Skubala

 —  October 23, 2014 — Leave a comment

As my sabbatical is coming to an end this month, I had the opportunity to meet and share life together with an amazing group of youth workers at Group Publishing in Loveland, CO.sylvan-dale-guest-ranch-lodge During this summit, we had a chance to go out to spend some time alone with God at Sylvan Dale Ranch. I was able to find a very quiet place near the river. I happened to come across Philippians 3:8 during my reflection time.

As I was admiring the beauty of the mountains and rivers, for some reason, the word “garbage” stood out to me.

How ironic, right?

I started to ponder why Apostle Paul would use that word. The more I researched, I found out that, in fact, “garbage” was not a direct translation of the Greek word that Paul used– it is the word “Skubala.” Skubala means sh**.

This weighty definition is more accurate because Paul’s desire was to make known that nothing could compare to the worth of knowing Christ Jesus. As I was reflecting on this, Jesus was revealing to me my own “Skubala.” I’ve currently been applying for ministry positions, and while doing so, been faced with the temptation of relishing in my own accomplishments over the many years I’ve been involved in ministry; however, that’s the exact trash that Paul was talking about. It has gone from being all about Christ to all about me.

There is nothing wrong in feeling confident and proud of your hard work, but when it surpasses the worth of knowing Jesus, Paul sees it the same as Skubala. I knew that God was reminding me once again that He is above all else and everything in life is only done out of His grace, plans, and blessings to us.

Humility is key! Knowing Christ is greater than all of our own accomplishments!

- Estevao Yu

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1This week we continue with 4 tips on growing your youth ministry!!!

Here are a few things we want you to know.

  1. Kurt and I are committed to keeping the show around 20 minutes in length.
  2. Subscribe to the Let’s Talk Youth Ministry YouTube channel and check out other episodes that you may find helpful.
  3. Email any questions you may have to talkyouthministry@gmail.com.

 

Hope it helps,

Kurt & AC



financialpinchThere is a financial pinch being felt among churches.

I shared in a recent article how my own church has felt it, and how we must all be “resigned to serve” in ministry.

It’s why I want to run something by you, given the tension we all likely know between your budget crunch and the vision still trying to be realized. It’s a philosophical question, as it will set a precedent throughout your ministry/church.

aliveI saw a sale today on door hangers for ministry outreach. My first thought was, “Cool idea. I wonder if we could/should get those.”

Then I remembered how we’ve attempted some great ideas in the past only to experience poor buy-in. There’s a box filled with fundraising supplies in our church building that we’re still trying to discern what the next steps on are.

I had a third thought, though: “What if we created a type of grassroots funding and ownership by letting people know about these opportunities and seeing which ones were sticky? We could create a webpage or some flow of communication that made information on these ideas available?”

Practically speaking, I get emails all the time like the one I got on door hangers – likely because church resourcing organizations have my email address. If I prop this out there in some way, perhaps someone willing to spend $4.50 for a package of outreach materials is the very person I’d want to start talking with regarding the vision/logistics of going door-to-door to hang them.

Wouldn’t this be a much better approach than a church buying materials and trying to convince people to buy into the idea? While that latter idea will still need to be in place from time to time, the former taps into the Millennial-esque bent toward random generosity.

  • Isn’t this why we ask the church-at-large to fund kids to go to camp?
  • Isn’t this why we park kids at the door after Sunday services with a box of candy bars and a change purse?
  • Isn’t this why we shop for food in bulk at Sam’s Club to supply the next spaghetti supper that people can buy tickets for “on a donation basis?”

Here’s the hurdle, though.

standardsThe precedent you’d be setting with the newer approach is that people could/should fund their favorite projects as it tickles their fancy. That has implications in a few different directions, including how some people might divert their giving from the church budget to do this instead. Then again, some might argue that people are itching to be generous – and if you can get them giving at all (even to their own pet projects) it will inspire them to give more holistically down the road.

Should funding great ministry ideas feel like an “a la carte” menu… or should we keep trying to get folks to give toward the church budget “household grocery list?”

When does fund-raising contradict faith-raising?

Is your approach to fund your next big idea contradicting the bigger big idea?

What do you think?

The Damage Of Opinions

 —  October 22, 2014 — 3 Comments

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A friend of mine says that opinions are like bellybuttons: everyone has one. We have them about EVERYTHING from frivolous things like the best flavor of Jolly Ranchers (cherry of course) to very serious “issues” like politics. As Believers in Christ we have particular thoughts on which translation of the Bible is “best,” when the rapture will happen, as well as every other “grey” area of Christianity where the interpretation is subject to human observation. The news these days is filled with stories of disease, war, pain and death. Truly when you break it down, Solomon was right.There just isn’t anything new under the sun.

YET…

I wonder if we are cautious enough in sharing all thoughts that come into our heads with the youth we serve. I am not talking about questions they ask or a topic that arises from a  small group study. Instead, there are times when leaders feel like they need to drop thoughts on the group like the time my daughter came home petrified that America was going to get blown up by nuclear weapons because, “The UN won’t take terrorists down.”

Before you decide to share your thoughts on a topic keep some things in mind:

Why Are You Sharing?

What does this idea have to do with anything?  Is it just so you can share a thought with a student? We can have opinion discussions with other adults. If a question is asked, or it’s where a discussion takes its course, obviously we can give “our thoughts” on a topic. Yet, remember there are times when a tween or teen may not fully comprehend the breadth of a subject and have no way to separate out the truth versus the opinion in a conversation. There are times we don’t NEED to share.

Opinions to Keep To Yourself:

My nephew started following politics when he was 15. Yet, the average 6th or 7th grader is telling you what they have heard at home and around other adults. Youth programming is not the place to discuss politics, the president,  or if we as a country are “reacting properly to a situation,” if no one asks. Think through what you are sharing and if it truly ought to be shared at youth group.

Age-Appropriate Conversations:

One of the small groups I lead is all 6th graders. One girl told me recently that an adult had told her to “get her heart right with the Lord,” because if “ISIS takes over the country you may have to stand up for your faith.”  It is this adult’s OPINION that terrorists can attack again. Scare tactics do not help students “get ready.” Help students see FACTS and not be forced to share your opinion. If the goal is to get students praying and caring for other parts of the world, be aware of HOW you share stories. Bring what’s happening without attaching your spin on the topic.Then actually pray.

Here is the damage that sharing said opinions can cause, if we are not really careful:

FEAR:

Recently, I have heard a lot of leaders share how they believe “Jesus is coming back soon,” (without it coming up in conversation). Let’s remember John and the other disciples were sure of the same thing. Are you approaching a topic in a way that is helpful or just leaves a student riled up? The Bible says we are supposed to live every day like it’s the day Jesus is coming. If we just throw our thoughts out there, it can cause students not to grow closer to the Lord but to merely panic. Remember, the words of 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Wrongful Thinking :

Students often take what we say as truth. I had a student once who ceased believing in Creation because a teacher told them it was “stupid,” and they made a great argument. So much of our thinking is based on our own life experience and the way we view certain topics. All too often students take our thoughts and mix them up, add something in that wasn’t even what we said at all, and treat it as FACT.

As a parent of teens and tweens, there are times when my own children have come home telling me an idea they heard that they now think is true. Thankfully, they ask questions and want to know what we think. They are learning to take it all in, put it up against what’s “real” and decide for themselves. However, on more than one occasion my husband and I have had to undo anxiety over the next “crisis” that will “take our government down.”

Instead of sharing our opinions, how about we teach students to look through the Word of God, see what it says and believe that when we belong to the Lord, God always has our back not matter “how bad” it all gets? Let’s really teach them to care about the world and get on our knees to discuss it with the only one who can really do anything about “evil” anyway.

What are your thoughts?

- Leneita



Life Group

The above picture was taken last night, the first gathering of a brand new small group of awesomely awkward 7th grade guys. See me leaning in on the right? The smile on my face masks a ton of anxiety about the year ahead.

- I rarely lead a 7th grade group because should I need to skip a year I don’t want to leave them hanging as 8th graders. Last night reminded me of the VAST difference between 7th and 8th graders.

- I tend to miss about 1/4 of our small group gatherings due to a variety of reasons. This always puts extra strain on my co-leader to pick up the slack. The guy leaning over the back of the couch is Tom…an awesome dad who doesn’t even have children of his own in junior high any more…he just loves this age group. I’ve tried to tell him I’m a crappy small group partner, but he refuses to believe it. He will soon enough.

- The thirteen boys in our group are a true hodge-podge; from a few different schools, different faith journeys and varying family dynamics. Two have Asperger’s, one may die (his words) if he eats gluten, and another seems to have almost zero social skills.

I’m a terrible small group leader. I’m anxious, not very compassionate, and flakey. But I know this is where the good stuff happens; I know that wading into the rarely calm waters of sharing life with this group for the next two years will be life-changing for all of us.

Chances are you are “terrible” at some aspect of junior high ministry, too. It’s understandably tempting to avoid those areas. After all, why subject yourself, or others, to the misery of your efforts! Why? Because it’s when we faithfully enter the rarely calm waters, despite our shortcomings, that the good stuff happens.

Ebola and Church

 —  October 15, 2014 — 2 Comments

ebolaEbola.

As I write this post, I’m watching a newscast of how my Cleveland area airport had a recent passenger come through it who had the ebola virus. All the sound bytes indicate that everything seems to be fine and contained, even though I can’t help but remember the epilogue of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – how one man (who happened to be an airline pilot) ended up spreading a disease worldwide that led to the almost-demise of humanity.

I’m not trying to freak anyone out. GotQuestions.org has a great article on Ebola, pandemic diseases and God’s sovereignty over it all. Here’s a quote:

The current Ebola epidemic is not the last we will see of plagues. Jesus referred to future plagues that will be part of the end-times scenario (Luke 21:11). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will have power “to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Revelation 15 speaks of seven plagues wielded by seven angels as the final, most severe judgments, described in Revelation 16.

I more want to ask something practical – how does this affect how you do ministry?

Should it?

Could it?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConsider the typical church greeting time.

  • “Say hi to someone else this morning.”
  • “Extend and offer the sign of peace.”
  • “High five your neighbor.”

How about other aspects of ministry that involve human contact?

  • The prep and administration of Holy Communion / The Lord’s Supper?
  • Welcoming guests at the door?
  • Praying in a circle, holding hands?
  • Sitting next to someone in a class or gathering who has an obvious cough, and doesn’t seem all that concerned at covering their mouth as they do?

Should we be rethinking how we do church in these days where what happens on one side of the globe isn’t autonomous?

I like what Seth Godin pointed out in his post “We have ebola”: “We are they. They are us.”

Well said.

On one hand, Jesus says “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:11) On the other hand, we learn “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Matthew 10:1)

What do you think?

What should or shouldn’t we do in response?

Is this another chapter for the Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry?



creation3How did the world come to be?

You either have a quick response to this question, or find yourself a bit more pensive and contemplative about that questions these days. Students also seem to be stuck between what they’re hearing at church and what they’re finding at school or online.

The question used to be “Do you land on creationism, or do you land on evolution?”

Now the question seems to be a two-part tension:

“If you believe God created the world, do you believe He used evolution to do it? If you believe in evolution, do you believe there comes a point when the data runs out and faith in something supernatural begins?”

For a long time in youth ministry and children’s ministry, churches could “get away” with teaching a somewhat guilt-based ideology. It usually fell along the lines of, “You either have to believe that God made everything in a literal six-days, or else you don’t believe in Him at all.” Science wasn’t always thought to be “evil” (although in some circles it may have been presented that way), but you certainly didn’t need to bother with it.

“God said it. I believe it. That settles it,”

tumblr_lnqxojk7Cn1qah2gzI’m not questioning whether or not we should take God at His word. I am, however, asking if you find it difficult in today’s culture to exclusively take that approach. And for that matter, should we ever have taken that approach?

The Information Age has made us more responsible at talking about how faith and science are not enemies. Science is able to reveals things about God that we otherwise wouldn’t have known, just as art, music and poetry do. The challenge with any human achievement is we do have limits, and all formats will in some way create their own heresy – nothing natural could ever completely explain the supernatural, but it can take us closer toward it.

I’m finding more and more than when students are presented with “an answer” (i.e. “The earth is young. Don’t question it.”) they often don’t know what to do with their questions when they face challenging data. Again, not that the answer doesn’t exist… but does youth ministry need to take on more of an approach to helping students learn how to think than telling them what to think?

evolution_christianitySo let’s wrestle this out together on this topic.

  • Have you discovered an approach, resources or a website that helps students wrestle with evolutionary data from a Christian perspective?
  • If we don’t present evolution as a possible way God worked in Creation, are we setting up students to reject their whole faith? Should that matter?
  • Is it possible to be a Christian and believe that evolution was a method God used? If not, why not? If so, explain the foundation for this.

I can almost feel you either leaning in to write a quick reply or pause and think about coming back to this later. How about something in between? What do you think?

Does youth ministry now involve honoring creation and evolution?

sometimes-being-nice-does-more-harm-than-good-26870Have you ever asked yourself “am I doing more harm than good?” As broken people we have the ability to do more harm than good. It’s happened over and over throughout history. I believe that we should not feel bad about asking this question. Because this question promotes humility and demotes pride and arrogance. I’ve added it to my decision making process. I always want to recognize that I have the ability to deceive myself, like it says in (1 Corinthians 3:18) and do more harm than good.

I was thinking about student leadership the other day, and I started to ask myself in what ways can I be doing more harm than good. I thought of 6:

  1. We Think It’s All About Leadership – I firmly believe that the first step to being a great leader in the kingdom of God, is pursuing a life of being a great follower of the King. So helping them grow in following Christ is just as important.
  2. We Police More Than We Lead - I’m all for setting the bar high, but when that bar has you doing more policing than pouring into the students, you may want to revisit the bar.
  3. We Do To Much - You may feel pressure to be visible, and always at the forefront so you pack the calendar with events and serve projects. I believe sometimes we can feel like if we aren’t doing anything, then no ones growing or the program isn’t working. Resist the temptation to do do do, and instead be intentional.
  4. We Don’t Do Enough – Sometimes because we love to teach or hangout, we forget the experience piece to the puzzle. Experience is apart of the growth process. Choose things to do that accomplishes the experience piece, and think of it as a vital part to the program.
  5. We Forget They Are Students – I think sometimes we can have unrealistic expectations of students in student leadership. We create a  program based on where we think they should be, versus where they are. Yes, students are the church of today, but they are still students who are still growing, physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. So think about that as you create your application and program.
  6. We Do It Alone – You have the vision for the program, and sometimes we say to ourselves “I am the only one who can communicate it correctly.” Your voice is important for them to hear, but also are the voices of others. You run the risk of creating a following, detached from the rest of the youth group doing it on your own. Bring others in to help.

What would you add or subtract from this list?

Hope it helps,

AC