People Are Not A Target

 —  September 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.59.39 AMSome leaders try to figure out what attracts younger people to a church…but it’s another thing to actually provide belonging for them. Let’s look at that from a little different perspective. Just getting two people from two different generations to sit in the same room at the same time does not mean they are connecting in meaningful and sustainable ways. There is much more to ministry with people. We all know that. We just need to embrace it at the most practical levels. I do a lot of consulting and much of that is with churches or denominations that are trying to figure out how to “reach” younger generations. Some people say “millennials,” some say “college students,” and I’ve recently had a leader tell me they were trying to reach Gen-X. Regardless of terminology, there seems to be a heart to include younger people. It’s encouraging to see people of “older” generations not satisfied with few younger people being around them. But, I would say…if we view younger generations (whatever term we use to describe them) as a “target” to reach or hit…we will surely miss. In church-world I often hear phrases like “we are targeting…” and I get questions worded this way where someone is asking me about the “target audience” we are trying to reach in our church. But, dare I say, this dehumanizes people and reduces them to a stat that fits a desired metric that justifies our position. 

We are talking about human beings, not a demographic to be reached.

Now, I certainly understand the idea of “demographics” and generational distinctions (I’ve written a bunch about generational distinctions.) and using these terms does not necessarily mean we care more about our quantitative metrics than we do relationship. However, I am always concerned about the heart for people being lost in how we talk about and evaluate and program how we go about things in the Church today. I will follow this up with another post sooner rather than later, but for now let me just say this: if we want to help younger people gain a sense of belonging in the Church, we have to take the time to treat them as a human being. And that starts with how we describe them.

In my last post I discussed three relational shifts needed if we are to actually disciple younger generations.

Here, I want to discuss some bigger picture perspective shifts that are necessary. Now, to be clear, these are shifts from what might be known as a “traditional” understanding of discipleship.  In other words, here are three shifts of how we think about it:

  1. From Inside To Including Outside. Traditionally we have separated discipleship from evangelism. We have done this in our programs, in our language and many churches have even done so in their values. But in Matthew 28 Jesus clearly is not defining “making disciples” as Christian to Christian relationships. He is clearly not telling them to go and disciple each other. There is nothing in their experience that would’ve led them to believe that was what Jesus was saying. This shift is no longer allowing ourselves to believe that discipleship is just an “inside” thing.
  2. From Content To Living Example. When we think of discipleship we usually think from the context of a program…or if not, from the premise of content where we begin by thinking about specific doctrines or truths or books that we would want to help someone understand better. However, younger people are not necessarily looking for more content. They certainly want to learn, but the inward desire is to learn from exposure to someone’s living example. The disciples would not have left the conversation with Jesus in Matthew 28 and thought they should meet with someone once a week and go through some content. They would’ve left thinking they needed to go do what they’ve seen done…someone living out what he knew. This of course included content, but it stemmed from experience in life.
  3. From Country to People. In Matthew 28 Jesus says to make disciples of all ethnos - which is where we get our word ethnicity. Somehow we have thought about this as countries. I know it’s mostly translated as nations but it’s really people groups. And, to the first point above, this was radical because it was all people outside of their religious relational circles. This is a critical shift if we want to engage younger generations!

Chuck / @chuckbomar

* Check out great discipleship materials that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer. 



Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 10.04.16 AMOver time things always change…even things in the Church. Some people choose not to change, but others do. There is always a place for both sides of that fence in the Church, but I want to talk about 3 shifts necessary for “discipling” younger generations. These shifts are not earth shaking realizations, but they are in fact different from how older generations have traditionally approached discipleship.

Here I will issue 3 shifts in the context of relationships and how we approach them. Next post will be 3 shifts in the context of “perspective.” There is more to the latter so I will elaborate in the next post on that.

The 3 shifts in relational approach are:

  1. From Information to Wisdom. Wisdom is gained through experience of embracing what we already know. The shift is a big one. It’s a shift from the mentor prepping content to bring someone through…to the mentor becoming a learner of what the other person is processing through and then, when appropriate, offering wisdom from their experience. This where biblical truth comes in. The shift is really from the mentor driving the topics of study to the other person driving the topic of conversation.
  2. From Fixing to Mutual Fascination. Far too often we look at people who “need” to be discipled as a problem to be fixed. The shift is from fixing a person to befriending a person. It’s a shift in relationship that is simply centered on being mutually fascinated with what God has done and is doing in each others lives.
  3. From Teaching to Mutual Transformation. Younger people aren’t looking to be “taught” as much as they are looking to grow and be changed. The reality is when two people become mutually fascinated with what God has done and is doing in each other’s lives…they are also mutually transformed!

- Chuck / @chuckbomar

*Need effective discipleship materials? Check out all the resources for discipleship that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer! 

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.50.39 AMJesus announced the Kingdom (or literally, God’s reign) being at hand in Mark 1:14-15. At it’s core, this is simply saying, “You are now seeing God’s reign firsthand in the life of a human being.” According to Jesus, this is the good news (or “gospel”) he declares for the world to believe in. Jesus was the perfect example of a human being showing the world what God’s reign looks like, 100% of the time.

I think it’s safe to say that leaders in the Church want (or at least verbally express) the people they lead to have God reign in their lives. This may be worded in a number of different ways. Leaders say they want people to:

  • “Be on fire.”
  • “Surrender their lives.”
  • “Live for the Kingdom.”
  • “Be gospel-centered.”

Whatever language is used, the desire is to see God reigning supreme in a persons life. As it should be.

Okay, so here are 3 questions I think every leader who has this desire should ask themselves:

  1. How am I allowing people to see God’s reign in my life, firsthand? (following Jesus’ example)
  2. What boundaries do I need to set up so that I am not trying to reign in people’s lives? (avoiding a Messiah/power complex)
  3. Who is seeking God’s reign in their life and who do I know that can learn from that person? (cultivating discipleship)



Today I made a statement I’ve never made before. I said, “College Ministry is sort of like being a foster parent.” I believe that to be true for a few reasons, perhaps the most obvious reason being college-age people are in many ways “orphaned” by the Church structures we typically live under. But there is another reason I made the statement. Let me explain…

I had a meeting this morning with a pastor of a college ministry who emailed me to see if we could connect. Although I don’t have a ton of time for these types of meetings I always try to make time and really enjoy them. I love meeting new people and especially ministry leaders. He was sharing his heart for college students and expressing his struggle with having to say good-bye to them once they graduate. He really enjoys the relationships and is always in a bit of turmoil when it comes to people moving on from his ministry. One of the questions he had was about whether or not I could relate to the pain of that.

I, of course, said I cannot – I don’t like people.

Just kidding! Obviously I can relate a great deal to this and really appreciated his heart for those he invests in. We talked about how to navigate this, but I did address one thing he pointed out. He was telling me he finds himself, at times, distancing himself from them because he knows they will at some point leave. I totally understand this tendency and this is when I said the statement I mentioned above.

You see, many people say they could never do foster care because they don’t think they can handle the emotional pain of having the give up their kids at some point. I fully understand that protective tendency, but my point this morning was that I find this reasoning to be in opposition to Jesus’ call to deny ourselves daily. In other words, not to care for the orphans of our society simply because we want to protect ourselves from feeling pain seems to be pretty selfish and therefore inappropriate when held up to Jesus’ call for continual selflessness. So, in this context and in light of the gospel call toward self denial, I was trying to encourage him to hang in there and continue to invest himself into as many people as he can – knowing full well it would be hard. It was an encouraging time of discussion with this new friend. We also discussed ways he can have more sustainable relationships, which was fun to talk about as well.

- Chuck

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.00.34 AMThis past weekend about 75 people from our church went away for the weekend to talk about discipleship. I want to share some quotes from this past weekend, but before I do, here were a two things about discipleship that we constantly drive home to the people in our church:

  1. It is not separated from evangelism.  When Jesus sent the disciples out with the command to ‘make disciples’ in Matthew 28 he was clearly not telling them to go disciple each other. Disciple making was never intended to be only Christian-Christian relationships. Unfortunately, we have often limited it to that in the Church.
  2. It is holistic.  Meeting once a week with someone and going through a 3rd party book is certainly not a bad thing, but we ought not think this is what it means to make disciples. We have to not only be open with people, but vulnerable with them as well. We MUST allow people into our lives to the point where they see and experience our life. Personally, I not only want the people I disciple to know where all the dishes are in my kitchen, but I also want them to know all of my finances and how we spend the money we’ve been given. Additionally, we often try to formalize discipleship to the point where it gets separated from every day life. So, we encourage less formal times together, but MORE intentional in everything people are already doing.

Here are some quotes we heard or used over the course of the weekend that may be encouraging/helpful/convicting for you:

  1. We cannot make disciples and worship our privacy.
  2. Not making disciples shows a lack of understanding of the gospel.
  3. Love for God always reveals itself in a love for people.
  4. If “abiding in Christ” does not lead you toward making disciples, you are not truly abiding in Christ.
  5. If your faith remains a private issue for you, it’s not the faith Jesus has invited you to live.

There were of course many other things expressed during our weekend away. But it was a very encouraging time for our church.

I hope you are intentionally talking about what Jesus meant by his command to make disciples…

Chuck / @chuckbomar



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I just sat in my car caught up in the radio program. The soothing voice was discussing how us parents seem to have our kids in too many activities. “Are parents taking time to just be and get to know their kids?” the person behind the voice wanted to know. The speaker made a statement I have heard many times, “We aren’t created to be human “doers.” We are human “beings.” He went on to press that culture dictates how much we push our kids to do. Are we teaching them to be?

Listening I thought how often I have felt guilty that I don’t allow my own kids to do more. Good friends of mine have “well-rounded” children who are involved in athletics, music lessons, the school play and chess club. In contrast, my kiddos only are allowed to engage in one activity per “season.” With three kids at the same stage in life (6th, 7th & 8th grade currently), we can just about manage the one thing for each of them. The speaker was pushing us parents to allow our kids to be involved in less for the sake of time together and building purposeful relationship.

It got me thinking about youth ministry and how I can have a tendency to run things. I fill the calendar with lots of activities. They are well meaning, and I try hard to be planned and purposeful. We have outreaches, retreats, and missions trips.There are special guest speakers, and creative ways to interact. Admittedly if I pull off a great talk, then it feels great.

After hearing the radio show I started wondering if I like activities because I can sit on the sidelines and cheer someone on while not engaging.

Am I really afraid of relational ministry?

Do I like activities because they are detailed and definitive?

Relationships are sticky. They are an ongoing process. When you get to know someone more deeply they share fears, frustrations, doubts, joys, sorrows, and expectations with you. We realize we can’t “fix” or “save” or “heal” people, we can simply show them love, grace and Christ. If I have a ministry that truly has a relational focus, what would it do?

I am wondering if sometimes the way I set up my ministry actually adds to the culture of creating a “doer” and I am not supporting the family to learn to BE.

BE still and know He is God.

BE present in the moment.

BE a servant, and follower and someone who is with Jesus wherever He goes.

Now let’s not move to an extreme where we have no activities. Sometimes hands on learning is the best method to meeting a student. It’s more about focusing away from me the leader and what I am teaching, to the student, their family, and what they are learning.

I’m wrestling with this idea that I maybe need to create more space to allow us all to do just that–wrestle, with the hard stuff, and expect Jesus to show up and direct my leaders to do the same.

Could or should we create an integrated culture that helps us all just be?

What do you think?

Less Can Mean More

 —  April 15, 2014 — 4 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 3.58.12 PMMinistry always changes because people always change. Some change is natural due to cultural influence while other change is simply a natural reaction to what was emphasized by previous generations. Either way you look at it, our focal points in our ministries are constantly evolving.

Or, at least they should be.

That said, here are two things I think we need to see LESS of in ministry to college-age people. I must warn you. At first glance, these may seem highly un-spiritual.  Just hear me out, because I think less of these two things means much more in others.

  1. Less focus on spiritual discipline.   I understand discipline is necessary for godliness, but we can also mistake discipline for godliness.  If we are not careful, placing too much emphasis on spiritual disciplines inevitably causes us to over emphasize what we believe to be proper behavior for Christians rather than the faith, love, and hope Christians ought to be motivated by. The fact is spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, etc. are byproducts of faith and not producers of it.  We must be very careful with this distinction and make sure we are not emphasizing behaviors vs. faith.  Younger generations are extremely sensitive to being behavior managed.  I discuss this extensively in my latest book, Losing Your Religion.  But, here I would simply say the less focus on behavior management systems that try to get people to do things for God lends more room for us to emphasize the motivations of faith, love, and hope that free us to do things because of God.
  2. Less focus on gaining more information.  Spiritual maturity is not defined by how much knowledge we possess. Memorizing Proverbs doesn’t make me wise.  Learning more about God and what it means to follow Jesus through the scriptures is, of course, important and especially for those that know almost nothing about scripture.  However, in my experience, our emphasis should be much more on seeking to embrace what we already know. So, to be clear, we are not negating knowledge, but instead, valuing it to such a degree that we actually emphasize embracing it practically.