The Corona Reset: A Blessing in Disguise

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Before the pandemic, my wife and I were balcony dwellers at church. A throwback to a time when our Sunday school class would all sit together, on high, in the balcony. A great place to watch all the movements below and be hidden from the pastor’s view due to the bright lights.

Unnecessary Explanatory Note: We have stayed in the balcony due to the ease of finding seats. When you serve, easy seat access is a plus.

Since we have returned to church from the dark pandemic times, Tab and I have sat downstairs. Free from Sunday school, serving, and any other positions we may hold, we have been free to just attend… to just be.

Sitting where we have been sitting, I have smiled to myself many a time. You see, church goers joke about members having assigned seating. When I say joke, I speak of a partial truth. One of those things that is awkwardly grinned at but often experienced in the form of a wordless glare. The “Hey, why are you sitting in my seat” glare. But why are you talking about assigned seating and “the glare”, Bryan?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

On the other side of COVID-19, everything is new at church. Months of not meeting together have erased ingrained habits. We’ve had to figure out what the church looks like when it does not meet; We’ve had to figure out what church looks like when it does meet with a lurking virus.

My key here is that the old is gone. The boardgame has been reset. New habits, even those as small as seating, are allowed to begin anew.

  • I have loved being able to talk with those I didn’t normally see by sitting in the balcony.
  • I have loved feeling more a part of the worship service, not so distant–proximity is huge–.
  • I have loved the feeling of a new beginning.

As we experience a reset of the old norms, I want to encourage you to shake things up. Talk to those you didn’t talk to before. Allow yourself to experience the Body of Christ in a whole new way.

Church Attendance is a Discipline

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The Coronavirus has wounded the American Church in a way that many cannot see yet. As social distancing measures lift and other post-pandemic precautions ease, some Christians are hesitant to return to the Church. Presented with the convenience of watching a worship service on Facebook or YouTube, many believers are making the intentional choice to stay at home. Telling themselves, “The virus is still out there, we still need to protect ourselves for another month or two.” Happy in their newfound sermon consumption that doesn’t require one to ever leave the home. Or better yet, require them to sit with their kids in the worship service due to the church’s children’s program not being up and running.

Photo by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

Meanwhile, In Social Media Land…

  • I can see that you recently volunteered on a project.
  • I can see that you went and visited the zoo.
  • I can see that you are hanging out with friends and family.
  • I can see you doing all of these things, and yet, I haven’t seen your happy face at church.

Gathering with fellow believers, attending church, this is a Christian discipline. What I have hated seeing, in these pandemic times, is how quickly that discipline has been let go; convenience and inconvenience pushing against one another.

I am not advocating for fellow believers to come back to church in order to check a box. I am advocating for fellow believers to come, grow, and encourage other believers with your presence.

I keep asking myself, “Is Jesus enough of a commonality to hold believers together in these times?” My answer is of course, Jesus is enough. But, I think these pandemic times are revealing who church attendance is important to.

  • Our Time
  • Our Talents
  • Our Treasures

All of these things communicate to both the world and our fellow believers where our priorities lie.

I want to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to push past their preferences and convenience. The withdrawal of your presence is hurting others, silently wounding the Church in the process. Please do not let being in the habit of attending church slip away and become your new normal. Your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ miss you.

I miss you too.

So what if your kids have to sit with you in church?

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Growing up, Sunday mornings could often become tense. While getting ready for church, words would be said and feelings hurt as all six of us hurried to get out the door.

Even with a family of three, there can occasionally be a morning where we pull up into the church parking lot and say, “Everyone smile.”

Tab and I serve in our church’s kids ministry by helping check kids in, Sunday mornings. As parents walk up to the check in desk, they will often look relieved to be dropping off their children. Maybe their morning had been harried/tense while trying to get to church? I am never sure. But I get it. I try and reassure those parents with a sincere smile and a quick, “Hey, ya’ll made it today.” Sometimes merely getting to the destination is the biggest family battle of all.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

In the wake of the pandemic, my church has started meeting once again. This week will be week five of meeting physically, together. We’ve been meeting with some rules/modifications in place:

  • Not shaking hands, although elbows are encouraged
  • A row of spacing, behind and in front of, each occupied row
  • No passing of the offering plate.
  • Masks and gloves offered to those in attendance (not mandatory)
  • And this week, we are beginning to offer an earlier service for those ages 60+/vulnerable

Our small groups have yet to restart and have been meeting online.

One of the bigger changes now is that our children are sitting with us in the service.

Sunday morning, during the worship service, I got looking around. Trying to see if any of my little friends were in attendance; kids I used to check in each week. A few of the kids were there, sitting alongside their parents or even grandparents. For the most part though, the kids from our kids ministry have vanished.

  • I understand the need to practice social distancing.
  • I understand a parents desire to want to keep their children healthy.
  • I understand wanting to protect the vulnerable.

At some point though, I wonder if there is another reason I’m not seeing my little friends anymore. I wonder if their parents do not want to sit with them in the service.

Serving in the kid’s ministry, I have seen how amazing our children’s minister is. I have sat through her teaching time; I have seen the way she handles the kids and the expectations she holds them to. Yes, your child can sit through the service without getting up to pee.

Get’s me thinking about the way we can pass our children along to others, expecting them to teach/raise them. I see this pandemic time as the perfect time to model through action how to sit in big church. Pulling out, if needed, items to help your child:

  • Coloring books
  • Dot-to-dot books
  • Blank pages to draw on
  • And, depending on age, maybe even–gasp!–an iPad (with headphones)

I’m not sure about your church, but our children’s minister offers a kids sheet for sermon notes. Our pastor, each week, provides notes for his sermon. This is a great way to encourage our kids to engage in the service. I’m not interested so much in behavior as I am in teaching our children how to worship God.

I get tired of parents treating their children like they are the plague. Yes, I am a parent of one (and God-willing, more one day) but that doesn’t lessen my experience… nor my overall encouragement to bring your kids to church right now. This is the perfect time to grow spiritually as a family.

In closing, I say this with love: Some of us need to stop hiding behind this virus and using it as an excuse to forgo meeting with fellow believers. So what if your kids have to sit with you in church?

I love ya’ll. Until next time.

Controlling Devotional Time – You’re Doing It Wrong

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I am not sure why but talking about what one does for their devotional time can get weird. Have you ever noticed how a discussion can go from a simple conversation such as:

  • “For my personal time with God, I’ve been reading a few verses a day and then praying.”
  • “For my personal time, I’ve been reading through a devotional book.”
  • “For me, I’ve been reading through a read the Bible in a year plan.”

To more of:

  • “Dude, you should slow down, savor but a few verses a day.”
  • “You’re not reading enough. I read 15 chapters yesterday. Gold star for me.”
  • “Devotional books are for babies. Man up, read the Bible!”

We Christians can be a controlling lot. We love to tell fellow brothers and sisters in Christ what their devotional time with God should look like. Instead of pushing our own way, why can’t we practice encouragement instead?

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

From Across the Net – “Three Cautions and Encouragements for Dads”

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Photo by Scott Goodwill on Unsplash

The “plan dragon” is one of those I’ve had to battle for years. Thankful for God’s grace and how we grow, as parents, as our children grow.

When I was setting up our new family tent, a big part of my frustration sparked because I had plans and my daughter interrupted them. Most of our anger and annoyance happens when our plan (or our kingdom) becomes threatened or disturbed.

The very people we’re trying to serve and love become the problem in our eyes. They ruin our plan—even if that plan is to make memories with them—so we get angry.

You can read more here

Fear, Geek Culture, and the Church

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Michael Mendis, writing for Geeks Under Grace, recently wrote a piece titled “Geek Culture and the Church“. As he weaves through the history between the church and geek culture, he touches on something I have always found interesting:

Over the years I have heard numerous stories about Christian geeks who feel that they have to hide their hobbies from fellow saints. I’ve met a well-respected leader in a church who can’t reveal to the rest of his leadership team that he plays Dungeons & Dragons. A gaming missionary I have worked with tells a story about how he once visited a church to talk about gamer culture, and after his presentation, two people came up to him—back-to-back, but independently of one another—to privately confide that they were gamers, and that they were afraid to tell the other people in their church.

On a basic level, I get that we can’t 100% be ourselves at church. Fellow Christians may struggle with things that we do not, making it un-wise to talk about whatever it is in front of them. I get that. But playing video games, to me, is just as normal as watching television or following sports. In all my time, living in the buckle of the Bible Belt for over sixteen years now, I have never felt like I needed to hide the fact that I enjoy playing video games and tabletop games (and I get that my experience may be unique).

I remember approaching my pastor, soon after college graduation, about how I wanted to start a video game ministry. He encouraged me to talk to our youth pastor; who then encouraged me to think outside the box and not go to seminary. “Just do it”, he said like a Nike commercial (it was deeper than that). I’d like to think that my experience here isn’t unique, I was encouraged by my East Texas based church staff, not discouraged from where I felt God leading me in that moment.

As I edge closer to 40, I have learned to not be as worried about others opinions, to enjoy what I like. I have found that there are others out there, in the church, who share my hobbies. I want to encourage you not to live in fear. Be passionate about what you are passionate about. Own your video games, your hunting, and your love for modifying old cars.

Update 5/23/19 – My wife lovingly reminded me that I have encountered instances, at church, where fellow Christians have been less than loving about my hobby. Funny how one forgets such things when not in the moment. As with anything, I think you quickly learn who you can talk to and who you should avoid talking to about nerdy things. Such is life. – Bryan

Bad Parenting: How To Not Play Rocket League With Your 6-Year-Old

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Imagine radio controlled cars, with rockets, playing a game of soccer. Good ball control is key and takes much skill and time to develop.

Wyatt and I played a lot of Rocket League. Then I noticed how I started talking to him. We weren’t doing well in the match we were playing. I felt like I was playing alone versus actually playing with a teammate against two bots. Now this is not Wyatt’s fault, Rocket League is a fun/simple game with deep deep mechanics. But I found that the words coming out of my mouth were not uplifting, in fact, my words were angry and annoyed. Wyatt’s body language was defensive, I was about to lose him. So I had to mentally check myself:

– I am an adult.

– I am playing a game with my son. He is six years old.

– Why am I acting this way?

After a few talks with my wife, I decided that I would make more of an effort to use encouraging words. To try and let go of my competitive spirit and just have fun. And so we did.

Ever since then, I have tried to speak words of life, versus death. This is not easy. But parenting isn’t easy either.

Super Mario Bros. Wii is another game we play together. A game I have had serious issues with in the past, due to how anger-inducing the co-op experience can be. But you know what? We laughed. Wyatt giggled over causing me to die, many times. We had fun.

Win or lose, playing games with your children is awesome. As a dad, the key is realizing that playing a videogame is another teachable moment. Model the words you want to spoken during competitive play. Encourage teamwork. Embrace defeat. Together, we can do this.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” – James 1:19