Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 4)

Podcast Episode 001: YouTube as a Youth Ministry Platform with Jeremiah Wagner

In this episode, Brian chats with Jeremiah Wagner, a staff member at Crestfield Camp and Conference Center and Bower Hill Presbyterian Church, about the online ministry that he has built through YouTube. Playing games such as Fortnite, Overwatch, and others Jeremiah has amassed over 3000 subscribers and developed relationships with kids from across the country that has led to countless positive interactions, prayer, and even bible study

Audio:

Video:

“You Are Not Who You Were” – 12/31/2017 @ Sewickley Presbyterian Church

Everyone has a past.  Some parts of our past we’re proud of.  Some parts, not so much.  And some parts, well, those are just plain painful.  And yet, so many people cling to the past as if it were a teddy bear when in actuality it’s more akin to a porcupine.  And yet, as people of faith, we fundamentally believe in a God who acts – and when God acts, he takes people from where they are and moved them into something new.  But, the challenge is to leave the past behind so we can become what God is calling us to be. We Buy Houses, call us when you want to sell your home safely and fast. Contact us now.

Less Than Five: Programming and Integration Part 2

A lot of research has shown that to produce life-long disciples in the church we need integrate children and youth into the life of the congregation. Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be doing a series of videos reflecting on this idea as well as some strategies to do so.

“Intergenerational ministry” is a buzzword in youth ministry circles today, but often what this means in practice is “children and teens need to just be more like us”.  In this second video, I make the case that age-group ministries have a very important place in the church today, and wonder if maybe making our ministry “intergenerational” should be more focused on equipping adults to enter into the world of children and youth ministry.  

“Shattered Expectations” – September 3rd, 2017 (Friendship Community Presbyterian Church

All of us have expectations – expectations about what the next hour, day, week, year, and even the rest of our lives will be like.  But sometimes those expectations are shattered – in an instant even – by words we hear from others.  Good, bad, or a mix of both – words can be life-changing and can shatter our expectations.  The hard part is – sometimes to be faithful to who we are called to be, it is God who does the shattering.  How should we respond then?  In this sermon, I wrestle with that question and draw on two passages involving Peter to help us see how it is we are called to respond.  

Less Than Five: “I don’t know” Or “What Do You Think”?

“I don’t know” is what we often advise people who work with teenagers in the church to say if they’re asking something that they don’t know the answer to.  But I don’t think that’s the best answer to a tough question from a teen – I think the best answer is “What do you think”.  In this “Less than Five” video blog, I explain why.  

Adolescence Transformed – Session 2

Adolescence Transformed – Session 1

“To Guide and Nurture” (Sermon Video)

“To Guide and Nurture”

January 22nd, 2017

Sewickley Presbyterian Church

Psalm 78

Video

Reflections on King’s Address at Riverside Church

Listening to it again a few years back, I’ll admit it still made me uncomfortable. After all, both my father and father-in-law served active duty tours in Vietnam, and I am proud to have relatives who are veterans. But what I’ve realized is this – if you listen to MLK and he doesn’t make you uncomfortable or at least challenge you, you’re probably not really listening. MLK’s message was never intended to make people comfortable, but rather to call people to face a reality that needed to change. What I learned from King and still take to heart is that you cannot separate various parts of our life and faith into neat compartments.

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I grew up, as many of my generation did, learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in our history textbooks.  In fact, I remember, quite clearly, learning about MLK in 2nd grade.  We learned that MLK was a revered hero of our nation’s history who helped bring an end to segregation and helped propel the civil rights movement forward.  He was a non-violent, peace-loving hero – and that he was.

Beyond that, though, I must say, he was so much more – and that I didn’t know.  In seminary, I was required to read James Cone’s Martin and Malcolm in America.  This book was my first glimpse into a broader and richer picture of who Martin Luther King was.  Add to that reading his writings such as a “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” and the picture of Martin Luther King is a whole lot less comfortable for me as a white/caucasian person.

Without a doubt, though, the most powerful speech for me of King’s is not his “I Have a Dream Speech” – although that is his most famous.  For me, it was listening to his address entitled “Beyond Vietnam,” given at the historic Riverside Church in New York City.

Listening to it again a few years back, I’ll admit it still made me uncomfortable.  After all, both my father and father-in-law served active duty tours in Vietnam, and I am proud to have relatives who are veterans.  But what I’ve realized is this – if you listen to MLK and he doesn’t make you uncomfortable or at least challenge you, you’re probably not really listening.  MLK’s message was never intended to make people comfortable, but rather to call people to face a reality that needed to change.  What I learned from King and still take to heart is that you cannot separate various parts of our life and faith into neat compartments.  For King, Vietnam and the civil rights movement were interconnected.  From his speech:

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957, when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. (Link Here)

One year after he gave his speech at Riverside Church, King was tragically murdered on that Memphis Balcony, his life and ministry cut short.  As I reflect on my own life and the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., I think we do a disservice if we fail to continue to hear and re-hear his words, in particular, those that challenge us and deepen our understanding of who King was.

“You Get What You Pay For” – Investing in Next Generation Ministry

In short, churches get what you pay for.  The challenge, I believe, is for churches to be willing to make a long-term investment (ordained or non-ordained) in the area of next generation ministry and know that that investment may take some time to really bear fruit. 

From Growing Young:

There’s a phrase that makes everyone in ministry uncomfortable: “You get what you pay for.”  We believe in our minds that this, while possibly true in the wider culture, isn’t true in the church.  After all, people who want to work for the church see it as “their mission” and therefore “aren’t in it for the money.”

Let me break it to you – “You get what you pay for” is true in the church as well.  And I am living proof of that.  Let me explain.

Before my arrive at my previous call, they made the decision to shift their non-ordained position into an ordained or ordainable position.  Now, within my denomination, that kind of move can mean a big shift in financial priority.  To call a full-time ordained person within our Presbytery, it’ll cost a church at least $75,000 (total – that includes salary, benefit payments, continuing education money, etc.) of which around $52,000 is paid salary.  Compare that to the cost of a non-ordained employee, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it can be almost double to hire someone who is ordained. Click this link for more info https://www.loanforgiveness.org/forgiveness/obama-student-loan-forgiveness

. I want to come back to that principle: “You Get What You Pay For.” But let me be clear about what you’re getting.  This isn’t a knock on my non-ordained youth worker colleagues.  I have a lot of colleagues who aren’t ordained and are doing great work, but because they’re not ordained there’s a “facts of life” timeline they’re facing that at some point, they’re going to need to find an either (1) A job that pays better (2) A spouse that can be the primary breadwinner.  What churches are buying with an ordained position is the potential for a long-term tenure and stability in leadership.  And I am living proof of this – here are a few reasons why

  • Benefits benefits benefits – Again, I wish it was more spiritual than this – but it’s not.  In my case, I got married and added two children to our family and they were automatically covered under our denomination’s health plan.  Beyond health care, we still have an old-school pension fund! Affording health insurance can be tough in these times, that’s why if you ever suffer an accident and your insurance doesn’t cover the expenses, then make sure to go for Foraminal Stenosis to treat any pain that you may be experiencing.
  • Minimum Salary Levels – Minimum terms of call ensured that my pay continued to increase at a moderate pace as my time of service increased.  I should also add, that when the financial situation of the church allowed, the church gave me a one-time 5% increase in salary.
  • No Additional Education – This one sounds odd, but once you’re ordained, you’ve got the degree (M.Div) and ordination required for any pastoral position within the system.  While there are additional educational opportunities for pastors, there’s none that are required.
  • Better continuing education and study leave – Being ordained afforded me 4 weeks vacation, 2 weeks study leave, and more than sufficient funds to take in at least one conference per year along with purchasing things helpful in ministry (books, travel reimbursement, etc).  Also, because I was ordained I received a life-giving sabbatical seven years into my call.

To close, I am not saying that every church needs an ordained youth pastor – that’s simply not an option for a lot of churches.  And I am also not saying that within the PC(USA), you really should only hire people with Rev. in front of their name to do youth ministry.  What I am saying, and what I do believe, is that because the church I served made the investment to bring on someone who was ordained, my tenure there was longer than it would have otherwise been and the ministry was stronger.  

In short, churches get what they pay for.  The challenge, I believe, is for churches to be willing to make a long-term investment (ordained or non-ordained) in the area of next generation ministry and know that that investment may take some time to really bear fruit.

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