5 Benefits of Educational Travel

International exposure is one of the most valuable experiences in which a high school student can participate. Eric Spina, President of @univofdayton says,”When you immerse yourself in another culture, you develop empathy, you learn to respect differences, you see your life from a different angle, and you confront your fears and inhibitions. These are life-shaping experiences that you just can’t pick up in other ways.” To that end, Former Secretary of Commerce, Penny Sue Pritzker encourages students “to travel and to deepen their cultural fluency, so they can better compete and succeed in the 21st century.”

Todays guest post from Jessica Miller details the benefits of such expereinces:

Anytime you can experience the richness of cultures different from your own — by talking with people of other nationalities, travelling internationally, trying foods from other countries and embracing other educational experiences that fall outside of your comfort zone — you grow and change in positive ways. And this is just the kind of personal development that can help you stand out in the eyes of college admissions counselors and future employers in a competitive field of other strong candidates.

For those who can physically get away, international travel, cultural immersion programs offer unparalleled exposure to the customs, language and everyday life of diverse communities. This experience is imperative for anyone who’s serious about pursuing public service or global relations work as part of a business or political career.

Specifically, here are five ways educational travel can improve your life:

  • Sharpens self-awareness: Gathering firsthand information about the world — seeing different landscapes, experiencing the challenges of certain cultures, listening to the opinions of people in other nations — provides a level of mindfulness that’s often tough to shake. Profound experiences give people a sense of place and purpose, and they establish lifelong values and priorities.

  • Enhances perspective: Exposure to the problems and perks of other lifestyles helps people break out of cultural-centric thinking. Having a broad awareness of how other people live and what other cultures prioritize can trigger solutions and ideas that don’t necessarily rely on familiar habits and comforts. Cultural immersion through travel and service programs can also help break down language barriers and open new channels of lifelong communication.

  • Fosters independence: Living and working for any amount of time in a culture that’s different from home can help in ways more profound than any sleep-away camp or vacation can. This enriching experience challenges students to open their minds regarding food, friends and basic needs. After all, it’s tougher to take things for granted in unfamiliar situations.

  • Strengthens leadership skills: A person who’s been there and done that simply has more credibility than those who rely on lip service. Instead of relying on others’ opinions, travelers establish perspective, confidence and conviction that make it easier to gain the respect of others. Plus, international travel, especially with a group or through a program, provides students with a global network of contacts and references.

  • Demonstrates courage: Travelling away from the comfort of friends, family and familiar surroundings is tough. But doing it shows that a person is interested enough in the rest of the world, and confident enough in him- or herself to venture out and discover other parts of the world. This is a character trait that’s very appealing to colleges and employers.

No matter what your life goals are, travel can provide important perspectives and help you discover what really makes you tick.

Special thank you to Jessica for your insight.  Visit The Young Leader at http://theyoungleader.experiencegla.com/about-the-young-leader/

Building Leadership with Thought-Provoking Questions

Today I read an article from Leadership That Creates the Future and want to share it with those of you who are engaging in Community Engagement, Revitalization or Restoration.  The environment you create as a leader is more important than the persona you want to project.  True leadership is about others, not yourself.  Enjoy reading:

 

Building Leadership with Thought-Provoking Questions

Posted on March 16, 2015

Leadership – there are likely few topics in the world about which more has been written. With so many resources and sometimes contradictory theories to consider (think “Servant Leadership” and “Machiavellian”), finding a personal leadership style that feels authentically “you” can sometimes seem like an unending quest. Establishing the leadership culture in an organization can be an equally challenging and continuously evolving process.

Leadership That Creates the Future reached out to experts in Creating the Future’s Facebook group for consultants to community benefit organizations and asked them –What compelling questions about leadership do you like to explore? Their questions provide a framework for discovering personal insights, values, and beliefs that can help anyone on a journey toward reaching their highest potential as a leader.

Consider the following:

• How do you approach conflict and confrontation?

• How do you identify what motivates your team – not just imposing what motivates you onto them – and how do you use that to inspire greatness?

• How do you identify and develop natural leaders in your community – those with no formal power but to whom people listen?

• How do you help develop everyone’s leadership abilities?

• How do you create an environment where others feel safe to fail?

• How do great system or network leaders differ, if at all, from great organizational leaders?

• How do we help our followers become great followers?

• What would be possible if we stopped talking about leaders and, instead, focused on leadership?

• What do we hope that leadership makes possible and how can everyone benefit as a result of it?

• How do we move away from “hero” leadership (focused on individual traits) to transformational leadership (focused on positive social change)?

• How do we make leadership more inclusive?

Through a thoughtful exploration of questions such as these, leaders, potential leaders, and followers can better identify the conditions through which leadership can make a positive difference in our organizations, communities, and the world.

What are some additional questions that are helping you to identify the principles and practices that shape you and your organization’s approach to leadership?

 

Thank you to Freya Bradford, Kimberly Diggs Lauth, Jane Garthson, Andrea John-Smith, Joyce Lee-Ibarra, Rhonda Lorch, Justin Pollock, and Kelly Trusty for contributing questions for this blog post.

Links:

Leadership That Creates the Future: http://blogs.creatingthefuture.org

Freya Bradford: LinkedIn

Kimberly Diggs Lauth: Kim Lauth Consulting

Jane Garthson: Garthson Leadership Centre

Andrea John-Smith: LinkedIn

Joyce Lee-Ibarra: JLI Consulting

Rhonda Lorch: Lorch and Associates

Justin Pollock: OrgForward

Kelly Trusty: LinkedIn

Wilderness Journeys Perfect Your Faith To Move Forward

Thank you to those who have supported me during this time of silence and transition.  A good friend asked me “what did you do wrong to be silenced?”, to which I replied not that kind of silence.  It is the silence you experience when God is moving you to a new place and new assignment that causes you to stop, reflect on the past, review His promises for your life and recall the provisions He has provided when you were entering into other places that stretched you beyond your current situation.  When God instructs, prepare to move forward in a way that requires your faith to be strong.  I have been silent on this blog for the past four weeks out of obedience to the guiding of the Holy Spirit.  A preparation process for moving forward.  The New Urban is not about showing hopeless kids hope; it’s about changing attitudes of kingdom building among the adults and young adults charged with leading our youth through this transitional state to adulthood.  It’s about a collective vision of moving young people forward, not a siloed classification of young people.  The Bible teaches that all have sinned and come short of the glory.  All need him, not just the poor, not just those experiencing challenging circumstances but everyone.  I truly believe God is moving Youth Ministry to a new understanding of faith, vision and  equipping of young people.

Faith can be idle when circumstances are calm.  But, when adversity hits then our faith is exercised.  Like muscles, our faith grows stronger when exercised.  I have learned that faith states the dream, examines all options, uses all resources, removes all nonessentials and then moves forward.  I now understand what it means to say – “a man able to see in faith sees things that do not yet exist in the natural realm and sees the potential to bring to pass something marvelous.”

In the Bible, the Hebrew  word  forward is about taking a journey that has many stages to it.  In Exodus 14: 13 – 15 the people had to first stand still and then go forward.  This has been an incredible journey the Lord has me on to this point.  I walk in expectancy of all that He has for me going forward.

 

I invite you to also move forward in your relationship with Jesus Christ, in your ministry and in exalting God, engaging unbelievers and edifying the believers:

F – represents the future.  Things do not happen by chance, they happen according to His will.  Don’t be distracted by circumstances seen with the natural eye.   (Prov. 19:21)

O – signifies ordinary people. God uses ordinary people to accomplish His will.  Throughout history it wasn’t about titles, degrees or pedigree – just ordinary people.  In Romans 16 Paul mentions 24 people used,  Luke 10:1 speaks of 70 that went out 2 by 2.

R – stands for resiliency.  The Bible tells us that “a man who holds his ground can become strong like the oak” (Prov 24:10).  As Christian leaders we are to cultivate our ability to endure under pressure, rise after failure and push ahead when others quit.  Spurgeon said, “by perseverance, the snail reached the ark”.

W –  represents wholehearted prayer. Prayer is an intense dialogue with diety. It is your decision to personally pursue and seek guidance from the Lord.  It is an intense, continual, wholehearted seeking of relationship and conversation.

A – indicates the attitude of faith and courage that fuels your moving forward to fulfill the vision God gave you.   Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the mastery of it.  You must be able to see your vision, say it and seize it.  You must have faith to see what God is doing.

R – stands for remember. Looking back over your life, recall what God has done for you.  Even as you look back over your test and trials, you will see where God has brought you through.  That which seemed like there was no way out, no solution or now path forward . . . look at you now.  And if you are in the midst of a storm now, look around and remember – “you have been here before.”

D – signifies decisions.  Decisions determine your DESTINY. Every decision in your life has a consequence; some positive and some negative.  When we take matters into our own hands, that is when God allows us to struggle in the darkness created by our decisions.  To move forward, learn from wise men’s (and women’s) lifestyles and decision making processes.  Don’t be afraid to seek wise counsel. (This is the biggest mistake most young leaders make – The I Know It All Syndrome).  Don’t take my word, read Prov. 1:5; 8:33; 9:8,9.

 

Your path forward belongs to the Lord .  Be confident and stay conscience . . .

 

Ray Lewis Giving A Shout Outs For Jesus? What!!!



This week we are going to take an off ramp on our consciousness cruise of Nehemiah’s’ four step plan for saving his community and stop at the corner of Praise and Judgment to refill our tanks.

 

We just completed a week of public events where a number of individuals in the publicly chose to mention and or speak of their faith in God.   The social media world lit up all day Sunday and Monday over these “shout outs for Jesus” – in several texts, tweets, emails and blogs people voiced concern over those who spoke of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Many casting judgment as to weather these individuals were really Christians or not.  Surprisingly, several of these individuals casting judgment profess to be Christians themselves.

 

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kapernick tweeted scriptures all week and mentioned God in his interviews.  Adrian Peterson, in his acceptance speech at the Saturday night NFL Awards, thanked God for allowing him to win the MVP award and come back from his ACL injury.  And away from the Super Bowl scene; at the NAACP Image Awards, an event that honors people of color in TV since the other award shows minimize participation of people of color, Loretta Devine greeted the audience with a – “Praise the Lord everybody” greeting.   Which received it’s own criticism.  And of course Ray Lewis’ “no weapon formed against me shall prosper” quote before, during and after the Super Bowl.  Lewis also explained, in response to Jim Nance question on how the Ravens were able to overcome such odds and obstacles, in the post game interview answered –  “if God be for you, who can be against you”.  (Both of those quotes are used frequently by those of the faith)  Yes, that’s a slippery theological slope.  In other words, if God is for us, that doesn’t mean there’s an equal and opposite person that God is against.     I’m sure there were others over the weekend but these are sufficient for our discussion as we refill our take here at the corner of Praise & Judgment.

 

The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:1- 6 to first remove the plank from our own eyes before we attempt to remove the speck from someone else’s.  If we were “back in the day”, would we have treated Paul the same way as he preached the Word of God after his conversion?  Paul, who was the mass murder of Christians who later called himself the “ chief sinner”.  Would we have judged David for all his transgressions in the midst of being such a great warrior and king?  The Bible says David was a man after God’s own heart.  Would we have asked Ester, whom do you think you are speaking up; you only came into relationship with the king as a result of someone else’s misfortune.  We never know what God is working out in the lives of an individual.

 

I am not defending any of the celebrities.  Their incredible skills and success could be a part of God’s common grace.  And they may or may not have received His saving grace.  As the body of Christ, instead of judging we should be praying for those going through the process of sanctification.  That God will encourage and strengthen them in this journey.  That as public figures, that their lifestyles will show the fruits of their conversion.  And they will overcome any of their struggles.

 

We don’t know if these guys are real; but it is not for us to judge or decide.  We are not the moral police and we need to treat people like Jesus treated people.  We must remember, scripture also tell us that none is perfect but the Father.  We ourselves are striving to live a life that is pleasing to God and we too make mistakes.  Our own personal accountability is not reduced because ours sins are not in the public eye.   Sin is sin and God views our transgressions the same as He does those of others.  Weather ours sins are of the flesh or sins of the spirit (judging, hating, envy, etc), God sees them all.

 

 

As leaders, we must model the lifestyle we want our young people to live.  In this multimedia world where everything is seen by all, our young people should see us loving one another and praying for those who we see struggling with their faith.  Demonstrating the fruits of the spirit we are teaching them  – genuine love for His people, heartfelt obedience to His commands and Christlike character traits.   These can only come about by the Spirit of God working within our life.  Our young people HEAR what we do more than what we say.

 

 

Let me hear from you.  What are you thoughts on this subject?  Give me a shout out, your opinion is important to me.

Learning And Relearning The “Truth About Reality”, Or The Truth About Urban Ministry

Some make it a habit of reading the experiences of Urban Ministry through the lens of stereotypes, symbols and beliefs and its difficult if not impossible to attach other meanings because there are no other interpretations beyond the “knowledge” they carried with them.  That knowledge would be “shadows cast on the wall” that prevent them from knowing the truth about urban ministry.  They take the shadows as objective representations of reality.  It’s time for us to help them confront their shadows so that they may know the truth about urban ministries.

Most times this is not an intentional act against another group but a lack of deep scriptural knowledge.   I am not referring to memorization or reading of scripture, but an exegetical study to understand the linkages and meaning of treatment to and of others in relationship to treatment of self.  The power behind Jesus commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself should flip the script on our day-to-day thinking.  This goes beyond the idea of just helping someone in need. This view does not allow you to look at them as less than, separate, inferior or not deserving of all that you would do for yourself or your family.

It is antithetical to think that we would do more for others than we would for ourselves.  We each see the world from our own self-interest first and then in service to others.  But this view contradicts scripture.  Let’s look at one of the most well intentioned concepts of service – mission trips.  On the surface they seems totally the right, the Christian thing to do and a learning opportunity for young people.  But from the side of those you choose to serve, it is as disrespectful as any action that one could engage.

 

I will use the word of two greatly respected figures, Martin L. King and Bishop Arthur M. Brazier, to unpack this concept in an attempt as was taught in Ephesians, to tear down the walls of separation in the church that worship the same God and has the hopes of a future in the same heaven.

King said – True altruism is more than the capacity to pity; it is the capacity to sympathize.  Pity may represent little more that the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern, which demands the giving of one’s soul.  Pity may arise from interest in an abstraction called humanity, but sympathy grows out of a concern for particular needy human being who lies at life’s roadside.  Sympathy is fellow feeling for the person in need – his pain, agony, and burdens.   Missionary efforts fail when they are based on pity, rather than true compassion.  Instead of seeking to do something with people, we have too often sought only to do something for them.  An express of pity, devoid of genuine sympathy, leads to a new form of paternalism, which no self-respecting person can accept.

 

Bishop Brazier said – Some in the church contribute money to support missionary hospitals and schools in foreign countries.  They take trips to involve themselves in the total life of people with whom they are working for the sake of Christ.  Why is it that some, while supporting total involvement abroad oppose total involvement at home?  The New Testament sets out clearly a position of equality when it unequivocally states that none of the biological, ethical, social or psychological distinctions by which we compartmentalize men and make some inferior and some superior has any validity as far as their standing before God in Christ is concerned (cf. Col.3: 11).  If this is the case then surely there can be no artificial distinction and barrier in our relationship with each other.  

 

I write this out of love for my brothers and sisters so all races, creeds and religions.  Those I serve with, beside and those yet to be in relationship.   Truth is never uncalled for.  There is no polish without friction and it is with men as someone has said about tea: if you wish to get its strength you must put it in hot water.  So the real opportunity for those outside the urban community is that there is no meaning in a given situation until you relate your own experiences to it, regardless of what you might have been taught about it.  Obtaining personal experience in meaningful relationship with other leaders in the urban communities plays a critical role in this process.  It is through a lived experience of being with others that stereotypical perceptions can be transformed.

 

A general implication of the arguments presented is that, like any diversity related discourse, the choice, conceptualization and the practice in the diverging context not remain essentially a contextual matter.

 

Let’s talk about it.  Hit me back with your comments, thoughts and questions.

There is no one person that can speak on behalf of the entire urban community

 

GUEST POST: DANIEL WHITE HODGES

 

Today our guest blogger, Daniel White Hodges, is the North Park University Director of the Center for Youth Ministry Studies (CYMS).  Dan brings us his perspective of Urban Youth Ministry; continuing our 7 point series – Debunking the Misperceptions, Misunderstanding and  Misrepresentation of Urban Youth Ministry.

 

 

 

The days of singularized leadership are far gone. Unifying leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, and Bobby Seal were great for their context, setting, time and era. However, we have had some major shifts in our Western American society over the last forty years which have affected how, in particular, young people see what the meta-culture defines as a leader. Shifts such as:

 

  • Industrial to post-industrial to information age
  • Technology & media
  • Narratives of life, theology, & God are plural
  • Trust is eroded with those in leadership positions
  • Trust & reliance is gnarled with systems & institutions among youth
  • A loss of generational connectivity & solace with younger generations
  • Titles are typically suspect

 

These are just a few of the many shifts that young people, especially those born after 1988, have had to contend with and live in. We are not even considering the chasm which exists between church leaders and youth. Young people today are more critical of their leaders and, as well so, hold them to a higher standard. Further, as it was seared into my worldview when I was on Young Life staff: you have to earn the right to be heard. And, quite honestly, many leaders do not want to put in that time to actually “earn” that right to be heard. Many urban leaders want to preach, lecture, and tell rather than listen, engage, and live with the young person.

 

Hence, no, there is no singularized leader, authority, and/ or person who can speak for the entire urban community—or even urban youth for that matter.

 

The closest person that spoke for many in the urban context was Tupac Amaru Shakur. Now, some of you might wrinkly your nose and squint your eyes at that persona. After all, wasn’t he a whoremonger, adulterer, drunk, and profane rhetorician? And the answer would be: yes. Yes he was. But, within that whoremongering, adultering, drunkenness, and profane discourse something deeper was at work; a fundamental attempt to make God more accessible to himself and to the people he considered to be the urban community. We as youth leaders cannot overlook that aspect. We cannot merely see the outward behavior and judge the heart. And we must begin to deconstruct such a figure to, dare I say, embody some of his characteristics. More on this later.

 

Leadership and having a voice is powerful. It is, in fact, power. The power to affect someone elses behavior to implement your ideas and thoughts. Power. Power to affect change with the inception of worldivews into the psyche. This does not come easy and many in this generation, as stated prior, are very critical of whom they give those psyche “keys” to. Moreover, the urban community is far too complex, intricate, multifaceted, and multifarious to have a singular voice on that narrative and life experience. Thus, when engaging the urban context we must consider the narratives of all; yes, even those we do not agree with; those who are nefarious in deed; those who are foul in personality; those who have dreadful historical pasts; those who are fastidious in everything called life. Yes, those are the ones God has called us to. Those are the ones whose narrative does not fit nicely in five step processes, alter calls, and one time conversions. This is the population that Christ called us to make disciples in the Great Commission.

 

So, no. There is no singular voice and narrative for the urban context. Why would there be? Can God be explained in one concept? I hope not. The ‘hood represents the complexities of human life that is articulated in outward expressions and aesthetics. Let us continue to embrace the diversity and mystery that is meta-narrative and life!

Let me hear your thoughts, questions, rebuttals, and narrative. Join in on the conversation!

To continue the conversation and go deeper please comment below, also check out:

www.whitehodge.com

Twitter: @danwhitehodge

Facebook: Daniel White Hodge

 

The Soul Of Hip Hop: Rimbs, Timbs, & A Cultural Theology (IVP 2010)

Heaven Has A Ghetto: The Missiological Gospel & Theology of Tupac Amaru Shakur (VDM Academic 2009)

Urban Leaders – If The Lord Calls You, He Will Establish You

 

God always has a special and unique way to call each one of us into ministry.  The Lord called Jeremiah by His spirit before he was born.  Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).  God chooses the way in which we are called into ministry.  Each of us has been essentially predestined to fill a particular place in the building of the Kingdom.  Everything that happens to us as ministers, from the point of birth is either directly planned by God or will definitely be used by Him to cause His will to be done.  This is part of how he establishes us.  He will open His Word to them and enable them to feed the people of God.  Jeremiah had the words of the Lord to speak to the people(Jeremiah 1:9)  Like Jeremiah our ministries must be based on God’s word and not man’s word.  We are to speak nothing but the Word we have been given from God.  The Lord set Jeremiah over the nations and kingdoms (Jeremiah 1:10).  Our promotion does not come from man but it comes from the Lord.  We will be exalted in due time after we humble ourselves.  Jeremiah was called to root out, to pull down and to destroy (Jeremiah 1:10).  We are called to preach and teach against sin and unrighteousness.  To help young people understand what it means to be separated from this world.  To teach them how to discern and make good choices as they walkout their destiny.

Whatever reservations or hesitations we have about our calling are understandable but not acceptable.  Jeremiah had several excuses, one “Lord, I cannot speak” (Jeremiah 1:6) he felt he was inferior in his ability to communicate effectively.  But the Lord will always put His words into the mouth of those He is equipping for ministry.  A second excuse was his Youth.  I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth (Jeremiah 1:6).  God replied “ Do not say; I am a youth, because everywhere I send you, you shall go (Jeremiah 1:7).  What was most important to God was his willingness to obey the word of the Lord.  His third excuse was that he was afraid to go because of the rejection that he would sense even by the expression on the people’s face.  The Lord commanded Jeremiah “do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you”.  God will give abundant grace for us to meet every fearful situation we may face.  God assures that if he calls us he will ensure we are established.

 

What hesitations do you have about your calling?  Let’s talk it out.

Mo Money, Mo Money, Mo Money

 

 

Did you get caught up in the spending hype of Black Friday or Cyber Monday?  Or today’s fairly new Giving Tuesday? Wouldn’t it be great if we could get that excited about worshiping God.  Today we live in a very materialistic society.  The desire for money and what it can buy has a strangle hold on people.  Even Christians spend a great deal of time trying to create or pretend to have heaven on earth.  In search of mo money, mo money, mo money.  In fact, we see Christmas has become a time of the flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity’s sake — in a word, financial decadence.

 

The last few weeks we witnessed in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana a focus on money almost like never before.  People stood in line for hours to get a Powerball lottery ticket.  No one won, so this week we are seeing a repeat.  The lottery was going to solve their problems.  Everyone speaks of what they would do if they won and the good they were going to do.   The jackpot now stands at $425 million.  The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot: 1 in 175 million.  See we trust what is impossible, yet doubt salvation that which is sure, guaranteed and eternal.  Money can distract anyone

 

Matthew 6:24 tells us that “ No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  The Bible tells us that mammon can be translated or substituted with the words treasure, money, wealth or materialism.

 

God knows this materialism is so tuff that he made one of the most shocking statements – it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

 

The world’s riches make it difficult to keep God at the center of our lives.  Scripture has shown time and time again monies influence on behavior and attitudes.

 

The tragedy of Lot’s wife was her placing all her affection on an earthly city rather than a heavenly one.  Joshua’s army was crushed when Achan disobeyed God and took the gold, silver and exotic garments;  Achan thought his sin mattered little in the grand scheme of the invasion.  Both lost perspective and fell prey to materialism.

 

We see it in the church today. Pastors, the music ministry — lose their way; get caught up in chasing the o’mighty dollar.  They have become dependant on money to define their ministry, their life or their success.   It has led to excessive behaviors – infidelity, homosexuality, sexual abuse of minors, opulence in homes, cars and in the clothes.  Look at the destruction it has cost their sheep.   Congregations split, people avoiding church due to their view of the members.   Ministers, we have accountability and a responsibility.  Hebrews tells us that all to often the love of abundance and luxury opens people to sexual sin.

 

If we go further into scripture, and look over in 1 Timothy 6:10 it tells us – The love of money is the root of all-evil.  But if we go back up into chapter 5 to see how we got to that statement, we see that people who want to get rich, fall into temptation and a trap and into mans foolish & harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.

 

As ministers of the gospel, we must be free from the love of money.  As overseers, the Bible says we are to be above reproach, not a lover of money, not greedy but eager to serve.  See where your treasure is, there your heart will be.  It will drive your values and decisions.  We can’t be compromised.

 

So what am I trying to say – as we move into this Christmas season, don’t get caught up in the presents hype and forget the real reason for the season.  Your young people will be watching you to see how you plan act and respond to the season.  They will look to you to see the expectation you set.  How do we focus less on giving and receiving presents and focus more on understanding the celebration is the birthday of the King.  Young people have become way too caught up in “what are you getting me?” and being mad if they don’t get what they want.  There are those who also flaunt and tease those less fortunate who don’t receive the presents they wanted.  The excess surrounding receiving Christmas presents is contrary to the lessons we should be teaching our students.

 

Now I am not saying having money is bad, you have to take care of your family.   We support the church thorough our tithes.  We help the poor through being good stewards of the resources God provides us.  What I am saying is the danger of a focus on accumulation of wealth, is that it usually dominates one’s mind and life so that God’s kingdom and glory are no longer first.

 

You say –  “having more money would really help . . . I don’t have much and could use so much more.  It would reduce so much stress in my life.”

 

But didn’t God tell us to be content?

He said he would supply all your needs

He said he would never leave you or forsake you.

Have faith and confidence in His Word

Don’t fall into the materialism trap

 

What assignment are you not doing to chase the dollar?  Be still and know that He is God.  Stay grounded.  The truly rich are those who have gained freedom from the things of the world through confidence that God is their father and he will not forsake them.

 

Money fails.  But we know that God can never fail.  Take inventory of your heart and life.  Is there any area in your life that needs forgiveness?  God promises to take care of the righteous.  First, repent of your sins and live a godly life.  Then God will supply all your needs.

 

 

Give me your thoughts; hit me back with your comments

Thanksgiving in the Hood

This week we pause to celebrate my most favorite holiday.  I love Thanksgiving because it is a holiday focused on thinking about how thankful we are, or should be, for all that we have.  It is less commercialized than any other of the holidays we celebrate.  Personally I am thankful first for my relationship with Jesus Christ.  When I think of the goodness of Jesus and all He’s done for me, my soul cries out Hallelujah! I praise God for saving me.  Second, I am thankful God provided me my best friend and wife.  The Bible says when a man finds an wife, he finds a good thing and obtains favor.  She more than competes me, she brings out the rest of me.  I could go on and on but today is not  focused on me but on Thanksgiving in Urban neighborhoods.  I will be brief today so you have time to read everyones holiday post that will come tomorrow and Thursday.  Prepare for your thanksgiving sermons and  spend time with your loved ones.

 

In the hood, families gather at big mama’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.  Food, fellowship, family, friends and football.  Family members come from all over the city.  Some who have moved away, come home to join the celebration.  Students that have gone off to college come home, trying to show how much they have matured.  In some families, brothers and sisters have grown up and have families of their own.  Big mama may not be present anymore, and the kids rotate hosting the family dinner.   The one common thing in most urban families are that anyone is welcome to stop by to “visit”.  It’s amazing how open we become to sharing a meal with others during the holiday season.

 

But there are young people (and our volunteers) who don’t have the opportunity to experience these family get togethers.  for various reasons, the family dynamics don’t exist or have been broken.  Are you checking on your young people and co-labors to see what their plans are for the holiday?  How about inviting them into your homes.  Give them a peek into your world.  It’s easy to have them come to youth group and meet you on neutral turf.  But this year, let’s step out and take relationship building to a new level.  Extend yourself to help someone else feel wanted, cared for, loved and included.

 

And to those who go into the hood to serve food or deliver care packages. . .

While this is a good thing, I challenge you to invite a young person from the neighborhood to share Thanksgiving dinner with your family in your home.  Pick them up and take them back to your home.  While you love to “go and do to people”, how about this year “doing with people”.   A real test of our faith is are we humble enough to really be in relationship with those outside our homogeneous circles.

 

There’s great focus on Urban ministry these days.  Friends, now you have a perfect opportunity to really do urban ministry.  It’s not a program, it’s not a mission trip to serve dinners, it’s doing as God instructed us in Luke & Deuteronomy – to love the Lord . . . and your neighbor.  And who is our neighbor is our neighbor?  Anyone in need.

 

Great things happen when God’s people share a meal together.  In Acts 2, we see the church in its infancy. Here we find the early disciples of Jesus being both physically and spiritually nourished.  While they spent plenty of time eating the bread of life, they made sure to be caring and hospitable to one another, by opening their homes for a shared meal.  To describe the real intimacy that comes from eating with your brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take note of what happens when one is found to be unfaithful to the will of God. The Bible teaches that those who are true and loyal followers of the Lord are not to have fellowship with those who violate the commands of God and will not repent (I Cor. 5; II Thess. 3:6-15).  The common meal was a mark of fellowship.  As Christians shared in the one faith and had the common hope of heaven, they would also, as the family of God, gather together for the purpose of sharing a meal.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours

 

I’d love to hear your stories of how you will be spending your holiday and involving your neighbor.  Hit me back

4. You need more than an urban curriculum to minister to urban youth.

GUEST POST: Erick David Townsend

Today we continue are conversations of understanding for those currently ministering or wanting to minister in Urban communities.  Our guest post today comes from a dear friend and partner in Kingdom ministry.  Erick has a heart for young people and is a husband, father, lead worshiper, vocalist, songwriter and has been a celebrated on-air radio personality for Chicago’s top rated Moody Christian Radio.  Erick now host The Urban Message on Total Christian Media.  Notable guest on his show include nationally renowned recording artists Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, Deitrick Haddon, Fred Hammond and Marvin Sapp.

 

 

 

I currently have lived in a Chicago urban setting for more than 10 years and am fortunate enough to have 20 plus years of rearing roots in rural and suburban dwelling places. I agree with JP Paulus’ assessment of issue #2 and believe issue #4’s answer also begins to develop in what most of us, no matter our current living arrangement, have fashioned little time to perfect…more on that later.

 

Today’s technology and social media have made it almost effortless to keep up with whomever we choose, but what about those who are assigned to us? Those who aren’t concerned about the ease of connection, rather wish to see valiant effort.  What about those who have connected with your urban youth group only because of proximity rather than preference? Or even those who can’t see anything other than their desperate need and desire to at the very least, not get lost in the dominant or sub-dominant culture’s priorities, whether on a macro or micro scale. More questions than answers and not by accident.

 

There is nothing more offensive to a young person than giving false testimony.  It is always better to say you don’t know or have yet to experience than to make something that happened to you “fit” into every urban context.  It is understood that we will have transplants or urban immigrants but the way the immigrant handles their adjustment period and assimilation, determines their own effectiveness. Stereotypes and assumptions only render you effective-less. So, is urban curriculum needed, YES!  Is urban curriculum the answer to doing urban ministry effectively, I say NO!

 

As we are finding our gathering of youth, inside and outside of church settings, becoming more and more diverse in culture and ethnicity, how can we expect a “good for the goose, good for the gander” curriculum to address the vast issues of the city?  A common mistake of same color equals same culture, I believe, imprisons us into a mentality of “one size fits all” and what worked for Tyrone will work for Tanisha. What we then fail to see is, Tyrone’s truth has more in common with Becky than he ever will with Tanisha. We have allowed the proof texting of Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” to keep us in a state of “Blind Denial,” when it comes to the diverse and connected issues of today’s youth. Why “Blind Denial” because we take the stance of the famous monkey statue “Hear No Evil, See No Evil” but we forget to “Speak No Evil.” We should instead be freed by that text into understanding that my differences ON the table don’t make us different in the eye of God thus I should be willing to treat my neighbor as myself. Not simply like I like it!

 

The urban places to gather are increasingly becoming places where, Red, Brown, Yellow, Black and White are all precious in the owner’s sight (LOL). As the dollar brings us closer together and the economics of today simply force us to actually spend money together, we mustn’t forget that after the transaction, we must live together. Now neighbors by the Bibles calling and by proximity have doubled the need to understand that my example and many others may not be in that workbook of yours.

 

We have all heard the argument of standardized test examples keeping underserved urban youth from excelling but what about the standardized youth group examples that instead of keeping you connected to youth drive you farther away from them and no closer to authentic relationship with Christ? Today’s multicultural, multi-ethnic youth group takes more devoted work than ever before. Which leads me to where I started, piggybacking off of JP Paulus…RELATIONSHIPS. Yes it was the driving force behind Christ’s walk here on Earth and it is the underlying rip current to successful or unsuccessful ministries…Urban or otherwise. When learned how to navigate, rip currents can be a great asset. When ignored, they can be the relational and spiritual deaths of you and all involved. The same is true for urban curriculum.

 

So what do we do as conduits of truth and leaders of our future leaders? Great question! Here are several practical “Duh” answers:

 

–       Be YOU. Don’t try to be anybody else…Period!

 

–       Admit you don’t know. Not only will you learn something new, you will begin to gain credibility.

 

–       Ask if the curriculum example is authentic. Don’t treat the curriculum as the Bible. IT can be wrong in the context of your  urban setting.

 

–       Be willing to look silly (old). There is nothing more rewarding than being laughed at because you were born before cell phones were invented then turned right around and being called on the cell phone and trusted to answer a question that will change their life today.

 

–       Build RELATIONSHIPS not religion. Urban dwelling, in itself, has its own religious practices, by definition of the word religion. In order to gain access to that world, one must be willing to spend the time it takes to establish trust and permission to reveal the way, truth and life.

 

Let’s pick our heads up out of the workbook and work the Book. What do you think? How can we be more effective with the urban curriculum that we have?

 

Please see the links posted by JP Paulus for practical places to further training. If you are feeling brave, there are plenty of hangouts for you to immerse yourself into the urban youth world. Ask for an invite, reply with those you know of and we can provide others.

 

You can hear me Weekdays from 11am-2pm CST on my radio show “The Urban Message” on www.tcmradiostation.com. I can be reached for bookings or comments at erick.townsend@gmail.com.