scaleYou probably got into ministry for all the right reasons.

I may not know you, but I do know myself. If we’re at all alike, there’s a good chance something else is true of you.

Some days you’re in ministry for all the wrong reasons.

Maybe it’s not as obvious as you’d think.

  • You serve God.
  • You rearrange your schedule for students.
  • You bend over backward for parents.
  • You lobby before your church leadership in all the right ways.
  • You’re not trying to trick people out of their money.
  • You don’t attempt to be the “sexier” youth group in town.

It’s as if every time people see what you’re doing, you’re caught living out the best template for ministry you can think of.

The problem is you can be doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

There’s a situation in my life right now with a disgruntled group of people who have found joy in being disgruntled together. They’re people I’ve loved and invested some of my best energy into, from teens I mentored and took on mission trips to adults I scrambled to serve. One of the louder households left our church and began complaining “sideways” – subtle enough to go unnoticed by most, but potent enough to create a funk that I’m still not sure what to do with. It’s as if no matter how hard I try to live out some of the most basic principles in Matthew 18 on reconciliation I’m met with misunderstanding, evasiveness and slander.

I’m doing all the right things.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I eventually realized is that some days it’s for all the wrong reasons.

There are moments that I want to be vindicated.

I want to work out the misunderstanding, because I hate having people say things about me that aren’t true- especially when I have put so much energy into doing the right things. If I dove into the reason why I do so, it is my human pride wanting to assert itself. I have to make clear that the door to reconciliation is open, but if they never walk through it or continue to group up on this then a part of me needs to turn this over to God.

Check out what the Bible reveals on this:

  • God has a pattern of vindicating His people as a whole.(Deuteronomy 32:36)
  • Humans have a desire to be vindicated individually by their behavior. (Job 13:18)
  • People who watch us will notice our desire to be vindicated and may assume the worst. (Job 11:1-2)
  • Jesus was vindicated by the Spirit – not other people. (1 Timothy 3:16)
  • We will only experience real vindication when we spend time face to face with God. (Psalm 17:15)

If you don’t get this right, then all of the serving you do will come across as ministry perfume and not the genuine scent of Jesus Christ.

Wrestle with this. Consider what you’re doing to get people to think or say better things about you. Give someone else permission to point out when you build a case against a case someone has built against you.

Otherwise, it will leak out. To quote William Ury, “When you are angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Thank you for loving students!

There’s a reason why certain song lyrics seem to resonate with those in ministry. I often find myself listening to “Some Nights” by Fun, “Superman” by Five For FIghting and “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons with a sort of intuitive understanding that they were written just for me. Maybe you’ve also experienced the fatigue and heartache of trying to balance the tensions of serving God and people.

After all, in ministry all things are not often equal:

All Things Not Being EqualThere are some days you will not be invited to the party.
There are some days you will be the first on the list.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days the needs will outmatch the resources.
There are some days the resources will outmatch the needs.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will be misunderstood my the masses.
There are some days you will offer Mass for the misunderstood.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will need more chairs for all the people.
There are some days you will need some of those people to leave.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days when your phone won’t stop ringing from strangers.
There are some days when once-good-friends won’t even text you back.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days when you’ll watch whole people get distracted by half-baked slander.
There are some days when you’ll watch half-baked people come up with whole wisdom.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will disciple Judas.
There are some days you will disciple John.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will remember why you keep doing this.
There are some days you will forget who you are.
Those days won’t always equal out.

What else have you seen when it comes to all things not being equal?



The Bionic Teenager?

 —  August 1, 2013 — 6 Comments

I sat in a planning meeting today with several caring local professionals. They hope to host a youth summit in our area, and our conversation eventually centered on the desired outcomes of the conference. We began brainstorming  what we want to see happen in the students involved. In other words, “Who will they ultimately be when they leave this event because they were a part of it?”

After several minutes on that line of thinking, I raised my hand and offered an observation:

“It feels like we’re trying to create a bionic teenager. I don’t know if everyone remembers that old TV show the Six Million Dollar Man, but there was this concept in its opening theme that it feels like we’re sharing here – that we have the means to make students better than they were before… ‘better, stronger, faster.’

I think everything we’ve talked about are great values for kids to grow into, but if I were to force this on my own son he’d feel immense pressure because he can’t get there overnight (let alone consistently). Maybe we need to include the values of ‘rest’ and ‘journey’ somehow? Students can take steps this way, but they may need to intentionally pause along the way and take stock of their progress so they don’t crash because they feel they’re not yet perfect.”

My thoughts were met with enthusiasm, not to mention a lot of affirmation. I felt like I’d made a real contribution to the discussion.

Only…

praiseI wondered how often I’ve not had that thought in ministry. Maybe you can identify:

  • “Once kids go on this trip, their hearts will be forever transformed for Jesus.”
  • “If I can only get that student baptized, then he/she will become a role model to the others.”
  • “The more often students are consistent with youth group attendance, the more consistent they’ll be with Jesus.”
  • “They have to start (reading the Bible/praying/fasting/tithing/singing) more if they hope to have a real breakthrough.”

Even just writing those made me realize how absurd they all are.

And yet… don’t thoughts like that creep into your head and planning, too?

The thing about bionics is that something unnatural was added to appear natural.

Hmm. Is that the end?

What do you think is reasonable and unreasonable to expect in these matters?

I came across this video and it seemed all too familiar.

(thanks to ChurchLeaders.com for the tip)

A few years ago I did a similar illustration of having someone slap me hard as a part of a service. In each of our gatherings, I invited up someone whom I considered a good friend (but who wasn’t in on what was about to happen). I then shared with everyone how hearing “Jesus died on a cross for you” has become so commonplace we no longer realize some of what it means.

Between our two services, I got slapped hard two different times, with each service having it happen at least twice. My cheek was throbbing by Sunday afternoon.

sermonillustrations

Years later, I’ve heard it was the difference in the faith of one of our (now) key leaders. In his words, “When you let Jon slap you, and then again, I felt the nails going into Jesus’ flesh for the first time in my life.”

Nothing like taking one for the team.

Sometimes we take this too far, though. In one church I was a youth pastor at I had it in mind to have the kids do an altar call while walking through fertilizer. My short-sighted thought at the time was, “It will help them realize all the crap Jesus will walk with them through.” Thankfully, someone much wiser than me interjected and I backed off the idea altogether.

What have been some illustrations like this you’ve seen “work” (or perhaps a few well-intended ideas you’ve watched go south)?

Share your thoughts. Let’s brainstorm and learn from each other.



There is no shortage of content on the internet.

Case in point, check out this unique video that is a thematic mash-up of the old video game Street Fighter and the randomness of church ministry:

(thanks to David John Perez for the find)

If you’re like me, you’ll be laughing in an instant. I had a few moments where I couldn’t stop laughing, in fact.

Thankfully, the video is over seven minutes long. This gave me a little more time to think about what I was watching.

I’m all for laughing at myself as a Christian. There are plenty of resources that provoke this, such as media that mocks how church can seem like a Starbucks to great blogs like the one Jon Acuff writes. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s walked away from such creative content and thought, “I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks it’s odd that we slap stick-figure fish on our vehicles, and then war it out with evolutionists by making our fish eat their mockery of our fish.”

So back to the video – as I was having fun enjoying the archaic video game sound effects over mass healing services, I was reminded…

those are healing services.

People with real afflictions came in to seek something from God.

They’re desperate. They’ve been given little hope everywhere else.

Granted, in my right mind I wouldn’t go to such stage presentations that seem more theatrical than spiritual. Then again, am I right in my mind about that? If my kid was sick and I heard a guy was coming to town who has a reputation for healing, would I endure the hot stage lights and his hair-sprayed helmet head so my son or daughter could know the touch of God?

“Hadouken!”

(that’s “Street Fighter” for “Amen!”)

What do you think – as we circulate these with our Christian friends or share them with youth group kids…

are we doing more good than harm… or more harm that good?

I’m sure there will be some quick replies on this, and we may even toss out classic ideas like “Balance… everything in moderation.”

So before you answer, consider:

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9)

But among you there must not be… obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:3-4)

Kreyos Watch…

 —  July 22, 2013 — 3 Comments

KreyosI am a big kickstarter and Indiegogo fan, I wrote about them here and here. I missed out on being one of the people to help Pebble raise 10 million for they e-paper watch.  It looks pretty cool and has great functionality but I just say a watch that looks better on indiegogo that has even greater functionality.  if you are a stats person (walking, calories, motion, etc) and are constantly using your phone (texting, music, calls, etc) you should check out the KREYOS watch on Indiegogo!

What’s the big deal?

  • It replaces activity trackers
  • Keep you connected
  • get info without taking your phone out
  • Info will sync with my smartphone and the cloud
  • Voice control
  • It is COOL!

It looks like there are 300 left at $129…if it looks cool and meets your needs you might want to run and grab one before they are all gone!  I saw mine $20 ago…

Would this watch be useful to you?



summeryouthministryHow are you spending your summer with students?

I personally know of several youth groups that shut down because of their proximity to a lake or local activity that keeps teenagers busy, while other student ministries seem to amp up their programs and significantly grow during this season.

Youth worker Austin McCann offers some great thoughts that will help you spend more time with students, no matter what your situation may be.

Like many student pastors I struggle with finding time to hangout with students. In the summer I feel this struggle more than ever… Let’s face it, you can’t leave the office and spend everyday with students this summer. If you do, you will probably get fired! But how do we manage hanging out with our students this summer while making sure all the office work gets done and our ministry doesn’t fall apart? [ READ MORE ]

Austin believes it may be as simple as:

  • Get to the office earlier.
  • Take them along with you.
  • Do stuff at night.
  • Take them out to lunch.

 What have you found that works for you in the summer?

Be Present

 —  June 14, 2013 — 1 Comment

Every year, our ministry finishes out the school year with “Senior Weekend,” where seniors take over and run the weekend. Instead of having the traditional one speaker for the service, we had two speakers and a panel (I know it sounds like a lot, but it worked out great). The panel was themed “What I Wish I Knew in High School” and each student had something different to say like having a mentor, a good group of friends, a good idea of self, etc. One student did “be present.” When I first heard it, I was thinking, “what a good point, such a great thing for our students to hear.” Then I thought, “wait, what a great thing for ME to hear.”

In youth ministry, we are constantly trying to balance working in one season and planning the next. We are always looking forward… and we kind of have to if we want to stay on top of things. But often our pursuit of the future can lead to us to an unhealthy place where we lack the ability to be present. As I unpacked this in my head I came to the conclusion that there are two different ways we need to be present, in the “big picture” and everyday life:

Big Picture: Sometimes I will focus way too much on something that happened in the past or something I want to happen in my future. That could be me holding on to a grudge and just not letting something go. I can get stuck thinking “what would life be like if this would have happened.” Or maybe it is focusing too much on my goals and ambitions. I sometimes am always looking forward and don’t take a ton of time to slow down and see what is happening in the present. Whether it is focusing too much on the past or future, it is important to be present enough to see what God is doing in our lives. To see what He wants for us to learn and do in this season of life.

Everyday Life: Focusing too much on the future doesn’t always mean life goals and dreams, it can be focusing too much on what needs to happen next in your day. While we may be physically present and an event or project, we are mentally preparing for our next meeting, weekend service, etc. Or we can physically be with our family and friends, but mentally, still thinking about our ministry. Our lack of everyday presence can have some big consequences including loss of ministry opportunities and even just being refreshed by the people God has put in your life. Pay attention to what God is doing in the moment.

Now there is a series of books that can be written about being present. There are so many different ways to be present, meaning so many ways that we can be challenging ourselves. In what ways do you need to be more present?