Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Generation?

I've recently experienced a pastoral transition, meaning our church has changed leadership as father passed the reigns to son. The process has taken two years, but plans were set in motion several years earlier. It's not been painless. In fact, it's been quite costly in terms of attendance, finances, emotions, and even friendships.

The father did not start this church, but people have forgotten that. He was one of the founding members and an extremely key component in its growth, which was quite substantial in the 80s and fairly steady in the 90s. The first decade of the 21st century was not kind for many, many reasons and attendance began a serious downward trend.

He was in his 30s when the church began and so probably was the majority of the congregation. The church and pastor aged together. Then it began to occur to people that not enough younger families were joining to sustain even the status quo as the years sped by. Thus began the quest to Bring in More Young People.

Our church was not alone in this quest as many churches in the US set out on the same journey. Some quite successfully; others... not so much. A lament was heard across the land: "We're losing this generation!!" The intention was honorable - lead people into the Kingdom of God and provide a community where they can "do life together" (one of those trendy phrases everyone used in 2004).

The tools to accomplish this task were not unique to any one church or denomination: contemporary music, complete with high volume, concert lights & haze for effect; bookstores & coffee bars; colorful & entertaining children's venues; separate services for teens, complete with their own worship bands and various trendy entertainments (climbing walls, video games, pool tables, etc); cool websites, video enhancements, live streaming, shortened services, satellite congregations, you name it.

None of those things seemed to have any effect for this particular church. Eventually, the pastor decided it was time for the Next Generation to lead the church into the future. His son felt God had called him to be the one to do it and dad agreed. They felt so strongly about it they changed the church bylaws and their friends on the board approved it, presumably to ensure that "God's" directive could not be questioned by a very likely negative congregational vote. Thus began our current story.

The young(er) pastor has his own ideas about how church should look, sound, be. Changes have included teaching style, service format, music, key staff, and many cosmetic changes. That's ok and to be expected.

Yet still the YPs aren't coming.

Meanwhile, the older, faithful people are quietly slipping away. They were ready to welcome the YPs with open arms. They supported the changes with their finances and prayers (and yes, their opinions). But they have gradually come to feel shoved aside. Excluded. Unheard. Unwanted.

I have heard YPs say things like:
They just need to get over themselves.
They need to get used to it.
- and worst of all,
They just need to get out of the way.

Get out of the way. What if a new college graduate told his parents to move out of their house so he could move in? What's happening in some of our churches is no different. A church community is family. It's a place where lives are shared and many memories are made. People who have invested their time, money, effort - their lives - into their church home are essentially being told to either shut up or move out.

Decades worth of statistics prove that college/career age people aren't church attenders. They are busy getting an education, starting their lives and having fun. Once they get married and especially when they start having children, they turn toward, or back to, church. As their careers flourish and finances stabilize, mid 30s-40s and up, they become better financial supporters of their church community. In the meantime, the older folks keep things going, volunteering their services and paying the bills.

In other words... it's the money put into the collection plate by the OPs that funds all the cool stuff the YPs expect before they will step foot in the door.

I posit: whose responsibility is it really to bring young people into the Kingdom of God? Of course, it's all of us. But who has more contact or influence with them? It's probably not the fifty year old in the accounts payable department of their workplace. In the Gospels, who was it brought people to see Jesus? It was excited friends telling other friends to come see this man who changed their lives.

YPs, it's time for you to grow up. You, too, have the responsibility to lead people to salvation. Don't wait for the next big thing in worship to come along. And don't wait for the older generation to fork over the funds then get out of the way to make church more appealing for you and your friends. Jesus is right here, right now.

If the Good News of the Gospel isn't enough to win young people, let's just stop wasting time and money. Everything else - the loud music, the big production, the hipster frontman with his cool visuals - can all be found outside church walls where they do a much better job of it anyway. Trends come and go and people are fickle. By the time you get that coffee shop built, a new trend has hit the streets. You can't keep up. But eternal truth can.

In the community of family we call church, made up of young, old, and in-between, everyone has a responsibility and a gift to share. Nobody should ever feel disenfranchised.

If the current paradigm thinking doesn't change, I fear we really are in danger of losing This Generation. The one on the other side of 50.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's Beginning to Look...

They go up slower every year. The Christmas decorations. And the style becomes a bit more, shall we say, "minimalistic." 

Many years ago I saw a snowman-themed tree at a little shop in Eureka Springs, AR. They even had little snowmen tobogganing down a "snowy hill" from the mantle to the tree. It was so cute! So I began collecting snowmen to make one of my own. It took years and by the time I had enough, we had moved & I couldn't really envision a snowman tree in the new living room. Well, this year I decided to give it a try or give them away. I'm happy with how it turned out!

Photographing a white tree with white ornaments is tricky. Ugh! I'm not satisfied with these photos, but wanted to get them posted in case I don't get another chance. 'Tis the season = busy.

I hope you are finding joy in unexpected places this busy month!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Zoo 3

This is the final post of my zoo series. I'm so impressed with the improvements to our local zoo over the last few years and they are working on more! Lush landscaping abounds. Here are some flower pictures, with a few artsy light/shadow ones thrown in for good measure.

Got a little artsy-fartsy in post production with these next few...

We bid you a fond adieu. Now on to the Dakota pix...

Zoo 2

This post is for the birds.

Not really :) But it's about the birds! The birds of the Zoo. Don't you love the expression on this little guy above? I can think of a couple different captions. He's in the "Desert" exhibit but I don't know what he is.

Opposite of the desert is the artic. Most of the penguins were hiding while a worker cleaned their area. Two little guys stood by and supervised her work. (Again, having to shoot through glass!)

Oh the flamingo flock! Their plumage is sooooo pretty. I've never just stopped and watched them interact. They go through some interesting gyrations.

That's the beauty of intentional photography; at least for me - I see more through the lens than I do just strolling through life.

The whole flock was resting, heads burrowed, one leg up. Then one would lift his head, honk, and the whole flock would change positions. After a about 10 minutes, they would repeat the process. It was very well orchestrated!

I heard someone ask a worker if she could keep a feather she found. He answered that it's against the law and carries a fine up to $2,000! They are exquisite, but, no thanks!

I don't know anything about birds, but I assume the brown one is a youngster and hasn't colored out yet? There were two in this peach & white field of feathered fluff. Talk about needing to have self-confidence!

I took a lot of flamingo pictures, trying to capture their beauty and ballet-like form..

I have no idea what this next fellow is. He looks like a hybrid cousin of the flamingos.

Polly want a ...?  Nah, too cliche!

One more set of artsy shots to come and then maybe I'll finally get some of my Dakota pix up. Check back!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Zoo Pix!I

I wanted to practice my photography and thought the zoo would be a good place to do it!

It was a beautiful morning and the animals were enjoying the sunshine after breakfast.

The Meerkats are my favorite animal. So much personality! I spent a lot of time watching their antics. Unfortunately for me, they are behind glass, but I think I got some decent shots in spite of that.

I used to be a K4 aide and we would take a class field trip to the zoo every April. It was fun, but this day was so relaxing...enjoying the animals, the beautiful new landscaping, and my camera (and not trying to corral 20 little humans!)

Could this lion have been any more cooperative? Handsome face uplifted majestically towards the sun! Thank you, King Leo!

I tried several different approaches, but the elephants aren't quite as photogenic. Fun to watch them munching breakfast, though.

This was a bit eerie. The chimp absolutely knew I was there and taking pictures. He seemed alternately coy and annoyed. I couldn't help but think about the recent "Planet of the Apes" movies.

These little monkeys were really into a grooming session. I expected the one on the left was about to pull out a tissue & spit on it, mom-like, any second.

The Grizzlys are named Butch & Sundance. They are guests in Tulsa while their home in SC gets a makeover.

This is a very rare animal! I was lucky to get a picture of him.

I have another set to share. Come back!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wind Farms

On our trip to ND this summer, I saw on the map a wind farm. Since I've never seen one, I asked hubby to indulge me in a little side trip. Always the sweet & accommodating spouse, we took the exit and headed down this long country road.

I was so excited to see all these windmills and appreciated hubby being willing to take a little extra time to explore. After taking a bunch of pix, we got back on the road and continued our journey. And saw another wind farm. And then another. They're everywhere! Not only that, on the return trip to OK, as we crossed the border, guess what? Yep, a wind farm practically in my back yard!