5 Reasons Easter at Your Church Still Matters

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In just a few weeks many across our towns and cities will gather in churches to celebrate Easter. More appropriately, we’d say that some gather because their mothers asked them to attend; but for the most part many feel compelled to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a good thing.

I’ve served in the local church for over a decade now, and have seen the the great, and unfortunately the regrettable approaches to celebrating this holiday together. It’s easy as a church staff insider to get lost in the organization of a day with 3 times the normal responsibility, and it’s also easy to forget that what we are doing on this weekend of all weekends matters.

Here are 5 reasons to make it worth the effort this year:

1. People far from God feel safe to be in your church. I’ve seen opportunities on Easter where those that have felt far from knowing Christ have used the holiday to approach Him in the safety of the numbers that Easter presents.

2. People close to God need the reminder of what it means to celebrate the resurrection. Many could go on and on about how we don’t talk enough Jesus in our churches, but I won’t go there. Instead let’s remember that Easter of all Sundays, is the one weekend that we are without excuse to put Jesus front and center.

 

3. Easter is for families. Easter is a holiday, and holidays bring out the family in all of us. It’s a season that people gather with their families, share big meals, hunt easter eggs, wear pretty dresses, and show off their favorite pastels for all to see. While these things in and of themselves will not save us from our sins, they are still things that bring families together. How can you leverage that?

4. Authentic community can flourish at Easter. Just as the resurrection of Christ is celebrated, we can also celebrate those that help this special weekend happen! Easter is a great reminder that it takes a community, working through Christ, to reach a community.

5. Jesus. 

 

Developing Faith with Catechism

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My kids are learning so much. The three of them range in age from 9 to 12 and are tackling subjects like: Electricity, Comparative adjectives, Geology, Pre-Algebra, Revolutionary War history, and have written papers on the men and women of history like Pocahontas, George Washington, and even the ancient math-whiz Archimedes.

So much learning, so much content and yet this is only the beginning.

They’ve had to learn how to use the multiple remotes in our living room, that the milk goes back in the fridge after a bowl of cereal is poured, and that you never hug your mother early in the morning before their teeth are brushed!

With all of this memory work happening in their brains, where do we begin faith conversations? How can I capitalize on their impressionable minds with something that ties them to this faith that our family holds dear? How do I make the truths of the Gospel something they can quickly recall and use when it fits their everyday life?

Devotions are a great place to start, but with late Elementary and Pre-Teens I want them to have a great foundation that we can build devotions on as they mature and age. I’ve found something that works great for our family, and the brains of the three growing kids in our house. Catechism. That’s right, you read that correctly. Catechism.

The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katācheō, which means “to teach, to instruct.” The word is used in Bible passages like Luke 1:4 and Acts 18:25. It can be used for any kind of teaching or instruction, but it came to refer to a specific type of teaching very early in church history. In the early church, new converts were taught the basics of Christianity by memorizing a series of questions and answers. A catechism is just that–a series of questions and answers that teach Bible truth.

For example, here are some of the catechisms we’ve learned this year; and there are many more that we will learn in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Who made you and everything? God made everything and me.

What is God like? God is our holy and almighty Creator. He cannot be seen, but he has made everything we can see.

Why did God make you? God made us to enjoy him and show his glory to others.

What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news that we enter God’s kingdom through God’s cross by God’s grace.

Why does God tell us, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”? So we will rest in God and remember finished work of Jesus.

We’ve added a few catechism’s to the kids weekly spelling lists. We’ve added them to whatever vocabulary words they are learning, and I’ve thrown them into a few special “get rewarded with ice cream real quick” scenarios I create on a whim. There are many different catechisms out there, but our family settled on the wonderful NorthStar Catechism developed by my friends at Sojourn Church. You can go download a PDF of all of them and even order yourself some playing cards sized ones right now!

I think it’s pretty well stated what catechism is, and when you read over the details of them all you’ll quickly understand what they are communicating and preparing in the hearts and minds of your children. However, for clarity let me state what they most definitely are NOT.

They are NOT just another way to beat my kids over the head with more learning. They are easy to memorize, easy to learn, and fit perfectly alongside all the other things our kids have learned. If you think your own kids are not smart enough to memorize these, then you’re not giving them enough credit. It has worked for us to add catechism to what we were already asking our kids to memorize. You’ll find that they’re just different enough from what they normally memorize that it’s fun and unique.

They are NOT a way to guarantee faith in our kids. The catechisms won’t do much for their souls if learning the Catechisms aren’t marinated in their hearts by engaging in impactful spiritual conversations with their parents and others that love them. The cards are oftentimes a starting point for us, they are not the end point.

They are NOT separate from God’s Word. God’s Word is perfect and each catechism we take the time to make it clear that these answers (and many of the questions themselves) come out of the Bible. The foundation is God’s Word, and anything I can do to help bring that to the center of my kids lives, is key.

There are so many ways to teach our kids faith, and the challenge for us as parents is to find ways to make faith relevant, real, timely, and catchable to our kids. I know that the day will come when they have to decide for themselves who they will serve, but it’s my duty to help them get the right picture of what you are believing when you believe in Christ for eternity!

A strategy seeks to create an alignment between the church and the home. As much as we try to maximize the impact we have on this generation, the time a child or students spends at home plays a huge role in his or her spiritual development, not just in the hours spent there, but because of the fundamental relationship between a parent and a child. That’s why it’s important to be strategic in how we connect with parents and champion the parent-child relationship.

Reggie Joiner

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Think Orange (David C. Cook, 2009)

The Beauty of Approachability

When I was 16 years go I got my first job busing tables at a Goldie’s Restaurant in my hometown.  This job involved removing half-eaten food from tables, waiters that wouldn’t share their tips, cleaning the bathrooms, and just about every other conceivable disgusting thing in the restaurant business.  But I’ve always remembered one thing from my 4 nights of  employment.  (Are you surprised?  Of course I quit after 4 days!)

I guess I wasn’t exactly hiding my dissatisfaction with my chores, and my boss pulled me into his office to tell me to smile more.  I laughed at his request and then he got in my face and told me that to work for his restaurant I had to look approachable, and if I was walking around looking upset; that nobody would ever ask for my help…and then there was the potential that an unhappy customer might leave the restaurant.  That right there is some truth!

So fast forward almost 20 years and that advice still stands!  Every Sunday morning as I walk in and through the areas of my church, I’m interacting with a customer of sorts.  Not the kind of customer that is buying something, but the kind that has a need that needs to be filled.  I don’t know what those needs are, but I need to work to be as approachable as possible.  Sometimes it’s being approachable to tell someone where they can find a particular place on our campus.  Other times it’s being able to reward the bravery of a child that wants you to pray with them.

Here are the ways I work to always make people feel welcome.

  • Smile.  This is the simplest one.  Simply smile.  A simple smile always disarms even the most frustrated person.  And here’s a little secret about the power of a smile…it can cover whatever turmoil you may be going through in the moment.  Have you ever heard this saying, “Fake it, ’til you make it!”?  Just because you don’t feel like smiling, isn’t a good enough reason to frown!
  • Look Around. I work every weekend to not always look at myself, and what I’m going through during a busy weekend.  Instead, I take the time to look at what is around me.  Many times I’ve discovered I can help people by just seeing what they see.  Walking around and looking for those needs, is key to finding the needs I can meet.
  • Avoid Groups. By this I mean, that I avoid standing around in groups of cliques.  If you go to church you know what I mean.  I don’t hang out with the other pastors in the lobby, loiter in front of the nursery, or restrict myself to the guest connections counter.  I’m not rude, but I just never stay in one place very long.
  • Smile. Oh, did I already mention this one?

If you’re working at a church, and you’re not deliberately working to make yourself available to those that need you…then you’re missing one of your greatest callings!

The Lie of Consensus

Consensus is defined as “general agreement among a group.”  You know where consensus comes into play in your life, right?  You want to start moving ahead with your ideas, but you feel you need some consensus from your leaders to do it.  You know what needs to be done, but you want consensus from others before moving forward.  You are burdened with a need that needs met quickly, but you want to build consensus so you won’t feel all alone meeting the need.

The danger with consensus is that oftentimes it stagnates our progress and delays our successes.  In and of itself, consensus is a great thing to have.  There are times when it is absolutely necessary to get others on your side before moving forward on something.  But there are those other times that we use the lack of consensus as an excuse to not obey what we know God has told us to do.

So how do you know when to gain consensus, and when to act quickly without it?  How should I know.  You’re the one working in your church, leading your family, and daily seeking God’s Will for your life and situation, right?  You’re already the expert.

Just refuse to buy into the lie that you NEED consensus to do anything.  Pray and act, pray and act, pray and act, and I believe you will go in the direction that you and your group need to go.