definitionsOkay, so, we are making sure we are clearly defining terms we use in our ministries.  Using terms like “spiritual growth” without clearly defining them, in my opinion, can actually be damaging.  At best it’s ambiguous and confusing for those we lead.  If you missed my definition of “spiritual growth” click here.

In this post I will define “disciple.”  This is important to define clearly because:

1.  It is our identity as followers of Jesus – we are his disciples
2.  If we are to “disciple” someone else we must understand clearly what that means

Here is the definition I use in our church for “disciple:

someone who learns about and from Jesus so they can obey his teachings and teach others to do the same

We often talk about a “disciple” is a learner, but that’s just not good enough.  The goal is NOT to learn information!!!!!  The goal is to obey all Jesus has taught us (Matthew 28:18-20).  So, our definition must include more than just learning.  Secondly, the disciples that walked alongside Jesus were commanded to teach others, so our definition must include this aspect as well.  The goal is NOT to keep what we learn and do to ourselves, but instead to spread it as much as we possibly can.

Lastly, if we are to disciple people, this definition narrows our focus.  Our focus is on the teachings of Jesus, which the rest of the scriptures supports, and our goal is for those we teach to obey what they learn and then cause others to do the same.  If obedience and teaching others to do the same does not follow our “discipleship,” we are not truly discipling anyone.

May you continue to be clear and concise with what you say as a leader.

definitionsSome phrases or words or topics are commonly used in the Church:

  • “We need to grow spiritually
  • “We want to make sure everyone is being discipled…”
  • “We need to train people in evangelism
  • Spiritual disciplines are important for every Christian”

But using these phrases often doesn’t mean people actually understand what we’re talking about.  People might be able to use the terms in the right context and in the right ways, but if asked to define these things most would have a hard time doing so.  Well, I’ve realized more than ever we have to make sure these types of things are defined clearly and simply.  If not, all we do is train people in Christianese – a language we use that nobody really understands.

So, I thought I would do is provide the definitions I use in our church.  You might already have your own definitions that are concise and effective.  If that’s you, then maybe mine can just be something you compare/contrast yours with.  If you don’t have these defined concisely, I would recommend doing so immediately.  Leadership requires us to be clear.

The first word or phrase I will define in this series is: spiritual growth.

This phrase is tossed around a lot, but nobody really knows what we mean.  So I have defined it.  It may not be a perfect definitions, but I believe we can say we have grown spiritually

if the time it takes us to read scripture and embrace it is less than it used to be. 

This definition does a number of things other than just providing a definition:

  1.  It leans on Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 that says the goal of our teaching people about him and his ways is obedience.  We cannot feel like we’ve grown spiritually simply because we can regurgitate scripture.  Reading the bible makes us Christian as much as reading People Magazine makes us a celebrity.
  2. Implies that we need to be growing in our understanding of scripture.
  3. It insinuates actions need to be taken after reading.

How do you feel about that definition?  See any holes in it?  Any other benefits you see it having?  If you have defined it for yourself and ministry, please share it so we can all learn.



goodpastorskidLaura Ortberg Turner, daughter of John and Nancy Ortberg, has some great thoughts on what it means to be (but not really be) known as a “Pastor’s Kid.” One takeaway is the framework she felt her parents placed her and her siblings into. Turner writes:

“Had we not gotten freedom from our parents to be the people we were—to grow and learn for ourselves and even occasionally embarrass our parents, as good children do (a famed family incident at a church in Southern California that involves my then-5-year-old brother lying on his back, thrusting his pelvis to a children’s worship song called ‘Jumping Bean,’ comes to mind)—we would likely have ended up feeling like our only two possibilities in life were becoming the mantle-bearer or the rebel.”

I’ve spent a lot of energy making sure people know the first names of my family members aren’t “The Pastor’s wife” or “The Pastor’s kids.” So much of that can be overturned by a well-meaning youth leader who isn’t conscious about unconscious behavior.

Consider how we help or hinder this in youth group circles:

  • Do you unconsciously think it means more if a senior/staff pastor’s kids do/don’t attend the youth group?
  • When a “PK” acts up, are you quick to share about it with volunteers, in staff meetings or at home?
  • Are you eyeballing such students for the moment when they either declare their own calling to ministry or rebel like a pop star?
  • How often do you make sure we mention them as the “pastor’s kid” to new youth workers who jump in?

The list of negatives can go on, so let’s brainstorm some positives:

  • Let them be known for who they are versus who their parents are.
  • Allow them the chance to share their own stories and journey versus assuming things from illustrations shared from the pulpit.
  • Try not to put them in positions where they’re a secretary for you or one of their parents. (i.e. “Can you pass this key along to your dad?”)
  • Give them a safe ear to share their questions (or even disinterest) in spiritual things, even if it means moving your schedule around to meet with them in private.

(Maybe we should apply each of these to every other kid in the youth group, too.)

Got any more tips?

Share yours below.

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I love our youth nights, I love the buzz, the noise of the crowd, the Worship, the community, the teaching, well basically all of it. The experience of the gathered Church to me is rich, in tradition and off the charts in value. But as mush as I love the bigger stage, I have an equal passion for the relational one on one connection with students and have fought hard to maintain a level of relational connectedness to young people even in the midst of a demanding role in the wider church. When I am going to meet with a student for a coffee, a coke or just going for a walk there are a few questions that are guaranteed to be a part of the conversation.

1 What is something that you are excited about?

This is a great ice-breaker question, its disarming question and allows a student to talk about something they have an easy time talking about, themselves! This is also a strategic question because it gives me some event or opportunity that I can follow up with. If they are excited about their drivers test, a concert or a hot date, I now have intentional opening for a follow up conversation. Remembering these events and following up shows a student they are valued.

2 How are things going in your small group?

Our ministry has small groups on the same night as our youth gather, which means that 100% of our students are in small groups. As a leader there are certain areas of the culture that I can shape, but within the small groups exists its own community and culture and its important to know what is happening. Any chance you have to get a the straight goods on the pulse of ministry, you should take it because the growth and discipleship is happening in the small group more so than the large gather. Also finding out about a problem or challenge allows me I can’t help that leader navigate the scenario that I otherwise might not have known was a concern.

3- How is your heart?

I am so sold out to asking this question because it allows the transition into asking students how their relationship with God is, where they are experiencing Him or not. Asking a student about their heart allows the conversation to address where they feel encouraged and where they feel discourage and takes the conversation to a level of honestly faster than so how are you Really doing? Our leaders have been starting to latch onto the question and some of the students now have heard it enough that they jokingly ask me the same question. Its a great part of the changing culture of our ministry where we are trying to go deeper in our relationships with God and each other.

4 How can I pray for you?

This question is a must ask for obvious reasons, but any meaningful conversation with student that doesn’t include this question is a missed opportunity for me. Students need to know that we are here to journey beside them, to intercede on their behalf and intend to follow up with those things they are in need of prayer for. Praying for our students one on one, in the large group and privately is a core part of what we do.

These are just four of the many questions that we ask our students when we meet with them, are there questions that are on your must ask list?

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

“Nothing.”  It’s the answer we spoke of  when some students are asked what they want to be when they grow up.   Not,  “I don’t know,” or  “I’m figuring it out.”  ” Nothing.”

The other answer we often get from students who are stuck in this place of survival are,  “Professional athlete,  singer, model, actress.”  Recently one of the smartest young women in my ministry pulled me aside to tell me a secret.  “I have applied to colleges, however,  I don’t think I am going to go.  Instead I am going to pursue my dream of  being on American Idol.”    I never tell students these type of dreams are “unattainable,” instead I ask what steps they are going to take to make it happen.  She had no plan.  As a matter of fact when I pressed her it was fear of failing, of being the first generation to go to college in her family,  of financial aid not coming through that caused her to back out of her college aspirations.  I said,  “You know you can go to college and get to American Idol too. ”    This is a variation of something I have witnessed many times.  There are two extremes that equal the same answer: No dream.  This time you put something out there that is so big you know you won’t really attain it.  So whether you answer “nothing” or the “big thing” you never believe anything will really happen.

SAM_0119

When your hope has been deferred or “put on hold,” you forget what dreaming feels like.  Perhaps you are afraid to dream at all.   The exciting piece of Proverbs 13:12 is that “Dreams fulfilled are a tree of life.”   This is a picture of the cross and resurrection.  In other words Christ is how we overcome a sick heart.  He is the reason we can dream.  He is the hope.  The problem is how do we best help students who want “nothing” to understand it isn’t about “something,”  but the “one thing” that will renew and bring relationship.

Where can we start?

Truth: Students are hungering for the truth.  They want to wrestle with the hard stuff.  They want to know beyond our opinions of life,  but also who Christ is,  really. What does this mean to their everyday?

Time:  They want our time.  They want time to ask questions.  They spell love T.I.M.E.  In a hurried world,  where everything is pushed aside our students are looking for us to slow down,  and take “time” with them.   It is also our responsibility to understand that “TIME” means something different to the Lord than to us.  (Remember the whole day is like a thousand years and visa versa to God?)  We must  believe always He is at work in a heart whether we SEE it with our eyes or not.  Jesus is working his concept of  “time,” to move past hopelessness.

Trust:  We live in a society where it is hard to know who we can rely on.  Teaching a student why they can trust Jesus is huge.  This means letting them know sometimes we can make mistakes,  but HE is always trustworthy.  The Lord isn’t one person on Facebook,  another on Twitter and then there is the “real” God.  He is always the same,  and there is freedom in that.  Yet, they need to learn WHY?

Teach:   Bring the WORD before students and help them learn how the Lord is talking to them there.  It may mean starting with “what” the Bible even is.  That is fine. Take it word by word if necessary.  However,  never be afraid to teach students exactly who Christ is and where they can come to learn about Him.

“Nothing” is not an option when it comes to Jesus.  He has an amazing plan and purpose with dreams fulfilled.  However,  it can’t be done on our own.  That is why it is important our students know a “dream fulfilled”  is only ever truly in Christ.

What do you feel helps students to understand hope deferred can be moved to Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 



As my high school group of guys have grown older I’ve noticed the amount or responsibilities and conflicts in schedule have grown.  Because our groups meet every Thursday night it’s easy for them to miss a week here and there.  However, as the obstacles and alternate opportunities grow their attendance starts to falter.  They tell me they love being their; however, they are just so bogged down with:

  • School Work
  • Sports Practice
  • Responsibilities At Home

I’m sure this list could continuously go on for many of you and that your groups face similar challenges.  The key to keeping the group strong is to enable it to grow outside of your allotted time.  That means connecting with teens multiple times during the week in a variety of ways.

That might seem fine to you; however, overwhelming to your volunteers. If you introduce that idea to them there might be push back or reluctance, and that’s okay.  You just need to help and show them how to grow outside the designated time.  To do that:

  • Give Leaders An Out – From time to time give your small group leaders permission to do something outside of the usual time or agenda.  Because time is so valuable allow them to sacrifice a night of the “usual youth ministry” to do something different.  Challenge them to embark in a service project instead of discussing service.  Encourage them to do something social that will build camaraderie.  Give them permission “to play”.
  • Extend An Invitation - Many leaders might not know where to start when it comes to investing in their group outside the weekend.  Invite them to join you when you are heading out to a game (Where their teens might be present) or on an outing your group might be planning.  By extending an invitation you are leading by example. 
  • Set Them Up For Success - On top of extending an invitation to join you equip them with resources that will help them connect with teens outside the group.  That might mean training them on social media etiquette, or giving them the tools for planning a night of laser tag.  As the youth minister of your church you have a wealth of resources and knowledge that your volunteers need access.  

The more a group can grow outside of the weekend or it’s usual time the stronger it will become.  It will teach the teens how to build relationships outside of a youth ministry setting.  It will also build confidence in your leaders because they’ll feel like they have ownership.  When your leaders are motivated to lead outside the group it extends your capacity to be present in the community.

How do you help your volunteers connect with teens outside the designated time?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

http://vimeo.com/32275339

A buddy told me about some success he was having in his spiritual life using a new service called goTandem. It isn’t simple to explain, so I put the video above in this post to show you more. Seems like should be some good uses for this in youth ministry. Just throwing it out there – looks interesting!

JG