Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dropbox App

Dropbox was my favorite APP before I even had an Iphone or an Ipad.  I signed up for Dropbox about an year ago.  Dropbox is a file hosting service operated by Dropbox, Inc. which uses cloud computing to enable users to store and share files and folders with others across the Internet using file synchronization.  I read about it online and saw several friends post about it on Facebook.   I used it at first to save files from church that I could then access at home via Dropbox on my desktop and laptop.  It was a great way to not have to carry around and lose a USB drive.   

In the fall I started using with one of my best friends Mark Ashby.   We used to share ministry resources and bounce ideas off each other without having to email.  We just would save it in our shared folder.   

During the past month I have used it to save PDF from my MacBook and then access it on my iPad.   Last month I led worship for Mark's youth group and had every worship set in a PDF and then would access it from Dropbox and then open it in iBooks and then put my iPad on its stand and I saved a tree or two!  Every Sunday night I know have all my songs and my lesson on my iPad via Dropbox.  For my small groups and Sunday School lessons I do the same.  It is a great lifesaver!

So quick summary...Dropbox creates a folder on your machine that is automatically synced to the web, where you can easily access your files from any web browser or from your iPhone, Blackberry, or Android. It also has the ability to upload files to this folder via the browser too, making it really handy and an easy way to remotely start torrent downloads. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Click the link below and and both you and I get an extra 250MB of space, just by signing up

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Flashback: Friend in Ministry: The Paul in my life

Here at USCEROCK.COM I had the idea to start on the Friday Flashback....

I want to talk about a great friend in my life who I have looked up to for over 20 years.  His name is Matt Jennings...Matt is two years older and has always been a great friend.  My earliest memory of Matt was at a JR MYF lock-in back in 1989 where I remember trading him for a 1989 Donruss John Smoltz Rookie Card which I still have...funny how you remember those things.  Over the years Matt was like a big brother to me.  He always looked out for me and always encouraged me.   During High School He led our guys high school Bible Study.  We would meet at the church of Saturday mornings and have Bible Study and then we would go get Little Caesar's Pizza and every Saturday we would watch and quote "Tommy Boy".   Our group had a great bond and Matt was a great student leader.  Matt was always on top of the newest and best Christian Music.  Matt introduced me to groups like Skillet, Third Day, Jars of Clay,  and many others.  Matt always kept us all accountable.  He always checked in on all of us guys and followed up when we going through tough times.

When Matt was a freshman in college he took a part time Youth Ministry job in Augusta.  Even though he had his own group, he still kept up with us.   Around this time is when I also was accepting my calling into youth ministry.  I learned a lot from Matt during his time there.  I remember going over to his office and also helping him reorganize his youth room.  I'm sure he didn't know then or does he know he's most likely reading this how much an impact he had on my life.
I think back to the car rides after school, the talks at Marvin UMC, him inviting us into his parents house, him inviting us over to his first place and making us breakfast, talks at Awanita, skits at Awanita, many retreats, River of Life, Chrysalis, the countless WCW pay-per-views with his best friend Gordon, our taking over at Augusta State University and making the GWO, being part of his wedding as a groomsman, and now keeping up with him on Facebook, his blog, and twitter.   You don't find friends like this too often.

Mattee, you were like Paul to me.  I thank God everyday for our friendship, even though we don't talk that often.  But know that you made a huge impact in my life and many others.   I would not be the person in ministry today without the guidance you helped give me in middle school and high school.

To my blog followers....Who was Paul to you in your walk with Christ?  Who encouraged you?

By: Matt Jennings

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's hard to be a spectator

The other day in our staff meeting we discussed about how over the years we have heard the comment...I just don't get anything out of the service.   We talked about it for a couple minutes.  We talked about there are so many Sundays that you have to be without a pulse or asleep not to get fired up for God.
But when it comes down to it you only get out of it what you put into it.  Let's face it many people come to church and that is the only God they get all week.  That is the only time they stop and pray.  That is the only time the open their Bibles.  That is the only time they read from scripture.  That is the only time they take time for God.  

I don't if its just me and growing up in the church and working in the church for years.  But I just don't see how people can say they don't get anything out of it.  I have heard many a bad sermon and have heard Open the Eyes a zillion times.  But I know that if I don't put myself to the side I will get nothing out it.  I have had amazing times of worship with bad preaching and bad music.  Why?  Because its not about the pastor or the worship band.  Its about opening up and allowing God in.  Its about saying thank you to God.   Its about an encounter that cannot be described.  For me, its hard to sit back and not let God move.

"God doesn't want something from us. He simply wants us." -CSLewis

Take the time the next time you go to worship, to give yourself to God and see what happens...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

4 levels of youth ministry

On Monday, I sat down with my intern Andrew and we discerned what God wanted for the youth ministry we are serving.   We dug deep for hour talking about several things.  So far this is what we have come up with so far.
1. Socialize
2. Fellowship
3. Disciple
4. Missions

We discussed how too often that churches focus on the first level.  Youth ministries too often confuse socializing with fellowship.  We try to make it fun and inviting, but true fellowship that is outlined in Eph. 4 and 5 never happens.  And that is why in our view that students leave the church after graduating high school.  We focus too much on the fun times and making sure everyone is happy.  

The Second level is fellowship.  Biblical fellowship is both vertical and horizontal. When we are saved, we are brought into fellowship not only with God, but with all others who share this same salvation in Christ.
Acts 2:42 "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
But the problem is that too many times our students do not experience this.

The third level is becoming disciples.  We discussed that to be a disciple of Christ means that you must study His Word, and live the Word. As a disciple of the Lord, you will be asked to spread His Word regardless of the sacrifices and the personal difficulties you will have to endure.  And we often don't get our students to this point.

The fourth level is mission.  We are called to to go to all nations in the Great Commission.  We preach Matthew 28 all the time but at most we take a out of country mission trip or a one week trip in state.  And thats what our students see as going into the world.  They do not see that their family and friends are part of the Great Commission.

As we dive deeper into this, I will continue to elaborate on this...Please share your thoughts....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making Time for God

Sunday Night I spoke to my students about being devoted to God and how tough we can make it out to be.  We all have our excuses of being too tired, too busy, or just forgetting to spend time with God.  I'm just as guilty as the next person.   My wife works three nights a week in the ER.   Which means there are 3-4 nights during the week that I wake up when she gets home around 7ish.  I get ready, I help her get our daughter ready, and then I take our daughter to daycare.  I then go to the office...I try to carve out time when I get there to spend time with God.  But too often meetings, people stopping me in the hall, phone calls, or other distractions keep that from happening...then the next thing you know its time to pick up my daughter from daycare.  I rush home to cook dinner or pick up dinner for my wife.  We eat, we try to have family devotion before she heads back to work...and then its daddy/daughter time...then after I get her put to bed which is usually around 8-9 I clean the house, wash dishes, do laundry, check email, finish work, grade papers, watch tv, and finally relax.  By that time I'm usually checked out and its hard for me to take time at night...or at least I don't always make time at night to spend with God.

I look back to my junior and senior year of high school.  I used to wake up twice a week to meet with my guys small group on Tuesdays at McDonalds and go meet with another friend on Friday at Waffle House to have Bible study.   Every morning and every night I would spend time with God...lots of was good.  I was good...I had a great love for college I had many times just like that as well, but when I got to the real world over time I got slack.  I miss those years.  I am working to get back to that.  I know what to do...its just sometimes hard.  I say that because when I do make the time I too often try to come up with a great lesson or a sermon instead of just being in communion with God and enjoy it.  I have to take off the professional youth worker hat and just be me.

How do you spend time with God?  What works for you?

The Preacher Your Preacher Could Preach Like

As a Methodist and Cokesbury customer...I love this!

Masters Week

For the past 4 Masters weeks, it has been very emotional for me.  I grew up seven and half miles from the Augusta National. From 1987-2004 I went at least one practice round, one tournament day, or worked the Masters.   I'll never forget in 1987 when my Mom and Dad took me to my first practice round.   I was all about collecting autographs.  Over the years I made it on the front page of the Augusta Chronicle twice and was on ESPN a couple times.   I saw many great golf shots.  I met many great golf legends.  I made many memories with family and friends.

 In 1996 I took my little brother Michael for the first time.  I still remember his look when we first walked on the grounds of Augusta.   He was only 11 and had only played golf in our front yard, on video games and at Putt-Putt.

I think back to 1997 when we went and we were about to leave and as we were heading to the gate we noticed Tiger teeing off on the first tee.  We followed him as he played the front 9 along with about 10 other people, since everyone else had pretty much left for the day.  I remember seeing the excitement in my brother as he watched the biggest name in golf dominate the course.

I look back and remember the times we didn't have tickets and would go from parking lot to parking lot on Washington Road looking for a face-value practice round.  And without a doubt every time Michael would be the one to land us the tickets at face value.

We always joked about who ever died first the other would spread their ashes at Augusta at the 16th hole.  That was our favorite spot on the course.  During practice rounds we would sit their for hours watching golfers come through and we would yell "skip it" and try to get them to skip it across the water after they took a couple shots.   Michael and I witnessed many hole-in-ones at 16.

Augusta is home to me and always will be.  The Masters is a special tournament because it is home.  It reminds me of many great memories with family and friends.  It reminds me of great times with my brother.
Every year since I was little...Master's week was special.  And now going on my fourth Masters after my brother passed away it is still special and a very emotional week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

That was easy

Two weeks ago in the Youth Ministry class that I'm teaching online through Columbia College I discussed in my lecture the dangers of prepackaged ministry material.   You can go anywhere online these days and have a lesson on your desktop, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, or smartphone in less than a click.  Some are free. Some cost monthly. Some cost per download.  You can buy entire series.  If you really wanted to you could buy enough from Simply Youth or Youth Specialties for the rest of your youth ministry career in just a couple minutes.  You can drive down to Cokesbury bookstore, Family Christian Bookstore, or Lifeway Christian Bookstore and have lessons for weeks and weeks.

And its that easy!

But too many times youth workers fall into the easy trap.  They buy the latest and greatest ministry material because of cool packaging, a tweet, a email, or a facebook link.  They often just open it up, print it out, and that is their lesson prep.  They pay no attention to the original audience that the material was written for.  They take Doug Fields outline and read it not thinking that their youth group in middle America is not the same as the students that attend Saddleback.

Society teaches us that easy is best.  But when we do this in ministry, we are shorting ourselves, our students, but most importantly God.

I'm not saying not to buy any of these materials, because I own pretty much every Simply Youth and Youth Specialties item from doing this for going on fourteen years now.  I'm saying if you use it, take the time to read it and adapt it to you group, your demographics.   Many times I just use the title, the main scripture, and the graphics.  But I generally spend 4-6 hours preparing my weekly lesson.

In the past when I was lazy, I fell into the easy trap and my ministry suffered because of my laziness.  I look back and I learn.  I know I will not let myself fall into that trap again.

Take advantage of these resources, they're are a great start.  But be sure not to rely on them without putting your own God-given knowledge and theology into them.  Lesson prep is not easy, but don't short yourself by not taking the time to make it your own!