Is Your Library Holding You Back?

Back in the days of books and large libraries and offices for youth pastors, when I had a need, I would go to my “go to” books on games, lessons, etc. (See Ideas Library from YS) What I found out after the tornado stole our church and my library, I discovered something: I leaned on my library too much.

Libraries are not just books. Libraries are a collection of anything, websites, camps, speakers, conferences, ebooks, etc. The questions is, are our “go to” resources keeping us stupid and outdated. Just because it’s easy to go to our favorites in a pinch doesn’t mean that it should be our first choice.

It’s not just a questions of ease, it’s questions of creativity. When I lost 90% of my library in the tornado, as well as my office, I discovered a new level of creativity. I became much more nimble in my thoughts and had to think more about what was best and not just what was easiest. Loosing my library also freed me up to pray more. It’s amazing how much we  will not pray about something when we feel like we have an ace in the hole somewhere.

I also learned to rely more on people than books or websites. Real people had better ideas than my books. They had current, passionate, and more fun ideas than my books. Shocking right? It only took a natural disaster to show me that.

To this day, one year later, I do not have an office or a library of “go to” resources and I am better because of it.

Challenge: Pack up your “go to” stuff a month (or more) and see what happens.

7 Questions I Have About Youth Ministry and Gay Marriage

Since the President has made his position official, it got me wondering about the implications for how we cover this subject and others like it in youth ministry. If you came looking for easy an answers you came to the wrong place, nothing but questions here, maybe questions you’ve struggling with yourself.

The safe thing most churches do is ignore issues like this. The crazy churches almost burn their buildings down with the amount of fiery rhetoric they use to oppose issues like these. So, like a test final, choose a question and feel free to answer a questions below in a 300 words or less please.

Does the Presidents now outspokenness on the subject make it more necessary for you to cover this subject in your youth group?

What are the current views of your youth group on the subject of gay marriage, and does it make it easier or harder to discuss it?

When you see students post on social media sites, in the affirmative or the negative toward gay marriage, do you feel compelled to like or comment? What are the implications if you did? 

Do you feel the media attention of this subject is “forcing your hand” to deal with it in your ministry?

Do you and your Pastor have the same opinion on the subject? If not, how is that working?

Do you have gay kids in your group( (or think you do) and does this affect the way you talk about the subject? How do you handle it?

If you have already taken the subject head on, no matter that side you were on, did it positively or negatively (or neither) impact your group?  

Do you have questions not included here? Please feel free to share them.

 

There Are No Guarantees

 

There is no guarantee that “that kid” who needs to hear your message you designed around them will show up.

There is no guarantee that camp or your missions trip will create the the spiritual growth you are looking for.

There is no guarantee that kids will be more committed to the program after a summer filled with activities.

There is no guarantee that your Pastor will praise you publicly when you hit that number or nailed that assignment.

There is no guarantee that after years of committed service that you’ll achieve your dreams.

There is no signing on the dotted line and there is no recourse if things don’t work out. No one owes us anything if we fail or someone fails us. Prayers that begin with “But I..” flies in the face of our faith journey. If God called us, and we followed, that’s enough for me. It’s not my problem anymore. It’s God’s. He’s in charge.

There are no guarantees, except,

God loves us very much.

He cares.

He praises you when you we do well and when no one else will.

He watches over those kids we weep over.

He will ultimately reward us all, according to our works.

There is no guarantee but God. And that is enough for me.

Photo Credit

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Solving For X in Youth Ministry

 

I have been going back to school for the past two years to get my 2 year degree and eventually my four year degree. Part of this journey is taking Algebra. I hate algebra. I am a right brain kind of guy so numbers scare me. I tried to make the argument, to myself, that the only number I need to count up to was 15. That is how many fit on the van. If I count the same number going on and the same summer coming off I’m good. Needless to say, I lost the argument. You learn a a few things when it’s it’s your third time taking a math class. One of them is understanding that their is an emphasis on process and order to solving for X (It should go without saying that Jesus is the x factor and must be part of any biblical youth ministry, but there, I said it anyway)

All of us have an X factor in youth ministry. We are looking for the missing number that makes our equation of youth ministry work.

What times x = more kids

What times x = students participation

What time x = growing disciples.

These are a all equations we wrestle with at one time or another. Algebra helps us out by giving us a system called PEMDAS. This is the order of operations for solving for X. The PEMDAS order for math is

Parenthesis (solve what is inside the parenthesis first)

Exponents (take care of the those tiny numbers in the corner or those bigger numbers)

Multiplication

Divison

Addition

Subtraction

If you follow the order you solve for x. If you try to solve your equation out of order, you come up with a different and wrong answer. What does this have to do why youth ministry? Everything. God is a God of order. First things first. If you are trying to solve for x in youth ministry, maybe you are trying to solve the problem out of order.

Putting kids in ministry before they are ready.

Not communicating with parents before launching program.

Not telling your spouse about that event.

Throwing something on your leaders before you’ve trained them.

Doing all of these, out of order leads to wrong answers and a confused and disorganized youth ministry. Let me suggest creating your own PEMDAS for youth youth ministry. Someone came up with an acronym for remembering PEMDAS, it goes like this Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Try creating a PEMDAS for your big equations of youth ministry

Programming

Training

Discipleship

Ministry

Preaching

Order of Service

Here  is my personal PEMDAS for ministry

Prayer and Preaching- If God is not in it from the start, I am doomed to fail. If my message is ready, everything else in the program can fail.

Excellence- Do every part of the program/ministry with excellence.

Move Leaders Into Position- Never create a job I have to do myself.

Details- Pay attention to the small things like communicating with parents and leadership or checking the weather forecast for any upcoming event.

Altar Time- Allow kids to respond to what God puts on their hearts.

Student Involvement and Feedback – Kids make it work. Involve them early, ask their opinion, get their feedback.

This is an over arching PEMDAS but it helps guide my weekly and monthly programming. If I do things out of order, X becomes fuzzier and fuzzier. Try creating your own PEMDAS and leave it in the comments below.

Youth Pastors, Why Isn’t This In Our Job Description?

Failed Job Desciptions

  • Schools teach Math, History, etc.
  • The military teaches discipline, leadership, and job skills
  • Sports teams teach sportsmanship and how to pay the game
  • Churches run programs to keep people busy and not sin as much

These are organization with a list of activities with no clear goals. What if they said,

  • School’s produce imaginative students ready to solve problems in a complicated world?
  • The military trains men and women to be people of character who can ably defend our country both home and abroad.
  • Sport teams make leaders who will do their best on and off the field.
  • Churches make disciples who make disciples to impact the world for Christ.

These latter job descriptions are far more compelling than the former.

The church teaches about God? Really? Is that all? You may say, “Isn’t that enough? Think about the job description you received when you were hired. How much of that are you fulfilling? What impact are you  making because of it? Now, think about what you are CALLED to do. How much of that are you fulfilling? Who we are as believers and youth pastors impact schools, military, and sports teams by impacting students . In a word, we impact CULTURE.

What has the church, as an spiritual organism/organization produced in recent years? We can’t produce Christians because God does that; so what does the church produce? Can’t we produce better educated, leaders of characters with skills to impact the world around us? Why isn’t it in our job description simply ot make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus to impact the world around us? Why doesn’t the details of  this job description include

  • Helping kids use their imaginations to see what God sees
  • Teach job skills and make better employees of our community
  • Take more mission trips and have less pizza parties.

Why do churches set the bar so low by asking youth pastors to “run the program” ?  Why can’t churches set the bar high with “Equip students to do the work of the ministry” or “Make disciples of Jesus?” . Why Because it’s less work, and less mess, to just run the program.

Your Turn

How can you expand, re-write, your job description to be more effective at making disciples of Jesus.

Facing the Fear Of Trying Something New

Trying something new can be scary. It might fail, worse, it might succeed and then you have to keep succeeding. Recently I started doing announcements via Facebook (example above). Although I do not shy away from the spot light, it was still scary because I knew I would be judged on it. My fear was, “I’ll be criticized by parents, students, or fellow youth workers.” None of my fears appeared. Not only am I no longer fearful, I am becoming more comfortable and more creative as I go. That is the result of doing what you fear. Not only was I not criticized, but I was rewarded with positive comments. The conditions will never be perfect to try something new so what what are you waiting for?

What are you afraid to try?

What are you afraid of trying but you are doing it anyway?

 

 

The Sting of Confomity

 

When I was a young youth pastor, I thought it was my job, neigh, my obligation to change the church for the glory of God. I thought it was my job to be the radical all the time and to drag these spiritual neanderthals out of the 19th Century (or earlier) and into the now. Then comes the sting, the sting of conformity. A sudden and painful realization that things are not swinging my way (or God’s way, as I believed).

No one likes to get stung. And a sting is nothing you plan for, it just happens. I have an app on my phone called a Whack Pack. It’s an idea generator to get you thinking in a different direction about a challenge your are stuck on. I hit random and the card Conform came up. Not the card I wanted. I am not good at conforming, still after 20 year. But this stinger got me. In my current situation, I realize that conformity is the answer, not the problem.

Most of us are familiar with Romans 12: 1, 2 about not conforming to the world. From this, I always assumed conforming on any level was a bad idea, so I didn’t. What I realized over the years is, there is a place for conformity in the church. My areas of conformity over the years include

  • Conforming to the Pastor’s vision (not trying to get my Pastor to conform to mine) 
  • Conforming to the musical traditions of the church (find joy in God, not in style)
  • Conforming to the culture of the city I serve. (finding ways to fit in rather than stand out)

Another level of conformity I struggle with, especially with age, is conforming to the level of the spiritual level of our students. No matter where our kids fall on the spiritual spectrum, we should conform to the level of our students for a season, until a door of opportunity opens to raise them up. Isn’t this what Jesus did?  

“Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” Philippians 2:6

Do you struggle with conformity? Do you think it’s the role of the youth pastor to lead the radical way? What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

Youth Ministry…but Why?

 

 

 

It is so easy to get caught up in our job of youth ministry and all but forget why we do what we do. I recently read an article by Lisa Earle Mcleod called Why Purpose Matter: Four Business Reasons and One Emotional One, and one quote, which deals with a biotech company and it’s sales people, really caught my attention.

The salespeople who were product-focused or who wanted to win the trip did OK. But the salespeople whose clearly articulated purpose was to heal people consistently sold more than everyone else.

Is our purpose to build a great youth ministry or to heal people?

Ask yourself

Why did I preach what I preached last week?

Why will I preach what I will preach this week?

Why do I have our youth meeting on this night?

Why do I work so hard?

Why don’t I work hard enough?

Why are we taking this trip, going to that camp, having this meeting?

Asking why is like pulling at threads with the chance that our whole idea of something will come undone.

Ask WHY? anyway.

 

Four Week Youth Outreach: The Hunger And Thirst Games

HungerandThirstGamesLogo2

I have recently finished putting together the four week series The Hunger and Thirst Games for public consumption. The four week outreach will help draw new kids to your youth ministry and connect Christ and culture to reach kids where they are at.

I will be adding a few nuggets to make the outreach even better, because hindsight is 20/20 right? I usually think of different or even better ideas to use the material after it is finished. If you use the material or just read it and come up with some other ideas, just post them here.

You can purchase The Hunger Games Outreach HERE .

My Thoughts On The Movie The Grey and Should Christians See It

 

 

I am taking off my youth pastor hat for the next few posts because I would like to engage youth workers, other believers (or not), in a discussion about this movie. This is not a movie for teenagers, not that they don’t hear or see worse (because they do) but it is movie about thinking deeper and maybe about our faith as youth workers.

I went to the movies to be entertained not challenged, but I am glad I was.  The five major themes I thought ran through the movie were Manhood, Nihilism, Faith (or lack of), Death, and Perseverance. This is a movie you cannot just watch, you have to process. The director has taken away the audience’s safety net and we had to deal with real images and moments without the sappy music and scripted tropes.

The premise of the movie: Seven oil workers survive a crash and attempt to live through wolves hunting them and the frigid, unbearable, weather depleting their survival instant. It would be an understatement to say this was not the feel good move of the year. I don’t know what the directors intended, but all I can share is what I took from it.

The Five Themes

Manhood

What is man and who does he face desperate times with other men.

Nihilism

I think each man, under the conditions, phased in and out of this thought process, but one man especially portrayed this attitude.

Faith

I do not think this movie was intend to make a statement about the God or the existence of God, but several scenes, and one in particular, gets your mind reeling.

Death

How we choose to face death is up to us. We can lay down and die or we can stand up and fight.

Perseverance

What do you do when wolves are chasing you? I certainly took this as a metaphor for life.

 

If you saw the movie or are going to see the movie, let me know. I will pulling scenes from my head and I would like your comments. If you are a Christian, and want to go se the movie, just be warned that this movie is about oil workers. They are rugged and the language is not misplaced or even one the top for this scenerio. I did not do an F-Bomb count, but it rivals Scarface’s 182. This movie is not about foul language, but about something deeper, if we can get past the language. Let me know your thoughts. Part II coming soon.

Richard Roepers Review of The Grey