Unmistakeable Youth Ministry

When kids come to your youth ministry could it be mistaken for something else?

Could it be mistaken for a club for only the cool kids?

Could it be mistaken for a YMCA with great activities?

Could it be mistaken for a TED talk where kids just sit and listen?

Could it be mistaken for an elevator where strangers occasionally stuff themselves to get to an emotional high?

If you want your youth ministry to be unmistakable..

invite the poor, the naked, the broken and the stranger

have activities that go beyond game nights and bowling  that serve others.

preach not only to inform but to transform and invite kids to respond

use small group(s) to get kids to connect and make that ride to the top memorable

Your youth ministry will never be mistaken for anything other than God’s church if Jesus is at the center, disciples are being made, kids love one another, forgiveness abounds and, ultimately, God is glorified.

 

 

 

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Experience Will Only Get You So Far

It’s hard to give back from a place of instability – Gary V.

This statement by Gary Vaynerchuk applies in so many ways, whether you want to give back financially, emotionally, or spiritually, you can’t do it from a place of instability or lack.

If I want to have anything to give to my own kids, my youth group,  my church, my communities, or my world at large, I have to shore up the weak places; and I have not been doing that.

Do anything for 30 years and you’ll start taking things for granted if you do not, daily, build the inner man. This is not to say I do not pray, read my Bible, or have spiritual disciplines, but I have relied on past experiences with God far more than I should have rather than allowing a fresh move of God to overtake me on a daily basis. It’s harder than you think, ask the Israelites of the Old Testament.

I, like the Israelites, want to horde the manna rather than wake up daily for fresh manna. I want my deeds, my prayers, my experience to sustain me, and it just doesn’t work. I am entering a new era of trusting God daily for today, not tomorrow, and not using yesterday’s manna to get me by (Genesis 16)

If you’re reading this, and your under 30, I’m giving you the real deal of what it means to come to a cross road in life and ministry. If you plan on ministering to teens (or to anyone), long term, you’ll need to work hard every day at shoring up the weak areas of your life so you can give back and create a legacy that matters.

Pushing forward, trusting daily.

 

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Tips For Live Streaming Your Church Service

I have had the pleasure and the challenge of leading our church into the streaming age. I’ve had plenty of experience streaming my own stuff, but for a church service, we needed a little more polish.

After studying all the options, we went with Mevo, a production device that puts you in the directors chair. As you can see, in the video at then of this post, we have control over the kinds of shots we take all from our iPhone. This is a perfect for smaller churches who just want to get decent production quality for a quality price. (note: I am an Amazon affiliate, purchasing the Mevo supports my work in training youth workers) 

But what good is quality live streaming with out a live person to interact with the community your streaming to? Once you’ve established with the platform you will stream on (Mevo works seamless with Facebook Live), you must choose someone to manage the online congregation who will join you.

Here’s how I lead the online congregation during the live stream.

Welcome Everyone

Right now, we have  small group that joins us live, many a dozen or so each Sunday. Regardless, I greet each one by name and welcome them to service. If the numbers jump to unmanageable state, I will have to rethink how I greet everyone, but right now it feel just like being at our homey church.

Pin Your Greeting To The Top

Once I have started the live stream, I am write a short greeting such as, “Welcome to PGA Live, we hope you experience God’s presence as you watch and participate” This stays up until there is a change in the flow of service.

The Greeting 

During greeting time, I ask those who are in the live stream, to great each other and maybe share where they are viewing from.

Worship 

During worship, I invite viewers to participate by asking them to share a praise report or to  hit the thumbs up or heart icons if a song is ministering to them.

During the songs I will post scriptures that go along with the songs and will often pin them to the top during this time.

Announcements

During the announcements I add some flavor text as well as other details that they need to know. This gives viewers an opportunity to ask questions about our various activities and events. If I’ve made an even page on FB, I direct them over there to sign up or get more info.

Giving

Giving online is the number one way people are giving. Some churches use pay pal and others a text to give option. No matter which way you choose, if you do not have an online giving option, your online congregation present and future, are being left out of the giving opportunity.

The Message

During the message I do my best to quote our Pastor when he makes a good point or to list his points as he is going along. If you can get your Pastor’s notes in advance you’ll know what direction he is heeding and you will be ready. Always be prepared because many of the good things your pastor will say are not in his notes.

As my Pastor is preaching,  I ask questions that go along with the message giving the online congregation an opportunity to comment or ask questions.

Altar Time/Prayer

During the altar time and prayer I ask the online congregation to pray for those who have responded as well as to post their own needs so we can pray for them.

Closing the Service

When the service closes, I thank everyone for attending and invite them to visit us in person, if it is possible. Sometimes I will leave a closing prayer, benediction, or declaration.

Your church service is probably similar to mine and your live stream will need certain nuances to fit you congregation.

If you have certain live stream practices, I’ve love your input. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

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Turning Your “To Do List” Into A “To Be List”

I love a good list. I love checking things off because my dopamine spikes when check something off. The problem with to do lists is that they don’t turn into “to be” lists. The things on my list are not translating into a more fuller life. Just recently, I was reminded of that.

I had had a full couple of days and today was no different. My Facebook told me I  was invited to a birthday party of a former student. I hemmed and hawed all day about whether I was going to go or not. I had other things to do the I thought were more important. God had other plans.

I went to the restaurant, where it was being held, and sat and watched as people interacted and I sat and caught up with an old acquaintance who was having some health problems.

Our serve arrived and to my surprise, it was another one of my former students. When she was young she and I had a special bond. She was full of life and joy. I can remember when faux-hawks were a thing and she decided I should have one. Reluctantly I let her shape my hair, what little I had, into the then trendy faux hawk. I’m glad the trend did not last because I looked only slightly silly in it.

After I moved on from the church, this young lady fell into a the trap of drugs and addiction. She had gone through a few programs and a life time of hardship. Today she was refilling my water and we laughed about life, church, and faux hawks.

Before leaving, while looking of the restroom, I saw a man whom I knew from church. He was a new Christian and had not been to church in a whole due to work and the fact that I wouldn’t just let him hang out in the youth room during youth group. I could sense that uncomfortable distance you feel when you haven’t seen someone in a while and they may or may not blame you for why they are not in church. He looked up, saw me, and acknowledged me so I took that as an open door to re-connect.

His son still comes to our youth ministry and I have been trying to involve him more and more. We talked briefly and then his dinner arrived. I left feeling like there wouldn’t be as much awkwardness the next time we saw each other.

All of this connection from one thing that wasn’t even on my list. I guarantee you that the other things on my list did not allow me to have these kinds of encourager and remind me why I was glad I had stayed in ministry as long as I have.

My encouragement is to leave room on your list (or just toss the old one) to

be kind

be generous

be human

be friendly

be you best self

and then find ways to match being with your doing.

How can you be more kind while picking up the dry cleaning?

How can you be more friendly with a new client?

Remember though, as I was reminded, the things that help you BEcome more, aren’t even on your list. Leave room for the unexpected and you’ll feel more accomplished than ever.

 

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The Day I Realized This, It Crushed Me

des·ti·ny ˈdestinē/ noun
  1. the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.
    • the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.

Today was a hard day. Today I gave up on destiny. For years I believed in a personal destiny to become what I thought God had intended for me. It seems like God has other plans, but I have no idea what they are. This is both a blessing and a curse.

When I finally said it out loud, I felt tears well up in my eyes. I had believed so hard for so long, it was just crushing. The idea of destiny was a torch I’d been carrying for a long time, and it was a relief to just let it go.

The curse part of this revelation is that I’m left with nothing to base my future on. My ideas are gone. My sense of direction is gone. My motivation is gone to achieve what I thought was mine by “right”. So, where do I put my time and energy now?

There’s a blessing in tossing away my destiny too. Truly, I have nothing left but faith, which isn’t such a bad thing. Where I once looked for signs of achieving my destiny, I look to Jesus and ask, “What’s next?” It’s kind of a relief.

As my journey as a full time youth pastor begins to wind up, with my “destiny”  in the wind, I find myself back in an adventurous place; something I have not experienced in a long time. Rather than looking for my destiny, my heart is open to whatever God should bring me.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare for new adventures.

Do you believe in destiny?

Could your belief in destiny be holding you back?

 

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3 Reasons I Live Stream Our Youth Service On Facebook

 

I have Live Streamed our youth service several times now, and I love it. Do we live stream because we have the greatest, hypest, most lit, youth ministry in the universe? Nope. In fact we are exactly the opposite. We are the most awkward 15-20 people ever and we gather to worship God just like 95% of other youth ministry just like ours.

Here’s why I livestream our youth service

I want to be an inspiration to the other 95% of youth ministries, just like ours. Our youth group is the standard in America. The hype machines, the 500 theatre seat youth rooms, etc. are anomalies. Demographics, good marketing, charismatic speakers, church infrastructure, etc. all play a a part in what we’re seeing in those videos. That is not to say that God is not in or moving in those youth ministries, because He is and will continue to.

These videos are seductive and Satan capitalizes on our insecurities to have us second guessing where we are and make us feel like “if only…”

I say “Embrace who you are. Embrace your context. Love Jesus together and don’t worry about the 1% of youth ministries are doing because you will never be like them.”

I live stream because I want youth workers to see the good, the bad , the ugly, the awkward, the rawness of what it means to do ministry with (not for) youth. I leave all the boring parts in the video because that’s real life. I know how to cut and edit video to make a youth meeting look more awesome than it may be in reality, but that’s not real youth ministry. Real youth ministry is not a highlight real of greatest moments. It is down and dirty work, day in day out and it’s the reality I want young youth workers to experience before reality punches them in the mouth.

Streaming our services serves the kids who cannot make it. Granted, most of our kids are on Instagram, but their parents are not. If a parent wants to share the service with there kids, they can. Now, many kids are not off Facebook entirely. There are plenty of young people hanging around, because they comment.

I have kids who are in the military who tune in or kids who’ve moved away watch. I have kids who have graduated out of our church, or church entirely, but not their faith and they watch to remember the good times they had in our youth room.

I might capture someone’s attention. We are a small church in a small town and there are a ton of kids who do not go to church anywhere. I think our community of students are awesome! We are not building a Pharisee Factory where pump out kids who all belive the same thing and can quote John 3:16. We are are planting a farm where, if kids will hang around  long enough, will become lifetime followers of Jesus and not just momentary believers.

Granted, I know a lot of students are on Instagram and, if I had another phone, I’d be streaming there as well. For now, I am doing what I can, with what I have, with the hopes that some kids or parent sees a game we play, a song we sing and a word I share and think., “This is a community I could belong to.”

If you want watch me share these thoughts, and a few more, you can click the video below. If you want more FB Live vids follow me on FB

Lift Youth Service

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The Wrong Kind of Busy

If you’re busy putting out fires…

If you’re spending more time online complaining and defending …

If you’re constantly having to argue over what you can’t do…

You’re the wrong kind of busy. 

Spend your time investing in others and those fires will diminish

Use your online presence to inspire and teach and ignore the haters.

Do what you can while you wait for other doors to open.

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?  – Henry David Thoreau

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Growing Older In Youth Ministry Sucks

I hate to disappoint you youngin’s in ministry who, like me, romanticize youth ministry. You may think it’s great being the grizzled veteran whose seen it all only to sit with a bottle of scotch at night smoking cuban cigars and wondering where the time went…ok the last part isn’t true. well, partially, I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which, I just felt like monologuing my own youth ministry noir.

I’m 49 on my way to 50 and I’m not happy about it. I called a childhood friend tonight so he could cheer me up and that level was unlocked. He asked me how my journey towards 50 was going and I told him it sucked.

I basically feel like I’m semi-re-tired. I have way too much free time, other than making youtube videos, podcasts, etc. My youth group and church isn’t very needy so I’m left to my own devices. Growing old sucks, but growing old in youth ministry, at least right now, in this moment, isn’t great either.

I lack the desire to do do many of the things I used to like to do in YM which is normal in the aging process. Maybe I just need a testosterone shot or maybe God is doing something else. I’m prayerfully considering both options but that isn’t all I’m struggling with.

I came to the realization today that I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t believe there is a fixed point in time that I am supposed to reach. I still believe in God’s providence and His presence in all things, but my reality is what I make it. There’s no “big break” coming, no matter how hard I try,

I feel like Barry Allen in the Flash trying to get faster so he can save Iris from her death that he saw in the future. Flash finally taps out and admits he can’t do it.  Whatever future I saw for myself as a young man, it’s just not going to happen and I’m spending much of this year coming to terms with that, but It’s not easy.

I wish I had some words of wisdom for you. Maybe when I hit 51 I’ll have better perspective or maybe I won’t. My journey through Ecclesiastes is helping.

Verses like

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. Ecclesiastes 8:15

and

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, Ecclesiastes 2:24

are certainly helpful.

I still wound’t give up all the memories and God moments I’ve had with students and maybe that’s the normal progression, or rather regression, of aging.  Maybe I need to take more time to reflect and less time trying to get somewhere. I don’t know. I’m still working that out.

I hope you don’t mind a little bit of honesty and a little less How To. This is the disciple project blog and aging in ministry is part of my journey as a follower of Jesus and if you’ve read this far, thanks, I appreciate it and there may be even more honesty forthcoming. I hope it serves you well in your life and ministry journey.

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The Danger of Study, Preach, Repeat

I know it can’t only be true for me, but there was a time where I would only read the Bible to “get a message” for my students or congregation.

Sad, I know, but I think it’s because of the way I viewed scripture that caused me to treat it in such a way .

I thought the Bible was a textbook for my job and, like a student, I had a test every week I had to prepare for. I thought I had to know all the answers and ace the test. I made the Bible about me knowing things for other people rather than enjoying the Bible for myself.

That’s the danger of study, preach, repeat; we see study/preaching as a job rather than an authentic way of living.

It’s possible to know a lot about the Bible and be as spiritually dry as a bone. How can we, as youth pastors, balance the reading and study of scripture for work and the devotional side of scripture which grows our own soul?

Plan Growth Into Your Schedule

Some people plan a study time, maybe 2 hours to work on a message. I know there are all kinds of ratios of how long is the message versus how much should I study, but that’s not me. Growth is a 24/7 endeavor for me, so sectioning off time tells me there’s a stopping point when I don’t believe there is one.

Just like when we pray, we say amen at the end but that doesn’t mean we won’t pray the rest of the day. I know we have to have some hard core time for study, I just don’t limit that time.

I plan study into my day in different ways.

Daily Study/Sharing Versus Message Prep

  • When I go for a walk I listen to scripture through the YouVerion Bible App
  • I do a FB live devotional on Facebook from 9-9:30 a.m. . I read, study, and pass it on which means it comes back to me through my own ears. Doing this daily means accountability and doing it live means I better be engaged with the Word I am reading.
  • I post scriptures on my Instagram with a short devotional.
  • I use websites like www.biblehub.cc when preparing so I can look up Greek/Hebrew  words to get context and understanding.

I can’t say enough about learning and sharing on a daily basis. I love doing this  because it keeps me from becoming a Wednesday and Sunday Pastor (or Christian). It shows my community that I am all about the daily living and not about preparing for a once a week meeting.

The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.  – John C. Maxwell

Meditate and Reflect

Just like I build in study time, I build in meditation time, think time.  I like to chill and listen to podcasts like Pray As You Go  witch is like an audio Lectio Devino which asks me to think and pray and engage with God.

I don’t put pen to paper, as far as a message, until I have fully thought through the scripture and have

  • asked “what is means
  • asked “what it means for/to me?”
  • ask, “because of these revelations, where do I need to take my students.

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. Psalm 119:15

Practice What It Says

We cannot divorce the preaching and the doing. When I am prepping my message, I try to figure out how to put myself in position to practice or obey what I’m learning.

If I’m talking about forgiveness, I have to find ways to be forgiving or reflect on if there’s anything to be forgiven of by God or others.

If I am talking about giving I have to look at my giving and ask God how this principle needs to be reflected in my life and how do I demonstrate this to my students.

In the practicing of scriptures, we won’t have to look up good illustrations for our messages, we can share from our personal experiences.

An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. – Mahatma Gandhi

I judge no one but me. I know me and you know you. I would ask you to consider your current spiritual practices and if they contribute to, first, your daily growing, and secondly, to the growth of others.

Growing others without growing yourself  is to water all the plants but one. Soon, that one plant will die and then who will water the other plants?

Grow your own soul and you’ll have no problem growing others.

I recommend these books

Soul School (Enrolling In A Soulful Lifestyle)

Nurturing The Soul Of The Youth Worker

Soul Food For Youth Workers

 

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The Number One Reason I’m Not Ministering To More People

I don’t judge, I react and sell. – @garyvee

I love entrepreneur and CEO Gary Vayerchucks’ directness. He’s a salesman and he’s trying to get to the sale. Gary eliminates anything that gets in the way of the sale because he values speed. Judgment gets in the way of him moving as fast as possible, so it has to go.

His words have been bugging me for a few months now because I know I’m not doing as much as ministry as I like, going as fast as I like,  because I’m allowing judgement to interfere with “the sale”.

In other words, I’m complicating things.

Judgement is an anchor that slowing me down.

Judgement make my life less aerodynamic.

Judgement makes me process things too long. It makes me fearful of who I might offend or upset.

Judgement keeps me from saying yes to loving people right where they are.

Too much thinking, processing, exegeting,  keeps me from, what Gary calls, “the sale”.

Gary doesn’t allow a persons color, gender, or sexual orientation, or even past hurts get in the way of “the sale”. Gary loves to tell stories about people who screwed him in the past but later wanted him on their podcast or to do a favor or to do business with. Gary said yes every time. In other words, if he deal is good, everybody’s money is as green as the next persons, even the people I don’t like. Gary doesn’t let personal feelings get in the way of his generosity. He likes to say, “Doing the right thing is always the right thing.”

As a follower of Jesus, I don’t see Jesus getting bogged down in the process of who He will minister to. Everyone needs help. Everyone’s soul is of equal value.

Jesus didn’t care if you were a woman, a leper, or a tax collector. He didn’t care about the taboo or the rules. His  “sale” was ministry. Jesus wanted people to be well, to be whole, to be saved, to be safe, to be loved and He didn’t allow for anything to slow that down.

Me on the other hand, I feel like I’ve been living the Christian life at a snails pace. I feel like I’ve been moving in spiritual slow motion. If I want to move faster and minister to more people, I have to cut the anchor.

In the movie Yes man, Jim Carey, plays a man who has played it safe, until he decided to say yes to every opportunity that came his way. This new way of approaching things was liberating at first, but in the end it was exhausting. Good judgement doesn’t mean saying yes to every opportunity, but it does mean saying yes to the right opportunities.

My judging is keeping me from helping people, praying with people, eating with people, building stronger relationships with people, forgiving people and depriving others from the help and hope I might be able to offer which, in the end, is ultimately hurting me.

Judgement is a barrier to my progress, my prosperity, and my personal growth and I need to stop. It’s easier said than done, but I’ll start with cutting the anchor off today today and see how fast I can go from there.

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