Friday, August 24, 2007

An Exploration of "Family Ministry"

For about a year-and-a-half now, I've been in a bit of a "holding pattern" as far as seeking things that stir my heart up ministry-wise. I have still been in the arena of youth ministry, and there are absolutely still areas of teen-specific ministry give me great joy (especially seeing "light bulbs" going off, watching kids be more-and-more willing to step out of their comfort zone for God, etc.). But as far as "where to go from here"-goes, newer aspects, etc., it has been a blur.

Could it be starting to change?

Could my ministry focus, even in the world of youth ministry, be shifting a bit?

It might be. Increasingly, I am sensing a greater need to focus on true "family ministry"--not what most consider as family ministry (basically, "children's ministry", if you look at most churches), but a true ministry focusing on the entire family dynamic: both kids AND parents. Most churches have, for various reasons, basically seperated the family. It's not that they meant to break it up so much; I think they just thought about how teens, younger kids, and adults were "different". And they are! But as a result, the family got split up, and maybe more importantly, parents went into an "adult ministry" world that seemed to stray from directing parents to be the God-ordained primary spiritual teachers, leaders, and example for their family. Instead, the focus was more "self" (not all bad; we certainly, CERTAINLY need to work on our own relationship with God), focusing on personal needs, instead of intentially raising up Godly parents. Instead, "raising children to be disciples of Jesus" became about dropping your kids off at some youth ministry. And we youth ministers were (and are) glad to oblige.

I just think we've been missing something.

In a very un-scientific study made by me (basically, watching families over my past 10 or so years of youth-specific ministry), I have noticed a couple things:

1) Many (note NOT ALL) parents who are, say, 10-15+ years older than I (so, 40s and up), while increasingly are "wishing" they saw their role as parents to be a truly God-ordained call to "show their family the Way" through intentional instruction, by living their own lives as examples their kids and spouse could observe, and seek a holistic life of faith, for the most part they did not start off that way. Back in the 80s and much of the 90s, new adults were thrown into a society that was so "me" focused, material-gain focused, etc., and the lingering effects are being seen today. Oh sure, those issues still exist, but they were cultivated during that era with alarming effect. So, as a result, many true Jesus-followers born out of that era never really grasped their role as primary faith-leader in their families when their marriages started, children were born, etc. And churches didn't seem to put real energy into changing anything beyond "lip-service". So, parents would maybe pray some at meals, attend church when they flet like it-- like when it didn't fall during "deer season" (or some other animal to shoot), or if your favorite pro football team wasn't on TV at noon-- and drop their kids at the "Godly babysitting service" that is children/youth ministry, and pat themselves on their backs for doing a good job spiritually raising their families.

2) I have noticed that at increaing rates, parents who are in their 20s and 30s with young children that identify themselves as Christ-followers are not satisfied with that model. I see increasing numbers of families truly seeking (or at least "wanting to know 'how'") to make their families a place where Jesus is followed, proclaimed, and sought after in all areas of life, and thus their children at least are encouraged in that direction proactively. Slowly, churches are starting to notice, and some (usually the ones big enough to afford it) are even hiring "family pastors" whose main role is to encourage families to truly be God-focused.

Both, I realize, are vast generalizations (certainly there are plenty of older parents whose families are bathed in an environment where Jesus is King, as well as plenty of young families who don't give a rip) as far as Christian families go. But I do see it as a trend.

"What do I have to do with it"? Well, future-wise, still not sure, but in my current role, I think something new needs to begin. And I'm talking to myself as well, as one who desires to answer God's call to be the "Davis Family Minister" so my wife and kid are in an enviroment where God is the focus of all our life, decision making, how we treat others, etc.

Well, after listening to God for the past few months and working to see this through, the youth ministry is bringing in a gifted writer and communicator, Mark Matlock (, to share his Generation Hope parent conference to our community ( I am very excited, although I am already fighting the naysayers (both personal and "others") that would tell me that it's a "nice idea", but probably won't generate much interest. Regardless, I see this as answering God's call, and pray it will be a catalyst to something bigger: parents in our community truly grasping their God-given role to raise their families with Him permeating everything. So, whether our Family Life Center is full on Sept. 22nd, or if its a gathering of just a few, my hope is that God will start a revolution among our families...I know the Davis' want to be a part of it, at least. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Proud of My Wife

I'm so proud of my wife, Missy.

No, that doesn't mean she got a teaching job (yet).

She hasn't recieved some award.

She has simply impressed me mightily with her proactive trust in God lately.

It certainly hasn't been easy. Far from it. You see, Missy and I are wired quite differently in many ways. It sometimes can make things a bit "interesting" (haha), but ultimately, I believe our differences are quite complimentary, and in the end show that God knew what he was doing when he threw us together (via my car breaking down) back in 2000. No, she doesn't "complete me" (a false hope and expectation that can doom marriages from the start...future post?); only God can complete. Anyways, you see, I am naturally positive, glass-half-full, seem to be singing the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" (cue whistling). Faith that God will provide, in his plan for us, etc., is generally (if not all the time) easier for me to have. Not so with Missy. She herself would tell you (and thus I feel ok saying) that she is often naturally glass-half-empty, can dwell on "what's going wrong", and even easily goes into what we call the "downward spiral": things not going our way, and so other "little" things that are normally no big deal increasingly are seen in a negative light, etc.

So what has amazed and encouraged me so much lately is how she has trusted God in our "troubles" lately. She has worked so hard to get her teaching certificate, to find a job, etc., and yet still nothing... But she soldiers on. I truly am inspired by her proactive seeking and trust of God during this time. You see, this doesn't come naturally for her. She did not "grow up in the faith" like so many of my friends did, and thus "God stuff" often permeates our thoughts, language, and paradigms. She has to release her natural tendencies to God and allow his peace and comfort to take over.

And I am so proud of her for doing that lately. As I've experinced recently, it's been my faith and attitude that has often struggled, not hers. God is using her to encourage me in my faith.

Thanks Missy...I love you!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Option C

Shane Hipps (, if you are reading this, I promise I am not trying to steal your thunder if something like this becomes, say, a future book by you... But our discussion a few weeks back has my wheels turning...

As I've indicated in past posts, I often feel like I don't truly "fit" in the various labels we have created in the Christian world. It seems like (especially in America) if you call yourself a Christian, you are very "either-or"... Something like this (warning, generalizations follow, but please read it all before you decide I'm some freak...which may still happen ha!):

Option A: Very black-and-white on moral issues (at least when it comes to arguing about them. Living them? Sometimes another issue altogether...), loyal to a certain political party almost "blindly", seem to try and figure out which individuals are "in" and "out" (aka exclusivistic), very opinionated about biblical insipration and authority, Jesus-as-the-ONLY-way, strong in evangelism, taking stands for Truth, etc.

Option B: More "anything goes" as far as core beliefs, salvation, etc., not big on taking stands on theological issues, yet seem to live "sermon on the mount"-principles better, loving and respecting God's creation and children, etc.

I just wish there was more room for Option C, which might be something like this:

Option C: Affirming scriptural Truth, inspiration, and authority, affirming that Jesus is truly "way, truth, and life" (, striving to reach others for the sake of the Kingdom, not wishy-washy about core beliefs, etc., BUT still striving to be "sermon on the mount"-people, not worried about political parties, seeking peace (not revenge), not elitist, serving those in need (with NO STINGS ATTACHED), etc.

Does Option C exist? Some would say that the "emerging church" is trying, but I have even seen examples where that line of thought (in certain churches) is straying far into Option B-land (I may comment on my emerging church thoughts later, but a good blog by a friend on the issue can be found here: Can Option C co-exist with either of the other options? Possibly in certain locales...but it certainly would be groundbreaking (and met with some resistance due to a breaking of certain paradigms, comfort zones, traditions...). I know that option A-ers would argue that any "letting up" of stances would produce a slippery slope into bad theology, behavior, and attitudes (I think C would retain theology, etc., but just look for more relevant and "real" ways to practice it in today's society), while option B-ers would likely say C is still too "excluding" (since it would still be claiming Christ's deity, our sin nature, and total reliance on the Cross for salvation and eternal presence with God).

Not sure really where else to go with this post today, but the wheels are turning. I'd love to hear any of your thoughts and comments on this issue. Are you happy with the options? Are you feeling, like myself and others, that something about A and B options just aren't really "doing it"? Am I completely messed up in the head?

Bring it...

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Dice Game Cometh (hopefully)

So, for years I have had a hobby called "the dice game". Basically, I create sports leagues (real or fake) and play out the season. In the past, I used only two dice to roll, assigning teams a "power rank" of 1-to-6, 6 being the strongest team. You roll, and depending on the discrepancy between teams, it is harder for weaker teams to win (much harder, say, for a 1 to beat a 5 instead of a 1 vs. 3). I early on noticed the math inadequacies if I wanted a "true" game (I won't bore you with details...but the math geeks will quickly figure it out), yet for years kept the same methods due to it's ease.

Last year, I changed it up completely, producing a truly unbiased method: teams are still ranked 1-6, but the ranking determines how many dice are rolled. For example, if a 6 plays a 4, each team rolls their proper amount of dice, and you simply add up the totals for a head-to-head victor. In some sports, the great distance between a 1 (6 possible points) and a 6 (36 possible points) is probably too unrealistic, especially in pro sports...

...but in, say, Division 1-A college football, it is PERFECT, since, come on, Duke will almost NEVER beat USC...but if Duke rolls a 6, and USC rolls six "ones", forcing overtime (which is a one die vs one die "roll off"), it could happen...but HIGHLY unlikely...

So, I will give periodic updates (weekly) on some results of the 2007 NCAA Div. 1-A "dice game". I am using the "helmet schedule" that was also made last year (, which is simply fun to have in general! If I can figure out how to post the actual document, I will, if not, I will post weekly "Top 25s" (according to my results, not "real"), some big game results, upsets, etc...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Me no likey my negativity

I took some time to read a bunch of my "recent" (as in, the last few posts, although they stretch back a few months) and noticed a disturbing trend: my negativity. I realize it is good to be honest with my emotions, but "negative" is not one that usually is mentioned about my general attitude. If folks are asked, "What is Ben like?", usually words like fun, joyful, goofy, unique, etc. are brought up. Lately I have felt less and less "those words", and it bothers me. I have let the troubles of life (and if I really look honestly at them, they are NOTHING compared to what most folks deal with) get to me, worry me, frustrate me...and I feel like I have allowed all that to creep in.

So right now, 8:24 am (CST) on Aug. 7, 2007, sitting on our living room couch with Jax in the "thinking chair" next to me about to watch "Go Diego Go!", I am pledging (and making this my prayer) to get back to being "me". God created me with a certain "life attitude" that I hope to get back to, and soon. I have always had a natural "bent" toward positivity, faith that God will provide, and a general joie de vive-attitude. And it has always been easy (aka natural, not "forced" or fake) for me to be that way; God created me that way, and my upbringing helped encourage that as well. I have been blessed with a family that is positive, fun-loving, upbeat, and "young at heart"; as a result, I have found myself to be the same way.

Therefore, I need to get back to that. Maybe I've forgotten to see all the good God Stuff around me everywhere. My wife, my son, food on the table, a roof over my head, clothes, and people who care about me. I need to really start living Matthew 6:25-34: 25: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (;&version=31;)

So, there it is. It is a passage I have held onto in the past, and I will hold to it now.

Friday, August 3, 2007

I'm Ba-ack...

(Hey Wede, I'm posting again!)

Accountants have their busy tax season...athletes have the music ministry friends have Holy Week...

...and I (and most youth ministers) have summer...

There is a reason I've been absent (good? not really...this blog has become a source of spiritual refreshment, really...funny thing what sharing words can do for one's own walk with God...). As my blogging goes, so often my closeness to God goes, and judging by my lack of posts ALL SUMMER, one can figure out that busy-ness has taken it's usual toll.

Summer (so far) has had it's hight points. Both mission trips were examples of God's might. Jackson turned THREE and is growing in amazing (not just physical) ways. I also re-connected with my old college roomies from Kent St. @ TCU. That may have been one of the most joyful times I have had with folks, other than family, in a long time...I laughed harder than I have in years sharing stories. I can't believe it's been TEN YEARS since we were all in college... Life really is moving fast. There are things that happened over a year ago that still seem recent...and I suppose that is how things will be as I get older.

There have been struggles. Each summer seems to wear me out more than the last, not only physically, but emotionally... I love ministry, working with young people, etc., but I wonder how long I can keep up the "pace" needed to do youth ministry sometimes. I know people think all youth ministers do is play all day, but that is not true (in fact, the "play" stuff is one of my least favorite parts of my job!). In addition to all the planning, prepping, and implementing of events, activities, and lessons, working with teens in their turbulent lives (being a buffer between their insecurities, families, pressures, and even their relationship with God as so many of them really are confused where God fits into all this) is stressful. You try to keep them "engaged", but in today's world that often means "entertained" and if you are boring...they tell you. You try to get parents involved...and you risk getting them upset at you since sometimes they need to hear hard truths about their "baby" (and I am fully aware that my time will come on the recieving end with Jackson). Often you feel like you can't win...

Also frustrating has been Missy's continuing quest to find employment as a teacher. We have faith in God's plan and timing, but no one said it was easy. She has been taking classes for a month, and it is hard on the family. Part of me knows a bit what it is like for me to be gone on mission trips, for example. She does come home late-afternoons, but by then she is so tired she basically decompresses form most of the evening (can't blame her), and often has homework or does more job hunting. So, either Jax is witha sitter all day while I work, or I have him essentially all day (not entirely true, but at times it can feel that way). She is not at fault, as I owe her this chance to get ready for a teaching career. I'm just ready for her to be done, have a job, and move forward.

Above all, I need a true "Break". Notice the capital "B". It was done on purpose. Not just a day off (had one of those, but it was spent watching Jax, doing yardwork, etc.), but a true "getaway". I need to disappear, spend some time (if not all) alone in silence, in God's creation, etc. Maybe later this month or early September... I know I need it because a) It's obvious I'm not ready to be "back" with the teens, as on Wednesday all I felt was stress (and even frustration/indifference) while with them, b) I find it increasingly difficult to wake in the morning (not a usual trait), and c) my closeness with God is sufferiing. I can probably count on one hand the times this summer I have felt a direct connection with the Lord, and even a few of those times were short-lived. I need to come back to my Source...

So, in all that, I will seek to trust again (click here for all the places some form of "trust" is used in the NIV version of scripture: God is good, all the time...all the time God is good... I know this...I just need to live in that reality again! If you are a praying person who is reading this, pray that you, too, will live in this realiztion!