My Short List of Ways We’re Helping Kids Fail At Following Jesus

It came out of my mouth so fast I barely had time to think about it, “You are helping them to fail.”

My friend has a videography business. He uses the best technology  but has flashes back to 1992. In the conversation we were having, he recommend to someone about making DVD. My jaw just dropped, dumbfounded.

This made me thing about all the ways we fail people and especially students. Here’s my short list of how we’re helping kids fail at following Jesus.

We help kids fail when we do not discipline (correct) them

I know we are not their parents, but next to them and their teachers, we maybe the only other authority figures in their lives spending any significant time with them.

We see their faults and their failings and, if you were young like me once, you traded some of your authority for popularity. This is automatic fail in my opinion. I would trade any popularity I might have gained with those kids for another shot at telling them the truth in love.

Recently, I took our kids to camp. A young lady, who represents the Goth culture, was with us and has been a solid member of our youth ministry for seven years. She was wanting to go a bit over the top for my taste and asked her not to dress that way. I talked with her a week before camp about dress and make up and not to go over the top. She was offended and did not speak to me for the rest of the camp.

I don’t make apologies for being the the grown up in the room, and neither should you. Things have blown over and I get the occasional wave now and again. Things are warming up. They’ll get over it, or they won’t. Either way, I have to lovingly and

We help them fail by not helping students engage with basic spiritual disciplines 

I recently spoke at a camp this week. The same camp I have been speaking at for 14 years. For the most part, I do not put the full scripture on my slides any longer. I put the address of the scriptures and then ask if anyone would like to read the 6-8 scriptures I have as part of my messages. I always have volunteers to read. I go to where they are sitting and let them read the verse and then I share my point.

In addition, I ask campers to close the service by “praying us out of here”. Kids love the ownership of public prayer and usually results in increased confidence and respect from their peers.

Lastly, I ask for public testimony. This is never a forced activity. I ask, “Has God shown you anything or made a difference in your life this week?” Sometimes I get a dozen hands raised, sometimes one, sometimes none. Whether anyone gets up to share or not, the offer to share their story is the point. I believe God is always at work and giving students a chance to share helps them become bolder in sharing their faith in the long run.

We help them fail by not raising the bar

We contribute to a students’ failure by not expecting more from them. This especially applies to those church kids who say they are believers and followers of Jesus but rarely dark the doors of our youth room or sit passively while everything is done for them.

Jesus was constantly asking his disciples to do thinks that were way beyond what they thought was their human capacity.

“you feed them”

“leave everything”

“Go into all the world”

Big commands for simple fisherman and ordinary people, but how many times do we justify why we don’t challenge kids to dream big and do more?

“they’re poor”

“they’re homeschooled”

“they’re not the cool kids”

If we’re excusing our kids because of their current condition we are contributing to their future failure.

It’s our job/calling as youth pastor to challenge students to believe God for big things, it’s the students job to receive.

Let’s be faithful with our call and let God handle our students’ hearts.







Painters and Players: Game Store Discipleship Part 2

Yesterday I shared a conversion I had at a game store that sold me on a hobby I was interested in. As a youth pastor who focuses, (some say obsess) over the process of discipleship, I knew what was happening to me, I was being evangelized and offered the opportunity to be discipled in the

Warhammer 40k way. As with many things, such as sports, Warhammer 40k is not a hobby but a lifestyle to some. They live it, breathe it, talk about it and share it. Isn’t that what we desire for ourselves and for our students who claim the name of Jesus? With that said, let’s look at how my conversation with a game store owner breaks down into some practical principles for our youth ministry.

Let’s start again:

Her: Welcome to Games Workshop!

Me: Thanks

Her: What brings you by today?

Note: This is a key question. Why did that guest come? Why do our regulars come? Asking students why they come to our meetings may seem obvious (social, parents make them, etc.) but when I entered this store I was looking for information and connection, not just a salesman who wanted to sell me stuff. The same can be said of the kids who come to our meeting.

Me: Just looking

Note: Defines many of our kids.

Her: Do you know what you are looking at?

Note: Great question. Do our kids know what they are looking at? Even our most seasoned kids may not know. They don’t know or understand that we are Christ’s hands and feet, His church. We should ask this questions more often.

Me: Yes.

Her: What are you working on right now?

Note: She knew I had some gaming affinity and thought maybe I already had an army, etc. I include on my guest cards and I ask, “So where do you normally go to church?” I think a better question is, “What are you currently working on in your life right now? ” The answer to this quesiton will clue us in to where kids are with Christ and not just their religious affiliation.

Me: Nothing at the moment, I’m a newbie. have some unpainted models at my house.

Her: Would you like to put some paint on a model?

Note: Here’s what she did not do: “Let me tell you all the rules of Warhammer 40k and it’s history.” She had me start painting and engaging to see if something would spark. I have decreased, to almost nil, of what is required to be a leader in our youth ministry. The “rules” to becoming a leader became impediments to kids “putting paint on a model.” If you want to see how we get kids “putting paint on models” you can watch my video HERE and HERE

Note: Once she knew I had an army, unpainted, she knew I had interest but not desire. Many of our kids love God in theory, but their desire has lapsed. It should be our goal to get kids re-engaged with the God who called them in the first place.

Me: Sure

When I finished my basic paint job,

Her: Would you like to put your model in a game?

Me: Sure.

Note: Now, after I painted, she challenged me to play. She knew, “if I can get him to play, I can show him how much fun this is.” We should always be introducing the next level of joy in knowing Christ.

She taught me some basic rules and had me moving pieces and rolling dice. After we were done she continued:

Her: What did you like best? Painting or Playing?

Note: In the end, this gaming evangelist wants to sell product and create another gaming enthusiast which will add to the gaming community synergy. In the Warhmmer 40k community there are painters, and they enjoy collecting and painting models, but that is it. There are players who enjoy the game but not the painting process. It’s the same with faith.

We will always have students who like to paint. they like the artistry and color of religion. Students will come to events and enjoy the pageantry. We know the joy of living our faith and our joy of knowing God, let’s create and offer the next level of joy to our kids every week.

Me: I like both

Her: Great, how would you like to get started?

Author Donald Miller, in the forward of his book Blue Like Jazz, talks about not being  interested in jazz until he watched a man passionately play jazz on his saxophone.  It goes without saying, but I’ll say it. Christianity is not hobby. It’s not something we dabble in. Jesus is life and lifestyle or he is no life at all. Lets’ all live passionately for Christ but let us also create and offer every kid a chance to “put paint on their model” (know Christ) and play it out (live for Christ).

How are you getting kids to experience or re-experience faith in your youth ministry? Share  your process of how you get kids to re-ignite their faith