Archives For February 2013

I thought I would post something based on an article I read the other day. “Dear Youth Pastor; It Isn’t a Competition” on the Resurgence. Read it if you get a chance. But the post below is something I posted a few months ago but thought it went well with this post:

I’ll be the first one to admit it. I get jealous of other pastors or ministries. I’m human. There are other people who are just better at speaking than me, who are more creative than me, and you see it by how many people follow them, listen to them, show up to their events or services. But pastors cant get jealous of each other right? How does one combat not getting jealous of other ministries? Here are some things that I have to check myself on.

  • Jealousy will make a person lose focus. When you are jealous, you are focusing on someone’s else’s God-movement and not focusing on the one that God has given you. It causes us to loose sight of the responsibility that God has given us when we focus on someone else’s. I know for me, if I were to focus on what my ministry as much as I spent watching someone do theirs, I probably would do better myself. When you get jealous, your path is set by THEM rather than the Lord.
  • Admit it. There is no use of hiding it. Why? Because we know we’re in it for God’s Kingdom, not for ours. Does it matter if the church down the road is bigger, better, more influential if God’s Kingdom is advancing? Let’s just call it like it is, it is sinful and worldly. It is usually out of our own spirit of jealousy and it will cause us to say things and think things that are not kingdom building. Suddenly they’re not our brother/sister any more, they’re ‘competition’.
  • Turn it into inspiration. Obviously you think that person is successful, otherwise you wouldn’t have jealous feelings about what they are doing. Instead of sitting back and letting it happen, turn it into a learning experience. They are obviously doing something right in a way that you want to see your ministry succeed in as well. Seek them out and and take them out. Pick their brain. You never know what you can learn and maybe you will see what ever results you saw from their event at yours. If not, you have a new ministry friend and contact.
  • This might not be what you need. When people are jealous, it causes you to see things that your ministry may not need, but because you see “them” have it, you want it. But the thing is, a ministry might not have a strong fellowship aspect, so they try a dance party and it was a huge success for them. So you see it and you want it. But your group already has a great fellowship aspect but it really needs more people in small groups, but you dont see it because you’re so focused on their needs and not your ministry’s need.

When we are jealous it usually means that we are are not satisfied with what God has given us. Because when you look at what you have, you are blessed. If we are teaching the what the Bible says we need to believe that God will not forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and we need to be content with what we have. In order to combat jealousy we need to be more like Jesus and less like ourselves. If we find ourselves to be jealous we need to in prayer and work on changing our hearts to those we are jealous of. Jealousy is such a human thing to be involved in and it has no place is Godly work.

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Last Week I posted the first part of this topic (You can check out the first part HERE). Here are the last three key things that I do to set the tone for my small group for the year:

This group is like Vegas:  I let all of my guys know what is said in this group, stays in this group. I explain to them the importance for the group to have trust and to be able to have a safe place to open up if there is a need. If we do not have trust then this group means nothing. I let them know that if they were to break this rule that we would have to have a conversation and they do not want that. I hit hard on this one so they know the seriousness of the trust aspect of our group.

Prayer is HUGE: I tell them that prayer is going to be a huge aspect of our group. The last 10 minutes of every group they are to go with a different guy in the group each week and spend 10 minutes of swapping prayer requests and praying for each other. I have them switch people every week because this will bring all of them closer to each other and they hear and pray for the other guys in the group through out the year. We will always end out night with this, so they need to get used to it and be able to be open to pray for their brothers.

This will be fun: Group has to be fun. I would imagine that when Jesus was hanging out with the disciples that it was not all business and that they would have a blast together. I mean Jesus was 100% human as well as 100% God. I tell all the guys that the year will be so much fun. We will have fun while hanging out, we wil have fun as we learn and grow in Christ, and there will be nights where we just simply hang out and go to the movies as a group…. just because. If we cannot have fun as a group while still learning about Jesus, then what are we doing? If I expect them to block off Wednesday nights why not make it worth their while and have them actually WANT to be there.

These are just some things we go over on the first night of group to set the tone. What are some things that you tell your group?

One of my favorite things in the world is leading a small group. In fact, this year is the 10 year anniversary of me leading a group of younger guys in a small group setting. I just realized that. Dang. Anyways, I love it. At the end of this last school year I took over a group who are now going to be juniors this year. These guys have been together since they were in 7th grade, so I am the odd one out really, but over the summer we got so close and I can’t wait for the school year. Last week we had our first meeting of the school year and I always start off the first group the same way to set the tone for the year. I thought I would share some of the things we go through and hopefully it can be of some help.

FOOD!: Notice how that is in all caps and bold? Because I feel it’s that important. Our small group always meets from 7-9pm on Wednesdays. I tell them there is always going to be food and hang out for the first hour. Always. For high schoolers, nothing brings a group together more than eating and just talking while eating. Sometimes at the same time. When Jesus was hanging with His disciples it was around a feast. There is something about sharing a meal that just brings people together. This can get expensive I know, so we create a a list in which each mom will be responsible for a meal that feeds 15 one time during the year, and it is awesome. Usually they jump at the chance.

Commitment: I explain to my guys that for the year, my Wednesday nights for the year are blocked off from everything so that I can be at group and lead them. I explain that this is a non-negotiable for me and that I expect them to treat group the same way. When they signed up for group, they are committing to do their best to be there and participate. I tell them I understand sometime sports and family stuff will need to take priority at times, but in general I expect them to be there and they know that. If that is not a high priority then it would be a waste of both of our time.

#RealTalk: #RealTalk is something we say when it is time to get down to business. The first hour of us being together is hang out and eating and messing around, the second half of our time is #RealTalk where we dive into Scripture. Whether we are going through a passage or a curriculum, I tell them my job as their leader is to create discussion and then step back. I want them to do most of the talking and teaching and just talk through some of the stuff we are going through. I tell them that I am going to push them to think and that I am not afraid of silence because “silence is men thinking”. I let them know right off the bat, that if they are not going to take #RealTalk serious, that I will ask them to go home if they are being a distraction to our discussion. It is okay to have fun and be dumb while we are eating and hanging, but not during this time.


To be continued…

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When is the last time you actually sat down and talked youth ministry? I’m not talking about doing youth ministry, because we all know we are in the trenches when it comes to doing. I’m talking about sitting down with your staff or your team of volunteers and talked about youth ministry in general and just took a step back and looked in on the ministry you are serving. I think it is healthy.

This is why I loved this past week when our whole team sat down for Book Club. A few weeks ago we all got the book “Sustainable Youth Ministry” by Mark DeVries and we set a meeting for our team to read a few chapter and just sit down and talk about what we read. We talked about what stood out to us in the book and how we can relate it to our ministry. We talked about what we think we are doing well and what could possibly change. It was incredibly refreshing that we can just sit and actually talk about the whats, whys and hows of ministry in general and ministry in our particular context.

One of the things I pulled out of the book which got me thinking a ton about what we do was “A great organization becomes great when it has the ability and willingness to abandon what made them great to steam ahead. Many organizations hold on to what was successful and it might not now be the best way to do it.” Our team always says, “The best ideas win.” Doesn’t matter if it worked before, does it work now? It’s so great to be able to sit down with our team and talk ministry and take a step back.

I would recommend it to any team of people and for a volunteer team. What a great way to just sit back and take a look at your ministry and dream and talk it through with the people you are in the trenches with.

Today I had a conversation with a leader in my coaching team for small groups about how he feels like he is not connecting the way he wants to with his new group of students. After he explained his situation I knew that he was not meeting the expectations that we set for all of our leaders who lead a group. We set this expectation believing that if a leader were to do this at a minimum, they would be able to run a successful and growing small group. I kindly reminded him about our expectations, and he felt encouraged leaving that he would be able step up and make it happen.

Here are some of our leader expectations for our small groups (this comes out of our volunteer handbook):

Once a week items

  • Be prepared and read all the small group materials that you will be teaching. We shouldn’t be opening up our curriculum for the first time when we start the group.
  • Be on time to the group yourself.
  • Seek out one student in the group who needs some extra care and do a follow up.
  • Direct students to next steps and opportunities.
  • Contact anyone who ha missed two or more groups and follow up with them.

Once a month items

  • Connect with one student outside of your small group during the week.
  • Connect with your COACH to touch base on your group.

Every few months items

  • Write a card or note for your students. It’s amazing how much snail mail is appreciated now by students.
  • Do some sort of fun activity to do outside of your normal group meeting time.
  • Participate in a serve project together. (We provide a page of all of our ministries available to serve.)

Just some thoughts, advice and expectations we give our leaders to effectively lead small groups. anything else you would add?

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So a student starts coming to your group because they have hit rock bottom and wants to do something to turn their life around. So naturally, the church is somewhere they think they need to go. And they are right. They jump all in. Making friends, reading the Bible, praying, all the stuff. Real, authentic relationships are forming, they are opening up, they say they are getting closer and closer with God to where they just need one more step forward to start a relationship with Him…and then they are gone. They disappear. They stop coming, don’t call or text back. You see on Facebook they are back to their old ways. What the heck happened? What do we do?

This just happened to me. I thought I would share about how I go about it and hopefully it can help somebody else:

  • Let them know they are missed. Obviously something, whether inside them or inside the group, happened. I just to let them know they are loved and missed no matter what. Letting them know by either on Facebook or text or call, even when they do not respond back they will know they are not just going to disappear without a trace. I want them to know they are missed.
  • Pray for them. Might seem obvious but I think it’s huge. Something going on, and sometime the only thing you can do is pray for them. Pray for their heart to be opened to what you saw them leaning towards when they were around.
  • Sick the students from their school on them. I tell the guys in my group just to love on him at school. Not to over bearing, but even though he is not coming to the group anymore that doesn’t mean he is going to be ignored at school by the guys. They will talk to him at lunch, hang at school and always invite him to come back to group to hang out. They will feel the love from the group even if they stopped coming to the group.
  • When and if they come back, welcome them like the prodigal son returning and make it known they were missed and that they are loved. Make it seem like they never have missed a beat.

It’s always rough seeing a student walk away when they were so close to knowing Jesus. We just need to be patient and pray God is working in their heart.

*I wrote this post a few days ago, and last night I had to come add this part on because a student in my group who has seemed to do this just came back to group for the first time in a long time. So for me, this works. It worked. It’s working.

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The other week, I had a student whom I have counseled before come up to me and ask me if I could meet with a friend of his who has gotten into some trouble. He said because I have helped him out in the past, he thought I could maybe help his friend out as well. The only thing is, his friend is not Christian, he doesn’t really know what he is or if he has any belief system. All he knows is that I have helped him and his friend is open to meet and hang out. So we set up a lunch. I bet his happens all of the time with students who are in our ministries who want us to get in contact with their friends. The meeting is awkward, yes, but I wrote down some thoughts when meeting with a non-Christian for some counseling

  • Don’t forget the obvious: know and love the person.- When meeting with something who is not Christian, it always involves building a friendship. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Express your appreciation of their willingness to come meet. Show tenderness and compassion for them. Be open about yourself while you are spending time with them. Listen well and discern what is important. Ask them how they are doing and really mean it. We are allowed to care for a friend who is not Christian, why should counseling be different?
  • Help the person look in the mirror.- Help people see themselves accurately. No one does this instinctively. The questions, comments, and reflections you offer have a purpose. They guide non-Christians to articulate their world and simultaneously begin to reinterpret it. Here are some categories of questions you might want to ask: Questions that bring out good that is already present. Questions that flesh out significant life situations. Questions that pin point behaviors. Questions that help show their priorities in their lives. These questions can help them find out where their hope lies. It can help them see more clearly who they really are. True self-knowledge is huge! Knowing what they are about and why and discovering that can be a huge awakening and they would be “holing up a mirror” to their own life. This then gives us the opportunity to share with them the amazing news of Jesus.
  • Find out what the person thinks about God.- Every person who is not a Christian has a reason for not being a Christian. It could be from they never gave it a chance, someone who called themselves a Christian hurt them, they were burnt by a church, etc. there could be many reasons. Understanding the “God”- Christian or otherwise – a person is serving or rejecting is very, very helpful. When we are counseling, this is a ministry and ministry is evangelism. We strive for a friendship and then the next step is speaking about and letting them know the Good News of the Good Shepherd. What happens when someone acknowledges shame, guilt, wounds, wickedness, weakness or loneliness? That person becomes more open to a Shepherd who laid down his life so his sheep could have glorious, endless, forgiven, painless, shameless,eternal life with God as part of his family.
Does this always happen. Not at all. I pray it does. When it doesn’t, we don’t know what the seeds we sowed will do in the future, but we do know at this time in their life they knew they had a loving adult leader love on them in their time of need and they will never forget that. There has been a number of times in which after I met with students who “moved on” who I have not heard from for years and I get a call saying “Thank you” for that “one time.”
I hope this was of some help. I know when I am counseling students, I try to keep these things in mind.

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Everyone is always looking for the next best thing. We always are looking for the next big event that is going to change everything about our ministry. We are looking for next big sermon that is going to change our student’s lives. We are trying to find the next big book to read.

We are always looking for the next big thing. We are so focused on the next big thing we forget about the small wins our ministry is making. We have to remember the small things because it is the small conversations with students about how they are overcoming a struggle, how they are working on healing a broken relationship, how they are taking that next step towards Jesus that are the wins in which will keep us going strong in ministry. A reminder of why we do what we do.

Here are some “small” wins I would love to celebrate from this week:

  • Had a conversation that a student who said they have been in the Word for one week straight.
  • A student has not had a drink of alcohol in a month and wants to keep going strong.
  • A new student in my group who has read the book we are going through every week and is growing with his relationship with Jesus.
  • A student prayed for the first time.
  • A student who is going to break off an unhealthy relationship because it is not God honoring.
  • A student owning up to a mistake and wants to fix it.
  • Someone forgiving a best friend that betrayed them.

These are some wins I almost over looked this week and I felt God telling me, “No, these are huge wins for these students. You don’t over look this.” Let’s make sure as we are looking ahead and trying to take our ministry to the next level, let’s not miss the everyday wins and celebrate the crap out of them.

Ministry Is Not Stable

February 14, 2013 — 1 Comment

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I am not a risk-taker. Anyone who knows me well knows this about me. I like stability. I like comfort. I like routine. I didn’t ask to be this way, but for some reason, it’s just how I’m wired. When things are stable, comfortable, and routine, I’m good. But put me in the middle of uncertainty, and it’s another story altogether. Funny then, because that’s the exact season of life I find myself in right now. That’s the season of life I’ve been walking through for the past few years now, actually. Not just the past few months, or weeks… The past few years. In the grand scheme of life, that may not seem like a lot. But when you’re deep in the pit of it, sometimes years can feel really, really long.

If you’d asked me a year ago how I felt about all of this, I’d have been pretty bummed. Okay, really bummed. But you know the best thing about uncertainty? You know the greatest part about being in the middle of the unknown? It’s right there that God reveals Himself the clearest. I’m not kidding. I spent a good part of the last couple of years angry with God. Sad, frustrated, confused. I didn’t understand why He wasn’t moving as fast as I wanted Him to. I felt like He had promised me something that just wasn’t happening. Without even fully realizing it, I started shutting myself off to opportunities, relationships, and challenges that were being placed right before me, simply because everything my life felt uncertain. Everything seemed too risky.

Then somewhere along the way, something changed. I wish I could say there was an obvious sign, or that I heard a loud voice somewhere in all of this. But an amazing thing happened when I finally stopped being angry and started to pray for peace and contentment: I started to feel peaceful and content. You know what else? I began to see what I was missing right where I am. I decided to start paying attention—And that has been a game-changer. Over the last year, I have watched God place so many new opportunities, relationships, and challenges right in front of me. Often. Most of the time, it’s been so far out of my comfort zone. But this time, instead of dismissing these things because of the risk, I saw them for what they were: God fulfilling His promise to me. See, He never promised He would move the way I wanted. He certainly didn’t promise He would move as fast as I wanted Him to, either. But God did promise He would show up. He promised He would provide for me. And walk beside me. And never forsake me. That’s exactly what He’d been doing all along. Just not the way I had expected.

So I’m learning to love this season of my life, however long it may last. It’s not stable. It’s not comfortable. And it’s certainly not routine. But there’s nothing that draws me closer to God than unknowns and uncertainty. And today, there’s no place I’d rather be than right there in the middle of that chaos—embracing all that He has for me now, while believing in all that He has for me later.

Maybe you find yourself in a similar spot, or maybe not. Either way, I’d challenge you to ask yourself: How would you be changed if you embraced some risk? How would your life look different if you chose to open your eyes to what God is doing in front of you, right now?

*This post was written by David Clark, a great ne friend of mine. He is the Creative Arts Assistant and Worship Leader at Sherwood Oaks Church in Bloomington, IN. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidClark

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Why aren’t the students bringing friends to church? Why are they not getting into the worship music? Why are they not in a small group? Why are they not serving? It’s so frustrating! Is it really their fault? Maybe. Could it be us? Maybe. I can be. I have been challenged in this with my small group, and our group as a whole.

As church staff and volunteers we need to do the things we want our students to do. It only makes sense.

I know it can be really easy to teach and talk to them but it seems like they do not take your seriously until you actually do it too. Be their model. They are watching you.

When the music is going, are we worshipping passionately or are we too worried about the next transition? If we worship passionately most student will see that and feel it’s okay to just let go what the people think around them and do the same. Are we introducing them to our friends who we bring to church? Are we bringing friends to church? Students are in their “cliques” and not inviting new students to get food after services. Are we inviting new students we just met to hang out or do we go to the normal students we always go with? Are we telling them that small groups will help them grow spiritually and are not in one ourselves? They notice. Are we showing them that going to a serve event is great and fun and a wonderful way to serve God while serving others? I bet you if we invite them to a serving event most would at least consider it because they just like being around you.

I have been noticing that when we as leaders actually do what we want our students to do, they will jump right in with us. This is my constant goal.

What do you wish your students would do? Are you doing those things to model it?