Is your church TONE deaf?

Some churches don’t realize how they sound.  Their worship team is spot on.  Their videos are hip.  Their choir is rocking the platform, but they are way off when it comes to dealing with their tone in dealing with the issues that affect people in the pew.

As the church, we need to be aware of not just what we say (asking, “Is it Biblical?”), but we also need to be concerned with how we say it.  When dealing with the relevant issues being discussed within the church including:  hell, sexuality, war, or money.  It is often not what is said, but how it was said that people remember.

What tone of voice should we seek?

© 2008 Michael Tracey, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Our audience should moved towards or away from the gospel not by the tone of our voice, but by content of our message.  The message of the gospel is offense without our help (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).  The radical discipleship required by Christ is a stumbling block for people, but some churches build extra barriers because of the way they address issues, and share their beliefs.

So, as we share a message of hope and healing.  Here are a few points:

 

 

 

A.  Humility versus Piety.

© 2008 Steve Cadman, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

 

Speakers should have experienced the grace, healing, and forgiveness of God in the area being discusseed.  People identify with brokenness and restoration much more than piety and morals without a personal context.  If you are discussing sexuality, then have someone speak who was broken, and has found healing.  Speaking from a places of brokeness in any issue, communicates authenticity, humility, and hope.

 

B.  Tone-deaf need not apply.  

© 2013 Soumyadeep Paul, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Whether privately or publicly, tone-deaf people should not be in positions of relational or platform ministry.  I am not talking about sweet Florence (a founding member of the church choir) who cannot stay on pitch.  I am talking about allowing Elder “Knows-all” onto the platform who cannot hear, understand, or control his/her tone.  While most people can be taught how to control their tone, others naturally possess an ability to read and respond to others.

C.   Tone should be Planned.  

Decisions of tone should be discussed and determined when deciding the topic of messages.  Tone provides direction for crafting a message, and cannot be left to the last minute.  Staff or leadership should do a discussion about the topic, and what they want to communicate to their community, rather than one person dictating what is being said.

D.  Dig deeper than, “Speak the truth in love.”

This expression although true has become a cliche to support our current practices.  Churches need to examine what speaking in love really means for their community.  Are we responsible simply for what we say, or for how the audience feels?  Discussions of our methods of communication need regularly examined in light of the love we are called to have for our neighbor.

E.  Review your Tone.

Do you take the time to reflect on how past worship services or other pieces of communication were perceived by the audience?  Many churches may have people reviewing the services, but it includes the same people who planned the service, or people from similar demographic backgrounds.  Diversity is important when evaluating what was said.  Our tone may have been perceived differently to different generations.  How we address an issue to one group may have sounded gracious, while those from a different generation may feel it was overbearing.  Seek diversity, and learn from the different perspectives.

As a church, may God guide you as you seek to be a voice of healing and hope to our rapidly changing world.

David Boyd 1 (1)Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources.  He is not tone-deaf, but loves to sing next to those who are.  If you would like him to help your church minister to Millennials (and those who love them), contact him at gdavid@earesources.org.

 

 

Sex in the Church

Sex, Millennials and the Church: Five ImplicationsEarlier this week, I shared an article from Thom Rainer about the changes in the sexual standards and beliefs of Millennials.  While the article shows how things have changed, it doesn’t explore how to respond.

Few Christians doubt that society’s views of sex have changed.  The bigger question is, “How does a church respond?” Continue reading

Sex, Millennials, and the Church

Sex, Millennials and the Church: Five ImplicationsOnce seen as restricted to those within a marriage relationship, sex is now often viewed as recreation regularly detached from the concepts of commitment or love.  “One look at patterns of emerging adults’ sexual activity makes it clear that marriage is no longer a gatekeeper to sexual relations (Simmons).  Instead of marking the beginning of a healthy sex life, marriage is frequently portrayed within current media as its end.

I came across an article that I wanted to share with my readers.  Thom Rainer is the President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources.  He has written several books including Essential Church.

wedding-baker-lianne-761857-h[1]If you think that “Youth Groupers” are any better due to pledges and purity conferences, then you might be surprised at the facts.  Robert Wuthnow, professor of sociology at Princeton University has discovered that even those who believe sex outside of marriage to be wrong, may not be living by their own standards.  “When all unmarried adults in this age range were compared, 63 percent of those who thought premarital sex was always wrong acknowledged having had sexual relations in the past year” (Wuthnow).  Changes within our society have made it much more difficult for people to remain sexually pure.  The time between the physical development of sexual urges and the age to seek fulfillment of those urges has increased.

Since the pendulum of physical maturity and the pendulum of adult responsibility are swinging farther and farther apart, they will have to wait longer and longer from the time of puberty until the time when they have the opportunity to marry and begin the sexual relationship God intends for them.  (Moore)

Premarital sex, cohabitation, and hook-ups have become the new sexual norms.  Emerging adults now feel the freedom to experiment and find their sexual identity, rather than becoming locked into a committed relationship.  Accompanying this sexual freedom is a new set of problems that the emerging adult must overcome.  Smith discusses the dark side of this sexual freedom when he states, “not far beneath the surface appearance of happy, liberated emerging adult sexual adventure and pleasure lies a world of hurt, insecurity, confusion, inequality, shame, and regret” (Smith 2011).  Emotional damage is not the only difficulty that sexual freedom has brought emerging adults, but it can also result in disrupting their community when sexual relationships end.

The article calls the church toward change, and yet holding to the community’s beliefs.  However, it fails to explain what that looks like.  As always, it is easier to point out problems than to deliver solutions.

I will discuss the road towards solutions for how the church should respond in my next entry.  It is not an easy road, nor will all agree on the path to get there, but should that keep us from the journey?

 

References:

Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer, Essential church. Reclaiming a generation of dropouts.

Christian Smith, Lost in transition: The dark side of emerging adulthood.

Walker Moore, Rite of passage parenting: Four essential experiences to equip your kids for life

Robert Wuthnow,  After the baby boomers. How twenty- and thirty-somethings are shaping the future of American religion

Brian Simmons,  Wandering in the wilderness. Changes and challenges to emerging adults’ Christian faith.

 

Why Youth Groups should Require Warning Labels.

Medicines are required by law to warn the user about the risks involved when using them.  Parents and students should know about the risks involved in participating in youth group.

No, I am not talking about the physical danger involved in playing dodgeball in a dark room after four cans of Mountain Dew and no sleep, or drinking strange concoctions mixed in a blender by the youth pastor.  Parents should be warned that an unhealthy social environment for your child might be deadly for your child’s faith.

Youth group is not something that your child has to attend.

God doesn’t command it.

The Bible doesn’t require it.

Many people have flourished spiritually for centuries without it.  Not only is youth group something that your child doesn’t have to attend, youth group could be detrimental to their spiritual health.  

The concept of “youth group” where youth gather alone to do spiritual community and worship really started in the 1940’s with the Young Life movement, and was further developed by the Youth for Christ Movement in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Since that time it appears to have become a necessity for most Western churches.

I was a youth pastor for over twelve years.  I saw the spiritual lives of many teens change as they were introduced to Jesus, and accepted within our youth community.  I am a believer in youth workers.  If they are volunteers, then they are underpaid.  They pour out their energy and lives in order to love and change the lives of teens.  If they are employed staff, then they are under-paid.  They do it because they believe in the Kingdom of God.

However for all their work and effort, youth workers can cannot control the spiritual outcome of their group on your child.  I also believe that if they are honest, they will admit they have seen the negative affect that their ministry can have on adolescents.

1.  Youth group could negatively affect your child’s faith because it is a peer-centered environment.

A peer-centered environment is a community that is built upon a similar age demographic.  While some peer-centered environments may be structured and led by someone outside the age demographic (like youth group), this person cannot control the group. Peers set the standards and values, and control the ethos of the group.  Our schools, sports teams, and churches are built around that concept that peer-centered communities are the best way to build community.

Some individuals thrive in communities based solely on their peers, while others merely survive.  There are even some adolescents who when placed with peers simply shut down.  During my adolescence, I was very involved in youth group, but it was not the peers that helped my faith stay alive as much as my connections with multiple generations.  My grandfather, my Bible teachers, my co-workers, and my youth pastor and his wife were all instrumental in my discipleship process.

While some adolescents perform well in peer-centered groups, this type of environment is not beneficial for all adolescents.  Especially since many of these adolescents are balancing not just one of these groups, but several peer-centered groups at once (including school, youth group, sports teams).   The emotional and social stress of fitting in with multiple social circles can be overwhelming.

2.  A Child’s social development is tied with their faith development.  

When attending youth group, your child’s faith development becomes tied to their social development within the group.   If the experience is good, then it will often result in positive affects on their faith.  However, a negative experience results in negative affects on their faith journey.  Parents should have an understanding of how the social dynamics of youth group affects your child’s faith.

Even if a child has a positive social community at youth group, that stability could disappear overnight (due to a romantic break-up, or fight between friends, or a friend moving away).  If your child’s entire spiritual influence is based solely on this community, then it could jeopardize their spiritual maturation.  Being rejected by a church group can be perceived by an adolescent as being rejected by God.

Parents have often asked if they should make their child go to youth group, but there is not a simple answer to that question.  Sometimes, parents wrongly view participation in youth group as the spiritual solution for a child’s struggles.

In order to avoid these issues, parents should make sure that their children have multiple sources of spiritual influences in their lives.  Here are some questions to ask yourselves:

  1.  Is your child apart of an inter-generational community at your church?
  2. Do they have spiritual aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas who can model faith, and encourage them in the midst of struggles?
  3. Does your child have a friend(s) their age who also claims faith in Christ?
  4. Is your child working with younger children within the church, displaying to them what it means to love others and follow Christ?

If you are seeing healthy spiritual development in your child, then there is no need to change.  However, if you are unsure, and you don’t know why…then maybe it is time to reevaluate.  Warning labels do not mean that no one should use them, but that there are risks of which parents should be aware.

The purpose of this article is not to destroy your faith in the church, but to call parents to reflect and examine how participation in a “Christian” youth group is affecting their child’s spiritual development.

Spiritual community is essential for healthy development, youth group is not.

Parenting Young Adults with ADHD

As a parent with a child with ADHD, I know that parenting can be challenging at some times, and exhausting at others.  My son at the age of three would stay awake playing in his room until 11 pm because he could not settle down.

I have seen the challenges as a toddler, and child.  The challenges of a young adult with ADHD affect development, and cause difficulties within the home.

Here is a great article that I found that discusses the challenges of young adulthood for the person with ADHD.  The author does a great job of supporting the concepts of autonomy, community, and vocation.

 

 

What’s Causing Our Millennials to fail becoming adults?

Here is an article that does a good job addressing the economic reasons behind the delayed development of emerging adults.

However, there are many more reasons than simply economics that are affecting our adolescents’ development. In this article, I address the various causes of the delayed development of our adolescents.

Please note that moving out of your parents house, is not a sign of adulthood. At times in life, it might be a wiser decision to live with your parents due to your financial situation.  Rather than adulthood being defined by an economic indicator, our society is in need of better marks of adulthood.

Adulthood is defined by three tasks: discovering vocation, establishing autonomy, and developing community.

If you would like for me to come to your church, school, or organization to talk about the delayed development of adolescents, and what can be done, contact me at gdavid@earesources.org.

 

4 Lies Church Taught Me about Sex

I found this article well-written, and true as I work regularly with those who were raised in the church, and are now married.

Two Quotes:

“Those of us who choose to wait do so because we hold certain beliefs about the sacredness of marriage and about God’s intentions and wishes for humanity, and we honor these regardless of whether they feel easier or harder.”

We do not refrain from sex because God will bless our sex lives.  We seek to glorify God with our lives before we are married by remaining pure.  We glorify God after marriage by enjoying His gift of sex.

“In the meantime, we in the evangelical church has a lot of work to do correcting the distorted ways we talk about sex and sexuality, especially to our youth.”

No youth pastor has ever tried confuse their students about sex, but it happens.  Even if we are careful about what we teach, we cannot control how it is heard.  However, perspectives like this are helpful as we try to address the sexual purity that is so desperately needed in our society without directing our sheep into other errors.

Read the Article here.

Dr. G. David Boyd

Why were tattoos so taboo?

Once associated only with motorcycle and street gangs, tattoos have now become a part of main-stream society.  Nearly four-in-ten Millennials have a tattoo (and for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more).  Many Christ-followers are actually getting inked as a sign of their faith. Continue reading

Sacred Ink

tattooOnce associated only with motorcycle and street gangs, tattoos have now become a part of main-stream society.  Nearly four-in-ten Millennials have a tattoo (and for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more).

It seems like this percentage is the same regardless of religious background.  The negative stigma of tattoos has been erased among many religious groups; but I have noticed that tattoos among believers sometimes look a little different.  Many Millennials are not just getting a tat, but a sacred piece of body art.

When deciding whether or not to get inked, many EA’s do not consider what others would think.  They were born before the negative stereotypes of tattoos, and never realized their ink would upset others.  The only outside opinion that seems to matter to emerging adults belongs to their parents.  One EA said, “My dad got extremely upset with me and shut himself out. My mom even though disappointed, was just happy I got something that wasn’t offensive.”  Once seen as a mark of rebellion against parents, I recently heard of a story of a father who was so moved by his son’s sacred ink that he went out and got one to match.

Tattoos are often a sign of their faith, and not a spirit of rebellion.  The legal age of tattoos in many states is 18, but people can get them before age 18 with the permission of a parent.  Desiring their tattoo not to be a mark of “youthful rebellion,” several emerging adults actually asked for their parents’ permission even after they reached the age requirement.  One EA said, “I talked with my parents beforehand and explained the significance [of my tattoo] and that I had been planning it for a while. I knew I did not need their permission, but I wanted to be respectful.”

So before you judge a EA by his or her skin, there are a few things you should know about tattoos.

Sacred Tattoos mark a spiritual turning point.

20140308_112144 (2)Much like the stone monument placed down by the Israelites in Joshua 4, emerging adults want something permanent to mark the movement of God in their lives.  Many emerging adults got tattoos to represent a personal struggle in their life including:  depression, or death of a friend.  One EA writes, “[after a friend’s suicide, my tattoo] was a promise to myself to never turn to suicide as an answer.”  Another EA writes that, “I got it when my life was shifting, but I was feeling solid about my faith. It seemed to be a good way to remember, the constant presence of God in it.”

One Emerging adult said that their tattoo represented a “significant paradigm shift.”  Knowing the struggle of keeping spiritual convictions and decisions, emerging adults want a daily reminder of their decision.  One EA says, “I decided I should keep my faith towards God growing. I needed something that would last, so I got the shield of faith tattooed on my forearm as a daily reminder.”  In a world filled with fleeting circumstances and flaky relationships, the permanence of tattoos can encourage and comfort them in their journey.

Sacred tattoos display a message to others.

EAs have grown up in a pluralistic society, and are conscious of crossing people’s personal boundaries.  Desiring to share their faith, tattoos allow Christians a reason to share their faith without being pushy.  One EA described it as a “conversation initiation tool” that allowed them to share their faith with others.  One EA compared it to baptism, saying, “…it is like baptism for me, a public testimony of your faith to those outside of the church.”

While some get the highly recognizable cross or bible references, EAs prefer something that needs a little explanation.  It is not because they are ashamed of their faith, but because they don’t want their tattoo to be bumper sticker that someone reads and walks away, but something that begins a conversation about faith.  Some EAs are getting words written in Greek, Hebrew, or Latin phrases that cannot be understood by a simple glance.  One described that their Hebraic tattoo comes from, “an ancient rabbinic goodbye, and signifies that disciples would be walking so closely behind their rabbi that the dust that he kicked up as he walked would cover them.”

Several expressed frustration when someone asked flippantly about a tattoo, because it represents such a depth of who they are which includes their faith.  One writes, “although it annoys me at work when customers ask because I don’t have time to talk about it at length.”  Their tattoos are not done in a spiritual high, but emerge from a deep desire for long-term faith.

Faith is hard.  During the difficult times of our journey, we all experience doubts.

Sacred Tattoos are a reminder to emerging adults of their commitment.  They know that these marks do not inherently hold spiritual power, but knowing how fleeting the human will can be, they want their faith to stick like the permanence of a tattoo.

Long after the water of baptism has dried, the retreat is over, and the spiritual high has faded, their ink remains.  They desire to mark their faith in a concrete way that will substantiate what God has done, and recognize His transforming effect on their life.

David - Prof 2Dr. G. David Boyd is the Managing Director of EA Resources, a non-profit designed to equip parents and churches to minister to emerging adults.  He is also the Founder of the EA Network, a national network to connect those who minister to emerging adults.