12 Keys To Unlocking Your 2018

I don’t like to rush things. I like my seasons in order. I don’t like Halloween stuff in stores before October. I don’t like Christmas music before Thanksgiving. But, I love thinking about New Years  Eve and 2018 in late summer.

There is never a bad time for preparing.  I love taking notes, jotting down little ideas for message series, service projects, etc.  and then compiling them into some kind of strategy for the next quarter.

Our preparation to make an impact on the students we serve includes

Prayer

Nothing will happen without inviting God to the party. Jesus went to a wedding and turned water to wine. Our plans, without God, are just water. Our plans, like water, are utilitarian and will suffice in keeping the engine from overheating, but that’s all. With God, out plans are changed, re-arrange and transformed into something far greater and make an impact far deeper that we could have imagined.

Asking the right questions

Jesus was asked a lot of questions and asked a lot of questions himself. We do not spend nearly the time asking the questions and reflecting on what the Holy Spirit may tell us. The answer to our biggest problems are in the questions we ask.

Putting it our there

One we have an idea we must share it. We must pass the idea around like a piece of clay rather than a rock. Passing around a rock says, “Here’s my idea, adore it but do not change it”. Passing around our ideas like clays says, “Here! Make this better. Transform it!”. Gather some people through e-mail, text, video, and in person and ask “How can we make this better”

Execution

We have to stick our flag in the ground. Talking is for the insecure. We can talk a good game but, if we do not pull the trigger, our ideas are sent to the graveyard where other ideas not acted upon go.

Don’t tell us what you are gong to do, let me see you doing it. The distance from idea to execution can be as long as it takes to work through the three steps above. The bigger the idea the long the time  it may take, the more people it may take, the more prayer it make take, but putting it in motion has to start now.

If you want to take a deeper dive, check out my new book Prepared For Impact where my friend Ryan Latham and I help you prepare for the opportunities God has waiting for you, right now, to start making an impact.

The book is packed with keys for preparing your next retreat, event, or meeting. Here’s what others are saying about it

“This book has been pivotal in the growth of my youth ministry! It is a great resource for beginners and seasoned youth workers equally. Filled with nuggets of wisdom, and challenging questions,it helps you turn your dreams and visions into a strategic plan of action. If you want to have a greater impact in the kingdom of God, buy this book!” – Jackee

“Prepared for impact” is the kind of book that thoroughly helps you become prepared for that next ministry step in your life. It brings up ideas that are both thought provoking and helpful. 10/10 would recommend.” – Amazon Customer

“If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining”
Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Buy the book and start building habits of preparation so you can beat the rain every time.

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Adventures In Loving Others

I just returned from speaking at the National Youth Workers Convention in Memphis. It was the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had for a long time. As much as I enjoyed every moment of this dream, there was one moment that stood out more than any other and it had nothing to do with the convention.

I was rooming with a guy named Kent. I had just met him a few hours earlier. It was about 11:00 p.m. and he had to return his rental car to the airport. I told him I;d tag along because, well, who wants to do that stuff alone.

We arrived at the airport, dropped off the car and had called our Uber to come pick us up. Now, let’s rewind for just minute.

Before we ever decided to go to the airport, we sat in the opening service of the convention  and listened to a man named Bob Goff. Bob is unique, funny,  quirky, but above all, loving. He shared many stories and challenged us to love those who were not like us, the creepy people.

Bob shared a story from the Bible about a man named Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus was blind. He had been shouting to get the attention of Jesus but those around him tried to quiet him. Jesus heard that man’s call and asked “What do you want?” Bartimaeus said, I want to see” and Jesus answered his request. It was that simple. Now, back to the airport.

As Kent and I were walking to the where the Uber was picking us up a young Arabic lady in her mid 20’s with a young sleeping child cried out “Can you help me!?”. Kent was closest so he engaged with the girl and we listened to her story.

She told us that she had just landed from Dubai and was fleeing an abusive relationship. Her parents were not going to pick her up, they had turned her away. She told us that she had been considering calling the police to take her child and put him child services until she could pull her life together. Then she cried out.

We asked her, “What do you want to do?” She told us she had a friend in Indianapolis. Kent was a pastor in Indianapolis. They talked for a moment and he gave her some info on the church, etc. The Uber driver had arrived but we had no idea how he was going to react when he had to wait for this young lady’s luggage, etc. God already had that covered.

Our driver was Maurice. Best Uber driver ever. Maurice was a minister and, wait for it…. lived in Indianapolis for 20 years. Maurice, waited for luggage, loaded the car, and took us to the bus station. It was about midnight and it took about 30 minutes to get this young lady settled. Maurice willingly and happily participated in this small miracle.

We bought this young lady a bus ticket to Indianapolis and some food. She was very tired, confused, and emotionally broken. She didn’t really understand why we were helping her. In Dubai she had her own business and was very self reliant. She didn’t like being in this position of being helped. I told her that we had all been there and it was her turn, then I told her the story of  Bartimaeus.

She didn’t completely understand the story, but she got the gist of it. I told her, you cried out, God heard, and we showed up. The last thing we did was pray for her and she said. “That wasn’t so bad.” She had little to no knowledge about God or Jesus, but at least now, she had the evidence of His great for her.

Wherever you are young lady, I hope you are well and that maybe, one day, you will tell your son the story of night you cried out, God heard, and God answered with a couple of youth workers who were just happy to be a part of God loving you .

 

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7 Ways To Recycle That Youth Ministry Message

You just preached a message, you wipe your brow and say, “Whewww, that’s done.” But is it? Did you work that hard for that one message that would be done 20 minutes only to be left in a computer folder? It has more life than you think.

In an article by Andy Crestodina, called The Periodic Table of Content, and in his book Content Chemistry, Andy Share the things we create can have life in other formats.

We preach a message and say we’re done, but that message has about 10 other uses if you think about it.

  1. Take your points and create Instagram posts for your kids. You can make one post with all the points or a bunch of posts you can trickle out over the next few days.
  2. Take the message and  convert it into a devotional kids can use all week.
  3. Do a recap of the message, though video (like Instagram Live/Stories) and add some points you missed because you ran out of time, the Post Youth Report.
  4. Break down the message into discussion questions for parents to use with their families.
  5. Do a poll after the message to see which point or part of the message resonated with your students the most.
  6. Interview kids after the message to see what they received from the message. This can be done in video on Instagram or Snapchat or through an audio app or your phone’s audio message recorder.
  7. Take the slides you used and make a slide show of the major points and post it on your website or on your youth’s social platforms.

Look at that. I bet you never thought you could get that many uses out of one message, huh? These are my seven, but you may have even more. Feel free to leave your idea below.

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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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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.

Subscribe To The Fresh Impact Newsletter Today to receive my         7 Secrets of a Successful Youth Ministry. 




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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 woudn’t give up all the memories and God moments I’ve had with students. 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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My Top 10 Favorite Podcasts (at the moment)

It’s #InternationalPodcastDay and I thought I’d share some of of my favorite podcasts. I try to be balanced between business, fun, and ministry because life is not one thing, it’s many things.

The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast

Carey is a pastor of. fairly large church in Canada. This is a fairly new podcast, for me, but I’m enjoying the diversity of guests.

Creating Disney Magic with Lee Cockerell

This is also a new podcast for me. Lee is a former executive with Disney and Marriott. He brings some great down home advice on deal with various issues from HR to planning.

The Deliberate Creative with Amy Climer 

Amy talks about leadership and team dynamics but, as the name implies, has a strong emphasis on creativity.

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins

Jeff is a best selling author but also a very good conversationalist. Jeff’s easy going manner and focus on practicality make this a listen I look forward to.

Youth Ministry After 9 Podcast 

I don’t listen to a ton of youth ministry podcasts, but these guys are super real and fun.

The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast

These guys are a ton of fun. They have great team dynamics as they talk about board and table top games.

The Showrunner

If you are a show runner of your own podcast, like I am, what better podcast than a show about podcasts.  Jerod Morris and Jon Nastor  break it down abut what means to run a podcast. It’s certainly upped my game.

Six Pixels of Separation

When I am looking for something a little headier, Mitch Joel does not disappoint. He comes at things from different angles and ask great questions.

The Fizzle Show 

I’ve been listening to these guys from almost the beginning. I have been with them through host changes and they never miss a beat. They are a great team to have around business table;

Ask Pat with Pat Flynn

This is the shortest podcast I listen to. Pat is direct and answers one question in just a few minutes. The questions are usually ones I am asking myself.

That’s it, these are my favorite podcasts of #internationalpodcastday. What are yours? What do you recommend?

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