Archive for category: Ministry

Reporting Sexual Abuse in Christian Communities

10 Feb
February 10, 2014

My sister wrote a great post about reporting sexual abuse in Christian communities, how the problem continues to this day, and her perspective on the abuse we witnessed at the boarding school for missionary kids we attended in the early nineties. Here’s a snippet, to read the full thing click here:

When I was 9 years old, my family moved to South America as short-term missionaries (a 2-3 year commitment) with New Tribes Missions, where my parents taught at a NTM boarding school.  While much of our experience was wonderful, the psychological, physical and spiritual abuse at the school was shocking.  My parents were labeled trouble-makers for voicing concerns and reporting abuse, and ultimately they chose not to continue as career missionaries under the circumstances.  In addition to stunningly abusive corporal punishment (i.e. “swats” with a large wooden board, with holes drilled in it, administered gleefully by a bully of a principal), there were three men, that I know of, sent home for sexually abusing children – just during that three year span of time.  Sent home, but not reported to law officials or even to their own churches.  Just sent away to plug into other ministries with children.

Read the rest here.

First Semester of Seminary Finished!

17 Dec
December 17, 2013

Well, I finished my first semester of seminary Sunday night. I learned a few things along the way … and I’m not talking about class content …

  • I’ve been out of school for 13 years. Going back was overwhelming, scary, and challenging! It definitely took a month or so to really start to feel like I was getting back in the range of student mode.
  • I learned some valuable lessons about scheduling classes. I accidentally scheduled too many at the same time which made for an insane four week period of time when all of my classes overlapped. I actually registered for more classes next semester than this one, but I balanced them better so I won’t have that kind of nightmare again!
  • In a bizarre twist, I think I’m a better student than I was in the late 90′s. Back then I did what I needed to get the grade I had to have; now I’m working harder and offended when I don’t get the grade I know I could have gotten. Weird!
  • Technology has REALLY made being a student easier! Text books are cheaper digitally, and easier to highlight and retrieve information from. Doing work from my laptop in my office, iPad here and there, and iPhone on the go has made getting stuff down in spare moments a GREAT use of time.

Being a student is strange. I’m working towards a Master of Divinity (finally). Going at a full time pace (fall semester, spring semester, summer semester), I will finish a few weeks before my oldest starts his freshman year in high school (also known as August, 2016). I’m really motivated by that milestone – once we have kids in high school and middle school, life is going to be a lot more chaotic and will continue to be so until our youngest graduates (June, 2027). It makes for a busy few years, but I think it will be a lot harder as our kids get older, so here goes!

On the plus side, I do have the next month or so off. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

The United We Stand Tour recap

17 Oct
October 17, 2013

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“Woah. Matthew. I need you to understand that this concert is on a whole different level.”

Words from the tour manager on the phone with me the day before they arrived at my church … and he wasn’t kidding! I was downplaying something as not being a big deal based on the concert events I’ve hosted in the past – I needed a wake up call to what I had booked! The United We Stand tour with Building 429, The Afters, Hawk Nelson & Finding Favour is a full fledged concert event!

The tour was amazing. They did things in our sanctuary with staging, lights, smoke and cryo effects I never would have thought could happen there! They showed up with a semi truck FULL from top to bottom, front to back, with equipment – my heart literally stopped when they popped open the doors and it was 100% full. The sound was so loud, the bass so powerful, it literally vibrated three lights out of their sockets! And under every light fixture there was a small pile of sheet rock dust that had been shaken out of the building!

I still can’t believe the crowd we had for a Tuesday night concert! I’m even more amazed with the 50+ volunteers that gave up their time throughout the day to make the thing happen! I love these kinds of events – it’s part of what makes our youth group the place to be for teens in North Wilmington!

Check out this little video highlight from the end of the night … when they started firing off the smoke jets (directly into the ceiling fire alarms!), my heart literally skipped a couple beats. I had three simultaneous thoughts: (1) I can’t believe they’re going to blow the fire alarms now after making it through the whole day, (2) this is the coolest thing I have ever seen in this room, and (3) seriously, that’s where Pastor Bo normally stands!

And no, even with the smoke machines going steadily from early afternoon until 10pm, and the cryo smoke jets shooting off every few seconds during the Building 429 performance, the fire alarms never went off!

Cell phones on mission trips?

09 Oct
October 9, 2013

phones on mission trips

So I made the above post to my Facebook on the way back from our mission trip to Nicaragua this past summer … and was totally caught off guard by the response to it! It created a lot of conversation, so I’ve been meaning to write out my actual thoughts on our policy of banning devices on trips. But first …

As some noted, I was Facebooking about my frustration about people Facebooking! Caught in the act! I actually lived with the rule I required of the students; during the mission trip I only updated our student Facebook page with mission team updates, and was the only team member with internet access so I could keep parents in the loop on what was happening. And then I broke; when we touched down in Houston, it looked like for a couple hours that we would miss our connecting flight. Customs was completely overwhelmed and understaffed with a room with countless travelers waiting in an eternal line to get through … just so we could get to a similar sized line for rechecking our luggage, and then another similar sized line for security. All I kept thinking was ‘how in the world am I going to rebook 23 flights and get these kids back home to their parents???’ My frustration level was HIGH. I was irritable. Tired from an amazing, but exhausting mission trip. And really, I just wanted to get home to my wife and kids and I was starting to be convinced it wasn’t going to happen as soon as I had expected. In the end, we made the flight, literally with only a few seconds to spare – they were shutting the doors as we ran up to them!

So in the midst of all that chaos, in my irritated state, I was looking around at all these other mission teams (they had matching shirts to prove it) with every member of their teams staring at their phones, iPods, iPads, game devices, etc., and honestly, I was a little shocked – I couldn’t imagine going through all the work to prep a mission trip and then allowing the devices along! They’re such a distraction! And that’s when I broke my own rule and posted my self righteous, snarky update.

Here’s why we do it, though:

We have a two fold purpose to our mission trips; the first is to accomplish a meaningful and valuable service/outreach. The second, which is equally important, is to challenge our group to deeper spiritual growth. Towards that end we intentionally schedule the trip to allow for study, reflection, and group debriefing of the scriptures we’re working through. We also intentionally get rid of any unnecessary distractions. When young people (really anyone) unplug from their normal routine and life they become much more open to growth, development, change – you name it. Something about stepping out of our normal life just creates opportunities for self reflection and life change – it’s why youth ministries across the nation love service trips, mission trips, retreats, camps, etc.

But when someone still has their device, when they’re still in constant contact with the life back home, when they’re getting texts every few minutes, Facebook notifications, Instagram alerts, Twitter updates, Snapchat photos, and more … it’s very easy to spend their whole time away thinking about what’s going on back home and interacting with their friends there instead of being fully present on this trip that we have spent half a year preparing for, raised tens of thousands of dollars to pull off, and will remember for the rest of our lives. Ultimately, those devices do significant damage to that second purpose behind our mission trips … so we don’t allow them.

Does that mean we won’t let a child call home? Absolutely not. We constantly remind kids to ask a leader if they want to call home, if a parent messages us that they need to call their child – for whatever reason – we will get them on the phone as soon as we can.

The amazing thing is, over the years I’ve heard so many teens – who were mortified at the thought of giving up their phone for ten days – come home from the trip and say they were glad it wasn’t there. That it was good for them to just ‘be’ with the group and not be distracted.

Get my new book for 85% off!!!

05 Oct
October 5, 2013

book banner 2

 This weekend Simply Youth Ministry is doing a massive sale on their digital books … including MINE! If you act fast you can get it for less than two bucks. That’s crazy. It’s a youth ministry book, but honestly, I wrote it for everyone with some specific illustrations that relate to ministry workers. Here’s the description the marketing people came up with for my labor of love …

When it comes to your health, God wants you to be selfish.

Crazy idea, right? But it’s totally true.

Far too many of us in church ministry choose to sacrifice our personal health because we’re deeply dedicated to our family, our ministry, or other people’s needs. But if we don’t make our health a priority, no one else will.

Veteran youth pastor Matthew McNutt knows what it’s like to be “too busy” for a healthy lifestyle—but he also knows the rewards of changing course and practicing this good kind of selfishness. A former contestant on The Biggest Loser, he’s ready to help you discover some powerful lessons about spiritual and physical health—and what it all means for those of us called to student ministry.

Scripture speaks of our bodies as the holy and sacred dwelling place of God—the temple of the Holy Spirit. That’s why a healthy you honors God. Plus, a healthy you benefits your family and close friends. And a healthy you guides teenagers toward a God-honoring perspective on food and exercise.

Your ministry will survive if you give time to yourself—in fact, over time it’ll be stronger because of it. And you will have modeled something powerful to the people you’re leading.

You can buy it here – but act fast, the price goes back up after the weekend!

 

The year that was, the year that is

04 Oct
October 4, 2013

Calendar

Last year was a strange year. Actually, it was a hard year. Because of the economy, our church had to make some painful decisions and let some of our staff go. We had tried salary cuts, but it just wasn’t enough to resolve the challenges. The buildup to the layoffs was stressful to say the least, and it was doubly hard when it happened – one of those let go was probably the guy I was closest to on staff. Meanwhile, there were some really painful things going on in my extended family. And on top of that, Noah’s struggles with localized scleroderma took a turn for the worse for a while. He’s in a better place now, but for a while there it was scarier than it had been before. Thankfully, we have a lot of caring friends who really prayed hard for him.

To say the least, it all took the wind out of my sails.

Looking back, I don’t think I realized at the time just how much it was all impacting me. It should have been obvious, but apparently I’m clueless when it comes to self evaluation! But it does explain the lack of blogging … I just wasn’t in a place to write about any of it.

So that’s the year that was. But now I’m in the year that is.

It’s amazing how much can change from one year to the next. Noah’s disease is stabilized for the time being. Things are moving in a healthy direction in our church now that the budget fears have been dealt with. I’m genuinely excited about the direction our student ministry and church as a whole is headed.

On a personal note, I finally saw one of my dream goals come to be … my book was published and released just a few weeks ago (it’s actually on sale this weekend – you can get it and ton of other great books for just $1.99 each)! And I’m tackling something I’ve been wanting to do for more than a decade – and terrified to take on; I’ve gone back to school. Finally going for that Master of Divinity. If I really hit it hard, I could be finished when Micah is a freshman in highschool (three and a half years). It feels good to see goals being achieved in ministry and in life.

So all that to say … I feel like writing again. I’ve been quiet on this blog for too long!

Getting Teens in the Worship Service

02 Sep
September 2, 2013

teens in church

I took the above picture the other week during our third worship hour, one typically that sees so few teens I can generally count them on one hand. The picture isn’t all the teens in the room; there were actually many more – I was struck that four of them are filming/photographing Thomas while he shared with the congregation about his experiences in Nicaragua.

Here’s the thing, youth ministry is a great investment in a teen’s present faith. But getting them into the corporate worship service is a massive investment in their spiritual future. But the challenge is in getting them there. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but there are a couple things that I think are vital to bringing teens in:

One is using language throughout the worship hour that includes them. Too often the language is from up front communicates that the intended audience is adults. Referencing application to school, sports and friends, in addition to work, home, community, is one way to change the language. Finding illustrations young people can identify with is important as well.

But the biggest way to get teens into a worship service? Get them on stage. Reading scripture, sharing a testimony, doing a solo, participating in worship, doing a drama. Whatever it is, get them on stage. Because once a kid is on stage, their friends come to see them. Drawing one kid up front lands five to ten teens in the pews. Getting a group of teens up front? The other month when students led worship, I was shocked at the turnout of teens in all three services, but particularly the traditional hour – there were 30 or so in the room when normally there are only a few. On our missions report Sunday? We had two different teens each of our three hours, and a room full of teen all three hours. Some of them sat through multiple worship services to support their different friends, and I learned of at least one teen who left her family at the beach to support her friend!

It’s a big deal to be in front of large groups of people, and adolescents are excited when they or their friends are invited to do so. Getting a teen up front isn’t just connecting that young person (and their family – it’s a huge win for parents when their child is allowed to shine in front of the church), it connects their entire circle of influence. I firmly believe that a church that has a habit of involving young people in the worship service in different capacities is a church that sends a loud message to adolescents that they are very much a valued and desired part of the church.

Student Missions Highlights Video

30 Aug
August 30, 2013

This is a short video I put together to use in our main church services as part of a report on our student mission trips. It’s also a way to have the congregation hear from a much larger number of students than they would have otherwise. I love making these videos; they are useful when we report, and then again in January when we’re recruiting for the next season of short term missions.

I used Corel Video Studio Pro to edit the video. I recorded the audio during our full length reports (happened when the teams came back for friends, family and supporters) using a Tascam DR-05 portable digital recorder. It’s incredibly handy, user friendly, and a snap to import to my computer with – it’s the same one I use to podcast our Student teachings and events with. I used an older version of Adobe Audition to edit the audio soundbites. And the music is actually a performance track I downloaded off iTunes; that way I could find a song I liked, get the performance track without vocals, and have it as a simple background to add energy to the video.

It takes a chunk of time to manipulate all the different elements – I think I spent about ten hours total on it, but to me it’s worth it as a tool to shape our congregation’s perception of the youth in our church in a positive way.

Nicaragua mission trip video

16 Jul
July 16, 2013

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post this to my blog! This is a video/slideshow I put together on the flight back from Nicaragua. I actually used iMovie on an iPad mini, which was a first for me – but crazy easy. It was the first time I’ve led a mission trip without a laptop with me, but between my iPhone 4S and the iPad mini, I never missed it. I ended up taking all the photos with my phone, and then using an app to transfer them to the iPad. From there, I created the video! Very easy, and I loved getting off the plane with my report slideshow ready – since we presented it to the church the next morning!

Can faith prevent teen pregnancy?

05 Jul
July 5, 2013

I saw this article a while back and found it interesting. In general, teen pregnancy rates have really declined over the last couple decades, which is a good thing. What was fascinating to me was to see the Washington Post attributing some of that decline to faith – usually all the credit goes to better sex education and more accessibility to safe sex resources. Check out this snippet (you can read the full article here):

It may be even more surprising for adults to ponder the role that faith and individual morals and values have played. Among those teens who haven’t had sex, the primary reason they give for…well…not doing it is that having sex at this point in their lives is against their religion or morals, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research makes clear that religion, faith, and a strong moral sense play vital roles in protecting teens from too-early sexual activity and teen pregnancy. In particular, being connected to a religious community has been linked with a decreased risk for teen pregnancy. Moreover, a survey we released this week suggests that the majority of Americans want more from religious groups rather than less. Some 52 percent of adults and 57 percent of teens think religious leaders and groups should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy.

All that to say, parents need to continue making regular involvement in church/faith communities a priority for their families, as well as ongoing conversations at home. At the same time, churches need to make talking about sex a priority – for all generations. Let’s face it, our congregations are being bombarded with messages about sex everywhere else; there needs to be some conversation feeding into that from the Guy that invented it.