Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

28 Oct

Worship and Meetings

Posted in Uncategorized on 28.10.10 by Merlyn

I just got done reading a book on the missional leader by Alan Roxburgh. It was an amazing book and a must read for anyone in church ministry/leadership today. I walked away challenged, encouraged, supported and with some ideas. We are called to be missional leaders and we are also called to be a missional church. In some ways I feel like I am re-learning how to lead all over again, which is both good and bad. I look forward to reflecting on this book and sharing quotes in this blog as well.

Moving on to my topic for this week, worship and meetings. We work hard to keep our worship services to a certain time (usually an hour) which has always bugged me because it feels a bit consumeristic and we really should be worshipping as long as we want/need to. I then realized how much time I spend in meetings, or even one type of meeting. Some of these meetings can be 3-5 hours in length which means in a given month I spend more time in this meeting than in worship. Does this seem backwards? Does this speak to our priorities? Should we re-evaluate how we spend our time in order to be a missional church?

Just some things I am pondering.

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21 Oct

Church Leaders

Posted in Uncategorized on 21.10.10 by Merlyn

Effective church leaders are not born, they are made.

Its that simple. Many people talk about being a ‘natural born leader’ or that someone was a ‘born leader.’ Neither of these statements are true. Certainly, leadership can come easier or more natural to some, and there are leaders who can learn leadership more easily or quickly. Leadership is something that you learn and the lessons come from education, experience, and every possible are of life if one is looking. The good news is that we can always become better leaders. Not only can we become better leaders, but we can learn to lead in different cultures and in different places. The bad news is that leadership is work and we never really ‘arrive.” True leaders are learners. To be a disciple means to be one who learns. To be a disciple means to have discipline. Leaders must be willing to be learners and be disciples. If you want to be a leader, know that you will never arrive and will always be challenged. No complacency allowed, no settling in, because if you stop learning, changing, and adjusting, you have effectively stopped leading. Leadership is hard. Leadership is hard for many reasons, but the biggest is that we have to continue to learn how to lead if we are to truly be leaders.

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14 Oct

The State of youth Ministry Rant Episode 2

Posted in Uncategorized on 14.10.10 by Merlyn

I have decided I need to rant about youth ministry. After over 12 years working in the field I have made some observations that I want to share. I spend a lot of time talking with other youth workers, hearing their stories. The thoughts that I share in this rant come from my work in youth ministry and the stories of my fellow youth workers.


I never thought I would say this, but those of us in full-time youth ministry can be lazy. Sure, we are the busiest of all ministers, pastors, and staff members putting in the “normal” office hours and then the evenings, retreats, mission trips and other weekends. There is no question that we put our time in, and most of us work hard while working. The problem is that we often find ourselves just getting by in youth ministry. The tasks of the ministry alone are overwhelming, then trying to do a semi-decent job adds to the time it takes to ‘do’ the work of ministry. Where laziness creeps in is using our instinct and personality rather than focusing on a mission and well thought out philosophy. Our biggest failure in the laziness department is that we fail to think theologically about what we are doing. Being busy does not mean that we are not cutting corners or being lazy. Youth ministry is hard work; it is the hardest work, but the call is high and we must have a reason and a theology for all that we do. This takes great thought and care and of course this great thought and care takes more time…

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08 Oct

The State of youth Ministry Rant Episode 1

Posted in Uncategorized on 08.10.10 by Merlyn

I have decided I need to rant about youth ministry. After over 12 years working in the field I have made some observations that I want to share. I spend a lot of time talking with other youth workers, hearing their stories. The thoughts that I share in this rant come from my work in youth ministry and the stories of my fellow youth workers.



This is the first of who knows how many rants. I love youth ministry. I have given my life to it. 12 years of work in the field, 7 plus years of study, and many many stories. I am in a place of ministry where I am reflecting a lot on the state of youth ministry. I also find myself in a lot of relationships with other youth pastors in their joys and struggles. My passion is training and as I work with volunteers and interns, a whole new set of observations arise. There is nothing better than youth ministry, but there are things in youth ministry that need to be addressed, so this is my personal rant…

One of the things that is very frustrating to me in the area of youth ministry is that few paid youth workers think theologically about youth ministry at all. Youth ministry is done out of personality or skill and is based on programs or reaction to a situation or setting. We say things in our youth ministry messages that are theologically disturbing. We sing songs that have a theology that is narrow at best. We fail to think theologically. Theology, and therefore God are often an afterthought in our ministries. We must start with theology—with the source. We must have a reason, a good theological reason for doing what we do. We must think about what we doing and why we are doing it—what does it have to do with the core beliefs of the Christian faith, of the Kingdom vision? If we do not think theologically, then our ministries become about something other than God, and when that happens, we are better off not having done anything in the first place.

More later…

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07 Oct

Published Article 3-Spiritual Practices in the home

Posted in Uncategorized on 07.10.10 by Merlyn

Published in Connections Magazine (Nov/Dec 2010)

Learn about Connections here

Spiritual Practices in the Home

By Rev. Marcus J Carlson

The spiritual formation and development of children and youth is a high calling and a complicated undertaking. Developing a deep and authentic Christ-centered faith in our children requires more of us than weekly worship and church program participation. Having written about the need for a partnership in the spiritual formation and development of youth and children between the church and families, I would like to offer some suggestions and ideas that families can implement in their own homes. These suggestions are not exhaustive; as parents, we are best able to discern what tools we can use to enhance our children’s relationship with Jesus Christ. I have organized the suggestions into categories in hopes that you might find a practice in each that will be helpful to your family.


•Emergency Prayer—Every time we hear or see an ambulance, police or fire vehicle our children point it out and have us pray. We tried this when they were very young and it has stuck with them. They lead the prayer and it is often something as simple as “God, help the people who need the sirens.” Of course, for older children the prayers would be a bit different. It has helped our children to recognize that everyone needs God and that our faith is to be exercised everywhere.

•Mealtime Prayer—We all know at least one of the commonly used mealtime prayers. Those prayers are great to use, but also can become stale. We take turns having our children lead prayers at every

meal. Since our children are young, we do repeating prayers where we will repeat after whomever is leading prayers. This simple exercise does not always lead to eloquent or divine prayers. We often end up praying for “Spiderman” or “snowballs”, but it instills in our children the idea that we can and should pray for everything and that prayer is simply talking to God.

•Morning and Evening Prayers—We cannot forget the power of regular prayer to begin and end our day. This can be something you do as a family, or something that you ask your children and youth to do on their own when they go to bed. At some point in our lives, things like showering and brushing our teeth become habits for which we do not usually need a reminder. What if the same were true of prayer?

• Prayer After School—Often when parents ask children about their day at school, they get little to no response. Taking time to pray after school helps our children and youth reflect on their day, and helps them to be more in tune with how God is working around them. It also can increase their sensitivity to the need of others. We believe that prayer can transform any school or community.

The Bible

•Bible Reading Time—Establish a Bible reading time as a family. This can be done in a variety of ways. For younger children, you can read the story to them. There are many great age-appropriate Bibles with pictures. You can also ask your older children and youth to spend just 5 minutes every day reading something in the Bible. Remember, the stories in the Bible speak for themselves, and we as parents should not be afraid to expect our children to engage with the Bible.

•Listening to Scripture—Many free Bible podcasts and audio versions of the Bible are available. Take some time to listen to the Scriptures with your kids. You can do this in the car, just before or after a meal, or during any other five-minute period of time. This helps our children and youth engage with the Bible, and can teach them to use time that would otherwise be wasted to focus on God. The use of technology also can help engage our children and youth with the Word of God.

•Devotionals—Another way to engage with the Bible as a family is to use a devotional. There are many different age-appropriate devotionals that can be used as individuals or as a family. There are also online devotionals and podcasts. I write a devotion almost every week for our youth and parents—while only a few read it on a regular basis, I like providing a resource that could lead to discussion about faith between youth and their peers or parents. We have had some devotionals that youth have shared with their unchurched friends. Our devotional can be found on the “resources” page of our website


•Family Altar—Create a sacred space in your home. I once had a colleague who converted the small closet under his stairs into a sacred space for prayer, reading and worship. You can take a small table and put a Bible, cross, candle and other things on it to make it a sacred space where family members can go to focus on God. Creating a closet, room or other small space can also help our children and youth learn how to practice solitude while teaching them that God can be worshiped at home as well.

• Celebration of Church Seasons—The church seasons are an important part of our history and faith expression that unfortunately are being lost in our consumer culture. The church seasons are sometimes seen as irrelevant, yet they have such power and relevancy if we try to engage them in fresh ways. Celebrating Lent together as a family and learning about sacrifice can be a very powerful experience. The youth group of one church made Advent wreaths as a fundraiser each year for families to use. When our family has used it, we have found that it has grounded our attitude toward Christmas in the birth of the Christ. Get a calendar of church seasons, and talk about the purpose and meaning of each of the seasons. The church seasons can help us understand and better engage with the seasons of life and faith while remembering the story of our own faith.

•Participation in Worship-—Perhaps it goes without saying, but our participation as a family in church is critical. One of my favorite things about my own church is that children are in services with their families. My children are ages three and five—while there is no question that being in worship can be challenging for us, for them and for those around us, I love seeing the whole community of faith together. In many families, church participation is limited to certain family members, and this is a great tragedy. Participating in worship and other church activities together leads to the transformation of the whole family. Taking time to talk about what you have learned and experienced in church together can only strengthen the faith of the family and each of its members.

There are an infinite number of ideas and ways to help point your children to Jesus Christ, and hopefully this list has helped to spur some ideas of your own. Please feel free to try out these ideas and modify them to fit your family—and share your ideas with me as well. May we all work together to point our children and youth a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Marcus Carlson is a Spiritual Director & certified LCMC pastor who has worked in youth and children’s ministry for over 10 years. He is Youth Minister of Bethel Lutheran Church, Colorado Springs, CO. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children.

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