Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We are visitors (part 2)

One of the first things we noticed when we went into the churches is what I call the welcome factor.  Actually this is comprised of many areas all coming together to give an overall impression of "welcome-ness."

One of these areas is obvious: the condition of the building.  So many "behind the scenes" people play a part in this one.  Cleaning/maintaining a church building is a thankless job -- and sometimes an unpaid one.

The funny thing about this area is that it goes absolutely unnoticed unless it's not done properly.  Most churches focus on presenting a clean foyer, sanctuary, offices, etc.  But sometimes the Children's Ministry rooms leave a bit to be desired... (and don't even get me started on the bathrooms!)

It's not uncommon to see the sides of a Children's Church room(s) stacked with toys, past object lessons, puppets, miscellaneous papers, etc.  This is especially difficult in the Children's Ministry because so many different activities take place in one room... and each one requires props, materials, etc.

But few things make a visitor feel more uneasy than sending their child into a room that is unkempt.  It gives the impression that the entire program is in disarray or second-rate, at best.

A simple solution is to provide closets or storage rooms specifically for the Children's Ministry to use.  Or they could be given storage cabinets that could actually be placed in the room.  But these need to be organized in such a way that they don't become giant trash cans.

Another solution, although one that requires more effort, is to regularly organize the storage areas.  Then you just need to find a place to either donate or recycle equipment that is either broken or no longer used.  If you ask for volunteers to repair damaged equipment, you'll often find willing ones.  And other volunteers with organizational gifts may be willing to help with cleanup and with rearranging the storage areas.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We are visitors (part 1)

I have referred to this subject before, but Robin "encouraged" me to write a series of blog posts about this subject (read: "You should really write about this!"). When we moved down to southern Germany almost a year ago, for the first time we were outsiders looking in instead of insiders looking out. We were church visitors!

Before we had always been the ones welcoming, assisting, getting to know and following up on visitors. But everything changed when we went from pastoral ministry to mentoring, coaching and training. we now got to see what a church looks like to a visitor. It was almost as if we got fresh eyes.
The next few blogs will have some of our experiences as visitors (we visited quite a few different churches -- both German and English-speaking -- and most of these multiple times while looking for a new church home)... and suggestions for pastors and those in church leadership. It would do us all good to begin to look at our churches and ministries with these "fresh eyes!"

Saturday, May 2, 2009

How to deal with disappointment

A friend of ours died a few weeks ago.  He was a fellow missionary living here in our area.  Actually, we had the privilege of helping his family get established here in Germany.  But it really got me thinking about how we react when things don't go the way we planned.

As I was praying for his family (wife and four girls) I was reminded of this verse...

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” - 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NLT

Many church-goers know that this is in reference to what Paul called, "a thorn in his flesh," something the devil sent to make his life difficult.  We're never told exactly what this thorn is, or why he had to deal with it.  Some think this refers to a physical problem.  I believe it refers to the opposition he experienced in many cities.  Either way, things weren't as he would like.

Many times when things don't go the way we planned, we blame God... almost as if He has some sick sense of pleasure in our pain.  It can feel as if He's left us all alone, that He just doesn't care.  Many people speak of these verses that the Apostle Paul penned as proof that God wants us to suffer through some things.

I see it from a totally different angle.  In these verses I don't see a God that is uninterested or that leaves us alone to deal with our pain.  Rather, I see a God that gives us a special grace to deal with tough situations.

My friends, He is PRESENT in times of pain, disappointment and frustration (See Psalm 34, especially vs. 18).  He is actively involved -- although it may not seem like it.  And He provides us what we need to not just survive, but overcome such circumstances.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Want miracles?

I was recently at a minister’s conference in the Swiss Alps. (very cool!!!)  While I was there, I sensed God challenging me.  It was as if He was drawing a line in the sand and inviting me to step across it.

I wrote down what I felt He was saying to me:

Want miracles?  Then take risks for God!  They only happen in impossible circumstances… under extreme pressure!  You’ll never see God’s miracle power when you’re playing it safe.

It made me want to look at what we’re doing and how we can take more (acceptable, intelligent and intuitive) risks for Him.  And as my wife says, “After all, what do we have to lose?”

So how about you… Do you want miracles?