The Meaning of Sacrifice

So I’ve arranged the babysitter, pumped the milk, dragged the gear, set up the port-a-crib, mentally prepared for a rough night if the baby doesn’t like being shuffled around, and made it to home church, and only ten minutes late! Now what? In the midst of the monumental task of showing up, have I thought about how to serve someone, what to contribute? Have I thought about how to make all that sacrifice count for something? Having a baby and doing “hard” things, such as not staying home and going to bed at 9pm every night, has given me a new sense of urgency. My first time back at the high school group after Simon’s birth, I thought: I’m here, I’m awake, I have a sitter, I have to make this count.

Everyone says having a kid teaches you a whole new level of sacrifice. This has proved true for me, but not exactly in the way I thought it would. As a disclaimer I should say, I have it easy. I’m a stay-at-home mom with one happy, healthy baby, and I have a supportive and helpful husband, parents, and group of friends. I don’t claim to be making any huge or unusual sacrifices but here’s what I’m learning.

I thought the big sacrifices of having a newborn would be the sleepless nights, crying baby, restricted freedom, changing diapers, and being flabby. Four out of five came true and are challenging, but it’s not really the hard part. First of all, you don’t have a choice. When your baby’s hungry in the middle of the night you don’t decide if you’re going to sacrifice for him or her. You just get up and feed the baby. Secondly, although you’d rather be sleeping than up at 3am, you are happy in a general sense, if not at the moment, to be taking care of your baby. I like taking care of Simon. I wanted to have a baby and take care of him.

What’s really harder for me is choosing to go out and sacrifice for others, when I already have Simon’s needs to tend to. Changing his diaper isn’t that hard and isn’t optional anyway, but making the conscious choice and all the effort to go help a friend with their mess is hard to me. Because to go serve someone else means what? I have to be awake. This feels like a huge sacrifice when you have a newborn! (I don’t know what I’ll do when I have a second kid. Drink more coffee I think.) And maybe Simon’s nap will get messed up. And I have to pack up him and myself and the pack and play and stroller and whatever else, and get somewhere on time. And it means I can’t clean my house or catch up on the laundry. And  ideally I should think and pray about this person before I show up so I have something more to offer than, “I’m tired.”

Even now that I’m out of newborn zombie mode, I find myself learning more about what it means to sacrifice. Which is a nicer way of saying I’m learning how selfish I am. Take, for example, my first night volunteering in the church nursery. It was a small group of babies and everyone was good. But it was during Simon’s catnap and he couldn’t sleep. By the time we left he was clearly over-tired, a state Simon didn’t handle well (see previous blogs). I tried to put him to sleep at my friend’s house so I could hang out with a few other moms, but he cried for an hour. He went to bed at home but woke throughout the night and was cranky the whole next day.

“I never want to go to CT again!” I whined to myself while nursing cranky pants the next day. “What was even the point? I didn’t talk to a single person.” (Not true, I talked to the other parents and nursery volunteers.) Then in a moment of sanity I remembered that every week other people miss out to watch my baby, while I get to attend the Bible study and socialize.

I also realized something slightly less obvious: we sacrifice not only for our kids, but for the community we want to raise our kids in. In the end, it’s not so much a sacrifice as an investment. I know in the end I’ll lose nothing compared to what I gain. It really does take a village, and I have an invaluable group of friends who want to raise our kids to love God and others. Simon will have a second family, a group of people to turn to when he won’t listen to me, or when I don’t know the answers.

It’s not just a down-the-road hope, either. Simon already loves being with his friends and seeing new people and places. It’s great that he’s learning to be flexible. Our recent camping trip to Florida raised more than a few eyebrows, i.e., who in their right mind takes a baby camping for vacation? Well, Simon proved all the naysayers wrong by having the happiest week of his life. Camping with a baby had its challenges but I did a thorough analysis of the fun-to-effort ratio and we’re going back next year. (I really need to stop auditing my fun, but that’s a topic for another blog.)

 

 

 

How to Be Cheap: Group Activities

In high school ministry we schedule at least one activity a week, but it’s hard to keep it up when most people are broke. So I came up with a list of inexpensive ministry activities (some of which could also serve as family, friend, or date activities). Some are free; others are cheap when everyone participates. These are not all my ideas, but ideas collected from people over the years. Have fun!

Lu’au: Make a playlist by borrowing Hawaii/tropical CDs from the library and/or downloading music. Ask people to dress in tropical/summer clothing. Have a hula hoop contest, a limbo contest, and search the Internet for other Hawaiian-themed games. Make desserts using pineapple and coconut. Ask people to pitch in for pineapple pizza ($5 for Pizza Hut’s Pizza Mia, plus 10% for your first on-line order).

Burning tongues party: Party like it’s Pentecost at this spicy-food themed party (invented by the Michalek home church). Ask everyone to bring a spicy dish, and have a few people bring something bland to cleanse the palate. It might be a good idea to have some Tums on hand as well. Make a playlist of songs that use the word “hot” (there’s more than enough of those).

Culinary contest: Ask everyone to bring their best gourmet creation. Provide plates, forks, and napkins and number the dishes. Have everyone sample the food and then vote on 1-3 favorites, then announce the winners. This activity allows for good conversation while people eat. It might be helpful to break dishes into categories like appetizers, entrees, and desserts. And you might judge on multiple aspects such as taste, presentation, originality, etc. if you want to get more involved.

Film festival: Ask individuals and/or cell groups to create a movie. Let people know far in advance, at least a month or two, so they can write, film, and edit their movie. People could dress up red carpet style. Serve popcorn and show each of the films. Allow the creators to introduce their movies. This could also be a contest if people voted on their favorite film. Or there could be an award given to each movie for a distinctive feature.

Dollar movie theater: Movies 10 in North Canton shows ten second-run films everyday for $1-2 dollars. These movies are shown right after they leave the main movie theaters so they’re not too out-dated. Also, the Linda Theater in Akron shows one second-run movie a week for $3. It’s neat because it’s at an old theater, but it isn’t in a great area. Both theaters have their showings listed on moviefone.com.

Bonfire: Bring some marshmallows and a camp chair and settle in for a good conversation around the fire. Initiate a discussion topic, such as one related to the CT or home church teaching.

Take a walk: This activity is better for smaller groups, families, or couples. When it’s nice out explore the neighborhood. It’s good exercise and a great chance to talk and enjoy nature.

Themed dance party: Choose a decade (70s, 80s) or a style (swing, salsa) and dress appropriately. Make a playlist and dance the night away!

Rock Star, Karaoke, or DDR: This of course is only cheap if someone already owns the games and system. Take turns watching and playing these interactive games.

Go to the park: Another small-group activity. Check out Google maps and find a park you’ve never been to, or visit an old favorite. If it’s not too far, take a walk to get there. Don’t forget a water bottle.

Make sundaes: Ask everyone to bring a different flavor of ice cream or type of topping, and have a couple people bring bowls and spoons. Assign a few people to serve the ice cream (and the toppings if there are kids). Then strike up a good convo while you eat.

Amazing Race: Create clues that will take different teams around town in search of their next clue. First to reach the final destination wins. Ask Ted Howell about the details because he knows how it’s done.

Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of odd objects to collect or pictures to take. Assign different point values based on difficulty. Break into teams and see who can gain the most points in a set period of time. Spending money (and stealing) are off-limits. Teams who arrive late either lose points or get disqualified. Joe Allie is the master of creating scavenger hunts.

Charades: You know how to play. But it’s extra fun when you play at a fast food restaurant.

Pictionary tournament: Get two whiteboards or chalkboards and break into two teams. If people are too loud, have the teams go one at a time and see if they can beat the timer, not the other player, for their point.

Board game night: Ask everyone to bring a board game and set up some card tables.

Cards: I don’t know how to play anything but War, Go Fish, and Speed, but other people do so get some Poker or Euchre or Blackjack going and have fun! With Chill we used to set up tables and do a casino night for the infamously unspendable “Chill Bucks.”

Road trip: Announce a road trip and travel to anywhere—it’s about the journey, not the destination. Head to a far-away restaurant or check out a meeting in Xenos Columbus.

Field Day Day: Remember field day at school? Plan various events like 50-yard dash, 100-yard dash, three-legged race, dizzy lizzy, tug-of-war, relays, etc.

Sports: Soccer, softball, volleyball, kickball, Frisbee soccer, or any other team torture (I mean sport) you can think up. But I think basketball and football are too rough for co-ed games.

Crafts: This is a girls’ small group or family activity. Make ornaments, gifts, jewelry, or a host of other items. Check the Internet for corny craft ideas.

White Elephant gift exchange: As Christmas approaches host a white elephant gift exchange. Everyone brings an object they already own but are willing to give away. Wrap the item up—the fancier, the better. Then have someone choose an item. The next person can choose the same item or a different one, and on until the last person has chosen their item. Then everyone opens them and laughs at the weird stuff people wrapped up. Play Christmas music and wear your Christmas sweater (see below).

Ugly Sweater Christmas party: (credit to Kay Homer) Everyone goes to the thrift store and buys a corny Christmas sweater and/or other Christmas apparel (earrings, turtlenecks, vests, etc.) and wears it to the party. Make a runway and have everyone model their sweater for a panel of judges. Award the winners with cheap candy canes.

Rockin’ on the River: Cover or tribute bands play downtown Cuyahoga Falls most Friday nights in the summer. Check the city calendar for these free concerts. Just beware of the concessions—that’s where they get you.

Local festivals: Look on-line for the dates of local festivals and go together as a group.

Talent Show: this is best for junior high group or younger. Hold a talent show where students can showcase their skills. Invite judges from other ministries and have them act like the American Idol judges, commenting on each act. Award everyone a prize.

$5 fashion show: Go to the thrift store or Gabriel Brother’s. Assign teams of five. Each person pitches in up to $5 to create a fashion-forward outfit. At a home where a “runway” has been prepared, each team chooses a model, dresses them, and does their hair and make-up. Put on some techno music and have the models walk for a panel of judges and audience. Give awards for the best outfit and best walk. Allow designers to explain their outfit before it goes on the runway.

Home coffee bar: For groups where hy[eractivity isn’t a problem, make some strong coffee, steam some milk, and use syrups and whipped cream to create your own mochas and lattes. Or get a blender and make frappaccinos in the summer. Check the Internet for recipes. Another great activity for good conversation.

Hiking: Check out the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and go on a group hike. Consider packing a picnic.

Swimming: Find a friend with a pool or a local lake (Munroe Falls is $4) and have fun in the sun.

Spa night/makeovers: With a girls small group, paint each others’ nails, give massages, do makeovers, and find recipes for face masks or foot baths.

Weight lifting: With a guys’ small group, get some barbells and find some space to lift and do push-ups, sit-ups, and whatever guys do to try to get buff.

Go to Walmart
: and be goofy (but not obnoxious). Challenge people to find the cheapest item. Try on a ridiculous outfit. Buy a Slurpie. Look at the fish. Play with the toys. Do a cartwheel. Marvel at the diversity created by American capitalist consumerism.

Bollywood night: With a girls’ small group, rent some Bollywood videos, buy some chutney (or popcorn), and enjoy the corniness and colors of India drama, song, and dance.

Why Girls Purl

We were hanging out with the Allies recently when Lauren raised an interesting point: we’ve seen many more girls leave fellowship than guys. As we listed the cases, it became clear that her observation was accurate. “Why is that?” we all wondered, and came to a quick conclusion that bad boyfriends was the common factor. This seemed true, but I felt compelled to ponder the question more because I’ve lost many female friends in ministry, and I want to better understand what draws them away from the Body of Christ. And I’m going to minister to women for the rest of my life, so I should probably seek to better understand this female-drop-out phenomenon. My goal is not to analyze non-believing women who came to meetings but never came to Christ. I’m considering those who were believers (as far as anyone could tell), were part of our fellowship, and then left for good.

First, a brief history: Lauren recalled a time before I knew her, when she lived in the ministry house with Diana. Those two are the only remaining members. Four others left before I came to the KSU Bible study. Lauren and Diana are also the only girls who came out of the Bedford high school ministry into college.

Women were vastly outnumbered at the college Bible study I attended my freshman year. A number of girls came in and out of our women’s group that year. Those who remain are Diana, Lauren, Melanie, and me. At least six others faded away.

Next year brought more stability to the women’s side as Jen, Sara, and Leah Z. joined us. Melanie moved to Columbus but was in fellowship there. I may be forgetting those who drifted in and out, but this is when we started to see our women’s ministry grow, and experienced fewer losses. The following year saw even great growth as Amy, Nicole, Kathryn, Sarah D., and Kay joined. Melanie returned. Again, I’m probably forgetting some. But we successfully split cells and then home churches.

Since then many women have joined us and we’re more in danger of being a chickified church than the testosterone-dominated scene of Lake and College St. days. But we’ve also lost Sarah D. , Lisa, Carey, Kay, Jen, and Yana. And several more in the other home church. This problem is evident in the high school ministry as well. None of the girls I worked with two years ago were still around when I
rejoined the ministry this summer. And our girls ministry charts have changed significantly since July.

On the guys’ side, I can think of six losses from the KSU home church. I’m sure there are others, but certainly the body count is much lower.

So why do girls purl? After examining this case-by-case, unhealthy romantic relationships seem to be the most common reason. Variations include immorality, unequal yoking, or break-ups with in-fellowship guys. Several suffered from emotional problems, such as eating disorders, major depression, and bipolar disorder. Many sold out to worldly values and choose school, career, and materialism over healthy relationships. Girls seem more likely to be overly-concerned about their college G.P.A. Cultural factors like divorce, dysfunctional families, body image pressures, and increased incidence of psychological problems surely play a role. And perhaps women come in with more baggage then men—more unhealthy friendships and family and dating relationships, more emotional instability, and less self-worth. This means they desperately need Christ, but it makes it harder for them to follow Him as true disciples.

There is no easy answer to why girls purl. Perhaps it’s tied to the age-old questions of “what women want.” But I don’t want to see more women sell their souls to immoral men and the world system. I don’t want to lose more dear friends to these harmful forces. Perhaps we need to take more care to ground women in the Word so they can learn what real love looks like. Some ideas to try to fight this problem:

1. Study Spiritual Relationships that Last.
2. Teach identity in Christ and its implications.
3. Study and practice love ethics material—this is crucial!
4. Be willing to confront unbiblical values early on.

Any other thoughts or suggestions?