Wednesday, December 22, 2010

700 Club

Did you know?

#1 - People spend 700,000,000,000 minutes on Facebook each month.

#2 - YouTube videos were viewed 700,000,000,000 times in 2010.

Seven-hundred-billion minutes a month on Facebook and video views on YouTube.

Many churches (and church leaders) do not have a presence on either of these platforms.

Any thoughts as to why that is?

Monday, December 20, 2010

WHLC t-shirts

I'm not a big t-shirt guy...but I know that they are important for group identity and promotion.  A young person at Windsor Heights Lutheran designed our church's shirt.  Here's what she came up with.

Make custom sweatshirts at

Do you use t-shirts for your organization?  Why or why not?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Colbert on Christmas

Stephen Colbert - comedian, satirist, progressive theologian and (possible) heretic unloaded this gem last night:

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don't want to do it. 

This came at the end of his eight-minute opening rant about Christmas.  And if that wasn't enough, the world's greatest musician, Paul Simon, is his guest (at the 14:15 mark).  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Greetings

We aren't doing a snail mail Christmas card this year.  Instead, we'll donate what we would have spent to Lutheran Disaster Response and post some pictures and a brief family update online.

We hope you enjoy the slideshow...

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Picture slideshow personalized with Smilebox

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Holiday

"America's best public theologian" (according to @dianabutlerbass) weighed in on the Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays discussion.  This has sparked some articles from theologian bloggers...two of which I found particularly insightful.

Dr. James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)
While many American Christians complain about what the store employees wish them, they are there in the stores alongside everyone else, engaging in a practice that has no real Biblical roots, making purchases in the spirit of our contemporary materialistic age.

Rev. Brant Clements (Living Lutheran)
The cruciform letter chi, which is written “X,” has been used for centuries as an abbreviation for “Christ.” The abbreviation “Xmas” is not blasphemous. It no more takes Christ out of Christmas than does the abbreviation “C-mas.”  Xians who take offense at the abbreviation “Xmas” only show their ignorance of their own faith. Even if “Xmas” were an insult, taking offense would be a betrayal of the teacher who told us to “turn the other cheek.” So this year, I will be keeping “X” in Xmas.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Gretch Who Saved the War on Christmas
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Saturday, December 11, 2010

No More Christmas Programs

Last year our congregation didn't do a children's Christmas program.

In September I realized that our upper-elementary grades were thin in numbers.  It was going to be difficult to do a "traditional" Christmas program with fewer kids.  Additionally, we had seen audience attendance wane at the program among non-family members.  So I thought we could try a different approach to doing something special for children and families at church in mid-December.

We called it "The Advent Celebration".
(catchy name, right?)

This event incorporated annual congregational activities such as the Caroling & Chili Supper and decorating the sanctuary.  We added crafts, games, and activities for little ones...and even a few "visitors" (Mary, the innkeeper, and a shepherd) that told us what happened - and what didn't happen - on that night in Bethlehem.

Here's what the schedule looked like:

4:00     Caroling groups visit homebound
            Decorate the sanctuary
5:30     Chili Supper
6:00     Singing songs (led by children)
            Visits from storytellers
6:30     Crafts, activities, and games for children and families
            More decorating the sanctuary

This event was met with much enthusiasm and support among those who attended.  These five themes emerged in the feedback I received:

  1. This was an intergenerational event that didn't feel forced or awkward.
  2. Children could learn about the Advent and Christmas stories without the pressure of a performance.
  3. There was no reinforcement of inaccurate aspects of the Biblical narrative that always seem to accompany Christmas programs.
  4. Families didn't have the stress of additional rehearsals, memorizing lines, costumes, etc. during an already chaotic season.
  5. The focus of the Advent Celebration is Advent; not Christmas.

I would add a sixth comment -- I appreciated not spending all of the time and money on a 30-45 minute production.  Maybe next year we can take the resources (man-hours and dollars) of a Christmas program and do something more "missional".  Perhaps the Chili Supper could be a community-wide meal for people who are going without food...or something like that.

The Advent Celebration worked for us.  I won't be so cavalier as to assume it would work for every church...but I highly recommend it if you're looking to shake things up a little.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

OLYO Reflections

Nurse Log -- a decaying tree that provides nutrients for new trees

I recently had the opportunity to be part of the Oregon Synod Lutheran Youth Organization (OLYO) Assembly.  Their theme was Living Into the Future Together.  Being on a churchwide task force with the same name gave me cause to join them for the weekend.  For their part, the OLYO board set aside three 90-minute sessions for us to consider what God is calling us to do and to be in the future. 

The first session, Living, gave us a chance to talk about church in the 21st century and the ways that young people can join in the conversation.  We explored the metaphor of church as an eco-system of interdependent organisms.  Young people shared candid responses to the question, “Why are you a part of the church?”  There was a time of dwelling in the Word from Acts 2 and some conversation about the aspects of life among the believers in the early Christian church.

Our next session focused on the Future.  Young people were asked to consider how they might use their spiritual gifts to breathe new life into the church.  The assembly broke up into student-led small groups and used our “evangelical, missional imagination” to wrestle with these three questions:
·       What elements are essential for a 21st century church?
·       What elements are helpful, but not essential?
·       What elements are neither essential nor helpful?
Each group made three lists and posted them around the room for all to see.  There was spirited conversation as the young people shared their dreams for what Christ’s church looks like in the days ahead.

The third and final session, Together, was so exuberant that our discussions spilled late into the evening.  We used a re:form (sparkhouse) video “Why Are There So Many Different Christian Churches?” to set the tone.  The group lamented the ways in which the body of Christ has become fractured and severed.  From there we thought of ways to embrace our differences to enhance our witness to the world.  We realized that being together in Christ doesn’t mean losing our identity, but instead calls us to embrace each other’s uniqueness and giftedness.  Small groups worked to draw a blueprint of what a church building might look like, considering the essential and helpful elements from the previous activity.  

Attempting to summarize the depth and breadth of what happened at the OLYO Assembly is difficult.  A few themes did emerge as we talked, listened, prayed, sang, and danced together:
1.     Young people care so deeply about the future of the church that they want to be part of shaping its present.
2.     The church of tomorrow needs to look more like the church of 2,000 years ago.
3.     Youth place a high value on the messiness of relationships and living in community together.
4.     Though church buildings can be helpful, they aren’t required in order for God’s people to be the church.

The weekend I spent with the OLYO group will go a long way in shaping my own understanding of what God is calling the church to be and do in the future.  I pray it will inform and inspire groups across our church eco-system (especially the LIFT task force) as we navigate these uncertain waters together.

* * * 

Here are a couple of pictures I took during my time in Oregon...

the traditional goofy group picture of the OLYO crew

breathtaking Multnomah Falls

sun setting behind the Pacific Ocean