In my last post I discussed three relational shifts needed if we are to actually disciple younger generations.

Here, I want to discuss some bigger picture perspective shifts that are necessary. Now, to be clear, these are shifts from what might be known as a “traditional” understanding of discipleship.  In other words, here are three shifts of how we think about it:

  1. From Inside To Including Outside. Traditionally we have separated discipleship from evangelism. We have done this in our programs, in our language and many churches have even done so in their values. But in Matthew 28 Jesus clearly is not defining “making disciples” as Christian to Christian relationships. He is clearly not telling them to go and disciple each other. There is nothing in their experience that would’ve led them to believe that was what Jesus was saying. This shift is no longer allowing ourselves to believe that discipleship is just an “inside” thing.
  2. From Content To Living Example. When we think of discipleship we usually think from the context of a program…or if not, from the premise of content where we begin by thinking about specific doctrines or truths or books that we would want to help someone understand better. However, younger people are not necessarily looking for more content. They certainly want to learn, but the inward desire is to learn from exposure to someone’s living example. The disciples would not have left the conversation with Jesus in Matthew 28 and thought they should meet with someone once a week and go through some content. They would’ve left thinking they needed to go do what they’ve seen done…someone living out what he knew. This of course included content, but it stemmed from experience in life.
  3. From Country to People. In Matthew 28 Jesus says to make disciples of all ethnos - which is where we get our word ethnicity. Somehow we have thought about this as countries. I know it’s mostly translated as nations but it’s really people groups. And, to the first point above, this was radical because it was all people outside of their religious relational circles. This is a critical shift if we want to engage younger generations!

Chuck / @chuckbomar

* Check out great discipleship materials that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 10.04.16 AMOver time things always change…even things in the Church. Some people choose not to change, but others do. There is always a place for both sides of that fence in the Church, but I want to talk about 3 shifts necessary for “discipling” younger generations. These shifts are not earth shaking realizations, but they are in fact different from how older generations have traditionally approached discipleship.

Here I will issue 3 shifts in the context of relationships and how we approach them. Next post will be 3 shifts in the context of “perspective.” There is more to the latter so I will elaborate in the next post on that.

The 3 shifts in relational approach are:

  1. From Information to Wisdom. Wisdom is gained through experience of embracing what we already know. The shift is a big one. It’s a shift from the mentor prepping content to bring someone through…to the mentor becoming a learner of what the other person is processing through and then, when appropriate, offering wisdom from their experience. This where biblical truth comes in. The shift is really from the mentor driving the topics of study to the other person driving the topic of conversation.
  2. From Fixing to Mutual Fascination. Far too often we look at people who “need” to be discipled as a problem to be fixed. The shift is from fixing a person to befriending a person. It’s a shift in relationship that is simply centered on being mutually fascinated with what God has done and is doing in each others lives.
  3. From Teaching to Mutual Transformation. Younger people aren’t looking to be “taught” as much as they are looking to grow and be changed. The reality is when two people become mutually fascinated with what God has done and is doing in each other’s lives…they are also mutually transformed!

- Chuck / @chuckbomar

*Need effective discipleship materials? Check out all the resources for discipleship that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer! 

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 11.09.03 PMSo, I am speaking at a camp this week to a group of just over 1,000 high school students. It’s going well, and I always enjoy speaking here. Last night was “decision night” where the camp has it somewhat designated as the time where we invite people to make a “decision to follow Christ” for the first time. It’s a time of both excitement and caution for me.

Every time I teach and am asked to call students to some type of “decision” I always tell the counselors that I am not going to be around afterward to talk to students. I do this for a few reasons and always tell the counselors:

  1. I’m usually not helpful. I’m not suggesting I can’t offer helpful advice or counsel to someone, but rather that me being the person they talk to is not usually the most helpful for that person. The truth is some people (especially kids) just want to talk to me because I’m the person speaking. I find it much more helpful for those students to talk to someone who will actually be back home with them next week.
  2. I want to protect myself. I don’t want to gauge the success or failure of the night on the amount of people that stayed behind. I always tell people I need to evaluate whether I was clear with God’s message or not and then rest in that alone.

People are usually gracious and respectful of my position on this.

That said, last night people did make a decision to accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him in his ways. I know camps and a lot of people in ministry seem to celebrate the number of “decisions made,” but I wonder if that’s a good metric…?  I certainly don’t think it’s a bad one. People were at a point where they articulated their desire to follow Jesus – how can that be a bad thing?!

That said, I’m not convinced it’s a good metric…or, at least not one where we should get overly excited about. I mean, isn’t the proof really yet to be seen? I think it’s an awesome thing that many kids “decided” to follow Jesus for the first time last night and I would say that should be celebrated…but it’s quite possible that many of those kids won’t hold to it once they leave this environment where it’s actually cool to follow Jesus. The reality is high school students find their identity in their social atmosphere…and this atmosphere holds following Jesus as a very high value. I’m not questioning the authenticity of their decision…but I am a bit cautious (not skeptical!) with the sustainability of the decision because of the environment it’s in.

Now, let me clarify. I’m not demeaning anything God can and does do at camps or in “decision times.” And I’m certainly not saying we should abstain from doing them.

All I’m saying is I’m not sure its a metric we should hype too much or measure our success or failure in. I’ve taught what I thought to be clear presentations of the gospel and have had almost nobody respond. I’ve also taught what I thought to be clear presentations and have had a ton of people respond. This is why I don’t use the metric of the quantity of “decisions made” for speaking or in ministry in general.

What are you thoughts?

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.50.39 AMJesus announced the Kingdom (or literally, God’s reign) being at hand in Mark 1:14-15. At it’s core, this is simply saying, “You are now seeing God’s reign firsthand in the life of a human being.” According to Jesus, this is the good news (or “gospel”) he declares for the world to believe in. Jesus was the perfect example of a human being showing the world what God’s reign looks like, 100% of the time.

I think it’s safe to say that leaders in the Church want (or at least verbally express) the people they lead to have God reign in their lives. This may be worded in a number of different ways. Leaders say they want people to:

  • “Be on fire.”
  • “Surrender their lives.”
  • “Live for the Kingdom.”
  • “Be gospel-centered.”

Whatever language is used, the desire is to see God reigning supreme in a persons life. As it should be.

Okay, so here are 3 questions I think every leader who has this desire should ask themselves:

  1. How am I allowing people to see God’s reign in my life, firsthand? (following Jesus’ example)
  2. What boundaries do I need to set up so that I am not trying to reign in people’s lives? (avoiding a Messiah/power complex)
  3. Who is seeking God’s reign in their life and who do I know that can learn from that person? (cultivating discipleship)

This very well could be the coolest thing you’ve ever seen for parents (especially dads) or for summer youth group events…you’re welcome.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 1.39.09 PMWorking with parents is one of the most critical (and often confusing) aspects of student ministry. The dynamics of this can be very complex, depending on one’s context. Some are in a context where parents are highly involved and can be overbearing with opinions. Others are in contexts where the vast majority of parents are absent entirely and the work it takes to get parents to engage at any level is exhausting. Then, there are many serving in a context where parental involvement is all over the spectrum and trying to balance this in ministry events/trips/small groups/etc is tiresome, to say the least. The good thing is there are all sorts of resources you can check out for help in these areas.

But there are very little if any for college ministry, specifically.  In fact, I think much of that is due to the fact that people don’t think ministering to parents is a core part to being in college age ministry.

Granted, there is some truth to this. They are over 18 years old and therefore don’t need parental permission slips for over night retreats. Many have moved away to go to school or have moved out of the house and therefore are outside of some of the natural daily “oversight” of parents.

But in college ministry there is a whole other world to working with parents. The biggest difference is the dynamics of relationship. At this stage both child and parent(s) are trying navigate their change in roles and how they are supposed to or want to relate to one another. This can be very complex during this life stage and can be disheartening for families. Parents are wondering what their child needs from them and how they can help. The child is musing on how much they actually want their parent(s) to be around and involved…and then in what areas, specifically.

Complex parental situations come up in things like:

  1. When the child “walks away” from the Church. Out of a desire to have the best for their children, sometimes parents can make unrealistic demands. They often will ask, “I was wondering if you could give my son a call because I’m worried about him.” Although I understand the heartfelt desire for someone to reach out to their child, this is simply weird. And, thus, you have a new complexity to working with parents.
  2. When the child is making a shift in convictions. When a parent sees their child holding to different convictions than they were raised with, parents will often rely on for answers. This might simply be in the means of advice for them, but it can also mean they are looking to you to solve the issue. And, sometimes, the child is embracing a different conviction from their parents because they have been listening to your teaching! And, thus, you now have a new complexity to working with parents.
  3. When dating goes a different direction. When a parent does not support a dating relationship their child is in it can become very complex for you in college ministry. The child seeks your advice because they don’t see eye-to-eye with their parents, which this is a tough balance to keep as a leader because you don’t want to unnecessarily create more division between the child and parent through your counsel. Secondly, sometimes the parents will contact you as a leader and ask you to “talk some sense” into the child. But often times you don’t think the parent is correct. And, thus, you now have a potentially complex ministry with parents.

There are all sorts of myths out there, but don’t buy into the one that says you don’t have to deal with parents if you’re in college ministry.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 4.24.08 PMIn the back of my newly released book, “Ready. Set. Next.” I listed out a bunch of thoughts…some of which are more serious than others. This is my first fictional book, but it’s obviously driven by real life circumstances and situations and is centered around topics I think are critical for people to think through. The book is based on the journey of 3 people after they graduate high school. They are from 3 different backgrounds, have totally different personalities, are going in 3 different directions and asking totally different questions.

Anyway, I thought I would list out a few of the “lighter side” tips I made in the back of the book in the section titled, “Practical Living.” There are 3 other sections in this part of the book: Faith, Relationships, and Classes. Here, I thought I would list out some of the Practical Living tips. I think some of these are funny, but they are also meant to be helpful…but you can determine whether or not either of those are the case:

  1. Wear flip-flops in the shower. Always.
  2. Pack all the clothes you think you will need for college. Then, bring half that amount.
  3. Think. Use Discernment. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. You’ll come back to this one almost weekly.
  4. There is always someone who walks through the dorm hallways naked. Don’t be that person.
  5. Drying your pants doesn’t mean they are clean. And yes, putting a dryer sheet in still does not count as clean.
  6. If you can see the dirt ring where you lay down in your sheets, you’ve waited too long to wash them.
  7. Think about the experience you will have after college when you have to pay back all the loans you get and then ask yourself, “Is that 15-20 year experience of being strapped because you have to pay off your loans worth not working for the 4 years you’re in school?” It may be, but make sure you ask the question honestly.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post called, “Pivot of Perspective On Bible Study” where I talked about a few different ways I’ve been talking to people about how they view the Bible. Here I would like to throw out a few Bible_Coffeethoughts I’ve been thinking a bit through about how we refer to it in our speech. We refer to the Bible in a number of ways. We call it things like:

  1. Scripture
  2. The Bible
  3. The Word
  4. God’s Word
  5. The Holy Bible
  6. Word of God

All of these are certainly good and well-meaning names and I am not saying we need to change how we refer to it. But, I am asking whether or not it would change things. How could that impact how we think of the Bible and could that in some way change the way it impacts our lives? I have found the most common way we refer to it is, “The Word of God.” We have time in the Word. We study the Word.

But the more I study it, I’m starting to think maybe a more accurate and fresh description of it would be the “Acts of God” versus the “Word of God.” Now, I know that would be a bit awkward to refer to it by that name in the contexts we typically use the phrase “The Word of God.” But, just think about it for a second. We are not just talking about words here. We are, in fact, talking about actions God has taken.

Maybe referring to it (or thinking about it) as “Acts of God” would cause us to see how our actions should change? Maybe it would be a refreshing reminder that God took action toward and for us? Maybe understanding it as actions would help us move beyond feeling spiritually mature simply because we studied it a lot? And, maybe understanding it as Acts of God would reach much deeper into our affections/desires/feelings in ways that literally transform our motivations for obeying it?

After all, we do say things like, “Actions speak louder than words.”