Everyone has an opinion on Halloween… and its alternatives.

candycornOn one hand, I completely appreciate opportunities to remember that Halloween is really a degradation of “All Saint’s Day.” Everything belongs to God, including whatever has been corrupted or changed over the years to reflect something else. It’s why my family is a huge fan of how this season can be a time to sip apple cider and eat pumpkin pie while the leaves change. We don’t do the ghoul/ghost thing, but we do let our kids get dressed up in a fun costume and make the rounds for candy while we bond with our neighbors. That seems kind of important to God,doesn’t it?

On the other hand, I also appreciate the efforts of Christians who believe we should “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” That word “nothing” is rather powerful, isn’t it?

Churches have tried to come up with alternatives that try to ride the tension between those two thoughts. Sometimes we forget how this comes across, though. Here’s a great one-liner from “Angry Youth Pastor

Harvest Festivals are like substitute cuss words…God and everyone else still knows what you mean. #holyghostweanieroast

ayp

Meanwhile, Greg Stier offers 13 ways not to share your faith this Halloween. Here’s a slice:

  • Insert Testamints into marshmallows covered in chocolate and blessed by a priest.
  • Tell the kids who come to your door that Halloween is the Devil’s birthday party (Like my son used to believe.)
  • Give away apples with John 3:16 carved into them. John 3:16 is great but apples? Seriously? Don’t be that house.
  • Go as a zombie with a sign around your neck that reads, “Dead in my sins

Jesus PumpkinPerhaps a more comprehensive summary is what Darren Sutton hits on regarding how Halloween outreach efforts often fall flat.

Somewhere, we decided that Halloween was bad – and we were going to offer an ‘alternative’ (that strangely looks just like Halloween huddled up on our parking lot.) And then we heartily pat ourselves on the back because 700 people show up for free candy and a dunking booth. We don’t get their names, We don’t REALLY meet them, because this time they’re actually wearing real ‘masks’. And somehow we think we have accomplished ministry. And we’ll do the same thing for our Christmas program, Easter pageant, and July 4th celebration.

So… what’s your perspective on all of this?

I’m super excited to go to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Indianapolis in just a couple months. I was in Colorado earlier this week helping plan the evening general sessions and think the lineup of content and fun is going to be something really special. Hope you’ll join us this year – get discounted rates through January 16th, too!

For all the details click here!

JG



Thought that Greg Stier wrote a solid post to kickoff the New Year – here’s a clip from his post, 5 Reasons I’m Excited About Youth Ministry in 2013 that I think is worth the read:

1. A lack of budget triggers a more mature approach to youth ministry.
The value of a strained US economy is that smaller church offerings can lead to tighter youth ministry budgets. Before you call me crazy remember that a smaller youth ministry budget can lead to less goofiness and more seriousness when it comes to youth ministry programming. And that’s a good thing.

God has blessed me with the privilege of leading a ministry called Dare 2 Share for the last twenty years. We train teenagers to share their faith all across the country. Because much of our income is donor related when “The Great Recession” hit in 2008 we had to cut staff, slash programs and sharpen our focus. While these were challenging times God has used it in powerful ways to make us more serious and strategic about a much more singular mission. The same can happen for youth ministries that get their budget slashed. Sometimes a “fiscal cliff” becomes a bridge to a more mature approach to youth ministry. Less sizzle, more steak.

4. Youth ministry and family integrated ministry find their groove…together!
There is a battle in many churches over the role of the traditional youth ministry model and the family integrated model (moms and dads discipling their own children.) It seems to me that there is a “best of both worlds” solution that some youth ministries are starting to tap into. The power of parents leaning into the spiritual development of their own children combined with a setting where teenagers can relate to other teenagers spiritually could be the model that catapults youth ministry to the next level. The more spiritually mature adults who are willing to mentor their children/teens and other children/teens the better! This should happen at home and church! The youth leaders who are seeing the power of Titus 2 (older women mentoring young women/older men mentoring young men) should do nothing more than accelerate the mission of the youth leader and godly parents. Sure, there will still be the “our way is the only way“ people, but, most youth leaders should be able to merge the power of both approaches into their youth ministry models.

JG

Every now and then we take a break from the normal routine to interview a friend, author, ministry leader or youth worker we think would have something to share with the youth worker nation. Today we talk to Greg Stier, founder of Dare 2 Share (dare2share.org), which is a ministry dedicated to equipping students to share their faith. Greg is a long-time friend of Simply Youth Ministry and will be speaking in a general session at the upcoming SYMC Conference in March.

1. Dude, many of our readers haven’t met you before—tell us about yourself!
For 10 years I was a church planter and pastor of Grace Church in Arvada, Colorado. Although I loved this amazing church, God used the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 as a wake-up call for me to focus full-time on reaching the next generation for Christ. I resigned my post as pastor and began to mobilize teens for evangelism through Dare 2 Share.

I’ve been married for 21 years to the love of my life, Debbie. We have two great kids who, unfortunately for my wife, have my spastic genes. We couldn’t have kids for 10 years and wondered if God would ever bless us with children. We were so thrilled that he did! Being a husband and daddy has taught me more theology than any Bible class I’ve ever sat through. It’s humbling and exhilarating all at the same time!

When I’m not traveling the nation equipping youth leaders and teens for evangelism, I’m hanging out with the fam. We live in the great state of Colorado and love to hike together. This summer my son and I had the opportunity to climb our first two “14ers” (mountains that are 14,000 feet or higher in elevation). It was great fun…even though I thought my lungs were going to burst. One more thing…I’m a movie freak.

2. How did you become so passionate about student evangelism?
I was raised in a family of body-building, tobacco-chewing, beer-drinking thugs (and that’s just the women!). Seriously, my family was bad to the bone. The Denver “mafia” knew my five fighting uncles as “the crazy brothers.” So when the mafia thinks your family is dysfunctional you have some serious issues.

But this church from the suburbs reached out to the city and, as a result, my entire family came to Christ. As a kid I witnessed the spiritual transformation of every one my family members from violent troublemaker to passionate Christ follower. This church also had a killer youth ministry who discipled us—that is, had us growing deep in our relationship with Christ and understanding theology, as well as training and expecting us to share our faith. They also had high expectations when it came to leadership and they gave teenagers significant responsibilities in leading the youth ministry, which I think is critical. There’s no way I’d be doing Dare 2 Share if I hadn’t seen it modeled in this amazing youth ministry setting first. Bottom line as to why I’m so passionate about student evangelism? I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teenagers!

3. Yesterday we talked about producing evangelistic students; what is the biggest key in your mind for students to “get it”?
They have to have their hearts broken for their friends who don’t know Jesus. They need to get their “Jesus eyes” on.

When I was a teenager my youth pastor challenged me to go to a local shopping mall and do some people watching for 30 minutes. He told me to put an imaginary tag on people’s foreheads as they walked by which read, “Bound for Hell.” I did just that. For 30 minutes I thought about the hell they were headed to and the hell they were going through apart from Jesus. By the time it was over I was crying. For the first time I saw people through the eyes of Christ and my heart has been broken ever since. As we put our teens in situations to interact with unreached people (mission trips, local outreaches, etc), we will have the opportunity to teach them to put their Jesus eyes on. Then, as their hearts begin to break for the lost, evangelism becomes much more natural.

4. Tell us about a time you were rejected after sharing your faith. How can leaders prepare students for the adversity they face in times like that?
There have been many times I’ve been rejected. The hardest was my Uncle Richard. He was the one holdout of my uncles who refused to believe in Jesus. It took 12 years of sharing and being rejected by him before he finally succumbed to Jesus (just before succumbing to cancer).

I think youth leaders can prepare their students by helping them realize that rejection is part of the discipleship process. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

At Dare 2 Share we do a thing called “Persecution University.” If a teen gets rejected for sharing Jesus, they become a PU grad and get a standing ovation from the thousands of teens in the auditorium. Of course some Christians get persecuted, not for sharing their faith, but for the way they are sharing their faith. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about helping teens to humbly share the good news and then realize that, if their friends reject them, they are entering a fraternity of persecution that’s 2,000 years old. I find that teens who truly realize this have their faith steeled and sealed deep inside their souls.

5. You are an excitable guy! What are you most excited about at Dare 2 Share!
We are seeing teenagers truly share their faith, and youth groups are growing in maturity and in numbers as a result!  We are witnessing how evangelism accelerates the discipleship process in ways no traditional model can emulate. It’s great fun to watch the exciting messiness of a youth group growing with new and raw teen disciples.

I’m also excited about the way the Lord has opened up the door for this movement to be scalable outside of our Dare 2 Share events. From training curriculum to our free online training material to webinars to an upcoming Dare 2 Share mobile app (coming soon) we are pumped up to see that God is moving beyond our training conferences to accelerate teen evangelism training. Of course, the Dare 2 Share conferences are as exciting as ever and we are adding more and more new cities to the tour. I love what God does through these catalytic training events!

But what excites me most is that I believe we could witness a true revival in this nation within my lifetime. And I’m fully convinced teenagers and youth leaders will be on the leading edge of this next great awakening. I’m a student of past revivals and, to be honest, I’m tired of reading about revivals—I want to be a part of one!

This interview  originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



Greg from Dare 2 Share (who I’ll be interviewing later this month here on the blog and in the SYM Today) sent along a quick note to let me know about a great new (and free!) training they’re doing next week called Follow the Leader. The focus is to try to help you become a leader worth following – something a youth worker at any level needs continual training in.

It is going to be held Tuesday December 11th from noon – 1 PM Central Time – you can sign up right here.

JG

Just  finished up reading Greg Stier’s new book: Firing Jesus. It was a quick read (less than 2 hours) of a youth ministry fable where the youth pastor is on the chopping block after some questionable decisions in his youth ministry. The book is basically the board meeting discussions surrounding what to do with JC. I loved the book – partially because there are 3-4 really solid learnings in there and also because there were familiar echoes of my own story throughout. A good quick read from Dare 2 Share!

JG



Dare2Share and Greg Stier are doing a free webinar on “The Missing Link in Discipleship” tomorrow (Tuesday August 7th) that includes a free giveaway of my brand new book “Firing Jesus” to everyone who attends. The goal is to help youth leaders walk away with tools/ideas to become way more effective in equipping teens to share their faith.

  • Tuesday August 7th: 12:00-1:00 PM CST(10-11 AM Pacific, 11-Noon Mountain,1-2 PM Eastern)
  • Tuesday August 7th: 7:30-8:30 PM CST(5:30-6:30 PM Pacific, 6:30-7:30 PM Mountain,8:30-9:30 PM Eastern)

JG

Excited to point you toward the official website of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2013 – one of my absolutely favorite weeks of the year. This time we’re back in Indianapolis, and it is going to be excellent with Lacrae, Shane & Shane, Greg Stier, Skit Guys and much more coming soon. Check out the site and I hope to see you there, too!

JG