Living In His Van (Down By the River!)

I used to live in Dayton, OH where I served as a youth pastor for five years.  In the winter, Dayton is a very cold place to be, and that’s why this story caught my attention.  Ryan Riddell is the pastor of Shelter Community Church of the Nazarene in Dayton, and he’s concerned about the plight of the homeless…so much so that he’s sleeping in his van this month.

While he doesn’t think a few weeks on the streets will actually help him fully empathize with the hundreds of thousands of homeless people in the U.S., he does hope to get a better understanding of how people get to be homeless and what they do to survive.

During the month in his van, he’s using his smartphone to shoot video and photos that he regularly uploads to his blog site.  Check it out if you have a few minutes.

http://30dayshomeless.wordpress.com/

Stopping the Church Mass Exodus

Ever wonder why teens and young adults stop going to church?  I do.  As many as 65%-85% of churched kids will leave the church once they hit adulthood.  Why do they do this, and how can we lower these numbers?  Based on several sources, here are some of the main reasons why kids leave the church (and often their faith) when they grow up.

Churched kids and teens spend six of seven days each week hearing other people say how judgmental Christianity is, and that the Bible should be taboo.

Churches use outdated methods of Sunday School, rotating the same Bible stories year-in and year-out without relating the morals to daily living. When kids want to know why someone like Gabrielle Giffords was shot, they don’t need another lesson on Noah’s Ark.

Teens can only eat so much pizza at church social events before they see through this thinly veiled attempt at keeping them occupied and out of trouble.

Those surveyed say there aren’t enough good reasons given for holding Bible beliefs other than “the preacher says so…” or “your parents say so.”

Sometimes kids are routinely kept out of “grown-up church.” From infancy to four years old, they’re in nursery. Then they get “children’s church” with a short Bible lesson, crafts and refreshments. For teens, a separate youth service geared to “their” music. By eighteen, they’ve never been expected to sit through a whole Sunday service. It’s culture shock.

Young people can see that the Church in general hasn’t yet been able to conquer racial reconciliation, domestic abuse and the rampant church divorce rate…sometimes in their own families.

Older generations won’t blend a moderate amount of contemporary music with traditional hymns, to show young people that newer ideas are respected.

Or, the Church feels pressured to impress their younger members with new technological avenues. So they discard all the old hymns that were written out of peoples’ struggles with life, pride and suffering. Thus, the newer generations don’t hear about how God can help them through hard times.

Parents are expecting the church to teach what may fall within their own responsibility.

But then, young parents raised in the last twenty years have themselves grown up under the new pop psychology of never receiving or deserving any discipline or criticism. They’ve seen church become irrelevant. Now, as parents, they’re hesitant to make (or even ask) their kids to go to church or develop a backbone in faith.

Lastly, everyone’s too busy for church. There are too many other attractions in life.

Sheryl Young, a free-lance writer and a Yahoo! contributing writer of faith issues says that some churches are trying to address these problems with new programs and ministries. But, she says that some churches “will find it such a daunting task that they just throw up their hands, ” which she says is maybe the right thing to do in this situation.  “Maybe it’s time to do just that — throw hands up and pray, rather than create more programs — and leave the rest up to God.”

Sources: “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith …and How to Bring Them Back,” (Drew Dyck, Moody Publishing, Oct 2010), “Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it” (Ken Ham & Britt Beemer, Todd Hillard, New Leaf, Aug 2009); “The Last Christian Generation” (McDowell, Green Key, 2006); and Lifeway Christian Resource Surveys from 2007 and 2010.

This Is The Way Love Is

In the 1980’s, Lou Gramm, the front man for the group Foreigner, cried out, “I want to know what love is!  I want you to show me!”   In 1998, the song was rerecorded by Australian singer, Tina Arena, and then in 2009, it was covered again by Mariah Carey.  Evidently, people still want to know.

In the midst of our culture crying out to know what love is, a band called The 77’s recorded a song in 1990 called “This Is the Way Love Is.”  Whether they meant to or not, the song seems to serve as a response to the cry of the culture.  They compare the way we – as humans – often love to the way God loves us.  Take a read…then take a listen.  It’s a good one!

THIS IS THE WAY LOVE IS by The 77’s

When I gave up, you held up
When I ran out, you filled me up
When I kept runnin’, you kept up
When I let you down you lifted me up

This is the way love is

When I couldn’t find the words, you understood
When I didn’t find the time, you were in no hurry
When I wouldn’t make ends meet, you tied them together
When I cheated you kept to the rules
Well, this is the way love is

This is the way love is
When it’s a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

When I was keepin’ it in, you were givin’ out
When I was losin’ out, you’d let me come back
When I was holdin’ back, you were holdin’ on
When I was losin’ my cool you were keepin’ your love warm
Well, this is the way love is

This is the way love is
When it’s a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

When I kept it all to myself like a miser holds on to his last dime
When I closed up myself like a desperate hand on a lifeline
Well I was bled, I was dried, all wrapped up in my pride
This is the way it is when you’re on the wrong side
Well, this is the way love is

This is the way love is
When it’s a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

When I gave up, you held up
When I ran out, you filled me up
When I kept runnin', you kept up
When I let you down you lifted me up

This is the way love is

When I couldn't find the words, you understood
When I didn't find the time, you were in no hurry
When I wouldn't make ends meet, you tied them together
When I cheated you kept to the rules

Well, this is the way love is
This is the way love is
When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

When I was keepin' it in, you were givin' out
When I was losin' out, you'd let me come back
When I was holdin' back, you were holdin' on
When I was losin' my cool you were keepin' your love warm

Well, this is the way love is
This is the way love is
When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

When I kept it all to myself like a miser holds on to his last dime
When I closed up myself like a desperate hand on a lifeline
Well I was bled, I was dried, all wrapped up in my pride
This is the way it is when you're on the wrong side

Well, this is the way love is
This is the way love is
When I gave up, you held up

When I ran out, you filled me up

When I kept runnin', you kept up

When I let you down you lifted me up

 

This is the way love is

 

When I couldn't find the words, you understood

When I didn't find the time, you were in no hurry

When I wouldn't make ends meet, you tied them together

When I cheated you kept to the rules

 

Well, this is the way love is

This is the way love is

When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

 

When I was keepin' it in, you were givin' out

When I was losin' out, you'd let me come back

When I was holdin' back, you were holdin' on

When I was losin' my cool you were keepin' your love warm

 

Well, this is the way love is

This is the way love is

When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

 

When I kept it all to myself like a miser holds on to his last dime

When I closed up myself like a desperate hand on a lifeline

Well I was bled, I was dried, all wrapped up in my pride

This is the way it is when you're on the wrong side

 

Well, this is the way love is

This is the way love is

When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection

Interesting Headlines

I receive a monthly newsletter called The Foster Letter Religious Market Update.  It’s full of interesting and useful information on the American Christian culture.  Each newsletter includes a section called: Fast Facts. As I was reading it this morning, I came across some statistics that got me thinking.  So, I took the statistics (in italics) and developed headlines (in bold) followed by my thoughts on the subject.

Church Marketing Schemes Not Very Effective
80% of a church’s first-time visitors heard about the church through a friend, co-worker, or family member. It’s sad to think of all the money churches have spent in our advertisement-driven culture on things like newspaper ads, billboards, pamphlets, flyers, etc. – all in an attempt to lure unchurched people into their churches.  All the while, the vast majority of people who visit a church for the first time are people who were invited by someone they know.  Seems like the most effective strategy for church growth is still the old fashioned method: invite a friend!

Young Adult Ministry Needs a New Face
65% of U.S. 18–29-year-olds rarely or never attend worship services BUT 96% of 18–24-year-olds in the U.S. use Facebook.
So, the majority of young adults in America won’t darken the doors of a church, but almost all of them are using Facebook.  What are the implications of this for ministry leaders like myself?  Is there a way to use Facebook as a medium for communicating God’s truths to young adults?  Can Facebook be used to engage unchurched young adults in discussions about spiritual things? Can Facebook be used to ultimately bring young adults into the “real” community of the church where “friends” are real people?  Hmmm.

Maybe VBS Is Worth All the Effort
52% of pastors who decided as kids to follow Jesus did so at a children’s summer camp/Vacation Bible School (VBS). I’ve never been a huge fan of VBS.  As a kid, I loved it, but as a pastor…not so much.  Here’s why: VBS costs a lot of money and a lot of ministry hours, and usually, the only kids that attend are kids that are already benefiting from church programs anyway.  Most kids that attend VBS are kids who attend a children’s ministry program on a weekly basis already.  So, I have wondered if all the money and manpower is worth it.  This statistic, however, changes my mind a bit.  If VBS has been used by the Lord to produce future pastors and ministry leaders, then maybe it’s worth all the effort.  I’m a pastor, and I distinctly remember at the age of 8 deciding to follow Jesus.  And guess where I was?  VBS!