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    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Christianity Cults & Religions

      I was recently asked to review a curriculum on cults and other religions produced by Rose Publishing, so I accepted the opportunity to see what was out there. 

      Let me start by saying that this is not a YOUTH curriculum but I thought is prudent to share here so that my youth pastor friends can see the wealth of stuff that is out there.

      This curriculum has some good stuff and some bad stuff.  Let me start with the good. 

      The handout that comes with the DVD curriculum is well thought out, well organized and helpful for anyone who desires to understand the side-by-side comparison of other religions to Christianity.  It is super useful for teens who want to know how other religions compare to Christianity and desire to know why what they believe is the right thing to believe in.  It breaks down a side-by-side comparison on: The founders of each religion, the writings of each religion, who God is in each religion, Who Jesus is, Who the Holy Spirit is, what salvation means to each religion, what death signifies and the other misc. beliefs each religion may have.
      I highly recommend this handy hand-out because it is thorough and very interesting to see all of these religions side-by-side.  The content is rich and very well presented.

      This however, is where I leave the realm of what I saw as "good" because once we leave the pamphlet, we venture into the DVD.  I thought the DVD was abysmal.  The content was good, but the production and teaching was poor. 

      Each session opens up with a tall white guy with a huge beard standing in and obviously green-screened studio with a extremely fake background presented behind him.  Right away, I am turned off to anything he is going to say because of this poor display of technology usage.  He then is standing behind a glass, clear podium with his notes on it.  He paces a bit and reads his note a lot and teaches with a very boring voice.  His content is good, but you have to wade through all the negative audio and visuals to find that the content is any good.  Next, there are pans to an audience who is all white and their glasses reflect the green screen studio, which makes the poor usage of technology again horribly apparent.

      This continues throughout the entire clip of teaching for each session.  Needless to say, I was disappointed with the presentation of the DVD and would've just taken the hand-out.

      I think it is important to get the message across to teens and adults a like as to what other people believe and why so we have a better grasp on how to minister to them but the information has to be engaging as well as well done.  I would again repeat that the hand-out is worth the purchase...just leave the DVD.

      Hope this helps you as you too try to find ways to educate the teens God has entrusted to you with the Truth of the Gospel!

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Slippery Slopes

      In life, we all run unto slopes that are slippery; those slopes that trip us up and cause us to stumble and sometimes fall.

      The life of a Middle Schooler is no different, they too get caught on these slippery slopes of life and for them all too easily they fall and don’t even realize they slipped.

       This series looks at 6 common slopes that slip Middle Schoolers up: Trying to be something they are NOT, Giving into the fake culture hype, Temptation, The Company they keep, giving into the hype of sex, drugs and violence and lastly using their mouths.

      These are 6 common slopes kids slip and fall on. They are dissatisfied with life because it doesn’t look like TV, they want to fit in so they pretend to be something they aren’t, their friends are bad influences on them, they can’t handle (or even notice temptation), they believe sex, drug and violence are all part of a good life and they have no idea the power of their words.

       The hope is that at the end of this series they will be able to more easily navigate the slopes they find themselves on and rely on God; His Word and their Christian Community to help them find sure footing as they go down the slippery slopes of life.

      We've been running through this series for the past 6 weeks and desired to share this here with you all!  I heard an encouraging story lately of people using these lessons for their groups and desire to keep giving out these resources as we develope them here at ACAC.  Below are the links to download the stuff for this series!

    Talk Sheets

    PDF Questions


    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Missions In Your Back Yard

     When I talk to my teens about service projects or missions projects they automatically think of somewhere else besides their own neighborhood.  When I mention sharing your faith or going out to proclaim the gospel, generally most picture themselves in a different city or country.

       I fear in many ways we have taken missions away from home and made it a thing we emphasize people do 'out there' rather than 'right here'.

      This then leads to churched teenagers, when asked if they desire to be a missionary to have a recoil and they say things like: "I don't want to live in the jungles" or "I don't think I could deal without clean running water".  This to me is a bit sad because Christ's "Last Words" if you will were for all of us to go and make disciples. 

    He says in Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

      This is a calling that every person who has been saved by Christ has.  It's not a thing just for those who go overseas.  We are called to live Missions focused lives, we are called to spread the gospel with our very lives and we are called to serve.

      As Youth Pastors/leaders we need to be about both and in missions.  We need to be about the 'out there's' and the 'right here's' when it comes to missions.  Teens are so trained with sharing their faith 'out there' that they become inoculated and dumb when it comes to sharing their faith 'right here'.  That's a sad testament to what we have been teaching.

      The church at which I am a pastor is passionate about the both and of missions.  My denomination started as a missions movement, so over seas missions is in our blood...but the church I am a part of also loves the city its in: Pittsburgh, PA!  We are passionate about our community and realize it needs a ton of help.  This passion for our community has leaked into Student Ministries and has infected us with a passionate desire to promote both and missions to our teens.

      Just a couple of weeks ago we did a service project on our church campus and in the government housing across the street.  We picked up trash, hauled metal, threw away broken up dry-wall, planted flowers, fixed up a local field and planted grass all while the community watched.  Several people talked to our teens and asked what they were doing and why, they were encouraged to see young people caring for their community and we were inspired as well by their encouragement!

      Last Saturday our teens engaged in a community project called Pumpkin Fest.  In this event, we the church buy, make and distribute food.  We sell it at a low cost but we work our tails off getting it all ready and then serving it.  Our teens served over 1,400 people and had a joyful time doing it.  The cool thing about this event is that the WHOLE community sees our teens serving and smiling and handing out food.  They (the people in the community) get to work face-to-face with our teens and see that these kids are different.  Also, with the proceeds of the event the community gets half and the other half goes to our summer missions trips (which are to different places).  It serves the dual purpose of both and missions!

      We, during the year do several other community service days to remind our teens that when it comes to missions it can happen overseas, in the next city or in your own back yard!

      What are some other ways we can promote the both and missions?  How can we start making teens think globally but act locally?  The changes we make should change the DNA of our groups and the thinking of our teens.  Nothing is more powerful a witness to a community than teenagers working hard to make that community better for the Glory of Jesus.  It shocks the system of many people and encourages others to take notice and ask questions.

      How can we as Youth Pastors/Leaders step up and change the way we've done missions and become missional minded people?  Remember, the way this generation thinks about missions will be how they act as its more than the "now" we're effecting...we're effecting tomorrow too!