i will not take these things for granted

thoughts on this and that in an attempt to live reflectively

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Location: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States

Saturday, July 30, 2005

It's for the Kids

Look at that faaace! How could you not want to minister to hur?

Earlier this summer the difficulty of ministering to both adults and children in small groups became apparent at Christ Journey, and ever since we have been brainstorming about how to best meet the needs to both age ranges. This morning I attended a couple of classes on this very topic at ACU's Summer Workshop for small churches.

One class told about a new thing called the Workshop Rotation Model (WoRM). It is something that (if slightly adapted) Christ Journey could do in one room of the house for the kids while the adults are engaged in discussion about the week's lesson in the other room. Here is a description of WoRM from a website that I recommend if you want to learn more and/or download curricula for free, rotation.org:

Teach major Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops: an Art workshop, Drama, Music, Games, A-V, Puppets, Storytelling, Computers, and any other educational media you can get your hands on. Teach the same Bible story in all of the workshops for four or five weeks rotating the kids to a different workshop each week. And here comes the extremely teacher friendly part: Keep the same teacher in each workshop for all five weeks -teaching the same lesson week after week (with some age appropriate adjustments) to each new class coming in. The results, says Linda Beckham, D.C.E. at Tampa's Palma Ceia Church are astounding. "The kids love it, the teachers love it, and we can't ever imagine going back to the old way."

And for another perspective, here's a description from another recommended site, PowerXpress.com:

In a rotational setting, the same Bible story or theme is taught for several weeks. Each week, learners rotate to a different station. The story remains the same, but children encounter it in different ways in each station. Repetition is an important part of the rotation approach. The more different ways children explore a story or concept, the more it is reinforced in their memories. The variety of experiences keeps interest high throughout the unit. Teachers teach the same lesson, with age-level adjustments, for the length of the rotation. Rotational learning is exciting for students and teachers alike, as teachers teach to their strengths and students experience Bible stories in ways they learn best. Rotational learning is grounded in the work of Howard Gardner in Multiple Intelligences Theory. Rotational learning is active learning, emphasizing each of the first seven intelligences that Gardner identified. Rotational learning is an extremely flexible model that adapts well to many settings.

I think it would be very easy for Christ Journey (as well as Team Olomouc) to adapt this for their small group ministry. When praise time is over and it is time for the lesson, an adult (a different one each week) could take the kids to another room and use her/his talents and interests to teach the children the lesson. Perhaps the same story could be taught four weeks in a row from four different angles (arts, crafts, science, cooking, movies, computers, games, music, drama, story-telling, puppets). By the way, apparently repitition is good for small children (pre-K to 3rd grade). So, though studying the same story four weeks in a row could be monotonous for us, it won't necessarily be for the kids. This model sounds cool to me, and, like I recently wrote about, it might be a way for me to use my interest in art to teach kids. Two other benefits are that more adults get to be involved in the lives of the small group's children and no one adult has to carry the whole load.

The other class I attended also dealt with the simultaneous problem and opportunity of ministering to children in small groups. Here are a couple of links from the speaker's church's website (Alameda Church of Christ). One is on the ins and outs of small groups and the other has discussion guides available to download. Each guide includes a 'kid friendly' lesson. There is also a document available which is full of lessons for preschoolers in small groups.

Download discussion guides here.
Find information on how to do small group ministry and other tools here.

Ain't the internet great!

The heartwarming pictures you've been enjoying are of my two neices, Reagan and Jayden. Aww.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Starving Artists

Today I read a chapter in Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz about church and it got me really excited. At the end of the chapter, Donald explains that one of the four things that makes him love his church, Imago-Dei, is that it supports the arts...

Peter started an 'artistery' where artists live and create art, teach art, and encourage people to be creative. Peter recently held a gallery opening in a local coffeehouse, and all the art was created by people who attend Imago. Artists feel at home at Imago. I even led a short story group where we wrote short stories and then had a reading under Christmas lights and candles over at the artistery. I think there are artists at a lot of churches who don't have an outlet, and by creating an outlet, the church gives artists a chance to express themselves and in return the church gets free stuff to put on their walls. Creating an arts group at a church is a great idea.

I agree, and I am really excited about the possibilities of integrating art into our outreach in Olomouc, Czech Republic. We could invite teens (or people of any age really) to join our 'art club' (we need a better name though) to learn together about creating art—whether visual, written, or whatever. We could occasionally convert our offices into a gallery to share the artwork of our participants and invite people from the community to experience our work, much of which I am sure will have to do with Christian spirituality. Perhaps we could even submit some of our creations to the art galleries in the town center of Olomouc. One possible project is for everyone to depict their interpretation of a visually rich text of scripture. And, of course, each person will be free to do their own projects. Can y'all think of other ideas and possibilities?

While I'm talking about art, I might as well display some of my own. Embedded in this entry are pictures documenting an installation project, Breathing Room, from my final semester in undergrad. It included seven porcelain asthma inhalers and six self portraits involving my inhaler and breathing, displayed within an 8' x 8' x 24' room. Here is the artist's statement that accompanied the installation...

Breathing Room, by Mitch Anderson

Asthma inhalers are of great personal significance. I am dependent on inhalers in order to breathe properly: to catch my breath after exercise and merely to be able to go to sleep.

Of greater personal significance is God. In God, and in God only, we live and move and have our being; he gives us our breath, the breath of life. He restores our souls day by day. Just as I am dependent on my asthma inhaler for breath, so are all of us dependent on God for breath, and life, and everything else. And, just as my inhaler renews my ability to breathe, so God renews us daily; he provides the necessities of life. Beyond our basic needs he gives us our abilities that we may use them to help others and to glorify him. Due to the skills and intelligence God has given we are able to accomplish amazing things; we are able to advance in technology and medicine and produce wonderful blessings, such as inhalers for asthmatics like myself.

It is all about point of view. One can look at an inhaler and praise man for his superior intelligence or praise God for sharing his. The realization that God is the creator, giver, and worker comes at different times for different people, and never for some. Breathing Room is a metaphor for this journey, a baptism of sorts. The road is not necessarily comfortable or easy, but at the end peace comes and life goes on—but it is changed.

Sharing my faith through this project was an amazingly fulfilling experience. I also appreciated the communal aspect of getting the project done: many of my friends gave many hours to help with its completion. In postmodern society we are starving for meaning and expression and community. I hope we can find such starving artists in Olomouc.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Better Than Ezra?

Another cool thing hit me the other day as I was reading through Ezra, specifically 7:7-10, which tells us that Ezra and a group of exiles returned from Babylon to Jerusalem safely and in good time, "for the gracious hand of his God was upon him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach the statutes and ordinances in Isreal." What a simple and profound summation of our responsibility as servants of God: we should set our hearts to studying the word, doing the word, and teaching the word. Study...do...teach. It's not easy to be better than Ezra. But I at least want to try to be like him.

Hit Me!

Don't you love it when something just hits you? No, not projectiles, but concepts or ideas. This evening when Chris and I were canvassing a neighborhood with flyers advertising Christ Journey's upcoming kids camp, Chris mentioned that it might be a good idea to canvas another neighborhood on Sunday morning. I've heard that idea somewhere before, but it really makes sense, doesn't it? If our goal is to reach out to the unchurched, what better time to hand out flyers and meet people in a neighborhood than Sunday morning when churched folks are, well, with their church? In other words, we're more likely to meet people who need to be met. And, since at Christ Journey we have our corporate gathering on Sunday evening, we don't have to feel guilty for 'missing' church. Anyway, Sunday morning evangelism, that's what hit me.


In undergrad at the University of Arkansas, I interned with the Razorbacks for Christ (RFC) campus ministry for two years. During that time, every Thursday I would send a weekly email to our listserv with reminders of upcoming events plus a 'mini devo,' and after the two years were up, I promised to put the emails into some kind of booklet. Well, that never happened, and so I've adapted those plans and have instead created a blog which will become an archive of those emails. I already have one semester's worth uploaded. Check it out when you get a chance, to learn a little about the coolest campus ministry in the world and hopefully to be encouraged: eRFC.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Undertaking Squirrels

…I don’t recall that being in the Christ Journey summer internship job description! :)

So Chris and I are each working on our respective laptops at the kitchen table in his home, when we hear one of Chris’ three boxers let out a strange bark. We look outside to see what’s going on and find that Mikey managed to nab a squirrel. The squirrel is not quite dead, but it is obvious that Mikey is very proud of his catch. Chris is not so pleased. Scolding Mikey, he calls his three dogs inside the house to get them out of the way, and then turns to me—despite the fact that he is a man twice my size—and asks if I could throw the squirrel over the fence with their shovel. Apparently Chris doesn’t do dead (or dying) animals or any bugs, whether alive or dead. (It’s okay, we all have our fears. I don’t particularly like big dogs—especially the squirrel killin’ kind!) I accept the shovel, head outside, scoop up the squirrel, and do the dirty deed—tossing the poor thing, paralyzed but still panting, over the back fence. Perhaps euthanasia was in order, but even I don’t have the nerves to do that. You’re welcome, Chris. Call me again whenever you need the services of Mitch 'The Undertaker' Anderson.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Growing Pains

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.” Malachi 3:10

Christ Journey’s initial cell group has grown more quickly than expected. What a wonderful problem to have! It began as a core team of about 10 and has grown to almost 30. According to small group guru, Ralph Neighbour, a group should multiply once it reaches 15, in order to retain intimacy and to allow room for more growth. However, Neighbour also recommends multiplying after 6-9 months, rather than just the three that Christ Journey has been gathering. It is time for this initial group to multiply into two if not more cells—both because of its size and because the DNA of multiplication needs to be in place before the Sunday worship launch occurs in September. The question is, how should this look? How should the logistics of multiplication pan out? It is a huge blessing to be here with Christ Journey as they figure this out, because these questions will come up soon after Team Olomouc begins its work in the Czech Republic. Christ Journey has several options:

Option 1: two groups of 15. The benefit, strength in numbers. The downside, multiplication would need to occur again very soon and intimacy would be difficult to achieve, or if achieved, to maintain for long.

Option 2: three groups of 10. This would leave more room for growth and allow for more intimacy. But, again, how would this look? How do we decide which people are in which group? By region? Put the families from Cleburne in one group and the Burleson families in two other groups?

Option 3: two or three groups, plus another one or two which start from scratch (i.e. with only one family which would invite unchurched neighbors and friends to join them). At least two families are able and probably willing to do this. Would this spread the church too thin? Should perhaps at least one other family partner with the ‘cell group planters’ to help and to learn?

Another question is where Chris and Heidi fit into these groups. Should they attend all of them for a short transition time? Or, will attending all of the cell groups create a dependency on the Chappotins?

Whatever the case, it seems that future cell leaders should begin taking turns leading the current group. This will help to make them more comfortable when the time for multiplication comes, and will also help to reduce the focus on Chris and Heidi.

When multiplication occurs, should the group continue to meet as a whole on Sunday? I think yes. This seems beneficial because it will ease the transition, and because a number of people have expressed a desire to continue to meet as one, as if to say, “We like seeing everyone each week and we don’t want to lose that.” If the Sunday meeting does continue, then each cell will need to find another night during the week to meet. (Though continuing the corporate gathering on Sunday has its benefits, perhaps adjourning the corporate gathering for a week or two would also be beneficial, so that each group has the opportunity to ‘settle into’ or ‘establish the identity of’ the new group. Of course, the identity of groups will continually change as they multiply; so maybe they shouldn't get too settled?)

Another important question: how does children’s ministry take place in cell groups—in such a way that learning occurs, rather than merely babysitting? Rachel, the children’s minister, takes the kids into another room in the house when praise time is over. Recently she explained that creating an environment of learning is difficult when ages range from 2 to 10. Therefore, the plan is to have two classes, one for ages 1-4, and another for ages 5 and up.

But, again, what happens when the group multiplies? Rachel will not be able to attend them all, and the groups will have various numbers of kids and combinations of ages. Also, how will the Sunday launch in September change the dynamics of children’s ministry? If quality worship and learning experiences are created on Sundays, does that reduce the pressure on cell groups to provide structure and well-prepared curricula, making ‘just babysitting’ okay?

Wow, that’s a lot of questions! I look forward to being a part of some of these decisions and seeing what happens. Though I have a lot of questions, I am becoming more and more convinced of two things for future church plants. First, the search for facilities should begin as soon as possible, in order to find the best possible option and also to reduce stress during the already stressful couple of months prior to a Sunday launch. Second, because spiritual friendships take time to develop and deepen, the earlier one can get involved in the community, the better. To put this in the Czech context, though public launch may not officially begin until after a year, a year and a half, or more of being in the Czech Republic, getting to know Czech people should begin immediately. By getting a membership to a local gym, setting up a routine for going to the park and joining in pickup games of soccer/volleyball/whatever, meeting people in one’s apartment complex, and having these new friends over for dinner (or out to dinner), to play games, etc.

May God continue to pour out the blessings of growth (and the inherent difficulties of finding room for everything and everyone). Thank you, God, for including us in your redeeming and transforming work. Please guide our upcoming decisions and glorify your name in all of our efforts.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

One New Friend and Three New Births

I prayed for God to surprise me and I’d say he came through—the very next day! Friday afternoon, as I was leaving the Burleson Athletic Club, I found myself walking beside a guy who had been on the treadmill the entire time I was working out. I introduced myself, commented that I noticed how long he’d been on the treadmill, and as we entered the parking lot, the conversation took off.

After explaining his workout schedule to me (weights in the morning, cardio in the afternoon) he asked me how long I’d been coming to the Athletic Club. I told him only a few weeks and that I was only in town for the summer for an internship. He asked me where I was staying while I’m in town and I answered that I’m staying with a different family each week—that I’m working with a new church in town and that members of it have been generous enough to house me this summer. He asked me to tell him about the church, and so I explained that we are meeting in a small group in a different family’s house each week, that the small group includes praise time, a conversational lesson, and a meal, and that in September we will begin renting a facility for Sunday worship. Here’s where the conversation got really cool.

He told me that he had ‘found God’ about four years ago, and that he was looking into being a part of a Baptist church. However, he said he is having a hard time being forgiving. I got the idea that he felt he should work through that before getting involved in a church. He then added that it is always encouraging when he meets someone willing to talk about God with him. He said that meeting me was like God saying ‘hi.’ (At the moment, all I could think was, “Wow, God, you’re amazing!”)

As the conversation began to wind down, I asked him if I could give him my card and he said sure. So we headed over to my vehicle to get one. As I handed him the card, he asked, “You said y’all meet in a different house each week, right? How do you find out where each week’s house is?” I pointed him to the web address on the card and said that he could find the address there and that he could feel free to call or email me for directions. With a genuine smile on his face, he thanked me and said he’d see me around.

My eyes were watery for the whole thirty-minute drive to the house in Cleburne where I stayed last week. I was so pumped, and so thankful that God set up a divine appointment for us that afternoon.

Thinking back through the conversation, I realize that there were places were I could have dug deeper and could have said more, but I am very happy with the way it went. That night I checked the Christ Journey website to make sure the address for this week’s house was available and found that only the name of the family was listed. D’oh! My friend didn’t call or email over the weekend, so I knew he wouldn’t show tonight, but I pray I see him this week in the gym and that God will bless our conversations.

Despite the fact that my new friend didn’t show, our cell group gathering tonight was awesome! The whole night was organized around the baptisms of Sue, Tiffany, and Michael. FORTY people gathered for the celebration.

After singing several songs, Chris gave all of us the opportunity to say an encouraging word to the baptizees. After a few people spoke, Chris asked me to talk a little bit about the meaning of baptism. I highlighted its connection with creation, cleansing, covenant, and Christ and afterward gave everyone a chance to comment on what they heard or to offer additional thoughts about baptism. Chris then asked Sue, Tiffany, and Michael to gather in the center of the room so that we could place our hands on them and pray. We ALL prayed, ALOUD, at the SAME TIME. It was very cool. The room was filled with the noise of prayers for our new sisters and brother.

After a short break to get changed and ready, we all made our way to the pool in the backyard. About half of us got in the water with Sue, Tiffany, Michael, and with Chris and Heidi who baptized them, and the rest of us circled around the pool to watch. Chris gave a short introduction of each person, and then he and Heidi together baptized Sue, then Tiffany, then Michael, saying in stereo, “We now baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Lots of hugging followed, then hot dogs and chips, and finally we celebrated the Lord’s Supper together.

While eating dinner, Mark commented on what a great evening it had been and that this is what it is all about. He said he is really excited to be part of a church like this.

This is indeed what it is all about: walking together through the journey of life in Christ and inviting others to join us. Thank you, God, for the wonderful things you are doing in and through Christ Journey, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

You can view pictures of the baptisms here and read Chris' blog about the evening, as well as other recent Christ Journey events, here.