Would Somebody Listen?

http://faithit.com/12-reasons-millennials-over-church-sam-eaton/

 

59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why

Only 4 percent of the Millennial Generation are Bible-Based Believers. This means that 96 percent of Millennials likely don’t live out the teachings of the Bible, value the morals of Christianity and probably won’t be found in a church. This author goes deep to explain why.

By Sam Eaton

From the depths of my heart, I want to love church.

I want to be head-over-heals for church like the unshakable Ned Flanders.

200_s

I want to send global, sky-writing airplanes telling the life-change that happens beneath a steeple. I want to install a police microphone on top of my car and cruise the streets screaming to the masses about the magical Utopian community of believers waiting for them just down the street.

I desperately want to feel this way about church, but I don’t. Not even a little bit. In fact, like much of my generation, I feel the complete opposite.

Turns out I identify more with Maria from The Sound of Music staring out the abbey window, longing to be free.

It seems all-too-often our churches are actually causing more damage than good, and the statistics are showing a staggering number of millennials have taken note.

According to this study (and many others like it) church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history, and most drastic among millennials described as 22- to 35-year-olds.

  • Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59 percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
  • 35 percent of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).

As I sat in our large church’s annual meeting last month, I looked around for anyone in my age bracket. It was a little like a Titanic search party…

IS ANYONE ALIVE OUT THERE? CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

Tuning in and out of the 90-minute state-of-the-church address, I kept wondering to myself, where are my people? And then the scarier question, why I am still here?

A deep-seated dissatisfaction has been growing in me and, despite my greatest attempts to whack-a-mole it back down, no matter what I do it continues to rise out of my wirey frame.

[To follow my publicly-chronicled church struggles, check out my other posts The How Can I Help Project and 50 Ways to Serve the Least of These.]

Despite the steep drop-off in millennials, most churches seem to be continuing on with business as usual. Sure, maybe they add a food truck here or a bowling night there, but no one seems to be reacting with any level of concern that matches these STAGGERING statistics.

Where is the task-force searching for the lost generation? Where is the introspective reflection necessary when 1/3 of a generation is ANTI-CHURCH?

The truth is no one has asked me why millennials don’t like church. Luckily, as a public school teacher, I am highly skilled at answering questions before they’re asked. It’s a gift really.

So, at the risk of being excommunicated, here is the metaphorical nailing of my own 12 theses to the wooden door of the American, Millennial-less Church.

1. Nobody’s Listening to Us

Millennials value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear: Nobody cares what we think. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?

Solution:

  • Create regular outlets (forums, surveys, meetings) to discover the needs of young adults both inside AND outside the church.
  • Invite millennials to serve on leadership teams or advisory boards where they can make a difference.
  • Hire a young adults pastor who has the desire and skill-set to connect with millennials.

2. We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements

Sweet Moses people, give it a rest.

Of course as an organization it’s important to be moving in the same direction, but that should easier for Christians than anyone because we already have a leader to follow. Jesus was insanely clear about our purpose on earth:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

“Love God. Love Others.” Task completed.

Why does every church need its own mission statement anyway? Aren’t we all one body of Christ, serving one God? What would happen if the entire American Church came together in our commonalities and used the same, concise mission statement?

Solution:

  • Stop wasting time on the religious mambo jambo and get back to the heart of the gospel. If you have to explain your mission and values to the church, it’s overly-religious and much too complicated.
  • We’re not impressed with the hours you brag about spending behind closed doors wrestling with Christianese words on a paper. We’re impressed with actions and service.

3. Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority

My heart is broken for how radically self-centered and utterly American our institution has become.

Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discussing a new mission statement…

Now let’s clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these. Oooooo, awkward.

If the numbers are not equal please check your Bible for better comprehension (or revisit the universal church mission statement stated above).

“If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is in us at all.” –Radical, David Platt

Solutions:

  • Stop creating more Bible studies and Christian activity. Community happens best in service with a shared purpose.
  • Survey your members asking them what injustice or cause God has placed on their hearts. Then connect people who share similar passions. Create space for them to meet and brainstorm and then sit back and watch what God brings to life.
  • Create group serve dates once a month where anyone can show up and make a difference (and, oh yeah, they’ll also meet new people).

4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture

From Elvis’ hips to rap music, from Footloose to “twerking,” every older generation comes to the same conclusion: The world is going to pot faster than the state of Colorado. We’re aware of the down-falls of the culture—believe it or not we are actually living in it too.

Perhaps it’s easier to focus on how terrible the world is out there than actually address the mess within.

Solution:

  • Put the end times rhetoric to rest and focus on real solutions and real impact in our immediate community.
  • Explicitly teach us how our lives should differ from the culture. (If this teaching isn’t happening in your life, check out the book Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel)

5.  The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect

There is this life-changing movie all humans must see, regardless of gender. The film is of course the 2004 classic Mean Girls.

In the film, the most popular girl in school forgets to wear pink on a Wednesday (a cardinal sin), to which Gretchen Weiners screams, “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!”

Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.”

The truth is, I share her experience. As do thousands of others.

Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, we tell outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are.

Solutions:

  • Create authentic communities with a shared purpose centered around service.
  • Create and train a team of CONNECT people whose purpose is to seek out the outliers on Sunday mornings or during other events. Explicitly teach people these skills as they do not come naturally to most of the population.
  • Stop placing blame on individuals who struggle to get connected. For some people, especially those that are shy or struggle with anxiety, putting yourself out there even just once might be an overwhelming task. We have to find ways to bridge that gap.

6. Distrust & Misallocation of Resources

Over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10 percent of our incomes to the church, but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions, for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.

We want pain-staking transparency. We want to see on the church homepage a document where we can track every dollar.

Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go toward a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community, or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?

Solution:

  • Go out of your way to make all financial records readily accessible. Earn our trust so we can give with confidence.
  • Create an environment of frugality.
  • Move to zero-based budgeting where departments aren’t allocated certain dollar amounts but are asked to justify each purchase.
  • Challenge church staff to think about the opportunity cost. Could these dollars be used to better serve the kingdom?

7. We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At

Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents. See: millennial church attendance. We have millions of podcasts and Youtube videos of pastors the world over at our fingertips.

For that reason, the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history.

Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes.

We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch (with the ecstasy of donuts and sweatpants)?

Solutions:

  • Create a database of adult mentors and young adults looking for someone to walk with them.
  • Ask the older generation to be intentional with the millennials in your church.

8. We Want to Feel Valued

Churches tend to rely heavily on their young adults to serve. You’re single, what else do you have to do? In fact, we’re tapped incessantly to help out. And, at its worst extreme, spiritually manipulated with the cringe-worthy words “you’re letting your church down.”

Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough.

We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.

We need a church that sees us and believes in us, that cheers us on and encourages us to chase our big crazy dreams.

Solutions:

  • Return to point #1: listening.
  • Go out of your way to thank the people who are giving so much of their life to the church.

9. We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)

People in their 20s and 30s are making the biggest decisions of their entire lives: career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals, body image.

We need someone consistently speaking truth into every single one of those areas.

No, I don’t think a sermon-series on sex is appropriate for a sanctuary full of families, but we have to create a place where someone older is showing us a better way because these topics are the teaching millennials are starving for. We don’t like how the world is telling us to live, but we never hear from our church either.

Solutions:

  • Create real and relevant space for young adults to learn, grow and be vulnerable.
  • Create an opportunity for young adults to find and connect with mentors.
  • Create a young adults program that transitions high school youth through late adulthood rather than abandoning them in their time of greatest need.
  • Intentionally train young adults in how to live a godly life instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.

10. The Public Perception

It’s time to focus on changing the public perception of the church within the community. The neighbors, the city and the people around our church buildings should be audibly thankful the congregation is part of their neighborhood. We should be serving the crap out of them.

We desperately need to be calling the schools and the city, knocking on doors, asking everyone around us how we can make their world better. When the public opinion shows 1/3 millennials are ANTI-CHURCH, we are outright failing at being the aroma of Christ.

Solutions:

  • Call the local government and schools to ask what their needs are. (See: Service Day from #3)
  • Find ways to connect with neighbors within the community.
  • Make your presence known and felt at city events.

11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)

Words without follow-up are far worse than ignoring us completely. Despite the stereotypes about us, we are listening to phrases being spoken in our general direction. Lip service, however, doesn’t cut it. We are scrutinizing every action that follows what you say (because we’re sick of being ignored and listening to broken promises).

Solutions:

  • Stop speaking in abstract sound bites and make a tangible plan for how to reach millennials.
  • If you want the respect of our generation, under-promise and over-deliver.

12. You’re Failing to Adapt

Here’s the bottom line, church—you aren’t reaching millennials. Enough with the excuses and the blame; we need to accept reality and intentionally move toward this generation that is terrifyingly anti-church.

“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” —Bill Clinton
“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” —Kakuzo Okakaura
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H.G. Wells

Solution:

  • Look at the data and take a risk for goodness sake. We can’t keep trying the same things and just wish that millennials magically wander through the door.
  • Admit that you’re out of your element with this generation and talk to the millennials you already have before they ask themselves, what I am still doing here.

You see, church leaders, our generation just isn’t interested in playing church anymore, and there are real, possible solutions to filling our congregations with young adults. It’s obvious you’re not understanding the gravity of the problem at hand and aren’t nearly as alarmed as you should be about the crossroads we’re at.

You’re complacent, irrelevant and approaching extinction. A smattering of mostly older people, doing mostly the same things they’ve always done, isn’t going to turn to the tide.

Feel free to write to me off as just another angry, selfy-addicted millennial. Believe me, at this point I’m beyond used to being abandoned and ignored.

The truth is, church, it’s your move.

Decide if millennials actually matter to you and let us know. In the meantime, we’ll be over here in our sweatpants listening to podcasts, serving the poor and agreeing with public opinion that perhaps church isn’t as important or worthwhile as our parents have lead us to believe.

About the Author: Sam Eaton is a writer, speaker, and in-progress author who’s in love with all things Jesus, laughter, adventure, hilarious dance parties and vulnerability. Sam is also the founder of Recklessly Alive Ministries, a mental health and suicide-prevention ministry sprinting towards a world with zero deaths from suicide. Come hang out with him at RecklesslyAlive.com.

Advertisements

It just ain’t fair

Writing is indeed therapeutic for me. The problem I have is that I often wait entirely to long to sit and vent the feelings and emotions that build up over time.

For a very long time I have been troubled by what seems like a insurmmountable obstacle. No matter what I do, I can never get any traction. I seemed to be locked in a holding pattern, waiting, and waiting, aaaaaannndd wating some more. Please don’t get me wrong, I do not want to confuse waiting with idleness. I work very hard and spend endless amounts of time and energy out in the community trying to compete in a very egocentric industry. Everyday I am surrounded by people who are recognized by the community as good people, that do a good job. But in dealing with these people I get to peer around the curtain and see the true inner workings of their business and how they are (and were) able to succeed where so many others fail. Like many of my associates that work in other industries with different competitors and different challenges, they too are often frustrated with the powers in place. People who are directly or indirectly responsible for anothers prosperity. Persons that inadequately trained to manage a team or resources, but are very good at the art of manipulation. This type of dribble I am sure you  have heard before, and probably hear it often. No matter, where you are, things just ain’t fair.

So that brings me to this to dilemma. If God is all powerful, what gives? I know God Loves Me, I know that He is with me and I know that He is for me. Shouldn’t that be enough. Honestly it should. It should be all I never need, but somewhere in the deep recesses of my greedy littl soul I want more, I feel like I deserve more. I am entitled to justice, fair play, an equal playing field where everyone gets the same opportunity. God, is that to much to ask? What’s wrong with swinging your gavel of justice swiftly empowering the good and destroying those that lie, steal and cheat.

Here is the reply I have to accept. Remember those words I LOVE YOU. I loved you so much that I gave part of myself to walk amoung you, to teach you, to be mocked, tortured and murdered. I understand. That wasn’t fair, but it happened. I AM WITH YOU. Part of me indwells in you. The very best part of you is where you will find me. People hear my voice in your laugh, when you try to sing, when you smile at child and embrace and love your children. In those special moments I AM WITH YOU. In those moments of despair, when you feel like you do now, angry, disappointed, judgemental, frustrated, hurt, depresseed or scared, I understand that as well. I have been where you are, I understand, but I AM WITH YOU. Finally I AM FOR YOU. Everyone of my children is loved equally. God doesn’t play favorites. HE is your biggest fan and cheerleader. Your vision is limited, you see today, you see the past, you’re upset with both. But you cant see what HE sees, you do NOT know what tomorrow will hold. I have no doubt that God is sad when his children fail to see the person we actually are. If we could only see ourselves through his eyes, would we believe the view. Probably not. If you’re still fighting a battle that’s taken years, think how much you have accomplished, just surviving. That’s not someone pitiful or weak, that’s a warrior. If the best Warrior’s get weary. When you feel so lost, alone and without direction yet you continue to trudge along, That’s someone with incredible fight, because you have not quit. Even when circumstances tell you it’s hopeless. Faith is marching along with confidence into a world of uncertainty  When you see others who have wealth, or status, but have come by these things fraudulently, don’t be bitter or jealous. GOD is for you, he is fighting for you, he believes in you and he has good plans for you. Comparing ourselves to others is the easiest way to destroy God’s plan, because the image you are trying to achieve is someone elses reflection. Be yourself, Be the person God created YOU to be and Make sure you give thanks for everything you have been given. Even if you think it’s not enough. Chances are there ate plenty of people who are praying for the very things we take for granted.

The Rainbow

For anyone that has followed my writing very long, you will know that I don’t post things maybe as often as I should. This whole process started as an exercise to express emotions, opinions and personal concerns that I need to let out. Sometimes thoughts that scour my brain are negative, feelings of rejections, discouragement and a cry for help written on paper only, while I go about business putting on one of my many facades.

But today, today is different. I received a colored pictured by a 4 yr. old little girl who shall remain nameless, but is Loved so much. There is nothing particularly special about this colored picture, except that she created it.  I think only a parent can truly appreciate its beauty. The picture in case you are wondering is of a rainbow. A simple rainbow and nothing else. I don’t know why this struck me so powerfully this morning, but for a moment I looked at it and started to appreciate what she had done. Each ring has the colors listed in their respective order, “Red, Orange,Yellow, Green,Blue,Purple.”. She had followed the directions correctly and colored each space with the correct colors. But staying in the lines, well she hasn’t grasped that concept. Although the colors are in the correct sequence they are all over the page creating almost a tie die affect. Even through the chaos of colors, I can see the rainbow, the intent, but I also can appreciate the wild and free spirit of a child that refused to keep her colors within the lines.

As I looked at this picture and thought of its simplicity, my mind started to drift away to a conversation I had while she was creating this masterpiece in another room. In the adult realm, while she was in her roome,  a small group had gathered at the same time to do a Bible study and encourage one another. It didn’t take us very long to realize how frustrating our lives had become. Several people in this group work very long and thankless hours helping people, but they are short staffed. The problems, the pressure, the deadlines, the schedules are so heavy. The burden of carrying so much forces their attention away from friends, family, even finding the time to sleep and eat have bccome problematic often having to skip one, or even both. As I listened to my friends and shared their burdens, a small voice seemed to say, “the world is not an ugly place”. I don’t know where it came from but suddenly I found myself thinking about that statement. (To my friends to whom I owe you my attention, I do apologize for the blank stare.)  I started to think about the last time I heard someone say something positive about their environment. Anything positive about a job, their home, their spouse, their children, the trees, the weather…ANYTHING! I couldn’t remember a single instance where someone came into a room with a smile and said something positive.

I am not exactly sure when, or how, it not only became acceptable to view the world as ugly, but lately it seems as though it’s the one thing where people can agree. And so I stared at this picture I was given and started to think about how beautiful a rainbow is, how exciting it is to see one. I started to think about the day in general and how recently, where I live, we have had a small relief from what normally would be another hot day. Instead there is a breeze in the air, recent rains have cooled things off and the air is full of that, after the rain smell. The seasons are starting to transition around me and only in that moment did I realize the things I had seen recently and how little attention I paid to the beauty that was all around me. I realized then how much my ears had affected my vision. The constant negativity being sensationlized around me. A constant barrage of hate, disrepect, anger, frustration. All that mess had seeped into my subconscientiousness and convinced me that this existence, this world, is an ugly place. But then I was given a piece of paper. A beautful picture filled with bright colors, given by someone who see’s everything as new, fresh, and beautiful. Not worried about things to come, but excited about them. Today will be filled with multiple opportunities to color, to pick flowers, run through the grass, to be tickled, to laugh, to spend time with friends, to eat, to play, a chance to appreciate this beautiful world. I am so grateful for the imagination of this little girl, her ability to color outside of the lines and bring color and clarity into this beautiful world.

 

God’s Love Story

I didn’t write this, I just came across it at

God’s Love Story Slideshow

God’s Love Story

One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Ah, the beauty of God’s creation is beyond description. As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work. As I sat there, I felt the Lord’s presence with me.

He asked me, “Do you love me?”  I answered, “Of course, God! You are my Lord and Saviour!”

Then He asked, “If you were physically handicapped, would you still love me?”

I was perplexed. I looked down upon my arms, legs and the rest of my body and wondered how many things I wouldn’t be able to do — the things that I took for granted? And I answered, “It would be tough Lord, but I would still love You.”

Then the Lord said, “If you were blind, would you still love my creation?”

How could I love something without being able to see it? Then I thought of all the blind people in the world and how many of them still loved God and His creation. So I answered, “Its hard to think of it, but I would still love you.”

The Lord then asked me, “If you were deaf, would you still listen to my word?”

How could I listen to anything being deaf? Then I understood. Listening to God’s Word is not merely using our ears, but our hearts. I answered, “It would be tough, but I would still listen to Your word.”

The Lord then asked, “If you were mute, would you still praise My Name?”

How could I praise without a voice? Then it occurred to me: God wants us to sing from our very heart and soul. It never matters what we sound like. And praising God is not always with a song, but when we are persecuted, we give God praise with our words of thanks. So I answered, “Though I could not physically sing, I would still praise Your Name.”

And the Lord asked, “Do you really love Me?”

With courage and a strong conviction, I answered boldly, “Yes Lord! I love You because You are the one and true God!” I thought I had answered well, but God asked, “THEN WHY DO YOU SIN?”

I answered, “Because I am only human. I am not perfect.”

“THEN WHY IN TIMES OF PEACE DO YOU STRAY THE FURTHEST? WHY ONLY IN TIMES OF TROUBLE DO YOU PRAY IN EARNEST?”

No answers — only tears.

The Lord continued: “Why only sing at fellowships and retreats? Why seek Me only in times of worship? Why ask things so selfishly? Why ask things so unfaithfully?”

The tears continued to roll down my cheeks.

“Why are you ashamed of Me? Why are you not spreading the good news? Why in times of persecution, you cry to others when I offer My shoulder to cry on? Why make excuses when I give you opportunities to serve in My Name?”

I tried to answer, but there was no answer to give.

“You are blessed with life. I made you not to throw this gift away. I have blessed you with talents to serve Me, but you continue to turn away. I have revealed My Word to you, but you do not gain in knowledge. I have spoken to you but your ears were closed. I have shown My blessings to you, but your eyes were turned away. I have sent you servants, but you sat idly by as they were pushed away. I have heard your prayers and I have answered them all.”

DO YOU TRULY LOVE ME ?”

I could not answer. How could I? I was embarrassed beyond belief. I had no excuse. What could I say to this? My heart had cried out and the tears had flowed, I said, Please forgive me Lord. I am unworthy to be Your child.”

The Lord answered, ” That is My Grace, My child.”

I asked, ” Then why do you continue to forgive me? Why do You love me so?”

The Lord answered, “Because you are My creation. You are my child. I will never abandon you. When you cry, I will have compassion and cry with you. When you shout with joy, I will laugh with you. When you are down, I will encourage you. When you fall, I will raise you up. When you are tired, I will carry you. I will be with you till the end of days, and I will love you forever.”

Never had I cried so hard before. How could I have been so cold? How could I have hurt God as I had done?

I asked God, “How much do You love me?”

The Lord stretched out His arms, and I saw His nail-pierced hands. I bowed down at the feet of Christ, my Saviour.

And for the first time, I truly prayed.

A LETTER TO MYSELF

Although I am tempted to believe that I am anything but significant. I know better. For the Lord my God is with me wherever I am at all times and through every adversity. Temptation is life, feeling hopeless or lost is not God’s way, it is opposite of his Plan’s for me. I am tempted to flee back into the world where I was once immersed, drowning in doubt and hopelessness, yet given enough time that world seems normal. REMEMBER THAT WORLD IN WHICH YOU ONCE EXISTED IS A LIE. You are better, stronger, smarter, and have all that you need to do what God has planned for you. Persistence, Perseverance and Faith. Fight for the truth that God has promised to you. It is OK to be yourself, you were created to serve a purpose, so fulfill God’s wishes and do what your heart commands.

KEEP YOURSELF AT 17 INCHES

“Keep Yourself at 17 Inches”

Nations_Park_Home_plate

I recently came across a fantastic story written by Coach Sperry, that a couple of friends of mine sent to me via Face Book. I thought that it was something that should certainly be shared with everyone and worth the read…especially parents and coaches.

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the heck is John Scolinos, I wondered. Well, in 1996 Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate. Pointed side down.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.

“No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.

“And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over these seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Bobby. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of throwing the ball over it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause.

“Coaches …”

Pause.

” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? What do we do if he violates curfew? What if he uses drugs? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.

Then he turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful….to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.

“… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.

Speak to my heart

Speak To My Heart
© Ashley Plaisted
Published on December 2010

So Silent… So still
Listening for God’s Will
Hoping I can hear Him
Speak to my heart.

Wishing I was flawless, perfect and pure
Wondering what life trials I’m destined to endure.
Eager to seek Him, eager to grow,
What’s really inside me only He and I know.

Constant Hunger and constant thirst,
Constantly striving to put the Lord first.
Feeling unsettled like something’s not right
It’s a spiritual war and I’m ready to fight.

Help me, Lord. Make my heart your reflection!
Calm my spirit Lord, point me in the right direction.

With everything I am I want to serve You,
Hold me in your hands Lord, so to you I stay true.

My life is yours God, this I reaffirm today,
In everything I do Lord, You have the final say.

My heart is heavy like I lost a loved one,
My soul is crying for comfort from His Son.
Lord Jesus, Come! Be everything that I am!
Help me to see and live Your master plan.

To you Lord God I give all the glory,
Be alive in me father while I tell the world my story.
I lost my life for you the night of December eighth,
I thank you every day Lord, for making my path straight.

I am always falling down Lord, remaining on my knees,
It’s a constant reminder only you can meet my every need.

So I look to you in prayer and I ask with a sincere heart,
Cleanse me, hold me, lead me, away from the death of dark.

How do you describe light to someone that knows only darknes. In any language, words fail. There is no way to use vocabulary to describe the lights power. Even a little has a profound affect. In order to truly understand it, to recognize and appreciate it, someone has to encounter it. They must see it.
In the same way as we go about our lives. Can anyone describe Jesus Christ? For those of us fortunate to have weathered  life’s storms, describing God’s strength during those moments is as hard to explain as the light in the previous example. It exists whether you see it or not. It’s power never changes only moving from a stagnate view can someone appreciate its magnificence. So how does one change their view. They have to be shown the way. They have to see something unique in a “Christian”, something special they don’t understand. If you say I believe in Christ, yet live as a stranger to him, how are you defining Christianity to those whose view is distorted. Are you showing them the way or are you an obstruction? I hope as culture continues to define the status quo that we don’t loose our focus and we are leading people out of darkness into an illuminated understanding of Jesus Christ and the desire he has to help us.

EJG

The Bird Cage

THE BIRD CAGE

February 3, 2003

There once was a man named George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.

“I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright.”

I stopped the lad and asked, “What you got there, son?”

“Just some old birds,” came the reply.

“What are you gonna do with them?” I asked.

“Take ’em home and have fun with ’em,” he answered. “I’m gonna tease ’em and pull out their feathers to make ’em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.”

“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?”

“Oh, I got some cats,” said the little boy. “They like birds. I’ll take ’em to them.”

The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?”

“Huh??!!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing- they ain’t even pretty!”

“How much?” the pastor asked again.

The boy sized up the pastor, as if he were crazy, and said, “$10?”

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.

The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting.

“Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait, I knew they couldn’t resist. Got ’em all!”

“What are you going to do with them?” Jesus asked.

Satan replied, “Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I’m gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I’m really gonna have fun!”

“And what will you do when you get done with them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, I’ll kill ’em,” Satan glared proudly.

“How much do you want for them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, you don’t want those people. They ain’t no good. Why, you’ll take them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you!! You don’t want those people!!”

“How much?” He asked again.

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, “All your tears, and all your blood.”

Jesus said, “DONE!”

Then He paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage, he opened the door and he walked from the pulpit.
— Author Unknown — Sent in by Ruth Mack — South Dakota