I some up the ministry part of my life with these 7 words:
I Love To See Youth Pastors Succeed
When I am not trying to help youth pastor succeed, I am laughing with family over crazy stuff, playing games, and making memories.
I got a call the other day from a mega youth movement in our city. They were inviting me to an end of school rally. I appreciated the call and thanked him. A few days later I received another call inviting me to the same event. I had been thinking about mega-churches and mega youth movements and their responsibility to the rest of the body of believers within the community.
Mega churches are, dynamically, like Wal-Mart. When a Wal-Mart moves into a community , it has an adverse effect on mom and pop stores, usually resulting in them closing. Mega-churches have a similar effect. I define a mega church or youth ministry of over 100, since the average church congregation is about 100. Wal-Mart has no responsibility to mom and pop stores, but what if they did? What if they shared marketing secrets or better customer service tips? This would level the playing field to some degree and then it would be up to those owners to change to get a chance to compete within the market place.
What if Mega-Churches or groups did the same? Rather than gutting our youth ministries or young adult programs and saying too bad, teach us how to thrive. Now, I know the mega’s have events that equip the body. They host larger speakers, conferences, and concerts that smaller groups could not afford. That certainly helps, but there are some other things I’d like to see them do.
I’d like to see mega movement youth leaders and youth pastors
Join a local network- Many times these leaders will say they do not have time. Bunk! Come hang out with us.
Teach us something- Share what you know with us. Teach us how to draw students or have an awesome camp.
Partner with us- Bring your awesome drama team or band to our group.
Reach out to us- I want to hear from you, not your people. Mega groups draw criticism because of isolationism. Break down the walls.
This is not sour grapes, just an observation. I am also not a spiritual socialist, believing all things should be equal among us. I think Mega youth groups have a mega responsibility to the rest of the body within a community, unless they want to be Wal-Mart. At the very least, don’t ignore us. We may be mom and pop churches but we have purpose. Invest in us, build relationships with us, and then let us stand on our own and we ‘ll see what God will do. Next time, don’t call me to come to your event, call me to come into relationship with you.
What do you think? Do Mega-Youth Ministries or movements have a responsibility to the rest of the body within a community or is it all cut-throat and the strongest survive? Tell me what you think.
I am heading off to our summer camp next week and I thought I’d pass along a few things I do that make my life easier:
I meet individually with students who I think might cause me a problem. I challenge them to step up and lead or give them a job for the week, such as watching out for younger students to make sure they’re not picked on.
I over communicate with parents about any changes.
I make sure every kid has signed our camp standards covenant
I think of a surprise or bonus I can spring on the kids that week. It could be as simple as candy bars or free t-shirts.
I make sure my Pastor has a count and a list of campers so he can pray for us individually
I meet one final time with parents right before the trip for about 10 minutes to challenge them to prepare a home where they can live out the things they have committed in their hearts to Christ.
Do you have a list of things you run through to make your camp run smoother? Share them with us.
If you are concerned about why your students will not step up and lead, see if any of these may be true. I have been guilty of all of these, but no more. This generation is too important for us to ignore or waste the opportunities God gives us.
1. Johnny can’t lead because he is burdened and buried under a culture of average.
Even though numbers drive us, can we all work to get past this? Can we get beyond numbers or competing with First Church down the street for the sake of finding out what God is doing and do that. Average youth ministries won’t cut it for Johnny and he won’t be there.
2. Johnny can’t lead because he doesn’t understand the gospel.
The gospel says, lay down your life, but Johnny’s culture says to save it, hold on to it, don’t sacrifice. Johnny can’t lead because he does not understand the gospel as Jesus taught it. Unfortunately we perpetuate that because we are afraid to challenge Johnny and fear losing him.
3. Johnny can’t lead because has had no one to model leadership for him.
Where have all the leaders gone? We have silo’d our ministry so much, our young men are never a part of men’s ministry. Our men need someone to mentor and out kids need mentoring. We should try to make this kind of connection a regular part of our ministries.
4. Johnny can’t lead because no one told Johnny he could.
We should be affirming our young men in their gifts and then invite them to use and fine tune their gifts in the ministry as well as the chance to fail greatly.
5. Johnny can’t lead because Johnny doesn’t see the value in it.
Have we turned the Christian life, the great adventure into the great list of rules? Who wants to lead that?
6. Johnny can’t lead because his youth pastor can’t keep his or her hands off things.
Stop. Just stop. Quit trying to save your job and save your soul.
7. Johnny can’t lead because he is constantly being saved from failure.
Here is a quick primer for how failure should work
Give Johnny a task
Make him accountable
Equip him to succeed
Let him fail, but not to the point that it would crush him. Protect but don’t save.
Thank him if it was his best effort and rebuke him if it was not.
Why should it be our goal to erase any excuses or blockades to the door that leads Johnny to taking his place? I believe, if Johnny steps through that door, it will be awfully hard for him to go back. Isn’t that what we want?
Preaching. It means different things to different people. To some it means a short devotion, to others it is a 45 minute message with spitting and sputtering included. I love preaching but there are pressures that go along with it that I do not enjoy. When you get up to preach in youth group I can feel all those eyes on me wanting something, expecting something different. Here are the some of the pressures I feel come through those eyes and occasionally their mouths.
1. Say Something Funny: When speaking to youth there is a pressure to be funny. We think, if we do not include some humor in this talk some how, we will lose them. The challenge for us, and by us I mean me, is to be funny and stay on topic. Some youth pastors, believe it or not, are not naturally funny. Many of us have a dry sense of humor versus being boisterous. Some of us are Steven Wright and some of us are Chris Farley. No comedian is the perfect model of funny, they are all very distinct and so are you. Be funny, but don’t feel the pressure to say something funny that will take away from being naturally funny. Mistakes get made this way. Trust me, I know.
2. Say Something New: We are preaching from the same book. We talk about the same people. Jesus seems to be part of every message. The good news is, this generation doesn’t know the stories and some do not know who Jesus is. This gives us a chance to present new ieas to fertile ground. It’s all new to them. For those who do know Jesus and the Bible (a.k.a church kids), can sometimes give us that look that says, “Oh, great, I’ve heard this before.” We can’t and shouldn’t try to come up with something “new”, but to express these old truths in new ways. Try props, location (preach from on top of a table when doing the Mt. of Olives) , or preach in the dark when talking about the sun turning black. Be aware though, designing creative message every week is another pressure we often create.
3. Say Something I Agree With: Preaching against culture to young people is like preaching against bones or peeing on trees to a room full of dogs. Culture can become a whipping boy. It’s convenient. We may think “Lady Gaga will surely supply my next sin to preach against.” Preaching against culture is easy. Lot’s of material there. Your kids may nod their heads but they are not listening. They are not erasing songs off their ipods or blocking You Tube from their computer. I do not think culture is the issue. I think transformation in Christ, long term , is. There will always be another Harry Potter or Lady Gaga to bash, but there is only one Jesus to lift up.
4. Say Something Relevant: Is this on the test? Isn’t this what we ask our teachers when studying for a test so we know whether we should be listening and learning this material? I find that kids do the same thing with preaching. Is this relevant to my high school or jr. high world? I am 43 and I find it tough, sometimes, to remember my jr. high years. The good news is, I have three kids and two of them are teenagers. It’s a great refresher course. In preaching, I can’t keep up with every trend or fad but I do know what is real, and that is the place I have to preach from.
5. Say Something, But Don’t Take Too Long: Keeping it short is tough for me. I want to say everything, but when I feel this way I have to remember what Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”. I can’t say it all. As we get older we accumulate knowlege and experiences but we cannot fit them all nside a 15, 20 or 6 hour message. We know too much and our kids know so little. The pressure to share everything can derail the point of our messages, it has for me many times. Jesus told His disciple that it was better for Him to go away so The Comforter can come. I have to trust the Holy Spirit to say what I do not have the time to say. Jesus took the pressure off his physical self and placed it in the hands of God. Not a bad idea.
6. Say Something Meaningful: This may be the only pressure I put on myself. We have 52 weeks a year, minus 3 for holidays, revival, etc. so 49 weeks to say something that matters. There is the pressure to say it all in one night, as I described above, but you can ease that pressure if you see yourself as a long term partner in ministry rather than a one time, one year, one hit wonder. The key to relieving yourself of this pressure, is to pace yourself. Think longterm discipleship preaching and not just ” I have to get a response” preaching. Think about putting together a three month preaching calendar and let your students help you. Why guess what they want when they can tell you and then support it and help you design it?
I have not “preached” and will not “preach” all summer. This is new for me. It is a different kind of sabbatical for me. I think of it in terms of my favorite musical artist. What if our favorite music artist felt the pressure to put out an album or even a song every week? What if they did? Instead of hearing an inspiring, deep felt song that shares what the artist experienced in his/her life over the past year a we’d instead get songs about him or her sitting at the DMV and brushing their teeth. What dramatic thing can happen every week that deserves a song? There is a plus side to not preaching ever week. I am at a place where I have to speak every week but I only want to preach when I have something of value to say. When I kick back into preaching in the fall, my hope is, I’ll be dropping an album worth listening to.
Think about it. Much of our work as youth pastors is done in secret. We plan many of our messages, have meetings, and do youth work in secret. We don’t mean it to be a secret but it just winds up that way. We’re not trying to hide what we do but inadvertently block the view of those who are desperately looking for who we are and what we are all about. Jesus extols the virtues of secret in Matthew 6
““Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
I am not asking we violate this. Jesus references the Pharisees, who flaunted their spirituality and false piety. I am not saying we take our spirituality and make it front page news. I am saying that much of what we do in youth meetings is secret to a world of young people who will never attend our youth meetings, who desperately need to see it and experience outside of the four walls of our church.
I needed some inexpensive used tires this past weekend. The usual place I go was too busy and they did not have enough used tires, which was my budget. I found a place not too far from me and they did not work in secret.
Think about it. When you go to a traditional garage, you drive in, drop off your keys, and then you wait. What they are doing to your car is a secret. It leaves your mind to wonder:
Are they really working on my car?
When will they be done?
Are they taking good care of my car?
Are they messing with anything else?
Secrecy breeds paranoia. This tire place I went to worked in the open. I drove up and saw a row of jacks in the front of the business. I was greeted by a service tech and brought to the back where I got to pick out the tires I wanted for the price I wanted.I saw him grab the tires, roll them out, jack up my truck and put the tires on, all in about 20 minutes.
What is your youth ministry currently doing “secretly’, that you could do more openly?
This Wednesday we are borrowing an ice cream truck and going around our neighborhood and passing out free ice cream. We are taking who we are publicly. We don’t want people to wonder what goes on inside those four walls two times a week. We want a community to know, this is the spirit of what is happening all the time and who we desire to be consistently.
This Wednesday, we are visiting the seniors and the shut ins of our church. We don’t want them, or the church as whole, wandering what are doing or what we we are about. We don’t want our secrecy to conjure untrue thoughts in the minds of our congregation.
This Wednesday we are visiting those students who have not been in a while. We want them to know that our care is not a secret, but it lives and breathes outside our youth room.
Do your youth work in the open, dispel everyone’s preconceived ideas of what your church is about and dispel the paranoia of your church, board, and pastor. You do good work, don’t keep it a secret. God does great work, do it in the open.
Let me preface this post by saying I’ve been at my church for under a year. I understand that you have to jettison a senior class or two within a youth ministry to expunge former philosophies and practices and to import new ones that will grow over time. This fact does not make Senior Sunday any less sad for me. Eighty percent of the seniors I’m graduating, have not had any significant relationship with me or have they been involved in the youth ministry over the past year. This means, when I stand up to introduce them to the congregation, I will not be able to
Share stories of spiritual growth
Share moments from trips or events
Share about about how much I care about them (I do but it’s hard to really care about people you don’t know)
Share about funny moments we all shared
Even sadder, their parents could care less if I shared about these things. Maybe because they’ve had all the spiritual moments they needed in life. Maybe because with strong family units they did not need another spiritual community. If this is the case, God Bless them. Here’s a another saddening realization, their futures, unfortunately, include
Not attending church
Not continuing to grow in their faith
Not caring whether the generations that come up after them in the youth group will have spiritual role models
What if I read that as their future plans in addition to going to college? Right, like a lead balloon. Can you say job hunting? The last of the saddest news is, I don’t know if their is an answer for our community. Oh, I could say Jesus is the answer but that is trite, and quite frankly, stupid. Jesus is not duck tape, You don’t slap him on broken spiritual lives and hope it holds them together.
To quote the great philosopher Dirty Harry, “A mans got to know his limitations”- Magnum Force.
I know mine. I also know God’s, He has none. Only God, by his grace, can save, inspire, and bring to pass, the spiritual growth needed to move this community past Senior Sunday. I have no confidence in the flesh. I have great confidence in God, but, that does not make me any less sad.
What challenges or emotions do you face on Senior Sunday?
Convoy of Hope and Samaritan’s Purse are just a few of the amazing ministries that have converged on Pleasant Grove and all over Alabama to help out. They supply much needed with relief with food, water, and meals. As with all relief ministries, they commit about 2-3 weeks to an area and then move on to others who need their help, as they should. As you have may have seen on my Facebook or blog, I have started a next phase missions work called Rebuild Alabama. With my own church destroyed and not being able to be a station of relief; I have chosen to partner with many of my friends like Uth Stuph, Interlinc, and churches around the area to answer the question youth pastors across the country have asked me, “How can we help?”
Rebuild Alabama is a week long missions trip to help with homes that were not destroyed, but are in desperate need of repair. We are moving as fast as possible to put all the pieces in place so you can bring your group. Here are the areas we need prayer for
Favor with the city governments
Churches who will partner with us to host groups
Meeting the needs of those who do not have home insurance.
If you are interested in joining us in Alabama this summer you can download a sample schedule here. We will have more forms available tomorrow for your students and yourself to fill out, but I hope this at least helps you see a snapshot of what we are up to. If you join us, you will receive t-shirts supplied by Uth Stuph and a week long devotion written by the crack writers at Interlinc.
Join me in prayer, and in person, beginning June 12th, as we push forward to Rebuild Alabama.
When a shift happens in someone’s life, we think, that’s too bad, until it happens to us.
When chaos is the current reality of someone’s life, we think, that’s too bad, until it happens to us.
Well, it’s happened to me. The stories I once saw on the news of churches being wiped out is now my reality. For those who may have been hiding in a bunker for the past few days, Alabama was struck with devastating tornadoes. I am youth pastor in a town called Pleasant Grove. Our church, along with much of the town, was leveled. I have taken the past few days to process these thoughts, the things I’ve heard and seen. It seems I have more questions still than answers.
What will happen to this town?
What will happen to our church
Will people move or rebuild?
Will I even have a youth group after all this?
The questions remains, but I know God has the answers, and they will unfold in due time. We may think going into a town and working is exciting, even thrilling until it happens to us, Until it’s our town that is destroyed. Until it happens to us, we really don’t get the magnitude of the situation. I mean, yes, there is destruction on a massive scale, but it is the quiet, unsettling questions that keep you up late and wake you up early.
We don’t realize how helpless we are until it happens to us.
We don’t realize how many friends we have until it happens to us.
We don’t realize how spiritual or unspiritual we are until it happens to us.
The most important thought may be, we don’t understand what kind of God we serve, until it happens to us.
I spent two days with my son at a camp recently. Spending time with and being a counselor for 100 5th graders was an experience in itself. Something that impressed me, but also irked me were the meal times. The food was good but the process of clean up was so tedious it was almost maddening; but there was one feature that caught my attention and that was the weighing of the left-over food. They weighed the waste. It was pretty cool on multiple levels:
1. It showed kids how much food they were wasting in any given meal. The first weigh in was 8 pounds among 100 kids.
2. The waste included orange juice and milk because it came from living things
3. They challenged the kids to decrease the waste at each meal By the end of the weekend we had reduced our waste to 2 pounds. Pretty good, considering the finicky-ness of 5th graders.
This experience got me thinking about how much money, time, and resources, I’ve wasted in youth ministry over the years. Some would argue that their is no waste in youth ministry, it’s all of value, but I disagree. Think about your last few events. How much did you spend? Was the outcome worth cost? How do you know? Take how much you spent and divide it by how many kids participated. Now, if it was a paid event, like a retreat, and it was a wash, then it’s even. The events I am focusing on are the vents where we throw the Hail Mary event and hope for the best. So, how do you measure your waste? Take these four areas and throw them on the scale.
Time We all do this. Whether it’s Angry Birds or if you are like me, Empire Avenue lately. What should be on your scales?
face time vs social media time with kids
office time vs personal interaction time
serving time vs relaxing time
reading/study time vs t.v. time
phone calls vs e-mails
student leaders vs the new kids
The list can go on, add yours in a comment section of the post. We waste a lot of time rather than investing time where it counts.
As I said earlier, we waste a lot of money on events and stuff, that does not work. Try a personal budget audit. Look at the last few events you had, and see if they were pluses or minuses. Then compare them to last year, if it is a yearly event, were they pluses or minuses? Take stock of the curriculum you bought. Have you used them? Were they effective? Throw it on the scale and make some changes.
This is an important item to put on the scale. How much man power capital have we wasted because of personal conflict, inner turmoil, prejudices, and other factors. Are we wasting our own time because we are not investing in others? What goes on the scale?
Your Team or Youth Team Recruitment Capital
Each of these are resources we could be ignoring and it could be a waste of our time and of the personal capital we own. In other words, do you find yourself working too hard because you are unwilling or unable to use your relationship time more effectively. Most of my problems can be solved with a 10 min phone call. But if I don’t make those calls, it leads to hours, days, or months of wasted time managing the problem vs solving it.
I am in the midst of a youth room make over. I don’t like wasted space, so I am trying to fill it with usefulness. Do you have couches where a cafe could go? Do you have old equipment where a counseling are could go? How often do you use your youth hall or gym? Once a week? Once a month? How much of that space is wasted? What new ministries could you start (not run) to fill that space? Our motto should be: No Space Put To Waste.