Monday, January 30, 2012

Calming the Storm

This Sunday, the 4th in my series on Jesus's Miracles, was probably the first lesson that was not as dynamic as the others.  It's probably because I attempted to make an origami boat.  I always lose the kids when it comes to folding paper.

In fact, I didn't feel like I really had them when I got to the lesson.  Emily read Mark 4 in the NIV.  Alexis insisted on reading it from her Precious Moments Bible (different translation).  So we got two different readings.  Then I asked them if anything ever made them afraid.  Many said storms.  What would they do?  Just run to the bathroom and stand in the tub.  One even averred that she'd never face any fear she couldn't just face.  I told her, "Believe me, you will some day."  Every January, I always feel distant from God and that scares me, but he's not asleep at the back of the boat.  I can wake him, but he already knows what he will do.  Even if he rebukes you for your lack of faith, it is still better to go to him when you are overwhelmed than to just try to face your fear.  I never did get that across yesterday.  I might just need to re-do this lesson.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Facets of facts

I have not been to blogger in three days. 

The weather has been really nice in Georgia though one can never tell what weather it wants.

I played my original songs again after a year of not playing them.  I even decided to upload them to YouTube.  Again.

Here's what I sang last night for the Clayton State BCM talent show:

No, I did not eat a lemon in time for the thumbnail photo.  That's just an unfortunate photo.

Here's what I would have sang had I had the time:

There was a goof off band last night, who called themselves "Deus Ex Machina."  That's great, because I would have sang that song.

Be afraid.  We're going to try to do origami in Children's Church again tomorrow.  This time it will be the boat Jesus was in when he calmed the storm.  Maybe I should sell it on eBay.  It will look crumpled no matter what.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Youth ministry calling and cost

Here is more question and answer from my EPC youth minister class.  In it, I refer to other comments on our forum, the class teacher's definition of calling, and a letter that was read by said teacher about a wife who finally left her husband because he was so good at his job that he neglected his family.  I can provide the calling definition: God’s hand leading us to a specific place, position, or task in order to glorify himself as we faithfully serve him.

What is your definition of calling?
At this point, I wish I had answered this question before I heard the lecture, because Mark provided a good definition. You do feel some urging to go somewhere, and it is usually based on interests and talents God has given you. And like Leah said, calling does change sometimes. My calling to serve the kids at Trinity has not changed, but God has called me back to school and in a different field: legal studies. Looks like I'll be making tents at some point, but that's good because I then meet more people, get out of the house, and follow Jesus in places that otherwise would not care about Jesus.

How were you called into youth ministry?
I volunteered with the children at a friend's church in 2006 while still in college. The year before, I had been to Ukraine on a 10-day mission trip and realized that I loved being with the children. The summer of 2006, I was driving back to my dorm on Edmondton Rd. in Nashville when I felt the call to minister to youth and children.

What expectations do you struggle with?
When I first got my church job after seminary and internships, I did expect it to be a lot bigger and more involved. Those ideas got smashed when I had few kids, only every other week, and it was such a situation that we could not do anything outside of normal church times on Sunday. We went from having an afternoon youth group to just teen Sunday School, and we still have Children's Church up to 3rd grade consistently. I still envision having a pastoral job where I can make enough money to move out of my house and not have to keep looking for other jobs. I had no idea that I'd go back to school (although I do just as much theological stuff there as I do at church.) I also have the temptation to try to do everything myself, and I'm so glad that expectation failed because I would and have gone insane with stress. Just the fact that I now have a class on Wednesday nights (yes, one of my church work hours) is God's message that it's not all about me and other people can do my work. It won't fall apart if I'm not there. I just need to delegate and instruct people what to do.
I don't have a husband or children yet, so I don't have to worry about not being there for them, but when I do, I hope to be stay-at-home-mom, focusing mostly on my kids and still do enough to minister to the church kids. I don't see any reason why a youth pastor would need to spend more than one night a week doing pastoral duties, especially not until midnight. Especially in this day when you can get accused of sexual harrasment. It's like the man in the "mad wife" letter was more married to his job and having emotional affairs with his students and neglecting his calling as a husband to be be the head of his household. I figure if a marriage is falling apart, for both men and women in ministry, then you should either back off or step down. Usually, such people aren't aware of it, so we need to have accountability.

Are you willing to ask someone close to you how you are doing with balance, if so how did they respond?
I have plenty of mother friends I can call for advice and one counseler. I've had classes in seminary that told me I need to take care of my health and friendships if I'm to be a successful minister. I need to have at least 5 adult friends that I see on a regular basis. And as I'm preparing for another job outside of church, I feel like my life is more balanced than it would have been had I not finally given in and gone back to school. I'm not neglecting my call to minister to kids and their families and to teach the kids theology and Bible, but I'm also realizing that my job and God are not the same thing even though my job is for God. Our job is to also love our neighbors.

Do you nurture your relationship with God?
Every day I read Scripture and sing from a hymnbook and keep a prayer journal. It keeps me afloat. Sometimes it's out of duty and more mechanical, and I read the words "blah blah blah," but I still do it because God uses that time to keep my alive spiritually. Also, on Sundays, since I don't hear sermons, I listen to R.C. Sproul CDs on the way to church and I also fellowship with close Christian friends. I seek out Bible study groups outside of church to feed my own soul, and God has really taken care of me despite my draw to work alone and be a loner.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shriveled Hand

I feel like Sunday School lessons have been going really well the past three weeks.  We've had few distractions, discipline, and our activities took the whole time.  Is this a good thing or are we going to spice things up in a bit?  I like it for now, but I do miss my number one troublemaker.  She hasn't come since the Christmas play, and I miss her.  We've also had regulars be out of commission, too.  I bet I have full house next week.

This week, Jesus asserts his authority over the Sabbath day and over sickness.  We recapped last week's lesson on the lowered paralytic.  Jesus asserted his authority over sin.  He has this authority because he is God and there is no higher authority.

There wasn't any amazing visual effect or discussion.  We did do an activity where we made a decoder and unscrambled a phrase that turned out to be the first part of the Great commission: all authority on heaven and earth have been given to me.

We also had a boy!  His mother came in with him so that he would come, although he's usually a really sweet boy. 

The main lessons: Don't let God be a reason why you neglect to do good.  The Pharisees let the Sabbath be their excuse for ignoring the poor and needy.  Jesus hated this attitude and healed a man anyway.  They don't like the idea that they can't be in control, so they plot to kill Jesus and then continue in their laziness in ignoring men with shriveled hands. 

Also, as always, the lesson is that Jesus is God and has the last word in any issue.  We must use his commands to do good and not to be lazy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Teens Showed up!

We finally kicked off "teen" Sunday School yesterday with our 11-year-old, and my dad helping to teach.  I think this is going to work out well.  For the first part, Dad is still in the sanctuary practicing the praise songs while I take the two kids back, chat, pray, and start on a question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  Then, we do the first activity; yesterday I had them read from John 1:1-18, pick a word or phrase and act it out in Charades.  That was so funny.  The girl picked "bear witness" and decided to pretend she was a bear, the animal.  I'll never see that phrase the same way.

We then reunited with the text to read it seriously when Dad walks in.  Then we read the passage, and Dad pretty much takes over the rest of the class.  We mention Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses that don't believe Jesus is God.  We also found proof texts about God the Father as our only Savior, and Jesus being God.  All in all, I don't know if me and Dad team taught or if we were just trying one-up each other.  I hope the kids felt like they could talk openly and ask questions.  Aubrie did ask about how God can be so eternal that he always existed.  Nobody really knows how to wrap their mind around that, being only creatures.  In fact, it still gives me nightmares.  Aubrie was the first to really put the weirdness into words.  "Not only does he go forward forever, but he goes backwards forever, too."  I know.  Anybody want to try to explain that one without freaking out?  I haven't successfully done so, yet.

I'll talk about my kids' lesson tomorrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Thankfulness

I'm so thankful that my "teen" Sunday School class finally showed up.  We had such nice discussion and fellowship. 

I'm thankful that Dad taught the class in a way that will hopefully challenge both the girl and the boy.  I hope we start getting more boys.

I'm thankful that Dad and I were cramped in the little room for 30 minutes and did not have a fight.

In fact, I'm thankful that I was in a car for 6 hours with Dad and didn't get into a fight.  We're too much alike, so we butt heads.

I'm thankful that I'm done with my business organization homework and that I made 80% on the quiz.

I'm thankful for supportive friends who can be there when I need them.

I'm thankful for my Children's group today.  It's gotten a bit smaller, but we had a boy in there!  In fact, his mom came in, so it was nice to have another adult in there.

I'm thankful that all my kids are sweet and know how to ask questions.

I'm thankful for so many Christian resources on the internet such as Ligonier, Answers in Genesis, Tim Challies, and even Facebook at times.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

3 Years

Today, my mother has been with the Lord 3 years.  I don't get emotional much but I did this week.  It was good to travel to see her grave today.  Last year, I had posted a line from Brooke Fraser's song "Ice on Her Lashes."  Here, I can just post the whole song.

Didn't want a year without you, but somehow I've lived through another one.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My calling to youth ministry and "Divided"

In 2006 I was starting my senior year of college. I started helping with the kids at a friends' church in Nashville. It was that summer that I felt the Lord call me to youth ministry. I spent two and a half years at Erskine Theological Seminary and got a Master of Arts in Educational Ministries. Six months later, I got hired at Trinity and have since started school for something completely different: paralegal studies. It's good to get some theological training, and hopefully some practical training. In seminary I learned theology and educational philosophies, but then I didn't really learn how to teach kids and teens theology. I've learned more by just doing it.

I'm passionate about educating children about the Bible. Nobody knows it anymore and it's not really teached. Loving your neighbor is great, but it isn't the Gospel. Also, I see more and more kids raised in church who grow up, cohabitate with their boyfriends and girlfriends, look up horoscopes, and do all kinds of things that show they have not learned to fear the Lord. I want to be in youth ministry so I can do it correctly. I'm skeptical of anything Lifeway puts out anymore. I have to test the spirits before I can completely trust anything. Youth Specialties is the group that publishes Rob Bell's heresies and we have to beware of the biggest thing on sale, and we also must not put all our faith in one famous guru, though I do that quite often.

I have not seen "Divided" but I know enough about it to know it's a push for family integrated church. I don't disagree with it but I don't agree with it either. I think it's a wonderful idea; my job, besides teaching kids in Children's Church, should include training the parents to coach their kids in the Bible at home in the spirit of Deuteronomy 6:4-9. An excellent book to read is Already Gone by Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis fame. It has similar ideas to "Divided" but doesn't automatically through Sunday School teachers and youth workers under the bus. Kids do need theology presented to them on their level, and they need to get their wiggles out, thus I try to have church on their level. We stay in the service until sermon time, then I take them back and teach them a Bible lesson. The Bible is the center of our lessons, and we save time at the end for some reinforcing craft or just play with toys. Also, I write in a monthly newsletter what I'm teaching them each month so that parents can discuss it with their kids during the week.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

And then there were four

Sinners and Saints radio provided a timely topic for this week's show: the Republican primaries.  I must say, that I am not excited about the selection this time among the Republican candidates.  I liked Michele Bachmann the best, but she dropped out real early on.  I liked her because she was the only one consistent on her issues, which I agree with.  She is also kind of boring.

Then I thought Herman Cain might be good.  I also heard that his foreign policy would have much to be desired.  Then his past love affairs hit the fan, and the media shamefully defrocked him while lionizing Newt Gingrich who shows no remorse for his infidelities. 

Now, one by one, the candidates drop out, and it seems I'll make the same decision I made four years ago and vote Romney.  His Mormonism is not a deal-breaker for me.  Mormons are strong, moral people, and although they have no basis for their morality, they still have fine morals even as they have zeal without knowledge.  They are lost souls, but they'd be good leading the country.

The peanut gallery on Sinners and Saints also mentioned issue that I'd never thought of before.  I'm still happily a one-issue voter, that issue being pro-life.  I refuse to vote for someone who is not dedicated to ending legal abortion, even in the rape and incest cases.  Murder is murder no matter how the baby was conceived. 

With that behind, I would like to find a good Christian.  Romney is not that guy.  If I vote for anyone else, it will probably be Rick Santorum, although he also does not have the charisma to trump Barack Obla-bla, though he'd be a fine president and I won't have voted for him before. 

Back to Sinners and Saints, the guys mentioned finding someone who is not so eager to go to war.  It's how Obla-bla got elected, though he brought us into more wars when we should just mind our own business.  I do feel like the war on Iraq was just, but could never prove it.  It was more preventative, and we prevented what we wanted to prevent.  However, just as many lives are lost as there would have been had Saddam survived and had nuclear weapons.  It seems we'll never be out of there.  As a good Republican, I support capitol punishment, guns, and just war, but I don't want someone who associates the GOP with guns and rednecks.  We need sanctity for life that has been born and has grown up.  Can we have that sanctity if we are so eager to see who we can whoop next?  I do believe it is time to fight the likes of Iran and North Korea, but we should not be happy about it.

They also mentioned the gay marriage issue.  We should never allow it as homosexuality is not only gross, perverted, against the Lord, but it also prevents reproduction and causes a nation to weaken as we lose our numbers.  It tears down a society.  Just ask Sodom and even ancient Greece.  And back to right-wing Christian issues, it's a tragedy to give an innocent child to be raised by a gay couple and grow up sexually confused himself.  We'll have more Lady Gagas and Baby Monsters on our hand than ever if we promote gay marriage.  Mitt Romney, although pro-life, has helped gay people get married in Massachusetts.  And he hasn't been consistent with his issues.

Santorum is consistently pro-life, but he also believes in welfare programs and has supported pro-choice candidates in the past at the expense of really excellent pro-lifers.  I still think he'd be a good vote, but if I vote for him, will it just keep Obla-bla in the White House.

All I know is I'll take anyone over Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich.  I'd even have a hard time choosing them over Obla-bla, who we desperately need to oust.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Youth Ministry course

A bunch of EPC youth workers have signed up for this free online course from Covenant Seminary about youth ministry.  I'm really excited despite that it's a real course on top of my other two courses at Clayton.  But hey, it's free.  And I need to still be learning as a youth pastor.  Here's my introduction post:

1. Who are you? Laughing
My name is Meghan Smith. Age 26. I serve as youth director at Trinity EPC in Loganville, GA. It's so exciting to see God grow the group of kids to where we don't fit in the rooms (I sure hope we break ground on our building soon), and to see them remembering what I teach. All the glory goes to God. I am taking this class because the pastor of my church, Scott Emmons, told me about it, and I thought it would be good to keep learning as a youth pastor and maybe learn techniques that I did not learn in seminary and apply them to the kids.

2. Feed back from introduction lecture:(Any thoughts the lecture provoked) - Has youth ministry been instrumental in your Christian growth personally?
I grew up in a youth ministry in Conyers, GA. We had an active youth group, and I grew to love the Lord and to study the Bible. I do not believe I would be the Christian I am today without my parents, however. They are the ones that were involved in my spiritual upbringing, who taught me to read the Bible, taught the Lord's prayer, raised me on Christian music, and always discussed theology at dinner. If it were not for my parents, I doubt I would know a thing about Christianity from youth group alone.
It is my goal for my students to learn Scripture, learn theology, learn to love God's Sovereignty, and grow up not following the world, but following Christ.

- What has the cost of the calling been like for you?
I served at Trinity for one year, still living in my dad's house, not making enough to live on my own or meeting people. It's like, being a youth pastor pegs you, and you can't get another job because they always want you to work Sundays and weekends, which is what I devote to youth ministry. Being Presbyterian, and staunchly Reformed, it's harder for my to meet someone to date as most of the time I meet people opposed to infant Baptism, or they aren't as conservative as they should be, or I like to argue too much. I don't know. At this time I'm balancing youth and kids' ministry with going back to school to get a certificate in paralegal studies, hopefully to be dual career.

One last thing.  I know this guy is a legit Christian.  I noticed he mentioned some group called Youth Specialties.  I sat there and pondered where I heard that name before.  Then it hit me!  These are the folks that publish Emergent church crap from the likes of Rob Bell.  Should I address this or not?  Although I did look on their website and saw more normal youth stuff.  Then again, before I knew of Rob Bell well enough, I had no clue how bad he was until I really started to look more into him.  Oh well, we do have to learn how to wade through heresies and speak the truth in love.  Hopefully, I will have more academic thoughts in weeks to come.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lowered through the Roof

I can never get tired of Mark 2's account of Jesus healing the paralytic.  I taught that lesson yesterday for Children's Church.  I can always get so many points out of it, but the book whittled them down to about 3.

I made this house out of card stock.  The neon green house had a door, a front wall that would not close, and a sunroof.  I also had three guys on their knees, stuck together, while they lowered (actually threw) the paralyzed man through the roof to Jesus.  We also had four worksheets to color.  They will be a booklet.

Lesson 1.
Contrast America with a third world country.  Can you just go to a hospital if you are sick?  Can you go to the store and get Advil?  Will mom let you stay in bed all day?  No.

In Jesus’s time, the whole world lived as a third world country.  If a man is paralyzed, there is no medical innovation to keep him comfortable and he drains his friends and family of all their resources.  Such people usually died because they lacked people to care for them.  This man had some real friends.

Lesson 2.

Mark 2:1-4.  Is there someone you can be friends with who normally would not have friends?  These four men did that for the paralytic (have the kids name him.)  So, they come to Jesus for healing.  What does Jesus do?

Lesson 3.

Verse 5.  Why did Jesus heal that?  Let’s see what the others say.

Verses 6-7.  Do you agree?  Why would Jesus forgive this man’s sins when only God can forgive sins?  Because he is God.  Let’s see what else he says.

Verses 8-12.  Which is easier for God to do, forgive sins or heal diseases?  What did God do to forgive sins?  (Sent Jesus to die in our place). 

Lesson 4.
How do you define authority?  Jesus says he has authority to forgive sins?  How does he have this authority?