A Better Back to School

Posted on August 12, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

back to schoolI am drawn to school supplies – I can’t help it. I love the little areas set aside at the local stores for parents and their progeny to sift through, mark off lists and look for just the right folders and notebooks.

I have no reason to be there, but I find myself looking at Sharpies and Mr. Sketch markers with excitement and locker decorations with nostalgia. While I peruse the aisles, I often notice my fellow shoppers and they are not shopping leisurely like me. They are harried, stressed, rushed and a little annoyed at those lists that get longer every year. I overheard one woman say, “ Seriously, three boxes of tissues? Who are these kids and why do they blow their noses so much? And a protractor…do these wear out or something? Why a new one? How new and improved could they be?” I am sure there is a really good reason those are on the lists, but in the midst of all the getting ready for the new school year the list is one more stressful thing.

An antidote to the rush and crush for families? A parish community that understands, supports, and knows just how to remedy the craziness of their families at this time of year. So I give you five ways to reach out to your families this fall to welcome and lead them gently and compassionately to Jesus who desires to be at the heart of every person and every family.

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Silence in the Storm

Posted on August 9, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Silence in the StormFor Sunday, August 13, 2017
19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

Have you ever heard five hundred teenagers singing? As a music minister, it’s not always easy to pull off. When I worked in a Catholic high school, there was one song that nearly everybody always sang, whether it was in the Mass, on retreat, or at a prayer service: “Oceans” by Hillsong, the music ministry of an Australian evangelical church. Here are some lines of the refrain: “And I will call upon Your name. Keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise.”

I spent a lot of time considering why this song roused an instinctive response in so many students, regardless of grade, race, and social clique. In many ways, I think this simple song reflects the cry of the human heart. We all, at times, feel storm-tossed and unconsoled. The song isn’t just about our effort to reach out to Christ, but the steadfast presence of God as we brave the unknown.

I don’t know the history of the song, but I have no doubt it was at least somewhat inspired by today’s Gospel. Jesus has spent time alone, consoled in his weariness by the presence of his Father, and he returns to his friends by night, supernaturally walking on the waves of a stormy sea. Peter, in a classic display of bold faith, trusts that if the figure really is Jesus, than he too can walk on the water. His Lord will do the miraculous, keep him from sinking. (more…)

The Intersection of Faith and Photography

Posted on August 8, 2017 by - Catholic Tech Talk

How Good Photography Reveals Beauty and Draws People to the Church

We live in a world where nearly everyone has access to a camera. It has never been easier to document and record our lives. With the click of a button, we can share the beauty of our faith with the world, a faith that is naturally beautiful on many different levels. Our human instinct to capture beauty is a direct reflection of God’s word when he saw all that he made and “found it very good.”

Photography matters in our world—and should matter to the Church—because it is the bridge or gateway of communication and storytelling. Statistics show that more and more people are visual learners, which shows that photography makes a difference. With the Instagram generation having a bigger impact in the world of communications and evangelization, taking a photo with purpose and reason can give someone a reason to stop, pause, and be curious as to what that photo can offer. Most importantly, it offers the story behind the photo.

Imagine if that same purpose and reason were applied to the way we approach photography within church communications. Here are five tips to help the photos you take leave a deeper impression.

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Glimpse of Heaven

Posted on August 6, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Feast of the Transfiguration

heaven

There are times in our lives that we get the chance to see a glimpse of heaven. It may be through the love of another, loved one or stranger. Sometimes it may even be an event that seems unexplainable, perhaps even supernatural. These occurrences may be the answer to prayer or they may surprise us by coming out of nowhere. But no matter their nature or origin, they give us hope and strength to carry on through life.

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5 Ways to Turn Youth Ministry On Its Head

Posted on August 5, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Where were you on 9/11? Most of us reading this can tell a vivid story our experience that tragic day. Ask a teenager that same question. Most of them won’t have an answer because they were far too young to remember or weren’t even born yet. From security to the way we consume media and information, there have been seismic shifts in the culture since most of us were teenagers. While the culture seems to change in dramatic ways every year, the way we minister to teens has changed very little. I had to humbly face the fact that I had been running the same youth group for eight years with only cosmetic changes. Worse, I was running the youth group I went to when I was in high school.

youth ministryIn the midst of identify this problem and my own soul searching and Google searching, I discovered YDisciple, an online platform designed to enable parishes to engage and train other adults in the parish to mentor small groups of teenagers with training, videos for discussion, well-crafted discussion questions, and more. Through five basic steps, God turned my entire paradigm of youth ministry on its head.

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Watch Your Labels

Posted on August 4, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Guest Post by Chuck Frost

labels

We are all guilty of name-calling from time to time. It’s human nature when you are frustrated, angry, or have been mistreated to lash out with an insult. We like to label people too. We label people by political leaning, intelligence, attractiveness, personality, behavior…. Even our Lord had labels attached to him:  glutton, drunkard, blasphemer.

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A Hope that Gives Life

Posted on August 2, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The Kingdom of God in Our MidstFor Sunday, August 06, 2017
The Transfiguration of the Lord

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
2 Peter 1:16-19
Matthew 17:1-9

The death of Chester Bennington, lead singer for the popular group, Linkin Park, has stunned the music world. His alarming death by suicide follows that of another popular singer of his generation, Chris Cornell, who fronted the seminal grunge rock groups Soundgarden and Audioslave.

While such deaths have not been uncommon in the world of music, the suicides of the rich and famous shock us because we think they “have it all.” In fact, they only prove that success, money, fame, and power do not ultimately fulfill us and cannot shield us from life’s difficulties. (more…)