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When it comes to ministering to gays and lesbians, far too many churches have chosen silence over service, or a reactive stance over proactive involvement. But congregations must abandon their comfort zone and minister to a group of people who need to experience the love of Jesus like never before.

With truths drawn from his own personal experiences, youth pastor Shawn Harrison seeks to equip youth workers in ministering to gay teenagers, their families, and the gay community at-large. The church must not compromise truth, he says, but it should not withhold grace either. How gay students first encounter God—personally and communally—and how Christians react to them can determine their subsequent steps.

[[Download a FREE sample here]]

Ministering to Gay Teenagers is filled with wisdom and practical advice on how to respond when a student comes out and how to help the teenager’s family through that journey, too. This book will equip you with solid answers to the questions parents ask, and it will challenge you, your youth ministry, and your church to consider how you can practically minister and serve a group of people who seek deep authenticity in love, character, truth, and presence.

Click here to learn more!!

 
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Shawn Harrison is the founder of Six:11 Ministries, an online ministry resource that exists to proclaim God’s identity and wholeness. He specializes in training youth workers and church leaders in ministering to the gay community, and working with gay teens and their families. Shawn is a youth pastor in St. Marys, Ohio, where he lives with his wife and three kids. He blogs at six11.wordpress.com.

 

 

~Stephanie

 

biblicalwomanhoodI’ll never forget the words of some well-intentioned adults in my life when I was a teenager. What they intended as a compliment always felt like an insult. They would tell me over and over what a great SINGLE missionary I would be…what they really were saying is you definitely are gifted and called but we’re not sure how someone like you can fit in the traditional role of a wife/woman.

Lucky for me…there were people throughout my life that didn’t fit into the traditional role. I was fortunate to see these women embrace who they were in ministry and in marriage throughout my college years and in several of my first ministry jobs.

Wait….what does this have to do with A Year of Biblical Womanhood?

Well, Rachel Held Evans takes a good hard look at the traditional ways we have defined womanhood. She challenges readers to truly explore and evaluate our use of the word Biblical as an adjective.

Evans spends the year exploring the Bible and what it says about woman. She attempts to live out a majority of the instructions directed at women. She does this in order to better understand what exactly biblical womanhood is in action. She is funny and insightful. I enjoyed reading the book…it made me laugh at her and with her…especially when she carried a stadium cushion during her period to keep things from becoming unclean. She made me cry as she wrote about the suffering of women from the Bible and those suffering today.

The book and Evans have gotten lots of criticism from people who believe that she doesn’t value the Bible or that she minimizes it’s power. I didn’t pick up on any of that as I read…in fact, I felt the opposite. She seems to really love the Bible.

Why should you read it?

You might not agree with everything Evans write…I am not sure I do at this point. But each year, I sit down with numerous girls who feel like they don’t FIT in church. They can’t find their place in the church based simply on what they have heard in the church.  They struggle as they read some troubling passages about women in the OT and NT and wonder- is this the gospel I am suppose to follow? And if it is, can they do it?

Evans voices all those questions and walks away a lover of Jesus and his word. She’ll help you into the mind and thought behind these questions and you just might find some solid ways to answer these questions.

Check it out and let me know what you think!



A practice I have recently begun is writing letters to Jesus. If you’re anything like me, taking a time of silent prayer can be tough. It’s quite strange because, well, I like to talk. I think the trouble comes because sometimes prayer feels like I’m talking to myself. I’m probably doing that most of the time anyway, so it should feel normal. For some reason it can be hard to articulate thoughts and prayers to God. Though He already knows what I want to say, what I am going to say, and what I truly mean with what I’m saying. He knows more about what I am going to say than I could ever imagine. Therein lies the problem: all these thoughts run through my head and distract me from the purpose behind what I am doing.

This is where the letters come in. I write letters to Jesus to keep me focused in my time of prayer. I thank Him for things He has done in my life. I ask Him for things I want, or write questions I have for Him. I not only get to think about what I am writing, but the process of writing itself is enough to quiet my mind and allow for open communication with my creator. The purpose behind the writing is to be able to spend a significant amount of time with Jesus. Whatever it is that gets written down doesn’t really matter. It’s about spending time with Jesus in a way that allows for intimacy with Him.

There are a few huge benefits from writing a letter to God. First, it allows for reflection. You can look back on the letters of prayer that have been written and see to which ones God replied with a yes, and which ones He replied with a no. You can see how certain prayers affected your everyday living, or how the effect of a certain situation turned out. You can look back and see growth through the letters you’ve written. Another great benefit is that there is no grade. You can write whatever style, grammatical structure (or lack thereof) that you see fit. If you want to write 1000 words in one sentence or paragraph, do it! If you’re more comfortable writing in a specific style such as MLA, APA or Turabian it is entirely up to you. This is helpful because it takes away the need for perfectionism. It’s a letter to a God who created all styles, fonts, colors, types, words or anything else you could come up with; He gets it.

I chose letter format to help personalize my interaction with God. This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote, “Search my heart Lord and bring out Yourself in me. I am not, but I know I AM. Words that until recently never really sunk in. I know that I have issues with pride… This is my biggest downfall. Fortunately, you redeem, restore and renew. This means that I still must work at it, but ultimately your strength is what changes those things in me.” Being raw and genuine with the Lord has made me feel completely new, but that’s not to say writing a letter to God doesn’t come with a few challenges also.

The one challenge in my letters so far has been, “How does God respond?” Where is there room for Him to speak into it? I haven’t found the answer to that yet but, it is entirely up to Jesus. Whether He chooses to inspire you to write a specific prayer down, give you an audible answer, or miraculously type something out for you, I can’t say for sure. I can say, however, that God is in the business of answering prayers. If this can be a way for you to connect with Jesus in an intimate way as it has been for me, then that in itself is a reward worth having.

Travis Lodes is the Student Ministries Intern at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, CO. Feel free to leave comments or email him at tlodes@gmail.com.

There is a well-known statistic that tells us that 80% of youth stop attending church after they graduate high school. As a parent, that’s the most horrifying statistic in the world to me! Let me bring that closer to home, that means, in a church youth group with 20 kids, over 15 will no longer go to church after they graduate. In a home, 3 out of 4 of our kids statistically will forsake fellowship by the time they’re 18. The cry of all of our hearts should be “why”?!

I have heard many theories of why they leave: New temptations in college—no mom and dad bubble to be a governor for their sinful nature, exposure to new faiths and skeptical questions, not being properly discipled at home, going to youth group, not going to youth group, not sufficiently understanding creationism, etc. While these are real issues, I don’t believe any of them are the reason they quit church.

RootsI spoke with a youth pastor friend who spent half of his life serving youth full-time, and with the first-hand empirical evidence of years of leading, watching, mentoring, equipping, and counseling teenagers he said that he can confidently say that most of them were NOT SAVED. They didn’t read the Bible regularly, they didn’t share their faith, many were sexually active, many experimented with drugs, they didn’t fight for godly fellowship, they were not givers, dated unbelievers, and the list of goat-like qualities goes on. They simply hadn’t been translated from darkness to light. They didn’t drift away from God after high school; they weren’t with God during high school. They drifted away from “church.”

The real question should be, how can we help our kids clearly understand the gospel—the power of God to salvation, and then equip them to live as believers?

Many of our youth genuinely don’t understand the gospel, the whole counsel of God, and we often just presume that they do. And many churches and homes have not taught our teens that an essential, fundamental part of being a disciple is sharing the gospel, and then equipped them for that adventurous task.

Ray Comfort is an evangelist, author and founder of Living Waters Publications and The Way of the Master. “Roots” is a 6-week video-driven youth evangelism curriculum based on Season 4 of “The Way of the Master” TV program, which was filmed throughout Europe.



Hipster, valley girl, geek, jock, goth, nerd, average Joe. These are some of the labels we give some of our students. What label would you give yourself? Each one of us has a label that someone would throw on us. Myself, I would probably be the class clown.

Naturally when we tend to have a leaning we tend to fit in with a certain group of students better. Because I am a bit of a clown, I find it really easy to spend time with the “funny kids”. If a student is going to be a stand up comic, that is the kid I will gravitate towards. But what about the rest of the students? Where do they fit into our relational ministry model.

It is okay for each one of us to have a tight knit group of students we disciple. We just have to keep in mind that there are other students who need to be ministered to as well. I think there are a few solutions that we all need to find a balance with:

1. Staffing: If you are in a big ministry, it might mean hiring staff or finding volunteers with different personalities from yours. Find someone to partner in ministry who might be a geek or a valley girl. Try to cover the bases of all the types of students you have. Maybe you might not get a 1:1 ratio but you certainly will be able to be more diverse in who you are effectively ministering to.

2. This one involves you whether a large or small church context, but especially if you are the main person in your ministry. You need to find ways to connect with each of the groups of kids. Find something you can have in common, for the kid who likes comics, go to a local comic shop find one that you can at least appreciate and then talk to the student about that. For the kid who is super into music; find out who their bands are; get some music and then talk to them after you have listened to it.

What about the kid who you “just don’t get what they are all about”, have them explain it to you. Maybe they love modern art, go to an art gallery with a couple students and have them explain to you what they love about it and how to appreciate it.

The thing I have found about trying to reach out to my students this way is:

  • I connect better with them and find out how to reach them for Christ and how to help them reach others for Christ.
  • I have found some things that I enjoy that I never would have realized.

As we start a new year, perhaps its a good time to connect with students who otherwise might be less connected.

Which student are you going to connect with this year?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

Now is the time to stop wasting time on mindless time fillers. They leave us drained and eventually with lots of work piled up that will just become too overwhelming to even want to deal with.

Spotting mindless time fillers
They are easy to spot: Facebook, video games, cell phones, television. When we do them, we get absolutely nothing accomplished. I’m not saying there is nothing to be accomplished on them but that they can be time killers when not used responsibly. We find ourselves wasting our time on them when we are bored but don’t want to do what actually needs to be done. So they keep us busy filling our time, yes; but are not productive at all.

Stopping mindless time fillers from filling your time:

  • We can stop them from filling our time without quitting them altogether by setting a daily time limit and sticking to it. 30 minutes a day should be long enough as it is not too long, leaving you feeling drained and not too short, leaving you wanting more.
  • Sometimes we waste time because we do not know where to begin. Having a list of things that need to be done will give us a heads up.
  • Stay focused in the task at hand. Turn off notification ring tones, close the Facebook tab and get to work. You will be much more productive and be done with the task before you know it!

Apply these simple steps and be on your way to a more productive you in 2013!

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.



When our student leaders commit to our program, they are committing to a full six-month “cycle.” At the end of every cycle, we launch applications for new student leaders and we give out renewal forms for the current student leaders. Besides asking if the student intends on committing to another cycle, the form includes a handful of other questions that provide us with valuable information that allows us track the progress of our students and help our program become more effective.

Thinking about putting one together? Here are some questions that I would strongly recommend to you:

1) What is the state of your faith? Obviously, it is important to know where your students are at in their relationship with the Lord.  Some students might be afraid to answer this question thinking that they might get kicked out if they aren’t doing great at that moment. Encourage them to answer honestly, knowing that you are there to help them along no matter how good or bad their spiritual walk is.

2) Recycled Questions. One way to check progress is to reuse questions that are on your application.  It is really interesting to compare their responses with what they wrote on their original application. My favorite question that we recycle is “what does it mean to be servant-hearted?”

3) How has the Student Leadership program impacted you? A more straightforward way to check progress is to directly ask the student how the Student Leadership program has grown or challenged them. Greater insight into how they have grown as a leader and as a servant can help you keep them accountable with the lessons they have learned and it can equip you to be more helpful in finding leadership opportunities that they would excel at.

4) What have you enjoyed about the Student Leadership program? Ask them what works. Instead of tracking the progress of your students, this question helps you examine your program. When the time comes for you to switch things up and refine Student Leadership, it will be helpful to know the strengths of your student leadership model.

5) What can we be doing to improve the Student Leadership program? You can’t refine your program without knowing where it can grow! This can be a scary question to ask, but the answers can lead to some really incredible changes. I love this question because it gives you another opportunity to empower students and allow them to speak into your ministry.

Does your ministry do something similar? What would you ask your students?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

(Dear Small Church Friends, I am SO pumped to bring you this 3-part series from Brent Lacy, a rural youth ministry guy. He recently published his first book, Rural Youth Ministry through Group’s new line, Everyday Youth Ministry. I asked him to write this series because I know that many of you serve in rural settings and so I thought he could serve you best in this area. Enjoy! – Stephanierural church)

Article 1) The Challenges of Rural Youth Ministry 

Youth Worker: Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to impact a generation of forgotten students. Many come from low socio-economic status in dysfunctional families facing problems like drugs, cohabitation, divorce, alcohol and domestic abuse. These students are scattered in remote parts of your ministry area, often in hard-to-reach places like farms and small towns. This message will not self-destruct. This is your calling. Welcome to Rural Youth Ministry.

What does the school district look like?
The rural school district is a remarkable beast. You often see two types of school districts. First you see districts that were created by consolidating multiple smaller districts. Then you have districts that were created because the existing districts were too far apart. Either way, you are left with this reality: You may have a lot of driving ahead of you! My county in Western Indiana has a population density of about 39 people per square mile. Within that total population, about 1,150 seventh- to 12th-grade students are enrolled in three school districts (not including home-school students). That makes just over 2.6 teenagers per square mile. That means I do a lot of driving to connect with students and parents.

Who are the subcultures?
It is also very important to identify any subcultures that may exist. Unlike workers in many urban or suburban settings, you probably don’t have the same level of ethnic diversity in your community. You have the opportunity to study your main subcultures with greater depth. This will allow you to minister more relevantly and connect more effectively with individuals and families.

Where I live, a major subculture is the Old Order Amish. In 1990, a group of Old Order Amish from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, made the decision to relocate to Parke County, Indiana. They sold their land in Pennsylvania for top dollar and were able to buy farmland in Indiana at much cheaper prices and in larger quantities. They have a totally different culture that segregates them from “the English”. Our community of believers try to take advantage of every opportunity we get to share the love of Christ with their community.

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Brent Lacy serves as Youth Pastor in rural Western Indiana. He has served in rural youth ministry for 13 years. His first book, “Everyday Youth Ministry: Rural Youth Ministry: Thrive Where You’re Planted” is now available from Group/Simply Youth Ministry and on the Amazon Kindle Store. You can check out his blog at http://ministryplace.net