Archives For student ministry

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.

I had a conversation with a buddy who works in the junior high ministry. He just got the job over there and was telling me how much he loved it so far. He has been in youth ministry before but not in an all junior high setting. We were talking and her said he loved junior high because they almost accept you immediately. If you like to have fun and you tell them to go wave at that random person, they will and think you are the funniest person ever. I told him I wish it was like that in high school. You almost have to prove yourself to high schoolers before you can have any sort of relationship with them. They are more on the defensive about you until you can get a good rapport with them. Junior highers are like dogs who love you immediately and want to be your best friend and high schoolers are like cats who you need to prove your loyalty to them first before they love you. So how do you do that?

Here are some ways I have found it easy to win over a high schoolers heart for them to start a relationship with you:

Food. It truly is the way to a high schoolers heart. If you look at Jesus and how he got to break down the walls between Him and sinners, he was always around a table eating a meal with them. There is something about free food that screams, “Hey, I like you” and will break down the guard. My small group has food before every group. The moms take turns cooking full-blown meals. It’s awesome. I really do think our group has grown so much closer this year because we spend an hour at the table eating and talking life.

Invade their space a little. Get on their campus. Who cares that when you are on their every student knows you don’t fit in there and they know you are an outsider so they stare at you. Get past that. Because when your students see you at their school 1) they are so surprised 2) they ask, “What are you doing here?” and when you say, “Just wanted to come hang out with you all a bit” they are so stoked 3) you get a chance to meet their friends and 4) it shows you think about them and care for them outside your group on whatever day you meet. That means a ton to them. When you leave, you are bombarded by students coming to you and saying they will see you at services. It’s awesome. Of course, don’t sneak on, always follow the rules on getting on campus. Oh, and if you can bring food to them while invading their space a little, double points.

Invite them places. Every Sunday we have an hour break between the two services. usually the students who are involved in the services are just hanging out. So I started to invite students (mostly difference ones every time) to do an AMPM run with me while we are just hanging out. We get slurpees. It is such an easy way for me to get to know these students a little better and they feel like I actually want to be with them and know them. I do the same when I need to run errands the ministry and always invite students to come and hang out. Again, time with them means a ton.

Time and intentionality. It takes both putting time in and being intentional about it. Both of these things are big when it comes to getting in high schoolers good rapport. They can smell a fake from far away. They know when you are genuine. The more and more you spent time with them and intentionally want to hang out, trust is built. And when the time does come where they come to you for help in any matter, it means a ton. They also vouch for you to their friends about how you were there for them and it can open up the doors to more students to gain a rapport with.

Just some tips on my end that has helped me with students. What would you add?

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

made_web

 

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.