Archives For God

Ministry Is Ministry

June 6, 2013 — 6 Comments

As I we are wrapping up this year’s small group season and breaking for the summer I have already been preparation for next school year. I have been able to talk to a bunch of other student pastors from a few different churches (LifeChurch.tv, Newspring, etc) and see how they set up their smal groups for the years. It’s awesome to see how other ministries do what we do just in a different context and setting. It got me thinking.

Ministry is ministry. I would assume that all of us believe in reaching students, or even just people in general, for Jesus. I would also assume that we would agree there is more than one way in doing so. As long as the truth of the Gospel is being preached, and it is doctrinally sound, ministry is ministry but the context changes. The Gospel will never change, it will always change lives and it is timeless. Ministry, depending where you are, will change. The context will always be different.

The moment we believe our way of ministry is THE way of doing ministry is the moment your ministry will become stagnant.

Your philosophy and methodology might change based on the area, church, culture you are in, but the theology should never change. As long as we don’t base our theology off of the culture we are in, what does it matter the whats, hows and whys of ministry? The way we do ministry in Southern California here, a lot of the things won’t work in the Mid-West and what works in the Mid-West probably won’t work in the South. But you know who knows? The people who are living there and doing ministry there.

I love looking at other pastors and how they do ministry from all across the nation. I want to learn what works best for them but realize what works best for them might not work best in my context in ministry. But it could spark some other idea in which would work.

Let’s just realize ministry is ministry. That never changes, but context does. Let’s be on the same team and reach students for Jesus, that’s it. Let’s be aware what is working and where and let us learn and adapt. The Gospel is an unstoppable force and it will change lives.

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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.

Here is a sample from Week 1 Day 2. If you want to check out the full resource, you can get it for $5 on Download Youth Ministry. I hope it would be a great resource for your students:

Day 2: Do Not Quarrel with the Potter

 

“Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say,

 ‘He has no hands?”-

 Isaiah 45:8

 

As we mentioned yesterday, it can be easy to be too critical on ourselves and to think God may have made a mistake on us. Instead of trusting God’s design for us, we choose to trust what the world tells us is right. But how would God respond to our questioning Him? Can the clay question the potter?

 

Read Isaiah 45:5-12

  1. How do verses 5-7 reveal God’s power and majesty?
  2. Why do you think people (including Christians) believe that the God who created the world would make a mistake on those made in His image (Genesis 1:27)?
  3. How does verse 11 show that God reserves the right to be the Potter even if the clay doesn’t like how it is being shaped?
  4. What are some ways you have questioned God as the Potter and the Maker of your life? How does this passage point you to trust in Him and His work?

 

See also: Romans 9:20-21; Isaiah 29:16; Deuteronomy 32:5-6

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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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.

small-victories

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.

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I am really excited to share this with you today. Over the past few months I have been talking to my small group guys about prayer. What it seems is they WANT to pray more, but they don’t know what to pray for exactly. So it got me thinking, what if they had a prayer guide to help them direct their thoughts on certain prayers so they can become more focused and not have the random thoughts we all tend to get while trying to pray. So I came up with the “21 Day Prayer Chalenge” for students and its only $5 on Download Youth Ministry.

If you want to check out a version of what a day looks like, check it out HERE.

Below is the description and you can click HERE to go check it out:

“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.

As you can see, there is a ton of topics in which students can be praying in their lives, and having them take this 21-day challenge will help them make prayer a habit in their lives and help them know what to pray for and how to pray it.”

My hope is that students will be able to make prayer a daily and meaning part of their lives. If you get it, let me know what you think!

In most churches we say, “Weekend/Midweek services are the main attraction to new believers, and small groups is where they go to grow more spiritually.” I believe this. In the ministry I am involved in does this. Our weekends are to EXPOSE the Gospel to students and small groups are to have them EXPERIENCE Jesus. I am all for the weekend/midweek services, I LOVE them. I love the crowds because almost all of the time, there are new students there. But there is something that I think we need to be aware of.

This past year, in my group, I have experienced at least 30% growth. Incredible right? Oh, by group I mean my small group. It’s growing. Fast. Why? Because my guys are bringing in friends. Friends who do not know Jesus, and those friends are hanging around every week.

All the groups who are growing have something in common, and as someone who loves the weekend services, has challenged me personally to see what are we doing in small groups that is attracting non-believers almost more than weekend programs, and how can we transfer that into our weekends.

All of the small groups that are growing have this in common from what I see:

  • There is good food– Notice how I didn’t just say “food”, I said good food. Free food is great, free GOOD food is unreal. Students love to hang out and eat. It is a community building time. It’s laughing, talking, hanging out. Students come to where the food is. In my small group, all of the moms take turns cooking for us. We eat and hang for an hour before we study. Obviously during the weekends it could be hard to have free food every week. Chances are there is a fast food (we have Chick-fil-a and In-N-Out) near you. After service announce you are going there to eat as a group and I guarantee you will have students who you never have met before there hanging out.
  • The group is real– Groups that are growing are the ones in which people talk about real things and real relationship forms. I’m not talking about shallow teaching, the Gospel is the Gospel and when the Gospel is preached, God moves. I’m talking about shallow relationships among the leaders and the students. In small groups, the leaders are authentic, they open up. Students tend to do that too when their leader does. I just had a leader talk to me about how he felt he was not making a connection with the students on the weekends. I told him to talk to only a few students how you would in the small group instead of trying to say hi to all of them who walk in. It changed everything. Be real, students will be also.
  • Students know they can ask ANY question– One of the new guys in our group asked, “How does someone worship and show love to God.” For a group mostly of Christian kids everyone was sort of taken back by the “simple” question but they looked at me to answer. I asked them to share how they do it, and it was awesome to see them minister to their friend. The point? Are we making it known to our student they can/there is someone to ask a real, honest question they have in our weekend/midweek services. Chances are if they really know there are people to talk to, they would find them and seek them out.
  • They know and are prayed for immediately– In our growing small groups, prayer is a huge deal. They know if something is going on in their life that they share, the entire group will stop and pray for them right then and there. That’s so encouraging. I am bad sometimes at saying on the weekends, “I’ll pray for you” and then don’t. This is something at Saddleback this last year we have been focusing on, praying right then and there for our students, letting them know they can be prayed for NOW. And I believe it has transformed our ministry to a level in which it was not before. Students are coming out of the woodwork for prayer. It’s awesome.

There is a reason why these small groups are growing and students want their friends to come to it. We need to try to tap into why that is. I’m sure there are more reasons, and I might even post them as a continuation. Do you have any thoughts? Let me know.

volunteers

I went in to get more tattoo work done last week, and I was talking with Mike my tattoo artist (to read more about Mike and my relationship click HERE) about how youth today are so much different and deal with things that we would never have thought of only 5 years ago. It got me thinking about what our youth need from their leaders. Here is what immediately come to mind:

Your time- Ultimately, students are not going to remember the sermons you preached or the lessons you taught, they are mostly going to remember the time you spent with them. Doing life with them. Being there for them.

Your authenticity- They need someone who can be real with them. If they can see how their leader handles life and hard situations, how they handle a social life, how they handle social media, someone who is going to be real with them and genuinely care for them with no walls up.

Your ear- They need someone to be able to go to and talk in a real, authentic way. For some reason they might not be able to do that with their friends and with their family and they need to know that there is at least one person who would be able to listen to them. It’s huge.

Your compassion- When they have your ear, some it it might just be a fun conversation about life while others might be super serious and need your counsel and prayer. Knowing that you care for them as Jesus cared for the people means a ton. even more important, showing them in tangible ways that you do. A text when they missed group or a service, a mid-week call, a note. Knowing that when they do come to you in times of need, they have a leader that show compassion for them.

Someone who can call them out- Whether they believe you or not, they will thank you later for being the one to call them out, in love, when they are doing wrong or going down a way that is not right. Having a leader that cares enough to have that tough conversation is huge.

Someone they can follow- The best leaders model a life in which they want their students to follow. That what a disciple is. Students need leaders who can show them how to live a life for Christ. Someone who will be able to show them what Jesus looks like, to the best of their ability, in real life.

Anything else you would add to this list?

There have been days, even weeks where I have felt ineffective. My group is not listening to a word I say. They same to be making bone head mistakes, all of the time. It seems as if ministry is just something I am trying to get through.

I have a pretty big small group of guys. The keep on bringing their friends who do not go to church, so obviously I’m not going to turn them away. they know they are welcomed here and won’t be judged. Most of my guys have grown up in the church. They know their stuff, it’s now the living it out that they are trying to learn how to do. The guys who are coming who are not Christians take it even to the next step of immediately Instgramming pictures of themselves drinking wine when they get home. Not trying to hide it, but bragging about smoking weed. So I have the Christian kids trying to figure it out, the non-Christian kids being themselves because they don’t know how to do anything else yet. Talks will need to take place when the timing is right, but it is part of the game.

But here is the thing. They come every single group. Almost the entire group, unless they have a game, is there. They come with their Bible and a pen and take notes. When we are going through our study, I look up and they are into it. Underlining. Taking notes. Circling. I can see it, in the guys who have grown up in the church and the guys who don’t believe yet, their wheels are turning in their minds. There is something working in them. God is working in them, and that gets me excited.

I just got a text from one of the guys who is just checking out this whole Jesus thing (his words) that said, “Ever since we analyzed the Bible on 1 John 1, I have been reading the Bible a lot more. Just want to give you thanks for helping me out! God and I are pretty much the closest we have ever been. My faith has been growing slowly more and more since I joined this group.”

THIS IS WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO!

Let me encourage you today:

  • Today we expect to see immediate results. That’s just our culture. God is working on them way harder, and more effectively than you are. Be confident He is working.
  • They are listening even when they do not seem like it.
  • Be patient. They are watching and listening to us. When they hear the Gospel and how it calls them to live, they see the difference it makes and most of the time they look at you on how to live that out.
  • The best thing in ministry (in my opinion) is to see a student finally get it. Something clicks and they are on fire for the Lord. It’s the best feeling to see how God is working in them.
  • Be encouraged that God is working in their lives and being faithful in their lives because you are being faithful to them by teaching them, being their for them, and doing life together with them.

It’s the text we get when the light bulb goes off and they finally let down their walls to allow God to start working fully in their lives, a reminder of why we do what we do.

Keep this in mind. It’s the best.

Overcoming Fear

January 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

erasing-fear

There are two types of fear. One is good and is encouraged and the other is a fear that is to be overcome. The first one is the fear of the Lord. This doesn’t mean to be afraid of God; rather it is being in awe of God realizing all of His power and glory. It is having respect for His wrath and anger. This type of fear is total acknowledgment of all that God is, which comes through knowing and studying Him and His attributes.

This is not the fear I want to talk about. The other type of fear is “the spirit of fear”.  This type of fear is mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:7 which says, ““For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”. A spirit of fearfulness and timidity does not come from God.

I’m not going to lie. There are times when I’m afraid. I don’t care how old you are, when you are by yourself you hear weird noises at home and you freak out a little bit. There are things in our lives that scare us, whether it’s a conversation we have to have, something we need to overcome, or a sin we need to deal with and confess. The “spirit of fear” takes us over and it’s in this time we need to trust God completely. No one is perfect, and God knows this. I believe this is why He intentionally put verses about overcoming fear, encouraging verses, throughout the entire Bible. From Geneses to Revelation, God tell us to “fear not”.

God tells us not to be afraid of being too weak. God tells us not to be afraid of being alone. God tells us not to be afraid of not being heard by Him. God tells us not to be afraid of lacking physical necessities. We all do at times if we are honest about it. Trusting in God is refusal to give into fear. It is us turning to God in the darkest of times and trusting Him to make things right.

Once we have learned put our trust in God we will be able to overcome anything that stands in our way that we once were fearful of.

1 John 4:18– There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Isaiah 41:10– Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Psalm 56:11– In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 5:11– But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Romans 8:31-32– What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Pray:

  • For God to give you a healthy fear of Him acknowledging all His power.
  • Because you acknowledge His power, that he will take away that “spirit of fear” inside you.
  • For what ever you are afraid of, to be given to God to place all your trust in Him.
  • Pray that God’s spirit come near you and over take any fear of what you need to do or what you are facing.