Archives For March 2013

I love my job. A lot. But there are some things about the job and ministry that are just hard to swallow. It is always a bummer when you hear something about a student you have poured in to, make a decision or go down a path that you have, for what seems like you have talked about over and over, go the opposite direction.

Just the other day, my co-leader for our small group and I got a text from a mom. She just vented her concerns about her child, which is awesome she is letting us know, and she ended with, “Know I don’t expect you to fix him, I just wanted to let you know.” Which is a big thing for us I believe. My co-leader is new to ministry, this is first year leading a group and he just happened to come into the office to talk about how to respond to something like this. It ended up being a great conversation and training for him. I thought I would share some point from our conversation:

  • Our job as leaders is not to “fix” students, but be there to guide and teach them to follow Jesus so when our time is done with them they can and know how to be a follower of Jesus.
  • It’s huge for us, as leaders, to have the in and trust with our parents. They are with our students longer and for more time than we are during the week. They will know more and for them to be able to come to us with concerns and the insides of the family is a big deal we cannot take for granted.
  • I don’t want to go to the student with the info from the parents (in most cases) because I want him to feel like he can trust me, not conspire against him with his parents. But I can lead the conversation to see if he will talk about it with me.
  • A student will only share what they want to share. You cannot force it.
  • We need to be there and available for them when they finally do want to bring it up. And be loving while we do it.
  • My co-leader and I can do a better job at partnering with our guys parents and are going to figure out how we can do so.
  • More one-on-one time leads to better and deeper conversations with a student.

I’m sure there are more that we talked about and that can added. I just thought I would list some of the stuff we talked about today. What else would you add?

We always focus on the invite. The initial invite and meet and greet of a new person to come to church. We teach our students to invite their friends to come to service, especially when we are going a teaching series or event that is geared to allow students to invite their unchurched friends.

Right now, we are in the middle of our biggest outreach called You Own The Weekend. Where students from our school put on all of the services. They run everything. They make the graphics, they do the music, they teach, they tell their testimonies. They invite their entire school. It’s amazing. This last weekend we had one of the school’s principal come and see the students teach.

But what is the purpose of doing this, as awesome as it is, if we train our students to only invite students to come to certain events if there is no follow-up or secondary invite? You invited them that one time, awesome. So what about next week?

If we are not teaching our students the power of the follow-up, we missing something huge. I tell my students during these times, that the outreach series needs to be the training ground of inviting their friends because it is easier and geared for it, but it needs to be a constant thing. I let them know that they would be surprised how many of their friends are actually waiting to be invited back again. A second ask, not only to church again, to lunch or coffee. A follow-up.

I want our students to know why follow ups are important:

  • It starts conversation. You can ask them what they thought.
  • Can start-up a spiritual conversation. They know they are going in to hear about God. It’s not a surprise. So ask them.
  • A follow-up invite shows them they are cared about. An invite is personal. It shows value.
  • Social involvement outside of home church often provides an opportunity to discuss spiritual things in a comfortable and natural setting. In addition, it shows the person that we Christians know how to have a good time and are “real” people.

A follow-up is huge. Ask once. Ask again. Show them they are of value, not just an ask.

Why You Need Support

March 25, 2013 — 2 Comments

We're Better Together 8x10

Being connected is important. I don’t care how well you think you are doing, one day you are going to crack and if you are not a part of a well-connected team or a part of a network of other pastors it can be a lonely, lonely place. I am lucky to be on a great team. We talk ministry, we have good days and we have bad days in ministry. But they are there for all kinds of support. Even if I was not on a team, I still have a bunch of other pastors, both my age and older, that I am connected to and make sure I get together with them on a regular basis. I can go to them and vent, celebrate, ask for prayer etc.

Even if you are not on a team, creating sort of your own “team” to surround yourself with is important. Here is why:

Bounce ideas off of: I know how I work. When I have an idea, it’s okay. For me, I love to have people in ministry who I can bounce ideas off of to make them great ideas. I am a big supporter of the idea that you can do something good, but with a solid team that “good” thing can become a great thing. And it is just fun to talk and dream big with people with the same passion.

Celebrate with: Try high-fiving yourself. It’s lame. It’s just clapping. When your team scores a touch down, you want to stand up and cheer and celebrate and be with people who want the same thing. In ministry, it is always nice when God moves, but there is something about surrounding yourself with people who can celebrate with you is huge.

People to pray and support you: Not everyday is going to be a celebration. You might have a rough day with people you work with. You might have a rough day with a student. You might have a rough day with your boss. It is important to have this “team” of people you can safely vent to, talk through the situation with, and have them lift you up in prayer. This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself in ministry.

We are on the same team: I cannot believe sometimes how hard it is to get youth pastors together. I love just to talk ministry with, steal ideas from, get inspiration from, hopefully give a little inspiration as well. We are all on a team if you think about it. If you do not have the opportunity to work on a team of people, create your own. Create a network of other student pastors in your immediate area and get lunch once a month. Be encouraged. Pray for one another. Share ideas. Combine your heads. It’s huge and it’s a game changer.

Do not be an island. You were made to be on a team. We are better together.

Yesterday I got to go serve with my life group boys. We went to another church has a young life group of special needs kids and they threw a carnival and invited us to come help out. It was such a blast. It was cool to see a few other of our churches small groups come together and throw a carnival For theses students. We basically ran simple but fun little carnival games as 40 students with down syndrome came across and we give them prizes I just had a blast hanging and playing with them.

A few weeks ago in our group we taught about serving and how that we are called to serve. We let that Jesus is life and noticed that he said “I came to give them to serve”. I told my group last week that we were going to go serve at this event and they were all in. Here’s a few thoughts that I had about the benefits of serving with your group:

We are called to serve. There’s just something about not only hearing about this whole thing called Siri but also actually going out and serving with your students. The something that happens I cannot explain but you can actually see you in the faces exceeded their action that they’re getting it. There something happens inside them when they first hear about that they’re supposed to serve but then actually serve and find out that they really do enjoy it. They actually get to feel like they are the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

It gets them out of their comfort zone. When they first showed up and we’re getting ready and students started to come in I could tell that our students were very uncomfortable. But I think that’s a great thing. Sometimes we have to lead out in our discomfort to show that our students that it is okay to be uncomfortable at times. My favorite moment of the night was watching our students become less uncomfortable and more of having fun with the students that they were serving.

The groups that serve together will last together. There’s something about when entire group goes and serves that but there’s a closeness between that group because they are in fact serving and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. It is almost, maybe even greater than, the summer camp experience of the cabin because survey does way more for the kingdom than just going to a summer camp and there’s that bond that you cannot break.

We had so much fun. What’s our students realize that it was okay to be uncomfortable they got way into the carnival and had a blast with the special-needs students that were there. They drop their guard, Let down their hair, and just had fun with the people who were there. Serving can be fun if you go into it with the right attitude heart.

So go serve with your group and you’ll find yourself being closer than ever and you will be doing what you are called to do of being the hands and feet of Jesus with your students.

As of this week I am the Pastor of High School Ministry Life Groups. I could not be more excited for this switch in positions and the journey it will be. With this now in motion, I will be overseeing all and everything that has to do with our students and their Life Groups. Registration, placing kids in groups, work shops, meet and greet, curriculum, group care etc. Jessica, who was over it the past four years has done an incrediable job of booming Life Groups. There are more kids in Life Groups than attend our weekends. God has a huge part of that, but Jessica has a big part as well as she has helped cultivate a culture of how important Life Groups are for our students.

But now I have the control to do whatever I feel needs to happen. So what does that mean? This is a huge transition of leadership and styles, how will that work? I have been thinking a ton about this as I have known about this transition for a while and have thought of a few things in which we all can keep in mind when we come in control of a new ministry, position or event. These are things I have in mind when coming into my new spot on the HSM team:

If it’s not broken don’t fix it. I don’t plan on changing anything. The system in which is set up seems like it is working. The last (and dumbest) thing I can do is change it because I am the one who is running it now just to show that I am running it. I’m sure there are going to be certain things that I will change because it would run better with my personality, but it would be little things. It’s awesome, but I’m not going to change it…yet (if needed).

Take it though a season with open eyes and open mind. My plan is going to take it though the year how it is. Going in with an open mind and an open notebook just sitting back and taking notes. Since I am the one with fresh eyes going in, I just want to see how it’s running and take notes to see in which ways work the best and what are some things that can change. This way, after I have already seen it in a season, I can try and help better it the next round.

The best idea wins. It’s my favorite saying on our team. Even if it is the way we have done it before, if there is a better idea that will work better, we are going to that. Nothing is set it stone, it’s all flexible. But just because I can change it, doesn’t mean I will. the best idea wins.

What is best for the the students? Ultimately it’s about the students. I’m not trying to make a name for myself or anything like that. I truly have a heart for discipleship and I want our students to truly experience Jesus in their groups and express Him in their daily life. I am an advocate for the students when it comes to their spiritual health and learning. I pray that God helps guides me as I try to help guide them into knowing Him more personally and being able to express Jesus to others and live it out. I will do what I feel is best for our students. That’s it.

This is me just verbally processing this new transition and you happen to be here and reading this along with me as I am learning. I’m so pumped for this awesome opportunity. Praying for guidance! Love it.

Ever had a crap day? I did this week. One of those days in which nothing went the way you thought it was going to when you woke up. Literally everything went wrong at home, at work, in the office, with a student, etc. It can be draining. It can be tiring. It can be awful. Now I’m human. Surprise! I didn’t handle it well. I messed up. I took it out on everyone else who was going to try to help me. It was just one of those days where I just wanted to come and sit down on the couch and do absolutely nothing. And I did. And I pouted. Sometimes it happens and when I woke up the next day I realized how ridiculous I probably sounded and looked as I sat by myself on the couch. This morning I did 3 things that helped me so much in my thought process. These three things I should have done yesterday immediately but I was too into my pity party I didn’t even think about it. It was selfishness.

I read the Bible. It’s the living Word of God. He moves. He seems to know what I need to read and what I need to hear at the time. If only I would have done this first so I could have read this when I was actually feeling at the time.

I prayed. I prayed about the decisions I made yesterday. I prayed for forgiveness of how I acted. How I was thinking (because He knows what I was thinking about people and words I was saying in my head). I prayed for more patience next time a day like this comes.

Which is another thing I realized. I failed this test miserably. I have been praying for more patience. God gave me this opportunity to be more patient. I failed. Something I teach to our students, I didn’t do. Having this realization is super humbling.

I asked for forgiveness. Man that is hard to do sometimes. It is a pride thing. Something I openly admit to you. It’s amazing when you are the one that is in the wrong and you know it, how hard it can be to go to someone you could have handled a situation differently. You do not really how hard it is (even though we teach it) until you have to do it yourself.

When I think about this and ministry, I got thinking about how much our students really do look at us to model this. We are like them. We have crap days like they do. If you have a student who looks up to you, they will imitate you and how you handle the same situations. It’s a real thing. We are to be models, even when we mess up, how we handle the mess up can be more important than the actual mess up. I got to thinking how we always do it backwards sometimes. We mess up, get frustrated, go to family for help, then friends, then pity party, then when things get bad…we pray. We need to pray first and all the rest will come into play. It sets the tone. Scripture affirms that tone. God will use it to teach.

Be a student.

I have had the honor and privilege to be able to write some material to have up on Download Youth Ministry. If you do not know what this is, it a website put on by Doug Fields, Josh Griffin and Matt McGill for youth workers to go and get dirt cheap but quality student ministry materials. All materials are thing is that have been trench tested in other ministries.

I have 5 resources up there now and I thought I would do a little shameless plug for the website and the materials I made on my blog. You can check out my page HERE.

21DayPrayerChallenge_Title_web

21 Day Prayer Challenge- $5:

It’s been said that 21-days makes a habit. Most students say they want prayer to more of a habit in their lives. The only problem with that is they don’t know how to make that happen and what the in the world do you pray for 21 days straight? This booklet is 21 days of guided prayers for students in hopes that at the end of reading this, students would 1) have made prayer a significant part of their day 2) have an idea on how to direct their prayers on certain topics per day and 3) get to know God closer than they have ever before. Each day has a different topic to pray about, a 3-minute devotional, some Scripture to reflect on, and a guided prayer list to help them make prayer a real, authentic, directed, part of their everyday life. The list of topics cover: your heart, faith, hope, love seeing God’s glory, obedience, trust, family and friends, sharing your faith, living sacrifice, change, over coming fear, compassion, empathy, worship, kindness, evangelism, surrender, serving, self-control, and the power of prayer.

LoveIsInTheAir_Title_web Love Is In The Air- $5: 

This is a 3-week study going through God’s plan for sex. Sex is always a hot topic. Sex is always on students mind. God’s idea for sex is way different than what our world now portrays sex. If we really dig into what God designed us for, we were designed to be relational. We are relational people. It’s normal. This study will go over the biggest question of them all, “How far is too far?” And we will be going over God’s plan for sex and what He created it for.

If you go through this study for the next 3 weeks you will walk through all of these topics and ideas and help walk through what this looks like in our lives. Buy it once and make all the copies you want? What a deal!

made_web MADE: Shaped By God- $5: 

MADE is a 3-week study for students in getting them to dive deeper into some Biblical truths about how God wants us to be more like clay, branches, and sheep. Each of these 3 topics takes a full week to go through: one section a day for 3 weeks.

It will hopefully show students how God wants to be able to help mold us like clay because He is the Potter, how we need to be branches and be connected to the vine, Himself, the source of life, and how to be sheep in the care of the shepherd.

Each day takes about 5 minutes to read through a passage of Scripture and journal through some questions about it. This is a great way for your students to dive just a little bit deeper into their faith with God, learning how to know Him in a more intimate way.

OutOfContext_Title_web Out of Context- $9:

Out of context. We all have seen it. We all have heard it. What is it? A verse taken out of context. There are many verses in the Bible in which we read them they sound great, and it gives us the warm fuzzies on the inside, but when we read the verses in the full context of the text, the meaning of the verses change.

This series takes 3 of some of the most famous verses taken out of context, and looking at each one in the full context that they are supposed to be read in.

IrresistibleRevolution_Title_web Irresistible Revolution- $9: 

Irresistible Revolution is a series that covers hypocrisy, being crushed and how to respond, and to go out when we realize that God will lift us up. My hope was that our students would see that by how they live will show Jesus to others around them and how irresistible a changed life can be.

WEEK 1: ARE YOU KISSING JESUS’ CHEEK OR FEET? This message is to point out and challenge students to hang up the mask of hypocrisy, and take up the life of a true follower of Jesus.

WEEK 2: POWER OF THE MUSTARD SEED: What we are in need of doing is grow closer to Christ, but what we typically do is grab onto anything, but God wants us to grab on to Him.

WEEK 3: RADICAL: We are supposed to go out and tell others, out on Jesus so others can see how you live and the hope that you have, and go.

1.  Small group leaders are important.- We might work on staff, but our small group leaders are the ones who are their “pastors. They are incredibly important to our ministry and we do our best to let them know they are vital.

2.  Small group leaders set the tone. – They need to know that they are setting the tone for the atmosphere. If they want it to be serious, they need to take it serious. If they are just going to mess around and just have fun, that is all the group is going to be. They set the tone.

3.  Small groups are not about small group leaders.- The group is about getting students to know Jesus better. It is not about the leader doing whatever they are wanting to do and to talk about. The goal is to have students experience who Jesus is to then express him in their lives. At the same time, the group is not about the group either. They need to know that they are there to learn.

4.  Small group leaders aren’t supposed to live on an island.- They need to know they are supported. Whether the group meets on the church campus or in homes, they have to know they are supported and are a part of the bigger picture fo the ministry. It is ultimately a team effort.

5.  Small group leaders must be invitational.-  Seems like it would be a given you would be surprised. I get the fact that you want to keep a small group small. It it needs to be an inviting place because from what I have seen is a ton of new students getting plugged into our ministry because they are coming and wanting to be a part of the small group community it provides.

6.  Small group leaders aren’t perfect.- Exactly. they are humans and have their own struggles and life situations happen. It’s okay to let us know they can ask the staff for help if they need support. Also, showing they are a “real” person and being transparent is one of the most effective ways to minister to students.

7.  Being a small group leader isn’t always easy.- They are in the trenches. they are dealing with, talking through, walking with students with issues and messy lives. It’s not always going to be easy but it’s always going to be worth it.

8.  Seek advice and wisdom from trusted advisers.- We have a coaching system lined up. I am a coach to 13 other guys small group leaders. If they need anything or have any questions about small groups, they know they can come to me for help and advice. It’s my job to care for and guide my team.

9.  Lean into the small group leader community.- It’s important to know they know they are not on an island by themselves. But it can be the exact opposite when they can lean into other leaders and get ideas on how to teach a lesson to their students or even get advice on how to handle a certain situation that another leader may have already gone through. Ministering to each other is huge.

10. Be patient and be passionate! – Because it is not always going to be easy, patience is key. If students are not “getting it” or if they are driving you crazy, be patient. God is working in their hearts. Nothing is better than the “light bulb” moment when they finally get it. AND BE PASSIONATE! If you are all in, your students in your group will be all in.

When a small group leader takes on leading a group they are taking lead of a group of students they have a responsibility to move forward in their journey to spiritual maturity. But, before that can happen, the leader must conclude precisely where the group member is on that journey.

These four questions would be helpful to the leader to be answered concerning each group member. The answers to these questions will determine how the group leader relates to and sometimes converses with each group member.

1. Is he or she a follower of Christ?

If a student in the group has not made that decision to follow Jesus there are a few things the leader can do when they know that student is not yet a believer.

  • Make the most of every opportunity the Holy Spirit creates to voice the gospel to that group member
  • Watch the group member closely during group meetings and capture a transformational moment when it occurs
  • Carefully answer any question the group member has and bathe that answer in the person and story of Jesus.
  • Integrate the Gospel into every group conversation when it is possible and appropriate.

2. Does the student have a past that is holding them back from fully committing?

Sometimes student don’t realize the freedom that they have in Jesus. They think because they did that one thing, there is no way Jesus can use them. Sometimes there is drama or abuse in the family, there is a hole in a friendship, maybe they are stuck in some sexual sin that they think they God can’t possibly understand and help them move past it. Realizing whether or not a group member is in this situation will explain their attitudes and reactions to many conversations and will make it possible for the group leader to point them toward the help they need that can aid them in their movement toward freedom.

3. Is he or she proactively seeking Christ-likeness?

Many of the times student make that decision to follow Jesus but they think that is the end. They made that decision. So now what? As leader we need to help be proactive in their faith, striving them to be more Christ-like. When the leader realizes the sort of spiritual apathy which is present they should motivate the student to be involved in spiritual disciplines, talk about study about God and who He is, and slowly move them toward a walk with Christ that is real, authentic, and transformational.

4. How can I help the student take the next step?

Once a group leader is aware of the answer to the three questions you just read, the group leader must ask herself/himself how they can help the group member to commit to taking whatever the next step is for them. Helping group members commit to next steps is the first step toward transformation that is real and eternal.

Knowing the answer to these questions for you student can help you engage them in conversation to knowing who Jesus is.

When I am in the zone, I’m in the zone and there is no stopping me. When it comes to leading a small group or running an event sometimes I get so into it and want everything to go so smoothly and perfect that I am on such a mission I don’t even enjoy what is happening around me. I’m focused. But that is not a bad thing right? Maybe sometimes it is when we are not focusing on the right thing. Sometimes we just need to loosen our grab of our ministry, allow the Holy Spirit do what he does, and we need to have fun with our students. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy your job. Have a blast.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been so focused on having everything perfect that I missed out on having fun with the students who are there. I’m not saying, don’t be on top of things but when you plan something there is only so much you can do sometimes and you just need to step back and enjoy.

Having fun with your students is the quickest way to the best relationship with them. Having fun with your students is the best way to break down any walls that where once there. Having fun with your students is part of your job; not the only part, but a huge part. If we are not stepping back at some point and thinking to ourselves, “I can’t believe I get to do this for a job (or volunteer)” then you are too wrapped up with a tight grip on your ministry.

I truly believe I have the best job in the world. I cannot believe I get to do this for a living. It is so much fun. So let it be fun and go have fun with your students. This is something I have been trying to do more and more in my own life and ministry because I get so focused on “ministry” but lose focus on having fun with my students and having real, genuine relationships with them.