Archive for February, 2009

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Once upon a time it was easy to think that America was almost 100% Christian.  Even with our diverse immigrant population a large majority of the country espoused some type of Christian faith.  Even if you didn’t attend church on a regular basis, you probably claimed to be a Christian.  We all know the C & E people – Christmas and Easter.

Even in politics almost everyone claims to have some Christian experience, often maybe just a grandparent who went to church.  In many parts of the country you at least attended church for the social benefits.  Well Barna recently released some new information that shouldn’t be too startling.

The study discovered that half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs.

The research also indicated that more and more individuals are less-willing to accept the dictates of any one deonomination but are more likely to take an a la carte approach.

By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church. Although born again Christians were among the segments least likely to adopt the a la carte approach to beliefs, a considerable majority even of born again adults (61%) has taken that route. Leading the charge in the move to customize one’s package of beliefs are people under the age of 25, among whom more than four out of five (82%) said they develop their own combination of beliefs rather than adopt a set proposed by a church.

I would lump myself into that category. I don’t neccessarily agree with all of any one denomination’s perspectives or opinions, but attempt to find a balance of what the Bible teaches.  There are obviously some problems to this trend and Barna noted two:

Growing numbers of people now serve as their own theologian-in-residence. One consequence is that Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs. Barna pointed out, as examples, that millions of people who consider themselves to be Christian now believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the lessons it teaches at the same time that they believe Jesus Christ sinned. Millions also contend that they will experience eternal salvation because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior, but also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal salvation.

Obviously attending an evangelical college and getting some training in the Bible is helpful in shaping my personal beliefs, but I am sure that at some point my beliefs will err from Biblical teaching. That is when my fellow believers can lovingly correct me.  Every believer needs to be a part of a Christian fellowship. This doesn’t mean that they have to attend church on Sunday morning/evening and Wendsday night service, but it does require some form of fellowship where you can be taught by more experienced teachers and live and explore the Bible together.

Would you agree with Barna’s research? Where are you at on this issue?

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Ski group

We spent many hours this past weekend enjoying the beautiful weather (record-tying warmth) on the last day of January.  We almost made it the entire month without a day above freezing!  On Saturday it was in the 40’s and excellent conditions to stand outside on frozen lakes enjoying the winter festivities.  What are the festivities – City of Lakes Loppet

What is a Loppet? According to Cross-Country Canada:

It is a great gathering of skiers who ski on a specifically groomed trail either classic (diagonal stride) or free (skating technique) of various distances.

Basically a big party with skiing at the center! This was our first time enjoying it.  We saw skijoring, kids cross-country skiing, sprint skiing, 33k freestyle skiing, and an ice bike race.

Skijoring is when you have a dog pulling you along.  The best teams looked really cool and some of the later ones looked like a lot of work (when the dog didn’t want to help!).  I obviously took a lot of pictures, some events were easier/ more enjoyable to watch.

Ice Bike Spiral

The Ice Bike Race was pretty sweet.  They plowed about a 3 foot wide trail on the lagoon between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.  The race was criterium style – riding for 30 minutes with one last lap thrown in at the end.  It was not an easy course, with plenty of tight turns including a hair-pin and a “spiral of death.” Basically you spiral in and then have to spiral back out.  It was intense to watch them manuevar and their amazing handling skills all on ice.  They rode mountain bikes and I didn’t really see anyone fall down.  One guy pretty much led the entire 30 minutes but during the last lap – right before the spiral of death about 50 meters to the finish, his rear tire got a flat and he ended up finished third.

All of this is so new to us, which made it pretty fun to experience.  Got to make the most out of what you are given!

You can see more pictures here.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Youth Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, and youth job readiness training.

Why you ask?  They have become a major part of my job.  For the past year I’ve been working on a new program at my middle school.  The short version of the story is that many of our students are constantly needing to raise money  for field trips, athletic fees, and other school-related fees.  We are a pretty mixed income school with a few homeless/highly-mobile youth and a few who are pretty wealthy.  And a bunch that are working and/or middle class.

In 2007 an involved community member/former parent had an idea of students earning money by doing work around the community. When I came to the school in 2008 I was tasked to get the program up and running. The foundation of the program is connecting our students with local residents who need work done around their house.  Yes, there are lots of issues surrounding this idea, but so far it is working! Students shovel, rake, weed, mow, etc for a donation of $5 an hour.  Even if the students don’t completly love the idea of working, their parents do!!

We think it offers a chance for the students to learn some valuable skills and experiences, while also meeting needs in the community. A lot of our customers are elderly residents who like the idea of supporting a local school.  As you can imagine this takes a lot of work – connecting customers and students and on a really busy day I feel more like a dispatcher than anything else!  I enjoy talking with the customers (except the crabby ones) and especially getting to talk with the kids.  Because of the intense amount of time and pressure for this aspect we’ve decided to branch out and create something a little more sustainable.

Thus, entrepreneurship.  The idea is that student create their own small businesses that can help fund their education.  It can be targetted towards other students or the broader community.  We are still in the beginning stages of exploring this opportunity.  During the last year I also realized that many of the students I work with aren’t financially literate.  Few of them have bank accounts or have an understanding of the simplest financial practices.  As a result we are going to start covering some of the basics.

This is a somewhat random post, but I missed church this weekend due to a fundraising dinner for the program I described above.  See, it all connects together!