19 October 2014

Prayer and Reflection for Domestic Violence Month

Please note: this prayer and reflection was shared during the prayer time in worship today at Custer Road.
October is Domestic Violence awareness month. As an act of prayer this morning, we unite our hearts and minds with those who suffer brokenness within their most intimate relationships. We know God’s own heart breaks at every sign of violence and pray that the compassion of Jesus may shine forth through the hurt and pain of so many. The statistics regarding domestic abuse are overwhelming:

  • ·        95% of the victims of domestic violence are women
  • ·        One in four married women suffer abuse from their partners—this number is too low because most abuse goes unreported
  • ·        Most abuse occurs on Sundays
  • ·        Family violence is the leading cause of death for women aged 15-44.
  • ·        Boys who witness domestic violence in the home are 1500% more likely to commit it themselves
  • ·        70% of children of abused women are physically abused, and 20% are sexually abused
  • ·        Number of Texas family violence incidence in 2012: nearly 200,000, an increase of 11.5% from 2011
  • ·        Highest numbers of victims were aged 20-24
  • ·        Of Dallas, Collin, and Tarrant Counties, Plano ranked 6th in reported cases—just over 1,000
  • o   McKinney: nearly 800
  • o   Allen and Frisco: nearly 400 each


We must stop asking, “Why doesn’t she leave?” and instead ask, “Why do you hurt her?”
Why is this something we hear about in the church? Scripture is clear: God is on the side of those who suffer. So must the church be also, lest we are complicit in the violence. Because abuse occurs across racial, economic, and social barriers. As the church we need to stand against violence in our families. As the Body of Christ, we cannot look the other way when our fellow members and friends are hurting. Hear these comforting and challenging words of scripture:

“My eyes flow and don’t stop. There is no relief until the Lord looks down from the heavens and notices. My eyes hurt me because of what’s happened to my city’s daughters. My enemies hunted me down like a bird, relentlessly, for no reason. They caught me alive in a pit and threw stones at me; water flowed over my head. I thought: I’m finished. I call on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. Hear my voice. Don’t close your ear to my need for relief, to my cry for help. Come near to me on the day I call to you. Say to me, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ My Lord! Plead my case, redeem my life. Lord, look at my mistreatment; judge my cause” (Lamentations 3:49-59).
Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin? But not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing it already. Even the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31).

Let us pray. We pray for victims that they may know God’s presence and love, as well as our own; and for victimizers, that they too may know of God’s power to break hard heartedness and heal all brokenness.

Silence

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we enjoin your divine mercies. Lord, why do we suffer? Why do we hurt? Shall our only answer be the eternal abyss of the cosmos? Shall our only answer be the whirlwind of unknowing which engulfed Job? Why do the wicked flourish while the righteous waste away? I am left speechless, left with the words, “I will trust in you, O God.”

God, we ask for the sending of your healing Spirit, who came to us through Jesus, as he breathed upon his disciples. This Spirit gathered your people, to be warmed by the fire of divine presence. By this warmth may the victims of domestic violence be healed and taken into your care. You are our Anointed One, the one who also anoints us and points us to the love of God. Grant all those who suffer your healing peace. In the name of our Creator, our Liberator, our Resurrection and Life, we pray. And as he taught us, so now..

(Prayers adapted from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Thanks to Bishop McKee, Mike Baughman, and Stefanie Hayes, who contributed helpful information.)

16 October 2014

A More Excellent Way

Leaders and staff in the church are often faced with the challenging task of creating rosters of folk to fulfill the needs of a given ministry. For example, the outreach at the school may need 50 volunteers to make it happen. Well, how do we go about filling those needs? Often we resort to the way we have always done things: announcements, emails, even reaching out to fellow staff or leaders to help us out.

Now, I am sure these are wonderful, fulfilling opportunities, and certainly part of our calling as Christians is to serve. But offering a more biblical approach to staffing ministry may be more fruitful. As the Apostle Paul said, I want to show you "a more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:31).

I picked up on the idea of creating a “so that” statement for ministry from Dr Lovett Weems when I was working on my doctorate. We offer X ministry so that... I am involved in the X ministry so that... It's basically a purpose or mission statement. It's really fun when all the ministries of the church align around a common "so that." Then you know everyone is clear on the commonly adopted mission. 

Church leaders and staffs exist so that we, in the words of Paul, "equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:12). We facilitate opportunities for others to serve. This can be a very lonely, frustrating process, so we often look to our friends in leadership or staff to help. Staff and leaders already serve, so recruiting others to serve in your ministry is redundant and dramatically decreases your potential pool of servants. Think about it: if the average Sunday morning attendance of a church is 500 and there are 10 staff members, seeking servants from the staff potentially reaches only 2% of the population. Another important point: encouraging staff and leaders to serve in your ministry area  increases the possibility of burnout.

In every setting I have served, I have encouraged the pursuit of spiritual gifts. It's fun to discover your gifts, leadership style, and spirituality type. After this discovery process, folk are excited and ready to serve. You just need to discern what gifts are needed for your particular offering. Do you need folks gifted in administration, leadership, servanthood, helping? Recruit people with those gifts, rather than seeking servants from staff or established leaders. It is a much more biblical approach to ministry, and with minimal effort you will see fruitful results. All that is missing is a personal (not email or voice mail) invitation from you. Announcements from the pulpit, notices in the bulletin, signup sheets in the Fellowship Hall, etc. are generally ineffective—particularly for reaching new people. If after your best efforts you still are having trouble meeting the servant needs of a particular ministry, perhaps it is time to evaluate its effectiveness.


Being a leader/staff in a congregation is tough work, and it is often unappreciated. So thanks for what you are doing! Considering a more gift-based approach to ministry, versus the more common volunteer-based model, will yield better results, many more people serving, less stress and burnout on you, and a broader sense of what it means to be the Body of Christ in the world.