FearThe one thing we all fear is not the devil. It’s change.Throughout history change has never been easy. The Pharisee’s didn’t hate Jesus because He was doing good things.They hated him because of the fact that He came to change things.They were so set in their ways of thinking that they missed the Messiah even though they knew He was coming the way that He did.The pain endured during the civil rights movement was all about certain people fearing change.

I remember when Blockbuster was the largest video rental store in America doing around 6 billion in sales year.Then came Netflix who said “Subscribe to us and don’t leave your home. We’ll send your movie rental to you.” Well, in the beginning Blockbuster could of taken Netflix out by turning millions of their customers into subscribers. But no, blockbuster who was comfortable with their 6 billion cushion, thought Netflix was a fad, and that they would eventually go away. Well, they were definitely wrong, and in 2010 Blockbuster was 900 million dollars in debt and had to file chapter 11 (bankruptcy).

We as human beings don’t like change. I would even go as far as to say we as the church don’t like it either. And if we are not careful we could end up like the Pharisees’ missing out on a great opportunity in advancing God’s kingdom…all because we allow change to scare us instead of motive us. We let our comfort with the way things are dictate how we react to change.

We have to understand change happens all the time. The world we live in now is completely different then the world our parents grew up in. My kids will grow up in a world different then the one I grew up in. Change is inevitable.

I love how Jesus adapted to change in His ministry. He used relevance to be relatable. He related to people where they were. He never told people you must conform to me first, then I will do for you or give to you. He just meets people where they are, and you never see them go back to the way they were before. I have to assume based on Jesus’s ministry 2000 years ago here on earth, that if He would have lived today, His messages would reflect the things of today. I have to assume that His parables could include the iPhone, TV’s, Ford Fusion hybrid, and yes, even Chick-fil-a. Jesus’s ministry was relevant.

Also, many times Jesus did things before He was supposed to. That’s why you see Him many times telling people not to say anything. He knew it wasn’t His time yet. So I can just imagine Jesus saying two things to us that He modeled, “Let’s stay relevant so people will have a interest in listening to us and let’s not fear doing things differently just because tradition says you can’t.” It seems like change gave Jesus a creative license to reach everyone. Now, Jesus didn’t change His message. He just changed the presentation so that He could reach everyone.

We must do the same. We must be willing to change with the times. I was listening to the radio and heard this song from the 90′s and they mentioned Myspace. (HA!) If you mentioned Myspace today, kids would laugh at you or look at you as if you are crazy, because times have changed. Myspace is no longer a cultural norm.

My prayer is that we don’t become like the Pharisees when it comes to change. Where we become so comfortable with the way we do things that we see change as a threat. And we do whatever it takes to stay the way we are, even at the cost of reaching more for Christ. I also pray we don’t become like Blockbuster doing ministry with our heads underground not paying attention to growing trends and innovation, thinking the way we’ve done things for 50 years is the way we can do things forever.

So the question is “Does change move you towards fear or innovation?”

hope it helps

ac

imagesI firmly believe that ultimately as leaders we lead by what we do whether we want to or not. We can be leading and speaking in one lane and living in another. And little do we know our that students over time do more of what we do and less of what we say. So it’s important we continue to grow spiritually, following Christ as we lead others. It’s important that we are investing in areas of leadership that we would love to transfer on to our students and allowing those things to live out in our own lives first. Then as we lead, teach and mentor, we will see those things lived out in the lives of our students. So here are a few things I want lived out in my life so they can be lived out in the lives of the students that God has trusted me with:

  1. Perseverance - A lot of times God calls us to do things that challenge us to trust Him. He challenges us to say I can, when we think we can’t. So, we need to model perseverance in trusting God’s timing and calling instead of our own.
  2. Humility - We need to remember that James 4:10 says if we humble ourselves then God will exalt us. We also need to remember that Luke 14:11 says if we try and exalt ourselves we will be humbled. Being humble is a state of being and not a position. Humility is not selling everything you own and living as a poor person. That is actually pride, because you are trying to buy humility by doing something. We need to model humility, which is simply knowing that God’s grace has you where you are and nothing else. We must live that out.
  3. Character – Your character shapes the leader you become, so they need to know that building Godly character is mission critical. You lead out the character you’ve developed or the lack there of. We need to model Godly character.
  4. Patience – They need to understand that patience is more then just waiting. Having patience helps you lead and make decisions with balance. Patience is really a lost art in our culture today. Amazon is the perfect example: They have a button called “Buy Now With One Click.” Just click it right there on the same page and buy it. They want to make sure you don’t have time to think if this a smart choice. They want to help you buy on impulse verses your purchase being wisely thought out. The faster we can have it, do it, use it, own it, see it, take it and eat it, the better. Patience helps you lead and make decisions apart from your impulses. We need to model patience.
  5. Compassion – One reason why compassion is important in leadership is because Jesus modeled it. Matt 14:14 says, “When Jesus saw the crowd He was moved with compassion and healed those who were sick.” There are so many takeaways from this verse, but the one that sticks out the most is that compassion has the ability to move you into doing the unthinkable. It takes a courageous, bold person to be compassionate. I can just imagine Jesus freaking people out completely as He walks through just healing people left and right. We need to model compassion.

We can teach these things a million different ways with great conviction, but the real question is…can we live these things out? It’s not enough to just teach. So what am I missing on this list? Which one is the hardest for you to live out?

Hope it helps

ac



Mihinthalaya StepsI was just at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and sat through a workshop by Shawn Harrison, the author of Ministering To Gay Teenagers. I would definitely grab his book, it’s a great resource. The workshop was great also, but revealed that the silence of the church on this topic has placed us at a disadvantage in many ways. I would also say that because of our silence we have generations that have no idea how to handle it. Students know more about what the world says concerning homosexuality than what the bible says. This must change. For that to happen, we have to see and do things much differently than in the past.

Here are a few practical things we can begin to do:

  • Be on the same page as the church you’re working for. – As a youth pastors we need to know where our church stands on the issue and create a plan as a church in how we all will deal with members, leaders and students who are struggling. We want to make sure that however we as youth pastors are handling it, the church can back us up 100%.
  • Talk about it. - Everyday the world is finding ways to normalize sin. Our students need to hear where we stand and our hearts on the issue.  If we never expose it, our students will never seek help.
  • Be prepared for the conversations. – We should be prepared for the conversations we will have with our students. Whether you read through Shawn’s book together with your leaders or bring in the head pastor or elders, there should be some training so everyone is on the same page.

When speaking to students I know the easy answer is to call it sin and tell students not to engage in it, but we have to be careful when making statements like that. Because if that’s your main focus, then you are preaching that behavior modification equals salvation. In actuality, harping on behavior modification only leads to a secret life of the sin they are fighting against. So we must be careful that we don’t treat any sin as a mere change in action…because sin goes deeper than that.

So here are a few things to think about when speaking to students:

  • God’s view - A lot of times students are struggling with the temptation, but also God’s rejection that they believe comes with the temptation and lifestyle. It’s important they understand the difference between God’s love and view of us and his approval or disapproval of our actions.
  • Temptation - Being tempted to sin is not sin. It’s what’s done with the temptation that can result in sin. You may have students who are being tempted by this lifestyle and are tortured by the guilt of just being tempted. The world is calling it denying your true self. Well, they need to hear and know from us what the Bible says about it.
  • Life is complicated – We all have different stories that are layered with not just our own experiences, but generational experiences that affect us just as much. That’s why we need more people caring for the lives of students, and not just harping on their behavior. If you care about their life, you will affect their behavior. We need to minister holistically and not departmentally-especially in this area.
  • Their struggle is not their identity - Just because you struggle with sin, doesn’t mean you have to be defined by it. When we reinforce the labels of gay, lesbian, etc…we continue to identify people by their struggle. If you’ve given your life to Christ, your identity is first and foremost in Christ. Now, you still may struggle, but understanding your identity gives you power over your struggle. It’s the beginning of the road to deliverance.

I really hope that you didn’t hear in my post that this should be easy, because it’s not. What I do hope you’ve heard in my post is that our students need to hear from us. We can’t stand on the side lines any longer. I also think we all have something to add to the conversation. So what’s missing from this post?

Hope it helps,

ac

TightropeHave you ever been stressed out about ministry simply over the fact that you didn’t feel it was balanced? Well, welcome to the club. I think that a lot of times we over-value things that we probably could spend less time thinking about, and we probably under-value things we should be thinking more about. I think the solution isn’t necessarily balancing things out, but prioritizing them.

I totally understand that there must be some element of balance or else you will end up giving more attention to one area of the ministry over the others. What I also know is trying to bring balance doesn’t necessarily bring efficiency. As a steward, efficiency sometimes needs to trump balance. When your ministry becomes balanced efficiently, every area is receiving the same amount of focus and energy. But if we’re honest, in most cases, we are unable to efficiently balance everything.

Here some reasons why it’s hard to balance ministry efficiently:

  1. Lack of staff
  2. Lack of volunteers
  3. Lack of leadership support
  4. An abundance of “ministry is just not that easy.” haha

So we force programs and events for the sake of balance because we either feel guilty, or we’re trying to keep up with other ministries. For some of us we think we’re not believing God, because we are playing it safe. And that is just not true. I get the saying, “Set goals that you can’t achieve without God.” I agree with that wholeheartedly, but goals are one thing and trying to prove that you’re trusting God by over-extending you ministry is another. We are called to steward what God has given us and sometimes choosing efficiency over balance is the right choice. If you’ve found yourself in the space of trying to do too much too soon, then here are a few steps I would take:

  • EvaluateMake a list of all the things you’re doing in your ministry. It could be programs, events, missions, etc. And then ask yourself the question “Which ones can we maybe not do for a season, so we can strengthen the ones that our church value as a whole?”
  • Refocus – Instead of trying to balance the list you’ve come up with, prioritize the list you came up with based on the programs and events that the ministry values most. Then cut the ones for a season that may be great, but may also be hindering the ones you prioritized as core. 
  • Invest - Make those programs and events the best. Take the time you would be using to think and dream about the eliminated programs and events. Invest that time, money, and personnel to become efficiently balanced in those programs and events.

Again, I’m a firm believer that we should dream based on God’s ability not ours, but I also must balance that with wisdom. So here’s a few things to think about:

  • It’s OK not to do everything you want to do for the ministry all at the same time.
  • It’s OK to grow strategically.
  • It’s OK to plan.

I know that the goal for any youth ministry is to be all it’s meant to be. All I’m stating is be strategic about how you get there. You have nothing to prove to anyone. There is no single set way to doing ministry, but there are some principles. My one principle for you today is that it is OK to sometimes choose efficiency over balance.

hope it helps

ac   



god-is-in-control_4534_1440x9001. It’s all ministry.

2. God’s in control.

These two phrases have had me thinking a lot about how little I have to do with how God uses me, and how there ‘s more to ministry then what we traditionally understand. God has been showing me that there is no limits to what He can do in us and through us. I’ve had situations where a student shared with me that 8 months ago that a hug I don’t remember giving was the catalyst for his life change. I’ve also received text messages about how something I said in passing changed a students life for the better. I had a conversation with a student about an invitation they casually received from a leader to go to summer camp. Well, that ended up kick-starting the students walk with Christ. I’ve had students share their testimony with their parents, and their parents come to Christ through it. This is why the phrase it’s all ministry and God’s in control exists. And if you think about your ministry I sure you can think of some stories of unorthodox life change.

Sometimes when we don’t recognize these two phrases, we run into issues and begin to think:

  • I need to make this program, message, song, conversation and event perfect because that’s how students come to christ when things are done right and perfect.
  • Let’s make God do more by praying harder.
  • If only I can put the right words together they will change.
  • It’s just a conversation, smile, high five, coffee, remembered name, hug, ride, invite, or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram post of encouragement. None of that is real ministry.

When you understand that everything we do as youth workers is ministry and God’s in control you begin to think:

  • I’m going to be intentional about the small things because I know God uses them.
  • I will strive to do my best and allow God to do the rest. It may not be perfect, but it will be worth it, If I serve from my heart.
  • God is not a genie in a bottle. So I won’t petition HIm as if He is.
  • The Holy Spirit will give me the words to say. I just need to surrender to him and allow him to use me.
  • God help me see every opportunity I have to share my faith and your love.

I used to think that God worked in a certain way, because of tradition, I used to believe that ministry was confined to a certain area of life. I was sadly mistaken. God wants to use every part of our life. He wants use our strengthens, weaknesses, failures and wins. He won’t let anything go to waste. Also, we must come to terms with the fact that ultimately God is in control. I would even say rest in the fact that God is in control, because it’s a good thing. Would love to hear how you are stretching yourself to think outside the box when it comes to ministry. Also, what does (God’s in control) mean to you?

hope it helps,

ac

YM Logo 3886179_origThis weekend I became aware of a few things that makes our youth group night/weekend great. I also can say pretty confidently that valuing these three things change the game at youth group.

Now, these three things can pretty much be talked about in any context, but I want to address them in the context of youth group night, because youth group night is probably the only night you have all of your students gathered in one place (hopefully bringing friends). I would say right after God, your volunteers are probably the next most important people in the room. So I try to remind our volunteers of 3 things very frequently:

  • Their Purpose at youth group – You are not just creepy people holding up the wall in the back.
  • Their Importance at youth group – We couldn’t do youth ministry the way we do it without you.
  • Their Commitment to youth group – We appreciate your commitment to our ministry, and we thank God for you.

Also, as a quick reminder to volunteers, here are 4 things they need to be on youth group night:

  1. Approachable – Be careful not to just hang out with core students during youth group. You can easily become super unapproachable to students who may not be apart of the core crowd. Also, be careful where you hangout before and after service. Ask yourself, “Am I in an area that may make you unapproachable?”          
  2. Available – Don’t allow the program to highjack time you could be spending with students. Don’t get me wrong. The program is super important, but have it dialed in so you can be dialed in to students. A lot of times we are there, but we are so occupied with the program that we end up leaving without making any real connections. When the program becomes the focal point and connections secondary we lose. The program should help foster community not just entertain it. Majority of returners come back because of a connection made. So be available.
  3. Engaged – You set the tone for the ministry. If you’re not excited about what’s going on during youth group, students won’t be excited either. Service starting is not the time for you to sneak off and work on other stuff, even though it is super tempting (I’m learning this myself). Be engaged because students are watching. It’s ok to really worship God during our time of worship. So be active during service as if you were in the adult service. Be engaged.
  4. Intentional – I use this word a lot because being intentional is the game-changer. I can be intentional in the most simple of things, and it makes all the difference. Example: How about circling back to the student you met during greeting time and asking “How was the service and what part affected you the most?” Thinking intentionally is praying for the Holy Spirit’s lead in conversations with students. Youth group with intentionality is next level quality.

My leaders that serve during youth group are on the frontline of our ministry, so it’s important that they are equipped to meet, greet, connect and pray for students. I’m always thinking about their needs and what we can do to help them win. So what would you add to the list or what are you doing to help your leaders win on youth group night? 

 

hope it helps,

ac 



9161284I’ve learned that the things that frustrate us the most as youth pastors/youth worker/volunteer are the things we can’t control in the first place. I believe that one of the top reasons we get frustrated is that we forget to remember the things that should keep us grounded in the mission of what we were called to do. So here are 6 we need to remind ourselves of on a regular basis:

  1. God called you to stewardship over the ministry, not ownership. Frustrated over things not going exactly your way. I think the frustration comes because we start to think the ministry belongs to us, and it doesn’t. You need to run, oversee, and manage out of stewardship, not ownership. It makes a big difference.
  2. Reaching the lost is primary, so don’t be apologetic about it. Frustrated over size. Strategize to reach the lost just as aggressively as the devil does to keep them lost. Stop believing the lie that numbers don’t matter, in the since that your job is to preach and serve the students in the four walls of your ministry only. We are commissioned by Jesus Christ to do both. So give both equal attention, and go aggressively after both. Don’t let the disapproval or criticism of those who preach “my four and no more” stop you.
  3. Leave God’s work to him. Frustrated over hearts not being changed. Know where your work ends and His work begins. Click here for more on this subject!
  4. We minister out of who we are. Frustrated over trying to be two different people. You should be the same person in your ministry life, as you are in your personal life. Inconsistency in the two will lead to frustration and eventually the destruction of the two. If you have to work at this then something is not right. I would find some counsel quickly.
  5. You are not bulletproof. Frustrated with temptation. Remember that you have the potential to screw up just as badly as the people you minister to, so you need to be fed yourself. You should be attending adult services and Bible study. You need accountability all the more being in leadership. Ministry does not exempt us from those things.
  6. It’s about purpose, not ego. Frustrated over the lack of recognition. So many youth ministry leaders fall because their stage is built on praise and applause, instead of purpose and the one true cause which is Christ being glorified in and through the lives of students. Appreciate the praise and applause when given, but build on the purpose and cause. Youth ministry is not a stepping stone for aspiring ministry star power. We have the honor and privilege to serve the church and world at the level that will affect future generations. It should be viewed that way.

When we (and I say “we” because we’ve all been frustrated at one time or another) are frustrated with ministry we should asses our own life, and see whats out of alignment, instead of looking for someone or something to blame. Try sharing this at your next staff meeting, and see what type of feedback you get. Would love to hear about it.

hope it helps,

ac

newThis year with my small group I decided to try somethings that I didn’t do with my last group, and boy has it paid off. So I thought I’d share with you five things that I’ve tried this year in my small group that has brought them closer, and has also made them more interested in their life with God. Now, maybe a lot of you are already doing these things, and if that is the case, keep going strong. But if not, I encourage you to try a few:

  1. Remove all social media devices. Make sure you let parents know that this is happening and how important it is that their child cooperates with this rule. Let them know your phone will be on if they need to reach their child.
  2. Don’t just refer to a verse or narrative, read it with your students. I’m using bible narratives to teach the lesson. And we are literally reading through the whole narrative. The first five weeks we read through the life of David. Every week hands would go up with questions and comments because even though they had heard and some had briefly been taught about it, they had never completely read through it. So whatever topic you are talking about find a bible narrative to help you explain God’s truth. Example: Topic: trusting in God – Bibilcal Narrative: Story of Joseph, Moses, Abraham or etc… Read through them it will change your group.
  3. Let them pray for each other. I started this thing where I would pair the guys up with each other at the end of group and have them go off and pray for each other. Sometimes we will pray together and I will have a few guys pray and then I will close the prayer when they are done. The idea is to get them thinking and praying not just about their prayer request but about the lives of their small group brothers.
  4. Eat the dinner or snack of the night together. I want to model that we are more than just a group of guys meeting one night a week. We are family and we grow closer by eating together. This is also an area I want to be even more strategic with. Like being intentional about what we discuss during snack or dinner time. Maybe share stories about our families.
  5. Don’t just lecture but facilitate. Students respond better when it’s a conversation, rather than discovering truth by being force fed truth through a 40min lecture. Think about the fact that they’ve already been in school and have been lectured like crazy by 5 or 6 different teachers. So get some questions together and make it a conversation. Remember students don’t need deep they need principles that apply to the things they are facing in life on a daily basis.

There are a million more that I could add, but I just wanted to share a few with you that I believe are extremely important in developing a small group that is  growing with God and each other. Would love to hear what you are doing.

hope it helps

ac