Ebola and Church

 —  October 15, 2014 — 2 Comments


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?

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.”

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,


Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Ever thought how do I grow my youth ministry? Well, Kurt and I will spend the next few weeks discussing some ways to grow your ministry. So tune in!!!


Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt

SONY DSCAnyone out there ever drank a Red Bull?

Don’t worry – you don’t have to admit it to us. Admit it to them, though, and you get ten bucks through a class action suit… for real: http://energydrinksettlement.com/claim A lot has been written about the dangers of a “red bull” type of youth ministry. It would be real easy for us to just talk about that and the dangers of running a youth group on adrenaline.

pastor_coffee_mugs-r06d4567426634d96844692280c573bf0_x7jgr_8byvr_512Instead, allow me to be a tad more personal… how’s your caffeine intake these days?

I once joked with a friend at a ministry conference how addicted pastors and youth workers can be to coffee or energy drinks, yet shrug it off as if it’s something laughable. “I just can’t start the morning without my caffeine,” we reason, high-fiving each other over it. “Where should we meet? Starbucks, of course. We’ll talk about our upcoming lesson on addictions there.” In that conversation with my friend, I noted how many people at the conference (even during sessions) kept getting up to get a free cup of coffee from the dispensers alongside both sides of the room. I asked him, “What do you think would happen if word got out that they’re about to run out of coffee?” He smiled and replied, “Nothing would happen.” SONY DSCAs the words were floating out of his mouth, another friend who was with us (and somewhat hard of hearing) interrupted. “THEY’RE ABOUT TO RUN OUT OF COFFEE?” he innocently asked, not realizing how loudly he was talking. As he got up to get what he thought was going to be the last cup available, others around us heard his declaration and saw his movement. Soon, a small swell of people began to get up and tactfully race over to the carafes to obtain what they also assumed would be the last remnant of caffeine available. As that played out, a new swell of people around them joined in… which prompted the other side of the room to put “two-and-two” together – and they got up to race for coffee on their side of the room. I’m not making this up. In a matter of a few minutes, an official break had to be called from the front of the room as the majority of people in a room that sat hundreds quickly got up to fill their styrofoam cups with hot java. I turned to my friend… and I smiled. This all happened years ago, way before Red Bull was such a household name… way before youth workers started pounding energy drinks in the name of being able to do ministry. Granted, I’m picking on one thing in life we could be addicted to. Others might cite other overlooked addictions like food, sleep, laziness and more. Feel free, as long as it’s not a defense mechanism to you addressing what your addiction might be.

skitched-20090812-090411What is your “excusable” addiction (note the quotes) that you claim in order to do ministry?

  • Is it daily caffeine?
  • Is it staying up all night to get another project done?
  • Is it horrible personal fitness?
  • Is it way too much time online?

Maybe it’s something tangible, like liquid in a cup or a can. “I need to stay awake… for the kids,” we reason. Or… maybe it’s the rush of adrenaline you crave from ministry itself. “I’m just not feeling useful,” we say. “My senior leaders keep me down from feeling like I’m making a difference. I don’t want to just be a part of the machine. I need to feel excitement… what’s in it for me if I’m just plugging away without a buzz?” Maybe ministry does need to be exciting. Maybe you do need to be maxed out physically to do what God’s asked you spiritually. Maybe. Or maybe not, Maybe you’re just an addict?

Connecting-PuzzleEver had students show up to youth group, and they look like a deer caught in head lights? They know no one, and feel super awkward. We’ve definitely experienced this in our ministry, and especially with freshman. So we did a few things to help them out this year. Here they go:

  1. Freshman Frenzy - It’s an event just for freshman where we get to love on them, and cater everything we do just for them. At this event we want to do two things. We want to connect them to the ministry, and to other students. This resource (This Book Gets Around) was a huge hit at this event. It allowed students to interact with each other without being awkward. We also had ways to get connected to the ministry on display.
  2. Ten Minute Party - This is a gathering for students who have brought a friend to church. Students are able to grab free snacks and info. And for fall kick-off we printed up some shirts that said (HSM Loves Your School). We gave them away to the student who brought a friend, and we gave one to the friend they brought. Some of the shirts were personalized to the five large schools that make up our ministry. Those went over really well.
  3. 10 by 10 - We take 10 minutes out of our large group time, and we split students up into grades. We use this time to connect students to their peers in our ministry. They also get to connect with a leader and student leader.

The idea is to help students get connected. We often times encourage students to bring their friends to church which is great, but we also need to make sure their friend can get connected easily. So here are 3 questions to ask your volunteers and staff:

  1. Are we doing a great job getting students connected? – You need to have a process to plug students into, so they have the opportunity to connect with the ministry and other students.
  2. Are we doing a great job at helping are students invite their friends?- Sometimes we assume students know how to invite friends or share the gospel. Help them in these areas because both are not as easy as we think.
  3. Do we have a follow-up plan for the students who do come? – We miss out when we don’t follow up with the students who wants to be connected.

Almost every student that walks into your ministry is a potential returner turned regular. I believe in order for that to happen we must become intentional, and we you can’t give up. Keep trying new things until you find something that works for your ministry. What are you doing to connect students?

Hope it helps,


It happened again.

I watched someone get up to speak to a large audience. The total time of what was going to be said would’ve been about 15 to 20 minutes.

Just as I was getting ready to hear the message, I watched one of my pet peeves unfold.

waterbottleWater bottle swagger.

Why do some public speakers saunter up onstage with a huge water bottle and take swigs from it every five minutes?

Maybe I’m being unfair, because I’ve certainly had an occasion or two where I needed water. I was under the weather, perhaps, or had just been doing something loud and crazy before I spoke.

What I’m more referring to is how unnecessary this feels. It almost comes across as a status thing – like when you ask a friend if they can hang out… and they pause, slowly take out the latest smartphone, make sure you can see the model/logo, and then proceed to talk about how they have to check their calendar because of how busy they’ve been doing this or doing that.

Again, maybe I’m being unfair.

On the other hand, it feels like the people who should do this don’t seem to do this. I’m referring to the “big name” speakers who likely teach on a regular basis… people I’m never seen bust out any water bottle swagger even after a 45 minute message.

It got me thinking about other pet peeves in ministry circles:

  • The Spirit of Urination: When I (or someone else) gets up to teach or proposes a question for some audience interaction, and right at that moment a few people noticeably get up to go to the bathroom, as if the Spirit of Urination came upon that row all at once.
  • Recycled Rally Cries:> You likely know that “Youth aren’t the church of tomorrow. They’re the church of today!” Chances are you know it because it’s our standard go-to phrase when we feel like we’re supposed to say something profound about serving students.
  • “I Can’t Hear You!”: That awkward moment when my worship to God becomes about the worship leader having to hear me sing it a little louder.
  • facepalmBad Transitions: When one thing ends, be it a moment in a program or a song, and there’s a long pause before anything is said/done. Even worse, when in-jokes occur between one person and another and everyone else has to sort of wait on them to finish.
  • “Circling” Sermons: I’m all for someone making a great point in a message. I’m not a huge fan of having someone tell me what I need to circle in the notes or in my Bible. It’s like an old 20th Century way of begging for a retweet.
  • Critiques About Tithing: I’m so glad you’re walking with Jesus in such a way that you don’t feel “bound to the Old Testament concept of tithing.” I’m likewise aware that you wish we didn’t talk about money so often when the budget is in another crazy crisis. Meanwhile, my household is going to keep regularly and consistently tithing 10% of our firstfruits at the bare minimum and looking for ways to be generous beyond that… ways that draw attention to God and not ourselves. So quit telling me how much more mature you are for being random, and start supporting your church in such a way that it doesn’t have to beg you to do it or suffer when you’re taking such an enlightened approach.
  • anigif_enhanced-buzz-2917-1390416222-17Christian Wining: You know those folks in your church who drink wine all the time? So does everyone else, especially through social media. I’m not making a statement about alcohol here… but I am saying that it stinks when we have to talk to someone who’s turned off by how much carefree drinking an active person in your church does.

These are just a handful of my pet peeves. Maybe the fact that I have them is one of your pet peeves.

For that matter, what are your pet peeves in ministry circles?

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Check it out!!!

This episode we give the top 6 areas to train small group leaders on, and AC interviews a parent on their expectations concerning small groups. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and send questions to talkyouthministry@gmail.com



Hope it helps,

Kurt & AC