evil-heart2I’ve just relaunched our student leadership program and it’s been a ton of fun. This is a program designed to help students lead within the ministry. I would encourage you to start something for your students that would allow them to lead in some capacity. I’m definitely not saying you need a traditional leadership program, but it would benefit your youth ministry a lot to have something where students can take some ownership for the ministry.

In the last few weeks I’ve been having a lot of conversations with student leaders concerning the heart of a leader. Because the bible says in Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. It’s important that I make sure my students understand that you lead from the heart, and the condition of your heart effects the way you lead.

In Christian culture today you have a lot of people who want to lead, be famous and have influence. We’ve taken on this mentality that says “if I’m going to do something for God, I need it to be big and I need everyone to know about it.” I believe it stems from the condition of our hearts. Now, I don’t think God has any problem with us leading, having influence or fame. I think it’s hard to not have all three at some level when you are leading, but the condition of your heart determines wether you use it to glorify God or self.

I want my student leaders to understand that protecting their heart and continuing to allow Jesus to change their heart is an ongoing process. I want them to be like David. It seems like David understood this concept best. In Psalm 51:50 He writes “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 139:23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. David was always asking God to do something that had to do with heart, mind and spirit. David was more concerned with who he was becoming then what he was doing. Here are a few areas that David struggled in and I believe these areas stemmed from the condition of his heart.  

  1. Compromise: Having the ability to compromise your beliefs for selfish gain is an issue of the heart. Left unchecked could wreak havoc in a ministry, and destroy your credibility as a leader worth following.
  2. Abandon: The ability to abandon your beliefs for selfish gain is an issue of the heart. Left unchecked you could fall for the lie that says “In order to obtain more influence, you must somewhat abandon your beliefs, and come to the middle of the road on certain issues.” This is a lie that unfortunately a lot of people fall for.
  3. Manipulate: The ability to manipulate for selfish gain is a condition of the heart. Left unchecked and you could lead others down the wrong road for a good cause. Probably one of the most hurtful things you can do to someone.

The thing that I want student leaders to know is that we are all capable of doing any of those three things. And so it’s not enough for my student leaders to just know how to speak, plan an event and be relational. They need to understand that we lead from our hearts and out of it is who we are. You can only fake being someone you’re not for a short time, before the real you shows up. My goal is to not just help them do, but also help them be.

 

Hope it helps,

AC

Here is Ep.19 – You can catch the other episodes at the Youtube channel (Let’s Talk Youth Ministry). Kurt and I talk about the Fall, and we both give a few tips on things you should try in the Fall. Check it out!! 

 

Hope it helps,

AC



baby

My buddy Matt, the youth pastor at our Irvine Campus, and I just returned from helping launch Saddleback’s first international youth ministry in Manila.

The week was filled with hype, hope, and hard work around the launch. In fact, we were talking so much about “Week 1″ that I finally felt compelled to remind them that we were launching a youth ministry, not just a one-time event. Brittany Hinzo, who helps me with our international stuff had delivered a beautiful little baby girl just a few days earlier so I used her as a launching pad.

“Remember how excited we all were to hear about Brittany’s new baby girl, Navy? Guys, anybody can have a baby! The reality is the birthing process is the easy part; anybody can do that. What’s tough is raising a baby! While I’m just as excited as you about the launch, and largely responsible for creating this excitement, I’m more concerned about week #2 and week #28 and week #84 than I am about week #1″

Youth workers are notorious for new ideas, big plans and fireworks. We love “having babies”! And we are often equally notorious for being terrible at raising them. We have programs we never should have birthed, we are neglecting the health of important things because we are excitedly birthing new things. etc.

We love to ask each other what we are doing that is new, fresh and exciting and rarely ask each other what things we have been doing faithfully for 5 or 6 years that are bearing good fruit.

So while I’m excited about the birth of Saddleback Student Ministry’s addition to the family in Manila, I realize that anybody can have a baby. Can we raise one? I hope so.

Leadership 8A lot of times when we think of student leaders, we think of the students who are the elite of our ministry. And that is completely false. Student leaders are just students who are committed to serving a cause greater than themselves. My pray is that our students simply learn to serve like Jesus. So here are a few random thoughts that I’ve been noodling on that has been pushing us in that direction.

  • Grow together  – Asking students to do and be things you aren’t doing or being is the easiest road to a revolt within student leadership. Instead, take them as a whole with you included on a journey of growth in serving like Jesus.
  • We are all in the same boat - I got a great idea from one of my veteran volunteers. He gave me the idea to create a struggle sheet. This sheet listed the things that we as christians struggle with. I had them fill it out anonymously. Once they were done I collected them all and shuffled them. Then I passed them back out, with each student receiving someone else’s sheet. I then begin to say “if this struggle is on your sheet raise your hand?” Hands begin to go up with each struggle mentioned. Then I let them know that we are no different than the students we are committed to serving. They struggle with the same stuff we struggle with. My goal was to change their perspective on thinking that we were some how special or better than anyone else. I also wanted to create a level of compassion within them, for the students we will serve.
  • Setting expectations - Not for the sake of having rules, but for the sake of serving others and becoming better followers of Christ. No one is expected to have it all together, but you should expect them to pursue the growth that draws them to serve and be more like Jesus. Set expectations and expect them to meet them.
  • Create something worth being a part of - This generation isn’t just looking for change, but to be a part of a movement. They are looking to be the catalysis to helping the less fortunate or speaking up for the voiceless. Remember “Kony 2012″, “Bring back our girls” or “Blackfish”?I believe students latched on to these causes because of their longing to be a part of something. There is no other mission on the planet like showing, and sharing God’s love to the world. It’s the greatest most important cause/movement ever. I want students to join in on the movement that changed my life when I was 17. This generation is hungry to be a part of something life changing. So make it worth it.
  • Personal growth - Student leaders need to grow as a person and also in their walk with Christ. Even though we encourage getting involved, we definitely don’t want them just jumping on the bandwagon of causes. We want them to understand that their influence is important, but it also can hinder them without personal growth. Growth in influence and authority without spiritual/personal growth leads to ego growth and narcissistic leadership.

My goal is for students to simply serve like Jesus. I want their title to remind them of their commitment to serve and not just lead. There you go, just a few random thoughts. What has been a struggle for you concerning your leadership program for students?

 

Hope it helps,

AC



Let’s Talk Youth Ministry Vlog is BACK!!!!!!!! And we are posting a NEW SHOW EVERY WEEK.Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1

 

 

Show’s Topic: The Gospel!!!!!

Hope it helps,

AC

 

stirstickI go to Starbucks every morning. I’m like an old man stuck in his routine. It’s where I read, write, think, pray, and drink $2.00 tea that I could make at home for 25 cents.

Today, after ordering my tea I headed over to the condiment counter to add some milk and sugar. To my dismay, in the little spot that normally holds the stir sticks was a note that read, “We are out of stir sticks. Sorry!” I was a little surprised, because for a coffee place to run out of stir sticks seems sorta like a hamburger place running out of buns. Forgivable, I suppose.

What was more surprising to me was that two hours later as I was walking out the door…the little note was still there! How many customers had wandered over to the condiment bar hoping to find stir sticks had been left frustrated? Less than 50 yards away sits a grocery store, and I’m pretty sure they sell stir sticks. Now, they may not sell the eco-friendly wooden stir sticks that Starbucks uses, but they certainly sell something.

Why didn’t anybody on the Starbucks team feel empowered to go buy some random stir sticks from the store?
Is sticking to the “approved stir sticks” cited in the manager’s notebook more important than customer service?
Would it have been totally okay to go buy some, but nobody took the initiative?

Those are all questions that went through my mind as I walked out the door. And they raise some interesting questions for those of us who lead youth ministries:

Are you a leader who is creating a culture of empowerment…does your team feel the freedom to problem solve?
In what areas does ministry to people in real-time trump your policies and procedures?
Do you have people on your team who, if given the freedom, take initiative or do they assume somebody else will do it?

- Kurt



Led-Zeppelin-fourAs I continue to love on students and family through pastoral care, there are some things that I’ve had to become knowledgeable about. Because students and their families are dealing with these issues and in order for me to really care for them, I need to educate myself. So I thought I’d share few of the issues with you. I am by no means an expert in any of the issues I list. My goal has been to know enough to understand what it is I’m dealing with so that I can respond better.

  1. Mental Illness - There is such a huge stigma when it comes to mental illness, because we automatically associate mental illness with a lack of smarts. Therefore, people are afraid or ashamed to talk about it. Well, I had to educate myself on the topic, so I could view and pray for my students struggling with mental illness in the right light. Sometimes I think we can tack on things and misdiagnose students based on what we think we know about the student and what’s really going on. I always push parents to seeing a professional, but that doesn’t negate my responsibility to walk with the student and family through the process. The crazy part is that out of all the kids that are struggling, only 20 percent are being diagnosed and treated. It makes me want to know more, because I most likely have students and families who are dealing with it on their own.(NAMI)
  2. Self-Harm – The Huffington Post came out with an article not to long ago that said Self-Harm was becoming main-stream thanks to the internet. I’ve definitely had more conversations concerning this topic then I would like to in my own ministry. I had to become knowledgeable about it so that I could minister and care for our students who are struggling in this area. Because even though I send them to see a professional, they still need support as they go through this journey of healing. Again, I need to know what I’m dealing with because I want to be able to care and pray for my students very specifically. I created this for my leaders(click here).
  3. Suicide – It’s the second leading cause of death for ages (10-24). And the third leading cause of death for college-age and youth (12-18). There are 5,400 attempts a day by students in grades 7-12. What’s interesting is that 4 out 5 teens who attempt suicide give warning signs. Which makes me want to know what to look for, and have some guidelines on how to respond.(TJF)
  4. Abuse – In youth group a lot of things come out concerning students. I want my leaders to know what to do in case abuse is found out. Even more than that, I want them to know the signs to look for in students who they think may be being abused. There are mandated reports so it’s crucial they understand they are bound by law to report abuse.

I think sometimes we shy away from these types of issues, because it’s like opening pandora’s box. But in Matthew 9:12 … Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Studying Jesus’ ministry here on earth leads me to believe that He was all about blowing the door off of Pandora’s box. He spent more time with those who struggled than any other people group during his time on earth. I had to open my eyes to the fact that the majority of my students are probably struggling with something. And I can’t be so occupied with doing ministry that I neglect those who are in need of being ministered to. I have to care about these students just as much as God does. They need community and people praying for them just like everyone else and maybe even more. Just a thought! What are some other things we need to educate ourselves on so we can minister to our students and their families better?

 

Hope it helps,

AC

random

- In my quest to help our students and youth leaders feel more confident explaining, sharing and even defending the gospel (which has included a quest to try to first define the gospel), I stumbled upon the book, What Is The Gospel? In it, authors Greg Gilbert and D.A. Carson take a direct, traditionally evangelical view of scripture that clearly articulates the gospel of Jesus Christ. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but it was mine. Or maybe because I love tea so much I was just looking for a reason to use that analogy.

- Are you a Youth Worker? Do you live in Los Angeles? Do you like Saddleback Church? Are you looking for a challenge? If you answered yes to ALL of those questions (or know somebody who would), you may be excited to learn that Saddleback Church has launched a new campus in the heart of LA/Hollywood and we are in the early stages of preparing to launch our student ministries department. The first step: Finding the right man or woman to lead the charge. Interested? You know where to find me!

- Having mostly not surfed for the past few years (the rest of my family enjoys riding dirt bikes in the desert MUCH more), I’ve jumped back in with a renewed energy and passion for the sport. My current “quiver” (set of surf boards) includes a 9′ long board, a 6’6″ Tri-fin, a 6’2″ fun board (shaped like a long board, but short) and a 5’10″ retro fish. They’ve all been purchased on the cheap, and I’m hoping that having lots of surf boards makes it easy for the rest of the Johnston clan to give it a shot this summer!

- I’m Learning…a Lot! I’ve been leading ministry teams for over 25 years, and while it’s never been easy it’s never been as tough as it is right now. For the first time in my ministry career I feel like I am as much of a “manager of systems” as I am a true leader. Saddleback Church currently has 12 campuses (U.S. and abroad) and very soon we will have youth ministries happening at all of them, and my role is to provide leadership, coaching, quality control and ensure they are all simultaneously very true to our ministry paradigm while also feeling free to contextualize appropriately. I knew it wouldn’t be smooth sailing all the time, but what has surprised me the most is that stuff I thought would be challenging and problematic has been fairly easy, and stuff I assumed would be in the no-brainer category has actually been the hardest part. I’m hoping that an old dog can, in fact, learn new tricks.

- Have you been watching “Let’s Talk Youth Ministry”? If so, share it with a friend in the youth worker nation! Me and my buddy, A.C., post a new episode every week mostly as a way to mix up the format on this blog a little bit. It’s sort of like the old Simply Youth Ministry Show, but a little more laid back (mostly because A.C. is the most laid-back person in the history of mankind!). Here’s one fun twist: We are hoping to add a short video from one of you each week! You can send us a 60 minute video that asks a youth ministry question, shares a “I can’t believe I did that” moment, or serves as a word of encouragement (so far, these seem to be the most popular). Just shoot a one-minute video on your phone and email it to letstalkyouthministry@gmail.com