I’ve been both a youth and a lead pastor, and as such, I’ve struggled to find a way to change the culture of the groups I’ve led. There were times when I fretted about the theological maturity of my group or their ability to defend the truth claims of Christianity. In the beginning, pondered how I might be able to effect real change in the organizations and groups God had given me. Did I need to pray more? Research more deeply? Preach better? Spend more time mentoring? I bet I’m not the only pastoral leader who’s pondered these questions as he’s tried to find a way to strengthen his congregation or change their level of complacency. As much as I learned from other Christian leaders in this regard, I can safely say the best advice I ever got came from the marketing genius of Nike sportswear: “Just Do It”. Do you want to change the culture of the church or ministry God has given you? If so, it’s time to make a change. Not in the way you’re preaching, or the way you’re studying, or the way you’re praying. Change your calendar.
If I want to know what matters most to you, there’s a sure-fire way to find out: show me your calendar and your bank account. If you’re spending your time or money on something, it’s probably significant to you. We give our time and money to the things we love. If you want to change your life or the life of your group, it all starts with your calendar. Let me show you what I mean:
How A Calendar Can Change Your Life
When I first became a Christian, I felt the weight of thirty-five years of denial. I spent my entire life not only denying the existence of God, but mocking his existence and those who followed him. As a new Christian I wanted to become a true disciple and I wanted to know what I believed and why I believed it. That wasn’t going to happen without some effort. So I changed my calendar. I established a daily discipline allowing myself the time to study, pray and write. I decided to sleep two hours less every day, and I’ve been doing that for the past eighteen years. I knew my commitment was going to require time, so I focused on my calendar first. I start every day studying and writing my daily blog. I spend nearly every afternoon studying and writing the next book. I realize I’m in a different place than many of you (I’m now retired from full-time employment), but I established this routine back when I was working 40 hours, driving 10, attending seminary and serving as a youth pastor. If I can do this, you can do this. Yes, something will have to give, but something always does. I gave up several hobbies to spend my time this way, but was sure worth it.
How A Calendar Can Change Your Group
When I became a youth pastor and watched my first graduating class of seniors walk away from the church, I knew it was time to reassess my efforts. I knew my teaching was sounding a lot like “blah, blah, blah” to students who were struggling to understand why they should be paying attention in the first place. I knew it was time to change our calendar. I immediately sought out missions trip opportunities to test what we had been teaching our students. We designed the Utah Missions trip to teach theology and the Berkeley Missions trip to teach philosophy and logic. These trips are daunting experiences and they challenge students to the fullest. But when students see them posted on our calendar and know each trip is approaching, they sure pay attention to what we’re teaching them in preparation. The calendar drove our ministry. If you want to turn teaching into training, you do it with a calendar. It’s really that simple. Create events that will challenge your people to prepare. When boxers know there’s a fight coming up on their calendar, they get in shape. The same is true for Christ followers.
So, if you’re looking for a quick fix as a Church leader, you can do it today. Change your calendar. Of course this is going to cause you to rethink your entire ministry, because you’re going to have to begin training for those events you’ve calendared. But that’s the whole point. Let’s stop dreaming about it and talking about it. Let’s just DO it. Start by changing your calendar.
For more information about strategies to help you teach Christian worldview to the next generation, please read So the Next Generation Will Know: Training Young Christians in a Challenging World. This book teaches parents, youth pastors and Christian educators practical, accessible strategies and principles they can employ to teach the youngest Christians the truth of Christianity. The book is accompanied by an eight-session So the Next Generation Will Know DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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