First Third Conversations

Lost in the Holidays

A blog post by Terri Elton

Image Credit: Christmas 2007 by Christina Rutz on Flickr

Some say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” while others dread the season. Christmas, the heart of this season, is centered on Christ, and yet amidst the holidays Christ often gets pushed aside. Truth be told, it’s a hard time of the year to be a church leader…and it’s a hard time to keep the focus in our personal lives as well. So how is it we don’t get “lost

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The Practice of Making Mistakes

MistakesA blog post by Megan Clapp

About a year ago, I made a pretty big mistake. I attempted to make a huge change in our Sunday School programming, and it was a colossal failure.

I had spent a full year working with the youth and family leaders in the congregation. We produced a vision statement, and relationships among the people in the group seemed to have mended. We were on the same page and moving forward instead of treading water in the current program.

I had heard about a great program for faith

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Ordinations keep Seminary in Perspective

Adam Butler and Aaron Fuller

Saturday was a special day for one seminary grad and for the church. You see Saturday the ELCA hosted another ordination, publicly calling another M.Div. graduate into Word and sacrament ministry. He will serve a particular congregation, as he also serves the whole church.

For people who don’t hang out in seminaries, this seems like an odd thing to do on a nice summer Saturday afternoon. But for folks who spend days, weeks and years immersed in seminary life, this event is a reminder

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Congregation Resources on Ryan Bolger's presentation

We'd love for you to share THIS video with your congregational leadership. Yep, the senior pastor, but even better the entire church council.

We just read a pastor's thread today that talked about worship attendance in congregations being flat or down, while giving and the work of ministries are up. Participatory culture.

Use some of these questions to open the discussion after viewing the video:

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EYM Shifts by John Roberto

The Exemplary Youth Ministry Study results indicate that churches seeking to develop an effective formation focus make three distinctive shifts.

SHIFT I

They emphasize personal and community transformation understanding that, though programs are a necessary dimension of congregational life, they are a means toward an end and not the end itself. Christian formation is about turning believers into disciples of Jesus Christ, so that we are formed in Christ, both personally and as a community.

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Leadership Insights: Leading EYM Style by Nancy Lee Gauche

Recently, I was asked, “If you were to go back and do youth ministry again, how would what you know now change what you would do?” I had quite a few things on my list, (hindsight is amazing!) and here are two of them that are directly related to the Exemplary Youth Ministry study results.

So, if I were leading youth ministry again I would…

  • Act theologically before programmatically. I often looked for the next “packaged program” to help me deliver the “message.” 
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Life Teams by Jerry Watts

For years I have struggled to move beyond the “if we build it they will come” programmatic formula for youth ministry.

In my quest for fidelity to the great commission I’ve asked if counting heads in our programs is not bearing fruit (as both my experience and studies like Christian Smith’s Soul Searching tell us)…then what do I aim at to judge the fidelity we seek?

Kneeling in prayer is always the best first step in responding to that question. After I did that,

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Life Teams Part II by Jerry Watts

We started our Life Teams by recruiting current & former confirmation, mission trip, and Sunday School teachers to agree to join the Life Team that already exists (i.e., parents,  godparents, grandparents, confirmation mentors, etc.) in a youth’s life as intentional cheerleader in the faith on behalf of the congregation.

We centered our ministry around these informal relationships that would begin by praying for youth, being their facebook friend, going to their school events,

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Life Teams Part III by Jerry Watts

I thought I was just going to dinner with my wife and kids at the Chili’s by my house one night. As the hostess seated us, we walked past a table, and there sat an adult and a student from our church — one of our Life Teams. There they were, just having dinner, catching up, getting to know each other even better, doing life together. I can’t tell you what an exciting moment that was for me. It made every ministry struggle that I’ve had around the shift from group to maturing

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Life Teams Part IV by Jerry Watts

Moving into a youth ministry marked by mature faith markers is slow work sometimes. 

But living in Jesus' promise in Matthew 28 to be with us always to the end of the age strengthens us for the upward call of discipleship and evangelism that comes with the promise.

For me the picture below is one of those God sightings.

Sitting around the tables are teens, their parents, and their Life Team members (remember Life Team = Life in Christ) discussing the testimony of their own relationship

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