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Christian Living Good News

5 Ways to Be Good News in Your Neighborhood on Halloween

Christians have a weird history with celebrating Halloween. Not growing up in the church I was appalled when I heard church people refer to it as “Devil’s night” and say things like, “Of course we don’t celebrate Halloween.” It’s as if we’re talking about two different holidays. There’s the one that actually happens and the one that you’re afraid is happening. Like all things– fear is irrational. 

The whole anti-Halloween concept is built on a theology of fear. Be reminded that in Ephesians 5 Paul instructs Christians to be light in dark places!

Many churches offer alternatives such as harvest parties, hell houses, or trunk-or-treating. Those things aren’t bad, but they aren’t good news in your neighborhood

Here’s my suggestion: Skip the Christian alternatives altogether and embrace Halloween for what it is. It’s a night when hundreds of families will wander around your neighborhood, smiling and enjoying one another, and giving candy to children.

Think strategically: For those who are anti-Halloween I have this challenge. One night a year one hundred families want to come to your door and say hello. Are you going to greet them? Or are you going to turn off your light and pretend they don’t exist?

Don’t be “that guy” on your block. Embrace Halloween as an opportunity to be good news in your neighborhood.

5 Ways You Can Be Good News in Your Neighborhood on Halloween

  1. Sit on the front porch. One of my favorite things to do is to sit on the front porch all night and talk to people as they come by. Resist the temptation to go inside between visitors. Trust me on this. You’ll like what happens. You’ll make great small talk with parents AND every time I’ve done it my neighbors see me and do the same. We have great little conversations porch-to-porch conversations between visitors.
  2. Make it a game. Set up a simple game in your front yard to give trick-or-treaters the opportunity to win the big candy bar. It could be as simple as a bean bag toss or throwing a football to knock something down. Make it simple, kids want to hit every house on your block, but this will make a great impression.
  3. Host a warming station on your block. We’ve done this one bunches of times– it’s ALWAYS a blast. We had close to 1000 trick-or-treaters at our house in Michigan and doing this cost me, maybe, $75. Set up a little tent in your driveway or front yard and serve coffee, hot cocoa, and apple cider. It’s a great break to the routine and easy to invite your small group or someone who doesn’t have trick-or-treaters to help with. Do it 2-3 years in a row and you’ll get known as the house that does that tent thing. Really want to make some friends? Offer parents a little Kahula or Bailey’s for their hot drink!
  4. Do something fun and not-so-scary. There are people in our neighborhood who go all out. They build tunnels over the sidewalk and scare the tar out of children. You can have fun like that and just make it fun. Rent a bounce house and play some music. Be weird and decorate your house for Christmas. Dress up like the easter bunny and have an easter egg hunt every 15 minutes. Just because you don’t want to get into the whole devil/ghosts/zombie thing doesn’t mean you can’t be creative to have some fun with the hundreds of kids who will come up your walk.
  5. Cover every house. I live on a block that has some elderly folks. Consequently, we have kind of a bummer block because many of them aren’t mobile enough to hand out candy. It would be great to rally a few people and make sure every porch light is on and there is candy at every house. Warning: You may need to actually talk to your neighbors to pull this one off. (Which is more scary than Halloween itself, right?)

What are other ways you can embrace Halloween as a way to be Good News in your neighborhood?

Categories
Church Leadership Good News

Do we live on the same planet?

Sometimes I’ll meet a person in ministry and think, “Do we live on the same planet?” 

  • I’ve got a really solid core group of kids each Wednesday night– I think they have a chance at winning the Bible quizzing championship.
  • Our high school students are very involved in the community. Each year we get together with other churches in our district for a youth rally. They love it.
  • I always take my sword wherever I go. You have to be prepared for battle at all times.
  • I had to pull my kids out of public school because in California there’s a new law that teachers have to include gay history in the curriculum. (What’s really weird is that they don’t live in California!)
  • I teach my students that they need to take a stand. A life with Jesus is all about taking the stand, right?

Code language. Insular communities. Church-centric attitudes. It leaves me wondering who they are trying to reach?

It makes me wonder how they have a conversation with their neighbors? I wonder what they are thinking as they get to know Diane next door, who just had to put her mom in a home. Or what they talk about with the gay couple across the street? Or what their neighbors think about them when they turn off their light on Halloween? Or refuse to come to the block party because people are drinking?

I wonder if people think of them as good news in the neighborhood?

I’m guessing that there are a lot of neighbors hiding from a lot of their Christian neighbors in this country.

I believe in Jesus. He is my only hope for salvation. And I fully acknowledge that the church is God’s chosen instrument for believers. But there is this sliver of people in every church who… are really weird.

And no one ever has the guts to tell them the truth: “You’re weird. And you really need to work on that. Jesus asks us to be different in a good way. Your weirdness is making it harder for me.

The Flip Side – The culture wars are dying

Not all church staff are like that. It’s actually very few.

More and more I’m hearing a bad strategy being replaced with good strategy.

  • In order to reach a community you have to meet the relevant needs of the community.
  • In order to start reaching more people we had to stop fighting culture and stop teaching that the output of a life with Jesus is behavior modification.
  • We recognize that to reach our neighbors we have to be good news before they will hear Good News.
  • Rather than bring a program into our community which worked elsewhere, we’re going to the community and asking how we can serve them.
But it’s the really weird ones that we now have to shake and ask, “Do we live on the same planet?
Categories
Good News Talk Notes

Created to be Good News in the Neighborhood

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to teach at Encounter, the high school ministry of Journey Community Church.

Here’s the main idea of my talk: With the canvas of our life God gives us the ability to create a masterpiece with our lives through our good works.

Ephesians 2:10 describes believers a God’s masterpiece.

[Pause, think about that for a second. Whoa.]

So often we feel like being a Christian is a cookie-cutter experience. Not so! We were each uniquely hand-crafted by God to be his agents of Good News to our community. (Our church, our city, and specifically our neighbors.) Our talents, skills, strengths, and stories are lovingly interwoven with the activity God wants to tell in our community. He doesn’t need us to do His will, but He created us in Christ Jesus to do it.

To download my notes and the slides that went along with this talk, click the link below.

[download id=”17″]

To check out all my free stuff, click here.

Categories
Christian Living Good News

5 Simple Ways to be Good News This Week

 

 

 

Photo by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr (Creative Commons) 

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Practically speaking, that means that going to church on Sunday and rocking a Christian bumper sticker isn’t enough.

Here are 5 simple ways that your actions can be Good News this week:

  1. Personalize your convenience. Ask the store clerk where you go regularly for their name, begin to see them as a person with a story and not an object who collects your money or makes your double shot skim vanilla latte.
  2. Tip well and say thank you. No strings attached, just be a good tipper and look your server in the eye to express gratitude. (Learn more, Christians are Bad Tippers) [Conversely, if you see a Christian leave a tract as a tip, be Good News to servers worldwide and punch them in the face.]
  3. Sweat the small stuff. Did a coworker get a haircut or just come back from vacation? Make a few minutes to compliment them or look at their pictures. Or did your kids school get recognized for an achievement? Send the school’s principal a note expressing your appreciation. Noticing something small is huge.
  4. Mow a solid. Next time you mow your front lawn, go ahead and mow the front lawn you turn your nose up at. You know, the person who hasn’t figured out that Spring has sprung. Maybe, just maybe, that person has a really good reason they haven’t mowed their grass yet. Doing them a solid might open the door to hearing their story.
  5. Bless from excess. Next time you are out to eat and have leftovers, don’t just throw it away. Instead package it up as a meal for a homeless person. Add napkins, a fork, and a bottled water. Not all homeless people are hungry. But some definitely are. You don’t even have to wait until you eat out. Why not make an extra lunch and take it with you… just in case? (Read Under the Overpass for more on this.)

Being God’s handiwork made new in Christ to do good works doesn’t mean you have to save the world. You don’t have to build a house to do good works. You don’t have to go on a mission trip or teach Sunday school to children.

Small, simple things do make a big impact.

Be Good News this week.

Categories
Blog Highlight Church Leadership Good News

Being Good News

Today’s video post is a synopsis of about 10 conversations I’ve had in the last 60 days. All of them get to the question, “Adam, something has changed inside of you. I like it sometimes and I don’t like it sometimes, what is it?

One thing I’ve learned to get comfortable with in the last 10 years of ministry is people asking me hard questions, diving into my motivations, and even offering critical responses. I can handle it. I am not intimidated by it. In fact, questions like this actually encourage me.

Categories
Christian Living Culture Good News

Nativity, Defined

Photo by Grand Canyon NPS via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Nativitythe process whereby someone becomes a native.

Christmas is one of the most confusing holiday’s on the planet. It’s half religious and half a celebration of solstice. The secular vs. religious scales have tipped back and forth over millennia.

That’s a historically accurate tension.

If you are feeling it this year. Welcome. You are in good company. Grab a glass of eggnog.

Some people think that Christmas is a religious holiday that’s been ruined by secularization. In fact, it’s a secular holiday that’s religious people have tried to hijack since the 3rd century when Rome turned to Jesus.

Sometimes Christmas is about revelry. And sometimes it’s about Jesus. Right now it’s a little bit of both, isn’t it?

Centuries ago, Christians strategically capitalized on a holiday which felt like it had something to do with the incarnation of Jesus. Every pagan group in Europe had celebrated some variety of a multi-day winter solstice festival, some marked by the giving of gifts, and as Christianity became the dominant religion in the area we just tried to rebrand it as being all about Jesus.

Every element of our modern Christmas celebration is irreligious and about revelry. The tree, the carols, Santa Claus, the yule log, the Christmas parties, the gifts, the traditional foods, family togetherness. These are all pagan festivities we’ve adopted into a pseudo-Christian hybrid holiday we call Christmas.

The tension you feel is because tension is the intention of the season.

Imagine how it must have felt as Jesus stepped out of heaven and into the arms of a teenage mother? Uninvited game changer. He ruined the reputation of a young woman. He entered the world as a family disgrace. And the political powers didn’t like who people said he was to become so they had every boy his age killed. Like it or not… Jesus’ arrival changed everything. His process of coming here was just as messy as the messiness you feel at a family Christmas celebration this December.

That is nativity at it’s core. The process of becoming a native. Uncomfortable. Foreign. Out of place. Contradiction. Frustration.

And just like Jesus dealt with the tension and contradiction of becoming a native, he asks us to do the same by doing things which seem counter-intuitive. Instead of Good News being about us, Jesus asks us to be Good News to our neighbors. Instead of Good News something we privately keep to ourselves, Jesus asks us to live a life worthy of sharing. Instead of living a life about our family, Jesus invites us into a community of new family.

There’s a lot of tension in this season we call Christmas. It is by design. The tension you are feeling is the tension of bringing Good News into a broken world.

Ask yourself today, “How am I being Good News today to my neighbors? What can I do to be Good News to the family next door?

Categories
Church Leadership Good News

The God of My Neighborhood

We want to change the world!

We want our church to reach this whole community!

God is the God of this city!

[The crowd raises to its feet and cheers as the band begins to play…]

These are guaranteed anthems to bring a church to its feet.

But I’m left wondering if our ecclesiology is a little too big?

It looks like your eyes were bigger than your stomach.” That’s what my mom used to say when I put too much food on my plate at dinner.

And I think that’s the strategic error of many churches.

I know it’s the strategic error of most believers.

Most churches mission statements tell the people the goal is to reach the world… and when we aim at that we get nearly nothing because it’s too big.

Isn’t our job to love our neighbors as ourselves and put God first? (Mark 12:28-31)

Isn’t my job, then, to love my neighbors? Like the ones who live next door? Or down the block? Or maybe as far as around the corner? Isn’t that why God, in His infinite wisdom, placed me in my neighborhood?

Yes, it is. That is the business God has clearly called you to. He has called you to be good news to your neighborhood.

Every other type of ministry you do is secondary to that. To take it a step further… every other ministry you have which gets in the way of what Jesus calls the second most important command, is unnecessary. Until you can love your neighbors as yourself you have no business doing anything else. (Yeah, including those who work in churches. I’m looking at you.)

Step 1: Get to know your neighbors

Loving your neighbors isn’t hard. You were created in Christ Jesus to do it. It takes no training. And it takes no special skills. This is what you need to do.

  • Get to know your neighbors names. If your yard touches theirs get to know their names. If they are across the street they are your neighbors, too. Each neighborhood is a bit different. But just start with the people immediately around your residence.
  • When you see them… stop and say hello. Talk to your neighbors. These are people God foreknew you to know. You don’t need an agenda, just be friendly.
  • Keep your eyes open and your ears open. When you can see they need help, do what you can.
  • When you need help, ask your neighbors. Sometimes exhibiting some dependency is the perfect open door to getting to know someone.
  • Over time, learn to depend on one another. Maybe your neighbor is a little older and you have a snow blower. Start shoveling the walk. When you go out of town, ask them to pick up the mail.

As you do this process, the Holy Spirit will begin to reveal to you next steps. Maybe it’ll be to host a neighborhood BBQ? Or maybe it’ll be to help find a lost dog? It could be any number of things… but it probably isn’t to invite them to church or to give them a flyer. God didn’t ask you to bring people to hear the Gospel at your church. He empowered you to bring the Gospel to your neighbors through your love for them.

What are you waiting for? The power of the Gospel will prevail when you set out to be Good News in your neighborhood.

Categories
Church Leadership Good News

Cultural Engagement Strategy

 

Photo by Stuart Boreham via Flickr (Creative Commons)

 

Have you ever opened your eyes underwater? You know, without goggles?

 

All of the underwater world is a blur. Sure, you can see stuff but you can only see things nearby and its nothing like what you see on a National Geographic special.

Then someone hands you a set of goggles and you go back underwater. It’s an entirely different experience. If you are shallow enough and the water is clear, you can see the bottom. You can see fish and rocks and plant life.

The difference is quick and obvious.

This is the same experience I feel that most people in full-time church ministry go through. They are underwater in the culture they live in without goggles on.

Most churches are failing to reach the culture because they lack a strategy to engage the culture they live in.

The staff needs goggles so they can actually see what is happening, not just 5 feet in front of their face and fuzzy, but all the way to the bottom!

Any ministry professional can do the math. Add up the amount of people who are actually attending the churches in their community, divide it by the population and you can see that the Gospel is not winning. In most communities you’ll find less than 10% of the population goes to any church more than once a month. In the most reached communities you’ll find about 30%. (Go ahead, spend the 30 minutes to do so with your zip code if you don’t believe me.)

That’s an F for the church. The church is underwater in the culture it is supposed to thrive in. Jesus calls us to reach the whole world (100%) with the message of the Gospel and we’re at 3%-30%. Not awesome.

It’s no wonder why…

  • Christian colleges and seminaries focus little on engaging culture. I’ve visited a fair number of them and most of their students describe their campuses as a bubble. (Meaning they don’t engage the community around them very well.)
  • Churches are notoriously insulated from culture.
  • Churches tend to hire people who have spent the vast majority of their adult life either in a Christian college, a seminary, or the local church. All places which are notoriously bad at engaging with culture.

The result is an “us vs. them” mentality. It’s a simpletons philosophy of cultural engagement.

And it isn’t working.

I once visited a church that had the following truism painted in big letters on the wall of their foyer. “Through you we have access to every single person in our community.

That is true. But if we aren’t teaching people how to engage with those people in a meaningful way it’s empty access.

I believe that people working at churches across the country and around the world are good people. They are in ministry because they want to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. (e.g. The right reason for being in ministry.)

I believe that the vast majority of people who are frustrated in their ministry calling are frustrated because they feel stuck… a ministry life isn’t what they thought it was… and that frustration will be eased if they stop focusing their time on running programs for people who come to church and start focusing their time on reaching people who don’t come to church.

5 Steps to Creating a Cultural Engagement Strategy for Your Church

  1. (observe) Lock your church staff out of the office for a week and each of them visit 10 parishioners at their places of work. (More on this idea)
  2. (engage) Implement 3 of these 10 ways your church can be good news to the closest public school to your church office.
  3. (engage) Implement 3 of these 10 ways your church can be good news to the neighborhood your church building is in.
  4. (strategy) Schedule a 2 day off-site retreat with your entire staff and leadership team to share what you’ve learned in items 1-3, and create a strategy which continues to foster engagement between members of the church and the community the church ministers in. (Cover my travel and I will facilitate this retreat for free, if your church will commit to doing items 1-3 beforehand.)
  5. (implementation) Take whatever steps are necessary to become a church wholly focused (Maybe possessed is the right word?) on meaningfully engaging the needs of your churches immediate area for the sake of the Gospel prevailing.

Before people will hear Good News you have to become a church which is Good News.

Categories
Church Leadership Good News

10 Ways Your Church Can Be Good News to Public Schools

I have a fervent belief that if we want to reach a post-Christian society, we have to be Good News before someone will listen to Good News.

I asked some teachers, “How could a local church be Good News to your public school?” Here are 10 of their ideas.

  1. Create a team that participates at every school board meeting. Your presence at meetings, without bringing forward issues, will communicate to the decision makers that your church cares.
  2. Sponsor a community-wide clean-up day during the Fall and Spring semester. If you lead the charge, other churches and community organizations will join forces.
  3. Ask teachers to post individual classroom needs on Donors Choose, and then ask church members to help fund things that will go directly to the classroom.
  4. Set-up a tutoring program that meets in your building after school. (Example) You don’t have to be a certified teacher to help kids with math, science, and reading homework.
  5. Ask your congregation to strategically send their children to public schools. Resist the temptation to home school or send children to a private school. Instead, ask the congregation to invest that time and money into their children’s individual classrooms.
  6. Schools are often lacking volunteers for events. Meet with the principal early in the Fall and find out which events need help.
  7. Have the church cover any expenses for background checks or medical tests related to volunteering in schools. Sometimes the smallest obstacle becomes the biggest excuse!
  8. Once a month, provide treats to the school staff. Every school has a teachers lounge and every employee of the school will appreciate if you provide a bagels or a healthy lunch snack. (Don’t just bless the teachers, bring enough for everyone!) Trust me, this will make even the most hardcore staff smile.
  9. Many districts have cut spending on arts and music. Have your worship leader work with local administrators to set-up workshops, after school, or any opportunity for children to get exposure to art and music.
  10. Find out what projects are important at a school and help provide the supplies. If they have a garden, make sure they have tools. If they are allowing children to paint murals, make sure they have the paint they want.

Want to get started? Pick one and let me know how it goes!

These are my ideas. What are yours?

Many of these ideas came from classroom teachers. Special thanks to Erin, Annie, and Paul for speaking into this post.

Categories
Good News youth ministry

Good News for High School Students

I’m always at odds with this reality:

If Jesus offers good news, what is it about how we do youth ministry that is only attractive to 1% – 2% of the high school students on our campus?

That always lead same  to a place where I say, “I don’t think we’re doing this right just yet.

  • Good news spreads like wild fire.
  • Good news is unstoppable.
  • Good news releases energy.
  • Good news releases joy.
  • Good news is contagious.

In 1994, as a high school senior our basketball won the Indiana state basketball championship. If you’ve seen the movie Hoosiers than you get a glimpse of how important this is to the state of Indiana. It’s a really big deal. Not only do the finals fill the RCA Dome, the same building which hosts the NCAA Final Four, it is a much bigger tournament as every high school in the state got a chance to enter the tournament. So as the final seconds ticked off the clock in overtime and our team was up 93-88… the student body of Clay High School collectively lost it. We poured onto the court. We screamed and danced. And then when we got kicked off of the court we ran around the inside of the stadium screaming, chanting, bouncing, skipping, and dancing! And then we got kicked out of the RCA Dome and we literally just ran through the streets of downtown Indianapolis screaming, chanting, bouncing, skipping, dancing, and stopping traffic to tell them, “We won!

That was good news worth celebrating. It unleashed unstoppable joy. It was universal on our campus. It was even universal in our city as everyone felt good about this good news!

If youth ministry were good news to the high school students on our campus.. you’d see this same unstoppable release of joy. It’d be nearly universal. Even those who didn’t embrace it would be excited it. Good news is worth celebrating, dancing, and running through the streets for.

I know it. You know it. 1% – 2% of people running through the halls… that’s just creepy!

The only question is, are we will to think and dream of ways to be good news to our campus so they might desire to hear Good News?