Three Lessons I’ve Learned from Putting on This Year’s Living Christmas Tree

79194436_2826686150717048_7076236130881896448_oThe church that I serve has been putting on a Living Christmas Tree program for 35 years. Even though some people feel like Christmas pageants and church-sponsored light shows are thing of the past, our program is still very vital. We have tweaked and changed it over the years for sure, but it still draws a large crowd in our community and gives us the chance to present the real Christ-centered meaning of Christmas.

This year’s Living Christmas Tree program wasn’t without its challenges, but it taught me three valuable lessons. The first lesson is that Christmas provides a great opportunity for the church to reach out to the community. People seem more open to new ideas and new opportunities during the holidays. It may just be sentimentality or loneliness, but it’s a door that’s open for the gospel.

The second lesson is that personal invitations are powerful. We purchase advertising and put up signs telling people about our program, but it’s the personal invitations that make a difference. I met many people this year who came because they were invited by friend, family member, or an acquaintance.

The third lesson is the power of collaboration and teamwork. It takes a lot of people to pull off a program like the Living Christmas Tree – from those who sign in the tree to those who help park cars – everyone is important. When people serve together, they grow together and develop a closer bond, which a great benefit to the health of our church.

In the end, the Living Christmas Tree is just a tool to help us share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our local community. It may not last forever in this form, but it’s still effective and I’m thankful for it.

Reasons Why I Love Ashland, Kentucky: Reason #4

600_358185062Yesterday, I picked up with a series of blog posts on the reasons why I love Ashland, Kentucky. Here is one more reason:

4. Natural beauty is all around

I’ve noticed something surprising when I’m away from home now: I miss the hills. I thought the hills would be an inconvenience and they are when it snows. But the hills, as well as the rocks, trees, and valleys give northeast Kentucky a magnetic quality.

My family and I have found natural beauty exploring our backyard and our neighborhood. We’ve found majestic trees, breathtaking boulders, and inviting streams, even some historic .

IM000138.JPGThere are 3 great state parks within an hour’s drive of Ashland and we’ve enjoyed each one of them. We’ve fished, floated, acoal mines
nd jumped in the water at Grayson Lake. We’ve hiked and we’ve sightseen at Greenbo Lake. And we’ve camped and caved at Carter Caves. And that’s just scratching the surface of the wonderful creation in the Ashland area.

Why I Love Ashland, Kentucky: Reason #1

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I believe that God calls pastors to communities as well as churches. You can’t have a healthy church without personal evangelism and local outreach. If is very difficult for a church to engage in these activities without the support of their pastor. In my experience as pastor, its hard to get excited about reaching beyond the four wall of a church unless you love the community where you minster.

In order to show my love for the area where I minster, I want to share a series of blog posts this week on the reasons why I love Ashland, Kentucky.

  1. The people here are warm and welcoming

My wife and I were both raised in the north. I’m from a small farming town southwest Michigan and she grew up in sprawing suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. We have lived a few places in our life together, some big and some small, but none with such kind and gracious people.

Our church family has been incredibly warm and welcoming, but it goes way beyond that. We have enjoyed a quick smile and an offer to help from shopkeepers, salespeople, and workmen. The teachers and staff at the schools where our children attend have been accepting and encouraging. Our neighbors are friendly and helpful and we have enjoyed a few cooks and block party together.

That is not say we haven’t encounter any grumpy people. But for the most part, the people in this hard-working little city have welcomed my family and I with open arms. For that, we are grateful.

Check back tomorrow another reason why I love Ashland, Kentucky.