Mobile Ministry: Bringing God’s word to the people of the Community

Mobile ministry brings word of God to the people of the community

20091022 Churchgoers

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

Published: June 21, 2013

The Bluffton Packet, supplement to The Island Packet

 

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “mobile” as a person with a ministry.

I’ve found that so much of my time ministering to young people has been spent on the road in my little Toyota, on the various winding roads and highways around Hilton Head Island and Bluffton.

At the beginning of my ministry, I spent hours at a desk doing administrative work and getting little things done here and there, but the more I built relationships with the various communities our church serves, I cut down desktime and have learned to do much more on the road. My desk is sometimes replaced by rented tables paid for by my cup of coffee, or by spending a few moments at Saint Andrew’s new Bluffton Ministry Center near Dairy Queen — there is free Wifi there. Wherever my laptop sits, I become a hub of relationships, communications and learning.

A Google search for “Mobile Ministry” brings up articles about ministers preaching on circuits, trucker ministries and various other long-distance traveling ministries. The kind of ministry I’m talking about is not long distance. I am talking about the kind that develops around a “regional” church.

When people find a church they are willing to drive 35 minutes or so to reach, you have a “regional” church. These churches have families from wide and varying communities from urban to countryside, and so the ministers (lay and clergy) quickly learn to live beyond their own hamlet, and see the varying contexts interacting all over.

Here in our area, we have unique culture in each plantation and neighborhood. Our people have all sorts of ways of life and perspectives, so we become more creative to connect and serve, unify and challenge wisely. It would be easy to use the church as a hub and never leave it, because so many people come to this beacon set in the proverbial waters of the communities, like an academic who never leaves the seminary and finds oneself trapped in an ivory tower. The light on the outside of the church walls is just a fable to that person, and eventually the sermons and the advice of the one caring for the community makes little sense to those who live on the outside of the cave.

No, we must go out and be in the community.

Look at Jesus: He did not spend much time in one place, and it seems to have been a reality of the Jewish culture that his family traveled for various reasons. When Jesus was born, a census forced him to be born in a stable (Luke 2:7). After his birth, his family went to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous attempt to stop the future claim to Kingship (Matthew 2:13). As a youth, he ended up at the temple asking questions of the teachers (Luke 2:46). After his ministry began, he then set out traveling, spanning the heights of Samaria to the depths of the Dead Sea toward the mountains around Jerusalem.

Jesus and his disciples were on the move, an urgency of mission moved them, and Paul and successive generations have moved with little time to remain static, and if so, only to teach for a time. So if Jesus was on the move, we as his followers must consider and act on the power and energy of that movement.

The nice thing about being mobile is that you become a central command for the community. Like a plant reaching out and connecting to new plots of soil and spreading life, you become the shoot that seeds love and hope in many different pots full of fertile soil.

After many years of being a “runner,” or a mobile minister, you begin to see the harvest come to bloom in various ways. God begins to bless the work, and you may see others becoming ministers to the community themselves. It truly is a blessing to see people you’ve cared about care for others and begin to bloom. Here’s to the hubs and nodes — keep connecting, keep moving and bring the Good News to your multicommunity community.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

 

Beginning in Youth Ministry: Remaining in Adulthood and Maintaining Boundaries

Beginning in Youth Ministry:

Remaining in Adulthood and Maintaining Boundaries

By Daniel Griswold

 (This is the original copy prior to publication in The Advocate Newspaper of the United Methodist Church in South Carolina)

You are at a retreat with an audience of young people, ages 12-17.  Their expressions have no emotion whatsoever, and it is clear that the group is assessing whether they’re going to trust you or not.  You haven’t been a pre-teen or teen for a long time, and you’re a bit terrified.  Earlier, you had thought about some of the most memorable moments in your growth in faith, and for some reason nothing much came.  You’ve searched the scriptures and no word searches for “Youth Ministry” bore fruit.  It is clear that the parents of the church wants you to connect as soon as possible, so you’re going to do what generations of youth ministers have done before you – something stupid is about to happen.

Will you climb some impossibly steep cliff to wow them?  Will you eat a mixture of Tabasco sauce, dog food and Hershey’s syrup to prove your undying love for their souls?  Will you take a paintball for the team? Will you give them permission to jump out of the car in traffic or allow them to investigate a corner where someone swears they saw an alligator?  Will you laugh at crude jokes, or sneer at one group to gain favor with another group?

I’ll tell you, all of these things are stupid things, and I’m not sure what it is about youth ministry and our innate desire to fit in that short-wires the ability of some folks to remain acting like adults.  As youth workers, it is clear we need to be mindful of a theology of wisdom.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverbs 9:9)

While I believe that there is a place for a bit of controlled chaos and creating memorable experiences that bond the group, it is also important that the leader of a group be exactly that, a “Leader”.  The leader or leaders are responsible for not only safety, but also the deep growth of a group.  A youth ministry mentor of mine, Dean Borgman, often says, “You can’t lead others where you haven’t gone yourself.”  So we have to ask a few questions that have deep implications for us as adults ministering to the young.

(1) What is our purpose as ministers to young people?  I believe it is to nurture lifelong disciples of Christ.  We partner with the Holy Spirit to grow young saints who will impact the world and better it by engendering the Gospel. Then,

(2) If young people reflected my actions, who will they become?  In the Youth Ministry textbook, “Starting Right,” there is a call to discern your “Theological Rocks” which build a foundation for your young people as they try out the Christian life.  Is your ministry Jesus focused? And is nearly dying falling off a cliff to impress and entertain, one of them?  Probably not.  Jesus didn’t do that – He was very intentional.

Maybe you’re not that young stereotypical crazy youth minister, but perhaps you’ve compromised on something that you knew wasn’t right.  You may also be running a “self” centered group based on your own personality rather than the awe of God.  It might be time to take a few moments to align yourself with God’s spirit.  Ask yourself, if I really believe that Jesus is with me, right now, and that he is among us when we gather with our youth, then how should we act and what ways will we live out this high calling as Christians?  Is there a new covenant we need to make between our young people and ourselves?

Personally, I’ve discovered a love for good games of Ulitimate Frisbee and dodge ball (which incidentally blew out my shoulder for 8 months last year), but we do it after prayer, a meal, and a devotion probing the scriptures.  I’ve found that most kids get deep discipleship over time, that I’m not just their youth leader and fellow journeyman on earth, but I’m also their prayer warrior, their conversational theologian, their listening counselor, and I take seriously the call to be their protector.  That means implementing a Safe Sanctuaries policy and adhering to it, that means keeping them off the roof of the car, and that means we’re modeling the fullness of life they can have in the future.  Let’s take the long road and build a foundation of stone.

The Sacred Landscape of Music – a Transcendant Realm in Which We Meet God

Soul blues ILLUS

Music an important part of creating a sacred space for worship

Published: May 21, 2013

For The Island Packet, in the Bluffton Edition

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

My dad, Larry, is an awesome guy. He was a great provider for our family. He’s wise, a hard worker, and he always let my brother and I “help” him with things around our home. I’ll never forget moving logs while he cut them with his ax.

I’ve inherited many traits from him, including the habit of writing in all capitals (he was a drafting major early in college). One thing I know I got from him is my taste in music. He had many records, but it was his CD collection that caught my attention in middle school. I was first exposed to Roy Orbison, America, The Moody Blues, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac and, in the Christian music sphere, Keith Green. Listening to those albums are in my memory as sacred journeys full of meaning as I tried to understand my place and life in general. My mom is also a prolific writer and musician. I’ve always felt wrapped in the warm clothing of music from birth.

Later, in college, I wrote a paper on music, itself, being sacred space. A practice I’d learned living in a mobile home with four siblings in tight quarters was closing my eyes while listening, and, in effect, journeying into the music and seeing the words in my imagination. This quote by Beldon C. Lane from the book “Sacred Landscapes” gripped me:

“Sacred place is not at all necessarily pastoral and rural in character — something to be sharply distinguished from fabricated spaces of an urban landscape. It is, after all, a function of the religious imagination, not a quality inherent in the locale as such. That is why Americans fascinated by the power of new machines in the late 19th century could speak with religious fervor of standing in the presence of a huge electrical generator … The sacred space, in short, takes root in that which may form the substance of our daily lives, but is transformed by the imagination to that which is awe-inspiring.”

Most churches include some sort of musical entryway into the realm of the sacred. In the tradition of the temple priests, bands now play with guitars and drums rather than harps and flutes, but there remains a journey that one takes as we remember God amidst the paradox of movement while stationary, created by our distinct sounds. Perhaps a well-built, tuned organ with an excellent organist brings your heart to a new place beyond the walls.

Music is a space that can transform any warehouse into a temple. The necessary requirements are the human beings seeking God. Music is just one of many landscapes where we can find God’s footsteps.

If there are people seeking out there in a language that the church does not use, or living in a space that the church does not like, should the church learn that language or enter that space?

I believe so, and in the freedom of the American church, I can envision more churches sprouting up in YMCAs, store fronts and fields of grass, as people begin to recognize that the place of worship is irrelevant when the body of Christ comes together and welcomes the “other,” wherever they may be, and in whatever music style they experience life.

The church is more than its walls, and more than even the music, because none of these things would exist if it were not for the people who mold them or the God that made them.

It is us who need to move into the new spaces in order for real ministry to begin.

 

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

 

Dealing with the Doubts of Thomas, our Twin (Article)

 

Doubting Thomas might have a twin … in us

Published: April 24, 2013

The Island Packet, Bluffton Edition

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

Since moving to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton area, I’ve noticed something I thought was unique: There are an incredible number of twins in the area.

When I first started as a youth director at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church on Hilton Head, our youth ministry had three groups of twins participating. I even met a family who had adopted twins from Russia. I remember thinking, after meeting quite a few more older sets of twins, that there must be something in the water that natives hadn’t told us about. After some quick Internet research, I became less surprised.

Since the 1980s, twins have become more common and make up about 1 in every 30 births in our country. As is expected, they can be extremely connected to one another, sometimes creating verbal cues and language they alone understand. Despite this, they tend to be very competitive and can push each other pretty hard. And, later in life, it can be hard for the two to separate into adult lives apart.

I mention this because Thomas, the “doubter” of Jesus’ resurrection, has the Greek name, Didymus, which is Greek for “twin.” Twice I’ve read through the story of Thomas, who said he would not believe Jesus had returned until he saw the Lord’s wounds in person. Jesus appears, and Thomas awakens in faith. In the process, this twin has had a lot of bad publicity, but I think he’s gotten a bad deal.

If Thomas was a twin, the Scriptures do not mention the other. It is possible he had lost his twin earlier in his life. In a literary sense, many interpreters speculate that we (as in the readers as individuals) may be the “twin” of Thomas, facing our own doubts as we hear and weigh the gospel. A Gnostic Gospel (written long after the gospels) attributes the twin to be Jesus himself. I read one article that humorously remarked how surprised Mary and Jesus himself would have been to hear that. The first explanation resonates with me, and this has colored my view of Thomas in a totally different hue.

If Didymus was a twin who was separated from someone with whom he’d been so close, his connection to Jesus would have been different from that of the other disciples. Churches sometimes talk today about having a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. Who would understand this more than a twin? Who would have a natural understanding of having a deep and intimate friendship and bond with someone they love and respect? And who would have had the hardest time dealing with the death of their Lord and the relationship with the master?

Previously, Thomas was stout in faith and courage. In John chapter 11, he told the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” as Jesus deals with the death of Lazarus. He then seems to experience some separation anxiety in John chapter 14, “Thomas said to [Jesus], ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?'” when Jesus begins mentioning his own demise in the progression toward Jerusalem and the cross. I’ve read that this also explains why Thomas may not have been with the other disciples when they saw Jesus the first time. Was he in intense grief, unable to bear company or comfort, dealing with the death of his hopes and dreams that had previously been invested in Jesus?

Then Christ appears to him, and he is once again awakened. The connection is unbroken, and the source of life is returned to a broken and hurting spirit. He believes, and from that moment Thomas’s life has a clear direction. He is recorded to have ministered as far as present-day Iran and he died preaching and teaching the good news of his lord, Jesus Christ.

If I were to “go” like Thomas did, and believe with the passion of a committed twin, what could we accomplish? Who would receive the hope that emanates from the light of belief in our hearts? We could turn the love we have received into a tangible expression of goodness for our world. Let’s tell the stories of how moving from brokenness and doubt toward the moment belief transforms everything.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

 

Interesting Article: Youth ministry at Clemson UMC: more than fun and games (repost from the SC Advocate)

Revolution Bracelets

Youth ministry at Clemson UMC: more than fun and games

By Ken Garfield

(reposted here)

This was first published in Faith & Leadership, http://www.faithand leadership.com, and The Advocate Newspaper for the SC UMC.

The youth ministries room at Clem- son United Methodist Church in Clem- son, S.C., still has an old sofa, the type that teenagers typically occupy on Sunday evenings far and wide across the faith landscape.But that’s one of the few vestiges of the past in a youth ministry work-ing to educate young Christians in a deeper way. Believing that the role of the church is to mold young people into serious students and devoted disciples, the 1,000-member congregation, located a mile from Clemson University, has shifted the focus of its work with youth.Leading that effort is a Duke Divinity School student who is convinced that his charges are capable of more than fun and games.“It’s about giving students credit for being able to be theologians,” said Jad Taylor, Clemson UMC’s director of youth ministries. “It’s helping students understand their part in this wonderful story.”Taylor, 26, is part of the first class in the Master of Arts in Christian Practice program, a two-year degree track at Duke Divinity School with an emphasis on educating youth pastors and other lay professional ministers serving local congregations.Jeff Conklin-Miller, assistant profes- sor of the practice of Christian formation and director of the MACP program, said the idea is to share this model of pas- toring with youth ministers who aren’t theologically trained so that they, in turn, can help youth understand their role in the broader Christian story.

The old youth ministry model? Order pepperoni pizzas, update the kids on the ski trip, bring up a sensitive topic like dating, toss out a few applicable Bible verses, then repeat, with a different topic, the following Sunday evening.The new (actually, quite ancient) model that MACP is teaching Taylor and the 25 other students in the program?“What is the Christian church about?” Conklin-Miller said. “What is discipleship? What is baptism? This is an invitation for youth to see themselves as part of the narrative of God’s redemptive work in creation.“Suddenly, they have a different way of thinking about what it means to be youth in the church. What’s most important in youth ministry isn’t someone who’s, quote unquote, good with kids but someone who is deeply committed to the church’s ministry of formation.”
Insights from the Youth AcademyThe MACP program and the vision of youth ministry that it seeks to foster draws heavily on insights gleaned by the Divinity School over 12 years of operating the Duke Youth Academy. There, each summer, high school students and counselors gather on the Duke campus for two weeks of worship, classes and dialogue aimed at helping youth appreciate their role in the Christian story. Launched with a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the youth academy It’s about giving students credit for being able to be theologians.– Jad Taylor Clemson UMC’s director of youth ministries“embodies the philosophy at the heart of the MACP program. The academy’s vi- sion statement puts it this way:“Authentic Christian communities do not isolate or ghettoize youth in a hodgepodge of lock-ins and pool par- ties. Instead they welcome youth into their very center as they seek to embody faithful life and worship before God.“The same graceful means that have sustained God’s people historically – worship, sacrament, serious study of Scripture and theology, prayer, service with the poor, hospitality, self-denial, spiritual direction and accountability – are what youth hunger for today.”In this spirit, Conklin-Miller said, the youth of the church belong in the sanctuary pews on Sunday mornings, and not on those old sofas in the youth room.At Clemson UMC, the young people in the youth ministry sit up front in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, just below the pulpit, said the Rev. Keith Ray, the church’s senior pastor.“It means they are integrated into the whole of the congregation,” he said. “It’s one of the things we value at Clemson. We feel the youth learn a lot by being with the older folks, and the older folks learn a lot from them.”
Taylor, a native of Columbia, graduated from Clemson in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biosystems en- gineering. The son of an optometrist and a nurse, he was planning on becoming an eye doctor like his father – until the first summer he spent as a counselor at a Christian camp in Colorado changed everything. There in the Rocky Mountains, he fell in love with the idea of shaping youth and being shaped by youth.“I felt like my gifts and talents and passions were all being used,” he said. “That’s a hard feeling to shake.”The spring of his senior year, a few weeks before graduation, the Rev. Lane Glaze, director of the Clemson Wesley Foundation and campus minister for Clemson UMC, told him that the church was looking for a youth pastor.‘Where I need to be’That very moment Taylor told him- self, “That’s where I need to be.”After another summer at the camp in Colorado, he went to work at the church, in August 2008, and started in the MACP program three years later, intent on infusing his passion with scholar- ship. Clemson UMC is paying his way in return for Taylor’s commitment thathe’ll remain there for at least three years after he graduates this summer, until 2016. This is how a self-confessed “crazy-haired” youth pastor has come to devote himself to Clemson UMC youth in grades 6-12. With his blue jeans and sandals and a mop of curly hair, Taylor looks the part. Conklin-Miller talked about Taylor’s outgoing personality and how he ends his emails with “much love.”
The kids at Clemson UMC clearly embrace him. Charles Withington, 16, mentioned the fall retreat when the entire youth group came together to explore God’s story in some out-of-the- box ways. To express the joy of Palm Sunday, they danced. To ponder Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, they spent time quietly in a garden. At night, they gazed at the stars. Whether at a retreat or the Sunday night gathering, or whenever he needs someone to talk to, Charles always knows where to turn.“I can tell Jad anything,” he said. Another Clemson youth, 18-year-old Hunter Smith, offered similar praise.“Jad is really accepting of any person he comes into contact with,” he said. “To me, his faith is overwhelming.”His ever-present smile notwithstanding, youth ministry is serious business for Taylor. On a rainy evening, the final Sunday before Lent, his upbeat purposefulness came across in a gathering devoted to Jesus’ 40 days in the desert and what that means to teens navigating life in the complicated 21st century.Following a dinner of red beans and rice, church member and New Orleans native Jill Evans talked about Mardi Gras traditions as the youth devoured a king cake, the colorful pastry identified with pre-Lenten revelry.
Several teenagers then read aloud the story from Matthew 4:1-11, how Jesus rejected the temptations of the devil and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus’ wilderness experience, Taylor told the youth as they fiddled with their Mardi Gras beads, reminds us that we are not alone, no matter the temptations and pitfalls we face. He shared what he called his own desert experience, the death of his grandmother and having to see his mother suffer.“The deserts we’re going through, Jesus has been there,” he said. “It’s OK for us to enter into deserts together.”Later, in small groups, the high school boys talked about what they could give up for Lent. Some suggested video games and speeding.Taylor again gently turned the con- versation inward. Our earthly pursuits, he suggested aloud, turn us into some- thing we’re not. They hide what’s really in our souls. By giving up something, during Lent and beyond, perhaps we reveal our vulnerabilities in a way that strengthens us. “Weakness is not un- cool,” he told the boys before the group of 35 came back together to sing a final song. “Being vulnerable is good.”
Intense at the DYAThe MACP program combines intensive, on-campus seminars and Web-based distance learning that allows the students to remain in full-time youth ministry in their home churches. One of the most intense of those intensive on-campus sessions happens at the Duke Youth Academy each summer. During two weeks in June, 45 rising high school juniors and seniors from across the nation unite at Duke to worship, pray, serve, and share meals and conversation. The students participate in service projects, hear faculty speakers from Duke Divinity School and meet daily in small reflection groups. It is all meant to inspire teens to take a fresh look at God, the church and themselves.The experience must be compelling, since youth flock to the DYA, even with the 7:30 a.m. wake-up call each day.The MACP students also attend the youth academy, but not as “campers,” counselors or other staff.“We are intentional about that,” Conklin-Miller said. “They are ‘participant-observers’ and members of the worshipping-learning-serving commu- nity of DYA.”Last summer, Taylor and two youth from Clemson UMC were part of the youth academy. Raven Howard, 18, a senior at Daniel High School in Central, S.C., remembers focusing on the story of God as seen through the five C’s – Creation, Covenant, Christ, Church and Coming Reign.“You learn a lot about how the story of God relates to our story,” he said. “I think it is our story.”Howard loved how they were encouraged to view the youth academy’s daily communion as a thanksgiving dinner filled with conversation and laughter.
Less laugh-producing was the worship service his group was asked to plan.“It was interesting but kind of stress- ful,” he said.Through it all, Howard said, Taylor was there, just as he is each Sunday evening, stirring conversation, listening and, most of all, accepting.“Jad doesn’t force what he thinks on people,” Howard said.‘What ministry will it be?’What’s next? Taylor is committed to Clemson UMC through 2016. Knowing that part of his vocation is working with teenagers, he’s thinking through whether or not to seek ordination. The MACP would qualify him to seek ordination as a deacon in the UMC, but he would have to go back to school and get an M.Div. to pursue ordination as an elder.“The entire question of ordination is new and still unfolding for me,” he said. “Five years ago, I did not suspect that I would be working in a local church, much less considering a call to lifelong, full-time parish ministry.”
For now, Taylor is content to walk beside youth as he works toward his MACP degree online and on campus. He frames his future around a question that Fred Edie, the youth academy’s founding director and now an associate professor of the practice of Christian education, likes to share at the academy, where he still serves as a faculty adviser.“The question is not, ‘Will it be ministry?’” says Edie, “but, ‘What ministry will it be?’”“His words stay at the front of my heart, mind and soul each and every day,” Taylor said. 

Pastor’s Corner: Hope and Reconnecting in Lenten Season

Lent

Take a moment to reconnect with God — and hope — this Lenten season

Published: February 25, 2013 

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

Our church has a wonderful basketball program for children called Upward. Each year it has grown, and I love being in the midst of so many kids learning teamwork, respect and the skills they need to play like pros. The coaches are great role models, and I’m proud of their hard work and humility.

Usually Coach Bob gets to do the devotion, but a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak on the definition of “hope.” Upward defined it simply as “the ability to see the positive even when bad things happen.” I spoke about puzzle pieces given each day by God and how we don’t always see the big picture, but that God sees it all — he has the box; he made it. We learned that we can trust in God and that he is going to bring about good things, even though bad things do happen.

I used a simple illustration: My wife, Amanda, and I had been searching for a miniature Schnauzer to fall in love with as we celebrate 10 years of marriage. We felt it was time, but whenever tried to set up appointments to meet with a possible adoptee, something went wrong or the puppy was given away. I kept getting my hopes up, and then it would all be over that evening. It was very sad, and my hopes sagged.

Then one day Amanda told me a family was coming to visit and they had a 3-year-old named Bella. I once again became excited, and that Thursday evening we officially adopted Isa-bella, the fluffiest, cutest, most amazing mini-Schnauzer to have ever lived (in our opinion, of course). My heart was happy, and she instantly became a part of our family. So much so that I have a hard time not talking about her all the time. We even set up a Facebook page devoted to her atwww.facebook.com/bellas.beard. She’s incredibly adorable.

The big picture of that puzzle certainly wasn’t apparent to me, and I had lost hope. I tried to bury my optimism because if I hoped too much I’d feel disappointed. In the back of my mind, though, in a small corner of my heart, hope grew. That small part of me celebrated when we met her. It was like when the angels celebrate as a person comes to God and begins to trust in him.

Yes, I felt very glad when it all came together.

Now that we have entered the season of Lent, I have even more reason to feel hope and gladness. As we retrace the horrible events that led to Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross, we’re getting closer to the annual celebration of Easter — the day Christians remember Jesus’ victory over sin and death. It all looked so grim, and suddenly there was a win.

In this time, we look inward and try to remove anything that hinders our spiritual walk, and add things that will bring us closer to walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

In my case, that means I’ll be turning off NPR — “fasting” for portions of my car ride — and I’ll be listening to God’s quiet voice (through prayer). It means I’ll try to rearrange my life into patterns that help me love all people (alms/doing good), which means I really need to give a little more of myself to more good things. Less “me” and more “us.” And I’ll be doing this in thankfulness for what God has given me, because when it comes down to it, everything I have belongs to God — including you, including me … and, of course, Bella.

Lent is a good time to resync with the one who created us; to plug into the source and feel his goodness. My hope is that no matter what darkness is in your life, you’ll see the dots of light surrounding you and that you’ll find in yourself a flame that will never die.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

Are You The Leader God is Calling?

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Are You The Leader God is Calling

For three years, Jesus poured himself into a core group of 12 people. These guys had lived ordinary lives, but, after being called, became greater through faith and service, proclaiming a new era through the gospel. Young King David lived as a sheep herder, but was anointed (blessed by God) by the priest and Judge Samuel, and through God’s calling, he became the renowned and beloved king of Israel. His son was considered the wisest man in the world.

Going further back in time, after the time of Moses and Joshua had passed, and judges would rule over Israel, there was a time of warfare and oppression with no one able to bring about victory over their enemies. A young man named Gideon received a messenger from God and soon he would lead his people to major military victories. He mentioned how he was a weak part of a clan that was least of his tribe, and yet he was used to lead a great campaign for God’s work.

Leadership is a hard thing, and Christian leadership even more so. Leadership in the faith community means putting on the mind of Christ, having vision, and being able to take a group of people with you toward a deeper and more holy discipleship in God’s ways.

If we relied on the news to tell us what leaders of faith are up to, it would seem that the bar for faith leadership is very low. That’s unfortunate, because for the myriad people who have given their lives to their calling, whether it is as a pastor, missionary, theologian, worship leader, youth pastor or whatever, the majority have lived up to the high standards held up in the third chapter of 1 Timothy, telling us that overseers of the church are not to be greedy; they are to be self-controlled, hospitable, able to teach and be mature in faith. They are to be bold and dignified in their calling of faith in manner and conduct. Those who fail but are humble are not bad people, though it is regrettable that so many have used ministry as a way to lord their own plans and visions. But the ideal is set high, so when we see a person who is false, they can be confronted.

In testing leadership, there is a trinity of calling that can illuminate the path. 1. Is a person feeling the call to leadership and feeling they have the gifts for it? 2. Has God placed a burden on the heart for others so they give of themselves to the work? 3. Has the community called them and confirmed the gifts of the leader, and that these gifts are needed and affirmed? The community can care for and test the leader, building a bond together as the work of God is done, and the good news is spread.

In our own youth group there are those who are beginning to feel the pangs toward Christian leadership. Each summer we have college aged interns and volunteers who explore ministry and test whether God is really giving them a passion to appeal to the hearts of people and care for the spirit. I am praying for them as they step out in faith and begin to serve. We are in a time of great transition, and many are searching for good leaders to do the work of ministry together.

As the world contemplates the future of faith and its place in society, as the Catholic church prays and convenes in the selection of a new Holy See, as our conferences and denominations appoint pastors, and as each local church calls leaders to shepherd and teach, let us be full of prayer for the spirit of all leadership in all places. God’s spirit is moving, faith is not stagnant, and leadership refreshes itself for each generation. Are your eyes open for new works of grace? Are you the leader God is calling? How will your work find purpose and bring life? How will you respond?

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com

Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/03/13/2418580/are-you-the-leader-god-is-calling.html#storylink=cpy