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.



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