Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cheers and Church?

A few years ago I traveled to Mexico City, where I had the chance to do some teaching, preaching, networking and encouraging.

I’ve been to Northern Mexico several times, but have never had the opportunity to visit Mexico City, so I was really looking forward to it.

While I was there I interacted with some amazing youth leaders from all over Mexico, and Ecuador.

Assembled in the classroom were students from the east and west coasts and the Northern and Southern borders and I learned that just like the States, and many of the other countries I’ve visited thus far, young people are as different as night and day depending on which area they come from. There is no such thing as a cookie cutter youth ministry.

The class I taught at the seminary was Youth Ministry Programming, and the whole premise deals with understanding your culture, your target audience and purpose before designing programs to reach them. The whole class is about prayerfully reaching out and building up a solid, healthy, Biblically balanced Youth Ministry that works in a specific culture.

So as we discussed various ways to reach young people, I was amazed as I heard many different techniques, tools and ideas, but one similar theme throughout, the discussion.

The student from Puerto Vallarta shared that he has a burden for the surfing community that flocks to that location in search of the perfect wave. Students from Tampico and other beach locales on the gulf side shared how a vibrant beach ministry to the party going crowd in search of fun and friends would be a good tool to use for their area.

The students from the region of Monterrey interjected with how important it is to cheer for one of the two football teams that call their city home. They strategized about using the annual big game that everyone either attends or buys on pay per view to host an evangelistic outreach.

The students from the southern section near the border of Guatemala and Belize, spoke of the incredible natural beauty that is found in that region’s rivers and mountains that would make a camping, adventure type ministry a real draw for them.

Each student strategized, each student shared about specific programs and tools that “just might work” in their locale, and as I listened to each one get excited about the possibilities, I kept thinking of one similar theme in all of their ideas. Whether it was surfing, beach volleyball, football or whitewater rafting, the thread that bound all of these techniques and tools together was relationships!

People young and old want to be known, loved, respected and appreciated!

I challenged the students to always remember this very important truth as they are designing their programs, because we all want to go “where everybody knows our name.”

My mind immediately went the theme song to the show “Cheers.” Sure, the show was set in a bar, and sure, much of the conversation that took place in the show and in most bars for that matter, is not what I’m about, and not what we want our students to be about, but man, there’s a lot of truth in the lyrics of the theme song…

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got; taking a break from all your worries Sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came; you want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same; you want to be where everybody knows your name.

So, with the theme song rattling around in my mind from the day before, I got up early before my class and set out for my daily walk to spend some time thinking and praying about the events of the day, as well as seek out a hot fresh muffin, and a Grande Espresso Americano. You guessed it, I was on my way to Starbucks (which for years I’ve called fourbucks, because you can’t even walk in the place in the States without dropping at least 4 bucks). But this was Mexico City and we were dealing in Pesos and exchange rates, so I kept my little joke to myself, and just enjoyed the aroma, the food, the coffee and I think more than anything…the atmosphere!

Each morning while in Mexico I would venture the half mile each way to start my day with some caffienation, and conversation

Now you may be thinking…”conversation?…Ok Brent, we know you visit all these countries, but we also know that you speak through an interpreter, so unless you’re Rosetta Stone or something how in the world are you having conversations with the Spanish speaking world in Starbucks of all places?”

Good question, and yes, my repertoire of Hola, Gracias and De nada is still the sum of my Spanish knowledge, but wonder of all wonders, in this particular Starbucks there were 2 guys that made me think about how important relationships and being known really are in ministry, as well as deciding whether to go back or stay far away, once a person has actually attended our ministry.

What made me not only want to walk the mile round trip every day, but actually do it? 

Well the coffee certainly helped, but the fact that as soon as I opened the door, walked through and stepped up to the counter, not only was I greeted with a smile, eye contact, and a hearty HOLA!

I was also directly spoken to with a cheerful, “Good Morning Brat!” “How are you doing today?” “It’s so good to see you, would you like your usual, Grande Espresso Americano with a little room left at the top for half and half and three splenda?”

“Why yes, I would like that…Thank you very much!” Now the fact that the guys, pronounced and spelled my name wrong was not a big deal to me, in fact I thought it was kind of funny, but when they spoke my language, knew what I liked, and delivered it with a smile, I was blown away with how important relationships and being known really are in ministry.

On one of the days, I walked with my class to the Starbucks, and sure enough, the guys were there, they welcomed me and my students and once again showed us a glimpse of a very important principle that needs to be woven into every program, tool, technique and idea we have in reaching people…Relationships!

Isn’t it great when people know your name, and how much more incredible it is that God not only knows our name…He knows everything about us!

I've been thinking and praying alot lately about how important this principle is as it relates to the church, especially as it relates to the way people who attend for the first time or for the hundredth time will answer the question "should I stay or should I go?"

My prayer is that people will feel loved, accepted and welcomed with the love of Christ that comes through everyone as we remain plugged in to His way of living life and treating others that when faced with the question of should I stay or should I go? It's a no-brainer...I'm staying, and plugging in with you!

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