How Are You Protecting Your Young Men From The Worthless and the Wicked?

For the past couple of months I have been meditating on a “random” scripture from 2 Chronicles from 13.

“Then worthless and wicked men gathered around him to resist Rehoboam son of Solomon when Rehoboam was young, inexperienced, and unable to assert himself agains them.” verse 7

I will trust that you will read the chapter to gain the context while I offer some commentary on this verse

Our young men are being attacked by a worthless and wicked culture like Rehoboam. The writer seems to say that had Rehoboam had the ability to resist them he would have. I believe our young men want to resist a worthless and wicked culture but they cannot confront it for the same reason Rehoboam could not. We cannot do anything about the young part of the equation, but how can we help out in the other two?

Should we give our kids deeper experiences earlier?

I used to wait for a magic age to trust kids with responsibility. Not any more, I try my best to look at middle school kids and offer them the same things I offer HS students, just in smaller doses. I challenge them to step up with ideas, and then I get behind those ideas and create a levee of accountability for those ideas. The more experiences we can give kids through service, missions trips, leadership and other methods, the better I think they will be better prepared to face the wicked and the worthless. What kind of experiences are you offering your young men and are you seeing the fruit of these experiences?

How do we teach our kid to be assertiveness without being aggressive?

Middle school young men can be assertive in all the wrong ways. I see middle school kids be assertive with their sexuality as equally as they are assertive with their Yuh-Gi-Oh cards. This is the bane of adolescence, the inability to tell the difference of what is appropriate and what is not which, by the way, also makes them unbelievably funny. Too many young men know how to parrot biblical verses or religious slogans but without conviction and are false signs that a kid is “maturing” in the faith. I don’t know whether we should be teaching apologetics earlier but I think we can help young guys stand on higher ground, not beyond emotion, but in spite of their emotion. How are you cultivating deeper convictions in your young men?

As always, I have more questions than answers. Share your thoughts.

 

What Rekindled My Passion For Middle School Ministry?

You may be shocked by the answer: Kids Camp. Yes, Kids Camp. Our children’s ministry had no make adult leaders for camp, and I drug my feet, hoping someone would step up. I love kids, I have kids, but kids are not my forte’. Granted, I am more childish than child like, but I still think in teen terms, which made the three days I spent with 9 boys very interesting.

Five of the kids were adopted/foster kids and new to our church. Four were church kids. It was an interesting dynamic. The four kids from the church will be coming into youth this year and that is where my passion button was pushed.

I saw how these kids interacted. I saw their need for conflict resolution skills. I saw how easily their feelings were hurt. I saw how they jocky’d for friendship position like a race car at Talledega. I saw life from a Jr. High perspective in a way I had not seen in a while and I live with a Jr. High student, my son, who was also part of this camp.

So, what am I going to do about it?

Months before, I was approached by a parent about focusing more on middle school and allowing them to meet separately.  I blew it off because the incoming group was so small and mostly home schooled.

This shouldn’t matter, but my corporate brain took over. I was wrong and now I must re-evaluate. At this point, with our new 45 and 45 program mix (I’ll explain in another post) I am figuring out how to be more strategic with these middle school kid and families.

I am going to do a Middle School Boot Camp to help new and existing Middle School students adapt and overcome the new school year.

I plan on increasing face time with theses new students and their families.

I plan on being more strategic in my teaching.

How about you? Where is your passion for middle school right now? Do you have a Middle School plan for the fall?

Let’s collaborate and let the fire for middle school burn bright.

Three Awards We Shouldn’t Give Out In Youth Ministry

 

 

 

I saw this article about a kid who received the “Catastrophe Award” for the most excuses given for not having her homework. It made me think about awards we should not give out in our youth ministry that would shame or embarrass kids.

The You Did Not Bring Your Bible For The 20th Time  Award

We preachers can say things off the cuff and mean nothing by it but our kids interpret our words differently. This award is indicative of saying, if you don;t bring your Bible, you’re not in the club. A kids may bring his Bible to youth for an 90 min and leave it sit under his bed the rest of the week. We got our pound of flesh from that kid but I would rather that kids not bring their bible for those 90 minutes, when I demanded them to, and rather a cultivate a love of God’s word (written and spoken) so they’ll encounter God’s word for 90 minutes throughout the week.

The You’re So Uncommitted Award

I was the worst at this. I would almost berate a kid for not showing up for an event. Maybe it was the pressure of the numbers, maybe it was my own Pharisaical heart, no matter, I handed out this award to liberally. Kids get enough of the “you don’t measure up” speech. Jesus is the standard not our program schedule.

The You Don’t Love Jesus Enough Award

This is closely related to award # 2. Come to the program = you love Jesus. More program = more love. This is another subconscious message we send to kids whose faith sometime hangs by a thread. Let’ not let our words but the last string that holds them.

I am not advocating to not preach the truth or to build the program to the best to four ability, but let’s not build it by giving out awards that kids do not deserve.

Have you given out some awards you are not proud of? Share them below.

 

 

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?