What the Church could learn from Legos

Cowboys in Church thanks Jason for the Legos
Cowboys in Church
thanks Jason for the Legos

The appeal of a miniscule, plastic, studded block has stretched the limits of kids’ imaginations, challenges the latest technology in sales, and plagued parents walking barefoot to the kitchen at 3 am. There are few things that match the pain of stepping on a lego brick laying isolated on a hardwood floor. As “play” becomes more and more passive and sedentary, with an influx of apps and screen games, the little brick has managed to not only survive, but thrive. It’s fitting that a company that makes blocks that stick together, would be able to hang on in the rapidly changing entertainment market. They, Lego, would call it “clutch power”, the ability to stick together. Much has been written on how the Church is a lego-like community. Lego’s, like Christians, weren’t meant to be alone. Have you ever played with a single lego? But I can speak from experience that the Church has struggled to think in “clutch power” as it comes to service, specifically when it comes to men.

A recent Popular Science article claims: “it has been calculated that there are more than 900 million possible combinations for six eight-stud bricks.”* Nine-hundred million combinations for six bricks? Creativity has no limits. I preface that by saying some men are well connected to the church in both belonging and service, as long as they are gifted properly. Simply take a look at the places to serve in the church and most of them appeal to women. They are places that women are naturally gifted, skilled, and experienced; often times outside of direct leadership and teaching from the pulpit. The areas of the churches greatest need are often areas of men’s least experience: hospitality, communication, compassion and empathy. These skills are nearly universal to most area’s of church service and also things that a lot of men either struggle with or are unconfident in. I am not absolving men from service to the church, but if we want more men to serve, we need to think honestly about giving them places to serve where they feel gifted, confident, and utilized.

8 studded brick
8 studded brick

We were meant to be connected, but the possibilities for connection (and service) are endless. At some point in the history of the church, there became standard area’s of service and no more. For years the church has asked men to serve, but in the same old ways. David Murrow, in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church, came to the same conclusion in his observations stating:

“Generally speaking, men’s gifts and abilities do not match the ministry needs of the American congregation…most jobs in the Church require verbal and relational skills that men may not possess. They demand proficiency with children, music, teaching, hospitality, or cooking; areas where women typically have more experience. A woman is so much more valuable in Church than a man because her natural gifts and life experiences enable her to fill so many slots.” **

It is my contention that men desire to serve, but are searching for a place to. We want a place that our gifting and ability can be used, that success is measurable, and we will be encourage through service. So how does the Church get men to serve? Just a few thoughts:

  1. Be concrete. Men are concrete thinkers and want concrete results. We enjoy areas of service that are task oriented because we are task oriented. The Church can help us out by giving specific descriptions of opportunities including: duration, time commitment, the type of work being done, and who it involves. Where as most women can deal with a certain amount of ambiguity, men strive under clear direction. Communicate the vision, the expectations, and the task upfront and help men out.
  2. Be Man-minded. We like competition, fun, and activity. We work best side by side as opposed to face to face. When helping get men involved in service, allowing them time to work alongside others can change the service experience for the better. Putting together tasks, projects, and goals can make the difference between a bad experience and a good one. There is a reason men congregate to mission trips, work days, and other activity minded projects. The church needs to think about how to incorporate these things into their weekly routine. Have a small group competition ever week; find small service projects (that can be done in an hour) during Sunday school; give men something to do as they are teaching (so that they aren’t face to face with their students)…try different things which leads me to the third one.
  3. Be ready to say yes. The common paradigm of service has left most men in the dust. Many want to serve and have ideas on what they want to do, only at times to be shut down by the modus operandi. Some ideas will be wacky, or uncommon, but it doesn’t mean they lack substance. Say yes!

When men lead in the Church, they become better leaders in the home. When men lead in the home, they become better leaders in the Church: it’s a cycle. The greatest servants in the Church that I know are also the men who exhibit that leadership in the home. Jason Hildebrandt and Aaron Jones are two guys who lead our youth group. They served alongside me, challenged me, challenged the youth, and set the direction and vision for the ministry. We grew alongside one another, became better men in our homes, and more connected to the Church. Aaron came alive watch the UFC, teaching our youth to do yard work, and teaching Sunday School. Jason led the most eclectic group of middle school boys you could envision. He came alive when he was playing games, talking lego’s, and ultimate Frisbee. These were two men, with very uncommon ministries, each finding a unique way to serve. They will someday lead the Church as elders because of what they learned from their students serving in the youth ministry. When men serve, they gain experience to lead. The final result is a healthier and more vibrant Church. Women outnumber men in most Churches.  Men show up when they have a vested interest.  Men show up when they are serving.  Without men serving, the Church struggles to become all that God intended it to be. Leadership should commit itself to helping get men “connected” to service, but to do so we need to think differently about it.

The Corinthian Theatre made out of legos.  Jason Hildebrandt and I made the City of Corinth out of the plastic bricks for a lesson one time.
The Corinthian Theatre made out of legos. Jason Hildebrandt and I made the City of Corinth out of the plastic bricks for a lesson one time.

*Paterniti, Michael. “Everything is Awesome and Mysitcal and Made Out of Plastic Bricks.” Popular Mechanics Apr, 2015. pg 84.

**Murrow, David. Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nashville; Thomas Nelson, 2005) 38.

Runnin’ on all cylinders

195157I inherited an 8n tractor. Inherited is probably not the correct word. Dad upgraded and the 8n became yard art. It hasn’t ran since the upgrade and if I can drive it off its mine. The engine, a 4 cylinder, needs some work. I think it will run, but not fully. At least one of the cylinders has a compression problem (I think!). If you had to use it, it would probably work, but wouldn’t be able to do the things it’s supposed to be able to do; the things that made it the most popular tractor in American history. I wonder how many of us aren’t running on all cylinders.

The saying “running on all 6 cylinders” alludes to an engine where the injectors, spark plugs, pistons, and values, are working in proper timing and coordination to move the drive train, which inturn drives the transmission, which drives the car/truck/tractor. If just one of all the parts is ineffective, out of time, or out of commission, the whole system suffers and thought the machine may run, will prove to be lacking in performance. How often in life would you say you spend running on all 6 cylinders? Part of the problem is that we often don’t know what the cylinders are. Human beings, like legos, were created to be in relationship and community. In the same way that you can’t play with a single Lincoln log, lego, or eat a single Pringles chip, humans don’t do well in isolation.   We were made to have certain relationships. When one of our relationships goes bad, the entire system suffers. Though it may still work and run, it isn’t performing at peak performance. So these relationships help our lives run at peak performance:

  • Our relationship with God. When Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God (Gen 3.8-10) and we have been in hiding ever since. Sin and disobedience have clouded our relationship with God.
  • Our relationship with family. Adam and Eve…Cain and Able…James and Jesus. Nearly every page of Scripture save the first and the last is riddled with family strife. Sin took the family apart piece by piece. The same can be said for our own families.
  • Our relationship with self.  Shame entered the world with Adam and Eve. They sowed leaves together to hide their nakedness. Shame and pride are inward emotions. So sin distanced us from God, from others, and from ourselves.
  • Our relationship with others. The world has 6.8 billion people on it and there is more strife than ever before. With Babel in Genesis 11, the world was divided by thoughts, language and worldview. We are divided by oceans, continents, and seas, but our greatest divide is worldview.
  • Our relationship with Creation. Creation was God’s gift to us to explore, work and learn from. Now creation is marked with disasters, tragedies, and struggle. We fight it, use it up, and toil against it.
  • Our relationship with Culture. Society, music, media, and communication are areas that were taken captive after sin entered the world. Sin has tainted our relationship with the arts, creativity, and expression. Messages are lost, mistranslated, and under communicated because of the distance because of disobedience.

We went from a six cylinder fine ride, to a bike without pedals. From a high performance engine to a Fred Flintstone foot-powered mobile with a single decision of disobedience.

How do we get back to running full speed, full power, on all cylinders? Jesus says “…I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10.10b) John uses the greek word for life [zoe] thirty-six times in his book. The word is most often used in reference to the life given by a person’s proximity to Jesus. John writes the purpose of his book is: “these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20.31) Many times we thing about the life that Jesus offers is life after death, but with John it is so much more. Life, as described in the book of John, is not just a life like the one we have now with no end, but a quality of life that is promised. This is adventure; it is excitement, contentment, and joy. The life promised in John, as a gift from Jesus, is fulfilling and sustaining like bread (John 6.35-49), refreshing and quenching like water (John 4.14), illuminating and focusing like light (John 8.12), and directing and true (John 14.6).

My life needs some maintenance work. I have ran down a few cylinders for a while, mostly because I think I can solve and diagnose my own issues. Jesus promises the life that I want, the one I need. The beauty of Jesus words and his story is that no one is beyond restoration.