Weekend Teaching Series: Simply Jesus (series finale, week 3 of 3)

Sermon in a Sentence: Jesus is forgiving, and we can experience and share it personally.
Service Length: 79 minutes

Understandable Message: We based this series on Simply Amazing, a series that Doug Fields taught in our adult services a couple of years ago. Each week we teach through an event from the life of Christ, this week was on the woman caught in adultery. Jake and I taught this weekend in two parts – the first half of the talk was about Kenya and how we are Jesus on the earth until He returns, and how a study of the life of Jesus will help show us how to love and live for him. Jake had a great big story up front that really captured everyone, and a great walkthrough of the story.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: Students were highly involved this weekend – greeters, band, control room, cameras, lights, sound and testimony. Several new weekend adult volunteers joined the mix as well, great to have more adults in the room on Saturday night especially.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played a couple of games from NBC’s Minute to Win It. We usually don’t play such physical games in high school services (though we work hard to have some element of fun for sure), but had a total blast with these and the students seemed to be really enjoying it. We played Face the Cookie and Bottoms Up. More details on how this could be used in student ministry here.

Music Playlist: KIDS, You Deserve, Thank You For Loving Me, It Is Well, Came to My Rescue

Favorite Moment: Don’t have a specific moment, just really happy to be back after being gone almost a month between the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and our trip to Kenya. Good to be home!

Up Next: STORIES (1-off)

I am back from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2010 in Chicago! It took me a few days to recover from a packed weekend. I learned a lot of tips and youth ministry ideas, but the biggest thing I learned was this: Every involved youth worker should go to a conference like this. Here are 3 reasons why.

A time of learning – I learned a lot. There were so many opportunities to take a class on a subject that will help me to stay in ministry for the long haul. SYMC offered classes on marriage, volunteer training, games, counseling, conflict resolution, preaching, & teaching. I chose the Helping Hurting Kids track and I benefited from probably one of the least discussed topics but one of the most influential problems all teens face — teen depression and addiction. I believe we all need to learn more if we are going to help teens through their adolescence.

A time of encouragement
– The worship and camaraderie I was able to participate in was very therapeutic. I met many people I have had the honor of speaking to online through the SYM Podcast. Getting to meet Doug, Josh, Matt, and Jana in person was awesome. It felt like seeing old friends for the first time in a long time. I also got to meet Andy B in person after so many emails for products. I also met new people like D.C., Matt K., Rick Lawrence, Tom, and many others. Tim Timmons really encouraged me through his worship leading and a few of his songs are STILL stuck in my head.

A time of rest – Youth Ministry is T. O. U. G. H. with a capital STRESSFUL. Dealing with tough kids, tough parents, boards, elders, pastors & ministers can take a lot out of you. We don’t tend to take time for ourselves because we are so committed to getting it right as often as possible. We overwork ourselves to the point we lose much of our drive and passion. Taking a weekend to listen to others who are doing what you do and understand your faith, love, passion, hurts, and struggles can only benefit. I felt loved on. It had been 7 years since I had been to a large convention like this. I forgot how much I needed it. Now that I am back, I feel stronger. There isn’t a huge list of things to tell people about the conference itself other than the encouragement I received. I did come back with this though: the passion and desire to help hurting kids. I think that was worth the admission alone.

Mike Lewis is the Youth Minister for the Westside Church of Christ in Beaverton, Oregon. He writes a blog that might be worth reading at www.bigmikelewis.blogspot.com and will gladly be your friend on Facebook, too.

  1. Present an unbalanced message. Only let them see the heart-warming part of God’s character. Preach God’s love but leave out His holiness and justice. That way they’ll think He’ll let them into Heaven no matter what.
  2. Don’t mention repentance until they’re repeating a “sinner’s prayer.” Just get them to say, “I repent of all my sins” while they’re echoing you. They won’t know what they’re saying and they won’t count the cost.
  3. Above all else, be dignified. Don’t get heart to heart with the people. They would get something out of what you said.
  4. Skim over the gospel and push the prayer. Pretend the lost naturally understand what Christ has done for them.
  5. Preach Jesus as a life enhancer not a life rescuer. Tell them how Jesus can improve their life but don’t show them Jesus as the only One who can save them from Hell. People will think if they reject Him they’re only losing out on a spiritual high.
  6. Try to please the people instead of convert them. Tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
  7. Compromise the message to speed up the process. The Christians who have heard it a hundred times before will be pleased with that. The quicker they get out the quicker they can get to the restaurant.
  8. Give them the impression that God is so good He won’t send anyone to Hell. Don’t present the whole counsel of God or they might realize He is so good that He’ll see to it that justice is served and that all unrepentant sinners will be punished in the fire that is not quenched.
  9. Speak to sinners as though they were saints. They’ll think they’re God’s children instead of the enemies of God they’ve made themselves into because of their sin. You’ll give them false assurance and mislead them.
  10. Don’t mention sin or man’s guilt. Resist the urge to explain what Christ came to deliver us from. Don’t show them their need for the Savior. Otherwise it may all make sense.
  11. Don’t look to the Bible for the substance of your altar call. Only mimic other preachers with large congregations.
  12. Tell the lost not to feel bad about their sins. That way you will work against the Holy Spirit who’s convicting them
  13. Whatever you do, never mention Judgment Day. Your audience might take spiritual matters seriously.
  14. Tell them Jesus is the only way to Heaven but don’t explain why. They may think it’s nothing more than fear tactics and leave offended instead of enlightened.
  15. Confuse the call. This is a great way to botch up an altar call. Don’t let people know you’re asking them to commit their life to Christ. Be vague and general in what you’re saying. Neglect to mention following Christ in your evangelistic altar calls and say things like, “If you don’t feel you’re as close to God as possible raise your hand,” “If you feel lonely come to the front for prayer,” “If you want more of God this is your time,” and, “If you have struggles and need the answer come down.” Just get them to raise a hand. That way no one will be able to count the cost and you’ll even get saints to respond to salvation altar calls, making the results look more successful.
  16. Only give them half the story. Tell them Jesus died to forgive everyone but overlook the fact that they must personally receive Him to partake of that forgiveness.
  17. Present the truth as though it isn’t. Be so funny when you share Christ that you belittle the seriousness of the matter.
  18. Preach forgiveness without repentance. That way no one will know how to be forgiven.
  19. Be unbiblical. Present repentance and faith as an offer instead of how God does as a command (Acts 17:30).
  20. Let them think next Sunday is the day of salvation. Don’t make them feel it’s urgent to respond today.
  21. Never warn of Hell. Dangle Heaven in front of their nose but rarely mention Hell, certainly not as much as Jesus did.
  22. Only do altar calls inside the church. Never take the gospel where sinners congregate. The lost might get saved.
  23. Use churchy terms. Use words like, “saved,” “repent,” and “born again,” without any explanation. That way your hearers won’t comprehend what you’re saying. If they can’t understand it, it’s probable they won’t be changed by it.
  24. Give false assurance of salvation to unsaved Christians. Assure church folk that they are saved even if they bear no fruit. So that you don’t offend the unsaved pew warmers never quote 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” You could lose some financial supporters and have to depend on God.
  25. Never mention the wrath of God. If you mention it, people might be awakened to flee to Jesus who “saves us from the wrath to come.” ( 1 Thess. 1:10)
  26. Study how the apostles preached and witnessed and do the opposite. Don’t explain Jesus’ suffering death on the cross. Otherwise they may think of running to Him for forgiveness. Don’t speak of His burial or resurrection or they might realize He is God. Refrain from commenting about the hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. That way they can go on thinking He’s a fairy tale. Overlook talk of the messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled or they might realize that the Bible is true. If they see it’s the truth they may see that following Christ is the logical decision. And whatever you do, avoid what the apostles did when it came time to call people to obey the gospel. Don’t tell them to trust Christ and live for Him. That is too accurate. If they know how to get saved your altar call will be a success.
  27. Put more emphasis on the “sinner’s prayer” then on repentance and faith. Satan will smile over your departure from Biblical instruction. We are never taught to use a ‘sinner’s prayer’ throughout the entire Bible. If you decide to use it and put more emphasis on the technique than on what we’re commanded to preach: faith and repentance you’ll certainly botch things up. A ‘sinner’s prayer’ doesn’t equal salvation, only faith in Christ and repentance toward God do.
  28. Let Christians think you’re the only one who can do it right. Always leave the impression that they should only invite friends to church and never actually witness themselves. It will keep you in business and the lost unsaved.
  29. Don’t let the lost know they are. Disregard subjects like Judgment Day, God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness and justice. That way the lost can continue to think they’re “good enough” to get into Heaven.
  30. Rely upon psychological techniques to manipulate people into responding to the altar call. Don’t rely upon the Holy Spirit or they may actually get saved.
  31. Make sure you’re the main attraction. Remember the goal in botching up an altar call is for people to leave and say, “What a wonderful preacher,” instead of, “What a wonderful Savior.” Draw all possible attention to how great a speaker and person you are. Otherwise people might see Christ in your preaching and get saved.
  32. Don’t focus upon Jesus. Finally, the best way to botch up an altar call is not to preach the gospel. Just get people to lift up a hand and pray a prayer with you. Resist the urge to speak of the only One who could save them.

Sometimes the best way to get a point across is to put it in a different light. You now know a few ways to botch up an altar call. Please do not employ them. Do the opposite. You may already do some of them. Don’t let pride keep you from changing and doing things in a Biblical fashion. The bottom line is how true we are to Christ and His word. Effectively reaching the lost is our purpose. Let nothing hold you back from that agenda. May God bless you as you seek to win people to Christ in youth group, Bible clubs, churches, conferences, and in on the street witnessing encounters.

Allen Atzbi is a Youth Pastor at Element Church – he’s botched a ton of altar calls himself.

While at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference I heard a couple people in different situations mention something that I’ve been wrestling with. And I know that this isn’t a typical venue for discussion. Typically this is more of a “here’s some info”, “here’s something to think about”, or “here’s a resource” and then you just do with it whatever you want. But this post isn’t so much a declaration of some kind of truth or some kind of ground breaking idea. It’s more of sharing my heart on an issue and hoping that there are others out there struggling with the same thing and ones that could share in this discussion.

The issue is not feeling like you can do ministry at a church building. I know this train of thought has been around for a while but I’ve encountered it more lately. If you haven’t come across this or don’t know what I’m talking about, the basic idea is that you can’t do effective ministry at a church building because teenagers (and some adults) feel uncomfortable at church. They say that when people who aren’t Christians are at a church they feel uneasy. They feel like they can’t be themselves. They feel like they have to be “good” or “fake”.

In some ways I can understand why a person would worry about this. Many church buildings are old buildings with a lot of ornate fixtures and there are even some “off-limits” rooms. This causes some to feel more like they’re at a library or a museum than at God’s house. (maybe they feel like they’re at their grandma’s house minus the plastic covered furniture)

But is this a true perception? Is this just something that those of us on the “inside” think that non-Christians feel? If this perception is true, do we just accept it and do our best to get away from the building?

Now, let me say that in my ministry, we do have groups that meet in homes on Sunday nights. We do that for a number of reasons but one of the biggest reasons is to create a comfortable, open feeling. So, in that way I understand this idea of feeling more comfortable elsewhere. But what are we saying to people and specifically to our teens when we say that we can’t do effective ministry at the church building. When we feel like we have to go to Starbucks or to the mall or someone’s house…what are we saying about the church building? Are we hurting the effectiveness of our programs that are at our buildings? I mean, more than likely, you have at least one program, and it’s probably your big, crowd program that is at your church building. And if you feel like you can’t effectively minister and connect with teenagers at that place, then your program is going to suffer.

Here’s the bottom line for me: we all don’t have nice, new buildings and we don’t all need them. But we should all recognize the privilege and the blessing that it is to have a place to call home for our ministries. If you feel like you can’t minister effectively there, then either you’ve got issues you need to work on and get past or you need to find a way to better utilize this ministry tool that God has blessed you with.

Joe Thompson is the Youth Minister at Fairmount Christian Church. I know him better as http://bethshusband.wordpress.com.

No red flags were waved, no sirens were sounded, and no one pulled me aside to sit me down and warn me. The day I answered God’s call to full time youth ministry I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. I’ll admit…if someone had warned me about the struggles of youth ministry I probably would have run the other direction. It’s been over ten years and I love what I do, but it’s come with many lessons not taught in any seminary class or youth ministry seminar.

I remember the first big lessons I learned in youth ministry. I had been serving as a volunteer Youth Director for a church in North Jersey for three years when everything came crashing down. I had turned ministry into a business and soon found myself stepping down from my position. Not because I wanted to, but because I was asked to stepped down.

During my three years as their youth director I accomplished some amazing things. Notice the key word; “I.” I was able to organize and prepare winter retreats, summer camps, and many other events. I was able to stand before a group of students and speak. I was able to lead my adult volunteer staff and persuade them to follow me. But what I wasn’t doing was allowing God to lead the team of adult volunteers or plan the right events. I wasn’t allowing God to speak to the students by allowing Him to speak through me. I wasn’t allowing God to train and teach me what I needed to know about youth ministry by deepening my own faith. Everything I did was centered on what I wanted to see happen. My view of youth ministry was based on what I saw in magazines, websites and the occasional youth ministry conference where entertainment was the focal point of the weekend. Bottom-line…I ran the youth ministry like a business. I operated the same way in ministry as I did in my secular job (I was customer business rep for a nation wide copy center).

It was spring and I was neck deep in planning the 30Hour Famine. A few days went by and I continued with my agenda, planning the upcoming 30Hour Famine. Then one night my roommate and youth leader at the time knocked on my door. “Can I talk to you?,” he asked. “We need to talk about this coming weekend and the 30Hour Famine.” Once again my all business attitude took over as I assumed he wanted to discuss the details of the weekend. So I went into self-centered mode and began to share my thoughts and ideas as well as how awesome (fun) the weekend will be with the many things “I” had planned. In the nicest way he could, he cut me off with these words; “Brian, the Pastor and the leadership has decided you won’t be involved in the 30Hour Famine. Pastor will be stopping by to speak with you. I’m just here to get any information you have about the event so the leadership team can make a decision whether to cancel or postpone the event.”

I was so wrapped up with my own agenda and my own way because I was a “big shot youth director” I totally missed what I had done. As a result of my pride and self-centeredness the pastor asked me to step down as the youth director for an undetermined amount of time. “Ministry is about your relationship with Christ. I’m afraid you haven’t grasped what that truly means. Ministry is not meant to be run like a business,” pastor stated.

My heart was broken as I realized what I had done. That night after meeting with Pastor I spent what seemed like hours on my bedroom floor crying out to God asking for forgiveness, asking for restoration, and seeking the Holy Spirit for answers. That night I realized the truth, but I had put planning and organizing ahead of relationships; relationships with people and my relationship with Jesus.

There’s more to this story, but for the sake of editing and size I’ve shortened it. The point is nothing you do in ministry will ever be more important than your relationship with Jesus. Focus on growing deep in your own faith, not running a business. Youth ministry is not about you.

Brian Ford is the TIMS Program Director at The Christian Retreat Center. Follow his blog right over here.

I thought it was appropriate after the quick thoughts on how you can help young ministers grow into their ministry that I turn the tables– Here’s a handful of quick thoughts on how young ministers can help themselves grow in their ministry.

  1. Don’t Starve Your Faith. Giving more means you need to take in more. Don’t forsake the faith that you’re working for.
  2. Ask for Correction. Invite pastors overseeing you for advice, help, and prayer. Being teachable will help you keep the right attitude. It will also show your pastor that you value their input and leadership.
  3. Honor Your Leadership. “A house divided cannot stand” a really good guy once said. Don’t be ignorant (re: others) or arrogant (re: yourself). Honor, protect, and obey your leadership.
  4. Find a Mentor. Find someone that you respect and admire and allow them to mentor you. This will take effort and time, but the experience is invaluable. This might be the most difficult tip of all– something I still need to do.
  5. Invest in Yourself. Stay in school, even if it’s one class at a time. Go to conferences. Spend $15 on a book and read it. Ask smarter pastors and good men and women out to coffee. Do anything you can to stay sharp and invest on the one thing that will give you a good return– you.

Josh blogs at http://joshherndon.com and twitters at joshua_herndon.

Loved the honesty of the Skit Guys talking this weekend (at SYMC) about not having read the Bible from cover to cover before. Got me thinking about this poll question for youth workers – have you read the Bible all of the way through? Not meant to induce a ton of guilt, just curious.


The Skit Guys did a fantastic Letterman-style Top 10 list for Student Ministry bad ideas at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this year. So fun!