What Do You Want For Christmas?

This is a question we tend to hear from family and friends. And, this is a question that we may ask others. What do you want for Christmas?

I’ve heard this several times lately. Various people have asked me to give them a list of things I want for Christmas. But, making lists of gifts I want just seems bizarre.

If I make a list and then don’t receive what’s on the list I’ll find myself wondering what the point was in the list. If I don’t make a list, I’m almost setting myself up for disaster. But, I feel like, if you really want to get me something, surprise me…get me something that you think I’d like (it’s sort of a test to see if you really know me).

But, in reality, it’s not about getting or not getting what’s on my list. What really seems odd is handing someone a list and saying, “Here. Get me this stuff. I don’t really need it. But I want it. And, it will bring me momentary satisfaction if you get these things for me.”

So, I’ve tried to tell people that I don’t really need anything for Christmas. Time with friends and family truly is sufficient for me. Taking time to remember that the day is all about Jesus is sufficient for me. Having a nice meal with people I love is sufficient for me.

But, some people just won’t take a “no-list” approach. So, for those who have kept badgering me, I compiled a short list of things I truly could use. A plain black t-shirt. A plain gray t-shirt. To make it easy, Hanes puts black and gray t-shirts in a package together for less than $8. What else is on the list? A new pair of jeans and a pair of black dress pants.

What’s on your list?

National Congregations Study

This morning, while reading the Star Press on-line, an article caught my attention. It gave a brief look at some of the findings from the National Congregations Study.  The SP article noted that congregations are getting older, pastors are getting older, and churches are becoming more media savvy.

If you have spent any time in the modern church, this is no surprise to you. While there are a fair share of churches with younger populations (I can think of about four in Muncie), these tend to be the exception, rather than the norm. The average age of pastors is increasing. I don’t have any concrete data, but when I look at those being ordained in our Annual Conference, the average age seems to be in the 40’s. And, I think most churches and pastors are finding the benefits of technology. Websites, e-mail, media in the services all help us communicate more effectively, efficiently, and creatively.

So, if the church is getting older, what are we going to do about it? Are we shaping our ministries to attract younger generations? Or do we design our services with only ourselves in mind?

If pastors are getting older, what are we doing to recruit younger pastors. Many seminary graduates are opting to serve denominations other than the United Methodist Church. Why? Because we have a long and thorough ordination process (there are pros and cons to this). Many seminary graduates simply don’t want to jump through more hoops after graduation. This is understandable. For others called to pastoral ministry, seminary seems more like a hinderance rather than a helpful tool. They look at the course offerings and question whether or not it will actually benefit pastoral ministry. So, they end up looking for positions in denominations (or non-denominational churches) that don’t require and MDiv. Or they look for other venues of licensing. Or they simply serve in “non-pastoral” roles.

While many churches are becoming more media savvy, we still have churches and pastors who are lagging far behind. I have always believed that the Bishop should require every church in the conference to have a website and every pastor to have an e-mail account. Churches can set up free websites or blogs to serve as their home on the internet. It doesn’t have to be nice and flashy. It can simply be an information page (service times, contact information, a few upcoming events). Of course, I believe that it’s better to not have a website than one that hasn’t been updated since 2001 (I actually saw a website of a UM church in northern Indiana that listed their pastor as a guy that hasn’t been their for 5 years and their most recent events were in November of 2001). And, pastors should simply utilize e-mail (and potentially other social networking opportunities). There is so much ease of contacting people via e-mail. People can communicate their needs, questions, and such with the pastor without having an appointment or keeping the pastor on the phone for three hours. But, I know several pastors that don’t utilize e-mail (and it’s not just my senior pastor…I’ve been to several  conference meetings where pastors have said, “Um, I don’t have e-mail. So, could someone send me a hard copy of that?” My answer is always, “No, we can’t. Go get a free e-mail account.”)

The National Congregations Study shares much more information than the Star Press article. If you’re interested in church data (and they have some weird stuff too), go check it out! It just might motivate you to do some things within your congregations.

Star Press Article

National Congregations Study Website

Ridiculous

Recently, I posted a blog about the disrespectful behavior of individuals at a pre-school party and the Muncie Community Christmas sing.

Last night, I helped Emily with her Christmas program. In all honesty, the audience was one of the best behaved she’s ever had at this school. In the past, there have actually been fights break out between parents. And, there have been parents that show up obviously intoxicated to pick up their children. One year, a mother sent her drunk boyfriend to pick up her children after the show because she was too drunk to come and get them.

However, there was one moment that just really made me laugh. It was pretty ridiculous. A mother sitting in the second row was having a great time at the program. Throughout the performance, she was singing along and swaying back-an-forth and side-to-side in her seat. And then, it happened…Her cell phone rang.

So, what did she do? Well, she answered it, of course! Not only did she answer it, she went on to have a conversation throughout two songs. After she hung up, she was back to singing along and having a great time.

I wasn’t shocked to see someone answer a call during the program. I was shocked to see the parent go on and have a conversation, while remaining seated. If it’s an important phone call, you simply excuse yourself from the room and have your conversation in the hallway.

In reality, I shouldn’t say I was shocked. I truly wasn’t all that surprised. I guess we just have a lot of people in our community who simply don’t understand what’s appropriate in public settings. One used to be able to encourage people to behave as they would at church. However, more and more people don’t attend church…so that doesn’t really work. I know the teachers do as much as they can to educate the students. But, the lessons don’t make it all the way to the parents. In the past, when Emily or the principal have made comments about appropriate behavior, things have actually been worse.

At least the parents were there. Some students are simply dropped off and picked up when the program is over. So, I guess even if they are rude and disrespectful, they are still there taking some kind of interest and showing some kind of support for their children. It would just be nice if they would turn off their phones for 45-minutes (unless they are an on-call doctor, fireman, policeman, etc).

Finding a New Home

I’ve been using wordpress for some of my ministry related blogs. I really like its ease of use. So, after quite some time using blogsome, I am making a leap to wordpress for the new home of my Tuesdays with Morris blog. The old blogsome site will still be available for my archives. But, all of my new posts will be found here.