8 reasons you should get your kids & youth involved with camp

I grew up going to camp, camping with my family and then working at camps. When I think back to summers they are filled with memories of campfire songs, canoe tipping adventures, leadership lessons learned on a long hike up a mountain, swatting blackflies and deep conversations as the last embers from a fire burned out.

Here are 8 reasons to get your kids & youth involved with camp – whether you are a parent, youth leader, pastor or someone that wants to invest wisely in the next generation.

1. Camp gets personal – Camp allows an opportunity for a kid’s faith to become their own, as they are away from their parents, home church and usual environment. They are encouraged to listen for and respond to God in fresh ways for themselves.

2. Camp is a confidence builder – At camp you are thrown into trying new activities encouraged to use your gifts and skills in new ways. Without parents and siblings there, kids have to figure it out for themselves and dig deep to find their own inner strength. Kids receive lots of support and encouragement from staff as they try out their independence in new ways.

3. Camp is a memory creator – Stories and experiences from camp stick. Talk to anyone that went to camp as a kid and they will still have stories to tell and lessons to shared from camp.

4. Camp invites simplicity – In today’s complex world camp is a great get away. It allows the space and environment for kids/youth to reconnect with creation, with others, and with God.

5. Camp provides role models – Camp staff are amazing people for kids to look up to as they see faith lived out within the day-to-day community of camp.

6. Camp promotes community – Camp is an accelerated bonding experience. I’ve seen so many kids arrive on the first day of camp unsure, shy, feeling like they don’t know any one and then by the end of the camp they have a best friend(s) for life. Parents/leaders we need to find ways to help these kids/youth continue these connections after camp and have community all year long with others who are exploring Jesus.

7. Camps rock at leadership development – Camps are always identifying kids, youth and young adult who can be leaders. They give these young leaders amazing training from a young age, give them real practice in trying out their leadership skills and mentor them along the way. Camps are exceptional incubators for leadership development.

8. Camps are an amazing deal – Seriously, they provide: food, cabins, programming, activities (amazing ones) and spiritual influence every day. Camps do a lot with our money.

Next week I’m speaking at one our camps and I can’t wait to be back at camp!
In Atlantic Canada there are 14 CABC camps spread around our four provinces. You can find the list of camps with a link to each of their websites HERE.
There are lots of other great camps too.

Ok, as a bonus for those of you who have read to the very end of this blog, I will let one of my camp stories out of the bag. I have ended up with a few nicknames over the years, one is “Bulldozer.” This nickname emerged after a camp retreat with some youth. Some of our girls invented a new camp game. You know the slippery, pee proof mattresses they tend to have at camps? They are really slippery, especially on laminate click flooring! The invented game was to run the first part of the hallway with the mattress in your hands and then to jump onto the mattress seeing how far down the hallway you could slide. The person to make the mattress go the furthest would be the winner. Now, I have a competitive streak that I know I have to keep in check. With the youth spurring me on, I lined up to take my turn intent on getting the record for the farthest mattress slide. The youth were all watching, their faces peeking out of the dorm rooms that lined the hallway. I gave it my all, starting my sprint down the hallway. Just then one of our sweet youth, who happens to be of small stature, stepped out into the hallway. Here is where the version of the story differ. I recall sticking my arm out to protect the youth from a head-on collision with me. The youths’ recollection is me pushing the youth out of the way, so nothing would get in the way of my mattress run. In either version the youth went flying backwards, landing on her back. Thankful she was ok, no injuries. From that moment forward the youth started calling me “Bulldozer.” For the record, I did not win the mattress slide competition. I did learn important lessons that day about letting youth invent games & lead, about the strength of my competitive nature and about humility each time I’m called “Bulldozer.”

Create your own memories and nicknames – get to camp!

-Renée (a.k.a. Bulldozer) @r_embree #1neighbourhood

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Vacationing Well

I’m not know for my rest and relaxation skills.
After a fun weekend of hanging out together a friend said “Renée, you should have a warning sticker on you that says ‘Warning: Highly Active Person.’” My idea of a great vacation is more along the lines of how many miles we can canoe or hike then it is how much lying on the beach we can do. I have never been accused of being a slacker, I have fairly been accused of being driven. You get the picture. I tend to work hard and play hard.
I don’t think I’m the only one.
I’ve observed leader and ministry types, in particular, can find vacationing well particularly difficult.

Slowly, but surely over the last ten years, God’s been teaching me what it means to rest and Sabbath well, including vacationing!
I wrote a thesis on a theology of play. Yes, I get the irony of writing a 170 page thesis on play. Yet, it was what I needed to convince my brain of how good, important and holy play and vacation is in our lives. It has taken longer for the practices to work their way into my heart and life.

Play and vacation may look different for all of us, but we need it! I won’t launch into my thesis here, suffice to say it is good and it is holy. God invites you to delight in all that is good. God invites you to times of retreat and rest.

Here are some suggestions on how to vacation well.

1. Hand-off: As much as possible make a plan for things to be covered at work while you are away. It takes effort to make this plan, but it’ll give you greater peace of mind while you are away and make it easier when you come back. This can be challenging for Pastors and in particular Associate Pastors, but it is worth the effort.

2. Get away from technology: Being plugged-in all the time keeps us alert and “on.” It is too easy to notice something going on at work that we think we need to respond to quickly. Loose the phone, email and even watch. I really enjoy losing my watch on vacation and going by the schedule of those around me or by when my body tells me I’m hungry or tired. Consider whether you need to loose Netflix and social media for vacation too.

3. Give time for de-compression: I’ve noticed it takes me a few days to unwind and get in vacation mode. Those first 2-3 days of vacation are essential in setting the tone for vacation and helping me unplug. For me I’ve found I have to be busy those first few days doing something active (e.g. hiking) or odd jobs (different than my work jobs, work on the house/yard etc.). If I just do nothing in the first few days I go crazy and conclude vacation is not for me.

4. Give time for re-entry: It can feel like hitting a brick wall when I come back after vacation. I’m learning to give myself grace and a few days to get back in the swing of things. On your email/phone vacation reply say you’ll be returning messages starting a couple days after you return from vacation to take the pressure off yourself. Try to leave the first few days back at work meeting free to give yourself time to get back up to speed and your head around work again.

5. Do something different: Use vacation to get up to different activities than you usually do. For me that means getting away from a desk and getting outside in creation and around family/friends. If you build houses for your work it is not a vacation to work on your own house. Give your body/mind a break and do something different. I really enjoy hiking, paddling or those sort of activities on vacation because it engages my body and takes my mind away from work and allows my thoughts to wander.

6. Get around people that refuel you: Spend time with those you care about and bring you life. Catch up with an old friend. Plan a meal, hike or visit with people you’ve been wanting to connect with more. Spend time with that person who makes you feel encouraged and heard.

7. Celebrate and enjoy the good around you: Enjoy the simplest of gifts from God – good food, fun music, play sports that give you joy, read things that refresh your soul, enjoy deep conversations, laugh…

8. Change up your spiritual disciplines during vacation: Usually I’m a faithful journaler and Bible reader. During vacation I change it up.
Try
• Listening to new worship music
• Checking out a different church near where you are vacationing
• Going through the alphabet and naming all the things you are thankful for that start with each letter of the alphabet (involve those in the car, on the hike or around the table with you.)
• Listening to a new podcast
• Read a version of the Bible you usually don’t
• Get yourself to a spot in creation that reminds you how great and good God is

9. Linger: Slow down. One of the great things about vacation is freedom from our usual schedules. During vacation I enjoy lingering longer with a cup of tea at the dinner table, lingering after I get back from a run to chat to the neighbours, lingering on a walk to smell the roses, lingering at the farmers market to take it all in and try some new foods.

10. Sleep: Rest up. Turn off the alarm, take naps, go to bed early… Sleep and rest will restore you.

Have a great vacation!
-Renée @r_embree #1neighbourhood

Psalm 96:11-13a
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the LORD

vacation in baptism tank

How to respond when your heart is heavy

My heart has been heavy lately.
I have been feeling a deep heaviness for the trouble around us:
-the hateful killings that took place on Sunday in Orlando
-the cases of sexual assault where justice seems allusive
-the confusion around what it means to welcome and care for refugees and newcomers
-the profound sadness that seems to have entrapped some First Nation communities
-the silence or confused response of many Christians and churches

I’ve been trying to work through what I, what we, are supposed to do with such heaviness and trouble. I don’t know about you, but I find it especially hard when it seems so overwhelming and confusing, it is easy to get stuck in doing nothing, saying nothing. Here’s how I’m working it through. By the way, I also think this same process and advice can be used in helping youth and kids work through these tragedies they are hearing about in the news and from people around them.

1. Permission to scream – As this heaviness has been building, one day this week, I recognized I just had to scream. I just had to say it out loud – this is sad, this is not right, this is awful. Name it. Call what is unjust, unjust. Call wrong, wrong. Don’t be afraid to say 49 people were killed and many more wounded on Sunday and that is deeply wrong. One of the things I appreciate about the Psalms, a book of poetry in the Bible, is it is a record of people screaming at God. It is people’s unfiltered sadness, anger and confusion poured out to God. And they are not reprimanded for it, not at all, instead we celebrate the Psalms and the range of human emotions expressed to God. To borrow Eugene Peterson’s phrase, we need to learn to “cuss without cussing”, pouring out our screams to God. Rather than getting angry with others or letting my frustration come out at work, I’m learning to bring my unfiltered thoughts and emotions to God. What makes you want to scream? Have you told God?

2. Feel – I’ve been reflecting this week on the question “Who is my neighbour?” The clearest answer I can come up with is “The one who needs mercy.” Hmmm…I can think of a huge list of people that need mercy. And “When am I being neighbourly?”, the answer “When I show compassion and mercy.” One day a man asks Jesus a very religious question “How do I inherit eternal life?” In other words – “Who is out and who is in, and am I in?” This man wants to justify himself – he wants the lines to be clear and the fences to be high. I can think of some people and groups who have responded that way in the last week. Jesus answers with a very non-religious answer, with an extremely practical answer, the story of the good Samaritan – a person who felt compassion for another and acted. The key phrase is “he felt compassion.” No qualifiers about the person who is in trouble matter. In fact, we find out the good Samaritan was considered an arch enemy, so it doesn’t matter if the person is your arch enemy…you show mercy. The essential point is – he felt compassion and acted. Exercise your compassion muscles. Feel compassion for people and their stories. If you need to understand more of their story and the injustice they face, in order to feel compassion, take the time to hear their stories. All we hear in the news and watch on Netflix can numb us from the emotion, the real people, the real stories, the real feelings behind any event. Allow yourself to feel compassion and be moved by compassion. What are the emotions, the stories behind what is happening?

3. Act out God’s heart of compassion – there is a profound moment that has stuck with me from one of the most tragic seasons in my life. It was a season when it truly felt like evil was winning all around me. In our little community we were surrounded by fresh stories of tragedies – teen suicide, teens in a tragic car accident, stories of sexual abuse, and stories of corruption of those who were supposed to help. One morning, while on a youth retreat, I woke up super early. I was scheduled to speak that morning to the youth and I told the Lord “I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I got nothing here. Evil is winning.” I followed my own advice above – I screamed at the Lord, I deeply felt the hurt that was being caused to people, to families, and to a community. Just when I thought God would give me encouragement and a hug from heaven, I very strongly sensed the Lord saying “Renée, I’ve got the victory here, now act like it.” It changed my whole perspective around. I’d be acting like evil was winning. The truth is, evil does not win. Christ wins – love wins, compassion wins, forgiveness wins, justice wins. So, I started acting like Christ’s victory was real (because it is). I acted out of Christ’s compassion, love, healing…even though it might look like another way is winning. The first thing I did was to start to cook an over-the-top, lavish breakfast for the youth, to start to show radical kindness. We must tangibly show the alternative to the way of hate and division by tangibly showing the way of kindness and love. The best thing you can do in the face of the tragic events happening in our world – act out God’s heart for compassion and justice now. In the midst of the tragic events of Sunday we are also hearing stories of people who acted on compassion – Chick-fil-A opening on Sunday to provide meals, people rushing into danger to help others, people opening their homes and churches for people to grieve, people lining up to give blood. How could you tangibly show God’s radical kindness, mercy and love?

4. It is not our role to condemn the world. Love your neighbour – Christians, you are not the conscience of the world, of your neighbours. Your role is not to point fingers, it is not to condemn. Jesus reserved the strongest words about hell, about judgment for those who claimed they were on the “inside” of religion and thought they had it all figured out. To those considered “outside” he spoke of heaven, the Kingdom and went out of His way to spend time with these people considered outsiders. We seem to have gotten it backwards – we point fingers at those “outside” and turn a blind-eye to those “inside”. There is not an “us” and “them.” For God so loved the world, all of the world… God shows mercy. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) God’s agenda isn’t condemnation, it is redemption, it is offering people a place in His family through what He has done. It is God’s Spirit that convicts not your pointing finger. I came to Christ, not because people pointed out all the ways my life was falling short of God’s best ways, but because people loved me well and displayed to me God’s radical, deep love. No one had to point out to me my sin, God pointed that out to me, and continues to do so, as I need to deal with things in my heart and life. We cannot hold non-Christians to Christian standards and we shouldn’t try to in the least. What if Christians, what if churches, loved people, loved their neighbours radically well? Who is the neighbour? – the one who shows mercy. Would your neighbours miss you or your church if you moved? Where could people point to your life, your church and say “WOW! That’s mercy!”?

How will you respond personally to these steps in your life?
How can you lead your church/group through these steps?
Find ways for you, and your church to scream at injustice, feel other’s stories, act in-line with God’s Kingdom and love your neighbour.

Here is a related previous post I wrote after the Paris attacks, in it I consider the “weapons” we have for peacemaking in this world: https://oneneighbourhood.org/2015/11/19/power-of-flowers-and-candles/

-Renée
@r_embree  #1neighbourhood

Who is praying bold, tenacious prayers for you? For youth?

I know I am who I am because of the prayers of others.
I know I am where I am because of the prayers of others.

One person, in particular, has been praying bold, tenacious prayers for me since they first met me about 19 years ago, before I was following Jesus. Rich led an on-campus ministry at the University I attended. His prayers have followed me all my days, as he continues to pray for me through the good times and the challenging times. When I felt like nothing and my life looked more like a pile of rubble and uncertainty – Rich prayed God’s best into me. When leadership, ministry, and God’s shalom was but a pipe dream for me, he prayed.

When I was searching for faith. He prayed.
When my doubts overwhelmed my faith. He prayed.
When I flunked an exam and thought my life was over. He prayed.
When relationships ended. He prayed.
When areas of my life still had a ways to go to line-up with the ways of Christ. He prayed.
When I didn’t know what my future would hold. He prayed.
When I ended up leading a ministry, with zero training. He prayed.
When I had decisions to make. He prayed.
When I have led events. He prayed.
When I have preached. He prayed.
When I did nothing. He prayed.
When I hit valleys. He prayed.
When I discovered mountain tops. He prayed.

I mean it when I say, I have no doubt that I am the person I am today because of Rich’s prayers and the prayers of other faithful people. It is overwhelming when we think of all the people who have prayed for us through the years – grandparents, parents, Aunts, Uncles, friends, mentors, leaders, siblings, spouses, kids…
It is overwhelming when I think of the faith Rich (and others) had in those prayers, when I didn’t have the faith to believe the things they were praying – about God or about myself.
They believed it and prayed it before it was seen. That’s faith. That’s tenacious.

Who prays for you? Prays the deep, bold, tenacious, faith prayers for you? Especially when you can’t pray them for yourself.
Who are you praying for?
Who is praying for our youth?

Youth need someone who will pray bold, tenacious prayers for them.
This Sunday is the National Day of Prayer for Youth. (http://www.prayforyouth.ca/)
Join in praying bold prayers for our youth.

Here are some ways to incorporate praying for youth into your rhythms:
• Get a picture of the youth group from your church and put it on your kitchen table. Every time you say grace pray for the youth group too.
• Weekly walk the perimeter of your local school, praying.
• Ask if the youth leader in your church would get permission to give you the picture and some background information about one youth they know. Pray for them regularly.
• Scan the news for where youth are mentioned (in good ways and in difficult ways). Pray for them.
• Find out the names of either the youth leaders, coaches or teachers in your area. Pray for these people who form our youth.
• Get a Q-card and write out a bold prayer for a youth you know. Pray it regularly. If it is appropriate, give a copy of the prayer to the youth.
• Notice the teenagers in your day – working at the check out, cleaning your table, biking by, waiting outside the school, on the bus… Say a silent prayer of blessing for the teenager, as you pass by.
• If you have a youth in your home or a youth you are close to – ask them regularly “What’s the most important thing I can be praying for you right now?” and pray for them on the spot.
• Ask a local Christian camp what their prayers requests are. Write them down and pray for them. Camps minister to many children, teens and families throughout the year.
• Encourage your church to pray for youth. Start a prayer wall or build a prayer labyrinth at your church/youth group. To create a prayer labyrinth, take rope or candles and make a labyrinth design on the floor. Every so often in the labyrinth put cards with prayer requests. Participants pick up a card and pray for what is on the card as they walk the labyrinth. When they are done that card, they pick up a new card.

This Sunday join in the national day of prayer for youth. More ideas for incorporating this into a Sunday morning and a youth group lesson can be found at: http://www.prayforyouth.ca/

Let’s pray bold, tenacious prayers for our youth!
Who will name you 19 years for now and say to you “I am who I am because of your prayers.”

-Renée
@r_embree
#1neighbourhood

National Day of Prayer for Youth (HD)

How to shrink your church or ministry

How to shrink your church or ministry:
1. Never change.
2. Keep to yourselves. Do not build any bridges to the community.
3. Make people fat on sermons/study and forget the vitamin A (application).
4. Never experiment, just stick to what you know.
5. Exist for yourselves, to keep each other happy.
6. Keep everything you do within the four walls of your church. Make your focus the one hour on Sunday.

Of course, the opposite is true, if you desire to reach more or new people with the Gospel.

This past week I was visiting three different ministries that were all asking the same question “How do we grow?”, that is “How do we grow in numbers?”, “How do we reach more people, particularly the younger generation?”
One was a conference where the average age has kept creeping upwards, and a sea of gray hair dominated the audience. Yet, for the first time they were experimenting with running a retreat for pre-teens simultaneously.
One was a small church where the youngest people were in their early sixties, but they were asking how they need to change to connect with the younger generations.
One was a kids’ club with eight very well cared for kids. The leaders met with Andrew and I after the program and their big question was “How do we grow?”
I love the attitude of these places! All are willing to ask, “Is there something different or more we need to be doing?” I love their willingness to ask the difficult questions. I love their hearts that want to reach more people.

I can hear you asking already – “Is it about the numbers?”
Yes and no.

No –
We cannot underestimate the value of pouring into a few lives, extremely well. I was particularly impressed with the kids’ ministry we visited this week. They had eight kids and three leaders (usually they have four leaders, one was sick). It was so clear those kids knew they were loved, known and cared for by the leaders. The leaders and kids see each other regularly, not only at kids’ club, but also out in the community where they look out for each other. I kept thinking about the Hemorrhaging Faith statistics, the high number of kids who grow up in the church, but leave the church by the time they are young adults. I was thinking about how connected these eight kids were: to seeing faith lived out in the community, to peers in the club with them, to opportunities to share their own questions, to leadship opportunities…and I thought these kids, with this many adults watching out for them, will not be one of those statistics.
I’ve seen plenty of kids, youth and adult ministries with a lot more numbers, but also with a lot less effective transformation, community and discipleship.
It isn’t all about the numbers, it’s what you are doing with those numbers.
How are you being faithful with what God has given you?
And yet, those leaders, were desiring to see more kids come.

Yes –
It is a good desire that they want to see more kids come.
Of course we’d want more kids to have this same support of caring adults, a loving community, a place to come to know God, a place to develop their faith…
Of course you want to see more people come to your church/ministry, especially if your desire is for those people to know the God who loves them, journeys with them and has a mission for them. It’s growth for a reason. It’s not flashy growth or gimmicks to get growth. It’s multiplying what is good and trusting God for the growth.
Each number, each life, matters to God and to us. So we should be multiplying!
Faithfulness also looks like following God to find lost sheep. Faithfulness looks like making changes to remove barriers from new people, new generations coming to Christ.
Faithfulness looks like doing everything you can for the sake of the Gospel and trusting God for the growth.

Yes and No
I love that these churches/ministries are asking for growth. We’re made to grow. We should desire to see God transform more lives.
This isn’t a bigger is better blog.
This is a faithfulness blog.
We are called to reach the people around us. We are called to pass on the faith to the next generations. We are called to share the Gospel and make disciples.
We are invited to leave the 99 and find the 1 who isn’t with us any more or never was with us.

How do you grow? How do you reach new people?

1. Change something – If you want to reach people you are not currently reaching you’ve got to do something different. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. What has become a barrier to this generation, particularly the young generation, connecting with your church/ministry? Where can you change to create greater relevance to every day people in your community? Some examples might be – change your on-line presence, change your formality, offer a new option for worship, change the ages represented on the platform, change where you meet, turn a program into a inter-generational experience…

2. Build a new bridge – Where can your church/ministry build a new bridge into your community? Are their existing connections from church members to schools, boards, city councils, camps, people groups, sports teams, food banks…? How could you be a support, resource or blessing to these connections? How can you build a bridge so that a new pocket in your community could see your faith in action? They might not be ready to come check out your church, but you can build a bridge to them and start a connection. Another question to ask is whether it is time to build a new bridge with another church – to share a youth ministry, to combine in running an Alpha program or to talk about amalgamation.

3. Equip – Equip people to live out their faith. Have clear applications from sermons/studies that help people connect Sunday to the rest of the week. It’s not enough to tell people – tell them, show them and give them practice in living out their faith when…there is an argument in their home, when their neighbourhood is going through a rough patch, when their health takes a turn for the worse, when their workplace becomes toxic, when they are trying to talk about God to their kids, when they are trying to talk to their kids about hot topics… Also equip people to personally invite others and talk about how Jesus is making a difference in their lives. Help people know how to line-up every area of their lives with the ways of Jesus and call them to live that out daily. Make it clear that belief in Jesus leads to changed living in all areas of life. Your community will notice changed lives.

4. Try a new experiment – if you want to reach new people, try something new. Call it an experiment and try it – try involving the church in the community parade, try sitting around round tables on a Sunday, try having a free BBQ in the park, try having a grandparent/grandchild day, try having a party for the new Canadians in your area… Experiments give us permission to try and assess the results later.

5. Have a crystal clear passion for a cause – we live in a world where people are keenly aware of the struggles and challenges of those in our community and world. They and we are often overwhelmed in discerning what to respond to and how to respond well. Give them a cause to focus on and an avenue to help. Let your church/ministry be known for making a difference in one area, and invite others to join you in that cause, even before they know what they believe about Jesus.

6. Invite everyone to join God in changing their neighbourhoods – Everyone is a minister. Train people to show and tell faith in the places where they live, work, study and play. Your greatest evangelism tool will not be a program, it won’t even be Sunday morning. Your greatest evangelism tool will be people in your congregation showing and telling the Gospel to others they know. Your greatest advertisement will be the people in your ministry telling the story of what a difference the ministry has made in their life. Equip people to share, in relevant and personal ways, with those they are already connected with in their daily lives. Imagine if everybody in your congregation became the “minister” to those around them in the places they go – journeying with the people around them in their life through their questions, struggles and faith journey. If you have eight people actively joining God in their ordinary lives every day, you are way further ahead then having eighty people whose faith is not evident beyond an hour on Sunday. Get people out of the four walls of your church and help them to see they are all ministers and ministry happens through them every day. Christianity was never meant to be contained within walls, it is a movement – unstoppable, every-growing, life-changing movement. Invite people to be part of the movement, with God, every day.

Help us out, what other advice should we be giving these churches/ministries that want to grow, for the sake of the Kingdom?

-Renée
@r_embree
@cabcyf
#1neighbourhood

3 Reasons I Like & Dislike Ministry in Atlantic Canada

I’ve been travelling outside of Atlantic Canada this week. It has got me thinking about the joys and challenges of ministry in Atlantic Canada. We have a unique milieu for ministry here. Tell me – What do you see?

3 Joys of Ministry in Atlantic Canada:

1. Everyone knows each other – if they don’t they will find a way to make sure you’re connected somehow. I’m sure everyone in Atlantic Canada has less than six degrees of separation. Almost every ministry conversation I have had has included being asked “Do you know _______?”, “Who’s your parents?”, “Where did you go to school?” These connections can lead to lots of networking, ministry together, support and a sense of unity across the entire region. It is like you have cousins everywhere you go in Atlantic Canada. People have welcomed me into their homes, fed me meals, given me rides to airports, fed me pie for breakfast and more, all because we’re part of this Atlantic Canadian Christian family. You’ve got “cousins” everywhere! We have a rich family. Keep using these connections for greater Kingdom impact.

2. Joint events – we have amazing joint events! When we join our forces we have created amazing events that invite youth to know God and follow God’s mission in their neighbourhoods. I’ve also seen Atlantic Canadians (mostly volunteers!) create amazing events that effectively equip leaders. I know I’m bias here – but, come on, I don’t know anywhere else in the world where over 1500 youth and leaders gather annually to be challenged to take a springing leap forward in their faith (Springforth) or where over 900 students sign-up for a week of service to join God in changing lives and communities (Tidal Impact). Many leaders also join forces in local areas to create great events for challenging and equipping people in their backyard. The power of our collective, to create life changing events and opportunities, is powerful. The momentum from these gathering points is invaluable. I have seen these events be a part of many peoples’ faith journey. Keep seeking ways to join forces with others to create something together that we could not do alone. Our collective creativity creates powerful environments for life change.

3. We send out great leaders in the Kingdom – Atlantic Canada has a history of training up great leaders for ministry and mission. We have disproportionately, given our population base, sent out missionaries and raised up ministry leaders. We have many gifted young leaders. Let’s celebrate all the great leaders that have come from Atlantic Canada! Keep raising up leaders.

3 Challenges of Ministry in Atlantic Canada

1. Everyone knows each other – while this can be a blessing it can be extremely challenging to those that come from away, have changed from their past or are unknown. Atlantic Canadians can be very slow to trust someone that they can’t trace their family lineage or link to the particular Christian community/denomination. Character and competence need to be of greater value than lineage. The other challenge is while “everyone knows each other” this can be a surface knowing and in truth we may not know each other well. Are we actually taking the time to get to know someone for who they are today, seeing the whole of them and being vulnerable with one another? How can you intentionally include someone new in your ministry circles? How can you invite authentic community with ministry peers?

2. Dependence on events – before you fire me, hear me out. As I mentioned above I believe in the importance of joint events and have seen how significant these events are in my life, students’ lives, leaders’ lives… The challenge is, we can become so overly dependent on events, particularly in youth and young adult ministry, we become underdeveloped in other areas (e.g. mentoring, equipping people to share their faith, developing strategies, developing curriculum, authentic community, merging/joining events or connecting generations…). The solution is NOT always “Let’s add an event”, “Let’s add a program.” Remember events and programs are simply part of a means to an end. Often in Atlantic Canada we hold onto events long past their expiration date. The white hot why of each event/program needs to be clear. Events are to be catalysts to spur on and reinforce your vision. An event is not going to change Atlantic Canada. Each child/youth having adults journeying with them, living out their faith, will change Atlantic Canada. Events that are catalysts for leaders continuing the faith journey with students will change Atlantic Canada. Christians applying what they hear at our gathering points, Monday to Saturday, will change Atlantic Canada. How can you strategically use key events? What event do you do that needs a refresh? What is another solutions besides adding an event/program?

3. We send out great leaders in Atlantic Canada – a number of great leaders leave Atlantic Canada. I was trying to find statistics for this, but I couldn’t find anything accurate (If anyone has numbers on this, I’d like to see them.) I celebrate that we send so many leaders into Kingdom work across Canada and all around the world. This is wonderful! Let’s keep doing this. However, the question is “Why are more leaders not staying and investing in Atlantic Canada?” I believe we need to meet this challenge with two responses in Atlantic Canada (1) Get even better at raising up more and more leaders in Atlantic Canada (Let’s send out even more!) and (2) Make sure we are providing high level opportunities for leaders right here in Atlantic Canada. Let’s raise up and send out even more leaders, wherever God leads them. How can you call out, invest in and support leaders in Atlantic Canada?

I’ll keep reflecting on the unique opportunities and challenges we have for ministry in Atlantic Canada. What do you see that is unique to ministry in this region?

-Renée @r_embree #1neighbourhood

Only One Life – Responding to Physician Assisted Death

As we continue our hot topic series on the blog, I am pleased to have Lois Mitchell as our guest blogger today. Lois is the Director of Public Witness and Social Concerns at the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches and the Director of International Studies at St. Stephen’s University. Lois has helped leaders, churches and myself personally, wrestle with numerous issues of our day. I appreciate Lois’ heart that seeks to find the middle-way, the Jesus way, of both grace and truth.
In the news recently we have been hearing a lot about physician assisted dying. Lois helps us look at this hop topic from a fresh perspective.
Here is Lois:

We only have one life. At least that’s what the bible says. Hebrews 9:27a (GNB) says simply, “Everyone must die once.” It’s pretty straightforward. One life. One death. But there is more. Death is not the end. It’s not the period at the end of the sentence, but a comma that marks the transition between this life and the next phase of eternal life. The grave is not the end. Life. Death. Life.

At this point I could go in different directions with this post. But I’ll get right to the point. I don’t want to talk about life or death, or life after death. I want to focus on the intersection of our earthly life and death – the comma. We’re all going to be there someday – even now, we’re approaching death (or, I suppose, some might think of it more as waiting as death approaches us).

I imagine that we’ll all have lots of opportunities to think about death as we watch loved ones get old and die or get sick and die or die suddenly and unexpectedly in accidents or other tragedies. Death is inevitable and unavoidable. And it’s hard, however it happens, to lose people we love, no matter the circumstances.

Life and death don’t happen in a vacuum. Every birth and every death has repercussions. We are part of a social fabric. Every thread contributes to a beautiful and dynamic whole. WE are part of a tapestry. Every one of us is woven in, held in place by the lives of those around us.

You may have heard that the Government of Canada has introduced legislation to make physician-assisted suicide/death legal. Bill C-14 was introduced in the House of Commons on April 14, 2016. I won’t go into detail about what it says or how we have come to this point in Canada. What fascinates me is public opinion on the concept of physician-assisted death (note that until the last year or so, we talked about physician-assisted SUICIDE but now it appears that the more polite term is physician-assisted death – hmm, interesting).

Those that think it’s a good idea to allow doctors to help people end their lives, usually offer four general arguments (AND PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOT PROMOTING THESE ARGUMENTS; QUITE THE OPPOSITE, SO READ ON!):

1. Quality of Life – In our secular society there is a sense that we all deserve to be “happy” and being happy implies that we have a right to live and die as we wish (without, by the way, regard for how our decisions affect other people). Unhappiness can come from all different sources – we might be disabled or sick or sad or depressed or in chronic pain. And if any of this diminishes our quality of life, well… there’s no sense carrying on. Might as well just end it and be done with it. No one should have to live if they don’t want to.

2. Dying with dignity – If a person is not mentally competent or physically able to care for him/herself, they no longer have dignity and every effort should be made, even before they get to that state, to allow them to “die with dignity”. In our individualistic, rights-based society, independence is seen as a personal and social good. It is undignified to be dependent on others, and especially to depend on them for our basic, personal care. In fact, we tend to see dependence as weakness and thus, for those who have become dependent through age or mental or physical infirmity, it is assumed that life can no longer be good.

3. Avoidance of suffering – suffering is something to be avoided if at all possible. No one wants to suffer. And why should we? If a beloved pet is sick or old and can’t be cured, we see it as the compassionate thing to do to put it out of its suffering. Why should we treat our loved ones any differently? And suffering comes in all kinds of forms. If life is unbearable for any reason, the compassionate thing to do is to help people end the suffering.

4. Caring for others is burdensome – we lead busy lives. When people can’t look after themselves, they’re a burden and we don’t have time for burdens. There are institutions to look after burdensome people. Modern medicine has actually prolonged the dying process and that’s a burden for all of us. Why should we strive to keep people alive if they’re going to die anyway? No need to feel guilty about it. No one really wants to be a burden.

Maybe this all sounds reasonable to you. It’s what secular society has been telling us and now polls show that the majority of Canadians agree with this line of thinking. It sounds sensible. It seems right. But it’s a lie. No matter how many people agree with it, it’s still a lie. Here’s what the bible says:

• we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-7);
• human life is a sacred gift – God created us – he knew us before we were born; he knit us together in our mothers womb (Psalm 139:13);
• our life is not our own and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 6:19-20);
• nowhere does Jesus tell us that life will be easy. In fact, He says in John 16:33 that in this world we will “have trouble”. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “run with perseverance [or determination] the race that is set before us.” Jesus doesn’t promise to remove every obstacle and hardship, but to be with us as we face the troubles of life;
• caring for one another is at the heart of the Christian life (Matthew 22:36-40).

These are really just a few thoughts – a few scratches on the surface – of a profound theological perspective, which has often been silenced by the seductive and deceptive voices within our cultural narrative that presume that God (if he exists at all) is irrelevant to the moral and social challenges of our time. We should not be fooled.

Apparently there are toxic plants that mimic edible plants – they look almost the same. But ingesting one is good for you; ingesting the toxic lookalike can be fatal. Secular arguments are often clever imitators of the wisdom of God, but they can be toxic and even fatal.

ON Feb. 5, 2016 – the day before the unanimous Supreme Court decision in favor of Carter in the case known as Carter vs. Canada – Raymond de Souza identified 3 revolutions in jurisprudence that would be made if the Court ruled in Carter’s favor:
a. Abandoning the legal principle that every life is always a good to be protected,
b. Embracing the idea that suicide is a social good, and
c. Removing the particular obligation of the law to protect the weak and vulnerable.

Delight in God and the gift of your one life to live. Care for your neighbours – the sick, the lonely, the dying… and resist the temptation to be swept along with pragmatic arguments that turn love and compassion upside down and inside out.

Feel free to add your comments for Lois, Andrew and I.
-Renée @r_embree
#1neighbourhood

doctor assisted death