How to Make Your Church a Place Where Kids Belong

CreatingALeadSmallCulture_OrangeBooksMuch of what we do at RCC is centered around what we (and many other churches) call small groups. Even our children’s ministry is designed to be centered around smaller groups of kids with an adult leader. This allows for more growth and processing. How you do you create an environment like this? How do you help all people, kids through adults, feel like they belong? One resource I would recommend is “Creating a Lead Small Culture,” and you can now get it on Orange Books.

My friends over at Orange Books are offering some great deals this week. You can get any of the deals, any day this week, but I really like today’s featured deal:

Buy one copy of the book Creating a Lead Small Culture, and get all of the following:

  • “Transitioning to a Lead Small Culture” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Elle Campbell and Kenny Conley, audio file)
  • “Say Yes to a Lead Small Culture” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Carey Nieuwhof, audio file)
  • A three-month trial membership to Weekly (an online subscription to empower your small group leaders and parents)
Plus, when you tweet or share on Facebook any of the deals using the hashtag #OrangeBooks, you’ll be entered to win a prize.
Go to OrangeBooks.com to learn more.

 


 

5 Things Great Student Pastors Choose to Believe

MakeBelieve_OrangeBooksAbout 13 years ago, I entered into my first youth ministry class at Lincoln Christian College (now University). I learned a lot about student ministry both in the classroom and in practice. I will admit, though, that it was quite overwhelming in the beginning. Several books and mentors helped me think about the basics, but I still found myself drowning in thoughts and ideas. I wish I had a book like “Make Believe” at that time. Ben Crawshaw and Kevin Ragsdale have summarized five things to focus on in order to be a great student pastor, and you can get it today, along with some other great deals!

My friends over at Orange Books are offering some great deals this week. You can get any of the deals, any day this week, but here is today’s featured deal:

Buy one copy of the book Make Believe, and get all of the following:

  • “Make Believe” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Ben Crawshaw and Kevin Ragsdale, audio file)
  • “Give the Right Person the Mic” (Jon Acuff, High School Camp 2014, video)
  • A three-month trial membership to Weekly (an online subscription to empower small group leaders and parents)
Plus, when you tweet or share on Facebook any of the deals using the hashtag #OrangeBooks, you’ll be entered to win a prize.
Go to OrangeBooks.com to learn more.

 

 

How Your Church Can Build Marriages that Last

MarriedPeople_OrangeBooksEarlier this year, you might have read some of my posts about a new Married People ministry that Orange is starting. Along with that, they have a book. Well, that book is now available in digital format! It is the next book on my list to read, and you can get it today, plus some other amazing deals from Orange Books.

My friends over at Orange Books are offering some great deals this whole week. You can get any of the deals, any day this week, but here is today’s featured deal:

Buy one copy of the book Married People, and get all of the following:

  • “Why Marriage Ministry Is Doable for Every Church” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Ted Lowe, audio file)
  • “Married and in Ministry” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Ted Lowe and Doug Fields, audio file)
  • An annual subscription to MarriedPeople E-ZINE (a monthly resource of ideas, insights, and “go and do’s” you can email to the married couples in your church)

Plus, when you tweet or share on Facebook any of the deals using the hashtag #OrangeBooks, you’ll be entered to win a prize.

Go to OrangeBooks.com to learn more.

 

 

Please Pray for Our Trip to Haiti

haiti-map-270x270Over the past five years, my wife and I have been sponsoring a little girl from Haiti through Compassion International. In fact, I began sponsoring her in 2002, before we were married. At the time, she was four years old. This year, she will turn 15. It has been amazing to see her grow up through letters and photos, but we have always had the desire to actually see her in person. This November, we will answer this call from God and travel to the Belle-Anse area of Haiti to visit her and her family. During the trip, we will spend time with our sponsored child and her family, but we will also tour and serve in Compassion’s facilities in Haiti. This will be Yvette’s second time serving in Haiti, but it will be my first experience there. Due to the nature of this trip, we would like to ask for your prayer support. We ask for God’s safety in travel, an ability to connect well with the family, and that we would be able to serve well in God’s name.

As you can probably assume, we are extremely excited for this opportunity! Unfortunately, though, a trip like this also costs money. Specifically, it will cost us $2590.00 a piece, plus additional costs for roundtrip airfare from Boston to Miami. We have already paid for the trip out of our savings. However, we did not want to overlook the fact that many of you might want to partner with us. In fact, many have already done so, and we are extremely thankful for you all! Currently, have raised just over $1,000, and one family has purchased our flights to and from Florida. If you want to help out, that would be amazing, but we do not want you to feel pressured at all! Most of all, we would like for your prayer support. If you do want to donate, though, you can do so online via GoFundMe, or if you feel more comfortable sending us a check, you can do that as well. You can send it to Rockingham Christian Church, Attention: Steve Cullum, 5 Industrial Way, Unit 2, Salem, NH 03079.

If you have any questions, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us via email, phone, or social media. Also, we do plan to share all about our experience after the trip. So, stay tuned to this blog for that. Again, we want to thank you so much, especially for your prayer support, but also for your consideration to help us financially. May God bless your generosity, and increase your ability to give to others.

workcampNE on NH Chronicle

workcampne

Over the last seven years, we have taken a group of high school students to serve on summer mission trips with workcampNE. The organization was just featured on a local show, the New Hampshire Chronicle. Here is the clip, which paints a great picture of what workcampNE is all about and why we keep going back year after year to partner with them for our trips. If you have any questions about workcampNE, please let me know. Not only do I have several years of experience working with them, I am also a board member.

WATCH VIDEO

(I apologize for not being able to embed the video directly on here. They will not allow it. But you can just click the link above.)

 

Is Anyone Among You Sick?

Robin Williams 2011a (2).jpg

“Robin Williams 2011a (2)” by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams – This file has been extracted from another image: File:Robin Williams 2011a.jpg.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Right now, it seems most of the United States (and probably many others around the world) are shocked at Robin Williams’ recent death. The last I heard was that it was most likely suicide, but nothing had been confirmed. Apparently, he had been battling with depression for quite some time. But of course, most of us had no clue.

My wife has spent the last four years working with adults with mental illness. We have both witnessed it in our family, friends, and others within the church. It is something that is in our face more than ever, but it is also something most people do not understand. In fact, because of that, most are scared of it, especially when we hear about a criminal who has a mental illness or someone that commits suicide in large part because of his or her disorder. From my perspective, I believe many of these illnesses are legitimate diseases, but I cannot overlook the fact that there is spiritual warfare going on in our world, and Satan is still at work.

James 5:14 (in the NIV) starts out by asking, “Is anyone among you sick?” I think we often look to this Scripture as a call to anyone who is physically sick. Those who are lame, blind, deaf, or suffering from some other physical ailment. Back in April of this year at the Orange Conference, I was challenged by Perry Noble to think about this Scripture in a broader sense. James continues, “Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.” In addition to the physical illnesses we should pray about, maybe we should be praying about mental illnesses too. If we truly believe that our God is a God who heals, then shouldn’t we be asking Him to heal?

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Growth

growth

Have you ever found a bump on your leg and wondered where it came from? Just kidding… I’m not going to talk about that kind of growth. Instead, I wanted to share some things I’ve been seeing lately in my ministry experience in the areas of spiritual and numerical growth.

Recently, we made the decision to split up our middle school and high school youth group programs. This is a big change, for many reasons. It is our first attempt at a mid-week program. It is our first large-scale effort to split the two programs. And it is creating more space for numerical growth, which is something we have been lacking in recent years.

One of the things I am most excited about is getting to teach students more on their own level, instead of trying to reach a range of 7-8 years at the same time. We will also generate more opportunities for older students to serve younger ones. However, the thing that initially drove the decision was not either of those things. Instead, it was the opportunity to grow in numbers.

Do you ever get an idea in your head and get stuck on it, only to realize it is not what God wants stuck in your head? Yeah, that happens with me all the time, including this instance. I have realized this summer that God wants me to stop focusing on growing a large group, but instead, to help the students He has given us grow deeper in their relationship with God. And then, He will take care of the growth by utilizing these disciples to do the work of the church. What a concept!

So often in student ministry, I think we get focused on large numbers. And big groups are not a problem, but when we are only tuned into getting more people there, we often overlook that many students are just that — there. They are often lacking a deep relationship with God. They don’t know what it looks like to walk daily with Him. They are making choices that are jeopardizing their witness to others. They are living a life that does not honor God all the time. And they are not fully experiencing the amazing life God has planned for them.

Don’t get me wrong, though. There are a ton of people that need to hear God’s message. However, I don’t know if that is the youth pastor’s job to reach them. Perhaps God is calling the youth pastor and other leaders to invest in students and their families, discipling them, and then send them out to do the evangelizing. After all, they are a lot closer to their peers than we will ever be.

How do I plan to put this into practice? As of now, I don’t plan on using any state-of-the-art curriculum or brand new book from a best-selling author. Instead, I plan on following Jesus’ example to the best of my abilities. I am going to walk through life with teens. I am going to discuss real life issues with them, and we will figure it out together. I will teach when necessary, but other times, I will ask questions that prompt them to think. I will not answer every one of their questions, but I will often ask another question in response. We will have fun together, and we will experience all that God has planned for us on this earth.

That’s my plan. What’s yours?

Praying about a New Direction for this Blog

When I first started this blog back in 2007, my goal was to keep in touch with my financial and prayer supporters, as I started serving at RCC. I shared successes and struggles, as to help connect with those who cared about me. As our church became financially independent, and did not need me to raise funds anymore, the blog evolved into a place where I also shared book reviews, ministry resources, youth ministry tips, conference notes, marriage thoughts, tech-stuff, and more. It’s really become a “hodgepodge” of blog posts.

blog update

So, it recently crossed my mind that maybe I should clean things up a bit and give this site more of a streamlined purpose. I don’t yet know what it will look like, but I think it may go back to being a place where I will write more about me, my life, and my ministry. I think it will again become a place where I can share stories that feel too long for Twitter or Facebook — a place where I can write freely about my life.

Where will my writings about ministry, marriage, and other stuff like that go? I’m not yet sure. Yvette and I have thought about starting a marriage-focused blog to prepare for our book. I’ve considered writing about student ministry for an established site, but I could also see myself starting a new one. I’ve also really felt strongly about doing a site specifically focused on helping students and parents in their effort to reach out to others experiencing tragedy. This has stemmed from my experience with that in my own ministry recently.

Yes, I know. This all seems pretty overwhelming, and that’s where you come in. Please keep all this in your prayers. And if you feel like God is telling you to tell me something, please pass it along. I want to follow Him, and I want to make sure none of this is just for me. I know I am nothing without Him, so I want to make sure I do what He wants.

Anything is Possible? Not Exactly…

keepcalm-anythingispossibleThe other night, as I was watching the Billboard Music Awards, one of the award recipients was sharing some words of wisdom during her acceptance speech that caught my attention. She used a phrase that I have heard many times before. In fact, maybe it’s a phrase you have used.

“Anything is possible.”

Now, I am sure this lady and all others have the best of intentions when they share this hopeful encouragement, but I’ve got to tell you it just isn’t a completely true statement. No matter how much I hope for it or plan accordingly, I’m never going to flap my arms and start flying like a bird. I’m also never going to be a different race. While these examples are a bit of hyperbole, I think you get the point. Anything is not possible.

So, why do we tell people this sort of thing? Why do we fill young people’s minds with lies like this? I really do think it comes from our best intentions. This particular time, it came from a lady who grew up in a rough neighborhood with the world seemingly telling her she couldn’t do anything, but she rose above it, and she accomplished much. Therefore, she wants others to know to chase after their dreams, because “anything is possible.”

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Book Writing Update (May 17, 2014)

We have had several people asking recently about our book we mentioned we want to write a couple months ago. Well, here is the update… We’re still wanting to do it, and we still feel we are called to do it, but we don’t really know where to start. We’ve been hearing differing opinions about what to do, and we’re still trying to pray through them all and seek God.

One of the things we might end up doing is starting to blog together, specifically about marriage stuff that will eventually roll into the book. I’ve been writing on this specific blog for just over six years, and I’ve always struggled to find the words to describe it to people, because it ends up being a random collection of my life and ministry things. If we were to write only about marriage stuff on a separate blog, maybe that would clean this one up a bit more, and maybe it would help us gather something of a following on that specific topic.

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