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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Assumptions Youth Pastors Want Made About Them By Their Pastors

 

I know, we have been told not to make assumptions because it turns us and others into a naughty word. As youth workers (and any employee for that matter), we do want some assumptions to be made because it seems so many untrue assumptons are unintentially directed at us that make us uncomfortable and some times angry. I cannot speak for all youth workers, so I will speak for me and see if any any of these resonate with you.

I want you to assume I am competent

You hired me for a reason, let me take on challenges and believe I will succeed. If you do not, it is money wasted and time wasted in micro-managing me.

I want you to assume I want what is best for the whole Body and not just for the youth ministry.

If I am young (and I am not) I may need some help seeing the big picture. If I am older (which I am) then help remind me of Aunt Sally, in the top balcony, who has a degenerative disease and needs more exercise, and thats why we are turning the youth room into an aerobocise classroom.

I want you to assume I will work hard

You notice I did not say work hard for you, but that is a given if put my priorities in the right order . If I am kingdom minded I will be about the Father’s business and ultimately yours as well. If I am not kingdom minded and you are not kingdom minded, we will be about each other’s business, and ultimately fail at both our tasks.

Positive Assumptions Are Free

It does not cost us anything to have a positive assumption about someone. Some of us may have to do mental gymnastics to overcome past misgivings, but in the end, a positive assumption can be a self fulfilling prophecy. If you are a Pastor, try communicating these positive assumptions you have about your youth pastor in creative and obvious ways such as allowing your youth pastor to pray for the offering, this may seem like nothing but what you are saying is, “I trust you in front of these people” and “I want other people to see you in another light.” It’s too bad many pastors hide their youth (and children’s pastors) away from others for fear of X. What assumptions could be drawn from that?

In the end, I believe my Pastor does assume all this about me, and for that I am thankful, but many youth pastors do not have that luxury. The only assumption Pastors should not make about their youth pastors, and vice versus, is that we are perfect. Unless we have given you a reason, and a really good one at that, to doubt us, assume your youth pastor is for you and not against you and wants to help you build the church and not tear down it down.

How about you? If you are a youth pastor do you think your pastor has positive or negative assumptions about you?

If you are a Sr. Pastor, have you made the right assumptions about your youth pastor? Is there a way you can communicate that to them?

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?

 

 

 

 

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