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.

9 Dynamic Ways To Revive A Dying Youth Ministry

Many youth ministries are in decline and dying. Yes, there are cycles, ups and downs, and seasons, but there are some that are just plain dying. Some due to the reasons in my last post.

If you’re one of the youth pastors whose youth group is in decline, I feel for you. I’ve been there and it’s not your fault. Well, it’s mostly not your fault, your church probably carries most of the blame, but I can’t let you off the hook. I don’t know how hard you have tried, how much you complained versus how much action you’ve taken. That being said, let’s believe you’ve done your best and not put any extra burden upon you.

You could  be one of those youth groups whose experiencing decline but your church is not. It’s hard to reverse church culture but you can make some changes that would impact your youth group culture.

The first of the nine ways to revive your dying youth ministry is to change the way you and they think about youth group.

Stop begging kids to bring their friends

…and speak to their responsibilities as believers.

Begging (telling them too much) kids to bring their friends lowers the standard of the youth ministry. You’re better than that. Your program is probably better than that.  Can you imagine a restaurant begging people to eat at it? The food should speak for itself and make people want to come.

You have to start believing you have a youth program worth coming to that embraces the title of Church. Ask your kids not to invite kids to a program or an event, but into a community called the Body of Christ.

If these kids say they’re Christians, treat them as such and remind them they are not under any obligation to bring friends to Christ because you ask them to,  but because they are under God’s mandate to share what Christ is doing in them with others.

Stop calling your youth group a youth group 

…and start calling them the church, the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus.

The previous article I wrote had a quote from a larger post bemoaning all the other activities kids had rather than church. There have always been other choices for kids, even if it was just staying home. Kids will always have choices,

The only way to combat the attitude that your meeting is just one of many meetings is to establish the identity of your meeting. You may even have to change the way your meeting is done to reflect this new identity placing value on meeting needs, praying for one another, etc. rather than the entertainment value of your meeting.

Stop trying to keep kids who would’t show up if Jesus Himself was preaching

… and invest in the kids who want to be there and develop their gifts, talents, and abilities a well as deepen their walk with Christ. If you are not willing to lose some kids, you’ll never gain any.

Who are the biggest fans of what what you have going on? Get their opinion and input on what the program should look like and where it should be heading. You can’t carry the load of leadership by yourself. The kids you involve in leadership and servanthood, will be the greatest benefactors of the changes they make.

I am not saying you should ignore kids who are not their as much, but we shouldn’t be wringing our hands either. Too much time spent on kids who don’t care about what’s going on their involvement in it, is time away from kids who do. Look who Jesus spent most of his time with, it worked out pretty well.

Stop babying them 

…and start leading them

Jesus lost them, gained them, and lost them again (short term) because his teaching was “too hard for them” What Jesus was teaching wasn’t too hard, it was too hard for them. They left Jesus because they did not want to put the work in to understand.

Yes, there is a time for milk and meat, and you have to balance that. There is a time to be loud and a time to whisper. Your teaching style might have to change in order to accommodate a new mindset.

I’m not say we should put kids down or berate them, I am saying we need to focus on things that will help them mature. For our youth ministry it’s missions trips both local and abroad that have been the kick start to maturity. The kids who have attended our missions trips have a much better perspective about the world around them and can handle weekly responsibilities.  Yes, they still do immature things, but they are trending upward.

Find what it is for your group that develops that maturity and what is the vision they need to internalize it. What makes “growing up” in these moments so important? To them? To the ministry you lead?

Stop complaining about what your youth group is not

… and start praising it for what it is. Too many youth workers have loser limp. The minute you have to start justifying things by saying “Well at least…” the march toward losing has begun.

Star being optimistic. Talk about what you see happening, the progress that is being made and the bright spots. Tell stories about students who are making progress and growing in their faith not about the people who are not there.

A positive attitude will not change your group, but it will change your attitude and that is a big step towards changing other things.

Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them. – Jack Canfield

Don’t forget to grab my 7 Secrets of a Successful Youth Ministry because I know you want to lead well.

A Thousand Ways Your Youth Ministry Can Die (And How To Avoid It)

I saw a post on Facebook from a youth worker, and the opening line was

Honestly, we’re not looking to grow our group; we love our kids and are much more interested in quality of program than number of kids.

I sat stunned in silence for a few minutes. Look at the clock and said, “Time of death 2:35 p.m.” But, the time only marked the beginning of a slow death, like being told you have only months to live except this will take years.

The post continued to share about ask why kids were choosing other activities over youth and how to get parents on board with saying yes to you and no to other stuff.

If a youth ministry is not interesting in growing, by default, it is interested in dying. The call to reach out to others is loud and clear and the call to be mediocre does not live in the the mouth of God.

A youth ministry can die a thousand ways, here’s there of them.

Death by disinterest

How long does it take a kid to be become disinterested in a youth program? Almost immediately if there’s no call to something greater than themselves. A kid will stick around until the fun dries up, if fun is the only thing you’re using to get them there and keep them there.

Over the years I have sped up the time line for getting kids involved in leadership much sooner. Leadership, to me, means allowing a kid to serve and develop their gifts as they go rather than to wait until they “ready”. This process has worked good and has kept kids around much longer.

The old adage I live by is, “If you want someone to show up give them a job”

Death by disruption

The forces of attention are alway pulling at us. The magnetic force of sports, plays, video games, homework, etc. have been at work for a long time and have only increased. Youth programs that are not engaging and fulfilling lack the magnetism to draw kids to it.

Our youth group peaked about a year ago. I can’t get any more from them. The disruption came through home schooled kids getting older and they smiley lacked the influence to bring anyone else in. Our church has gone through a similar phase and faces the same issue.

Death by demographics

Maybe you’re like me. You work in a church where 80% of the people are 50 and above are with little chance of younger families or couples coming through your doors. This could be reversed but when people are slow to change atrophy wins.

I have to say, it’s not anyone’s fault that your neighborhood is changing, it is someone’s fault when change is not embraced to meet the needs of a changing community. If the church is not growing and changing neither is the youth ministry or the children’s ministry.

You have to care about the numbers. If the call to evangelism and outreach dies, so does the youth ministry.

I would never ask a kid to come to church simply so “we” could “survive”. To be really honest, in some cases, a youth ministry should die until the right leadership is over the ministry; be it paid or volunteer.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some ideas on how to revive a dying youth ministry. I’ve used these ideas in a few of my youth ministries and had great success but there is no secret sauce, it’s just prayer and hard work.

My hope is that if your youth ministry is on the precipice of decline, my words will inspire you to take hold, hang on, and work hard until you see the breath of life return to your ministry.

Watch  for The Nine Dynamic Ways You Can Revive Your Youth Ministry in coming days.

 

Why Is It So Hard To Connect With “Weird” Kids Like Nikolas Cruz?

And Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told CNN that Cruz had been getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he had not been back to the clinic for more than a year. “It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr told CNN. “We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren’t connected. … In this case we didn’t find a way to connect with this kid.”                   – Washington Post 

I have been a professional youth worker for 28 years and connecting with students is what I do. I find a way to connect on the surface (sports, movies, etc.) and find ways beneath the layers to express unconditional love and speak truth, with permission.

Nicholas Cruz was went through the loss of both of his parents before the age of twenty. This is no excuse to kill 17 people, only a reminder that this kid was a walking open wound who sensed life was shaking salt all over him. Violence was his response to whatever he deemed was unfair or unjust about his life.

The report, by all accounts, is that he had a good mom. She supported him , gave to him, and loved him, but she may have been the only one. It’s still early in this tragedy and there will be those who were his friends that may come forward and offer some kind of perspective to the kinds of relationships they had with him.

In addition, after his mother died, he lived with a family who got him a job, drove him to school. and overall supported him. He left that home do to things “not working out”.

The word that I read over and over again in the articles like the Washington Post, in regards to Nicholas’ demeaner, was that he was weird and people struggle with weird or off-putting behavior that does not match social norms. Teens who like anime or cosplay are “weird”, to some, but behavior such as Nicholas’s  love of guns and knives and his infatuation with harming animals etc. is a differ kind of weird.

Disconnected kids, like Nicholas, are nothing new, but many professionals, like Jonathan McKee as well as others, saw what the internet would do to exacerbate this disconnection five years ago.

It seems to me students today are more isolated, have fewer close friends, and are drifting away from activities with personal interaction. This is creating a relational void in their lives. Add this to the growing levels of stress and pain teenagers already face as part of adolescence, and it is no wonder we are seeing an increase in teenage anxiety, depression, violence, and self injury. Teenagers are hurting more than ever before. – Jonathan Mckee 2013, Youth Specialties, Blog Post

“Connecting with students” is a somewhat ambiguous term What does that mean? Does it mean we, adults or youth workers like or approve of everything a kids likes? No, it means we can look past the surface, and our own biases, to what’s happening behind the eyes of a student and seek to engage anyway.

I’ve dealt with my own share of kids who were hard to reach. Some I was successful with and others I was not. Like Jonathan says in his article, it was his face to face interactions with hard to reach kids that made all the difference.

It’s hard to talk to kids about their social idio-syncricies, their lack of hygiene, their awkward interactions with the opposite sex, their fascination with horror movies or violence, but it’s these hard issues that kids need us to talk to them about and affirm that, although these are difficult subjects, we’re having these conversations with them because we love the, and want life to be good for them.

Who looked past the weirdness of Nicholas Cruz and their own discomfort, to have a face to face or a heart to heart with him?  I don’t know. Right now, the news is fixated on his social media accounts and who should be blamed for all of this.

While this is going on, there’s another kids sitting somewhere who needs a face to face, a loving word, an affirmation during their difficult times, and they need someone who doesn’t mind a little discomfort who will risk rejection on behalf of love to reach them.

 

Trying Something New For Lent: The Prayer Wheel

I had no plan for Lent this year, which is odd for me. I grew up Catholic, became a Protestant Youth Pastor, but still love many of the observances I grew  up with. I normal do a Facebook Live devotional or fast something, and none of these things appealed to me or even came to mind.

My slippage of memory could be because Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday have fallen on the same day this year. I’m in weird place right now, almost a lame duck feeling that presidents get in their last term in office. I just can’t move forward until I’m through whatever I am in.

I came across this article by Jana Riess where she said,

I’ve done it all: given up meat. Given up chocolate. Given up TV. Given up unnecessary spending.

And then after many years of those small sacrifices I gave up the giving up, because it wasn’t “working” – it wasn’t bringing me any closer to God, however good it may have been for me on the self-improvement front. Lent isn’t about self-improvement; it’s about a journey to God.

This really resonated with me. I’ve done Daniel Fasts, Social Media fasts, etc. etc. and each had their value. Jana then began to share about a medieval prayer wheel that was discovered  that seem to have seven weeks of focus.

No one knows how the actual prayer wheel works but Jana has written a book on how she might think it works or has created her own way to use it. Either way I am intrigued and for the next seven weeks I will be writing about my journey, with the prayer wheel as a steering wheel, toward God.

Today is day one and, as per instructions on the FB group, I repeat the words, the declaration, surrounding the circle

“The order of the diagram written here teaches the return home. ”

Today’s question: In a word or two, what do you want/need “home” with God to be?

My answer was: Community. Home is where people gather around the table for discussion, food, laughter, and games.

I thought about heaven today. I told God what I wanted heaven to be. People always say there will be no death, dying, or sickness which is all great, but the one thing I look forward to about heaven, is that I will never be alone again. There will always be someone to talk to, someone to hug me, or someone to cheer me up.

Maybe there will be lots of round tables, with coffee of course, filled with people to have interesting discussions with. Although I will know God as I am fully known at that point, I won’t know the other people in the same way, which means I can get to know a whole new group of people who are happy to talk and share and no one sits at a table alone.

What is home to you?

Has Youth Ministry Become All Emotion And No Technique?

There is a fascinating interview with music legend Quincy Jones on the website Vulture. Quincy is turning 85 soon and, as I’ve witnessed older people do, he just lets loose on a variety of subjects.

Apart from him fluently using the phrase MF, Quincy shares some interesting insights on today’s music that, I think, are closely related to youth ministry. Here’s is a question and answer from that interview that sparked this post.

You’re talking about business not music, but, and I mean this respectfully, don’t some of your thoughts about music fall under the category of “back in my day”?

Musical principles exist, man. Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man. Do these musicians know tango? Macumba? Yoruba music? Samba? Bossa nova? Salsa? Cha-cha? – Quincy Jones

Music and Ministry

These two things have a lot in common. They are both emotional and they both require skill. As I pose in the title, I think we have leaned way further to the emotional side of youth ministry and forgotten some of the skill.

Most of the youth ministry shots you see on Instagram are meant to evoke emotion or show the emotion of a youth ministry. Maybe it’s the worship service, the altar time, the game time, and it they show you fun, laughter, tears and joy. None of this is wrong, but you don’t see “skill” shots on Instagram.

I don’t see youth ministry posts of kids reading their bible, sharing their faith, and other than summer missions trips, kids serving.  I’m guilty of this as well, although I try to show the big picture though my Facebook Live streams of the big picture. I show students leading, students praying, students doing ministry.

I get it, fun shots sell the youth ministry. Look! We’re fun! And teenagers need fun, and need fun, right brain creative youth workers, but they also need left brain skill builder who can build long term follower of Jesus through a systematic approach. All fun and no skill isn’t youth ministry, it’s a club.

Quincy says it right, “You can only get so far without technique.” Emotions will only go so far in a youth ministry, that’s why youth worker have to develop the skills and, yes, even techniques of making disciples. Techniques sounds like a word that could suck all the emotion out of the room, but there is a technique to good youth meetings, good small groups, and good one on one discipleship.

Emotions or emotionalism will only lead a kid so far in their relationship with Christ (camp anyone?). That’s why the technique of training a kid to have a consistent devotion time is critical to that kids sustained faith in Christ.

Let’s look to one more question from the interview with Quincy Jones

What would account for the songs being less good than they used to be?The mentality of the people making the music. Producers now are ignoring all the musical principles of the previous generations. It’s a joke. That’s not the way it works: You’re supposed to use everything from the past. If you know where you come from, it’s easier to get where you’re going. You need to understand music to touch people and become the soundtrack to their lives.

Look To The Past

Wow! Read this again, but think youth ministry not music and you get the picture. Is youth ministry less good than it used to be? That;s pretty subject. The older you get the past doesn’t look so bad.

I was once young and thought we needed to throw out the hymn book or anything that reeked of the “old” but, as Quincy says, “that’s not how it works”.

I am not favoring teaching hymns to our kids, but, no matter what age youth worker you are, you should look to the past because the new and the now is passing before your very eyes.

There are cycles, fads, and trends. What you think is the model for youth ministry today is morphing right under your nose.

When I say look to the past, I’m not talking about past youth ministry ideas, although some may work (flannel graphs for days, am I right?), I’m talking about biblical principles that never change. The Bible shows us the pattern or the technique of following Jesus and the discipleship of others,; and while the youth ministry landscape continues to change, the truth of God’s word remains the same.

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16

Emotional youth ministries may be exciting and even growing, but without good disciple making skills and  technique, those youth ministries are a mile wide and an inch deep.

On the other hand, a youth ministry with all technique and no emotion robs kids of the value of expression and robs God from showing Himself strong within the students to cry out, leap for joy and dance for before their King.

Balance is the key, and I think that’s what Quincy was getting at. Music like ministry can be canned, one note, sugar coated, cheap rip offs of the real thing. Let’s make sure both milk and meat are at the table when students arrive to our youth groups and at least let them lean into what they need that night, but to have one and not the other is a spiritual dietary crime.

If you’re lookin for some discipleship resources that are filled with emotion and technique, feel free to check out my store. 

Remember, even Sponge Bob understands that there’s value in technique when blowing a bubble

6 Things That Will Get You Fired In Youth Ministry

I recently watched a video (below) by fellow youtubing youth pastor Delmar Peet, and he brought out some excellent points as to when a youth pastor should  be fired. I’d like to add my two cents with a list of my own.

Sexual Immorality/Abuse/ etc. is a no brainer and is the clearest of the offenses that require a youth pastor to be fired. My list offers more subtle reasons that, if they go unaddressed, can hurt a church in the long run.

I will also add, Pastors, this is warning to youth workers not a potential list of violations you should be looking for to fire your youth worker. I’m not talking about firing someone for an individual instance but for a willful lifestyle un-open to correction.

Youth workers, here’s my list of offenses you should avoid if you don’t want to get fired.

Disloyalty

One of my problems is that I am loyal to a fault. I have stayed in churches when I should have left much sooner, but because I wanted to show loyalty, I stayed.

Let me clarify what disloyalty is and what is not.

Disloyalty is publicly criticizing your pastor, his vision, and the church.

Disloyalty is not disagreeing with your pastor. Hash it out behind closed doors.

Disloyalty is persuading others to support your ideas rather than the pastors vision and in some cases actually work against it.

Disloyalty is not gathering a few close, trustworthy people who understand both sides of a situation and sharing your struggle.

If you can’t support  the pastor and his vision, try your best to leave on amicable terms.

Disorganization

I have messed some stuff up because of a lack of organization and planning. Thankfully I survived most of my jobs by the grace of God.

Constant disorganization can cost the church money, time, and relationships. It can also create an unsafe environment where unnecessary risks are taken that could result in youth getting hurt physically, mentally, and emotionally.

A youth worker who is not not trying to improve his planning skills and listening to wisdom, become a detriment the organization and ultimately has to to.

Let me recommend a book I’ve written to help you from getting fired.

Dissension

Dissension is cousin to disloyalty but far more evil Disloyalty is selfishness over programs, visions, etc. Disloyalty is about what we want versus what is best for the whole. Dissension is about dividing the body and causing trouble over doctrine, theological slants, sowing seeds of suspicion.

A youth worker who intentionally tries to divide the body isn’t just disloyal, it is ungodly and listed among the acts of the flesh.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and sorcery; hatred, discord, jealousy, and rage ;rivalries, divisions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God

Divisions, discord, and factions are usually about issues of power and who has it. A youth worker who attempt to seize power (influence) through slights or tearing leadership down is not just immature but has some serious spiritual issues that must be corrected.

Lost Faith In Students

You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy Church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse, but
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do

These lyrics by musician Sting, says the worse thing you could say about him is   losing faith in someone else. If a youth worker loses faith in his students, there isn’t much they can do except renew that faith or resign.

A loss of faith in students may look like not raising up leadership, having a controlling spirit, not planning anything because you don’t believe anyone will show up, lack of relationship building, etc.

Losing faith in students is to believe God is done with them and that is simply not true.

Spiritual Malpractice

The the oath of a doctor includes the phrase “to do no harm”.  Students are at a fragile place in live and are vulnerable to the influence of leadership, especially leadership in the local church where everyone is supposed to be workin on their behalf to grow in Christ.

In my opinion, works of spiritual malpractice include

  • Having hype meetings without making disciples
  • Manipulating others through guilt and shame
  • Not developing leaders so you can stay in charge
  • Creating worship around you rather than around God
  • Making God look like a boring dad, the tooth fairy, or a legalistic megalomaniac
  • Creating an atmosphere or judgment and condemnation
  • Creating rules heavy relationship light environment.

Of course there are others, but I think these capture the spirit of things.

Lone Ranger Mentality

Lastly, if the youth worker will not build a team, they are hurting the youth ministry. Now, if the church is limited as to who can work with teens that is one things, purposely not creating a team so the youth worker can be the star is another.

The Lone Ranger mentality is harmful to the youth ministry because it does not allow the youth ministry to multiply, listen to various perspectives, and benefit from the life experiences and gifts of others.

If a youth worker can’t build a team and train them that’s one thing.  If a youth worker won’t build a team, that’s another story.

Don’t get caught in any of these traps. Stay humble, stay teachable, keep your eyes on Jesus and your job will be safe, well, at least safer.

 

 

 

Loving Your Neighbor With Pizza

I love this photo from @larrykim

This is what #hustle looks like. This photo says everything about a man willing to reach his goals by smuggling his resume in a gift. It’s a Trojan Horse or rather a Trojan Pizza.

It makes me think of how we “sneak” the gospel to our students. We buy pizza, play games, organize service projects, all the while sharing/living the gospel.

As youth workers, and as Christians, this photo should inspire us to include the gospel in our simplest actions. What if we delivered pizza to all our neighbors with a message written inside that said,

We just wanted to let you know that God loves pizza and He loves you. If you have any prayer requests please feel free to e-mail me at ________________

Love, your neighbor

What a simple concept with potentially life changing results.

Just like the man who courted potential employers, we can send a message to our neighbors that will not soon be forgotten.

If you are looking for more outreach ideas, I recommend the book Conspiracy of Kindness by Steven Sjogren

 

 

 

It’s My Fault

It’s my fault

It’s my fault if I have a bad attitude
It’s my fault if I didn’t accomplish my goals
It’s my fault if something doesn’t get done.
It’s my fault if I am not where I want to be
It’s my fault if I feel the way I feel
It’s my fault if people overlook me
It’s my fault if I don’t like the state of my relationships
It’s my fault if success is escaping me

It’s my fault, even if it’s not my fault.

I refuse to give anyone else control over my life by blaming them.

The goal of the post is to blame ourselves so that we work harder on us and less time trying to fix/blame others. Because the only people we can improve upon is us.

Own your stuff and then make changes, not before.

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?

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?