Tag: Community

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.


Youth Ministry: Understanding Context – Each Ministry Will Look Different

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Jesus Loves the Little Children.”  When I first heard it, it spoke to me.   At that time I was a little child; I listened, I learned it, and began to sing it myself.  It resonated in my heart, and is likely the first time I began to think about other people different than myself.  The song continues “All the Children of the World.  Red and Yellow, Black and White/They are precious in His sight.”  Now, I had seen pictures of other kids who lived in other places, but this is the first time I considered their hopes, their dreams, and that they had lives.

Over time, I realized how God had made humanity with a huge variance of thought styles, family cultures, and interests.  Each person is made uniquely, and so the song we sung early could be endlessly amended with new lines to include verses about the creative, the logical, those who like to build, and the talkers, and philosophers.  At all age levels, ethnicities, and across the borders of the globe, we are all created as different expressions of God’s own creativity.

The Psalmist wrote: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”  (Psalm 139:13-14). We celebrate the creation God has done in us, and each of us shows God’s image expressed in a new and exciting way.

One of the first tasks of youth ministry is to understand how each group of unique people coming together creates a new world – sometimes that world is a bit explosive with the energy of the young.  But by listening to them, you may be surprised that even within the same community, their desires, needs, wants, hopes, and dreams can vary from pocket to pocket.  The information you gain over time informs what the spiritual and communal needs of your youth are.

A group of kids in a mountain farming community might find excitement doing missions in a city.  City kids might be more open to faith and growth while trusting you on a camping expedition or white water rafting trip.  Youth facing constant crisis may find a prayer circle enough, while creative youth might want to start a worship band or participate in the liturgy on Sunday mornings.  Theologically they will be all over the board.  You’ll need to discern how to fill in the gaps of the whole Gospel.

By asking a few simple questions, and ask them frequently, a big picture begins to develop.  “Where are you coming from?  Where are you at right now?  Where are you going?  How can I help you get there?”  These questions I learned in seminary and I ask at least one of them every single week with every young person, with eye contact, and we all process life together.  In the midst of learning the answers and modeling the love of Christ you’ll laugh, play games, lead trips, and teach God’s word.

Love God, love them, be a pioneer, never give up, and by knowing their world you’ll be able to help them build the programs they actually need.  As you learn, you’ll discover new ways to teach The Way.

(This article was originally published in The Advocate, South Carolina’s Connectional Newspaper for the SC United Methodist Church)

Pass It On: Hardcore Crowd Dances to Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The USA”

I don’t care who you are or if you like the music or not.  Seeing Hardcore Guys and Gals have a dance party to Miley Cyrus’s Party In The USA gives me hope that humanity will eventually be able to overcome our differences and solve the problems of war, hunger, poverty, disease, and self-destruction.  Well, I would like to think so anyways 😉  I find reasons for hope just about everywhere these days!  Thanks @gizmodo for the heads up.  Enjoy the vid and think about how you can overcome a boundary or intolerance in your life 😉

How Much Money is a Church Worth? Economically? Spiritually?

When many of us think of how much a church is worth one person might think of the cost of a wedding, others might think of the cost of counseling services, another would think of the cost to build the church building and the property, and another might think of how invaluable the people of the church have been to them.  There are a lot of valuations and ways to value what the church does in a community.  Some, who do not attend, may say the church is worth nothing at all, or very little (to them).

But according to a University of Pennsylvania study (which will likely be contended according to this blog), churches and their impact on the community has a huge quantifiable impact.  They looked at Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish “ekklesia” or gatherings (in Greek) and this is how they did it:

They added up the money generated by weddings and funerals, festivals, counseling programs, preschools, elder care. They tallied the salaries of staff and the wages of roofers, plumbers, even snow shovelers. They put dollar signs on intangibles, too, such as helping people find work and teaching children to be socially responsible.  They even measured the diameter of trees on church campuses.

So what was the worth of an average church? Over $50 million in economic and community benefits.  Considering that most churches run under a $1 million or much much less operating budget, and the property often isn’t worth more than a million or two – that is a huge impact.  It is no wonder that the Puritans made the Gathering Place (aka Church building) at the center of every town in New England.  Perhaps they were onto something.

The blogger, Todd @toddrhoades (and thanks Todd for sharing this), points out that this doesn’t even speak to the spiritual dimension of what a church brings.  Again, many will find that negligible because they do not desire a relationship with God, but for those who do (or are on the verge of coming into faith), this is life giving, and brings more cohesion to a community. On a side note, a recent Gordon-Conwell Theological economic impact study made up to respond to critics of the Seminary’s non-taxable status had a similar result.  The benefits in volunteer hours in the community alone are invaluable.

So looking at your church, does this bring a new appreciation for what God is doing through it (because you are a part of that – or should be)?  Leaders: Do your congregants know how valuable their work as the saints is?

Read the full article here or click the picture.

Its Not a Debate About Religion or Keeping Government Out of Religion – Its a Hate Fest

I grew up reading the Union Leader, and I still have a fondness for New Hampshire paper’s positive news reporting.  I particularly remember the Hometown Heroes section, and I loved reading what was going on around the state I lived in.  I Google track the term “Derry” in GoogleNews now, and I noticed an article about a church that has been meeting in West Running Brook Middle School (of which I am a graduate of).  The church is named North Ridge, and the article is great.   Its about the church wanting to raise some funds for a building to worship in, and they did a creative media campaign to raise $1 or more from a million people.  That’s a good deal, and people can decide what they give their dollars to.  No big. Its a neat story, but many would probably pass it over.

The part that really got to me, however, is the comments on the article.  Many years ago I vowed not to read comments thanks to an AOL experience that showed how bad anonymous humanity can be to one another, but since it was a small town article, I read the comments.

What quickly develops is two camps.  (1) Those who have attended the church and are glad to read an article about their pastor’s idea.  I imagine they think its affirming that the paper took the time to tell their story.  Then (2) the voice of those who really do not like religion at all.  A quote: “I guess anyone can start a church today and call themselves a “pastor”.  Nice way to avoid work, live off other people’s hard earned money and avoid paying taxes.” There is an open disgust with churches and those associated with them, and regardless of whether they know anyone at the church – they lambaste whoever comes to its defense.

Next, something even more troubling happens.  People not associated with the church come to defense of the church.  By this time the argument has become so convoluted, that it eventually becomes a Religion vs. Anti-Religion debate. Personal attacks on argument style ensue, and people forget the actual article and just duke it out.  This happens in every article that has a Religious association.

I’m trying to understand the other position on this, but this is what the argument looks like against religious folks:

(1) “Separation of church and state” means total and absolute non-existence of a religious world view in the public sphere. Especially government.  There is no consideration that religious word views are core to many people’s lives, so technically every decision they make, and the very way they think is wrong.  Thus, it should be erased with shame, maiming, and personal attacks.  Sounds a bit like fascism to me.  Several concerns were about how the town of Derry should not support a church.  They don’t seem to realize that these churches rent out the space and pay their way based on availability (at a time the school would usually be not used at all – in fact, those complaining are probably asleep).  But perception, and lack of knowledge combine to create the griping.

(2) The church is a mooch. The pastor lives off of fools who give money, and there is no benefit in return.  Its a numbers game, tricking as many people into your flock as possible, getting as much out of it as possible, and doing silly things to make them think its worthwhile.  But many pastors are people who could have gone into another field and have made millions more doing something else, and yet they have chosen, on faith, to come to a community, and serve people by performing marriages, caring for the sick, praying for the people of the church, and deal with community strife, among trying to build consensus among very strong personalities to bring about Good in this world.  There are bad pastors, but most are trying to do good – and are accomplishing it!

(3) Believers are all ignorant and uneducated. I can see where if you don’t believe, church would seem somewhat silly sometimes.  But the religious texts, histories, traditions, and beliefs have been around much longer than any of us and need at least to be considered.  While some religious trappings may seem odd to those who don’t practice (even to those of faith looking at another way to celebrate the same faith) – we still should respect another human being – AND respect their Human Dignity and allow them the benefit of the doubt that if they choose to have faith – that there is some rationale to it.  Faith and Reason certainly can go hand in hand.  And a word to Christians – we know we look like Fools to others.  Accept it, and stop fighting fire with fire.

It is unfortunate that online we think we are allowed to be like animals.  Tearing into each other will only leave everyone wounded, laying on the ground, unable to make a move.  This no win game wastes energy, and distracts us from some very human goals that those of faith, and those without could be doing together.  I think that is what sickens me the most, and I hope that we can begin to realize that the people on the other side of the internet are humans too.

The Hate Language Has Got To Go

Extreme Home Makeover Builds More Than A House

‘Extreme Makeover’ builds more than a house


Published Monday, January 24, 2011

Few things get entire communities excited these days — but the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has a way of blowing into a neighborhood like a fresh wind.

Rallying people around families in need of proper housing and telling their stories to the world make for a stirring occasion. Honestly, I have a hard time watching episodes of “Extreme Makeover” because I get emotional and my wife likes to look over and see if there are any tears.

Two recent local builds, one in Savannah and the other in Beaufort, have highlighted the power of this production to bring together people from all walks of life to reach out and make heaven on earth a reality for some very deserving people.

We all need a place to call home. The desire for safety and comfort away from trouble is deep-rooted and always has been necessary for us to feel truly human. The hidden reality of the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis, in which Adam and Eve made the first family, is that the garden was a safe place. It was not only a place where there was plenty of food and water, but it was a place filled with God’s presence, and the love that God had for his creation was stated over and over, “It is good.”

Since losing that perfect safety, people have cultivated the earth to rebuild paradise, and success is sometimes fleeting, depending on the times.

People do have a global outlook now more than ever, with access to information in every corner. It is easy to lose oneself in the data, as it is obvious that multitudes of people are not in safe situations and need help.

“How can I do anything to bring hope to the world, when I am such a small person?” we might ask. But outfits such as “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and its energetic crew, remind us that a few people with strong vision, lots of energy and the attitude of “We’re going to do something good” can actually bring about change in a modern version of an Amish barn-raising.

Ty Pennington hasn’t started something new with his show. The needs that his crew addresses have been met by many in the past and in the present. The churches of the world and the good people who have seen the call to “go out” to the world have been building homes, orphanages and lives for centuries, out of pure love for God’s diverse people across the globe.

When the cameras leave town and those in the community reflect on what has happened, hopefully they see a symbol of what all our communities are capable of.

With or without a television program, there’s still more work to be done.

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

Read more: The Island Packet

Despite What We See, Humans Are Capable of Great Hospitality

Humans are capable of great good

Published Monday, January 10, 2011


The irony of American culture is that while we try to practice the art of hospitality, we are confronted by many stories of the opposite.

Murders, shootings, burglaries and other injustices are reported so that we are aware of what’s happening and can remain safe, but hearing about these occurrences also confirms something in our souls: Something isn’t right with us if there is always such bad news.

Then there are the stories that hit closer to home — that we don’t talk about in polite company, that are only whispered on the side. Our stomachs churn when we hear them, and our eyes squint because the mind and heart are not made to take these things in.

This is nothing new.

Do you can remember in Sunday school when you were shocked to find that the Bible doesn’t just record the good stories but also the ones that are terrible, if not horrifying?

I remember my friends asking our teacher about the stories of rape, murder, prostitution and incest in the Bible, wondering why they were in there because the Bible was supposed to be a tablet of morals like the Ten Commandments. We didn’t yet realize that even God’s people weren’t perfect, and that darkness and injustice in the hearts of people might be the biggest reason Christ’s sacrifice was seen as a game-changer.

In one event at the end of the regular life of Jesus, people saw that evil has consequences and that God cares more about justice than we realize.

This Christmas season, Bluffton felt the pains of inhospitality in our own community when a shooting in a local neighborhood left a father dead in the street on Christmas Eve. This story is now whispered among us, and increases the irony we feel — a family has lost someone they love, and at a time of celebration and a time to remember hope. Once again, we are forced to deal with the ugly side of humanity.

Collectively, it seems that we are losing the art of Gastfreundschaft, a concept first discussed by the brilliant writer Henry Nouwen as “friendship for the guest.” His words on hospitality echo in my mind: “Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.”

It is a positive philosophy of welcoming others, and it is a choice to let others in, and to experience them for who they are. But if we all close ourselves off, more and more atrocities will occur.

Reaching out and caring about those who are alien to us is a primary way to reclaim who we are as human beings. Believe it or not, we are made to do good, and can accomplish great things together.

Remember the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis? His brothers had sold him into slavery in Egypt, and when they later asked for forgiveness, realizing the slave had become a king, he responded, “‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.nesis 50:19)

While Joseph could have retaliated and continued the cycle of evil, he turned events around and made a hospitable space. That kind of justice puts a stop to cycles of evil and frustration. It is the way the irony we live within, with God’s help, could disappear.

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

Meth is Bad, But So Are the Ads

A few months ago a new type of advertisement began playing.  It was a response by Civil and Police Authority to respond to the high rate of Meth Addiction happening in their jurisdictions.  Each ad began with a young person saying, “I’ll try Meth just once.”  Then there would be screaming, crying, smashing, and some disturbing images.  The main character would become a Gullum (Lord of the Rings reference) like character, and a very affective slogan, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” would be called out in despair.  Basically, Meth is bad.

The truth is, Meth DOES mess people up, and it IS really really bad.  It messes up brain chemistry, it decays your teeth, and destroys the moral capabilities of a human being.  That’s why such a response was called for, and that’s why communities are so adamant about gettting out the word.

While audiences were being terrorized during dramas, sitcoms, and action shows (which young people, the target demographic, also watch), the word was getting out on its own.  A report by the University of Washington shows that in states both where ads were run and where they were not, Meth use has been down trending at asimilar rate.  So in asking the great question of Advertising “Did we hit our target audience?” the answer is “Probably Not.”

Because Meth is so bad, and it does destroy lives so evidently, the face to face word got out faster than the artistic expressions of the real thing.

So how will the ads be remembered?  Not necessarily as effective, but by me, it will be the time that I changed the channel quickly, and then turned it back after 30-45 seconds.  The ads were gut wrenching at times, and it was hard to watch.  Yes, Meth is bad, but so are the ads.

Making The Best Change Possible: A[(n) Old] New Year’s Resolution

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

-The Book of Jeremiah (29:11)

The second New Years 2011 hit, we were deluged on Twitter and Facebook with various articles on resolutions and what we’re all going to do better this year over last.  Personally, I vowed not to resolve anything.  For myself, resolutions are a daily thing I do with a To Do list, as I assess how I failed yesterday and humbly reassess how I’m going to do today better.  It’s a part of my personal confession, and a prayer that is continuously given up and redone.  But for half of Americans, New Years is a time for major change – and this year like any others, it is about changing one’s Self that is on everyone’s list.  See Christian Post Article here for stats and evaluation of American Resolution.

The article has an interesting quote that struck me: “While few Americans succeed in keeping their commitments, Kinnaman noted that the bigger problem may be that Americans focus almost exclusively on themselves when wanting to experience some sort of personal change ‘rather than realizing that lasting change often comes by serving and sacrificing for others‘” (italics added for emphasis).  I thought a bit about that, and since I am currently serving God at a Methodist church, which has a huge emphasis on social justice (and I looooove that), something still bothered me about the assessment.  There is a component missing that makes without being said, resolutions still feel empty to me.

At last Sunday’s children’s sermon, done by an amazing parent at our church, “Resolutions” was the topic.  I was struck about the part about making Self-Centered resolutions, and how we often break our promises to ourselves, but – And the message was focused on Simeon, the man who had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Savior.  God had made him a promise, and in his old age, Simeon in the temple, never gave up on God’s promise – and the promise was fulfilled. The point?  We often don’t fulfill our promises to our own Self, but God always keeps his.  The takeaway – make some promises to others and keep them by following God’s example. A brilliantly crafted message that hits the heart of our selfishness, and puts the center on God.

I would like to emphasize the big point, and many would agree with me, that if you make a resolution, and it is not a promise that comes out of your devotion and love for God, it will not succeed.  As simple and simultaneously complex as we humans are, we are not reliable creatures.  We do not know the future, and our promises mean very little.  God, however, knows all things, and cares for all of us, and it is only in focusing on God, the perfect one, that we become more perfected, and our resolutions (in conjunction with God’s plan for our lives) begin to make more sense.

While I do not make a resolution this year, I will say that each day, I will try to walk more closely with God, and I will rely on God’s faithfulness to help me carry out this plan for my year.