chapstickI have chapped lips right now.

For real. It’s bad.

Never in my life have I uttered the phrase to anyone, “I need Chapstick,” but I finally crossed that line. My wife gave me something comparable and I can feel the healing happening.

My lips are dry because my body is distracted.

I’ve been sick the past week and my body’s been focused on fighting off dumb stuff inside of me that doesn’t belong there in the first place, It’s literally made me dry all over in places that aren’t even sick. Consequently, my lips will start bleeding whenever I try to do anything beyond mumble… so all I want to do is mumble. Even the few times tonight when I found myself beginning to laugh at something, my lips started bleeding. So I stopped myself from laughing.

Ironic, huh?

God calls the Church a body, and when the Body gets distracted it ends up fighting off dumb stuff that it shouldn’t have to worry about to begin with… and the whole Body gets dried out, including parts that you wouldn’t expect to. It begins to bleed when it should be laughing. It resorts to mumbling instead of having real conversations.

Catch the metaphor yet?

  • How have you seen this in your church or the Body of Christ at large?
  • Does this explain a change in some of the people around you who suddenly seem drier than usual?
  • What is the dumb stuff you see the people around you wasting time over?

P.S. Got any “Chapstick?”

What drives you crazy?

Tony Myles —  February 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

So… what drives you crazy?

10

It can be the little everyday things.

11

It can be decisions other people made you can’t understand.

12

It can be the carelessness of others.13

It can be the misrepresentation of what is promised.

14

It can be mixing two things that don’t belong together.

15

It can be in how something has been packaged and presented.

16

It can be in the lack of forethought that made something feel like an after-thought.

17

It can be something that is so easy to fix, yet would be such a mess to even try.

18

It can be in that one little, tiny thing only you notice.

19

It can be the pattern that you can’t seem to find or form, even after you stare at the problem in front of you for lengths of time.

20

So… what drives you crazy?

What everyday situations did these images remind you of?

What does all of this have to do with 1 Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

How can we pray for you?



It’s difficult to forget the smell of carpet that you’ve wept into.

My family had moved in with my in-laws—into a small modular home while trying to figure out my next step in ministry. The pastor at the church I’d just left said I hadn’t grown the youth group fast enough: his goal was 200 within two years… I’d only nurtured it from 35 students to 179 in that time. Apparently that was a failure, and I was now jobless.

To add fuel to the fire, I’d experienced a significant letdown in ministry three years before that. I was forced to resign from a church because I didn’t vote for a new senior pastor who’d forced his way into leadership from his staff role. Between both experiences, I had a lot of reasons to hate the idea of church, and ministry in general.

So why was I weeping?

carpetI’d just received a phone call from a friend who served at the church where the senior pastor had nudged me out years earlier. He shared how they were in an unexpected crisis since the senior pastor had just been mandated to take a leave of absence due to an addiction issue he’d been hiding. The church hoped he’d be personally and professionally restored, but had an immediate need for someone to fill the pulpit. My friend asked if I’d be willing to be a guest speaker for a few weeks.

“Absolutely,” I replied without thinking about it. As we hung up the phone, though, I found myself sitting in silence for a few moments.

  • I expected to feel justified.
  • I expected to feel judgmental.
  • I expected to feel like a Savior.

Crumbling to the carpet, I instead began to weep from a place deep inside of me that was surprisingly broken in all the right places. Even though I hadn’t been a part of this flock for at least three years, I felt its pain.

Apparently, I was having my own crisis.

During the three years that had passed (and including what had happened at the church I’d just left), I’d realized some things:

  • You can’t always control how other people respond to you, but you can control how you will respond to them: If another Christian chooses to act with immaturity or selfishness, that’s his/her sin; if I choose to hold resentment or gossip about it instead of work it out in accordance with Matthew 18, that’s my sin. It’s why I eventually had conversations with both pastors from those churches to resolve past issues.
  • Immaturity that you see in others may keep you from seeing immaturity in you: As I shared in last week’s post, it’s easy to become so self-righteous about what matters most that you become blinded to what actually matters most. Who really calls you out on your blind spots?
  • The local church is a part of the Church: Any Christ-centered congregation is a mixture of “God and humanity,” which means it has all the positive potential of God and all the negative potential of humanity. You have to choose which piece you will nurture. I get the sense the Lord loves it when we help his Bride stand up after she’s fallen over.

I showed up for my first week of teaching and loved on people. I did this again the second and third weeks. By that point, the former senior pastor gave every indication he wasn’t going to return. The church asked if I would be its interim senior pastor—a ministry that I took on for nine months. There was talk at one point about offering me the role of senior pastor, but I excused myself from that discussion to help clean the slate for someone else.

After that experience, another church called me up and asked me to serve them as an interim pastor. They had their own crisis and heard how I’d helped the other congregation. I served them for six months and watched God grow my heart even more for His Church and its future.

battlefieldmedicThere will be seasons of your life that you are a battlefield medic for the Church.

You may yearn to be a specialist who gets a nice office or a padded paycheck, or even a volunteer who finds worth in never going anywhere. Sometimes God simply wants you running from one random explosion to another in order to tend to the wounded and raise them back up to health. This is full of stress, but if that’s where you’re needed then that’s where you’re needed… whether you’re directly working with teenagers, or simply helping the Church itself have a healthier future.

That’s the ironic ending to this story for me… a new beginning. I’m now a Lead Pastor intent on helping adults care about students, while at the same time volunteering in my church under our youth pastor’s leadership in order to still personally impact teenagers. Your story may not end up as mine did, but I wonder if it will end up as you’re planning it to.

Let the next crisis break you in all the right places… even if it means you end up smelling Jesus in the carpet.

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

Psst! He’s also a breakout session leader extraordinaire at Simply Youth Ministry Conference

@tonymyles

LIVE-apologetics-ym-inline

EVERYBODY! Out of the Van!

Tony Myles —  September 30, 2013 — 11 Comments

Larry said he was going to punch Josh in the face.

That was right after Josh called Larry a fat idiot.

Moments before that, of course, Larry had announced to everyone in the van that Josh had “Zero taste in music.”

Josh, as usual, had given Larry that ammunition by asking to hear some “old school” MxPx again.

It was day 7 of a 10-day missions trip—on the road across five states. My wife and I had somehow packed ourselves and 10 students into a 12-passenger van that barely held together and had no air conditioning.

Let me say that again: teenagers packed into a van for several days in a row without air conditioning… in July.

Larry really was going to get violent with Josh. I could feel the tension growing as one of the high school girls went into her own happy space and began repeating, “PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!”

I had enough.

We exited the highway and pulled into a gas station parking lot. All I said was, “EVERYBODY! OUT OF THE VAN!”

I didn’t have a plan. I only had frustration.

So I prayed. It sounds cliché, I know…but I prayed.

Somehow in that moment God broke my heart for what had happened.

I began weeping and even had to wait a few minutes before I could even come out and face the students.

I asked, “What are we arguing over? How we’re going to save lost people? The right way to reach a friend we know who feels his life is over? What we should do about what’s happening in some of your families? NO! WE’RE ARGUING OVER MUSIC! And honestly…I can’t think of anything else I can say other than to point that out. When you’re ready to get back in the van and remember why we’re on this trip, I’ll be in there waiting.”

Eventually they did. An awkward silence took over the evening as we made our way to where we were staying for the night. By morning, three of the girls on the trip who hated conflict made sure everyone apologized to my wife and me.

roadrtripThe trip eventually concluded, and God did use that time in all of our lives. I’ll never forget that moment of exiting the van, though. It’s even stayed with me as I get into my own side squabbles in church stuff that I think matters, but really doesn’t.

When we go on trips, I now tell teenagers, “Just so you know, around day 3 or 4 on this trip you’re going to really dislike someone else for dumb reasons. Try to keep that in mind, and let’s remember why we all signed up to be here.”

Sometimes the greatest thing we can do in a conflict is enlarge the Story of what we’re supposed to be wrestling over versus the noise that really doesn’t matter.

Thank you for loving students!

-Tony

@tonymyles

gmt-webinar-ym-inline



The week before going to camp or this case a retreat is always hectic with tons of plans and last minute details that have to hammered out. The stress level is high and patience is running low as we rush around sourcing out pens and extension cords. We do a retreat every year and somehow we hadn’t learned from the year before and were allowing students to sign up after the registration deadline which increased the workload for our team in shuffling cabins and bus lists but we knew it would be all worth it and after all the more the merrier of course!

In the craziness of last minute registrations and final details we were experiencing a problem bigger than insufficient pens and power bars. With two days remaining until we were leaving for camp, a significant number of our leaders were not committed or not coming to camp. When our leaders sign up for the year we give them two weekends we were all hands on deck for and this was one of them and they just weren’t committing to be there.

I was frustrated.

I was frustrated because they had said they would be there and now nearly half weren’t coming. Some had to work, others had weak excuses and others did not respond to multiple emails and texts. We had a leader crisis two days before camp.

I didn’t know what to do, so I drafted up a long and well articulated email that outlined my frustration, reminded them of the commitment the made and tried to explain the life change that happens at camp and basically tried to take them on an all expenses paid guilt trip. It felt great to write, to get my feelings out but I quickly realized that while helpful for me, it was not going to be helpful for our team. I left the message for an hour and after showing my colleague, rewrote the email shorter, clearer and outlined THE NEED -More volunteers for the weekend THE ASK - Would you consider shuffling the weekend to spend with our students at camp THE WHY - Help them understand why our weekend camp is the most important event we do all year. The result was 11 more volunteers committing to being there.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Anger, Frustration and Rebuke are not best communicated via email.
  2. Let someone you trust get you off the ledge by showing them your draft and chat with them about your frustrations.
  3. Deal with the need before the event and follow up one on one after you have cooled down.
  4. Remember that God is going to do something in spite of you, or your volunteers.

There are going to frustrating situations where you might be tempted to use email to let someone or a group of people know how you are feeling, and while it might feel good for the moment its not the place for conflict. Deal with immediate need and once you have sorted out your feelings, take the time to meet one on one with your team when the extra time to meet will be worth it in the long run.

Long story short: Don’t send that email.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

article.2013.03.27There’s nothing more challenging interpersonally than dealing with a serious conflict with someone on your church staff, or a volunteer in a key position in your ministry. The temptation would be to let time heal it, or hope that the tension would simply go away on its own—but fight those feelings because conflict in the church, especially on a team, has to be dealt with well in order for genuine progress to be made.

Can’t we all just get along? Actually, no, and that’s probably a good thing because it forces us to tackle conflict in a God-honoring manner. Here are some steps to move toward resolution when you find yourself in conflict with someone on staff.

Be the bigger person.

Someone is going to have to lead with humility—might as well be you. How would this relationship change if you decided to take action and humble yourself (right or wrong in the matter that caused the division, either way), and begin a conversation to rebuild trust and love? Until someone does this, any progress will just be an outward act covering up a pain-filled heart. Unresolved conflict eats away at your job satisfaction, your vision, and your heart. Don’t let it happen!

Take a small step forward.

A simple note, gesture, or gift can go a long way. Could you find an excuse to give them a small token of your love for them—even if it’s never acknowledged or reciprocated? Continually take small steps forward—mixed with time this is a powerful way to break down walls.

Talk them up to other people.

People can usually sniff out when someone is in tension with another person—in fact, most churches specialize in spreading that information around gleefully, it seems. When you talk positively about the person in conflict, you are disarming the potential for a greater divide in the church, and not forcing people to take sides. Plus, it is surprising (and won’t take long) for word to get back to that person, too!

Pray for healing.

Too often the “right” answer is to pray for the situation—in this case, it’s no different. You have to ask God to mend what is broken and heal what areas are infected. Conflict between people who work together every day can, and has, claimed many churches—don’t let yours be one of them!

Re-read yesterday’s article.
And by the way, a whole bunch of what we wrote yesterday concerning dealing with a disappointed parents can also apply to resolving conflict on your ministry team. Here’s an example:

Kurt: “Josh, I can understand why you FEEL threatened by my physical stature.”
Kurt: “In fact, Josh, other people on our team have FELT the same way.”
Kurt: “Here’s what I’ve FOUND: As long as you don’t tick me off…you have nothing to be afraid of.”

See…It’s simple!

Who do you need to take a small step forward with today?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



We are embarking on a 6 part series of topics that we need to teach our students through our lives and actions. Students seeing them lived out first will bring integrity to the message we preach.

A few days ago I wrote a post about Conflict In The Internet Age and the growing reality of students who are lacking the skills or in many cases the desire to engage in healthy conflict or disagreement due to the messy nature of interactions like this. In addition to my previous post about a generation that doesn’t have to put up with anything they don’t like here are a few more considerations with conflict:

We Throw Away Things That Break: In my office at work I have a 1938 GE Console Radio (picture below). I love the craftsmanship that went into it. To think that every one of them was made by hand is amazing. No robots, not injection moulds, just hard working people putting tender loving care into it. My grandpa had one just like it and you know what he did if it broke or needed repair? He would load it in his car and take it down the road to the local radio repairman to have it fixed up. We used to fix things. TVs, VCRs, Toaster Ovens you name it, people fixed them. Last year my printer ran out of ink, I went to buy a new cartridge and sure enough, it was cheaper to get a whole new printer with ink in it, so I threw away the old one. If my computer monitor breaks it’s going in the garbage. My ipod? Garbage. My TV? Garbage. My Jeans? Garbage. When things break, we throw them away. So are we surprised when a friendship breaks down that students simply throw them away for a newer, better one?IMG_6568

We Celebrate Conflict, But Rarely Reconciliation: Celebrity gossip and sleaze is a multi-billion dollar industry employing countless people whose sole job is to get the latest dish on peoples favourite celebs. Conflict may not make them famous, but it sure can keep their name in the press. This culture loves a good fight and some good ol’ fashion smack talking. We celebrate the conflict, but how often does our culture celebrate reconciliation?

We Need To Be Champions Of Reconciliation: This is where we come in, where our lives need to reflect the values in Matthew 5 on forgiveness and reconciliation. How this is lived out will reflect our ability to be “the adult” when it comes to challenges with students. If there is a student you know who is frustrated with us, or with something we said we need to be on the front line of engaging them. Not because we want to be liked, but because like my grandpa’s old radio, it is worth the time and energy to fix it. Throwing it away might be easier, but the costs are high. Students need to see how we handle criticism, how we handle an angry parent, or a leader who is not leading well. When it comes to students who have been hurt by other students, it is our responsibility to equip them with the tools and provide objectivity so that they can work out their differences. This could mean very persistent and intentional communication with both parties to help them see the value in meeting. We must champion this value.

So What Do Students See In Your Life: Are you are the type of person that doesn’t get along with a lot of people? Are you a relational Tasmanian Devil going from person to person and not seeking to right your wrongs or ask forgiveness for your words or actions? Or are you a leader who can admit they were wrong, ask forgiveness of a student or leader when required. Are you a leader that will give up your time and make every effort to help a student navigate the deep valley of being hurt by a friend and walk them through a path of Biblical reconciliation?

We have enough of the first type of people, we need the second kind. We need humble leaders who aren’t perfect but can admit when we’re are wrong and whose lives reflect these values.

Are you modelling conflict and reconciliation well for your students? 

Geoff – twitter geoffcstewart 

I remember a time when I didn’t have an email address, when I had a friend in high school who had Napster and in a good evening where no one picked up the phone  and cut the connection we could download 3 songs and couldn’t believe how fast it was. I remember a time before Facebook and Google and I don’t know if I liked it better but it was definitely different. Working with students today, they have never known a world without the internet, never learned the beauty of using a library card catalog to find a book or fumbled with a microfiche reader. There are so many redeeming and exciting things about the world that we live in now, but I am starting to think that there are some unfortunate side effects that will cause some new challenges that we need to know how to take on.

Case and point: Conflict

In the past few weeks I have had some tough conversations with several students about their life and the road it was leading them down and talked to others about pride, attitude and spiritual arrogance. In both cases ;as kindly and gracefully as I could tell them, neither have not been back to the group since our conversation. I have reached out, called, messaged and apologized for the way the conversation made them feel. As it says in Galatians 4:16 Have I become their enemy for telling them the truth? There seems to be a growing trend for students to not know how to engage with people they disagree with and would rather avoid the conflict and part of the root of this I feel is coming from the fact that:

Students don’t have to put up with anything they don’t like.

Whether its music, TV, or conversations, young people today have the world at their finger tips. If they don’t like the song, they have thousands available to them in seconds. Gone are the days of waiting for the song on the radio to finish or turning it down. Today they don’t have to put up with anyone else’s music because they can bring their own. Have you driven past a school bus of students recently? Its white ear buds from front to back. No more 99 bottles of beer on that wall. They have hundreds of TV channels plus DVRs, Youtube, Hulu, Netflix means that they never really have to watch anything that they don’t have to. Entertainment is on demand so why should people not be the same?

So logically the same expectations of instantly getting what they want enters the realm of relationships. They know what they want, and they know what they don’t. With hundreds of friends on Facebook, the moment that a relationship is not what they want anymore they switch and go find one they better. Sadly this is exactly what is happening when students experience conflict. The modern conveniences of our culture are teaching our students that compromise is not necessary or important. Teenagers can block anyone from my newsfeed whom they disagree with or don’t like. With phone in hand, the moment an event gets remotely boring or uncomfortable they reach for the phone to find something or someone better or at least less awkward than what is in front of them. They can find engaging community online with every area of interest in their life. Friends who they share common interests and  with are only a text or app away, so why would they talk to someone who might not share their thoughts / opinions? That just seems like work.

This is the challenge we are going to engage in, how do we teach students the value of healthy conflict and that you can be friends with people you don’t always agree with?  How can we go make disciples if we are unwilling to engage those whose opinions differ from ours.

In the next 2 weeks I am going to be writing a 6 part series on things we need to teach our students with our lives before we preach to them. I pray is helpful and encouraging to you. Working with students is never easy and this new generation that wants things their way or no way at all is going to be even harder to reach.

-Geoff – Twitter geoffcstewart