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If I ask you why you care students are in your youth ministry, you will probably say something about helping them growing in “their faith.”  I inquire, “Okay, who do you want them to be?” You say something about them being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Yet, if we are honest when we take a step back and look at how we RUN our ministries, it is not always with the end “result” in mind. We plan a calendar, take trips, run small groups, and do activities. Some of us will say our focus needs to be helping parents disciple their children, others say we need to build student leaders, outreach, share the Gospel, or simply pour into our youth. However, I would contend there are two questions that should drive everything we do in our ministries.

1.  When a student leaves us, what will they look like?

I, of course, am not talking about their voice and body changing into an adult. Let’s say a family enters your church and has a baby. This baby grows up in the church through all the ministries and then graduates, leaves home, and heads out into the “real world.” Who is that young adult? A fully devoted follower of Christ? What does that mean? Do they read their Bible everyday, tell others about Christ,  pray often, and enter the mission field?  What is it? How is everyone in your church working together to see this happen?  The time of the “siloh” between nursery, children, youth and adults needs to be over. What are we doing to work together to grow our children?  Let’s stop “starting over” every time our kids enter a new phase of life, and instead see each of us as part of their journey into their lives as a someone taking the world for Christ.

2.  How does what we are doing “influence” who they are becoming?

The second question has to do with our programming and approach. There was a time where I would say the main question we needed to ask before embarking on anything was, “How does this build a relationship?” That is still vital, and it’s a great filter. Yet, still we have a tendency to make plans based on who is standing in front of us today,  not in the future. When we plan this way, we run everything we do through a sieve of purpose. It helps us know what not to take on, and what might need readjusting. So you take students on a missions trip yearly. Why? How is this part of the journey in the Lord? What do you need to do to get them ready or to follow up with them afterwards? Are you teaching them about service and why that matters when they are 8 or 9-years-old and again and again before the trip ever happens? This helps with equipping parents and growing the body of Christ as a whole.

These are not questions we can ask once, but often. I contend they should be asked anytime the church does anything. At least quarterly, sit down as a full staff and see how you are working together. It doesn’t really matter if a student jumps in when they are 5 or 15-years-old.  When we do ministry this way we are all about moving with Jesus all the time.

Are you asking these questions?

Leneita

One of things I love to do is watch students use their gifts and abilities for the kingdom of God. I have a student who’s aspiring to do videos and photography on a larger scale. So I gave him the opportunity to shoot and edit this video for our weekend service. He did an awesome job and the students loved it. I spoke on the armor of God at youth group. So for an element of fun I did this video with my son. Just to give you some context: I played it while revealing the fact that I love old kung fu movies. Especially the really cheesy ones. Check it out!!!

So I thought I would write this post asking the question: what would it look like if you created areas in your ministry where students could use their gifts and abilities for the ministry?

The value is immeasurable when it comes to creating areas in your youth ministry where students can lead and serve using their gifts and abilities. Here are a few of the wins from doing just that:

  • A door into the ministry for students.
  • Easy way to get students connected to the ministry.
  • Easy way to build communities within the ministry.
  • Great serving opportunities for students.
  • Gives them a sense of ownership of the ministry.
  • Gives them confidence in themselves.
  • Shows that God cares about them using their gifts and abilities for spreading the gospel.
  • Brings value to the ministry in the eyes of the students.
  • It could draw more students to come see their friends.

Here are a few areas your students maybe gifted in or have the ability to do:

  • Making Videos
  • Photography
  • Music
  • Djing
  • Singing
  • Creative Brainstormers – you may have students in your youth group that love thinking up creative stuff.
  • Dance
  • Graphics
  • Serving
  • Stage Design
  • Planning Events
  • Cooking
  • Skate Boarding
  • Sports
  • Surfing
  • Doing Audio
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Researching

How does this look in your ministry?

Hope it helps

ac



How to Create A Sermon

Tony Myles —  November 25, 2013 — 2 Comments

sermonA pastor was working on his weekly sermon one day while his son watched.

“Dad,” the boy asked, “how do you know what to say every week?”

“God tells me,” he answered, writing some more thoughts on his sketch pad.

The boy watched for a few minutes more and asked, “Are you sure it’s God?”

“Absolutely,” the dad replied.

Finally, the boy asked what he’d been wondering the whole time. “Then why do you keep crossing things out?”

I’m curious… how do you go about creating your messages?

I approach my process differently every time, but I did write down some common things I tend to do. Here are the first five:

  • Write down the themes of the past sermons your congregation has heard over the past 6 to 12 months. List the strengths and weaknesses of each message to determine how the people received or rejected what was shared. Pray and seek discernment regarding how your congregation needs to most be challenged by your next sermon in order to grow spiritually.
  • Expose yourself to an assortment of books, magazine articles, videos and other media that offer a variety of perspectives on your potential sermon theme. Evaluate the materials for insights and illustrations, then use a word processor to type and save what you’ve identified as relevant to your sermon.
  • Search the Bible for stories and verses that speak to your sermon theme. Use resources like Biblegateway.com to type in keywords in a variety of translations, then save the most relevant results in your file.
  • Dialogue with trusted members of the congregation or church leadership about the direction of your sermon. Ask for their input and any stories from their lives that may complement what you will be preaching on. Interact with other people you regularly encounter in your week, asking what their thoughts and questions are on the theme you’re exploring.
  • Write down a list of any thoughts or questions you have from all of your research. Refer to this list as you read the Bible passages you’ve previously identified while looking for the specific texts that you are most drawn to for your sermon. Deepen your understanding of these passages through the commentaries, word studies, maps and historical background provided for on Blueletterbible.com. Pray that God will help you understand His truth before you share it with others.

There are a number of other things I do after that, including how I approach actually writing out my sermon. (You can read the rest of the article here.)

What does your process look like? What’s working for you, and what could you do differently?

Quit Nodding Your Head

Tony Myles —  November 13, 2013 — 4 Comments

In ministry? Take part in a church?

Think about what that means.

Really, really think about it.

To help, lean into this wild observation and dare from the late preacher and author, Leonard Ravenhill:

revival“We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.”

- from Why Revival Tarries

There is a prayerlessness in the church that you and I nod our heads at but often do nothing about. Derwin Gray calls this ministry pornography – you’re trying to meet a need artificially that only Jesus can grow.

So your success in ministry today it’s not about how many followers you have to your idea or vision statement, but about how many prayer warriors you develop who depend on Jesus and follow Him.

Now… quit nodding your head, and go bend your knees.

(Have a thought on how we could pray more effectively? Share it here.)



The Ministry Race …

Leneita Fix —  September 10, 2013 — Leave a comment
prerace
Sunday I ran my first half-marathon in Freeport, ME.  It’s a longer story but just know that this 41 year old just “took up running” six months ago for the first time in her whole life and fo fell in love with it, because it is a great stress reliever.
 As we set out it was cool, and raining, with gusting winds most of the way.  I knew this particular race was considered “moderately difficult.“ What I did not know is that it is possible to create a 13.1 mile course that is primarily up hill the whole way.  It is probably the greatest physical challenge I have taken on to date.  As my husband and I ran together we prayed, laughed chatted, and of course got thinking about how a literal race like this one we are told Biblically to “run” for Christ
As we plugged along  (up hill) here are the conclusions we came to:
1. It’s about the finish line.
running finishI am a severe asthmatic.  In practicality this means it slows me down and I end up towards the back of the pack. I hate this.  I am competitive, driven by nature and I want to “win.”   In my journey with Christ, how often to I compare my race to those around me? How often do I decide that if you are “famous” or have what others think of as a “successful” ministry, that you are the “winner?”  Paul tells us to run as if we will be the winner in 1 Cor. 9:24.  However, it is about keeping our eye toward the finish line. Christ simply wants us to keep running with Him and keep our eye towards ending well.  The celebration is in the finishing.
2. It’s also about the race

house

If we are only ever thinking about the finish line we just might miss the journey.       In our day on Sunday:
Cool turned to warmth.  Rain turned to sun.  The wind pushing in our face eventually ended up at our backs.  We passed by fields of wild flowers,  haystacks, and dilapidated farm houses with bright yellow doors.  Keep your eye to the horizon,  enjoy the path you are on and who you are with..
3. Don’t forget to laugh.
runningThe first hill was steep.  We looked forward to the downhill.  Then we got to the top and  it dipped and went up once again.  Isn’t life like that sometimes? Then the rain went from drizzling to pouring, before it got better.  All sorts of ridiculous circumstances kept hitting us.  We started making jokes and just absorbing that sometime it’s in the craziness we find the greatest joy.
4. Take it one hill at a time
At one of our water stops we joked with a policeman about the difficulty of the course.  He smiled and said these profound words, “Focus on one hill at a time.”  Trials will come and when the focus is on that reality we can get overwhelmed.   Instead,  with Christ, conquer the hill at hand.   When you reach the next one, you are another step forward.
running 1
This race of life is yours, it’s about being in it with Jesus.  Sure some will pass us, the terrain will be tough and it might all sound like a Hallmark card.  However,  it’s the only one we have,  we should run it as hard as we can.
Remember in the end we too want to say:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Tim. 4:7
 
I would love to hear about your life “race” these days, tell me about it!

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.



mcdonalds

The Scene: Working on the laptop at McDonald’s. A table full of pre-teen guys are trying to eat. The oldest (perhaps a freshman among them) is acting like a social rooster, pecking down the awkwardness of the younger guys, strutting for the girls sitting nearby, nudging the smallest one of out of the booth with his rear end… over and over.

I’ve been praying for several minutes about the best way to respond.

And then…

the others all suddenly had to leave. They hopped on bikes and peddled out. He looked like he was waiting for a ride – it was just him and I. I didn’t move toward him, but stood up while holding my drink and spoke.

Me: (slurp) “So, are you the oldest?”

Him: (a bit startled that I’m talking to him) “Huh? Oh, yeah.” (he smiles… like a security blanket… I’m “bigger than he is.”)

Me: “They look up to you, you know.”

Him: (he pauses, as if to realize it) “Oh, yeah. I guess.”

Me: (a half-step slower this time) “They look up to you.”

Him: (he catches my eye) “Yeah.”

Me: “Use that wisely.”

Him: (another pause) “Yeah…” (another pause) “…yeah.”

I go to get a refill, and return. A couple minutes later he heads out to catch his ride.

As he passes, he says, “Hey, see ya!”

—-

Changing the world? Speaking Life into life? Serving students?

Maybe it happens just like this.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)

Screen shot 2013-07-11 at 1.06.48 PMI don’t know about you, but I have a fairly tough time “shutting off my brain” at any point of the day or evening.  And technology does NOT help this.  You’re probably no different.  So, I have recently been making some changes with my daily rhythms and use of technology that has helped me actually pay attention to the people sitting directly in front of me.  I thought I would throw them out in hopes they might be a benefit to you as well. Here they are:

  1. Drive home.  When I drive home from “work” I have decided to do a few things.  First, I don’t have the radio on.  This allows me to breathe a bit and process through my day.  Secondly, I turn my phone off.  This allows me to unwind a bit before I get home.  Lastly, I get to my neighborhood about 5-10 minutes before I’m supposed to be home, park under a tree and sit there.  I pray.  I process.  I unwind.  This allows me to really be at home when I get there.
  2. Cell phone.  I recently changed my voicemail to say that I check messages every Friday.  This gives me time and space to respond to people as time allows rather than stressfully trying to get back to everyone.  I spend Friday mornings getting back to messages.
  3. Kids.  I have made a decision to not check my cell phone until my kids go to bed.  There are a few exceptions to this rule, like if we are waiting for someone to get back to us as a family or if we are having someone over for dinner than they are running late (or things like that).  When I walk in the door my ringer is off.  I then set my phone down on our kitchen island, face down, and pick it up later.  I’m not perfect at this, but it something I’m trying to do…and when I do, I tend to mentally be with my kids when I’m physically with them.
  4. Meetings.  I’ve now made it a rule that when I’m meeting with someone my cell phone goes off.  No buzz.  Ringer is off and I don’t answer it.  If there is an urgent call I’m waiting for I let the person I’m meeting with know that that call may come in before it does.  I also have a little deal with my wife.  She can call me at any time.  If I don’t pick up, I’m in a meeting.  But if she REALLY needs to talk to me she immediately calls back.  At that point I will tell the person I’m meeting with about my deal with my wife and they tend to understand.

The bottom line to all this is I’m trying to actually pay attention to the people who are directly in front of me.  I know, amazing concept.