For years I was running Openswitch on WordPress, and even released a theme for it which found such popularity that it was adopted as a stock theme on WordPress.com. Then, I switched over to Textpattern; its markup was more simple, and was easier to customize to my liking. Unfortunately, both of those content management systems left me wanting more… and less. This led me to Jekyll and ultimately to Octopress. Let me explain.Read on →
One of the blessings & curses of being a Gen-Xer is having a basic knowledge of computers. We’re born knowing how these machines work. But at my church you’d think I was the Dalai Lama of computers judging by the amount of requests I get to “fix” someone’s computer.
One recent conversation went like this:
“Hey, Ben, you’re good with computers, right? Can you set our office computers (4 of them) so they can talk to each other?”
“You mean a LAN?”
“Um….yeah, whatever it is, can you do it?”
Another conversation several weeks ago:
“Hey, Ben, you’re good with computers right? I opened up my internet [browser] and it’s just a small box. I think I broke it.”
“No, just click this box here.” I click the maximize button and the screen magically maximizes. Oooooo’s and Ahhhhhh’s commence.
Honestly, I like the attention. I’m being recognized for something I’m good at. Never mind the fact that I’m good at being a youth pastor too, I know COMPUTERS!
Today a lovely older lady in the church came to me. She wanted to buy a laptop computer and had some questions. Her first sentence was, “Hey, Ben, you’re good with computers right?” As a side note I’d like to point out that how people know I’m good with computers is beyond me. I don’t go around advertising it. But people obviously must be talking with each other about the new youth pastor who’s good with computers. The funny part is I’m not that good, I’m average. Compared to the real IT guys I’m a doofus. I digress.
Back to the lovely lady who’s in the market for a laptop. Evidently someone had told her that all she needed was to install a wireless card in her computer and she’d have internet access for free by getting it from a satellite. I realized that I had to start with the basics and explain how people connect to the internet. Then I explained what a wireless internet cloud was. I drew diagrams and everything. She caught on really quick too. It feels good being able to help someone understand something better.
All this to say that it’s funny to me how I was hired to be a minister to students but have also taken on the role of the unofficial office IT man. I’m not complaining, though it would be nice to get the same recognition for my madd exegetical skillz.
My son, the unintentional comedian, is learning new words at a feverish pace. Unfortunately he’s not always able to remember which definitions go with which words. For some time now he’s been aware of his and everyone else’s burps. So when he burps or is within earshot of a burp his eyes widen and he exclaims, “BURP!” with such exuberance that you’d think he’d discovered a method of cold fusion. More recently he’s discovered his own flatulence. But instead of calling it a toot, a flutter or even a fart, after he “breaks wind” he widens his eyes, points to his posterior and belts out, “BURP!” to anyone willing to listen. If no one is listening he’ll repeat it louder and louder until someone does listen. He then proceeds to giggle at his funny body. He’s a boy through and through. Why do we men find our bodily functions so amusing? I certainly don’t know the reason, but evidently it’s genetic.
Part of me wants to correct him, “no son that was a toot.” But the other part of me finds this mistake too darn adorable to educate into oblivion. Besides, he essentially correct. Isn’t a fart very similar to a burp from your butt? Well, doctors may disagree, but to a 2 year-old it makes perfect sense to use the same word to refer to these two bodily functions. I never thought farting and burping could be cute until I heard those otherwise gross sounds come out of my son. And I NEVER thought I would be able to tolerate somone farting on my lap!
I’ve been a minister to students for four years now. Looking back I’ve realized, mostly because hindsight is 20/20, that going into it I was blissfully ignorant of several aspects of serving full-time in a church. For the sake of all the young ministers out there who are about to begin serving in a church I’m writing this list of things you should know as you go into ministry. I hope it helps.
Ministers have a love/hate relationship with their calendar. Without a calendar you are dead (or dying) in the water. On one hand you can’t let it rule your life, on the other hand you can’t live without it. Get one and take it with you everywhere.
Keep it together. Keep all your crap together. Don’t have loose pieces of paper floating around your office with important information on them. Remember Trapper-Keepers back in grade-school? Yeah, the grown up version of those is a legal pad holder like this. Get one, treat it like a lady does her purse.
Receipts are more valuable than gold. Keep every single freakin’ receipt you get. File them away for eternity (actually, about 3 years.) Similarly, always ask for a receipt when you buy something. If you forget to, you can plan on needing that very receipt later. Also, remember that ministers are among the most frequently audited by the IRS. And their inquisitiveness is second only to that of a church board.
Write down everything. Take extensive notes, then put them in your grown up Trapper-Keeper. Never assume that you’ll remember something. In fact, you should assume that you will develop amnesia five minutes from now. Ministers are notorious for forgetting stuff when they don’t write it down.
Shake the hands, kiss the babies. This is just a part of being a public official as well as a minister. Like it or not, people expect you to be a friendly person. I’m not saying you need to be someone else or change who you are. Just be the friendliest version of yourself possible.
Learn to say “no” tactfully. As a minister you’ll get asked to do a lot of things. Some of the requests will make you think, “Do I look like a (insert profession)?” Learn how to say “no” without sounding like a lazy jerk, because you’re not one.
To know you is to love you. The thing is, you have to give people a chance to get to know you. How you go about accomplishing this task is really up to you. Just make sure you take steps to let people in to your life. In effect, one of your goals in ministry should be to “pour” your life into others.
Befriend the pastor/staff. More likely than not, the staff members with whom you serve really do want to be your friends. They want to know you and to spend time talking with you about stuff unrelated to ministry. You should want to be their friend too. Believe me, they’re the best allys or worst enemys you can have. Take steps to make them your allies.
Don’t compare your ministry to others. Your ministry is unique to you and how God has made you. You’re not called to be the next Billy Graham or Rick Warren. You are called to be the best “you” that you can be. By default your ministry will look different than others. Besides, when we compare our ministry to others we typically compare our weaknesses to their strengths. This will always result in a skewed perspective.
Remember your calling. Your calling (probably) is to minister the Word of God to His people. Your calling is (probably) not to overhaul a church’s policies. Play by their rules. If you’re constantly battling over policies chances are you’re hurting your overall effectiveness in the one area that God called you to: feeding His sheep. P.S. – I say “probably” because there are indeed some people who God called to change church policies. However, far too many ministers think they’re called to that when they aren’t.
I’ve been saying this for months now, ever since I found out about MySpace.com. Finally MSNBC has put out a piece that deals with the inherent dangers teens face when they share personal information on their MySpace pages. This article was posted by MSNBC on Jan. 27th, 2006 and as of that date they report that,
In the last month, authorities have charged at least three men with sexually assaulting teenagers they found through MySpace.com and just this week police found a missing 15-year-old girl who investigators say was sexually assaulted by a 26-year-old man she met through the site.
The problem is that the vast majority of parents are basically worthless when it comes to keeping up on their children’s internet activities. I’m the minister to a youth group comprised primarily of girls so information like the above quote scares me to death. I don’t know what we as responsible adults can do about this danger besides educate the kids and their parents. Personally, I feel like my hands are tied. Realistically all I can do is spread the word to use extreme caution when sharing info online.
(Warning: this post rambles)
This may come as a shock to some of you, but some Sunday mornings I fake it. I fake wanting to be there, I fake wanting to talk to people, I fake my praises. Don’t hear me say that I dislike ministry because I love it, I can’t see myself doing anything else. Similarly, don’t hear me say I dislike Southside Baptist Church, because they’re like family to me. I’ve actually had a person ask me to consider coming and serving at another church as student minister but I turned them down because I love Southside so much. What I mean by “I fake it” is just that; I fake a good attitude.
Why did I fake it today? It all started seven days ago. This past week I worked Sunday through Thursday engaged in the usual pastoral duties: visiting, calling, writing cards, reading, reading, studying, studying, studying. Then Friday (which is usually my day off) I had a great, yet exhausting, time with the students at a local Fun Park for eight hours. Saturday offered no respite because I was in charge of a children’s ministry event, a “winter celebration,” and that was even more exhausting than the student event. So today, when I came to church I had had my fill of being around people. All I wanted was to stay in my office and read. Indeed, that’s just what I did up until the worship service started. I virtually closed myself off in my office until with one minute to spare I bolted down the hallway to the platform where I sit during the morning service.
I knew that if I went into that sanctuary with time to kill I’d get caught up in a conversation filled with pleasantries. The type of pleasantries that people who only speak to each other once a week engage in. This type of conversation, by the way, I have to prepare myself for. It EXHAUSTS me. Some people get energized when they spend time in situations like this. I, however, do not. After a bout of chatting and shaking 100+ hands in the matter of 30 minutes I have to retreat to my solitude like a recluse and recover.
I gave the morning announcements and the invocation prayer with the usual excitement in my voice, but it was faked. I sang all the worship songs as though I’d rather be doing nothing else, faked. After the service I shook hands and told people how good it was to see them, fake, fake. I was faking it all. What did I want most this morning? To be sleeping.
“Normal” people get to choose whether or not they go to church. If they have a cold, they don’t have to go. If they legitimately need to catch up on their sleep, they don’t have to go. But for me it’s not just church. I don’t go there just to lay my worship before the Lord. I go there to work. I go there to earn money. I go there to support my family. It’s my trade. 99% of the time I love my trade. I love it when “work” involves me taking a group of teens to Six Flags Over Georgia. I love it when “work” means I get to go to church and am paid to be there. But sometimes I wish I could just opt out of a Sunday here and there. Sometimes my heart’s just not in my work. In that way I suppose being a minister is just like any other vocation. There are days when you love to work and there are days when you have to work. I suppose I shouldn’t expect ministry to be any different.
In conclusion, I praise God that He’s given me the ability to work and the privilege to work for Him! Though, perhaps we should keep in mind that any job a Christian does he should do it as if working for the Lord. I wonder, does that mean we are to never dislike our work? I think not.
I’ve told my youth group this so I have no problem telling you, I’ll do almost anything for the right price. I say “almost” because I won’t do anything immoral or illegal for any amount of money. Examples of things I consider immoral would be self-mutilation, putting myself or others in harm’s way, etc. Otherwise, there’s nothing I won’t do for a certain amount of money. The amount of money, of course, varies based on the thing you want me to do. You want to see me eat brussel sprouts? $5. Eat a hissing cockroach alive? $100. You get the idea. It’s with this concept in mind that I will pose some questions to you, readers.
1) If you were given a choice that upon the flip of a coin you would either get $100,000,000 cash (if it’s tails) or die (if it’s heads) would you do it? Would you take the chance?
2) If you were to be given $100,000,000 in exchange for you leaving the country ALONE and could never return nor contact any family or friends in the U.S. again, would you take the money?
3) If someone offered you $100,000,000 in exchange for sensitive government information (pertaining to the country in which you reside, and assuming you knew something extremely sensitive like codes to nuclear missile silos) would you take the money and become a traitor?
There are at least three aspects that a blogger needs to consider when creating and writing for his blog: design, content and functionality. We’ve read all about how a blog needs to be functional and how we shouldn’t “worry very much about the design of [our] blog. Image is a fakeout.“ Those things are very true. After all, who wants to read a blog that’s using a font/background that makes your eyes hurt? (That was a jab at all those teens who have ugly Myspace accounts.) And if I can’t figure out where I am or how to get around I’ll probably not come back to a site as often. Also, we must always keep in mind that it’s the content that keeps readers coming back for more. They’re not gonna come back to sit and look at your awesome header graphic you made in Photoshop (I speak to myself here as much as anyone.)
Still, according to new research the design of a blog or web site is actually vital to the site’s success. It’s been shown that potential readers can make snap decisions in just 50 milliseconds upon first seeing a site. That means that no matter how substantial your content is or how easily someone can navigate and use your site, if it’s not aesthetically pleasing chances are you’re not developing the readership you could.
Thomas loves playing on the piano. We try to encourage his obvious love of music. For this shot he had already pulled himself up on the bench and began gently tapping away at the keys. He’s so intentional in how he “plays” the piano.
That’s the name of the injury Thomas had (Here’s a link that describes it using big doctor words.)
Yesterday I wrote about how Thomas had pulled his arm away from my wife in a fit of toddler rebellion and this had evidently injured his elbow. We then went to the pediatrician and they tried to “reduce” it (that’s a big doctor word that means they tried to fix his arm.) We thought they had succeeded but after spending most of last night awake with him and after noticing that he still wasn’t using his arm this morning we called the doctor back and he said he’d like to see Thomas again. We went back in this afternoon and the doctor tried to “reduce” his injury again and it worked! He was acting like nothing was wrong only 5 minutes after the doctor fixed his arm. Needless to say, we’re extremely relieved.
Through all of this I’ve learned that it helps make Thomas calm when I’m calm. When I start freaking out Thomas does too. I also learned that it’s useless to try to teach a toddler where his elbow is when he pronounces “Elmo” the same way as “elbow.” So, I’d say, “Where’s your elbow?” and he would point to Elmo. He still doesn’t know where his elbow is, but he knows that we had to reduce Elmo so he could use his arm again.