpose now.

It is then critical for me, as the transitional pastor, to assess which stream of thought the church is following within the first days.  I have to discern which pattern is going to best serve them over this period of time and in doing so, determine my leadership output and speed.  Either we are moving slowly and cautiously toward the next pastor or we are moving ahead urgently with their God-given purpose.

Business human resources

For those churches who want to move ahead, my primary task earlier on is to assess resources. I have to attempt to read between the lines, asking probing questions, and have engaging conversations with staff, leadership groups, and key share-holders, trying to determine what resources we really have to work with.

Resources in church life are four-fold: 1) people resources, 2) facility resources, 3) budgetary resources, and 4) on-going ministry resources.

People resources are those leaders, volunteers, talented musicians, artists, technicians, organizers, community leaders, people of influence and skill inside the church.  The people resources are my favorite to engage.  We must find a way to encourage and spur on these folks to even greater leadership and ministry.

Secondly are facility resources.  Some churches have facilities that help them; others have facilities that hurt them.  You must gauge that facility to see how it can be maximized for ministry potential.  Frankly, some facilities need so much work and maintenance that ministry is better suited outside of the facility than inside.

Third are budgetary resources.  During a transitional period, the giving can vary greatly. Usually the longer the transition, the more the budget begins to struggle.  On the converse side is that a senior pastor salary is not being paid allowing for some budgetary flexibility.  However the budget is moving, you have to consider what financial resources you have very carefully.

Lastly are on-going ministry resources.  Every church has several ministries that are their “bread and butter.”  It might be kids ministry.  It might be missions.  It might be music.  It might be disaster relief.

As a transitional pastor, I have to find the ministry that taps into the DNA of the church and pour fuel on the fire.  Whatever that ministry is, its fire cannot die out.  You should publicly praise the leaders of that ministry.  Cheer-lead for them to grow and stretch even in a transitional time.  Possibly put more people and budgetary resources behind that one ministry so they know what they are doing really matters and is important to the life of the church.

Assessing resources is paramount in transitional ministry.  Your time with the church might not be long, however, your leadership impact can potentially be huge.  

There is nothing more attractive to a prospective pastor than a church who is not waiting for him to arrive, but are choosing to press forward in the purpose God has called them to do.

 

 

Interim No. 7 Coming to a Close

Stanford BC FB BannerInterim pastorate no. 7 is coming to a close.  Yesterday, the members of Stanford Baptist Church in Stanford, KY (Lincoln Co.) overwhelmingly affirmed Bro. Nick Manzie to be their new senior pastor.  I am thrilled for Nick and the church.

This journey has been nearly three years in the making.  I was their third interim pastor in as many years.  I knew from the moment I met Bro. Nick that this was going to be a great fit.  He is perfect for this church.  God has shown Himself to be completely faithful to unite the right shepherd with the right flock.

With this being the seventh interim/transitional pastorate in seven years, I believe I am starting to get a small handle on this type of ministry.  I would never admit to “knowing it all” because every church and every situation are uniquely different, but there are some strategic principles that seem to be essential in every place.

This experience, however, offered me some new lessons that I have needed to add to my ministry toolbelt.  Here are a few of those lessons.

1.  How things start are not going to be how things end.  This particular interim began a bit rocky.  I entered into a church struggling with tension and the first few weeks were not the best.  In the minds of some within the church, I was just another preacher they had thrown in the pulpit to manage while the church was searching.  And frankly, most of the members were quite weary of the process already.  So by extension, I was held responsible.

Thank God the end has been nothing like the beginning.  Around the third month, the ice began to melt and people truly began to let me know them and their lives.  There was a warming of heart and a commonality that formed.  I was here to help, not harm.  I was here to walk alongside, not push my agenda on anyone.

We have come to the end of this journey with much love, appreciation, grace, kindness, and genuine affection for one another.

2.  Keep walking the aisles.  Keep shaking hands.  Keep asking “How’s your week?”  Dr. Ken Hemphill, former president of Southwestern Bapt. Theological Seminary, called the 15 minutes before a worship service began “the most important time in ministry.”  This has been so true for me.

Walking up and down the aisles, meeting people in the pews, shaking hands, asking about their week, making an attempt to enter into their personal space has been critical for my ministry success.  Dr. Hemphill would go onto say, “Anyone can get up in the pulpit and preach; it takes personal time to be a shepherd.”   

In interim ministry, your time on-site can be limited.  You are not going to be the permanent pastor, and everyone knows it.  A relational distance can form, and remain, throughout the duration of the transition.  The only way to breach that distance is to meet people where they are.  To walk the room and ask people to let you into their lives.

3.  Lastly, coach, cheer, and champion the Pastor Search Team till the very end.  There have been interims where the Pastor Search Team did not want anything to do with me; others have been very open to the kind of help I can provide.  The reality is that their job is very hard in this day and age.  This work takes time and the ability to understand very complex scenarios.  Making all the pieces fit together is not easy.

The Pastor Search Team need the transitional pastor to coach them, yet do so in a way where the team members still function independently.  At the end of the day, the decision must be theirs and theirs alone.  Your task is to answer questions, give input when asked, and be their greatest cheerleader before the people.

You have something the PST doesn’t: opportunities to communicate.  You have the pulpit, the newsletter, bulletin, website, social media, email, blog, etc.  Your task as the interim is to champion their work and let the congregation know you support them in everything.

I have gained three new lessons that I am sure will enhance my future in this type of itinerant ministry.  My last Sunday at Stanford BC will be February 15.

The next stop has yet to be determined.  God sends – I go.

Personal Journeys Off the Map

vbs 2015The LifeWay Christian Resources VBS (vacation Bible school) theme for 2015 is “Journey Off the Map.”  The  theme captures the heart of adventure, unchartered territories, unknown places and dangerous challenges. I have been on the road with LifeWay the last couple weeks and have loved challenging leaders about what it means to follow God on a journey into the unknown.

The theme has got me thinking.  What is it about human nature that loves a good journey?  Why are we drawn to adventure novels, movies and stories?  Why do little boys and girls love to pretend to find hidden treasures in the backyard that can only be discovered with an ancient map?

Apparently God has implanted the desire for journey into our soul.

As I look back on my life, I have been on some great journeys.  They may not seem great to Mt. Everest climbers or Appalachian Trail trekkers, but they have been amazing journeys for me.

Short-term international mission trips have been a journey.  Places like the Sinai desert of Egypt, the ancient city of Xian, China, all through rugged Latin America and modernized Europe.

The chance to go on three Bible land tours has been a journey.  Walking where Jesus, Peter, Paul, Luke, Timothy, Titus walked has been a real adventure.

Leaving my home in KY and moving to Dallas/Fort Worth for seminary was a huge journey.  Saying good-bye to the familiarity and comfort of the Bluegrass state in lieu of full dependence on God and willingness to do whatever He called me to do in the Lone Star state.  Looking back, that journey was really hard but ABSOLUTELY worth every minute.  Without leaving, I don’t believe I would have grown as much as I did.

There have been more relational journeys that have been just as adventurous.  Marriage has been a wild journey.  Standing with and loving my wife of nearly 13 years has been a journey into uncharted waters.  Parenting two sons has been a great journey.  Watching them grow, learn, explore has been filled with adventure, and at times, chaos.

Teaching and walking alongside college students has been a glorious journey. Seeing them walk into college fresh, eager, green and hopefully leaving more matures equipped, discipled, trained and properly launched.

There is one student, in particular, that has been a journey to say the least.  From his entrance into our lives four years ago to his recent exit, he has completely transformed.  There is still more for God to do, but the difference is radical.

I love the journey.  I love the adventure into the unknown. I love letting God Almighty set the course and take me and my family anywhere He wants us to go.  I wonder what journeys lie ahead.

Collegiate Ministry Students – Don’t Waste Your Christmas Break

keep-calm-and-make-it-to-christmas-break-120It was Christmas break 1996 – that wonderful four weeks off in the midst of the college academic year – when God’s call came crashing down on my life.

Having spent the previous summer as a summer youth director in a local church and swearing that I would never have anything to do with local church ministry ever again, I felt the rush of God’s Spirit break through my frustration and disobedience so that I finally surrendered to His divine call.

The actual date was December 28, 1996.  Nearly 20 years ago.

The college Christmas break is truly a winter wonderland.  Whereas elementary, middle and high school students have roughly 10 days off, college students have nearly a month in-between semesters.  This long break allows some students to squeeze in a J-term class, but most stay at home and veg out with family and friends.

For collegiate ministry students, I suggest you use your Christmas break differently.  I suggest you take this time away from classes and books and put it to use for God’s glory and for your future in Christian ministry.

Here are a few suggestions of things you can do over the break.

1.  Reconnect with your home church.  Offer to sing in the choir.  Be a part of the Christmas Eve service.  Ask to fill in for anyone out on vacation in the youth or children’s ministry.  If you are feeling a call to pastoral ministry, offer to preach a Sunday evening service for your pastor or cover one of the Wednesday night small groups.  Offer to go and serve communion in a nursing home or to shut-in members.

At the minimum, ask one of your pastors if you can shadow them for a day or two to learn.  Fold bulletins in the church office or sweep floors in the food pantry.  Get your hands dirty in some ministry function, even if it seems like nothing at the time, I promise you it is something in the kingdom.

2.  Update your ministry resume.  A ministry resume is more than a simple piece of paper describing your education and past experience, it is, in many cases, your first impression to a church or para-church ministry.  Therefore it is not something to be slopped together in one sitting.  It should be created and updated with excellence and diligence.  The Christmas break is the perfect time to sink some significant time into this document.

For help on this task, I have written several posts offering tips on creating solid ministry resumes. Find them here, here and here.

3.  Setup your summer ministry internship.  During the break, make a few calls, schedule a Skype meeting, even make a visit to the location of your summer ministry internship.  Talk at length with your intended supervisor.  See if there is anything that you need to prepare for during the spring semester.

Collegiate ministry students must, and I can’t emphasis must enough, take advantage of every summer to serve somewhere in ministry.  Three good summers in ministry will nearly assure you a ministry placement upon graduation.

4.  Visit a seminary.  Even if you are not considering seminary at the present time, make a visit anyway.  Take the tour.  Make a day trip out of it.  It will at least get you out of the house and possibly open your mind up to the possibility of theological education.  If you are already planning to go to seminary, these visits are huge in helping you discern God’s will for where you are to study.

I suggest to my students visiting at least three seminaries before making a final decision.  You can’t get the ethos or vibe of a school just by visiting a website or browsing a brochure, you must get on campus and pray onsite with insight.

5.  Network. Network. Network.  There is nothing more important in ministry placement these days than building your ministry network.  We all know the cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  I would add, “It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”

Invite a ministry leader, denominational representative, former pastor, retired chaplain or missionary, whatever ministry you are feeling called to, to lunch.  Ask them question after question.  Bring a notebook and take copious notes or ask if you can record the conversation on your phone.  Before the lunch, write 10-15 good, thoughtful, insightful questions and then fire away.  Make it more about them and their experience than puffing yourself up.

If possible, do this a couple times over the break.  Most leaders, even if you offer to pay, will want to help a poor ministry student out and will pick up the check.  In the end, you glean from their knowledge, build your ministry network, and possibly even develop a new friendship and mentor in the ministry.

All in all, college ministry students, don’t waste your Christmas break.  Use it wisely and purposefully.  Besides, you can play Call of Duty and catch up on Netflix when you get back to campus.  This might be your only shot to get out in the world and make those critical ministry connections for the long haul.

LifeWay VBS Institutes and Previews Round 3

LifeWay VBS 2015 - Journey Off the Map

LifeWay VBS 2015 – Journey Off the Map

I am so thrilled to be back on the road again in January 2015 joining the wonderful LifeWay VBS team as we travel to three cities training thousands of volunteer leaders for this summer’s Vacation Bible School (VBS).

LifeWay’s VBS Institute and Preview events are really unlike anything I had ever been exposed to.  Imagine 500-700 VBS junkies filing into an auditorium excited and joyful about reaching out to spiritual orphans and families with the message of the Gospel.  For them, this is the Super Bowl of their summer.

They pray for, plan, prepare and organize all year long for this week of intense outreach and teaching.  They go all out in making every opportunity available for families and children to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a fun and creative way.

I am truly inspired by these heroes of the faith.  They give me hope knowing that I stand with thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ willing to go the extra mile in spreading the Gospel of Jesus to kids.  They believe, as I do, that young ones can hear, trust, and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and commit their lives to him fully.  .

We will be in three cities this year:

  • Jan. 9-10 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, NC
  • Jan.16-17 at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX
  • Jan. 22-24 at the LifeWay headquarters in Nashville, TN.

For more information on the VBS Preview events, click here.

A Local Phenomenon

A Local Phenomenon.  Written by Haley Dallas. Educational Ministries student.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

The local “ring by spring” phenomenon is all but new to the students of Campbellsville University. This idea of getting engaged and settling down quickly seems to spread like wildfire when you step foot on this Christian campus.

But how local is this “local phenomenon” and why do we seem to obsess over its importance?  When a students makes the transition from high school to college they are faced with numerous new changes. These students have a new emotional and physical independence because of the distance they now have between them and the people that have taken care of them for years. Even kids that stay at home for college experience a new sense of taking control of their future. The parental unit these students have had holding their hands and walking them through this life thus far are now backing away and loosening their grips. This new independence leaves the college age student asking themselves “What is my next step.”

Many students at state colleges begin to find their identities in the major they have chosen or the sport they play or the organization they have pledged the next four years to. At a Christian university, students are thrown into an environment conducive to finding your identity in God and his love for us. This environment teaches a sense of community and love for each other that is not found widely at the larger state schools.

The Christian life is a huge advocate for “partners” and “teams.” We are taught about accountability partners and Adam and Eve and even the importance of the relationship between a husband and wife. For a Christian, the verse in Corinthians is a well known and used part of scripture. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends,” 1st Corinthians 13:4-9.

This verse can be used to make love and marriage seem like a wonderful way to spend your life. Secular and Christian culture both see this verse plastered on shirts, tattoos, websites, and Valentine’s Day cards. It is used in Sunday school teachings when portraying how to treat our fellow man and in small groups discussing the way to love your significant other. Bearing in mind the importance of this one verse on our secular and churched culture, you can only imagine how our Christian brothers and sisters are impacted by the plethora of verses just like this one modeling the importance and the greatness of love.

If I were to try and pinpoint one reason why the seeming obsession with early engagement is so prevalent at my little Christian college, and at all Christian colleges like it I would be at a loss. There are so many important factors that contribute to our love for love. The insane whirlwind of emotions and stressors and godly people mixed with the environment that is teaching us to work together and love one another and love our God seems to be the perfect recipe for a great relationship. We are taught to base our marriages and relationships on God and I don’t think there is a better place to start a godly unity than on a Christian campus, studying what you love, learning about God, and growing together.

I don’t think there is any sort of extra “rush” to get married on a Christian campus. I do believe firmly that a Christian campus is unwillingly creating the perfect environment for two God loving people to fall for each other and desire to start their lives together as soon as they can.

Do I Have to Get the Ring by Spring?

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Do I Have to Get the Ring by Spring?  Written by Joey Bomia. Senior Educational Ministries student.

Why are Christian college students more likely to get married after they graduate or soon after graduation? Is it possible that ones who are receiving their education from the Christian university rather than the state university feel pressured into marriage? I’ve noticed many of my peers and college friends have their weddings soon after graduation, so what is it that makes this “ring by spring” phenomenon seem so prevalent on Christian universities?

First off, it is not that they are forced into the marriage relationship. However, they desire to have that commitment one day and will there ever be a better time than when there are thousands of Christian singles all around you? Probably not. I’ve noticed a couple of pressures that may rush students into this big decision. Here are a few reasons why they want to have that relationship and to have it post-graduation.

1   The sexual pressure is a real deal. Sexual relations and encounters are the biggest temptation of sin that the young man and woman face. College is where the “hook-ups”, “one night stands”, and “friends with benefits” all run rampant across campuses everywhere. It’s the time where freedom from parents and restrictions create doors that the Christian student shouldn’t be opening.  Many will and have rushed into their wedding ceremony because they want to have sex with each other. That sounds blunt, but it’s the truth. Purity is important to some students. They will rush into this commitment to save it.

2.  Christian students see more importance and value on marriage. The reality of spending the rest of your life with someone may seem scary for some, but I think it is very appealing to the young college student especially to the Christian one. Christian students have grown up seeing biblical examples of marriage everywhere. When they picture the future, they see a family. It’s almost seen as non-biblical to the Christian single if they don’t pursue the marriage relationship.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” Genesis 2:24

3. There is a degree of “I’ve gotta fix this.”  All of us know the devastating statistic that 1 in 2 marriages will end in a divorce. Our society has lost the respect and commitment to the marriage relationship. I think the Christian college student desires to have a healthy, Christ-centered marriage that will last “until death do us part.” Many students in this generation have come from broken homes and split marriages; they want to see a better future for themselves.

4.  Fear of forever singleness. The thought of being alone and single forever scares people. There may not be a more opportune time to tie the protection and stability knot. There is that chance of not finding anyone that you want to spend the rest of your life with and I think many are dreading that thought on campuses everywhere. Why is the marriage commitment so surreal on the Christian campus?  It’s all about how students picture marriage. Christian students view marriage as an example of the Gospel and the relationship between Jesus and His bride. Non-Christian students view marriage as a restriction. They would rather receive the full benefits of cohabitation rather than being in full commitment to one person.

5.  Ministry and the church make the single feel uncomfortable. The single will be consumed by a congregation full of couples. Some churches won’t hire ministers if they aren’t married. Members of the church will begin to try hooking-up the young single with people. There are many classes in the church for couples, family, etc., but a lack of outreach to the young single. Single ministers lack the support that a spouse will give. All of these are more reason for the young single college student to get married.

This is a commitment that should be taken with much diligence, prayer, and discernment from Almighty God. One that many take lightly and should be taken with much carefulness. I pray for the young college student who decides to get married and that marriage would be God honoring to those all around.

Racing to a Ring

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Collegiate Christians’ Race for the Ring.  Written by Meg Brown.  Junior Educational Ministries & Public Relations student.

Buzzing silently amongst the daily lives of Christian college students in America is an unspoken, but well-understood topic. Guys and gals alike stir in their stands on the topic of: marriage. What? I can hear the laughter you’re trying to suppress right now, and trust me, you’ve read that correctly. The hot topic on the minds of college-aged Christians right now, and just about this time every year, seems to be the “Ring by Spring” phenomena.

While most college students are concerned with the upcoming football game or next Thursday’s party, there’s a small group who are in pursuit of something different. While by the end of their college years, most students look to find a job and begin a hopefully successful transition into adulthood, there is a growing trend among Christians in this age group who are seeking to accelerate this process by means of marriage. My question is, “Christians, why the hurry?”

The differences between Christian and state colleges are a large, wide-spread variety, but this one topic drives the divide deep, as it’s not a housing rule or application requirement we’re talking about, but a mindset. Why is the rush to engagement on Christian college campuses and not on the grounds of secular state schools? Here are a few potential factors I’ve found:

Prolonged Adolescence.  In today’s society, irresponsible adolescence is stretching farther than ever before. This shift in lifestyle has not yet displayed its full effects, but the current college-age generation will differ from the ones before it more drastically than ever before because of it. While the idea of sleeping in your parents’ basement for free aids in the process of paying off debt, this has a negative impact on our college-aged grads.

With this knowledge in mind, Christians seem to be on the hunt for something different. The reasoning behind this is still a little fuzzy; whether it be to follow, biblically, the ideals of family and marriage, or to simply avoid the unnecessarily long courtship, Christian college students are “Putting a Ring on It” faster than Beyoncé can utter the lyric.

Hook Up Culture.   If there was/is a “biblical” way of dating, the principles to which the average college relationship is guided by bears little to no resemblance to that “way.” Instead, thanks to apps like Tinder, social media such as Twitter or Facebook, and the immediate response mindset received from text messaging, college-aged relationships more closely fall to the “Hook Up” description.

Whatever you want to call them, these relationships blatantly display my generation’s lack of self-control, need for immediate gratification, and sure lack of commitment, all of which stand in stark contrast of what Christians are called to in the Way of Christ. Therefore, Christian college students choose to swim against the current and just do relationships differently.

Slim Pickin’s.  This is where I feel the weight of this pressure that Christian college students feel may lay. Though the “hook up” culture is prevalent, and prolonged adolescence is also unattractive, many college-aged Christians have the sense that there’s just no one else out there. The idea of going on to the next stage of life and ministry as a “single” is too terrifying for many to digest. We all want love and, while young and single and surrounded by such a pool of young and single Christians, surely you could find someone do life with, right?

The Christian community sometimes places added emphasis on married couples, leaving the college-aged group in fear of being sent to a “Singles Retreat” or even a separate Sunday class based on their relationship status. Apart from this divide we see on college campuses, there is a divide in churches today on this issue. Even the language we use is evident of this truth. Check out this blog http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/single-satisfied-and-sent-mission-for-the-not-yet-married for more on the “not-yet-married” stage of life. This talk places Christians in a posture of solitary separation or scrambled searching if you find yourself in the “not-yet-married” category.

Our subculture has been conditioned to believe that marriage is a goal, thus losing the greater vision of God’s will on our lives. I am not one to say marriage is bad, or that it is not worth seeking and striving towards, but that is only if marriage is what God has called us to in life. Please, brothers and sisters, let us not be bought into the haste and pressure that this “Ring by Spring” mentality has brought us.

The Ring by Spring Phenomenon

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Are Christian college students who attend college on the Christian college campus more likely to get married immediately after or soon after graduating than those attending state colleges?  Do Christian college students on the Christian college campus feel pressured to rush into marriage faster than their secular, state school peers?  Is there some reason they feel they must find their mate before leaving the Christian college environment or face difficulties afterwards?

Some call this the “Ring by Spring” phenomenon or “getting your MRS. degree.”  It is the norm on many Christian college campuses and I want to discover why.

So over the next several days, several of my Christian college students who attend a small, rural Christian college here in the middle of the Bible Belt are going to weigh in on the “Ring by Spring” phenomenon.  Their thoughts and ideas will be unedited and raw.

I want to learn from them.  I want you to learn from them.  I think you are going to find their analysis on this phenomenon fascinating.  Stay tuned.

 

Serving. Changing the World.

SERVING.  CHANGING THE WORLD.
Mary Kate Young, left, of Paris, Ky., at head of table, and Emma Calvert of Scottsville, Ky., lead a workshop for church leaders at Campbellsville University.  (Campbellsville University Photo by Candice Boone)

Mary Kate Young, left, of Paris, Ky., at head of table, and Emma Calvert of Scottsville, Ky., lead a workshop for church leaders at Campbellsville University.
(Campbellsville University Photo by Candice Boone)

by Candice Boone, Campbellsville Unviersity Student News WriterCAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — Students and faculty from Campbellsville University’s School of Theology and School of Music hosted a workshop recently titled “Making the Pieces Fit.”

“The purpose of this workshop was to serve and equip church leaders and volunteers in the rapidly changing world of technology in ministry,” said Dr. Shane Garrison, associate professor of educational ministries and director of theology online.

“Churches, in our modern day, have to be fully functional in online marketing, graphic design, social media and desktop publishing. Every church has a mission given by God. We want to help them communicate and achieve that mission.”

There were 12 churches present with 28 total participants. The churches represented at the workshop included churches from Taylor, Adair, Russell, Whitley, Breckinridge, Hart and Green counties.

Students led most of the workshops with the exception of the sound and lighting design led by Robert Bender, CU coordinator of audio and visual services.

Among the workshops offered were: Stage Craft and Set Design, led by Fred Hoagland of Falls of Rough, Ky. Clayton Brooks of Bardstown, Ky., worship arts major, and Drew O’Neal of Campbellsville, educational ministries major, led a workshop titled Worship Presentation Software and Design. Leading the Church Web Design and Podcasting workshop was mass communication student Josh McCoin of Frankfort, Ky. and educational ministries major, Chris Wright of Williamsburg, Ky.

In the second round of workshops there was Print Publishing led by educational ministries major Emma Calvert of Scottsville, Ky. and worship arts major Mary Kate Young of Paris, Ky., was held for Social Media Integration was led by educational ministries major Jon Kattus of Versailles, Ky., and worship arts major Devan Bishop of Columbia, Ky.

Garrison said, “I was personally very proud of our student presenters. Their topics were relevant, informative and professional. They shared from personal experience and left a lasting impression on those who came.

“The mission of the CU School of Theology is to produce world changers for Christ who are passionately evangelical, church connected, spiritual entrepreneurs. These student presenters demonstrated that mission and helped equip these leaders to more faithfully and effectively serve the kingdom of God in their local context.”

The workshop was done in part in response to a request from the Campbellsville University Church Relations Council during the CRC’s spring 2014 meeting.

“CU very intentionally engages with the local church. This is another example of how we are working with our CRC and leaders of local churches in engaging our faculty, staff, and students in helping churches to be better engaged in ministry,” said Dr. John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president.

Unlike Any Other

one sacredThere are many convictions that make me a Southern Baptist by choice, not by tradition.  I firmly believe in believer’s baptism by immersion as practiced by Jesus himself.  I firmly believe in the full inspiration of the Bible as God’s authoritative, inerrant Word.  I firmly believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.  For there is no other name under heaven by which men are saved (Acts 4:12).  These convictions, among others, align me perfectly with my fellow Southern Baptist tribe.

Another HUGE conviction I have is that the Gospel of Jesus must go to all nations, to every people group, tribe and tongue.  That we must pray for, support, and go as missionaries, spreading  the Gospel in our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  The missionary calling is for every believer.  No one is exempt.

For those who have received the missionary call and are burdened by God to live and serve among another people group, they have my greatest respect.  They are my heroes.

They are one of the main reasons I give my tithes and offerings to a Southern Baptist church which supports ministry in my city and state, and most importantly around the world through the Cooperative Program.

There is no other missionary sending agency on the planet that does domestic and international missions like Southern Baptists.  We not only affirm and appoint over 10,000 missionaries, but we send them out with a full salary and ministry funds to do the work.

Every other missionary sending agency requires their missionaries to raise their own support and constantly make requests of their supporters back home.  While I believe God has used this method greatly, I personally feel my tribe’s strategy is more focused and purposeful.  It lets the missionary be a missionary and not focus so much on being a fundraiser.

We complete this strategy through giving to the Cooperative Program and through special missions offerings, namely the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. For these offerings, every single penny goes straight to the mission field.  Nothing is held back for administrative costs.

This is an investment that has an eternal impact seeing men and women, boys and girls from all corners of the world coming to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.   That is an investment unlike any other.

CUTheology Students Host Worship and Tech Workshop

mosaic

Workshop Theme: “Making the Pieces Fit Together”

Nine students and several faculty and staff from @CUTheology and the CU School of Music are hosting a Worship & Technology Workshop, Thursday, November 20, 2014 from 6:30-8:00 pm in the home of the School of Theology, Druien Hall.

Check out the flyer.  Registration is still available.

Worship Tech Workshop Flyer

WORKSHOP OPTIONS

Stage Craft & Set Design – Druien Hall 6
Learn how to build easy and cost-affective staging based on a sermon series or season of ministry.  See examples of materials and ways to utilize lighting and fabric for maximum effectiveness.  Presented by Fred Hoagland.

Worship Presentation Software & Design – Druien Hall 4
Take a quick tour of ProPresenter and Media Shout, the two industry standards for worship presentation.  Discuss how color, font and image impacts what is in the worshippers heart.   Presented by Clayton Brooks & Drew O’Neal

Church Web Design & Podcasting – Druien Hall 2
What can you do to improve your church’s website?  Images, logos, announcements, branding, and media.  This session will help make your website workable and useable for your church’s specific needs.  Presented by Chris Wright & Josh McCoin

Print Publishing – Druien Hall 3
Bulletins. Bulletins.  What can you do with that all-important print piece that takes time and energy to make every week.  This session will show you how to make the bulletin more attractive and appealing for readers.  Presented by Emma Calvert & Mary Kate Young

Social Media Integration – Druien Hall 4
In our world, a church must be present on social media.  This session will explain how to integrate your vision, mission, purpose, and ministry on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram in a way that honors Christ.  Presented by Jon Kattus & Devan Bishop

Sound & Lighting Design  – Ransdell Chapel
The sound system does not have to be a monster in the corner or the bully in the booth.  Learn from a professional sound technician how to make your sanctuary sound system sing.  Presented by Robert Bender

 

 

5 Things To Do BEFORE You Send Out Your Ministry Resume

My primary work and ministry is with young adults who are about to embark on vocational ministry for the first time.  They have sensed the call of God on their lives and are studying to prepare themselves for real-life ministry in churches and ministry organizations.

For that reason, I get lots of questions about the creation of a ministry resume and how the whole placement process works.

I have written a couple pieces on how to create and improve the standard ministry resume, but I also wanted to add another component that is often overlooked.

What should you do before you send that ministry resume out?  Before you hit send on that email or drop the resume off in the mail, what should you be thinking about and making sure is in proper order.  So here are…

5 Things to Do BEFORE You Send Out Your Ministry Resume

1.  Notify all of your references.   You probably asked several key mentors in your life to serve as one of your references.  You’ve gathered their contact information, titles, current place of service, etc.  Now that the ministry resume is put together and ready to go, send your references a finalized copy and notify them that you are officially on the search.  I also suggest that you notify them if and when you receive a position, thanking them for whatever help they provided and informing them that the search is done.

clean12.  Clean up every aspect of your social media life.  Take down any inappropriate pictures, delete tweets, remove comments that your friends have made on a pic, toss out any controversial status updates, inflammatory remarks about a denomination,  a particular pastor, an author, or a church.  Even Cosmo magazine supports this spring cleaning approach to your social media.

It might sound extreme, as if you are removing a portion of yourself from your online existence, but your digital presence presence is highly evaluated in determining whether you get a first call or not.  Make it G-rated all around.  The more sanitized and clean, the better.

3.  Contact your home church pastor or youth minister.   Your home church leaders are going to be huge advocates for you and the ministry God has called you to.  They will probably have more experience seeing your spiritual gifts and talents on display in the service of the King.  Send them a final ministry resume and share with them what you sense God is calling you to do.  You may find that they are your greatest asset in being placed.

 It’s often not what you know, but who knows you.

4.  See if you know anyone on the inside of that particular ministry.  Think long and hard about who leads this ministry, who attends this church, who already serves on that team, and see if you can work through an inside connection rather than sending a cold email.

Again, the internal relationships and networks are far more effective in building trust and establishing a connection than flatly sending a standard email with resume and cover letter attached.  Do some investigative work.  You might be surprise how small the ministry world really is.

5.  Lastly, study the website thoroughly.  Read every page of content.  Read every document uploaded.  Read every blog post.  Like them on Facebook and be a follower on Twitter.  Look at previous newsletters, organizational documents, anything that will tell you what this ministry is all about.

You need to be more than casually informed about their vision and mission, you need to be able to articulate if that vision coincides with your own.  This is what captures attention and moves the process along.

Overall, you might believe this type of intentionality and diligence removes the hand of God or lessens the work of the Holy Spirit in placing His servants in His kingdom’s work.  I would disagree.  I believe taking these steps simply makes you more involved in the process and gives God more room to work in you and in the ministry you are seeking to find.

Blessings on your journey and may God use you greatly for His great name.