I just got back from the a youth ministry conference and as always I had an amazing time.  I was encouraged, convicted, inspired, met new people and reconnected to old friends.  One of the things I have learned at most events is that if I don’t quickly narrow down my trip to be about a few things I will become overwhelmed and not really gain anything from it.  I have described it to others like drinking from a fire hose.

This year I decided to gravitate towards two things.  One was student leadership.  Too much of my ministry is about myself, my efforts, and my personality.  The second, and truthfully how I am going to get to the first, is on prayer.  If there is ever a subject that most believers can resonate with is that their prayer life is going poorly.  Or at the very least it could get better.

With that conviction, I attended a seminar on both student leadership and implementing prayer within your ministry.  Timothy Eldred, the seminar speaker and author of Pray21 pushed his audience to hand off ministry but do it by starting with a 21-day challenge.  Partner up every willing student with a willing (and screened) adult.  Then have them pray together for 21 days through a simple (his words, not mine) daily, devotional.

Call it coincidence or God’s timing, but we were already teaching on prayer the next three weeks.  So we decided to toss it out there as an offer.  At the end of the first week we asked if any one would be willing to take the challenge to join us in prayer for 21 days with a partner. We got thirty students and thirty adults to jump into this together.  We challenged them to pray for a few reasons:

  • Prayer works
  • It is a time to realign our heart to God’s
  • Through prayer, God will reveal things about ourselves that we would have never seen without that time and sacrifice.

We made it as simple as possible for a few reasons.  I don’t need one more thing to micromanage, and if you make it too complicated people won’t do it.  So we said that if you sign up you are:

  • Agreeing to pray for 21 days with an assigned partner.  You are praying WITH that person, not for them.
  • You will contact your partner through phone calls, email, Facebook, text, face-to-face interaction.
  • If you miss a few days keep praying.  You are better off doing Pray17  than Pray0.

We email out daily reminders that have been written by an intern and myself .  It has been so fun to hear the stories and we are only one week in!  I can’t believe it took a book to partner up every willing student with every willing adult.

I encourage you to check out Timothy Eldred’s web site and get some details.  (www.pray21.com)  He is a wise man, good teacher, and generous with resources and suggestions.  For us and our ministry, I am optimistically hopeful for what God is doing in the lives of 60 people individually and collectively.

Jeff Bachman is the High School Pastor at Rock Harbor Church just up the road in Irvine, CA. Feel free to leave comments or email him at jbachman@rockharbor.org and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.

I recognize that by addressing zombies in a youth ministry blog, it’s like pouring honey on my head and using a short stick to poke a bear.  However, on Oct. 14th, the Walking Dead had its season 3 premier with 11 million viewers.  Never before has a basic cable channel seen these types of numbers.  In addition, the Fall Harvest Season is upon us.  In our area there are billboards for haunted houses, zombie mazes, and all sort of stuff to scare you.  This might be a good opportunity to talk with our students.  They are watching it and many of them love to be scared.

The premise of the show is not that unlike other zombie apocalyptic stories.  Some disease/illness has broken out and caused a flu-like virus to travel quickly through people.  It takes their life, and when they come back from the dead, they look like a dead version of human being, however walking around.  I know, Walking Dead…who would have thought.  They then have the ability to infect others with the same disease that took their life.  They are not only dead, but reproducing death.

As absurd as that may sound, are any of us any different sometimes?  Every day we get out of bed, get ready for our day, interact with our family and people in our lives (maybe), do our daily jobs (occupation or school), come home, shove another meal into our face, watch a little TV, complete our obligations, maybe pray (if we are super spiritual), and then go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  The next day comes and we do it all over again.  That isn’t living.  We too, are walking dead.

If left unchecked, I can go through an entire day, or sadly an entire week, and not have much to show for it.  I haven’t taken myself out of my comfort zone or done anything new.  My relationship with my God, my family, and my friends are all totally stagnant.  These were all by my choice.  I am recognizing that if something is not done about it, I am going to slowly slip from life to death.  I will never even get a proper funeral for people to mourn the loss of my life, because it looks like I am still alive and kicking.

Eph. 4:1 says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”(ESV)

I am not suggesting we start a “Walking Worthy” campaign.  (However, if anyone does, and they make Christian t-shrits and sell a lot of stuff I have © on “Walking Worthy”.  I think I get a nickel every time someone uses it.)

Let us never forget the calling that God has placed on our lives.  As I speak to other youth pastors, it is good to remind each other that we have a high calling.  One that not many should aspire to, as it says in James 3:1, because it is such a high calling.  A calling where God, in His mercy, sees fit to use me to help change the spiritual trajectory of a child of God.  That is a high calling.  I forget that when I have to return too many emails.  I forget that when I am told I am not doing my job well.  I forget that, though I am fortunately paid for what I do, my church and elder board is ultimately not my boss.  I answer to a Holy God who I will have to stand before some day.   I desperately pray, He will tell me “well done good and faithful servant.”  (Matt 25:23)

So then, if we are actually living worthy, we need to instill that into our students as well.  To help them see past SAT testing, school sports, family troubles, church troubles, friend troubles, work, social calendar, and then find time for a church event or two.  It’s almost enough to kill us, or at least take away a desire to walk worthy of our calling.

Ephesians goes on to say that we do this by living in humility, gentleness, patience, supporting one another in love, and in unity with the Spirit.  So again, it all comes back to our own spiritual health and the relationship that we have with the Creator of the Universe dwelling richly in us.

I pray for us, that we don’t become infected with this disease called day-to-day living.  There is more for us, but if we become infected with the “daily grind”, our spiritual deadness and apathy will only reproduce spiritual deadness and apathy.  Don’t allow your life to take away your desire to live as God has called us.

Jeff Bachman is a husband for the past 11 years and a father of three amazing kids.  He is the High School Pastor at ROCKHARBOR Church just up the road in Costa Mesa, CA.   He loves emails at jbachman@rockharbor.org, twitter interaction, and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.

About two years ago I sat in my office with my wife, as tears welled up in my eyes,.  I said the words out loud that I had only thought.  It had swirled around in my head however; I never had the nerve to speak the words.  Had I spoken it, these dangerous thoughts would be way too real.  I said to her, if I could find another job that would provide for my family I would take it.  I would leave my church and my job as a youth pastor, and never look back.  I could hit the reset button and walk away from a life I had grown to hate.  It is fair to say this would be filed under one of the “bad days”.

I am a husband, father, son, student, and a youth pastor.  At that moment in my life, I hated most of these people, and felt as if I was failing at many of them.  I had lost control of my life.  As my wife listened, she reassured me that my feelings were not true, though she validated my need for change.  She recognized that my life, and ultimately both of our lives were out of control.  It wasn’t until I spent some time with a trusted mentor that I was able to begin seeing out of this massive hole I had dug for myself, my family, and even my ministry.

He challenged me to do one simple thing.  Pay attention to my life.  Track what I do for every minute of my day in thirty-minute chunks for two weeks.  Write it down and evaluate it.  I was either going to do it or I would be putting together a resume to find a new life.  At my core, I love what I do and feel called to it, so I stayed and fought.  I am glad I did.  This mentor did not look at my time log.  He just asked the right questions and allowed my “time budget” to reveal truth in itself.  Like when you track what you eat or what you spend, this exercise revealed much.  Here is an overview…

80/20 Rule ::

Similar to an actual budget of money, much of what we have in finances is already allocated to cost of living.  We have that same “cost of living” in our time. I have to sleep, drive to work, help get the kids ready for their day, and work 40-60 hours a week.  All of these activities take time.  How efficiently I do each of these activities is a different conversation for a different day.  When I step back and look, there is about 20% of my time that I have the freedom to shuffle around.  Instead of being discouraged that I am unable to get away for days on end, I need to take control of that 20% of my life and intentionally use it for my benefit.

Step Back Evaluation time ::

After two weeks I noticed that I allowed my life to happen to me.  Nowhere in my time did I step back and assess.  I didn’t plan or think forwardly at all.  This resulted in too many moments of panic, disorganization, and more chaos that I really want to handle.  As a result I am now waking up 3 days a week an hour before my kids get up to just sit and ponder, think ahead, and allow the silence to prepare me for a life that is pretty chaotic.  I have also injected time away as a youth pastor and husband with my staff and wife.

Lack of Spiritual Presence

I was tempted to act differently during my tracking time because I knew that it would be revealing, but I wanted to learn from my time so I didn’t fake it.  If I was not inclined to spend time with God I didn’t do it.  I wanted to see the “holes” at the end of this experiment and if I spent time with God just so I could mark it down on my budget it would have ruined my true intent.  That being said, I need more time with God.  I am at a spiritual dry season right now where I am not inclined to seek out God so it needs to be intentionally placed in my life.  It is ultimately for my own benefit and His glory.  In time that dryness will dissipate.  For now, it is necessary.

Be intentional about “wasting my time”…make it count.

Have fun with this one because everyone needs to blow off steam.  It is up to you as the person who knows you best to decide how you are going to go about doing that.  My loves are many, but what refuels me is only a couple things.  1.  Time with safe people (wife, dear friends).  2. I need to travel to new places (doesn’t need to be far, it is just the experience).  3.  I need to be physically active (love it and hate it all at the same time).  Too often I release pressure by sitting in front of the TV because it is the path of least resistance.  That’s not good enough.  If I want to watch TV, that is fine but pick a show and watch it.  Don’t allow the TV just drain hours on end away from me and leave me empty and just as tried.  TV is the fast food of the time world.  It feels so good at the time, but does very little for you over the long haul.

Selfishly, I pray that this is one of those moments in my life that I look back on as a turning point.  So far it has been…

Jeff Bachman has been in youth ministry for 20 years and is currently working at ROCKHARBOR Church in Costa Mesa, Ca as the High School Pastor. He is passionate about seeing students becoming followers of Christ.  You can check out his own blog at www.theuntilmatters.com

There is something totally entrancing about boxers and MMA fighters. I watch them do something that I don’t think that I am equipped to do…physically or mentally. Even more amazing than watching the actual fight is talking to them afterward. I have had the privilege of serving with a leader who is getting his MMA career back on track after a surgery. To hear him talk about fighting, you would be astonished. It isn’t a street fight for him. It is a chess match. ”If the other guy does this, I will do this, but if he turns and uses his left hand then I am going to change and do this with my upper body to block his attack.” I could sit and listen to him talk about it all day long.

Another thing that makes him successful is the team that he surrounds himself with. In the sport of fighting, there are timed rounds and a short break in between. During that time the fighter sits in his corner with his team who has a totally different view of what is going on. They bring another perspective, bandage him up and tell him to start doing things and stop doing others. They boost his confidence and tell him where he is performing well or poorly. In his last fight, he was gracious in attributing his quick win to the collaborative effort of all those who invested in him. It wasn’t just about his own amazing ability and fighting skill, he recognized that without those around him it would not have been a successful or victorious fight.

It is highly likely that I will never step into a ring to fight. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a battle of our own in the world of ministry. What I know to be true is that in our success and failure, in our effort and our gifting we still have our own battle. Part of it is physical in nature. Some of it is spiritual. All of it is about God. In that, there will be times that we feel excited about our calling and ready to head out in the fight. Even when we are “winning” we will take on some amount of “battle damage”. Even the best fighters have a black eye or cauliflower ear from time to time.

Recently I had one of those days. I was taking hits and they were beginning to have their effect on me. I will neither confirm or deny that I may or may not have thrown a chair(s) in frustration. My prayer time after this was less holy and controlled and more screams and accusations. God and I worked through that, and I left that time confessing that I felt alone. I told Him I wasn’t sure how long I could hold on if I was doing this thing by myself. In the span of 24 hours God placed (or reminded me of) four different people in my life to sit and listen, encourage, and help me get perspective and get back out there…which was so necessary.

Being in a new city doing ministry I am still in the process of finding those people who are “in my corner”. Not everyone is going to be your best friend or know all about you. But what I found from all of my conversations is that these were people who had different roles in my life and different skill sets. They are able to speak into different parts of my life. The structure, the spirituality, the craft, and even to the nature of my own heart. What they had in common was some level of care and affection for me. They want me to “win,” if you will.

I would suspect these people don’t even fully know that they did what they did. They were just being themselves and being generous with who God made them to be.

People in your corner come in different forms. I have those I seek out and ask to join in my fight. I have those who are in my life, regardless of what I am doing. I have those who are fighting their own fight, but I can learn by watching them. And then those people that God has brought into my life, and I have no good reason as to why I deserve them.

The great thing is, those people can change roles, evolve, and deepen in relationship over time. So I try to not write anyone off. I have also found that as I begin to establish who support me, I have become better at being in other people’s corner as well. I wipe their sweat. I bandage them up. And then send them out into their own fight. It’s not always just about my fight, but helping others in their own battles.

Jeff Bachman is the High School Pastor at Rock Harbor Church just up the road in Irvine, CA. Feel free to leave comments or email him at jbachman@rockharbor.org and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.

For the most part, when I write something about youth ministry it is field-tested. I have done it…it worked. I have done it…don’t ever do it. I have done it…check out these scars. One of the ideas floating around in the old noggin that I have never done and I don’t know if it will work is … wait for it…seasons passes.

Allow me to explain: we live in a CostCo world. If I can’t buy 12 of something at a discounted rate then I don’t want any of them. I love the idea of warehouse stores so much that I bought my wedding ring at CostCo. (Longer story for another day) What if we were to sell season passes to our youth ministry with some of the same mentality? It would work something like this. We do 10-20 events throughout the year that cost different amounts.

    Winter Camp-$200
    Summer Camp-$500
    Connecting Event (Broomball)-$10
    Connecting Event (Road Rally)-$25
    Mission Trip-$100

…you get the point. If you were to plan your entire calendar for the year and figure out the cost for a family to send a student to everything you would come up with a grand total. Assuming the above 5 events were the only things my ministry was doing it would cost a student $835 to attend all of them.

What if you offered a 20% (or whatever you could afford as a ministry) discount on the cost of all of the events, and if a parent spends $668 they could go to all of the events for a 20% discounted rate?

The reasons I think I am on to something:

Who doesn’t love a discount? More for less is a good thing.
Forces you to plan (and stick to) your events for the year. I am 6 months into a new job at a new ministry. This will probably not happen for a year or two until I am sure of what works and what doesn’t.

There is a group of students who are bought into an event before you even start to plan for it. Once you have paid for something there is a willingness to go to it. You don’t want to waste the season pass. So you can assume most of the students who bought the pass will be at any given event. If not then you can be disappointed about their absences with a little extra money in your pocket.

You have some seed money for start of the year costs. All of our deposits are due at the same time and I put our accounting offices into a panic every September. If your budget was front-loaded by some extra incoming cash, they might not break into a cold sweat every time they saw you coming.

You can allow payment plans. Take the cost of your season pass and divide it by 12 or a little less after a deposit and then families can budget it on a monthly basis.

This one is a slippery slope…You could give some discounts or other privileges with the pass. Discounts on shirts, books, or other things you sell. Maybe front of the bus (or back) seating. Like I said, this one could get a little dangerous but just a thought. As mentioned, this is in the beta phase of genius, so I would love your thoughts or why you don’t think it would work. Maybe you have already tried it and you have some evidence one way or the other. Would love to see a discussion in the comments!

Jeff Bachman is the High School Pastor at Rock Harbor Church just up the road in Irvine, CA. Feel free to leave comments or email him at jbachman@rockharbor.org and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.