12 Keys To Unlocking Your 2018

I don’t like to rush things. I like my seasons in order. I don’t like Halloween stuff in stores before October. I don’t like Christmas music before Thanksgiving. But, I love thinking about New Years  Eve and 2018 in late summer.

There is never a bad time for preparing.  I love taking notes, jotting down little ideas for message series, service projects, etc.  and then compiling them into some kind of strategy for the next quarter.

Our preparation to make an impact on the students we serve includes

Prayer

Nothing will happen without inviting God to the party. Jesus went to a wedding and turned water to wine. Our plans, without God, are just water. Our plans, like water, are utilitarian and will suffice in keeping the engine from overheating, but that’s all. With God, out plans are changed, re-arrange and transformed into something far greater and make an impact far deeper that we could have imagined.

Asking the right questions

Jesus was asked a lot of questions and asked a lot of questions himself. We do not spend nearly the time asking the questions and reflecting on what the Holy Spirit may tell us. The answer to our biggest problems are in the questions we ask.

Putting it our there

One we have an idea we must share it. We must pass the idea around like a piece of clay rather than a rock. Passing around a rock says, “Here’s my idea, adore it but do not change it”. Passing around our ideas like clays says, “Here! Make this better. Transform it!”. Gather some people through e-mail, text, video, and in person and ask “How can we make this better”

Execution

We have to stick our flag in the ground. Talking is for the insecure. We can talk a good game but, if we do not pull the trigger, our ideas are sent to the graveyard where other ideas not acted upon go.

Don’t tell us what you are gong to do, let me see you doing it. The distance from idea to execution can be as long as it takes to work through the three steps above. The bigger the idea the long the time  it may take, the more people it may take, the more prayer it make take, but putting it in motion has to start now.

If you want to take a deeper dive, check out my new book Prepared For Impact where my friend Ryan Latham and I help you prepare for the opportunities God has waiting for you, right now, to start making an impact.

The book is packed with keys for preparing your next retreat, event, or meeting. Here’s what others are saying about it

“This book has been pivotal in the growth of my youth ministry! It is a great resource for beginners and seasoned youth workers equally. Filled with nuggets of wisdom, and challenging questions,it helps you turn your dreams and visions into a strategic plan of action. If you want to have a greater impact in the kingdom of God, buy this book!” – Jackee

“Prepared for impact” is the kind of book that thoroughly helps you become prepared for that next ministry step in your life. It brings up ideas that are both thought provoking and helpful. 10/10 would recommend.” – Amazon Customer

“If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining”
Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Buy the book and start building habits of preparation so you can beat the rain every time.

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Is This Youth Pastor Persistent or Delusional?

Think about this youth pastor. His name is Brad, he’s 25 and thinks he could be the next Steven Furtick? Delusional, right? Maybe.

What if he listens to every Furtick message, dresses like Furtick, uses social like Furtick and baptizes a 1,000 people a day? Is he Furtick? Nope. Is he closer to being being Furtick than most? Sure. His persistence has paid off. His skills brought him nearer to his goals.

But what about a young lady named Beth who’s a youth pastor of 12 kids. The church is around 125 with an average age of 50 in a run down area of a big city. She has dreams. She doesn’t want to be the next anything. She just wants to reach teenagers with the gospel and grow the youth ministry and make disciples.

She been there for eight years and has seen zero growth. She’s had a few good events, lots of kids cycling through, but, overall the ministry hasn’t experienced sustained growth and neither has the church. She’s been persistent, worked hard, but the ministry has remained stagnant. Should she persist or is she delusional, believing that something could happen in a place where nothing is happening?

Now, I know what your thinking. “But God can do anything”. He sure can. Then why doesn’t He? Why don’t all youth ministries grow? Are we not following the right formula? The same gospel is preached. Youth workers (volunteer and bi-vocational mostly) are working hard and doing all they can, to know avail.

That’s the thing. Persistence can turn into delusion and we don’t even know it. We soldier on, believing if we change the way we play games, the videos we use, and adjust our preaching  it will work and yet, nothing.

“But if they would just..” Yeah, I’ve said that. Some of this advice is true and would work if implemented on a small scale.

I’m just wondering how many good youth workers are working persistently to attain results that are never going to come and how many youth workers have figured out their delusion, bailed and experienced unbelievable relief.

God can do anything. That doesn’t mean he will, no matter how hard we pray, work, fast, tithe, or worship. Sometimes we have to accept that our effort is just not good enough, and move on.

Is this what Jesus meant by shaking the dust from your feet? “Stop being delusional and move on. They will never accept what you are offering.”

So, is it is easier these days to become Steven Furtick or grow a youth ministry?

What do you think, what’s the difference between persistence and delusion?

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Disciples Must Be Prepared To Hear Hard Things

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” John 6:60

Growing up is hard. When we are babies we hear the word no many times,

No! Don’t touch that

No! Get that out of your mouth

No! Get off there.

These no’s we here are often to keep us from hurting ourselves. We cry, pout and get angry whomever has denied us our pleasure.

When we are young teenagers, we continue to hear the word no

No! You can’t go out with those friends

No! You can’t see that movie

No! You can’t have a raise in you allowance.

More hard things to hear. Disappointment, outrage, injustice follow.

Then we become adults. A new freedom We can do what we want. Go wherever we want to go. The words “no you can’t…” has change to

You have to study longer and harder to get that degree

You have to work harder to get that promotion

You have to love deeper to get/keep that relationship

We move from the word no to meeting expectations. As Christians, the teaching get’s harder still,

Love your enemy

Give to those who have nothing

Accept those who are not like you

Jesus had just spent the last few minutes talking to His disciple about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Jesus spoke of being the bread of life to the world. In this moment, it was too much.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. John 6:66

This teaching was too far of a stretch for them.

I am sure Nathaniel did not mind hear that he would see angels ascending and descending when Jesus invited Him to follow.

I am sure Peter did not mind hear that his new name meant rock or that he as invited to walk on water.

I am sure Jame and John were excited to learn that they would sit with Jesus in heaven.

Christians love to hear all that God will do for them, but when Jesus teaches a hard thing, we bow out heads and sulk at the notion that we must do something we do not want to do.

Nathaniel, Peter, James and John stuck around. In response to Jesus’ teaching they said,

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68,69

What will you do the next time Jesus tells you a hard thing? Will you walk away in discouragement or step up and believe. Where else have you to go?

 

 

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Disciples Must Be Ready For The Big Question

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. John 6: 5,6

Can you imagine Philip. I can see his eyes get real big at Jesus asking Him this question. Disciple were there to learn and to serve their masters, but this request must have sent his head spinning. He does’t want to disappoint Jesus.

No follower of Jesus I know, wants to disappoint Jesus, it just sort of happens. As follower of Christ we must always be read for that question which makes our eyes wide and sends our hearts into our throats.

Jesus will ask us to do the impossible. He will ask us to do something so far beyond us we cannot comprehend it.

We should do this with our students. We should challenge them with a “How are we going to do this..” knowing full well we plan to participate in the success of whatever idea they may come up with.

At this time I have challenge our students to give $200 towards supporting missionaries. I have given them three weeks to come up with this. This is a big goal for our group because they small and many of them do not work. But I have offered them some incentive.

I told them, “if you raise the $200 in three weeks I will bleach my hair blonde.” So, yes, this will happen if they reach their goal. What they do not know is that I want it to happen, so I am putting in $10 a week to help make it happen. That will be $30 towards the goal and they will need only $170.

Jesus did not want his disciples to fail, he wanted the people to be fed but he also want his disciples think in terms of faith and how they would join that faith with him to make it happen. Kids will bring their loaves and fishes and God will multiply it.

Just like Jesus was testing the faith of his disciples we also must test the faith of those we serve with big ideas and big challenges.

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Disciples Order Off The Secret Menu

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”  John 4:31-33

When you go to a fast-food place, you stand and look up at the menu to order, but did you know that many restaurants have what is called a “secret” menu. These are items you cannot see, but can order them if you know what to ask for.

For example,

Arby’s has the meat mountain, a sandwich made with all the kinds of meats they serve.

McDonald’s has the Land, Sea and Air burger. This is a sandwhich with chicken, fish, and meat on it.

Sonics Purple Sprite is a mixing of  lemonade, Powerade, and Cranberry juice.

When the disciples come back, they were concerned that Jesus had not eaten anything. Maybe Jesus had been fasting or simply ministering so much he had forgone eating. Jesus then described what was “feeding him”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Jesus was consumed with reaching those who had not been reached, like this Samaritan woman. Jesus was eating off the secret menu that the Pharisees and the disciples did not know was available to them.

As believers, we’re trained to “order off the menu”. We ask for a double portion of God’s blessing, large faith fries and a healing shake. When was the last time you ordered off the secret menu?

Lord, help us do your will and finish your work

 

 

 

 

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Disciples Must Change Their Expectations

 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. John 1:46

Nathaniel was the first critic of Christ. He judged him because of where he was from. He didn’t think anything good could come from a bad place.

Disciples have to learn this principle early or they’re going to be a mess.

God brings

light from darkness

beauty from ashes

riches from poverty

life from death

identify from wandering

All of these things the disciples discovered three years later. Some things have to be caught rather than taught.

Those whom God has brought from hard places understand. Those who think  it’s just a good idea to follow Jesus or who do not sense their own poverty of spirit and embrace humility will alway think things should go a certain way (mostly their way). Be  prepared for disappointment.

Jesus showed his disciples grace in the learning process as we should show those students whom we disciple. They won’t understand until they are in the the throes of watching God bring about transformation.

Let’s act like good thing coming from bad places is normal and pray our students will catch on.

 

 

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Disciples Share What They Learn

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:40-42

What was the first thing you did after coming to Christ? Join a class? Start going to church? Neither of those are bad, but that wasn’t the first thing Andrew did. The first thing Andrew did was tell his brother. He shared what he had found.

How quickly this went

Evangelism: “There goes the Lamb of God”

Discipleship: “Where are you staying”

Evangelism: “We have found the Messiah

Discipleship: And he brought him to Jesus.

I think there are way to many levels between us and Jesus. Things we think we must do first before becoming “real” followers. We tell young people, directly or indirectly, you’re not ready for X. So, to get them ready,  we build in so many layers to get them “ready” that I think we may actually be keeping kids from Jesus.

Evangelism and Discipelship are not not about being better educated, they’re about Spirit initiative. Andrews actions were motivated by an inward change. He was excited about what he had heard and then shared it.

I want kids to grow, but not at the expense of them not acting on what the Spirit initiates them to do. No, we cannot nor would we, intentionally, stop them from obeying the Spirit, but sometimes we send a subtle message that they’re  not ready to share their faith.

Let’s take away every hinderance from a young person, or anyone else, who experiences Jesus Christ. Let’s tell them, “Go and share what you’ve learned with someone you care about!”

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Disciples Ask The Right Questions

“So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.” John 1:39

John said it, “There goes the Lamb of God.” John was Jesus’ cousin and he knew Jesus was the Messiah. John wasn’t trying to amass a follower-ship, he was trying to point people to Jesus.

His two disciples heard John glorify God and, like smart disciples, followed Jesus. They asked Jesus, “Where are you staying? ” Jesus said, “Come and see.”

I love that Jesus did not give them an address or say meet me at such at such synagogue. Jesus said, Come and see. But the disciples asked the right question, “Jesus “where can I find you?

Where can we find Jesus today? Find the poor, the lonely, the tires, the weak, and the unloved and you will find Jesus.

The journey to becoming a follower of Jesus starts with asking the right question. Jesus, where are you staying? How do I get into your presence? How can I learn from you?

Jesus still answers this question the same way today, “Come and see.”

 

 

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Keeping Your Church From Becoming A Museum

 “I think you have too many dead things in your museum, Daddy.”  – From The Greatest Showman

I went and saw the Greatest Showman with my wife for our 27th anniversary. I don’t mind a good musical, West Side Story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, etc. and I enjoyed this movie, except for all the singing. Ok, that’s not true but I did enjoy when Hugh Jack man broke out his claws and killed all those guys for mocking his performers. Ok, that’s not true either. That’s what I wanted to happen. It would have broken things up for me.

There was that line in the movie where PT Barnum’s daughter bluntly tells her father, “You museum has too many dead things in it”. His other daughter chimes in with something to the effect of, “Yeah you need more things that are alive.”.

I instantly thought of many churches where was no life. Churches invite people to a weekly service to observe dead, lifeless, rituals and to pay to enjoy them.

Let me say, I’m Pentecostal, and although Pentecostal churches can be a lively bunch, there can still be so many dead things. Dead customs, dead songs, dead preaching, dead worship and the list goes on.

The chorus to the  best song in the movie, Come Alive,  says

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up
To the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

While this whispy sentiment reflects the heart of PT Barnum’s “freaks” who come alive through, as Oprah says “living your truth”, I think there’s a better chorus from another song called Come Alive (Lauren Daigle) , that reflects God’s movement in the church

As we call out to dry bones come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes let us see an army rise

We call out to dry bones, come alive

If the church is to avoid becoming a weekly museum that people attend, we’ll need more than a new attraction, a new freak show to impress the circus goers. The church does need “freaks”, the lonely, the disenfranchised, the tattooed, the unusual, and the broken, not to show off their “freakiness” but because God is present and calling them to rise from the ashes and be transformed. That’s how the church comes alive.

The church stops being a museum filled with old stories when new ones are being written.

 

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Six Questions To Ask About Your Schedule

I was recently talking with a young man about his schedule and he asked for some feedback on how he spent his time. I told him to send me a copy and I’d take a look.

The schedule he sent me was solid. It seemed like he had a handle on his responsibilities. Now, I don’t know all the ins and outs of his church or how busy they are, but from what I saw, his schedule looked pretty standard.

I sent him back few questions that might be good for all of us to review in light of our schedules.

Am I doing what I’m strongest at and delegating my weakness?

We spend way too much time trying to get better at something we have no business getting better at. There are five people you know who can do what your doing right now, better. Why not have them do those tasks and you focus on what you good at?

If you don’t know someone, check out some place like Fiverr or Upwork to connect with professionals who can do the tasks that need to be done better than you can.

Here is my message: stop doing sh*t you hate. Nail down your strengths so you can discover your passion. – GaryVaynerchuk

What are my time wasters?

What’s getting in the way of being more productive? This is the key. Is it people coming into your office and chatting with you? Get rid of the chairs in your office or put something in them so people can’t just come in and sit down.

Is it the internet? Set the timer on your phone to 15 minute while you surf the web and when the alarm goes off, you go back to work.

Is it social media?

This INC. article shares 8 time wasters we should also be aware of, here are a few

Postponing harder tasks – Tackle the hard stuff early

Saying Yes. – You can’t help everyone and it’s ok to say no to things.

Unnecessary meetings – If you can solve it with an e-mail or a phone call, do that instead.

I do not want to waste any time. And if you are not working on important things, you are wasting time. Dean Kamen

Am I scheduling re-charge time?

What charges you up? Give time to things that make you happy or make you feel alive. I like to paint models and read so I make sure I schedule time for that. All work and no play…makes us miserable and less effective.

I can be very heads down when it comes to work, so much so that time can get away from me if I am not careful. Planned leisure time is something I feel I have to take. If I have it on my calendar I am more likely to accept it asa normal part of my schedule versus something  I have to take.

“Are you managing your energy well and using it for things that matter? Do you stop to recharge before you push yourself to critically low levels? Unplug to recharge.” ― Susan C. Young

Am I scheduling the most bang for my buck?

What moves the ministry forward? Does putting x amount of time into sermon  prep really move the dial of the over all ministry? I’m not saying it doesn’t for you, but we can be sermon smart and people dumb. Our services don’t run on sermons. it runs on people moved by the Spirt.

Where in your schedule are you making the most investment? If you’re spending a greater portion of your time in an office instead of having breakfast, lunch, or dinner with leaders, kids or others in the church, you may be slowly cutting off your oxygen to what makes your ministry alive.

“If you want innovation, growth, and culture, invest in people, not technology. Technology can’t lead, love, or connect.”
Farshad Asl

How can I serve some else?

When you increase productivity, getting more done in less time, you can help someone else. You could ask to take something off your Pastor’s plate or ask another ministry leader if they need help with a program or skill building.

Helping others is just sowing seeds for the future and shows that you’re a team player. Solve a problem for someone else and it will come back to you.

Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.                      – Og Mandino

Determine the WIN moment

I am always determining the WIN (What’s Important Now) moment. Just a minute ago, it came to mind I should text someone and let them know I was praying for their husbands surgery. That’s important now but would mean much less later. Now moments only matter now.

Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth. – Bradley Whitford

If after thinking through these questions you’ve decided your schedule isn’t as productive as you thought,, change it; it’s yours to waste or improve.

 

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When Your Number Is Called, Be Ready

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I was watching the College Football National Championship  between Georgia and Alabama last night and wow, what a game. It was 20 to 7 at some point and I thought, “Man, is Alabama gonna lose this game?” Not if Nick Saban had anything to say about it.

In a surprise move, in the second half, Nick Saban replaced his starting quarter back Jalen Hurts with freshman Tua Tagovailoa. This is exactly what his team needed, a spark. 

The saying, “What got you here won’t get you to the next level” came to mind as I thought about the quarterback switch. It’s true. Jalen go them to the National Championship. Jalen was 25 and 2 entering this game, but he wasn’t going to win this game for Alabama.

Tua, had not taken a snap all year. He didn’t win any games. He just worked, practiced, and stayed ready.

I think of Biblical heroes who waited until their number was called, people like David. David was shepherd boy who had served faithfully As part of his preparation, he occasionally killed a lion and a bear. Then came the day his number was called.

The prophet Samuel shows up to David’s house and anoints David King of Israel. He is King in word but doesn’t have the position yet. Then, David’s number is called. He says, I’m ready to slay the Giant Goliath and take Israel to the next level.

Maybe you’re like David. You work hard. You’re a team player, but you are one of many. My advice, stay ready. Someone’s going to call your number.

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