Archives For Ministry Idea

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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When it comes to ministry and trying new things I go all in. Our team goes all in. The moto when it comes to trying something we never have done before is, “The best idea wins. If it worked last year it doesn’t mean we NEED to do it again. If there is something better let’s do it.” Let’s be creative. Let God move. Plan something that would not work unless God came through. Failure is something that will always be probable I guess. But…

IN THE EYES OF GOD THERE ARE NO FAILURES, BUT FORCED GROWTH.

What we are so worried about? Failing. We don’t want to fail, it makes us look bad. No one wants to fail. The idea that in God’s eyes there is no failure, only forced growth, is encouraging. Every time we fail to do something, it helps us grow in some way, shape or form. Failure forces us to grow, helps us learn from our mistakes. We can take this idea in our faith journey and in our ministry.

Are we ever going to stop messing up and failing? No, sorry. We are human and that is what we happen to do. It is what we do AFTER we fail which will define us. If we just give up, we fail. If we don’t, it was just an experiment and research on the right way of doing it.

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

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.

Small groups are the back bone to any ministry. I truly believe that real life change happens in small groups. The weekends are sexy, small groups are messy. Real life, real faith, real change gets taked about in small groups. At HSM, each staff member is a coach of volunteers who are small group leaders. I have a coaching group of 13 different leaders. The job of a coach is to be a resource, a pastor, friend to your group of leaders who are leading the students in your group.

We proudly, and freely, give away the name “pastor”. Our small group leaders are the pastors to their students. They are the ones on the front lines with them on a weekly, and daily basis. As their coach, I want to make sure that they are doing okay, in teaching their group and on a personal level. I try take make sure I meet with each leader for coffee once every 6 weeks, just to get some face time with them and hang out with them a little bit. We talk about life and ministry. It is a great time.

There are a few questions I will ask my coaching group every single time we meet to get a feel of how everything is going for them. Doing this, I feel gives them a sense of what they are doing is great by pouring into the lives of these teens, makes them feel like the staff in which they serve under cares for them and supports them, and develops our relationship as people who are on the front lines of ministry together.

Here are some questions I always ask:

How are you doing?– I always start personal. I want to know how they are doing with life and volunteer ministry. Sometimes this question is the only one I get to because there is something going on that they want to talk about. And I am okay with that. I would rather talk personal stuff and make sure they are okay before anything else.

How is your group going?– It’s a simple question, but with a variety of answers. It is just an opportunity for them to be honest with how their group is going. What they are feeling about it, going about it, and how they think their students are responding to it. Sometimes it is just a great way for them to debrief whatever is going on because they have been thinking it for so long, it feels good to actually talk about it.

Are you doing anything in your group that is working that you would want other groups to know and try?– Not all of them have “something” but there have been a few times in which they would share something that is so simple or so fun, or so different, that I want to let other groups know and try to see maybe if it would work for them. I love when I get ideas from other leaders to try. And, it gives them a sense of ownership and encouragement because what they are doing can help other groups. I recommend this question.

Is there anything I can do to help make your group better?- This question can come with a whole bunch of different answers as well. Sometimes the answer is a critique on you because you were not doing something or it can be an honest answer of how you can be a better coach to make the small group of your team member and their students the best experience for their small groups. I am always wanting to know how I can support my team of leaders who minister to our students.

I know there are more questions I ask, but these are the ones I always want to try and get in to get a feel of how they are doing. What would you ask?

Yo Gabba Gabba For Adults

January 9, 2013 — 4 Comments

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This last week I got to babysit my little niece and nephew for a few hours while their parents had a wedding to go to. No, do not worry, I had my wife with me to help. Without her those kids did not stand a chance. Ha! But while we were there my niece loved watching the show Yo Gabba Gabba, which is a children’s program with cute/weird characters and she was hooked into it. It was amazing. The moment that it came on, she actually sat still and watched it and would occasionally dance with the characters (super cute), but she was mesmerized by it. Now I am not speaking anything against it, I actually enjoyed the show because they have bands and musicians I love guest star on it, but I was just interested in the reaction of my niece when it was on. Her demeanor changed when it was on, she zoned out and nothing could get in her way and she noticed nothing around her that was happening. Unreal.

Cell phones are the Yo Gabba Gabba for adults and students. I am not going to lie, I love my phone. I read a ton of great things on it, I love posting on Instagram, checking Facebook and Twitter, without the maps app I would literally be lost going anywhere, they are useful. But my wife has hated me on it…why? Because I become like my niece watching her show. Then I started to notice our students doing the same (even in services! Shocker!). Not only students but all pastors who have a smart phone. There was one point this weekend where I was in a room full of adults with no one talking but all were on their phones.

We have let our minds become like a two-year old’s by droning out and not paying attention to what’s happening around us because we are too into what is happening in our phone.

I got to thinking, what are we teaching our students about how important they are if we cannot go a full conversation without checking our phone. How important does that person that person you are having coffee with feel when you can’t go 10 minutes without checking your email. How loved does my wife feel when I’m droned out on my phone sitting on the couch instead of engaging in even a simple conversation. I’m not saying our phone is bad, it’s actually quite helpful. I’m also not saying that we need to get rid of it and that I have all of the answers on how to combat this, what I like to call “Adult Gabba Gabba Syndrome”. It’s actually now being described by doctors as FOMO, fear of missing out, syndrome, but I like mine better.

Here are some things I have been intentionally trying to do so I do not fall into this what I feel potentially dangerous cycle in ministry:

  • When I’m at home, my phone is on “Do Not Disturb” (iPhone) and in my bedroom, where I cannot check it all of the time. 
  • When I’m at work, my phone stays on my desk. It doesn’t go with me when going into a meeting with someone or the team.
  • If I am with a student, my phone is off. There is nothing more important than that student sitting in front of you in that moment.
  • Same goes when I’m out with my wife or a friend at dinner. Most of the time I just leave it in the car so the temptation is not even there.

I’m not going to lie, I suck at doing this. And since I write this a week ago, I have failed numerous times. I’m trying to make this a habit. I NEED to make this a habit. I just thought I would share some easy ways to keep me honest and aware of what’s actually going on in front of me. Anything else you can suggest?

The “Fringe” Kids

January 2, 2013 — 2 Comments

You know exactly who I am talking about. It’s the kids that just all of the sudden starting showing up because their group of friends go to the same school, who sit in the back, who talk the entire time, and that smoke on campus. The types of kids we all think, “What are they even doing here?” Right? Truth is, they are right where they belong. These types of kids are my personal favorite and even through they can be disruptive they will listen to the message and watch how you react to them, it just sometimes takes a little longer for life change to happen because they have their walls up. Jesus’ message has the power of life change, and once grasped they are hooked. I have seen it, and it is amazing.

The “fringe” kids can be very intimidating at times, so how do you get “in” with them so they start to listen and talk to you? This might be different for other people, but hear is a list I have come up with to help minister to these types of students:

Be intentional: You have to be. For the most part from what I have seen, the typical response to them if they went to another church, sadly, was you have to leave. So they already will see any adult as a threat and just making a point to know their name at first is huge! If they think this group will be different, they will stick around. If they stick around, they will hear the message, and hopefully eventually respond.

Be relational: That’s how Jesus would be. At my last church I served at, there was this particular group, exactly matches the description I said above, and I would try and make it point to hang out with them at some point of the night and establish a relationship with them. It got to the point where I invited them to In-n-Out after service and we then would go every single week after service and our relationship grew more and more.

Be strong: Can’t even tell you how many times I wanted to punch this group. Even through you establish a relationship, they will be them during service and be disruptive at times. There are times in which you will need to remove them from service and show them they cannot distract others from hearing the message, but instead of just kicking them out, go out with them. I would go outside and just talk with them for a second 1) To show them I still want to respect them and show I care for them 2) it’s one-on-one time with them outside and a great way to break down some walls. Then we would go back in after a few minutes and they would usually be god to go for the rest of the service.

Get them involved. The moment they realize they are apart of the night there is a change. I had a group of guys who would ride their BMX bikes to service every night we met. They would always come in early to leave their bikes in the back before sitting down. One night I asked them if they were to come in early, can they stand by the door and simply high-five everyone who came in the door when we opened them, and they did it, and they loved it. They then did it every week from then on out and it became their ministry. They were involved, they owned it, this was their church.

Be patient: It may not seem like it’s making any difference, but I promise you it is. If they are coming back, even through actions don’t change immediately, they are listening. The more relationship you gain with them the more they open up and trust. We had a leader who also had a heart for these kids. He would sit with them every service, take them out every service, and started a small group with them. He even hired some of them at the pizza place he managed. It is unreal the transformation in some of them. Some now are even pursuing ministry. Jesus works in their lives even if you can’t see it.

Be loving: That’s how Jesus was to people on the fringe. That is how we need to be. High schooler are the best B.S. detectors I know. they know when you are not genuine, so be loving and they will want to be around you and want you to be around them.

I have seen it. The “fringe” kids will turn into “core” kids if you give them a chance and love on them.

Insta-Life Series

December 26, 2012 — 1 Comment

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This had to be one of my favorites series that we have come up with so far. Because Instagram is such a huge thing for students, we thought this would be the perfect way to use whats hot in the app store and bring it to life as talk about how God is working in our lives. Below are parts we used to speak to our students during the series: teaching illustrations, games, and what we wanted students to get our of the weekend services. Hope this is of some help!

Series Arc:

InstaLife: Jealousy – Wanting Someone Else’s Username:Being jealous shows that we are not satisfied with what God has given us, that what we have is not enough. The Bible tells us that we need to be content with what we have because God would never forsake us and leave us with nothing. In order to go head to head with jealousy we need to become more like Jesus and less like ourselves. We need to stop wanting and ogling what everyone else posts through Instagram.

InstaLife: Being Fake – Look Behind the Filter:We post pictures online for everyone to see. We will post pictures on this app to allow other people to get a little glimpse into our lives. Many post pictures of the life they wish they had or pictures from only the good parts, giving the false perception to everyone who sees it thinking that you are just fine and dandy when in reality you are truly hurting. It is time to stop pretending that everything is okay and come to Jesus get out from behind the filter.

Games: The game is simple – someone turns over control of their Instagram account to the host of the show, who is then given permission to do whatever they want in exchange for prizes. In this case we used the Wheel of Destiny to let it randomly choose what would happen. Some of the options included:

  • deleting 10 random friends
  • trolling someone’s profile (aka liking all of one person’s pictures)
  • posting a picture of another girl in the room and tagging it #newgirlfriend
  • $5 to Starbucks
  • become Instafamous – everyone in the room takes out their phone to follow them
  • Week-long hack – the phone stays logged in and randomly in the week we hack them again
  • … and many more!

We had previously hooked up an iPhone to our main screen using an Apple TV so the whole experience was sick and flawless technically, too. Oh and also painful … and hilarious. The students who played along were good sports and hosts were loving but ruthless. Another epic game we’ll for sure use in the future, too!

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Sermon Illustration:

20121217-105343During the message our team made a real life Instagram picture on stage in front of the students eyes (picture above) and talked about how we try to make the perfect picture to portray to everyone else when sometimes our real lives are not doing too hot. We explained how God can see through the “filters” we put up and just wants us as we are, right now, with no filter. How he wants authentic and real, not posed and faked. So the above picture we brought in items one by one to make “the ultimate picture”. Then explained how that was not our real selves and God wants us #nofilter, just as we are.

It was powerful, and you can see it in the eyes of the students as they were convicted because they know they do this every time they post a picture online.

You can download the series notes for cheap HERE.

*The game description was taken from morethandodeball.com because he had already explained the game perfectly.

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So I just went to Hawaii on my honeymoon. Let’s just say it was incredible and I do not want to make you jealous, but 10 days in Kauai and Maui is the way to go. What I do hope what happens is that you get the itch to get away for a bit. Since I got to Saddleback, I have had time off, but this was my first “real long” time off that I have had and it was incredible. I literally turned off my phone (when was the last time you have done that for an extended period of time?), had no agenda, read a ton, got away and didn’t think about work.

Here is what I learned about my time away and why it was so important for me:

You get to refuel: I have never felt more energized as I do right now. Spending time, uninterrupted with my wife is such a blessing. I turned off my email. I didn’t go on Facebook, I only used my phone as a map. I got to sit, relax, and read a ton of books. I got to have some great fun, some things that I love to do….like eat, hike, and go on some adventures (kayaking, zip-lining, etc.) It’s amazing how much your realize how draining having constant emails, texts, voice mails, and meetings can be and to be able to turn it completely off is amazing. If you have trouble doing this while you are not in your office, you might need to have a vacation more than ever then because that is a problem. Get away, refuel.

You have to plan ahead: I was going to be gone for 12 days so that means I needed to make sure all of my duties were going to be taken care of. It caused me to look ahead 2 weeks and get my mind around what is going to need to happen while I’m gone. To be very clear in my direction and vision for the weekends so when we had our meeting the week before I left, I came in with guns blazing with ideas and our weekend team drew out the weekends on the whiteboards in detail. This got us 2 weeks ahead, which we have not been, and it allows us room to work from this point on. Hopefully we can keep up this momentum. It set us up to stay ahead in our weekend planning of services.

It allows others to step up: It is my responsibility that our weekends, all of the moving parts, come together to make one awesome service. Since I was going to be gone, it allowed other members of the weekend team to step up and take charge and lead these weekends. And honestly, they killed it. I came back just for the last weekend in our series and was blown away by what our team did. It was way better than what we originally planned in the first place and the series was probably one of my favorites and best ones we have done yet… and I wasn’t even there to over see it! The team stepped up in huge ways and now it has revealed to me what our team can do and I am excited to see what can come out of this for the future. Sometimes you have to get away and get out-of-the-way to allow the people around you to step up and dominate and see what they can do.

So… get away. For you, for your team, for your ministry. It’s healthy on all accounts!

I was talking to a good friend of mine about small groups. I reading looking at Jesus’ disciples (his small group) and I noticed something about them that is similar to my small group, and maybe yours too.

As a Christian we are to be Christ like. We are to mirror the image of Jesus and the ideas of how he did ministry. Jesus was a fan of small groups because with his small group of 12, it was the back bone of His ministry when he was not physically there anymore. Jesus loved the huge crowds, he hung out in them, preached to them, did miracles in them.

But he spent a majority of the time with his disiciples. A group of 12 men. And even within the group, their was an inner group in which he would focus on. This is the same approach that we can take ourselves when it comes to any small group.

Overall Structure:

The Crowd: Jesus preached to the crowd. Spent some time with them as a whole. This is our youth groups. What ever night you meet would be your crowd. You love them, hang out with them and know them by name. As the leader you need to spend time with them.

The group: This is your group or your leaders small group of students that they spend their time with outside the crowd. This is the Bible study, the group of people they will “do life” with on a weekly basis. It’s not so general but its more specific on their lives and their lives with you in it. Jesus spent a majority of His ministry with his disciples. He knew them. He hung out with them. He had parties with them, laughed with them, ministered to them far beyond what we did with the crowd.

The 3: Jesus had 3 men within the group he spent more time with than the others. Peter, James and John. These are the 3 he took with him on the mountain with Moses and would take to pray off to the side. This doesn’t mean that he loved them more or was playing favorites, he he invested more in these men because they later became huge pillars in starting the Church.

Typically this is the same with our groups. There are students within the small group that come on a regular basis but miss here and there because of business or sports. But there are always a few that do not miss at all, who are there every single week, who ask you to hang out outside of group and you do. Those students you invest into because you simply get more time with them and you get to dig deeper into their lives.

The One: John was the Beloved Disciple/ He seemed to have this special relationship with Jesus that just clicked. He was the one that God revealed to him about Revelation and whom Jesus loved. There is that one student who you see that if you were to specifically and intentionally hang out with, they would be your one because you see the potential that they have in Christ. They tend to be your helper, the one who you might ask to help you out in ministry more outside of group. It’s the one that maybe take in your own footsteps.

Just some thoughts. What do you think?

Couple days ago I got together with a few of my good friends in youth ministry and were talking about when we first got into it and how little we knew. I admit, I still know very little but I’m in progress. It got me thinking about if there is anyone you know, on staff or volunteer, just jumping into ministry, what would be good to know. So I thought of 5 quick tid bits of advice for anyone new and diving in to ministering to teenagers.

The 5 things you need to know to start in youth ministry well:

Be all in– Go all in. Get involved. Break the awkwardness of you being one of the only adults in the room. You know, the students know it, just jump in and break that awkward wall down. Greet them, get involved in the games, the worship, the message. They are watching you whether they know you or not and will determine if you are the real deal or not within two seconds. Is it going to be weird? Probably at first, but once they see you go all in, they will be right behind you.

Be real- Students are the best B.S. detectors I know. They can easily sniff out someone who is not genuine from the start. Don’t try to be the “cool” person because they are not interested. What I have found in doing ministry is that student respond best to any adult leader when they are open, honest, and real. You will not have every kid there liking you, but there is at least one kid that needs to hear your story and how you handled it that will help shape their spiritual life. Students will come to you once they know you are a “real” person.

Be consistent– Nothing kills a student more than opening up to a leader and then that leader just all of the sudden stops showing up for no reason. It will make that student not open up to another leader because they think that they will just stop coming. Sometimes being there is all they need. They see you every single week, being involved, being real, and it makes a difference. There is no way anyone can effectively minister to a student if they are not there constantly pouring into them. Be there and be there regularly.

Be caring– People are broken. Obviously. Students are broken with huge emotions and need some guidance in areas of their life in which they will come to you for advice. Even if the “problem” does not seem like a big deal, to them at that time it is a huge deal, so showing compassion and that you care means everything to them. Sometimes just being there is enough for them to show that you care for them. Be genuine in how you are for them. Take a second and pray for them, right then and there. It shows that you care for them.

Have fun– Plain and simple. Youth ministry is so much fun, it can be very tiring, but it is so fun. If you don’t think so, then you probably should go to another ministry. Students love to have fun and they want leaders to have fun with. I love my students and we can be serious and talk life, but we can also be stupid and just laugh our faces off at stupid things. It’s okay, I promise.

If anyone new to youth ministry were to take these to heart and be all in with these items, they will do some amazing things in the lives of students for the Kingdom.