Thursday, February 28, 2013

ReThinking Student Ministry - Let's Try Something New

OK – so how do we create a model for student ministry that fits with New City’s values of worship, community, mission, and theology and in a way that also values diversity and Titus 2 older/younger ministry AND fits with our current cultural context?  Not only is that a long sentence, but it is a very BIG question!  In fact, it is a question that we expect to ask over and over and over again as we constantly evaluate and re-evaluate how well we are doing with our mission – to see the gospel transform everything within our reach.

Here is where we are….

A midweek large gathering of Middle and High School students @ The 567

  • Snacks/food/drinks/games and hang out time
  • Worship music
  • Short teaching re-cap of Sunday sermon geared toward students
  • Break into MC groups for personal discussion and application

 * This format provides a LOT – 1) An opportunity to experience worship together for students as well as to hear more on a life of worship.  2) The MCs provide an opportunity to move students into gospel centered community.  The challenge will be to involve college students/young adults/adults in the mix at every level in order to maintain the Titus 2 generational diversity – but it is very possible.  Like our existing MCs, we will work to see real community develop – where life is lived together – at games, at the park, serving, helping, laughing, crying…  3) This format gives students a great avenue to BE missional – inviting friends who do not know Jesus or who are not connected to a church to join them at New City.  While intergenerational MCs offered the same invite opportunity, there was little to attract other students… ‘hey want to come hang out with my parents and talk about the sermon from pastor Keith last week’ is not very attractional for middle and high school students!  A big part of being on mission means serving… students would be encouraged and trained to serve others during this time as part of the hospitality team, the set up team, the worship and tech teams… 4) Having the sermon re-cap presented by a solid speaker in a way that connects with students in their context and culture means more theology for our students!  Unpacking that theology and applying it to the life of a student through their MC means more practical theology.  More theology means more worship and a greater likelihood of gospel transformation!


Students would participate, as they do now in our main gathering.  The hope, however is that as students learn to serve in the mid-week student gathering, they will also serve on Sunday mornings – as greeters, at the coffee bar, in the tech area, and maybe in one of our bands.  This will help students stay connected to the body as a whole and will also help them grow as disciples through service.  Serving on a Sunday morning team also gives another possible relationship for Titus 2, younger/older ministry.

Quarterly MC Partnership

Like our existing MCs, student MCs would form ongoing missional partnerships where they serve at least once per quarter in the city.  Partnerships may, for example, be with a needy school, a nursing home, or one of Macon’s shelters.  The Partnership would be with an existing non-student MC.  By serving with another MC we have more opportunities for the development of Titus 2 older/younger relationships.  This will also be another way to keep our students connected with and a part of the body of New City Church as opposed to a separate group within the church.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Honest Assessment - Our Core Values

"If it ain't broke,
don't fix it."

But if it is broke,

Below is an explanation of New City's Core Values.  These values shape what we do and how we do.  Following each core value I'll explain how we have been less than successful with our attempted model of student ministry (integrated MCs).

We exist to be worshippers of God. Understanding that God is our Creator and Gracious Redeemer gives us purpose and direction in life. Therefore, our desire is to proclaim the beauty and majesty of God – to show that he is worthy of our worship in all we do and with all we are.
> We all need to be reminded of the many ways that what/who we worship plays itself out in our day to day lives.  If we love Jesus with all of our heart, mind, and soul (worship), then we will follow his commands.  If we love (worship) anything else, we will pursue (follow) it/them.  For example, if we love money more than Jesus, money becomes our pursuit - working too hard, stealing, illegal or dishonest gain...
This needs to be communicated in in a language and environment that makes hearing and receiving it most likely. Sunday morning sermons is likely not the best environment or language for reaching students.

We are created to exist in community. As those created in the image of God, we reflect the triune nature of God who exists in perfect community as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This means that church is not intended to be a loose collection of spiritually minded people, but a family of worshippers that reflect the image of God, unified in Jesus. This community will be visible as people love and serve each other and their neighbors. This is where the gospel comes to life.
> While the ideal of mom and dad being in community with others AND with their children is great, the reality is that it is VERY difficult in our culture.  Families are dysfunctional.  By only offering MCs that include the entire family, we are insisting that families join us in the ideal, rather than meeting them where they are and helping them grow into the ideal.  It is ignoring context and culture to insist on the ideal.  By doing this, there are many families - parents and students - that we will never reach and never move into community - the best place for Scriptures "one anothers" and discipleship. The reality of our attempt to integrate MCs with the whole family is that most of the children who attend an MC with mom and dad play with other kids rather than participating in an MC, or if the children are old enough, they simply stay home alone.
The bottom line is that we are NOT connecting our students to community.

MISSION:We live as those who are sent—Just as the Father sent the Son into the world, so too the Son has sent his church into the world. Therefore, to live as a disciple means that we live on mission with Jesus. This will be expressed as disciples adopt the posture of a missionary – to learn, listen to and love the culture locally and globally. In doing so, the church announces the salvation accomplished by the Son through the proclamation of the gospel while working and praying for the advancement of God’s kingdom.
> As I mentioned above, if we ignore our culture and context in an attempt to reach the ideal in one leap, there are many, many, many people that we will never be able to engage.  For most people, becoming a follower of Christ and joining in His mission is a process, not a single "event."  The process happens in community, not in isolation.  If students (and parents) never engage in community, they are much less likely to engage in the process of transformation that begins with belief and moves to mission.  We are neither reaching nor sending effectively in our current model of ministry.

We cannot properly worship, serve or proclaim a God that we do not know. Therefore, we strive to create a culture devoted to Scriptural study in order to help us grow in our love for Jesus and people. We must view the world and culture through the story of the Scriptures. We realize that we must become practical theologians if we are serious about being missional disciples in today’s culture.
> We all need more than the Sunday sermon in order to grow in our theology and especially in the practical application of our theology.  Students live in a different world than adults!  They often speak a little different language, deal with different problems, struggle with different sins, need to uproot different idols.  Our current structures do very little to reach, shape, or apply the theology of our students.  This means that rather than helping them grow as theologians through our MCs, we are in some ways hindering their growth as theologians.  We want our students to know God (theology) because we believe that in knowing Him, they will love Him (worship) and in loving Him they will follow Him - right into community and right onto His mission!

The Bottom Line:  Our ministry to students is not working to instill our values and see our children transformed by the gospel.  We need to fix that.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Idealism and Reality - Youth Ministry 2 Years Later

Real always shapes Ideal.  Here's an example of what I mean:
The US has thousands and thousands of children who need adoption.  Ideally, Christian families would step up and adopt a child.  If that happened, there would be no need for foster care.  BUT then there is reality - every Christian home will not adopt a child in need of a home - many for very legitimate reasons.  This reality means that we need foster homes and a system in place to care for the un-adopted children.

Two years ago I wrote a series of posts that explained why New City Church, Macon would pursue the ideal of having students incorporated into our existing and new Missional communities.  There have been some great stories about our students being ministered to and incorporated into the body of the church - there have been some successes... but reality is causing us to re-think and re-shape how we minister to students and families.  The reality is that some existing parents are not at a place where they feel comfortable with their children sitting in on discussion (a great ideal) and many of the students don't feel comfortable participating in discussions with adults (another great ideal and application of Titus 2, and a reality of life in this culture and context).  The results?
Middle schoolers and high schoolers are not in Christian community.  This means they are not receiving the input of older Christians (Titus 2), and they are often not participating in the missional partnerships of the MC.
Another result is that we are missing missional opportunities to reach non-believing and non-connected students and their families.  Students who aren't plugged in are not inviting other students.  Parents who love their children and want Christian community for their children don't connect at New City as readily because the reality is that our ministry to students isn't thriving.

So the reality is - We are not ministering well to our existing students and we are missing out on missional opportunities to reach both students and parents.  The past few weeks we have begun great discussions on how to correct course - minister well to students and be missional in our city, and do this without compromising our values of Worship, Mission, Community (including Titus 2 diversity), and Theology.  Look for more explanation in the days to come!  I am excited to re-think student ministry and to find a way to keep our ideals, even if reality reshapes our practice.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Planting the Gospel

I have heard more than once that planting churches isn't really planting churches as much as it is, or should be, planting the Gospel.
I agree.  Planting a church should be about planting the gospel and seeing it grow a gospel-centered church.  BUT planting churches is only ONE way to plant the gospel in an area or a city.
New City Church is committed to church planting, but more, we are committed to planting the gospel.  So we are talking, praying, and working toward other ways to plant the gospel in Middle Georgia.
One of those ways is by planting gospel-centered MEN in Middle Georgia.  We just finished up a class led by Cameron Barham, one of our New City, Macon elders, to teach guys how to preach.  This was what I would consider a seminary level preaching course and included men from New City Church, Warner Robins, New City Church, Milledgeville, and New City Church, Macon.  Our hope is to plant these men in the pulpits of existing Middle Georgia churches as pulpit supply for churches who need a preacher to cover a short period of time, as interim pastors for churches seeking a pastor, and as long term pastors to shepherd congregations in the gospel for years to come.
Yesterday one of our New City, Macon partners, Damon Gardzelewski became the lead pastor of Bloomfield Gardens Baptist Church in Macon.  I have initiated conversations with a few other local churches recently on behalf of another New City, Macon partner who is ready and able to serve as a lead pastor.  In addition I recently offered our guys as pulpit supply for a couple of small local congregations looking for a pastor.  We are praying that God would use these men to plant the gospel throughout Middle Georgia.  Would you pray that with us?

Monday, January 14, 2013

No Resolution...But Resolved

Last November I finally went for a physical exam.  JOY.  The doc checked me...pretty thoroughly and then gave me the news... "everything looks pretty good for someone your age (WHAT?), but your blood pressure is high and you need to lose weight" (the truth is I already knew that I was overweight and that my blood pressure was high).  "Start eating better and get some exercise," is what he left me with.
So I did.
I finally gave in to a friend's persistence and joined North Macon Crossfit.  I started eating a little less and cut out a lot of sugar and carbs.  I lost weight.  My blood pressure went down, and I feel pretty good most days (which is probably good for someone my age).  I even convinced Amy to start working out with me - one of the best ideas I have ever had.
I am blogging this as a shout out to all of the North Macon Crossfit crew - thanks for not laughing too loud at my early work outs... heck, my current work outs!  And as a shout out to Amy - thanks for joining me, and keeping me going.  This is no resolution, but I am resolved in staying in shape for a long, long time!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year... A New Start

Every January 1, we get to start over.  2012 proved to be a difficult year on many levels and a year filled with major changes - staff changes at New City, adding 2 children to the family through foster care, losing some terrific families from New City because of moves...  While not all of the changes were bad, this year, maybe more than any year I can remember, I feel happy, glad, joyful to leave 2012 and enter a new year.  

It feels like a fresh start.

Maybe today has helped the start of 2013 feel fresh - our new web site is up and running, a beautiful new series of photographs fills the art gallery, I just met with Ryan and Andy to outline the new sermon series - Freedom, a study of Galatians, Charlie Colgan our newest New City team member is here, he joined us for the sermon series outline this morning, we are one step closer to a new New City Church site, and I am blogging.  

A fresh start.

Truthfully, and thankfully, grace allows us to start over every day...every minute of every day... so I welcome the New Year, a new start and I join with the Apostle Paul and declare, one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I (will) press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3) 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Girl and A Picture of Leadership

That's my daughter Ivey at a recent event - she's jumping like a champ... and giving a great picture of leadership.

I don't ride horses, but from what I understand from Ivey there is definitely a right way to jump and a wrong way.  
The Right Way - As rider and horse begin to approach the jump the rider makes sure that they are lined up for the jump.  Then the rider makes certain that the horse's stride is right for the obstacle.
As the horse begins its jump, the rider has a firm grip on the horse and is already looking ahead to the next jump.  Looking ahead to the next jump gives direction to the horse upon landing.  Notice Ivey in the photo - the horse is just taking off and already she is looking ahead for the next obstacle.
Once the horse and rider have landed, the rider leads to the next obstacle, lines up the obstacle, sets the stride, and at take off is looking ahead for the next obstacle.
The Wrong Way - 
Ivey had to learn to trust her self and her horse when they took off on a jump.  That trust allows her to not focus all of her attention on the landing but to look ahead for the next obstacle.  If all of her attention were focused on the landing, the horse upon landing would lack direction.  Without a specific desired and communicated direction the horse could veer almost anywhere and would likely slow down.  This causes the rider and horse to have to work harder to get back on track and in stride.  This is all terrible for a smooth and consistent ride that yields a good score.

What does that have to do with leadership?

Leadership is similar in many ways.
Think of the event, or project as the jump or obstacle.  The event or project doesn't just happen on the due date, there is a lot of planning and work that goes into making it happen - lining up the jump, setting the stride.  As a the LEADER you give the team direction.  You set the pace and establish the stride.  How quickly will this need to happen?  When do we speed up?  When do we slow down?  What are the capabilities of the team?  Who can do what?
Then there is the event or project itself.  When all the work has gone in and the project or event is ready to go you jump.  A LEADER doesn't let go of the reins during the jump.  That would be disastrous!  Like the rider, you must maintain a firm grip on what is happening.
With trust in the work that has taken place before the "jump" and the team that is launching,  a LEADER must look past the landing to visualize what happens next.  What is the next obstacle?  Where do we go next?  How do we best get there?  A good LEADER maintains direction and pace for the whole team.

Take a look at the picture again.  Is that how you are leading?

Monday, February 20, 2012

B I G Changes - Right people / Right Seat

Jim Collins, leadership guru, teaches that it isn't enough to have the right people on the bus - they must also be in the right seat.

Translation - Your leadership must not only be on board, but they have to be in the right place.  The New City Elders feel like we have taken a couple of BIG steps toward having the right people in the right seats... Ryan Lyons will be moving from Milledgeville to Warner Robins to take the role of Lead Pastor.  Andy Blankenship will be moving from Albany to take the Lead Pastor role in Milledgeville (putting New City Albany plans on hold indefinitely).

Below is the New City Church Milledegeville announcement that follows announcements in Warner Robins and Milledgeville during yesterday's services:

In case you missed the big announcement – Sunday, February 19, 2012
New City Church is a multi-congregational church seeking to see the gospel transform Middle Georgia and beyond. Currently, we have three New City Church congregations – Macon, Milledgeville, and Warner Robins. Our goal is for each of these congregations to have a Lead Pastor and congregational elders who will lead and shepherd their particular congregation. Currently, I am the Lead Pastor at New City Church Milledgeville and Keith Watson is the Lead Pastor at New City Church Downtown. Up until now, we have not had a Lead Pastor for New City Church Warner Robins.
After much prayer and consideration, along with unanimous agreement among all New City Church elders, it has been decided that I will begin serving as the Lead Pastor at New City Church Warner Robins. Andy Blankenship, who has been serving with us for a number of weeks, will soon become the Lead Pastor at New City Church Milledgeville, taking my place.
This transition – Andy becoming the Lead Pastor at New City Church Milledgeville – will happen over the next few months. I will remain the Lead Pastor of New City Church Milledgeville for the immediate future, but Andy will immediately begin serving alongside me in Milledgeville, like a “co-pastor.” He will begin preaching at least 50% of the time and will be utilizing his time in Milledgeville to build relationships with the New City Church Milledgeville congregation. Andy will also be “learning the ropes” during this time in order to ensure as smooth of a transition of leadership as possible. If all goes well, Andy and his family will be living in Milledgeville by May and Andy will be ready to assume full responsibilities as Lead Pastor of New City Church Milledgeville by early June.
On a personal note, this decision has been very difficult for Lori and me. We are grateful for the opportunity we have been given to plant and lead New City Church Milledgeville and we genuinely love each and every one of you who are a part of New City Church. While it is difficult to cease being the Lead Pastor of New City Church Milledgeville, there are at least three reasons why I am comfortable with and confident about this decision.
  1. I am confident that this is the Lord’s will and will help us advance our mission of seeing greater gospel influence in Middle Georgia and beyond. Lori and I believe the Lord is leading us to make this move, and the other elders of New City Church have affirmed that leading. 
  2. I am leaving you in good hands with Andy Blankenship. Over the last few months I have been privileged to get to know Andy and his family better. Andy loves Jesus, loves the mission of New City, and is committed to laboring to see the gospel continue to transform Milledgeville. He will lead you well and I am thankful that God sent him to us. 
  3. I am still a part of New City Church, meaning that we are still a part of the same larger organization and I am still working side by side with you, just in a different position, to see gospel transformation in Middle Georgia and beyond. 
Please be in prayer as we work through this transition. Pray for Andy and his family, for my family and me, and for unity for our congregation. Pray that our mission of seeing the gospel transform everything within our reach will continue to be advanced in Milledgeville, Warner Robins, Macon, and beyond.

For His Glory,
Pastor Ryan

Join us is praying for both families in transition as well as both congregations.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

With and For Our City

 Sarah Treem (Head Writer/Producer for HBO series
IN TREATMENT. Writer/Producer for HBO series
When we planted New City Church downtown, we didn't just want to be a church located downtown.  We wanted to be a church involved in our city's renewal... a church engaging its culture... a church celebrating creativity and engaging creatives.  Today is day 3 of 4 for The Macon Georgia Film Festival and through The 567 we get to play a huge role in this growing film festival.
I am thrilled to see downtown changing.  I am thrilled that as a church planted right smack in the middle of downtown, we participate in its change.  While we don't have it all figured out, and while we do make mistakes and miss opportunities, I am thrilled to say that we are not just a church in our city... we are truly a church With and For Our City!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Much to Celebrate - New City turns 4!

New City Church turns 4
January 2008 - New City Church held its first weekly gathering at The Cox Capitol Theater... it seems like yesterday in so many ways.  Who would show up?  Would we receive enough in offerings to rent the facilities for another week?  Could our volunteers set up and tear down and man all of the stations, not just once but every week?  Could we really do this?  Those and a thousand similar questions.
Well, we did it - purely by God's great grace!
Over these 4 years we have seen some amazing fruit - marriages saved and families restored; homeless addicts healed; de-churched re-churched, unbelievers becoming believers, mended families, lots of new children (probably as many adopted as born!), and a great impact through us and The 567 on our downtown community... all by God's great grace.
Just over 4 years ago 40 people (including kids) believed that God wanted to do something through a new church in Macon - one of the most churched cities in the US.  Together we dreamed of seeing the gospel radically impact lives - we dreamed of transformed people, a transformed city, and beyond.  More than a Sunday gathering, we dreamed of true community - people doing life together - seeking, striving, growing, serving, loving - in true community.
Today those 40 have become well over 600 - today that 1 gathering has turned into 3 congregations in 3 cities - today the dream of community has turned into 15 Missional Communities with 5 about to plant and more in the planning stages - today our home base is a 12,000 sf building in the heart of downtown that we renovated - it serves as not only the home of New City Church but also as a true community center for downtown Macon... all by God's great grace.
Don't get the idea that it has all been easy and always beautiful, it hasn't.  Sadly over 4 years we have lost many of our core families and friends for various reasons - some destroyed by sin, others discontent with the difficulties of planting, and a few who realized they weren't dreaming the same dreams that we were.  Each has been painful. But God's great grace has been sufficient.
We have much to celebrate at New City Church - downtown, Milledgeville, and Warner Robins... we have much more in mind for 2012... and by God's great grace we will be celebrating even more in January 2013! Thank you God for your great grace - thank you New City volunteers and missionaries for dreaming, believing, and working to see the gospel transform everything within your reach.