Why Senior Sunday Saddens Me

Why Senior Sunday Makes Me Sad

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.

Your Turn

What challenges or emotions do you face on Senior Sunday?

 

Help Us Rebuild Alabama

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
  • Contractors
  • 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.

Until It Happens To You

 

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.

Please keep Pleasant Grove, Al. , Pleasant Grove Assembly, and all the other towns who are hurting. More to come.

Weighing Your Waste

 

 

 

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.

Money

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.

People  Capital

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?

  • Pastor Capital
  • Board Capital
  • Your Team or Youth Team Recruitment Capital
  • Congregation Capital
  • Community 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.

Facilities

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.

Step On The Scale and Take The Poll


(polls)

 

 

 

Thursday Morning Quarterbacking: The Post Youth Meeting Report

 

I have a love-hate relationship with Thursdays. It’s the day after our youth meeting and I am usually wiped. I spend most of my day fiddling around with things that don’t mean much. The time I do carve out of the day is filled with reflection. My motto: If the unexamined life is not worth living then the unexamined meeting is not worth having

In most pro and college sports, there is usually a day where teams watch game film. If you won, I imagine that day is about tweaking. if you lose, the focus about overhauling. Most post meeting days I am tweaking. This past Wednesday, i am in overhaul mode. There was so much I wanted to throw out, including myself.

Football teams breakdown into groups; offense, defense, special teams. Each meeting I break down youth meeting film into three categories

People

Who was there?

Who wasn’t there?

Who was new?

Who did I make a personal touch with?

Program

Did we start on time?

Did we end on time?

Did it run smoothly?

What worked?

What didn’t work?

Personal

Did I talk to who I needed to talk to?

Did I maintain an even emotional keel?

Did I make sense when I spoke?

Some Thursdays are better than others but I  am not looking forward to this Thursday. If you are interested in a deeper look into my post “game’ report/obsession pdf, just sign up for my Get it First newsletter.

What kind of game film do you look at the day after a youth meeting?

 

 

Are You Overexposing Yourself?

I examined my week and I decided I was spending too much time with kids. Is that possible? I think it is. I saw kids on Sunday and Wednesday, I had a student leadership meeting on Monday, I was taking homeschool kids to lunch, Facbooking, and on and on. I don’t think kids need us that much. It’s us who think kids need us that much.
I think overexposure:
  • Dulls our voice. They hear us all the time.
  • Makes us a buddy more than a leader.
  • Keeps us from being objective in some cases.
  • Keeps us from valuable think time.
  • Depletes us emotionally.

Examine your schedule. Where can you cut back on being overexposed? What do you think, can you spend too much time with kids?

Help! I’m Stuck and Nothing Is Working!

 

I recently had to postpone 2 events in the past two months because the sign up was not good. These were traditional events. a lock-in and a D-Now (Disciple Now). Students had helped plan both, but did not sign up. It makes a youth worker shake his head and question everything. Don’t. It’s the new normal.

Everything is optional to students. Music, events, faith. So, what is a youth worker to do? I have a few ideas, but I know what I am not going to do:

  • Freak Out– I’ve seen this before, not as bad, but I have, and you have too. You can handle it.
  • Check Out– Quitting is not an option, because the same youth group exists across town and across the nation. Same spirit, different faces.

What I am going to do:

  • Reach Out- I am going to start a new dialogue with parents, students, and the church, we’ll see what happens
  • Stick It Out– Students see enough adults a.k.a parents, who leave when times are tough. Kids are watching how we handle the tough times, and it may be the greater lesson.

Are you facing something similar? Don’t be like Job, sitting in an ash pile, scraping your wounds with pottery shards. Be like Paul, who was struck blind, clueless. He had to swallow his pride and allow the forces to lead him to someone who could help. Sometimes, we need to submit to the forces around us, when we have trouble leading ourselves. Don’t fight a rip tide, swim parallel until you are out of it.

I am swimming parallel in the Spirit this week, praying and fasting, relying on God to lead me, rather than myself. Do you have a similar situation?  Let me know your story. Pray for me and I will pray for you.

Resource: Insane S.W.E.A.T Club: 40 Days To A Leaner Spiritual Life

The old deodorant commercial says, “Never let them see you sweat” , but they didn’t work with teenagers. If the makers of that commercial knew how little time our kids spent practicing the basic disciplines of the Christian faith; they would know it was the youth workers who were sweating . Pew Research say that Millennial’s are confident, connected, and empathetic to social needs, but they fail to mention how biblically ignorant many of them are and, unfortunately, seem to be content with that.

Youth workers, like me, feel the weight to find new ways to get our teens to learn and practice their faith. Let me encourage you that whatever tool, resource, or curriculum you use with teens, it is ultimately the Holy Spirit that woos their heart. Hearing the Word of God in any context is another step to them responding to God’s call to walk in His ways. Be patient, and don’t YOU sweat it. God is in charge.

 S.W.E.A.T (Coming Soon) 

This resource came about from the inspiration of a late night t.v. info-mercial called the Insanity. Insanity is a 60 day workout that promises you will lose weight, give you great great abs, and transform your life. My thought was, why can’t we Bible Study be insane? Why do set the bar so low for them and applaud them if they read the Bible for five minutes a day? I think baby steps are fine for some,  but we live in an extreme culture, and for those kids who love a challenge, S.W.E.A.T is for them. If your students do S.W.E.A.T, they will not lose weight, or get great abs, but in 40 days God could transform their lives.

7 bonus ideas for using S.W.E.A.T can be found HERE

When A Student Leaves: Exit Strategies

 

I hate it when a kid leaves our group. When a kid leaves, depending on the kid, several bad things can happen:

  • We lose momentum
  • We lose other kids
  • We lose leadership
  • We lose workers
  • We lose a friend
  • We lose our job, if it’s a bunch of kids

Kids can leave for any number of reasons. I recently lost a kid, not because of our program, but because of a church/relationships matter. Many kids slip away into the night and we don’t find our for weeks that they’ve quit coming. What I respect about this student, is that they wrote and told me they were leaving. They told me it wasn’t anything  I did, but they had to follow their family. What I hate, is losing a student that has so much potential. I miss the fact that I will miss their spiritual journey; to watch them grow, fail,and grow some more.

Here are a few ways to prevent or manage the damage of a students exit.

1. Steady the teetering

If you have some students or parents on the edge, meet it head on. Begin a conversation about what’s going on with their lives, give them a chance to vent. Let them put their struggles on the table. Don’t flinch, listen.

2. Strengthen what you have

Make sure you are calling or meeting with kids beyond group time. We can’t just phone it in anymore. Try some unplanned, impromptu stuff like a lunch, one night camping trip, or a quick road trip. Building community and relationships have to move beyond the youth room.

3. When a kid leaves, find out why

I used to not care, no, really, I didn’t . I felt like it was on a kid if they didn’t want to be here. Now, I try harder to weigh each case and be more proactive. I sat down with a students once who told me they were leaving, I could not convince her not to leave. What I did challenge her to do was tell the group why she was leaving. She did, and it erased any speculation and chatter of why she was leaving.

4. Encourage kids to see the future

When a student leaves, and it could effect others, move quickly to rally the troops. Talk with them about the future and the vision of the youth ministry. Share with them how you see them making this happen and that they are valued.

5. Don’t close the door or give away their seat

Kids are fickle. Whether they leave by their own choice to another group, or whether it  be a heat of the moment decision or a gradual drift, keep communication lines open. I have had kids leave and come back a year later. I have kids who went to other groups but still call me when they have a problem. Just because a kid is not in your group any longer, does not mean God has released you from them or cancelled any future plans to minister to them. Oh, that girl that left my group and told the group why she was leaving? I am performing her wedding this year.

You can’t stop kids from leaving. It’s part of the job. We have to learn, as hard as it may be, not to take each one personally. We have to look to the Lord, who Himself had a mass exodus at a critical time in his life. Yet, we find Him visiting with those same disciples, eating fish and chatting around the fire about life. If He can do it, so can we.

Can You Pass The Purity Test?

 

I am a news junkie. I like to know what is going on. News organizations have started ramping up 2012 Presidential hopefuls for the Republican party. A phrase I keep hearing is “a purity code”. The various parties, both conservative, liberal, and tea, all have a code. They are asking “are they____________ enough to win” Fill in the blank: morally conservative, fiscally conservative, christian, liberal, etc. The problem is, no one can pass this test and win.

We in the church have our own set of purity codes. I am not talking about the code  or laws from the O.T., but the subtle codes we carry around in  our minds. We carry these codes for many of the spiritual disciplines of faith. Here is an example:

 

Did you have your devotions?

First we decide what that means to us and then it become the purity code by which to measure other people devotional time. Some of the factors that make up this purity code are:

  • Time (how long was your devotion? How long is enough?)
  • Did you memorize a verse
  • Did you sing and worship the Lord?
  • Did you pray, and how long?
  • Did you read the The Word? How long? (what is the appropriate time)

You could apply this to worship, fasting, bible study, church attendance etc.

A book that really screwed me up was Larry Lea’s Could You Not Tarry One Hour? It was the ultimate purity code for prayer and devotion time in 1987. Not that I am against praying for an hour or extending my devotional time, but it was the feeling of failure that came over me when I could not do the full hour. I tried and tried, and I always measured my time with God by the hour. I never seemed to enjoy God because I was always watching the clock.

I wonder how many times we put an “unfair” purity code upon students that only Pharisees intended. Ways we do this?

  • Do you speak in tongues?
  • Can you spit out the four spiritual laws? (nothing agains the 4)
  • Do you raise your hands during worship?
  • Consistent attendance in Sunday School, Small Group, Or Youth ( I am pro attendance BTW)
  • Do you share your faith all the time? (I am pro faith sharing)
  • Do you bring your friends to church? (I am pro invitations)

We use these “codes” to qualify leadership or sometimes to determine if a person is “really” saved. The challenge our youth ministries may be facing is an over codification of faith.

I am all for scriptural and some human standards, principles, evidences, but I have aversion to codes; especially if they are man made and locked tight to change. I guess we should all take a gut check and a Word check, and see if there are some secret, man made codes we have been using to qualify the spiritual lives of ourselves and our students. As we go, we we should remember that we ourselves cannot even pass our own codes most of the time.

“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, “(NASB)

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatian 2:21

“The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

“Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law” (NLT) Romans 13:8

Let’s enjoy the Lord and each other and “the code” will take care of itself.