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

Have you been here?

It’s 9pm, you are sitting at home having a great night and hanging out with friends or your Mrs and you hear your phone vibrate. Curiously you lean over and pick it up not missing a beat in your conversation and noticing it’s an email you open it up to see what it is and then you read it…..

All of a sudden it’s like no one else is in the room, all you can do it pour over the words, the critical comments, accusations and your heart begins to sink. Your friends call your name but you can’t hear them as you are focussed solely on the words on your screen.You read it once and then again to check if they are really saying what you think they are. Finally you snap out of the trance and they ask you if everything is okay and you say it is, but you know it isn’t.

You are rattled, frustrated, mad and annoyed not only at the email but that you opened it and now it is ruining the evening for you. What do you do next?

About a year ago, this exact situation played itself out for me, the email was harsh, it was critical, it had many false or exaggerated points and made me feel nothing short of sick inside. I like many others took to my computer to lay out my response to the email and set the record straight.

I articulated a rebuttal / explanation to every point they had made, did my best to explain why they were incorrect in their understanding of the issues. My argument was a case closed victory for the good guys! Well at least I thought so then, and by the grace of God I did not hit the send button on that message. Instead I waited and the next morning I called my mentor and shared with him the content of the message and how it made me feel and he quickly asked me, “Please tell me you did’t you reply yet?”

“Not yet” I replied and he said “good, DON’T REPLY TO THAT EMAIL!”

He continued and explained to me that sending an email in frustration is never a good idea but replying to an accusatory email is like putting ammunition in their gun. You relinquish all control once you hit send, you have no control over perceived tone or where the content goes from there and all of those words are can be used against you in the court of public opinion or the court of your Lead Pastor. Your case closed argument might lead to the case being closed on your job.

When I looked back at the email I drafted that night, I am so thankful I didn’t send it, I was writing from a place of being hurt, feeling wounded and the tone of my message was like someone backed into a corner and swinging. I was hurtful, rude, arrogant and self righteous and I am thanful I follow the advice of my mentor who said quite simply:

“Pick up the phone”

Call the person, hear them out, help them feel heard, help them understand where you are coming from on the issues. Write down what you talked about, and clarify at the end of the conversation about what they heard and understood from your chat. If you have the opportunity to meet in person even better. Tone is not assumed on the phone like it is on an email, and your words don’t get forwarded around from a phone call either.

If you receive a harsh or critical email from a parent, pick up the phone, don’t reply to that email, you won’t regret it.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart



Honestly, our ministry is going through a little bit of a crisis right now.

On the surface you wouldn’t see much out of the ordinary – youth group is fun and energetic, small groups are plugging along toward the end of the school year and the last big event had strong attendance and quite a few new faces. My boss seems happy, we may actually come in on budget this year and generally things are OK.

But under the surface, we’re dealing with some serious issues. God is choosing to bring us not 1, not 2 … but 6 big things to the surface right now. Some serious stuff we’ve got to process. Some stuff we haven’t dealt with before. Some difficult conversations that need to be had. Some stuff it is mandatory it be reported. The ugly side of real-life ministry is here in full force this week.

And you know what? God is faithful. God is changing lives. God is giving us wisdom. God is guiding. God is healing. God is providing. God is giving confidence. God is pruning. God is.

It seems like when it rains trouble … a flash flood of tough stuff isn’t far behind. If you are wading in some deep waters or think you may be in over your head, remember that God is there through it all. I know I could use the reminder right now, too.

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

JG

This weekend was the conclusion of our You Own the Weekend series and it really went out with a bang! They had great stage design, great music, and most importantly, great speakers. One of the speakers was talking about man in crisis. He said that everyone is either about to be in crisis, already is in crisis, or just getting out of crisis. I thought this is a really interesting way to look at it.

As youth pastors, we often see students (and adults) in the middle of a crisis. At this point, they are in survival mode. We have to focus of damage control and how to get through it. Luckily, we often get to lead students to the last part of the process, getting out of crisis. It is here that we get to reflect on what the Lord has done because of the situation and students get to learn about themselves and God incredible!

But I don’t think that we put nearly as much effort into the first part. We hardly acknowledge the fact that our summer will eventually turn into a winter. Because of this, we don’t really prepare before hand for the upcoming crisis, leaving us vulnerable and, ultimately, forced into damage control.

This is something I brought up to our student leaders. I told them that crisis doesn’t always mean that parents are getting divorced or siblings are sick, crisis can be those problems that we run into while we are leading a project. Like when the girl that you delegated a huge portion of the event to didn’t pull through. Or when your principal continually shuts down any event your Christian club tries to throw. While those might not be what most people would call a crisis, I think that those can lead to a crisis of the heart. Those situations can easily cause someone to react sinfully in their mind, hearts, words, or actions (or all four!). So how do we prepare for these crises?

The answer is prayer. Praying that you are prepared with what it takes to handle the situation that you are going to be going through. This weekend, we had our student leaders read Galatians 5 and talk through the fruits of the spirit. We had them think about each word, talk about what scripture has to say about it, and find out why it is an important characteristic of a leader. We then hung up a sign for each fruit around the room and gave them time to walk around and stop at each one, praying that God blesses them with a better understanding of the fruit and that He allows them to live it out.

I think it is a great lesson for leaders in general (not just student leaders). This worked really well with our student leadership team and I think it could be a win with others as well! Hope it helps!

Colton [Email||Twitter]



Comforting Teens in Crisis

 —  September 7, 2012 — 1 Comment

We decided to give out a great little book to our volunteers we just discovered called Comforting Teens in Crisis. I don’t know how I’ve missed it in the past, looks perfect for our life group leaders!

Failing grades. Pregnancy. Addictions. Cutting. How do you even begin to help teens through their greatest struggles? What if you make things worse? This go-to guide gives you the confidence to share God’s love and comfort! Includes:

  • Counseling advice
  • Tips on what to say and what not to say
  • Real-life scenarios
  • Scripture connections
  • Resources for reaching out in love

JG

The teenage life is a huge time of transitions, from safety and security in their family to finding out who they are in school and life outside of the family. From a teen’s eyes, it might seem like an endless series of crisis events. And to make it worse, no two crisis could be the same. They can face anything from bullies to divorcing parents, failing grades to friends who cut.

As youth workers to see hundreds, maybe thousands of students a week, how do we interact, work with, and serve those students who are going through a crisis? There are three things that every situation will need you to do, regardless of the situation: you need to be ready for crisis to happen, we need to give them time and space initially instead of fixing immediately, and we need to see it to the end.

We will further address each of these this week, but here is a brief description of each:

Be Prepared for Crisis [read more]
Preparation of a crisis that could (and will) happen involves three things: leaving time in your schedule to give it your full attention, knowing the resources available to you to best handle the situation, and creating an environment that is safe to be open and talk with adults and others about their problems. These allow us to effectively and fully engage with the student, preventing deeper wounds being created from our own shortcomings.

Giving Them Time And Space, Instead of Fixing Anything [read more]
Our first reaction to working with students is the desire to fix what they are facing because of any three things: we need to quickly fix their crisis so we can face our own, we are uncomfortable with the pain, or we assume that we know what the whole story is that has led to this crisis. But if we give them the time and space, this will allow them to work through their emotions (no matter how hard that is) as well as establish a deeper relationship between you and the student.

Creating A Comfortable Environment For Students [read more]
So many crisis are never told to an adult because of the fear that they will be judged, ignored, or rejected because of the problem. Yet, we can create a safe environment for them to share their hearts with us instead of hiding it away by developing deep and authentic relationships that start with sharing your own hurts and wounds from your past, regularly telling students that adults in the church are hear to talk, and consistently preach and teach on the tough topics like suicide and bullying.

Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.



When crisis hits your youth group … think of it as an incredible opportunity to serve your students and their families. Time to jump into action! In future articles we’ll cover some specific things to say or to avoid — this is more of a take from 50,000 ft. that we hope will be helpful as you serve students this school year.

Let’s say that someone in your youth ministry was in a pretty bad car accident and it is midnight. How do you respond to a crisis like this? Here are some principles that should translate to this and other situations:

Be the First to Show Up
In a real way, you are a tangible expression of Jesus Christ in the lives of your students. Showing up immediately in crisis assures them of their connection to God and of God’s love for them. They find incredible value in your presence, so show up as soon as possible. Assure them that God loves them and there is hope. If you have any question whether or not you’re welcome, go and be turned away rather than not go and regret it later.

Be Present
When you’re there, make sure you’ve got time to give them your full attention. There’s nothing worse than something that is an all-consuming-crisis for someone else that doesn’t carry that same weight with you. Turn off your cell phone, make great eye contact, cancel other appointments so you can give the situation proper time. In short… give them your full attention.

Be Available
In times of crisis a family or student may make some special requests of you. Do everything in your power to make it happen, even if it isn’t in your talent wheelhouse. Lean into your team to help you pull of whatever you can.

Show Up Later
When someone is in crisis — usually a ton of people jump at the chance to help. That’s the beauty of the church and the power of community in action. The problem is that people’s problems lose some of their attraction over time. Make sure that you show up at the front of a crisis, and circle back when everyone else is gone. You might find an incredible window to minister to people when there’s less of a crowd around.

Thank you for serving students! Thank you for being there when their young lives hit a serious crisis. It is a privilege and heavy responsibility to walk through tough times with them. Thanks for doing what you do!

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.

Last week I did two of the most difficult funerals I’ve ever done in my life. They were both high profile deaths in our community (you can read about them here and here), and after some reflection I thought I would share a couple of learnings from performing both ceremonies:

Funerals are heavy and humbling
There is never a good time for a funeral – but they are an unforgettable gift to a family in crisis. They are one of the heaviest aspects of pastoral care a pastor is called to do. I’ve felt it the past couple of weeks. It isn’t easy, but you have the chance to walk through a dark place with the family and show them God’s light. This is why you are here. Thank God that He has allowed you to be trusted with this.

Funerals are an incredible opportunity to share Jesus
Without a doubt, having a platform to give comfort and hope to people in need is the most fulfilling part of carrying such a heavy burden. Pointing them to Jesus Christ and the Good News is central to a funeral message. I do my best to share John 14 in every service, even if the person you are eulogizing wasn’t a Christian.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6 NLT

Funerals are the beginning of a relationship with the family
A funeral is not intended to be the end of a relationship with the family – they are just the beginning. Often times members of the family will need additional counseling or help possibly navigating the future ahead without their loved ones. By performing the funeral, you are now an honorary member of the family and can help them in the days, weeks and maybe even years ahead.

JG