Starting The Year Right With Your Parents

Happy New Year Everyone! Are you glad last year is gone and the new year is here? Me too. One of the way to start your new year off right is by touching base with your students’ parents. I recently sent out my first of the year e-mail to my parents and thought you might benefit from it. I tried to do there things with this e-mail

1. Engage- I send out an e-mail every week that not only deals with youth programming but life in general.

2. Explain- Let be honest, some parents have no idea about the programs we run. I do my best to explain them  so they can choose what is best of for their kids.

3. Expect- Expectations are important. Parents have expectation of us and I have expectations of them. It is about partnership and working together to build the Kingdom of God.

Christianity is not a buffet but our youth programs are, so I do my best to make sure parents get to decide what their kids need and let them choose.

I Want My Kids To Be More Responsible (Be A Leader Not A Follower)

I don’t know of any parent who says to their teenager, “Please, let me do more for you while you play xbox for 20 hours a week.” We take leadership seriously in Fusion. We believe students should own and lead their youth ministry . They can hear from God just like we can. They can have passions, ideas, and visions just like we can. They can execute a plan just like we can, with a little guidance. They can build the Kingdom of God just like we can. That being said, we offer a monthly Endeavor meeting, where kids and adults get together to make plans and dream for what God wants to do in this youth ministry. If you want your kids to be responsible at home. Let them be responsible for God’s house. One will reflect the other. Our first Endeavor meeting will be Tuesday, January 10th at 6:30 p.m. Location is TBA. Endeavor meeting are for 8th grade students and up.

I Want My Kid To Be A Stronger, Deeper Disciple for Christ (Act On Their Convictions)

This is not a short term goal but a life long goal. We all want to get deeper, be stronger, and live out what we believe to the max. At least I hope we do. The first step to that, as parents, is to deepen our own walk with God.This is a great time for your kids to see you go deeper as we fast and pray together for the next 21 days. I spend two hours a week max with your kids, you spend at least 28-40 hours a week (when they are not in school). My impact is limited, your impact is limitless.

We have an event this month called Discipleship Camp put on by the State A/G Youth Team. it will be in Springville on January 13-15. It is a great time to getaway for worship and teaching. I would have let you know sooner but we were not planning to go because of the Gulf Shore trip. If you would like your child to attend, the cost is $75 for Endeavor members and $80 for everyone else, and is due this coming Wednesday. I have attached a form for you. Please send me a quick e-mail if you are wanting your child to go. You can check out some of the years district activities here www.alabamayouthministries.com

We are also offering Youth Convention March 2-4. More info will be coming about this next week.

I Want My Kids To Care About (Love) Others More

Jesus said, “I will make you my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the Utter Most parts of the earth.” Jesus told his disciples this after he promised the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus is still speaking this to us, and to our young people today. We will start in Jerusalem ( Pleasant Grove, Hueytown) and move to the Utter Most parts of the world in a three year plan. We will be designing special outreaches for your kids to bring their friend to for the next four months and we will be capping it off this summer with a trip outside the state. We will be having Missions Wednesday in two weeks January 18th. After reviewing our options and prayer will will choose a location and begin fundraising. You are invited to check out the locations we are considering on that night and share your thoughts.

If you think these programs will assist you in strengthening your family, then I say come on aboard! If there are other ways, or if you have other desires for your family, let Kim and I know and we will do our best to assist you.

As always, we pray for you and your family. Please pray for Kim and I as we serve you to the best of our ability.

Paul and Kim

 

 

Two Words That Do Not Go With Discipleship

 

I was driving my 17 year old son to school the other day. There are two roads to his school. One involves a traffic light and the other involves a stop sign. I usually take him the way of the stop light. My route involves going straight and then making a left. The other road is curvy, so I would have to drive slower and it takes me past the school and I have to come back to it, Longer right? When we reached the road that my son said was faster I could have argued and said, “No it’s not” and gone straight. So we went his way, but it still bugged me whether it was faster or not.

So, in my typical anal fact finding way, and a chance to tell my son his route was not faster, I went back the same way I came and timed it. I sat in front of the school, hit the stop watch on my iPhone and took off. I drove between 40-45 mph. My son’s route back to where we started took 2:55.3 seconds. I then turned and went my way, keeping my speed the same as the other route. I hit the light but I was only delayed a few seconds before the light turned green. Arriving back at the school I stopped the watch, it read 3:39.5. My son was right, it was faster. I was a bit shocked. I thought my was was faster.

This is the first word you cannot put together with discipleship: Faster. Faster is a selling word. Faster sells cars, cleaning products, and tax audits. All of these are things we want to go fast and to help us get done with whatever we have to do to get to the thing we want to do. Faster is provable because you can time it.

Which is the easier way to tie your shoes? Bunny ears or the traditional method? Neither to a man with no hands and a man with no feet doesn’t care. Easier is also a selling word, as in,  “Use this, it’s easier than…..”  Easier is a matter of opinion and context. What is easy to for one, is difficult for another.

Faster and easier are not the words we should be looking for when it comes to discipleship.

Is it easier to do discipleship one on one or in a small group?

Is it faster to make disciples if we get everyone to make the meeting or the retreat?

If someone tells you there is an easier or faster way to do discipleship, or even ministry in general, run away. It does not exist. They both can be tested but the conditions must be the same as the way the person that told you how they they reached X faster.

Words you could use to judge any discipleship method or practice

Effective

Conducive

Reasonable

Productive

Easier and faster are words we use in order to try to make our job easier.Faster and easier are great words to sell products but poor words to use when leading people in the way of Christ. There was nothing easy or fast about Jesus’ time with his disciples or His crucifixion on the cross.

Throw your two cents and two words in the mix. What two words would you use to describe discipleship?

 

 

How To Get Teens To Turn In Their Religion For Jesus

Think about hearing the gospel for the first time.

Those of us who have been Christians for a while, can’t really imagine this. We heard it, accepted it, and joined the rank and file.

Maybe that’s the problem with the model church and it’s frailty. We didn’t have to find an underground church to hear this good news. We didn’t get kicked out of our houses because we confessed Christ to our Muslim family. We didn’t have to share a portion of the Bible that was passed from house to house. The price for being a disciple of Jesus is so cheap, we’ve grown to resent any price at all.

Yet, in America, there are kids hearing the gospel for the first time. They are in your youth group.

I just read a post by Seth Godin. He said

“Campbell’s soup is almost never bought for the first time. It is a replacement purchase. No one switches to Campbell’s either. They buy it because their mom did.” – Seth Godin

Many of our kids are being handed down something that is less than the good news from previous generations. Our kids are inheriting the religion of their parents, but in many cases, this is not good news.

Our kids have been taught that it’s good to go to church, the bible is a good book, be faithful but not fanatical, and give when it’s convenient not when it it’ necessary. This is not good news. It’s bad.

The kids we get speak to every week have not made a choice, they’ve come with what was passed on to them and it’s killing the church.

How can we get a teen to turn in their religion for Jesus? A quick definition of religion before we begin

  • a particular system of faith and worship.
  • man’s way of attempting to please God

It’s not hard to convince teens to trade up on their religion if we show the difference between Jesus and religion. Here is a short list using the CEV version of Matthew 23

religion is not worth imitating (vs 3)

Jesus said, “Follow me”

religion is lazy (vs 4)

Jesus said, “Work while there is still daylight”

religion is for show (vs 5)

Jesus said, “When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1 (CEV)

religion is about being seen (vs 6-7)

Jesus said its about glorifying God.

(false) religion neglects the needs of others (vs 23,24)

Jesus met the needs of lepers, women, and the poor

religion cares more about the outside than the inside (vs 25,26)

Jesus said the inside matter most (Matthew 6:23)

religion values tradition over relationships (29-33)

Jesus showed relationships matter

After hearing this, which one do you gravitate more to? Which do you think your teens will embrace?

 

 

 

 

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Is Your Youth Group Lame? It Depends.

 

I had a great conversation with a parent yesterday because we were on the same page (I know, shocking!), but she shared how her daughter and another came to them after a recent service and said that youth group that night was lame.

A little back story. This youth group has had everything handed to it. They have not had a youth pastor last longer than a year in the past five years. I am launching into year two. The upside of of the conversations is that we both agree that both girls were not taking enough responsibility or ownership the group. Just because someone says your group is lame does not mean it is.  So what does the phrase, “This group is lame.” really mean? And how do you know if it is or isn’t? It depends.

Take The “Is My Group Lame?” Quiz

It depends, are doing all the planning? Yes? Then it’s lame.

It depends, are you tapping into kids gifts and letting them shine? No? Then it’s lame.

It depends, are you caving into the consumerism mentality of the spoiled few? Yes? Then it’s lame.

It depends, are you discipling (disciplining, correcting, guiding, etc) your kids? No? Then it’s lame.

It depends, are you trying to please everyone? Yes? Then it’s lame.

It depends, are you letting kids lead? No? Then it’s lame

It depends, are you willing to let kids fail? No? Then it’s lame.

It depends, Is Jesus the focus of your mission? No? Then it’s lame.

Did you flunk? Are you lame? The good news, your group is not incurably lame. You can change.

So, what is the opposite of lame? Do the opposite of the above things and find out.

 

 

Four Building Blocks of Outreach

I recently did a session for our kids ministry about the building blocks of outreach. Each principle builds upon another. Feel free to use this session with your leaders

Outreach Building Blocks

1. Passion drives everything.

Key Questions

Why did you get involved with this program? Tell me your story?

That story drives everything you do and will sustain you during difficult

2. We must eliminate the phrase “That’s too much work” from our mental vocabulary

Key Questions

How much work is too much work when our goals are critical?

If the best idea involves needing extra people, get them, if it involved vans, rent them, if it involves writing your own curriculum, write it. If the best idea will achieve your goals, then the extra work is not extra it’s necessary.

3. Are you sprinting or part of a marathon?  Thinking long term.

The problem can become our purpose. “Solve the problem.” becomes our mantra. The only problem is, there is another problem around corner. Once you start looking past the problem to the vision, the vision not only sustains you for now, it give you hope for the future. Get busy building the vision. Problem solved.

Key Questions

What would you like to see happen in this ministry?

3 months from now?

6 Months from now?

1 year from now?

4. Marketing is not a dirty word.

If you think you have a great program, talk about it. It’ not pride, it’s giving glory to God. God is moving in your ministry, in your kids, and in you. Your program is not perfect, but there is enough there to crow about. We should talk about our ministry as if it is the best place to serve in the church. If we do not believe that, no one else will either.

Key Questions

How should we get the word out? Click HERE for a Get The The Word Out Check List. You can use this tool to help you promote a special event or for how to get the word out about your weekly small group or youth group meeting.

What can we do that will make a kid hound his or her mother or father until they bring them?

What can we do in our printed pieces that best represent who we are?

How can we tap social media to get our message out about who we are, What God is doing, and why students should come be a part.

Final Note: 

Outreach is not an event. Outreach is ongoing, even when you are sleeping, Outreach happens inside the church as well as outside the church. Don’t limit yourself or the God you serve. God is outreaching and so should we:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

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Helping Guys Keep Their Spiritual Aim: An 8 Week Bible Study

  If you are not familiar with the History Channel show Top Shot, it is a show about guys in a multi-week shooting competition to become the seasons Top Shot. I took this simple premise and let the Bible do the rest. You get to shoot things and study the Bible? This is a guys bible study dream. The Apostle Paul was an incredibly focused man. He kept his aim true from beginning to end. These 8 small group lessons will focus on the Apostle Paul’s admonitions for believers to keep their aim as well. You can find the study here You’re Turn How are you reaching the boys in your youth ministry? Games? Serving Opportunities? What is your greatest challenge to reaching the young men in your youth ministry?

When Your Youth Ministry Is Too Weak To Lead

 

If you have read though many of my posts, you know I am a big proponent of student-led ministry. This is good in theory, but it requires, if they are new to the concept, hard work to retrain their mindset and the mindset of the church who might have certain expectations for you.

In small youth groups, which are most youth groups in America, 10-15 kids, trying to get your teens to own their youth ministry feels like a herculean task. You want them to carry this new standard but they are too weak hold it let aloe carry it. I began to think about this weakness and what causes it, and what we can do about it. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Spiritual Starvation– Youth groups that are built on games and entertainment, when approached with the idea of student leadership and it’s costs, sometimes choke on this idea. I know preachers preach meat over milk, but sometimes you have to go back to the bottle just so they can hold on to the knife and fork. Go back to the basics and the “why’s?” of why you meet and covering the basics of the gospel.

2. No Exercise– Youth groups who are not used to servant projects or mission trips, possibly have an inbred mentality of us four no nore. They haven’t exercised their faith in a long time and left them in a type of spiritual atrophy. Get those muscles working again in your church, your community, or anywhere else in the world and you’ll see their muscle tone return.

3. No Energy– The youth group that suffer from this might need some outreach opportunities to their friends. They have fatigue from too little or maybe from doing to much. Pulling off a big deal like a concert or event, give the group the big picture of what they can do for their youth ministry and community. Likewise, scaling back on a very busy schedule may free your kids up to lead

4. In-Fighting– It could be that your youth group has been fighting so much they are emotionally exhausted from tearing into one another. When countries experience this, from a coo or rebellion, it becomes more difficult to govern and make progress. Maybe there needs to be a peace treaty drawn up and you play the role of ambassador getting parties to sign it for the sake of the group.

5. Spiritual Anorexia and Bulimia– This youth group suffers from a identity problem. As much as you tell them they are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, they just see themselves as nobodies, and so they purge themselves of the nutrients they gobble in your meetings. Lessons on self image, who we are in Christ, and who is the church, may get them to a healthier self image and hold on to the meat of being leaders.

In the end, even though we want to reboot the group and get them growing, we may have to carry our group until they can carry themselves. Be patient, feed them well, exercise them regularly, work for peace, and eventually they will pick up their faith and run with it, then you’ll have to try to keep up with them.

Idealism Or The Idea? Your Choice Means Misery or Success

 

If you blow up the picture above, Captain America is waxing eloquently about how America should be. He ends with the phrase “no, you move.”  Idealism works for Cap, he’s a comic book character, he does not live in the real world, we do. Idealism says “you move”. Cap would not make it as a pastor.

According to the dictionary Idealism is the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, esp. unrealistically. I cannot begin to tell you how much idealism almost wrecked me in my young days. The battle between idealism and reality is strong and ongoing. Every conference we attend, article we read, and video we watch, draws what is perfect in our heads. When we bring those ideas to the youth ministry table, and start to push others around us to conform to it, that is where the trouble begins.

Idealism pushed people away.

Idealism forces it will upon others.

Idealism crushes our hearts and creates bitterness when it becomes unrealized.

The Bible is ideal. How Jesus disciples is ideal. Becoming consumed with the ideal attendance, the ideal strategy for small groups, or our ideal preaching style can all blind us to the reality of what Jesus is doing in our midst. We can become so consumed with the ideal anything, we miss the point of the idea itself. Idealism is the enemy of the idea.

Have you been ever been more consumed with your idealism (the forceful perfecting of an unrealistic vision) than in love with the idea, letting unfold naturally? Share your wisdom on how you killed the beast.

Post summed up: Idea good. Idealism bad.

 

The Lure Of Becoming A Secular Youth Ministry

 

Secular sounds like an antiquated word in this day and age, but it’s the only one I could think of to describe the alternative to a faith based, radical youth ministry.

The lure of becoming a secular youth ministry is very appealing. It calls to us. It beckons like a siren to

  • run a program instead of making disciples.
  • keep our head down and do our job.
  • avoid engaging the community we live in with the gospel.
  • put in office hours like everyone else on our block.
  • do what we’re told instead of what is best. Compliance is king.
  • not challenging kids to follow Jesus for fear they will leave.
  • preach behavior modification rather than an all sufficient Savior.
Youth ministry used to be radical, now it’s normal. What separates our youth ministries from the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, or other social relief agencies? Their is nothing wrong with any of the aforemetioned organizations, they’re just not the church. 
I miss Mike Yaconelli. Many times at the end of Youth Specialties he’d encourage us to go back to our churches and “get fired for the glory of God.” Today we’d tell him, “Good idea Mike, but not in this economy.”
Have you felt the lure? The passion drain? The desire for your youth ministry to be liked, respected and above all, normal? Do you have a suggestion on how we can avoid the trap of becoming a secular youth ministry? Tell us about it.

Six Ways You Can Make The Next Guys Job Easier

 

 

When Bill Clinton left office so George Bush could move in, Bill left a little present. Many of the White House staff took the W’s off all the computer keyboards. Very funny. But, if we take more than we leave in a youth ministry, it only hurts the future. I’ve inherited a few youth ministries in my time. In some cases, it was like I won a burned out house in a lottery. Now, it was probably, not the youth pastors fault entirely, but I suspect he did not help the situation. If you are planing on being at your current position forever, then ignore this post. If you think you might move on , can we please make the next guys’s job easier? Here are six things you could leave the next guy, that would make their job easier.

1. Leave them good records. 

Most of us walk into a group blind. We don’t know which end is up or how to approach our new group. Good records on attendance, visitors, events, etc. let me know where you left off and where I need to take the group. Leave behind a good list of names and address, maybe even some photo’s with names. Let me recommend Youth Tracker. It does this and so much more.

2. Leave them kids who know what consequences are.

I had one youth group that thought it was normal to talk while I was up speaking. I don’t mean whispering, I mean talking out loud. I don’t know how the previous youth pastor managed that. In addition, I could get no previous staff member to discipline a child. The group had an entitlement mentality and the staff had a “we don’t want to run anyone off” mentality. Reality Check: We don’t do a kid (or the future youth pastor) a favor by not offering our group a fair and consistent process of discipline. Those two girls? Yeah, they did not last long.

3. Leave them adult leaders to help them carry the load.

Leave behind a few leaders who get it. Leaders who know the group, know the process, and know how to work with the new guy. Leave some leaders who know how to carry on without you and are not loyal to a man but committed to the Lord and loyal to the group. Leave behind some adult leaders with a bigger vision than yours and the group you helped build, will be able to move forward.

4. Leave them kids who are familiar with the gospel, the Bible as a whole, and an idea of what discipleship is.

I have had groups where I shared a message about following Jesus and the group thought I was speaking a foreign language. Every Bible study, message, and devotion we share is an opportunity to galvanize biblical concepts and make it to where their is a lot less re-learning to do when the new guys show up. Let’s not preach or teach to save our jobs, look cool, or please people. If we keep the Lord and His Word center stage, we”ll leave a group behind that won’t think the new guy is speaking Cantonese.

5. Leave the next guy a cave full of student disciples (Leaders)

Some youth pastors show up to their new jobs like Elijah and wind up weeping over the fact that their are none who love the Lord and all have bowed to Baal. The Lord told Elijah, I have a cave full of people who love me who have not bowed to Baal. Let’s be intentional about making disciples of Jesus and not just disciples of us. When we are leaving a church, we should have talk with those students and tell them to get on board with the new guy. A youth group is bigger than us. There is a plan far bigger in play for this group and we are just part of it. Let’s not make it about us.

6. Leave them an epic example of how much you loved God and these kids.

I used to get mad when I came into a church that had a great youth ministry before I got there. Why? Because for the first year, all I would hear about was the last guy and the great events etc. Now I understand, they raised the bar. They lifted expectations and now I could not just fall back on my laurels, I had to step up. A youth ministry that demands the best of the next guy is a good thing. This does not make my job harder, it challenges me to step up and grow.

 

Tell me about about what you are leaving the next guy or tell me what the other guy did or did not leave you that you wish he had.