parableEvery once in a while you find a video that feels the perfect parable for just about anything.

I’m not sure if this one qualifies,but as I watch it I see so many analogies regarding how relationships can work.

  • Our relationships in the church
  • Our relationships in the home
  • Our relationships with those we serve
  • Our relationships with those we serve alongside of
  • Our relationship with God

Ignore the lyrics of this (if you can), and look for how the dynamics of this may speak to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qJW0CgP-bA

Share your comments/insights as you do. Thanks!

parched

Dry seasons…we’ve all been there, and for a variety of reasons. And over the course of 26 years in youth ministry, I have found myself in quite a few, and for a variety of reasons. Here are some random thoughts about getting through the next one that comes along.

- Try to identify the cause. Sometimes dry seasons just happen…for no apparent reason. But often times they are caused by a specific event or triggered by certain patterns of ministry. For example, I almost always find myself in a dry season when I have too many things on my plate that I’m directly responsible for. A sense of being too busy or juggling too many plates is almost guaranteed to trigger a dry season for me.

- Notice I said “getting through”, not “getting over”. I think it’s a mistake to try to simply “get over” something. Dry seasons are a great opportunity to see if God is trying to get your attention, to see if there is something to be learned, adjusted or addressed personally. And if we try too quickly to simply “get over” it, we miss the power of journeying “through” it.

- Spend some time doing stuff that charges you up! I’m shocked at how often I find myself in the middle of a dry season and simultaneously find myself neglecting some of the most basic things that bring me joy and energy! When I’m dry, I have a tendency to quit exercising, quit calling my friends to go see a late-night movie, and quit being spontaneous with my family. Those are three things I love the most, but I often do less of them in a dry season when I would probably benefit from doing them more.

- Get spiritual…but don’t go overboard. Hopefully you get my heart on this one. Part of getting through a dry season is spending time with the Father, seeking his heart and asking him to search yours. But just because you are going through a dry season doesn’t necessarily mean there is something deep and dark wrong with your soul. It doesn’t mean there is something life changing that will only be discovered through prayer. It does’t mean you can somehow quicken your way through the journey by spending an extra 10-minutes a day in solitude. It may mean all of those things…but it may not.

There’s no formula for navigating the next dry season you find yourself in, but those are some things that have helped me. Anybody willing to share a tip or two from your own experiences?

On The Journey With You,
Kurt
@kurtjohnston



UncommonWisdomfrontcoverWith your permission, I’d like to share an adaption of the introduction to my book “Uncommon Wisdom from the Other Side: A Senior Pastor Talks Youth Ministry.”

Not because I want to sell you a book
(although, feel free to buy one).

I want to share something so important that I wrote it there, and have written it here.

 


medic4Thank you for signing up to reach the next generation.

Your heart will gain scars.

You’ll be misled by others.

Close friends will seemingly abandon you.

The resources may run out.

You may fake your faith some days for the sake of others.

Simple things Christians say will annoy you.

The church you serve may appear two-dimensional in your three-dimensional stress.

Students will let you down.

You will disciple at least one Judas.

People will say all kinds of unkind things about you and your family.

And it is the best possible way to live.

medic3It would be easier to just pat you on the back, but you need to know what you’re being patted into.

The reason it’s called “ministry” is because someone is needed to “minister”-which implies a gap exists that needs filling. You may occasionally get applause for doing this, but if you’re looking for it you have things backward.

Trouble will hit.

Relational blood will be spilled.

People you expect to be medics will at times be holding the knife.

And you’ll at times be one of the guilty parties.

medic5If you can see this for what it is and enter the chaos glued to Jesus, you’ll unearth questions about church and ministry you didn’t realize existed.

You’ll also see some things about God you’d like to change, such as how he gets to call the shots on good days and bad days. You’ll later treasure these things because when you aren’t able to answer the “what happens next” question, you’ll start focusing on the “who can I love who is in front of me now” question.

That’s the question that really matters more, anyway.

It’s going to be ugly. Anytime something full of life is born,
there is a big, bloody mess.

Why do we forget this and whine about it when it happens?

Then again… perhaps you feel OK with ministry today and are nodding, assuming you’re ready for whatever comes next.

  • Will you keep nodding when your spouse is about to experience a nervous breakdown because of your “calling”?
  • Will you keep nodding when your own walk with God feels drier than it’s ever been and you have another message to deliver?
  • Will you keep nodding when the bliss of working inside the four walls of a church starts to feel like solitary confinement?

Such hardships may not dominate, but there will likely be seasons when everything seems crazy and Jesus will need you to help redeem even the “redeemed.”

  • This is where what you preach finally gets owned.
  • This is where your faith moves from practical ideas about living to oxygen when you’re suffocating.
  • This is where you take on Satan, not out of adrenaline, but out of Jesus.

medic2Consider this line from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters where one demon counsels another on wearing down a man who has given himself to their “enemy” God:

“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

It’s not my aim to destroy your faith but to ground it in the Lord before it gets destroyed. Ministry will give you every circumstance to abandon what you’re doing because there’s always a seemingly nicer job at a store or restaurant down the street where you can clock in and clock out.

Then again, perhaps you weren’t made to clock in and clock out.

Maybe (just maybe) you will deny yourself, carry your cross, follow Jesus, and experience a resurrection in this generation.

(Note the order of that sentence. It’s what turns you into a battlefield medic for the Church.)

Doing that will unearth more of God than you feel prepared for, which in turn will make you run off screaming or surrendered on your own cross, because you finally see students like he does.

Because youth ministry is ugly and beautiful… all at the same time.

 

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*

Spooky_Oct2013_630x200

scaleYou probably got into ministry for all the right reasons.

I may not know you, but I do know myself. If we’re at all alike, there’s a good chance something else is true of you.

Some days you’re in ministry for all the wrong reasons.

Maybe it’s not as obvious as you’d think.

  • You serve God.
  • You rearrange your schedule for students.
  • You bend over backward for parents.
  • You lobby before your church leadership in all the right ways.
  • You’re not trying to trick people out of their money.
  • You don’t attempt to be the “sexier” youth group in town.

It’s as if every time people see what you’re doing, you’re caught living out the best template for ministry you can think of.

The problem is you can be doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

There’s a situation in my life right now with a disgruntled group of people who have found joy in being disgruntled together. They’re people I’ve loved and invested some of my best energy into, from teens I mentored and took on mission trips to adults I scrambled to serve. One of the louder households left our church and began complaining “sideways” – subtle enough to go unnoticed by most, but potent enough to create a funk that I’m still not sure what to do with. It’s as if no matter how hard I try to live out some of the most basic principles in Matthew 18 on reconciliation I’m met with misunderstanding, evasiveness and slander.

I’m doing all the right things.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I eventually realized is that some days it’s for all the wrong reasons.

There are moments that I want to be vindicated.

I want to work out the misunderstanding, because I hate having people say things about me that aren’t true- especially when I have put so much energy into doing the right things. If I dove into the reason why I do so, it is my human pride wanting to assert itself. I have to make clear that the door to reconciliation is open, but if they never walk through it or continue to group up on this then a part of me needs to turn this over to God.

Check out what the Bible reveals on this:

  • God has a pattern of vindicating His people as a whole.(Deuteronomy 32:36)
  • Humans have a desire to be vindicated individually by their behavior. (Job 13:18)
  • People who watch us will notice our desire to be vindicated and may assume the worst. (Job 11:1-2)
  • Jesus was vindicated by the Spirit – not other people. (1 Timothy 3:16)
  • We will only experience real vindication when we spend time face to face with God. (Psalm 17:15)

If you don’t get this right, then all of the serving you do will come across as ministry perfume and not the genuine scent of Jesus Christ.

Wrestle with this. Consider what you’re doing to get people to think or say better things about you. Give someone else permission to point out when you build a case against a case someone has built against you.

Otherwise, it will leak out. To quote William Ury, “When you are angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Thank you for loving students!



There’s a reason why certain song lyrics seem to resonate with those in ministry. I often find myself listening to “Some Nights” by Fun, “Superman” by Five For FIghting and “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons with a sort of intuitive understanding that they were written just for me. Maybe you’ve also experienced the fatigue and heartache of trying to balance the tensions of serving God and people.

After all, in ministry all things are not often equal:

All Things Not Being EqualThere are some days you will not be invited to the party.
There are some days you will be the first on the list.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days the needs will outmatch the resources.
There are some days the resources will outmatch the needs.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will be misunderstood my the masses.
There are some days you will offer Mass for the misunderstood.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will need more chairs for all the people.
There are some days you will need some of those people to leave.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days when your phone won’t stop ringing from strangers.
There are some days when once-good-friends won’t even text you back.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days when you’ll watch whole people get distracted by half-baked slander.
There are some days when you’ll watch half-baked people come up with whole wisdom.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will disciple Judas.
There are some days you will disciple John.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will remember why you keep doing this.
There are some days you will forget who you are.
Those days won’t always equal out.

What else have you seen when it comes to all things not being equal?

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.



Even though school has not let out here in Maryland we are already in summer mode. It doesn’t mean we shut things down or fill it up with summer camps and events, we just alter our schedule. We tone down programming, keep things simple and maintain our pace. The goal in our summer is to prepare for the fall while staying in touch with the teens.

Your summers are so important. How you approach them will determine your readiness for the fall. There is a tendency by many youth ministers to either overload their schedule or completely check out. If you are going to do youth ministry for the long haul you need to treat the summer with the same focus, and attention that you do every other season. If you take advantage you’ll find yourself:

  • Building Margin: By trimming back some of the bells and whistles of your program you’ll find yourself preparing less on a week to week basis. Take that time to rest, pray and grow as a leader. When fall comes you’ll be more conditioned and ready to take on it’s grueling pace.
  • Keeping Momentum: While you want to build margin, you don’t want to completely stop what you are doing. Make sure what you do over the summer is consistent and scheduled. By maintaining a little bit of a pace you can ensure a smoother transition into fall.  
  • Taking Ministry To A New Level: With the margin your are building you can also experiment with a few activities and projects that would be too difficult to pull off in the fall. Think big and don’t fear failure. Summer is a time to cut loose.
  • Investing In Leaders: During the grind of the year it’s hard to find time to get to know your leaders. Use the margin that most people have to hang out and get to know one another. Take them out for coffee, catch a ball game or invite them over for a barbecue. Make the summer relational.

Don’t waste your summer by overplanning or completely check it out. Develop a strategy and take advantage of it’s laid back feeling. By capitalizing on the summer you’ll be more ready for the fall.

What do you do with your summers?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

I would like to say that when I was young and single that I enjoyed all the margin that was in my schedule to the fullest. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Just like now I had responsibilities, obligations and burdens that constantly made me wonder, “Where did all the time go?”

Doesn’t matter what season of ministry you find yourself in, time management can be a struggle. The problem comes when you do not monitor the amount of responsibilities and obligations that cross your plate. What it does is create a unnecessary and debilitating tension. In order to be successful in youth ministry and manage all that is in front of you, it’s important to step back, look at your calendar and:

  • Focus On A Few: There is this pressure in youth ministry to do it all; however, all that leads to is ineffective ministry. Focus on those few things that you, and only you can accomplish. By focusing on what you are best at doing you’ll have the greatest impact for your ministry. Delegate the rest to your volunteer and leadership teams to create more capacity.
  • Learn To Say “NO”:  It’s flattering to receive invitations and offers especially when they can lead to big opportunities. While it’s not always easy to say, “NO.” what it will do is protect you from overcommitting. To discern what to accept and what to turn down, figure out what will move you towards your vision and what will pull you away.
  • Prioritize:To stay efficient you need to know what is Urgent, Important andExpendable. By sorting tasks and responsibilities in their proper category you won’t have to worry about tangents tearing you away from your vision. Make a list, write it down and revisit frequently.
  • Build Safety Nets:Find people to share your schedule, and goals with. Ask them to hold you accountable and check-in. It’s also important for you to schedule in (Even if you don’t have time) to just connect with God. When you feel as if you have no time, the best you can do is pause and wait for God’s direction.

You always have time, the question is, “How are you using it?” Consistently look at your schedule, review your responsibilities and trim what is unnecessary When you can add margin to your schedule you allow room to recover, refresh and enjoy what God has called you to do.

Which of these habits is hardest for you when it comes to making time?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)