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.

Advertisements

Who’s got Super Bowl Tickets?

When the festivities for the largest sporting event in America get underway, there will be many people present:

0829-Vince-Lombardi-Trophy

  • The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Bronco’s punched their tickets Sunday.   The Broncos, under the leadership and by the arm of Peyton Manning, dismantled the Patriots in the AFC Championship game to win the Lamar Hunt Trophy.  The Seahawks, won an incredible victory over the 49ers, but that was forgotten by Sherman’s rant to Erin Andrews.
  • The Commissioner, Roger Goddell, will be there as much was made about his decision to sit outside in the elements during the cold weather Super Bowl.
  • The Dan Patrick Show will be there, producing their show from Pier 40.  All week people will be stopping by to talk whatever Dan wants to talk about.  He and the Danettes will be entertaining the visitors to New York all week.
  • The advertisers will be there.  An average 30-second commercial at the 2014 Super Bowl costs $4 million.  That is the average!  The first block of commercials during the telecast would be much higher.  Doritos, Budwiser, and Godaddy.com have shucked out the big bucks to be present at the game.
  • The Media/Press will be there.  The figures from the 2007 Super Bowl claimed 232 countries were able to watch, nine territories, and 33 languages.This one figures to be an even larger market as the NFL has sought to expand its footprint outside of the U.S.
  • The fans will be there.  MetLife stadiums holds 82,500 people and its sold out!  Worst ticket in the stadium went for around $3,000 but $565,00 can get you a 30 person suite.  So if you were planning on any post-Christmas shopping for me. (cough, cough)
  • The Tourists will be there.  According to an Epoch Times Article, New York is preparing itself for the 500,000 visitors to occupy the city.  The city is expecting it to generate $600 million in revenue during the week leading up.  They will broadcast the game onto a giant screen in Manhattan for those who couldn’t score tickets to watch.
  • The world will be there in spirit…as consumer spending on the 2011 Super Bowl was expected to reach $10.1 Billion.  I will be hitting up a party spending my money on food, drinks, and possibly a Super Bowl T-shirt if I find one to my liking.
  • One final group that I want to mention is the thousands of women and children who wont have tickets but will be forced to be there.  The Super Bowl is the “largest human-trafficking venue on the planet.”  I have heard the same said for the World Cup that will be happening this summer.  Human Trafficking is an estimated $32 billion industry that made more than Nike, Starbucks, and Google last year combined.  300,000 Americans under the age of 18 are lured into sex-trafficking a year.  These kids are lured in because they ran away, or got lost in the system, or were lied to about future ventures and opportunities.  These are the victims of countless horrers that will go unnoitice and unreported at this year’s Superbowl.

loose chains (2)Victims of Human Trafficking are those that some of our students at church raised money for last weekend.  In total, Karsen McCarter, Brett Broadbent, and Michelle Villagrana raised $2,871.15 to combat Human Traffiking.  The silent auction/chili feed was a huge success.  They did the leg work, collected items, made a video, and rounded up volunteers in order to raise awareness of modern day slavery.  They did a great job and I am very proud of them.  I wondered how their work will be used in the fight, whether 2 weeks from now the money they raised will help put a stop to this injustice.

The Superbowl is upcoming and I plan on watching….but I also plan on pausing during that first $4 million dollar commercial to remember and pray for those in New York who aren’t at the game!

Macaroni Art Ain’t Just for Kids

ImageOne man that I have always admired is probably someone you have never heard of, a man named George Toma aka. “the Marquis de Sod”. He was the groundskeeper at Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums. He has also been the head groundskeeper for every Super bowl. As I read his book, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Man, I was almost moved as he recounted with passion the silt/sand/clay mixture that made up the mound at the K, the bermuda/rye blend that made up the Arrowhead turf, the care he took painting logos, and the way he lined and mowed the designs in the field. Throughout the book, I was drawn in by the way his creativity manifested itself upon fields of competition. I remembered wanting to do his job when I was a kid.

Since childhood my hero’s have changed: Steve Bezos creating Amazon.com on a napkin during a summer drive at a time when only 1 in 10 American adults even used the internet; the horsemanship of Josh Rushing and Scott Dailey; Peter Higgs predicting the existence of the boson particle in 1964 (confirmed 2013); the writing of Aaron Sorkin, Baxter Black, and John Erickson; Flight Director Gene Krantz and the men of NASA during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions; the photography of Robert Dawson; the students that make my Dairy Queen Blizzards. Though my hero’s have changed, their common thread is constant: creativity. I am envious of these people because, just like you, I was created to create.

Genesis 1.26-27 is a conversation amongst the Trinity, the out come being the creation of man in the ‘image of God’ (imago dei). What do we really know about the God whose image we bear? Flipping through Scripture much can be learned, but what do we know at this point, after just 26 verses? Nearly everything God had done was some kind of creative action.  God “created” (bara’), from nothing, the 5% of the universe we can see and the 95% dark matter and energy that we will never see. He organized and “separated” (badal); “called” (qara) and named; “made” (‘asa) and “placed”; we know little about God at this point in scripture other than at His core, He is creative.  Nancy Pearcy, in her book Total Truth, claims: “Those in relationship with the Creator should be the most creative of all.” [Pearcy Truth: 58]  It is our proximity and likeness to God that gives humanity a creative nature.  It is no coincidence that the first man in scripture to be denoted as being “filled with the Spirit” was Bezalel, a skilled and knowledgeable craftsman in order to “engage in artistic craftsmanship” (Ex. 35.30-33). Our relationship with God through his Spirit is rooted in the statement of Genesis 1.27. Creativity is central to the character of God, therefore it is central to our being as humans.

Creativity is something for most of us that was left behind with macaroni art and hand turkeys. In many minds, creativity is waving to us in the rear-view mirror. If resourcefulness and inventiveness is so central to who we are, created in the image of a creative God, what needs to change for us to embrace our position as created creators?

Students of all ages (especially High School and Middle School) are enamored with of creativity and it should be the mission of leaders and church, to foster and support this creativity. Whether it is creating buildings and adventures with Minecraft, painting their nails, or drawing on their binders, all students are budding artists, builders, problem solvers, with forms and mediums as numerous and different as they are. The job of youth leaders is to find ways to encourage and elevate their creativity and creations. It is students living out and exploring the way they were created.  The church leadership must use its creativity to encourage theirs.  Allowing them to paint a mural, graphically design slides, pick worship songs, sidewalk chalk the front steps, or give them design capabilities of the youth group website not only will build a bridge between them and the congregation, but allow them to exercise their creative nature.

Find ways to foster and discover your own creativity. Whether it’s mowing your yard a different pattern every time, training horses, drawing up football plays, writing a lesson to teach students, there is a need for creativity to be a working cog in the life of a disciple. This is a central tenant in the Christian life, to live creatively. What are you doing as an expression of God’s work in your life? What are you creating? The whole and integral Christian is in part a creative life.

Take pleasure in your creativity and know that you are doing exactly what God created you to do. The fish was made to swim, the horse was made to run, and you were made to create. After you find a place, an activity, and a time to create, spend some time taking pleasure in knowing that God has made you as a creative being. To those of us concrete thinkers, taking time to enjoy our creation and our expression to God, will at first be cumbersome and tiring.  Next time you problem-solve a troubled horse, build a fence, forge a shoe, take a picture, or jot down a poem, rhyme or limrick, take a moment to thank the God who gave you the power and ability to create.  The goal is to use our creativity as worship to the Great Artist in Genesis 1: God.

I agree with Francis Schaffer when he concluded: “even for the great artist, the most crucial work of art is his life.” [Schaeffer 1973:33]  Let us reflect his image in life and in creative expression: no matter what form it takes!