Less Can Mean More

Chuck Bomar —  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.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 3.05.56 PMCollege students can sometimes get a bad rap for being flakey.  Although I understand how leaders can have this perception, I’ve actually written about how this is often not the case when we look a little deeper into their search for identity and belonging (for more on that, see the following two books: Worlds Apart or College Ministry 101). But, on the other hand, college students, like all of us from time to time, can certainly get to the point where they are so over committed that they don’t follow through.

The trick is to know the difference between a flakey person and a someone who is just over committed.  It’s a critical distinction because we would approach each issue entirely differently.

Here are 5 signs that students might not be as flakey as they are just over committed:

(1) They’re actually apologetic about being late.

(2) They always seem stressed or rushed.

(3) They can never seem to remember what you talked about last time you met.

(4) They talk about what they “have” to do way more than what they “want” to do.

(5) They are usually tired.

I’ve found the following to be beneficial when working with over committed people:

  1. Be an e-brake.  Literally ask them to stop and take a deep breathe.
  2. Be a listener.  Ask them how they are really doing and don’t give advice unless they specifically ask for it.
  3. Pray for them.  After listening, just ask if you can pray for them.  Pray for peace, wisdom with time management and focus on what truly matters.

We can often encourage people more by just being present and supportive than we can by giving a bunch of unsolicited advice.

Chuck / @chuckbomar



Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 12.03.53 PMWe can easily fall into the trap of only thinking about our position.

It’s much tougher to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and process through what they are thinking or feeling.

In hopes of helping us do that in one of the more sensitive areas of our culture, here are 6 questions I believe gay students are asking about us and our ministries:

  1. How is it possible for me to relate to Christians in a church context?
  2. Will everyone define me as “gay?”
  3. Will people think I chose to be like this?
  4. Do they think I’m going to hit on them?
  5. Will they kick me out if I’m honest?
  6. Will I be able to fit in with everyone or will I be treated differently?

Food for thought!

Chuck

@chuckbomar

237_many_hatsI had the opportunity to give a few thoughts on discipleship to our small group leaders. So I thought I’d share them with you all.

I’m a firm believer that small groups are messy and not as clear cut as some may make them out to be. Therefore, discipleship within small groups is not as clear cut either. I believe the many hats a small group leader has to wear shows the messiness of small groups, and also presents a reason as to why small groups are messy.

Small Group Leader Hats

  1. Counselor
  2. Teacher
  3. Mediator
  4. Friend
  5. Disciplinarian
  6. Role Model
  7. Support System
  8. Advocate
  9. Many More

Wearing this many hats makes a checklist discipleship system impossible. I’ve worn many hat’s being a small group leader and many of them at the same time. What has helped me the most are the principles Jesus used discipling his disciples. When I look at how Jesus discipled, I see a more patterns of principles than methods or structure. Principles deal with the important intangibles that effect areas of our life long term.

We must understand that every time you interact with your students you are discipling them. Whether you know it or not you are discipling with your life and with the choices you make. How you live and the choices you make effect your students for the better or worst. And that’s why I believe Jesus discipled based on principles. Discipling through these principles has been encouraging and literally life changing for me and my small group. So here are the three principles I feel like Jesus used with his disciples:

 

  1. Disciple Through Relationships – Grow and Build Relationships With Your Students – Jesus was always sharing with them who He was and what what He was here to do. He was growing them closer together but also closer to himself. For the sole purpose of building trust. Jesus knew that there would come a day that they would need to trust him and each other. I can tell you from experience that there will come a day that your life group students will need to trust the wisdom you give and know that it’s out of love and not judgement. They will also need the support and confidence of their group.
  2. Disciple IntentionallyBe Intentional With What You Teach and Do – Jesus was intentional about what He taught and also how He challenged the disciples. When Jesus taught the sermon on the mount He intentionally used verbiage that the people already knew so that His words would resonate with them. He intentionally used those words to relate to them so they would hear him and follow. Think about the ways you can be intentional with what you teach. Don’t just teach, speak intentionally to the hearts of your students. How can you challenge them intentionally? You don’t want to just throw ideas at that wall and hope one stick. Have some intentional conversations with God and also with them so you can challenge them in areas that would benefit them for sure.
  3. Disciple the Potential – I feel super strong about seeing the potential in students, I may do a whole post on this topic alone. I see it as a non-negotiable in youth ministry. Jesus chose the disciples based on what he saw in them. He saw three fisherman and a tax collector as world changers preaching the gospel way before the did any of that. He saw a christian killing machine like Paul as someone who would change the world way before he did any planting of churches or writing of the scriptures. Disciple the potential of your students and don’t allow their present circumstance to sway what you see in them.

I got the chance to let our small group leaders know that how you disciple is super important. And again,  I’m not talking about method or structure, I’m talking about in principle. There are a million methods out there and they are all great in their own right, but Jesus gave us some principles that can be used no matter what the method or the structure looks like.

Would love for the youth ministry nation to weigh-in. What  are some other principles Jesus Christ displayed that we can use to disciple our students?

hope it helps

ac



Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 3.59.07 PMWhen we think about discipleship we all think of different things.

Different methods.

Different books.

Different curriculum.

In each of our contexts we all attach connotations to the term, but the bottom line is whatever we do or whatever resources we use, it all requires our most precious commodity – our time.  And here is where we come face to face with the mountain we have to climb whenever we ask someone to “disciple” those in our ministry.  We are asking for their time.

So, I thought I would give you a few thoughts on how to overcome this challenge.  These are not bullet proof, but ideas I still embrace because they have proven to be effective in my ministry:

  1. Don’t ask people to serve.  I know, that sounds wrong.  But the truth is I don’t ask people to serve in a ministry.  Why?  Well, because the first question they ask is, “How much time is required?”  I never want that question to come across their mind.  Instead, I simply ask people how they are being authentic to their identity as a disciple, themselves.  As followers of Jesus we are all called to disciple, it’s part of who we are.  It’s inauthentic to not disciple.  When we bring it back to our identity, time is the last issue that crosses the mind of the person we are talking with.  Their motivation now is obedience to Jesus, not guilt with us.  Big difference.
  2. Show the value of relationship.  I wrote a lot about this in College Ministry From Scratch, but we ought to always encourage people with how they are impacting others.  This is far more effective than making them feel guilty for how they are not.  People will invest both their time and resources into what they find valuable.  We just need to show them the value of their relational investment.

Chuck

@chuckbomar

College Overload!

Chuck Bomar —  October 24, 2013 — 1 Comment

Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 8.43.57 AMSometimes it’s hard to stay focused in ministry and we wonder where we should be putting our energy.  Even worse, we stop wondering this.

Within a 20 minute radius of our church building we have college overload…

Here are the colleges/universities: 

  1. Portland State
  2. University of Portland
  3. Lewis and Clark University
  4. Reed University
  5. Oregon Health and Science University
  6. George Fox University
  7. Concordia University
  8. Multnomah University
  9. Warner Pacific University

Then we have 14 different trade schools…art, mechanical, etc.

Then we have the following Portland Community College (PCC) campuses:

  1. Sylvania 
  2. Clackamas
  3. Cascade
  4. Rock Creek
  5. Mt. Hood (about 30 minutes from our building)

The community colleges alone total over 80,000 students on campus.

This can cause confusion as to where to concentrate our time.

We have thoughts on this, but wondering, what are some guidelines that you use to focus your attention?



Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 9.58.38 AMAs I mentor people there are a few things that, if I can keep them in mind, bring me rest and peace.  However, if I lose sight of these as I mentor I begin to feel stressed.  So, I thought I’d throw these out to you…maybe they would be of help to you today.

(1) I’m not the Messiah.  People are not a problem to be fixed and even where there are issues to be worked on, it’s not my job to fix them.  Philippians 1:6 tells us that God is going to complete the work.  He may use us, but the job of fixing is not ours.

(2) I’m a part of something bigger.  My role is to follow what God is already doing.  So, I don’t try to find areas that need to be worked on, I try to find the areas that God is already working…and then try to encourage further growth in those areas.

(3) I’m a real person too. I have past and present struggles and I cannot, nor should I, deny those.  So, when I can legitimately identify with a struggle that the person I’m mentoring is experiencing, I make sure to share my experiences.

(4) My hindsight can become foresight. I haven’t been around every block, but this isn’t my first rodeo.  Through experiences of embracing what I know to be true about Jesus, God has given me (and you) some wisdom in areas of life.  When we can see someone walking into a trap that we have fallen victim to, we can help them process through whether or not they actually want to walk down the same path.

Thanks for loving students,

Chuck

@chuckbomar

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 9.49.35 AMTeaching people about Jesus through the scriptures is one of my favorite things to do.  But over the years I’ve discovered bad habits that I had to overcome.  If you teach at all, I’d guess that you struggle with things like this too.  So, I thought it might be helpful to list a few things we tend to do that I believe to be outside of our “job description” as teachers.

As a teacher your job is not to…

  1. Give a book report.  Many times when we are preparing a message we will read books and commentaries.  We then begin working out a flow of thought by organizing all the information we obtained.  And, if we’re not careful we end up giving little more than a book report to those we are teaching. We must remember that this is not our job.  Studying what God has revealed to other people about about a passage or topic can be good to do in many regards, but I would suggest that great caution should be taken to make sure that our study does not hinder us from prayerfully considering what God wants us to say, personally.  For me, I had to stop beginning my preparation by reading other sources.  Instead, I now begin with prayer and personally walking through the bible study methods I teach others…and then look at resources to support or confront the things I’ve learned from my personal study.
  2. Conform behavior.  If our messages are not applicable to the lives of those we teach we are wasting our time.  But, if we’re not careful our desire to be practical can easily cause us to simply teach proper behavior.  There is a fine line here to watch carefully.  I’d suggest our job isn’t to get people to do things, but rather to help them understand, love and enjoy Jesus.