7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Today’s Youth

The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

Grace Community Church is built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We love when people bring their friends. This vision extends to reaching the youth of our community. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things.

If the church wants to reach young people these days, here are 7 things we must do:

Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults…and they want it to be unconditional love…through the good times of their life and the times they mess up.

Be biblically true – Young people today don’t seem to want fluff. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want people who say they believe it to teach what they believe…and be willing to discuss it with them if needed.

Be culturally relevant – Young people today have been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world today. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

Give them a place to serve and support them in their pursuits – Young people today want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input - You have to allow young people to do things their way…with technology…within groups of friends…sometimes unscripted…etc. A church that is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them - Young people today want to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.

Guide them - Young people today want direction. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today need adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching the youth of today?

BTW, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

Overreacting to Correct a Problem

We recently sold our house and purchased a new condo.  It’s been over 10 years since we made a real estate transaction, so this was quite an experience.  Apparently much has changed in the housing market, since we were last participants. (Understatement!)  We learned that purchasing any real estate is more difficult now.  We learned that purchasing a new condo can be especially difficult.  Along the way, we continued to hear from real estate agents, bankers, attorneys and appraisers that the amount of regulations added to real estate transactions has tremendously increased the potential for difficulty in the process.

My question: Has the government overreacted to correct a problem…to the point that they have made it unnecessarily difficult to purchase a new home?  Could this be one of the reasons for a continuous sagging real estate market?

I realize there was a problem…banks were giving loans they shouldn’t have given….something needed to be done…but the problem wasn’t as much in my city.

I wonder though, if this reaction…or overreaction…isn’t representative of what we do as churches, organizations, and individuals.

Sometimes one person is the problem, so we create a policy that impacts everyone. One department may be the problem, but we change the rules for everyone.  Often there is one complaint raised, so we change our structure to appease an individual.  Sometimes we have a couple of bad months…or even one unusual Sunday…and we react…or overreact…like the trend is permanent.  Our children make one mistake and we react like it’s who they are…rather than like it’s a mistake…one they can learn from…

Have you ever overreacted to correct a problem?  Do you have any examples to share with me of when you’ve seen this?  When is a time we tend to overreact in the church or as individuals?

(I realize some will be far more schooled on the housing issue than I am, so feel free to educate me.  I simply know what I experienced and what I was told along the way.)

Common Struggles

The first sermon of the new year at Grace Community Church was a difficult one, because I encouraged our people to let go of some of the burdens they had been carrying in 2010. We wanted to start 2011 with a clean slate and make it a better year. I challenged people to write the one issue they wanted to leave behind on an index card. We captured those, and though they didn’t have names on them, we recorded the general issue to see what people in our church were dealing with this year. For me personally this is helping to shape the way I preach.

Here is a graph of the over 1,000 cards we collected:


You can view the sermon from that day here:

What would you have written on that card? Does this graph represent some of your struggles?

Friday Discussion: Why People Don’t Attend Church

Let’s discuss church attendance today.

I specifically want to know why some people choose not to attend church.

I want to hear about your experiences, but I also want to hear your opinions.

One of my passions is the local church.  I grew up in church and there’s never been a time in my life when I didn’t want to go to church.  (The picture in this post is one of my favorite churches…the Lutheran church my mother attended as a child and I attended with my grandmother when I was a child.)

Recently I was interviewed for a local online newspaper about the launching of our second campus.  (You can read the article HERE.)  In the article I stated a statistic that 86% of people in our county do not go to church.  That’s what the latest numbers I’m hearing indicate.  I didn’t make the number up, but I didn’t do the research either.  Regardless of the accuracy of the number, no one who believes in church doubts that it is higher than we would like it to be.

So, today, I’m wonder why people don’t go to church. I’m not being naive.  I realize many simply don’t share my faith, but I don’t think that’s the only reason.  Somehow, I think if we understand why people don’t attend church, we can better address the issue.

Dialogue with me. You might consider some of these questions:

  • Did you grow up in church?
  • Do you go to church regularly now?  How often?
  • Has there ever been a time you didn’t attend church?
  • If so, what kept you from attending?
  • Do you think church attendance is necessary for a believer?
  • Do you have friends or family who do not attend church?
  • What do you think is their reason for not attending?

In your opinion, why do people not attend church these days?

Also interesting to me, in many surveys a large majority of people indicated that if a friend invited them to church they would likely attend.  Sounds like we have some work to do.

Share your thoughts today...Perhaps we can learn from each other.

The Temptation to Fabricate or Exaggerate Numbers

I recently discovered that a favorite blog of mine had some artificially inflated numbers…I don’t know the author personally…and the name doesn’t matter…it’s still just as awesome a blog as ever…so I’ll keep reading…but the numbers presented aren’t the real numbers…

I discovered it by accident…I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was…something I thought was true…Based on what I had been told, I thought the blog did better than it really does…wasn’t true…

I was disheartened…saddened…confused…

Then I remembered that it’s a common temptation…one I have faced many times…still do…

Let’s admit……the world is tough…it’s competitive…and it seems that only the strong survive…

Numbers matter…right or wrong we tend to believe they indicate success…prestige…they can even indicate financial rewards…

Whether it’s in the number of sales…blog hits…or total number of pancakes eaten…we tend to think the higher the number the better…

The fabrication of numbers also happens in the church world…there is a temptation to expand numbers to impress people…to feel better about one’s self as a pastor or ministry leader…

When it comes to numbers…you’ve most likely been tempted to:

Make up…add to…exaggerate…stretch the truth…

It’s natural to be tempted…

What you and I do with the temptation says a lot about our character….

Did you need to read this post? It was a good reminder for me…

What are some ways you’ve seen numbers exaggerated or inflated?

Christmas at Grace Resource List

Looking for ways to make the spirit of Christmas come alive for your family? The staff at Grace Community Church recommends these resources and this reading plan. Enjoy a very Merry Christmas and allow some of these tools to help you keep the reason for the season fresh in your minds and homes. Thanks to Lifechurch.tv for help with the reading plan.

If you need a printable format, here is a Christmas at Grace Resources 2

Bring Your Old Bible to Church for ReWord Day

We are recycling Bibles this Sunday at Grace Community Church. Recently during a staff retreat we were thinking of ways to encourage Bible reading. We realized as we were talking that many of us in the room have many Bibles that we never use. Not having one could never be a good excuse for the church staff not to read the Bible. The more we talked, the more we recognized that there were probably others in our church with multiple Bibles they no longer use. At the same time, we are always conscious of people in our church and community who have no Bibles.

What was the solution? Have a ReWord Bible Day! This Sunday we are encouraging everyone who has one to bring in an extra Bible…the one on the book shelf, in the night stand, or in the trunk of your car. (I have one there.) We will then get them to people who need a Bible. We love the thoughts of someone reading the Bible someone else has already read.

Do you have an extra Bible (or two) laying around your house? What are you going to do with it?

When God Speaks: Answers from the Book of Job

We recently ended a series looking at the Biblical character of Job. I preached three times in this series, at the beginning and the two messages at the end of the series. Job is a complex, hard to understand book, because it forces us to wrestle with the struggles of the world. The dilemma Job faced was one we all face. How could a good, loving, all powerful God allow suffering as He does? Why doesn’t He provide us with more answers? At times, and I mean this with all due respect, God seems distant, hard to understand.

If you missed the other two sermons I shared, you can hear them HERE and HERE or watch them HERE and HERE.

This is the conclusion to the Job series.

We try each week to choose which of the three services works best. Due to recording difficulties, we captured video in one service and audio in another. Personally preferred the audio message, so you can listen to that one HERE.

7 Ways Fraternity Life Shaped Me For Ministry (Guest Post)

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a group of my Sigma Chi fraternity brothers from college.  Some of them I have seen, but not really connected with in twenty years.  It was fun, good to remember old times, and reminded me that they had made positive impacts on my life.  I was a crazy college student sometimes, but the experience has since been used for good many times.

Right after that hang out time, I Tweeted that I should write a post about what I learned in my fraternity days that helped prepare me for ministry. I got lots of reaction, but one in particular appeared to be it’s own post. I decided to make it a guest post by the author.

Ky Bishop is currently Pastor Of Ministries at Woodlands Church in Houston Texas where Kerry Shook is Senior Pastor. He’s been married 25 years to Terri and they have 3 sons ranging from 16 to 20 years of age. Ky lists his fraternity experience as Delta Tau Delta – UTA – 81

Here are 7 ways Ky’s fraternity experience prepared him for ministry:

Don’t make a god out of the organization – It was easy to get caught up in the politics of Fraternity life; organizationally, administratively, etc., and forget that the most significant contribution to your experience were the people you met and built relationships with. The same can happen in church life.

Trust your first impressions and intuition – Listen to that “Still Small Voice” inside when it comes to making friendships and inviting them into your journey. There are a lot of  “Well Intentioned Dragons” out there.

Relational intimacy percolates slowly – Just like good coffee, the best relationships are brewed properly. Instant coffee and instant relationships might be satisfying for a moment, but the heart burn is sure to come.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable – The high level of testosterone in any Frat gathering can lead to disingenuous activity. However, Jesus’ greatest work was done when he humbled himself.

Engage your brain before you engage your tongue – It is easy to get in a spit fight over non-essential matters, however, the one who keeps his cool is the one who wins.

Maintain accountability – Many a lone wolf has gone out on his own only to find himself caught in the trap. The wise Pastor will always share his inner darkness with a trusted confidant.

Intoxication, immaturity and ignorance need to “be controlled” not “in control” – Those three speak for themselves in relationship to Fraternity ways. In relation to the ministry it is easy to become intoxicated with the latest fad, fancy or fetish and allow our immaturity and ignorance to rule. However, when we keep in mind that it is His Kingdom, not ours, that is being built, we will “wait upon Him”.

Thanks Ky.  I couldn’t have said it any better.

What about you?  What would you add to Ky’s list?  Were you in a fraternity or sorority in college? Give your fraternal organization a shout out and share one way it prepared (or didn’t prepare) you for life.