Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why I stopped blogging: Reflections from the last few months of ministry

Yes, it has been a few month's sense my last blog. 
Those who write for a living (or want to) may perhaps think of this break as a career killer or at least a starting over.  I am sure there is some truth to this, but I have a reason for not writing (insert your favorite homework excuse(s) here)--I have placed my energy and time elsewhere.

I have placed my energy and time with the people in my context of ministry.  Missions trips, camps, classes, sermons, counseling, coaching, talking, laughing, crying, mentoring and walking with people through all the ups and downs of life has taken up a large portion of my day(s).  Without detail, it has been a particularly heavy season of ministry and my time and energy have been placed with the flock the Lord has entrusted me to minister with and to.  I can say, it has been and continues to be an honor, blessing and joy to minister in this challenging season.   So, when faced with giving my attention to a blog for the masses or the life of a student, parent or adult in my ministry, I chose the people in my immediate context.  Why am I sharing this?  I have been reminded of an important student ministry concept that I have taught and attempted to live by (maybe in my 40's I am finally getting it)  for many years now--People over Programs!  If you place people above your personal and even church programs, you and your ministry will be blessed.  So, if you have been in student ministry for a while and need a reminder or just entered our corp, always place ministry to people as first priority.  It is so simple and makes sense, but easy to forget in the "busyness" of programming.

I have placed my energy and time with my family.  When going through "heavy seasons" of ministry, it is crucial that you find energy and time for your spouse and kids (BTW: if you are single, you still need to give the same attention to your "family" of close friends).  Time spent with family restores your own giving source and let's your family know they are and will always be your first ministry priority.  So, when faced with the decision of taking the energy and time to blog or running to McDonald's with the wife and kids, family wins.  Again, why share?  I have had to say to myself, on more than one occasion, this simple yet powerful phrase that helps me take needed breaks on those "still a lot left to do" days in ministry, live life for the people who will be around your bed when you die. The phrase is derived from a combination of scripture and church father sources and comes in handy when needing to pull away and rest a bit.  Student minister, there is never an end to ministry activity--always something to do.  That is the excitement and the curse, if not managed, of our calling to work with students and families.  So, consider often those who will be around your bed when you die, it is a rather small, but important list of people.

I have placed my energy and time with my Lord and resting.  You would think this is a given, but it is a principle of balance often overlooked by busy minister's.  In short, if the Lord needed time away from people and alone with His Father, why should we be any different?  Oh, remember when Elijah was running for his life from Jezebel?  When he ran to the Mountain of the Lord, one of the first things he was told to do was rest.

So, these are my excuses.  I don't mind taking a late grade for my work on this blog--it was worth it.

QUESTION:  What do you do to remain balanced and "full" during particularly heavy seasons of ministry? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Short Blog: Chillin' with the MS Worship Band

Here is a picture of John Spengler (a big deal and our Student MinistryWorship Leader--check him out @johnwspengler--he plays for big time bands and Food Trucks.  In other words, he is a big deal and has a ministry heart) and me listening in on our MS Band rehearsal.

As we walked in a young lady was singing.  We looked at each other (sorta like this photo) and said, "This girl is awesome!"  As is the custom of most MS Girls, the raw talent was there but at times she seemed unsure and hesitant in the delivery (again, she has a lot of natural ability).  
So...when the song was over...we interrupted and said, "That was awesome!"  Yes, the compliment meant much more coming from THE John Spengler than Dr. Fraze but the impact was the same--She was encouraged!  

So...short reminder...be generous with the compliments.  These mean a whole lot to a student.  Oh, be sure to compliment students anytime you see something good "off-stage" as well.  You know, a use of manners, sharing, serving, kindness to others, etc.   Compliments, apart from those from a performance, have an even more powerful impact in a student's life.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Count the Conversations and Water Ball Matches!

Wow!  It has been almost two months since the last post on CatchFraze.
It is Summer Season and the Fraze family has been hoppin' around camps and mission trips experiencing all the greatness that is student ministry.  In one word, it has been awesome!
Part of the Summer Season is reporting back to the home base, church leadership, the numbers (don't be cynical, it is a needed stewardship component of ministry).  Numbers typically involve counting participants (adult and student), those served, those saved, those making decisions of some sort and...um...all that budget stuff.  Again, all great things to know in order to effectively make future programmatic determination.  However, there are numbers that are often overlooked that I want to encourage you to count and tell stories about.
If you have been in student ministry for any length of time you have discovered a truth.  If you are new at this, here it is:  Students are influenced more and remember time spent with you, other adults and students more than they are influenced and remember the lesson, activity or destination. This does not mean we throw away all programming and get sloppy in trip preparation and lesson delivery.  It does mean that we learn to include other "countable" items in our numbers.  For instance (just a few here):

  • How many deep conversations about life (I am not going to quantify deep here--you will know if you had one) did you have with students?  
  • How much time did you spend playing games with students? Water ball is pictured below and it is one of my favorites (it is called various things in different pools but the point is the same--wrestle a ball into a goal and dunk everyone around you).  It is a favorite because the experience provides a platform for trust to be developed so that students feel comfortable talking with you about that deep stuff mention above.  A simple game of cards or making a craft with a student can provide the same platform. 
Counting these type of numbers and asking your adult leaders to tell stories connected with these numbers is powerful!  Such stories really let you know if your programming methods are effective. I know, I know..."David, we had a bazillion decisions to follow Christ at (name your favorite event)."  Again, important number to count, but don't forget to count the other numbers as well.  You may be surprised at the insight and long-term impact they will have on your student ministry.  
One more thing, it doesn't hurt that such numbers and connected stories strengthen your leadership role with both students and adults.  Oh, your senior pastor will really like the stories as well (just sayin'). 

Question:  Do you have any great stories to tell from deep conversations with students this summer? (Remember, confidentiality is a must so change the names)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"We are only to the H's?": Turning a graduation ceremony into a prayer opportunity

"We are only to the H's?" is a thought that has hit me more than once in the middle of a HS graduation ceremony.  Don't get me wrong, after 21 years of student ministry, I really do love attending graduations and supporting students and families.  And, as a people watcher, there are lots of people to watch at these things (graduations can provide extra-special sociological experiences).  Still, in the middle of the H's, the "is this almost over" feeling can creep in on a guy.

Here is a way to beat that "We are only to the H's" feeling at graduation--PRAY!  Think about it.  You are listening to every name of every graduating senior of that High School.  Why not pray for every name being announced?  At larger schools you have to pray fast before the next name is announced, but ask the Father to bless the student's faith, future and family (three F's should be easy to remember).  Who knows, the Lord may use you for a Divine Appointment in one of those lives someday!  

Enjoy Graduation, the people watching and the prayer time!  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

After the Big "S" Talk: Cyberspace and Students

Fact:  When you talk about the big "S" word at church, SEX, students and adults both get a little or a lot uncomfortable.

In recent years, the after the "talk"  follow up questions from parents and guardians seem to revolve around how to navigate and gain more control over the ever-changing and somewhat frightening cyber-space landscape of Facebook, Twitter, cell-phones, internet, game counsels and...etc (there are a number of social apps and connection points).   If you are reading this blog and can remember a world before the World Wide Web, you probably understand why such a line of questioning exists.  The parents of the pre-www generation kept TV's out of bedrooms and could control phone usage at night (unless you had a phone outlet in your room, it is hard to hide a phone cord trailing into your bedroom).  Here are some practical suggestions parents can implement to navigate and gain more control over all that technology "stuff." 
  • Push back technology.  It is alright to tell your student "NO!"  Contrary to popular belief of your student, everyone does not have a phone, Facebook account and a computer in their room.  Remember, once you say "yes," it is difficult to turn back--how you start is how you finish.  And yes, you will have to say "yes" at some point.  It is your decision, but today's student has known no other world than a world with cyberspace.  Today's student have to learn navigation and control at some point in order to interact with the surrounding culture (I know some may have a problem with that last sentence, but I believe it is a reality and teaching burden for today's parents/guardians).
  • Set and enforce limits.  Setting limits when the privilege of technology is given is imperative to controlling the impact of cyberspace.  From phone to game console, limits on time, types of usage, ratings, acceptable apps are not bad. If you are a "next time you do this I will..." parent and struggle with rule enforcement, get a back bone because the lack of enforcement will come back to haunt you.  Oh, taking away a cell phone or other "screens" for a time does wonders for a student's behavior--don't ask me how I know.
  • Be a creeper.  Be up front with your student and let them know Facebook, Twitter, text messages and other cyberspace platforms and messaging services will be checked often for accountability and appropriateness.  Get their passwords!  If you have not done this already, put accountability software on your student's (and your) phone and computers.  Here are a few resources I recommend you check out:  xxxchurch.com and www.covenanteyes.com.  This is my opinion, I would do this today.  Yes, at some point, your student will be independent of such control.  However, until they leave home, I suggest the creeper agreement remain intact. 
  • Pay attention to ratings and age appropriate platforms.  I am amazed at the number of students, under acceptable age, that have a Facebook account or play adult rated games.  There is a reason the ratings are given.  As you will see below, student do not always know the impact of photos and status updates can have on their present and future (I will avoid the soapbox I would love to jump on at this point).
  • Be a student of technology.  I am not saying you have to be an expert but you need to be informed to in set and enforce limits (btw: my teenager teaches me a lot about MY iPhone--teenagers are a great source of information). A website I would recommend to help keep up to date on all things culture is Dr. Walt Mueller's at www.cpyu.org.  A great resource.
Recently, one of the Hill's crack, veteran student ministers, Darin Hollingsworth, shared an interview he came across on the Today Show.   The interview with James Steyer, Talking Back to Facebook,  illustrates many of the common sense suggestions above and adds great perspective and insight for parents  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/47352602#47352602.  As you can see, cyber-space navigation and safety is a hot button topic.  There are a lot of resources available for parents and guardians--commit to access and practice those resources.  It is ALWAYS better to be proactive than reactive or pick up the pieces after a cyber "incident" occurs.

Monday, May 7, 2012

No Excuses!

Okay...this is a motivational video!

It may be the Spring Football Season and I am a little fired up about getting students motivated for competition.  Still, this video shared by a close friend (Thanks Dr. Kempe--one of B.I.S.D.'s finest)  fired me up!  So, whatever the season of competition or "life struggle" you are facing, this video will take inventory of all the excuses we dare give and challenge us to dig deeper.

This video should fire up any who step into the competition arena to give there all! Coaches, you should use this video--just sayin'.  

I know it is often used WAY OUT of context, but Phil. 4:13 comes to mind when watching this video.
The Apostle Paul, facing all kinds of situations, good and bad, in his journey with Christ, could have quit and given in to any number of excuses.  Yet, catch the surrounding verses, here is what Paul wrote:

...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Paul is not guaranteeing a State, National or World Sport Championship in these verses.  He is not guaranteeing a won election, a passing grade or the spouse of your dreams (all of these would be nice).  What Paul is guaranteeing is joyful, purpose filled, focused, no EXCUSE survival for those focused on following the way of Christ--even in the face of pain and trial!  

So...in whatever life circumstance you are facing...What's your excuse?  

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Day after a "Day"

I am attending a Community in Schools banquet with my wife tonight! My role is the trophy husband (not that much of a "trophy" but always wanted to say that) and to show up at her side in a few minutes to greet people and such (it is an 80's theme banquet and people are wearing old letter jackets. No, I am not wearing mine but did think twice about feathering my remaining hairs).  Here is the view from my cyber cafe' perch in downtown Fort Worth.

I was simply going to come up here and watch ESPN, but the bustle below inspired me to share a few thoughts on the day after a "Day."  The day after a "day" is the day following the day a major event occurs in your life (I hope you followed that).  The major event could be a great accomplishment (conversion, marriage, birth of a child, accomplishment at work, school, sports, etc.) or it could be a great loss and/or disappointment (death of a loved one, the divorce is finalized, disappointment in a child's conduct, your efforts at works, school, sports, etc. are not quit good enough).  The day after a day is often a very interesting day to navigate.  Why?  Simply put, something intense has happened (good or bad) and the majority of the people you pass are going about their business as if nothing happened.  Sure, if the "day" is big enough, people notice; but eventually, the unavoidable day after the day occurs.

A championship is won and the celebration begins.  Eventually, you have to get ready for the next season.
A death of a loved one occurs and the grieving process begins.  Eventually, you have to learn how to live life without them.
A promotion is awarded you at work gaining more responsibility and pay. Eventually, you have to adjust the balance of your life to the greater expectations.
A significant "day" occurs in your life.  Eventually, you realize the day is not as significant to others who pass you on the street.

The day after a day is indeed an interesting day to navigate.  If you are facing one of those "days," let me offer three practical navigation suggestions:

  • What you are experiencing is a good thing.  It is a natural and unavoidable process of returning to a normal balance of life. The "day," or should I say series of days, have to be lived in order to heal from a loss or grow from an accomplishment. 
  • Remember that our Father in Heaven never forgets the "day." It is a fact, even though it may be impossible for you, the attention focused on your day will pass, at some point, from the remembrance of others--it is normal.  Even so, our Father never forgets.  I am sure that's why Paul pleads with the Philippians to take their cares and burdens to the Lord and receive the peace He alone can give (Phil. 4).  
  • Help others remember and celebrate their "day(s)." Yes, even if you are having that day after the day experience help others navigate their interesting day (sorry about the confusing sentence again--it's unavoidable).  Help others celebrate and grieve significant days through a phone call, text, e-mail message, card (old fashion I know), prayer, etc.  As a recipient of such loving remembrance, I can tell you it means a great deal.  The significance of sharing celebration and grief with others is at the core of how Paul told the Corinthians to live as a community of believers         (I Cor. 12). 
Well, my time is up and I have to go and begin my trophy husband duties.  Yes, I just saw a letter jacket walk by.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 2nd: We Still Remember!

There is a sacred hush that comes over my heart and that of my wife every May 2nd--I guess it always will.

It has been thirteen years since the first May 2nd burned its impression into our hearts.

The Green Lawn youth group was driving back from an awesome spring retreat in the mountains of New Mexico when a 5th wheel trailer struck the bus I was driving, ripping through the  side, leaving a trail of destruction and taking the lives of six precious young ladies.  In total, seven lives were lost that day (a passenger traveling behind our bus was the seventh fatality) and thousands more impacted by the staggering losses of the day.

Our lives will never be the same, because we dare not let those we love go a moment without knowing of that love.
Our lives will never be the same, because we often hurt for those who have lost precious moments with their little girls, sisters and friends.
Our lives will never be the same, because we can not deny the peace we have in knowing that those we lost are with the Lord--a blessed peace beyond understanding.
Our lives will never be the same, because in tragic death the victory of Christ is certain--the tomb is empty!
Our lives will never be the same, because they are filled with a deeper longing for Heaven.

I keep this key in my desk.

It was one of the things I took from the bus on that day and something I see often and keep as a reminder.   A reminder to pray for the families and all those involved in the tragic events of that first May 2nd.  It also serves as a reminder to live the remaining years of my life with wild abandon and love of my Lord, Lisa, Braeden, Shelbee, family and those I am blessed to minister with and to.

As the sacred hush of this May 2nd nears a close, the Lord brings these verses to mind:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed  in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
 “Where, O death, is your victory?    Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:22ff).

So...to all those whose heart keeps May 2nd close, until that Great Reunion Day, labor on in the Victory of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Monday, April 30, 2012

How do you keep Church "garbage" down?

Let me offer a  "Fraze" definition to get this blog started.
Church Garbage:  Those non-salvation (um...just started a fight...oops) items that we love to argue and split fellowships over that haunt the American church and keep the evangelistic growth rate at snails pace. See Worship Style Wars, Para-Church Partnership Wars and Who Sat in My Pew Debates. See also Problems all faith traditions battle.

Church garbage has the ability to creep into any fellowship and wreak havoc upon God's people. Paul wrote a young Timothy (I know, he was probably 30--I think that is young these days):

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly (II Timothy 2:15ff).

If you have not read these versus before, they are rather powerful aren't they?  When you check the context of Paul's words, they really highlight the origins of Church garbage--We love to selfishly take sides and argue about our opinions and preferences.  The result? Well, all those highlighted words above happen.  When more and more Church garbage collects, it really begins to smell.  And then, the greater the smell the less attractive we are to those who need Jesus.  Seriously, who wants to visit a house in which trash is piled high in the corners and the smell is absolutely unbearable?

So what's the answer?  How does one keep Church "garbage" down?

One word:  MISSION!

This is not a church growth blog.  Yes, mission is more than a word and needs intentional, strategic and theological reflection on programming to fulfill.  I want to highlight the word in the context of church garbage.  As simply as I can possibly communicate: A church on mission does not waste time on the things that produce and collect garbage!  Utopian? Perhaps (I prefer the term theological idealism), but totally attainable and tangible in churches that strive to focus all their energy on being the hands and feet of Jesus in their context of ministry.  They focus on Mission!

So, if you are smelling a little garbage in your ministry.  Take time mending the relationships (take out the "garbage") and then focus your community on the reason you exist--pressing against those Kingdom of Darkness gates.  And if you can't verbalize your mission?
  • Start and continue with prayer asking the Lord to reveal what work He would have you to do in your community, surrounding community and world.  Ask others who will be involved in the next step to join in this prayer focus.
  • Begin a series of conversations with church leaders who are willing to have the hard but fruitful discussion concerning the following question. "What does the Lord want this body of Jesus followers to accomplish in our community, surrounding community and world?"  
  • And then, brace yourself, He will speak, you will follow and the adventure will begin.  
There will be garbage collectors that will resent such focus and want to divert the church's attention toward their own opinion(s) and idea(s).  And yes, it is never a pleasant experience to work through conflict with people (family life is messy).  In such situations remember, the more time a church spends on mission the less time they have to spend taking out the garbage.  

Question:  Do you agree with the statement, "A church on mission does not waste time on the things that produce and collect garbage"? Why or why not?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Oh my! Did I really say that?"

One of my least favorite things to do as a speaker is to listen to my own presentations.  It is a painful thing to do, but a needed pain to endure from time to time.  When I listen/watch to myself I often witness bad diction, misplaced humor, distracting movements, bad word choices, incomplete sentences (when I am saying words in my head but they do not completely leave my mouth) and presented material that just doesn't seem to flow the way I wanted. Realizing speakers are their worst critics and can have "off days," the exercise is still painful  (Oh, if you really want some "beneficial pain" of critique, ask a trusted friend to give you his or her take on your speaking).
Why then do I put myself through such pain?  To get better.

This method of skill improvement works in other areas of your life in which "words: are involved. When is the last time you listened to the way...
...you spoke to your spouse?
...you spoke to your kids?
...you spoke to your students and families in your ministry?
...you spoke to those you answer to and serve with in ministry (pastor, elders, deacons, volunteers)?
...you interacted with your kid's teacher, coach, principle?
...you interacted with the waiter at the restaurant?
It may be painful (again, for extra "beneficial pain" ask a trusted friend their opinion), but a needed pain to endure from time to time.  It will help you become a better communicator on the big and small stages of life.

Several years ago, while directing a summer camp, I learned a valuable lesson.  I was attempting to get a crowd of sugared up middle school students and anxious college aged counselors settled down and focussed on my words.  Totally unaware of how I was coming across, I brought one of my staff members to tears by the intensity of my tone and facial expressions.  Later that evening, still unaware of  my mistake, a trusted friend pulled me aside, loving told me of the feelings I had hurt and proceeded to constructively point out how my tone and facial expressions can come across as unloving and harsh.
Painful?  Yes!
Valuable information?  Absolutely!
From this day forward, I have become better at turning down the harshness of my tone and facial expressions when I communicate with peers, students, adults and especially my own wife and kids.

So...go ahead...listen to yourself, ask others to listen and get better at communication in all areas of your life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tales of a Pleather Couch

Here it is.
My Pleather Couch with its decorative pillows (they came with the purchase)!

There are a lot of times in which I enter my office to find my couch missing.  
Well...how do I say this... my couch is really famous around my church.  For those who attend The Hills Church, it has been seen in just about every major video series, promotion and interview over the last five years!  This couch has supported (or should I say provided "support") everything from world missions to this year's Student Ministry Girls' retreat! 

Even though it has an acting background, the real reason I love my Pleather Couch is for the comfort, even in "uncomfortable" conversations, it gives those who visit my office.  
If this couch could speak, it would tell you of...
...heartfelt prayers of repentance over some sin that found it's way into the light.
...the excitement the first time someone "gets" the cross.
...loud laughter over a joke that was shared.
...life changing revelation created while reading God's Word.
...the cuddling engaged couple who will soon be married. 
...honest conversations between young men struggling to remain pure and holy in today's world.
...student ministry staff meetings in which tears where shed over a hurting student and/or family.
...a conversation with a student that needed a "safe place" to rest from and process their crazy day.
...all the quiet and not so quiet moments in which the Lord decided to enter a conversation.

This couch has a bunch of wonderful and not so wonderful tales to tell.  All the ups and downs of life and ministry located in once location--awesome!  

Yes, there are many other locations in which life and ministry collide, but the Pleather Couch location is particularly special. I look at it everyday, coming and going (when it is not out on "acting gig"), and it serves as a reminder of why I do what I do.  As a student minister, I get to enter into some holy awesome and often painful moments with people and share Jesus!  That is an incredible privilege and trust.  

Thank you Jesus for letting me be a part of the powerful ministry with students and the adults who impact their life so deeply!  Oh...and thank you for all the tales my Pleather Couch is able to tell. 


Monday, April 23, 2012

Dust on The Bible

Yes, it can be difficult; but, I love Student Ministry!


The Hills' Student Ministry just celebrated our amazing volunteers with a banquet in their honor.  Nothing says love like free childcare, free bar-b-que, free mechanical bull rides and a free t-shirt!  We love our fellow student ministry workers!

I do not use the word amazing lightly.  The adults of 24:7 get it!  They dig deep into the lives of our students and families.  I can honestly say, I have never gone to a single student ministry event, conference or meal and complained about the adults I work with--they are really that committed to ministry (they even let me say the word intergenerational without laughing--okay, they laugh a little).

Like most student ministers, paid or volunteer, we often wonder if what we are doing is making a difference.  Especially when it comes to a student practically living out what we are trying to teach them from the "stage" or as we walk with them through life.  With that in mind, the talented staff I work with created a parody reminding all of us that "their might be a little dust on their bibles, but don't let it fool ya, their changin' inside" (yes, the Texan speech was intentional).



Friday, April 20, 2012

Christian Narcissism: Walking the Line

Let me start by saying, "I get it!"

"Get what?" you respond.

I get that our society has changed and that a volume of competing messages fight for our attention constantly.  As a result, student ministers (any minister and church for that matter) need to be as creative as possible in assuring their "message" is one that grabs the attention of those we are trying to reach.  Furthermore, if you write books, speak for a living (more than the usual minister responsibilities), and/or produce any kind of product you need a level of self-promotion (publishers want this from their clients). Still, is it possible to cross the line between healthy self-promotion to Christian Narcissism?

Time for some definitions.

The fabled Wikipedia defines narcissism this way:

 Except in the sense of primary narcissism  or healthy self-love "narcissism" usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group's relationships with self and others. In everyday speech, "narcissism" often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. In psychology,  the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absortion due to a disturbance in the sense of self (definition accessed 4/19/12).

The not-so-fabled Fraze definition for Christian narcissism (wow, was that narcissistic?--does David have his own dictionary?  Easy--just a point folks):

 Except in the sense of primary narcissism  or healthy self-love "Christian narcissism" usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group's relationships with self and others. In everyday speech, "Christian narcissism" often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness usually noticeable in a minister's over promotion of self and his or her ministry. Applied to a social group (or ministry), it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the "others" (those not in the inner circle--yes, I borrowed that line from LOST). In psychology...um...theology (addition mine),  the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption due to a disturbance in the sense of self in relationship with the work of the Spirit in making the name of the Lord famous (definition accessed and manipulated to make a point on 4/19/12).

I think anybody who weighs into the social media fray gets a kick out of seeing their blog, tweet, comments, article, interview, etc...re-tweeted, talked about and/or create "hits" on the internet.  That is the point isn't it?  Yet, there are times, usually when I am on my Twitter account, that I get this feeling that a line is being crossed.

"David, how do you know a line is being crossed?" you ask.

"Well, um...it is more of a feeling really" (I know--a bit of a cop out answer).  There are just times when a person's effort to be noticed in cyber space is a little too obvious and their desire to be seen as a player in various social circles painfully noticeable.

and...here it comes..."I have been guilty of line crossing...so... I can recognize it plainly."
Yes, I read some of my own tweets or see where someone has referenced one of my articles and can say I have experienced a "feeling" that a line has been crossed.

"Hello, my name is David Fraze and I am a battling, recovering Christian Narcissist."

With this truth on the table, let me give you a few questions and a statement I use to assist my walk between the line of healthy self-promotion and Christian Narcissism:
  • What is my "consuming" motivation? As stated earlier, self-promotion is not bad in and of itself and needed in a message saturated world.  In my opinion, self-promotion crosses the line when validation of self and/or "product" is a dead end pursuit.  What?  When you care more about getting your "name out" than the message a line is crossed (I know, it may take deep searching, but the two are not the same).  The Apostle Paul would often give his "credentials" BUT it goes without saying that his "consuming" passion was Christ--even when challenged by critics, this fact could not be denied.  Spend time reflecting on motivation before promoting.  
  • Can I celebrate the success of other ministers/ministries?  There are a lot of clever bloggers, tweeters and status posters (is that a word?).  There are even a few fwd. e-mails that are actually worth reading and spread across the world like wildfire.  I ask myself regularly, "David, is it alright if your blogs, tweets and status posts gather little or no attention?" "Is it alright if God uses your words to impact one instead of thousands?" "Is it alright if another ministry grows while yours doesn't?"  Asking yourself these questions and focus on celebrating other minister's/ministries' wins is a must for battling Christian narcissism.  Remember, we are on the same team!
  • Whose attention am I trying to attract? Why?  Again, a tricky question.  The point of sending a message is to attract attention--that is what we do in ministry.  However, do you seek the attention of the "inner-circle" (ministers/ministries with wide influence) because you have a message to share or because you want to be seen as a "player"?  Again, tricky question.  One that I am confident all have struggled with at one time or another.  Still, such questions are necessary to keep our promotion motivation in check.
  • (Statement) God has his own promotion department! I value the story of the Apostle Paul.  He appears to have walked the line of self-promotion and Christian Narcissism very well.  He used his "credentials" when needed but kept the focus on Christ.  As a matter of fact, in comparison to knowing Christ, he considered his "credentials" rubbish (actually, Paul used a very colorful Greek word that means the substance animals leave behind when relieving themselves).  He would say things like, "Follow me as I follow Christ" to indicate all that he had of value (and worthy of promotion) belong to the work of Christ in his life.  I firmly believe that it was Christ that made the name of Paul great among the Church and the nations so that His name would be glorified and the Kingdom advanced.  Here comes the fine line--be careful with self-promotion and leave room for the Lord to expand your ministry.  Oh...just a thought...it appears that many of those whom Christ made "great" their name paid a high price for their fame--suffering and/or a martyr's death.  Is this the kind of "fame" we seek when promoting our ministry and/or products?  I know this is a somewhat morbid line of thought, but it helps me walk the line
I hope these questions and statement help with your line walking.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have to hurry and post this blog, tweet it up, change my Facebook status and anxiously wait and count how many people are reading this post--Just kidding.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

From Laughs to Cheers--What should really be applauded!

"You have got to see this video!"  was the Facebook post attached to the below video.
I will go ahead and say it...um...it brought tears to my eyes (actually, I made one of my staff stop what they were doing and come watch the video--yes, they had tears as well!).  Here it is:

I am sure there are many reasons why viewers liked the video. I bet these two are at the top of many lists:
  • The underdog proved the critics wrong (or "critic" Simon)
  • The "I can't believe this unattractive person is on the stage"onlookers were brought to tears by the beauty of the singing (even a little painful to write the word "unattractive" because I do not believe, in my core, in this sizing-up-of-people type of assessment)
So what could be wrong with these two?  The boy's performance was what silenced the critics. Isn't that cool? Question, what if the song turned out horrible?  Would the critics and crowd be vindicated in their judgment of the young man?  

While I enjoyed the underdog win and critics brought to tears moment (I really enjoyed it!), what really impressed me was the young man's commitment to his friend.  Watch again if you missed it!
Simon told the young man that his friend was going to hurt his chances in the competition.  Even so, the young man chose his friend!  Remember, in the adolescent underground, the rules are different.
Rule of adult world:  Take care of you!
Rule of the adolescent underground: Don't abandon the abandoned!
This "rule" can often hurt a student when they fail to get adult help for a troubled friend.  However, in moments like demonstrated in this video, this rule is one of this generation's greatest assets and something we adults could learn a few lessons from.

QUESTION:  What other lessons can be drawn from this video?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Shooting, More Finger Pointing, More Heartbreak, More Frustration…

I have just finished reading the latest headline, “Third Student Dies After Ohio School Shooting” and my heart hurts—I hate reading these types of headlines—it makes me sick.

Here is what will happen and is happening now, we are all asking the question, what made the 17 year old T.J. Lane snap and randomly shoot his peers at school?  All day long, the media has been pointing to bullying, social media, gun control, and parenting as causes for this horrible tragedy.  I am sure each of these may have impacted the young man’s decision to calmly walk through the hall of his school with a gun.  I do not know enough of the situation to weigh in on an opinion at this point—their will be enough finger pointing. 
However, what if we are looking in the wrong direction?  What if, adult culture and our treatment of today’s teenage population are more to blame for such tragedy than we want to admit? 

I have worked with students for over 21 years and have a middle school student of my own.  I have witnessed bad parenting behavior from myself and other adults. I have witnessed really bad mentoring behavior from myself and other adults as well.  In other words, there are no “perfect” adults in a student’s life.  Even so, I believe most adults really want the best for today’s teenage population—I really do believe this.  However, when there is a problem in Teen Land, we adults often blame every influencing factor in our teenager’s life other than ourselves.  As a result, we tend to prepare the road for the student instead of the student for the road.  Furthermore, when we feel like the road is acceptable, adults take their hands off the wheel and expect students to drive themselves through all the hazards of life. It’s not working! (I realize that is a heavy line of statements that probably should be unpacked a bit—I will let them set and marinate a bit—you can weigh in on them if you wish).

I have been reading through Christian Smith’s Lost in Transition book.  It is, admittedly, a look into “the dark side of Emerging Adulthood” (18-23 years old).  As today’s headline story of the Ohio Shooting unfolded, I was drawn to Smith’s introductory comments and his research team’s take on the role adults play in various teenage “problem behaviors.”  To be clear, Smith does not specifically name school shooting or any other teen issue, he is speaking in generalities, yet his words caused me to think—think deeply.  Hold on adults, he brings the heat: 

It’s the Adult World, Stupid

Another common attitude that American adults hold about young people—which we reject, just to be clear—is that whatever problems youth have are entirely their problems, unrelated to the adults around them.  The assumption is that something particular about teenagers or young adults rains problems down on their own heads, problems for which they are entirely responsible, which older adults simply cannot comprehend or explain.  The something may be “raging hormones.” It might be their not yet properly wired brains. Or it could be simple immaturity, rebelliousness, or stupidity. Whatever the cause, the problem is clearly the young people’s fault, this widespread view holds.  The adults involved are of course innocent.

Having studied young Americans for a decade, however, we have clearly seen that, contrary to this well-worn cultural script, most of the problems in the lives of youth have their origins in the larger adult world into which the youth are being socialized….But one way or another, adults and the adult world are almost always complicit in the troubles, suffering and misguided living of youth, if not the direct source of them. The more adults can recognize and admit that fact we think, the sooner we will be able to address some of young people’s problems more constructively (11) (emphasis mine).

I write today because my heart hurts and I want such tragic headlines to go away—this desire motivates me to continue my work with students.  I want adults to do exactly what Smith is suggesting, “to address some of young people’s problems more constructively.”  So, through the entire finger pointing process in this horrible tragedy (an unavoidable process), let’s remember what our mother’s told us, “When you point a finger at someone else, you have four pointing back at you!” And by all means, remember in prayer all those impacted by this painful event.

Question:  (Back to the marinating series of statements) …when there is a problem in Teen Land, we adults often blame every influencing factor in our teenager’s life other than ourselves.  As a result, we tend to prepare the road for the student instead of the student for the road.  Furthermore, when we feel like the road is acceptable, adults take their hands off the wheel and expect students to drive themselves through all the hazards of life. It’s not working!” Do you agree or disagree?  Explain.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Yes, I love Butterfly Kisses!

My daughter has been excited about the Butterfly Kisses Daddy Daughter Dance since she received the flyer in the mail.  Actually, we missed the dance last year, my daughter was not going to let me miss this year's extravaganza. 
Extravaganza?  Yes!  Led by one of our creative Hills' Children's Ministry leaders, Susan Conway from our South Lake campus, it was a night of arts and crafts, dessert buffet, dinner, dancing, pictures and carriage rides--everything a little girl dreams about happened at this event--extravaganza! My daughter and I had a magical and memorable time together.

With the door bell rang, the flowers given, this picture taken and the door to the car open--we began our daddy daughter date night.  As I said, extravaganza! We had a blast completing arts and crafts, eating a fabulous meal, dancing to all types of music (yes, Bieber Fever raised its ugly head on the dance floor) and taking three rounds on the horse drawn carriage.  All of this was memorable but what followed transformed the night into a powerful moment of blessing and transition.

Towards the end of the night Chris John, one of our outstanding church leaders, called all dads and daughters into a circle in which each was facing the other. With permission, here are the words Chris shared (be warned, they are Kleenex worthy and powerful): 

Tonight is a very special night.  It’s a night that you will treasure forever.  This is a night for the Daddies to honor their daughters.  This is a night that is the beginning for some and the end for others.   We want you to see your daughter for the princess she is-not a princess of worldly things but a princess because her father is the King Of Kings.  Yes, all you men are pretty important but our heavenly Father is our King of Kings.

I would like all the Fathers to get on a circle with their backs to the middle of the circle.  Have your daughter or daughters stand in front of you facing you.  You may want to kneel on their level or just bend down to them.  I would like all the Fathers to repeat after me.

Father: I promise to always love and honor you

Father: I promise to be the kind of Father you can look up to and be proud of.

Father:  I promise to raise you with God in the center of our family.

Father:  I promise to raise you into a loving Christian Women.

Father: so you will find a Christian Husband who will honor you and God.

Father:  I will always be here for you.  Forever and always.

Father:  I will hold your heart until God is ready for your future husband to hold it

Wow!  Saying these words, while looking into your daughter's eyes, is both an awesome affirmation and challenge for dads.  But wait--it got even better.  Chris then called current 5th grader daughters and their dads into the center of the circle.  You get a sense of what happened next from his notes:

Call the 5th grade girls and their Dads to the center of the circle and have everyone else face the center as well.
Talk about Jesus and their Dads being the Cornerstone of their lives
Pray over the 5th graders and the rest of the Daddies and daughter.
Here is a picture of that inner circle.

Chris spoke of how the young ladies were about to enter their teenage years, affirmed the change and assured them that their dads and the family of faith would be with them through it all.  Did I say "Wow!"  It was a powerful Rite of Passage moment that no one will be able to forget (which is exactly the goal of such programming).

Shortly after the blessing the dessert bar opened for celebration and then the song played--butterfly kisses. My daughter and I were swaying slowly with the music when she suddenly stopped, motioned for me to bend down,  stood up on her tip toes, and gave me a butterfly kiss--priceless!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"I hear something!": Are adults listening?

For a while now, my son has been saying, usually late at night, "I hear something outside my window!"
My usual response, "There is nothing outside your window--it's just the wind in the bushes."
His comeback, "No dad!  I hear something!"
My comeback (sometimes a little irritable after walking outside "to check things out, in the cold"--I know, dad of the year stuff) "Dude!  There is nothing there--please, go to bed!"

Well...um...there was something there!

We were searching for the basketball tonight and I stumbled across this hole. This is a rather large hole that has been dug under the foundation of my home (yes, it is under my son's window) by a "critter."  By the looks, I am assuming it to be the home of a good ol' Texas Armadillo.  It is certainly going to be fun catching the beast, but that is not my point for writing.  My son was trying to tell me something but I was NOT listening. Sure, the truth was hidden, by the bushes, but he was right and I was not giving his experience much credibility.  

How many times do we as adults fail to listen to what our students are trying to tell us?
For a while, students have been trying to tell the adult world a number of things like...
"I am buckling under the pressure at school!"
"I am hurt by my parent's fighting!"
"I am sick of feeling I am never good enough!"
"I am sick of living out my parent's dream for my life!"
The usual adult response "There is nothing to your feelings--it is normal teenage drama!"
The student comeback, "Hey Adults! I am really hurting here!  Listen! Please!"
With irritation, the adult world responds, "Look at all we are providing for you!  All the activity!  Remember, these are the best year's of your life!"

What if our students are trying to tell us something and adults are not listening? 
Just saying...what if?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"This Sucks!" and other words adults should consider NOT using!

Confession:  As a kid, I had my mouth washed out with soap--Yum!  Before you call CPS on my mom, I am THANKFUL she cared enough to discipline me and call my speech to a higher standard. 

I originally wanted to begin this blog by listing a number of fill-in-the-blank examples of the more overt uses of the dumbed down language (I would call it inappropriate) heard coming from the mouths of students at malls, movie theaters, fast food restaurants, and schools. However, when your student ministry friend reads the blog and is shocked, I decided to simply ask you to remember your latest visit to one of these student hangouts and recall what you heard (thanks Jason!).  And to be clear, it is not just those nasty cussin' words grabbing my attention.  How, about the lack of respect stuff?

"You are so stupid!"
"This sucks!"
"_____________ that teacher/coach/principle/student minister/officer (insert your favorite rage focus) is going to get a piece of my mind!"
"I know what the rules are but I am going to do whatever I want!" (said with any number of non-verbal signals of sarcasm)

Before pointing the finger at today's movies, music and mobile devices culture (I had to find another "M"), I would like to point out a much more powerful influence impacting today's student language woes--ADULTS!

I realize even the most careful adult can slip and say something inappropriate in front of a student--we are human.  Still, what amazes me is the seemingly increasing number of adults I have witnessed speaking the dumbed down dialect with no reservation or concern.  However, if adults don't care to watch their language, why should students?  I believe it our responsibility as adults to expect more out of our own language and those around us.

I am definitely not suggesting pulling a bar of soap out every time you hear a student or adult drop their favorite expletive and/or less than appropriate word in public.  I am suggesting the following:
  • As an adult, expect more out of your own word choices--students are listening. I am not saying you need to bring back the king's language or outlaw contractions in your speech. I am saying that adults can not call student's to a standard they are unwilling to keep themselves.  By the way, it is totally alright to apologize when you cross the speech line.
  • Expect more out of the word choices used by the students and adults you have a direct relationship with.  It is totally appropriate to call foul when someone you care about is speaking the dumbed down dialect. As a culture, word choices will continue to deteriorate unless a standard is  raised.  Let's start with those we are in direct relationship.
Just a thought--what would happen if one of those T.V. "bleepers" followed you around and censored your speech?  Would anybody be able to tell what you where trying to communicate your use of the dumb down dialect?

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Race Day at The Hills: An Intergenerational Win!

    Our Preacher ran a marathon this year!  Yep...26.2 miles of pain and accomplishment.  There are a couple of positives that have come out of this experience.
    • I have received a shirt from our preacher's "I am now smaller than you and my XL shirts no longer fit me collection" (to be clear, he was not calling me fat--I think) And...
    • Our preacher started a new series on the Christian life, The Race, that involves video footage of his marathon, stories of training and competition and lessons learned from his running experience.
    To kick off the new series, our students were asked to partner with our church's adult greeter and assembly planning teams to create a race like, high-energy welcoming environment for each weekend worship participant.  So, our students (dressed in running gear) held signs of encouragement, gave out water bottles and race tags, and welcomed all who walked through the doors of our church with the enthusiasm only a teenager, and a few crazy adult volunteers (notice the shaved head--student volunteer--go figure) could muster.   IT WAS AMAZING!  Check out these cool pics from the event!

    This last picture is my favorite and captures the excitement of the day's Race Experience (BTW:  No senior adult was hurt in the greeting experience project).  Students and adults working on a project together--priceless!

    Our preacher's kickoff lesson for The Race series was excellent!  Not to steal his thunder, but as we process the impact this series will have on our church family, one of the most memorable highlights will be the day the students welcomed the church to worship. 

    Question:  What simple collaborations have led to big intergenerational wins in your church context?

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    Pass the Kleenex!

    As a student minister, a consistent base hit is a great result for programming.  However, every once in a while, an event connects in a big way--today was a Home run Student Ministry Day!  For the past few years our student ministry has hosted a 6th Grade and 9th Grade blessing time.  The event features each student inviting their parents, grandparents or guardians and five adults whom they feel are significant participants in their physical, emotional and spiritual development to a time of blessing led by our church shepherds and student ministry staff. This year, the blessing was personal--Braeden, my son, was participating.

    Okay, I will say it, I am a tear factory at these types of events.  Even so, I did not expect to shed the first tear--wishful thinking--the water works began with the first few words out of my mouth.  My son said later that he knew I would cry but did not think I would be the first.  By the way men, he thought it was cool that I was so touched by the moment that I got a little emotional ( I will confess it was sort of a "losing of the man card moment" when my mom, usually the first to cry at such events, passed me a Kleenex).
    The program was simple:
    • Darin Hollingsworth, our lead middle school student minister, welcomed the participants and explained the importance of adult presence in a student's life and the student ministry.
    • Dale Brooks, one of our outstanding Hill's Church shepherds, spoke of the church's love for each student and family and their support of the student ministry itself and ended by giving blessing to students and the student's Parents/Guardians/Adults
    • Darin directed a time of blessing in which each student listened to their parents, grandparents, guardians and invited guests speak words of affirmation, praise, encouragement and future hope. 
    • The event ended with Delton Garnett, another outstanding Hill's shepherd, praying over the students and families as each student was being touched by the loving and supportive hands of another group of wonderful church shepherd (thanks, Curt Parsons and John Wallace--awesome!).
    "Boom!"  the event was out of the park.
    No bells and whistles, videos, drama, or contemplative worship set employed for this event.
    Adults spoke loving words of blessing over each middle school student--simple, powerful and memorable!
    I asked Dale Brooks to send the words he shared with the students and adults (get the printer ready, you will probably want to put them on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror):

    To the parents and mentors:
    May the Father fill you with His Spirit and empower you to live a trustworthy life, may you grow in your prayer life with Him, may He grant you discernment and insight to really hear and understand as you listen and observe, courage to verbally affirm and lovingly correct, patience to submit to His timing, compassion to empathize, the heart to forgive, but above all greater love. God bless you.

    To the 6th grade students:
    May you more fully know the love of Jesus and make Him Lord of your life every day, may your prayer life grow, may you be strong and brave to make right and wise choices, may you have help from family and friends who love Jesus, may you have courage to ask questions and welcome their help when needed, and may you understand that God has special and good purposes for your life to be lived out even now.  God bless you.

    Tonight, at my son's 6th grade small group, the energy was up and the adults still buzzing from the morning's blessing experience.  It was a good day at the Hills and I haven't even mentioned RACE DAY--maybe tomorrow!

    QUESTION:  Why do you believe such a simple event created such a wonderful and powerful experience for both student and adult?

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    Intergenerational Tattoo

    Study this photo carefully.

     This is my son being tattooed (No it was not permanent--had to say that for the tattoo haters) by two of my friends, Jason Herman (HS Student Minister) and Scott Beck (Friend, Volunteer and Fishing Buddy)--yes, their tattoos are real.  This happened at our Men's Retreat and was sent in response to my wife's photo of "Girl's Night" with my daughter.

     Braeden has still not washed his back.  I know, a lack of bathing is nothing out of the ordinary for a middle School student, but this is different--this is an intergenerational tattoo.  

    I am not suggesting a tattoo student ministry program, even though I know of a few, I am suggesting intentional memory making opportunities between older and younger believers.  My son had that experience last weekend and he will NEVER forget the time he was a part of something cool with the "big league" members of our church.  I promise, this experience will further deepen the trust my son feels towards these two adults which will come in handy when he needs the voice of another male influence in his spiritual walk.  So, long after the temporary, imprint has faded from my son's skin,our excursion into intergenerational tattoo ministry has left a lasting imprint on my son's heart.

    I received two bits of advice, from my tattoo wearing co-worker, that you need to consider before getting a tattoo. And...these two bits actually work as great reminders to all adults wishing to leave a positive impact with their own and other students. One, it is crucial that you choose the right tattoo artist!  Even the greatest of designs can be messed up in the hands of the wrong artist.  The point is powerfully obvious!  I love the way The Message translates the highlighted phrase from Deuteronomy 6:

    Attention, Israel!
    God, our God! God the one and only!
    Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!
    Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children.

    Adults, we have to be sure we are committed to being the best artist possible for the student(s) we are impacting (inking) with our influence. In other words, practice what you preach--student's are watching you! And two, remember that ink is permanent! You can fix a bad tattoo, but you can't simply forget it happened. As adults, we often believe, or want to believe, that students do not want us around or care about our opinions of them and their world.  We are wrong!  They are being impacted by the way we love our spouse, speak about authority, devotion or lack there of in spiritual practices...you get the picture.  Be careful--you are carrying permanent ink.

    QUESTION:  Stretching the Tattoo Metaphor beyond the limit, what "tattoo moments" do you best remember from your own childhood?  P.S.  These comments will produce a number of practical applications--share away!