166639415This morning Twitter sent me a message that instructed me how to follow football on Thanksgiving. The essence of the message said that it’s really what the holiday is all about. Sports. They seem to take over everything these days.

If you had asked me just a couple of years ago if sports was the enemy of youth group, I would have screamed, “YES!” What is wrong with these parents who force their children to give their lives up for athletics? Maybe if students were just a bit better at time management they could be involved in both…

Then each of my children found a passion in an extra-curricular sport that took a lot of their time. We are a 2 season cheer family along with softball, football, volleyball, and this year potentially, Spring track. There are daily practices, evening games, travel and training to get better. This is all because they love it, not because we “make” them do anything. As a matter of fact, they are all allowed only one extracurricular per quarter, and they just all happen to choose sports. It’s an outlet where they build friendships and confidence. They don’t miss church, but all too often they do miss other youth programming throughout the week. There is either a scheduling conflict, or sometimes they are just exhausted.

I read a really interesting post this week on the “flaw” in Orange family ministry philosophy. The author actually supports the family ministry model while bringing up a really valid point. Parents aren’t the only outside influencers in kids lives: friends, coaches, and teachers in many ways equally reach into the lives of a student.

He actually suggests we equip parents to equip their kids to reach their friends. My kids have had the opportunity to be evangelists on their perspective teams while learning how to shine Christ in a place that can be focused all too much on performance.

Our family sports are not the center, but I have been amazed at the amazing faith lessons they learn in that environment. They have noticed a pattern that youth leaders tend to care a lot when they show up to programming, and few make an effort to ever watch them on the field. Quite frankly, they have missed out on great opportunities to see my kids and interact with a lot of parents who like us sit in the stands way too often. You can learn A LOT about a parent in watching the way they interact with their kids playing a competitive sport.

Here’s what I will say is unfair on the parent front: when our kids choose sports and we the parents expect you the youth leader to make concessions for that. My kids have missed retreats and trips for the sports they play. They have hated it, but it isn’t their youth leaders fault. They shouldn’t ever be asked to change anything for a game or practice. Our children are given the choice of what to attend while at the same time taught to weigh all the factors involved. Yet in the process, they are learning life lessons of commitment, teamwork, and accountability.

You see, I no longer believe sports are the enemy. If I were to tell any of my children they could no longer play, I think they would come to resent youth group honestly. They aren’t living in sin because they like a sport. Isn’t it our role to help students know how to share the Lord with those around them. For this type of kid it happens to be on the field, court, pool or slopes.

Can we get creative? Groups like Fellowship Of Christian Athletes finds ways to meet before school. I have heard of leaders who intentionally become coaches and refs to meet the kids at their point of interest. We haven’t even talked about the other students involved in activities like drama, choir, or academic clubs that might take just as much of their time as any sport. I just wonder if we are missing out on a huge discipleship opportunity when we expect students to only come to us? I often wonder if our real issue is they don’t like our programs as much as they like other things and we are jealous? Is youth group more than just a place for the kids not involved in other things?

These are the question we need to ponder.

What about you? Are sports your enemy or your friend?

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1On this episode we deal with these three topics:

  • What to do when the enemy (devil) is attacking your youth group.
  • What to do when a student doubts their salvation.
  • How to respond to tragedies like the Ferguson situation. We will go more in-depth in our next episode on this topic. Subscribe to get it sent directly to email!!!

Join the conversation!!

Send any questions or topic suggestions to talkyouthministry@gmail.com.

Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt



In these past few months, I have had many conversations regarding Korean church youth ministry. Through these discussions, I realized that there were some things to reconsider in terms of the hiring process of youth pastors. Do youth pastors really need a Master’s of Divinity?

In my culture, having a life-long calling as a youth pastor is very unusual. It is more common for a pastor with an M. Div. to strive to become an adult ministry pastor, and not “settle” for youth. Usually youth ministry is seen as more of a stepping stone to reach this call or do ministry while pursuing their studies. I also think they don’t settle due to the lack of recognition of a youth pastor. While I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with this scenario, I do see that there is a definite shortage of youth pastors due to the qualification of needing an M.Div. Setting up such a high standard on paper sometime might miss the opportunity of high quality youth pastors that are just satisfied with their undergrad ministry degree.

There needs to be a paradigm shift and a remedy to this situation. It is evident that it is becoming more difficult to find someone with an M.Div that also has a call for youth ministry. Korean churches are losing out on young, talented gifted individuals that have a heart to serve the youth students, simply because they do not possess an M.Div. credential.

I think it is time for some churches to stretch the boundaries of accepting candidates with a degree in Christian Education, youth ministry, or a masters in biblical or theological studies. To think even further, it would be awesome to even consider hiring candidates that have an undergrad degree at a Christian College or University. Due to my cultural context, I do understand the title given as “Pastor” can be uncomfortable to someone that has not completed an M. Div., so a possible solution is to give them the title of “Youth Director” instead. Simple, right?

Don’t get me wrong, having an M. Div. could only help and better our youth students, but let’s not count out those brave individuals that have a true passion and desire to serve in youth ministry!

- Estevao / @estevaoyu

Cosby and Christendom

 —  November 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

bill-cosby-rape-allegations-pr-nightmareThe Cosby show is recorded before a live audience.

You know this, not because the voice of “Rudy” told you so… but because of all the new coverage and social media chatter about the iconic comedian Bill Cosby. Multiple women have come forth after decades of silence to make claims of sexual assault and drug-induced rendezvous against their will.

I’ve been processing all of this awkwardness like many of you have… not just because he’s been one of my favorite comedians over the years, or even my thirteen-year old son’s recent discovery online of the old 80′s show.

The real “Cosby show” that I’m interested in is how this all relates to you, me and the Church.

bentateConsider the sports commentators on my local radio station who were discussing how athlete Ben Tate was let go from the Cleveland Browns. They noted how after talking about it for an hour, no one called in or sent a message to the station in defense of this player whose firing seemed more related to locker room antics than his skills on the field.

Perhaps because of that filter, I’ve been wondering about if anyone will publicly come to Cosby’s defense. It could arguably be career suicide for such a fellow celebrity, for even Cosby’s own legacy is now in jeopardy. According to Variety newspaper:

Given what a public figure Cosby has been throughout his life, and the likelihood many will believe his accusers no matter what he says, this sets up significant dilemma. Cosby can seek to address the situation head-on, with no assurance that will allow him to rehabilitate his reputation; or choose to stay quiet, which would very likely entail living out his days as a pariah – someone with whom no network, streaming service or sponsor would understandably want to be associated. 

The media are hardly known for long attention spans, and if Cosby opts for the latter path, the drip, drip, drip of accusations will inevitably begin to subside. Yet he will no longer be able to perform – or certainly do interviews to promote any of his appearances – without inviting a new round of uncomfortable questions.

All of this highlights for me our own controversies within Christendom, between the latest megachurch pastor resignation to the ways smaller, extreme radicals of the faith become mountains out of molehills in the local press. Consider that in light of this quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates:

jellocosbyThe heart of the matter is this: A defender of Bill Cosby must, effectively, conjure a vast conspiracy, created to bring down one man, seemingly just out of spite. And people will do this work of conjuration, because it is hard to accept that people we love in one arena can commit great evil in another.

It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.

Finger-PointingWhat might be your response to this if it happened in your arena of life?

  • Imagine someone leveled harsh accusations against someone in your church that everyone loved. How would you handle it, especially if you loved this person? Someone recently told me, “I don’t care what people say about Bill Cosby. I love that guy.” Ever felt that same sentiment from someone who thought someone in the church could do no wrong?
  • What is in your past that could be brought up and addressed in a crowd of embarrassment? Maybe the accusations by themselves are slim, but if you got four or five people in a room together sharing stories of your shortsightedness or sin… what would happen next? Should you navigate that ahead of time and confess the situations – whether they’re actual or perceived – or hope that no one notices?
  • How would you feel if your internet search history was published within your church? What would you hope no one would notice or see? How does this affect how you are practicing cover up… or are you practicing transformation?

cosby-show-11The character of Cliff Huxtable was ranked first in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” None of that seems to matter in all of these allegations against Cosby, unless you consider how it seems that much more sad if this all pans out to be true. Some argue no one wanted to talk about the allegations back then because he made so many white Americans feel so good about race.

Should there be an opportunity for restoration?

What about if we’re not just talking about Cosby, but among people within the church?

What if you were the “Cosby” individual and the allegations start flying?

Where is the consistency and the hypocrisy in how we should deal with this in our own circles?

Are you confused by your “Cliff Huxtable” reputation and assuming all the flubs in your life can be solved by “going to commercial break” or making a silly face when they come up?

How should prayer and confession guide any of that?

Your life and ministry, after all, are being recorded before a live audience.



I-am-wrongConfession…

my favorite part of being wrong is when I admit it out loud.

That may seem like the average person’s least favorite moment.

Let me explain why I feel the opposite about it.

When you’re wrong, there’s usually someone who is passionately trying to point it out to you. Perhaps they’re on a mission to highlight what is plain to them that you’ve somehow been blind to. They’re attempting to get you to be mature or responsible about something you may have been immature or shortsighted about.

This tends to amplify when they feel you wronged them.

On your end, it’s likely not easy to admit that you missed something or made another person feel awkward. This is why when you actually do own it as a genuine step of maturity to the situation or the relationship… something amazing and unexpected happens.

The other person is also now tasked to choose if they’re going to be mature or immature in response to your response.

coneofshameAgain, this individual was on a quest to point out something you missed. In doing so, they situationally claimed the high ground – perhaps for all the right reasons, or maybe for the wrong reasons. They may not have even expected you to own it.

Only… you did. They had a great point. You confessed it, along with a desire to grow.

This is where it’s revealed if that person truly is a friend who will stick with you into the next curve or simply was a critic who wanted to lay a zinger on you. You once were being small in not owning something big, and now that person has to decide what they’re going to do with your mature ability to own your immaturity.

Unfortunately, this is where many conscious accusers become unconsciously divided.

  • They have nothing new left to say… yet they don’t know what to now do with any remnants of the unspoken negativity they felt toward you seconds earlier.
  • They have nothing left to point out… yet find themselves still wanting to be a critical spirit when they generally look at you.
  • They have nothing left to get you to admit… yet find themselves wanting to become your personal “life coach” and show you other things you’ve been blind to.

I adore this moment, not because I’m waiting to see if the accuser will be hypocritical… but because what once was a one-sided pursuit in my direction gets to be a defining moment in every direction of the relationship.

Will the person who felt you were wayward choose to let it go and walk into the future with you?

(By the way – think about how you handle this when you’re the one trying to expose another person to something they’re blind to.)

Reconcile_With_One_AnotherThe reason this is a defining moment?

Because it shows what the relationship is really made of and if two Christ-followers will keep following Christ together. Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer that we should pray for forgiveness from God that is equal to the way we’ve forgiven other people who have wronged us:

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12)

So the best part about being wrong?

It’s an opportunity for everyone involved to put Jesus on display in what happens next between those involved.

Then again…

I could be wrong.

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Our 25th episode is HERE!!! In this episode we give you four ways that has helped us support our students, in their spiritual growth. We love sharing our experiences and learnings with you, so thanks for watching. Don’t forget to Subscribe to get the newest show straight to email.

 

Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt



My Thanksgiving Tyrade

 —  November 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

185816528It happened literally the day after Halloween. Actually the two coincided. Stores started putting up their Christmas decorations. By November 5th it was in full swing. Santa was set up at the mall and all the red, gold, and green decor one could imagine was covering everything. Parking lot pumpkin patches are already being replaced with Christmas Tree sales. Even Starbucks already launched their “red cups” and Christmas drinks. A week or so ago I started receiving ads to help me “prepare” for Black Friday shopping. Actually, in some places if I want I can just start the savings on November 27th.

Does that date sound vaguely familiar? It should because it is Thanksgiving Day. You know the holiday we have somehow forgot that lands between the candy fest and Christmas. It’s the day we all eat too much, hold hands and go around the table and say “thank you” for things big and small from the last year. Stephanie Caro wrote a great post called, “Fall Into Christmas” where she actually discussed some ways to enjoy this middle holiday as we HEAD towards Christmas.

The issue for me is that it isn’t that we are reflecting more deeply on, “The Reason for the Season.” It’s about buying and doing more this year than we did last year. In the meantime, have we stopped to breathe in the crisp Fall air, eat all things pumpkin, and be thankful? I never thought about it before, but all the thanking prepared my heart for Christmas. I naturally turned my heart towards being grateful that God came to earth to be with us when I was well, being thankful.

Let’s not skip this time of giving thanks. Here are some cool ideas I have seen out and about that you and your students can try:

Handwritten “THANK YOU” Notes

Inspire your students to sit down and write two to five thank you notes to people who influence their lives. It can be parents, teachers, coaches or even you. Help them say thank you to those people who take the time to pour into them. For you sit down and write a couple of handwritten notes to your team. Everyone needs to hear thank you every so often, and I think it does every soul good to actually say it as well.

 Pour It On:

This is something you could do in small groups or give as a suggestion for the meal time at home. Take a vase and place it in a bowl. Give everyone a cup of water. Everyone goes around expressing thanks for things from the past year. When they do, they pour some water in the vase. The goal it to physically see it pour over. Get it? The whole cup runs over…literally.

Thank You Jar or Wall:

Keep a jar in a central place in your ministry. Have students keep one in their home. This is something you can do all year round. Every time they are thankful for something a small note is written and placed in the jar. Better yet, keep a wall with sticky notes available. Have students continuously fill the wall with ways they are thankful. Then take some time to read them all out loud.

I think my issue about overlooking Thanksgiving would be less if as a nation we were more focused on celebrating Emmanuel. Yet, it’s become more about getting than ever before. I think we need to inspire each other to have that attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving has always been a great catalyst for this. It’s not just about the turkey or the football or the pilgrims. Let’s make sure we don’t skip it, I promise there’s still time.

What are you thankful for?

Church Membership?

 —  November 14, 2014 — 4 Comments

Member Stamp Shows Membership Registration And SubscribingDoes church membership really matter?

You may not be the person in charge of this area of your congregation, but I’d presume you’ve heard this question before. Maybe you’ve even asked it yourself on occasion.

What’s your response?

Someone asked me recently, “Why do I need to be a member of any church? Why can’t I just as a Christian show up for Bible studies and services without all that red tape?”

I was exhausted at the time, so maybe my response was too candid. Still, I liked it as it rolled out of me:

“Why? Because you’re absolutely right. It isn’t necessary. It doesn’t matter. It’s a broken system. Many churches use it to gauge their effectiveness or build up arrogance at their numbers, and that’s a horrible idea. It’s a concept that people have rightfully grown suspicious of, and we shouldn’t even do it….

which is exactly why we do it.

It’s the same reason that you’re going to encourage your kids to get married versus live with someone, because you know that marriage is more than a piece of paper – even though society has made it feel like that’s all it is. It’s why you’re going to work on your health, even though you know your body will eventually surprise you – because maybe that gives you a better context to invest into others, even though you could just eat horribly everyday and think only of yourself.

band-of-brothersChurch membership may feel like blindly clicking ‘I agree’ on a software installation, but what if it’s more… what if it’s a chance to really link arms in a covenant relationship with others and know that much more how much you want to get each other’s backs? What if it’s agreeing to get into a foxhole on the battlefield and vowing to cover one direction of offense/defense so the people next to you can cover the other directions, and no one is insecure about it?

What if the reason membership matters is because in perceiving it doesn’t matter, we realize how much it matters?”

I don’t think he expected that answer.

He simply nodded and said, “Okay… wow, okay…”

foxhole_kidsWhat do you think?

Does church membership actually matter…

precisely because it doesn’t seem to matter?

How might you respond to someone’s question about it?