Is Your Youth Group A Life Changing Community?

I recently watch Katy Perry accept an award from the LGBT community, and what she said in the the first 30 seconds broke my heart. As one who has served the church for 27 years, I would have loved if Katy was talking about The Church.

There’s no other community that has done more to shape me

 

The two comments she makes, in the first 30 seconds, are indictments of the Church as a whole and youth ministry specifically.

Let’s begin with the first

There is no other community that has done more to shape my life

Community is supposed to be life changing, for the better. Unfortunately, the Christian community Katy grew up in did not have a positive impact on her. I do not want to point fingers, but someone dropped the ball on what a positive Christian community is supposed to look like.

As a youth worker, I want every young person to have a positive experience with the church community. Every year, my wife puts together a Youth Of The Year Banquet for the Boys and Girls Club. Kids get up and share stories about the positive impact the club has had on them and and many of them credit the organization for turning their life around.

How many of the kids in your youth ministry could say, “this community changed my life for the better?”

Can you imagine Katy Perry saying, to a packed room of youth workers, “This community change my life”? If we can’t imagine it, we should, because maybe if we asked these questions,  we’d re-think how we are doing community and what our community is producing.

Our youth ministries are life shaping communities, for good or for ill.

There is no other community I believe in more than you.

Jesus changed my life along with a community called the church.  There is no other community I believe in more than the church. This is what someone says when their

community embraces differences

community loves the outcast

community helps rather than hurts

community builds trust for a lifetime.

I don’t want to romanticize youth ministry or the church. It, like many others is flawed. It’s filled with flawed people. Like school bands who haze kids, coaches who value winning above character, companies who value profit over ethics, all communities can have a negative impact, not just the Church; but all those other organizations are not representatives on God incarnate upon the earth.

No other organization did the apostle Paul say of,

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her Ephesians 5:25

The expectations are much higher for a community of people who claim to be the hands and feet of Christ. Sadly, we use these hands to punch and our feet to kick others who are not like us. It’s no shock to me that Katy Perry would have someone else to thank for impacting her life in a positive way.

It’s because I have been deeply impacted by His church, His community, that I became a youth pastor so that I may help others discover this life saving and life altering community called The Church.

I am glad that Katy Perry found a community she could unashamedly thank and testify about. I just wish it could have been the church community. It’s our loss.

Is there anything you need to make your community a life giving community?

Can you imagine kids in your group thanking The Church, or more specifically, your youth ministry for having such a positive impact on their lives?

25 total views, 25 views today

How To Double Your Youth Group Attendance In One Year

If you are planning on on being at your church for only a year, then doubling it should be easy, but you have to hurry.

Throw lot’s of party’s and events.

Games, more games,  and game nights.

Keep your messages to ten minutes tops.

Do not challenge anyone to serve or lead.

Give away lots of expensive stuff.

Crank up the hype machine.

Don’t mention the cross or following Jesus.

Don’t talk about giving, sacrifice, or surrender.

Have a hot band with shallow worship songs and a worship leader that just wants to be seen.

Make sure you take lots of selfies with the latest whatever and whoever.

At the end of the year, thank them for showing up to all the cool stuff and avoiding Sunday school, Small Group, prayer times, revivals and anything that remotely looks like commitment.

Pack your car and head out.

Sarcastic rant ended.

Granted, a youth group can double in a year minus some of these tactics. Demographics, church culture, and honest moves of God can all play a part, but why the rush to grow?

You want the real secret to growing your youth ministry?

You ready? Here it is. Patience.

If you’re planning on being at your your church for more than three years you have plenty of time to grow numerically. Until then do this

Love kids.

Show up to their stuff.

Build a foundation of identity and community.

Build a reputation of reliability, faithfulness, and godliness.

Serve the whole church.

Teach and preach scripture with passion.

Love and serve families.

Call kids to follow Jesus, not you.

Encourage small groups and small encounters.

Make Jesus the focus of your worship.

and

Love kids.

Everything else is a tactic.

Want to draw a crowd? Tactics will do.

Want to make disciples? Patience is the key.

Watch me break it down  below

462 total views, 26 views today

Do What You Are Dangerously Good At?

Too many of us focus on our weakness. We’re trying to get better at things we have no business getting better at. That’s why I stay away from golf. Every time I go, someone wants to fix my swing or my stance.  Stop it!

There are those times we have to get better at weaknesses because our job demands it, but for the most part we should be doubling down on our strengths, and not just any or all our strengths, but our most dangerous ones.

What skill or talent do you have that, if you spent all your time doing it, you would crush it? That skill is wha you should focus on. Do the other stuff that’s necessary, but dial into that one or two skills that will level you up on the leader board and lead to greater  influence and demand..

What are you dangerously good at?

Speaking

Writing

Admin

Web Design

Selling

Preaching

Relationships

Supporting

Making

Designing

Do what you are dangerously good at and the level, volume, and speed of success you’ll achieve will scare you.

What are you dangerously good at?

 

333 total views, 17 views today

Lent Day 13: Even Now

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Joel 2:12

Even now. Saying this phrase transports me to the 80’s when I heard Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band sing it. It’s a song about love and about how much a woman has an impact on the singers life, even after so many years.

In my video this morning, I was thinking about the journey we all take ad the amount of “even now” moments we all face. We tell ourselves, “it’s too late”. “it’s over” and “I’ve gone too far”. Israel was notoriously idolatrus and hard hearted, yet, the Lord said, “Even now”.

Watch the video and ask yourself if you’ve had or are having an “even now” moment. My desire is that the video will fill you with hope to come back to the Lord from wherever you’ve been. He’s waiting for you.

371 total views, 18 views today

Invest, Invest, Invest and Then…

Many try to withdraw from bank accounts where they have not invested and wonder why they’re told “insufficient funds”. It’s simple, we haven’t invested or haven’t invested enough.

What do I mean by invested? I mean we haven’t given enough encouragement, worth, value, love or upside to the individuals around us. We haven’t given others the motivation or inspiration that would give us the results we are looking for when we need it most.

We need to invest physically with rewards for accomplishments and rewards for absolutely nothing, other than we knew they liked a certain kind of something, we saw it, and bought it for them.

We need to invest emotionally with our time, our words, and our care. We have to give, care, and love deeply to receive deeply. We need to be generous with our encouragement even when (or especially when) others do not perform to our standard.

We need to invest spiritually with prayers and listening. We need to be there for others during their tough times and show grace upon grace. The measure with which we give is the measure with which we will receive.

Start today. Start investing in those around you, not for today but for a year, five years, ten years from now when know you are going to need to

  • Have the hard conversation
  • Ask for more, ask for change, ask for commitment
  • Discipline someone.

Who do you need to invest in today?

What do you hope to withdraw a year from now?

Students? Parents? Your Boss? Family?

Invest, Invest, Invest, and then…

 

 

325 total views, 20 views today

How Much Do You Love The Journey?

How much do you love this journey, and change it to love it more if you are yearning for the tipping point – Gary Vaynerchuk.

Do you love it enough to change…

your schedule

your work habits

your fears

your relationships

your mission

your wants

your price

your hopes

your sleep

your life

How much is the tipping point worth to you?

390 total views, 18 views today

Fasting During Lent Doesn’t Have To Suck, If You Do It Right

Fasting is not fun, and it si not supposed to be. There. I said t. But it doesn’t have to suck either. Fasting is a wonderful spiritual practice,  but, let’s be honest. there’s no fun in giving up what you most enjoy. On top of that, if you fast the wrong way, it makes the experience even more terrible. A double whammy, if you will.

In today’s video I share about how to have the best experience doing your fast that will ultimately lead to joy, even if it’s not fun.

 

372 total views, 21 views today

Why Pentecostals Should Celebrate Lent

I have not always been Pentecostal. In fact, I did not choose to be Pentecostal,  it sort of chose me. I was a resistance, skeptical, former Catholic who found himself at a protestant Bible College seeking God.

I received the gift of the Holy Spirit in a church off campus and it was not a smooth thing. God and I had a struggle going on. I didn’t want to go to the front to be prayed for so I said, “God, if you want me have this, you can give it me right here.” And, by God’s grace, he worked with me and blessed me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

I was raised in the Catholic Church for 17 years. Needless to say, this experience was quite new.. Before you start thinking that I started jumping pews or running around the church, I did none of those things. I simply received and then smiled at how good God was to me.

Now, having been a Pentecostal youth pastor in some capacity for the past 26 years, old habits die hard. Lent is, and has been, one of my favorite times of the year. I used to love the colors in the church, the ashes on Ash Wednesday, and a whole church effort to get to know Jesus better. I carry this tradition on in my own life though I do not attend a Catholic church.

Pentecostals can be funny about the practices of other faiths, but I am here to tell you that Lent is not a Catholic practice or a Methodist practice, it’s a Christian practice.  If you’re a pentecostal and not familiar with what Lent is, here is a brief definition from umc.org

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

I know Pentecostals love fasts, such as the Daniel Fast, because we like to fast at the beginning of the year to get things rolling. We like the sound of ‘calling a fast” because it sounds super holy and super Jewish. Beyond these trivial reasons, Pentecostals should embrace Lent for other reasons.

First, we should embrace repentance. Although our sins are forgiven and we  enjoy every blessing in heaven and under heaven, we must take time to mourn for not only our sins but the sins of our nation. Our repentance may not be for our grievous sins of commission, but rather our sins of omission.

Second, Lent allows us to identify ourselves with the life and heart of Jesus. Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit for a time of prayer and preparation. We should take advantage of these 40 days to prepare ourselves to celebrate the greatest event in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In addition to preparing our hearts for the cornerstone of the Christian faith, we should also prepare ourselves for the mission God has for us, to bring the message of “He is risen” into every corner of our communities and our world.

Lastly, Lent is not about not receiving or asking anything of God,  but about acknowledging what has already done and for the grace to receive it. Lent allows us come to God not with open hands, but open hearts. Lent allows us to humbly come to Jesus and say thank you for loving me, thank you for dying for me, thank you for taking on my sins, my struggles, and my shame.

Let me close with some wise words from St. Teresa of Calcutta,

“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.” — Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Lent allows God to love us more fully so our hearts will be open to loving others more graciously.

If you are Pentecostal, consider looking at Lent in a different light and lean into  the sacrifice and surrender that Lent affords us.

This Lenten season, Christ our Savior awaits with outstretched arms to hold us, love us, and secure us.  Let us come humbly and enjoy His presence.

 

446 total views, 19 views today

The Anxious Rantings Of A Burnt Out Youth Pastor

“I just want to get out alive” I told myself before a recent youth meeting. That’s when I knew it, I mean I saw it coming, I just couldn’t stop it. Burn out.

I had yelled, “Why does any of it matter. ” towards, not at, my wife that morning. Is there a difference? Not to her. I said,, “Sorry, I was letting out some repressed feelings.” My comments  sounded like the incoherent babbling of an insane person.  I mean, I am a youth pastor, is this much of a stretch?

I’ve had several of these moment in the past few months, mostly alone. God just sits, nods His head a lot, and listens to my rantings until I wear myself out. He’s there to help me, but He’s left me some options to choose from. There is no one right answer and so He leaves me to choose. Yeah, thanks God.

This  blog is not just about youth ministry tips and tricks, it’s about the life of a youth worker, this youth worker; and if you’re cringing at the fact that I choose to be this honest, look away, go back to watching cat videos. Only the brave may read on.

Let me be clear, I don’t hate my job or the people I work with, but I am asking whether full time church work is still for me. I mean, 26 year is a long time. Burn out isn’t about hating what you do, it’s about the feeling that you are sued up, that you do not have enough left in the tank. I have moments of great energy and vision but I cannot shake the over-all feeling of either wanting or needing something different in my life.

I am not on suicide watch. No has had to take my shoelaces or sharp instruments from me. And, you happen to be a young person in my group or a church member who may read this, I am not unhappy with anyone  or quitting tomorrow.. This post is shared in good faith as I work through my journey with some kind of honesty, something many ministers lack because they are afraid they will not be seen as perfect or that something is wrong with them.

If you know me you’ll read this in the context of the relationship we have, if you do not know me, welcome to what it feels like to be me.

I was, I am, burnt out, but what am I to do? Youth Ministry is all I know and I still have to supply for my family. I am, as I heard Gary Vaynerchuck say recently,

“Fixing the plan as I fly it”

There’s really not any time to pull the plane in for a full inspection. I can only fix “the plane” in flight, as many people do. This leaves me with simply weighing options.

Here’s what I feel my options are and they may even reflect your options as well. Feel free to offer you suggestions in the comments.

Option One: Quit

Just quit. Just walk away. Leave full time youth pastoring, never to return. This begs the question is whether I can live without it or not. I have no idea. Several years ago I came back to youth pastoring from being fired. I was doing camp ministry at the time and decided that I should write the ending of my youth ministry career and not someone else, so I went back with God’s leading.

Quitting full time ministry is never an option because our lives are full time ministry, but quitting church ministry certainly is an option.

Option Two: Quit To Serve In Something Besides Youth Ministry

I could stay in church ministry but quit youth pastoring and move into a different kind of ministry, maybe discipleship, small groups, community outreach, all of which I would be qualified for. My fear would be that I would be sneaking over and hanging out in the youth pastors office and giving advice he didn’t ask for.

Option Three: Quit and…Part 2

I could quit church ministry and do some work in a community that is underserved and doesn’t have many youth workers. I could work in an inner city ministry, etc.; there are plenty of ideas but I have to let my heart simmer on those things for a while.  Any ideas you have are welcome.

Option Four: Take A Sabbatical 

In many churches, Lead Pastors can take an extended amount of time off to think, pray, write, serve etc. It’s possible that in taking this option I could try a few of the ideas I mentioned above but not many youth workers are offered this option. May be I could take my day off and try out a few things. It’s certainly and option.

Option Five: Go on my own and do more training of youth workers 

I have struggled with this option for quite some time.  To be honest, I don’t think youth workers, or potential supporters think this is a great need. I recently updated my Patreon page and offer s some cool benefits to those who pledge as little as $5.00.. You are welcome to check it out and see what I offer and then offer me feedback on what I could change that would inspire you to support this option.

I have to say, this is my preferred option because I would love nothing better than to walk along side youth workers and offer resources and through my Youtube Channel and the Youth Ministry in  Motion podcast.

Only time, prayer, and the market (you) will decide if this option is viable.

Option Six: Find a life coach or someone to talk it out with

This is easier said than done, but I am wide open to talking with someone who understands careers and not just my current moment. I am looking long term and I need someone for the journey. Ministry, like other jobs, is about hiding our faults and doing our best to look perfect and competent. Ministry, unlike other jobs is hyper secretive because in saying you are a Christian, and especially a minister, that everything in your life is supposed to be ok because we serve God. That’s just stupid. In fact, many times it is quite the opposite.

If you know of someone, feel free to recommend someone who is not half my age and looking to make a quick buck.

Option Seven: Sit, Wait, Pray

This is the hardest option, yet the most viable. Quitting is much easier. But, when I think of the kids and families I serve,  it’s the right choice. They mean the world to me and it’s the tension may youth workers who are in this thing for any amount of time live in. We love the kids and work, but we reach a point whether we believe we are giving them our best or not  and are better served by someone else.

For now, I’ll continue to pray and give my best. It’s what God would have me do until my next step is clear, or at least clearer.

This morning I was listening to classic rock radio and the song The Question came on by The Moody Blues. The line which grabbed me and reflects my heart at this moment is

I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life

Your prayers are welcome as I continue this journey of life and ministry. If you are on the same journey, feel free to leave a comment below.

Here is my video breakdown of this article

463 total views, 18 views today